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Title: Convict B14 - A Novel
Author: Weekes, Rose Kirkpatrick (R. K.)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CONVICT B14

_A NOVEL_

BY
R. K. WEEKES

[Illustration: Logo]

NEW YORK
BRENTANO'S
PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1920, by
BRENTANO'S

_All rights reserved_

MADE IN U. S. A.


TO
LÆTITIA JANE GARDINER
WITH APOLOGIES



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                     PAGE
     I. JANUA VITÆ                             1

    II. A LIE THAT IS HALF A TRUTH            12

   III. NOCTURNE                              19

    IV. WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE TO DECEIVE     26

     V. THE FLY ON THE WALL                   34

    VI. SIC TRANSIT                           43

   VII. AUBADE                                50

  VIII. AMANDUS, -A, -UM                      61

    IX. MELODRAMATIC                          73

     X. A LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS             83

    XI. COSAS DE BRUJAS                       94

   XII. ALL IN THE AIR                       102

  XIII. ONE NAIL DRIVES OUT ANOTHER          113

   XIV. A TWO-EDGED SWORD                    121

    XV. WANTED                               129

   XVI. COUNSEL OF PERFECTION                138

  XVII. A GREEN THOUGHT IN A GREEN SHADE     147

 XVIII. WHEN THE HEART SUFFERS A BLOW        153

   XIX. DU PARTI DU GRAND AIR                161

    XX. ROUGH JUSTICE                        170

   XXI. HEU QUAM MUTATUS                     181

  XXII. BREAD AND SALT                       188

 XXIII. DIEU DISPOSE                         195

  XXIV. THE FIRST ROUND                      201

   XXV. I SENT A LETTER TO MY LOVE           210

  XXVI. "E"                                  223

 XXVII. SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH          237

XXVIII. DEUTSCHLAND ÜBER ALLES               244

  XXIX. THE GOOD HOURS                       252

   XXX. CONFESSIO AMANTIS                    258

  XXXI. THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD       265

 XXXII. PER ARDUA AD ASTRA                   272

XXXIII. THE ONE SHALL BE TAKEN               281

 XXXIV. SHE ALONE CHARMETH MY SADNESS        294



CONVICT B14



CHAPTER I

JANUA VITÆ

     When men shall say, Peace, and all things are safe, then shall
     sudden destruction come upon them, as sorrow cometh upon a woman
     travailing with child, and they shall not escape.


At the entrance of a green valley, where the Easedale beck came down
from Easedale Tarn, scattering its silver tresses loose over the rocks
at Sour Milk Gill, and hurrying to join the Rotha at Goody Bridge,
stood a wayside hostelry: a spruce gray villa, overflowing with flowers
under white and green sun-blinds and a glass piazza. Not by any means a
grand place, but attractive; the hesitating traveler might guess that
the comforts inside would answer to the trimness outside, nor would
he be wrong. Within its limits, the Easedale Hotel was that rarity, a
thoroughly well-run English inn.

The proprietor of the place and only begetter of its prosperity was
reposing on the veranda in an easy attitude, with his hands in his
pockets and his eyes on the Grasmere road. Spidering, he called it;
which meant that he was looking out for possible guests. He liked to
make a play of his work. Harry Gardiner, the son of a country parson,
was a slight young man of middle height, and very brown--olive-brown,
sun-brown. He did not look wholly English; a quarter part of Spanish
blood ran in his veins. He had dark eyes and a small head, small hands
and wiry muscles, small features and a thin mouth. He was quick in
all he thought and said and did, shrewd at a bargain, fond of money,
but fonder still of liberty. After being pitchforked by circumstances
into his odd trade, he had stuck to it for love and made it pay; he
had already progressed from a humble _fonda_ in the Canaries to a
boarding-house in Sydney, and from the boarding-house to the Easedale
Hotel. But he was a rolling stone, and would never stay long enough in
any one place to reap the full fruit of his toil.

He turned at the sound of a step behind him, and his eyes laughed.

"Hullo, Denis! Got into all your glad rags? You'll scare my
people--they aren't used to such visions."

"You'd not have me sit down to dinner without washin' my hands, would
you?" inquired the new-comer in a voice which his best efforts could
never rid of a trace of soft Irish brogue. He was wearing ordinary
evening clothes, not very new, but in some subtle way he did contrive
to give the impression of being _point device_ in every detail. Denis
Merion-Smith was partner in an aeroplane firm; but he had once been in
the Royal Engineers, and though it was years since he had resigned his
commission, he still carried his handsome nose in the air and looked
down on inferior mortals through a single eyeglass.

Gardiner laughed. "Why not? My crowd mostly do. But we're going up in
the social scale. I began with travelers, I went on to artists, I've
attained the Church, and I live in hopes of even rising to the army
some day. You didn't happen to look into the dining-room on your way
down?"

"I did not."

"I wasn't suggesting that you were nosing out the dinner," Gardiner
explained. "I thought you might have noticed the flowers. They're
rather special. I did 'em myself. That's the way to work it. Ginger
up the servants all round, and add flowers to choice. Sweet-peas
I recommend for the table, blue lobelia and pink geranium for
window-boxes. The English tourist can't resist window-boxes. I could
write the innkeeper's vademecun. It's a great game."

"I can't think how you do it!" said Denis in disgust. "I can't think
how you ever took it on! Kotowing to all these beastly people and
licking their boots--"

"No, no. The boy does that--spits on them, anyhow. We can't all be
in the Sappers, Denis." Denis snorted. "My trade suits me all right,
though it wouldn't you," said Gardiner more seriously. "I like it, you
know. I like taking over a disreputable pigsty of a place like this
was, and turning it out in a couple of years blooming like the rose.
This Easedale's quite a decent little pub now. I shall be half sorry to
leave it."

Denis paused, with a lighted match in his hand. "You're never thinking
of givin' it up?"

"I've already done so."

"You've given up the Easedale?"

"_Así es, señor._ The place is sold, and I clear out in October."

"Well!" said Denis, after a vain struggle with the householder's
distrust of the nomad, "you know your own business, I suppose; but I
should have thought this was good enough for you. Are you never goin'
to settle down?"

"You're so beastly impatient!" said Gardiner, with a laugh. He waited
to light a cigarette, cherishing it between his palms, and then jerking
the match with a quick gesture across the road. "I've been searching
for my ideal; you wouldn't have me hurry over that, would you? I've
tried the Canaries, and I've tried Austrylier, and I've tried England,
and they're all vanity and vexation of spirit. But I think I've got the
real thing at last."

"Where?"

"On the Semois. You never heard of it? Quite. Nobody has. The Semois
is a river, a ravishing river who ties herself into complicated knots
round forest-covered mountains. On the map she looks like a bedivvled
corkscrew. _I_ don't know where the charm lies--I've seen fifty places
more conventionally beautiful, but I tell you, Denis, I've got that
river in my bones! Figure to yourself a young mountain, with the river
plumb before it, in a gorge. You look down into that gorge, and beyond
it over the tops of hills and hills _and_ hills, range behind range,
getting bluer, and dimmer, and blurrier, till they're a mere wash of
cobalt against the sky--"

"Hills--!" said Denis. "I've asked you: where is this place?"

"The Ardennes. Belgian Luxemburg. Close to the French frontier and
twenty miles from Sedan."

"Well, I suppose you know your own business best," said Denis for the
second time--it was plain he supposed nothing of the kind--"but I'd not
settle there if you paid me."

"Why on earth not? Oh ah, of course! the German menace, isn't it? Well,
if they come, I shall suffer with my adopted country, that's all."

"If you'd spent a year in Germany, as I have, and seen what I did,
you'd not laugh," said Denis, patiently and obstinately. The German
danger was one of his hobbies. It was surprising that, with so many
hoary prejudices, he should ever have taken up with a new-fangled
science like aeronautics; but who is consistent?

"I'm not laughing, my dear chap. You know more about it than I do, and
if you say it's on the cards I believe you. But they're not coming
to-day, are they? and _mañana es otro día_. Meanwhile I go ahead with
my Bellevue (that's to be the name of it: beautifully banal, what?)
and trust to luck. It hasn't served me badly so far. Besides, I don't
stand to lose much. I like money all right, but I'm not a slave to
that or anything else. If I lose every penny to-morrow I shouldn't put
myself about--except for daddy's sake; and after all he's not actually
dependent on me, I only supply the amenities. Yes; bar accidents, I can
pretty well defy Fate."

He stretched himself complacently, as if rejoicing in his freedom.
Denis preserved silence.

"I suppose you wouldn't say a thing like that?" asked Gardiner, looking
at him curiously.

"I would not."

"Irishman!"

"I hate boastin'," said Denis shortly.

"I thought you believed in an overruling Providence, which orders
everything for us from the cradle to the grave?"

"It's not incompatible. And I wish you'd settle down," said Denis, who
was a person of few and simple ideas.

"Well, if you're good perhaps I will."

"But not in Belgium, Harry! Belgium's such a rotten hole. And the
people are half dagoes. Why can't you be content with England?"

Gardiner laughed. "Because I ain't English, old son--nor Irish neither.
I'm a bit of a dago myself, for that matter. B' the powers, here's a
car coming! You sit tight now, and see me do the fascinating landlord."

The car, an expensive touring model, drew up at the gate. The driver
was a big man with dark gray eyes, regular features and a dark
mustache. It was a handsome head, but not wholly pleasant; in the
accepted phrase, he had evidently lived hard. Denis with unerring
fastidiousness put him down as a bounder. Beside him sat a lady,
muffled up in a long dust-cloak and a veil, and there was a maid behind.

"How far on is it to Keswick?" asked the driver, leaning out to address
Gardiner with careless incivility.

"Nine miles."

"Nine, eh? Are you the proprietor of this place?" He looked the young
man up and down with cursory interest. "Well, we may want rooms for the
night. Can you do us?"

"The house is rather full, but I can show you what I have."

"What do you say, Dot? We can't get on to Keswick to-night on this
confounded tire. Might as well stop, do you think? Of course it's a
wretched little hole, but we haven't much choice." The aside was wholly
audible both to Gardiner and to Denis.

"I don't care, provided it's clean," said the girl. Her features were
invisible behind her veil, but the voice sounded young.

"What? Oh yes, I should say it's fairly clean. Yes, we'll stay," he
added, turning to the owner of the fairly clean hotel. "No, never mind
the rooms, we'll have dinner at once. Here, and send some one round to
see after my car, will you? That tire's punctured."

"Very good, sir," said Gardiner, standing aside for the lady to pass
in. Her husband followed, and they were lost to view. Denis remained
fuming on the veranda. It was one thing to put on airs himself, another
to see them on somebody else. Besides, Denis was always scrupulously
courteous to inferiors; he considered it bad form to hit a man who was
debarred from hitting back. He hoped the new-comers would not stay; but
time passed, and nobody appeared except a man to take the Rolls-Royce
to the garage; and presently the gong sounded, and Denis went in.

At the back of the hotel two wings jutted out from the main block,
forming three sides of a quadrangle; and in the right wing, just at the
corner, Gardiner had his den. It looked, of course, directly across the
garden into the windows opposite, but the house did not shut out all
the view. Sitting sideways, one could see the broad green vale running
westwards and narrowing swiftly to a gorge, down which the stream
tumbled, white as milk. Dark gray the hills were, slate-gray, almost
purple, with emerald verdure worn thin in places and showing the naked
rock--Helm Crag, Seat Sandal, Dollywagon Pike, St. Sunday Crag, Silver
How, what names of romance! A sweet and pleasant scene, in this summer
twilight; mists upstealing along the brook, and a half-transparent
moon sharpening into silver as she sank into the lemon-colored west.
When the sounds of the house for a moment lulled, one could hear the
murmur of the cascade which seemed to hang motionless against the rock,
flattened out like a skein of white wool.

The room was small, it had a big window in the left wall, a fireplace
opposite, and a table between, on which stood a packing-case in a
litter of straw. Gardiner had been opening a case of whisky for Denis,
who liked to fancy himself a connoisseur.

"Do you trot round after everybiddy as you did with those people
to-night?" he asked gloomily. Dinner had passed since the scene on the
terrace, but it had not buried his resentment.

"Not as a rule I don't. Miss Marvin, my housekeeper, who's a real
treasure, she's supposed to see to visitors. But I do it when I want
to. Is it the Trents rankling still? I rather enjoyed them."

"Is his name Trent?"

"His name is Trent. Major Trent, D.S.O., and wife, of Thurlow Park,
Surrey; he inscribed it in the visitors' book. That's him you hear
overhead; they dined upstairs. I've had to put them in the old part of
the house, every other corner is full. I don't know what'll happen when
he sees his bedroom."

"A line regiment, of course," said Denis, gloomily scornful. "No decent
corps would stand him. I wish you'd kick him out."

"That, my young friend, is not the spirit in which one runs a
successful hotel. Do you know he's paying me upwards of three guineas
a day? Besides, he didn't mean to be rude, he was simply talking over
my head. What am I to him? The landlord of a third-rate inn. I'd give
myself airs too if I had a place in Surrey and a 1912 Rolls-Royce."

"Insufferable bounder!" said Denis. Gardiner laughed.

"No, no; that he's not. Rather a fine head--a good man gone wrong.
Oddly enough, I believe Tom knew him in India. If it's the same man,
he got his D.S.O. in South Africa, a very gallant piece of work, and
then had to send in his papers because of some row about a woman--a
subaltern's wife, to make things pleasant all round. Tom rather liked
him, bar his little weakness for the sex. But he must have come into
money since--through his wife, I wouldn't mind betting, and that's why
he's so civil to her. For he's the sort who's usually more civil to
other people's wives."

"I can't think how you can bring yourself to speak to him!" said Denis.
He was one of those who find it hard to understand how others can act
differently from themselves. Gardiner laughed more than ever.

"We can't all be idealists, my good Denis. I've my bread and butter to
earn. I had all my fine feelings knocked out of me long ago. Yes, Miss
Marvin, what is it?"

Miss Marvin, a comely, capable woman of forty, seemed a little
flustered.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but it's the gentleman in No. 18. He's
been at me about his room, and I think"--her voice dropped--"I think he
isn't quite himself. If you wouldn't mind speaking to him--"

"What the devil do you mean by putting me to sleep in a hay-loft?"

Miss Marvin jumped, for the gentleman from No. 18 had followed
uninvited and was talking over her shoulder. He stretched an arm across
the door to bar her escape. "No, you don't. I don't know which of
you two is responsible here, but I am going to have an answer out of
somebody. I pay a decent price, I expect a decent room, and you put me
in a garret that stinks like a rabbit hutch, and nearly brains me if I
walk across the floor! Why, I wouldn't put a nigger to sleep in such a
hole! What do you mean by it, I want to know?"

"One moment," said Gardiner. "Miss Marvin, may I trouble you for that
register? Thanks. Here we are. I had to give you No. 18 because it was
absolutely the last unoccupied room in the house. If you look, you can
see for yourself that I'm speaking the truth."

A little checked, Trent bent his handsome head over the page. He was
not drunk; but he had been drinking. Gardiner, sitting by the window on
the far side of the table, leaned across, pointing out the entries with
a small, brown, well-kept forefinger.

"These are my best rooms. They're occupied now by a Leeds fishmonger,
but I can't very well turn him out for that. If I'd known you were
coming--but as it was I simply had to put you where I could. There's
not a corner anywhere else."

"The place stinks," said Trent.

"Of apples. My predecessor used to store them there."

"Well, you should have warned me, then."

"I did," said Gardiner. "If you remember, I told you I was full, and
wanted to show you the rooms, and you declined."

"That's right enough," said Trent. He swept up his thick, dark lashes
and looked steadily at Gardiner, summing him up. Traveling on, his eyes
met and fixed on a photograph that hung on the wall. "Hullo, I know
that face," he said in a totally different tone, getting up and going
towards it.

"My brother," said Gardiner.

"Your brother? Tom Gardiner of the Sappers is your brother? Why the
deuce couldn't you say so before? Here, my good woman--" He held out
half-a-crown to Miss Marvin, who nearly dropped it in her indignation,
and was only restrained by an imperative sign from Gardiner which
sent her out of the room. "Mhow: yes, I was actually with him when
this was taken," Trent continued, with the frame in his hand. "I used
to see a lot of him in those days. Nice youngster; only a mania for
church-goin', and couldn't or wouldn't play bridge. And so you're his
brother! What on earth do you want to keep a pot-house for?"

"It's a way of earning your living, like another."

"Leads to misunderstandings, though. Didn't he ever mention me?"

"Yes; but I couldn't be sure you were the same man."

"Well, I wouldn't say I am; times have changed since then," said Trent.
He replaced the frame and established himself on the rug, squaring his
broad shoulders against the mantelpiece, apparently settling down for
a comfortable gossip. "I was a bit of a fire-eater in those days. I
remember one time we were out riding--"

The tale he told was one of those which modest men leave their friends
to tell for them. It seemed to concern him no more than a casual
newspaper paragraph about a casual stranger. "I couldn't do that now,
you know," was his comment. He had quite forgotten his anger; indeed,
he seemed to have worn out all power of sustained feeling, to be
without shame as without vanity. He rambled on from story to story;
presently he was pouring into their ears the tale of the scandal that
had led to his retirement. Out it all came, in a curious mixture of
indifference and maudlin self-pity. "That was the end of me," he said,
staring at Gardiner with hazy, apathetic eyes. "I wasn't a bad sort of
feller before--did one or two things a man might be proud of; but it
was all up when I had to leave the old regiment. And just for the sake
of a little devil who didn't care a rap about me--not a rap, I swear
she didn't! Yes! it's the women who've been my ruin."

It was a melancholy exhibition. One might gather that he still
presented a decent front to the world; whisky had loosened his tongue
to-night, making him a traitor to himself, but he did not habitually
drink. He said so, with unblushing candor. "It wasn't wine with me,
you know; that was never my vice." He was, as Gardiner said, a good
man gone wrong; but he had gone very far wrong. There was something
cruel in the way the young man led him on to expose himself. Charity
would have covered his sins, but cynicism drew them all out to look at.
Denis's instincts were more healthy.

"Why don't you kick him out?" he said in an angry whisper.

"I'm not done with him yet. He amuses me."

"He makes me sick. It's beastly, Harry! You've no business to do it!"

"Think not? Now, he strikes me as fair game," said Gardiner,
contemplating his guest with a complete absence of pity.

"He's drinking himself drunk on your whisky, and that girl waiting for
him upstairs! If you don't think of him, you might of her!"

"True. I'd forgotten his wife," said Gardiner. He drew the decanter
over to his side of the table and looked up, ready to break in.
Unluckily Trent had caught the last word, and it started him off on a
new tack.

"Neither of you young chaps married? Lucky dogs! you've the chances! I
knew a little girl in Chatham once--"

Gardiner had kept his friend just a few minutes too long. He had now
found his peculiar vein, and he grew eloquent. Denis had a clean
life behind him, and a clean mind; Gardiner felt rather than saw him
stirring in his chair, and held up a hand to keep him quiet. He himself
was less fastidious, but even he did not much like what he had called
up. There are things a man may say, and others he may not, and it was
these last that Trent said. He was morally rotten. Still, Gardiner did
not want a row.

"Funny tale, very," he said, when Trent had finished with the little
girl at Chatham. "And now, I don't want to hurry you, but isn't it
getting rather late? I'm afraid we shall be keeping Mrs. Trent up."

"My wife?" said Trent. He had just come to the table to fill up his
glass from the decanter which Gardiner was keeping under his hand.
Looking up with a smile, he added another sentence. Simultaneously,
Denis sprang to his feet, the blood rushing into his face, and Gardiner
caught up the first thing that came to his hand--the chisel that had
opened the packing-case--and flung it at the speaker's head.

"Get out, you filthy swine!"

It took him in the middle of his forehead, and knocked him over. He
fell without an effort to save himself, flat on the whole length of his
back with his head in the fender. There he lay. Denis raised the lamp
on high; Gardiner stooped over him--and recoiled.

"Good Lord!" he said, "the man's dead!"



CHAPTER II

A LIE THAT IS HALF A TRUTH

     I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

     GENESIS.


Trent lay as he had fallen, with his head on the fender, in a pool
of blood which slowly enlarged itself and sopped into the carpet.
The sharp edge had fractured his skull. He was stone dead, beyond
possibility of doubt, yet both men by a common instinct knelt down and
tried to loosen his collar. The heavy head tumbled sideways, against
Denis's arm. He sprang up and retreated, with a violent shudder.

"Poor beggar! Poor beggar!" said Gardiner under his breath. "I never
saw anything so ghastly in my life! This thing's like a razor." He ran
his finger down the edge of the fender. "Good Lord! what an appalling
business! Well, I suppose the first thing is to have in the doctor; he
can't do any good, of course, but still--Luckily there's one actually
staying in the house. Ring the bell, do you mind, Denis? Or, wait a
bit, I don't want the maids poking round; I'll go myself."

He was half-way to the door when Denis seized his arm.

"Stop a minute, Harry. Think."

"What's the use of waiting? May as well get it over!"

"No; but think--think! Can't you see what this means?"

His agitation was contagious. "I can see it's going to be very awkward
with the house full of visitors, but it's not the time to think of
that, is it? What the devil are you driving at?"

"You killed him," said Denis baldly.

"I did not!"

"You did. It's manslaughter, if not murder. It might mean hanging, and
it'll pretty certainly mean prison."

"Prison!"

Every trace of color went out of Gardiner's face. In the momentary
pause some one tapped at the door.

Gardiner wrenched himself free, and Denis sprang to shut out the
intruder; but he was too late. The door, left unlatched by Miss Marvin,
slid open at a touch. There stood Mrs. Trent, in her long muffling
cloak and veil; she had come in quest of her husband.

Denis tried ineffectually to block out the view of the room, the lamp
on the floor, the dead man, and Gardiner.

"You--you mustn't come in, Mrs. Trent. Your husband's had a sort of
seizure--"

She said nothing, only plucked at his arm, struggling against it,
her eyes, her whole being concentrated on the figure on the floor.
Suddenly diving under the barrier, she fled to his side and sank
down, a mere swirl of draperies. Denis, distracted, stooped over her.
"Don't--don't!" he said. "Let us fetch a doctor--perhaps he's only
fainted--"

"Fainted!" She raised her tragic little head; her eyes, ranging round
the room, met and fixed on Gardiner. "He's been murdered!" she cried
out. "Murdered--and you did it, you!"

The imaginative man is at the mercy of his nerves; there is always an
unsound link in his courage, liable to snap at any unexpected strain.
It is a question of sheer luck whether he finds out his weakness and
is able to take precautions beforehand. The unimaginative man never
understands this. To Denis's infinite dismay, Gardiner simply backed
into the corner, throwing up his arm as if to ward a blow. Denis
himself cried out the first denial that rose to his lips.

"Mrs. Trent, it was an accident, I give you my word it was!"

"It was murder," she contradicted swiftly, her young voice gathering
depth and force, scorn and anguish, her outstretched finger quivering.
"He did it, he killed him, I read it in his eyes. Oh, he was all I had
in the world, and you've taken him away! Oh, what shall I do--what
shall I do?"

"Harry! Say something--tell her it's a mistake!"

"He can't!" cried the girl. "Look, look at him cowering there!
Murderer! He daren't face me--he can't deny it!"

Less of his own will than because Denis's hands were on his shoulders,
Gardiner slowly turned. He looked hang-dog. "I didn't do it!" he
muttered, his eyes on the ground. "You heard what my friend said--it
was an accident!" And then more loudly, gaining confidence: "I swear
I never laid a finger on him--did I, Denis? I would have said so
before--I would have explained at once, if I'd taken in what you were
saying."

"You didn't lay a finger on him?" Mrs. Trent laughed out, a queer
high note of triumph. "Ah--but you killed him all the same! I know!
I can prove it! What I have here--Besides, look, look at his darling
face--Oh, Guy!" The name broke from her in a great tremulous convulsive
sob. She put out her hands blindly, clutching the edge of the table.
"Oh, what is it? Oh, oh, it hurts!--I'm frightened--Louisa!"

"Great heavens! Ring the bell, Denis--quick!"

Denis nearly brought down the bell-rope. The next minutes were all
confusion. People gathered like flies: the boots, Miss Marvin,
half-a-dozen frightened servants, at last Mrs. Trent's elderly maid.
She threw up her hands in horror, but she wasted no time on the dead
man; her concern was all for her mistress. "Come away, Miss Dot dear,
come! 'Tain't fit for you here!" The girl, shaken now by terrifying
sobs, suffered herself to be led away; their steps died out down the
passage.

Meanwhile the doctor had arrived, a brusque and dapper little man,
hastily fetched in from the terrace. Gardiner, who was everywhere at
once, arranging everything, cleared the room for him to make his
examination, leaving only Denis, Miss Marvin, and himself.

"Fracture of the base of the skull. No, I couldn't have done anything
even if I'd been on the spot; must have been practically instantaneous.
Slipped, you say, did he? H'm!" He bent to sniff at the dead man's
lips. "Where was he standing?"

Gardiner reconstructed the scene, exact in every detail save one. "He
came across to the table, to fill his glass, I suppose, and seemed to
lose his balance--his feet flew up in the air. We didn't think anything
of it, did we, Denis? It was the most ordinary tumble."

"Didn't strike against anything in falling, did he?"

"No; he went flat on his back, as you do on a slide."

"Sure? Well, how do you account for that, then?"

He pointed to a tiny star of blood on the dead man's forehead. Gardiner
looked as he felt, nonplussed.

"I can't account for it."

"You can't, hey? Your friend, then--he any idea?"

"No," said Denis from the window, without turning round. There was an
uncomfortable pause.

"What's all this mess of glass about?" asked Miss Marvin, who was
listening with all her intelligent ears.

"I don't know--yes, I do, though; Major Trent had been having a whisky
and soda, and dropped the tumbler as he fell. I remember hearing it
smash."

"There you are, then, sir. A bit flew up and hit him. There's nothing
cuts worse than broken glass, and the splinters they'll fly anywhere,
they're that light and frivolous things. Why, I've nearly had my own
eye out, falling up the pantry steps with a tray in my arms! That's
what done it, you may depend."

Thus Miss Marvin, practical and positive. Little Dr. Scott nodded
assent.

"H'm, yes; might have been that. The fellow was half tipsy, of course.
No need to tell his wife so, but he smells like a pot-house. She seems
to take it pretty queerly, by the way, from the glimpse I had of her,"
he added, bending his bright and piercing eyes on Gardiner. "Has a
special grudge against you, hey?"

"She accused me downright of murdering him at first," said the young
man soberly. "Heaven knows why, for I'd never set eyes on either of
them before. I hope she won't keep it up; it's rather a serious thing
to have laid to one's charge. But I suppose I'd better take no notice;
women in her state of health often take queer fancies into their heads,
don't they?"

"Hey? Is that so? Poor child, poor child! I hope we shan't have any
further trouble with her. It's a bad piece of work altogether," he
added, getting up and dusting his knees. "You know, of course, that the
body mustn't be moved till the police have seen it. You've sent for
them, I suppose?"

"No, I haven't."

"You haven't? What are you staring for? Have to be an inquest, won't
there? Can't give the certificate without it, can I?" snapped the
little man; and then, lowering his voice out of respect for the dead:
"You and your long-legged friend over there, who looks as if he'd be
the better for a nip of sal volatile, you'll have to give evidence. Any
one would think you'd never heard of an inquest before!"

"Of course. I was an ass not to think of it, but you see it's awkward
for me, with the house full of people. However, that can't be helped.
I'll telephone at once. Yes, what is it?"

Mrs. Trent's maid, at the door, had a very grave face.

"Can the doctor please come at once, sir? My mistress is taken ill."

The two men were left alone. Denis, who had been standing at the open
window all this time, with his back to the room, turned round now
to see Gardiner on his knees, hunting over the floor. "What are you
doing?" he asked, breaking his long silence.

"Looking for my chisel. I don't think I'll leave that for the police to
find."

The little doctor's jibe about sal volatile had not been baseless.
Denis, though in his youth he had been through a frontier campaign
which should have cured him of such weakness, looked and felt rather
sick. Gardiner was less sensitive. He pursued his search without
qualms. Denis watched him.

"What are you goin' to say to the police when they do come?"

"What you said to Mrs. Trent. You began it, Denis."

"You'll have to give evidence on oath at the inquest."

"That won't trouble my conscience."

"I suppose they'll call me as well."

"Safe to," assented Gardiner. Denis said nothing. The younger man,
looking up, asked with a certain hardihood: "Are you going to give me
away?"

"I won't if I can help it."

"By which you mean--?"

"If I'm asked right out, Did you throw the chisel at him? I'll have
to say Yes; but short of that I'll do all I can to get you out of the
scrape. I'd have been in it myself if I'd been standin' where you were."

"Only you'd have owned up at once, whereas I'm not going to," said
Gardiner, with a short laugh. "I might have known you couldn't tell a
lie, Denis. Here, I can't find this confounded thing. Where the devil
can it have got to?"

Denis, putting his qualms in his pocket, went down on his knees and
joined in the search. They looked all over the room, in every corner.

"I should say it must be underneath him," said Gardiner, with a
reflective glance at the body, "but I don't know that I exactly want to
look and see."

Denis with an uncontrollable shudder got up and retreated to the window.

"How can you talk like this? You make me sick!"

"My good Denis, I don't feel like a murderer before the corpse of his
victim, if that's what you're driving at! I deny that I was in the
least to blame. Anybody with a spark of decent feeling must have done
what I did. If he broke his head, poor brute, that wasn't my fault;
it's what you might call the act of God. I'm not going to prison, if I
can help it, for a crime I haven't committed. In the meantime, I want
my chisel."

"Well, it's not--where you suggest," said Denis with an effort, "for I
remember seeing it after he fell."

"You did? Then it must be here somewhere!"

But it was not.

"What the devil can have come to it?" said Gardiner, biting his
mustache, and betraying his agitation by his language; for he did not
usually swear.

"Mrs. Trent was kneelin' over that side."

"What, do you think she's got it up her sleeve? But in that case why
didn't she bring it out and denounce me? Here, you'd better have a peg,
Denis, you look as though you wanted one. What the deuce should she
carry it away with her for?"

"I don't know; but it struck me she had something on the tip of her
tongue to say just before she collapsed. Perhaps she meant to produce
it, and then felt too sick."

There was a short silence. Denis sipped the whisky which his friend had
forced on him. It was not so much Trent's death which had upset him, as
Gardiner's failure, and the part which it forced him to play. He hated
any contact with deception.

"Well, this is a sweet prospect," said Gardiner, with another short
laugh. "Mrs. Trent, and you--let's hope the coroner won't ask awkward
questions! Come on out now; it's no use hunting for a thing that isn't
there. I'll lock up the room and summon the minions of the law."

"I wish you'd own up."

"Oh, confound you for a prig, Denis! I can't go back on what I've said,
can I? It might perhaps have been better if I'd done it at first, but
I'm committed to it now. I must just go on and trust to luck. It was
you began it; don't you forget that!"



CHAPTER III

NOCTURNE

     I saw a dream that made me afraid, and the thoughts of my bed and
     the visions of my head troubled me.--DANIEL.


Under the canopy of stars Harry Gardiner lay awake thinking of his
sins; among which he did not, then or later, include any responsibility
for the death of Trent. It was a shocking business, of course, and he
was sorry, exceedingly sorry, things had turned out as they had; but it
was no fault of his. You had to put a stopper on that sort of thing,
in the interests of public decency. He even counted it to himself for
righteousness that he had reacted so promptly and so vigorously against
the flesh and the devil. "I didn't know I had it in me at this time
of day to flare up like that!" he reflected ingenuously. Besides--and
this for Gardiner settled the question and finally canonized his
conduct--had not Denis said that in his shoes he would have done the
same? Only Denis wouldn't have turned coward and told lies.

Gardiner was not given to introspection; he did not like himself well
enough to think about himself, or stir up his own motives. In Denis's
company, however, he was forced to think, because the unconscious
Denis pointed the contrast between them at every turn. _Video meliora
proboque, deteriora sequor_. This was the more painful, because
Gardiner's eye was jaundiced; he saw his own vices very large, his
virtues and excuses very small. He knew that the bloom had been rubbed
off his sense of honor, but it did not console him in the least to
reflect that the rough tumblings he had been through might very well
have knocked out of him any sense of honor at all.

He and Denis had been together at school, from which Gardiner had run
or rather walked away to sea about the time when Denis was going up for
Woolwich. Gardiner went, not from any of the usual motives, but because
kind friends had offered him a clerkship in one of the Dartford banks.
He could not refuse to take himself off his father's hands, but he
would not be a clerk. So one fine morning he came to town, hung about
the Surrey Commercial Dock (not for the first time), and being a likely
looking lad got taken on at a pinch on board the s.s. _Immerwald_,
bound for South America. He signed on as O.S.; but at the last moment
the cook of the _Immerwald_, coming on board very drunk, fell down the
companion and had to be left behind in hospital with a broken leg; and
Gardiner, on the strength of some indiscreet boasts, was turned into
the galley in his stead to do his worst. It must be owned that his
worst was rather bad. But he was quick and handy, and by the time they
reached Bahia he was not cursed by the steward after every meal. In
Bahia he deserted. Latin America had always been his goal. His mother
was half Spanish; he had absorbed the lovely language of Castile in his
cradle.

In Bahia they do not talk Spanish, but Gardiner was not slow to pick
up Portuguese; and in his first shore berth, as cook in a sailors'
eating-house, he added to his vocabulary a smattering of Italian,
Dutch, and Swedish. French and German he had learned at home. He was
un-English in his gift for languages; un-English too in other ways,
notably in his readiness to take color from his surroundings. During
the next five years he generally passed for a Spaniard. He wandered
over the length and breadth of America, going north to Los Angeles,
west to Mollendo, south to Santiago de Chile: good cooks are in demand
everywhere. He was a rolling stone, but he gathered moss, which he
dutifully sent home to the Kentish rectory where he had been born.

At twenty-two he was in the Canaries, where Fate, intervening, pushed
him into his true vocation. An Orotavan _fondista_, who had come into
money and was wild to get home to Seville, offered him the goodwill
of his place for a song. Gardiner accepted for the fun of the thing,
and fell in love with his trade. Inns kept by a butler or a cook are
proverbially prosperous, and he had been butler and cook in one. The
Tres Amigos flourished; Gardiner's remittances home became regular and
substantial. It seemed that he had found his niche at last.

He stayed in Orotava three years. Then, without warning, for the first
time since his son left home, the rector missed his weekly letter. Four
months went by, and Mr. Gardiner nearly fretted himself into his grave.
At the end of that time the correspondence was taken up again--from
Sydney. Over his reasons for this quick change to the Antipodes
Gardiner threw an airy veil. "I was plenty sick of the Islands, I
thought I'd get a move on," he wrote. Mr. Gardiner accepted the
excuse in all good faith. Tom, his younger son, a conscientious young
cadet, thought it sounded rather fishy; but Tom was always a little
distrustful of this un-English brother of his.

The truth being that Gardiner had been burning his fingers in his first
love affair. It was strange, in the life he had led, that he should
have kept his innocence so long. He owed that to his mother, who had
done what few mothers dare--taken her courage in both hands and told
him plainly what to expect. Then she set the seal on her counsels by
dying during his first voyage. She had been very fair, as well as
very wise; her son never forgot her, and found it easier to follow
her advice because her beauty and wits had trained his senses to be
fastidious. But he had a passionate temperament under his superficial
hardness, and, never having fribbled away his feelings in light
connections, he came to Pilar Anguita with all the fire of unspoiled
youth. In her pale tropical lily loveliness she seemed to him the
incarnation of his dreams, flower of the Virgin for whom she was named.

She should have been what he thought her; she belonged to the guarded
class, the class that does not allow its daughters to set foot in
the streets unattended. Her father was a rich man, as riches go in
Tenerife, her mother had been a countess. Nevertheless, this sheltered
lily was pleased to run concurrent intrigues with Gardiner and with an
idle young sprig of nobility from Madrid. Gardiner, it should be said,
had no thought of intrigue; his intentions were strictly honorable, and
he would have been content to "pluck the turkey-hen" outside her window
in humble adoration till he was in a position to ask for her hand.
When he found himself launched into another course he was horrified,
conscience-stricken, eager only to make amends. But Pilar had no
intention of getting married. She preferred to enjoy herself in her own
way in her own home, with the connivance of her _ama_, a latter-day
Celestina. She ran her brace of lovers till she made the inevitable
blunder, and Gardiner arrived on an evening dedicated to his rival.

The scene that followed brought the house about their ears, and Pilar's
career found an abrupt close. She was whisked off to a convent, whence
she eloped, a month later, with one of her father's grooms, who, as it
then came out, had antedated both his rivals by a year or so.

Gardiner did not hear the end of the story till long after. He had
found it expedient to leave the Islands immediately after his duel with
Don Luis. You may call a bullet in the chest pneumonia, and so long as
you do not die nobody can question your assertion. But the very dogs in
the streets of Orotava knew all about the duel, which was conducted on
the American plan of turning both combatants loose on opposite sides of
a wood, to shoot at sight. Gardiner was out to kill; only luck, and a
silver match-box, diverted his bullet from his rival's heart.

He went to Sydney to get away from himself. It took him two years.
Then he came home. England, which he had seen twice only since he was
sixteen, amused him at first; but he soon grew tired of it--it was
too cramped, he wanted more space, fewer people. Still, he could not
go far; his father was getting an old man, and clung to him. A winter
walking tour discovered his ideal on the Semois. He settled his
affairs at the Easedale with his usual luck and expedition, and was
free to start his new life--if only--

Since the affair with Pilar, Gardiner had given women a wide berth. The
burnt child dreads the fire, and besides he was mightily distrustful of
his own temperament. He did not make the mistake of despising all women
for the fault of one; but raptures and revenges, duels and despair
did not fit into the scheme of life mapped out by his practical mind.
Friendships did. He had many friends. He liked middle-aged men, unlucky
men, lame dogs of any kind; and his friends were without exception
better men than he. A choice which showed that, given the chance, he
would grow upwards and not down. And of all his friends Denis stood
first, partly for old time's sake, but mainly for no other reason than
that of all men in the world there was none he respected more.

"Dear old ass!" he said to himself, between amusement, affection, and
envy, contrasting his own easy code with Denis's Puritan stiffness.
"One of God's dandies, that's what he is, but I wouldn't have him
different, no, I wouldn't, though he's putting me in the divvle of a
hole with his whimsies. Of course he's right, I ought to have owned up
at once, it would have been far better in every way. But that unlucky
speech of his gave me a loophole, and I jumped at it--I'd have jumped
at anything then. I didn't exactly shine on that occasion, and he sees
I didn't.... I wonder, would it be better even now to eat my own words
and make a clean breast of it? Upon my soul, I've half a mind to! Ten
to one I shall be caught out over this inquest; in fact, I don't see
how I'm going to escape, unless Mrs. Trent is too ill to show up--and I
don't desire that, be shot if I do! poor little woman."

A blank supervened. He took his pipe out of his mouth and listened.
He was sleeping on the roof, a habit he had learned in Orotava, and
earlier in the night there had been significant sounds below. All was
quiet now, however. "No, I definitely do not want her to be ill," he
resumed his meditation. "I haven't sunk to that yet, no matter what
it costs me. And what will it cost me? Not hanging; Denis was talking
through his hat there, no jury could possibly bring it in murder. But
prison? I'm not sure I wouldn't rather hang."

He stared up at the stars. Walls and a roof instead of the limitless
freedom of the night. Day has its bounds, either a bright blue dome
or a ceiling of cloud, but night is open to the infinite. You may
lose yourself climbing to the pale moon, you may send out your soul
for ever through space beyond the ranges of the stars. There were two
men in Gardiner. By day he was the prosperous practical innkeeper; by
night--even he himself did not know how much he owed to those solitary
nights of his, though he did know that he would have hated to have
Denis spread his mattress on the roof beside him. In cities Gardiner
was an alien; but trees, mountains, rivers were all alive for him,
large calm gracious beings to whom he belonged, with whom he was at
ease. Loneliness and freedom were the breath of his life; and was he
to exchange them for an eight-foot cell with a spy-hole in the door?
"Decidedly I'd rather hang," he said to himself in a crawling sweat. He
faced a new idea. "I believe I funk prison."

Fear. It was an unfamiliar feeling. He had never been afraid of
men, not even as a boy on the _Immerwald_ when the mate had been
drinking; he had kept out of the way at such times, but he had grinned
indifferent. Nor was he afraid of death; he had seen it too often.
But this? "I've never had much opinion of men who funk things, but I
believe I'd run like a hare if it was a question of prison--well, to
all intents and purposes I did. Pleasant. I didn't know I was a coward
before. Hullo! is that that poor little woman again? If she loses her
kid, I _shall_ feel like a murderer."

An idea, conceived in his mind hours before, had been growing in
secret, and now came suddenly to birth as a resolution. "If she loses
her kid through me, I'll hold my tongue about Trent's last bit of
beastliness," he said, and registered the vow. "I do owe her something,
and I'll pay this way. It'll mean a lot to her: I believe nothing,
not his death nor even the kid's, would hit her so hard as that last
thing he said. Probably it didn't in the least represent his normal
attitude, but a woman would never see that. She'd feel as I felt when
I heard Pilar-- No, that I'll spare her! Yet it'll mean a lot to me
too--great heavens, but it will! Say I'm committed for trial after this
inquest. If I tell the whole truth, I shall probably be acquitted. If
I don't I may get--six months? a year? Oh, Lord! The point is that
mine's such a beastly lame story without that speech; I'm throwing
away my one excuse.... Yet if I speak I shall make a clean sweep of
all she has left, after practically robbing her of her husband and
child--no, I can't and won't, _sea lo que fuere_, in common decency
I must hold my tongue. Well, anyhow, this disposes of any idea of my
owning up voluntarily, as Denis wants--by the way, I must give him a
hint to shut his mouth too. He'll do it to spare a woman, even if it
involves sacrificing me. Chivalrous is Denis; I suspect he'll come a
bad cropper one of these days, and it'll hurt him worse than it did
me, because he's finer stuff. There's the dawn--I wonder how it looks
over the Semois at Frahan? What a jolly place the world is! and I've
an impression that in a manslaughter case they won't allow bail. Well,
I've done enough soul-searching for the present, and I think I will now
go to by-by. _Amanecerá Dios, y medraremos._"

Five minutes later he was asleep under the paling stars, while the dawn
came up in silver over Helvellyn, this astute young man who was ready
to throw away everything for a romantic scruple, and call it common
decency. Gardiner was not quite so astute, nor so level-headed, nor so
cowardly as he thought himself.



CHAPTER IV

WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE TO DECEIVE

     Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall
     be filled with gravel.--PROVERBS.


FATALITY AT GRASMERE

The inquest on the body of Major Trent, who was killed by a fall at the
Easedale Hotel, Grasmere, on Thursday evening, was conducted by Dr.
Ellis, coroner for Westmorland, at the Easedale Hotel on Friday.

Mr. Helmsley Trent, of Perche Place, Marybourne, Hants, identified the
body as that of his brother, Major Guy Glisson Trent, of Thurlow Park,
Surrey, and stated that the age of the deceased was thirty-nine years.
He was traveling in the Lakes with his wife on a motoring tour.

Mr. H. C. Gardiner, proprietor of the Easedale Hotel, stated that the
deceased, accompanied by his wife and her maid, came to the hotel on
Thursday evening and engaged rooms for the night. They dined in their
own apartments. About 9.30 P.M. deceased came to witness's
private parlor and made a complaint about his room. It was not usual
for guests to come to his parlor. Deceased was not drunk, but he was in
a quarrelsome mood, and inclined to make a row. Witness satisfied him
that the inconvenience complained of was due to the house being full.
Deceased then stayed on talking in a friendly way. About ten o'clock
witness suggested that it was getting late. Deceased came to the table
to fill his glass, and was standing by it when his feet slipped from
under him, and he fell backwards. No one was in the room except witness
and his friend, Mr. Merion-Smith. They were sitting by the window. The
table was between them and the deceased. They could not have reached
him in time to prevent his falling. Witness went at once to his
assistance, and found that he was already dead. His head had struck
the fender, which was about eight inches high, and had a sharp edge.
Deceased did not speak or move at all after the fall.

By the Coroner: Deceased had helped himself to whisky several times
uninvited. It was witness's private whisky. He had a tumbler in his
hand which was broken when he fell. Witness suggested that it was
getting late because he thought deceased had had enough. He was not
drunk.

By the Jury: Deceased was perfectly friendly after the first. He was
talking about India, where they had discovered mutual friends.

Miss Emily Marvin, housekeeper at the Easedale Hotel, said that the
deceased came to her to complain of his room. He was not drunk, but he
had had a drop. He seemed a very irritable sort of gentleman. Witness
took the complaint to Mr. Gardiner because she felt she could not
manage him herself. The floors were beeswaxed every Thursday morning.
They had been done that day. They were often a bit slippery at first.
She had once slipped down herself and broken a tray of glasses.

Mr. Denis Arthur Merion-Smith, aeronautical engineer, of Bredon, stated
that he was in the parlor with Mr. Gardiner when deceased came in.
Witness did not join in the conversation, but he saw all that passed.
Deceased's feet seemed to fly up in the air. He was quite dead when
they reached him. Witness loosened his collar, but was sure it would do
no good.

The Foreman: What in your opinion was the cause of the deceased's
fall?--I should not like to say. He was not intoxicated, but he was not
quite steady on his feet. A perfectly sober man would probably have
saved himself.

Dr. Leonard Scott, of Westby, said that he was staying at the Easedale
Hotel, and was called to attend deceased at about 10.30 P.M.
Deceased had apparently been dead about ten minutes when he examined
him. There was bleeding from the ears, with a deep cut at the back of
the head; also a very slight abrasion on the forehead, but this was
of no significance. It might have been caused by a splinter of glass
flying up and striking him. Death was due to fracture of the base of
the skull, and was probably instantaneous. In cases of severe fracture
that is not unusual.

By the Jury: If the deceased's feet slipped from under him, as
described by the other witnesses, his head would strike the fender
first. Deceased was a heavy man, and such a fall would be quite
sufficient to fracture his skull.

P. C. Thornborough gave details of the position of the body....


There was plenty more. Dr. Scott skimmed through it all to the verdict
of accidental death, and the jury's expressions of sympathy with the
widow. He read it standing in the street of Ambleside, and then doubled
the paper under his arm and trudged the five miles back to Grasmere.

The Easedale Hotel was no longer full. A violent death, an inquest,
and a confinement had emptied the house and attracted instead a crowd
of casual sightseers. The lounge and terrace were full of them. Scott
asked for Gardiner, and climbed many stairs to the roof. Coming out
of a last trap-door, he beheld Gardiner and his friend among the
chimney-pots, in close conversation, which died instantly on his
appearance.

There was a table, there were chairs, there was a bed beneath an
awning. Gardiner, at full length on a lounge, swung his feet to the
ground and welcomed his visitor. Merion-Smith acknowledged him with a
distant nod.

"I've brought you the local rag," said Scott, planting himself firmly
on a hard upright chair. "It has a full report. I walked over to
Ambleside for it."

Gardiner thanked him amiably, glanced over the sheet, and passed it to
Denis, who read solidly through from end to end; this to keep out of
the conversation. "Here's a man I don't know: safe to be a bounder:
confound his impudence!"--such was his attitude to the casual stranger.
He did not like the middle classes.

"We're up here because he didn't fancy the parlor," said Gardiner, with
a lazy nod towards his friend. "Says the place makes him sick. You'd
expect a flying man to have cranks, wouldn't you? He has enough to
stock an engine. What do you recommend for nerves, doctor?"

"M'm! you don't look up to much yourself. You're the color of brown
holland."

"Me? I'm as limp as a rag; never felt so pale in my life. All these
agitations are so trying," said Gardiner, filling his pipe and pushing
the cigarettes across the table. "Help yourself. I can recommend them;
that fellow never buys a cheap smoke. How's Mrs. Trent?"

"As well as can be expected."

"Poor little woman," said Gardiner. "I say, doctor, I am beastly sorry
about this. Sorrier than I've been about most things in my life."

The sincere feeling behind his words drew out Scott's impatient reply.

"Woman! She's a child: not a day over twenty. A girl's too young at
that age to marry and face this sort of thing. I'd make it illegal."

"My dear man, don't shout at me! _I_ don't know how old she is:
couldn't tell her from Eve, if I met her. I never saw her without that
motor veil thing hanging over her face. She's lost her child, hasn't
she?"

"She has."

"Do you know where she comes from, or anything about her people?"

"What the maid told me. She has no people. Lived till her marriage with
an uncle and aunt who owed her a grudge about some money that was left
to her over the uncle's head. They wouldn't let her speak to a man, for
fear she should marry and they lose the enjoyment of it. Trent made her
elope with him. Naturally she looked on him as a sort of St. George."

"A good thing he died before she found him out, then."

"He was a rascal, was he?"

"Well, he wasn't precisely a St. George."

"H'm!" said Scott. It was an expression he used often, and with
varying meaning. Gardiner smoked in silence. Denis, who had read to
the end of the inquest, propped his tall, immaculate person against a
chimney-stack and watched them both. When he did not snap, the little
doctor expressed himself like an educated man, and his voice was pure
in quality. These things were in his favor.

"Has she still got that idea in her head about me?" asked Gardiner.

"How do I know, man? Do you suppose I talk to my patients about things
of that kind? She hasn't mentioned you at all, so far as I know. Lies
still, says nothing, asks no questions--brooding over that scamp, I
suppose. Well, she's getting better, and that's all that concerns me."

"Yes," said Gardiner. He looked very tired. "If you see a chance, give
her my regrets and condolences and all that, will you? You might pitch
it pretty strong. I shan't be here to do it myself."

"You won't? Where are you going?"

"Oh, I've sold the place, and I'm clearing out. Didn't you know? I was
going in any case at the end of the month, and I've put it forward
a bit, to give my successor a chance. All this fuss is very bad for
trade. It's emptied the house. It'll fill up again quicker if I'm out
of it."

"Where are you going yourself, hey?"

"To the most beautiful place in the Ardennes, which I design to run as
a sanatorium--no, not a common open-air shop, but healthful bracing
breezes for the jaded, don't you know? Very great it's going to be. I
invite you to come out and pay me a visit."

"H'm! do you think I have nothing to do but run about the Continent
enjoying myself?"

"Oh, I thought you might combine business with pleasure--see the place,
and then recommend it to your patients. I should be charmed to receive
them."

"You would, would you? Not half so pleased as they'd be to come."

"Why, who are your patients?" asked Gardiner, idly answering the
significance of his tone.

"Criminals," said the little man. "I'm doctor at Westby Jail--where
you'd be at this minute, if Mrs. Trent had had her way."

Denis would not look at his friend. "I can't say I envy you your job,"
remarked the young man.

"That just shows you don't know anything about it," was the instant
retort. "Criminals have souls as well as you, haven't they? There are
better men in prison than scores I've met outside, whom our ungodly
laws can't or won't touch. I've known one man get eighteen months for
stealing a pair of boots, and another let off with a fine and a caution
for roasting a cat on the fire. Christians? Why, we haven't got up
to the ten commandments yet! The Jews did put _Thou shalt not kill_
and _Thou shalt not commit Adultery_ before _Thou shalt not steal_;
but impurity's nothing to us, and cruelty not much more. Christians!
We reserve our jails for any one who dares to meddle with our sacred
property. Upon my soul, I wonder any man can find the face to refuse
the women a share in mending the laws of this land, considering the
pretty mess we've made of them ourselves!"

He shot out of his chair and marched to the edge of the roof. Gardiner
followed, laughing, and sat on the parapet. A rose and silver sunset
was darkening the fells above Easedale Tarn, and the moon, a globe of
pearl, made beautiful the cold gray eastern sky.

"I don't know what you want to leave your own country for," said Scott,
still irascible, but simmering into calm. "Isn't this good enough for
you?"

"Oh, I'm out for a land where they have more Christian laws," said
Gardiner easily. "England's too civilized to be livable," he added.

Scott did not hear him. He was studying the house under their feet.

"That's Mrs. Trent's room below, I suppose? And your parlor below
that, on the ground floor? Any one in that south wing opposite could
see straight in. Lucky for you there was nobody watching on Thursday
evening."

"_Lucky?_ What the devil do you mean?"

Scott turned round and stared in the face.

"You didn't want any visitors in hysterics, did you? Enough people
involved in it already, aren't there? What do you mean yourself?"

"I thought," said Gardiner, "I thought you were echoing Mrs. Trent's
idea, and suggesting I'd done him in."

It was the best he could do, but it was not good. Scott stared at him
with his bright eyes, shifted them to Denis, and brought them back to
Gardiner again. Gardiner knew that in the first moment of surprise he
had started violently, changed color, showed all the signs of guilt.
Nothing could erase that impression.

"Your nerves must be in a bad way for you to jump like that at an
innocent remark," said Scott dryly.

"They are, I told you so. You can give me something for them, if you
like. I don't mind swallowing your beastlinesses."

"No," said Scott. He pulled out his watch. "I must go to my patient.
Good-night to you both." He climbed down through the trap-door, and
then poked his head up again to add: "Mind, I never meddle with what
isn't my concern. Never."

He was seen no more, and they heard him descending the ladder.

"Damn," said Gardiner.

"He won't make any use of it," said Denis. "That's not a bad little
chap, Harry."

"Not a bad little chap? He's a most confoundedly inquisitive little
chap! He won't rest till he's ferreted out the whole thing. Oh, _damn_!
I wouldn't have had this happen for anything. Why the devil couldn't I
keep my countenance? I thought I might have trusted myself for that!"

He paced up and down in a fury.

"You've had a tryin' time."

"Trying? I've had a scarifying time! That inquest, when the foreman
began pumping you--I'd have murdered you as well, Denis, if you hadn't
been adroit. But if I'm going to lose my nerve over such trifles as
this--what an ass! oh, what an ass!"

He threw himself back on the lounge. Denis could not help feeling that
he took it rather weakly. He did not allow for the rift in his friend's
armor, that demoralizing fear of confinement. In these last few days
their positions seemed to have been reversed.

"Scott can't do anything," he said rather coolly. "It's no use his
suspectin' if there's no one he can pump, and there isn't. I'm not
going to give it away, and you aren't either, when you're yourself
again. As to Mrs. Trent, she can't prove anything from the chisel--you
might have left it there from openin' the case. Besides, Scott wouldn't
discuss it with her. He's above that."

"I dare say you're right, but I wish I hadn't been such an ass, and I
wish he weren't the doctor at Westby," said Gardiner, with a huge yawn,
"it brings it so unpleasantly near. Oh, Lord! I am tired. Do you mind
clearing out now? I expect I shall sleep like a log. Please the pigs,
in another couple of weeks' time I'll be out of this over-civilized,
over-populated country!"



CHAPTER V

THE FLY ON THE WALL

     I only knew one poet in my life:
     And this, or something like it, was his way.

     _How it strikes a Contemporary._


Three days after the inquest Denis came up to town to interview
a timber merchant as to a contract about which there had been a
difference of opinion. He looked down on the man through his eyeglass,
carried all his points, and departed, leaving exasperation in his wake.
After this, finding he had some hours to spare before he need catch his
train to Bredon, he went to pay a call on his cousin Lettice.

Denis was, like his friend Gardiner, the son of a clergyman; but not of
a poor country parson. Denis's father was honorary canon of Rochester
and rural dean; he held a family living, and had besides a comfortable
income of his own. There was some excuse for the double name. The
Merions were a penniless Irish family with a pedigree derived from the
ancient kings (all Irish pedigrees derive from the ancient kings). The
Smith and the money had come to them together, a couple of generations
back, from an eccentric old bachelor who had loved and lost one of the
daughters of the house. Marrying late, Canon Merion-Smith was over
fifty when his only son was born and his wife died. Denis had only a
nurse to mother him, but he did not suffer; he was a very happy small
boy, who from his babyhood never thought of anything but engines. He
was not at all like his father, an easy-going Irishman with a strong
sense of humor, but they were inseparable friends, who explored the
path of knowledge hand in hand. There was no question of parental
authority. Denis did what was required either because he considered it
reasonable, or else to please his father, to whom the staid small boy
was a perpetual fund of amusement.

Canon Merion-Smith taught his son at home till he was fourteen, and
then, rather doubtfully, sent him to Rochester, whither his friend
Harry Gardiner had preceded him. Doubtfully, because he was beginning
to distrust his own training. He did not think Denis would be happy
at school; but he had no desire to be the parent of a prig. Denis was
not happy. He hated arbitrary rules; he could never get into his head
that it was not his to reason why. Only Gardiner made his schooldays
endurable. He stayed at Rochester till he was nearly seventeen, and
then passed unexpectedly without extra coaching straight into Woolwich.
He was very clever, and strikingly handsome in a thin, aristocratic
way, but he thought no more of his abilities than of his good looks.
Denis was proud, but he had not a trace of vanity. He was an example of
the not uncommon blend of class arrogance and personal modesty.

He passed out of Woolwich first in his batch, went to Chatham, to
Rangoon, saw active service in a frontier campaign--the most unhappy
years of his life. He had gone into the army to please his father, but
he hated discipline, and his heart was set on aeronautics. When Canon
Merion-Smith died, Denis resigned his commission and devoted himself
to the problems of flight. The way of inventors is hard. He lost all
his own money and some of Gardiner's, who came back into his life in
time to do the beloved aeroplane a service which Denis, conservative in
gratitude, never forgot. He brought himself to the verge of bankruptcy.
At his last sixpence he fell in with Sydney Wandesforde, a well-known
motor-racing amateur, who had transferred his interest to the new
sport, and was as keen on the practical side of flying as Denis on the
theoretical. He had what Denis had not--a bottomless purse and family
influence to back it. They joined forces, and from that time Denis's
future was assured.

His cousin Lettice--Lætitia Jane Smith--had been in his life for many
years, since she, with her mother and sisters, came to settle in the
village of which Canon Merion-Smith was incumbent. Rosabel and Stella
were charming, half Irish and half French; but Lettice, the eldest, had
always been Denis's ally. She was deliberate where they were quick,
silent while they chattered, methodical instead of happy-go-lucky. They
were clever, but she was the born student, patient, accurate, thorough.
The household was always short of money, so Lettice, who suffered in
that atmosphere of elegant muddle, left home as soon as she could and
set up for herself. She was very fond of her relations, and they of
her, but she found them trying to live with. Lettice had a temper; she
said herself it was a dumb devil. Still, since it was very strictly
dumb, you had to know her well, and watch her carefully, before you
discovered its existence.

She now occupied an attic in Pimlico, and worked all day in the
British Museum library. She might have been more comfortable in a
boarding-house, but she preferred solitude, or rather silence; she
was perennially interested in her fellow-creatures, but she did not
want to be talked to by them. She was always the spectator, never the
actor, having eyes, and ears, a synthetic mind, and that delicate sense
of humor, pity and irony in one, which is a lamp to the feet of its
possessor.

But what marked Lettice off from other people was her passion for
self-obliteration. Most of us in our hearts love to fill the center of
the stage. Lettice was miserable there. She liked to be the fly on the
wall. Yet she was unselfish as well as selfless, gentle, accommodating,
all things to all men. She was like a penny-in-the-slot machine for
doing good: you put in your need, out came her response: and she asked
no more gratitude than the machine. To thank her was like touching the
horns of a snail. A harmless whim in many ways, yet with elements of
danger; for tastes of this sort strengthen as they grow, and Lettice's
friends were beginning to fear she would fade away altogether to an
impersonal ghost, unless something happened to call her back.

She should have been Merion-Smith too; she owed the affix to the same
Irish grandmother from whom Denis had inherited his profile, his
accent, his superstitions, and his family pride. He had been known to
send back a letter addressed to the name of Smith. Lettice, on the
other hand, had dropped the hyphen with all celerity. Denis might
lecture her on her slackness; she concurred amiably so long as she was
with him, and then went on her way exactly as before. Lettice on the
surface was all sweet pliability, but underneath lay solid rock. Denis
faced the world as an obstinate, pugnacious Irishman, whereas a skilful
hand could guide him with a silken thread. Lettice read him like a
book and made soft fun of him, but always with a reserve of peculiarly
tender affection; she thought a great deal of her cousin. And Denis
thought a great deal--a very great deal--of her. He was aware that in
half her innocent speeches she was, to put it gracefully, having him
on; but what did that matter? Lettice was Lettice. He did not analyze
his friends; he idealized them.

Denis was received at No. 33 Canning Street by the daughter of the
house, a smart young person in silk stockings who invited him, with
never a "Sir" to her sentence, to step up and find Miss Smith in the
top back attic. The stairs were dark; Denis, gloomily reflecting on the
decadence of the lower classes, fell over a pair of boots and trod in a
dust-pan which flew up and hit him. He was not in the best of tempers
when he knocked at his cousin's door.

