Part 5 out of 7
The scales fell from my eyes, and I saw him once more in a sky-blue army
shirt, behind barbed wire, among Dutch prisoners bathing at Simonstown,
more than a dozen years ago. 'Why, it's Zigler--Laughton O. Zigler!'
I cried. 'Well, I _am_ glad to see you.'
[Footnote 3: 'The Captive': _Traffics and Discoveries_.]
'Oh no! You don't work any of your English on me. "So glad to see you,
doncher know--an' ta-ta!" Do you reside in this village?'
'No. I'm up here buying stores.'
'Then you take my automobile. Where to?... Oh, I know _them_! My Lord
Marshalton is one of the Directors. Pigott, drive to the Army and Navy
Cooperative Supply Association Limited, Victoria Street, Westminister.'
He settled himself on the deep dove-colour pneumatic cushions, and his
smile was like the turning on of all the electrics. His teeth were
whiter than the ivory fittings. He smelt of rare soap and
cigarettes--such cigarettes as he handed me from a golden box with an
automatic lighter. On my side of the car was a gold-mounted mirror, card
and toilette case. I looked at him inquiringly.
'Yes,' he nodded, 'two years after I quit the Cape. She's not an Ohio
girl, though. She's in the country now. Is that right? She's at our
little place in the country. We'll go there as soon as you're through
with your grocery-list. Engagements? The only engagement you've got is
to grab your grip--get your bag from your hotel, I mean--and come right
along and meet her. You are the captive of _my_ bow and spear now.'
'I surrender,' I said meekly. 'Did the Zigler automatic gun do all
this?' I pointed to the car fittings.
'Psha! Think of your rememberin' that! Well, no. The Zigler is a great
gun--the greatest ever--but life's too short, an' too interestin', to
squander on pushing her in military society. I've leased my rights in
her to a Pennsylvanian-Transylvanian citizen full of mentality and moral
uplift. If those things weigh with the Chancelleries of Europe, he will
make good and--I shall be surprised. Excuse me!'
He bared his head as we passed the statue of the Great Queen outside
'A very great lady!' said he. 'I have enjoyed her hospitality. She
represents one of the most wonderful institutions in the world. The next
is the one we are going to. Mrs. Zigler uses 'em, and they break her up
every week on returned empties.'
'Oh, you mean the Stores?' I said.
'Mrs. Zigler means it more. They are quite ambassadorial in their
outlook. I guess I'll wait outside and pray while you wrestle with 'em.'
My business at the Stores finished, and my bag retrieved from the hotel,
his moving palace slid us into the country.
'I owe it to you,' Zigler began as smoothly as the car, 'to tell you
what I am now. I represent the business end of the American Invasion.
Not the blame cars themselves--I wouldn't be found dead in one--but the
tools that make 'em. I am the Zigler Higher-Speed Tool and Lathe Trust.
The Trust, sir, is entirely my own--in my own inventions. I am the
Renzalaer ten-cylinder aerial--the lightest aeroplane-engine on the
market--one price, one power, one guarantee. I am the Orlebar
Paper-welt, Pulp-panel Company for aeroplane bodies; and I am the Rush
Silencer for military aeroplanes--absolutely silent--which the Continent
leases under royalty. With three exceptions, the British aren't wise to
it yet. That's all I represent at present. You saw me take off my hat
to your late Queen? I owe every cent I have to that great an' good Lady.
Yes, sir, I came out of Africa, after my eighteen months' rest-cure and
open-air treatment and sea-bathing, as her prisoner of war, like a giant
refreshed. There wasn't anything could hold me, when I'd got my hooks
into it, after that experience. And to you as a representative British
citizen, I say here and now that I regard you as the founder of the
family fortune--Tommy's and mine.'
'But I only gave you some papers and tobacco.'
'What more does any citizen need? The Cullinan diamond wouldn't have
helped me as much then; an'--talking about South Africa, tell me--'
We talked about South Africa till the car stopped at the Georgian lodge
of a great park.
'We'll get out here. I want to show you a rather sightly view,' said
We walked, perhaps, half a mile, across timber-dotted turf, past a lake,
entered a dark rhododendron-planted wood, ticking with the noise of
pheasants' feet, and came out suddenly, where five rides met, at a small
classic temple between lichened stucco statues which faced a circle of
turf, several acres in extent. Irish yews, of a size that I had never
seen before, walled the sunless circle like cliffs of riven obsidian,
except at the lower end, where it gave on to a stretch of undulating
bare ground ending in a timbered slope half-a-mile away.
'That's where the old Marshalton race-course used to be,' said Zigler.
'That ice-house is called Flora's Temple. Nell Gwynne and Mrs. Siddons
an' Taglioni an' all that crowd used to act plays here for King George
the Third. Wasn't it? Well, George is the only king I play. Let it go at
that. This circle was the stage, I guess. The kings an' the nobility sat
in Flora's Temple. I forget who sculped these statues at the door.
They're the Comic and Tragic Muse. But it's a sightly view, ain't it?'
The sunlight was leaving the park. I caught a glint of silver to the
southward beyond the wooded ridge.
'That's the ocean--the Channel, I mean,' said Zigler. 'It's twenty-three
miles as a man flies. A sightly view, ain't it?'
I looked at the severe yews, the dumb yelling mouths of the two statues,
at the blue-green shadows on the unsunned grass, and at the still bright
plain in front where some deer were feeding.
'It's a most dramatic contrast, but I think it would be better on a
summer's day,' I said, and we went on, up one of the noiseless rides, a
quarter of a mile at least, till we came to the porticoed front of an
enormous Georgian pile. Four footmen revealed themselves in a hall hung
'I hired this off of my Lord Marshalton,' Zigler explained, while they
helped us out of our coats under the severe eyes of ruffed and
periwigged ancestors. 'Ya-as. They always look at _me_ too, as if I'd
blown in from the gutter. Which, of course, I have. That's Mary, Lady
Marshalton. Old man Joshua painted her. Do you see any likeness to my
Lord Marshalton? Why, haven't you ever met up with him? He was Captain
Mankeltow--my Royal British Artillery captain that blew up my gun in the
war, an' then tried to bury me against my religious principles.
Ya-as. His father died and he got the lordship. That was about all he
got by the time that your British death-duties were through with him. So
he said I'd oblige him by hiring his ranch. It's a hell an' a half of a
proposition to handle, but Tommy--Mrs. Laughton--understands it. Come
right in to the parlour and be very welcome.'
[Footnote 4: "The Captive": _Traffics and Discoveries_.]
He guided me, hand on shoulder, into a babble of high-pitched talk and
laughter that filled a vast drawing-room. He introduced me as the
founder of the family fortunes to a little, lithe, dark-eyed woman whose
speech and greeting were of the soft-lipped South. She in turn presented
me to her mother, a black-browed snowy-haired old lady with a cap of
priceless Venetian point, hands that must have held many hearts in their
time, and a dignity as unquestioned and unquestioning as an empress. She
was, indeed, a Burton of Savannah, who, on their own ground, out-rank
the Lees of Virginia. The rest of the company came from Buffalo,
Cincinnati, Cleveland and Chicago, with here and there a softening
southern strain. A party of young folk popped corn beneath a mantelpiece
surmounted by a Gainsborough. Two portly men, half hidden by a cased
harp, discussed, over sheaves of typewritten documents, the terms of
some contract. A knot of matrons talked servants--Irish _versus_
German--across the grand piano. A youth ravaged an old bookcase, while
beside him a tall girl stared at the portrait of a woman of many loves,
dead three hundred years, but now leaping to life and warning under the
shaded frame-light. In a corner half-a-dozen girls examined the glazed
tables that held the decorations--English and foreign--of the late Lord
'See heah! Would this be the Ordeh of the Gyartah?' one said, pointing.
'I presoom likely. No! The Garter has "_Honey swore_"--I know that much.
This is "Tria juncta" something.'
'Oh, what's that cunning little copper cross with "For Valurr"?' a third
'Say! Look at here!' said the young man at the bookcase. 'Here's a first
edition of _Handley Cross_ and a Beewick's _Birds_ right next to
it--just like so many best sellers. Look, Maidie!'
The girl beneath the picture half turned her body but not her eyes.
'You don't tell _me_!' she said slowly. 'Their women amounted to
something after all.'
'But Woman's scope, and outlook was vurry limmutted in those days,' one
of the matrons put in, from the piano.
'Limmutted? For _her_? If they whurr, I guess she was the limmut. Who
was she? Peters, whurr's the cat'log?'
A thin butler, in charge of two footmen removing the tea-batteries, slid
to a table and handed her a blue-and-qilt book. He was button-holed by
one of the men behind the harp, who wished to get a telephone call
through to Edinburgh.
'The local office shuts at six,' said Peters. 'But I can get through
to'--he named some town--'in ten minutes, sir.'
'That suits me. You'll find me here when you've hitched up. Oh, say,
Peters! We--Mister Olpherts an' me--ain't goin' by that early morning
train to-morrow--but the other one--on the other line--whatever
they call it.'
'The nine twenty-seven, sir. Yes, sir. Early breakfast will be at
half-past eight and the car will be at the door at nine.'
'Peters!' an imperious young voice called. 'What's the matteh with Lord
Marshalton's Ordeh of the Gyartah? We cyan't find it anyweah.'
'Well, miss, I _have_ heard that that Order is usually returned to His
Majesty on the death of the holder. Yes, miss.' Then in a whisper to a
footman, 'More butter for the pop-corn in King Charles's Corner.' He
stopped behind my chair. 'Your room is Number Eleven, sir. May I trouble
you for your keys?'
He left the room with a six-year-old maiden called Alice who had
announced she would not go to bed ''less Peter, Peter, Punkin-eater
takes me--so there!'
He very kindly looked in on me for a moment as I was dressing for
dinner. 'Not at all, sir,' he replied to some compliment I paid him. 'I
valeted the late Lord Marshalton for fifteen years. He was very abrupt
in his movements, sir. As a rule I never received more than an hour's
notice of a journey. We used to go to Syria frequently. I have been
twice to Babylon. Mr. and Mrs. Zigler's requirements are, comparatively
'But the guests?'
'Very little out of the ordinary as soon as one knows their ordinaries.
Extremely simple, if I may say so, sir.'
I had the privilege of taking Mrs. Burton in to dinner, and was rewarded
with an entirely new, and to me rather shocking view, of Abraham
Lincoln, who, she said, had wasted the heritage of his land by blood and
fire, and had surrendered the remnant to aliens. 'My brother, suh,' she
said, 'fell at Gettysburg in order that Armenians should colonise New
England to-day. If I took any interest in any dam-Yankee outside of my
son-in-law Laughton yondah, I should say that my brother's death had
been amply avenged.'
The man at her right took up the challenge, and the war spread. Her eyes
twinkled over the flames she had lit.
'Don't these folk,' she said a little later, 'remind you of Arabs
picnicking under the Pyramids?'
'I've never seen the Pyramids,' I replied.
'Hm! I didn't know you were as English as all that.' And when I laughed,
'Always. It saves trouble.'
'Now that's just what I find so significant among the English'--this was
Alice's mother, I think, with one elbow well forward among the salted
almonds. 'Oh, I know how _you_ feel, Madam Burton, but a Northerner
like myself--I'm Buffalo--even though we come over every year--notices
the desire for comfort in England. There's so little conflict or uplift
in British society.'
