Good Old Anna
by Marie Belloc Lowndes
GOOD OLD ANNA
By MRS. BELLOC LOWNDES
The Chink in the Armour, The Lodger,
The End of Her Honeymoon, etc., etc.
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
GOOD OLD ANNA
And now, asked Miss Forsyth thoughtfully, and now, my dear Mary,
what, may I ask, are you going to do about your good old Anna?
Do about Anna? repeated the other. I don't quite understand what
In her heart Mrs. Otway thought she understood very well what her
old friend, Miss Forsyth, meant by the question. For it was Wednesday,
the 5th of August, 1914. England had just declared war on Germany, and
Anna was Mrs. Otway's faithful, highly valued German servant.
Miss Forsyth was one of those rare people who always require an
answer to a question, and who also (which is rarer still) seldom speak
without having first thought out what they are about to say. It was
this quality of mind, far more than the fact that she had been born,
sixty years ago, in the Palace at Witanbury, which gave her the
position she held in the society of the cathedral town.
But this time she herself went on speaking: In your place I should
think very seriously of sending Anna back to Germany. There was an
unusual note of hesitation and of doubt in her voice. As a rule Miss
Forsyth knew exactly what she thought about everything, and what she
herself would be minded to do in any particular case.
But the other lady, incensed at what she considered uncalled-for,
even rather impertinent advice, replied sharply, I shouldn't think of
doing anything so unkind and so unjust! Why, because the powers of evil
have conqueredI mean by that the dreadful German military
partyshould I behave unjustly to a faithful old German woman who has
been with melet me seewhy, who has been with me exactly eighteen
years? With the exception of a married niece with whom she went and
stayed in Berlin three autumns ago, my poor old Anna hasn't a relation
left in Germany. Her whole life is centred in meor perhaps I ought to
say in Rose. She was the only nurse Rose ever had.
And yet she has remained typically German, observed Miss Forsyth
Of course she has! cried Mrs. Otway quickly. And that is why we
are both so much attached to her. Anna has all the virtues of the
German woman; she is faithful, kindly, industrious, and thrifty.
But, Mary, has it not occurred to you that you will find it very
awkward sometimes? Again without waiting for an answer, Miss Forsyth
went on: Our working people have long felt it very hard that there
should be so many Germans in England, taking away their jobs.
They have only themselves to thank for that, said Mrs. Otway, with
more sharpness than was usual with an exceptionally kindly and amiable
nature. Germans are much more industrious than our people are, and
they are content with less wages. Also you must forgive me if I say,
dear Miss Forsyth, that I don't quite see what the jealousy of the
average working-man, or, for the matter of that, of the average
mechanic, has to do with my good old Anna, especially at such a time as
Don't you really? Miss Forsyth looked curiously into the other's
flushed and still fair, delicately tinted face. She had always thought
Mary Otway a rather foolish, if also a lovable, generous-hearted woman.
But this was one of the few opinions Miss Forsyth always managed to
keep to herself.
I suppose you mean, said the other reluctantly, that if I had not
had Anna as a servant all these years I should have been compelled to
have an Englishwoman?
Yes, Mary, that is exactly what I do mean! But of course I should
never have spoken to you about the matter were it not for to-day's
news. My maid, Pusey, you know, spoke to me about it this morning, and
said that if you should be thinking of parting with herif your good
old Anna should be thinking, for instance, of going back to
Germanyshe knew some one who she thought would suit you admirably.
It's a woman who was cook in a very good London place, and whose health
has rather given way.
Miss Forsyth spoke with what was for her unusual animation.
As is always the way with your active, intelligent philanthropist,
she was much given to vicarious deeds of charity. At the same time she
never spared herself. Her own comfortable house always contained one or
more of the odd-come-shorts whom she had not managed to place out in
Again a wave of resentment swept over Mrs. Otway. This was really
How would such a woman as you describea cook who has been in a
good London place, and who has lost her healthwork into ourmine and
Rose'sways? Why, we should both be afraid of such a woman! She would
impose on us at every turn. If you only knew, dear Miss Forsyth, how
often, in the last twenty years, I have thanked GodI say it in all
reverencefor having sent me my good old Anna! Think what it has been
to meshe spoke with a good deal of emotionto have in my tiny
household a woman so absolutely trustworthy that I could always go away
and leave my child with her, happy in the knowledge that Rose was as
safe with Anna as she was with me
Her voice broke, a lump came into her throat, but she hurried on:
Don't think that it has all been perfectthat I have lain entirely on
a bed of roses! Anna has been very tiresome sometimes; and, as you
know, her daughter, to whom I was really attached, and whom I regarded
more or less as Rose's foster-sister, made that unfortunate marriage to
a worthless London tradesman. That's the black spot in Anna's lifeI
don't mind telling you that it's been a blacker spot in mine than I've
ever cared to admit, even to myself. The man's always getting into
scrapes, and having to be got out of them! Why, you once helped
me about him, didn't you? and since then James Hayley actually had to
go to the police about the man.
Mr. Hayley will be busier than ever now.
Yes, I suppose he will.
And then the two ladies, looking at one another, smiled one of those
funny little smiles which may mean a great deal, or nothing at all.
James Hayley, the son of one of Mrs. Otway's first cousins, was in
the Foreign Office; and if he had an inordinate opinion of himself and
of his value to his country, he was still a very good, steady fellow.
Lately he had fallen into the way of coming down to Witanbury
exceedingly often; but when doing so he did not stay with the Otways,
in their pretty house in the Close, as would have been natural and as
would also naturally have made his visits rather less frequent;
instead, he stayed in lodgings close to the gateway which divided the
Close from the town, and thus was able to be at the Trellis House as
much or as little as he liked. It was generally much. Mrs. Otway
wondered whether the war would so far affect his work as to keep him
away from Witanbury this summer. She rather hoped it would.
I'm even more sorry than usual for Jervis Blake to-day! and this
time there was a note of real kindness in Miss Forsyth's voice. I
shouldn't be surprised if he enlisted.
Oh, I hope he won't do that! Mrs. Otway was shocked at the
suggestion. Jervis Blake was a person for whom she had a good deal of
tolerant affection. He was quite an ordinary young man, and he had had
the quite ordinary bad luck of failing to pass successive Army
examinations. The news that he had failed again had just become known
to his friends, and unluckily it was his last chance, as he was now
past the age limit. The exceptional feature in his very common case was
that he happened to be the only son of a distinguished soldier.
I should certainly enlist if I were he, continued Miss
Forsyth thoughtfully. He wouldn't have long to wait for promotion from
His father would never forgive him!
The England of to-day is a different England from the England of
yesterday, observed Miss Forsyth drily; and as the other stared at
her, genuinely astonished by the strange words, Don't you agree that
that is so, Mary?
No, I can't say that I do. Mrs. Otway spoke with greater decision
than was her wont. Miss Forsyth was far too fond of setting the world
Ah! well, I think it is. And I only wish I was a young man instead
of an old woman! I'm sorry for every Englishman who is too old to take
up arms in this just cause. What must be Major Guthrie's feelings
to-day! How he must regret having left the Army to please his selfish
old mother! It's the more hard on him as he always believed this war
would come. He really knows Germany.
Major Guthrie only knows military Germany, said Mrs. Otway
It's only what you call military Germany which counts to-day,
observed Miss Forsyth quickly; and then, seeing that her friend looked
hurt, and even, what she so very seldom was, angry too, she held out
her hand with the words: And now I must be moving on, for before going
to the cathedral I have to see Mrs. Haworth for a minute. By the way, I
hear that the Dean intends to give a little address about the war. She
added, in a different and a kindlier tone: You must forgive me, Mary,
for saying what I did about your good old Anna! But you know I'm really
fond of you, and I'm even fonder of your sweet Rose than I am of you. I
always feel that there is a great deal in Rosemore than in any other
girl I know. And thenwell, Mary, she is so very pretty! prettier than
you even were, though you had a way of making every one think you
Mrs. Otway laughed. She was quite mollified. I know how fond you
are of Rose, she said gratefully, and, of course, I don't mind your
having spoken to me about Anna. But as to parting with herthat would
mean the end of the world to us, to your young friend Rose even more
than to me. Why, it would be worsefar worsethan the war!
As Mrs. Otway walked slowly on, she could not help telling herself
that dear old Miss Forsyth had been more interfering and tiresome than
she usually was this morning.
She felt ruffled by the little talk they two had just hadso
ruffled and upset that, instead of turning into the gate of the house
where she had been boundfor she, too, had meant to pay a call in the
Close on her way to the cathedralshe walked slowly on the now
deserted stretch of road running through and under the avenue of elm
trees which are so beautiful and distinctive a feature of Witanbury
Again a lump rose to her throat, and this time the tears started
into her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. In sheer astonishment at her
own emotion, she stopped short, and taking out her handkerchief dabbed
her eyes hurriedly. How strange that this interchange of words with one
whose peculiarities she had known, and, yes, suffered under and smiled
at for so many years, should make her feel sososo upset!
Mrs. Otway was a typical Englishwoman of her age, which was
forty-three, and of her class, which was that from which are drawn most
of the women from whom the clergy of the Established Church choose
their wives. There are thousands such, living in serene girlhood,
wifehood, or widowhood, to be found in the villages and country towns
of dear old England. With but very few exceptions, they are
kindly-natured, unimaginative, imbued with a shrinking dislike of any
exaggerated display of emotion; in some ways amazingly broad-minded, in
others curiously limited in their outlook on life. Such women, as a
rule, present few points of interest to students of human nature, for
they are almost invariably true to type, their virtues and their
defects being cast in the same moulds.
But Mrs. Otway was much more original and more impulsive, thus far
less groovy, than the people among whom her lot was cast. There were
even censorious folk in Witanbury who called her eccentric. She was
generous-hearted, easily moved to enthusiasm, tenacious of her opinions
and prejudices. She had remained young of heart, and her fair, curling
hair, her slight, active figure, and delicately-tinted skin, gave her
sometimes an almost girlish look. Those who met her for the first time
were always surprised to find that Mrs. Otway had a grown-up daughter.
As a girl she had spent two very happy years in Germany, at Weimar,
and she had kept from those far-off days a very warm and affectionate
feeling towards the Fatherland, as also a rather exceptionally good
knowledge both of the German language and of old-fashioned German
literature. Then had come a short engagement, followed by five years of
placid, happy marriage with a minor canon of Witanbury Cathedral. And
then, at the end of those five years, which had slipped by so easily
and so quickly, she had found herself alone, with one little daughter,
and woefully restricted means. It had seemed, and indeed it had been, a
godsend to come across, in Anna Bauer, a German widow who, for a
miraculously low wage, had settled down into her little household, to
become and to remain, not only an almost perfect servant, but as time
went on a most valued and trusted friend.
The fact that Mrs. Otway had been left a legacy by a distant
relation, while making her far more comfortable, had not caused her to
alter very materially her way of life. She had raised Anna's modest
wage, and she was no longer compelled to look quite so closely after
every penny. Also, mother and daughter were now able to take delightful
holidays together. They had planned one such for this very autumn to
GermanyGermany, the country still so dear to Mrs. Otway, which she
had always longed to show her daughter.
It was natural that the news which had burst upon England to-day
should have unsealed the fountain of deep emotion in her nature. Mrs.
Otway, like almost every one she knew, had not believed that there
would or could be a great Continental war, and when that had become,
with stunning suddenness, an accomplished fact, she had felt sure that
her country would remain out of the awful maelstrom.
Send their good old Anna back to Germany? Why, the idea was
unthinkable! What would she, Mary Otway, what would her daughter, Rose,
do without Anna? Anna had becomeMrs. Otway realised it to-day as she
had never realised it beforethe corner-stone of their modest, happy
House of Life.
* * * * *
Miss Forsyth had, however, said one thing which was unfortunately
true. It is strange how often these positive, rather managing people
hit the right nail on the head! The fact that England and Germany were
now at war would sometimes make things a little awkward with
regard to poor old Anna. Something of the kind had, indeed, happened on
this very morning, less than two hours ago. And at the time it had been
very painful, very disagreeable....
Mrs. Otway and her daughter, each opening a newspaper before
beginning breakfast, had looked up, and in awe-struck tones
simultaneously exclaimed, Why, we are at war! and War has been
declared! And then Mrs. Otway, as was her wont, had fallen into eager,
impulsive talk. But she had to stop abruptly when the dining-room door
openedfor it revealed the short, stumpy figure of Anna, smiling,
indeed beaming even more than usual, as she brought in the coffee she
made so well. Mother and daughter had looked at one another across the
table, an unspoken question in each pair of kind eyes. That question
was: Did poor old Anna know?
The answer came with dramatic swiftness, and in the negative. Anna
approached her mistress, still with that curious look of beaming
happiness in her round, fat, plain face, and after she had put down the
coffee-jug she held out her work-worn hand. On it was a pink card, and
in her excitement she broke into eager German.
The child has come! she exclaimed. Look! This is what I have
received, gracious lady, and she put the card on her mistress's plate.
What was written, or rather printed, on that fancy-looking card,
ran, when Englished, as follows:
THE JOYOUS BIRTH OF A LARGE-EYED SUNDAY MAIDEN
IS ANNOUNCED, ULTRA-JUBILANTLY, BY
WILHELM WARSHAUER, SUB-INSPECTOR OF POLICE IN
BERLIN, AND WIFE MINNA, BORN BROCKMANN.
Of course they both congratulated their good old Anna very heartily
on the birth of the little great-niece in Berlinindeed Rose, jumping
up from the table, had surprised her mother by giving her old nurse a
hug. I'm so glad, dear Anna! How happy they seem to be!
But when Anna had returned to her kitchen the two ladies had gone on
silently and rather sadly with their breakfasts and their papers; and
after she had finished, Mrs. Otway, with a heavy heart, had walked
across the hall, to her pretty kitchen, to tell Anna the great and
The kitchen of the Trellis House was oddly situated just opposite
Mrs. Otway's sitting-room and at right angles to the dining-room. Thus
the two long Georgian windows of Anna's domain commanded the wide green
of the Cathedral Close, and the kitchen door was immediately on your
right as you walked through the front door into the arched hall of the
On this momentous morning Anna's mistress found the old German woman
sitting at her large wooden table writing a letter. When Mrs. Otway
came in, Anna looked up and smiled; but she did not rise, as an English
servant would have done.
Mrs. Otway walked across to her, and very kindly she laid her hand
on the older woman's shoulder.
I have something sad to tell you, she said gently. England, my
poor Anna, is at war! England has declared war on Germany! But I have
come to tell you, also, that the fact that our countries are at war
will make no difference to you and to me, Annawill it?
Anna had looked up, and for a moment she had seemed bewildered,
stunned by the news. Then all the colour had receded from her round
face; it became discomposed, covered with red streaks. She broke into
convulsive sobs as, shaking her head violently, she exclaimed, Nein!
If only poor old Anna had left it there! But she had gone on, amid
her sobs, to speak wildly, disconnectedly, and yesyes, rather
arrogantly too, of the old war with France in 1870of her father, and
of her long-dead brother; how both of them had fought, how gloriously
they had conquered!
Mrs. Otway had begun by listening in silence to this uncalled-for
outburst. But at last, with a touch of impatience, she broke across
these ill-timed reminiscences with the words, But now, Anna? Now
there is surely no one belonging to your family likely to fight? No
one, I mean, likely to fight against England?
The old woman stared at her stupidly, as if scarcely understanding
the sense of what was being said to her; and Mrs. Otway, with a touch
of decision in her voice, had gone onHow fortunate it is that your
Louisa married an Englishman!
But on that Anna had again shaken her head violently. No, no! she
cried. Would that a German married she hadan honest, heart-good
German, not a man like that bad, worthless George!
To this surely unnecessary remark Mrs. Otway had made no answer. It
was unluckily true that Anna's English son-in-law lacked every virtue
dear to a German heart. He was lazy, pleasure-loving, dishonest in
small petty ways, and contemptuous of his thrifty wife's anxious
efforts to save money. Still, though it was not perhaps wise to say so
just now, it would certainly have been a terrible complication if
little Louisa, as they called her in that household, had married a
Germana German who would have had to go back to the Fatherland to
take up arms, perhaps, against his adopted country! Anna ought surely
to see the truth of that to-day, however unpalatable that truth might
But, sad to say, good old Anna had been strangely lacking in her
usual good sense, and sturdy good-humour, this morning. Not content
with that uncalled-for remark concerning her English son-in-law, she
had wailed out something about Willifor so she always called
Wilhelm Warshauerthe nephew by marriage to whom she had become
devotedly attached during the pleasant holiday she had spent in Germany
three years ago.
I do not think Willi is in the least likely to go to the war and be
killed, said Mrs. Otway at last, a little sharply. Why, he is in the
policea sub-inspector! They would never dream of sending him away.
And thenAnna? I wish you would listen to me quietly for a
Anna fixed her glazed, china-blue eyes anxiously on her mistress.
If you go on in this way you will make yourself quite ill; and that
wouldn't do at all! I am quite sure that you will soon hear from your
niece that Willi is quite safe, that he is remaining on in Berlin.
England and Germany are civilised nations after all! There need not be
any unreasonable bitterness between them. Only the soldiers and
sailors, not our two nations, will be at war, Anna.
* * * * *
Yes, the recollection of what had happened this morning left an
aftermath of bitterness in Mrs. Otway's kind heart. It was only too
true that it would sometimes be awkward; in saying so downright Miss
Forsyth had been right! She told herself, however, that after a few
days they surely would all get accustomed to this strange, unpleasant,
new state of things. Why, during the long Napoleonic wars Witanbury had
always been on the qui vive, expecting a French landing on the
coastthat beautiful coast which was as lonely now as it had been
then, and which, thanks to motors and splendid roads, seemed much
nearer now than then. England had gone on much as usual a hundred years
ago. Mrs. Otway even reminded herself that Jane Austen, during those
years of stress and danger, had been writing her delightful, her
humorous, her placid studies of life as though there were no war!
And then, perhaps because of her invocation of that dear, shrewd
mistress of the average British human heart, Mrs. Otway, feeling far
more comfortable than she had yet felt since her talk with Miss
Forsyth, began retracing her steps towards the cathedral.
She was glad to know that the Dean was going to give a little
address this morning. It was sure to be kindly, wise, benignantfor he
was himself all these three things. Many delightful German thinkers,
theologians and professors, came and went to the Deanery, and Mrs.
Otway was always asked to meet these distinguished folk, partly because
of her excellent knowledge of German, and also because the Dean knew
that, like himself, she loved Germany.
And now she turned sick at heart, as she suddenly realised that for
a time, at any rate, these pleasant meetings would take place no more.
But soonor so she hoped with all her soulthis strange unnatural war
would be over. Even now the bubble of Prussian militarism was pricked,
for the German Army was not doing well at Liége. During the last two or
three days she had read the news with increasing amazement andbut she
hardly admitted it to herselfwith dismay. She did not like to think
of Germans breaking and running away! It had hurt her, made her angry,
to hear the exultation with which some of her neighbours had spoken of
the news. It was all very well to praise the gallant little Belgians,
but why should that be done at the expense of the Germans?
Mrs. Otway suddenly told herself that she hoped Major Guthrie would
not be at the cathedral this morning. Considering that they disagreed
about almost everything, it was odd what friends he and she were! But
about Germany they had never agreed, and that was the more strange
inasmuch as Major Guthrie had spent quite a long time in Stuttgart. He
thought the Germans of to-day entirely unlike the Germans of the past.
He honestly believed them to be unprincipled, untrustworthy, and
unscrupulous; and, strangest thing of allor so Mrs. Otway had thought
till within the last few dayshe had long been convinced that they
intended to conquer Europe by force of arms! So strong was this
conviction of his that he had given time, and yes, money too, to the
propaganda carried on by Lord Roberts in favour of National Service.
It was odd that a man whose suspicions of the country which was to
her so dear almost amounted to a monomania, should have become her
friend. But so it was. In fact, Major Guthrie was her only man friend.
He advised her about all the things concerning which men are supposed
to know more than womensuch as investments, for instance. Of course
she did not always take his advice, but it was often a comfort to talk
things out with him, and she had come instinctively to turn to him when
in any little trouble. Few days passed without Major Guthrie's calling,
either by chance or in response to a special invitation, at the Trellis
Unfortunately, or was it fortunately? the handsome old mother, for
whose sake Major Guthrie had left the Army three years ago, didn't care
for clerical society. She only liked country people and Londoners. As
far as Mrs. Otway could dislike any one, she disliked Mrs. Guthrie; but
the two ladies seldom had occasion to meetthe Guthries lived in a
pretty old house in Dorycote, a village two miles from Witanbury. Also
Mrs. Guthrie was more or less chair-ridden, and Mrs. Otway had no
* * * * *
The bells of the cathedral suddenly broke across her troublesome,
disconnected thoughts. Mrs. Otway never heard those chimes without a
wave of remembrance, sometimes very slight, sometimes like to-day quite
strong and insistent, of past joys and sorrows. Those bells were
interwoven with the whole of her wifehood, motherhood, and widowhood;
they had rung for her wedding, they had mustered the tiny congregation
who had been present at Rose's christening; the great bell had tolled
the day her husband had died, and again to bid the kindly folk of
Witanbury to his simple funeral. Some day, perhaps, the bells would
ring a joyful peal in honour of Rose's wedding.
As she walked up the path which leads from the road encircling the
Close to the cathedral, she tried to compose and attune her mind to
solemn, peaceful thoughts.
There was a small congregation, perhaps thirty in all, gathered
together in the choir, but the atmosphere of that tiny gathering of
people was slightly electric and charged with emotion. The wife of the
Dean, a short, bustling lady, who had never been so popular in
Witanbury and its neighbourhood as was her husband, came forward and
beckoned to Mrs. Otway. If no one else comes in, she whispered, I
think we might all come up a little nearer. The Dean is going to say a
few words about the war.
And though a few more people did come in during the five minutes
that followed, the whole of the little congregation finally collected
in the stalls nearest the altar. And it was not from the ornate white
stone pulpit, but from the steps of the altar, that the Dean, after the
short service was over, delivered his address.
For what seemed a long timeit was really only a very few
momentsDr. Haworth stood there, looking thoughtfully at this little
gathering of his fellow-countrymen and countrywomen. Then he began
speaking. With great simplicity and directness he alluded to the
awesome news which this morning had brought to them, to England.
England's declaration of war against their great neighbour,
Germanytheir great neighbour, and they should never forget, the only
other great European nation which shared with them the blessings, he
was willing to admit the perhaps in some ways doubtful blessings,
brought about by the Reformation.
On hearing these words, three or four of his hearers moved a little
restlessly in their seats, but soon even they settled themselves down
to take in, and to approve, what he had to say.
England was going to war, however, in a just cause, to make good her
promise to a small and weak nation. She had often drawn her sword on
behalf of the oppressed, and never more rightly than now. But it would
be wrong indeed for England to allow her heart to be filled with
bitterness. It was probable that even at this moment a large number of
Germans were ashamed of what had happened last Mondayhe alluded to
the Invasion of Belgium. Frederick the Great had once said that God was
always on the side of the big battalions; in so saying he had been
wrong. Even in the last two or three days they had seen how wrong.
Belgium was putting up a splendid defence, and the time might comehe,
the speaker, hoped it would be very soonwhen Germany would realise
that Might is not Right, when she would confess, with the large-hearted
chivalry possible to a great and powerful nation, that she had been
Meanwhile the Dean wished to impress on his hearers the need for a
generous broad-mindedness in their attitude towards the foe. England
was a great civilised nation, and so was Germany. The war would be
fought in an honourable, straightforward manner, as between high-souled
enemies. Christian charity enjoined on us to be especially kind and
considerate to those Germans who happened to be caught by this sad
state of things, in our midst. He had heard these people spoken of that
morning as alien enemies. For his part he would not care to describe
by any such offensive terms those Germans who were settled in England
in peaceful avocations. The war was not of their making, and those poor
foreigners were caught up in a terrible web of tragic circumstance. He
himself had many dear and valued friends in Germany, professors whose
only aim in life was the spread of Kultur, not perhaps quite the same
thing as we meant by the word culture, for the German Kultur meant
something with a wider, more universal significance. He hoped the time
would come, sooner perhaps than many pessimists thought possible, when
those friends would acknowledge that England had drawn her sword in a
righteous cause and that Germany had been wrong to provoke her.
While Mrs. Otway had been thinking over the now rather painful
problem of her good old Anna, the subject of her meditations, that is
Anna herself, from behind the pretty muslin curtain which hid her
kitchen from the passers-by, was peeping out anxiously on the lawn-like
stretch of green grass, bordered on two sides by high elms, which is so
pleasant a feature of Witanbury Close.
Her knitting was in her hands, for Anna's fingers were never idle,
but just now the needles were still.
When your kitchen happens to be one of the best rooms on the ground
floor, and one commanding not only the gate of your domain but the road
beyond, it becomes important that it should not be quite like other
people's kitchens. It was Mrs. Otway's pride, as well as Anna's, that
at any moment of the day a visitor who, after walking into the hall,
opened by mistake the kitchen door, would have found everything there
in exquisite order. The shelves, indeed, were worth going some way to
see, for each shelf was edged with a beautiful Kante or border of
crochet-work almost as fine as point lace. In fact, the kitchen of the
Trellis House was more like a stage kitchen than a kitchen in an
ordinary house, and the way in which it was kept was the more
meritorious inasmuch as Anna, even now, when she had become an old
woman, would have nothing of what is in England called help. She had
no wish to see a charwoman in her kitchen. Fortunately for her,
there lay, just off and behind the kitchen, a roomy scullery, where
most of the dirty, and what may be called the smelly, work connected
with cooking was done.
To the left of the low-ceilinged, spacious, rather dark scullery was
Anna's own bedroom. Both the scullery and the servant's room were much
older than the rest of the house, for the picturesque gabled bit of
brown and red brick building which projected into the garden, at the
back of the Trellis House, belonged to Tudor days, to those spacious
times when the great cathedral just across the green was a new pride
and joy to the good folk of Witanbury.
As Anna stood at one of the kitchen windows, peeping out at the
quiet scene outside, but not drawing aside the curtainfor that she
knew was forbidden to her, and Anna very seldom consciously did
anything she knew to be forbiddenshe felt far more unhappy and far
more disturbed than did Mrs. Otway herself.
This morning's news had stirred poor old Annastirred her more
profoundly than even her kind mistress guessed. Mrs. Otway would have
been surprised indeed had it been revealed to her that ever since
breakfast Anna had spent a very anxious time thinking over her own
immediate future, wondering with painful indecision as to whether it
were not her duty to go back to Germany. But whereas Mrs. Otway had the
inestimable advantage of being quite sure that she knew what it was
best for Anna to do, the old German woman herself was cruelly torn
between what was due to her mistress, to her married daughter, and,
yes, to herself.
How unutterably amazed Mrs. Otway would have been this morning had
she known that more than a month ago Anna had received a word of
warning from Berlin. But so it was: her niece had written to her, It
is believed that war this summer there is to be. Willi has been warned
that something shortly will happen.
And now, as Anna stood there anxiously peeping out at the figure of
her mistress pacing up and down under the avenue of high elms across
the green, she did not give more than a glancing thought to England's
part in the conflict, for her whole heart was absorbed in the dread
knowledge that Germany was at war with terrible, barbarous Russia, and
with prosperous, perfidious France.
England, so Anna firmly believed, had no army to speak ofno
real army. She remembered the day when France had declared war on
Germany in 1870. How at once every street of the little town in which
she had lived had become full of soldierssplendid, lion-hearted
soldiers going off to fight for their beloved Fatherland. Nothing of
the sort had taken place here, though Witanbury was a garrison town.
The usual tradesmen, strong, lusty young men, had called for orders
that morning. They had laughed and joked as usual. Not one of them
seemed aware his country was at war. The old German woman's lip curled
For the British, as a people, Anna Bauer cherished a tolerant
affection and kindly contempt. It was true that, all unknowing to
herself, she also had a great belief in British generosity and British
justice. The idea that this war, or rather the joining in of England
with France against Germany, could affect her own position or condition
in England would have seemed to her absurd.
Germany and England? A contrast indeed! In Germany her son-in-law,
that idle scamp George Pollit, would by now be marching on his way to
the French or Russian frontier. But George, being English, was quite
safeunfortunately. The only difference the war would make to him
would be that it would provide him with an excuse for trying to get at
some of Anna's carefully-hoarded savings.
If good old Anna had a faultand curiously enough it was one of
which her mistress was quite unaware, though Rose had sometimes
uncomfortably suspected the factit was a love of money.
Anna, in spite of her low wages, had saved far more than an English
servant earning twice as much would have done. Her low wage? Yes, still
low, though she had been raised four pounds a year when her mistress
had come into a better income. Before then Anna had been content with
sixteen pounds a year. She now received twenty pounds, but she was
ruefully aware that she was worth half as much again. In fact thirty
pounds a year had actually been offered to her, in a roundabout way, by
a lady who had come as a visitor to a house in the Close. But the lady,
like Anna herself, was a German; and, apart altogether from every other
consideration, including Anna's passionate love of Miss Rose, nothing
would have made her take service with a mistress of her own
This Mrs. Hirsch me to save her money wants. Her kind I know, she
observed to the emissary who had been sent to sound her. You can say
that Anna Bauer a good mistress has, and knows when she well suited
She had said nothing of the matter to Mrs. Otway, but even so she
sometimes thought of that offer, and she often felt a little sore when
she reflected on the wages some of the easy-going servants who formed
part of the larger households in the Close received from their
Yet, in this all-important matter of money a stroke of extraordinary
good luck had befallen Annaone of those things that very seldom come
to pass in our work-a-day world. It had happened, or perhaps it would
be truer to say it had begunfor, unlike most pieces of good fortune,
it was continuousjust three years ago, in the autumn of 1911, shortly
after her return from that glorious holiday at Berlin. This secret
stroke of luck, for she kept it jealously to herself, though there was
nothing about it at all to her discredit, had now lasted for over
thirty months, and it had had the agreeable effect of greatly
increasing her powers of saving. Of saving, that is, against the day
when she would go back to Germany, and live with her niece.
Mrs. Otway would have been surprised indeed had she known that Anna
not only meant to leave the Trellis House, but that, in a quiet,
reflective kind of way, she actually looked forward to doing so. Miss
Rose would surely marry, for a good many pleasant-mannered gentlemen
came and went to the Trellis House (though none of them were as rich as
Anna would have liked one of them to be), and she herself would get
past her work. When that had come to pass she would go and live with
her niece in Berlin. She had not told her daughter of this arrangement,
and it had been spoken of by Willi and her niece more as a joke than
anything else; still, Anna generally managed to carry through what she
had made up her mind to accomplish.
But on this August morning, standing there by the kitchen window of
the Trellis House, the future was far from good old Anna's mind. Her
mind was fixed on the present. How tiresome, how foolish of England to
have mixed up with a quarrel which did not concern her! How strange
that she, Anna Bauer, in spite of that word of warning from Berlin, had
As a matter of fact Mrs. Otway had said something to her about
Servia and Austriasomething, too, more in sorrow than in anger, of
Germany rattling her sword. But she, Anna, had only heard with half
an ear. Politics were out of woman's province. But there! English
ladies were like that.
Many a time had Anna laughed aloud over the antics of the
Suffragettes. About a month ago the boy who brought the meat had given
her a long account of a riotit had been a very little oneprovoked
by one such lady madwoman in the market-place of Witanbury itself. In
wise masculine Germany the lady's relatives (for, strange to say, the
Suffragette in question had been a high-born lady) would have put her
in the only proper place for her, an idiot asylum.
Anna had been genuinely shocked and distressed on learning that her
beloved nursling, Miss Rose, secretly rather sympathised with this mad
female wish for a vote. Why, in Germany only some of the men had
votes, and yet Germany was the most glorious, prosperous, and
much-to-be-feared nation in the world. Church, Kitchen, and
Childrenthat should be, and in the Fatherland still was, every true
woman's motto and province.
Anna's mind came back with a sudden jerk to this morning's
surprising, almost incredible news. Since her two ladies had gone out,
she had opened the newspapers on her kitchen table and read the words
for herselfEngland Declares War on Germany. But how could England
do such a thing, when England had no Army? True, she had shipsbut
then so now had Germany!
During that blissful holiday in Berlin, Anna had been persuaded to
join the German Navy League. She had not meant to keep up her
subscription, small though it was, after her return to England, but
rather to her disgust she had found that one of the few Germans she
knew in Witanbury represented the League, and that her name had been
sent to him as that of a new member. Twice he had called at the
tradesmen's entrance to the Trellis House, and had demanded the sum of
one shilling from her.
To-day Anna remembered with satisfaction those payments she had
grudged. Thanks to her patriotism, and that of millions like her,
Germany had now a splendid fleet with which to withstand her enemies.
She wondered if that fleet (for which she had helped to pay) would
ensure the safe delivery of parcels and letters. Probably yes.
With a relieved look on her face, the old woman dropped the
curtains, and went back to the table and to her knitting.
* * * * *
Suddenly, with what seemed uncanny suddenness, the telephone bell
rang in the hall.
Now Anna had never got used to the telephone. She had not opposed
its introduction into the Trellis House, because it had been done by
Miss Rose's wish, but once it was installed, Anna had bitterly
regretted its being there. It was the one part of her work that she
carried out badly, and she knew that this was so. Not only did she find
it most difficult to understand what was said through the horrible
instrument, but her mistress's friends found even more difficulty in
hearing her, Anna. Sometimesbut she was very much ashamed of
thisshe actually allowed the telephone bell to go on ringing, and
never answered it at all! She only did this, however, when her two
ladies were away from Witanbury, and when, therefore, the message,
whatever it might happen to be, could not possibly be delivered.
She waited now, hoping that the instrument would grow weary, and
leave off ringing. But no; on it went, ping, ping, ping, pingso at
last very reluctantly Anna opened the kitchen door and went out into
Taking up the receiver, she said in a grumpy tone, Ach! What is it?
Yes? And then her face cleared, and she even smiled into the telephone
To her great surprisebut the things that had happened to-day were
so extraordinary that there was no real reason why she should be
surprised at anything nowshe had heard the voice of the one German in
Witanburyand there were a good many Germans in Witanburywith whom
she was on really friendly terms.
This was a certain Fritz Fröhling, a pleasant elderly man who, like
herself, had been in England a long timein fact in his case nearer
forty than twenty years. He was a barber and hairdresser, and did a
very flourishing business with the military gentlemen of the garrison.
So Anglicised had he and his wife become that their son was in the
British Army, where he had got on very well, and had been promoted to
sergeant. Even among themselves, when Anna spent an evening with them,
the Fröhlings generally talked English. Still, Fröhling was a German of
the good old sort; that is, he had never become naturalised. But he was
a Socialist; he did not share Anna's enthusiasm for the Kaiser, the
Kaiserine, and their stalwart sons.
This was the first time he had ever telephoned to her. Is it Frau
Bauer that I am addressing?
And Anna, slightly thrilled by the unusual appellation, answered,
Yes, yesit is, Herr Fröhling.
With you a talk I should like to have, said the friendly familiar
voice. Could I this afternoon you see?
Not this afternoon, answered Anna, but this evening, I think yes.
My mistress will I ask if I an evening free have can.
Is it necessary her to ask? The question was put doubtfully.
Yes, yes! But mind she will not. To me she is goodness
itselfnever more good than this morning she was, shouted back Anna
Fortunate you are, the voice became rather sharp and dry. I
notice already have to quittold I must skip.
Never! cried Anna indignantly. Who has that you told?
A bad business, wailed Anna. She was shocked at what her old
acquaintance told her. I will Mrs. Otway ask you to help, she shouted
He muttered a word or two and then, Unless before eight you
communicate, Jane and I expect you this evening.
Certainly, Herr Fröhling.
As Mrs. Otway left the cathedral, certain remarks made to her by
members of the little congregation jarred on her, and made her feel,
almost for the first time in her life, thoroughly out of touch with her
friends and neighbours.
Some one whom Mrs. Otway really liked and respected came up to her
and exclaimed, I couldn't help feeling sorry the Dean did not mention
France and the French! Any one listening to him just now would have
thought that only Germany and ourselves and Belgium were involved in
this awful business. And then the speaker, seeing that her words were
not very acceptable, added quietly, But of course the Dean, with so
many German friends, is in a difficult position just now. In fact,
almost every one said something that hurt and annoyed her, and that
though it was often only a word of satisfaction that at last England
had gone in, as more than one of them put it, on the right side.
Passing through the arch of the square gateway which separates the
town from the Close, Mrs. Otway hurried down the pretty, quiet street
which leads in a rather roundabout way, and past one of the most
beautiful grey stone crosses in England, into the great market square
which is one of the glories of the famous cathedral city. Once there,
she crossed the wide space, part cobbled, part paved, and made her way
into a large building of stucco and red brick which bore above its
plate-glass windows the inscription in huge gilt letters, THE
The Monday Bank Holiday had been prolonged, and so the Stores were
only, so to speak, half open. But as Mrs. Otway stepped through into
the shadowed shop, the owner of the Stores, Manfred Hegner by name,
came forward to take her orders himself.
Manfred Hegner was quite a considerable person in Witanbury. Not
only was he the biggest retail tradesman in the place, and an active
member of the Witanbury City Council, but he was known to have all
sorts of profitable irons in the fire. A man to keep in with,
obviously, and one who was always willing to meet one half-way. Because
of his German birthhe had been naturalised some years agoand even
more because of certain facial and hirsute peculiarities, he went by
the nickname of The Kaiser.
Mrs. Otway took out of her bag a piece of paper on which she had
written down, at her old Anna's dictation, a list of groceries and
other things needed at the Trellis House. And then she looked round,
instinctively, towards the corner of the large shop where all that
remained of what had once been the mainstay of Manfred Hegner's
business was always temptingly set forth. This was a counter of
Delicatessen. Glancing at the familiar corner, Mr. Hegner's
customer told herself that her eyes must be playing her false. In the
place of the familiar sausages, herrings, the pretty coloured basins of
sauerkraut, and other savoury dainties, there now stood nothing but a
row of large uninteresting Dutch cheeses!
The man who was waiting attentively by her side, a pencil and block
of paper in his hand, saw the surprised, regretful look on his valued
I have had to put away all my nice, fresh Delicatessen, he
said in a low voice. It seemed wiser to do so, gracious lady. He
spoke in German, and it was in German that she answered.
Did you really think it necessary to do such a thing? I think you
are unfair on your adopted country, Mr. Hegner! English people are not
so unreasonable as that.
He was about to answer, when an odd-looking man, rather like a
sailor, came in, and Mr. Hegner, with a hurried Please excuse me one
minute, ma'am, in English, went off to attend to the new comer.
As Mr. Hegner went across his shop, Mrs. Otway was struck by his
curious resemblance to the German Emperor; in spite of the fact that he
was wearing a long white apron, he had quite a martial air. He
certainly deserved his nickname. There were the same piercing, rather
prominent eyes, the same look of energy and decision in his face; also
the same peculiar turned-up moustache. But whereas the resemblance last
week would have brought a smile, now it brought a furrow of pain to the
English lady's kindly face.
Poor Manfred Hegner! What must he and thousands of others like
himexcellent, industrious, civil-spoken Germansfeel all through
England to-day? Mrs. Otway, who had always liked the man, and who
enjoyed her little chats with him, knew perhaps rather more about this
prosperous tradesman than most of the Witanbury people knew. She was
aware that he had been something of a rolling stone; he had, for
instance, been for quite a long time in America, and it was there that
he had shed most of his Germanisms of language. He was older than he
looked, and his son by a first marriage lived in Germanywhere,
however, the young man was buyer for a group of English firms who did a
great deal of business in cheap German-made goods.
His conversation with the odd-looking stranger over, Mr. Hegner
hurried back to where his valued customer was standing. Every one on
the City Council is being most kind, he said suavely. And last night
I had the honour of meeting the Dean. At his suggestion I am calling a
little meeting this evening, here in my Stores, of the non-naturalised
Germans of this town. There are a good many in Witanbury.
And then Mrs. Otway suddenly remembered that the man now standing
opposite to her was a member of the City Council. She remembered that
some time ago, three or four years back at least, some disagreeable
person had expressed indignation that an ex-German, one only just
naturalised, should be elected to such a body. She had thought the
speaker narrow-minded and ill-natured. An infusion of German
thoroughness and thrift would do the City Council good, and perhaps
keep down the rates!
But you, Mr. Hegner, have been naturalised quite a long time, she
Yes, indeed, gracious lady! Mr. Hegner seemed surprised, perhaps a
thought disturbed, by her natural remark. I took out my certificate
before I built the Stores, and just after I had married my excellent
little English wife. Glad indeed am I now that I did so!
I am very glad too, said Mrs. Otway. And yetand yet she felt a
slight quiver of discomfort. The man standing there was so very
German after allGerman not only in his appearance, but in all his
little ways! If nothing else had proved it, his rather absurd nickname
was clear proof that so he was even now regarded in Witanbury.
And how about your son, Mr. Hegner? she asked. I suppose he is in
Germany now? You must feel rather anxious about him.
He hesitated oddly, and looked round him before he spoke. Then,
vanquished, maybe, by the obvious sincerity and kindness of the
speaker, he answered, in German, and almost in a whisper. He is, I
fear, by now on his way to the frontier. But may I ask a favour of the
gracious lady? Do not speak of my son to the people of Witanbury.
Then he was never naturalised? Mrs. Otway also spoke in a
low voicea voice full of pity and concern.
No, no, said Mr. Hegner hastily. There was no necessity for him
to be. His work was mostly, you see, over there.
Still he was educated here, surely?
That is so, gracious lady. He talks English better even than I do.
He and I did consider the question of his taking out a certificate.
Then we decided that, as he would be so much in Germany, it was better
he should remain German. But his wife is an English girl.
How sorry you must be now that he did not naturalise! she
An odd look came over Manfred Hegner's face. Yes, it is very
regretfulthe more so that it would do me harm if it were known in the
town that I had a son in the German Army. But he will not fight against
the English, he added hastily. No one will do that but the German
sailorsis not that so, madam?
I really don't know.
If at any time the gracious lady should hear anything of the sort,
I should be gratefulnay, far more than grateful if she will let me
know it! He had lapsed back into German, and Mrs. Otway smiled very
kindly at him.
Yes, I will certainly let you know anything I hear. I know how very
anxious you must be about this sad state of things.
Mrs. Otway had left the shop, and she was already some way back
across the Market Place, when there came the rather raucous sound of an
urgent voice in her ear. Startled, she turned round. The owner of the
Witanbury Stores stood by her side.
Pardon, pardon! he said breathlessly. But would you, gracious
lady, ask your servant (he used the German word Stütze") if she
could make it convenient to join our gathering this evening at nine
o'clock? Frau Anna Bauer is so very highly respected among the Germans
here that we should like her to be present.
Certainly I will arrange for Anna to come, answered Mrs. Otway.
But you may not be aware, Mr. Hegner, that my cook has become to all
intents and purposes quite Englishwithout, of course, she hastily
corrected herself, giving up her love for the Fatherland. She has only
one relation left in Germany, a married niece in Berlin. Her own
daughter is the wife of an Englishman, a tradesman in London.
That makes no difference, said Manfred Hegner; she will be
welcome, most heartily welcome, to-night! This is the moment, as the
Reverend Mr. Dean so well put it to me, when all Germans should stick
together, and consult as to the wisest and best thing to do in their
Yes, indeed, Mr. Hegner. I quite agree with the Dean. But do not do
anything to upset my poor old Anna. She really is not involved in the
question at all. She has lived with me nearly twenty years, and my
daughter and I regard her far more as a friend than as a servant. The
fact that she is German is an accidentthe merest accident! Nothing in
her life, thank God, will be changed for the worse. And, Mr. Hegner? I
should like to say one more thing. She looked earnestly into his face,
but even she could see that his eyes were wandering, and that there was
a slight look of apprehension in the prominent eyes now fixed on a
group of farmers who stood a few yards off staring at him and at Mrs.
Yes, gracious lady, he said mechanically, I am attending.
Do not think that English people bear any ill-feeling to you and
your great country! We feel that Germany, by breaking her word to
Belgium, has put herself in the wrong. It is England's duty to fight,
not her pleasure, Mr. Hegner. And we hope with all our hearts that the
war will soon be over.
He murmured a word of respectful assent. And then, choosing a rather
devious route, skirting the fine old Council House, which is the most
distinctive feature of Witanbury Market Place, he hurried back to his
* * * * *
Mrs. Otway opened the wrought-iron gate of the Trellis House with a
feeling of restful satisfaction; but there, in her own pretty, peaceful
home, a not very pleasant surprise awaited her. Good old Anna, hurrying
out into the black and white hall to meet her gracious lady, did not
receive Mr. Hegner's kind invitation as her mistress had supposed she
would do. A look of indecision and annoyance crossed her pink face.
Ach, but to go to Mr. Fröhling promised have I, she muttered.
And then Mrs. Otway exclaimed, But the Fröhlings are Germans! They
will certainly be there themselves. Mr. Fröhling cannot have known of
this meeting when he and his wife asked you to supper. I think, Anna,
that it is your duty to attend this gathering. The Dean not only
approves of it, but, from what I could make out, he actually suggested
that it should take place. Of course I know it makes no real difference
to you; but still, Anna, she spoke reprovingly, you should not forget
at such a time as this that you are German-born.
The old woman looked up quickly at her mistress. Forget she was
German-born! Mrs. Otway was a most good lady, a most kind employer, but
she was sometimes foolish, very very foolish, in what she said! She,
Anna Bauer, had often noticed it. Still, averse as she was from the
thought, the old German woman was ruefully aware that she would have to
accept Mr. Hegner's invitation. When it came to a tussle of will
between the two, herself and her mistress, Mrs. Otway generally won,
partly because she was, after all, Anna's employer, and also because
she always knew exactly what it was she wanted Anna to do. Anna was
emotional, easily touched, highly excitable; she also generally knew
what she wanted, but she did not find it easy to force her will on
others, least of all on her beloved if not exactly admired mistress.
Grumbling under her breath, she retreated into her kitchen; while
Mrs. Otway, feeling tired and rather dispirited, went upstairs.
The back-door bell rang, and Anna went and opened it. A boy stood
there, bearing on a tray not only the various little things Mrs. Otway
had ordered at the Witanbury Stores half an hour before, but also an
envelope addressed to Frau Bauer. Anna brought the things into the
kitchen, then she opened with interest the envelope addressed to
herself. It contained a card, elegantly headed:
THE WITANBURY STORES.
Proprietor: MANFRED HEGNER.
Across it were written in German the words: You are bidden to a
meeting at the above address to-night at nine o'clock. There will be
cakes and coffee served before the meeting begins. Entrance by Market
Anna read the words again and again. This was treating her at last
as she ought always to have been treated! Anna did not like her erst
fellow-country-man, and she considered that she had good reason for her
dislike. Resentment against ingratitude is not confined to any one
When Manfred Hegner had first come to Witanbury, Anna had been
delighted to make his acquaintance, and she had spent many happy
half-hours chatting with him in the little Delicatessen shop he
had established in Bridge Street, close to the Market Place.
Starting with only the good-will of a bankrupt confectioner, he had
very soon built up a wonderfully prosperous business. But his early
success had been in a measure undoubtedly owing to Mrs. Otway and her
German cook. Mrs. Otway had told all her friends of this amusing little
German shop, and of the good things which were to be bought there.
Delicatessen had become quite the fashion, not only among the good
people of Witanbury itself, but among the county gentry who made the
cathedral town their shopping headquarters, and who enjoyed motoring in
there to spend an idly busy morning.
Then had come the erection of the big Stores. Over that matter quite
a storm had arisen, and local feeling had been very mixed. A petition
originated by those who called themselves the Art Society of Witanbury,
pointed out that a large modern building of the kind proposed would
ruin the old-world, picturesque appearance of the Market Place. But the
big local builder, the man who later promoted the election of Manfred
Hegner on to the City Council, bore down all opposition, and a group of
charming old gabled houseshouses that were little more than cottages,
and therefore perhaps hardly in keeping with the Market Place of so
prosperous a town as was Witanburyhad been pulled down, and the large
Stores had risen on their site.
And then one daywhich happened to be a day when Mrs. Otway and her
daughter were away on a visitManfred Hegner himself walked along into
the Close, and so to the Trellis House, in order to make Anna a
proposal. It was a simple thing that he asked Anna to donamely that
she should persuade her mistress to remove her custom from the
long-established tradesmen where she had always dealt, and transfer it
entirely to his Stores. His things, so he said, were better as well as
cheaper than those sold by the smaller people, also he would be pleased
to pay Anna a handsome commission on every bill paid by her mistress.
Anna had willingly fallen in with this plan. It had taken some time
and some trouble, but in the end Mrs. Otway found it very convenient to
get everything at the same place. For a while all had gone well for
Manfred Hegnerwell for him and well for Anna. At the end of a year,
however, he had arbitrarily halved Anna's commission, and that she felt
to be (as indeed it was) most unfair, and not in the bond. She had no
longer the power to retaliate, for her mistress had fallen into the way
of going into the Stores herself. Mrs. Otway enjoyed rubbing up her
German with Mr. Hegner, and the really intelligent zeal with which he
always treated her, and her comparatively small orders, was very
pleasant. Twice he had taken great trouble to procure for her a local
Weimar delicacy which she remembered enjoying as a girl.
But when Anna, following her mistress's example, walked along to the
Stores to enjoy a little chat in her native language, Mr. Hegner would
be short with her, very short indeed! In fact it was now a long time
since the old woman had cared to set foot there. For another thing she
did not like Mrs. Hegner, the pretty English girl Manfred Hegner had
married five years before; she thought her a very frivolous, silly
little woman, not at all what the wife of a big commercial man should
be. Anna's Louisa would have been a perfect helpmate for Manfred
Hegner, and there had been a time, a certain three months, when Anna
had thought the already prosperous widower was considering Louisa. His
marriage to pretty Polly Brown had been a disappointment.
But now this politely-worded card of invitation certainly made a
difference. Old Anna, who was not lacking in a certain simple
shrewdness, had not expected Manfred Hegner to show any kindness to his
ex-compatriots. She was touched to find him a better man than she
expected. Most certainly would she attend this meeting!
As soon as her mistress had gone out to lunch, Anna telephoned to
Mr. Fröhling and explained why she could not come to him that evening.
We too asked to Hegner's have been. As you are going, we your
example will follow, shouted the barber.
Rose Otway sat in the garden of the Trellis House, under the
wide-branched cedar of Lebanon which was, to the thinking of most
people in the Close, that garden's only beauty. For it was just a wide
lawn, surrounded on three sides by a very high old brick wall, under
which ran an herbaceous border to which Rose devoted some thought and a
good deal of time.
The great cedar rose majestically far above its surroundings; and
when you stood at one of the windows of the Trellis House, and saw how
wide the branches of the tree spread, you realised that the garden was
a good deal bigger than it appeared at first sight.
Rose sat near a low wicker table on which in an hour or so Anna
would come out and place the tea-tray. Spread out across the girl's
knee was a square of canvas, a section of a bed-spread, on which was
traced an intricate and beautiful Jacobean design. Rose had already
been working at it for six months, and she hoped to have finished it by
the 14th of December, her mother's birthday. She enjoyed doing this
beautiful work, of which the pattern had been lent to her by a country
neighbour who collected such things.
How surprised Rose would have been on this early August afternoon
could she have foreseen that this cherished piece of work, on which she
had already lavished so many hours of close and pleasant toil, would
soon be put away for an indefinite stretch of time; and that knitting,
which she had always disliked doing, would take its place!
But no such thought, no such vision of the future, came into her
mind as she bent her pretty head over her work.
She felt rather excited, a thought more restless than usual. England
at war, and with Germany! Dear old Anna's Fatherlandthe great country
to which Rose had always been taught by her mother to look with
peculiar affection, as well as respect and admiration.
Rose and Mrs. Otway had hoped to go to Germany this very autumn.
They had saved up their penniesas Mrs. Otway would have put itfor a
considerable time, in order that they might enjoy in comfort, and even
in luxury, what promised to be a delightful tour. Rose could hardly
realise even yet that their journey, so carefully planned out, so often
discussed, would now have to be postponed. They were first to have gone
to Weimar, where Mrs. Otway had spent such a happy year in her
girlhood, and then to Munich, to Dresden, to Nurembergto all those
dear old towns with whose names Rose had always been familiar. It
seemed such a pity that now they would have to wait till after the war
to go to Germany.
After the war? Fortunately the people she had seen that dayand
there had been a good deal of coming and going in the Closeall seemed
to think that the war would be over very soon, and this pleasant view
had been confirmed in a rather odd way.
Rose's cousin, James Hayley, had rung her up on the telephone from
London. She had been very much surprised, for a telephone message from
London to Witanbury costs one-and-threepence, and James was careful
about such things. When he did telephone, which was very seldom, he
always waited to do so till the evening, when the fee was halved. But
to-day James had rung up just before luncheon, and she had heard his
voice almost as though he were standing by her side.