"_Come_ in!" called out an abstracted voice, wearily raised; and he
obeyed. There stood Lettice in the middle of the floor, holding out
with both arms before her nose a newspaper which enwrapped her, mind
and body. Lettice had been known, when she came in from the Museum
after her day's work, to read through the whole of a novel, standing
under the gas, before she moved to take off her hat. It took some time
for Denis's presence to penetrate, and then she lowered her arms slowly
and looked round.

"O-oh," she said. "I thought you were the milk. Sit down, sit down."

She folded up her paper and poked it under a book, took away his hat
and stick, and fetched the milk from the passage, hurrying slowly, as
her custom was. Denis sat down, and discovered that he was very glad to
be with her again. A cooling fountain in life's dry, dreary sand, that
was what Lettice represented. She was not a beauty; she had none of the
attributes of a heroine. Her nose was nondescript, her complexion poor,
her mouth large, though there was character in the full under lip;
character also, and brains, in the big forehead which she hid beneath
her soft brown hair. For the rest, she had drooping shoulders and a
long slim neck; she chose and put on her clothes like a Frenchwoman;
but her best points were the set and shape of her graceful little head,
and the somewhat misleading sweetness of her hazel eyes.

Her room was a long white attic, one end curtained off. There was a
window in the gable facing west, and in the window a table overflowing
with manuscripts and books; sheets of foolscap covered with her
graceful writing, an Old English text, a Latin grammar, a treatise on
court hand. She was trying to make up for a haphazard education by
teaching herself. As she passed on her way to the cupboard, she drew a
sheet of paper out of the muddle and presented it to Denis.

"Now you can just look through that while I'm making the tea, and see
if there are any mistakes," she enjoined him in the minute expressive
voice which was one of her charms to those who found her charming.
Denis found himself faced by a Latin exercise. When he had learned all
his cousin could tell him about the wreaths and the roses that adorned
the girls and the queens, he turned the page, and came on something
more attractive. In her hours of ease Lettice was a poet. Looking up
from her task with the bread knife, she saw what he was doing, turned a
deep pink, and silently but swiftly removed the sheet from the fingers.
Denis laughed.

"Haven't you anything to show?"

"No, I haven't," said Lettice, acerb and forbidding.


     "'Sheep on a lonely road,
     Gray in the gray--'"


Denis quoted maliciously. The poet covered her ears with her hands.

"Oh, do-o-on't!"

"Well, let me see the rest of it!"

"Well, it isn't finished; it's no good looking at a thing till it's
finished, is it?" retorted Lettice in a soft flurry of exasperation.
Her poetry was dug out of her own soul, and she suffered the pains of
vivisection in hearing it discussed. Denis knew this well, and Lettice
knew he knew it. Looking like an affronted kitten, she retired into
a silence that the brutal critic might have called sulky, and seemed
disposed to stay there. But Denis knew how to make his peace. Just
then the kettle boiled over. He was quick to lift it off--and to put
it down again in a hurry, shaking his fingers. Before he could find
his handkerchief, down swooped Lettice's arm; she seized the handle,
bore it away, took her time over filling the teapot, ostentatiously
stayed to settle the cozy; then, having displayed beyond possibility of
oversight the superior hardness of her palm, she replaced the kettle on
the hob, and returned to her toasting fork, exuding vainglory.

This incident settled, they talked of the aeroplane. This was
invariably Lettice's first question, and it brought down a shower of
information, all water on a duck's back. Considering what excellent
brains she had, it was surprising how dense she could be when she
chose. When Denis's fluent Irish tongue ran dry, she was ready with her
next question.

"And did you have a nice time at Grasmere with dear Harry?"

"No, I didn't," said Denis with unexpected force. "I had a perfectly
beastly time!"

"Dear, dear! How was that?"

"Oh, things went wrong," said Denis vaguely. He wanted to tell the
whole story--Lettice seemed to purify and sweeten all she took into
her knowledge, and this badly needed sweetening. He hated it; he hated
his evasions at the inquest, what Gardiner called his adroitness; he
hated soiling his fingers; he was vaguely dissatisfied with his friend.
But since, for Gardiner's sake, he could not tell her all, he told her
nothing. Half-truths were no good with Lettice. "By the by, why didn't
you come?" he said. "I was expectin' you all the time. I couldn't think
where you'd got to. You as good as promised to turn up!"

"Were you very disappointed?"

"No. No, I can't say I was--not altogether. I want you to meet Harry,
but I didn't want you this time. Queer chap he is--you may think you
know a man, but you never do."

Lettice's eyebrows moved upwards ever so little. "How do you mean
queer?"

"Oh, I don't know. He has all sorts of cranks. Last time he was at
Bredon, that cold spell when all the pipes were burstin', nothing would
do but he must sleep out in the garden all the time. And it was just
the same at Grasmere, though it rained cats and dogs. You can't be
even with his fads," Denis added with a sigh, extending himself in his
chair, his long legs stretched half across the hearth. "He's off almost
at once to that place in the Ardennes I was tellin' you about. I've
promised to run over there next summer. I wish you'd come too, Lettice,
as you didn't bring it off this time."

"You _said_ you didn't want me," murmured Lettice reproachfully.

"I didn't want you when things were all beastly. But I do want you to
meet Harry. I want your opinion of him."

To this Lettice made no reply. She set a few slow, neat stitches in the
cloth she was embroidering.

"Whereabouts is it, this place in the Ardennes?"

"Near Bouillon. You can get there for next to nothing, if that's what
you're thinkin' of, but I wish you'd let me take you. I did rather well
over that deal this morning and I'm rollin'. After all, you're as good
as my sister. You might just as well."

Lettice did not thank him; that was taken for granted. They understood
each other so well that words were often superfluous.

"If it's not very expensive I might manage it myself," she said. "My
old man in Harley Street says I've got to take a holiday, so I suppose
I must go somewhere, just to satisfy him. And I should rather like to
see the Ardennes."

"Have you been to the doctor again? Why didn't you tell me before,
Lettice? What does he say?"

"He says," said Lettice with inimitable unction, "that I am in a state
of thorough nervous exhaustion, and ought to take six months' rest. So."

"Then I hope you're going to do it!"

Lettice smiled. She did not look particularly docile. Denis was
beguiled into lecturing her about her health, though he knew it was
time wasted--nay, rather, time misspent. For Miss Smith was like a pig,
and if you pulled her one way she was apt to go the other. In this
case, however, it seemed that she had fairly made up her mind before
he came to a holiday abroad, for presently she let slip that she had
been studying a guide to the Ardennes, which she had borrowed from a
neighbor below. Denis sent her down to borrow it again.

While she was away he wandered about, looking at her books. Under a
fat dictionary he came upon the paper she had been reading when he
entered, and he pulled it out to see if she still took what he called
the Radical rag. Its name stared him in the face: _The Westmorland
Gazette_. It was doubled back at page four: _Fatality at Grasmere_.

He wheeled as she came into the room. "Lettice, how on earth did you
get hold of this thing?"

She stopped dead for a moment, then came on.

"I ordered it."

"What for?"

"Because I'd seen something about the accident, and I wanted to know
more. So I went to Finch's at the corner and asked him to get me the
local paper, and he did."

Lettice had a talent for explaining the obvious.

"Where did you see anything about the accident?"

"There was a paragraph in my halfpenny rag."

"Confound!" said Denis, black as a thunder-cloud.

Lettice smiled, recovering her equanimity as he lost his. "Well, you
shouldn't go and make interesting things like aeroplanes and become a
public character," she murmured _pianissimo_.

"Why didn't you tell me that you knew?"

She looked at him, allowing her speakingly derisive eyes to retaliate
that question.

"I couldn't tell you about it, it wasn't my affair," said Denis hotly
and confusedly. "Gardiner doesn't want the story all over the place.
How could I help it, Lettice? But when I was talkin' about Easedale, I
think you might have let me know you knew!"

"My dear child, I couldn't begin on it if you didn't, could I?" said
Lettice patiently. "I was simply _longing_ to ask questions. It was
nice, proper, lady-like feeling made me hold my tongue, what you always
say you like. And now you're cross with me! Well, well."

Denis was cross; he stood crumpling the paper in his hands, visibly
fuming. Lettice took it away from him and smoothed it out.

"I shan't talk about it to Mr. Gardiner when I come to Rochehaut, if
that's what you're afraid of."

"Are you really comin' to Rochehaut?"

"Don't you want me now you know I know?"

She looked at him with those impish eyes.

"You know too much, Lettice!" said her cousin, discomfited, half
laughing. She turned away with her small foreign shrug.

"Dear, dear! there's no pleasing some people!"



CHAPTER VI

SIC TRANSIT

                          Are you the new person drawn towards me?
     To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what you
       suppose.

     WALT WHITMAN.


On a cold morning in July, 1913, Lettice climbed down from a Belgian
third-class carriage, dragging her luggage behind her, and found
herself at Graide station, province of Luxemburg. Lettice was an expert
in the art of traveling cheaply. She had left Victoria the previous
afternoon, in a slow train, because the boat expresses don't take
third-class passengers. After a wait at Dover, she had crossed by night
in the fetid atmosphere of the second-class ladies' cabin of the old
_Rapide_, and had been excessively ill. Continuing her journey at 4
A.M., she had traveled to Brussels in a smoking compartment
with all the windows shut. Namur, Dinant, Houyet--she lost count of
her changes after that. Sometimes she faced the engine; more often
she had to ride back; once a Belgian _père de famille_ marched across
the width of the carriage and ruthlessly pulled up the window, her
window, under her very nose. Always somebody was smoking, to the usual
accompaniments, under the notice "Niet Rooken"; and always, at every
change, she had to drag her heavy basket down steps and across lines
of rail and heave it up to racks far above her aching head. We buy our
pleasures dear when we are young. But this was the end. At Graide she
was to meet the diligence which should land her at the doors of the
Hôtel Bellevue.

Of course there was no porter. In those days there never were any
porters at a Belgian country station. If you didn't _expédier_ your
baggage (as every self-respecting traveler should), you had to carry
it yourself. Lettice's baggage was what is known as a pilgrim basket,
gone at the corners, with a double strap which had slipped into a
string round its middle, leaving the ends bulging. Bending to it like a
patient donkey, she trailed across the loose gray gravel to the exit,
and at last was outside in the road. The Café de la Gare confronted
her, a yellow house with red facings and a blue slate roof. "Bureau de
la diligence" appeared on its sign, but the customary shabby, dirty,
stuffy, rickety ruin of a two-horse shandrydan was nowhere to be seen.

"Pour Rochehaut, madame?"

A smart commissionaire had seized her basket. Round his cap in
gilt lettering ran the words, "Hôtel Bellevue." Lettice nodded
distrustfully, and in a trice was whisked round the corner, still
clinging to her strap. Behold the diligence of the Hôtel Bellevue--a
brand-new motor char-à-banc, glistening in tan-colored varnish! The
commissionaire threw open the door with a flourish worthy of the
boulevards, and Lettice subsided in a corner as if her patient knees
had at last given way.

In the fresh air she presently revived enough to take notice of her
fellow-travelers. There were two, both women, the elder obviously
a maid. Lettice had seen them before, at Dinant, descending from a
_voiture-salon_ with a porter in attendance, and had marked them with a
malevolent eye, having tried in vain to secure that porter herself. But
even without that memory she would have noticed the younger of the two.

She was a tall slip of a girl, scarcely out of her teens, but not
dressed like an _ingénue_. Her French hat, her furs, her gloves, the
exquisite cloth of her suit, all her traveling appointments might
have belonged to a married woman of thirty. Yet she was not married,
for there was no wedding ring among the diamonds on her finger, and
Lettice, whose eyes were as good as opera-glasses, could read the label
on the gold-mounted dressing-case in the rack above her head--Miss D.
M. O'Connor, Hôtel Bellevue. She looked fragile, as if recovering
from an illness, and her figure was still slender and undeveloped; but
she had masses of exquisitely glossy dark hair, and great dark eyes,
full of fire and gloom. Young though she was, she knew how to get
herself obeyed. When she scowled (and she could scowl, with those black
brows), even a Belgian porter came to attention. Lettice was wondering
what it was that had set her at odds with the world, and written such
bitterness on the small, brooding face, when the dark eyes looked up
and met hers with a smile, sudden and child-like, which had just the
effect of a sunburst over a gloomy landscape.

But before she could speak the unsociable Lettice hurriedly averted
her eyes and blotted herself in her corner. She make talk with a
stranger for an hour, and begin an acquaintance which would have to
be continued, with smiles and remarks about the weather, every time
they chanced to meet in the hotel? No, thank you! The most interesting
character study was not worth that. Lettice would have walked a couple
of miles any day to avoid a chance acquaintance.

Miss O'Connor stared, half incredulous; then the clouds came down again
with a vengeance, and she turned her back on the ungrateful Lettice
and looked out of the window. They were passing down a straight road
between long strips of arable land, wheat, potatoes, cabbages, beets,
fenceless and flat as a table; and with the road went an avenue of
trees, each lopped to a mop-head atop of its naked stem, crawling away
like a green caterpillar to the limit of sight. In the distance a tiny
white church raised a gray conical spire like an extinguisher; a group
of white and gray dolls'-houses clustered below, drowsily basking, blue
haze and brown dust, under the hazy sky.

"Louisa! What time do we get to Rochehaut?"

"Half-past twelve the book said, Miss Dot."

"Which means half-past one, I suppose," said Dorothea O'Connor in her
caustic young voice. They were speaking in undertones, but Lettice,
whose ears were as sharp as her eyes, could not help hearing every
word. "This is the most hatefully ugly place I've ever seen. Of
course one expects advertisements to lie, but there is such a thing as
overdoing it."

When Dorothea was annoyed, she let it be known. Louisa, faithful soul,
bowed her head before the storm; but she paid about as much attention
as to the rages of a child.

"Oh, Miss Dot dear, I wish you'd leave this dreadful heathen country
and come back to England!"

"I'm coming back to England when I've done what I want, and not
before." There was a pleasing vigor and directness in Dorothea's
statements. "I'm sorry for you, Louisa, but after all you'll be able to
get a cup of real English tea at the Bellevue--all the advertisements
said so!"

"'Tisn't tea I'm thinking of, Miss Dot, but this dreadful wicked idea
of yours. Deceiving your dear kind uncle and all--"

"It's no business of Uncle Jack's what I do, and if I don't tell him
it's only because I don't want him to be bothered." Louisa sighed and
shook her head. "I won't be moaned at," Dorothea declared, with an
inimical flash. "No, and I won't be prayed at either! I've told you,
you can go home if you like; but if you stay, you'll just have to
resign yourself, because I _am_ going through with it--I should despise
myself for ever and ever if I didn't! There: is that plain?"

"Oh, Miss Dot, you have shook your hat so crooked!" was Louisa's
earnest reply. Dorothea laughed, as she submitted to have it set
straight.

"I rather hate you sometimes, Louisa darling, you make me feel such a
brute," she said, "but I'm going on, all the same. Dear me, is this
place an example of the unsurpassed view, I wonder? It'll add a fresh
joy to Rochehaut if there's an outbreak of typhoid!"

They were passing through the village which in the distance had looked
so trim. Set well back from the road on either side was a row of white
houses; before each house, a midden, foursquare; before the middens,
a gutter, running auburn; between the gutters, the main street,
down which the omnibus had to pass. Dorothea, her face buried in
her handkerchief, was rummaging her bag impatiently for a bottle of
lavender salts, when something made her glance at her fellow-traveler.
Lettice was no longer gray, she was green, and trying weakly to
unfasten her veil. Suddenly her surprised and unyielding waist was
clasped by a peremptory arm, and the lavender salts were thrust under
her nose.

"How many hatpins have you?--oh, here's the last. Move my things off
the seat, Louisa. Now put your head down on these rugs; that's better.
We shall be out of this hateful village directly."

The amazed Lettice found herself laid flat on the cushions.
Automatically she rose up, reacting like a bent twig; instantly she was
pressed back again.

"No, you must lie still. I saw you at Brussels, looking as ill as ill,
even then. Are you ill, or is it only the traveling that's upset you?"

"I had a bad crossing," said Lettice, in a tone that was almost surly.

"A bad crossing? You came over last night? Then I don't wonder at
anything. My flask, Louisa--no, that's the eau-de-Cologne, how stupid
you are! I'm going to give you a liqueur; brandy's hateful, and no good
at all, but a curaçao does pull you together. Open your mouth--that's
right--"

Lettice had opened her mouth to say she did not like liqueurs, but
she was given no time; her zealous nurse immediately poured the dose
down her throat. This was an outrage--it was forcible feeding--and on
Lettice, of all people! Lettice, who could not bear so much as to be
touched against her will! Coughing in the most lady-like way, pink with
choking and with injured dignity, she presented a pathetic sight for
any one with eyes to see. Dorothea had none.

"You aren't one bit fit to be going about alone and looking after
yourself," she said, in a mixture of severity and solicitude. "You
ought to be in bed! Are you cold?--why, your hands are like lumps of
ice! My cloak, Louisa. When we get to the hotel you shall have a hot
bottle and I'll see after you properly. No, don't try to talk."

Hitherto Lettice had expressed no gratitude, but now, having been told
to keep silence, she said "Thank you," in a tone of acid obstinacy. It
is trying to be done good to against your will. Nobody had ever before
attempted such a liberty with Lettice. Denis might lecture, but he
never dreamed of enforcing his advice; while her own sisters would have
laughed at the possibility. "Make Lettice do what she doesn't choose?"
cried Rosabel. "You might just as well argue with the leg of that
table!"

Lettice, of course, did not agree with them; she considered herself to
be of a yielding disposition, bordering on flabbiness; but there are
things the meekest cannot stand. The moment Dorothea's back was turned
she rose up and put on her hat again. After that she felt happier,
if less comfortable. Lettice was one of those persons who are never
really happy when they are comfortable; instinctive dread of slackness
(springing by rebound from innate love of luxury) drove her to deny her
body in order to ease her soul. Certainly her body was not at ease.
Violent remedies did not suit her. It might have been the curaçao, or
the insult, or both of them together, but her sensations were growing
acute.

She saw nothing when they plunged into a rick dark green valley of
woods. She was blind to the silvery splendors of distant hills and
river. They turned into a wide courtyard and drew up. Lettice saw only
that the Hôtel Bellevue had many piazzas and balconies, all full of
people, all watching the arrival of the coach. Dorothea descended on
one side. Her patient slipped out on the other and made towards the
door.

"Why, Lettice!"

It was Denis, who had sprung out of his chair and was advancing towards
her, smiling, as the phrase goes, all over his face. Lettice, while
wishing him at Jericho, produced an answering smile.

"Well," said she.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming? You said you meant to spend
the night in Brussels! You might have sent a wire!"

"I forgot," said Lettice, still edging towards the door. She wished he
would not stand directly in the way. Denis at last began to perceive
that something was wrong.

"Did you have a bad crossing? You're all the colors of the rainbow, my
dear girl--"

Lettice suddenly swerved past him and almost ran towards the house. As
she reached the door another dense and solid person came out, and got
hopelessly in the way. A delay at such a moment ... well, if it had
been anybody in the world but Lettice ... and even as it was....

"Good Lord!" said Denis.

The new-comer, who was Harry Gardiner, turned with commendable presence
of mind and rang for a maid. "Show this lady to her room--"

"And take her a cup of tea at once," finished Dorothea, coming up
breathless to resume command. "I'll see to her myself in a moment."

Lettice's last thought, as she hid her shame within the house, was that
she must on no account forget to lock her door.



CHAPTER VII

AUBADE

     Why should a heart have been there,
     In the way of a fair woman's foot?

     E. B. BROWNING.


The house was asleep. The white corridor was filled with blue
reflections of the sky, from the French window open at its north
end; but the blind of the south window opposite glowed golden, and
streaks of sunlight slipped in, slanting up the wall. The house was
asleep, every one was asleep except the sun, who had just risen to
his beneficent work, rejoicing as a giant to run his course. Denis's
kitten (he had saved her from some boys who wanted to drown her in the
river) poked her small black inquiring nose round the glass door, and
scampered in to play with the vine-leaf shadows dancing on the wall.
She patted them with velvet paw, crouched with tail lashing for a
spring, reared up and fell over sideways and scuffled round and round
on her back, clawing and biting her own tail.

There Gardiner saw her when he too came in from the balcony, walking
in his socks and carrying his wading boots. He scooped her up in one
hand and bore her down the corridor to Denis's room. No one answering
his tap, he walked in. A small white chamber, facing west; the curtain
drawn back from the open lattice, and Denis lying asleep beneath.
Everything about him was sternly neat. His clothes were folded on a
chair, his boots stood side by side, his Bible and Prayer Book lay
on the window-ledge at the bed's head. The wind had blown back the
cover, and Gardiner stooped to read the inscription. "Denis Arthur
Merion-Smith, from his Affectionate Father, March 4, 1897"--the date
of his confirmation. Underneath, the reference 1 Tim. v. 22. Gardiner
with unscrupulous curiosity turned the pages till he found the verse,
underscored: "Keep thyself pure." He stood looking at his friend's
unconscious face with something of envy. He was never in doubt as to
the relative worth of himself and Denis.

"Mrrreow!" said the kitten, suddenly biting and kicking in earnest.
Gardiner dropped her on the sleeper, and laughed to see his violent
start.

"Come on fishing, lazy brute!"

"What, now?" asked Denis, rubbing his eyes and soothing the kitten at
the same time.

"Yes, now, pronto, this instant. I've wasted the prime of the morning
already, because I knew I shouldn't be able to drag you out of your bed
before."

"All right, I'm on," said Denis with disarming amiability. Gardiner
left him feeding the kitten with biscuits, and went down to his
larders, which he knew as well as any careful housewife. He secured
some of yesterday's croissants, butter in a china pot, sliced ham,
half-a-dozen shrimp patties, a pocketful of pears; he boiled up coffee
on an electric stove to fill his flask, and was ready to join Denis in
the courtyard.

Just after four: the morning blue and gold and breathless still. They
came into the road which runs embanked along the heights of Rochehaut,
and paused at the parapet. Deep the cleft of the valley, rich in
forests, dropping sheer to the river--and what a river! The Semois, on
a map, looks like a dislocated corkscrew; she twists and she turns,
tying herself into S's and W's, running impartially north, south,
east, and west among her maze of hills. Here at the foot of the cliffs
of Rochehaut she sweeps a long loop at the beholder, inclosing in
her slender silver arms a long, long narrow peninsula of hills which
swell up to end in a rounded baby mountain immediately below. This is
Frahan. The ends of the loop run far away out of sight among the hills,
incurving so that you would swear they must meet somewhere in the chaos
of dim peaks on the horizon. The sun from behind the watchers was
faintly gilding the velvety gray-green crest of the peninsula, and the
tiny church of Frahan, on its flank, gleamed like an ivory toy; but the
river cleft was still deep in hyacinthine shadows, veiled in the gauzes
of the mists, drenched with the gray-silver of the dews.

The fishermen found a winding path which led them to the river, and
turned down-stream, fishing and wading. Of all the lovely daughters
of the Meuse the Semois is the loveliest. The Lesse, issuing cold and
mysterious from the caverns of Han, has been insulted by a railway; the
Amblève is gloomy with dark bowlders and wild monotonous hills; the
turbulent Ourthe, beautiful among the mountains in the ravine of Sy, is
elsewhere spoilt by quarries and by tourists. But the Semois is never
gloomy; she seems to hold the sunshine in her golden sands. You may
follow her wrigglings for a whole morning and see no road, no tilth,
no sign of human handiwork save the very primitive cart track which
conducts you impartially beside the water and through it.

A slab of rock, embedded in the turf, served as their breakfast-table.
A wall of limestone rose behind, graced with ferns and mosses and
the delicate carmine leaflets of the wild geranium. Fallen bowlders
shelved half across the stream, which surged round them in a ruff, or
slid past like thin crystal. What richness of color everywhere! They
could see the river dancing towards them down the green and smiling
valley, bluer than the sky, a-sparkle with diamonds, beset with
flowers--forget-me-nots, the tender lilac crocus of the autumn, yellow
lilies on a pool where the Semois condescended for a moment to lie
still. The woods were green as sycamores in May. A kingfisher swept by,
tropically brilliant. On the purple mint at the water's edge a great
butterfly sat poised, pivoting round the flower-head, stiffly opening
and closing its gorgeous, downy wings of scarlet, black, and white.

"Talk to me of your beastly England!" said Gardiner, flat on his back
in the grass. "A man can breathe here. Look at those trees--none of
your spindly copses with the sky showing through on the other side, but
good solid cut-and-come-again forest, for leagues on end! I could say
my prayers to a forest."

"It's good fishin'," said Denis, more intent on his catch than on the
scenery. The Ourthe may brag of its salmon, but the Semois has noble
trout. "Better than it was at Grasmere."

"Oh, Grasmere...."

Gardiner's face was not expressive, but his voice told Denis that he
was back among scenes which by common consent they had not mentioned
before, and which Denis had no wish ever to mention again. He saw what
he had brought on himself, and blessed his blundering tongue. Sure
enough, after some pause the younger man asked:

"Did you ever hear any more of Mrs. Trent after I left?"

"A little, from Scott," Denis unwillingly admitted.

"From Scott? Did he write to you, then?"

"No, I saw him."

"Where? In town?"

"At Westby."

"You saw Scott at _Westby_?"

"I spent a week-end with him there last November," said Denis stiffly.
"He asked me when we were at Easedale. He's a nice little chap. I like
him."

"Well, I'm hanged!" said Gardiner, settling back his head, which he
had lifted to stare at his friend. "You talk too much about your own
affairs, Denis, that's what's the matter with you. Go on. What did he
tell you about Mrs. Trent?"

"He said she'd not made at all a good recovery; after leavin' Easedale
she'd to go to a nursing home in town, and from there she sent him down
a cross and candlesticks for the prison chapel. Scott was quite set
up about it, he's a ritualistic little chap; and I suppose they were
handsome enough if you like such things, I don't--"

"My good Denis, what have I to do with crosses and candlesticks? Did he
say she said anything about me?"

"He did," said Denis, more unwillingly than ever. "He said she asked
for your address."

"Oh, confound--! Did he give it?"

"He had to. He said it was no use refusin', as she'd easily have got it
out of any one else."

"He said that, did he? Confound him too! I seem to have left several
loose ends over this affair. Was that all he told you?"

"Yes. After she wrote with the things he heard no more."

"I wonder why she wanted my address," said Gardiner, frowning. "Well, I
suppose it must be all right--after all this time."

He pulled at his pipe in silence. Happening to glance at Denis, he
surprised that look of distaste and repugnance which he had never seen
on his friend's face before Easedale. Gardiner was not fond of owning
himself in the wrong; few men are, and he less than most. But he spoke
out now on impulse.

"Look here, Denis, I know very well I ought to have owned up. I knew it
at the time, but I was too beastly scared!--and that's the plain truth.
It was the idea of prison; for the moment it knocked all the stuffing
out of me--you needn't think I admire myself. And to drag you into it
as well--oh, it was a rotten business!"

"You didn't drag me, I dragged myself," said Denis quickly. "If
anybiddy was to blame, it was I."

"You! You'll be telling me you killed him next. No, it's my own
funeral--and I've been such a concentrated ass over it, that's
what gets me! If I'd told the truth at once, there would have been
practically no bother, I'm certain of it. I could have done it then;
afterwards, at the inquest, when I wanted to, it was too late. I
couldn't tell the tale without its point; and I couldn't tell that
particular point when that unhappy little thing had lost both her
husband and her kid. No, I don't consider myself to shine in this
affair, either in morals or intelligence."

"It was I began it," said Denis obstinately.

Gardiner shrugged his shoulders; what was the use of contradiction?
Denis was mending a fly; and by the happy clearing of his face it
was plain that he was also busy mending his ideal and setting it back
on its pedestal with an added glory. There is no surer way of earning
a man's esteem than by begging his pardon. All Gardiner's faults
were hidden under this new coat of gilding. "You're an incurable
idealist, my good Denis," he said to himself, watching the process of
rehabilitation. "You idealize me on the one hand, and that inoffensive
but very ordinary little cousin of yours on the other. Lord send you
never find us out, for you'll break your knees badly when you do!"
The undeserved good opinion of a friend makes a thorny bed. Yet,
though Gardiner did not see it, he was moving towards the fulfillment
of his friend's conception of his character. That is the worst of
idealists--they shame us into acting up to their ideas!

Denis was a devout fisherman. As soon as he had finished the fly he
started off again, wading round the bend out of sight. Gardiner, who
fished only because any sport was better than none, stayed where he
was. Minutes passed. He was nearly asleep when some one hailed him.
At first he thought it was Denis, and took no notice; but the voice
becoming insistent, he opened one eye, and immediately sprang up. It
was Miss O'Connor, on the other side of the river.

She made a trumpet of her hands and shouted some question, but the
Semois drowned her words. Gardiner was wearing the orthodox Ardennes
waders, which begin as boots and continue as shiny waterproof breeches
right up to the waist, so it was nothing for him to splash across to
the farther shore. (It may be mentioned that Denis stuck obstinately to
his English boots, which came scarcely higher than his knee; with the
result that he got very wet, for the Semois came considerably higher
than his knee.)

Dorothea was wearing a short tweed skirt with leather buttons;
square-toed, solid brown brogues; a white shirt, a tan belt, and a
brown tie to match. She was hatless, and her hair, smooth, parted,
and rippling over her ears, was glossy as a Frenchwoman's. Her face,
which had lost its fragility, was softly, evenly brown; her lips, a
veritable cupid's bow, were cherry-red. They were drawn straight as she
looked at Gardiner, and her manner was distant.

"I took you for a woodcutter, or I should not have disturbed you," she
said. "I wished to ask if there is a way back along the river."

"Well, there is," said Gardiner, looking down at the ruts under their
feet, "and you're on it. If you follow this track, it will bring you
straight to Rochehaut."

"But it goes through the water."

"It does."

"Must I go through the water, then?"

"Unless you like to make a bee-line up through the forest to Botassart.
It's nearly perpendicular, and miles out of your way."

"Very inconvenient," said Dorothea displeasedly. "Why isn't there a
ferry?"

"Well, you see this track isn't much used, except by the timber wagons.
It won't be above your knees, if you'll allow me to show you the way;
this is a regular ford. But perhaps you'd rather I retired round the
bend?"

"That will not be necessary," she said, more frigidly than ever,
and without more ado went behind a bush to take off her shoes and
stockings. Gardiner thought her very pretty and rather ridiculous,
and wondered if he were called on to see her home. He decided that he
was not. It occurred to him that by all the laws of romance he ought
to carry her across; but he decided again that nature had not cut him
out for the part. No true hero should be half-an-inch shorter than the
heroine; and certainly none has ever been known to drop a lady in the
middle of a river.

Dorothea appeared barefoot, and motioned him imperiously to lead the
way. They stepped into the clear, shallow water, scattering a cloud of
tiny fishes. As they advanced, Dorothea's skirts bunched up higher and
higher. If Gardiner had not kept his eyes delicately averted, he might
have had a glimpse, and more than a glimpse, of certain tweed garments
that were not a part of her skirt. The Semois, though shallow, is very
swift. Midway across the golden pebbles were succeeded by slabs of
gray-green rock, tressed with weed. Gardiner heard a small exclamation,
and turned just in time to save his companion from measuring her
length in the river. His arm went round the slim figure, so soft and
pliant, with no more sentiment than if it had been a boy. But she--her
color flamed as she was thrown against him; she dropped her skirts and
clutched his arm to push him away.

"Steady!" said Gardiner, "or you'll have us both over. These stones are
as slippery as glass."

"I--trod on something sharp," said Dorothea in a strangled voice. She
stood there with her skirts in the water, still holding him off with
both hands.

"Hurt yourself?"

She shook her head.

"Sure? Will you take my arm for a bit?" said Gardiner, puzzled by her
unaccountable emotion.

She shook her head again, and stumbled after him to the shore. There
she sat down on the stone which had been their table, to put on her
shoes and stockings while he collected his possessions. He gave her
plenty of time, as he thought, yet when he turned she was still sitting
there, with one foot bare on the grass. Across the instep, blanched
alabaster white by the water, ran a crimson gash.

"Hullo! you have damaged yourself," said Gardiner. "You ought to have
something between that and the stocking, if you'll allow me to say so.
Got a handkerchief?"

"I've lost it," she said without looking up.

"Have mine, then." He held it out; she made no movement. "May I do it
for you?"

After a brief incomprehensible hesitation, she murmured: "Please." More
and more puzzled, Gardiner knelt down and took her foot in his hand.
It was a bad cut, but not very bad; some women would have made nothing
of it; he was glad she belonged to the more feminine type. He washed
away the gravel and fixed a neat bandage, Dorothea sitting passive. But
he could feel that she was conscious of him; and he became acutely
conscious of her. When it was done, she murmured something which might
have been supposed to be thanks, slipped half her foot into her shoe
and stood up.

"You'll never get home at that rate. Let me help you," said Gardiner,
watching her attempt to shuffle along.

"I--I think I can manage. Is it far?"

"Twenty minutes' walk, and shocking bad going."

"I shall be taking you out of your way."

"Not a bit of it. It's time I got back too."

"But your friend--I saw him fishing up the stream."

"Oh, he's old enough to play by himself," said Gardiner easily, his
keenness growing in proportion to her reluctance. (It may be said that
Denis, when he returned, spent half-an-hour hunting for his friend
before he decided to follow him home. Thus does Love elbow Friendship
out of the way.) "Don't you want me to help you?" he added bluntly. "Do
you object to me personally? Shall I cut on home and send your maid?"

"Oh, no, no," said Dorothea hurriedly, and thereupon took his arm.
Gardiner had what he wanted, and a little more; heavens! what was the
matter with the girl? She was shaking all over, an electric battery of
emotion; the strong current of her trouble and indecision thrilled him
in every nerve. More than that, he was left in no doubt that he himself
was the cause of her agitation.

There was nothing of the ascetic in Gardiner; he was warm-blooded and
inflammable, as he had already found to his cost. Since he could not
get away from his temperament, he got round it, by avoiding women, and
by keeping any necessary intercourse free from the first beginnings
of sentiment. As his will was stronger than his passions, except when
they got out of hand and were running away, this plan had worked well.
But he could not avoid Dorothea; and when she slipped her hand through
his arm she undid the work of years, and stirred ashes into flame.
Passion, unlike love, is a sudden growth, and it was passion he felt:
that inexplicable force which draws men and women together, often
in defiance of every natural taste and sentiment. The situation was
alluring. Dorothea was not merely a pretty girl, she was a personage,
as she had very soon made known in the hotel; a star far away in the
sky above Gardiner's head. Yet the touch of his hand set her shaking
like a reed. Gardiner was not coxcomb enough to imagine that she had
fallen in love with his fine eyes; but he was prepared to stake his
soul that for some undiscoverable reason she was half afraid of him.
What man could resist that lure?

It was not a long journey to the Bellevue, but it was eventful; for
things move fast in the campaigns of the heart. Gardiner did not
capitulate without a struggle. "You ass, you don't want an affair
of this sort on your hands, particularly not with one of your own
boarders," he told himself. "You preposterous ass, go slow!" And paid
as much heed as men in such circumstances usually do to their own
wisdom. "I can resist everything except temptation"--the phrase flitted
ruefully through his mind. He was trying hard to convince himself that
Dorothea's tremors were not necessarily flattering, when they came out
of the woods into the road, in view of the hotel.

Dorothea stood still.

"I--I think I'd rather manage the rest alone, if you don't mind."

Gardiner started, dropped her arm, stepped back out of sight among the
trees.

"Of course. You naturally would. I ought to have understood before."

"Oh, I didn't mean that!"

"Oh, I think you did. It would hardly do, would it?"

"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Dorothea. She hesitated; he could see her
visibly struggling with herself; then she raised her head. Whatever
quinine of common-sense he might administer to himself, there was no
possibility of mistaking the expression in those pansy-brown eyes. She
might have wavered before; she had made up her mind now.

"I _didn't_ mean that," she said. "I never thought of such a thing. It
was only that--that--people do talk, if they see things--and suppose
you asked me to go for a walk with you again--"

"Do you mean that if I did, you would?"

He got no answer. Lettice had just come out to the gates of the hotel
to taste the morning sun, with the kitten squirming on her shoulder;
and at sight of her Miss O'Connor ran away.



CHAPTER VIII

AMANDUS, -A, -UM

     "Mine is a long and a sad tale," said the Mouse, sighing.


The Bellevue, when Gardiner first set eyes on it, was a cross between
a hostelry and a farm, tumbled round three sides of a quadrangle where
black-and-white pigs rooted and grunted, among middens and mangy grass,
under the windows of the dining-room. The Ardennes hotel of those days
had no drains, no baths, no basins bigger than soup-plates and not
many towels, no easy-chairs, no salons; in fact, none of the comforts
of a refined home. There would be middens outside and the odor of the
cow-stable within. On the other hand, the rooms would be clean, the
beds comfortable, the food abundant, if peculiar; and the friendly
welcome which met the traveler made up for many discomforts.

In all his former ventures Gardiner had been a tenant; the Bellevue was
his own. He had bought the freehold with an opportune legacy, and was
spending on it his savings of ten years. According to his usual plan,
he went to work first to make the outside attractive. The quadrangle
where the pigs had fed was now a lawn, laid out with flower-beds. Of
the dilapidated out-buildings, some had been pulled down, others built
up and turned into additional bedrooms. Round the three sides of the
court ran a piazza with easy-chairs, and tables, and ever more flowers,
sure attraction to an English eye. Inside, his alterations had been
more costly. He had put in baths; he had laid on electric light; he
had partially refurnished the house--not, however, with conventional
"suites" from Liège. They would not have suited the heterogeneous old
mansion, on whose lintel was carved the date 1548, and which had been
successively convent, country house, farm, and inn. For those who had
eyes to see, there was in those days a good deal of fine old furniture,
carved presses, beds, and so forth, to be picked up in the farms and
the villages. It had been a labor of love for Gardiner to go round
bargaining for these things, and bringing them home in triumph to his
picturesque old rooms. He made a play of his work, and a pet of his
home; he grudged no labor spent in beautifying it; he enjoyed dressing
it up, as a child dresses up a doll. In the end, what with polished
floors, casement curtains, and Noah's Ark plants in pots, the place
looked like a garden-city house, as Lettice unkindly remarked. There
was nothing like it in the Ardennes.

His next step was to advertise, a branch of their business on
which hotel-keepers in general do not seem to spend their brains.
Gardiner did not want a mixed clientèle, he was out to attract the
poorer gentry, parsons, doctors, schoolmasters, retired colonels and
commanders, literary men--the class which he had found pleasantest
to deal with. Therefore he put his discreet little paragraphs into
such papers as _The Guardian_, _The Church Times_, _The Author_,
_The Journal of Education_, _The Spectator_, and various ladies'
periodicals. Each advertisement was worded differently, to suit its
audience, but all wound up with the formula: "Inclusive terms, 4s. 6d.
per day. Fifteen-day excursions, Dover--Rochehaut, second class, £1.
8s. 3d. Exact directions as to journey given." And to meet the demand
which arose, he had leaflets printed, giving alternative routes by
day or night, plans of stations, prices in detail, travel hints, the
minute advice of an old traveler who knows every trick of the journey;
leaflets which enabled the greenest novice to face the _douane_, and
change at the right places, and catch the right trains. This branch
of his work alone kept him busy, for he was his own secretary. But it
gained him what he wanted, and filled his house. Satan had not much
chance of finding Gardiner's hands at his disposal. Nevertheless, in
those summer days he found time to get into mischief.

Lettice was enjoying herself very much in her own fashion, though to
more adventurous souls her daily round might have seemed dull. She
came down to breakfast at nine, and then crawled out half-a-mile to a
certain brushwood pile in the forest, commanding the view over Frahan.
There she sat down, the faggots providing a comfortable seat with a
back. She took a work-bag and a Latin grammar, and spent her morning
alternately in setting slow stitches in a green tablecloth and in
learning Latin verbs from the volume open on her knee. After lunch
she retired to her room in company with a sheaf of foolscap. If she
wrung out one whole line in a day, she considered herself to have done
brilliantly. After tea came a solemn constitutional with Denis, which,
as her chronic tiredness wore off, extended from two miles to six, or
even ten. Then followed dinner; and after dinner, bed at nine o'clock.

One morning about three weeks after her arrival she was starting on her
customary crawl to the wood pile, when Dorothea jumped up from her seat
on the _terrasse_.

"Are you going for a walk? May I come too?"

"I'm not going far," Lettice warned her in a discouraging hurry.

"I know; you go into the woods and sit down, don't you? I'll bring my
book."

"That will be very nice," declared Lettice. Any one who knew the A B
C of her expressions must have seen that she was, to put it prettily,
as cross as two sticks. Dorothea was not blind; nevertheless, she
persisted. They walked in silence, Dorothea now a little ahead, now
checking herself back to her companion's unalterable crawl. Arrived
at the wood pile, Lettice sat down on the identical bundle of sticks
which she had picked out for herself seventeen days before. She was
conservative as a cat in all her ways.

The morning was hazy. Round them the woods had been cleared of forest
trees; there was a carpet of reddish leathery leaves, across which
the great silver boles lay forlorn, amid the white chips of their
slaughter. Low bushes were green, and there were leaves overhead, a
thin tracery; but elsewhere only russet tones and gray, gray-stemmed
saplings and grayish mists. Gray too was Frahan in the valley, softly
molded in haze, white the river circling its utterly improbable
peninsula, gray the far mountains, pearl-gray and silver, losing
themselves in silvery sky. Between her participles and her stitches
Lettice would often lift up her eyes to the hills; she dearly loved a
distant view. But to-day she was watching her companion.

Dorothea had plumped down among the withered leaves and sat there,
hugging her knees and staring gloomily into the forest. To the feminine
eye it was plain that she wore no stays; she bent about like a willow
wand, and her attitudes were unstudied as a child's. Youth is often
tragic; but there was real bitter experience written on those soft
childish contours, and it was the contradiction which interested
Lettice. Turning her head suddenly, Dorothea caught her with her needle
suspended, staring, and broke into her charming smile.

"I want to tell you something about myself; may I?"

Lettice instantly became all attention. Nature had designed her as a
casket for confidences, and they were often poured into her patient
ear. Dorothea uncurled herself and lay prone, snuggling close, propping
her chin in her hands, and looking now on the ground, now up at Lettice
with her big soft eyes.

"It's a long tale, but it's really quite funny," she said. "It all
began about money. There was a family place, and my father, when he
died, left it to me, with his brother as my guardian; but the brother,
my uncle, thought it ought to have been left to him direct, do you
see?--not to a scrap of a girl. So he was very angry and always bore me
a grudge, and I do think he had a sort of grievance, only he needn't
have been so horrid about it. He wouldn't have been so bad but for his
wife. She was a clever woman, and he was a big soft handsome booby
who always believed what she told him; so when she said I was sly and
wicked, of course he was sure I was. Well, I lived with them, and they
had the use of my money. But they were always most desperately afraid
I should get married and take it away. So they wouldn't let me go
anywhere. I never went to a dance, I never played tennis, I wasn't even
let go out to tea or have any girl friends, not after I was fourteen.
Clara (that's what I had to call her) used to go up to town, and shop
in Bond Street, and do the round of the theaters, on _my_ money, while
I was left at home to dust the drawing-room and wash the stockings. It
was funny! Just like Cinderella!"

"Why didn't you run away?"

"I hadn't any money except threepence a week, or any one to run to.
Besides--" She hesitated. "You don't know how helpless a girl can be in
the hands of a grown-up man," she said, with resurgent bitterness. "He
used to tell me I was the sort of girl who makes a man want to thrash
her. He did hit me once or twice. Oh! I could have killed him!"

She stabbed the dead leaves viciously with Lettice's scissors.

"But, but--but didn't people talk?" Lettice asked.

"Yes, they did, and some of them even quarreled with my uncle about me;
but you see he told every one what a bad girl I was, and in a way it
wasn't a lie, and he could make people believe it, because he believed
it himself. He did really believe that I'd made father leave the money
to me, though I was only five when he died. Why, sometimes I even got
muddled myself, and used to feel I must be all the dreadful things he
said. Oh! I was miserable. You can be very, very miserable when you're
seventeen, and it doesn't seem a bit funny then. I remember once I
saved up my pennies and retrimmed my summer hat--I always hated the
things she got for me--and made it look quite pretty. I was so pleased
with it; and then when I came down she said it was unsuitable, and she
made me take it off, and go to church in the horrid old brown felt I'd
worn all the winter, though it was a broiling June day! I cried--I
cried all the service. So to punish me, when we came out, she asked
the vicar, me standing by, to change our pew, because she said she
couldn't trust me so near the choir! (That was one of the things they
always said, that I ran after men.) However, she was done that time,
for the vicar played up like a trump. He said he'd speak to the choir,
and see they didn't annoy me again; and then he turned to me and paid
the dearest old-fashioned compliment about my sweet face being enough
to turn any young man's head--and me in that frightful old hat and my
nose swelled purple with crying!" She burst out laughing.

"But you did get away at last?"

"Yes, I did. I found a friend to help me ... but I can't talk about
that." Visibly, under Lettice's eyes, her face clouded over and
changed. It was a significant change: not a mere shadow falling from
without, but a revolution within. The under side of her nature, black
with premature grief and premature passions, slowly turned its ugliness
into view.

"Did you ever hate any one?" she asked, her voice sinking and her eyes
glowing as she relived the feelings she described. "Did you ever know
what it was to turn sick and cold with loathing, to have the world
go black, _black_, when a certain person comes near? Did you? No, I
know you never did, you're far too good a Christian. But I'm not a
Christian. I don't believe in any religion of love. There's little
enough love here, and what there is goes to the wall. And there's no
love over us; just a cruel, cruel, grinding power, which delights in
breaking to bits whatever it sees that's beautiful and happy. Oh, it's
an ugly, cruel, hateful world!"

"I think it's a very nice world," said Lettice, her words falling like
drops of soft water on white-hot steel. They did not very accurately
reflect her thoughts, but Lettice's words seldom did that. Dorothea
laughed them to scorn.

"You wouldn't if you were in my shoes," she said derisively. She sat
up. "Listen, and I'll tell you if you like. You've just heard what
sort of life I had when I was a girl; I can laugh over it now, but it
wasn't very gay at the time. Well, I got away, as I said; and for a
little I was happy--oh, I _was_--for just a little, little while. And
then, in a moment--everything gone. Everything. All I'd cared for, and
the hopes I had--oh, I had, I had such heavenly hopes--all gone, all
broken, dead, dead, dead." She beat her palm on the ground. "I dare
say if I'd been older I might have taken it better," she said, turning
her eyes on Lettice with an appeal which nothing in earth or heaven
could satisfy; for it was an appeal to the Moving Finger to go back, to
reverse what had been written. "I might have been gentle and forgiving
and resigned then. But I wasn't old enough. I'm only twenty-one now.
And I'm tired--I'm tired."

The mournful vibrations of her voice died away.

"It is very tiring to hate anybody," said Lettice, deftly plucking the
core of meaning out of these wild speeches. Dorothea did not seem to
hear. Her eyes, transparent windows of her soul, were miserably sad.
Presently with a quick sigh she roused herself, turned the key on
memory and drew down the blind.

"There, that's enough about me. I didn't mean to tell you all this, but
never mind, I'm glad you know. Now let's talk about something cheerful.
Tell me about that handsome cousin of yours. What's he like?"

Lettice, who could not bear to see a book mishandled, had picked up
Dorothea's, and was smoothing its rumpled pages. She accommodated
herself with patience to this violent change of subject. "Denis?" she
said. "He is very nice." Convenient word! In Lettice's vocabulary it
covered a multitude of meanings.

"I like his face. He looks as if he were in the army. Is he in the
army? What does he do?"

"He--he's a sort of engineer."

"An engineer? A civil engineer? That's not bad; they do do things worth
doing--they and an explorer here and there, and the flying men--I like
them best. I like courage, physical courage, it's far more interesting
than moral. I shouldn't think your cousin would ever know what it was
to feel afraid. And wouldn't he never tell a lie?"

"Never," said Lettice, her eyes straying to her Latin grammar.

"Not even to save a friend? He'd do anything else, take any risk
himself, but just not that? So that if he was pushed into a corner
he'd have to tell the truth? That's just what I should have expected.
Of course there are a few things I have against him," Dorothea ran
on, seemingly at random, though her downcast eyes were glowing. "He
shouldn't like cats, nasty treacherous things, they're not a man's
animal. And he shouldn't sing the hymns on Sunday out of that big book
with tunes. Going to church is all right, and suits him, but I can't
bear that book. It's like the W.S.P.A." Presumably Miss O'Connor meant
the Y.M.C.A. "Mr. Gardiner's his very greatest friend, isn't he? Would
he tell lies, do you think?"

"I don't know," said Lettice, far down the passive voice of _amo_.

"What do you think of him?"

"I think he's very nice."

Out shot Dorothea's arm, and Lettice, amazed, aggrieved, found herself
being vigorously shaken.

"Do _not_ talk like that! I never in my life knew any one so--so
perfectly systematically untruthful as you are! I don't believe you've
once this morning said one single thing you really mean!" (But she was
wrong, for Lettice had done so--once.) "Tell me what you think of Mr.
Gardiner. _Tell_ me. I want to know."

Lettice, chafing her arm, mutely reproachful, indicated the creases
which Dorothea's grip had left on her pale blue linen sleeve. "You,
you, you--you are so _violent_," she complained in her _pianissimo_
drawl, which held always a hint of make-believe. "I don't know what
you mean. I do think Mr. Gardiner is very nice." Then for the second
time she let out a little piece of truth. "I shouldn't think he'd take
failure well."

"Oh."

Abrupt silence. Dorothea sprang up and wandered off into the forest,
slashing at the brambles with her stick, jumping over logs that came
in her way, just as a boy might have done. Indeed she looked like a
boy in her rough tweeds and Norfolk coat, with her brown face and
well-scratched hands. She had worn neither hat nor gloves since she
came.

Lettice looked at her with shrewd and wideawake curiosity. She and
Denis, pooling their observations, had been following the hidden course
of Gardiner's love affair. So circumspectly had the pair behaved
that not a soul in the hotel, except the two allies, had any inkling
of the romance in progress. Yet it was serious enough, at any rate
for Gardiner. He was in it up to the neck; no doubt about him. And
Dorothea? Denis was of opinion that she meant business. Hadn't Lettice
seen the expression (love-light was the word in his mind, but he didn't
like to use it) in her eyes?

Lettice had always had her doubts as to that love-light, though she
kept them to herself. This morning they had become certainty. Dorothea
did not love Harry Gardiner--it was not love which had looked out of
those too-clear eyes of hers when she asked that imperious question.
No! Lettice had been illuminated by the certainty that he was the man
whom, on her own showing, she had singled out to hate. Dorothea could
hate, no doubt of that. The plain black and white of her emotions, love
and hate, rapture and agony, they were somewhat startling in a world of
neutral grays.

But at this point Lettice found herself up against a blank wall. What
was Gardiner's offense, and how did it happen that he did not know it
himself? For he did not know; and Dorothea was planning her attack
against a man who had thrown away his armor for love of her. This was
not sporting. Lettice always instinctively took sides with the weak
against the strong, with the victim against the avenger. Besides,
she liked Gardiner. She liked Dorothea too--with reservations; but
her character was simpler, more homogeneous, easier to follow. She,
in fact, was interesting historically, but not analytically. Now the
uncertain balance of strength and weakness in Gardiner made him an
engrossing study. He was transparent to Lettice, while she was opaque
to him. "That inoffensive but very ordinary little person"--so he had
called her: what a pity he could not look into her mind!

Thus Lettice abandoned the study of the passive of _amo_ for its active
voice. In the midst of her cogitations she was surprised to see Denis
come in view, striding through the bracken. He sometimes called for her
on his way back from the river, but now he was approaching from the
direction of the hotel. Moreover, gloom sat upon his brow.

"I say, Lettice," he called out, the Irish accent unusually strong,
"isn't it a nawful nuisance? Wandesforde's had a smash-up in his car,
and he wants me back at once!"

Lettice gazed at him, slowly and thoughtfully rubbing her nose.

"I got the wire just as I was startin' for the river. No, he's not
bad, only a broken arm. But the nuisance of it is that he's entered
for a race on Friday week, and he wants me to take it on instead. I
hate racing on a Friday--I hate racing at all, for that matter, mixin'
oneself up with newspaper men and that sort of raffle; but I'll have to
do it."

"A race? What fun! What for?" asked Dorothea, coming up in time to hear
the last words. She dropped down on a bundle of faggots, and extended
under Lettice's nose a brown and purple palm full of blackberries.
Lettice shook her head, slowly, twice. Dorothea, with a glint of fun,
reached out to offer them to Denis. He screwed his eyeglass into place,
gazed at them absently, and said: "No, thank you." Dorothea continued
to wave them under his nose, in the manner of the importunate sidesman
offering the plate to the stingy parishioner. Denis, yielding, still
absently, chose a berry and swallowed it whole like a pill. Dorothea
with a broad smile emptied the rest of her handful into her mouth, and
hugged her knees again with her crimson hands. The whole had taken but
a moment. "I didn't know you went in for racing. What did you say it
was for?" she repeated.

"Silver trophy offered by the _Birmingham Courier_. Cross-country, with
compulsory halts at Redditch, Coventry, Polesworth, and Walsall. He'd
scratch, if it weren't that we're both rather keen on testin' our new
little bus. She's done one hundred and twenty and over on her trial
flights--"

"Flights? It's an aeroplane race? You fly? You told me he was an
engineer!" cried Dorothea, rounding on Lettice in hot reproach. "Why,
I've been longing to meet a flying man for years! Go on, go on, tell
me all about it. Do you fly much? How _idiotic_ of me not to recognize
your name!"

Here was the enthusiastic young lady, Denis's pet aversion; but,
strange to say, he did not seem to mind her.

"Well, I build aeroplanes," he said, smiling. "It's my partner does the
ornamental work. You may know his name--Wandesforde."

"Wandesforde? Sydney Wandesforde? Why, I should just think I do! He
was the man who came in first in the London-Berlin race, and was
disqualified for passing inside one of the controls in a fog. And then
he had that marvelous escape, when his machine turned over in the air,
and spilt him in a heap on the top plane, and he managed to regain
control, and brought her down safely after all! Why, he's magnificent!
I'd give--I'd give a thousand pounds to go up with him!"

"You can do it for less than that," said Denis, amused.

"Ah, but I mean in a race. A big flying race--it's about the one thrill
worth having left in the world!"

"You should fly your own machine. That's better fun than bein' a
passenger. Any one of the big schools would take you on, for a matter
of seventy pounds or so. It's quite simple."

"Would they? Will you build me an aeroplane, if they do?"

"With pleasure, if you give me the commission."

"I shall come and see you about it directly I get back to England."

"Do."

Lettice gazed from one to the other. Dorothea was like a rose, her
eyes were sparkling; Denis was amused and interested. True that at
present he saw only the enthusiast, not the woman, but it was not to be
supposed that he lacked the common instincts of human nature. Was this
sudden friendship to be encouraged? Lettice answered that question by
uprooting herself from her seat.

"It is one o'clock," she announced. "I am going home."

Denis, as her escort, rose too. Dorothea sat still, looking decidedly
sulky.

"Aren't you coming, Miss O'Connor?"

"No. She doesn't want me to."

Lettice, who had already started on her homeward journey, obviously
was not given to hear. Denis glanced, irresolute, from that expressive
back to Dorothea, but ended by raising his cap and hastening after his
cousin.

"I'm sorry we bored you," he said, taking possession of her coat and
bag and book.

"Don't _mention_ it," returned Lettice with polite _empressement_.



CHAPTER IX

MELODRAMATIC

     Do one thing at least I can--
     Love a man or hate a man
     Supremely.

     _Pippa Passes._


"Louisa!"

"Yes, Miss Dot?"

"Has either of those two recognized you?"

"Well, miss, Mr. Smith haven't, that's sure. I might be a sack of
potatoes for all the notice he takes. Men he'll look at, and I'd be
sorry to be the one as tried to do him; but women--no. He's a real
gentleman, he is. He've taken his ticket for up above, and he ain't
goin' to waste it."

"And the other one?"

"Mr. Gardiner? I see him stare at me pretty hard times and again, but
it's always, 'Now, have I seen you before or haven't I?' so I just
stares back as bold as a cucumber and puts him off. He can't be sure,
see, about a old thing as is just like any other old thing. He've seen
a many maids, miss."

"I never realized you were a danger till I'd got you here, and then
it was too late. Never mind, you'll come in useful. Very useful. I
didn't see how to begin, but I do now. I'm going to get it out of
Gardiner himself if I possibly can, that's only fair; but if I can't,
I can always fall back on Merion-Smith. You see, if I can only get
either of them to make any sort of admission, it's all I need, and
that murderer's under my thumb. Because Merion-Smith won't swear to a
lie. Not even to save a friend--Lettice owned it this morning. At the
inquest he escaped because nobody thought of asking him any questions,
but once I get him into the witness-box again--oh! I _must_ make
Gardiner speak--I _will_!"

"Miss, if you 'op about so I can't do your hair, and I shall pull you
crool."

"Do I care?"

With a jerk and a tug, Dorothea dragged her long tresses out of
Louisa's hands, and buried her face on the dressing-table. Gaunt and
patient, Louisa waited behind her chair. Her sympathies were divided;
she found it hard to believe harm of a man, a mere bachelor man, who
kept his house so scrupulously clean.

"It's a wicked thing you're after, miss, though I suppose it's no use
me saying so," she remarked dispassionately.

"It is not wicked! It's justice. That's all I want: to make him answer
to the law for what he's done. I wouldn't touch him with a pitchfork
myself!"

"But look at the nasty underhanded way of it, miss! Mascarooning as
if you wasn't married, and you the way you been last year and all--it
ain't hardly decent, to my mind. It makes me sick to see him hangin' on
your footsteps, so to speak, and you leadin' him on. And it's my belief
it's a wild mare's nest you got in your head, and him a babe unborn all
the time; and then where'll you be?"

"Where I was before, of course. If it's so I shall find it out, and no
harm done."

"No harm, with him trustin' the very ground you tread on, and then
coming all of a jolt on the truth--"

"Oh, I can't go into all that," said Dorothea impatiently. "I didn't
ask him to admire me, did I? It was he began it. I never dreamed of
such a thing. Besides, I'm right, I know I am, and so would you if
you'd been there. He did it. He's accountable for two lives, and one of
them so innocent, so innocent--You know what Guy did for me, what he
saved me from; how do you think I could ever face him or my baby again
if I let them go unavenged?"

"It's not in heaven you'll be meeting that dear little innocent, nor
never seeing her no more--"

"Oh, _be quiet_, Louisa!" Dorothea stamped; "Put Uncle Jack's stars
in my hair," she ordered. "And I'll not wear that old black thing
to-night. I'll have the silver brocade."

"The brocade, miss? It ain't suitable, miss. A deal too dressy."

Dorothea slewed round in her chair and looked up with an expression
which sent Louisa off to fetch the silver brocade without another
word. Persuasion was no good with Dorothea. Flat contradiction might
sometimes avail; and the flatter it was, the more likely to hit the
turning angle of that incalculable young person. But if it did not
chance to hit that angle--well, there was nothing for it but prompt
obedience.

Dorothea, a world-weary cynic of twenty-one, not infrequently thought
in terms of the penny novelettes which were her favorite reading. She
had conceived the idea of arraying herself for conquest, after the
fashion of the Lady Ermyntrude in _The Heart of a Countess_. Every
evening hitherto she had worn what the author of that interesting
romance might have described as "a modest little black frock of
some soft, clinging material." The brocade was full dress; it had a
short-waisted bodice, with strands of silver crossing on the breast
and a silver girdle. The petticoat, heavily embroidered, was short
enough to show her silver shoes. Over her shoulders, jasmine-white and
dimpled, fell a scarf of silver gauze; and there were diamond stars in
the darkness of her hair. In fine, when Louisa had done with her, she
was herself a star of loveliness bright enough to dazzle anybody.

Lettice was waiting in the hall to see her cousin start, Denis having
as usual got ready half-an-hour too soon, with his rod and his rug and
his bag and a basket for Geraldine the kitten. They were exchanging
those labored last words which even the best of friends manufacture
while the carriage delayeth its coming, when this vision swept down on
them, with her nose in the air. Evidently Dorothea had not forgiven
Lettice for cutting short her talk, or Denis for suffering it to be
done. She sailed on to the salon, where her entrance was greeted with
a comically sudden hush, such as fell on the dinner-table when a new
course made its appearance. Lettice relieved her feelings with one of
her favorite words; not "nice" this time, but "Well!"

"There, you see you've lost me a commission, Lettice!" said Denis,
laughing.

"Me? I didn't do anything!"