'But we like being comfortable,' I said.
'I know it. It's very characteristic. But ain't it a little, just a
little, lacking in adaptability an' imagination?'
'They haven't any need for adaptability,' Madam Burton struck in. 'They
haven't any Ellis Island standards to live up to.'
'But we can assimilate,' the Buffalo woman charged on.
'Now you _have_ done it!' I whispered to the old lady as the blessed
word 'assimilation' woke up all the old arguments for and against.
There was not a dull moment in that dinner for me--nor afterwards when
the boys and girls at the piano played the rag-time tunes of their own
land, while their elders, inexhaustibly interested, replunged into the
discussion of that land's future, till there was talk of coon-can. When
all the company had been set to tables Zigler led me into his book-lined
study, where I noticed he kept his golf-clubs, and spoke simply as a
child, gravely as a bishop, of the years that were past since our
'That's about all, I guess--up to date,' he said when he had unrolled
the bright map of his fortunes across three continents. 'Bein' rich
suits me. So does your country, sir. My own country? You heard what
that Detroit man said at dinner. "A Government of the alien, by the
alien, for the alien." Mother's right, too. Lincoln killed us. From the
highest motives--but he killed us. Oh, say, that reminds me. 'J'ever
kill a man from the highest motives?'
'Not from any motive--as far as I remember.'
'Well, I have. It don't weigh on my mind any, but it was interesting.
Life _is_ interesting for a rich--for any--man in England. Ya-as! Life
in England is like settin' in the front row at the theatre and never
knowin' when the whole blame drama won't spill itself into your lap. I
didn't always know that. I lie abed now, and I blush to think of some of
the breaks I made in South Africa. About the British. Not your official
method of doin' business. But the Spirit. I was 'way, 'way off on the
Spirit. Are you acquainted with any other country where you'd have to
kill a man or two to get at the National Spirit?'
'Well,' I answered, 'next to marrying one of its women, killing one of
its men makes for pretty close intimacy with any country. I take it you
killed a British citizen.'
'Why, no. Our syndicate confined its operations to aliens--dam-fool
aliens.... 'J'ever know an English lord called Lundie? Looks like a
frame-food and soap advertisement. I imagine he was in your Supreme
Court before he came into his lordship.'
[Footnote 5: 'The Puzzler': _Actions and Reactions_.]
'He is a lawyer--what we call a Law Lord--a Judge of Appeal--not a real
'That's as much beyond me as _this_!' Zigler slapped a fat Debrett on
the table. 'But I presoom this unreal Law Lord Lundie is kind o' real in
his decisions? I judged so. And--one more question. 'Ever meet a man
'D'you mean Burton-Walen, the editor of--?' I mentioned the journal.
'That's him. 'Looks like a tough, talks like a Maxim, and trains with
'He does,' I said. 'Burton-Walen knows all the crowned heads of Europe
intimately. It's his hobby.'
'Well, there's the whole outfit for you--exceptin' my Lord Marshalton,
_ne_ Mankeltow, an' me. All active murderers--specially the Law Lord--or
accessories after the fact. And what do they hand you out for _that_, in
'Twenty years, I believe,' was my reply.
He reflected a moment.
'No-o-o,' he said, and followed it with a smoke-ring. 'Twenty months at
the Cape is my limit. Say, murder ain't the soul-shatterin' event those
nature-fakers in the magazines make out. It develops naturally like any
other proposition.... Say, 'j'ever play this golf game? It's come up in
the States from Maine to California, an' we're prodoocin' all the
champions in sight. Not a business man's play, but interestin'. I've got
a golf-links in the park here that they tell me is the finest inland
course ever. I had to pay extra for that when I hired the ranche--last
year. It was just before I signed the papers that our murder
eventuated. My Lord Marshalton he asked me down for the week-end to fix
up something or other--about Peters and the linen, I think 'twas. Mrs.
Zigler took a holt of the proposition. She understood Peters from the
word "go." There wasn't any house-party; only fifteen or twenty folk. A
full house is thirty-two, Tommy tells me. 'Guess we must be near on that
to-night. In the smoking-room here, my Lord Marshalton--Mankeltow that
was--introduces me to this Walen man with the nose. He'd been in the War
too, from start to finish. He knew all the columns and generals that I'd
battled with in the days of my Zigler gun. We kinder fell into each
other's arms an' let the harsh world go by for a while.
'Walen he introduces me to your Lord Lundie. _He_ was a new proposition
to me. If he hadn't been a lawyer he'd have made a lovely cattle-king. I
thought I had played poker some. Another of my breaks. Ya-as! It cost me
eleven hundred dollars besides what Tommy said when I retired. I have no
fault to find with your hereditary aristocracy, or your judiciary, or
'Sunday we all went to Church across the Park here.... Psha! Think o'
your rememberin' my religion! I've become an Episcopalian since I
married. Ya-as.... After lunch Walen did his crowned-heads-of-Europe
stunt in the smokin'-room here. He was long on Kings. And Continental
crises. I do not pretend to follow British domestic politics, but in the
aeroplane business a man has to know something of international
possibilities. At present, you British are settin' in kimonoes on
dynamite kegs. Walen's talk put me wise on the location and size of some
of the kegs. Ya-as!
'After that, we four went out to look at those golf-links I was hirin'.
We each took a club. Mine'--he glanced at a great tan bag by the
fire-place--'was the beginner's friend--the cleek. Well, sir, this golf
proposition took a holt of me as quick as--quick as death. They had to
prise me off the greens when it got too dark to see, and then we went
back to the house. I was walkin' ahead with my Lord Marshalton talkin'
beginners' golf. (_I_ was the man who ought to have been killed by
rights.) We cut 'cross lots through the woods to Flora's Temple--that
place I showed you this afternoon. Lundie and Walen were, maybe, twenty
or thirty rod behind us in the dark. Marshalton and I stopped at the
theatre to admire at the ancestral yew-trees. He took me right under the
biggest--King Somebody's Yew--and while I was spannin' it with my
handkerchief, he says, "Look heah!" just as if it was a rabbit--and down
comes a bi-plane into the theatre with no more noise than the dead. My
Rush Silencer is the only one on the market that allows that sort of
gumshoe work.... What? A bi-plane--with two men in it. Both men jump out
and start fussin' with the engines. I was starting to tell Mankeltow--I
can't remember to call him Marshalton any more--that it looked as if the
Royal British Flying Corps had got on to my Rush Silencer at last; but
he steps out from under the yew to these two Stealthy Steves and says,
"What's the trouble? Can I be of any service?" He thought--so did
I--'twas some of the boys from Aldershot or Salisbury. Well, sir, from
there on, the situation developed like a motion-picture in Hell. The man
on the nigh side of the machine whirls round, pulls his gun and fires
into Mankeltow's face. I laid him out with my cleek automatically. Any
one who shoots a friend of mine gets what's comin' to him if I'm within
reach. He drops. Mankeltow rubs his neck with his handkerchief. The man
the far side of the machine starts to run. Lundie down the ride, or it
might have been Walen, shouts, "What's happened?" Mankeltow says,
"Collar that chap."
'The second man runs ring-a-ring-o'-roses round the machine, one hand
reachin' behind him. Mankeltow heads him off to me. He breaks blind for
Walen and Lundie, who are runnin' up the ride. There's some sort of
mix-up among 'em, which it's too dark to see, and a thud. Walen says,
"Oh, well collared!" Lundie says, "That's the only thing I never learned
at Harrow!"... Mankeltow runs up to 'em, still rubbin' his neck, and
says, "_He_ didn't fire at me. It was the other chap. Where is he?"
'"I've stretched him alongside his machine," I says.
'"Are they poachers?" says Lundie.
'"No. Airmen. I can't make it out," says Mankeltow.
'"Look at here," says Walen, kind of brusque. "This man ain't breathin'
at all. Didn't you hear somethin' crack when he lit, Lundie?"
'"My God!" says Lundie. "Did I? I thought it was my suspenders"--no, he
'Right there I left them and sort o' tiptoed back to my man, hopin' he'd
revived and quit. But he hadn't. That darned cleek had hit him on the
back of the neck just where his helmet stopped. He'd got _his_. I knew
it by the way the head rolled in my hands. Then the others came up the
ride totin' _their_ load. No mistakin' that shuffle on grass. D'you
remember it--in South Africa? Ya-as.
'"Hsh!" says Lundie. "Do you know I've broken this man's neck?"
'"Same here," I says.
'"What? Both?" says Mankeltow.
'"Nonsense!" says Lord Lundie. "Who'd have thought he was that out of
training? A man oughtn't to fly if he ain't fit."
'"What did they want here, anyway?" said Walen; and Mankeltow says, "We
can't leave them in the open. Some one'll come. Carry 'em to
We toted 'em again and laid 'em out on a stone bench. They were still
dead in spite of our best attentions. We knew it, but we went through
the motions till it was quite dark. 'Wonder if all murderers do that?
"We want a light on this," says Walen after a spell. "There ought to be
one in the machine. Why didn't they light it?"
'We came out of Flora's Temple, and shut the doors behind us. Some
stars were showing then--same as when Cain did his little act, I guess.
I climbed up and searched the machine. She was very well equipped, I
found two electric torches in clips alongside her barometers by the
'"What make is she?" says Mankeltow.
'"Continental Renzalaer," I says. "My engines and my Rush Silencer."
'Walen whistles. "Here--let me look," he says, and grabs the other
torch. She was sure well equipped. We gathered up an armful of cameras
an' maps an' note-books an' an album of mounted photographs which we
took to Flora's Temple and spread on a marble-topped table (I'll show
you to-morrow) which the King of Naples had presented to grandfather
Marshalton. Walen starts to go through 'em. We wanted to know why our
friends had been so prejudiced against our society.
'"Wait a minute," says Lord Lundie. "Lend me a handkerchief."
'He pulls out his own, and Walen contributes his green-and-red bandanna,
and Lundie covers their faces. "Now," he says, "we'll go into the
'There wasn't any flaw in that evidence. Walen read out their last
observations, and Mankeltow asked questions, and Lord Lundie sort o'
summarised, and I looked at the photos in the album. 'J'ever see a
bird's-eye telephoto-survey of England for military purposes? It's
interestin' but indecent--like turnin' a man upside down. None of those
close-range panoramas of forts could have been taken without my
'"I wish _we_ was as thorough as they are," says Mankeltow, when Walen
'"We've been thorough enough," says Lord Lundie. "The evidence against
both accused is conclusive. Any other country would give 'em seven years
in a fortress. We should probably give 'em eighteen months as
first-class misdemeanants. But their case," he says, "is out of our
hands. We must review our own. Mr. Zigler," he said, "will you tell us
what steps you took to bring about the death of the first accused?" I
told him. He wanted to know specially whether I'd stretched first
accused before or after he had fired at Mankeltow. Mankeltow testified
he'd been shot at, and exhibited his neck as evidence. It was scorched.
'"Now, Mr. Walen," says Lord Lundie. "Will you kindly tell us what steps
you took with regard to the second accused?"
'"The man ran directly at me, me lord," says Walen. "I said, 'Oh no, you
don't,' and hit him in the face."
'Lord Lundie lifts one hand and uncovers second accused's face. There
was a bruise on one cheek and the chin was all greened with grass. He
was a heavy-built man.
