The Pomp of Yesterday
by Joseph Hocking
'THE POMP OF YESTERDAY'
Author of 'All for a Scrap of Paper,' 'Dearer than Life,'
'The Curtain of Fire,' etc.
Far famed our Navies melt away,
On dune and headland sinks the fire,
Lo, all the pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
God of the Nations, spare us yet!
Lest we forget, lest we forget.
Hodder and Stoughton London New York Toronto
JOSEPH HOCKING'S GREAT WAR STORIES
ALL FOR A SCRAP OF PAPER
THE CURTAIN OF FIRE
DEARER THAN LIFE
THE PRICE OF A THRONE
THE PATH OF GLORY
'THE POMP OF YESTERDAY'
TOMMY AND THE MAID OF ATHENS
OTHER STORIES BY JOSEPH HOCKING
Facing Fearful Odds
O'er Moor and Fen
The Soul of Dominic Wildthorne
Follow the Gleam
The Trampled Cross
Let us never forget in all that we do, that the measure of our
ultimate success will be governed, largely if not mainly, by the
strength with which we put our religious convictions into our action
and hold fast firmly and fearlessly to the faith of our forefathers.
Extract of speech by General Sir William Robertson.
March 2, 1918.
CHAPTER I. THE
MAN WITHOUT A
CHAPTER II. SIR
CHAPTER III. THE
GEORGE ST. MABYN
CHAPTER IV. I
CHAPTER V. HOW A
MAN WORKED A
CHAPTER VI. PAUL
CHAPTER VII. A
CAUSE OF FAILURE
CHAPTER VIII. I
CHAPTER X. THE
STRUGGLE IN THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
STRUGGLE ON THE
CHAPTER XVII. A
CHAPTER XVIII. A
CHAPTER XIX. A
CHAPTER XX. A
CHAPTER XXIV. A
'WHY IS VICTORY
'WHERE DOES GOD
CHAPTER XXX. THE
MARCH OF EVENTS
CHAPTER XLI. THE
CHAPTER XLII. AN
It is now fast approaching four years since our country at the call
of duty, and for the world's welfare entered the great struggle which
is still convulsing the nations of the earth. What this has cost us,
and what it has meant to us, and to other countries, it is impossible
to describe. Imagination reels before the thought. Still the ghastly
struggle continues, daily comes the story of carnage, and suffering,
and loss; and still the enemy who stands for all that is basest, and
most degraded in life, stands firm, and proudly vaunts his prowess.
Why is Victory delayed?
That is the question which has haunted me for many months, and I
have asked myself whether we, and our Allies, have failed in those
things which are essential, not only to Victory, but to a righteous
and, therefore, lasting peace.
In this story, while not attempting a full and complete answer to
the question, I have made certain suggestions which I am sure the
Nation, the Empire, ought to consider; for on our attitude towards them
depends much that is most vital to our welfare.
Let it not be imagined, however, that The Pomp of Yesterday
is anything in the nature of a polemic, or a treatise. It is first and
foremost a storya romance if you likeof incident, and adventure.
But it is more than a story. It deals with vital things, and it deals
with themhowever inadequatelysincerely and earnestly. The
statements, moreover, which will probably arouse a great deal of
antagonism in certain quarters, are not inventions of the Author, but
were related to him by those in a position to know.
Neither are the descriptions of the Battle of the Somme the result
of the Author's imagination, but transcripts from the experiences of
some who passed through it. Added to this, I have, since first writing
the story, paid a Second Visit to the Front, during which I traversed
the country on which Thiepval, Goomecourt, La Boiselle, Contalmaison;
and a score of other towns and villages once stood. Because of this,
while doubtless a military authority could point out technical errors
in my descriptions, I have been able to visualize the scenes of the
battle, and correct such mistakes as I made at the time of writing.
One other word. More than once, the chief character in the narrative
anticipates what has taken place in Russia. While I do not claim to be
a prophet, it is only fair to say that I finished writing the story in
August, 1917, when very few dreamt of the terrible chaos which now
exists in the once Great Empire on which we so largely depended.
CHAPTER I. THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST
My first meeting with the man whose story I have set out to relate
was in Plymouth. I had been standing in the harbour, hoping that the
friends I had come to meet might yet appear, even although the chances
of their doing so had become very small. Perhaps a hundred passengers
had landed at the historic quay, and practically all of them had rushed
away to catch the London train. I had scrutinized each face eagerly,
but when the last passenger had crossed the gangway I had been
reluctantly compelled to assume that my friends, for some reason or
other, had not come.
I was about to turn away, and go back to the town, when some one
touched my arm. 'This is Plymouth, isn't it?'
I turned, and saw a young man. At that time I was not sure he was
young; he might have been twenty-eight, or he might have been
forty-eight. His face was marked by a thousand lines, while a look
suggestive of age was in his eyes. He spoke to me in an apologetic sort
of way, and looked at me wistfully.
I did not answer him for a second, as his appearance startled me.
The strange admixture of youth and age gave me an eerie feeling.
'Yes,' I replied, 'this is Plymouth. At least, this is Plymouth
He turned toward the vessel, and looked at it for some seconds, and
then heaved a sigh.
'Have you friends on board?' I asked.
'Oh, no,' he replied. 'I have just left it. I thought I remembered
Plymouth, and so I got off.'
'Where have you come from?'
'Where did you come from?'
'From Bombay. It was a long journey to Bombay, but it seemed my only
chance.' Then he shuddered.
'Aren't you well?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, I am very well now. But everything seems difficult to
realize; you, now, and all this,' and he cast his eyes quickly around
him, 'seem to be something which exists in the imagination, rather than
objective, tangible things.'
He spoke perfect English, and his manner suggested education,
'You don't mind my speaking to you, do you?' he added somewhat
'Not at all,' and I scrutinized him more closely. 'If you did not
speak English so well,' I said, 'I should have thought you were an
Indian,'and then I realized that I had been guilty of a faux pas, for I saw his face flush and his lips tremble painfully.
'You were thinking of my clothes,' was his reply. 'They were the
best I could get. When I realized that I was alive, I was half naked; I
was very weak and ill, too. I picked up these things,' and he glanced
at his motley garments, 'where and how I could. On the whole, however,
people were very kind to me. When I got to Bombay, my feeling was that
I must get to England.'
'And where are you going now?' I asked.
'I don't know. Luckily I have a little money; I found it inside my
vest. I suppose I must have put it there before' and then he became
silent, while the strange, wistful look in his eyes was intensified.
'What is your name?' I asked.
'I haven't the slightest idea. It's very awkward, isn't it?' and he
laughed nervously. 'Sometimes dim pictures float before my mind, and I
seem to have vague recollections of things that happened ages and ages
ago. But they pass away in a second. I am afraid you think my conduct
unpardonable, but I can hardly help myself. You see, having no memory,
I act on impulse. That was why I spoke to you.'
'The poor fellow must be mad,' I said to myself; 'it would be a
kindness to him to take him to a police station, and ask the
authorities to take care of him.' But as I looked at him again, I was
not sure of this. In spite of his strange attire, and in spite, too, of
the wistful look in his eyes, there was no suggestion of insanity. That
he had passed through great trouble I was sure, and I had a feeling
that he must, at some time, have undergone some awful experiences. But
his eyes were not those of a madman. In some senses they were bold and
resolute, and suggested great courage; in others they expressed
gentleness and kindness.
'Then you have no idea what you are going to do, now you have landed
'I'm afraid I haven't. Perhaps I ought not to have got off here at
all. But again I acted on impulse. You see, when I first saw the
harbour, I had a feeling that I had been here before, so seeing the
others landing, I followed them. My reason for speaking to you was, I
think, this,'and he touched my tunic. 'Besides, there was something
in your eyes which made me trust you.'
'Are you a soldier, then?' I asked.
'I don't know. You see, I don't know anything. But I rather think I
must have been interested in the Army, because I am instinctively drawn
to any one wearing a soldier's uniform. You are a captain, I see.'
'Yes,' I replied. 'I'm afraid my position in the Army is somewhat
anomalous, but there it is. When the war broke out, I was asked by the
War Office to do some recruiting, and thinking that I should have more
influence as a soldier, a commission was given me. I don't know much
about soldiering, although I have taken a great deal of interest in the
Army all my life.'
He looked at me in a puzzled sort of way. 'War broke out?' he
queried. 'Is England at war?'
'Didn't you know?'
He shook his head pathetically. 'I know nothing. All the way home I
talked to no one. I didn't feel as though I could. You see, people
looked upon me as a kind of curiosity, and I resented it somewhat. But,
England at war! By Jove, that's interesting!'
His eyes flashed with a new light, and another tone came into his
voice. 'Who are we at war with?' he added.
'Principally with Germany,' I replied, 'but it'll take a lot of
explaining, if you've heard nothing about it. Roughly speaking,
England, France, and Russia are at war with Germany, Austria and
'I always said it would comealways. The Germans have meant it for
'The fellow is contradicting himself; he begins to have a memory in
a remarkable manner,' I thought. 'When did you think it would come?' I
He looked at me in a puzzled way as if he were trying to co-ordinate
his thoughts, and then, with a sigh, gave it up as if in despair. 'It
is always that way,' he said with a sigh, 'sometimes flashes of the
past come to me, but they never remain. But what is England at war
'I am afraid it would take too long to tell you. I say,' and I
turned to him suddenly, 'have you done anything wrong in India, that
you come home in this way?'
I was sorry the moment I had spoken, for I knew by the look in his
eyes that my suspicion was unjust.
'Not that I know of,' he replied. 'I am simply a fellow who can't
remember. You don't know how I have struggled to recall the past, and
what a weary business it is.'
I must confess I felt interested in him. That he had been educated
as a gentleman was evident from every word he spoke, and in spite of
his motley garb, no one would take him for an ordinary man. I wanted to
know more about him, and to look behind the curtain which hid his past
'I'm afraid I must be an awful nuisance to you,' he said. 'I'm
taking up a lot of your time, and doubtless you have your affairs to
'No, I'm at a loose end just now. If you like, I'll help you to get
some other clothes, and then you'll feel more comfortable.'
'It would be awfully good of you if you would.'
Two hours later, he sat with me in the dining-room of a hotel which
faced The Hoe. His nondescript garments were discarded, and he was now
clothed in decent British attire. That he had a good upbringing, and
was accustomed to the polite forms of society, was more than ever
evidenced while we were together at the hotel. There was no suggestion
of awkwardness in his movements, and everything he did betrayed the
fact that he had been accustomed to the habits and associations of an
After dinner, we went for a walk on The Hoe.
'It would be really ever so much easier to talk to you,' I said with
a laugh, 'if you had a name. Have you no remembrance of what you were
'Not the slightest. In a vague way I know I am an Englishman, and
that's about all. Months ago I seemed to awake out of a deep sleep, and
I realized that I was in India. By a kind of intuition, I found my way
to Bombay, and hearing that a boat was immediately starting for
England, I came by it. It was by the merest chance that I was able to
come. I had walked a good way, and was foot-sore. I had a bathe in a
pond by the roadside, and on examining a pocket inside my vest I found
several £5 notes.'
'And you knew their value?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, perfectly,' he replied.
'Did you not realize that they might not belong to you?'
'No, I was perfectly sure that they belonged to me, and that I had
put them there before I lost my memory, I can't give you any reason for
this, but I know it was so. I have just another remembrance,' he added,
and he shuddered as he spoke.
'What is that?'
'That I had been with Indians. Even now I dream about them, and I
wake up in the night sometimes, seeing the glitter of their eyes, and
the flash of their knives. I think they tortured me, too. I have
curious scars on my body. Still, I don't think about that if I can help
'And you have no recollection of your father or mother?'
He shook his head.
'No memories of your boyhood?'
'Then I must give you a name. What would you like to be called?'
He laughed almost merrily. 'I don't know. One name is as good as
another. What a beautiful place!' and he pointed to one of the proudest
dwellings in that part of the country. 'What is it called?'
'That is Mount Edgecumbe,' I said.
'Mount Edgecumbe,' he repeated, 'Edgecumbe? That sounds rather nice.
Call me Edgecumbe.'
'All right,' I laughed; 'but what about your Christian name?'
'I don't mind what it is. What do you suggest?'
'There was a scriptural character who had strange experiences,
'Paul Edgecumbe,that wouldn't sound bad, would it?'
'No, it sounds very well.'
'For the future, then, I'll be Paul Edgecumbe, untilmy memory
comes back;if ever it does,' he added with a sigh. 'Paul Edgecumbe,
Paul Edgecumbe,yes, I shall remember that.'
'And what are you going to do?' I asked. 'Your little store of money
will soon be gone. Have you any idea what you are fit for?'
'Not the slightest. Stay though' A group of newly-made soldiers
passed by as he spoke, and each of them, according to the custom of
soldiers, saluted me. 'Strapping lot of chaps, aren't they?' he said,
like one talking to himself; 'they'll need a lot of licking into shape,
though. By Jove, that'll do.'
'You say England is at war, and you've been on a recruiting stunt.
That will suit me. Recruit me, will you?'
'Do you know anything about soldiering?'
'I don't think so. I remember nothing. Why do you ask?'
'Because when those soldiers saluted me just now, you returned the
'Did I? I didn't know. Perhaps I saw you doing so and I
unconsciously followed your lead. But I don't think I do know anything
about soldiering. I remember nothing about it, anyhow.'
This conversation took place in the early spring of 1915, just as
England began to realize that we were actually at war. The first flush
of recruiting had passed, and hundreds of thousands of our finest young
men had volunteered for the Army. But a kind of apathy had settled upon
the nation, and fellows who should have come forward willingly hung
I had been fairly successful in my recruiting campaign; nevertheless
I was often disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm manifested. I found
that young men gave all sorts of foolish excuses as reasons for not
joining; and when this stranger volunteered, as it seemed to me,
unthinkingly, and without realizing the gravity of the step he was
taking, I hesitated.
'Of course you understand that you are doing a very important
thing?' I said. 'We are at war, and fellows who volunteer know that
they are possibly volunteering for death.'
'Oh yes, of course.' He said this in what seemed to me such a casual
and matter-of-fact way that I could not believe he realized what war
'The casualty list is already becoming very serious,' I continued.
'You see, we are having to send out men after a very short training,
and thus it comes about that the lads who, when war broke out, never
dreamed of being soldiers, are now, many of them, either maimed and
crippled for life, or dead. You quite realize what you are doing?'
'Certainly,' he replied, 'but then, although I have forgotten nearly
everything else, I have not forgotten that I am an Englishman, and of
course, as an Englishman, I could do no other than offer myself to my
country. Still, I'd like to know the exact nature of our quarrel with
'You've not forgotten there is such a country as Germany, then?'
'Oh, no.' And then he sighed, as if trying to recollect something.
'I say,' he went on, 'my mind is a curious business. I know that
Germany is a country in Europe. I can even remember the German
language. I know that Berlin is the capital of the country, and I can
recall the names of many of their big towns,Leipzig, Frankfurt,
Munich, Nuremburg; I have a sort of fancy that I have visited them; but
I know nothing of the history of Germany,that is all a blank. Funny,
isn't it?' and then he sighed again.
'As it happens,' I said, 'I have to speak at a recruiting meeting
to-night, here in Plymouth. Would you like to come? I am going to deal
with the reasons for the war, and to show why it is every chap's duty
to do his bit.'
'I'd love to come. My word! what's that?'
Away in the distance there was a sound of martial music, and as the
wind was blowing from the south-west the strains reached us clearly.
Evidently some soldiers were marching with a band.
'It's fine, isn't it!' he cried. He threw back his shoulders, stood
perfectly erect, and his footsteps kept perfect time to the music. I
felt more than ever convinced that he had had some former association
with the Army.
On our way to the recruiting meeting, however, he seemed to have
forgotten all about it. He was very listless, and languid, and
depressed. He was like a man who wanted to hide himself from the crowd,
and he slunk along the streets as though apologizing for his presence.
'That's the hall,' I said, pointing to a big building into which the
people were thronging.
'I shall not be noticed, shall I? If you think I should, I'd rather
'Certainly not. Who's going to notice you? I'll get you a seat on
the platform if you like.'
'Oh, no, no. Let me slink behind a pillar somewhere. No, please
don't bother about me, I'll go in with that crowd. I'll find you after
the meeting.' He left me as he spoke, and a minute later I had lost
sight of him.
I am afraid I paid scanty attention to what was said to me in the
anteroom, prior to going into the hall. The man interested me more than
I can say. I found myself wondering who he was, where he came from, and
what his experiences had been. More than once, I doubted whether I had
not been the victim of an impostor. The story of his loss of memory was
very weak and did not accord with the spirit of the men in the
anteroom, who were eagerly talking about the war; or with the purposes
of the meeting. And yet I could not help trusting in him, he was so
frank and manly. In a way, he was transparent, too, and talked like a
When I entered the hall, which was by this time crowded with,
perhaps, two thousand people, I scanned the sea of faces eagerly, but
could nowhere see the man who had adopted the name of Paul Edgecumbe. I
doubted whether he was there at all, and whether I should ever see him
again. Still, I did not see what purpose he could have had in deceiving
me. He had received nothing from me, save his dinner at the hotel,
which I had persisted in paying for in spite of his protests. The
clothes he wore were paid for by his own money, and he showed not the
slightest expectation of receiving any benefits from me.
Just as I was called upon to speak, I caught sight of him. He was
sitting only a few rows back from the platform, close to a pillar, and
his eyes, I thought, had a vacant stare. When my name was mentioned,
however, and I stood by the table on the platform, waiting for the
applause which is usual on such an occasion to die down, the vacant
look had gone. He was eager, alert, attentive.
Usually I am not a ready speaker, but that night my work seemed
easy. After I had sketched the story of the events which led to the
war, the atmosphere became electric, and the cause I had espoused
gripped me as never before, and presently, when I came to the
application of the story I had told, and of our duty as a nation which
pretended to stand for honour and truth, and Christianity, my heart
grew hot, and the meeting became wild with enthusiasm.
Just as I was closing, I looked toward the pillar by which Paul
Edgecumbe sat, and his face had become so changed that I scarcely knew
him. There were no evidences of the drawn, parchment-like skin;
instead, his cheeks were flushed, and looked youthful. His eyes were no
longer wistful and sad, but burned like coals of fire. He was like a
man consumed by a great passion. If he had forgotten the past, the
present, at all events, was vividly revealed to him.
Before I sat down, I appealed for volunteers. I asked the young men,
who believed in the sacredness of promises, in the honour of life, in
the sanctity of women, to come on to the platform, and to give in their
names as soldiers of the King.
There was no applause, a kind of hush rested on the audience; but
for more than a minute no one came forward. Then I saw Paul Edgecumbe
make his way from behind the pillar, and come towards the platform, the
people cheering as he did so. He climbed the platform steps, and walked
straight toward the chairman, who looked at him curiously.
'Will you take me, sir?' he said, and his voice rang out clearly
among the now hushed audience.
'You wish to join, do you?'
'Join!' he said passionately, 'how can a man, who is a man, do
What I have related describes how I first met Paul Edgecumbe, and
how he joined the Army. At least a hundred other volunteers came
forward that night, but I paid little attention to them. The man whose
history was unknown to me, and whose life-story was unknown even to
himself, had laid a strong hand upon me.
As I look back on that night now, and as I remember what has since
taken place, I should, if power had been given me to read the future,
have been even more excited than I was.
CHAPTER II. SIR ROGER GRANVILLE'S
When the meeting was over, I looked around for my new acquaintance,
but he was nowhere to be found. I waited at the hall door until the
last man had departed, but could not see him. Thinking he might have
gone to the hotel where we had had dinner, I went up to The Hoe, and
inquired for him; but he had not been seen. He had vanished as suddenly
as he had appeared.
I must confess that I was somewhat anxious about him, and wondered
what had become of him. He was alone; he knew no one but myself; he had
lost his memory; he was utterly ignorant of Plymouth, and I feared lest
something untoward should have happened to him. However, I reflected
that, as volunteers had been ordered to report themselves at the
barracks at nine o'clock on the following morning, I should find him
I went to the house I was staying at, therefore, hoping, in spite of
my misgivings, that all would be well.
I had no opportunity of going to the barracks, however. Before I had
finished breakfast the next day a telegram arrived, ordering me to go
to Falmouth by the earliest possible train on an urgent matter. This
necessitated my leaving Plymouth almost before my breakfast was
finished. All I could do, therefore, was to scribble him a hasty line,
explaining the situation, and urging him to communicate with me at an
address I gave him in Falmouth. I also told him that on my return to
Plymouth I would look him up, and do all I could for him.
As events turned out, however, I did not get back for more than a
week, and when I did, although I made careful inquiries, I could learn
nothing. Whether he remained in Plymouth, or not, I could not tell, and
of course, among the thousands of men who were daily enlisting, it was
difficult to discover the whereabouts of an unknown volunteer.
Moreover, there were several recruiting stations in Plymouth besides
the barracks, and thus it was easy for me to miss him.
Months passed, and I heard nothing about Paul Edgecumbe, and if the
truth must be told, owing to the multifarious duties which pressed upon
me at that time, I almost forgot him. But not altogether. Little as I
knew of him, his personality had impressed itself upon me, while the
remembrance of that wild flash in his eyes as he came on to the
platform in Plymouth, and declared that he should join the Army, was
not easily forgotten.
One day, about three months after our meeting, I was lunching with
Colonel Gray in Exeter, when Sir Roger Granville, who was chairman of
the meeting at which Edgecumbe had enlisted, joined us.
'I have often thought about that fellow who joined up at Plymouth,
Luscombe,' he said. 'Have you ever heard any more about him?'
I shook my head. 'I've tried to follow him up, too. The fellow has
had a curious history.' Whereupon I told Sir Roger what I knew about
'Quite a romance,' laughed Colonel Gray. 'It would be interesting to
know what becomes of him.'
'I wonder who and what he is?' mused Sir Roger.
'Anything might happen to a fellow like that. He may be a peer or a
pauper; he may be married or single, and there may be all sorts of
He grew quite eloquent, I remember, as to the poor fellow's possible
future, and would not listen to Colonel Gray's suggestions that
probably everything would turn out in the most prosaic fashion.
About five o'clock that evening our train arrived at a little
roadside station, where Sir Roger Granville's motor-car awaited us. It
was a beautiful day in early summer, and the whole countryside was
'No wonder you Devonshire people are proud of your county,' I said,
as the car swept along a winding country lane.
'Yes, you Cornishmen may well be jealous of us, although, for that
matter, I don't know whether I am a Cornishman or a Devonshire man.
There has always been a quarrel, you know, as to whether the Granvilles
belonged to Cornwall or Devon, although I believe old Sir Richard was
born on the Cornish side of the county boundary. In fact, there are
several families around here who can hardly tell the county they hail
from. You see that place over there?' and he pointed to a fine old
mansion that stood on the slopes of a wooded hill.
'It's a lovely spot,' I ventured.
'It is lovely, and George St. Mabyn is a lucky fellow. But à
propos of our conversation, George does not know which county his
family came from originally, Cornwall or Devon. St. Mabyn, you know, is
a Cornish parish, and I suppose that some of the St. Mabyns came to
Devonshire from Cornwall three centuries ago. That reminds me, he is
dining with us to-night. If I mistake not, he is a bit gone on a lady
who's staying at my house,fascinating girl she is, too; but whether
she'll have him or not, I have my doubts.'
'Why?' I asked.
'Oh, she was engaged to his elder brother, who was killed in Egypt,
and who was heir to the estate. It was awfully sad about Maurice,fine
fellow he was. But there was a row with the Arabs up by the Nile
somewhere, and Maurice got potted.'
'And George not only came into the estate, but may also succeed to
his brother's sweetheart?' I laughed.
'That's so. It's years ago now since Maurice's regiment was sent to
Egypt, and the engagement, so I am informed, was fixed up the night
before he went.'
'And is George St. Mabyn a good chap?'
'Oh, yes. He was a captain in the Territorials before the war broke
out, and was very active in recruiting last autumn. In November he got
sent to Ypres, and had a rough time there, I suppose. He was there
until two months ago, when he was wounded. He's home on leave now. This
war's likely to drag on, isn't it? We've been at it nine months, and
there are no signs of the Germans crumbling up.'
'From all I can hear,' I said, 'it was touch and go with us a little
while ago. If they had broken through our lines at Ypres, we should
have been in a bad way.'
'My word, we should! Still, the way our fellows stuck it was
The car entered the drive just then which led to Sir Roger's place,
and after passing more than a mile through fine park land, we swept up
to an old, grey stone mansion.
'You possess one of the finest specimens of an Old English home that
I know, Sir Roger,' I said.
'Yes, I do,' and there was a touch of pride in his voice. 'I love
every stone of it,I love every outbuilding,I love every acre of the
old place. I suppose it's natural, too,my people have lived here so
long. Heavens! suppose the Germans were to get here, and treat it as
they have treated the old French chateaux! Hallo, here we are!' and he
shouted to some people near the house. 'You see I have brought the
orator with me!'
We alighted from the car, and made our way towards three ladies who
sat in a secluded nook on the lawn. One I knew immediately as Lady
Granville, the other two were strangers to me. But as they will figure
more or less prominently in this story, and were closely associated
with the events which followed, it will be necessary for me to give
some description of them.
CHAPTER III. THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF
GEORGE ST. MABYN
One was a tall, stylishly dressed, handsome girl, of striking
appearance. I had almost called her a woman, for although she was still
young, her appearance could not be called strictly girlish. She might
be about twenty-five years of age, and her face, though free from
lines, suggested a history. I thought, too, that there was a lack of
frankness in her face, and that she had a furtive look in her eyes.
There was nothing else in her appearance, however, which suggested
this. She gave me a pleasant greeting, and expressed the hope that we
should have a good meeting in the little town near Granitelands, which
was the name of Lord Granville's house.
'I have heard such tremendous things about you, Captain Luscombe,'
she said, 'that I am quite excited. Report has it that you are quite an
'Report is a lying jade,' I replied; 'still, I suppose since the
people at the War Office think I am no use as a fighter, they must use
me to persuade others to do their bit.'
'Of course I am going,' she laughed, 'although, personally, I don't
like the Army.'
'Not like the Army, Norah!' It was the other girl who spoke, and who
thus drew my attention to her.
I was not much impressed by Lorna Bolivick when I had been first
introduced to her, but a second glance showed me that she was by far
the more interesting of the two. In one sense, she looked only a child,
and I judged her to be about nineteen or twenty years of age. She had
all a child's innocence, and naïveté, too; I thought she seemed
as free from care as the lambs I had seen sporting in the meadows, or
the birds singing among the trees. I judged her to be just a
happy-go-lucky child of nature, who had lived among the shoals of life,
and had never realized its depths. Her brown eyes were full of laughter
and fun. Her frank, untrammelled ways suggested a creature of impulse.
'That girl never had a care in her life,' I reflected; 'she's just a
happy kid who, although nearly a woman in years, is not grown up.'
I soon found myself mistaken, however. Something was said, I have
forgotten what, which evidently moved her, and her face changed as if
by magic. The look of carelessness left her in a moment, her great
brown eyes burned with a new light, her face revealed possibilities
which I had not dreamt of. I knew then that Lorna Bolivick could feel
deeply, that she was one who heard voices, and had plumbed the depths
of life which were unknown to the other.
She was not handsome, a passing observer would not even call her
pretty, but she had a wondrous face.
'Do you like my name, Captain Luscombe?' she asked.
'It is one of the most musical I know,' I replied.
'I don't like it,' she laughed. 'You see, in a way it gives me such
a lot to live up to. I suppose dad was reading Blackmore's great novel
when I was born, and so, although all the family protested, he insisted
on my being called Lorna. But I'm not a bit like her. She was gentle,
and winsome, and beautiful, and I am not a bit gentle, I am not a bit
winsome, and I am as ugly as sin,my brothers all tell me so. Besides,
in spite of the people who talk so much about Lorna Doone, I think she
was insipid,a sort of wax doll.'
Just then we heard the tooting of a motor horn, and turning, saw a
car approaching the house.
'There's George St. Mabyn,' cried Sir Roger. 'You're just in time,
George,I was wondering if you would be in time for our early dinner.'
Immediately afterwards, I was introduced to a young fellow about
twenty-eight years of age, who struck me as a remarkably good specimen
of the English squire class. He had, as I was afterwards told,
conducted himself with great bravery in Belgium and France, and had
been mentioned in the dispatches. I quickly saw that Sir Roger
Granville had been right when he said that George St. Mabyn was deeply
in love with Norah Blackwater. In fact, he took no trouble to hide the
fact. He flushed like a boy as he approached her, and then, as I
thought, his face looked pained as he noticed her cold greeting. They
were evidently well known to each other, however, as he called her by
her Christian name, and assumed the attitude of an old friend.
I did not think Lorna Bolivick liked him. Her greeting was cordial
enough, and yet I thought I detected a certain reserve; but of course
it might be only my fancy. In any case, they were nothing to me. I was
simply a bird of passage, and would, in all probability, go away on the
morrow, never to see them again.
During the informal and somewhat hurried evening meal which had been
prepared, I found myself much interested in the young squire. He had a
frank, boyish manner which charmed me, and in spite of his being still
somewhat of an invalid, his fresh, open-air way of looking at things
was very pleasant.
'By the way, Luscombe,' said Sir Roger, as the ladies rushed away to
their rooms to prepare for their motor drive, 'tell St. Mabyn about
that fellow we were talking of to-day; he'll be interested.'
'It's only a man I met with in Plymouth some time ago, who has lost
his memory,' I responded.
'Lost his memory? What do you mean?'
I gave him a brief outline of the story I have related in these
pages, and then added: 'It is not so strange after all; I have heard of
several cases since, where, through some accident, or shock, men have
been robbed of the past. In some cases their memory has returned to
them suddenly, and they have gone back to their people, who had given
them up for dead. On the other hand, I suppose there have been lots who
have never recovered.'
'The thing that struck me,' said Sir Roger, 'was the possibility of
a very interesting dénouement in this case. I was chairman of
the meeting at Plymouth, where the fellow enlisted, and he struck me as
an extraordinary chap. He had all the antiquity of Adam on his face,
and yet he might have been young. He had the look of a gentleman, too,
and from what Luscombe tells me, he is a gentleman. But there it is; he
remembers nothing, the past is a perfect blank to him. What'll happen,
if his memory comes back?'
'Probably nothing,' said St. Mabyn; 'he may have had the most
humdrum past imaginable.'
'Of course he may, but on the other hand there may be quite a
romance in the story. As I said to Luscombe, he may have a wife, or a
sweetheart, who has been waiting for him for years, and perhaps given
him up as dead. Think of his memory coming back, and of the meeting
which would follow! Or supposing he is an heir to some estate, and
somebody else has got it? Why, George, think if something like that had
happened to your brother Maurice! It might, in fact it would
alter everything. But there are the motors at the door; we must be
He turned toward the door as he spoke, and did not see George St.
Mabyn's face; but I did. It had become drawn and haggard, while in his
eyes was a look which suggested anguish.
In spite of myself, a suspicion flashed across my mind. Of course
the thing was improbable, if not impossible. But, perhaps influenced by
Sir Roger's insistence upon the romantic possibilities of the story, I
could not help thinking of it. There could be no doubt, too, that
George St. Mabyn looked positively ghastly. A few minutes before, he
looked ruddy and well, but now his face was haggard, as if he were in
Of course it was all nonsense; nevertheless I caught myself
constantly thinking about it on my way to the meeting. In fact, so much
did it occupy my attention that Lorna Bolivick, who sat with me in the
car, laughingly suggested that I was a dull companion, and was
evidently thinking more about my speech than how to be agreeable to a
'St. Mabyn ought to be the speaker, not I,' I said. 'He has been to
the front, and knows what real fighting means.'
'Oh, George can't speak,' she replied laughingly; 'why, even when he
addressed his tenants, after Maurice was killed, he nearly broke down.'
'What sort of fellow was Maurice?' I asked.
'Oh, just splendid. Everybody loved Maurice. But he ought not to
have stayed in the Army.'
'Because,becauseoh, I don't know why, but it didn't seem right.
His father was old and feeble when he went away, and as he was the heir
he ought to have stayed at home and looked after him, and the estate.
But he would go. There were rumours about trouble in Egypt, and Maurice
said he wanted to see some fighting. I suppose it was his duty, too.
After all, he was a soldier, and when his regiment was ordered abroad,
he had to go. But it seems an awful shame.'
'What kind of a looking fellow was he?'
'I don't think I am a judge; I was only a kiddy at the time, and
people said I made an idol of Maurice. But to me he was just splendid,
just the handsomest fellow I ever saw. He had such a way with him, too;
no one could refuse him anything.'
'I suppose he was engaged to Miss Blackwater?'
The girl was silent. Evidently she did not wish to talk about it.
'Were the two brothers fond of each other?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, awfully fond. The news of Maurice's death almost killed
George. You see, it happened not long after his father's death. You
have no idea how he was cut up; it was just horrible to see him. But
he's got over it now. It nearly broke my heart too, so I can quite
understand what George felt. But this must be very uninteresting to
'On the other hand, it is very interesting. Did you tell me that
George St. Mabyn was engaged to Miss Blackwater?'
'No, I didn't tell you that.'
'Is he going to be?'
I knew I was rather overstepping the bounds of good taste, but the
question escaped me almost before I was aware.
'I don't know. Oh, won't it be lovely when the war is over! You
think it will be over soon, don't you?'
'I am afraid not,' I said; 'as far as I can see, we are only at the
beginning of it.'
'Have you reason for saying that?'
'The gravest,' I replied; 'why do you ask?'
'Only that I feel so ashamed of myself. Here are you going to a
meeting to-night to persuade men to join the Army, while some of us
women do practically nothing. But I'm going to; I told dad I should,
only this morning, but he laughed at me. He said I should stay at home
and stick to my knitting.'
'What did you tell him you were going to do?'
'Train as a nurse. But he wouldn't hear of it. He said it was not a
fit thing for a young girl to nurse wounded men. But if they are
wounded for their country, surely we women ought to stop at nothing.
But here we are at the hall. Mind you make a good speech, Captain
Luscombe; I am going to be an awfully severe critic.'
After the meeting, George St. Mabyn returned with us to
Granitelands, and Sir Roger, in talking about the men who had
volunteered for service that night, again referred to the meeting at
Plymouth, and to the man who had enlisted. He also again insisted upon
the possible romantic outcome of the situation. Again I thought I saw
the haunted look in George St. Mabyn's eyes, and I fancied that the
cigar he held between his fingers trembled.
Miss Blackwater, however, showed very little interest in the story,
and seemed to be somewhat bored by its recital. Lorna Bolivick,
however, was greatly interested.
'And do you mean to say,' she asked, 'that you don't know where he
'I have not the slightest idea.'
'And aren't you going to find out?'
'If I can, certainly.'
'Why,why,'and she spoke in a childish, impetuous way'I think
it is just cruel of you. If I were in your place, I wouldn't rest until
I had found him. I would hunt the whole Army through.'
'I should have a long job,' I replied. 'Besides, he may not have
joined the Army.'
'But he has,of course he has. He could not help himself. It is
your duty to be with him, and to help him. I think you are responsible
Of course every one laughed at this.
'But I do!' she insisted. 'It was not for nothing that they
met like that. Mr. Luscombe was meant to meet him, meant to help him.
It was he who persuaded him to join the Army, and now it is his bounden
duty to find him out, wherever he is. Why, think of the people who may
be grieving about him! Here he is, a gentleman, with all a gentleman's
instincts, an ordinary private; and of course having no memory he'll,
in a way, be helpless, and may be led to do all sorts of foolish
things. I mean it, Captain Luscombe; I think it's justjust awful of
you to be so careless.'
Again there was general laughter, and yet the girl's words made me
feel uneasy. Although I could not explain it, it seemed to me that some
Power higher than our own had drawn us together, that in some way this
man's life would be linked with mine, and that I should have to take my
part in the unravelling of a mystery.
All this time, George St. Mabyn had not spoken. He sat staring into
vacancy, and what he was thinking about it was impossible to tell. Of
course the thoughts which, in spite of myself, haunted my mind, were
absurd. If I had not seen that ashen pallor come to his face, and
caught the haunted look in his eyes, when earlier in the evening Sir
Roger Granville had almost jokingly associated the unknown man with
Maurice St. Mabyn, I do not suppose such foolish fancies would have
entered-my mind. But now, although I told myself that I was
entertaining an absurd suspicion, that suspicion would not leave me.
I looked for a resemblance between him and Paul Edgecumbe, but could
find none. Was he, I wondered, in doubt about his brother's death? Had
he entered into possession on insufficient proof? Many strange things
happened in the East; soldiers had more than once been reported to be
dead, and then turned up in a most remarkable way. Had George St.
Mabyn, in his desire to become owner of the beautiful old house I had
seen, taken his brother's death for granted, on insufficient grounds,
and had not troubled about it since?
'Promise me,' said Lorna Bolivick, in her impetuous way, 'that you
will never rest until you find this man again! Promise me that you will
befriend him!' and she looked eagerly into my eyes as she spoke.
'Of course I will,' I said laughingly.
'No, but that won't do. Promise me that you will look for him as if
he were your own brother!'
'That's a pretty large order. But why should you be so interested in
'I never give reasons,' she laughed, 'they are so stupid. But you
will promise me, won't you?'
'Of course I will,' I replied.
'That's a bargain, then.'
'When are you leaving this neighbourhood?' asked George St. Mabyn,
when presently he was leaving the house.
'To-morrow afternoon,' I replied. 'They are working me pretty hard,
I can tell you.'
'Won't you look me up to-morrow morning?' he asked. 'There's a man
staying with me whom you'd like to know. I tried to persuade him to
come to the meeting to-night, but he did not feel up to it. He is
convalescing at my place; he's had a baddish time. He could tell you
some good stories, too, that would help you in this recruiting stunt.'
'By all means,' said Sir Roger, to whom I looked, as St. Mabyn
spoke. 'I can send you over in the car.'
The next day, about eleven o'clock, I started to pay my promised
visit, and passed through the same beautiful countryside which had so
appealed to me before. I found that St. Mabyn's house was not quite so
large as Granitelands, but it was a place to rejoice in nevertheless.
It was approached by a long avenue of trees, which skirted park lands
where deer disported themselves. Giant oaks studded the park, and the
house, I judged, was built in the Elizabethan period. An air of comfort
and homeliness was everywhere; the grey walls were lichen-covered, and
the diamond-paned, stone-mullioned windows seemed to suggest security
'I wonder why he wanted me to come here?' I reflected, as the car
drew up at the old, ivy-covered porch.
CHAPTER IV. I MEET CAPTAIN
I stood at the window of the room into which I had been shown,
looking over the flower-beds towards the beautiful landscape.
Devonshire has been called the Queen of the English counties, perhaps
not without reason. Even my beloved Cornwall could provide no fairer
sight than that which spread itself before me. For a coast scenery,
Cornwall is unrivalled in the whole of England, but for sweet, rustic
loveliness, I had to confess that we had nothing to surpass what I saw
Mile after mile of field, and woodland, in undulating beauty, spread
themselves out before me, while away in the distance was a fringe of
rocky tors and wild moor-land.
At the bottom of the hill on the side of which the house stood ran a
clear, sparkling river, which wound itself away down the valley like a
ribbon of silver, hidden only here and there by trees and brushwood.
So enamoured was I that I stood like one entranced, and did not
notice the two men who had entered, until St. Mabyn spoke.
Captain Horace Springfield was a tall, dark, lean man from thirty to
thirty-five years of age, and from what I learnt afterwards, had spent
a great deal of time abroad. Although still young, his intensely black
hair was becoming tinged with grey, and his deeply-lined cheeks, and
somewhat sunken eyes made him look older than he really was. Although
he was home on sick leave, he showed no sign of weakness; his every
movement suggested strength and decision.
'Glad to know you,' he said; 'it's a degrading sort of business to
go round the country persuading men to do their duty, but since there
are so many shirkers in the country, some one's obliged to do it. We
shall need all the strength of England, and of the Empire, before we've
done, if this job is to be finished satisfactorily; the Germans will
need a lot of licking.'
'Still, our chaps are doing very well,' I ventured.
'Oh, yes, they are all right. But naturally these new fellows
haven't the staying power of the men in the old Army. They, poor chaps,
were nearly all done for in the early days of the war. Still, the
Territorials saved the situation.'
'You've seen service in the East?' I ventured.
'Yes, Egypt and India.'
'It was in Egypt that Captain Springfield knew my brother Maurice,'
and George St. Mabyn glanced quickly at him as he spoke.
'The country lost a fine soldier in Maurice St. Mabyn,' said
Springfield. 'If he had lived, he'd have been colonel by now; in fact,
there is no knowing what he mightn't have become. He had a big mind,
and was able to take a broad grasp of things. I'd like to have seen him
at the General Headquarters in France. What Maurice St. Mabyn didn't
know about soldiering wasn't worth knowing. Still, he's dead, poor
'Were you with him when he died?' I asked.
'Yes, I was,that is I was in the show when he was killed. It was
one of those affairs which make it hard to forgive Providence. You see,
it was only a small skirmish; some mad mullah of a fellow became a paid
agitator among the natives. He stirred up a good deal of religious
feeling, and quite a number of poor fools joined him. By some means,
too, he obtained arms for them. St. Mabyn was ordered to put down what
the English press called a native rebellion. He was able to do it
easily for although he hadn't many men, he planned our attack so
perfectly that we blew them into smithereens in a few hours.'
'And you were in it?' I asked.
'Yes,' and then in a few words he described how Maurice St. Mabyn
'It's jolly hard when a friend dies like that,' I said awkwardly.
'Yes,' was Springfield's reply, 'it is. Of course it is one of the
risks of the Army, and I am sure that Maurice would have gone into it,
even if he had known what would take place. He was that sort. In a way,
too, it was a glorious death. By his pluck and foresight he made the
whole job easy, and put down what might have been a big rebellion. But
that isn't quite how I look at it. I lost a pal, the best pal a man
ever had. His death bowled me over, too, and I wasn't fit for anything
for months. Poor old Maurice!'
I must confess that I was moved by the man's evident feeling. He had
not struck me as an emotional man,rather, at first, he gave me the
impression of being somewhat hard and callous. His deep-set eyes, high
cheek-bones, and tall gaunt form, suggested one of those men who was as
hard as nails, and who could see his own mother die without a quiver of
'Forgive me, Luscombe,' he said, 'I'm not a sloppy kind of chap as a
rule, and sentiment isn't my strong point. I have seen as much hard
service as few men, and death has not been a rare thing to me. I have
been in one or two little affairs out in India, and seen men die fast.
It is no make-belief over in France, either, although I have seen no
big engagement there. But to lose a pal is I say, shall we change
After this, we went out into the grounds, and talked of anything
rather than war or soldiering, and I must confess that Springfield
talked well. There was a kind of rough strength about him which
impressed me. That he was on good terms with George St. Mabyn was
evident, for they called each other by their Christian names, and I
judged that their friendship was of long standing.
After I had been there a little over an hour, and was on the point
of telling the chauffeur to take me back to Granitelands, George St.
Mabyn informed me that he and Springfield were going there to lunch. I
was rather surprised at this, as no mention of it had been made before,
and I wondered why, if they had arranged to be at Granitelands, I
should have been asked to visit them that morning. Still, I did not
give the matter a second thought, and before one o'clock St. Mabyn
appeared in the seventh heaven of delight, for he was walking around
the grounds of Granitelands with Norah Blackwater by his side.
I left soon after lunch, but before I went I had a few minutes' chat
with Lorna Bolivick.
'You will remember your promise, won't you?' and she looked eagerly
into my face as she spoke.
'You know. The promise, you made about that man, Paul Edgecumbe. I
want you to promise something else, too.'
'What is that?'
'I want you to let me know when you have found him.'
'What possible interest can you have in him, Miss Bolivick?'
'I only know that I am interested in him; I couldn't sleep
last night for thinking about him. It'sit's just awful, isn't it? Do
you like Captain Springfield?'
'I neither like nor dislike him. I only met him an hour or two ago,
and in all probability I shall never see him again.'
'Oh, but you will. You are a friend of Sir Roger Granville's, aren't
'Scarcely. I happen to have been brought into contact with him
because of this work I am doing, and he has been very kind to me. That
is all. I have never been here before, and probably I shall never come
'Oh, yes, you will. Sir Roger likes you, so does Lady Granville;
they said so last night after you went to bed. I am sure you will come
'I shall be awfully glad if I do, especially if it will lead to my
'Don't be silly,' and she spoke with all the freedom of a child;
'all the same, I'd like you to meet my father. He'd like to know you,
too. We only live about five miles away. Ours is a dear old house; it
is close by the village of South Petherwin. Can you remember that?'
'If I have to write you about Paul Edgecumbe, will that find you?'
'Yes. You needn't put Bolivick, which is the name of the house,
because every one who is called Bolivick lives at Bolivick, don't you
see? I shall expect to hear from you directly you find him. You are
sure you won't forget?'
I laughed at the girl's insistence. 'To make it impossible,' I said,
'I will put it down in my diary. Here we are. May 29,you see there is
a good big space for writing. I give my promise, that as soon as I
have found the man, Paul Edgecumbe, I will write Miss Lorna Bolivick
and acquaint her of the fact.'
'That's right. Now then, sign your name.'
I laughingly did as she desired.
'I am going to witness it,' she said, and there was quite a serious
tone in her voice. She took my pencil, and wrote in a somewhat crude,
schoolgirl hand,'Witnessed by Lorna Bolivick, Bolivick, South
Petherwin.' 'You can't get rid of it now,' she said.
While she was writing, I happened to look up, and saw Norah
Blackwater, who was accompanied by George St. Mabyn and Captain
'What deep plot are you engaged in?' asked Norah Blackwater.
'It's only some private business Mr. Luscombe and I are
transacting,' she replied, whereupon the others laughed and passed on.
'Do you know what that Captain Springfield makes me think of?' she
'No,' I replied.
'Snakes,' she said.
As I watched the captain's retreating form, I shook my head.
'I can't help it. Have you noticed his eyes? There now, put your
diary in your pocket, and don't forget what you've promised.'
'One thing is certain,' I said to myself, as I was driven along to
the station that afternoon, 'my suspicions about George St. Mabyn are
groundless. What a fool a man is when he lets his imagination run away
with him! Here was I, building up all sorts of mad theories, and then I
meet a man who knows nothing about my thoughts, but who destroys my
theories in half a dozen sentences. Whoever Paul Edgecumbe is, it is
certain he is not Maurice St. Mabyn.'
Several months passed, and still I heard nothing of Paul Edgecumbe.
I made all sorts of inquiries, and did my best to find him, all without
success, until I came to the conclusion that the man had not joined the
Army at all. Then, suddenly, I ceased thinking about him. My recruiting
work came to an end, and I was pitchforked into the active work of the
Army. As I have said, I knew practically nothing about soldiering, and
the little I had learnt was wellnigh useless, because, being merely an
officer in the old Volunteers, my knowledge was largely out of date.
Still, there it was. New schemes for obtaining soldiers were on foot,
and as a commission had been given to me, and there being no need for
me at the University, I became a soldier, not only in name, but in
actuality. I suppose I was not altogether a failure as a battalion
officer; indeed, I was told I picked up my duties with remarkable ease.
Anyhow, I worked very hard. And then, before I had time to realize what
had happened to me, I was ordered to the front.
Some one has described life at the front as two weeks of monotony
and one week of hell. I do not say it is quite like that, although it
certainly gives a hint of the truth. When one is in the trenches, it is
often a very ghastly business, so ghastly that I will not attempt to
describe it. On the other hand, life behind the lines is dreadfully
monotonous, especially in the winter months, when the whole of our
battle-line is a sea of mud and the quintessence of discomfort. Still,
I did not fare badly. I was engaged in two small skirmishes, from which
my battalion came out well, and although, during the winter of
1915-1916, things could not be described as lively, a great deal of
useful work was done.
Then something took place which bade fair to put an end to my
activities for the duration of the war, and which calamity was averted
in what I cannot help describing now as a miraculous way. I need not go
into the matter at length; it was a little affair as far as I was
concerned, but was intended as a preliminary to something far more
serious, but of which I had no knowledge. It was on a dark night, I
remember, and my work was to raid a bit of the Boches' trenches, and do
all the damage possible. Preparations had been carefully made, and as
far as we could gather, everything promised success. I had twenty men
under my command, and early in the morning, about an hour before
daylight, we set out to do it. Everything seemed favourable to our
enterprise. The German searchlights were not at work, and the bit of No
Man's Land which we had to cross did not seem to be under enemy
I was given to understand that my little stunt was only one of
several others which was to take place, and so, although naturally our
nerves were a bit strung up when we crawled over the parapets, we did
not anticipate a difficult job.
As a matter of fact, however, the Boches had evidently been warned
of our intentions, and had made their plans accordingly. We were
allowed to cross the No Man's Land, which at this spot was about three
hundred yards wide, and were nearing the place from which we could
commence operations, when, without warning, a number of the enemy
attacked us. The odds were against us at the very start; they had
double our numbers, and were able to take advantage of a situation
strongly in their favour.
Evidently some one on our side had either conveyed information to
them, or their Intelligence Department was better served than we
imagined. Anyhow, there it was. Instead of entering their trenches, and
taking a number of prisoners, we had the worst of it. Still, we made a
good fight, and I imagine their losses were greater than ours, in spite
of their superiority of numbers. Most of our fellows managed to get
away, but I was not so fortunate. Just at the first streak of dawn, I
found myself a prisoner; while four of the men whom I had brought
suffered a similar fate.
It was no use my trying to do anything, they out-numbered us several
times over, and I was led away to what I suppose they regarded as a
place of safety, until reports could be made concerning us.
I knew German fairly well, although I spoke it badly, and I tried to
get some information as to the plans concerning me; but I could get no
definite reply. It was bitterly cold, and in spite of all the Boches
had done to make their condition comfortable, it was no picnic. Mud and
slush abounded, and I heard the German soldiers complain one to another
that it was ten hours since they had tasted any food.
Then, suddenly, there was a tremendous boom, followed by a terrific
explosion, and although I was not wounded, I was wellnigh stunned. A
British shell had fallen close to where we were, and, as far as I could
judge, several Boches had been accounted for. A few seconds later,
there was a regular tornado.