"What's up?" asked Gardiner. He had come out of his den, with a pot of
flowers in his arms, just in time to witness the transit of Venus, and
had been favored, in contradistinction to the others, with a gracious
smile; his face had changed, ever so little, in response. Denis opened
his lips to reply, but Lettice was too quick for him.

"Why, Miss O'Connor and I were having such a nice cozy talk together,
and Denis would come bothering with his _old aeroplanes_" (the tone of
spite was delicious), "and of course she didn't like it, and now he's
cross with me because she doesn't want to buy one! Robs me of my only
friend, and they says it's my fault, and abuses me like, like--like a
pickpocket! Well, well!"

Nobody could play the injured innocent better than Lettice, above all
when she was in the wrong. She played with Denis as delicately as a
kitten plays with a leaf. "Yes, you're an ill-used person, aren't you?"
he said. He put his arm round her shoulders and gently pressed her down
into a chair; he would never let her stand if he could help it. "At
any rate, you're not in it, Harry," he said, speaking over her head
to Gardiner. "She's not carried over our sins to you, that's one good
thing!"

"Yes, didn't I get a beamer?" said Gardiner, with his easy laugh. He
fell back to observe the flowers he had been arranging. "Not that I
should afflict myself if she did. So long as she pays her bill, it's
all one to me!"

He fancied, as he spoke, that a gleam passed over Miss Smith's
countenance; but at that moment the omnibus arrived, and amid good-bys
and good wishes Dorothea was forgotten. When the traveler had departed,
and when Gardiner had stood on the step waving his hand till the last
minute, he turned, and came face to face with Lettice. They looked at
each other as the two intimate friends of a common friend do look, when
the link (or should it be called a barrier?) is removed from between
them. It might be said that this was the first time Gardiner had ever
seen Lettice, for, remembering that gleam, he looked with curiosity. He
found himself gazing into a pair of perfectly intelligent and faintly
derisive hazel eyes.

When you have summed up a person as ordinary and inoffensive, it is
a shock to discover that the said person has turned the tables by
reading the inmost secrets of your heart. Gardiner felt as though he
had suddenly become transparent. Fairly disconcerted, he wheeled round,
and almost fell over the chambermaid, who was at his elbow offering him
a note. "Tiens!" said Rosalie. The note dropped; the draught from the
open door whisked it down the hall to Lettice's feet. Lettice, like her
cousin, was a dandy in affairs of honor, and would not willingly have
glanced even at the envelope of another person's letter; but in this
case, as she stooped, she could not avoid seeing that the handwriting
was Dorothea's. She gave it back, and had the unique satisfaction of
seeing Gardiner color as he thanked her. Then she slipped away, and
left him to enjoy his letter alone.


     "Could you possibly give me just _five minutes_ this evening, I
     have something _very important_ I want to ask you. I will be up at
     the crucifix at half-past nine on the chance.--D. M. O'C."


Above the gardens of the Bellevue, which had a slope of one in six,
there was an orchard of white-stockinged fruit trees, which had a slope
of one in four. Above that again rose the grassy hill-side, steeper and
steeper, till after a veritable scramble you reached the top, which
was marked by a cairn of stones and a crucifix. Beyond the crucifix
were level uplands--dry silvery grass, dark knots of furze or bramble,
clayey ruts winding away to a wood of stunted firs which leaned, like
the grasses, all along the wind. But on the other side of the cross,
what a view! This hill was scarcely a mile as the crow flies from the
cliffs of Rochehaut, yet it faced a wholly different reach of the
river, some ten miles distant, by water, from the ford where Dorothea
had cut her foot; the river performed a figure of eight in between.
This was no scene of theatrical beauty, no famous _pointe de vue_, like
that above Frahan; yet Gardiner loved it more. It gave him the free
wind and the open sky, and it gave them to him alone; no one ever came
up here, except perhaps a laborer trudging inland to Rochehaut, the
village of the middens. _Odi profanum vulgus._ For Gardiner, beautiful
Frahan was forever tainted by the thousands of admiring eyes which had
rested upon it.

The hills here sank down in wide-spreading slopes, great shoulders and
flanks all silvery and slippery with grass. At their feet the river
rippled, shallow and broad; and on the green floor of the valley were
clustered the houses of Poupehan, a tiny gray hamlet with a tiny gray
bridge which gathered the stream within its span, though above and
below it spread out its rounded pools. On the farther bank, the hills
rose like a wall, a sweep of dark woods. That white streak, could it
be a road? Yes, it was the bridle track going up to Corbion on the
height; it hung against the side-hill like a scarf. At the top you
might see the gray extinguisher cap of Corbion church, among trees. But
the eye came back to rest on those glorious woods; how rich they were,
deep-plumaged, somber, steep as a curtain!

By dint of neglecting his letters, and scamping his flowers, Gardiner
managed to keep tryst some minutes before the time appointed. He sat
down on the stones and leaned against the crucifix, which shot up
over his head, lank and black and forlornly crooked, a ten-foot spar
supporting a ten-inch figure. The moon was coining liquid silver in a
slate-blue sky; the faint gold lamps of Poupehan showed vague in the
gray depth of the valley. There by the river the mists were rising, the
meadows drenched and cold and silvery with dew; here on the hill-top
the air was velvet-warm and dry, and sweet with honeysuckle. Big
grasshoppers whirred all round in the grass, and a corncrake in the
fir-wood behind let off at intervals his long mechanical rattle. There
were owls, too, hoo-hooing, and one whose note was like a silvery bell,
calling from the woods across the valley. It was a night of romance--a
night for love.

Gardiner's planets were Mercury and Venus; he incongruously combined
the money-getting instinct with a sensuous temperament. He had intended
to spend those minutes calmly in reviewing the pros and cons of
marriage with Dorothea--for there were a good many cons; marriage, even
with a rich woman, did not come into his scheme of life. But the white
enchantment of the moonlight was too much for him; he became a lover
and nothing more.

Meanwhile Dorothea, climbing the hill, was beginning to wish she had
not put on that silver brocade. If she was not careful, he would get
out of hand; and if he got out of hand--She had come to Rochehaut, in
the first instance, bent on hunting down her enemy, but without any
definite plan. True, the Lady Ermyntrude used her attractions for the
undoing of the wicked Lord Henry; but it had never entered Dorothea's
head to do the like, probably because the idea was instinctively
repugnant. It was very repugnant; and when chance, and the accident
at the ford, showed her her power, though she used it, it was only
after a struggle. Not that she had any scruples of morality: Dorothea
was as unmoral a creature as one could find in a Christian land, she
was guided solely by her feelings. But, in spite of eight months
of marriage, she was still fiercely virginal; she could not with
equanimity suffer herself to be desired, above all by Gardiner. Still,
being perfectly persuaded that she owed this duty to her dead, she was
not going to turn back. Dorothea had the merits of her defects; she was
not a coward.

She arrived breathless, with her skirts tucked over her arm, and one
glance told her that her naïve plan for dazzling him had succeeded a
little too well. His eyes caught sudden fire; he was on his feet in a
moment, bowing to her with a dash of foreign extravagance.

"Barbarous behavior!" he said. "Rank cruelty, no less. Do you know
you're three and a half minutes behind time?"

Decidedly he was getting out of hand. Dorothea retreated a pace or two,
and wound her arm round the stem of the cross as if for support.

"I--I wanted to speak to you for a moment--"

"So you said; on business, wasn't it? I'm all attention. You don't look
much like business to-night, do you know?"

"I can't say anything if you look at me like that!" cried Dorothea in
a rush. Gardiner laughed and cast down his eyes. "No, please, if you'd
turn right away--I shall never get it out to your face--"

"Señorita, if the moon doesn't desire to be looked at, she shouldn't
appear in silver," said Gardiner, complying. "That suit? Now, what's
the trouble?"

"It's a little difficult to explain." It was; her breath came
fluttering and her voice shook. "You must be patient with me if I say
it wrong." ("Patient! I'll be something besides patient," Gardiner
murmured.) "It's--well, it's just this. Have you--do you remember ever
seeing my maid before?"

There was an instant change in the atmosphere.

"Your maid? That gaunt female who looks like the Nonconformist
conscience? I might have. Why?"

"She says she's seen you."

"Where?"

"At your hotel at Grasmere."

"At Grasmere? At the Easedale?"

Dorothea nodded.

"Go on," he prompted steadily.

"It was last August," said Dorothea. "She was in the service of a Mrs.
Trent--"

She stopped. She could feel the sudden increase of tension. "Ah, I
thought from your tone I'd been doing something reprehensible," said
Gardiner, with a dry laugh. "Go on. I suppose she's told you a pretty
yarn. I'm a murderer--is that it?"

"Oh, no, _no_! it's only that she says the whole truth didn't come
out at the inquest. She says you--you threw something at him--a
chisel--Mrs. Trent picked it up afterwards--no, please wait a moment
till I've done! Louisa says too--I made her tell--that he, the man who
died, had a temper, that he very likely said the most horrid things.
I don't think even she thinks you were much to blame, while of course
I--But she did think I ought to know; and I think so too. So I want you
to tell me the very truth. Did you do it?"

Gardiner met her pleading glance, and a confession rose to his lips.
Then--whether he caught some shade of expression which was not wholly
innocent: whether the truth was that at heart he really trusted no one
save Denis and his father--he temporized.

"Why do you want to know?"

"I think so much of you!"

"How much do you think of me? Enough to warrant my telling you a thing
like that?--always supposing I'd done it, of course, which I don't
admit."

"Yes."

"It would be next door to murder, you know. A man wouldn't be safe to
confess a murder except to his wife."

"Oh!--well, tell me, then."

"You mean that?"

She nodded.

"Sure?"

"Yes, yes. Tell me."

"Ah!" said Gardiner, with an exultant laugh, "when you're my wife, I
will!"

He stepped forward and took her in his arms. Dorothea struggled, and he
thought little of it; but she got her arm free, doubled her fist, and
hit out with such fury that he let her go, and fell back, his illusions
tumbling about his ears. What a face she turned on him--all coarsened
and distorted with passion!

"I hate you," she said.

"You loved me just now!"

"Never, never. I never did. I wish you were in hell. Oh! shall I ever
feel clean again?" She was scrubbing away at her face as if she would
have scraped off the skin. Gardiner stared, stupefied. Suddenly he
gripped her arm.

"_Who_ are you?"

Dorothea shook him off frantically; all her plans went overboard in one
surge of fury.

"The wife of the man you murdered!"



CHAPTER X

A LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS

     This is away in the fields--miles!

     _Pippa Passes._


On the day after Denis left the Bellevue, Dorothea also departed, with
her mountain of trunks. She did not see Gardiner again. Louisa paid
the bill. The feelings of the rejected lover, who had to make up the
account and take the money, deserve mention as being probably unique.

On the second morning after this, Lettice received a letter from her
cousin, inclosing a cheque for £20 and an entreaty that she would stay
on at the Bellevue. "Send it back, my dear girl, if you don't feel
like taking it," Denis wrote, "or call it a loan: I'd much rather you
didn't, but I shan't feel hurt if you do. Only remember I don't need
the money, and I'd rather spend it this way than any other. I hate
to see you looking seedy, and you're not anything like fit yet, you
know. Besides, I'd like you and Gardiner to get to know each other.
You never would, so long as I was there in the way." A remark which
showed that Denis was no fool. Lettice, who had been looking forward to
an unpeaceful time in the bosom of her family, accepted the loan with
simple gratitude, and stayed. It was easy to take favors from Denis:
could higher testimonial be given?

  *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Bredon was a seaside place without a single villa; just half-a-dozen
old cottages and a new church, standing on the verge of the chalk
cliffs of Thanet. This church was a building of surprising ugliness,
red brick outside, decorated inside with stenciled texts chopped
up like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The east window had paper
transparencies, leaded and colored to imitate glass. The holy table was
a table, with obvious legs, having the Ten Commandments above and a
Bible upon it--none of your papistical altars. The vicar was a robust
Evangelical with a mustache. Denis did not like him very much, but he
approved of his doctrine, and attended his church.

Picture him, then, on his first Sunday at home, coming out into the
churchyard among that humble congregation (vicar's wife, vicar's man,
school children, candidate for coals, village policeman in uniform, one
girl--


     "And what took her there, do you guess?
       Her sweet little duck of a bonnet,
     And her new second-hand silk dress")


and setting forth on his three-mile tramp across the marshes. Denis
would neither cycle, motor, nor fly upon a Sunday. This was the more
inconvenient because, if Bredon was out of the world, Dandelion Farm,
the present home of the Smith aeroplane, might be said to be howling in
the wilderness.

It was still early in September, and after a rainy night the sky
was blue again, the air crystal-pure over the flat green land. The
road had neither fence nor hedgerow, but on either side a dark blue
ribbon of water lay brimming and crumpling in the sea wind. Other
such dikes, intersecting, ruled out the square fields of Thanet,
where red cattle, like wooden beasts out of a Noah's Ark, grazed on
pastures coarsely green. There was no sign of autumn but in the sedge,
withered putty-color, and rustling a dry, pleasant song. In spring the
yellow iris fringed the waterways; later, forget-me-not, loosestrife,
meadow-sweet; now only the tall mud-clotted stems of the willow-herb,
and its pink stars seeding in silvery down. Denis walked on, content.
He did not consciously think about his surroundings, but unconsciously
he was happier here than among the hills and woods of Arden. Thanet
was English, and he was English--well, he was Irish; but he had all
the Englishman's conservatism and love for the ways of home, what
foreigners call his insularity.

Straight ahead at the end of the track rose a delicately penciled group
of trees, with a gray roof showing beside, and white dots of sheep
on the gray-green of their pasture. This was Dandelion, _videlicet_
Dent-de-lion. Till a few months since, the partners had rented a
bungalow on the sands near Bredon; but there Denis had been so pestered
with interviewers, autograph hunters, and less estimable gentry who
came to pick his brains, that after some debate they had transferred
themselves to this lodge in the wilderness. Part of the ground that
went with the house was to be flooded, for the use of seaplanes; while
there was ample space in addition for an aerodrome and for workshops,
hangars, etc., which could be shut off behind a palisading, and defy
curiosity.

These new erections were frankly ugly, but there was a certain dignity
about the square gray Georgian farm-house and its outbuildings.
Denis passed a barn, its thatched roof cushioned with mosses, then a
haystack, exhaling its warm sweet scent, then the stone gate-posts
of the entrance. The gate was open, and he paused to latch it; gates
left to swing shake off their hinges. He walked round the curve of the
drive, his mind agreeably occupied with thoughts of cold beef, came in
sight of the pillared portico--thrice horrid sight! there was a car
standing at the door!

It was not his partner's, for the letter was P, not LD; nor was the car
itself much like the battered and beloved old racer which Wandesforde
liked to use. This was a Rolls-Royce touring car of the present year's
model. No chauffeur was in charge. After prowling round to satisfy
the curiosity which any piece of machinery roused in his engineer's
brain, Denis went into the house to make inquiries. The porch opened
into a passage with rooms on either side. Denis was tiptoeing towards
the kitchen, where he hoped to find his man, when the door on the left
opened suddenly, revealing the visitor--Dorothea O'Connor.

"So here you are at last!" she said. "I _am_ so glad! I've been stuck
here ever since eleven!"

Denis did not echo her joy. "I thought you were at Rochehaut!"

"Me? No, wasn't it funny? I had to leave, in a hurry, the very day
after you did. I came off down here first thing this morning. It's a
glorious run through Kent--the car did travel!"

"Your chauffeur, I suppose, is in with my man?"

"Isn't. I didn't bring one," she airily explained. "I didn't bring
anybody. I hate being driven, I like to do things for myself. I've come
to see the aeroplanes, you know. I told you I should!"

She stuck her hands in her pockets and propped her slim shoulders
against the wall, looking up with a naughty and audacious tilt of the
chin. "Here I am and you can't get rid of me!" she seemed to say.

Denis did not want her in the least. It was two o'clock, and humanity
constrained him to ask her to lunch; there was not an inn for miles
where she could get a meal, if he didn't, and she must actually have
seen his cold beef on the table. But Denis was an Irishman, with strict
ideas of propriety. Dorothea, not for the first time, had forgotten
her part; while posing as a young girl, she claimed the freedom of a
married woman. Reading her mistake in his face, she was quick to seize
the bull by the horns.

"I suppose I've no business here, and I know you don't want me, but I'm
not going back now till I've seen everything!" she announced; and then,
melting into the wheedling, insinuating smile of a child: "You can
look on me as a man and a brother, or you can count me as business--I
_am_--I don't care what you do, only do forgive me, and do, do, _do_
ask me to lunch, for I'm _so_ hungry!"

Denis smiled too, though stiffly, making the best of it. "I shall be
very pleased to show you the place, Miss O'Connor, but it's a pity
you've come to-day, for you'll not see any flyin'. The men are all
home, you know."

"Why, I came on purpose because I thought Sunday was _the_ day!"

"It isn't with us."

Dorothea was subdued. She did not ask why, but meekly reëntered the
room. The partners had divided the house between them, and this was
Denis's den, corresponding to Wandesforde's across the passage.
Wandesforde, though he lived in town and was only a casual visitor at
Dent-de-lion, had made himself extremely comfortable; Denis had brought
his old furniture from Bredon and dumped it in the room, just as it
was. There were two sash windows, filled with small panes. Under one
stood a table as big as a four-poster, covered with papers. Denis could
lay his hand on any packet in the dark; but when papers are in order,
unfortunately it does not follow that they are tidy. In the middle of
the floor stood a second table, just large enough to take Denis's plate
and the cold beef. Beside the fireplace, which had a marbled wooden
mantelpiece, stood a pair of leathern arm-chairs, once plum-colored,
now seamed with white cracks, and with every spring broken. The walls
were covered with drab paper, fading to yellow, there was a square of
drab drugget on the floor, and the ceiling was drab also, from ancient
lamp smoke. Dorothea thought in passing that it was the ugliest room
she had ever been in, but she, like Denis, was highly indifferent to
her surroundings.

But she was by no means indifferent to her host; she thought him the
handsomest man she had ever seen, an opinion held by other young ladies
before her, though Denis's looks were not at all in the style of the
barber's block. He was just under six feet in height, lightly built
and light in movement, all bone and sinew. His face was thin too, a
little pinched at the temples, a little hollow in the cheeks, with
dark brows, dark hair, and a white skin which burnt biscuit-brown, not
red. Irish coloring and deep-set, dark blue Irish eyes, "put in with a
dirty finger" under their long soft lashes. The lower part of the face,
nose and lips and chin, was most delicately modeled, fine, high-bred,
rather ascetic in type. In short, he was as handsome as a paladin, _à
fendre le coeur_, and so purely indifferent to the fact, one way or the
other, that Lettice when she poked her soft fun at him got no more than
an absent-minded smile. No rises were to be had in that quarter. But
Dorothea was not given to poking fun at people; she planted her elbows
on the table and her chin in her hands, adoring his looks, hanging
breathless on his words, divided in admiration between his person and
his profession--and how those great eyes of hers could lighten and
glow! They were not the same eyes, she was not the same girl who had
poured out her lightnings on Harry Gardiner.

In telling her tale to Lettice, Dorothea had said less than the truth.
For one thing, she was ashamed to own that she had been physically
afraid of her uncle. The anger of a stupid and wrong-headed man may be
a very brutal thing. When he threatened to knock her down, Dorothea
gave in, in helpless rage and humiliation, bad companions for a
high-spirited girl. Also she suffered more than she herself realized
from her isolation. Dorothea was the born devotee; she would never
have learned to hate if she had had any one to adore. But she was
quite alone. The neighborhood was up in arms, no doubt, but nobody
was anxious to stand forth as her champion: partly because people are
always loath to interfere in a neighbor's business, partly because the
unlucky little heiress had been painted by her loving relatives in such
very lurid colors that some of the paint had stuck.

Then came Major Trent to stay at the Anglers' Rest. He met Dorothea
one morning when she had been sent out to exercise her aunt's Chow.
The amiable Xit tried to bite the stranger, and did bite Dorothea when
she hauled him off. Naturally Trent expressed his concern. Naturally
Dorothea did not mention the incident at home. They met again next day,
of course by chance, in the same place--in fine, Dorothea had found
her champion. The affair was rushed through in a month. Mrs. O'Connor
woke up one morning to miss her early cup of tea. She descended in
a dressing-gown to scold Dorothea, but no Dorothea was to be found.
She had gone, without leaving so much as the traditional note on her
pin-cushion. Next day came the announcement of her marriage, by special
license, to Major Trent, D.S.O.

Dorothea when she married was innocent and ignorant as a child. She
came to Trent with eager fresh gratitude and affection. She spent eight
months with him; eight feverish, hothouse-forcing months of premature
emotion. Towards the end of the time, when his passion had cooled, and
when she herself was calmed and steadied by the hope of motherhood, she
began to look at her battered knight with wondering eyes, which would
soon have grown critical. His tragic death, however, made criticism
disloyal, and invested Trent with all his former glories. It swept
away, too, the hope to which the girl had been looking forward with
grave, ennobling joy. Only Louisa knew how frantically Dorothea grieved
for her baby. Her long illness was really an obstinate refusal to be
comforted. Louisa, it may be noted, had not been Dorothea's devoted
nurse. She had been Mr. O'Connor's incomparable cook; and the unkindest
blow his niece dealt was that she carried off, when she went, the only
perfect maker of _soufflés_ he had ever known.

Here was Dorothea, then, at twenty-one, half a child and half a woman,
frantic with grief, and convinced that the murderer of her husband
and child was going free unpunished. She vowed herself to vengeance
as a sacred duty. She was unpersuadably sure that all she had done
to Gardiner was justifiable. But Denis was different. True, he had
screened the murderer, but Dorothea couldn't but own that in his shoes
she would have done the same. She was not quite happy in her mind; but
she crushed the scruple, telling herself that when justice is done the
innocent must suffer with the guilty. She crushed it, and presently she
forgot it, yes, and her vengeance into the bargain, when they went out
to see the works. Aeroplanes are so exciting! After all, Dorothea was
not much more than a baby, and she had long arrears of play to make up.


In old days, Denis and his man Simpson had built the machines with
their own hands; later, at Bredon, they employed half-a-dozen men;
now there were twenty, and the number was growing. Behind the tall
palisade a nest of sheds was springing up--wood and metal working
shops, rigging rooms, offices, stores, Simpson's cabin where he slept
as night watchman, and finally the hangars. Great ugly erections of
brickwork and corrugated iron, with gable ends and sliding doors,
they caught the eye at once. The first held an unfinished seaplane,
marked for rebuilding after undergoing her trials; a biplane built in
1911, now hopelessly out of date; and a Blériot monoplane belonging
to Wandesforde which Denis hated, and which, he gravely assured his
companion, would kill him if he gave it the chance. But he hurried
Dorothea past these to the smaller shed, which contained only one
machine: his favorite, his beloved, the 80 h.p. monoplane scout which
had been entered for the Birmingham race.

She was very small, scarcely larger than Santos-Dumont's famous
"Demoiselle." There was a slender bird-like body, the fuselage, in
which the pilot sat, deep-sunk, with passenger behind, engine and
propeller in front, the two long blades standing out like antennæ. Pale
wings arched and tilted upwards on either side, curving like the wings
of a gull in flight. The whole stood on a light framework, the chassis
or under-carriage, corresponding to the feet of a bird. Dorothea
listened, while Denis explained the perfections of his handiwork.
Tangential, lift coefficient, angle of incidence, such terms went in
at one ear and out at the other; she was not interested in scientific
aeronautics. Denis was expounding the principles of stream-line design,
as shown in the curves of his fuselage, when she interrupted.

"Mr. Merion-Smith, will you teach me to fly?"

"Will I teach you to fly?"

"Yes. You said I could learn. I want to learn."

He shook his head, smiling. "You should go to Hendon or Brooklands. We
don't run a flying school, you know."

"I don't want to go to Hendon or Brooklands, I want to go to you,"
retorted Dorothea flatly. "I want you to build me a machine like this
one, and I want you to teach me to manage it. Will you?"

"I'm afraid that's out of the question."

"Why?"

If Denis had told the bare truth, he must have answered, Because I
don't want to. As that was unsayable, he hedged.

"Well, for one thing, I've no plane you could learn on. You need
a special school machine, with duplicate control for pilot and
pupil--we've nothing of the sort."

"If that's all, I'll buy one."

"Buy a machine that'll be no earthly use to you six months hence?"

"Why not? Why shouldn't I throw my money away if I want to? It's good
for trade, and it can't possibly matter to you!"

Denis looked as though it mattered a good deal. Geraldine, who had
followed them from the house like a dog, seized this moment to make
a scrambling leap on his shoulder. He steadied her with one hand
mechanically as she walked to and fro, pushing now her nose and now
her tail into his face, after the inconsiderate manner of a happy cat,
but obviously she was too much a matter of course to interrupt his
thoughts. All he said was: "I should wait till I was older, if I were
you."

"Pooh! I'm as old as that boy who was killed at Eastchurch last week,
and he'd had his ticket for two years."

"Quite possibly, but then you see he is dead."

"Ah, you say that because you think I'm reckless, but that's only with
money. I shouldn't be reckless flying, I should love my plane far too
much." She rubbed her cheek softly against the varnished fabric of the
wing.

"That remains to be seen," said Denis, smiling.

"No, it doesn't. I _am_ careful. I've driven my car about town for two
years now, and never had a summons or an accident."

Denis looked at her with more respect, but he continued to shake his
head. "Go to Hendon and get your ticket, and then come back to me, and
I'll build you a machine with pleasure."

"I won't. I'll learn of you, or not at all."

"Then I'm afraid it will have to be not at all."

"Oh, you are hateful," said Dorothea succinctly. She turned her back
on him and marched towards the door. Half-way there she thought better
of it, and came back to lay her clasped hands on his arm, frankly
imploring. "Oh, do teach me!" she besought. "Do. _Do._ You don't know
how much I want it! Why won't you? Is it because I'm not a man?"

Denis was driven a step nearer the truth. "I've really not the time.
I'm a designer, not an instructor; it would not be fair to my partner
to undertake outside work."

"Ah, but I shouldn't take long to learn. I'm good with machinery.
Besides, if you won't teach me I won't buy one of your machines, and
that'll be worse for your partner than just the few hours you'd have to
give up--two, wasn't it, that man learned in the other day? Won't you
at least ask Mr. Wandesforde if he'd mind? Please, please say yes!"

Denis was wishing her at Jericho. He delighted in a battle, but he had
no armor against coaxing. He did not in the least want to teach Miss
O'Connor, or any one else, to fly. He had a full winter's work before
him on the seaplane, and he hated (like Lettice) to be dragged out
of his rut. Finally, Dorothea was a woman; and women are an endless
bother. Seeing a chance of evading her, he jumped at it.

"Well, I'll ask Wandesforde if you like," he conceded.

Dorothea took her hands off his arm with a nod of satisfaction. "I
thought I'd get you to do it," she said. "I always know what I want and
I generally get it. It's only a question of wanting it hard enough.
I'll go now, and leave you in peace. You'll write to him at once, won't
you?"

Oh yes, Denis would write at once. He was already concocting the letter
as he locked up the sheds. "I've had a nuisance of a woman here
pretending she wants to order a machine on condition that one of us
teaches her to fly. Quite young, and I should say quite irresponsible.
I told her, of course, that we didn't run a school, but I wouldn't
absolutely refuse without consulting you."

He had got as far as this when Dorothea broke in. She was looking
rather solemn.

"I forgot to say one thing. Do you mind, if you're writing to Mr.
Gardiner, not telling him anything about me? Or Lettice either," she
added.

"Certainly, if you wish it," said Denis after a moment.

"I do wish it."

They walked on in silence. At the steps Dorothea paused for a last word.

"I've had a quarrel with him. A bad quarrel. I don't want him to know
I'm here, because if he does he'll think it his duty to write and warn
you against me."

This was the truth, and, as truth often does, it conveyed a false
impression.

"Gardiner?" said Denis, incredulous. "He would never do that."

"He would, he would, you don't know. He might not to any one else, but
he would to you."

This was true again, and again misleading. Denis was puzzled. "I
thought you and he were--friends," he said.

"Not now. He hates me."

"Gardiner hates you?"

"Yes. Thinks me wicked. Wouldn't willingly be under the same roof. He
does, he does. And we can never make it up. I'm angry with Lettice too,
at present, but I _shall_ make it up with her, because I love her. But
not with Mr. Gardiner--never, never."

"Well, if you say so," said Denis, "but I thought--"

Dorothea looked up with a flash of understanding. No need to put into
words what he had thought about her and Gardiner.

"That?" she said. "Oh no--never, never, _never_!"

This time Denis believed her.



CHAPTER XI

COSAS DE BRUJAS

     I have been here before,
     But when or how I cannot tell.

     _Sudden Light._


"My dearest dear, will you come for a little walk?"

"Muy señora mia, with all the pleasure in life."

Lettice, who was stooping over a new kitten which she had adopted since
the departure of Geraldine, straightened herself and looked at Gardiner
with a discouraging expression. They were at the back of the house; she
had been about to climb the steep hill orchard to watch the sunset when
her minute friend charged out of the kitchen door, on her weak little
legs no thicker than matches, with her tiny triangular tail flourishing
in the air. Lettice had not, however, expected her host to follow
directly on the kitten's heels.

He stood there laughing. "It's time for your evening constitutional.
You haven't been out once since Denis went off. He left you in my
charge; I shan't feel I'm doing my duty if I don't accept your very
pressing invitation."

"I was not speaking to you," said Lettice deliberately.

He only laughed again.

"I know that; you never do speak to a Christian if you can possibly get
out of it, do you? Give me that atom. No, I won't hurt her; I've some
milk for her here--she was just going to drink it when she heard your
welcome footstep and affection was too much for her. Come on, vidita
mia."

Dexterously, even tenderly, he detached the clinging claws from
Lettice's shoulder, and set down the mite at the saucer. The little
head nodded over it, sniffing tentatively, and then out came a minute
pink tongue and she began to lap, crouching down and crooning a
contented purr. Lettice liked the way Gardiner lifted out a paw which
had insinuated itself into the saucer, and stroked one finger down four
inches of tabby spine. Then he looked up.

"As a matter of fact, I've an errand on hand, at the farm where we get
our milk. Will you come with me? I wish you would. I'm bored of my own
company."

"Is it far?" asked Lettice defensively.

"Mile. Don't come if you're fagged, but sacrifice yourself to oblige a
fellow-creature if it's only laziness--or unsociability."

"Well," said Lettice, permitting herself the hint of a smile. She liked
again the quick way he picked himself up, taking her at her word to the
instant.

"Come on, then. There's only just time; I've masses of letters to write
before the post goes, and I know you aren't going to be hurried."

For all his quickness (and he was instinctively quick and light in
every movement), Lettice found him a more considerate companion than
Denis, who walked her off her legs. Their way led up through the steep
hill orchard to the grassy hill-side above. Once he stopped and turned
to help her over the rough ground, but when she silently avoided seeing
his extended hand, he did not offer it again. Denis, rooted in his
old-fashioned courtesy, had never learned to leave her alone. This was
a very different type of mind; less restful, because more perceptive.
When they reached the crest of the hill he pulled up. Lettice tried to
persuade herself it was not done to let her get her breath, but she was
quite sure it was.

"See that hedge over there?" he said, pointing across the expanse of
level silvery grass. "Well, you'd never think it, but beyond that it's
nothing but arable flats, beet and cabbages and potatoes, all the
way to Rochehaut. Anything duller you can't imagine. And yet under
this very spot where we're standing there's a cave that's never been
explored, running Lord knows how deep into the hill. Stalactites and
stalagmites and an underground river. I went in once with my torch, but
I had to come back--too unsafe. Some day I'll have that place shored
up and made accessible, and charge five francs for admission, like the
caves of Han. Leg-up for the Bellevue, what? I like this sort of mixed
grill, you know, wild and tame together--I like all this country. No,
not that way--there's some view from the crucifix you see against the
sky-line, but we haven't time for it to-night. Along here, through the
wood."

Lettice looked round, before following him into the copse of starveling
firs, and gorse, and ragged heather. From where they stood, a little
below the crucifix, they could not see the valley; only the silvery
undulating hill-side, and the evening sky, and the grasses leaning
sidelong in the wind. It was lonely and bare enough to please her. "Are
you going to stop here?" she asked.

"I am. _D.V._ What? Oh yes, I'm pious in my way, especially when I get
off alone among these hills. I believe I belong here--sort of ancestral
feeling; talking of which, I'll show you something rather queer at the
farm when we get there. Yes, I'm going to stay, if I'm let." He walked
on, twirling his stick in the air. "Last time I was up here it was with
Miss O'Connor," he added irrelevantly.

Lettice was a good deal surprised; she thought she understood now why
he had not wished to come alone. She had not been told, but she knew,
as well from his looks as from Dorothea's headlong flight, that the
explosion had come. Gardiner might keep up his laugh, that eternal
laugh which grated on a sensitive ear like the squeaking of a pen, but
he could not hide the change in his features, pinched and sharpened by
suffering. Suffering--yes--pain: physical pain, that was what his face
betrayed: not grief. His dark eyes--they were, the poet decided, like
the depths of a pine-wood: dark blackish-brown, with undertones of dark
green--were like those of a dog that has been run over. No one else
seemed to notice anything wrong; at the pension one woman had remarked
casually that Mr. Gardiner was looking seedy, that was all; but then no
one but Lettice held the key.

If his frankness surprised her, it surprised himself more, for he had
by no means intended to mention Dorothea. He sheered off the subject
in a hurry. "I've been up here most evenings lately," he said. "Madame
Hasquin has a bureau on which I've set my heart; she means me to
have it in the end, but I can't get her to terms. No, it's not the
money, it's the fun--sheer delight in bargaining. I don't mind. It's
rather jolly up here in the evenings, you get the sunset; and it's
soul-refreshingly lonely. This wood--you'd never guess there was a
house within five minutes, would you? Stand still a moment."

He laid his hand on her arm to detain her, and the silence fell on them
like a pall. Not a leaf stirred; the firs raised their black spikes
rigid against the sky, some erect, some doubled and contorted like
ogres. Brambles, crouching low, thrust out long stealthy clutching
claws across the track. The sky was golden, and gold were the strips of
water lying in the ruts, winding away to the open hill and safety; but
the wood was dark, dark, and already in its depths, here and there, a
glow-worm had lit its tiny keen speck of unearthly fire, glass-green,
steady, burning but unconsumed. "That's the way to the cave," murmured
Gardiner, his voice dropping, his grip tightening on her arm. "_Cosas
de brujas_--witches, I mean. Never tell me a wood isn't alive!"

He meant it. Lettice, who professed to be stolid, found herself
responding to his fancy with an involuntary thrill. There _was_
something wrong about the place; it had its finger on its lip; it
seemed to hold a secret of its own, to threaten them with it, to jeer
at their unforeseeing ignorance.

The silence was broken by a sudden outburst of merry childish laughter
and the sharp barks of a dog. Gardiner laughed too, releasing her.
"And now come on. Round this corner--mind the gate, it'll pinch your
fingers, better let me. There: what do you think of that?"

They were clear of the wood and out on the open hill-side, looking
down into a valley, a green crease among velvet-green hills softly
molded, falling away to a line of trees, among which tinkled the
crystal cascades of a brook. On the upward slope beyond rose a group
of buildings. A round squat tower, a line of loopholed wall; the
low white front of a dwelling-house, rising among golden ricks; the
flickering brightness of a bonfire, a tall, slender ribbon of golden
incandescence, burning in a golden fume, gilding the dark branches of
the orchard, loosing flakes of flame and drifts of lavender-gray smoke
into the lavender-blue of the sky. Two children and a dog were dancing
round it, feeding it with masses of golden bracken; it was their
laughter which had broken into the enchanted wood.

"When the Bellevue started life as a convent, that was the convent
farm," said Gardiner. "Fortified--Lord, yes, they needed forts in those
days; it dates from Spanish times. Didn't you know that? There's not
much of the old stuff left in my Bellevue, bar the gateway and the
_salle_, which is substantially the old refectory. But that old tower
down there is pretty much as it was in the beginning. Ferme de la
Croix, they call it; Convent of the Holy Cross, you'd say, but I don't
myself believe that's the origin of the name. Come on down and I'll
show you."

Lettice had not contributed much in words to the conversation, but she
had done her part for all that, in following the quick turns of his
mind. They went down, crossed a bridge built of slabs of uncut stone,
and were greeted at the door by a woman of fifty who looked seventy.
She had not a tooth in her head; it was hard to believe she was the
mother and not the grandmother of the two tow-headed children. "Eh,
monsieur, quelles nouvelles?" But the sweetness of her smile redeemed
the plainness of her face.

Gardiner followed her down a white passage, not one line of which was
true, into a low-pitched, pleasant living-room, with scarlet geraniums
in the window. There beside the open hearth stood the bureau, black
as bog oak and richly carved, with shining brass handles on drawers
that slipped in and out at the touch of a finger. Madame chattered in
her abominable Walloon French, Gardiner laughed and argued back; it
was sadly plain to Lettice, who could distinguish such niceties, that
he had picked up the accent of the country. There are disadvantages
in being imitative. They came to the question of price, and Lettice,
feeling herself _de trop_, withdrew to the open door. She waited there,
between rose and crimson hollyhocks, making love to a lean flanked
sandy cat who rushed effusively out of the stable-yard, and reared
herself on hind legs to press her hard head against the visitor's
hand. The children had disappeared, but their voices were heard in
the orchard. In the west, soft bluish clouds were floating on lakes
of burning rose. A big star was born above the dark spires of the
enchanted wood, keen silver in the faint and fading gold.

Gardiner came out in high good-humor. "You've brought me luck," he
said. "Madame's given in at last. I've had my eye on the bureau ever
since the first time I came up here--haven't I, madame? And now, when's
the four-poster coming? When I've been at you about it for another
couple of years--is that the idea?"

"Jamis, ja-_mais_," said madame, vigorously shaking her head, laughing
all over her wrinkles. "Non, monsieur, non. Je tiens à mon lit,
savez-vous!"

"Et moi aussi, j'y tiens, et je vas l'avoir, savez-vous?" Gardiner
laughed back, cheerfully ungrammatical. He laid his hand again on
Lettice's arm--a small elegant brown hand: in nothing was he more
un-English than in the shape and size of his hands and feet: Lettice
looked down on it with an insulted expression which was quite wasted,
as he wheeled her round to face the house--"Here's what I said I'd show
you; it really is rather queer. That stone above the arch--do you see?"

The farm had a square-shouldered doorway; the headpiece was a single
massive block of stone. Deep carved thereon, in the same old-fashioned
numerals which appeared on the lintel of the Bellevue, was the same
date: 1548. Above the date was lettering, moss-grown and indistinct.

"Can you read it?" asked Gardiner.

Was there anything requiring eyes which Lettice could not read? "Manuel
de la Cruz," she spelt out.

"Cruz," Gardiner corrected her, giving to the "z" its soft Castilian
lisp. "Now I do not in the least believe the convent, and consequently
this farm, was dedicated to the Holy Cross. I believe it was named for
its founder. But the odd part of the story is that it's my name as
well. My mother was half Spanish--born Florentina de la Cruz; and I'm
called after her: Henry de la Cruz Gardiner."

"Well, that is queer," said Lettice, for once with conviction.

"Isn't it? There aren't so many traces left of the Spanish occupation;
I call it something of a coincidence that that should have survived,
and that I should come on it--should actually take over and settle
down in the house built by my namesake. Of course it's a not uncommon
name in Spain, but it does set one thinking. And see here, too." He
dragged her across to the tower. The gateway was half ruinous; one of
the jambs had fallen, bringing some of the stones along with it, and
others seemed ready to follow. "No, this isn't war's alarms, though as
a matter of fact I have found a cannon ball embedded in the barn. Jules
backed the engine into it the other day. This lintel's all cock-eye,
but you can still see the cross and initials--can you?--carved on the
end here." He was tracing out the mark.

"Take care!" said Lettice suddenly.

She was too late. The stone above--perhaps he had brushed against it;
at any rate, it settled down, quietly and inexorably, grinding his
hand between itself and the block below. Lettice's arm sprang out; she
could be quick on occasion, but he was quicker still. "No! keep off!"
he cried out, instantly fending her off, shouldering her out of the
way; and in the same breath he inserted the point of his stick into the
crevice. A very slight leverage, and the upper stone tipped and fell to
the ground, in a shower of dust and rubble. He drew away his hand and
stepped back. "They ought to have that seen to, I'll warn madame," he
said. "It's jolly dangerous, with those kids about."

"You've hurt yourself," said Lettice.

"Yes, I've done myself proud this time," he said, and coolly put his
hand behind his back. "Don't look at it, it isn't pretty. I'll cut in
and get some warm water out of madame, and do it up."

He turned and walked off to the house. Unfortunately, in turning
he forgot that his hand was behind him, and Lettice saw it. It was
dripping blood; he left his trail across the golden straw to the
door. Lettice stayed where she was. She was not going where she was
not wanted. She felt a little sick; not for the sight of blood, but
in sympathy with him. She had seen him change color. Yet he was cool
enough; she could hear his voice inside, answering madame's exclamation
as lightly as ever. Presently he came out again, with a white-bandaged
paw, and a face not much less pallid than the linen.

"Thanks so much for not fussing," he said. "I had a gay ten minutes
with madame; I thought she was going to embrace me. Let's get on home
now, do you mind? All this bobbery has taken the dickens of a time, and
I've masses of things still to do before dinner."

Lettice fell in beside him without a word. For once in her life, she
walked fast. Gardiner was silent too, twirling his stick in his left
hand instead of the right. They had reached the hill of the crucifix,
and were descending the orchard, before Lettice opened her lips.

"You won't be able to write your letters. How will you manage?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Make shift with my left hand, I suppose."

"You'd better let me do them for you."

"It's nearly eight o'clock. Time for you to have your supper and go to
by-by."

"I don't always go to bed at nine," said Lettice.

"Would you really be so good as to do it, for once?"

"Of course."

"Servidor de ustéd, señorita," said Gardiner, "que sus piés besa--your
servant, madam, who kisses your feet: I don't know why I want to
talk Spanish to you, but I undoubtedly do--I shall be inexpressibly
grateful."



CHAPTER XII

ALL IN THE AIR

     Hark! I am called; my little spirit, see,
     Sits in a foggy cloud, and stays for me.

     _Macbeth._


Sydney Wandesforde, Denis's partner, was a big, heavy-featured, heavily
built man, whose appearance nobody could have called aristocratic.
Plutocratic was more like it. There had been patent pills on the
distaff side of his ancestry, and unfortunately he had taken after
them, instead of after the belted earls of the paternal line. He had,
however, the easy manners, the clean movements, the soft voice of his
class, and if he was plain he looked able.

He had never got beyond surnames with Denis; which meant that he had
never met the soft side of that pugnacious Irish tongue. Denis was
Haus-engel, Strassteufel, a lamb to his friends, a lion abroad. There
were moments when Wandesforde thought him the most irritating man on
the face of the globe; but he bore with it, never coming to a quarrel,
because he liked and valued his partner too much to let him go. At the
time of their first meeting, Denis had spent every penny he possessed,
and had nothing to put into the partnership except his brains, and an
aeroplane which at that date (1907) couldn't be induced to quit the
ground. Yet the agreement was drawn as between equals, and Wandesforde
claimed not more but less control than in an ordinary partnership.
Why? Because he was shrewd enough to see that Denis would never work
as a subordinate; and because, as aforesaid, he valued his partner too
much to give him any excuse for throwing up his work and going off in
a huff of outraged independence, as he would have done on the least
provocation--so sensitive is an Ulsterman's pride! "Give him his head?
Of course I do!" he said with half a laugh to his brother, who had
expressed some mild surprise. "Eccentricities of genius, what? Oh yes,
he is a genius, head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd; and a
nice chap too, and abso-lutely straight. Can't help liking him. I admit
he's a bit trying at times, but it's worth it. I'd rather work with him
than with any man I know!"

Now Denis saw the position as clearly as his partner; he knew that he
could do pretty much as he liked, that Wandesforde, though he paid the
piper, would carefully refrain from calling the tune. Therefore, having
a conscience, he felt bound to do of his own accord most of the things
his partner wanted, but wouldn't ask. All which preamble leads us to
the fact that Wandesforde, not gathering from his letter that Denis
abhorred the idea of teaching Dorothea, wrote back warmly approving
of the plan. He had taken up flying in the first instance to amuse
himself; but times were hard, Dent-de-lion had been expensive, and
why shouldn't he recoup himself, as others had done, by laying out an
aerodrome and starting a flying school? The idea had been simmering in
his head for some time, and he poured it all out as soon as Denis gave
him an opening. Afterwards, when he saw how the land lay, he retracted;
but he had shown his wishes so plainly that Denis, ready to gnash his
teeth for rage, felt bound to sink his own feelings and accept Dorothea
as a pupil. In the net he had laid privily was his own foot taken.

The lessons were deferred, however, until after the Birmingham race; in
which Denis met the luck he had expected. Over the first part of the
course he made better time than any of the other competitors. Between
Polesworth and Walsall he had to come down, with valve trouble. He set
it right, and went to restart the engine by "swinging the prop," while
half-a-dozen laborers held on to the tail of the machine. Unfortunately
they were so much surprised by the sudden pull that they let go; Denis
had barely time to get out of the way of the murderous whizzing blades.
Then followed a wildly funny scene, the monoplane charging about the
field with devilish energy, while Denis and his six penitent assistants
pelted after it. In the end it butted its nose into the bank, broke the
propeller, and put itself out of the race.

"I told you what would come of flyin' on a Friday," said Denis in
self-righteous gloom to his partner, over one of those strange meals
which pilots learn to eat in village pubs. No one should fly who
isn't physically fit, so presumably their digestions are equal to
the strain. This meal had begun with beer and bacon, and gone on to
buns--three-days-old currant buns.

Wandesforde, with his wife, had been following the race in a car. His
arm was still in a sling, and his looks had not been improved by a blow
which had knocked his front teeth crooked. He was patiently mincing up
his bun with knife and fork; bite into it he could not.

"Well, dash it all, if a race is run on a Friday you have to fly it on
a Friday, don't you?" he said, annoyed. "I wouldn't have let you in if
I could possibly have held the joy-stick. I'm not superstitious about
the days of the week myself."

"No, you've had smashes on every one of the seven, haven't you?"

Bearing this with an effort, Wandesforde gave up his bun as a bad job
and consoled himself with a cigar. "I suppose now you'll go back to
Dent-de-lion and take on Miss O'Connor?" he asked, by way of changing
the subject.

"Teach her to commit suicide expensively," said the morose Denis.
"She'll never make a pilot; anybiddy can see that. Women haven't it in
them. Any old thing that's idiotic they'll do--start without fillin' up
the tank, as soon as not!"

The sting of this speech was that Wandesforde, not being always as
careful as his partner deemed desirable, had recently made this very
omission himself, and paid for it by crashing a friend's favorite bus.
The silence was broken by a small subdued sound of amusement from Mrs.
Wandesforde, which consoled her husband in proportion as it annoyed
Denis. He scowled at her through his eyeglass, and then, muttering
something about the monoplane, stalked out of the room.

"Lord!" said Wandesforde, getting up and squaring his broad shoulders
against the mantelpiece with an audible sigh of relief, "he's in a
pretty rank temper, what? I hoped he hadn't heard about Wyatt's Avro.
Never knew him so cut up about a smash before!"

His wife, a piece of silvery transparent loveliness, shook her fair
head. "Not the smash," she pronounced, oracular. "Miss O'Connor!"


Meanwhile Dorothea had established herself in a furnished cottage
at Bredon, with an old governess as companion-chaperon. Miss Byrd
had been living in an alms-house on ten shillings a week, when her
half-forgotten pupil sought her out. It should be noted in passing
that if Dorothea pursued her enemies with vengeance, she also pursued
her friends with gratitude. More than this; she could be generous
even to her enemies. Against her lawyer's advice, she had insisted on
making her uncle an allowance. "I'm not going to be a pig, because he
was!" she said. Vengeance and revenge are, in fact, very different, as
different as the lion and the hyena. But this is by the way; and indeed
at this time Dorothea's vengeance had dropped out of sight. Just as
she flung herself on Gardiner, so she had now attacked Denis, without
definite plan, on the opportunist theory that something would turn up;
and something had, but not what she expected. Her own youth lifted its
head. She had come to exploit the aeroplanes for her vengeance; and lo
and behold! she forgot her vengeance in the aeroplanes.

Denis had adapted the 1911 model for use as a school machine, and
Dorothea began in the usual way by "rolling"--i.e., taxi-ing on the
ground. Most pupils "break wood" during this process, for an aeroplane
will run any way but straight, preferring to curl round like a puppy
after its own tail. But Dorothea had by nature that automatic sixth
sense of machinery which most people acquire only by practice. She
would have learned to fly in a week, representing some three or four
hours actually in the air, if Denis had given her full time; but he
would not. Three days out of the six he kept sacred to his work. On the
remaining three Dorothea and her car appeared at Dent-de-lion whenever
the weather was favorable, and often when it wasn't. There were many
rough days that September.

At first Denis found her an unmitigated nuisance. It was bad enough to
put up with her when it was calm; but on a day of storm and tempest,
with a fifty-mile gale--then to be interrupted by rosy-hopeful youth
clamoring for a lesson--it was intolerable! Nature had never designed
Denis for a teacher. He would have crushed a stupid pupil. He was hard
even on Dorothea, when she failed to know what he hadn't told her.
But she was so eager, pliant, uncrushable, so ardently in earnest,
so reverent in attention, so insinuating in meekness: in a word, she
flattered him so sweetly that he began, unconsciously at first, yet
surely, he began to enjoy teaching her.

Even if there had been no question of Trent, Dorothea and Harry
Gardiner would never have made friends. They had nothing in common.
She, a little materialist, living in her feelings, caring not a rap
for the pleasures of the mind or fancy; he, a restless thinker,
imaginative, uneven in grain, too close in sympathy with nature to
be wholly civilized. That strain of wildness would keep him always
solitary; but Dorothea, though she had never yet had a chance to find
herself, was essentially a home woman. She wanted to adore, to be ruled
by, to mother her man in the good old-fashioned way. All that would
simply have bored Gardiner. To Denis, on the other hand, it was the
ideal of married life.

They sat side by side, his hands over hers, guiding the aeroplane, and
he forgot she was a woman. Not till then did her womanhood begin to
make its impression. She had attracted Gardiner, the man of reason,
through his senses, she attracted Denis, the man of instinct, through
his reason. He liked the quick answer of her mind to his own. Then one
day she met with an accident; her hand was grazed by the propeller. Had
it struck her full it would have shorn off her fingers in a moment,
and even as it was she was badly bruised. Denis ordered her to see a
doctor. Dorothea, pale but valiant, wanted to go on with her lesson.

"It's the first fine day we've had this week," she pleaded. "I shall
never, never fly if I stop for every miserable little trifle!"

"I shouldn't think of lettin' you," said Denis, grim and peremptory.
"You've broken one of the small bones, as likely as not."

"That I haven't!" retorted Dorothea, giving the hand a vigorous shake
to emphasize her words. Denis seized her arm.

"Do not do that! Don't you feel pain?"

"Yes, of course I do, but I can't be bothered to think about it when
I'm enjoying myself, can I?"

She stamped her foot, so absurdly enraged that Denis could not help
laughing. Her unceremonious fortitude appealed to him, just as her
pretended sensibility, when she cut her foot, had appealed to Gardiner.
Odd that in each case the quality that drew them was the precise
opposite of what each really asked for in a woman!

Dorothea had to give way; she went to a doctor, and was forbidden to
use the hand. This cut her off from her car as well as from flying, for
if she couldn't drive herself she wouldn't be driven. "Sit by and see a
hateful hired chauffeur doing my work? No, thank you!" said she. So she
sulked at Bredon, and Denis went back to his desk. He had "scrapped"
the old seaplane, lock, stock and barrel, and was working on a new
design, "a boat that would fly rather than an aeroplane that would
float," of his favorite monoplane type. Denis had long wanted to build
a monoplane which should be for the English air service what Blériots
and Moranes were for the French, or Taubes for the German; and as he
wished to show his new model at the Aero Exhibition in the spring,
he had his work cut out. The fever of invention was upon him. Yet he
missed his tiresome, charming pupil. In the brief lucid intervals when
he came to the surface, he was conscious of a vague discomfort which
neither beef nor bed availed to soothe. Her accident and the delay were
giving time for his feelings to mature. Gardiner, who was interested in
his own mental processes, would soon have found himself out; Denis, a
stranger to self-consciousness, was blind as any well-brought-up young
lady of the fifties.

Dorothea came back at last unexpectedly. After leaving his lunch to get
cold, and then bolting it in five minutes, Denis had rushed back to his
desk to finish a calculation. He was writing the last figures when a
car turned in at the gates, and he lifted his head with a frown, which
changed suddenly into a smile of pleasure. Well he knew that gay little
tune on the horn, the sound of that fresh young voice in the porch!
Down went his pen, and out he hurried to greet her, with an eagerness
which surprised himself.

"Here's your bad penny again, you see!" she cried, coming in with the
scent of the wind on her suit and the rose of it in her cheeks. "Aren't
you sick to see me? Old Turner said this morning I might use my hand,
so I came straight off. But what _have_ you been doing to yourself? You
look half starved--doesn't he, Birdie? Have you had any lunch? If you
haven't it's very wrong of you, and I shall just stand over you till
it's gone--do you hear?"

Denis, laughing, lingered to shake hands with Miss Byrd, who always
satisfied the proprieties by escorting her young friend, before
following his impetuous pupil into the parlor. Dorothea was scornfully
inspecting the remains of the meal.

"H'm! One sausage--I know it can't be more, for Rogers never gives you
more than seven, at the outside, to the pound--it's not half enough for
you. This room's hatefully uncomfortable, too," she added, frowning
round with eyes which saw it all anew. Dorothea was blind to beauty,
but wide awake to comfort, especially somebody else's comfort. "I
should like to talk to that Simpson woman. _I_'d soon make her sit up!
I think she neglects you shamefully. You're looking quite pale--isn't
he, Birdie?--and I know it's all her fault. I've no use at all for a
woman who can't keep her own people comfy!"

It was a novel experience for Denis to be scolded for neglecting
himself. "I assure you Miss Simpson's guiltless," he said, smiling.
"I've had a bit of a rush lately, that's all. I've not been able to get
out these last few days."

"Well, you're coming out with me this afternoon, or I'll know the
reason why. I can't have you looking like this," retorted Dorothea,
nodding her decision; and then, with a sudden beguiling change,
clasping both hands over his arm: "You're going to let me do straights
on my own to-day, aren't you? You almost promised you would, last time!"

Denis looked down on her hands, as though he found them a very pleasing
adornment to his sleeve. "We'll see," he said, and from that he would
not budge, for all her coaxing. He was inordinately cautious in his
tuition. They left Miss Byrd tucked up by the fire with a book, and
Denis went down to the hangars, while Dorothea got into her flying
kit. He was never tired of dinning into his pupil's ears the duty of
prudence, and certainly he set the example himself. When Dorothea
appeared at the sheds, in her tan leather coat and leggings and safety
helmet, she found her instructor tuning up the machine, and had to wait
as patiently as she might till he had done.

The morning until ten o'clock had been white and chill with one of
those luminous, snowy September fogs, which clear off into noons of
sapphire. The sky was astoundingly blue, the meadow insolently green,
the sheds all hard-edged, vivid, with keen black shadows. In the full
blaze of sunshine stood the monoplane, tall in front where the long
brown blades of the propeller cleared the ground, sloping down towards
the fin-like tail planes, and spreading its pale wings in curves not
unlike those of the gulls which sailed by, calling and fishing over the
marshes.

Dorothea climbed into her seat, Denis took his place beside her, the
men behind let go, and off they went, skimming fast and faster over
the grass, gaining speed and power for soaring. The elevator tilted,
and they parted from the earth, the moment imperceptible; only the
country, which had lain ahead, spread out suddenly below them like a
carpet. There were the green marshes, ruled out like a chess-board with
glistening waterways, and bordered with the dark blue sea: the farm,
and the sheds, and the outbuildings, all like toys made of cardboard
and glittering tin.

After circling over the aerodrome to get his height, Denis turned his
back on the coast and flew inland. As they passed, the great farm
horses plunged and fidgeted, the laborers stood still in the fields,
peering up from under their hands, the cottagers ran out into the road
to watch them overhead. Some said: "Well, I wouldn't be up in one of
them things for a thousand pounds!" and others: "Silly fools! serve 'em
right if they break their necks!" The Englishman, in fact, received
the novelty as he receives any strange thing or person, in the spirit
summed once and for all by _Punch_. Not that Denis had any right to
grumble. Except with regard to his work, he was just as conservative,
just as ready to heave his half-brick as any Bill among them.

They flew to Canterbury, and turned, banking in a steep curve, to shoot
back over the way they had come. They were five thousand feet up,
and the wind was ferocious; it seemed to press the breath back down
their throats, to wrench at the flesh on their faces. Much Dorothea
cared! On that homeward flight she was allowed, for the first time,
to guide the aeroplane herself. Denis kept his hands ready to resume
control, in case of a slip, but he was not needed; she held the pillar
till the time came to switch off the engine and glide in a long, long
slant towards the landing ground. B-rr, the motor purred again, as the
monoplane cocked up her tail, like a bird, to "flatten out" before
alighting. The landing wheels took off the shock, and they ran smoothly
over the grass till the momentum was exhausted.

Denis stayed at the hangars to see the machine housed. When he came
back to the house he found his pupil waiting for him on the steps of
the porch. She had taken off her helmet and her leather coat, and wore
the same rough tweeds in which she had wandered about the woods of the
Semois. Her skirt was short enough to show a pair of neat brown ankles,
as well as the brown shoes below them, and her hair hung down her back
in a yard and a quarter of pigtail. She said she couldn't coil it under
the helmet. Her eyes were sparkling, and her cheeks were pink, and she
propped herself against the white pillar, first on one foot, then on
the other, with the long-legged, supple awkwardness of a schoolgirl.
Strange how the years had fallen away, how little mark had been left by
her marriage, even by motherhood!

"I did it all right, didn't I?" she demanded, naïvely eager. "I didn't
make any bad breaks?"

"Not a break!" Denis assured her.

"Really? Truly? Will you let me do a figure of eight next time? I know
I could!"

"We'll see when next time comes."

Dorothea looked exceedingly naughty, like Geraldine caught stealing the
cream--the simile was Denis's own. "It's coming again to-morrow!" she
announced daringly.

Denis shook his head, smiling at her. "No, it's not."

"Ah, do let me! I've wasted so much time with the weather, and then
this hateful hand, and I do so want to learn--I _can't_ wait till
Saturday!"

"I'm sorry to disappoint such ardor, but I'm afraid you must."

"Why? You know it may change any day now into the equinoctial gales. I
think you might leave your old seaplane for once. I've never asked you
before. _Do!_"

Denis, standing below her on the path, continued to smile provokingly
and to shake his head. It amused him to see her stamp her foot, which
she did punctually, with a thunderous frown.

"I think you're _most_ unkind. It's not your duty, it's your pleasure
you're thinking of. You _like_ those miserable calculations, and that's
why you won't come. I _hate_ the seaplane!"

"There might be some point in your strictures," said Denis, teasing
her, "if I happened to be workin' at the seaplane to-morrow."

"What are you going to do, then, if not that?"

"I'm dinin' Wandesforde in town."

"O-oh," said Dorothea, undecided between storm and sunshine. "Then I
hate Mr. Wandesforde!" she concluded viciously.

"You hate so many things, don't you?"

Again she was almost ready to sulk like an offended baby; but no--out
shone the sun, and the clouds fled away. "Well, I do," she owned,
laughing back at him, "of course I do! So would anybody who wasn't a
perfect frog. It's only cold-blooded people like you and Lettice who
are tolerant. Besides, I love heaps of things to make up. I hate the
seaplane and I hate Mr. Wandesforde, but I love the monoplane and I
love you--"

It would have been nothing, nothing, if she had not pointed her words
by stopping dead and turning scarlet. Denis, puzzled, gazed at her with
his honest eyes; and then, like the falling of a curtain, saw what
her confusion meant, both to her and to himself. He stepped forward
impulsively, putting out his hands. Dorothea pressed back against the
pillar, glancing desperately from side to side; then, striking them
away, she turned and darted in at the open door, like a rabbit into its
burrow.



CHAPTER XIII

ONE NAIL DRIVES OUT ANOTHER

     I looked and saw your heart
       In the shadow of your eyes,
     As the seeker sees the gold
       In the shadow of the stream.