Who's there? Oh, it's you, is it, Rose? I just wanted to say that I
shall probably be down Saturday night. I shan't be able to be away more
than one night, worse luck. I suppose you've heard what's happened?
And then, as she had laughedshe had really not been able to help
it (how very odd James was! He evidently thought Witanbury quite
out of the world), he had gone on, It's a great bore, for it upsets
everything horribly. The one good point about it is that it won't last
How long? she had called out.
And he had answered rather quickly, You needn't speak so loud. I
hear you perfectly. How long? Oh, I think it'll be over by Octobermay
be a little before, but I should say October.
Mother thinks there'll be a sort of Trafalgar!
And then he had answered, speaking a little impatiently for he was
very overworked just then, Nothing of the sort! The people who will
win this war, and will win it quickly, are the Russians. We have
information that they will mobilise quicklymuch more quickly than
most people think. You see, my dear Rose,he was generally rather
old-fashioned in his phraseologythe Russians are like a steam
roller; she always remembered that she had heard that phrase from him
first. We have reason to believe that they can put ten million men
into their fighting line every year for fifty years!
Rose, in answer, said the first silly thing she had said that day:
Oh, I do hope the war won't last as long as that!
And then she had heard, uttered in a strange voice, the words,
Another three minutes, sir? and the hasty answer at the other end,
No, certainly not! I've quite done. And she had hung up the receiver
with a smile.
And yet Rose, if well aware of his little foibles, liked her cousin
well enough to be generally glad of his company. During the last three
months he had spent almost every week-end at Witanbury. And though it
was true, as her mother often observed, that James was both
narrow-minded and self-opinionated, yet even so he brought with him a
breath of larger air, and he often told the ladies at the Trellis House
* * * * *
While Rose Otway sat musing over her beautiful work in the garden,
good old Anna came and went in her kitchen. She too still felt restless
and anxious, she too wondered how long this unexpected war would last.
But whereas Rose couldn't have told why she was restless and anxious,
her one-time nurse knew quite well what ailed herself this afternoon.
Anna had a very good reason for feeling worried and depressed, but
it was one she preferred to keep to herself. For the last two days she
had been expecting some money from Germany, and since this morning she
had been wondering, with keen anxiety, whether that money would be
stopped in the post.
What made this possibility very real to her was the fact that an
uncle of Anna's, just forty-four years ago, that is, in the August of
1870, had been ruined owing to the very simple fact that a sum of money
owing him from France had not been able to get through! It was true
that she, Anna, would not be ruined if the sum due to her, which in
English money came to fifty shillings exactly, were not to arrive.
Still, it would be very disagreeable, and the more disagreeable because
she had foolishly given her son-in-law five pounds a month ago. She
knew it would have to be a gift, though he had pretended at the time
that it was only a loan.
Anna wondered how she could find out whether money orders were still
likely to come through from Germany. She did not like to ask at the
Post Office, for her Berlin nephew, who transmitted the money to her
half-yearly, always had the order made out to some neighbouring town or
village, not to Witanbury. In vain Anna had pointed out that this was
quite unnecessary, and indeed very inconvenient; and that when she had
said she did not wish her mistress to know, she had not meant that. In spite of her protests Willi had persisted in so sending it.
Suddenly her face brightened. How easy it would be to find out all
that sort of thing at the meeting to-night! Such a man as Manfred
Hegner would be sure to know.
There came a ring at the front door of the Trellis House, and Anna
got up reluctantly from her easy chair and laid down her crochet. She
was beginning to feel old, so she often told herself regretfullyolder
than the Englishwomen of her own age seemed to be. But none of them had
worked as hard as she had always worked. Englishwomen, especially
English servants, were lazy good-for-nothings!
Poor old Anna; she did not feel happy or placid to-day, and she
hated the thought of opening the door to some one who, maybe, would
condole with her on to-day's news. All Mrs. Otway's friends knew Anna,
and treated her as a highly respected institution. Those who knew a
little German were fond of trying it on her.
It was rather curious, considering how long Anna had been in
England, that she still kept certain little habits acquired in the
far-off days when she had been the young cook of a Herr Privy
Councillor. Thus never did she open the front door with a cheerful,
pleasant manner. Also, unless they were very intimately known to her
and to her mistress, she always kept visitors waiting in the hall. She
would forget, that is, to show them straight into the pretty
sitting-room which lay just opposite her kitchen. She often found
herself regretting that the heavy old mahogany door of the Trellis
House lacked the tiny aperture which in Berlin is so well named a
stare-hole, and which enables the person inside the front door to
command, as it were, the position outside.
But to-day, when she saw who it was who stood on the threshold, her
face cleared a little, for she was well acquainted with the tall young
man who was looking at her with so pleasant a smile. His name was
Jervis Blake, and he came very often to the Trellis House. For two
years he had been at Robey's, the Army coaching establishment which
was, in a minor degree, one of the glories of Witanbury, and which
consisted of a group of beautiful old Georgian houses spreading across
the whole of one of the wide corners of the Close.
Some of the inhabitants of the Close resented the fact of Robey's.
But Mr. Robey was the son of a former Bishop of Witanbury, the Bishop
who had followed Miss Forsyth's father.
Bishop Robey had had twin sons, who, unlike most twins, were very
different. The elder, whom some of the oldest inhabitants remembered as
an ugly, eccentric little boy, with a taste for cutting up dead
animals, had insisted on becoming a surgeon. To the surprise of his
father's old friends, he had made a considerable reputation, which had
been, so to speak, officially certified with a knighthood. The
professional life of a great surgeon is limited, and Sir Jacques Robey,
though not much over fifty and still a bachelor, had now retired.
The younger twin, Orlando, was the Army coach. He had been, even as
a little boy, a great contrast to his brother, being both good looking
and anything but eccentric. The brothers were only alike in the success
they had achieved in their several professions, but they had for one
another in full measure that curiously understanding sympathy and
affection which seem to be the special privilege of twins.
Mr. Robey was popular and respected, and those dwellers in the Close
who had daughters were pleased with the life and animation which the
presence of so many young men gave to the place. The more thoughtful
were also glad to think that the shadow of their beloved cathedral
rested benignantly over the temporary home of those future officers and
administrators of the Empire. And of all those who had been coached at
Robey's during the last two years, there was none better liked,
though there had been many more popular, than the young man who now
stood smiling at old Anna.
During the first three months of his sojourn in the Close, Jervis
Blake had counted very little, for it had naturally been supposed that
he would soon go off to Sandhurst or Woolwich. Then he had failed to
pass the Army Entrance Examination, not once, as so many did, but again
and again, and the good folk of Witanbury, both gentle and simple, had
grown accustomed to see him coming and going in their midst.
Unfortunately for Jervis Blake, his father, though a distinguished
soldier, was a very peculiar man, one who had owed nothing in his hard
laborious youth to influence; and he had early determined that his only
son should tread the path he had himself trod.
And now poor young Blake had reached the age limit, and failed for
the last time. Every one had been sorry, but no one had been surprised
in Witanbury Close, when the result of the May Army Exam. had been
published in July.
One person, Mr. Robey himself, had been deeply concerned. Indeed,
the famous coach muttered to one or two of his old friends, It's a
pity, you know! Although I make my living by it, I often think there's
a good deal to be said against a system which passes inwell, some
boys whose names I could give you, and which keeps out of the Army a
lad like Jervis Blake! He'd make a splendid company
officerconscientious, honest, unselfish, keen about his work, and
bravewell, brave as only a man
And one of those to whom he said it, seeing him hesitate, had broken
in, with a slight smile, Brave as only a man totally lacking in
imagination can be, eh, Robey?
No, no, I won't have you say that! Even an idiot has enough
imagination to be afraid of danger! There's something fine about poor
They'd gradually all got to call young Blake Jervis in that
household. Perhaps Mrs. Robey alone of them all knew how much they
would miss him. He was such a thoroughly good fellow, he was so useful
to her husband in keeping order among the wilder spirits, and that
without having about him a touch of the prig!
* * * * *
Rose looked up and smiled as the tall young man came forward and
shook hands with her, saying as he did so, I hope I'm not too early?
The truth is, I've a good many calls to pay this afternoon. I've come
to say good-bye.
I'm sorry. I thought you weren't going away till Saturday. Rose
really did feel sorryin fact, she was herself surprised at her rather
keen sensation of regret. She had always liked Jervis Blake very
muchliked him from the first day she had seen him. He had a certain
claim on the kindness of the ladies of the Trellis House, for his
mother had been a girl friend of Mrs. Otway's.
Most people, as Rose was well aware, found his conversation boring.
But it always interested her. In fact Rose Otway was the one person in
Witanbury who listened with real pleasure to what Jervis Blake had to
say. Oddly enough, his talk almost always ran on military matters. Most
soldiersand Rose knew a good many officers, for Witanbury is a
garrison townwould discuss, before the Great War, every kind of topic
except those connected with what they would have described as shop.
But Jervis Blake, who, owing to his bad luck, seemed fated never to be
a soldier, thought and talked of nothing else. It was thanks to him
that Rose knew so much about the great Napoleonic campaigns, and was so
well up in the Indian Mutiny.
And now, on this 4th of August, 1914, Jervis Blake sat down by Rose
Otway, and began tracing imaginary patterns on the grass with his
I'm not going to tell any one else, but there's something I want to
tell you. He spoke in a rather hard, set voice, and he did not look
up, as he spoke, at the girl by his side.
Yes, she said. Yes, Jervis? What is it? There was something very
kind, truly sympathetic, in her accents.
I'm going to enlist.
Rose Otway was startledstartled and sorry.
Oh, no, you mustn't do that!
I've always thought I should like to do it, ifif I failed
this last time. But of course I knew it was out of the
questionbecause of my father. But noweverything's different! Even
father will see that I have no other course open to me.
II don't understand what you mean, she answered, and to her
surprise there came a queer lump in her throat. Why is everything
He looked round at her with an air of genuine surprise, and, yes, of
indignation, in his steady grey eyes. And under that surprised and
indignant look, so unlike anything there had ever been before from him
to her, the colour flushed all over her face.
You mean, she faltered, you mean becausebecause England is at
But I thoughtof course I don't know anything about it, Jervis,
and I daresay you'll think me very ignorantbut from what the Dean
said this morning I thought that only our fleet is to fight the
The Dean is an old and then they both laughed. Jervis Blake
went on: If we don't go to the help of the French and the Belgians,
then England's disgraced. But of course we're going to fight!
Rose Otway was thinkingthinking hard. She knew a good deal about
Jervis, and his relations with the father he both loved and feared.
Look here, she said earnestly. We've always been friends, you and
I, haven't we, Jervis?
And again he simply nodded in answer to the question.
Well, I want you to promise me something!
I can't promise you I won't enlist.
I don't want you to promise me that. I only want you to promise me
to wait just a few dayssay a week. Of course I don't know anything
about how one becomes a soldier, but you'd be rather sold, wouldn't
you, if you enlisted and then if your regiment took no part in the
fightingif there's really going to be fighting?
Rose Otway stopped short. She felt a most curious sensation of
fatigue; it was as though she had been speaking an hour instead of a
few moments. But she had put her whole heart, her whole soul, into
those few simple words.
There was a long, long pause, and her eyes filled with tears. Those
who knew her would have told you that Rose Otway was quite singularly
self-possessed and unemotional. In fact she could not remember when she
had cried last, it was so long ago. But now there came over her a
childish, irresistible desire to have her wayto save poor, poor
Jervis from himself. And suddenly the face of the young man looking at
her became transfigured.
Rose, he criedRose, do you really care, a little, what happens
to me? Oh, if you only knew what a difference that would make!
And then she pulled herself together. Jervis mustn't become what she
in her own mind called silly. Young men, ay, and older men too, had a
way of becoming silly about Rose Otway. And up to now she had
disliked it very much. But this afternoon she was touched rather than
I care very much, she said quietly. She knew the battle was won,
and it was very collectedly that she added the words, Now, I have your
promise, Jervis? You're not to do anything foolish Then she saw
she had made a mistake. No, no! she cried hastily; I don't mean
thatI don't mean that a man who becomes a soldier in time of war is
doing anything foolish! But I do think that you ought to wait just a
few days. Everything is different now. For the first time she felt
that everything was indeed different in Englandin this new strange
England which was at war. It was odd that Jervis Blake should have
brought that knowledge home to her.
Very well, he said slowly. I'll wait. I can't wait a whole week,
but I'll wait till after Sunday.
The Robeys are going to the seaside on Monday, aren't they? She
was speaking now quite composedly, quite like herself.
Yes, and they kindly asked me to stay on till then.
He got up. Well, he said, looking down at herand she couldn't
help telling herself what a big, manly fellow he looked, and what a
fine soldier he would makewell, Rose, so it isn't good-bye, after
No, I'm glad to say it isn't. She gave him a frank, kindly smile.
Surely you'll stay and have some tea?
No, thank you. Jack Robey is feeling a little above himself to-day.
You see it's the fourth day of the holidays. I think I'll just go
straight back, and take him out for a walk. I rather want to think over
As he made his way across the lawn and through the house, feeling
somehow that the whole world had changed for the better, though he
could not have told you exactly why, Jervis Blake met Mrs. Otway.
Won't you stay and have some tea? she asked, but she said it in a
very different voice from that Rose had usedRose had meant what she
Thanks very much, but I've got to get back. I promised Mrs. Robey
I'd be in to tea; the boys are back from school, you know.
Oh, yes, of course! I suppose they are. Well, you must come in some
other day before you leave Witanbury.
She hurried through into the garden.
I hope Jervis Blake hasn't been here very long, darling, she said
fondly. Of course I know he's your friend, and that you've always
liked him. But I'm afraid he would rather jar on one to-day. He's
always so disliked the Germans! Poor fellow, how he must feel
out of it, now that the war he's always been talking about has actually
Well, mother, Jervis was right after all. The Germans were
preparing for war.
But Mrs. Otway went on as if she had not heard the interruption. It
was a way she had, and sometimes both Rose and old Anna found it rather
trying. This morning Miss Forsyth was saying she thought young Blake
would enlistthat she'd enlist if she were in his place! It's odd what
nonsense she sometimes talks.
Rose remained silent and her mother continued. I've so many things
to tell you I hardly know where to begin. It was a very interesting
committee, more lively than usual. There seemed a notion among some of
the people there that there will be war work of some kind for us to do.
Lady Bethune thought sothough I can't see how the war can affect any
of us, here, in Witanbury. But just as we were breaking up, Lady
Bethune told us some interesting things. There are, she says, two
parties in the Governmentone party wants us to send out troops to
help Belgium, the other party thinks we ought to be content with
letting the fleet help the French. I must say I agree with the Blue
I don't, said Rose rather decidedly. If we really owe so much to
Belgium that we have gone to war for her sake, then it seems to me we
ought to send soldiers to help her.
But then we have such a small army, objected Mrs. Otway.
It may grow bigger, observed her daughter quietly, especially if
people like Jervis Blake think of enlisting.
But it wasn't Jervis Blake, darling childit was Miss Forsyth who
said that to me.
So it was! How stupid I am! Rose turned a little pink. She did not
wish to deceive her mother. But Mrs. Otway was so confiding, so sure
that every one was as honourable as herself, that she could not always
be trusted to keep secrets.
Mr. and Mrs. Hegner stood together in their brilliantly lighted but
now empty front shop. In a few minutes their guests would begin to
arrive. Mrs. Hegner looked tired, and rather cross, for the shop had
not been transformed into its present state without a good deal of hard
work on the part of all of them, her husband, their German assistants,
and herselftheir English shopman had been told that to-night his
services would not be required. But Mrs. Hegner, though her pretty face
was tired and peevish-looking, yet looked far pleasanter than she had
done half an hour ago, for her husband had just presented her with a
long gold chain.
In a very, very quiet way, quite under the rose, so to speak, Mr.
Hegner sometimes went in for small money-lending transactions. He would
give loans on jewellery, and even on curios and good furniture;
always, however, in connection with an account which had, maybe, run a
little too longnever as a separate transaction. The old-fashioned
chain of 18-carat gold, which he had just hung with a joking word round
his pretty wife's slender neck, had been the outcome of one of these
It was now a quarter to nine; and suddenly there came the sound of
loud, rather impatient knocking on the locked and barred front door of
the shop. A frown gathered over Mr. Hegner's face; it transformed his
good-looking, generally genial, countenance into something which was,
for the moment, very disagreeable.
What can that be? he said to his wife. Did you not put plainly on
every card 'Entrance by Market Row,' Polly?
Yes, she said, a little frightened by his look. It was most
carefully put in every case, Manfred.
The knocking had stopped now, as if the person outside expected the
door to open. Husband and wife went forward.
Who can it be? said Mrs. Hegner uneasily.
And then her question was answered.
The voice was clear and silvery. It's Miss Haworth! Can I come in
and speak to you a moment, Mr. Hegner, or has the meeting already
Why, it's the young lady from the Deanery! exclaimed Manfred
Hegner in a relieved voice; and both he and his wife began hastily
unlocking and unbarring the great plate-glass doors.
The unbidden, unexpected visitor stepped forward into the shop, and
Mrs. Hegner eagerly noted the cut and shape of the prettily draped pale
blue silk evening coat, and tried to gain some notion of the evening
I'm so glad to be in timeI mean before your meeting has begun.
How very nice it all looks! The speaker cast an approving glance on
the rout chairs, on the table at the top of the room, on the counter
where steamed, even now, the fragrant coffee. The Dean has asked me to
bring a messageof course quite an informal message, Mr. Hegner. He
wants you to tell everybody that he is quite at their service if they
want anything done.
That is very, very good of Mr. Dean. Polly, d'you hear that? Is not
the Reverend gentleman truly good?
Yes, indeed, said Mrs. Hegner, a trifle mechanically.
She felt a touch of sharp envy as she looked at the beautiful girl
standing there. Though Edith Haworth knew very little of Mrs. Hegner,
except that Mrs. Hegner's sister was her maid, Mrs. Hegner knew a great
deal about Miss Haworth. How she had gone up to London just for one
month of the season, and how during that one month she had become
engaged to a rich young gentleman, a baronet. He was in the Army, too,
but he couldn't be much of a soldier, for he seemed to be a great deal
in Witanburyat least he had been here a great deal during the last
three weeks. The two often walked about the town together; once they
had stood for quite a long time just opposite the open doors of the
Stores, and Mrs. Hegner on that occasion had looked at the handsome
couple with sympathetic interest and excitement.
But now, to-night, nothing but sharp envy filled her soul. It was
her fate, poor, pretty Polly's fate, to sit behind that horrid glass
partition over there, taking money, paying out endless small change,
compelled always to look pleasant, or Manfred, if he caught her looking
anything else, even when giving a farthing change out of a penny, would
soon know the reason why! The young lady who stood smiling just within
the door was not half as fetching as she, Polly, had been in her
maiden daysand yet she was going to have everything the heart of
woman could desire, a rich, handsome, young husband, and plenty of
As her eyes strayed out to the moonlit space outside where stood
waiting, under the quaint little leafy mall which gives the Market
Square of Witanbury such a foreign look, a gentleman in evening dress,
Mrs. Hegner repeated mechanically, Very kind, I'm sure, miss. They'll
appreciate itthat they will.
Well, that was all I came to sayonly that my father will be very
glad indeed to do anything he can. Oh, I did forget one more thing
She lowered her voice a little. The Dean thinks it probable, Mr.
Hegner, that after to-day no German of military age will be allowed to
leave England. You ought to tell everybody that this evening, otherwise
some of them, without knowing it, might get into trouble.
And then Mrs. Hegner, perhaps because she had become nervously aware
that her husband had looked at her rather crossly a moment ago, blurted
out, There's no fear of that, miss. We sent off a lot this morning to
Harwich. I expect they'll have been able to get a boat there all
right She stopped suddenly, for her husband had just made a
terrible face at hera face full of indignation and wrath.
But Miss Haworth did not seem to have noticed anything.
Oh, well, she said, perhaps it was a mistake to do that, but I
don't suppose it matters much, one way or the other. I must go now. The
meeting is due to begin, isn't it? Andand Sir Hugh is leaving
to-night. He expects to find his marching orders when he gets back to
town. A little colour came into her charming face; she sighed, but not
very heavily. War is an awful thing! she said; but every soldier, of
course, wants to see something of the fighting. I expect the
feeling is just as strong in France and Germany as it is here.
She shook hands warmly with Mr. and Mrs. Hegner, then she turned and
tripped out into the dimly lighted and solitary Market Square. They
watched her cross the road and take her lover's arm.
Fool! said Mr. Hegner harshly. Pretty, silly fool! He mimicked
what he thought to be her mincing accents. Wants to see something of
war, does he? I can tell him he will be satisfied before he has done!
There was a scowl on his face. And youhe turned on his wife
furiouslywhat business had you to say that about those young German
men? I was waitingyes, with curiosityto hear what else you were
going to tell herwhether you would tell her that I had paid their
Oh, no, Manfred. You know I would never have done that after what
you said to me yesterday.
Take it from me now, once for all, he said fiercely, that you say
nothingnothing, mark youabout this cursed, blasted warthis
war which, if we are not very careful, is going to make us poor, to
bring us to the gutter, to the workhouse, you and I!
And then Hegner's brow cleared as if by enchantment, for the first
of their visitors were coming through from the back of the shop.
It was the manager of a big boot factory and his wife. They were
both German-born, and the man had obtained his present excellent
position owing to the good offices of Mr. Hegner. Taking his friend's
wise advice, he had become naturalised a year ago. But a nephew, who
had joined him in business, had not followed his example, and he had
been one of the young men who had been speeded off to Harwich, through
Mr. Hegner's exertions, early that morning.
While Mrs. Hegner tried to make herself pleasant to Mrs. Liebert,
Mr. Hegner took Mr. Liebert aside.
I have just learnt, he said, in a quick whisper, that the
military gentlemen here are expecting marching orders to the
ContinentI presume to Belgium.
That is bad, muttered the other.
But Mr. Hegner smiled. No, no, he said, not bad! It might have
been disagreeable if they could have been got there last week. But by
the time the fifty thousand, even the hundred thousand, English
soldiers are in Belgium, there will be a million of our fellows there
to meet them.
What are you going to say at this meeting? asked the other
curiously; he used the English word, though they still spoke German.
Mr. Hegner shrugged his shoulders. This is not going to be a
meeting, he said laughingly. It's going to be a Kaffeeklatch! Those
people to whom I have to say a word I shall see by myself, in our
little parlour. I trust to you, friend Max, to make everything go well
and lively. As to measures, it is far too early to think of any
measures. So far all goes very well with me. I have had many tokens of
sympathy and of friendship this morning. Just two or three, perhaps,
would have liked to be disagreeable, but they did not dare.
He hurried away, for his guests were arriving thick and fast.
* * * * *
It was a strange and, or so Mrs. Otway would have thought, a rather
pathetic little company of men and women, who gathered together at
Manfred Hegner's Stores at nine o'clock on that fine August night. The
blinds had been drawn down, and behind the blinds the shutters had been
As to the people there, they all looked prosperous and respectable,
but each one wore a slight air of apprehension and discomfort. Strange
to say, not one of the Germans present really liked or trusted their
host, and that was odd, for Manfred Hegner, apart from certain
outstanding exceptions, had managed to make himself quite popular among
the English inhabitants of Witanbury.
The men and the women had instinctively parted into two companies,
but Mrs. Hegner went to and fro among both sets, pressing hospitably on
all her guests the coffee, the creamy milk, and the many cakes, to say
nothing of the large sandwiches she had been ordered to make that
She felt oppressed and rather bewildered, for the people about her
were all talking German, and she had never taken the trouble to learn
even half a dozen words of her husband's difficult nasal language. She
kept wondering when the meeting would begin. Time was going on. They
always got up very early in the morning, and already she was tired,
very, very tired in fact, for it had been a long and rather an exciting
She had never before seen her husband quite so pleasant and jovial,
and as she moved about she heard continually his loud, hearty laugh. He
was cheering up the people round himso much was clear. All of them
had looked gloomy, preoccupied, and troubled when they came in, but now
they seemed quite merry and bright.
There was one exception. Poor Mr. Fröhling looked very miserable.
Mrs. Hegner felt very sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Fröhling. When her husband
had heard of what had befallen the unfortunate barber, and how he had
been ordered to pack up and leave his shop within a few hours, he had
said roughly: Fröhling is a fool! I told him to take out his
certificate. He refused to do it, so now of course he will have to go.
Witanbury has no use for that man!
And now Mr. and Mrs. Fröhling, alone of the company there, sat
together apart, with lowering brows.
Mrs. Hegner went up to them, rather timidly. I want to tell you how
sorry I am, Mr. Fröhling, she said conciliatingly. Polly had a kind
heart, if a pettish manner. What a pity you didn't take out your
certificate when Manfred advised you to do so!
Mr. Fröhling remained silent. But his wife said wistfully, Ach,
yes, Mrs. Hegner. It is a pity now; but still, the officers they have
been kind to us, really very kind. One of them even said it would not
have made much difference
Her husband interrupted her. He nothing, Jane, said of the kind!
That it ought not any difference to have made was what say he
did. I, who have in England lived since the year 1874; I, who England
love; I, whose son will soon for England be fighting!
My husband said, began Mrs. HegnerAnd again Mr. Fröhling
interrupted rather rudely: You need not tell me what your husband
say, he remarked. I know for myself exactly what Mr. Hegner say. If
everything could be foreseen in this life we should all be very wise.
Mr. Hegner, he does foresee more than most people, and wise he is.
Mrs. Fröhling drew her hostess a little aside. Don't mind him, she
whispered. He is so unhappy. And yet we should be thankful, for the
gentlemen officers are getting up a little testimonial fund for poor
I suppose you've saved a good bit, too? said Mrs. Hegner with
Not muchnot much! Only lately have we turned the corner Mrs.
Fröhling sighed. Then her face brightened, and Mrs. Hegner looking
round saw that Anna Bauer, Mrs. Otway's servant, was pushing her way
through the crowd towards them.
Now pretty Polly disliked the old woman. Frau Bauer was not a person
of any account, yet Manfred had ordered that she should be treated this
evening with special consideration, and so Mrs. Hegner walked forward
and stiffly shook hands with her latest guest.
Sit down, Fröhling, sit down!
The old barber, rather to his surprise, had been invited to follow
his host into the Hegners' private parlour, a little square room
situated behind the big front shop.
The floor of the parlour was covered with a large-patterned
oilcloth. There was a round mahogany pedestal table, too large for the
room, and four substantial cane-backed armchairs. Till to-day there had
always hung over the piano a large engraving of the German Emperor, and
on the opposite wall a smaller oleograph picture of Queen Victoria with
her little great-grandson, the Prince of Wales, at her knee. The German
Emperor had now been taken down, and there was a patch of clean paper
marking where the frame had hung.
As answer to Mr. Hegner's invitation, the older man sat down heavily
in a chair near the table.
Both men remained silent for a moment, and a student of Germany, one
who really knew and understood that amazing country, might well, had he
seen the two sitting there, have regarded the one as epitomising the
old Germany, and the othernaturalised Englishman though he now
wasepitomising the new. Manfred Hegner was slim, active, and
prosperous-looking; he appeared years younger than his age. Ludwig
Fröhling was stout and rather stumpy; he seemed older than he really
was, and although he was a barber, his hair was long and untidy. He
looked intelligent and thoughtful, but it was the intelligence and the
thoughtfulness of the student and of the dreamer, not of the man of
Well, Mr. Fröhling, the International haven't done much the last
few days, eh? I'm afraid you must have been disappointed. He of course
spoke in German.
Yes, I have been disappointed, said the other stoutly,
very much disappointed indeed! But still, from this great crime good
may come, even now. It has occurred to me that, owing to this war made
by the great rulers, the people in Russia, as well as in my beloved
Fatherland, may arise and cut their bonds.
A light came into the speaker's eyes, and Manfred Hegner looked at
him in mingled pity and contempt. It was not his intention, however, to
waste much time this evening listening to a foolish old man. In fact,
he had hesitated as to whether he should include the Fröhlings in his
invitationsthen he had thought that if he omitted to do so the fact
might possibly come to the ears of the Dean. Fröhling and the Dean had
long been pleasantly acquainted. Then, again, it was just possiblenot
likely, but possiblethat he might be able to get out of the ex-barber
of the Witanbury garrison some interesting and just now valuable
What are you going to do now? he asked. Have you made any plans
We are thinking of going to London, and of making a fresh start
there. We have friends in Red Lion Square. Fröhling spoke as if the
words were being dragged out of him. He longed to tell the other man to
mind his own business.
You haven't a chance of being allowed to do that! Why, already, on
the very first day, every German barber is suspected. The speaker gave
a short, unpleasant laugh.
I am not suspected. So! exclaimed Fröhling heatedly. Not one
single person has spoken as if he suspected me in this town! On the
contrary, England is not harsh, Mr. Hegner. English people are too
sensible and broad-minded to suspect harm where there is none. Indeed,
they are not suspecting enough.
Strange to say, old Fröhling's last sentence found an agreeable,
even a comforting, echo in Mr. Hegner's heart. He looked up, and for
the first time the expression on his face was really cordial. Maybe
you are right, Mr. Fröhling. Most heartily do I desire it may be so!
And yetwell, one cannot say people would be altogether wrong in
suspecting barbers, for barbers hear a great deal of interesting
conversation, is it not so?
That depends on their customers, said the other coldly. I cannot
say that I ever found the conversation of the young English officers
here in Witanbury very illuminating.
Not exactly illuminating, said the other cautiously. But take the
last few days? You must have heard a good deal of information as to
Not one word did I hear, said the other man quicklynot one
word, Mr. Hegner! Far more from my own intelligent, level-headed German
assistant. He knew and guessed what none of these young gentlemen
didto what all the wicked intrigues of Berlin, Petersburg and Vienna,
of the last ten days were tending.
I have heard to-nightin fact it was the daughter of the Dean who
mentioned itthat the British Army is going to Belgium, said Mr.
Hegner casually. Is your son going to Belgium, Mr. Fröhling?
Not that I know of, said the other. But a troubled look came over
his face. He opened his mouth as if to add something, and then tightly
shut it again.
Mr. Hegner had the immediate impression that old Fröhling could have
told him something worth hearing had he been willing to do so.
Well, that is all, said the host with a dismissory air, as he got
up from his seat. I have many to see, many to advise to-night. One
thing I do tell you, Mr. Fröhling. You may take it from me that
if you wish to leave this place you should clear out quickly. They will
be making very tiresome regulations soonbut not now, not for a few
days. Fortunately for you, and for all those who have not taken out
their certificates, there is no organisation in this country. As for
thoroughness, they do not know the meaning of the word.
I have sometimes wondered, observed Mr. Fröhling mildly, why you,
who dislike England so much, should have taken out your certificate,
Mr. Hegner. In your place I should have gone back to America.
You have no right, no business, to say that I dislike England!
cried his host vehemently. It is a wicked thing to say to me on such a
day as this! It is a thing that might do me great harm in this city of
which I am a Councillor.
It is not a thing that I should say to any one but you, returned
the old man. But nevertheless it is true. We have not very often
metbut every time we have met you have spoken in a disagreeable, a
derogatory, a jeering way of what is now your country.
And you, said Mr. Hegner, his eyes flashing, have often spoken to
me in a derogatory, a jeering, a disagreeable way of Germanyof the
country where we were each born, of our real Fatherland.
It is not of Germany that I speak ill, said the older man wearily;
it is of what a few people have made of my beloved country. To-day we
see the outcome of their evil doings. But all that is transitory. I am
an old man, and yet I hope to see a free Germany rise up.
He walked through into the shop, and beckoned to his wife. Then they
both turned towards the door through which they had gained admittance
earlier in the evening.
Mr. Hegner smoothed out his brow, and a mechanical smile came to his
lips. He was glad the old Socialist had cleared out early. It is not
too much to say that Manfred Hegner hated Fröhling. He wondered who
would get the German barber's job. He knew a man, a sharp, clever
fellow, who like himself had lived for a long time in Americawho was,
in fact, an American citizen, though he had been born in Hamburgwho
would be the very man for it. Perhaps now was scarcely the moment to
try and get yet another foreigner, even if only this time an American,
into the neighbourhood of the barracks.
* * * * *
The owner of the Witanbury Stores went over to the place where Anna
Bauer was sitting talking to the mother of one of Mr. Hegner's German
employés. To call that young man German is, however, wrong, for some
six weeks ago he had become naturalised. Well for him that he had done
so, otherwise he would have had now to go back to the Fatherland and
fight. His mother was the one really happy person in the gathering
to-night, for the poor woman kept thanking God and Mr. Hegner in her
heart for having saved her son from an awful fate. Treating the mother
of his shopman as if she had not been there, Mr. Hegner bent towards
the other woman.
Frau Bauer, he said graciously, come into our parlour for a few
moments. I should like a little chat with you.
Anna got up and followed him through the crowd. What was it Mr.
Hegner wanted to say to her? She felt slightly apprehensive. Surely he
was going to tell her that now, owing to the war, he would have to stop
the half-commission he was still giving her on Mrs. Otway's modest
orders? Her heart rose in revolt. An Englishman belonging to the type
and class of Anna Bauer would have determined to have it out with
him, but she knew well that she would not have the courage to say
anything at all if he did this mean thing.
To her great surprise, after she had followed him into the parlour,
Mr. Hegner turned the key in the lock.
I have but a very little to say, he exclaimed jovially, but,
while I say it, I do not care to be interrupted! It is more cosy so.
Sit down, Frau Bauer, sit down!
Still surprised, and still believing that her host was going to
best her in some way, Anna did sit down. She fixed her light-blue,
short-sighted eyes watchfully on his face. What a pity it was that he
so greatly resembled her adored Kaiser!
You are very kind, she said mechanically.
I believe that last Sunday, August 1st, there was owing to you this
sum. So saying, he pushed towards her across the table five
Anna Bauer uttered an exclamation of profound astonishment. She
stared down at the money lying now close to her fat red hand.
Is not that so? he said, looking at her fixedly.
And at last she stammered out, Yes, that is so. Butbutdo you
then know Willi, Mr. Hegner?
The man sitting opposite to her remained silent for a moment. He
hadn't the slightest idea who Willi was. Ach, yes! It is from him
that you generally receive this money every six monthsI had forgotten
that! Willi is a good fellow. Have you known him long? He wisely
waited for a reply, for on his tongue had been the words, I suppose he
lives in London?
I have only known him three years, said Anna, and that though he
married my niece seven years ago. Yes, Willi is indeed an excellent
And then she suddenly bethought herself of what Mrs. Otway had said
that very morning. Mr. Hegner would certainly be able to tell her the
truthhe was the sort of man who knew everything of a practical,
business nature. Perhaps you will be able to tell me, she asked
eagerly, if my nephew will have to fightto go to the frontier. Mrs.
Otway, she says that the police are always the last to be called
outis that true, Mr. Hegner?
Yes, I think I may assure you, Frau Bauer, that it is a fact. He
looked at her curiously. You are very fond, then, of your niece's
husband, of the excellent Willi?
I am indeed, she said eagerly, and grateful to him too, for this
money he sends me is very welcome, Mr. Hegner. I was so afraid it might
not come this time.
And you were right to be afraid! It will become more and more
difficult to get money from Germany to England, said her host, and
there was a touch of grimness in his voice. Still, there are ways of
getting over every difficulty. Should the war last as long, I will
certainly see that you, Frau Bauer, receive what is your due on the 1st
of next January. But many strange things may happen before then. Long
before Christmas you may no longer be earning this money.
Oh! I hope that will not be the case! She looked very much
disturbed. £5 a year was about a fifth of good old Anna's total income.
Well, we shall see. I will do my best for you, Frau Bauer.
Thank you, thank you! I am very grateful to you, Mr. Hegner.
Indeed old Anna's feelings towards the man who sat there, playing
with a pen in his hand, had undergone an extraordinary transformation.
She had come into the room disliking him, fearing him, feeling sure
that he was going to take some advantage of her. Now she stared at his
moody, rather flushed face, full of wondering gratitude.
How strange that he had never taken the trouble to tell her that he
knew Willi! She was sorry to remember how often she had dissuaded her
mistress from getting something at the Stores that could be got
elsewhere, some little thing on which the tiny commission she received
would have been practically nil, or, worse still, overlooked. Her
commission had been often overlooked of late unless she kept a very
sharp look-out on the bills, which Mrs. Otway had a tiresome habit of
locking away when receipted.
She took the five precious gold pieces off the table, and moved, as
if to rise from her chair.
But Mr. Hegner waved his hand. Sit down, sit down, Frau Bauer, he
said. There is no hurry. I enjoy the thought of a little chat with
you. He waited a moment. And are you thinking of staying on in your
present position? You arelet me seewith Mrs. Otway?
Oh yes, she said, brightening. I shall certainly stay where I am.
I am very happy there. They are very kind to me, Mr. Hegner. I love my
young lady as much as I do my own child.
It is a quiet house, he went on, a quiet house, with very little
coming and going, Frau Bauer. Is not that so?
There is a good deal of visiting, she said quickly. It is a
Not often gentlemen of the garrison, I suppose?
Indeed, yes, cried Anna eagerly. You know how it is in England?
It is not like in our country. Here everybody is much more associated.
In some ways it is pleasanter.
Very true. And had any of these officers who came and called on
your two ladies reason to suppose that the war was coming?
Anna stared at him, surprised. No, indeed! she cried. English
officers never talk of warlike subjects. I have never even seen one of
them wearing his uniform.
It looks to me as if I shall have to add a new line of officers'
kit to the Stores, said Mr. Hegner thoughtfully. And any information
you give me about officers just now might be very useful in my
business. I know, Frau Bauer, that you were annoyed, disappointed about
that little matter of the commission being halved.
Oh no, murmured Anna, rather confusedly.
Yes, and I understand your point of view. Well, from to-day, Frau
Bauer, I restore the old scale! And if at any time you can say anything
about the Stores to the visitors who come to see your ladiesanything,
you understand, that may lead to an orderI will be generous, I will
recognise your help in the widest sense.
Anna got up again, and so did her host. Well, we have had a
pleasant gossip, he said. And one word more, Frau Bauer. You have not
told any one, not even your daughter, ofof he hesitated,
for he did not wish to put in plain words the question he wished to
conveyof that other matterof that in which your nephew is
I gave my solemn promise to Willi to say nothing, said Anna, and
I am not one who ever breaks my word, Mr. Hegner.
That I am sure you are not! And Frau Bauer? Do not attempt to write
to the Fatherland henceforth. Your letters would be opened, your
business all spied out, and then the letters destroyed! I am at your
disposal for any information you require. Come in and see us
sometimes, he said cordially. Let me seeto-day is Wednesday. How
about Sunday? Come in on Sunday night, if you can do so, and have a
little supper. You may have news of interest to my business to give me,
and in any case it is pleasant to chat among friends.
It was now the morning of Friday, the third day of war, and Mrs.
Otway allowed the newspaper she had been holding in her hands to slip
on to the floor at her feet with an impatient sigh.
From where she sat, close to the window in her charming
sitting-room, her eyes straying down to the ground read in huge
characters at the top of one of the newspaper columns the words:
THE FLEET MOBILISED.
MOTOR RUSH FOR VOLUNTEERS.
HOW THE NAVAL RESERVE RECEIVED THEIR NOTICES.
OUR SAILORS' GOOD-BYE.
Then, at the top of another column, in rather smaller characters, as
though that news was after all not really so important as the home
DEFEAT OF THE GERMANS AT LIÉGE.
GERMANS REPULSED AT ALL POINTS.
Finally, in considerably smaller characters:
ALLEGED GERMAN CRUELTIES IN BELGIUM.
She raised her eyes and looked out, over the Close, to where the
Cathedral rose like a diamond set in emeralds. What a beautiful
dayand how quiet, how much more quiet than usual, was the dear,
familiar, peaceful scene! All this week, thanks in a great measure to
the prolonged Bank Holiday, Witanbury had been bathed in a sabbatical
Oddly enough, this had not been as pleasant as it ought to have
been. In fact, it had been rather unpleasant to find nearly all the
shops shut day after day, and it had become really awkward and annoying
not to be able to get money as one required it. At this very moment
Rose was out in the town, trying to cash a cheque, for they were quite
out of petty cash.
During the last three days Major Guthrie, who so seldom allowed more
than a day and a half to slip by without coming to the Trellis House,
had not called, neither had he written. Mrs. Otway was surprised, and
rather annoyed with herself, to find how much she missed him. She
realised that it was the more unreasonable of her, as at first, say all
last Wednesday, she had shrunk from the thought of seeing him, the one
person among her acquaintances, with the insignificant exception of
young Jervis Blake, who had believed in the possibility of an
Anglo-German conflict. But when the whole of that long day, the first
day of war, had gone by, and the next day also, without bringing with
it even the note which, during his infrequent absences, she had grown
accustomed to receive from Major Guthrie, she felt hurt and injured.
Major Guthrie was one of those rather inarticulate Englishmen who
can express themselves better in writing than in speech. When he and
Mrs. Otway were together, she could always, and generally did, out-talk
him; but often, after some discussion of theirs, he would go home and
write her quite a good letter. And then, after reading it, and perhaps
smiling over it a little, she would tear it up and put the pieces in
the waste-paper basket.
Yes, her rather odd, unconventional friendship with Major Guthrie
was a pleasant feature of her placid, agreeably busy life, and it was
strange that he had neither come, nor written and explained what kept
And while Mrs. Otway sat there, waiting she knew not quite for what,
old Anna sat knitting in her kitchen on the other side of the hall,
also restlessly longing for something, anything, to happen, which would
give her news of what was really going on in the Fatherland. All her
heart, during these last three days, had been with Minna and Willi in
A few moments ago a picture paper had been spread out on the table
before Anna. She always enjoyed herself over that paper. It was Miss
Rose's daily gift to her old nurse, and was paid for out of her small
allowance. The two morning papers read by her ladies were in due course
used to light the fires; but Anna kept her own Daily Pictorials
most carefully, and there was an ever-growing neat pile of them in a
corner of the scullery.
But to-day's Daily Pictorial lay in a crumpled heap, tossed
to one side on the floor of the kitchen, for poor old Anna had just
read out the words:
FRENCH FRONTIER SUCCESSES.
GERMAN DRAGOON REGIMENT ANNIHILATED.
ONE THOUSAND GERMAN PRISONERS IN ALSACE.
Up to this strange, sinister week, Anna had contented herself with
looking at the pictures. She had hardly ever glanced at the rest of the
paper. She did not like the look of English print, and she read English
with difficulty. But this morning the boy who had brought the fish had
said, not disagreeably, but as if he was giving her a rather amusing
bit of information, Your friends have been catching it hot, Mrs.
Bauer; and from what I can make out, they deserves it! She had not
quite understood what he meant, but it had made her uneasy; and after
she had cleared away breakfast, and washed up, she had sat down with
her paper spread before her.
She had looked long at a touching picture of a big sailor saying
good-bye to the tiny baby in his arms. He was kissing the child, and
Anna had contemplated him with a good deal of sympathy. That big
bearded British sailor would soon be face to face with the German Navy.
Thus he was surely doomed. His babe would soon be fatherless. Kind old
Anna wiped her eyes at the thought.
And then? And then she had slowly spelled out the incredible, the
dreadful news about the German Dragoon Regiment. Her father, forty-four
years ago, had been a non-commissioned officer in a Dragoon Regiment.
Yes, both mistress and maid felt wretched on this, the third day of
the war, which no one, in England at least, yet thought of as the Great
Mrs. Otway was restless, quite unlike herself. She wondered,
uneasily, why she felt so depressed. Friday was the day when she always
paid her few household books, but to-day, as it was still Bank Holiday,
the books had not come in. Instead, she had had three letters, marked
in each case Private, from humble folk in the town, asking her most
urgently to pay at once the small sum she owed to each of them. In
every case the writer expressed the intention of calling in person for
the money. It was partly to try and get the cash with which to pay
these accounts that Rose had gone out with a cheque. It was so odd, so
disagreeable, to find oneself without the power of getting any ready
money. Such a thing had never happened to Mrs. Otway before! It would
be really very disagreeable if Rose, after all, failed to cash that
Then it suddenly occurred to her that James Hayley might bring her
down some money to-morrow. Nothing would be easier, or so she supposed,
than for him to get it. She went over to her writing-table by
the window and hurriedly wrote a note. Then she made out a cheque for
Oh yes, it would be quite easy for James, who was in a Government
office, to get her the money!
Mrs. Otway, like most English people, had a limitless belief in the
powers of any one connected with the Government. Twenty pounds? It was
a good deal of money. She had never had so much cash in the house
before. But what was happening now had taught her a lesson. The Dean
had said that all the banks would be open again on Monday. But the Dean
was not quite infallible. How often had he and she agreed that Germany
would never, never dream of going to war with any of her
She read over the letter she had written:
DEAR JAMES,I enclose a cheque for twenty pounds. Would you
kindly get it cashed for me, and would you bring down the
money to-morrow when you come? Of course I should like the
money, if possible, in gold, but still it will do if you can
get me two five-pound notes and the rest in gold and silver. I
find that several people to whom I owe small amounts are
anxious to be paid, and they do not seem to care about taking
cheques. What strange times we live in! Both Rose and I long
to see you and hear all the news.
Your affectionate aunt,
James Hayley always called her Aunt Mary, though as a matter of
fact he was the child of a first cousin.
She got up from her table, and began folding up the sheets of
newspaper lying on the floor. She did not want poor old Anna to see the
great staring headlines telling of the defeat of the Germans. Having
folded the paper, and put it away in an unobtrusive corner, she went
upstairs for her hat. She felt that it would do her good to go out into
the air, and post the letter herself.
And then, as she came downstairs, she heard the gate of the Trellis
House open and swing to. Rose coming back, no doubt. But no, it was not
Rose, for instead of the handle of the door turning, there was a ring
and a knock.
It was a ring and a knock which sounded pleasantly familiar. Mrs.
Otway smiled as she turned into her sitting-room. It was the first time
she had smiled that day.
Major Guthrie at last! It was half-past eleven now; they could have
a good long, comfortable talk, and perhaps he would stop to lunch. Of
course she would have to eat humble pie about the war, but he was the
last man to say I told you so!
There were so many things she wanted to know, which now she could
ask him, secure of a sensible, true answer. Major Guthrie, whatever his
prejudices, was a professional soldier. He really did know something of
military matters. He was not like the people who lived in the Close,
and who were already talking such nonsense about the war. Mrs. Otway
was too intelligent not to realise the fact that they, whatever their
boasts, knew nothing which could throw real light on the great
adventure which was beginning, only beginning, to fill all her
Suddenly the door opened, and Anna announced, in a grumpy tone,
I thought I was never going to see you again!
There was an eagerness, a warmth of welcome in Mrs. Otway's manner
of which she was unconscious, but which gave a sudden shock of
pleasure, aye, and perhaps even more than pleasure, to her visitor. He
had expected to find her anxious, depressed, troubledabove all,
deeply saddened by the dreadful thing having come to pass which she had
so often vehemently declared would never, never happen.
They shook hands, but before she could go on to utter one of the
many questions which were on her lips, Major Guthrie spoke. I've come
to say good-bye, he said abruptly. I've had my marching orders!
There was a strange light in the dark blue eyes which were the one
beautiful feature he had acquired from his very handsome mother.
II don't understand And she really didn't.
What could he mean? His marching orders? But he had left the Army
four or five years ago. Besides, the Dean had told her only that
morning that no portion of the British Army was going to the
Continentthat on England's part this was only going to be a naval
war. The Dean had heard this fact from a friend in London, a
distinguished German professor of Natural Theology, who was a very
frequent visitor to the Deanery.
Major Guthrie slightly lowered his voice: I had the telegram an
hour ago, he explained. I thought you knew that I was in the Reserve,
that I form part of what is called the Expeditionary Force.
The Expeditionary Force? she repeated in a bewildered tone. I
didn't know there was such a thing! You never told me about it.
Well, you've never been interested in such matters. Major Guthrie
smiled at her indulgently, and suddenly she realised that when they
were together she generally talked of her own concerns, very, very
seldom of his.
But what was this he was now saying? Besides, it's by way of being
a secret. That's the real reason I haven't been out the last few days.
I didn't feel I could leave home for even five minutes. I've been on
tenterhooksin fact it will take me two or three days to get fit
again. You see, I couldn't say anything to anybody! And one heard such
absurd rumoursrumours that the Government didn't mean to send any
troops to the Continentthat they had been caught nappingthat the
transport arrangements had broken down, and so on. However, it's all
right now! I report myself to-night; rejoin my old regiment to-morrow;
andwell, in three or four days, please God, I shall be in France, and
in a week at latest in Belgium.
Mrs. Otway looked at him silently. She was too much surprised to
speak. She felt moved, oppressed, excited. A British Army going to
Franceto Belgium? It seemed incredible!
And Major Guthrie also felt moved and excited, but he was not
oppressedhe was triumphant, overjoyed. I thought you'd understand,
he said, and there was a little break in his voice. It's made me feel
a young man againthat's what it's done!
How does your mother take it? asked Mrs. Otway slowly.
And then for the first time a troubled look came over his kind,
honest face. I haven't told my mother, he answered. I've thought a
good deal about it; and I don't mean to say good-bye to herI shall
simply write her a note saying I've had to go up to town on business.
She'll have it when I'm gone. Then, when the news is allowed to be made
public, I'll write and tell her the truth. She felt my going to South
Africa so much. You see, the man to whom she was engaged as a girl was
killed in the Crimea.
There was a moment's silence between them, and then he asked, And
Miss Rose?I should like to say good-bye to her. Is she at home?
No, she's out in the town, doing some business for meor rather
trying to do it! Have you found any difficulty in getting
cheques changed the last few days, Major Guthrie?
No; for I've always kept money in the house, he said quickly. And
glad I am now that I did. It used to annoy my motherit used to make
her afraid that we should be burgled. But of course I never told any
one else. He looked at her rather oddly. I've quite a lot of money
here, with me now.
I wonder if you would be so kind as to cash me a cheque? She grew
a little pink. She was not used to asking even small favours from her
friends. Impulsive, easy-going as she seemed, there was yet a very
proud and reticent streak in Mary Otway's nature.
Of course I will. In fact and then he stopped abruptly, for
she had gone up to her table, and was opening the letter she had just
written to James Hayley.
Could you really conveniently let me have as much as twenty
pounds? and she held him out the cheque.
Certainly. Then you're not expecting Miss Rose back for a minute or
Oh, no! She only went out twenty minutes ago.
He was still standing, and Mrs. Otway suddenly felt herself to be
Do sit down, she said hurriedly. Somehow in the last few minutes
her point of view, her attitude to her friend, her kind, considerate,
courteous friend, had altered. She no longer looked at him with
indulgent half-contempt as an idle man, a man who, though he was very
good to his mother, and sometimes very useful to herself, had always
led, excepting during the South African War (and that was a long time
ago), an idle, useless kind of life. He was going now to face real
danger, perchancebut her mind shrank from that thought, from
that dread possibilitydeath itself. Somehow the fact that Major
Guthrie was going with his regiment to France brought the War
perceptibly nearer to Mrs. Otway, and made it for the first time real.
He quietly took the easy chair she had motioned him to take, and she
sat down too.
Well, I have to confess that you were right and I wrong! You always
thought we should fight the Germans. She tried to speak playfully, but
there was a certain pain in the admission, for she had always scorned
his quiet prophecies and declared him to be, in this one matter,
prejudiced and unfair.
Yes, he said, that's quite true! But, Mrs. Otway? I'm very, very
sorry to have been proved right. And I fear that you must feel it very
much, as you have so many German friends.
I haven't many German friends now, she said quickly. I had as a
girl, and of course I've kept up with two or three of them, as you
know. But it's true that the whole thing is a great shock andand a
great pain to me. Unlike you, I've always thought very well of
He said quietly, So have I.
Ah, but not in my sense! She could not help smiling a little
ruefully. You know I never thought of them in your sense at allI
mean not as soldiers.
There was a pause, a long and rather painful pause, between them.
Major Guthrie looked at Mrs. Otway meditatively.
Apart from his instinctive attraction for heran attraction which
had sprung into being the very first time they had met, at a dinner
party at the Deaneryhe had always regarded her as an exceptionally
clever woman. She was able to do so much more than most of the ladies
he had known. To his simple soldier mind there was something
interesting and, well, yes, rather extraordinary, in a woman who sat on
committees, who could hold her own so well in argument, and who yet
remained very feminine, sometimesso he secretly thoughtquite
delightfully absurd and inconsequent, with it all.
Major Guthrie had always been sorry that Mrs. Otway and his mother
didn't exactly hit it off. His mother had once been a beauty, and was
now a rather shrewish, sharp-tongued old lady, who had outlived most of
the people and most of the things she had cared for in life. Mrs. Otway
irritated Mrs. Guthrie. The old lady despised the still pretty widow's
eager, interested, enthusiastic outlook on life.
