Debits and Credits by Rudyard Kipling
The Enemies to
A Tale of '15
Interests of the
(Horace, Ode 17,
"Late Came the
The Wish House
(Horace, Ode 22,
(Horace, Ode 20,
The Prophet and
Gow's Watch: Act
IV, Sc. 4
The Bull That
A Madonna of the
Gow's Watch: Act
V. Sc. 3
A Legend of
A Friend of the
We and They
On the Gate: A
Tale of '16
The Eye of Allah
The Last Ode:
Nov. 27, B.C. 8
(Horace, Ode 31,
The Enemies to Each Other
With Apologies to the Shade of Mirza Mirkhond
IT is narrated (and God knows best the true state of the case) by
Abu Ali Jafir Bin Yakub-ul-Isfahani that when, in His determinate Will,
The Benefactor had decided to create the Greatest Substitute (Adam), He
despatched, as is known, the faithful and the excellent Archangel
Jibrail to gather from Earth clays, loams, and sands endowed with
various colours and attributes, necessary for the substance of our pure
Forefather's body. Receiving the Command and reaching the place,
Jibrail put forth his hand to take them, but Earth shook and lamented
and supplicated him. Then said Jibrail: 'Lie still and rejoice, for out
of thee He will create that than which (there) is no handsomer thing-to
wit a Successor and a Wearer of the Diadem over thee through the ages.'
Earth said: 'I adjure thee to abstain from thy purpose, lest evil and
condemnation of that person who is created out of me should later
overtake him, and the Abiding (sorrow) be loosed upon my head. I have
no power to resist the Will of the Most High, but I take refuge with
Allah from thee.' So Jibrail was moved by the lamentations and
helplessness of Earth, and returned to the Vestibule of the Glory with
an empty hand.
After this, by the Permission, the Just and Terrible Archangel
Michael next descended, and he, likewise, hearing and seeing the
abjection of Earth, returned with an empty hand. Then was sent the
Archangel Azrael, and when Earth had once again implored God, and once
again cried out, he closed his hand upon her bosom and tore out the
clays and sands necessary.
Upon his return to the Vestibule it was asked if Earth had again
taken refuge with Allah or not? Azrael said: 'Yes.' It was answered 'If
it took refuge with Me why didst thou not spare?' Azrael answered:
'Obedience (to Thee) was more obligatory than Pity (for it).' It was
answered: 'Depart! I have made thee the Angel of Death to separate the
souls from the bodies of men.' Azrael wept, saying: 'Thus shall all men
hate me.' It was answered: 'Thou hast said that Obedience is more
obligatory than Pity. Mix thou the clays and the sands and lay them to
dry between Tayif and Mecca till the time appointed.' So, then, Azrael
departed and did according to the Command. But in his haste he
perceived not that he had torn out from Earth clays and minerals that
had lain in her at war with each other since the first; nor did he
withdraw them and set them aside. And in his grief that he should have
been decreed the Separator of Companions, his tears mingled with them
in the mixing, so that the substance of Adam's body was made
unconformable and ill-assorted, pierced with burning drops, and at
issue with itself before there was (cause of) strife.
This, then, lay out to dry for forty years between Tayif and Mecca
and, through all that time, the Beneficence of the Almighty leavened it
and rained upon it the Mercy and the Blessing, and the properties
necessary to the adornment of the Successorship. In that period, too,
it is narrated that the Angels passed to and fro above it, and among
them Eblis the Accursed, who smote the predestined Creation while it
was drying, and it rang hollow. Eblis then looked more closely and
observing that of which it was composed to be diverse and ill-assorted
and impregnated with bitter tears, he said: 'Doubt not I shall soon
attain authority over this; and his ruin shall be easy.' (This, too,
lay in the foreknowledge of The Endless.)
When time was that the chain of cause and effect should be
surrendered to Man's will, and the vessels of desire and intention
entrusted to his intelligence, and the tent of his body illuminated by
the lamp of vitality, the Soul was despatched, by Command of the
Almighty, with the Archangel Jibrail, towards that body. But the Soul
being thin and subtle refused, at first, to enter the thick and diverse
clays, saying: 'I have fear of that (which is) to be.' This it cried
twice, till it received the Word: 'Enter unwillingly, and unwillingly
depart.' Then only it entered. And when that agony was accomplished,
the Word came: 'My Compassion exceedeth My Wrath.' It is narrated that
these were the first words of which our pure Forefather had
Afterwards, by the operation of the determinate Will, there arose in
Adam a desire for a companion, and an intimate and a friend in the
Garden of the Tree. It is narrated that he first took counsel of Earth
(which had furnished) his body. Earth said: 'Forbear. Is it not enough
that one should have dominion over me?' Adam answered: 'There is but
one who is One in Earth or Heaven. All paired things point to the
Unity, and my soul, which came not from thee, desires unutterably.'
Earth said: 'Be content in innocence, and let thy body, which I gave
unwillingly, return thus to (me) thy mother.' Adam said: 'I am
motherless. What should I know?'
At that time came Eblis the Accursed who had long prepared an evil
stratagem and a hateful device against our pure Forefather, being
desirous of his damnation, and anxious to multiply causes and occasions
thereto. He addressed first his detestable words to the Peacock among
the birds of the Garden, saying: 'I have great amity towards thee
because of thy beauty; but, through no fault of mine, I am forbidden
the Garden. Hide me, then, among thy tail-feathers that I may enter it,
and worship both thee and our Lord Adam, who is Master of thee.' The
Peacock said: 'Not by any contrivance of mine shaft thou enter, lest a
judgment fall on my beauty and my excellence. But there is in the
Garden a Serpent of loathsome aspect who shall make thy path easy.' He
then despatched the Serpent to the Gate and after conversation and by
contrivance and a malign artifice, Eblis hid himself under the tongue
of the Serpent, and was thus conveyed past the barrier. He then
worshipped Adam and ceased not to counsel him to demand a companion and
an intimate that the delights might be increased, and the succession
assured to the Regency of Earth. For he foresaw that, among multitudes,
many should come to him. Adam therefore made daily supplication for
that blessing. It was answered him: 'How knowest thou if the
gratification of thy desire be a blessing or a curse?' Adam said: 'By
no means; but I will abide the chance.'
Then the somnolence fell upon him, as is narrated; and upon waking
he beheld our Lady Eve (upon whom be the Mercy and the Forgiveness).
Adam said: 'O my Lady and Light of my Universe, who art thou?' Eve
said: 'O my Lord and Summit of my Contentment, who art thou?' Adam
said: 'Of a surety I am thine.' Eve said: 'Of a surety I am throe.'
Thus they ceased to inquire further into the matter, but were united,
and became one flesh and one soul, and their felicity was beyond
comparison or belief or imagination or apprehension.
Thereafter, it is narrated that Eblis the Stoned consorted with them
secretly in the Garden, and the Peacock with him; and they jested and
made mirth for our Lord Adam and his Lady Eve and propounded riddles
and devised occasions for the stringing of the ornaments and the
threading of subtleties. And upon a time when their felicity was at its
height, and their happiness excessive, and their contentment expanded
to the uttermost, Eblis said: 'O my Master and my Mistress, declare to
us, if it pleases, some comparison or similitude that lies beyond the
limits of possibility.' Adam said: 'This is easy. That the Sun should
cease in Heaven or that the Rivers should dry in the Garden is beyond
the limits of possibility.' And they laughed and agreed, and the
Peacock said: 'O our Lady, tell us now something of a jest as
unconceivable and as beyond belief as this saying of thy Lord.' Our
Lady Eve then said: 'That my Lord should look upon me otherwise than is
his custom is beyond this saying.' And when they had laughed
abundantly, she said: 'O our Servitors, tell us now something that is
further from possibility or belief than my saying.' Then the Peacock
said: 'O our Lady Eve, except that thou shouldst look upon thy Lord
otherwise than is thy custom, there is nothing further than thy saying
from possibility or belief or imagination.' Then said Eblis: 'Except
that the one of you should be made an enemy to the other, there is
nothing, O my Lady, further than thy saying from possibility, or
belief, or imagination, or apprehension.' And they laughed immoderately
all four together in the Garden.
But when the Peacock had gone and Eblis had seemed to depart, our
Lady Eve said to Adam 'My Lord and Disposer of my Soul, by what means
did Eblis know our fear?' Adam said: '0 my Lady, what fear?' Eve said:
'The fear which was in our hearts from the first, that the one of us
might be made an enemy to the other.' Then our pure Forefather bowed
his head on her bosom and said: 'O Companion of my Heart, this has been
my fear also from the first, but how didst thou know?' Eve said:
'Because I am thy flesh and thy soul. What shall we do?'
Thus, then, they came at moonrise to the Tree that had been
forbidden to them, and Eblis lay asleep under it. But he waked merrily
and said 'O my Master and my Mistress, this is the Tree of Eternity. By
eating her fruit, felicity is established for ever among mankind; nor
after eating it shall there be any change whatever in the disposition
of the hearts of the eaters.'
Eve then put out her hand to the fruit, but Adam said: 'It is
forbidden. Let us go.' Eve said: 'O my Lord and my Sustainer, upon my
head be it, and upon the heads of my daughters after me. I will first
taste of this Tree, and if misfortune fall on me, do thou intercede for
me; or else eat likewise, so that eternal bliss may come to us
Thus she ate, and he after her; and at once the ornaments of
Paradise disappeared from round them, and they were delivered to shame
and nudity and abjection. Then, as is narrated, Adam accused Eve in the
Presence; but our Lady Eve (upon whom be the Pity and the Recompense)
accepted (the blame of) all that had been done.
When the Serpent and the Peacock had each received their portion for
their evil contrivances (for the punishment of Eblis was reserved) the
Divine Decree of Expulsion was laid upon Adam and Eve in these words:
'Get ye down, the one of you an enemy to the other.' Adam said: 'But I
have heard that Thy Compassion exceeds Thy Wrath.' It was answered: 'I
have spoken. The Decree shall stand in the place of all curses.' So
they went down, and the barriers of the Garden of the Tree were made
fast behind them.
It is further recorded by the stringers of the pearls of words and
the narrators of old, that when our pure Forefather the Lord Adam and
his adorable consort Eve (upon whom be the Glory and the Sacrifice)
were thus expelled, there was lamentation among the beasts in the
Garden whom Adam had cherished and whom our Lady Eve had comforted. Of
those unaffected there remained only the Mole, whose custom it was to
burrow in earth and to avoid the light of the Sun. His nature was
malignant and his body inconspicuous, but, by the Power of the
Omnipotent, Whose Name be exalted, he was then adorned with eyes
far-seeing both in the light and the darkness.
When the Mole heard the Divine Command of Expulsion, it entered his
impure mind that he would extract profit and advancement from a secret
observation and a hidden espial. So he followed our Forefather and his
august consort, under the earth, and watched those two in their
affliction and their abjection and their misery, and the Garden was
without his presence for that time.
When his watch was complete and his observation certain, he turned
him swiftly underneath the earth and came back saying to the Guardians
of the Gate: 'Make room! I have a sure and a terrible report.' So his
passage was permitted, and he lay till evening in the Garden. Then he
said: 'Can the Accursed by any means escape the Decree?' It was
answered: 'By no means can they escape or avoid.' Then the Mole said
'But I have seen that they have escaped.' It was answered: 'Declare thy
observation.' The Mole said: 'The enemies to each other have altogether
departed from Thy worship and Thy adoration. Nor are they in any sort
enemies to each other, for they enjoy together the most perfect
felicity, and moreover they have made them a new God.' It was answered:
'Declare the shape of the God.' The Mole said: 'Their God is of small
stature, pinkish in colour, unclothed, fat and smiling. They lay it
upon the grass and, filling its hands with flowers, worship it and
desire no greater comfort.' It was answered: 'Declare the name of the
God.' The Mole said: 'Its name is Quabil (Cain), and I testify upon a
sure observation that it is their God and their Uniter and their
Comforter.' It was answered: 'Why hast thou come to Us?' The Mole said:
'Through my zeal and my diligence; for honour and in hope of reward.'
It was answered: 'Is this, then, the best that thou canst do with the
eyes which We gave thee?' The Mole said: 'To the extreme of my
ability!' It was answered: 'There is no need. Thou hast not added to
their burden, but to thine own. Be darkened henceforward, upon earth
and under earth. It is not good to spy upon any creature of God to whom
alleviation is permitted.' So, then, the Mole's eyes were darkened and
contracted, and his lot was made miserable upon and under the earth to
But to those two, Adam and Eve, the alleviation was permitted, till
Habil and Quabil and their sisters Labuda and Aqlemia had attained the
age of maturity. Then there came to the Greatest Substitute and his
Consort, from out of Kabul the Stony, that Peacock, by whose
contrivance Eblis the Accursed had first obtained admission into the
Garden of the Tree. And they made him welcome in all their ways and
into all their imaginings; and he sustained them with false words and
flagitious counsels, so that they considered and remembered their
forfeited delights in the Garden both arrogantly and impenitently.
Then came the Word to the Archangel Jibrail the Faithful, saying:
'Follow those two with diligence, and interpose the shield of thy
benevolence where it shall be necessary; for though We have surrendered
them for awhile (to Eblis) they shall not achieve an irremediable
destruction.' Jibrail therefore followed our First Substitute and the
Lady Eve-upon whom is the Grace and a Forgetfulness-and kept watch upon
them in all the lands appointed for their passage through the world.
Nor did he hear any lamentations in their mouths for their sins. It is
recorded that for an hundred years they were continuously upheld by the
Peacock under the detestable power of Eblis the Stoned, who by means of
magic multiplied the similitudes of meat and drink and rich raiment
about them for their pleasure, and came daily to worship them as Gods.
(This also lay in the predestined Will of the Inscrutable.) Further, in
that age, their eyes were darkened and their minds were made turbid,
and the faculty of laughter was removed from them. The Excellent
Archangel Jibrail, when he perceived by observation that they had
ceased to laugh, returned and bowed himself among the Servitors and
cried: 'The last evil has fallen upon Thy creatures whom I guard! They
have ceased to laugh and are made even with the ox and the camel.' It
was answered: 'This also was foreseen. Keep watch.'
After yet another hundred years Eblis, whose doom is assured, came
to worship Adam as was his custom and said: 'O my Lord and my Advancer
and my Preceptor in Good and Evil, whom hast thou ever beheld in all
thy world, wiser and more excellent than thyself?' Adam said: 'I have
never seen such an one.' Eblis asked: 'Hast thou ever conceived of such
an one?' Adam answered: 'Except in dreams I have never conceived of
such an one.' Eblis then answered: 'Disregard dreams. They proceed from
superfluity of meat. Stretch out thy hand upon the world which thou
hast made and take possession.' So Adam took possession of the
mountains which he had levelled and of the rivers which he had diverted
and of the upper and lower Fires which he had made to speak and to work
for him, and he named them as possessions for himself and his children
for ever. After this, Eblis asked: 'O, my Upholder and Crown of my
Belief, who has given thee these profitable things?' Adam said: 'By my
Hand and my Head, I alone have given myself these things.' Eblis said:
'Praise we the Giver!' So, then, Adam praised himself in a loud voice,
and built an Altar and a Mirror behind the Altar; and he ceased not to
adore himself in the Mirror, and to extol himself daily before the
Altar, by the name and under the attributes of the Almighty.
The historians assert that on such occasions it was the custom of
the Peacock to expand his tail and stand beside our First Substitute
and to minister to him with flatteries and adorations.
After yet another hundred years, the Omnipotent, Whose Name be
exalted, put a bitter remorse into the bosom of the Peacock, and that
bird closed his tail and wept upon the mountains of Serendib. Then said
the Excellent and Faithful Archangel Jibrail: 'How has the Vengeance
overtaken thee, O thou least desirable of fowl?' The Peacock said:
'Though I myself would by no means consent to convey Eblis into the
Garden of the Tree, yet as is known to thee and to the All-Seeing, I
referred him to the Serpent for a subtle device, by whose malice and
beneath whose tongue did Eblis secretly enter that Garden. Wherefore
did Allah change my attuned voice to a harsh cry and my beauteous legs
to unseemly legs, and hurled me into the district of Kabul the Stony.
Now I fear that He will also deprive me of my tail, which is the
ornament of my days and the delight of my eye. For that cause and in
that fear I am penitent, O Servant of God.' Jibrail then said:
'Penitence lies not in confession, but in restitution and visible
amendment.' The Peacock said: 'Enlighten me in that path and prove my
sincerity.' Jibrail said: 'I am troubled on account of Adam who,
through the impure magic of Eblis, has departed from humility, and
worships himself daily at an Altar and before a Mirror, in such and
such a manner.' The Peacock said: 'O Courier of the Thrones, hast thou
taken counsel of the Lady Eve?' Jibrail asked: 'For what reason?' The
Peacock said: 'For the reason that when the Decree of Expulsion was
issued against those two, it was said: "Get ye down, the one of you an
enemy unto the other," and this is a sure word.' Jibrail answered:
'What will that profit?' The Peacock said: 'Let us exchange our shapes
for a time and I will show thee that profit.'
Jibrail then exacted an oath from the Peacock that he would return
him his shape at the expiration of a certain time without dishonour or
fraud, and the exchange was effected, and Jibrail retired himself into
the shape of the Peacock, and the Peacock lifted himself into the
illustrious similitude of Jibrail and came to our Lady Eve and said:
'Who is God?' The Lady Eve answered him: 'His name is Adam.' The
Peacock said: 'How is he God?' The Lady Eve answered: 'For that he
knows both Good and Evil.' The Peacock asked: 'By what means attained
he to that knowledge?' The Lady Eve answered: 'Of a truth it was I who
brought it to him between my hands from off a Tree in the Garden.' The
Peacock said: 'The greater then thy modesty and thy meekness, O my Lady
Eve,' and he removed himself from her presence, and came again to
Jibrail a little before the time of the evening prayer. He said to that
excellent and trusty one: 'Continue, I pray, to serve in my shape at
the time of the Worship at the Altar.' So Jibrail consented and preened
himself and spread his tail and pecked between his claws, after the
manner of created Peacocks, before the Altar until the entrance of our
pure Forefather and his august consort. Then he perceived by
observation that when Adam kneeled at the Mirror to adore himself the
Lady Eve abode unwillingly, and in time she asked: 'Have I then no part
in this worship?' Adam answered: 'A great and a redoubtable part bast
thou, O my Lady, which is to praise and worship me constantly.' The
Lady Eve said: 'But I weary of this worship. Except thou build me an
Altar and make a Mirror to me also I will in no wise be present at this
worship, nor in thy bed.' And she withdrew her presence. Adam then said
to Jibrail whom he esteemed to be the Peacock: 'What shall we do? If I
build not an Altar, the Woman who walks by my side will be a reproach
to me by day and a penance by night, and peace will depart from the
earth.' Jibrail answered, in the voice of the Peacock: 'For the sake of
Peace on earth build her also an Altar.' So they built an Altar with a
Mirror in all respects conformable to the Altar which Adam had made,
and Adam made proclamation from the ends of the earth to the ends of
the earth that there were now two Gods upon earth-the one Man, and the
Then came the Peacock in the likeness of Jibrail to the Lady Eve and
said: 'O Lady of Light, why is thy Altar upon the left hand and the
Altar of my Lord upon the right?' The Lady Eve said: 'It is a
remediable error,' and she remedied it with her own hands, and our pure
Forefather fell into a great anger. Then entered Jibrail in the
likeness of the Peacock and said to Adam: 'O my Lord and Very
Interpreter, what has vexed thee?' Adam said: 'What shall we do? The
Woman who sleeps in my bosom has changed the honourable places of the
Altars, and if I suffer not the change she will weary me by night and
day, and there will be no refreshment upon earth.' Jibrail said,
speaking in the voice of the Peacock: 'For the sake of refreshment
suffer the change.' So they worshipped at the changed Altars, the Altar
to the Woman upon the right, and to the Man upon the left.
Then came the Peacock, in the similitude of Jibrail the Trusty One,
to our Lady Eve and said: 'O Incomparable and All-Creating, art thou by
chance the mother of Quabil and Habil (Cain and Abel)?' The Lady Eve
answered: 'By no chance but by the immutable ordinance of Nature am I
their Mother.' The Peacock said, in the voice of Jibrail: 'Will they
become such as Adam?' The Lady Eve answered: 'Of a surety, and many
more also.' The Peacock, as Jibrail, said: 'O Lady of Abundance,
enlighten me now which is the greater, the mother or the child?' The
Lady Eve answered: 'Of a surety, the mother.' The disguised Peacock
then said: 'O my Lady, seeing that from thee alone proceed all the
generations of Man who calls himself God, what need of any Altar to
Man?' The Lady Eve answered: 'It is an error. Doubt not it shall be
rectified,' and at the time of the Worship she smote down the left-
hand Altar. Adam said: 'Why is this, O my Lady and my Co-equal?' The
Lady Eve answered: 'Because it has been revealed that in Me is all
excellence and increase, splendour, terror, and power. Bow down and
worship.' Adam answered: 'O my Lady, but thou art Eve my mate and no
sort of goddess whatever. This have I known from the beginning. Only
for Peace' sake I suffered thee to build an Altar to thyself.' The Lady
Eve answered: 'O my Lord, but thou art Adam my mate, and by many
universes removed from any sort of Godhead, and this have I known from
the first. Nor for the sake of any peace whatever will I cease to
proclaim it.' She then proclaimed it aloud, and they reproached each
other and disputed and betrayed their thoughts and their inmost
knowledges until the Peacock lifted himself in haste from their
presence and came to Jibrail and said: 'Let us return each to his own
shape; for Enlightenment is at hand.'
So restitution was made without fraud or dishonour and they returned
to the temple each in his proper shape with his attributes, and
listened to the end of that conversation between the First Substitute
and his august Consort who ceased not to reprehend each other upon all
matters within their observation and their experience and their
When the steeds of recrimination had ceased to career across the
plains of memory, and when the drum of evidence was no longer beaten by
the drumstick of malevolence, and the bird of argument had taken refuge
in the rocks of silence, the Excellent and Trustworthy Archangel
Jibrail bowed himself before our pure Forefather and said: 'O my Lord
and Fount of all Power and Wisdom, is it permitted to worship the
Then by the operation of the Mercy of Allah, the string was loosed
in the throat of our First Substitute and the oppression was lifted
from his lungs and he laughed without cessation and said: 'By Allah, I
am no God but the mate of this most detestable Woman whom I love, and
who is necessary to me beyond all the necessities.' But he ceased not
to entertain Jibrail with tales of the follies and the unreasonableness
of our Lady Eve till the night time.
The Peacock also bowed before the Lady Eve and said: 'Is it
permitted to adore the Source and the Excellence?' and the string was
loosened in the Lady Eve's throat and she laughed aloud and merrily and
said: 'By Allah I am no goddess in any sort, but the mate of this mere
Man whom, in spite of all, I love beyond and above my soul.' But she
detained the Peacock with tales of the stupidity and the childishness
of our pure Forefather till the Sun rose.
Then Adam entered, and the two looked upon each other laughing. Then
said Adam: 'O my Lady and Crown of my Torments, is it peace between
us?' And our Lady Eve answered: 'O my Lord and sole Cause of my
Unreason, it is peace till the next time and the next occasion.' And
Adam said: 'I accept, and I abide the chance.' Our Lady Eve said: 'O
Man, wouldst thou have it otherwise upon any composition?' Adam said:
'O Woman, upon no composition would I have it otherwise-not even for
the return to the Garden of the Tree; and this I swear on thy head and
the heads of all who shall proceed from thee.' And Eve said: 'I also.'
So they removed both Altars and laughed and built a new one
Then Jibrail and the Peacock departed and prostrated themselves
before the Throne and told what had been said. It was answered: 'How
left ye them?' They said: 'Before one Altar.' It was answered: 'What
was written upon the Altar?' They said: 'The Decree of Expulsion as it
was spoken-"Get ye down, the one of you an enemy unto the other."'
And it was answered: 'Enough! It shall stand in the place of both
Our Curse and Our Blessing.'
OR EVER the battered liners sank
With their passengers to the dark.
I was head of a Walworth Bank.
And you were a grocer's clerk.
I was a dealer in stocks and shares.
And you in butters and teas.
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas.
Wet and worry about our ways-
Panic, onset, and flight-
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And a thousand-year-long night.
We saw more than the nights could hide-
More than the waves could keep--
And--certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.
We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by.
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us heavens-high...
Now there is nothing-not even our rank-
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank;
And you to your margarine
A Tale of '15
THE head-waiter of the Carvoitz almost ran to meet Portson and his
guests as they came up the steps from the palmcourt where the string
'Not seen you since-oh, ever so long,' he began. 'So glad to get
your wire. Quite well-eh?'
'Fair to middling, Henri.' Portson shook hands with him. 'You're
looking all right, too. Have you got us our table?'
Henri nodded toward a pink alcove, kept for mixed doubles, which
discreetly commanded the main dining-room's glitter and blaze.
'Good man!' said Portson. 'Now, this is serious, Henri. We put
ourselves unreservedly in your hands. We're weather-beaten mariners-
though we don't look it, and we haven't eaten a Chrihristian meal in
months. Have you thought of all that, Henri, mon ami?'
'The menu, I have compose it myself,' Henri answered with the
gravity of a high priest.
It was more than a year since Portson-of Portson, Peake and Ensell,
Stock and Share Brokers-had drawn Henri's attention to an apparently
extinct Oil Company which, a little later, erupted profitably; and it
may be that Henri prided himself on paying all debts in full.
The most recent foreign millionaire and the even more recent foreign
actress at a table near the entrance clamoured for his attention while
he convoyed the party to the pink alcove. With his own hands he turned
out some befrilled electrics and lit four pale rose-candles.
'Bridal!' some one murmured. 'Quite bridal!'
'So glad you like. There is nothing too good.' Henri slid away, and
the four men sat down. They had the coarse-grained complexions of men
who habitually did themselves well, and an air, too, of recent, red-
eyed dissipation. Maddingham, the eldest, was a thick-set middle-aged
presence, with crisped grizzled hair, of the type that one associates
with Board Meetings. He limped slightly. Tegg, who followed him,
blinking, was neat, small, and sandy, of unmistakable Navy cut, but
sheepish aspect. Winchmore, the youngest, was more on the lines of the
conventional pre-war 'nut,' but his eyes were sunk in his head and his
hands black-nailed and roughened. Portson, their host, with Vandyke
beard and a comfortable little stomach, beamed upon them as they
settled to their oysters.
'That's what I mean,' said the carrying voice of the foreign
actress, whom Henri had just disabused of the idea that she had been
promised the pink alcove. 'They ain't alive to the war yet. Now, what's
the matter with those four dubs yonder joining the British Army or-or
'Who's your friend?' Maddingham asked.
'I've forgotten her name for the minute,' Portson replied, 'but
she's the latest thing in imported patriotic piece-goods. She sings
"Sons of the Empire, Go Forward!" at the Palemseum. It makes the
'That's Sidney Latter. She's not half bad.' Tegg reached for the
vinegar. 'We ought to see her some night.'
'Yes. We've a lot of time for that sort of thing,' Maddingham
grunted. 'I'll take your oysters, Portson, if you don't want 'em.'
'Cheer up, Papa Maddingham! 'Soon be dead!' Winchmore suggested.
Maddingham glared at him. 'If I'd had you with me for one week,
'Not the least use,' the boy retorted. 'I've just been made a full-
lootenant. I have indeed. I couldn't reconcile it with my conscience to
take Etheldreda out any more as a plain sub. She's too flat in the
'Did you get those new washboards of yours fixed?' Tegg cut in.
'Don't talk shop already,' Portson protested. 'This is Vesiga soup.
I don't know what he's arranged in the way of drinks.'
'Pol Roger '04,' said the waiter.
'Sound man, Henri,' said Winchmore. 'But,' he eyed the waiter
doubtfully, 'I don't quite like...What's your alleged nationality?'
''Henri's nephew, monsieur,' the smiling waiter replied, and laid a
gloved hand on the table. It creaked corkily at the wrist. 'Bethisy-
sur-Oise,' he explained. 'My uncle he buy me all the hand for
Christmas. It is good to hold plates only.'
'Oh! Sorry I spoke,' said Winchmore.
'Monsieur is right. But my uncle is very careful, even with
neutrals.' He poured the champagne.
'Hold a minute,' Maddingham cried. 'First toast of obligation: For
what we are going to receive, thank God and the British Navy.'
'Amen!' said the others with a nod toward Lieutenant Tegg, of the
Royal Navy afloat, and, occasionally, of the Admiralty ashore.
'Next! "Damnation to all neutrals!"' Maddingham went on.
'Amen! Amen!' they answered between gulps that heralded the sole a
la Colbert. Maddingham picked up the menu. 'Supreame of chicken,' he
read loudly. 'Filet bearnaise, Woodcock and Richebourg '74, Peaches
Melba, Croutes Baron. I couldn't have improved on it myself; though one
might,' he went on-'one might have substituted quail en casserole for
'Then there would have been no reason for the Burgundy,' said Tegg
with equal gravity.
'You're right,' Maddingham replied.
The foreign actress shrugged her shoulders. 'What can you do with
people like that?' she said to her companion. 'And yet I've been
singing to 'em for a fortnight.'
'I left it all to Henri,' said Portson.
'My Gord!' the eavesdropping woman whispered. 'Get on to that! Ain't
it typical? They leave everything to Henri in this country.'
'By the way,' Tegg asked Winchmore after the fish, 'where did you
mount that one-pounder of yours after all?'
'Midships. Etheldreda won't carry more weight forward. She's wet
enough as it is.'
'Why don't you apply for another craft?' Portson put in. 'There's a
chap at Southampton just now, down with pneumonia and--'
'No, thank you. I know Etheldreda. She's nothing to write home
about, but when she feels well she can shift a bit.'
Maddingham leaned across the table. 'If she does more than eleven in
a flat calm,' said he, 'I'll-I'll give you Hilarity.'
''Wouldn't be found dead in Hilarity,' was Winchmore's grateful
reply. 'You don't mean to say you've taken her into real wet water,
Papa? Where did it happen?'
The other laughed. Maddingham's red face turned brick colour, and
the veins on the cheekbones showed blue through a blurr of short
'He's been convoying neutrals-in a tactful manner,' Tegg
Maddingham filled his glass and scowled at Tegg. 'Yes,' he said,
'and here's special damnation to me Lords of the Admiralty. A more
muddle- headed set of brass-bound apes--'
'My! My! My!' Winchmore chirruped soothingly. 'It don't seem to have
done you any good, Papa. Who were you conveyancing?'
Maddingham snapped out a ship's name and some details of her
'Oh, but that chap's a friend of mine!' cried Winchmore. 'I ran
across him-the-not so long ago, hugging the Scotch coast-out of his
course, he said, owing to foul weather and a new type of engine-a
Diesel. That's him, ain't it-the complete neutral?' He mentioned an
outstanding peculiarity of the ship's rig.
'Yes,' said Portson. 'Did you board him, Winchmore?'
'No. There'd been a bit of a blow the day before and old Ethel's
only dinghy had dropped off the hooks. But he signalled me all his
symptoms. He was as communicative as-as a lady in the Promenade. (Hold
on, Nephew of my Uncle! I'm going to have some more of that Bearnaise
fillet.) His smell attracted me. I chaperoned him for a couple of
'Only two days. You hadn't anything to complain of,' said Maddingham
'I didn't complain. If he chose to hug things, 'twasn't any of my
business. I'm not a Purity League. 'Didn't care what he hugged, so long
as I could lie behind him and give him first chop at any mines that
were going. I steered in his wake (I really can steer a bit now,
Portson) and let him stink up the whole of the North Sea. I thought he
might come in useful for bait. No Burgundy, thanks, Nephew of my Uncle.
I'm sticking to the Jolly Roger.'
'Go on, then-before you're speechless. Was he any use as bait?' Tegg
'We never got a fair chance. As I told you, he hugged the coast till
dark, and then he scraped round Gilarra Head and went up the bay nearly
to the beach.'
''Lights out?' Maddingham asked.
Winchmore nodded. 'But I didn't worry about that. I was under his
stern. As luck 'ud have it, there was a fishing-party in the bay, and
we walked slam into the middle of 'em-a most ungodly collection of
local talent. 'First thing I knew a steam-launch fell aboard us, and a
boya nasty little Navy boy, Tegg-wanted to know what I was doing. I
told him, and he cursed me for putting the fish down just as they were
rising. Then the two of us (he was hanging on to my quarter with a
boat-hook) drifted on to a steam trawler and our friend the Neutral and
a ten-oared cutter full of the military, all mixed up. They were subs
from the garrison out for a lark. Uncle Newt explained over the rail
about the weather and his engine-troubles, but they were all so keen to
carry on with their fishing, they didn't fuss. They told him to clear
'Was there anything on the move round Gilarra at that time?' Tegg
'Oh, they spun me the usual yarns about the water being thick with
'em, and asked me to help; but I couldn't stop. The cutter's stern-
sheets were piled up with mines, like lobster-pots, and from the way
the soldiers handled 'em I thought I'd better get out. So did Uncle
Newt. He didn't like it a bit. There were a couple of shots fired at
something just as we cleared the Head, and one dropped rather close to
him. (These duck-shoots in the dark are dam' dangerous, y 'know.) He
lit up at once-tail-light, head-light, and side-lights. I had no more
trouble with him the rest of the night.'
'But what about the report that you sawed off the steam-launch's
boat- hook?' Tegg demanded suddenly.
'What! You don't mean to say that little beast of a snotty reported
it? He was scratchin' poor old Ethel's paint to pieces. I never
reported what he said to me. And he called me a damned amateur, too!
Well! Well! War's war. I missed all that fishing-party that time. My
orders were to follow Uncle Newt. So I followed-and poor Ethel without
a dry rag on her.'
Winchmore refilled his glass.
'Well, don't get poetical,' said Portson. 'Let's have the rest of
'There wasn't any rest,' Winchmore insisted pathetically. 'There was
just good old Ethel with her engines missing like sin, and Uncle Newt
thumping and stinking half a mile ahead of us, and me eating bread and
Worcester sauce. I do when I feel that way. Besides, I wanted to go
back and join the fishing-party. Just before dark I made out
Cordeilia-that Southampton ketch that old Jarrott fitted with oil
auxiliaries for a family cruiser last summer. She's a beamy bus, but
she can roll, and she was doing an honest thirty degrees each way when
I overhauled her. I asked Jarrott if he was busy. He said he wasn't.
But he was. He's like me and Nelson when there's any sea on.'
'But Jarrott's a Quaker. 'Has been for generations. Why does he go
to war?' said Maddingham.
'If it comes to that,' Portson said, 'why do any of us?'
'Jarrott's a mine-sweeper,' Winchmore replied with deep feeling.
'The Quaker religion (I'm not a Quaker, but I'm much more religious
than any of you chaps give me credit for) has decided that
mine-sweeping is life-saving. Consequently'-he dwelt a little on the
word-'the profession is crowded with Quakers-specially off Scarborough.
'See? Owin' to the purity of their lives, they "all go to Heaven when
they die-Roll, Jordan, Roll! "'
'Disgustin',' said the actress audibly as she drew on her gloves.
Winchmore looked at her with delight. 'That's a peach-Melba, too,' he
'And David Jarrott's a mine-sweeper,' Maddingham mused aloud. 'So
you turned our Neutral over to him, Winchmore, did you?'
'Yes, I did. It was the end of my beat-I wish I didn't feel so
sleepy- and I explained the whole situation to Jarrott, over the rail.
'Gave him all my silly instructions-those latest ones, y'know. I told
him to do nothing to imperil existing political relations. I told him
to exercise tact. I-I told him that in my capac'ty as Actin' Lootenant,
you see. Jarrott's only a Lootenant-Commander-at fifty-four, too! Yes,
I handed my Uncle Newt over to Jarrott to chaperone, and I went back to
my-I can say it perfectly-pis-ca-to-rial party in the bay. Now I'm
going to have a nap. In ten minutes I shall be on deck again. This is
my first civilised dinner in nine weeks, so I don't apologise.'
He pushed his plate away, dropped his chin on his palm and closed
'Lyndnoch and Jarrott's Bank, established 1793,' said Maddingham
half to himself. 'I've seen old Jarrott in Cowes week bullied by his
skipper and steward till he had to sneak ashore to sleep. And now he's
out mine-sweeping with Cordelia! What's happened to his-I shall forget
my own name next-Belfast-built two-hundred tonner?'
'Goneril,' said Portson. 'He turned her over to the Service in
October. She's-she was Culana.'
'She was Culana, was she? My God! I never knew that. Where did it
'Off the same old Irish corner I was watching last month. My young
cousin was in her; so was one of the Raikes boys. A whole nest of
mines, laid between patrols.'
'I've heard there's some dirty work going on there now,' Maddingham
'You needn't tell me that,' Portson returned. 'But one gets a little
back now and again.'
'What are you two talking about?' said Tegg, who seemed to be dozing
'Culana,' Portson answered as he lit a cigarette.
'Yes, that was rather a pity. But...What about this Newt of
'I took her over from Jarrott next day-off Margate,' said Portson.
'Jarrott wanted to get back to his mine-sweeping.'
'Every man to his taste,' said Maddingham. 'That never appealed to
me. Had they detailed you specially to look after the Newt?'
'Me among others,' Portson admitted. 'I was going down Channel when
I got my orders, and so I went on with him. Jarrott had been
tremendously interested in his course up to date-specially off the
Wash. He'd charted it very carefully and he said he was going back to
find out what some of the kinks and curves meant. Has he found out,
Tegg thought for a moment. 'Cordelia was all right up to six o'clock
yesterday evening,' he said.
''Glad of that. Then I did what Winchmore did. I lay behind this
stout fellow and saw him well into the open.'
'Did you say anything to him?' Tegg asked.
'Not a thing. He kept moving all the time.'
''See anything?' Tegg continued.
'No. He didn't seem to be in demand anywhere in the Channel, and,
when I'd got him on the edge of soundings, I dropped him-as per your
Tegg nodded again and murmured some apology.
'Where did you pick him up, Maddingham?' Portson went on.
'Well north and west of where you left him heading up the Irish
Channel and stinking like a taxi. I hadn't had my breakfast. My cook
was seasick; so were four of my hands.'
'I can see that meeting. Did you give him a gun across the bows?'
'No, no. Not that time. I signalled him to heave to. He had his
papers ready before I came over the side. You see,' Maddingham said
pleadingly, 'I'm new to this business. Perhaps I wasn't as polite to
him as I should have been if I'd had my breakfast.'
'He deposed that Maddingham came alongside swearing like a bargee,'
'Not in the least. This is what happened.' Maddingham turned to
Portson. 'I asked him where he was bound for and he told
'Hi! Wake up, Winchmore. You're missing something.' Portson nudged
Winchmore, who was slanting sideways in his chair.
'Right! All right! I'm awake,' said Winchmore stickily. 'I heard
Maddingham went on. 'I told him that this wasn't his way to
'Antigua. Antigua!' Winchmore finished rubbing his eyes. '"There was
a young bride of Antigua--"'
'Hsh! Hsh!' said Portson and Tegg warningly.
'Why? It's the proper one. "Who said to her spouse, 'What a pig you
'Ass!' Maddingham growled and continued: 'He told me that he'd been
knocked out of his reckoning by foul weather and engine-trouble, owing
to experimenting with a new type of Diesel engine. He was perfectly
frank about it.'
'So he was with me,' said Winchmore. 'Just like a real lady. I hope
you were a real gentleman, Papa.'
'I asked him what he'd got. He didn't object. He had some fifty
thousand gallon of oil for his new Diesel engine, and the rest was
coal. He said he needed the oil to get to Antigua with, he was taking
the coal as ballast, and he was coming back, so he told me, with
coconuts. When he'd quite finished, I said: "What sort of damned idiot
do you take me for?" He said: "I haven't decided yet!" Then I said he'd
better come into port with me, and we'd arrive at a decision. He said
that his papers were in perfect order and that my instructions- mine,
please!-were not to imperil political relations. I hadn't received
these asinine instructions, so I took the liberty of contradicting
him-perfectly politely, as I told them at the Inquiry afterward. He was
a small-boned man with a grey beard, in a glengarry, and he picked his
teeth a lot. He said: "The last time I met you, Mister Maddingham, you
were going to Carlsbad, and you told me all about your blood-pressures
in the wagon-lit before we tossed for upper berth. Don't you think you
are a little old to buccaneer about the sea this way?" I couldn't
recall his face-he must have been some fellow that I'd travelled with
some time or other. I told him I wasn't doing this for amusement-it was
business. Then I ordered him into port. He said: "S'pose I don't go?" I
said: "Then I'll sink you." Isn't it extraordinary how natural it all
seems after a few weeks? If any one had told me when I commissioned
Hilarity last summer what I'd be doing this spring I'd-I'd...God! It is
mad, isn't it?'
'Quite,' said Portson. 'But not bad fun.'
'Not at all, but that's what makes it all the madder. Well, he
didn't argue any more. He warned me I'd be hauled over the coals for
what I'd done, and I warned him to keep two cables ahead of me and not
'Jaw?' said Winchmore sleepily.
'No. Yaw;' Maddingham snarled. 'Not to look as if he even wanted to
yaw. I warned him that, if he did, I'd loose off into him, end-on. But
I was absolutely polite about it. 'Give you my word, Tegg.'
'I believe you. Oh, I believe you,' Tegg replied.
'Well, so I took him into port-and that was where I first ran across
our Master Tegg. He represented the Admiralty on that beach.'
The small blinking man nodded. 'The Admiralty had that honour,' he
Maddingham turned to the others angrily. 'I'd been rather patting
myself on the back for what I'd done, you know. Instead of which, they
held a court-martial--'
'We called it an Inquiry,' Tegg interjected.
'You weren't in the dock. They held a court-martial on me to find
out how often I'd sworn at the poor injured Neutral, and whether I'd
given him hot-water bottles and tucked him up at night. It's all very
fine to laugh, but they treated me like a pickpocket. There were two
fat- headed civilian judges and that blackguard Tegg in the conspiracy.
A cursed lawyer defended my Neutral and he made fun of me. He dragged
in everything the Neutral had told him about my blood-pressures on the
Carlsbad trip. And that's what you get for trying to serve your country
in your old age!' Maddingham emptied and refilled his glass.
'We did give you rather a grilling,' said Tegg placidly. 'It's the
national sense of fair play.'
'I could have stood it all if it hadn't been for the Neutral. We
dined at the same hotel while this court-martial was going on, and he
used to come over to my table and sympathise with me! He told me that I
was fighting for his ideals and the uplift of democracy, but I must
respect the Law of Nations!'
'And we respected 'em,' said Tegg. 'His papers were perfectly
correct; the Court discharged him. We had to consider existing
political relations. I told Maddingham so at the hotel and he--'
Again Maddingham turned to the others. 'I couldn't make up my mind
about Tegg at the Inquiry,' he explained. 'He had the air of a decent
sailor-man, but he talked like a poisonous politician.'
'I was,' Tegg returned. 'I had been ordered to change into that rig.
So I changed.'
Maddingham ran one fat square hand through his crisped hair and
looked up under his eyebrows like a shy child, while the others lay
back and laughed.
'I suppose I ought to have been on to the joke,' he stammered, 'but
I'd blacked myself all over for the part of Lootenant-Commander
R.N.V.R. in time of war, and I'd given up thinking as a banker. If it
had been put before me as a business proposition I might have done
'I thought you were playing up to me and the judges all the time,'
said Tegg. 'I never dreamed you took it seriously.'
'Well, I've been trained to look on the law as serious. I've had to
pay for some of it in my time, you know.'
'I'm sorry,' said Tegg. 'We were obliged to let that oily beggar go-
for reasons, but, as I told Maddingham, the night the award was given,
his duty was to see that he was properly directed to Antigua.'
'Naturally,' Portson observed. 'That being the Neutral's declared
destination. And what did Maddingham do? Shut up, Maddingham!'
Said Tegg, with downcast eyes: 'Maddingham took my hand and squeezed
it; he looked lovingly into my eyes (he did!); he turned plumcolour,
and he said: "I will" just like a bride groom at the altar. It makes me
feel shy to think of it even now. I didn't see him after that till the
evening when Hilarity was pulling out of the Basin, and Maddingham was
cursing the tug-master.'
'I was in a hurry,' said Maddingham. 'I wanted to get to the Narrows
and wait for my Neutral there. I dropped down to Biller and Grove's
yard that tide (they've done all my work for years) and I jammed
Hilarity into the creek behind their slip, so the Newt didn't spot me
when he came down the river. Then I pulled out and followed him over
the Bar. He stood nor-west at once. I let him go till we were well out
of sight of land. Then I overhauled him, gave him a gun across the bows
and ran alongside. I'd just had my lunch, and I wasn't going to lose my
temper this time. I said: "Excuse me, but I understand you are bound
for Antigua?" He was, he said, and as he seemed a little nervous about
my falling aboard him in that swell, I gave Hilarity another sheer
in-she's as handy as a launch-and I said: "May I suggest that this is
not the course for Antigua?" By that time he had his fenders overside,
and all hands yelling at me to keep away. I snatched Hilarity out and
began edging in again. He said: "I'm trying a sample of inferior oil
that I have my doubts about. If it works all right I shall lay my
course for Antigua, but it will take some time to test the stuff and
adjust the engines to it." I said: "Very good, let me know if I can be
of any service," and I offered him Hilarity again once or twice-he
didn't want her-and then I dropped behind and let him go on. Wasn't
that proper, Portson?'
Portson nodded. 'I know that game of yours with Hilarity,' he said.
'How the deuce do you do it? My nerve always goes at close quarters in
'It's only a little trick of steering,' Maddingham replied with a
simper of vanity. 'You can almost shave with her when she feels like
it. I had to do it again that same evening, to establish a moral
ascendancy. He wasn't showing any lights, and I nearly tripped over
him. He was a scared Neutral for three minutes, but I got a little of
my own back for that damned court-martial. But I was perfectly polite.
I apologised profusely. I didn't even ask him to show his lights.'
'But did he?' said Winchmore.
'He did-every one; and a flare now and then,' Maddingham replied.
'He held north all that night, with a falling barometer and a rising
wind and all the other filthy things. Gad, how I hated him! Next
morning we got it, good and tight from the nor-nor-west out of the
Atlantic, off Carso Head. He dodged into a squall, and then he went
about. We weren't a mile behind, but it was as thick as a wall. When it
cleared, and I couldn't see him ahead of me, I went about too, and
followed the rain. I picked him up five miles down wind, legging it for
all he was worth to the south'ard-nine knots, I should think. Hilarity
doesn't like a following sea. We got pooped a bit, too, but by noon
we'd struggled back to where we ought to have been-two cables astern of
him. Then he began to signal, but his flags being end-on to us, of
course, we had to creep up on his beam-well abeam-to read 'em. That
didn't restore his morale either. He made out he'd been compelled to
put back by stress of weather before completing his oil tests. I made
back I was sorry to hear it, but would be greatly interested in the
results. Then I turned in (I'd been up all night) and my lootenant took
on. He was a widower (by the way) of the name of Sherrin, aged
forty-seven. He'd run a girls' school at Weston-super-Mare after he'd
left the Service in 'ninety-five, and he believed the English were the
'What about the Germans?' said Portson.
'Oh, they'd been misled by Austria, who was the Beast with Horns in
Revelations. Otherwise he was rather a dull dog. He set the tops'ls in
his watch. Hilarity won't steer under any canvas, so we rather sported
round our friend that afternoon, I believe. When I came up after
dinner, she was biting his behind, first one side, then the other.
Let's see-that would be about thirty miles east-sou-east of Harry
Island. We were running as near as nothing south. The wind had dropped,
and there was a useful cross-rip coming up from the south- east. I took
the wheel and, the way I nursed him from starboard, he had to take the
sea over his port bow. I had my sciatica on me- buccaneering's no game
for a middleaged man-but I gave that fellow sprudel! By Jove; I washed
him out! He stood it as long as he could, and then he made a bolt for
Harry Island. I had to ride in his pocket most of the way there because
I didn't know that coast. We had charts, but Sherrin never understood
'em, and I couldn't leave the wheel. So we rubbed along together, and
about midnight this Newt dodged in over the tail of Harry Shoals and
anchored, if you please, in the lee of the Double Ricks. It was dead
calm there, except for the swell, but there wasn't much room to
manoeuvre in, and I wasn't going to anchor. It looked too like a
submarine rendezvous. But first, I came alongside and asked him what
his trouble was. He told me he had overheated his something-or-other
bulb. I've never been shipmates with Diesel engines, but I took his
word for it, and I said I 'ud stand by till it cooled. Then he told me
to go to hell.'
'If you were inside the Double Ricks in the dark, you were
practically there,' said Portson.
'That's what I thought. I was on the bridge, rabid with sciatica,
going round and round like a circus-horse in about three acres of
water, and wondering when I'd hit something. Ridiculous position.
Sherrin saw it. He saved me. He said it was an ideal place for
submarine attacks, and we'd better begin to repel 'em at once. As I
said, I couldn't leave the wheel, so Sherrin fought the ship-both
quick-firers and the maxims. He tipped 'em well down into the sea or
well up at the Ricks as we went round and round. We made rather a row;
and the row the gulls made when we woke 'em was absolutely terrifying.
'Give you my word!'
'And then?' said Winchmore.
'I kept on running in circles through this ghastly din. I took one
sheer over toward his stern-I thought I'd cut it too fine, but we
missed it by inches. Then I heard his capstan busy, and in another
three minutes his anchor was up. He didn't wait to stow. He hustled out
as he was-bulb or no bulb. He passed within ten feet of us (I was
waiting to fall in behind him) and he shouted over the rail: "You think
you've got patriotism. All you've got is uric acid and rotten spite!" I
expect he was a little bored. I waited till we had cleared Harry Shoals
before I went below, and then I slept till 9 a.m. He was heading north
this time, and after I'd had breakfast and a smoke I ran alongside and
asked him where he was bound for now. He was wrapped in a comforter,
evidently suffering from a bad cold. I couldn't quite catch what he
said, but I let him croak for a few minutes and fell back. At 9 a.m. he
turned round and headed south (I was getting to know the Irish Channel
by then) and I followed. There was no particular sea on. It was a
little chilly, but as he didn't hug the coast I hadn't to take the
wheel. I stayed below most of the night and let Sherrin suffer. Well,
Mr. Newt kept up this game all the next day, dodging up and down the
Irish Channel. And it was infernally dull. He threw up the sponge off
Cloone Harbour. That was on Friday morning. He signalled: "Developed
defects in engine-room. Antigua trip abandoned." Then he ran into
Cloone and tied up at Brady's Wharf. You know you can't repair a dinghy
at Cloone! I followed, of course, and berthed behind him. After lunch I
thought I'd pay him a call. I wanted to look at his engines. I don't
understand Diesels, but Hyslop, my engineer, said they must have gone
round 'em with a hammer, for they were pretty badly smashed up. Besides
that, they had offered all their oil to the Admiralty agent there, and
it was being shifted to a tug when I went aboard him. So I'd done my
job. I was just going back to Hilarity when his steward said he'd like
to see me. He was lying in his cabin breathing pretty loud-wrapped up
in rugs and his eyes sticking out like a rabbit's. He offered me
drinks. I couldn't accept 'em, of course. Then he said: "Well, Mr.
Maddingham, I'm all in." I said I was glad to hear it. Then he told me
he was seriously ill with a sudden attack of bronchial pneumonia, and
he asked me to run him across to England to see his doctor in town. I
said, of course, that was out of the question, Hilarity being a
man-of-war in commission. He couldn't see it. He asked what had that to
do with it? He thought this war was some sort of joke, and I had to
repeat it all over again. He seemed rather afraid of dying (it's no
game for a middle-aged man, of course) and he hoisted himself up on one
elbow and began calling me a murderer. I explained to him-perfectly
politely-that I wasn't in this job for fun. It was business. My orders
were to see that he went to Antigua, and now that he wasn't going to
Antigua, and had sold his oil to us, that finished it as far as I was
concerned. (Wasn't that perfectly correct?) He said: "But that finishes
me, too. I can't get any doctor in this Godforsaken hole. I made sure
you'd treat me properly as soon as I surrendered." I said there wasn't
any question of surrender. If he'd been a wounded belligerent, I might
have taken him aboard, though I certainly shouldn't have gone a yard
out of my course to land him anywhere; but as it was, he was a neutral-
altogether outside the game. You see my point? I tried awfully hard to
make him understand it. He went on about his affairs all being at loose
ends. He was a rich man-a million and a quarter, he said-and he wanted
to redraft his will before he died. I told him a good many people were
in his position just now-only they weren't rich. He changed his tack
then and appealed to me on the grounds of our common humanity. "Why, if
you leave me now, Mr. Maddingham," he said, "you condemn me to death,
just as surely as if you hanged me."'
'This is interesting,' Portson murmured. 'I never imagined you in
this light before, Maddingham.'
'I was surprised at myself-'give you my word. But I was perfectly
polite. I said to him: "Try to be reasonable, sir. If you had got rid
of your oil where it was wanted, you'd have condemned lots of people to
death just as surely as if you'd drowned 'em." "Ah, but I didn't," he
said. "That ought to count in my favour." "That was no thanks to you,"
I said. "You weren't given the chance. This is war, sir. If you make up
your mind to that, you'll see that the rest follows." "I didn't imagine
you'd take it as seriously as all that," he said-and he said it quite
seriously, too. "Show a little consideration. Your side's bound to win
anyway." I said: "Look here! I'm a middle-aged man, and I don't suppose
my conscience is any clearer than yours in many respects, but this is
business. I can do nothing for you."'
'You got that a bit mixed, I think,' said Tegg critically.
'He saw what I was driving at,' Maddingham replied, 'and he was the
only one that mattered for the moment. "Then I'm a dead man, Mr.
Maddingham," he said. "That's your business," I said. "Good afternoon."
And I went out.'
'And?' said Winchmore, after some silence.
'He died. I saw his flag half-masted next morning.'
There was another silence. Henri looked in at the alcove and smiled.
Maddingham beckoned to him.
'But why didn't you lend him a hand to settle his private affairs?'
'Because I wasn't acting in my private capacity. I'd been on the
bridge for three nights and--' Maddingham pulled out his watch-'this
time to-morrow I shall be there again-confound it! Has my car come,
'Yes, Sare Francis. I am sorry.' They all complimented Henri on the
dinner, and when the compliments were paid he expressed himself still
their debtor. So did the nephew.