As I have said our work that night was intended to be preparatory to
a big bombardment, and I had the misfortune to learn from the German
trenches what a British bombardment meant.
'Gott in Himmel!' said one of my captors, 'let's get away
from this.' Whereupon I was hurried on to what I supposed to be a safer
place. A few minutes later, I was descending what seemed to me a
concrete stairway, until I came to what struck me as a great cave,
capable of holding two or three hundred men.
As I entered, a German officer looked up from some papers he had
been examining, and saw us.
'What have you here?' he asked.
'English prisoners, sir.'
'Prisoners! what use have we for prisoners? Better put a bullet into
their brains. They will mean only so many more mouths to feed.'
'One is an officer, sir,' and the soldier nodded toward me.
'Ah well, he may be useful. But I have no time to deal with him now.
Himmel! what's that?'
It was the noise of a tremendous explosion, and the whole place
shook as though there were an earthquake.
The captain gave some rapid instructions which I did not hear, and
then hurried away.
CHAPTER V. HOW A MAN WORKED A MIRACLE
Since then, I have been under some terrific bombardments, but up to
that time I had never experienced anything so terrible. Evidently our
big guns were turned on, and they had located the German trenches to a
nicety. Moreover, I judged that something serious was on hand, for it
continued hour after hour. Before long all lights went out, and I knew
by the hoarse cries which the Germans were making that they were in a
state of panic.
The bombardment had lasted perhaps an hour, when part of the roof of
the cave fell in with a tremendous crash, and I imagined that several
men were buried.
'We'll get out of this,' said the lieutenant who had been left in
charge; 'there's a safer place further down.'
'Yes, sir,' replied the soldier, evidently glad of the order, 'but
what about the prisoners?'
The young officer seemed in doubt about us, and then grumbled
something about his captain's orders.
'Our numbers are up, sergeant,' I said, for Sergeant Smith and I
were the only two who were left alive. 'Either we shall be killed by
our own guns, or else we shall suffer worse than death at the hands of
'Never say die, sir,' replied Sergeant Smith, who was noted for his
optimistic temperament; 'anyhow, these chaps are all in a blue funk.'
'There can be no doubt about that,' was my reply. 'If we live
through it, and if this bombardment is but the preliminary to an
attack, there's a sporting chance that we may get away.'
'About a hundred to one, sir.'
After this, I have no clear recollection as to what took place. I
remember that we moved along a tunnel until we came to another
dug-out,after that everything became a blank to me. Either I had been
stunned by my captors, or I had been hurt by falling débris.
When I came to my senses again, the guns were still booming,
although they seemed at a greater distance, and I judged that our
captors regarded us as in a safer place. Then, suddenly, I heard a
voice which set my nerves tingling. It was an English voice, too,
although he spoke in German.
'You chaps are in an awful hole,' I heard some one say, in quiet
matter-of-fact tones, as though the situation were of a most ordinary
nature. 'Do you know what I think of you? You are a lot of idiots.'
'We're better off than you, anyhow,' and this time it was a German
who spoke. 'If we come alive out of this, we shall be all right; but
you are our prisoners.'
'Prisoners if you like, my dear fellow, but what's the good of that
'Every English prisoner taken is one step nearer to German victory,'
replied the soldier sententiously.
'Nonsense! There'll never be a German victory, and you know it.
You've never been behind the British lines, have you? Why, man, there
are mountains of guns and ammunitionevery day is adding to the stock,
and soon, mark you, very soon, all these places of yours will become so
The German laughed incredulously.
'Do you know what'll happen soon?' went on the English voice, 'there
will be bombing parties along here; you may be safe for the moment, but
you can't get out,not one of you dare try. If you did, it would be
all up with you.'
'What are you getting at?' snarled the German. 'You are our
prisoner, anyhow, and if we are killed, so will you be!'
'Just so. But then I don't want to get killed, neither do you.'
'I know it's a beastly business,' said the German, 'and I wish this
cursed war would come to an end.'
'Yes, you see you were mistaken now, don't you?' and the Englishman
with the quiet voice laughed. 'You were told it was all going to be
over in a few weeks, and that it was going to be a picnic. Bah! you
said, what can the English do? But, my dear fellow, the English have
only just begun. You are just ramming your heads against a stone wall.
You won't hurt the wall, but your heads will get mightily battered. Oh
yes, we are your prisoners, there are just three of us left alive, and
you are thirty. But what is the good of it?'
'What are you getting at, Tommy?' asked another, 'and why are you
talking all this humbug?'
'Because I can get you out of this.'
'Get us out of it! How?'
'Ah, that is my secret, but I can.'
'What! Every one of us, unhurt?'
'Every one of you, unhurt.'
There was a general laugh of incredulity.
'You don't believe me, I know. But I swear to you I can do it.'
'By taking you as prisoners to the British lines. I know a way by
which it can be done.'
As may be imagined, I was not an uninterested listener to this
conversation. Evidently another man had been taken prisoner; who I had
no knowledge, but we had somehow been brought together. But it was not
altogether the quiet confidence of the speaker which interested me, it
was the sound of his voice. While it was not familiar to me, I felt
sure I had heard it before. The light was so dim, that I could see
neither his face nor any marks whereby I could discover his rank; but
he spoke German so well that I judged him to be an officer. The Germans
laughed aloud at his last remark.
'Your prisoners!' they shouted, 'and we ten to your one!'
'Why not,' he asked, 'if I take you to safety? Now just think,
suppose you all get out of this, and we are lodged in one of your
German prison camps; you remain here at the front, and be fodder for
cannon. How many of you will come through this war alive, think you?
Perhaps one out of ten. And the end of it will be that your country
will be beaten. I am as sure of that as I am that the sun will rise
to-morrow. Now supposing you adopt my plan, suppose you go with me as
prisoners of war; I will take you to the British lines unhurt, and then
you will be sent to the Isle of Wight, or some such place; you will be
well housed, well clothed, well fed, until the war's over. Don't you
think you are silly asses to stay here and play a losing game, amidst
all this misery and suffering, when you can get away unhurt and enjoy
In spite of the madness of the proposal, he spoke in such a
convincing way that he impressed them in spite of themselves. Indeed I,
who am relating the conversation as nearly word for word as I can
remember, cannot give anything like an idea of the subtle persuasion
which accompanied his words. It might seem as though he were master of
the situation, and they had to do his will; in fact, he seemed to
hypnotize them by the persuasiveness of his voice, and by some magnetic
charm of his presence.
'You may be safe here for the moment,' he went on, 'but I can tell
you what'll happen. By this time your trenches are nearly level with
the ground,not a man in them will be alive. Your machine-gun
emplacements will be all blown into smithereens, for this is no
ordinary bombardment; it is tremendous, man, tremendous! In less than
two hours from now, either the outlets of these dug-outs of yours will
be stopped up, and you will die of foul air or starvation, or bombing
parties will come, and then it'll be all up with you. I tell you, I
know what I am talking about.'
'Yes, but if we are killed, so will you be!'
'And if we are, what good'll that do to any of us? We are young, we
want to live.'
Just then we heard a terrific explosion, louder even than any which
had preceded it. The ground shook; it seemed as though hell were let
'Do you hear that?' he went on, when there was a moment's quiet.
'That's just a foretaste of what's coming. That's one of the big new
guns, and there are hundreds of them, hundreds. Well, if you won't, you
'What do you want us to do?' and one of the Germans spoke excitedly.
'I tell you I know a way by which I can lead you out of this. I know
the country round here, inch by inch; I have made it my business to
study it; and I give you my word I will take you back to the British
lines unhurt. And then your life as an English prisoner will be just a
'Your word!' said one of them scornfully, 'what is it worth? You are
only a Tommy.'
'Yes, my word,' and he spoke it in such a way that they felt him to
be their master. It was one of those cases where one personality
'Are you an officer?' said one of the Germans after a pause. 'You
speak like a gentleman, but your uniform is that of a Tommy.'
'No matter what I am, I give you my promise, and I never broke my
Again it was not the words which affected them, it was the manner in
which he spoke them. He might have been a king speaking to his
'Now then, which shall it be?' he went on; 'if we stay here, in all
probability we shall every one of us be killed. Listen to that! There!
there! don't you feel it?the whole earth is trembling, I tell you,
and all these fortifications of yours will be nothing but so much
cardboard! And our men have mountains of munitions, man, mountains! I
have seen them. It will be rather a horrible death, too, won't it?
Whether we are buried alive, or blown up by bombs, it won't be
pleasant. It seems such a pity, too, when in ten minutes from now we
can be in safety.'
The man was working a miracle; he was accomplishing that which,
according to every canon of common sense, was impossible. He was a
prisoner in the power of thirty men, and yet he was persuading them to
become his prisoners. Even Sergeant Smith, who could not understand a
word of what was being said, knew it. He knew it by the tense
atmosphere of the place, by the look on the faces of the German
We had become so interested, that neither of us dared to move; we
just sat and listened while the unknown man, with quiet, persuasive
words, was working his will on them.
As I said, I could not see his face. For one thing, the light was
dim, and for another his features were turned away from me; but I could
hear every word he said. Even above the roar of the artillery, which
sounded like distant thunder, and in spite of the trembling earth,
every tone reached me, and I knew that his every word was sapping the
Germans' resistance, just as a strong current of water frets away a
foundation of sand. What at first I had felt like laughing at, became
to me first a possibility, then a probability, then almost a certainty.
So excited did I become that, more than once, I longed with an intense
longing to join my persuasions to that of the stranger. But when I
tried to speak, no words came. It might have been as though some
magician were at work, or some powerful mesmerist, who mesmerized his
hearers into obedience.
'I say, you fellows,' said one of the Germans to his companions,
'what do you say? Our life here is one prolonged hell,what is the use
of it? Our officers tell us to hold on, hold on. And why should we hold
on? Just to become fodder for cannon? I had four brothers, and every
one of them is killed. Who's to look after my mother, if I am dead?'
Three minutes later he had accomplished the impossible. He was
leading the way out of the dug-out towards the open. Sergeant Smith and
I went with him like men in a dream.
When we came out in the open air, the night had again fallen. More
than twelve hours had elapsed since I had been taken prisoner; most
likely I had been unconscious a great part of the time. I did not know
where we were going. The guns were still booming, while the heavens
were every now and then illuminated as if by some tremendous fireworks.
'Sergeant,' I whispered, 'the man's a magician.'
'Never heard of such a thing in my life, sir. I'm like a man
dreaming. Who is he? He's got a Tommy's togs on, but he might be a
All this time I had not once caught sight of our deliverer's face,
but the tones of his voice still haunted me like some half-forgotten
dream. I had almost forgotten the wonder of our freedom in the
excitement wrought by the way it was given to us.
When at length we entered the British trenches, and the German
prisoners had been taken care of, I saw the face of the man who had
wrought the miracle, and I recognized him as the stranger whom I had
met at Plymouth Harbour many months before, and who had adopted the
name of Paul Edgecumbe.
 The incident related above is not an invention on the part of
the author. It was told me by a British officer, and it took place as
nearly as possible as I have described it.
CHAPTER VI. PAUL EDGECUMBE'S MEMORY
'You!' I exclaimed.
He stood like a soldier on parade, and saluted me.
'Yes, Captain Luscombe. I hope you are well, sir.'
He spoke as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.
'Butbutthis is great!' I gasped. 'Tell me, how did you do it?'
But he had no time to answer the question, as at that moment orders
came for us to report ourselves.
Never had I seen a man so excited as the colonel was when the story
was told to him. First of all he stared at us as though we were madmen,
then laughter overcame his astonishment, and he fairly roared with
'The brigadier and the divisional general must hear of it at once!'
he cried. 'Why, it is the greatest thing since the war began! And you
did nothing, Luscombe?'
'Nothing,' I said; 'this man did it all.' And I enlarged upon the
difficulties of the situation, and the way Paul Edgecumbe had overcome
'Well, Edgecumbe,' I said, when at length I had an opportunity of
speaking to him alone, 'give me an account of yourself. Where have you
been? what have you been doing? and how have things been going with
'All right, sir. As to where I have been, and what I have been
doing, it's not worth telling about.'
'You don't mind my asking you awkward questions, do you?'
'Not a bit. Ask what you like, sir.'
'Has your memory come back?'
A shadow passed over his face, and a suggestion of the old yearning
look came into his eyes.
'No,no, nothing. Strange, isn't it? Ever since that day when I
found myself a good many miles away from Bombay, and realized that I
was alive, everything stands out plainly in my memory; but before
that,nothing. I could describe to you in detail almost everything
that has taken place since then. But there seems to be a great, black
wall which hides everything that took place before. I shudder at it
sometimes because it looks so impenetrable. Now and then I have dreams,
the same old dreams of black, evil faces, and flashing knives, and
cries of agony; but they are only dreams,I remember nothing.'
'During the time you were in England training,' I said, 'you went to
various parts of the country?'
'Yes, I was in Exeter, Swindon, Bramshott, Salisbury Plain.'
'And you recognized none of them, you'd no feeling that you had seen
those places before?'
'Faces, now,' I urged; 'do you ever see faces which suggest people
you have known in the past?'
He was silent for two or three seconds.
'Yes, and no,' he replied. 'I see faces sometimes which, while they
don't cause me to remember, give me strange fancies and
incomprehensible longings. Sometimes I hear names which have the same
effect upon me.'
'And your memory has been good for ordinary things?'
He laughed gaily. 'I think that whatever I went through has
increased my powers of memory,that is, those things that took place
since I woke up. If you will ask the sub., or the drill sergeant who
gave me my training, they will tell you that there was never any need
to tell me anything twice. I forget nothing, I never have to make an
effort to remember. When I hear a thing, or see a man's face, I never
forget it. I worked hard, too. I have read a good deal. I found that I
knew nothing of mathematics, and that my knowledge of German and French
was very hazy. It is not so now. Things like that have come to
me in a miraculous way.'
'Have you tried for a commission?'
'No. I have been offered one, but I wouldn't have it. Something, I
don't know what, told me not to. I wouldn't even have a corporal's
'And you have no more idea of who you really are than you had when I
saw you first?'
'No, not a bit.'
'Let me see if I can help your memory,' I said. 'Devonshire, think
of that word, now, and what it represents,does it bring back anything
'Nothing, except that yearning. I have a feeling that I know
something about it,a great longing totoI hardly know what.'
I tried him a little farther. 'Granitelands,does that mean
anything to you?'
Again he hesitated. 'No, nothing.'
'Can you ever recall any remembrance of, or has the name of Maurice
St. Mabyn any interest for you?'
I asked this because, even in spite of what Captain Springfield had
told me, vague fancies had come to me that perhaps there might be some
mistake, andandbut I dared not bring my thoughts to a conclusion.
'Maurice St. Mabyn,' he repeated, 'Maurice St. Mabyn. It might be a
name I heard when I was a kiddy, butno.'
'Norah Blackwater.' I uttered the name suddenly, impressively, and I
thought I saw his lips tremble, and certainly his eyes had a far-away
look. He was like a man trying to see in a great darkness, trying to
outline objects which were invisible to the natural eye.
'That seems like a dream name. Who is she? Why do you ask about
'I am trying to help you,' I said. 'She is a lady I met at the house
of Sir Roger Granville. She must be about twenty-five, perhaps not
quite so old, a tall, stylish-looking girl. I expect by this time she
is engaged to a fellow called George St. Mabyn. He is a brother to
Maurice, who was killed in Egypt.'
'Maurice killed in Egypt!' he repeated.
'Yes. I think Maurice had a friend called Springfield.'
'I remember that,Springfield. Springfield,Springfield.'
For a moment there was a change in his voice, a change, too, in the
look of his eyes. At least I thought so. I could fancy I detected
anger, contempt; but perhaps it was only fancy, and it was only for a
'A tall, dark fellow. He has rather a receding forehead, black hair
streaked with grey, a thin, somewhat cadaverous-looking face, deep-set
eyes, a scar on his cheek, just below his right temple.'
He laughed again. 'By Jove, sir,' he said, 'you might be describing
a man I know. I seem to see his face as plainly as I see yours. I don't
think I like him, either, butbutno, it has gone, gone! Have you any
suspicions about me? Have you found out anything?'
'No,' I said, 'I have found out nothing. But I have a hundred
suspicions. You see, you interested me tremendously when I saw you
first, and I wondered greatly about you. I was awfully disappointed
when I could not find you.'
'Why should you want to find me?' he asked.
'Because I told some one about you, and she got tremendously
interested. She got angry with me because I had lost sight of you.'
'Who was she, sir?'
'Her name is Lorna Bolivick, and, I say,I have something to show
you.' And I searched in my tunic until I had found the previous year's
diary in which I had written the promise.
'There,' I said, and opened the diary at May 29.
'And this girl was interested in me, was she?'
Our conversation suddenly terminated at that moment, as an urgent
message reached me that my colonel wanted to see me. A few minutes
later I learnt that little short of a calamity had befallen us; that
the Germans had broken into some trenches which had lately been taken,
and that there was imminent danger of some of our best positions
falling into their hands.
Twelve hours later, the danger was averted; but it was at a
frightful cost. It was reported to me that a battalion was largely
decimated, and the positions which we ought to have gained remained in
the hands of the enemy.
I saw that the colonel looked very perturbed; indeed his face, which
was usually ruddy and hopeful, was haggard and drawn.
'Anything serious the matter?' I asked.
'Serious!' he replied, 'it is calamitous!'
'But we've cleared them out, haven't we?'
'Cleared them out! Why, man!' and he walked to and fro like one
demented. 'There's sure to be an inquiry,' he said at length, 'and
there'll be no end of a row; there ought to be, too. But what could one
'What is the trouble, then?' for the look in his eyes had made me
He made no reply, but I could see that his mind was busily at work.
'You remember that chap who got you out of that hole the day before
yesterday?' he asked.
'What, Edgecumbe? I should think I do!'
'I hear he is missing.'
'Edgecumbe missing? Taken prisoner, you mean?'
'I don't know. I have not heard particulars yet. I should not have
heard anything about him at all, but for the way he brought himself
into prominence over that affair. But it seems he was last seen
fighting with two Huns, so I expect he is done for. Terrible pity,
isn't it? I was going to recommend him for decoration, andand other
In a way I could not understand, my heart grew heavy; I felt as
though I were responsible for it, and that I had failed in my duty. And
I had a sort of feverish desire to know what had become of him.
'Good night, colonel,' I said suddenly, and I hurried away into the
darkness. I felt that at all costs I must find out the truth about Paul
CHAPTER VII. A CAUSE OF FAILURE
In spite of all my inquiries that night, I could discover nothing of
a satisfactory nature. The reports I obtained were conflicting. One man
had it that he was wounded badly, and left dying on No Man's Land;
another told me he had seen him taken prisoner by two Germans; another,
still, that he was seen to break away from them. But everything was
confused and contradictory. The truth was, that there was a great deal
of hand-to-hand fighting, and when that is the case it is ofttimes
difficult to tell what becomes of a single individual. The fact
remained, however, that he was missing, and no one knew anything
definite about him.
As a battalion officer, moreover, I had many duties to perform, and
in spite of my desires, I had to give up my inquiries about him, and
attend to my work.
The following day I was sitting in my quarters, and was on the point
of writing a letter to Lorna Bolivick, telling her what had taken
place, when my orderly informed me that a soldier wished to see me.
'He gave me this, sir,' added Jenkins, handing me a slip of paper.
No sooner did I see it than, starting to my feet, I rushed to the
door, and saw Paul Edgecumbe, pale and wan, but standing erect
I quickly got him into the room of the cottage where I was billeted,
and then took a second look at him.
'You are illwounded, man! You ought not to be here,' I said,
scarcely realizing what I was saying.
'The wound's nothing, sir. I lost a little blood, that's all; and I
got the M.O.'s consent to come and see you. I shall be right as ever in
two or three days.'
'You are sure of that?' I asked eagerly.
I laughed aloud, I was so much relieved. I need not send my letter
to Lorna Bolivick after-all.
'I've wasted a lot of good sentiment over you, Edgecumbe,' I said.
'I've heard all sorts of things about you.'
'I did have a curious experience,' he replied, 'and at one time I
thought my number was up; still I got out of it.'
'Tell me about it,' I said.
'It's very difficult, sir. As I told you, my memory has been
specially good since the time whenbut you know. In these
skirmishes, however, it's difficult to carry anything definite in your
mind, things get mixed up so. You are fighting for your life, and
that's all you know. Two German chaps did get hold of me, and then, I
don't know how it was, but we found ourselves in No Man's Land. The
Huns were two big, strong chaps, too, but I managed to get away from
'How did you do it?'
'You see they were drugged,' he replied.
'Yes, drugged with ether, or something of that sort, and although
they fought as though they were possessed with devils, their minds were
not clear, they acted like men dazed. So I watched for my opportunity,
and got it. I spent the whole day in a shell hole,it wasn't pleasant,
I can tell you. Still, it offered very good cover, and if my arm hadn't
been bleeding, and if I wasn't so beastly faint and hungry, I shouldn't
have minded. However, I tied up my arm as well as I could, and made up
my mind to stay there. I got back under the cover of night, andhere I
'I saw nothing of the affair,' I said. 'I had a job to do farther
back, and so was out of it. I wish I had been in it.'
'I wish you had, sir.' There was a change in his voice, and he
looked at me almost pathetically.
'What's the matter?'
'Of course I have no right to say anything,' he said. 'Discipline is
discipline, and I am only a private soldier. Are you busy, sir? If you
are, I will go away. But, owing to this scratch, I am at a loose end,
andandI'd like a chat with you, sir, if you don't mind.'
'Say what you want to say.'
He was silent for a little while, and seemed to be in doubt how to
express what he had in his mind. I saw the old, yearning, wistful look
in his eyes, too, the look I had noticed when we were walking on The
Hoe at Plymouth.
'Has your memory come back?' I asked eagerly. 'Has it anything to do
'No,' he replied, 'my memory has not come back. The old black wall
stands still, and yet I think it has something to do with it. I am
afraid I forget myself sometimes, sir, forget that you are an officer,
and I am a private.'
'Never mind about that now. Tell me what you have to say.'
'This war has shaken me up a bit, it has made me think. I don't know
what kind of a man I was before I lost my memory; but I have an idea
that I look at things without prejudice. You see, I have no
preconceived notions. I am a full-grown man starting life with a clean
page, that's why I can't understand.'
'I don't think I am a religious man,' he went on, without seeming to
heed me. 'When we were in England I went to Church parade and all that
sort of thing, but it had no effect upon me; it seemed to mean nothing.
Perhaps it will some day, I don't know. At present I look at things
from the outside; I judge by face values. Forgive me if I am talking a
great deal about myself, sir, and pardon me if I seem egotistical, I
don't mean to be. But you are the only officer with whom I am friendly,
and I was led to look upon you as a man of influence in England. The
truth is, I am mystified, confused, bewildered. Either I am wrong, mad;
or else we are waging this war in a wrong way.'
'While I was in the training camps, I was so much influenced by that
speech which you gave in Plymouth, that I determined to study the
causes of this war carefully. I did so. I gave months to it. I read the
whole German case from their own standpoint. I thought out the whole
thing as clearly as I was able, and certainly I had no prejudices.'
'Well?' I asked.
'If ever a country ought to have gone to war, we ought. If ever a
country had a righteous cause, we had, and have; if ever a Power needed
crushing, it was German power. Prussianism is the devil. I tell you, I
have been physically sick as I have read the story of what they did in
Belgium and France. I have gone, as far as I have been able, to the
tap-roots of the whole business. I have got at the philosophy of the
German position. I have studied the resources of our country; I have
tried to realize what we stand for. I fancy I must have been a fairly
intelligent man before I lost my memory. Perhaps I was tolerably well
educated, too. Anyhow, I think I have got a grasp of the whole
I did not speak, but waited for him to proceed.
'I am saying this, sir, that you may see that I am not talking
wildly, and my conviction is that Germany ought to have been beaten
before now; but it's nowhere like beaten, the devil stalks about
'You forget that Germany is a great country,' I answered, 'and that
she is supported by Austria, and Turkey, and Bulgaria. You forget, too,
that she had all the advantages at the start, and that she had been
preparing for this for forty years. You forget that she had the finest
trained fighting machine in the world, the biggest and best-equipped
army ever known. You forget, too, that she took the world practically
unawares, and that all her successes, especially in the West, were
gained at the beginning.'
'No, I do not forget,' he replied, and there was passion in his
voice; 'I have gone through all that; I made allowance for it. All the
same, they ought to have been beaten before now. Anyhow, their backs
ought to have been broken, and we ought to be within sight of the end.'
'I am afraid I don't understand. The whole resources of the country
have been strained to the utmost. Besides, see what we have done; see
the army we have made; think of all the preparations in big guns and
'Yes, yes,' he cried, 'but man-power is the final court of appeal,
and we have been wasting our man-power, wasting it,wasting it!'
'What do you mean by that? A finer lot of men never put on uniform
than we had.'
'In a way you are right. No one could admire the heroism of our
fellows more than I do. You have to get farther back.'
'How can we get farther back?'
'You have to get back to the Government. Look here, Luscombe,' and
evidently he had forgotten the difference in our ranks, 'let me put the
case into a nutshell. I was sent over here, to France, in a hurry.
Never mind how I found out what I am going to tell you,it is a fact.
Two battalions of ours were urgently ordered here; our men here were
hardly pressed, the Germans outnumbered us. Our chaps hadn't enough
rest, and the slaughter was ghastly. So we were ordered over to relieve
them, and the command was that we were to travel night and day, so
urgent was the necessity.
'What happened? The boat by which I came was held up in the harbour
for twenty-four hours. Why? I am not talking without my book,I know,
I have made investigations, and I will tell you why. The firemen were
in public-houses, and would not come away. And the Government allowed
those public-houses to be open; the Government allowed those firemen to
drink until they were in an unfit condition to take us across. The
Government allowed the stuff that robbed them of their manhood, and of
their sense of responsibility, to be manufactured. The Government
allowed private individuals to make fortunes out of that stuff! Just
think of it! There we were, all waiting, but we could not go. Why could
not we go? Why were we held up, when the lives of thousands of others
depended upon us? when the success of the war probably depended upon
it? Drink! there is your answer in one word.
'Here's this affair of the last two or three days; it didn't come
off. Ammunition was wasted, men's lives were wasted, hearts were
broken; but it didn't come off. Why was it?
'What are we fighting? We are fighting devilry, inhumanity, Prussian
barbarism. Search your dictionary, and you can't find names too bad to
describe what we are fighting. But in order to do it, we use one of the
devil's chief weapons, which is robbing us of victory.
There was a strange intensity in his voice, and I think he forgot
all about himself in what he said.
'Look here,' he went on, 'you remember how some time ago we were
crying out for munitions. Let us have more guns, more munitions, we
said. The Germans, who had been preparing for war for so many years,
had mountains of it, and as some one has said, thousands of our men
were blown into bloody rags each day. And we could not answer back. We
had neither guns nor shells. Why?'
'Because we were not properly organized. You see'
'Yes, it was partly that, but more because our power was wasted, in
the gun factories and the munition factories. You know as well as I do
that it was on the continual and persistent work of the people in those
factories that our supplies depended. What happened? Hundreds,
thousands of them left work at noon on Saturdays, and then started
drinking, and did not appear at their work until the Tuesday or
Wednesday following, and when they came they were inefficient, muddled.
Work that required skilled hands and clear brains had to be done by
trembling hands and muddled brains. The War Minister told us that there
was a wastage of 10 per cent. of our munition-making power. He told us,
too, that between thirty and forty days of the whole working force of
the country were lost every year,what by? Drink.
'And meanwhile our chaps out here were killed by the thousand,
because of shortage of munitions. Is it any wonder that the war drags
on? Is it any wonder that we are not gaining ground? We were told
months ago that we should shorten the war by blockading Germany, by
keeping food from the nation. Now I hear rumours that there is going to
be a shortage of food in our own country. Whether that will be the case
or not, I don't know. If there is a shortage, it will be our own fault.
I see by the English newspapers that bread is becoming dearer every
day, and people say that there'll soon be a scarcity, and all the time
millions upon millions of bushels of grain intended for man's food is
being wasted in breweries and distilleries. Hundreds of thousands of
tons of sugar, which are almost essential to human life, are utilized
for man's damnation; and all by the consent of the Government.
'When the war broke out, the King signed the pledge, so did Lord
Kitchener, so did the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Did the people
follow? They only laughed. I tell you, Luscombe, every distillery and
every brewery is lengthening the war, and I sometimes doubt whether we
shall ever win it,until the nation is purged of this crime! Yes, we
are making vast preparations, and we have raised a fine Army. But all
the time, we are like a man trying to put out a fire by pouring water
on it with one hand, and oil with the other.'
'But, my dear chap,' I said, 'these brewers and distillers have put
their fortunes into their business, and they employ thousands of hands.
Would you rob them of their properties, and would you throw all these
people out of work?'
'Great God! man,' was his reply, 'but the country's at stake, the
Empire's at stake! Truth, righteousness, liberty are at stake! If we
don't win in this war, German devilry will rule the world, and shall
the country allow the Trade, as it calls itself, to batten upon the
vitals of the nation? That's why I am bewildered. I told you just now
that perhaps I look at things differently from what I ought to look at
them. I have lost all memory of my past life, and I judge these things
by their face value, without any preconceived notions or prejudices. I
have to begin de novo, and perhaps can't take into account all
the forces which have been growing up through the ages. But, Heavens!
man, this is a crisis! and if we are going to win this war, not only
must every one do his bit, but all that weakens and all that destroys
the resources of the nation must be annihilated!'
Our conversation came abruptly to an end at that moment, caused by
the entrance of my orderly, who told me that a gentleman wished to see
'Who is it, Jenkins?' I asked.
'Major St. Mabyn, sir.'
He had scarcely spoken when, with a lack of ceremony common at the
front, George St. Mabyn entered.
'Ah, there you are, Luscombe! Did you know that both Springfield and
I have had a remove? We got here last night. I fancy there are going to
be busy times. I was awfully glad when I heard you were here too.'
'No, I never heard of your coming,' I replied, 'but this is really a
great piece of luck.'
I had scarcely uttered the words, when I turned towards Paul
Edgecumbe, who was looking steadily at St. Mabyn. There was no
suggestion of recognition in his eyes, but I noticed that far-away
wistful look, as though he were trying to remember something.
Instinctively I turned towards George St. Mabyn, who at that moment
first gave a glance at Edgecumbe. Then I felt sure that although
Edgecumbe knew nothing of St. Mabyn, his presence startled the other
very considerably. There was a look in George St. Mabyn's eyes
difficult to describe; doubt, wonder, fear, astonishment, were all
there. His ruddy cheeks became pale, too, and I was sure his lips
'Whowho have you got here?' he asked.
'It's a chap who has got knocked about in a scrap,' I replied.
St. Mabyn gave Edgecumbe a second look, and then I thought his face
somewhat cleared. His colour came back; his lips ceased twitching.
'What did you say your name was, my man?'
'D.C.L.I., I see.'
'Yes, sir.' He saluted as he spoke, and left the room, while George
St. Mabyn stood looking after him.
CHAPTER VIII. I BECOME AN
For some seconds he was silent, while I, with a score of conflicting
thoughts in my mind, stood watching him. I had often wondered how I
could bring these two men together, for, while I had but little reason
to believe that they were in any way connected, I was constantly
haunted by the idea that had been born in my mind on the night I had
first met George St. Mabyn. I had imagined that if they could suddenly
be brought together, my suspicions could be tested, and now, as it
seemed to me, by sheer good fortune, my wishes had been gratified; but
they had led to nothing definite.
'Who is that fellow, Luscombe?' he asked presently.
'Don't you remember?' I replied. 'He is the man whom I met at
Plymouth Harbour, the man who had lost his memory.'
'Oh, yes. Funny-looking fellow; hehe almost startled me,' and he
'Do you know him? Did you ever see him before?' I asked.
'No, I never saw him before.'
'I thought you looked as though youyou recognized him.'
'No, I never saw him before.'
He spoke quite naturally, and in spite of everything I could not
help being convinced that he and Paul Edgecumbe had met for the first
'Have you heard from Devonshire lately?'
'No,' I replied.
'Then you don't know the news?'
'What news?' I asked eagerly.
'Miss Blackwater and I are engaged.'
'Congratulations,' I said; 'you'll be the envy of all the
marriageable men in Devonshire.'
'Shan't I just! Yes, I'm the happiest man in the British Army, and
that's saying a great deal.'
'I suppose it is publicly announced?' I said.
'No, not yet. Norah wants to wait a bit. I would like to have got
married before I came out this time, butbut there's no understanding
women. Still, if I live through this business, it'll come off in due
'Where do you hang out, exactly?' I asked.
'At a village about two miles up the line. You can't miss the house
I am billeted in; it's the first decent house on your right-hand side,
at the entrance to the place. Springfield is with me. We are a bit
quiet just now, but there'll be gay doings in a week or so. You must
look me up, Luscombe, when you have a few hours to spare. By the way,
you remember that Miss Bolivick you saw at the Granville's? She's out
here in France somewhere.'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'A remarkably fine girl,' I ventured; 'if I am a judge of character,
she's capable of doing anything.'
'Is she? Lorna and I never hit it off somehow. She was great pals
with my brother Maurice, although she was only a kid at the time.
Sheshe didn't congratulate me on my engagement. You'll be sure to
look me up down at St. Pinto, won't you, Luscombe?'
When he had gone, I sat a long time thinking. It is true I no longer
believed that Paul Edgecumbe could be his brother; but it set me
wondering more than ever as to who Edgecumbe could be. I wondered if
the poor fellow's memory would ever come back, and if the dark veil
which hid his past life would be removed.
Before going out, I scribbled a line to Lorna Bolivick, telling her
of my meeting with Edgecumbe, and of the wonderful way he had helped me
to escape from the German trenches. It was true that, according to St.
Mabyn, she was in France, but I imagined that her letters would be
forwarded to her.
After that, several days elapsed before I had opportunity to pay my
promised visit to St. George Mabyn. It was a case of every man to the
wheel, for we were making huge preparations for the great Somme push
which took place immediately afterwards. Still, I did at length find
time to go, and one evening I started to walk there just as the day was
beginning to die. It had been very hot and sultry, I remember, and I
was very tired.
St. Pinto was well behind the lines, but I could hear the booming of
the big guns away in the distance. I had no difficulty in finding the
house where St. Mabyn was billeted, for, as he said, it was the first
house of importance that I came across on the outskirts of the village.
I was disappointed, however, in finding that neither he nor
Springfield was in. I could not complain of this, as I had not sent
word that I was coming. But being tired, and having decided to walk, I
did not relish the thought of my tramp back, especially as I had not
taken the trouble to change my heavy field boots.
Not a breath of wind blew, and the air was heavy and turgid. On my
way back, I had to pass a little copse which lay in a dell, and having
noticed a little stream of water, I climbed over the fence in order to
get a drink. Then, feeling deadly tired, I stretched myself at full
length on the undergrowth, and determined to rest for an hour before
completing my journey.
I think I must have fallen asleep, for presently I suddenly realized
that it was quite dark, and that everything had become wonderfully
still. The guns no longer boomed, and it might seem as though the
conflicting armies had agreed upon a truce. I imagine that even then I
was scarcely awake, for I had little consciousness of anything save a
kind of dreamy restfulness, and the thought that I needn't hurry back.
Suddenly, however, I was wholly awake, for I heard voices close by,
and I judged that some one was standing close to where I was. I was
about to get up, and make my way back to my billet, but I remained
quite still. I was arrested by a word, and that word was 'Edgecumbe.'
I did not realize that I was playing the part of an eaves-dropper,
and even if I had, I doubt if I should have made my presence known.
Anything to do with Edgecumbe had a strong interest for me.
The murmur of voices continued for some seconds without my being
able to detect another word. Then some one said distinctly:
'You say he has been down at our place to-night?'
'Yes,' was the reply, and I recognized St. Mabyn's voice; 'he called
about an hour before I got back.'
'What did he come for?' It was Springfield who spoke.
'Oh, that's all right. I asked him to look us up, and I expect that
he, being off duty, came down to smoke a pipe with us.'
'I don't like the fellow.'
'Neither do I.'
Again there was low murmuring for several seconds, not a word of
which reached me. Then I heard Springfield say: 'I shan't sleep soundly
till I'm sure.'
'You weren't convinced, then?'
'I didn't see him plainly,' was Springfield's reply. 'You see, I had
no business there, and we can't afford to arouse suspicions.'
'I tell you, Springfield,' and George St. Mabyn spoke as though he
were much perturbed, 'I don't like it. I was a fool to listen to you in
the first place. If you hadn't told me you were certain about it, and
'Come that won't do, George. We are both in it together; if I have
benefited, so have you, and neither of us can afford to have the affair
spoilt now. You are squire, and I am your friend, and you are going to
remain squire, whatever turns up, unless,' he added with a laugh, 'you
are potted in this show.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'I mean that if it is he, he must never go back to England alive. It
wouldn't do, my dear fellow.'
'But he remembers nothing. He doesn't even know his own name. He
doesn't know where he came from; he doesn't know what he did.'
'Yes, but if it is he, what would happen, if his memory suddenly
came back? Where should we be then? It won't bear thinking about!'
'But he knows nothing. Besides, who would take his word?'
'Are you sure Luscombe has no suspicions?' and Springfield asked the
'How can he have? and yetoh hang it all, Springfield, it hangs
like a millstone round one's neck! But mind you, I am going to have no
Springfield gave an unpleasant laugh. 'Foul play, my son?' he said,
'we are both too deep in this business to stick at trifles. You can't
afford it, neither can I.'
A few seconds later, I heard them trudging back towards St. Pinto,
still talking eagerly.
I lay on the thick undergrowth for some minutes without moving. The
scraps of conversation which I had heard, and which I have set down
here, gave me enough food for reflection for a long time. I was not yet
quite clear as to the purport of it all, but I was clear that villainy
was on foot, and that not only was Paul Edgecumbe's life in danger, but
my own as well, and if the truth must be told, I feared Springfield's
threat more than I feared the danger which I had to meet every day as a
soldier at the front in war time.
The next day I received the following note:
'MY DEAR LUSCOMBE,
'I was awfully disappointed to learn, on my return to-night, that
you had looked us up in our show here, and had not found us. Why didn't
you, like a decent chap, let us know you were coming? We would then
have made it a point to be in. Springfield was even more disappointed
than I at our absence. Can't you come over on Thursday night and have a
bit of grub with us? We will both make it a point to have the entire
evening at liberty, always supposing that the Boches don't pay us
special attention. Let me have a line by bearer.
'Yours, with the best of regards
'GEORGE ST. MABYN.'
'Yes,' I reflected, 'I will go. But I'll have another talk with
CHAPTER IX. EDGECUMBE IS MISSING
On the following Thursday I again made my way to St. Pinto, where I
received an almost effusive welcome from St. Mabyn and Springfield.
Both expressed great vexation at being away when I had called before,
and seemed to vie with each other in being friendly. In fact they
overdid it. After all, I had barely known them in England, and there
seemed no reason why they should act as though I were a long lost
brother in France.
'By the way, Luscombe,' said St. Mabyn after dinner, 'Springfield is
awfully interested in that experience of yours. He says it's one of the
greatest jokes of the war.'
'By Jove, that's true,' added Springfield. 'That fellow,what do
you call him?must be a great chap. I should like to hear more about
'He is a great chap,' I replied. 'I don't believe he knows what fear
means, and the way he talked over those Boches was nothing short of a
Almost before I realized it, I found myself submitted to a keen
examination as to what I knew about Edgecumbe. As I reflect on it now,
I can see that Springfield's methods were very clever. He asked no
direct questions, but he led the conversation into channels which led
me, almost in spite of myself, to divulge my thoughts about him. Still
I do not think I committed any grave error, and when at length I left
them, I felt fairly satisfied with the interview.
During my walk back to my billet I felt sure I was being followed
and watched. It was true I neither heard nor saw anything out of the
ordinary, but I seemed to be possessed of a sixth sense, and that sixth
sense made me conscious of an unfriendly presence. But nothing
happened, and presently when I reached my quarters without molestation
or happening of any sort, I laughed at myself for harbouring baseless
I found Edgecumbe awaiting me, as I had previously arranged.
'Been here long?' I asked.
'About an hour,' and then he looked at me eagerly.
'No,' I said, noting his glance, 'I've nothing to tell you-yet.'
I could see he was disappointed. I had aroused his curiosity and he
had been wondering what I had in my mind.
'Then I may as well be going,' he said, after a few seconds'
'No, not yet.'
I could see the eager questions in his eyes, so I went on. 'I can't
tell you anything yet, Edgecumbe; it would not be fair to you, and it
might not be fair to others. It may be I'm only following the
will-o'-the-wisp of my fancies; all the same I want you to stay with me
at least an hour. I think it will be the safest plan. I will send a
note with you that will answer all questions, and meanwhile I'll get
these shutters closed.'
It was quite midnight when he left me, and I watched him as he
walked away from my billet. He had not gone more than two minutes when
I heard the sound of angry voices, and as far as I could judge they
came from the spot where he was likely to be. Then coming from the same
locality there was the sound of a pistol shot.
Without hesitating a second, I ran towards the spot from which I
thought the sound came. It was not a very dark night, but there was not
light enough to discern anything very plainly. For half an hour I
searched and listened, but I could discover nothing.
I tried to persuade myself that what I had heard was only fancy,
nevertheless I did not sleep well that night. As soon as morning dawned
I hurried to the spot again, but if there had been a struggle the rain
which had fallen had washed the traces away. Neither was there anything
suspicious to be seen.
Later in the day, however, news came to me that Private Edgecumbe
was missing, and as he had last been to my billet, I was to be
questioned as to whether I knew anything of his whereabouts.
As may be imagined when these questions were asked I could give no
satisfactory answers. I could not say that I suspected foul play
without giving my reasons, and those reasons were not good enough to
give. I could only say that he had come to me bringing a message from
Captain Wilkins, that he had left me about midnight bearing my reply.
That about two minutes after he had left I heard the sound of angry
voices, as well as a pistol shot, but beyond that nothing.
'Have you no idea where he is?' I asked anxiously.
'Not the slightest. I have made every inquiryin vain. The fellow
has disappeared as though he had deserted.'
'He hasn't done that,' I replied. 'He's not that sort.'
'Then what's become of him?'
I shook my head. I was very anxious, but I could say nothing. I
dared not impugn two brother officers on such evidence as I had.
Nevertheless, as may be imagined, I thought a great deal about what had
CHAPTER X. THE STRUGGLE IN THE
The events I have been writing about took place towards the end of
May, 1916, and, as I have before stated, we were at this time making
huge preparations for the Great Advance. As fortune would have it,
moreover, I was, two days after my parting with Edgecumbe, given a job
five miles further south, and then life became such a rush, that to
make anything like satisfactory inquiries about a missing soldier was
absolutely impossible. I imagine that few newspaper readers at home,
when they read the first accounts of the battle of the Somme, and noted
that we took a few villages and a few thousand prisoners on the first
days of the battle, little realized the tremendous preparations which
had to be made. So hardly were we kept at it, that oftimes we had
scarce time for food or rest.
During the month of June, I received a letter from Lorna Bolivick,
in reply to the one I had sent her informing her of my meeting with
Paul Edgecumbe. It was so characteristic of her that I will insert it
'Now please confess at once,' she wrote, 'that it was because I
witnessed your promise to tell me all about him, that you sent that
letter, otherwise you wouldn't have thought of writing to a poor silly
girl. And wasn't it interesting! I told you he was a wonderful man, and
you see how he has paid you already for the little kindness you showed
him. Why, in all probability he saved your life! And now I want you to
do something else for me; I want you to send me his photograph. I have
conjured up a picture of what I think he is like, and I am anxious to
see if I am right. Aren't I taking a lot of liberties with you! But you
see I like you,I do really. I fell in love with you when you came to
Granitelands with Sir Roger Granville that day. Oh, no, there's nothing
romantic about it, I can assure you! But you looked so kind, and
trustworthy, and strong, that I took to you from the very first moment.
Father tells me I am wrong to take violent likes and dislikes to people
at a first meeting; but I can't help it, I am made that way. Of course
you are not a bit attractive in the ordinary way. You don't say sharp,
clever things, and you don't flatter. Besides, you're old. Now don't be
angry. Every girl looks upon a man who is getting on for forty as old.
But I am fond of you all the same. There's a sense of security about
you; I am sure I could trust you, just the same as I trust my father.
'Send me that photograph of your friend as soon as you can, I am
anxious to get it. I am awfully busy here in this hospital, and there
are such a lot of wounded men, many of them with a limb shot off. Do
you know, I am tremendously interested in a poor Tommy who has lost
both his legs. Horrible, isn't it! But he's the most cheerful man in
the place, and keeps us laughing all day long.
'He wrote a letter to his mother yesterday, and told her to get him
a pair of patent-leather dancing shoes.
'You will be sure to be careful, won't you?I can't bear the idea
of anything happening to you; and although I know you are old enough to
be cautious, and not to take foolish risks,that is, in the ordinary
way,I am sure you are one of those men who forget everything like
caution when you are aroused. This is awfully silly, isn't it? so I'll
stop. I command you, write me at once, and do as I tell you.
I answered this letter at once. I was in a dug-out at the time, and
I remember a lump of mud falling on the writing-pad and making a huge
smear, and explaining to her what the smear meant. As it happened, too,
I was able to send her Paul Edgecumbe's photograph. It was not a very
good one; it had been produced by one of his comrades who was an
amateur photographer. But it gave a fair idea of him. I obtained it
from him the last evening we were together. I did not tell her that he
was missing, even although my fears concerning him were very grave; I
thought it better not;why, I don't know.
At length the great first of July arrived, and it was impossible to
think of anything clearly. For days there had been a cannonade such as
the world had never witnessed before; the whole countryside shook, the
air was thick with shrieking shells, the ground trembled with bursting
bombs. Every breath one drew was poison; the acrid smells of high
explosives were everywhere. Then, after days of bombardment, which I
will not try to describe, for it beggars all the language I ever
learnt, the attack commenced.
I have been sitting here trying to conjure up a picture of all I saw
that day, trying to find words in order to give some general impression
of what took place; but I simply can't. As I look back now, it only
seems a combination of a vast mad-house and a vast charnel-house. I
have confused memories of bodies of men creeping up behind deadly
barrages; I can see shells tearing up great holes in the earth, and
scattering mud and stones around them. I can see, too, where trenches
were levelled, just as I have seen pits which children make on the
seashore levelled by the incoming tide. Now and then there come back to
my mind dim, weird pictures of Germans crawling out of their dug-outs,
holding up their hands, and piteously crying, 'Kamerad! Kamerad!'
I have recollections, too, of the great awkward tanks toiling along
their cumbersome way, smashing down whatever opposed them, and spitting
out flame and death on every hand. But I can record nothing. Men talk
about the history of this war being written some day; it never will
be,the whole thing is too tremendous, too ghastly.
Personally, there are only a few incidents which I can recall
clearly. In the main, the struggle comes back to me as a series of
bewildering, chaotic, and incomplete events. Scraps of conversation
come back to me, too, and those scraps have neither sequence nor
'Fricourt taken, is it?'
'Yes, and La Boisselle.'
'No, La Boisselle is not taken.'
'Yes, it is, and Contalmaison too.'
'Nonsense, you fool! that's miles on.'
'The French are doing very well, too. Fritz is having a hot time.
We'll be in Bapaume in no time.' And so on.
My general impression was that our men were doing very well south of
the Ancre, up as far as Thiepval, but north of the Ancre we were not so
successful. The Germans were putting up a tremendous resistance, and I,
unfortunately, was north of the Ancre. I will not give the exact
locality, nor the name of the village which was our objective; but this
village had been, as we thought, bombarded with such intensity that our
work ought to be easy. Our casualties were very heavy, and I shall
never forget the heartaches I had when I knew that many of my men whom
I had learned to know and to love were lying in nameless graves, torn,
battered and unrecognizable, while many more would linger for a few
hours in agony, and presently a little mound would cover them, and a
little wooden cross would indicate their last resting-place.
I never saw braver men. Even now my heart thrills at the abandon
with which they rushed into every kind of danger, not grimly and
doggedly, so much, as gaily, and with a laugh. They mocked at danger. I
have seen men crossing No Man's Land, with machine-gun bullets flying
all round them, stop coolly to light their cigarettes, and then go on
again humming a song.
The advance had been in progress some days, at least I think so, but
I am not sure,one day seemed just like another. We had been at it for
many hours, I remember, and we were all dead tired. I could see that
some of the poor lads were half asleep, and ready to drop, through
sheer weariness. We had taken a difficult position, but we were assured
before we took it that our success would mean certainty to the
accomplishment of the larger plan. Our objective was the taking of a
fortified village a little farther on.
Heavy-eyed and heavy-limbed, the boys still stuck to it, and looked
eagerly forward towards the accomplishment of their work. It is true
our ranks were terribly decimated, but the enemy had suffered far worse
than we, and therefore we were confident. Then the news came that we
were to be relieved. Fresh battalions had come up to take our places,
and we were told that we might get back and rest.
Our boys were disappointed at this, although they were glad of the
'Anyhow, we've done our bit,' said one.
'A dirty bit, too,' said another. 'Still, the job's easy now, and a
fresh lot of men should take it in a couple of hours.'
'I'd rather go on with it,' said a third. 'I don't see why these
other blokes should have the easy job, and we have the hard one.'
'Cheer up, old sport,' said another, 'what do we care who does the
job, as long as it's done? We're not here for a picnic.'
And so on, while we retired. How far we went back, I don't know. I
have a confused remembrance of the fellows throwing themselves down on
the ground, almost sleeping as they fell, and not waiting for the food
which was provided for them, while others ate ravenously.
'Anyhow, we've given Fritz a twisting up to-day, and we've left the
other blokes a soft job,' were the last words I heard as I dragged my
weary legs to the place where I promised myself a good long sleep.
How long I slept I don't know, but it did not seem to me two
minutes, although it might have been as many hours.
'The Boches have broken through!' Those were the words that came to
my stupefied brain.
'What!' I exclaimed, 'it is impossible!'
'Yes, back at once!'
There was no time to ask questions, no time to argue. The poor
fellows who had been fighting so long and bravely were with difficulty
roused out of their sleep, and all had to retrace their weary steps
towards the positions for which we had fought, and which we had won.
