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The Best British Short Stories of 1922 by Edward J. O'Brien and John Cournos, editors

Part 2 out of 8

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Miss Deane got up, and holding herself very erect, moved with a little
mincing step towards the tall mirror over the console table. Rachel
held her breath. She saw that her aunt, suddenly aroused by this
thought of the coming lover, was returning mechanically to her old
habit of self-admiration. Was it possible, Rachel wondered, that the
sight of the image she would see in the looking-glass, contrasted now
with the memories of the living reflection she had so intimately
studied for the past four weeks, might shock her into a realisation of
the starkly hideous truth?

But it seemed that the aged woman must be blind. She gave no start of
surprise as she paused before the glass; she showed no sign of anxiety
concerning the vision she saw there. Her left hand, in which she held
her lorgnette, had fallen to her side, and with the finger-tips of her
right she daintily caressed the hollows of her sunken cheeks. She
stayed there until Rachel, unable to endure the sight any longer, and
with some vague purpose of defiance in her mind, jumped to her feet,
crossed the room and stood shoulder by shoulder with her aunt staring
into the glass.

For a moment Miss Deane did not move; then, with a queer hesitation,
she dropped her right hand and slowly lifted her lorgnette.

Rachel felt a cold chill of horror invading her. Something fearful and
terrible was happening before her eyes; her aunt was shrinking,
withering, growing old in a moment. The stiffness had gone out of her
pose, her head had begun to droop; the proud contempt in her face was
giving way to the moping, resentful reminiscence of the aged. She still
held up her lorgnette, still stared half fearfully at the glaring
contrast that was presented to her, but her hand and arm had begun to
tremble under the strain, and, instant by, instant, all life and vigour
seemed to be draining away from her.

Then, suddenly, with a fierce effort she turned away her head,
straightened herself, and walked over to the door, passing out with a
high, thin cackle of laughter that had in it the suggestion of a
vehement, petulant derision; of a bitterness outmastering control.

Rachel shivered, but held her ground before the mirror. She had nothing
to fear from that contemplation. As for her aunt, she had had her day.
It was time she knew the truth.

"She _had_ to know," Rachel repeated, addressing the dear likeness that
so proudly reflected her.


She found consolation in that thought. Her aunt _had_ to know and
Rachel herself was only the chance instrument of the revelation. She
had not _meant_, so she persisted, to do more than vindicate her own

Nevertheless, her own passionate problem was not yet solved. Her aunt
would not, so Rachel believed, give way without a struggle. Had she not
made a gallant effort at recovery even as she left the room, and would
she not make a still greater effort while Adrian was there; assert her
rivalry if only in revenge?

She must meet that, Rachel decided, by presenting a contrast. She would
be meek and humble in her aunt's presence. Adrian might recognise the
admired airs and gestures in those of the old woman, but he should at
least have no opportunity to compare them....

And it was with this thought and intention in her mind that Rachel
received him, when he arrived with a lover's promptness a little before
four o'clock.

"Are you so dreadfully nervous?" he asked her, when they were alone
together in the drawing-room. "You're like you were the first day we
met in town--different from your usual self."

"Oh! What a memory you have for my looks and behaviour," she replied
pettishly. "Of course, I'm nervous."

He tried to argue with her, questioning her as to Miss Deane's probable
reception of him, but she refused to answer. "You'll see for yourself
in a few minutes," she said; but the minutes passed and still Miss
Deane did not come.

At a quarter to five the elderly parlour-maid brought in tea. "Miss
Deane said you were not to wait for her, Miss Rachel," was the message
she delivered. "She'll be down presently, I was to say."

Rachel could not suppress a scornful twist of her mouth. She had no
doubt that her aunt was taking very special pains with her toilet;
trying to obliterate, perhaps, her recent vision before the console
glass. Rachel saw her entrance in imagination, stiff-necked and proud,
defying the criticisms of youth and the suggestions of age.

"Oh! why doesn't she come and let me get it over?" she passionately
demanded, and even as she spoke she heard the sounds of some one coming
down the stairs, not the accustomed sounds of her aunt's finicking,
high-heeled steps, but a shuffling and creaking, accompanied by the
murmurs of a weak, protesting voice.

Rachel jumped to her feet. She knew everything then--before the door
opened, and she saw first of all the shocked, scared face of the
elderly parlour-maid who supported the crumpled, palsied figure of the
old, old woman who, three hours before, had been so miraculously young,
magically upheld and supported then by the omnipotent strength of an

She only stayed in the drawing-room for five minutes; a querulous,
resentful old lady, malignantly jealous, so it seemed, of their vigour
and impatient of their sympathy.

When the parlour-maid had been sent for and Miss Deane had gone, Rachel
stood up and looked down at Adrian with all her old hauteur.

"Can you realise," she asked, "that once my aunt was supposed to be
very, very like me?"

He smiled and shook his head, as if the possibility was too absurd to

Rachel turned and looked at herself in the glass, raising her chin and
slightly pursing her lips, staring superciliously at her own image
under half-lowered eyelids.

"Some day I may be as she is now," she said, with the superb
contemptuous arrogance of youth.

Adrian was watching her with adoration. "You will never grow old," he

"So long as one does not get the idea of growing old into one's head,"
Rachel began speculatively....

* * * * *

But Miss Deane had got the idea so strongly now that she died that

Rachel was with her at the last.

The old woman was trying to mouth a text from the Bible.

"What did you say, dear?" Rachel murmured, bending over her, and caught
enough of the answer to guess that Miss Deane was mumbling again and
again: "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."



(From _Pearson's Magazine_, London)


He laughed involuntarily as the olive rolled towards his chair across
the shiny parquet floor of the hotel dining-room.

His table in the cavernous _salle a manger_ was apart: he sat alone, a
solitary guest; the table from which the olive fell and rolled towards
him was some distance away. The angle, however, made him an unlikely
objective. Yet the lob-sided, juicy thing, after hesitating once or
twice _en route_ as it plopped along, came to rest finally against his

It settled with an inviting, almost an aggressive air. And he stooped
and picked it up, putting it rather self-consciously, because of the
girl from whose table it had come, on the white tablecloth beside his

Then, looking up, he caught her eye, and saw that she too was laughing,
though not a bit self-consciously. As she helped herself to the _hors
d'oeuvres_ a false move had sent it flying. She watched him pick the
olive up and set it beside his plate. Her eyes then suddenly looked
away again--at her mother--questioningly.