'Are you coming with me, Portson?' said Maddingham as he rose
'No. I'm for Southampton, worse luck! My car ought to be here,
'I'm for Euston and the frigid calculating North,' said Winchmore
with a shudder. 'One common taxi, please, Henri.'
Tegg smiled. 'I'm supposed to sleep in just now, but if you don't
mind, I'd like to come with you as far as Gravesend, Maddingham.'
'Delighted. There's a glass all round left still,' said Maddingham.
'Here's luck! The usual, I suppose? "Damnation to all neutrals!"'
AT the eleventh hour he came.
But his wages were the same
As ours who all day long had trod
The wine-press of the Wrath of God.
When he shouldered through the lines
Of our cropped and mangled vines.
His unjaded eye could scan
How each hour had marked its man.
(Children of the morning--tide
With the hosts of noon had died;
And our noon contingents lay
Dead with twilight's spent array.)
Since his back had felt no load
Virtue still in him abode;
So he swiftly made his own
Those last spoils we had not won.
We went home, delivered thence.
Grudging him no recompense
Till he portioned praise or blame
To our works before he came.
Till he showed us for our good--
Deaf to mirth, and blind to scorn-
How we might have best withstood
Burdens that he had not borne!
'ONCE in so often,' King Solomon said.
Watching his quarrymen drill the stone.
'We will club our garlic and wine and bread
And banquet together beneath my Throne
And all the Brethren shall come to that mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.
'Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre.
Felling and floating our beautiful trees.
Say that the Brethren and I desire
Talk with our Brethren who use the seas.
And we shall be happy to meet them at mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.
'Carry this message to Hiram Abif-
Excellent Master of forge and mine:--
I and the Brethren would like it if
He and the Brethren will come to dine
(Garments from Bozrah or morning-dress)
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.
'God gave the Hyssop and Cedar their place-
Also the Bramble, the Fig and the Thorn--
But that is no reason to black a man's face
Because he is not what he hasn't been born.
And, as touching the Temple, I hold and profess
We are Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.'
So it was ordered and so it was done.
And the hewers of wood and the Masons of Mark.
With foc'sle hands of the Sidon run
And Navy Lords from the Royal Ark.
Came and sat down and were merry at mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen-no more and no less.
The Quarries are hotter than Hiram's forge.
No one is safe from the dog-whips' reach.
It's mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge.
And it's always blowing off Joppa beach;
But once in so often, the messenger brings
Solomon's mandate: 'Forget these things!
Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings.
Companion of Princes-forget these things!
Fellow-Craftsman, forget these things!'
'In the Interests of the Brethren'
I WAS buying a canary in a birdshop when he first spoke to me and
suggested that I should take a less highly coloured bird. 'The colour
is in the feeding,' said he. 'Unless you know how to feed 'em, it goes.
Canaries are one of our hobbies.'
He passed out before I could thank him. He was a middle-aged man
with grey hair and a short, dark beard, rather like a Sealyham terrier
in silver spectacles. For some reason his face and his voice stayed in
my mind so distinctly that, months later, when I jostled against him on
a platform crowded with an Angling Club going to the Thames, I
recognised, turned, and nodded.
'I took your advice about the canary,' I said.
'Did you? Good!' he replied heartily over the rod-case on his
shoulder, and was parted from me by the crowd.
A few years ago I turned into a tobacconist's to have a badly
stopped pipe cleaned out.
'Well! Well! And how did the canary do?' said the man behind the
counter. We shook hands, and 'What's your name?' we both asked
His name was Lewis Holroyd Burges, of 'Burges and Son,' as I might
have seen above the door-but Son had been killed in Egypt. His hair was
whiter than it had been, and the eyes were sunk a little.
'Well! Well! To think,' said he, 'of one man in all these millions
turning up in this curious way, when there's so many who don't turn up
at all-eh?' (It was then that he told me of Son Lewis's death and why
the boy had been christened Lewis.) 'Yes. There's not much left for
middle-aged people just at present. Even one's hobbies--We used to fish
together. And the same with canaries! We used to breed 'em for
colour-deep orange was our speciality. That's why I spoke to you, if
you remember; but I've sold all my birds. Well! Well! And now we must
locate your trouble.'
He bent over my erring pipe and dealt with it skilfully as a
surgeon. A soldier came in, spoke in an undertone, received a reply,
and went out.
'Many of my clients are soldiers nowadays, and a number of 'em
belong to the Craft,' said Mr. Burges. 'It breaks my heart to give them
the tobaccos they ask for. On the other hand, not one man in five
thousand has a tobacco-palate. Preference, yes. Palate, no. Here's your
pipe, again. It deserves better treatment than it's had. There's a
procedure, a ritual, in all things. Any time you're passing by again, I
assure you, you will be welcome. I've one or two odds and ends that may
I left the shop with the rarest of all feelings on me-the sensation
which is only youth's right-that I might have made a friend. A little
distance from the door I was accosted by a wounded man who asked for
'Burges's.' The place seemed to be known in the neighbourhood.
I found my way to it again, and often after that, but it was not
till my third visit that I discovered Mr. Burges held a half interest
in Ackerman and Pernit's, the great cigar-importers, which had come to
him through an uncle whose children now lived almost in the Cromwell
Road, and said that the uncle had been on the Stock Exchange.
'I'm a shopkeeper by instinct,' said Mr. Burges. 'I like the ritual
of handling things. The shop has done me well. I like to do well by the
It had been established by his grandfather in 1827, but the fittings
and appointments must have been at least half a century older. The
brown and red tobacco--and snuff-jars, with Crowns, Garters, and names
of forgotten mixtures in gold leaf; the polished 'Oronoque' tobacco-
barrels on which favoured customers sat; the cherry-black mahogany
counter, the delicately moulded shelves, the reeded cigar-cabinets, the
German-silver-mounted scales, and the Dutch brass roll--and cake-
cutter, were things to covet.
'They aren't so bad,' he admitted. 'That large Bristol jar hasn't
any duplicate to my knowledge. Those eight snuff-jars on the third
shelf- they're Dollin's ware; he used to work for Wimble in
Seventeen-Forty- are absolutely unique. Is there any one in the trade
now could tell you what "Romano's Hollande" was? Or "Scholten's"?
Here's a snuff-mull of George the First's time; and here's a Louis
Quinze-what am I talking of? Treize, Treize, of course-grater for
making bran-snuff. They were regular tools of the shop in my
grandfather's day. And who on earth to leave 'em to outside the British
Museum now, I can't think!'
His pipes-I would this were a tale for virtuosi-his amazing
collection of pipes was kept in the parlour, and this gave me the
privilege of making his wife's acquaintance. One morning, as I was
looking covetously at a jacaranda-wood 'cigarro'-not cigar-cabinet with
silver lock-plates and drawer-knobs of Spanish work, a wounded Canadian
came into the shop and disturbed our happy little committee.
'Say,' he began loudly, 'are you the right place?'
'Who sent you?' Mr. Burges demanded.
'A man from Messines. But that ain't the point! I've got no
certificates, nor papers nothin', you understand. I left my Lodge owin'
'em seventeen dollars back-dues. But this man at Messines told me it
wouldn't make any odds with you.'
'It doesn't,' said Mr. Burges. 'We meet to-night at 7 p.m.'
The man's face fell a yard. 'Hell!' said he. 'But I'm in hospital-I
can't get leaf.'
'And Tuesdays and Fridays at 3 p.m.,' Mr. Burges added promptly.
'You'll have to be proved, of course.'
'Guess I can get by that all right,' was the cheery reply. 'Toosday,
then.' He limped off, beaming.
'Who might that be?' I asked.
'I don't know any more than you do-except he must be a Brother.
London's full of Masons now. Well! Well! We must do what we can these
days. If you'll come to tea this evening, I'll take you on to Lodge
afterwards. It's a Lodge of Instruction.'
'Delighted. Which is your Lodge?' I said, for up till then he had
not given me its name.
'"Faith and Works 5837"-the third Saturday of every month. Our Lodge
of Instruction meets nominally every Thursday, but we sit oftener than
that now because there are so many Visiting Brothers in town. 'Here
another customer entered, and I went away much interested in the range
of Brother Burgess hobbies.
At tea-time he was dressed as for Church, and wore gold pince-nez in
lieu of the silver spectacles. I blessed my stars that I had thought to
change into decent clothes.
'Yes, we owe that much to the Craft,' he assented. 'All Ritual is
fortifying. Ritual's a natural necessity for mankind. The more things
are upset, the more they fly to it. I abhor slovenly Ritual anywhere.
By the way, would you mind assisting at the examinations, if there are
many Visiting Brothers to-night? You'll find some of 'em very rusty,
but-it's the Spirit, not the Letter, that giveth life. The question of
Visiting Brethren is an important one. There are so many of them in
London now, you see; and so few places where they can meet.'
'You dear thing!' said Mrs. Burges, and handed him his locked and
'Our Lodge is only just round the corner,' he went on. 'You mustn't
be too critical of our appurtenances. The place was a garage once.'
As far as I could make out in the humiliating darkness, we wandered
up a mews and into a courtyard. Mr. Burges piloted me, murmuring
apologies for everything in advance.
'You mustn't expect--' he was still saying when we stumbled up a
porch and entered a carefully decorated ante-room hung round with
Masonic prints. I noticed Peter Gilkes and Barton Wilson, fathers of
'Emulation' working, in the place of honour; Kneller's Christopher
Wren; Dunkerley, with his own Fitz-George book-plate below and the bend
sinister on the Royal Arms; Hogarth's caricature of Wilkes, also his
disreputable 'Night'; and a beautifully framed set of Grand Masters,
from Anthony Sayer down.
'Are these another hobby of yours?' I asked.
'Not this time,' Mr. Burges smiled. 'We have to thank Brother
Lemming for them.' He introduced me to the senior partner of Lemming
and Orton, whose little shop is hard to find, but whose words and
cheques in the matter of prints are widely circulated.
'The frames are the best part of 'em,' said Brother Lemming after my
compliments. 'There are some more in the Lodge Room. Come and look.
We've got the big Desaguliers there that nearly went to Iowa.'
I had never seen a Lodge Room better fitted. From mosaicked floor to
appropriate ceiling, from curtain to pillar, implements to seats, seats
to lights, and little carved music-loft at one end, every detail was
perfect in particular kind and general design. I said what I thought of
them all, many times over.
'I told you I was a Ritualist,' said Mr. Burges. 'Look at those
carved corn-sheaves and grapes on the back of these Wardens' chairs.
That's the old tradition-before Masonic furnishers spoilt it. I picked
up that pair in Stepney ten years ago-the same time I got the gavel.'
It was of ancient, yellowed ivory, cut all in one piece out of some
tremendous tusk. 'That came from the Gold Coast,' he said. 'It belonged
to a Military Lodge there in 1794. You can see the inscription.'
'If it's a fair question,' I began, 'how much--'
'It stood us,' said Brother Lemming, his thumbs in his waistcoat
pockets, 'an appreciable sum of money when we built it in 1906, even
with what Brother Anstruther-he was our contractor-cheated himself out
of. By the way, that ashlar there is pure Carrara, he tells me. I don't
understand marbles myself. Since then I expect we've put in-oh, quite
another little sum. Now we'll go to the examination-room and take on
He led me back, not to the ante-room, but a convenient chamber
flanked with what looked like confessional-boxes (I found out later
that that was what they had been, when first picked up for a song near
Oswestry). A few men in uniform were waiting at the far end. 'That's
only the head of the procession. The rest are in the ante-room,' said
an officer of the Lodge.
Brother Burges assigned me my discreet box, saying: 'Don't be
surprised. They come all shapes.'
'Shapes' was not a bad description, for my first penitent was all
head-bandages-escaped from an Officers' Hospital, Pentonville way. He
asked me in profane Scots how I expected a man with only six teeth and
half a lower lip to speak to any purpose, so we compromised on the
signs. The next-a New Zealander from Taranaki-reversed the process, for
he was one-armed, and that in a sling. I mistrusted an enormous
Sergeant-Major of Heavy Artillery, who struck me as much too glib, so I
sent him on to Brother Lemming in the next box, who discovered he was a
Past District Grand Officer. My last man nearly broke me down
altogether. Everything seemed to have gone from him.
'I don't blame yer,' he gulped at last. 'I wouldn't pass my own self
on my answers, but I give yer my word that so far as I've had any
religion, it's been all the religion I've had. For God's sake, let me
sit in Lodge again, Brother!'
When the examinations were ended, a Lodge Officer came round with
our aprons-no tinsel or silver-gilt confections, but heavily-corded
silk with tassels and-where a man could prove he was entitled to them-
levels, of decent plate. Some one in front of me tightened a belt on a
stiffly silent person in civil clothes with dischargebadge. ''Strewth!
This is comfort again,' I heard him say. The companion nodded. The man
went on suddenly: 'Here! What're you doing? Leave off! You promised not
to Chuck it!' and dabbed at his companion's streaming eyes.
'Let him leak,' said an Australian signaller. 'Can't you see how
happy the beggar is?'
It appeared that the silent Brother was a 'shell-shocker' whom
Brother Lemming had passed, on the guarantee of his friend and-what
moved Lemming more-the threat that, were he refused, he would have fits
from pure disappointment. So the 'shocker' went happily and silently
among Brethren evidently accustomed to these displays.
We fell in, two by two, according to tradition, fifty of us at
least, and were played into Lodge by what I thought was an harmonium,
but which I discovered to be an organ of repute. It took time to settle
us down, for ten or twelve were cripples and had to be helped into long
or easy chairs. I sat between a one-footed R.A.M.C. Corporal and a
Captain of Territorials, who, he told me, had 'had a brawl' with a
bomb, which had bent him in two directions. 'But that's first-class
Bach the organist is giving us now,' he said delightedly. 'I'd like to
know him. I used to be a piano-thumper of sorts.'
'I'll introduce you after Lodge,' said one of the regular Brethren
behind us-a plump, torpedo-bearded man, who turned out to be a doctor.
'After all, there's nobody to touch Bach, is there?' Those two plunged
at once into musical talk, which to outsiders is as fascinating as
Now a Lodge of Instruction is mainly a parade-ground for Ritual. It
cannot initiate or confer degrees, but is limited to rehearsals and
lectures. Worshipful Brother Burges, resplendent in Solomon's Chair (I
found out later where that, too, had been picked up), briefly told the
Visiting Brethren how welcome they were and always would be, and asked
them to vote what ceremony should be rendered for their
When the decision was announced he wanted to know whether any
Visiting Brothers would take the duties of Lodge Officers. They
protested bashfully that they were too rusty. 'The very reason why,'
said Brother Surges, while the organ Bached softly. My musical Captain
wriggled in his chair.
'One moment, Worshipful Sir.' The plump Doctor rose. 'We have here a
musician for whom place and opportunity are needed. Only,' he went on
colloquially, 'those organ-loft steps are a bit steep.'
'How much,' said Brother Burges with the solemnity of an initiation,
'does our Brother weigh?'
'Very little over eight stone,' said the Brother. 'Weighed this
morning, Worshipful Sir.'
The Past District Grand Officer, who was also a Battery-Sergeant-
Major, waddled across, lifted the slight weight in his arms and bore it
to the loft, where, the regular organist pumping, it played joyously as
a soul caught up to Heaven by surprise.
When the visitors had been coaxed to supply the necessary officers,
a ceremony was rehearsed. Brother Burges forbade the regular members to
prompt. The visitors had to work entirely by themselves, but, on the
Battery-Sergeant-Major taking a hand, he was ruled out as of too
exalted rank. They floundered badly after that support was
The one-footed R.A.M.C. on my right chuckled.
'D'you like it?' said the Doctor to him.
'Do I? It's Heaven to me, sittin' in Lodge again. It's all comin'
back now, watching their mistakes. I haven't much religion, but all I
had I learnt in Lodge.' Recognising me, he flushed a little as one does
when one says a thing twice over in another's hearing. 'Yes, "veiled in
all'gory and illustrated in symbols"-the Fatherhood of God, an' the
Brotherhood of Man; an' what more in Hell do you want?...Look at 'em!'
He broke off giggling. 'See! See! They've tied the whole thing into
knots. I could ha' done it better myself-my one foot in France. Yes, I
should think they ought to do it again!'
The new organist covered the little confusion that had arisen with
what sounded like the wings of angels.
When the amateurs, rather red and hot, had finished, they demanded
an exhibition-working of their bungled ceremony by Regular Brethren of
the Lodge. Then I realised for the first time what word-and-gesture-
perfect Ritual can be brought to mean. We all applauded, the one-
footed Corporal most of all.
'We are rather proud of our working, and this is an audience worth
playing up to,' the Doctor said.
Next the Master delivered a little lecture on the meanings of some
pictured symbols and diagrams. His theme was a well-worn one, but his
deep holding voice made it fresh.
'Marvellous how these old copybook-headings persist,' the Doctor
'That's all right!' the one-footed man spoke cautiously out of the
side of his mouth like a boy in form. 'But they're the kind o'
copybook-headin's we shall find burnin' round our bunks in Hell.
Believe me-ee! I've broke enough of 'em to know. Now, hsh!' He leaned
forward, drinking it all in.
Presently Brother Burges touched on a point which had given rise to
some diversity of Ritual. He asked for information. 'Well, in Jamaica,
Worshipful Sir,' a Visiting Brother began, and explained how they
worked that detail in his parts. Another and another joined in from
different quarters of the Lodge (and the world), and when they were
well warmed the Doctor sidled softly round the walls and, over our
shoulders, passed us cigarettes.
'A shocking innovation,' he said, as he returned to the Captain-
musician's vacant seat on my left. 'But men can't really talk without
tobacco, and we're only a Lodge of Instruction.'
'An' I've learned more in one evenin' here than ten years.' The one-
footed man turned round for an instant from a dark, sour-looking Yeoman
in spurs who was laying down the law on Dutch Ritual. The blue haze and
the talk increased, while the organ from the loft blessed us all.
'But this is delightful,' said I to the Doctor. 'How did it all
'Brother Burges started it. He used to talk to the men who dropped
into his shop when the war began. He told us sleepy old chaps in Lodge
that what men wanted more than anything else was Lodges where they
could sit-just sit and be happy like we are now. He was right too.
We're learning things in the war. A man's Lodge means more to him than
people imagine. As our friend on your right said just now, very often
Masonry's the only practical creed we've ever listened to since we were
children. Platitudes or no platitudes, it squares with what everybody
knows ought to be done.' He sighed. 'And if this war hasn't brought
home the Brotherhood of Man to us all, I'm-a Hun!'
'How did you get your visitors?' I went on.
'Oh, I told a few fellows in hospital near here, at Burgess
suggestion, that we had a Lodge of Instruction and they'd be welcome.
And they came. And they told their friends. And they came! That was two
years ago-and now we've Lodge of Instruction two nights a week, and a
matinee nearly every Tuesday and Friday for the men who can't get
evening leave. Yes, it's all very curious. I'd no notion what the Craft
meant-and means-till this war.'
'Nor I, till this evening,' I replied.
'Yet it's quite natural if you think. Here's London-all
England-packed with the Craft from all over the world, and nowhere for
them to go. Why, our weekly visiting attendance for the last four
months averaged just under a hundred and forty. Divide by four-call it
thirty-five Visiting Brethren a time. Our record's seventy-one, but we
have packed in as many as eighty-four at Banquets. You can see for
yourself what a potty little hole we are!'
'Banquets too!' I cried. 'It must cost like anything. May the
The Doctor-his name was Keede-laughed. 'No, a Visiting Brother may
'But when a man has had an evening like this, he wants to--'
'That's what they all say. That makes our difficulty. They do
exactly what you were going to suggest, and they're offended if we
don't take it.'
'Don't you?' I asked.
'My dear man-what does it come to? They can't all stay to Banquet.
Say one hundred suppers a week-fifteen quid-sixty a month-seven hundred
and twenty a year. How much are Lemming and Orton worth? And Ellis and
McKnight-that long big man over yonder-the provision dealers? How much
d'you suppose could Burges write a cheque for and not feel?'Tisn't as
if he had to save for any one now. I assure you we have no scruple in
calling on the Visiting Brethren when we want anything. We couldn't do
the work otherwise. Have you noticed how the Lodge is kept-brass-work,
jewels, furniture, and so on?'
'I have indeed,' I said. 'It's like a ship. You could eat your
dinner off the floor.'
'Well, come here on a bye-day and you'll often find half-a-dozen
Brethren, with eight legs between 'em, polishing and ronuking and
sweeping everything they can get at. I cured a shell-shocker this
spring by giving him our jewels to look after. He pretty well polished
the numbers off 'em, but-it kept him from fighting Huns in his sleep.
And when we need Masters to take our duties-two matinees a week is
rather a tax-we've the choice of P.M.'s from all over the world. The
Dominions are much keener on Ritual than an average English Lodge.
Besides that--Oh, we're going to adjourn. Listen to the greetings.
They'll be interesting.'
The crack of the great gavel brought us to our feet, after some
surging and plunging among the cripples. Then the Battery-Sergeant-
Major, in a trained voice, delivered hearty and fraternal greetings to
'Faith and Works' from his tropical District and Lodge. The others
followed, with out order, in every tone between a grunt and a squeak. I
heard 'Hauraki,' 'Inyanga-Umbezi,' 'Aloha,' 'Southern Lights' (from
somewhere Punta Arenas way), 'Lodge of Rough Ashlars' (and that
Newfoundland Naval Brother looked it), two or three Stars of something
or other, half-a-dozen cardinal virtues, variously arranged, hailing
from Klondyke to Kalgoorlie, one Military Lodge on one of the fronts,
thrown in with a severe Scots burr by my friend of the head-bandages,
and the rest as mixed as the Empire itself. Just at the end there was a
little stir. The silent Brother had begun to make noises; his companion
tried to soothe him.
'Let him be! Let him be!' the Doctor called professionally. The man
jerked and mouthed, and at last mumbled something unintelligible even
to his friend, but a small dark P.M. pushed forward importantly.
'It iss all right,' he said. 'He wants to say--' he spat out some
yard-long Welsh name, adding, 'That means Pembroke Docks, Worshipful
Sir. We haf good Masons in Wales, too.' The silent man nodded
'Yes,' said the Doctor, quite unmoved. 'It happens that way
sometimes. Hespere panta fereis, isn't it? The Star brings 'em all
home. I must get a note of that fellow's case after Lodge. I saw you
didn't care for music,' he went on, 'but I'm afraid you'll have to put
up with a little more. It's a paraphrase from Micah. Our organist
arranged it. We sing it antiphonally, as a sort of dismissal.'
Even I could appreciate what followed. The singing seemed confined
to half-a-dozen trained voices answering each other till the last line,
when the full Lodge came in. I give it as I heard it:
'We have showed thee, O Man.
What is good.
What doth the Lord require of us?
Or Conscience' self desire of us?
But to do justly-
But to love mercy.
And to walk humbly with our God.
As every Mason should.'
Then we were played and sung out to the quaint tune of the 'Entered
Apprentices' Song.' I noticed that the regular Brethren of the Lodge
did not begin to take off their regalia till the lines
'Great Kings, Dukes, and Lords
Have laid down their swords.'
They moved into the ante-room, now set for the Banquet, on the verse
We have on our side.
Which maketh men just in their station.'
The Brother (a big-boned clergyman) that I found myself next to at
table told me the custom was 'a fond thing vainly invented' on the
strength of some old legend. He laid down that Masonry should be
regarded as an 'intellectual abstraction.' An Officer of Engineers
disagreed with him, and told us how in Flanders, a year before, some
ten or twelve Brethren held Lodge in what was left of a Church. Save
for the Emblems of Mortality and plenty of rough ashlars, there was no
'I warrant you weren't a bit the worse for that,' said the
Clergyman. 'The idea should be enough without trappings.'
'But it wasn't,' said the other. 'We took a lot of trouble to make
our regalia out of camouflage-stuff that we'd pinched, and we
manufactured our jewels from old metal. I've got the set now. It kept
us happy for weeks.'
'Ye were absolutely irregular an' unauthorised. Whaur was your
Warrant?' said the Brother from the Military Lodge. 'Grand Lodge ought
to take steps against--'
'If Grand Lodge had any sense,' a private three places up our table
broke in, 'it 'ud warrant travelling Lodges at the front and attach
first-class lecturers to 'em.'
'Wad ye confer degrees promiscuously?' said the scandalised
'Every time a man asked, of course. You'd have half the Army
The speaker played with the idea for a little while, and proved
that, on the lowest scale of fees, Grand Lodge would get huge
'I believe,' said the Engineer Officer thoughtfully, 'I could design
a complete travelling Lodge outfit under forty pounds weight.'
'Ye're wrong. I'll prove it. We've tried ourselves,' said the
Military Lodge man; and they went at it together across the table, each
with his own note-book.
The 'Banquet' was simplicity itself. Many of us ate in haste so as
to get back to barracks or hospitals, but now and again a Brother came
in from the outer darkness to fill a chair and empty a plate. These
were Brethren who had been there before and needed no examination.
One man lurched in-helmet, Flanders mud, accoutrements and all-fresh
from the leave-train.
''Got two hours to wait for my train,' he explained. 'I remembered
your night, though. My God, this is good!'
'What is your train and from what station?' said the Clergyman
precisely. 'Very well. What will you have to eat?'
'Anything. Everything. I've thrown up a month's rations in the
He stoked himself for ten minutes without a word. Then, without a
word, his face fell forward. The Clergyman had him by one already limp
arm and steered him to a couch, where ho dropped and snored. No one
took the trouble to turn round.
'Is that usual too?' I asked.
'Why not?' said the Clergyman. 'I'm on duty to-night to wake them
for their trains. They do not respect the Cloth on those occasions.' He
turned his broad back on me and continued his discussion with a Brother
from Aberdeen by way of Mitylene where, in the intervals of
mine-sweeping, he had evolved a complete theory of the Revelation of
St. John the Divine in the Island of Patmos.
I fell into the hands of a Sergeant-Instructor of Machine Guns-by
profession a designer of ladies' dresses. He told me that Englishwomen
as a class 'lose on their corsets what they make on their clothes,' and
that 'Satan himself can't save a woman who wears thirty-shilling
corsets under a thirty-guinea costume.' Here, to my grief, he was
buttonholed by a zealous Lieutenant of his own branch, and became a
Sergeant again all in one click.
I drifted back and forth, studying the prints on the walls and the
Masonic collection in the cases, while I listened to the inconceivable
talk all round me. Little by little the company thinned, till at last
there were only a dozen or so of us left. We gathered at the end of a
table near the fire, the night-bird from Flanders trumpeting lustily
into the hollow of his helmet, which some one had tipped over his
'And how did it go with you?' said the Doctor.
'It was like a new world,' I answered.
'That's what it is really.' Brother Burges returned the gold
pince-nez to their case and reshipped his silver spectacles. 'Or that's
what it might be made with a little trouble. When I think of the
possibilities of the Craft at this juncture I wonder--' He stared into
'I wonder, too,' said the Sergeant-Major slowly, 'but-on the
whole-I'm inclined to agree with you. We could do much with
'As an aid-as an aid-not as a substitute for Religion,' the
'Oh, Lord! Can't we give Religion a rest for a bit?' the Doctor
muttered. 'It hasn't done so-I beg your pardon all round.'
The Clergyman was bristling. 'Kamerad!' the wise Sergeant-Major went
on, both hands up. 'Certainly not as a substitute for a creed, but as
an average plan of life. What I've seen at the front makes me sure of
Brother Burges came out of his muse. 'There ought to be a dozen-
twenty-other Lodges in London every night; conferring degrees too, as
well as instruction. Why shouldn't the young men join? They practise
what we're always preaching. Well! Well! We must all do what we can.
What's the use of old Masons if they can't give a little help along
their own lines?'
'Exactly,' said the Sergeant-Major, turning on the Doctor. 'And
what's the darn use of a Brother if he isn't allowed to help?'
'Have it your own way then,' said the Doctor testily. He had
evidently been approached before. He took something the Sergeant-Major
handed to him and pocketed it with a nod. 'I was wrong,' he said to me,
'when I boasted of our independence. They get round us sometimes.
This,' he slapped his pocket, 'will give a banquet on Tuesday. We don't
usually feed at matinees. It will be a surprise. By the way, try
another sandwich. The ham are best.' He pushed me a plate.
'They are,' I said. 'I've only had five or six. I've been looking
''Glad you like them,' said Brother Lemming. 'Fed him myself, cured
him myself-at my little place in Berkshire. His name was Charlemagne.
By the way, Doc, am I to keep another one for next month?'
'Of course,' said the Doctor with his mouth full. 'A little fatter
than this chap, please. And don't forget your promise about the pickled
nasturtiums. They're appreciated.' Brother Lemming nodded above the
pipe he had lit as we began a second supper. Suddenly the Clergyman,
after a glance at the clock, scooped up half-a-dozen sandwiches from
under my nose, put them into an oiled paper bag, and advanced
cautiously towards the sleeper on the couch.
'They wake rough sometimes,' said the Doctor. 'Nerves, y'know.' The
Clergyman tip-toed directly behind the man's head, and at arm's length
rapped on the dome of the helmet. The man woke in one vivid streak, as
the Clergyman stepped back, and grabbed for a rifle that was not
'You've barely half an hour to catch your train.' The Clergyman
passed him the sandwiches. 'Come along.'
'You're uncommonly kind and I'm very grateful,' said the man,
wriggling into his stiff straps. He followed his guide into the
darkness after saluting.
'Who's that?' said Lemming.
'Can't say,' the Doctor returned indifferently. 'He's been here
before. He's evidently a P.M. of sorts.'
'Well! Well!' said Brother Burges, whose eyelids were drooping. 'We
must all do what we can. Isn't it almost time to lock up?'
'I wonder,' said I, as we helped each other into our coats, 'what
would happen if Grand Lodge knew about all this.'
'About what?' Lemming turned on me quickly.
'A Lodge of Instruction open three nights and two afternoons a week-
and running a lodging-house as well. It's all very nice, but it doesn't
strike me somehow as regulation.'
'The point hasn't been raised yet,' said Lemming. 'We'll settle it
after the war. Meantime we shall go on.'
'There ought to be scores of them,' Brother Burges repeated as we
went out of the door. 'All London's full of the Craft, and no places
for them to meet in. Think of the possibilities of it! Think what could
have been done by Masonry through Masonry for all the world. I hope I'm
not censorious, but it sometimes crosses my mind that Grand Lodge may
have thrown away its chance in the war almost as much as the Church
'Lucky for you the Padre is taking that chap to King's Cross,' said
Brother Lemming, 'or he'd be down your throat. What really troubles him
is our legal position under Masonic Law. I think he'll inform on us one
of these days. Well, good night, all.' The Doctor and Lemming turned
'Yes,' said Brother Burges, slipping his arm into mine. 'Almost as
much as the Church has. But perhaps I'm too much of a Ritualist.'
I said nothing. I was speculating how soon I could steal a march on
the Clergyman and inform against 'Faith and Works No. 5837 E.C.'
To the Companions
Horace, Ode 17, Bk. V.
HOW comes it that, at even-tide.
When level beams should show most truth.
Man, failing, takes unfailing pride
In memories of his frolic youth?
Venus and Liber fill their hour;
The games engage, the law-courts prove;
Till hardened life breeds love of power
Or Avarice, Age's final love.
Yet at the end, these comfort not--
Nor any triumph Fate decrees-
Compared with glorious, unforgot--
ten innocent enormities
Of frontless days before the beard.
When, instant on the casual jest.
The God Himself of Mirth appeared
And snatched us to His heaving breast.
And we-not caring who He was
But certain He would come again--
Accepted all He brought to pass
As Gods accept the lives of men...
Then He withdrew from sight and speech.
Nor left a shrine. How comes it now.
While Charon's keel grates on the beach.
He calls so clear: 'Rememberest thou?'?
The United Idolaters
HIS name was Brownell and his reign was brief. He came from the
Central Anglican Scholastic Agency, a soured, clever, reddish man
picked up by the Head at the very last moment of the summer holidays in
default of Macrea (of Macrea's House) who wired from Switzerland that
he had smashed a knee mountaineering, and would not be available that
Looking back at the affair, one sees that the Head should have
warned Mr. Brownell of the College's outstanding peculiarity, instead
of leaving him to discover it for himself the first day of the term,
when he went for a walk to the beach, and saw 'Potiphar' Mullins, Head
of Games, smoking without conceal on the sands. 'Pot,' having the whole
of the Autumn Football challenges, acceptances, and Fifteen
reconstructions to work out, did not at first comprehend Mr. Brownell's
shrill cry of: 'You're smoking! You're smoking, sir!' but he removed
his pipe, and answered, placably enough: 'The Army Class is allowed to
Mr. Brownell replied: 'Preposterous!'
Pot, seeing that this new person was uninformed, suggested that he
should refer to the Head.
'You may be sure I shall-sure I shall, sir! Then we shall see!'
Mr. Brownell and his umbrella scudded off, and Pot returned to his
match-plannings. Anon, he observed, much as the Almighty might observe
black-beetles, two small figures coming over the Pebble-ridge a few
hundred yards to his right. They were a Major and his Minor, the latter
a new boy and, as such, entitled to his brother's countenance for
exactly three days-after which he would fend for himself. Pot waited
till they were well out on the great stretch of mother-o'pearl sands;
then caused his ground-ash to describe a magnificent whirl of command
in the air.
'Come on,' said the Major. 'Run!'
'What for?' said the Minor, who had noticed nothing.
''Cause we're wanted. Leg it!'
'Oh, I can do that,' the Minor replied and, at the end of the
sprint, fetched up a couple of yards ahead of his brother, and much
'Your Minor?' said Pot, looking over them, seawards.
'Yes, Mullins,' the Major replied.
'All right. Cut along!' They cut on the word.
'Hi! Fludd Major! Come back!'
Back fled the elder.
'Your wind's bad. Too fat. You grunt like a pig. 'Mustn't do it!
Understand? Go away!'
'What was all that for?' the Minor asked on the Major's return.
'To see if we could run, you fool!'
'Well, I ran faster than you, anyhow,' was the scandalous
'Look here, Har-Minor, if you go on talking like this, you'll get
yourself kicked all round Coll. An' you mustn't stand like you did when
a Prefect's talkin' to you.'
The Minor's eyes opened with awe. 'I thought it was only one of the
masters,' said he.
'Masters! It was Mullins-Head o' Games. You are a putrid young
By what seemed pure chance, Mr. Brownell ran into the School
Chaplain, the Reverend John Gillett, beating up against the soft
September rain that no native ever troubled to wear a coat for.
'I was trying to catch you after lunch,' the latter began. 'I wanted
to show you our objects of local interest.'
'Thank you! I've seen all I want,' Mr. Brownell answered., Gillett,
is there anything about me which suggests the Congenital Dupe?'
'It's early to say, yet,' the Chaplain answered. 'Who've you been
'A youth called Mullets, I believe.' And, indeed, there was
Potiphar, ground-ash, pipe, and all, quarter-decking serenely below the
'Oh! I see. Old Pot-our Head of Games.'
'He was smoking. He's smoking now! Before those two little boys,
too!' Mr. Brownell panted. 'He had the audacity to tell me that--'
'Yes,' the Reverend John cut in. 'The Army Class is allowed to
smoke- not in their studies, of course, but within limits, out of
doors. You see, we have to compete against the Crammers'
establishments, where smoking's usual.'
This was true! Of the only school in England was this the cold
truth, and for the reason given, in that unprogressive age.
'Good Heavens!' said Mr. Brownell to the gulls and the gray sea.
'And I was never warned!'
'The Head is a little forgetful. I ought to have--But it's all
right,' the Chaplain added soothingly. 'Pot won't-er-give you
Mr. Brownell, who knew what smoking led to, testified out of his
twelve years' experience of what he called the Animal Boy. He left
little unexplored or unexplained.
'There may be something in what you say,' the Reverend John
assented. 'But as a matter of fact, their actual smoking doesn't amount
to much. They talk a great deal about their brands of tobacco.
Practically, it makes them rather keen on putting down smoking among
the juniors-as an encroachment on their privilege, you see. They lick
'em twice as hard for it as we'd dare to.'
'Lick!' Mr. Brownell cried. 'One expels! One expels! I know the end
of these practices.' He told his companion, in detail, with anecdotes
and inferences, a great deal more about the Animal Boy.
'Ah!' said the Reverend John to himself. 'You'll leave at the end of
the term; but you'll have a deuce of a time first.' Aloud: 'We-ell, I
suppose no one can be sure of any school's tendency at any given
moment, but, personally, I should incline to believe that we're
reasonably free from the-er-monastic microbes of-er-older
'But a school's a school. You can't get out of that! It's
preposterous! You must admit that,' Mr. Brownell insisted.
They were within hail of Pot by now, and the Reverend John asked him
how Affairs of State stood.
'All right, thank you, sir. How are you, sir?'
'Loungin' round and sufferin', my son. What about the dates of the
Exeter and Tiverton matches?'
'As late in the term as we can get 'em, don't you think, sir?'
'Quite! Specially Blundell's. They're our dearest foe,' he explained
to the frozen Mr. Brownell. 'Aren't we rather light in the scrum just
''Fraid so, sir: but Packman's playin' forward this term.'
'At last!' cried the Reverend John. (Packman was Pot's second-in-
command, who considered himself a heaven-born half-back, but Pot had
been working on him diplomatically. 'He'll be a pillar, at any rate.
Lend me one of your fuzees, please. I've only got matches.'
Mr. Brownell was unused to this sort of talk. 'A bad beginning to a
bad business,' he muttered as they returned to College.
Pot finished out his meditations; from time to time rubbing up the
gloss on his new seven-and-sixpenny silver-mounted, rather hot, myall-
wood pipe, with its very thin crust in the bowl.
As the Studies brought back brackets and pictures for their walls,
so did they bring odds and ends of speech-theatre, opera, and
music-hall gags-from the great holiday world; some of which stuck for a
term, and others were discarded. Number Five was unpacking, when Dick
Four (King's House) of the red nose and dramatic instincts, who with
Pussy and Tertius inhabited the study below, loafed up and asked them
'how their symptoms seemed to segashuate.' They said nothing at the
time, for they knew Dick had a giddy uncle who took him to the Pavilion
and the Cri, and all would be explained later. But, before they met
again, Beetle came across two fags at war in a box-room, one of whom
cried to the other 'Turn me loose, or I'll knock the natal stuffin' out
of you.' Beetle demanded why he, being offal, presumed to use this
strange speech. The fag said it came out of a new book about rabbits
and foxes and turtles and niggers, which was in his locker. (Uncle
Remus was a popular holiday gift-book in Shotover's year: when Cetewayo
lived in the Melbury Road, Arabi Pasha in Egypt, and Spofforth on the
Oval.) Beetle had it out and read for some time, standing by the
window, ere he carried it off to Number Five and began at once to give
a wonderful story of a Tar Baby. Stalky tore it from him because he
sputtered incoherently; McTurk, for the same cause, wrenching it from
Stalky. There was no prep that night. The book was amazing, and full of
quotations that one could hurl like javelins. When they came down to
prayers, Stalky, to show he was abreast of the latest movement, pounded
on the door of Dick Four's study shouting a couplet that pleased
I eat um pea! I pick um pea!'
Upon which Dick Four, hornpiping and squinting, and not at all
unlike a bull-frog, came out and answered from the bottom of his belly,
whence he could produce incredible noises
'Ingle-go-jang, my joy, my joy!
Ingle-go-jang, my joy!
I'm right at home, my joy, my joy!--'
The chants seemed to answer the ends of their being created for the
moment. They all sang them the whole way up the corridor, and, after
prayers, bore the burdens dispersedly to their several dormitories,
where they found many who knew the book of the words, but who, boylike,
had waited for a lead ere giving tongue. In a short time the College
was as severely infected with Uncle Remus as it had been with Pinafore
and Patience. King realised it specially because he was running
Macrea's House in addition to his own and, Dick Four said, was telling
his new charges what he thought of his 'esteemed colleague's' methods
The Reverend John was talking to the Head in the tatter's study,
perhaps a fortnight later.
'If you'd only wired me,' he said. 'I could have dug up something
that might have tided us over. This man's dangerous.'
'Mea culpa!' the Head replied. 'I had so much on hand. Our Governing
Council alone--But what do We make of him?'
'Trust Youth! We call him "Mister."
'Just "Mister." It took Us three days to plumb his soul.'
'And he doesn't approve of Our institutions? You say he is On the
Track-eh? He suspects the worst?'
The School Chaplain nodded.
'We-ell. I should say that that was the one tendency we had not
developed. Setting aside we haven't even a curtain in a dormitory, let
alone a lock to any form-room door-there has to be tradition in these
'So I believe. So, indeed, one knows. And-'tisn't as if I ever
preached on personal purity either.'
The Head laughed. 'No, or you'd join Brownell at term-end. By the
way, what's this new line of Patristic discourse you're giving us in
church? I found myself listening to some of it last Sunday.'
'Oh! My early Christianity sermons? I bought a dozen ready made in
Town just before I came down. Some one who knows his Gibbon must have
done 'em. Aren't they good?' The Reverend John, who was no hand at
written work, beamed self-approvingly. There was a knock and Pot
The weather had defeated him, at last. All footer-grounds, he
reported, were unplayable, and must be rested. His idea, to keep things
going, was Big and Little Side Paper-chases thrice a week. For the
juniors, a shortish course on the Burrows, which he intended to oversee
personally the first few times, while Packman lunged Big Side across
the inland and upland ploughs, for proper sweats. There was some
question of bounds that he asked authority to vary; and, would the Head
please say which afternoons would interfere least with the Army Class,
As to bounds, the Head left those, as usual, entirely to Pot. The
Reverend John volunteered to shift one of his extra-Tu classes from
four to five p.m. till after prayers-nine to ten. The whole question
was settled in five minutes.
'We hate paper-chases, don't we, Pot?' the Headmaster asked as the
Head of Games rose.
'Yes, sir, but it keeps 'em in training. Good night, sir.'
'To go back--' drawled the Head when the door was well shut. 'No-o.
I do not think so!...Ye-es! He'll leave at the end of the term...
A-aah! How does it go? "Don't 'spute wid de squinch-owl. Jam de shovel
in de fier." Have you come across that extraordinary book, by the
'Oh, yes. We've got it badly too. It has some sort of elemental
appeal, I suppose.'
Here Mr. King came in with a neat little scheme for the
reorganisation of certain details in Macrea's House, where he had
detected reprehensible laxities. The Head sighed. The Reverend John
only heard the beginnings of it. Then he slid out softly. He remembered
he had not written to Macrea for quite a long time.
The first Big Side Paper-chase, in blinding wet, was as vile as even
the groaning and bemired Beetle had prophesied. But Dick Four had
managed to run his own line when it skirted Bideford, and turned up at
the Lavatories half an hour late cherishing a movable tumour beneath
'Ingle-go-jang!' he chanted, and slipped out a warm but coy land-
'My Sacred Hat!' cried Stalky. 'Brer Terrapin! Where you catchee?
What you makee-do aveck?'
This was Stalky's notion of how they talked in Uncle Remus; and he
spake no other tongue for weeks.
'I don't know yet; but I had to get him. 'Man with a barrow full of
'em in Bridge Street. 'Gave me my choice for a bob. Leave him alone,
you owl! He won't swim where you've been washing your filthy self! "I'm
right at home, my joy, my joy."' Dick's nose shone like Bardolph's as
he bubbled in the bath.
Just before tea-time, he,' Pussy,' and Tertius broke in upon Number
Five, processionally, singing:
'Ingle-go-jang, my joy, my joy!
Ingle-go-jang, my joy!
I'm right at home, my joy, my joy!
Ingle-go-jang, my joy.'
Brer Terrapin, painted or and sable-King's House-colours-swung by a
neatly contrived belly-band from the end of a broken jumping-pole. They
thought rather well of taking him in to tea. They called at one or two
studies on the way, and were warmly welcomed; but when they reached the
still shut doors of the dining-hall (Richards, ex-Petty Officer, R.N.,
was always unpunctual-but they needn't have called him 'Stinking Jim ')
the whole school shouted approval. After the meal, Brer Terrapin was
borne the round of the form-rooms from Number One to Number Twelve, in
an unbroken roar of homage.
'To-morrow,' Dick Four announced, 'we'll sacrifice to him. Fags in
blazin' paper-baskets!' and with thundering 'Ingle-go fangs' the Idol
retired to its shrine.
It had been a satisfactory performance. Little Hartopp, surprised
labelling 'rocks' in Number Twelve, which held the Natural History
Museum, had laughed consumedly; and the Reverend John, just before
prep, complimented Dick that he had not a single dissenter to his
following. In this respect the affair was an advance on Byzantium and
Alexandria which, of course, were torn by rival sects led by militant
Bishops or zealous heathen. Vide, (Beetle,) Hypatia, and (if Dick Four
ever listened, instead of privily swotting up his Euclid, in Church)
the Reverend John's own sermons. Mr. King, who had heard the noise but
had not appeared, made no comment till dinner, when he told the Common
Room ceiling that he entertained the lowest opinion of Uncle Remus's
buffoonery, but opined that it might interest certain types of
intellect. Little Hartopp, School Librarian, who had, by special
request, laid in an extra copy of the book, differed acridly. He had,
he said, heard or overheard every salient line of Uncle Remus quoted,
appositely too, by boys whom he would not have credited with
intellectual interests. Mr. King repeated that he was wearied by the
senseless and childish repetitions of immature minds. He recalled the
Patience epidemic. Mr. Prout did not care for Uncle Remus-the dialect
put him off-but he thought the Houses were getting a bit out of hand.
There was nothing one could lay hold of, of course-'As yet,' Mr.
Brownell interjected darkly. 'But this larking about in form-rooms,' he
added, had potentialities which, if he knew anything of the Animal Boy,
would develop-or had developed.'
'I shouldn't wonder,' said the Reverend John. 'This is the first
time to my knowledge that Stalky has ever played second-fiddle to any
one. Brer Terrapin was entirely Dick Four's notion. By the way, he was
painted your House-colours, King.'
'Was he?' said King artlessly. 'I have always held that our Dickson
Quartus had the rudiments of imagination. We will look into it-look
'In our loathsome calling, more things are done by judicious letting
alone than by any other,' the Reverend John grunted.
'I can't subscribe to that,' said Mr. Prout. 'You haven't a House,'
and for once Mr. King backed Prout.
'Thank Heaven I haven't! Or I should be like you two. Leave 'em
alone! Leave 'em alone! Haven't you ever seen puppies fighting over a
slipper for hours?'
'Yes, but Gillett admits that Dickson Quartus was the only begetter
of this manifestation. I wasn't aware that the-er-Testacean had been
tricked out in my colours,' said King.
And at that very hour, Number Five Study-'prep' thrown to the winds-
were toiling inspiredly at a Tar Baby made up of Beetle's sweater, and
half-a-dozen lavatory-towels; a condemned cretonne curtain and, ditto,
baize table-cloth for 'natal stuffin''; an ancient, but air-tight
puntabout-ball for the head; all three play-box ropes for bindings; and
most of Richards' weekly blacking-allowance for Prout's House's boots,
to give tone to the whole.
'Gummy!' said Beetle when their curtain-pole had been taken down and
Tar Baby hitched to the end of it by a loop in its voluptuous back. 'It
looks pretty average indecent, somehow.'
'You can use it this way, too,' Turkey demonstrated, handling the
curtain-pole like a flail 'Now, shove it in the fireplace to dry an'
we'll wash up.'
'But-but,' said Stalky, fascinated by the unspeakable front and
behind of the black and bulging horror. 'How come he lookee so
'Dead easy! If you do anything with your whole heart, Ruskin says,
you always pull off something dam'-fine. Brer Terrapin's only a natural
animal; but Tar Baby's Art,' McTurk explained.
'I see! "If you're anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line."
Well, Tar Baby's the filthiest thing I've ever seen in my life,' Stalky
concluded. 'King'll be rabid.'
The United Idolaters set forth, side by side, at five o'clock next
afternoon; Brer Terrapin, wide awake, and swimming hard into nothing;
Tar Baby lurching from side to side with a lascivious abandon that made
Foxy, the School Sergeant, taking defaulters' drill in the Corridor,
squawk like an outraged hen. And when they ceremoniously saluted each
other, like aristocratic heads on revolutionary pikes, it beat the
previous day's performance out of sight and mind. The very fags,
offered up, till the bottoms of the paper-baskets carried away, as
heave-offerings before them, fell over each other for the honour; and
House by House, when the news spread, dropped its doings, and followed
the Mysteries-not without song...
Some say it was a fag of Prout's who appealed for rescue from Brer
Terrapin to Tar Baby; others, that the introits to the respective
creeds ('Ingle-go-jang,'-'Ti-yi-Tungalee!') carried in themselves the
seeds of dissent. At any rate, the cleavage developed as swiftly as in
a new religion, and by tea-time, when they were fairly hoarse, the
rolling world was rent to the death between Ingles versus Tungles, and
Brer Terrapin had swept out Number Eleven form-room to the War-cry:
'Here I come a-bulgin' and a-bilin'.' Prep stopped further
developments, but they agreed that, as a recreation for wet autumn
evenings, the jape was unequalled, and called for its repetition on
That was a brilliant evening, too. Both sides went into prayers
practically re-dressing themselves. There was a smell of singed fag
down the lines and a watery eye or so; but nothing to which the most
fastidious could have objected. The Reverend John hinted something
about roof-lifting noises.
'Oh, no, Padre, Sahib. We were only billin' an' cooin' a bit,'
Stalky explained. 'We haven't really begun. There's goin' to be a
tug-o'-war next Saturday with Miss Meadow's bed-cord--'
'"Which in dem days would ha' hilt a mule,"' the Reverend John
quoted. 'Well, I've got to be impartial. I wish you both good
The week, with its three paper-chases, passed uneventfully, but for
a certain amount of raiding and reprisals on new lines that might have
warned them they were playing with fire. The Juniors had learned to use
the sacred war-chants as signals of distress; oppressed Ingles
squealing for aid against oppressing Tungles, and vice versa; so that
one never knew when a peaceful form-room would flare up in song and
slaughter. But not a soul dreamed, for a moment, that that Saturday's
jape would develop into-what it did! They were rigidly punctilious
about the ritual; exquisitely careful as to the weights on Miss
Meadow's bed-cord, kindly lent by Richards, who said he knew nothing
about mules, but guaranteed it would hold a barge's crew; and if Dick
Four chose to caparison himself as Archimandrite of Joppa, black as
burned cork could make him, why, Stalky, in a nightgown kilted up
beneath his sweater, was equally the Pope Symmachus, just converted
from heathendom but given to alarming relapses.
It began after tea--say 6.50 p.m. It got into its stride by 7.30
when Turkey, with pillows bound round the ends of forms, invented the
Royal Battering-Ram Corps. It grew and-it grew till a quarter to nine
when the Prefects, most of whom had fought on one side or the other,
thought it time to stop and went in with ground-ashes and the bare hand
for ten minutes,...
Honours for the action were not awarded by the Head till Monday
morning when he dealt out one dozen lickings to selected seniors, eight
'millies' (one thousand), fourteen 'usuals' (five hundred lines), minor
impositions past count, and a stoppage of pocket-money on a scale and
for a length of time unprecedented in modern history.
He said the College was within an ace of being burned to the ground
when the gas jet in Number Eleven form-room-where they tried to burn
Tar Baby, fallen for the moment into the hands of the enemy-was
wrenched off, and the lit gas spouted all over the ceiling till some
one plugged the pipe with dormitory soap. He said that nothing save his
consideration for their future careers kept him from expelling the
wanton ruffians who had noosed all the desks in Number Twelve and swept
them up in one crackling mound, barring a couple that had pitch- poled
through the window. This, again, had been no man's design but the
inspiration of necessity when Tar Baby's bodyguard, surrounded but
defiant, was only rescued at the last minute by Turkey's immortal
flank-attack with the battering-rams that carried away the door of
Number Nine. He said that the same remarks applied to the fireplace and
mantelpiece in Number Seven which everybody had seen fall out of the
wall of their own motion after Brer Terrapin had hitched Miss Meadow's
bed-cord to the bars of the grate.
He said much more, too; but as King pointed out in Common Room that
evening, his canings were inept, he had not confiscated the Idols and,
above all, had not castigated, as King would have castigated, the
disgusting childishness of all concerned.
'Well,' said Little Hartopp. 'I saw the Prefects choking them off as
we came into prayers. You've reason to reckon that in the scale of
'And more than half the damage was done under your banner, King,'
the Reverend John added.
'That doesn't affect my judgment; though, as a matter of fact, I
believe Brer Terrapin triumphed over Tar Baby all along the line.
Didn't he, I rout?'
'It didn t seem to me a fitting time to ask. The Tar Babies were
handicapped, of course, by not being able to-ah-tackle a live
'I confess,' Mr. Brownell volunteered, 'it was the studious
perversity of certain aspects of the orgy which impressed me. And yet,
what can one exp--'
'How do you mean?' King demanded. 'Dickson Quartus may be eccentric,
'I was alluding to the vile and calculated indecency of that black
Mr. Brownell had passed Tar Baby going down to battle, all round and
ripe, before Turkey had begun to use it as Bishop Odo's holy-water
'It is possible you didn't--'
'I never noticed anything,' said Prout. 'If there had been, I should
have been the first--'
Here Little Hartopp sniggered, which did not cool the air.
'Peradventure,' King began with due intake of the breath.
'Peradventure even I might have taken cognizance of the matter both for
my own House's sake and for my colleague's...No! Folly I concede. Utter
childishness and complete absence of discipline in all quarters, as the
natural corollary to dabbling in so-called transatlantic humour, I
frankly admit. But that there was anything esoterically obscene in the
outbreak I absolutely deny.'
'They've been fighting for weeks over those things,' said Mr. Prout.
''Silly, of course, but I don't see how it can be dangerous.'
'Quite true. Any House-master of experience knows that, Brownell,'
the Reverend John put in reprovingly.
'Given a normal basis of tradition and conduct-certainly,' Mr.
Brownell answered. 'But with such amazing traditions as exist here, no
man with any experience of the Animal Boy can draw your deceptive
inferences. That's all I mean.
Once again, and not for the first time, but with greater heat he
testified what smoking led to-what, indeed, he was morally certain
existed in full blast under their noses...