     _Three Shadows._


There is a legend which says that September is the month of the fading
leaf. Townsmen may fancy so, looking at their own starved avenues,
which begin to shrivel and strip themselves as early as July; but
in the country the massive woods (except that an elm here and there
hangs out a single crocus-yellow spray) keep the somber green of late
summer to the very end of the month. Then, as the days pass, first the
lime "strips to the cold and standeth naked above her yellow attire."
The horse-chestnuts on some night of frost let drop all their fans
in a rustling heap. The woodland paths are crisp with fawn-colored
oak leaves. Last of all, in mid-November, the elms loosen to the wind
and the rain those faint clouds of green and greenish-gold which have
rounded the shape of their limbs, till all the wet meadows are strewn
with them; and it is winter.

At Rochehaut it was September still, late September. Gardiner, at
leisure after the summer rush, had been to his bank at Bouillon, and,
instead of returning by the _vicinal_, had chosen to walk back over the
hills through Botassart. This route brought him past the crucifix. He
had not been there since the grand explosion, and it cost him an effort
to go back; but he refused to be sentimental, or allow a beautiful
thing to be spoiled for him by fancies. There he lay then on the grass,
smoking and dreaming.

It seemed long, long since that summer night; so long that he could
look back now, on it and on Dorothea, as part of the past. Heavens!
how she had hurt him! There was that time as a boy, when he tumbled
waist-deep into a vat of scalding liquid at some chemical works; he
could compare his feelings only to that violent assault of pain. Yes,
she had hurt him abominably; the pain of his crushed hand had been by
contrast a relief and a distraction. But the wound was on the surface;
and, though he scarcely knew it himself, already it was beginning to
heal. There was no poison in it. His passion for Dorothea had been
effectually cauterized; he thought of her now without either resentment
or desire. He was profoundly sorry; sorrier for Dorothea O'Connor
than even for Mrs. Trent. This pity, oddly enough, confirmed him in
impenitence. "I did her a good turn when I cleared that fellow out of
her road," he said to himself with inverted satisfaction. "If he'd
lived long enough for her to find him out, there'd have been _la de
Dios es Cristo_!"

Three days of pale still sunshine had closed in threatening gloom.
The grassy hill of the crucifix was burnt putty-color; the hill of
forests opposite was olive-somber; the valley fumed with tawny vapors,
breathing down from the gloom of the sky, and up from the dark current
of the river. All was still, grave, overcast, till the sun found his
sunset crevice in the clouds and split them, overflowing in long lines
of liquid gold between iron-heavy bars. Splendid transparent fan-rays
of light and dark alternate streamed up the sky; they rimmed vague
forms of mist with burning wire, they filled the empty blue with bronze
and golden vapors; the whole vault of heaven was on fire, the wet brown
hills flamed back responsive glory.

Gardiner, susceptible to every earth influence, found his senses
flooded with that golden exhilaration. Vague mists of thought took
shape in its light; he knew now that that name on the lintel of the
farm was not a mere coincidence. When he first saw the Bellevue,
"Why, I've been here before," he had said to himself, with a thrill
of startled recognition. And now, "I belong here," he added, half
aloud, with a touch of solemnity, as though the spoken word must be
irrevocable. Old ties were dear; but he knew in his heart, his body
knew, that the wild Semois down there in the valley was more to him
than the Darenth of his boyhood. This was his home.

Bringing his dazzled eyes to earth, he saw that a figure had detached
itself from the orchards of the Bellevue, and was slowly mounting the
hill. One person only would climb like that, with so many divagations
to avoid steep places, and so many halts to admire the view--or could
it be to get her breath? It was Lettice.

Since his accident, now five weeks ago, Gardiner had seen a good deal
of Miss Smith. His hand had been unexpectedly troublesome; indeed he
was only now beginning to use it. Meantime he had made use of Lettice
as his amanuensis, repaying her services by refusing to allow her to
settle her bill. "No, I am _not_ going to take that money," he said,
energetically nodding towards the pile of notes she had deposited on
his table. "I'll pitch it into the fire if you leave it there. Also
I shall wire to town for a regular secretary. Pick it up and take it
away." Lettice did not like it in the very least; but very slowly
and very stubbornly she did pick the money up and return it to her
purse. Nor was her temper soothed when Gardiner looked at her direct,
with a glint in his eye, and added, "I know you wind Denis round your
little finger, but I am not Denis. Two can play at being obstinate,
savez-vous?" Still, she continued to act as his secretary; until by the
end of the month she knew his methods and his business almost as well
as he did himself.

It was after this episode that she began to play with him, admitting
him to rank as an intimate; and that he began to discover what
it was that Denis loved in those velvet touches. But he was more
uncertain than Denis--he was not to be run by formula; he would
turn unexpectedly, and parry, and strike back. Once or twice, too,
especially at first, when he was acting the urbane and cheerful host,
he found her eyes fixed upon him. They were instantly withdrawn; but
he knew she knew he was suffering, and oddly enough he did not resent
it. Oddly, be it understood, because Gardiner was by no means fond of
sympathy. His instinct when hard hit was to cover up the wound and
keep it hidden from the world, and especially from his friends. Yet it
seemed he did not mind Lettice. And now, though he saw she was making
for the crucifix, to disturb his regal solitude, he did not stir.

She had not seen him. She plodded on without looking up, and presently
was hidden in a fold of the hill. When she emerged again, it was within
ten yards of the crucifix and that lazy, smiling figure. She stopped
short; one could almost hear her spirit say "Oh!" though her lips were
silent. Her first impulse obviously was to beat a retreat (Gardiner
chuckled, he had known it would be!), but she thought better of it,
and came on. After surveying the heap of stones, she chose the one
comfortable place, settled herself, and got out the inevitable green
tablecloth. Lettice made great play with that tablecloth.

Since she would not speak, Gardiner did.

"I didn't know you'd found your way up here."

"Why, you told me about it yourself."

"Do you like it better than your wood pile in the forest?"

Lettice paused in the act of threading her needle to look round on the
brown and gold of hills and woods and sky. "Yes," said she; and if she
had raved for an hour she could have expressed no more. Comfortable
silence fell between them. Lettice stitched, and Gardiner smoked,
and in the west the sunset flared in citron, amber, saffron, bronze,
and a thousand shades of glory. In the east a scroll of cloud reared
dazzling sunny heights of snow against dazzling blue. Lettice's needle
slackened; it came to a standstill.

"Penny for your thoughts," said Gardiner.

"I haven't any."

"I thought you were composing a poem."

Insults of insults! Lettice looked volumes of reproach. "I was _not_,"
said she.

"But you do write poetry."

"Who told you so?"

"Who do you suppose? Denis has told me quite a lot about you. Hasn't he
told you a lot about me?"

"Yes; but it wasn't all of it true."

Gardiner burst out laughing. "Well, that is good! How do you know?"

"Oh, it's, it's--it's obvious," said Lettice, with an exasperated
wave of the hand to help out her meaning. She began to sew very fast.
Gardiner contemplated her with a broad smile; but presently it faded,
and he turned over and lay plucking at the grass.

"Did Miss O'Connor leave her address with you?"

Lettice shook her head.

"She went off in such a hurry!"

Gardiner opened his mouth to speak, and checked himself for a garrulous
fool. He did not know why he had mentioned Dorothea at all. A moment
later the impulse came again, and he found himself, to his surprise,
telling Lettice the very thing he had decided not to mention. "Rather
a queer thing about that young lady," he remarked lightly. "I found
out--to be exact, she hurled the fact in my teeth--that she wasn't a
Miss, and that O'Connor wasn't her name. She was a widow--a Mrs. Trent."

"Mrs. Trent? What, the, the--"

"Oh, you know about her, do you? Yes, the Mrs. Trent of Easedale. She's
firmly persuaded that I killed her husband. I believe she came over
here simply and solely in order to worm some sort of confession out of
me."

He stopped, amazed at himself. Then he looked at Lettice. If deep
unaffected interest can pull confidences out of a man, here was his
excuse. Why, she was all eyes and ears!

"So that was it!" she said. "That was who she was!"

"You don't mean to tell me you knew about this before?"

"No, no, not her name. But I knew she didn't much like you."

"The dickens you did! Did she say so?"

"No, I, I--I sort of gathered it."

"I begin to think what Denis said about you was true," Gardiner
remarked after a pause.

"What did Denis say about me?"

"That you could see through a flight of stairs and a deal door."

"I don't know _what_ you mean."

"You wouldn't, it's out of Dickens," said Gardiner, with a laugh which
hid considerable perturbation. So she had guessed that, had she, before
he knew it himself? What was there she did not guess? He began to feel
helplessly transparent. Yet again he was surprised to find he did not
hate her for intruding. Lettice could pick her way among sensibilities
like a cat among china, and she neither misunderstood nor misjudged.
There were episodes in his life which he would have been ashamed to
show to Denis. He could have shown them every one to Lettice, unmarried
girl though she was, and with no experience of the rough and tumble of
life. Somehow one never thought of Lettice as a girl. He looked up at
her. She had dropped her work and sat motionless, her eyes fixed on the
sunset. In nature as in human nature, Lettice looked to the limit of
sight, and beyond, to the city of God. It was that distant view which
gave her the perspective for things near. While Gardiner was making
these reflections, she turned her head suddenly and surprised him with
a question:

"Does Denis know about Mrs. Trent?"

"I should say not. I haven't told him."

"I think you'd better."

It was so unlike Lettice to offer advice that he stared in surprise.

"Why?"

"He ought to know."

"I don't want to go into that business again," said Gardiner. "He did
hate it all so desperately--no, I don't want to rake it up again. Nor
do I see any necessity. What does it matter?"

"Would you mind if I told him?"

"Why the dickens are you so keen?"

She hesitated. She found it chronically hard to put her thoughts into
speech, and in this case there were reservations to be made. Gardiner
took the words out of her mouth.

"You don't mean you think she'd go for him too?"

Lettice nodded. "She meant to get a confession out of one or the other
of you."

"Oh, my Lord!" said Gardiner, and caught himself up. "But if there's
nothing to confess?"

A flash went over Lettice's face. Was it conceivable that she had
guessed even that last thing? No, it wasn't, Gardiner decided hastily,
that was beyond her, she couldn't possibly know. For an instant
he thought of telling her himself, but caution, habit, above all
self-derision held him back. He blurt out that damaging truth to a
chance acquaintance? He wasn't such a fool!--All this passed through
his mind in the instant between his question and her reply.

"Well, she didn't give you much of a time while she was trying to find
out, did she?"

"No; but--oh, she _couldn't_ try that game on again, it would be too
beastly low down, with a man like Denis! Besides, he isn't taking any,
he simply hates women.... Look here, tell me exactly what you know, do
you mind? What makes you so certain she meant to go for him?"

Lettice drew a long breath. Her explanation, when it came, ran clear
and straight. Indeed, her thought was always lucid; it was the words
that failed.

"It was that last day before she went. She began by telling me about
herself and how unhappy she had been; and then she let out that there
was some man she hated; and then she began asking questions about you
and Denis, coupling you together, do you see?--but so that you couldn't
help guessing it was you she'd been talking about. One thing she asked
was whether Denis would tell a lie to save a friend. And then Denis
himself came up, and they talked flying; and she said she should go to
Bredon some day and see the aeroplanes."

"You think she really meant business?"

"Yes, I do."

"Pleasant," said Gardiner, tugging at his mustache, with a sort of hard
restraint. "If she exploits Denis as she did me, he'll enjoy himself.
Yes, I shall be very much obliged if you'll write to him. He'll take it
better from you than from me."

"I wish I'd known before," said Lettice, folding up her work.

"Oh, it's all right so far, she hasn't turned up at Bredon yet. I heard
from Denis this morning."

"Yes, but don't you see if she did go she'd be sure to tell him not to
tell you?"

He did see, and felt sick. It cost him an effort to lie still. But he
pulled himself together; that last secret, at least, she should not
read. What to say, then? He would not confess, but equally he would not
lie to her. He found something which was neither lie, confession, nor
equivocation, but a piece of plain fact.

"If she ever does get hold of the truth about Trent, she'll be
uncommonly sorry she tried to find out."

Then he discovered that Lettice was neither looking at nor thinking of
him.

"I hope she won't get it out of Denis," she said. "I hope you'll be in
time to prevent that."

The words were mild; the spirit, not so. Gardiner was shamed out of his
self-absorption. He saw Lettice's love for her cousin, roused in his
defense; and he saw, too, with her, Denis tricked into betraying his
friend. Why, he would never forgive himself!

"My Lord, yes!" he said with unexpected gravity. "That would be a worse
business than anything she's done or could do to me."



CHAPTER XIV

A TWO-EDGED SWORD

     He looked at her, as a lover can;
     She looked at him, as one who awakes.

     _The Statue and the Bust._

     There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof
     are the ways of death.--PROVERBS.


In his salad days, a long time ago, Denis had fallen in love with the
daughter of a respectable suburban fishmonger, after tumbling out of
the sky on the roof of her house. The young lady's parents were rich
but honest; the young lady herself--well, she had an extremely pretty
face, which occupied Denis to the exclusion of a blue and yellow sports
coat and a large string of pearls. His love dream lasted six weeks;
then he fell out of his aeroplane again and broke his handsome nose, or
was supposed to have done so, and Miss Tyrrell broke the engagement.
"I c-couldn't bear you with a broken nose!" she wept. Whatever Denis
broke, it was not his heart. When he looked back on the episode, it was
with devout and wondering thankfulness; but he preferred not to look
back on it at all.

This was his sole experience of the tender passion. In his
single-minded and laborious life there had been no room for more; even
Nina Tyrrell had been sandwiched between two flying accidents. Denis
was at bottom a simple soul. He had three main interests--his religion,
his aeroplanes, his friends; and they were all bound up together by a
child-like faith. He believed in others because his own heart was pure.
It was this bloom of innocence which Gardiner loved in his friend, and
which both he and Lettice were tender to protect; and it was this which
made his feeling for Dorothea at once so beautiful, and so vulnerable.

He took the revelation very simply, very seriously, with reverence and
awe; among other primitive virtues, Denis had a fine stock of awe. Love
was to him a sacrament, a gift direct from heaven; he carried it in his
heart like a jewel almost too precious for human hands to touch, and
gave humble thanks to God. A good old-fashioned churchman, Denis had
been accustomed to "say his prayers" night and morning, walking in a
decent English soul-silence the rest of the day; but this new gratitude
transcended all rules and overflowed in ceaseless praise. Nobody, he
was certain, had ever felt like this before. He was happy--happier than
it had ever entered his head to imagine, in sunshine which turned all
the gray of life to gold.

All that day he could settle to nothing, but mooned about the house,
getting in the way of Miss Simpson, who had planned to turn out his
room. Next day, in town, he looked at Wandesforde the married man with
new curiosity. He did not in the least want to unbosom himself; but
he would have liked to extract confidences from somebody who had been
through it all before. Wandesforde, however, was not given to making
confidences, and if ever he had been driven into speech his partner was
the last man he would have chosen to receive his outpourings. He put
down Denis's unusual silence to his liver, and genially advised him to
take more exercise--that venerable joke, which always seems so good to
the maker and so poor to the recipient!

That night Denis lay awake, building castles in the air. Dorothea had
told him all her sad little story as far as her marriage, one squally
day when they were sheltering in the hangar; he set up in his heart a
shrine of protective love and reverence and worshiped her there, his
little lady of the sorrows--Dorothea, with a heart full of black hate!
Yet Denis was not blind. He saw one side of her clearly enough, and was
ready to own with tender indulgence that she had plenty of endearing
imperfections, of small gray faults; but of the other side, the dark
half of the moon, she had shown him nothing, and how was he to divine
it? With him, indeed, she was what he believed her: true to her true
self, since but for her starved girlhood Dorothea would never have
learned to hate. He scarcely dared hope she loved him yet, though he
had a shy confidence that he would win her in the end; but he meant to
ask her at once, that very day when she came for her lesson. He was up
and out at six o'clock, among pearly mists, and saw the sun rise in
rose and gold over meadows spread with the thin silver of the frost.
Then he came in to breakfast, took up his letters, and met his first
check. There was a note from Miss Byrd to say they could not come.

She wrote for Dorothea, whose hand was troubling her again; perhaps she
had strained it yesterday; at any rate, she thought best not to use it
at present. But would Mr. Merion-Smith come to tea with them to-morrow
after church instead? She hoped this would be convenient and that they
might have the pleasure of his company, and she was his very sincerely,
Mary Anne Byrd. Denis's face, which had darkened, cleared again; after
all, it was not such a bad thing. Better say what he had to say in a
drawing-room than shout it through the hum of a propeller.

He went to afternoon church, and listened to the Evangelical vicar's
sermon on Christian evidences, which he seemed to rest mainly on
the fact that there have been martyrs for the faith (a proposition
over which Denis knit his brows, though he could not imagine that
the congregation then present was liable to have its faith upset by
faulty logic); and when the choir of little girls recited the General
Thanksgiving, he recited it with them, in great seriousness and
devotion. Coming out into the sunny white road, with the ink-blue sea
on one hand, the grayish cliff grass on the other, he walked down to
Dorothea's bungalow--the one bungalow of Bredon, which he already knew
sufficiently well, having lived there for several years himself. The
car was at the door; he paused to look over it before he rang the bell.

Miss Byrd received him in the drawing-room, and for the first half-hour
entertained him alone; a tall, slim woman with a complexion of wrinkled
ivory, gentle and dignified and intelligent. As a teacher she had been
subject to storms of nervous anger, for which she was not too proud to
apologize, even to a pupil; it was an incident of this sort which had
stamped her indelibly in Dorothea's affections. Always a little shy of
Denis, to-day she seemed in a state of nervous tremor; her hands were
shaking as she arranged and rearranged the cozy, and wondered for the
tenth time what could be keeping Dot. Denis, who had one manner for the
mighty and another for the humble and meek, set himself to soothe her
alarms. He was just succeeding when the door unclosed and the truant
swept in.

"Am I very frightfully late?" she inquired unconcernedly. "So sorry;
having only one hand makes you awkward, you know. Do you mind doing
this for me, Birdie?"

She stood bending her graceful head while Miss Byrd settled the rose
point of her collar. She was wearing a velvet dress, very rich, very
sumptuous, cut open at the throat and bordered with sable fur. Round
her neck went a gold chain, rough links nearly an inch across, hanging
to her knees and looking barbarously heavy. She sank into a chair, and
there was the gleam of a golden shoe, a Cinderella slipper with jeweled
straps crossing on the arch of a silken instep. What a transformation!
But the greater change was in her manner.

"Have you been to church?" she asked. "How pious of you! I haven't;
but then I'm not pious, you know. I went for a joy-ride instead. My
hand? Oh yes, thanks, I managed all right. I generally do manage to
do what I want to," she added, spreading out a slender hand with the
diamonds upon it which Lettice had admired long ago. She looked up at
Denis through her lashes. "No, I didn't want to come yesterday; not
particularly; wasn't that sad? But I did want you to come here this
afternoon--"

"That's all right, since here I am," Denis interrupted, laughing at
her. He put her off for an instant, but only for an instant; she
recovered herself, and swept on:

"And I'll tell you why: because I wanted a real heart-to-heart talk,
without any aeroplanes or things to interrupt. I've a bone to pick with
you."

"A bone to pick, have you?"

"A big, big bone. Another lump of sugar, please, Birdie--yes, that
little fella will do; I shan't let you make tea if you don't give me
enough sugar. Why didn't you ever tell us that exciting story about Mr.
Gardiner?"

She leaned back among her cushions, stirring her cup, watching Denis
with those dark eyes full of overt insolence and covert eagerness. But
Denis was not noticing subtleties of expression; this time she had got
home.

"What excitin' story about Mr. Gardiner?"

It was her turn to laugh. "Oh, you know! About that man he killed, or
didn't kill, up in the Lakes somewhere. I really think it was your
_duty_ to have told--anybody mightn't have cared to stop at his hotel
after a thing like that!"

"Who told you anything about it?"

"Louisa, of course. Louisa's always my newsmonger. She had it from the
maid of the man's wife--Mrs. Tyne, wasn't her name? No, Trent. I knew
it was some river or other. Maids tell each other everything. It only
came out yesterday, else I'd have been at you about it before. Louisa
swears Mr. Gardiner really did it, and you screened him. Did he? and
did you? Do tell! It isn't every day one comes across a thrilling tale
like this!"

"There was an inquest," said Denis stiffly. "You can read all about it
in the papers, if you choose. It was brought in accidental death."

"Well, I know that, or Mr. Gardiner would have gone to prison, wouldn't
he? But what Louisa says is that the whole truth didn't come out at the
inquest. He knocked the man down, or something, instead of his tumbling
of himself. I can quite believe he would knock a man down, if he lost
his temper. Did he really do it, and make you hush it up? I do so want
to know!"

"My dear," said Miss Byrd gently, "don't you see you're worrying Mr.
Merion-Smith!"

"Am I?" said Dorothea. She shot a cool, leisurely, searching glance at
Denis's troubled face. "Well, I'm sure I don't see what there is to
worry anybody in what I've been saying--unless, of course, it's true!"

Denis had to say something. He felt for and found his voice, hoping it
sounded more natural to her than it did to himself. "It was--rather a
bad business," he got out. "I--don't much care for talkin' about it. I
don't think Miss O'Connor quite realizes what it meant for us--we saw
it, you know; and Mrs. Trent too--" He stuck fast. Was that the best he
could do for his friend? The old excuse rose to his lips. "But I can
assure you it was an accident!"

"Oh, well, of course I'm sorry if I said what I oughtn't. I only meant
it for a joke!" said Dorothea conventionally.

Denis turned away to the window. What evil fiend had prompted her
to dig up that story? It was none the sweeter for its long burial.
On Dorothea's lips it made him feel sick. He had a passing pain and
wonder at her tone, so discordant, so unlike herself. But that was due
to shyness, he told himself, the struggles of a wild thing to escape
capture, and putting the thought by he went on steadily to his purpose.
It was not easy to turn Denis when his mind was made up. He spoke the
sentence he had prepared before entering the house.

"Have you seen your back tire?"

"My tire? No! Is it down?"

Out she ran--as he had guessed she would; but it was at any cost to get
away from him, not for the car's sake--and that he did not guess. He
followed her. Dorothea, pretending to examine her tires, looked up and
knew herself caught.

"Why, they're all right," she said, rising from the last of the wheels.
"Did you think I had a puncture?"

"No, and I never said I did. I wanted to speak to you," said Denis
coolly.

She faced him across the car, as cool as he. "Better not."

"I want to ask you something. I want to know if you will do me the very
great honor of becoming my wife."

How quietly he said it, looking at her with his steady eyes! Dorothea
shook her head. "Never."

"Ah, but I'm not askin' for an answer at once."

"Never. Never. Never," she repeated with rising emphasis. "I _never_
will--and you wouldn't ask it if you knew!"

"You're not engaged already?"

"Oh, no!" she cried, with a laugh that set his teeth on edge. She
turned towards the door. Denis instinctively put out a hand to detain
her. She flashed round, quick and dangerous as a cat.

"Don't touch me, don't stop me--you'll be sorry for it if you do!"

Denis was in far too great pain and confusion to obey, or even to take
in what she said. "You weren't like this yesterday!" he said, pleading.

"I always was. Always. I had my reasons for pretending to tolerate you
for a time, but I always felt the same."

"You said you loved me!"

"It wasn't true, it wasn't true. I hate you."

"But why? What have I done?"

"Told lies, and screened a murderer."

"_What?_"

"It's your own fault, you would have it," said Dorothea, trembling with
passion. "I _told_ you not to stop me, and you would. Saying it was an
accident--that old story! I was sure enough before, I know for certain
now."

Denis's hand went up to his head. "What are you talking about?"

"About Major Trent, whom Mr. Gardiner killed. He did kill him. He
knocked him down with a chisel, and he died. Didn't he? _Didn't he?_
You know you can't deny it!"

He could not, nor could he meet her eyes, so he missed their
expression. Certain things are so cruelly hard that they must be
carried through at a rush, or not at all. Dorothea's vengeance had
turned into a two-edged sword in her hands, and she hewed with it
recklessly because it was cutting her to the bone.

"Why, it's not a year yet since he died, and do you think I'd _let_
myself love a man who--who almost helped to kill him?" she cried
with anguish. "Oh, I hate, hate, _hate_ you, and I always will. Oh,
Guy, Guy, do they think I'd forget so soon, and be friends with your
murderers? I'd kill myself sooner!"

Sobbing vehemently, she fled into the house.

When Denis got home, he found a belated letter from Lettice, which
should have been delivered that morning, but had been carried on by
mistake to the next farm. It had come, said Miss Simpson, just after he
started; the boy must actually have passed him in the drive.



CHAPTER XV

WANTED

     We took no tearful leaving,
     'Twas time and time to go;
     Behind lay dock and Dartmoor,
     Ahead lay Callao!

     _The Broken Men._


The hamlet of Woodlands is near Wrotham, in the county of Kent. To
reach it you must take the old Chatham and Dover at Victoria and get
out at Otford, a sweet-scented village sitting at ease in the wide
vale of the Darenth. Leaving that behind, you will turn eastwards by
the Pilgrims' Way, which winds along the lower spurs of the Downs,
above Kemsing, Ightham, St. Clere, on its way to Canterbury. That too
you leave in half-a-mile, and strike into the hills on your left,
up a perpendicular lane where the contour lines on the ordnance map
jostle each other, four, five, six, seven hundred feet in the width
of as many yards, the woods climbing with you, arching your road in a
green tunnel. They thin, they dispart, and you are on the summit of
the Downs; great rolling fluted hills covered with thymy turf, knots
of gorse, noble trees standing singly with a scattering of bracken in
their shade, innumerable rabbits tossing up their little white scuts as
they bolt into their burrows. Very steep and graceful in their lines,
these Kentish hills; very beautiful the green floor of the valley
outspread below, the wooded height of River Hill, the hare-bell blue of
distant chains, rising half transparent against the sky..

On you go, turning your back on all this, over the ridge, into the
heart of the Downs. Your lane twists, dropping into nameless green
dells, rising over nameless green knolls, between woods that slope
a dozen ways at once, and hedgerows which "the primroses run down
to, carrying gold"--even in October. Next you pass a farm, with its
warm-scented yellow ricks, its black barns, mossy-thatched, its garden
full of milk-white phlox, magenta chrysanthemums, black and yellow
sun-flowers, tan and purple snapdragons. You wheel round a corner, you
descend another break-neck lane all grass and flints, and here in a
green nest among the hills, which rise steep all round, here you will
find your journey's end--the hamlet of Woodlands. Half-a-dozen old
cottages, a minute school-house, a minute church, and the vicarage.

Gardiner's birthplace was a square white house with a red roof, green
jalousies, and bay windows on either side of a pillared porch. In
front, a square of lawn was guarded from the road by a laurel hedge,
and bisected by a gravel walk leading to the door. Picture the place
in October. Those white walls are hidden, partly by Gloire de Dijon
roses, still thick with yellow buds and creamy blossoms, for it is
warm in this nest among the hills; and partly by creepers, cardinal,
carmine, red-rose, fringing out in trails of daffodil green. The
borders are full of flowers, roses and chrysanthemums blooming
together, yellow and brown nasturtiums among their thin round emerald
leaves, Michaelmas daisies, a bank of lilac against the laurels. The
woods are full-leaved still and autumn-glorious; there is russet of
oaks, orange of hawthorns, lemon-yellow of maples, and here and there,
like black-cowled monks at a pageant, the scattered yews which always
haunt the line of the Pilgrims' Way. Woods, woods, and woods all round,
rising like a golden cup, save only to the north. Here a valley opens,
and the unfenced, unmetalled road winds away, between hills of thin
grayish-green turf, white-scarred with chalk and dotted with sheep,
towards Maplescombe, Farningham, and civilization, represented by the
unpleasant town of Dartford.

Two young men were pacing the vicarage lawn. One was slight, short,
dark, un-English: Harry Gardiner. The other was tall, broad-shouldered,
serious, ultra-correct: his brother Tom, of the Royal Engineers. Tom,
though three years the younger, was in the case of the elder brother
of the parable, who really had his grievance. He had always been an
exemplary son, steady, dutiful, even clever; yet Mr. Gardiner freely
proclaimed his preference for the vagabond and runaway. Moreover,
though he had worked hard all his life, Tom made barely enough by his
profession to keep himself. Harry, the rolling stone, had but to open
his hand for the gifts of Fortune to tumble into it, and was able to
make his father a comfortable allowance. He was lucky; Tom was not. Tom
felt sometimes a little sore; but he acknowledged ruefully that it was
nobody's fault, and couldn't be helped. There was a child-like vigor
and directness about Mr. Gardiner's feelings which made them wholly
insuppressible, and though he was often egregiously unfair, neither of
his sons dreamed of resenting it.

"Well, I'm glad you wired for me, false alarm or no. I'd ten times
rather you sometimes brought me over when it's not necessary than think
you mightn't do it when it was. A wonderful old boy, he really is--but
I wish he wouldn't play the divvle with his constitution quite so
freely!"

This was Harry, light, quick, decisive. Tom's voice was slower and
deeper.

"He let out to-day that the attack came on after he'd been rolling the
lawn all the morning."

"No, did he? What a cunning old sinner it is! I must say it's a comfort
to me to know that you're so close at hand at Chatham, Tom. By the way,
when do you expect to get your step?"

"Not for a couple of years yet," said Tom, with a sigh. "Promotion in
the Sappers is so beastly slow!"

Gardiner shot a keen glance at him.

"And you won't marry till you do get it?"

"Can't afford to, unless I'm sent to India," Tom ruefully acknowledged.

"Borrow off me, and settle things up at once."

"Many thanks, but I should never be able to pay you back."

"Don't, then. I'm laying up treasure on earth, which the Prayer Book
says I mustn't. There's a couple of hundred lying idle at my bank which
you're entirely welcome to, and which would just tide you over the next
two years. You ought to be a family man, Thomas, you were cut out for
it. Besides, Miss Woodward will get sick of waiting."

Tom continued to shake his obstinate head. "It's very good of you, but
I'd rather not do that," he said with some constraint. "You'll want to
marry yourself some day."

Gardiner looked at him again, with a faint, faint light of amusement.
He could never bring himself to take Tom quite seriously. How annoying
that was, to Tom! and how little Gardiner meant to annoy!

"When I find myself in danger of matrimony, maybe I'll start saving,"
he said lightly. "I suppose it's no use pressing you? No? Well, of
course I'd take it myself, if I were in your shoes, but then I haven't
your fine sturdy independence, Thomas--also I'm older than you are, and
a little less positive about the lines of right and wrong. There are
times when you remind me of Denis Merion-Smith, do you know? By the
by, I must run down and see him before I go back. Yes, and if I pass
through town I can also see--"

His voice trailed off into a meditative whistle, and a spark lighted in
his eye.

"Who?" asked Tom with curiosity.

"A young lady friend of mine, who's invited me to call on her. There's
a plum for you, Thomas; make the most of it. Hullo, here's daddy."

Mr. Gardiner appeared in the porch, a small wiry figure with a spud
in his hand and a Scotch plaid trailing from one shoulder. The top of
his head was bald as ivory, but he carefully trained across it certain
gray locks which, when he went out without a hat (as he did more often
than not), ruffled up on end like a crest. He was making towards the
flower-bed when his son came and took the tool away.

"No, daddy, that I really can't allow," he declared, folding the plaid
round the little figure. It was rather like trying to wrap up a flea,
for Mr. Gardiner made a dive in the middle to uproot a daisy. "You
must remember you're an invalid. You sit on the seat and superintend.
Vamos, hombre--that's better. Now, what do you want done?"

"The whole place is in a disgraceful state," said the invalid
rebelliously. "Disgraceful. It wants digging over from end to end. Look
at the lawn! That's a dandelion, I declare!"

He made another dart, again frustrated by his laughing son. "Here, you
come and sit on him, Tom, while I mow the lawn!" Tom rather reluctantly
sat down and kept his father anchored by the arm, while Gardiner plied
the spud with more energy than skill, earning nothing but abuse from
the ungrateful invalid.

"You young folk think you can do everything!" he said irately. "I know
you! You'll be getting up into my pulpit next. I'll preach next Sunday,
no matter what you say, on the dangers of conceit. Nice incapable pair
of sons I have!"

The sun shone, the doves purred in the lime-trees, and Mr. Gardiner
scolded his sons with all his energetic soul because they wouldn't let
him dig over the asparagus beds. He had prolonged his life to this
his sixty-ninth year on cod-liver oil, and was now recovering from an
attack of hemorrhage. He had had three in the past four years, but he
could never be persuaded to take any precautions. He kept his sons
in perpetual anxiety, tempered, at least for Gardiner, by faith in
his luck. He had deserved to die a dozen times, but he never had; and
Gardiner found it hard to believe he ever would.

You cannot know a man thoroughly till you have seen him in his home.
He may be more truly himself away from it; but his relations with
his family always contribute something to the sum of his character.
Woodlands was Harry Gardiner's home; those woods had been the
background and the vicarage the foreground of his childhood. The income
of the living was one hundred and seventy pounds, and Mrs. Gardiner had
besides sixty pounds a year of her own. After deducting life assurance,
expense of collection and rates (which the unhappy parson whose
stipend comes from tithe pays on the whole of his income, as well as
on the ratable value of his house), there was left about one hundred
and forty pounds to live on. That, for four persons, is poverty: not
want, but wholesome, bracing poverty. Many a time had Gardiner blessed
his early training to endure hardness. He blessed also the memory of
his big, breezy, soft-hearted, hot-tempered, quick-witted mother. Two
pictures rose in his mind whenever Gardiner thought of her. In one she
was chopping suet with _La Hermana San Sulpicio_ propped on the kitchen
scales before her nose; in the other she was boxing the ears of a
choir-boy who sang flat. She was half Spanish, and had been brought up
as a Roman Catholic; but she 'verted so completely that she was able to
remain a High Churchwoman, and to enjoy hearing Mass from time to time.
She died during Harry's first voyage, of measles, caught in Sunday
school.

Gardiner lounged on the seat, his labors ended, with an affectionate
arm thrown round his father's shoulders. Presently the postman came
in sight, and Tom went to take the letters, which were delivered at
Woodlands only once a day. There was a moneylender's circular for the
vicar, a love letter for himself and a whole sheaf for Harry, sent
on from Rochehaut, which he had left at a moment's notice, in answer
to Tom's telegram. Tom, absorbed in his charming May, Mr. Gardiner,
inveighing against the slackness of the Government, failed to notice,
either of them, the startling change in Harry's face as he examined his
share of the post.

"Daddy, I'm sorry to say I've got to go."

He was already on his feet, crushing the letter in his hand. Mr.
Gardiner looked up.

"Go? You can't go, it's just dinner-time. I never knew anybody so
restless as you two boys; you can't be still a moment!" This was indeed
Satan rebuking sin. "Where do you want to go to?"

"Can't say. Callao, for choice."

"What?"

"Callao?" echoed Tom, at the same moment. "Why, I thought you were due
back at Rochehaut on Saturday!"

"So I am, but I shall have to cut it. Look here, daddy, I'm really
most frightfully sorry." He dropped down again beside his father and
threw an arm round his neck. "You mustn't worry your dear old head
about it, because it's not worth that; but the truth is I've got myself
into rather a scrape. I'm wanted by the police, if you please! Silly
business, isn't it? Of course it'll all blow over, but in the meantime
I have to clear out. I don't want to be had up. There's a train to town
at two-thirty, which I shall just catch if I put a sprint on. What,
Tom? Oh, it's Merion-Smith who writes me. His letter's been out to
Rochehaut, and they kept it there till they heard from me telling them
to forward things. That's why I'm in such a divvle of a hurry."

"But, Harry, Harry," cried the old man, clinging to him with the
tenacity of age and love, "what is it about? And is it true? Have you
done anything? Are you to blame?"

"No, daddy, I'm not." The answer came unhesitatingly. He stooped and
kissed his father. "Don't you worry about that. I've done nothing to be
ashamed of, I give you my word. I'll write and tell you all about it,
and the reason why I can't stay, but I haven't time now. See after him,
Tom!"

The son who wasn't wanted tried vainly to console the old man for the
loss of the son who was. Mr. Gardiner would have pursued Harry to
his room with questions if the nurse had not come out to take him in
charge; failing that, he sent Tom to knock at the door. A preoccupied
voice told him to come in, and there was Gardiner on his knees,
cramming clothes into a suit-case--a contrast, this, to his usual
methodical habits.

"I've written a check payable to you for the amount of my balance at
the bank," he said without looking up; "it's there on the table. Better
cash it at once, and then you can let father have his money as usual.
I may want some myself later on, when I can let you have an address. By
the way, have you any ready money on you?"

"Only loose silver."

"Oh, dash!--I'm run short too, and I know daddy hasn't any in the
house. Well, I must raise the wind in town somehow. It's an infernal
nuisance about the delay of that letter. Nearly ten days since Denis
wrote!"

"But look here," said Tom, getting out the question that was burning
his tongue, "what's it all about? What are you accused of?"

"Murder; so now you know."

"Good God!"

Gardiner only laughed, and went on with his packing. Tom, after a
moment's appalled silence, found words.

"Then in heaven's name, Harry, if you're innocent, why do you bolt?
You're giving your case away. You'll never be able to show your face in
England again--why, good heavens! it means that father will never see
you again! It'll break his heart. Why on earth don't you stay and face
it out?"

"Because I did it, my good chap." Gardiner faced his brother for
the first time, sitting back on his heels. "Mind you, what I said
to father was strictly true. I've done nothing to be ashamed of;
nothing I wouldn't do again to-morrow--or you either, you pillar of
respectability! If I were at liberty to explain all the circumstances
I certainly wouldn't bolt. But I'm not; and there's the rub. Why?--oh,
it's a complicated business; there are other people involved. That's
why I'm departing in such a hurry. Cheer up, Thomas; it's less
scandalous to have a brother in Callao than one dangling at the end of
a string in Westby Jail. Better for father too. I can at least write to
him."

Tom did not answer. Homicide is homicide, no matter what specious
excuses Harry might manufacture; and after hearing his gloss on his
downright denial to his father, Tom was not disposed to trust his
assertions of innocence.

The room was in the front of the house, giving on the

garden and the road. Tom's eyes became riveted to some object outside.

"There's the Wrotham bobby at the gate, with another man."

"What?"

Gardiner sprang to the window, and then fell back out of sight behind
the curtain. "Yes; they're after me. Wired out to Rochehaut, I suppose,
and wired back. Keep them off daddy, and stick out to him that I'm
innocent. Keep them off me too, if you can, and give me a start. Say
I've gone to town. I'll write when I can."

Tom clattered down the stairs behind his lighter-footed brother. At
the bottom the passage ran right and left, to front and back. Gardiner
turned to the left, but was stopped by a grip on his shoulder. The ties
of brotherhood held in the face of danger. Tom was holding out his hand.

"Good-by, Harry--God bless you."

"Good-by, old Tom."

They parted: Tom to the front, to tackle the police; Gardiner to the
back, _en route_ for South America.



CHAPTER XVI

COUNSEL OF PERFECTION

     Lead such temptations by the head and hair,
     Reluctant dragons, up to who dares fight,
     That so he may do battle and have praise.

     _The Ring and the Book._


Gardiner was just one second too late. As he reached the back door the
police arrived at the front; and they saw him. The Wrotham man, who had
known him as a wicked small boy, raised a sort of view-hallo and dashed
into the hall in pursuit. But Tom's broad figure was in the way (not
obstructing the police, oh dear, no, nothing further from his mind,
just solidly, immovably stupid!); and while Cotterill dodged round him,
Gardiner had time to slip through the back door, slam it and turn the
key in his pursuer's face.

He was not one of those unready mortals who are flustered by a sudden
strain. On the contrary, it braced him. He dragged Tom's bicycle out of
the shed, and ran it up the kitchen garden to the gate which led into
the glebe; then across the meadow, the mild cows shying and backing
with lowered heads as he rushed by to a second gate, giving on the
road. Nobody in sight yet, the coast still clear. He heaved his machine
over the bars, vaulted them himself and rode for his life.

Woodlands stands at the end of a trident of lanes, whose left arm
points towards Otford, its right towards Kingsdown, while the shank
leads northwards through Farningham to Dartford. Any one would
naturally conclude that a fugitive would choose this last road, which
for its first four miles is utterly lonely. Gardiner turned to the
right, by the lane which climbs through woods, with many a twist, to
join the London road at Kingsdown. How he pedalled up that hill! But
after all, as he told himself, breathless, the gradients were the same
for them as for him; and if he was hampered by a strange bicycle,
Cotterill was portly.

Level ground at last, and the Portobello inn at the crossroads where
the lane cuts the highway. Here the fugitive fell in with the great
stream of motorists and cyclists who frequent this road for the
pleasure of spinning down Wrotham Hill in one direction, Farningham
Hill in the other. On the Dartford road he would have been conspicuous
to every one he met; here he was a unit in the crowd. He turned towards
London. Down into Farningham, over the bridge, with its magnificent
horse chestnut leaning to the Darenth, a tower of gold on a field of
emerald; up the opposite slope to Swanley Junction; on through the
Crays to Sidcup, where the suburbs begin, shades of the prison-house;
and finally, London itself.

On Vauxhall Bridge he halted, to consider his course. It was unlucky,
most unlucky that Cotterill had seen him; his description would be all
over the country to-morrow. The first thing was to get money. He must
borrow; but from whom? Denis was at Bredon, his other male friends
were in the ends of the earth. Yet he knew without hesitation where to
go. It occurred to him to wonder, as he asked his way of the policeman
outside Vauxhall station, what Tom would have said to the idea of
borrowing from a girl.

Strange how much of an alien he felt here in London! His imagination,
roving always among woods and mountains, a green thought in a green
shade, fell choked among bricks and mortar; his sense of smell, keen
like that of a wild creature, was offended by the fumes of motor
buses, by hot whiffs from restaurants and cook-shops, by the odor of
the horses and of asphalt in the sun. Above all, he hated the crowds.
City-lovers, city-dwellers all of them, the seedy loafer spitting into
the Thames, and the girl in magenta and _blanc de perle_, who threw
him coquettish glances from under her lace veil. "I can do with these
people for a few hours, or even for a day or two, but to live here!" he
thought. And then came the inevitable corollary: "If I feel like this
now, what would it be to be boxed up with twelve or fifteen hundred of
them, day and night, for years?" He turned his back on that thought. He
had to keep a steady hand to ward off panic, which lurked at his heels
like a wolf.

He carried himself and his alien feelings across town, and presently
arrived at 22 Canning Street. Miss Smith was out. That he had expected,
and he came in to wait. The little maid preceded him up seventy-five
steps to Lettice's attic. "Oh, them stairs!" she sighed, with a hand at
her waist. Gardiner wondered how Lettice liked the climb. She was not
so very fond of hills. But when he was left alone, and had looked out
of her window far across the roofs, and seen her glimpse of the river
and of the Surrey hills, he understood. It was worth it. Here, above
the world, Lettice found the breathing-space which she loved as well as
he. There was a pot of violets on the table; he put the blossoms aside
with one finger, and buried his nose in the moss surrounding them. That
was good! That was the breath of the woods; Gardiner would have given
all the flower scents in the world for that wet woody fragrance.

Sitting down, he discovered that he was tired, very tired. It is deadly
demoralizing to be hunted. Here for the moment he was safe; and in the
blessed relief from strain he fell asleep.

Lettice came in from the Museum at six; she had her own key, and as
it chanced did not meet the little maid Beatrice. Up the stairs she
toiled, with her neat case of papers, came into her room, meticulously
noiseless as her pleasure was, and paused by her table, pulling off her
gloves, ever so slowly, before she found energy to look round. Then she
saw Gardiner asleep in her chair.

It was one of Lettice's principles never to interfere with anybody if
she could possibly help it. She saw no reason for waking him; she did
not wake him. She set about making tea instead. A spirit stove burns
noiseless; crockery deftly handled need not chink. The soft sounds of
Lettice's business would not have startled a mouse. She cut bread and
butter. She carried a bunch of water-cress to the tap on the landing
and washed it there. She fetched from her cupboard a shape of tongue, a
glass of shrimp paste, fresh butter, strawberry jam, bananas--the usual
menu of the dweller in rooms. It was not in the bond that she should
lay her own meals, but she often did it to save Beatrice's tired legs.
Lastly, she made the tea. As she replaced the kettle on the stove, the
lid fell off; and Gardiner awoke.

He sat up and stared.

"Tea's ready," Lettice announced, with a benignant smile.

"I never heard you come in!"

"I know," said his hostess, "you were _fast_ asleep. Come along, before
the toast gets cold."

She asked no questions, she seemed to want no explanations. Blessed
are the people who take things for granted! Gardiner drew up his
chair, discovering suddenly that he was hungry. Lettice poured out:
soft-toned, placid, soothing Lettice, supplying the needs of his body
with maternal care, and sitting there opposite, delicately fresh and
neat, with those misleadingly soft, derisive hazel eyes! He liked to
watch the slow, accurate movements of her hands, and their funny little
flutter of make-believe agitation, when she hastened to supply his
request for a piece of sugar.

"I don't believe you've had any lunch," she admonished him, pouring out
his third cup.

"Haven't. I came off in a hurry. I don't know that I ever tasted
anything quite so good as this tongue of yours. You are a Good
Samaritan, you know."

Lettice did not tell him he was eating up her Sunday dinner. She
dismissed the subject with her little French shrug.

"And how's Mr. Gardiner?"

"Going strong. I say, would you very much mind if I had a pipe?"
Lettice, who loathed tobacco, shook her head. "Sure? You really have
all the virtues. By the way, can you lend me some money?"

If that did not startle her, nothing would! It did not startle her. She
looked pensive for a moment, then asked: "How much do you want?"

"How much have you?"

"Nine sovereigns, and the change out of another."

"Could you possibly let me have the nine sovereigns?"

Lettice nodded. Getting up without more ado, she unlocked her desk,
strung out the sovereigns in a row upon the white cloth beside him, and
returned to her seat.

"Well, I'm hanged!" said Gardiner. "Don't you even want to know what I
want it for?"

She shook her head as usual, then added a polite but perfunctory "Yes,
of course I'm very much interested."

"I want it because the police are after me."

At that she looked up.

"Yes, the old affair at Grasmere. You weren't in time with that
letter to Denis. Mrs. Trent's been at Dent-de-lion for the last six
weeks--ever since she left Rochehaut; and she's managed to worm the
truth out of Denis. What? Oh yes, the truth; I forgot you didn't know.
I did knock Trent down. Of course he was simply asking for it; but the
fact remains that technically I'm guilty of manslaughter--murder, Mrs.
Trent calls it. Does that give you the horrors?"

"No," said Lettice.

Gardiner's eye lit up. "Ah! it did to Tom. It does to Denis, though
he'd rather die than own it. But I had a sort of feeling that you
wouldn't take it like that.... You know, it gave me the deuce of a
twinge when Tom turned chilly!"

Lettice nodded, accepting that unlikely confidence as a matter of
course. She reverted to his former speech.

"Did you say she got it out of Denis?"

"She did. How, I don't know. He doesn't say: doesn't say much, in fact.
But she knows that if he's put into the witness-box he can't deny it.
You know, she played--well, you might fairly call it a shabby trick on
me; and I never blamed her. I'm fair game. But Denis is quite another
pair of shoes. I don't know how I'm going to forgive her for meddling
with him. You see his letter."

Lettice read the few stiff phrases in which Denis owned that he had
let his friend's secret escape. He said little about Dorothea, not a
word about himself.

"I call that one of the most pathetic things I've ever read," said
Gardiner, with far more feeling than he had shown for his own
misfortune. "I'd have owned up voluntarily, I swear I would, sooner
than have this happen. It doesn't do to play tricks of this sort on a
fellow like Denis. They cut too deep. It's like ill-treating a child.
Oh, it was a beastly thing to do!"

"It was a damnable thing to do."

Strong words, to suit strong feelings. Lettice's soft lips were grim.
Gardiner was disposed to feel sorry for Dorothea. But there was nothing
to be done, nothing; Lettice laid by her wrath in silence and brought
back her mind to Gardiner's case.

"What are you going to do, then?"

"I? Oh, I'm off. Didn't I tell you the police are after me?"

"The police?"

"Chasing me out of Woodlands on bikes. You see this letter of Denis's,
which was evidently written post-haste after Mrs. Trent got the truth
out of him, is dated Tuesday, the eighth; which was the very day I got
Tom's wire calling me home. It must have gone out to Rochehaut and
lain there nearly a week, till I wrote for my mail to be forwarded. In
the meantime I presume Mrs. Trent took her tale to the police. She can
be quite temperate and convincing when she likes; besides, she has an
uncle in the Home Office, Sir Thomas Felton, who's no end of a swell--I
heard that quite by accident the other day--and he no doubt pulled
some wires. The magistrates would grant a warrant; then I imagine a
detective started for Rochehaut, found me gone, got my address in
England and came straight back. At any rate, this morning, not ten
minutes after I'd got Denis's bomb-shell, a couple of bobbies turned
up at the vicarage to arrest me. I evaded out of the back door as they
came in at the front, and got away on Tom's bike. They don't know
I'm riding, so I hope they'll waste time looking for a pedestrian.
I'll stay here till it's dark if you'll put up with me, bike on to
Southampton to-night and work my way out to South America. I'm no
amateur, you see--I've done it before."

Lettice's face did not usually express her feelings, but as Gardiner
proceeded with his tale, it woke up. She said:

"Then do you mean to say you're running away?"

"_Claro._ What else would you have me do?"

"You might stay and face it."

He shook his head. "Not good enough. I did knock him down, and he did
die. I should pretty certainly be convicted of manslaughter, and might
get quite a stiff sentence."

"Not if you explained the provocation."

"I think so, even then." Gardiner could not tell her, as he had told
Tom, that on the vital point his tongue was sealed. She knew too much.
He temporized. "You see, it was the wrong sort of provocation. All
I could say would be that he was telling stories that weren't very
pretty, and you'd never get a British jury to sympathize with a fancy
scruple of that sort. Besides, I've damaged my own case by not owning
up at once. That would tell against me very heavily--very heavily
indeed. No, I'm afraid there's nothing for it but to clear out."

Lettice said nothing, but her face continued to express complete and
solid disagreement. She rose to clear the table. Gardiner, who had
his chair tilted back and his fork balancing on one finger, after one
glance at her, proceeded to develop his argument.

"It would, as I say, mean prison; and prison is precisely the one thing
I'm not prepared to stand. It's not the hardships--they're luxury
compared to what I've put up with in my time--it's the confinement, the
restraint, the--the utter beastliness of never being able to get away
from somebody's eyes! I assure you it gives me the blue divvles even
to think of. I am convinced it would drive me off my head. I should
go _must_, and brain a warder--no, I think it would be the doctor for
choice: I met him once, he was a sympathetic little brute as ever
stepped. I'd far rather be hanged out of hand."

Lettice, still mute, took away his fork. Gardiner perseveringly glanced
up into her small pale face for a change of opinion. The more she
disapproved, the more he wanted to win her over to his own way of
thinking. He was growing quite absurdly anxious to propitiate this
exacting critic.

"Don't you think, in view of all the circumstances--the feelings of my
family, the unpleasant scandal, and my own state of blue funk--don't
you think the best thing I can do is to clear out?"

Lettice had to speak now, and she spoke.

"If you're afraid of a thing, I should think you'd want to face it and
prove to yourself that you aren't."

"Prove to myself that I'm not afraid of prison? But I am!"

"Then that's all the more reason for not running away."

Uncompromising! Lettice, who could bend her supple mind to look through
the eyes of tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor or any one else even down
to the thief, and could sympathize with all, could not sympathize with
Gardiner: could not believe, or even pretend to believe, that cowardice
might ever be more expedient for him than courage. It was not so much
the immorality of running away, it was the stupidity of it: the fact
that he was destroying his own future happiness, making it impossible
for himself ever again to live at peace with his own soul. All very
well for weaklings to be weak; but Gardiner--she couldn't understand
how he could think twice about it! Her dissent was so acute that it
made itself felt through all her reticences and evasions. Gardiner
stared, his own eyes opening to see his future as she saw it; but he
shut them again at once, and willfully turned away.

"Oh, that's idealism," he said, with a short laugh, "and this is a
world of compromise. I can't get so high as you. If I'm afraid of a
thing, I want quite simply to run away. Talking of which, I'd better be
off; it's dark enough now."

He went to the window, and came back. Lettice was sweeping up the
crumbs; she moved the nine sovereigns out of her way. Gardiner picked
them up and let them slip one by one into his pocket.

"You aren't going to reclaim your loan, then, and force me to face my
bogy?"

She shook her head, twice, slowly. Gardiner had singed himself once
already at the fire, yet he returned again, fluttering round the
dangerous subject. He would have given anything to drag some sort of
approval, or even condonation, out of Lettice. It seemed to him that
she must be persuaded, if he could only put his case convincingly
enough.

"Of course it's just on the cards that I might be hanged for murder,
you know," he pointed out--not believing it, but for the sake of
argument. "Come now; won't you at least admit for my father's sake it's
better not to take that risk?"

Lettice lifted herself, straightening her shoulders. Tray in hand,
brush in the other, a domesticated sibyl, she faced him and delivered
her final judgment.

"I should think Mr. Gardiner would rather have you _hanged_ than
running away!"



CHAPTER XVII

A GREEN THOUGHT IN A GREEN SHADE

     Enter these enchanted woods,
                  You who dare!

     _The Woods of Westermain._


Gardiner bought himself an outfit at a second-hand dealer's in one of
the back streets off the Vauxhall Bridge Road. His plan was to ride
as far as the next station before Southampton, leave his machine at
the cloak-room there, and change his clothes in some wood before going
on into the town. Once among the docks, he would slip on board some
outward-bound ship, if he could find one about to sail and if he could
evade the night watchman, and stow away till she was at sea. Such
things are still done by gentlemen whose reasons for not signing on in
public are urgent. Of course the captain might hand him over to the
British consul at the end of the voyage--but he preferred not to think
of that.

From the Portobello inn to London is exactly twenty-one miles, from
London to Southampton is something under eighty: a longish journey
for an out-of-practice rider on a strange machine. Gardiner left town
by the Portsmouth road. The first green he passed (by such things
did he count off the stages of his journey, where another man would
have reckoned by inns), was Clapham Common, a dismal vision of lamps,
railings, wet asphalt, unhappy grass, and avenues of suicidal trees.
Next came Wandsworth Common; then, beyond Roehampton, Wimbledon and
Richmond Park. They gave him a breath of true night sweetness, but he
was in Surbiton directly, with its blazing lamps and self-complacent
villas. Gardiner hated suburbs. Better the frank vulgar life of the
Vauxhall Bridge Road than their soul-destroying, smug respectability.
He raced on through Esher, sedate and pleasant old town; and with the
end of Esher came the beginning of the real country.


                                   "My soul
     Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll,
     Freshening and fluttering in the wind...."


Beyond the palings of Claremont Park, at the entrance of the Oxshott
woods, he was brought up by a puncture. He mended it, crouching under a
lamp beside the road. Unfenced, alluring, dangerous, the woods pressed
up behind. They sent forward their scouts, silver birches up to their
knees in bracken which crept out to the very edge of the road, black
pines stalking forward, stealthy as red-skins, to peer down at the
stranger. Scents and sounds of the forest floated out, filaments of
enticement. Gardiner glanced irresolutely down the road, while under
the solemn-burning, stately procession of lamps, which marched away
through the night over valley and hill. A car rushed by, steaming
golden vapors: it glared at him for an instant with big golden eyes,
and was gone, with dying roar. He looked down the road of mankind; and
then over his shoulder at the silent tempting ranks of the pines and
the soft savage darkness that pressed close on every side. If he rested
here for ten minutes or so? He was tired; and there was no hurry. He
dragged his bicycle out of the ditch and wheeled it into the woods.

Moss underfoot; on either side the pines, scattered at first among
fine-leaved undergrowth, then closing up in ordered ranks. His lamp
tiger-striped their dark even columns till he left the machine propped
against one of them. Even by day the heart of these woods is lonely.
The trippers who sit by companies along every green ride, with their
buns and oranges, never wander far from the path. Presumably they are
afraid of bears. Now, by night, the whole forest was triumphantly
savage, solitary, and dark, so dark that Gardiner, though he had cat's
eyes, sometimes greeted his friends the trees by running into them. He
soon strayed from the track. Underfoot the ground became swampy. Pools
of red-brown rain-water splashed him to the knee; long brambles trailed
their thorns across his face.

The ground rose beneath his feet, and he found himself stumbling up a
hill, his feet sinking deep in soft masses of pine-needles. Here was
the summit of a ridge, so steep and narrow that on either side he could
see the pallor of the sky between the dark columns of the trees. As
he followed the line of the ridge downwards the woods closed again,
but there grew before him, low among the stems, a sort of pool of
whiteness: not the sky this time, but the light of some clearing. The
ridge came to its end in an abrupt round knoll, the ground fell away
at his feet, and there--O miracle of sudden loveliness!--before him
shone a lake. Ebony and silver, polished like a mirror, misted with
faint gauze, it lay in a cup of soft black woods. A rustling throng of
rushes, pale and ghostly, stepped forward into the water among their
slim reflections. Silver-gray and even-tinted, the sky arched above,
cut by the small incisive crescent of the moon.

Gardiner threw himself down among the pine-needles. He gave himself
to the woods, and let them work on him with their melancholy and
voluptuous charm. The night took his spirit in her cool hands and
smoothed it out, as the sun smoothes and strengthens the crumpled
wings of a new-hatched butterfly. It was not enough that he should
steep himself in loveliness; a thousand light touches were stilling
and charming every nerve of sensation, smell and touch and hearing
as well as sight. There was the surging murmur of the wind among the
pines; night perfumes of water and forest; warm elastic softness of the
fir-needles under his tired body. The old pagan earth was whispering
her seductions into his ear.


     "Love and joy be thine, O spirit, for ever;
     Serve thy sweet desire; despise endeavor."


"_If you're afraid of a thing, I should think you'd want to face it and
prove to yourself that you aren't._"

The words floated into his head out of nowhere. He could hear the
very intonation of Lettice's voice. "What folly!" he said to himself,
and laughed the memory away. Nevertheless, a sharp little dart of
discomfort stuck fast in his self-complacency, and, smarting, forced
him to think. How much better it was to lie here free in the woods than
in a police court cell! to listen to the wind in the pines rather than
to a casual "drunk and dis" banging on his door! Yes, said a voice,
rising unexpectedly within him to take sides with Lettice, but does
one live only for what is comfortable? "_That's all the more reason
for staying._" There was Lettice's answer, net and uncompromising.
She would not have run away. Denis, then: how would he have taken it?
Denis, more single-minded, would not even have felt the temptation--it
would never have occurred to him that to run away was possible. No,
the fact was not to be blinked; what he was doing would surprise and
disappoint both these friends of his. Be it so, then, he told himself,
defiant; he would still do it, even in the face of these disapproving
witnesses.

In the face of another Witness, moreover. Men who live close to nature
cannot escape from the presence of God. Only for a very few years of
his very early youth had Gardiner been able to be a materialist. As
soon as the soul was born in him (about the age of eighteen; for boys
haven't souls, only the rudiments) he had begun to be conscious of the
august and gracious Power which held him as in the hollow of a hand.
The feeling was intermittent, the grip at times relaxed, but it never
let him free. Now, to his anger and terror, he felt again the pressure
of that control. The Hand that held him forced on him no action: but
gently, steadily, inexorably, it turned him to face the truth, bidding
him see what he was doing. He struggled against it with passion, trying
to avert his eyes, trying to get back to the spirit of the woods, but
in vain. And then suddenly his resistance collapsed, and he looked.
Yes! he was running away. He was letting his weakness rule. He was
destroying the love of his friends, failing them, failing too the Power
which had created him to be a fighter, not a shirker. He blinded his
eyes no longer, he did not tell himself that he was taking the only
sensible course; he owned that his flight was contemptible. But what
else could he do? "I can't go back now!" he said, panic knocking at his
heart. "If I'd owned up in the first instance it would have been all
right, and I wish to God I had; but now--now I've made it impossible
for them to do anything but convict. Oh, what on earth shall I do?"

"Face it," said the inner voice. "Look your fear in the eyes, and look
it down. Never mind the cost." And after a pause of struggling terror
it spoke again: "If you fail now, it will not be the end; it will be
the beginning. You will fail again, and worse. You will go down among
the cowards and weaklings. You will lose Denis; you will lose Lettice.
Do you know what that means? Look, my child, look well before you do
this thing. Weigh what it will cost you."

He weighed it, desperate now under that soft inexorable pressure. He
saw, rebelling against the vision, all his future loss. Turning from
that, he saw, on the other side, prison, and the tide of panic rushing
towards him. Already it was cold about his feet. He could not bear
it; he fled for refuge to his old purpose. He must get away. To that
thought he clung, lifting his agonized face. "What else can I do? What
else can I do?"