'"What happened after that?" says Lord Lundie.
'"To the best of my remembrance he turned from me towards your
'Then Lundie goes ahead. "I stooped, and caught the man round the
ankles," he says. "The sudden check threw him partially over my left
shoulder. I jerked him off that shoulder, still holding his ankles, and
he fell heavily on, it would appear, the point of his chin, death being
'"Death being instantaneous," says Walen.
'Lord Lundie takes off his gown and wig--you could see him do it--and
becomes our fellow-murderer. "That's our case," he says. "I know how _I_
should direct the jury, but it's an undignified business for a Lord of
Appeal to lift his hand to, and some of my learned brothers," he says,
"might be disposed to be facetious."
'I guess I can't be properly sensitised. Any one who steered me out of
that trouble might have had the laugh on me for generations. But I'm
only a millionaire. I said we'd better search second accused in case
he'd been carryin' concealed weapons.
'"That certainly is a point," says Lord Lundie. "But the question for
the jury would be whether I exercised more force than was necessary to
prevent him from usin' them." _I_ didn't say anything. He wasn't talkin'
my language. Second accused had his gun on him sure enough, but it had
jammed in his hip-pocket. He was too fleshy to reach behind for business
purposes, and he didn't look a gun-man anyway. Both of 'em carried wads
of private letters. By the time Walen had translated, we knew how many
children the fat one had at home and when the thin one reckoned to be
married. Too bad! Ya-as.
'Says Walen to me while we was rebuttonin' their jackets (they was not
in uniform): "Ever read a book called _The Wreckers_, Mr. Zigler?"
'"Not that I recall at the present moment," I says.
'"Well, do," he says. "You'd appreciate it. You'd appreciate it now, I
'"I'll remember," I says. "But I don't see how this song and dance helps
us any. Here's our corpses, here's their machine, and daylight's
bound to come."
'"Heavens! That reminds me," says Lundie. "What time's dinner?"
'"Half-past eight," says Mankeltow. "It's half-past five now. We knocked
off golf at twenty to, and if they hadn't been such silly asses, firin'
pistols like civilians, we'd have had them to dinner. Why, they might be
sitting with us in the smoking-room this very minute," he says. Then he
said that no man had a right to take his profession so seriously as
these two mountebanks.
'"How interestin'!" says Lundie. "I've noticed this impatient attitude
toward their victim in a good many murderers. I never understood it
before. Of course, it's the disposal of the body that annoys 'em. Now, I
wonder," he says, "who our case will come up before? Let's run through
'Then Walen whirls in. He'd been bitin' his nails in a corner. We was
all nerved up by now.... Me? The worst of the bunch. I had to think for
Tommy as well.
'"We _can't_ be tried," says Walen. "We _mustn't_ be tried! It'll make
an infernal international stink. What did I tell you in the smoking-room
after lunch? The tension's at breaking-point already. This 'ud snap it.
Can't you see that?"
'"I was thinking of the legal aspect of the case," says Lundie. "With a
good jury we'd likely be acquitted."
'"Acquitted!" says Walen. "Who'd dare acquit us in the face of what 'ud
be demanded by--the other party? Did you ever hear of the War of
Jenkins' ear? 'Ever hear of Mason and Slidel? 'Ever hear of an
ultimatum? You know who _these_ two idiots are; you know who _we_ are--a
Lord of Appeal, a Viscount of the English peerage, and me--_me_ knowing
all I know, which the men who know dam' well know that I _do_ know! It's
our necks or Armageddon. Which do you think this Government would
choose? We _can't_ be tried!" he says.
'"Then I expect I'll have to resign me club," Lundie goes on. "I don't
think that's ever been done before by an _ex-officio_ member. I must ask
the secretary." I guess he was kinder bunkered for the minute, or maybe
'twas the lordship comin' out on him.
'"Rot!" says Mankeltow. "Walen's right. We can't afford to be tried.
We'll have to bury them; but my head-gardener locks up all the tools at
'"Not on your life!" says Lundie. He was on deck again--as the
high-class lawyer. "Right or wrong, if we attempt concealment of the
bodies we're done for."
"'I'm glad of that," says Mankeltow, "because, after all, it ain't
cricket to bury 'em."
'Somehow--but I know I ain't English--that consideration didn't worry
me as it ought. An' besides, I was thinkin'--I had to--an' I'd begun to
see a light 'way off--a little glimmerin' light o' salvation.
'"Then what _are_ we to do?" says Walen. "Zigler, what do you advise?
Your neck's in it too."
'"Gentlemen," I says, "something Lord Lundie let fall a while back gives
me an idea. I move that this committee empowers Big Claus and Little
Claus, who have elected to commit suicide in our midst, to leave the
premises _as_ they came. I'm asking you to take big chances," I says,
"but they're all we've got," and then I broke for the bi-plane.
'Don't tell me the English can't think as quick as the next man when
it's up to them! They lifted 'em out o' Flora's Temple--reverent, but
not wastin' time--whilst I found out what had brought her down. One
cylinder was misfirin'. I didn't stop to fix it. My Renzalaer will hold
up on six. We've proved that. If her crew had relied on my guarantees,
they'd have been half-way home by then, instead of takin' their seats
with hangin' heads like they was ashamed. They ought to have been
ashamed too, playin' gun-men in a British peer's park! I took big
chances startin' her without controls, but 'twas a dead still night an'
a clear run--you saw it--across the Theatre into the park, and I prayed
she'd rise before she hit high timber. I set her all I dared for a quick
lift. I told Mankeltow that if I gave her too much nose she'd be liable
to up-end and flop. He didn't want another inquest on his estate. No,
sir! So I had to fix her up in the dark. Ya-as!
'I took big chances, too, while those other three held on to her and I
worked her up to full power. My Renzalaer's no ventilation-fan to pull
against. But I climbed out just in time. I'd hitched the signallin' lamp
to her tail so's we could track her. Otherwise, with my Rush Silencer,
we might's well have shooed an owl out of a barn. She left just that way
when we let her go. No sound except the propellers--_Whoo-oo-oo!
Whoo-oo-oo!_ There was a dip in the ground ahead. It hid her lamp for a
second--but there's no such thing as time in real life. Then that lamp
travelled up the far slope slow--too slow. Then it kinder lifted, we
judged. Then it sure was liftin'. Then it lifted good. D'you know why?
Our four naked perspirin' souls was out there underneath her, hikin' her
heavens high. Yes, sir. _We_ did it!... And that lamp kept liftin' and
liftin'. Then she side-slipped! My God, she side-slipped twice, which
was what I'd been afraid of all along! Then she straightened up, and
went away climbin' to glory, for that blessed star of our hope got
smaller and smaller till we couldn't track it any more. Then we
breathed. We hadn't breathed any since their arrival, but we didn't know
it till we breathed that time--all together. Then we dug our
finger-nails out of our palms an' came alive again--in instalments.
'Lundie spoke first. "We therefore commit their bodies to the air," he
says, an' puts his cap on.
'"The deep--the deep," says Walen. "It's just twenty-three miles to the
'"Poor chaps! Poor chaps!" says Mankeltow. "We'd have had 'em to dinner
if they hadn't lost their heads. I can't tell you how this distresses
'"Well, look at here, Arthur," I says. "It's only God's Own Mercy you
an' me ain't lyin' in Flora's Temple now, and if that fat man had known
enough to fetch his gun around while he was runnin', Lord Lundie and
Walen would have been alongside us."
'"I see that," he says. "But we're alive and they're dead, don't ye
'"I know it," I says. "That's where the dead are always so damned unfair
on the survivors."
'"I see that too," he says. "But I'd have given a good deal if it hadn't
happened, poor chaps!"
'"Amen!" says Lundie. Then? Oh, then we sorter walked back two an' two
to Flora's Temple an' lit matches to see we hadn't left anything behind.
Walen, he had confiscated the note-books before they left. There was the
first man's pistol which we'd forgot to return him, lyin' on the stone
bench. Mankeltow puts his hand on it--he never touched the trigger--an',
bein' an automatic, of course the blame thing jarred off--spiteful as
'"Look out! They'll have one of us yet," says Walen in the dark. But
they didn't--the Lord hadn't quit being our shepherd--and we heard the
bullet zip across the veldt--quite like old times. Ya-as!
'"Swine!" says Mankeltow.
'After that I didn't hear any more "Poor chap" talk.... Me? I never
worried about killing _my_ man. I was too busy figurin' how a British
jury might regard the proposition. I guess Lundie felt that way too.
'Oh, but say! We had an interestin' time at dinner. Folks was expected
whose auto had hung up on the road. They hadn't wired, and Peters had
laid two extra places. We noticed 'em as soon as we sat down. I'd hate
to say how noticeable they were. Mankeltow with his neck bandaged (he'd
caught a relaxed throat golfin') sent for Peters and told him to take
those empty places away--_if you please_. It takes something to rattle
Peters. He was rattled that time. Nobody else noticed anything.
'Where did they come down?' I asked, as he rose.
'In the Channel, I guess. There was nothing in the papers about 'em.
Shall we go into the drawin'-room, and see what these boys and girls are
doin?' But say, ain't life in England inter_es_tin'?
If any God should say
"I will restore
The world her yesterday
Whole as before
My Judgment blasted it"--who would not lift
Heart, eye, and hand in passion o'er the gift?
If any God should will
To wipe from mind
The memory of this ill
Which is mankind
In soul and substance now--who would not bless
Even to tears His loving-tenderness?
If any God should give
Us leave to fly
These present deaths we live,
And safely die
In those lost lives we lived ere we were born--
What man but would not laugh the excuse to scorn?
For we are what we are--
So broke to blood
And the strict works of war--
So long subdued
To sacrifice, that threadbare Death commands
Hardly observance at our busier hands.
Yet we were what we were,
And, fashioned so,
It pleases us to stare
At the far show
Of unbelievable years and shapes that flit,
In our own likeness, on the edge of it.
The Horse Marines
_The Rt. Hon. R.B. Haldane, Secretary of State for War, was
questioned in the House of Commons on April 8th about the rocking-horses
which the War Office is using for the purpose of teaching recruits to
ride. Lord Ronaldshay asked the War Secretary if rocking-horses were to
be supplied to all the cavalry regiments for teaching recruits to ride.
'The noble Lord,' replied Mr. Haldane, 'is doubtless alluding to certain
dummy horses on rockers which have been tested with very satisfactory
results.'... The mechanical steed is a wooden horse with an astonishing
tail. It is painted brown and mounted on swinging rails. The recruit
leaps into the saddle and pulls at the reins while the riding-instructor
rocks the animal to and fro with his foot. The rocking-horses are being
made at Woolwich. They are quite cheap_.
[Footnote 6: Now Viscount Haldane of Cloan.]
My instructions to Mr. Leggatt, my engineer, had been accurately obeyed.
He was to bring my car on completion of annual overhaul, from Coventry
_via_ London, to Southampton Docks to await my arrival; and very pretty
she looked, under the steamer's side among the railway lines, at six in
the morning. Next to her new paint and varnish I was most impressed by
her four brand-new tyres.
'But I didn't order new tyres,' I said as we moved away. 'These are
'Treble-ribbed,' said Leggatt. 'Diamond-stud sheathing.'
'Then there has been a mistake.'