Gloves were off in three minutes. Pessimists, no more than poets,
love each other and, even when they work together, it is one thing to
pessimise congenially with an ancient and tried associate who is also a
butt, and another to be pessimised over by an inexperienced junior,
even though the latter's college career may have included more
exhibitions-nay, even pot-huntings-than one's own. The Reverend John
did his best to pour water on the flames. Little Hartopp, perceiving
that it was pure oil, threw in canfuls of his own, from the wings. In
the end, words passed which would have made the Common Room
uninhabitable for the future, but that Macrea had written (the Reverend
John had seen the letter) saying that his knee was fairly re- knit and
he was prepared to take on again at half-term. This happened to be the
only date since the Creation beyond which Mr. Brownell's self-respect
would not permit him to stay one hour. It solved the situation, amid
puffings and blowings and bitter epigrams, and a most distinguished
stateliness of bearing all round, till Mr. Brownell's departure.
'My dear fellow!' said the Reverend John to Macrea, on the first
night of the latter's return. 'I do hope there was nothing in my
letters to you-you asked me to keep you posted-that gave you any idea
King wasn't doing his best with your House according to his
'Not in the least,' said Macrea. 'I've the greatest respect for
King, but after all, one's House is one's House. One can't stand it
being tinkered with by well-meaning outsiders.'
To Mr. Brownell on Bideford station-platform, the Reverend John's
last words were:
'Well, well. You mustn't judge us too harshly. I dare say there's a
great deal in what you say. Oh, Yes! King's conduct was inexcusable,
absolutely inexcusable! About the smoking? Lamentable, but we must all
bow down, more or less, in the House of Rimmon. We have to compete with
the Crammers' Shops.'
To the Head, in the silence of his study, next day: 'He didn't seem
to me the kind of animal who'd keep to advantage in our atmosphere.
Luckily he lost his temper (King and he are own brothers) and he
couldn't withdraw his resignation.'
'Excellent. After all, it's only a few pounds to make up. I'll slip
it in under our recent-er-barrack damages. And what do We think of it
'We do not think at all-any of us,' said the Reverend John. 'Youth
is its own prophylactic, thank Heaven.'
And the Head, not usually devout, echoed, 'Thank Heaven!'
'It was worth it,' Dick Four pronounced on review of the profit-and-
loss account with Number Five in his study.
'Heap-plenty-bong-assez,' Stalky assented.
'But why didn't King ra'ar up an' cuss Tar Baby?' Beetle asked.
'You preter-pluperfect, fat-ended fool!' Stalky began-
'Keep your hair on! We all know the Idolaters wasn't our Uncle
Stalky's idea. But why didn't King--'
'Because Dick took care to paint Brer Terrapin King's House-colours.
You can always conciliate King by soothin' his putrid esprit-de-
maisong. Ain't that true, Dick?'
Dick Four, with the smile of modest worth unmasked, said it was
'An' now,' Turkey yawned. 'King an' Macrea'll jaw for the rest of
the term how he ran his house when Macrea was tryin' to marry fat
widows in Switzerland. Mountaineerin'! 'Bet Macrea never went near a
''One good job, though. I go back to Macrea for Maths. He does know
something,' said Stalky.
'Why? Didn't "Mister" know anythin'?' Beetle asked.
''Bout as much as you,' was Stalky's reply.
'I don't go about pretending to. What was he like?'
'"Mister"? Oh, rather like King-King and water.'
Only water was not precisely the fluid that Stalky thought fit to
UP came the young Centaur-colts from the plains they were fathered in--
Curious, awkward, afraid.
Burrs on their hocks and their tails, they were branded and gathered in
Mobs and run up to the yard to be made.
Starring and shying at straws, with sidlings and plungings.
Buckings and whirlings and bolts;
Greener than grass, but full-ripe for their bridling and lungings.
Up to the yards and to Chiron they bustled the colts...
First the light web and the cavesson; then the linked keys
To jingle and turn on the tongue. Then, with cocked ears.
The hours of watching and envy, while comrades at ease
Passaged and backed, making naught of these terrible gears.
Next, over-pride and its price at the low-seeming fence
Too oft and too easily taken-the world-beheld fall!
And none in the yard except Chiron to doubt the immense.
Irretrievable shame of it all!...
Last, the trained squadron, full-charge-the sound of a going
Through dust and spun clods, and strong kicks, pelted in as they went.
And repaid at top-speed; till the order to halt without slowing
Showed every colt on his haunches-and Chiron content!
'Late Came the God'
LATE came the God, having sent his forerunners who were not regarded--
Late, but in wrath;
Saying: 'The wrong shall be paid, the contempt be rewarded
On all that she hath.'
He poisoned the blade and struck home, the full bosom receiving
The wound and the venom in one, past cure or relieving.
He made treaty with Time to stand still that the grief might be fresh-
Daily renewed and nightly pursued through her soul to her flesh--
Mornings of memory, noontides of agony, midnights unslaked for her.
Till the stones of the streets of her Hells and her Paradise ached for her.
So she lived while her body corrupted upon her.
And she called on the Night for a sign, and a Sign was allowed.
And she builded an Altar and served by the light of her Vision-
Alone, without hope of regard or reward, but uncowed.
Resolute, selfless, divine.
These things she did in Love's honour...
The Wish House
THE new Church Visitor had just left after a twenty minutes' call.
During that time, Mrs. Ashcroft had used such English as an elderly,
experienced, and pensioned cook should, who had seen life in London.
She was the readier, therefore, to slip back into easy, ancient Sussex
(Ts softening to 'd's as one warmed) when the 'bus brought Mrs. Fettley
from thirty miles away for a visit, that pleasant March Saturday. The
two had been friends since childhood; but, of late, destiny had
separated their meetings by long intervals.
Much was to be said, and many ends, loose since last time, to be
ravelled up on both sides, before Mrs. Fettley, with her bag of quilt-
patches, took the couch beneath the window commanding the garden, and
the football-ground in the valley below.
'Most folk got out at Bush Tye for the match there,' she explained,
'so there weren't no one for me to cushion agin, the last five mile.
An' she do just-about bounce ye.'
'You've took no hurt,' said her hostess. 'You don't brittle by
Mrs. Fettley chuckled and made to match a couple of patches to her
liking. 'No, or I'd ha' broke twenty year back. You can't ever mind
when I was so's to be called round, can ye?'
Mrs. Ashcroft shook her head slowly-she never hurried-and went on
stitching a sack-cloth lining into a list-bound rush tool-basket. Mrs.
Fettley laid out more patches in the Spring light through the geraniums
on the window-sill, and they were silent awhile.
'What like's this new Visitor o' yourn?' Mrs. Fettley inquired, with
a nod towards the door. Being very short-sighted, she had, on her
entrance, almost bumped into the lady.
Mrs. Ashcroft suspended the big packing-needle judicially on high,
ere she stabbed home. 'Settin' aside she don't bring much news with her
yet, I dunno as I've anythin' special agin her.'
'Ourn, at Keyneslade,' said Mrs. Fettley, 'she's full o' words an'
pity, but she don't stay for answers. Ye can get on with your thoughts
while she clacks.'
'This 'un don't clack. She's aimin' to be one o' those High Church
'Ourn's married, but, by what they say, she've made no great gains
of it...' Mrs. Fettley threw up her sharp chin. 'Lord! How they dam'
cherubim do shake the very bones o' the place!'
The tile-sided cottage trembled at the passage of two specially
chartered forty-seat charabancs on their way to the Bush Tye match; a
regular Saturday' shopping' 'bus, for the county's capital, fumed
behind them; while, from one of the crowded inns, a fourth car backed
out to join the procession, and held up the stream of through
'You're as free-tongued as ever, Liz,' Mrs. Ashcroft observed.
'Only when I'm with you. Otherwhiles, I'm Granny-three times over. I
lay that basket's for one o' your gran'chiller-ain't it?'
''Tis for Arthur-my Jane's eldest.'
'But he ain't workin' nowheres, is he?'
'No. 'Tis a picnic-basket.'
'You're let off light. My Willie, he's allus at me for money for
them aireated wash-poles folk puts up in their gardens to draw the
music from Lunnon, like. An' I give it 'im-pore fool me!'
'An' he forgets to give you the promise-kiss after, don't he?' Mrs.
Ashcroft's heavy smile seemed to strike inwards.
'He do. 'No odds 'twixt boys now an' forty year back. 'Take all an'
give naught-an' we to put up with it! Pore fool we! Three shillin' at a
time Willie'll ask me for!'
'They don't make nothin' o' money these days,' Mrs. Ashcroft
'An' on'y last week,' the other went on, 'me daughter, she ordered a
quarter pound suet at the butchers's; an' she sent it back to 'im to be
chopped. She said she couldn't bother with choppin' it.'
'I lay he charged her, then.'
'I lay he did. She told me there was a whisk-drive that afternoon at
the Institute, an' she couldn't bother to do the choppin'.'
Mrs. Ashcroft put the last firm touches to the basket-lining. She
had scarcely finished when her sixteen-year-old grandson, a maiden of
the moment in attendance, hurried up the garden-path shouting to know
if the thing were ready, snatched it, and made off without
acknowledgment. Mrs. Fettley peered at him closely.
'They're goin' picnickin' somewheres,' Mrs. Ashcroft explained.
'Ah,' said the other, with narrowed eyes. 'I lay he won't show much
mercy to any he comes across, either. Now 'oo the dooce do he remind me
of, all of a sudden?'
'They must look arter theirselves-'same as we did.' Mrs. Ashcroft
began to set out the tea.
'No denyin' you could, Gracie,' said Mrs. Fettley.
'What's in your head now?'
'Dunno...But it come over me, sudden-like-about dat woman from
Rye--I've slipped the name-Barnsley, wadn't it?'
'Batten-Polly Batten, you're thinkin' of.'
'That's it-Polly Batten. That day she had it in for you with a hay-
fork-'time we was all hayin' at Smalldene-for stealin' her man.'
'But you heered me tell her she had my leave to keep him?' Mrs.
Ashcroft's voice and smile were smoother than ever.
'I did--an' we was all looking that she'd prod the fork spang
through your breastes when you said it.'
'No-oo. She'd never go beyond bounds-Polly. She shruck too much for
'Allus seems to me,' Mrs. Fettley said after a pause, 'that a man
'twixt two fightin' women is the foolishest thing on earth. 'Like a dog
bein' called two ways.'
'Mebbe. But what set ye off on those times, Liz?'
'That boy's fashion o' carryin' his head an' arms. I haven't rightly
looked at him since he's growed. Your Jane never showed it, but-him!
Why, 'tis Jim Batten and his tricks come to life again!...Eh?'
'Mebbe. There's some that would ha' made it out so-bein'
'Oho! Ah well! Dearie, dearie me, now!...An' Jim Batten's been dead
'Seven and twenty year,' Mrs. Ashcroft answered briefly. 'Won't ye
draw up, Liz?'
Mrs. Fettley drew up to buttered toast, currant bread, stewed tea,
bitter as leather, some home-preserved pears, and a cold boiled pig's
tail to help down the muffins. She paid all the proper compliments.
'Yes. I dunno as I've ever owed me belly much,' said Mrs. Ashcroft
thoughtfully. 'We only go through this world once.'
'But don't it lay heavy on ye, sometimes?' her guest suggested.
'Nurse says I'm a sight liker to die o' me indigestion than me leg.'
For Mrs. Ashcroft had a long-standing ulcer on her shin, which needed
regular care from the Village Nurse, who boasted (or others did, for
her) that she had dressed it one hundred and three times already during
her term of office.
'An' you that was so able, too! It's all come on ye before your full
time, like. I've watched ye goin'.' Mrs. Fettley spoke with real
'Somethin's bound to find ye sometime. I've me 'eart left me still,'
Mrs. Ashcroft returned.
'You was always big-hearted enough for three. That's somethin' to
look back on at the day's eend.'
'I reckon you've your back-lookin's, too,' was Mrs. Ashcroft's
'You know it. But I don't think much regardin' such matters excep'
when I'm along with you, Gra'. 'Takes two sticks to make a fire.'
Mrs. Fettley stared, with jaw half-dropped, at the grocer's bright
calendar on the wall. The cottage shook again to the roar of the
motortraffic, and the crowded football-ground below the garden roared
almost as loudly; for the village was well set to its Saturday
Mrs. Fettley had spoken very precisely for some time without
interruption, before she wiped her eyes. 'And,' she concluded, 'they
read 'is death-notice to me, out o' the paper last month. O' course it
wadn't any o' my becomin' concerns-let be I 'adn't set eyes on him for
so long. O' course I couldn't say nor show nothin'. Nor I've no
rightful call to go to Eastbourne to see 'is grave, either. I've been
schemin' to slip over there by the 'bus some day; but they'd ask
questions at 'ome past endurance. So I 'aven't even that to stay
'But you've 'ad your satisfactions?'
'Godd! Yess! Those four years 'e was workin' on the rail near us.
An' the other drivers they gave him a brave funeral, too.'
'Then you've naught to cast-up about. 'Nother cup o' tea?'
The light and air had changed a little with the sun's descent, and
the two elderly ladies closed the kitchen-door against chill. A couple
of jays squealed and skirmished through the undraped apple-trees in the
garden. This time, the word was with Mrs. Ashcroft, her elbows on the
teatable, and her sick leg propped on a stool...
'Well I never! But what did your 'usband say to that?' Mrs. Fettley
asked, when the deep-toned recital halted.
''E said I might go where I pleased for all of 'im. But seein' 'e
was bedrid, I said I'd 'tend 'im out. 'E knowed I wouldn't take no
advantage of 'im in that state. 'E lasted eight or nine week. Then he
was took with a seizure-like; an' laid stone-still for days. Then 'e
propped 'imself up abed an' says: "You pray no man'll ever deal with
you like you've dealed with some." "An' you?" I says, for you know,
Liz, what a rover 'e was. "It cuts both ways," says 'e, "but I'm
death-wise, an' I can see what's comin' to you." He died a-Sunday an'
was buried a-Thursday...An' yet I'd set a heap by him-one time or- did
'You never told me that before,' Mrs. Fettley ventured.
'I'm payin' ye for what ye told me just now. Him bein' dead, I wrote
up, sayin' I was free for good, to that Mrs. Marshall in Lunnon-which
gave me my first place as kitchen-maid-Lord, how long ago! She was well
pleased, for they two was both gettin' on, an' I knowed their ways. You
remember, Liz, I used to go to 'em in service between whiles, for
years-when we wanted money, or--or my 'usband was away--on
''E did get that six months at Chichester, didn't 'e?' Mrs. Fettley
whispered. 'We never rightly won to the bottom of it.'
''E'd ha' got more, but the man didn't die.'
''None o' your doin's, was it, Gra'?'
'No! 'Twas the woman's husband this time. An' so, my man bein' dead,
I went back to them Marshall's, as cook, to get me legs under a
gentleman's table again, and be called with a handle to me name. That
was the year you shifted to Portsmouth.'
'Cosham,' Mrs. Fettley corrected. 'There was a middlin' lot o' new
buildin' bein' done there. My man went first, an' got the room, an' I
'Well, then, I was a year-abouts in Lunnon, all at a breath, like,
four meals a day an' livin' easy. Then, 'long towards autumn, they two
went travellin', like, to France; keepin' me on, for they couldn't do
without me. I put the house to rights for the caretaker, an' then I
slipped down 'ere to me sister Bessie-me wages in me pockets, an' all
'ands glad to be'old of me.'
'That would be when I was at Cosham,' said Mrs. Fettley.
'You know, Liz, there wasn't no cheap-dog pride to folk, those days,
no more than there was cinemas nor whisk-drives. Man or woman 'ud lay
hold o' any job that promised a shillin' to the backside of it, didn't
they? I was all peaked up after Lunnon, an' I thought the fresh airs
'ud serve me. So I took on at Smalldene, obligin' with a hand at the
early potato-liftin, stubbin' hens, an' such-like. They'd ha' mocked me
sore in my kitchen in Lunnon, to see me in men's boots, an me
petticoats all shorted.'
'Did it bring ye any good?' Mrs. Fettley asked.
''Twadn't for that I went. You know, 's'well's me, that na'un
happens to ye till it 'as 'appened. Your mind don't warn ye before'and
of the road ye've took, till you're at the far eend of it. We've only a
backwent view of our proceedin's.'
''Oo was it?'
''Arry Mockler.' Mrs. Ashcroft's face puckered to the pain of her
Mrs. Fettley gasped. ''Arry? Bert Mockler's son! An' I never
Mrs. Ashcroft nodded. 'An' I told myself-an' I beleft it-that I
'What did ye get out of it?'
'The usuals. Everythin' at first-worse than naught after. I had
signs an' warnings a-plenty, but I took no heed of 'em. For we was
burnin' rubbish one day, just when we'd come to know how 'twas
with-with both of us. 'Twas early in the year for burnin', an' I said
so. "No!" says he. "The sooner dat old stuff's off an' done with," 'e
says, "the better." 'Is face was harder'n rocks when he spoke. Then it
come over me that I'd found me master, which I 'adn't ever before. I'd
allus owned 'em, like.'
'Yes! Yes! They're yourn or you're theirn,' the other sighed. 'I
like the right way best.'
'I didn't. But 'Arry did...'Long then, it come time for me to go
back to Lunnon. I couldn't. I clean couldn't! So, I took an' tipped a
dollop o' scaldin' water out o' the copper one Monday mornin' over me
left 'and and arm. Dat stayed me where I was for another
'Was it worth it?' said Mrs. Fettley, looking at the silvery scar on
the wrinkled fore-arm.
Mrs. Ashcroft nodded. 'An' after that, we two made it up 'twixt us
so's 'e could come to Lunnon for a job in a liv'rystable not far from
me. 'E got it. I'tended to that. There wadn't no talk nowhere. His own
mother never suspicioned how 'twas. He just slipped up to Lunnon, an'
there we abode that winter, not 'alf a mile 'tother from each.'
'Ye paid 'is fare an' all, though'; Mrs. Fettley spoke
Again Mrs. Ashcroft nodded. 'Dere wadn't much I didn't do for him.
'E was me master, an'-O God, help us!-we'd laugh over it walkin'
together after dark in them paved streets, an' me corns fair wrenchin'
in me boots! I'd never been like that before. Ner he! Ner he!'
Mrs. Fettley clucked sympathetically.
'An' when did ye come to the eend?' she asked.
'When 'e paid it all back again, every penny. Then I knowed, but I
wouldn't suffer meself to know. "You've been mortal kind to me," he
says. "Kind!" I said. "'Twixt us?" But 'e kep' all on tellin' me 'ow
kind I'd been an' 'e'd never forget it all his days. I held it from off
o' me for three evenin's, because I would not believe. Then 'e talked
about not bein' satisfied with 'is job in the stables, an' the men
there puttin' tricks on 'im, an' all they lies which a man tells when
'e's leavin' ye. I heard 'im out, neither 'elpin' nor 'inderin'. At the
last, I took off a fiddle brooch which he'd give me an' I says: "Dat'll
do. I ain't askin' na'un'." An' I turned me round an' walked off to me
own sufferin's. 'E didn't make 'em worse. 'E didn't come nor write
after that. 'E slipped off 'ere back 'ome to 'is mother again.'
'An' 'ow often did ye look for 'en to come back?' Mrs. Fettley
'More'n once-more'n once! Goin' over the streets we'd used, I
thought de very pave-stones 'ud shruck out under me feet.'
'Yes,' said Mrs. Fettley. 'I dunno but dat don't 'urt as much as
aught else. An' dat was all ye got?'
'No. 'Twadn't. That's the curious part, if you'll believe it,
'I do. I lay you're further off lyin' now than in all your life,
'I am...An' I suffered, like I'd not wish my most arrantest enemies
to. God's Own Name! I went through the hoop that spring! One part of it
was 'eddicks which I'd never known all me days before. Think o' me with
an 'eddick! But I come to be grateful for 'em. They kep' me from
''Tis like a tooth,' Mrs. Fettley commented. 'It must rage an' rugg
till it tortures itself quiet on ye; an' then-then there's na'un
'I got enough lef' to last me all my days on earth. It come about
through our charwoman's fiddle girl-Sophy Ellis was 'er name-all eyes
an' elbers an' hunger. I used to give 'er vittles. Otherwhiles, I took
no special notice of 'er, an' a sight less, o' course, when me trouble
about 'Arry was on me. But-you know how fiddle maids first feel it
sometimes-she come to be crazy-fond o' me, pawin' an' cuddlin' all
whiles; an' I 'adn't the 'eart to beat 'er off...One afternoon, early
in spring 'twas, 'er mother 'ad sent 'er round to scutchel up what
vittles she could off of us. I was settin' by the fire, me apern over
me head, halfmad with the 'eddick, when she slips in. I reckon I was
middlin' short with 'er. "Lor'!" she says. "Is that all? I'll take it
off you in two-twos!" I told her not to lay a finger on me, for I
thought she'd want to stroke my forehead; an'-I ain't that make. "I
won't tech ye," she says, an' slips out again. She 'adn't been gone ten
minutes 'fore me old 'eddick took off quick as bein' kicked. So I went
about my work. Prasin'ly, Sophy comes back, an' creeps into my chair
quiet as a mouse. 'Er eyes was deep in 'er 'ead an' 'er face all
drawed. I asked 'er what 'ad 'appened. "Nothin'," she says. "On'y I've
got it now." "Got what?" I says. "Your 'eddick," she says, all hoarse
an' sticky-tipped. "I've took it on me." "Nonsense," I says, "it went
of itself when you was out. Lay still an' I'll make ye a cup o' tea."
"'Twon't do no good," she says, "till your time's up. 'Ow long do your
'eddicks last?" "Don't talk silly," I says, "or I'll send for the
Doctor." It looked to me like she might be hatchin' de measles. "Oh,
Mrs. Ashcroft," she says, stretchin' out 'er fiddle thin arms. "I do
love ye." There wasn't any holdin' agin that. I took 'er into me lap
an' made much of 'er. "Is it truly gone?" she says. "Yes," I says, "an'
if 'twas you took it away, I'm truly grateful." "'Twas me," she says,
layin' 'er cheek to mine. "No one but me knows how." An' then she said
she'd changed me 'eddick for me at a Wish 'Ouse.'
'Whatt?' Mrs. Fettley spoke sharply.
'A Wish House. No! I'adn't 'eard o' such things, either. I couldn't
get it straight at first, but, puttin' all together, I made out that a
Wish 'Ouse 'ad to be a house which 'ad stood unlet an' empty long
enough for Some One, like, to come an' in'abit there. She said a fiddle
girl that she'd played with in the livery-stables where 'Arty worked
'ad told 'er so. She said the girl 'ad belonged in a caravan that laid
up, o' winters, in Lunnon. Gipsy, I judge.'
'Ooh! There's no sayin' what Gippos know, but I've never 'eard of a
Wish 'Ouse, an' I know-some things,' said Mrs. Fettley.
'Sophy said there was a Wish 'Ouse in Wadloes Road just a few
streets off, on the way to our green-grocer's. All you 'ad to do, she
said, was to ring the bell an' wish your wish through the slit o' the
letter-box. I asked 'er if the fairies give it 'er? "Don't ye know,"
she says, "there's no fairies in a Wish 'Ouse? There's on'y a
'Goo' Lord A'mighty! Where did she come by that word?' cried Mrs.
Fettley; for a Token is a wraith of the dead or, worse still, of the
'The caravan-girl 'ad told 'er, she said. Well, Liz, it troubled me
to 'ear 'er, an' lyin' in me arms she must ha' felt it. "That's very
kind o' you," I says, holdin' 'er tight, "to wish me 'eddick away. But
why didn't ye ask somethin' nice for yourself?" "You can't do that,"
she says. "All you'll get at a Wish 'Ouse is leave to take some one
else's trouble. I've took Ma's 'eddicks, when she's been kind to me;
but this is the first time I've been able to do aught for you. Oh, Mrs.
Ashcroft, I do just-about love you." An' she goes on all like that.
Liz, I tell you my 'air e'en a'most stood on end to 'ear 'er. I asked
'er what like a Token was. "I dunno," she says, "but after you've
ringed the bell, you'll 'ear it run up from the basement, to the front
door. Then say your wish," she says, "an' go away." "The Token don't
open de door to ye, then?" I says. "Oh no," she says. "You on'y 'ear
gigglin', like, be'ind the front door. Then you say you'll take the
trouble off of 'oo ever 'tis you've chose for your love; an' yell get
it," she says. I didn't ask no more-she was too 'ot an' fevered. I made
much of 'er till it come time to light de gas, an' a fiddle after that,
'er 'eddick-mine, I suppose-took off, an' she got down an' played with
'Well, I never!' said Mrs. Fettley. 'Did-did ye foller it up,
'She askt me to, but I wouldn't 'ave no such dealin's with a
'What did ye do, then?'
''Sat in me own room 'stid o' the kitchen when me 'eddicks come on.
But it lay at de back o' me mind.'
''Twould. Did she tell ye more, ever?'
'No. Besides what the Gippo girl 'ad told 'er, she knew naught,
'cept that the charm worked. An', next after that-in May 'twas-I
suffered the summer out in Lunnon. 'Twas hot an' windy for weeks, an'
the streets stinkin' o' dried 'orsedung blowin' from side to side an'
lyin' level with the kerb. We don't get that nowadays. I 'ad my 'ol'day
just before hoppin', an' come down 'ere to stay with Bessie again. She
noticed I'd lost flesh, an' was all poochy under the eyes.'
'Did ye see 'Arry'
Mrs. Ashcroft nodded. 'The fourth-no, the fifth day. Wednesday
'twas. I knowed 'e was workin' at Smalldene again. I asked 'is mother
in the street, bold as brass. She 'adn't room to say much, for
Bessie-you know 'er tongue-was talkin' full-clack. But that Wednesday,
I was walkin' with one o' Bessie's chillern hangin' on me skirts, at de
back o' Chanter's Tot. Prasin'ly, I felt 'e was be'ind me on the
footpath, an' I knowed by 'is tread 'e'd changed 'is nature. I slowed,
an' I heard 'im slow. Then I fussed a piece with the child, to force
him past me, like. So 'e 'ad to come past. 'E just says "Good-evenin',"
and goes on, tryin' to pull 'isself together.'
'Drunk, was he?' Mrs. Fettley asked.
'Never! S'runk an' wizen; 'is clothes 'angin' on 'im like bags, an'
the back of 'is neck whiter'n chalk. 'Twas all I could do not to oppen
my arms an' cry after him. But I swallered me spittle till I was back
'ome again an' the chillern abed. Then I says to Bessie, after supper,
"What in de world's come to 'Arry Mockler?" Bessie told me 'e'd been
a-Hospital for two months, 'long o' cuttin' 'is foot wid a spade,
muckin' out the old pond at Smalldene. There was poison in de dirt, an'
it rooshed up 'is leg, like, an' come out all over him. 'E 'adn't been
back to 'is job-carterin' at Smalldene-more'n a fortnight. She told me
the Doctor said he'd go off, likely, with the November frostes; an' 'is
mother 'ad told 'er that 'e didn't rightly eat nor sleep, an' sweated
'imself into pools, no odds 'ow chill 'e lay. An' spit terrible o'
mornin's. "Dearie me," I says. "But, mebbe, hoppin' 'll set 'im right
again," an' I licked me thread-point an' I fetched me needle's eye up
to it an' I threads me needle under de lamp, steady as rocks. An' dat
night (me bed was in de wash-house) I cried an' I cried. An' you know,
Liz-for you've been with me in my throes-it takes summat to make me
'Yes; but Chile-bearin' is on'y just pain,' said Mrs. Fettley.
'I come round by cock-crow, an' dabbed cold tea on me eyes to take
away the signs. Long towards nex' evenin'-I was settin' out to lay some
flowers on me 'usband's grave, for the look o' the thing-I met 'Arry
over against where the War Memorial is now. 'E was comin' back from 'is
'orses, so 'e couldn't not see me. I looked 'im all over, an' "'Arry,"
I says twix' me teeth, "come back an' rest-up in Lunnon." "I won't take
it," he says, "for I can give ye naught." "I don't ask it," I says. "By
God's Own Name, I don't ask na'un! On'y come up an' see a Lunnon
doctor." 'E lifts 'is two 'eavy eyes at me: "'Tis past that, Gra'," 'e
says. "I've but a few months left." "'Arry!" I says. "My man!" I says.
I couldn't say no more. 'Twas all up in me throat. "Thank ye kindly,
Gra'," 'e says (but 'e never says "my woman"), an' 'e went on upstreet
an' 'is mother-Oh, damn 'er!-she was watchin' for 'im, an' she shut de
door be'ind 'im.'
Mrs. Fettley stretched an arm across the table, and made to finger
Mrs. Ashcroft's sleeve at the wrist, but the other moved it out of
'So I went on to the churchyard with my flowers, an' I remembered my
'usband's warnin' that night he spoke. 'E was death-wise, an' it 'ad
'appened as 'e said. But as I was settin' down de jam-pot on the
grave-mound, it come over me there was one thing I could do for 'Arry.
Doctor or no Doctor, I thought I'd make a trial of it. So I did. Nex'
mornin', a bill came down from our Lunnon green-grocer. Mrs. Marshall,
she'd lef' me petty cash for suchlike-o' course-but I tole Bess 'twas
for me to come an' open the 'ouse. So I went up, afternoon train.'
'An'-but I know you 'adn't-'adn't you no fear?'
'What for? There was nothin' front o' me but my own shame an' God's
croolty. I couldn't ever get 'Arry-'ow could I? I knowed it must go on
burnin' till it burned me out.'
'Aie!' said Mrs. Fettley, reaching for the wrist again, and this
time Mrs. Ashcroft permitted it.
'Yit 'twas a comfort to know I could try this for 'im. So I went an'
I paid the green-grocer's bill, an' put 'is receipt in me hand-bag, an'
then I stepped round to Mrs. Ellis-our char-an' got the 'ouse-keys an'
opened the 'ouse. First, I made me bed to come back to (God's Own Name!
Me bed to lie upon!). Nex' I made me a cup o' tea an' sat down in the
kitchen thinkin', till 'long towards dusk. Terrible close, 'twas. Then
I dressed me an' went out with the receipt in me 'and-bag, feignin' to
study it for an address, like. Fourteen, Wadloes Road, was the place-a
liddle basement-kitchen 'ouse, m a row of twenty-thirty such, an' tiddy
strips o' walled garden in front-the paint off the front doors, an'
na'un done to na'un since ever so long. There wasn't 'ardly no one in
the streets 'cept the cats. 'Twas 'ot, too! I turned into the gate bold
as brass; up de steps I went an' I ringed the front-door bell. She
pealed loud, like it do in an empty house. When she'd all ceased, I
'eard a cheer, like, pushed back on de floor o' the kitchen. Then I
'eard feet on de kitchen-stairs, like it might ha' been a heavy woman
in slippers. They come up to de stairhead, acrost the hall-I 'eard the
bare boards creak under 'em-an' at de front door dey stopped. I stooped
me to the letter-box slit, an' I says: "Let me take everythin' bad
that's in store for my man, 'Arry Mockler, for love's sake." Then,
whatever it was 'tother side de door let its breath out, like, as if it
'ad been holdin' it for to 'ear better.'
'Nothin' was said to ye?' Mrs. Fettley demanded.
'Na'un. She just breathed out-a sort of A-ah, like. Then the steps
went back an' downstairs to the kitchen-all draggy-an' I heard the
cheer drawed up again.'
'An' you abode on de doorstep, throughout all, Gra'?'
Mrs. Ashcroft nodded.
'Then I went away, an' a man passin' says to me: "Didn't you know
that house was empty?" "No," I says. "I must ha' been give the wrong
number." An' I went back to our 'ouse, an' I went to bed; for I was
fair flogged out. 'Twas too 'ot to sleep more'n snatches, so I walked
me about, lyin' down betweens, till crack o' dawn. Then I went to the
kitchen to make me a cup o' tea, an' I hitted meself just above the
ankle on an old roastin' jack o' mine that Mrs. Ellis had moved out
from the corner, her last cleanin'. An' so-nex' after that-I waited
till the Marshalls come back o' their holiday.'
'Alone there? I'd ha' thought you'd 'ad enough of empty houses,'
said Mrs. Fettley, horrified.
'Oh, Mrs. Ellis an' Sophy was runnin' in an' out soon's I was back,
an' 'twixt us we cleaned de house again top-to-bottom. There's allus a
hand's turn more to do in every house. An' that's 'ow 'twas with me
that autumn an' winter, in Lunnon.'
'Then na'un hap-overtook ye for your doin's?'
Mrs. Ashcroft smiled. 'No. Not then. 'Long in November I sent Bessie
'You was allus free-'anded,' Mrs. Fettley interrupted.
'An' I got what I paid for, with the rest o' the news. She said the
hoppin' 'ad set 'im up wonderful. 'E'd 'ad six weeks of it, and now 'e
was back again carterin' at Smalldene. No odds to me 'ow it 'ad
'appened-'slong's it 'ad. But I dunno as my ten shillin's eased me
much. 'Arry bein' dead, like, 'e'd ha' been mine, till Judgment. 'Arry
bein' alive, 'e'd like as not pick up with some woman middlin' quick. I
raged over that. Come spring, I 'ad somethin' else to rage for. I'd
growed a nasty little weepin' boil, like, on me shin, just above the
boot-top, that wouldn't heal no shape. It made me sick to look at it,
for I'm clean-fleshed by nature. Chop me all over with a spade, an' I'd
heal like turf. Then Mrs. Marshall she set 'er own doctor at me. 'E
said I ought to ha' come to him at first go-off, 'stead o' drawn' all
manner o' dyed stockm's over it for months. 'E said I'd stood up too
much to me work, for it was settin' very close atop of a big swelled
vein, like, behither the small o' me ankle. "Slow come, slow go," 'e
says. "Lay your leg up on high an' rest it," he says, "an' 'twill ease
off. Don't let it close up too soon. You've got a very fine leg, Mrs.
Ashcroft," 'e says. An' he put wet dressin's on it.'
''E done right.' Mrs. Fettley spoke firmly. 'Wet dressin's to wet
wounds. They draw de humours, same's a lamp-wick draws de oil.'
'That's true. An' Mrs. Marshall was allus at me to make me set down
more, an' dat nigh healed it up. An' then after a while they packed me
off down to Bessie's to finish the cure; for I ain't the sort to sit
down when I ought to stand up. You was back in the village then,
'I was. I was, but-never did I guess!'
'I didn't desire ye to.' Mrs. Ashcroft smiled. 'I saw 'Arry once or
twice in de street, wonnerful fleshed up an' restored back. Then, one
day I didn't see 'im, an' 'is mother told me one of 'is 'orses 'ad
lashed out an' caught 'im on the 'ip. So 'e was abed an' middlin'
painful. An' Bessie, she says to his mother, 'twas a pity 'Arry 'adn't
a woman of 'is own to take the nursin' off 'er. And the old lady was
mad! She told us that 'Arry 'ad never looked after any woman in 'is
born days, an' as long as she was atop the mowlds, she'd contrive for
'im till 'er two 'ands dropped off. So I knowed she'd do watch-dog for
me, 'thout askin' for bones.'
Mrs. Fettley rocked with small laughter.
'That day,' Mrs. Ashcroft went on, 'I'd stood on me feet nigh all
the time, watchin' the doctor go in an' out; for they thought it might
be 'is ribs, too. That made my boil break again, issuin' an' weepin'.
But it turned out 'twadn't ribs at all, an' 'Arry 'ad a good night.
When I heard that, nex' mornin', I says to meself, "I won't lay two an'
two together yit. I'll keep me leg down a week, an' see what comes of
it." It didn't hurt me that day, to speak of-'seemed more to draw the
strength out o' me like-an' 'Arry 'ad another good night. That made me
persevere; but I didn't dare lay two an' two together till the week-
end, an' then, 'Arry come forth e'en a'most 'imself again-na'un hurt
outside ner in of him. I nigh fell on me knees in de washhouse when
Bessie was up-street. "I've got ye now, my man," I says. "You'll take
your good from me 'thout knowin' it till my life's end. O God, send me
long to live for 'Arry's sake!" I says. An' I dunno that didn't still
'For good?' Mrs. Fettley asked.
'They come back, plenty times, but, let be how 'twould, I knowed I
was doin' for 'im. I knowed it. I took an' worked me pains on an' off,
like regulatin' my own range, till I learned to 'ave 'em at my
commandments. An' that was funny, too. There was times, Liz, when my
trouble 'ud all s'rink an' dry up, like. First, I used to try an' fetch
it on again; bein' fearful to leave 'Arry alone too long for anythin'
to lay 'old of. Prasin'ly I come to see that was a sign he'd do all
right awhile, an' so I saved myself'
''Ow long for?' Mrs. Fettley asked, with deepest interest.
'I've gone de better part of a year onct or twice with na'un more to
show than the liddle weepin' core of it, like. All s'rinked up an'
dried off. Then he'd inflame up-for a warnin'-an' I'd suffer it. When I
couldn't no more-an' I 'ad to keep on goin' with my Lunnon work-I'd lay
me leg high on a cheer till it eased. Not too quick. I knowed by the
feel of it, those times, dat 'Arry was in need. Then I'd send another
five shillin's to Bess, or somethin' for the chillern, to find out if,
mebbe, 'e'd took any hurt through my neglects. 'Twas so! Year in, year
out, I worked it dat way, Liz, an' 'e got 'is good from me 'thout
knowin'-for years and years.'
'But what did you get out of it, Gra'?' Mrs. Fettley almost wailed.
'Did ye see 'im reg'lar?'
'Times-when I was 'ere on me 'ol'days. An' more, now that I'm 'ere
for good. But 'e's never looked at me, ner any other woman 'cept 'is
mother. 'Ow I used to watch an' listen! So did she.'
'Years an' years!' Mrs. Fettley repeated. 'An' where's 'e workin' at
'Oh, 'e's give up carterin' quite a while. He's workin' for one o'
them big tractorisin' firms-plowin' sometimes, an' sometimes off with
lorries-fur as Wales, I've 'eard. He comes 'ome to 'is mother 'tween
whiles; but I don't set eyes on him now, fer weeks on end. No odds! 'Is
job keeps 'im from continuin' in one stay anywheres.'
'But just for de sake o' sayin' somethin'-s'pose 'Arry did get
married?' said Mrs. Fettley.
Mrs. Ashcroft drew her breath sharply between her still even and
natural teeth. 'Dat ain't been required of me,' she answered. 'I reckon
my pains 'ull be counted agin that. Don't you, Liz?'
'It ought to be, dearie. It ought to be.'
'It do 'urt sometimes. You shall see it when Nurse comes. She thinks
I don't know it's turned.'
Mrs. Fettley understood. Human nature seldom walks up to the word
'Be ye certain sure, Gra'?' she asked.
'I was sure of it when old Mr. Marshall 'ad me up to 'is study an'
spoke a long piece about my faithful service. I've obliged 'em on an'
off for a goodish time, but not enough for a pension. But they give me
a weekly 'lowance for life. I knew what that sinnified-as long as three
'Dat don't prove it, Gra'.'
'To give fifteen bob a week to a woman 'oo'd live twenty year in the
course o' nature? It do!'
'You're mistook! You're mistook!' Mrs. Fettley insisted.
'Liz, there's no mistakin' when the edges are all heaped up,
like-same as a collar. You'll see it. An' I laid out Dora Wickwood,
too. She 'ad it under the arm-pit, like.'
Mrs. Fettley considered awhile, and bowed her head in finality.
''Ow long d'you reckon 'twill allow ye, countin' from now,
'Slow come, slow go. But if I don't set eyes on ye 'fore next
hoppin', this'll be good-bye, Liz.'
'Dunno as I'll be able to manage by then-not 'thout I have a liddle
dog to lead me. For de chillern, dey won't be troubled, an'-O Gra'! I'm
blindin' up-I'm blindin' up!'
'Oh, dat was why you didn't more'n finger with your quilt-patches
all this while! I was wonderin'...But the pain do count, don't ye
think, Liz? The pain do count to keep 'Arry where I want 'im. Say it
can't be wasted, like.'
'I'm sure of it-sure of it, dearie. You'll 'ave your reward.'
'I don't want no more'n this-if de pain is taken into de
''Twill be-'twill be, Gra'.'
There was a knock on the door.
'That's Nurse. She's before 'er time,' said Mrs. Ashcroft. 'Open to
The young lady entered briskly, all the bottles in her bag clicking.
'Evenin', Mrs. Ashcroft,' she began. 'I've come raound a little earlier
than usual because of the Institute dance to-na-ite. You won't ma-ind,
'Oh, no. Me dancin' days are over.' Mrs. Ashcroft was the self-
contained domestic at once.
'My old friend, Mrs. Fettley 'ere, has been settin' talkin' with me
'I hope she 'asn't been fatiguing you?' said the Nurse a little
'Quite the contrary. It 'as been a pleasure. Only-only-just at the
end I felt a bit-a bit flogged out like.'
'Yes, yes.' The Nurse was on her knees already, with the washes to
hand. 'When old ladies get together they talk a deal too much, I've
'Mebbe we do,' said Mrs. Fettley, rising. 'So now I'll make myself
'Look at it first, though,' said Mrs. Ashcroft feebly. 'I'd like ye
to look at it.'
Mrs. Fettley looked, and shivered. Then she leaned over, and kissed
Mrs. Ashcroft once on the waxy yellow forehead, and again on the faded
'It do count, don't it-de pain?' The lips that still kept trace of
their original moulding hardly more than breathed the words.
Mrs. Fettley kissed them and moved towards the door.
What is a God beside Woman? Dust and derision!
RAHERE, King Henry's jester, feared by all the Norman Lords For his
eye that pierced their bosoms, for his tongue that shamed their swords;
Feed and flattered by the Churchmen-well they knew how deep he stood In
dark Henry's crooked counsels-fell upon an evil mood. Suddenly, his
days before him and behind him seemed to stand Stripped and barren,
fixed and fruitless, as those leagues of naked sand When St. Michael's
ebb slinks outward to the bleak horizon-bound. And the trampling
wide-mouthed waters are withdrawn from sight and sound. Then a Horror
of Great Darkness sunk his spirit and, anon. (Who had seen him wince
and whiten as he turned to walk alone) Followed Gilbert the Physician,
and muttered in his ear. 'Thou hast it, O my brother?' 'Yea, I have
it,' said Rahere. 'So it comes,' said Gilbert smoothly, 'man's most
immanent distress. 'Tis a humour of the Spirit which abhorreth all
excess; And, whatever breed the surfeit-Wealth, or Wit, or Power, or
Fame (And thou hast each) the Spirit laboureth to expel the same.
'Hence the dulled eye's deep self-loathing hence the loaded leaden
brow; Hence the burden of Wanhope that aches thy soul and body now. Ay,
the merriest fool must face it, and the wisest Doctor learn; For it
comes-it comes,' said Gilbert, 'as it passes-to return.' But Rahere was
in his torment, and he wandered, dumb and far. Till he came to reeking
Smithfield where the crowded gallows are. (Followed Gilbert the
Physician) and beneath the wry-necked dead. Sat a leper and his woman,
very merry, breaking bread. He was cloaked from chin to ankle-faceless,
fingerless, obscene Mere corruption swaddled man-wise, but the woman
whole and clean; And she waited on him crooning, and Rahere beheld the
twain. Each delighting in the other, and he checked and groaned again.
'So it comes,-it comes,' said Gilbert, 'as it came when Life began.
'Tis a motion of the Spirit that revealeth God to man In the shape of
Love exceeding, which regards not taint or fall. Since in perfect Love,
saith Scripture, can be no excess at all. 'Hence the eye that sees no
blemish-hence the hour that holds no shame. Hence the Soul assured the
Essence and the Substance are the same. Nay, the meanest need not miss
it, though the mightier pass it by; For it comes-it comes,' said
Gilbert, 'and, thou seest, it does not die!'
HORACE, Ode 22, Bk. V
SECURELY, after days
Unnumbered, I behold
Kings mourn that promised praise
Their cheating bards foretold.
Of earth-constricting wars.
Of Princes passed in chains.
Of deeds out-shining stars.
No word or voice remains.
Yet furthest times receive.
And to fresh praise restore.
Mere flutes that breathe at eve.
Mere seaweed on the shore;
A smoke of sacrifice;
A chosen myrtle-wreath;
An harlot's altered eyes;
A rage 'gainst love or death;
Glazed snow beneath the moon;
The surge of storm-bowed trees-
The Caesars perished soon.
And Rome Herself: But these
Endure while Empires fall
And Gods for Gods make room...
Which greater God than all
Imposed the amazing doom?
Jane lies in Winchester-blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!
And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain.
Glory, love, and honour unto England's Jane!
IN the Lodge of Instruction attached to 'Faith and Works No. 5837
E.C.,' which has already been described, Saturday afternoon was
appointed for the weekly clean-up, when all visiting Brethren were
welcome to help under the direction of the Lodge Officer of the day:
their reward was light refreshment and the meeting of companions.
This particular afternoon-in the autumn of '20-Brother Burges, P.M.,
was on duty and, finding a strong shift present, took advantage of it
to strip and dust all hangings and curtains, to go over every inch of
the Pavement-which was stone, not floorcloth-by hand; and to polish the
Columns, Jewels, Working outfit and organ. I was given to clean some
Officers' Jewels-beautiful bits of old Georgian silver-work humanised
by generations of elbow-grease-and retired to the organ- loft; for the
floor was like the quarterdeck of a battleship on the eve of a ball.
Half-a-dozen brethren had already made the Pavement as glassy as the
aisle of Greenwich Chapel; the brazen chapiters winked like pure gold
at the flashing Marks on the Chairs; and a morose one- legged brother
was attending to the Emblems of Mortality with, I think, rouge.
'They ought,' he volunteered to Brother Burges as we passed, 'to be
betwixt the colour of ripe apricots an' a half-smoked meerschaum.
That's how we kept 'em in my Mother-Lodge-a treat to look at.'
'I've never seen spit-and-polish to touch this,' I said.
'Wait till you see the organ,' Brother Burges replied. 'You could
shave in it when they've done. Brother Anthony's in charge up there-
the taxi-owner you met here last month. I don't think you've come
across Brother Humberstall, have you?'
'I don't remember--' I began.
'You wouldn't have forgotten him if you had. He's a hairdresser now,
somewhere at the back of Ebury Street. 'Was Garrison Artillery. 'Blown
'Does he show it?' I asked at the foot of the organ-loft stairs.
'No-o. Not much more than Lazarus did, I expect.' Brother Burges
fled off to set some one else to a job.
Brother Anthony, small, dark, and humpbacked, was hissing groom-
fashion while he treated the rich acacia-wood panels of the Lodge organ
with some sacred, secret composition of his own. Under his guidance
Humberstall, an enormous, flat-faced man, carrying the shoulders, ribs,
and loins of the old Mark '14 Royal Garrison Artillery, and the eyes of
a bewildered retriever, rubbed the stuff in. I sat down to my task on
the organ-bench, whose purple velvet cushion was being vacuum-cleaned
on the floor below.
'Now,' said Anthony, after five minutes' vigorous work on the part
of Humberstall. 'Now we're gettin' somethin' worth lookin' at! Take it
easy, an' go on with what you was tellin' me about that Macklin
'I-I 'adn't anything against 'im,' said Humberstall, 'excep' he'd
been a toff by birth; but that never showed till he was bosko absoluto.
Mere bein' drunk on'y made a common 'ound of 'im. But when bosko, it
all came out. Otherwise, he showed me my duties as mess-waiter very
well on the 'ole.'
'Yes, yes. But what in 'ell made you go back to your Circus? The
Board gave you down-an'-out fair enough, you said, after the dump went
up at Eatables?'
'Board or no Board, I 'adn't the nerve to stay at 'ome-not with
Mother chuckin' 'erself round all three rooms like a rabbit every time
the Gothas tried to get Victoria; an' sister writin' me aunts four
pages about it next day. Not for me, thank you! till the war was over.
So I slid out with a draft-they wasn't particular in '17, so long as
the tally was correct-and I joined up again with our Circus somewhere
at the back of Lar Pug Noy, I think it was.' Humberstall paused for
some seconds and his brow wrinkled. 'Then I-I went sick, or somethin'
or other, they told me; but I know when I reported for duty, our
Battery Sergeant-Major says that I wasn't expected back, an'-an', one
thing leadin' to another-to cut a long story short-I went up before our
Major-Major-I shall forget my own name next-Major--'
'Never mind,' Anthony interrupted. 'Go on! It'll come back in
''Alf a mo'. 'Twas on the tip o' my tongue then.'
Humberstall dropped the polishing-cloth and knitted his brows again
in most profound thought. Anthony turned to me and suddenly launched
into a sprightly tale of his taxi's collision with a Marble Arch refuge
on a greasy day after a three-yard skid.
''Much damage?' I asked.
'Oh no! Ev'ry bolt an' screw an' nut on the chassis strained; but
nothing carried away, you understand me, an' not a scratch on the body.
You'd never 'ave guessed a thing wrong till you took 'er in hand. It
was a wop too: 'ead-on-like this!' And he slapped his tactful little
forehead to show what a knock it had been.
'Did your Major dish you up much?' he went on over his shoulder to
Humberstall, who came out of his abstraction with a slow heave.
'We-ell! He told me I wasn't expected back either; an' he said 'e
couldn't 'ang up the 'ole Circus till I'd rejoined; an' he said that my
ten-inch Skoda which I'd been Number Three of, before the dump went up
at Eatables, had 'er full crowd. But, 'e said, as soon as a casualty
occurred he'd remember me. "Meantime," says he, "I particularly want
you for actin' mess-waiter."
'"Beggin' your pardon, sir," I says perfectly respectful; "but I
didn't exactly come back for that, sir."
'"Beggin' your pardon, 'Umberstall," says 'e, "but I 'appen to
command the Circus! Now, you're a sharp-witted man," he says; "an' what
we've suffered from fool-waiters in Mess 'as been somethin' cruel.
You'll take on, from now-under instruction to Macklin 'ere." So this
man, Macklin, that I was tellin' you about, showed me my duties...
'Ammick! I've got it! 'Ammick was our Major, an' Mosse was Captain!'
Humberstall celebrated his recapture of the name by labouring at the
organ-panel on his knee.
'Look out! You'll smash it,' Anthony protested.
'Sorry! Mother's often told me I didn't know my strength. Now,
here's a curious thing. This Major of ours-it's ail comin' back to
me-was a high-up divorce-court lawyer; an' Mosse, our Captain, was
Number One o' Mosses Private Detective Agency. You've heard of
it?'Wives watched while you wait, an' so on. Well, these two 'ad been
registerin' together, so to speak, in the Civil line for years on end,
but hadn't ever met till the War. Consequently, at Mess their talk was
mostly about famous cases they'd been mixed up in. 'Ammick told the
Law- courts' end o' the business, an' all what had been left out of the
pleadin's; an' Mosse 'ad the actual facts concernin' the errin'
parties-in hotels an' so on. I've heard better talk in our Mess than
ever before or since. It comes o' the Gunners bein' a scientific
'That be damned!' said Anthony. 'If anythin' 'appens to 'em they've
got it all down in a book. There's no book when your lorry dies on you
in the 'Oly Land. That's brains.'
'Well, then,' Humberstall continued, 'come on this secret society
business that I started tellin' you about. When those two-'Ammick an'
Mosse-'ad finished about their matrimonial relations-and, mind you,
they weren't radishes-they seldom or ever repeated-they'd begin, as
often as not, on this Secret Society woman I was tellin' you of-this
Jane. She was the only woman I ever 'eard 'em say a good word for.
'Cordin' to them Jane was a none-such. I didn't know then she was a
Society. 'Fact is, I only 'ung out 'arf an ear in their direction at
first, on account of bein' under instruction for mess-duty to this
Macklin man. What drew my attention to her was a new Lieutenant joinin'
up. We called 'im "Gander" on account of his profeel, which was the
identical bird. 'E'd been a nactuary-workin' out 'ow long civilians 'ad
to live. Neither 'Ammick nor Mosse wasted words on 'im at Mess. They
went on talking as usual, an' in due time, as usual, they got back to
Jane. Gander cocks one of his big chilblainy ears an' cracks his cold
finger joints. "By God! Jane?" says 'e. "Yes, Jane," says 'Ammick
pretty short an' senior. "Praise 'Eaven!" says Gander." It was 'Bubbly'
where I've come from down the line." (Some damn revue or other, I
expect.) Well, neither 'Ammick nor Mosse was easy-mouthed, or for that
matter mealy-mouthed; but no sooner 'ad Gander passed that remark than
they both shook 'ands with the young squirt across the table an' called
for the port back again. It was a password, all right! Then they went
at it about Jane-all three, regardless of rank. That made me listen.
Presently, I 'eard 'Ammick say--'
''Arf a mo',' Anthony cut in. 'But what was you doin' in Mess?'
'Me an' Macklin was refixin' the sand-bag screens to the dug-out
passage in case o' gas. We never knew when we'd cop it in the 'Eavies,
don't you see? But we knew we 'ad been looked for for some time, an' it
might come any minute. But, as I was sayin', 'Ammick says what a pity
'twas Jane 'ad died barren. "I deny that," says Mosse. "I maintain she
was fruitful in the 'ighest sense o' the word." An' Mosse knew about
such things, too. "I'm inclined to agree with 'Ammick," says young
Gander. "Any'ow, she's left no direct an' lawful prog'ny." I remember
every word they said, on account o' what 'appened subsequently. I
'adn't noticed Macklin much, or I'd ha' seen he was bosko absoluto.
Then 'e cut in, leanin' over a packin'-case with a face on 'im like a
dead mackerel in the dark. "Pa-hardon me, gents," Macklin says, "but
this is a matter on which I do 'appen to be moderately well-informed.
She did leave lawful issue in the shape o' one son; an' 'is name was
'"By what sire? Prove it," says Gander, before 'is senior officers
could get in a word.
'"I will," says Macklin, surgin' on 'is two thumbs. An', mark you,
none of 'em spoke! I forget whom he said was the sire of this 'Enery
James-man; but 'e delivered 'em a lecture on this Jane-woman for more
than a quarter of an hour. I know the exact time, because my old Skoda
was on duty at ten-minute intervals reachin' after some Jerry formin'-
up area; and her blast always put out the dug-out candles. I relit 'em
once, an' again at the end. In conclusion, this Macklin fell flat
forward on 'is face, which was how 'e generally wound up 'is notion of
a perfect day. Bosko absoluto!