And then down came the thunder of the Presence all around him, sweeping
him from his poor little foothold. "Do, poor weak human child? _Trust
Me._ I will be your strength. Lay your hand in mine and have no fear."

He went down, down, drowned in gulfs of agony, blinded by the light of
God. Did he decide for himself, of free will, or was the choice taken
out of his hands? It seemed so to him; but in reality it was his own
past self which decided, the sum of the courage and the discipline
which he had learned in common practice day by day. For God does not
save us against our will; and the measure of the triumphant strength
which he pours into us in moments of stress is the measure of our own
past efforts.

Gardiner lifted his head. The moon was gone now, behind the trees,
which threw black shadows across the argent of the lake. He was cold
and stiff and desperately tired, but he stood up and began to retrace
his steps towards the road. Soon the topaz-gleaming lamps shone through
the trees, and he came out not a hundred yards from the point where he
had left his bicycle. There was Mars, the star of battles, shining over
the glow of London. In the opposite direction lay Southampton and the
sea. He turned his back on these, and rode towards that star.



CHAPTER XVIII

WHEN THE HEART SUFFERS A BLOW

     What says the body when they spring
     Some monster torture-engine's whole
     Strength on it? No more says the soul.

     _Count Gismond._


Flying is no sport for the sluggard. The calmest hours of the
twenty-four are often those before the dawn, and the earnest aviator
must be ready to turn out of his warm bed at six, five, four, even
three o'clock in the morning, whether in the pleasant summer, or in the
correspondingly unpleasant winter. He may then have to spend long hours
at the 'drome waiting for the fog to lift, or the rain to clear, or the
wind to drop; and in the end, as like as not, he may have to go home,
wet, chilly, and sleepy, without having flown a yard. Decidedly not the
sport for a sluggard.

Six A.M. in mid-October, and bitterly cold. There was a gray
sky, ripple on ripple of quilted cloud with never a gleam, and a small
icy wind that blew persistently from the north. The coarse bice-green
of the marshes was all discolored; the sedge, biscuit-pale, was clotted
with mud from the September floods; the brimming dikes were ruled by
the wind into long ripples, hard and black against the dawn. The dawn
itself, how wan and threatening! Denis, surveying the signs of the sky
as he unlocked the hangar, exerted himself to remark to Simpson that
it looked like rain. Simpson, expert mechanic and latter-day Grimaud,
assented with his civil grunt. His uncivil grunt he did not use on
Denis, who had once been his officer.

Like every worker who spins his stuff out of his own brain, Denis at
times "went stale." For the past ten days the flying boat had been
laid aside, and he had been tinkering at the monoplane by way of
relaxation. Never losing sight of the function for which she had been
built, that of a small fast scout in the war which he expected, he
was always adding small improvements. Thus, after his experience in
the Birmingham race, he had fitted her with self-starting gear, which
enabled the pilot to get away at will, independent of outside help. Now
he was working at a brake. Landing is still one of the chief dangers in
cross-country flying, especially in England, where fields are small,
and there is often a web of overhead wires. At that time (1913) there
were not a dozen aerodromes in the kingdom, and not one aëroplane in
ten had a brake of any sort.

Theoretically, Denis's new design was all it should be; practically,
of course, it might upset the machine and kill the pilot. Not that
Denis ever believed he would be killed. "The airman hath said in his
heart, Tush, I shall never be cast down, there shall no harm happen
unto me." He believed other people might be killed, however, and for
this reason had severely snubbed Simpson when he offered to take on the
trials. Simpson, faithful dog, bore no resentment. He had been watching
the events of the past few weeks, and had come to the conclusion that
'e (in Simpson's mind Denis was always 'e) wasn't to say accountable
just now. "You'd 'a' thought 'e might 'a' took warning by Muster
Wandesforde," he reflected. "'E's a nice gent spoiled by the women, if
ever there was one. But no. Jane! JANE! 'Ave you got that stooed steak
on yet? You ain't? Then it'll be as tough as your shoe again. 'E ain't
complained? 'E lef' the lot at the side of 'is plate last time, and if
that ain't complainin' I dono what is. Now you get it on at once and
let's hear no more chat. Seems to me you ain't good for anything, 'cep
that bein' so deaf you can't gossip. Women," added Simpson, knocking
out his pipe against his boot, "they're the devil!"

After some preliminary "taxi-ing" on the ground, Denis rose, circling
over the marshes. The country was asleep; pillars of smoke rose from
cottage chimneys, but not a soul was abroad except the milkman, with
his rattling silver cans, and a solitary cyclist, spinning down the
road towards Dent-de-lion. The cyclist waved a greeting; the blasé
milkman did not so much as glance up. Denis sailed over them, over
the roof of his house, turned into the wind, "flattened out" (_i.e._
brought level the nose of his machine, which had been gliding down
a slant) and grounded on the turf without a jar. The brake acted
perfectly. Simpson ran up, almost enthusiastic. He and Denis stood
together talking shop (which was the sum of Simpson's talk) with zeal
(Simpson supplying the zeal).

"Hi!"

Denis turned, screwing up his short-sighted eyes. At sight of the
approaching figure his jaw dropped; he spoke one curt imperious
sentence over his shoulder to Simpson, seized the new-comer's arm,
dragged him back to the house, thrust him into the parlor and locked
the door upon him, all without a word. Gardiner was left gasping. Here
was a reception! But in a minute Denis was back, pushing open the door
with a tray of breakfast crockery and the inevitable sausages. He
deposited his burden on the table, which was already laid, and turned
to lock the door again.

"What on earth possessed you to come here? I've shut up Simpson, and
he'll hold his tongue, but I'd not answer for Miss Simpson, if she saw
you. You must be mad!"

"Mad?--to come here? I'm not running from the police, my good Denis;
did you think I was?"

"I understood your brother to say--"

"Oh, you've heard from Tom, have you?" Gardiner's tone was a shade less
confident. "Yes, I admit I did do a bunk from Woodlands; they took me
by surprise, and I wasn't ready for 'em; I had two-three things to
finish off--among others, I wanted a word with you. Which is why I'm
here. But as soon as I've swallowed the sausage which I trust you're
going to offer me I'm off to Margate to surrender to the minions of the
law."

"I thought you couldn't stand prison," said Denis. "I thought it was
the one risk you weren't prepared to face. However, it's no business of
mine. If you can face it, I certainly think you're wise to. Mustard?
Oh, I forgot, you don't take it, do you?"

He poured out a cup of Miss Simpson's rich, muddy coffee for Gardiner
and another for himself, but he did not drink; he went to the window
and stood looking down the road. Gardiner, who was famished, drew up
his chair; but his eyes kept straying to that silent figure. There was
something in the wind that he did not like. Denis was utterly unlike
himself, unlike any self his friend had ever had a glimpse of. He was
so unapproachable that Gardiner knew not how to broach the errand that
had brought him there. Presently, however, he turned to attend to
Geraldine, who was winding round his boots and opening her little pink
mouth in soundless mews of ecstasy. As he rose from putting down the
saucer, he caught Gardiner's eye, and smiled faintly.

"Sorry, Harry. 'Fraid I've rather let you down over this business.
Anybiddy else would have made a better hand at it. But I'm not much
good at dissembling, and tell a lie I cann't--any babe could see
through it. Else I'd have done my best."

"My dear chap, I don't want you to tell lies for me!" said Gardiner
hastily. He was more than surprised; he was appalled. "In point of
fact, I'm not sorry it has come out. I've had no peace of my life
these last two months, with Mrs. Trent going about like an unexploded
bomb. I knew she'd never rest till she harried me into the dock." He
perceived, as he spoke, a certain change in the atmosphere. Denis had
been sufficiently far away before; now he seemed to recede to the
North Pole. There was a snapshot of Dorothea in her flying kit on the
mantelpiece. Was _this_ the explanation? Surely not! Surely she was
the last woman in the world to attract a man like Denis! Gardiner, be
it remembered, had never met that eager child who had learned to fly.
"It's about her I want to speak to you," he broke the ice determinedly.
"Here's the point. Do you, or do you not, remember what Trent said in
that last speech of his, just before I let fly at him?"

"I'm hardly likely to forget it."

"No, no, not the sense, the words; the actual phrasing he used. Do you
remember that?"

He took a moment to think. "Perhaps not. No, not to swear to."

"Good! Then it's all plain sailing. Tell everything that happened
up till then; be as discursive as you please about my share in the
business; but say, and swear, and stick to it that you can't remember
that last speech, and at any price don't let it be dragged out of you."

"Very well."

"At any price, you understand?"

"At any price?"

"Yes; absolutely without reserve, at any price."

"I understand."

"That's off my mind, then," said Gardiner with a breath of relief. "I
had to see you, to make sure we should both be in the same tale. Now
I'll be off to Margate while the iron's hot."

"Wait a moment," said Denis, detaining him. "Before you go into this
quixotic business I think you ought to see what it means. Of course
I know you've been making light of it to spare my feelings, but I
don't believe you yourself realize what it is you're up against. It's
serious. I'm afraid they're going to make it a perjury charge. I had
the police up here for hours yesterday--they wanted to run me in too--"

"You? Oh, my God, Denis! They're not going to do that?"

"No, I don't think so. What's the matter with you?"

"I never dreamed of that," said Gardiner, holding his head in his
hands. "I swear I never dreamed there was the remotest possibility of
that! To drag you, of all men, into this filthy mess--" He dropped
his hands and looked up, speaking fast and free: "Of course you're
right. I have been humbugging. I know I'm in for a stiff sentence. I'd
never thought of perjury as a possible charge. But I give you my word,
Denis, if I'd ever had the faintest idea there was the faintest risk
of involving you, I'd have--I'd have blown my brains out first. Oh,
Lettice was right; it is a fatal thing to be a coward."

"Lettice?"

"I went to her on my way. Yes, I did mean to bolt in the first
instance; I've got my rig-out strapped on my bike at this instant. It
was she stopped me. She does know how to sting up your conscience! But
they can't really drag you in, Denis, can they? You never did actually
say one syllable beyond the truth. Did you make them see that?"

"I think so," said Denis. "I don't think they'll take it any further.
And if they did, they couldn't convict. It's all right. I don't know
what you're putting yourself about for."

"Perjury, Denis? It's not a pretty charge."

"No," said Denis. "Still, I don't know that it much matters."

How quietly he spoke! At Grasmere he had shrunk from the slightest
innocent contact with the story; but here was the stain black on his
own honor, and it moved him no more than did his friend's remorse.
Gardiner had once said it would go hard with Denis if his idols tumbled
off their pedestals. This indifference was worse than his worst fears.
Would he ever find his way back? Or was there some hidden mischief,
some deadly internal injury at which Gardiner could only guess? What
had Dorothea done--what had she killed when she struck her blow? There
grew on the young man, watching, a sense of disaster....

Denis had drifted back to the window and stood there, absently
whistling his one tune:


     "C'est difficile de voir voler Orville;
     C'est bien plus dur de voir voler Wilbur--"


Suddenly he broke off and bent forward in quick attention.

"Anything up?" said Gardiner.

Denis wheeled and swiftly pushed him back from the window.

"The police."

"What, have they come to pump you again?"

"No, it's you they're after."

"Nonsense, man! How can they know I'm here?"

"Evans has told them."

"Who's Evans?"

"The man who brings the milk. He was at the door when you arrived. He's
coming up the road with them now."

"But how the deuce should Evans--"

"Your description's out, and a reward. Five hundred pounds. He must
have gone straight off to the police station."

"Five hundred pounds!" Gardiner was as white as his shirt. "Who offered
it?"

Denis would not answer or look at him. There was no need; Gardiner knew
well enough who had offered it, and the shock made him sick. Did she
indeed hate him so much as all that?

"Well, they'll save me the trouble of going to Margate," he said as
lightly as he could, and moved towards the door. Denis stopped him.

"Wait. Think. If you're taken now, like this, you'll not be allowed
bail. You'll be in prison till the February Assizes."

"--Break me in by degrees!" said Gardiner in a sort of gasp, still
pressing towards the door. Denis still held him back.

"_Will you cut it?_"

"How can I?"

"Quite simple. The monoplane's out at the back--I told Simpson to have
her ready. He'll swear anything I like to tell him, and Miss Simpson
never saw you at all. You've only to say the word, and I'll set you
down in France within the hour."

"You, Denis? You advise me to run?"

"Why not?" said Denis. "I think the point-of-honor stunt is overdone.
It doesn't pay."

Gardiner's ideas of right and wrong were all tumbling about his ears.
That Denis should advise such a thing! It went more than half-way
towards making it seem right. It showed, too, that he dreaded the
ordeal of the witness-box, and lent a specious color of unselfishness
to the plan. And in those last moments of liberty Gardiner, like the
prisoner of the Inquisition, seemed to feel the flaming walls sliding
together, contracting, closing in upon his life to drive him into the
pit.... "_If you're afraid of a thing_"--That voice again! There was
the touchstone.

"No," said Gardiner. "No, I'm _damned_ if I will!"

He walked out and threw open the door to the police.



CHAPTER XIX

DU PARTI DU GRAND AIR

     The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I
     was afraid of is come unto me.--BOOK OF JOB.


Ten days later, after his examination before the Borough Bench at
Westby, Gardiner was committed to the February Assizes on a charge of
manslaughter. Bail not being allowed, he spent the intervening months
in Westby Jail.

Lettice, in common with the rest of the world who haven't been to
prison, knew nothing of the rules and regulations applying to a
prisoner on remand. She did know, however, that in English law a man is
held to be innocent until he has been found guilty; and she took for
granted that any one so detained would be treated in a liberal way,
and allowed every possible privilege of the free man except freedom.
Accordingly, she wrote to Gardiner at Westby, and, getting no reply,
wrote again. This time an answer came through:


     MY DEAR MISS SMITH,--Your letters to me and mine to
     you are all read by the governor of this home of joy. In the
     circumstances I would rather do without. Yours very truly,

     H. C. GARDINER.


Lettice did not love injustice. It made her blood boil. She was angrier
than Gardiner himself. She understood the feeling which made him refuse
her letters. It was not a mere cutting off his nose to spite his face;
it was a real idiosyncrasy of taste, akin to that which spoiled for
him the "set piece" loveliness of Frahan. What he disliked there was
not the bodily presence of the tourists--he would have felt just the
same under the midwinter moon--but the taint left by their eyes,
which spread a film of defilement over the whole lovely scene. Even
so the Governor's eyes deflowered and defiled her letters. Absurd and
fanciful, no doubt; but it was just those streaks of the fantastic that
made him attractive to Lettice.

She could not get him out of her head. What must it be for him, with
his anchorite ways, to be under supervision, day and night, through
the accursed little spy-hole in the door of his cell? Lettice knew all
about that spy-hole now. Since receiving his letter she had read every
book about prisons that the Museum could supply. Turning over, sifting,
arranging her deductions, she had reached a fairly correct estimate of
his state of mind.

Denis she had not seen since they parted at Rochehaut. Using a sort
of defensive frankness, he had told her by letter about Dorothea's
sojourn at Bredon, which he could do quite naturally without touching
on their personal relations. Lettice tried to read between the lines,
but Denis in those months had traveled too far for her to follow, at
least on paper. He had of course attended to give evidence before the
Borough Bench; he had seen Gardiner then, and once since. "I wish the
confounded place weren't at the other end of the earth," he wrote.
"I can't possibly get up there again at present, it's not fair on
Wandesforde; he wants the seaplane finished for the Olympia show, and
it'll take me every minute of my time. Mr. Gardiner was up in November,
but now I hear he's sick; and Tom, the brother, is stationed at
Queenstown, so he's no good. Which means that Harry's seen no one for a
month. I don't like it. It's too long. I'm rather badly worried about
him." And, as an afterthought, written across the top: "Why don't you
run down there yourself? I wish you would."

That letter came to Lettice on a day of December fog, which had found
its way into the Museum. Overhead in a smelly haze the arc lamps waxed
and dwindled, milky moons, each with its pin-point core of white
incandescence; and on all sides tremendous sneezes went resounding like
minute guns round the dome. Any regular attendant of the reading-room
may become a connoisseur in sneezes. Lettice herself sneezed at times,
a minute one-syllable explosion like a kitten's. She was always a slow
worker, slow but accurate; to-day her pen moved more deliberately than
ever. Then it stopped and she sat immobile, staring at nothing....
_Explicit_: she got up: within five minutes she had returned her books,
retrieved her umbrella from the cloak-room, and was out in the street.
She caught the midnight express from Euston, and reached Westby at
eight the next morning.

Visitors were not admitted to the prison until ten. Lettice spent her
time of waiting in a church near by. When the hour struck she was at
the gates, which were set, huge and gloomy, under an arch in the outer
wall. No one else was waiting. Lettice tugged at the bell chain. A slip
door in the carriage gate was opened by a porter, to whom she stated
her errand. She was handed over to a warder, who led her across a court
laid out in grass and flower-beds to the second gate, in a wall thirty
feet high. Beyond this was a vestibule closed by an iron grille--the
third gate; beyond, again, the central hall of the prison.

Wards radiated from it in all directions like the spokes of a wheel;
each a long rectangle lined with cells, tier above tier, regular as
a honeycomb, all the way up to the roof. Across the central well a
light iron staircase zigzagged from story to story. The walls were
gray, the woodwork tan-brown, the floor of concrete: all was clean,
commonplace, tragic. At each landing a stout wire-netting inclosed the
staircase. Lettice's guide pointed it out. "See that, miss? That's to
prevent 'em throwing themselves over. They _will_ do it, if you give
'em the chance. We'd a man here last year as threw himself down from
that top landing up there. Cracked his skull he did, and cracked the
paving-stone too, that's more! He was in hospital for a bit, but he got
over it, and took his discharge; and if you'll believe me, miss, six
months after we'd got him back for something else."

The remand cells were not in this part of the prison. Lettice was taken
to a waiting-room to get the necessary permit, and then led on through
many corridors. She caught glimpses of cells as she passed, and saw
prisoners, in their ugly drab uniforms, sweeping and scrubbing the
floors. They stared at her with avid, furtive curiosity which made her
feel half ashamed of her freedom. She saw Gardiner in those debased
figures, cringing out of the way at the officer's curt word of command.
"Here you are, miss!" said he at last, briskly unlocking one of those
innumerable doors: and Lettice passed in.

She saw a cell like any of the others and a figure sitting under the
window reading. The book went down on the floor, anyhow and anywhere,
as he started to his feet.

"_Lettice!_"

Till that moment Lettice had been doubtful of her mission; after it
she doubted no more. She stood, letting him hold her hands; she did
not speak; she could not have found words, if she had tried, for the
contraction of her throat. Gardiner was clutching her like a drowning
man. Dim shades of feeling passed across his face, like wind over a
corn-field. He was yellow as a lemon and bony as a castaway, but the
worst was to see him so near to losing control. For a moment Lettice
was afraid he would break down altogether. But with a mighty effort he
pulled round, released her hands and began to talk almost in a natural
way.

"Well, this is most fearfully noble of you! How in the world did you
find your way here? You surely didn't come up on purpose?"

"I thought I would like to see what a prison is like," explained
Lettice in her delicate, deliberate way. She sat down on the chair he
offered and looked round his domain. Gardiner rented a "private room"
about eight feet square, lighted by a strip of ground glass, which was
set immediately under the ceiling, well out of reach. An iron spring
bedstead was reared against the wall. The mattress and striped blanket,
neatly buttoned into a roll, were stowed under a bracket in the
corner. This bracket held books; a second, in the corresponding corner
opposite, had a tin mug and plate. The jug and basin, also of tin,
stood on the floor. Lettice had the only chair, and Gardiner might sit
on his thumbs. There was no other furniture.

"I haven't seen a soul for months," he said, contemplating her with
admiring gratitude. "Denis has been inseparably wedded to that darned
aeroplane of his, and my daddy's in bed, bless his heart. You don't
know how one gets to pine after somebody from outside. It's a piece
of luck, too, having it to ourselves like this. I had to interview
Denis in the visitors' room, under the eye of a warder. But when my
daddy came to see me he raked up such an appalling amount of dust that
ever since, as a special concession, I've been allowed to see visitors
here. My daddy is rather talented at raking up a dust. I can do it,
too, but not so tactfully as he does. The Governor simply loves daddy,
but with me he's at daggers drawn. Are you looking at my choice of
literature? Tom keeps me supplied, but it's no good sending anything
but sixpennies, because I have to leave 'em all behind when I go, for
the benefit of the prison library. _Vingt Ans Après_--jolly tale, isn't
it? I always have agreed with Rochefort--je ne suis que d'un parti,
c'est du parti du grand air!"

Lettice put down the book--quite quickly. "And what do you do all day?"
she asked.

"What do I do? Would you like a time-table? I get up about five, have
breakfast, then tidy my room. Chapel's at seven; visitors between ten
and twelve; exercise between eleven and twelve, if it's fine--if it's
wet I don't get any. That's about the worst part of this place. I told
the Governor one day it would do me less harm to get soaked outside
than to dry-rot in here, but he wouldn't see it. A rule is a rule.
Silly business, what?"

"But what do you do? Don't you go out to work?"

He shook his head, laughing. "I'm still innocent. I don't mix with the
convicted prisoners. I should be allowed to work at my own trade in
my cell, if they had the necessary tools; but I'm afraid they're not
likely to import a hotel to be run. I've sewn mail-bags from time to
time, when I got very bored."

"Then do you mean to say you're in this, this, this--this horrid little
hole of a place the whole day long when it's raining, and all except
one hour when it isn't?"

He laughed again. "Lettice, what a first-class rebel you'd make! I
never knew any one sit down more uncomfortably under what you think
injustice than you do!"

To that Lettice said nothing; she never would talk about herself. "And
does nobody come to see you?" she asked.

"To be sure they do. The chaplain's perseveringly chatty; he's another
who fell a victim to my daddy. The doctor's been once--and that was
really rather funny. You know, by a most odd coincidence, he was
actually at the Easedale at the time of the row--was called to view the
body and gave evidence at the inquest. Of course it's not etiquette for
him to remember that now, and you may bet he doesn't! Only we look at
each other with what you might call an eye. I'm not his regular patient
yet, but I shall be when I'm convicted."

"You think you will be convicted?"

"Sure of it. So is my lawyer; I made him practically own it last time
he was here. He wouldn't say how long I shall get, though--I suppose
it's impossible to forecast. Three days, or three months, or three
years, either's on the cards. It's a thoroughly sentimental case, and
I've no doubt Mrs. Trent will appeal strongly to the sensibilities of
the jury. But the law isn't sentimental, praise the pigs!"

"I wish you would tell me exactly what happened at Grasmere."

"Why, I did, didn't I? Trent came down spoiling for a fight, and I
set out to tame his savage breast. I soon had him drinking out of my
hand, and then he began to be confidential. I stood it as long as I
could, Denis simmering like a kettle in the background, and then I up
and shied the first thing that came to hand at his head. You read the
report of the inquest, didn't you? It was all there, bar that last
exchange of courtesies. I believe I called him a filthy swine."

"Why?"

"Because he was one, to be sure."

"What had he been saying?"

"Really, do you think that's a nice question for a young lady?"

"I was only thinking it might have been something inexcusably bad."

"How do you mean?"

"If he had been talking about Mrs. Trent."

She took Gardiner's breath away. "Well, you certainly have an
imagination!" he said. "Don't go making suggestions of that kind to any
one else, I beg!"

"It would have meant your getting off."

"It would have been the deuce and all for Mrs. Trent."

To that again Lettice answered nothing, but her under lip hardened
slightly. She glanced at her watch. Five minutes more. Looking up, she
met Gardiner's eyes fixed on her in urgent and unmistakable appeal.
For a moment Lettice quailed. She saw something very big, very grave
approaching, and she wanted ignominiously to run away. In all her
generous giving there was always a reserve, a barrier of privacy, the
fenced garden and the fountain sealed where she walked alone. But if he
wanted to come in there for sanctuary--well, he must, it was no good,
she could not deny him: this was not the time to think of herself.

"Lettice," he began--and for the first time she noticed his use of her
name--"Lettice, there's one thing I want to tell you. You think I was
caught red-handed in the act of bolting. It wasn't so. I had made up my
mind to go back and give myself up. I was just off to do it when they
arrested me. And I want you to know that it was all you--what you had
said in town. I couldn't go on with it after that."

"I'm glad," said Lettice.

"I'm glad too," said Gardiner, his voice shaking, "partly, at any rate.
I should be altogether glad if I were sure about the future."

"The future?"

"If I'm convicted. If I get a long sentence. If I have to stand much
more of this--Lettice! I can't humbug you. I've told Denis a stack of
lies as high as a house, of which he may or may not believe one-third.
I _can't_ let him see the truth, because it's his evidence that's going
to convict me. He has enough on his shoulders without that, poor old
chap. But you--I don't care how much you know. And I want your help.
I'm afraid."

She looked at him, questioning.

"I'm afraid," he repeated under his breath, lower than a whisper. The
perspiration started on his forehead. "I'm not like Denis, you know.
He's A1 quality, sound all through--if he wanted to go wrong I believe
he wouldn't know the way! But I'm different. I'm second-rate. I ought
not to be, being the son of my daddy, but I haven't kept up to his
standard. He doesn't see it, bless his heart; but you do, and Denis
does, though he tries to blind his eyes, and even Tom--in his heart of
hearts he can't help feeling that his brother is a bit of a bounder. Oh
yes, I always know when I grate on people. I see my own shortcomings
plainer than any of you. I'm second-rate in manners, and in morals,
and in essential stuff." He looked straight at her, and though Lettice
could have contradicted him, she did not; for she saw what he meant,
and was not afraid to admit to herself that there was a measure of
truth in his self-condemnation. "Thanks," said Gardiner, with a
fleeting smile, bending his head in acknowledgment of her honesty.
"That's me, and I never forget it. I wanted to put you wise before I
went on to what I have to say. I can just stand this now because it's
not final. I still hope to get out in February, though I may swear
I don't. I daren't leave off hoping it. I'm holding on to that. But
if--if it isn't--If I get a long sentence--years, perhaps--I'm afraid,
Lettice. I--I--I'm _afraid of myself_.... So may I hold on to you? May
I tell myself that I can come to you when it's over?"

"Yes," said Lettice.

Against the drag of his urgent need she stood like a rock in
flood-time. It was not merely love that drew them together; for
lovers, even devoted lovers, may part without injury to their
characters; sometimes, indeed, to their own ultimate gain. But these
two could not have parted without grave loss and damage, especially to
Gardiner. Yes, and to Lettice also; for he called out faculties which
but for him would have slept for ever in comfortable laziness. Instinct
drove them together, as two drops of water are driven to coalesce. He
had her hands again in a desperate clutch; for a moment he rested his
forehead on them.

"Time's up, miss," said the warder at the door.

Lettice freed herself without haste or embarrassment.

"Till February, then," said she.

"You're surely not coming up to the trial?"

"Of course I am," said Lettice.



CHAPTER XX

ROUGH JUSTICE

     A true witness delivereth souls.--PROVERBS.


Late in February a blizzard swept over the north; it was followed by
still, intense, stringent cold. By night the fogs were dense; by day
the white world glittered in sunshine. Trees of snow-blossom and iron
filigree raised their heads, as white as plumes, against a china-blue
sky. Posts, hedges, buildings, snow-hooded and sparkling, rising out
of pearly frost-haze, threw azure shadows on the softly rippled velvet
of the drift. Country lanes were buried many feet deep, but a passage
had been carved down the Westby road; the slow carts, lumbering in
to market, crunched their way between tall, strange, silvery and
chalky-white cliffs, like the sugar icing on a bridecake, along tracks
made golden with the scattered sand. The sun found rainbows in the
icicles and diamonds in the snow, but it did not melt them; and at
night, under the sweet influences of the Pleiades and the jeweled bands
of Orion, the frost struck deeper and deeper into the earth, the ice
grew thicker and thicker on the steely lakes.

In spite of the weather, Westby was full. Not only was it market-day,
but the Assizes were on, with a sensational case. Everybody knew that
the late owner of the Easedale Hotel was to be tried for killing one of
his own guests. The celebrated Hancock, K.C., had been retained for the
Crown; and Bullard, for the defense, was only less popular. Moreover,
the case was to be tried before Mr. Justice Beckwith, who was said to
be dead nuts on crimes of violence. Blue look-out for the prisoner,
every one agreed. The court was crowded, stuffy, and bitterly cold. Mr.
Gardiner, a valorous and pathetic little figure, shivered and coughed
under his rusty inverness. Tom was doing his best to keep him covered
up; but as often as he tucked the capes round his father's shoulders,
that perverse and petulant invalid tossed them back. "I can't listen
stuffed up like that!" he complained.

Tom was gloomy. This was the second day of the trial; he had heard
Hancock open for the Crown, he had listened to the evidence of the
police, Dr. Scott, Miss Marvin, Louisa; and he felt it was all up with
his brother. What was more, he knew that Kellett the lawyer thought
so too. "It's unlucky, most unlucky, that Mr. Gardiner can't remember
Major Trent's actual words," was all he would say when they discussed
it; and he pulled a very long face on hearing the name of the judge.
"Beckwith? Well, he hasn't a reputation for leniency, certainly!" Tom
was fully expecting penal servitude. He saw no ray of hope. Unless,
by any wild chance--there were those unexpected and seemingly aimless
questions which Bullard had put to Miss Marvin, questions about the
rooms and the other guests--was it possible that they had a hidden
meaning? Had something fresh turned up at the last minute? Had Kellett
a surprise up his sleeve? No, Tom decided, it was not possible, it was
absurd to imagine it. He returned to his gloom.

As to the prisoner, he had summoned just enough surface gayety to take
in the reporters and his father, whose eyes were dim; but beneath it he
looked sick, and sorry, and desperately tired. Heavy lines were drawn
to the corners of his mouth, and his jaw-bone stuck out, gaunt and
ugly, from hollows under the ear where his neck was corded like an old
man's. Tom could see his throat swelling with suppressed yawns; but he
woke up at any stir among the spectators. Again and again his eyes went
questing eagerly round the benches. What was he looking for? Tom had no
idea. He had never heard of Lettice Smith.

"Who's that? Who is it going into the box now, Tom?"

"That's Mrs. Trent, sir."

General thrill in court. Dorothea had resumed her widow's weeds
together with her married name; and very young she looked, and fair,
and pathetic, under the flowing veil. From Hancock's point of view,
this was as it should be. It would take a deal of sentiment to make her
past proceedings go down with the jury. Perhaps Dorothea knew this.
Perhaps she was playing to the gallery. Perhaps, on the other hand, she
was only playing to herself--acting what she knew she ought to feel, in
order to persuade herself that she did feel it. Dorothea was a great
hand at believing what she wanted to. However that might be, she was
undoubtedly pathetic; and with her romantic story fresh in their minds
from Hancock's opening speech, the jury were duly impressed.

She struck the right note at once. "My husband was _not_ intoxicated!"
she said indignantly. "He was only very, very anxious for my comfort!"
Half-a-dozen credible witnesses had sworn that Trent _was_ intoxicated,
but no matter; the point was that, after nearly a year of marriage, he
appeared as still a hero to his wife. Next came Dorothea's own part
in the drama. She described the scene: the lamp on the floor, the
confusion of both men, Denis's attempt to keep her out, Gardiner's
unconcealed terror. "I told him he had murdered my husband, and he
didn't deny it. He cowered back against the wall with his arm across
his eyes, so, but he never attempted to deny it!" She told how,
kneeling on the floor beside her dead husband, she had come upon the
chisel. "I slipped it under my cloak. No, I didn't mean to hide it. It
was only that I--I--I _couldn't_ speak just then. I was thinking of
my husband." Was it art that made her voice fail, or nature? "I don't
know what happened next. I don't remember speaking to my maid. I don't
remember anything. I think I fainted. I was ill afterwards. No, I
didn't accuse the prisoner later on because I knew it wouldn't be any
good. I was sure in my own mind that he had killed my husband, but I
had no proof. I knew people would say it was just my fancy. So then I
set myself to get proofs--"

Because he knew it was bound to come out, Hancock took her through
the story of her attempt on Gardiner. That gun must be surrendered
to the enemy, but he would see that it was spiked first. Dorothea's
behavior must be palliated by showing her fanatical devotion to her
husband. No need to dwell on the scene at the crucifix, what Gardiner
himself called the shilling-shocker part of the affair. Both sides
were equally anxious to leave that in a decent obscurity. "Yes, I did
pretend to be friends with him, and I did ask him, as a friend, to tell
me the truth," Dorothea defiantly avowed. "Yes, I did know I was being
hateful, and mean, and contemptible. But what did that matter? I had to
see justice done!" Jael, and Judith, and Charlotte Corday--and Dorothea
Trent? Her story ended in a storm of tears, which broke, strange to
say, after she had done with Gardiner and was telling of her sojourn
at Dent-de-lion. But no one in court dreamed of connecting her emotion
with that part of her tale.

"I'd be sorry to be a Broad Churchman and not believe in hell," Mr.
Gardiner commented with gusto. "Who's this now, Tom?"

"That? Oh, that's Merion-Smith--poor beggar!"

Another general stir. This was due partly to Denis's profession (for
airmen weren't so common in the Lakes then as they have since become),
and partly to his dramatic share in the story. A whisper went round,
which was the well-informed telling the ignorant about the inquest.
Denis's chin went up a shade higher. He had set his back against his
family tree, and looked down arrogantly through his eyeglass on the
court and all therein. It was plain he meant to give trouble.

The beginning ran smoothly. He told of Trent's intrusion, bending
aside the questions to show how Gardiner had gone out of his way to
avoid a quarrel. This was familiar ground; not so the conversation
that had followed. Counsel would fain have passed over the details
of Trent's discourse, but Denis intended the court to hear as much
as he could possibly get in. Out came the story of the little girl
at Chatham, sounding twice as bad by contrast on Denis's lips. The
prisoner grinned. While ostensibly giving his evidence with distaste
and reluctance (and indeed both sentiments were genuine enough), Denis
was supplying the best, the only excuse for his friend. Vainly did his
questioner try to show him as the straight-laced Puritan, to whom the
mildest of jokes is an offense. Denis would not fit into the part.

"At last, when we had stood as much as we could, the prisoner suggested
it was gettin' late. Trent made a joking answer. What he said was
grossly offensive, worse than anything before. The prisoner caught up a
chisel and flung it at his head. No, it was not premeditated. No, there
had been no quarrel. Simply, the man was saying indecencies that had to
be stopped, and the prisoner took the first way of stoppin' them--and
if he hadn't, I'd've done it myself," Denis put in, unasked. "No, I
cann't remember what it was he said--"

Instantly Hancock pricked up his ears. "You don't remember what Major
Trent said?"

"I do not. Not the exact words."

"Not any of them?"

"Not to swear to."

"Indeed! Yet you could tell us in detail all about his other speeches?"

"Not so," Denis corrected, rather stiff. "I did not tell you in detail,
I told you in substance. That is quite another thing."

"With considerable fullness and fluency, however," said his questioner
dryly. "Well, then: you remember all these other stories, so far
as you do remember them, but you have forgotten every single word
of this--which you say was the worst of all? Can't you give us the
substance of that too?"

"It was not a story," said Denis, now very stiff indeed, "it was a
few broken sentences. I cann't remember them accurately, and I won't
make guesses. I dismissed them from memory as soon as I could. I don't
burden my mind with pornographic details."

"Quite so; but surely without infringing either truth or decency you
can give us some rough idea as to what this mysterious speech was
about? Was it about a woman, for example?"

Denis remained obstinately silent.

"Can't remember even that? Only you are sure it was offensive?"

"It was insufferable."

The barrister leaned forward persuasively. "How about this for a
suggestion? I put it to you: was it not to the prisoner personally that
the deceased was offensive? And did not the prisoner lose his temper,
and retaliate by throwing the chisel?"

"Nothing of the sort. I have told you before: there was no quarrel of
any kind. The deceased was laughing up to the last moment, and what the
prisoner did was done in the interests of decency. It was impossible to
sit still and listen to the things that were comin' out of that man's
mouth."

"Come, come, Mr. Smith! As a man of the world, are you going to ask us
to believe that the prisoner--who, I gather, has knocked about all over
the world, in countries which aren't precisely like a Sunday school--do
you seriously expect us to understand that he was so much upset by an
ordinary after-dinner story as to lose all self-control, and endanger
his liberty, if not his life?"

"I do not expect you to understand anything," said Denis, serenely
insolent. "I was addressin' the gentlemen of the jury."

"Why can't he speak out? What's he hiding?" Mr. Gardiner whispered
feverishly to Tom. Tom could only shake his head and pull his mustache.
Certain memories were stirring uncomfortably. What was it Harry had
said about having his hands tied, not being free to explain? He had
never given it another thought until this minute.

Meanwhile Denis, already convicted of tampering with the truth on
behalf of his friend (for every one believed he had suppressed a speech
that told against the prisoner), was being taken through the rest of
his evidence. Hancock was trying to show his bias: that he would twist
the truth in Gardiner's favor, and tell only the minimum against him.
In this topsy-turvy business Denis was virtually on the side of the
defense. He had to suffer for his sympathies. His self-respect was
stripped bare. Yet it was only by guesswork that Gardiner could divine
his feelings; the harder Fate hit him, the stiffer grew his back. How
Gardiner envied that effortless and natural control!

Hancock finished, and counsel for the defense rose to cross-examine.
Bullard, K.C., was a long, lank, untidy figure, and had a hesitating,
negligent way of speech. He began with some unimportant minor points
slurred over in the examination-in-chief. Then came a pause, during
which he gazed at his brief, the people whispered, and the prisoner
yawned. Then a bombshell.

"I have only one more question to trouble you with, Mr. Merion-Smith,"
he said, looking up. "Did the deceased, in that last speech which you
cannot remember, make any mention of Mrs. Trent?"

Denis's head went up with a jerk. A thrill went round the court, but
was instantly stilled. Bullard was repeating his question in another
form.

"Did not the prisoner suggest that Mrs. Trent would be tired; and did
not the deceased answer by a coarse allusion to her state of health?"

The witness was seen to struggle for words--in vain.

"Thank you, that will do."

Upon this followed the luncheon interval. Through the excited crowd Tom
carried off his father to a quiet inn near by, where he had ordered
lunch. The old man sat over the fire with his basin of soup (he would
take nothing else, and did not drink that), shrunken, and silent, and
aged. Once he looked up piteously. "What does it mean, Tom? What does
it all mean?" Tom could only answer: "I've no idea, sir. Shall I go
and see if I can get hold of Kellett?" But Mr. Gardiner shook his head
and crouched closer to the fire, muttering: "No, no. Time enough, time
enough. We shall hear it all presently." Tom, though he was longing to
find the lawyer, durst not leave him.

The court was crowded to its last seat when they reassembled, and
Bullard opened for the defense. He was a clever advocate; perhaps a
little too clever. He was apt to hint his points instead of making
them, to cut and refine his phrases like some fastidious literary
artist. This is not the way to get a verdict from plain men accustomed
to plain language, clear outlines, the black and white of fact. They
do not understand half-tones and intellectual subtleties. On the other
hand, Bullard had a reputation for incorruptible honesty; and he rose
at times to eloquence.

He began, in his negligent way, to recapitulate the facts, a touch here
and there serving to rearrange them to the prisoner's advantage. He did
not, he said, propose to deny that his client had thrown the tool; but
he submitted that the evidence proved, first, that the death of the
deceased was due to the fall and not to the blow; second, that if he
had been perfectly sober he would not have fallen. Very lucid was he,
very persuasive. But his audience was waiting for what was to come.

"Finally, gentlemen, I hope to show that in throwing that chisel the
prisoner was guilty of no crime; rather that he was the necessary
unofficial policeman of the moral law. There are still," he went on,
dwelling on the words like an epicure, "there are still offenses which
are not amenable to ordinary justice, which can be dealt with only by
... punching the offender's head, cramming his words back down his own
throat. This was such a case. Look first at the dead man." He broke off
to give a summary of Trent's glorious-inglorious career: the ribbon
on the one hand, disgrace on the other. "Brilliant promise, you see,
marred by a single fault. 'It was never wine with me'--we have that
on his own authority; it was a fouler vice. The man was rotten: still
showing a fair outside, still preserving some traits of kindliness, but
black-rotten within. When a decent man gets a glimpse of that sort of
thing, he doesn't stay to argue; he hits out.

"Now in defending the prisoner I was met at first by a singular
difficulty. Neither he nor the only known witness of the scene could
remember the words which provoked the outbreak. Strange, you will
say; most strange; suspicious, even. Surely they could make some sort
of rough guess? But no, both persisted; they could not. What pointed
the moral was the fact that these two were conferring together at
the moment of the prisoner's arrest. It looked like a conspiracy of
silence. Now why should they conspire to keep silence? In order to hide
some fact damaging to the prisoner. That is the obvious deduction,
which of course you have already drawn. And, gentlemen, the prisoner
would have left it at that: he would have let your judgment go by
default against him, and taken the consequences: you would never have
heard the facts, never, but for a totally unexpected circumstance,
which came to my knowledge not forty-eight hours ago.

"There was another witness to that scene in the hotel. Unknown to
my client or to his friend, another of the guests saw and overheard
everything that happened. I shall not attempt to summarize this
testimony. I shall leave it in the witness's own words, and I shall
leave you to draw your own conclusions; asking you to bear in mind, as
you do so, the story of her dealings with the prisoner which you have
heard from Mrs. Trent.

"This only I will say: We men of the law, seeing nothing but meanness
and crime, day after day, year after year, grow sometimes to despair of
the world, to see nothing before it but a certain fearful looking for
of judgment and fiery indignation. Acts such as the prisoner's redress
the balance. They show us once again the sense of tears in mortal
things, the indestructible nobility of the human heart, the God in
human nature. 'Through such souls alone God stooping shows sufficient
of his light for us i' the dark to rise by.' Gentlemen, I should like
to thank the prisoner.

"Call Lætitia Jane Smith."

Lettice stepped into the witness-box. She did not look at Gardiner,
gazing at her with his haggard eyes as at a dream come true; nor at
Dorothea, shrinking away like a child from the lash. Self-withdrawn and
expressionless, she looked straight at the examining counsel, and to
him alone she gave her evidence.

Yes, she had been staying at the prisoner's hotel on the night in
question. She had gone there to meet her cousin, Mr. Merion-Smith.
She had not told him that she meant to do so; she wanted to take
him by surprise. She engaged a room on the ground floor of the west
wing. She did not go in to dinner, nor did she try to see her cousin
that evening, because she had a bad headache. She stayed in her room
writing. About ten o'clock she went out for a breath of air. She came
back at twenty-two minutes past ten. How did she know the time? Because
she stopped to set her watch by the clock in the hall. Afterwards she
went straight to her room. It was in darkness, but the room opposite,
the prisoner's room, was lighted up. Her window and his were both
open. She could see in clearly. The distance was not great. She had
very good sight. "I can read the papers in your hand," said Lettice
concisely. There were three persons in the room: her cousin, sitting
by the window; the prisoner, at the table: and a third man, whom from
a photograph she had since identified as Major Trent, leaning back
against the mantelpiece. Major Trent was speaking. He seemed to be
finishing some story. He was laughing. The prisoner did not laugh,
nor did Mr. Merion-Smith. The latter leaned forward and spoke to the
prisoner, and the prisoner answered. She could not hear what was
said because they spoke in whispers. Her cousin seemed angry. "He
was bristling all over," said Lettice. The prisoner then turned and
addressed the deceased. Yes, she could hear that. What he said? He
suggested it was getting late, and that Mrs. Trent would be tired. Was
she sure he mentioned Mrs. Trent? Quite. Major Trent said, "Oh, my
wife!" and burst out laughing. He came up to the table, leaned across
to the prisoner, and added another sentence. Yes, she had heard every
word. Yes, she remembered every word. Would she tell the court exactly
what it was?

Lettice looked back at her questioner and answered him alone, isolating
him and herself, as though judge, jury, prisoner, and spectators did
not exist. She spoke with colorless precision:

"He said, 'Ever hear of what they call an interesting situation? Damn
uninteresting I find it--especially to look at!'"

The truth was out. Useless for Hancock to cross-examine; not a soul
in court but knew they had the facts at last. The jury made up their
minds upon their verdict. As juries often do, they had set up among
themselves a standard of rough justice, and neither the prisoner's
own statement nor the judge's summing up could avail to change them.
If Lettice had not spoken, they would have found the prisoner guilty;
if he himself had not tried to evade justice, they would have found
him innocent. As it was, their verdict was a compromise. Guilty of
manslaughter, but very strongly recommended to mercy.

Mr. Justice Beckwith may have thought he was carrying out their
recommendation in sentencing Gardiner to nine months' imprisonment in
the second division.



CHAPTER XXI

HEU QUAM MUTATUS

     When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness and
     doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth,
     shall he live?--EZEKIEL.


The prison gates shut. Silence fell. The troubled waters settled into
calm. Tom went back to Queenstown; Mr. Gardiner to Woodlands--and to
bed, with a couple of nurses in attendance. Denis was presumably at
Dent-de-lion, working for the Aero Show. Mrs. Trent had gone no one
knew whither. And Lettice, her duty done, had escaped unmolested to
her attic in Pimlico, where she settled back into her groove, with
that sort of capillary attraction towards the inconspicuous and the
ordinary, which marked her conduct always except when she was making
one of her gravely calculated excursions into the extraordinary.

Why had she held her tongue? Her friends did not need to be told. "It's
Lettice all over!" said Gardiner himself, half fond, half laughing. She
had had two main motives (or rather springs of action; for "motive"
implies conscious volition, whereas Lettice did simply without thinking
what came natural)--the one a principle, the other a prejudice. First,
she would never, if she could possibly avoid it, interfere in other
people's affairs--that was the principle; and second, with every taste
and instinct she hated to be made conspicuous--that was the prejudice,
and a tough one.

With these reasons against speaking, moreover, she saw none for. It
never entered her head that some people might say she had treated
Gardiner unfairly, in letting him tell his tale while keeping her own
knowledge in reserve. What difference could it possibly make? Why
should she have spoken? It would only have made him very uncomfortable,
and Denis would simply have hated it. All this, of course, rested on
the assumption of her own detachment, insulation, negligibility: in
which Lettice was so rooted and grounded that she was quite surprised
to find other people surprised by what to her came natural as breathing.

Her explanation, given in court, ran something as follows:--"I didn't
speak before the inquest because I know there were two other witnesses,
and I didn't see I was wanted; and after it, by the time I heard
what had happened, it was too late. There would have been no sense
in disturbing things again. It would have been bad for everybody all
round, and worst for Mrs. Trent. But now--now things were different. I
had to speak now. It was time for the truth to come out."

Full time. Best for Dorothea, as well as for her victim. She had been
screened, and in the darkness evil things had grown up. Down with all
screens now. In the light of truth, the whole jumble resolved itself
into order. Honor to whom honor was due; judgment to whom judgment.
Even Gardiner's sentence fell into place. It might be too heavy for the
particular offense; but no one knew better than himself that it was the
just penalty for his months of cowardice.

February passed into March, a sweet, mild March: blue skies, brown
buds, thrushes singing, daisies on every lawn, violets round every
bush, white and golden daffodils ruffling under the trees, flood-water
glistening like frosted silver among tender blades of grass. Towards
the end of the month the prisoner saw his first visitor. Mr. Gardiner,
being still too weak to go himself, sent Tom. Tom's impressions were
recorded in a duty letter to Miss Smith: "I saw my brother for a few
minutes yesterday in the presence of a warder. He seems very fairly
cheerful and fit. His work is in the printing room. He asked me to let
you know he is going strong." Dry crumbs! Lettice's consolation was
that Mr. Gardiner would be no better satisfied than herself, and that
next month he would send Denis. Denis had at least a tongue in his
head. That is to say, he used to have--unless--

A few days later she received another letter, this time from her
cousin. He inclosed tickets for the Aero Show. "I know these things
aren't much in your line, but you can give them away to somebody or
other. As a matter of fact, we've not much worth seeing on our stand
this year. The seaplane didn't get done after all. Yes, I may be
in town for the week-end, but I'm afraid I shan't be able to look
you up. Better luck next time, perhaps." And overleaf, a hastily
scribbled postscript: "I suppose you've heard nothing from Westby?
I've just had a line from Mr. Gardiner: he says Harry's been in a
row--insubordination and assaulting a warder--and all letters and
visits are stopped off for the next two months. No particulars, only
that. I was to have gone down there next month, you know, but of course
that's off now. Bad job, isn't it?"

Lettice laid down the letter with an unaccustomed sinking of the heart.
Of the postscript she utterly refused to let herself think; it was bad
enough without that. It was not the first time she had felt uneasy
about her cousin. How often had she seen him since Westby? Not once;
yet formerly they had met, as a matter of course, whenever he came to
town. Formerly, too, he had written to her regularly every week--by an
unexpected trait, Denis was a graphic writer, just as with his friends
he was a garrulous talker; in that came out his Irish blood. Now she
might think herself lucky if she heard once a month; and what things
his letters were, when they came! The last had been an essay on the
uses of the deck or cable plane. This present one--well, this was the
climax. Over and over again, whenever he mentioned the Show (and it
had been his staple conversation for months), she had been given to
understand that she was to be taken to Olympia, and dragged round the
exhibits, and stuffed with information whether she liked it or not; and
that her guide was to be no other than himself.

Lettice faced the conclusion that there was something wrong.

By this and by that, by what she had seen herself and by what Gardiner
had said at Westby, she had gathered how things stood between Denis
and Dorothea. What would be the effect of such a shock? Lettice found
herself unable to guess. Up to a certain point, Denis was transparent;
for years she had read him like a book, and had been able to predict
not merely what he would do or say, but the very gesture and accent
with which he would do or say it. Dear Denis, tried friend, good as
good bread, in Gardiner's expressive idiom, pig-headed Ulsterman with
those dark blue Southern Irish eyes, truculent fighter answering to
the lightest touch of her silken rein!--Lettice was a good lover,
and she had given him of her best. But now--now, like Gardiner, she
found herself up against a door that had no key. What was going on
inside? What was Denis doing there, to heal him of his deadly wound?
She did not know--she could not guess. But one thing was certain: he
would accept no help. Gardiner in his weakness had cried out to her
and rested on her strength; but Denis was neither weak nor dependent.
Whatever went on behind the closed door was between him and his God.

Lettice picked up the tickets again. "He's sent me these things because
he felt he must, but he doesn't mean me to use them," ran her slow
thoughts. "I expect that means he's going to be there himself. Up for
the week-end; then he'll probably go on the Saturday--"

Lettice rarely framed a definite resolution, but after long brooding
her thoughts would settle into a sediment of purpose. The outcome of
that hiatus was that on Saturday she put on her best things and went to
Olympia to see for herself.

The whole floor space of the exhibition hall was cut up into a
chess-board of stands, each one carpeted with red felt and inclosed in
a white railing. Within these crimson plots might be seen every variety
of aëroplane. Pusher, tractor, hydroplane, bat-boat, super-marine, the
names sounded very imposing, but to the uninstructed (_videlicet_ to
Lettice) they all looked as much alike as a crowd of Chinamen. Visitors
might wander about at will, stooping under huge pale arching wings,
or mounting steps to inspect the fittings of the pilot's cockpit.
Lettice had expected to be bored, but she was not. At that time, before
it became mechanically perfect and virtually fool-proof, while its
imperfections had still to be pieced out with human skill and daring,
the aeroplane was no machine but an individual. Denis and his fellows
talked of particular planes as a man talks of particular hunters in his
stable.

After wandering round the stands, and duly gazing at the Smith
monoplane, Lettice retired to the tea-room where she established
herself in a corner behind a group of palms. Be it understood that
she had come strictly to see, not to speak to her cousin; she knew
she could dodge his short-sighted eyes. This being the last day of
the show, the hall was full. All the flying world seemed to be there.
Celebrities were thick as blackberries in the woods above Frahan; here
a young mechanic who had become famous in a day, there a hereditary
legislator who had ended his last race (luckily the incident hadn't got
into the papers) head downwards in a ditch. Many of the men belonged to
a certain well-defined physical type, lean, wiry, and small-made. Other
things being equal, the light-weight pilot has an advantage. The women,
on the other hand, _raræ nantes in gurgite vasto_, were mostly hothouse
flowers. Lettice, of course, knew no one; she would have been quite at
a loss but for her neighbor at the next table, a big man rather like a
mastiff, with an incongruous soft voice, who was obligingly giving the
_carte du pays_ to his companion.

"See that old cock with the iron-gray hair? That's Arthur Sturt, the
ironmaster; he's running the Derby Flying School, and making pots of
money. Able chap; there aren't many men of sixty who have receptivity
enough to believe in the aeroplane. What? Oh, certainly, sir, the
compliment applies to you." He laughed, pausing to light a cigar. "The
youngster eating strawberries with the flapper in a pigtail--got him?
That's Tommy Wyatt. Riviera cup, you know. A perfect young devil. You
ought to have been at Hendon last Saturday; he was putting up some
wonderful stunts--simply playing cup-and-ball with his bus. Oh, I'm
quite a back number these days. Soon be sixty myself, what?"

"I dare say you'll find you're good for a year or so yet," said his
companion dryly. He was a lean, elderly clergyman with an adventurous
eye. "By the by, is your partner here?"

The younger man shook his head. "Not he! Hasn't been near the place.
I don't know what's taken him--that's to say I do, and wish I didn't.
He's not done a stroke of work this year. Let me down rather badly
over the seaplane; I particularly wanted to show it. I told you about
that nasty affair he was mixed up in, didn't I? For a straight-laced,
fastidious fellow like him it must have been the deuce of a jolt, and
of course one makes every allowance; but it's a nuisance, all the same.
I'm personally sorry, too," he added. "It's a bad job when a chap of
that type runs off the rails. What? Oh, no, no mistake about it, I'm
afraid; she's making a perfect fool of herself. Byrne will get his
divorce this time, as sure as eggs. Hullo! by George--"

"That's not he?"

"Yes, it is, though," said Wandesforde, craning forward. "Good Lord!
fancy Evey Byrne letting herself be dragged to the Aero Show! She must
have got it badly!"

Mrs. Byrne was a very pretty woman, and even more charming than she was
pretty. She had a husband who was impossible to live with and whom she
could not divorce because she was a Catholic. He had no such scruples,
however; he had dragged her through the court on trumped-up evidence,
and she had emerged, like Susannah, without a stain on her character.
It was felt that she had been hardly used. In the circumstances, and as
she knew how to give a good dinner and was popular with women as well
as men, she was allowed a good deal of license. She needed it all. She
was very sweet, and very innocent, and hopelessly indiscreet, with an
Irish aptitude for tumbling into scrapes. She could no more help using
her lovely eyes than a violet can help smelling; and men buzzed round
her always like wasps round a peach. The latest of her captives, having
led her to a seat, now stood beside her with bent head to receive
her instructions, while she drew the gloves off her lovely hands and
arms. What Denis felt it was impossible to say; his attitude bespoke
admiration, but nothing more.

She finished her directions, he nodded assent, and threaded his way
through the crowd towards the buffet. Turning to retrace his steps
with a nicely balanced load of tea and strawberries, he came face to
face with another pair who had just come in. The encounter might have
been foreseen, and indeed Lettice had given the chance a thought;
for Dorothea's eyes were not, like Denis's, easy to dodge. Here she
was, then, she too with a cavalier in attendance, to judge from his
expression a devoted cavalier. And no wonder; Dorothea, in a long cloak
of violet velvet, and a big velvet hat with sweeping plume, made an
enchanting figure. Her face, which had lost its childish softness, was
less pretty, but far more alluring. April was unfolding to the bloom of
May.

Seeing Denis, she stopped dead; then her face broke into sunshine,
she colored like a damask rose, and moved forward impulsively with
outstretched hands. Denis continued on his way. The violet velvet was
actually brushing his sleeve. "I beg your pardon!" he said with unmoved
politeness, drawing back from contact. He rejoined his companion and
sat down at her table.

For the first time in her life Lettice found herself enjoying the sight
of pain.



CHAPTER XXII

BREAD AND SALT

     Were you thinking how we, sitting side by side,
     Might be dreaming miles and miles apart?

     _Two out of the Crowd._


Lettice had had no tea, but she did not stay for it; she uprooted
herself, setting back her chair without a sound, and flitted
inconspicuously out of the exhibition. On her slow way home, in Tube
and omnibus, she did some concentrated thinking. She was not surprised
when Beatrice rushed up from the basement to inform her that a lady was
waiting in her room, a dazzling lady who had arrived in a taxi-cab; she
needed not Beatrice's ecstatic description to tell her who that lady
was. She had caught Dorothea's eye across the hall. Well, what must be,
must; screwing herself up to face a scene, she climbed the stairs.

Her visitor had not sat down; a slight sumptuous figure, she stood
posed against the mantelpiece, looking down into the fire. She started
at the opening door, and raised her beautiful gazelle-brown eyes filled
with tears.

"Oh, Lettice!"

Lettice made no reply. A wave of obstinacy rose to meet that appeal;
she came to the table and stood slowly taking off and smoothing out her
gloves. Lettice was sometimes possessed of a dumb devil. Dorothea's
eyes opened piteously; her lip quivered, the tears tumbled down her
cheeks, but in a flash she was across the room, had seized Lettice and
turned her round by force.

"I don't care, you can be as angry with me as you like, but you _shall_
listen, you _shall_ answer, if I stay here all night. That woman--what
was she doing with Denis?" Lettice was dumb. "Oh, don't _you_ begin
about being justly angry and taking righteous vengeance--see what
that sort of rubbish has done for me!" Dorothea cried with passion. "I
_must_ know about Denis. What has she done to him?"

"I should think you could see that for yourself," said Lettice, opening
her lips with extreme and ungracious reluctance.

"Yes; but is she--has she--"

"Ask some of your friends; they'll know all the London gossip."

"I did ask Maurice, but he either couldn't or wouldn't tell; he said
he'd been out of town. Lettice, oh, Lettice, you can't surely think--he
hasn't really--"

"If you mean, do I think he's living with her, I don't know; I should
think it very likely. But what does it matter to you? You've done all
you wanted--you've had your revenge, and sent Mr. Gardiner to prison."

She freed her hands resolutely and turned away. Dorothea flung herself
into the nearest chair. Beautiful graceful figure, with the long lines
of velvet sweeping to her feet, the plumed hat, the rich hair, the
ivory whiteness of cheek and throat above her dark luxurious furs!
Lettice hardened her heart. Let her go back to her Maurices and her
other friends--she would soon get over it. She turned away, turned her
back on her visitor, and began to prepare her solitary meal as though
Dorothea did not exist. There was ill will in the very curve of her
shoulders.

Dorothea looked up.

"But I do love him so, Lettice!"

"_You_ love _him_?" exclaimed Lettice, pausing with her egg on its way
to the saucepan.

"Why, of course--how could any one help it?

"You seem to have consoled yourself pretty easily," said Lettice, with
a doubtful glance at the violet velvet. Dorothea's eyes followed hers.

"Consoled myself? Do you mean this? _This?_" She crushed up the velvet
in her hand with scorn. "Oh, you are stupid. I didn't expect you to be
stupid, Lettice, I thought you would understand. What would you have
had me do, after that--that frightful day at Westby? One can't die to
order. One has to kill time somehow. I loved Denis--oh, I did, I did
love him--right from the very first. You may say I led him on, but I
didn't, I didn't, I never thought of such a thing, I never so much as
dreamed of its being possible, till one day I woke up and just found
it had happened, to us both. So then what could I do but tear it out,
and deny it, and _make_ myself be loyal to my husband? I--knew--yes, I
suppose I did know that Guy wasn't--I'd seen things--but never anything
really bad; and he was always good to me, truth he was, always. Because
of my money, I suppose. But I didn't know that then. I _had_ to believe
in him, because he was all I had in the world. Oh! I can't talk of it;
it sears me to think of those months. Lettice, Lettice, you haven't
been married, you don't know how close that brings you. To find you
have been mingled, made one with a nature like that--thinking, too,
those hideous thoughts my husband had about me--Yes, _look_ at that
idea, take it home to you, if you can; and then tell yourself that,
however you may try, you have _not_ been married, and you don't and
_can't_ know what that awful intimacy means. Oh! I've been thankful,
since, that my baby died. I was glad to know the truth; but it tore me
in two, Lettice, indeed, indeed it did. Console myself? Why, I've been
at Hendon, learning to fly. That man you saw me with, I met him there.
I believe he fancies I'm going to marry him. I don't care. I don't
know what I've said to him. It's all a blank. I never woke till I saw
Denis. Why, that alone might have told you; should I have gone to him
as I did, as though I were sure of my welcome, there in the face of
everybody, if I'd known what I was doing? I didn't know. I didn't know
anything, except that to see him again was like coming home; and I went
to him without another thought."