The incident was closed. But the little oblong, succulent olive lay
beside his plate, so that his fingers played with it. He fingered it
automatically from time to time until his lonely meal was finished.

When no one was looking he slipped it into his pocket, as though,
having taken the trouble to pick it up, this was the very least he
could do with it. Heaven alone knows why, but he then took it upstairs
with him, setting it on the marble mantelpiece among his field glasses,
tobacco tins, ink-bottles, pipes and candlestick. At any rate, he kept
it--the moist, shiny, lob-sided, juicy little oblong olive. The hotel
lounge wearied him; he came to his room after dinner to smoke at his
ease, his coat off and his feet on a chair; to read another chapter of
Freud, to write a letter or two he didn't in the least want to write,
and then go to bed at ten o'clock. But this evening the olive kept
rolling between him and the thing he read; it rolled between the
paragraphs, between the lines; the olive was more vital than the
interest of these eternal "complexes" and "suppressed desires."

The truth was that he kept seeing the eyes of the laughing girl beyond
the bouncing olive. She had smiled at him in such a natural,
spontaneous, friendly way before her mother's glance had checked her--a
smile, he felt, that might lead to acquaintance on the morrow.

He wondered! A thrill of possible adventure ran through him.

She was a merry-looking sort of girl, with a happy, half-roguish face
that seemed on the lookout for somebody to play with. Her mother, like
most of the people in the big hotel, was an invalid; the girl, a
dutiful and patient daughter. They had arrived that very day
apparently. A laugh is a revealing thing, he thought as he fell asleep
to dream of a lob-sided olive rolling consciously towards him, and of a
girl's eyes that watched its awkward movements, then looked up into his
own and laughed. In his dream the olive had been deliberately and
cleverly dispatched upon its uncertain journey. It was a message.

He did not know, of course, that the mother, chiding her daughter's
awkwardness, had muttered:

"There you are again, child! True to your name, you never see an olive
without doing something queer and odd with it!"

A youngish man, whose knowledge of chemistry, including invisible inks
and such-like mysteries, had proved so valuable to the Censor's
Department that for five years he had overworked without a holiday, the
Italian Riviera had attracted him, and he had come out for a two
months' rest. It was his first visit. Sun, mimosa, blue seas and
brilliant skies had tempted him; exchange made a pound worth forty,
fifty, sixty and seventy shillings. He found the place lovely, but
somewhat untenanted.

Having chosen at random, he had come to a spot where the companionship
he hoped to find did not exist. The place languished after the war,
slow to recover; the colony of resident English was scattered still;
travellers preferred the coast of France with Mentone and Monte Carlo
to enliven them. The country, moreover, was distracted by strikes. The
electric light failed one week, letters the next, and as soon as the
electricians and postal-workers resumed, the railways stopped running.
Few visitors came, and the few who came soon left.

He stayed on, however, caught by the sunshine and the good exchange,
also without the physical energy to discover a better, livelier place.
He went for walks among the olive groves, he sat beside the sea and
palms, he visited shops and bought things he did not want because the
exchange made them seem cheap, he paid immense "extras" in his weekly
bill, then chuckled as he reduced them to shillings and found that a
few pence covered them; he lay with a book for hours among the olive

The olive groves! His daily life could not escape the olive groves; to
olive groves, sooner or later, his walks, his expeditions, his
meanderings by the sea, his shopping--all led him to these ubiquitous
olive groves.

If he bought a picture postcard to send home, there was sure to be an
olive grove in one corner of it. The whole place was smothered with
olive groves, the people owed their incomes and existence to these
irrepressible trees. The villages among the hills swam roof-deep in
them. They swarmed even in the hotel gardens.

The guide books praised them as persistently as the residents brought
them, sooner or later, into every conversation. They grew lyrical over

"And how do you like our olive trees? Ah, you think them pretty. At
first, most people are disappointed. They grow on one."

"They do," he agreed.

"I'm glad you appreciate them. I find them the embodiment of grace. And
when the wind lifts the under-leaves across a whole mountain
slope--why, it's wonderful, isn't it? One realises the meaning of

"One does," he sighed. "But all the same I should like to get one to
eat--an olive, I mean."

"Ah, to eat, yes. That's not so easy. You see, the crop is--"

"Exactly," he interrupted impatiently, weary of the habitual and
evasive explanations. "But I should like to taste the _fruit_. I should
like to enjoy one."

For, after a stay of six weeks, he had never once seen an olive on the
table, in the shops, nor even on the street barrows at the market
place. He had never tasted one. No one sold olives, though olive trees
were a drug in the place; no one bought them, no one asked for them; it
seemed that no one wanted them. The trees, when he looked closely, were
thick with a dark little berry that seemed more like a sour sloe than
the succulent, delicious spicy fruit associated with its name.

Men climbed the trunks, everywhere shaking the laden branches and
hitting them with long bamboo poles to knock the fruit off, while women
and children, squatting on their haunches, spent laborious hours
filling baskets underneath, then loading mules and donkeys with their
daily "catch." But an olive to eat was unobtainable. He had never cared
for olives, but now he craved with all his soul to feel his teeth in

"Ach! But it is the Spanish olive that you _eat_," explained the head
waiter, a German "from Basel." "These are for oil only." After which he
disliked the olive more than ever--until that night when he saw the
first eatable specimen rolling across the shiny parquet floor,
propelled towards him by the careless hand of a pretty girl, who then
looked up into his eyes and smiled.

He was convinced that Eve, similarly, had rolled the apple towards Adam
across the emerald sward of the first garden in the world.

He slept usually like the dead. It must have been something very real
that made him open his eyes and sit up in bed alertly. There was a
noise against his door. He listened. The room was still quite dark. It
was early morning. The noise was not repeated.

"Who's there?" he asked in a sleepy whisper. "What is it?"

The noise came again. Some one was scratching on the door. No, it was
somebody tapping.

"What do you want?" he demanded in a louder voice. "Come in," he added,
wondering sleepily whether he was presentable. Either the hotel was on
fire or the porter was waking the wrong person for some sunrise

Nothing happened. Wide awake now, he turned the switch on, but no light
flooded the room. The electricians, he remembered with a curse, were
out on strike. He fumbled for the matches, and as he did so a voice in
the corridor became distinctly audible. It was just outside his door.

"Aren't you ready?" he heard. "You sleep for ever."

And the voice, although never having heard it before, he could not have
recognised it, belonged, he knew suddenly, to the girl who had let the
olive fall. In an instant he was out of bed. He lit a candle.