'"Take 'im away," says 'Ammick to me. "'E's sufferin' from shell-
'To cut a long story short, that was what first put the notion into
my 'ead. Wouldn't it you? Even 'ad Macklin been a 'ighup Mason--'
'Wasn't 'e, then?' said Anthony, a little puzzled.
''E'd never gone beyond the Blue Degrees, 'e told me. Any'ow, 'e'd
lectured 'is superior officers up an' down; 'e'd as good as called 'em
fools most o' the time, in 'is toff's voice. I 'eard 'im an' I saw 'im.
An' all he got was-me told off to put 'im to bed! And all on account o'
Jane! Would you have let a thing like that get past you? Nor me,
either! Next mornin', when his stummick was settled, I was at him
full-cry to find out 'ow it was worked. Toff or no toff, 'e knew his
end of a bargain. First, 'e wasn't takin' any. He said I wasn't fit to
be initiated into the Society of the Janeites. That only meant five bob
more-fifteen up to date.
'"Make it one Bradbury," 'e says. "It's dirt-cheap. You saw me 'old
the Circus in the 'ollow of me 'and?"
'No denyin' it. I 'ad. So, for one pound, he communicated me the
Password of the First Degree, which was Tilniz an' trap-doors.
'"I know what a trap-door is," I says to 'im, "but what in 'ell's
'"You obey orders," 'e says, "an' next time I ask you what you're
thinkin' about you'll answer, 'Tilniz an' trap-doors,' in a smart and
soldierly manner. I'll spring that question at me own time. All you've
got to do is to be distinck."
'We settled all this while we was skinnin' spuds for dinner at the
back o' the rear-truck under our camouflage-screens. Gawd, 'ow that
glue-paint did stink! Otherwise, 'twasn't so bad, with the sun comin'
through our pantomime-leaves, an' the wind marcelling the grasses in
the cutting. Well, one thing leading to another, nothin' further
'appened in this direction till the afternoon. We 'ad a high standard
o' livin' in Mess-an' in the Group, for that matter. I was talon' away
Mosses lunch-dinner 'e would never call it-an' Mosse was fillin' 'is
cigarette-case previous to the afternoon's duty. Macklin, in the
passage, comin' in as if 'e didn't know Mosse was there, slings 'is
question at me, an' I give the countersign in a low but quite distinck
voice, makin' as if I 'adn't seen Mosse. Mosse looked at me through and
through, with his cigarette-case in his 'and. Then 'e jerks out 'arf a
dozen-best Turkish-on the table an' exits. I pinched 'em an' divvied
'"You see 'ow it works," says Macklin. "Could you 'ave invested a
Bradbury to better advantage?"
'"So far, no," I says. "Otherwise, though, if they start provin' an'
tryin' me, I'm a dead bird. There must be a lot more to this Janeite
'"'Eaps an' 'eaps," he says. "But to show you the sort of 'eart I
'ave, I'll communicate you all the 'Igher Degrees among the Janeites,
includin' the Charges, for another Bradbury; but you'll 'ave to work,
''Pretty free with your Bradburys, wasn't you?' Anthony grunted
'What odds? Ac-tually, Gander told us, we couldn't expect to av'rage
more than six weeks longer apiece, an', any'ow, I never regretted it.
But make no mistake-the preparation was somethin' cruel. In the first
place, I come under Macklin for direct instruction re Jane.'
'Oh! Jane was real, then?' Anthony glanced for an instant at me as
he put the question. 'I couldn't quite make that out.'
'Real!' Humberstall's voice rose almost to a treble. 'Jane? Why, she
was a little old maid 'oo'd written 'alf a dozen books about a hundred
years ago. 'Twasn't as if there was anythin' to 'em, either. I know. I
had to read 'em. They weren't adventurous, nor smutty, nor what you'd
call even interestin'-all about girls o' seventeen (they begun young
then, I tell you), not certain 'oom they'd like to marry; an' their
dances an' card-parties an' picnics, and their young blokes goin' off
to London on 'orseback for 'air-cuts an' shaves. It took a full day in
those days, if you went to a proper barber. They wore wigs, too, when
they was chemists or clergymen. All that interested me on account o' me
profession, an' cuttin' the men's 'air every fortnight. Macklin used to
chip me about bein' an 'air-dresser. 'E could pass remarks, too!'
Humberstall recited with relish a fragment of what must have been a
superb comminationservice, ending with, 'You lazy-minded, lousyheaded,
long-trousered, perfumed perookier.'
'An' you took it?' Anthony's quick eyes ran over the man.
'Yes. I was after my money's worth; an' Macklin, havin' put 'is 'and
to the plough, wasn't one to withdraw it. Otherwise, if I'd pushed 'im,
I'd ha' slew 'im. Our Battery Sergeant Major nearly did. For Macklin
had a wonderful way o' passing remarks on a man's civil life; an' he
put it about that our B.S.M. had run a dope an' dolly-shop with a
Chinese woman, the wrong end o' Southwark Bridge. Nothin' you could lay
'old of, o' course; but--' Humberstall let us draw our own
'That reminds me,' said Anthony, smacking his lips. 'I 'ad a bit of
a fracas with a fare in the Fulham Road last month. He called me a
paras-tit-ic Forder. I informed 'im I was owner-driver, an' 'e could
see for 'imself the cab was quite clean. That didn't suit 'im. 'E said
it was crawlin'.'
'What happened?' I asked.
'One o' them blue-bellied Bolshies of postwar Police (neglectin'
point-duty, as usual) asked us to flirt a little quieter. My joker
chucked some Arabic at 'im. That was when we signed the Armistice. 'E'd
been a Yeoman-a perishin' Gloucestershire Yeoman-that I'd helped gather
in the orange crop with at Jaffa, in the 'Oly Land!'
'And after that?' I continued.
'It 'ud be 'ard to say. I know 'e lived at Hendon or Cricklewood. I
drove 'im there. We must 'ave talked Zionism or somethin', because at
seven next mornin' him an' me was tryin' to get petrol out of a
milkshop at St. Albans. They 'adn't any. In lots o' ways this war has
been a public noosance, as one might say, but there's no denyin' it
'elps you slip through life easier. The dairyman's son 'ad done time on
Jordan with camels. So he stood us rum an' milk.'
'Just like 'avin' the Password, eh?' was Humberstall's comment.
'That's right! Ours was Imshee kelb. Not so 'ard to remember as your
'Jane wasn't so very 'ard-not the way Macklin used to put 'er,'
Humberstall resumed. 'I 'ad only six books to remember. I learned the
names by 'eart as Macklin placed 'em. There was one called Persuasion,
first; an' the rest in a bunch, except another about some Abbey or
other-last by three lengths. But, as I was sayin', what beat me was
there was nothin' to 'em nor in 'em. Nothin' at all, believe me.'
'You seem good an' full of 'em, any'ow,' said Anthony.
'I mean that 'er characters was no use! They was only just like
people you run across any day. One of 'em was a curate-the Reverend
Collins- always on the make an' lookin' to marry money. Well, when I
was a Boy Scout, 'im or 'is twin brother was our troop-leader. An'
there was an upstandin' 'ard-mouthed Duchess or a Baronet's wife that
didn't give a curse for any one 'oo wouldn't do what she told 'em to;
the Lady-Lady Catherine (I'll get it in a minute) De Bugg. Before Ma
bought the 'airdressin' business in London I used to know of an
'olesale grocer's wife near Leicester (I'm Leicestershire myself) that
might 'ave been 'er duplicate. And-oh yes-there was a Miss Bates; just
an old maid runnin' about like a hen with 'er 'ead cut off, an' her
tongue loose at both ends. I've got an aunt like 'er. Good as gold-but,
'Lord, yes!' said Anthony, with feeling. 'An' did you find out what
Tilniz meant? I'm always huntin' after the meanin' of things
'Yes, 'e was a swine of a Major-General, retired, and on the make.
They're all on the make, in a quiet way, in Jane. 'E was so much of a
gentleman by 'is own estimation that 'e was always be'avin' like a
hound. You know the sort. 'Turned a girl out of 'is own 'ouse because
she 'adn't any money-after, mark you, encouragin' 'er to set 'er cap at
his son, because 'e thought she had.'
'But that 'appens all the time,' said Anthony. 'Why, me own
'That's right. So would mine. But this Tilney was a man, an' some'ow
Jane put it down all so naked it made you ashamed. I told Macklin that,
an' he said I was shapin' to be a good Janeite. 'Twasn't his fault if I
wasn't. 'Nother thing, too; 'avin' been at the Bath Mineral Waters
'Ospital in 'Sixteen, with trench-feet, was a great advantage to me,
because I knew the names o' the streets where Jane 'ad lived. There was
one of 'em-Laura, I think, or some other girl's name-which Macklin said
was 'oly ground. "If you'd been initiated then," he says, "you'd ha'
felt your flat feet tingle every time you walked over those sacred
'"My feet tingled right enough," I said, "but not on account of
Jane. Nothin' remarkable about that," I says.
'"'Eaven lend me patience!" he says, combin' 'is 'air with 'is
little hands. "Every dam' thing about Jane is remarkable to a pukka
Janeite! It was there," he says, "that Miss What's-herName" (he had the
name; I've forgotten it) "made up 'er engagement again, after nine
years, with Captain T'other Bloke." An' he dished me out a page an' a
half of one of the books to learn by 'eart-Persuasion, I think it
''You quick at gettin' things off by 'eart?' Anthony demanded.
'Not as a rule. I was then, though, or else Macklin knew 'ow to
deliver the Charges properly. 'E said 'e'd been some sort o'
schoolmaster once, and he'd make my mind resume work or break 'imself.
That was just before the Battery Sergeant-Major 'ad it in for him on
account o' what he'd been sayin' about the Chinese wife an' the
'What did Macklin really say?' Anthony and I asked together.
Humberstall gave us a fragment. It was hardly the stuff to let loose on
a pious post-war world without revision.
'And what had your B.S.M. been in civil life?' I asked at the
''Ead-embalmer to an 'olesale undertaker in the Midlands,' said
Humberstall; 'but, o' course, when he thought 'e saw his chance he
naturally took it. He came along one mornin' lickin' 'is lips. "You
don't get past me this time," 'e says to Macklin. "You're for it,
'"'Ow so, me gallant Major," says Macklin; "an' what for?"
'"For writin' obese words on the breech o' the ten-inch," says the
B.S.M. She was our old Skoda that I've been tellin' you about. We
called 'er "Bloody Eliza." She 'ad a badly wore obturator an' blew
through a fair treat. I knew by Macklin's face the B.S.M. 'ad dropped
it somewhere, but all he vow'saifed was, "Very good, Major. We will
consider it in Common Room," The B.S.M, couldn't ever stand Macklin's
toff's way o' puttin' things; so he goes off rumblin' like 'ell's bells
in an 'urricane, as the Marines say. Macklin put it to me at once, what
had I been doin'? Some'ow he could read me like a book.
'Well, all I'd done-an' I told 'im he was responsible for it-was to
chalk the guns. 'Ammick never minded what the men wrote up on 'em. 'E
said it gave 'em an interest in their job. You'd see all sorts of
remarks chalked on the sideplates or the gear-casin's.'
'What sort of remarks?' said Anthony keenly.
'Oh! 'Ow Bloody Eliza, or Spittin' Jim-that was our old Mark Five
Nine-point-two-felt that morning, an' such things. But it 'ad come over
me-more to please Macklin than anythin' else-that it was time we
Janeites 'ad a look in. So, as I was tellin' you, I'd taken an'
rechristened all three of 'em, on my own, early that mornin'. Spittin'
Jim I 'ad chalked "The Reverend Collins"-that Curate I was tellin' you
about; an' our cut-down Navy Twelve, "General Tilney," because it was
worse wore in the groovin' than anything I'd ever seen. The Skoda (an'
that was where I dropped it) I 'ad chalked up "The Lady Catherine De
Bugg." I made a clean breast of it all to Macklin. He reached up an'
patted me on the shoulder. "You done nobly," he says. "You're bringin'
forth abundant fruit, like a good Janeite. But I'm afraid your spellin'
has misled our worthy B.S.M. That's what it is," 'e says, slappin' 'is
little leg. "'Ow might you 'ave spelt De Bourgh for example?"
'I told 'im. 'Twasn't right; an' 'e nips off to the Skoda to make it
so. When 'e comes back, 'e says that the Gander 'ad been before 'im an'
corrected the error. But we two come up before the Major, just the
same, that afternoon after lunch; 'Ammick in the chair, so to speak,
Mosse in another, an' the B.S.M, chargin' Macklin with writin' obese
words on His Majesty's property, on active service. When it transpired
that me an' not Macklin was the offendin' party, the B.S.M, turned 'is
hand in and sulked like a baby. 'E as good as told 'Ammick 'e couldn't
hope to preserve discipline unless examples was made-meanin', o'
'Yes, I've heard all that,' said Anthony, with a contemptuous grunt.
'The worst of it is, a lot of it's true.'
''Ammick took 'im up sharp about Military Law, which he said was
even more fair than the civilian article.'
'My Gawd!' This came from Anthony's scornful midmost bosom.
'"Accordin' to the unwritten law of the 'Eavies," says 'Ammick,
"there's no objection to the men chalkin' the guns, if decency is
preserved. On the other 'and," says he, "we 'aven't yet settled the
precise status of individuals entitled so to do. I 'old that the
privilege is confined to combatants only."
'"With the permission of the Court," says Mosse, who was another
born lawyer, "I'd like to be allowed to join issue on that point.
Prisoner's position is very delicate an' doubtful, an' he has no legal
'"Very good," says 'Ammick. "Macklin bein' acquitted--"
'"With submission, me lud," says Mosse. "I hope to prove 'e was
accessory before the fact."
'"As you please," says 'Ammick. "But in that case, 'oo the 'ell's
goin' to get the port I'm tryin' to stand the Court?"
'"I submit," says Mosse, "prisoner, bein' under direct observation
o' the Court, could be temporarily enlarged for that duty."
'So Macklin went an' got it, an' the B.S.M. had 'is glass with the
rest. Then they argued whether mess servants an' non-combatants was
entitled to chalk the guns ('Ammick versus Mosse). After a bit, 'Ammick
as C.O. give 'imself best, an' me an' Macklin was severely admonished
for trespassin' on combatants' rights, an' the B.S.M. was warned that
if we repeated the offence 'e could deal with us summ'rily. He 'ad some
glasses o' port an' went out quite 'appy. Then my turn come, while
Macklin was gettin' them their tea; an' one thing leadin' to another,
'Ammick put me through all the Janeite Degrees, you might say. 'Never
'ad such a doin' m my life.'
'Yes, but what did you tell 'em?' said Anthony. 'I can't ever think
my lies quick enough when I'm for it.'
'No need to lie. I told 'em that the backside view o' the Skoda,
when she was run up, put Lady De Bugg into my 'ead. They gave me right
there, but they said I was wrong about General Tilney. 'Cordin' to
them, our Navy twelve-inch ought to 'ave been christened Miss Bates. I
said the same idea 'ad crossed my mind, till I'd seen the General's
groovin'. Then I felt it had to be the General or nothin'. But they
give me full marks for the Reverend Collins-our Nine-point-two.'
'An' you fed 'em that sort o' talk?' Anthony's fox-coloured eyebrows
climbed almost into his hair.
'While I was assistin' Macklin to get tea-yes. Seem' it was an
examination, I wanted to do 'im credit as a Janeite.'
'An'-an' what did they say?'
'They said it was 'ighly creditable to us both. I don't drink, so
they give me about a hundred fags.'
'Gawd! What a Circus you must 'ave been,' was Anthony's gasping
'It was a 'appy little Group. I wouldn't 'a changed with any
Humberstall sighed heavily as he helped Anthony slide back the
organ- panel. We all admired it in silence, while Anthony repocketed
his secret polishing mixture, which lived in a tin tobacco-box. I had
neglected my work for listening to Humberstall. Anthony reached out
quietly and took over a Secretary's jewel and a rag. Humberstall
studied his reflection in the glossy wood.
'Almost,' he said critically, holding his head to one side.
'Not with an Army. You could with a Safety, though,' said Anthony.
And, indeed, as Brother Burges had foretold, one might have shaved in
it with comfort.
'Did you ever run across any of 'em afterwards, any time?' Anthony
'Not so many of 'em left to run after, now. With the 'Eavies it's
mostly neck or nothin'. We copped it. In the neck. In due time.'
'Well, you come out of it all right.' Anthony spoke both stoutly and
soothingly; but Humberstall would not be comforted.
'That's right; but I almost wish I 'adn't,' he sighed. 'I was
'appier there than ever before or since. Jerry's March push in
'Eighteen did us in; an' yet, 'ow could we 'ave expected it?'Ow could
we 'ave expected it? We'd been sent back for rest an' runnin'-repairs,
back pretty near our base; an' our old loco' that used to shift us
about o' nights, she'd gone down the line for repairs. But for 'Ammick
we wouldn't even 'ave 'ad our camouflage-screens up. He told our
Brigadier that, whatever 'e might be in the Gunnery line, as a leadin'
Divorce lawyer he never threw away a point in argument. So 'e 'ad us
all screened in over in a cuttin' on a little spur-line near a wood;
an' 'e saw to the screens 'imself. The leaves weren't more than comin'
out then, an' the sun used to make our glue-paint stink. Just like
actin' in a theatre, it was! But 'appy. But 'appy! I expect if we'd
been caterpillars, like the new big six-inch hows, they'd ha'
remembered us. But we was the old La Bassee '15 Mark o' Heavies that
ran on rails-not much more good than scrap-iron that late in the war.
An', believe me, gents-or Brethren, as I should say-we copped it cruel.
Look 'ere! It was in the afternoon, an' I was watchin' Gander
instructin' a class in new sights at Lady Catherine. All of a sudden I
'eard our screens rip overhead, an' a runner on a motor-bike come
sailin', sailin' through the air-like that bloke that used to bicycle
off Brighton Pier-and landed one awful wop almost atop o' the class.
"'Old 'ard," says Gander. "That's no way to report. What's the fuss?"
"Your screens 'ave broke my back, for one thing," says the bloke on the
ground; "an' for another, the 'ole front's gone." "Nonsense," says
Gander. 'E 'adn't more than passed the remark when the man was
vi'lently sick an' conked out. 'E 'ad plenty papers on 'im from
Brigadiers and C.O.'s reporting 'emselves cut off an' askin' for
orders. 'E was right both ways-his back an' our front. The 'ole Somme
front washed out as clean as kiss-me-'and!' His huge hand smashed down
open on his knee.
'We 'eard about it at the time in the 'Oly Land. Was it reelly as
quick as all that?' said Anthony.
'Quicker! Look 'ere! The motor-bike dropped in on us about four pip-
emma. After that, we tried to get orders o' some kind or other, but
nothin' came through excep' that all available transport was in use and
not likely to be released. That didn't 'elp us any. About nine o'clock
comes along a young Brass 'At in brown gloves. We was quite a surprise
to 'im. 'E said they were evacuating the area and we'd better shift.
"Where to?" says 'Ammick, rather short.
'"Oh, somewhere Amiens way," he says. "Not that I'd guarantee Amiens
for any length o' time; but Amiens might do to begin with." I'm giving
you the very words. Then 'e goes off swingin' 'is brown gloves, and
'Ammick sends for Gander and orders 'im to march the men through Amiens
to Dieppe; book thence to New'aven, take up positions be'ind Seaford,
an' carry on the war. Gander said 'e'd see 'im damned first. 'Ammick
says 'e'd see 'im courtmartialled after. Gander says what 'e meant to
say was that the men 'ud see all an' sundry damned before they went
into Arniens with their gunsights wrapped up in their puttees. 'Ammick
says 'e 'adn't said a word about puttees, an' carryin' off the
gunsights was purely optional. "Well, anyhow," says Gander, "puttees or
drawers, they ain't goin' to shift a step unless you lead the
'"Mutinous 'ounds," says 'Amrnick. "But we live in a democratic age.
D'you suppose they'd object to kindly diggin' 'emselves in a bit?" "Not
at all," says Gander. "The B.S.M.'s kept 'em at it like terriers for
the last three hours." "That bein' so," says 'Ammick, "Macklin'll now
fetch us small glasses o' port." Then Mosse comes in-he could smell
port a mile off-an' he submits we'd only add to the congestion in
Amiens if we took our crowd there, whereas, if we lay doggo where we
was, Jerry might miss us, though he didn't seem to be missin' much that
'The 'ole country was pretty noisy, an' our dumps we'd lit ourselves
flarin' heavens-high as far as you could see. Lyin' doggo was our best
chance. I believe we might ha' pulled it off, if we'd been left alone,
but along towards midnight-there was some small stuff swishin' about,
but nothin' particular-a nice little bald-headed old gentleman in
uniform pushes into the dug-out wipin' his glasses an' sayin' 'e was
thinkin' o' formin' a defensive flank on our left with 'is battalion
which 'ad just come up. 'Ammick says 'e wouldn't form much if 'e was
'im. "Oh, don't say that," says the old gentleman, very shocked. "One
must support the Guns, mustn't one?" "'Ammick says we was refittin' an'
about as effective, just then, as a public lav'tory. "Go into Amiens,"
he says, "an' defend 'em there." "Oh no," says the old gentleman, "me
an' my laddies must make a defensive flank for you," an' he flips out
of the dug-out like a performin' bullfinch, chirruppin' for his
"laddies." Gawd in 'Eaven knows what sort o' push they was-little boys
mostly-but they 'ung on to 'is coat-tails like a Sunday-school treat,
an' we 'eard 'em muckin' about in the open for a bit. Then a pretty
tight barrage was slapped down for ten minutes, an' 'Ammick thought the
laddies had copped it already. "It'll be our turn next," says Mosse.
"There's been a covey o' Gothas messin' about for the last
'alf-hour-lookin' for the Railway Shops, I expect. They're just as
likely to take us." "Arisin' out o' that," says 'Ammick, "one of 'em
sounds pretty low down now. We're for it, me learned colleagues!"
"Jesus!" says Gander, "I believe you're right, sir." And that was the
last word I 'eard on the matter.'
'Did they cop you then?' said Anthony.
'They did. I expect Mosse was right, an' they took us for the
Railway Shops. When I come to, I was lyin' outside the cuttin', which
was pretty well filled up. The Reverend Collins was all right; but Lady
Catherine and the General was past prayin' for. I lay there, takin' it
in, till I felt cold an' I looked at meself. Otherwise, I 'adn't much
on excep' me boots. So I got up an' walked about to keep warm. Then I
saw somethin' like a mushroom in the moonlight. It was the nice old
gentleman's bald 'ead. I patted it. 'im and 'is laddies 'ad copped it
right enough. Some battalion run out in a 'urry from England, I
suppose. They 'adn't even begun to dig in-pore little perishers! I
dressed myself off 'em there, an' topped off with a British warm. Then
I went back to the cuttin' an' some one says to me: "Dig, you ox, dig!
Gander's under." So I 'elped shift things till I threw up blood an'
bile mixed. Then I dropped, an' they brought Gander out-dead-an' laid
'im next me. 'Ammick 'ad gone too-fair tore in 'alf, the B.S.M. said;
but the funny thing was he talked quite a lot before 'e died, an'
nothin' to 'im below 'is stummick, they told me. Mosse we never found.
'E'd been standing by Lady Catherine. She'd up-ended an' gone back on
'em, with 'alf the cuttin' atop of 'er, by the look of things.'
'And what come to Macklin?' said Anthony.
'Dunno...'E was with 'Ammick. I expect I must ha' been blown clear
of all by the first bomb; for I was the on'y Janeite left. We lost
about half our crowd, either under, or after we'd got 'em out. The
B.S.M. went off 'is rocker when mornin' came, an' he ran about from one
to another sayin': "That was a good push! That was a great crowd! Did
ye ever know any push to touch 'em?" An' then 'e'd cry. So what was
left of us made off for ourselves, an' I came across a lorry, pretty
full, but they took me in.'
'Ah!' said Anthony with pride. '"They all take a taxi when it's
rainin'." 'Ever 'eard that song?'
'They went a long way back. Then I walked a bit, an' there was a
hospital-train fillin' up, an' one of the Sisters-a grey-headed one-
ran at me wavin' 'er red 'ands an' sayin' there wasn't room for a louse
in it. I was past carin'. But she went on talkin' and talkin' about the
war, an' her pa in Ladbroke Grove, an' 'ow strange for 'er at 'er time
of life to be doin' this work with a lot o' men, an' next war, 'ow the
nurses 'ud 'ave to wear khaki breeches on account o' the mud, like the
Land Girls; an' that reminded 'er, she'd boil me an egg if she could
lay 'ands on one, for she'd run a chicken-farm once. You never 'eard
anythin' like it-outside o' Jane. It set me off laughin' again. Then a
woman with a nose an' teeth on 'er, marched up. "What's all this?" she
says. "What do you want?" "Nothing," I says, "only make Miss Bates,
there, stop talkin' or I'll die." "Miss Bates?" she says. "What in
'Eaven's name makes you call 'er that?" "Because she is," I says.
"D'you know what you're sayin'?" she says, an' slings her bony arm
round me to get me off the ground. "'Course I do," I says, "an' if you
knew Jane you'd know too." "That's enough," says she. "You're comin' on
this train if I have to kill a Brigadier for you," an' she an' an
ord'ly fair hove me into the train, on to a stretcher close to the
cookers. That beef-tea went down well! Then she shook 'ands with me an'
said I'd hit off Sister Molyneux in one, an' then she pinched me an
extra blanket. It was 'er own 'ospital pretty much. I expect she was
the Lady Catherine de Bourgh of the area. Well, an' so, to cut a long
story short, nothing further transpired.'
''Adn't you 'ad enough by then?' asked Anthony.
'I expect so. Otherwise, if the old Circus 'ad been carryin' on, I
might 'ave 'ad another turn with 'em before Armistice. Our B.S.M. was
right. There never was a 'appier push. 'Ammick an' Mosse an' Gander an'
the B.S.M. an' that pore little Macklin man makin' an' passin' an'
raisin' me an' gettin' me on to the 'ospital train after 'e was dead,
all for a couple of Bradburys. I lie awake nights still, reviewing
matters. There never was a push to touch ours-never!'
Anthony handed me back the Secretary's Jewel resplendent.
'Ah,' said he. 'No denyin' that Jane business was more useful to you
than the Roman Eagles or the Star an' Garter. 'Pity there wasn't any of
you Janeites in the 'Oly Land. I never come across 'em.'
'Well, as pore Macklin said, it's a very select Society, an' you've
got to be a Janeite in your 'eart, or you won't have any success. An'
yet he made me a Janeite! I read all her six books now for pleasure
'tween times in the shop; an' it brings it all back-down to the smell
of the glue-paint on the screens. You take it from me, Brethren,
there's no one to touch Jane when you're in a tight place. Gawd bless
'er, whoever she was.'
Worshipful Brother Burges, from the floor of the Lodge, called us
all from Labour to Refreshment. Humberstall hove himself up-so very a
cart-horse of a man one almost expected to hear the harness creak on
his back-and descended the steps.
He said he could not stay for tea because he had promised his mother
to come home for it, and she would most probably be waiting for him now
at the Lodge door.
'One or other of 'em always comes for 'im. He's apt to miss 'is
gears sometimes,' Anthony explained to me, as we followed.
'Goes on a bust, d'you mean?'
''Im! He's no more touched liquor than 'e 'as women since 'e was
born. No, 'e's liable to a sort o' quiet fits, like. They came on after
the dump blew up at Eatables. But for them, 'e'd ha' been Battery
'Oh!' I said. 'I couldn't make out why he took on as mess-waiter
when he got back to his guns. That explains things a bit.'
''Is sister told me the dump goin' up knocked all 'is Gunnery
instruction clean out of 'im. The only thing 'e stuck to was to get
back to 'is old crowd. Gawd knows 'ow 'e worked it, but 'e did. He fair
deserted out of England to 'em, she says; an' when they saw the state
'e was in, they 'adn't the 'eart to send 'im back or into 'ospital.
They kep' 'im for a mascot, as you might say. That's all dead-true. 'Is
sister told me so. But I can't guarantee that Janeite business, excep'
'e never told a lie since 'e was six. 'Is sister told me so. What do
'He isn't likely to have made it up out of his own head,' I
'But people don't get so crazy-fond o' books as all that, do
they?'E's made 'is sister try to read 'em. She'd do anythin' to please
him. But, as I keep tellin' 'er, so'd 'is mother. D'you 'appen to know
anything about Jane?'
'I believe Jane was a bit of a match-maker in a quiet way when she
was alive, and I know all her books are full of match-making,' I said.
'You'd better look out.'
'Oh, that's as good as settled,' Anthony replied, blushing.
JANE went to Paradise:
That was only fair.
Good Sir Walter followed her.
And armed her up the stair.
Henry and Tobias.
And Miguel of Spain.
Stood with Shakespeare at the top
To welcome Jane.
Then the Three Archangels
Offered out of hand
Anything in Heaven's gift
That she might command.
Azrael's eyes upon her.
Raphael's wings above.
Michael's sword against her heart.
Jane said: 'Love.'
Instantly the under-
Laid their fingers on their lips
And went to look for him.
Stole across the Zodiac.
Harnessed Charles's Wain.
And whispered round the Nebulae--
'Who loved Jane?'
In a private limbo
Where none had thought to look.
Sat a Hampshire gentleman
Reading of a book.
It was called Persuasion.
And it told the plain
Story of the love between
Him and Jane.
He heard the question
Circle Heaven through--
Closed the book and answered:
'I did-and do!'
Quietly but speedily
(As Captain Wentworth moved)
Entered into Paradise
The man Jane loved!
Horace Ode 20, Bk. V.
OH, late withdrawn from human-kind
And following dreams we never knew
Varus, what dream has Fate assigned
To trouble you?
Such virtue as commends the law
Of Virtue to the vulgar horde
Suffices not. You needs must draw
A righteous sword;
And, flagrant in well-doing, smite
The priests of Bacchus at their fane.
Lest any worshipper invite
The God again.
Whence public strife and naked crime
And-deadlier than the cup you shun--
A people schooled to mock, in time.
All law-not one.
Cease, then, to fashion State-made sin.
Nor give thy children cause to doubt
That Virtue springs from iron within--
Not lead without.
The Prophet and the Country
NORTH of London stretches a country called 'The Midlands,' filled
with brick cities, all absolutely alike, but populated by natives who,
through heredity, have learned not only to distinguish between them but
even between the different houses; so that at meals and at evening
multitudes return, without confusion or scandal, each to the proper
Last summer, desperate need forced me to cross that area, and I fell
into a motor-licence 'control' which began in a market-town filled with
unherded beeves carrying red numbered tickets on their rumps. An
English-speaking policeman inspected my licence on a bridge, while the
cattle blundered and blew round the car. A native in plain clothes
lolled out an enormous mulberry-coloured tongue, with which he licked a
numbered label, precisely like one of those on the behinds of the
bullocks, and made to dab it on my wind-screen. I protested. 'But it
will save you trouble,' he said. 'You're liable to be held up for your
licence from now on. This is your protection. Everybody does it.'
'Oh! If that's the case--' I began weakly.
He slapped it on the glass and I went forward--the man was right-all
the cars I met were 'protected' as mine was-till I reached some county
or other which marked the limit of the witch-doctoring, and entered, at
twilight, a large-featured land where the Great North Road ran,
bordered by wide way-wastes, between clumps of old timber.
Here the car, without warning, sobbed and stopped. One does not
expect the make-and-break of the magneto-that tiny two-inch spring of
finest steel-to fracture; and by the time we had found the trouble,
night shut down on us. A rounded pile of woods ahead took one sudden
star to its forehead and faded out; the way-waste melted into the
darker velvet of the hedge; another star reflected itself in the glassy
black of the bitumened road; and a weak moon struggled up out of a
mist- patch from a valley. Our lights painted the grass unearthly
greens, and the treeboles bone-white. A church clock struck eleven, as
I curled up in the front seat and awaited the progress of Time and
Things, with some notion of picking up a tow towards morning. It was
long since I had spent a night in the open, and the hour worked on me.
Time was when such nights, and the winds that heralded their dawns, had
been fortunate and blessed; but those Gates, I thought, were for ever
I diagnosed it as a baker's van on a Ford chassis, lit with unusual
extravagance. It pulled up and asked what the trouble might be. The
first sentence sufficed, even had my lights not revealed the full
hairless face, the horn-rimmed spectacles, the hooded boots below, and
the soft hat, fashioned on no block known to the Eastern trade, above,
the yellow raincoat. I explained the situation. The resources of Mr.
Henry Ford's machines did not run to spare parts of my car's type,
but-it was a beautiful night for camping-out. He himself was
independent of hotels. His outfit was a caravan hired these months past
for tours of Great Britain. He had been alone since his wife died, of
duodenal ulcer, five years ago. Comparative Ethnology was his present
study. No, not a professor, nor, indeed, ever at any College, but a
'realtor'-a dealer in real estate in a suburb of the great and cultured
centre of Omaha, Nebraska. Had I ever heard of it? I had once visited
the very place and there had met an unforgettable funeral- furnisher;
but I found myself (under influence of the night and my Demon) denying
all knowledge of the United States. I had, I said, never left my native
land; but the passion of my life had ever been the study of the
fortunes and future of the U.S.A.; and to this end I had joined three
Societies, each of which regularly sent me all its publications.
He jerked her on to the grass beside my car, where our mingled
lights slashed across the trunks of a little wood; and I was invited
into his pitch-pine-lined caravan, with its overpowering electric
installation, its flap-table, typewriter, drawers and lockers below the
bunk. Then he spoke, every word well-relished between massy dentures;
the inky- rimmed spectacles obscuring the eyes, and the face as
expressionless as the unrelated voice.
He spoke in capital letters, a few of which I have preserved, on our
National Spirit, which, he had sensed, was Homogeneous and in Ethical
Contact throughout-Unconscious but Vitally Existent. That was his
Estimate of our Racial Complex. It was an Asset, but a Democracy
postulating genuine Ideals should be more multitudinously-minded and
diverse in Outlook. I assented to everything in a voice that would have
drawn confidences from pillar-boxes.
He next touched on the Collective Outlook of Democracy, and thence
glanced at Herd Impulse, and the counter-balancing necessity for
Individual Self-Expression. Here he began to search his pockets,
sighing heavily from time to time.
'Before my wife died, sir, I was rated a one-hundred-per-cent.
American. I am now-but...Have you ever in Our Literature read a book
called The Man Without a Country? I'm him!' He still rummaged, but
there was a sawing noise behind the face.
'And you may say, first and last, drink did it!' he added. The noise
resumed. Evidently he was laughing, so I laughed too. After all, if a
man must drink, what better lair than a caravan? At his next words I
'On my return back home after her burial, I first received my Primal
Urge towards Self-Expression. Till then I had never realised
He had found it at last in a breast pocket-a lank and knotty
'And what, sir, is your genuine Opinion of Prohibition?' he asked
when the butt had been moistened to his liking.
'Oh!-er! It's a-a gallant adventure!' I babbled, for somehow I had
tuned myself to listen-in to tales of other things. He turned towards
'The Revelation qua Prohibition that came to me on my return back
home from her funeral was not along those lines. This is the Platform I
stood on.' I became, thenceforward, one of vast crowds being addressed
from that Platform.
'There are Races, sir, which have been secluded since their origin
from the microbes-the necessary and beneficent microbes-of
Civ'lisation. Once those microbes are introdooced to 'em, those races
re-act precisely in proportion to their previous immunity or Racial
Virginity. Measles, which I've had twice and never laid by for, are as
fatal to the Papuan as pneumonic plague to the White. Alcohol, for
them, is disaster, degeneration, and death. Why? You can't get ahead of
Cause and Effect. Protect any race from its natural and God-given
bacteria and you automatically create the culture for its decay, when
that protection is removed. That, sir, is my Thesis.'
The unlit cigar between his lips circled slowly, but I had no desire
'The virgin Red Indian fell for the Firewater of the Paleface as
soon as it was presented to him. For Firewater, sir, he parted with his
lands, his integrity, an' his future. What is he now? An Ethnological
Survival under State Protection. You get me? Immunise, or virg'nise,
the Cit'zen of the United States to alcohol, an' you as surely redooce
him to the mental status an' outlook of that Redskin. That is the Ne-
mee-sis of Prohibition. And the Process has begun, sir. Haven't you
noticed it already'-he gulped-'among Our People?'
'Well,' I said. 'Men don't always act as they preach, of
'You won't abrade my National Complex. What's the worst you've seen
in connection with Our People-and Rum?' The round lenses were full on
me. I chanced it.
'I've seen one of 'em on a cross-Channel boat, talking Prohibition
in the bar-pretty full. He had three drinks while I listened.'
'I thought you said you'd never quit England?' he replied.
'Oh, we don't count France,' I amended hastily.
'Then was you ever at Monte Carlo? No? Well, I was-this spring. One
of our tourist steamers unloaded three hundred of 'em at the port o'
Veel Franshe; and they went off to Monte Carlo to dine. I saw 'em, sir,
come out of the dinner-hall of that vast Hotel opp'site the Cassino
there, not drunk, but all-all havin' drink taken. In that hotel lounge
after that meal, I saw an elderly cit'zen up an' kiss eight women, none
of 'em specially young, sittin' in a circle on the settees; the rest of
his crowd applaudin'. Folk just shrugged their shoulders, and the
French nigger on the door, I heard him say: "It's only the Yanks
tankin' up." It galled me. As a one-hundred-per-cent. American, it
galled me unspeakably. And you've observed the same thing durin' the
last few years?'
I nodded. The face was working now in the yellow lights reflected
from the close-buttoned raincoat. He dropped his hand on his knee and
struck it again and again, before he steadied himself with the usual
snap and grind of his superb dentist-work.
'My Rev'lation qua the Peril of Prohibition was laid on me on my
return back home in the hour of my affliction. I'd been discussin'
Prohibition with Mrs. Tarworth only the week before. Her best friend,
sir, a neighbour of ours, had filled one of the vases in our parlour
with chrysanthemums out of a bust wreath. I can't ever smell to those
flowers now 'thout it all comin' back. Yes, sir, in my hour of woe it
was laid on me to warn my land of the Ne-mee-sis of Presumption.
There's only one Sin in the world-and that is Presumption. Without
strong Presumption, sir, we'd never have fixed Prohibition the way we
did...An' when I retired that night I reasoned it out that there was
but one weapon for me to work with to convey my message to my native
land. That, sir, was the Movies. So I reasoned it. I reasoned it so-oo!
Now the Movies wasn't a business I'd ever been interested in, though a
regular attendant...Well, sir, within ten days after I had realised the
Scope an' Imperativeness of my Rev'lation, I'd sold out an' re-invested
so's everything was available. I quit Omaha, sir, the freest-the
happiest-man in the United States.'
A puff of air from the woods licked through the open door of the
caravan, trailing a wreath of mist with it. He pushed home the
'So you started in on Anti-Prohibition films?' I suggested.
'Sir?-More! It was laid on me to feature the Murder of Immunised
America by the Microbe of Modern Civ'lisation which she had
presumptuously defied. That text inspired all the titling. Before I
arrived at the concept of the Appeal, I was months studyin' the Movie
business in every State of Our Union, in labour and trava-il. The
Complete Concept, sir, with its Potential'ties, came to me of a Sunday
afternoon in Rand Park, Keokuk, Iowa-the centre of our native pearl-
button industry. As a boy, sir, I used to go shell-tongin' after
mussels, in a shanty-boat on the Cumberland River, Tennessee, always
hopin' to find a thousand dollar pearl. (The shell goes to Keokuk for
manufacture.) I found my pearl in Keokuk-where my Concept came to me!
He pulled out a drawer of card-indexed photographs beneath the bunk,
ran his long fingers down the edges, and drew out three.
The first showed the head of an elderly Red Indian chief in full
war- paint, the lined lips compressed to a thread, eyes wrinkled,
nostrils aflare, and the whole face lit by so naked a passion of hate
that I started.
'That,' said Mr. Tarworth, 'is the Spirit of the Tragedy-both of the
Red Indians who initially, and of our Whites who subsequently, sold
'emselves and their heritage for the Firewater of the Paleface. The
Captions run in diapason with that note throughout. But for a Film
Appeal, you must have a balanced leet-motif interwoven with the
footage. Now this close-up of the Red Man I'm showin' you, punctuates
the action of the dramma. He recurs, sir, watchin' the progressive
degradation of his own people, from the advent of the Paleface with
liquor, up to the extinction of his race. After that, you see him,
again, more and more dominant, broodin' over an' rejoicin' in the
downfall of the White American artificially virg'nised against
Alcohol-the identical cycle repeated. I got this shot of Him in
Oklahoma, one of our Western States, where there's a crowd of the
richest Red Indians (drawin' oil-royalties) on earth. But they've got a
Historical Society that chases 'em into paint and feathers to keep up
their race-pride, and for the Movies. He was an Episcopalian and owns a
Cadillac, I was told. The sun in his eyes makes him look that way. He's
indexed as "Rum-in-the-Cup" (that's the element of Popular Appeal),
but, say '-the voice softened with the pride of artistry- 'ain't He
just it for my purposes?'
He passed me the second photo. The cigar rolled again and he held
'Now in every Film Appeal, you must balance your leet-motif by
balancin' the Sexes. The American Women, sir, handed Prohibition to Us
while our boys were away savin' you. I know the type-'born an' bred
with it. She watches throughout the film what She's brought about-
watches an' watches till the final Catastrophe. She's Woman Triumphant,
balanced against Rum-in-the-Cup-the Degraded Male. I hunted the whole
of the Middle West for Her in vain, 'fore I remembered-not Jordan, but
Abanna and Parphar-Mrs. Tarworth's best friend at home. I was then in
Texarkhana, Arkansas, fixin' up a deal I'll tell you about; but I broke
for Omaha that evenin' to get a shot of Her. When I arrived so sudden
she-she-thought, I guess, I meant to make her Number Two. That's Her.
You wouldn't realise the Type, but it's it.'
I looked; saw the trained sweetness and unction in the otherwise
hardish, ignorant eyes; the slightly open, slightly flaccid mouth; the
immense unconscious arrogance, the immovable certitude of mind, and the
other warning signs in the poise of the broad-cheeked head. He was
fingering the third photo.
'And when the American Woman realises the Scope an' the Impact an'
the Irrevocability of the Catastrophe which she has created by Her
Presumption, She-She registers Despair. That's Her-at the finale.'
It was cruelty beyond justification to have pinned down any living
creature in such agony of shame, anger, and impotence among life's
wreckage. And this was a well-favoured woman, her torment new-launched
on her as she stood gripping the back of a stamped-velvet chair.
'And so you went back to Texarkhana without proposing,' I began.
'Why, yes. There was only forty-seven minutes between trains. I told
her so. But I got both shots.'
I must have caught my breath, for, as he took the photo back again,
he explained: 'In the Movie business we don't employ the actool. This
is only the Basis we build on to the nearest professional type. That
secures controlled emphasis of expression. She's only the Basis.'
'I'm glad of that,' I said. He lit his cigar, and relaxed beneath
the folds of the loose coat.
'Well, sir, having secured my leet-motifs and Sex-balances, the
whole of the footage coverin' the downfall of the Red Man was as good
as given me by a bust Congregational Church that had been boosting
Prohibition near Texarkhana. That was why I'd gone there. One of their
ladies, who was crazy about Our National dealin's with the Indian, had
had the details documented in Washington; an' the resultant film must
have cost her any God's dollars you can name. It was all there-the Red
Man partin' with his lands and furs an' women to the early settlers for
Rum; the liquor-fights round the tradin'-posts; the Government Agents
swindlin' 'em with liquor; an' the Indians goin' mad from it; the Black
Hawk War; the winnin' of the West-by Rum mainly-the whole jugful of
Shame. But that film failed, sir, because folk in Arkansaw said it was
an aspersion on the National Honour, and, anyway, buying land needful
for Our inevitable development was more Christian than the bloody wars
of Monarchical Europe. The Congregationalists wanted a new organ too;
so I traded a big Estey organ for their film. My notion was to
interweave it with parallel modern instances, from Monte Carlo and the
European hotels, of White American Degradation; the Main Caption bein':
"The Firewater of the Paleface Works as Indifferently as Fate." An' old
Rum-in-the-Cup's close-up shows broodin'-broodin'- broodin'-through it
all! You sense my Concept?'
He relighted his cigar.
'I saw it like a vision. But, from there on; I had to rely on my own
Complex for intuition. I cut out all modern side-issues-the fight
against Prohibition; bootlegging; home-made Rum manufacture; wood-
alcohol tragedies, an' all that dope. 'Dunno as I didn't elim'nate to
excess. The Revolt of the Red Blood Corpuscules should ha' been
'What's their share in it?'
'Vital! They clean up waste and deleterious matter in the humane
system. Under the microscope they rage like lions. Deprive 'em of their
job by sterilisin' an' virginising the system, an' the Red Blood
Corpuscules turn on the humane system an' destroy it bodily. Mentally,
too, mebbe. Ain't that a hell of a thought?'
'Where did you get it from?'
'It came to me-with the others,' he replied as simply as Ezekiel
might have told a fellow-captive beside Chebar. 'But it's too high for
a Democracy. So I cut it right out. For Film purposes I assumed that,
at an unspecified date, the United States had become virg'nised to
liquor. The Taint was out of the Blood, and, apparently, the Instinct
had aborted. "The Triumph of Presumption" is the Caption. But from
there on, I fell down because, for the film Appeal, you cannot present
such an Epoch without featurin' confirmatory exhibits which, o' course,
haven't as yet materialised. That meant that the whole Cultural Aspect
o' that Civ'lisation of the Future would have to be built up at
Hollywood; an' half a million dollars wouldn't cover it. "The Vision of
Virg'nised Civ'lisation." A hell of a proposition! But it don't matter
He dropped his head and was still for a little.
'Never mind,' I said. 'How does the idea work out-in your mind?'
'In my mind? As inevitably, sir, as the Red Man's Fall through Rum.
My notion was a complete Cultural Exposay of a She-dom'nated
Civ'hsation, built on a virginal basis qua alcohol, with immensely
increased material Productivity (say, there'd be money in that from big
Businesses demonstratin' what they'll prodooce a hundred years hence),
and a side-wipe at the practically non-existent birth-rate.'
'Why that, too?' I asked.
He gave me the reason-a perfectly sound one-which has nothing to do
with the tale, and went on:
'After that Vision is fully realised, the End comes-as remorselessly
for the White as for the Red. How? The American Woman-you will recall
the first close-up of that lady I showed you, interweavin' throughout
the narr'tive-havin' accomplished all She set out to do, wishes to
demonstrate to the world the Inteegral Significance of Her Life-work.
Why not? She's never been blamed in Her life. So delib'rately, out of
High Presumption, the American Woman withdraws all inhibit'ry
legislation, all barriers against Alcohol-to show what She has made of
Her Men. The Captions here run-"The Zeenith of Presumption. America
Stands by Herself-Guide and Saviour of Humanity." "Let Evil do Its
Damnedest! We are above It." Say, ain't that a hell of a thought?'
'A bit extravagant, isn't it?'
'Extrav'gance? In the life of actool men an' women? It don't exist.
Well, anyway, that's my top-note before the day-bakkle. There's an
interval while the Great World-Wave is gatherin' to sweep aside the
Children of Presumption. Nothin' eventuates for a while. The Machine of
Virg'nised Civ'lisation functions by its own stored energy. And then,
sir-then the World-Wave crashes down on the White as it crashed on the
Red Skin! (All this while old Rum-in-the-Cup is growin' more an' more
dom'nant, as I told you.) But now, owin' to the artificialised
mentality of the victims and the immune pop'lation, its effects are
Cataclysmic. "The Alcohol Appeal, held back for five Generations, wakes
like a Cyclone." That's the Horror I'm stressin'. And Europe, and Asia,
and the Ghetto exploit America-cold. "A Virg'nised People let go all
holts, and part with their All." It is no longer a Dom'nationbut an
Obsession. Then a Po-ssession! Then come the Levelled Bay'nets of
Europe. Why so? Because the liquor's peddled out, sir, under armed
European guards to the elderly, pleadin' American Whites who pass over
their title-deeds-their businesses, fact'ries, canals, sky-scrapers,
town-lots, farms, little happy-lookin' homes- everything-for it. You
can see 'em wadin' into the ocean, from Oyster Bay to Palm Beach, under
great flarin' sunsets of National Decay, to get at the stuff sooner.
And Europe's got 'em by the gullet-peddlin' out the cases, or a single
bottle at a time, to each accordin' to his need-under the Levelled
Bay'nets of Europe.'
'But why lay all the responsibility on Europe?' I broke in. 'Surely
some progressive American Liquor Trust would have been m the game from
'Sure! But the Appeal is National, and there are some things, sir,
that the American People will not stand for. It was Europe or nothing.
Otherwise, I could not have stressed the effect of the Levelled
Bay'nets of Europe. You see those bay'nets keepin' order in the vast
cathedrals of the new religions-the broken whisky bottles round the
altar-the Priest himself, old and virg'nised, pleadin' and prayin' with
his flock till, in the zeenith of his agony an' his denunciations, he
too falls an' wallows with the rest of 'em! Extrav'gant? No! Logic. An'
so it spreads, from West to East, from East to West up to the dividin'
line where the European and the Asiatic Liquor Trust have parcelled out
the Land o' Presumption. No paltry rum-peddlin' at tradin'posts this
time, but mile-long electric freight-trains, surgin' and swoopin' from
San Francisco an' Boston with their seven thousand ton of alcohol, till
they meet head-on at the Liquor Line, an' you see the little American
People fawnin' an' pleadin' round their big wheels an' tryin' to slip
in under the Levelled Bay'nets of Europe to handle and touch the stuff,
even if they can't drink it. It's horrible-horrible! "The Wages of
Sin!" "The Death of the She-Dom'nated Sons of Presumption!"'
He stood up, his head high in the caravan's resonant roof, and
mopped his face.
'Go on!' I said.
'There ain't much more. You see the devirg'nised European an' the
immemorially sophisticated Asiatic, who can hold their liquor,
spreadin' out an' occupyin' the land (the signs in the streets register
that) like-like a lavva-flow in Honolulu. There's jest a hint, too, of
the Return of the Great Scourge, an' how it fed on all this fresh human
meat. Jest a few feet of the flesh rottin' off the bones-'same as when
Syph'lis originated in the Re-nay-sanse Epoch. Last of all-date not
specified-will be the herdin' of the few survivin' Americans into their
reservation in the Yellowstone Park by a few slouchin', crippled,
remnants of the Redskins. 'Get me? "Presumption's Ultimate Reward."
"The Wheel Comes Full Circle." An' the final close-up of Rum-in-the-Cup
with his Hate-Mission accomplished.'
He stooped again to the photos in the bunk-locker.
'I shot that,' he said, 'when I was in the Yellowstone. It's a
document to build up my Last Note on. They're jest a party of tourists
watchin' grizzly bears rakin' in the hotel dumpheaps (they keep 'em to
show). That wet light hits back well off their clothes, don't it?'
I saw six or seven men and women, in pale-coloured raincoats,
gathered, with no pretence at pose, in a little glade. One man was
turning up his collar, another stooping to a bootlace, while a woman
opened her umbrella over him. They faced towards a dimly defined heap
of rubbish and tins; and they looked unutterably mean.
'Yes.' He took it back from me. 'That would have been the final
note- the dom'nant resolvin' into a minor. But it don't matter
'Doesn't it?' I said, stupidly enough.
'Not to me, sir. My Church-I'm a Fundamentalist, an' I didn't read
'em more than half the scenario-started out by disownin' me for
aspersin' the National Honour. A bunch of our home papers got holt of
it next. They said I was a ren'gade an' done it for dollars. An' then
the ladies on the Social Betterment an' Uplift Committees took a hand.
In your country you don't know the implications of that! I'm-I'm a one-
hundred-per-cent. American, but-I didn't know what men an' women are. I
guess none of us do at home, or we'd say so, instead o' playin' at
being American Cit'zens. There's no law with Us under which a man can
be jailed for aspersin' the National Honour. There's no need. It got
into the Legislature, an' one Senator there he spoke for an hour,
demandin' to have me unanimously an' internationally disavowed by-by my
Maker, I presoom. No one else stood by me. I'd been to the big Jew
combines that control the Movie business m our country. I'd been to
Heuvelstein-he represents sixty-seven million dollars' interests. They
say he's never read a scenario in his life. He read every last word of
mine aloud. He laughed some, but he said he was doin' well in a small
way, and he didn't propose to start up any pogroms against the Chosen
in New York. He said I was ahead of my time. I know that. An' then-my
wife's best friend was back of this-folk at home got talkin' about
callin' for an inquiry into my state o' mind, an' whether I was fit to
run my own affairs. I saw a lawyer or two over that, an' I came to a
realism' sense of American Law an' Justice. That was another of the
things I didn't know. It made me sick to my stummick, sir-sick with
physical an' mental terror an' dread. So I quit. I changed my name an'
quit two years back. Those ancient prophets an' martyrs haven't got
much on me in the things a Democracy hands you if you don't see eye to
eye with it. Therefore, I have no abidin'-place except this old
caravan. Now, sir, we two are like ships that pass in the night,
except, as I said, I'll be very pleased to tow you into Doncaster this
morning. Is there anythin' about me strikes you in anyway as deviatin'
'Not m the least,' I replied quickly. 'But what have you done with
'Deposited it in the Bank of England at London.'
'Would you sell it?'
'Couldn't it be produced here?'
'I am a one-hundred-per-cent. American. The way I see it, I could
not be a party to an indirect attack on my Native Land.'
Once again he ground his jaws. There did not seem to be much left to
say. The heat in the shut caravan was more and more oppressive. Time
had stood still with me listening. I was aware now that the owls had
ceased hooting and that a night had gone out of the world. I rose from
the bunk. Mr. Tarworth, carefully rebuttoning his raincoat, opened the
'Good Lord Gord Almighty!' he cried, with a child's awed reverence.
'It's sun-up. Look!'
Daylight was just on the heels of dawn, with the sun following. The
icy-blackness of the Great North Road banded itself with smoking mists
that changed from solid pearl to writhing opal, as they lifted above
hedge-row level. The dew-wet leaves of the upper branches turned
suddenly into diamond facets, and that wind, which runs before the
actual upheaval of the sun, swept out of the fragrant lands to the
East, and touched my cheek-as many times it had touched it before, on
the edge, or at the ends, of inconceivable experiences.