Suddenly Major Guthrie took a large pocket-book out of his right
breast pocket. He opened it, and Mrs. Otway saw that it contained a
packet of bank-notes held together by an india-rubber band. There was
also an empty white envelope in the pocket-book. Slipping off the band,
he began counting the notes. When he had counted four, she called out,
Stop! Stop! I am only giving you a twenty-pound cheque. And then she
saw that they were not five-pound notes, as she had supposed, but
He went on counting, and mechanically, hardly knowing that she was
doing so, she counted with him up to ten. He then took the envelope he
had brought with him, put the ten notes inside, and getting up from his
chair he laid the envelope on Mrs. Otway's writing-table by the window.
I want you to keep this by you in case of need. I know you will
forgive me if I say that I shall go away feeling much happier if you
will oblige me by doing what I ask in this matter. Under the tan his
face had got very red, and there was a deprecating expression in his
dark blue eyes.
I don't understand, she said, and the colour also rushed into her
I beg of you not to be angry with me Major Guthrie stood up
and looked down at her so humbly, so wistfully, that she felt touched
instead of angry. You see, I don't like the thought of your being
caught, as you've been caught this week apparently, without any money
in the house.
But if Mrs. Otway felt touched by the kind thought which had
prompted the offer of this uncalled-for loan, she also felt just a
little vexed. Major Guthrie was treating her just like a child!
I'm not in the least likely to be short of money, she cried, once
the banks are open again. The Dean says that everything will be as
usual by Monday, and I have quite a lot of money coming in towards the
end of this month. In fact, as we can't now go abroad, I shall be even
richer than usual. Still, please don't think I'm not grateful!
She got up too, and looked at him frankly. The colour had now gone
from his face, and he looked tired and grey. She told herself that it
had been very kind of him to have thought of thisthe act of a
true friend. And so, a little shyly, she put out her hand for a moment,
naturally supposing that he would grasp it in friendship. But he did
nothing of the sort, so she quietly let her hand fall again by her
side, and feeling rather foolish sat down again by her writing-table.
With regard to the money you are expecting at the end of this
monthdo you mean the dividends due on the amount you put in that Six
Per Cent. Hamburg Loan? he asked, quietly going back to his armchair.
Yes, it is six per cent. on four thousand poundsquite a lot of
money! She spoke in a playful tone, but she was beginning to feel
embarrassed and awkward. It was, after all, an odd thing for Major
Guthrie to have doneto bring her the considerable sum of a hundred
pounds in bank-notes without even first asking her permission to do so.
The envelope containing the notes was still lying there, close to
I'm afraid, Mrs. Otway, that you're not likely to have those
dividends paid you this August. All money payments from Germany to
England, or from England to Germany, have of course stopped since
And then, when he saw the look of utter dismay deepening into
horrified surprise come over her face, he added hastily, Of course we
must hope that these moneys will be kept intact till the end of the
war. Still, I doubt very much whether your bankers would allow you to
draw on that probability, even if you were willing to pay a high rate
of interest. German credit is likely to suffer greatly before this war
But Major Guthrie? I don't suppose you know what this means to me
and to Rose. Why, more than half of everything we have in the world is
invested in Germany!
I know that, he said feelingly. In fact, that was among the first
things, Mrs. Otway, which occurred to me when I learnt that war had
been declared. I expected to find you very much upset about it.
I never gave it a thought; I didn't know a war could affect that
sort of thing. What a fool I've been! Oh, if only I'd followed your
adviceI mean two years ago! She spoke with a great deal of painful
agitation, and Major Guthrie felt very much distressed indeed. It was
hard that he should have had to be the bearer of such ill tidings.
I blame myself very, very much, he said sombrely, for not having
insisted on your putting that money into English or Colonial
Oh, but you did insist! Even now, in the midst of her keen
distress, the woman's native honesty and generosity of nature asserted
itself. You couldn't have said more! Don't you remember that we nearly
quarrelled over it? Short of forging my name and stealing my money and
investing it properly for me, you couldn't have done anything more than
you did do, Major Guthrie.
That you should say that is a great comfort to me, he said in a
low voice. But even so, I don't feel as if I'd really done enough. You
see, I was as sureas sure as ever man was of anythingthat this war
was going to come either this year or next! As a matter of fact I
thought it would be next yearI thought the Germans would wish to be
even more ready than they are.
But do you really think they are ready? she said doubtfully. Look
how badly they've been doing at Liége. It was strange how Mrs. Otway's
mind had veered round in the last few minutes. She now wanted the
Germans to be beaten, and beaten quickly.
He shook his head impatiently. Wait till they get into their
stride! And then, in a different, a more diffident voice, Then you'll
consent to relieve my mind by keeping the contents of that envelopeI
mean of course by spending them? As a matter of fact I've a confession
to make to you. He looked at her deprecatingly. I've just arranged
with my London banker to make up those Hamburg dividends. He'll send
you the money in notes. He understands and then he got rather red.
He understands that I'm practically your trustee, Mrs. Otway.
But, Major Guthrieit isn't true! How could you say such a
She felt confused, unhappy, surprised, awkward, grateful. Of course
she couldn't take this man's money! He was a friend, in some ways a
very close friend of hers, but she hadn't known him more than four
years. If she should run short of money, why there must be a
dozen people or more on whose friendship she had a greater claim, and
who could, and would, help her.
And then Mary Otway suddenly ran over in secret review her large
circle of old friends and acquaintances, and she realised, with a shock
of pain and astonishment, that there was not one of them to whom she
would wish to go for help in that kind of trouble. Of her wide
circleand like most people of her class she had a very wide
circlethere was only one person, and that was the man who was now
sitting looking at her with so much concern in his eyes, to whom it
would even have occurred to her to confess that her income had failed
through her foolish belief in the stability, and the peaceful
intentions, of Germany.
Far, far quicker than it would have taken for her to utter her
thoughts aloud, these painful thoughts and realisations flashed through
her brain. If she had been content to put into this Hamburg Loan only
the amount of the legacy she had inherited three years ago! But she had
done more than thatshe had sold out sound English railway stock after
that interview she had had with a pleasant-speaking German business man
in the big London Hamburg Loan office. He had said to her, Madam, this
is the opportunity of a lifetime! And she had believed him. The kind
German friend who had written to her about the matter had certainly
acted in good faith. Of that she could rest assured. But this was very
small consolation now.
So you see, Mrs. Otway, that it's all settledbeen settled over
your head, as it were. And you'll oblige me, you'll make me feel that
you're really treating me as a friend, if you say nothing more about
And then, as she still remained silent, and as Major Guthrie could
see by the expression of her face that she meant to refuse what he so
generously and delicately offered her, he went on:
I feel now that I ought to tell you something which I had meant to
keep to myself. He cleared his throatand hum'd and hum'd a little.
I'm sure you'll understand that every sensible man, when going on
active service, makes a fresh will. I've already written out my
instructions to my solicitor, and he will prepare a will for me to sign
to-morrow. He waited a moment, and then added, as lightly as he could:
I've left you a thousand pounds, which I've arranged you should
receive immediately on my death. You see, I'm a lonely man, and all my
relations are well off. I think you know, without my telling out, that
I've become very much attached to youto you and to Miss Rose.
And still Mrs. Otway was too much surprised, and yes, too much
moved, to speak. Major Guthrie was indeed proving himself a true
Under ordinary circumstances, he went on slowly, this clause in
my will would be of very little practical interest to you, for I am a
healthy man. But we're up against a very big thing, Mrs. Otway He
did not like to add that it was quite possible she would receive his
legacy before she had had time to dip very far into the money he was
leaving with her.
She looked at him with a troubled look. And yet? And yet, though it
was not perhaps very reasonable that it should be so, somehow she did
feel that the fact that Major Guthrie was leaving herand Rosethe
legacy of which he spoke, made a difference. It would make it easier,
that is, to accept the money that lay there on her table. Though Major
Guthrie was not, in the technical sense, a clever man, he had a far
more intimate knowledge of human character than had his friend.
I don't know how to thank you, she said at last.
He answered rather sharply, I don't want you to thank me. And Mrs.
Otway? I can say now what I've never had the opportunity of saying,
that is, how much I've felt honoured by your friendshipwhat a lot
it's meant to me.
He said the words in a rather hard, formal voice, and she answered,
with far more emotion than he had betrayed, And it's been a very, very
great thing for me, too, Major Guthrie. Do please believe that!
He bowed his head gravely. Well, I must be going now, he said, a
little heavily and sadly. Oh, and one thing moreI should be very
grateful if you'd go and see my mother sometimes. During the last few
days hardly a soul's been near her. Of course I know how different you
are the one from the other, but all the same he hesitated a
moment. My mother has fine qualities, once you get under thatwell,
shall I call it that London veneer? She saw a great deal of the world
after she became a widow, while she was keeping house for a
brotherwhen I was in India. She'd like to see Rose,
toounconsciously he dropped the Miss. She likes young people,
especially pretty girls.
Of course I'll go and see her, and so will Rose! You know I've
always liked Mrs. Guthrie better than she liked me. I'm not 'smart'
enough for her. Mrs. Otway laughed without a trace of bitterness. And
then with sudden seriousness she asked him a curious question: How
long d'you think you'll be away?
D'you mean how long do I think the War will last?
Somehow she had not thought of her question quite in that sense.
Yes: I suppose that is what I do mean.
I think it will be a long war. It will certainly last a
yearperhaps a good deal longer.
He walked over to the window nearest the door. Standing there, he
told himself that he was looking perhaps for the last time on the dear,
familiar scene before him: on the green across which high elms now
flung their short morning shadows; on the encompassing houses, some of
exceeding stateliness and beauty, others of a simpler, less
distinguished character, yet each instinct with a dignity and
seemliness which exquisitely harmonised it with its finer fellows; and
finally on the slender Gothic loveliness of the Cathedral.
I'm trying to learn this view by heart, said Major Guthrie, in a
queer, muffled voice. I've always thought it the most beautiful view
in Englandthe one that stands for all a man cares for, all he would
Mrs. Otway was touchedtouched and pleased too. She knew that her
friend was baring to her a very secret chamber of his heart.
It is a beautiful, peaceful outlook, she said quietly. I
was thinking so not long before you came inwhen I was sitting here,
reading the strange, dreadful news in to-day's paper.
He turned away from the window and looked at her. She saw in the
shadow that his face looked grey and strained. Major Guthrie? she
began, a little shyly.
Yes? he said rather quickly. Yes, Mrs. Otway?
I only want to ask if you would like me to write to you regularly
with news of Mrs. Guthrie?
Will you really? How good of you; I didn't like to ask you to do
that! I know how busy you always are. But he still lingered, as if
loth to go away. Perhaps he was waiting on in the hope that Rose would
Do you know where you will land in France? she asked, more to say
something than for any real reason, for she knew very little of France.
I am not sure, he answered hesitatingly. And then, Still, I have
a very shrewd idea of where they are going to fix the British base. I
think it will be Boulogne. But, Mrs. Otway? Perhaps I ought to tell you
again that all I've told you to-day is private. I may count on your
discretion, may I not? He looked at her a little anxiously.
Of course I won't tell any one, she said quickly. You really do
mean not any onenot even the Dean?
Yes, he said. I really do mean not any one. In fact I should
prefer your not telling even Miss Rose.
Oh, let me tell Rose, she said eagerly. I always tell her
everything. She is far more discreet than I am! And this was true.
Well, tell Miss Rose and no one else, he said. I don't even know
myself when I am going, where I am going, or how I am going.
They were now standing in the hall.
Then you don't expect to be long in London? she said.
No. I should think I shall only be there two or three days. Of
course I've got to get my kit, and to see people at the War Office, and
so on. He added in a low voice, There's not going to be any
repetition of the things that went on at the time of the Boer Warno
leave-takings, no regiments marching through the streets. It's our
object, so I understand, to take the Germans by surprise. Everything is
going to be done to keep the fact that the Expeditionary Force is going
to France a secret for the present. I had that news by the second post;
an old friend of mine at the War Office wrote to me.
He gripped her hand in so tight a clasp that it hurt. Then he turned
the handle of the front door, opened it, and was gone.
* * * * *
Mrs. Otway felt a sudden longing for sympathy. She went straight
into the kitchen. Anna! she exclaimed, Major Guthrie is going back
into the Army! England is sending troops over to the Continent to help
Ach! exclaimed Anna. To Ostend? She had once spent a summer at
Ostend in a boarding-house, where she had been hard-worked and starved.
Since then she had always hated the Belgians.
No, no, said Mrs. Otway quickly. Not to Ostend. To Boulogne, in
In the early morning sunshinefor it was only a quarter-past
sevenRose Otway stood just within the wrought-iron gate of the
It was Saturday in the first week of war. She had got up very early,
almost as early as old Anna herself, for, waking at five, she had found
it impossible to go to sleep again.
For the first time almost in her life, Rose felt heavy-hearted. The
sudden, mysterious departure of Major Guthrie had brought the War very
near; and so, in quite another way, had done Lord Kitchener's sudden,
trumpet-like call, for a hundred thousand men. She knew that, in
response to that call, Jervis Blake would certainly enlist, if not with
the approval, at any rate with the reluctant consent, of his father;
and Rose believed that this would mean the passing of Jervis out of her
To Rose Otway's mind there was something slightly disgraceful in any
young man's enlistment in the British Army. The poorer mothers of
Witanbury, those among whom the girl and her kind mother did a good
deal of visiting and helping during the winter months, were apt to
remain silent concerning the son who was a soldier. She could not help
knowing that it was too often the bad boy of the family, the
ne'er-do-weel, who enlisted. There were, of course, certain
exceptionssuch, for instance, as when a lad came of a fighting
family, with father, uncles, and brothers all in the Army. As for the
gentleman ranker, he was always a scapegrace.
Lord Kitchener's Hundred Thousand would probably be drawn from a
different class, for they were being directly asked to defend their
country. But even so, at the thought of Jervis Blake becoming a
private, Rose Otway's heart contracted with pain, and, yes, with
vicarious shame. Still, she made up her mind, there and then, that she
would not give him up, that she would write to him regularly, and that
as far as was possible they would remain friends.
How comforted she would have been could an angel have come and told
her with what eyes England was henceforth to regard her common
Rose Otway was very young, and, like most young things, very
ignorant of life. But there was, as Miss Forsyth had shrewdly said, a
great deal in the girl. Even now she faced life steadily, unhelped by
the many pleasant illusions cherished by her mother. Rose was as
naturally reserved as her mother was naturally confiding, and Mrs.
Otway was therefore far more popular in their little world than her
Rose, however, was very pretty, with a finished, delicately fresh
and aloof type of beauty which was singularly attractive to the
intelligent and fastidious. And so there had already appeared, striking
across the current of their placid lives, more than one acute observer
who, divining certain hidden depths of feeling in the girl's nature,
longed to probe and rouse them. But so far such attempts, generally
undertaken by men who were a good deal older than Rose Otway, had
failed to inspire anything but shrinking repugnance in their object.
But Jervis Blake was different. Jervis she had known more or less
always, owing to that early girlish friendship between his mother and
her mother. When he had come to Robey's to be coached, Mrs. Otway had
made him free of her house, and though she herself, not unnaturally,
did not find him an interesting companion, he soon had become part of
the warp and woof of Rose's young life. Like most only children, she
had always longed for a brother or a sister; and Jervis was the nearest
possession of the kind to which she had ever attained.
Yes, the War was coming very near to Rose Otway, and for more than
one reason. As soon as she got up she sat down and wrote a long letter
to a girl friend who was engaged to a naval officer. She had suddenly
realised with a pang that this girl, of whom she was really fond, must
now be feeling very miserable and very anxious. Every one seemed to
think there would soon be a tremendous battle between the British and
the German fleets. And the Dean, who had been to Kiel last year,
believed that the German sailors would give a very good account of
The daily papers were delivered very early in Witanbury Close. And
after she had helped old Anna as far as Anna would allow herself to be
helped in the light housework with which she began each day, Rose went
out and stood by the gate. She longed to know what news, if any, there
But the moments went slowly by, and with the exception of a milk
cart which clattered gaily along, the Close remained deserted.
Half-past seven in the morning, even on a fine August day, saw a good
many people still in bed in an English country town. To-day Rose Otway,
having herself risen so early, was inclined to agree with Anna that
English people are very lazy, and lose some of the best part of each
And then, as she stood out there in the sunshine, her mind reverted
to Major Guthrie and to his sudden disappearance. Rose liked Major
Guthrie, and she was sorry she had missed him yesterday morning, when
out on her fruitless quest for money.
Rose had been surprised at the way her mother had spoken of Major
Guthrie's departure. Mrs. Otway had declared the fact to be a secreta
secret that must at all costs be kept. As a matter of fact the girl had
already heard the news from Anna, and she had observed, smiling, But,
mother, you seem to have told Anna all about it? And Mrs. Otway, her
gentle temper for once ruffled, had answered sharply, I don't count
Anna! Major Guthrie particularly mentioned the Dean. He did not wish
the Dean to know. He said his going was to be kept secret. So I beg
you, Rose, to do as I ask.
Anna came out of the front door, and began polishing the brass knob.
Ach! she exclaimed. Come in, childdo! You a chill will take. If it
is the postman you want, he gone by already has.
Rose smiled. Dear old Anna had never acquired the British love of
fresh air. I'm waiting for the papers, she said. I can't think why
the man doesn't begin with us, instead of going all round the other way
first! But I'm going to catch him this morning.
And Anna, grumbling, went back into the house again.
All at once Rose heard the sound of quick footsteps to her right, on
the path outside. She moved back into the paved court in front of the
Trellis House, and stood, a charming vision of youth and freshness, in
her pale mauve cotton frock, by a huge stone jar filled with pink
And then, a moment later, the tall figure of Jervis Blake suddenly
swung into view. He was very pale, and there was an eager, absorbed,
strained look on his face. In his hand was a white telegraph form.
Rose ran forward, and once more opened the gate. Jervis! she
cried. What is it? What's the matter? Have you had bad news from
He shook his head, and she saw that he was trying to smile. But
there was still that on his face which she had never seen beforea
rapt, transfigured look which made her feeland she both disliked and
resented the feelingas if he were, for the moment, remote from
herself. But he stayed his steps, and came through the gate.
For a moment he stood opposite to her without speaking. Then he took
out of his breast pocket a large sheet of notepaper folded in four. He
opened it, and held it out to her. It was headed War Office,
Whitehall, London, and in it Jervis Blake, Esquire, was curtly
informed that, if he still desired to enter the Army, he was at liberty
to apply for a commission. But in that case he was asked to report
himself as soon as possible.
Rose read the cold, formal sentences again and again, and a lump
rose to her throat. How glad she was! How very, very glad! Indeed, her
gladness, her joy in Jervis's joy, surprised herself.
And it's all owing to you, he exclaimed in a low voice, that I
didn't go and make an ass of myself on Wednesday. If it hadn't been for
you, Rose, I should have enlisted. This would have come too late. It
is luck to have seen you now, like this. You're the very first I've
told. He was wringing her hand, his face now as flushed as it had been
And as they stood there together, Rose suddenly became aware that
Anna, at the kitchen window, was looking out at them both with a rather
peculiar expression on her emotional German face.
A feeling of annoyance swept over the girl; she knew that to her old
nurse every young man who ever came to the Trellis House was a
potential lover. But even Anna might have left Jervis Blake out of the
category. There was nothing silly oror sentimental, in the real, deep
friendship they two felt for one another.
And then Rose did something which surprised herself. Withdrawing her
hand from his, she exclaimed, I'll walk with you to the cornerand
led the way out, through the gate, and so along the empty roadway.
They walked along in silence for a few moments. The Close was still
deserted. Across the green, to their right, rose the noble grey mass of
the Cathedral. In many of the houses the blinds were even now only
beginning to be pulled up.
I rather expected yesterday that you would come in and tell me that
you were going off to be one of the hundred thousand men Lord Kitchener
has asked for, she said at last.
Of course I meant to be, but Mr. Robey thought I ought to
communicate with my father before actually joining, he answered. In
fact, I had already written home. That's one reason why I'm going to
get this wire off so early.
I suppose you'll be at Sandhurst this time next week?
And he frowned, for the first time that morning.
Oh no, I hope not! Mr. Robey heard last night from one of our
fellowsone of those who passed last timeand he said he was being
drafted at once into a regiment! You mustn't forget how long I was in
the O.T.C. It seems they're sending all those who were in the O.T.C.
straight into regiments.
Then by next week you'll be second lieutenant in the Wessex Light
Infantry! she exclaimed. She knew that it was in that famous regiment
that General Blake had won his early spurs, and that it had been
settled, in the days when no one had doubted Jervis Blake's ability to
pass the Army Exam., that he would join his father's old regiment, now
commanded by one of that father's very few intimates.
Yes, I suppose I shall, he said, flushing. Oh, Rose, I can't
believe in my luck. It's so muchmuch too good to be true!
They had come to the corner, to the parting of their ways. To the
left, through the grey stone gateway, was the street leading into the
town; on the right, within a few moments' walk, the Cathedral.
Rose suddenly felt very much moved, carried out of her reserved
self. A lump rose to her throat. She knew that this was their real
parting, and that she was not likely to see him again, save in the
presence of her mother for a few minutes.
I wonder, said Jervis Blake hoarsely, I wonder, Rose, if you
would do me a great kindness? Would you go on into the Cathedral with
me, just for three or four minutes? I should like to go there for the
last time with you.
Yes, she said; of course I will. Rose had inherited something of
her mother's generosity of nature. If she gave at all, she gave freely
and gladly. I do hope the door will be open, she said, trying to
regain her usual staid composure. She was surprised and disturbed by
the pain which seemed to be rising, brimming over, in her heart.
They walked on in silence. Jervis Blake was looking straight before
him, his face set and grim. He was telling himself that a fellow would
be a cur to take advantage of such a moment to say anything, and that
especially was that the case with one who might so soon be exposed to
something much worse than deathsuch as the being blinded, the being
maimed, for life. War was a very real thing to Jervis, more real
certainly than to any other one of the young men who had been his
comrades at Robey's during the last two years.
But the most insidious of all tempters, Nature herself, whispered in
his ear, Why not simply tell her that you love her? No woman minds
being told that she is loved! It can do no harm, and it will make her
think of you kindly when you are far away. This strange, secret meeting
is yet another piece of good fortune to-daythis glorious dayhas
brought you! Do not throw away your chance. Look again down into her
face. See her dear eyes full of tears. She has never been moved as she
is moved to-day, and it is you who have moved her.
And then another, sterner voice spoke: You have not moved
herpresumptuous fool! Nay, it is the thought of England, of her
country, of all you stand for to-day, that has moved her. And the next
few minutes will show the stuff of which you are madeif you have the
discipline, the self-restraint, essential to the man who has to lead
others, or ifif you only have the other thing. You are being given
now what you could never have hoped for, a quiet, intimate time with
her alone; you might have had to say good-bye to her in her mother's
presencethat mother who has never really liked you, and whom you have
never really liked.
He held open the little wicket gate for her to pass through. They
walked up the stone path to the wide, hospitable-looking porch which is
the only part of Witanbury Cathedral that has remained much as it was
in pre-Reformation days.
To Jervis Blake, suffused with poignant emotion, every perception
sharpened by mingling triumph and pain, the faire Doore of Witanbury
Cathedral had never seemed so lovely as on this still August morning.
As they stepped through the exquisite outer doorway, with its deep
mouldings, both dog-toothed and foliated, marking the transition from
Norman to Gothic, a deep, intense joy in their dual solitude suddenly
rose up in his heart like a white flame.
The interior of the porch was little larger than an ordinary room,
but it was wonderfully perfect in the harmony of its proportions; and
even Rose, less perceptive than her companion, and troubled and
disturbed, rather than uplifted, by an emotion to which she had no
clue, was moved by the delicate, shadowed beauty of the grey walls and
vaulted roof now encompassing her.
For a moment they both lingered there, irresolute; and then Jervis,
stepping forward, lifted the great iron handle of the black oak,
nail-studded door. But the door remained shut, and he turned round with
the words, It's still closed. We shan't be able to get in. I'm sorry.
He looked indeed so disappointed that there came over Rose the eager
determination that he should not go away baulked of his wish.
I'm sure it opens at eight, she exclaimed; and it can't be very
far from eight now. Let's wait here the few minutes! I'm in no hurry,
if you can spare the time? Rose spoke rather quickly and breathlessly.
She was trying hard to behave as if this little adventure of theirs was
a very conventional, commonplace happening.
He said somethingshe was not sure whether it was All right or
On each side of the porch ran a low and deep stone bench, from which
sprang the slender columns which seemed to climb eagerly upwards to the
carved ribs of the vaulted roof. But they both went on standing close
to one another, companioned only by the strange sculptured creatures
which grinned down from the spandrels of the arches above.
And then, after waiting for what seemed an eternityit was really
hardly more than a minutein the deep, brooding silence which seemed
to enwrap the Close, the Cathedral, and their own two selves in a
mantle of stillness, Rose Otway, bursting into sobs, made a little
swaying movement. A moment later she found herself in Jervis Blake's
arms, listening with a strange mingling of joy, surprise, shame, and,
yes, triumph, to his broken, hoarsely-whispered words of love.
He, being a man, could only feelshe, being a woman, could also
think, aye, and even question her own heart as to this amazing thing
which was happening, and which had suddenly made her free of the
wonderful kingdom of romance of which she had so often heard, but the
existence of which she had always secretly doubted. Whence came her
instinctive response to his pleading: Oh, Rose, let me kiss you! Oh,
Rose, my darling little love, this may be the last time I shall see
* * * * *
Was it at the end of a moment, or of an æon of time, that there fell
athwart their beating hearts a dull, rasping sound, that of the two
great inner bolts of the huge oak door being pushed back into their
They parted, reluctantly, lingeringly, the one from the other; but
whoever had drawn back the bolts did not open the door, and soon they
heard the sounds of heavy, shuffling feet moving slowly away.
I expect it's Mrs. Bent, the verger's wife, said Rose, in a low,
Jervis looked at her. There was a mute, and at once imperious and
imploring demand in his eyes. But Rose had stepped across the magic
barrier, she was half-way back to the work-a-day worldnot very far,
but still far enough to know how she would feel if Bent or Mrs. Bent
surprised her in Jervis's arms. A few moments ago she would hardly have
Let's go into the Cathedral now, she said, and, to break the
cruelty of her silent refusal of what he asked, she held out her hand.
To her surprise, and yes, her disappointment, he did not seem to see
it. Instead, he stepped forward to the door, and turning the weighty
iron handle, pushed it widely open.
Together, side by side, they passed through into the great, still,
peaceful place, and with a delicious feeling of joy they saw that they
were alonethat Mrs. Bent, having done her duty in unbolting the great
door, had slipt out of a side door, and gone back to her cottage,
behind the Cathedral.
Rose led the way into the nave; there she knelt down, and Jervis
Blake knelt down by her, and this time, when she put out her hand, he
took it in his and clasped it closely.
Rose tried to collect her thoughts. She even tried to pray. But she
could only feel,she could not utter the supplications which filled
her troubled heart. And yet she felt as though they two were
encompassed by holy presences, by happy spirits, who understood and
sympathised in her mingled joy and grief.
If Jervis came back, if he and she both lived till the end of the
War, it was here that their marriage would take place. But the girl had
a strange presentiment that they two would never stand over there,
where so many brides and bridegrooms had stood together, even within
her short memory. It was not that she felt Jervis was going to be
killedshe was mercifully spared those dread imaginings which were to
come on her later. But just now, for these few moments only perhaps,
Rose Otway was fey; she seemed to know that to-day was her cathedral
marriage day, and that an invisible choir was singing her epithalamium.
The quarter past the hour chimed. She released her hand from his,
and touched him on the arm with a lingering, caressing touch. He was so
big and strong, so gentle tooall hers. And now, just as they had
found one another, she was going to lose him. It seemed so unnatural
and so cruel. Jervis, she whispered, and the tears ran down her face,
I think you had better go now. I'd rather we said good-bye here.
He got up at once. Do you mean to tell your mother? he asked. And
then, as he thought she was hesitating: I only want to know because,
if so, I will tell them at home.
She shook her head. No, she said brokenly. I'd rather we said
nothing nowif you don't mind.
She lifted up her face to him as a child might have done; and,
putting his arm round her, he bent down and kissed her, very simply and
gravely. Suddenly, he took her two hands and kissed their soft palms;
and then he stooped very low, and lifting the hem of her cotton frock
kissed that too.
Rose? he cried out suddenly. Oh, Rose, I do love you so! And
then, before she could speak he had turned and was gone.
Rather more than an hour and a half later, Rose Otway, with bursting
heart, but with dry, gleaming eyesfor she had a nervous fear of her
mother's affectionate questioning, and she had already endured Anna's
well-meant, fussy, though still unspoken sympathystood at the
spare-room window of the Trellis House. From there she could watch,
undisturbed, the signs of departure now going busily on before the big
gates of the group of three Georgian houses known as Robey's.
Piles of luggage, bags, suit-cases, golf sticks, and so on, were
being put outside and inside the mid-Victorian fly, which was still
patronised by the young gentlemen of Robey's, in their goings and
comings from the station. And then, even before the old cab-horse had
started his ambling trot townwards, Mr. and Mrs. Robey, their two
little girls, and their three boys not long back from school, all
appeared together at the gate.
In their midst stood Jervis Blake, his tall figure towering above
Most young men would have felt, and perhaps a little resented the
fact, that the whole party looked slightly ridiculous. Not so this
young man. There had never been much of the schoolboy in Jervis Blake.
Now he felt very much a man, and he was grateful for the affectionate
kindness which made these good people anxious to give him what one of
the little girls had called a grand send-off.
Rose saw that there was a moment of confusion, of hesitation at the
gate, and she divined that it was Jervis who suggested that they should
take the rather longer way round, that which led under the elm trees
and past the Cathedral. He did not wish to pass close by the Trellis
The girl standing by the window felt a sudden rush of understanding
tenderness. How strangely, how wonderfully their minds worked the one
in with the other! It would have been as intolerable to her as to him,
to have seen her mother run out and stop the little partyto have been
perchance summoned from upstairs to wish good luck to Jervis Blake.
From where she stood Rose Otway commanded the whole Close, and
during the minutes which followed she saw the group of people walking
with quick, steady steps, stopped by passers-by three or four times,
before they disappeared out of her sight.
It had seemed to her, but that might have been only her fancy, that
the pace, obviously set by Jervis, quickened rather as they swept past
the little gate through which he and she had gone on their way to the
porch, on their way toto Paradise.
* * * * *
Half-way through the morning there came an uncertain knock at the
front door of the Trellis House. It presaged a note brought by one of
the young Robeys for Mrs. Otwaya note written by Jervis Blake,
telling her of his good fortune, and explaining that he had not time to
come and thank her in person for all her many kindnesses to him. One
sentence ran: The War Office order is that I come and report myself as
soon as possibleso of course I had to take the ten-twenty-five
train. And he signed himself, as he had never done before, Your
affectionate JERVIS BLAKE.
Mrs. Otway felt mildly excited, and really pleased. Rose will be
very glad to hear this! she said to herself, and at once sought out
Rose was still upstairs, in the roomy, rather dark old linen
cupboard which was the pride of Anna's German heart.
A most extraordinary thing has happened. Jervis Blake is to have a
commission after all, darling! He had a letter from the War Office this
morning. I suppose it's due to his father's influence. And as Rose
answered, in what seemed an indifferent voice, I should think, mother,
that it's due to the War, Mrs. Otway exclaimed, Oh no. I don't think
so! What could the War have to do with it? But whatever it's due to,
I'm very, very pleased that the poor boy has attained the wish of his
heart. He's written me such a very nice note, apologising for not
coming to say good-bye to us. He doesn't mention you in his letter, but
I expect you'll hear from him in a day or two. He generally does write
during the holidays, doesn't he, Rose?
Yes, said Rose quietly. Jervis has always written to me during
the holidays, up to now.
As she spoke, the girl turned again to the shelves laden with the
linen, much of which had been beautifully embroidered and trimmed with
crochet lace by good old Anna's clever hands. Mrs. Otway had a curious
sensation, one she very, very seldom hadthat of being dismissed.
Somehow it was clear that Rose was not as interested in the piece of
good news as her mother had thought she would be. And so Mrs. Otway
went downstairs again, grieving a little at her child's curious, cold
indifference to the lot of one who had been so much in and out of their
house during the last two years.
Eager for sympathy, she went into the kitchen. Oh, Anna, she
exclaimed, Mr. Blake is going into the Army after all! I'm so pleased.
He is so happy!
Far more than Major Guthrie young Mr. Blake the figure of a good
officer has, observed Anna thoughtfully. Anna had always liked Jervis
Blake. In the old days that now seemed so long ago he would sometimes
come with Miss Rose into her kitchen, and talk his poor, indifferent
German. Then they all three used to laugh heartily at the absurd
mistakes he made.
And now, to her mistress's astonishment, old Anna suddenly burst
into loud, noisy sobs.
Anna, what is the matter?
Afflicted I am sobbed the old woman. And then she stopped, and
began again: Afflicted I am to think, gracious lady, of that young
gentleman, who to me kind has been, killing the soldiers of my
I don't suppose he will have the chance of killing any of them,
said Mrs. Otway hastily. You really mustn't be so silly, Anna! Why,
the War will be over long before Mr. Blake is ready to go out. They
always keep the young men two years at Sandhurst. That's the name of
the officers' training college, you know.
Anna wiped her eyes with her apron. She was now ashamed of having
cried. But it had come over her all of a heap, as an English person
would have said.
She had had a sort of vision of that nice young gentleman, Mr.
Jervis Blake, in the thick of battle, cutting down German men and
youths with a sword. He was so big and strongit made her turn sick to
think of it. But her good mistress, Mrs. Otway, had of course told the
truth. The War would be over long before Mr. Jervis Blake and his kind
would be fit to fight.
Fighting, as old Anna knew well, though most of the people about her
were ignorant of the fact, requires a certain apprenticeship, an
apprenticeship of which these pleasant-spoken, strong, straight-limbed
young Englishmen knew nothing. The splendidly trained soldiers of the
Fatherland would have fought and conquered long before peaceful, sleepy
England knew what war really meant. There was great comfort in that
* * * * *
As that second Saturday of August wore itself away, it is not too
much to say that the most interesting thing connected with the War
which had happened in Witanbury Close was the fact that Jervis Blake
was now going to be a soldier. When people met that day, coming and
going about their business, across the lawn-like green, and along the
well-kept road which ran round it, they did not discuss the little news
there was in that morning's papers. Instead they at once informed one
another, and with a most congratulatory air, Jervis Blake has heard
from the War Office! He is going into the Army after all. Mr. and Mrs.
Robey are so pleased. The whole family went to the station with
him this morning!
And it was quite true that the Robeys were pleased. Mr. Robey was
positively triumphant. I can't tell you how glad I am! he said, first
to one, and then to the other, of his neighbours. Young Blake will
make a splendid company officer. It's for the sake of the country,
quite as much as for his sake, and for that of his unpleasant father,
that I'm glad. What sort of book-learning had Napoleon's marshals? Or,
for the matter of that, Wellington's officers in the Peninsula, and at
As the day went on, and he began receiving telegrams from those of
his young menthey were not so very many after allwho had failed to
pass, containing the joyful news that now they were accepted, his wife,
instead of rejoicing, began to look grave. It seems to me, my dear,
that our occupation in life will now be gone, she said soberly. And he
answered lightly enough, Sufficient unto the day is the good thereof!
And being the high-minded, sensible fellow that he was, he would allow
no selfish fear of the future to cloud his satisfaction in the present.
* * * * *
The only jarring note that day came from James Hayley. He had had to
take a later train than he had thought to do, and he only arrived at
the Trellis House, duly dressed for dinner, just before eight.
Witanbury is certainly a most amusing place, he observed, as he
shook hands with his pretty cousin. I met two of your neighbours as I
came along. Each of them informed me, with an air of extreme delight,
that young Jervis Blake had heard from the War Office that, in spite of
his many failures, his services will now be welcomed by a grateful
country. I didn't like to make the obvious answer
And what is the obvious answer? asked Rose, wrenching her hand
away from his. She told herself that she hated the feel of James's
cold, hard hand.
That we must be jolly short of officers if they're already writing
round to those boys! But then, of coursehe lowered his voice, though
there was no one there to hear, we are shortshort of everything,
But that was the only thing Cousin James said of any interest, and
it did not specially interest Rose. She did not connect this sinister
little piece of information with the matter that filled her heart for
the moment to the exclusion of everything else. It was not Jervis who
was short of anythingonly Jervis's (and her) country.
After Mrs. Otway had come down and joined them, though James talked
a great deal, he yet said very little, and as the evening went on, his
kind hostess could not help feeling that the War had not improved James
Hayley. He seemed more supercilious, more dogmatic than usual, and at
one moment he threatened to offend her gravely by an unfortunate
allusion to her good old Anna's nationality.
By that time they were sitting out in the garden, enjoying the
excellent coffee Anna made so well, and as it was rather chilly, Rose
had run into the house to get her mother a shawl.
I never realised how very German your maid is, he observed
suddenly. It made me feel quite uncomfortable while we were talking at
dinner! Do you intend to keep her?
Yes, of course I do. Mrs. Otway felt hurt and angry. I shouldn't
dream of sending her away! Anna has lived in England over twenty years,
and her only child is married to an Englishman. She waited a moment,
and as he said nothing, she went on: My good old Anna is devoted to
England, though of course she loves her Fatherland too.
I should have thought the two loves quite incompatible at the
present time, he objected drily.
Mrs. Otway flushed in the half darkness. I find them quite
compatible, James, she exclaimed. Of course I'm sorry that the
military party should triumph in Germanythat, we all must feel, and
probably many Germans do too. But, after all, you may hate the sin and
love the sinner!
Will you feel the same when Germans have killed Englishmen? he
asked idly. He was watching the door through which Rose had vanished a
few moments ago, longing with a restrained, controlled longing for her
As a matter of fact he himself had never had any feeling of dislike
of the Germans; on the contrary, he had struck up an acquaintance which
had almost become friendship with one of the younger members of the
German Embassy. And suddenly Mrs. Otway remembered it.
Why, you yourself, she cried, you yourself, James, have a German
friendI mean that young Von Lissing. I liked him so much that
week-end you brought him down. What's happened to him? I suppose he's
Gone? He turned and looked at her in the twilight. Really, Aunt
Mary was sometimes very silly. Of course, he's gone! As a matter of
fact he left London ten days before his chief. And then he added
reflectively, perhaps with more a wish to tease her than anything else,
I've rather wondered this last week whether Von Lissing's friendship
with me was regarded by him as a business matter. He sometimes asked me
such odd questions. Of course one has always known that Germans are
singularly inquisitivethat they are always wanting to find out
things. I confess it never struck me at the time that his questions
meant anything more than that sort of insatiable wish to know
that all Germans have.
What sort of things did he ask you, James? asked Mrs. Otway
Well, I'll tell you one thing he said, and it astonished me very
much indeed. He asked me what attitude I thought our colonies would
take if we became embroiled in a European war! I reminded him of what
they'd done in South Africa fourteen years ago, and he said he thought
the world had altered a good deal since then, and that people had
become more selfish. But he never asked me any question concerning my
own special department. In those ways he quite played the gamenot
that it would have been of any use, because of course I shouldn't have
told him anything. But he was certainly oddly inquiring about other
Then Rose came out again, and James Hayley tried to make himself
pleasant. Fortunately for himself he did not know how little he
succeeded. Rose found his patronising, tutor-like manner intolerable.
Mrs. Hegner leant her woe-begone, tear-stained little face against
the centre window-pane of one of the two windows in her bedroom.
The room was a very large room. But she had never liked it, large,
spacious, and airy though it was. You see, it was furnished entirely
like a German bedroom, not like a nice cosy English room. Thus the
place where a fireplace would naturally have been was taken up by a
large china stove; and instead of a big brass double bed there were two
low narrow box beds. On her husband's bed was a huge eiderdown, and
under that only a sheetno blankets at all! Polly hoped that this
horrid fact would never be known in Witanbury. It would make quite a
There was linoleum on the floor instead of a carpet, and there was
very little ease about the one armchair which her husband had
grudgingly allowed her to have up here.
Close to his bed, at right angles to it, was a huge black and green
safe. That safe, as Polly well knew, had cost a very great deal of
money, enough money to have furnished this room in really first-class
style, with good Wilton pile carpet all complete.
But Manfred had chosen to furnish the room in his own style, and it
was a style to which Polly could never grow accustomed. It outraged all
the instinctive prejudices and conventions inherited from her
respectable, lower middle-class forbears. Instead of being good
substantial mahogany or walnut, it was some queerly veined
light-coloured wood, and decorated with the strangest coloured
rectangular designs, and paintedwell, with nightmare oddities, that's
what she called them! And she was not far wrong, for all down one side
of the wardrobe waddled a procession of bright green ducks.
Polly could never make her husband out. He was so careful, soso
miserly in some ways, so wildly extravagant in others. All this
furniture had come from Germany, and must have cost a pretty penny. It
was true that he had got it, or so he assured her, with very heavy
discount offand that no doubt was correct.
The only ornaments in the room, if ornaments they could be called,
were faded photographs and two oleographs in gilt frames. One of the
photographs was the portrait of Manfred's first wife, a very plain, fat
woman. Then there were tiny cartes of Manfred's father and
motherregular horrors they must have been, so Polly thought
resentfully. The oleographs were views of Heidelberg and of the Kiel
Poor Polly! She had been sent up here, just as if she was a little
girl in disgrace, about half an hour agosimply for having told her
own sister Jenny, who was useful maid to Miss Haworth at the Deanery,
that Manfred had spent yesterday at Southampton. He had gone on smiling
quite affably as long as Jenny was there, but the door had hardly
closed on her before he had turned round on her, Polly, in
Blab! Blab! Blab! he had snapped out. You'll end by hanging me
before you've done! It won't be any good then saying 'Oh, I didn't
know,' 'Oh, I didn't mean to!' He mimicked with savage irony her
frightened accents. And then, as she had burst into tears, he had
ordered her up here, out of his sight.
Yes, Manfred had an awful temper, and since Wednesday evening he
hadn't given her one kind word or look. In fact, during the last few
days Polly had felt as if she must run away from him. Not to do
anything wicked, you understandgood gracious, no! She had had enough
And now, resentfully, she asked herself why Manfred bothered so much
about this war. After all, he had taken out his certificate; he was an
Englishman now. She told herself that it was all the Dean's fault.
Stupid, interfering old gentlemanthat's what the Dean was! Manfred
had gone up to the Deanery last Wednesday, and the Dean told him it was
his duty to look after the Germans in Witanburyas if Germans couldn't
look after themselves. Of course they could! They were far cleverer at
that sort of thing than English people were. Polly could have told the
As to businessbusiness had been just as brisk, or very nearly as
brisk, during the last few days as ever before, and that though they
had only been able to keep the shop, so to speak, half open. It was
clear this silly war wasn't going to make any difference to them.
At first she had tried to make allowances; no doubt Manfred did feel
unhappy about his son, Fritz, who was now on his way to fight the
Russians. But he had hardly mentioned Fritz after the first minute.
Instead of that, he had only exclaimed, at frequent intervals, that
this war would ruin them. He really did believe it, too, for he had
even said it in his sleep.
Why, they were made of money. Polly had the best of reasons for
knowing that. They didn't owe a penny to anybody, excepting to
the builder. And no one could have acted better than that builder had
done. He had hurried round the very first thing on Wednesday to tell
them not to worry. In fact, even Manfred, who seldom had a good word
for anybody, agreed that Mr. Smith had behaved very handsomely.
People were now beginning to walk across the Market Place, and
rather more were going to evening service in the Cathedral than usual.
Polly didn't want any one to look up and see she had been crying. So
she retreated a little way into the room. Then she went over and poured
some water from the queer-shaped jug into the narrow, deep basin, which
was so unlike a nice big wide English basin. After that she washed her
face, and dabbed her eyes with eau-de-Cologne.
Manfred, who was so economical about most things, and who even
grudged her spending more than a certain sum on necessary household
cleaning implements, was very fond of scent, and he had quite a row of
scent-bottles and pomades on his side of the washhand-stand....
While Polly was dabbing her eyes and face she looked meditatively at
the big safe in the corner.
With that safe was connected her one real bit of deceit. Manfred
thought she didn't know what was in the safe, but as a matter of fact
she knew what was safely put away there as well as he did. Amazing to
relate, she actually had a key to the safe of which he, her husband,
It had fallen out in this wise. The gentleman who had come from
London to superintend the fixing of the safe had left an envelope for
Manfred, or rather he had asked for an envelope, then he had popped
inside it a piece of paper and something else.
Look here, Mrs. Hegner! he had exclaimed. I can't wait to see
your husband, for I've got to get my train back to town. Will you just
give him this? Many people only provide two keys to a safe, but our
firm always provides three.
She had waited till the man had gone, and then she had at once gone
upstairs and locked herself into her bedroom with the new safe and the
open envelope containing the receipted bill and the three keys. One of
these keys she had put in her purse, and then she had placed the bill,
and the two remaining keys, in a fresh envelope.
Polly didn't consider husbands and wives ought to have any secrets
from one another. But from the very first, even when Manfred was still
very much in love with heraye, and very jealous of her too, for the
matter of thathe had never told her anything.
For a long time she hadn't known just where to keep her key of the
safe, and it had lain on her mind like a great big load of worry; she
had felt obliged to be always changing the place where she hid it.
Then, suddenly, Manfred had presented her with an old-fashioned
rosewood dressing-case he had taken from some one in part payment of a
small debt. And in this dressing-case, so a friend had shown her, there
was a secret place for letters. You pushed back an innocent-looking
little brass inlaid knob, and the blue velvet back fell forward,
leaving a space behind.
From the day she had been shown this dear little secret space, the
key of the safe had lain there, excepting on the very rare occasions
when she was able to take it out and use it. Of course she never did
this unless she knew that Manfred was to be away for the whole day from
Witanbury, and even then she trembled and shook with fright lest he
should suddenly come in and surprise her. But what she had learnt made
her tremors worth while.
It was pleasant, indeed, to know that a lot of moneynice golden
sovereigns and crisp five-pound noteswas lying there, and that
Manfred must be always adding to the store. Last time she had looked
into the safe there was eight hundred pounds! Two-thirds in gold,
one-third in five-pound notes. She had sometimes thought it odd that
Manfred kept such a lot of gold, but that was his business, not hers.
It was very unkind of him not to have told her of all this money.
After all, she helped to earn it! But she knew he believed her to be
What sillies men were! As if the fact that he had this money put
away, no doubt accumulating in order that they might pay off the
mortgage quicker, would make her spend more. Why, it had actually had
the effect of making her more careful.
In addition to the money in the safe, there were one or two deeds
connected with little bits of house property Manfred had acquired in
Witanbury during the last six years. And then, on the top shelf of the
safe, there were a lot of lettersletters written in German, of which
of course she could make neither head nor tail. Once a month a
registered letter arrived, sometimes from Holland, sometimes from
Brussels, for Manfred; and it had gradually become clear to her that it
was these letters which he kept in the safe.
* * * * *
There came a loud impatient knock at the door. She started guiltily.
Open! cried her husband imperiously. Open, Polly, at once! I have
already forbidden you to lock the door.
But she knew by the tone of his voice that he was no longer really
angry with her. So, walking rather slowly, she went across and unlocked
She stepped back quicklythe door opened, and a moment later she
was in her husband's arms, and he was kissing her.
Well, little one! You're good now, eh? Does my little sugar lamb
want a treat?
Polly knew that when he called her his little sugar lamb it meant
that he was in high good-humour.
It won't be much of a treat to stay at home and do the civil to
that old Mrs. Bauer, she said, and looked up at him coquettishly.
There were good points about Manfred. When he was good-tempered, as
he seemed to be just now, it generally meant that there would be a
present for her coming along. And sure enough he pulled a little box
out of one of his bulging pockets.
Here's a present for my little lollipop, he said.
Eagerly she opened the box; but though she exclaimed It's very
pretty! she really felt a good deal disappointed. For it was only a
queer, old-fashioned light gold locket. In tiny diamondsthey were
real diamonds, but Polly did not know thatwere set the words Rule
Britannia, and below the words was a funny little enamel picture
of a sailing-ship. Not the sort of thing she would care to wear,
excepting just to please Manfred.
You can put that on the chain I gave you, he said. It looks nice
and patriotic. And about this eveningwell, I've changed my mind. You
need not stop in for Mrs. Bauer. Just say how-d'ye-do to her, and then
go outto the Deanery if you like. You see that I trust you, Polly;
his face stiffened, a frown came over it. I have written a letter to
the Dean for you to take; you may read it if you like.
She drew the bit of paper out of the envelope with a good deal of
curiosity. Whatever could Manfred have to write to the Dean about?
True, he was fond of writing letters, and he expressed himself far
better than most Englishmen of his station. Polly had quite a nice
packet of his love-letters, which, at the time she had received them,
had delighted her by their flowery appropriateness of language, and
quaint, out-of-the-way expressions.
MOST REVEREND SIRso ran Manfred Hegner's letter to the
Dean. I wish to thank you for your kindness to me during the
last few eventful days. I have endeavoured to deserve it in
every way possible. I trust you will approve of a step I
propose taking on Monday. That is, to change my name to Alfred
Head. As you impressed upon me, Reverend Sir, in the interview
you were good enough to grant me, I am now an Englishman, with
all the duties as well as the privileges of this great
nation. So it is best I have a British name. I am taking steps
to have my new name painted up outside the Stores, and I am
informing by circular all those whom it may concern. Your
interest in me, Reverend Sir, has made me venture to tell you,
before any one else, of the proposed alteration. I therefore
sign myself, most Reverend Sir,
Yours very faithfully,
I think Head is a horrid name! said his wife imprudently. I don't
think 'Polly Head' is half as nice as 'Polly Hegner.' Why, mother used
to know a horrid old man called Head. He was a scavenger, and he only
cleaned himself once a yearon Christmas Day!
Then, as she saw the thunderclouds gathering, she exclaimed in a
rather frightened tone, But don't mind what I say, Manfred. You
know best. I daresay I'll get used to it soon!
As they went downstairs Polly had been thinking.
I fancy you've had this in your mind for some time.
What makes you fancy that? he asked.
Because we've so near got to the end of our stock of cards and
bill-heads, she said, and you wouldn't let me order any more last
You're a sharp girlhe laughed. Well, yes! I have been thinking
of it some time. And what's happened now has just tipped the
Yes, I see that.
I've already written out the order for new bill-heads and new
cards! and I've sent round the order about Monday, he went on. But if
this dratted Bank Holiday goes on, there won't be much work done in
Witanbury on Monday! Hush! Here she comes.
There had come a ring at the back door. Polly went out, and a moment
later brought back the old German woman.
Anna was surprised to find the husband and wife alone. She had
thought that the Fröhlings at least would be there.
Well, Mrs. Bauerher host spoke in Germana friend or two who
were coming have failed, and you will have to put up with me, for my
wife has to go up to the Deanery to see her sister. But you and I will
have plenty to talk about at such a time as this. And I have got some
papers from Berlin for you. I do not know how much longer they will be
coming to England.
The old woman's face lighted up. Yes, it would be very nice to see
one or two of the grand German picture papers which had been lately
started in the Fatherland in imitation of those which were so popular
Do not trouble to look at them now, he added hastily. You can
take them home with you. Mrs. Otway, she is too broad-minded a lady to
mind, is she not?
Ach! Yes indeed, said Anna. Mrs. Otway, she loves the Fatherland.
This foolish trouble makes not the slightest difference to her.
Polly had been standing by rather impatiently. Sometimes I'm quite
sorry I haven't taken the trouble to learn German, she said.
Her husband chucked her under the chin. How would Frau Bauer and I
ever be able to talk our secrets together if you understood what we
said, little woman?
And Anna joined in the laugh with which this sally was greeted.
So long! said Polly brightly. I expect I'll be back before you've
gone, Mrs. Bauer.
There is good news! exclaimed Anna's host, as soon as the door was
shut behind his wife. The British have sunk one of our little
steamers, but we have blown up one of theirsa very big, important
war-vessel, Frau Bauer!
Good old Anna's face beamed. It was not that she disliked
Englandindeed, she was very fond of England. But she naturally felt
that in this great game of war it was only right and fair that the
Fatherland should win. It did not occur to her, and well he knew it
would not occur to her, that the man who had just spoken was at any
rate nominally an Englishman. She, quite as much as he did himself,
regarded the naturalisation certificate as a mere matter of business.
It had never made any difference to any of the Germans Anna had known
in Englandin fact the only German-Englishman she knew was old
Fröhling, who had never taken out his certificate at all. Fröhling
really did adore England, and this had sometimes made old Anna feel
very impatient. To Fröhling everything English was perfect, and he had
been quite pleased, instead of sorry, when his son had joined the
So? That is good! she exclaimed. Very good! But we must not seem
too pleased, must we, Herr Hegner?
And he shook his head. No, to be too pleased would not be
grateful, he said, to good old England! And he spoke with no
sarcasm, he really meant what he said.
It makes me sad to think of all the deaths, whether they are German
or English, went on Anna sadly. I do not feel the same about the
Russians or the French naturally.