"I'm coming," he called softly, as he slipped rapidly into some
clothes. "I'm sorry I've kept you. I shan't be a minute."

"Be quick then!" he heard, while the candle flame slowly grew, and he
found his garments. Less than three minutes later he opened the door
and, candle in hand, peered into the dark passage.

"Blow it out!" came a peremptory whisper. He obeyed, but not quick
enough. A pair of red lips emerged from the shadows. There was a puff,
and the candle was extinguished. "I've got my reputation to consider.
We mustn't be seen, of course!"

The face vanished in the darkness, but he had recognised it--the
shining skin, the bright glancing eyes. The sweet breath touched his
cheek. The candlestick was taken from him by a swift, deft movement. He
heard it knock the wainscoting as it was set down. He went out into a
pitch-black corridor, where a soft hand seized his own and led him--by
a back door, it seemed--out into the open air of the hill-side
immediately behind the hotel.

He saw the stars. The morning was cool and fragrant, the sharp air
waked him, and the last vestiges of sleep went flying. He had been
drowsy and confused, had obeyed the summons without thinking. He now
realised suddenly that he was engaged in an act of madness.

The girl, dressed in some flimsy material thrown loosely about her head
and body, stood a few feet away, looking, he thought, like some figure
called out of dreams and slumber of a forgotten world, out of legend
almost. He saw her evening shoes peep out; he divined an evening dress
beneath the gauzy covering. The light wind blew it close against her
figure. He thought of a nymph.

"I say--but haven't you been to bed?" he asked stupidly. He had meant
to expostulate, to apologise for his foolish rashness, to scold and say
they must go back at once. Instead, this sentence came. He guessed she
had been sitting up all night. He stood still a second, staring in mute
admiration, his eyes full of bewildered question.

"Watching the stars," she met his thought with a happy laugh. "Orion
has touched the horizon. I came for you at once. We've got just four
hours!" The voice, the smile, the eyes, the reference to Orion, swept
him off his feet. Something in him broke loose, and flew wildly,
recklessly to the stars.

"Let us be off!" he cried, "before the Bear tilts down. Already Alcyone
begins to fade. I'm ready. Come!"

She laughed. The wind blew the gauze aside to show two ivory white
limbs. She caught his hand again, and they scampered together up the
steep hill-side towards the woods. Soon the big hotel, the villas, the
white houses of the little town where natives and visitors still lay
soundly sleeping, were out of sight. The farther sky came down to meet
them. The stars were paling, but no sign of actual dawn was yet
visible. The freshness stung their cheeks.

Slowly, the heavens grew lighter, the east turned rose, the outline of
the trees defined themselves, there was a stirring of the silvery green
leaves. They were among olive groves--but the spirits of the trees were
dancing. Far below them, a pool of deep colour, they saw the ancient
sea. They saw the tiny specks of distant fishing-boats. The sailors
were singing to the dawn, and birds among the mimosa of the hanging
gardens answered them.

Pausing a moment at length beneath a gaunt old tree, whose struggle to
leave the clinging earth had tortured its great writhing arms and
trunk, they took their breath, gazing at one another with eyes full of
happy dreams.

"You understood so quickly," said the girl, "my little message. I knew
by your eyes and ears you would." And she first tweaked his ears with
two slender fingers mischievously, then laid her soft palm with a
momentary light pressure on both eyes.

"You're half-and-half, at any rate," she added, looking him up and down
for a swift instant of appraisement, "if you're not altogether." The
laughter showed her white, even little teeth.

"You know how to play, and that's something," she added. Then, as if to
herself, "You'll be altogether before I've done with you."

"Shall I?" he stammered, afraid to look at her.

Puzzled, some spirit of compromise still lingering in him, he knew not
what she meant; he knew only that the current of life flowed
increasingly through his veins, but that her eyes confused him.

"I'm longing for it," he added. "How wonderfully you did it! They roll
so awkwardly----"

"Oh, that!" She peered at him through a wisp of hair. "You've kept it,
I hope."

"Rather. It's on my mantelpiece----"

"You're sure you haven't eaten it?" and she made a delicious mimicry
with her red lips, so that he saw the tip of a small pointed tongue.

"I shall keep it," he swore, "as long as these arms have life in them,"
and he seized her just as she was crouching to escape, and covered her
with kisses.

"I knew you longed to play," she panted, when he released her. "Still,
it was sweet of you to pick it up before another got it."

"Another!" he exclaimed.

"The gods decide. It's a lob-sided thing, remember. It can't roll
straight." She looked oddly mischievous, elusive.

He stared at her.

"If it had rolled elsewhere--and another had picked it up----?" he

"I should be with that other now!" And this time she was off and away
before he could prevent her, and the sound of her silvery laughter
mocked him among the olive trees beyond. He was up and after her in a
second, following her slim whiteness in and out of the old-world grove,
as she flitted lightly, her hair flying in the wind, her figure
flashing like a ray of sunlight or the race of foaming water--till at
last he caught her and drew her down upon his knees, and kissed her
wildly, forgetting who and where and what he was.

"Hark!" she whispered breathlessly, one arm close about his neck. "I
hear their footsteps. Listen! It is the pipe!"

"The pipe----!" he repeated, conscious of a tiny but delicious shudder.

For a sudden chill ran through him as she said it. He gazed at her. The
hair fell loose about her cheeks, flushed and rosy with his hot kisses.
Her eyes were bright and wild for all their softness. Her face, turned
sideways to him as she listened, wore an extraordinary look that for an
instant made his blood run cold. He saw the parted lips, the small
white teeth, the slim neck of ivory, the young bosom panting from his
tempestuous embrace. Of an unearthly loveliness and brightness she
seemed to him, yet with this strange, remote expression that touched
his soul with sudden terror.

Her face turned slowly.

"Who _are_ you?" he whispered. He sprang to his feet without waiting
for her answer.

He was young and agile; strong, too, with that quick response of muscle
they have who keep their bodies well; but he was no match for her. Her
speed and agility out-classed his own with ease. She leapt. Before he
had moved one leg forward towards escape, she was clinging with soft,
supple arms and limbs about him, so that he could not free himself, and
as her weight bore him downwards to the ground, her lips found his own
and kissed them into silence. She lay buried again in his embrace, her
hair across his eyes, her heart against his heart, and he forgot his
question, forgot his little fear, forgot the very world he knew....