Lettice, who all this while had been standing stock-still, with her egg
in her spoon, began slowly to get under way. She slid the egg into the
water, noted the time, straightened her shoulders, and then said, in a
definitely milder tone: "Well, I don't see what you expect me to do."

"Can't we save him?"

She shook her head. "Denis goes his own way. It's no use interfering."

"If you were to say something--"

Another slow shake. "He wouldn't listen. I've seen him like this once
before, with a man he'd been good to, who cheated him. He was like a
stone." She paused, and added, slowly, slowly, drop by drop distilling
for Dorothea's comfort the essence of her meditations in the train: "I
don't suppose it will go far. Denis isn't made that way. He will soon
get tired of it." "_If he wanted to go wrong, he wouldn't know the
way!_" She seemed to hear Gardiner's very accents. The acuteness of the
pain took her by surprise--took away her breath and stopped her words.
Dorothea gave a miserable little sob.

"'Soon get tired of it!' Oh, Lettice, Lettice, but when you think of
what he was!"

To that Lettice made no reply; her face was grim. After a moment she
exerted herself to finish her former speech, still half unwilling,
for it took her heart long to forgive, though her head now acquitted
Dorothea of the worst of her guilt, of a deliberate betrayal: "As a
matter of fact, I don't believe there is anything wrong yet. I believe
so far he is only playing with the idea. It may go no further. He has
thirty years of habit to fight against." She did not say, "To-day will
probably settle it, one way or the other," but the thought was in her
mind.

Dorothea had sunk down on the rug in a miserable little heap, and was
propping herself against the mantelpiece. "Oh, I have been bad, I have
been bad," she said on a long quivering breath, twisting her hands
together, while the tears came tumbling down her cheeks and into her
lap. "Oh, it doesn't seem fair that a miserable little nobody like
me should be allowed to do so much harm. Oh, if there is a God, why
didn't he kill me when my baby died, and have done with it? To let me,
_me_ hurt a man like Denis--oh, I ought to have been squashed like
a blackbeetle! And Mr. Gardiner too. Wherever I go I seem to bring
nothing but trouble! Do lend me a hanky, Lettice, mine's all soppy."

"It's hardly worth while to think of Mr. Gardiner, is it?" suggested
Lettice with faint irony. Dorothea raised her wet eyes.

"Why, of course I think of him, only I think of Denis more. It's
everything with Denis, it was just because he wasn't like other men
you couldn't help loving him. And now--now, even if he gets over it,
as you say, it will never, never be the same." She stopped to swallow
a sob. "But Mr. Gardiner--I know prison is horrid, and I'm sorry, oh!
dreadfully sorry and ashamed whenever I think of him, but he'll come
out at the end none the worse. Why, it isn't even as if it were a
disgrace! You feel the same, Lettice, you know you do."

Lettice said nothing; her face might have betrayed her, had Dorothea
been on the alert; but she was already back with Denis. She did not
like Gardiner, and she would never understand him. But Lettice--by
that naïve assumption of her prime concern for her cousin Dorothea had
shown her, rather more plainly than she liked, where she stood. Her
center of interest had shifted. She was scarcely sorry for Denis; she
was almost angry with him. "He shouldn't have done it," she said with a
touch of sternness. "I am disappointed in him." Lettice expected a good
deal from her friends. Her feelings had changed, adjusting themselves
unconsciously to the change in Denis. The protective instinct was
dead. "When I was a child, I spake as a child...." Denis had put away
childish things, and as a man she judged him.

Gardiner had disappointed her too, yet with him she was not angry.
His failure had been involuntary; and he had redeemed it, coming back
of his own free will to put his manhood to the test. He was under the
question now, this minute, every minute of the day. For the first time
she let herself think of Denis's postscript: tacitly acknowledging
that if she had not done so before, it was because she dared not. She
could reason about Denis, she could not reason about this, though
it lay in her heart like a stone all the time. For Denis the issue
was decided; whether he went to Mrs. Byrne or not, his eyes had been
opened, he had tasted the fruit of the tree, he could never regain
that child-like quality of which Dorothea had robbed him. If he took
the one step further--well--yes, it did matter, it mattered horribly,
the constriction at her heart was only less than she felt in thinking
of the other sufferer. Still, it was less, for Denis would retrieve
himself; Gardiner would not. If he failed now, he would be a broken
man; he would go under. "Insubordination, assaulting a warder"--the
words seemed ominous as thunder on a sultry night.

And meanwhile here was the fount and origin of all this trouble,
sitting on the rug, leaning her small head, stuffed with tears,
against the wall, a dolorous little heap: poor child, she had punished
herself worse than her victims. What to do with her? Lettice had never
responded with enthusiasm to Dorothea's advances. Dorothea was intense;
Lettice preferred the humdrum. Nor, as has been said, could she easily
forgive. Still, if Dorothea really needed her, she supposed she would
have to produce some sort of response. She moved about, laying the
table, cutting the bread; presently she came to the fire to make toast.
Dorothea roused herself. "Let me do that," she said, her voice still
thick and languid with tears. "You go and sit down."

"You'll spoil your frock," said Lettice, with a last faintly
disparaging glance at the violet velvet. Dorothea's eyes glinted; she
set her teeth, stooped down, seized the hem of her skirt between her
strong little hands, and tore it, r-r-rip, half-way up to the waist.

"_That_ for my frock!"

What a baby it was, after all! "Now I shall have to mend that before
you can go home," Lettice admonished her, in a tone which, for
Dorothea, she had never used before.

"Don't care," retorted Dorothea, defiant chin in air. And then, with
a swift little snuggling movement, she nestled against Lettice. "Oh,
Lettice, Lettice, I've been bad, and hateful, and I don't deserve to
have any one like me, but--_may_ I come and see you sometimes? I do
seem to get into such muddles when I'm all by myself--and I haven't
any one in all the world to go to now but you!"

Lettice did not answer, because she was engaged in rescuing the
toasting fork from her guest's heedless hand, and blowing out the
flaming bread. She scraped off the cinders, and with a firmness that
admitted no question put that piece on her own plate, and the other,
which she had made herself, on Dorothea's.

"Now come and have your tea," was her sole reply.

Bread and salt--they ate it together.



CHAPTER XXIII

DIEU DISPOSE

     I thought to promote thee unto great honor, but, lo, the Lord hath
     kept thee back from honor.--NUMBERS.


At the moment when Lettice and Dorothea were sitting down to bread and
salt in Canning Street, Denis was leaning over a rustic bridge in the
garden of Mrs. Byrne's week-end cottage.

By what difficult, obscure, and tortuous paths he had been wandering
in those days he could not have told, nor could any one have followed.
Dorothea had done him the worst injury; she had broken his faith.
His love and his religion were so closely intertwined that they fell
together, with a crash that numbed sensation. The world turned gray and
all the lamps went out. If he could not believe in God, Denis could
believe in nothing and love nothing. He did not know what was wrong
with him; he was not actively and consciously unhappy, but he was
bored--sick of himself, sick of his work, sick of all he had been and
done in all his life before.

He stayed on at Bredon from force of habit, because it was too much
trouble to make up his mind to go elsewhere. The trial at Westby broke
this routine; and the heavy sentence on his friend, outraging his sense
of justice, snapped another of the links that held him to his former
life. What was the good of virtue, he asked himself (seriously, as a
novel idea), if this was to be its reward? What had he ever got by it
himself? Why shouldn't he try pleasure for a change? Why not, indeed?
Conscience made no protest; that was one of the lamps which had gone
out. When he left Westby he did not go back to Bredon; he stayed in
town, with the deliberate intention of "seeing life."

In pursuit of this ambition he visited music halls, which he regarded
as temples of gay vice, and tried to cultivate the more frivolous
of his male acquaintance, and even went so far as to put in an
appearance at a night club--and was more profoundly bored than ever.
One evening he laid himself out conscientiously to get drunk. This
was not a success; it ended in a bilious attack and a long distaste
for whisky. Another time he sat down to play "chimmy" with the most
inveterate gamblers he knew. Beginner's luck helped him at first to
win five pounds, which didn't excite him; then he lost twenty, and was
disproportionately annoyed. Nature had not cut out Denis for a _roué_.
He did not amuse himself or any one else. Even Bredon and the seaplane
were better than this. He would have given up and gone back to them in
despair, if he had not happened to fall in with Mrs. Byrne.

She was sitting in her car in a lonely lane at ten o'clock at night
when he saw her first, weeping tears of rage because her chauffeur
had sunk down, snoring drunk, and she could not stir him. Such things
did happen to Mrs. Byrne. Denis came to the rescue; he ejected the
chauffeur by the wayside, and took the lady home himself. She was
very grateful, and invited him to dinner. It was a pleasant house,
and one met amusing people--literary, artistic, a little out of the
usual set which had bored Denis so desperately. He liked his pretty,
feather-witted hostess, too, and she liked him; indeed, before long it
was plain that she more than liked him. It was not plain to Denis, who
remained virtuously stiff as a ramrod long after the clubs were betting
on Byrne's chance of bringing off his divorce this time. Mrs. Byrne had
fallen headlong in love, and she was incapable of discretion.

When at last the truth dawned on Denis, his first impulse was to bolt.
But he did not allow himself to do so. He stayed on, deliberately
exposing himself to temptation in the hope that it would tempt him. He
found it a hard struggle to be wicked. So far, then, Lettice was right;
he had not yet committed himself. She was right, too, in thinking that
the scene at Olympia would decide things one way or another. Denis
believed himself to be quite indifferent to Dorothea; yet her face (he
could not have said how) had given him the slight deciding push, and he
returned to Mrs. Byrne with his mind made up.

The brook by which he stood, patched with silver by the young March
moon, found its way between bronze-stemmed alders, past willows cloudy
in pollen-yellow, under banks where the kingcups spread their nosegays
of burnished green and gold. Violets, invisible but sweet, clustered
at the root of every rose. The scene was set for lovers, and Denis
had been making love. Did he do it well? It might have been worse.
There had been opposition to overcome, unexpected, stimulating: Evey
Byrne with a conscience, forsooth! Denis had tasted the first-fruits
of pleasure in crushing down her scruples and making her own she loved
him. He had wrung out the confession without mercy. She tried to hold
him off with her weak little hands against his breast.

"Ah, but ye don't truly love me, Denis!"

"Don't I?" said Denis, kissing her fawn-soft eyes and sweet,
half-reluctant lips.

"Ah, but 'tis so wicked! God'll never forgive us!"

"There is no God that counts," Denis answered. He kissed her again. He
had no idea that in his heart he was kissing Dorothea.

That was ten minutes ago. Was it time yet? Hardly, he decided; he might
allow himself to finish his cigar. Alas! out of her presence the blaze
had all too quickly died down. Mrs. Byrne was sweet, but she bored
him like everything else. Still, he would go to her; yes, he would
certainly go in a minute. It was his duty to see the thing through.
(_Naturam expellas furca_--it seemed that Denis could not get away from
that word!)

What a fool he was! Who would believe that he had reached his present
age in his present state of innocence? He hoped Mrs. Byrne hadn't found
it out, but he was rather afraid she had. If Denis had been honest with
himself he would have had to admit that one reason why he lingered
here by the river, instead of seeking the welcome that awaited him,
was that he was shy. Too ignominious, that; he shuffled away from the
thought. He was dissatisfied with himself all round. Why couldn't he
behave like other men? In the old days at Bredon how gloriously happy
he had been, with the delicate engine of his brain working at full
pressure, solving problems faster than his pencil could write them
down! Now, it seemed, he could neither play nor work. What was it he
had been sticking over, that last evening before he went to Westby? The
everlasting difficulty, speed _versus_ safety. There had been one or
two rather clever things in the show to-day. The Sturt bus, that used
I-struts, as he had meant to do; but the chord of the wings was too
large, the stresses would be impossibly high. Why on earth couldn't
Sturt see--

Who can tell whence ideas come? Inter-stellar drift? Some beam from
the eternal verities shone suddenly in Denis's brain. He pulled out
an old envelope and began covering it with rapid calculations. Ten
minutes later, when he next looked up, there was scarcely room for
another figure. He had come to a halt; he could go no further without
referring to his old work. What time was it? He peered at his watch
in the moonlight. Half-past ten: if he got up to town to-night, and
slept at the Grosvenor, he could catch the five-forty down and be at
Bredon in time for breakfast. He thrust the sheet of calculations into
his pocket, and, with about one-twentieth of his mind upon the scene,
started for the house. Coming in sight of its lighted windows, however,
he slackened and stopped. Mrs. Byrne. There was not much sense left in
his head, but it had occurred to him that his errand might be awkward
to explain in person.

Denis never had been, or would be, afflicted with self-consciousness.
He turned back from the lawn, skulked like a burglar through
shrubberies and behind trees, and climbed in at the window of the room
where they had dined. Still without a thought of false shame, he sat
down at Mrs. Byrne's own writing-table, and wrote with Mrs. Byrne's
own pen, on her own paper. Another man might have found some difficulty
in putting into words what he had to say; to Denis it seemed quite
simple.


     "MY DEAREST EVEY,--I was standing on your bridge just
     now, thinking of nothing else likely, when suddenly an idea
     flashed into my head which settles a problem that has worried me
     for years. If it works out as it should, it will make a revolution
     in aircraft design. There's been nothing like it since the
     Wrights. So I shall have to get straight back into harness. You'll
     forgive me, I know." Here he paused, and debated whether to quote,
     "I could not love thee, dear, so much," but decided against it.
     Mrs. Byrne was not literary. "One has to put the big things first,
     hasn't one? And after all, this hits me even harder than it hits
     you." Denis was pleased with this phrase. "If all goes well, I
     will come back and make my apologies in person. I am not waiting
     now, because I am afraid if I saw you I might not go." He was even
     better pleased with this. A satisfied smile overspread his face as
     he signed himself, "Devotedly yours," a form which he had never
     used before, and which took him some time to excogitate. Then
     he rang the bell, gave the note to a servant, and took himself
     off--again by the window.

     "Make my apologies in person." Denis, it will be seen, was not
     repentant. He returned, as he had promised, a week later, prepared
     to pick up the thread of his adventure and do his duty to its
     boring end. He was surprised--surprised and aggrieved--to learn
     that Mrs. Byrne was not at home. "But she was expectin' me!" he
     said, quite indignant, to the model of decorum who stood guardian
     at the gate.

     "Yes, sir. She asked me to give you this note," said the model
     without moving an eyelid. But he scanned Denis's face very
     inquisitively as he tore open the paper and read:


     "Denis darling, this is God. I tried to steal you away from Him,
     but He won't let me have you. I knew all the time how wrong it
     was. It has all been my fault. I am going where I can pray for you
     and pray to be forgiven. Oh! don't be angry with me, and don't let
     _her_ be angry with me. I have been very wicked, but I did love
     you so.

     "EVEY."


The decorous Morris, who read this note (for of course Mrs. Byrne had
omitted to seal it), got little by his scrutiny. The visitor did not
stamp, nor swear, nor turn red, nor pale; he read through his dismissal
with a very singular expression of gravity, turned away, came back
absently to slip a tip into the man's hand, and finally strode off down
the drive, carrying his handsome head, as poor Camille said of his
enemy, like the _saint sacrament_, his dark blue Irish eyes fixed on
far distant horizons.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE FIRST ROUND

     Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a
     city.--PROVERBS.


Seven years of prison doctoring had not blunted the first fine temper
of Leonard Scott's sympathy. Doctors in general, even in ordinary
practice, have to harden themselves or break down; Scott stuck to his
work year after year, and yet contrived to remain as tender-hearted as
a novice at his first death-bed. He was steeped in that fount of love
and strength, romance and poetry, known as the Catholic faith. Not the
Roman Catholic faith, be it observed. Nothing annoyed him more than to
be called a papist--except to be called a Protestant.

He was a dreamer, a saint, a mystic, this dapper little man with
the snappy manner and the aggressively white linen; a citizen of
the heavenly Jerusalem, whose ports of pearl and streets of shining
gold were more real to him than the walls of Westby Jail. Saints and
martyrs crowded heaven to applaud his progress; warrior angels fought
at his right hand; Christ himself stooped to him in the mystery of
the Eucharist. In this faith he was able to go on working hopefully
at his hopeless task--for what, after all, was the use of patching up
these wretched bodies which in a few weeks must go back to the dirt and
the vices that had bred their disease? Leonard Scott thought it was a
great deal of use; he loved his criminals. The sociologist would have
seen Westby Jail as a garbage heap meet for the furnace; the Christian
idealist went about joyfully picking up pearls.

But a faith which removes mountains may fail to console the man who has
to appear in knickerbockers at a dinner-party; and this child of heaven
was made very uncomfortable by the addition of Gardiner to his happy
family of jail-birds. He hated attending as prison doctor on the man
whom his evidence had helped to convict, and he did not like Gardiner
himself. He thought him flippant, a quality which arises punctually
to answer expectation. Since he did not like him, he felt he ought to
cultivate him; your man of conscience always feels his duty to be the
thing he doesn't want to do. In this case, however, Scott fell short
of his duty. He carefully avoided Gardiner, and was rather annoyed to
find that Gardiner seemed equally anxious to avoid him. Never did he
bother his doctor for pills and potions. Yet Scott, who kept an uneasy
eye upon his embarrassing patient, could see that prison life was not
agreeing with his health.

One day he overheard two warders comparing notes about B14. He had
been getting into hot water; he had smashed everything in his cell,
and finished up by smashing a warder. "My word! he did give us ginger.
You never see anything like it!" said Warder Barnes, with a touch of
surprised admiration. "It's what I always _'ave_ said--them quiet,
eddicated ones gives twice as much trouble as the others when they do
give trouble," assented Warder Mason. B14 was now in the punishment
cells on a chastening diet of bread and water. Scott felt more than
ever that he ought to find some pretext for seeing him, but he didn't
do so.

Going back to prison after his trial seemed to Gardiner like entering
the black mouth of a tunnel. There were the unescapable walls on
either side, and the weight of a mountain overhead, the horror of
panic pressing up behind, and the interminable stretch of black blank
darkness through which he must grope before he could hope to see, far
off, the first faint whiteness of deliverance. Yet the first days
were not so bad as he had expected. Some of the outer light lingered
on for a time; Lettice's face--she had not looked at him while giving
her evidence, but at the end, just as she was leaving the box, she had
turned deliberately and smiled at him across the court. That look went
with him far into the darkness. It was the nights that were the worst.
There were moments, then, when he had to hold off panic by the throat.
But he was carefully prudent; he worked with all his might during the
eight hours he was at work, and studied with all his might during the
sixteen he spent in his cell. That was his last charge to his brother:
"You send along some books to the prison library. Grammars and texts--I
want to learn Flemish and Dutch, and I could do with some Portugoosh as
well. I'm getting a bit rusty, and they all come in handy." On these
terms he found himself actually better off as a convicted criminal than
he had been as a prisoner on remand. Regular work and exercise were by
no means a bad exchange, even for the high privileges of wearing his
own clothes and paying for his own dinner.

March came in with balmy days of relaxing sweetness. The sun at dawn
stole into his cell through the ground glass of his window; and by
standing on his stool, with his nose pressed as close to the ventilator
as it would go, he could even at times smell violets. Persistent little
friendly flowers, they had found their way into the prison yard and
niched themselves between the stones of the wall; and in March every
tiny seedling was a knot of blue.


     "When the moon their hollows lights,
     And they are filled with balms of spring,
     And in the glens, on starry nights,
     The nightingales divinely sing--
     Ah! then a longing like despair
     Is to their inmost caverns sent."


Gardiner had lived all his life too close to nature to escape the call
of the spring. If his work had been out of doors, in the garden or the
farm, he might have come through better; but he was in the printing
room; always hot and stuffy with glue, and his exercise was limited
to the five minutes' walk to and fro. He lost his sleep, and in the
long vigils he was tormented by visions of Rochehaut. He saw the great
solemn autumnal hills, sallow in the moonlight, the leafless woods, the
white crags matted with ivy and with the rusty growth of ferns, the
Semois in flood, chrome-yellow, surging from side to side of her naked
valley. He remembered the large cool rooms of his home, the green
light filtering through the jalousies, the white cloth blowing round
the legs of the little table under the pines where he took his meals,
the sound and smell of the coffee machine, the summer apples which he
gathered in the orchard, "faintly red even beneath the crimson skin."
Like many southerners, Gardiner lived very largely on fruit; and one of
the minor trials of his prison life was the prison diet, where fruit
and vegetables are not. Most prisoners suffer from this; he suffered
more than most, and could less afford the steady lowering of his health.

It happened one day, owing to some alterations, that Gardiner had to
change his cell, and was put into the older part of the prison. His
new quarters were so dark that the occupant was regularly allowed a
light in the daytime. The warder in charge was too busy to see to it
at the moment; next day he promised to do so, but forgot, the prisoner
meanwhile being left to twiddle his thumbs during the sixteen empty
hours he spent each day in his cell. When, for the third time, he
put forward his submissive request, Warder Thomson, a surly fellow,
happened to be out of temper, and told him curtly not to bother. To his
amazement the well-conducted B14 flew at him like a fury. He slipped
out just in time, and blew his whistle for help. B14 meanwhile amused
himself by smashing everything smashable in his cell; he kicked his
tins into cocked hats, he rent his bed-clothes to ribbons, he tore
his books out of their bindings and strewed them about the floor. It
was a glorious smash, and it was followed by an even more glorious
fight; for directly the door opened he flew again upon the offending
Warder Thomson with the leg of his dismembered stool, and succeeded in
breaking his head and knocking out two of his teeth, before he in his
turn was "coshed" by an assistant, and finally brought to earth. For
the space of ten exciting minutes Gardiner enjoyed himself.

But afterwards, when he came to himself in the dismal "solitary" cell,
and still more when he heard his punishment, and knew that he had cut
himself off for two endless months from his friends--then the cold
reaction set in, and he went down into the depths. The first night was
terrible. Panic was again at his throat; it did not succeed in pulling
him down, but when the dawn came, and at the cheerful sounds of human
life the furies shrank back into their shades, he knew that he had been
very near--something. What he feared he did not know, but he did know
that if his fear got the mastery, if he lost his self-command, he would
not be fit to go to Lettice at the end of his term.

He lay thinking very earnestly, open-eyed. It was perfectly plain what
he ought to do: he ought to put down his name to see the doctor, who
would give him bromide or something to settle his nerves. And there was
more in it than that; he ought to see Scott about another small trouble
which had nothing to do with nerves, and which, if he had chosen to put
it forward, would have been a mitigating circumstance in the mind of
the Governor when he pronounced sentence. Oh, he was a fool--he really
was a fool! Why, if he had even chosen to state his grievance about the
light he might have got off with quarter penalty, perhaps with none at
all. Captain Harding wasn't half a bad old chap, he made allowances
for human nature, even in a criminal. But would Gardiner do that? Not
he! He had stood sullenly dumb, refusing to defend himself, refusing
to answer a single question. It went against the grain with him to
explain, to make excuses, even to admit that he was ill. Yet could he
stand another night like the last? He would have preferred to; he would
have butted his obstinate head into death or even madness, sooner than
bend his pride. But there was Lettice to be considered, and all her
little fads about standing up to things and not running away.

When Warder Barnes came in the evening to bring his supper of bread and
water and collect the mail-bags which he should have sewn (prisoners
in the punishment cells do not go out to work), he found the pile
untouched. Gardiner had not done one. Barnes pursed up his lips to a
whistle.

"Hullo, hullo! now this ain't sense, B14. Why ain't you done your work
to-day?"

"Because I haven't," said the prisoner. He was sitting on his stool
with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands; he reached
out for the water Barnes had brought and drank it at a draught, but
otherwise he did not stir.

"That's silly talk," said the warder reprovingly. It was the same
little Cockney who had admired what he called B14's ginger; a kindly
little soul, as many of the prison attendants are. "You're only makin'
trouble for yourself. Ain't you had enough already?" The prisoner
made no sign. "Come now! You give me your word as you'll do your job
to-morrow, and I'll pass you light this time. Don't want another week
of it in 'ere, do you?" Still no answer. "Oh, well, I can't wait all
night, if you choose to be refractory you must," said Barnes, rather
short, because his kindness had met with no response. He gathered up
the untouched bags. "I shall 'ave to report you, that's all."

He was just going out of the door when the prisoner moved.

"I say."

"Well?"

"I couldn't do those bags," said Gardiner. "My hand's bad."

"Your hand bad! What's the matter with it?"

Barnes snatched roughly at the half-extended fingers. They were torn
out of his grasp. "Damn you," said Gardiner very quietly. Even in the
darkness Barnes could see his face, scarlet with sudden pain.

"I didn't mean to 'urt you," he said gruffly. "I thought you was
malingering. What have you done to your 'and?"

"I don't malinger, and I haven't done anything to my hand," the
prisoner retorted. His tone was short; he was still nursing his wrist
and biting his lip. "But the fact remains, I can't sew. If you wouldn't
mind putting me down to see the doctor, I should be much obliged.
There's my ticket."

"Let's 'ave a look." Gardiner would rather have put his fist, pain and
all, into the man's face; he silently extended his palm. "My word! that
gives you pen and ink, I lay," said Barnes with critical interest. "I
say, I'm sorry I hurt you, B14; I might 'a' known you wasn't one of the
'umbuggin' sort. I'll put you down to see the doctor, never fear."

The door banged with the complacent decision of prison doors, and
Gardiner was alone. He paid for his susceptibility to pleasure by a
corresponding susceptibility to pain; Barnes had actually made him feel
faint. He tumbled off his stool on to the floor and leaned against the
wall, closing his eyes. Well! he was in for it now. Would he be able to
keep up the same virtuous docility in his interview with Scott? Lord
only knew! And, thinking of Lettice, he smiled. It was she who had
dictated every word.

Barnes, good little soul, was pricked with compunction for his
roughness. Partly on this account, and partly because, even to his
unprofessional eye, B14's hand appeared to be in a bad way, he made
it his business to go to Dr. Scott as soon as he could; and Scott was
equally prompt in responding. The rule for the casual sick is that they
are collected in a batch from the gangs after the "cease work" bell in
the morning, and shepherded to the doctor's office, where he disposes
of them in turn: summary jurisdiction, a "tot" of No. Dash medicine, to
be swallowed on the spot. B14, however, being in punishment, could not
go to Mahomet, so Mahomet had to go to him. Half-an-hour after it had
closed, Gardiner's door reopened to admit the doctor, with Barnes in
attendance. A doctor never, in any circumstances, sees a prisoner alone.

Gardiner, nodding off into an uneasy doze, scrambled to his feet in a
hurry.

"You wanted to see me?" said Scott in his curtest tone, because he was
mortally sorry for his patient. "Got a bad hand, have you? Let's have a
look."

"There wasn't any hurry, sir. I didn't want to bother you--"

"It's my business to come when I'm called, isn't it? I'm here to doctor
the lot of you, aren't I? You do as you're told."

With that Scott plumped down on the stool, and took the hand in his
own. His touch was exquisitely gentle. Gardiner rather wished he
had grabbed at him like Warder Barnes; but he stood submissive, and
submissively answered questions. "Yes, sir, I got it rather badly
crushed last summer. Yes, it did take a time to heal. No, I don't know
that I felt anything particular until this began--that was about ten
days ago."

"Hurt, eh?" asked Scott, with a swift glance up from his dressing.

"A little," Gardiner admitted.

"Suppuration of the palm is the very--" said Scott. "Don't you try to
humbug me. I know. Damaged the bone, that's what you've done, and you
aren't by any means out of the wood yet. That'll do for to-night. Now
let's have a look at you. Your general health can't be up to much, or
you wouldn't have a mess-up like this. Any special symptoms to complain
of?"

"I've been rather off my sleep lately."

"You'd need cast-iron nerves to be on it, with your hand in that state.
How long has it been going on--the insomnia, I mean?"

"Oh, three weeks or so. Since the warm weather set in."

"Before your hand was bad, eh?"

"I suppose so."

"And the hand itself went wrong before you indulged in the pretty
little scrap that's landed you in this pestilential hole?" said Scott.
It was not a speech he ought to have made to a prisoner; but Scott was
far from always saying what he ought. Besides, he had had a long battle
with the authorities about the condition of the old part of the prison
in general and of the punishment cells in particular, a battle in which
he had been worsted, and which had left a rankling grudge. The Governor
had called him a meddlesome sentimentalist, which was true; and he had
called the Governor a pig-headed martinet, which was about equally true.

Gardiner assented with a nod. It was all against the grain, every
word that he said, and every drop of the suppressed sympathy which he
detected lurking under the little doctor's extra aggressive manner.
Nevertheless with another heroic effort, backed by another thought
of Lettice, he constrained himself to add: "I think perhaps it's the
indoor life, sir. I've been used to be out all day and all night. Here
I'm in the printing shop; it's an interesting job, and I like it, but I
think perhaps I might get on better on the farm."

"You do, do you? What do you suppose you know about it?"

"Nothing," said Gardiner, "only you asked me."

"H'm!" said the little doctor. "Well, I can't do anything more now.
I'll see to you properly to-morrow." He picked himself up with his
usual fierce alacrity. Going out of the door, he turned to add: "I'll
send you round a dose in half-an-hour. Warder, you see he takes it.
Young fool, going on for a month till he gets into this state--he'll
throw it into the slops, if you give him half a chance!"

With that, exit Dr. Scott, still grumbling.

Gardiner threw himself down on his bare plank bed. "O Lord!" he said
with half a chuckle and half a groan. "Oh, Lettice, it's a pity you
weren't the fly on the wall, I think you'd have enjoyed the scene.
Lord, how I do hate that little chap! and yet I don't, you know, I
rather like him. I wish he'd prescribe me a cigarette, I bet that would
put me to by-by better than all his boluses. I'm glad I said what I did
about the farm. If he can only work that, I think, with luck, I may
pull through. He's gone away breathing out mercies and indulgences.
What an ass I am to dislike saying these things, but I certainly do.
Oh, Lettice, _mi prenda, alma de mi vida, luz de mis ojos_--won't I
make love to you in Spanish when my time comes, and won't you be not
ductile!--if I do stick it out you ought to feel uncommonly proud of
yourself, but you won't. Never, never in my life shall I succeed in
persuading you that it's all your doing, but it is."



CHAPTER XXV

I SENT A LETTER TO MY LOVE

     Savage I was sitting in my house, late, lone:
       Dreary, weary with the long day's work:
     Head of me, heart of me, stupid as a stone:
       Tongue-tied now, now blaspheming like a Turk;
     When, in a moment just a knock, call, cry,
       Half a pang and all a rapture, there again were we!--
     "What, and is it really you again?" quoth I.
       "I again, what else did you expect?" quoth She.

     _The Householder._


The gas was not carried up to the attics of No. 22 Canning Street.
Late-comers had to stumble in the dark up the last flight of stairs,
and bark their shins over the brooms and pails which Beatrice
invariably left standing about on the landing. One evening in April
Lettice was sitting at work, brow buried in her hands, tensely courting
the Muse, when she was startled by a sudden tremendous clatter. The
door burst open and Denis fell into the room, in company with a mop and
a banister brush.

"Dear, dear!" said Lettice with her usual inadequacy.

"I wish you'd not keep an ironmonger's shop on your landing," said
Denis, annoyed, and rubbing his knee.

"You, you--you are so _violent_!" Lettice protested in her pianissimo
drawl. She went outside for a moment. "There, I've put them all away
in the cupboard, so you won't have to break your poor nose when you go
home," she consoled him. "Now, how nice it is to see you again! And
what have you been doing with yourself all this long time?"

"Selling four monoplanes to the War Office," said Denis, with the
simple satisfaction of bygone days. "What do you think of that?"

"No! have you really?"

"A man I used to know in the Sappers came over to Dent-de-lion and
fixed up the order last Saturday. It's been in the air for some
time, but of course I couldn't say anything till it was settled.
Wandesforde's awful pleased. It's no end of a leg-up for us."

"Four all at once!" cooed his sympathetic hostess.

"Yes, the Government's rather keen on the Air Service these days.
There's a lot goin' on we don't hear anything about--a lot; and they
don't mean to be caught napping."

"Did your friend tell you that?" asked Lettice, interested, as always,
in politics.

Denis nodded. "He did. And more. He was askin' me, among other things,
what percentage of our civilian flyers would volunteer in case of a
war."

"Oh! What did you say?"

"I said all, of course--every man jack of 'em who wasn't needed as an
instructor at home."

"You'd go yourself?"

"Rather so! What do you take me for? I should join up with the R.F.C.
at once. Oh, it's coming, and they know it's coming; that's been
obvious ever since Agadir. The only question is, when. I hope I shan't
smash myself first. I'd be sorry to be out of the fun."

He lapsed into silence, leaning back in the big chair which Lettice
kept on purpose for him, his long legs extended half across the hearth.
How many months was it since he had last filled that place? Lettice had
not so much as seen him since the Olympia day; but neither by word nor
look did she remind him of the gap. She was an adept at taking things
for granted. It was enough to see him sitting there, the same old
Denis, talking in the same old way. And yet, not quite the same. Even
in his silence there was a new quality. He had matured; he had lived
through the wreck of an ideal, and built up his faith again, steady and
sure, upon a rock.

Lettice put away her papers with delicate neatness, and sat down in
a low chair with her needlework--not a green dragon this time, but a
pair of combinations, which she darned serenely under the masculine
eye. Denis had a nice mind, he would never see. Now if it had been a
certain other person--Lettice made a graceful figure, soft brown hair
and hazel eyes, long throat and little head, slight drooping shoulders
and slim waist, set off by the soft gray-blue silk of her dress.
She was fond of that peculiarly soft and feminine fabric known to
dressmakers as crêpe de Chine. She could not spend much on her clothes,
but she chose and wore them with that French fineness and perfection of
detail which she, in common with her sisters, had learned from their
foreign upbringing.

"Well, I didn't come here to talk about German invasions," said Denis,
rousing himself. "The fact is, I'm rather badly worried about Gardiner,
Lettice. I didn't like that last piece of news at all. Did you?"

"You've not heard anything fresh?" asked Lettice quickly, her work
dropping in her lap.

"Not a syllable; and can't till June. That's the worst of it; it's such
a deadly long time. I'd half thought of running down there and lookin'
up little Scott--he's quite a decent little chap, and he'd know. But I
suppose it wouldn't do."

"I suppose not," agreed Lettice, who was, as has been said, a dandy
in affairs of honor. She made her funny little pause to collect words
before she got rid of her next speech. "I suppose if it had gone any
further we should have heard by now."

"Heard?"

"The prison people would have let us know."

"Let us know what?"

"Why, if he'd been ill, or gone off his head, or anything of that sort."

"You think there's a danger of his going off his head?"

"Well, that's what you're talking about, isn't it?"

"No," said Denis, "I'd not got so far as that." He regarded her
thoughtfully. "I wish you'd tell me how it strikes you, Lettice. I
can't see my way at all."

"There's nothing to tell," said Lettice, a trifle restless at being
asked to explain the obvious. "He must have been off his balance to
hit a warder, mustn't he? And when that begins, with anybody like him,
you never know where it will stop. He isn't any too steady."

(Certainly there was no one like Lettice for pulling things off
pedestals. Hitting a warder--it didn't sound nearly so bad as
assaulting an officer!)

"Well, I've known Gardiner five and twenty years, and I'd never have
called him unsteady. Hard as nails, more like."

"So he is that too."

"Now what on earth do you mean?"

"Well, of course he'd be hard so long as he hadn't anything to face he
really minded, wouldn't he? And till this he didn't, did he? It's what
you said yourself--he's always been lucky. But if you get him off his
guard he's rather unusually sensitive. Look at the way he feels pain!"

"I never saw him feel pain. In my company he's always been brutally
robust."

"Well, but can't you _tell_ he would, by the set of his lips?"

"No," said Denis, "I can't. I've not your imagination."

To this Lettice made no reply, unless one might count the slight
derisive lift of her chin. She never would take up the personal
question. She would never, if she could help it, say: "I thought." She
was sometimes driven to say, "I did," but even then she kept to the
bald facts, uncolored by her personality. Denis, shifting in his chair
to a more convenient angle, continued to regard her with attention, in
which now mingled some amusement.

"Oh ah," he said, "you were there when he damaged his hand, weren't
you? I'd forgotten. How long was it you stayed on at Rochehaut after I
left?"

"About six weeks."

"And you were actin' as his secretary all that time?"

"Part of it."

"Of course that accounts."

"Accounts what _for_?" asked Lettice unwisely, with her little air of
distraction.

"For the sympathetic insight you display," said Denis, now openly
smiling. Lettice had chaffed him all her life; it was a new thing for
him to turn the tables. "He swears it was you sent him back, and I
believe him now. You've eased my mind quite a lot. He won't go under.
He may knock out a warder or so, but he'll come through all right in
the end--with such backin'!"

"Rubbish," said Lettice with acerb decision. She folded her work, got
up, lighted a small paraffin lamp and carried it outside. Denis watched
her hang it on the wall above the stairs.

"Is that a gentle hint to me to be off?" he asked, still smiling, as
she reëntered. "Because if so I'm not takin' any. I'll go when my time
comes, but there's ten minutes yet."

"It's not for you at all, it's for Dot O'Connor."

"For Dot O'Connor!"

"She always tumbles over the brooms worse than you did," Lettice
explained, "so I give her a light on the stairs when I'm expecting her
to supper. I'd have given you one, too, if I'd known you were coming."

She had banished Denis's smile. He shifted in his chair once more, but
this time away from her. "Dot O'Connor!" he repeated for the third
time, in that altered voice. "Do you mean Mrs. Trent?"

"She doesn't like being called that now."

"Do you see much of her?"

"So so," said Lettice. She had mentioned Dorothea, not to get away from
Denis's chaff--that would have been too cruel--but of set purpose,
because there was something she had to say before he went. "Will you
stay and have supper with us? I _think_ there'll be enough to go round,
if you aren't too hungry."

"No, Lettice."

"I don't see why you shouldn't."

"Don't you?"

His tone was not encouraging, but it made not a pin's difference to
Lettice; her difficulties came always from within, not from without,
and once she had made up her mind to speak all the king's horses and
all the king's men would not have stopped her. She did not imagine that
she could move Denis, but there were certain things he ought to know,
and which, in justice to Dorothea, she meant to set before him. They
would not move him now, but he would not forget them; and in time to
come they might sink in and soften his judgment.

"I don't see why you shouldn't forgive her," she pronounced.

"I'd rather not discuss it."

"Very well, don't you say anything, but will you listen?" Denis moved
restlessly in his chair. "You're too hard on her," said Lettice,
hitting straight and hard. "You will treat her as a woman, when she's
only a child. And you don't realize what marrying a--a beast like that
does to a girl. It bruises her innocence. It's like tearing open the
eyes of a blind kitten. You can't expect her to see right and wrong
like other people." So far beyond herself had Lettice been carried by
that potent loosener of tongues, a sense of injustice! She went on with
the same resolute candor: "Besides, there's another thing. She loves
you. And she can love; you won't meet what she has to give twice in a
lifetime. I know"--Lettice spoke with an effort; it was as near to an
avowal as she could go, and the fact that she thought her cause worth
such a sacrifice added tenfold to the weight of her words--"I know
she's often made me ashamed of my stockishness. Are you prepared to
throw all that away?"

She had finished, and she stopped. Denis sat silent, staring into the
fire and pulling absently at his forelock, a trick he had when deep
in thought. The soft sounds of Lettice's business did not break the
stillness of the room. The alarm clock which Denis had given her to
get up by in the morning (Lettice had long been mortally afraid of
the alarm, and she still handled it as gingerly as if she expected it
to explode) ticked on through the stillness. It struck seven; Denis
glanced at his watch, and got up.

"I must go," he said confusedly. "I--I'd no idea it was so late."

He took his hat and stick, and Lettice thought he was really going then
and there, without another word; but he thought better of it, and from
the landing came back and stood in the doorway, visibly struggling with
himself. "You--you mustn't think I mind what you said, Lettice," he got
out. "I'd always listen to you. But I can't do this--I can't--"

Lettice looked him in the face. "She would have something to forgive
you now," she said deliberately.

"No, she would not," said Denis with equal deliberation; and he met her
eyes, fair and square. "But that's not anything to do with it. It's not
a question of forgiveness. It's--I--oh, I _can't_ do it, Lettice--I
can't explain--"

"Well--" said Lettice, summing up with that sad, vague word which looks
back, unsatisfied, over the past, and forward, unhopeful, towards the
future. And that was all she learned, then or for many months to come,
of Denis's feelings for Dorothea, of his wanderings in the wilderness,
of the manner of his deliverance. Not till many months later, in alien
scenes, in unimaginable circumstances, in a different world, did he
reopen that subject.

He straightened himself, glancing again at his watch. "I really must
go. I'm dinin' with the Wandesfordes, to celebrate, and I'll never hear
the last of it if I'm late. Wandesforde always thinks he can do the
funny dog about Irish people--silly ass. Wish you were coming too."

"Me?" asked Lettice, opening her eyes.

"You. It's not much fun sittin' here alone and thinkin' about
things--is it?" said Denis; and to her wide amazement he put a
brotherly arm round her and kissed her cheek. Lettice turned slowly and
deeply pink; not on account of the kiss, however. She took her lamp
and stood torch-bearer to light him down the stairs. When the quick
military tread had reached the lower landing she was turning back to
her room, but a quick scuffle in the cupboard and a breathless voice
stopped her.

"Lettice--wait!"

And Dorothea scrambled out from among the brooms and brushes, bringing
a shower of them with her. "Oh, bother!" said she, turning to stuff
them back unceremoniously, and precipitating a fresh avalanche. Lettice
found her voice again.

"You--you've got a black on your nose," she remarked originally.

"So would any one have, in this horrid little hole! I'd just reached
the landing when your door opened, and I bundled straight in here, and
all the things fell every which way, and I had to clutch them up in
both hands all the time. I made sure you'd hear."

"I did," said Lettice, "but I thought it was Black Maria."

"Well, I'd _be_ Black Maria if I could, I know you'd like me better,"
retorted Dorothea, expending the last of her temper in a spiteful kick
at a pail, and slamming the door before more disasters could happen.
"But oh, Lettice, oh, Lettice, isn't it glorious news?"

"You heard what we were saying?"

"Well, of course. How could I help it? You can't put your fingers in
your ears when you're holding up six brooms and a mop. I heard every
word. And I don't care! I don't care a scrap! Oh, I am so glad!"

"Glad?" Lettice repeated. She had not known quite what to expect;
certainly not this. How the child's eyes were sparkling!

"Well, of course!" she cried. "Didn't _you_ hear? Didn't you see
what he was like? Oh! now I know that's all right I don't care about
anything else--I don't care _what_ happens, so long as that doesn't!"

She flung herself down on the rug with a tempestuous sigh, and tried to
dry her eyes on a wisp of lace. That proving inadequate, she rummaged
through half a dozen pockets and dragged out a dingy red square which
had evidently been used as an oil rag. She held it out by the corners.
"Oh dear, I must have stolen Turner's--oh dear, I wish I could manage
to hit something between a doily and a duster--never mind, a hanky's
a hanky," said she, and blew her nose and dried her tears forthwith.
Then, looking up sharply, "Lettice! why don't you say something? Aren't
you pleased too?"

"O-oh, oh yes," said Lettice hastily; "only you see I'd had time to get
over it before you came."

"I shan't get over it--I shan't ever get over it," murmured Dorothea,
nestling round to gaze into the fire. "You don't know how awful it's
been to feel _that_ on me. I'd rather I killed him than see that
woman--Do you know, Lettice, I do think there must be a God after
all. I didn't ever use to, but ever since that Olympia day I've been
praying, oh! so hard, that He'd save Denis--I didn't see how even God
could stop him then, but there wasn't anything else I could do, and I
just had to do something. And now you see he has. He didn't tell you
anything about how it happened?" Lettice shook her head. "Oh, well,
that doesn't really matter, it's his being saved that counts," said
Dorothea, relapsing again into one of her boneless attitudes, and
smiling rosily over clasped hands into the fire.

"Did you hear--" began Lettice.

"What he said about me? Oh yes. Well, of course I'd love to have him
forgive me, but I know he couldn't possibly, and anyway I don't matter
about," said Dorothea, her voice softened into dreams. "It's him--it's
him. It does mean such a lot, Lettice! It isn't only that he is what
he used to be, what I thought he never could be again; it's ever so
much more than that. Denis wasn't made to think of women as he thought
of--of me and Mrs. Byrne. He was made to marry, Lettice. Can't you see
how perfectly sweet he'd be to his wife?--yes, and to his boys and
girls too; how he'd love them (I expect he'd have a pet little girl,
and call her Letty), and how they'd all adore him? He's one of those
men who--who only truly _mellow_ in their own homes. If he could only
find some nice girl who'll love him--no, not better than me, nobody
ever could do that, but well enough to make up to him for the horrid
little wretch I've been--I wish you would, Lettice, but I'm afraid
that's past praying for."

"Me?" said Lettice. "I don't think that would do."

"Why not?" demanded Dorothea. Lettice failing to reply at once, she
whisked round suddenly, with an eel-like twist. "Why do you say it like
that? Why aren't you gladder? Is there anything wrong? There is, there
is! Oh, Lettice, what is it?"

She was kneeling up now, and had seized Lettice's hands. "You're making
me spill the milk, and I can't get _any_ more," Lettice warned her;
but she was not to be diverted. "You've been worried for ages, only
I've been such a blind donkey thinking of Denis I haven't noticed," she
cried. "Why did he say you oughtn't to be let sit alone and think? What
did he mean? Lettice--oh, Lettice! is it about Mr. Gardiner? Have you
any bad news? Oh, don't, don't tell me I've done that too!"

Lettice freed herself summarily. Dorothea had room in her little head
for but one idea at a time, and therefore was apt to overlook what lay
under her little nose; but, her attention once aroused, she was keen on
a scent, and her intuition, the prerogative of semi-civilized minds,
had a way of landing her dead on the truth. Now there were certain
things which Denis might be permitted to see, but which Dorothea might
not--no! not on any account.

"There isn't any news at all, if you want to know," she said. "He hit a
warder, so all his letters and things have been stopped off."

"But isn't Denis going to visit him quite soon?"

"That's stopped too."

"Oh!" said Dorothea blankly, "oh dear! I see."

She did see, only too plainly. Oh, what a little donkey she had been!
But who would ever have imagined that Lettice--and with Mr. Gardiner,
of all people! oh, how could she? She did, though, no doubt about that,
and with Lettice that would mean a dreadfully big thing, the whole of
her life, and--oh, good gracious! how she would simply hate to have
any one know! Oh, she mustn't, she mustn't be allowed to guess! All
this passed through Dorothea's mind in the space of half-a-second, and
under the stimulus of that last thought she pulled herself round, with
a mighty effort, to ask as innocently as she could: "Did--did Denis
know about this the day of the show?"

"He'd just heard."

"Oh," said Dorothea, "oh, I wonder he didn't strike me to the ground!
Oh, how wicked, how wicked I've been!"

There was nothing visible but the red handkerchief. Lettice looked
at her sharply; but the pose was so natural, and any pose seemed so
foreign to Dorothea, and Lettice so much wanted to be taken in, that
she was. Not wholly; but she stuck her head in the sand and refused to
see her own doubts. And behind the red handkerchief Dorothea, too much
overwhelmed to cry, sat among the ruins which she had pulled down on
her own head and wondered helplessly when she _would_ see the end of
all the harm she had done. "I was so happy about Denis, and now there's
this!" Her love for Denis had been a sort of sublimated selfishness,
but now she was thinking about other people--about Lettice, yes, and
about Gardiner, though there she was all at sea. "I don't know what
I've done to him, but it must be something very bad for Lettice to be
like this!" she reflected. "But, oh dear! after all, what should I feel
like if it were Denis in prison? And what would he feel like himself?
And Mr. Gardiner's led such a free sort of out-of-doors life--"

In the depths below a bell rang; Beatrice's feet pounded up from the
basement. They came on from flight to flight, up the bare boards to
the attics, and ended with a single bang on the door. "Miss Lettus, 's
a letter for you!" Lettice went with her soft, unhurried step to take
it in. She carried it to the lamp, and stood arrested, staring at the
envelope.

Dorothea was sitting up, her dark hair tumbling about her eyes. "Oh,
Lettice, what is it?"

"From the prison," said Lettice, opening the envelope and drawing
out the enclosure with a steady hand. From across the room Dorothea
could see that it was not in Gardiner's handwriting; and then she saw
Lettice's face change, and her heart turned over in her breast.

"_Lettice--!_"

"What?" said Lettice, absorbed. "O-oh no, it's all right; it's only
that--he's hurt his hand--"

Dorothea turned her face to the wall and said her prayers.

This was the letter which Lettice received:


     DEAR MISS SMITH,--I have permission to write you a short
     note on business.

     I am anxious about my hotel. It has been in the hands of a
     caretaker all winter; but for the summer season I had arranged
     for my housekeeper to come back, and most of the servants. The
     housekeeper is a trustworthy person, and quite competent to run
     the place herself; but I can't very well give her carte blanche
     with my banking account, and I'm sure she wouldn't accept it
     if I did. What I want is somebody to sign checks, manage the
     correspondence, and act as figurehead. Practically what you
     did last year. Will you take it on again? I should have every
     confidence in you, and of course it is your proper place. As far
     as I know at present, I propose, if it suits you, to be married
     as soon as I leave in October, and go out to Rochehaut for the
     winter. Please let me know if this fits in with your views.

     I must apologize for my writing, but I have been laid up in
     hospital with a touch of the old trouble in my hand. When I come
     out, I believe I am to go on the farm. The governor has most
     kindly remitted the rest of my punishment, and I shall be allowed
     to see a visitor next month as usual. Will you let Merion-Smith
     know, if you are writing to him?

     Sincerely,

     H. C. GARDINER.


Dorothea at first had turned her eyes scrupulously away; but they were
back now, and searching Lettice's face for news. That face wore a
decidedly queer and pensive look. She refolded the letter with careful
exactness.

"Well? What does he say?"

"O-oh, he wants me to go out to Rochehaut and look after his old hotel."

"Then he's all right? He isn't ill or anything? Denis won't have to be
anxious any more?"

"He's in hospital, but it's nothing much." Lettice read out what
Gardiner said about his hand, and the description of her duties as
well. But she did not read those sentences of barefaced impudence
which transformed an apparently decorous business communication into a
proposal of marriage. Dorothea drew a long breath.

"And you'll do it, Lettice? You'll go? Oh! _may_ I come too? I won't be
intense, truly I won't, and perhaps I might even help you a little--I
would love to do something for Mr. Gardiner, to try and make up for all
the harm I've done him! You are going yourself, anyhow, aren't you?"

"Oh, I suppose so," said Lettice, with a long-suffering air.

This was in the month of April, 1914.



CHAPTER XXVI

"E"

     Raise a chapel with forms in rows
     Under the competent warders' eyes,
     That day and night search out men's privacies.
     God is too soft, but a warder knows
     How to deal with the prisoners who kneel in rows.

     Here shall you starve and shame and break,
     Warming the cells and weighing the food,
     And drawing up rules for the inmates' good;
     Build in their souls with the rules you make;
     Heap up the stones on the lives you break.

     _The Prison._


August, 1914, on the Semois.

How hot it was! The white walls of the farm, its squat white tower,
its steep roofs of ink-blue slate, all stood out, crude as the painted
scenery of a diorama, against the solid azure of the sky. It had been
a fort, this farm, in the days when Belgium was the cockpit of Europe;
but now golden straws protruded from the loopholes, and sparrows
were flying out and in. The garden had its roses, the lattices their
geraniums, and on the sill a sandy cat was curled up in a ball with
her head tucked under, exposing a white furry throat to the sun. The
tower had its fringe of chicory and trailing pink convolvulus. From it
the meadow fell away, spongy and mossy-green, to a brook which tinkled
in silver cascades down a crease between the hills. Beyond the stream
the ground rose steeply, a stubble field flaxen in the sunshine, with
its line of boundary elms and its peaceful scattered sheaves; on the
sky-line a ragged little fir wood raised its head, dark spires against
the blue. To the right the brook sank away, twisting round a corner out
of sight, and the hills closed in, steep and wooded, upon this little
nest of peace.

And yet--was it so peaceful? Look to the left. As elsewhere it fell
away, so here the harvest field swelled up in a lint-white line, firm
and pure, the edge of the visible world. In the pale turquoise above
that line hung a cloud, a discoloration, spreading like an ink-drop
in clear water. Where that cloud now hung, yesterday the village of
Rochehaut had stood. Contented, squalid little place with its steaming
middens, its perambulating pigs, its church squatting like a little
white-and-gray cat beside its miry _place_! Or look across at the
opposite hill. Above the firs another drift of smoke was diffusing in
the radiant air. That was the direction of the Bellevue, the big new
hotel which Madame Hasquin of the farm supplied with milk and eggs. Or
look at the farm itself. The fowls were clucking and scratching in the
yard, the cows were lowing at the gate, but Monsieur Hasquin did not
come to drive them in to the milking, nor did little Denise bring her
sieve full of golden peas for her pet fantails. The place was still and
peaceful; but it was the stillness and the peace of death.


There are no daily papers in a prison, and no news from the outside
world is supposed to reach the inmates. It filters in, nevertheless.
Gardiner first heard of the falling of the great shadow from a laborer
who had got six weeks at the Summer Assizes for beating his wife to a
jelly. Out of his cups he was an amiable soul, ready to make friends
with anybody; and Gardiner, who put on no airs, was ready to respond.

On leaving hospital, B14 had been put to work in the garden. His hand
had still to be dressed every day, but by the doctor's orders he
was sent into the open air to do such jobs as he could. One summer
afternoon he was weeding the paths, and West, the wife-beater, was
digging potatoes in the adjoining plot. Gardiner divined by his
important looks that he had something to say, and contrived to linger
long enough for West to catch him up.

"I say, matey," the wife-beater began, in that lip-whisper by which
prisoners communicate under the very noses of their guards, "'ave you
heard there's a war on?"

"No! you don't say so! Who with? Mrs. Pankhurst?"

"It's Gawd's truth I'm telling--"

"Gammon! Somebody's been kiddin' you."

"Swelp me, they ain't then. I 'eard Old Ikey talkin' about it to Billy
Blood."

Billy Blood was Warder Thomson, so named since Gardiner had knocked out
his teeth; Old Ikey was Warder Barnes. His name happened to be Ian, but
the initial was enough for the wit of the prison.

"Well, who are we fighting, anyway? Did you hear that?"

At this moment West discovered that Warder Thomson's eye was upon him,
and he sheered off to the end of his row. It was some time before,
cautiously regulating their progress, they managed to come together
again. West discharged his whisper without preface.

"It's Rooshia," he announced. "Rooshia and France."

"Not so bad for a beginning. Who else?"

"Well, they did say somethin' about Injer--"

"Great uprising of the native races. End of the British Raj," said
Gardiner with levity. "Let 'em all come! We're in for a giddy time, I
don't think. What price the British army now?"

"Oh, of course if you ain't goin' to believe me--"

West had incautiously raised his voice, and authority was down on him
in a moment--or rather on his companion. "Now then, B14, none o' that!
Idlin' and mutterin'! I suppose you think this is a rest cure. You get
on with your job, and put some beef into it, or I'll report you." And
for the next ten minutes, till the "cease work" bell, while West dug
potatoes diligently under the apple-trees, Billy Blood stood over B14
and counted every weed that dropped into his basket. Gardiner could
have laughed in his face. For such petty pin-pricks as Warder Thomson's
he cared--not a pin-prick. As Lettice had said, where he was not
abnormally sensitive he was wholesomely callous.

He got no further chance of speaking to the amiable wife-beater, but
that did not trouble him. Some cock-and-bull story the fellow had got
hold of--he was crassly ignorant, and stupid as a hog. That evening,
however, he had a visit from the chaplain. The elderly gentleman
who had fallen a victim to Mr. Gardiner, and whom Mr. Gardiner's
son commonly alluded to as "the old foozle," had resigned, and been
succeeded by a new man of very different kidney. The Rev. and Hon.
Noel Dalrymple-Roche was not more than thirty, very big, very massive,
with ashen-fair hair, a regular profile, and a cold blue eye. He had
been a Cambridge rowing Blue and sixth Wrangler; and to these mixed
accomplishments he added a third--he possessed enough driving force to
command an army corps. A misfit in his profession, thought Gardiner,
summing him up with an amused eye the first time he read the service;
and a double misfit as prison chaplain.

It was his first visit to Gardiner. He came in alone--the chaplain has
that privilege. The prisoner was standing under the window, slanting
his book to catch the feeble light.

"Reading?" asked Roche, stretching out his hand for the volume.

"Yes, sir. I'm very fond of a good book." Gardiner, ever imitative, had
adapted his language to his surroundings. He could not, however, thus
adapt his book, a small blue volume of the Colección Española Nelson.
Roche raised his eyebrows.

"Can you read this?"

"Pretty well. One gets to pick up something of a good many languages,
knocking about the world."

"You come from Chatham, don't you? A sailor, I suppose?"

"Ship's cook."

"What a pity it is you sailors can't keep off the drink," said the
chaplain, closing the book and laying it down. "Why don't you sign the
pledge? An intelligent young fellow like you--you ought not to be here."

Gardiner stared; then he laughed. "I think you've got hold of the
wrong pig this time, sir. I'm not a drunk and dis."

"You're in for beating your wife, aren't you? I hope you're not going
to tell me you did that when you were sober."

"'Have you left off beating your wife?'" murmured Gardiner with
irrepressible levity. "Neither drunk nor sober, sir. Couldn't,
not possessing one. That's my next-door neighbor--West, B15. I'm
B14--Gardiner."

Mr. Roche was not at all disconcerted. "Gardiner?" he repeated,
consulting his notebook. "Oh ah; I must have mistaken the number.
Gardiner. Yes, I remember about you." He looked him over with his cool
eye. There was a shade of difference in his manner. B14 did not stand
on a par with B15. Mr. Roche was very decidedly not a democrat. "And
how much longer have you to serve?"

"Four months."

Roche's eyes continued to dwell on him with an expression that the
prisoner could not read; it was speculative and appraising, and seemed
to refer back to private thoughts which had nothing to do with the
present. "You've never been a Territorial?" he asked unexpectedly.

"No," said Gardiner, a little surprised.

"Ah! Well, I'll see you again some other day, Gardiner. At present I
must go and pay my call next door."

"Thank you, sir," said Gardiner dutifully. He bethought himself to add,
as Roche got up: "It's not true, sir, is it, that there's a war scare
on?"

"Who told you anything about it?"

"I heard something--of course, sir, we do talk among ourselves to a
certain extent, can't help it. I know you're not supposed to tell us
news, but I thought in a case like this perhaps you might stretch a
point. Is there a row in Ireland or what?"

"There is no scare, and no row in Ireland," said Roche. His manner had
often a touch of rhetoric. "There is Armageddon. Germany and Austria
are attacking Russia, France, and ourselves."

"My hat!" said Gardiner. He straightened up; his face lighted, his eye
sparkled. "Oh, my hat! What wouldn't I give to be in the army!"

"You won't be the first to say that to-day," said Roche; "but if you
were in the army you might not be alive to congratulate yourself on the
fact to-morrow. The Germans have occupied Luxemburg, they are sweeping
across Belgium; soon, I expect, they will be in Paris, and then it will
be our turn. And God knows--Steady, man! What are you doing?"

Gardiner was clutching his arm. "Belgium?" he gasped. "But they're
neutral!"

"Germany announces that she is not to be bound by scraps of paper."

Gardiner sat down on his stool and took his head in his hands. Roche
had heard a part of his story; not enough to explain his emotion. He
laid his hand on the prisoner's shoulder. "You wish you were free to go
and help?" he said, his deep musical voice vibrating. "Poor fellow, so
do I--so do I."


One queer by-product of the war was the general eagerness to bear one
another's burdens, the Christmas Carol atmosphere of good temper and
good-will. In prison this feeling worked a miracle; it drew together
prisoners and warders. The day's news was whispered without rebuke
under the very noses of the guardians of silence; sometimes they even
whispered it themselves. Roche went boldly to the governor (he did not
lack courage, that young man; he had already half-a-dozen quarrels on
his hands, including one with Leonard Scott about vestments), and by
special permission started his Sunday service each week with a summary
of news. There was not much to tell in that first month. On the 6th
_The Times_ gravely stated that mobilization could not be completed
till the 16th; on the 18th came the announcement that the whole
Expeditionary Force was already across the water. Liège was making its
gallant defense; the Russians were pouring into East Prussia; there
was a battle near Dinant in which the French were victorious. Next,
the evening papers of the 24th baldly announced the fall of Namur.
Heart-shaking news. It shook England; it was then that the recruits
began to pour in, thirty thousand a day, so that the height limit had
to be raised to check the flow. All these things Roche reported to a
congregation which hung upon his lips.