My companion breathed deeply, while the low glare searched the folds
of his coat and the sags and wrinkles of his face. We heard the far-
away pulse of a car through the infinite, clean-born, light-filled
stillness. It neared and stole round the bend-a motor-hearse on its way
to some early or distant funeral, one side of the bright oak coffin
showing beneath the pall, which had slipped a little. Then it vanished
in a blaze of wet glory from the sun-drenched road, amid the songs of a
Mr. Tarworth laid his hand on my shoulder.
'Say, Neighbour,' he said. 'There's somethin' very soothin' in the
Concept of Death after all.'
Then he set himself, kindly and efficiently, to tow me towards
Doncaster, where, when the day's life should begin again, one might
procure a new magneto make-and-break-that tiny two-inch spring of
finest steel, failure of which immobilises any car.
Act IV. Scene 4.
The Head of the Bargi Pass-in snow. Gow and Ferdinand with their
GOW (to Ferdinand). The Queen's host would be delivered me to-day-but
that these Mountain Men have sent battalia to hold the Pass. They're
shod, helmed and torqued with soft gold. For the rest, naked. By no
argument can I persuade 'em their gilt carcasses against my bombards
avail not. What's to do, Fox?
FERDINAND. Fatherless folk go furthest. These loud pagans
Are doubly fatherless. Consider; they came
Over the passes, out of all man's world-
Adullamites, unable to endure
Its ancient pinch and belly-ache-full of revenges
Or wilfully forgetful. The land they found
Was manless-her raw airs uncloven by speech.
Earth without wheel-track, hoof-mark, hearth or ploughshare
Since God created; nor even a cave where men.
When night was a new thing, had hid themselves.
GOW. Excellent. Do I fight them, or let go?
FERDINAND. Unused earth, air and water for their spoil.
And none to make comparison of their deeds.
No unbribed dead to judge, accuse 'em or comfort--
Their present all their future and their past.
What should they know of reason--litters of folk--
New whelped to emptiness?
GOW. Nothing. They bar my path.
FERDINAND. Turn it, then--turn it.
Give them their triumph. They'll be wiser anon--
Some thirty generations hence.
GOW. Amen! I'm no disposed murderer. (To the Mountain Men) Most
magnificent Senors! Lords of all Suns, Moons, Firmaments-Sole
Architects of Yourselves and this present Universe! Yon Philosopher in
the hairy cloak bids me wait only a thousand years, till ye've sorted
yourselves more to the likeness of mankind.
THE PRIEST OF THE MOUNTAIN MEN. There are none beside ourselves to
lead the world!
GOW. That is common knowledge. I supplicate you to allow us the head
of the Pass, that we may better reach the Queen's host yonder. Ye will
THE PRIEST. Because it is our will. There is none other law for all
GOW. (That a few feet of snow on a nest of rocky mountains should have
hatched this dream-people!) (To Priest) Ye have reason in nature-all
you've known of it...But-a thousand years-I fear they will not
THE PRIEST. Go you back! We hold the passes into and out of the world.
Do you defy us?
FERDINAND. (To Gow) I warned you. There's none like them under Heaven.
GOW. Defy your puissance, Senors? Not I. We'll have our bombards away,
all, by noon; and our poor hosts with them. And you, Senors, shall
have your triumph upon us.
FERDINAND. Ah! That touches! Let them shout and blow their horns half
a day and they'll not think of aught else!
GOW. Fall to your riots then! Senors, ye have won. We'll leave you the
head of the Pass-for thirty generations. (Loudly) The mules to the
bombards and away!
FERDINAND. Most admirably you spoke to my poor text.
GOW. Maybe the better, Fox, because the discourse has drawn them to
the head of the Pass. Meantime, our main body has taken the lower
road, with all the Artillery.
FERDINAND. Had you no bombards here, then?
GOW. None, Innocence, at all! None, except your talk and theirs
The Bull that Thought
WESTWARD from a town by the Mouths of the Rhone, runs a road so
mathematically straight, so barometrically level, that it ranks among
the world's measured miles and motorists use it for records. I had
attacked the distance several times, but always with a Mistral blowing,
or the unchancy cattle of those parts on the move. But once, running
from the East, into a high-piled, almost Egyptian, sunset, there came a
night which it would have been sin to have wasted. It was warm with the
breath of summer in advance; moonlit till the shadow of every rounded
pebble and pointed cypress wind-break lay solid on that vast
flat-floored waste; and my Mr. Leggatt, who had slipped out to make
sure, reported that the roadsurface was unblemished. 'Now,' he
suggested, 'we might see what she'll do under strict road- conditions.
She's been pullin' like the Blue de Luxe all day. Unless I'm all off,
it's her night out.' We arranged the trial for after dinner-thirty
kilometres as near as might be; and twenty-two of them without even a
level crossing. There sat beside me at table d'hote an elderly, bearded
Frenchman wearing the rosette of by no means the lowest grade of the
Legion of Honour, who had arrived in a talkative Citroen. I gathered
that he had spent much of his life in the French Colonial Service in
Annam and Tonquin. When the war came, his years barring him from the
front line, he had supervised Chinese wood-cutters who, with axe and
dynamite, deforested the centre of France for trench-props. He said my
chauffeur had told him that I contemplated an experiment. He was
interested in cars-had admired mine-would, in short, be greatly
indebted to me if I permitted him to assist as an observer. One could
not well refuse; and, knowing my Mr. Leggatt, it occurred to me there
might also be a bet in the background. While he went to get his coat, I
asked the proprietor his name. 'Voiron-Monsieur Andre Voiron,' was the
reply. 'And his business?' 'Mon Dieu! He is Voiron! He is all those
things, there!' The proprietor waved his hands at brilliant
advertisements on the dining- room walls, which declared that Voiron
Freres dealt in wines, agricultural implements, chemical manures,
provisions and produce throughout that part of the globe. He said
little for the first five minutes of our trip, and nothing at all for
the next ten-it being, as Leggatt had guessed, Esmeralda's night out.
But, when her indicator climbed to a certain figure and held there for
three blinding kilometres, he expressed himself satisfied, and proposed
to me that we should celebrate the event at the hotel. 'I keep yonder,'
said he, 'a wine on which I should value your opinion.' On our return,
he disappeared for a few minutes, and I heard him rumbling in a cellar.
The proprietor presently invited me to the dining-room, where, beneath
one frugal light, a table had been set with local dishes of renown.
There was, too, a bottle beyond most known sizes, marked black on red,
with a date. Monsieur Voiron opened it, and we drank to the health of
my car. The velvety, perfumed liquor, between fawn and topaz, neither
too sweet nor too dry, creamed in its generous glass. But I knew no
wine composed of the whispers of angels' wings, the breath of Eden and
the foam and pulse of Youth renewed. So I asked what it might be. 'It
is champagne,' he said gravely. 'Then what have I been drinking all my
life?' 'If you were lucky, before the War, and paid thirty shillings a
bottle, it is possible you may have drunk one of our better-class
tisanes.' 'And where does one get this?' 'Here, I am happy to say.
Elsewhere, perhaps, it is not so easy. We growers exchange these real
wines among ourselves.' I bowed my head in admiration, surrender, and
joy. There stood the most ample bottle, and it was not yet eleven
o'clock. Doors locked and shutters banged throughout the establishment.
Some last servant yawned on his way to bed. Monsieur Voiron opened a
window and the moonlight flooded in from a small pebbled court outside.
One could almost hear the town of Chambres breathing in its first
sleep. Presently, there was a thick noise in the air, the passing of
feet and hooves, lowings, and a stifled bark or two. Dust rose over the
courtyard wall, followed by the strong smell of cattle. 'They are
moving some beasts,' said Monsieur Voiron, cocking an ear. 'Mine, I
think. Yes, I hear Christophe. Our beasts do not like automobiles-so we
move at night. You do not know our country-the Crau, here, or the
Camargue? I was-I am now, again-of it. All France is good; but this is
the best.' He spoke, as only a Frenchman can, of his own loved part of
his own lovely land. 'For myself, if I were not so involved in all
these affairs'-he pointed to the advertisements-'I would live on our
farm with my cattle, and worship them like a Hindu. You know our cattle
of the Camargue, Monsieur? No? It is not an acquaintance to rush upon
lightly. There are no beasts like them. They have a mentality superior
to that of others. They graze and they ruminate, by choice, facing our
Mistral, which is more than some automobiles will do. Also they have in
them the potentiality of thought-and when cattle think-I have seen what
arrives.' 'Are they so clever as all that?' I asked idly. 'Monsieur,
when your sportif chauffeur camouflaged your limousine so that she
resembled one of your Army lorries, I would not believe her capacities.
I bet him-ah-two to one-she would not touch ninety kilometres. It was
proved that she could. I can give you no proof, but will you believe me
if I tell you what a beast who thinks can achieve?' 'After the War,'
said I spaciously, 'everything is credible.' 'That is true! Everything
inconceivable has happened; but still we learn nothing and we believe
nothing. When I was a child in my father's house-before I became a
Colonial Administrator-my interest and my affection were among our
cattle. We of the old rock live here- have you seen?-in big farms like
castles. Indeed, some of them may have been Saracenic. The barns group
round them-great white-walled barns, and yards solid as our houses. One
gate shuts all. It is a world apart; an administration of all that
concerns beasts. It was there I learned something about cattle. You
see, they are our playthings in the Camargue and the Crau. The boy
measures his strength against the calf that butts him in play among the
manure-heaps. He moves in and out among the cows, who are-not so
amiable. He rides with the herdsmen in the open to shift the herds.
Sooner or later, he meets as bulls the little calves that knocked him
over. So it was with me- till it became necessary that I should go to
our Colonies.' He laughed. 'Very necessary. That is a good time in
youth, Monsieur, when one does these things which shock our parents.
Why is it always Papa who is so shocked and has never heard of such
things-and Mamma who supplies the excuses?...And when my brother-my
elder who stayed and created the business-begged me to return and help
him, I resigned my Colonial career gladly enough. I returned to our own
lands, and my well-loved, wicked white and yellow cattle of the
Camargue and the Crau. My Faith, I could talk of them all night, for
this stuff unlocks the heart, without making repentance in the
morning...Yes! It was after the War that this happened. There was a
calf, among Heaven knows how many of ours-a bull-calf-an infant
indistinguishable from his companions. He was sick, and he had been
taken up with his mother into the big farmyard at home with us.
Naturally the children of our herdsmen practised on him from the first.
It is in their blood. The Spaniards make a cult of bull-fighting. Our
little devils down here bait bulls as automatically as the English
child kicks or throws balls. This calf would chase them with his eyes
open, like a cow when she hunts a man. They would take refuge behind
our tractors and wine- carts in the centre of the yard: he would chase
them in and out as a dog hunts rats. More than that, he would study
their psychology, his eyes in their eyes. Yes, he watched their faces
to divine which way they would run. He himself, also, would pretend
sometimes to charge directly at a boy. Then he would wheel right or
left-one could never tell-and knock over some child pressed against a
wall who thought himself safe. After this, he would stand over him,
knowing that his companions must come to his aid; and when they were
all together, waving their jackets across his eyes and pulling his
tail, he would scatter them-how he would scatter them! He could kick,
too, sideways like a cow. He knew his ranges as well as our gunners,
and he was as quick on his feet as our Carpentier. I observed him
often. Christophe- the man who passed just now-our chief herdsman, who
had taught me to ride with our beasts when I was ten-Christophe told me
that he was descended from a yellow cow of those days that had chased
us once into the marshes. "He kicks just like her," said Christophe.
"He can side- kick as he jumps. Have you seen, too, that he is not
deceived by the jacket when a boy waves it? He uses it to find the boy.
They think they are feeling him. He is feeling them always. He thinks,
that one." I had come to the same conclusion. Yes-the creature was a
thinker along the lines necessary to his sport; and he was a humorist
also, like so many natural murderers. One knows the type among beasts
as well as among men. It possesses a curious truculent mirth-almost
indecent but infallibly significant--' Monsieur Voiron replenished our
glasses with the great wine that went better at each descent. 'They
kept him for some time in the yards to practise upon. Naturally he
became a little brutal; so Christophe turned him out to learn manners
among his equals in the grazing lands, where the Camargue joins the
Crau. How old was he then? About eight or nine months, I think. We met
again a few months later-he and I. I was riding one of our little
half-wild horses, along a road of the Crau, when I found myself almost
unseated. It was he! He had hidden himself behind a wind-break till we
passed, and had then charged my horse from behind. Yes, he had deceived
even my little horse! But I recognised him. I gave him the whip across
the nose, and I said: "Apis, for this thou goest to Arles! It was
unworthy of thee, between us two." But that creature had no shame. He
went away laughing, like an Apache. If he had dismounted me, I do not
think it is I who would have laughed- yearling as he was.' 'Why did you
want to send him to Arles?' I asked. 'For the bull-ring. When your
charming tourists leave us, we institute our little amusements there.
Not a real bull-fight, you understand, but young bulls with padded
horns, and our boys from hereabouts and in the city go to play with
them. Naturally, before we send them we try them in our yards at home.
So we brought up Apis from his pastures. He knew at once that he was
among the friends of his youth-he almost shook hands with them-and he
submitted like an angel to padding his horns. He investigated the carts
and tractors in the yards, to choose his lines of defence and attack.
And then-he attacked with an elan, and he defended with a tenacity and
forethought that delighted us. In truth, we were so pleased that I fear
we trespassed upon his patience. We desired him to repeat himself,
which no true artist will tolerate. But he gave us fair warning. He
went out to the centre of the yard, where there was some dry earth; he
kneeled down and-you have seen a calf whose horns fret him thrusting
and rooting into a bank? He did just that, very deliberately, till he
had rubbed the pads off his horns. Then he rose, dancing on those
wonderful feet that twinkled, and he said: "Now, my friends, the
buttons are off the foils. Who begins?" We understood. We finished at
once. He was turned out again on the pastures till it should be time to
amuse them at our little metropolis. But, some time before he went to
Arles-yes, I think I have it correctly-Christophe, who had been out on
the Crau, informed me that Apis had assassinated a young bull who had
given signs of developing into a rival. That happens, of course, and
our herdsmen should prevent it. But Apis had killed in his own style-at
dusk, from the ambush of a wind-break-by an oblique charge from behind
which knocked the other over. He had then disembowelled him. All very
possible, but-the murder accomplished-Apis went to the bank of a wind-
break, knelt, and carefully, as he had in our yard, cleaned his horns
in the earth. Christophe, who had never seen such a thing, at once
borrowed (do you know, it is most efficacious when taken that way?)
some Holy Water from our little chapel in those pastures, sprinkled
Apis (whom it did not affect), and rode in to tell me. It was obvious
that a thinker of that bull's type would also be meticulous in his
toilette; so, when he was sent to Arles, I warned our consignees to
exercise caution with him. Happily, the change of scene, the music, the
general attention, and the meeting again with old friends-all our bad
boys attended-agreeably distracted him. He became for the time a pure
farceur again; but his wheelings, his rushes, his rat-huntings were
more superb than ever. There was in them now, you understand, a breadth
of technique that comes of reasoned art, and, above all, the passion
that arrives after experience. Oh, he had learned, out there on the
Crau! At the end of his little turn, he was, according to local rules,
to be handled in all respects except for the sword, which was a stick,
as a professional bull who must die. He was manoeuvred into, or he
posed himself in, the proper attitude; made his rush; received the
point on his shoulder and then-turned about and cantered toward the
door by which he had entered the arena. He said to the world: "My
friends, the representation is ended. I thank you for your applause. I
go to repose myself." But our Arlesians, who are-not so clever as some,
demanded an encore, and Apis was headed back again. We others from his
country, we knew what would happen. He went to the centre of the ring,
kneeled, and, slowly, with full parade, plunged his horns alternately
in the dirt till the pads came off. Christophe shouts: "Leave him
alone, you straight-nosed imbeciles! Leave him before you must." But
they required emotion; for Rome has always debauched her loved
Provincia with bread and circuses. It was given. Have you, Monsieur,
ever seen a servant, with pan and broom, sweeping round the base-board
of a room? In a half-minute Apis has them all swept out and over the
barrier. Then he demands once more that the door shall be opened to
him. It is opened and he retires as though-which, truly, is the
case-loaded with laurels.' Monsieur Voiron refilled the glasses, and
allowed himself a cigarette, which he puffed for some time. 'And
afterwards?' I said. 'I am arranging it in my mind. It is difficult to
do it justice. Afterwards-yes, afterwards-Apis returned to his pastures
and his mistresses and I to my business. I am no longer a scandalous
old "sportif" in shirt-sleeves howling encouragement to the yellow son
of a cow. I revert to Voiron Freres-wines, chemical manures, et cetera.
And next year, through some chicane which I have not the leisure to
unravel, and also, thanks to our patriarchal system of paying our older
men out of the increase of the herds, old Christophe possesses himself
of Apis. Oh, yes, he proves it through descent from a certain cow that
my father had given his father before the Republic. Beware, Monsieur,
of the memory of the illiterate man! An ancestor of Christophe had been
a soldier under our Soult against your Beresford, near Bayonne. He fell
into the hands of Spanish guerrillas. Christophe and his wife used to
tell me the details on certain Saints' Days when I was a child. Now, as
compared with our recent war, Soult's campaign and retreat across the
Bidassoa--' 'But did you allow Christophe just to annex the bull?' I
demanded. 'You do not know Christophe. He had sold him to the Spaniards
before he informed me. The Spaniards pay in coin-douros of very pure
silver. Our peasants mistrust our paper. You know the saying: "A
thousand francs paper; eight hundred metal, and the cow is yours." Yes,
Christophe sold Apis, who was then two and a half years old, and to
Christophe's knowledge thrice at least an assassin.' 'How was that?' I
said. 'Oh, his own kind only; and always, Christophe told me, by the
same oblique rush from behind, the same sideways overthrow, and the
same swift disembowelment, followed by this levitical cleaning of the
horns. In human life he would have kept a manicurist-this Minotaur. And
so, Apis disappears from our country. That does not trouble me. I know
in due time I shall be advised. Why? Because, in this land, Monsieur,
not a hoof moves between Berre and the Saintes Maries without the
knowledge of specialists such as Christophe. The beasts are the
substance and the drama of their lives to them. So when Christophe
tells me, a little before Easter Sunday, that Apis makes his debut in
the bull-ring of a small Catalan town on the road to Barcelona, it is
only to pack my car and trundle there across the frontier with him. The
place lacked importance and manufactures, but it had produced a matador
of some reputation, who was condescending to show his art in his native
town. They were even running one special train to the place. Now our
French railway system is only execrable, but the Spanish--' 'You went
down by road, didn't you?' said I. 'Naturally. It was not too good.
Villamarti was the matador's name. He proposed to kill two bulls for
the honour of his birthplace. Apis, Christophe told me, would be his
second. It was an interesting trip, and that little city by the sea was
ravishing. Their bull-ring dates from the middle of the seventeenth
century. It is full of feeling. The ceremonial too-when the horsemen
enter and ask the Mayor in his box to throw down the keys of the
bull-ring-that was exquisitely conceived. You know, if the keys are
caught in the horseman's hat, it is considered a good omen. They were
perfectly caught. Our seats were in the front row beside the gates
where the bulls enter, so we saw everything. 'Villamarti's first bull
was not too badly killed. The second matador, whose name escapes me,
killed his without distinction-a foil to Villamarti. And the third,
Chisto, a laborious, middle-aged professional who had never risen
beyond a certain dull competence, was equally of the background. Oh,
they are as jealous as the girls of the Comedie Francaise, these
matadors! Villamarti's troupe stood ready for his second bull. The
gates opened, and we saw Apis, beautifully balanced on his feet, peer
coquettishly round the corner, as though he were at home. A picador-a
mounted man with the long lance-goad-stood near the barrier on his
right. He had not even troubled to turn his horse, for the
capeadors-the men with the cloaks-were advancing to play Apis-to feel
his psychology and intentions, according to the rules that are made for
bulls who do not think...I did not realise the murder before it was
accomplished! The wheel, the rush, the oblique charge from behind, the
fall of horse and man were simultaneous. Apis leaped the horse, with
whom he had no quarrel, and alighted, all four feet together (it was
enough), between the man's shoulders, changed his beautiful feet on the
carcass, and was away, pretending to fall nearly on his nose. Do you
follow me? In that instant, by that stumble, he produced the impression
that his adorable assassination was a mere bestial blunder. Then,
Monsieur, I began to comprehend that it was an artist we had to deal
with. He did not stand over the body to draw the rest of the troupe. He
chose to reserve that trick. He let the attendants bear out the dead,
and went on to amuse himself among the capeadors. Now to Apis, trained
among our children in the yards, the cloak was simply a guide to the
boy behind it. He pursued, you understand, the person, not the
propaganda-the proprietor, not the journal. If a third of our electors
of France were as wise, my friend!...But it was done leisurely, with
humour and a touch of truculence. He romped after one man's cloak as a
clumsy dog might do, but I observed that he kept the man on his
terrible left side. Christophe whispered to me: "Wait for his mother's
kick. When he has made the fellow confident it will arrive." It arrived
in the middle of a gambol. My God! He lashed out in the air as he
frisked. The man dropped like a sack, lifted one hand a little towards
his head, and-that was all. So you see, a body was again at his
disposition; a second time the cloaks ran up to draw him off, but, a
second time, Apis refused his grand scene. A second time he acted that
his murder was accident and he convinced his audience! It was as though
he had knocked over a bridge-gate in the marshes by mistake.
Unbelievable? I saw it.' The memory sent Monsieur Voiron again to the
champagne, and I accompanied him. 'But Apis was not the sole artist
present. They say Villamarti comes of a family of actors. I saw him
regard Apis with a new eye. He, too, began to understand. He took his
cloak and moved out to play him before they should bring on another
picador. He had his reputation. Perhaps Apis knew it. Perhaps
Villamarti reminded him of some boy with whom he had practised at home.
At any rate Apis permitted it-up to a certain point; but he did not
allow Villamarti the stage. He cramped him throughout. He dived and
plunged clumsily and slowly, but always with menace and always closing
in. We could see that the man was conforming to the bull-not the bull
to the man; for Apis was playing him towards the centre of the ring,
and, in a little while-I watched his face-Villamarti knew it. But I
could not fathom the creature's motive. "Wait," said old Christophe.
"He wants that picador on the white horse yonder. When he reaches his
proper distance he will get him. Villamarti is his cover. He used me
once that way." And so it was, my friend! With the clang of one of our
own Seventy-fives, Apis dismissed Villamarti with his chest-breasted
him over-and had arrived at his objective near the barrier. The same
oblique charge; the head carried low for the sweep of the horns; the
immense sideways fall of the horse, broken-legged and half-paralysed;
the senseless man on the ground, and-behold Apis between them, backed
against the barrier-his right covered by the horse; his left by the
body of the man at his feet. The simplicity of it! Lacking the carts
and tractors of his early parade-grounds he, being a genius, had
extemporised with the materials at hand, and dug himself in. The troupe
closed up again, their left wing broken by the kicking horse, their
right immobilised by the man's body which Apis bestrode with
significance. Villamarti almost threw himself between the horns, but-it
was more an appeal than an attack. Apis refused him. He held his base.
A picador was sent at him-necessarily from the front, which alone was
open. Apis charged-he who, till then, you realise, had not used the
horn! The horse went over backwards, the man half beneath him. Apis
halted, hooked him under the heart, and threw him to the barrier. We
heard his head crack, but he was dead before he hit the wood. There was
no demonstration from the audience. They, also, had begun to realise
this Foch among bulls! The arena occupied itself again with the dead.
Two of the troupe irresolutely tried to play him-God knows in what
hope!- but he moved out to the centre of the ring. "Look!" said
Christophe. "Now he goes to clean himself. That always frightened me."
He knelt down; he began to clean his horns. The earth was hard. He
worried at it in an ecstasy of absorption. As he laid his head along
and rattled his ears, it was as though he were interrogating the Devils
themselves upon their secrets, and always saying impatiently: "Yes, I
know that- and that-and that! Tell me more-more!' In the silence that
covered us, a woman cried: "He digs a grave! Oh, Saints, he digs a
grave!" Some others echoed this-not loudly-as a wave echoes in a grotto
of the sea.' 'And when his horns were cleaned, he rose up and studied
poor Villamarti's troupe, eyes in eyes, one by one, with the gravity of
an equal in intellect and the remote and merciless resolution of a
master in his art. This was more terrifying than his toilette.' 'And
they-Villamarti's men?' I asked. 'Like the audience, were dominated.
They had ceased to posture, or stamp, or address insults to him. They
conformed to him. The two other matadors stared. Only Chisto, the
oldest, broke silence with some call or other, and Apis turned his head
towards him. Otherwise he was isolated, immobile-sombre-meditating on
those at his mercy. Ah! For some reason the trumpet sounded for the
banderillas-those gay hooked darts that are planted in the shoulders of
bulls who do not think, after their neck-muscles are tired by lifting
horses. When such bulls feel the pain, they check for an instant, and,
in that instant, the men step gracefully aside. Villamarti's
banderillero answered the trumpet mechanically-like one condemned. He
stood out, poised the darts and stammered the usual patter of
invitation...And after? I do not assert that Apis shrugged his
shoulders, but he reduced the episode to its lowest elements, as could
only a bull of Gaul. With his truculence was mingled always-owing to
the shortness of his tail-a certain Rabelaisian abandon, especially
when viewed from the rear. Christophe had often commented upon it. Now,
Apis brought that quality into play. He circulated round that boy,
forcing him to break up his beautiful poses. He studied him from
various angles, like an incompetent photographer. He presented to him
every portion of his anatomy except his shoulders. At intervals he
feigned to run in upon him. My God, he was cruel! But his motive was
obvious. He was playing for a laugh from the spectators which should
synchronise with the fracture of the human morale. It was achieved. The
boy turned and ran towards the barrier. Apis was on him before the
laugh ceased; passed him; headed him-what do I say?-herded him off to
the left, his horns beside and a little in front of his chest: he did
not intend him to escape into a refuge. Some of the troupe would have
closed in, but Villamarti cried: "If he wants him he will take him.
Stand!" They stood. Whether the boy slipped or Apis nosed him over I
could not see. But he dropped, sobbing. Apis halted like a car with
four brakes, struck a pose, smelt him very completely and turned away.
It was dismissal more ignominious than degradation at the head of one's
battalion. The representation was finished. Remained only for Apis to
clear his stage of the subordinate characters. 'Ah! His gesture then!
He gave a dramatic start-this Cyrano of the Camargue-as though he was
aware of them for the first time. He moved. All their beautiful
breeches twinkled for an instant along the top of the barrier. He held
the stage alone! But Christophe and I, we trembled! For, observe, he
had now involved himself in a stupendous drama of which he only could
supply the third act. And, except for an audience on the razor-edge of
emotion, he had exhausted his material. Moliere himself-we have
forgotten, my friend, to drink to the health of that great soul-might
have been at a loss. And Tragedy is but a step behind Failure. We could
see the four or five Civil Guards, who are sent always to keep order,
fingering the breeches of their rifles. They were but waiting a word
from the Mayor to fire on him, as they do sometimes at a bull who leaps
the barrier among the spectators. They would, of course, have killed or
wounded several people-but that would not have saved Apis.' Monsieur
Voiron drowned the thought at once, and wiped his beard. 'At that
moment Fate-the Genius of France, if you will-sent to assist in the
incomparable finale, none other than Chisto, the eldest, and I should
have said (but never again will I judge!) the least inspired of all;
mediocrity itself, but at heart-and it is the heart that conquers
always, my friend-at heart an artist. He descended stiffly into the
arena, alone and assured. Apis regarded him, his eyes in his eyes. The
man took stance, with his cloak, and called to the bull as to an equal:
"Now, Senor, we will show these honourable caballeros something
together." He advanced thus against this thinker who at a plunge-a
kick-a thrust-could, we all knew, have extinguished him. My dear
friend, I wish I could convey to you something of the unaffected
bonhomie, the humour, the delicacy, the consideration bordering on
respect even, with which Apis, the supreme artist, responded to this
invitation. It was the Master, wearied after a strenuous hour in the
atelier, unbuttoned and at ease with some not inexpert but limited
disciple. The telepathy was instantaneous between them. And for good
reason! Christophe said to me: "All's well. That Chisto began among the
bulls. I was sure of it when I heard him call just now. He has been a
herdsman. He'll pull it off." There was a little feeling and
adjustment, at first, for mutual distances and allowances. Oh, yes! And
here occurred a gross impertinence of Villamarti. He had, after an
interval, followed Chisto-to retrieve his reputation. My Faith! I can
conceive the elder Dumas slamming his door on an intruder precisely as
Apis did. He raced Villamarti into the nearest refuge at once. He
stamped his feet outside it, and he snorted: "Go! I am engaged with an
artist." Villamarti went-his reputation left behind for ever. 'Apis
returned to Chisto saying: "Forgive the interruption. I am not always
master of my time, but you were about to observe, my dear confrere...?"
Then the play began. Out of compliment to Chisto, Apis chose as his
objective (every bull varies in this respect) the inner edge of the
cloak-that nearest to the man's body. This allows but a few millimetres
clearance in charging. But Apis trusted himself as Chisto trusted him,
and, this time, he conformed to the man, with inimitable judgment and
temper. He allowed himself to be played into the shadow or the sun, as
the delighted audience demanded. He raged enormously; he feigned
defeat; he despaired in statuesque abandon, and thence flashed into
fresh paroxysms of wrath-but always with the detachment of the true
artist who knows he is but the vessel of an emotion whence others, not
he, must drink. And never once did he forget that honest Chisto's cloak
was to him the gauge by which to spare even a hair on the skin. He
inspired Chisto too. My God! His youth returned to that meritorious
beef-sticker-the desire, the grace, and the beauty of his early dreams.
One could almost see that girl of the past for whom he was rising,
rising to these present heights of skill and daring. It was his hour
too-a miraculous hour of dawn returned to gild the sunset. All he knew
was at Apis' disposition. Apis acknowledged it with all that he had
learned at home, at Arles and in his lonely murders on our
grazing-grounds. He flowed round Chisto like a river of death-round his
knees, leaping at his shoulders, kicking just clear of one side or the
other of his head; behind his back, hissing as he shaved by; and once
or twice- inimitable!-he reared wholly up before him while Chisto
slipped back from beneath the avalanche of that instructed body. Those
two, my dear friend, held five thousand people dumb with no sound but
of their breathings-regular as pumps. It was unbearable. Beast and man
realised together that we needed a change of note-a detente. They
relaxed to pure buffoonery. Chisto fell back and talked to him
outrageously. Apis pretended he had never heard such language. The
audience howled with delight. Chisto slapped him; he took liberties
with his short tail, to the end of which he clung while Apis
pirouetted; he played about him in all postures; he had become the
herdsman again-gross, careless, brutal, but comprehending. Yet Apis was
always the more consummate clown. All that time (Christophe and I saw
it) Apis drew off towards the gates of the toril where so many bulls
enter but-have you ever heard of one that returned? We knew that Apis
knew that as he had saved Chisto, so Chisto would save him. Life is
sweet to us all; to the artist who lives many lives in one, sweetest.
Chisto did not fail him. At the last, when none could laugh any longer,
the man threw his cape across the bull's back, his arm round his neck.
He flung up a hand at the gate, as Villamarti, young and commanding but
not a herdsman, might have raised it, and he cried: "Gentlemen, open to
me and my honourable little donkey." They opened-I have misjudged
Spaniards in my time!-those gates opened to the man and the bull
together, and closed behind them. And then? From the Mayor to the
Guardia Civil they went mad for five minutes, till the trumpets blew
and the fifth bull rushed out-an unthinking black Andalusian. I suppose
some one killed him. My friend, my very dear friend, to whom I have
opened my heart, I confess that I did not watch. Christophe and I, we
were weeping together like children of the same Mother. Shall we drink
Alnaschar and the Oxen
THERE'S a pasture in a valley where the hanging woods divide.
And a Herd lies down and ruminates in peace;
Where the pheasant rules the nooning, and the owl the twilight tide.
And the war-cries of our world die out and cease.
Here I cast aside the burden that each weary week-day brings
And, delivered from the shadows I pursue.
On peaceful, postless Sabbaths I consider Weighty Things--
Such as Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!
At the gate beside the river where the trouty shallows brawl.
I know the pride that Lobengula felt.
When he bade the bars be lowered of the Royal Cattle Kraal.
And fifteen mile of oxen took the veldt.
From the walls of Bulawayo in unbroken file they came
To where the Mount of Council cuts the blue...
I have only six and twenty, but the principle's the same
With my Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!
To a luscious sound of tearing, where the clovered herbage rips.
Level-backed and level-bellied watch 'em move--
See those shoulders, guess that heart-girth, praise those loins, admire those hips.
And the tail set low for flesh to make above!
Count the broad unblemished muzzles, test the kindly mellow skin
And, where yon heifer lifts her head at call.
Mark the bosom's just abundance 'neath the gay and clean-cut chin.
And those eyes of Juno, overlooking all
Here is colour, form and substance! I will put it to the proof
And, next season, in my lodges shall be born
Some very Bull of Mithras, flawless from his agate hoof
To his even-branching, ivory, dusk-tipped horn.
He shall mate with block-square virgins-kings shall seek his like in vain.
While I multiply his stock a thousandfold.
Till an hungry world extol me, builder of a lofty strain
That turns one standard ton at two years old
There's a valley, under oakwood, where a man may dream his dream.
In the milky breath of cattle laid at ease.
Till the moon o'ertops the alders, and her image chills the stream.
And the river-mist runs silver round their knees!
Now the footpaths fade and vanish; now the ferny clumps deceive;
Now the hedgerow folk possess their fields anew;
Now the Herd is lost in darkness, and I bless them as I leave.
My Sussex Cattle feeding in the dew!
UNLESS you come of the gipsy stock
That steals by night and day.
Lock your heart with a double lock
And throw the key away.
Bury it under the blackest stone
Beneath your father's hearth.
And keep your eyes on your lawful own
And your feet to the proper path.
Then you can stand at your door and mock
When the gipsy-vans come through...
For it isn't right that the Gorgio stock
Should live as the Romany do.
Unless you come of the gipsy blood
That takes and never spares.
Bide content with your given good
And follow your own affairs.
Plough and harrow and roll your land.
And sow what ought to be sowed;
But never let loose your heart from your hand.
Nor flitter it down the road
Then you can thrive on your boughten food
As the gipsy-vans come through...
For it isn't nature the Gorgio blood
Should love as the Romany do.
Unless you carry the gipsy eyes
That see but seldom weep.
Keep your head from the naked skies
Or the stars'll trouble your sleep.
Watch your moon through your window-pane
And take what weather she brews;
But don't run out in the midnight rain
Nor home in the morning dews.
Then you can huddle and shut your eves
As the gipsy-vans come through...
For it isn't fitting the Gorgio ryes
Should walk as the Romany do.
Unless you come of the gipsy race
That counts all time the same.
Be you careful of Time and Place
And Judgment and Good Name
Lose your life for to live your life
The way that you ought to do;
And when you are finished, your God and your wife
And the Gipsies 'll laugh at you!
Then you can rot in your burying place
As the gipsy-vans come through...
For it isn't reason the Gorgio race
Should die as the Romany do,
A Madonna of the Trenches
'Whatever a man of the sons of men
Shall say to his heart of the lords above.
They have shown man, verily, once and again.
Marvellous mercies and infinite love.
. . . . .
'O sweet one love, O my life's delight.
Dear, though the days have divided us.
Lost beyond hope, taken far out of sight.
Not twice in the world shall the Gods do thus.'
SWINBURNE, 'Les Noyades.'
SEEING how many unstable ex-soldiers came to the Lodge of
Instruction (attached to Faith and Works E.C. 5837*) in the years after
the war, the wonder is there was not more trouble from Brethren whom
sudden meetings with old comrades jerked back into their still raw
past. But our round, torpedo-bearded local Doctor-Brother Keede, Senior
Warden- always stood ready to deal with hysteria before it got out of
hand; and when I examined Brethren unknown or imperfectly vouched for
on the Masonic side, I passed on to him anything that seemed doubtful.
He had had his experience as medical officer of a South London
Battalion, during the last two years of the war; and, naturally, often
found friends and acquaintances among the visitors.
Brother C. Strangwick, a young, tallish, new-made Brother, hailed
from some South London Lodge. His papers and his answers were above
suspicion, but his red-rimmed eyes had a puzzled glare that might mean
nerves. So I introduced him particularly to Keede, who discovered in
him a Headquarters Orderly of his old Battalion, congratulated him on
his return to fitness-he had been discharged for some infirmity or
other-and plunged at once into Somme memories.
'I hope I did right, Keede,' I said when we were robing before
'Oh, quite. He reminded me that I had him under my hands at Sampoux
in 'Eighteen, when he went to bits. He was a Runner.'
'Was it shock?' I asked.
'Of sorts-but not what he wanted me to think it was. No, he wasn't
shamming. He had jumps to the limit-but he played up to mislead me
about the reason of 'em...Well, if we could stop patients from lying,
medicine would be too easy, I suppose.'
I noticed that, after Lodge-working, Keede gave him a seat a couple
of rows in front of us, that he might enjoy a lecture on the
Orientation of King Solomon's Temple, which an earnest Brother thought
would be a nice interlude between Labour and the high tea that we
called our 'Banquet.' Even helped by tobacco it was a dreary
performance. About half-way through, Strangwick, who had been fidgeting
and twitching for some minutes, rose, drove back his chair grinding
across the tesselated floor, and yelped 'Oh, My Aunt! I can't stand
this any longer.' Under cover of a general laugh of assent he brushed
past us and stumbled towards the door.
'I thought so!' Keede whispered to me. 'Come along!' We overtook him
in the passage, crowing hysterically and wringing his hands. Keede led
him into the Tyler's Room, a small office where we stored odds and ends
of regalia and furniture, and locked the door.
'I'm-I'm all right,' the boy began, piteously.
''Course you are.' Keede opened a small cupboard which I had seen
called upon before, mixed sal volatile and water in a graduated glass,
and, as Strangwick drank, pushed him gently on to an old sofa. 'There,'
he went on. 'It's nothing to write home about. I've seen you ten times
worse. I expect our talk has brought things back.'
He hooked up a chair behind him with one foot, held the patient's
hands in his own, and sat down. The chair creaked.
'Don't!' Strangwick squealed. 'I can't stand it! There's nothing on
earth creaks like they do! And-and when it thaws we-we've got to slap
'em back with a spa-ade! 'Remember those Frenchmen's little boots under
the duckboards?...What'll I do? What'll I do about it?'
Some one knocked at the door, to know if all were well.
'Oh, quite, thanks!' said Keede over his shoulder. 'But I shall need
this room awhile. Draw the curtains, please.'
We heard the rings of the hangings that drape the passage from Lodge
to Banquet Room click along their poles, and what sound there had been,
of feet and voices, was shut off.
Strangwick, retching impotently, complained of the frozen dead who
creak in the frost.
'He's playing up still,' Keede whispered. 'That's not his real
trouble-any more than 'twas last time.'
'But surely,' I replied, 'men get those things on the brain pretty
badly. 'Remember in October--'
'This chap hasn't, though. I wonder what's really helling him. What
are you thinking of?' said Keede peremptorily.
'French End an' Butcher's Row,' Strangwick muttered.
'Yes, there were a few there. But suppose we face Bogey instead of
giving him best every time.' Keede turned towards me with a hint in his
eye that I was to play up to his leads.
'What was the trouble with French End?' I opened at a venture.
'It was a bit by Sampoux, that we had taken over from the French.
They're tough, but you wouldn't call 'em tidy as a nation. They had
faced both sides of it with dead to keep the mud back. All those
trenches were like gruel in a thaw. Our people had to do the same sort
of thing-elsewhere; but Butcher's Row in French End was the-er-show-
piece. Luckily, we pinched a salient from Jerry just then, an'
straightened things out-so we didn't need to use the Row after
November. You remember, Strangwick?'
'My God, yes! When the Buckboard-slats were missin' you'd tread on
'em, an' they'd creak.'
'They're bound to. Like leather,' said Keede. 'It gets on one's
nerves a bit, but--'
'Nerves? It's real! It's real!' Strangwick gulped.
'But at your time of life, it'll all fall behind you in a year or
so. I'll give you another sip of-paregoric, an' we'll face it quietly.
Keede opened his cupboard again and administered a carefully dropped
dark dose of something that was not sal volatile. 'This'll settle you
in a few minutes,' he explained. 'Lie still, an' don't talk unless you
feel like it.'
He faced me, fingering his beard.
'Ye-es. Butcher's Row wasn't pretty,' he volunteered. 'Seeing
Strangwick here, has brought it all back to me again. 'Funny thing! We
had a Platoon Sergeant of Number Two-what the deuce was his name?-an
elderly bird who must have lied like a patriot to get out to the front
at his age; but he was a first-class Non-Com., and the last person,
you'd think, to make mistakes. Well, he was due for a fortnight's home
leave in January, 'Eighteen. You were at B.H.Q. then, Strangwick,
'Yes. I was Orderly. It was January twenty-first'; Strangwick spoke
with a thickish tongue, and his eyes burned. Whatever drug it was, had
'About then,' Keede said. 'Well, this Sergeant, instead of coming
down from the trenches the regular way an' joinin' Battalion Details
after dark, an' takin' that funny little train for Arras, thinks he'll
warm himself first. So he gets into a dug-out, in Butcher's Row, that
used to be an old French dressing-station, and fugs up between a couple
of braziers of pure charcoal! As luck 'ud have it, that was the only
dug- out with an inside door opening inwards-some French anti-gas
fitting, I expect-and, by what we could make out, the door must have
swung to while he was warming. Anyhow, he didn't turn up at the train.
There was a search at once. We couldn't afford to waste Platoon
Sergeants. We found him in the morning. He'd got his gas all right. A
machine- gunner reported him, didn't he, Strangwick?'
'No, Sir. Corporal Grant-o' the Trench Mortars.'
'So it was. Yes, Grant-the man with that little wen on his neck.
'Nothing wrong with your memory, at any rate. What was the Sergeant's
'Godsoe-John Godsoe,' Strangwick answered.
'Yes, that was it. I had to see him next mornin'-frozen stiff
between the two braziers-and not a scrap of private papers on him. That
was the only thing that made me think it mightn't have been-quite an
Strangwick's relaxing face set, and he threw back at once to the
Orderly Room manner.
'I give my evidence-at the time-to you, sir. He passed-overtook me,
I should say-comin' down from supports, after I'd warned him for leaf.
I thought he was goin' through Parrot Trench as usual; but 'e must 'ave
turned off into French End where the old bombed barricade was.'
'Yes. I remember now. You were the last man to see him alive. That
was on the twenty-first of January, you say? Now, when was it that
Dearlove and Billings brought you to me-clean out of your head?'...
Keede dropped his hand, in the style of magazine detectives, on
Strangwick's shoulder. The boy looked at him with cloudy wonder, and
muttered: 'I was took to you on the evenin' of the twenty-fourth of
January. But you don't think I did him in, do you?'
I could not help smiling at Keede's discomfiture; but he recovered
himself. 'Then what the dickens was on your mind that evening-before I
gave you the hypodermic?'
'The-the things in Butcher's Row. They kept on comin' over me.
You've seen me like this before, sir.'
'But I knew that it was a lie. You'd no more got stiffs on the brain
then than you have now. You've got something, but you're hiding
''Ow do you know, Doctor?' Strangwick whimpered.
'D'you remember what you said to me, when Dearlove and Billings were
holding you down that evening?'
'About the things in Butcher's Row?'
'Oh, no! You spun me a lot of stuff about corpses creaking; but you
let yourself go in the middle of it-when you pushed that telegram at
me. What did you mean, f'rinstance, by asking what advantage it was for
you to fight beasts of officers if the dead didn't rise?'
'Did I say "Beasts of Officers"?'
'You did. It's out of the Burial Service.'
'I suppose, then, I must have heard it. As a matter of fact, I
'ave.' Strangwick shuddered extravagantly.
'Probably. And there's another thing-that hymn you were shouting
till I put you under. It was something about Mercy and Love. 'Remember
'I'll try,' said the boy obediently, and began to paraphrase, as
nearly as possible thus: '"Whatever a man may say in his heart unto the
Lord, yea, verily I say unto you-Gawd hath shown man, again and again,
marvellous mercy an'-an' somethin' or other love."' He screwed up his
eyes and shook.
'Now where did you get that from?' Keede insisted.
'From Godsoe-on the twenty-first Jan...'Ow could I tell what 'e
meant to do?' he burst out in a high, unnatural key-'Any more than I
knew she was dead.'
'Who was dead?' said Keede.
'Me Auntie Armine.'
'The one the telegram came to you about, at Sampoux, that you wanted
me to explain-the one that you were talking of in the passage out here
just now when you began: "O Auntie," and changed it to "O Gawd," when I
'That's her! I haven't a chance with you, Doctor. I didn't know
there was anything wrong with those braziers. How could I? We're always
usin' 'em. Honest to God, I thought at first go-off he might wish to
warm himself before the leaf-train. I-I didn't know Uncle John meant to
start-'ouse-keepin'.' He laughed horribly, and then the dry tears
Keede waited for them to pass in sobs and hiccoughs before he
continued: 'Why? Was Godsoe your Uncle?'
'No,' said Strangwick, his head between his hands. 'Only we'd known
him ever since we were born. Dad 'ad known him before that. He lived
almost next street to us. Him an' Dad an' Ma an'-an' the rest had
always been friends. So we called him Uncle-like children do.'
'What sort of man was he?'
'One o' the best, sir. 'Pensioned Sergeant with a little money left
him-quite independent-and very superior. They had a sittin'-room full
o' Indian curios that him and his wife used to let sister an' me see
when we'd been good.'
'Wasn't he rather old to join up?'
'That made no odds to him. He joined up as Sergeant Instructor at
the first go-off, an' when the Battalion was ready he got 'imself sent
along. He wangled me into 'is Platoon when I went out-early in
'Seventeen. Because Ma wanted it, I suppose.'
'I'd no notion you knew him that well,' was Keede's comment.
'Oh, it made no odds to him. He 'ad no pets in the Platoon, but 'e'd
write 'ome to Ma about me an' all the doin's. You see'-Strangwick
stirred uneasily on the sofa-'we'd known him all our lives-lived in the
next street an' all...An' him well over fifty. Oh dear me! Oh dear me!
What a bloody mix-up things are, when one's as young as me!' he wailed
of a sudden.
But Keede held him to the point. 'He wrote to your Mother about
'Yes. Ma's eyes had gone bad followin' on air-raids. 'Blood-vessels
broke behind 'em from sittin' in cellars an' bein' sick. She had to
'ave 'er letters read to her by Auntie. Now I think of it, that was the
only thing that you might have called anything at all--'
'Was that the Aunt that died, and that you got the wire about?'
Keede drove on.
'Yes--Auntie Armine--Ma's younger sister, an' she nearer fifty than
forty. What a mix-up! An' if I'd been asked any time about it, I'd 'ave
sworn there wasn't a single sol'tary item concernin' her that everybody
didn't know an' hadn't known all along. No more conceal to her doin's
than-than so much shop-front. She'd looked after sister an' me, when
needful-whoopin' cough an' measles just the same as Ma. We was in an'
out of her house like rabbits. You see, Uncle Armine is a
cabinet-maker, an' second-'and furniture, an' we liked playin' with the
things. She 'ad no children, and when the war came, she said she was
glad of it. But she never talked much of her feelin's. She kept herself
to herself, you understand.' He stared most earnestly at us to help out
'What was she like?' Keede inquired.
'A biggish woman, an' had been 'andsome, I believe, but, bein' used
to her, we two didn't notice much-except, per'aps, for one thing. Ma
called her 'er proper name, which was Bella; but Sis an' me always
called 'er Auntie Armine. See?'
'We thought it sounded more like her-like somethin' movin' slow, in
'Oh! And she read your letters to your mother, did she?'
'Every time the post came in she'd slip across the road from
opposite an' read 'em. An'-an' I'll go bail for it that that was all
there was to it for as far back as I remember. Was I to swing
to-morrow, I'd go bail for that! 'Tisn't fair of 'em to 'ave unloaded
it all on me, because-because-if the dead do rise, why, what in 'ell
becomes of me an' all I've believed all me life? I want to know that!
But Keede would not be put off. 'Did the Sergeant give you away at
all in his letters?' he demanded, very quietly.
'There was nothin' to give away-we was too busy-but his letters
about me were a great comfort to Ma. I'm no good at writin'. I saved it
all up for my leafs. I got me fourteen days every six months an' one
over...I was luckier than most, that way.'
'And when you came home, used you to bring 'em news about the
Sergeant?' said Keede.
'I expect I must have; but I didn't think much of it at the time. I
was took up with me own affairs-naturally. Uncle John always wrote to
me once each leaf, tellin' me what was doin' an' what I was li'ble to
expect on return, an' Ma 'ud 'ave that read to her. Then o' course I
had to slip over to his wife an' pass her the news. An' then there was
the young lady that I'd thought of marryin' if I came through. We'd got
as far as pricin' things in the windows together.'
'And you didn't marry her-after all?'
Another tremor shook the boy. 'No!' he cried. ''Fore it ended, I
knew what reel things reelly mean! I-I never dreamed such things could
be! ...An' she nearer fifty than forty an' me own Aunt!...But there
wasn't a sign nor a hint from first to last, so 'ow could I tell? Don't
you see it? All she said to me after me Christmas leaf in' '18, when I
come to say good-bye-all Auntie Armine said to me was: "You'll be
seein' Mister Godsoe soon?" "Too soon for my likings," I says." Well
then, tell 'im from me," she says, "that I expect to be through with my
little trouble by the twenty-first of next month, an' I'm dyin' to see
him as soon as possible after that date."'
'What sort of trouble was it?' Keede turned professional at
'She'd 'ad a bit of a gatherin' in 'er breast, I believe. But she
never talked of 'er body much to any one.'
''see,' said Keede. 'And she said to you?'
Strangwick repeated: '"Tell Uncle John I hope to be finished of my
drawback by the twenty-first, an' I'm dying to see 'im as soon as 'e
can after that date." An' then she says, laughin': "But you've a head
like a sieve. I'll write it down, an' you can give it him when you see
'im." So she wrote it on a bit o' paper an' I kissed 'er good-bye-I was
always her favourite, you see-an' I went back to Sampoux. The thing
hardly stayed in my mind at all, d'you see. But the next time I was up
in the front line-I was a Runner, d'ye see-our platoon was in North Bay
Trench an' I was up with a message to the Trench Mortar there that
Corporal Grant was in charge of. Followin' on receipt of it, he
borrowed a couple of men off the platoon, to slue 'er round or
somethin'. I give Uncle John Auntie Armine's paper, an' I give Grant a
fag, an' we warmed up a bit over a brazier. Then Grant says to me: "I
don't like it"; an' he jerks 'is thumb at Uncle John in the bay
studyin' Auntie's message. Well, you know, sir, you had to speak to
Grant about 'is way of prophesyin' things-after Rankine shot himself
with the Very light.'
'I did,' said Keede, and he explained to me 'Grant had the Second
Sight-confound him! It upset the men. I was glad when he got pipped.
What happened after that, Strangwick?'
'Grant whispers to me: "Look, you damned Englishman. 'E's for it."
Uncle John was leanin' up against the bay, an' hummin' that hymn I was
tryin' to tell you just now. He looked different all of a sudden-as if
'e'd got shaved. I don't know anything of these things, but I cautioned
Grant as to his style of speakin', if an officer 'ad 'eard him, an' I
went on. Passin' Uncle John in the bay, 'e nods an' smiles, which he
didn't often, an' he says, pocketin' the paper "This suits me. I'm for
leaf on the twenty-first, too."'
'He said that to you, did he?' said Keede.
'Precisely the same as passin' the time o' day. O' course I returned
the agreeable about hopin' he'd get it, an' in due course I returned to
'Eadquarters. The thing 'ardly stayed in my mind a minute. That was the
eleventh January-three days after I'd come back from leaf. You
remember, sir, there wasn't anythin' doin' either side round Sampoux
the first part o' the month. Jerry was gettin' ready for his March
Push, an' as long as he kept quiet, we didn't want to poke 'im up.'
'I remember that,' said Keede. 'But what about the Sergeant?'
'I must have met him, on an' off, I expect, goin' up an' down,
through the ensuin' days, but it didn't stay in me mind. Why needed it?
And on the twenty-first Jan., his name was on the leaf-paper when I
went up to warn the leaf-men. I noticed that, o' course. Now that very
afternoon Jerry 'ad been tryin' a new trench-mortar, an' before our
'Eavies could out it, he'd got a stinker into a bay an' mopped up 'alf
a dozen. They were bringin' 'em down when I went up to the supports,
an' that blocked Little Parrot, same as it always did. You remember,
'Rather! And there was that big machine-gun behind the Half-House
waiting for you if you got out,' said Keede.
'I remembered that too. But it was just on dark an' the fog was
comin' off the Canal, so I hopped out of Little Parrot an' cut across
the open to where those four dead Warwicks are heaped up. But the fog
turned me round, an' the next thing I knew I was knee-over in that old
'alf-trench that runs west o' Little Parrot into French End. I dropped
into it-almost atop o' the machine-gun platform by the side o' the old
sugar boiler an' the two Zoo-ave skel'tons. That gave me my bearin's,
an' so I went through French End, all up those missin' Buckboards, into
Butcher's Row where the poy-looz was laid in six deep each side, an'
stuffed under the Buckboards. It had froze tight, an' the drippin's had
stopped, an' the creakin's had begun.'
'Did that really worry you at the time?' Keede asked.
'No,' said the boy with professional scorn. 'If a Runner starts
noticin' such things he'd better chuck. In the middle of the Row, just
before the old dressin'-station you referred to, sir, it come over me
that somethin' ahead on the Buckboards was just like Auntie Armine,
waitin' beside the door; an' I thought to meself 'ow truly comic it
would be if she could be dumped where I was then. In 'alf a second I
saw it was only the dark an' some rags o' gas-screen, 'angin' on a bit
of board, 'ad played me the trick. So I went on up to the supports an'
warned the leaf-men there, includin' Uncle John. Then I went up Rake
Alley to warn 'em in the front line. I didn't hurry because I didn't
want to get there till Jerry 'ad quieted down a bit. Well, then a
Company Relief dropped in-an' the officer got the wind up over some
lights on the flank, an' tied 'em into knots, an' I 'ad to hunt up me
leaf-men all over the blinkin' shop. What with one thing an' another,
it must 'ave been 'alf-past eight before I got back to the supports.