"They come, they come," she cried gaily. "The Dawn is here. Are you

"I've been ready for five thousand years," he answered, leaping to his
feet beside her.

"Altogether!" came upon a sparkling laugh that was like wind among the
olive leaves.

Shaking her last gauzy covering from her, she snatched his hand, and
they ran forward together to join the dancing throng now crowding up
the slope beneath the trees. Their happy singing filled the sky. Decked
with vine and ivy, and trailing silvery green branches, they poured in
a flood of radiant life along the mountain side. Slowly they melted
away into the blue distance of the breaking dawn, and, as the last
figure disappeared, the sun came up slowly out of a purple sea.

They came to the place he knew--the deserted earthquake village--and a
faint memory stirred in him. He did not actually recall that he had
visited it already, had eaten his sandwiches with "hotel friends"
beneath its crumbling walls; but there was a dim troubling sense of
familiarity--nothing more. The houses still stood, but pigeons lived in
them, and weasels, stoats and snakes had their uncertain homes in
ancient bedrooms. Not twenty years ago the peasants thronged its narrow
streets, through which the dawn now peered and cool wind breathed among
dew-laden brambles.

"I know the house," she cried, "the house where we would live!" and
raced, a flying form of air and sunlight, into a tumbled cottage that
had no roof, no floor or windows. Wild bees had hung a nest against the
broken wall.

He followed her. There was sunlight in the room, and there were
flowers. Upon a rude, simple table lay a bowl of cream, with eggs and
honey and butter close against a home-made loaf. They sank into each
other's arms upon a couch of fragrant grass and boughs against the
window where wild roses bloomed ... and the bees flew in and out.

It was Bussana, the so-called earthquake village, because a sudden
earthquake had fallen on it one summer morning when all the inhabitants
were at church. The crashing roof killed sixty, the tumbling walls
another hundred, and the rest had left it where it stood.

"The Church," he said, vaguely remembering the story. "They were at

The girl laughed carelessly in his ear, setting his blood in a rush and
quiver of delicious joy. He felt himself untamed, wild as the wind and
animals. "The true God claimed His own," she whispered. "He came back.
Ah, they were not ready--the old priests had seen to that. But he came.
They heard his music. Then his tread shook the olive groves, the old
ground danced, the hills leapt for joy----"

"And the houses crumbled," he laughed as he pressed her closer to his

"And now we've come back!" she cried merrily. "We've come back to
worship and be glad!" She nestled into him, while the sun rose higher.

"I hear them--hark!" she cried, and again leapt, dancing from his side.
Again he followed her like wind. Through the broken window they saw the
naked fauns and nymphs and satyrs rolling, dancing, shaking their soft
hoofs amid the ferns and brambles. Towards the appalling, ruptured
church they sped with feet of light and air. A roar of happy song and
laughter rose.

"Come!" he cried. "We must go too."

Hand in hand they raced to join the tumbling, dancing throng. She was
in his arms and on his back and flung across his shoulders, as he ran.
They reached the broken building, its whole roof gone sliding years
ago, its walls a-tremble still, its shattered shrines alive with
nesting birds.

"Hush!" she whispered in a tone of awe, yet pleasure. "He is there!"
She pointed, her bare arm outstretched above the bending heads.

There, in the empty space, where once stood sacred Host and Cup, he
sat, filling the niche sublimely and with awful power. His shaggy form,
benign yet terrible, rose through the broken stone. The great eyes
shone and smiled. The feet were lost in brambles.

"God!" cried a wild, frightened voice yet with deep worship in it--and
the old familiar panic came with portentous swiftness. The great Figure

The birds flew screaming, the animals sought holes, the worshippers,
laughing and glad a moment ago, rushed tumbling over one another for
the doors.

"He goes again! Who called? Who called like that? His feet shake the

"It is the earthquake!" screamed a woman's shrill accents in ghastly

"Kiss me--one kiss before we forget again...!" sighed a laughing,
passionate voice against his ear. "Once more your arms, your heart
beating on my lips...! You recognised his power. You are now
altogether! We shall remember!"

But he woke, with the heavy bed-clothes stuffed against his mouth and
the wind of early morning sighing mournfully about the hotel walls.

* * * * *

"Have they left again--those ladies?" he inquired casually of the head
waiter, pointing to the table. "They were here last night at dinner."

"Who do you mean?" replied the man, stupidly, gazing at the spot
indicated with a face quite blank. "Last night--at dinner?" He tried to

"An English lady, elderly, with--her daughter----" at which moment
precisely the girl came in alone. Lunch was over, the room empty.
There was a second's difficult pause. It seemed ridiculous not to
speak. Their eyes met. The girl blushed furiously.

He was very quick for an Englishman. "I was allowing myself to ask
after your mother," he began. "I was afraid"--he glanced at the table
laid for one--"she was not well, perhaps?"

"Oh, but that's very kind of you, I'm sure." She smiled. He saw the
small white even teeth....

And before three days had passed, he was so deeply in love that he
simply couldn't help himself.

"I believe," he said lamely, "this is yours. You dropped it, you know.
Er--may I keep it? It's only an olive."

They were, of course, in an olive grove when he asked it, and the sun
was setting.

She looked at him, looked him up and down, looked at his ears, his
eyes. He felt that in another second her little fingers would slip up
and tweak the first, or close the second with a soft pressure----

"Tell me," he begged: "did you dream anything--that first night I saw

She took a quick step backwards. "No," she said, as he followed her
more quickly still, "I don't think I did. But," she went on
breathlessly as he caught her up, "I knew--from the way you picked it

"Knew what?" he demanded, holding her tightly so that she could not get
away again.

"That you were already half and half, but would soon be altogether."

And, as he kissed her, he felt her soft little fingers tweak his ears.



(From _Pan_)


Standing in a sheltered doorway a tramp, with a slouch hat crammed low
over a notably unwashed face, watched the outside of the new works
canteen of the Sir William Rumbold Ltd., Engineering Company. Perhaps
because they were workers while he was a tramp, he had an air of
compassionate cynicism as the audience assembled and thronged into the
building, which, as prodigally advertised throughout Calderside, was to
be opened that night by Sir William in person.

There being no one to observe him, the tramp could be frank with his
cynicism; but inside the building, in the platform ante-room, Mr.
Edward Fosdike, who was Sir William's locally resident secretary, had
to discipline his private feelings to a suave concurrence in his
employer's florid enthusiasm. Fosdike served Sir William well, but no
man is a hero to his (male) secretary.