'Oh no, sir; they're gratis.'
The number of motor manufacturers who give away complete sets of
treble-ribbed Irresilient tyres is so limited that I believe I asked
Leggatt for an explanation.
'I don't know that I could very well explain, sir,' was the answer. 'It
'ud come better from Mr. Pyecroft. He's on leaf at Portsmouth--staying
with his uncle. His uncle 'ad the body all night. I'd defy you to find a
scratch on her even with a microscope.'
'Then we will go home by the Portsmouth road,' I said.
And we went at those speeds which are allowed before the working-day
begins or the police are thawed out. We were blocked near Portsmouth by
a battalion of Regulars on the move.
'Whitsuntide manoeuvres just ending,' said Leggatt. 'They've had a
fortnight in the Downs.'
He said no more until we were in a narrow street somewhere behind
Portsmouth Town Railway Station, where he slowed at a green-grocery
shop. The door was open, and a small old man sat on three potato-baskets
swinging his feet over a stooping blue back.
'You call that shinin' 'em?' he piped. 'Can you see your face in 'em
yet? No! Then shine 'em, or I'll give you a beltin' you'll remember!'
'If you stop kickin' me in the mouth perhaps I'd do better,' said
Pyecroft's voice meekly.
We blew the horn.
Pyecroft arose, put away the brushes, and received us not otherwise than
as a king in his own country.
'Are you going to leave me up here all day?' said the old man.
Pyecroft lifted him down and he hobbled into the back room.
'It's his corns,' Pyecroft explained. 'You can't shine corny feet--and
he hasn't had his breakfast.'
'I haven't had mine either,' I said.
'Breakfast for two more, uncle,' Pyecroft sang out.
'Go out an' buy it then,' was the answer, 'or else it's half-rations.'
Pyecroft turned to Leggatt, gave him his marketing orders, and
despatched him with the coppers.
'I have got four new tyres on my car,' I began impressively.
'Yes,' said Mr. Pyecroft. 'You have, and I _will_ say'--he patted my
car's bonnet--'you earned 'em.'
'I want to know why--,' I went on.
'Quite justifiable. You haven't noticed anything in the papers, have
'I've only just landed. I haven't seen a paper for weeks.'
'Then you can lend me a virgin ear. There's been a scandal in the
Junior Service--the Army, I believe they call 'em.'
A bag of coffee-beans pitched on the counter. 'Roast that,' said the
uncle from within.
Pyecroft rigged a small coffee-roaster, while I took down the shutters,
and sold a young lady in curl-papers two bunches of mixed greens and one
'Sickly stuff to handle on an empty stomach, ain't it?' said Pyecroft.
'What about my new tyres?' I insisted.
'Oh, any amount. But the question is'--he looked at me steadily--'is
this what you might call a court-martial or a post-mortem inquiry?'
'Strictly a post-mortem,' said I.
'That being so,' said Pyecroft, 'we can rapidly arrive at facts. Last
Thursday--the shutters go behind those baskets--last Thursday at five
bells in the forenoon watch, otherwise ten-thirty A.M., your Mr. Leggatt
was discovered on Westminster Bridge laying his course for the Old
'But that doesn't lead to Southampton,' I interrupted.
'Then perhaps he was swinging the car for compasses. Be that as it may,
we found him in that latitude, simultaneous as Jules and me was _ong
route_ for Waterloo to rejoin our respective ships--or Navies I should
say. Jules was a _permissionaire_, which meant being on leaf, same as
me, from a French cassowary-cruiser at Portsmouth. A party of her trusty
and well-beloved petty officers 'ad been seeing London, chaperoned by
the R.C. Chaplain. Jules 'ad detached himself from the squadron and was
cruisin' on his own when I joined him, in company of copious
lady-friends. _But_, mark you, your Mr. Leggatt drew the line at the
girls. Loud and long he drew it.'
'I'm glad of that,' I said.
'You may be. He adopted the puristical formation from the first. "Yes,"
he said, when we was annealing him at--but you wouldn't know the pub--"I
_am_ going to Southampton," he says, "and I'll stretch a point to go
_via_ Portsmouth; _but_," says he, "seeing what sort of one hell of a
time invariably trarnspires when we cruise together, Mr. Pyecroft, I do
_not_ feel myself justified towards my generous and long-suffering
employer in takin' on that kind of ballast as well." I assure you he
considered your interests.'
'And the girls?' I asked.
'Oh, I left that to Jules. I'm a monogomite by nature. So we embarked
strictly _ong garcong_. But I should tell you, in case he didn't, that
your Mr. Leggatt's care for your interests 'ad extended to sheathing the
car in matting and gunny-bags to preserve her paint-work. She was all
swathed up like an I-talian baby.'
'He _is_ careful about his paint-work,' I said.
'For a man with no Service experience I should say he was fair homicidal
on the subject. If we'd been Marines he couldn't have been more pointed
in his allusions to our hob-nailed socks. However, we reduced him to a
malleable condition, and embarked for Portsmouth. I'd seldom rejoined
my _vaisseau ong automobile, avec_ a fur coat and goggles. Nor
'Did Jules say much?' I asked, helplessly turning the handle of the
'That's where I pitied the pore beggar. He 'adn't the language, so to
speak. He was confined to heavings and shruggin's and copious _Mong
Jews_! The French are very badly fitted with relief-valves. And then our
Mr. Leggatt drove. He drove.'
'Was he in a very malleable condition?'
'Not him! We recognised the value of his cargo from the outset. He
hadn't a chance to get more than moist at the edges. After which we went
to sleep; and now we'll go to breakfast.'
We entered the back room where everything was in order, and a screeching
canary made us welcome. The uncle had added sausages and piles of
buttered toast to the kippers. The coffee, cleared with a piece of
fish-skin, was a revelation.
Leggatt, who seemed to know the premises, had run the car into the tiny
backyard where her mirror-like back almost blocked up the windows. He
minded shop while we ate. Pyecroft passed him his rations through a flap
in the door. The uncle ordered him in, after breakfast, to wash up, and
he jumped in his gaiters at the old man's commands as he has never
jumped to mine.
'To resoom the post-mortem,' said Pyecroft, lighting his pipe. 'My
slumbers were broken by the propeller ceasing to revolve, and by vile
language from your Mr. Leggatt.'
'I--I--' Leggatt began, a blue-checked duster in one hand and a cup in
'When you're wanted aft you'll be sent for, Mr. Leggatt,' said Pyecroft
amiably. 'It's clean mess decks for you now. Resooming once more, we was
on a lonely and desolate ocean near Portsdown, surrounded by gorse
bushes, and a Boy Scout was stirring my stomach with his little
'"You count ten," he says.
'"Very good, Boy Jones," I says, "count 'em," and I hauled him in over
the gunnel, and ten I gave him with my large flat hand. The remarks he
passed, lying face down tryin' to bite my leg, would have reflected
credit on any Service. Having finished I dropped him overboard again,
which was my gross political error. I ought to 'ave killed him; because
he began signalling--rapid and accurate--in a sou'westerly direction.
Few equatorial calms are to be apprehended when B.P.'s little pets take
to signallin'. Make a note o' that! Three minutes later we were stopped
and boarded by Scouts--up our backs, down our necks, and in our boots!
The last I heard from your Mr. Leggatt as he went under, brushin' 'em
off his cap, was thanking Heaven he'd covered up the new paint-work with
mats. An 'eroic soul!'
'Not a scratch on her body,' said Leggatt, pouring out the
'And Jules?' said I.
'Oh, Jules thought the much advertised Social Revolution had begun, but
his mackintosh hampered him.
'You told me to bring the mackintosh,' Leggatt whispered to me.
'And when I 'ad 'em half convinced he was a French vicomte coming down
to visit the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, he tried to take it off.
Seeing his uniform underneath, some sucking Sherlock Holmes of the Pink
Eye Patrol (they called him Eddy) deduced that I wasn't speaking
the truth. Eddy said I was tryin' to sneak into Portsmouth
unobserved--unobserved mark you!--and join hands with the enemy. It
trarnspired that the Scouts was conducting a field-day against opposin'
forces, ably assisted by all branches of the Service, and they was so
afraid the car wouldn't count ten points to them in the fray, that
they'd have scalped us, but for the intervention of an umpire--also in
short under-drawers. A fleshy sight!'
Here Mr. Pyecroft shut his eyes and nodded. 'That umpire,' he said
suddenly, 'was our Mr. Morshed--a gentleman whose acquaintance you have
already made _and_ profited by, if I mistake not.'
[Footnote 7: 'Their Lawful Occasions,' _Traffics and Discoveries_.]
'Oh, was the Navy in it too?' I said; for I had read of wild doings
occasionally among the Boy Scouts on the Portsmouth Road, in which Navy,
Army, and the world at large seemed to have taken part.
'The Navy _was_ in it. I was the only one out of it--for several
seconds. Our Mr. Morshed failed to recognise me in my fur boa, and my
appealin' winks at 'im behind your goggles didn't arrive. But when Eddy
darling had told his story, I saluted, which is difficult in furs, and I
stated I was bringin' him dispatches from the North. My Mr. Morshed
cohered on the instant. I've never known his ethergram installations out
of order yet. "Go and guard your blessed road," he says to the Fratton
Orphan Asylum standing at attention all round him, and, when they was
removed--"Pyecroft," he says, still _sotte voce_, "what in Hong-Kong are
you doing with this dun-coloured _sampan_?"
'It was your Mr. Leggatt's paint-protective matting which caught his
eye. She _did_ resemble a _sampan_, especially about the stern-works. At
these remarks I naturally threw myself on 'is bosom, so far as Service
conditions permitted, and revealed him all, mentioning that the car was
yours. You know his way of working his lips like a rabbit? Yes, he was
quite pleased. "_His_ car!" he kept murmuring, working his lips like a
rabbit. "I owe 'im more than a trifle for things he wrote about me. I'll
keep the car."
'Your Mr. Leggatt now injected some semi-mutinous remarks to the effect
that he was your chauffeur in charge of your car, and, as such, capable
of so acting. Mr. Morshed threw him a glarnce. It sufficed. Didn't it
suffice, Mr. Leggatt?'
'I knew if something didn't happen, something worse would,' said
Leggatt. 'It never fails when you're aboard.'
'And Jules?' I demanded.
'Jules was, so to speak, panicking in a water-tight flat through his
unfortunate lack of language. I had to introduce him as part of the
_entente cordiale_, and he was put under arrest, too. Then we sat on the
grass and smoked, while Eddy and Co. violently annoyed the traffic on
the Portsmouth Road, till the umpires, all in short panties, conferred
on the valuable lessons of the field-day and added up points, same as at
target-practice. I didn't hear their conclusions, but our Mr. Morshed
delivered a farewell address to Eddy and Co., tellin' 'em they ought to
have deduced from a hundred signs about me, that I was a friendly
bringin' in dispatches from the North. We left 'em tryin' to find those
signs in the Scout book, and we reached Mr. Morshed's hotel at
Portsmouth at 6.27 P.M. _ong automobile_. Here endeth the
'Begin the second,' I said.
The uncle and Leggatt had finished washing up and were seated, smoking,
while the damp duster dried at the fire.
'About what time was it,' said Pyecroft to Leggatt, 'when our Mr.
Morshed began to talk about uncles?'