'Why is it? why is it?''There must be a mistake!''Why, we had
got 'em on toast.''I tell you, we left 'em nothing but a picnic!'
The men were angry, discontented, grumbling, but they went back to
their job determined to see it through nevertheless.
After that, I have but a dim recollection of what took place, except
that it was grim, hard, stern fighting. The air was sulphurous, the
ground hideous with filth, and blood, and dead bodies.
I don't know how it came about, but the Germans were more numerous
than we. It was not we who were taking prisoners, but they, and then
suddenly I found myself alone, with three Germans before me. One, I
remember, had a rag saturated with blood tied round his head. He had a
great gash in his cheek, too, and was nearly beaten; but there was the
look of a devil in his eye. Had I been a private soldier, I expect I
should have been killed without ado, but they called upon me to
surrender. I was mad at the idea. What, surrender after we had won the
position! Surrender to the men whom we had sworn to conquer! The Army
which had set out to make an advance must not surrender!
I was dog-tired, and a bit stupefied; but that was the feeling which
possessed me. I remember that a dead German lay in the trench close
behind me, and that his rifle had fallen from his nerveless hand.
Seizing the rifle by the barrel, I blindly and recklessly attacked
them; I had a grim sort of feeling that if I was to die, I would die
fighting. I remember, too, that I comforted myself with the thought
that no one depended on me, and that I had no near relatives to bemoan
It may be that my position gave me an advantage, otherwise they,
being three, must have mastered me easily, although one of them was
badly wounded; still, one desperate man can do much. I was thirty-nine
years of age, and although not bred a soldier, I was an athlete. I was
an old rowing blue, too, and that means good muscles and a strong
heart. I weighed only a little over twelve stone, but I had not an
ounce of spare flesh, and I was desperate. I had a little advantage in
reach, too; I am over six feet in height, and long in limb.
But it was an unequal battle, and I knew they were bearing me down.
One of my arms was numb, too; I expect it was from a blow, although I
never felt it. I saw the look of murder in their eyes, as little by
little they pressed me back. Then a change came.
It seems like a fantastic dream now, and the new-comer appeared to
me more like a visitant from another world than tangible flesh and
blood. I expect it was because my eyesight was failing me. My strength
was gone, and I remember panting for life, while sparks of fire flitted
before my eyes. I fell against the side of the trench, and watched the
new-comer, who leapt upon two of the Germans, and hurled them from him
as though they had been five-year-old children. It seemed to me that I
had never seen such a feat of strength. A second later I knew that my
antagonists would never fight again, and then my own senses departed.
'It's all right, sir, it's all right! You'll be as fresh as a daisy
in a few minutes. There, that's better. You've fought a great fight!'
The voice seemed to stir something within me, and I felt myself in
my right mind with a flash. Moreover, he had taken me to a place of
'Edgecumbe!' I cried, 'how in Heaven's name!
'I've turned up like a bad penny, sir, haven't I? I was just in the
nick of time, too.'
'This is twice you've saved my life,' I said.
'That's nothing,' was his reply. 'I have found more than life.'
I looked at him curiously. His clothes were torn and caked with mud;
here and there I saw they were soaked with blood. His face looked
haggard and drawn, too, but in his eyes was such a look as I had never
seen before. The old wistfulness and yearning were gone; he no longer
had the appearance of a man grieving because he had lost his past. Joy,
realization of something wonderful, a great satisfaction, all revealed
themselves in his eyes, as he looked at me.
'His memory has come back,' I said to myself.
I did not think of what had become of him on the night I had dined
with Springfield and St. Mabyn, that was not worth troubling about. His
past had come back, and evidently it was a joyous past, a past which
gave all sorts of promises for the future!
'I have great things to tell you!' he cried excitedly.
CHAPTER XI. EDGECUMBE'S STORY
But my new-found strength was only fitful. He had barely spoken the
words, when I heard a great noise in my ears, and I knew that my senses
were becoming dim again. I heard other voices, too, and looking up I
saw my own colonel standing near, with three or four others near him.
And then I have a faint recollection of hearing Paul Edgecumbe telling
him what had taken place. I know, too, that I was angry at his
description. He was telling of the part I had taken in the struggle in
glowing colours, while keeping his own part in it in the background. I
was trying to tell the colonel this, when everything became black.
When I came to myself again, I was in a rest-station behind the
lines. I remember feeling very sore, and my head was aching badly, but
no bones were broken. I could move my limbs, although with difficulty;
I felt as though every inch of my body had been beaten with big sticks.
Still, my mind was clear, I was able to think coherently, and to recall
the scenes through which I had passed.
I lay for some minutes wishing I could hear news of what was going
on, when a brother officer came to me.
'Hullo, Luscombe, awake? That's right. You've had a rough time; you
were lucky to get out of it so well.'
'I am in the dark about everything,' I said. 'Tell me what has
He mistook my meaning, and replied with a laugh:
'Oh, you were saved by that chap who took thirty Boches British
prisoners. He seems to be a guardian angel of yours. He's a great man,
too, there's no doubt about that. Ah, here's the M.O. coming!'
The doctor and I were good friends, and when he had examined me, and
pronounced me a fraud for being in bed, I eagerly questioned him, and
the sub. who still remained, as to how we were doing.
'Very well indeed, below Thiepval,' was his reply, 'but up here
'Have we taken Thiepval?'
He shook his head gloomily. 'That'll need a bit of doing. It's a
regular fortress, man! Of course we shall get it in time. Our new guns
are tremendous; but we ought to have done better up this way. We've
thrown away our chances, too.'
'I don't understand,' I said. 'When we were relieved, we had
practically won the key to the position we set out to get.'
'That's the mischief of the whole thing,' he replied moodily. He
used language which I will not set down here; it was too strong for
'What's the matter?' I asked.
'Oh, we're supposed to say nothing, but'
'But what? Come, let us know. We hadn't been relieved long, when we
were called back again, and we found the Boches in the very place we
'Still, we are doing well south of the Ancre, and that's what the
dispatches will be jubilant about, and that's what the people at home
will know of. If we'd taken G, we should have had the key of the
whole position here, too. But there, I must be off. Cheer up, and look
perky, my boy. There'll be no obituary notices about you this time.
Yes, you can dress and get up when you want to, although I don't think
you will want to. You will be fit for duty in two or three
'By the way, do you know how Edgecumbe is?'
'He's all right. Wonderful chap! I hear he's to be recommended for
all sorts of things.'
'He deserves them,' I said; 'he ought to have a commission.'
'I hear that's coming, too. Good-bye, old man.'
The next day I came across Edgecumbe. His face looked more like
parchment than ever, but the wonderful look still remained in his eyes.
'You are better, sir. You are all right!' he exclaimed eagerly.
'Oh, yes, I am all right,' I replied. 'Now let us hear about the
great things you have to tell me of. Your memory's come back, hasn't
He laughed gaily. 'Better than that,' he cried, 'better than that, a
thousand times! I have no past, Sir, but I have a future!'
I looked at him wonderingly. A doubt even crossed my mind as to
whether he was quite sane.
'Tell me about it, anyhow,' I said.
'I have so much to tell you that I hardly know where to begin.'
'Better begin at the beginning. What have you been doing since that
night you were at my billet over at St. Pierre?'
'Oh, yes, I'd forgotten all about that. I say, you were right there;
I should imagine that some people think I am in their way. Anyhow, I'd
hardly left your place when I suddenly found myself surrounded by three
men, who went for me. They pretended to be drunk, but I am sure they
'Were they soldiers?'
'I don't know. It was too dark to tell. But I am pretty handy with
my fives, and I gave one something to remember, and then thinking
discretion was the better part of valour, I bolted. That was lucky, for
they were trying to grab me. As you may remember, it was pretty dark,
but still not so dark as to keep one from seeing things. I hadn't gone
more than a few steps before a bullet whizzed by me. It didn't touch
me, but as the road on which I ran was open, I turned up a narrow
track,I thought it might lead to a farmhouse, or something of that
'Then I had bad luck; The track led to a quarry, an old disused
quarry. Then I must have had a very bad fall, for I was stunned and I
sprained myself badly. When I came to myself, it was daylight, and I
couldn't move; at least, I couldn't move without awful pain.'
'And what happened then?'
'I lay there a jolly long time. You see the blessed quarry had got
overgrown, and all that sort of thing, and it was a long way from the
road. I yelled, and yelled, but no one came. Then I saw that it would
be all up with me, if I could make no one hear. That seemed silly.'
'And what did you do?'
'It was a bit of a tussle; you see I'd bruised and sprained myself
so badly; but I got out after a bit, andandmade an old man who was
passing down the main road with a horse and cart hear me. The rest was
'Did you get any punishment?'
'Oh, no, sir. I have to thank you for that. The statement I made
tallied so exactly with yours that I got off all right. Besides, I was
jolly shaken up. At the end of a fortnight I was able to get around
again. Still, it's worth thinking about.'
'What do you mean?'
'Oh, there's no doubt some one is having his knife into me. Of
course I can't help reflecting on what you said. In fact, it was your
advice to look out for squalls, that made me a bit prepared when I left
you. Would you mind telling me the grounds you had for your
'Go on with your story first. What happened after that?'
'What happened after that!' he cried, 'everythingeverything! What
happened after that has made a new man of me; life has become new, the
world has become new!'
'You are talking riddles. Explain.'
'It's no riddle, sir,it's a solution of all the riddles. I will
tell you. While I was convalescing, I went to a Y.M.C.A. camp. I had
never been to one of these places before; I don't know why I went then,
except that the time hung a bit heavy on my hands. You see, every man
was up to his neck in work, and there was great excitement in making
preparations for the push, and I couldn't do anything. Not but what I
had always respected the Y.M.C.A.,what the British Army would have
done without it I don't know. In my opinion, that body is doing as much
to win the war as the War Office isperhaps a bit more. They have kept
thousands upon thousands of our chaps steady and straight. They have
done more to fight the devil thanbut there, I'll come to that
'Well, one night I made my way into the Y.M.C.A. hut. At first I did
nothing but read the papers, but presently I realized that a service
was going on. The hall wasn't full by any means. Before this push it
was full every night; but you see the boys were busy. Presently I
caught sight of the man who was speaking, and I liked his face. I
quickly found out that he was an intelligent man, too, and I went up
nearer the platform to hear what he had to say. He was not a chaplain
or anything of that sort, he was just one of the Y.M.C.A. workers. Who
he was I didn't know then,I don't now, although I have an idea I
shall meet him some day, and I shall thank him as a man was never
'Why?' I asked.
'He made me know the greatest fact in the world,' and he spoke very
earnestly. 'He made me realize that there was a God. That fact hadn't
come within the realm of my vision,I hadn't thought anything about
it. You see,' and I could see he had forgotten all about military
etiquette and the difference in our ranks, 'as I have said to you
before, I have been like a man beginning to write the story of his life
at the middle. Having no memory, I have had no preconceived notions,
and very few prejudices. I suppose if some one had asked me if I
believed that there was a God, I should have said yes, although I
should have been a bit doubtful. Perhaps I should have thought that
there was some great Force which brought all that we see into being,
and then I should have said that, if this great Force were intelligent,
He'd made an awful mess of things, that He'd found the Universe too big
a thing to manage. But I didn't know; anyhow, the thought of God, the
fact of God, hadn't troubled me, neither had I thought much about
myself in a deeper way.
'Sometimes, when my pals were killed, I wondered in a vague way what
had become of them, and whether they were really dead; but there was
nothing clear or definite in my mind. But that night, while listening
to that man, I woke up to the fact that there was a God; it came to me
like a flash of light. I seemed to know that there was an Almighty
Power Who was behind everything,thinking,controlling. Then I was
'Staggered? How?' I asked.
'He said that a Man called Jesus Christ told us what God was
like,showed us by His own life and death. I expect I was a bit
bewildered, for I seemed to see more than his words conveyed.'
He did not seem excited, he spoke quite calmly, although there was a
quiver in his voice which showed how deeply he was moved, and his eyes
glowed with that wonderful new light which made him seem like a new
man. That he had experienced something wonderful, was evident. What I
and thousands of others regarded as a commonplace, something which we
had heard from our childhood, and which, I am afraid, did not hold us
very strongly, was to him a wonderful reality, the greatest, the
divinest thing in the world.
'I got a New Testament,' he went on, 'and for days I did nothing but
read it. I think I could repeat those four Gospels. Man, it's the most
wonderful thing ever known,of course it is! Why'
At that moment a change came over his face. It was as though he were
attacked by great pain, as though indeed his body were torn with agony.
His fists were clenched and quivering, his body became rigid, his face
drawn and bloodless.
'Hark, what's that?'
'I hear nothing.'
'Yes, but listenthere!'
It was a curious cry I heard; it sounded partly like the cry of a
seagull, mingled with the wail of a wounded animal. It was repeated
once, twice, and then there was a laugh.
'I've heard that before, somewhere. Where?where? It's back behind
the black wall!'
I looked, and saw half hidden by a small belt of brushwood, a group
of officers, and I could hear them laughing.
'Is that an Indian cry, Springfield?' some one said.
'Yes, there's a legend that it is always heard the night before
there's a kind of vendetta.'
Springfield's voice reached us quite clearly, and I looked
instinctively towards Paul Edgecumbe.
'I know that voice! I know it!' and the intensity of his feeling was
manifested in every word he spoke.
'Silence,' I whispered, 'and come with me, quickly!'
I drew him to a spot from which, without being observed, he could
see Springfield's face.
'That is he, that's he,' he whispered hoarsely. 'I know
him,I know him!'
'Who is he?' I asked.
'Ioh!no,I don't know.'
From pain, almost amounting to agony, the expression on his face had
changed to that of intense loathing, of infinite contempt.
'Let's get away,' he said; 'this air is polluted.'
A few minutes later, we had come to the rest-house where I had been
brought after my shaking-up, and I saw that the letters had come.
'Wait a minute,' I said. 'I want to hear the end of your story.'
There was only one letter for me, and I saw at a glance that it had
come from Lorna Bolivick. It was a long, newsy epistle, only one part
of which I need quote here. It referred to Paul Edgecumbe's photograph.
'Thank you,' she wrote, 'for sending me that picture of your
protegé. What a strange-looking man! I don't think I ever saw a face
quite like it before, and hasn't he wonderful eyes! I felt, even while
looking at it, that he was reading my very soul. I am sure he has had
wonderful experiences, and has seen things undreamed of by such as I. I
had a kind of feeling, when I asked you for it, that I might have met
him, or seen him somewhere; but I never have. His face is like no other
I have ever seen, although, in spite of its strangeness, it is
wonderfully striking. If ever you have a chance, you must bring him to
see me. I am sure I should like to talk to him. A man who has a face
like that couldn't help being interesting.'
Here was the final blow which shattered all my suspicions. In spite
of repeated assurances to the contrary, I retained the impression that
Paul Edgecumbe and Maurice St. Mabyn were the same person. Now I knew
that it was impossible. Lorna Bolivick's testimony was final, all the
more final because she had no thought of what was in my own mind.
And yet I knew that Paul Edgecumbe was in some way associated with
Springfield and St. Mabyn; everything pointed to that fact.
Springfield's evident fear, St. Mabyn's anxiety, added to Edgecumbe's
strange behaviour when he heard the peculiar cry, and saw Springfield's
face, made me sure that in some way these men's lives were bound
together, in a way I could not understand.
CHAPTER XII. THE STRUGGLE ON THE
I was not fated to hear the end of Edgecumbe's story. I had barely
finished reading the letter, when events happened in quick succession
which made it impossible for me to hear those things which he declared
made all life new to him.
It must be remembered that we were in the early part of July, when
the great battle of the Somme was gaining intensity at every hour, and
when private experiences were at a discount. Each day the tornado of
the great guns became more and more terrible, the air was full of the
shrieks of shells, while the constant pep-pep-pep of machine-guns
almost became monotonous. Village after village south of the Ancre fell
into our hands, thousands of German prisoners were taken, while deadly
fighting was the order of the day. It is no use trying to describe it,
it cannot be described. Incidents here and there can be visualized, and
to an extent made plain by words; but the movement as a whole, the
constant roar of guns, the shriek of shells, the sulphur of explosives,
the march of armies, the bringing in of prisoners, and our own wounded
men, cover too vast a field for any one picture.
It was not one battle, it was a hundred battles, and each battle was
more intense than the other. Position after position was taken, some of
which were lost again, only to be retaken, amidst the thunder of guns
and the groans of dying men.
If ever Tennyson's martial poem were true, it was true in that great
struggle. Not that cavalry had much to do with it, neither was there
any pageantry or any of the panoply of war. It was all too grim, too
ghastly, too sordid for that. And yet there was a pageantry of which
Tennyson never dreamed. The boom of guns, the weird light of the star
shells, the sulphurous atmosphere, the struggle of millions, formed a
pageant so Homeric, and on such an awful scale, that imagination reels
It was towards the middle of July when my battalion was ordered
south of the Ancre. What had become of Edgecumbe I did not know, and it
was impossible to find out. Each battalion, each company, and each
platoon, had its little scene of operations, and we knew nothing of who
might be a few hundred yards from us. As an infantry officer, I was,
during the advance, for the most time in the trenches. Then, after the
artillery had done its work, we leapt the parapets, and made our way
across the open, oft-times through a hailstorm of bullets, while
shrieking shells fell and exploded at our feet. Now we were held up by
barbed wire, which here and there had not been swept away by our
artillery, or again we stumbled into shell holes, where we lay panting
and bruised. But these are only small incidents in the advance.
I think it was toward the end of July when a section of my battalion
lay in the trenches not far from Montauban. We had been there, I
remember, a considerable time; how long, I can scarcely tell, for hours
and sometimes days passed without definite note being taken. Above our
heads aircraft sped through the heavens, mostly our own, but now and
then Germans! We saw little puffs of cloud forming themselves around
them, as shells exploded in the skies. Now and then one of the machines
would be hit, and I saw them swerve, as I have seen birds swerve before
they fall, at a shooting party. Behind us our guns were booming, while
a few hundred yards away in front of us, the German trenches were being
levelled. It was a fascinating, yet horrible sight. More than once I
saw machine-gun emplacements, with the gunners, struck by the
projectiles from our great howitzers, and hurled many feet high.
Not that we had it all our own way, although our artillery was
superior to that of the enemy. If we had located their positions, so
had they located ours, and their shells fell thick and fast along our
lines, decimating our ranks.
How long we had waited, I don't know. We knew by the artillery
preparations that the command for advance must soon come, and we
crouched there, some quivering with excitement, others cracking jokes
and telling stories, and most of the men smoking cigarettes, until the
word of command should pass down the line. We knew what it meant. It
was true our barrage would make it comparatively safe; but we knew,
too, that many of the lads who were joking with each other, and telling
stories of what they did in pre-war days, would never see England
again, while many more, if they went back, would go back mutilated and
maimed for life. Still, it was all in the day's work. The Boches had to
be beaten, and whatever might happen to us we must finish our job.
The soldiers talked calmly about it, and even joked.
'Think your number's up, Bill?'
'I don't know. I've been home to Blighty twice. Perhaps I shan't
have such good luck next time. But what's the odds? We're giving Fritz
a rare old time.'
'Fritz ain't got no more fight in him.'
'Don't you be so sure of that, old cock. Fritz is chained to his
guns, that's what he is.'
'Is it true the Kaiser and old Hindenburg have come up to see this
job, I wonder? Wouldn't I just like to take 'em prisoners!'
And so on, minute after minute, while the heavens and the earth were
full of the messengers of death.
The command to go over came at length, and I heard a cheer pass down
the line. It sounded strangely amid the booming of the guns, and the
voices of the men seemed small. All the same, it was hearty and
confident. Many of them, I knew, would have a sense of relief at
getting out into the open, and feel that they were no longer like
rabbits in their burrows. Helter, skelter, we went across the open
ground, some carelessly and indifferently, others with stern, set
faces. Here one cracked a joke with his pal, while there another
stopped suddenly, staggered, and fell.
The ground, I remember, was flat just there, and I could see a long
way down the line, men struggling across the open space. There was no
suggestion of military precision, that is in the ordinary sense of the
word, yet in another there was. Each man was ready, and each man had
that strange light in his eyes which no pen can describe.
We took the first trench without difficulty. The few Germans who
remained were dazed, bewildered, and eager to surrender. They came up
out of their dug-outs, their arms uplifted, piteously crying for mercy.
'All right, Fritz, old cock, we won't hurt you! You don't deserve
it. But there, I suppose you had to do what you was told.'
Now and then, however, no mercy was shown. Many of the
machine-gunners held up one hand, and cried for mercy, while with the
other they worked the guns. However, the first line of trenches was
taken, a great many prisoners captured, and then came the more
difficult and dangerous business. The second line must be taken as well
as the first, and the second line was our objective.
By this time we did not know where we were, and we were so mixed up
that we didn't know to what battalion or regiment we belonged. In the
gigantic struggle, extending for miles, there was no possibility of
keeping together. The one thing was to drive the Germans out of the
second line of trenches, or better still to make them prisoners. But
every inch of ground became more dangerous. German shells were blowing
up the ground around us, and decimating our advancing forces.
It was here that I thought my number was up. A shell exploded a few
yards from me, shook the ground under my feet, threw me into the air,
and half buried me in the débris. It was one of those moments
when it seemed as though every man was for himself, and when, in the
mad carnage, it was impossible to realize what had happened to each
other. I was stunned by the explosion, and how long I lay in that
condition I don't know.
When I became conscious, I felt as though my head were going to
burst, while a sense of helplessness possessed me. Then I realized
that, while my legs were buried, my head was in the open. Painfully and
with difficulty I extricated myself, and then, scarcely realizing what
I was doing, I staggered along in the direction in which I thought my
boys had gone.
Evening was now beginning to fall, and I had lost my whereabouts.
Meanwhile, there was no cessation in the roar of artillery. As I
struggled along, I saw, not fifty yards away, a group of men. And then
I heard, coming through the air, that awful note which cannot be
described. It was a whine, a yell, a moan, a shriek, all in one.
Beginning on a lower note, it rose higher and higher, then fell again,
and suddenly a huge explosive dropped close where the men stood. A
moment later, a great mass of stuff went up, forming a tremendous
mushroom-shaped body of earth. When it subsided, a curly cloud of smoke
filled the air. I was sick and bewildered by what I had passed through,
and could scarcely realize the purport of what I had just seen. But
presently I saw a man digging, digging, as if for his life.
Half mad, and bewildered, I made my way towards him. In different
stages of consciousness I saw several soldiers lying. When I arrived
close to the spot, I recognized the digger. It was Paul Edgecumbe.
Never did I see a man work as he worked. It seemed as though he
possessed the strength of three, while all the energy of his being was
devoted to the rescue of some one who lay beneath the heap of débris. In a bewildered sort of way I realized the situation. Evidently the
enemy had located it as an important spot, for shell after shell
dropped near by, while the men who had so far recovered their senses as
to be able to get away, crawled into the shell hole.
'Come in here, you madman!' one man said. 'You can't get him out,
and you'll only get killed.'
But Paul Edgecumbe kept on digging, heedless of flying bullets,
heedless of death.
'He can't get him out,' said a soldier to me in a dazed sort of way;
'he's buried, that's what he is.'
'Who is it?' I asked.
'Captain Springfield,' replied the man. 'Come in here,' he shouted
to Edgecumbe, 'that fellow ain't worth it!'
Scarcely realizing what I was doing, and so weak that I could hardly
walk, I crawled nearer to my friend.
'You have a hopeless task there,' I remember saying. 'Leave it, and
get into the hole there.'
'Is that you, Luscombe? I shall save him, I am sure I shall. I was
buried once myself, so I know what it means. There, I have got him!' He
threw down the tool with which he was digging, and with his hands
pulled away the stones and earth which lay over the body.
I don't quite recollect what took place after that. I have a
confused remembrance of lying in the shell hole, while the tornado went
on. I seemed to see, as in a dream, batches of soldiers pass by me in
the near distance; some of them Germans, while others were our own men.
Everything was confused, unreal. Even now I could not swear to what
took place,what I thought I saw and heard may not be in fact a
reality at all, but only phantoms of the mind. Flesh and blood, and
nerves and brain were utterly exhausted, and although I was not
wounded, I was more dead than alive.
I have an indistinct remembrance of a dark night, and of being led
over ground seamed with deep furrows, and made hideous with dead
bodies. I had a fancy, too, that the sky was lit up with star shells,
and that there was a continuous booming of guns. But this may have been
the result of a disordered imagination.
When I came to consciousness, I was at a clearing-station,
suffering, I was told, from shell shock.
'You're not a bad case,' said the M.O. to me, with a laugh, 'but
evidently you've had a rough time. From what I can hear, too, you had a
very great time.'
'A great time!' I said. 'I scarcely remember anything.'
'Some of your men do, anyhow. Yes, the second line was taken, and
the village with it. Not that any village is left,' he added with a
laugh. 'I hear that all that remains is one stump of a tree and one
chimney. However, the ground's ours. Five hundred prisoners were taken.
There now, you feel better, don't you? It's a wonder you are alive, you
'But I was in no danger.'
'Weren't you? One of your men, who couldn't move, poor chap, because
of a smashed leg and a broken arm, watched you crawl out of a great
heap of stuff. He said that only your head was visible at first; but
the way you wormed yourself through the mud was as good as a play.'
'I knew very little about it,' I said.
'Very possibly. Corporal Wilkins watched you, and shouted after you,
as you staggered away; but you took no notice, and then, I hear,
although you were half dead, you did some rescuing work.'
'I did rescuing work!' I gasped.
'Why, of course you did, you know you did.'
'But I didn't,' I replied.
'All right then, you didn't,' and the doctor laughed again. 'There
now, you're comfortable now, so be quiet. I'll tell some one to bring
you some soup.'
'But I say, II want to know. Is Captain Springfield all right?'
The doctor laughed again. 'I thought you didn't do any rescuing
'I didn't,' I replied, 'it was the other man who did that; but is
Springfield all right?'
'He's very bad. He may pull through, but I doubt it.'
'Private Edgecumbe,what of him? He did everything, you know.'
'I think he has gone back to duty.'
'Duty!' I gasped. 'Whywhy'
'The fellow's a miracle, from what I can hear. No, he wasn't
wounded. The man who told me about it said that he might have a charmed
life. He's all right, anyhow. Now be quiet, I must be off.'
For the next few days, although, as I was told, I was by no means a
bad case, I knew what it was to be a shattered mass of nerves. A man
with a limb shot away, or who has had shrapnel or bullets taken from
his body, can laugh and be gay,I have seen that again and again. But
one suffering from shell shock goes through agonies untold. I am not
going to try to describe it, but I shall never forget what I
suffered. As soon as I was fit, I was moved to another hospital nearer
the base, and there, as fortune would have it, I met Edgecumbe's
colonel. By this time I was able to think coherently, and my spells of
nerves were becoming rarer and less violent.
'Yes, my boy, you are a case for home,' said Colonel Gray. 'You are
a lucky beggar to get out of it so well. I was talking with your C.O.
yesterday; you are going back to England at once. I won't tell you what
else he told me about you; your nerves are not strong enough.'
'There's nothing wrong, is there?'
Colonel Gray laughed. 'No, it's all the other way. Don't your ears
'Not a tingle,' I said. 'But what about Edgecumbe?'
'He's a friend of yours, isn't he?' asked the colonel.
'Yes,' I replied.
'Who is he?'
'I don't know,I wish I did.'
'He's a wonderful chap. I've had my eye on him for a long time, and
I haven't been able to make him out. What really aroused my interest in
him was the waybut of course you know all about that, you were in
that show. I never laughed so much in my life as when those Boches were
brought in. Of course you know he's to get his decoration? It couldn't
be helped after that Springfield affair.'
As it happened, however, I did not cross to England for several
days, but stayed at a base hospital until, in the opinion of the M.O.,
I was fit to be removed. Meanwhile the carnage went on, and the great
battle of the Somme developed according to the plans we had made,
although there were some drawbacks. At length the day came when I was
to go back to England, and no sooner had I stepped on board the boat
than, to my delight, I saw Edgecumbe.
'I am glad to see you!' I cried.
'Thank you, sir.'
'Got it bad?'
'A mere nothing, sir. Just a bruised arm. In a few days I shall be
as right as ever.'
It was a beautiful day, and as it happened the boat was not crowded.
I looked for a quiet spot where we could talk.
'You didn't finish telling me your story when we met last,' I said
presently. 'I want to hear it badly.'
'I want you to hear it,' was his reply, and I noted that bright look
in his eyes which had so struck me before.
CHAPTER XIII. EDGECUMBE'S MADNESS
'After all, it's nothing that one can talk much about,' he
continued. 'I've become a Christian, that's all. But it's changed
'I find it difficult to tell you, sir; but after I'd got back from
the Y.M.C.A. meeting I got hold of a New Testament, and for days I did
nothing but read it. You see it was a new book to me.'
He hesitated a few seconds and then went on. 'Loss of memory is a
curious thing, isn't it? I suppose I must have read it as a boy, just
as nearly all other English boys have, but it was a strange book to me.
I had not forgotten how to read, but I had forgotten what I had read. I
seemed to remember having heard of some one called Jesus Christ, but He
meant nothing to me. That was why the reading of the New Testament was
such a revelation.'
'Well, go on,' I said when he stopped.
'Presently I began to pray,' and his voice quivered as he spoke. 'It
was something new to me, but I did it almost unconsciously. You see,
when I left the Y.M.C.A. hut, I had a consciousness that there was a
God, but after I'd read the New Testament; no I can't explain, I
can't find words! But I prayed, and I felt that God was listening to
me, and presently something new came into my life! It seemed to me as
though some part of my nature which had been lying dormant leapt into
life. I looked at things from a new standpoint. I saw new meanings in
everything. I knew that I was no longer an orphan in the world, but
that an Almighty, All-pervading God was my Father. That He cared for
me, that nothing was outside the realm of His love. I saw what God was
like, too. As I read that story of Jesus, and opened my life to Him, my
whole being was flooded with the consciousness that He cared for me,
that He watched me, and protected me. I saw, too, that there was no
death to the man in whom Christ lived. That the death of the body was
nothing because the man, the essential man lived on,where I did not
know, did not care, because God was.'
He looked across the sunlit sea as he spoke, and I think he had
almost forgotten me.
'I had an awful time though,' he went on.
'How? In what way?'
'It was when I read the Sermon on the Mount. I could not for a time
see how a Christian could be a soldier. The whole idea of killing men
seemed a violation of Christianity.'
'It is,' I said.
'Yes, in a way you are right, and when I read those words of the
Lord telling us that we must love our enemies, and bless them that
cursed us, I was staggered. Where could there be any Christianity in
great guns hurling men by the thousand into eternity?'
'There isn't,' I persisted.
'That's what I believed at first, but I got deeper presently. I saw
that I had only been looking at the surface of things.'
'How?' I asked. I was curious to see how this man who had forgotten
his past would look at things.
'I found after a daily study of this great Magna Charta of Jesus
Christ, that He meant us to live by the law of love.'
'There's not much living by the law of love over yonder,' I said,
nodding in the direction of the Somme.
'Yes there is,' he cried. 'Oh, I realize the apparent anomaly of it
all, but don't you see? It wouldn't be living by the law of love to
allow Germany to master the world by brute force! This was the
situation. Prussianism wanted to dominate the world. The Germans wanted
to dethrone mercy, pity, kindness, love, and to set up a god who spoke
only by big guns. They wanted to rule the world by brute force,
devilry. Now then, what ought Christians to do? It would be poor
Christianity, it would be poor love to the world, to allow the devil to
'You see,' he went on, 'Christ's law is, not only that we must love
our enemies, but we must love our neighbours too. We must live for the
overthrow of wrong and the setting up of His Kingdom of truth, and
mercy, and love. But how? Here were Germany's rulers who were bent on
forcing war. They were moral madmen. They believed only in force. For
forty years they had been feeding on the poison of the thought that
might was right, and that it was right to do the thing you could
'And what is war but accepting that idea. It is simply overcoming
force by force. Where does Christianity come in?'
'You don't argue with a mad dog,' he said. 'You kill it. It's best
for the dog, and it's essential for the good of the community.
Germany's a mad dog, and this virus of war must be overcome, destroyed.
Oh, I've thought it all out. I believe in prayer. But it's no use
praying for good health while you live over foul drains, and it's just
as little praying for the destruction of such a system while you do
nothing. God won't do for us what we can do for ourselves. That's why
this is a holy war! That's why we must fight until Prussianism is
overthrown. We are paying a ghastly price, but it has to be paid. All
the same, we are fighting this war in the wrong way.'
'How?' I asked.
'Because we've forgotten God. Because, to a large extent, we regard
Him too much as a negligible quantity; because we have become too much
poisoned with the German virus.'
'I don't follow,' I said.
'I will try to make my meaning plain. In this war we have the
greatest, the holiest cause man ever fought for. We are struggling for
the liberty, the well-being of the world. We are fighting God's cause;
but we are not fighting it in God's way. We are fighting as if there
were no God.'
'We started wrongly. Were our soldiers made to realize when they
joined the Army that they were going to fight for God? Did the country,
the Government ever tell them so? Oh, don't mistake me. I am a private
soldier, and I've lived with the Tommies for a long time, and I know
what kind of chaps they are. A finer lot of fellows never lived. Braver
than lions, and as tender as women many of them; but does God count
with the great bulk of them? Is Tommy filled with a passion for God? Is
he made to feel the necessity of God? Does Tommy depend primarily on
God for victory?'
'Well, do we depend on God for victory?' I asked.
'If God is not with us we are lost!' he said solemnly. 'And that's
our trouble. I've read a good many of our English papers, our leading
daily papers, and one might think from reading them that either there
was no God, or that He didn't count. How are we to win this war, and
crush Germanism? is the cry, and the answer of the British Government
and of the British press is, Big guns, mountains of munitions,
conscription, national service, big battalions, and still more big
'Well, isn't that the only way to win? What can we do without these
things?' I asked.
'Big guns by all means. Mountains of munitions certainly, and all
the other things; but they are not enough. If we forget God, we are
lost. And because we do not seek the help of God, we lose a great part
of our driving power.'
He was in deadly earnest. To him Christianity, religion was not some
formal thing, it was a great vital reality. He could not understand
faith in God, without seeking Him and depending on Him.
'We have chaplains,' I urged. 'We are supposed to be a Christian
'Yes, but do we depend on God? Do we seek Him humbly? When Tommy
goes into battle, does he go into it like Cromwell's soldiers
determined to fight in God's strength? Oh, yes, Tommy is a grand
fellow, take him as a whole, and there are tens of thousands of fine
Christians in the Army. But in the main Tommy is a fatalist; he does
not pray, he does not depend on God. I tell you, if this battle of the
Somme were fought in the strength of God, the Germans would have fled
'That's all nonsense,' I laughed. 'We can destroy brute force only
by brute force.'
'That's the German creed,' he cried, 'and that creed will be their
'No,' I said, more for the sake of argument than because I believed
it, 'we shall beat them because we are better men, and because we shall
be able to stick it longer.'
'Have you been to Ypres?' he asked quickly.
'No,' I replied.
'I have. I was there for months. I read the accounts of the Ypres
battles while I was there, and I was able to study the terrain,
the conditions. And Germany ought to have won. Germany would
have won too, if force was the deciding power. Why, think, they had
four men to our one, and a greater proportion of big guns and
munitions. Humanly speaking, the battle was theirs and then Calais was
theirs and they could dominate the Channel. But it is Not by might,
nor by power; but by My Spirit, said the Lord of Hosts. I tell you,
Sir, no one can read the inwardness of the battles of Ypres without
believing in Almighty God. By the way, did you ever read Victor Hugo's
'Years ago. What has that to do with it?'
'He describes the battle of Waterloo. He says that Napoleon by every
human law ought to have won it. But Hugo says this: Napoleon lost
Waterloo because God was against him. That's why Germany didn't take
Ypres, and rush through to Calais. That's why they'll lose this war.'
'And yet the Germans are always saying that God is on their side.
They go to battle singing
A safe stronghold our God is still.'
'Yes, they are like the men in the time of Christ who said Lord,
Lord, and did not the things he said. I tell you, sir, if we had
fought in God's strength, and obeyed God's commands, the war would
have been over by now. German militarism would have been crushed
and the world would be at peace.'
'Nonsense,' I replied with a laugh.
'It's not nonsense. This, as it seems to me, is the case: We are
fighting God's cause, but God counts but very little. We are not laying
hold of His Omnipotence; we are trusting entirely in big guns, while
God is forgotten. That is why the war drags on. I tell you,' and his
voice quivered with passion, 'what I am afraid of is this. This ghastly
carnage will drag on, with all its horrors; homes will be decimated,
lives will be sacrificed all because we believe more in material things
than in spiritual things. More in the devil than in God. I think
sometimes that God will not allow us to win because we are not worthy.'
'Come now,' I said, 'it is very easy to speak in generalities about
such a question; but tell me how, in a practical way, faith in God, and
religious enthusiasm would help us to win this war?'
'How?' he cried. 'Don't you see that in addition to what I will call
the spiritual power which would come through faith in, and obedience to
the will of God, you add a practical, human force? Let there be this
faith, this enthusiasm, and the people, the soldiers, would be ready
for anything. Our workpeople would cease going on strike, employers and
tradespeople would no longer be profiteers, grumbling and disunity
would cease. We should all unitedly throw ourselves, heart and
soul into this great struggle, and nothing could withstand us.'
'But tell me why we are not worthy of victory, now,' I urged.
CHAPTER XIV. EDGECUMBE'S LOGIC
He was silent for a few seconds, and then went on quietly: 'You will
forgive me, sir, if I seem assertive, but I look on you as my
friendandand you know all about methat I know myself. As I have
said before, I naturally look at things differently from others. I have
to be always beginning de novo. But tell me, sir, what do you
think are the greatest curses in the British Army? What ruins most of
our soldiers, body and soul?'
I hesitated a second, and then replied, 'Drink andand impurity.'
'Exactly; and how much is the latter owing to the former?'
'A great deal, I dare say.'
'Just so. Now go a step further. Did not one of England's most
prominent statesmen say that he feared drink more than he feared the
'That was a rhetorical flourish,' I laughed.
'No, it was a sober considered statement. Now think. Before
IIthat is before God became real to me, I looked at this question
from the standpoint of policy. I considered the whole thing in the
light of the fact that it was sapping our strength, wasting our
manhood. But I have had to go deeper, and now I seegreat God, man,
it's ghastly! positively ghastly!'
'What is ghastly?' I asked.
'Look here, sir,'and his voice became very intense,'I suppose
you are typical of the educated Britisher. You stand half-way between
the extreme Puritan on the one hand, and the mere man of the world on
the other. Tell me this: Do you regard the body as of more importance
than the soul? Do you think material success more vital than the
uplifting of the real man? Do you look upon any gain won at the expense
of a man's character as a good thing?'
'No,' I replied, 'I don't. I am afraid that, as a people, we are
gripped very strongly by the material side of things, but
theoretically, at all events, yes, and in a deeper way, too, we know
that character is of more importance than material advancement.'
'Go a step further, sir. Supposing we could win this war at the
expense of the highest ideals of the nation; supposing we could crush
German militarism, and all the devilry which it has dragged at its
heels, by poisoning our own national life, and by binding ourselves by
the chains which we are trying to break in Germany; would it be a good
'Very doubtful, at all events,' I replied; 'but why are you harping
'Because I am bewildered, staggered. Don't mistake me; I have not
the slightest doubt about the righteousness of our cause. If ever there
was a call from Almighty God, there is a call now, and that call is
increasing in its intensity as the days go by. If Germany won, the
world would not be a fit place to live in; it would be crushed under
the iron heel of materialism and brutalism. All that we regard as
beautiful and holy, all that the best life of the world has been
struggling after, would be strangled, and the race of the nations would
be after material gain, material power, brute force. The more I think
of it, the more I realize this,we are fighting for the liberty of the
world. But aren't our own men becoming enslaved while they are
fighting? Aren't we seeking to win this war of God at the price of our
He was so earnest, so sincere, that I could not help being
impressed. Besides, there was truth, a tremendous amount of truth, in
what he was saying.
'Either this is God's war,' he went on, 'and we are fighting for
God's cause, or we are not. If it is simply a matter of meeting force
by force, devilry by devilry then there is not much to choose between
us. But if we as a nation,the pioneer of nations, the greatest nation
under the sun,are fighting for the advancement of the Kingdom of God,
then we should eschew the devil's weapons. We should see to it that no
victory is won at the cost of men's immortal souls. Besides, we gain no
real advantage; I am certain of that. I have been in this war long
enough to know that the stamina of our men, the quality of our men, is
not made better by this damnable thing. It is all the other way. Our
Army is a poorer army because of it, and we have lost more than we have
gained by the use of it. That is looking at it purely from the physical
standpoint. But surely, if a man believes in Almighty God, he has
higher conceptions; when a man fights in the Spirit of God, and looks
to Him for strength and for guidance, he has Omnipotent forces on his
side. That is why we ought to have won months ago. In reality, this war
at the beginning, was a war of might against right, and we have been
making it a war of might against might, and we have been willing to
sacrifice right for might.'
'But surely,' I said, 'you who have seen a lot of fighting, and have
been over the top several times, know that the conditions are so
terrible that men do need help. You know, as well as I do, that an
artillery bombardment is hell, and that it needs a kind of artificial
courage to go through what the lads have to go through.'
'And that brings me back to the point from which I started,' he
cried. 'Are we willing to win this war at the cost of men's immortal
souls? Mind you, I don't admit your premise for a moment; to admit it
would be to impugn the courage of tens of thousands of the boys who
have all along refused to touch it. Do you mean to tell me that the
abstainers in the Army are less courageous than those who drink? Does
any one dare to state that the lads who have refused to touch it have
been less brave than those who have had it? To say that would be to
insult the finest fellows who ever lived. But here is the point; we
admit that drink is a curse, that it is a more baneful enemy than the
Germans, that it is degrading not only the manhood of England, but
cursing British womanhood, and yet we encourage its use. Now, assuming
that our victory depends on this stuff, are we justified in using it?
It may be rank treason to say so, but I say better lose the war than
win it by means of that which is cursing the souls of our men. But we
are not faced with that alternative. Our Army, brave as it is, great as
it is, glorious as it is, would be braver, greater, and more glorious,
if the thing were abolished for ever. And more than that, by making a
great sacrifice for the sake of our highest manhood, we should link
ourselves to Almighty God, and thus realize a power now unknown.'
'Is that what the New Testament teaches you?' I said at length. 'Is
that the result of your becoming a Christian?'
'Yes,' he replied eagerly. 'I have read through the New Testament
again and again. Every word which is recorded of our Lord's sayings I
have committed to memory, and I am sure that what I say is right.
Either Christianity is a dead letter, a mockery, or we have been
fighting this war in a wrong way. We have not been trusting to God for
strength, and what is more, the best men in our Army and Navy realize
it. Take the two men who, humanly speaking, have the affairs of this
war most largely in their hands: Admiral Beatty and Sir William
Robertson. What did Sir William Robertson say to one of the heads of
the Church of Jesus Christ in England? Make the men religious,
Bishop, he said, make the men religious. Have you seen that letter
he wrote? We are trusting too much in horsemen and chariots, trusting
too much in the arm of flesh, and when the nation depends more on
spiritual forces, we shall be nearer victory. What did Admiral Beatty
say in that remarkable letter he wrote only a little while ago? When
England looks out with humbler eyes, and with prayer on her lips, then
she can begin to count the days towards the end. Does England believe
that? Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of
Hosts. Does the British Government believe that? Do the people believe
it? Do the Churches believe it?'
'But we must have might, and we must have power,' I urged.
'Of course we must. No one would think of denying it. But primarily,
primarily, our great hope, our great confidence is not in material
forces, but in spiritual. That is the point to which we as a nation
must get back, and when we do, the hosts of German militarism will
become but as thistledown. That is the call of God in these days, that
is what this war should do for our country, it should bring us back to
realities, bring us to God. Is it doing that, Captain Luscombe?'
'You know as well as I,' I replied. 'I have not been home for a long
'I shall see presently,' he said, for by this time the shores of
England were becoming more and more plain to us. 'Of course, while I
was at home during my training, I did not realize things as I do now;
my eyes had not been opened. But I shall study England in the light of
the New Testament.'
'You will have a busy time,' I laughed.
'I suppose I am to have a commission, sir,' he said just before
leaving the boat, 'and I am to go away into an Officers' Training Corps
at once. But I have your address and you shall hear from me.'
That same night I wrote a letter to Lorna Bolivick, telling her of
my arrival in England, and informing her that in all probability
Edgecumbe would be in the country for some time. I wrote to Devonshire,
because I had been previously informed that she had been obliged to
return home on account of her health.
Three days later I got her reply.
'Dear Captain Luscombe, she wrote, I am awfully interested to
hear that you are back in England; of course you will come and see us.
Father insists that you shall, and you must be sure to bring
your friend. I shall take no refusal. If you can give me his
address, I will write to him at once, although, seeing we have never
met, I think it will be better for you to convey my message. Tell him
that I insist on you both coming as soon as possible. I have
heaps of things to tell you, but I can't write them. Besides, as we
shall be seeing each other soon, there is no need. Telegraph at once
the time you will arrive, and remember that I cannot possibly hear of
any excuse whatever from either of you.'
Edgecumbe having informed me of his whereabouts, I went to see him,
and showed him the letter.
'Why on earth should she want to see me?' he asked.
'I don't know, except that I told her about our meeting,' I replied.
'She took a tremendous interest in you. Don't you remember?
For a few seconds there was a far-away look in his eyes, then
evidently he came to a decision.
'Yes, I'll go,' he said, 'I will. IIthink' But he did not
finish his sentence.
A few days later, we were on our way to Devonshire together, I
little realizing the influence our visit would have on the future.
CHAPTER XV. DEVONSHIRE
Before leaving for England, I had learned that Captain Springfield
was at a base hospital, and that although he was in a bad way, and not
fit to return home, there were good hopes of his recovery. Of St. Mabyn
I had heard nothing, but I imagined that very possibly Lorna Bolivick
would have news of him. As I have said before, Lorna's letter, written
on receipt of Paul Edgecumbe's photograph, had dispelled whatever ideas
I had entertained about his being identical with Maurice St. Mabyn. Of
course it was unthinkable, after what she had said. She had been so
pronounced in her statement that Edgecumbe's face was altogether
strange to her, and that she had never seen one like it before, that I
was obliged to abandon all my former suspicions; and yet, at the back
of my mind, I could not help believing that Edgecumbe and Springfield
were not strangers.
Of another thing, too, I was certain. He had been an officer in the
Army. On the night before we started for Devonshire I had a talk with
the C.O. of the Officers' Training Corps to which Edgecumbe was
attached. He had been under his command only a few days, but the
attention of the C.O. had already been drawn to him. This man happened
to be an old acquaintance of mine, and he talked with me freely.
'You say you know Edgecumbe?' he asked.
'Yes,' I replied; 'he is a friend of mine.'
'I had a long report of him from France, where he seems to have done
some fine things,' said the colonel. 'Of course you know he is to be
'I had a hint of it before I left France,' I replied.
'Would it be an indiscretion to ask you to tell me what you know of
'I don't know that it would,' was my answer. 'Only I should like you
to understand that what I am going to tell you is in confidence. You
see, the situation is rather peculiar, and I do not think he wants his
mental condition known.'
'Why? Is there anything wrong about him?'
'Oh, no, nothing.' And then I repeated the story of our meeting in
'And his memory's not come back?' said Colonel Heywood.
'I can tell you this about him, though. He is an old artillery
'How do you know?' I asked.
'The thing is as plain as daylight,' was the reply. 'The man may
have no memory for certain things, and the story of his past may be a
blank to him, but he knows his job already.'
'I mean this,' interrupted the colonel, 'no man could have the
knowledge he has of an artillery officer's work, without a long and
severe training. If he had forgotten it has come to him like magic. You
know what our work is, and you know, too, that gunners are not made in
a day. But he had it all at his fingers' ends. The major drew my
attention to it almost immediately he joined us, so I determined to
test him myself. He is fit to be sent out right away; he could take
charge of a battery, without an hour's more training. There is not the
slightest doubt about it. I shall take steps to try and find out
particulars about our Indian Army, and whether any officers have been
missing. The fellow interests me tremendously. Why, he has almost a
genius for gunnery! He is full of ideas, too,' and the colonel laughed.
'He, a cadet, could teach many of us older men our business. Some day
I'm inclined to think there'll be a romantic revelation!'
It was through Colonel Heywood's good offices that I was allowed to
take Edgecumbe to Devonshire with me, as of course he, only having just
joined the corps, was not entitled to leave so soon. As it was, he was
allowed only a long week-end. I thought of these things on our way to
Devonshire, and I wondered what the future would bring forth. Anyhow,
it was a further blow, if further blow were needed to my suspicions.
Neither Captain Springfield nor Maurice St. Mabyn was an artillery
officer, and if Colonel Heywood was right, even although they had known
each other, they had belonged to different services.
'I feel awfully nervous,' said Edgecumbe to me, after the train had
'I am acting against my judgment in accepting this invitation; why
should I go to this house? I never saw this girl before, and from what
you tell me, you have met her only once.'
'For that matter,' I said, 'I feel rather sensitive myself. The fact
that we have only met once makes it a bit awkward for me to be going to
her father's house.'
'Did you fall in love with her, or anything of that sort?' he asked.
'No-o,' I replied. 'I was tremendously impressed by her, and, for
such a short acquaintance, we became great friends. The fact that we
have kept up a correspondence ever since proves it. But there is no
suggestion of anything like love between us. I admire her tremendously,
but I am not a marrying man.'
'I wonder how she'll regard me?' And Edgecumbe looked towards
the mirror on the opposite side of the railway carriage. 'I am a
curious-looking animal, aren't I? Look at my parched skin.'
'It is not nearly as bad as it used to be,' I replied; 'it has
become almost normal. You are not so pale as you were, either.'
'Don't you think so? Heavens, Luscombe, but I must have had a
strange experience to make me look as I did when you saw me first!'
Then his mood changed. 'Isn't this wonderful country? I am sure I have
seen it all before.' And he looked out of the carriage window towards
the undulating landscape which spread itself out before us.