"I hope you will find the arrangements satisfactory," Fosdike was
saying, tugging nervously at his maltreated moustache. "You speak at
seven and declare the canteen open. Then there's a meal." He hesitated.
"Perhaps I should have warned you to dine before you came."

Sir William was aware of being a very gallant gentleman. "Not at all,"
he said heroically, "not at all. I have not spared my purse over this
War Memorial. Why should I spare my feelings? Well, now, you've seen
about the Press?"

"Oh, yes. The reporters are coming. There'll be flash-light
photographs. Everything quite as usual when you make a public
appearance, sir."

Sir William wondered if this resident secretary of his were quite
adequate. Busy in London, he had left all arrangements in his local
factotum's hands, and he was doubting whether those hands had grasped
the situation competently. "Only as usual?" he said sharply. "This War
Memorial has cost me ten thousand pounds."

"The amount," Fosdike hastened to assure him, "has been circulated,
with appropriate tribute to your generosity."

"Generosity," criticised Rumbold. "I hope you didn't use that word."

Mr. Fosdike referred to his notebook. "We said," he read, "'the cost,
though amounting to ten thousand pounds, is entirely beside the point.
Sir William felt that no expense was excessive that would result in a
fitting and permanent expression of our gratitude to the glorious

"Thank you, Fosdike. That is exactly my feeling," said the gratified
Sir William, paying Fosdike the unspoken compliment of thinking him
less of a fool than he looked. "It is," he went on, "from no egotistic
motive that I wish the Press to be strongly represented to-night. I
believe that in deciding that Calderside's War Memorial should take the
form of a Works Canteen, I am setting an example of enlightenment which
other employers would do well to follow. I have erected a monument, not
in stone, but in goodwill, a club-house for both sexes to serve as a
centre of social activities for the firm's employees, wherein the great
spirit of the noble work carried out at the Front by by the Y.M.C.A.
will be recaptured and adapted to peace conditions in our local
organisation in the Martlow Works Canteen. What are you taking notes

"I thought----" began Fosdike.

"Oh, well, perhaps you are right. Reporters have been known to miss
one's point, and a little first aid, eh? By the way, I sent you some
notes from town of what I intended to say in my speech. I just sent
them ahead in case there was any local point I'd got wrong."

He put it as a question, but actually it was an assertion and a
challenge. It asserted that by no possible chance could there be
anything injudicious in the proposed speech, and it challenged Fosdike
to deny that assertion if he dared.

And Fosdike had to dare; he had to accuse himself of assuming too
easily that Rumbold's memory of local Calderside detail was as fresh as
the memory of the man on the spot.

"I did want to suggest a modification, sir," he hazarded timidly.

"Really?"--quite below zero--"Really? I felt very contented with the

"Yes, sir, it's masterly. But on the spot here----"

"Oh, agreed. Quite right, Fosdike. I am speaking to-night to the
world--no; let me guard against exaggeration. The world includes the
Polynesians and Esquimaux--I am speaking to the English-speaking races
of the world, but first and foremost to Calderside. My own people. Yes?
You have a little something to suggest? Some happy local allusion?"

"It's about Martlow," said Fosdike shortly.

Sir William took him up. "Ah, now you're talking," he approved. "Yes,
indeed, anything you can add to my notes about Martlow will be most
welcome. I have noted much, but too much is not enough for such an
illustrious example of conspicuous gallantry, so noble a life, so great
a deed, and so self-sacrificing an end. Any details you can add about
Timothy Martlow will indeed----"

Fosdike coughed. "Excuse me, sir, that's just the point. If you talk
like that about Martlow down here, they'll laugh at you."

"Laugh?" gasped Rumbold, his sense of propriety outraged. "My dear
Fosdike, what's come to you? I celebrate a hero. Our hero. Why, I'm
calling the Canteen after Martlow when I might have given it my own
name. That speaks volumes." It did.

But Fosdike knew too well what would be the attitude of a Calderside
audience if he allowed his chief to sing in top-notes an unreserved
eulogy of Tim Martlow. Calderside knew Tim, the civilian, if it had
also heard of Tim, the soldier. "Don't you remember Martlow, sir?
Before the war, I mean."

"No. Ought I to?"

"Not on the bench?"

"Martlow? Yes, now I think of the name in connection with the old days,
there was a drunken fellow. To be sure, an awful blackguard,
continually before the bench. Dear me! Well, well, but a man is not
responsible for his undesirable relations, I hope."

"No, sir. But that was Martlow. The same man. You really can't speak to
Calderside of his as an ennobling life and a great example. The war
changed him, but--well, in peace, Tim was absolutely the local bad man,
and they all know it. I thought you did, or----"

Sir William turned a face expressive of awe-struck wonder. "Fosdike,"
he said with deep sincerity, "this is the most amazing thing I've heard
of the war. I never connected Martlow the hero with--well, well _de
mortuis_." He quoted:

"'Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it; he died
As one that had been studied in his death
To throw away the dearest thing he owed
As 'there a careless trifle.'

"Appropriate, I think? I shall use that."

It was, at least, a magnificent recovery from an unexpected blow,
administered by the very man whose duty it was to guard Sir William
against just that sort of blow. If Fosdike was not the local watch-dog,
he was nothing; and here was an occasion when the dog had omitted to
bark until the last minute of the eleventh hour.

"Very apt quotation, sir, though there have never been any exact
details of Martlow's death."

Sir William meditated. "Do you recall the name of the saint who was a
regular rip before he got religion?" he asked.

"I think that applies to most of them," said Fosdike.

"Yes, but the one in particular. Francis. That's it." He filled his
chest. "Timothy Martlow," he pronounced impressively, "is the St.
Francis of the Great War, and this Canteen is his shrine. Now, I think
I will go into the hall. It is early, but I shall chat with the people.
Oh, one last thought. When you mentioned Martlow, I thought you were
going to tell me of some undesirable connections. There are none?"

"There is his mother. A widow. You remember the Board voted her an
addition to her pension."

"Oh, yes. And she?"

"Oh, most grateful. She will be with you on the platform. I have seen
myself that she is--fittingly attired."

"I think I can congratulate you, Fosdike," said Sir William
magnanimously. "You've managed very well. I look forward to a pleasant
evening, a widely reported speech, and--"

Then Dolly Wainwright came into the ante-room.

"If you please, sir," she said, "what's going to be done about me?"