There I run across Uncle John, scrapm' mud off himself, havin' shaved-
quite the dandy. He asked about the Arras train, an' I said, if Jerry
was quiet, it might be ten o'clock. "Good!" says 'e. "I'll come with
you." So we started back down the old trench that used to run across
Halnaker, back of the support dug-outs. You know, sir.'
'Then Uncle John says something to me about seein' Ma an' the rest
of 'em in a few days, an' had I any messages for 'em? Gawd knows what
made me do it, but I told 'im to tell Auntie Armine I never expected to
see anything like her up in our part of the world. And while I told him
I laughed. That's the last time I 'ave laughed." Oh-you've seen 'er,
'ave you? says he, quite natural-like. Then I told 'im about the
sand-bags an' rags in the dark, playin' the trick. "Very likely," says
he, brushin' the mud off his putties. By this time, we'd got to the
corner where the old barricade into French End was-before they bombed
it down, sir. He turns right an' climbs across it. "No, thanks," says
I. "I've been there once this evenin'." But he wasn't attendin' to me.
He felt behind the rubbish an' bones just inside the barricade, an'
when he straightened up, he had a full brazier in each hand.
'"Come on, Clem," he says, an' he very rarely give me me own name.
"You aren't afraid, are you?" he says. "It's just as short, an' if
Jerry starts up again he won't waste stuff here. He knows it's
abandoned." "Who's afraid now?" I says. "Me for one," says he. "I don't
want my leaf spoiled at the last minute." Then 'e wheels round an'
speaks that bit you said come out o' the Burial Service.'
For some reason Keede repeated it in full, slowly: 'If after the
manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it
me, if the dead rise not?'
'That's it,' said Strangwick. 'So we went down French End together-
everything froze up an' quiet, except for their creakin's. I remember
thinkin'--' his eyes began to flicker.
'Don't think. Tell what happened,' Keede ordered.
'Oh! Beg y' pardon! He went on with his braziers, hummin' his hymn,
down Butcher's Row. Just before we got to the old dressin'station he
stops and sets 'em down an' says "Where did you say she was, Clem? Me
eyes ain't as good as they used to be."
'"In 'er bed at 'ome," I says. "Come on down. It's perishin' cold,
an' I'm not due for leaf."
'"Well, I am," 'e says. "I am..." An' then-'give you me word I
didn't recognise the voice-he stretches out 'is neck a bit, in a way 'e
'ad, an' he says: "Why, Bella!" 'e says. "Oh, Bella!" 'e says. "Thank
Gawd!" 'e says. Just like that! An' then I saw-I tell you I saw-Auntie
Armine herself standin' by the old dressin'station door where first I'd
thought I'd seen her. He was lookin' at 'er an' she was lookin' at him.
I saw it, an' me soul turned over inside me because-because it knocked
out everything I'd believed in. I 'ad nothin' to lay 'old of, d'ye see?
An' 'e was lookin' at 'er as though he could 'ave et 'er, an' she was
lookin' at 'im the same way, out of 'er eyes. Then he says: "Why,
Bella," 'e says, "this must be only the second time we've been alone
together in all these years." An' I saw 'er half hold out her arms to
'im in that perishin' cold. An' she nearer fifty than forty an' me own
Aunt! You can shop me for a lunatic to-morrow, but I saw it-I saw 'er
answerin' to his spoken word... Then 'e made a snatch to unsling 'is
rifle. Then 'e cuts 'is hand away saying: "No! Don't tempt me, Bella.
We've all Eternity ahead of us. An hour or two won't make any odds."
Then he picks up the braziers an' goes on to the dug-out door. He'd
finished with me. He pours petrol on 'em, an' lights it with a match,
an' carries 'em inside, flarin'. All that time Auntie Armine stood with
'er arms out-an' a look in 'er face! I didn't know such things was or
could be! Then he comes out an' says: "Come in, my dear"; an' she
stoops an' goes into the dug-out with that look on her face-that look
on her face! An' then 'e shuts the door from inside an' starts wedgin'
it up. So 'elp me Gawd, I saw an' 'eard all these things with my own
eyes an' ears!'
He repeated his oath several times. After a long pause Keede asked
him if he recalled what happened next.
'It was a bit of a mix-up, for me, from then on. I must have carried
on-they told me I did, but-but I was-I felt a-a long way inside of
meself, like-if you've ever had that feelin'. I wasn't rightly on the
spot at all. They woke me up sometime next morning, because 'e 'adn't
showed up at the train; an' some one had seen him with me. I wasn't
'alf cross-examined by all an' sundry till dinner-time.
'Then, I think, I volunteered for Dearlove, who 'ad a sore toe, for
a front-line message. I had to keep movin', you see, because I hadn't
anything to hold on to. Whilst up there, Grant informed me how he'd
found Uncle John with the door wedged an' sand-bags stuffed in the
cracks. I hadn't waited for that. The knockin' when 'e wedged up was
enough for me. 'Like Dad's coffin.'
'No one told me the door had been wedged.' Keede spoke severely.
'No need to black a dead man's name, sir.'
'What made Grant go to Butcher's Row?'
'Because he'd noticed Uncle John had been pinchin' charcoal for a
week past an' layin' it up behind the old barricade there. So when the
'unt began, he went that way straight as a string, an' when he saw the
door shut, he knew. He told me he picked the sand-bags out of the
cracks an' shoved 'is hand through and shifted the wedges before any
one come along. It looked all right. You said yourself, sir, the door
must 'ave blown to.'
'Grant knew what Godsoe meant, then?' Keede snapped.
'Grant knew Godsoe was for it; an' nothin' earthly could 'elp or
'inder. He told me so.'
'And then what did you do?'
'I expect I must 'ave kept on carryin' on, till Headquarters give me
that wire from Ma-about Auntie Armine dyin'.'
'When had your Aunt died?'
'On the mornin' of the twenty-first. The mornin' of the 21st! That
tore it, d'ye see? As long as I could think, I had kep' tellin' myself
it was like those things you lectured about at Arras when we was
billeted in the cellars-the Angels of Mons, and so on. But that wire
'Oh! Hallucinations! I remember. And that wire tore it?' said
'Yes! You see'-he half lifted himself off the sofa-'there wasn't a
single gor-dam thing left abidin' for me to take hold of, here or
hereafter. If the dead do rise-and I saw 'em-why-why, anything can
'appen. Don't you understand?'
He was on his feet now, gesticulating stiffly.
'For I saw 'er,' he repeated. 'I saw 'im an' 'er-she dead since
mornin' time, an' he killin' 'imself before my livin' eyes so's to
carry on with 'er for all Eternity-an' she 'oldin' out 'er arms for it!
I want to know where I'm at! Look 'ere, you two-why stand we in
jeopardy every hour?'
'God knows,' said Keede to himself.
'Hadn't we better ring for some one?' I suggested. 'He'll go off the
handle in a second.'
'No, he won't. It's the last kick-up before it takes hold. I know
how the stuff works. Hul-lo!'
Strangwick, his hands behind his back and his eyes set, gave tongue
in the strained, cracked voice of a boy reciting. 'Not twice in the
world shall the Gods do thus,' he cried again and again.
'And I'm damned if it's goin' to be even once for me!' he went on
with sudden insane fury. 'I don't care whether we 'ave been pricin'
things in the windows...Let 'er sue if she likes! She don't know what
reel things mean. I do-I've 'ad occasion to notice 'em...No, I tell
you! I'll 'ave 'em when I want 'em, an' be done with 'em; but not till
I see that look on a face...that look...I'm not takin' any. The reel
thing's life an' death. It begins at death, d'ye see. She can't
understand...Oh, go on an' push off to Hell, you an' your lawyers. I'm
fed up with it-fed up!'
He stopped as abruptly as he had started, and the drawn face broke
back to its natural irresolute lines. Keede, holding both his hands,
led him back to the sofa, where he dropped like a wet towel, took out
some flamboyant robe from a press, and drew it neatly over him.
'Ye-es. That's the real thing at last,' said Keede. 'Now he's got it
off his mind he'll sleep. By the way, who introduced him?'
'Shall I go and find out?' I suggested.
'Yes; and you might ask him to come here. There's no need for us to
stand to all night.'
So I went to the Banquet, which was in full swing, and was seized by
an elderly, precise Brother from a South London Lodge, who followed me,
concerned and apologetic. Keede soon put him at his ease.
'The boy's had trouble,' our visitor explained. 'I'm most mortified
he should have performed his bad turn here. I thought he'd put it
'I expect talking about old days with me brought it all back,' said
Keede. 'It does sometimes.'
'Maybe! Maybe! But over and above that, Clem's had post-war trouble,
'Can't he get a job? He oughtn't to let that weigh on him, at his
time of life,' said Keede cheerily.
''Tisn't that-he's provided for-but '-he coughed confidentially
behind his dry hand-'as a matter of fact, Worshipful Sir, he's-he's
implicated for the present in a little breach of promise action.'
'Ah! That's a different thing,' said Keede.
'Yes. That's his reel trouble. No reason given, you understand. The
young lady in every way suitable, an' she'd make him a good little wife
too, if I'm any judge. But he says she ain't his ideel or something.
'No getting at what's in young people's minds these days, is
'I'm afraid there isn't,' said Keede. 'But he's all right now. He'll
sleep. You sit by him, and when he wakes, take him home quietly... Oh,
we're used to men getting a little upset here. You've nothing to thank
us for, Brother-Brother--'
'Armine,' said the old gentleman. 'He's my nephew by marriage.'
'That's all that's wanted!' said Keede.
Brother Armine looked a little puzzled. Keede hastened to explain.
'As I was saying, all he wants now is to be kept quiet till he
Act V. scene 3
After the Battle. The PRINCESS by the Standard on the Ravelin.
Enter Gow, with the Crown of the Kingdom.
GOW. Here's earnest of the Queen's submission.
This by her last herald-and in haste.
PRINCESS. 'Twas ours already. Where is the woman?
GOW. 'Fled with her horse. They broke at dawn.
Noon has not struck, and you're Queen questionless.
PRINCESS. By you-through you. How shall I honour you?
GOW. Me? But for what?
PRINCESS. For all-all-all--
Since the realm sunk beneath us! Hear him! For what?'
Your body 'twixt my bosom and her knife.
Your lips on the cup she proffered for my death;
Your one cloak over me, that night in the snows
We held the Pass at Bargi. Every hour
New strengths, to this most unbelievable last.
'Honour him?' I will honour-will honour you--...
'Tis at your choice.
GOW. Child, mine was long ago.
(Enter FERDINAND, as from horse.)
But here's one worthy honour. Welcome, Fox!
FERDINAND. And to you, Watchdog. This day clenches all.
We've made it and seen it.
GOW. Is the city held?
FERDINAND. Loyally. Oh, they're drunk with loyalty yonder.
A virtuous mood. Your bombards helped 'em to it...
But here's my word for you. The Lady Frances--
PRINCESS. I left her sick in the city. No harm, I pray.
FERDINAND. Nothing that she called harm. In truth, so little
That (to Gow) I am bidden tell you, she'll be here
Almost as soon as I.
GOW. She says it?
This. (Gives him letter.) Yester eve. 'Twas given me by the priest-
He with her in her hour.
GOW. So? (Reads) So it is.
She will be here. (To Ferdinand) And all is safe in the city?
FERDINAND. As thy long sword and my lean wits can make it.
You've naught to stay for. Is it the road again?
GOW. Ay. This time, not alone...She will be here.
PRINCESS. I am here. You have not looked at me awhile.
GOW. The rest is with you, Ferdinand...
PRINCESS. And at my service more than ever. I claim--
(Our wars have taught me)-being your Queen, now, claim
You wholly mine.
GOW. Then free...She will be here! A little while--
PRINCESS (to FERDINAND). He looks beyond, not at me.
We are not so young as once was. 'Two days' fight-
A worthy servitor-to be allowed
PRINCESS. I have offered him all he would.
FERDINAND. He takes what he has taken.
(The Spirit of the LADY FRANCES appears to Gow.)
FERDINAND. An old head-blow, maybe. He has dealt in them.
GOW (to the Spirit). What can the Grave against us, O my Heart.
Comfort and light and reason in all things
Visible and invisible-my one God?
Thou that wast I these barren unyoked years
Of triflings now at end! Frances!
PRINCESS. She's old.
FERDINAND. True. By most reckonings old.
They must keep other count.
PRINCESS. He kisses his hand to the air!
FERDINAND. His ring, rather, he kisses. Yes-for sure-the ring.
GOW. Dear and most dear. And now, those very arms. (Dies.)
PRINCESS. Oh, look! He faints. Haste, you! Unhelm him! Help!
FERDINAND. Needless. No help
Avails against that poison. He is sped.
PRINCESS. By his own hand? This hour? When I had offered--
FERDINAND. He had made other choice-an old, old choice.
Ne'er swerved from, and now patently sealed in death.
PRINCESS. He called on-the Lady Frances was it? Wherefore?
FERDINAND. Because she was his life. Forgive, my friend--(covers Gow's face)
God's uttermost beyond me in all faith.
Service and passion-if I unveil at last
The secret. (To the Princess) Thought-dreamed you, it was for you
He poured himself-for you resoldered the Crown?
Struck here, held there, amended, broke, built up
His multiplied imaginings for you?
PRINCESS. I thought-I thought he--
FERDINAND. Looked beyond. Her wish
Was the sole Law he knew. She did not choose
Your House should perish. Therefore he bade it stand.
Enough for him when she had breathed a word
'Twas his to make it iron, stone, or fire.
Driving our flesh and blood before his ways
As the wind straws. Her one face unregarded
Waiting you with your mantle or your glove-
That is the God whom he is gone to worship.
(Trumpets without. Enter the Prince's Heralds.)
And here's the work of Kingship begun again.
These from the Prince of Bargi-to whose sword
You owe such help as may, he thinks, be paid...
He's equal in blood, in fortune more than peer.
Young, most well favoured, with a heart to love-
And two States in the balance. Do you meet him?
PRINCESS. God and my Misery! I have seen Love at last.
What shall content me after?
THE miracle of our land's speech-so known
And long received, none marvel when 'tis shown!
We have such wealth as Rome at her most pride
Had not or (having) scattered not so wide;
Nor with such arrant prodigality
Beneath her any pagan's foot let lie...
Lo! Diamond that cost some half their days
To find and t'other half to bring to blaze
Rubies of every heat, wherethrough we scan
The fiercer and more fiery heart of man
Emerald that with the uplifted billow vies.
And Sapphires evening remembered skies
Pearl perfect, as immortal tears must show.
Bred, in deep waters, of a piercing woe;
And tender Turkis, so with charms y-writ.
Of woven gold, Time dares not bite on it.
Thereafter, in all manners worked and set.
Jade, coral, amber, crystal, ivories, jet,-
Showing no more than various fancies, yet
Each a Life's token or Love's amulet...
Which things, through timeless arrogance of use.
We neither guard nor garner, but abuse;
So that our scholars-nay, our children-fling
In sport or jest treasure to arm a King;
And the gross crowd, at feast or market, hold
Traffic perforce with dust of gems and gold!
The Propagation of Knowledge
THE Army Class 'English,' which included the Upper Fifth, was trying
to keep awake; for 'English' (Literature-Augustan epoch-eighteenth
century came at last lesson, and that, on a blazing July afternoon;
meant after every one had been bathing. Even Mr. King found it hard to
fight against the snore of the tide along the Pebble Ridge, and spurred
himself with strong words.
Since, said he, the pearls of English Literature existed only to be
wrenched from their settings and cast before young swine rooting for
marks, it was his loathed business-in anticipation of the Army
Preliminary Examination which, as usual, would be held at the term's
end, under the auspices of an official examiner sent down ad hoc-to
prepare for the Form a General Knowledge test-paper, which he would
give them next week. It would cover their studies, up to date, of the
Augustans and King Lear, which was the selected-and strictly
expurgated-Army Exam, play for that year. Now, English Literature, as
he might have told them, was not divided into water-tight compartments,
but flowed like a river. For example, Samuel Johnson, glory of the
Augustans and no mean commentator of Shakespeare, was but one in a
mighty procession which--
At this point Beetle's nodding brows came down with a grunt on the
desk. He had been soaking and sunning himself in the open sea-baths
built out on the rocks under the cliffs, from two-fifteen to four-
The Army Class took Johnson off their minds. With any luck, Beetle
would last King till the tea-bell. King rubbed his hands and began to
carve him. He had gone to sleep to show his contempt (a) for Mr. King,
who might or might not matter, and (b) for the Augustans, who none the
less were not to be sneered at by one whose vast and omnivorous
reading, for which such extraordinary facilities had been granted (this
was because the Head had allowed Beetle the run of his library),
naturally overlooked such epigonoi as Johnson, Swift, Pope, Addison,
and the like. Harrison Ainsworth and Marryat doubtless appealed--
Even so, Beetle salt-encrusted all over except his spectacles, and
steeped in delicious languors, was sliding back to sleep again, when
'Taffy' Howell, the leading light of the Form, who knew his Marryat as
well as Stalky did his Surtees, began in his patent, noiseless whisper:
'"Allow me to observe-in the most delicate manner in the world-just to
'Under pretext of studying literature, a desultory and unformed mind
would naturally return, like the dog of Scripture--'
'"You're a damned trencher-scrapin', napkin-carryin', shillin'-
seekin', up-an'-down-stairs."' Howell breathed.
Beetle choked aloud on the sudden knowledge that King was the
ancient and eternal Chucks-later Count Shucksen-of Peter Simple. He had
not realised it before.
'Sorry, sir. I'm afraid I've been asleep, sir,' he sputtered.
The shout of the Army Class diverted the storm. King was grimly glad
that Beetle had condescended to honour truth so far. Perhaps he would
now lend his awakened ear to a summary of the externals of Dr. Johnson,
as limned by Macaulay. And he read, with intention, the just
historian's outline of a grotesque figure with untied shoe-strings,
that twitched and grunted, gorged its food, bit its finger-nails, and
neglected its ablutions. The Form hailed it as a speaking likeness of
Beetle; nor were they corrected.
Then King implored him to vouchsafe his comrades one single fact
connected with Dr. Johnson which might at any time have adhered to
what, for decency's sake, must, Mr. King supposed, be called his
Beetle was understood to say that the only thing he could remember
was in French.
'You add, then, the Gallic tongue to your accomplishments? The
information plus the accent?'Tis well! Admirable Crichton,
And Beetle proceeded with the text of an old Du Maurier drawing in a
back-number of Punch:
De tous ces defunts cockolores
Le moral Fenelon.
Michel Ange et Johnson
(Le Docteur) sont les plus awful bores.'
To which Howell, wooingly, just above his breath:
'"Oh, won't you come up, come up?"'
Result, as the tea-bell rang, one hundred lines, to be shown up at
seven-forty-five that evening. This was meant to blast the pleasant
summer interval between tea and prep. Howell, a favourite in 'English'
as well as Latin, got off; but the Army Class crashed in to tea with a
The imposition was a matter of book-keeping, as far as Beetle was
concerned; for it was his custom of rainy afternoons to fabricate store
of lines in anticipation of just these accidents. They covered such
English verse as interested him at the moment, and helped to fix the
stuff in his memory. After tea; he drew the required amount from his
drawer in Number Five Study, thrust it into his pocket, went up to the
Head's house, and settled himself in the big Outer Library where, ever
since the Head had taken him off all mathematics, he did precis- work
and French translation. Here he buried himself in a close- printed,
thickish volume which had been his chosen browse for some time. A
hideous account of a hanging, drawing, and quartering had first
attracted him to it; but later he discovered the book (Curiosities of
Literature was its name) full of the finest confused feeding-such as
forgeries and hoaxes, Italian literary societies, religious and
scholastic controversies of old when men (even that most dreary John
Milton, of Lycidas) slanged each other, not without dust and heat, in
scandalous pamphlets; personal peculiarities of the great; and a
hundred other fascinating inutilities. This evening he fell on a
description of wandering, mad Elizabethan beggars, known as
Tom-a-Bedlams, with incidental references to Edgar who plays at being a
Tom-a-Bedlam in Lear, but whom Beetle did not consider at all funny.
Then, at the foot of a left-hand page, leaped out on him a verse-of
incommunicable splendour, opening doors into inexplicable worlds-from a
song which Tom-a-Bedlams were supposed to sing. It ran:
With a heart of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander.
With a burning spear and a horse of air.
To the wilderness I wander.
With a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney.
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end-
Methmks it is no journey.
He sat, mouthing and staring before him, till the prep-bell rang and
it was time to take his lines up to King's study and lay them, as hot
from the press, in the impot-basket appointed. He carried his dreams on
to Number Five. They knew the symptoms of old.
'Readin' again,' said Stalky, like a wife welcoming her spouse from
'Look here, I've found out something--' Beetle began. 'Listen--'
'No, you don't-till afterwards. It's Turkey's prep.' This meant it
was a Horace Ode through which Turkey would take them for a literal
translation, and all possible pitfalls. Stalky gave his businesslike
attention, but Beetle's eye was glazed and his mind adrift throughout,
and he asked for things to be repeated. So, when Turkey closed the
Horace, justice began to be executed.
'I'm all right,' he protested. 'I swear I heard a lot what Turkey
said. Shut up! Oh, shut up! Do shut up, you putrid asses.' Beetle was
speaking from the fender, his head between Turkey's knees, and Stalky
largely over the rest of him.
'What's the metre of the beastly thing?' McTurk waved his Horace.
'Look it up, Stalky. Twelfth of the Third.'
'Ionicum a minore,' Stalky reported, closing his book in turn.
'Don't let him forget it'; and Turkey's Horace marked the metre on
Beetle's skull, with special attention to elisions. It hurt.
'Miserar' est neq' arnori dare ludum neque dulci
Mala vino layer' aut ex--
Got it? You liar! You've no ear at all! Chorus, Stalky!'
Both Horaces strove to impart the measure, which was altogether
different from its accompaniment. Presently Howell dashed in from his
'Look out! If you make this infernal din we'll have some one up the
staircase in a sec.'
'We're teachin' Beetle Horace. He was goin' to burble us some muck
he'd read,' the tutors explained.
''Twasn't muck! It was about those Tom-a-Bedlams in Lear.'
'Oh!' said Stalky. 'Why didn't you say so?'
''Cause you didn't listen. They had drinkin'-horns an' badges, and
there's a Johnson note on Shakespeare about the meanin' of Edgar sayin'
"My horn's dry." But Johnson's dead-wrong about it. Aubrey says--'
'Who's Aubrey?' Howell demanded. 'Does King know about him?'
'Dunno. Oh yes, an' Johnson started to learn Dutch when he was
'What the deuce for?' Stalky asked.
'For a change after his Dikker, I suppose,' Howell suggested.
'And I looked up a lot of other English stuff, too. I'm goin' to try
it all on King.'
'Showin'-off as usual,' said the acid, McTurk, who, like his race,
lived and loved to destroy illusions.
'No. For a draw. He's an unjust dog! If you read, he says you're
showin'-off. If you don't, you're a mark-huntin' Philistine. What does
he want you to do, curse him?'
'Shut up, Beetle!' Stalky pronounced. 'There's more than draws in
this. You've cribbed your maths off me ever since you came to Coll. You
don't know what a co-sine is, even now. Turkey does all your
'I like that! Who does both your Picciolas?'
'French don't count. It's time you began to work for your giddy
livin' an' help us. You aren't goin' up for anythin' that matters. Play
for your side, as Heffles says, or die the death! You don't want to die
the death, again, do you? Now, let's hear about that stinkard Johnson
swottin' Dutch. You're sure it was Sammivel, not Binjamin? You are so
Beetle conducted an attentive class on the curiosities of literature
for nearly a quarter of an hour. As Stalky pointed out, he promised to
The Horace Ode next morning ran well; and King was content. Then, in
full feather, he sailed round the firmament at large, and, somehow,
apropos to something or other, used the word 'della Cruscan'-'if any of
you have the faintest idea of its origin.' Some one hadn't caught it
correctly; which gave Beetle just time to whisper 'Bran-an' mills' to
Howell, who said, promptly: 'Hasn't it somethin' to do with mills- an'
bran, sir?' King cast himself into poses of stricken wonder. 'Oddly
enough,' said he, 'it has.'
They were then told a great deal about some silly Italian Academy of
Letters which borrowed its office furniture from the equipment of
mediaeval flour-mills. And: 'How has our Ap-Howell come by his
knowledge?' Howell, being, indeed, Welsh, thought that it might have
been something he had read in the holidays. King openly purred over
'If that had been me,' Beetle observed while they were toying with
sardines between lessons, 'he'd ha' dropped on me for showin'-off.'
'See what we're savin' you from,' Stalky answered. 'I'm playin'
Johnson, 'member, this afternoon.'
That, too, came cleanly off the bat; and King was gratified by this
interest in the Doctor's studies. But Stalky hadn't a ghost of a notion
how he had come by the fact.
'Why didn't you say your father told you?' Beetle asked at tea.
'My-y Lord! Have you ever seen the guv'nor?' Stalky collapsed
shrieking among the piles of bread and butter. 'Well, look here. Taffy
goes in to-morrow about those drinkin' horns an' Tom-a-Bedlams. You cut
up to the library after tea, Beetle. You know what King's English
papers are like. Look out useful stuff for answers an' we'll divvy at
At prep, then, Beetle, loaded with assorted curiosities, made his
forecast. He argued that there were bound to be a good many 'what-do-
you-know-abouts' those infernal Augustans. Pope was generally a
separate item; but the odds were that Swift, Addison, Steele, Johnson,
and Goldsmith would be lumped under one head. Dryden was possible, too,
though rather outside the Epoch.
'Dryden. Oh! "Glorious John!" 'Know that much, anyhow,' Stalky
'Then lug in Claude Halcro in The Pirate,' Beetle advised. 'He's
always sayin' "Glorious John." King's a hog on Scott, too.'
'No-o. I don't read Scott. You take this Hell Crow chap, Taffy.'
'Right. What about Addison, Beetle?' Howell asked.
''Drank like a giddy fish.'
'We all know that,' chorused the gentle children.
'He said, "See how a Christian can die"; an' he hadn't any
conversation, 'cause some one or other--'
'Guessin' again, as usual,' McTurk sneered. 'Who?'
''Cynical man called Mandeville-said he was a silent parson in a
'Right-ho! I'll take the silent parson with wig and 'purtenances.
Taffy can have the dyin' Christian,' Stalky decided.
Howell nodded, and resumed: 'What about Swift, Beetle?'
''Died mad. Two girls. Saw a tree, an' said: "I shall die at the
top." Oh yes, an' his private amusements were "ridiculous an'
Howell shook a wary head. 'Dunno what that might let me in for with
King. You can have it, Stalky.'
'I'll take that,' McTurk yawned. 'King doesn't matter a curse to me,
an' he knows it. "Private amusements contemptible."' He breathed all
Ireland into the last perverted word.
'Right,' Howell assented. 'Bags I the dyin' tree, then.'
''Cheery lot, these Augustans,' Stalky sighed. ''Any more of 'em
been croakin' lately, Beetle?'
'My Hat!' the far-seeing Howell struck in. 'King always gives us a
stinker half-way down. What about Richardson-that "Clarissa" chap,
'I've found out lots about him,' said Beetle, promptly. 'He was the
"Shakespeare of novelists."'
'King won't stand that. He says there's only one Shakespeare.
'Mustn't rot about Shakespeare to King,' Howell objected.
'An' he was "always delighted with his own works,"' Beetle
'Like you,' Stalky pointed out.
'Shut up. Oh yes, an'--' he consulted some hieroglyphics on a scrap
of paper-'the-the impassioned Diderot (dunno who he was) broke forth:
"O Richardson, thou singular genius!"'
Howell and Stalky rose together, each clamouring that he had bagged
'I must have it!' Howell shouted. 'King's never seen me breakin'
forth with the impassioned Diderot. He's got to! Give me Diderot, you
'Don't upset the table. There's tons more. An' his genius was
"fertile and prodigal."'
'All right! I don't mind bein' "fertile and prodigal" for a change,'
Stalky volunteered. 'King's going to enjoy this exam. If he was the
Army Prelim. chap we'd score.'
'The Prelim. questions will be pretty much like King's stuff,'
Beetle assured them.
'But it's always a score to know what your examiner's keen on,'
Howell said, and illustrated it with an anecdote. ''Uncle of mine
stayin' with my people last holidays--'
'Your Uncle Diderot?' Stalky asked.
'No, you ass! Captain of Engineers. He told me he was up for a Staff
exam. to an old Colonel-bird who believed that the English were the
lost Tribes of Israel, or something like that. He'd written tons o'
books about it.'
'All Sappers are mad,' said Stalky. 'That's one of the things the
guv'nor did tell me.'
'Well, ne'er mind. My uncle played up, o'course. 'Said he'd always
believed it, too. And so he got nearly top-marks for field-
fortification. 'Didn't know a thing about it, either, he said.'
'Good biznai!' said Stalky. 'Well, go on, Beetle. What about
'Can't I keep anything for myself?'
'Not much! King'll ask you where you got it from, and you'd show
off, an' he'd find out. This ain't your silly English Literature, you
ass. It's our marks. Can't you see that?'
Beetle very soon saw it was exactly as Stalky had said.
Some days later a happy, and therefore not too likeable, King was
explaining to the Reverend John in his own study how effort, zeal,
scholarship, the humanities, and perhaps a little natural genius for
teaching, could inspire even the mark-hunting minds of the young. His
text was the result of his General Knowledge paper on the Augustans and
'Howell,' he said, 'I was not surprised at. He has intelligence.
But, frankly, I did not expect young Corkran to burgeon. Almost one
might believe he occasionally read a book.'
'And McTurk too?'
'Yes. He had somehow arrived at a rather just estimate of Swift's
lighter literary diversions. They are contemptible. And in the "Lear"
questions-they were all attracted by Edgar's character-Stalky had dug
up something about Aubrey on Tom-a-Bedlams from some unknown source.
Aubrey, of all people! I'm sure I only alluded to him once or
'Stalky among the prophets of "English"! And he didn't remember
where he'd got it either?'
'No. Boys are amazingly purblind and limited. But if they keep this
up at the Army Prelim., it is conceivable the Class may not do itself
discredit. I told them so.'
'I congratulate you. Ours is the hardest calling in the world, with
the least reward. By the way, who are they likely to send down to
'It rests between two, I fancy. Martlett-with me at Balliol-and
Hume. They wisely chose the Civil Service. Martlett has published a
brochure on Minor Elizabethan Verse-journeyman work, of
course-enthusiasms, but no grounding. Hume I heard of lately as having
infected himself in Germany with some Transatlantic abominations about
Shakespeare and Bacon. He was Sutton.' (The Head, by the way, was a
King returned to his examination-papers and read extracts from them,
as mothers repeat the clever sayings of their babes.
'Here's old Taffy Howell, for instance-apropos to Diderot's eulogy
of Richardson. "The impassioned Diderot broke forth: 'Richardson, thou
It was the Reverend John who stopped himself, just in time, from
breaking forth. He recalled that, some days ago, he had heard Stalky on
the stairs of Number Five, hurling the boots of many fags at Howell's
door and bidding the 'impassioned Diderot' within 'break forth' at his
'Odd,' said he, gravely, when his pipe drew again. 'Where did
Diderot say that?'
'I've forgotten for the moment. Taffy told me he'd picked it up in
the course of holiday reading.'
'Possibly. One never knows what heifers the young are ploughing
with. Oh! How did Beetle do?'
'The necessary dates and his handwriting defeated him, I'm glad to
say. I cannot accuse myself of having missed any opportunity to
castigate that boy's inordinate and intolerable conceit. But I'm afraid
it's hopeless. I think I touched him somewhat, though, when I read
Macaulay's stock piece on Johnson. The others saw it at once.'
'Yes, you told me about that at the time,' said the Reverend John,
'And our esteemed Head having taken him off maths for this precis-
writing-whatever that means!-has turned him into a most objectionable
free-lance. He was without any sense of reverence before, and
promiscuous cheap fiction-which is all that his type of reading means-
aggravates his worst points. When it came to a trial he was simply
'Ah, well! Ours is a hard calling-specially if one's sensitive.
Luckily, I'm too fat.' The Reverend John went out to bathe off the
Pebble Ridge, girt with a fair linen towel whose red fringe signalled
from half a mile away.
There lurked on summer afternoons, round the fives-court or the gym,
certain watchful outcasts who had exhausted their weekly ration of
three baths, and who were too well known to Cory the bathman to outface
him by swearing that they hadn't. These came in like sycophantic pups
at walk, and when the Reverend John climbed the Pebble Ridge, more than
a dozen of them were at his heels, with never a towel among them. One
could only bathe off the Ridge with a House Master, but by custom, a
dozen details above a certain age, no matter whence recruited, made a
'House' for bathing, if any kindly Master chose so to regard them.
Beetle led the low, growing reminder: 'House! House, sir? We've got a
House now, Padre.'
'Let it be law as it is desired,' boomed the Reverend John. On which
word they broke forward, hirpling over the unstable pebbles and
stripping as they ran, till, when they touched the sands, they were as
naked as God had made them, and as happy as He intended them to be.
It was half-flood-dead-smooth, except for the triple line of
combers, a mile from wing to wing, that broke evenly with a sound of
ripping canvas, while their sleek rear-guards formed up behind. One
swam forth, trying to copy the roll, rise, and dig-out of the Reverend
John's sidestroke, and manoeuvred to meet them so that they should
crash on one's head, when for an instant one glanced down arched
perspectives of beryl, before all broke in fizzy, electric diamonds,
and the pulse of the main surge slung one towards the beach. From a
good comber's crest one was hove up almost to see Lundy on the horizon.
In its long cream-streaked trough, when the top had turned over and
gone on, one might be alone in mid-Atlantic. Either way it was divine.
Then one capered on the sands till one dried off; retrieved scattered
flannels, gave thanks in chorus to the Reverend John, and lazily
trailed up to five-o'clock call-over, taken on the lower cricket
'Eight this week,' said Beetle, and thanked Heaven aloud.
'Bathing seems to have sapped your mind,' the Reverend John
remarked. 'Why did you do so vilely with the Augustans?'
'They are vile, Padre. So's Lear.'
'The other two did all right, though.'
'I expect they've been swottin',' Beetle grinned.
'I've expected that, too, in my time. But I want to hear about the
"impassioned Diderot," please.'
'Oh, that was Howell, Padre. You mean when Diderot broke forth:
"Richardson, thou singular genius"? He'd read it in the holidays
'I beg your pardon. Naturally, Taffy would read Diderot in the
holidays. Well, I'm sorry I can't lick you for this; but if any one
ever finds out anything about it, you've only yourself to thank.'
Beetle went up to College and to the Outer Library, where he had on
tap the last of a book called Elsie Venner, by a man called Oliver
Wendell Holmes-all about a girl who was interestingly allied to
rattlesnakes. He finished what was left of her, and cast about for more
from the same hand, which he found on the same shelf, with the trifling
difference that the writer's Christian name was now Nathaniel, and he
did not deal in snakes. The authorship of Shakespeare was his theme-not
that Shakespeare with whom King oppressed the Army Class, but a
low-born, poaching, ignorant, immoral village lout who could not have
written one line of any play ascribed to him. (Beetle wondered what
King would say to Nathaniel if ever they met.) The real author was
Francis Bacon, of Bacon's Essays, which did not strike Beetle as any
improvement. He had 'done' the essays last term. But evidently
Nathaniel's views annoyed people, for the margins of his book-it was
second-hand, and the old label of a public library still adhered-flamed
with ribald, abusive, and contemptuous comments by various hands. They
ranged from 'Rot!' 'Rubbish!' and such-like to crisp counter-arguments.
And several times some one had written: 'This beats Delia.' One copious
annotator dissented, saying: 'Delia is supreme in this line,' 'Delia
beats this hollow.' 'See Delia's Philosophy, page so and so.' Beetle
grieved he could not find anything about Delia (he had often heard
King's views on lady-writers as a class) beyond a statement by
Nathaniel, with pencilled exclamation- points rocketing all round it,
that 'Delia Bacon discovered in Francis Bacon a good deal more than
Macaulay.' Taking it by and large, with the kind help of the marginal
notes, it appeared that Delia and Nathaniel between them had
perpetrated every conceivable outrage against the Head-God of King's
idolatry: and King was particular about his idols. Without pronouncing
on the merits of the controversy, it occurred to Beetle that a
well-mixed dose of Nathaniel ought to work on King like a seidlitz
powder. At this point a pencil and a half sheet of impot-paper came
into action, and he went down to tea so swelled with Baconian heresies
and blasphemies that he could only stutter between mouthfuls. He
returned to his labours after the meal, and was visibly worse at
'I say,' he began, 'have you ever heard that Shakespeare never wrote
his own beastly plays?'
''Fat lot of good to us!' said Stalky. 'We've got to swot 'em up
just the same. Look here! This is for English parsin' to-morrow. It's
your biznai.' He read swiftly from the school Lear (Act II. Sc. 2)
STEWARD: 'Never any:
It pleased the King his master, very late.
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, conjunct, an' flatterin' his displeasure.
Tripped me behind: bein' down, insulted, railed.
And put upon him such a deal of man.
That worthy'd him, got praises of the King
For him attemptin' who was self-subdued;
And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit.
Drew on me here again.
'Now then, my impassioned bard, construez! That's Shakespeare.'
''Give it up! He's drunk,' Beetle declared at the end of a blank
'No, he isn't,' said Turkey. 'He's a steward-on the estate-chattin'
to his employers.'
'Well-look here, Turkey. You ask King if Shakespeare ever wrote his
own plays, an' he won't give a dam' what the steward said.'
'I've not come here to play with ushers,' was McTurk's view of the
'I'd do it,' Beetle protested, 'only he'd slay me! He don't love me
when I ask about things. I can give you the stuff to draw him-tons of
it!' He broke forth into a precis, interspersed with praises, of
Nathaniel Holmes and his commentators-especially the latter. He also
mentioned Delia, with sorrow that he had not read her. He spoke through
nearly the whole of prep; and the upshot of it was that McTurk relented
and promised to approach King next 'English' on the authenticity of
The time and tone chosen were admirable. While King was warming
himself by a preliminary canter round the Form's literary deficiencies,
Turkey coughed in a style which suggested a reminder to a slack
employee that it was time to stop chattering and get to work. As King
began to bristle, Turkey inquired: 'I'd be glad to know, sir, if it's
true that Shakespeare did not write his own plays at all?'
'Good God!' said King most distinctly. Turkey coughed again piously.
'They all say so in Ireland, sir.'
'Ireland-Ireland-Ireland!' King overran Ireland with one blast of
flame that should have been written in letters of brass for instruction
to-day. At the end, Turkey coughed once more, and the cough said: 'It
is Shakespeare, and not my country, that you are hired to interpret to
me.' He put it directly, too: 'An' is it true at all about the alleged
'It is not,' Mr. King whispered, and began to explain, on lines that
might, perhaps, have been too freely expressed for the parents of those
young (though it gave their offspring delight), but with a passion,
force, and wealth of imagery which would have crowned his discourse at
any university. By the time he drew towards his peroration the Form was
almost openly applauding. Howell noiselessly drummed the cadence of
'Bonnie Dundee' on his desk; Paddy Vernon framed a dumb: 'Played! Oh,
well played, sir!' at intervals; Stalky kept tally of the brighter gems
of invective; and Beetle sat aghast but exulting among the spirits he
had called up. For though their works had never been mentioned, and
though Mr. King said he had merely glanced at the obscene publications,
he seemed to know a tremendous amount about Nathaniel and
'I told you so!' said Beetle, proudly, at the end.
'What? Him! I wasn't botherin' myself to listen to him an' his
Delia,' McTurk replied.
Afterwards King fought his battle over again with the Reverend John
in the Common Room.
'Had I been that triple ass Hume, I might have risen to the bait. As
it is, I flatter myself I left them under no delusions as to
Shakespeare's authenticity. Yes, a small drink, please. Virtue has gone
out of me indeed. But where did they get it from?'
'The devil! The young devil,' the Reverend John muttered, half
'I could have excused devilry. It was ignorance. Sheer, crass,
insolent provincial ignorance! I tell you, Gillett, if the Romans had
dealt faithfully with the Celt, ab initio, this-this would never have
'Quite so. I should like to have heard your remarks.'
'I've told 'em to tell me what they remember of them, with their own
conclusions, in essay form next week.'
Since he had loosed the whirlwind, the fairminded Beetle offered to
do Turkey's essay for him. On Turkey's behalf, then, he dealt with
Shakespeare's lack of education, his butchering, poaching, drinking,
horse-holding, and errandrunning as Nathaniel had described them;
lifted from the same source pleasant names, such as 'rustic' and 'sorry
poetaster,' on which last special hopes were built; and expressed
surprise that one so ignorant could have done 'what he was attributed
to.' His own essay contained no novelties. Indeed, he withheld one or
two promising 'subsequently transpireds' for fear of distracting
But, when the essays were read, Mr. King confined himself wholly to
Turkey's pitiful, puerile, jejune, exploded, unbaked, half-bottomed
thesis. He touched, too, on the 'lie in the soul,' which was,
fundamentally, vulgarity-the negation of Reverence and the Decencies.
He broke forth into an impassioned defence of 'mere atheism,' which he
said was often no more than mental flatulence-transitory and curable by
knowledge of life-in no way comparable, for essential enormity, with
the debasing pagan abominations to which Turkey had delivered himself.
He ended with a shocking story about one Jowett, who seemed to have
held some post of authority where King came from, and who had told an
atheistical undergraduate that if he could not believe in a Personal
God by five that afternoon he would be expelled-as, with tears of rage
in his eyes, King regretted that he could not expel McTurk. And Turkey
blew his nose in the middle of it.
But the aim of education being to develop individual judgment, King
could not well kill him for his honest doubts about Shakespeare. And he
himself had several times quoted, in respect to other poets: 'There
lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.'
So he treated Turkey in Form like a coiled puff-adder; and there was a
tense peace among the Augustans. The only ripple was the day before the
Army Examiner came, when Beetle inquired if he 'need take this exam.,
sir, as I'm not goin' up for anything.' Mr. King said there was great
need-for many reasons, none of them flattering to vanity.
As far as the Army Class could judge, the Examiner was not worse
than his breed, and the written 'English' paper ran closely on the
lines of King's mid-term General Knowledge test. Howell played his
'impassioned Diderot' to the Richardson lead; Stalky his parson in the
wig; McTurk his contemptible Swift; Beetle, Steele's affectionate notes
out of the spunginghouse to 'Dearest Prue,' all in due order. There
were, however, one or two leading questions about Shakespeare. A boy's
hand shot up from a back bench.
'In answering Number Seven-reasons for Shakespeare's dramatic
supremacy,' he said, 'are we to take it Shakespeare did write the plays
he is supposed to have written, sir?'
The Examiner hesitated an instant. 'It is generally assumed that he
did.' But there was no reproof in his words. Beetle began to sit down
Another hand and another voice: 'Have we got to say we believe he
did, sir? Even if we do not?'
'You are not called upon to state your beliefs. But we can go into
that at viva voce this afternoon-if it interests you.'
'Thank you, sir.'
'What did you do that for?' Paddy Vernon demanded at dinner.
'It's the lost tribes of Israel game, you ass,' said Howell.
'To make sure,' Stalky amplified. 'If he was like King, he'd have
shut up Beetle an' Turkey at the start, but he'd have thought King gave
us the Bacon notion. Well, he didn't shut 'em up; so they're playin' it
again this afternoon. If he stands it then, he'll be sure King gave us
the notion. Either way, it's dead-safe for us, an' King.'
At the afternoon's viva voce, before they sat down to the Augustans,
the Examiner wished to hear, 'with no bearing on the examination, of
course,' from those two candidates who had asked him about Question
Seven. Which were they?
'Take off your gigs, you owl,' said Stalky between his teeth. Beetle
pocketed them and looked into blurred vacancy with a voice coming out
of it that asked: 'Who-what gave you that idea about Shakespeare?' From
Stalky's kick he knew the question was for him.
'Some people say, sir, there's a good deal of doubt about it
'Ye-es, that's true, but--'
'It's his knowin' so much about legal phrases.' Turkey was in
support- a lone gun barking somewhere to his right.
'That is a crux, I admit. Of course, whatever one may think
privately, officially Shakespeare is Shakespeare. But how have you been
taught to look at the question?'
'Well, Holmes says it's impossible he could--'
'On the legal phraseology alone, sir,' McTurk chimed in.
'Ah, but the theory is that Shakespeare's experiences in the society
of that day brought him in contact with all the leading intellects.'
The Examiner's voice was quite colloquial now.
'But they didn't think much of actors then, sir, did they?' This was
Howell cooing like a cushat dove. 'I mean--'
The Examiner explained the status of the Elizabethan actor in some
detail, ending: 'And that makes it the more curious, doesn't it?'
'And this Shakespeare was supposed to be writin' plays and actin' in
'em all the time?' McTurk asked, with sinister meaning.
'Exactly what I-what lots of people have pointed out. Where did he
get the time to acquire all his special knowledge?'
'Then it looks as if there was something in it, doesn't it,
'That,' said the Examiner, squaring his elbows at ease on the desk,
'is a very large question which--'
'Yes, sir!'-in half-a-dozen eagerly attentive keys...
For decency's sake a few Augustan questions were crammed in
conscience-strickenly, about the last ten minutes. Howell took them
since they involved dates, but the answers, though highly marked, were
scarcely heeded. When the clock showed six-thirty the Examiner
addressed them as 'Gentlemen'; and said he would have particular
pleasure in speaking well of this Army Class, which had evinced such a
genuine and unusual interest in English Literature, and which reflected
the greatest credit on their instructors. He passed out: the Form
upstanding, as custom was.
'He's goin' to congratulate King,' said Howell. 'Don't make a row!
"Don't-make-a-noise-Or else you'll wake the Baby!"'...
Mr. King of Balliol, after Mr. Hume of Sutton had complimented him,
as was only just, before all his colleagues in Common Room, was kindly
taken by the Reverend John to his study, where he exploded on the
'He-he thought I had loosed this-this rancid Baconian rot among
them. He complimented me on my breadth of mind-my being abreast of the
times! You heard him? That's how they think at Sutton. It's an open
stye! A lair of bestial! They have a chapel there, Gillett, and they
pray for their souls-their souls!'
'His particular weakness apart, Hume was perfectly sincere about
what you'd done for the Army Class. He'll report in that sense, too.
That's a feather in your cap, and a deserved one. He said their
interest in Literature was unusual. That is all your work, King.'
'But I bowed down in the House of Rimmon while he Baconised all over
me!-poor devil of an usher that I am! You heard it! I ought to have
spat in his eye! Heaven knows I'm as conscious of my own infirmities as
my worst enemy can be; but what have I done to deserve this? What have
'That's just what I was wondering,' the Reverend John replied. 'Have
you, perchance, done anything?'
'In the Army Class, for example.'
'Assuredly not! My Army Class? I couldn't wish for a better-keen,
interested enough to read outside their allotted task-intelligent,
receptive! They're head and shoulders above last year's. The idea that
I, forsooth, should, even by inference, have perverted their minds with
this imbecile and unspeakable girls'-school tripe that Hume professes!
You at least know that I have my standards; and in Literature and in
the Classics, I hold maxima debetur pueris reverentia.'
'It's singular, not plural, isn't it?' said the Reverend John. 'But
you're absolutely right as to the principle!...Ours is a deadly
calling, King-especially if one happens to be sensitive.'
A Legend of Truth
ONCE on a time, the ancient legends tell.
Truth, rising from the bottom of her well.
Looked on the world, but, hearing how it lied.
Returned to her seclusion horrified.
There she abode, so conscious of her worth.
Not even Pilate's Question called her forth.
Nor Galileo, kneeling to deny
The Laws that hold our Planet 'neath the sky.
Meantime, her kindlier sister, whom men call
Fiction, did all her work and more than all.
With so much zeal, devotion, tact, and care.
That no one noticed Truth was otherwhere.
Then came a War when, bombed and gassed and mined.
Truth rose once more, perforce, to meet mankind.
And through the dust and glare and wreck of things.
Beheld a phantom on unbalanced wings.
Reeling and groping, dazed, dishevelled, dumb.
But semaphoring direr deeds to come.
Truth hailed and bade her stand; the quavering shade
Clung to her knees and babbled,'Sister, aid!
I am-I was-thy Deputy, and men
Besought me for my useful tongue or pen
To gloss their gentle deeds, and I complied.
And they, and thy demands, were satisfied.
But this-'she pointed o'er the blistered plain.
Where men as Gods and devils wrought amain-
'This is beyond me! Take thy work again.'
Tables and pen transferred, she fled afar.
And Truth assumed the record of the War...
She saw, she heard, she read, she tried to tell
Facts beyond precedent and parallel-
Unfit to hint or breathe, much less to write.
But happening every minute, day and night.
She called for proof. It came. The dossiers grew.
She marked them, first, 'Return. This can't be true.'
Then, underneath the cold official word:
This is not really half of what occurred.'
She faced herself at last, the story runs.
And telegraphed her sister: 'Come at once.
Facts out of hand. Unable overtake
Without your aid: Come back for Truth's own sake!
Co-equal rank and powers if you agree.
They need us both, but you far more than me!'
A Friend of the Family
THERE had been rather a long sitting at Lodge 'Faith and Works,'
5837 E.C., that warm April night. Three initiations and two raisings,
each conducted with the spaciousness and particularity that our Lodge
prides itself upon, made the Brethren a little silent, and the strains
of certain music had not yet lifted from them.
'There are two pieces that ought to be barred for ever,' said a
Brother as we were sitting down to the 'banquet.' '"Last Post" is the
'I can just stand "Last Post." It's "Tipperary" breaks me,' another
replied. 'But I expect every one carries his own firing-irons inside
I turned to look. It was a sponsor for one of our newly raised
Brethren-a fat man with a fish-like and vacant face, but evidently
prosperous. We introduced ourselves as we took our places. His name was
Bevin, and he had a chicken farm near Chalfont St. Giles, whence he
supplied, on yearly contract, two or three high-class London hotels. He
was also, he said, on the edge of launching out into herb- growing.
'There's a demand for herbs,' said he; 'but it all depends upon your
connections with the wholesale dealers. We ain't systematic enough. The
French do it much better, especially in those mountains on the Swiss
an' Italian sides. They use more herbal remedies than we do. Our
patent-medicine business has killed that with us. But there's a demand
still, if your connections are sound. I'm going in for it.'
A large, well-groomed Brother across the table (his name was Pole,
and he seemed some sort of professional man) struck in with a detailed
account of a hollow behind a destroyed village near Thiepval, where,
for no ascertainable reason, a certain rather scarce herb had sprung up
by the acre, he said, out of the overturned earth.
'Only you've got to poke among the weeds to find it, and there's any
quantity of bombs an' stuff knockin' about there still. They haven't
cleaned it up yet.'
'Last time I saw the place,' said Bevin, 'I thought it 'ud be that
way till Judgment Day. You know how it lay in that dip under that beet-
factory. I saw it bombed up level in two days-into brick-dust mainly.
They were huntin' for St. Firmin Dump.' He took a sandwich and munched
slowly, wiping his face, for the night was close.
'Ye-es,' said Pole. 'The trouble is there hasn't been any judgment
taken or executed. That's why the world is where it is now. We didn't
need anything but justice-afterwards. Not gettin' that, the bottom fell
out of things, naturally.'
'That's how I look at it too,' Bevin replied. 'We didn't want all
that talk afterwards-we only wanted justice. What I say is, there must
be a right and a wrong to things. It can't all be
kiss-an'-make-friends, no matter what you do.'
A thin, dark brother on my left, who had been attending to a cold
pork pie (there are no pork pies to equal ours, which are home-made),
suddenly lifted his long head, in which a pale blue glass eye swivelled
'Well,' he said slowly. 'My motto is "Never again." Ne-ver again for
'Same here-till next time,' said Pole, across the table. 'You're
from Sydney, ain't you?'
'How d'you know?' was the short answer
'You spoke.' The other smiled. So did Bevin, who added: 'I know how
your push talk, well enough. Have you started that Republic of yours
down under yet?'
'No. But we're goin' to. Then you'll see.'
'Carry on. No one's hindering,' Bevin pursued.
The Australian scowled. 'No. We know they ain't. And-and-that's what
makes us all so crazy angry with you.' He threw back his head and
laughed the spleen out of him. 'What can you do with an Empire that-
that don't care what you do?'
'I've heard that before,' Bevin laughed, and his fat sides shook.
'Oh, I know your push inside-out.'
'When did you come across us? My name's Orton-no relation to the
'Gallip'li-dead mostly. My battalion began there. We only lost
'Lucky! They gambled us away in two days. 'Member the hospital on
the beach?' asked asked Orton.
'Yes. An' the man without the face-preaching,' said Bevin, sitting
up a little.
'Till he died,' said the Australian, his voice lowered.
'And afterwards,' Bevin added, lower still.
'Christ! Were you there that night?'
Bevin nodded. The Australian choked off something he was going to
say, as a Brother on his left claimed him. I heard them talk horses,
while Bevin developed his herb-growing projects with the well-groomed
At the end of the banquet, when pipes were drawn, the Australian
addressed himself to Bevin, across me, and as the company re-arranged
itself, we three came to anchor in the big anteroom where the best
prints are hung. Here our Brother across the table joined us, and
The Australian was full of racial grievances, as must be in a young
country; alternating between complaints that his people had not been
appreciated enough in England, or too fulsomely complimented by an
'No-o,' Pole drawled, after a while. 'You're altogether wrong. We
hadn't time to notice anything-we were all too busy fightin' for our
lives. What your crowd down under are suffering from is growing-pains.
You'll get over 'em in three hundred years or so-if you're allowed to
last so long.'
'Who's going to stoush us?' Orton asked fiercely.
This turned the talk again to larger issues and possibilities-
delivered on both sides straight from the shoulder without malice or
heat, between bursts of song from round the piano at the far end. Bevin
and I sat out, watching.
'Well, I don't understand these matters,' said Bevin at last. 'But
I'd hate to have one of your crowd have it in for me for anything.'