'It is a glorious country,' he went on, like one thinking aloud.
'France is like a parched desert after this. Think of the peacefulness
of it, too! See that little village nestling on the hillside! see the
old grey church tower almost hidden by the trees! That is what a
country village ought to be. Yes, I'll go to Bolivick, after all. If I
am uncomfortable, I can easily make an excuse for leaving. But I want
to see her; yes, I do really. You've made me interested in her. I feel,
too, as if something were going to happen. I am excited!'
'Well, you won't be long now,' I replied, for just then the train
drew up at South Petherwin station.
An old servant in livery approached me as we alighted. 'Captain
Luscombe, sir?' he queried in a way which suggested the old family
'Yes,' I replied.
A few minutes later we were seated in an open carriage, while a pair
of spanking horses drew us along some typical Devonshire lanes.
'This is better than any motor-car, after all!' cried Edgecumbe, as
he looked across the richly wooded valleys towards the wild moorland
beyond. 'After all, horses belong to a countryside like this;
motor-cars don't. If ever I' but he did not complete his sentence.
He was looking towards an old stone mansion nestling among the trees.
'That's it, that's surely it,' he cried.
'Is that Bolivick?' I asked the coachman.
'You might have been here before, Edgecumbe,' I said.
'No, no, I don't think I haveand yetI don't know. It is familiar
to me in a way, and yet it isn't. But it is glorious. See, the
sun's rim is almost touching the hill tops,what colour! what infinite
beauty! Must not God be beautiful!'
The carriage dashed through a pair of great grey granite pillars,
and a minute later we were in park lands, where the trees still threw
their shade over the cattle which were lying beneath them.
'An English home,' I heard him say, 'just a typical English home.
Oh, the thought of it is lovely!'
The carriage drew up at the door of the old mansion, and getting
out, I saw Lorna Bolivick standing there.
'I am glad you've come,' and she gave a happy laugh. 'I should never
have forgiven you if you hadn't,' and she shook my hand just as
naturally as if she had known me all her life. Then she turned towards
Edgecumbe. 'And this is your friend,' she said; 'you don't know how
pleased I am to see you.'
But Edgecumbe did not speak. His eyes were riveted on her face, and
they burned like coals of fire. I saw, too, by the tremor of his lips,
how deeply moved he was.
CHAPTER XVI. LORNA BOLIVICK'S HOME
For a moment I thought that Lorna Bolivick was somewhat annoyed at
the intense and searching look which Edgecumbe gave her. Her face
flushed somewhat, and a suggestion of anger flashed from her eyes. But
this was only for a moment; probably she remembered Edgecumbe's mental
condition, and made allowance accordingly.
Edgecumbe still continued to look at her steadily, and I noticed
that his eyes, which, except at the times when they were wistful, were
quiet and steadfast, now shone like coals of fire. I saw, too, that he
was unable to govern his lips, which were trembling visibly.
'Why do you look at me like that?' she said nervously; 'any one
would think you had seen me before somewhere.'
'I have,' he replied.
He hesitated a second, and then said, 'In my dreams,'and then,
realizing that his behaviour, to say the least of it, was not ordinary,
he hurriedly went on, 'Please forgive me, Miss Bolivick, but I never
remember having spoken to a woman before.'
She looked at him in astonishment. I suppose the statement to her
seemed foolish and outrageous.
'It is quite true,' he went on earnestly; 'ever since I met Captain
Luscombe at Plymouth I have been in the Army, and I am afraid I have
not been a very sociable kind of character. I have lived with men all
that time, and have been somewhat of a hermit. Of course I have seen
women, in England and in France,' and he laughed nervously.
'Butbutno, I have never spoken to one.'
'And how do I strike you?'
'You seem like a being from another and a more beautiful world,' he
replied gravely. 'I don't know, though, the world as one sees it here
is very beautiful'; and he glanced quickly across the park away to the
moors in the distance, which the setting sun had lit up with a purple
At that moment Sir Thomas Bolivick, Lorna's father, came to the
door, and in a hearty West Country fashion gave us both a warm welcome.
'Awfully good of you to come, Captain Luscombe,' he said. 'Granville
has spoken so much about you, that I feel as though you were an old
friend. Nonsense, nonsense!'this in reply to my apologies for
accepting the invitation. 'In times like these, we can't stand upon
ceremony. You are a friend of Granville's, and you are a British
soldier, that's enough for me. Whatever this war has done, it has
smashed up a lot of silly conventions, it has helped us to be more
natural, and when Lorna here told me about you, I wanted to see you.
You see, I have read reports of your speeches, and when I saw that you
were mentioned in the dispatches, I wanted to know you more than ever.
So let there be no nonsense about your being a stranger.'
Soon after, we were shown to our bedrooms, and after dressing for
dinner I went to Edgecumbe's room.
'IIhad forgotten,' he gasped. 'Howlong have I been here?'
'Twenty minutes. Aren't you going to put on your new togs?'
He looked at me like a man in a dream. 'I had forgotten everything,'
he said, 'except'
'Except what? What's the matter, old fellow?'
'I have no business to be here. I ought not to have come. Who am
I?what am I? Just a poor wreck without a memory.'
'A poor wreck without a memory!' I laughed. 'Don't be an ass, man.
Look at that ribbon on your new tunic! Think of all the flattering
things that have been said about you, and then talk about being a poor
wreck without a memory!'
'I am an old man before my time,' and his voice was unnatural as he
spoke. 'Look at my face, seamed and lined. I am here on sufferance,
here because you have been a friend to me. I have no name, no past, and
'That's not like you, Edgecumbe,' I protested. 'You've always been a
jolly, optimistic beggar, and now you talk like an undertaker. Future!
why, you're a young fellow barely thirty. As for your name, you've made
one, my boy, and you'll make a bigger one yet, if I'm not mistaken. You
are a welcome guest here, too,there is not the slightest doubt about
'Yes, but what have I?'
'Come now, get into those togs quick; we mustn't keep them waiting,
you know; it would not be courteous on our part, after all their
A sudden change swept across his face. 'You are right, Luscombe,' he
said; 'I'm ashamed of myself. After all I'll be ready in five
minutes. There's one thing about a soldier's togs, it doesn't take long
to put 'em on.'
It was a very quiet dinner party. The two Bolivick boys were away at
the front, and Lorna was the only one of the children at home. Sir
Thomas and Lady Bolivick were there, but beyond Norah Blackwater,
Edgecumbe and I were the only guests.
It was evident to me that Edgecumbe was an entire stranger to Norah
Blackwater. Her face did not move a muscle at his appearance; and
although he sat next to her at table, she seemed to find no interest in
his conversation. He was very quiet during dinner, and although Sir
Thomas tried to draw him out, and make him describe some of the scenes
through which he had passed, he was peculiarly reticent.
As I sat at the opposite side of the table, I was able to watch his
face closely, and I could not help being impressed by the fact that,
although he was very quiet, he was evidently under great excitement. I
saw, too, that sometimes for seconds together he, forgetful of Norah
Blackwater, would gaze steadily at Lorna Bolivick, as though she
fascinated him. I was afraid Sir Thomas did not like him, and as
presently the conversation led to our experiences at the front, I
determined that, although Edgecumbe might feel uncomfortable, I would
show the baronet the kind of man he really was.
'Talking about tight corners,' I said, 'I got out of one of the
tightest corners ever I was in, in a peculiar way.'
'Do tell us, Captain Luscombe,' cried Lorna, who had evidently been
uncomfortable under Edgecumbe's gaze. 'We have heard nothing about your
experiences, and I should like to hear something.'
'It's a story of how one Englishman took thirty Germans prisoners,'
I said with a laugh.
'One Englishman took thirty German prisoners!' cried the squire.
'Good old English bull-dog! But how did he do it? Man, it's
'Nothing is impossible to a man who keeps his head cool, and has a
ready wit,' was my answer. I thereupon, without mentioning Edgecumbe's
name, described how I had been taken prisoner, and how I found myself
in the German trenches.
'But how did you get out of such a hole as that?' cried the squire.
'As I told you,' I said, 'I found myself with my sergeant in a huge
dug-out with thirty Germans. Of course our position was apparently
hopeless. They had got us, and meant to keep us. I had been unconscious
for a long time owing to a nasty knock I had got, and therefore I was
tremendously surprised when I presently heard an English voice talking
to the Germans. Evidently another English prisoner had been brought
'Then you were three against thirty,' laughed the squire.
'Three against thirty if you will,' I replied, 'but only one in
reality. I was no good, and my sergeant had no other hope than to be
buried in a German prison. The new-comer, however, evidently meant
business. All the time the English guns were booming, and our
explosives were tearing the Boches' trenches to pieces. As it happened,
we were too deep for them to reach us, although the danger was that we
might be buried alive. That gave this chap, whose face I could not see,
his chance, and he began to tell the Germans what idiots they were to
stay there in imminent danger of death, when they could get to safety.
He described the jolly times which German prisoners had in England, and
of the absolute certainty of their being licked on the battle-field. Of
course at first the Germans laughed at him, but he went on talking, and
in a few minutes he had got every one of them to surrender.'
'But that's impossible!' cried the squire.
'It's a fact,' I said. 'Never in my life had I realized the effect
which a cool, courageous man could have upon a crowd of men. Call it a
miracle if you like,indeed I always shall think of it as a
miracle,but without once losing his nerve, or once revealing the
slightest lack of confidence, he worked upon the fears and hopes of
those Boches in such a way that he persuaded them to follow him, and
give themselves up in a body as prisoners. It was one of the most
amusing things you ever saw in your life, to see this one man lead
those thirty Boches, while they held up their hands and cried
'By George, sir!' said the squire, 'that's great, great, sir! No one
but an Englishman could do a thing like that. Ah, the old country is
the old country still! But who was he, an officer or a private?'
'A private,' I replied.
'And he rescued you, and took the whole thirty Huns as prisoners? By
Jove, I should like to know that man! Is he alive now?'
'Very much alive,' I laughed.
'Where is he, then?'
I nodded my head towards Edgecumbe, who all the time had been
sitting in silent protest.
But my story had done its work. The squire's apparent dislike was
over, and, acting upon the generous impulse of the moment, he started
to his feet and rushed to Edgecumbe's side.
'Give me your hand, sir,' he cried; 'I am proud to know you, proud
to have you sitting at my table!'
What Edgecumbe would have said, I do not know. He had been
protesting all the time as much as a man could protest with his eyes,
and I knew that like all men of his class he hated to have such deeds
dragged into the light of day, although I had done it with a set
purpose. But as it happened, there was no need for him to say anything.
At that moment the butler came behind Lady Bolivick's chair and spoke
'Captain Springfield!' she cried, 'and Charlie Buller. Oh, I am so
glad. Charlie's evidently better, then. He wrote, telling me, when I
asked him to come over to-night, that he was afraid he wouldn't be well
I do not know why it was, but at that moment I looked towards Lorna
Bolivick, and I saw her face flush with excitement. Evidently the
mention of the new-comers' names meant a great deal to her.
Then I looked at Edgecumbe, and I saw that he too had been watching
CHAPTER XVII. A NEW DEVELOPMENT
Charlie Buller, as Lady Bolivick had called him, was a young fellow
about twenty-four years of age, and was first lieutenant in the
Devonshire yeomanry. He had been wounded in France, and some time
before my return to England had been in a hospital in London. Only a
few days before he had been discharged from the hospital, and had now
returned to his Devonshire home on leave. He was the only son of a
squire whose lands joined those of Sir Thomas Bolivick, and was, as
Norah Blackwater told me during the evening, a suitor for Lorna
'I think it is as good as settled,' she said to me, 'although no
engagement has been announced. He will be a splendid match for her,
too, and owns one of the finest estates in Devonshire. Didn't you see
how excited Lorna became when she heard that he had come?'
This was the first time I had seen Springfield since I had helped
Edgecumbe to dig him from under a heap of rubbish in France.
They had both dined early, they said, and the night being fine, had
motored over, Charlie Buller's home being only four miles from
Buller was a good-looking boy, fresh-coloured, curly-haired, and
although in no way remarkable, quite likeable. Springfield I liked less
now than when I had first seen him. His face looked paler and less
wholesome than ever. The old scar which I had noticed on our first
meeting revealed itself more plainly, while his somewhat sinister
appearance repelled me.
Sir Thomas, however, gave him a hearty greeting, and welcomed him to
his house with great cordiality. Sir Thomas had dined well, and was by
this time in great good humour.
'This is splendid!' he cried, 'four men in khaki here all together!
Ah, don't I wish my boys were at home to complete the party! But there,
never mind, please God they'll come back.'
Springfield was introduced to Edgecumbe as though he were an entire
stranger, and neither of them gave the slightest indication that they
had ever met before. I wondered, as I saw them, whether Springfield had
been aware of the name of the man who had, in all probability, saved
him from death. I did not quite see how he could have been ignorant of
it, and yet, from the way he greeted Edgecumbe, it might have been that
he was in entire ignorance.
But one thing was evident to me. He hated him, and what was more,
feared him. I could see his face quite plainly, and there was no
mistaking the look in his eyes. The conversation I had heard while
lying in that copse in France months before flashed back to my mind,
and I knew that in some way the life of Captain Springfield was linked
to that of Edgecumbe, and that if the truth were known evil forces were
at work. What they were, I could not divine, but that they existed I
had no doubt whatever.
I soon realized, too, that he exercised a great influence over young
Buller. That ruddy-faced, fair-haired young fellow was but as wax in
his hands. There seemed no reason why I should be disturbed at this,
but I was. I was apprehensive of the future.
Another thing struck me, too. In a way, which I could not
understand, he was wearing down Lorna Bolivick's former repugnance to
him. As my readers may remember, she had greatly disliked him at their
first meeting, and had told me in confidence that he made her think of
snakes. Now she listened to him eagerly, and seemed fascinated by his
presence. I had to admit, too, that the fellow talked well, and
although he was anything but an Apollo in appearance, he possessed a
charm of manner which I could not deny.
I must confess that I felt angry at this. In spite of my admiration
of his strength, I disliked him intensely. I was sure he wore a mask,
and that some dark mystery surrounded his life. So angry was I, that I
determined if possible to turn the tables upon him. And so, at the
close of one of his stories, I broke in upon the conversation.
'Yes, Captain Springfield,' I said, 'what you say is quite true. The
quiet heroism shown by fellows whom the world regarded as entirely
commonplace is simply wonderful, and a great deal of it has never come
to light. By the way, you wouldn't have been here to-night but for the
heroism of a man whose action you seem to have forgotten.'
'Is that so?' he asked. 'It is quite possible, although I am not
aware of what you are thinking.'
'Surely you must be aware of it?' I replied.
He looked at me curiously, as though he were in doubt whether I was
friendly disposed towards him.
'I wish you'd tell me exactly what you mean,' he said.
'Surely you are aware of what happened to you, and why you were sent
to hospital, and why you are home on sick leave now?'
'To tell you the truth, I know precious little,' he replied. 'All I
remember is the shriek of a shell, the noise of ten thousand thunders,
absolute blackness, and then coming to consciousness in a hospital.'
'Then you don't know what happened between the noise of the ten
thousand thunders and awaking in the hospital?'
'No,' he replied, 'I don't. I do remember inquiring, but I was told
to be quiet, and when, on my becoming stronger, I was removed to the
base, no one seemed to be able to tell me what had happened to me. I
should be jolly glad to know. Perhaps you can tell me'; and there was a
suggestion of a sneer in his voice.
'Yes,' I replied, 'I can.'
By this time there was a deathly silence in the room. In a way which
I had not imagined I had changed the whole atmosphere of the place.
'As it happened,' I said, 'I had a curious experience myself, close
to where you were. A shell had exploded not far from me, and I was half
buried, besides receiving a tremendous shock. I managed to drag myself
out from under the débris, however, and was in a confused kind
of way trying to find my men. You know what an awful day that was; the
Germans had located us to a nicety, and were sending tons of explosives
on us. It was one of the hottest times I have ever known.'
'Heavens! it was,' he said, and I thought he shuddered.
'We had passed the Germans' first line,' I continued, 'and I was
struggling along in the open, hardly knowing what I was doing, when I
saw some men whom I thought I recognized. I heard the awful whine of a
shell, which fell close by, and it was not a dud. It exploded with a
tremendous noise, and for some time I was wellnigh blinded by dust and
sulphurous smoke. A great hole had been torn in the ground, and a huge
heap of rubbish hurled up. After a bit I saw a man digging as if for
very life. He was right out in the open, and in the greatest danger a
man could be. The men who were still alive shouted to him to get into
the shell-hole, but he went on digging.'
I was silent for a few seconds. I did not know how best to conclude
'Well, what happened?' he asked.
'He dug you out,' I replied.
'How do you know it was I?'
'Because I helped to carry you to a place of safety.'
'By Jove! I knew nothing about it. But who was the chap who dug me
out? I should like to know.'
'Surely you know?'
'I told you I was unconscious for several days,' was his answer,
'and when I asked questions, was told nothing. Who was the chap who dug
me out? II should like to thank him.'
'He is there,' I replied, nodding towards Edgecumbe, who seemed to
be deeply interested in Bairnfather's Five Months at the Front.
'What!' he cried. 'Diddid' The sentence died in an
unintelligible mutter. He seemed to utter a name I could not catch. All
the time I was watching him intently, and never shall I forget the look
that passed over his face. He had been very pale before, but now his
pallor was ghastly. For a moment he looked almost like a dead man, save
for the gleam in his eyes. He was like one struggling with himself,
struggling to obtain the mastery over some passion in his own heart.
It was some seconds before he spoke again, and then, in spite of my
dislike for him, I could not help admiring him. The sinister gleam
passed away from his eyes, and a look of seemingly great gladness came
into his face. A second later, he had crossed the room to where
'I say, Edgecumbe,' he said, 'was it you who did that for me?' and
he held out his hand with frank heartiness.
'Did what?' asked Edgecumbe quietly.
'Whatwhat Luscombe has been talking about. You heard, of course?'
For a moment Edgecumbe looked at him awkwardly. For the second time
during that evening I had subjected him to an experience which he
'I wish Luscombe wouldn't talk such rot,' he replied; 'after all, it
'Oh, but it was!' was Springfield's reply. 'Give me your hand,
man,you saved my life. The doctors told me afterwards I had a near
shave, andandthere, you understand, don't you?'
Seemingly he was overcome with emotion, and for some time he lapsed
into silence. The others in the room were greatly moved, tootoo moved
to speak freely. There were none of those effusive congratulations
which might seem natural under the circumstance. In a way the situation
was dramatic, and we all felt it.
Although he promised to come over on the following day, he seemed
very subdued as he bade us good night, though I thought he struggled to
speak naturally. It was only when he parted with Edgecumbe, however,
that he showed any signs of emotion.
'Good night,' he said, as he grasped his hand. 'I shan't pretend to
thank you. Words fail, don't they? But I shall never forget you,
nevernever; and if ever I can pay you back'
He stopped short, and seemed to be struggling to say more, but no
words escaped him. A minute later he had left the house.
I had barely entered my room that night, when Edgecumbe knocked at
the door which led from his apartment to mine. 'May I come in?' he
I opened the door, and scarcely noticing me he staggered to an
arm-chair, and threw himself into it.
'I want to tell you something,' he said.
'Well, what is it?'
But he did not speak. He sat staring into vacancy.
'Come, old man,' I said, after a lapse of many minutes, 'what is
'If I weren't sure there was another life,' was his reply, 'II
should go mad.'
'Go mad! Why?'
'Because this life is such a mockery, such a ghastly, hollow
'Don't be silly. Why is it a mockery?'
'I don't suppose you can understand,' he said, 'not even you. Oh, I
am a fool!'
'How has that fact so suddenly dawned on you?' I asked with a laugh.
'I was mad to come here, mad to see her. Why, just think,here am
I, without name, without home, withoutwithout anything! But how did
I know! Am I to blame? I couldn't help falling in love with
'Falling in love with her! With whom?'
'You must know; you must have seen. It is driving me mad, Luscombe!
I would,I would,oh, God knows what I would do to get her! But think
of it! Think of the ghastly mockery of it! There she is, young, fair,
beautiful, a fit mate for the best in the world, and Ithink of what I
am! Besides, there's that man,I know him,I know him, Luscombe.'
CHAPTER XVIII. A TRAGIC HAPPENING
I must confess I was staggered. The thought of Paul Edgecumbe
falling in love had never entered my mind. I do not know why it should
have been so, but so it was. He had seemed so far removed from all
thoughts of the tender passion, and had been so indifferent to the
society of women, that to think of him falling in love at first sight
seemed pure madness. But I did not doubt his words; the intensity of
his voice, the look in his eyes, the tremor of his lips, all told their
tale. Of course it was madness, but the fact was patent enough.
'You can't be serious,' I said, although I knew I was speaking
'Serious! It's a matter of life or death with me. Besides, there's
that man. I know him, I say,I know him.'
'Of course you know him,' I replied. 'You saved his life, and pretty
nearly got killed yourself in doing it.'
'I wish I had been. But no, I don't; He must never have her,
Luscombe, never! It would be a crime, and worse than a crime. Why, he
is' Then he stopped again, and with wild eyes seemed staring into
'Come, come,' I said, 'this won't do. He has no thoughts about Lorna
'Did he tell you so?'
'Of course he didn't; there is no reason why he should; but Miss
Blackwater told me it was as good as settled that she should marry
'No, the danger doesn't lie there. Why, you could see that, if you
had eyes. Didn't you watch him while he was talking during the early
part of the evening?didn't you see how he looked at her? He's a bad
man, I tell you! Have you ever seen a serpent trying to fascinate a
bird? I havewhere I don't know, but I have. He was just like that,
and she yielded to his fascination, too; you must have noticed it!
Buller is a nonentity, just a harmless, good-natured, weak boy. He
could be a tool in another man's hands, though,Springfield could make
him do anything.'
He did not look at me while he spoke; he seemed to be staring at
some far distant object.
'You say you know Springfield,' I said; 'what did you mean by that?'
'I mean,I have met him before somewhere.'
'I don't know. I only know I have. Do you remember that time over in
France, when he made that strange noise?'
'It was an old Indian cry. It was a cry that always means vengeance.
It was he who made it,do you remember? Afterwards I saw his face. I
knew then I had seen him somewhere, but where, I don't know. Oh, if
only this thick veil of the past could be turned aside, and I could
see! Oh, if I could only remember!but I can't. I tell you, that man
knows mehe remembers. Did you watch his eyes when he looked at me?
And I am helpless, helpless!and she is so young, so beautiful, so
pure. I can't understand it at all, and yet, when I saw her this
evening for the first time, as she stood in the doorway with the light
of the setting sun upon her face I am so helpless,' he continued.
'I can do nothing. Besides'
As I have said, I had learnt to love Paul Edgecumbe, and although I
realized his madness as much as he did, I wanted to lift the weight of
care from his life.
'If what you told me some months ago is true, there is no room for
despair,' I urged.
'What did I tell you?'
'You told me you had found a great secret,' I replied; 'that you had
become sure of Almighty God. If that is true, there is no room for
hopelessness; despair's out of the question.'
He sat quietly for a few seconds, and then leapt to his feet. 'You
are right,' he said; 'there is no chance in the world, there is no such
thing as luck. I can't explain it a bit, but there isn't. God never
makes a mistake. After all, I could not help falling in love with her,
and my love has a meaning. Of course she is not for me,I am not
worthy of her; but I can defend her, I can see that no harm happens to
her. Yes, I see, I see. Good night, Luscombe, II want to be alone
now'; and without another word he passed back into his own room.
The next day was Saturday, and we spent the morning roaming through
the countryside around Bolivick, and climbing a rugged tor which lay
some distance at the back of the house.
As we neared the house after our long morning's walk, Lorna Bolivick
broke out abruptly: 'I am disappointed in your friend, Captain
'Why?' I asked.
'I don't know. I think I admire himin fact I am sure I do. He
possesses a strange charm, and, in a way, he's just splendid. But why
does he dislike me?'
'Does he dislike you?' I asked.
'Can't you see? He avoids me. When for a few minutes we are
together, he never speaks.'
'That doesn't prove he dislikes you.'
'Oh, but he does! He acts so strangely, too.'
'You must make allowances for him,' I said. 'You must remember his
history. He told you last night that you were the first lady he ever
remembered speaking to. It seemed an extravagant statement, but in a
way it is true. What his past has been I don't know, but since I knew
him his life has never been influenced by women. Think what that means
to a man! Besides, he is sensitive and shy. I can quite understand his
being uneasy in your presence.'
'Am I such an ogress, then?' And she looked into my face with a
laugh. 'Besides, why should he be sensitive about me?'
'Might not his peculiar mental condition make him afraid of
offending you?' I asked. 'Of course it is not for me to say, but I can
quite understand his being very anxious to impress you favourably. And
because he thinks he is awkward, and uninteresting, he is afraid to be
natural, and to act as he would like to act.'
'I wish you could let him know,' said Lorna in her childlike
outspokenness, 'that I admire him tremendously. I had no idea he had
been such a hero. The way he saved Captain Springfield was just beyond
words. Oh, it must have been horrible for you all!'
'In a way it was,' I replied. 'But do you know, in spite of the
horror of everything, most of the men look upon it as great sport. You
are altering your opinion of Captain Springfield, aren't you?'
'How do you know?' And I saw that her face flushed.
'When we met him over at Granitelands, you told me that he made you
think of snakes.'
'Yes, but I was silly, and impulsive. Even you can't deny that he is
fascinating. Besides, I always admire mysterious, strong men.'
'Will you promise me something, Lorna?' I ventured after an awkward
'Of course I will if I can. What is it?'
But I had not time to tell her; we had come up to the house at that
moment, and I saw both Springfield and Buller, who had come over to
lunch, hurrying towards us.
Our greetings were scarcely over, when Edgecumbe and Norah
Blackwater came up. Immediately Springfield saw them a change came over
his face. He had met Lorna Bolivick with a laugh, but as he saw
Edgecumbe the laugh died on his face, while the scar on his cheek
became more pronounced.
As far as I can remember, nothing of special note happened during
the afternoon, but in the evening, just before dinner, I saw a ghastly
pallor creep over Edgecumbe's face, and then suddenly and without
warning he fell down like one dead.
CHAPTER XIX. A MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS
Of course Edgecumbe's sudden illness caused great commotion. Nearly
every member of the family was present at the time, and confusion
prevailed. Buller asked foolish questions, I was nearly beside myself
with anxiety, Sir Thomas hazarded all sorts of guesses as to the reason
of his malady, Norah Blackwater became nearly hysterical, while Lorna
Bolivick looked at him with horror-stricken eyes.
The only two persons who seemed to retain their senses were Captain
Springfield and Lady Bolivick. The former suggested that in all
probability it was a sudden attack resulting from the life he had led
in India, and also suggesting that a doctor should be sent for at once,
while Lady Bolivick summoned the servants to carry him to bed
immediately. Both of these suggestions were immediately acted on. A
groom was dispatched to the nearest doctor, who lived at South
Petherwin village, while a few minutes later Edgecumbe lay in bed with
a look of death upon his face.
The whole happening had been so sudden, that I was unable to view it
calmly. That morning he had looked more than usually well, so well that
I could not help reflecting how much younger he appeared than on the
day when I had first seen him. He had taken a long walk, too, and
showed not the slightest sign of fatigue on his return. He had eaten
sparingly, and had drunk nothing but water with his lunch, and a cup of
tea at four o'clock. Yet at half-past six he had the stamp of death
upon his face, he breathed with difficulty, and his features were drawn
As I sat by his side, watching him until the doctor came, I
remembered that for perhaps an hour before his attack he was very
silent, and had moved around as though he were lacking in energy, but I
had thought little of it at the time. Now, however, his condition told
its own tale. To all appearances, he was dying, and we were all
powerless to help him.
Of course dinner, as far as I was concerned, was out of the
question, although, as I was afterwards informed, Captain Springfield
made an excellent meal.
It was nearly eight o'clock when the doctor arrived, and never
surely was a man greeted with more eagerness than I greeted him. For,
as I have already said, I had grown to love Edgecumbe with a great
love; why it was, I will not pretend to explain, but no man ever loved
a brother more than I loved him, and the thought of his death was
Perhaps the suddenness of everything accounted for my intense
feeling; anyhow, my intense anguish cannot be explained in any other
Dr. Merril did not inspire me with any great hope. He was a
middle-aged man of the country practitioner's type. I judged that he
could be quite useful in dealing with ordinary ailments, but he did not
strike me as a man who looked beneath the surface of things, and who
could deal successfully with a case like Edgecumbe's. Evidently no
particulars of the case had been given to him, and from the confident
way I heard him talking to Sir Thomas, who brought him up to the room,
he might have been called in to deal with a child who had a slight
attack of measles.
When he saw Edgecumbe, however, a change passed over his face. The
sight of my friend, gasping for breath, with what looked like
death-dews on his agonized face, made him think that he had to deal
with a man in his death agony.
A few minutes later I altered my opinion of Dr. Merril. He was not
so commonplace, or so unobservant as I had imagined. He examined
Edgecumbe carefully, and, as I thought, asked sensible questions, which
Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick, both of whom had come into the room,
answered readily. Although he did not speak to me, he doubtless noticed
how interested I was in his patient, and more than once I saw that he
looked at me questioningly.
'I admit I am baffled,' he said at length.
I took this as a good sign as far as he was concerned; anyhow, he
was not a man who professed to be wise, while he was in actual
'I gather from what you say,' he went on, speaking to Sir Thomas,
'that Captain Luscombe knows most about him.'
'That is so, Merril,' replied Sir Thomas. 'I have explained to you
the circumstances under which he came here.'
'That being so,' and the doctor spoke very gravely, 'I think it
would be best for you all to leave me, except Captain Luscombe.'
'There is something here beneath the surface,' said Dr. Merril when
we were alone, 'something which I cannot grasp. Can you help me?
Evidently you have been thinking a great deal.'
'I have,' I replied.
'As far as I can judge, he has sufficient vitality to keep him alive
for a few hours. I should judge him to be a man of remarkable
constitution and great physical strength.'
'You are quite right there. His power of endurance is
'What I can't understand,' said the doctor, 'is that there is no
apparent cause for this, and yet there is some force of which I am
ignorant undermining the very citadel of his life. I have never met
such a case before, and unless help comes, he will die in less than
twelve hours. I am speaking to you quite frankly, Captain Luscombe;
from what I know of you, you are quite aware of the limitations of a
medical man's power, and my experience during the time I have lived in
this district has not been of a nature to help me in such a case as
this. Will you tell me what you know of your friend?'
As briefly as I could, I gave an outline of what I have written in
these pages, while the doctor, without asking a single question,
'You say he does not drink?' he asked, when I had finished. 'He
gives not the slightest evidence of it, but it is necessary for me to
'Intoxicants have not passed his lips for more than a year,' I
'And his food?'
I detailed to him the food which Edgecumbe had eaten since he came
to the house, and which he had partaken of in common with the rest of
the members of the household.
'And you have been with him all the day?'
'All the day.'
'And you say you thought he became somewhat lethargic about five
'That is so. Not enough to take particular note of at the time, but
in the light of what has happened since, I recall it to mind.'
'Now think,' he said presently, 'has he not, say since lunch, shown
any symptom of light-headedness or anything of that sort?'
'Thank you for asking that, doctor,' I replied. 'You have reminded
me of something which I had forgotten. It may mean nothing, but at a
time like this one reflects upon the minutiae of life. We were walking
through a field this afternoon, which was dotted with rough granite
rocks. I fancy he must have hitched his foot in one of them; at any
rate, he would have fallen heavily but for Captain Springfield, who
just in the nick of time helped him up. But he showed no signs of
light-headedness, not the slightest. We were all acting like a lot of
children, and romped as though we were boys home from school. The
happening seemed perfectly natural to me at the time, and but for your
question I should not have mentioned it.'
'I am going to speak to you in an entirely unprofessional way,
Captain Luscombe,' said the doctor. 'I am not sure, and therefore I
speak with hesitation. But it looks to me as though your friend had
been poisoned. I don't know how it could have happened, because, as far
as I can judge, you account for almost every minute of his time since
this morning. But all his symptoms point in that direction.'
'May they not be the result of some slow-working malady which has
been in his system for years?' I asked.
Dr. Merril shook his head. 'Hardly,' he replied; 'if the malady were
slow-working, it would not have expressed itself so suddenly. In the
case of a slow-working poison, too, his suffering would have been of a
long drawn-out nature. This is altogether different. A few hours ago he
was, according to your account, active, buoyant, strong. He was playing
games with you in the fields, as though he were a boy. Now,'and the
doctor looked significantly at the bed.
'Can you suggest nothing?' I asked again.
The doctor shook his head. 'It is just as well to be frank,' he
replied. 'The thing is a mystery to me. His symptoms baffle me. He has
drunk nothing but what you have told me of, he has eaten nothing except
what has been consumed by the whole household. I don't know what to
'And yet he'll die if nothing's done for him.'
'If symptoms mean anything, they mean that,' he replied. 'Something
deadly is eating away at his vitals, and sapping the very foundations
of his life. You see, he can tell us nothing; he is unconscious.'
'Is there no doctor for whom we could send, with whom you could
Again Dr. Merril shook his head. 'We are away from everything here,'
he replied; 'it is fifty miles to Plymouth over rough, hilly roads,
'I have it!' I cried, for the word Plymouth set my mind working. I
had spent some time there, and knew the town well.
'Yes, what is it?' asked the doctor eagerly.
'Do you happen to know Colonel McClure? He is chief of the St.
George's Military Hospital in Plymouth.'
'An Army doctor,' said Merril; 'no, I don't know him. I have heard
of him. But how can he help? He has been most of his life in India. I
imagine, too, that while he may be very good for amputations and
wounds, he would have no experience in such cases as this. Of course I
shall be glad to meet him, if you can get him here; but that seems
impossible. No trains to Plymouth to-night, and to-morrow is Sunday.'
'May I ring for Sir Thomas?' I asked.
'By all means.' And a minute later not only Sir Thomas, but Lady
Bolivick, again entered the room. Evidently the old gentleman was much
moved. The thought of having a dying man in his house was like a
nightmare to him.
'There's no getting to Plymouth to-night!' he cried.
'Haven't you got a motor-car here?'
'Yes, but no chauffeur. My car hasn't been used for weeks, as my man
has been called up. That is why I am obliged to use horses for
everything. You see, my coachman can't drive a car.'
'Didn't Springfield and Buller come in a car?' I asked.
'Yes. But if I remember right, it was in a two-seater.'
'Never mind what it is, as long as it will get to Plymouth. Let us
go and speak to them.'
We found the two men with Lorna Bolivick and Norah Blackwater in the
library. They had evidently finished dinner, and Springfield was in the
act of pouring a liqueur into his coffee as I entered.
'How is the patient?' he asked almost indifferently.
'Very ill indeed,' I replied. 'Unless something is done for him
soon, he will die. Could you,' and I turned to Buller, 'motor to
Plymouth, and fetch a doctor I will tell you of? I will give you a note
'Awfully sorry,' said Buller, 'but I daren't drive. My left leg is
so weak that I couldn't work the clutch. Springfield had to run us over
here to-day. There's barely enough petrol to take us back, either.'
'I have plenty of petrol,' interposed Sir Thomas.
'I could never get that little bassinette of yours to Plymouth
to-night!' broke in Springfield. 'You see, I am still suffering from my
little stunt in France, and I am as weak as a rabbit. Besides, Buller's
machine isn't fit for such a journey.'
'My car is all right,' cried Sir Thomas. 'But I can't drive, and I
haven't a man about the place who can.'
'Do you know the road to Plymouth?' I asked Buller.
'Every inch of it,' he replied.
'Then I'll drive, if you will go with me to show me the way.'
I felt miserable at the idea of leaving Edgecumbe, but there seemed
no other way out of it.
'Surely you will not leave your friend?' interposed Springfield. 'He
may not be as bad as you think, and to-morrow the journey could easily
'It is a matter of life and death,' was my reply. 'Merril says that
unless something is done for him at once there is no hope for him.'
'What does he think is the matter with him?'
I did not reply. Something seemed to seal my lips. I saw
Springfield's features working strangely, while the scar under his
right ear was very strongly in evidence.
'Look here,' he said, as if with sudden decision, 'it's a shame for
you to leave your friend under such circumstances. If Sir Thomas will
lend his car, I will drive to Plymouth. You just write a letter,
Luscombe, giving your doctor friend full particulars, and I'll drag him
here by the hair of the head, if necessary.'
I had not time to reflect on his sudden change of front, and I was
about to close with the offer, but something, I cannot tell what,
'It's awfully good of you,' I said, 'but I think I'll go myself, if
Buller will go with me to show me the way.'
I found Dr. Merril, who had been giving some instructions as to
things he wanted, and I led him aside.
'You will keep near Edgecumbe, won't you?' I said hurriedly. 'Don't
let any one but Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick enter the room. I have
particular reasons for asking this.'
'What reasons?' And I could see he was surprised.
'I can't tell you, but I don't speak without thought. Perhaps later
I may explain.'
A few minutes later I had started for Plymouth.
CHAPTER XX. A STRANGE NIGHT
'I say, Luscombe, you're a nice fellow to drag one out in the middle
of the night in this way!'
Colonel McClure had just entered the room where I had been shown.
'I wouldn't have done it without reason,' I said. 'I have travelled
fifty miles to-night to get to you, and I want you to come with me to
Sir Thomas Bolivick's at once.'
'Sir Thomas Bolivick? I don't know him. Why should I come with you?'
'At any rate, hear what I have to say, and then judge for yourself.'
He listened attentively, while I told him my story. At first he
seemed to think lightly of it, and appeared to regard my visit to him
as the act of a madman; but when I related my conversation with Dr.
Merril, I saw that his face changed colour, and his eyes contracted.
'Tell me the symptoms again,' he said abruptly.
I described to him as minutely as I was able everything concerning
my friend, and then, without asking another question, he unlocked a
cabinet, took out a number of things which were meaningless to me, and
put them in a bag.
'Go and get your car started again,' he said, 'and wait for me.'
In an incredibly quick time, he had made himself ready for the
journey, and insisted on taking his seat by my side.
'You sit behind,' he said to Buller, so peremptorily that he seemed
like a man in anger. Then turning to me, he said, 'Drive like blazes!'
For the first hour of our return journey, he did not speak a word.
He was evidently in deep thought, and his face was as rigid as marble.
Then, suddenly, he began to ask questions, questions which at first
seemed meaningless. He asked me to describe the scenery around
Bolivick, and then he questioned me concerning Sir Thomas Bolivick's
household, after which he asked me to give him details concerning every
member of the family.
'Have you made up your mind concerning the case?' I asked presently.
'How can I tell until I have examined the man?'
'But you heard what I have told you?'
'And you have told me nothing.'
'It seems to me I have told you a great deal, and I tell you this,
McClure,if it is within human skill to save him, you must.'
'Aren't I taking this long, beastly midnight journey,' he replied,
like a man in anger, 'do you think I am doing this for fun? I say, tell
me more about this Edgecumbe; it is necessary that I should have full
After I had described our meeting, and our experiences in France, he
again sat for some time perfectly silent. He took no notice of what I
said to him, and did not even reply to direct questions. But that he
was thinking deeply I did not doubt.
'That's South Petherwin church,' I said, as the car dashed through
the village; 'it's only a mile or two now.'
'That Dr. Merril seems a sensible chap. You say you asked him to
admit no one into the room but Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick. Why?'
'I hardly know,' I replied. 'I think I acted on impulse.'
'A very good thing, sometimes.' And after that he did not speak
another word till we reached the house.
When I entered Edgecumbe's room I found him still alive, but weaker.
I noticed that a kind of froth had gathered around his mouth, and that
his eyes had a stony stare. He was still unconscious, and had not
uttered a coherent sentence since I had left.
'Will every one kindly leave the room except Dr. Merril?' And
Colonel McClure looked towards Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick as he
'Do you wish me to go too, Colonel?' I said.
'I think my words were plain enough,' and he spoke like a man in a
'I suppose every one has gone to bed,' I remarked to Sir Thomas.
'No, Lorna is still up. She is a silly girl,of course she can do
'And Captain Springfield?'
'He left about midnight. He asked to be allowed to see the patient,
but Merril wouldn't let him go into the room. I thought he behaved to
the captain like a clown.'
'In what way?'
'Well, Springfield's a clever fellow, and has seen many curious
cases of illness while he has been in the East. He said that
Edgecumbe's condition reminded him of the illness of an orderly he once
had, and wanted to tell Merril about him. But doctors are all the same,
they all claim to be autocrats in a sick-room. My word, Luscombe, you
must have had a weary night. My advice to you is to go to bed
'Not until I have heard McClure's report.'
When we came into the library, we found Buller and Lorna Bolivick
there. I thought the young squire seemed anxious and ill at ease, while
Lorna was much excited. On seeing me, however, she asked eagerly for
news of Edgecumbe.
'There is nothing to tell as yet,' I replied. 'By the way, how did
Springfield get home?'
'Oh, he took the car.'
'And how did he imagine that Buller was to get back?'
'I expect he forgot all about Charlie,' was the reply, 'buthe
seemed rather excited, and insisted that he must return at once.
Charlie will have to stay here until daylight, and then some one can
drive him over.'
As may be imagined, after driving a heavy car for over a hundred
miles at night-time, I was dead tired, but I offered to run Buller
home. The truth was, I was in such a state of nervous tension that I
could not remain inactive, and the thought of sitting still while
McClure and Merril consulted about my friend's condition drove me to
'Will you?' asked Buller. 'II think I should like to get back,'
and I could see that he also was nervous and ill at ease.
'I can get you to your place in a few minutes,' I said, 'and by the
time I get back I hope the doctors will have something to tell us.'
A few minutes later, as we were moving rapidly to Buller's house, I
said abruptly, 'Was it not rather strange that Springfield should take
'I suppose it was,' he replied, 'but he is a funny fellow.'
'What do you know about him?' I asked.
'There is not much to know, is there?' and he spoke hesitatingly.
'The Army List will give you full particulars of his career. I believe
he has spent most of his time abroad.'
'I have neither had time nor opportunity to study Army Lists. How
long was he in India?'
'Not long; only two or three years, I think.'
'Is he any one in particular?' I asked.
I could see by the light of the moon, which was now high in the
heavens, that the young fellow looked at me attentively, as though he
was trying to read my motive in asking these questions.
'I think he expects to be,' was his reply; 'he is as poor as a
church mouse now, but St. Mabyn says he is heir to a peerage, and that
he will have pots of money some time.'
'I really never asked him. Itit wasn't quite my business, was it?
He isn't the sort of chap to talk about himself.'
Sir Thomas was still up when I got back to the house, and the sight
of his face struck terror into my heart. He, who was usually so florid,
looked positively ghastly. His flesh hung loosely on his cheeks, while
he was very baggy around the eyes.
'Have you heard anything?' I asked.
'I don't know, I am not sure,' he replied, 'but I think it is all
'All over! What do you mean?'
'As soon as you had gone, I sent my wife and Lorna to bed. I
wouldn't have them stay up any longer. You see, they could do no good.'
'Have you seen the doctors?'
'No. But I was frightfully nervous, and I crept up to the door of
Edgecumbe's room. I heard them talking together.'
'What did they say?'
'I could detect nothing plainly, but I am sure I heard one of them
say, It's all over. Oh, it is positively awful! I never had such a
thing happen in my house before. Please don't think I blame you,
Luscombe; you didn't know that such a thing would happen when you
brought him here. But the thought of a guest dying in my house
isisdon't you see?'
'I am going to know the worst, anyhow,' I said, for, although I
quite understood his feelings and was naturally upset at the thought of
my being the occasion of his trouble, it was as nothing compared with
my anxiety about my friend.
I therefore abruptly left him, and rushed upstairs to Edgecumbe's
room. I knocked, but receiving no answer I went in.
'How is he?' I asked.
Neither of them spoke, and from the look on their faces I judged
that my worst fears were realized.
CHAPTER XXI. COLONEL McCLURE'S
I moved quickly towards the bed, and in the dim light of the lamp
which stood near saw that a change had come over my friend's face. A
look of perfect peace and tranquility had taken the place of anguish.
'Tell me,' I cried, 'he isn't dead, is he?'
'He is out of pain, at all events,' and Colonel McClure spoke
Unmindful of what they might say, I went close to Edgecumbe, and
gazed at him steadily. As far as I could judge, there was no sign of
'Havehave you done anything for him?' I said, turning to the
doctors. But neither of them spoke. They might have been waiting for
I noticed that Edgecumbe's hands were lying on the coverlet almost
easily and naturally. Why I should have done it, I cannot tell, but I
seized the lamp and held it close to them. They did not look like the
hands of a dead man. In spite of everything, there was a suggestion of
nervous energy in the long, capable-looking fingers. Then I put down
the lamp, and took one of the hands in mine.
'He is alive,' I said; 'the right hand is warm, and it is not
Still the doctors did not speak, but each looked at the other as if
questioningly. They did not appear to resent my action; perhaps they
made allowances for my anxiety; both of them knew how dear he was to
Then something struck me. I saw that one of his hands, although both
were browned by exposure and hardened by labour, was different in
colour from the other.
'Have you noticed that?' I said.
'That his left hand is slightly blue. You can see it beneath the
'By gad, you are right!' It was Colonel McClure who whispered this
excitedly, and I saw that my words had a meaning to him. What was in
his mind I could not tell, but that he was thinking hard I was sure.
'He isn't dead,' I said excitedly; 'I am sure he isn't!' And again I
took his left hand in mine, and lifted it. Then I saw something else.
It was very little, but it meant a great deal to me. I remembered how
that morning Edgecumbe had been using a pair of Indian clubs, and had
rolled up his shirt sleeves. I had remarked to myself at the time the
wonderful ease with which he had swung the clubs, and what perfectly
shaped arms he had. They were large and hard, and firm, without a mark
of any sort. Now, just below the elbow, in the lower part of the arm,
was a blue spot. It was so small that it might have been covered by a
threepenny-piece, and in the dim light of the lamp would not be easily
'Did you see this? Did you do it?' I almost gasped.
Colonel McClure examined the spot closely, and then nodded to Dr.
'Did you see this, Merril?' he asked.
'No,' replied Dr. Merril excitedly. 'As you know youyou!' He
stopped suddenly like one afraid.
Colonel McClure took a powerful glass from his case and examined the
spot closely for some seconds. Then he said to his fellow doctor,
evidently with satisfaction, 'By gad, we've done the right thing!'
'What does it mean?' I asked. 'Tell me.'
'I will tell you in an hour from now,' and I saw a new light in the
colonel's eyes. Then I heard him mutter to himself, 'I was an ass to
have missed that.'
I put my hand upon Edgecumbe's forehead; and I could have sworn that
it was warm and moist. The moisture was different from the clammy sweat
which had poured out on his face when first we had brought him to bed
Excitedly I told the doctors of my impression, and then McClure
commanded me to stand aside, as if I were an interloper. Although I
believe the old military doctor was as excited as I, he made no sign,
save that his lips moved as if he were talking to himself.
'Do you know what it means?' I asked, as he left the bed.
'It means that you must get out of this,' he replied gruffly.
'I won't,' I answered, for I had wellnigh lost control over myself.
Something, I could not tell what, made me sure that an important change
was taking place in my friend's condition, and I forgot all about the
etiquette of a sick-room. The experiences through which I had passed,
my long, midnight journey, together with the feverish anxiety under
which I was suffering, made me forget myself.
'I am his only friend,' I went on, 'and I have a right to be here,
and I have a right to know everything. What is it? What have you done?'
Scarcely realizing what I was doing, I went to the window and pulled
up the blinds. Day was breaking, the sky was clear, and the eastern
horizon was tinged with the light of the rising sun. In the light of
the new-born day, the lamp looked sickly and out of place. I remember,
too, that it made a strange impression upon me; it seemed as though
light were fighting with darkness, and that light was being triumphant.
'Don't be an ass, Luscombe,' said the Scotchman; 'I will tell you
everything presently, but can't you see that'
'I can see that he's going to live,' I interrupted. 'His face is
more natural; it doesn't look so rigid. I believe there is colour
coming into his lips.'
'Find your way into the kitchen, there are some servants there, and
bring some hot water immediately.'
For the next hour, I scarcely remember anything that happened. I
imagine that I was so excited that my experiences left no definite
impress upon my brain. I have indistinct remembrances of alternating
between hope and despair, between joy and sorrow. I remember, too, that
I was called upon to perform certain actions, but to this day I do not
know what they were. I was more like an automaton than a man.
At the end of the hour, however, Colonel McClure accompanied me into
my bedroom, which, as I have said, adjoined that of Edgecumbe.
'We've done it, my boy,' he said, and I noted the satisfaction in
'He will live, then?'
He nodded. 'Barring accidents, he will. But it's a mystery to me.'
'What is a mystery?'
'I hardly like to tell you. But you are no hysterical woman, and you
have a steady head on you. Until an hour and a half ago, I was acting
in the dark, acting blindly. Even now I have no proof of anything. You
say your friend was in India?'
'I have told you all I know,' was my answer.
'I spent twelve years there,' went on the colonel. 'A great part of
the time I was with native regiments, and I have had some peculiar
experiences. India's a strange country, and in many things the people
there can teach us Westerners a lot. Look here, why did you come for
'Instinct,' I replied.
'But instinct has a basis in reason.'
'Has it? I am not enough of a psychologist to answer that question.
Tell me why you are asking me all this.'
'Because I am afraid to tell you what is in my mind. Do you remember
what Merril said?'
'Yes,' I replied; 'he said that according to symptoms my friend had
been poisoned. But he didn't see how it could possibly be, and he said
that the case was completely beyond him.'
'Exactly. When I went into that room, I of course had your words in
my mind. India has a hundred poisons unknown to the West, many of them
are subtle, almost undiscoverable. I called to my mind what I had
learned in India, what I had seen and done there. Frankly, I don't
understand your friend's case. Had it been in India, I should have
understood it, and what was possible, ay, what would have amounted to
certainty there, was utterly impossible in Englandat least, so it
seemed to me. But I acted on the assumption that I was in India.'
'You mean that you injected an antidote for a poison that you know
of?' I ventured.
He looked at me steadily for a few seconds, but he did not speak.