Ach! How much I agree with you, he said feelingly. The poor
English! Truly do I pity them. I am quite of your mind, Frau Bauer;
though every Russian and most Frenchmen are a good riddance, I do not
rejoice to think of any Englishman, however lazy, tiresome, and
pigheaded, being killed.
They both ate steadily for a few minutes, then Manfred Hegner began
again. But very few Englishmen will be killed by our brave fellows.
You will have to shed no tears for any one you know in Witanbury, Frau
Bauer. The English are not a fighting people. Most of their sailors
will be drowned, no doubt, but at that one must not after all repine.
Yet the English are sending an army to Belgium, observed Anna,
What makes you think that? He stopped in the work on which he was
engaged, that of cutting a large sausage into slices. Have you learnt
it on good authority, Frau Bauer? Has this news been told you by the
young gentleman official from London who is connected with the
GovernmentI mean he who is courting your young lady?
Anna drew back stiffly. How they do gossip in this town! she
exclaimed, frowning. Courting my young lady, indeed! No, Mr. Hegner,
it was not Mr. Hayley who told this. Mr. Hayley is one of those who
talk a great deal without saying anything.
Then on whose authority do you speak? He spoke with a certain
I know because Major Guthrie started for Belgium on Friday last, at
two o'clock. By now he must be there, fighting our folk.
Major Guthrie? He looked puzzled. Is he a gentleman of the
No, no. He has nothing to do with the garrison! exclaimed Anna.
But you must have very often seen him, for he is constantly in the
town. And he speaks German, Mr. Hegner. I should have thought he would
have been in to see you.
You mean the son of the old lady who lives at Dorycote? They have
never dealt at my Storesthere was a tone of disappointment, of
contempt, in Mr. Hegner's voice. But that gentleman has retired from
the Army, Frau Bauer; it is not he, surely, whom they would call out to
Still, all the same, he is going to Belgium. To France first, and
then to Belgium. She spoke very positively, annoyed at being doubted.
Mr. Hegner hesitated for a moment. He stroked his moustache. I
daresay this Major has gone back to his old regiment, for the English
have mobilised their armysuch as it is. But that does not mean that
they are sending troops to the Continent.
But I even know where the Major is going to land in France.
Mr. Hegner drew in his breath. Ach! he said. That is really
interesting! Do you indeed? And what is the name of the place?
Boulogne, she said readily.
But how do you know all this? he asked slowly.
Mrs. Otway told me. This Major is a great friend of my ladies. But
though it was she who told me about Boulogne, I heard the good-byes
said in the hall. Everything can be heard from my kitchen, you see.
Try and remember exactly what it was that this Major said. It may
be of special interest to me.
He saidshe hesitated a moment, and then, in English, quoted the
words: He said, 'I shall be very busy seeing about my kit before I
Before I leave England? he repeated meditatively. Yes, if
you did indeed hear him say those words they are proof positive, Frau
Of course they are! she said triumphantly.
They had a long and pleasant meal, and old Anna enjoyed every moment
of it. Not since she had spent that delightful holiday in Berlin had
she drunk so much beer at one sitting. And it was such nice light beer,
too! Mrs. Otway, so understanding as to most things connected with
Germany, had sometimes expressed her astonishment at the Germans' love
of beer; she thought it, strange to say, unhealthy, as well as
To this day Anna could remember the resentful pain with which she
had learnt, some time after she had arrived at the Trellis House, that
many English ladies allowed their servants beer money. Had she made a
stand at the first, she too might have had beer money. But, alas!
Mrs. Otway, when engaging her, had observed that in her household
coffee and milk took the place of alcohol. Poor Anna, at that time in
deep trouble, finding her eight-year-old child an almost insuperable
bar to employment, would have accepted any conditions, however hard, to
find a respectable roof once more over her head and that of her little
But, as time had gone on, she had naturally resented Mrs. Otway's
peculiar rule concerning beer, and she had so far broken it as to enjoy
a jug of beerof course at her own expenseonce a week. But she had
only begun doing that after Mrs. Otway had raised her wages.
Host and guest talked on and on. Mr. Hegner confided to Anna his
coming change of name, and he seemed pleased to know that she thought
it quite a good plan.
Then suddenly he began to cross-question her about Mr. James Hayley.
But unluckily she could tell him very little beyond at last admitting
that he was, without doubt, in love with her young lady. There was,
however, nothing very interesting in that.
Yes, Mr. Hayley was fond of talking, but, as Anna had said just now,
he talked without saying anything, and she was too busy to pay much
heed to what he did say. He had come to dinner yesterday, that is,
Saturday, but he had had to leave Witanbury early this morning. The one
thing Anna did remember having heard him remark, for he said it
more than once, was that up to the last moment they had all thought, in
his office, that there would be no war.
He is not the only one. I, too, believed that the war would only
come next year, observed Anna's host ruefully.
The old woman thought these questions quite natural, for all Germans
have an insatiable curiosity concerning what may be called the gossip
side of life.
At last Manfred Hegner pushed back his chair.
Will you look at the pictures in these papers, Frau Bauer? I have
to go upstairs for something. I shall not be gone for more than two or
three minutes. He opened wide a sheet showing the Kaiser presiding at
fire drill on board his yacht.
Then, leaving his visitor quite happy, he hurried upstairs, and
going into his bedroom, locked the door and turned on the electric
light. With one of the twin tiny keys he always carried on his
watch-chain he opened his safe, and in a very few moments had found
what he wanted. Polly would indeed have been surprised had she seen
what it was. From the back of the pile of letters she had never
disturbed, he drew out a shabby little black book. It was a book of
addresses written in alphabetical order, and there were the names of
people, and of places, all over the Continent. This little book had
been forwarded, registered, by one of its present possessor's business
friends in Holland some ten days ago, together with a covering letter
explaining the value, in a grocery business, of these addresses. Mr.
Hegner was not yet familiar with its contents, but he found fairly
quickly the address he wantedthat of a Spanish merchant at Seville.
Taking out the block, which he always carried about with him, from
his pocket, he carefully copied on it the address in question. Then he
turned over the thin pages of the little black book till he came to
another address. This time it was the name of a Frenchman, Jules
Boutet, who lived in the Haute Ville, Boulogne. He put this name down,
too, but he did not trouble about Boutet's address. Finally he placed
the book back in the safe, among the private papers which Polly never
disturbed. Then, tearing off the top sheet of the block, he wrote the
Spanish address out, and under it, Father can come back on or about
August 19. Boutet is expecting him.
He hesitated for some time over the signature. And then, at last, he
put the English Christian name of Emily.
He pushed the book back, well out of sight, then shutting the safe
hastened downstairs again.
At any moment Polly might return home; they were early folk at the
Anna had already got up. I think I must be going home, she
observed. My ladies will soon be back. I do not like them to find the
house emptythough Mrs. Otway knows that I am here.
Do you ever have occasion to go to the Post Office? he said
And she answered, Yes; I have a Savings Bank account. Do you advise
me, Mr. Hegner, to take my money out of the Savings Bank just now? Will
they not be taking all the money for the war?
I think I should take it out. Have you much in? As he spoke, he
was filling up a foreign telegraph form, printing the words in.
Not very much, she said cautiously. But a little sumyes.
She hesitated uncomfortably. I have forty pounds in the English
Savings Bank, she said.
If I were youhe looked at her fixedlyI should take it all
out. Make them give it you in sovereigns. And then, if you will bring
it to me here, I shall be able to give you for thatlet me see he
waited a moment. Yes, if you do not mind taking bank-notes and silver,
I will give you for that gold of yours forty pounds and five shillings.
Gold is useful to me in my business. Ohand, Frau Bauer? When you do
go to the Post Office I should be glad if you would send off this
telegram for me. It is a business telegram, as you can see, in fact a
She took the piece of paper in her hand, then looked at it and at
It concerns a consignment of bitter oranges. I do not want the
Witanbury Post Office to know my business.
Yes, I understand what you mean.
It is, as you see, a Spanish telegram, and it will costhe made a
rapid calculation, then went to the sideboard and took out some silver.
It will cost five-and-sixpence. I therefore give you
seven-and-sixpence, Frau Bauer. That is two shillings for your trouble.
If possible, I should prefer that no one sees this telegram being
despatched. Do I make myself clear?
Yes, yes. I quite understand.
And if you are asked who gave it you to despatch, say it is a Mrs.
Smith, slightly known to you, whom you just met, and who was in too
great a hurry to catch her train to come into the Post Office.
Anna took a large purse out of her capacious pocket. In it she put
the telegram and the money. I will send it off to-morrow morning, she
exclaimed. You may count on me.
She turned back.
Only to wish you again a cordial good-night, and to say I hope you
will come again soon!
Indeed, that I will, she called out gratefully.
As he was shutting the back door, he saw his wife hurrying along
across the quiet little back street.
Hullo, Polly! he cried, and she came quickly across. They are in
great trouble at the Deanery, she observed, at least, Miss Edith is
in great trouble. She has been crying all to-day. They say her face is
all swelled outthat she looks an awful sight! Her lover is going away
to fight, and some one has told her that Lord Kitchener says none of
the lot now going out will ever come back! There is even talk of their
being married before he starts. But as her trousseau is not ready, my
sister thinks it would be a very stupid thing to do.
Did the Dean get my letter? he asked abruptly.
Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that. I gave it to Mr. Dunstan, the
butler. He says that the Dean opened it and read it. And then what
d'you think the silly old thing said, Manfred?
You will have to get into the way of calling me Alfred, he said
Well, what did the reverend gentleman say?
Mr. Dunstan says that he just exclaimed, 'I'm sorry the good fellow
thinks it necessary to do that.' So you needn't have troubled after
all. All the way to the Deanery I was saying to myself, 'Mrs.
HeadPolly Head. Polly HeadMrs. Head.' And no, it's no good
pretending that I like it, for I just don't!
Then you'll just have to do the other thing, he said roughly.
Still, though he spoke so disagreeably, he was yet in high good-humour.
Two hours ago this information concerning Miss Haworth's lover would
have been of the utmost interest to him, and even now it was of value,
as corroborating what Anna had already told him. Frau Bauer was going
to be very useful to him. Alfred Head, for already he was thinking of
himself by that name, felt that he had had a well-spent, as well as a
Had it not been for the contents of the envelope which she kept in
the right-hand drawer of her writing-table, and which she sometimes
took out surreptitiously, when neither her daughter nor old Anna were
about, Mrs. Otway, as those early August days slipped by, might well
have thought her farewell interview with Major Guthrie a dream.
For one thing there was nothing, positively nothing, in any of the
daily papers over which she wasted so much time each morning,
concerning the despatch of an Expeditionary Force to the Continent!
Could Major Guthrie have been mistaken?
Once, when with the Dean, she got very near the subject. In fact,
she ventured to say a word expressive of her belief that British troops
were to be sent to France. But he snubbed her with a sharpness very
unlike his urbane self. Nonsense! he cried. There isn't the
slightest thought of such a thing. Any small force we could send to the
Continent would be uselessin fact, only in the way!
Then why does Lord Kitchener ask for a hundred thousand men?
For home defence, said the Dean quickly, only for home defence,
Mrs. Otway. The War Office is said to regard it as within the bounds of
possibility that England may be invaded. But I fancy the Kaiser is far
too truly attached to his mother's country to think of doing anything
really to injure us! I am sure that so intelligent and enlightened
a sovereign understands our point of viewI mean about Belgium. The
Kaiser, without doubt, was overruled by the military party. As to our
sending our Army abroadwhy, millions are already being engaged in
this war! So where would be the good of our small army?
That had been on Sunday, only two days after Major Guthrie had gone.
And now, it being Wednesday, Mrs. Otway bethought herself that she
ought to fulfil her promise with regard to his mother. Somehow she had
a curious feeling that she now owed a duty to the old lady, and
alsothough that perhaps was rather absurdthat she would be quite
glad to see any one who would remind her of her kind friendthe friend
whom she missed more than she was willing to admit to herself.
But of course her friend's surprising kindness and thought for her
had made a difference to her point of view, and had brought them, in a
sense, very much nearer the one to the other. In fact Mrs. Otway was
surprised, and even a little hurt, that Major Guthrie had not written
to her once since he went away. It was the more odd as he very often
had written to her during former visits of his to London. Sometimes
they had been quite amusing letters.
She put on a cool, dark-grey linen coat and skirt, and a shady hat,
and then she started off for the mile walk to Dorycote.
* * * * *
It was a very warm afternoon. Old Mrs. Guthrie, after she had had
her pleasant little after-luncheon nap, established herself, with the
help of her maid, under a great beech tree in the beautiful garden
which had been one of the principal reasons why Major Guthrie had
chosen this house at Dorycote for his mother. The old lady was wearing
a pale lavender satin gown, with a lace scarf wound about her white
hair and framing her still pretty pink and white face.
During the last few days the people who composed Mrs. Guthrie's
little circle had been too busy and too excited to come and see her.
But she thought it likely that to-day some one would drop in to tea.
Any one would be welcome, for she was feeling a little mopish.
No, it was not this surprising, utterly unexpected, War that
troubled her. Mrs. Guthrie belonged by birth to the fighting caste; her
father had been a soldier in his time, and so had her husband.
As for her only son, he had made the Army his profession, and she
knew that he had hoped to live and die in it. He had been through the
Boer War, and was wounded at Spion Kop, so he had done his duty by his
country; this being so, she could not help being glad now that Alick
had retired when he had. But she had wisely kept that gladness to
herself as long as he was with her. To Mrs. Guthrie's thinking, this
War was France's war, and Russia's war; only in an incidental sense
England's quarrel too.
Russia? Mrs. Guthrie had always been taught to mistrust Russia, and
to believe that the Tsar had his eye on India. She could remember, too,
and that with even now painful vividness, the Crimean War, for a man
whom she had cared for as a girl, whom indeed she had hoped to marry,
had been killed at the storming of the Redan. To her it seemed strange
that England and Russia were now allies.
As a matter of fact, the one moment of excitement the War had
brought her was in connection with Russia. An old gentleman she knew, a
tiresome neighbour whose calls usually bored rather than pleased her,
had hobbled in yesterday and told her, as a tremendous secret, that
Russia was sending a big army to Flanders via England, through a
place called Archangel of which she had vaguely heard. He had had the
news from Scotland, where a nephew of his had actually seen and spoken
to some Russian officers, the advance guard, as it were, of these
Mrs. Guthrie was glad this war had come after the London season was
over. Her great pleasure each day was reading the Morning Post,
and during this last week that paper had been a great deal too full of
war news. It had annoyed her, too, to learn that the Cowes Week had
been given up. Of course no German yachts could have competed, but
apart from that, why should not the regatta have gone on just the same?
It looked as if the King (God bless him!) was taking this war too
seriously. Queen Victoria and King Edward would have had a better sense
of proportion. The old lady kept these thoughts to herself, but they
were there, all the same.
Yes, it was a great pity Cowes had been given up. Mrs. Guthrie
missed the lists of namesnames which in the majority of cases, unless
of course they were those of Americans and of uninteresting nouveaux
riches, recalled pleasant associations, and that even if the people
actually mentioned were only the children or the grandchildren of those
whom she had known in the delightful days when she had kept house for
her widower brother in Mayfair.
As she turned her old head stiffly round, and saw how charming her
well-kept lawn and belt of high trees beyond looked to-day, she felt
sorry that she had not written one or two little notes and bidden some
of her Witanbury Close acquaintances come out and have tea. The Dean,
for instance, might have come. Even Mrs. Otway, Alick's friend, would
have been better than nobody!
Considering that she did not like her, it was curious that Mrs.
Guthrie was one of the very few women in that neighbourhood who
realised that the mistress of the Trellis House was an exceptionally
attractive person. More than oncein fact almost always after chance
had brought the two ladies in contact, Mrs. Guthrie would observe
briskly to her son, It's rather odd that your Mrs. Otway has never
married again! And it always amused her to notice that it irritated
Alick to hear her say this. It was the Scotch bit of him which made
Alick at once so shy and so sentimental where women were concerned.
Mrs. Guthrie had no idea how very often her son went to the Trellis
House, but even had she known it she would only have smiled
satirically. She had but little sympathy with platonic friendships, and
she recognised, with that shrewd mother-sense so many women acquire
late in life, that Mrs. Otway was a most undesigning widow.
Not that it would have really mattered if she had been the
other sort. Major Guthrie's own private means were small. It was true
that after his mother's death he would be quite well off, but Mrs.
Guthrie, even if she had a weak heart, did not think herself likely to
die for a long, long time.... And yet, as time went on, and as the old
lady became, perhaps, a thought less selfish, she began to wish that
her son would fancy some girl with money, and marrying, settle down. If
that could come to pass, then she, Mrs. Guthrie, would be content to
live on by herself, in the house which she had made so pretty, and
where she had gathered about her quite a pleasant circle of admiring
and appreciative, if rather dull, country friends.
But when she had said a word in that sense to Alick, he had tried to
turn the suggestion off as a joke. And as she had persisted in talking
about it, he had shown annoyance, even anger. At last, one day, he had
exclaimed, I'm too old to marry a girl, mother! SomehowI don't know
how it isI don't seem to care very much for girls.
There are plenty of widows you could marry, she said quickly. A
widow is more likely to have money than a girl. He had answered, But
you see I don't care for money. And then she had observed, I don't
see how you could marry without money, Alick. And he had said quietly,
I quite agree. I don't think I could. And it may be doubted if in his
loyal heart there had even followed the unspoken thought, So long as
you are alive, mother.
Yes, Alick was a very good son, and Mrs. Guthrie did not grudge him
his curious friendship with Mrs. Otway.
And then, just as she was saying this to herself, not for the first
time, she heard the sound of doors opening and closing, and she saw,
advancing towards her over the bright green lawn, the woman of whom she
had just been thinking with condescending good-nature.
Mrs. Otway looked hot and a little tirednot quite as attractive as
usual. This perhaps made Mrs. Guthrie all the more glad to see her.
How kind of you to come! exclaimed the old lady. But I'm sorry
you find me alone. I rather hoped my son might be back to-day. He had
to go up to London unexpectedly last Friday. He has an old friend in
the War Office, and I think it very likely that this man may have
wanted to consult him. I don't know if you are aware that Alick once
spent a long leave in Germany. Although I miss him, I should be glad to
think he is doing something useful just now. But of course I shouldn't
at all have liked the thought of his beginning again to fightand at
his time of life!
I suppose a soldier is never too old to want to fight,but even
while she spoke, Mrs. Otway felt as if she were saying something rather
trite and foolish. She was a little bit afraid of the old lady, and as
she sat down her cheeks grew even hotter than the walking had made
them, for she suddenly remembered Major Guthrie's legacy.
Yes, that's true, of course! And for the first two or three days of
last week I could see that Alick was very much upset, in fact horribly
depressed, by this War. But I pretended to take no notice of itit's
always better to do that with a man! It's never the slightest use being
sympatheticit only makes people more miserable. However, last Friday,
after getting a telegram, he became quite cheerful and like his old
self again. He wouldn't admit, even to me, that he had heard from the
War Office. But I put two and two together! Of course, as he is in the
Reserve, he may find himself employed on some form of home defence. I
could see that Alick thinks that the Germans will probably try and land
in Englandinvade it, in fact, as the Normans did. The old lady
smiled. It's an amusing idea, isn't it?
But surely the fleet's there to prevent that! said Mrs. Otway. She
was surprised that so sensible a man as Major Guthrieher opinion of
him had gone up very much this last weekshould imagine such a thing
as that a landing by the Germans on the English coast was possible.
Oh, but he says there are at least a dozen schemes of English
invasion pigeonholed in the German War Office, and by now they've
doubtless had them all out and examined them. He has always said there
is a very good landing-place within twenty miles of herea place
A pleasant interlude was provided by tea, and as Mrs. Guthrie, her
old hand shaking a little, poured out a delicious cup for her visitor,
and pressed on her a specially nice home-made cake, Mrs. Otway began to
think that in the past she had perhaps misjudged Major Guthrie's
agreeable, lively mother.
Suddenly Mrs. Guthrie fixed on her visitor the penetrating blue eyes
which were so like those of her son, and which were indeed the only
feature of her very handsome face she had transmitted to her only
I think you know my son very well? she observed suavely.
Rather to her own surprise, Mrs. Otway grew a little pink. Yes,
she said. Major Guthrie and I are very good friends. He has sometimes
been most kind in giving me advice about my money matters.
Ah, well, he does that to a good many people. You'd be amused to
know how often he's asked to be trustee to a marriage settlement, and
so on. But I've lately supposed, Mrs. Otway, that Alick has made a kind
ofwell, what shall I say?a kind of sister of you. He seems so fond
of your girl, too; he always has liked young people.
Yes, that's very true, said Mrs. Otway eagerly. Major Guthrie has
always been most kind to Rose. And then she smiled happily, and added,
as if to herself, Most people are.
Somehow this irritated the old lady. I don't want to pry into
anybody's secrets, she saidleast of all, my son's. But I should
like to be so far frank with you as to ask you if Alick has ever talked
to you of the Trepells?
The Trepells? repeated Mrs. Otway slowly. No, I don't think so.
But wait a momentare they the people with whom he sometimes goes and
stays in Sussex?
Yes; he stayed with them just after Christmas. Then he has
talked to you of them?
I don't think he's ever exactly talked of them, answered Mrs.
Otway. She was trying to remember what it was that Major Guthrie had
said. Wasn't it something implying that he was going there to please
his motherthat he would far rather stay at home? But she naturally
did not put into words this vague recollection of what he had said
about theseyes, these Trepells. It's an odd name, and yet it seems
familiar to me, she said hesitatingly.
It's familiar to you because they are the owners of the celebrated
'Trepell's Polish,' said the old lady rather sharply. But they're
exceedingly nice people. And it's my impression that Alick is thinking
very seriously of the elder daughter. There are only two
daughtersnice, old-fashioned girls, brought up by a nice,
old-fashioned mother. The mother was the younger daughter of Lord
Dunsmuir, and the Dunsmuirs were friends of the GuthriesI mean of my
husband's peoplesince the year one. Their London house is in
Grosvenor Square. When I call Maisie Trepell a girl, I do not mean that
she is so very much younger than my son as to make the thought of such
a marriage absurd. She is nearer thirty than twenty, and he is
Is she the young lady who came to stay with you some time ago?
asked Mrs. Otway.
She was so much surprised, in a sense so much disturbed, by this
unexpected confidence that she really hardly knew what she was saying.
She had never thought of Major Guthrie as a marrying man. For one
thing, she had frequently had occasion to see him, not only with her
own daughter, but with other girls, and he had certainly never paid
them any special attention. But now she did remember vividly the fact
that a young lady had come and paid quite a long visit here before
Easter. But she remembered also that Major Guthrie had been away at the
Yes, Maisie came for ten days. Unfortunately, Alick had to go away
before she left, for he had taken an early spring fishing with a
friend. But I thoughtin fact, I rather hoped at the timethat he was
very much disappointed.
Yes, he naturally must have been, if what you say is and then
she stopped short, for she did not like to say if what you say is
true, so if what you say is likely to come to pass, she ended
I hope it will come to pass. Mrs. Guthrie spoke very seriously,
and once more she fixed her deep blue eyes on her visitor's face. I'm
seventy-one, not very old as people count age nowadays, but still I've
never been a strong woman, and I have a weak heart. I should not like
to leave my son to a lonely life and to a lonely old age. He's very
reservedhe hasn't made many friends in his long life. And I thought
it possible he might have confided to you rather than to me.
No, he never spoke of the matter to me at all; in fact, we have
never even discussed the idea of his marrying, said Mrs. Otway slowly.
Well, forget what I've said!
But Mrs. Guthrie's visitor went on, a little breathlessly and
impulsively: I quite understand how you feel about Major Guthrie, and
I daresay he would be happier married. Most people are, I think.
She got up; it was nearly sixtime for her to be starting on her
walk back to Witanbury.
Obeying a sudden impulse, she bent down and kissed the old lady
good-bye. There was no guile, no taint of suspiciousness, in Mary
Mrs. Guthrie had the grace to feel a little ashamed.
I hope you'll come again soon, my dear. She was surprised to feel
how smooth and how young was the texture of Mrs. Otway's soft,
generously-lipped mouth and rounded cheek.
There rose a feeling of real regret in her cynical old heart. She
likes him better than she knows, and far better than I thought she
did! she said to herself, as she watched the still light, still
singularly graceful-looking figure hurrying away towards the house.
As for Mrs. Otway, she felt oppressed, and yes, a little pained, by
the old lady's confidence. That what she had just been told might not
be true did not occur to her. What more natural than that Major Guthrie
should like a nice girlone, too, who was, it seemed, half Scotch? The
Trepells were probably in London even nowshe had seen it mentioned in
a paper that every one was still staying on in town. If so, Major
Guthrie was doubtless constantly in their company; and the letter she
had sowell, not exactly longed for, but certainly expected, might
even now be lying on the table in the hall of the Trellis House,
informing her of his engagement!
She remembered now what she had heard of the Trepells. It concerned
the great, the almost limitless, wealth brought in by their wonderful
polish. She found it difficult to think of Major Guthrie as a very rich
man. Of course, he would always remain, what he was now, a quiet,
unassuming gentleman; but all the same, she, Mary Otway, did feel that
somehow this piece of news made it impossible for her to accept the
loan he had so kindly and so delicately forced on her.
Mrs. Otway had a lively, a too lively, imagination, and it seemed to
her as if it was Miss Trepell's money which lay in the envelope now
locked away in her writing-table drawer. Indeed, had she known exactly
where Major Guthrie was just now, she would have returned it to him.
But supposing he had already started for France, and the registered
letter came back and was opened by his motherhow dreadful that would
When she reached home, and walked through into her cool, quiet
house, Mrs. Otway was quite surprised to find that there was no letter
from Major Guthrie lying for her on the hall table.
Rose Otway ran up to her room and locked the door. She had fled
there to read her first love-letter.
MY DARLING ROSE,This is only to tell you that I love you. I
have been writing letters to you in my heart ever since I went
away. But this is the first moment I have been able to put one
down on paper. Father and mother never leave methat sounds
absurd, but it's true. If father isn't there, then mother is.
Mother comes into my room after I am in bed, and tucks me up,
just as she used to do when I was a little boy.
It's a great rush, for what I have so longed for is going to
happen, so you must not be surprised if you do not have
another letter from me for some time. But you will know, my
darling love, that I am thinking of you all the time. I am so
happy, RoseI feel as if God has given me everything I ever
wanted all at once.
Your own devoted
And then there was a funny little postscript, which made her smile
through her tears: You will think this letter all my'I.' But that
doesn't really matter now, as you and I are one!
Rose soon learnt her first love-letter by heart. She made a little
silk envelope for it, and wore it on her heart. It was like a bit of
Jervis himselfdirect, simple, telling her all she wanted to know, yet
leaving much unsaid. Rose had once been shown a love-letter in which
the word kiss occurred thirty-four times. She was glad that there was
nothing of that sort in Jervis's letter, and yet she longed with a
piteous, aching longing to feel once more his arms clasping her close,
his lips trembling on hers....
At last her mother asked her casually, Has Jervis Blake written to
you, my darling? And she said, Yes, mother; once. I think he's busy,
getting his outfit.
Ah, well, they won't think of sending out a boy as young as that,
even if Major Guthrie was right in thinking our Army is going to
France. And Rose to that had made no answer. She was convinced that
Jervis was going on active service. There was one sentence in his
letter which could mean nothing else.
* * * * *
Life in Witanbury, after that first week of war, settled down much
as before. There was a general impression that everything was going
very well. The brave little Belgians were defending their country with
skill and tenacity, and the German Army was being held up.
The Close was full of mild amateur strategists, headed by the Dean
himself. Great as had been, and was still, his admiration for Germany,
Dr. Haworth was of course an Englishman first; and every day, when
opening his morning paper, he expected to learn that there had been
another Trafalgar. He felt certain that the German Fleet was sure to
make, as he expressed it, a dash for it. Germany was too gallant a
nation, and the Germans were too proud of their fleet, to keep their
fighting ships in harbour. The Dean of Witanbury, like the vast
majority of his countrymen and countrywomen, still regarded War as a
great game governed by certain well-known rules which both sides, as a
matter of course, would follow and abide by.
The famous cathedral city was doing quite nicely in the matter of
recruiting. And the largest local employer of labour, a man who owned a
group of ladies' high-grade boot and shoe factories, generously decided
that he would permit ten per cent. of those of his men who were of
military age to enlist; he actually promised as well to keep their
places open, and to give their wives, or their mothers, as the case
might be, half wages for the first six months of war.
A good many people felt aggrieved when it became known that Lady
Bethune was not going to give her usual August garden party. She
evidently did not hold with the excellent suggestion that England
should now take as her motto Business as Usual. True, a garden-party
is not exactly businessstill, it is one of those pleasures which the
great ladies of a country neighbourhood find it hard to distinguish
Yes, life went on quite curiously as usual during the second week of
the Great War, and to many of the more well-to-do people of Witanbury,
only brought in its wake a series of agreeable thrills and mild
Of course this was not quite the case with the inmates of the
Trellis House. Poor old Anna, for instance, very much disliked the
process of Registration. Still, it was made as easy and pleasant to her
as possible, and Mrs. Otway and Rose both accompanied her to the police
station. There, nothing could have been more kindly than the manner of
the police inspector who handed Anna Bauer her permit. He went to
some trouble in order to explain to her exactly what it was she might
and might not do.
As Anna seldom had any occasion to travel as far as five miles from
Witanbury Close, her registration brought with it no hardship at all.
Still, she was surprised and hurt to find herself described as an
enemy alien. She could assure herself, even now, that she had no bad
feelings against Englandno, none at all!
Though neither her good faithful servant nor her daughter guessed
the fact, Mrs. Otway was the one inmate of the Trellis House to whom
the War, so far, brought real unease. She felt jarred and
upsetanxious, too, as she had never yet been, about her money
More and more she missed Major Guthrie, and yet the thought of him
brought discomfort, almost pain, in its train. With every allowance
made, he was surely treating her in a very cavalier manner. How odd of
him not to have written! Whenever he had been away before, he had
always written to her, generally more than once; and now, when she felt
that their friendship had suddenly come closer, he left her without a
Her only comfort, during those strange days of restless waiting for
news which never came, were her daily talks with the Dean. Their mutual
love and knowledge of Germany had always been a strong link between
them, and it was stronger now than ever.
Alone of all the people she saw, Dr. Haworth managed to make her
feel at charity with Germany while yet quite confident with regard to
her country's part in the War. He did not say so in so many words, but
it became increasingly clear to his old friend and neighbour, that the
Dean believed that the Germans would soon be conquered, on land by
Russia and by France, while the British, following their good old rule,
would defeat them at sea.
Many a time, during those early days of war, Mrs. Otway felt a
thrill of genuine pity for Germany. True, the Militarist Party there
deserved the swift defeat that was coming on them; they deserved it
now, just as the French Empire had deserved it in 1870, though Mrs.
Otway could not believe that modern Germany was as arrogant and
confident as had been the France of the Second Empire.
Much as she missed Major Guthrie, she was sometimes glad that he was
not there tono, not to crow over her, he was incapable of doing that,
but to be proved right.
There was a great deal of talk of the mysterious passage of Russians
through the country. Some said there were twenty thousand, some a
hundred thousand, and the stories concerning this secret army of
avengers grew more and more circumstantial. They reached Witanbury
Close from every quarter. And though for a long time the Dean held out,
he at last had to admit that, yes, he did believe that a Russian army
was being swiftly, secretly transferred, via Archangel and
Scotland, to the Continent! More than one person declared that they had
actually seen Cossacks peeping out of the windows of the trains
which, with blinds down, were certainly rushing through Witanbury
station, one every ten minutes, through each short summer night.
All the people the Otways knew took great glory and comfort in these
rumours, but Mrs. Otway heard the news with very mixed feelings. It
seemed to her scarcely fair that a Russian army should come, as it
were, on the sly, to attack the Germans in Franceand she did not like
to feel that England would for ever and for aye have to be grateful to
Russia for having sent an army to her help.
* * * * *
It was the morning of the 18th of Augustexactly a fortnight, that
is, since England's declaration of war on Germany. Coming down to
breakfast, Mrs. Otway suddenly realised what a very, very long
fortnight this had beenthe longest fortnight in her life as a
grown-up woman. She felt what she very seldom was, depressed, and as
she went into the dining-room she was sorry to see that there was a
sullen look on old Anna's face.
Good morning! she said genially in German. And in reply the old
servant, after a muttered Good morning, gracious lady, went on, in a
tone of suppressed anger, Did you not tell me that the English were
not going to fight my people? That it was all a mistake?
Mrs. Otway looked surprised. Yes, I feel sure that no soldiers are
going abroad, she said quietly. The Dean says that our Army is to be
kept at home, to defend our shores, Anna.
She spoke rather coldly; there was a growing impression in Witanbury
that the Germans might try to invade England, and behave here as they
were behaving in Belgium. Though Mrs. Otway and Rose tried to believe
that the horrible stories of burning and murder then taking place in
Flanders were exaggerated, still some of them were very circumstantial
and, in fact, obviously true.
Languidly, for there never seemed any real news nowadays, she opened
wide her newspaper. And then her heart gave a leap! Printed right
across the page, in huge black letters, ran the words:
BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN FRANCE.
And underneath, in smaller type:
LANDED AT BOULOGNE WITHOUT A SINGLE CASUALTY.
Then Major Guthrie had been right and the Dean wrong? And this was
why Anna had spoken as she had done just now, in that rather rude and
Later in the morning, when she met the Dean, he showed himself, as
might have been expected, very frank and genial about the matter.
I have to admit that I was wrong, he observed; quite wrong. I
certainly thought it impossible that any British troops could cross the
Channel till a decisive fleet action had been fought. And, wellI
don't mind saying to you, Mrs. Otway, I still think it a pity
that we have sent our Army abroad.
* * * * *
Three days later Rose and her mother each received a quaint-looking
postcard from Somewhere in France. There was neither postmark nor
date. The first four words were printed, but what was really very
strange was the fact that the sentences written in were almost similar
in each case. But whereas Jervis Blake wrote his few words in English,
Major Guthrie's few words were written in French.
Jervis Blake's postcard ran:
I AM QUITE WELL and very happy. This is a glorious country. I will
write a letter soon. And then J. B.
That of Major Guthrie:
I AM QUITE WELL. Then, in queer archaic French, and all goes well
with me. I trust it is the same with thee. Will write soon.
But he, mindful of the fact that it was an open postcard, with your
Scotchman's true caution, had not even added his initials.
Mrs. Otway's only comment on hearing that Jervis Blake had written
Rose a postcard from France, had been the words, said feelingly, and
with a sigh, Ah, well! So he has gone out too? He is very young to see
something of real war. But I expect that it will make a man of him,
For a moment Rose had longed to throw herself in her mother's arms
and tell her the truth; then she had reminded herself that to do so
would not be fair to Jervis. Jervis would have told his people of their
engagement if she had allowed him to do so. It was she who had
prevented it. And thenand thenRose also knew, deep in her heart,
that if anything happened to Jervis, she would far rather bear the
agony alone. She loved her mother dearly, but she told herself, with
the curious egoism of youth, that her mother would not understand.
Rose had been four years old when her father died; she thought she
could remember him, but it was a very dim, shadowy memory. She did not
realise, even now, that her mother had once loved, once lost, once
suffered. She did not believe that her mother knew anything of loveof
real love, of true love, of such love as now bound herself to Jervis
Her mother no doubt supposed Rose's friendship with Jervis Blake to
be like her own friendship with Major Guthriea cold, sensible, placid
affair. In fact, she had said, with a smile, It's rather amusing,
isn't it, that Jervis should write to you, and Major Guthrie to me, by
the same post?
But neither mother nor daughter had offered to show her postcard to
the other. There was so little on them that it had not seemed
necessary. Of the two, it was Mrs. Otway who felt a little shy. The
wording of Major Guthrie's postcard was so peculiar! Of course he did
not know French well, or he would have put what he wanted to say
differently. He would have said you instead of thee. She was rather
glad that her dear little Rose had not asked to see it. Still, its
arrival mollified her sore, hurt feeling that he might have written
before. Instead of tearing it up, as she had always done the letters
Major Guthrie had written to her in the old days that now seemed so
very long ago, she slipped that curious war postcard inside the
envelope in which were placed his bank-notes.
August 23, 1914! A date which will be imprinted on the heart, and on
the tablets of memory, of every Englishman and Englishwoman of our
generation. To the majority of thinking folk, that was the last Sunday
we any of us spent in the old, prosperous, happy, confiding
Englandthe England who considered that might as a matter of course
follows rightthe England whose grand old motto was Victory as
Usual, and to whom the word defeat was without significance.
Almost the whole population of Witanbury seemed to have felt a
common impulse to attend the evening service in the cathedral. They
streamed in until the stately black-gowned vergers were quite worried
to find seats for the late comers. In that great congregation there was
already a certain leaven of anxious heartsnot over-anxious, you
understand, but naturally uneasy because those near and dear to them
had gone away to a foreign country, to fight an unknown foe.
It was known that the minor canon who was on the rota to preach this
evening had gracefully yielded the privilege to the Dean, and this
accounted, in part at least, for the crowds who filled the great
When Dr. Haworth mounted the pulpit and prepared to begin his
sermon, which he had striven to make worthy of the occasion, he felt a
thrill of satisfaction as his eyes suddenly lighted on the man whom he
still instinctively thought of by his old name of Manfred Hegner.
Yes, there they were, Hegner and his wife, at the end of a row of
chairs, a long way down; she looking very pretty and graceful,
instinctively well-dressed in her grey muslin Sunday gown and wide
floppy hatlooking, indeed, quite the lady, as more than one of her
envious neighbours had said to themselves when seeing her go by on her
Because of the presence of this man who, though German-born, had
elected to become an Englishman, and devote his very considerable
intelligencethe Dean prided himself on his knowledge of human nature,
and on his quickness in detecting humble talentto the service of his
adopted country, the sermon was perhaps a thought more fair, even
cordial, to Britain's formidable enemy, than it would otherwise have
The messages of the King and of Lord Kitchener to the Expeditionary
Force gave the Dean a fine text for his discourse, and he paid a very
moving and eloquent tribute to the Silence of the People. He reminded
his hearers that even if they, in quiet Witanbury, knew nothing of the
great and stirring things which were happening elsewhere, there must
have been thousandsit might truly be said tens of thousandsof men
and women who had known that our soldiers were leaving their country
for France. And yet not a word had been said, not a hint conveyed,
either privately or in the press. He himself had one who was very dear
and near to his own dearest and nearest, in that Expeditionary Force,
and yet not a word had been breathed, even to him.
Then he went on to a sadder and yet in its way an even more glorious
themethe loss of His Majesty's good ship Amphion. He described
the splendid discipline of the men, the magnificent courage of the
captain, who, when recovering from a shock which had stretched him
insensible, had rushed to stop the engines. He told with what composure
the men had fallen in, and how everything had been done, without hurry
or confusion, in the good old British sea way; and how, thanks to that,
twenty minutes after the Amphion had struck a mine, men,
officers, and captain had left the ship.
And after he had finished his addresshe kept it quite short, for
Dr. Haworth was one of those rare and wise men who never preach a long
sermonthe whole congregation rose to their feet and sang God Save
* * * * *
This golden feeling of security, of happy belief that all was, and
must be, well, lasted till the following afternoon. And the first of
the dwellers in Witanbury Close to have that comfortable feeling
shatteredshattered for everwas Mrs. Otway.
She was about to pay a late call on Mrs. Robey, who, after all, had
not taken her children to the seaside. Rather to the amusement of his
neighbours, Mr. Robey, who was moving heaven and earth to get some kind
of War Office job, had bluntly declared that, however much people might
believe in business as usual, he was not going to practice pleasure
as usual while his country was at war.
Mrs. Otway stepped out of her gate, and before turning to the right
she looked to the left, as people will. The Dean was at the corner,
apparently on his way back from the town. He held an open paper in his
hand, and though that was not in itself a strange thing, there suddenly
came over the woman who stood looking at him a curious feeling of
unreasoning fear, a queer prevision of evil. She began walking towards
him, and he, after hesitating for a moment, came forward to meet her.
There's serious news! he cried. Namur has fallen!
Now, only that morning Mrs. Otway had read in a leading article the
words, Namur is impregnable, or, if not impregnable, will certainly
hold out for months. That this is so is fortunate, for we cannot
disguise from ourselves that Namur is the key to France.
Are you sure that the news is true? she asked quietly, and,
disturbed as he was himself, the Dean was surprised to see the change
which had come over his neighbour's face; it suddenly looked aged and
Yes, I'm afraid it's truein fact, it's official. Still, I don't
know that the falling of a fortress should really affect our
Mary Otway did not pay her proposed call on Mrs. Robey. Instead, she
retraced her steps into the Trellis House, and looked eagerly through
the papers of the last few days. She no longer trusted the Dean and his
easy-going optimism. The fall of Namur without effect on the
Expeditionary Force? As she read on, even she saw that it was bound to
haveperhaps it had already hadan overwhelming effect on the
fortunes of the little British Army.
From that hour onwards a heavy cloud of suspense and of fear hung
over Witanbury Close: over the Deanery, where the cherished youngest
daughter tried in vain to be brave, and to conceal her miserable
state of suspense from her father and mother; over Robey's, all of
whose young men were in the Expeditionary Force; and very loweringly
over the Trellis House.
What was now happening over there, in France, or in Flanders? People
asked each other the question with growing uneasiness.
The next day, that is, on the Tuesday, sinister rumours swept over
Witanburyrumours that the British had suffered a terrible defeat at a
place called Mons.
In her restlessness and eager longing for news, Mrs. Otway after tea
went into the town. She had an excuse, an order to give in at the
Stores, and there the newly-named Alfred Head came forward, and
attended on her, as usual, himself.
There seems to be serious news, he said respectfully. I am told
that the English Army has been encircled, much as was the French Army
at Sedan in 1870.
As he spoke, fixing his prominent eyes on her face, Mr. Head's
customer now suddenly felt an inexplicable shrinking from this
smooth-tongued German-born man.
Oh, we must hope it is not as bad as that, she exclaimed hastily.
Have you any real reason for believing such a thing to be true, Mr.
HegI mean, Mr. Head?
And he answered regretfully, One of my customers has just told me
so, ma'am. He said the news had come from Londonthat is my only
reason for believing it. We will hope it is a mistake.
* * * * *
After leaving the Stores, Mrs. Otway, following a sudden impulse,
began walking rather quickly down the long street which led out of
Witanbury towards the village where the Guthries lived. Why should she
not go out and pay a late call on the old lady? If any of these
dreadful rumours had reached Dorycote House, Mrs. Guthrie must surely
be very much upset.
Her kind thought was rewarded by a sight of the letter Major Guthrie
had left to be posted to his mother on the 18th of August, that is, on
the day when was to be published the news that the Expeditionary Force
had landed safely in France.
The letter was, like its writer, kind, thoughtful, considerate; and
as she read it Mrs. Otway felt a little pang of jealous pain. She
wished that he had written her a letter like that, instead of a
rather ridiculous postcard. Still, as she read the measured, reassuring
sentences, she felt soothed and comforted. She knew that she was not
reasonable, yetyet it seemed impossible that the man who had written
that letter, and the many like him who were out there, could allow
themselves to be surrounded and capturedby Germans!
He has also sent me a rather absurd postcard, observed the old
lady casually. I say absurd because it is not dated, and because he
also forgot to put the name of the place where he wrote it. It simply
says that he is quite well, and that I shall hear from him as soon as
he can find time to write a proper letter.
She waited a few moments, and then went on: Of course I felt a
little upset when I realised that Alick had really gone on active
service. But I know how he would have felt being left behind.
Then, rather to her visitor's discomfiture, Mrs. Guthrie turned the
subject away from her son, and from what was going on in France. She
talked determinedly of quite other thingsthough even then she could
not help going very near the subject.
I understand, she exclaimed, that Lady Bethune is giving up her
garden-party to-morrow! I'm told she feels that it would be wrong to be
merrymaking while some of our men and officers may be fighting and
dying. But I quite disagree, and I'm sure, my dear, that you do too. Of
course it is the duty of the women of England, at such a time as this,
to carry on their social duties exactly as usual.
I can't quite make up my mind about that, replied her visitor
When Mrs. Otway rose to go, the old lady suddenly softened. You'll
come again soon, won't you? she said eagerly. Though I never saw two
people more unlike, still, in a curious kind of way, you remind me of
Alick! That must be because you and he are such friends. I suppose he
wrote to you before leaving England? She looked rather sharply out of
her still bright blue eyes at the woman now standing before her.
Mrs. Otway shook her head. No, Major Guthrie did not write to me
before leaving England.
Ah, well, he was very busy, and my son's the sort of man who always
chooses to do his duty before he takes his pleasure. He can write quite
a good letter when he takes the trouble.
Yes, indeed he can, said Mrs. Otway simply, and Mrs. Guthrie
As she walked home, Mary Otway pondered a little over the last words
of her talk with Mrs. Guthrie. It was true, truer than Mrs. Guthrie
knew, that she and Major Guthrie were friends. A man does not press an
unsolicited loan of a hundred pounds on a woman unless he has a kindly
feeling for her; still less does he leave her a legacy in his will.
And then there swept a feeling of pain over her burdened heart. That
legacy, which she had only considered as a token of the testator's
present friendly feeling, had become in the last few hours an ominous
possibility. She suddenly realised that Major Guthrie, before leaving
England, had made what Jervis Blake had once called a steeplechase
* * * * *
Rumours soon grew into certainties. It was only too true that the
British Army was now falling back, back, back, fighting a series of
what were called by the unfamiliar name of rearguard actions; and at
last there came the official statement, Our casualties have been very
heavy, but the exact numbers are not yet known.
After that, as the days went on, Rose Otway began to wear a most
ungirlish look of strain and of suspense; but no one, to her secret
relief, perceived that she looked any differentall the sympathy of
the Close was concentrated on Edith Haworth, for it was known that the
cavalry had been terribly cut up. Still, towards the end of that
dreadful week, Rose's mother suddenly woke up to the fact that Rose had
fallen into the way of walking to the station in order to get the
evening paper from London half an hour before it could reach the Close.
It was their good old Anna who consoled and sustained the girl
during those first days of strain and of suspense. Anna was never tired
of repeating in her comfortable, cosy, easy-going way, that after all
very few soldiers really get killed in battle. She, Anna, had
had a brother, and many of her relations, fighting in 1870, and only
one of them all had been killed.
The old woman kept her own personal feelings entirely to
herselfand indeed those feelings were very mixed. Of course she did
not share the now universal suspense, surprise, and grief, for to her
mind it was quite right and natural that the Germans should beat the
English. What would have been really most disturbing and unnatural
would have been if the English had beaten the Germans!
But even so she was taken aback by the secret, fierce exultation
which Manfred Hegnershe could not yet bring herself to call him
Alfred Headdisplayed, when he and she were left for three or four
minutes alone by his wife, Polly.
Since that pleasant evening they had spent togetherit now seemed a
long time ago, yet it was barely a fortnightAnna had fallen into the
way of going to the Stores twice, and even three times, a week, to
supper. Her host flattered her greatly by pointing out that the
information she had given him concerning Major Guthrie and the
Expeditionary Force, as it was oddly called, had been sound. Frankly he
had exclaimed, As the days went on and nothing was known, I thought
you must have been mistaken, Frau Bauer. But you did me a good turn,
and one I shall not forget! I have already sold some of the goods
ordered with a view to soldier customers, for they were goods which can
be useful abroad, and I hear a great many parcels will soon be sent
out. For that I shall open a special department!
To her pleased surprise, he had pressed half a crown on her; and
after a little persuasion she had accepted it. After all, she had a
right, under their old agreement, to a percentage on any profit she
brought him! That news about Major Guthrie had thus procured a very
easily earned half-crown, even more easily earned than the money she
had received for sending off the telegram to Spain. Anna hoped that
similar opportunities of doing Mr. Hegner a good turn would often come
her way. But still, she hated this war, and with the whole of her warm,
sentimental German heart she hoped that Mr. Jervis Blake would soon be
back home safe and sound. He was a rich, generous young gentleman, the
very bridegroom for her beloved Miss Rose.
Sunday, the 30th of August. But oh, what a different Sunday from
that of a week ago! The morning congregation in Witanbury Cathedral was
larger than it had ever been before, and over every man and woman there
hung an awful pall of suspense, and yes, of fear, as to what the morrow
might bring forth.
Both the post and the Sunday papers were late. They had not even
been delivered by church time, and that added greatly, with some of
those who were gathered there, to the general feeling of anxiety and
In the sermon that he preached that day the Dean struck a stern and
feeling note. He told his hearers that now not only their beloved
country, but each man and woman before him, must have a heart for every
fate. He, the speaker, would not claim any special knowledge, but they
all knew that the situation was very serious. Even so, it would be a
great mistake, and a great wrong, to give way to despair. He would go
further, and say that even despondency was out of place.
Only a day or two ago he had been offered, and he had purchased, the
diary of a citizen of Witanbury written over a hundred years ago, and
from a feeling of natural curiosity he had looked up the entries in the
August of that year. Moved and interested indeed had he been to find
that Witanbury just then had been expecting a descent on the town by
the French, and on one night it was rumoured that a strong force had
actually landed, and was marching on the city! Yet the writer of that
diaryhe was only a humble blacksmithhad put in simple and yet very
noble language his conviction that old England would never go down,
if only she remained true to herself.
It was this fine message from the past which the Dean brought to the
people of Witanbury that day. What had been true when we had been
fighting a far greater man than any of those we were fighting
to-dayhe meant of course Napoleonwas even truer now than then. All
would be, must be, ultimately well, if England to herself would stay
A few of those who listened with uplifted hearts to the really
inspiriting discourse, noted with satisfaction that, for the first time
since the declaration of war, Dr. Haworth paid no tribute to the enemy.
The word Germany did not even pass his lips.
And then, when at the end of the service Mrs. Otway and Rose were
passing through the porch, Mrs. Otway felt herself touched on the arm.
She turned round quickly to find Mrs. Haworth close to her.
I've been wondering if Rose would come back with me and see Edith?
I'm sorry to say the poor child isn't at all well to-day. And so we
persuaded her to stay in bed. You seeshe lowered her voice, and that
though there was no one listening to themyou see, we hear privately
that the cavalry were very heavily engaged last Wednesday, and that the
casualties have been terribly heavy. My poor child says very little,
but it's evident that she's so miserably anxious that she can think of
nothing else. Her father thinks she's fretting because we would not
allowor perhaps I ought to say we discouraged the idea ofa hasty
marriage. I feel sure it would do Edith good to see some one,
especially a dear little friend like Rose, who has no connection with
the Army, and who can look at things in a sensible, normal manner.
And so mother and daughter, for an hour, went their different ways,
and Mrs. Otway, as she walked home alone, told herself that anxiety
became Mrs. Haworth, that it rendered the Dean's wife less brusque, and
made her pleasanter and kindlier in manner. Poor Edith was her ewe
lamb, the prettiest of the daughters whom she had started so
successfully out into the world, and the one who was going to make,
from a worldly point of view, the best marriage. Yes, it would indeed
be a dreadful thing if anything happened to Sir Hugh Severn.
Casualties? What an odd, sinister word! One with which it was
difficult to become familiar. But it was evidently the official word.
Not for the first time she reminded herself of the exact words the
Prime Minister in the House of Commons had used. They had been Our
casualties are very heavy, though the exact numbers are not yet known.
Mrs. Otway wondered uneasily when they would become knownhow soon,
that is, a mother, a sister, a lover, and yes, a friend, would learn
that the man who was beloved, cherished, or close and dear as a friend
may be, had becomewhat was the horrible word?a casualty.
She walked through into her peaceful, pretty house. Unless the
household were all out, the front door was never locked, for there was
nothing to steal, and no secrets to pry out, in the Trellis House. And
then, on the hall table, she saw the belated evening paper which she
had missed this morning, and two or three letters. Taking up the paper
and the letters, she went straight through into the garden. It would be
pleasanter to read out there than indoors.
With a restful feeling that no one was likely to come in and disturb
her yet awhile, she sat down in the basket-chair which had already been
put out by her thoughtful old Anna. And then, quite suddenly, she
caught sight of the middle letter of the three she had gathered up in
such careless haste. It was an odd-looking envelope, of thin, common
paper covered with pale blue lines; but it bore her address written in
Major Guthrie's clear, small, familiar handwriting, and on the
right-hand corner was the usual familiar penny stamp. That stamp was,
of course, a positive proof that he was home again.
For quite a minute she simply held the envelope in her hand. She
felt so relieved, and yes, so ridiculously happy, that after the first
moment of heartfelt joy there came a pang of compunction. It was wrong,
it was unnatural, that the safety of one human being should so
affect her. She was glad that this curious revulsion of feeling, this
passing from gloom and despondency to unreasoning peace and joy, should
have taken place when she was by herself. She would have been ashamed
that Rose should have witnessed it.