'When he came back to the bar, after he'd changed into those rat-catcher
clothes,' said Leggatt.
'That's right. "Pye," said he, "have you an uncle?" "I have," I says.
"Here's santy to him," and I finished my sherry and bitters to
'That's right,' said Pyecroft's uncle sternly. 'If you hadn't I'd have
belted you worth rememberin', Emmanuel. I had the body all night.'
Pyecroft smiled affectionately. 'So you 'ad, uncle, an' beautifully you
looked after her. But as I was saying, "I have an uncle, too," says Mr.
Morshed, dark and lowering. "Yet somehow I can't love him. I want to
mortify the beggar. Volunteers to mortify my uncle, one pace to
'I took Jules with me the regulation distance. Jules was getting
interested. Your Mr. Leggatt preserved a strictly nootral attitude.
'"You're a pressed man," says our Mr. Morshed. "I owe your late employer
much, so to say. The car will manoeuvre all night, as requisite."
'Mr. Leggatt come out noble as your employee, and, by 'Eaven's divine
grace, instead of arguing, he pleaded his new paint and varnish which
was Mr. Morshed's one vital spot (he's lootenant on one of the new
catch-'em-alive-o's now). "True," says he, "paint's an 'oly thing. I'll
give you one hour to arrange a _modus vivendi_. Full bunkers and steam
ready by 9 P.M. to-night, _if_ you please."
'Even so, Mr. Leggatt was far from content. _I_ 'ad to arrange the
details. We run her into the yard here.' Pyecroft nodded through the
window at my car's glossy back-panels. 'We took off the body with its
mats and put it in the stable, substitooting (and that yard's a tight
fit for extensive repairs) the body of uncle's blue delivery cart. It
overhung a trifle, but after I'd lashed it I knew it wouldn't fetch
loose. Thus, in our composite cruiser, we repaired once more to the
hotel, and was immediately dispatched to the toy-shop in the High Street
where we took aboard one rocking-horse which was waiting for us.'
'Took aboard _what_?' I cried.
'One fourteen-hand dapple-grey rocking-horse, with pure green rockers
and detachable tail, pair gashly glass eyes, complete set 'orrible
grinnin' teeth, and two bloody-red nostrils which, protruding from the
brown papers, produced the _tout ensemble_ of a Ju-ju sacrifice in the
Benin campaign. Do I make myself comprehensible?'
'Perfectly. Did you say anything?' I asked.
'Only to Jules. To him, I says, wishing to try him. "_Allez a votre
bateau. Je say mon Lootenong. Eel voo donneray porkwor_." To me, says
he, "_Vous ong ate hurroo! Jamay de la vee_!" and I saw by his eye he'd
taken on for the full term of the war. Jules was a blue-eyed,
brindle-haired beggar of a useful make and inquirin' habits. Your Mr.
Leggatt he only groaned.'
Leggatt nodded. 'It was like nightmares,' he said. 'It was like
'Once more, then,' Pyecroft swept on, 'we returned to the hotel and
partook of a sumptuous repast, under the able and genial chairmanship of
our Mr. Morshed, who laid his projecks unreservedly before us. "In the
first place," he says, opening out bicycle-maps, "my uncle, who, I
regret to say, is a brigadier-general, has sold his alleged soul to
Dicky Bridoon for a feathery hat and a pair o' gilt spurs. Jules,
_conspuez l'oncle_!" So Jules, you'll be glad to hear--'
'One minute, Pye,' I said. 'Who is Dicky Bridoon?'
'I don't usually mingle myself up with the bickerings of the Junior
Service, but it trarnspired that he was Secretary o' State for Civil
War, an' he'd been issuing mechanical leather-belly gee-gees which
doctors recommend for tumour--to the British cavalry in loo of real meat
horses, to learn to ride on. Don't you remember there was quite a stir
in the papers owing to the cavalry not appreciatin' 'em? But that's a
minor item. The main point was that our uncle, in his capacity of
brigadier-general, mark you, had wrote to the papers highly approvin' o'
Dicky Bridoon's mechanical substitutes an 'ad thus obtained
promotion--all same as a agnosticle stoker psalm-singin' 'imself up the
Service under a pious captain. At that point of the narrative we caught
a phosphorescent glimmer why the rocking-horse might have been issued;
but none the less the navigation was intricate. Omitting the fact it was
dark and cloudy, our brigadier-uncle lay somewhere in the South Downs
with his brigade, which was manoeuvrin' at Whitsum manoeuvres on a large
scale--Red Army _versus_ Blue, et cetera; an' all we 'ad to go by was
those flapping bicycle-maps and your Mr. Leggatt's groans.'
'I was thinking what the Downs mean after dark,' said Leggatt angrily.
'They was worth thinkin' of,' said Pyecroft. 'When we had studied the
map till it fair spun, we decided to sally forth and creep for uncle by
hand in the dark, dark night, an' present 'im with the rocking-horse. So
we embarked at 8.57 P.M.'
'One minute again, please. How much did Jules understand by that time?'
'Sufficient unto the day--or night, perhaps I should say. He told our
Mr. Morshed he'd follow him _more sang frays_, which is French for dead,
drunk, or damned. Barrin' 'is paucity o' language, there wasn't a
blemish on Jules. But what I wished to imply was, when we climbed into
the back parts of the car, our Lootenant Morshed says to me, "I doubt if
I'd flick my cigar-ends about too lavish, Mr. Pyecroft. We ought to be
sitting on five pounds' worth of selected fireworks, and I think the
rockets are your end." Not being able to smoke with my 'ead over the
side I threw it away; and then your Mr. Leggatt, 'aving been as nearly
mutinous as it pays to be with my Mr. Morshed, arched his back
'Where did he drive to, please?' said I.
'Primerrily, in search of any or either or both armies; seconderrily, of
course, in search of our brigadier-uncle. Not finding him on the road,
we ran about the grass looking for him. This took us to a great many
places in a short time. Ow 'eavenly that lilac did smell on top of that
first Down--stinkin' its blossomin' little heart out!'
'I 'adn't leesure to notice,' said Mr. Leggatt. 'The Downs were full o'
chalk-pits, and we'd no lights.'
'We 'ad the bicycle-lamp to look at the map by. Didn't you notice the
old lady at the window where we saw the man in the night-gown? I thought
night-gowns as sleepin' rig was extinck, so to speak.'
'I tell you I 'adn't leesure to notice,' Leggatt repeated.
'That's odd. Then what might 'ave made you tell the sentry at the first
camp we found that you was the _Daily Express_ delivery-waggon?'
'You can't touch pitch without being defiled,' Leggatt answered. ''Oo
told the officer in the bath we were umpires?'
'Well, he asked us. That was when we found the Territorial battalion
undressin' in slow time. It lay on the left flank o' the Blue Army, and
it cackled as it lay, too. But it gave us our position as regards the
respective armies. We wandered a little more, and at 11.7 P.M., not
having had a road under us for twenty minutes, we scaled the heights of
something or other--which are about six hundred feet high. Here we
'alted to tighten the lashings of the superstructure, and we smelt
leather and horses three counties deep all round. We was, as you might
say, in the thick of it.'
'"Ah!" says my Mr. Morshed. "My 'orizon has indeed broadened. What a
little thing is an uncle, Mr. Pyecroft, in the presence o' these
glitterin' constellations! Simply ludicrous!" he says, "to waste a
rocking-horse on an individual. We must socialise it. But we must get
their 'eads up first. Touch off one rocket, if you please."
'I touched off a green three-pounder which rose several thousand metres,
and burst into gorgeous stars. "Reproduce the manoeuvre," he says, "at
the other end o' this ridge--if it don't end in another cliff." So we
steamed down the ridge a mile and a half east, and then I let Jules
touch off a pink rocket, or he'd ha' kissed me. That was his only way to
express his emotions, so to speak. Their heads come up then all around
us to the extent o' thousands. We hears bugles like cocks crowing below,
and on the top of it a most impressive sound which I'd never enjoyed
before because 'itherto I'd always been an inteegral part of it, so to
say--the noise of 'ole armies gettin' under arms. They must 'ave
anticipated a night attack, I imagine. Most impressive. Then we 'eard a
threshin'-machine. "Tutt! Tutt! This is childish!" says Lootenant
Morshed. "We can't wait till they've finished cutting chaff for their
horses. We must make 'em understand we're not to be trifled with.
Expedite 'em with another rocket, Mr. Pyecroft."
'"It's barely possible, sir," I remarks, "that that's a searchlight
churnin' up," and by the time we backed into a providential chalk
cutting (which was where our first tyre went pungo) she broke out to the
northward, and began searching the ridge. A smart bit o' work.'
''Twasn't a puncture. The inner tube had nipped because we skidded so,'
'While your Mr. Leggatt was effectin' repairs, another searchlight broke
out to the southward, and the two of 'em swept our ridge on both sides.
Right at the west end of it they showed us the ground rising into a
hill, so to speak, crowned with what looked like a little fort. Morshed
saw it before the beams shut off. "That's the key of the position!" he
says. "Occupy it at all hazards."
'"I haven't half got occupation for the next twenty minutes," says your
Mr. Leggatt, rootin' and blasphemin' in the dark. Mark, now, 'ow
Morshed changed his tactics to suit 'is environment. "Right!" says he.
"I'll stand by the ship. Mr. Pyecroft and Jules, oblige me by doubling
along the ridge to the east with all the maroons and crackers you can
carry without spilling. Read the directions careful for the maroons, Mr.
Pyecroft, and touch them off at half-minute intervals. Jules represents
musketry an' maxim fire under your command. Remember, it's death or
Salisbury Gaol! Prob'ly both!"
'By these means and some moderately 'ard runnin', we distracted 'em to
the eastward. Maroons, you may not be aware, are same as bombs, with the
anarchism left out. In confined spots like chalk-pits, they knock a
four-point-seven silly. But you should read the directions before'and.
In the intervals of the slow but well-directed fire of my cow-guns,
Jules, who had found a sheep-pond in the dark a little lower down, gave
what you might call a cinematograph reproduction o' sporadic musketry.
They was large size crackers, and he concluded with the dull, sickenin'
thud o' blind shells burstin' on soft ground.'
'How did he manage that?' I said.
'You throw a lighted squib into water and you'll see,' said Pyecroft.
'Thus, then, we improvised till supplies was exhausted and the
surrounding landscapes fair 'owled and 'ummed at us. The Jun or Service
might 'ave 'ad their doubts about the rockets but they couldn't overlook
our gunfire. Both sides tumbled out full of initiative. I told Jules no
two flat-feet 'ad any right to be as happy as us, and we went back
along the ridge to the derelict, and there was our Mr. Morshed
apostrophin' his 'andiwork over fifty square mile o' country with
"Attend, all ye who list to hear!" out of the Fifth Reader. He'd got as
far as "And roused the shepherds o' Stonehenge, the rangers o' Beaulieu"
when we come up, and he drew our attention to its truth as well as its
beauty. That's rare in poetry, I'm told. He went right on to--"The red
glare on Skiddaw roused those beggars at Carlisle"--which he pointed out
was poetic license for Leith Hill. This allowed your Mr. Leggatt time to
finish pumpin' up his tyres. I 'eard the sweat 'op off his nose.'
'You know what it is, sir,' said poor Leggatt to me.