'Would you? Why?' Orton pierced him with his pale, artificial
'Well, you're a trifle-what's the word?-vindictive?-spiteful? At
least, that's what I've found. I expect it comes from drinking stewed
tea with your meat four times a day,' said Bevin. 'No! I'd hate to have
an Australian after me for anything in particular.'
Out of this came his tale-somewhat in this shape:
It opened with an Australian of the name of Hickmot or Hickmer-Bevin
called him both-who, finding his battalion completely expended at
Gallipoli, had joined up with what stood of Bevin's battalion, and had
there remained, unrebuked and unnoticed. The point that Bevin laboured
was that his man had never seen a table-cloth, a china plate, or a
dozen white people together till, in his thirtieth year, he had walked
for two months to Brisbane to join up. Pole found this hard to
'But it's true,' Bevin insisted. 'This chap was born an' bred among
the black fellers, as they call 'em, two hundred miles from the nearest
town, four hundred miles from a railway, an' ten thousand from the
grace o' God-out in Queensland near some desert.'
'Why, of course. We come out of everywhere,' said Orton. 'What's
wrong with that?'
'Yes-but--Look here! From the time that this man Hickmot was twelve
years old he'd ridden, driven-what's the word?-conducted sheep for his
father for thousands of miles on end, an' months at a time, alone with
these black fellers that you daren't show the back of your neck to-
else they knock your head in. That was all that he'd ever done till he
joined up. He-he-didn't belong to anything m the world, you understand.
And he didn't strike other men as being a-a human being.'
'Why? He was a Queensland drover. They're all right,' Orton
'I dare say; but-well, a man notices another man, don't he? You'd
notice if there was a man standing or sitting or lyin' near you,
wouldn't you? So'd any one. But you'd never notice Hickmot. His bein'
anywhere about wouldn't stay in your mind. He just didn't draw
attention any more than anything else that happened to be about. Have
you got it?'
'Wasn't he any use at his job?' Pole inquired.
'I've nothing against him that way, an' I'm-I was his platoon
sergeant. He wouldn't volunteer specially for any doings, but he'd slip
out with the party and he'd slip back with what was left of 'em. No one
noticed him, and he never opened his mouth about any doings. You'd
think a man who had lived the way he'd lived among black fellers an'
sheep would be noticeable enough in an English battalion, wouldn't
'It teaches 'em to lie close; but you seem to have noticed him,'
Orton interposed, with a little suspicion.
'Not at the time-but afterwards. If he was noticeable it was on
account of his unnoticeability-same way you'd notice there not being an
extra step at the bottom of the staircase when you thought there
'Ye-es,' Pole said suddenly. 'It's the eternal mystery of
personality. "God before Whom ever lie bare--" Some people can occlude
their personality like turning off a tap. I beg your pardon. Carry
'Granted,' said Bevin. 'I think I catch your drift. I used to think
I was a student of human nature before I joined up.'
'What was your job-before?' Orton asked.
'Oh, I was the young blood of the village. Goal-keeper in our soccer
team, secretary of the local cricket and rifle-oh, lor'!-clubs. Yes,
an' village theatricals. My father was the chemist in the village. How
I did talk! What I did know!' He beamed upon us all.
'I don't mind hearing you talk,' said Orton, lying back in his
chair. 'You're a little different from some of 'em. What happened to
this dam' drover of yours?'
'He was with our push for the rest of the war-an' I don't think he
ever sprung a dozen words at one time. With his upbringing, you see,
there wasn't any subject that any man knew about he could open up on.
He kept quiet, and mixed with his backgrounds. If there was a lump of
dirt, or a hole in the ground, or what was-was left after anythin' had
happened, it would be Hickmot. That was all he wanted to be.'
'A camouflager?' Orton suggested.
'You have it! He was the complete camouflager all through. That's
him to a dot. Look here! He hadn't even a nickname in his platoon! And
then a friend of mine from our village, of the name of Vigors, came out
with a draft. Bert Vigors. As a matter of fact, I was engaged to his
sister. And Bert hadn't been with us a week before they called him "The
Grief." His father was an oldish man, a market-gardener-high- class
vegetables, bit o' glass, an'-an' all the rest of it. Do you know
anything about that particular business?'
'Not much, I'm afraid,' said Pole, 'except that glass is expensive,
and one's man always sells the cut flowers.'
'Then you do know something about it. It is. Bert was the old man's
only son, an'-I don't blame him-he'd done his damnedest to get
exempted-for the sake of the business, you understand. But he caught it
all right. The tribunal wasn't takin' any the day he went up. Bert was
for it, with a few remarks from the patriotic old was-sers on the
bench. Our county paper had 'em all.'
'That's the thing that made one really want the Hun in England for a
week or two,' said Pole.
'Mwor osee! The same tribunal, havin' copped Bert, gave
unconditional exemption to the opposition shop-a man called Margetts,
in the market- garden business, which he'd established since the war,
with his two sons who, every one in the village knew, had been pushed
into the business to save their damned hides. But Margetts had a good
lawyer to advise him. The whole case was frank and above-board to a
degree-our county paper had it all in, too. Agricultural producevital
necessity; the plough mightier than the sword; an' those ducks on the
bench, who had turned down Bert, noddin' and smilin' at Margetts, all
full of his cabbage and green peas. What happened? The usual. Vigors'
business- he's sixty-eight, with asthma-goes smash, and Margetts and
Co. double theirs. So, then, that was Bert's grievance, an' he joined
us full of it. That's why they called him "The Grief." Knowing the
facts, I was with him; but being his sergeant, I had to check him,
because grievances are catchin', and three or four men with 'em make
Companies-er-sticky. Luckily Bert wasn't handy with his pen. He had to
cork up his grievance mostly till he came across Hickmot, an' Gord in
Heaven knows what brought those two together. No! As y'were. I'm wrong
about God! I always am. It was Sheep. Bert knew's much about sheep as I
do-an' that's Canterbury lamb-but he'd let Hickmot talk about 'em for
hours, in return for Hickmot listenin' to his grievance. Hickmot 'ud
talk sheep-the one created thing he'd ever open up on-an' Bert 'ud talk
his grievance while they was waiting to go over the top. I've heard 'em
again an' again, and, of course, I encouraged 'em. Now, look here!
Hickmot hadn't seen an English house or a field or a road or-or
anything any civ'lised man is used to in all his life! Sheep an'
blacks! Market-gardens an' glass an' exemption-tribunals! An' the men's
teeth chatterin' behind their masks between rum-issue an' zero. Oh,
there was fun in Hell those days, wasn't there, boys?'
'Sure! Oh, sure!' Orton chuckled, and Pole echoed him.
'Look here! When we were lying up somewhere among those forsaken
chicken-camps back o' Doullens, I found Hickmot making mud-pies in a
farmyard an' Bert lookin' on. He'd made a model of our village
according to Bert's description of it. He'd preserved it in his head
through all those weeks an' weeks o' Bert's yap; an' he'd coughed it
all up-Margetts' house and gardens, old Mr. Vigors' ditto; both pubs;
my father's shop, everything that he'd been told by Bert done out to
scale in mud, with bits o' brick and stick. Haig ought to have seen it;
but as his sergeant I had to check him for misusin' his winkle-pin on
dirt. 'Come to think of it, a man who runs about uninhabited countries,
with sheep, for a livin' must have gifts for mappin' and scalin' things
somehow or other, or he'd be dead. I never saw anything like it-all out
o' what Bert had told him by word of mouth. An' the next time we went
up the line Hickmot copped it in the leg just in front of me.'
'Finish?' I asked.
'Oh, no. Only beginnin'. That was in December, somethin' or other,
'16. In Jan'ry Vigors copped it for keeps. I buried him-snowin' blind
it was-an' before we'd got him under the whole show was crumped. I
wanted to bury him again just to spite 'em (I'm a spiteful man by
nature), but the party wasn't takin' any more-even if they could have
found it. But, you see, we had buried him all right, which is what they
want at home, and I wrote the usual trimmin's about the chaplain an'
the full service, an' what his captain had said about Bert bein'
recommended for a pip, an' the irreparable loss an' so on. That was in
Jan'ry '17. In Feb'ry some time or other I got saved. My speciality had
come to be bombin's and night-doings. Very pleasant for a young free
man, but-there's a limit to what you can stand. It takes all men
differently. Noise was what started me, at last. I'd got just up to the
edge-wonderin' when I'd crack an' how many of our men I'd do in if it
came on me while we were busy. I had that nice taste in the mouth and
the nice temperature they call trench-fever, an'-I had to feel inside
my head for the meanin' of every order I gave or was responsible for
executin'. You know!'
'We do. Go on!' said Pole in a tone that made Orton look at him.
'So, you see, the bettin' was even on my drawin' a V.C. or getting
Number Umpty rest-camp or-a firing party before breakfast. But Gord
saved me. (I made friends with Him the last two years of the war. The
others went off too quick.) They wanted a bomb in'-instructor for the
training-battalion at home, an' He put it into their silly hearts to
indent for me. It took 'em five minutes to make me understand I was
saved. Then I vomited, an' then I cried. You know!' The fat face of
Bevin had changed and grown drawn, even as he spoke; and his hands
tugged as though to tighten an imaginary belt.
'I was never keen on bombin' myself,' said Pole. 'But bomb in'-
'I don't deny it's a shade risky, specially when they take the pin
out an' start shakin' it, same as the Chinks used to do in the woods at
Beauty, when they were cuttin' 'em down. But you live like a home
defence Brigadier, besides week-end leaf. As a matter o' fact, I
married Bert's sister soon's I could after I got the billet, an' I used
to lie in our bed thinkin' of the old crowd on the Somme an'- feelin'
what a swine I was. Of course, I earned two V.C.'s a week behind the
traverse in the exercise of my ord'nary duties, but that isn't the same
thing. An' yet I'd only joined up because-because I couldn't dam' well
'An' what about your Queenslander?' the Australian asked.
'Too de sweet! Pronto! We got a letter in May from a Brighton
hospital matron, sayin' that one of the name of Hickmer was anxious for
news o' me, previous to proceedin' to Roehampton for initiation into
his new leg. Of course, we applied for him by return. Bert had written
about him to his sister-my missus-every time he wrote at all; an' any
pal o' Bert's-well, you know what the ladies are like. I warned her
about his peculiarities. She wouldn't believe till she saw him. He was
just the same. You'd ha' thought he'd show up in England like a fresh
stiff on snow-but you never noticed him. You never heard him; and if he
didn't want to be seen he wasn't there. He just joined up with his
background. I knew he could do that with men; but how in Hell, seein'
how curious women are, he could camouflage with the ladies-my wife an'
my mother to wit-beats me! He'd feed the chickens for us; he'd stand on
his one leg-it was off above the knee-and saw wood for us. He'd run-I
mean he'd hop-errands for Mrs. B, or mother; our dog worshipped him
from the start, though I never saw him throw a word to him; and- yet he
didn't take any place anywhere. You've seen a rabbit-you've seen a
pheasant-hidin' in a ditch?'Put your hand on it sometimes before it
moved, haven't you? Well, that was Hickmot-with two women in the house
crazy to find out-find out-anything about him that made him human. You
know what women are! He stayed with us a fortnight. He left us on a
Sat'day to go to Roehampton to try his leg. On Friday he came over to
the bombin' ground-not saym' anything, as usual-to watch me instruct my
Suicide Club, which was only half an hour's run by rail from our
village. He had his overcoat on, an' as soon as he reached the place it
was mafeesh with him, as usual. Rabbit-trick again! You never noticed
him. He sat in the bomb-proof behind the pit where the duds accumulate
till it's time to explode 'em. Naturally, that's strictly forbidden to
the public. So he went there, an' no one noticed him. When he'd had
enough of watchin', he hopped off home to feed our chickens for the
'Then how did you know all about it?' Orton said.
'Because I saw him come into the place just as I was goin' down into
the trench. Then he slipped my memory till my train went back. But it
would have made no difference what our arrangements were. If Hickmer
didn't choose to be noticed, he wasn't noticed. Just for curiosity's
sake I asked some o' the Staff Sergeants whether they'd seen him on the
ground. Not one-not one single one had-or could tell me what he was
like. An', Sat'day noon, he went off to Roehampton. We saw him into the
train ourselves, with the lunch Mrs. B. had put up for him-a one-legged
man an' his crutch, in regulation blue, khaki warm an' kit- bag. Takin'
everything together, per'aps he'd spoken as many as twenty times in the
thirteen days he'd been with us. I'm givin' it you straight as it
happened. An' now-look here!-this is what did happen.
'Between two and three that Sunday morning-dark an' blowin' from the
north-I was woke up by an explosion an' people shoutin' "Raid!" The
first bang fetched 'em out like worms after rain. There was another
some minutes afterwards, an' me an' a Sergeant in the Shropshires on
leaf told 'em all to take cover. They did. There was a devil of a long
wait an' there was a third pop. Everybody, includin' me, heard
aeroplanes. I didn't notice till afterwards that--'
'What?' said Orton.
'Oh, I noticed a heap of things afterwards. What we noticed
first-the Shropshire Sergeant an' me-was a rick well alight back o'
Margetts' house, an', with that north wind, blowin' straight on to
another rick o' Margetts'. It went up all of a whoosh. The next thing
we saw by the light of it was Margetts' house with a bomb-hole in the
roof and the rafters leanin' sideways like-like they always lean on
such occasions. So we ran there, and the first thing we met was
Margetts in his split- tailed nightie callin' on his mother an' damnin'
his wife. A man always does that when he's cross. Have you noticed?
Mrs. Margetts was in her nightie too, remindin' Margetts that he hadn't
completed his rick insurance. An' that's a woman's lovin' care all
over. Behind them was their eldest son, in trousers an' slippers,
nursin' his arm an' callin' for the doctor. They went through us
howlin' like flammemwerfer casualties-right up the street to the
'Well, there wasn't anything to do except let the show burn out. We
hadn't any means of extinguishing conflagrations. Some of 'em fiddled
with buckets, an' some of 'em tried to get out some o' Margetts'
sticks, but his younger son kept shoutin', "Don't! Don't! It'll be
stole! It'll be stole!" So it burned instead, till the roof came down,
top of all-a little, cheap, dirty villa, In reel life one whizz-bang
would have shifted it; but in our civil village it looked that damned
important and particular you wouldn't believe. We couldn't get round to
Margetts' stable because of the two ricks alight, but we found some one
had opened the door early an' the horses was in Margetts' new vegetable
piece down the hill which he'd hired off old Vigors to extend his
business with. I love the way a horse always looks after his own
belly-same as a Gunner. They went to grazin' down the carrots and
onions till young Margetts ran to turn 'em out, an' then they got in
among the glass frames an' cut themselves. Oh, we had a regular Russian
night of it, everybody givin' advice an' fallin' over each other. When
it got light we saw the damage. House, two ricks an' stable mafeesh;
the big glasshouse with every pane smashed and the furnace-end of it
blown clean out. All the horses an' about fifteen head o'
cattle-butcher's stores from the next field-feeding in the new
vegetable piece. It was a fair clean-up from end to end-house,
furniture, fittin's, plant, an' all the early crops.'
'Was there any other damage in the village?' I asked.
'I'm coming to it-the curious part-but I wouldn't call it damage. I
was renting a field then for my chickens off the Merecroft Estate. It's
accommodation-land, an' there was a wet ditch at the bottom that I had
wanted for ever so long to dam up to make a swim-hole for Mrs. Bevin's
'Ah!' said Orton, half turning in his chair, all in one piece.
'S'pose I was allowed? Not me. Their Agent came down on me for
tamperin' with the Estate's drainage arrangements. An' all I wanted was
to bring the bank down where the ditch narrows-a couple of cartloads of
dirt would have held the water back for half-a-dozen yards-not more
than that, an' I could have made a little spill-way over the top with
three boards-same as in trenches. Well, the first bomb-the one that
woke me up-had done my work for me better than I could. It had dropped
just under the hollow of the bank an' brought it all down in a fair
landslide. I'd got my swim-hole for Mrs. Bevin's ducks, an' I didn't
see how the Estate could kick at the Act o' God, d'you?'
'And Hickmot?' said Orton, grinning.
'Hold on! There was a Parish Council meetin' to demand reprisals, of
course, an' there was the policeman an' me pokin' about among the ruins
till the Explosives Expert came down in his motor car at three p.m.
Monday, an' he meets all the Margetts off their rockers, howlin' in the
surgery, an' he sees my swim-hole fillin' up to the brim.'
'What did he say?' Pole inquired.
'He sized it up at once. (He had to get back to dine in town that
evening.) He said all the evidence proved that it was a lucky shot on
the part of one isolated Hun 'plane gom' home, an' we weren't to take
it to heart. I don't know that anybody but the Margetts did. He said
they must have used incendiary bombs of a new type-which he'd suspected
for a long time. I don't think the man was any worse than God intended
him to be. I don't reelly. But the Shropshire Sergeant said--'
'And what did you think?' I interrupted.
'I didn't think. I knew by then. I'm not a Sherlock Holmes; but
havin' chucked 'em an' chucked 'em back and kicked 'em out of the light
an' slept with 'em for two years, an' makin' my livin' out of them at
that time, I could recognise the fuse of a Mills bomb when I found it.
I found all three of 'em. 'Curious about that second in Margetts'
glasshouse. Hickmot mus' have raked the ashes out of the furnace,
popped it in, an' shut the furnace door. It operated all right. Not one
livin' pane left in the putty, and all the brickwork spread round the
yard in streaks. Just like that St. Firmin village we were talking
'But how d'you account for young what's-hisname gettin' his arm
broken?' said Pole.
'Crutch!' said Bevin. 'If you or me had taken on that night's
doin's, with one leg, we'd have hopped and sweated from one flank to
another an' been caught half-way between. Hickmot didn't. I'm as sure
as I'm sittin' here that he did his doings quiet and comfortable at his
full height-he was over six feet-and no one noticed him. This is the
way I see it. He fixed the swim-hole for Mrs. Bevin's ducks first. We
used to talk over our own affairs in front of him, of course, and he
knew just what she wanted in the way of a pond. So he went and made it
at his leisure. Then he prob'ly went over to Margetts' and lit the
first rack, knowin' that the wind 'ud do the rest. When young Margetts
saw the light of it an' came out to look, Hickmot would have taken post
at the back-door an' dropped the young swine with his crutch, same as
we used to drop Huns comin' out of a dug-out. You know how they blink
at the light? Then he must have walked off an' opened Margetts' stable
door to save the horses. They'd be more to him than any man's life.
Then he prob'ly chucked one bomb on top o' Margetts' roof, havin' seen
that the first rick had caught the second and that the whole house was
bound to go. D'you get me?'
'Then why did he waste his bomb on the house?' said Orton. His glass
eye seemed as triumphant as his real one.
'For camouflage, of course. He was camouflagin' an air-raid. When
the Margetts piled out of their place into the street, he prob'ly
attended to the glasshouse, because that would be Margetts' chief means
o' business. After that-I think so, because otherwise I don't see where
all those extra cattle came from that we found in the vegetable piece-
he must have walked off an' rounded up all the butcher's beasts in the
next medder, an' driven 'em there to help the horses. And when he'd
finished everything he'd set out to do, I'll lay my life an' kit he
curled up like a bloomin' wombat not fifty yards away from the whole
flamin' show-an' let us run round him. An' when he'd had his sleep out,
he went up to Roehampton Monday mornin' by some tram that he'd decided
upon in his own mind weeks an' weeks before.'
'Did he know all the trains then?' said Pole.
'Ask me another. I only know that if he wanted to get from any place
to another without bein' noticed, he did it.'
'And the bombs? He got 'em from you, of course,' Pole went on.
'What do you think? He was an hour in the park watchin' me instruct,
sittin', as I remember, in the bomb-proof by the dud-hole, in his
overcoat. He got 'em all right. He took neither more nor less than he
wanted; an' I've told you what he did with 'em-one-two-an' three.'
''Ever see him afterwards?' said Orton.
'Yes. 'Saw him at Brighton when I went down there with the missus,
not a month after he'd been broken in to his Roehampton leg. You know
how the boys used to sit all along Brighton front in their blues, an'
jump every time the coal was bein' delivered to the hotels behind them?
I barged into him opposite the Old Ship, an' I told him about our air-
raid. I told him how Margetts had gone off his rocker an' walked about
starin' at the sky an' holdin' reprisal-meetin's all by himself; an'
how old Mr. Vigors had bought in what he'd left-tho' of course I said
what was left-o' Margetts' business; an' how well my swim-hole for the
ducks was doin'. It didn't interest him. He didn't want to come over to
stay with us any more, either. We were a long, long way back in his
past. You could see that. He wanted to get back with his new leg, to
his own God-forsaken sheep-walk an' his black fellers in Queensland. I
expect he's done it now, an' no one has noticed him. But, by Gord! He
did leak a little at the end. He did that much! When we was waitin' for
the tram to the station, I said how grateful I was to Fritz for moppin'
up Margetts an' makin' our swim-hole all in one night. Mrs. B. seconded
the motion. We couldn't have done less. Well, then Hickmot said,
speakin' in his queer way, as if English words were all new to him:
"Ah, go on an' bail up in Hell," he says. "Bert was my friend." That
was all. I've given it you just as it happened, word for word. I'd hate
to have an Australian have it in for me for anything I'd done to his
friend. Mark you, I don't say there's anything wrong with you
Australians, Brother Orton. I only say they ain't like us or any one
else that I know.'
'Well, do you want us to be?' said Orton.
'No, no. It takes all sorts to make a world, as the sayin' is. And
now'-Bevin pulled out his gold watch-'if I don't make a move of it I'll
miss my last train.'
'Let her go,' said Orton serenely. 'You've done some lorry-hoppin'
in your time, haven't you-Sergeant?'
'When I was two an' a half stone lighter, Digger,' Bevin smiled in
'Well, I'll run you out home before sun-up. I'm a haulage-contractor
now-London and Oxford. There's an empty of mine ordered to Oxford. We
can go round by your place as easy as not. She's lyin' out Vauxhall-
'My Gord! An' see the sun rise again! 'Haven't seen him since I
can't remember when,' said Bevin, chuckling. 'Oh, there was fun
sometimes in Hell, wasn't there, Australia?'; and again his hands event
down to tighten the belt that was missing.
We and They
FATHER, Mother, and Me.
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We.
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea.
While We live over the way.
But-would you believe it?-They look upon We
As only a sort of They!
We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf
Are horrified out of Their lives;
And They who live up a tree.
And feast on grubs and clay.
(Isn't it scandalous?) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!
We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They
We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood.
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!
All good people agree.
And all good people say.
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They
But if you cross over the sea.
Instead of over the way.
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!
On the Gate
A Tale of '16
IF the Order Above be but the reflection of the Order Below (as that
Ancient affirms, who had some knowledge of the Order), it is not
outside the Order of Things that there should have been confusion also
in the Department of Death. The world's steadily falling death-rate,
the rising proportion of scientifically prolonged fatal illnesses,
which allowed months of warning to all concerned, had weakened
initiative throughout the Necrological Departments. When the War came,
these were as unprepared as civilised mankind; and, like mankind, they
improvised and recriminated in the face of Heaven.
As Death himself observed to St. Peter, who had just come off The
Gate for a rest: 'One does the best one can with the means at one's
'I know,' said the good Saint sympathetically. 'Even with what help
I can muster, I'm on The Gate twenty-two hours out of the
'Do you find your volunteer staff any real use?' Death went on.
'Isn't it easier to do the work oneself than--'
'One must guard against that point of view,' St. Peter returned,
'but I know what you mean. Office officialises the best of us...What is
it now?' He turned to a prim-lipped Seraph who had followed him with an
expulsion-form for signature. St. Peter glanced it over. 'Private R. M.
Buckland,' he read, 'on the charge of saying that there is no God.
'He says he is prepared to prove it, sir, and-according to the
'If you will make yourself acquainted with the Rules, you'll find
they lay down that "the fool says in his heart, there is no God." That
decides it; probably shell-shock. Have you tested his reflexes?'
'No, sir. He kept on saying that there--'
'Pass him in at once! Tell off some one to argue with him and give
him the best of the argument till St. Luke's free. Anything else?'
'A hospital-nurse's record, sir. She has been nursing for two
'A long while.' St. Peter spoke severely. 'She may very well have
'It's her civilian record, sir. I judged best to refer it to you.'
The Seraph handed him a vivid scarlet docket.
'The next time,' said St. Peter, folding it down and writing on one
corner, 'that you get one of these-er-tinted forms, mark it Q.M.A. and
pass bearer at once. Don't worry over trifles.' The Seraph flashed off
and returned to the clamorous Gate.
'Which Department is Q.M.A.?' said Death. St. Peter chuckled .
'It's not a department. It's a Ruling. "Quia multum amavit." A most
useful Ruling. I've stretched it to...Now, I wonder what that child
actually did die of.'
'I'll ask,' said Death, and moved to a public telephone near by.
'Give me War Check and Audit: English side: non-combatant,' he began.
'Latest returns...Surely you've got them posted up to date by now!
...Yes! Hospital Nurse in France...No! Not "nature and aliases." I
said-what-was-nature-of-illness?...Thanks.' He turned to St. Peter.
'Quite normal,' he said. 'Heart-failure after neglected pleurisy
'Good!' St. Peter rubbed his hands. 'That brings her under the
higher allowance C,.L.H. scale-"Greater love hath no man-" But my
people ought to have known that from the first.'
'Who is that clerk of yours?' asked Death. 'He seems rather a
stickler for the proprieties.'
'The usual type nowadays,' St. Peter returned. 'A young Power in
charge of some half-baked Universe. Never having dealt with life yet,
he's somewhat nebulous.'
Death sighed. 'It's the same with my old Departmental Heads. Nothing
on earth will make my fossils on the Normal Civil Side realise that we
are dying in a new age. Come and look at them. They might interest
'Thanks, I will, but--Excuse me a minute! Here's my zealous young
assistant on the wing once more.'
The Seraph had returned to report the arrival of overwhelmingly
heavy convoys at The Gate, and to ask what the Saint advised.
'I'm just off on an inter-departmental inspection which will take me
some time,' said St. Peter. 'You must learn to act on your own
initiative. So I shall leave you to yourself for the next hour or two,
merely suggesting (I don't wish in any way to sway your judgment) that
you invite St. Paul, St. Ignatius (Loyola, I mean) and-er-St.
Christopher to assist as Supervising Assessors on the Board of
Admission. Ignatius is one of the subtlest intellects we have, and an
officer and a gentleman to boot. I assure you'-the Saint turned towards
Death-'he revels in dialectics. If he's allowed to prove his case, he's
quite capable of letting off the offender. St. Christopher, of course,
will pass anything that looks wet and muddy.'
'They are nearly all that now, sir,' said the Seraph.
'So much the better; and-as I was going to say-St. Paul is an
embarrass-a distinctly strong colleague. Still-we all have our
weaknesses. Perhaps a well-timed reference to his seamanship in the
Mediterranean-by the way, look up the name of his ship, will you?
Alexandria register, I think-might be useful in some of those sudden
maritime cases that crop up. I needn't tell you to be firm, of course.
That's your besetting-er-I mean-reprimand 'em severely and publicly,
but-' the Saint's voice broke-'oh, my child, you don't know what it is
to need forgiveness. Be gentle with 'em-be very gentle with 'em!'
Swiftly as a falling shaft of light the Seraph kissed the sandalled
feet and was away.
'Aha!' said St. Peter. 'He can't go far wrong with that Board of
Admission as I've-er-arranged it.'
They walked towards the great central office of Normal Civil Death,
which, buried to the knees in a flood of temporary structures,
resembled a closed cribbage-board among spilt dominoes.
They entered an area of avenues and cross-avenues, flanked by long,
low buildings, each packed with seraphs working wing to folded
'Our temporary buildings,' Death explained. 'Always being added to.
This is the War-side. You'll find nothing changed on the Normal Civil
Side. They are more human than mankind.'
'It doesn't lie in my mouth to blame them,' said St. Peter.
'No, I've yet to meet the soul you wouldn't find excuse for,' said
Death tenderly; 'but then I don't-er-arrange my Boards of
'If one doesn't help one's Staff, one's Staff will never help
itself,' St. Peter laughed, as the shadow of the main porch of the
Normal Civil Death Offices darkened above them.
'This facade rather recalls the Vatican, doesn't it?' said the
'They're quite as conservative. 'Notice how they still keep the old
Holbein uniforms?'Morning, Sergeant Fell. How goes it?' said Death as
he swung the dusty doors and nodded at a Commissionaire, clad in the
grim livery of Death, even as Hans Holbein has designed it.
'Sadly. Very sadly indeed, sir,' the Commissionaire replied. 'So
many pore ladies and gentlemen, sir, 'oo might well 'ave lived another
few years, goin' off, as you might say, in every direction with no time
for the proper obsequities.'
'Too bad,' said Death sympathetically. 'Well, we're none of us as
young as we were, Sergeant.'
They climbed a carved staircase, behung with the whole millinery of
undertaking at large. Death halted on a dark Aberdeen granite landing
and beckoned a messenger.
'We're rather busy to-day, sir,' the messenger whispered, 'but I
think His Majesty will see you.'
'Who is the Head of this Department if it isn't you?' St. Peter
whispered in turn.
'You may well ask,' his companion replied. 'I'm only-' he checked
himself and went on. 'The fact is, our Normal Civil Death side is
controlled by a Being who considers himself all that I am and more.
He's Death as men have made him-in their own image.' He pointed to a
brazen plate, by the side of a black-curtained door, which read:
'Normal Civil Death, K.G., K.T., K.P., P.C., etc.' 'He's as human as
'I guessed as much from those letters. What do they mean?'
'Titles conferred on him from time to time. King of Ghosts; King of
Terrors; King of Phantoms; Pallid Conqueror, and so forth. There's no
denying he's earned every one of them. A first-class mind, but just a
leetle bit of a sn--'
'His Majesty is at liberty,' said the messenger.
Civil Death did not belie his name. No monarch on earth could have
welcomed them more graciously; or, in St. Peter's case, with more of
that particularity of remembrance which is the gift of good kings. But
when Death asked him how his office was working, he became at once the
Departmental Head with a grievance.
'Thanks to this abominable war,' he began testily, 'my N.C.D. has to
spend all its time fighting for mere existence. Your new War-side seems
to think that nothing matters except the war. I've been asked to give
up two-thirds of my Archives Basement (E. 7-E. 64) to the Polish
Civilian Casualty Check and Audit. Preposterous! Where am I to move my
Archives? And they've just been cross-indexed, too!'
'As I understood it,' said Death, 'our War-side merely applied for
desk-room in your basement. They were prepared to leave your Archives
'Impossible! We may need to refer to them at any moment. There's a
case now which is interesting Us all-a Mrs. Ollerby. Worcestershire by
extraction-dying of an internal hereditary complaint. At any moment, We
may wish to refer to her dossier, and how can We if Our basement is
given up to people over whom We exercise no departmental control? This
war has been made excuse for slackness in every direction.'
'Indeed!' said Death. 'You surprise me. I thought nothing made any
difference to the N.C.D.'
'A few years ago I should have concurred,' Civil Death replied. 'But
since this-this recent outbreak of unregulated mortality there has been
a distinct lack of respect toward certain aspects of Our
administration. The attitude is bound to reflect itself in the office.
The official is, in a large measure, what the public makes him. Of
course, it is only temporary reaction, but the merest outsider would
notice what I mean. Perhaps you would like to see for yourself?' Civil
Death bowed towards St. Peter, who feared that he might be taking up
'Not in the least. If I am not the servant of the public, what am
I?' Civil Death said, and preceded them to the landing. 'Now, this'-he
ushered them into an immense but badly lighted office-'is our
International Mortuary Department-the I.M.D. as we call it. It works
with the Check and Audit. I should be sorry to say offhand how many
billion sterling it represents, invested in the funeral ceremonies of
all the races of mankind.' He stopped behind a very bald-headed clerk
at a desk. 'And yet We take cognizance of the minutest detail, do not
We?' he went on. 'What have We here, for example?'
'Funeral expenses of the late Mr. John Shenks Tanner.' The clerk
stepped aside from the redruled book. 'Cut down by the executors on
account of the War from "173:19:1 to "47:18:4. A sad falling off, if I
may say so, Your Majesty.'
'And what was the attitude of the survivors?' Civil Death asked.
'Very casual. It was a motor-hearse funeral.'
'A pernicious example, spreading, I fear, even in the lowest
classes,' his superior muttered. 'Haste, lack of respect for the Dread
Summons, carelessness in the Subsequent Disposition of the Corpse
'But as regards people's real feelings?' St. Peter demanded of the
'That isn't within the terms of our reference, Sir,' was the answer.
'But we do know that, as often as not, they don't even buy black-edged
'Good Heavens!' said Civil Death swellingly. 'No cards! I must look
into this myself. Forgive me, St. Peter, but we Servants of Humanity,
as you know, are not our own masters. No cards, indeed!' He waved them
off with an official hand, and immersed himself in the ledger.
'Oh, come along,' Death whispered to St. Peter. 'This is a blessed
They two walked on till they reached the far end of the vast dim
office. The clerks at the desks here scarcely pretended to work. A
messenger entered and slapped down a small autophonic reel.
'Here you are!' he cried. 'Mister Wilbraham Lattimer's last dying
speech and record. He made a shockin' end of it.'
'Good for Lattimer!' a young voice called from a desk. 'Chuck it
'Yes,' the messenger went on.'Lattimer said to his brother: "Bert, I
haven't time to worry about a little thing like dying these days, and
what's more important, you haven't either. You go back to your Somme
doin's, and I'll put it through with Aunt Maria. It'll amuse her and it
won't hinder you." That's nice stuff for your boss!' The messenger
whistled and departed. A clerk groaned as he snatched up the reel.
'How the deuce am I to knock this into official shape?' he began.
'Pass us the edifying Gantry Tubnell. I'll have to crib from him again,
'Be careful!' a companion whispered, and shuffled a typewritten form
along the desk. 'I've used Tubby twice this morning already.'
The late Mr. Gantry Tubnell must have demised on approved
departmental lines, for his record was much thumbed. Death and St.
Peter watched the editing with interest.
'I can't bring in Aunt Maria any way,' the clerk broke out at last.
'Listen here, every one! She has heart-disease. She dies just as she's
lifted the dropsical Lattimer to change his sheets. She says: "Sorry,
Willy! I'd make a dam' pore 'ospital nurse!"; Then she sits down and
croaks. Now I call that good! I've a great mind to take it round to the
War-side as an indirect casualty and get a breath of fresh air.'
'Then you'll be hauled over the coals,' a neighbour suggested.
'I'm used to that, too,' the clerk sniggered.
'Are you?' said Death, stepping forward suddenly from behind a high
map-stand. 'Who are you?' The clerk cowered in his skeleton jacket.
'I'm not on the Regular Establishment, Sir,' he stammered. 'I'm a-
Volunteer. I-I wanted to see how people behaved when they were in
'Did you? Well, take the late Mr. Wilbraham Lattimer's and Miss
Maria Lattimer's papers to the War-side General Reference Office. When
they have been passed upon, tell the Attendance Clerk that you are to
serve as probationer in-let's see-in the Domestic Induced Casualty
The clerk collected himself a little and spoke through dry lips.
'But-but I'm-I slipped in from the Lower Establishment, Sir,' he
There was no need to explain. He shook from head to foot as with the
palsy; and under all Heaven none tremble save those who come from that
class which 'also believe and tremble.'
'Do you tell Me this officially, or as one created being to
another?' Death asked after a pause.
'Oh, non-officially, Sir. Strictly non-officially, so long as you
know all about it.'
His awe-stricken fellow-workers could not restrain a smile at Death
having to be told about anything. Even Death bit his lips.
'I don't think you will find the War-side will raise any objection,'
said he. 'By the way, they don't wear that uniform over there.'
Almost before Death ceased speaking, it was ripped off and flung on
the floor, and that which had been a sober clerk of Normal Civil Death
stood up an unmistakable, curly-haired, bat-winged, faun-eared Imp of
the Pit. But where his wings joined his shoulders there was a patch of
delicate dove-coloured feathering that gave promise to spread all up
the pinion. St. Peter saw it and smiled, for it was a known sign of
'Thank Goodness!' the ex-clerk gasped as he snatched up the Lattimer
records and sheered sideways through the skylight.
'Amen!' said Death and St. Peter together, and walked through the
'Weren't you hinting something to me a little while ago about my lax
methods?' St. Peter demanded, innocently.
'Well, if one doesn't help one's Staff, one's Staff will never help
itself,' Death retorted. 'Now, I shall have to pitch in a stiff demi-
official asking how that young fiend came to be taken on in the N.C.D.
without examination. And I must do it before the N.C.D. complain that
I've been interfering with their departmental transfers. Aren't they
human? If you want to go back to The Gate I think our shortest way will
be through here and across the War-Sheds.'
They carne out of a side-door into Heaven's full light. A phalanx of
Shining Ones swung across a great square singing
'To Him Who made the Heavens abide, yet cease not from their
To Him Who drives the cleansing tide twice a day round Ocean-
Let His Name be magnified in all poor folks' devotion!'
Death halted their leader, and asked a question.
'We're Volunteer Aid Serving Powers,' the Seraph explained,
'reporting for duty in the Domestic Induced Casualty Department-told
off to help relatives, where we can.'
The shift trooped on-such an array of Powers, Honours, Glories,
Toils, Patiences, Services, Faiths and Loves as no man may conceive
even by favour of dreams. Death and St. Peter followed them into a
D.I.C.D. Shed on the English side where, for the moment, work had
slackened. Suddenly a name flashed on the telephone-indicator. 'Mrs.
Arthur Bedott, 317, Portsmouth Avenue, Brondesbury. Husband badly
wounded. One child.' Her special weakness was appended.
A Seraph on the raised dais that overlooked the Volunteer Aids
waiting at the entrance, nodded and crooked a finger. One of the new
shift-a temporary Acting Glory-hurled himself from his place and
'You may take it,' Death whispered to St. Peter, 'there will be a
sustaining epic built up round Private Bedott's wound for his wife and
Baby Bedott to cling to. And here-'they heard wings that flapped
wearily-'here, I suspect, comes one of our failures.'
A Seraph entered and dropped, panting, on a form. His plumage was
ragged, his sword splintered to the hilt; and his face still worked
with the passions of the world he had left, as his soiled vesture
reeked of alcohol.
'Defeat,' he reported hoarsely, when he had given in a woman's name.
'Utter defeat! Look!' He held up the stump of his sword. 'I broke this
on her gin-bottle.'
'So? We try again,' said the impassive Chief Seraph. Again he
beckoned, and there stepped forward that very Imp whom Death had
transferred from the N.C.D.
'Go you!' said the Seraph. 'We must deal with a fool according to
her folly. Have you pride enough?'
There was no need to ask. The messenger's face glowed and his
nostrils quivered with it. Scarcely pausing to salute, he poised and
dived, and the papers on the desks spun beneath the draught of his
St. Peter nodded high approval. 'I see!' he said. 'He'll work on her
pride to steady her. By all means-"if by all means," as my good Paul
used to say. Only it ought to read "by any manner of possible means."
'It's difficult, though,' a soft-eyed Patience whispered. 'I fail
again and again. I'm only fit for an old-maid's tea-party.'
Once more the record flashed-a multiple-urgent appeal on behalf of a
few thousand men, worn-out body and soul. The Patience was
'Oh, me!' she sighed, with a comic little shrug of despair, and took
the void softly as a summer breeze at dawning.
'But how does this come under the head of Domestic Casualties? Those
men were in the trenches. I heard the mud squelch,' said St. Peter.
'Something wrong with the installation-as usual. Waves are always
jamming here,' the Seraph replied.
'So it seems,' said St. Peter as a wireless cut in with the muffled
note of some one singing (sorely out of tune), to an accompaniment of
'Unless you can love as the Angels love With the breadth of Heaven
'Twixt!' It broke off. The record showed a name. The waiting Seraphs
stiffened to attention with a click of tense quills.
'As you were!' said the Chief Seraph. 'He's met her.'
'Who is she?' said St. Peter.
'His mother. You never get over your weakness for romance,' Death
answered, and a covert smile spread through the Office.
'Thank Heaven, I don't. But I really ought to be going--'
'Wait one minute. Here's trouble coming through, I think,' Death
A recorder had sparked furiously in a broken run of S.O.S.'s that
allowed no time for inquiry.
'Name! Name!' an impatient young Faith panted at last. 'It can't be
blotted out.' No name came up. Only the reiterated appeal.
'False alarm!' said a hard-featured Toil, well used to mankind.
'Some fool has found out that he owns a soul. 'Wants work. I'd cure
'Hush!' said a Love in Armour, stamping his mailed foot. The office
''Bad case?' Death demanded at last.
'Rank bad, Sir. They are holding back the name,' said the Chief
Seraph. The S.O.S. signals grew more desperate, and then ceased with an
emphatic thump. The Love in Armour winced.
'Firing-party,' he whispered to St. Peter. ''Can't mistake that
'What is it?' St. Peter cried nervously.
'Deserter; spy; murderer,' was the Chief Seraph's weighed answer.
'It's out of my department-now. No-hold the line! The name's up at
It showed for an instant, broken and faint as sparks on charred
wadding, but in that instant a dozen pens had it written. St. Peter
with never a word gathered his robes about him and bundled through the
door, headlong for The Gate.
'No hurry,' said Death at his elbow. 'With the present rush your man
won't come up for ever so long.'
''Never can be sure these days. Anyhow, the Lower Establishment will
be after him like sharks. He's the very type they'd want for
propaganda. Deserter-traitor-murderer. Out of my way, please,
A group of children round a red-headed man who was telling them
stories, scattered laughing. The man turned to St. Peter.
'Deserter, traitor, murderer,' he repeated. 'Can I be of
'You can!' St. Peter gasped. 'Double on ahead to The Gate and tell
them to hold up all expulsions till I come. Then,' he shouted as the
man sped off at a long hound-like trot, 'go and picket the outskirts of
the Convoys. Don't let any one break away on any account. Quick!'
But Death was right. They need not have hurried. The crowd at The
Gate was far beyond the capacities of the Examining Board even though,
as St. Peter's Deputy informed him, it had been enlarged twice in his
'We're doing our best,' the Seraph explained, 'but delay is
inevitable, Sir. The Lower Establishment are taking advantage of it, as
usual, at the tail of the Convoys. I've doubled all pickets there, and
I'm sending more. Here's the extra list, Sir-Arc J., Bradlaugh C.,
Bunyan J., Calvin J. Iscariot J. reported to me just now, as under your
orders, and took 'em with him. Also Shakespeare W. and--'
'Never mind the rest,' said St. Peter. I I'm going there myself.
Meantime, carry on with the passes-don't fiddle over 'em-and give me a
blank or two.' He caught up a thick block of Free Passes, nodded to a
group in khaki at a passport table, initialled their Commanding
Officer's personal pass as for 'Officer and Party,' and left the
numbers to be filled in by a quite competent-looking Quarter-master-
Sergeant. Then, Death beside him, he breasted his way out of The Gate
against the incoming multitude of all races, tongues, and creeds that
stretched far across the plain.
An old lady, firmly clutching a mottle-nosed, middle-aged Major by
the belt, pushed across a procession of keen-faced poilus, and blocked
his path, her captive held in that terrible mother-grip no Power has
yet been able to unlock.
'I found him! I've got him! Pass him !' she ordered.
St. Peter's jaw fell. Death politely looked elsewhere.
'There are a few formalities,' the Saint began.
'With Jerry in this state? Nonsense! How like a man! My boy never
gave me a moment's anxiety in--'
'Don't, dear-don't!' The Major looked almost as uncomfortable as St.
'Well, nothing compared with what he would give me if he weren't
'Didn't I hear you singing just now?' Death asked, seeing that his
companion needed a breathing-space.
'Of course you did,' the Mother intervened. 'He sings beautifully.
And that's another reason! You're bass, aren't you now, darling?'
St. Peter glanced at the agonised Major and hastily initialled him a
pass. Without a word of thanks the Mother hauled him away.
'Now, under what conceivable Ruling do you justify that?' said
'I.W.-the Importunate Widow. It's scandalous!' St. Peter groaned.
Then his face darkened as he looked across the great plain beyond The
Gate. 'I don't like this,' he said. 'The Lower Establishment is out in
full force to-night. I hope our pickets are strong enough--'
The crowd here had thinned to a disorderly queue flanked on both
sides by a multitude of busy, discreet emissaries from the Lower
Establishment who continually edged in to do business with them, only
to be edged off again by a line of watchful pickets. Thanks to the
khaki everywhere, the scene was not unlike that which one might have
seen on earth any evening of the old days outside the refreshment-room
by the Arch at Victoria Station, when the Army trains started. St.
Peter's appearance was greeted by the usual outburst of cock-crowing
from the Lower Establishment.
'Dirty work at the cross-roads,' said Death dryly.
'I deserve it!' St. Peter grunted, 'but think what it must mean for
He shouldered into the thick of the confusion where the pickets
coaxed, threatened, implored, and in extreme cases bodily shoved the
wearied men and women past the voluble and insinuating spirits who
strove to draw them aside.
A Shropshire Yeoman had just accepted, together with a forged pass,
the assurance of a genial runner of the Lower Establishment that Heaven
lay round the corner, and was being stealthily steered thither, when a
large hand jerked him back, another took the runner in the chest, and
some one thundered: 'Get out, you crimp!' The situation was then
vividly explained to the soldier in the language of the barrack-
'Don't blame me, Guv'nor,' the man expostulated. 'I 'aven't seen a
woman, let alone angels, for umpteen months. I'm from Joppa. Where 'you
'Northampton,' was the answer. 'Rein back and keep by me.'
'What? You ain't ever Charley B. that my dad used to tell about? I
thought you always said--'
'I shall say a deal more soon. Your Sergeant's talking to that woman
in red. Fetch him in-quick!'
Meantime, a sunken-eyed Scots officer, utterly lost to the riot
around, was being button-holed by a person of reverend aspect who
explained to him that, by the logic of his own ancestral creed, not
only was the Highlander irrevocably damned, but that his damnation had
been predetermined before Earth was made.
'It's unanswerable-just unanswerable,' said the young man
sorrowfully. 'I'll be with ye.' He was moving off, when a smallish
figure interposed, not without dignity.
'Monsieur,' it said, 'would it be of any comfort to you to know that
I am-I was-John Calvin?' At this the reverend one cursed and swore like
the lost Soul he was, while the Highlander turned to discuss with
Calvin, pacing towards The Gate, some alterations in the fabric of a
work of fiction called the Institutio.
Others were not so easily held. A certain Woman, with loosened hair,
bare arms, flashing eyes and dancing feet, shepherded her knot of
waverers, hoarse and exhausted. When the taunt broke out against her
from the opposing line: 'Tell 'em what you were! Tell 'em if you dare!'
she answered unflinchingly, as did Judas, who, worming through the
crowd like an Armenian carpet-vendor, peddled his shame aloud that it
might give strength to others.
'Yes,' he would cry, 'I am everything they say, but if I'm here it
must be a moral cert for you gents. This way, please. Many mansions,
gentlemen! Go-ood billets! Don't you notice these low people, Sar.
Plees keep hope, gentlemen!'
When there were cases that cried to him from the ground-poor souls
who could not stick it but had found their way out with a rifle and a
boot-lace, he would tell them of his own end, till he made them
contemptuous enough to rise up and curse him. Here St. Luke's
imperturbable bedside manner backed and strengthened the other's almost
too oriental flux of words.
In this fashion and step by step, all the day's Convoy were piloted
past that danger-point where the Lower Establishment are, for reasons
not given us, allowed to ply their trade. The pickets dropped to the
rear, relaxed, and compared notes.
'What always impresses me most,' said Death to St. Peter, 'is the
sheeplike simplicity of the intellectual mind.' He had been watching
one of the pickets apparently overwhelmed by the arguments of an
advanced atheist who-so hot in his argument that he was deaf to the
offers of the Lower Establishment to make him a god-had stalked,
talking hard-while the picket always gave ground before him-straight
past the Broad Road.
'He was plaiting of long-tagged epigrams,' the sober-faced picket
smiled. 'Give that sort only an ear and they'll follow ye gobbling like
'And John held his peace through it all,' a full fresh voice broke
in. '"It may be so," says John. "Doubtless, in your belief, it is so,"
says John. "Your words move me mightily," says John, and gorges his own
beliefs like a pike going backwards. And that young fool, so busy
spinning words-words-words-that he trips past Hell Mouth without seeing
it!...Who's yonder, Joan?'
'One of your English. 'Always late. Look!' A young girl with short-
cropped hair pointed with her sword across the plain towards a single
faltering figure which made at first as though to overtake the Convoy,
but then turned left towards the Lower Establishment, who were
enthusiastically cheering him as a leader of enterprise.
'That's my traitor,' said St. Peter. 'He has no business to report
to the Lower Establishment before reporting to Convoy.'
The figure's pace slackened as he neared the applauding line. He
looked over his shoulder once or twice, and then fairly turned tail and
fled again towards the still Convoy.
'Nobody ever gave me credit for anything I did,' he began, sobbing
and gesticulating. 'They were all against me from the first. I only
wanted a little encouragement. It was a regular conspiracy, but I
showed 'em what I could do! I showed 'em! And-and-' he halted again.
'Oh, God! What are you going to do with me?'
No one offered any suggestion. He ranged sideways like a doubtful
dog, while across the plain the Lower Establishment murmured
seductively. All eyes turned to St. Peter.
'At this moment,' the Saint said half to himself, 'I can't recall
any precise ruling under which--'
'My own case?' the ever-ready Judas suggested.
'No-o! That's making too much of it. And yet--'
'Oh, hurry up and get it over,' the man wailed, and told them all
that he had done, ending with the cry that none had ever recognised his
merits; neither his own narrow-minded people, his inefficient
employers, nor the snobbish jumped-up officers of his battalion.
'You see,' said St. Peter at the end. 'It's sheer vanity. It isn't
even as if we had a woman to fall back upon.'
'Yet there was a woman or I'm mistaken,' said the picket with the
pleasing voice who had praised John.
'Eh-what? When?' St. Peter turned swiftly on the speaker. 'Who was
'The wise woman of Tekoah,' came the smooth answer. 'I remember,
because that verse was the private heart of my plays-some of 'em.'
But the Saint was not listening. 'You have it!' he cried. 'Samuel
Two, Double Fourteen. To think that I should have forgotten! "For we
must needs die and are as water spilled on the ground which cannot be
gathered up again. Neither Both God respect any person, yet-" Here,
you! Listen to this!'
The man stepped forward and stood to attention. Some one took his
cap as Judas and the picket John closed up beside him.
'"Yet doth He devise means (d'you understand that?) devise means
that His banished be not expelled from Him!" This covers your case. I
don't know what the means will be. That's for you to find out. They'll
tell you yonder.' He nodded towards the now silent Lower Establishment
as he scribbled on a pass. 'Take this paper over to them and report for
duty there. You'll have a thin time of it; but they won't keep you a
day longer than I've put down. Escort!'
'Does-does that mean there's any hope?' the man stammered.
'Yes--I'll show you the way,' Judas whispered. 'I've lived there-a
very long time.'
'I'll bear you company a piece,' said John, on his left flank.
'There'll be Despair to deal with. Heart up, Mr. Littlesoul!'
The three wheeled off, and the Convoy watched them grow smaller and
smaller across the plain.
St. Peter smiled benignantly and rubbed his hands.
'And now we're rested,' said he, 'I think we might make a push for
billets this evening, gentlemen, eh?'
The pickets fell in, guardians no longer but friends and companions
all down the line. There was a little burst of cheering and the whole
Convoy strode away towards the not so distant Gate.
The Saint and Death stayed behind to rest awhile. It was a heavenly
evening. They could hear the whistle of the low-flighting Cherubim,
clear and sharp, under the diviner note of some released Seraph's
wings, where, his errand accomplished, he plunged three or four stars
deep into the cool Baths of Hercules; the steady dynamo-like hum of the
nearer planets on their axes; and, as the hush deepened, the surprised
little sigh of some new-born sun a universe of universes away. But
their minds were with the Convoy that their eyes followed.
Said St. Peter proudly at last: 'If those people of mine had seen
that fellow stripped of all hope in front of 'em, I doubt if they could
have marched another yard to-night. Watch 'em stepping out now, though!
Aren't they human?'
'To whom do you say it?' Death answered, with something of a tired
smile. 'I'm more than human. I've got to die some time or other. But
all other created Beings-afterwards...'
'I know,' said St. Peter softly. 'And that is why I love you, 0
For now they were alone Death had, of course, returned to his true
majestic shape-that only One of all created beings who is doomed to
perish utterly, and knows it.
'Well, that's that-for me!' Death concluded as he rose. 'And yet-'
he glanced towards the empty plain where the Lower Establishment had
withdrawn with their prisoner. '"Yet doth He devise means."'
(Song of the Avaiting Seraphs.)
To Him Who bade the Heavens abide, yet cease not from their motion.
To Him Who tames the moonstruck tide twice a day round Ocean-
Let His Names be magnified in all poor folks' devotion!
Powers and Gifts.
Not for Prophecies or Powers, Visions, Gifts, or Graces.
But the unregardful hours that grind us in our places
With the burden on our backs, the weather in our faces.
Not for any Miracle of easy Loaves and Fishes.
But for doing, 'gainst our will, work against our wishes-
Such as finding food to fill daily-emptied dishes.
Not for Voices, Harps or Wings or rapt illumination.
But the grosser Self that springs of use and occupation.
Unto which the Spirit clings as her last salvation.
Powers, Glories, Toils, and Gifts.
(He Who launched our Ship of Fools many anchors gave us.
Lest one gale should start them all-one collision stave us.
Praise Him for the petty creeds
That prescribe in paltry needs
Solemn rites to trivial deeds and, by small things, save us!)
Services and Loves.
Heart may fail, and Strength outwear, and Purpose turn to Loathing.
But the everyday affair of business, meals, and clothing.
Builds a bulkhead 'twixt Despair and the Edge of Nothing.
(Praise Him, then, Who orders it that, though Earth be flaring
And the crazy skies are lit
By the searchlights of the Pit.
Man should not depart a whit from his wonted bearing.
He Who bids the wild-swans' host still maintain their flight on
Air-roads over islands lost--
Ages since 'neath Ocean lost--
Beaches of some sunken coast their fathers would alight on--
He shall guide us through this dark, not by new-blown glories.
But by every ancient mark our fathers used before us.
Till our children ground their ark where the proper shore is.