And then, with a certain deliberation, she opened the envelope, and
drew out the oddly-shaped piece of paper it contained.
This is what she read:
Every letter sent by the usual channel is read and, very
properly, censored. I do not choose that this letter should be
seen by any eyes but mine and yours. I have therefore asked,
and received, permission to send this by an old friend who is
leaving for England with despatches.
The work has been rather heavy. I have had very little sleep
since Sunday, so you must forgive any confusion of thought or
unsuitable expressions used by me to you. Unfortunately I have
lost my kit, but the old woman in whose cottage I am resting
for an hour has good-naturedly provided me with paper and
envelopes. Luckily I managed to keep my fountain-pen.
I wish to tell you now what I have long desired to tell
youthat I love youthat it has long been my greatest, nay,
my only wish, that you should become my wife. Sometimes,
lately, I have thought that I might persuade you to let me
In so thinking I may have been a presumptuous fool. Be that
as it may, I want to tell you that our friendship has meant a
very great deal to me; that without it I should have been,
during the last four years, a most unhappy man.
And now I must close this hurriedly written and poorly
expressed letter. It does not say a tenthnay, it does not
say a thousandth part of what I would fain say. But let me,
for the first, and perhaps for the last time, call you my
Then followed his initials A. G., and a postscript: As to what
has been happening here, I will only quote to you Napier's grand words:
'Then was seen with what majesty the British soldier fights.'
Mrs. Otway read the letter right through twice. Then, slowly,
deliberately, she folded it up and put it back in its envelope.
Uncertainly she looked at her little silk handbag. No, she could not
put it there, where she kept her purse, her engagement book, her
handkerchief. For the moment, at any rate, it would be safest
elsewhere. With a quick furtive movement she thrust it into her bodice,
close to her beating heart.
Mrs. Otway looked up to a sudden sight of Roseof Rose unusually
Oh, mother, she cried, such a strange, dreadful, extraordinary
thing has happened! Old Mrs. Guthrie is dead. The butler telephoned to
the Deanery, and he seems in a dreadful state of mind. Mrs. Haworth
says she can't possibly go out there this morning, and they were
wondering whether you would mind going. The Dean says he was out there
only yesterday, and that Mrs. Guthrie spoke as if you were one of her
dearest friends. Wasn't that strange?
Rose looked very much shocked and distressedcuriously so,
considering how little she had known Mrs. Guthrie. But there is
something awe-inspiring to a young girl in the sudden death of even an
old person. Only three days ago Mrs. Guthrie had entertained Rose with
an amusing account of her first balla ball given at the Irish
Viceregal Court in the days when, as the speaker had significantly put
it, it really was a Court in Dublin. And when Rose and her
mother had said good-bye, she had pressed them to come again soon;
while to the girl: I don't often see anything so fresh and pretty as
you are, my dear! she had exclaimed.
Mrs. Otway heard Rose's news with no sense of surprise. She felt as
if she were living in a dreama dream which was at once poignantly sad
and yet exquisitely, unbelievably happy. I have been there several
times lately, she said, in a low voice, and I had grown quite fond of
her. Of course I'll go. Will you telephone for a fly? I'd rather be
alone there, my dear.
Rose lingered on in the garden for a moment. Then she said slowly,
reluctantly: And mother? I'm afraid there's rather bad news of Major
Guthrie. It came last night, before Mrs. Guthrie went to bed. The
butler says she took it very bravely and quietly, but I suppose it was
that whichwhich brought about her death.
What is the news?
Mrs. Otway's dream-impression vanished. She got up from the
basket-chair in which she had been sitting, and her voice to herself
sounded strangely loud and unregulated.
What is it, Rose? Why don't you tell me? Has he been killed?
Oh, noit's not as bad as that! Oh! mother, don't look so
unhappyit's only that he's 'wounded and missing.'
No, ma'am, there was nothing, ma'am, to act, so to speak, in the
nature of a warning. Mrs. Guthrie had much enjoyed your visit, and, if
I may say so, ma'am, the visit of your young lady, last Thursday.
Yesterday she was more cheerful-like than usual, talking a good bit
about the Russians. She said that their coming to our help just now in
the way they had done had quite reconciled her to them.
Howse, Major Guthrie's butler, his one-time soldier-servant, was
speaking. By his side was Mrs. Guthrie's elderly maid, Ponting. Mrs.
Otway was standing opposite to them, and they were all three in the
middle of the pretty, cheerful morning-room, where it seemed but a few
hours ago since she and her daughter had sat with the old lady.
With the mingled pomp, enjoyment, and grief which the presence of
death creates in a certain type of mind, Howse went on speaking: She
made quite a hearty tea for hertwo bits of bread and butter, and a
little piece of tea-cake. And then for her supper she had a
sweetbreada sweetbread and bacon. It's a comfort to Cook now, ma'am,
to remember as how Mrs. Guthrie sent her a message, saying how nicely
she thought the bacon had been done. Mrs. Guthrie always liked the
bacon to be very dry and curly, ma'am.
He stopped for a moment, and Mrs. Otway's eyes filled with tears for
the first time.
On entering the house, she had at once been shown the War Office
telegram stating that Major Guthrie was wounded and missing, and she
had glanced over it with shuddering distress and pain, while her brain
kept repeating wounded and missingwounded and missing. What exactly
did those sinister words signify? How, if he was missing, could they
know he was wounded? How, if he had been wounded, could he be missing?
But soon she had been forced to command her thoughts, and to listen,
with an outward air of calmness and interest, to this detailed account
of the poor old lady's last hours.
With unconscious gusto, Howse again took up the sad tale, while the
maid stood by, with reddened eyelids, ready to echo and to supplement
Perhaps Mrs. Guthrie was not quite as well as she seemed to be,
ma'am, for she wouldn't take any dessert, and after she had finished
her dinner she didn't seem to want to sit up for a while, as she
sometimes did. When she became so infirm, a matter of two years ago,
the Major arranged that his study should be turned into a bedroom for
her, ma'am, so we wheeled her in there after dinner.
After a pause, he went on with an added touch of gloom: She gazed
her last upon the dining-room, and on this 'ere little room, which was,
so to speak, ma'am, her favourite sitting-room. Isn't that so,
Ponting? The maid nodded, and Howse said sadly: Ponting will now tell
you what happened after that, ma'am.
Ponting waited a moment, and then began: My mistress didn't seem
inclined to go to bed at once, so I settled her down nicely and
comfortably with her reading-lamp and a copy of The World
newspaper. She found the papers very dull lately, poor old lady, for
you see, ma'am, there was nothing in them but things about the war, and
she didn't much care for that. But she can't have been reading more
than five minutes when there came the telegram.
Howse held up his hand, for it was here that he again came on the
The minute the messenger boy handed me the envelope, he exclaimed,
I says to myself, 'That's bad newsbad news of the Major!' I sorely
felt tempted to open it. But there! I knew if I did so it would anger
Mrs. Guthrie. She was a lady, ma'am, who always knew her own mind. It
wasn't even addressed 'Guthrie,' you see, but 'Mrs. Guthrie,' as plain
as plain could be. The boy 'ad brought it to the front door, and as we
was having our supper I didn't want to disturb Ponting. So I just
walked along to Mrs. Guthrie's bedroom, and knocked. She calls out,
'Come in!' And I answers, 'There's a telegram for you, ma'am. Would you
like me to send Ponting in with it?' And she calls out, 'No, Howse.
Bring it in yourself.'
I shall never forget seeing her open it, poor old lady. She did it
quite deliberate-like; then, after just reading it over, she looked up
straight at me. 'I know you'll be sorry to hear, Howse, as how Major
Guthrie is wounded and missing,' she said, and then, 'I need not tell
you, who are an old soldier, Howse, that such are the fortunes of war.'
Those, ma'am, were her exact words. Of course I explained how sorry I
was, and I did my very best to hide from her how bad I took the news to
be. 'I think I would like to be alone now, Howse,' she says, 'just for
a little while.' And then, 'We must hope for better news in the
morning.' I asked her, 'Would you like me to send Ponting up to you,
ma'am?' But she shook her head: 'No, Howse, I would rather be by
myself. I will ring when I require Ponting. I do not feel as if I
should care to go to bed just yet,' she says quite firmly.
Well, ma'am, we had of course to obey her orders, but we all felt
very uncomfortable. And as a matter of fact in about half an hour
Ponting did make an excuse to go into the roomhe looked at the woman
by his side. You just tell Mrs. Otway what happened, he said, in a
tone of command.
Ponting meekly obeyed.
I just opened the door very quietly, and Mrs. Guthrie did not turn
round. Without being at all deaf, my mistress had got a little hard of
hearing, lately. I went a step forward, and then I saw that she was
reading the Bible. I was very much surprised, madam, for it was the
first time I had ever seen her do such a thingthough of course there
was always a Bible and a Prayer Book close to her hand. She was wheeled
into church each Sundaywhen it was fine, that is. The Major saw to
that.... I couldn't help feeling sorry she hadn't rung and asked me to
move the Book for her, for it is a big Bible, with very clear print.
She was following the words with her finger, and that was a thing I had
never seen her do before with any book. As she did not turn round, I
said to myself that it was better not to disturb her. So I just backed
very quietly out of the door again. I shall always be glad, she said,
in a lower tone, that I saw her like that.
And then, interposed Howse, quite a long time went on, ma'am, and
we all got to feel very uneasy. We none of us liked to go upnot one
of us. But at last three of us went up togetherCook, me, and
Pontingand listened at the door. But try our hardest, as we did, we
could hear nothing. It was the stillness of death!
Yes, said Ponting, her voice sinking to a whisper, that's what it
was. For when at last I opened the door, there lay my poor mistress all
huddled up in the chair, just as she had fallen back. We sent for the
doctor at once, but he said there was nothing to be donethat her
heart had just stopped. He said it might have happened any time in the
last two years, or she might have lived on for quite a long time, if
all had gone on quiet and serene.
We've left the Bible just as it was, said Howse slowly. It's just
covered over, so that the Major, if ever he should come home
again, though I fear that's very unlikelyhe dolefully shook his
headmay see what it was her eyes last rested on. Major Guthrie, if
you would excuse me for saying so, ma'am, has always been a far more
religious gentleman than his mother was a religious lady. I feel sure
it would comfort him to know that just before her end she was reading
It was open at the twenty-second Psalm, added Ponting, and when I
came in that time and saw her without her seeing me, she must have been
just reading the verse about the dog.
The dog? said Mrs. Otway, surprised.
Yes, madam. 'Deliver my soul from the sword: my darling from the
power of the dog.'
Howse here chimed in, Her darling, that's the Major, and the dog is
the enemy, ma'am.
He paused, and then went on, in a brisker, more cheerful tone:
I telegraphed the very first thing to Mr. Allenthat's Major
Guthrie's lawyer, ma'am. The Major told me I was to do that, if
anything awkward happened. Then it just occurred to me that I would
telephone to the Deanery. The Dean was out here yesterday afternoon,
ma'am, and Mrs. Guthrie liked him very much. Long ago, when she lived
in London, she used to know the parents of the young gentleman to whom
Miss Haworth is engaged to be married. They had quite a long pleasant
talk about it all. I had meant, ma'am, if you'll excuse my telling you,
to telephone to you next, and then I heard as how you were coming here.
The Major did tell me the morning he went away that if Mrs. Guthrie
seemed really ailing, I was to ask you to be kind enough to come and
see her. Of course I knew where he was going, and that he'd be away for
a long time, though he didn't say anything to me about it. But he knew
that I knew, right enough!
Had Mrs. Guthrie no near relation at allno sister, no nieces?
asked Mrs. Otway, in a low voice. Again she felt she was living in a
dreamland of secret, poignant emotions shadowed by a great suspense and
No. Nothing of the kind, said Howse confidently. And on Major
Guthrie's side there was only distant cousins. It's a peculiar kind of
situation altogether, ma'am, if I may say so. Quite a long time may
pass before we know whether the Major is alive or dead. 'Wounded and
missing'? We all knows as how there is only one thing worse that could
be than thatdon't we, ma'am?
I don't quite know what you mean, Howse.
Why, the finding and identifying of the Major's body, ma'am.
* * * * *
Through the still, silent house there came a loud, long, insistent
ringingthat produced by an old-fashioned front door bell.
I expect it's Mr. Allen, exclaimed Howse. He wired as how he'd be
down by two o'clock. And a few moments later a tall, dark,
clean-shaven man was shaking hands, with the words, I think you must
be Mrs. Otway?
There was little business doing just then among London solicitors,
and so Mr. Allen had come down himself. He had a very friendly regard
for his wounded and missing client, and his recollection of the
interview which had taken place on the day before Major Guthrie had
sailed with the First Division of the Expeditionary Force was still
very vivid in his mind.
His client had surprised him very much. He had thought he knew
everything about Major Guthrie and Major Guthrie's business, but before
receiving the latter's instructions about his new will he had never
heard of Mrs. Otway and her daughter. Yet, if Major Guthrie outlived
his mother, as it was of course reasonable, even under the
circumstances, to suppose that he would do, a considerable sum of money
was to pass under his will to Mrs. Otway, and, failing her, to her only
child, Rose Otway.
Strange confidences are very often made to lawyers, quite as often
as to doctors. But Major Guthrie, when he came to sign his will, the
will for which he had sent such precise and detailed instructions a few
days before, made no confidences at all.
Even so, the solicitor, putting two and two together, had very
little doubt as to the relations of his client and of the lady whom he
had made his residuary legatee. He felt sure that there was an
understanding between them that either after the war, or after Mrs.
Guthrie's deathhe could not of course tell whichthey intended to
make one of those middle-aged marriages which often, strange to say,
turn out more happily than earlier marriages are sometimes apt to do.
The lawyer naturally kept his views to himself during the afternoon
he spent at Dorycote House, and he simply treated Mrs. Otway as though
she had been a near relation of the deceased lady. What, however,
increased his belief that his original theory was correct, was the fact
that there was no mention of Mrs. Otway's name in Mrs. Guthrie's will.
The old lady, like so many women, had preferred to keep her will in her
own possession. It had been made many years before, and in it she had
left everything to her son, with the exception of a few trinkets which
were to be distributed among certain old friends and acquaintances,
fully half of whom, it was found on reference to Ponting, had
predeceased the testator.
As the hours went on, Mr. Allen could not help wondering if Mrs.
Otway was aware of the contents of Major Guthrie's will. He watched her
with considerable curiosity. She was certainly attractive, and yes,
quite intelligent; but she hardly spoke at all, and there was a kind of
numbness in her manner which he found rather trying. She did not once
mention Major Guthrie of her own accord. She always left such mention
to him. He told himself that doubtless it was this quietude of manner
which had attracted his reserved client.
I suppose, he said at last, that we must presume that Major
Guthrie is alive till we have an official statement to the contrary?
And then he was startled to see the vivid expression of pain, almost of
anguish, which quivered over her eyes and mouth. Then she did care,
Howse tells me, she said slowly, that Major Guthrie is probably a
prisoner. He says, he says and then she stopped abruptlyit was
as if she could not go on with her sentence, and Mr. Allen exclaimed,
I heard what he said, Mrs. Otway. Of course he is right in stating
that an effort is always made to find and bring in the bodies of dead
officers. But I fear that this war is not at all like the only war of
which Howse has had any first-hand knowledge. This last week has been a
very bad business. Still, I quite agree that we must not give up hope.
I have been wondering whether you would like me to make inquiries at
the War Office, or whether you have any better and quickerI mean of
course by that any privatemeans of procuring information?
No, she said hopelessly; I have no way of finding out anything.
And I should be very grateful indeed, Mr. Allen, if you would do what
you can. For the first time she spoke as if she had a direct interest
in Major Guthrie's fate. Perhapsshe fixed her eyes on him
appealingly, and he saw them slowly fill up and brim over with
tearsPerhaps if you should hear anything, you would not mind
telegraphing to me direct? I think you have my address.
And then, bursting into bitter sobs, she suddenly got up and ran out
of the room.
So she did know about Major Guthrie's will. In what other way could
he, the man to whom she was speaking, know her address? Mr. Allen also
told himself, with some surprise, that he had been mistakenthat Mrs.
Otway, after all, was not the quiet, passionless woman he had supposed
her to be.
* * * * *
When she reached the Trellis House late that Sunday afternoon, Mrs.
Otway was met at the door by Rose, and the girl, with face full of
mingled awe and pain, told her that the blow on the Deanery had fallen.
Edith Haworth had received the news that Sir Hugh Severn was
deadkilled at the head of his men in a great cavalry charge.
There are times in life when everything is out of focus, when events
take on the measure, not of what they really are, but of the mental
state of the people affected by them. Such a time had now come to the
mistress of the Trellis House. For a while Mrs. Otway saw everything,
heard everything, read everything, through a mist of aching pain and of
that worst misery of allthe misery of suspense.
The passion of love, so hedged about with curious and unreal
conventions, is a strangely protean thing. The dear old proverb,
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, is far truer than those who
believe its many cynical counterparts would have us think, and
especially is this true of an impulsive and imaginative nature.
It was the sudden, dramatic withdrawal of Major Guthrie from her
life which first made the woman he had dumbly loved realise all that
his constant, helpful presence had meant to her. And then his worldly
old mother's confidences had added just that touch of jealousy which
often sharpens love. Lastly, his letter, so simple, so direct, and yet,
to one who knew his quiet, reserved nature, so deeply charged with
feeling, had brought the first small seed to a blossoming which
quickened every pulse of her nature into ardent, sentient life. This
woman, who had always been singularly selfless, far more interested in
the lives of those about her than in her own, suddenly became
She looked back with a kind of wonder to her old happy, satisfied,
and yes, unawakened life. She had believed herself to be a woman of
many friends, and yet there was now not one human being to whom she
felt even tempted to tell her wonderful secret.
Busily occupied with the hundred and one trifles, and the eager,
generally successful little excursions into philanthropyfor she was
an exceptionally kind, warm-hearted womanwhich had filled her placid
widowhood, she had yet never made any real intimate. The only exception
had been Major Guthrie; it was he who had drawn her into what had
seemed for so long their pleasant, quiet garden of friendship.
And now she realised that were she to tell any of the people about
her of the marvellous change which had taken place in her heart, they
would regard her with great surprise, and yes, even with amusement. All
the world loves a young lover, but there is not much sympathy to spare
in the kind of world to which Mary Otway belonged by birth, position,
and long association, for the love which appears, and sometimes only
attains full fruition, later in life.
As the days went on, each bringing its tale of exciting and
momentous events, there came over Mrs. Otway a curious apathy with
regard to the war, for to her the one figure which had counted in the
awful drama now being enacted in France and Flanders had disappeared
from the vast stage where, as she now recognised, she had seen only
him. True, she glanced over a paper each day, but she only sufficiently
mastered its contents to be able to reply intelligently to those with
whom her daily round brought her in contact.
And soon, to her surprise, and ever-growing discomfort, Anna
Bauerher good, faithful old Anna, for whom she had always had such
feelings of affection, and yes, of gratitudebegan to get on her
nerves. It was not that she associated Anna with the War, and with all
that the War had brought to her personally of joy and of grief. Rather
was it the sudden perception that her own secret ideals of life and
those of the woman near whom she had lived for close on eighteen years,
were utterly different, and, in a deep sense, irreconcilable.
Mrs. Otway grew to dislike, with a nervous, sharp distaste, the very
sight of Anna's favourite motto, Arbeit macht das Leben süss, und
die Welt zum Paradies (Work makes life sweet and the world a
paradise"). Was it possible that in the old days she had admired that
lying sentiment? Lying? Yes, indeed! Work did not make life
sweet, or she, Mary Otway, would now be happier than ever, for she had
never worked as hard as she was now workingworking to destroy
thoughtworking to dull the dreadful aching at her heart, throwing
herself, with a feverish eagerness which surprised those about her,
into the various war activities which were now, largely owing to the
intelligence and thoroughness of Miss Forsyth, being organised in
Mrs. Otway also began to hate the other German mottoes which Anna
had put all about the Trellis House, especially in those rooms which
might be regarded as her own domainthe kitchen, the old nursery, and
Rose's bedroom. There was something of the kind embroidered on every
single article which would take a Spruch, and Anna's mistress
sometimes felt as if she would like to make a bonfire of them all!
Every time she went into her kitchen she also longed to tear down,
with violent hands, the borders of fine crochet work, the Kante,
with which each wooden shelf was edged, and of which she had been
almost as proud as had been Anna. This crochet work seemed to haunt
her, for wherever it could be utilised, Anna, during those long years
of willing service, had sewn it proudly on, in narrow edgings and in
Not only were all Mrs. Otway's and Rose's under-clothing trimmed
with it, but it served as insertion for curtains, ran along the valance
of each bed, and edged each pillow and cushion. Anna had worked miles
of it since she first came to the Trellis House, for there were balls
of crochet work rolled up in all her drawers, and when she was not
occupied in doing some form of housework she was either knitting or
crocheting. The old German woman never stirred without her little bag,
itself gaily embroidered, to hold her Hand Arbeit; and very
heartily, as Mrs. Otway knew well, did she despise the average
Englishwoman for being able to talk without a crochet-hook or a pair of
knitting-needles in her hands.
Somethingnot much, but just a littleof what her mistress was
feeling with regard to Major Guthrie gradually reached Anna's
perceptions, and made her feel at once uncomfortable, scornful, and
Anna felt the deepest sympathy for her darling nursling, Miss Rose;
for it was natural, warming-to-the-heart, that a young girl should feel
miserable about a young man. In fact, Rose's lack of interest in
marriage and in the domesticities had disturbed and puzzled good old
Anna, and to her mind had been a woeful lack in the girl.
So she had welcomed, with great sympathy, the sudden and surprising
change. Anna shrewdly suspected the truth, namely, that Rose was Jervis
Blake's secret betrothed. She felt sure that something had happened on
the morning young Mr. Blake had gone away, during the long half-hour
the two young people had spent together. On that morning, immediately
after her return home, Rose had gone up to her room, declaring that she
had had breakfastthough she, Anna, knew well that the child had only
had an early cup of tea....
But if Anna sympathised with and understood the feelings of the
younger of her two ladies, she had but scant toleration for Mrs.
Otway's restless, ill-concealed unhappiness. Even in the old days Anna
had disapproved of Major Guthrie, and she had thought it very strange
indeed that he came so often to the Trellis House. To her mind such
conduct was unfitting. What on earth could a middle-aged man have to
say to the mother of a grown-up daughter?
Of course Anna knew that marriages between such people are sometimes
arranged; but to her mind they are always marriages of convenience, and
in this case such a marriage would be very inconvenient to everybody,
and would thoroughly upset all her, Anna's, pleasant, easy way of life.
A widower with children has naturally to find a woman to look after his
house; and a poor widow is as a rule only too pleased to meet with some
one who will marry her, especially if the some one be better off than
herself. But on any betrayal of sentiment between two people past early
youth Anna had very scant mercy.
She had also noticed lately, with mingled regret and contempt, that
Mrs. Otway now had a few grey threads in her fair, curling hair. If the
gracious lady were not careful, she would look quite old and ugly by
the time Major Guthrie came back!
* * * * *
At intervals, indeed every few days, Rose received a short, and of
course read-by-the-censor letter from Jervis Blake. He had missed the
first onrush of the German Army and the Great Retreat, for he had been
what they called in reserve, kept for nearly three full weeks close
to the French port where he had landed. Then there came a long, trying
silence, till a letter written by his mother to Mrs. Otway revealed the
fact that he was at last in the fighting-line, on the river Aisne.
You have always been so kind to my dear boy that I know you will be
interested to learn that lately he has been in one or two very
dangerous 'scraps,' as they seem to be called. They are not supposed to
tell one anything in their letters, and Jervis as a matter of fact no
longer even writes postcards. But my husband knows exactly where he is,
and we can but hope and pray, from day to day, that he is safe.
It was on the very day that Mrs. Otway read to Rose this letter from
Lady Blake that there arrived at the Trellis House a telegram signed
Robert Allen: Have ascertained that Major Guthrie is alive and
prisoner in Germany. Letter follows.
But when the letter came it told tantalisingly little, for it merely
conveyed the fact that the name of Major Guthrie had come through in a
list of wounded prisoners supplied to the Geneva Red Cross. There was
no clue as to where he was, or as to his condition, and Mr. Allen ended
with the words: I am trying to get in touch with the American Embassy
in Berlin. I am told that it is the best, in fact the only, medium for
getting authentic news of wounded prisoners.
The gracious lady sees that I was right. Never did I believe the
Major to be dead! Officers are always behind their soldiers. They are
in the safe place. Such were the words, uttered of course in German,
with which Anna greeted the great news.
As Mrs. Otway turned away, and silently left the kitchen, the old
woman shook her head with an impatient gesture. Why make all that fuss
over the fact that Major Guthrie was a prisoner in Germany? Anna could
imagine no happier fate just now than that of being in the
Fatherlandeven as a prisoner. She could remember the generous way in
which the French prisoners, or at least some of them, had been treated
in 1870. Why, the then Crown Princessshe who was later known as the
Englishwomanhad always visited those wards containing the French
prisoners first, before she went and saw the German wounded. Anna could
remember very clearly the angry remarks which had been provoked by that
royal lady's action, as also by her strange notion that the wounded
required plenty of fresh air.
Some time ago Anna had seen in an English paper, in fact it had been
pointed out to her by Mrs. Otway herself, that the German Government
had had to restrain the daughters and wives of the Fatherland from
over-kindness to the French.
Still, when all was said and done, good old Anna was genuinely glad
that Major Guthrie was safe. It would make her gracious lady more
cheerful, and it also provided herself with a little bit of gossip
wherewith to secure a warmer welcome from Alfred Head when she went
along to supper with him and his Polly this very evening.
* * * * *
That sort of letter may be very valuable in our businessI know
best its worth to me.
The owner of the Witanbury Stores was speaking English, and
addressing his pretty wife.
Anna, just arrived, had at once become aware that the atmosphere was
electric, that something very like a quarrel was going on between
Alfred Head and Polly. Mrs. Head looked very angry, and there was a red
spot on each of her delicately tinted cheeks.
Only half the table had been laid for supper under the bright
pendant lamp; on the other half were spread out some dirty-looking
letters. In each letter a number of lines had been heavily blacked
outon one indeed there was very little left of the original writing.
It's such rubbish! Polly said crossly. Why, by spending a penny
each Sunday on The News of the World or on Reynolds's,
you'd see a lot more letters than you've got there, and all nicely
She turned to the visitor: Alfred can't spare me half a sovereign
for something I want really badly, but he can give seven-and-sixpence
to a dirty old woman for a sight of all that muck! Snatching one of
the letters off the table, she began reading aloud: My dear Mum, I
hope that this finds you as well as it does me. We are giving it to the
Allemans, as they call them out here, right in the neck. She waved the
sheet she was reading and exclaimed, And then comes four lines so
scrubbed about that even the Old Gentleman himself couldn't read them!
Still, it's for that Alfred here is willing to pay
Her husband interrupted her furiously: Put that down at once! D'you
hear, Polly? I'm the best judge of what a thing's worth to me in my
business. If I give Mrs. Tippins seven-and-sixpence for her letters,
they're worth seven-and-sixpence to me and a bit over. See? I shouldn't
'a thought it was necessary to tell you that!
He turned to Anna, and said rapidly in German: The man who wrote
these letters is a sergeant. He's a very intelligent fellow. As you
see, he writes quite long letters, and there are a lot of little things
that I find it well worth my while to make a note of. In fact, as I
told you before, Frau Bauer, I am willing to pay for the sight of any
good long letter from the British Front. I should much like to see some
from officers, and I prefer those that are censoredI mean blacked out
like these. The military censors so far are simple folk. He laughed,
and Anna laughed too, without quite knowing why. I should have
expected that Major whose mother died just after the war broke out, to
be writing to your ladies. Has he not done so yet?
The news has just come this very day, that he is a prisoner; but
they do not yet know where he is imprisoned, said Anna eagerly.
That is good news, observed her host genially. In spite of all my
efforts, I could never obtain that dratted Major's custom. But do not
any of the younger officers write to your young lady, in that strange
English way? and he fixed his prominent eyes on her face, as if he
would fain look Anna through and through. I had hoped that we should
be able to do so much business together, he said.
I have told you of the postcards She spoke in an embarrassed
Ach! Yes. And I did pay you a trifle for a sight of them. But that
was really politeness, for, as you know, there was nothing in the
postcards of the slightest use to me.
Anna remained silent. She was of course well aware that her young
lady often received letters, short, censored letters, from Mr. Jervis
Blake. But Rose kept them in some secret place; also nothing would have
tempted good old Anna to show one of her darling nursling's
love-letters to unsympathetic eyes.
Alfred Head turned to his wife. Now, Polly, he said
conciliatingly, you asked me for what I am paying. He took up the
longest of the letters off the table. See here, my dear. This man
gives a list of what he would like his mother to send him every ten
days. As a matter of fact that is how I first knew Mrs. Tippins had
these letters. She brought one along to show me, to see if I could get
her something special. Part of the letter has been blacked out, but of
course I found it very easy to take that blacking out, he chuckled.
And what had been blacked out was as a matter of fact very useful to
Seeing that his wife still looked very angry and lowering, he took a
big five-shilling piece out of his pocket and threw it across at her.
There! he cried good-naturedlycatch! Perhaps I will make it up to
the ten shillings in a day or twoif, thanks to these letters, I am
able to do a good stroke of business!
Anna looked at him with fascinated eyes. The man seemed made of
money. He was always jingling silver in his pocket. Gold was rather
scarce just then in Witanbury, but whenever Anna saw a half-sovereign,
she always managed somehow to get hold of it. In fact she kept a store
of silver and of paper money for that purpose, for she knew that Mr.
Head, as he was now universally called, would give her threepence over
its face value if it was ten shillings, and fivepence if it was a
sovereign. She had already made several shillings in this very easy
As she walked home, after having enjoyed a frugal supper, she told
herself that it was indeed unfortunate that Major Guthrie was wounded
and missing. Had he still been with his regiment, he would certainly
have written to Mrs. Otway frequently. Anna, in the past, had
occasionally found long letters from him torn up in the waste-paper
basket, and she had also seen, in the days that now seemed so long ago,
letters in the same hand lying about on Mrs. Otway's writing-table.
October and November wore themselves away, and the days went by, the
one very like the other. Mrs. Otway, after her long hours of work, or
of official visiting among the soldiers' and sailors' wives and
mothers, fell into the way of going out late in the afternoon for a
walk by herself. She had grown to dread with a nervous dislike the
constant meeting with acquaintances and neighbours, the usual rather
futile exchange of remarks about the War, or about the local forms of
war and charitable work in which she and they were now all engaged. The
stillness and the solitariness of the evening walk soothed her sore and
Often she would walk to Dorycote and back, feeling that the darkened
streetsfor Witanbury had followed the example of Londonand, even
more, the country roads beyond, were haunted, in a peaceful sense, by
the presence of the man who had so often taken that same way from his
house to hers.
It was during one of these evening walks that there came to her a
gleam of hope and light, and from a source from which she would never
have expected it to come.
She was walking swiftly along on her way home, going across the edge
of the Market Square, when she heard herself eagerly hailed with Is it
Mrs. Otway? She stopped, and answered, not very graciously, Yes, I'm
Mrs. Otwaywho is it?
There came a bubble of laughter, and she knew that this was a very
old acquaintance indeed, a Mrs. Riddick, whom she had not seen for some
I don't wonder you didn't know me! It's impossible to see anything
by this light. I've been having such an adventure! I only came back
from Holland yesterday. I went to meet a young niece of mine thereyou
know, the girl who was in Germany so long.
In Germany? Mrs. Otway turned round eagerly. Is she with you now?
How I should like to see her!
I'm afraid you can't do that. She's gone to Scotland. I sent her
off there last night. Her parents have been nearly frantic about her!
Did she seedid she hear anything of the English prisoners while
she was in Germany? Mrs. Otway's voice sounded strangely pleading in
the darkness, and the other felt a little surprised.
Oh, no! She was virtually a prisoner herself. But I hear a good
deal of information is coming throughI mean unofficial information
about our prisoners. My sisteryou know, Mrs. Verekeris working at
that place they've opened in London to help people whose friends are
prisoners in Germany. She says they sometimes obtain wonderful results.
They work in with the Geneva Red Cross, and from what I can make out,
it's really better to go there than to write to the Foreign Office. I
went and saw my sister yesterday, when I was coming through London. I
was really most interested in all she told mesuch pathetic, strange
stories, such heart-breaking episodes, and then now and again something
so splendid and happy! A girl came to them a fortnight ago in dreadful
trouble, every one round her saying her lover had been killed at Mons,
though she herself hoped against hope. Well, only yesterday morning
they were able to wire to her that he was safe and well, being kindly
treated too, in a fortress, far away, close to the borders of Prussia
and Poland! Wasn't that splendid?
What is the address of the place, asked Mrs. Otway in a low tone,
where Mrs. Vereker works?
It's in Arlington StreetNo. 20, I think.
* * * * *
Mrs. Otway hastened on, her heart filled with a new, eager hope. Oh,
if she could only go up now, this evening, to London! Then she might be
at 20, Arlington Street, the first thing in the morning.
Alas, she knew that this was not possible; every hour of the next
morning was filled up.
There was no one to whom she could delegate her morning round among
those soldiers' mothers and wives with whom she now felt in such close
touch and sympathy. But she might possibly escape the afternoon
committee meeting, at which she was due, if Miss Forsyth would only let
her off. The ladies of Witanbury were very much under the bondage of
Miss Forsyth, and subject to her will; none more so than the
good-tempered, yielding Mary Otway.
Unluckily one of those absurd little difficulties which are always
cropping up at committees was on the agenda for to-morrow afternoon,
and Miss Forsyth was counting on her help to quell a certain
troublesome person. Still, she might go now, on her way home, and see
if Miss Forsyth would relent.
Miss Forsyth lived in a beautiful old house which, though its
approach was in a narrow street, yet directly overlooked at the back
the great green lawns surrounding the cathedral.
The house had been left to her many years ago, but she had never
done anything to it. Unaffected by the many artistic and other crazes
which had swept over the country since then, it remained a strange
mixture of beauty and ugliness. Miss Forsyth loved the beauty of her
house, and she put up with what ugliness there was because of the major
part of her income, which was not very large, had to be spent,
according to her theory of life, on those less fortunate than herself.
At the present moment all her best rooms, those rooms which
overlooked her beloved cathedral, had been given up by her to a rather
fretful-natured and very dissatisfied Belgian family, and so she had
taken up her quarters on the darker and colder side of her house, that
which overlooked the street.
It was there, in a severe-looking study on the ground floor, that
Mrs. Otway found her this evening.
As her visitor was ushered in by the cross-looking old servant who
was popularly supposed to be the only person of whom Miss Forsyth stood
in fear, she got up and came forward, a very kindly, welcoming look on
her plain face.
Well, Mary, she said, what's the matter now? Mrs. Purlock drunk
Well, yesas a matter of fact the poor woman was quite drunk this
morning! But I've really come to know if you can spare me to-morrow
afternoon. I want to go to London on business. I was also wondering if
you know of any nice quiet hotel or lodging near PiccadillyI should
prefer a lodgingwhere I could spent two nights?
Near Piccadilly? Yes, of course I doin Half-Moon Street. I'll
engage two rooms for you. And as for to-morrow, I can spare you quite
well. In fact I shall probably manage better alone. Can't you go up by
that nice early morning train, my dear?
Mrs. Otway shook her head. No, I can't possibly get away before the
afternoon. You see I must look after Mrs. Purlock. She got into rather
bad trouble this morning. And oh, Miss Forsyth, I'm so sorry for
her! She believes her two boys are being starved to death in Germany.
Unfortunately she knows that woman whose husband signed his letter
'Your loving Jack Starving.' It's thoroughly upset Mrs. Purlock, and
if, as they all say, drink drowns thought and makes one feel happy, can
we wonder at all the drinking that goes on just now? But I'm going to
try to-morrow morning to arrange for her to go away to a sistera very
sensible, nice woman she seems, who certainly won't let her do anything
of the sort.
Surely you're rather inconsistent? said Miss Forsyth briskly. You
spoke only a minute ago as if you almost approved of drunkenness, but
there was an intelligent twinkle in her eye.
Mrs. Otway smiled, but it was a very sad smile. You know quite
well, dear Miss Forsyth, that I didn't mean that! Of course I
don't approve, I only meant thatthat I understand. She waited a
moment, and then added, quietly, and with a little sigh, So you see I
can't go up to town to-morrow morning. What I want to do there will
wait quite well till the afternoon.
Miss Forsyth accompanied her visitor into the hallthe old
eighteenth-century hall which was so exquisitely proportioned, but the
walls of which were covered with the monstrously ugly mid-Victorian
marble paper she much disliked, but never felt she could afford to
change as long as it still looked so irritatingly good and clean. She
opened the front door on to the empty, darkened street; and then, to
Mrs. Otway's great surprise, she suddenly bent forward and kissed her
Well, my dear, she exclaimed, I'm glad to have seen you even for
a moment, and I hope your business, whatever it be, will be successful.
I want to tell you something, here and now, which I've never said to
you yet, long as we've known one another!
Yes, Miss Forsyth? Mrs. Otway looked up surprisedperhaps a
little apprehensive as to what was coming.
I want to tell you, Mary, that to my mind you belong to the very
small number of people, of my acquaintance at any rate, who shall see
Mrs. Otway was startled and touched by the other's words, and yet,
I don't quite know what you mean? she falteredand she really
Don't you? said Miss Forsyth drily. Well, I think Mrs. Purlock,
and a good many other unhappy women in Witanbury, could tell you.
* * * * *
Late in the next afternoon, after leaving the little luggage she had
brought with her at the old-fashioned lodgings where she found that
Miss Forsyth had made careful arrangements for her comfort, even to
ordering what she should have for dinner, Mrs. Otway made her way, on
foot, into Piccadilly, and thence into quiet Arlington Street.
There it was very darktoo dark to see the numbers on the doors of
the great houses which loomed up to her right.
Bewildered and oppressed, she touched a passer-by on the arm. Could
you tell me, she said, which is No. 20? And he, with the curious
inability of the average Londoner to tell the truth or to acknowledge
ignorance in such a case, at once promptly answered, Yes, miss. It's
that big house standing back here, in the courtyard.
She walked through the gate nearest to her, and so up to a portico.
Then, after waiting for a moment, she rang the bell.
The moments slipped by. She waited full five minutes, and then rang
again. At last the door opened.
Is this the place, she said falteringly, where one can make
inquiries as to the prisoners of war in Germany? And the person who
opened the door replied curtly, No, it's next door to the right. A lot
of people makes that mistake. Luckily the family are away just nowor
it would be even a greater botheration than it is!
Sick at heart, she turned and walked around the paved courtyard till
she reached the street. Then she turned to her right. A door flush on
the street was hospitably open, throwing out bright shafts of light
into the darkness. Could it beshe hoped it washere?
For a moment she stood hesitating in the threshold. The large hall
was brilliantly lit up, and at a table there sat a happy-faced,
busy-looking little Boy Scout. He, surely, would not repulse her?
Gathering courage she walked up to him.
Is this the place, she asked, where one makes inquiries about
prisoners of war?
He jumped up and saluted. Yes, madam, he said civilly. You've
only got to go up those stairs and then round the top, straight along.
There are plenty of ladies up there to show you the way.
As she walked towards the great staircase, and as her eyes fell on a
large panoramic oil painting of a review held in a historic English
park a hundred years before, she remembered that it was here, in this
very house, that she had come to a great political reception more than
twenty years agoin fact just after her return from Germany. She had
been taken to it by James Hayley's parents, and she, the happy, eager
girl, had enjoyed every moment of what she had heard with indignant
surprise some one describe as a boring function.
As she began walking up the staircase, there rose before her a
vision of what had been to her so delightful and brilliant a scenethe
women in evening dress and splendid jewels; the men, many of them in
uniform or court dress; all talking and smiling to one another as they
slowly made their way up the wide, easy steps.
She remembered with what curiosity and admiration she had looked at
the figure of her host. There he had stood, a commanding, powerful,
slightly stooping figure, welcoming his guests. For a moment she had
looked up into his bearded face, and met his heavy-lidded eyes resting
on her bright young face, with a half-smile of indulgent amusement at
her look of radiant interest and happiness.
This vivid recollection of that long-forgotten Victorian crush had
a good effect on Mary Otway. It calmed her nervous tremor, and made her
feel, in a curious sense, at home in that great London house.
Running round the top of the staircase was a narrow way where girls
sitting at typewriters were busily working. But they had all kind,
intelligent faces, and they all seemed anxious to help and speed her on
Mrs. Vereker? Oh yes, you'll find her at once if you go along that
gallery and open the door at the end.
She walked through into a vast room where a domed and painted
ceiling now looked down on a very curious scene. With the exception of
some large straight settees, all the furniture which had once been in
this great reception-room had been cleared away. In its place were
large office tables, plain wooden chairs, and wire baskets piled high
with letters and memoranda. The dozen or so people there were all
intent on work of some sort, and though now and again some one got up
and walked across to ask a question of a colleague, there was very
little coming or going. Personal inquirers generally came early in the
As she stood just inside the door, Mary Otway knew that it was here,
twenty years ago, that she had seen the principal guests gathered
together. She recalled the intense interest, the awe, the sympathy with
which she had looked at one figure in that vanished throng. It had been
the figure of a woman dressed in the deep mourning of a German widow,
the severity of the costume lightened only by the beautiful Orders
pinned on the breast.
At the time she, the girl of that far-off day, had only just come
back from Germany, and the Imperial tragedy, which had as central
figure one so noble and so selfless, had moved her eager young heart
very deeply. She remembered how hurt she had felt at hearing her cousin
mutter to his wife, I'm sorry she is here. She oughtn't to have come
to this kind of thing. Royalties, especially foreign Royalties, should
have no politics. And with what satisfaction she had heard Mrs.
Hayley's spirited rejoinder: What nonsense! She hasn't come because
it's political, but because it's English. She loves England, and
everything to do with England!
The vision faded, and she walked forward into the strangely changed
Can I speak to Mrs. Vereker? she asked, timidly addressing one of
the ladies nearest the door. Yet it was with unacknowledged relief that
she received the answer: I'm so sorry, but Mrs. Vereker isn't here.
She left early this afternoon. Is there anything I can do for you? Do
you want to make inquiries about a prisoner?
And then, as Mrs. Otway said, Yes, the speaker went on quickly, I
think I shall do just as well if you will kindly give me the
particulars. Let us come over here and sit down; then we shan't be
Mrs. Otway looked up gratefully into the kind face of the woman
speaking to her. It was a comfort to know that she was going to tell
her private concerns to a stranger, and not to the sister of an
acquaintance living at Witanbury.
The few meagre facts were soon told, and then she gave her own name
and address as the person to whom the particulars, if any came through,
were to be forwarded.
I'll see that the inquiries are sent on to Geneva to-night. But you
mustn't be disappointed if you get no news for a while. Sometimes news
is a very long time coming through, especially if the prisoner was
wounded, and is still in hospital. The stranger added, with real
sympathy in her voice, I'm afraid you're very anxious, Mrs. Otway. I
suppose Major Guthrie is your brother?
And then the other answered quietly, No, he's not my brother. Major
Guthrie and I are engaged to be married.
The kind, sweet face, itself a sad and anxious face, changed a
littleit became even fuller of sympathy than it had been before. You
must try and keep up courage, she exclaimed. And remember one
thingif Major Guthrie was really severely wounded, he's probably
being very well looked after. She waited a moment, and then went on,
In any case, you haven't the anguish of knowing that he's in perpetual
danger; my boy is out there, so I know what it feels like to realize
There was a moment of silence, and then, I wonder, said Mrs.
Otway, if you would mind having the inquiries telegraphed to-night?
She opened her bag. I brought a five-pound note
But the other shook her head. Oh, no. You needn't pay anything,
she said. We're always quite willing to telegraph if there's any good
reason for doing so. But you know it's very important that the name
should be correctly spelt, and the particulars rightly transmitted.
That's why it's really better to write. But of course I'll ask them to
telegraph to you at once if they get any news here on a day or at a
time I happen to be away.
Together they walked to the door of the great room, and the woman
whose name she was not to know for a long time, and who was the first
human being to whom she had told her secret, pressed her hand warmly.
Quietly Mrs. Otway walked through into the gallery, and then she
burst out crying like a child. It was with her handkerchief pressed to
her face that she walked down the gallery, and so round to the great
staircase. No one looked at her as she passed so woefully by; they were
all only too well used to such sights. But before she reached the front
door she managed to pull herself together, and was able to give the
jolly little Boy Scout a friendly farewell nod.
Early that afternoon, after her mother had left the Trellis House,
Rose went upstairs to her own room. She had been working very hard all
that morning, helping to give some last touches of prettiness and
comfort to the fine, airy rooms at Robey's, which had now been
transformed into Sir Jacques Robey's Red Cross Hospital. As a matter of
fact, everything had been ready for the wounded who, after having been
awaited with anxious impatience for weeks, were now announced as being
due to arrive to-morrow.
Meanwhile Anna, her hands idle for once, sat at her kitchen table.
She was wearing her best black silk apron, and open in front of her was
her Gesangbuch, or hymnbook.
Thus was Anna celebrating the anniversary of her husband's death.
Gustav Bauer had been a very unsatisfactory helpmeet, but his widow
only chose to remember now the little in him that had been good.
Calmly she began reading the contents of her hymnbook to herself.
All the verses were printed as if in prose, which of course made it
easier as well as pleasanter to read.
As she spoke the words to herself, her eyes filled with tears, and
she longed, with an intense, wordless longing, to be in the Fatherland,
especially now, during this strange and terrible time. She keenly
resented not being able to write to her niece, Minna, in Berlin. Since
her happy visit there three years before, that little household had
been very near her heart, nearer far than that of her own daughter,
Louisa. But Louisa was now to all intents and purposes an Englishwoman.
It was too true that the many years she had been in England had not
made good old Anna think better of English people, and, as was natural,
her prejudices had lately become much intensified. She lived in a
chronic state of wonder over the laziness, the thriftlessness, and the
dirt of Englishwomen. She had described those among whom she dwelt to
her niece Minna in the following words: They wash themselves from head
to foot each day, but more never. Their houses are dreadful, and linen
have they not!
Those words had represented her exact opinion three years ago, and
she had had no reason to change it since.
On this dull, sad, November afternoon she suddenly remembered the
delightful Ausflug, or fly out, as it is so happily called,
when she had accompanied Willi and his Minna to Wannsee, on the blue
How happy they had all been that day! The little party had brought
their own coffee and sugar, but they had had many a delicious glass of
beer as well. All had been joy and merriment.
It was bitter to know that some people heard from Germany even now.
There was little doubt in her mind that Manfred Hegner, or rather
Alfred Head, as she was learning to call him at his very particular
request, was in communication with the Fatherland. He had as good as
said so the last time she had seen him; adding the unnecessary warning
that she must be careful not to tell any one so in Witanbury, as it
might do him harm.
Anna was naturally a prudent woman, and she had become quite proud
of Alfred Head's friendship and confidence. She much enjoyed the
evenings she now so often spent in the stuffy little parlour behind the
large, airy shop. Somehow she always left there feeling happy and
cheerful. The news that he gave her of the Fatherland, and of what was
happening on the various fighting fronts, was invariably glorious and
comforting. He smiled with good-natured contempt at the Kitcheners
who were beginning to flood the old cathedral city with an ever-growing
tide of khaki, and who brought him and all his fellow-tradesmen in
Witanbury such increased prosperity.
Fine cannon-fodder! Mr. Head would exclaim, of course in German.
But no good without the rifles, the ammunition, and above all the
guns, which I hear they have not!
Every one was still very kind to Anna, and her ladies' friends made
no difference in their mannerin fact they were perhaps a shade more
cordial and kindly. Nevertheless the old woman realised that feeling
towards Germany and the Germans had undergone a surprising change
during the last few weeks. No, it was not the Warnot even the fact
that so many Englishmen had already been killed by German guns and
shells. The change was owingamazing and almost incredible factto
the behaviour of the German Army in Belgium!
Anna hated Belgium and the Belgians. She could not forget how
unhappy and ill-used she had been in Ostend; and yet now English people
of all classes hailed the Belgians as heroes, and were treating them as
honoured guests! She, Anna, knew that the women of Belgium had put out
the eyes of wounded German soldiers; she had read the fact in one of
the German newspapers Mr. Head had managed to smuggle through. The
paper had said, very truly, as she thought, that no punishment for such
conduct could be too severe.
And as she sat there, on this melancholy anniversary afternoon,
thinking sad, bitter thoughts, her dear young lady opened the door.
I had a letter from Mr. Blake this morning, and I think you'll like
to read it, Anna! He speaks in it so kindly of some German soldiers who
gave themselves up. I haven't time to stop and read it to you now. But
I think you can read it, for he writes very, very clearly. This is
where it begins she pointed half-way down the first sheet. I
shan't be back till eight o'clock. There's a great deal to do if, as
Sir Jacques believes, some wounded are really likely to arrive
to-morrow. Her face shadowed, and that of the old woman looking fondly
up at her, softened.
There's a little piece of beautiful cold mutton, exclaimed Anna in
German. Would my darling child like that for her supperwith a nice
little potato salad as well?
But Rose shook her head. No, I don't feel as if I want any meat.
I'll have anything else there is, and some fruit.
A moment later she was gone, and Anna turned to the closely-written
sheets of paper with great interest. She read English writing with
difficulty, but, as her beloved young lady had said truly, Mr. Blake's
handwriting was very clear. And this is what she spelled out:
A great big motor lorry came up, full of prisoners, and our
fellows soon crowded round it. They were fine, upstanding,
fair men, and looked very tired and depressedas well they
might, for we hear they've had hardly anything to eat this
last week! I offered one of them, who had his arm bound up, a
cigarette. He took it rather eagerly. I thought I'd smoke one
too, to put him at his ease, but I had no matches, so the poor
chap hooked out some from his pocket and offered me one. This
is a funny world, Rose! Fancy those thirteen German prisoners
in that motor lorry, and that they were oncein fact only an
hour or so agodoing their best to kill us, while now we are
doing our best to cheer them up. Then to-morrow we shall go
out and have a good try at killing their comrades. Mind you,
they look quite ordinary people. Not one of them has a
terrible or a brutal face. They look just like our menin
fact rather less soldierly than our men; the sort of chaps you
might see walking along a street in Witanbury any day. One of
them looked so rosy and sunburnt, so English, that we
mentioned it to the interpreter. He translated it to the man,
and I couldn't help being amused to see that he looked rather
sick at being told he looked like an Englishman. Another man,
who I'm bound to say did not look English at all, had actually
lived sixteen years in London, and he talked in quite a
Anna read on:
I have at last got into a very comfortable billet. As a
matter of fact it's a pill factory belonging to an eccentric
old man called Puteau. All over the house, inside and out, he
has had painted two huge P's, signifying Pilules Puteau. For
a long time no use was made of the building, as it was thought
too good a mark. But for some reason or other the Boches have
left it alone. Be that as it may, one of our fellows
discovered a very easy way of reaching it from the back, and
now no one could tell the place is occupied, in fact packed,
with our fellows. The best point about it is that there is a
huge sink, as large as a bath. You can imagine what a
And then the letter broke off. Rose had only left that part of it
she thought would interest her old nurse. The beginning and the end
were not there.
Anna looked at the sheets of closely-written paper in front of her
consideringly. There was not a word about food or kitnot a word, that
is, which by any stretch of the imagination could be of any use to a
man like Mr. Head in his business. On the other hand, there was not a
word in the letter which Miss Rose could dislike any one reading. The
old woman was shrewd enough to know that. She would like Mr. Head to
see that letter, for it would prove to him that her ladies did receive
letters from officers. And the next one might after all contain
She looked up at the kitchen clock. It was now four o'clock. And
then a sudden thought made up good old Anna's mind for her.
Miss Rose had said she did not want any meat for her supper; but she
was fond of macaroni cheese. Anna would never have thought of making
that dish with any cheese but Parmesan, and she had no Parmesan left in
the house. That fact gave her an excellent excuse for going off now to
the Stores, and taking Mr. Blake's letter with her. If she got an
opportunity of showing it, it would make clear to Mr. Head what a good
fellow was Miss Rose's betrothed, and what a kind heart he had.
And so, but for Rose's remark as to her distaste for meat, Jervis
Blake's letter would not have been taken by old Anna out of the Trellis
House, for it was the lack of Parmesan cheese in the store cupboard
which finally decided the matter.
After putting on her green velvet bonnet and her thick, warm brown
jacket, she folded up the sheets of French notepaper and put them in an
The fact that it was early closing day did not disturb Anna, for
though most of the Witanbury tradespeople were so ungracious that when
their shops were shut they would never put themselves out to oblige an
old customer, the owner of the Stores, if he was inand he nearly
always did stay indoors on early closing daywas always willing to go
into the closed shop and get anything that was wanted. He was not one
to turn good custom away.
The back door was opened by Alfred Head himself. Ah, Frau Bauer!