He did not at first report, because he did not believe, the rumors
of atrocities at Visé and elsewhere which were current in those
early days. Few responsible men did take account of such fantastic
nightmares. They were whispered in the prison nevertheless. But there
came a Sunday in September when Roche, making a little pause after
his summary, began again, gravely: "It is stated, and I believe it to
be true, that the German army in Belgium is committing, by order and
in cold blood, the foulest abominations. The old university town of
Louvain and its splendid library have been burned to the ground and
the inhabitants massacred. The same sort of thing is reported from
other towns and villages. The men--peaceable working men--are driven
out in batches and shot. The women are given to the soldiery and then
bayoneted. Children have been shot, stabbed, mutilated, crucified. In
the little town of Dinant--"

There was a slight disturbance. A prisoner in one of the back rows
struggled to his feet and called out something; a couple of warders
popped instantly out of their sentry-boxes and hustled him away. The
chapel door closed upon them; Mr. Roche continued his address. The
only person who recognized the brawler, and saw the significance of
the incident, was Dr. Scott; and even he, though he had heard of the
Bellevue, had never heard of Lettice Smith.


"Is the doctor within, mistress?"

"What d'ye want him for?"

"I would like a word with him."

"Well, you'll have to go without it, then. Think I'm goin' to rout him
out from his breakfast for the likes of you? No fear!"

"I'm thinkin', mistress, he'll maybe no' be pleased if ye refuse. The
thing is pressing--"

"And so's his breakfast pressing, ain't it? I've no patience with the
lot of you--comin' trapesin' round here at all hours, never letting him
get a bite in peace--"

"What's the matter, Katie?" asked Dr. Scott himself, coming out into
the passage with his napkin in his hand. "Who wants me? Oh, it's you,
Mackenzie, is it? What's brought you round here at this time of day?"

Chief Warder Mackenzie, a large and fatherly Scot, smiled his
acknowledgments; he was one of those who liked the little doctor.
"Well, sir, I'd no' have disturrbed ye at yrr breakfast, but I thought
ye should know. There is one of the men took sick. Warder Barnes tellt
me when I came on duty this mornin', and I'm no' sure what to think o'
the matter maself. He'll make no reply to any words o' mine; I doubt he
didna hear what I said. I thought maybe if ye'd take a look at him--"

"Take a look at him? Of course I'll take a look at him! Who is it?"

"B14, sir."

"B14!"

Casting down his napkin on the nearest chair, Scott came as he was,
bare-headed, across the prison grounds in the early sunshine. Gardiner
was still in the old wing of the prison; as his visitors came into the
gloomy corridor, after the brightness outside, they had to look to
their feet to avoid tumbling over the orderly's broom. When the cell
was opened, Scott at first could see nothing. He made a step forward at
random. "Take care, sir, Barnes tellt me he was violent the morn!" said
Mackenzie, brushing hastily past; and then, in gruff but not unkindly
tones: "Now then, B14, wake up! Here's the doctor for ye!"

There was no answer; but Scott could see now. B14 lay on the ground,
pressed, flattened, wedged into the angle between the floor and
the wall, his head burrowing blindly into the corner; and there he
continued to lie, a mere line against the wall of his cell. He was in
shirt and breeches, but his bed, which should have been folded up and
put away hours ago, was still standing with the blankets tossed about
it. Mackenzie stooped to shake him up, but he was put aside. "Leave
this to me, officer," said the doctor with authority, and knelt down
himself beside the prisoner.

"Gardiner, my poor fellow!" he said with exquisite gentleness. "Come,
come! What are you doing here on the ground?" He laid a hand on his
shoulder. "Gardiner! don't you hear me?"

With a shudder which seemed literally to tear him away from the wall,
Gardiner rolled over and clutched that friendly hand in both his own.

"Scott, Scott! for God's sake get me out of this!"

His forehead sank down till it rested, burning, on Scott's wrist. Moved
beyond all knowledge of himself, the doctor laid his free hand on the
cropped head. It was streaming with sweat; a continuous tremor shook
the whole frame.

"Gardiner, my poor, poor fellow! what is it? what's wrong?"

"I can't stand it, I can't stand it." The words came in a rushing
murmur, barely intelligible in their ebb and flow. "Get me out, Scott!
oh, get me out! Say it's killing me. Say it's driving me mad--it is.
Say anything, only get me out. You will, won't you? Oh, God bless you!
I knew you would." He raised for a moment his haggard and exhausted
face, and crawled a little closer. "Not to be let off altogether. I
don't ask that. Just long enough to get across and back again--I'd give
my parole, and serve double time afterwards, to make up. A month would
do it. It's as easy as winking. I pass anywhere as a Spaniard, and with
a forged passport--Ribeira would lend me his, I know--why, I could do
it in a fortnight, less! Oh, get me out, Scott; you _can't_ keep me
here, you can't, you can't! For the love of Christ, get me out somehow!"

He lay panting in heavy gasps, like a dying animal. Scott's heart sank
down, down; how could he tell this frantic creature that what he asked
was impossible? Get him out!--he had already strained his influence
to the uttermost for B14; he could hear Captain Harding's sarcastic
little laugh: "Your pet patient again, doctor?" Laws are not to be bent
because prisoners suffer. He could not quite make out what it was all
about, or why Gardiner should be so desperately anxious to get over to
Belgium; something to do with his property, he supposed; yet this did
not seem like a question of property. Meanwhile the prisoner was off
again on a fresh stream of supplications, this time in a murmur so low,
so wild and incoherent, that Scott had to bend right down to his lips.
What in heaven's name was he raving about now?

"If it had been anything but _this_, anything else on earth but _this_;
you can't keep a man here looking on at this; eyes weren't given you
for this. Because it's not nightmare, you know, it's fact; they do do
it; there were those stories Denis used to tell of 1870 ... and you
heard Roche yourself ... all night long, all night long ... _given
to the soldiery and bayoneted_ ... perhaps its happening now, this
instant, and I here, oh, my God, my God, my God, my God!--and if you'd
only let me free, I _know_ I could have saved her!"

He broke down suddenly into the most frightful sobbing. "Gardiner! Stop
it!" the doctor's voice rang out. The prisoner quivered and cowered
under the word of command; his voice went up in a sort of hysterical
crow, and stopped, dead. He lay like a log. Scott tried to speak again,
and found his throat dry. So that was it! There were things in this war
which had tried even his faith. Neither wounds, nor death--secure of
eternity, he could afford to disregard the sufferings of this span-long
life--but the fate of the women. It did not seem right, he could not
reconcile it with his idea of the divine justice, that evil men should
be allowed to stain the soul. What was he to say now to Gardiner?
Platitudes? He had nothing else to offer. He was helpless--and at that
word faith sprang up to claim the aid of omnipotence. He had known the
love of God all those years; could he not trust Him to do what He
would with His own?

He turned to the prisoner.

"I can't let you out, Gardiner," he said sadly, giving him the truth
because he had no choice. "I'll do what I can, but I know it won't be
any good. Here you are and here you'll have to stay for the next four
months, and if what you are afraid of happens it will have to happen,
and you will have to bear it. God is the judge. Only it's up to you to
choose how you'll bear it: whether you'll give in, as you're doing now,
or whether you'll stand up like a man and fight it out. If you can't
save your friends, you may be able to avenge them--"

As he spoke his eye fell on Gardiner's hand, and the words died on his
lips. Those contracted fingers would never hold a rifle. Scott felt
sick. He got up from his knees.

"Will I light the gas, sir?" asked Mackenzie's business-like tones.

Scott assented mechanically, feeling for his clinical; but when the
light sprang out he had to take himself in hand and fairly force
himself to work, against the most intense reluctance he had ever felt
in his life. Gardiner stirred not; he had to prize open his teeth
before he could insert the thermometer. A gleam of white showed under
the eyelids. When Scott felt his pulse, the hand fell back inert.

"Puir fellow, he looks bad," said Mackenzie dispassionately.

"Yes, it's a case for the hospital. You did quite right to fetch me,
Mackenzie. I'll send a couple of orderlies with a stretcher. When's
your best time? I should like you to be here to superintend."

"I'll no' be on duty the morn, but I'll be back again after dinner,
sir."

"Very well, I'll have them here at one o'clock. Leave the bed as it is,
and tell Barnes to keep an eye on him in the meanwhile."

"Verra good, sir."

Scott was going out, without another glance at the prisoner, when
Mackenzie touched his arm. "He's lookin' at you, sir," he whispered.
Scott turned. The line of white under the eyelids had widened slightly;
the gleam of the pupil was visible. While he watched, the lips
unclosed, and the dead (indeed it had that effect) spoke:

"I--won't--go to hospital."

"You'll be better off there, Gardiner," said Scott very gently. "I'll
give you something to send you to sleep."

The eyes opened a little further. After a moment the prone figure
heaved itself up and struggled into a sitting position against the wall.

"I won't go to hospital, and I won't take your bloody stuff, you ----
---- ----."

Impossible to convey the low ferocity, the bestial drawling insolence
of voice and manner. Scott flushed like a schoolgirl and involuntarily
recoiled a step. "Hold your mouth, ye foul-tongued, ungratefu' devil;
the doctor's the best friend ye have, and better than ye deserve!"
cried Mackenzie angrily.

"Hold your own mouth, Sandy Mackenzie, or I'll knock every bloody
one of those gold-stopped teeth you're so proud of down your bloody
throat--by God, I will!"

Mackenzie turned purple; but before he could get into action Scott
intervened.

"Let be, officer," he commanded with authority. "This has gone beyond
you and me. The man's not responsible; he doesn't know what he is
saying."

"I won't go to your bloody hospital--I won't--I won't," cried Gardiner,
his voice rising to a shriek. Scott turned in the doorway: Mackenzie,
staunch U.P., was less shocked than he would have believed possible to
watch him make the sign of the cross and to catch the muttered Latin of
his commendation. If ever he had seen a man possessed with a devil and
in need of exorcism, he saw him then.


When they had gone out, Gardiner lay for some moments passive; then
with infinite toil, steadying himself with his shaking hand against
the wall, he got to his feet. What was he going to do next? He knew
that perfectly. He was not going to hospital; not he! He was going to
escape. For in the terminology of the jail suicide is only a form of
prison-breaking, and the letter "E" is inscribed impartially over the
door of the convict who makes a dash for liberty through the fogs of
Dartmoor, and of the wretched youth who tries to hang himself by his
neckerchief from the ventilator of his cell.

Why should he go on living? Lettice was dead, or would be by the time
they let him free to save her; and he absolutely declined to lie here
and watch her die. One night of that was enough. Not that at this
moment Gardiner cared a straw for Lettice or any one else; he was lower
than the lowest criminal in the jail; he was in the mood to join the
Germans in their hellish work. Broken with that night of agony, he
had clutched like a drowning man at Scott's hand, he had crawled in
abject abasement to his feet, imploring mercy, and had been refused.
"Hissing hot with burning tears," he had been plunged into the waters
of despair. The shock was too great. A flaw started out, running right
across his nature, separating him from his former self. Gardiner had
gone over to the devil.

Well, if he meant to do it he must do it at once, before he was
transferred to hospital, where his bed would be one among a dozen
in a ward. The best time would be between dinner at twelve and the
resumption of work at one, the interval when the warders went off by
relays to their own meal. He had heard through his torpor enough to
know that he was safe until then. This settled, he lay down on his bed
and took up his book, presenting a disarming picture of tranquillity
when the orderlies came round with the tins of food. The flap of his
spy-hole was raised just as he finished his meal, and he was glad to
see it; now, in all probability, he would have a good twenty minutes to
himself before he was disturbed again.

Suicide is common in prisons, and prisoners have their own ways of
compassing it. You may hang yourself--a disagreeably slow death where
no drop is available. You may, if you are strong and active, throw
yourself over the wire-netting that guards the staircase, and be
dashed to pieces on the flags below. You may even, if you are very
resolute, hack your throat open with the blunt piece of corrugated
tin which serves as a dinner knife. Gardiner had his own plan. Some
time since his gas globe had got broken, and he had managed to secrete
a splinter of glass. Difficult to hide it, since every prisoner is
searched twice a day; but, again, they have their own ways of hiding
things. It is on record that a sovereign has been found on a man who
had been in jail for a year. Gardiner hid his bit of glass under his
tongue. It was small enough for that, but it was large enough to sever
the artery in his thigh.

He turned his back to the door and drew the bed-clothes round him to
hide the flow of blood. Then he leant out to find the splinter in the
crack where it lay hid. At that moment he heard the tread of a warder
outside. They wear list slippers, and to a free man would be inaudible;
but prisoners have cat's ears. Gardiner drew in his hand to let the man
go by. Lucky he did so. With the usual tremendous rattle and crash his
door was unlocked and flung wide.

"Ye're to dress yoursel', B14, and come along with me."



CHAPTER XXVII

SHE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH

     The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
       Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still.
       They have forged our chains of being for good or ill;
     And their invisible hands these hands yet hold.

     _The Dead._


"Yes, Mackenzie? What now?"

"I've brought ye B14, sir."

"Why don't you show him in, then?"

"Well, sir, I'm thinking he's no' altogether to be trustit. I thought
maybe if ye'd permit me to be in the room--"

"Trusted? Nonsense, man! I'm not made of glass. Bring him in at once."
And as Mackenzie turned reluctantly to obey, the Governor added: "You
can stand in a corner and see fair play, if you like. But I don't think
a little whippersnapper like our friend would make much of it if he
tried to tackle me, eh, Mackenzie?"

"Well, sir, maybe no," said Mackenzie, with his slow smile.

Captain Harding, a lean Anglo-Indian, all bone and sinew, got up and
posted himself with his hands under his coattails, back to the fire.
He felt the cold, and there was a blaze in his grate on many a chilly
summer evening. His room was comfortably furnished with a Turkey carpet
and deep leather arm-chairs. To many a prisoner it had seemed a glimpse
of paradise. B14, however, took no notice; his apathetic face did not
change, only he edged surreptitiously towards the hearth. "You can come
near the fire if you like," said Harding, eyeing him sharply; and as
Gardiner stumbled forward he put a hand on his shoulder. "What's the
matter with you? Are you sick?"

Gardiner raised his eyes; in their darkness shone a metallic feral
glare. "I'm perfectly well," he said, on the sullen verge of insolence.

"He's for the hospital, sir," said Mackenzie from the background, with
an apologetic cough.

"Sit down," said the Governor shortly. He sat down himself, at his
table, and turned over some papers. "Your name is Henry de la Cruz
Gardiner?"

"De la Cruz," Gardiner interrupted, correcting him as he had corrected
Lettice--how long ago?--only in those days he had not spoken in that
tone. Again he edged nearer to the fire. He was cold to the marrow of
his bones, colder than he had ever been in his life.

"Ah! Well, Gardiner, I'm sorry to say I have some bad news for you.
I've received a letter from your father. It is against the rules for
me to give it to you; but I can either read it or give you a summary.
Shall I read it?" Gardiner made no sign; he was staring sullenly into
the flames. Captain Harding, after another sharp glance at him over the
top of the sheet, cleared his throat and began.

"'My own darling boy--'"

The prisoner stirred; that address touched some chord in his mind.

"'My own darling boy, I have two pieces of very bad news for you. I
have been making inquiries at Headquarters in Town from all refugees,
but for a long time could hear nothing of your part of the country.
Last Friday, however, they wrote me that a man had come in from
Bouillon. I went up at once, and heard the whole story from his lips.
Alas! my dear boy, I am grieved to tell you that your friends have
suffered most cruelly from Those Brutes. The village of Rochehaut was
burned on 28th August, and a large number of the men were massacred.
Your friend the Curé was cut down with the Sacred Vessels in his hands.
I could learn nothing of the fate of the Women of the village, but it
seems that in the outlying farms and cottages every kind of abomination
was committed by Those Devils. I asked particularly about your hotel,
and oh my dear dear boy, he tells me that it has been burned to the
ground. Those Devils Incarnate (God punish them) first stole everything
they had a mind to, and then set fire to the building. He saw it
burning with his own eyes, as he escaped through the woods. He says
that all the servants had left on the outbreak of war, and that no one
was left in it but a caretaker. I do not know whether this was your
little friend Miss Merion-Smith, but I should be afraid so, as she has
not returned to England. What makes it particularly sad is that we hear
(and this is my second piece of bad news) that poor Denis Merion-Smith
is among the missing. He was sent on a bombing raid to Aix-la-Chapelle,
and failed to return. One of his companions fancies that he was hit by
Anti-Aircraft fire; when last seen he was "flying rather wild," but
his machine seemed to be still under control. Oh my dear dear boy, my
heart bleeds for you. I wish I could see you. These senseless rules and
regulations make my blood boil, in times like these. I have written to
the Home Secretary, but he is no good at all; he seems incapable of
understanding the simplest thing. I wonder what we pay him for. It is
too, too dreadful to think of the fate of that poor girl, and of poor
Denis. This awful war is breaking all our hearts. May God never forgive
the wicked Author of it. Tom writes that he is "going strong"--whatever
that may mean; I wish he would not use this American slang. Of course
he does not tell me where he is, but I believe it is somewhere on the
River Aisne. God keep and comfort you, my own dear boy. From your
loving Father.'

"That is all," said Captain Harding, folding the sheet.

Gardiner's lips moved; he muttered something inaudible. "What's that?"
asked the Governor sharply. The murmur was repeated; it sounded like,
"I killed"--him or her, uncertain which. Captain Harding could make
nothing of it. He looked dubiously at the hunched-up figure, crouching
into itself, staring vacantly at the carpet. Scott's pet patient--yes;
but it was a hard case, no doubt of it. "You must keep up a good
heart," he said kindly. "Many of the missing turn up again safe and
sound, you know; and I've heard that flying officers are particularly
well treated by the Germans when they fall into their hands. No use
going to meet trouble half-way and believing the worst before you know
it's happened."

"I killed her," muttered the prisoner again.

"You what?"

"I killed her. I sent her out there to her death. I killed her--"

Harding laid hands on the chair and wheeled it round to the light.
"What's that? What are you talking about?"

"Nothing," said Gardiner. His eyes blinked stupidly in the sunshine.
"May I--may I have my letter?" he asked, half stretching out his hand.

"I'm afraid that's against the rules, but I can read it to you again,
if you like."

The hand dropped.

"Is there any question you want to ask?"

"No," said Gardiner; adding, as an afterthought: "No, thank you, sir."
It was the first time he had used the title of respect. Certainly a
hard case, and the Governor was very sorry for him, and not quite
satisfied; but there was nothing to be done. He looked at Mackenzie,
and Mackenzie touched B14's arm. Stumbling to his feet, he got out of
the room and down the passages somehow to his cell, where he dropped
face downwards on the bed.

"I'll be round in twa-three minutes to take you to hospital," said
Mackenzie, preparing to withdraw.

"Mackenzie."

"Well? What ails ye now?"

The prisoner had struggled up on his elbow. "Tell Dr. Scott I want to
see him."

"Ye'll be seein' him in half-an-hour."

"I want to see him in half-a-minute."

"He's awa' at his lunch," said the warder. "I've disturrbed him at his
breakfast for ye already the morn; can't you let him get a bite in
peace? I wouldna be hard on ye, but ye must be reasonable."

"Mackenzie!"

Again the prisoner called him back. He had swung his feet to the
ground; he looked wild and dangerous enough for anything. "You bring
Scott along. You'll be sorry for it if you don't."

"I tell you he's awa at his--"

"Man, man! What's that to do with it? You fetch him here double-quick
time, or I tell you you'll be sorry for it--you'll be sorry all the
days of your life! _Will you go?_"

Mackenzie caught that green glitter, and he did not like it; he did
not like it at all. It sent him off, shaking his head, hotfoot to the
doctor's quarters, to face again the redoubtable Katie. Meanwhile the
prisoner sprang up and paced his cell, up and down, with the strength
of fever. When the doctor came in, he was standing in the middle of
the floor, his stool held by the leg in one hand, in the other a small
object which he thrust violently forward.

"Here, Scott, catch hold of this! You've been long enough
coming--you're only just in time!"

Scott looked down at the splinter of glass. "So that was how you meant
to do it, hey?"

"Yes, that was how I meant to do it. And don't you let me get hold
of it again, and don't you send me to that damned hospital of yours,
unless you want murder done. I've had about as much as I can stick. I
won't be herded with a mob of filthy jail-birds. Keep off--if you lay a
finger on me I'll bash your brains out against that wall!"

Scott with absolute fearlessness stepped forward and caught his wrist.

"Drop that stool--drop it! That's better. Now, listen to me. I'm not
going to leave you here--wait! I've not done--and I'm not going to send
you to hospital either. You'll go to the padded cell."

"The padded cell?" echoed Gardiner, "the padded cell? I never thought
of that. You have some sense in your head, Scott. See here"--his face
had changed, relaxed into something like humanity; he seized the
doctor's hand and spoke rapidly, earnestly--"I'm sane for the moment;
for heaven's sake listen to what I say! Five minutes ago I was crazy
to kill myself. Five minutes hence I shall want to again, and if by
any hook or crook I can, I shall. So you put me in that padded cell,
and you keep me there! Don't you let me out--don't you let me out on
any pretext whatever! I shall beg and pray you, I shall howl like all
the devils in hell, I shall invent excuses I haven't the ingenuity
to imagine now, but whatever I say or do, don't you listen! It's
these next twelve hours I'm afraid of. If you'll keep me in there,
hermetically sealed, till to-morrow morning, I shall be all right. Will
you do it?" Scott did not answer; he had drawn him towards the window,
and was looking and looking into his eyes as if he would have probed
his inmost soul. "It's a risk? Yes, but it's that either way. Let me go
down fighting, Scott!" Still no reply. "You a Christian and afraid!"
Gardiner scoffed.

"No, I'm not afraid," said the little man curtly. He released him.
"I'll do it."

"You will? You swear you won't let me go?"

"My word's my bond."

He went out. The prisoner fell back on his pallet and threw his arm
across his eyes. "Now I've done it!" he murmured with a long breath.
"Now I've burned my boats! Are you satisfied, Lettice? My life for
yours: is it a fair exchange? You always wanted this--well, fair or
not, it's the best I can do...."

The padded cell, for weak-minded criminals, resembles on a large scale
one of those lined work-boxes which young ladies used in the seventies,
except that stout yellow canvas takes the place of quilted satin.
Padding a yard thick covers walls and floor. There is a small window
under the ceiling; a squint, as usual, in the door; and another, high
up, commanding every corner of the cell. No furniture, not so much as a
bed.

Prisoners have been known to get their nails under the canvas and rip
it from the walls, at a cost to the British taxpayer of some sixty
pounds. B14 did not do that; but within half-an-hour he was raving,
as he had foretold. Warders passing outside could hear the thump of
his body flinging itself against the padded door, and his shrieks
filled the ward. There was nothing out of the way: prisoners were often
brought in raving in delirium tremens, whose yells were quite as loud,
and their language a shade worse. The man on duty contented himself
with periodic peeps to make sure that B14 was not damaging the canvas.

Scott was unable to listen with the same equanimity. Yet he could not
keep away; again and again, on one pretext or another, back he came to
Ward B. Once he peeped through the spy-hole, just before he went off
for the night. The prisoner was crouching under the door; his cries
had for the moment sunk into whimpers: "Scott, let me out--let me out,
Scott!" Scott fled from the place as though the devil were at his heels.

Returning at daybreak, he entered the prison just as breakfast was
going round. Chief Warder Mackenzie greeted him with a cheerful
good-day.

"Ye're early abroad, sir."

"Yes," said Scott; "I was restless. What sort of a night have you had
with B14, eh?"

"Well, sir, they do tell me he was terrible noisy at first, but he's
quieted down a bittie now. Maybe ye'll like to take a look at him?"

"I should," said Scott, falling in beside the big man. Mackenzie walked
along, discoursing amiably about the war and his nephew in the Black
Watch, without seeming to notice his companion's silence. All was quiet
in Ward B; nobody shrieked or moaned any more.

"He won't have much appetite for his breakfast, I'm thinkin'," remarked
the warder, leisurely unlocking the door. "Ye'll go in, sir?"

Scott stepped lightly across the spongy canvas. B14 was lying in a heap
under the window, his arm across his face; he did not stir. Scott's
heart gave one great throb and seemed to stop; he drew away the arm.

Gardiner's dark eyes were looking up at him with a faint gleam; his
voice came, the mere ghost of a whisper.

"Sucks for--Satan--this time--doctor!"



CHAPTER XXVIII

DEUTSCHLAND ÜBER ALLES

     Oh! la foule joyeuse,
     Le soir,
     Autour des tables, sur les trottoirs,
     Et la bière mousseuse
     Débordant des verres,
     Et les longues pipes de terre
     Dont on suit des yeux la fumée,
     Le coeur réjoui, l'âme apaisée!

     Combien de temps, combien de temps,
     O ma Patrie,
     Tendras-tu patiemment
     Dans la nuit
     Tes mains meurtries?

     EMILE CAMMAERTS.


Lettice and Dorothea arrived at the Bellevue in May. By the end of
July their guests were scattering like autumn leaves, and on the day
of the ultimatum Lettice took matters into her own hands, sent off the
servants and shut the hotel. She did not in the least want to follow
them--Lettice was not fond of running away; but for Dorothea's sake
she was making up her mind to that sacrifice, when she discovered that
Dorothea herself had other views. She go and hide? Rather not! She was
going to stay and see the fun. (At that time it was still possible for
the Dorotheas of this world to talk of seeing the fun.)

"I can nurse, you know," she said, sitting on the dresser in the big
deserted kitchen, her hands in her tweed pockets, her brown legs
swinging, her eyes sparkling with agreeable excitement. "I've got every
old certificate and medal the Red Cross people give. It was the one
thing I was let do as a kid--go to nursing lectures; uncle was always
fancying himself ill, you see, and I had to look after him. Oh yes, I
can nurse like billy-o! Go back to England and knit socks? Not for this
child!"

But, but--but it's not safe," objected Lettice, pensively rubbing her
nose.

"Safe? Nonsense! What do you suppose is going to happen to us? The
Germans will never get within miles of this, and even suppose they did
we're non-combatants--we should be all right. This isn't the Dark Ages.
Besides, if we run away, who's to look after the hotel?"

Lettice said nothing.

"Suppose they quartered soldiers here? It's just the place they might.
The poilu's a darling, and I love him madly, but what do you think
Mr. Gardiner's furniture would be like after a week of him? There
simply must be somebody to clear the rooms and see to things. You sent
over specially to be in charge, and then want to go and run away! I'm
surprised at you, Lettice. But whoever else shows pu-pusilianinimity"
(there were some words Dorothea really could not get!), "_I_ shall
always be found ready to die at my post."

"But--" said Lettice. Dorothea jumped down in a whirlwind and shook her
by the shoulders.

"Oh, pooh! I won't go home--I won't--I won't--so now! Do you understand
that? And you know perfectly well you don't want to either. As if I
couldn't see! You're saying this simply for my sake; and now you know
I'm not going in any case you may as well give in without any more
fuss. I'm tired of arguing with four buts and a grunt!"

"Well--" said Lettice, varying her formula with an eighth of an inch of
smile, and allowing herself to pretend to be over-persuaded.

So they stayed.

In common with many other people, Dorothea was not happy in her
predictions. On Friday, 21st August, a French army passed through
Bouillon. On Saturday a battle was fought near Maissin, in which twelve
thousand Germans were put out of action. On Sunday began the retreat
of the French towards Sedan. And on Monday, 24th August, the French
commander warned M. Hunin, burgomaster and proprietor of the Hôtel de
la Poste, that it would be prudent to evacuate the town. All the bells
in Bouillon rang the tocsin, and many people fled, abandoning their
houses as they stood. A few hours later the Germans entered the city.

The abandoned houses were at once broken open and systematically
plundered. Wine, beer, bedding were commandeered; pictures and
valuables of all sorts were packed up and sent to Germany. More careful
than their comrades at Louvain, the victors here secured and stole
the famous library of the Trappist monks of Cordemois. Next morning
a notice defining the duties of the inhabitants was posted up in the
market-place, on the walls of the hotel where the last French Emperor
had slept on the night before Sedan.


     PROCLAMATION!

     1. The town of Bouillon will pay a WAR LEVY of 500,000
     francs.

     2. Belgian or French soldiers must be handed over as PRISONERS
     OF WAR before 4 P.M. Citizens failing to obey this
     order will be sentenced to PENAL SERVITUDE FOR LIFE in
     Germany. Every soldier found after that hour will be SHOT.

     3. Arms, powder, dynamite must be handed over before 4
     P.M. Penalty, to be SHOT.

     4. INTERDICTION to be out in the streets DURING
     THE HOURS OF DARKNESS. All houses must be completely
     OPEN and LIGHTED. Groups of more than
     FIVE persons are STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

     5. Citizens must salute every German officer with respect. Failing
     this, the officer is entitled to extort it BY ANY MEANS IN HIS
     POWER.

     6. If any HOSTILE ACTION is attempted the town will be
     BURNT DOWN and a THIRD OF THE MALE POPULATION WILL
     BE SHOT; without distinction of persons, the innocent will
     suffer with the guilty. The people of Bouillon must understand
     that there is no crime greater or more terrible than to endanger
     the existence of the town and its inhabitants by hostile action
     against the German army.

     The under-mentioned have been taken as HOSTAGES for the
     good behavior of the town.

     THE COMMANDER OF DIVISION.


Followed a list of forty names, including both the priests. Fined,
pillaged, terrorized, Bouillon yet thought itself lucky when the news
came in from the country.

From Rochehaut no one had escaped; the warning did not come in time.
Uhlans rode into the village on Monday afternoon and calmly took
possession. Rochehaut was cringingly terrified, slavishly obedient.
Not a dog could lift his tongue against the invaders without being
zealously throttled; and when Madame Mercier's fat sow got in the way
of the colonel, madame bundled out after her right under the horse's
hoofs, to save, not her pig, but the dignity of a German officer. Alas!
in spite of all, the colonel took a _billet de parterre_ on the nearest
dung-hill. He got up swearing, and for one awful moment Rochehaut
trembled; but he went into the Petit Caporal to change, and Rochehaut
breathed again, and went to pick up madame. That peril was averted.

For two days nothing happened, and the villagers crept out of their
shuttered houses, and began timidly to go about their work of getting
in the harvest. On the third morning, Thursday, 28th August, a poacher
in the woods near the river let off his gun at a rabbit. He did not
hit, and he was a Botassart man; but Rochehaut was the nearest village,
and Rochehaut was held responsible. Moreover, that morning a patrol
of Uhlans had gone out, to come back with ten empty saddles. French
cavalry had laid an ambush for them in the woods near Vresse. Somebody
must have given information to those French cavalry. It was necessary
to make an example.

As a preliminary, a cordon was drawn round the village, and the people
were collected in the square. Of the men, some thirty of the youngest
were marked off for deportation to Germany, where they might be made
use of for gathering in the harvest of the Fatherland; the remaining
twenty found an end to their troubles in a trench under the churchyard
wall. The women and children, who had been confined in the church
during the fusillade, were let out to dig the general grave, and then
suffered to go--not to their homes, however, for these were condemned.
"They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of
the rocks, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." Poor old Madame
Mercier, whose leg had got broken in her struggles with the colonel's
horse, had been overlooked in the general confusion and left behind in
her cottage. She could not get downstairs, but she dragged herself to
the window and shrieked for help to the soldiers who were setting fire
to her kitchen. The colonel, riding down the street, was annoyed by
her cries; he looked up, and recognized the frightened old face. "One
of you stop that old woman's noise!" he shouted. After all, why not?
It was her own fault; why had she not obeyed orders, and gone to the
church with the rest? "Es ist unsere Pflicht," said the Uhlans.

It was Lettice's turn that afternoon to fetch the daily loaf from the
Boulangerie Lapouse, opposite the church. Her path led over the hill
past the crucifix, across the fields and through a corner of Gardiner's
enchanted wood, which here ran down quite close to the village. She
toiled along, as usual with her head in the clouds, but her dreams were
broken and her steps stayed by a sudden burst of firing. She paused in
the fringes of the wood.

All down the street men in gray were systematically spraying the houses
with petrol; others were taking their choice of the furniture. The
shops and cafés of the square were already in flames. The colonel sat
his horse looking on. Suddenly a boy of fifteen bolted like a rabbit
out of one of the blazing doorways and down the blazing street. He too
had disobeyed orders. A laugh, a leveled rifle, and the poor little
rabbit bounced into the air with a squeak like a mechanical doll, legs
and arms jerking, and then went flat on the ground, its defeatured face
in the midden. The flaxen poll became a crimson blob. Lettice saw
that. Her first impulse was to rush forward and attack the murderers
with her bare hands; the next sent her running blindly back through the
woods by the way she had come. She was not frightened--it was far too
vast a thing for personal fear; but she was sick with loathing, as at
the sight of some monstrosity which ought never to have been allowed to
see the sun.

The world never looked quite the same to Lettice after that day. Blind
and deaf, her mind blasted bare of thought, she crossed the fields and
scrambled down the orchard, and came round the corner of the house into
the courtyard. There she was brought up with a cold hand at her heart.
Several wagons were drawn up at the door; men in gray, that accursed
field-gray which has been hated as no uniform before, were loading them
under the direction of an officer. And Dorothea? Faint with foreboding,
seeing crimson blobs in patches on the flags, Lettice groped towards
the side door--and was met by Dorothea herself coming out, her face all
pink and white with tears.

"Oh, Lettice, Lettice!" she said, "they're going to burn the
house--they give us a quarter of an hour to turn out!"

Lettice put a hand on her arm, partly for support, partly to make sure
of her reality; and by common consent they turned, as they stood in
the doorway, to watch the lading of the carts. All went by clockwork.
To one, the soldiers were bringing out the contents of Lettice's linen
chest, her blankets, sheets, etc.; to another the furniture and plate.
They packed like professional movers. There were tarpaulins ready to
cover the carts when full.

"There's my chest of drawers," said Dorothea under her breath. "Oh,
Lettice, oh, Lettice! what _is_ that man doing with my best crêpe de
Chine nighties? Oh, look, he's packing them all up--he _can't_ be
going to wear them himself, he must be taking them for his best girl
in Germany, and they're every single one embroidered with my name in
full--oh, good gracious, how can he?" She broke into a hysterical
giggle. "Oh, really, I do think Germans have funny sort of minds! Oh,
look, look, there's your bureau out of the den--"

Lettice's bureau--it was Gardiner's bureau, the one he always used, the
very one he had bought from Madame Hasquin in Lettice's presence; he
loved it too much to let it out of his own room. The officer, staying
his men with a word, began to look through the drawers, presumably
for valuables. The file of Lettice's household bills he tossed aside;
letters and other papers he skimmed, before rejecting them.

Lettice's hand fell from Dorothea's arm. She walked straight across the
courtyard to his side. "What are you doing with that bureau?" she asked.

"Requisitioned for the army," was the curt reply.

"You mean, you want it yourself," said Lettice. "It's stealing; and you
and your men are just thieves and murderers."

He turned, then, and looked at her, while Dorothea plucked at her
sleeve, whispering frantic entreaties. But only a firing party could
have silenced Lettice at that moment.

"No, madam, it is not stealing, it is war," said the German in an
altered voice. "You are conquered; you have no longer any property
or any rights but what we choose to allow you. You would do well to
remember that. And let me advise you in future to be more careful of
what you say. Not all my compatriots have an English education to look
back upon."

Then Dorothea pulled her away, still reluctant; and it was Dorothea,
in the nightmare minutes that followed, who sorted and packed in wild
haste all she thought they could carry. There was not much left to
take. She stuffed some clothes into a couple of pillow-cases, and
dragged the silent Lettice out at the back, past some soldiers who with
the same deadly method were smashing the windows in turn and spraying
the interior. These men wore broad belts to which were attached a
hatchet, a syringe, a small shovel, and a revolver. On the belts were
the words, "Company of Incendiaries," also, "God with us." As Dorothea
had said, Germans have funny sort of minds.

Crouching at the top of the orchard behind the house, the two girls
watched the last of the Bellevue. First the petrol caught, an
amethystine aura flickering insubstantial. Then the woodwork kindled,
and yellow flames began to twine among that ghostly harebell blue.
Orange pennons slid softly through the empty window frames; tiny golden
curls started out along the eaves, small and even as a row of gas jets.
The flames lengthened, they united, they rippled and flapped up the sky
like a banner. They grew many-tinted, according to their fuel--gold,
silver, ruby, emerald, amethyst, topaz, metallic blue. Lastly the roof
fell in, and a great foursquare of fire puffed up to heaven, with
streams of starry sparks, and clouds of glare, and floating flakes of
gold. Dorothea was crying; but Lettice, her lips set grimly, watched to
the end the destruction of Gardiner's hotel, the home he loved, which
he had confided to her care.

Night came, but not darkness. Rochehaut was burning, Poupehan in the
valley flared with half-a-dozen haystacks and a house or two, Corbion
church was a beacon of tall flames on the hill, Alle's martyrdom showed
as a pulsing glow of dusky rose in the overhanging cloud. On the far
side of the valley, marching home with their booty down the road from
Corbion to Bouillon, the soldiers of the Fatherland were singing,
_Deutschland über Alles_.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE GOOD HOURS

     " ... All villages, châteaux, and houses are burnt down during
     this night. It was a beautiful sight to see the fires all round us
     in the distance. In every village one finds only heaps of ruins
     and many dead. Now come the good hours...."--Diary of German
     private, 4th Comp. Jäger Btln., No. 11., Aug. 23-27, 1914.

     What's death?--You'll love me yet!

     _Pippa Passes._


When the dawn came, crystal-bright and pure, the two girls left the
ruins of the Bellevue and wandered off among the hills. They had no
food. They did not know where they were going. They did not know where
they wanted to go. Soon rain came on, and fell in floods all day. They
lost themselves in dim green valleys; they pushed through dripping
copses of hazel; they sank ankle-deep in spongy mosses, and waded
through unnamed torrents. Once they crouched among the bracken while a
gray patrol rode by, shouting and singing, uproariously drunk. A little
later they came on a lonely cottage with a dead girl lying across the
threshold. She had been bayoneted, and worse. A baby of two years was
strung up by the neck to the door handle; another, of only a few weeks,
wailed feebly in a pool of blood and water beside the mother. Dorothea
darted upon it with a cry; cradling it in her soft arms, against her
breast, she stepped over the girl's body into the hut, forgetful of
the horror of death in the claims of this minute piece of life. The
man of the house was inside. He had been surprised at his dinner, and
had defended himself with the carving-knife. He had taken a good deal
of killing, as the floor and walls bore witness; nevertheless, the
murderers had kicked his body into a corner, sat down at his table, and
finished his meal.

Dorothea was searching the shelves for milk or any other food, when
she heard a shout outside, followed by a cry--the oddest little cry
she had ever heard. She caught up the knife with which the man had
defended himself, and ran out. It was Lettice who had made that odd
little sound; she was struggling with an Uhlan, very drunk in the legs
but very strong in the arms, who was trying to force her down. Dorothea
stuck the knife into his neck from behind, dragged it out and stuck
it in again. The man dropped Lettice and wheeled round, firing his
revolver; but his hand wavered away, and the shot went into the ground.
He sank down with a grunt and lay there between them, the bright blood
pumping out scarlet. Dorothea looked at Lettice; her eyes flamed; she
held the baby still clasped to her breast.

"I've killed him," she said. "I'm _glad_."

Lettice did not speak; her hands were at her throat, mechanically
settling her tie; she turned and reëntered the forest without a word.
"Wait half-a-minute!" Dorothea called after her; and Lettice waited,
in the brake, back turned to the house. She had to wait a good many
minutes; whether one or sixty, it was all the same to her. Then
Dorothea came running up, breathless. "I've found just a drop of milk,
and this, see," she said, displaying one of the long Belgian loaves.
Lettice was to suppose she had spent her time in ransacking the larder.
In point of fact, she had been rolling, hauling, pushing the dead
German into the well; she did not wish his body to be the excuse and
the signal for a fresh campaign of vengeance.

They spent that night in one of the limestone caves of the Semois. In
spite of the milk, in spite of Dorothea's sheltering arms, the baby
died of exhaustion in the cold hour before the dawn. Dorothea wept
bitter tears, and left it lying covered with ferns, on a bed of moss;
she could not bear to pile stones on the tender little limbs and ivory
face. A turnip-field gave them a breakfast more sustaining than hazel
nuts and blackberries, but for the most part they kept to the woods;
they were afraid of the open country. By this time they had lost all
sense of direction. The rain still fell hopelessly. There was no sun to
guide them; the hills were all hidden in mist; and the Semois, when
they came on it in its wild and twisting valley, seemed never to flow
twice in the same direction. Yet they wandered on, because they had
begun wandering and had not spirit to stop.

Towards sunset they came suddenly to the edge of a hill, and saw below
them, deep buried in a cup-like hollow, a farm. From where they stood
an orchard sloped steeply to the group of white buildings, beyond them
the green meadow fell away to a brook; the opposite slope was a stubble
field, crowned with a line of firs.

"Why," said Dorothea, "why--"

They had wandered in a circle and come back to their starting-point. It
was the Ferme de la Croix.

Lettice, who had not spoken for hours, found her tongue. "Don't go
down," she said, "we shall only find somebody else dead."

"We might find something to eat," said Dorothea, more hopeful. "The
house does look all right, and I'm sure Madame Hasquin would give us
the supper off her own plate, if she hadn't anything else. But oh, my
good gracious! how we must have wandered! I'd hoped we were half-way to
Mezières by now. And yet, you know, I did think the country seemed to
be looking familiar somehow this last half-hour. Don't you come down,
Lettice; you stay here with the things while I go and explore."

Lettice, who was possessed of a dumb devil that day, shifted her bundle
from her left hand to her right and said nothing. Slipping from tree to
tree down the orchard, Dorothea peeped at the house from under cover.
All was still, except the joy-song of a hen which had just laid an egg.
Live fowls and live Germans being incompatible, Dorothea came out of
hiding and walked boldly up the pebbled path to the door. On either
side bloomed roses, dahlias, lavender where the bees were humming. The
evening sun came out, and shone peacefully on the white walls. Dorothea
rapped. No answer; only a sandy cat ran out of the bushes and twined
round her skirts. She knocked again, then pushed open the door and
entered.

A spotless white passage with a dark, uneven, shiny floor and doors
on either side, old and irregular. Dorothea opened the first. She saw
a pleasant parlor, low-pitched, with lattices facing the sunset; a
carved oak press; an eight-day clock, still ticking; a table laid for
dinner with beef-steak, gray in its gray greasy gravy, stewed pears,
_pommes sautées_, salad in a china bowl, golden country beer in a large
decanter. Glasses stood half empty, knives and forks were crossed on
half-eaten plates of meat, chairs had been pushed back anyhow. There
was no living creature but the cat, who sprang up on the window ledge,
with a low crooning purr, among the red geraniums in the sun.

A hand fell softly on Dorothea's shoulder, and she turned with a great
start; but it was only Lettice, who had toiled after her with both
bundles, and had come up noiseless behind, as her custom was.

"That's panic," she said, nodding towards the deserted table.

Room by room they explored the house; the kitchen with its vast open
fireplace, the queer uneven stairs, the tiny bedrooms, so tempting with
their carved bedsteads and spotless linen and scarlet wadded quilts
("je tiens à mes lits"--poor Madame!), their white-washed walls and
deep-set lattices framed in jasmine; the round tower, dark save for the
swords of sunshine that pierced its western loopholes, and rustling
with fowls; the well-filled storeroom. Everything was there but the
owners. They had heard a bruit and a rumor, and they had fled; had
stampeded in abject terror before the advance of Germany. And so lonely
was the farm, hidden in woods and served only by a cart track, that
neither ravager nor refugee had found it. The wanderers sank into its
deep peace and slept.

It could not hope to escape permanently, however, for Germans work by
the map; so on Dorothea's advice the first thing they did next morning
was to make a cache of provisions in the orchard. Well for them they
thought of it, for that very afternoon they were visited by a wandering
party of Uhlans. Dorothea, washing her skirt in the yard, heard them
coming, and had just time to escape with Lettice to the woods. There
being nobody to kill, the visitors had to content themselves with
sacking the house, which they did with zest. It was odd to see chairs
and mirrors come hurtling out of the bedroom windows, odder still to
see a drunken Uhlan parading about in Madame's voluminous best chemise.
They wrung the necks of the fowls; they drove off the two mild cows;
they set fire to the ricks, and tried to burn the house as well, but
luckily they had no petrol, this being a private venture not a military
operation, and its massy walls defied them. It was not the first time
they had stood fire. Finally, they killed the sandy cat, who was
misguided enough to greet them as she greeted Dorothea. She had been
a lean, hard-flanked, and indiscriminatingly amiable creature, with a
vulgar loud purr; still, it was distressing to see her tied to a tree
and shot to death with table-knives.

After this they rode off, singing the inevitable _Deutschland über
Alles_ with more noise than melody, and the girls came out of hiding
to take stock of the damage. It was extensive. The German soldier
had by that time learned to loot effectually, and what they had not
stolen they had smashed. The poor pretty garden was trampled into mire.
The kitchen was ankle-deep in broken crockery. A half-killed pig was
squealing its life out in the passage. The mattresses had been slit
open and spread with filth from the stable. They had wiped their boots
on the tablecloth; they had used the coffee-pot as a spittoon; they
had covered the white-washed walls with what the expressive French
idiom calls _des saletés_; they had done other things which need not be
described. In fine, they had contrived, within the space of a summer
afternoon, to be so ingeniously filthy and destructive that not a
corner of the house was habitable.

Lettice and Dorothea camped that night in the barn. Next day, while
trying to cleanse their pigsty, they were surprised by a fresh party of
visitors; but these were sober, and the officer in command was the same
comparatively humane person who had burned the Bellevue. His mission
now was not to strike terror, but to make an inventory of all domestic
animals; and he did not look pleased when he fell over the dead porker
in the passage. Hastily suppressing Lettice, who remained impracticably
hostile, Dorothea made her appeal to the honor of the German army. She
used her tongue and her beautiful eyes so well that, after listening to
her tale, the officer gave her what she wanted--a sort of _permis de
séjour_, exempting the farm from further requisitions. Indeed there was
little left to take.

After this they had peace, and settled down to a strange, precarious,
isolated life. For some weeks they hardly set foot outside the farm.
This extreme seclusion was not really necessary; for times had changed
and the policy of the conquerors now was not to scare the country folk
away, but to coax them back to their homes and their ordinary work.
The German reign of terror in Belgium seems to have been based on the
theory that one German soldier is worth x Belgian civilians. Therefore
when sniping took place (or when they fancied it had taken place, or
feared it might take place, or thought a locality needed a lesson to
teach them what to expect if it did take place) the order went out to
kill. "Without distinction of persons, the innocent will suffer with
the guilty." Much of the ravaging was done deliberately, by order:
as at the sack of Rochehaut. Much was done by an equally deliberate
relaxation of orders: as at the cottage in the woods. In part the
German plan succeeded, for it certainly stamped out sniping. In part
it recoiled upon itself. To strike terror is a very fine thing, but
the results may be embarrassing to an army of occupation. Besides, it
really looked so very bad to neutrals!

Lettice and Dorothea, however, did not concern themselves with this
change of policy. The cottage in the woods had cured them of any wish
to wander. Even Dorothea had had her fill of adventures. It was long
before she ventured as far as Poupehan, to ask for news; and when she
did, she wished she had stayed at home. The fall of Namur, the fall of
Brussels, the coming fall of Paris--how long before they heard of the
capitulation of London?



CHAPTER XXX

CONFESSIO AMANTIS

     Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow ...
     Cleanse the stuffed bosom of the perilous stuff
     That weighs upon the heart.

     _Macbeth._


Not so very many miles from Rochehaut, in an empty loft, Denis was
studying a map spread out on a packing-case. On the other side of their
table Wandesforde sat writing a letter on his knee. Partly by good
luck, and partly because Wandesforde was an expert in the art later
known as wangling things, they had contrived to keep together almost
from the first; at present they were in the same squadron, and sharing
the same billet, much to Denis's advantage. For Wandesforde, wherever
he was, on the principle of the conservation of energy, drove at making
himself comfortable. He used to say that Denis would have put up in a
pigsty without troubling to turn out the pig. Two months of war had
made them more intimate than five years at Bredon.

"And that's that," said Wandesforde, licking the flap of his envelope.
He got up and stretched himself. "Ho! I'm tired. I think I shall turn
in. Four-thirty to-morrow, isn't it? Ungodly hour to rout you out on a
chilly morning!"

"Been writin' home?" asked Denis without looking up.

"Yes. Haven't you?"

"Haven't any one to write to."

"Well, I rather wish I hadn't either," said Wandesforde. He looked over
Denis's shoulder. "What are you studying that for?"

"Reasons."

"Want to make sure whereabouts Aix is?"

"No," said Denis. "Ever flown over this bit of country?"

Wandesforde bent lower to follow his finger on the map. "What's the
name of this bloomin' corkscrew? The Semois? No, I can't say I have.
Not much doing that way, is there?"

"Not as a rule. But we shall be pretty near it to-morrow."

Wandesforde, in the act of lighting one of his big cigars, looked
inquiringly at his partner. He knew next to nothing of Denis's private
affairs, and on principle he never asked, but he was always open to
hear. Denis lay back with his long legs outstretched.

"I may as well tell you," he said with deliberation, "if my bus comes
to grief to-morrow, as I rather expect it may, that's the place I'm
goin' to make for."

"You expect your bus to come to grief? Been drilling holes in the
tank, what?" Denis made no reply. "Oh, Lord! is it one of your rotten
presentiments?"

"I was dreamin' of muddy water last night," said Denis with a slightly
defiant air.

"Well, turn that stinking lamp down, then. Lord only knows when I shall
get the bath fixed, and I've worn these pyjamas a fortnight already, I
can't afford to get 'em any blacker," said Wandesforde irrelevantly.
"Have some cake. Home-made, best dripping and a bit sad in the middle.
Specially recommended against presentiments. You won't? You don't know
what's good. So you think you're going to glory to-morrow, do you? Bet
you a fiver you don't."

"Done with that. If I lose, I'll not be called on to pay," said Denis,
with a wintry smile. Wandesforde lay back in his comfortable bunk--he
had swung himself a hammock made of curtains, and stuffed it with
straw--and folded his arms under his head.

"Well, all I can suggest is you dream of a filter and square things up
that way. I wouldn't like to go out yet. I want to bring down a Hun or
two first. We shall be doing them in by dozens before we're through.
Did I tell you I ran into Tommy Wyatt yesterday? He was very full of a
new French dodge for firing a machine gun through the propeller. Silly
business to get killed when there's so much fun on hand, what? Think
better of it, old thing."

"I never said I was goin' to get killed. I said my bus would come to
grief, which is quite a different thing. It's not likely we shall both
of us get back, is it? Bombing Zeppelin sheds isn't a healthy job.
We're safe to get Archied; and from Aix it's an uncommonly long run
home."

"You're in a cheerful mood to-night."

"Sorry. What I'm tryin' to drive into your thick head is that if I do
have to come down, I shall make for Rochehaut."

"Of course if you've made up your mind to come down--"

"I've not made up my mind to come down. But I feel like it," said Denis
obstinately.

"All right, all right. But I can't see how you think you'll ever get
the chance of making for Rochehaut or whatever you call the place. An
internment camp in the Fatherland is the common fate." Denis again
preserved silence. "Oh, you and the bus are going to alight in some
conveniently uninhabited spot? That the idea?"

"It's possible, isn't it?"

"You feel like it?" suggested Wandesforde, with a broad grin.

"Yes, I do feel like it. And it'll probably happen. I may be wrong but
I never am," retorted Denis.

"Oh, quite. Well, I shouldn't dream of offering advice, because I know
you never take it, but I wish to point out that in the hypothetical
circumstances I should make for the Dutch frontier myself. You'll never
get through the lines."

"I don't propose to get through the lines. If instead of scintillatin'
with wit you'd ever by any chance allow me to finish what I'm saying,
I should have told you before that I want to go to Rochehaut because I
know the place, and because my cousin Lettice is there--if she's still
alive."

"Oh ah. Yes. I remember."

Wandesforde had heard as much as that. He did not dare offer sympathy,
because Denis's glacial eye was upon him, forbidding it. Denis went on
with his most intransigent air: "And I may add that if I get the ghost
of a chance to go I'm goin', and if I get into a row for it afterwards
I _do not care_. I want you to know this now because, if things fall
out as I expect, I shall be very much obliged if you'll see my pal
Gardiner next time you're home on leave, and tell him."

"The chap that's in prison?"

"Yes. Sorry to put you to so much inconvenience, but I can't write it,
because his letters are read."

"Quite. What do you want me to say?"

"Tell him I'm goin' to Rochehaut to look up Lettice. It's more his
affair than mine." Wandesforde scribbled down the message in his
pocket-book. "And tell him--" Denis's voice unexpectedly failed.

Wandesforde held his pencil ready.

"Say I've changed my mind, and I'm goin' to settle up my own affair
too, if I'm let. He'll understand."

Wandesforde did not, never having heard of Dorothea in this connection.
He had never known Denis make a confidence before. There was a pause;
but he still waited. If he knew anything of the signs of the times,
more was coming. He was right. The never-ceasing thunder of the guns
accompanied and illustrated Denis's next speech.

"Wandesforde, do you believe in a future life?"

Three months earlier, Wandesforde would have answered with a shrug. His
point of view had changed. "More or less got to out here, haven't you?"
he said soberly.

"I didn't--for the best part of this year."

"What, that time you were playing about with the fair Evey?"

Denis lifted his head. "You knew? Well, I suppose you would. It never
struck me--"

"Everybody knew, old thing," said Wandesforde, with an irrepressible
grin. He was more touched than he would have cared to admit by
Denis's rather truculent confidences, but he could not for his life
help finding him deuced funny! "And nobody could think what on earth
you were after! It was so very much out of your line, and, if you'll
forgive my saying so, you made such a shocking poor hand at it!"

"I don't lay claim to your experience," said Denis forbiddingly. He
attacked his confessions once more. "I had rather a rough time of it
last autumn, one way and another. I--it--I--"

"You lost your faith," suggested Wandesforde, still grinning. "Lord
bless you, my dear chap, I know! You left off going to Bredon and
listening to the little blighter with the mustachios. He came to me
about it--funked you, I suppose--and I had to send him off with a flea
in his ear. Oh, Denis, when you go off the rails all the world stands
to admire. Nobody would make a song about it if I stopped going to
church. And then Evey Byrne appeared on the scenes, and there was a
hectic interlude which ended in your both vanishing. You went back to
Bredon, I know that; but what on earth did you do with her?"

"She went into a convent."

"No! did she really? Rum ending to an affair of that kind."

"It was not an affair of that kind."

What an expressive face his was, when he was not on guard! and how
it changed at mention of Mrs. Byrne! Wandesforde could not imagine
himself taking Evey Byrne very seriously, but he felt like a bull in
a china shop among the reserves and scruples and delicacies of his
partner's mind. He was, quite simply, very fond of Denis. He disliked
serious scenes; in candid truth, he dreaded them; they did not do, when
to-morrow you were flying to Aix and to-night you had been writing
cheerful non-committal letters like that now lying on the table. But it
was evident that Denis was quite beyond ragging and being ragged. The
moment had come, his tongue was loosed, and he must speak. Wandesforde
touched him gently on the shoulder.

"Go ahead, old Denis. I'm off rotting."

Denis looked up, and Wandesforde to his consternation saw that his eyes
were full of tears.

"Wandesforde, did you ever hurt a woman--badly?"

"No," said Wandesforde. "No, thank the Lord! that I never did."

"I have. Twice."

"You, Denis?"

"Oh, not that way. Worse, I think. I did the beastliest thing--it was
an insult--"

"Evey Byrne you're talking of?"

"Yes. And for all return she--she came and kissed my hand. She said
I was too good for her. After what I'd done! She--she loved me,
Wandesforde. You can't think what it was like. It made me feel so
sick--"

He made a long break.

"I saw after that I'd been on the wrong tack. There is a God, and He
does direct things."

"Yes," assented Wandesforde.

"And of course that set me thinkin' of the other again. Lettice said
I'd been hard on her. I didn't want to be hard--I'd no right to be hard
on anybiddy. Especially not on another woman. But I didn't see how
things could ever be as they were before. I thought about it a lot, but
I couldn't get it straight. I am a duffer when it comes to people, you
know. All that time, too, I was feeling pretty queer--a bit under the
weather; I dare sayb I'd not got over the shock. It wasn't till the war
came, till I realized she was out here in all this awful danger, that I
might never see her again--"

Another long break.

"So now I'm goin' to her, if I'm let; and I think I shall be," Denis
wound up simply.

Wandesforde was aware that he had been no more than a communicating
channel between Denis and his friend in prison. He did not guess, Denis
himself did not guess, that but for his interposition this chronicle of
the heart, such as it was, would never have been told. Denis had tried
to put it down on paper, and had not succeeded; still less would he
have succeeded by word of mouth. Gardiner knew too much, saw too much.
Wandesforde was a neutral medium. It is often easier to confess to a
stranger than to the friend of your bosom.

So Wandesforde, feeling shy, and a good deal more uncomfortable than
Denis himself, put up his pencil and prepared to take counsel with his
pillow.

"You're a rum chap, Denis," was his conclusion.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

     What's death?--You'll love me yet!

     _Pippa Passes._


"Lettice, I've been down to Poupehan!"

Lettice was darning her stockings in the shade of the tower. Lettice
would have darned her stockings on the Judgment Day. She suspended her
work to look up, slowly, at Dorothea. Rose-brown, panting from the
steep hill, lips laughing, eyes sparkling with excitement, she flung
herself down among the stubble and the pink convolvuluses and fanned
her face with her handkerchief.

"Oh, I'm so hot! I ran nearly the whole way. I went to try for a paper,
and I fell over M. Lapouse, and oh, Lettice, what do you think he told
me? There's been a French plane brought down near Florenville, and the
pilot's escaped, and they're hunting him all over the place! Oh! don't
you hope he'll get away?"

Lettice remained looking at her for a minute, then lowered her eyes and
slowly resumed her work. Dorothea flounced away with an energy that
upset Madame Hasquin's workbasket.

"Well, you _are_ a fish! I did think you'd be interested in this. Don't
you want to hear about it? Don't you _care_?"

"Was--was the man hurt?" asked Lettice.

"No, they don't think so, or not much--he managed to burn his machine,
anyway. Oh! don't I wish I'd been there! We might have patched her up
between us, and flown her to the French lines. Oh! it would have been
sport!"

"It's, it's--it's twenty miles to Florenville, isn't it?" Lettice
pursued her train of thought in her own undeviating way.

"Yes, about. Why?"

"And when did it happen?"

"When did she come down, do you mean? Yesterday morning. Oh, were you
thinking he might have come up here? He never would, Lettice. No such
luck! He would make for the Dutch frontier, they always do, M. Lapouse
was saying so. They're hardly even searching west of Bouillon."

"O-oh."

Lettice went on darning. Lettice in those days was hardly a
personality. Withdrawn into herself, _ensimismada_, as Gardiner would
have said, for hours on end she did not speak, she scarcely thought;
she brooded. Her mind had been bruised and it was numb. She was like
an automaton; the one definite feeling that emerged was an unwavering
hostility to the destroyers of the Bellevue. Dorothea was compassionate
to a fair young hussar who limped to the door one day after a fall from
his horse; she gave him breakfast, put his sprained arm in a sling, and
sent him on his way with good wishes in valiant German. Lettice made
his coffee and broiled his ham--if thine enemy hunger, feed him; but he
remained her enemy still. There were no good wishes from her.

Dorothea with an enormous sigh pulled over a bunch of stockings for a
pillow, and lay back, still panting, hands clasped behind her head.
She did not find Lettice a very satisfactory companion in those days.
She was not an automaton, far from it! They had been at the farm for
several weeks now, and she was wondering how much longer she could
stand it. The same view, day after day--the steep down-slope of the
meadow, the green velvet crease where the brook ran, the steep up-slope
of the harvest field, silvery, with its slowly discoloring sheaves, the
spires of the wood against the uneventful azure of the sky--oh dear!
She wanted to fight, to defend her country, to stick bayonets into
Germans, as they had stuck them into that dead girl in the woods--as
she had already stuck a knife into the Uhlan. She held up her little
brown hand; it didn't seem possible, yet it was true, that that hand
had accounted for one of the enemy, and she wasn't sorry, no, she
couldn't feel one little bit ashamed, though she knew in her heart that
at the moment when she pushed the body over the lip of the well she
hadn't been quite sure that it wasn't still breathing....