Two gentlemen who had all but reached the smug bathos of a mutual
admiration society turned astonished eyes at the intruder.

She wore a tam, and a check blanket coat, which she unbuttoned as they
watched her. Beneath it, suitable to the occasion, was a white dress,
and Sir William, looking at it, felt a glow of tenderness for this
artless child who had blundered into the privacy of the ante-room.
Something daintily virginal in Dolly's face appealed to him; he caught
himself thinking that her frock was more than a miracle in bleached
cotton--it was moonshine shot with alabaster; and the improbability of
that combination had hardly struck him when Fosdike's voice forced
itself harshly on his ears.

"How did you get in here?"

Sir William moved to defend the girl from the anger of his secretary,
but when she said, with a certain challenge, "Through the door," he
doubted if she were so defenceless as she seemed.

"But there's a doorkeeper at the bottom," said Fosdike. "I gave him my

"I gave him my smile," said Dolly. "I won."

"Upon my word--" Fosdike began.

"Well, well," interrupted Sir William, "what can I do for you?"

The reply was indirect, but caused Sir William still further to
readjust his estimate of her.

"I've got friends in the meeting to-night," she concluded. "They'll
speak up for me, too, if I'm not righted. So I'm telling you."

"Don't threaten me, my girl," said Sir William without severity. "I am
always ready to pay attention to any legitimate grievance, but----"

"Legitimate?" she interrupted. "Well, mine's not legitimate. So there!"

"I beg your pardon?" She puzzled Sir William. "Come now," he went on in
his most patriarchal manner, "don't assume I'm not going to listen to
you. I am. To-night there is no thought in my mind except the welfare
of Calderside."

"Oh, well," she said apologetically, "I'm sorry if I riled you, but
it's a bit awkward to speak it out to a man. Only" (the unconscious
cruelty of youth--or was it conscious?) "you're both old, so perhaps I
can get through. It's about Tim Martlow."

"Ah," said Sir William encouragingly, "our glorious hero."

"Yes," said Dolly. "I'm the mother of his child."

We are all balloons dancing our lives amongst pins. Therefore, be
compassionate towards Sir William. He collapsed speechlessly on a hard

Fosdike reacted more alertly. "This is the first I've heard of
Martlow's being married," he said aggressively.

Dolly looked up at him indignantly. "You ain't heard it now, have you?"
she protested. "I said it wasn't legitimate. I don't say we'd not have
got married if there'd been time, but you can't do everything on short

There seemed an obvious retort. Rumbold and Fosdike looked at each
other, and neither made the retort. Instead, Fosdike asked: "Are you
employed in the works here?"

"I was here, on munitions," she said, "and then on doles."

"And now you're on the make," he sneered.

"Oh, I dunno," she said. "All this fuss about Tim Martlow. I ought to
have my bit out of it."

"Deplorable," grieved Sir William. "The crass materialism of it all.
This is so sad. How old are you?"

"Twenty," said Dolly. "Twenty, with a child to keep, and his father's
name up in gold lettering in that hall there. I say somebody ought to
do something."

"I suppose now, Miss----" Fosdike baulked.

"Wainwright, Dolly Wainwright, though it ought to be Martlow."

"I suppose you loved Tim very dearly?"

"I liked him well enough. He was good-looking in his khaki."

"Liked him? I'm sure it was more than that."

"Oh, I dunno. Why?" asked the girl, who said she was the mother of
Martlow's child.

"I am sure," said Fosdike gravely, "you would never do anything to
bring a stain upon his memory."

Dolly proposed a bargain. "If I'm rightly done by," she said, "I'll do
right by him."

"Anything that marred the harmony of to-night's ceremony, Miss
Wainwright, would be unthinkable," said Sir William, coming to his
lieutenant's support.

"Right," said Dolly cheerfully. "If you'll take steps according, I'm
sure I've no desire to make a scene."

"A scene," gasped Sir William.

"Though," she pointed out, "it's a lot to ask of any one, you know.
Giving up the certain chance of getting my photograph in the papers. I
make a good picture, too. Some do and some don't, but I take well and
when you know you've got the looks to carry off a scene, it's asking
something of me to give up the idea."

"But you said you'd no desire to make a scene."

"Poor girls have often got to do what they don't wish to. I wouldn't
make a scene in the usual way. Hysterics and all that. Hysterics means
cold water in your face and your dress messed up and no sympathy. But
with scenes, the greater the occasion the greater the reward, and
there's no denying this is an occasion, is there? You're making a big
to-do about Tim Martlow and the reward would be according. I don't know
if you've noticed that if a girl makes a scene and she's got the looks
for it, she gets offers of marriage, like they do in the police-court
when they've been wronged and the magistrate passes all the men's
letters on to the court missionary and the girl and the missionary go
through them and choose the likeliest fellow out of the bunch?"

"But my dear young lady----" Fosdike began.

She silenced him. "Oh, it's all right. I don't know that I want to get

"Then you ought to," said Sir William virtuously.

"There's better things in life than getting married," Dolly said. "I've
weighed up marriage, and I don't see what there is in it for a girl

"In your case, I should have thought there was everything."

Dolly sniffed. "There isn't liberty," she said. "And we won the fight
for liberty, didn't we? No; if I made that scene it 'ud be to get my
photograph in the papers where the film people could see it. I've the
right face for the pictures, and my romantic history will do the rest."

"Good heavens, girl," cried the scandalised Sir William, "have you no
reverence at all? The pictures! You'd turn all my disinterested efforts
to ridicule. You'd--oh, but there! You're not going to make a scene?"

"That's a matter of arrangement, of course," said the cool lady. "I'm
only showing you what a big chance I shall miss if I oblige you.
Suppose I pipe up my tale of woe just when you're on the platform with
the Union Jack behind you and the reporters in front of you, and that
tablet in there that says Tim is the greatest glory of Calderside----"

Sir William nearly screamed. "Be quiet, girl. Fosdike," he snarled,
turning viciously on his secretary, "what the deuce do you mean by
pretending to keep an eye on local affairs when you miss a thing like

"'Tisn't his fault," said Dolly. "I've been saving this up for you."

"Oh," he groaned, "and I'd felt so happy about to-night." He took out a
fountain pen. "Well, I suppose there's no help for it. Fosdike, what's
the amount of the pension we allow Martlow's mother?"

"Double it, add a pound a week, and what's the answer, Mr. Fosdike?"
asked Dolly quickly.

Sir William gasped ludicrously.