Come into the passage. He spoke in German, but in spite of his cordial
words she felt the lack of welcome in his voice. Is there anything I
can do for you?
Yes, she said. I want half a pound of Parmesan cheese, and you
might also give me a pound of butter.
Oh, certainly. Come through into the shop. He turned on the light.
I do not ask you into the parlour, for the simple reason that I have
some one there who has come to see me on businessit is business about
one of my little mortgages. Polly is out, up at the Deanery. Her sister
is not going to stay on there; she has found some excuse to go away. It
makes her so sad and mopish to be always with Miss Haworth. Even now,
after all this time, the young lady will hardly speak at all. She does
not glory in her loss, as a German betrothed would do!
Poor thing! said old Anna feelingly. Women are not like men, Herr
Hegner. They have tender hearts. She thinks of her dead lover as her
beloved onenot as a hero. For my part, my heart aches for the dear
young lady, when I see her walking about, all dressed in black.
They were now standing in the big empty shop. Alfred Head turned to
the right and took off a generous half-pound from the Parmesan cheese
which, as Anna knew well, was of a very much better quality, if of
rather higher price, than were any of the other Parmesan cheeses sold
in Witanbury. But she was rather shocked to note that the butter had
not been put away in the refrigerator. That, of course, was Mrs. Head's
fault. A German housewife would have seen to that. There the butter
lay, ready for the next morning's sale, put up in half-pounds and
pounds. Mr. Head took up one of the pounds, and deftly began making a
neat parcel of the cheese and of the butter. She felt that he was in a
hurry to get rid of her, and yet she was burning to show him young Mr.
She coughed, and then, a little nervously, she observed: You were
saying some days ago that you would like to see some officers' letters
from the Front. That being so, I have brought part of a letter from Mr.
Jervis Blake to show you. There is nothing in it concerning food or
kit, but still it is very long, and shows that the young man is a good
fellow. If you are busy, however, it may not be worth your while to
look at it now.
Alfred Head stopped in what he was doing. Could you leave it with
me? he asked.
Anna shook her head. No, that I cannot do. My young lady left it
for me to read, and though she said she would not be back till eight,
she might run in any moment, for she is only over at Robey's, helping
with the hospital. They are expecting some wounded to-morrow. They have
waited long enough, poor ladies!
The old woman was standing just under the electric light; there was
an anxious, embarrassed look on her face.
The man opposite to her hesitated a moment, then he said quickly,
Very well, show it me! It will not take a moment. I will tell you at
once if it is of any use. Perhaps it will be.
She fumbled a moment in her inside pocket, and brought out Jervis
He took up the sheets, and put them close to his prominent eyes.
Quickly he glanced through the account of the German prisoners, and
then he began to read more slowly. Wait you here one moment, he said
at last. I will go and tell my visitor that I am engaged for another
minute or two. Then I will come back to you, and read the letter
through properly, though the writer is but a silly fellow!
Still holding the letter in his hand, he hurried away.
Anna was in no hurry. But even so, she began to grow a little
fidgety when the moment of which he had spoken grew into something like
five minutes. She felt sorry she had brought her dear child's letter.
Dummer Kerl indeed! Mr. Jervis Blake was nothing of the sorthe
was a very kind, sensible young fellow! She was glad when at last she
heard Mr. Head's quick, active steps coming down the short passage.
Here! he exclaimed, coming towards her. Here is the letter, Frau
Bauer! And though it is true that there is nothing in it of any value
to me, yet I recognise your good intention. The next time there may be
something excellent. I therefore give you a florin, with best thanks
for having brought it. Instead of all that gossip concerning our poor
prisoners, it would have been better if he had said what it was that he
liked to eat as a relish to the bully beef on which, it seems, the
British are universally fed.
Anna's point of view changed with lightning quickness. What a good
thing she had brought the letter! Two shillings was two shillings,
Thanks many, she said gratefully, as he hurried her along the
passage and unlocked the back door. But, as so often happens, it was a
case of more haste less speedthe door slammed-to before the visitor
could slip out, and at the same moment that of the parlour opened, and
Anna, to her great surprise, heard the words, uttered in German, Look
here, Hegner! I really can't stay any longer. You forget that I've a
long way to go. She could not see the speaker, though she did her best
to do so, as her host thrust her, with small ceremony, out of the now
Anna felt consumed with curiosity. She crossed over the little
street, and hid herself in the shadow of a passage leading to a mews.
There she waited, determined to see Alfred Head's mysterious visitor.
She had not time to feel cold before the door through which she had
lately been pushed so quickly opened again, letting out a short, thin
man, dressed in a comfortable motoring coat. She heard very plainly the
good-nights exchanged in a low voice.
As soon as the door shut behind him, the prosperous-looking stranger
began walking quickly along. Anna, at a safe distance, followed him. He
turned down a side street, where, drawn up before a house inscribed to
let, stood a small, low motor-car. In it sat a Boy Scout. She knew he
was a Boy Scout by his hat, for the lad's uniform was covered by a big
She walked quietly on, and so passed the car. As she went by, she
heard Hegner's friend say in a kindly voice, and in excellent English,
albeit there was a twang in it, I hope you've not been cold, my boy.
My business took a little longer than I thought it would. And the
shrill, piping answer, Oh no, sir! I have been quite all right, sir!
And then the motor gave a kind of snort, and off they went, at a sharp
pace, towards the Southampton road.
Anna smiled to herself. Manfred Hegner was a very secretive
personshe had always known that. But why tell her such a silly lie?
Hegner was getting quite a big business man; he had many irons in the
firesome one had once observed to Anna that he would probably end by
becoming a millionaire. It is always well to be in with such lucky
As she opened the gate of the Trellis House, she saw that her
mistress's sitting-room was lit up, and before she could put the key in
the lock of the front door, it opened, and Rose exclaimed in an anxious
tone, Oh, Anna! Where have you been? Where is my letter? I looked all
over the kitchen, but I couldn't find it.
Old Anna smilingly drew it out from the inside pocket of her jacket.
There, there! she said soothingly. Here it is, dearest child. I
thought it safer to take it along with me than to leave it in the
Oh, thank youyes, that was quite right! the girl looked greatly
relieved. Mr. Robey said he would very much like to read it, so I came
back for it. And Anna?
Yes, my gracious miss.
I am going to stay there to supper after all. Mr. and Mrs. Robey,
and even Sir Jacques, seem anxious that I should do so.
And I have gone out and got you such a nice supper, said the old
I'll have it for lunch to-morrow! Rose looked very happy and
excited. There was a bright colour in her cheeks. Mr. Robey thinks
that Mr. Blake will soon be getting ninety hours' leave. Her heart was
so full of joy she felt she must tell the delightful news.
That is goodvery good! said Anna cordially. And then, my
darling little one, there will be a proper betrothal, will there not?
Rose nodded. Yes, I suppose there will, she said in German.
And perhaps a war wedding, went on Anna, her face beaming. There
are many such just now in Witanbury. In my country they began the first
day of the War.
I know. Rose smiled. One of the Kaiser's sons was married in that
way. Don't you remember my bringing you an account of it, Anna? She
did not wait for an answer. Well, I must hurry back now.
The old woman went off into her kitchen, and so through the scullery
into her cosy bedroom.
The walls of that quaint, low-roofed apartment were gay with
oleographs, several being scenes from Faust, and one, which Anna
had had given to her nearly forty years ago, showed the immortal
Charlotte, still cutting bread and butter.
On the dressing-table, one at each end, were a pair of white china
busts of Bismarck and von Moltke. Anna had brought these back from
Berlin three years before. Of late she had sometimes wondered whether
it would be well to put them away in one of the three large, roomy
cupboards built into the wall behind her bed. One of these cupboards
already contained several securely packed parcels which, as had been
particularly impressed on Anna, must on no account be disturbed, but
there was plenty of room in the two others. Still, no one ever came
into her oddly situated bedroom, and so she left her heroes where they
After taking off her things, she extracted the two-shilling piece
out of the pocket where it had lain loosely, and added it to the
growing store of silver in the old-fashioned tin box where she kept her
money. Then she put on her apron and hurried out, with the cheese and
the butter in her hands, to the beautifully arranged, exquisitely clean
meat safe, which had been cleverly fixed to one of the windows of the
scullery soon after her arrival at the Trellis House.
The next morning Mrs. Otway came home, and within an hour of her
arrival the mother and daughter had told one another their respective
secrets. The revelation came about as such things have a way of coming
about when two people, while caring deeply for one another, are yet for
the moment out of touch with each other's deepest feelings. It came
about, that is to say, by a chance word uttered in entire ignorance of
the real state of the case.
Rose, on hearing of her mother's expedition to Arlington Street, had
shown surprise, even a little vexation: You've gone and tired yourself
out for nothinga letter would have done quite as well!
And, as her mother made no answer, the girl, seeing as if for the
first time how sad, how worn, that same dear mother's face now looked,
came close up to her and whispered, I think, motherforgive me if I'm
wrongthat you care for Major Guthrie as I care for Jervis Blake.
The days that followed Mrs. Otway's journey to London, the easy
earning by good old Anna of a florin for Alfred Head's brief sight of
Jervis Blake's letter, and the exchange of confidences between the
mother and daughter, were comparatively happy, peaceful days at the
Her visit to 20, Arlington Street, had greatly soothed and comforted
Mrs. Otway. She felt sure somehow that those kind, capable people, and
especially the unknown woman who had been so very good andand so very
understanding, would soon send her the tidings for which she longed.
For the first time, too, since she had received Major Guthrie's letter
she forgot herself, and in a measure even the man she loved, in thought
for another. Rose's confession had moved her greatly, stirred all that
was maternal in her heart. But she was far more surprised than she
would have cared to admit, for she had always thought that Rose, if she
married at all, would marry a man considerably older than herself. With
a smile and a sigh, she told herself that the child must be in love
Jervis and the girl were both still so very youngthough Rose was
in a sense much the older of the two, or so the mother thought. She was
secretly glad that there could be no talk of marriage till the end of
the War. Even then they would probably have to wait two or three years.
True, General Blake was a wealthy man, but Jervis was entirely
dependent on his father, and his father might not like him to marry
The fact that Rose had told her mother of her engagement had had
another happy effect. It had restored, in a measure, the good relations
between Mrs. Otway and her faithful old servant, Anna Bauer. Anna kept
to herself the fact that she had guessed the great news long before it
had become known to the mother, and so she and her mistress rejoiced
together in the beloved child's happiness.
And Rose was happy toofar happier than she had yet been since the
beginning of the War. Twice in recent letters to her Jervis had
written, I wish you would allow me to tell my peopleyou know what!
and now she was very, very glad to release him from secrecy. She was
too modest to suppose that General and Lady Blake would be pleased with
the news of their only son's engagement. But she felt it their due that
they should know how matters stood betwixt her and Jervis. If they did
not wish him to marry soon, she and Jervis, so she assured herself,
would be quite content to wait.
Towards the end of that peaceful week there came quite an
affectionate telegram from Lady Blake, explaining that the great news
had been sent to her and to her husband by their son. The telegram was
followed by a long loving letter from the mother, inviting Rose to stay
Mrs. Otway would not acknowledge even to herself how relieved she
felt. She had been afraid that General Blake would regard his son's
engagement as absurd, and she was surprised, knowing him slightly and
not much liking what little she knew of him, at the kindness and warmth
with which he wrote to her.
Under ordinary circumstances I should not have approved of my son's
making so early a marriage, but everything is now changed. And though I
suppose it would not be reasonable to expect such a thing, I should be,
for my part, quite content were they to be married during the leave to
which I understand he will shortly be entitled.
But on reading these words, Mrs. Otway had shaken her head very
decidedly. What an odd, very odd, man General Blake must be! She
felt sure that neither Jervis nor Rose would think of doing such a
thing. It was, however, quite natural that Jervis's parents should wish
to have Rose on a visit; and of course Rose must go soon, and try to
make good friends with them bothnot an over-easy matter, for they
were very different and, as Mrs. Otway knew, not on really happy terms
the one with the other.
There was some little discussion as to who in Witanbury should be
told of Rose's engagement. It seemed hopeless to keep the affair a
secret. For one thing, the officials at the Post Office knewthey had
almost shown it by their funny, smiling manner when Rose had gone in to
send her answer to Lady Blake's telegram. But the first to be informed
officially, so to speak, must of course be the Dean and the Robeys.
Dr. Haworth had aged sadly during the last few weeks. Edith was
going to nurse in a French hospital, and she and her mother had gone
away for a little change first. And so, as was natural, the Dean came
very often to the Trellis House; and though, when he was told of Rose's
engagement, he sighed wearily, still he was most kind and
sympatheticthough he could not help saying, in an aside to Mrs.
Otway, I should never have thought Rose would become the heroine of a
Romeo and Juliet affair! They both seem to me so very young. Luckily
there's no hurry. It looks as if this war was going to be a long, long
war and he had shaken his head very mournfully.
Poor Dr. Haworth! An imprudent passage uttered in the first sermon
he had delivered after the declaration of war had been dragged out of
its context, and had figured, weeks later, in the London papers. As a
result he had had many cruel anonymous letters, and, what had been
harder to bear, reproaches from old and tried friends.
But what was far, far worse to the Dean than these mosquito bites
was the fact that his own darling child, Edith, could not forgive him
for having had so many German friends in the old days. Her great loss,
which in theory should have softened her, had had just the opposite
effect. It had made her bitter, bitter; and during the weeks which had
followed the receipt of the fatal news she had hardly spoken to her
father. This was the more unreasonablenay, the more cruelof her
inasmuch as it had been her mother, to whom she now clung, who had so
decidedly set her face against the hasty marriage which poor Edith was
now always regretting had not taken place.
But if the Dean's congratulations were saddened by his own
melancholy situation, those of the Robeys were clear and sunshiny. They
knew Jervis Blake, and they regarded Rose as a very lucky girl. They
also knew Rose, and they regarded Jervis Blake as a very lucky man.
True, Mrs. Robey, when alone with her husband after first hearing
the news, had said, rather nervously, I hope more than ever now
that nothing will happen to dear Jervis! And he had turned on her
almost with ferocity: Happen to Jervis? Of course nothing will happen
to Jervis! As I've often told you, it's the impulsive, reckless boys
who get killednot born soldiers, like Jervis. He knows that his life
is now valuable to his country, and you may be sure that he takes all
reasonable precautions to preserve it.
And as she did not answer at once, he had gone on hurriedly: Of
course one can't tell; we may see his name in the list of casualties
to-morrow morning! But if I were you, my dear, I should not build a
bridge to meet trouble!
As a matter of fact Mrs. Robey had no time to waste on such an
unprofitable occupation. Her brother-in-law, the great surgeon, Sir
Jacques Robey, and all his best nurses had been now waiting for quite a
long time for wounded who never came; and it required a good deal of
diplomacy and tact on Mrs. Robey's part to keep them all in a good
humour, and on fairly pleasant terms with her own original household.
* * * * *
Rose's engagement was now ten days old, and she was about to start
for her visit to her future parents-in-law, when early one afternoon
the Dean, who had been lunching with Mr. and Mrs. Robey, rang the bell
of the Trellis House.
Die Herrschaft ist nicht zu Hause (The family are not at
home.). Anna was smiling in the friendliest way at the Dean. He had
always been in a very special sense kind to her, and never kinder than
during the last fourteen weeks.
Do you expect them back soon? It is very urgent, he exclaimed, of
course speaking German; and the smile on Anna's face faded, so sad did
he look, and so concerned.
Oh, most reverend Doctor! she cried, joining her hands together,
do not say that anything has happened to the Betrothed of my young
Yes, he said sadly. Something has happened, Anna, but it might be
much worse. The Betrothed of your young lady has been severely wounded.
But reflect on the wonderful organisation of our Red Cross! Mr. Blake
was wounded, I believe, yesterday afternoon, and it is expected that he
will be here, in Sir Jacques Robey's care, in a few hours from now!
Even as he was speaking, a telegraph boy hurried up to the door.
This is evidently to tell your ladies that which I had hoped to be
able to break to them. So I will not stop now. And as Anna stared at
him with woe-begone eyes, he said kindly:
It might have been, as I said just now, infinitely worse. I am told
that there is a great difference between the words severely and
dangerously. Had he been dangerously wounded, he could not possibly
have been moved to England. And consider what a comfort it will be to
the poor girl to have him here, within a stone's throw. Why, she will
be able to be with him all the time. Yes, yes, it might be worsea
great deal worse! He added feelingly, It is a very sad time that we
are all living through.
He held out his hand and grasped the old woman's hard, work-worn
fingers very warmly in his. Dr. Haworth, as the good people of
Witanbury were fond of reminding one anothergenerally in a
commendatory, though sometimes in a complaining, tonewas a real
* * * * *
There followed hours of that merciful rush and bustle which at such
moments go a long way to deaden suspense and pain. General and Lady
Blake were arriving this evening, and the spare room of the Trellis
House had to be got ready for them, and Rose's rooma lengthier matter
thistransformed into a dressing-room.
But at last everything was ready, and then Rose went off, alone, to
the station, to meet the London express.
The train was very late, and as she paced up and down the long
platform she began wondering, with a kind of weary, confused wonder,
whether there had been an accident, for now everything startling and
dreadful seemed within the bounds of possibility. Yesterday with what
eagerness would she have bought two or three evening papersbut now
the thought of doing so did not even occur to her.
Yesterdaynay, to-day, up to three hours agoshe had been so
happy, lacking even that latent anxiety which had been with her for so
long, for she had supposed Jervis to be out of the trenches, resting.
In fact, for the first time she had not been thinking much of Jervis,
for her mind had been filled with her coming visit to London.
She was but very slightly acquainted with Sir John Blake, and she
felt rather frightened of himof the father whom Jervis loved and
feared. True, he had written her a very kind, if a very short, note;
but she had been afraid that she would not please himthat he would
not approve of Jervis's choice....
At last the train came in. There was a great crowd of people, and
her eyes sought in vain for the tall, still active figure she vaguely
remembered. Then suddenly she saw Lady BlakeLady Blake looking about
her with an anxious, bewildered face, which changed to eager relief
when the girl grasped her hand.
Is this Rose? Dear little Rose! I am alone, dear child. I have not
brought a maid. My husband went down to Southampton early this morning
to wait for the hospital ship. I was so grateful for your mother's kind
telegram. It will be an infinite comfort to stay with you both. But I
think Sir John may find it more convenient to stay at an hotel. She
grew a little pink, and Rose Otway, whose perceptions as to a great
deal that is sad or strange in human nature, had grown of late, felt a
little rush of anger against Sir John Blake.
As they left the station, Rose was able to ask the questions she was
longing to ask. But Lady Blake knew nothing. No, we have had no
details at all. Only just the telegram telling us that he has been
severely woundedseverely, you know, is much less serious than
dangerouslyand that he was being sent to Sir Jacques Robey's hospital
at Witanbury. It seems so strange that Jervis should be coming here
so strange, but, my dear, so very happy too! My husband says that they
probably show the wounded officers a list of hospitals, and perhaps
give them a certain measure of choice.
They did not say much during the short drive to the Close; they
simply held each other's hands. And Rose's feeling of indignation
against Jervis's father grew and grew. How could he be impatient, still
less unkind, to this sweet, gentle woman?
There followed a time of anxious waiting at the Trellis House, and,
reluctantly, Rose began to understand why Sir John Blake was impatient
with his wife. Lady Blake could not sit still; and she made no effort
to command her nerves. In her gentle voice she suggested every painful
possibility, from the torpedoing of the hospital ship in the Channel to
a bad break down, or even a worse accident, to the motor ambulances
which were to convey Jervis and four other wounded officers to
But at last, when even Sir Jacques himself had quite given them up
for that night, three motor ambulances drove into the Close, and round
to the temporary hospital.
And then such a curious, pathetic scene took place in the courtyard
of Robey's. Improvised flares and two electric reading-lamps, brought
hurriedly through the windows of the drawing-room, shone on the group
of waiting peoplenurses ready to step forward when wanted; Sir
Jacques Robey and a young surgeon who had come up from the Witanbury
Cottage Hospital; Lady Blake trembling with cold and excitement close
to Mrs. Otway and Rose; and a number of others who had less reason and
excuse for being there.
From a seat by one of the drivers there jumped down Sir John Blake.
He looked round him with a keen glance, and then made his way straight
to where his wife was standing. Taking no notice of her, he addressed
the girl standing by her side. Is this Rose, he saidRose Otway?
and taking her hand gripped it hard. He's borne the journey very
well, he said quickly, reassuringly; and then, at last, he looked at
his wife. She was gazing at him with imploring, anxious eyes. Well,
he said impatiently, well, my dear, what is it you want to say to me?
She murmured something nervously, and Rose hurriedly said, Lady
Blake wants to know where Jervis was wounded.
A fragment of shell struck his left armbut the real mischief was
done to his right leg. When the building in which he and his company
were resting was shelled, a beam fell on it. I should have thought
myself that it would have been better to have kept him, for at any rate
a while, at Boulogne. But they now think it wiser, if it be in any way
possible, to bring them straight back.
Rose hardly heard what he said. She was absorbed in wondering which
of the stretchers now being brought out of the ambulances bore the form
of Jervis Blake; but she accepted, with a quiet submission which
increased the great surgeon's already good opinion of her, his decree
that no one excepting himself and his nurses was to see or speak to any
of the wounded that night.
Time and the weather run through the roughest day. It may be
doubted if Rose Otway knew that consoling old proverb, but with her
time, even in the shape of a very few days, and perhaps, too, the
weather, which was remarkably fine and mild for the time of year, soon
wrought a wonderful change.
And as she sat by Jervis Blake's bedside, on a bright, sunny day in
late November, it seemed to her as if she had nothing left to wish for.
The two nurses who attended on him so kindly and so skilfully told her
that he was going on wellfar better, in fact, than they could have
expected. And though Sir Jacques Robey did not say much, she had no
reason to suppose him other than satisfied. True, Jervis's face looked
strained and thin, and there was a cradle over his right foot, showing
where the worst injury had been. But the wound in his shoulder was
healing nicely, and once or twice he had spoken of when he would be
able to go back; but now he had left off doing that, for he saw that it
Yesterday something very pleasant had happened, and something which,
to Jervis Blake himself, was quite unexpected. He had been Mentioned in
Despatches, in connection with a little affair, as he described it,
which had happened weeks ago, on the Aisne! One of the other two men
concerned in it had received the Victoria Cross, and Rose was secretly
rather hurt, as was also Lady Blake, that Jervis had not been equally
honoured. But that thought did not occur to either his father or
Just now Rose was enjoying half an hour of pleasant solitude with
her lover, after what had been a trying morning for him. Sir Jacques
Robey had asked down an old friend of his own, a surgeon too, to see
Jervis, and they had spent quite a long time pulling the injured foot
Sir John Blake had also come down to spend the day at Witanbury. He
had been able to get away for a few hours from his work at the War
Office to tell his boy how very, very pleased he was at that mention in
Sir John French's Despatches. Indeed, all the morning telegraph boys
had been bringing to Robey's the congratulations of friends and even
Jervis was very tired nowtired because the two surgeons, skilful
and careful though they were, had not been able to help hurting him
quite a good bit. It was fortunate that Rose Otway, dearly as she loved
him, knew little or nothing of pain. She had been sent away during that
hour, right out of the house, to take a walk with Mr. Robey. She had
been told quite plainly by Sir Jacques that they would rather she were
not there while the examination was taking place. It was important that
the house should be kept as far as possible absolutely quiet.
Jervis did not talk very much, but there was no need for him to do
so. He and Rose would have plenty of time to say everything they wanted
to one another, for Sir Jacques had told her, only yesterday night,
that a very long time must go by before Jervis would be fit to go back.
Any injury to the foot, he had said casually, is bound to be a long
and a ticklish business. The words had given her a rush of joy of
which she felt ashamed.
There came a knock at the door, and then the younger of Jervis's
nurses came quietly into the room. They're asking for you downstairs,
Miss Otway, she said quietly. And I think that perhaps Mr. Blake
might now get a little sleep. He's had a rather tiring, exciting
morning, you know. Perhaps you could come up and have tea with him
about five o'clock? He's sure to be awake by then.
And then the young nurse did a rather odd thing. Instead of going on
into the room and up to the bedside, she went out of the door for a
moment, and Rose, during that moment, bent down and laid her soft cheek
against Jervis's face. Good-bye, my darling Jervis. I shan't be away
long. And then she straightened herself, and went out of the room.
Of course she was happyhappy, and with a heart at rest as it had
not been for months and months. But still it would be a great comfort
when Jervis was up. She hated to see him lying there, helpless, given
over to ministrations other than her own.
As she went through the door, the nurse stopped her and said, Would
you go into Mr. Robey's study, Miss Otway? I think Sir John Blake wants
to see you before he goes back to town. Mr. Jenkinson has already gone;
he had to be there for a consultation at six.
Rose looked at her, a little surprised. It was as if the kind little
nurse was speaking for the sake of speaking.
She went down the quiet house, past the door of the large ward where
the four other wounded officers now lay, all going on, she was glad to
know, very well, and all having had a visit from Mr. Jenkinson, the
She hurried on, smiling a little as she did so. She was no longer
afraid of Sir John Blake. In fact she was becoming very fond of him,
though it hurt her always to hear how sharply and irritably he spoke to
his gentle, yielding wife. Of course Lady Blake was very unreasonable
sometimesbut she was so helpless, so clinging, and so fond of Jervis.
And then, as she turned a cornerfor Robey's consisted of three
houses, through each of which an intercommunication had been
madethere fell on Rose Otway's ear a very dreadful sound, that of
some one crying in wild, unbridled grief. The sound came from Mrs.
Robey's little sitting-room, and suddenly Rose heard her own mother's
voice raised in expostulation. She was evidently trying to comfort and
calm the poor strangerdoubtless the mother or wife of one of the four
officers upstairs. Two days ago one of these visitors had had something
very like a fit of hysterics after seeing her wounded husband. Rose
shrank from the memory. But this was worsefar worse. She hurried on
into Mr. Robey's study.
The study, which was a very agreeable room, overlooked the Close. It
was panelled with dark old oak, and lined on one side with books, and
opposite the centre window hung Mr. Robey's greatest treasure, a
watercolour by Turner of Witanbury Cathedral, painted from the meadows
behind the town.
To-day Mr. Robey himself was not there, but his brother and Sir John
Blake were both waiting for her. Eagerly she walked forward into the
room, and as she did so she made a delightful pictureor so those two
men, so very different the one from the other, thoughtof youth, of
happiness, and yes, of young love satisfied.
Sir Jacques took a step forward. The General did not move at all. He
was standing with his back to the further window, his face in shadow.
Now, Miss Rose, I want you to listen very carefully to me for a few
She looked at him gravely. Yes? she said questioningly.
I have asked you to come, went on the great surgeon, because I
want to impress upon your mind the fact that how you behave at this
juncture of his life may make a very great, I might almost say all the
difference, to your future husband, to Mr. Jervis Blake.
Rose's senses started up, like sentinels, to attention.
You will have need of all your courage, and also of all your good
sense, to help him along a very rough bit of road, he went on
Rose felt a thrill of sudden, unreasonable terror. What is it? she
exclaimed. What is going to happen to him? Is he going to die? I don't
mind what it is, if only you will tell me! She instinctively moved
over to Sir John Blake's side, and he, as instinctively, put his arm
round her shoulder.
Mr. Jenkinson agrees with me, said Sir Jacques, slowly and
deliberately, that his foot, the foot that was crushed, will have to
come off. There is no dangerno reasonable danger, that isof the
operation costing him his life. He waited a moment, and as she said
nothing, he went on: But though there is no danger of his losing his
life, there is a very great danger, Miss Otway, of his losing what to
such a man as Jervis Blake counts, I think, for more than lifehis
courage. By that of course I do not mean physical bravery, but that
courage, or strength of mind, which enables many men far more afflicted
than he will ever be, to retain their normal outlook on life. Speaking
more to himself, he added, I have formed a very good opinion of this
young man, and personally I think he will accept this great misfortune
with resignation and fortitude. But one can never tell, and it is
always best to prepare for the worst.
And then, for the first time, Rose spoke. I understand what you
mean, she said quietly. And I thank you very much, Sir Jacques, for
having spoken to me as you have done.
And now, he said, one word more. Sir John Blake does not know
what I am going to say, and perhaps my suggestion will not meet with
his approval. It had been settled during the last few days, had it not,
that you and Jervis were to be married before he went back to the
Front? Well, I suggest that you be married now, before the operation
takes place. I am of course thinking of the matter solely from his
point of viewand from my point of view as his surgeon.
Her heartfelt Thank you had hardly reached his ear before Sir John
Blake spoke with a kind of harsh directness.
I don't think anything of the sort can be thought of now. In fact I
would not give my consent to an immediate marriage. I feel certain that
my son, too, would refuse to take advantage of his position to suggest
I think, said Sir Jacques quietly, that the suggestion in any
case would have to come from Miss Rose.
And then, for the first time, Rose lost control of herself. She
became agitated, tearfulin her eagerness she put her hand on Sir
John's breast, and looking piteously up into his face, Of course I
want to marry him at once! she said brokenly. Every time I have had
to leave him in the last few days I have felt miserable. You see, I
feel married to him already, and if you feel married, it's so very
strange not to be married.
She began to laugh helplessly, and the more, shocked at what she was
doing, she tried to stop, the more she laughed.
Sir Jacques came quickly forward. Come, come! he said sharply, and
taking her by the arm he shook her violently. This won't do at
all he gave a warning look at the other man. Of course Miss Rose
will do exactly what she wishes to do! She's quite right in saying that
she's as good as married to him already, Sir John. And it's our
businessyours, hers, and mineto think of Jervis, and of Jervis only
just now. But she won't be able to do that if she allows herself to be
I'm so sorryplease forgive me! Rose, to her own measureless
relief, had stopped laughing, but she felt oddly faint and queer. Sir
Jacques poured out a very small wineglassful of brandy, and made her
drink it. How odd to have a bottle of brandy here, in Mr. Robey's
study! Mr. Robey was a teetotaller.
Would you like me to go up to Jervis now? asked Sir John slowly.
Sir Jacques looked into the speaker's face. It was generally a
clear, healthy tan colour; now it had gone quite grey. No, he said.
Not now. If you will forgive me for making a suggestion, I should
advise that you and Miss Rose take Lady Blake out somewhere for an
hour's walk. There's nothing like open air and a high road for calming
I would rather not see my wife just now, muttered Sir John
But Sir Jacques answered sternly, I'm afraid I must ask you to do
so; and once you've got her out of doors for an hour, I'll give her a
sleeping draught. She'll be all right to-morrow morning. I don't want
any tears round my patient.
It was Rose Otway who led Sir John Blake by the hand down the
passage. The dreadful sounds coming from Mrs. Robey's sitting-room had
died down a little, but they still pierced one listener's heart.
Do be kind to her, whispered the girl. Think what she must be
going through. She was so happy about him this morning
Yes, yes! You're quite right, he said hastily. I've been a
bruteI know that. I promise you to do my best. And Rose?
Yes, she said.
What that man said is rightquite right. What we've got to do now
is to start the boy on the right waynothing else matters.
You and I can do it.
Yes, I know we canand will, said Rose; and then she opened the
door of Mrs. Robey's sitting-room.
At the sight of her husband, Lady Blake's sobs died down in long,
Come, my dear, he said, in rather cold, measured tones. This will
not do. You must try for our boy's sake to pull yourself together.
After all, it might have been much worse. He might have been killed.
I would much rather he had been killed, she exclaimed vehemently.
Oh, John, you don't know, you don't understand, what this will mean to
Don't I? he asked. He set his teeth. And then, You're acting very
wrongly! he said sternly. We've got to face this thing out. Remember
what Sir Jacques said to you. He waited a moment, then, in a gentler,
kinder tone, Rose and I are going out for a walk, and we want you to
Oh, I don't think I could do that. She spoke uncertainly, and yet
even he could see that she was startled, surprised, and yes, pleased.
Oh, yes, you can! Rose came forward with the poor lady's hat and
black lace cloak. Very gently, but with the husband's strong arm
gripping the wife's rather tightly, they between them led her out of
the front door into the Close.
I think, said Sir John mildly, that you had better run back and
get your hat, Rose.
She left them, and Sir John Blake, letting go of his wife's arm
looked down into her poor blurred face for a moment. That girl, he
said hoarsely, sets us both an example, Janey.
That's true, she whispered, But John?
Don't you sometimes feel dreadfully jealous of her?
I? God bless my soul, no! But a very sweet smile, a smile
she had not seen shed on her for many, many years, lit up his face.
We'll have to think more of one another, and less of the boyeh, my
Lady Blake was too surprised to speakand so, for once doing the
wise thing, she remained silent.
Rose, hurrying out a moment later, saw that the open air had already
done them both good.
You've got to make him believe that you wish for the marriage to
take place now, for your own sake, not for his.
It was with those words, uttered by Sir Jacques Robey, still
sounding in her ears, that Rose Otway walked up to the door of the room
where Jervis Blake, having just seen his father, was now waiting to see
Sir John Blake's brief He has taken it very well. He has a far
greater sense of discipline than I had at his age, had been belied,
discounted, by the speaker's own look of suffering and of revolt.
Rose waited outside the door for a few moments. She was torn with
conflicting fears and emotions. A strange feeling of oppression and
shyness had come over her. It had seemed so easy to say that she would
be married at once, to-morrow, to Jervis. But she had not known that
she would have to ask Jervis's consent. She had supposed, foolishly,
that it would all be settled for her by Sir Jacques....
At last she turned the handle of the door, and walked through into
the room. And then, to her unutterable relief, she saw that Jervis
looked exactly as usual, except that his face, instead of being pale,
as it had been the last few days, was rather flushed.
Words which had been spoken to him less than five minutes ago were
also echoing in Jervis's brain, pushing everything else into the
background. He had said, I suppose you think that I ought to offer to
release Rose? and his father had answered slowly: All I can say is
that I should do soif I were in your place.
But now, when he saw her coming towards him, looking as she always
looked, save that something of the light and brightness which had
always been in her dear face had faded out of it, he knew that he could
say nothing of the sort. This great trouble which had come on him was
her trouble as well as his, and he knew she was going to take it and to
bear it, as he meant to take it and to bear it.
But Jervis Blake did make up his mind to one thing. There should be
no hurrying of Rose into a hasty marriagethe kind of marriage they
had plannedthe marriage which was to have taken place a week before
he went back to the Front. It must be his business to battle through
this grim thing alone. It would be time enough to think of marriage
when he was up and about again, and when he had taught himself, as much
as might be possible, to hide or triumph over his infirmity.
As she came and sat down quietly by the side of his bed, on the
chair which his father had just left, he put out his hand and took
I want to tell you, he said slowly, that what my father has just
told me was not altogether a surprise. I've felt ratherwell, rather
afraid of it, since Sir Jacques first examined me. There was something
in the nurses' manner toobut of course I knew I might be wrong. I'm
sorry now that I didn't tell you.
She still said nothingonly gripped his hand more and more tightly.
And Rose? One thing father said is being such a comfort to me.
Father thinks that I shall still be able to be of useI mean in the
way I should like to be, especially if the war goes on a long time. I
wonder if he showed you this? He picked up off his bed a little piece
of paper and held it out to her.
Through her bitter tears she read the words: German
thoroughnessand then a paragraph which explained how the German
military authorities were using their disabled officers in the training
Father thinks that in time they'll do something of the sort
herenot yet, perhaps, but in some months from now.
And then, as she still did not speak, he grew uneasy. Come a little
nearer, he whispered. I feel as if you were so far away. We needn't
be afraid of any one coming in. Father has promised that no one shall
disturb us till you ring.
She did as he asked, and putting his uninjured arm right round her,
he held her closely to him.
It was the first time since that strange home-coming of his that
Jervis had felt secure against the sudden irruption into the room of
some well-meaning person. Of the two it was Jervis who had been
silently determined to give the talkative, sentimental nurses no excuse
for even the mildest, the kindliest comment.
But now everything was merged in this great ordeal of love and grief
they were battling through togethersecure from the unwanted presence
of others as they had not been since he had last felt her heart
fluttering beneath his, in the porch of the cathedral.
Oh, Rose, he whispered at last, you don't know what a difference
having you makes to me! If it wasn't for you, I don't know how I could
For a moment she clung a little closer to him. He felt her trembling
with a wave of emotion to which he had no present clue. Oh,
Jervisdear Jervis, is that true? she asked piteously.
Do you doubt it? he whispered.
Then there's something I want you to do for me.
You know that there isn't anything in the world you could ask me to
do that I wouldn't do, Rose.
I want you to marry me to-morrow, she said. And then, as for a
moment he remained silent, she began to cry. Oh, Jervis, do say
yesunless you very, very much want to say no!
* * * * *
During the next forty-eight hours Sir Jacques Robey settled what was
to be done, when it should be done, and how it was to be done.
Of the people concerned, it was perhaps Lady Blake who seemed the
most under his influence. She submitted without a word to his
accompanying her into her son's bedroom, and it was in response to his
insistent commandfor it was no lessthat instead of alluding to the
tragic thing which filled all her thoughts, she only spoke of the
morrow's wedding, and of her happiness in the daughter her son was
It was Sir Jacques, too, who persuaded Mrs. Otway to agree that an
immediate marriage was the best of all possible solutions for Rose as
well as for Jervis; and it was he, also, who suggested that Sir John
Blake should go over to the Deanery and make all the necessary
arrangements with Dr. Haworth. But perhaps the most striking example of
Sir Jacques's good sense and thoroughness occurred after Sir John had
been to the Deanery.
Dr. Haworth had fallen in with every suggestion with the most eager,
ready sympathy; and Sir John, who before coming to Witanbury had
regarded him as a pacifist and pro-German, had come really to like and
respect him. So it was that now, as he came back from the Deanery, and
up to the gate of the Trellis House, he was in a softer, more yielding
mood than usual.
Sir Jacques hurried out to meet him. Is everything all right?
Yeseverything's settled. But it's your responsibility, not mine!
I've been wondering, Sir John, whether the Dean reminded you that
we shall require a wedding ring?
No, he did not. Sir John Blake looked rather taken aback. I
wonder what I'd better do? he muttered helplessly.
You and Lady Blake had better go into the town and buy one, said
Sir Jacques. I don't feel that we can put that job on poor
little Rose. She's had quite enough to do as it isand gallantly she's
And as Sir John began to look cross and undecided, the other said
with a touch of sharpness, Of course if you'd rather not do it, I'll
buy the ring myself. But I've been neglecting my work this morning.
Ashamed of his ungraciousness, as the other had meant him to be, Sir
John said hastily, Of course I'll get it! I was only wondering whether
I hadn't better go alone.
Lady Blake would be of great use in choosing it, and for the matter
of that, in trying it on. If you wait here a moment I'll go and fetch
her. She's got her hat on, I know.
So it happened that, in three or four minutes, just long enough for
Sir John to begin to feel impatient, Jervis's mother came out of the
Trellis House. She was smiling up into the great surgeon's face, and
her husband told himself that it was an extraordinary thing how this
wedding had turned their mindsall their mindsaway from Jervis's
I wonder if Rose would like a broad or narrow wedding ring? said
Lady Blake thoughtfully. I'm afraid there won't be very much choice in
a place like Witanbury.
Sir Jacques looked after the couple for a few moments, then he
turned and went into the Trellis House, and so into the drawing-room.
Bachelors, he said meditatively, sometimes have a way of playing
the very mischief between married coupleseh, Mrs. Otway? So it's only
fair that now and again a bachelor should do something towards bringing
a couple together again.
She looked at him, surprised. What oddand yes, rather improper
thingsSir Jacques sometimes said! Butbut he was a very kind
man. Mrs. Otway was a simple woman, though she would have felt a good
deal nettled had anyone told her so.
I rather wonder, she said impulsively, why you never
married. You seem to approve of marriage, Sir Jacques? She was looking
into his face with an eager, kindly look.
If you look at me long enough, he said slowly, I think you'll be
able to answer that question for yourself. The women I wantedthere
were three of them and then, as he saw that she again looked
slightly shocked, he added, Not altogether, but consecutively, you
understandwell, not one of them would have me! The women who might
have put up with mewell, I didn't seem to want them! But I should
like to say one thing to you, Mrs. Otway. This particular affair in
which you and I are interested does seem to me, if you'll allow me to
say so, 'a marriage of true minds' He stopped abruptly, and to her
great surprise left the room without finishing his sentence.
* * * * *
Such trifling, and at the time such seemingly unimportant, little
happenings are often those which long afterwards leap out from the
past, bringing with them poignant memories of joy, of sorrow, of pain,
and of happiness.
Rose Blake will always remember that it was her poor old German
nurse, Anna Bauer, who, on her wedding day, made her wear a white dress
and a veil. She had meant to be married, in so far as she had given any
thought to the matter at all, in her ordinary blue serge skirt and a
Those about her might be able to forget, for a few merciful hours,
what lay before Jervis; but she, Rose Otway, could not forget it. She
knew that she was marrying him now, not in order that she might be even
closer to him than she felt herself to bethat seemed to her
impossiblebut in order that others might think so. She would have
preferred the ceremony to take place only in the presence of his
parents and of her mother. But as to that she had been given no say;
Sir Jacques and Mr. and Mrs. Robey had announced as a matter of course
that they would be present, and so she had assented to her mother's
suggestion that Miss Forsyth should be asked. If Mr. and Mrs. Robey and
Sir Jacques were to be there, then she did not mind Miss Forsyth, her
kind old friend, being there too.
Anna had protested with tearful vehemence against the blue serge
skirt and the pretty blousenay, more, she had already taken the white
gown she intended that her beloved nursling should wear, out of the bag
which she, Anna, had made for it last year. It was a very charming
frock, a fine exquisitely embroidered India muslin, the only really
beautiful day-dress Rose had ever had in her young life. And oddly
enough it had been a present from Miss Forsyth.
Miss Forsythit was nearly eighteen months agohad invited Rose to
come up to London with her for a day's shopping, and then she had
suddenly presented her young friend with this attractive, and yes,
expensive gown. There had been a blue sash, but this had now been taken
off by Anna, and a bluey-white satin band substituted. As to that Rose
now rebelled. If I am to wear this dress to-day, I should like
the blue sash put back, she said quickly. Blue is supposed to bring
luck to brides, Anna.
What had really turned the scale in Rose's mind had been Anna's
tears, and the fact that Miss Forsyth would be pleased to see her
married in that gown.
But over the lace veil there had been something like a tug of war.
And this time it was Mrs. Otway who had won the day. If you wear that
muslin dress, then I cannot see why you should not wear your
grandmother's wedding veil, she had exclaimedand again Rose had
Poor old Anna! It was a day of days for herfar more a day of days
than had been the marriage of her own daughter. Yet Louisa Bauer's
wedding had been a great festival. And the old woman remembered what
pains Mrs. Otway had taken to make that marriage of five years ago, as
far as was possible in such a very English place as Witanbury, a German
bridal. In those days they had none of them guessed what an
unsatisfactory fellow George Pollit was going to turn out; and Louisa
had gone to her new home with quite a German trousseauthat is, with
what would have appeared to English eyes stacks of under-clothing, each
article beautifully embroidered with a monogram and lavishly trimmed
with fine crochet; each set tied up with a washing band or
Waschebander, a strip of canvas elaborately embroidered in
It seemed strangely sad and unnatural that Anna's gracious young
lady should have no trousseau at all! But that doubtless would come
afterwards, and she, Anna, felt sure that she would be allowed to have
a hand in choosing it. This thought was full of consolation, as was
also her secret supposition that the future trousseau would be paid for
by the bridegroom.
There was certainly cause for satisfaction in that thought, for Anna
had become conscious of late that her dear mistress felt anxious about
money. Prices were going up, but thanks to her, Anna's, zealous care,
the housekeeping bills at the Trellis House were still kept wonderfully
low. It was unfortunate that Mrs. Otway, being the kind of gracious
lady she was, scarcely gave Anna sufficient credit for this. It was not
that she was ungrateful, it was simply that she did not think anything
about itshe only remembered that she was short of money when the
household books were there, open in front of her.
And now the small group of men and women who were to be present at
the marriage of Rose Otway and Jervis Blake were gathered together in
Mrs. Robey's large drawing-room. Seven people in all, for the Dean had
not yet arrived.
In addition to the master and mistress of the hospitable house in
which they now all found themselves, there were there Sir John and Lady
Blake; Miss Forsythwho, alone of the company, had dressed herself
with a certain old-fashioned magnificence; Sir Jacques, who had just
come into the room after taking Rose and her mother up to Jervis's
room; and lastly good old Anna Bauer, who sat a little apart by
herself, staring with a strange, rather wild look at the group of
people standing before her.
To Anna's excited mind, they did not look like a wedding party; they
looked, with the exception of Miss Forsyth, who wore a light grey silk
dress trimmed with white lace, like people waiting to start for a
No one spoke, with the exception of Lady Blake, who occasionally
addressed a nervous question, in an undertone, to Mrs. Robey.
At last there came the sound of the front door opening and shutting.
Mr. Robey went out, rather hurriedly, and his wife exclaimed, I think
that must be the Dean. My husband is taking him upstairs And then
she waited a moment, and glanced anxiously at her brother-in-law, Sir
Jacques. It was strange how even she, who had never particularly liked
Sir Jacques, looked to him for guidance to-day.
In answer to that look he moved forward a little, and made a queer
little sound, as if clearing his throat. Then, very deliberately, he
addressed the people before him.
Before we go upstairs, he began, I want to say something to you
all. I cannot help noticing that you all look very sad. Now of course I
don't ask you to try and look gay during the coming half-hour, but I do
earnestly beg of you to try and feel happy. Above all and he looked
directly at Lady Blake as he spokeabove all, he repeated, I must
beg of you very earnestly indeed to allow yourselves no show of
emotion. We not only hope, but we confidently expect, that our young
friends are beginning to-day what will be an exceptionally happy,
andand he waited for a moment, then apparently found the word he
wantedan exceptionally harmonious married life. I base that view of
what we all believe, not on any exaggerated notion of what life
generally brings to the average married couple, but on the knowledge we
possess of both these young people's characters. Nothing can take away
from Jervis Blake his splendid past, and we may reasonably believe that
he is going to have with this sweet, brave young woman, who loves him
so well, a contented future.
Again Sir Jacques paused, and then not less earnestly he continued:
I want Jervis Blake to look back on to-day as on a happy and hallowed
day. If anyone here feels that they will not be able to command
themselves, then I beg him or her most strongly to stay away.
He turned and opened the door behind him, and as he did so, his
sister-in-law heard him mutter to himself: Of course at the great
majority of weddings if the people present knew what was going to come
afterwards, they would do nothing but cry. But this is not that sort of
wedding, thank God!
Sir Jacques and old Anna came last up the staircase leading to
Jervis Blake's room. He and the old German woman were on very friendly
terms. Before the War Sir Jacques had been in constant correspondence
with two eminent German surgeons, and as a young man he had spent a
year of study in Vienna. He now addressed a few cheerful, heartening
remarks in German to Rose's old nurse, winding up rather peremptorily
with the words: There must be no tears. There is here only matter for
rejoicing. And Anna, in a submissive whisper, had answered, Ja! Ja!
And then, as she walked last into the room, Anna uttered a guttural
expression of delighted surprise, for it was as if every hothouse
flower in Witanbury had been gathered to do honour to the white-clad,
veiled figure who now stood, with downcast eyes, by the bridegroom's
The flowers were Mr. Robey's gift. He had gone out quite early that
morning and had pressed all those of his acquaintances who had
greenhouses, as well as the flower shops in Witanbury, under
contribution; and the delicate, bright colouring with which the room
was now filled gave a festive, welcoming air to this bridal chamber.
Rose looked up, and as her eyes met the loving, agitated glance of
her nurse, she felt a sudden thrill of warm gratitude to good old Anna,
for Jervis had whispered, How lovely you look, darling! Somehow I
thought you would wear an everyday dressbut this is much, much
Those present followed the order of the marriage service with very
varying emotions, and never had the Dean delivered the familiar,
awesome words with more feeling and more grace of diction.
But the only two people in that room whose breasts were stirred to
really happy memories were Mr. and Mrs. Robey. They, standing together
a little in the background, almost unconsciously clasped each other's
Across the mind of Sir John Blake there flashed a vivid memory of
his own wedding day. The marriage had been celebrated in the cantonment
church of an up-country station, where, after a long, wearying
engagement, and a good deal of what he had even then called
shilly-shallying, his betrothed had come out from England to marry
him. He remembered, in a queer jumble of retrospective gratitude and
impatience, how certain of the wives of his brother officers had
decorated the little plain church; and the mingled scents of the
flowers now massed about him recalled that of the orange blossoms and
the tuberoses at his own wedding.
But real as that long-vanished scene still was to Jervis's father,
what he now remembered best of all the emotions which had filled his
heart as he had stood waiting at the chancel steps for his pretty,
nervous bride were the good resolutions he had mademade and so soon
As for Sir Jacques, he had never been to a wedding since he had been
last forced to do so as a boy by his determined mother. The refusal of
all marriage invitations was an eccentricity which friends and patients
easily pardoned to the successful and popular surgeon, and so the
present ceremony had the curious interest of complete novelty. He had
meant to read over the service to see what part he himself had to play,
but the morning had slipped away and he had not had time.
Jervis, in answer to perhaps the most solemn and awful question ever
put to man, had just answered fervently I will, and Rose's response
had also been uttered very clearly, when suddenly someone gave Sir
Jacques a little prod, and the Dean, with the words, Who giveth this
woman to be married to this man? made him a quiet sign.
Sir Jacques came forward, and in answer, said I do, in a
loud tone. And then he saw the Dean take Jervis's right hand and place
it in Rose's left, and utter the solemn words with which even he was
I, Jervis, take thee, Rose, to be my wedded wife, to have and to
hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for
poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death
us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight
thee my troth.
A series of tremendous promises to make and to keep! But for the
moment cynicism had fallen away from Sir Jacques's heart, and somehow
he felt sure that, at any rate in this case, those tremendous promises
would be kept.
He had been afraid that the Dean would make an address, or at the
least would say a few words that would reduce some of the tiny
congregation to tears. But Dr. Haworth was too wise for that, and
perhaps he knew that nothing he could say could improve on the Beati
And it was then, towards the close of that wedding ceremony, that
Sir Jacques suddenly made up his mind what should be the words graven
inside what he intended should be his wedding gift to Rose Blakethat
gift was a fine old-fashioned ruby ring, the only one of his mother's
jewels he possessed, and the words he then chose in his own mind were
those of the Psalmist, O well is thee, and happy shalt thou be.
DEAR MRS. OTWAY,
I am so very glad to be able to send you the enclosed. Of
course I have not read it. In fact I do not know German. But I
gather that it contains news of Major Guthrie, and that it is
written with a kindly intention. It was probably intended to
arrive for Christmas.
Yours very truly,
P.S.Any letters you write in answer must be left open.
The envelope enclosed by Mrs. Gaunt, which bore the Censor's stamp,
had come from Switzerland, and had been forwarded by favour of the
Geneva Red Cross.
With an indescribable feeling of suspense, of longing, and of
relief, Mrs. Otway drew out the sheet of paper. It was closely covered
with the cramped German characters with which she was, of course,
15 December, 1914.
As Medical Superintendent of the Field Lazarette at Minden, I
write on behalf of a British prisoner of war, Major Guthrie,
who has now been under my care for fourteen weeks.
I wish to assure you that he has had the very highest medical
skill bestowed on him since he came here. Owing to the
exceptional exigencies and strain put on our Medical Service
at the Front, he did not perhaps obtain the care to which he
was entitled by our merciful and humane usages of war, as soon
as would have been well. He received a most serious wound in
the shoulder. That wound, I am pleased to tell you, is in as
good a state as possible, and will leave no ill-effects.
But I regret to tell you, Madam, that Major Guthrie has lost
his eyesight. He bears this misfortune with remarkable
fortitude. As a young man I myself spent a happy year in
Edinburgh, and so we have agreeable subjects of conversation.
He tells me you are quite familiar with my language, or I
should of course have written to you in English.
Believe me, Madam,
To remain with the utmost respect,
Underneath the signature of the doctor was written in hesitating,
strange characters the words in English, God bless you.ALEXANDER
And then, under these five words, came another sentence in German:
I may tell you for your consolation that it is extremely probable
that Major Guthrie will be exchanged in the course of the next few
weeks. But I have said nothing of that to him, for it will depend on
the good-will of the British Government, and it is a good-will which we
Germans have now learnt to distrust.
She read the letter through again. There came over her a feeling of
agony such as she never imagined any human being could suffer.
During the past weeks of suspense, she had faced in her own mind
many awful possibilities, but of this possibility she had not thought.
Now she remembered, with piteous vividness, the straight, kindly
gaze in his bright blue eyeseyes which had had a pleasant play of
humour in them. Sight does not mean the same to all men, but she knew
that it meant a very great deal to the man she loved. He had always
been an out-door man, a man who cared for everything that concerned
open-air lifefor birds, for trees, for flowers, for shooting,
fishing, and gardening.