Services, Patiences, Faiths, Hopes, and Loves.
He Who used the clay that clings on our boots to make us.
Shall not suffer earthly things to remove or shake us:
But, when Man denies His Lord.
Habit without Fleet or Sword
(Custom without threat or word)
Sees the ancient fanes restored-the timeless rites o'ertake us.
For He Who makes the Mountains smoke and rives the Hills asunder.
And, to-morrow, leads the grass-
Mere unconquerable grass-
Where the fuming crater was, to heal and hide it under.
He shall not-He shall not-
Shall not lay on us the yoke of too long Fear and Wonder!
NOTHING in life has been made by man for man's using
But it was shown long since to man in ages
Lost as the name of the maker of it.
Who received oppression and scorn for his wages-
Hate, avoidance, and scorn in his daily dealings-
Until he perished, wholly confounded.
More to be pitied than he are the wise
Souls which foresaw the evil of loosing
Knowledge or Art before time, and aborted
Noble devices and deep-wrought healings.
Lest offence should arise.
Heaven delivers on earth the Hour that cannot be thwarted.
Neither advanced, at the price of a world or a soul, and its Prophet
Comes through the blood of the vanguards who dreamed--too soon--it had sounded.
The Eye of Allah
THE Cantor of St. Illod's being far too enthusiastic a musician to
concern himself with its Library, the Sub-Cantor, who idolised every
detail of the work, was tidying up, after two hours' writing and
dictation in the Scriptorium. The copying-monks handed him in their
sheets-it was a plain Four Gospels ordered by an Abbot at Evesham-and
filed out to vespers. John Otho, better known as John of Burgos, took
no heed. He was burnishing a tiny boss of gold in his miniature of the
Annunciation for his Gospel of St. Luke, which it was hoped that
Cardinal Falcodi, the Papal Legate, might later be pleased to
'Break off, John,' said the Sub-Cantor in an undertone.
'Eh? Gone, have they? I never heard. Hold a minute, Clement.'
The Sub-Cantor waited patiently. He had known John more than a dozen
years, coming and going at St. Illod's, to which monastery John, when
abroad, always said he belonged. The claim was gladly allowed, for,
more even than other Fitz Othos, he seemed to carry all the Arts under
his hand, and most of their practical receipts under his hood.
The Sub-Cantor looked over his shoulder at the pinned-down sheet
where the first words of the Magnificat were built up in gold washed
with red-lac for a background to the Virgin's hardly yet fired halo.
She was shown, hands joined in wonder, at a lattice of infinitely
intricate arabesque, round the edges of which sprays of orange-bloom
seemed to load the blue hot air that carried back over the minute
parched landscape in the middle distance.
'You've made her all Jewess,' said the Sub-Cantor, studying the
olive- flushed cheek and the eyes charged with foreknowledge.
'What else was Our Lady?' John slipped out the pins. 'Listen,
Clement. If I do not come back, this goes into my Great Luke, whoever
finishes it.' He slid the drawing between its guard-papers.
'Then you're for Burgos again-as I heard?'
'In two days. The new Cathedral yonder-but they're slower than the
Wrath of God, those masons-is good for the soul.'
'Thy soul?' The Sub-Cantor seemed doubtful.
'Even mine, by your permission. And down south-on the edge of the
Conquered Countries-Granada way-there's some Moorish diaper-work that's
wholesome. It allays vain thought and draws it toward the picture-as
you felt, just now, in my Annunciation.'
'She-it was very beautiful. No wonder you go. But you'll not forget
your absolution, John?'
'Surely.' This was a precaution John no more omitted on the eve of
his travels than he did the recutting of the tonsure which he had
provided himself with in his youth, somewhere near Ghent. The mark gave
him privilege of clergy at a pinch, and a certain consideration on the
'You'll not forget, either, what we need in the Scriptorium. There's
no more true ultramarine in this world now. They mix it with that
German blue. And as for vermilion--'
'I'll do my best always.'
'And Brother Thomas' (this was the Infirmarian in charge of the
monastery hospital) 'he needs--'
'He'll do his own asking. I'll go over his side now, and get me re-
John went down the stairs to the lane that divides the hospital and
cook-house from the back-cloisters. While he was being barbered,
Brother Thomas (St. Illod's meek but deadly persistent Infirmarian)
gave him a list of drugs that he was to bring back from Spain by hook,
crook, or lawful purchase. Here they were surprised by the lame, dark
Abbot Stephen, in his fur-lined night-boots. Not that Stephen de Sautre
was any spy; but as a young man he had shared an unlucky Crusade, which
had ended, after a battle at Mansura, in two years' captivity among the
Saracens at Cairo where men learn to walk softly. A fair huntsman and
hawker, a reasonable disciplinarian, but a man of science above all,
and a Doctor of Medicine under one Ranulphus, Canon of St. Paul's, his
heart was more m the monastery's hospital work than its religious. He
checked their list interestedly, adding items of his own. After the
Infirmarian had withdrawn, he gave John generous absolution, to cover
lapses by the way; for he did not hold with chance-bought
'And what seek you this journey?' he demanded, sitting on the bench
beside the mortar and scales in the little warm cell for stored
'Devils, mostly,' said John, grinning.
'In Spain? Are not Abana and Phar-par--?'
John, to whom men were but matter for drawings, and well-born to
boot (since he was a de Sanford on his mother's side), looked the Abbot
full in the face and-'Did you find it so?' said he.
'No. They were in Cairo too. But what's your special need of
'For my Great Luke. He's the masterhand of all Four when it comes to
'No wonder. He was a physician. You're not.'
'Heaven forbid! But I'm weary of our Church-pattern devils. They're
only apes and goats and poultry conjoined. 'Good enough for plain red-
and-black Hells and Judgment Days-but not for me.'
'What makes you so choice in them?'
'Because it stands to reason and Art that there are all musters of
devils in Hell's dealings. Those Seven, for example, that were haled
out of the Magdalene. They'd be she-devils-no kin at all to the beaked
and horned and bearded devils-general.'
The Abbot laughed.
'And see again! The devil that came out of the dumb man. What use is
snout or bill to him? He'd be faceless as a leper. Above all-God send I
live to do it!-the devils that entered the Gadarene swine. They'd
be-they'd be-I know not yet what they'd be, but they'd be surpassing
devils. I'd have 'em diverse as the Saints themselves. But now, they're
all one pattern, for wall, window, or picture-work.'
'Go on, John. You're deeper in this mystery than I'
'Heaven forbid! But I say there's respect due to devils, damned tho'
'My meaning is that if the shape of anything be worth man's thought
to picture to man, it's worth his best thought.'
'That's safer. But I'm glad I've given you Absolution.'
'There's less risk for a craftsman who deals with the outside shapes
of things-for Mother Church's glory.'
'Maybe so, but, John'-the Abbot's hand almost touched John's sleeve-
'tell me, now, is-is she Moorish or-or Hebrew?'
'She's mine,' John returned.
'Is that enough?'
'I have found it so.'
'Well-ah well! It's out of my jurisdiction, but-how do they look at
it down yonder?'
'Oh, they drive nothing to a head in Spain-neither Church nor King,
bless them! There's too many Moors and Jews to kill them all, and if
they chased 'em away there'd be no trade nor farming. Trust me, in the
Conquered Countries, from Seville to Granada, we live lovingly enough
together-Spaniard, Moor, and Jew. Ye see, we ask no questions.'
'Yes-yes,' Stephen sighed. 'And always there's the hope she may be
'Oh yes, there's always hope.'
The Abbot went on into the hospital. It was an easy age before Rome
tightened the screw as to clerical connections. If the lady were not
too forward, or the son too much his father's beneficiary in
ecclesiastical preferments and levies, a good deal was overlooked. But,
as the Abbot had reason to recall, unions between Christian and Infidel
led to sorrow. None the less, when John with mule, mails, and man,
clattered off down the lane for Southampton and the sea, Stephen envied
He was back, twenty months later, in good hard case, and loaded down
with fairings. A lump of richest lazuli, a bar of orange-hearted
vermilion, and a small packet of dried beetles which make most glorious
scarlet, for the SubCantor. Besides that, a few cubes of milky marble,
with yet a pink flush in them, which could be slaked and ground down to
incomparable background-stuff. There were quite half the drugs that the
Abbot and Thomas had demanded, and there was a long deep-red cornelian
necklace for the Abbot's Lady-Anne of Norton. She received it
graciously, and asked where John had come by it.
'Near Granada,' he said.
'You left all well there?' Anne asked. (Maybe the Abbot had told her
something of John's confession.)
'I left all in the hands of God.'
'Ah me! How long since?'
'Four months less eleven days.'
'Were you-with her?'
'In my arms. Childbed.'
'The boy too. There is nothing now.'
Anne of Norton caught her breath.
'I think you'll be glad of that,' she said after a while.
'Give me time, and maybe I'll compass it. But not now.'
'You have your handiwork and your art, and-John-remember there's no
jealousy in the grave.'
'Ye-es! I have my Art, and Heaven knows I'm jealous of none.'
'Thank God for that at least,' said Anne of Norton, the always
ailing woman who followed the Abbot with her sunk eyes. 'And be sure I
shall treasure this'-she touched the beads-'as long as I shall
'I brought-trusted-it to you for that,' he replied, and took leave.
When she told the Abbot how she had come by it, he said nothing, but as
he and Thomas were storing the drugs that John handed over in the cell
which backs on to the hospital kitchen-chimney, he observed, of a cake
of dried poppy juice: 'This has power to cut off all pain from a man's
'I have seen it,' said John.
'But for pain of the soul there is, outside God's Grace, but one
drug; and that is a man's craft, learning, or other helpful motion of
his own mind.'
'That is coming to me, too,' was the answer.
John spent the next fair May day out in the woods with the monastery
swineherd and all the porkers; and returned loaded with flowers and
sprays of spring, to his own carefully kept place in the north bay of
the Scriptorium. There, with his travelling sketch-books under his left
elbow, he sunk himself past all recollections in his Great Luke.
Brother Martin, Senior Copyist (who spoke about once a fortnight),
ventured to ask, later, how the work was going.
'All here!' John tapped his forehead with his pencil. 'It has been
only waiting these months to-ah God!-be born. Are ye free of your
Brother Martin nodded. It was his pride that John of Burgos turned
to him, in spite of his seventy years, for really good page-work.
'Then see!' John laid out a new vellum-thin but flawless. 'There's
no better than this sheet from here to Paris. Yes! Smell it if you
choose. Wherefore-give me the compasses and I'll set it out for you-if
ye make one letter lighter or darker than its next, I'll stick ye like
'Never, John!' The old man beamed happily. 'But I will! Now, follow!
Here and here, as I prick, and in script of just this height to the
hair's-breadth, yell scribe the thirty-first and thirty-second verses
of Eighth Luke.'
'Yes, the Gadarene Swine! "And they besought him that he would not
command them to go out into the abyss. And there was a herd of many
swine"'--Brother Martin naturally knew all the Gospels by heart.
'Just so! Down to "and he suffered them." Take your time to it. My
Magdalene has to come off my heart first.'
Brother Martin achieved the work so perfectly that John stole some
soft sweetmeats from the Abbot's kitchen for his reward. The old man
ate them; then repented; then confessed and insisted on penance. At
which, the Abbot, knowing there was but one way to reach the real
sinner, set him a book called De Virtutibus Herbarum to fair-copy. St.
Illod's had borrowed it from the gloomy Cistercians, who do not hold
with pretty things, and the crabbed text kept Martin busy just when
John wanted him for some rather specially spaced letterings.
'See now,' said the Sub-Cantor improvingly. 'You should not do such
things, John. Here's Brother Martin on penance for your sake--'
'No-for my Great Luke. But I've paid the Abbot's cook. I've drawn
him till his own scullions cannot keep straight-faced. He'll not tell
'Unkindly done! And you're out of favour with the Abbot too. He's
made no sign to you since you came back-never asked you to high
'I've been busy. Having eyes in his head, Stephen knew it. Clement,
there's no Librarian from Durham to Torre fit to clean up after
The Sub-Cantor stood on guard; he knew where John's compliments
'But outside the Scriptorium--'
'Where I never go.' The Sub-Cantor had been excused even digging in
the garden, lest it should mar his wonderful book-binding hands.
'In all things outside the Scriptorium you are the master-fool of
Christendie. Take it from me, Clement. I've met many.'
'I take everything from you,' Clement smiled benignly. 'You use me
worse than a singing-boy.
They could hear one of that suffering breed in the cloister below,
squalling as the Cantor pulled his hair.
'God love you! So I do! But have you ever thought how I lie and
steal daily on my travels-yes, and for aught you know, murder-to fetch
you colours and earths?'
'True,' said just and conscience-stricken Clement. 'I have often
thought that were I in the world-which God forbid!-I might be a strong
thief in some matters.'
Even Brother Martin, bent above his loathed De Virtutibus,
But about mid-summer, Thomas the Infirmarian conveyed to John the
Abbot's invitation to supper in his house that night, with the request
that he would bring with him anything that he had done for his Great
'What's toward?' said John, who had been wholly shut up in his
'Only one of his "wisdom" dinners. You've sat at a few since you
were a man.'
'True: and mostly good. How would Stephen have us--?'
'Gown and hood over all. There will be a doctor from Salerno-one
Roger, an Italian. Wise and famous with the knife on the body. He's
been in the Infirmary some ten days, helping me-even me!'
''Never heard the name. But our Stephen's physicus before sacerdos,
'And his Lady has a sickness of some time. Roger came hither in
chief because of her.'
'Did he? Now I think of it, I have not seen the Lady Anne for a
'Ye've seen nothing for a long while. She has been housed near a
month-they have to carry her abroad now.'
'So bad as that, then?'
'Roger of Salerno will not yet say what he thinks. But--'
'God pity Stephen!...Who else at table, besides thee?'
'An Oxford friar. Roger is his name also. A learned and famous
philosopher. And he holds his liquor too, valiantly.'
'Three doctors-counting Stephen. I've always found that means two
Thomas looked uneasily down his nose. 'That's a wicked proverb,' he
stammered. 'You should not use it.'
'Hoh! Never come you the monk over me, Thomas! You've been
Infirmarian at St. Illod's eleven years-and a lay-brother still. Why
have you never taken orders, all this while?'
'I-I am not worthy.'
'Ten times worthier than that new fat swine-Henry
Who's-his-name-that takes the Infirmary Masses. He bullocks in with the
Viaticum, under your nose, when a sick man's only faint from being
bled. So the man dies-of pure fear. Ye know it! I've watched your face
at such times. Take Orders, Didymus. You'll have a little more medicine
and a little less Mass with your sick then; and they'll live
'I am unworthy-unworthy,' Thomas repeated pitifully.
'Not you-but-to your own master you stand or fall. And now that my
work releases me for awhile, I'll drink with any philosopher out of any
school. And, Thomas,' he coaxed, 'a hot bath for me in the Infirmary
When the Abbot's perfectly cooked and served meal had ended, and the
deep-fringed naperies were removed, and the Prior had sent in the keys
with word that all was fast in the Monastery, and the keys had been
duly returned with the word, 'Make it so till Prime,' the Abbot and his
guests went out to cool themselves in an upper cloister that took them,
by way of the leads, to the South Choir side of the Triforium. The
summer sun was still strong, for it was barely six o'clock, but the
Abbey Church, of course, lay in her wonted darkness. Lights were being
lit for choir-practice thirty feet below.
'Our Cantor gores them no rest,' the Abbot whispered. 'Stand by this
pillar and we'll hear what he's driving them at now.'
'Remember, all!' the Cantor's hard voice came up. 'This is the soul
of Bernard himself, attacking our evil world. Take it quicker than
yesterday, and throw all your words clean-bitten from you. In the loft
The organ broke out for an instant, alone and raging. Then the
voices crashed together into that first fierce line of the 'De
'Hora novissima-tempora pessima'-a dead pause till the assenting
sunt broke, like a sob, out of the darkness, and one boy's voice,
clearer than silver trumpets, returned the long-drawn vigilemus.
'Ecce minaciter, imminet Arbiter' (organ and voices were leashed
togethor in terror and warning, breaking away liquidly to the 'ille
supremus'). Then the tone-colours shifted for the prelude to 'Imminet,
imminet, ut mala terminet--'
'Stop! Again!' cried the Cantor; and gave his reasons a little more
roundly than was natural at choir-practice.
'Ah! Pity o' man's vanity! He's guessed we are here. Come away!'
said the Abbot. Anne of Norton, in her carried chair, had been
listening too, further along the dark Triforium, with Roger of Salerno.
John heard her sob. On the way back, he asked Thomas how her health
stood. Before Thomas could reply the sharp-featured Italian doctor
pushed between them. 'Following on our talk together, I judged it best
to tell her,' said he to Thomas.
'What?' John asked simply enough.
'What she knew already.' Roger of Salerno launched into a Greek
quotation to the effect that every woman knows all about
'I have no Greek,' said John stiffly. Roger of Salerno had been
giving them a good deal of it, at dinner.
'Then I'll come to you in Latin. Ovid hath it neatly. "Utque malum
late solet immedicabile cancer--" but doubtless you know the rest,
'Alas! My school-Latin's but what I've gathered by the way from
fools professing to heal sick women. "Hocus-pocus--" but doubtless you
know the rest, worthy Sir.'
Roger of Salerno was quite quiet till they regained the dining-room,
where the fire had been comforted and the dates, raisins, ginger, figs,
and cinnamon-scented sweetmeats set out, with the choicer wines, on the
after-table. The Abbot seated himself, drew off his ring, dropped it,
that all might hear the tinkle, into an empty silver cup, stretched his
feet towards the hearth, and looked at the great gilt and carved rose
in the barrel-roof. The silence that keeps from Compline to Matins had
closed on their world. The bull-necked Friar watched a ray of sunlight
split itself into colours on the rim of a crystal salt-cellar; Roger of
Salerno had re-opened some discussion with Brother Thomas on a type of
spotted fever that was baffling them both in England and abroad; John
took note of the keen profile, and-it might serve as a note for the
Great Luke-his hand moved to his bosom. The Abbot saw, and nodded
permission. John whipped out silver-point and sketch-book.
'Nay-modesty is good enough-but deliver your own opinion,' the
Italian was urging the Infirmarian. Out of courtesy to the foreigner
nearly all the talk was in table-Latin; more formal and more copious
than monk's patter. Thomas began with his meek stammer.
'I confess myself at a loss for the cause of the fever unless-as
Varro saith in his De Re Rustica-certain small animals which the eye
cannot follow enter the body by the nose and mouth, and set up grave
diseases. On the other hand, this is not in Scripture.'
Roger of Salerno hunched head and shoulders like an angry cat.
'Always that!' he said, and John snatched down the twist of the thin
'Never at rest, John.' The Abbot smiled at the artist. 'You should
break off every two hours for prayers, as we do. St. Benedict was no
fool. Two hours is all that a man can carry the edge of his eye or
'For copyists-yes. Brother Martin is not sure after one hour. But
when a man's work takes him, he must go on till it lets him go.'
'Yes, that is the Demon of Socrates,' the Friar from Oxford rumbled
above his cup.
'The doctrine leans toward presumption,' said the Abbot. 'Remember,
"Shall mortal man be more just than his Maker?"'
'There is no danger of justice'; the Friar spoke bitterly. 'But at
least Man might be suffered to go forward in his Art or his thought.
Yet if Mother Church sees or hears him move anyward, what says she?
"No!" Always "No."'
'But if the little animals of Varro be invisible'-this was Roger of
Salerno to Thomas-'how are we any nearer to a cure?'
'By experiment'-the Friar wheeled round on them suddenly. 'By reason
and experiment. The one is useless without the other. But Mother
'Ay!' Roger de Salerno dashed at the fresh bait like a pike.
'Listen, Sirs. Her bishops-our Princes-strew our roads in Italy with
carcasses that they make for their pleasure or wrath. Beautiful
corpses! Yet if I-if we doctors-so much as raise the skin of one of
them to look at God's fabric beneath, what says Mother Church?
"Sacrilege! Stick to your pigs and dogs, or you burn!"'
'And not Mother Church only!' the Friar chimed in. 'Every way we are
barred-barred by the words of some man, dead a thousand years, which
are held final. Who is any son of Adam that his one say-so should close
a door towards truth? I would not except even Peter Peregrinus, my own
'Nor I Paul of Aegina,' Roger of Salerno cried. 'Listen, Sirs! Here
is a case to the very point. Apuleius affirmeth, if a man eat fasting
of the juice of the cut-leaved buttercup-sceleratus we call it, which
means "rascally"'-this with a condescending nod towards John-'his soul
will leave his body laughing. Now this is the lie more dangerous than
truth, since truth of a sort is in it.'
'He's away!' whispered the Abbot despairingly.
'For the juice of that herb, I know by experiment, burns, blisters,
and wries the mouth. I know also the rictus, or pseudo-laughter, on the
face of such as have perished by the strong poisons of herbs allied to
this ranunculus. Certainly that spasm resembles laughter. It seems
then, in my judgment, that Apuleius, having seen the body of one thus
poisoned, went off at score and wrote that the man died laughing.'
'Neither staying to observe, nor to confirm observation by
experiment,' added the Friar, frowning.
Stephen the Abbot cocked an eyebrow toward John.
'How think you?' said he.
'I'm no doctor,' John returned, 'but I'd say Apuleius in all these
years might have been betrayed by his copyists. They take short-cuts to
save 'emselves trouble. Put case that Apuleius wrote the soul seems to
leave the body laughing, after this poison. There's not three copyists
in five (my judgment) would not leave out the "seems to." For who'd
question Apuleius? If it seemed so to him, so it must be. Otherwise any
child knows cut-leaved buttercup.'
'Have you knowledge of herbs?' Roger of Salerno asked curtly.
'Only that, when I was a boy in convent, I've made tetters round my
mouth and on my neck with buttercup juice, to save going to prayer o'
'Ah!' said Roger. 'I profess no knowledge of tricks.' He turned
'No matter! Now for your own tricks, John,' the tactful Abbot broke
in. 'You shall show the doctors your Magdalene and your Gadarene Swine
and the devils.'
'Devils? Devils? I have produced devils by means of drugs; and have
abolished them by the same means. Whether devils be external to mankind
or immanent, I have not yet pronounced.' Roger of Salerno was still
'Ye dare not,' snapped the Friar from Oxford. 'Mother Church makes
Her own devils.'
'Not wholly! Our John has come back from Spain with brand-new ones.'
Abbot Stephen took the vellum handed to him, and laid it tenderly on
the table. They gathered to look. The Magdalene was drawn in palest,
almost transparent, grisaille, against a raging, swaying background of
woman-faced devils, each broke to and by her special sin, and each, one
could see, frenziedly straining against the Power that compelled
'I've never seen the like of this grey shadowwork,' said the Abbot.
'How came you by it?'
'Non nobis! It came to me,' said John, not knowing he was a
generation or so ahead of his time in the use of that medium.
'Why is she so pale?' the Friar demanded.
'Evil has all come out of her-she'd take any colour now.'
'Ay, like light through glass. I see.'
Roger of Salerno was looking in silence-his nose nearer and nearer
the page. 'It is so,' he pronounced finally. 'Thus it is in epilepsy-
mouth, eyes, and forehead-even to the droop of her wrist there. Every
sign of it! She will need restoratives, that woman, and, afterwards,
sleep natural. No poppy juice, or she will vomit on her waking. And
thereafter-but I am not in my Schools.' He drew himself up. 'Sir,' said
he, 'you should be of Our calling. For, by the Snakes of Aesculapius,
The two struck hands as equals.
'And how think you of the Seven Devils?' the Abbot went on.
These melted into convoluted flower-or flame-like bodies, ranging in
colour from phosphorescent green to the black purple of outworn
iniquity, whose hearts could be traced beating through their substance.
But, for sign of hope and the sane workings of life, to be regained,
the deep border was of conventionalised spring flowers and birds, all
crowned by a kingfisher in haste, atilt through a clump of yellow
Roger of Salerno identified the herbs and spoke largely of their
'And now, the Gadarene Swine,' said Stephen. John laid the picture
on the table.
Here were devils dishoused, in dread of being abolished to the Void,
huddling and hurtling together to force lodgment by every opening into
the brute bodies offered. Some of the swine fought the invasion,
foaming and jerking; some were surrendering to it, sleepily, as to a
luxurious back-scratching; others, wholly possessed, whirled off in
bucking droves for the lake beneath. In one corner the freed man
stretched out his limbs all restored to his control, and Our Lord,
seated, looked at him as questioning what he would make of his
'Devils indeed!' was the Friar's comment. 'But wholly a new
Some devils were mere lumps, with lobes and protuberances-a hint of
a fiend's face peering through jelly-like walls. And there was a family
of impatient, globular devillings who had burst open the belly of their
smirking parent, and were revolving desperately toward their prey.
Others patterned themselves into rods, chains and ladders, single or
conjoined, round the throat and jaws of a shrieking sow, from whose ear
emerged the lashing, glassy tail of a devil that had made good his
refuge. And there were granulated and conglomerate devils, mixed up
with the foam and slaver where the attack was fiercest. Thence the eye
carried on to the insanely active backs of the downward-racing swine,
the swineherd's aghast face, and his dog's terror.
Said Roger of Salerno, 'I pronounce that these were begotten of
drugs. They stand outside the rational mind.'
'Not these,' said Thomas the Infirmarian, who as a servant of the
Monastery should have asked his Abbot's leave to speak. 'Not these-
look!-in the bordure.'
The border to the picture was a diaper of irregular but balanced
compartments or cellules, where sat, swam, or weltered, devils in
blank, so to say-things as yet uninspired by Evil-indifferent, but
lawlessly outside imagination. Their shapes resembled, again, ladders,
chains, scourges, diamonds, aborted buds, or gravid phosphorescent
globes-some well-nigh starlike.
Roger of Salerno compared them to the obsessions of a Churchman's
'Malignant?' the Friar from Oxford questioned.
'"Count everything unknown for horrible,"' Roger quoted with
'Not I. But they are marvellous-marvellous. I think--'
The Friar drew back. Thomas edged in to see better, and half opened
'Speak,' said Stephen, who had been watching him. 'We are all in a
sort doctors here.'
'I would say then'-Thomas rushed at it as one putting out his life's
belief at the stake-'that these lower shapes in the bordure may not be
so much hellish and malignant as models and patterns upon which John
has tricked out and embellished his proper devils among the swine above
'And that would signify?' said Roger of Salerno sharply.
'In my poor judgment, that he may have seen such shapes-without help
'Now who-who,' said John of Burgos, after a round and unregarded
oath, 'has made thee so wise of a sudden, my Doubter?'
'I wise? God forbid! Only John, remember-one winter six years
ago-the snow-flakes melting on your sleeve at the cookhouse-door. You
showed me them through a little crystal, that made small things
'Yes. The Moors call such a glass the Eye of Allah,' John
'You showed me them melting-six-sided. You called them, then, your
'True. Snow-flakes melt six-sided. I have used them for diaper-work
'Melting snow-flakes as seen through a glass? By art optical?' the
'Art optical? I have never heard!' Roger of Salerno cried.
'John,' said the Abbot of St. Illod's commandingly, 'was it-is it
'In some sort,' John replied, 'Thomas has the right of it. Those
shapes in the bordure were my workshop-patterns for the devils above.
In my craft, Salerno, we dare not drug. It kills hand and eye. My
shapes are to be seen honestly, in nature.'
The Abbot drew a bowl of rose-water towards him. 'When I was
prisoner with-with the Saracens after Mansura,' he began, turning up
the fold of his long sleeve, 'there were certain
magicians-physicians-who could show-' he dipped his third finger
delicately in the water-'all the firmament of Hell, as it were, in-' he
shook off one drop from his polished nail on to the polished
table-'even such a supernaculum as this.'
'But it must be foul water-not clean,' said John.
'Show us then-all-all,' said Stephen. 'I would make sure-once more.'
The Abbot's voice was official.
John drew from his bosom a stamped leather box, some six or eight
inches long, wherein, bedded on faded velvet, lay what looked like
silver-bound compasses of old box-wood, with a screw at the head which
opened or closed the legs to minute fractions. The legs terminated, not
in points, but spoon-shapedly, one spatula pierced with a metal- lined
hole less than a quarter of an inch across, the other with a half-inch
hole. Into this latter John, after carefully wiping with a silk rag,
slipped a metal cylinder that carried glass or crystal, it seemed, at
'Ah! Art optic!' said the Friar. 'But what is that beneath it?'
It was a small swivelling sheet of polished silver no bigger than a
florin, which caught the light and concentrated it on the lesser hole.
John adjusted it without the Friar's proffered help.
'And now to find a drop of water,' said he, picking up a small
'Come to my upper cloister. The sun is on the leads still,' said the
They followed him there. Half-way along, a drip from a gutter had
made a greenish puddle in a worn stone. Very carefully, John dropped a
drop of it into the smaller hole of the compassleg, and, steadying the
apparatus on a coping, worked the screw m the compass joint, screwed
the cylinder, and swung the swivel of the mirror till he was
'Good!' He peered through the thing. 'My Shapes are all here. Now
look, Father! If they do not meet your eye at first, turn this nicked
edge here, left--or right-handed.'
'I have not forgotten,' said the Abbot, taking his place. 'Yes! They
are here-as they were in my time-my time past. There is no end to them,
I was told...There is no end!'
'The light will go. Oh, let me look! Suffer me to see, also!' the
Friar pleaded, almost shouldering Stephen from the eye-piece. The Abbot
gave way. His eyes were on time past. But the Friar, instead of
looking, turned the apparatus in his capable hands.
'Nay, nay,' John interrupted, for the man was already fiddling at
the screws. 'Let the Doctor see.'
Roger of Salerno looked, minute after minute. John saw his
blue-veined cheek-bones turn white. He stepped back at last, as though
'It is a new world-a new world, and-Oh, God Unjust!-I am old!'
'And now Thomas,' Stephen ordered.
John manipulated the tube for the Infirmarian, whose hands shook,
and he too looked long. 'It is Life,' he said presently in a breaking
voice. 'No Hell! Life created and rejoicing-the work of the Creator.
They live, even as I have dreamed. Then it was no sin for me to dream.
No sin-O God-no sin!'
He flung himself on his knees and began hysterically the Benedicite
'And now I will see how it is actuated,' said the Friar from Oxford,
thrusting forward again.
'Bring it within. The place is all eyes and ears,' said Stephen.
They walked quietly back along the leads, three English counties
laid out in evening sunshine around them; church upon church, monastery
upon monastery, cell after cell, and the bulk of a vast cathedral
moored on the edge of the banked shoals of sunset.
When they were at the after-table once more they sat down, all
except the Friar, who went to the window and huddled bat-like over the
thing. 'I see! I see!' he was repeating to himself.
'He'll not hurt it,' said John. But the Abbot, staring in front of
him, like Roger of Salerno, did not hear. The Infirmarian's head was on
the table between his shaking arms.
John reached for a cup of wine.
'It was shown to me,' the Abbot was speaking to himself, 'in Cairo,
that man stands ever between two Infinities-of greatness and
littleness. Therefore, there is no end-either to life-or-'
'And I stand on the edge of the grave,' snarled Roger of Salerno.
'Who pities me?'
'Hush!' said Thomas the Infirmarian. 'The little creatures shall be
sanctified-sanctified to the service of His sick.'
'What need?' John of Burgos wiped his lips. 'It shows no more than
the shapes of things. It gives good pictures. I had it at Granada. It
was brought from the East, they told me.'
Roger of Salerno laughed with an old man's malice. 'What of Mother
Church? Most Holy Mother Church? If it comes to Her ears that we have
spied into Her Hell without Her leave, where do we stand?'
'At the stake,' said the Abbot of St. Illod's, and, raising his
voice a trifle 'You hear that? Roger Bacon, heard you that?'
The Friar turned from the window, clutching the compasses
'No, no!' he appealed. 'Not with Falcodi-not with our
English-hearted Foulkes made Pope. He's wise-he's learned. He reads
what I have put forth. Foulkes would never suffer it.'
'"Holy Pope is one thing, Holy Church another,"' Roger quoted.
'But I-I can bear witness it is no Art Magic,' the Friar went on.
'Nothing is it, except Art optical-wisdom after trial and experiment,
mark you. I can prove it, and-my name weighs with men who dare
'Find them!' croaked Roger of Salerno. 'Five or six in all the
world. That makes less than fifty pounds by weight of ashes at the
stake. I have watched such men-reduced.'
'I will not give this up!' The Friar's voice cracked in passion and
despair. 'It would be to sin against the Light.'
'No, no! Let us-let us sanctify the little animals of Varro,' said
Stephen leaned forward, fished his ring out of the cup, and slipped
it on his finger. 'My sons,' said he, 'we have seen what we have
'That it is no magic but simple Art,' the Friar persisted.
''Avails nothing. In the eyes of Mother Church we have seen more
than is permitted to man.'
'But it was Life-created and rejoicing,' said Thomas.
'To look into Hell as we shall be judged-as we shall be proved-to
have looked, is for priests only.'
'Or green-sick virgins on the road to sainthood who, for cause any
midwife could give you--'
The Abbot's half-lifted hand checked Roger of Salerno's
'Nor may even priests see more in Hell than Church knows to be
there. John, there is respect due to Church as well as to Devils.'
'My trade's the outside of things,' said John quietly. 'I have my
'But you may need to look again for more,' the Friar said.
'In my craft, a thing done is done with. We go on to new shapes
'And if we trespass beyond bounds, even in thought, we lie open to
the judgment of the Church,' the Abbot continued.
'But thou knowest-knowest!' Roger of Salerno had returned to the
attack. 'Here's all the world in darkness concerning the causes of
things-from the fever across the lane to thy Lady's-throe own Lady's-
eating malady. Think!'
'I have thought upon it, Salerno! I have thought indeed.'
Thomas the Infirmarian lifted his head again; and this time he did
not stammer at all. 'As in the water, so in the blood must they rage
and war with each other! I have dreamed these ten years-I thought it
was a sin-but my dreams and Varro's are true! Think on it again! Here's
the Light under our very hand!'
'Quench it! You'd no more stand to roasting than-any other. I'll
give you the case as Church-as I myself-would frame it. Our John here
returns from the Moors, and shows us a hell of devils contending in the
compass of one drop of water. Magic past clearance! You can hear the
'But thou knowest! Thou hast seen it all before! For man's poor
sake! For old friendship's sake-Stephen!' The Friar was trying to stuff
the compasses into his bosom as he appealed.
'What Stephen de Sautre knows, you his friends know also. I would
have you, now, obey the Abbot of St. Illod's. Give to me!' He held out
his ringed hand.
'May I-may John here-not even make a drawing of one-one screw?' said
the broken Friar, in spite of himself.
'Nowise!' Stephen took it over. 'Your dagger, John. Sheathed will
He unscrewed the metal cylinder, laid it on the table, and with the
dagger's hilt smashed some crystal to sparkling dust which he swept
into a scooped hand and cast behind the hearth.
'It would seem,' said he, 'the choice lies between two sins. To deny
the world a Light which is under our hand, or to enlighten the world
before her time. What you have seen, I saw long since among the
physicians at Cairo. And I know what doctrine they drew from it. Hast
thou dreamed, Thomas? I also-with fuller knowledge. But this birth, my
sons, is untimely. It will be but the mother of more death, more
torture, more division, and greater darkness in this dark age.
Therefore I, who know both my world and the Church, take this Choice on
my conscience. Go! It is finished.'
He thrust the wooden part of the compasses deep among the beech logs
till all was burned.
The Last Ode
(Nov. 27, B.C. 8)
HORACE, Ode 31, Bk. V.
AS watchers couched beneath a Bantine oak.
Hearing the dawn-wind stir.
Know that the present strength of night is broke
Though no dawn threaten her
Till dawn's appointed hour-so Virgil died.
Aware of change at hand, and prophesied
Change upon all the Eternal Gods had made
And on the Gods alike-
Fated as dawn but, as the dawn, delayed
Till the just hour should strike-
A Star new-risen above the living and dead;
And the lost shades that were our loves restored
As lovers, and for ever. So he said;
Having received the word...
Maecenas waits me on the Esquiline:
Thither to-night go I...
And shall this dawn restore us, Virgil mine.
To dawn? Beneath what sky?
One grave to me was given.
One watch till Judgement Day;
And God looked down from Heaven
And rolled the stone away.
One day in all the years.
One hour in that one day.
His Angel saw my tears.
And rolled the stone away!
EVERY one in the village knew that Helen Turrell did her duty by all
her world, and by none more honourably than by her only brother's
unfortunate child. The village knew, too, that George Turrell had tried
his family severely since early youth, and were not surprised to be
told that, after many fresh starts given and thrown away, he, an
Inspector of Indian Police, had entangled himself with the daughter of
a retired noncommissioned officer, and had died of a fall from a horse
a few weeks before his child was born. Mercifully, George's father and
mother were both dead, and though Helen, thirty-five and independent,
might well have washed her hands of the whole disgraceful affair, she
most nobly took charge, though she was, at the time, under threat of
lung trouble which had driven her to the South of France. She arranged
for the passage of the child and a nurse from Bombay, met them at
Marseilles, nursed the baby through an attack of infantile dysentery
due to the carelessness of the nurse, whom she had had to dismiss, and
at last, thin and worn but triumphant, brought the boy late in the
autumn, wholly restored, to her Hampshire home.
All these details were public property, for Helen was as open as the
day, and held that scandals are only increased by hushing them up. She
admitted that George had always been rather a black sheep, but things
might have been much worse if the mother had insisted on her right to
keep the boy. Luckily, it seemed that people of that class would do
almost anything for money, and, as George had always turned to her in
his scrapes, she felt herself justified-her friends agreed with her-in
cutting the whole non-commissioned officer connection, and giving the
child every advantage. A christening, by the Rector, under the name of
Michael, was the first step. So far as she knew herself, she was not,
she said, a child-lover, but, for all his faults, she had been very
fond of George, and she pointed out that little Michael had his
father's mouth to a line; which made something to build upon.
As a matter of fact, it was the Turrell forehead, broad, low, and
well-shaped, with the widely spaced eyes beneath it, that Michael had
most faithfully reproduced. His mouth was somewhat better cut than the
family type. But Helen, who would concede nothing good to his mother's
side, vowed he was a Turrell all over, and, there being no one to
contradict, the likeness was established.
In a few years Michael took his place, as accepted as Helen had
always been-fearless, philosophical, and fairly good-looking. At six,
he wished to know why he could not call her 'Mummy', as other boys
called their mothers. She explained that she was only his auntie, and
that aunties were not quite the same as mummies, but that, if it gave
him pleasure, he might call her 'Mummy' at bedtime, for a pet-name
Michael kept his secret most loyally, but Helen, as usual, explained
the fact to her friends; which when Michael heard, he raged.
'Why did you tell? Why did you tell?' came at the end of the
'Because it's always best to tell the truth,' Helen answered, her
arm round him as he shook in his cot.
'All right, but when the troof's ugly I don't think it's nice.'
'Don't you, dear!'
'No, I don't, and'-she felt the small body stiffen-'now you've told,
I won't call you "Mummy" any more-not even at bedtimes.
'But isn't that rather unkind?' said Helen softly.
'I don't care! You've hurted me in my insides and I'l hurt you back.
I'll hurt you as long as I live!'
'Don't, oh, don't talk like that, dear! You don't know what-'
'I will! And when I'm dead I'll hurt you worse!'
'Thank goodness, I shall be dead long before you, darling.'
'Huh! Emma says, "'Never know your luck."' (Michael had been talking
to Helen's elderly flat-faced maid.) 'Lots of little boys die quite
soon. So'll I. Then you'll see!'
Helen caught her breath and moved towards the door, but the wail of
'Mummy! Mummy!' drew her back again, and the two wept together.
At ten years old, after two terms at a prep. school, something or
somebody gave him the idea that his civil status was not quite regular.
He attacked Helen on the subject, breaking down her stammered defences
with the family directness.
'Don't believe a word of it,' he said, cheerily, at the end. 'People
wouldn't have talked like they did if my people had been married. But
don't you bother, Auntie. I've found out all about my sort in English
Hist'ry and the Shakespeare bits. There was William the Conqueror to
begin with, and-oh, heaps more, and they all got on first-rate. 'Twon't
make any difference to you, my being that-will it?'
'As if anything could-' she began.
'All right. We won't talk about it any more if it makes you cry.' He
never mentioned the thing again of his own will, but when, two years
later, he skilfully managed to have measles in the holidays, as his
temperature went up to the appointed one hundred and four he muttered
of nothing else, till Helen's voice, piercing at last his delirium,
reached him with assurance that nothing on earth or beyond could make
any difference between them.
The terms at his public school and the wonderful Christmas, Easter,
and Summer holidays followed each other, variegated and glorious as
jewels on a string; and as jewels Helen treasured them. In due time
Michael developed his own interests, which ran their courses and gave
way to others; but his interest in Helen was constant and increasing
throughout. She repaid it with all that she had of affection or could
command of counsel and money; and since Michael was no fool, the War
took him just before what was like to have been a most promising
He was to have gone up to Oxford, with a scholarship, in October. At
the end of August he was on the edge of joining the first holocaust of
public-school boys who threw themselves into the Line; but the captain
of his OTC, where he had been sergeant for nearly a year, headed him
off and steered him directly to a commission in a battalion so new that
half of it still wore the old Army red, and the other half was breeding
meningitis through living overcrowdedly in damp tents. Helen had been
shocked at the idea of direct enlistment. 'But it's in the family,'
'You don't mean to tell me that you believed that old story all this
time?' said Helen. (Emma, her maid, had been dead now several years.)
'I gave you my word of honour-and I give it again-that-that it's all
right. It is indeed.'
'Oh, that doesn't worry me. It never did,' he replied valiantly.
'What I meant was, I should have got into the show earlier if I'd
enlisted- like my grandfather.
'Don't talk like that! Are you afraid of its ending so soon,
'No such luck. You know what K says.'
'Yes. But my banker told me last Monday it couldn't possibly last
beyond Christmas-for financial reasons.'
'Hope he's right, but our Colonel-and he's a Regular-says it's going
to be a long job.'
Michael's battalion was fortunate in that, by some chance which
meant several 'leaves', it was used for coast-defence among shallow
trenches on the Norfolk coast; thence sent north to watch the mouth of
a Scotch estuary, and, lastly, held for weeks on a baseless rumour of
distant service. But, the very day that Michael was to have met Helen
for four whole hours at a railway-junction up the line, it was hurled
out, to help make good the wastage of Loos, and he had only just time
to send her a wire of farewell.
In France luck again helped the battalion. It was put down near the
Salient, where it led a meritorious and unexacting life, while the
Somme was being manufactured; and enjoyed the peace of the Armentieres
and Laventie sectors when that battle began. Finding that it had sound
views on protecting its own flanks and could dig, a prudent Commander
stole it out of its own Division, under pretence of helping to lay
telegraphs, and used it round Ypres at large.
A month later, just after Michael had written Helen that there was
nothing special doing and therefore no need to worry, a shell-splinter
dropping out of a wet dawn killed him at once. The next shell uprooted
and laid down over the body what had been the foundation of a barn
wall, so neatly that none but an expert would have guessed that
anything unpleasant had happened.
By this time the village was old in experience of war, and, English
fashion, had evolved a ritual to meet it. When the postmistress handed
her seven-year-old daughter the official telegram to take to Miss
Turrell, she observed to the Rector's gardener: 'It's Miss Helen's turn
now.' He replied, thinking of his own son: 'Well, he's lasted longer
than some.' The child herself came to the front-door weeping aloud,
because Master Michael had often given her sweets. Helen, presently,
found herself pulling down the house-blinds one after one with great
care, and saying earnestly to each: 'Missing always means dead.' Then
she took her place in the dreary procession that was impelled to go
through an inevitable series of unprofitable emotions. The Rector, of
course, preached hope and prophesied word, very soon, from a prison
camp. Several friends, too, told her perfectly truthful tales, but
always about other women, to whom, after months and months of silence,
their missing had been miraculously restored. Other people urged her to
communicate with infallible Secretaries of organizations who could
communicate with benevolent neutrals, who could extract accurate
information from the most secretive of Hun prison commandants. Helen
did and wrote and signed everything that was suggested or put before
Once, on one of Michael's leaves, he had taken her over munition
factory, where she saw the progress of a shell from blank-iron to the
all but finished article. It struck her at the time that the wretched
thing was never left alone for a single second; and 'I'm being
manufactured into a bereaved next of kin,' she told herself, as she
prepared her documents.
In due course, when all the organizations had deeply or sincerely
regretted their inability to trace, etc., something gave way within her
and all sensation-save of thankfulness for the release-came to an end
in blessed passivity. Michael had died and her world had stood still
and she had been one with the full shock of that arrest. Now she was
standing still and the world was going forward, but it did not concern
her-in no way or relation did it touch her. She knew this by the ease
with which she could slip Michael's name into talk and incline her head
to the proper angle, at the proper murmur of sympathy.
In the blessed realization of that relief, the Armistice with all
its bells broke over her and passed unheeded. At the end of another
year she had overcome her physical loathing of the living and returned
young, so that she could take them by the hand and almost sincerely
wish them well. She had no interest in any aftermath, national or
personal, of the war, but, moving at an immense distance, she sat on
various relief committees and held strong views-she heard herself
delivering them-about the site of the proposed village War
Then there came to her, as next of kin, an official intimation,
backed by a page of a letter to her in indelible pencil, a silver
identity- disc, and a watch, to the effect that the body of Lieutenant
Michael Turrell had been found, identified, and re-interred in
Hagenzeele Third Military Cemetery-the letter of the row and the
grave's number in that row duly given.
So Helen found herself moved on to another process of the
manufacture- to a world full of exultant or broken relatives, now
strong in the certainty that there was an altar upon earth where they
might lay their love. These soon told her, and by means of time-tables
made clear, how easy it was and how little it interfered with life's
affairs to go and see one's grave.
'So different,' as the Rector's wife said, 'if he'd been killed in
Mesopotamia, or even Gallipoli.'
The agony of being waked up to some sort of second life drove Helen
across the Channel, where, in a new world of abbreviated titles, she
learnt that Hagenzeele Third could be comfortably reached by an
afternoon train which fitted in with the morning boat, and that there
was a comfortable little hotel not three kilometres from Hagenzeele
itself, where one could spend quite a comfortable night and see one's
grave next morning. All this she had from a Central Authority who lived
in a board and tar-paper shed on the skirts of a razed city full of
whirling lime-dust and blown papers.
'By the way,' said he, 'you know your grave, of course!'
'Yes, thank you,' said Helen, and showed its row and number typed on
Michael's own little typewriter. The officer would have checked it, out
of one of his many books; but a large Lancashire woman thrust between
them and bade him tell her where she might find her son, who had been
corporal in the A.S.C. His proper name, she sobbed, was Anderson, but,
coming of respectable folk, he had of course enlisted under the name of
Smith; and had been killed at Dickiebush, in early 'Fifteen. She had
not his number nor did she know which of his two Christian names he
might have used with his alias; but her Cook's tourist ticket expired
at the end of Easter week, and if by then she could not find her child
she should go mad. Whereupon she fell forward on Helen's breast; but
the officer's wife came out quickly from a little bedroom behind the
office, and the three of them lifted the woman on to the cot.
'They are often like this,' said the officer's wife, loosening the
tight bonnet-strings. 'Yesterday she said he'd been killed at Hooge.
Are you sure you know your grave? It makes such a difference.'
'Yes, thank you,' said Helen, and hurried out before the woman on
the bed should begin to lament again.
Tea in a crowded mauve and blue striped wooden structure, with a
false front, carried her still further into the nightmare. She paid her
bill beside a stolid, plain-featured Englishwoman, who, hearing her
inquire about the train to Hagenzeele, volunteered to come with
'I'm going to Hagenzeele myself,' she explained .'Not to Hagenzeele
Third; mine is Sugar Factory, but they call it La Rosiere now. It's
just south of Hagenzeele Three. Have you got your room at the hotel
'Oh yes, thank you. I've wired.'
'That's better. Sometimes the place is quite full, and at others
there's hardly a soul. But they've put bathrooms into the old Lion
d'Or-that's the hotel on the west side of Sugar Factory-and it draws
off a lot of people, luckily.'
'It's all new to me. This is the first time I've been over.'
'Indeed! This is my ninth time since the Armistice. Not on my own
account. I haven't lost any one, thank God-but, like every one else,
I've a lot of friends at home who have. Coming over as often as I do, I
find it helps them to have some one just look at the-the place and tell
them about it afterwards. And one can take photos for them, too. I get
quite a list of commissions to execute.' She laughed nervously and
tapped her slung Kodak. 'There are two or three to see at Sugar Factory
this time, and plenty of others in the cemeteries all about. My system
is to save them up, and arrange them, you know. And when I've got
enough commissions for one area to make it worth while, I pop over and
execute them. It does comfort people.'
'I suppose so,' Helen answered, shivering as they entered the little
'Of course it does. (Isn't it lucky we've got window-seats!) It must
do or they wouldn't ask one to do it, would they! I've a list of quite
twelve or fifteen commissions here'-she tapped the Kodak again-'I must
sort them out tonight. Oh, I forgot to ask you. What's yours!'
'My nephew,' said Helen. 'But I was very fond of him.'
'Ah, yes! I sometimes wonder whether they know after death! What do
'Oh, I don't-I haven't dared to think much about that sort of
thing,' said Helen, almost lifting her hands to keep her off.
'Perhaps that's better,' the woman answered. 'The sense of loss must
be enough, I expect. Well, I won't worry you any more.'
Helen was grateful, but when they reached the hotel Mrs Scarsworth
(they had exchanged names) insisted on dining at the same table with
her, and after the meal, in the little, hideous salon full of low-
voiced relatives, took Helen through her 'commissions' with biographies
of the dead, where she happened to know them, and sketches of their
next of kin. Helen endured till nearly half-past nine, ere she fled to
Almost at once there was a knock at her door and Mrs Scarsworth
entered; her hands, holding the dreadful list, clasped before her.
'Yes-yes-I know,' she began. 'You're sick of me, but I want to tell
you something. You-you aren't married, are you? Then perhaps you
won't...But it doesn't matter. I've got to tell some one. I can't go on
any longer like this.'
'But please-' Mrs Scarsworth had backed against the shut door, and
her mouth worked dryly.
In a minute,' she said. 'You-you know about these graves of mine I
was telling you about downstairs, just now! They really are
commissions. At least several of them are.' Her eye wandered round the
room. 'What extraordinary wall-papers they have in Belgium, don't you
think? ...Yes. I swear they are commissions. But there's one, d'you
see, and- and he was more to me than anything else in the world. Do you
'More than any one else. And, of course, he oughtn't to have been.
He ought to have been nothing to me. But he was. He is. That's why I do
the commissions, you see. That's all.'
'But why do you tell me!' Helen asked desperately.
'Because I'm so tired of lying. Tired of lying-always lying-year in
and year out. When I don't tell lies I've got to act 'em and I've got
to think 'em, always. You don't know what that means. He was everything
to me that he oughtn't to have been-the one real thing-the only thing
that ever happened to me in all my life; and I've had to pretend he
wasn't. I've had to watch every word I said, and think out what lie I'd
tell next, for years and years!'
'How many years?' Helen asked.
'Six years and four months before, and two and three-quarters after.
I've gone to him eight times, since. Tomorrow'll make the ninth, and-
and I can't-I can't go to him again with nobody in the world knowing. I
want to be honest with some one before I go. Do you understand! It
doesn't matter about me. I was never truthful, even as a girl. But it
isn't worthy of him. So I-I had to tell you. I can't keep it up any
longer. Oh, I can't.'
She lifted her joined hands almost to the level of her mouth and
brought them down sharply, still joined, to full arms' length below her
waist. Helen reached forward, caught them, bowed her head over them,
and murmured: 'Oh, my dear! My-' Mrs Scarsworth stepped back, her face
'My God!' said she. 'Is that how you take it!'
Helen could not speak, and the woman went out; but it a long while
before Helen was able to sleep.
Next morning Mrs Scarsworth left early on her round of commissions,
and Helen walked alone to Hagenzeele Third. The place was still in the
making, and stood some five or feet above the metalled road, which it
flanked for hundred yards. Culverts across a deep ditch served for
entrances through the unfinished boundary wall. She climbed a few
wooden-faced earthen steps and then met the entire crowded level of the
thing in one held breath. She did not know Hagenzeele Third counted
twenty-one thousand dead already. All she saw was a merciless sea of
black crosses, bearing little strips of stamped tin at all angles
across their faces. She could distinguish no order or arrangement in
their mass; nothing but a waist-high wilderness as of weeds stricken
dead, rushing at her. She went forward, moved to the left and the right
hopelessly, wondering by what guidance she should ever come to her own.
A great distance away there was a line of whiteness. It proved to be a
block of some two or three hundred graves whose headstones had already
been set, whose flowers planted out, and whose new-sown grass showed
green. Here she could see clear-cut letters at the ends of the rows,
referring to her slip, realized that it was not here she must look.
A man knelt behind a line of headstones-evidently a gardener, for he
was firming a young plant in the soft earth. She went towards him, her
paper in her hand. He rose at her approach and without prelude or
salutation asked: 'Who are you looking for?'
'Lieutenant Michael Turrell-my nephew,' said Helen slowly and word
for word, as she had many thousands of times in her life.
The man lifted his eyes and looked at her with infinite compassion
before he turned from the fresh-sown grass toward the naked black
'Come with me,' he said, 'and I will show you where your son
When Helen left the Cemetery she turned for a last look. In the
distance she saw the man bending over his young plants; and she went
away, supposing him to be the gardener.
ONE grief on me is laid
Each day of every year.
Wherein no soul can aid.
Whereof no soul can hear:
Whereto no end is seen
Except to grieve again-
Ah, Mary Magdalene.
Where is there greater pain?
To dream on dear disgrace
Each hour of every day-
To bring no honest face
To aught I do or say:
To lie from morn till e'en-
To know my lies are vain-
Ah, Mary Magdalene.
Where can be greater pain?
To watch my steadfast fear
Attend my every way
Each day of every year-
Each hour of every day
To burn, and chill between-
To quake and rage again-
Ah, Mary Magdalene.
Where shall be greater pain?
One grave to me was given-
To guard till Judgment Day-
But God looked down from Heaven
And rolled the Stone away!
One day of all my years-
One hour of that one day-
His Angel saw my tears
And rolled the Stone away!