'It warfted across my mind, as I listened to what was trarnspirin', that
it might be easier to make the mess than to wipe it up, but such
considerations weighed not with our valiant leader.
'"Mr. Pyecroft," he says, "it can't have escaped your notice that we
'ave one angry and 'ighly intelligent army in front of us, an' another
'ighly angry and equally intelligent army in our rear. What 'ud you
'Most men would have besought 'im to do a lateral glide while there was
yet time, but all I said was: "The rocking-horse isn't expended
'He laid his hand on my shoulder. "Pye," says he, "there's worse men
than you in loftier places. They shall 'ave it. None the less," he
remarks, "the ice is undeniably packing."
'I may 'ave omitted to point out that at this juncture two large
armies, both deprived of their night's sleep, was awake, as you might
say, and hurryin' into each other's arms. Here endeth the
He filled his pipe slowly. The uncle had fallen asleep. Leggatt lit
'We then proceeded _ong automobile_ along the ridge in a westerly
direction towards the miniature fort which had been so kindly revealed
by the searchlight, but which on inspection (your Mr. Leggatt bumped
into an outlyin' reef of it) proved to be a wurzel-clump;
_c'est-a-dire_, a parallelogrammatic pile of about three million
mangold-wurzels, brought up there for the sheep, I suppose. On all
sides, excep' the one we'd come by, the ground fell away moderately
quick, and down at the bottom there was a large camp lit up an' full of
harsh words of command.
'"I said it was the key to the position," Lootenant Morshed remarks.
"Trot out Persimmon!" which we rightly took to read, "Un-wrap the
'"Houp la!" says Jules in a insubordinate tone, an' slaps Persimmon on
'"Silence!" says the Lootenant. "This is the Royal Navy, not Newmarket";
and we carried Persimmon to the top of the mangel-wurzel clump
'Owing to the inequalities of the terrain (I _do_ think your Mr. Leggatt
might have had a spirit-level in his kit) he wouldn't rock free on the
bed-plate, and while adjustin' him, his detachable tail fetched adrift.
Our Lootenant was quick to seize the advantage.
'"Remove that transformation," he says. "Substitute one Roman candle.
Gas-power is superior to manual propulsion."
'So we substituted. He arranged the _piece de resistarnce_ in the shape
of large drums--not saucers, mark you--drums of coloured fire, with
printed instructions, at proper distances round Persimmon. There was a
brief interregnum while we dug ourselves in among the wurzels by hand.
Then he touched off the fires, _not_ omitting the Roman candle, and, you
may take it from me, all was visible. Persimmon shone out in his naked
splendour, red to port, green to starboard, and one white light at his
bows, as per Board o' Trade regulations. Only he didn't so much rock,
you might say, as shrug himself, in a manner of speaking, every time the
candle went off. One can't have everything. But the rest surpassed our
highest expectations. I think Persimmon was noblest on the starboard or
green side--more like when a man thinks he's seeing mackerel in hell,
don't you know? And yet I'd be the last to deprecate the effect of the
port light on his teeth, or that blood-shot look in his left eye. He
knew there was something going on he didn't approve of. He
'Did you laugh?' I said.
'I'm not much of a wag myself; nor it wasn't as if we 'ad time to allow
the spectacle to sink in. The coloured fires was supposed to burn ten
minutes, whereas it was obvious to the meanest capacity that the Junior
Service would arrive by forced marches in about two and a half. They
grarsped our topical allusion as soon as it was across the foot-lights,
so to speak. They were quite chafed at it. Of course, 'ad we reflected,
we might have known that exposin' illuminated rockin'-horses to an army
that was learnin' to ride on 'em partook of the nature of a _double
entender_, as the French say--same as waggling the tiller lines at a man
who's had a hanging in the family. I knew the cox of the
_Archimandrite's_ galley 'arf killed for a similar _plaisan-teree._ But
we never anticipated lobsters being so sensitive. That was why we
shifted. We could 'ardly tear our commandin' officer away. He put his
head on one side, and kept cooin'. The only thing he 'ad neglected to
provide was a line of retreat; but your Mr. Leggatt--an 'eroic soul in
the last stage of wet prostration--here took command of the van, or,
rather, the rear-guard. We walked downhill beside him, holding on to the
superstructure to prevent her capsizing. These technical details,
'owever, are beyond me.' He waved his pipe towards Leggatt.
'I saw there was two deepish ruts leadin' down 'ill somewhere,' said
Leggatt. 'That was when the soldiers stopped laughin', and begun to
'Stroll, lovey, stroll!' Pyecroft corrected. 'The Dervish rush took
'So I laid her in these ruts. That was where she must 'ave scraped her
silencer a bit. Then they turned sharp right--the ruts did--and then she
stopped bonnet-high in a manure-heap, sir; but I'll swear it was all of
a one in three gradient. I think it was a barnyard. We waited there,'
'But not for long,' said Pyecroft. 'The lights were towering out of the
drums on the position we 'ad so valiantly abandoned; and the Junior
Service was escaladin' it _en masse_. When numerous bodies of 'ighly
trained men arrive simultaneous in the same latitude from opposite
directions, each remarking briskly, "What the 'ell did you do _that_
for?" detonation, as you might say, is practically assured. They didn't
ask for extraneous aids. If we'd come out with sworn affidavits of what
we'd done they wouldn't 'ave believed us. They wanted each other's
company exclusive. Such was the effect of Persimmon on their clarss
feelings. Idol'try, _I_ call it! Events transpired with the utmost
velocity and rapidly increasing pressures. There was a few remarks about
Dicky Bridoon and mechanical horses, and then some one was smacked--hard
by the sound--in the middle of a remark.'
'That was the man who kept calling for the Forty-fifth Dragoons,' said
Leggatt. 'He got as far as Drag ...'
'Was it?' said Pyecroft dreamily. 'Well, he couldn't say they didn't
come. They all came, and they all fell to arguin' whether the Infantry
should 'ave Persimmon for a regimental pet or the Cavalry should keep
him for stud purposes. Hence the issue was soon clouded with
mangold-wurzels. Our commander said we 'ad sowed the good seed, and it
was bearing abundant fruit. (They weigh between four and seven pounds
apiece.) Seein' the children 'ad got over their shyness, and 'ad really
begun to play games, we backed out o' the pit and went down, by steps,
to the camp below, no man, as you might say, making us afraid. Here we
enjoyed a front view of the battle, which rolled with renewed impetus,
owing to both sides receiving strong reinforcements every minute. All
arms were freely represented; Cavalry, on this occasion only, acting in
concert with Artillery. They argued the relative merits of horses
_versus_ feet, so to say, but they didn't neglect Persimmon. The wounded
rolling downhill with the wurzels informed us that he had long ago been
socialised, and the smallest souvenirs were worth a man's life. Speaking
broadly, the Junior Service appeared to be a shade out of 'and, if I may
venture so far. They did _not_ pay prompt and unhesitating obedience to
the "Retires" or the "Cease Fires" or the "For 'Eaven's sake come to
bed, ducky" of their officers, who, I regret to say, were 'otly
embroiled at the heads of their respective units.'
'How did you find that out?' I asked.
'On account of Lootenant Morshed going to the Mess tent to call on his
uncle and raise a drink; but all hands had gone to the front. We thought
we 'eard somebody bathing behind the tent, and we found an oldish
gentleman tryin' to drown a boy in knickerbockers in a horse-trough. He
kept him under with a bicycle, so to speak. He 'ad nearly accomplished
his fell design, when we frustrated him. He was in a highly malleable
condition and full o' _juice de spree_. "Arsk not what I am," he says.
"My wife 'll tell me that quite soon enough. Arsk rather what I've
been," he says. "I've been dinin' here," he says. "I commanded 'em in
the Eighties," he says, "and, Gawd forgive me," he says, sobbin'
'eavily, "I've spent this holy evening telling their Colonel they was a
set of educated inefficients. Hark to 'em!" We could, without strainin'
ourselves; but how _he_ picked up the gentle murmur of his own corps in
that on-the-knee party up the hill I don't know. "They've marched and
fought thirty mile to-day," he shouts, "and now they're tearin' the
_intestines_ out of the Cavalry up yonder! They won't stop this side the
gates o' Delhi," he says. "I commanded their ancestors. There's nothing
wrong with the Service," he says, wringing out his trousers on his lap.
"'Eaven pardon me for doubtin' 'em! Same old game--same young beggars."
'The boy in the knickerbockers, languishing on a chair, puts in a claim
for one drink. "Let him go dry," says our friend in shirt-tails. "He's a
reporter. He run into me on his filthy bicycle and he asked me if I
could furnish 'im with particulars about the mutiny in the Army. You
false-'earted proletarian publicist," he says, shakin' his finger at
'im--for he was reelly annoyed--"I'll teach you to defile what you can't
comprebend! When my regiment's in a state o' mutiny, I'll do myself the
honour of informing you personally. You particularly ignorant and very
narsty little man," he says, "you're no better than a dhobi's donkey! If
there wasn't dirty linen to wash, you'd starve," he says, "and why I
haven't drowned you will be the lastin' regret of my life."
'Well, we sat with 'em and 'ad drinks for about half-an-hour in front
of the Mess tent. He'd ha' killed the reporter if there hadn't been
witnesses, and the reporter might have taken notes of the battle; so we
acted as two-way buffers, in a sense. I don't hold with the Press
mingling up with Service matters. They draw false conclusions. Now, mark
you, at a moderate estimate, there were seven thousand men in the
fighting line, half of 'em hurt in their professional feelings, an' the
other half rubbin' in the liniment, as you might say. All due to
Persimmon! If you 'adn't seen it you wouldn't 'ave believed it. And yet,
mark you, not one single unit of 'em even resorted to his belt. They
confined themselves to natural producks--hands and the wurzels. I
thought Jules was havin' fits, till it trarnspired the same thought had
impressed him in the French language. He called it _incroyable_, I
believe. Seven thousand men, with seven thousand rifles, belts, and
bayonets, in a violently agitated condition, and not a ungenteel blow
struck from first to last. The old gentleman drew our attention to it as
well. It was quite noticeable.
'Lack of ammunition was the primerry cause of the battle ceasin'. A
Brigade-Major came in, wipin' his nose on both cuffs, and sayin' he 'ad
'ad snuff. The brigadier-uncle followed. He was, so to speak, sneezin'.
We thought it best to shift our moorings without attractin' attention;
so we shifted. They 'ad called the cows 'ome by then. The Junior Service
was going to bye-bye all round us, as happy as the ship's monkey when
he's been playin' with the paints, and Lootenant Morshed and Jules kept
bowin' to port and starboard of the superstructure, acknowledgin' the
unstinted applause which the multitude would 'ave given 'em if they'd
known the facts. On the other 'and, as your Mr. Leggatt observed, they
might 'ave killed us.
'That would have been about five bells in the middle watch, say
half-past two. A well-spent evening. There was but little to be gained
by entering Portsmouth at that hour, so we turned off on the grass (this
was after we had found a road under us), and we cast anchors out at the
stern and prayed for the day.
'But your Mr. Leggatt he had to make and mend tyres all our watch below.
It trarnspired she had been running on the rim o' two or three wheels,
which, very properly, he hadn't reported till the close of the action.
And that's the reason of your four new tyres. Mr. Morshed was of opinion
you'd earned 'em. Do you dissent?'