Ever since she had known that Major Guthrie was alive and wounded, a
prisoner in Germany, she had allowed her thoughts to dwell on the
letters she would write to him when she received his address. She had
composed so many letters in her mindalternative lettersletters
which should somehow make clear to him all that was in her heart, while
yet concealing it first from the British Censors and then from his
But now she did not give these Censors and jailers a thought. She
sat down and wrote quite simply and easily the words which welled up
out of her heart:
To-day is New Year's Day, and I have had the great joy of
receiving news of you. Also your blessing, which has already
done me good. I wish you to get this letter quickly, so I will
not make it long.
I am forbidden to give you any news, so I will only say that
Rose and I are well. That I love you and think of you all the
time, and look forward to being always with you in God's good
She hesitated a moment as to how she would sign herself, and then
She looked over the letter, wondering if she could say any more, and
then a sudden inspiration came to her. She added a postscript:
I am spending the money you left with me. It is a great comfort.
This was not strictly true, but she made up her mind that it should
become true before the day was out.
Far longer did she take over her letter to the German
doctorindeed, she made three drafts of it, being so pitifully anxious
to say just the right thing, neither too much nor too little, which
might favourably incline him to his prisoner patient.
All the time she was writing this second letter she felt as if the
Censors were standing by her, frowning, picking out a sentence here, a
sentence there. She would have liked to say something of the time she
had spent at Weimar, but she dared not do so; perhaps if she said
anything of the kind her letter might not get through.
There was nothing Mrs. Otway desired to say which the sternest
Censor could have found fault with in either country, but the poor soul
did not know that. Still, even so, she wrote a very charming letter of
gratitudeso charming, indeed, and so admirably expressed, that when
the Medical Superintendent at last received it, he said to himself,
The gracious lady writer of this letter must be partly German. No
Englishwoman could have written like this!
There was one more letter to write, but Mrs. Otway found no
difficulty in expressing in few sentences her warm gratitude to her new
friend at Arlington Street.
She put the three letters in a large envelopethe one for the
German hospital carefully addressed according to the direction at the
top of the Medical Superintendent's letter, but open as she had been
told to leave it. On chance, for she was quite ignorant whether the
postage should be prepaid, she put a twopenny-halfpenny stamp on the
letter, and then, having done that, fastened down the big envelope and
addressed it to Mrs. Gaunt, at 20, Arlington Street.
Then she took another envelope out of her drawerthat containing
Major Guthrie's bank-notes. There, in with them, was still the postcard
he had written to her from France, immediately after the landing of the
Expeditionary Force. She looked at the clearly-written French
sentencethe sentence in which the writer maybe had tried to convey
something of his yearning for her. Taking the india-rubber band off the
notes, she put one into her purse. She was very sorry now that she
hadn't done as he had asked herspent this money when, as had happened
more than once during the last few weeks, she had been disagreeably
And then she went out, walking very quietly through the hall. She
did not feel as if she wanted old Anna to know that she had heard from
Germany. It would be hard enough to have to tell Rose the dreadful
thing which, bringing such anguish to herself, could only give the
girl, absorbed in her own painful ordeal, a passing pang of sympathy
* * * * *
Poor old Anna! Mrs. Otway was well aware that as the days went on
Anna became less and less pleasant to live with.
Not for the first time of late, she wondered uneasily if Miss
Forsyth had been right, on that August day which now seemed so very
long ago. Would it not have been better, even from Anna's point of
view, to have sent her back to her own country, to Berlin, to that
young couple who seemed to have so high an opinion of her, and with
whom she had spent so successful a holiday three years ago? At the time
it had seemed unthinkable, a preposterous notion, but nowMrs. Otway
sighednow it was only too clear that old Anna was not happy, and that
she bitterly resented the very slight changes the War had made in her
Anna was even more discontented and unhappy than her mistress knew.
True, both Mrs. Otway and Rose had given her their usual Christmas
gifts, and one of these gifts had been far more costly than ever
before. But there had been no heart for the pretty Tree which, as long
as Rose could remember anything, had been the outstanding feature of
each twenty-fifth of December in her young life.
Yes, it had indeed been a dull and dreary Christmas for Anna! Last
year she had received a number of delightful presents from Berlin.
These had included a marzipan sausage, a marzipan turnip, and a
wonderful toy Zeppelin made of sausagea real sausage fitted with a
real screw, a rudder, and at each end a flag.
But this autumn, as the weeks had gone by without bringing any
answer to her affectionate letters, she had told herself that Minna, or
if not Minna then Willi, would surely write for Christmas. And most
bitterly disappointed had Anna felt when the Christmas week went by
bringing no letter.
In vain Mrs. Otway told her that perhaps Willi and Minna felt, as so
many Germans were said to do, such hatred of England that they did not
care even to send a letter to someone living there. To Anna this seemed
quite impossible. It was far more likely that the cruel English Post
Office had kept back the letter because it came from Germany.
Now it was New Year's Day, and after having heard her mistress go
out, Anna, sore at heart, reminded herself that were she now in service
in Germany she would have already received this morning a really
handsome money gift, more a right than a perquisite, from her mistress.
She did not remind herself that this yearly benefaction is always
demanded back by a German employer of his servant, if that servant is
discharged, owing to her own fault, within a year.
Yes, England was indeed an ill-organized country! How often had she
longed in the last eighteen years to possess the privilege of a
wish-ticketthat delightful Wunschzettel which enables so many
happy people in the Fatherland to make it quite plain what it is they
really want to have given them for a birthday or a Christmas present.
Strange to saybut Anna did not stop to think of that nowthis
wonderful bit of organisation does not always work out quite well. Evil
has been known to come from a wish-ticket, for a modest person is apt
to ask too little, and then is bitterly disappointed at not getting
more than he asks for, while the grasping ask too much, and are angered
at getting less!
It would be doing Anna a great injustice to suppose that her sad
thoughts were all of herself on this mournful New Year's Day of 1915.
Her sentimental heart was pierced with pain every time she looked into
the face of her beloved nursling. Not that she often had an opportunity
of looking into Rose's face, for Mrs. Jervis Blake (never would Anna
get used to that name!) only came home to sleep. She almost always
stayed and had supper with the Robeys, then she would rush home for the
night, and after an early breakfastduring which, to Anna's thinking,
she did not eat nearly enoughbe off again to spend with her
bridegroom whatever time she was not devoting to war work under Miss
Anna had been curious to know how soon Mr. Blake would be able to
walk, but in answer to a very simple, affectionate question, the bride,
who had just then been looking so happyas radiant, indeed, as a
German bride looks within a month of her marriage dayhad burst into
tears, and said hurriedly, Oh, it won't be very long now, dear Anna,
but I'd rather not talk about it, if you don't mind.
Yet another thing added to Anna's deep depression. It seemed to her
that Alfred Head no longer enjoyed her company as he used to do. He had
ordained that they must always speak English, even when alone; and to
her mingled anger and surprise he had told her plainly that, in spite
of his solemn assurance, he neither could nor would pay her the fifty
shillings which was now owing to her in connection with that little
secret matter arranged between herself and Willi three years ago.
About this question of the fifty shillings Mr. Head had behaved very
strangely and rudely indeed. He had actually tried to persuade her
that he knew nothing of itthat it was not he but someone else who
had given her the five half-sovereigns on that evening of the 4th of
August! Then when she, righteously indignant, had forced the reluctant
memory upon him, he had explained that everything was now different,
and that the passing of this money from him to her might involve them
both in serious trouble.
Anna had never heard so flimsy an excuse. She felt sure that he was
keeping her out of the money due to her because business was not quite
so flourishing now as it had been.
The days went on, and to Mrs. Otway's surprise and bitter
disappointment, there came no answer to the letter she had written to
the German surgeon. She had felt so sure that he would write again very
soonif not exactly by return, then within a week or ten days.
The only people she told were Major Guthrie's solicitor, Robert
Allen, and her daughter. But though both, in their different ways,
sympathised with her deeply, neither of them could do anything to help
her. Rather against her will, Mr. Allen wrote and informed his client
of Mrs. Guthrie's death, asking for instructions concerning certain
urgent business matters. But even that letter did not draw any answer
from the Field Lazarette.
As for Rose, she soon gave up asking if another letter had come, and
to Mrs. Otway's sore heart it was as if the girl, increasingly absorbed
in her own not always easy problem of keeping Jervis happy under the
painful handicap of his present invalid condition, had no time to spare
for that of anyone else. Poor Rose often felt that she would give, as
runs the old saying, anything in the world to have her man to herself,
as a cottage wife would have had hers by nowwith no nurses, no
friends, no doctor even, save perhaps for a very occasional visit.
But Mrs. Otway was not fair to Rose; in never mentioning Major
Guthrie and the terrible misfortune which had befallen him, she was
treating her mother as she herself would have wished to be treated in a
A great trouble overshadows all little troubles. One disagreeable
incident which, had life been normal with her then, would have much
irritated and annoyed the mistress of the Trellis House, was the
arrival of a curt notice stating that her telephone was to be
disconnected, owing to the fact that there resided in her house an
enemy alien in the person of one Anna Bauer.
Now the telephone had never been as necessary to Mrs. Otway as it
was to many of her acquaintances, but lately, since her life had become
so lonely, she had fallen into the way of talking over it each morning
with Miss Forsyth.
Miss Forsyth, whom the people of Witanbury thought so absurdly
old-fashioned, had been one of the very first telephone subscribers in
Witanbury. But she had sternly set her face against its frivolous and
extravagant use. This being so, it was a little strange that she so
willingly spent five minutes or more of her morning work-time in
talking over it to Mrs. Otway. But Miss Forsyth had become aware that
all was not well with her friend, and this seemed the only way she was
able to help in a trouble or state of mental distress to which she had
no cluethough sometimes a suspicion which touched on the fringe of
the truth came into her mind.
During these morning talks they would sometimes discuss the War.
Mrs. Otway never spoke of the War to anyone else, for even now she
could not bring herself to share the growing horror and, yes, contempt,
all those about her felt for Germany. Miss Forsyth was an intelligent
woman, and, as her friend knew, had sources of information denied to
the amateur strategists and gossips of Witanbury Close. So it was that
the forced discontinuance of the little morning talk, which so often
brought comfort to Mrs. Otway's sore heart, was a real pain and loss.
She had made a spirited protest, pointing out that all her
neighbours had the telephone, and that by merely asking any of them to
allow her servant to send a message, she could circumvent this, to her,
absurd and unnecessary rule. But her protest had only brought a formal
acknowledgment, and that very day her telephone had been disconnected.
She would have been astonished, even now, had she known with what
ever-swelling suspicion some of her neighbours and acquaintances
The great rolling uplands round the city were now covered with vast
camps, and Witanbury every day was full of soldiers; there was not a
family in the Close, and scarce a family in the town, but had more than
one near and dear son, husband, brother, lover, in the New Armies, if
not yetas in very many casesalready out at the Front.
In spite of what was still described as Rose Otway's romantic
marriage, Mrs. Otway was regarded as having no connection with the
Army, and her old affection for Germany and the Germans was resented,
as also the outstanding fact that she still retained in her service an
And, as is almost always the case, there was some ground for this
feeling, for it was true that the mistress of the Trellis House took
very little interest in the course of the great struggle which was
going on in France and in Flanders. She glanced over the paper each
morning, and often a name seen in the casualty lists brought her the
painful task of writing a letter of condolence to some old friend or
acquaintance. But she did not care, as did all the people around her,
to talk about the War. It had brought to her, personally, too much
hidden pain. How surprised her critics would have been had an angel, or
some equally credible witness informed them that of all the women of
their acquaintance there was no one whose life had been more altered or
affected by the War than Mary Otway's!
She was too unhappy to care much what those about her thought of
her. Even so, it did hurt her when she came, slowly, to realise that
the Robeys and Mrs. Haworth, who were after all the most intimate of
her neighbours in the Close, regarded with surprise, and yes,
indignation, what they imagined to be an unpatriotic disinclination on
her part to follow intelligently the march of events.
It took her longer to find out that the continued presence of her
good old Anna at the Trellis House was rousing a certain amount of
disagreeable comment. At first no one had thought it in the least
strange that Anna stayed on with her, but now, occasionally, someone
said a word indicative of surprise that there should be a German woman
living in Witanbury Close.
But what were these foolish, ignorant criticisms but tiny pin-pricks
compared with the hidden wound in her heart? The news for which she
craved was not news of victory from the Front, but news that at last
the negotiations now in progress for the exchange of disabled prisoners
of war had been successful. That news, however, seemed as if it would
In one thing Mrs. Otway was fortunate. There was plenty of hard work
to do that winter in Witanbury, and, in spite of her supposed lack of
interest in the War, Mrs. Otway had a wonderful way with soldiers'
wives and mothers, so much so that in time all the more difficult cases
were handed over to her.
* * * * *
This is to warn you that you are being watched. A friend of England
is keeping an eye on you, not ostentatiously, but none the less very
closely. Dismiss the German woman who has already been too long in your
employment. England can take no risks.
Mrs. Otway had come home, after a long afternoon of visiting, and
found this anonymous letter waiting for her. On the envelope her name
and address were inscribed in large capitals.
She stared down at the dictatorial messagewritten of course in a
disguised handwith mingled disgust and amusement. Then, suddenly, she
made up her mind to show it to Miss Forsyth before burning it.
Tired though she was, she left the house again, and slowly walked
round to see her old friend.
Miss Forsyth smiled over it, but she also frowned, and she frowned
more than she smiled when Mrs. Otway exclaimed, Did you ever see such
an extraordinary thing?
It is not so extraordinary as you think, Mary! I must honestly tell
you that in my opinion the writer of this anonymous letter is right in
believing that there is a good deal of spying and of conveying valuable
information to the enemy.
She waited a moment, and then went on, deliberately: I suppose you
are quite sure of your old Anna, my dear? Used she not to be in very
close touch with Berlin? Has she broken all that off since the War
Indeed she has! cried Mrs. Otway eagerly. She was surprised at the
turn the conversation had taken. Was it conceivable that Miss Forsyth
must be numbered henceforth among the spy maniacs of whom she knew
there were a good many in Witanbury? She made every kind of effort
early in the Warfor the matter of that I did what I could to help
herto get into touch with her relations there, for she was very
anxious and miserable about them. But she failedabsolutely failed!
And how about her German friends in England? I suppose she has
To the best of my belief, she hasn't a single German acquaintance!
exclaimed Anna's mistress confidently. She used to know those
unfortunate Fröhlings rather well, but, as I daresay you know, they
left Witanbury quite early in the Warin fact during the first week of
war. And she certainly hasn't heard from them. I asked her if she had,
some time ago. Dear Miss Forsyth, do believe me when I say that, apart
from her very German appearance, and her funny way of talking, my poor
old Anna is to all intents and purposes an Englishwoman. Why, she has
lived in England twenty-two years!
There came a very curious, dubious, hesitating expression on Miss
Forsyth's face. I daresay that what you say is true, she said at
last. But even so, if I were you, Mary, I should show her that letter.
She may be in touch with some of her own peopleI mean in all
innocence. It would be very disagreeable for you if such turned out to
be the case. I happen to know that Witanbury is believed to bewell,
what shall I call it?a spy centre for this part of England. I don't
know that it's so much the city, as the neighbourhood. You see, we're
not so very far away from one of the beaches which it is thought the
Germans, if they did try a landing, would choose as a good place.
Mrs. Otway's extreme astonishment showed in her face.
You know I never gossip, Mary, so you may take what I say as being
true. But I beg you to keep it to yourself. Don't even tell Rose, or
the Dean. My information does not come from anyone here, in Witanbury.
It comes from London.
* * * * *
Straws show the way the wind is blowing. The anonymous letter sent
to the Trellis House was one straw; another was the revelation made to
Mrs. Otway by Miss Forsyth.
The wind indicated by these two small straws suddenly developed, on
the 25th of March, into a hurricane. Luckily it was not a hurricane
which affected Mrs. Otway or her good old Anna at all directly, but it
upset them both, in their several ways, very much indeed, for it took
the extraordinary shape of a violent attack by a mob armed with
pickaxes and crowbars on certain so-called Germansfor they were all
naturalisedand their property.
A very successful recruiting meeting had been held in the Market
Place. At this meeting the local worthies had been present in force.
Thus, on the platform which had been erected in front of the Council
House, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, supported by many religious
dignitaries, headed by the Dean, had made an excellent speech, followed
by other short, stirring addresses, each a trumpet call to the
patriotism of Witanbury. Not one of these speeches incited to violence
in any form, but reference had naturally been made to some of the
terrible things that the Germans had done in Belgium, and one speaker
had made it very plain that should a German invasion take place on the
British coast, the civilian population must expect that the fate of
Belgium would be theirs.
The meeting had come to a peaceful end, and then, an hour later, as
soon as the great personages had all gone and night had begun to fall,
rioting had suddenly broken out, the rioters being led by two women,
both Irish-women, whose husbands were believed to have been cruelly
ill-treated when on their way to a prison camp in Germany.
The story had been published in the local paper, on the testimony of
a medical orderly who had come back to England after many strange
adventures. True, an allusion had been made to the matter in one of the
recruiting speeches, but the speaker had not made very much of it; and
though what he had said had drawn groans from his large audience, and
though the words he had used undoubtedly made it more easy for the
magistrate, when he came to deal with the case of these two women, to
dismiss them with only a caution, yet no one could reasonably suppose
that it was this which led to the riot.
For a few minutes things had looked very ugly. A good deal of damage
was done, for instance, to the boot factory, which was still being
managed (and very well managed too) by a naturalised German and his
son. Then the rioters had turned their attention to the Witanbury
Stores. The Kaiser, as Alfred Head was still called by his less
kindly neighbours, had always been disliked in the poorer quarters of
the town, and that long before the War. Now was the time for paying off
old scores. So the plate-glass windows were shivered with a will, as
well as with pickaxes; and all the goods, mostly consisting of bacon,
butter, and cheese, which had dressed those windows, had been taken
out, thrown among the rioters, and borne off in triumph. It was
fortunate that no damage had been done there to life or limb.
Alfred Head had fled at once to the highest room in the building.
There he had stayed, locked in, cowering and shivering, till the
police, strongly reinforced by soldiers, had driven the rioters off.
Polly at first had stood her ground. Cowards! Cowards! she had
cried, bravely rushing into the shop; and it was no thanks to the
rioters that she had not been very roughly handled indeed. Luckily the
police just then had got in by the back of the building, and had
dragged her away.
Even into the quiet Close there had penetrated certain ominous
sounds indicative of what was going on in the Market Place. And poor
old Anna had gone quite white, or rather yellow, with fright.
By the next morning the cold fit had succeeded the hot fit, and all
Witanbury was properly ashamed of what had happened. The cells under
the Council Chamber were fuller than they had ever been, and no one
could be found to say a good word for the rioters.
As for Dr. Haworth, he was cut to the heart by what had occurred,
and it became known that he had actually offered the hospitality of the
Deanery to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Head, even to sending his own carriage
for themor so it was averred. Gratefully had they accepted his
kindness; and though Alfred Head was now back in his place of business,
trying to estimate the damage and to arrange for its being made good,
Polly was remaining on at the Deanery for a few hours.
* * * * *
But those two days, which will be always remembered by the people of
the cathedral city as having witnessed the one War riot of Witanbury,
were to have very different associations for Mrs. Otway and her
daughter, Rose Blake. For on the morning of the 26th a telegram arrived
at the Trellis House containing the news that at last the exchange of
disabled prisoners had been arranged, and that Major Guthrie's name was
in the list of those British officers who might be expected back from
Germany, via Holland, within the next forty-eight hours.
And, as if this was not joy enough, Sir Jacques, on the same day,
told his young friends that now at last the time had come when they
might go off, alone together, to the little house, within sound of the
sea, which an old friend of Lady Blake had offered to lend them for
Jervis's convalescenceand honeymoon.
Anna was hurrying through the quiet streets of Witanbury on her way
to Mr. Head's Stores.
As she walked along, looking neither to the right nor to the left,
for she had of late become unpleasantly conscious of her alien
nationality, she pondered with astonishment and resentment the events
of the last two daysthe receipt of a telegram by Mrs. Otway, and its
destruction, or at any rate its disappearance, before she, Anna, could
learn its contents; and, evidently in consequence of the telegram, her
mistress's hurried packing and departure for London.
Then had followed a long, empty day, the old woman's feelings of
uneasiness and curiosity being but little relieved by Rose's eager
words, uttered late on the same evening: Oh, Anna, didn't mother tell
you the great news? Major Guthrie is coming home. She has gone up to
meet him! The next morning Mrs. Jervis Blake herself had gone to
London, this being the first time she had left her husband since their
There had come another day of trying silence for Anna, and then a
letter from Rose to her old nurse. It was a letter which contained
astounding news. Mrs. Otway was coming back late to-night, and was to
be marriedmarried, to-morrow morning in the Cathedral, to
The bride-elect sent good old Anna her love, and bade her not worry.
Of all the injunctions people are apt to give one another, perhaps
the most cruel and the most futile is that of not to worry. Mrs. Otway
had really meant to be kind, but her message gave Anna Bauer a most
unhappy day. The old German woman had long ago made up her mind that
when it suited herself she would leave the Trellis House, but never,
never had it occurred to her that anything could happen which might
compel her to do so.
At last, when evening fell, she felt she could no longer bear her
loneliness and depression. Also she longed to tell her surprising news
to sympathetic ears.
All through that long day Anna Bauer had been making up her mind to
go back to Germany. She knew that there would be no difficulty about
it, for something Mrs. Otway had told her a few weeks ago showed that
many German women were going home, helped thereto by the British
Government. As for Willi and Minna, however bitterly they might feel
towards England, they would certainly welcome her when they realised
how much money, all her savings, she was bringing with her.
As she walked quickly alonggetting very puffy, for she was stout
and short of breathit seemed to her as if the kindly old city, where
she had lived in happiness and amity for so many years, had changed in
character. She felt as if the windows of the houses were frowning down
at her, and as if cruel pitfalls yawned in her way.
Her depression was increased by her first sight of the building for
which she was bound, for, as she walked across the Market Place, she
saw the boarded up shop-front of the Stores. Mr. Head hoped to get the
plate-glass to-morrowso the boy who had brought the butter and eggs
that morning had exclaimedbut just now there was a great shortage of
that particular kind of shop-front glass, as it was mostly made in
Meanwhile the Witanbury Stores presented a very sorry
appearancethe more so that some evilly disposed person had gone in
the dark, after the boarding had been put up, and splashed across the
boards a quantity of horrid black stuff!
Anna hurried round to the back door. In answer to her ring, the door
was opened at last a little way, and Polly's pretty, anxious face
looked out cautiously. But when she saw who it was, she smiled
Oh, come in, Mrs. Bauer! I'm glad to see you. You'll help me cheer
poor Alfred up a bit. Not but what he ought to be happy nowfor what
d'you think happened at three o'clock to-day? Why, the Dean himself
came along and left a beautiful letter with usan Address, he
called it. She was walking down the passage as she spoke, and when she
opened the parlour door she called out cheerfully, Here's Mrs. Bauer
come to see us! I tell her she'll have to help cheer you up a bit.
And truth to tell Alfred Head did look both ill and haggardbut no,
not unhappy. Even Anna noticed that there was a gleam of triumph in his
eyes. Very pleased to see you, I'm sure! he exclaimed cordially.
Yes, it is as Polly saysout of evil good has come to us. See here,
my dear friend!
Anna came forward. She already felt better, less despondent, but it
was to Polly she addressed her condolences. What wicked folk in this
city there are! she exclaimed. Even Mr. Robey to me says, 'Dastardly
Yes, yes, said Polly hastily. It was dreadful! But look at
this, Mrs. Bauer She held towards Anna a large sheet of thick,
fine cream-laid paper. Across the top was typed
TO ALFRED HEAD,
CITY COUNCILLOR OF WITANBURY.
Then underneath, also in typewriting, the following words:
We the undersigned, your fellow-countrymen and
fellow-citizens of Witanbury, wish to express to you our utter
abhorrence and sense of personal shame in the dastardly attack
which was made on your house and property on March 25, 1915.
As a small token of regard we desire to inform you that we
have started a fund for compensating you for any material loss
you may have incurred which is not covered by your plate-glass
There followed, written in ink, a considerable number of signatures.
These were headed by the Dean, and included the names of most of the
canons and minor canons, four Dissenting ministers, and about a hundred
others belonging to all classes in and near the cathedral city.
True, there were certain regrettable omissions, but fortunately
neither Mr. and Mrs. Head nor Anna seemed aware of it. One such
omission was that of the Catholic priest. Great pressure had been
brought to bear on him, but perhaps because there was little doubt that
members of his congregation had been concerned in the outrage, he had
obstinately refused to sign the Address. More strange and regrettable
was the fact that Miss Forsyth's name was also omitted from the list.
In answer to a personal appeal made to her by the Dean, who had himself
gone to the trouble of calling in order to obtain her signature, she
had explained that she never did give her signature. She had made the
rule thirty years ago, and she saw no reason for breaking it to-day.
* * * * *
Anna looked up from the paper, and her pale blue, now red-rimmed,
eyes sparkled with congratulation. This is good! she exclaimed in
German. Very, very good!
Her host answered in English, Truly I am gratified. It is a
compensation to me for all I have gone through these last few days.
Yes, said Polly quickly. And as you see, Mrs. Bauer, we are to be
really compensated. We were thinking only yesterday that the damage
doneI mean the damage by which we should be out of pocketwas at
least £15. But, as Alfred says, that was putting it very low. He
thinks, and I quite agreedon't you, Mrs. Bauer?that it would be
fair to put the damage down atlet me see, what did you say, Alfred?
According to my calculation, he said cautiously, I think we may
truly call it twenty-seven pounds ten shillings and ninepence.
That, said Polly, is allowing for the profit we should certainly
have made on the articles those wretches stole out of the windows. I
think it's fair to do that, don't you, Mrs. Bauer?
Indeed yesthat thoroughly to agree I do! exclaimed Anna.
And then rather sharply, perhaps a trifle anxiously, Alfred Head
leant over to his visitor, and looking at her very straight, he said,
And do you bring any news to-night? Not that there ever seems any good
news nowand the other sort we can do without.
She understood that this was Mr. Head's polite way of asking why she
had come this evening, without an invitation. Hurriedly she answered,
No news of any special kind I havethough much that me concerns.
Along to ask your advice I came. Supper require I do not.
Oh, but you must stop and have supper with uswith me I mean,
said Polly eagerly, for Alfred is going outaren't you, Alfred?
He hesitated a moment. I shall see about doing that. There is no
hurry. Well, what is it you want to ask me, Mrs. Bauer?
At once Anna plunged into her woes, disappointment, and fears. Now
that the excitement and pride induced by the Address had gone from his
face, Alfred Head looked anxious and uneasy; but on hearing Anna's
great piece of news he looked up eagerly.
Mrs. Otway and this Major Guthrie to be married at the Cathedral
to-morrow? But this is very exciting news! he exclaimed. D'you hear
that, Polly? I think we must go to this ceremony. It will be very
interesting his eyes gleamed; there was a rather wolfish light in
them. The poor gentleman is blind, is he? It is lucky he will not see
how old his bride looks he added a word or two in German.
Anna shrank back, and, speaking German too, she answered, Mrs.
Otway has a very young face, and when not unhappy, she is very bright
and lively. For my part, I think this Major a very-much-to-be-envied
man! Her loyalty to the woman who had been kind and good to her over
so many years awakened, tardily.
No doubt, no doubt, said Alfred Head carelessly. But now I
suppose you are thinking of yourself, Frau Bauer?
Polly broke in: Do talk in English, she said pettishly. You can't
think how tiresome it is to hear that rook's language going on all the
Her husband laughed. Well, I suppose this marriage will make a
difference to you? he said in English.
A difference? exclaimed Anna ruefully. Why, my good situation me
it loses. Home to the Fatherland my present idea is her eyes
filled with big tears.
Her host looked at her thoughtfully. What an old fool she was! But
that, from his point of view, was certainly not to be regretted. She
had served his purpose welland more than once.
Mrs. Otway she a friend has who a German maid had. The maid last
week to Holland was sent, so no trouble can there be. However, one
thing there is she looked dubiously at Polly. Mrs. Head here
knows, does she, about my?
And then at once between Alfred Head's teeth came the angry command,
in her own language, to speak German.
She went on eagerly, fluently now: You will understand, Mr. Head,
that I cannot behave wrongly to my dear nephew Willi's superior. I have
been wondering to-night whether I could hand the affair over to you.
After all, a hundred marks a year are not to be despised in these
times. You yourself say that after the War the money will be made
up she looked at him expectantly.
He said rather quickly to his wife, Look here, Polly! Never mind
thisit's business you wouldn't understand! And his wife shrugged her
shoulders. She didn't care what the old woman was saying to Alfred. She
supposed it was something about the Warthe War of which she was so
heartily sick, and which had brought them, personally, such bad luck.
It is difficult to decide such a thing in a hurry, said Alfred
But it will have to be decided in a hurry, said Anna firmly. What
is to happen if to-morrow Mrs. Otway comes and tells me that I am to go
away to London, to Louisa? English people are very funny, as you know
well, Herr Hegner! In her excitement she forgot his new name, and he
winced a little when he heard the old appellation, but he did not
rebuke her, and she went on: Willi told me, and so did the gentleman,
that on no account must I move that which was confided to me.
Attend to me, Frau Bauer! he said imperiously. This matter is
perhaps more important than even you know, especially at such a time as
Ach, yes! she said. I have often said that to myself. Willi's
friend may be interned by now in one of those horrible campsit is
indeed a difficult question!
I do not say I shall be able to do it, but I will make a big effort
to have the whole business settled for you to-morrow morning. What do
you say to that?
Splendid! she exclaimed. You are in truth a good friend to poor
old Anna Bauer!
I wish to be, he said. And you understand, do you not, Frau
Bauer, that under no conceivable circumstances are you to bring me into
the affair? Have I your wordyour oathon that?
Certainly, she said soberly. You have my word, my oath, on it.
You see it does not do for me to be mixed up with any Germans, he
went on quickly. I am an Englishman nowas this gratifying Address
truly says he waited a moment. What would be the best time for
the person who will come to call?
Anna hesitated. I don't know, she said helplessly. The marriage
is to be at twelve, and before then there will be a great deal of
coming and going at the Trellis House.
Is it necessary for you to attend the bridal? he asked.
Anna shook her head. No, she said, I do not think so; I shall not
be missed. There was a tone of bitterness in her voice.
Then the best thing will be for your visitor to come during the
marriage ceremony. That marriage will draw away all the busybodies. And
it is not as if your visitor need stay long
Not more than a very few minutes, she said eagerly, and then,
Will it be the same gentleman who came three years ago?
Oh, no; it will be someone quite different. He will come in a
motor, and I expect a Boy Scout will be with him.
A gleam of light shot across Anna's mind. But she made no remark,
and her host went on:
You realise that great care must be taken of those things. In fact,
you had better leave it all to him.
Oh, yes, she nodded understandingly. I know they are fragile. I
was told so.
It was extraordinary the relief she feltmore than relief, positive
As to the other matterthe matter of your returning to Germany,
he said musingly, still speaking in his and her native language, I
think, yes, on the whole your idea is a good one, Frau Bauer. It is
shameful that it should be so, but England is no place at present for
an honest German woman who has not taken out her certificate. I wonder
if you are aware that you will only be allowed to take away a very
little money? You had better perhaps confide the rest of your savings
to me. I will take care of them for you till the end of the War.
Very little money? repeated Anna, in a horrified, bewildered tone.
What do you mean, Herr Hegner? I do not understand.
And yet it is clear enough, he said calmly. The British
Government will not allow anyone going to the Fatherland to take more
than a very few poundsjust enough to get them where they want to go,
and a mark or two over. But that need not distress you, Frau Bauer.
But it does distress me very much! exclaimed Anna. In fact, I do
not see now how I can go She began to cry. Are you surequite
sureof what you say?
Yes, I am quite sure, he spoke rather grimly. Well, if you feel
in that way, there is nothing more to be said. You will either stay
with your present lady, or you will have to go to the Pollits.
She looked up at him quickly; she was surprised that he remembered
her daughter's married name, but it had slipped off his tongue quite
Never will I do that! she exclaimed.
Then you had better arrange to stop here. There are plenty of
people in Witanbury who would be only too glad to have such an
excellent help as you are, Frau Bauer.
I shall not be compelled to look out for a new situation, she said
quickly. My young lady would never allow thatneither would Mrs.
But even so, poor Anna felt disturbeddisturbed and terribly
disheartened. The money she had saved was her own money! She could not
understand by what right the British Government could prevent her
taking it with her. It was this money alone that would ensure a welcome
from the Warshauers. Willi and Minna could not be expected to want her
unless she brought with her enough, not only to feed herself, but to
give them a little help in these hard times. But soon she began to feel
more cheerful. Mrs. Otway and the Dean would surely obtain permission
for her to take her money back to Germany. It was a great deal of
moneyover three hundred pounds altogether.
* * * * *
Within an hour of her return to the Trellis House Anna heard the fly
which had been ordered to meet Mrs. Otway at the station drive into the
Close. For the first time, the very first time in over eighteen years,
Anna did not long to welcome her two ladies home. Indeed, her heart now
felt so hurt and sore that when she heard the familiar rumble she would
have liked to run away and hide herself, instead of going to the front
And yet, when the two came through into the hall, Rose with
something of her old happy look back again, and Mrs. Otway's face
radiant as Anna had never seen it during all the peaceful years they
two had dwelt so near to one another, the poor old woman's heart
softened. Welcome! she said, in German. Welcome, my dear mistress,
and all happiness be yours!
And then, after Rose had hurried off to Robey's, Mrs. Otway, while
taking off her things, and watching Anna unpack her bag, told of Major
In simple words she described the little group of peopleof
mothers, of wives, of sweethearts and of friendswho had waited at the
London Docks for that precious argosy, the ship from Holland, to come
in. And Anna furtively wiped away her tears as she heard of the piteous
case of all those who thus returned home, and of the glowing joy of
certain of the reunions which had then taken place. Even those who had
no friends there to greet themonly kind strangersseemed happier
than anyone I had ever seen.
Anna nodded understandingly. So she herself would feel, even if
maimed and blind, to be once more in her own dear Fatherland. But she
kept her thoughts to herself....
At last, after she had a little supper, Mrs. Otway came into the
kitchen, and motioning to Anna to do likewise, she sat down.
Anna? she asked rather nervously, do you know what is going to
Anna nodded, and Mrs. Otway went on, almost as if speaking to
herself rather than to the woman who was now watching her with
strangely conflicting feelings: It seems the only thing to do. I could
not bear for him to go and live aloneeven for only a short timein
that big house where he left his mother. But it was all settled very
hurriedly, partly by telephone to the Deanery. She paused, for what
she felt to be the hardest part of her task lay before her, and before
she could go on, Anna spoke.
I think, she said slowly, I think, dear honoured lady, that it
will be best for me to go to Germany, to stay with Minna and Willi till
the War is over.
Mrs. Otway's eyes filled with tears, yet she felt as if a load of
real anxiety had suddenly been lifted from her heart.
Perhaps that will be best, she said. But of course there is no
hurry about it. There will be certain formalities to go through, and
meanwhile Again she stopped speaking for a moment, then went on
steadily: A friend of Major Guthrie'sone of his brother officers who
has just come home from the Frontis also to be married to-morrow. His
name is Captain Pechell, and the lady also is known to Major Guthrie;
her name is Miss Trepell. I have arranged to let the Trellis House to
them for six weeks, and I have to tell you, Anna, that they will bring
their own servants. Before I knew of this new plan of yours, I arranged
for you to go to Miss Forsyth while this house is let. However, the
matter will now be very much simpler to arrange, and you will only stay
with Miss Forsyth till arrangements have been made for your comfortable
return to Germany.
The colour rushed to Anna's face. Then she was being turned
outafter all these years of devoted service!
Perhaps something of what Anna was feeling betrayed itself, for Mrs.
Otway went on, nervously and conciliatingly: I did try to arrange for
you to go and spend the time with your daughter, but apparently they
will not allow Germans to be transferred from one town to another
without a great deal of fuss, and I knew, Anna, that you would not
really want to go to the Pollits. I felt sure you would rather stay in
Witanbury. But if you dislike the idea of going to Miss Forsyth, then I
think I can arrange for you to come out to Dorycote But even as
she said the words she knew that such an arrangement would never work.
No, no, said Anna, in German. It does not matter where I go for a
few days. If I am in Miss Forsyth's house I can see my gracious young
lady from time to time. She will ever be kind to her poor old nurse.
And Mrs. Otway could not find it in her heart to tell Anna that Rose
was also going away.
Anna stood peeping behind the pretty muslin curtain of her kitchen
window. She was standing in exactly the same place and attitude she had
stood in eight months before, on the first day of war. But oh, how
different were the sensations and the thoughts with which she now
looked out on the familiar scene! She had then been anxious and
disturbed, but not as she was disturbed and anxious to-day.
The Trellis House had become so entirely her home that she resented
bitterly being forced to leave it against her will. Also, she dreaded
the thought of the days she would have to spend under Miss Forsyth's
Anna had never liked Miss Forsyth. Miss Forsyth had a rather short,
sharp way with her, or so the old German woman consideredand her
house was always full of such queer folk below and above stairs. Just
now there was the Belgian family, and also, as Anna had managed to
discover, three odd-come-shorts in the kitchen.
Anna's general unease had not been lessened by a mysterious letter
which she had received from her daughter this morning. In it the writer
hinted that her husband was getting into some fresh trouble. Louisa had
ended with a very disturbing sentence: I feel as if I can't bear my
life!that was what Louisa had written.
The minutes dragged by, and Anna, staring out into the now deserted
Closedeserted, save for a number of carriages and motors which were
waiting by the little gate leading into the Cathedral enclosurebecame
very worried and impatient.
From her point of view it was much to be wished that the visitor she
was expecting should be come and gone before the marriage party came
out of the Cathedral; yet when she had seen how surprised, and even
hurt, both her dear ladies had been on learning of her intention to
stay at home this morning, she had nearly told them the truth!
Everything was different nowWilli would not, could not, mind!
What had restrained her was the memory of how strongly Alfred Head
had impressed on her the importance of secrecyof secrecy as concerned
himself. If she began telling anything, she might find herself telling
everything. Also, Mrs. Otway might think it very strange, what English
people call sly, that Anna had not told her before.
And yet this matter she had kept so closely hidden within herself
for three years was a very simple thing, after all! Only the taking
charge of a number of parcelsfour, as a matter of factfor a
gentleman who was incidentally one of Willi Warshauer's chiefs.
The person who had brought them to the Trellis House had come in the
March of 1912, and she remembered him very distinctly. He had arrived
in a motor, and had only stayed a very few minutes. Anna would have
liked to have given him a little supper, but he had been in a great
hurry, and in fact had hardly spoken to her at all.
From something which he had said when himself carefully bringing the
parcels through the kitchen into her bedroom, and also from a word
Willi had let fall, she knew that what had been left with her was
connected with some new, secret process in the chemical business. In
that special branch of trade, as Anna was aware, the Germans were far,
far ahead of the British.
And as she stood there by the window, waiting, staring across the
now deserted green, at the group of carriages which stood over near the
gate leading to the Cathedral, she began to wonder uneasily if she had
made it quite clear to Mr. Head that the man who was coming on this
still secret business must be sure to come to-day! The lady and
gentleman to whom the house had been let were arriving at six, and
their maids two hours before.
* * * * *
Suddenly the bells rang out a joyous peal, and Anna felt a thrill of
exasperation and sharp regret. If she had known that her visitor would
be late, then she, too, could have been present in the Cathedral. It
had been a bitter disappointment to her not to see her gracious lady
married to Major Guthrie.
Letting the curtain fall, she went quickly upstairs into what had
been Miss Rose's bedroom. From there she knew she could get a better
Yes, there they all werestreaming out of the great porch. She
could now see the bride and bridegroom, arm-in-arm, walking down the
path. They were walking more slowly than most newly married couples
walked after a wedding. As a rule, wedding parties hurried rather
quickly across the open space leading from the porch to the gate.
She lost sight of them while they were getting into the motor which
had been lent to them for the occasion, but she did catch a glimpse of
Mrs. Otway's flushed face as the car sped along to the left, towards
the gate house.
The path round the green was gradually filling up with people, for
the congregation had been far larger than anyone had thought it would
be. News in such a place as Witanbury spreads quickly, and though the
number of invited guests had been very, very few, the number of
uninvited sympathisers and interested spectators had been many.
Suddenly Anna caught sight of her young lady and of Mr. Jervis
Blake. As she did so the tears welled up into her eyes, and rolled down
her cheeks. She could never get used to the sight of this young
bridegroom with his crutch, and that though he managed it very
cleverly, and would soonso Rose had declaredbe able to do with only
Anna hoped that the two would come in and see her for a minute, but
instead they joined Mr. and Mrs. Robey, and were now walking round the
other side of the Close.
Anna went downstairs again. In a moment, Mr. Hayley, whom she had
never liked, and who she felt sure did not like her, would be coming in
to have his luncheon, with another gentleman from London.
Yes, there was the ring. She went to the front door and opened it
with an unsmiling face. The two young men walked through into the hall.
It would have been very easy for James Hayley to have said a kind word
to the old German woman he had known so long, but it did not occur to
him to do so; had anyone suggested it, he would certainly have done it.
We've plenty of time, she heard him say to the other gentleman.
Your train doesn't go till two o'clock. As for me, I'm very hungry! I
made a very early start, you know! and he led his guest into the
dining-room, calling out as he did so: It's all right, Anna! We can
wait on ourselves.
Anna went back into her kitchen. She reminded herself that Mr.
Hayley was one of those gentlemen who give a great deal of trouble and
never a tipunless, that is, they are absolutely forced to do so by
In Germany a gentleman who was always lunching and dining at a house
would, by that common custom, have been compelled to tip the
servantsnot so in this hospitable but foolish, ill-regulated England.
Here people only tip when they sleep. Anna had always thought it an
extremely unfair arrangement. Now Major Guthrie, though he was an
Englishman, had lived enough in Germany to know what was right and
usual, and several times, in the last few years, he had presented Anna
with half a sovereign. This had naturally made her like him more than
she would otherwise have done.
* * * * *
There came another ring at the door. This time it was Miss Forsyth,
and there was quite a kindly smile on her face. Well, she said,
well, Mrs. Bauer? (she had never been as familiar with Anna as were
most of Mrs. Otway's friends). I have come to find something for Mrs.
OtI mean Mrs. Guthrie. She has given me the key of her desk. And
she went through into the drawing-room.
Anna began moving about restlessly. Her tin trunk was packed, and
all ready to be moved to Miss Forsyth's. And Mrs. Otway, busy as she
had been and absorbed in her own affairs while in town, had yet
remembered to stipulate that one of the large cupboards in Anna's
bedroom should remain locked, and full of Anna's things.
It was now nearly one o'clock. What could have happened to her
business visitor? And then, just as she was thinking this for the
hundredth time, she heard the unmistakable sound of a motor coming
slowly down the road outside. Quickly she went out to the back door.
The motor was a small, low, open car, and without surprise she saw
that the man who now was getting out of it was the same person whom she
had seen in the autumn leaving Alfred Head's house. But this time there
was no Boy Scoutthe stranger was alone.
He hurried towards her. Am I speaking to Mrs. Bauer? he asked, in
a sharp, quick tone. And then, as she said Yes, and dropped a little
curtsey, he went on: I had a breakdowna most tiresome thing! But I
suppose it makes no difference? You have the house to yourself?
She hesitatedwas she bound to tell him of the two gentlemen who
were having their luncheon in the dining-room which overlooked the
garden, and of Miss Forsyth in the drawing-room? She decided that
noshe was not obliged to tell him anything of the sort. If she did,
he might want to go away and come back another time. Then everything
would have to be begun over again.
The parcels all ready are, she said. Shall I them bring?
No, no! I will come with you. We will make two journeys, each
taking one. That will make the business less long.
He followed her through the kitchen, the scullery, and so into her
There were two corded tin boxes, as well as a number of other
packages, standing ready for removal.
Surely I have not to take all this away? he exclaimed. I thought
there were only four small parcels!
Anna smiled. Most of it my luggage is, she said. These yours
are she pointed to four peculiar-shaped packages, which might have
been old-fashioned bandboxes. They were done up in grey paper, the kind
grocers use, and stoutly corded. Through each cord was fixed a small
strong, iron handle. They very heavy are, observed Anna thoughtfully.
And the man muttered somethingit sounded like an oath. I think
you had better leave the moving of them to me, he said. Stand aside,
He took up two of them; then once more uttered an exclamation, and
let them gently down again. I shall have to take one at a time, he
said. I'm not an over-strong man, Mrs. Bauer, and as you seem to have
managed to move them, no doubt you can help me with this one.
Anna, perhaps because her nerves were somewhat on edge to-day,
resented the stranger's manner. It was so short, so rude, and he had
such a funny accent. Yet she felt sure, in spite of the excellent
German she had overheard him speak to Mr. Head, that he was not a
fellow-countryman of hers. Then, suddenly, looking at his queerly
trimmed beard, she told herself that he might be an American. Alfred
Head had lived for a long time in America, and this probably was one of
his American friends.
After they had taken out two of the parcels and placed them at the
back of the motor, Anna suddenly bethought herself of what Alfred Head
had said to her. Give me, please, she said, the money which to me
since January 1st owing has been. Fifty shillingstwo pound ten it
I know nothing of that, said the man curtly. I have had no
instructions to pay you any money, Mrs. Bauer.
Anna felt a rush of anger come over her. She was not afraid of this
weasel-faced little man. Then the other two parcels take away you will
not, she exclaimed. To that money a right I have!
They were facing each other in the low-ceilinged, dim, badly-lit
bedroom. The stranger grew very red.
Look here! he said conciliatingly; he was really in a great hurry
to get away. I promise to send you this money to-night, Mrs. Bauer.
You can trust me. I have not got it on me, truly. You may search me if
you like. He smiled a little nervously, and advancing towards her
opened his big motor coat.
Anna shrank back. You truly send it will? she asked doubtfully.
I will send it to Hegner for you. Nay, moreI will give you a
piece of paper, and then Hegner will pay you at once. He tore a page
out of his pocket-book, and scribbled on it a few words.
She took the bit of paper, folded it, and put it in her purse.
As they were conveying the third oddly-shaped parcel through the
kitchen, she said conciliatingly, Curious it is to have charge of
luggage so long and not exactly what it is to know!
He made no answer to this remark. But suddenly, in a startled,
suppressed whisper, he exclaimed, Who's that?
Anna looked round. Eh? she said.
You told me there was no one in the house, but someone has just
come out of the gate, and is standing by my motor! He added sternly,
Was heisst das? (What does this mean?)
Anna hurried to the window and looked through the muslin curtain
hanging in front of it. Yes, the stranger had spoken truly. There was
Mr. Hayley, standing between the little motor-car and the back door.
Do not yourself worry, she said quickly. It is only a gentleman
who luncheon here has eaten. Go out and explain to him everything I
But the man had turned a greenish-white colour. How d'you mean
'explain'? he said roughly, in English.
Explain that they are things of mineluggagethat taking away you
are, said Anna.
The old woman could not imagine why the stranger showed such
agitation. Mr. Hayley had no kind of right to interfere with her and
her concerns, and she had no fear that he would do so.
If you are so sure you can make it all right, the man whispered
low in German, I will leave the house by some other waythere is
surely some back way of leaving the house? I will walk away, and stop
at Hegner's till I know the coast is clear.
There is no back way out, whispered Anna, also in German. She was
beginning to feel vaguely alarmed. But no one can stop you. Walk
straight out, while I stay and explain. I can make it all right.
In a gingerly way he moved to one side the heavy object he had been
carrying, and then, as if taking shelter behind her, he followed the
old woman out through the door.
What's this you're taking out of the house, Anna? Mr. Hayley's
tone was not very pleasant. You mustn't mind my asking you. My aunt,
as you know, told me to remain here to-day to look after things.
Only my luggage it is, stammered Anna. I had hoped to have
cleared out my room while the wedding in progress was.
Your luggage? repeated James Hayley uncomfortably. He was now
feeling rather foolish, and it was to him a very disturbing because an
Yes, my luggage, repeated Anna. And thisshe hesitated a
momentthis person here is going to look for a man to help carry out
my heavy boxes. There are two. He cannot manage them himself.
James Hayley looked surprised, but to her great relief, he allowed
the stranger to slip by, and Anna for a moment watched the little man
walking off at a smart pace towards the gate house. She wondered how
she could manage to send him a message when the tiresome, inquisitive
Mr. Hayley had gone.
But whose motor is that? Mr. Hayley went on, in a puzzled tone.
You must forgive me for asking you, Anna, but you know we live in odd
times. He had followed her into the kitchen, and was now standing
there with her. As she made no answer, he suddenly espied the
odd-looking parcel which stood close to his feet, where the stranger
had put it down.
Mr. Hayley stooped, really with the innocent intention of moving the
parcel out of the way. Good gracious! he cried. This is a tremendous
weight, Anna. What on earth have you got in there? He was now dragging
it along the floor.
Don't do that, sir, she exclaimed involuntarily. It's fragile.
Fragile? he repeated. Nonsense! It must be iron or copper. What
is it, Anna?
She shook her head helplessly. I do not know. It is something I
have been keeping for a friend.
His face changed. He took a penknife out of his pocket, and ripped
off the stout paper covering.
Then, before the astonished Anna could make a movement, he very
quietly pinioned her elbows and walked her towards the door giving into
Captain Joddrell? he called out. And with a bewildered feeling of
abject fear, Anna heard the quick steps of the soldier echoing down the
Yes; what is it?
I want your help over something.
They were now in the hall, and Miss Forsyth, standing in the doorway
of the drawing-room, called out suddenly, Oh, Mr. Hayley, you are
No, I'm not. Will you please lock the front door?
Then he let go of Anna's arms. He came round and gazed for a moment
into her terrified face. There was a dreadful look of contempt and
loathing in his eyes. You'd better say nothing, he muttered.
Anything you say now may be used in evidence against you!
He drew the other man aside and whispered something; then they came
back to where Anna stood, and she felt herself pushednot exactly
roughly, but certainly very firmlyby the two gentlemen into the room
where were the remains of the good cold luncheon which she had set out
there some two hours before.
She heard the key turned on her, and then a quick colloquy outside.
She heard Mr. Hayley exclaim, Now we'd better telephone to the
police. And then, a moment later: But the telephone's gone! What an
extraordinary thing! This becomes, as in 'Alice in Wonderland,'
curiouser and curiouser There was a tone of rising excitement in
his quiet, rather mincing voice. Then came the words, Look here! You'd
better go outside and see that no one comes near that motor-car, while
I hurry along to the place they call 'Robey's.' There's sure to be a
Anna felt her legs giving way, and a sensation of most horrible fear
came over her. She bitterly repented now that she had not told Mr.
Hayley the truththat these parcels which she had now kept for three
years were only harmless chemicals, connected with an invention which
was going to make the fortune of a great many people, including her
nephew, Willi Warshauer, once this terrible war was over.
The police? Anna had a great fear of the police, and that though she
knew herself to be absolutely innocent of any wrong-doing. She felt
sure that the fact that she was German would cause suspicion. The worst
would be believed of her. She remembered with dismay the letter some
wicked, spiteful person had written to her mistressand then, with
infinite comfort, she suddenly remembered that this same dear mistress
was only a little over two miles off. She, Anna, would not wish to
disturb her on her wedding day, but if very hard pressed she could
always do so. And Miss RoseMiss Rose and Mr. Blakethey too were
close by; they certainly would take her part!
She sat down, still sadly frightened, but reassured by the
comfortable knowledge that her dear, gracious ladies would see her
through any trouble, however much the fact that her country was at war
with England might prejudice the police against her.
It was late afternoon in the same day, a bright, sunny golden
afternoon, more like a warm May day than a day in March.
The bride and bridegroom, each feeling more than a little shy, had
enjoyed their late luncheon, the first they had ever taken alone
together. And Major Guthrie had been perhaps rather absurdly touched to
learn, from a word dropped by Howse, that the new mistress had herself
carefully arranged that this first meal should consist of dishes which
Howse had told her his master particularly liked. And as they sat
there, side by side, in their pleasant dining-roomfor he had not
cared to take the head of the tablethe bridegroom hoped his bride
would never know that since his blindness he had retained very little
sense of taste.
After luncheon they had gone out into the garden, and she had guided
his footsteps along every once familiar path. Considering how long he
had been away, everything was in very fair order, and she was surprised
to find how keen he was about everything. He seemed to know every shrub
and plant there, and she felt as if in that hour he taught her more of
practical gardening than she had ever known.
And then, at last, they made their way to the avenue which was the
chief glory of the domain, and which had certainly been there in the
days when the house had stood in a park, before the village of which it
was the Manor had grown to be something like a suburb of Witanbury.
There they had paced up and down, talking of many things; and it was
he who, suggesting that she must be tired, at last made her sit down on
the broad wooden bench, from where she could see without being seen the
long, low house and wide lawn.