'Now look here, Luscombe,' he said, after a long silence, 'I
hesitated to tell you this, because it is a serious business.'
'You see,' he went on, 'we are not in the realm of proof. But as
sure as I am a living man, if your friend was poisoned, some one
poisoned him, unless he had a curious way of trying to commit suicide.'
'He didn't try to commit suicide,' I replied.
'You remember that mark in the arm?'
'In another hour it will be gone. If he had died, it would not be
there. I was a blind fool not to have seen it. I examined his arm just
before we came in here,the discolourment has nearly passed away. In
an hour there'll be only a little spot about the size of a pin-prick.
Do you feel free to tell me anything of your suspicions? Remember, they
can only be suspicions. There can be no possible proof of anything, and
even although you may have drawn conclusions, which to you are
unanswerable, you might be committing the cruellest crime against
another man by speaking them aloud.'
'Then I'll not tell you my suspicions,' I said. 'I will only recount
Then I told him the things I remembered.
Colonel McClure looked very grave.
'No,' he said, at length, 'this is something which we dare not speak
of aloud. I must think this out, my boy, so must you, and when our
minds are settled a bit we can talk again.'
When we returned to Edgecumbe's room, my friend was sleeping almost
naturally, while the relief of every member of the household, who had
all been informed of Edgecumbe's remarkable recovery, can be better
imagined than expressed.
'Have the doctors told you what is the matter with him?' asked Sir
'No,' I replied; 'perhaps they are not sure themselves.'
'But they must know, man! I gather that they performed a certain
operation, and they wouldn't do that without some definite object.'
'The ways of doctors are very mysterious,' I laughed; 'anyhow, we
are thankful that the danger is over. Merril tells me that Edgecumbe is
sleeping quite naturally, while McClure is quite sure that in a few
hours he will awake almost well.'
'But that seems impossible, man! A few hours ago he despaired of his
life, and now'
'The great thing is he is better,' I interrupted. I did not want the
old baronet to have the least inkling of my suspicion. After all, I
could prove nothing, and indeed, as McClure had said, it might be a
crime to accuse any man of having anything to do with Edgecumbe's
During the time I had been in the Army, I had heard of cases of men
losing their memory, and of a sudden shock bringing their past back to
them. I wondered if this would be so in Edgecumbe's case. Might not the
crisis through which he had passed, the crisis which had brought him
close to the gates of death, tear aside the veil which hid his past
from him? Might not the next few hours reveal the mystery of his life,
and make all things plain?
CHAPTER XXII. EDGECUMBE'S RESOLVE
Some hours later I saw Colonel McClure again. He had become so
interested in Edgecumbe's case, that he refused to go back to Plymouth
until he was certain that all was well; and although Dr. Merril had
left early that morning, in order to attend to his patients, he had
arranged to meet him at Bolivick later.
'It's all right, Luscombe. Your friend's talking quite naturally
with Merril. He is rather weak, but otherwise he's splendid.'
'May I see him?' I asked eagerly.
'Oh, yes, certainly.'
When I entered the bedroom, I found Edgecumbe sitting up in bed, and
although he looked rather tired, he spoke naturally.
'I can't understand why I'm here,' he said, with a laugh, 'but I
suppose I must obey orders. I was tremendously surprised about half an
hour ago when on awaking I saw two men who told me they were doctors,
and who seemed frightfully interested in my condition.'
Dr. Merril went out of the room as he spoke, leaving us together.
'Has anything particular happened to me, Luscombe? You needn't be
afraid to tell me, man; I am all right.'
'Have you no remembrance of anything yourself?' I said.
'Nothing, except that I was attacked by a horrible pain, and that I
became blind. After that I think my senses must have left me, for I can
remember nothing more.'
I looked at him eagerly. I remembered Colonel McClure's injunction,
and yet I was more anxious than I can say to ask him questions.
'Did you feel nothing before the pain?'
'I felt awfully languid,' he replied, after a few seconds' silence,
'but nothing more.'
He lifted himself up in the bed, and I could not help noticing that
his face looked younger, and that his skin was almost natural. The old,
parched look had largely passed away; it might have been as though a
new and rejuvenating force had entered his system.
'Springfield and I are in for a big battle.'
I wondered whether he knew anything of my suspicions, and whether by
some means or another the thoughts which haunted not only my mind, but
that of Colonel McClure, had somehow reached his.
'Springfield means to have her, but I am not going to let him.'
'You are thinking about Miss Bolivick,' I said.
'Who else?' And his face flushed as he spoke. 'When I saw her first,
I was hopeless, but now'
'Yes, now,' I repeated, as I saw him hesitate, 'what now?'
For the moment I had forgotten all about his illness. I did not
realize that I might be doing wrong by allowing him to excite himself.
'Buller is not the danger,' he cried; 'he is but a puppet in
Springfield's hands. There's something between that man and me which I
can't explain; but there's going to be a battle royal between us. He
means to marry Lorna Bolivick. In his own way he has fallen in love
with her. But he shall never have her.'
'How are you going to stop him?' I asked.
I saw his lips quiver, while his eyes burnt with the light of
'Surely you do not mean,' I went on, 'that you hope to marry her?'
'I not only hope to,I mean to,' he said.
I was silent for a few seconds. I did not want to hinder his
recovery, by saying anything which might cause him to despair, but the
thing which had been born in his mind seemed so senseless, so hopeless,
that I felt it would be cruel on my part to allow him to entertain such
a mad feeling.
'Surely you have not considered the impossibility of such a thing,'
'Nothing's impossible,' he cried.
'But do you not see the insuperable barriers in the way?'
'I see the barriers, but they must be swept aside. Why, man!' and
his voice became stronger, 'when I awoke a few hours ago, and saw those
two doctor chaps, I was first of all bewildered, I could not
understand. Then it suddenly came to me where I was, in whose house I
was staying, and in a flash I realized everything. As I said, when I
saw her first, I despaired; but no man who believes in God should
despair. I tell you, the thought of it means life, health, strength, to
me! I have something great to live for. Why, think, man, think!'
'I am thinking hard,' I replied. 'I need hardly tell you, Edgecumbe,
that I am your friend, and that I wish you the best that you can hope
for. It seems cruel, too, after what you have gone through, to try to
destroy the thought which is evidently dear to you, but I must do it.'
'But I love her, man!' and his voice trembled as he spoke. 'When I
saw her standing in the doorway, as we drove up the other night, she
was a revelation to me,she made all the world new. One look into her
eyes was like opening the gates of heaven. Do you realize what a pure
soul she has?how beautiful she is? She is a child woman. She has all
the innocence, all the artlessness of a child of ten, and all the
resolution, and the foresight, and the daring of a woman. She seemed to
me like a being from another world, like one sent to tell me what life
should be. She made everything larger, grander, holier, and before I
had been in her presence five seconds I knew that I was hers for ever
and for ever.'
'It is because she is so pure, and so innocent, that you should give
up all such thoughts at once,' I said.
'But why should I? Tell me that.'
'You will not think me harsh or unkind?'
'I shall not think anything wrong,' and he laughed as he spoke. 'I
will tell you why. Nothing can destroy my resolve.'
'My dear fellow,' I said, 'evidently you don't realize the
'Well, help me to realize it; tell me what you have in your mind.'
'First of all, a woman's love may not be won easily,it may be she
cares for some one else.'
'I will make her love me!' he cried; 'she will not be able to help
herself. She will see that my love for her fills my whole being, and
that I live to serve her, protect her, worship her.'
'Many men have loved in vain,' I replied; 'but, assuming for the
moment that you could win her love, your hopes would be still as
impossible as ever.'
'Rule out the word impossible. But tell me why you believe it is
'First of all, Lorna Bolivick is a young lady of position, she is a
child of an old family, and when she marries she will naturally marry
into her own class.'
'Naturally; but what of that? Am I not ofof her class?'
'Doubtless. But face facts. You have not a penny beyond your
pay;would it be fair, would it be right of you, to go to such a girl
as she, reared as she has been, and offer her only poverty?'
'I will make a position,' he cried enthusiastically. 'I'm not a
'How? When?' I asked.
'For the moment I don't know how, or when,' he replied, 'but it
shall be done.'
'Then think again,' I went on, 'you could not marry her without her
parents' consent, and if they know your purposes they would close their
doors against you. Fancy Sir Thomas Bolivick allowing his daughter to
marry a man with only a subaltern's pay!'
'Number two,' he replied with a laugh; 'go on,'and I could see
that he regarded my words as of no more weight than thistledown.
'Yes, that is number two,' I replied. 'Now to come to number three.
Do you think that you, alone, are strong enough to match yourself with
'You mean Buller and Springfield? I have told you what I think about
Buller; as for Springfield, he's a bad man. Besides, if I am poor, is
he not poor, too? He's only a captain.'
'Buller tells me he's the heir to a peerage,' I replied, 'and that
when somebody dies he will come into pots of money. And whatever else
you may think about him, he is a strong man, capable and determined. If
you are right about him, and you think there's going to be a battle
royal between you two, you will have a dangerous enemy, an enemy who
will stop at nothing. But that is not all. The greatest difficulty has
not yet been mentioned.'
'What is that?'
I hesitated before replying. I felt I was going to be cruel, and yet
I could not help it.
'You have no right to ask any woman to be your wife,' I
urged'least of all a woman whom you love as you say you love Lorna
'Why?' and there was a tone of anxiety in his voice.
'Because you don't know who you are, or what you are. You are, I
should judge, a man thirty years of age. What your history has been you
don't know. Possibly you have a wife somewhere.'
I was sorry the moment I had uttered the words, for he gave a cry
almost amounting to agony.
'No, no,' he gasped, 'not that!'
'You don't know,' I said; 'the past is an utter blank to you; you
have no recollection of anything which happened before you lost your
'No, no, not that, Luscombe. I am sure that if I ever married, if I
ever loved a woman, I should know it,I should feel it instinctively.'
'I am not sure. You say you have no memory of your father or mother;
surely if you remembered anything you'd remember them? Now suppose,of
course it is an almost impossible contingency, but suppose you won
Lorna Bolivick's consent to be your wife; suppose you obtained a
position sufficiently good for Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick to consent
to your marrying her; and then suppose your memory came back, and the
whole of your past were made known to you, and you discovered that
there was a woman here in England, or somewhere else, whom you married
years ago, and whom you loved, and who had been grieving because of
your loss? Can't you see the situation?'
I could see I had impressed him. Instead of the light of resolution,
there was a haunting fear in his eyes.
'I had not thought of that,' he murmured. 'Of course it is not
so,I am sure it is not so. Still, as you say, it would not be fair to
submit her to a suspicion of danger.'
'Then of course you give up the thought?'
'Oh, no,' he replied. 'Of course I must think it out, and I must
meet the situation; but I give up nothingnothing.'
As I rose to leave him, McClure stood in the door of the bedroom and
beckoned to me.
'Springfield and Buller are downstairs,' he whispered to me; 'they
have come to lunch. Can you manage to get a chat with the fellow? It
seems horrible to have such suspicions, but'
'Yes, I understand,' I replied, noting his hesitation.
'If what is in both our minds has any foundation in fact,' he went
on, 'Edgecumbe should be warned. I hate talking like this, and it is
'I know what you feel,' I said, 'but what can we do? As we both have
to admit, nothing can be proved, and it would be a crime to accuse an
innocent man of such a thing.'
'Yes, I know; but the more I have thought about the matter, the more
I am sure thatthatanyhow, get a chat with him. I must get back to
Plymouth soon, but before I go you and I must have a further talk. This
thing must be bottomed, man, must! I'll be down in a minute.'
I made my way toward the dining-room, forming plans of action as I
did so. I had by this time made up my mind concerning Springfield.
Whether he were guilty of what Colonel McClure had hinted at, I was not
sure, but a thousand things told me that he both feared and hated my
friend. How could I pierce his armour, and protect Edgecumbe at the
When I entered the dining-room, he and Lorna Bolivick were talking
together. I watched their faces for a few seconds unheeded by them. I
do not know what he was saying to her, but she was listening to him
eagerly. In some way he had destroyed the instinctive feeling of
revulsion which he had created in her mind months before. She seemed
like one fascinated; he held her as though by a strong personality, a
strange fascination. There was no doubt in my mind, either, that
although he had come to Devonshire as the guest of young Buller, he was
a rival for Lorna Bolivick's hand. As much as such a man as he could
love a woman, he loved Lorna Bolivick, and meant to win her.
CHAPTER XXIII. SPRINGFIELD'S
After lunch, I got my chance of a few minutes' chat with
Springfield. I think I managed it without arousing any suspicions;
certainly he did not manifest any, neither did he appear in the
slightest degree ruffled when I talked with him about Edgecumbe's
'You have been in India, I think, Springfield?' I said.
'Who told you that?'
'I have almost forgotten. Perhaps it was St. Mabyn, or it might have
been Buller. Were you there long?'
'A couple of years,' he replied. 'I was glad to get away, too. It is
a beastly part of the world.'
'I asked,' I said, 'because Edgecumbe had just come from India when
I first saw him, and I was wondering whether you could throw any light
upon his sudden illness.'
'My dear chap, I'm not a doctor. What does McClure say?'
'He's in a bit of a fog,' I replied, 'so is Merril.'
'Doctors usually are,' he laughed. 'For my own part, I think that a
great deal of fuss has been made about the whole business. After all,
what did it amount to?'
'It was a very strange illness,' I replied.
'Was it? Certainly the fellow was taken bad suddenly, and he fell
down in a sort of fit, but that is nothing strange.'
'It is to a man whose general health is as good as that of
'Yes, but India plays ducks and drakes with any man's constitution,'
he replied. 'You see, you know nothing about Edgecumbe, and his loss of
memory may be a very convenient thing to him.'
'What do you mean?
'I mean nothing, except this: Edgecumbe, I presume, has been a man
of the world; how he lost his memoryassuming, of course, that he
has lost itis a mystery. But he has lived in India, and possibly,
while there, went the whole hog. Excuse me, Luscombe, but I have no
romantic notions about him. He seems to be on the high moral horse just
now, but what his past has been neither of us know. As I said, life in
India plays ducks and drakes with a man's constitution, especially if
he has been a bit wild. Doubtless the remains of some old disease is in
his system, andandwe saw the results.' He lit a cigarette as he
spoke, and I noticed that his hand was perfectly steady.
'Is that your explanation?' I asked.
'I have no explanation,' he replied, 'but that seems to me as likely
as any other.'
'Because, between ourselves,' I went on, 'both McClure and Merril
think he was poisoned.'
He was silent for a few seconds, as though thinking, then he asked
quite naturally, 'How could that be?'
'McClure, as you know, was an Army doctor in India,' I said.
'Well, then, if any one ought to know, he ought,' and he puffed at
his cigarette; 'but what symptoms did he give of being poisoned?'
I detailed Edgecumbe's condition, his torpor, and the symptoms which
'Is there anything suggestive of poisoning in that?' he asked, like
a man curious.
'McClure seems to think so.'
'Of course he may be right,' he replied carelessly, 'but I don't
know enough about the subject to pass an opinion worth having. All the
same, if he were poisoned, it is a wonder to me how he got well so
quickly'; and he hummed a popular music-hall air.
'The thing which puzzles McClure,' I went on, 'and he seems to know
a good deal about Indian poisons, is the almost impossibility of such a
thing happening here in England. He says that the Indians have a trick
of poisoning their enemies by pricking them with some little instrument
that they possess, an instrument by which they can inject poison into
the blood. It leaves no mark after death, but is followed by symptoms
almost identical with those which Edgecumbe had. During the time the
victim is suffering, there is a little blue mark on the spot where the
injection was made.'
I looked at him steadily as I spoke, trying to see whether he
manifested any uneasiness or emotion. But he baffled me. I thought I
saw his lips twitch, and his eyes contract, but I might easily have
been mistaken. If he were a guilty man, then he was the greatest actor,
and had the most supreme command over himself, of any one I had ever
'And did you find such a mark on your friend?' he asked, after a few
'Yes,' I replied, 'close to the elbow.'
He showed no emotion whatever, and yet I could not help feeling that
he was conscious of what was in my mind. Of course this might be pure
imagination on my part, and I do not think any detective of fiction
fame would have gained the slightest inkling from his face that he was
in any way connected with it.
Springfield took his cigarette case-from his tunic, and extracted
another cigarette. 'It seems a bit funny, doesn't it? but I don't
pretend to offer an explanation. By the way, will he be well enough to
go back to duty when his leave is up?'
'I don't know,' I replied. 'McClure will have to decide that.'
'I should think you will be glad to get rid of him, Luscombe.'
'Why?' I asked.
'The fellow seems such an impossible bounder. Excuse me, but that is
how he struck me.'
'You didn't seem to think so when you thanked him for saving your
life,' was my reply.
'No, of course that was different'; and his voice was somewhat
strained as he spoke. 'II ought not to have said that, Luscombe. When
one man owes another his life, hehe should be careful. If I can do
the fellow a good turn, I will; and since in these days anybody can
become an officer in the British Army, II' He stammered uneasily,
and then went on: 'Of course it is different when you have to meet a
man as an equal in a friend's house. But there,I must be going. I
have to get back to town to-night.'
In spite of what I had said to Edgecumbe, I was angry at seeing that
Springfield spent two hours that afternoon with Lorna Bolivick. There
could be no doubt about it, the fellow had broken down all her
antagonism towards him, and was bent on making a good impression on
her. I found, too, that Sir Thomas Bolivick regarded him with great
favour. By some means or another, the news had come to him that
Springfield was a possible heir to a peerage, and that while he was at
present poor, he would on the death of a distant relative become a very
rich man. This fact had doubtless increased his interest in
Springfield, and perhaps had lessened his annoyance at the fact that
Lorna had failed to fall in with his previous wishes concerning her.
'Remarkably clever fellow.' he confided in me; 'the kind of man who
makes an impression wherever he goes. When I saw him at St. Mabyn's
more than a year ago, I did not like him so much, but he grows on one.'
'By the way, what peerage is he heir to?' I asked. 'I never heard of
it until yesterday.'
'Oh, he'll come into Lord Carbis's title and estates.'
'Carbis? Then it's not an old affair?'
'Oh no,the present Lord Carbis was created a peer in 1890.'
'A brewer, isn't he?' I asked.
'Yes,' and I thought Sir Thomas looked somewhat uneasy. 'Of course
there are very few old peerages now,' he went on; 'the old families
have a way of dying out, somehow. But Carbis is one of the richest men
in the country. I suppose he paid nearly a million for the Carbis
estates. Carbis Castle is almost medieval, I suppose, and the oldest
part of the building was commenced I don't know how many hundreds of
years ago. Oh, Springfield will be in a magnificent position when the
present Lord Carbis dies.'
'Beer seems a very profitable thing,' I could not help laughing.
'Personally I have no prejudice against these beer peerages,'
replied Sir Thomas somewhat warmly. 'Of course I would prefer a more
ancient creation, but these are democratic days. If a man creates a
great fortune by serving the State, why shouldn't he be honoured? When
you come to think about it, I suppose the brewing class has provided
more peerages than any other during the last fifty years. Come now,
Luscombe,' and Sir Thomas looked at me almost angrily.
Just before Colonel McClure left, he drew me aside, and asked me if
I had spoken to Springfield, and on my describing our conversation, he
looked very grave.
'I can't make it out, Luscombe,' he said. 'If my twelve years'
experience in India goes for anything, your friend Edgecumbe was
poisoned. He had every symptom of a man who had a subtle and deadly
poison injected into his blood. And the way he responded to the
treatment I gave him coincided exactly with what I have seen a dozen
times in India.'
'Might it not be merely a coincidence?' I asked.
'Of course almost anything is possible,' he replied, 'and I could
not swear in a court of law that he had been poisoned. I gather you are
fond of Edgecumbe,' he added.
'Yes,' I replied; 'it may be it is owing to the peculiar
circumstances by which we were brought together, and from the fact that
more than once he saved my life. And no man could love his brother more
than I love him.'
'Then,' said Colonel McClure earnestly, 'watch over him, my friend;
guard him as if he were your own son.'
I spent a good deal of time in Edgecumbe's room that night, but we
scarcely spoke. He was sleeping most of the time, and I was warned
against exciting him. The following day, however, he was quite like his
natural self, and expressed his determination to get up. As Colonel
McClure had encouraged this, I made no attempt to oppose him, and the
afternoon of the Monday being fine and sunny, we walked in the park
'Springfield's gone to London, hasn't he?' he asked.
'Yes,' I replied; and then I blurted out, 'He spent yesterday
afternoon with Miss Bolivick. I am inclined to think you are right
about his intentions concerning her.'
'Do you think he has spoken to her?'
'I shouldn't be surprised, and for that matter I am inclined to
think he has had a serious conversation with her father.'
I was almost sorry, when I saw the look on his face, that I had
spoken in this way. He became very pale, and his lips quivered as
though he were much moved. 'Of course,' I went on, trying to make the
best of my faux pas, 'it may be a good thing for you.'
'Why?' he asked.
'If he has been successful, it will make you see how foolish your
'Do you know me so little as that?' he asked.
'But surely, my dear fellow,' I said, 'in the face of what I said
yesterday, you will not think of entertaining such impossible ideas?'
'You mean about my having a wife somewhere,' and he laughed.
'I mean that, under the most favourable circumstances, no honourable
man could, in your position, ask a woman to marry him.'
'I mean to ask her, though,' was his reply.
'But, my dear fellow'
'Luscombe,' and there was a steady look in his eyes as he spoke, 'I
have thought it all out. Almighty God never put such a love in a man's
heart as He has put in my heart for Lorna Bolivick, to laugh at him. At
the very first opportunity I shall tell her everything.'
'And if she refuses you,' I said, 'as most likely she will?'
'I shall still love her, and never give up hoping and striving.'
'I mean that nothing will turn me aside from my determination,
'But supposing you have a wife,supposing that when you were a boy,
before you lost your memory, you married some one, what then?'
'Don't talk rubbish, old man,' was his reply.
'After all,' I reflected that night when I went to bed, 'perhaps it
is best that he should speak to her. She will regard his declaration as
madness, and will tell him so. He never saw her until three hours ago,
and if, as I suspect, Springfield has fascinated her, she will make him
see what a fool he has been. Then he will give up his madness.'
That was why I left them together the next day. All the same, there
was a curious pain in my heart as I saw them walk away side by side,
for I knew by the light in his eyes that he meant to carry out his
CHAPTER XXIV. A STRANGE LOVE-MAKING
Few men tell each other about their love-making, especially
Englishmen. Mostly we regard such things as too sacred to speak about,
even to those we trust and love the most. Besides, there is something
in the character of the normal Englishman which is reserved and
secretive, and the thought of telling about our love-making is utterly
repugnant to us. Nevertheless, Edgecumbe told me the story of their
conversation that afternoon almost word for word as it took place.
He spoke of it quite naturally, too, as though it were the right
thing to do. He looked upon me as his one friend, and perhaps the
abnormal condition of his life made him do what under other
circumstances he would never have thought of. Anyhow, he told me, while
I listened incredulous, but almost spellbound.
They had been but a few minutes together, when he commenced his
confession. They had left the lane in which they had been walking and
were crossing a field which led to a piece of woodland, now beginning
to be tinged by those autumn tints which are so beautiful in our
It was one of those autumn days, which are often more glorious than
even those of midsummer. The sweetness and freshness of summer had
gone, and the browning leaves and shortening days warned us that winter
was coming on apace. But as they walked, the sun shone in a cloudless
sky. The morning had been gloomy and showery, but now, as if by a
magician's wand, the clouds had been swept away, and nothing but the
great dome of blue, illumined by the brightness of the sun, was over
them. The rain, too, had cleared the air, and the raindrops which here
and there still hung on the grass sparkled in the sunlight.
'It seems,' said Edgecumbe, 'as though the glory of yonder woods is
simply defying the coming of winter. Do you see the colouring, the
almost unearthly beauty, of the leaves? That is because the sun is
shining on them.'
'Yes;' replied Lorna, 'but the winter is coming.'
'Only for a little while, and it only means that nature will take a
rest. It's a glorious thing to live, Miss Bolivick.'
She looked at him earnestly for a few seconds. Perhaps she was
thinking of the illness through which he had passed, and of his
thankfulness at his recovery.
'I am so glad you're better,' she said. 'We were all heart-broken at
your illness. I hope'
But she did not finish the sentence. Perhaps she saw that he was not
heeding what she said,saw, too, that his eyes were far away.
For a few seconds they walked on in silence. Then he turned towards
'I have something to tell you,' he said,'something very
'You look awfully serious,' and she gave a nervous laugh as she
spoke; 'I hope it is nothing to frighten me.'
'Perhaps it is,' he replied, 'but it must be said,the words would
choke me if I didn't utter them.'
She looked at him like one frightened, but did not speak.
'It is all summed up in three words,' he went on: 'I love you. No,
don't speak yet; it would not be right. I never saw you until Friday
night,that is, I have no ordinary remembrance of seeing you until
then. My friend had spoken to me about you; he had told me of your
interest in me. He showed me the letter you wrote him. I did not want
to come here, but something, I don't know what it was, made me. When I
saw you on Friday evening, I knew. You stood at the doorway of your
father's house, with the light of the setting sun upon your face. I
could not speak at the time,words wouldn't come. No wonder, for life
begun for me at that moment,I mean full life, complete life. When I
saw you, the world became new. You thought I acted strangely, didn't
you? I told you that I never remembered speaking to a woman until then.
In a way, of course, it was foolishness, although in another it was the
truth. My past is a blank,that is, up to the time I awoke to a
realization that I lived, away in India; and since then my life has
been with men. But that wasn't what I meant. When I saw you, you were
the only woman in the world,you are now. You are the fulfilment of my
dreams, longing, hopes, ideals. You are all the world.'
The two walked on side by side, neither speaking for some time after
this. Perhaps Lorna Bolivick was frightened,perhaps she was wondering
how she could at once be kind, and still make him see the foolishness
of what he had said.
'I am glad you are silent,' went on Edgecumbe, 'for your silence
helps me. Do you know, when I came to England,that is, when I saw
Luscombe for the first time, I had no thought of God except in a vague,
shadowy way. Something, I don't know what, had obliterated Him from my
existence,if ever He had an existence to me, and for months
afterwards I never thought of Him. Then I went into a Y.M.C.A. hut in
France, where a man spoke about Him, and I caught the idea. It was
wonderful,wonderful! Presently I found Him, found Him in reality, and
He illumined the whole of my life. I read that wonderful story of how
He sent His Son to reveal Him,I saw His love in the life and death of
Jesus Christ,and life has never been the same to me since then. But
something was wanting, even then; something human, something that was
necessary to complete life. Then I saw you, and you completed it.
'I don't know whether men call you beautiful, or not,that doesn't
matter. You have not come into my life like an angel, but as a woman, a
human woman. I know nothing about you, and yet I know everything. You
are the one woman God meant for me, you fill my life,you glorify it.
You mustn't think of marrying anybody else, it would be sacrilege if
you did. Such a love as mine wasn't intended to be discarded,mustn't
'Mr. Edgecumbe,' she said quietly, 'I think we had better return to
'No, don't let us go back yet; there are other things I want to
say'; and he walked steadily on. She still kept by his side,perhaps
she was not so much influenced by his words, as the way he said them,
for I knew by the look in his eyes when he told me his story, and by
what I felt at the recital of it, that there was a strange intensity, a
wonderful magnetism, in his presence.
'I am very ignorant,' he continued presently, 'about the ways of the
world. I suppose I must have known at one time, for Luscombe tells me
that I generally do what might be expected of a gentleman, although
sometimes I make strange mistakes. The loss of one's memory, I suppose,
has a curious effect, and I cannot explain it to you. There are certain
things which are very real, and very plain,others are obscure. For
example, I speak German perfectly; but until I read it a few months
ago, I knew nothing of German history. Forgive me for saying that,it
has nothing to do with what I want to tell you, and yet perhaps it has.
Anyhow, it makes plain certain things I do and say. You are going to be
'Really, Mr. Edgecumbe,please,please'
'You are going to be my wife,' he went on, as if she had not spoken;
'some day, if not now, you are going to wake up to the fact that you
love me, as I love you,that just as you are the only woman in the
world to me, so I am the only man in the world to you. That is not
because of my worthiness, because I am not worthy, but because the fire
which burns in my heart will be kindled in yours. This seems like
madness on my part, doesn't it?but I am not mad. I am only speaking
because of a great conviction, and because my love envelops me, fills
me, overwhelms me. Don't you see? Then this has come to me: I am poor,
I am nameless, homeless,but what of that? Love such as mine makes
everything possible, and I am going to make a name, make wealth, make
riches;it won't take me long. Why,' and he laughed as he spoke, 'what
is a great love for, but to conquer difficulties, to sweep away
'But this is madness, Mr. Edgecumbe,' replied the girl, finding her
voice at last. 'I can't allow you to speak in such a way any longer; it
would be wrong for me to do so. I do not wish to hurt you, and indeed I
am very sorry for you. I never thought that you would think of me in
this way; if I had, I would never have asked you to come here. But you
must see how impossible everything is; our habits of life, our
associations, everything, make it impossible. Besides, I don't love
you,never can love you.'
'Oh, yes, you can,' replied Edgecumbe, 'and you will. It may be you
will have a great battle to fight,I think you will; but you will love
me. When I am away from you,when I am over in France, facing death,
you will think of me, think of this hour, and you will remember that
wherever I am, and whatever I am, I am thinking of you, loving
you,that my one object in life will be to win a position for you, to
win a name for you. No, no, do not fear that I would ask you to marry
me until, even in that sense, I am worthy of you. But you are young,
and can wait, and, as you remember, perhaps in the silence of the
night, that there is a man whom God made for you, thinking for you,
striving for you,you will learn the great secret.'
I fancy at that time Lorna Bolivick really thought his mind was
unhinged; I imagine, too, that she was afraid, because Edgecumbe told
me that a look amounting almost to terror was in her eyes. But he seems
to have taken no notice of this, for he went on.
'You are thinking of other men who love you; that young fellow
Buller is very fond of you in his own way, and perhaps Springfield has
also made love to you. Perhaps, too, he has fascinated you. But that
will not stop you from loving me. Even if you have promised him
anything, you must give him up.'
'Perhaps you will finish your walk alone, Mr. Edgecumbe,' she said.
'II am going back to the house.'
'Not yet,' he replied. 'In a few minutes I shall have finished. I
did not expect you to be as patient as you have been, and I thank you.
But if you have any thoughts about Springfield, you will give
them up. He is no fit mate for you; he is as far removed from you as
heaven is from hell.'
At this she spoke passionately. 'You doubtless have forgotten many
things,' she said, 'and one thing is that one gentleman never speaks
evil of another.'
'I say what I have to say,' he replied, 'because life, and all it
means, trembles in the balance. I do not pretend to know anything about
Springfield, although I have a feeling that his life and my life have
been associated in the past, and will be again in the future. But let
that pass. You may be fascinated by him, but you can never love
him,you simply can't. Your nature is as pure as those raindrops, as
transparent as the sky. You love things that are pure and
beautiful,and that man's nature is dark and sinister, if not evil.
There is only one other thing I have to tell you, then we will return.
You see,' he added, 'I am not asking you to promise me anything, or to
tell me anything,I only want to tell you. I suppose I am about thirty
years of age, I don't know; how long ago it was that I lost my memory I
can't tell; but my friend Luscombe tells me that perhaps, when I was
younger than I am nowthat is in those days which are all dark to
meI loved some woman and married her. Of course I didn't. But even
when I have won a position worthy of you, and when my name shall be
equal to yours, I will never think of asking you to wed me until even
all possibility of suspicion of such a thing is swept aside. I thought
it right to tell you this; how could I help it,when the joy that
should fill your life, the light which you should rejoice in, are all
the world to me?'
'Mr. Edgecumbe,' she said, 'you are my father's guest, andandI
want to think only kind thoughts of you,but please drive away these
He laughed gaily. 'Foolish fancies! Is the sun foolish for shining?
Are the flowers foolish for blooming? No, no; I love you,I love you,
and day and night, summer and winter, through shine and through storm,
my one thought will be of you, always of you, and then, in God's good
time, you will come to me, and we shall enter into joy.'
During the greater part of their journey back scarcely a word passed
between them, and when at length they drew near the house again, he
spoke to her of other things, as though his mad confession had never
been uttered. He told her of the books he was trying to read, books
which were new to him, and yet which he felt he had read before; told,
too, of his thought about the war, and what we were fighting for, and
what the results would be. He spoke of his friendship with me, and of
what it meant to him; of his new life in the Artillery, and of his
progress as a gunner, and when he came up to the door where I was
waiting anxiously for them, he was telling her a humorous story about
two soldiers at the front. Indeed, so much had he erased the influence
of what he had at first said to her, that when Lorna Bolivick reached
the house she was laughing gaily.
'Had a pleasant walk?' I asked.
'Wonderful,' replied Edgecumbe; 'a walk never to be forgotten.'
As for Lorna, she went away to her room, and did not appear again
That night Edgecumbe revealed himself in a new light. No other
visitors were there, with the exception of Miss Blackwater. That was
the reason, perhaps, he was able to speak freely, and act naturally.
But, certainly, I never knew him such a pleasant companion as then, and
he revealed phases of character which I had never suspected him of.
This man, who was often wistful, and generally strenuous in his
earnestness, became humorous and gay. Sometimes he was almost brilliant
in his repartees, and revealed a fund of humour which surprised me.
Sometimes he grew quite eloquent in discussing the war, and in telling
what he believed the effects would be on the life of men and nations.
He showed an insight into the deeper movements of the times, which
revealed him as a thinker of no mean order, while his idealism and his
patriotism were contagious.
Whether he had a purpose in all this, I cannot say, but certain it
is he simply captivated the old baronet.
'Dash it, man!' cried Sir Thomas to me, just before I went to bed,
'the fellow is a genius. I never dreamed of such a thing! With luck,
he'll make his mark. Hehe might do anything. Upon my word, I am sorry
he's going to-morrow. I thought on Saturday he was nothing but a
teetotal fanatic, but the fellow is wonderful. He has a keen sense of
humour, too. I wonder who and what he really is. It is the most
remarkable case I ever heard of in my life.'
'For my own part,' I said, 'I almost dread his memory coming back.'
'There are times when a man's past had better be buried and
'On the other hand,' broke in Sir Thomas, 'it may be the beginning
of a new life to him. Perhaps he has a name, wealth, position.'
Lorna Bolivick, who was standing by, did not speak, but I could see
that her father's words influenced her. Perhaps she was thinking of the
mad confession which Edgecumbe had made that day.
The next day we returned to London.
CHAPTER XXV. 'WHY IS VICTORY
'The war still drags on, Luscombe.'
'Yes, it still drags on,' and I looked up from the copy of The
Times which I had been reading. 'They seem to have had bad weather
at the front. From what I can judge, the Somme push is practically at
an end for this winter, unless better weather sets in.'
The train by which we travelled had just left Bristol, and would not
stop until we arrived in London.
'Of course,' I went on, 'it will be Haig's policy to keep the
Germans busy all the winter, but I don't imagine that much more advance
will be made before spring comes.'
'That will mean another winter in the trenches, with its ghastly
toll of suffering and sacrifice of human life.'
'I am afraid so,' I said, 'but then we are at war.'
'How long is this going to last?' and there was a note of impatience
in his voice.
'Until the Germans are brought to their knees,' I replied, 'and that
will be no easy matter. When a nation like Germany has spent forty
years in preparation for war, it isn't easily beaten. You see they were
piling up mountains of munitions, while the Krupp's factories were
turning out thousands of big guns all the time we were asleep. Now we
are paying the price for it.'
'The same old tale,' he laughed, 'big guns, explosives, millions of
'It must be the same old tale,' I replied. 'This is a war of
exhaustion, and the nations which can hold out longest will win.'
'Then where does God come in?' he asked.
I was silent. For one thing, I did not wish to enter into a
religious argument, and for another I scarcely knew what to say.
'You know those words in the Bible, Luscombe,Some trust in
horsemen, some in chariots, but we will trust in the strength of the
Lord our God. How much are we trusting in God?'
'It seems to me,' I replied, 'that God gives the victory to the
biggest and best equipped armies.'
'That's blank materialism, blank atheism!' he cried almost
passionately. 'We don't give God a chance, that is why we haven't won
the war before now.'
I laughed good-humouredly, for even yet the mental attitude he had
taken up seemed to me almost absurd.
'I see what you are thinking, but I tell you what,the materialism
of the country is adding to this frightful welter of blood, to this
ghastly holocaust. The destinies of men and nations are not decided
primarily by big guns, or mighty armies, and until we, as a nation, get
back to a realization of the necessity of God, the war will drag on. As
I told you before, when I was up at Ypres, I was convinced that if big
armies, and big guns, and poison gas shells, could have won the war,
Germany would have won long ago. But she was fighting the devil's
battle, she was trusting in reeking tube and iron shard,as Rudyard
Kipling puts it. That is why she failed. With such a cause as ours, and
with such heroism as our men have displayed, we should, if we had
claimed the help of Almighty God, have won long since.'
'Nonsense, my dear chap.'
'Look here,' he cried, 'on what, in your opinion, do we depend for
I was silent for a few seconds before replying.
'On the mobilization of all our Empire's forces,' I replied, 'on
steady, persevering courage, and on the righteousness of our cause.'
'But supposing our cause hadn't been righteous, what then?'
I saw what was in his mind, but I did not feel like yielding to him.
'It's no use talking this high-falutin stuff, Edgecumbe,' I said. 'We
are at war, and war means in these days, at all events, big guns. It
means the utilization of all the material forces at our command.'
'Then you believe more in a big army, and in what they call our
unconquerable Navy, than in Almighty God? Do you believe in God at all,
'Of course I do,' I replied; 'I am no atheist. All the same, it is
our Navy which has saved us.'
'Admiral Beatty doesn't believe that,' he replied, 'and if any man
knows what a navy can do, he does. Your position is identical with that
of the Germans. Why, man, if God Almighty hadn't been very patient with
us, we should have been beaten long ago. Germany's materialism,
Germany's atheism, German devilry has been our salvation as a nation.
If the logic of big guns had been conclusive, we should have been
annihilated. That chap Rudyard Kipling saw a long way into the truth.'
'When? Where?' I asked.
'When he wrote that Recessional:
Far-famed, our navies melt away,
On dune and headland sinks the fire,
Lo, all the pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
God of the nations, spare us yet!
Lest we forget, lest we forget.
'And mind you, Kipling is a believer in force, and a believer in the
utilization of all the Empire's resources; but he sees that these
things are not enough. Why, man, humanly speaking, we stand on the
brink of a volcano.'
'Nonsense,' I replied.
'Is it nonsense? Suppose, for example, that the Germans do what they
threaten, and extend their submarine menace? Suppose they sink all
merchant vessels, and thus destroy our food supplies? Where should we
be then? Or suppose another thing: suppose Russia were to negotiate a
separate peace, and free all the German and Austrian armies in the
East, which I think is quite probableshould we be able to hold them
'Do you fear these things?' I asked.
'I fear sometimes lest, as a nation, because we have forgotten God
to such an extent, He has an awful lesson to teach us. In spite of more
than two years of carnage and misery, we still put our trust in the
things which are seen.'
'How do you know?' I replied. 'Aren't you judging on insufficient
'Perhaps I am,' he answered. 'As you said some time ago, I know very
little about England or English life, but I am going to study it.'
'How?' I asked with a laugh.
'As far as I can see, I shall be some months in England,' he went
on, 'and as it happens, my brigade is situated near London. And London
is the centre of the British Empire; it is at the heart of it, and
sends out its life-blood everywhere. I am going to study London; I am
going to the House of Commons, and understand the feeling of our
Government. I am going to the places of amusements, the theatres, the
music-halls, and see what they really mean in the life of the people. I
am going to visit the churches, and try to understand how much hold
religion has upon the people. I am going to see London life, by night
as well as by day.'
'You'll have a big job.'
'That may be, but I want to know, I want to understand. You don't
seem to believe me, Luscombe, but I am terribly in earnest. This war is
getting on my nerves, it is haunting me night and day, and I cannot
believe that it is the will of God it should continue. Mind you,
Germany must be beaten, will be beaten,of that I am convinced.
That verse of Kipling's is prophetic of our future,it cannot be
otherwise. The nation which has depended upon brute force and lies,
must sooner or later crumble; the country guilty of what she has been
guilty of must in some way or another perish,of that I am sure. Else
God is a mockery, and His eternal law a lie. Some day Germany, who
years ago longed for war, brought about war, and gloried in her
militarism, will realize the meaning of those words:
Lo, all the pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
But we are paying the price of our materialism, too. Do you remember
those words of our Lord, Who, when speaking to the Jews about the
Galileans of olden times, said, Suppose ye that these Galileans were
sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. It
is not pleasant to talk about, is it? but Rome and Byzantium fell
because of their impurities, and they seemed as firmly established as
the seven hills on which Rome stood. Germany will fall, because she has
trusted supremely in the arm of flesh, with all that it means.
Primarily it is righteousness that exalteth a nation, while the nation
which forgets God is doomed to perish.'
'I might be listening to a Revivalist preacher,' I laughed, 'some
Jonah or Jeremiah proclaiming the sins of a nation. But seriously, my
dear fellow, do you think that because we do not talk so much about
these things, that we have of necessity forgotten them? Besides, we
have been sickened by the Kaiser's pious platitudes; he has been
continually using the name of God, and claiming His protection, even
when the country he rules has been doing the most devilish things ever
known in history. I think that is why we have been sensitive about
using the name of God. Perhaps the nation is more religious than you
'I hope it is,' he replied, 'for of this I am sure, the secret of a
speedy and triumphant victory lies in the fact of our nation being
linked to God. The question with me is,Germany is doomed, because it
has depended, and is depending, on brute force. That poem of Kipling's
describes them exactly. He might have had them in his mind when he
If drunk with thought of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boasting as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the law.
That is their history. The question is, isn't there a danger that it
is becoming our history too?'
'One line describes them very well,' I laughed; 'certainly they
belong to the lesser breeds without the law.'
'I don't know. Just think of it,Germany's defying the whole world.
Speaking from the standpoint of a military power, Germany has reason
for her boastfulness. For more than two years she has been holding back
and withstanding the greatest nations of the world. Humanly speaking,
they are a great people, but they are scientific savages. If ever a
people lived according to the doctrine that might is right, they have,
and if that doctrine could be proved to be true, they'd have done it.
But their creed is as false as hell, that is why they are doomed. But
what of England, man, what of England?'
'You wouldn't have this war conducted in the spirit of a Revival
meeting, would you?' I laughed.
'Why not? If it is God's war, it should be fought in the spirit of
God. We are fighting to destroy what is opposed to God's will,
therefore we should fight as He would have us fight. But here comes the
question. Is it the supreme conviction of the nation that we are
fighting God's battles? Is it the uppermost thought in our mind? I hate
as much as any man the hypocrisy of calling upon God, while doing the
devil's work; but are we not denuding ourselves of power by fighting
God's battles as though He didn't exist?'
The train presently drew up at Paddington station, where we
'Look, Luscombe,' said Edgecumbe, nodding towards an officer,
'there's Springfield. I wonder what he's doing here?'
'Don't let him see us, anyhow,' I said quickly. 'Come this way.' And
I hurried to the passage which leads towards the departure platform.
'Why didn't you want him to see us?' he asked.
I did not reply till we reached the restaurant, and then I spoke to
'Edgecumbe,' I said, 'you were telling me just now that you intended
to study the life of London, and that you meant to go to all sorts of
'Yes,' he replied, 'what then?'
'Only this: take care of yourself, and don't let any one know what
your plans are.'
'You must have a reason for saying that.'
'I have. You have told me more than once about your feeling that you
and Springfield knew each other before you lost your memory.'
'Yes,' he replied, 'what then?'
'You say you had the feeling that Springfield was your enemy?'
'Yes, but I have no proof. Sometimes I am ashamed of harbouring such
'Self-preservation is the first law of life,' I said sententiously.
'Think, Edgecumbe,some one shot at you in France,why? You say you
don't know that you have a single enemy in the world. Then think of
your recent illness.'
'Butbut' and I saw a look of wonder in his eyes.
'I only tell you to be careful,' I interposed. 'Don't let any one
know your plans, and whatever you do, don't have anything to do with
The words had scarcely passed my lips, when Springfield entered the
CHAPTER XXVI. 'WHERE DOES GOD COME
Springfield glanced around as if looking for a table, and then
seeing us, came up quickly and held out his hand.
'Awfully glad to see you,' he said heartily. 'I came to meet Buller,
who I thought might be in your train. But as he wasn't there, and as I
saw you two fellows come across here, I thought I'd follow you. Left
them all well down in Devonshire?'
There was no suggestion of restraint or arrière pensée in his
tones; he spoke in the most natural way possible, and seemed to regard
us as friends.
'I will join you, if I may,' he went on; 'I hate feeding alone. By
the way, what are you fellows doing to-day? If you have nothing on
hand, you might come on to my club.'
'I am afraid I can't,' I replied; 'I am fixed up. As for Edgecumbe,
he has to get back to duty.'
'I am at a loose end,' he went on. 'Of course there are hosts of men
I know in London; all the same, it's a bit lonely here. I am staying at
the' and he mentioned a well-known military club. Then he looked at
us, I thought, suspiciously.
'Was Miss Bolivick well when you left?' he asked. 'II am more than
ordinarily interested in her'; and he glanced at Edgecumbe as he spoke.
But Edgecumbe's face did not move a muscle. Evidently he had taken my
words to heart.
For a few seconds there was an awkward silence. Then he went on:
'Edgecumbe, I feel I owe you an apology. It was only after I had
left Devonshire that I fully realized what you had done for me. But for
you, I should be a dead man, and I want to thank you. I am not much
given to sentiment, I am not built that way, but believe me I am not
ungrateful. At the risk of your own life you saved mine, and I feel it
He spoke so earnestly, and there was such a ring of sincerity in his
voice, that I felt ashamed of myself for thinking of him suspiciously.
Still I could not forget the conversation which took place between him
and St. Mabyn months ago, neither could I rid my mind of what had taken
'If I can be of any service to you,' he continued, 'I should like to
be,I should really. I happen to know your colonel, and I'd like to
see more of you. If you will let me know how you are fixed, I will look
you up. You haven't any friends in London, have you?'
'No,' replied Edgecumbe; 'no one excepting Luscombe.'
'And you don't know London?'
'I am afraid not. I have no memory of it, anyhow.'
'Then let me show you around. I could introduce you to a lot of men,
too. You see, as an old Army man, I know the ropes.'
'It's awfully good of you, Springfield,' I said; 'but really I don't
think Edgecumbe is your sort, and it would be a shame to bother you.'
I felt awkward in saying this, because I spoke as though I were
Edgecumbe's guardian. To my surprise, however, Edgecumbe eagerly
accepted Springfield's offer.
'I'll let you know when I am free,' he said, 'and then, as you say,
you can introduce me to some of the sights of London. But we must be
off now, Luscombe, I have some things to do.'
'What do you mean by that?' I said, when we were alone.
He laughed gaily. 'I am not such a simpleton as I look, old man. I
am able to take care of myself.'
'But do you really mean to say that you are going to let him show
you round London?'
'Why not? He knows London in a way which you and I don't.'
'But don't you feel that he is your enemy, and that he has some
ulterior purpose in all this?'
'Of course I do, but it would be madness to let him know it. You
needn't fear, my friend; I will be a match for him. As I told you down
in Devonshire, there's going to be a battle royal between us. He looks
upon me as a kind of fool, who can be easily duped. But I shan't be.'
It was some days after this before I heard anything of Edgecumbe
again. As I think I have mentioned, I was on sick leave at the time,
and after leaving him I went to see some friends in Oxford. While there
I got a letter from him, saying that he had been taken ill almost
immediately on his return to duty, and that a fortnight's leave had
been granted to him. He asked me when I should be returning to London,
as he would like me to accompany him on his peregrinations through the
City. I curtailed my visit to Oxford, so as to fall in with his plans,
and found that he had taken up his quarters at a Y.M.C.A. Hut, which
had been erected especially for the use of officers.
He was looking somewhat pale and hollow-eyed, as I entered a
comfortably fitted-up lounge in the building.
'What's the matter with you?' I asked.
'Oh, nothing much. I had a sort of relapse after I got back to work,
and the M.O. declared me unfit for duty. Evidently Colonel McClure
wrote to him about me. He seems to think I was poisoned.'
'Did your M.O. tell you that?'
'Yes, and in his opinion the poison was not quite eradicated from my
system. Funny, isn't it? Anyhow, they wouldn't let me work, and here I
am. What we poor soldiers would do without the Y.M.C.A., Heaven only
knows! Anyhow, it shows that Christianity is not quite dead in the
country, for if ever there was a Christian body, the Y.M.C.A. is one.'
'You can hardly call it a body,' I replied; 'it is an organization
representing the Christian spirit of the country.'
'All right, old man; call it what you like. Anyhow, I am jolly
thankful to its promoters. What I should have done but for the
Y.M.C.A., Heaven knows, I don't!'
'I know what you are going to do,' I replied.
'You are coming with me to my hotel as a guest.'
'You are awfully good, old man, but I am afraid I can't. You see,
this illness of mine has given me my opportunity, and I am going to
'Opportunity for what?'
'For seeing London, for studying its life. I mean to go everywhere,
and I don't want to interfere with your liberty in any way.'
'Good,' I replied, 'I'll go with you; and as we shall be staying at
the same hotel, it will be more convenient to both of us.'
'Do you really mean that, Luscombe?'
'Of course I do. I, like you, am at a loose end, and I shall be only
too glad to have a pal until I am sent back to the front again. Now not
another word, Edgecumbe. I am not a Rothschild, but I have no one
dependent on me, and I have more money than I need to spend. So pack up
your traps, and come with me.
'Have you seen Springfield since our meeting on Paddington station?'
I asked, when presently we had removed to the hotel.
'Yes,' he replied; 'directly I got to the Y.M.C.A. Hostel, I wrote
him at his club.'
'Well?' I asked.
'Oh, he was jolly friendly, and seemed anxious to take me around.'
'And have you been with him?'
'Yes,' he replied.
'With what results?'
He hesitated a few seconds before answering me, and then he said
quietly, 'Oh, nothing much out of the ordinary. Itit was rather
'What was rather funny?'