I stretched out my hand, which Pyecroft crushed to pulp. 'No, Pye,' I
said, deeply moved, 'I agree entirely. But what happened to Jules?'
'We returned him to his own Navy after breakfast. He wouldn't have kept
much longer without some one in his own language to tell it to. I don't
know any man I ever took more compassion on than Jules. 'Is sufferings
swelled him up centimetres, and all he could do on the Hard was to kiss
Lootenant Morshed and me, _and_ your Mr. Leggatt. He deserved that much.
A cordial beggar.'
Pyecroft looked at the washed cups on the table, and the low sunshine
on my car's back in the yard.
'Too early to drink to him,' he said. 'But I feel it just the same.'
The uncle, sunk in his chair, snored a little; the canary answered with
a shrill lullaby. Pyecroft picked up the duster, threw it over the cage,
put his finger to his lips, and we tiptoed out into the shop, while
Leggatt brought the car round.
'I'll look out for the news in the papers,' I said, as I got in.
'Oh, we short-circuited that! Nothing trarnspired excep' a statement to
the effect that some Territorial battalions had played about with
turnips at the conclusion of the manoeuvres The taxpayer don't know all
he gets for his money. Farewell!'
We moved off just in time to be blocked by a regiment coming towards the
station to entrain for London.
'Beg your pardon, sir,' said a sergeant in charge of the baggage, 'but
would you mind backin' a bit till we get the waggons past?'
'Certainly,' I said. 'You don't happen to have a rocking-horse among
your kit, do you?'
The rattle of our reverse drowned his answer, but I saw his eyes. One of
them was blackish-green, about four days old.
THE LEGEND OF MIRTH
The Four Archangels, so the legends tell,
Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, Azrael,
Being first of those to whom the Power was shown,
Stood first of all the Host before The Throne,
And when the Charges were allotted burst
Tumultuous-winged from out the assembly first.
Zeal was their spur that bade them strictly heed
Their own high judgment on their lightest deed.
Zeal was their spur that, when relief was given,
Urged them unwearied to fresh toil in Heaven;
For Honour's sake perfecting every task
Beyond what e'en Perfection's self could ask....
And Allah, Who created Zeal and Pride,
Knows how the twain are perilous-near allied.
It chanced on one of Heaven's long-lighted days,
The Four and all the Host having gone their ways
Each to his Charge, the shining Courts were void
Save for one Seraph whom no charge employed,
With folden wings and slumber-threatened brow.
To whom The Word: 'Beloved, what dost thou?'
'By the Permission,' came the answer soft,
'Little I do nor do that little oft.
As is The Will in Heaven so on Earth
Where by The Will I strive to make men mirth.'
He ceased and sped, hearing The Word once more:
'Beloved, go thy way and greet the Four.'
Systems and Universes overpast,
The Seraph came upon the Four, at last,
Guiding and guarding with devoted mind
The tedious generations of mankind
Who lent at most unwilling ear and eye
When they could not escape the ministry....
Yet, patient, faithful, firm, persistent, just
Toward all that gross, indifferent, facile dust,
The Archangels laboured to discharge their trust
By precept and example, prayer and law,
Advice, reproof, and rule, but, labouring, saw
Each in his fellow's countenance confessed,
The Doubt that sickens: 'Have I done my best?'
Even as they sighed and turned to toil anew,
The Seraph hailed them with observance due;
And after some fit talk of higher things
Touched tentative on mundane happenings.
This they permitting, he, emboldened thus,
Prolused of humankind promiscuous.
And, since the large contention less avails
Than instances observed, he told them tales--Tales
of the shop, the bed, the court, the street,
Intimate, elemental, indiscreet:
Occasions where Confusion smiting swift
Piles jest on jest as snow-slides pile the drift.
Whence, one by one, beneath derisive skies,
The victims bare, bewildered heads arise:
Tales of the passing of the spirit, graced
With humour blinding as the doom it faced:
Stark tales of ribaldry that broke aside
To tears, by laughter swallowed ere they dried:
Tales to which neither grace nor gain accrue,
But only (Allah be exalted!) true,
And only, as the Seraph showed that night,
Delighting to the limits of delight.
These he rehearsed with artful pause and halt,
And such pretence of memory at fault,
That soon the Four--so well the bait was thrown--
Came to his aid with memories of their own--
Matters dismissed long since as small or vain,
Whereof the high significance had lain
Hid, till the ungirt glosses made it plain.
Then as enlightenment came broad and fast,
Each marvelled at his own oblivious past
Until--the Gates of Laughter opened wide--
The Four, with that bland Seraph at their side,
While they recalled, compared, and amplified,
In utter mirth forgot both zeal and pride.
High over Heaven the lamps of midnight burned
Ere, weak with merriment, the Four returned,
Not in that order they were wont to keep--
Pinion to pinion answering, sweep for sweep,
In awful diapason heard afar,
But shoutingly adrift 'twixt star and star.
Reeling a planet's orbit left or right
As laughter took them in the abysmal Night;
Or, by the point of some remembered jest,
Winged and brought helpless down through gulfs unguessed,
Where the blank worlds that gather to the birth
Leaped in the womb of Darkness at their mirth,
And e'en Gehenna's bondsmen understood.
They were not damned from human brotherhood.
Not first nor last of Heaven's high Host, the Four
That night took place beneath The Throne once more.
O lovelier than their morning majesty,
The understanding light behind the eye!
O more compelling than their old command,
The new-learned friendly gesture of the hand!
O sweeter than their zealous fellowship,
The wise half-smile that passed from lip to lip!
O well and roundly, when Command was given,
They told their tale against themselves to Heaven,
And in the silence, waiting on The Word,
Received the Peace and Pardon of The Lord!
'My Son's Wife'
He had suffered from the disease of the century since his early youth,
and before he was thirty he was heavily marked with it. He and a few
friends had rearranged Heaven very comfortably, but the reorganisation
of Earth, which they called Society, was even greater fun. It demanded
Work in the shape of many taxi-rides daily; hours of brilliant talk with
brilliant talkers; some sparkling correspondence; a few silences (but on
the understanding that their own turn should come soon) while other
people expounded philosophies; and a fair number of picture-galleries,
tea-fights, concerts, theatres, music-halls, and cinema shows; the whole
trimmed with love-making to women whose hair smelt of cigarette-smoke.
Such strong days sent Frankwell Midmore back to his flat assured that he
and his friends had helped the World a step nearer the Truth, the Dawn,
and the New Order.
His temperament, he said, led him more towards concrete data than
abstract ideas. People who investigate detail are apt to be tired at the
day's end. The same temperament, or it may have been a woman, made him
early attach himself to the Immoderate Left of his Cause in the capacity
of an experimenter in Social Relations. And since the Immoderate Left
contains plenty of women anxious to help earnest inquirers with large
independent incomes to arrive at evaluations of essentials, Frankwell
Midmore's lot was far from contemptible.
At that hour Fate chose to play with him. A widowed aunt, widely
separated by nature, and more widely by marriage, from all that
Midmore's mother had ever been or desired to be, died and left him
possessions. Mrs. Midmore, having that summer embraced a creed which
denied the existence of death, naturally could not stoop to burial; but
Midmore had to leave London for the dank country at a season when Social
Regeneration works best through long, cushioned conferences, two by two,
after tea. There he faced the bracing ritual of the British funeral, and
was wept at across the raw grave by an elderly coffin-shaped female with
a long nose, who called him 'Master Frankie'; and there he was
congratulated behind an echoing top-hat by a man he mistook for a mute,
who turned out to be his aunt's lawyer. He wrote his mother next day,
after a bright account of the funeral:
'So far as I can understand, she has left me between four and five
hundred a year. It all comes from Ther Land, as they call it down here.
The unspeakable attorney, Sperrit, and a green-eyed daughter, who hums
to herself as she tramps but is silent on all subjects except "huntin',"
insisted on taking me to see it. Ther Land is brown and green in
alternate slabs like chocolate and pistachio cakes, speckled with
occasional peasants who do not utter. In case it should not be wet
enough there is a wet brook in the middle of it. Ther House is by the
brook. I shall look into it later. If there should be any little memento
of Jenny that you care for, let me know. Didn't you tell me that
mid-Victorian furniture is coming into the market again? Jenny's old
maid--it is called Rhoda Dolbie--tells me that Jenny promised it thirty
pounds a year. The will does not. Hence, I suppose, the tears at the
funeral. But that is close on ten per cent of the income. I fancy Jenny
has destroyed all her private papers and records of her _vie intime_,
if, indeed, life be possible in such a place. The Sperrit man told me
that if I had means of my own I might come and live on Ther Land. I
didn't tell him how much I would pay not to! I cannot think it right
that any human being should exercise mastery over others in the
merciless fashion our tom-fool social system permits; so, as it is all
mine, I intend to sell it whenever the unholy Sperrit can find a
And he went to Mr. Sperrit with the idea next day, just before returning
'Quite so,' said the lawyer. 'I see your point, of course. But the house
itself is rather old-fashioned--hardly the type purchasers demand
nowadays. There's no park, of course, and the bulk of the land is let to
a life-tenant, a Mr. Sidney. As long as he pays his rent, he can't be
turned out, and even if he didn't'--Mr. Sperrit's face relaxed a
shade--'you might have a difficulty.'
'The property brings four hundred a year, I understand,' said Midmore.
'Well, hardly--ha-ardly. Deducting land and income tax, tithes, fire
insurance, cost of collection and repairs of course, it returned two
hundred and eighty-four pounds last year. The repairs are rather a large
item--owing to the brook. I call it Liris--out of Horace, you know.'
Midmore looked at his watch impatiently.
'I suppose you can find somebody to buy it?' he repeated.
'We will do our best, of course, if those are your instructions. Then,
that is all except'--here Midmore half rose, but Mr. Sperrit's little
grey eyes held his large brown ones firmly--'except about Rhoda Dolbie,
Mrs. Werf's maid. I may tell you that we did not draw up your aunt's
last will. She grew secretive towards the last--elderly people often
do--and had it done in London. I expect her memory failed her, or she
mislaid her notes. She used to put them in her spectacle-case.... My
motor only takes eight minutes to get to the station, Mr. Midmore ...
but, as I was saying, whenever she made her will with _us_, Mrs. Werf
always left Rhoda thirty pounds per annum. Charlie, the wills!' A clerk
with a baldish head and a long nose dealt documents on to the table like
cards, and breathed heavily behind Midmore. 'It's in no sense a legal
obligation, of course,' said Mr. Sperrit. 'Ah, that one is dated January
the 11th, eighteen eighty-nine.'
Midmore looked at his watch again and found himself saying with no good
grace: 'Well, I suppose she'd better have it--for the present at
He escaped with an uneasy feeling that two hundred and fifty-four pounds
a year was not exactly four hundred, and that Charlie's long nose
annoyed him. Then he returned, first-class, to his own affairs.