They both, in their very different ways, felt exquisitely at peace.
To his proud, reticent nature, the last few days had proved
disagreeablesometimes acutely unpleasant. He had felt grateful for,
but he had not enjoyed, the marks of sympathy which had been so freely
lavished on him and on his companions in Holland, on the boat, and
since his landing in England.
In those old days which now seemed to have belonged to another
existence, Major Guthrie had thought his friend, Mrs. Otway, if
wonderfully kind, not always very tactful. It is a mistake to think
that love is blind as to those matters. But of all the kind women he
had seen since he had left Germany, she was the only one who had not
spoken to him of his blindness, who had made no allusion to it, and who
had not pressed on him painful, unsought sympathy. From the moment they
had been left alone for a little while in that unknown London house,
where he had first been taken, she had made him feel that he was indeed
the natural protector and helper of the woman he loved; and of the
things she had said to him, in those first moments of emotion, what had
touched and pleased him most was her artless cry, Oh, you don't know
how I have missed you! Even quite at first I felt so miserable without
It was Rose who had suggested an immediate marriage; Rose who
hadwell, yes, there was no other word for itcoaxed them both into
realizing that it was the only thing to do.
Even now, on this their wedding day, they felt awkward, and yes,
very shy the one with the other. And as he sat there by her side,
wearing a rough grey suit he had often worn last winter when calling on
her in the Trellis House, her cheeks grew hot when she remembered the
letter she had written to him. Perhaps he had thought it an absurdly
sentimental letter for a woman of her age to write.
The only thing that reassured her was the fact that once, at
luncheon, he had clasped her hand under the table; but the door had
opened, and quickly he had taken his hand away, and even moved his
chair a little farther off. It was true that Howse had put the chairs
very close together.
* * * * *
Now she was telling him of all that had happened since he had gone
away, and he was listening with the eager sympathy and interest he had
always shown her, that no one else had ever shown her in the same
degree, in those days that now seemed so long ago, before the War.
So she went on, pouring it all out to him, till she came to the
amazing story of her daughter Rose, and of Jervis Blake. She described
the strange, moving little marriage ceremony; and the man sitting by
her side sought and found the soft hand which was very close to his,
and said feelingly, That must have been very trying for you.
Yes, it had been trying for her, though no one had seemed to think
so at the time. But he, the speaker of these kind understanding words,
had always known how she felt, and sympathised with her.
She wished he would call her Maryif only he would begin, she
would soon find it quite easy to call him Alick....
Suddenly there came on his sightless face a slight change. He had
heard something which her duller ears had failed to hear.
What's that? he asked uneasily.
It's only a motor-car coming round to the front door. I hope they
will send whoever it is away, the colour rushed into her face.
Oh, surely Howse will do that to-day
And then she saw the man-servant come out of the house and advance
towards them. There was a salver in his hand, and on the salver a note.
The gentleman who brought this is waiting, ma'am, to see you.
She took up the envelope and glanced down at it. Her new name looked
so odd in Dr. Haworth's familiar writingit evoked a woman who had
been so very different from herself, and yet for whom she now felt a
curious kind of retrospective tenderness.
She opened the note with curiosity.
DEAR MRS. GUTHRIE,
The bearer of this, Mr. Reynolds of the Home Office, will
explain to you why we are anxious that you should come into
Witanbury for an hour this afternoon. I am sure Major Guthrie
would willingly spare you if he knew how very important and
how delicate is the business in question. Please tell him that
we will keep you as short a time as possible. In fact, it is
quite probable that you will be back within an hour.
Very truly yours,
She looked down at the letter with feelings of surprise and of
annoyance. Uncaring of Howse's discreet presence, she read it aloud.
It's very mysterious and queer, isn't it? But I'm afraid I shall have
Yes, of course you will. It would have been better under the
circumstances for the Dean to have told you what they want to see you
In the old days, Major Guthrie had never shared Mrs. Otway's
admiration for Dr. Haworth, and now he felt rather sharply disturbed.
The Home Office? The words bore a more ominous sound to him than they
did, fortunately, to her. Was it possible that she had been
communicating, in secret, with some of her German friends? He rose from
the bench on which they had been sitting: Is the gentleman in the
Yes, sir. He wouldn't come in.
Go and tell him that we are coming at once.
And then, after a moment, he said quietly, I'm coming, too.
Oh, but she exclaimed.
I don't choose to have my wife's presence commanded by the Dean of
Witanbury, or even, if it comes to that, by the Home Office.
She seized his arm, and pressed close to him. I do believe, she
cried, that you suspect me of having got into a scrape! Indeed, indeed
I have done nothing! She was smiling, though moved almost to tears by
the way he had just spoken. It was a new thing to her to be taken care
of, to feel that there was someone ready, aye, determined, to protect
her, and take her part. Also, it was the first time he had called her
* * * * *
A few minutes later they were sitting side by side in a large, open
motor-car. Mr. Reynolds was a pleasant, good-looking man of about
thirty, and he had insisted on giving up his seat to Major Guthrie.
There would have been plenty of room for the three of them leaning
back, but he had preferred to sit opposite to them, and now he was
looking, with a good deal of sympathy, interest, and respect at the
blind soldier, and with equal interest, but with less liking and
respect, at Major Guthrie's wife.
Mr. Reynolds disliked pro-Germans and spy-maniacs with almost equal
fervour; his work brought him in contact with both. From what he had
been able to learn, the lady sitting opposite to him was to be numbered
among the first category.
And now, said Major Guthrie, leaning his sightless face forward,
will you kindly inform me for what reason my wife has been summoned to
Witanbury this afternoon? The Dean's letterI do not know if you have
read itis expressed in rather mysterious and alarming language.
The man he addressed waited for a moment. He knew that the two
people before him had only been married that morning.
Yes, that is so, he said frankly. I suppose the Dean thought it
best that I should inform Mrs. Guthrie of the business which brought me
to Witanbury three hours ago. It chanced that I was in the
neighbourhood, so when the Witanbury police telephoned to London, I,
being known to be close here, was asked to go over.
The police? repeated both his hearers together.
Yes, for I'm sorry to tell youhe looked searchingly at the lady
as he spokeI'm sorry to tell you, Mrs. Guthrie, that a considerable
number of bombs have been found in your house. I believe it to be the
fact that you hold the lease of the Trellis House in Witanbury Close?
She looked at him too much surprised and too much bewildered to
speak. Then, Bombs? she echoed incredulously. There must be some
mistake! There has never been any gunpowder in my possession. I might
almost go so far as to say that I have never seen a gun or a pistol at
She felt a hand groping towards her, and at last find and cover in a
tight grip her fingers. You do not fire bombs from a gun or from a
pistol, my dearest. There was a great tenderness in Major Guthrie's
Even in the midst of her surprise and disarray at the extraordinary
thing she had just heard, Mrs. Guthrie blushed so deeply that Mr.
Reynolds noticed it, and felt rather puzzled. He told himself that she
was a younger woman than he had at first taken her to be.
In a very different tone Major Guthrie next addressed the man he
knew to be sitting opposite to him: May I ask how and where and when
bombs were found in the Trellis House? To himself he was saying, with
anguished iteration, Oh, God, if only I could see! Oh, God, if only I
could see! But he spoke, if sternly, yet in a quiet, courteous tone,
his hand still clasping closely that of his wife.
They were found this morning within half an hour, I understand, of
your wedding. And it was only owing to the quickness of a lady named
Miss Forsythassisted, I am bound to say, by Mr. Hayley of the Foreign
Office, who is, I believe, a relation of Mrs. Guthriethat they were
found at all. The man who came to fetch them away did get off scot
freeluckily leaving them, and his motor, behind him.
The man who came to fetch them away? The woman sitting opposite to
the speaker repeated the words in a wondering tonethen, very
decidedly, There has been some extraordinary mistake! she exclaimed.
I know every inch of my house, and so I can assure youshe bent
forward a little in her earnestness and excitementI can assure you
that it's quite impossible that there was anything of the sort
in the Trellis House without my knowing it!
Did you ever go into your servant's bedroom? asked Mr. Reynolds
Major Guthrie felt the hand he was holding in his suddenly tremble,
and his wife made a nervous movement, as if she wanted to draw it away
from his protecting grasp.
A feeling of terrorof sheer, unreasoning terrorhad swept over
No, she faltered, but her voice was woefully changed. No, I never
had occasion to go into my old servant's bedroom. But oh, I cannot
believe and then she stopped. She had remembered Anna's curious
unwillingness to leave the Trellis House this morning, even to attend
her beloved mistress's wedding. She, and Rose too, had been hurt, and
had shown that they were hurt, at old Anna's obstinacy.
We have reason to suppose, said Mr. Reynolds slowly, that the
explosives in question have been stored for some considerable time in a
large roomy cupboard which is situated behind your servant's bed. As a
matter of fact, the man who had come to fetch them away was already
under observation by the police. He has spent all the winter in a
village not far from Southampton, and he is registered as a Spaniard,
though he came to England from America just before the War broke out.
Of course, these facts have only just come to my knowledge. But both
this Miss Forsyth and your cousin, Mr. Hayley, declare that they have
long suspected your servant of being a spy.
Suspected my servant? Suspected Anna Bauer? repeated Mrs. Guthrie,
in a bewildered tone.
Then you, went on Mr. Reynolds, have never suspected her at all,
Mrs. Guthrie? I understand that but for the accidental fact that
Witanbury is just, so to speak, over the border of the prohibited area
for aliens, she would have had to leave you?
Yes, I know that. But she has been with me nearly twenty years, and
I regarded her as being to all intents and purposes an Englishwoman.
Did you really? he observed drily.
Her daughter is married to an Englishman.
Mr. Reynolds, in answer to that statement, remained silent, but a
very peculiar expression came over his face. It was an expression which
would perchance have given a clue to Major Guthrie had Major Guthrie
been able to see.
Mrs. Guthrie's face had gone grey with pain and fear; her eyes had
filled with tears, which were now rolling down her cheeks. She looked
indeed different from the still pretty, happy, charming-looking woman
who had stepped into the car a few minutes ago.
I should not have ventured to disturb you to-dayto-morrow would
have been quite time enough said Mr. Reynolds, speaking this time
really kindly, were it not that we attach the very greatest importance
to discovering whether this woman, your ex-servant, forms part of a
widespread conspiracy. We suspect that she does. But she is in such a
state of pretended or real agitationin fact, she seems almost
distraughtthat none of us can get anything out of her. I myself have
questioned her both in English and in German. All she keeps repeating
is that she is innocent, quite innocent, and that she was unaware of
the nature of the goodsshe describes them always as goods, when she
speaks in Englishthat she was harbouring in your house. She declares
she knows nothing about the man who came for them, though that is false
on the face of it, for she was evidently expecting him. We think that
he has terrorised her. She even refuses to say where she obtained these
'goods' of hers, or how long she has had them. You see, we have reason
to believehe slightly lowered his voice in the rushing windwe
have reason to believe, he repeated, that the Germans may be going to
try their famous plan of invasion within the next few days. If so, it
is clear that these bombs were meant to play a certain part in the
business, and thus it is extremely important that we should know if
there are any further stores of them in or about Witanbury.
They were now in the streets of the cathedral city, and Mrs.
Guthrie, agitated though she was, could see that there was a curious
air of animation and bustle. A great many people were out of doors on
this late March afternoon.
As a matter of fact something of the facts, greatly exaggerated as
is always the way, had leaked out, and the whole city was in a ferment.
Slowly the motor made its way round the Market Place to the Council
House, and as it drew up at the bottom of the steps, a crowd of idlers
There was a minute or two of waiting, then a man whom Mrs. Guthrie
knew to be the head inspector of the local police came forward, with a
very grave face, and helped her out of the car. He wished to hurry her
up the steps out of the way of the people there, but she heard her
husband's voice, Mary, where are you? and obediently she turned with
an eager, Here I am, waiting for you! She took his arm, and he
pressed it reassuringly. She was glad he could not see the inquisitive
faces of the now swelling crowd which were being but ill kept back by
the few local police.
But her ordeal did not last long; in a very few moments they were
safe in the Council House, and Mr. Reynolds, who already knew his way
about there, had shown them into a stately room where hung the
portraits of certain long dead Witanbury worthies.
Am I going to see Anna now? asked Mrs. Guthrie nervously.
Yes, I must ask you to do that as soon as possible. And, Mrs.
Guthrie? Please remember that all we want to know now are two definite
facts. The first of these is how long she has had these bombs in her
possession, and how she procured them? She may possibly be willing to
tell you how long she has had them, even if she still remains
obstinately silent as to where she got them. The second question, and
of course much the more important from our point of view, is whether
she knows of any other similar stores in Witanbury or elsewhere? That,
I need hardly tell you, is of very vital moment to us, and I appeal to
you as an Englishwoman to help us in the matter.
I will do as you wish, said Mrs. Guthrie in a low voice. But, Mr.
Reynolds? Please forgive me for asking you one thing. What will be done
to my poor old Anna? Will the fact that she is a German make it better
for heror worse? Of course I realise that she has been wickedvery,
very wicked if what you say is true
And most treacherous to you! interposed the young man quickly.
You don't seem to realise, Mrs. Guthrie, the danger in which she put
you; and as she looked at him uncomprehendingly, he went on, Putting
everything else aside, she ran the most appalling danger of killing
youyou and every member of your household. Of course I don't know
what you mean to say to her he hesitated. I understand that your
relations with her have been much closer and more kindly than are often
those between a servant and her employer, and as she nodded, he went
on: The Dean was afraid that it would give you a terrible shockin
fact, he himself seems extremely surprised and distressed; he had
evidently quite a personal feeling of affection and respect for this
old German woman, Anna Bauer!
And I am sure that if you had known her you would have had it too,
Mr. Reynolds, she answered naïvely. Somehow the fact that the Dean had
taken this strange and dreadful thing as he had done, made her feel
Ah! One thing more before I take you to her. Anything incriminating
she may say to you will not be brought as evidence against her.
The point you have to remember is that it is vitally important to us to
obtain information as to this local spy conspiracy or system, to which
we believe we already hold certain clues.
* * * * *
The police cell into which Mrs. Guthrie was introduced was in the
half-basement of the ancient Council House. The walls of the cell were
whitewashed with a peculiar, dusty whitewash that came off upon the
occupant's clothes at the slightest touch. There was a bench fixed to
the wall, and in a corner a bed, also fixed to the ground. A little
light came in from the window high out of reach, and in the middle of
the ceiling hung a disused gas bracket.
Those of Anna Bauer's personal possessions she had been allowed to
bring with her were lying on the bed.
The old woman was sitting on the bench, her head bowed in an
abandonment of stupor, and of misery. She did not even move as the door
opened. But when she heard the kind, familiar voice exclaim, Anna? My
poor old Anna!it is terrible to find you here, like this! she drew a
convulsive breath of relief, and lifted her tear-stained, swollen face.
I am innocent! she cried wildly, in German. Oh, gracious lady, I
am innocent! I have done no wrong. I can accuse myself of no sin.
Mr. Reynolds brought in a chair. Then he went out, and quietly
closed the door.
Anna's mistress came and sat on the bench close to her servant. It
was almost as if an unconscious woman, spent with the extremity of
physical suffering, crouched beside her.
Anna, listen to me! she said at last, and there was a touch of
salutary command in her voicea touch of command that poor Anna knew,
and always responded to, though it was very seldom used towards her. I
have left Major Guthrie on our marriage day in order to try and help
you in this awful disgrace and trouble you have brought, not only on
yourself, but on me. All I ask you to do is to tell me the truth.
Anna?she touched the fat arm close to herlook up, and talk to me
like a reasonable woman. If you are innocent, if you can accuse
yourself of no sinthen why are you in such a state?
Anna looked up eagerly. She was feeling much better now.
Every reason have I in a state to be! A respectable woman to such a
place brought! Roughly by two policemen treated. I nothing did that
ashamed of I am!
What is it you did do? said Mrs. Guthrie patiently. Try
and collect your thoughts, Anna. Explain to me where you gotshe
hesitated painfullywhere you got the bombs.
No bombs there were, exclaimed Anna confidently. Chemicals,
You are mistaken, Anna, said Mrs. Guthrie quietly. She rose from
the bench on which she had been sitting, and drew up the chair opposite
to Anna. There were certainly bombs found in your room. It is a mercy
they did not explode; if they had done, we should all have been
Anna stared at her in dumb astonishment. Herr Gott! she exclaimed.
No one has told me that, gracious lady. Again and again they have
asked me questions they should notquestions I to answer promised not.
To you, speak I will
Anna looked round, as if to satisfy herself that they were indeed
alone, and Mrs. Guthrie suddenly grew afraid. Was poor old Anna going
to reveal something of a very serious self-incriminating kind?
It was Willi! exclaimed the old woman at last. She now spoke in a
whisper, and in German. It was to Willi that I gave my promise to say
nothing. You see, gracious lady, it was a friend of Willi's who was
making a chemical invention. It was he who left these goods with me. I
will now confessshe began to sob bitterlyI will now confess that
I did keep it a secret from the gracious lady that these parcels had
been confided to me. But the bedroom was mine. You know, gracious lady,
how often you said to me, 'I should have liked you to have a nicer
bedroom, Annabut still, it is your room, so I hope you make it as
comfortable as you can.' As it was my room, gracious lady, it concerned
no one what I kept there.
A friend of Willi's? repeated Mrs. Guthrie incredulously. But I
don't understandWilli is in Berlin. Surely you have not seen Willi
since you went to Germany three years ago?
No, indeed not. But he told me about this matter when he took me to
the station. He said that a friend would call on me some time after my
return here, and that to keep these goods would be to my advantage
she stopped awkwardly.
You mean, said Mrs. Guthrie slowly, that you were paid for
keeping these things, Anna? Somehow she felt a strange sinking of the
Yes, Anna spoke in a shamed, embarrassed tone. Yes, that is quite
true. I was given a little present each year. But it was no one's
business but mine.
And how long did you have them? Mrs. Guthrie had remembered
suddenly that that was an important point.
Anna waited a moment, but she was only counting. Exactly three
years, she answered. Three years this month.
Mrs. Guthrie also made a rapid calculation. You mean that they were
brought to the Trellis House in the March of 1912?
Anna nodded. Yes, gracious lady. When you and Miss Rose were in
London. Do you remember?
The other shook her head.
Anna felt almost cheerful now. She had told the whole truth, and her
gracious lady did not seem so very angry after all.
They were brought, she went on eagerly, by a very nice gentleman.
He asked me for a safe place to keep them, and I showed him the
cupboard behind my bed. He helped me to bring them in.
Was that the man who came for them this morning? asked Mrs.
Anna shook her head. Oh no! she exclaimed. The other gentleman
was a gentleman. He wrote me a letter first, but when he came he asked
me to give it him back. So of course I did so.
Did he give you any idea of what he had brought you to keep? asked
Mrs. Guthrie. Now, Anna, I begI implore you to tell me the truth!
The truth will I willingly tell! Yes, Anna was feeling really
better now. She had confessed the one thing which had always been on
her conscienceher deceit towards her kind mistress. He said they
were chemicals, a new wonderful invention, which I must take great care
of as they were fragile.
I suppose he was a German? said Mrs. Guthrie slowly.
Yes, he was a German, naturally, being the superior of Willi. But
the man who came to-day was no German.
And during all that timethree years is a long time, Annadid you
never hear from him? asked Mrs. Guthrie slowly.
It had suddenly come over her with a feeling of repugnance and pain,
that old Anna had kept her secret very closely.
I never heardno, never, till last night, cried the old woman
But even now, said Mrs. Guthrie, I can't understand, Anna, what
made you do it. Was it to please Willi?
Yes, said Anna in an embarrassed tone. It was to please my good
nephew, gracious lady.
And now, said Mrs. Guthrie, looking at the little group of people
who sat round her in the Council Chamber, and now I have told you,
almost I think word for word, everything my poor old Anna told me.
As Mr. Reynolds remained silent, she added, with a touch of
defiance, And I am quite, quite sure that she told me the truth!
Her eyes instinctively sought the Dean's face. Yes, there she found
sympathy,sympathy and belief. It was impossible to tell what her
husband was thinking. His face was not alteredit was set in stern
lines of discomfort and endurance. The Government official looked
I have no doubt that the woman has told you a good deal of the
truth, Mrs. Guthrie, but I do not think she has told you all the
truth, or the most important part of it. According to your belief, she
accepted this very strange deposit without the smallest suspicion of
the truth. Now, is it conceivable that an intelligent, sensible,
elderly woman of the kind she has been described to me, could be such a
And then, for the first time since his wife had returned there from
her interview with Anna, Major Guthrie intervened.
I think you forget, Mr. Reynolds, that this took place long before
the war. In fact, if I may recall certain dates to your memory, this
must have been a little tiny cog in the machine which Germany began
fashioning after the Agadir crisis. It was that very autumn that Anna
Bauer went to visit her nephew and niece in Berlin, and it was soon
after she came back that, according to her story, a stranger, with some
kind of introduction from her nephew, who is, I believe, connected with
the German police
Is he indeed? exclaimed Mr. Reynolds. You never told me that! he
looked at Mrs. Guthrie.
Didn't I? she said. Yes, it's quite true, Wilhelm Warshauer is a
sub-inspector of police in Berlin. But I feel sure he is a perfectly
She fortunately did not see the expression which flashed across her
questioner's face. Not so the Dean. Mr. Reynolds' look stirred Dr.
Haworth to a certain indignation. He had known Anna Bauer as long as
her mistress had, and he had become quite fond of the poor old woman
with whom he had so often exchanged pleasant greetings in German.
Look here! he began, in a pleasant, persuasive voice. I have a
suggestion to make, Mr. Reynolds. We have here in Witanbury a most
excellent fellow, one of our city councillors. He is of German birth,
but was naturalised long ago. As I expect you know, there was a little
riot here last week, and this manAlfred Head is his namehad all his
windows broken. He refused to prosecute, and behaved with the greatest
sense and dignity. Now I suggest that we set Alfred Head on to old Anna
Bauer! I believe she would tell him things that she would not even tell
her very kind and considerate mistress. I feel sure that he would find
out the real truth. As a matter of fact I met him just now when I was
coming down here. He was full of regret and concern, and he spoke very
kindly and very sensibly of this poor old woman. He said he knew
herthat she was a friend of his wife's, and he asked me if he could
be of any assistance to her.
Thinking he saw a trace of hesitation on the London official's face,
he added, After all, such an interview could do no harm, and might do
good. Yes, I strongly do advise that we take Alfred Head into our
counsels, and explain to him exactly what it is we wish to know.
I am quite sure, exclaimed Mrs. Guthrie impulsively, that Anna
would not tell him any more than she told me. I am convinced, not only
that she told me the truth, but that she told me nothing but the
truthI don't believe she kept anything back!
Mr. Reynolds looked straight at the speaker of these impetuous
words. He smiled. It was a kindly, albeit a satiric smile. He was
getting quite fond of Mrs. Guthrie! And though his duties often brought
him in contact with strange and unusual little groups of people, this
was the first time he had ever had to bring into his official work a
bride on her wedding day. This was the first time also that a dean had
ever been mixed up in any of the difficult and dangerous affairs with
which he was now concerned. It was, too, the first time that he had
been brought into personal contact with one of his own countrymen
broken in the war.
I hope that you are right, he said soothingly. Still, as Mr. Dean
kindly suggests, it may be worth while allowing this manHead is his
name, is it?to see the woman. It generally happens that a person of
the class to which Anna Bauer belongs will talk much more freely to
some one of their own sort than to an employer, however kind. In fact,
it often happens that after having remained quite silent and refused to
say anything to, say, a solicitor, such a person will come out with the
whole truth to an old friend, or to a relation. We will hope that this
will be the case this time. And now I don't think that we need detain
you and Major Guthrie any longer. Of course you shall be kept fully
informed of any developments.
If there is any question, as I suppose there will be, of Anna Bauer
being sent for trial, said Major Guthrie, then I should wish, Mr.
Reynolds, that my own solicitor undertakes her defence. My wife feels
that she is under a great debt of gratitude to this German woman. Anna
has not only been her servant for over eighteen years, but she was
nurse to Mrs. Guthrie's only child. We neither of us feel in the least
inclined to abandon Anna Bauer because of what has happened. I also
wish to associate myself very strongly with what Mrs. Guthrie said just
now. I believe the woman to be substantially innocent, and I think she
has almost certainly told my wife the truth, as far as she knows it.
He held out his hand, and the other man grasped it warmly. Then Mr.
Reynolds shook hands with Mrs. Guthrie. She looked happy nowhappy if
a little tearful. I hope, he said eagerly, that you will make use of
my car to take you home.
Somehow he felt interested in, and drawn to, this middle-aged
couple. He was quite sorry to know that, after to-day, he would
probably never see them again. The type of man who is engaged in the
sort of work which Mr. Reynolds was now doing for his country has to be
very human underneath his cloak of official reserve, or he would not be
able to carry out his often delicate, as well as difficult, duties.
He followed them outside the Council House. Clouds had gathered, and
it was beginning to rain, so he ordered his car to be closed.
Mr. Reynolds, cried Mrs. Guthrie suddenly, you won't let them be
too unkind to my poor old Anna, will you?
Indeed, no one will be unkind to her, he said. She's only been a
tool after allpoor old woman. No doubt there will be a deportation
order, and she will be sent back to Germany.
Remember that you are to draw on me if any money is required on her
behalf, cried out Major Guthrie, fixing his sightless eyes on the
place where he supposed the other man to be.
Yes, yesI quite understand that! But we've found out that the old
woman has plenty of money. It is one of the things that make us believe
that she knows more than she pretends to do.
He waved his hand as they drove off. Somehow he felt a better man, a
better Englishman, for having met these two people.
* * * * *
There was very little light in the closed motor, but if it had been
open for all the world to see, Mary Guthrie would not have minded, so
happy, so secure did she feel now that her husband's arm was round her.
She put up her face close to his ear: Oh, Alick, she whispered, I
am afraid that you've married a very foolish woman
He turned and drew her into his strong arms. I've married the
sweetest, the most generous, andand, Mary, the dearest of women.
At any rate you can always say to yourself, 'A poor thing, but mine
own' she said, half laughing, half crying. And then their lips met
and clung together, for the first time.
Mr. Reynolds walked back up the steps of the Council House of
Witanbury. He felt as if he had just had a pleasant glimpse of that
Kingdom of Romance which so many seek and so few find, and that now he
was returning into the everyday world. Sure enough, when he reached the
Council Chamber, he found Dr. Haworth there with a prosaic-looking
person. This was evidently the man to whom the Dean thought Anna would
be more likely to reveal the truth than to her kind, impulsive
Mr. Reynolds had not expected to see so intelligent and
young-looking a man. He was familiar with the type of German who has
for long made his career in England. But this naturalised German was
not true to type at all! Though probably over fifty, he still had an
alert, active figure, and he was extraordinarily like someone Mr.
Reynolds had seen. In fact, for a few moments the likeness quite
haunted him. Who on earth could it be that this man so strongly
resembled? But soon he gave up the likeness as a bad jobit didn't
matter, after all!
Well, Mr. Head, I expect that Dr. Haworth has already told you what
it is we hope from you.
Yes, sir, I think I understand.
Are you an American? asked the other abruptly.
The Witanbury City Councillor looked slightly embarrassed. No, he
said at last. But I was in the United States for some years.
You were never connected, I suppose, with the New York Police?
Oh no, sir! There was no mistaking the man's genuine surprise at
I only asked you, said Mr. Reynolds hastily, because I feel as if
we had met before. But I suppose I made a mistake. By the way, do you
know Anna Bauer well?
Alfred Head waited a moment; he looked instinctively to the Dean for
guidance, but the Dean made no sign.
I know Anna Bauer pretty well, he said at last. But she's more a
friend of my wife than of mine. She used sometimes to come and spend
the evening with us.
He was feeling exceedingly uncomfortable. Had Anna mentioned him? He
thought not. He hoped not. What is it exactly you want me to get out
of her? he asked, cringingly.
Mr. Reynolds hesitated. Somehow he did not at all like the man
standing before him. Shortly he explained how much the old woman had
already admitted; and then, Perhaps you could ascertain whether she
has received any money since the outbreak of war, and if so, by what
method. I may tell you in confidence, Mr. Head, there has been a good
deal of German money going about in this part of the world. We hold
certain clues, but up to the present time we have not been able to
trace this money to its source.
I think I quite understand what it is you require to know, sir,
said Alfred Head respectfully.
There came a knock at the door. Mr. Reynolds in there? You are
wanted, sir, on the telephone. A London call from Scotland Yard.
All right, he said quietly. Tell them they must wait a moment.
Will you please take Mr. Head to the cell where Anna Bauer is
Then he hurried off to the telephone, well aware that he might now
be about to hear the real solution of the mystery. Some of his best
people had been a long time on this Witanbury job.
* * * * *
Terrified and bewildered as she had been by the events of midday,
Anna, when putting her few things together, had not forgotten her work.
True, she had been too much agitated and upset to crochet or knit
during the long hours which had elapsed since the morning. But the
conversation she had had with her mistress had reassured her. How good
that dear, gracious lady had been! How kindly she had accepted the
confession of deceit!
Yes, but it was very, very wrong of her, Anna Bauer, to have done
what she had done. She knew that now. What was the money she had
earneda few paltry poundscompared with all this fearful trouble?
Still, she felt now sure the trouble would soon be over. She had a
pathetic faith, not only in her mistress, but also in Mrs. Jervis Blake
and in the Dean. They would see her through this strange, shameful
business. So she took her workbag off the bed, and brought out her
She had just begun working when she heard the door open, and there
came across her face a sudden look of apprehension. She was weary of
being questioned, and of parrying questions. But now she had told all
she knew. There was great comfort in that thought.
Her face cleared, became quite cheerful and smiling, when she saw
Alfred Head. He, too, was a kind friend; he, too, would help her as
much as he couldif indeed any more help were needed. But the Dean and
her own lady would certainly be far more powerful than Alfred Head.
Poor Old Anna was not in a condition to be very observant. She did
not see that there was anything but a cordial expression on her
friend's face, and that he looked indeed very stern and disagreeable.
The door was soon shut behind him, and instead of advancing with
hand outstretched, he crossed his arms and looked down at her,
silently, for a few moments.
At last, speaking between his teeth, and in German, he exclaimed,
This is a pretty state of things, Frau Bauer. You have made more
trouble than you know!
She stared up at him, uncomprehendingly. I don't understand, she
faltered. I did nothing. What do you mean?
I mean that you have brought us all within sight of the gallows.
Yourself quite as much as your friends.
The gallows? exclaimed old Anna, in an agitated whisper. Explain
yourself, Mr. Head She was trembling now. What is it you mean?
I do not know what it is you have told, he spoke in a less savage
tone. And I know as a matter of fact that there is very little you
could say, for you have been kept in the dark. But one thing I may
tell you. If you say one word, Frau Bauer, of where you received your
blood money just after the War broke out, then I, too, will say what
I know. If I do that, instead of being deportedthat is, instead
of being sent comfortably back to Berlin, to your niece and her
husband, who surely will look after you and make your old age
comfortablethen I swear to you before God that you will hang!
Hang? But I have done nothing!
Anna was now almost in a state of collapse, and he saw his mistake.
You are in no real danger at all if you will only do exactly what I
tell you, he declared, impressively.
Yes, she faltered. Yes, Herr Hegner, indeed I will obey you.
He looked round him hastily. Never, never call me that! he
exclaimed. And now listen quite quietly to what I have to say.
Remember you are in no dangerno danger at allif you follow my
She looked at him dumbly.
You are to say that the parcels came to you from your nephew in
Germany. It will do him no harm. The English police cannot reach him.
But I've already said, she confessed, distractedly, that they
were brought to me by a friend of his.
It is a pity you said that, but it does not much matter. The one
thing you must conceal at all hazards is that you received any money
from me. Do you understand that, Frau Bauer? Have you said anything of
No, she said slowly. No, I have said nothing of that.
He fancied there was a look of hesitation on her face. As a matter
of fact we know that Anna had not betrayed Alfred Head. But that she
had not done so was an accident, only caused by her unwillingness to
dwell on the money she had received when telling her story to Mrs.
The old woman turned a mottled red and yellow colour, in the poor
light of the cell.
Please try and remember, he said sternly, if you mentioned me at
I swear I did not! she cried.
Did you say that you had received money?
And Anna answered, truthfully, Yes, Herr Head; I did say that.
Fool! Fool indeedwhen it would have been so easy for you to
pretend you had done it to please your nephew!
But Mrs. Otway, she has forgiven me. My gracious lady does not
think I did anything so very wrong, cried Anna.
Mrs. Otway? What does she matter! They will do all they can to get
out of you how you received this money. You must sayAre you
attending, Frau Bauer?
She had sunk down again on her bench; she felt her legs turning to
cotton-wool. Yes, she muttered. Yes, I am attending
You must say, he commanded, that you always received the money
from your nephew. That since the war you have had none. Do I make
Yes, she murmuredquite clear, Herr Head.
If you do not say that, if you bring me into this dirty business,
then I, too, will say what I know about you.
She looked at him uncomprehendingly. What did he mean?
Ah, you do not know perhaps what I can tell about you!
He came nearer to her, and in a hissing whisper went on: I can tell
how it was through you that a certain factory in Flanders was shelled,
and eighty Englishmen were killed. And if I tell that, they will hang
But that is not true, said Anna stoutly. So you could not say
It is true. He spoke with a kind of ferocious energy that
carried conviction, even to her. It is absolutely true, and easily
proved. You showed a lettera letter from Mr. Jervis Blake. In that
letter was information which led directly to the killing of those
eighty English soldiers, and to the injury to Mr. Jervis Blake which
lost him his foot.
What is that you say? Anna's voice rose to a scream of horrorof
incredulous, protesting horror. Unsay, do unsay what you have just
said, kind Mr. Head!
How can I unsay what is the fact? he answered savagely. Do not be
a stupid fool! You ought to be glad you performed such a deed for the
Not Mr. Jervis Blake, she wailed out. Not the bridegroom of my
The bridegroom of your child was engaged in killing good Germans;
and now he will never kill any Germans any more. And it is you,
Frau Bauer, who shot off his foot. If you betray me, all that will be
known, and they will not deport you, they will hang you!
To this she said nothing, and he touched her roughly on the
shoulder. Look up, Frau Bauer! Look up, and tell me that you
understand! It is important!
She looked up, and even he was shocked, taken aback, by the strange
look on her face. It was a look of dreadful understanding, of fear, and
of pain. I do understand, she said in a low voice.
If you do what I tell you, nothing will happen to you, he
exclaimed impatiently, but more kindly than he had yet spoken. You
will only be sent home, deported, as they call it. If you are thinking
of your money in the Savings Bank, that they will not allow you to
take. But without doubt your ladies will take care of it for you till
this cursed war is over. So you see you have nothing to fear if you do
what I tell you. So now good-bye, Frau Bauer. I'll go and tell them
that you know nothing, that I have been not able to get anything out of
you. Is that so?
Yes, she answered apathetically.
Giving one more quick look at her bowed head, he went across and
knocked loudly at the cell door.
There was a little pause, and then the door opened. It opened just
wide enough to let him out.
And then, just for a moment, Alfred Head felt a slight tremor of
discomfort, for the end of the passage, that is, farther down, some way
past Anna's cell, now seemed full of men. There stood the chief local
police inspector and three or four policemen, as well as the gentleman
It was the latter who first spoke. He came forward, towards Alfred
Head. Well, he said rather sternly, I presume that you've been able
to get nothing from the old woman?
And Mr. Head answered glibly enough, That's quite correct, sir.
There is evidently nothing to be got out of her. As you yourself said,
sir, not long ago, this old woman has only been a tool.
The two policemen were now walking one each side of him, and it
seemed to Alfred Head as if he were being hustled along towards the
hall where there generally stood, widely open, the doors leading out on
to the steps to the Market Place.
He told himself that he would be very glad to get out into the open
air and collect his thoughts. He did not believe that his old
fellow-countrywoman would, to use a vulgar English colloquialism, give
him away. But still, he would not feel quite at ease till she was
safely deported and out of the way.
The passage was rather a long one, and he began to feel a curious,
nervous craving to reach the end of itto be, that is, out in the
But just before they reached the end of the passage the men about
him closed round Alfred Head. He felt himself seized, it seemed to him
from every side, not roughly, but with a terribly strong muscular grip.
What is this? he cried in a loud voice. Even as he spoke, he
wondered if he could be dreamingif this was the horrible after effect
of the strain he had just gone through.
For a moment only he struggled, and then, suddenly, he submitted. He
knew what it was he wished to save; it was the watch chain to which
were attached the two keys of the safe in his bedroom. He wore them
among a bunch of old-fashioned Georgian seals which he had acquired in
the way of business, and he had had the keys gilt, turned to a dull
gold colour, to match the seals. It was possible, just possible, that
they might escape the notice of these thick-witted men about him.
What does this mean? he demanded; and then he stopped, for there
rose a distant sound of crying and screaming in the quiet place.
What is that? he cried, startled.
The police inspector came forward; he cleared his throat. I'm sorry
to tell you, Headhe spoke quite civilly, even kindlythat we've
had to arrest your wife, too.
This is too much! She is a childa mere child! Innocent as a baby
unborn. An Englishwoman, too, as you know well, Mr. Watkins. They must
be all mad in this townit is quite mad to suspect my poor little
The inspector was a kindly man, naturally humane, and he had known
the prisoner for a considerable number of years. As for poor Polly, he
had always been acquainted with her family, and had seen her grow up
from a lovely child into a very pretty girl.
Look here! he said. It's no good kicking up a row. Unluckily for
her, they found the key with which they opened your safe in her
possession. D'you take my meaning?
Alfred Head grew rather white. That's impossible! he said
confidently. There are but two keys, and I have them both.
The other looked at him with a touch of pity. There must have been
a third key, he said slowly. I've got it here myself. It was hidden
away in an old-fashioned dressing-case. Besides, Mrs. Head didn't put
up any fight. But if she can prove, as she says, that she knows no
German, and that you didn't know she had a key of the safefor that's
what she sayswell, that'll help her, of course.
But there's nothing in the safe, Head objected, quickly,
nothing of what might be called an incriminating nature, Mr. Watkins.
Only business letters and papers, and all of them sent me before the
The other man looked at him, and hesitated. He had gone quite as far
as old friendship allowed. That's as may be, he said cautiously. I
know nothing of all that. They've been sealed up, and are going off to
London. What caused you to be arrested, Mr. Headthis much I may tell
youis information which was telephoned down to that London gentleman
half an hour ago. But it was just an accident that the key Mrs. Head
had hidden away was found so quicklyjust a bit of bad luck for her,
if I may say so.
Then I suppose I shan't be allowed to see Polly? There was a tone
of extreme dejection in the voice.
Well, we'll see about that! I'll see what I can do for you. You're
not to be charged till to-morrow morning. Then you'll be charged along
with that manthe man who came to the Trellis House this morning. He's
been found too. He went straight to those Pollitsyou follow my
meaning? Mrs. Pollit is the daughter of that old German woman. I never
could abide her! Often and often I said to my missis, as I see
her go crawling about, 'There's a German as is taking away a good job
from an English woman.' So she was. Well, I must now tell them where to
take you. And I'm afraid you'll have to be stripped and
searchedthat's the order in these kind of cases.
Alfred Head nodded. I don't mind, he said stoutly. I'm an
innocent man. But he had clenched his teeth together when he had heard
the name of Pollit uttered so casually. If Pollit told all he knew,
then the game was indeed up.
After the door had shut behind Alfred Head, Anna Bauer sat on, quite
motionless, awhile. What mind was left to her, after the terrifying and
agonising interview she had just had, was absorbed in the statement
made to her concerning Jervis Blake.
She remembered, with blinding clearness, the afternoon that Rose had
come into her kitchen to say in a quiet, toneless voice, They think,
Anna, that they will have to take off his foot. She saw, as clearly as
if her nursling were there in this whitewashed little cell, the look of
desolate, dry-eyed anguish which had filled Rose's face.
But that false quietude had only lasted a few moments, for, in
response to her poor old Anna's exclamation of horror and of sympathy,
Rose Otway had flung herself into her nurse's arms, and had lain there
shivering and crying till the sound of the front door opening to admit
her mother had forced her to control herself.
Anna's mind travelled wearily on, guided by reproachful memory
through a maze of painful recollections. Once more she stood watching
the strange marriage ceremonytrying hard, aye, and succeeding, to
obey Sir Jacques's strict injunction. More than one of those present
had glanced over at her, Anna, very kindly during that trying
half-hour. How would they then have looked at her if they had known
what she knew now?
She lived again as in long drawn-out throbs of pain the piteous days
which had followed Mr. Blake's operation.
Rose had not allowed herself one word of fret or of repining; but on
three different nights during that first week, she had got out of bed
and wandered about the house, till Anna, hearing the quiet, stuffless
sounds of bare feet, had come out, and leading the girl into the still
warm kitchen, had comforted her.
It was Anna who had spoken to Sir Jacques, and suggested the
sleeping draught which had finally broken that evil waking spellAnna
who, far more than Rose's own mother, had sustained and heartened the
poor child during those dreadful days of reaction which followed on the
brave front she had shown at the crisis of the operation.
And now Anna had to face the horrible fact that it was she who had
brought this dreadful suffering, thisthis lifelong misfortune, on the
being she loved more than she had ever loved anything in the world. If
this was true, and in her heart she knew it to be true, then she did
indeed deserve to hang. A shameful death would be nothing in comparison
to the agony of fearing that her darling might come to learn the truth.
* * * * *
The door of the cell suddenly opened, and a man came in, carrying a
tray in his hands. On it were a jug of coffee, some milk, sugar, bread
and butter, and a plateful of cold meat.
He put it down by the old woman's side. Look here! he said. Your
lady, Mrs. Guthrie as she is now, thought you'd rather have coffee than
teaso we've managed to get some for you.
And, as Anna burst into loud sobs, There, there! he said
good-naturedly. I daresay you'll be all rightdon't you be worrying
yourself. He lowered his voice: Though there are some as says that
what they found in your back kitchen this morning was enough to have
blown up all Witanbury sky high! Quite a good few don't think you knew
anything about itand if you didn't, you've nothing to fear. You'll be
treated quite fair; so now you sit up, and make a good supper!
She stared at him without speaking, and he went on: You won't be
having this sort of grub in Darneford Gaol, you know! As she again
looked at him with no understanding, he added by way of explanation:
After you've been charged to-morrow, it's there they'll send you, I
expect, to wait for the Assizes.
So? she said stupidly.
You just sit up and enjoy your supper! You needn't hurry over it. I
shan't be this way again for an hour or so. And then he went out and
shut the door.
For almost the first time in her life, Anna Bauer did not feel as if
she wanted to eat good food set before her. But she poured out a cup of
coffee, and drank it just as it was, black and bitter, without putting
either milk or sugar to it.
Then she stood up. The coffee had revived her, cleared her brain,
and she looked about her with awakened, keener perceptions.
It was beginning to get dark, but it was a fine evening, and there
was still light enough to see by. She looked up consideringly at the
old-fashioned iron gas bracket, placed in the middle of the ceiling,
just above the wooden chair on which her gracious lady had sat during
the last part of their conversation.
Anna took from the bench where she had been sitting the crochet in
which she had been interrupted.
She had lately been happily engaged in making a beautiful band of
crochet lace which was destined to serve as trimming for Mrs. Jervis
Blake's dressing-table. The band was now very nearly finished; there
were over three yards of it done. Worked in the best and strongest
linen thread, it was the kind of thing which would last, even if it
were cleaned very frequently, for years and years, and which would grow
finer with cleaning.
The band was neatly rolled up and pinned, to keep it clean and nice;
but now Anna slowly unpinned and unrolled it.
Yes, it was a beautiful piece of work; rather coarser than what she
was accustomed to do, but then she knew that Miss Rose preferred the
coarser to the very fine crochet.
She tested a length of it with a sharp pull, and the result was
wonderfulfrom her point of view most gratifying! It hardly gave at
all. She remembered how ill her mistress had succeeded when she, Anna,
had tried to teach her to do this kind of work some sixteen to
seventeen years ago. After a very little while Mrs. Otway had given up
trying to do it, knowing that she could never rival her good old Anna.
Mrs. Otway's lace had been so rough, so uneven; a tiny pull, and it
became all stringy and out of shape.
Yes, whatever strain were put on this band, it would surely
recoverrecover, that is, if it were dealt with as she, Anna, would
deal with such a piece of work. It would have to be damped and
stretched out on a piece of oiled silk, and each point fastened down
with a pin. Then an almost cold iron would have to be passed over it,
with a piece of clean flannel in between....
At eight o'clock the same evening, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Hayley were
eating a hasty meal in the Trellis House. James Hayley had been
compelled to stay on till the last train back to town, for on him the
untoward events of the day had entailed a good deal of trouble. He had
had to put off his cousin's tenants, find lodgings for their two
servants, and arrange quarters for the policeman who, pending
inquiries, was guarding the contents of Anna's bedroom.
A charwoman had been found with the help of Mrs. Haworth. But when
this woman had been askedher name was Bent, and she was a verger's
wifeto provide a little supper for two gentlemen, she had demurred,
and said it was impossible. Then, at last, she had volunteered to cook
two chops and boil some potatoes. But she had explained that nothing
further must be expected of her; she was not used to waiting at table.
The two young men were thus looking after themselves in the pretty
dining-room. Mr. Reynolds, who was not as particular as his companion,
and who, as a matter of fact, had had no luncheon, thought the chop
quite decent. In fact, he was heartily enjoying his supper, for he was
I daresay all you say concerning Anna Bauer's powers of cooking, of
saving, of mending, and of cleaning, are quite true! he exclaimed,
with a laugh. But believe me, Mr. Hayley, she's a wicked old woman! Of
course I shall know a great deal more about her to-morrow morning. But
I've already been able to gather a good deal to-day. There's been a
regular nest of spies in this town, with antennæ stretching out over
the whole of this part of the southwest coast. Would you be surprised
to learn that your cousin's good old Anna has a married daughter in the
businessa daughter married to an Englishman?
You don't mean George Pollit? asked James Hayley eagerly.
Yesthat's the man's name! Why, d'you know him?
I should think I do! I helped to get him out of a scrape last year.
He's a regular rascal.
Aye, that he is indeed. He's acted as post office to this man
Hegner. It's he, the fellow they call Alfred Head, the Dean's friend,
the city councillor, who has been the master spy. Again he laughed,
this time rather unkindly. I think we've got the threads of it all in
our hands by now. You see, we found this man Pollit's address among the
very few papers which were discovered at that Spaniard's place near
Southampton. A sharp fellow went to Pollit's shop, and the man didn't
put up any fight at all. They're fools to employ that particular
Cockney type. I suppose they chose him because his wife is German
There came a loud ring at the front door, and James Hayley jumped
up. I'd better see what that is, he said. The woman we've got here
is such a fool!
He went out into the hall, and found Rose Blake.
We heard about Anna just after we got to London, she said
breathlessly. A man in the train mentioned it to Jervis quite
casually, while speaking of mother's wedding. So we came back at once
to hear what had really happened and to see if we could do anything.
Oh, James, what a dreadful thing! Of course she's innocentit's absurd
to think anything else. Where is she? Can I go and see her now, at
once? She must be in a dreadful state. I do feel so miserable about
You'd better come in here, he said quietly. It was odd what a
sharp little stab at the heart it gave him to see Rose looking so like
herselfso like the girl he had hoped in time to make his wife. And
yet so different tooso much softer, sweeter, and with a new radiance
in her face.
He asked sharply, By the way, where's your husband?
He's with the Robeys. I preferred to come here alone.
She followed him into the dining-room.
This is Mr. Reynolds,Mr. Reynolds, my cousin Mrs. Blake! He
waited uncomfortably, impatiently, while they shook hands, and then:
I'm afraid you're going to have a shock he exclaimed, and,
suddenly softening, looked at her with a good deal of concern in his
face. There's very little doubt, Rose, that Anna Bauer is guilty.
I'm sure she's not, said Rose stoutly. She looked across at the
stranger. You must forgive me for speaking like this, she said, but
you see old Anna was my nurse, and I really do know her very well.
As she glanced from the one grave face to the other, her own
shadowed. Is it very very serious? she asked, with a catch in her
Yes, I'm afraid it is.
Oh, James, do try and get leave for me to see her to-nighteven
for only a moment.
She turned to the other man; somehow she felt that she had a better
chance there. I have been in great trouble lately, she said, in a low
tone, and but for Anna Bauer I don't know how I should have got
through it. That is why I feel I must go to her now in her
We'll see what can be done, said Mr. Reynolds kindly. It may be
easier to arrange for you to see her to-night than it would be
to-morrow, after she has been charged.
* * * * *
When they reached the Market Place they saw that there were a good
many idlers still standing about near the steps leading up to the now
closed door of the Council House.
You had better wait down here while I go and see about it, said
James Hayley quickly. He did not like the thought of Rose standing
among the sort of people who were lingering, like noisome flies round a
honey-pot, under the great portico.
And when he had left them standing together in the great space under
the stars, Rose turned to the stranger with whom she somehow felt in
closer sympathy than with her own cousin.
What makes you think our old servant was a she broke off. She
could not bear to use the word spy.
I'll tell you, he said slowly, what has convinced me. But keep
this for the present to yourself, Mrs. Blake, for I have said nothing
of it to Mr. Hayley. Quite at the beginning of the War, it was arranged
that all telegrams addressed to the Continent should be sent to the
head telegraph office in London for examination. Now within the first
ten days one hundred and four messages, sent, I should add, to a
hundred and four different addresses, were worded as follows He
waited a moment. Are you following what I say, Mrs. Blake?
Yes, she said quickly. I think I understand. You are telling me
about some telegramsa great many telegrams
But she was asking herself how this complicated story could be
connected with Anna Bauer.
Well, I repeat that a hundred and four telegrams were worded almost
exactly alike: 'Father can come back on about 14th. Boutet is expecting
Rose looked up at him. Yes? she said hesitatingly. She was
completely at a loss.
Well, your old German servant, Mrs. Blake, sent one of these
telegrams on Monday, August 10th. She explained that a stranger she met
in the street had asked her to send it off. She was, it seems, kept
under observation for a little while, after her connection with this
telegram had been discovered, but in all the circumstances, the fact
she was in your mother's service, and so on, she was given the benefit
of the doubt.
Butbut I don't understand even now? said Rose slowly.
I'll explain. All these messages were from German agents in this
country, who wished to tell their employers about the secret despatch
of our Expeditionary Force. 'Boutet' meant Boulogne. Of course we have
no clue at all as to how your old servant got the information.
Rose suddenly remembered the day when Major Guthrie had come to say
good-bye. A confused feeling of horror, of pity, and of vicarious shame
swept over her. For the first time in her young life she was glad of
the darkness which hid her face from her companion.
The thought of seeing Anna now filled her with repugnance and
shrinking pain. II understand what you mean, she said slowly.
You must remember that she is a German. She probably regards
herself in the light of a heroine!
The minutes dragged by, and it seemed to Mr. Reynolds that they had
been waiting there at least half an hour, when at last he saw with
relief the tall slim figure emerge through the great door of the
Council House. Very deliberately James Hayley walked down the stone
steps, and came towards them. When he reached the place where the other
two were standing, waiting for him, he looked round as if to make sure
that there was no one within earshot.
Rose, he said huskilyand he also was consciously glad of the
darkness, for he had just gone through what had been, to one of his
highly civilised and fastidious temperament, a most trying
ordealRose, I'm sorry to bring you bad news. Anna Bauer is dead. The
poor old woman has hanged herself. As a matter of fact, it was II and
the inspector of policewho found her. We managed to get a doctor in
through one of the side entrancesbut it was of no use.
Rose said no word. She stood quite still, overwhelmed, bewildered
with the horror, and, to her, the pain, of the thing she had just
And then, suddenly, there fell, shaft-like, athwart the still, dark
air, the sound of muffled thuds, falling quickly in rhythmical
sequence, on the brick-paved space which melted away into the darkness
to their left.
What's that? exclaimed Mr. Reynolds. His nerves also were shaken
by the news which he had just heard; but even as he spoke he saw that
the sound which seemed so strange, soso sinister, was caused by a
tall figure only now coming out of the shadows away across the Market
Place. What puzzled Mr. Reynolds was the man's very peculiar gait. He
seemed, if one can use such a contradiction in terms, to be at once
crawling and swinging along.
It's my husband!
Rose Blake raised her head. A wavering gleam of light fell on her
pale, tear-stained face, and showed it suddenly as if illumined,
glowing from within: He's never been so far by himself beforeI must
go to him!
She began walking swiftlyalmost runningto meet that strangely
slow yet leaping figure, which was becoming more and more clearly
defined among the deeply shaded gas lamps which stood at wide intervals
in the great space round them.
Then, all at once, they heard the eager, homing cry, Rose? and the
answering cry, Jervis? and the two figures seemed to become merged
till they formed one, together.