'Our conversation. He hates me, Luscombe; he positively loathes me;
and he fears me, too.'
'You have discovered that, have you?'
'Yes, there is no doubt about it.'
'Did you go anywhere with him?'
'Yes, a good many places.'
'You ought not to have gone with him,' I said doubtfully.
'Perhaps not. But I was anxious to see the phases of life with which
he is familiar; I wanted to know the class of men he meets with,to
understand their point of view.'
'And what was your impression?'
'I am not going to tell you yet. During the four days I have been in
London I have been looking around, trying to understand the working
motives, the guiding principles, of this, the capital of the Empire. I
seem like a man in a strange country, and I am learning my way round.
Oh, I do hope I am wrong!'
'Wrong,how? What do you mean?'
'This war is maddening. Last night I couldn't sleep for thinking of
it,all the horror of it got hold of me. I fancied myself out at the
front again,I heard the awful howls and shrieks of the shells, heard
the booming of the big guns, smelt the acids of the explosives, heard
the groans of the men, saw them lying in the trenches and on the No
Man's Land, torn, mutilated, mangled. It is positively ghastly,war is
hell, man, hell!'
'Yes,' I said, 'but we must see it through.'
'I know, I know. But how far away is the end? How long is this
carnage and welter of blood to continue?'
'Let's change the subject,' I said. 'We'll get a bit of dinner, and
then go to a place of amusement.'
'I don't feel like it to-night. Do you know any members of
Parliament, any Cabinet Ministers?'
'Yes, a few. Why?'
'I want to go to the House of Commons. I want to know what those men
who are guiding our affairs are thinking.'
'Oh, all right,' I laughed. 'I can easily get a permit to the House
of Commons. I'll take you. As it happens, too, I can get you an
introduction to one or two members of the Government.'
Two hours later, we were sitting in the Strangers' Gallery of the
House of Commons. I could see that Edgecumbe was impressed, not by the
magnificence of the surroundings, for, as all the world knows, the
interior of the British House of Commons,that is the great
Legislative Chamber itself,is not very imposing, but he was excited
by the fact that he was there in the Mother of Parliaments, listening
to a debate on the Great War.
'It's wonderful, isn't it?' he said to me. 'Here we are in the very
hub of the British Empire,here decisions are come to which affect the
destiny of hundreds of millions of people. Here, as far as the
Government is concerned, we can look into the very inwardness of the
British mind, its hopes, its ideals. If this Assembly were so to
decide, the war could stop to-morrow, and every soldier be brought
'I don't know,' I laughed. 'Behind this Assembly is the voice of the
country. If these men did not represent the thoughts and feelings of
the nation, they'd be sent about their business,there'd be a
'Yes, yes, I realize that. And the fact that there is no revolution
shows that they are doing, on the whole, what the country wishes them.'
'I suppose so,' I replied.
After that, he listened two hours without speaking. I never saw a
man so intent upon what was being said. Speaker after speaker expressed
his views, and argued the points nearest his heart.
At the end of two hours, there was a large exodus of members, and
then Edgecumbe rose like a man waking out of a trance.
'Have you been interested?' I asked.
'Never so interested in my life,it was wonderful! But look here,
my friend, do these men believe in Almighty God? Have they been asking
for guidance on their deliberations?'
'I don't know. We English are not people who talk about that kind of
'No, and I am glad of it,' he replied earnestly, 'but I must come
again. In a sense, this should be the Power-House of the nation.'
'It is,' I replied; 'at this place supplies are voted.'
'Supplies,' he repeated thoughtfully.
'Come,' I said, 'I have arranged to meet Mr. ; he is an
important member of the Government, and he said he would be good for
half an hour's chat after this Debate was over.'
A few seconds later, the member who introduced us took us into the
lobby, where I met the Minister to whom I had referred, and who led the
way to his own room. As it happened, I had known this Minister for
several years. We had spent a holiday together before the war, and had
often played golf together. I had more than once seen him after he had
become a member of the Government, and he appeared very glad of a
little relaxation after the stress of his work.
'What did you think of the Debate?' he asked. 'Of course things are
different now from what they used to be. The time for making an
impression by big speeches is over. I dare say, when the war comes to
an end, we shall have the old party fights again, although the country
will never be the same again, even in that way. Still, I thought it was
'How do you think we are doing?' I asked presently.
'What, at the front? Oh, fairly well. We have to keep hammering
away, you know, but the Germans are by no means done for yet. It is
evidently going to be a war of exhaustion, and we have only just come
to our strength. Of course the Germans have given up all hope of
winning. One of our weaknesses, if I may so say, lies in Russia. It is
months now since they did anything.'
'Do you think there is any danger of their making a separate peace?'
'No, I don't think so; but there are some very uncertain elements to
contend with, and the corruption there has been frightful. I should not
be surprised at a big movement there in time. Still, we are doing very
well; our forces are becoming well organized, and in another year or so
I think the Boches'll begin to crumple up.'
Knowing what was in Edgecumbe's mind, I asked him several questions,
which he, without betraying any Cabinet secrets, answered freely. He
discussed the question in all its bearings, and revealed remarkable
acumen and judgment. All the time Edgecumbe sat listening eagerly,
without speaking a word. Then, suddenly, he burst out with a question.
'What do you think we must do to win this war?' he asked, and there
was a strange intensity in his voice.
'I am afraid I don't quite understand.'
'What do you think we must do to win this war?' Edgecumbe repeated.
'Have we left anything undone that we could have done? Are there any
forces to be brought into play which have not yet been used? Do you see
any great dangers ahead? What must we do more? You see, I have been a
long time at the front, and I know what fighting is; but naturally, as
a soldier, my standpoint of vision is small and circumscribed. How does
it appeal to you, who, as a statesman, must necessarily take a larger
The Cabinet Minister seemed to be collecting his thoughts for a few
seconds, then he said, 'Of course the question is a very big one. First
of all, take the East. If Russia is freed from traitors, and if she
holds together,and if, with the help that we can give her, she can
have enough munitions, I don't think we need fear anything there. Then,
while our Salonica effort doesn't seem to amount to much, we are
holding up a vast number of men, and doing good work. But I do not
expect anything decisive from there. Then, in a way, we are doing
valuable work in Mesopotamia and Palestine; by that means we are
gradually wearing down the Turks. When we come nearer home,Italy is
doing very well. She'll make a big push in a few months, and we shall
be able to help her. France is, of course, becoming a bit exhausted,
but France is good for a long while yet. It is we who have to play the
decisive game, and if we hold together, as I believe we shall if we
have no Labour troubles, so that munitions and supplies may be
plentiful, we shall be stronger in the field than the Germans are. We
have beaten them in big guns, in explosives, and in men. Of course
it'll be a long, tough fight, for the Germans realize that it is neck
or nothing with them, and they'll hold out to the last. But we are the
strongest side, and in the end they'll crumple up.'
'Then you think,' asked Edgecumbe, 'that our victory will depend on
these things?on stronger armies, and a bigger supply of munitions?'
'That, and the ability of our generals. The German generals are very
able men, but I think we beat them even there.'
'Then that is how you roughly outline our forces, and our hopes of
'Yes, that is it, roughly,' replied the Minister.
'May I ask whether that is the view of the Government as a whole?'
'What other view is there?'
'Then where does God come in?'
He asked the question simply, but evidently he was deeply in
earnest. I recognized the intensity of his voice, saw the flash of his
The Minister looked towards me in a bewildered kind of way. I have
an idea that he thought Edgecumbe was mad.
'I don't quite understand you,' he said. 'Will you tell me exactly
what you mean?'
'I asked you,' said Edgecumbe, 'what you thought were the forces to
be used in order to win this war, and you told me; whereupon I asked
you where God came in.'
'God!' repeated the Minister; 'why, we are at war!'
'Exactly, that is why I ask. When the war commenced, the people of
the nation were informed that we were going to fight a holy war, that
we were going to crush militarism, do justice to small states, bring
about an abiding peace in the world. We were told that it was God's
war. May I ask where God comes in in your scheme of carrying it on?'
The Minister smiled. Evidently he had come to the conclusion that
Edgecumbe was a harmless lunatic, and should not be taken seriously.
'The fact that we are fighting for a just cause,' he said, 'is
sufficient to prove that it is God's war.'
'But is that all?'
The Minister looked at him helplessly. Evidently he did not think it
worth while to carry the conversation further.
'Because,' went on Edgecumbe quietly, 'as far as I have watched the
course of events, we have been fighting, as far as the Government is
concerned, as though God did not exist. A great many appeals have been
made to the nation, yet think what they amount to! First of all the
country was appealed to for men, and the men volunteered. But that was
not enough. A certain section of the press cried out for conscription,
and demanded that Parliament should pass a Bill giving power to the
authorities to compel every man of military age to join the Forces.
That was done. Then there was the trouble about munitions, and power
was given whereby many works were controlled, and huge factories were
built all over the country for the production of big guns and
explosives. In addition to that, there was appeal after appeal for
money, and still more money. Then we were told that the whole nation
should serve, and there was a further appeal for a National Service. We
were told that if these things were done victory was certain.'
'But surely you do not object to this?' said the Cabinet Minister in
'Certainly not,' replied Edgecumbe. 'I agree with every one of them;
but I asked where God came in. We pretend to believe in God, don't we?'
'Well, what then?'
'Has there been any appeal to the nation to repent of its sins?
There have been Proclamations from the throne: has there ever been one
calling upon the people of the British Empire to pray? Have we, as a
nation, been asked to link ourselves to the power of Almighty God? Has
the Government ever endeavoured to make the people feel that our
victory is in God's hands, and that we must look to Him for help? Have
we not, I ask, as far as the Government is concerned, been fighting
this war as though God didn't exist?'
'But, my dear man,' said the Cabinet Minister, 'you as a soldier
must know that chaplains are sent out with the Forces, that the
soldiers have to attend Church Parade, and that prayer is offered by
the chaplains for our victory? How can you say then that the war has
been conducted as though God didn't exist?'
'I know what all that means,' replied Edgecumbe. 'I have been at the
front for a good many months, and I know what it means. I recognize,
too, all the splendid work that has been done by the chaplains; many of
them are fine fellows. But I want to get a bit deeper. I want to know
what steps have been taken to make the nation realize that primarily
victory is in the hands of Almighty God. I want to know, too, what
steps have been taken to make the soldiers know what they are fighting
for. We have in the Army now several millions, and they are all being
instructed in the use of rifle shooting, machine-guns, bayonet work,
and so on. Have any steps been taken to instruct them as to the nature
of the cause we are fighting for, and of our ultimate aims and
purposes? Have they ever been imbued with the idea of what Germanism
means, and of our ultimate aims and ideals? In a word, have the
soldiers been instructed that this is God's war, and that they are
fighting for a holy cause?'
The Cabinet Minister laughed. Edgecumbe's question seemed too absurd
to answer. Then he said somewhat uneasily, 'Prayers are said in the
churches every Sunday.'
'And from what I hear, only about one person in ten goes to Church.'
'What are you driving at?' and there was a touch of impatience in
the Minister's voice.
'Only this,' replied Edgecumbe, 'if this is simply a war of brute
force against brute force, then doubtless the Government is going on
the right tack. But if it is more,if it is a war of God against the
devil, of right against wrong, of the forces of heaven against the
forces of hell, then we are forgetting our chief Power, we are failing
as a nation to utilize the mightiest forces at our command. There might
be no God, if one were to judge from the way we are conducting this
'That is scarcely an answer. Mark you, I am looking at it from the
standpoint of the Government as expressing the thought and will of the
nation. The Government is supposed to be the mouthpiece of the nation,
and judging from the appeals of the men holding important offices under
the Government, and the general trend of the daily press, while appeals
are being made for all the material resources of the Empire, there has
never been one appeal to the nation to pray, and to lay hold of the
power which God is waiting to give.'
'You do not seem to realize, my friend,' said the Cabinet Minister,
'that war is primarily a contest between material forces.'
'No,' said Edgecumbe, 'I don't, neither do I believe it.'
'Our generals are not sentimentalists,' said the statesman; 'war is
a stern business, and they see that it is a matter of big guns.'
'Not all,' replied Edgecumbe. 'If ever a man knew the meaning of big
guns, and what big guns can do, it is Admiral Beatty. Perhaps you
remember what he said: England still remains to be taken out of the
stupor of self-satisfaction and complacency into which her great and
flourishing condition has steeped her, and until she can be stirred out
of this condition, and until a religious revival takes place at home,
just so long will the war continue.'
For a moment the statesman seemed nonplussed, and I could see that
Edgecumbe was impressing him in spite of himself. He spoke quietly, but
with evident intense conviction, and there was something in his
personality that commanded respect. On his tunic, too, he wore his
decorations, the decorations which proved him to be a man of courage
and resource. There was no suggestion of weakness or of fanaticism in
his manner. Every word, every movement, spoke of a strong, brave,
'Then what would you do?' he asked almost helplessly.
'It is scarcely a matter of what I would do,' replied Edgecumbe. 'I
am here as an inquirer, and I came to the House of Commons to-night in
order to understand the standpoint from which the Government looks at
this tremendous question.'
'And your conclusion is?'
'That God's forgotten. It is not looked upon as a religious war at
all,everything is reduced to the level of brute force. As far as I
can read the newspapers, never, since the first few months of the war,
or at least very rarely, has there been any endeavour to make the
people realize this ghastly business from a religious standpoint, while
the soldiers never hear a word from week end to week end of the
purposes for which they are fighting.'
'You can't make soldiers religious if they don't want to be,' said
the Minister, weakly I thought.
'I don't say you can,' replied Edgecumbe, 'but you can do something
to lift the whole thing above its present sordid level, and give them a
high and holy courage.'
'They have courage,' replied the Minister. 'As you have been
at the front, you know what a splendid lot of men they are.'
'No man knows better,a finer lot of fellows never breathed. But
look at facts, think of the forces which have opposed them, and
remember how they have been handicapped? Drink has been one of our
great curses in this country; it has been one of our greatest
hindrances. Even the Prime Minister insisted upon it almost
pathetically. When we lacked munitions, and our men were being killed
for want of them, drink was the principal interest to their
manufacture. You of course know what Mr. Lloyd George said in 1915:
Without spending one penny on additional structures, without putting
down a single additional machine, without adding to the supervision of
the men, but on the contrary lessening the supervision, we could, by
putting down the drink, by one act of sacrifice on the part of the
nation, win through to victory for our country. Yet the Government has
only played with the drink question, as far as the country is
concerned, and it has kept on supplying it to the boys abroad. Everyone
knows it has lowered the standard of our national life, intellectually,
morally, and spiritually. And yet the thing continues. Is that the way
to fight God's battles? Vested interests seem of more importance than
purity and righteousness, while the men who make huge fortunes out of
this traffic are coroneted.'
'Good night, Luscombe,' said the Cabinet Minister rising. 'I must be
going now. This conversation has been very interesting, but I am afraid
I cannot see as your friend sees.'
A few minutes later, we stood outside the great Government building.
We were in the heart of London, the great city which so largely focuses
the life of our world-wide Empire. Close to us, the towers of the Abbey
lifted their pinnacles into the grey sky, while St. Margaret's Church
looked almost small and diminutive by its side. Up Whitehall we could
see the dim outlines of the great Government buildings, while the broad
thoroughfare pulsated with the roaring traffic.
For some seconds Edgecumbe did not speak, then he burst out
excitedly. 'It's a wonderful old city, isn't it? The finest, grandest
city in the world! Do you know, it casts a kind of spell upon me. I
sometimes think there is more good in London than in any other place.'
'Any one would not think so, judging by your conversation just now,'
'But there is,' he said. 'Why, think of the kindness and loving
service shown to the returning soldiers! Think of the thousands of
women who are giving their lives to nursing them and caring for them!
Come on,' and he moved towards Westminster Bridge.
'That's not the way back to the hotel.'
'I am not going back to the hotel yet,' he said.
'Where are you going, then?'
'To Waterloo station. There will be trains coming in from the coast.
I want to see what happens to the soldiers who are coming back from the
CHAPTER XXVII. SEEING LONDON
I am not going to write at length on what we saw at Waterloo
station, and in its vicinity. In a way, our experiences were
interesting beyond words, and while there was much which made one
rejoice, there was also much to sadden. While we were there, a train
came in laden with troops. Hundreds of men had come home on leave, and
they had now arrived at this great terminus. What rejoiced me was to
see the number of Y.M.C.A. workers, as well as others from various
Christian bodies, who met the men and welcomed them. Of course there
were numbers who were eagerly welcomed by their friends; others had
evidently made their plans to get back to their homes quickly, while
many more seemed bewildered and lonely. Lads who had originally hailed
from Canada and Australia, and who knew nothing of London, looked
around the huge station as though not knowing what to do, and if ever I
felt glad because of the work of the Y.M.C.A., I felt it then. They
seemed to have a kind of genius for knowing the men who were without
friends, and for giving them a hearty welcome back.
I knew that, scattered all over London, were Huts and Hostels which
they have provided for these lads who were strangers in a strange city,
and that many of them would be taken to these places, given a hot
supper, and provided with a comfortable bed. I know, too, while the
lads were under the influence of the Y.M.C.A., no harm would happen to
them, that they would be surrounded by good and healthy influences, and
that as many of them who had no homes in England could stay at the
Hostels during their leave.
But there were other influences at work. Not only were there these
noble bands of workers, who existed for our soldiers' comfort and
salvation,there were scores of evil women who hovered around waiting
like vultures to swoop upon their prey.
It is difficult to write about, difficult to contemplate. Scores of
these boys, who for months had been away at the front, living without
many refining influences, living, too, under strict discipline amidst
all the stress and horror of war, were suddenly given their liberty,
and let loose in our great City. Most of them would have plenty of
money, for there are few opportunities of spending at the front, and
they would be freed from all restrictions. Then their danger began.
Lads, many of them inspired by no religious ideals, excited by their
liberty, with no restraint of any sort placed upon them, became an easy
prey to those who looked upon them as victims. The angels of light were
there to help them, but there were also many creatures of darkness who
lured them to destruction, and these creatures of darkness were allowed
to ply their ghastly trade often without let or hindrance.
I could not help feeling the tragedy of it. These lads who had been
living from hour to hour, and from minute to minute, amidst the roar of
great guns, the shriek of shells, the pep-pep-pep of machine-guns,
never knowing when death would come, were suddenly and without
preparation thrown upon the bosom of our great modern Babylon; and on
their return they were met by these creatures.
'It is ghastly, it is hellish!' said Edgecumbe, as we returned
across Waterloo Bridge.
'What can be done?' I asked helplessly.
'These fellows should be safeguarded,' he replied. 'Oh, I know the
difficulties, but those creatures should be dealt with with a strong
hand; they should not be allowed in such places. The boys coming home
from danger and death should be protected from such temptations. It is
not a thing to talk about, not a thing to discuss in public; but think
of the inwardness of it, think of the ghastly diseases, the loss of
manhood, the corruption of soul, that follows in the train of what we
have seen,and it is going on all over London.'
'You can't put down vice by Act of Parliament,' I replied.
'No, but a great deal more can be done than is done,' was his
answer. 'People don't talk about these things in their drawing-rooms,
or in their social circles, but they exist,my God, they exist! And
this is supposed to be a holy war! Still, thank God for the good that
is being done, for the organizations which exist for men's comfort and
And then he did not speak another word until we reached the hotel.
The next day was Saturday, and directly after lunch we started to go
together to a matinee, for Edgecumbe had stated his determination to
visit the places of amusement and see how London enjoyed itself.
We begun by going to one of the largest and most popular music-halls
in the City, where a revue which was much commented on was produced for
the delectation of all who cared to see it.
I was informed that this particular place was much patronized by
soldiers, and that the entertainment was one of the most popular in
London. The prices of the seats varied from half a guinea, plus the War
tax, to a shilling, and as we entered we found a vast concourse of
people, among whom were many men in khaki. I discovered too that the
management had been generous, for there were numbers of wounded
soldiers, many of them in the stalls, and who had been given free
'After all, it is fine,' I said, as we waited for the curtain to
rise, 'that these lads should have a place of brightness and amusement
to go to.'
'Yes,' replied Edgecumbe, 'in a way it is splendid.'
'The people of the country are wonderfully good,' I went on;
'soldiers in the hospitals, as well as others home on leave, are
constantly being given hospitality by the best and kindest people in
England. I hope these chaps'll have a good laugh this afternoon, and be
able to forget the horrors through which they have passed. They have
had enough of the tragedy of life, poor chaps. I hope they'll get some
comedy this afternoon.'
'I hope they will,' he replied.
I will not attempt to give a description of the revue they witnessed
that afternoon. I suppose it was similar to a score of others that
might be seen in various parts of the metropolis. There was an
excellent orchestra, the music was light and pleasing, the whole
atmosphere of the place was merry. The lights were dazzling, the
dresses were gay, the scenery almost magnificent. As a spectacle it
would, I suppose, be regarded as gorgeous. Apparently, too, most of the
auditors enjoyed it, although a look of boredom was on some faces. As
to the revue itself, while one could not help admitting that some of
the songs were humorous, and some of the repartee clever, the thing as
a whole was cheap and silly and vulgar.
I do not say there was anything positively wrong in it, but there
were a great many vulgar suggestions and unpleasant innuendoes. As a
dramatic critic said in my hearing a day or two later, when discussing
the popular entertainments of London, 'Most of these shows consist of
vulgar, brainless twaddle.' Still, the audience laughed and cheered,
and when the curtain finally fell, there was a good deal of applause.
Certainly the entertainment would be a great contrast to the
experiences which the lads who were home on leave had been going
through. But as I reflect on it now, and think of the great struggle
through which the nation was going, and the ideals for which it was
fighting, I cannot remember one single word that would help or inspire.
Of course places of amusement are not intended to instruct or to fill
one with lofty emotions. All the same, I could not help feeling that
laughter and enjoyment were in no way incompatible with the higher aims
of the drama. In fact, what we saw was not drama at all; it was a
caricature of life, and a vulgar one at that. Indeed, the author's
purpose seemed to bethat is, assuming he had a purposeto teach that
virtue was something to be laughed at, that vice was pleasant, and that
sin had no evil consequences.
Indeed, while I am anything but a puritan, I felt sorry that the
hundreds of lads home from the front, many of whom were wounded, had no
better fare offered to them. God knows I would be the last to detract
from their honest enjoyment, and I would make their leave bright and
happy; but after all, the nation was at war, life was a struggle, and
death stalked triumphant, and this was but a poor mental and moral food
for men who, for months, had been passing through an inferno, and many
of whom would, in a few weeks or days, go back again to see 'hell let
loose.' If those men had been merely fighting animals, if they were
mere creatures of a day, who went out of existence when the sun went
down, then one could understand; but they were men with hopes, and
fears, and longings; men into whose nostrils God had breathed the
breath of His own life, men destined for immortality. And this show was
pagan from end to end.
When the entertainment was over, I led the way to a fashionable
hotel for tea, where a large and handsomely decorated room was set
apart for that purpose. A gay crowd of some hundreds had already
gathered when we arrived, so that there was a difficulty in obtaining a
table. This crowd had evidently, like ours, come from the various
places of amusement in the immediate vicinity, and had managed to get
there earlier than we.
The men folk were mostly officers, while the women were, I imagine,
in the main their relatives and friends. The latter were very gaily and
expensively dressed. As far as I can remember, the cost of a very poor
tea was half a crown for each person. Every one appeared in great good
humour, and laughter was the order of the day.
'Not much suggestion here that the country's at war, eh?' I said,
looking round the room, 'and but few evidences that the appeals to the
public to economize have been taken very deeply to heart.'
'No,' replied Edgecumbe, 'except for the khaki, it would be
difficult to believe that the country is at war. Still, I suppose it is
natural. Most of these lads are home on leave, and their women folk
want them to enjoy themselves. This is their way of doing it.'
'It shows that money is plentiful,' I said; 'we are a long way from
'But the big bill will have to be paid, my friend. There are no
signs of it now, but the country can't spend all these millions every
day without suffering for it later on,' and I saw a thoughtful look
come into his eyes as they wandered round the room.
After tea we went for a walk along the streets, and then, at
half-past seven, I took him to another fashionable hotel, where I had
ordered dinner. Again we saw a similar crowd, met with similar scenes.
Whatever London might be feeling, the fashionable part of it had
determined to enjoy itself. At night we went to another theatre, which
was also packed to the ceiling with a gay throng. Here also were crowds
of soldiers, many of whom were, I judged, like ourselves, home from the
Edgecumbe passed no opinion on the play, or on the spectators. That
he was deeply interested, was evident, although I think his interest
was more in the audience than the performers.
'I am tired,' I said, when the entertainment was over; 'let's get to
'No, not yet, I want to see London by night. All this, to you,
Luscombe, is commonplace. I dare say it would be to me if my memory
came back. As it is, it is all new and strange to me. It is exciting me
tremendously. I am like one seeing the show for the first time.'
By this time London was at its busiest, crowds surged everywhere.
'Buses, taxi-cabs, and motors threaded their way through the streets,
while the foot pavements were crowded. Places of amusement were
emptying themselves on every hand, and although the streets were
darkened, it seemed to have no effect upon the spirits of the people.
The night was fairly clear, and a pale moon showed itself between the
'What a city it is!' said Edgecumbe, after we had been walking some
time. 'Think of it, the centre of the British Empire, the great heart
which sends its life-blood through the veins of a mighty people! But is
the life-blood pure, my friend?'
We passed up Charing Cross to Leicester Square, and then on through
Piccadilly Circus up Regent Street, then we came down again, through
the Haymarket, into Pall Mall. I am not going to describe what we saw,
nor tell in detail the experiences through which we passed. That
ghastly story of gilded vice, and of corruption which is not ashamed,
was too sad, too pathetic. The Empire might be in danger, even then
there might be Zeppelins hovering in the near distance, waiting to drop
missiles of destruction and death. Less than two hundred miles away our
armies were fighting, guns were booming, shells were shrieking, men
were dying. But here in London, on the eve of the Day of Rest, the tide
of iniquity rolled. Young men were tempted, and falling; many of the
very lads who had done heroic deeds were selling their souls for half
an hour's pleasure.
In spite of the drink regulations, too, it was easy to see that
numbers, both men and women, had been able to obtain it, often to their
'Come on,' said Edgecumbe presently, 'let's get back to the hotel.
I've had enough.'
CHAPTER XXVIII. SUNSHINE AND SHADOW
During the remainder of Edgecumbe's leave we spent our time in
seeing and trying to understand London. As he had insisted, London was
the centre of the British Empire; the great heart which sent its
life-blood throughout the veins of four hundred millions of people. To
understand London, therefore, was to understand the aims, hopes and
ideals of the British race. Of course I urged that London was not
England, much less the Empire; but I could not help admitting that
there was much truth in his contention.
Naturally we did not see our metropolis in its entirety. To know
London means a lifetime's study; but we did get a superficial glimpse
of its life, and we tried to understand the inwardness of that life.
On the day after the incidents described in the last chapter we
visited several churches; we also made our way into Hyde Park, and
heard the orators. We interviewed several ecclesiastics both of the
Established and Nonconformist order, and if ever a man was depressed it
'These religious organizations do not touch a tithe of the people,'
he said to me. 'London is called a Christian City, but it is far more
pagan than Christian. The people are not interested in religious
things, and even among churchgoers everything seems unreal.'
He was led to modify this opinion later. He saw that while the City
was in one sense largely godless, it was in another deeply religious.
He realized that, in spite of apparent religious indifference, the
teachings of the Founder of Christianity, and the truths for which He
lived and died, had, through the centuries, created an atmosphere which
influenced every phase of thought and life.
But he did not feel this during the two Sundays we spent together.
As far as we could see, only a small fragment of the people entered the
doors of the churches, and that even this fragment was filled with no
mighty religious hope or enthusiasm.
One sermon, however, struck him forcibly. It was preached by a young
man who took for his text, 'And they that were ready went into the
marriage feast.' The argument of the sermon was that God gave neither
individuals nor nations the highest of blessings until they were ready,
and he urged that until England was ready for peace God would not give
it her. That until we became less materialistic, less selfish, until we
ceased to exploit the war as a means for advancing our own interest,
and until we turned to God and kept His commandments, real peace would
be a far-off dream.
But I must not stay to describe this at length; indeed, a volume
would be necessary to give any true idea of our experiences. We saw
London by night as well as by day. We went to munition factories and to
night clubs, to hospitals and to music-halls, to seats of Government
and to haunts of vice. We talked with hundreds of people of all kinds,
and from the drift of their conversation tried to understand the spirit
of the City.
I shall never forget the look on Edgecumbe's face after our visit to
a hospital for soldiers who suffered from a disease which shall be
nameless. The horror in his eyes and the absolute nausea and loathing
which possessed him has haunted me ever since.
But there were sights which rejoiced him also. The splendid
sacrifices which unnumbered people, both men and women, were making,
and the great broad-hearted charity which abounded on every hand, made
him realize not only the bad but the good, and led him to realize that
beneath the mad whirl of evil passions which was too evident, was a
life sacred and sublime.
Presently, however, our peregrinations came to an end. Edgecumbe had
appeared before a medical officer, and was declared fit for duty again.
He had also received orders to return to his battery, while I daily
waited instructions as to my future course of action.
'We have had a wonderful time, Luscombe,' he said. 'I little dreamt,
when we started out to see London, what it would be like.'
'Well, what do you think of it all?'
'I am bewildered,' he replied; 'it is all too big to co-ordinate. I
want to get a grasp of everything. I want to see things in their true
proportion. I want to understand.'
We had just come from the Crystal Palace, where so many thousands of
our sailors are quartered, and had been talking with the workers of the
Y.M.C.A. concerning their activities there.
'You will never be able to co-ordinate it, Edgecumbe,' I said. 'No
man can understand fully the life of a great city like this.'
'No, I suppose not. Still, I am trying to think my way through it.'
'Anyhow,' I said, 'you have to return to duty tomorrow. Let us
forget the serious things of life for once. By the way,' I added, 'have
you heard from Miss Lorna Bolivick?'
For some seconds he did not reply, and I thought he did not hear
what I said. His face was a curious study at the time, and I wondered
what he was thinking about.
'No,' he replied presently, 'I have not heard from her. Naturally I
did not expect to.'
During the whole time we had spent in London together, he had never
once referred to her, and I imagined, and almost hoped, that he had
seen the madness of the determination he had expressed when we were
down in Devonshire.
'You have given up all thought of her, then?'
'Given up all thought of her? Certainly not. You know what I told
'Yes, but I thought you might have seen how foolish you were.'
'I shall never give up hope,' he replied; 'that is, until hope is
impossible. Whatever made you think of such a thing?'
'But do you not see the madness of your plan?'
'No, there is nothing mad in it. By the way, Luscombe, I am awfully
hungry. Let us go in here and get some dinner. Don't think, old man,
that I can't see your point of view,' he said when we had taken our
seats in the dining-room of the restaurant, 'I can. From your
standpoint, for a man in my position, without name, without home,
without friends, without money, to aspire to the hand of Lorna
Bolivick, is to say that he is fit for a lunatic asylum. But I can't
see things as you do. God Almighty didn't put this love in my heart for
nothing, a love which has been growing every day since I saw her. Why,
man, although I have said nothing to you, she is everything to me,
everything! That is, from the personal standpoint. If I did not believe
in God, I should despair, but, believing in Him, despair is
'God does not give us everything we want,' I replied; 'it would not
be good for us if He did. Possibly He has other plans for her.'
'That may be so,' he replied calmly, 'but I am going to act as
though He meant her for me.'
I looked across the dining-hall as he spoke, and saw, sitting not
far away from us, a party which instantly attracted my attention.
'I should not, if I were you,' I said.
'Look!' I replied, nodding towards the table I had noticed.
He gave a start, for sitting at the table were Sir Thomas and Lady
Bolivick and their daughter Lorna. Sitting beside the latter was
'Does not that suggest the answer?'
His face never moved a muscle, and he looked at them as though he
were but little interested.
'If ever a man had the appearance of a successful lover,' I went on,
'Springfield has. There, do you see how he is looking at her? Do you
see how his every action suggests proprietorship? Then watch her face,
see how she smiles at him. It would seem, too, as though her father and
mother are very pleased.'
He continued to look at them for several seconds, then he said quite
casually, 'They have no idea we are here.'
'No, evidently not. But I think I will go and speak to them.'
'Don't, Luscombe,' and he spoke quickly; 'it will be better not. I
don't want that man to know where I am.'
'You are convinced that I was right about him, then?'
'I am convinced there will be a battle royal between me and that
man,' he said, and there was a far-away look in his eyes.
'PerhapsperhapsI don't know,the ways of Providence are strange.
There is going to be a terrible fight; I can see it coming.'
'What, between you and Springfield?'
'Yes; but there is something more than that, something greater. But
I must fight,I must fight.'
I did not understand the look in his eyes, or the tone of his voice.
'What, to protect yourself against Springfield?' I said.
'To save a woman's soul,' was his reply. 'Would you mind if we
didn't talk about it any more just now?' He went on with his dinner as
though nothing had happened, and if a stranger had been sitting by, he
would have said that Edgecumbe had no interest in the party close by.
'I think I must go and speak to them,' I said; 'it would seem
discourteous to be so near, and not speak to people who have shown me
so much kindness.'
'Go if you like,' was his answer, 'but don't let them see me. I am
going back to the hotel.'
I waited until he had left the room, and then turned towards Sir
Thomas Bolivick's table.
CHAPTER XXIX. CROSS CURRENTS
I received a hearty welcome as I came up, and Sir Thomas tried to
persuade me to spend the evening with them, and to accompany them to
the theatre. As far as I could judge, however, neither Springfield nor
Lorna seconded his proposal. I thought she preferred Springfield's
company to my own. They were now sitting over their coffee. Sir Thomas
was smoking a huge cigar, while Springfield lit cigarette after
cigarette and threw them away before they were half consumed.
'When did you come up?' I asked.
'Oh, we have been here four days. Captain Springfieldoh, I beg his
pardon,Colonel Springfield, has to go to the front the day after
to-morrow, and I was anxious to see him before he went.'
'Colonel?' I said. 'Have you been gazetted?' and I turned to
Springfield as I spoke.
'Sir Thomas is a little premature,' he replied with a smile. 'My
name was down for my majority before I returned home wounded, and I was
gazetted two months ago. As to my being colonel,but there, it is no
use making a secret of it, I suppose I am to have my battalion
immediately on my return.'
'Yes, I saw General at the War Office yesterday,' and Sir Thomas
smiled benignantly. 'Such services as Springfield has rendered can't go
long unrewarded, and in these days seniority does not count so much. By
the way, what has become of our eccentric friend Edgecumbe?'
'Don't you know. Have you heard nothing about him?' and I turned
quickly to Springfield as I spoke.
'I saw him nearly three weeks ago,' he replied; 'it seems he was not
fit for work, and came to London on leave. I saw him twice, I think,
and took him to one or two clubs. Since then I have lost sight of him.'
'And heard nothing about him?' I asked, looking at him steadily.
'Nothing at all. Sir Thomas, it is nearly time for us to go, but
there is time for another liqueur. We can meet the ladies in the
I accompanied Lorna Bolivick a few steps down the room, while Lady
Bolivick went a little ahead.
'Am I to congratulate you, Lorna?' I said. 'Forgive me, I am taking
you at your word.'
She gave me a quick look, which I could not understand, and then
replied, 'I start nursing again next week.'
'You know what I mean,' I persisted, and I laughed as I spoke.
'Springfield looks a very happy man.'
'Don't speak that way.' she replied; 'at least not yet.'
'Why?' I asked; and then, overstepping the bounds of good taste, I
went on, 'Edgecumbe told me all about it.'
'Did he? I am so sorry. Butbutcome and see us, won't you? We are
staying at the Carlton. We shall be there three days more. I want to
talk to you. Good night,' and she rushed away.
When I returned to the table, I found that the waiter had
replenished the liqueur glasses, and I saw, not only by the empty
champagne bottle, but by Springfield's eyes, that his libations had
'By the way, Luscombe,' he said, 'do you know where Edgecumbe
is? Has he returned to duty?'
Before I could reply, Sir Thomas, fortunately I thought, burst in
with another question, 'What do you really make of that fellow
'One of the bravest, finest, and most conscientious men I ever met,'
Springfield laughed mockingly.
'Why, is not that your opinion?' and I looked at him steadily.
'A man is bound to think kindly of a man who has saved his life.
Because of that I tried to be friendly to him. He was staying at that
Y.M.C.A. show for penniless officers, and I thought I'd do him a good
turn, butbut' he hesitated.
'But what?' I asked.
'Of course I know little of him. I never saw him until I met him
down at Sir Thomas's place. But if you weren't so certain about his
sanctity, Luscombe, I should be inclined to look upon him as a criminal
madman'; and there was a snarl in his voice.
'Surely you must have reasons for that,' I said.
'Yes, I have.'
'What are they?'
'I don't think I am obliged to tell,' he replied truculently.
'I think you are,' I said. 'To say the least of it, you owe him your
life,I can testify to that, for he exposed himself to almost certain
death while digging you out from under a big heap of débris;
none of the others who were there would have done it. And it is hardly
decent to call one who has done such a thing a criminal madman, without
having the strongest reasons.'
'I have the strongest reasons,' he replied, and I saw that
his libations had made him less cautious than usual. 'I do not think
any one can doubt his madness, whilst as for the criminality,' and he
laughed again, 'evidently he does the pious when he is with you;
but when he gets among men of his own ilk, his piety is an unknown
quantity. But the ladies are waiting, Sir Thomas; we must be off.'
I did not seek to pursue the conversation further. I did not think
it wise. And certainly the dining-room of a popular restaurant was not
the place for a scene.
I went back to the hotel very slowly, and having taken a somewhat
roundabout course it was not until an hour after I had left the
restaurant that I arrived there. I went into all the public rooms, and
looked for my friend. But he was nowhere visible. Then, feeling
somewhat uneasy, I went to his bedroom door, and was much relieved at
hearing him bid me enter. I found him sitting in an easy chair with a
handful of notes, which he had evidently been reading.
'What have you got there?' I asked.
'Oh, each night after we came back I wrote down my impressions,' he
replied, 'and I have been looking at them.'
'Well, you are a cool customer!' I laughed.
'Thank you. But what has led you to that tremendous conclusion?'
'Why, you see the woman with whom you pretend to be in love taken
away by another man, and never show the least desire to play your game!
If it were any one else but Springfield, I should not wonder so much,
but knowing your opinion of him, I can hardly understand it.'
'Yes, I hardly understand myself,' he replied; 'in fact, I am rather
a mystery to myself.'
'Do you really love Lorna Bolivick?' I asked.
'Excuse me, old man, but I don't quite understand you.'
He looked at me steadily for a few seconds, and then went on
quietly, 'I fancy there is no need to tell you about that.'
'And yet you stand by and see Springfield carry her off before your
eyes, and Springfield is a rotter.'
'Yes, that's just what he is. But he can't harm her yet.'
'What do you mean by yet?'
'I can't put it into words, Luscombe. My first impulse when I saw
them together just now was to go to the table and denounce him,to
warn her against him. But it would have been madness. The time is not
'Meanwhile, he will marry her,' I said.
'No, he won't. I am afraid he has fascinated her, and I am sure he
means to marry her,I saw it down in Devonshire. But there is no
danger yet; the danger will come by and by,when or how I don't know.
It will come, and I must be ready for it. I will be ready, too.
Meantime, I have other things to think about. I am worried, my friend,
'What is worrying you?'
'I am going back to duty to-morrow, but from what I can hear I am to
be treated as a special case. My colonel has said all sorts of kind
things about me, I find. But that's not what I am thinking about now.
This war is maddening me,this constant carnage, with all the misery
it entails. You asked me some time ago what I thought about the things
we had seen,what my impressions were, and I told you that I could not
co-ordinate my ideas, could not look at things in their true
perspective. I say, Luscombe, Admiral Beatty was right.'
'What do you mean?'
'Do you remember what he said?Just so long as England remains in
a state of religious indifference, just so long as the present
conditions obtain, will the war continue.'
'Don't let us talk about that now.'
'But I must, my dear chap. I am going back to duty to-morrow, and I
want to realize the inwardness of all we have seen. One thing I am
'What is that?'
'To fight this drink business as long as I have breath. It is doing
us more harm than Germany. I am told there is danger of a food famine.
It is said that bread is going to be scarce,that people may be put on
short rations. Of course we only hear hints now, but there are
suggestions that Germany is going to pursue her submarine policy with
more vigour, so as to starve us. A man I met in the hotel a little
while ago told me that they were going to sink all merchant ships at
sight, regardless of nationality. Of course you know what that means.'
'There are always rumours afloat,' I said.
'They might do it. Germany is capable of anything. But we
could laugh at that, but for this drink business. Think of it! Four
million tons of grain wasted in making drink since the beginning of the
war, and there is a talk about a shortage of bread. Three hundred
thousand tons of sugar have been used in making drink since the
beginning of the war, and it is difficult for people to buy sugar for
the common necessities of life! And that is not the worst of it. Why,
man, you know what we have seen during these last weeks,all the
horror, all the misery, all the devilry! What has been at the bottom of
nine-tenths of it? Night after night, when we have come back from
seeing what we have seen, I have been studying these questions,
I have been reading hours while you thought I was asleep. And I tell
you, it would not be good for us to have victory, until this thing is
destroyed. And I doubt whether God Almighty ever will give us
victory, until we have first of all strangled once and for ever this
'Don't talk nonsense! You are becoming a teetotal fanatic.'
'Think, Luscombe,' and he rose from his chair as he spoke, 'suppose
God were to give us victory to-night? Suppose the Germans were to cave
in, and tell us that we could dictate the terms of peace? Suppose our
armies were to come back while things are as they are, and while the
thought and feeling of the nation is as it is? Don't you see what would
follow? When trouble was first in the air, Asquith said that war was
hell let loose. Would not hell be let loose if victory were to be
declared? Think of the drunkenness, the devilry, the bestiality that
you and I saw! Think what those streets round Waterloo station are
like! Think of the places we went to, and remember what took place! And
these are grave times,times of struggle and doubt, and there are only
a few odd thousands home on leave. But what would happen, with all
these public-houses standing open, if hundreds of thousands,
intoxicated with the thought of victory, came back? You have told me
what took place during the Boer War; that would be nothing to the
Bacchanalian orgies we should see if victory were to come now.'
'Then you don't want victory?'
'Don't want victory! I long for it! Whywhy I get almost mad as I
think of what is daily taking place. Here in England people don't
really know what is happening. No hell ever invented is as bad as war.
It is the maddest and ghastliest crime ever known, the greatest
anachronism ever conceived. It mocks everything high and holy; it is
the devil incarnate! But one can't close one's eyes to facts. You
remember what that preacher man said in his sermon. He told us that
Almighty God often kept things from men and nations until they were
ready, and that if, as sometimes happened, things came before a people
were ready, they proved curses and not blessings. For my own part I
believe we shall have victory as soon as we are ready for it; but are
'Then what do you believe will happen?'
'I am afraid we have dark days before us. As a nation we are putting
material gain before moral fitness. The people who are making fortunes
out of our national curses are fighting like death for their hand, and
the nation seems to believe in a policy of laissez faire. If a
man is in earnest about these things, he is called a fanatic. Purge
England of her sins, my friend, and God will give us the victory.'
'That's as shadowy as a cloud, and has about as much foundation as a
cloud,' I retorted.
'Perhaps events will prove that I am right. Don't let us imagine
that God has no other means of working except through big guns. I have
read a good deal of history lately, and I have seen that, more than
once, when men and nations have been sure that certain things would
happen, Almighty God has laughed at them. God answered Job out of the
whirlwind; that's what He'll do to England.'
I laughed incredulously.
'All right,' he went on. 'It is very easy to laugh, but I should not
be at all surprised if Russia were to make a separate peace with
Germany, or if something were to happen to disorganize her forces.
Would not that make a tremendous difference to the war?'
'Of course it would, but Russia will make no separate peace, and
nothing will happen. Russia's as safe as houses, and as steady as a
rock. Don't talk nonsense, old man, and don't conjure up impossible
contingencies to bolster up your arguments.'
He was silent a few seconds, then he turned to me and said quietly,
'You know the country pretty well, don't you?'
'Pretty well, I think.'
'Do you think the condition of London represents the nation as a
'Yes, I think so. I don't say that such things as we witnessed down
by Waterloo or in those so-called studios around Chelsea can be seen
anywhere except in the big towns and cities, but otherwise I should say
that London gives a fair idea of the condition of the country.'
'Let me ask you this, then. Bearing what we have seen in mind, the
good as well as the bad, do you think we are ready for victory?'
I was silent for some seconds, then I said somewhat weakly I am
afraid, 'You cannot expect us all to be saints, Edgecumbe. Human nature
is human nature, andandbut there is a great deal of good in the
'Doubtless there is. When I think of the quiet determination, the
splendid sacrifices, the magnificent confidence of our people, added to
the unwearying kindness to the wounded and the needy, I feel like
saying we are ready for victory. But could not all that be matched in
Germany? With the world against them they have gone straight on. Have
we been determined? So have they. Have we made sacrifices? So have
they. Have we been confident? They have been more so. I dare say too
that with regard to kindness and care for their wounded and dying they
could match us. But Germany can't win; if they did, it would be victory
for the devil. It would mean a triumph for all that was worst in human
life. God Almighty is in His Heaven, therefore whatever else happens
German militarism will be crushed, and the world rid of an awful
menace. But this is what has impressed me. We as a nation have a unique
position in the world, and if history ever meant anything at all, we
are called to lead the world to higher things. Our opportunity is
tremendous; are we ready for it? I do not close my eyes to all the good
there is in the country, and I am sure there are millions who are
leading godly, sober lives. But as far as the Government and the great
bulk of the country are concerned, we are spiritually dead. I have been
studying the utterances of our statesmen, and I have looked too often
in vain for anything like idealism and for a vision. You know what the
old proverb says, Where there is no vision, the people perish, and
that is what we lack.'
'You are very hopeless,' I laughed.
'No, I am not. I can see that out of this upheaval will come a new
England, a new world. But not yet. We are not ready for the Promised
Land, not ready for the higher responsibilities to which God is calling
us. That is why the victory is delayed. Great God! I wish we had a few
men like Admiral Beatty in the Government. We want to be roused out of
our sleep, our indifference, our lethargy. When the nation gives itself
to God, victory will come.'
I did not pursue the conversation any further. I could see what was
in his mind, and I did not think that he looked at facts in their right
perspective, although I could not help feeling the tremendous amount of
truth in what he said.
The next day he went back to duty, while I was informed that for
some time my work would lie at home. A fortnight later Edgecumbe wrote
me a letter, telling me that he was ordered to the front. It seems that
his colonel was more than ever impressed by his evident knowledge of
artillery work, and he was made a special case.
A week later he had left England, while I, little dreaming of what
the future would bring forth, remained at home.
CHAPTER XXX. THE MARCH OF EVENTS
The events which I have now to record bring this narrative into this
present year of grace 1917. When I started writing, I had but little
idea of the things I should have to narrate. The drama was then only
partially acted, the story was not complete. As the reader may
remember, when I was in Exeter, shortly after I had first met
Edgecumbe, and had been telling Sir Roger Granville what little I knew
of his history. Sir Roger was much interested. He said that the whole
case promised great things, and that anything might happen to him, that
he might have a wife living, and that he might be heir to big
possessions, and that when some day his memory was restored to him many
romantic things might come to pass.
Although I did not say so at the time, his words aroused my
imagination, and when, months later, I fell in with Edgecumbe again,
having some little time at my disposal, I set down as well as my memory
would serve the story of our meeting, and what had happened
The remainder of this narrative will, to an extent, be in the nature
of a diary, for so close are some of the events at the time of which I
am writing, that their recital becomes a record of what took place only
a few weeks ago. It is many months ago since first I took pen in hand
to set forth Edgecumbe's story, and now, as I draw near to what, as far
as this history is concerned, is its ending, I am almost afraid to
write of certain things in detail, for fear of wounding some of the
people who are yet alive, and who may feel sensitive that I am making
their doings public.
The year 1916 was drawing to an end when I received Edgecumbe's
first letter after he had returned to the front.
'It's miserably cold, miserably wet, and frightfully unpleasant out
here,' he wrote; 'still, it is better for me than it is for many
others. Would you believe it, Luscombe, but Colonel has said so
many kind things about me that I find myself a marked man. I have
already got my full lieutenancy, and am down for my captaincy. Not long
after I came here, I was brought before a very big pot, whose name I
dare not mention, but who is supposed to be the greatest artillery
officer in the British Army. He put me through the severest examination
I have ever had, and I scarcely knew whether I was standing on my head
or my heels. He was very kind, however, and by and by we got talking
freely, and I suppose I must have interested him in certain theories I
had formed about artillery work. Anyhow, I am to be given my captaincy,
and all sorts of important work is being put in my hands. There are big
movements on foot, my friend,what they are, I dare not tell you, but
if they are successful they will, from a military standpoint, form an
epoch in the history of this war.
'With regard to our prospects out here, I am exceedingly optimistic.
The men are splendid, and although the conditions are hard, our health
sheet is exceedingly good. From the standpoint of military
preparedness, things look very rosy; but concerning the other things
about which you and I did not agree I am not at all happy. I am a
soldier, and I am inclined to think that as a boy I was trained for a
soldier. I judge, too, that I have some aptitude in that direction. I
believe, too, that the Almighty is using our military powers for a
purpose, but I am sure that if England believes that this tremendous
upheaval is going to be settled by big guns,much as I realize the
power of big guns, England will be mistaken. Unless we recognize the
moral forces which are always at work, we shall not be ready in the
hour of crisis.'
When I replied to this letter, I took no notice whatever of these
reflections; indeed, I scarcely saw what he meant. I congratulated him
most heartily on his phenomenally rapid promotion, and told him that he
would soon be colonel, and that this was only a step to higher things.
As all the world knows, the events of the 1917 have followed each
other with startling and almost bewildering rapidity. Indeed, from the
time when Edgecumbe returned to the front, it is almost impossible to
estimate the far-reaching results of what was taking place. The
evacuation of large tracts of land by the Germans, the giving up of
their Somme front, was more significant than we at the time realized.