"I mean to say," said Dolly, conferring on his gasp the honour of an
explanation, "she's old and didn't go on munitions, and didn't get used
to wangling income tax on her wages, and never had no ambitions to go
on the pictures, neither. What's compensation to her isn't compensation
to me. I've got a higher standard."

"The less you say about your standards, the better, my girl," retorted
Sir William. "Do you know that this is blackmail?"

"No, it isn't. Not when I ain't asked you for nothing. And if I pass
the remark how that three pounds a week is my idea of a minimum wage,
it isn't blackmail to state the fact."

Sir William paused in the act of tearing a page out of Fosdike's
note-book. "Three pounds a week!"

"Well," said Dolly reasonably, "I didn't depreciate the currency. Three
pounds a week is little enough these times for the girl who fell from
grace through the chief glory of Calderside."

"But suppose you marry," suggested Mr. Fosdike.

"Then I marry well," she said, "having means of my own. And I ought to,
seeing I'm kind of widow to the chief glory of--"

Sir William looked up sharply from the table. "If you use that phrase
again," he said, "I'll tear this paper up."

"Widow to Tim Martlow," she amended it, defiantly. He handed her the
document he had drawn up. It was an undertaking in brief, unambiguous
terms to pay her three pounds a week for life. As she read it,
exulting, the door was kicked open.

The tramp, whose name was Timothy Martlow, came in and turning, spoke
through the doorway to the janitor below. "Call out," he said, "and
I'll come back and knock you down again." Then he locked the door.

Fosdike went courageously towards him. "What do you mean by this
intrusion? Who are you?"

The tramp assured himself that his hat was well pulled down over his
face. He put his hands in his pockets and looked quizzically at the
advancing Mr. Fosdike. "So far," he said, "I'm the man that locked the

Fosdike started for the second door, which led directly to the
platform. The tramp reached it first, and locked it, shouldering
Fosdike from him. "Now," he said, Sir William was searching the wall,
"are there no bells?" he asked desperately.


"No?" jeered the tramp. "No bell. No telephone. No nothing. You're
scotched without your rifle this time."

Fosdike consulted Sir William. "I might shout for the police," he

"It's risky," commented the tramp. "They sometimes come when they're

"Then----" began the secretary.

"It's your risk," emphasised the tramp. "And, I don't advise it. I've
gone to a lot of trouble this last week to keep out of sight of the
Calderside police. They'd identify me easy, and Sir William wouldn't
like that."

"I wouldn't like?" said Rumbold. "I? Who are you?"

"Wounded and missing, believed dead," quoted the tramp. "Only there's
been a lot of beliefs upset in this war, and I'm one of them."

"One of what?"

"I'm telling you. One of the strayed sheep that got mislaid and come
home at the awkwardest times." He snatched his hat off. "Have a good
look at that face, your worship."

"Timothy Martlow," cried Sir William.

Fosdike staggered to a chair while Dolly, who had shown nothing but
amusement at the tramp, now gave a quick cry and shrank back against
the wall, exhibiting every symptom of the liveliest terror. Of the
trio, Sir William, for whom surely this inopportune return had the most
serious implications, alone stood his ground, and Martlow grimly
appreciated his pluck.

"It's very near made a stretcher-case of him," he said, indicating the
prostrated Fosdike. "You're cooler. Walking wounded."

"I ... really...."

"Shake hands, old cock," said Martlow, "I know you've got it writ up in
there----" he jerked his head towards the hall--"that I'm the chief
glory of Calderside, but damme if you're not the second best yourself,
and I'll condescend to shake your hand if it's only to show you I'm not
a ghost."

Sir William decided that it was politic to humour this visitor. He
shook hands. "Then, if you know," he said, "if you know what this
building is, it isn't accident that brings you here to-night."

"The sort of accident you set with a time-fuse," said Martlow grimly.
"I told you I'd been dodging the police for a week lest any of my old
pals should recognise me. I was waiting to get you to-night, and
sitting tight and listening. The things I heard! Nearly made me take my
hat off to myself. But not quite. Not quite. I kept my hat on and I
kept my hair on. It's a mistake to act premature on information
received. If I'd sprung this too soon, the wrong thing might have
happened to me."

"What wrong thing, Martlow?" asked Sir William with some indignation.
If the fellow meant anything, it was that he would have been spirited
away by Sir William.

"Oh, anything," replied Martlow. "Anything would be wrong that made me
miss this pleasure. You and me conversing affable here. Not a bit like
it was in the old days before I rose to being the chief glory of
Calderside. Conversation was one-sided then, and all on your side
instead of mine. 'Here again, Martlow,' you'd say, and then they'd
gabble the evidence, and you'd say 'fourteen days' or 'twenty-one
days,' if you'd got up peevish and that's all there was to our friendly
intercourse. This time, I make no doubt you'll be asking me to stay at
the Towers to-night. And," he went on blandly, enjoying every wince
that twisted Sir William's face in spite of his efforts to appear
unmoved, "I don't know that I'll refuse. It's a levelling thing, war.
I've read that war makes us all conscious we're members of one
brotherhood, and I know it's true now. Consequently the chief glory of
the place ain't got no right to be too high and mighty to accept your
humble invitation. The best guest-room for Sergeant Martlow, you'll
say. See there's a hot water-bottle in his bed, you'll say, and in case
he's thirsty in the night, you'll tell them to put the whisky by his

After all, a man does not rise to become Sir William Rumbold by being
flabby. Sir William struck the table heavily. Somehow he had to put a
period to this mocking harangue. "Martlow," he said, "how many people
know you're here?"

Tim gave a good imitation of Sir William's gesture. He, too, could
strike a table. "Rumbold," he retorted, "what's the value of a secret
when it's not a secret? You three in this room know, and not another
soul in Calderside."

"Not even your mother?" queried Rumbold.

"No. I been a bad son to her in the past. I'm a good one now I'm dead.
She's got a bit o' pension, and I'll not disturb that. I'll stay
dead--to her," he added forcibly, dashing the hope which leapt in

"Why have you come here? Here--to-night?"

The easy mockery renewed itself in Martlow's voice. "People's ideas of
fun vary," he stated. "The fly's idea ain't the same as the spider's.
This 'ere is my idea--shaking your hand and sitting cosy with the bloke
that's sent me down more times than I can think. And the fun 'ull grow
furious when you and I walk arm in arm on to that platform, and you
tell them all I'm resurrected."

"Like this?" The proper Mr. Fosdike interjected.