Of the two, perhaps three, experiments in Social Relations which he had
then in hand, one interested him acutely. It had run for some months and
promised most variegated and interesting developments, on which he dwelt
luxuriously all the way to town. When he reached his flat he was not
well prepared for a twelve-page letter explaining, in the diction of the
Immoderate Left which rubricates its I's and illuminates its T's, that
the lady had realised greater attractions in another Soul. She
re-stated, rather than pleaded, the gospel of the Immoderate Left as her
justification, and ended in an impassioned demand for her right to
express herself in and on her own life, through which, she pointed out,
she could pass but once. She added that if, later, she should discover
Midmore was 'essentially complementary to her needs,' she would tell him
so. That Midmore had himself written much the same sort of
epistle--barring the hint of return--to a woman of whom his needs for
self-expression had caused him to weary three years before, did not
assist him in the least. He expressed himself to the gas-fire in terms
essential but not complimentary. Then he reflected on the detached
criticism of his best friends and her best friends, male and female,
with whom he and she and others had talked so openly while their gay
adventure was in flower. He recalled, too--this must have been about
midnight--her analysis from every angle, remote and most intimate, of
the mate to whom she had been adjudged under the base convention which
is styled marriage. Later, at that bad hour when the cattle wake for a
little, he remembered her in other aspects and went down into the hell
appointed; desolate, desiring, with no God to call upon. About eleven
o'clock next morning Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and
Zophar the Naamathite called upon him 'for they had made appointment
together' to see how he took it; but the janitor told them that Job had
gone--into the country, he believed.
Midmore's relief when he found his story was not written across his
aching temples for Mr. Sperrit to read--the defeated lover, like the
successful one, believes all earth privy to his soul--was put down by
Mr. Sperrit to quite different causes. He led him into a morning-room.
The rest of the house seemed to be full of people, singing to a loud
piano idiotic songs about cows, and the hall smelt of damp cloaks.
'It's our evening to take the winter cantata,' Mr. Sperrit explained.
'It's "High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire." I hoped you'd come back.
There are scores of little things to settle. As for the house, of
course, it stands ready for you at any time. I couldn't get Rhoda out of
it--nor could Charlie for that matter. She's the sister, isn't she, of
the nurse who brought you down here when you were four, she says, to
recover from measles?'
'Is she? Was I?' said Midmore through the bad tastes in his mouth.
'D'you suppose I could stay there the night?'
Thirty joyous young voices shouted appeal to some one to leave their
'pipes of parsley 'ollow--'ollow--'ollow!' Mr. Sperrit had to raise his
voice above the din.
'Well, if I asked you to stay _here_, I should never hear the last of it
from Rhoda. She's a little cracked, of course, but the soul of devotion
and capable of anything. _Ne sit ancillae_, you know.'
'Thank you. Then I'll go. I'll walk.' He stumbled out dazed and sick
into the winter twilight, and sought the square house by the brook.
It was not a dignified entry, because when the door was unchained and
Rhoda exclaimed, he took two valiant steps into the hall and then
fainted--as men sometimes will after twenty-two hours of strong emotion
and little food.
'I'm sorry,' he said when he could speak. He was lying at the foot of
the stairs, his head on Rhoda's lap.
'Your 'ome is your castle, sir,' was the reply in his hair. 'I smelt it
wasn't drink. You lay on the sofa till I get your supper.'
She settled him in a drawing-room hung with yellow silk, heavy with the
smell of dead leaves and oil lamp. Something murmured soothingly in the
background and overcame the noises in his head. He thought he heard
horses' feet on wet gravel and a voice singing about ships and flocks
and grass. It passed close to the shuttered bay-window.
But each will mourn his own, she saith,
And sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my son's wife, Elizabeth ...
The hoofs broke into a canter as Rhoda entered with the tray. 'And then
I'll put you to bed,' she said. 'Sidney's coming in the morning.'
Midmore asked no questions. He dragged his poor bruised soul to bed and
would have pitied it all over again, but the food and warm sherry and
water drugged him to instant sleep.
Rhoda's voice wakened him, asking whether he would have ''ip, foot, or
sitz,' which he understood were the baths of the establishment. 'Suppose
you try all three,' she suggested. 'They're all yours, you know, sir.'
He would have renewed his sorrows with the daylight, but her words
struck him pleasantly. Everything his eyes opened upon was his very own
to keep for ever. The carved four-post Chippendale bed, obviously worth
hundreds; the wavy walnut William and Mary chairs--he had seen worse
ones labelled twenty guineas apiece; the oval medallion mirror; the
delicate eighteenth-century wire fireguard; the heavy brocaded curtains
were his--all his. So, too, a great garden full of birds that faced him
when he shaved; a mulberry tree, a sun-dial, and a dull, steel-coloured
brook that murmured level with the edge of a lawn a hundred yards away.
Peculiarly and privately his own was the smell of sausages and coffee
that he sniffed at the head of the wide square landing, all set round
with mysterious doors and Bartolozzi prints. He spent two hours after
breakfast in exploring his new possessions. His heart leaped up at such
things as sewing-machines, a rubber-tyred bath-chair in a tiled passage,
a malachite-headed Malacca cane, boxes and boxes of unopened stationery,
seal-rings, bunches of keys, and at the bottom of a steel-net reticule a
little leather purse with seven pounds ten shillings in gold and eleven
shillings in silver.
'You used to play with that when my sister brought you down here after
your measles,' said Rhoda as he slipped the money into his pocket. 'Now,
this was your pore dear auntie's business-room.' She opened a low door.
'Oh, I forgot about Mr. Sidney! There he is.' An enormous old man with
rheumy red eyes that blinked under downy white eyebrows sat in an Empire
chair, his cap in his hands. Rhoda withdrew sniffing. The man looked
Midmore over in silence, then jerked a thumb towards the door. 'I reckon
she told you who I be,' he began. 'I'm the only farmer you've got.
Nothin' goes off my place 'thout it walks on its own feet. What about my
'Well, what about it?' said Midmore.
'That's just what I be come about. The County Councils are getting more
particular. Did ye know there was swine fever at Pashell's? There _be_.
It'll 'ave to be in brick.'
'Yes,' said Midmore politely.
'I've bin at your aunt that was, plenty times about it. I don't say she
wasn't a just woman, but she didn't read the lease same way I did. I be
used to bein' put upon, but there's no doing any longer 'thout that
'When would you like it?' Midmore asked. It seemed the easiest road to
'Any time or other suits me, I reckon. He ain't thrivin' where he is,
an' I paid eighteen shillin' for him.' He crossed his hands on his stick
and gave no further sign of life.
'Is that all?' Midmore stammered.
'All now--excep''--he glanced fretfully at the table beside him--'excep'
my usuals. Where's that Rhoda?'
Midmore rang the bell. Rhoda came in with a bottle and a glass. The old
man helped himself to four stiff fingers, rose in one piece, and stumped
out. At the door he cried ferociously: 'Don't suppose it's any odds to
you whether I'm drowned or not, but them floodgates want a wheel and
winch, they do. I be too old for liftin' 'em with the bar--my time
'Good riddance if 'e was drowned,' said Rhoda. 'But don't you mind him.
He's only amusin' himself. Your pore dear auntie used to give 'im 'is
usual--'tisn't the whisky _you_ drink--an' send 'im about 'is business.'
'I see. Now, is a pig-pound the same thing as a pig-sty?'
Rhoda nodded. ''E needs one, too, but 'e ain't entitled to it. You look
at 'is lease--third drawer on the left in that Bombay cab'net--an' next
time 'e comes you ask 'im to read it. That'll choke 'im off, because
There was nothing in Midmore's past to teach him the message and
significance of a hand-written lease of the late 'eighties, but Rhoda
'It don't mean anything reelly,' was her cheerful conclusion, 'excep'
you mustn't get rid of him anyhow, an' 'e can do what 'e likes always.
Lucky for us 'e _do_ farm; and if it wasn't for 'is woman--'
'Oh, there's a Mrs. Sidney, is there?'
'Lor, _no_!' The Sidneys don't marry. They keep. That's his fourth
since--to my knowledge. He was a takin' man from the first.'
'They'd be grown up by now if there was, wouldn't they? But you can't
spend all your days considerin' 'is interests. That's what gave your
pore aunt 'er indigestion. 'Ave you seen the gun-room?'
Midmore held strong views on the immorality of taking life for pleasure.
But there was no denying that the late Colonel Werf's seventy-guinea
breechloaders were good at their filthy job. He loaded one, took it out
and pointed--merely pointed--it at a cock-pheasant which rose out of a
shrubbery behind the kitchen, and the flaming bird came down in a long
slant on the lawn, stone dead. Rhoda from the scullery said it was a
lovely shot, and told him lunch was ready.
He spent the afternoon gun in one hand, a map in the other, beating the
bounds of his lands. They lay altogether in a shallow, uninteresting
valley, flanked with woods and bisected by a brook. Up stream was his
own house; down stream, less than half a mile, a low red farm-house
squatted in an old orchard, beside what looked like small lock-gates on
the Thames. There was no doubt as to ownership. Mr. Sidney saw him while
yet far off, and bellowed at him about pig-pounds and floodgates. These
last were two great sliding shutters of weedy oak across the brook,
which were prised up inch by inch with a crowbar along a notched strip
of iron, and when Sidney opened them they at once let out half the
water. Midmore watched it shrink between its aldered banks like some
conjuring trick. This, too, was his very own.
'I see,' he said. 'How interesting! Now, what's that bell for?' he went
on, pointing to an old ship's bell in a rude belfry at the end of an
outhouse. 'Was that a chapel once?' The red-eyed giant seemed to have
difficulty in expressing himself for the moment and blinked savagely.
'Yes,' he said at last. 'My chapel. When you 'ear that bell ring you'll
'ear something. Nobody but me 'ud put up with it--but I reckon it don't
make any odds to you.' He slammed the gates down again, and the brook
rose behind them with a suck and a grunt.
Midmore moved off, conscious that he might be safer with Rhoda to hold
his conversational hand. As he passed the front of the farm-house a
smooth fat woman, with neatly parted grey hair under a widow's cap,
curtsied to him deferentially through the window. By every teaching of
the Immoderate Left she had a perfect right to express herself in any
way she pleased, but the curtsey revolted him. And on his way home he
was hailed from behind a hedge by a manifest idiot with no roof to his
mouth, who hallooed and danced round him.
'What did that beast want?' he demanded of Rhoda at tea.
'Jimmy? He only wanted to know if you 'ad any telegrams to send. 'E'll
go anywhere so long as 'tisn't across running water. That gives 'im 'is
seizures. Even talkin' about it for fun like makes 'im shake.'
'But why isn't he where he can be properly looked after?'
'What 'arm's 'e doing? E's a love-child, but 'is family can pay for 'im.
If 'e was locked up 'e'd die all off at once, like a wild rabbit. Won't
you, please, look at the drive, sir?'
Midmore looked in the fading light. The neat gravel was pitted with
large roundish holes, and there was a punch or two of the same sort
on the lawn.
'That's the 'unt comin' 'ome,' Rhoda explained. 'Your pore dear auntie
always let 'em use our drive for a short cut after the Colonel died. The
Colonel wouldn't so much because he preserved; but your auntie was
always an 'orsewoman till 'er sciatica.'
'Isn't there some one who can rake it over or--or something?' said
'Oh yes. You'll never see it in the morning, but--you was out when they
came 'ome an' Mister Fisher--he's the Master--told me to tell you with
'is compliments that if you wasn't preservin' and cared to 'old to the
old understanding', is gravel-pit is at your service same as before. 'E
thought, perhaps, you mightn't know, and it 'ad slipped my mind to tell
you. It's good gravel, Mister Fisher's, and it binds beautiful on the