Then came the fulfilment of the German threat that on February 1 there
would be unrestricted murder at sea, when vessels of all nationality,
whether neutral or otherwise, would be attacked. At first we could
scarcely believe it, it seemed too horrible to contemplate. War had
ceased to be war; 'rules of the game' were no longer known as far as
the Germans were concerned. Then came the Prime Minister's statement
that the food supplies of the country had become very low, and that the
strictest economy would have to be used. Appeals were made to the
nation to conserve all our food resources, while the Germans jubilantly
proclaimed that in three months we should be starved into submission.
'I suppose,' Edgecumbe wrote, 'that it is bad form on my part to say
I told you so; but I saw this coming months ago. Indeed, no one could
have an intelligent appreciation of German psychology without knowing
that it must come. I am told that food is now only obtainable at famine
prices at home, and that there is a cry on every hand,Eat less
bread. But think of the mockery of it, my friend! While there is a
threatened bread famine, beer is still manufactured. And that which was
intended to provide food for the people is being used to make beer. If
the Germans bring us to our knees, it will be our own fault. If the
resources of the nation had not been squandered in this way, we could
laugh at all the Germans say they are going to do.'
Then news came which staggered Europe and set the world wondering.
The Revolution had broken out in Russia,the Czar and Czarina became
practically prisoners, the Russian bureaucracy fell, and although the
Revolution was practically bloodless, that great Empire was reduced to
a state of chaos. Of course our newspapers made it appear as though
everything were in our favour; that the old days of corruption and
Czardom were over, and that the people, freed from the tyranny and the
ghastly incubus of autocracy, would now rise in their might and their
millions, and would retrieve what they had lost in the Eastern lines.
Some prophesied that the Revolution in Russia was but the beginning of
a movement which should destroy all autocratic Governments and, with
the establishment of that movement, the end of war would come. Then
little by little it leaked out that liberty had become a licence,that
the Russian Army had become disorganized,that the Socialistic element
among the Russians had demanded peace at any price. Soldiers refused to
fight, men deserted by the thousand, while Russian soldiers fraternized
with the Germans.
'Aren't we living in great times,' Edgecumbe wrote to me,'surely
the greatest times ever known! They stagger the imagination,they
leave our minds bewildered,they shatter our little plans like a
strong wind destroys castles of cards made by children. God is
speaking, my friend. Will England be wise, and hear His voice? Will we
learn that, although the voice of great guns is loud, and the power of
explosives mighty, yet they are not final in the affairs of men and
nations? Why, our plans out here have been blown to smithereens by what
has taken place many hundreds of miles away! We had everything in
readiness, and, humanly speaking, it seemed as though nothing could
have stopped our advance. We had the Germans on toast,we took Vimy
Ridge, and Lens was in our grasp,we had advanced miles along the
Douay road, and Lille seemed but the matter of a few days. Then God
spoke, and Ecco! what were the plans of men? The Huns, of course, took
advantage of the new situation, and removed vast hordes of men and guns
from the East to the West, and now we are held up. Of course I am
disappointed;looking at the matter from the standpoint of a soldier,
it seemed as though nothing could withstand us. But what are the plans
of men when God speaks?
'Of course you will say that I am seeming to prove that God is on
the side of the Germans and, seeing this Russian Revolution has meant
our being held up here, that God Almighty meant that we should not
advance. No, my friend, I am not such a fool as to pretend to
understand the ways of the Omnipotent, but I have no doubt that this
wide and far-reaching movement in Russia will eventually be on our
side. It must be. But why will not England learn the lesson which is so
plainly written from sky to sky? Why do not the people turn to
God,look to Him for wisdom, and fight in His strength? Then victory
would come soon, and gloriously.
'As I said, I am disappointed at our temporary check, but I am
convinced it is only temporary. God does things in a big way. He
staggers our poor little puny minds by His acts. The world is being
re-made; old systems, hoary with age, are being destroyed. The birth of
new movements is on foot, new thoughts are in the air, new dreams are
being dreamed, and the new age is surely coming. But sometimes it seems
as though we have ears, and hear not,eyes, and see not. God is
speaking to us aloud, calling us to repentance, and yet we do not hear
His voice, or seek His guidance. Still, we are on the eve of new
movements, and out of all the confusion will come a great order, and
men will yet see the hand of the Lord.'
His letter had scarcely reached me, when the news came that America
had declared war on Germany, and was to act on the side of the Allies.
This great free people, numbering a hundred million souls, made up of
all nationalities, yet welded into one great nation, had spoken, and
had spoken on the side of freedom and righteousness. Even the few who
had been downhearted took fresh courage at America's action. The
thought that the United States, with its almost illimitable resources
of men, of money, and of potentialities, was joining hands with us,
made everything possible. I was not surprised at receiving another
letter from Edgecumbe.
'At last we have had a prophetic utterance,' he wrote. 'Wilson has
spoken, not merely as a politician, or as the head of the American
nation, but as a prophet of God. His every word made my nerves tingle,
my heart warm. As an Englishman, I felt jealous, and I asked why,
during these last months, there had been no voice heard in England,
proclaiming the idealism, the inwardness of this gigantic struggle? But
as a citizen of the world, I rejoiced with a great joy. I am inclined
to think that Wilson's speech will form a new era in the history of
men. That for which he contends will slowly percolate through the
nations, and peoples of every clime will know and understand that
nothing can resist the will of Almighty God.
'What pigmies we are, and for how little do the plans of individuals
count! God speaks, and lo the pomp of the Czar becomes but as chaff
which the wind drives away! Who would have believed a few months ago
that all the so-called glory of the Imperial House of the Romanoffs
would become the dream of yesterday? All the long line of Royal sons no
longer counts. Czardom with all it meant has gone for ever. The man,
whose word a few weeks ago meant glory or shame, life or death, is
to-day an exile, a prisoner. His word no more than the cry of a puling
child! And to-morrow? God may speak again, and then Kaiserism will fall
with all its pomp and vanity.
'Of course I am but a poor ignorant soldier, and my word cannot
count for much; but I have a feeling that before many years are
over,perhaps it may be only a matter of monthsthe Kaiser will
either die by his own hand, or else God, through the millions of
bereaved and heart-broken people, will hurl him from his throne.
'What is the power of autocratic kings? Only the moaning of night
winds. Yesterday it was not, and tomorrow it will not be. But God lives
through His people, and that people is slowly moving on to liberty and
power. That is why I believe the end of war is drawing near. It is
never the people who long for war; it is the kings, the
potentates who are ever guilty of making it. Thus when they cease to
rule, war will cease, and there will be peace and brotherhood.
'Anyhow, President Wilson has spoken, and he has expressed the
highest feelings of the American nation, and although the end of this
war may not come as we expect, it will come in the overthrow of
Junkerdom and military supremacy.'
After this I did not hear from Edgecumbe for some time, and I began
to grow anxious at his long continued silence, then when June of this
year arrived, an event took place which overcame me with astonishment.
I had had a hard day at the training camp, and was sitting outside
the mess tent, when I felt a hand upon my shoulder, and heard a cheery
voice close by me.
'Hulloa, Luscombe, why that pensive brow?'
I looked up and saw my friend standing by me, with his left arm in a
sling, looking pale and somewhat haggard, but with a bright light in
'Edgecumbe!' I cried. 'Ay, but I am glad to see you! Where did you
spring from, and what have you been doing?'
'That's what I've come to tell you,' he said quietly.
CHAPTER XXXI. EDGECUMBE'S RETURN
'You are wounded,' I stammered, scarcely knowing what I was saying.
His appearance was so sudden, and unexpected, that I could scarcely
believe that it was really he who stood there before me. 'It's not bad
'No, not bad. Not enough to make a fuss about;it might have been,
though'; and I noticed that his voice became grave.
'How? What do you mean?'
'I'll tell you some daysoon perhaps. Are you busy?'
'No, my work is over for the day. I am glad to see you, old
man. Are you home for long?'
'Yes, a few weeks I expect. You seeI've had a rough time
ratherand am a bit knocked about. But I shall pull through.'
His manner was strange; and while he spoke quietly, I felt rather
than thought that something out of the ordinary had happened.
He dragged a rough seat up to the side of the tent, and looked
across the field where a number of men were encamped.
'Have you heard from her?' he asked suddenly. 'Do you know
how she is?'
'No. Directly after we saw her last she returned to her hospital
work. I wrote to her once; but she has not replied.'
'Have you heard anything?'
'I know Springfield has been home, and that he's been to see her. I
heard from Buller that they were engaged.'
'You mean that it's settled? Has it been publicly announced?' His
voice was tense.
'I don't think so. At any rate, I've not seen it in the papers.'
Again he was silent for a few seconds, and noting the far-away look
in his eyes, I waited in silence.
'Springfield is still afraid of me,' he said presently.
'Why? Have you seen him?'
'Yes. He and St. Mabyn are still as thick as peas in a pod. They
were both at Vimy Ridge, and afterwards at Ypres and Messines.
'Did you speak to them?'
'Rather,' and he laughed curiously. 'I had to.'
'How? What do you mean?'
'You asked me just now why I had not written you for some time. I
had my reasons for silence. I was under a cloud for a time, and I
wanted things cleared up before telling you anything.'
'Don't speak in riddles, Edgecumbe. What has been the trouble? Tell
'Oh, it's all over now, so I can speak fairly plainly, but for some
days it was touch and go with me. Of course they kept in the
background, but I was able to trace their handiwork.'
'What handiwork? Come, old man, don't keep me in suspense.'
'Oh, it was the old game. You remember how it was when you were in
France, and some fellows shot at me. You remember, too, how I nearly
died of poisoning at Bolivick, and that but for you I should have been
done for. You said you traced Springfield's hands in everything. He's
been trying on the same thing again,only in another way.'
'What other way?'
He laughed quietly. 'I fancy he thought that when you weren't by I
should be easy game, that I should be too simple to see through his
plans. But I happened to keep my eyes skinned, as the Americans say. It
was this way: by some means or another, some important information went
astray, and got into the German lines. Of course the Huns made the most
of it, and we suffered pretty heavily. As it happened I was at that
time in the confidence of the General in command of the D.H.Q., and
there seemed no one else on whom suspicion could fall. But I was warned
in time. I had been told that both Springfield and St. Mabyn had been
in close confab with the General, and I knew that if they could do me a
nasty turn, they would. So I checkmated them.'
'How? Tell me the details.'
'I'm afraid I mustn't do that. You know how military secrets are
regarded, and as even yet the scheme I discussed with the General is
not completed, my lips are sealed. But I found that Springfield had
suggested to the General that my loss of memory was very fishya mere
blind in fact to cover up a very suspicious past. He also told him he
was sure he had seen me, in pre-war days, in Berlin, wearing the
uniform of a German officer. Had I not been able to show an absolutely
clean sheet I should have been done for. As it was, there was a time
when I wouldn't have given a sou for my life. I was, of course, shut
off from the General's confidence, and pending the results of the
inquiry was practically a prisoner.'
'I say, old man, you can't mean that?'
'Fact, I assure you. Still as nothing, absolutely nothing
wrong could be traced to me, and as'
'Yes, what,' I said as he hesitated.
'Oh, a little thing I was mixed up in came off rather wellvery
well in fact.'
'What? Don't keep me in suspense, old man.'
'Oh, nothing much; nothing worth talking about. Still I may as well
tell you as it's bound to come out. It seems I am to get the D.S.O.'
'The D.S.O.! Great, old man! I congratulate you with all my heart.
Tell me about it,' I cried.
'It was really nothing. Still I had concocted a scheme which gave us
a big advantage. It was rather risky, but it came off so well
thatthatit got to the notice of the G.H.Q. andandthere you are.
When the details of my little stunt became known to the Chief hehe
said it was impossible for its author to be anything but a loyal
Englishman, that I was a valuable man, and all that sort of rot.'
Of course I read between the lines. I knew Edgecumbe's reticence
about anything he had done, and I was sure he had accomplished a big
'It came in jolly handy to me,' he went on, 'for it spiked
Springfield's guns right away, and I was regarded as sort of tin god.
Congratulations poured in on every hand andand, but there's no need
to say any more about it.'
'And what did Springfield say then?'
'Oh, he was louder in his congratulations than any one. It makes me
sick to think of it!'
'But didn't you expose him?'
'I couldn't. You see, I only learnt in a roundabout way that he had
tried to poison the General's mind against me, and he very nearly
covered his traces everywhere. Oh, he's a clever beggar. Still, you see
the situation. It was jolly sultry for a time.'
'I see you have had another move,' I said looking at his uniform.
'Yes, I've had great luck; but don't let's talk any more about me.
How are you getting on? And can't you get some leave?'
'I have some due,' I replied, noting the far-away look in his eyes,
and wondering what was in his mind. 'Why do you ask?'
'Big things are going to happen,' he said after a long silence.
'What do you mean? Tell me, Edgecumbe, has your memory come back?
Have you learnt anythinginin that direction?'
He shook his head sadly. 'No, nothing. The past is blank, blank. And
yet I think sometimesI say, Luscombe, I wonder who I am? I
'And do you still persist in your mad fancies?' I blurted out after
a long silence.
'Persist! Mad fancies!' he cried passionately. 'As long as my heart
beats, as long as I have consciousness, I shall never cease totoI
say, old man, get some leave and go with me.'
'Why?' I asked. 'If your mind is made up, seek her out wherever she
is. I know she is at a V.A.D. Hospital not far from her home; so your
way is plain. You can go to her on more equal terms now. You are a
distinguished man now. In a few months you have risen from obscurity to
'Don't talk rot. I can never meet her on equal terms.'
'Then why bother about her?'
'Because God has decreed that I shall. But you must go with me, my
dear fellow. In ways I can't understand, your life is linked to mine.
It was not for nothing that we met down at Plymouth Harbour; it was not
without purpose that I was led to love you like a brother.'
'Well, what then?'
'You must go with me. In some way or another, your life is linked to
mine, and you must go with me.'
Of course I applied for leave right away, and as I had been working
hard all the while Edgecumbe had been in France I was able to get it
'My word, have you seen this, Edgecumbe?' I cried the next
afternoon, immediately we had left Salisbury Plain, where I had been
'What?' he asked.
'This in The Times. They've been cracking you up to the
'Oh, that,' he replied. 'Yes, I saw it this morning. I see they've
made quite a sensational paragraph. I hardly recognize myself.'
As I read the article a second time, I wondered at his indifference.
Seldom had such a eulogy appeared in that great newspaper. Evidently
the writer had taken considerable pains to get at the facts, and had
presented them in glowing colours. There could be no doubt about it
that from the standpoint of the Army, his future, if his life was
spared, was assured. Not only was he spoken of as a man whose courage
was almost unparalleled, but his abilities as a strategist, and his
grasp of the broad issues of military affairs were discussed, and
recognized in no sparing terms. It seemed impossible that a man who a
few months before was a simple private, should now be discussed in such
Greatly elated as I was at the praise bestowed upon my friend, I
little realized what it would mean to him during the next few hours.
CHAPTER XXXII. THE GREAT MEETING
'Can't we go down to Devonshire to-night?' cried Edgecumbe, as our
train reached London.
'Impossible, my dear fellow,' I replied.
'But why not?' and I could see by the wild longing look in his eyes
what he was thinking of.
'Oh, there are a dozen reasons. For one thing, she may not be able
to get away from the hospital; for anotherI don't think it would be
'I simply must go, Luscombe! I tell you something's going to happen,
something great. I feel it in every breath I draw. We must gogo at
'No,' I replied. 'I wrote her last night, and told her that we
should step in London at the National Hotel till we heard from her. If
she wants us to come we shan't be long in getting her reply.'
He gave a long quivering sigh, and I could see how disappointed he
was, but he said no more about the matter, and when we arrived at the
hotel he had seemed to have forgotten all about it.
'Look here,' he cried, pointing to a paragraph in an evening
newspaper, 'that's on the right lines. I'm going.'
The paragraph which interested him was a notice of a big meeting
that was to be held that night for the purpose of discussing certain
phases of the Army, and consequently of the war, about which newspapers
were usually silent. The fact that a Cabinet Minister of high rank, as
well as a renowned general, were announced to speak, however, caused
the news editor to give it prominence.
'It's on the right lines,' he repeated. 'Yes, I'm going.'
'Better go to some place of amusement,' I suggested.
'Nero fiddled while Rome was burning,' was his reply.
A little later we found our way to a huge hall where some thousands
of people had gathered. It was evident that the subject to be discussed
appealed strongly to a large portion of the population, and that the
audience was much interested in the proceedings.
I could see, however, that Edgecumbe was disappointed in the
meeting. None of the speakers spoke strongly and definitely. Each
enlarged on the difficulties of the situation, and spoke of the
impossibility of making men pure by Act of Parliament, but no
suggestion was made whereby the evils mentioned might be grappled with
and strangled. While all admitted that a frightful state of things
existed, and declared that something ought to be done, no one had the
courage to demand drastic reforms, or strike a prophetic note. The
Cabinet Minister enlarged in a somewhat stilted fashion upon what the
Government had done to check drunkenness, while another speaker told of
the magnificent work of the Y.M.C.A., and of the hostels and huts which
had been provided, both in England and on the Continent; but all felt
that the heart of the matter had not been touched. It was not until the
General spoke that the audience was anything like aroused, and even he
failed to get at close quarters with the evils which all admitted.
Indeed I, who could not see how more could be done than had been
done, felt that the meeting was a failure, and as, when the General sat
down, the reporters were preparing to leave, and the audience grew
restless, I felt that the whole thing was in the nature of a fiasco.
'Let's go, Edgecumbe,' I said.
'No, not yet,' and I saw that he was much excited.
'But the meeting is practically over. There, the chairman is going
to call on somebody to propose the usual vote of thanks.'
But he took no notice of me. Instead he rose to his feet, and his
voice rang clearly throughout the hall.
'My lord,' he said addressing the chairman, 'I am a soldier just
home from the front. May I say a few words?'
It was only then that I realized what a striking figure Edgecumbe
was, and although I was almost stunned by his sudden action, I could
not help comparing him, as he was now, with the first occasion on which
I had seen him. Then, with his nondescript garments, his parchment-like
skin, and the look of wistful indecision in his eyes, he was a creature
to be pitied. Now, in the uniform of a major, he stood stalwart and
erect. In spite of the fact that his left arm was in a sling, there was
something commanding in his attitude. His eyes no longer suggested
indecision, and his bronzed skin was no longer wrinkled and parchment
like. He looked what he wasa tall, strong, capable man, instinct with
life and energy.
There was something, too, in the tones of his voice that aroused the
interest of the audience, and thousands of eyes were turned towards
The chairman adjusted his eye-glasses, and looked at Edgecumbe, who
still stood erect, the cynosure of all eyes.
'I am sure,' said the chairman, 'that in spite of the fact that it
is growing late, we shall be glad to hear a few words from a soldier
just back from the front. Will he kindly come to the platform.'
The audience, doubtless noting Edgecumbe's wounded arm, gave him a
cheer as he left his seat, while the reporters, probably hoping for
something good in the way of copy, again opened their note-books.
'I asked permission to say a few words, my lord,' he said, 'because
I have been deeply disappointed in this meeting. This is a great
audience, and it is a great occasion; that is why the lack of an
overwhelming conviction, the lack too of anything like vision of the
inwardness of the problem under discussion is so saddening. I had hoped
for a message to the heart of the nation; I had waited to hear the
Voice of God, without which all such gatherings as this must be in
He hesitated a second, and I feared lest he had lost thread of his
thought, feared too lest after his somewhat flamboyant commencement his
appearance would be only a fiasco. I saw, too, that the chairman looked
at him doubtfully, and I had a suspicion that he was on the point of
asking him to sit down.
But his hesitation was only for a moment. He threw back his
shoulders as though he were on the battlefield and was about to give an
'I speak as one who has been a soldier in the ranks, and who knows
the soldier's hardships, his temptations, his sufferings. I also speak
as one who knows what a fine fellow the British soldier is, for believe
me there are no braver men beneath God's all-beholding sun than our
lads have proved themselves to be.'
He had struck the right note now, and the audience responded warmly.
There was something magnetic in Edgecumbe's presence, too, something in
his voice which made the people listen.
'I want to say something else, before getting to that which is in my
heart to say,' he went on. 'We are fighting for something great, and
high and holy. We are contending against tyranny, lies, savagery. Never
did a nation have a greater, grander cause than we, and if Germany were
In a few sentences he outlined the great issues at stake and made
the audience see as he saw. It was evident, too, that the occupants of
the platform became aware that a new force was at work.
Then followed the greatest scene I have ever seen at any public
gathering. For some time Edgecumbe seemed to forget who he was, or to
whom he spoke; he was simply carried away by what seemed to him the
burning needs of the times. He spoke of the way thousands of young
fellows were ruined, and of the facilities which existed for their
ruin. He told of scenes he had seen in France, scenes which took place
when the men were 'back for rest,' and were 'out for a good time.' He
described what we had witnessed together in London. He showed, too, in
burning words that the two outstanding evils, 'Drink and Impurity,'
were indissolubly associated, and that practically nothing was done to
stem the tide of impurity and devilry which flowed like a mighty flood.
'I say this deliberately,' he said, 'it is nothing short of a
blood-red crime, it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God, to
call men from the four corners of the earth to fight for a great cause
like ours, and then to allow temptations to stand at every corner to
lure them to destruction. Some one has described in glowing terms the
work of the Y.M.C.A., and I can testify the truth of those terms, but
ask Y.M.C.A. workers what is the greatest hindrance to their work, and
they will tell you it is the facilities for drink, drink which so often
leads to impurity, and all the ghastly diseases that follows in its
'How can you expect God's blessing to rest upon us, while the souls
of men are being damned in such a way?'
'What would you do?' cried some one, when the wild burst of cheering
which greeted his words ceased.
'Do?' he cried. 'At least every man here can determine, God helping
him, to fight against the greatest foe of our national life. You can
determine that you will leave nothing undone to strangle this deadly
enemy. Personally, after seeing what I have seen, and knowing what I
know, I will make no terms with it. Even now, if a fortune were offered
me, made by drink, I would not benefit by it. But more, you can besiege
the Government, you can give it no rest until it has removed one of the
greatest hindrances to victory.
'What England needs is to realize that God lives, and to turn to Him
in faith and humility. Just so long as we remain in a state of
religious indifference, just so long will the war continue; and just so
soon as we give our lives to Him, and put our trust in Him, just so
soon will victory be seen. God has other ways of speaking than by big
guns. God spoke, and lo, all the pomp of the Czars became the byword of
children! God will speak again, and all the vain glory of the Kaiser
will become as the fairy stories of the past!'
I know that what I have written gives no true idea of Edgecumbe's
message. The words I have set down give but faint suggestions of the
outpourings of a heart charged with a mighty purpose. For he spoke like
a man inspired, and he lifted the whole audience to a higher level of
thought, and life, and purpose. People who had listened with a bored
expression on their faces during the other speeches, were moved by his
burning words. Club loungers who had been cynical and unbelieving half
an hour before, now felt the reality of an unseen Power.
Then came the climax to all that had gone before. No sooner had
Edgecumbe sat down than the chairman rose again.
'You wonder perhaps,' he said, 'who it is that has been speaking to
us. You know by his uniform that he is a soldier, and you know he is a
brave man by the decoration on his tunic, but few I expect know, as I
have just learnt, that this is Major Edgecumbe, the story of whose
glorious career is given in to-day's newspapers.'
If the meeting was greatly moved before, it now became frenzied in
its enthusiasm. Cheer after cheer rose, while the great audience rose
to its feet. All realized that he spoke not as a theorist and a
dreamer, but as a man who had again and again offered his life for the
country he loved, and the cause in which he believeda man, not only
great in courage, but skilful in war, and wise in counsel.
When the excitement had somewhat ceased, an old clergyman, who had
been sitting at the back of the platform, came to the front.
'Let us pray,' he said, and a great hush rested on every one, while
he led the multitude in prayer.
When the meeting finally broke up, the General who had spoken
earlier in the evening came and shook Edgecumbe by the hand.
'This meeting is worth more to win the war than an army corps,' he
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE LIFTED CURTAIN
The following morning the papers contained lengthy reports of the
meeting, and spoke in no sparing terms of the influence of Edgecumbe's
words on the great crowd. He appeared to be depressed, however.
'It may be only a passing sensation,' he said. 'Still, I couldn't
help doing what I did.'
We had barely finished breakfast when a telegram was brought to me,
'Come at once and bring your friend. Wire time I may expect
'There,' I said, passing it to Edgecumbe, 'there's dispatch for
A few minutes later we were in a taxi, on our way to Paddington, and
a few hours later we arrived at Bolivick.
We had barely alighted from the conveyance when Edgecumbe gave a
'Look,' he said, 'both Springfield and St. Mabyn are there.'
'Yes,' I replied lightly, 'and Lorna too. Don't you see her in her
His face was set and rigid as the greetings took place; but he had
evidently put a strong check upon himself, and spoke naturally.
'Glad to see you, Luscombe,' cried Sir Thomas, 'and you too, Major
Edgecumbe. Let me congratulate you on your wonderful career. It's
almost like a fairy story!'
'Let me add my congratulations,' cried Springfield. 'I pay my
tribute, not only to the soldier, but to the orator.'
I could not fail to detect the sneer in his voice, even although he
seemed to speak heartily. A copy of The Times was lying on the
lawn, and I imagined that Edgecumbe's speech had been read and
'We shall be quite a party to dinner to-night,' said Sir Thomas to
me presently. 'Of course you must expect scanty fare, as we are
carrying out the rationing order to the very letter. But it's an
important occasion all the same. Lord Carbis is coming by the next
train. Please don't say anything about it. No one knows but my wife and
myself. I want to give a surprise to both Lorna and Springfield.'
My heart became as heavy as lead, for I knew what he had in his
mind, and I looked towards Edgecumbe, wondering if he had heard
anything. It was evident he had heard nothing, however; he was talking
to Norah Blackwater, who was again a visitor to Bolivick.
'By the way,' went on Sir Thomas, 'that fellow Edgecumbe has
developed wonderfully, hasn't he? Of course what he said last night was
so much nonsense. I quite agree that it's very sad
aboutthatissome of the things he talked about, but as to the
rest,it was moonshine.'
'You wouldn't have said so if you'd been there, Sir Thomas,' I
'Something's going to happen, Luscombe,' Edgecumbe said to me as
presently we found our way to our rooms.
'Why do you say so?'
'I don't know. But there is. It's in the air we breathe. I know I'm
'What's the matter with you?' I asked, looking at him intently.
'Nothing. Yes there is though. I'm feeling mighty queer.'
'Are you ill?'
'No, nothing of the sort. But I'm nervous. I feel as though great
things were on foot. The air is charged with great things. Something
big is going to take place.'
He was silent a few seconds, and then went on, 'I had a long talk
with a doctor in France a few days ago.'
'What doctor? What did he tell you?' I asked eagerly.
'One of our men out there. He had a big practice as a consulting
physician in Harley Street until a few months ago, when he offered
himself to the Army. He is a nerve specialist, and years ago paid great
attention to brain troubles. He was so kind to me, and was such an
understanding fellow that I told him my story. He was awfully
interested, and said that he never knew but one case where loss of
memory had continued so long as it had with me.'
'Did he give you any hope?' I asked.
He shook his head doubtfully. 'He would not say anything definite.
He seemed to think that as my general health had been good for so long,
and as my memory had not come back, it might be a very long time before
there was any change. All the same, he felt sure that it was only a
matter of time. He seemed to regard my trouble as a kind of artificial
barrier which divided the past from the present, but that time would
constantly wear away the barrier. He also said that if some very vivid
and striking happening were to take place, something that was vitally
connected with my past, it might suddenly pierce ittear it aside, and
let in the light.'
'No, Luscombe,' he interrupted, as if divining my thoughts, 'I know
of nothing, I remember nothing. But there was something else he told me
which makes me have faith in him. It was so true.'
'What was that?'
'That loss of memory often gave a kind of sixth sense. He said he
should not be surprised if I had very vivid premonitions of the future.
That I had a kind of knowledge when something out of the common were
going to happen. That's what makes me afraid.'
'Yes, afraid. I seem to be on the brink of a great black chasm. I
feel that I am able to save myself from falling, only I won't. I say,
'It's a motor-car,' I replied. 'Sir Thomas told me he had other
'What guests? Who are they?'
'How can I know?' I replied, for I feared to tell him what our host
had told me about Lord Carbis's relations to Springfield, and that
probably Lorna's engagement might be announced in a few hours.
We were both dressed ready for dinner a quarter of an hour before
the time announced, and together we found our way downstairs into the
reception hall. Early as we were, we found that not only was Lorna
Bolivick there, but George St. Mabyn was also present and was talking
eagerly to Norah Blackwater. Springfield also came a few seconds later,
and went straight to Lorna's side and spoke to her with an air of
I felt that Edgecumbe and I were de trop, and I moved away
from them, but Edgecumbe went to St. Mabyn and Norah Blackwater, as if
with the purpose of speaking to them. I thought, too, that there was a
strange look in his eyes.
'You are not much like your brother Maurice,' he said suddenly.
'My brother Maurice!' said St. Mabyn, and I thought his voice was
hoarse. 'What do you know of him?'
'What do I know of him?' repeated Edgecumbe, and he spoke as though
his mind were far away.
'Yes. You can know nothing of him. He's dead.'
'No,' replied Edgecumbe, 'he's not dead.'
'Not dead!' and St. Mabyn almost gasped the words, while his face
became as pale as ashes. 'Not dead! You must be mad!' Then he laughed
'Oh, no,' and Edgecumbe still spoke in the same toneless voice. 'I
knew him well. He waswhere did I see him last?'
Before we could recover from the effect of what he said, I knew that
we were joined by others. In a bewildered kind of way I noticed that
Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick were accompanied by a tall,
distinguished-looking man about fifty-five years of age, by whose side
stood a sweet-faced, motherly-looking woman.
'Lorna, my dear,' said Sir Thomas, 'I want you to know Lord and Lady
Lorna moved forward to speak to her visitors, but they did not
notice her. Both of them had fixed their gaze on Edgecumbe, who stood
looking at them with a light in his eyes which made me afraid.
'John!' cried Lady Carbis, her voice almost rising to a scream.
'Why, it's Jack! our Jack!'
Never shall I forget the look on my friend's face. He seemed to be
in agony. It might be that he was striving to keep himself from going
mad. His eyes burnt with a red light, his features were drawn and
contorted. Then suddenly he heaved a deep sigh, and lifted his
shoulders, as though he were throwing a heavy weight from him.
'Mother!' he said hoarsely. 'Mother! When? that is Why, I'm
home again!and the little mater'
Unheeding the fact of his damaged arm, he held out both his hands
and staggered towards her.
A second later, unconscious of watching eyes, they were in each
other's arms, while Lady Carbis murmured all sorts of fond endearments.
'My dead boy come back to life!' she cried. 'My little Jack
whowhooh, thank God, thank God! Speak to me, Jack, my darling,
speak to your mother! Oh, help! What's the matter? Can't you see
I was only just in time to keep my friend from falling heavily on
the floor, and when a few seconds later I succeeded in lifting him to a
sofa, he lay like a dead man.
CHAPTER XXXIV. MEMORY
For some minutes wild confusion prevailed. Lady Carbis knelt by the
sofa, and called wildly on my friend to speak to her. Lord Carbis
talked incoherently, and made all sorts of impossible suggestions.
Evidently he was beside himself with joy and fear. Sir Thomas Bolivick
looked from one to another as if asking for explanations, while Lorna
Bolivick, with pale, eager face and wild eyes, stood like one
But she was the first to recover herself. Swiftly she went to the
sofa, and caught Edgecumbe's hand. Then she knelt down and placed her
ear to his heart.
'He is alive,' she said; 'his heart beats. I think he will soon be
'Yes, yes,' stammered Lord Carbis. 'He was always a strong boyhard
as nails, hard as nails. Oh, it's wonderful, wonderful! It's my son, my
only son, Sir Thomas. I'd given him up for dead. It's years now
sincesince he was last seen. Ah, look, his eyelids are quivering!
Stand back and give him air. But I can't understand. Where's he been
all this time? Why hasn't he let us know where he was? It's not like
him. He was always such a good boy, and so fond of his mother. I got a
paper from India, too; announcing his death. I can't understand it all.
Perhaps you can explain, Sir Thomas'
Thus he went on talking, scarcely conscious of what he was saying.
Evidently the shock had almost unhinged his mind, and he was merely
giving expression to the fugitive thoughts that came to him.
As Edgecumbe's eyes opened, I felt a strange quiver of joy in my
heart. What I saw was no madman's stare, rather it suggested placid
contentment. For a few seconds he glanced from one to another, as if
trying to comprehend, and co-ordinate what had taken place; then he
heaved a deep sigh, half of satisfaction, half of weariness.
'It's all gone,' he murmured like one speaking to himself.
'What is gone, my darling?' asked Lady Carbis.
'The mists, the cobwebs, the black curtain,' he replied.
I heard her gasp as if in fear. I knew of what she was thinking; but
she spoke no word. Instead she continued looking at him with love-lit
For a few seconds he lay like one thinking, then he rubbed the back
of his right-hand across his eyes, and laughed like one amused.
'Oh, little mother,' he said, 'it is good to see you again! Good to
knowthere kiss me. That's right; it makes me feel as though I were a
kid again, and you were putting me to bed like you did in the old
Lady Carbis kissed him eagerly, calling him all sorts of endearing
'It's your old mother!' she murmured. 'Are you better, Jack, my
'Yes, heaps better. Why, there you are, dad! You see I've turned up
again. Oh, I am glad to see you!' and he held out his hand.
'Jack, Jack,' sobbed his father, 'tell me you are all right.'
On considering it all, afterwards, it seemed to me that it was not a
bit what I should have expected him to say, but facts have a wonderful
way of laughing at fancies.
'I feel better every second,' he said. 'Everything came back so
suddenly that I felt like a man bowled over. You see, I couldn't grasp
it all. Butbut I'm settling down now. IIoh, I'm afraid I'm an
awful nuisance. Forgive me. Thank you all for being so good.'
I saw his eyes rest on Lorna, and his lips twitched as if in pain,
but only for a moment.
'Where's Luscombe?' he asked. 'Ah, there you are, old man. You must
know Luscombe, little mother. He's the truest pal a chap ever had. But
for himbut there we'll talk about that later.'
A minute later Edgecumbe was led by his mother into the library,
while Lord Carbis walked on the other side of his newly-found son.
Never in all my experience have I sat down to such a strange dinner
party as on that night. We were all wild with excitement, and yet we
appeared to talk calmly about things that didn't matter a bit. What we
ate, or whether we ate, I have not the slightest remembrance.
Personally I felt as though I were dreaming, and that I should
presently wake up and find things in their normal condition again. But
it was easy to see that each was thinking deeply. Especially did Sir
Thomas and Springfield show that they were considering what the
evening's happenings might mean.
Strange as it may seem, little was said about the happening which
had created such a consternation. Of course it was in all our minds,
but to speak about it seemed for some time like trespassing on
'Anyhow,' said Lady Bolivick presently, 'the dear things will want
some dinner, James,' and she turned to the butler, 'see that something
fit to eat is kept for Lord and Lady Carbis, and Majorthat is their
'Yes, my lady.'
'It's all very wonderful, I'm sure,' went on Lady Bolivick. 'I
hopethat isthey won't be disappointed in him. Of, course he's had a
wonderful career, and done unheard-of things, but if he sticks to what
he said about never taking a penny of money made by
drinktherethere'll be all sorts of difficulties.'
'Yes, but I imagine he'll chuck all that,' and Springfield seemed
like a man speaking to himself.
'Oh, I hope not,' said Lorna.
'You hope not!' and her father spoke as if in astonishment.
'Yes,' cried the girl. 'It was so fineand so true. When I read his
speech in The Times, I felt just as he did.'
'Nonsense, Lorna! Why, if he stands by his crazy words, he'll still
be a poor man with nothing but his pay to live on. He'll sacrifice one
of the finest fortunes in England.'
Almost unconsciously I looked towards George St. Mabyn, whom I had
almost forgotten in my excitement, and I saw that he looked like a
haunted man. His face was drawn and haggard, although I judged he had
been drinking freely through dinner. I called to mind the words
Edgecumbe had uttered just before Lord and Lady Carbis came into the
room, and I wondered what they meant.
'No,' said Sir Thomas, who was evidently thinking of his daughter's
words, 'he'll not be fool enough for that. What do you think,
I was silent, for in truth I did not know what to say. In one sense
Sir Thomas had reason on his side, for such an act would seem like
madness. But I was by no means sure. I had known Edgecumbe for more
than two years, and I did not believe that even the shock which led him
to recover his memory, could change his strong determined nature.
The ladies left the room just then, but a few seconds later Lorna
Bolivick returned and came straight towards me.
'He wants you,' she said, and I saw that her eyes burnt with
I made my way to the library, where my friend met me with a laugh.
'You mustn't keep away from me, old man,' he said, 'I want youwant
CHAPTER XXXV. AFTERWARDS
We were alone in the library, Lord Carbis, Lady Carbis, Edgecumbe
and myself, and certainly it was one of the strangest gatherings ever I
The excitement was intense, and yet we spoke together quietly, as
though we lived in a world of commonplaces. But nothing was
commonplace. Never in my life did I realize the effect which joy can
have, as I realized it then. Years before, Lord and Lady Carbis had
received news that their son had died in India. What that news had
meant to them at the time I had no idea. He was their only son, and on
him all their hopes had centred. They had mourned for him as dead, and
his loss had meant a blank in their lives which no words can describe.
Then, suddenly and without warning, they had come into a strange
house, and found their son standing before them. As I think of it now,
I wonder that the shock did not do them serious harm, and I can quite
understand the incoherent, almost meaningless words they uttered.
To Edgecumbe the shock must have been still greater. For years the
greatest part of his life had been a blank to him. As I have set forth
in these pages, all his life before the time when he awoke to
consciousness in India had practically no meaning to him. And then,
suddenly, the thick, dark curtain was torn aside, and he woke to the
fact that his memory was restored, that he was not homeless or
nameless, but that his father and mother stood before him.'
'Jack has told me all about you,' Lord Carbis said, as I entered the
room; 'told me what you did for him, what a friend you have been to
him! God bless you, sir! I don't know how to express my feelings, II
hardly know what I am saying, but you understand,I am sure you
'Isn't it a lark, old man,' Edgecumbe said with a laugh, 'isn't
it,isn't it?but thereI can't put it into words. Half the time I
seem to be dreaming. Things which happened years ago are coming in
crowds back to me, until half the time I am wondering whether after all
I am not somebody else. And yet I know I am not somebody else. Why,
here's dad, and here's the little mater'; and he looked at them
I could not help watching him anxiously, for after all he had just
gone through an experience which happens to but one man in a million.
It seemed to me as though I dimly understood the strange processes
through which his brain must have gone in order to bring about the
present state of things. During the earlier part of the day, all his
past had been a blank, now much of it was real to him. He had been like
a man with his life cut in two, one half being unknown to him; and now,
as if by a miracle, that half was restored. I wondered how he felt. I
feared he would not be able to stand the shock, and that he would
suffer a terrible reaction afterwards.
'You are all right, aren't you, old man?' I said. 'Youyou don't
feel ill or anything of that sort?'
'Right as a skylark,' he said gaily, 'except that I am a bit tired.'
'You are sure, Jack, my darling?' said his mother, looking at him
anxiously. 'Sure there is nothing we can do for you? Oh, I wish we were
'Do you?' he said. 'I am not sure I agree with you.'
'Oh, but I do. You see, we don't know the Bolivicks very well,
andandwe didn't come expecting anything like this, did we, John?'
'Anything like this!' ejaculated Lord Carbis, 'anything like this!
Whywhy,Jack, my boy!'and he rubbed his eyes vigorously.
'I am sure Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick are only too glad to have
you here,' I said, 'and nothing will be regarded as a trouble. Besides,
I am not sure that your son does not want to be here. But tell me, old
fellow, don't you think you ought to get to bed?'
A look of fear came into his eyes. 'No, not yet, not yet,' he said.
'I think I am afraid to go to sleep; afraid lest when I wake up I shall
find that great black cloud lying at the back of my mind again.'
'Then wouldn't it be wise to send for a doctor? The man who lives
here is not at all a bad chap;you know that.'
Again he laughed gaily. 'I want no doctor. The little mother is all
the doctor I want.'
Lady Carbis leant over him and kissed him, just as I have seen young
mothers kiss their firstborn babies.
'I will sit by your bed all the night, my darling,' she said, 'and
no harm shall come to you while you are asleep.'
'But I don't want to sleep just yet,' went on Edgecumbe. 'I feel as
though I must tell you all I can tell you, for fear,that is, suppose
when I wake the old black cloud is there? II want you to know
things'; and there was a look in his eyes which suggested that wistful
expression I had noticed at Plymouth Harbour when we first met.
'You felt something was going to happen, you know,' I said.
'Yes, I did. All through the day it felt to me as though some great
change were coming. I did not know what it was, and the curtain which
hid the past was as black as ever, but I had a kind of feeling that
everything was hanging as in a balance, thatthateh, mother, it is
good to see you! to know you, totohave a past! It was just like
this,' he went on: 'when I came downstairs, and saw George St. Mabyn, I
felt that the curtain was getting thinner. I remembered Maurice St.
Mabyn,it was only dimly, and I could not call to mind what happened
to him; but something impelled me to speak to him.'
'Don't talk about it any more, old fellow,' I said; 'you are not
well enough yet. To-morrow, after you have had a good night's rest,
everything will seem normal and natural.'
'It is normal and natural now,' he laughed; 'besides, it does me
good to talk about it to you. It is not as though you were a stranger.'
'No,' cried his mother, 'he has told us all about you, sir, and what
you did for him.'
'Perhaps, after all,' went on Edgecumbe, 'I had better not talk any
more to-night. Youyou think I'll be all right in the morning, don't
you? And I am feeling tired and sleepy. Besides, I feel like a kid
again;the idea of going to bed with the little mother holding my hand
makes me think of'
'There now, old man,' I interrupted, 'let me go with you to your
room. You are a bit shaky, you know, and you must look upon me as a
stern male nurse.'
Half an hour later, when I left him, he was lying in bed, and as he
had said, his mother sat by his side, holding his hand, while Lord
Carbis was in a chair close by, watching his son with eager, anxious
After a few words with Sir Thomas, I made my way to the village of
South Petherwin to find the doctor. Truth to tell, I felt more than a
little anxious, and although I had persuaded Edgecumbe that when
morning came everything would be well, I dreaded his awakening.
As good fortune would have it, I found the doctor at home, who
listened with great eagerness and attention to my story.
'It is the strangest thing I have ever heard of,' he said, when I
'Do you fear any grave results?' I asked.
'Luscombe,' he replied, 'I can speak to you freely. I will go with
you to see him, but the whole business is out of my depth. For the
matter of that, I doubt if any doctor in England could prophesy what
will happen to him. All the same, I see no reason why everything should
not be right.'
Without waking him, Dr. Merril took his temperature, felt his pulse,
listened to the beating of his heart.
'Everything is right, isn't it?' asked Lord Carbis anxiously.
'As far as I can tell, yes.'
'And there is nothing you can do more than has been done?'
'Nothing,' replied the doctor; 'one of the great lessons which my
profession has taught me is, as far as possible, to leave Nature to do
her own work.'
'And you think he will awake natural and normal to-morrow morning?'
whispered the older man.
'I see no reason why he should not,' he said. All the same, there
was an anxious look in his eyes as he went away.
CHAPTER XXXVI. EDGECUMBE'S
In spite of my excitement, I slept heavily and late, and when I
awoke I found that it was past ten o'clock. Dressing hurriedly, I
rushed to Edgecumbe's bedroom and found him not only awake, but
'It's all right, old man,' he said. 'I am a new man. Merril has
already been here. He advises me to be quiet for a day or two, but I am
going to get up.'
'And there are no ill effects? Your mind is quite clear?'
'Clear as a bell. There is just one black ugly spot; but it doesn't
'Black ugly spot?' I asked anxiously.
'Yes, I'll tell you about it presently. Not that it matters.'
Throughout the day I saw very little of him, as neither his father
nor mother would allow him out of their sight. It was pathetic the way
they followed him wherever he went. I saw, too, that they were
constantly watching him, as if looking for some sign of illness or
trouble. I imagine that their joy was so sudden, so wonderful, that
they could scarcely believe their own senses. It was evident, too, that
they gloried in his career since I had met him more than two years ago.
The thought that he should have, without influence or position,
surmounted so many difficulties, and become the hero of the hour, was
wonderful beyond words. More than once I caught Lord Carbis scanning
the newspapers which contained references to him, his eyes lit up with
In spite of all this, however, I foresaw difficulties, saw, too,
that if Edgecumbe had not become radically changed, he would be a great
disappointment to his father. Would he, I wondered, stand by the words
he had uttered at the great public meeting? Would he refuse to
participate in the wealth which his father had amassed through his
connection with the trade which he believed was one of the great curses
of humanity? For it was evident that Lord Carbis was a man of strong
opinions. He had built up a great and prosperous business by
enterprise, foresight and determination. To him that business was
doubtless honourable. Through the wealth he had amassed by it, he had
become a peer of the realm. What would he say and do if his son took
the stand which, in spite of everything, I imagined he would?
Other things troubled me, too. Springfield, who was staying with St.
Mabyn, motored over early, and immediately sought Lorna Bolivick's
society. Of course Edgecumbe saw this, and I wondered how it would
affect him. I wondered, too, how Sir Thomas would regard Springfield's
suit, now that the future of his life was so materially altered. I
tried, by a study of Lorna Bolivick's face, to understand the condition
of her heart. I wondered whether she really cared for the tall,
sinister-looking man who, I judged, had evidently fascinated her.
It was not until after tea that I was able to get a few minutes'
chat with her alone. Indeed, I had a suspicion that she rather avoided
me. But seeing Springfield and St. Mabyn evidently in earnest
conversation together, I made my way to her, and asked her to come with
me for a stroll through the woods.
'Real life makes fiction tame and commonplace,' I said, as I nodded
toward Lady Carbis and Edgecumbe, who were walking arm in arm on the
'Real life always does that,' was her reply; 'the so-called
impossibilities of melodrama are in reality the prosiest of realism.'
'I can't quite settle down to it yet,' I said. 'I can't think of
Edgecumbe as Lord Carbis's son, in spite of all we have seen. To begin
with, his name isn't Edgecumbe at all.'
'No,' she replied; 'don't you know what it is? You know who Lord
Carbis was, I suppose?'
'I know he was a brewer; but really I have not taken the trouble to
study his antecedents.'
'He was called Carbis before he was made a peer,' she replied. 'I
suppose he was largely influenced to buy the Carbis estates by the fact
that they bore his own name.'
'So that my friend is called Jack Carbis. There is so much
topsy-turvyism in it that I can hardly realize it.'
'I think Paul Edgecumbe is a much nicer name,' she said suddenly. 'I
hopeI hope; but ifif'
'Do you realize,' I said, 'what it will mean to him if he stands by
what he said at that meeting the other night?'
'Yes, he will still be a poor man, I suppose. But what then? Isn't
he a thousand times bigger man now than he was as the fashionable
Captain Jack Carbis?'
'Perhaps you don't realize how he would wound his father,-destroy
all his hopes and ambitions.'
'Yes, that would be rather sad; but doesn't it depend what his
father's hopes and ambitions are?'
'Lorna,' I said, 'are you and Springfield engaged?'
She did not answer me for a few seconds; then, looking at me
steadily, she said, 'Why do you ask that?'
For the moment I almost determined to tell her what I believed I
knew about Springfield, and about the things of which I had accused
him. But I felt it would not be fair. If that time ever came, he must
be there to answer my accusations.
'I think you know why,' I replied. 'The change in my friend's
circumstances has not changed my love for him. Do you know, Lorna, that
he loves you like his own life?'
She was silent at this, and I went on, 'He spoke to you about it
months ago; there in yonder footpath, not half a mile away,he told
you he had given his heart to you. It was madness then,
madness,because he had no name, no career, no position to offer you.
His past lay in a mist,indeed his past might have made it impossible
for him to marry you, even if you had loved him. You refused him, told
him that what he asked was impossible; but things have changed since
then,now he is a rich man's son,he can come to you as an equal.'
'Butbut' and then noticing the curious look on her face, I
'You're not going to marry Springfield, are you?'
'Yes,' she replied, 'I shall marry Colonel Springfield,
ififbut there,'and she stopped suddenly,'I think it is
scarcely fair to discuss such things.'
After that she refused to talk about Springfield at all,indeed I
could not understand her. She seemed as though she had a great problem
to solve, and was unable to see her way through it.
I had no opportunity of talking with my friend till the next day.
His father and mother monopolized him so completely that there was no
chance of getting a word alone with him. But when Lord Carbis informed
me that he had made arrangements for Lady Carbis and his son to return
home, I made my way to him.
'Do you feel well enough for a chat?' I asked.
'Oh, quite,' he replied. 'I was waiting all yesterday for an
opportunity, but none came.'
'Edgecumbe,' I said,'you will forgive me for still calling you
that, won't you?but for the life of me I can't fasten on that new
name of yours.'
'Can't you? It's as natural as anything to me now. But call me Jack,
will you? I wish you would. Do you know, when I heard the old name the
night before last, IIbut there, I can't tell you. It seemed to open
a new world to me,all my boyhood came back, all those things which
made life wonderful. Yes, that's it, call me Jack.'
'Well, then, Jack,' I said, 'I have been wondering. Are your
experiences at that Y.M.C.A. hut real to you now?'
'Of course,' he replied quietly; 'why, they are not a matter of
memory, you know; they went down to the very depths of life.'
'And the convictions which were the result of those experiences? Do
you feel as you did about drink and that sort of thing?'
'And you will stand by what you said in London the other night?'
'Of course,why shouldn't I?'
'I was only wondering. Do you know, Jack,you will forgive me for
saying so, I am sure, but you present a kind of problem to me.'
'Do I?' and he laughed merrily as he spoke. 'You are wondering
whether my early associations, now that they have come back to me, are
stronger than what I have experienced since? Not a bit of it. I did a
good deal of thinking last night, after I had got to bed. You see, I
tried to work things out, andandit is all very wonderful, you know.