She tucked the hand back with a little shudder. That didn't bear
thinking about. "Well, why didn't I stick a knife into Lieutenant
Müller, then?" she reflected. Müller was the hussar. "There's no
_sense_ in me!" Hot and cold was Dorothea, Charlotte Corday one hour,
Florence Nightingale the next. Inaction, presumably the woman's natural
lot, was not natural to her. But for Lettice she would long ago have
dressed up in one of Achille's suits and made a dash for the French
lines--


     "'Tis but the coat of a page to borrow
     And tie my hair in a horse-boy's trim--"


She didn't love skirts at the best of times--


     "And I sit by his side, and laugh at sorrow--"


Denis. All her thoughts always came back to him.

Denis was fighting, and she wanted news; oh! she did want news so
badly! Tears came hot in her eyes; she turned over and buried her face
in the grass, struggling with the sudden pain. Denis was fighting; any
one of these blue days he might be dying; he might be already dead.
And he hadn't forgiven her. Oh! she, with this vulture at her heart,
how could she sit quiet, brood on still anger, like Lettice? She must
be white-washing the kitchen, or helping wounded Germans, or exciting
herself over stranded French aeroplanes twenty miles away--anything,
anything to get away from her thoughts!

"There's a man in the wood," observed Lettice.

She had dropped her work and sat immobile, her intent gaze probing the
shadows of the distant trees. Dorothea with an impatient sigh rolled
over and sat up too.

"Where?"

"There, under that fir-tree--don't you see him? Now he, he, he's
stooping down behind the bush."

"What eyes you have, Lettice!" said Dorothea, screwing up her own. "I
can't see any old thing!"

"I've been watching him for some time. I think he's hiding."

"Hiding?"

"He was there before you came back, and then he got down out of sight.
I don't think he can get away. I think he's hurt."

"Hurt?" Dorothea repeated wonderingly.

"There's been a lot of firing this morning down by the river."

"But, Lettice, you don't think--"

Lettice did not say she thought anything. She stuck her needle in her
stocking and prepared to get up. She stood a moment shading her eyes,
piercing the depths of the pine wood with her far-searching look, and
then got under way to descend the hill. Dorothea seized her hand.

"Oh, don't, Lettice--it's sure to be some deserter, you know there are
heaps, and you haven't even got your big scissors!"

"I am going to see if there are any mushrooms on the hill by the
crucifix," said Lettice in the softly distinct tones which admitted no
discussion.

"Well, wait half-a-minute for me, then!"

Lettice did not wait; when Dorothea came running out of the house with
the carving-knife tucked inside her blouse, she was already at the
white bridge over the brook. Dorothea overtook her half-way across the
stubble field. She was making better time up the hill than ever she had
before.

"Oh, darling Lettice, don't, don't go! Let me--it doesn't matter about
me, I can take care of myself, and I don't mind things, but you know
what it was to you last time! Lettice darling--_please_!"

Lettice shook off her hand. "I saw him again just now," she said. "He
was wearing those leather overall things."

"_Lettice!_"

Next moment Dorothea loosed her hold on Lettice and ran on alone. She
had seen him too.

He came out of the woods towards them, lurching like a drunkard.
And Dorothea knew him, spite of disfiguring dust and blood, and his
face--that face! His cheek had been sliced open; a flap of raw red
flesh hung down over his jaw; his teeth showed white in the gap, like a
skeleton's. He tried to wave back the girls, he tried to speak, a thick
jumble of words; his feet dragged heavily together, and down he went,
full length in the grass.

Dorothea was beside him. She nursed him against her breast, mourning
over him with dove-like sounds, kissing away the blood, murmuring
exquisite love, warding off friends and foes alike with jealous
protecting arms.

Lettice knelt at a little distance, sobbing helplessly.

"Lettice!"

What radiant eager purpose! Here was the true Dorothea, come to her own
at last, risen to her full stature.

"Help me to lift. They'll be up here directly, sure to, and we must
hide him."

"The wood?"

"No, they'll search that first. Into the house. Take his feet; I can
manage the head."

They could not have carried Denis--a six-foot man, in his heavy
accouterments--they could not have raised him from the ground, in
ordinary circumstances. But extraordinary need calls out extraordinary
powers. One-half a man's strength is his conviction of strength.
Dorothea lifted the man she loved with her love in addition to her
muscles, and Lettice had the strength of endurance, if not that of
passion. So they carried him across the bridge and laid him in the
round tower among the hay. Dorothea spoke again.

"Get my first-aid things out of the dresser drawer, Lettice, while I
see what's wrong. Quick as you can; we haven't a second to lose."

Lettice obeyed orders. When she came back Dorothea's uplifted face was
sunshine unclouded.

"He's not going to die!" she cried, and her voice sang. "He isn't even
dangerously hurt, it's only pain and loss of blood. And, Lettice,
he's been telling me--darling, no; don't, don't try to talk, it does
hurt you so--he's been telling me he's been bombing the Zeppelins at
Aix! They got them, too, they set one on fire, and the other man got
off safe; but Denis had a bullet through his tank. So he made for
Rochehaut, but he couldn't get farther than Florenville, so he burnt
his machine and came on on foot. And this morning he saw the Bellevue,
and while he was asking about it he was seen, and they hunted him,
all among the woods by the river, and he was hit, this"--she touched
the cheek she was bandaging with thistle-down finger--"I wish I were
a doctor, then I'd put some stitches in; it'll spoil your looks, my
darling. Just think, Lettice, he was hiding in the wood, he could
actually see us, but he never meant to come out for fear of getting us
into a scrape. He meant to lie there till dusk and then get away--if
they hadn't caught him first, which they would have. Watch how this
bandage goes, you'll have to do it when I'm gone." She was working as
she talked, with perfect swiftness and dexterity. "I wish, oh! I wish I
could stay and see to you myself. Never mind, it can't be helped. Cover
him up with the hay, Lettice--careful! don't crush it, or it'll give
the show away. They may possibly look in here, for form's sake."

She stood up, struggling into the bloodstained coat she had taken from
Denis. Lettice stared, bewildered.

"What--what are you going to do?"

"Lead them off on a false scent, of course," said Dorothea--"the Huns,
I mean. Goodness, I shall never get my hair under this cap--where are
your scissors?"

"But--"

Dorothea stamped, sawing at her thick plaits.

"They'll take me for him, don't you see? I'll lead them a lovely goose
chase--I bet I know this country better than they do! There's the
Grotte des Fées, if the worst comes to the worst. They'll think he's
gone off quite in the other direction--else, do you imagine we'd ever
possibly be able to hide him, with the hue and cry there'd be? Good-by,
darling, darling--" She flung herself down beside Denis, lavishing her
whole heart on him, baring her soul, unveiling the holy of holies, the
white fire of very love. Then, standing up, she held out both hands
to Lettice; and in her face, unearthly bright yet grave, Lettice did
visibly behold this mortal putting on immortality.

"It's--it's a frightful risk," she said.

Dorothea's gravity broke up into a laugh of pure glee.

"Yes, that's the very cream of it!" she cried. "Oh! I _have_ wanted to
do something like a soldier, and now I've got the chance. Oh! and Denis
has forgiven me, he's taken me back again--oh! I do think I'm the very
luckiest girl in all the world!"

She caught Lettice close and kissed her vehemently, and then fled down
the hill, buckling her cap as she ran.



CHAPTER XXXII

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA

     Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to
     the hills, Cover us.--ST. LUKE.


In the days of her not far distant childhood Dorothea had never loved
any game like hide-and-seek; she flung herself into her present
escapade with much the same zest and little more discretion. Her
plan, so far as she had one, was to lie up in the fir wood till a
search-party appeared, then show herself and give them a lead away from
the farm. The rest she left to chance, naïvely confident that the luck
which had sent Denis to her would let her save him. She had had enough
hard knocks, one might have thought, to convince her that Fate does not
necessarily favor the young and hopeful; but that was a lesson Dorothea
never had learned, and never would.

Ten minutes after she had settled herself among the bracken a mounted
patrol rode over the brow of the opposite hill and began slowly to
descend towards the farm. Dorothea scrambled to her feet and came
to the edge of the wood; she began to crawl along under the hedge,
stooping, furtive, a fugitive in every line. She expected every minute
to hear the shout of discovery. None came, and presently she erected
herself and peeped over the bracken to see if they were stealing upon
her unawares. The officer in command was just riding through the
orchard gate, on his way to the farm.

This was a contingency she had not foreseen--that they wouldn't notice
her. Dorothea stamped. "Oh, you idiots!" she apostrophized the soldiers
of the Fatherland. She ventured herself clear of the wood. Still her
pursuers went tranquilly the wrong way; they were half down the
orchard--in another minute they would be knocking at the back door of
the farm. Dorothea, in a fright now, ran right out into the middle of
the field. Ah, at last! Some one shouted; the troop gathered itself
together, swept past the farm, galloped down the hill.

Dorothea turned and ran like a hare. She felt like one, too. They were
firing at her. They wanted to bring her down before she could take
cover. It wasn't believable. She couldn't be hit! But she was; it fell
like a lash on her shoulder, rolling her over with the sudden shock.
She was up in a minute and ran on again, crying as she went, poor
little Dorothea, with the unexpected sharp pain, mortally terrified
of the bullets flying past her and of the thundering hoofs behind,
beginning to feel she had undertaken more than she could carry through.
This wasn't a bit what she had expected--it wasn't any fun at all!

But the wood received her, and she knew its alleys better than they
did; and presently she was tumbling head first into a tiny dell, under
a low cliff veiled in ivy and drooping ferns. You might search the wood
from end to end without finding the way into the dell; and if you found
the dell, you would never guess that under the creepers there was a
hole, the entrance of the Grotte des Fées. Dorothea had once tried to
explore it: she got as far as a first chamber of exquisite white veils
and icicles of stalactite, and then dropped her candle. She never tried
again, because Madame Hasquin assured her the roof was unsafe. She
was rather glad of the excuse; underground adventures were not to her
taste. She crept inside now, but not far, not beyond the green light of
the entrance.

For some time she lay panting like a dog, thought foundered in panic;
but she gradually calmed down. She had a drink from the stream
trickling down the cave, and by and by, feeling a good deal ashamed of
herself, she made an effort, opened her coat and examined her wound. It
was neither wide nor deep; the bullet had gone clean through her arm
without touching the bone. But it had bled a good deal, and it hurt,
it hurt dreadfully. She made shift to tie it up, feeling more ashamed
than ever because she couldn't help whimpering with the pain. Oh, she
was a horrid little coward! She had come down with a bump from her
vainglory. But when it was done she took heart. She looked down on her
stained sleeve; how splendid to see her blood mingling with Denis's!
After all, she was a real casualty now; she had been really properly
wounded, like a real proper soldier. That was a sustaining thought.

It was while she lay there, listening to the cool drip of the water,
breathing in the cool mossy scent, that her active little brain got to
work on the position. She had gone into it headlong, without thinking;
she now saw many things she had ignored. First and foremost and at
any cost, she must not allow herself to be caught. She was tall for a
woman, and Denis slight for a man, and she had put on his leather coat
and leggings over all her own things, but even so there was a good
deal more of them, both lengthways and breadthways, than she could
fill out. "Gracious! why, my wig alone would give the show away!"
reflected Dorothea, with a dismaying vision of hidden dangers passed.
"Besides, they would recognize me--Major von Marwitz would, I think,
and Lieutenant Müller would, I know. And then, of course, they'd go
straight and search the farm, and Denis without his kit, they'd shoot
him as a spy, and Lettice too for hiding him--oh!" She had a moment of
panic. "But I'm not going to be caught," she wound up firmly.

A plan suggested itself. She would stay here till dusk, then get away
through the woods towards Vresse, say, show herself there, double
back to the cave, leave Denis's things under the rocks, and emerge
as her proper self once more. She had everything but her skirt,
and it wouldn't be the first time Dot O'Connor had run about in
knickerbockers. This was a beautiful scheme, and it would let her go
back to the farm--she did want to go back to the farm. A dimple came in
her brown cheek; her color rose; at that moment Dorothea did not look
much like an escaped airman.... Dreaming such nonsense! She lifted the
creepers resolutely and peeped out. Yes, it was already pretty dark,
she might start now--and suddenly she discovered that she didn't, no,
she didn't want to leave the safe shelter of the cave and adventure
herself in a world where bullets were flying and men hunting for her
life--"Oh, Dot O'Connor, you miserable little _worm_!" said Dorothea.
"It's just what people always say--women are no good when it comes to
the point. But I _will_ be some good!" She marched out of the cave.

They were still beating the wood; there were soldiers everywhere. But
Dorothea had been a Red Indian many times in the shrubbery at home.
She lay in the brake not ten yards from Lieutenant Müller (yes, it was
he in person), and laughed to hear him issuing his curt, disappointed
orders. It was dark, and the men were bored, and not very numerous; she
slipped between the cordon like a weasel, and had reached the next hill
when by accidental good luck she showed herself against the sky-line. A
sentry gave the alarm, and again she had the whole patrol streaming in
pursuit. This suited her to a T, for she was drawing them away from the
farm, and she was not in the least afraid of being caught. It was black
as a wolf's mouth, and she knew the woods between here and Vresse like
the palm of her hand. She had her second wind of courage now.

Somewhere about two in the morning she found herself--not at Vresse,
but at Mogimont, in a totally different direction. It didn't matter,
for it was miles away from Rochehaut, which was all she cared about;
but in her ignorance of her whereabouts she nearly blundered into the
tiny station, where a melancholy middle-aged German was brewing himself
coffee. Beating a hasty retreat, she found a haystack in a corner
of a meadow, and climbed into its warm depths to wait for the dawn.
_Imprimis_, she had not yet showed herself at Mogimont, and she must;
_secundis_, after her recent performance she wouldn't trust herself
in the dark to find the way back to the farm. She was extremely tired
(Dorothea liked a good eleven hours in her bed), and she fell fast
asleep. The sun was high when she was aroused by the shaking of her
couch. She opened drowsy eyes, to see the top of a ladder pushing
itself up against the sky; a moment later she was gazing into the round
astonished eyes and open mouth of the Landsturm sentry, who had come to
fetch a truss of hay.

Dorothea had meant to show herself, but not at such close quarters.
She hurled herself upon him and tipped his ladder over. He fell off,
she slipped down the other side of the stack and made for the woods.
Luckily she had only a few yards to cover. She was plunging through
the hedge as her adversary turned the corner of the stack. He fired,
and missed; out of the station rushed his comrades at the shot; down
the hill through the woods fled Dorothea, laughing--yes--laughing; his
expression had been so funny!

It was a close shave, nevertheless. She was up an oak-tree, flattened
against the trunk, when the pursuit went past, and there she stayed
until the alarm died away in another direction. She would have stayed
longer; but when the world turned to black mist and began to spin round
her she slid down as fast as she could, and ended by rolling out of the
lower branches. When she came to herself she was lying at the foot of
the tree in a pool of blood, ten feet from a path, at the mercy of any
chance wayfarer. Her arm had broken out bleeding again; she was parched
with thirst and felt like death. It was thirst which at last spurred
her to her feet, in the hope of finding water. And in that land of
brooks and springs she did find it--a tiny runnel, tasting of the brown
leaves through which it oozed, but water of life to Dorothea with the
wound-thirst on her. She drank and drank, and laved her head and face
and arms, and drank again, till the sky stood still, and the trees left
off dancing jigs before her eyes.

But she had lost a good deal of blood; she was weak, and feverish, and
muddle-headed; and in consequence she made a blunder. She ought now to
have stripped off Denis's things, which had served their turn, and left
them hidden. But she had got into her head that she was to take them
back to the cave, and she had not wits enough to mend her plan; she
could only carry out what was fixed before.

All that day, then, she toiled along, still in the character of the
escaped _avion_. But the forests of the Semois are lonely; she met no
one but a couple of children picking whortleberries, who dropped their
cans and their dinner and fled, taking her for a German. Dorothea
shuddered at the bread; she tried a few berries, but they made her
sick. She could not eat that day, but she drank of every brook she came
across. It was very hot, and Denis's coat and cap and leggings were
made of leather and lined with fleece, and their dark color attracted
an Egyptian plague of flies. Dorothea was far spent by the time she
struck the familiar track through the pine wood.

She was so far spent that for some time she walked along the track
itself, forgetting it was no place for her. It seemed too much trouble,
too much, to stoop and crawl and hide among the bracken. When a bramble
caught her sleeve she burst out crying. She missed her way and stumbled
into the hidden dell from the wrong side, brushing waist-high through
flowering willow-herb which streamed down the hill-side, rose-pink,
almost lilac in intensity of color.

Oh! the coolness, the green twilight of the cave! Dorothea with a great
sigh buried her face in icy crystal water. Oh! it was good! She lay
for some time before she discovered that one reason why she had been
feeling so queer was that her arm was bleeding again. She gave a twist
to her bandage, but she was too tired to see to it properly--too tired
even to get rid of her flying kit; a deadly lassitude weighed on every
limb. By and by, when it was cooler, and darker, and the flies were
less troublesome, she would slip off down to the farm.

"This is where he went," said an eager voice. "See how he has broken
these pink weeds! And here is the blood again."

"Himmel! I have passed this tree ten times, and never have I seen
this path! But what is become of him? He cannot have flown out of the
place!"

Dorothea sat up; she was cold enough now. Oh! why had she not thought
of the wood being still patrolled?

Steps came swishing through the long grass. Suddenly the cave grew
lighter, and there was a startled exclamation. They had lifted the
curtain of ivy. Both began to chatter at once, rapidly, excitedly. "I
tell you, it is not safe, these caves are dangerous!" "Aber, if we
fetch the Herr Lieutenant he will not give us the reward, we shall have
to share with the rest!" Private Blum had a young lady in Germany, and
he wanted all he could get. Dorothea could not follow all their talk,
but she gathered to her joy that one was going off to fetch help while
the other stayed on guard. Yes, he was certainly alone; she could hear
him walking up and down and singing to himself--"Ich weiss nicht was
soll es bedeuten--" Now, with any luck--

The song ceased. The ivy was lifted again.

"Englishman!" Pause. "Englishman, are you there? Do you hear me? If you
will come out you shall have your life--I will not harm you!"

Private Blum had a mind to steal a march on his comrade. Getting no
reply, he went head first into the hole on hands and knees, his rifle
tucked under his arm. It was very dark and very wet, and disagreeable
stories about underground rivers and bottomless abysses were running in
his head. He paused. "Englishman!" he called again less confidently.

This time there was a reply; a shot came out of the dark. He seized
his rifle and returned the compliment; then, feeling what seemed like
the entire grotto tumbling about his ears, he backed out hurriedly.
"Du lieber Gott!" he muttered, standing up in the sunshine and feeling
himself all over to make sure he was not hurt, "but that is a dangerous
one! I will leave him to the Herr Lieutenant--he will know how to
settle him!"

The luck was all with the enemy. Dorothea lay weeping tears of rage
over Denis's useless revolver. She had dropped it into the stream; she
had never let one off before, she had no idea they kicked like that!
And now what was she to do? If she could have disposed of Private Blum,
as she had hoped, she might have got away; but she had not disposed of
Private Blum. He was out there, very much alive, and in another minute
Lieutenant Müller would join him; and if Lieutenant Müller saw her--

Till this minute Dorothea had never doubted of success. But now? Dead
or alive, if she fell into German hands, it would be equally fatal;
Denis would be worse off than if she had never interfered. He might
even owe his death to her. "Oh, darling, darling!" Dorothea murmured,
crushing her hands together, an agonizing stricture at her heart. "Oh,
it isn't fair. Oh, God, let me save him! Oh, I must save him, I can't
_bear_ it if he dies through me, I can't, I can't, I _can't_. Oh, isn't
there any, _any_ way?"

Pieces of rock, loosened by the explosion, were still pattering down;
one fell on her hand. She glanced round impatiently, and saw to her
dismay that half the cave seemed ready to fall in; very little more
would bring down an avalanche. She sprang to her feet--and stood still.
She had seen how to save Denis.

So simple, after all! Why, of course it was what always happened, in
the ordinary course of operations. So much neater, too, than if she had
escaped. The search would come to an end, the roads would no longer
be guarded, Denis would have a far better chance of getting off. And
there would certainly be nothing left to identify. Oh, it was a topping
idea! Perhaps if Denis crossed the frontier into Holland she might
follow--no, she couldn't, though, she was forgetting; how queer! She
would be dead.

Death. She was going to die, all alone here in the dark. She would
never see the sunshine any more. She would never see Denis any more,
never be his wife, never taste the happiness which niggard Fate, at
long last, was offering her. It was the end. And while she was trying
to subdue her aching, unsatisfied rebellion, to remind herself that she
had only petitioned to be allowed to save him and should be thankful,
in a flash of sunset light which illumined and interpreted the past,
Dorothea saw that it was the only perfect end. She would have been his
wife? Ah, but it would never have been the same, he would never have
given her what he once gave; she had spoiled that. It would have been
pity, amends, the second best. He would never, never love her living;
no, but he would love her dead. For her sake he would go softly all
his days; she was sure, now, of an unfading shrine in his memory. Yes,
and even apart from Denis, little Dorothea was shyly proud. She was
not giving her life for him alone; she was dying as a soldier for her
country, and could claim the soldier's due of amnesty and an honored
grave.

How far away the world had gone! and how dim and queer she felt! Was
it her arm again? Those moments of waiting might have been very cruel,
but, more lucky in her death than in her life, Dorothea was spared
them. She did not hear Lieutenant Müller outside, nor his orders to the
men. She had drifted far away, to happy hours at Bredon and her beloved
aeroplane. It was evening; the solemn splendors of the sunset were all
about her in the sky. She was flying through a sea of gold--of pure
gold, like unto clear glass--or was it the glory of God?



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE ONE SHALL BE TAKEN

     If only the dead could find out when
       To come back and be forgiven!

     OWEN MEREDITH.


"Are your minds set upon righteousness, O ye congregation?" inquired
Mr. Roche in skeptical tones.

It was Sunday morning, and all prisoners having the white Church of
England ticket on their doors had been rounded up for the chapel.
Not that that was any hardship, for they liked the service; it was
commendably short, there were plenty of hymns, and even the lessons,
as read by Dr. Scott in his voice of gold, were really quite amusing,
especially the _chroniques scandaleuses_ of the Old Testament. By
contrast with the bareness of their cells they liked, too, the satins
and the embroideries, the lights and the flowers and the incense on
which the little doctor squandered most of his pocket-money. He was a
believer in the beauty of holiness; he had transformed the bare little
barn of a place into a gem. Only the jeweled cross and candlesticks,
source of covetous desires in such members of the congregation as did
not happen to be set upon righteousness, had been a thank-offering from
another donor.

"Psalm 126, the first verse. 'When the Lord turned again the captivity
of Zion--'"

By way of prelude to this boldly hopeful text, Mr. Roche had just
announced the fall of Antwerp. Scott did not love the new chaplain, but
he could not deny that he preached well, or that he got hold of the
men. The atmosphere of the chapel was not as a rule what one might call
devotional, but this morning there was a fullness in the responses and
a clean-cut hush during the sermon which rather touchingly reflected
the general state of feeling. It was hard in 1914 to be a prisoner,
since even criminals may love their country. Several of Scott's
patients had proclaimed their intention of enlisting the moment they
were free. As months, or even years, had to elapse before that happy
time, these protestations were cheap and safe. Others, who said less,
perhaps felt more. Scott had been sorry for many, leashed in by their
punishment; for none more than B14.


     "Con--found--their--pol--itics,
     Frus--trate--their--knav--ish tricks--"


The National Anthem having been roared out from throats kept
artificially silent during the week, chapel was dismissed, and it was
the immediate duty of the medical officer to take the casual sick.
Scott made a rush to his house for a glance at _The Observer_, which
did not reach Westby till midday, and was back in the casualty room
by a quarter to twelve. He stood at a desk, with Mackenzie, as chief
warder, beside him, and a table covered with pills, potions, and
ointments ready to hand. One by one, as their names were called, the
patients came up for treatment.

"Mason A29, sir."

Mason advanced, a doleful wisp of a man. "Well, Mason, what's the
matter with you?"

"Oh, if you please, sir, I've got such a dreadful cold in my head!" A
fruity and exhaustive sniff lent point to the complaint.

"A cold in the head, have you? Give me your hand. Now let's see your
tongue. H'm! Dose of No. 7."

No. 7 was poured out, Mason choked over it, and was passed out by the
opposite door. "Next," said Scott.

"Gardiner B14, sir."

This was unexpected. Gardiner B14 stood cheerfully submissive, nursing
his hand, which was wrapped in his clean Sunday handkerchief.

"Hullo, you in the wars again? What's the matter now, hey?"

"Bad thumb, sir," said Gardiner, gingerly unrolling it. Yes, his hand
had broken out again. "I shall have to lance this," snapped Scott, and
did so, with inward ruth. After twenty years of practice, he still
hated inflicting pain. "What have you been doing to yourself? Why
didn't you come to me before?"

"Well, sir, I never thought twice about it till this morning. I knocked
it on a nail; I thought it would get all right."

"Get all right? Get all wrong! Your blood must be in a shocking state.
Ever have anything of this sort before you came here?"

"N-no, I don't know that I have. I expect perhaps it's the confinement;
I'm not used to it, you know."

"H'm! well, your time's up next month, isn't it? and then you'll be
free to get some war work, which is what you're fidgeting after, aren't
you? Take care of that hand, and don't go jabbing nails into it, unless
you want to lose it altogether. Two thousand men of the Naval Division
have crossed the Dutch frontier and will have to be interned. Next."

B14, with the faint suggestion of a smile, went the way of A29, and
Scott looked after him with a sigh and the faint suggestion of a frown.
Ever since his night in the padded cell it had been the same; Gardiner
was polite, and even friendly, but he kept his distance. With no one
is a reserved man more reserved than with the person before whom he
has once been helplessly open. "I've lost him for good," Scott said to
himself; and another sigh came, for he had not many friends. But he was
right, it was irrevocable; Gardiner had definitively snapped the thread.

Sunday is a day of rest. Prisoners attend chapel twice, they have two
separate hours of exercise, morning and afternoon; at half-past four
they go to their cells for supper, and are then locked up for the
night. In winter, all lights are put out. In summer, many read in bed.
But on the brightest of June mornings Gardiner's cell was barely light
enough for that; and by five o'clock in October it was as black as a
cave. He had finished his supper, and was screwing up his patience to
endure the interminable night, when his door opened to admit that very
welcome sight, a visitor--Mr. Roche the chaplain.

"I meant to get round before, but I haven't had a moment; I've been up
to my eyes in business the whole day. But I thought I might just catch
you before bed-time. How are you, eh?"

"Very well, thank you, sir. Very glad to see you." Gardiner's manner
was an odd blend of orthodox respect and unorthodox friendliness. It
had its counterpart in Roche's own: he could not quite shake off the
condescension of the chaplain, yet he did not take possession of the
prisoner's stool and leave him to stand. The consequence was that both
kept their feet.

"To tell the truth, Gardiner, I've come to say good-by. I shan't have
another chance; I'm off first thing to-morrow."

"Off on leave, sir?"

"Off for good. I'm leaving the prison. It's been in the air for some
time, but it was only finally arranged last night. I've said nothing
about it, because I didn't want a fuss; but I could not leave without
seeing you."

"Thanks," said Gardiner, smiling. "You'll be missed. I'm glad my time's
nearly up. Are you going to another prison, or is it an ordinary parish
job?"

"Neither. I am joining up."

"Chaplain to the forces?"

"Better than that. I enlist." Gardiner's face, in the first moment of
surprise, was more expressive than he could have wished. Roche, with
his odd touch of the theatrical, laid a hand on his shoulder. "You envy
me?" he asked, his voice thrilling and deepening. "Never mind, my poor
fellow, your turn will come. Another month and you too will be free to
do your bit with the best of us. In the service of your country there
is no respect of persons--"

The hand was vigorously shaken off, and Gardiner stepped back. "I'll be
shot if I'm going to let you patronize me! If you think that because
you happen to be the Honorable and Reverend Dalrymple-Roche, and I'm
B14--Why, I was round the world and back again before you were out of
your schoolroom!" He burst out laughing.

"Gardiner--"

"No, no, wait a bit; let me finish what I've got to say, now I've
begun. I've had it on my mind for some time; I meant to save it up for
when I got out, but as it seems I shan't have the chance then I'll do
it now. You've been very decent to me, and you've kept me going through
a rather beastly time, and I don't forget that, and I don't want to
let it all lapse, and I rather think you don't either; but I won't
be patronized. I may be in prison, but I've done nothing I'm ashamed
of, and I do not consider myself disgraced. Got that?" The words
were not bluff, they were plain truth; very telling was his vigorous
independence. "Well, then, if I pay you deference here it's because
discipline has to be maintained, and incidentally because I should get
it hot if I didn't. For that reason, and for no other; certainly not
because I feel deferential. Deferential! You wait till you've cut your
wisdom teeth, my son, before you start preaching to me. There; I've
done. You can report me if you like--sir."

Roche had colored up; he looked very haughty and very angry. "I think
you forget yourself," he began, and then his mobile face changed. "I
beg your pardon, Gardiner; you are perfectly right. I have no business
to patronize you. I don't mean to do it; but it's the more or less
official manner, and one slips into it--to tell the truth, that's one
reason why I want to get away."

"Oh, that's all right, lots of parsons have a turn for magniloquence,"
said Gardiner, with a laugh, "and if you do it again I shall tell you
again, that's all. You inevitably will. And so you mean to enlist?
Ho ho!" His smile broadened as he ran his eye over Roche's handsome
figure. He did not say, "You won't like that, my friend," but he
thought it.

"The French priests take their places in the ranks," said Roche, "why
not we? I put that to my bishop. He refused to release me. One must act
on one's own conscience in these matters. I am a priest, it is my duty
to lead men; when peace comes, how can I expect them to follow me, if
during the war I have been skulking behind my cloth here in England?
_I_ would not follow such a man. If the clergy shirk now, they will be
digging the Church's grave."

"Very sound sentiments. I have an old daddy, and if he were thirty
years younger--thank goodness he isn't, for he'd certainly get shot.
Well, I congratulate you. Mind my finger, I'm still rather frail."
Roche had wrung his hand with more fervor than discretion. "Funny
beggar you are!" Gardiner added, with the laugh in his eyes that was
often there when he talked to Roche. "_You_ won't get shot. Bet you
what you like you come out with the V.C.!"

"Priests don't bet."

"Privates do, though. Not that you'll stay a private. You'll be offered
a commission--"

"I shan't accept it," Roche declared.

"More fool you, then, for you're just the sort they want. You lucky
beggar--oh, you lucky beggar!"

The hunger of envy peeped out. Roche, at times self-absorbed and blind,
had at other times an Irish quickness of perception.

"Gardiner--I'm sorry! Perhaps after all, if a competent surgeon sees
your hand, instead of that wretched little sawbones--"

"Oh, that's all right, I shall get my whack by and by, even if I can't
go into the trenches. Which reminds me: you won't forget to put through
that little bit of business I asked you about, will you? (There's old
Busy Bee locking up for the night, you'll have to clear out in two
twos.) Just a word of introduction to Lord Ronayne, that's all I want.
You see a criminal just out of jail does need some sort of sponsor."
Gardiner's grin was quite free from bitterness.

"I won't forget," said Roche hurriedly, "I hadn't forgotten. I can
answer for my father. Good-by, Gardiner--God bless you!"

Again he wrung the prisoner's hand, and again left him laughing and
swearing and shaking his fingers--a characteristic farewell.

Chim-chime. Chim-chime. Chim-chime. A quarter to five. St. Agnes'
clock was striking as Roche came out into the lilac and gold of the
October sunset, which lightened and broadened down the clean deserted
streets, and glittered like tongues of fire in all the western windows.
The trees in the square were brilliant, gold lace over iron filigree.
Beyond them three tall chimneys stood, slender, black, and tapering
against the cornflower-blue of distant hills. A train, just arrived
in the station, was veiling itself in snowy mist, sun-smitten; and
as Roche turned into the High Street St. Agnes' bells began to play
_The King of Love_, merry and clear, a sweet little rocking tune in
triplets. How bright the town was, and how peaceful in its Sunday rest!
Not a soul was about, except the half-dozen travelers from the train;
one of these, a tall man in the then unfamiliar uniform of the Royal
Flying Corps, stopped to ask Roche the way to the prison.

In B14's cell it was already night. There was no sunshine here, not
even light enough for him to throw his shoe at the blackbeetle which
had crawled up the hot-water pipes, and was running about on the
concrete floor. Gardiner lay on his back, hands clasped behind his
head, staring at the gray oblong of his window, and wondering how he
was going to get through the thirteen hours of darkness. He was not
laughing now. He would have given twenty pounds for a candle and a book
to read, fifty for a cigarette--he might as well have offered to buy
the moon.

In the padded cell he had touched bottom; nothing could ever be so bad
again as the days before that night, in their agony of impotence, or
the night itself, in its agony of despair. Prison--it was a tedious
business, no doubt, but what of that? He could only wonder why he had
ever made a fuss about such a trifle. He had grappled with his bogy,
and behold it turned out to be only a turnip-lantern ghost after all.
Difficulties, once surmounted, have a way of sinking back and effacing
themselves in the past; absorbed in a greater trouble, Gardiner did not
realize that he had at last fought and won the battle, long impending,
which made him master of himself.

He did believe, from the first he had never doubted, that Lettice was
dead. Wandesforde's message, which he faithfully delivered in person,
had not shaken that conviction. It had only made him feel that Denis
was dead too. Yes, they were both gone; but Gardiner no longer held
himself responsible. That dreadful crazy feeling of guilt, which his
sanity, half insane, had used to save him from himself, had passed with
the crisis it provoked. He had not killed her; yet she was dead, and he
missed her more instead of less every day; every day he came upon fresh
tracts of his mind marked broad with her mark, and saw with dismay
the widening scope of his loss. But no one knew of it, and no one was
going to know, through him. "Not that anybody would be particularly
interested," he reflected. "My dear daddy--he would, bless his heart,
but he'll never see, and I shall never tell him; he'd get the shock of
his life to think I was old enough to want to get married. Married! Oh,
my Lord, I wish I had married her; I could have stood it better now
if I'd ever had one ounce of satisfaction.... And besides daddy, who
else? Tom? Roche? I don't think!" He laughed. "Little Scott, then--he'd
be all agog, but he isn't going to have the chance, confound him! I
wish old Denis were here. I could have talked to him. He would have
understood. He knew me pretty well, did Denis, after all these years.
I wonder how I'm going to get on without him. 'Their soul was much
discouraged because of the way.' Hard going: that's what I'm to expect,
I suppose, for the rest of my wanderings in this wilderness.... There
was a lot of likeness between them at bottom. I expect that's why I
feel as though I'd known her all my life and before I was born--I did
know her, in him. But he would always try to hide his dear old head in
a bag whenever I did anything to upset his little feelings, and she
never did. Not she! She'd go picking her way with her little lamp round
all your dark corners, inexorably showing you every cobweb and every
speck of dust that her highness didn't approve, and all without a word
spoken, just by the poise of that darling little head of hers and those
inimitable hazel eyes--hazel? No, b' Jove! What was it she used to say?
'Weak Bovril, with little bits of carrot floating about'--oh, Lettice,
Lettice! oh, why the devil did I let myself begin on this?"

He flung his arm across his eyes, as if he would have hidden his
trouble even from himself. Blind instinct had first dragged him to
Lettice, a straw in the current; he felt he needed her long before he
knew he loved her. But love, and even passion, had come since, flooding
in by back ways, filling him to the brim. He was tormented by his lost
opportunities. "When I had her to myself there in Rochehaut, why didn't
I make her marry me? She'd have done it if I'd put the screw on; you
can get pretty well anything out of Lettice if she's only sorry enough
for you. Or here in prison, why couldn't I have put my arm round that
little waist of hers and taken a kiss? What would she have done if I
had? Would she have had the impertinence to ruffle up all her pretty
feathers and make believe to be affronted? Or could I have got right
down through all her defenses to the very heart of her, and made her
drop her lashes, and color, and--acknowledge me? I'd give my eyes to
know, and I never shall, never. She had more reticences and reserves
and evasions than any human being I have ever met. She was as delicate
as the bloom on a butterfly. Angelita de mi corazón, I would have
respected your little fads; you should have kept your fenced garden and
your fountain sealed. I could have held your life in my hand and never
closed my fingers on it--yes, I could; even that. I was your very true
lover. I wonder, was it a bayonet--"

To this precipice Gardiner always came, sooner or later. We talk of
unimaginable horrors; there were none he had not imagined. How do men
live, with thoughts like these? God knows.

"B14, are ye waukin? Ye're to dress and come wi' me."

"Hullo! is that Mr. Mackenzie? What's up?"

"It's a veesitor for ye."

"A visitor at this time of night? Here's an exciting go! Who is it--an
officer? Big man in the R.F.C.?"

Mackenzie shook his head. "I canna tell ye, for I havena seen him."

"Now I wonder what good you think you are?" said Gardiner, sitting up,
laughing, blinking at the light. "Rousing me out of my beauty sleep!
Yes, I beg your pardon, sir, and all that, but I'm coming out quite
soon, you know. Hold the light, do you mind, and let me find my socks?"

He laughed in self-defense, and he asked questions for form's sake; but
he knew all the time that this was his doom. Only an urgent messenger
would have been admitted at this hour. It was Wandesforde, come to
tell him how she had died. That thought went with him down the twilit
passages, it stood sentinel before the yellow-glimmering door of the
visitors' room. "Ye've half-an-hour," said Mackenzie in business-like
tones as he turned the handle. Gardiner drew a long breath and walked
through the specter into the room.

A long-legged officer stood up. Wandesforde? No. Oh, good God!

"She's safe," said Denis instantly. "Here, hold on, old man; it's all
right!"

Gardiner was not all right; he was nearly fainting. By and by he found
himself sitting in a chair, still gripping Denis with both hands, while
Denis patted him gently on the back.

"She's all right," he kept repeating--wise Denis, to harp on the one
thing that mattered. "Quite all right; quite safe. Gently does it.
Better now, are you?"

Yes, Gardiner was better and he said so with decision. Denis withdrew
to the other side of the table and sat smiling at him.

"We got back last night. We've been together all the time. Didn't
Wandesforde tell you? I went first to the W.O. to report myself, and
then straight on to get leave to see you. Even a Government department
has bowels these days. I wanted Lettice to come too, but she said she
thought you'd rather not, so she's gone down to her own people in Kent.
Rather rough luck on them all this time, what? She sent her love."

"Go on," said Gardiner, leaning back and composing himself to listen.
"Begin at the beginning and go on to the end, then stop. Lord! I wish
you'd asked the bowelful Home Office to let me have a smoke while you
were about it. Anda, caballerito! Let's have the 'ole of the 'orrible
details."

Denis launched into his tale. He began, as directed, with the raid on
Aix, and his soft Irish tongue ran on fluently till he came to the
Bellevue. "I can't tell you what it was like to see it, Harry. It's
one thing to read about these things, safe here in England; but to see
it--a place you've known--"

"A place you own," said Gardiner grimly. "Yes, that's what these
beastly pacifists never seem to grasp. On a toujours assez de
force--they'd sing a different song if it was their own _maux_ instead
of those of _autrui_. Poor old Bellevue. Well, I'll build it up again.
Go ahead. What happened next?"

"Oh, well, of course I had to ask about it--them--I was a bit reckless,
I suppose. I went down and hailed a man in the road. He told me they
were safe at the Hasquins' farm. And so while we were talkin' of course
a lot of beastly Boches came round the corner. I skipped like a young
unicorn, I can tell you, but they potted me, and then they chased me
all over the place. But I dodged 'em and got up into the fir wood. I
wanted pretty badly to see for myself--"

Gardiner raised his eyebrows. "Bit risky, what?"

"Ah, but I never meant to show up. I was goin' to lie doggo and get
off again after dark. It was Lettice spied me out--you know what her
eyes are." Gardiner nodded. "I do blame myself," said Denis earnestly.
"I'll never get over it; but I was bleedin' like a pig and a bit
muzzy-headed. Well, there it was, anyway. I fainted, and they did what
they liked with me. They got me over and hid me in the tower. Remember
the tower?"

Did Gardiner remember the tower? He remembered it so well, and saw
Lettice beside it so vividly, that he fell silent, and let Denis tell
the rest of his tale almost without question. They had stayed at the
farm till Denis was fit to travel. Then, one wet evening, they set out
to tramp across Belgium, he in Monsieur Hasquin's blouse and loose
trousers, she in Madame's Sunday skirt. "She didn't like it one bit,"
said Denis, with a reminiscent smile. "Wanted to take her hair curlers
in the bundle. Very annoyed with me because I wouldn't let her. It
rankled for days." Denis in addition had his scarred face tied up to
represent toothache. "We did look rather scalawags," he admitted. They
lay up by day and walked by night, keeping mostly to the fields, and
guiding themselves by Denis's pocket compass. Once the café where they
were at supper was invaded by soldiers, who luckily took no notice of
their ragged companions. Another time when they were sheltering in a
barn some Brandenburgers came in to search for fodder. They did not
search behind the patent reaper in the corner. Yet again they went
to sleep in a copse, and woke to find they had chosen the exercising
ground of a squadron of cavalry. That was near the Dutch frontier. Next
night they crossed under cover of darkness, and were safe.

"Well, I consider it all most compromising for Lettice, and if you'd
a spark of proper feeling you'd offer to marry her," said Gardiner,
yawning with his arms above his head, "but of course you never think of
that, selfish brute. Lord! I shall sleep like a pig to-night. Spoiled
your beauty, Denis," he added, looking at the scar, red and puckered.
Denis put up his hand to the place.

"That was our friend Fritz. He does sometimes score a bull's-eye."

"Well, it seriously detracts from your market value as a husband. On
second thought, I'm not sure but Lettice had better put up with me
after all." He hesitated. A point that had not escaped him was Denis's
significant change of pronoun in the latter part of his narrative from
"they" to "she." What in the world had they done with Dorothea? Left
her behind at the farm? Anything was possible with that dear lunatic!
He had no thought of tragedy. There seemed no room for it in Denis's
straightforward tale, and no hint of it in his quiet, smiling manner.
"I say, Denis, I've no wish to be indiscreet, and I'm not asking if I
ought to hold my tongue--but Wandesforde said--"

"Yes," said Denis, "I was comin' to that. She died."

"Died!"

"Instead of me. I'd never have got off but for her. She put on my
flying kit and led them away from the farm. She was always keen on
dressin' up as a boy. Of course I'd have stopped it if I'd known, but I
didn't; I was off my head. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but
they shot her, and they hunted her, and finally they rounded her up in
the fir wood. The officer in command was quite a decent boy, Lettice
said; she'd have been all right if she'd given herself up. But that
would have meant givin' me up, do you see, so she wouldn't do it. She
crawled into one of those caves up there and refused to come out."

"Well?"

"They bombed her," said Denis simply. "Like clearin' a dug-out. So the
whole place fell in. She must have counted on that. She knew it wasn't
safe."

"That was pretty fine," said Gardiner under his breath. He could
find nothing more. The contrast was too poignant. "The one shall be
taken"--but Lettice was left.

"Yes," said Denis. "I've wondered, Harry: do you think there's anything
in that Carth'lic idea of prayers for the dead?"

Gardiner, with those expectant dark blue eyes fixed on him in their
inveterate simplicity, found himself answering: "Oh, I expect--"

"Because, you see, we didn't have much time to say things," Denis
explained. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bore you with this, but it's
been rather a facer for me. You know, if she'd lived, she'd have been
my wife."

"Oh, my dear old Denis--!" said Gardiner.



CHAPTER XXXIV

SHE ALONE CHARMETH MY SADNESS

     Oh, believe me, Nell, it is an awful thing to be a
     wife.--CHARLOTTE BRONTË.


Lettice, dragging up the steps of No. 33 Canning Street, paused to
unfasten her waterproof and shake her wet umbrella. It was raining,
it seemed to have been raining ever since she got back to town, chill
November rain, a yellow haze down every street; and the weather matched
her mood. Ever since April she had been trying to shut her eyes to
the future, but as time drew on it refused to be ignored. It lay in
wait outside the Museum, it came home with her in the Tube, it took
possession of her attic, it was translating itself with appalling
rapidity into the present, and she was no more ready for it than she
had been months ago.

Well! she had still a week's grace, and anything might happen in a
week. Lettice detached her mind with an effort, picked up a letter
from the hall table, and came upstairs at a snail's pace, reading it.
Her own room she expected to be dark, so with her usual deaf and blind
absorption in anything to read she lingered outside on the landing. She
became aware, as she stood, of another scent mingling with that of the
lamp, of another clearer light than its brownish obscurity, but her
eyes remained glued to her letter; not till she had reached the end
did she slowly raise them from the sheet, and then she saw her door
open, her room full of firelight, a white cloth gleaming, a dark figure
standing in the entrance watching her with a smile.

"Buenas noches, señorita," said Gardiner, politely removing his
cigarette.

"O-o-oh--it's you," said Lettice with striking originality.

"The curse is come upon me!" suggested Gardiner. His smile widened.
"Exactly. You look so pleased!"

Lettice, after that first involuntary pause of dismay, had come into
the room; she stood by the table, slowly, slowly drawing off her gloves.

"Well, of _course_ I'm pleased; but why, why, why didn't you let me
know? You said you weren't coming out till next week!"

"So sorry, but I didn't know myself. It was little Scott worked the
oracle--said I was in a bad way or something." Lettice said nothing,
but her chin had a mutinous cock. "Shall I go back again?"

"If you'd let me know in _time_," said Lettice, "I'd have got you
something _nice_ for tea. _Now_ you'll have to put up with what there
is."

That minute offended voice, that reproachful pianissimo drawl! Gardiner
laughed out.

"Lettice, you're inimitable! I swear you haven't turned a hair! Do you
know--do you know you've got the same button off the same coat?"

"Well, you wouldn't expect me to have the same button off another coat,
would you?"

"I would not have you in any single particular in any degree different
from what you are now," Gardiner declared. He dropped into a chair.
"As a matter of fact, they shot me out yesterday; and if it comes
to letting people know, I went straight off to Starbridge under the
impression I should find you in the bosom of your family. I was shown
in right on top of a Belgian work party. Awful. I came out again with
my tail between my legs. That upset I couldn't even face you. I spent
the night in the fields."

"It was raining."

"Quite; it was. I was under a tarpaulin on top of a stack. Oh yes,
thanks, I slept like a hog. I've been dropping off at intervals ever
since, in the train or any old place. Making up for lost time, I
suppose."

His speech ended in a yawn. Lettice stole a glance at him out of the
tail of her eye. "Were you sleeping badly right up to the end?" she
asked.

"Yes; it's been rather rotten. Never mind, all over now. It's good to
be out. Brrr! You leave that toasting fork alone. Drop it! My job.
You're tired; you've been fagging all day in the B.M. Siéntese usted,
señorita."

"You'll burn it," cried Lettice, defensively holding on. He looked up
lazily; his black eyes were melting soft, his voice a seductive murmur.

"Ah! prendita mía, don't you know I'm going to make your toast for you
every evening of your life?"

Lettice was extinguished. She sat down, unwilling but unresisting.
He could make toast, and he could do what was far more difficult and
unusual--make her obey him. He spoke lightly, but he was watching her
all the time; he beset her with his eyes. They said bold things, but he
did not press them; he made her color, and he laughed, yet he did not
touch her. Why he did it? That was quite plain; he was hoarding up his
happiness, playing cat and mouse, holding her life in his hand, as he
had sworn he could, without closing his fingers on it. Lettice knew not
whether to be glad or sorry at the respite.

"Have you seen Mr. Gardiner yet?" she asked. She preferred talking to
being watched.

"Not yet. I'm booked for Woodlands to-night, but I thought I'd see you
first and present him with our plans ready made; he flurries himself
over anything like a discussion, dear old boy. Bet you sixpence you
don't guess what I mean to do?" Lettice looked inquiring. "No; not
enlist. This hand does me out of that. But I've a job in my mind's
eye that will do me quite as well or even better. What do you say to
the Secret Service? Don't you dare screw your nose up at me!" He was
laughing at her again. "Seriously, you know, I'm cut out for it. I pass
anywhere as a Spaniard, and though I say it, I have quite a pretty
turn for finesse. The padre at the prison, Roche his name was, has a
father who's a big brass hat in that line, and he's giving me a leg
up. I shall go directly I'm fit. I'm still pretty frail; I wouldn't
trust myself not to leg it out of a tight place, which at best would
be ignominious, and might lead to a handy wall and a firing squad--oh,
wouldn't suit my book at all. No. I give myself a fat month. I've
certain plans for that month which I propose presently to lay before
you. You go raspberry-pink when you blush, Lætitia Jane; did you know
it?"

"Will you have some more tea?" asked Lettice repressively.

"No, I will not have some more tea. No, and I won't have a cigarette
either. You are a little liar, you hate smoke. I got that out of that
pretty sister of yours--by the way, I think I can get round your people
without much trouble; I'm rather a dog, you know, when I give my mind
to it. Always well to be on good terms with your in-laws--but that's
not the point at present. I've certain plans for this next month, as
I said; but before we discuss them this house will go into committee
on ways and means. The sad fact is that, bar a few pounds in the bank,
I'm a blooming pauper. Every cent I possess went with the Bellevue. I
suppose a grateful country will support me while I'm lying in the bosom
of the Hun--What are you looking at me like that for?"

"Don't you know?"

"Know what?"

"About your, your--your what do you call it."

"My--?"

"It was in Denis's letter. I've just heard from him. About Dot
O'Connor."

"Lucid, very," said Gardiner. "Get a move on, darling. Steady over the
stones. What about Dot O'Connor?"

"Well, I'm _telling_ you as fast as I can. You, you, you do hurry
me so," Lettice complained. She took breath and tried again. "She,
she--it was her will. You heard she left him a lot of money for his old
aeroplanes?"

Gardiner nodded. "Yes, that was in _The Mail_. 'Bequest to an Airman.'
Roche told me. I was very glad about it; poor dear old chap, it'll be
something to take his mind off. But I don't see--"

"Well, she's left you some too. To show her gratitude for your
consideration."

"How much? _Five thousand?_ Good Lord! I say, Lettice, I can't possibly
take it!" Lettice was silent. "Don't you agree with me?"

"No. I think you should."

"After all that's happened?"

"Well, you never did hate her, did you?" said Lettice. "And she didn't
hate you, at any rate not at the last. She'd be sorry if you refused."

"No, I never hated her," said Gardiner. He lay back, thinking. "I say,
Lettice."

"Well?"

"I say, I was cut up over that business. Weren't you?" Lettice nodded.
He leaned forward, fingering the fringe of her tea-cloth. "Not for
Denis's sake, I don't mean, but for her own. I--I liked her, you know.
You couldn't help feeling she ought to have been such a jolly kid!"

"I owe her a good deal," said Lettice on a rare impulse.

"You do?"

"She stuck a knife into a German for me."

Gardiner looked up quickly. "In time?"

"If it hadn't been I shouldn't be here," said Lettice very concisely.

"H'm," said Gardiner. His face was expressionless. Lettice wondered
what he was thinking. She was apt to go astray in other people's
thoughts where they concerned herself, because she habitually
underrated her own significance. She wished she had not told him. She
had never told Denis. She scourged herself for giving confidences
unasked.

There came a pause. Gardiner seemed deep in thought. Lettice with a
darkened face was noiselessly putting cups and saucers together. She
hoped to get out of the room without attracting his attention, but he
shot out of his chair in time to open the door.

"Where are you off to with those things?"

"It's Beatrice's afternoon out, and I'm going to carry them down into
the basement," said Lettice in an uninviting hurry. She was afraid he
would offer to come too, but he did not, nor did her tone provoke a
smile.

"Hurry up back, then, I want to talk to you," was all he said.

Lettice did not hurry back; she stayed to wash up, a work of
supererogation, found half-a-dozen other unnecessary things to do,
loitered on the stairs, delayed on the landing. She had at last to
force herself to the door against a reluctance like a pain; and then
she halted on the threshold. He had fallen asleep.

Lettice crossed the floor with her soft, slow step and stood looking
down on him. Awake, except for being thinner, he was not so much
changed from his old self; asleep, he showed the ravages of the past
twelvemonth--helplessly, openly. Lettice knew without being told that
he hated to be watched in his sleep for that very reason, because he
could not guard his secrets; yet he trusted himself unreservedly to
her. He and his secrets were quite at her mercy. It was too much;
he gave too much and he asked too much. So unlike Denis, who asked
nothing, took things for granted, never criticized either himself or
her! But this alert, restless, observant mind, for ever analyzing and
appraising--how was she to cope with it? She felt like a mole dragged
into the sunshine.

There was some affinity between them, and she had power over him--yes;
but she did not want it. She only longed to creep back underground. She
could give him friendship, she could even give him love of the quality
she gave to Denis, provided he asked no more; if he did ask more, all
her instincts bent away from him towards something very like hostility.
What was she going to do, then? Keep her word, that of course; but how?
Could she deceive him? She could not; that was just what she found
intolerable. But if she did not, would he be satisfied? Or would he
actually enjoy holding her against her will? Lettice was not sure. He
was not cruel, but he was passionate, and passion is cruel. He made
her conscious, always, that he was a man. Entangled in the personal
relation, her judgment was all astray.

Well! she supposed she must set her teeth and do the best she could.
After all, the fault was hers, not his, the unnatural lack was in her.
Remembering little Dorothea's freehearted giving, Lettice despised her
own sterility.

But there was a deeper affinity between them than she knew; and he
showed it now by answering the call of her presence and waking under
her eyes. He woke in terror, with her name on his lips, a cry of agony,
which changed, when he saw her, to relief--instantaneous. He turned and
hid his face against her, in the gesture of a frightened child. Lettice
never forgot that moment. It was a sword through her heart. She drew
a deep breath; without impulse, deliberately rather, she put her arm
round his shoulders and held him there, strong to comfort. Her face was
stern.... Moments passed; little by little the tremors and the quick
uneven breathing subsided. He sat up.

"Apologies," he said with a half-laugh, unconcealably shaken, but
unashamed.

"Do you often wake like that?" asked Lettice unsmiling.

"Do I? Occasionally. When I get the jim-jams. Yes, I have pretty often
lately. It's all your fault, you know."

"My fault?"

"That story of yours, that particular danger--well, it happened to be
my particular nightmare. I don't think there were many minutes when
it was out of my head. I kept it under mostly during the day, but at
night it used to wear through and wake me up. I used to visualize it in
all sorts of variations. You, Lettice, who hate to have a hand laid on
you--"

"Who told you I disliked that?"

"You have yourself, a dozen times."

She let that pass. "I am thankful you are out of that place," she said
in a low voice, half to herself. He smiled.

"I'm all right, darling. Or I soon shall be, when--"

"When what?"

"Nothing," said Gardiner. "I shall be all right soon."

He captured the hand which hung by her side and kissed it softly,
inside and out. "It's been rather sport pulling your tail when you've
always tried to pull mine, but I can't keep it up any longer. Are you
going to give me what I want, Lettice of my heart?"

"What do you want?"

"You. All of you. Mind as well as body. Mind principally. I told you
before, I tell you again, it was you brought me through. You have
me--all of me. And if I'm better worth having than I was a year ago,
it's your doing. I claim no credit. I put myself into your hands to
do what you like with. Will you take on the job?" Lettice did not
answer--could not answer; she was in travail, and hers was no easy
delivery. Gardiner looked up. "My God, you don't want to!"

She put out her hand quickly. "I will marry you."

"No, you won't. I decline."

"You--you don't understand. I will marry you."

"Oh, damn," said Gardiner. "Oh, I can't stand this. It's quite all
right. I can get on without you." He stood by the table, striking
match after match in vain efforts to light his cigarette; when he had
it burning, he threw it away. Then he began on the matches again; the
floor was strewn with broken ends. "My darling, it really is all right.
I should have seen it before if I hadn't been an ass. What you can't
give is the least part of what I want. Put me on the same ration as
Denis, and I shall do famously."

"You _don't_ understand," said Lettice, "and I am such a dolt--"

"Lettice, I _will not_ take what you don't want to give. I saw what you
were feeling. Think you could take me in after we were married? Think I
should enjoy the position? I tell you one reason why your instincts are
rebelling now, and that's the--the--what that poor child killed. Isn't
it so?" Lettice was mute. "Well, do you think I want to even myself
with _that_?"

"I don't care what you think," said Lettice with staccato distinctness,
"and I am _going_ to marry you."

He turned and seized her shoulders. "Lettice, you don't love me?" She
was dumb again. "Do you? _Do_ you? Lettice--alma de mi vida, niña de mi
corazón--saladisima, preciosisima, hermosisima--"

If he had never known it before, he saw now that he had power over her;
she could not resist that tone. "Well, I can't have you waking up like
that, can I?"

"How would you have me wake?" asked Gardiner under his breath. He did
not know what he expected, certainly not what he got: a swift turn,
Lettice's face grim with feeling, her hands strongly drawing him down
against her heart. She said not a syllable, but she held him there; and
by and by she bent her graceful little neck and kissed him, the oddest
little salute, it might have been called a peck, quite definite and not
at all shy. Gardiner sprang up, flushed, impassioned, freeing himself
from her arms to seize her in his own; then holding her off, with
one lingering scruple--"Sure it's all right, Lettice? Sure you don't
mind? I swear I'll take nothing you don't freely give--now or as your
husband, nothing!"

"You are not all there is of most intelligent, are you?" said Lettice.

But if her tongue was perverse, her eyes were very soft--soft as only
Lettice's eyes could be, always with a sparkle in their sweetness; and
Gardiner was not critical. He was far too much occupied in making love,
which he did very prettily, with a wealth of soft Spanish superlatives.
He was drunk with happiness; his most enterprising dreams had never
pictured such a surrender.

And Lettice was happy too. She knew now, she had learned in the moment
when he woke with her name on his lips, that she was not afraid of
passion; and if she had surprised him, he had surprised her too.
She had thought she understood him pretty well; but she knew the
worst better than the best, and the unselfishness, the delicacy,
the almost fantastic chivalry of his love left her wondering and
self-reproachful. So it happened that she finally surrendered the keys
of her heart (with reserves: there were certain chambers which she
really couldn't and wouldn't unlock, though she spoiled her Harry in
every other conceivable way) with fewer regrets than she had thought
possible, and with no misgivings at all. Her mind was at rest; she had
built her house upon a rock.


     _We traveled in the print of olden wars,_
       _Yet all the land was green,_
     _And love we found, and peace,_
       _Where fire and war had been._


MARCH, 1920, on the Semois.

Strong sunshine and silver rain-storms; the winds of the equinox
marshaling great swan-white droves of cloud across the blue, the wet
earth sparkling like a jewel. The hill of the crucifix was green,
pea-green with the growth of young wheat; the hill of woods opposite,
still leafless, had a million delicate buds, cloud on cloud of russet,
and bronze, and lilac, and faint yellow, and fainter green, softly
rounding the shape of every bush. Great oaks detached themselves,
gnarled lichen-gray skeletons, distinct in branch and twig, from purple
hollows of the woodland. The valley was a streak of emerald; the river
glistened like thin silver in the sun.

So peaceful, and so little changed! Across the stream the bridge lay
broken-backed, but sounds of hammering came up through the thin air,
and midget figures moved about with wheelbarrows, repairing it. Among
the crushed roofs of Poupehan white scaffolding took the eye. Farther
down the valley, where the woods had been stripped, and the Roche
des Corneilles showed bare and gray on a bare purple hill-side, the
young plantations were rising among the brushwood in dotted lines of
green. The orchards of the Bellevue, brutally hacked down, had been
doctored and replanted, and were whitening with early blossom; and
through their branches a quick eye could discern other signs of growth
and restoration. Of the original Bellevue not one stone was left upon
another, but a new one was rising in its room. Soon, very soon, the
scars would heal, and all would be as it had been.


     _And O, how deep the corn_
     _Along the battlefield!_


One change there was, not due to the tide of war. The forlorn wooden
cross on the hill-top had gone: had given place to another, a lovely
thing in marble, the inspiration of a French artist, standing forty
feet high on its pedestal of steps. It had been put up by an English
_avion_, presumably to commemorate his miraculous escape from death
on that very spot, though the inscription on the plinth did not quite
tally with that theory. Strange that a heretic and an Englishman should
choose to erect a crucifix, stranger still to those who had known this
Englishman before; but times change, and men with them. At any rate
there stood the cross; and Rochehaut, if it could not understand, was
inordinately proud of it. "Eh, madame, vous allez au Christ, n'est-ce
pas?" said Madame Hasquin of the farm to the wife of her temporary
lodger. "Ah! c'est beau ça, savez-vous! Mettez une petite prière pour
moi, je vous prie!"

So Lettice, sitting on the steps with a pair of masculine socks, as she
had once sat on the stones with the green tablecloth, added a prayer
for little murdered Denise (which was what Madame meant by her _moi_)
to the petition requested by the cross:


D. M. T.

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA
PRIEZ POUR ELLE


THE END





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