I wasn't a bad chap in the old days, by no means a pattern young man,
but on the whole I went straight,I wasn't immoral, but I had no
religion,I never thought about it. I had a good house-master when I
went to school, and under him I imbibed a sort of code of honour. It
didn't amount to very much, and yet it did, for he taught me to be an
English gentleman. I was always truthful, and tried to do the straight
thing. You know the kind of thing a chap picks up at a big public
school. But that night, at the Y.M.C.A. hut, I got down deep. No,
no,early associations can't destroy that.'
'And you still hold to what you said at the meeting?'
'I was wondering how it would appeal to your father. You remember
you said that you would never benefit by, or participate in, any gain
made by drink, and your father has made most of his money as a brewer
and distiller. I wondered how you regarded it now?'
'That is quickly settled,' he replied; 'I shall not benefit by it,
'Do you mean that?'
'Of course I mean it. Mind, I don't want it talked about,that is a
matter between my father and my own conscience, and one can't talk
about such things freely.'
'Surely you are very foolish,' I said. 'Why should you not use the
money which will naturally come to you?'
'I don't say I won't use it,' he replied, 'but I will not
benefit by it.'
'You mean, then?'
'I mean that I was a poor man, with nothing but my pay, and that I
am a poor man, with nothing but my pay. Thinking as I think, and
feeling as I feel, I could not become a rich man by money got inthat
is, by such means.'
He spoke quietly and naturally, although he seemed a little
surprised by my question.
'What will your father say when he knows?'
'I think he does know. He asked me whether I stood by what I
said in London.'
'And you told him?'
'Of course I told him.'
'And he,what did he say?'
'He didn't say anything.'
'Jack,' I went on, 'you must forgive me talking about this, but I
only do it, becauseyou see, we are pals.'
'Of course we are pals. Say what you like.'
'It is all summed up in one nameLorna.'
A new light came into his eyes immediately, and I saw that his lips
'Yes, what of her?'
'Springfield still means to have her,' I blurted out.
A curious look passed over his face, a look which I could not
understand. 'Do you know,' he asked eagerly, 'if she is engaged to
'I gather, that so far, there is no engagement, but I believe there
is an understanding. He had obtained Sir Thomas's consent, but they
were both under the impression at the time that Springfield was your
father's heir. Of course, your turning up in such a way makes it a bit
rough on Springfield.'
'I shall have a good deal to tell you about Springfield presently,'
he said, 'but you have something in your mind. What is it?'
'It is very simple,' I replied. 'If there is no engagement between
Lorna and Springfield, and if you come to her as your father's heir,
you will of course be an eligible suitor. If you hold by your
determination, you are just where you were. How could you ask her to
marry you on the pay of a major in the Army? It would not be fair; it
would not be honourable.'
'If she loves me, it would be honourable,' he said.
'How could it be honourable for you, with just a major's pay, to go
to a girl reared as she has been,a girl as attractive as she is, and
who has only to hold up her finger to a man like Buller, who will own
one of the finest estates in Devonshire? You have no right to drag her
into poverty, even if she cared for you.'
He rose to his feet, and took a turn across the lawn. 'I see what is
in your mind, but my dear Luscombe,'and then he burst out into a
laugh, a laugh that was sad, because it had a touch of hopelessness in
it,'I am afraid we are talking in the clouds,I am afraid Lorna
doesn't love me. If she does, she has shown no sign of it.'
'But are you going to let her go without a struggle?'
He looked at me with flashing eyes. 'I thought you knew me better
than that,' he said. 'No, I am going to fight for her, fight to the
very last. But if she will not have me as I am,if she will not have
me without my father's money, which I will not take, thenthen'
'You'll see her marry Springfield? I say, Jack, you know all we have
thought and said about Springfield?'
'I have something to tell you about Springfield,' he said quietly.
CHAPTER XXXVII. MAURICE ST. MABYN
'You don't know Maurice St. Mabyn, do you?'
I shook my head.
'Spent all his life soldiering in the East, and knows more about
Eastern affairs than any living man. Yes, I mean it. He knows any
amount of Eastern dialects; speaks Arabic and Turkish like a native,
and has a regular passion for mixing himself up in Eastern matters. He
can pass himself off as a Fakir, a Dervishanything you like. He knows
the byways of Eastern cities and Eastern life better than any man I
know of, and obtained a great reputation in certain official quarters
for discovering plots inimical to British interests. That's Maurice St.
Mabyn. A jolly chap, you understand, as straight as a die, and as
fearless as a lion. A diplomatist too. He can be as secret as an
oyster, and as stealthy as a sleuth-hound. He has been used more than
once on delicate jobs.'
'Butbut' I interjected.
'In the July of 1914,' he went on without noticing my interruption,
'I was sitting alone in my show in Bizna where I was then stationed,
when who should come in but Maurice. He looked as I thought a bit
anxious and out of sorts. I hadn't seen him for more than a year, and
he startled me.
'I asked him what he was doing in India, and he told me a curious
yarn. He said that he'd been mixed up in a skirmish in Egypt, and that
Springfield had tried to murder him.'
'You are sure of this?' I gasped.
'Sure! Of course I'm sure. He said that Springfield, who was also in
the show, had for some time acted in a very suspicious way, and that
during the row with the natives, the greater part of which had taken
place during the night, Springfield had pounced upon him, stabbed
himandand left him for dead. By one of those flukes which sometimes
takes place, St. Mabyn didn't die. He turned up, weeks afterwards, and
saw General Gregory.
'Now follow me closely here. It so happened that only that day
Gregory had received a message telling him that German trouble was
probable, and that reports were wanted from certain quarters where it
was feared the Huns were trying to stir up trouble.'
'In India?' I asked.
'In the East; it was not for me to know where; and Gregory wanted a
man who knew the East, in whom he could trust lock, stock and barrel.
Directly he saw St. Mabyn, he fastened on him as his man, and he clung
to him all the more tightly when St. Mabyn told him his story.
'I'll keep Springfield, and his little game in mind, St. Mabyn, he
said; but for the time you must remain dead. This is an important job,
and it must be done quietly.
'That was why he came to India, and why the story which I imagine
Springfield got into the papers was never contradicted. On his way to
his job, however, he got thinking things over. Naturally he wanted not
only his brother to know, but his fiancée, Miss Blackwater. So knowing
where I was, he looked me up and told me what I have told you. It seems
he had heard I was due to return home, and he asked me to look up his
brother and Miss Blackwater, and to tell them that his death was by no
means certain, and that he might turn up all right.
'Not long after, fresh drafts of men came to Bizna, and on the day
they arrived I asked a young chap called Dawkins who they were. He
mentioned several names, and among them was Springfield's.
'What Springfield? I asked, for I remembered I had a distant
relative of that name.
'Oh, he was in Upper Egypt. His family came from Devonshire, and he
was a great friend of Maurice St. Mabyn who was killed. Poor chap, when
he told us the story he nearly broke down. I never knew he had so much
feeling in him.
'I don't know why it was, but I lost my head. I suppose the fellow's
hypocrisy disgusted me so that I blurted out what St. Mabyn told me to
'The blackguard, I said he deserves to be shot, and will be shot,
'Who's a blackguard? asked Dawkins.
'Springfield, I replied. Grieving about the death of Maurice St.
Mabyn! Why, the coward, hehe; but Maurice St. Mabyn will turn up
'But St. Mabyn's dead! cried Dawkins. I saw it reported myself.
'He isn't dead? I blurted out.
'But how can that be? asked Dawkins.
'Because I believe in my own eyes and ears, I replied.
'After that, I was under the impression that I was watched and
followed. More than once when I thought I was alone I heard stealthy
footsteps behind me, but although I tried to verify my suspicions I
could not. However, I did not trouble, for in due time I started for
home. I arranged to break my journey to Bombay at a place where I had
been stationed for six months. It was only a one horse sort of a show,
but I had some pals there, and they had insisted on my spending a day
or two with them. It took me three days to get there, and on my arrival
I found a long telegram purporting to be from my colonel, requesting me
to go to an outpost station where important information would be given
me. It also urged me to be silent about it.
'Of course, although I was on leave, I was anxious to fall in with
my colonel's wishes, and so, instead of going straight on to Bombay,
when I left my pals, I went towards this outpost station.'
'Were you alone?' I asked.
'Except for my native servant whom I had arranged to take back to
England with me. We had not gone far when my servant stopped. There is
something wrong, master, he said. Let us go back.
'He had scarcely spoken, when there was the crack of a pistol, and
several men pounced upon me. I was thrown from my horse, and very
'Did you see the men?' I asked.
My friend was silent for a few seconds, then he replied, 'I can
swear that one of them was Springfield. Some one had given me a blow on
the head, and I was a bit dizzy and bewildered; but I am certain that
Springfield was there.'
'Then you believe'
'The thing's pretty evident, isn't it?' he said. 'He had a double
purpose to accomplish. If I were dead I could no longer be a danger to
him as far as St. Mabyn was concerned, and'
'He was the next in succession to your father's title, and would
naturally be his heir,' I interrupted. 'But what happened to you after
He shuddered like a man afraid. 'I don't like to think of it,' he
said. 'As I told you there was one black spot in my past which I
couldn't remember clearly. That's it. But I have dim memories of
torture and imprisonment. I know I suffered untold agonies. I have only
fitful glimpses of that time, but in those glimpses I see myself
fighting, struggling, suffering until a great blackness fell upon me.
Then I remember nothing till I came to myself on the road to Bombay,
with my memory gone. The rest you know.'
CHAPTER XXXVIII. A BOMBSHELL
After this followed a series of events, startling, almost
unbelievable and utterly unexpected, such as only take place in real
life. Had this story been the outcome of my own imagination, I should
never dare to relate them; but because I have undertaken the task of
writing what actually took place I can do no other.
This was how they happened:
We were sitting together after dinner that night in the most
commonplace fashion imaginable. Lord and Lady Carbis had announced
their intention to leave early on the following morning, and their son
had promised to go with them. George St. Mabyn and Springfield were
there, having accepted Lady Bolivick's invitation to spend the evening
with them. Norah Blackwater, who had been a guest at the house for some
days, was also there.
'I think as I am leaving to-morrow,' and Jack only slightly raised
his voice, 'that I ought to tell you all something,
Instantly there was a deathly silence, and with a quick movement
every one turned to the speaker.
'I imagine my motives may be questioned,' he went on. 'I am sure,
too, that what I say will be denied; but that doesn't matter.'
He hesitated a second as if doubtful how he had best continue, but
the tone of his voice and the purport of his words had done their work.
Even Lady Bolivick dropped her knitting, and looked quite disturbed.
'This is what I have to tell you,' he said. 'Maurice St. Mabyn is
alive; at least he was in July, 1914, months after he was announced to
I saw George St. Mabyn start to his feet, his lips livid, while
Norah Blackwater gave a cry which was not far removed from a scream.
'Perhaps I ought to have told this in a different way,' went on my
friend. 'Perhaps, directly my memory came back to me, and the events of
the past became clear again, I ought to have sought out George St.
Mabyn, and especially Colonel Springfield, and told them privately what
I know. However, I have thought a good deal before speaking, andand
as this is a family party, I have adopted this method.'
'Why should you tell Colonel Springfield?' and George St. Mabyn
seemed to be speaking against his will.
'Because he is most deeply implicated, and because he will have most
I heard Springfield laugh at this, a laugh half of derision, half of
'I am afraid,' he said quietly, 'that although we have all
congratulated Lord and Lady Carbis on the return of their son, that his
loss of memory has disturbed his mental equilibrium in other ways.'
'Oh, no,' said Jack quietly, 'I am quite sane. No doubt it would
simplify your course of action very much if I were not, but as a matter
of fact my mind was never clearer. My father and mother will tell you
that I was never given to hysterics, and I am no great hand at
'Butbut if you havehave proof of this,'it was George St. Mabyn
who spoke, and his voice was hoarse and unnatural,'whywhy'? by
heaven, it's monstrous!'
Springfield laughed like one amused.
'I do not wish to wound any one's feelings,' he said, 'but I suppose
many madmen think they are sane. Of course we sympathize with Lord and
Lady Carbis, but I am afraid there is only one conclusion that we can
come to. Only on the night when his father and mother came here, before
this marvellous change in his memory took place, he said something
similar to this, andand of course we can only regard it as the
hallucination of an unbalanced mind. Let us hope after a few months'
quiet, things will be normal again.'
'Of course I knew you would take this attitude, Colonel
Springfield,' replied Jack quietly. 'You have reason to.'
'What reason?' he snarled.
'Are you sure you wish me to tell?'
'Yes, tell anything, everything you can! Only be sure it's the
truth. Else by!' he remembered himself suddenly and then went on:
'But this is madness, pure madness!'
'I'll not deal with motives,' went on my friend, still speaking
quietly; 'they will doubtless come out in good time. For that matter I
would rather say no more at present. I have only said what I have to
give you a chanceofof clearing out.'
Springfield gave me a quick glance, and then for a moment lost
control of himself.
'Oh, I see,' he said. 'This is a plot. Luscombe is in it. He has
been discussing things with thisthis lunatic, and this hatched-up
absurdity is the result.'
I think Springfield felt he had made a false move the moment he had
spoken. Directly my name was mentioned, it became evident that the plea
of my friend's madness broke down.
'At any rate,' he went on, 'I am not to be intimidated, and I will
not listen to any hysterical slanderings.'
'Pardon me,' said Jack quietly, 'but Luscombe knew nothing whatever
of my intentions. You are sure you want me to go on?' he added quietly.
'Go on by all means. Doubtless you will be amusing. But mind,' and
Springfield's voice became threatening, 'I am a dangerous man to trifle
'I have grave reasons for knowing that,' was Jack's reply; 'but let
that pass. About three years ago news arrived in England that Maurice
St. Mabyn was deadkilled in a skirmish in Egypt. Some time afterwards
Colonel or Captain Springfield as he was then, came to Devonshire, and
gave a detailed account of his death. He said he was with him during
his last moments, together withother interesting things. From the
account given Maurice St. Mabyn died in April, 1914, and Colonel
Springfield came, I think, in September, or October. By this time
George St. Mabyn had not only taken possession of his brother's
estates, but had also become the suitor for the hand of his brother's
'Surely,' cried Springfield, as if in protest, 'there is no need to
distress us all by probing the wounds made three years ago. Personally
I think it is cruel.'
'It would be cruel but for what I am going to say,' replied Jack
Carbis. 'As it happens, Maurice St. Mabyn was not dead at the time. I
saw him,spoke with him in Bizna in the July of that year.'
'You saw Maurice in July, although he was reported dead in April!'
cried Sir Thomas. 'Whywhy; but it can't be true! That isare you
sure? I say, George, wasn't the news definiteconcise? Yes, I remember
it was. I saw the Egyptian newspaper account.'
'I suppose you don't expect any one here to believe in this
cock-and-bull story,' and Springfield laughed uneasily. 'But may one
ask,' he continued, 'why we are regaled with thisthis romance?'
'Yes,' replied Jack, 'you may ask; but if I were you I wouldn't. I'd
make myself scarce.'
I saw Springfield's eyes contract, and his whole attitude reminded
me of an angry dog.
'You must tell us all what you mean by that,' he snarled. 'I'm
sorry, Lady Bolivick, that such a scene as this should take place in
your house, but I must defend myself.'
'Against whom? Against what? What charges have been made?' and Jack
Carbis still spoke quietly and naturally.
Again Springfield lost control of himself. 'Oh, I know,' he cried,
'that you and Luscombe have been plotting against me for years. I know
that you would poison the mind of; that iswhy should I deny it? I
love Miss Bolivick. I have loved her from the first hour I saw her. I
have sought her honourably. I would give my immortal soul to win her,
such is my love for her. I know, too, that you, Edgecumbe, or Carbis,
or whatever you may call yourself, are jealous of me, because you are
madly in love with her yourself. By unproved, unprovable because they
are lying, statements, you are trying to poison the mind of the women I
love against me. You are suggesting that I sent home and brought home
false accounts of Maurice St. Mabyn's death for some sinister purpose.
You are hinting at all sorts of horrible things. Great God, haven't you
done enough to thwart me? Oh, yesI'll admit it, I expected to be Lord
Carbis's heir. I had reason. But for you IIbut there, seeing you
have robbed me of what I thought was my legitimate fortune, don't try
to rob me of my good name. It'sit's all I have!'
At that moment I looked at Lorna Bolivick, and I thought I saw
admiration in her eyes; I felt that never was Springfield's hold upon
her stronger than now.
'Tell us plainly what you want to say,' continued Springfield;
'formulate your charges. Tell me of what I am guilty. But by the God
who made us, you shall prove your words. I will not be thrust into a
hopeless hell by lying innuendos and unproved charges.'
For the first time I thought my friend looked confused and
frightened. It might be that the personality of the other had mastered
him, and that although he had gone several steps forward in his attack,
he now desired to turn back. He seemed about to speak, then hesitated
and was silent.
'Why force me to tell the truth?' he said lamely. 'I do not wish to
say more. Take my advice, and leave while you may.'
'I am a soldier,' cried Springfield, 'and I am not one to run
awayespecially from vague threats. Nay, more,' and he turned to Lorna
Bolivick, 'Miss BolivickLorna, to prove how I scorn these vague
threats, I ask you here and now, although I am only a poor man, and
have nothing to offer you but the love of a poor soldier, to give me
the happiness I have so longed and prayed for.'
CHAPTER XXXIX. SPRINGFIELD AT BAY
But Lorna did not speak. That she realized the situation no one
could doubt. The sea in which the bark of her life was sailing was full
of cross currents, and in her excitement she did not know the course
she ought to steer.
It was here that Sir Thomas Bolivick thought it right to speak. I
gathered that he was not pleased at Springfield's avowal, for while he
doubtless favoured his suit while he was to all appearances the heir to
Lord Carbis, events had changed everything.
'Why have you told us this now, andand in such a way?' he asked,
turning to my friend.
Jack hesitated a second before replying. He realized that nothing
could prejudice his cause in Lorna's eyes more than by attacking his
'Because I want to save Miss Bolivick,' he said.
'From what? Tell us plainly what you mean!'
'From promising to marry a man who is unworthy of her, and who would
blacken her life.'
'Prove it. You have said too much or too little. Either prove what
you have said, or withdraw it.'
Springfield laughed aloud. 'Surely,' he said, 'we have had enough of
this! You see, after all his bluster, what it really amounts to.'
'Just a minute, please,' and Jack's voice became almost menacing. 'I
am not in the habit of blustering. I have warned you to go away from
here, and as you have forced me to go into details I will do so. You
insist, then, that I lie when I say that I saw Maurice St. Mabyn alive
in the July of 1914?'
'I do not say that, but I do say that you are suffering from an
hallucination,' replied Springfield. 'You may have recovered your
memory, but in doing so you suffer from remembering more than ever took
'You insist on that?'
'Certainly I do. I can do no other. If you are not mentally
deranged, you are a I would rather not use the word,' he added with
'You see,' went on Jack, 'that he is very anxious to prove Maurice
St. Mabyn to have been killed in a native uprising. I'll tell you why.
He tried to murder him, and it was only by the mercy of God that he
failed to do so.'
'Murder him! How dare you say such a thing?' gasped Sir Thomas.
'Maurice told me so himselftold me in India in 1914.'
'Great God, you shall prove this!' and now Springfield was really
aroused. 'If he was not dead in July, 1914, where has he been these
three years? Why has he sent no word? What has become of him? Who has
seen him since April of that year when he was killed?I mean besides
'General Gregory, to whom he reported himself.'
'Do you mean to say that he reported himself to General Gregory?'
His voice was hoarse, and I saw him reel as though some one had struck
'I do mean to say so. He told me so himself. If I have told a lie,
you can easily prove it by communicating with him.'
Springfield laughed again, and in his laugh was a ring of triumph.
'It is easy to say that, because Gregory is dead. He died two years
ago. A dead man is a poor witness.'
'I don't ask any one to accept my words without proof,' said Jack
Carbis. 'Proof will not be wanting. You say that Maurice St. Mabyn was
killed in a skirmish, that you saw his dead body, and that you had no
hand whatever in it?'
'I do say it,' cried Springfield hoarsely. 'I swear by
Almighty God that your charges are venomous lies, and'
But he did not finish the sentence. At that moment I heard the
murmur of voices outside the room, the door opened, and a tall, bronzed
but somewhat haggard-looking man entered the room.
It was George St. Mabyn who uttered the word, but it was not like
his voice at all.
The new-comer gave a quick glance around the room, as though he
wanted to take in the situation, then he took a quick step towards Lady
'Will you forgive me for coming in this way, Lady Bolivick?' he said
quietly. 'But I could not help myself. I only got back an hour or two
ago, and the servants were so upset that they lost their heads
entirely. But they did manage to tell me that George was here, so I
took the liberty of an old friend and; but what's this? Is anything
the matter? George, old man, whywhy' and he looked at George St.
Mabyn and Norah Blackwater inquiringly.
But George St. Mabyn did not speak; instead, he stood staring at his
brother with terror-stricken eyes.
'You thought I was dead, eh?' and there was a laugh in Maurice St.
Mabyn's voice. 'I'm worth a good many dead men yet.'
Again he looked around the room until his eyes rested upon
Springfield, who had been watching his face from the moment of his
'By Jove, St. Mabyn,' he cried, and I could see he was fighting for
self-mastery; 'but you have played us a trick. Here have we all been
wasting good honest grief on you. ButbutI am glad, old man.
His speech ended in a gasp. His words seemed to be frozen by the
cold glitter of Maurice St. Mabyn's eyes. Never in my whole life have I
seen so much contempt, so much loathing in a man's face as I saw in the
face of the new-comer at that moment. But he did not speak. He simply
turned on his heel, and addressed Sir Thomas Bolivick.
'You seem surprised, and something more than surprised at seeing me,
Sir Thomas,' he said; 'but you are glad to see me, aren't you?'
'Glad!' cried the old man. 'Glad! Why, God bless my soul, Maurice!
IIbutbut glad?'and he began to mop his eyes vigorously.
'I think there'll be a lot of explanations by and by,' went on
Maurice,' especially after I've had a chat with my old friend, Jack
Carbis, over there. Jack, you rascal, you've a lot to tell me, haven't
you? By the way, George,'and he gave Springfield a glance,'I
understand that this fellow is a guest at St. Mabyn. Will you tell him,
as you seem friendly with him, that my house is not good for his
Springfield looked from one to another like a man in despair. The
coming of Maurice St. Mabyn had been such a confirmation of all that
Jack Carbis had said, that he saw no loophole of escape anywhere. But
this was only for a moment. Even in his defeat the man's character as a
fighter was evident.
'St. Mabyn,' he said hoarsely, 'I swear by Heaven that you are
mistaken! Of course I was mistakenandand no one is gladder than
Ithat you have turned up. Give me fair play,give me a chancegive
me time, and I'll clear up everything!'
'Will you tell the fellow,' and Maurice St. Mabyn still spoke to his
brother, 'that a motor-car will be placed at his disposal to take him
to any place he chooses to go. Tell him, too, that I do not propose
toto have anything to do with him in any way unless he persists in
hanging on to you; but that if he does, the War Office and the world
shall know what he is, and what he has done.'
Still Springfield did not give in. He turned again to Lorna
Bolivick, and as he did so I realized, as I never realized before, that
the man really loved her. I believed then, as I believe now, that all
his hopes, all his plottings, were centred in one desire, and that was
to win the love of this girl.
'Miss Bolivick, Lorna,' he said hoarsely, 'you do not tell me to go,
do you? You believe in me? I will admit that things look against me;
but I swear to you that I am as innocent of their charges as you are;
thatthat' He ceased speaking suddenly, as though his words were
frozen on his lips, then he burst out like a man in agony, 'Why do you
look at me like that?' he gasped.
But she did not speak. Instead, she stood still, and looked at him
steadily. There was an unearthly expression in her eyes; she seemed to
be trying to look into his soul, to read his innermost thoughts. For a
few seconds there was a deathly silence, then with a quick movement she
turned and left the room.
Again Springfield looked from face to face as if he were hoping for
support; then I saw pride flash into his eyes.
'Lady Bolivick, Sir Thomas,' he said quietly, 'I am deeply sorry
that thisthis scene should have taken place. As you know I am not
responsible. Thank you for your kind hospitality.' Then he turned and
left the room, and a few seconds later we heard his footsteps on the
CHAPTER XL. MAURICE ST. MABYN'S
Of what happened afterwards, and of the explanations which were
given, it is not for me to write. They do not come within the scope of
this history, and would be scarcely of interest to the reader. One
thing, however; specially interested me, and that was the
large-heartedness of Maurice St. Mabyn. He refused to allow his brother
to attempt any explanation, although I felt sure he understood what his
brother had done.
'Of course you could not help believing me dead, George,' he said
with a laugh. 'That fellow Springfield sent home and brought home all
sorts of circumstantial evidence, and you naturally took things over.
No, not another word. The fellow has gone, and I'll see that he stays
'Butbut why didn't you write, Maurice?' stammered the other.
'Couldn't, my dear chap. For more than two years I was away from
civilization; for six months I was a prisoner among the Turks; and when
at length, after the taking of Baghdad I was released, I was too ill to
do anything, Besides, I thought Jack Carbis would have set your minds
at rest. But there, I shall have a great yarn to tell you later.'
To Norah Blackwater he was coldly polite. That she had become his
brother's fiancée within a few months of his reported death evidently
wounded him deeply, although he made not the slightest reference to it.
For my own part I was almost sorry for the girl. I do not believe she
had ever cared for George St. Mabyn, although there could be no doubt
of his fondness for her. Even when she had accepted him, her heart
belonged to Maurice, but being desperately poor, and believing George
to be the true heir to the St. Mabyn estates, she had given her
promise. But this is only conjecture on my part. Nevertheless, it was
impossible not to pity her. Her eyes, as she looked at Maurice, told
their own story; she knew that she loved him; knew, too, that she had
lost him for ever.
I was not present during the long conversation Maurice St. Mabyn and
Jack Carbis had together that night, but before I went to sleep the
latter came into my room.
'This has been a great night, Luscombe,' he said.
'Great night!' I repeated. 'I can hardly believe that I have not
been dreaming all the time.'
'But you haven't,' he replied with a laugh. 'All the same, I almost
believed I was losing my head when Maurice St. Mabyn came into the
room. Isn't he a splendid chap though? No noise, no bluster, no
accusations. But he understood.'
'And you believe that Maurice knows of George's complicity in
'Of course he knows. But he'll not let on to George. He realizes
that Springfield played on his brother's weakness and made his life one
long haunting fear.'
'But what about Norah Blackwater?'
'Ah, there we have the tragedy!'
'Why, do you think Maurice cares for her still?'
'I'm sure she cares for him. But he's adamant. He'll never forgive
her, never. I wonderI wonder'
He started to his feet and left the room.
I hadn't a chance of speaking with him the next day, for he left by
an early train with his father and mother. They had naturally insisted
on his returning to his home with them, and although they asked me to
accompany them, I was unable to do so, as I had to report myself to my
C.O. on the following day. I had arranged to catch the afternoon train
to London, and then motor to the camp in time for duty.
About eleven o'clock I saw Lorna Bolivick leave the house and make
her way towards a rosery which had been made some little distance away.
'Lorna,' I said, 'I have to leave directly after lunch; you don't
mind my inflicting myself on you, do you?'
She looked at me with a wan smile.
'It's splendid about Maurice St. Mabyn, isn't it?'
'It's wonderful,' she replied, but there was no enthusiasm in her
There was a silence between us for some seconds, then I said
awkwardly, 'Hishiscoming was a wonderful vindication of my friend,
'Did he need any vindication?' she asked.
'I imagined you thought so last nightforgive me,' I replied, angry
with myself for having blurted out the words.
I saw the colour mount to her cheeks, and I thought her eyes flashed
'It might seem as though everything had been pre-arranged,' I went
on, 'but I'm sure he could not help himself. Never did a man love a
woman more than Edgecumbethat is Jack Carbis, loves you. He felt it
to be his duty to you to expose Springfield. He knew all along that he
was an evil fellow.'
She did not speak, and again I went on almost in spite of myself.
'I have thought a good deal about what you said. Surely you never
thought of marrying him?'
'Yes, I did.'
'Because you loved him?'
She shook her head. 'No, I never loved him,' she replied quickly,
angrily. 'The very thought of' she stopped suddenly, and was silent
for a few seconds; and then went on, 'I cannot tell you. It would;
no, I cannot tell you.'
'I know it's no business of mine,' I continued,' and yet it is. No
man had a better friend than Jack, andandowing to the peculiar way
we were brought together perhaps, no man ever felt a deeper interest in
another man than I feel in him. That is why; I say, Lorna, I'm
afraid he'd be mad with me for telling you, butbuthe'd give the
world to marry you.'
'I shall never marry him,' and her words were like a cry of despair.
'I shall never marry him,' she repeated, still in the same tones.
At that moment we heard Sir Thomas Bolivick's voice, and turning,
saw him coming towards us with a look of horror on his face.
'I say, this is ghastly,' he said.
'What is it, dad?' asked Lorna anxiously.
'It's terrible, simply terrible,and yetyou seeMaurice St.
Mabyn has just telegraphed me. He says he has just received a message
from Plymouth. That man Springfield was found dead an hour or so ago.'
'Found dead!' I gasped.
'Yes, in his room in the Hotel. Committed suicide.'
I looked at Lorna's face almost instinctively. It was very pale, and
there could be no doubt but that she was terribly shocked by the news.
And yet I felt sure I saw a look on her face which suggested relief.
But beyond her quick breathing she uttered no sound.
'It's terrible,' went on Sir Thomas, 'but afterafter last night
I'm not sureit'sit's not a relief to us all. Evidently the
fellow; butbut it's terrible, isn't it? Of course the hotel
people wired St. Mabyn, as he told them at the bureau that he had just
come from his house.'
'How did he die?' I asked.
'Poison,' replied Sir Thomas. 'He seems to have injected some sort
of Indian poison into his veins. Evidently he had it with him, as the
doctor says it is unobtainable anywhere in England. He left a letter,
'A letter? To whom?'
'I don't quite know. To George St. Mabyn I expect. Awful, isn't it?'
I saw him look at Lorna; but her face told him nothing. She appeared
perfectly calm, although I felt sure she was suffering.
'I am awfully sorry your visit should have ended like this,
Luscombe,' said Sir Thomas three hours later; 'but you must come down
again when you can get a day or two off. Don't wait for a formal
invitation; we shall always be glad to see you.'
'Thank you, I'll take you at your word, Sir Thomas; meanwhile you'll
keep me posted up with the news, won't you?'
'You mean about Yes, I'll let you know what happens. Where are
you going, Lorna?'
'I'm going with Major Luscombe to the station, if he'll let me,' was
'You've something to tell me, Lorna,' I said when we had started.
She shook her head.
'You are sure? Has Springfield's death made no difference?'
'No,' she replied, then she hesitated, and repeated the word.
'Jack'll ask you again, Lorna. Of course he's not told me; but he
will. He is one who never gives up. Never.'
'It's no use,' she said wearily. 'It's impossible, everything's
'Nothing's impossible to a chap like Jack. You don't mean to say
'Don't,' she pleaded. 'You don't know; hehe doesn't know; if he
did,' and then she lapsed into silence.
'I'm coming down again soon,' I said as I entered the train. 'I
promised your father I would.'
'Do, do,' and she held my hand almost feverishly.
CHAPTER XLI. THE NEW HOPE
Nothing more than was absolutely necessary appeared in the
newspapers about Springfield's death. In a letter which he wrote before
taking his life he explained his action in a few characteristic words.
'Life's not worth living, that's why I'm going to die. I do not wish
any question asked of any one why I intend to solve the great secret,
very suddenly. I'm tired of the whole show. That's enough explanation
for any one. I am quite sane, and I hope no fool set of jurymen will
bring in a verdict about my taking my life while in an unsound mind. I
am reaping as I've sown, and I dare say if I had been a pattern young
man things might have ended differently. But there it is. The game, as
far as I am concerned, is not worth the candle. Besides, the game's
played out. I am grateful to those of my friends who have been kind to
me. The personal letters I am writing must be regarded as private and
confidential. By that I mean they must not be read to satisfy the
vulgar curiosity of the gaping crowd, and no questions must be asked of
their recipients. Their contents are meant only for those to whom they
According to the newspaper reports, no awkward questions were asked
of Sir Thomas Bolivick, or any members of the party with whom he had
dined the night before he died, and the twelve jurymen who brought in a
verdict of suicide said nothing about an 'unsound mind.'
Mention was made, however, of a sealed letter, placed by the side of
the one I have copied. This letter bore no address, and nothing was
written on the envelope but the words: 'This package must not be
opened within a week of my burial.'
Comparing this instruction with the 'open letter,' I judged that the
package contained more than one letter, but no further information was
At the beginning of August two letters arrived by the same post. One
was from Lorna Bolivick, and the other was from my friend. The latter
was simply a command to get a few days off, and to come and see him. He
wanted a chat badly, he said, and if I could not get away, he would
come to me, but surely I was not so important that I couldn't be spared
for a week-end, if not more. He also insisted that I must send him a
wire at once.
On opening Lorna's letter, I found practically the same request. The
doctor had forbidden her resuming her nursing work for some months, she
said, and had suggested that she should go to the seaside. But this she
had refused to do, as she hated leaving her home. Besides, her brother
Tom might come home on leave almost any day, and she wanted to be there
to meet him.
'But you said you promised dad to pay us another visit as soon as
you could,' her letter concluded, 'and I am writing to remind you of
your promise. You told me you had some leave still due to you after
your last visit, so why not come at once? The sooner the better.'
She gave no special reason for asking me to come, but I read into
her appeal a desire to tell me something, and perhaps to ask my advice.
I therefore had a chat with my C.O., with the result that I started to
see my friend the same day.
On arriving at the station I found him on the platform awaiting me.
'Now this is sensible,' he cried with a laugh. 'This is something
like dispatch. Come on, I have a motor outside. I suppose you will
trust me to drive you.'
'You look fit, anyhow,' I said.
'Fit as a fiddle,' he replied. 'I go back to the front in four
He looked years younger than when I had first seen him. The old
wistful look in his eyes had almost entirely gone, while the
parchment-like skin had become almost as smooth and ruddy as that of a
'Oh, it has been glorious,' he said. 'I've taken the little mother
to all sorts of places, and dad declares she looks twenty years
younger. More than once we've been taken for lovers.'
'And your memory, Jack?'
'Sound as a bell. Wonderful, isn't it? Sometimes I'm almost glad I
went through it all. Afterafteryears of darkness and loneliness, to
emerge suddenly into the light! To have a mother, and a father, anda
'And you and your father get on well together?'
'Yes, in a way. But I have a lot to tell you about that. Here we
I shall not attempt to describe Jack Carbis's home, nor the welcome
I received. Had I been their son, Lord and Lady Carbis could not have
received me with greater joy.
It was not until late that Jack and I were able to be alone, but at
length when the others had gone to bed we found ourselves in a kind of
snuggery which had been especially set apart for his own personal use.
'It's great, having you here,' he cried, as he threw himself into an
arm-chair; 'great to feel alive, and to remember things. Have you heard
'Yes, Sir Thomas sent me a line, also a newspaper containing a
report of the inquest. Have you?'
He shook his head. 'We wrote immediately after we left, and Lady
Bolivick has written to mother, butnothing more.'
'Of course you got particulars about Springfield. It seems he left a
sealed packet. Did it contain a letter for you?'
'No, nothing. I often wonder who he wrote to. Do you know anything?'
'Nothing. But I propose going to Bolivick to-morrow; perhaps they'll
'To-morrow! I say, old man, have you heard from her?'
I nodded. 'No, her letter contained nothing that would interest
you,' I continued as I noted the look of inquiry in his eyes. 'Why
don't you go with me? It would seem quite natural, seeing you are off
to the front so soon.'
He hesitated a second, and then shook his head. 'No, Luscombe,' he
said, 'she'll send for me if she wants me.'
'That's not the way to win a girl. How can she send for you?'
'I seem to have lost confidence since my memory came back,' he
replied. 'When I told her I loved her, although I didn't seem to have
the ghost of a chance, I felt confident, serene. Now I'm sure of
'Nothing?' I queried. 'Do you mean to say thatthat your faith in
God and that kind of thing is gone?'
'No, no,' he replied quickly. 'That remains. It's the foundation of
everything, everything. But God doesn't do things in the way we expect,
and when we expect. After all, our life here is only a fragment, and
God has plenty of time. He's never in a hurry. It's all right, old man.
She'll be mine some time. If not in this world, in another.'
'If I loved a girl, I'd move heaven and earth to get her in this
'Yes, don't fear that I'm not going to do my bit; but I've had a
little time for thinking, and I've had to adjust myself toto my new
'With what results? How do things strike you now?'
'What things? The war?'
'Yes, that among others. Have you the same views you had? After our
peregrinations through London, you were not optimistic, I remember. You
seemed to regard England as in a bad way. You said we were not fit for
victory. What are your views now?'
He was silent a few seconds before replying.
'I expect I was a bit of a fool,' he said presently. 'I'm afraid my
outlook was narrow and silly. You see, I had no experience to go on. I
had no standards.'
'No standards?' I repeated. 'You mean, then, that you've given all
your fine sentiments the go-by?'
'And if I had?' he said with a smile. 'Should you be sorry or glad?'
I was silent. As I have stated I had not agreed with him, and yet I
should have been sorry had he become like many another of his class.
'I see,' and he laughed gaily. 'No, old man, I've given nothing the
go-by. No doubt, I overstated things a bit. No wonder. I saw things
only in the light of the present. But in the main I was right.'
'Then what do you mean by saying that your outlook was narrow and
'I mean this. I looked on life without being able to compare it with
what it was before the war. When I went with you through London, and
saw the things I saw, when I saw the basest passions pandered to, when
I saw vice walking openly, and not ashamed, I said, God is keeping
victory from us because we are not fit for it. In a sense I believe it
still. Admiral Beatty was right. Just so long as England remains in a
state of religious indifference, just so long will the war continue.
When the nation, the Empire comes to God with humility and with prayer
on her lips, then we can begin to count the days towards the end. And
that's right. The nation itself, by its lack of faith in God, by its
materialism, by its want of prayer, by its greed, and its sin, has kept
victory from coming. I tell you the great need of the age is prophets,
men of God, calling us to God.'
'And do you stand by what you said about drink?'
'To every word. That phase of our national life has been and is
horrible. While vested interests in this devilish thing remain
paramount, we are partly paralysed. You see, it is the parent of a
great part of the crime of the country. Oh, yes, I stand by that. All
the same I was wrong.'
'Because I did not look deep enough. Because I was not able to see
the tremendous change that has been wrought.'
'I don't understand,' I said.
'It's this way. You, because the change which has come over the land
has come slowly and subtly, have hardly been able to see it. But when,
a few weeks ago, my memory came back to me, I realized a sort of shock.
I saw how tremendous the change was, and is. A few years ago I was home
for a long leave, and I went a good deal into society. What did I see?
I saw that the women of England were in the main a mass of useless,
purposeless butterflies. I saw that the great mass of the young men of
our class were mere empty-headed, worthless parasites. The whole
country was given over to money getting and pleasure seeking. I didn't
realize it then; but I do now. On every hand they were craving for
unnatural excitement, and doubtless there was a great danger of our
race becoming decadent. But these last few weeks I've realized the
difference. Why, our people have been glorious, simply glorious! See
what an earnest tone pervades all life. Think of what the women of all
classes have done, and are doing! Think of their change of outlook!
Instead of being mere bridge-playing, gambling, purposeless things,
finding their pleasures in all sorts of silly fads and foolishness,
they've given themselves to serviceloyal, noble service. The young
fellows who filled up their time by being mere club-loungers,
empty-headed society dudes, whose chief talk was women, the latest
thing in neckties, or their handicap at golf, are now doing useful
work, or fighting for the best in life. As for the rank and file, life
has a new meaning to them, and they've become heroes.
'Mind you, we've still a long way to go; but we are on the right
road. God is speaking out of the whirlwind and the fire. Religion may
not be expressing itself in Church-going, but it is expressing itself
in deeper, grander ways. I failed to see it; but I see it now. Oh, man,
if England will only be true to the call of God, we can become the
wonder and glory of the world!'
'Then you believe we are ready for victory?'
'I do not say that; but we are getting ready. God has been putting
us through the refining fires, and I can see such a democracy emerging
out of this world upheaval as was never known before.'
'And yet the war does not appear to be coming to an raid,' I urged.
'Think of Russia. Russia is a wild chaos, the victim of every passing
fancy. Anarchy is triumphant, and the great army which should be a
tower of strength is a rope of sand. If Russia had been true, we should
'Don't be in a hurry, my friend. God never is. Things will brighten
in that direction. I don't say the war will be ended on the
battlefield. Sometimes I think it won't. God does things in big ways.
Surely the history of the last few months has taught us that. With Him
nothing is impossible. People say that Kaiserdom stands more firmly
than ever. What of that? The Kaiser may become more autocratic than
ever, but his doom is written for all that. What is happening to his
invincible legions? They will never save him. We are going to have a
new world, my friend, and the pomp of the Kaiser will become a thing of
He was silent a few seconds, and then went on.
'There is something else, too. Russia has failed us, failed us
because of corruption, and injustice. But God does not fail. No sooner
did Russia yield, than America spoke. Her voice was the voice of the
new Democracy. America's action is one of the greatest things in the
world. Without thought of gain and realizing her sacrifice she has
answered the call of God, and thrown herself into this struggle for the
liberty and justice of the world. Had our cause not been righteous
America would not have done this, but because it is God's Cause she
could not resist the call to give her all. Yes, my friend,
'The mills of God grind slowly,
But they grind exceeding small.'
CHAPTER XLII. AN UNFINISHED STORY
I left Jack Carbis the following day, and made my way to Bolivick. I
did my best to persuade him to come with me; but he would not.
'No, not yet,' he said in answer to my entreaties, and yet I knew
that he longed to come.
We had talked far into the night, and he had opened his heart to me
as never before; but it is not for me to tell all he said.
When I reached Bolivick I found Lorna looking pale and ill, and I
felt sure something was preying on her mind. The house was nearly
empty, too. Her brother had not yet arrived from the front, and there
were no visitors. I was glad of this, however, as it gave me a chance
of talking with her alone.
'I have just come from Jack,' I said, as we left the house for a
walk after dinner.
She did not speak, but I knew by the quick catch in her breath what
interest my words had to her.
'He's going to France in three days,' I went on. 'He is reported fit
for general service. I tried to persuade him to come with me.'
'I dare say he has much to occupy him,' she said coldly.
'It's not that,' I replied. 'He wanted to come; but he thinks you do
not want him. He said he would not come till you sent for him.'
'And does he think I'll do that?' she asked, a little angrily I
'No, I don't think he does. But he's sensitive, andand of course
he heard what Springfield said. He remembers, too, what you told
himthat is, just before Maurice St. Mabyn came.'
'Does he think II cared forfor that man?'
'I don't know. It would be no wonder if he did. I say, Lorna, I
don't understand your relations to Springfield. Was there anything
'Yes,' she replied.
'He asked you to marry him; of course that's no secret. You'll
forgive my speaking plainly, won't you?'
'What do you want to say?'
'What was his power over you? I am taking advantage of our
friendship, even at the risk of being rude and impertinent.'
'He had no power over me,in the way you think.'
'That sounds like an admission. Is it?'
'Yes, if you like.'
'Then what was his power?'
She looked at me for a few seconds without speaking.
'I can't tell you,' she replied presently.
For some time we walked on in silence; I thinking what her words
might mean, she apparently deep in thought.
'According to the newspaper,' I said after we had gone some
distance, 'Springfield left a sealed packet containing letters. Was one
of them for you?'
'You do not feel disposed to tell me what it contained?'
'I would if I could, but Ican't.'
'Then I'm going to see George St. Mabyn, and get it out of him.'
'George does not know.'
Again there was a painful silence between us, and again I tried to
understand what was in her mind.
'Lorna,' I said, 'I want to tell you something. It has been in my
mind a long time, but if there's one thing you and I both despise it's
speaking ill of another. But I can't help myself. You must know the
Thereupon I told her the whole of Springfield's story as I knew it.
I related to her the conversation I had heard between Springfield and
George St. Mabyn. I described the attempts made to kill Jack Carbis. I
told her what Colonel McClure had said, both in our conversations and
in the letter he wrote me after Springfield's death.
'Why have you told me all this?' she asked, and her voice was hard,
'Because I do not think you understand the kind of man Springfield
'Excuse me, I understand perfectly.'
'You knew all the time! Knew what I have just told you?'
'No, I knew nothing of that; but I knew he was a bad man, knew it
instinctively from the first. That's what makes everything impossible
'I don't understand.'
'No, of course you don't. Oh, I wish I could tell you.'
'Then do. I wouldn't ask you, only my friend's happiness means a lot
She caught my arm convulsively. 'Do you think he cares for me
still?' she asked. 'Do you really?'
'I'm sure he does,' I replied.
'And you do not believe that the change in his life has made any
difference toto that?'
'Not a bit.'
'Oh, I have been madcriminally mad!' she burst out passionately.
'No one despises me more than I despise myself. You say he loves me,
but he would hate me, scorn me ifif he knew.'
'I can't tell you. I simply can't.'
'But you will!' I said grimly; 'you will tell me now.'
'Yes, be as angry as you like, I am angry too. And I tell you
plainly that I am not going to allow my friend's life to be ruined
because of the vagaries of a silly child. For you are a silly
child. You have got hold of some hare-brained fancy, and you are
magnifying it into a mountain. You've got to tell me all about it,
because I'm sure it stands in the way of my friend's happiness.'
'But you don't understand. I've beenoh, I'm ashamed of myself!'
Some men perhaps would, on listening to this outburst, have imagined
some guilty secret on her part. But knowing her as I did, it was
impossible for me to do so.
'You are going to tell me about it,' I said. 'What is it?'
'But you'll not tell him; promise me that.'
'You must trust me,' I replied, 'and your trust must be complete.
What power had Springfield over you? What did he say to you in that
She was silent for a few seconds, then she said, 'You remember what
I said about him when I first saw him?'
'Yes, you said he made you think of snakes. You told me you disliked
'That's why I'm so ashamed. I knew he was a bad man, and yet he
fascinated me. I was afraid of him, and yet he almost made me promise
to marry him.'
'Go on,' I said when she hesitated, 'tell me the rest.'
'Whenwhenyour friend came here for the first time, hehe'
'Fell in love with you. Yes, it is no use mincing words. The moment
he saw you, he gave his life to you. He told me so. He told you so.'
'I knew it before he told me.'
'How did you know?'
Her tell-tale blush, her quivering lips, told their own story, and I
could not help laughing aloud.
'Don't be cruel!' she cried.
'I am not cruel, I am only very happy. I am happy because my friend
is going to be happy.'
'But you don't know all.'
'I know that love overcomes all difficulties, and I know that you
love each other.'
'Yes, but listen. Hethat is, that mantold me that although you
did not know who your friend was, he knew. He said that he had been
guilty of deeds in India, which if made known would mean life-long
disgrace. That he, that is Colonel Springfield, had only to speak
andand oh, I can't tell you! I'm too ashamed!'
'I don't need telling,' I laughed. 'I know. He bound you to secrecy
before telling you anything. He found out that you loved Jack, and he
used your love as a lever. Like the mean scoundrel he was, he tried to
make you promise to marry him, by threatening to expose Jack if you
wouldn't. And you, because you were a silly girl, were afraid of him.
You were the victim of an Adelphi melodrama plot.'
'Oh, I am ashamed,' she cried; 'buthe showed me proofs, or what
seemed to be proofs of his guilt. He said his loss of memory was real,
but that he, Colonel Springfield, knew who he was, andoh, I am mad
when I think of it!'
'And that's all!' I laughed, 'Why, little girl, when Jack knows,
he'll rejoice in what you've told me.'
'No, he won't,' she cried piteously. 'Don't you see, he made me
believe it! That is whywhy I'm so ashamed. What will he think when he
knows I believed him guilty of the most horrible things?'
'I know what he'll think when he knows that in order to save him you
were ready to'
'Besides, don't you see?' she interrupted, 'I refused him when he
was nameless, andand all that sort of thing, while now as Lord
But she did not finish the sentence. At that moment Jack Carbis
leapt over a stile into the lane where we were walking.
With that quick intuition which I had so often noticed, he seemed to
divine in a moment what we were talking about. He looked at us both for
a few seconds without speaking, while both of us were so startled by
his sudden appearance, that I think we were both incapable of uttering
'How did you get here?' I gasped presently.
'I motored over,' he said. 'After you had left this
morningIIthought I would. It was only a hundred and fifty miles.
They told me at the house which way you had gone, and'
'You followed us,' I interjected. 'Jack, I think you have something
to say to Lorna, and I fancy Sir Thomas and Lady Bolivick may be
lonely. I shall see you presently, shan't I?'
Lorna looked at me with frightened eyes, as if in protest, then she
turned towards my friend.
'Will you come with me?' said Jack, and his voice was tremulous, 'I
say, you will come, won't you?'
She hesitated a second, and then the two walked away together in the
quiet Devonshire lane, while the shadows of evening gathered.
* * * * *
I did not go into the house on my return. Instead I sat on the lawn
and awaited them. Darker and darker the night shadows fell, while the
sky became star-spangled. Away, two hundred miles distant, the guns
were booming, but here was peace.
The mystery, the wonder of it all came to me as I sat thinking. On
the long battle line the armies of Empires were engaged in a deadly
struggle, while close by a man was telling a girl that he loved her,
while she would be foolishly trying to explain what required no
The moon was rising as they came back. The first beams were shining
through the trees as I saw them approach.
'Well, Lorna?' I said as they came close to where I was.
She looked at me shyly, and then lifted her eyes to Jack's. In the
pale moonlight I saw the look of infinite happiness on her face.
'May I, Jack?' I said. 'This morning you called me your brother, and
as Lorna is to be my sister, may I claim a brother's privilege?'
For answer, she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.
'I say,' cried Jack with a happy laugh, 'you are coming it a bit
thick, aren't you? I didn't get one as easily as that.'
'Of course notyou didn't deserve to. But where are you off to?
'I'm going to beard the lion in his den. I'm going to have a serious
talk with Sir Thomas. Will you look after Lorna till I return?'