"Eh?" said Tim. "Like what?"

"You can't go on to the platform in those clothes, Martlow. Have you
looked in a mirror lately? Do you know what you look like? This is a
respectable occasion, man."

"Yes," said Tim drily. "It's an occasion for showing respect to me.
I'll do as I am, not having had time to go to the tailor's for my dress
suit yet."

"Martlow," said Sir William briskly, "time's short. I'm due on that

"Right, I'm with you." Tim moved towards the platform door.

Sir William, with a serene air of triumph, played his trump card. He
took out his cheque-book. "No," he said. "You're not coming. Instead--"

He shrank back hastily as a huge fist was projected vehemently towards
his face. But the fist swerved and opened. The cheque-book, not Sir
William's person, was its objective. "Instead be damned," said Tim
Martlow, pitching the cheque-book to the floor. "To hell with your
money. Thought I was after money, did you?"

Sir William met his eye. "Yes, I did," he said hardily.

"That's the sort of mean idea you would have, Sir William Rumbold. They
say scum rises. You grew a handle to your name during the war, but you
ain't grown manners to go with it. War changes them that's changeable.
T'others are too set to change."

Sir William felt a strange glow of appreciation for this man who, with
so easy an opportunity to grow rich, refused money. "It's changed you,"
he said with ungrudging admiration that had no tincture of diplomacy in

"Has it?" mused Tim. "From what?"

"Well--" Sir William was embarrassed. "From what you were."

"What was I?" demanded Tim. "Go on, spit it out. What sort of character
would you have given me then?" "I'd have called you," said Sir William
boldly, "a disreputable drunken loafer who never did an honest day's
work in his life." Which had the merit of truth, and, he thought, the
demerit of rashness.

To his surprise he found that Tim was looking at him with undisguised
admiration. "Lummy," he said, "you've got guts. Yes, that's right.
'Disreputable drunken loafer.' And if I came back now?" he asked.

"You were magnificent in the war, Martlow."

"First thing I did when I got civvies on was to get blind and skinned.
Drink and civvies go together in my mind."

"You'll get over that," said Sir William encouragingly; but he was
puzzled by the curiously wistful note which had replaced Tim's

"There's a chance," admitted Tim. "A bare chance. Not a chance I'd
gamble on. Not when I've a bigger chance than that. You wouldn't say,
weighing me up now, that I've got a reformed look, would you?"

Sir William couldn't. "But you'll pull yourself together. You'll

"I'll remember the taste of beer," said Tim with fierce conviction.
"No, I never had a chance before, but I've got one now, and, by heaven,
I'm taking it." Sir William's apprehension grew acute; if money was not
the question, what outrageous demand was about to be made of him? Tim
went on, "I'm nothing but a dirty, drunken tramp to-day. Yes, drunk
when I can get it and craving when I can't. That's Tim Martlow when
he's living. Tim Martlow dead's a different thing. He's a man with his
name wrote up in letters of gold in a dry canteen. Dry! By God, that's
funny! He's somebody, honoured in Calderside for ever and ever, amen.
And we won't spoil a good thing by taking chances on my reformation.
I'm dead. I'll stay dead." He paused in enjoying the effect he made.

Sir William stooped to pick his cheque-book from the floor. "Don't do
that," said Tim sharply. "It isn't out of your mind yet that money's
what I came for. Fun's one thing that brought me. Just for the treat of
showing you myself and watching your quick-change faces while I did it.
And I've had my fun." His voice grew menacing. "The other thing I came
for isn't fun. It's this." Dolly screamed as he took her arm and jerked
her to her feet from the corner where she had sought obscurity. He
shook her urgently. "You've been telling tales about me. I've heard of
it. You hear all the news when you lie quiet yourself and let other
people do the talking. You came in here to-night to spin a yarn. I
watched you in. Well, is it true?"

"No," said Dolly, gasping for breath. "I mean--" he insisted, "what you
said about you and me. That isn't true?"

She repeated her denial. "No," he said, releasing her, "it 'ud have a
job to be seeing this is the first time I've had the pleasure of
meeting you. That'll do." He opened the platform door politely. "I hope
I haven't made you late on the platform, sir," he said.

Both Sir William and the secretary stared fascinated at Dolly, the
enterprising young person who had so successfully bluffed them. "I
repeat, don't let me make you late," said Tim from the now wide open

Rumbold checked Fosdike who was, apparently, bent on doing Dolly a
personal violence. "That can wait," he said. "What can't wait is this."
He held out his hand to Martlow. "In all sincerity, I beg the honour."

Tim shook his hand, and Rumbold turned to the door. Fosdike ran after
him with the notes of his speech. "Your speech, sir."

Sir William turned on him angrily. "Man," he said, "haven't you heard?
That muck won't do now. I have to try to do Martlow justice." He went
out to the platform, Fosdike after him.

Tim Martlow sat at the table and took a bottle from his pocket. He drew
the cork with his teeth, then felt a light touch on his arm. "I was
forgetting you," he said, replacing the bottle.

"I ain't likely to forget you," said Dolly ruefully.

He gripped her hard. "But you are going to forget me, my girl," he
said. "Tim Martlow's dead, and his letters of gold ain't going to be
blotted by the likes of you. You that's been putting it about
Calderside I'm the father of your child, and I ain't never seen you in
my life till to-night."

"Yes, but you're getting this all wrong," she blubbered. "I didn't have
a baby. I was going to borrow one if they'd claimed to see it."

"What? No baby? And you put it across old Rumbold?" Laughter and sheer
admiration of her audacity were mingled in his voice. With a baby it
was a good bluff; without one, the girl's ingenuity seemed to him to
touch genius.

"He gave me that paper," she said, pride subduing tears as she handed
him her splendid trophy.

"Three pounds a week for life," he read, with profound reverence. "If
you ain't a blinkin' marvel." He complimented her, giving her the paper
back. Then he realised that, through him, her gains were lost.

"Gawd, I done wrong. I got no right to mess up a thing like that. I
didn't know. See, I'll tell him I made you lie. I'll own the baby's

"But there ain't no baby," she persisted.

"There's plenty of babies looking for a mother with three pounds a
week," he said.

She tore the paper up. "Then they'll not find me," she said. "Three
pounds a week's gone. And your letters of gold, Mr. Martlow, remain."

The practised voice of Sir William Rumbold, speaking on the platform,
filled the ante-room, not with the rhetorician's counterfeit of
sincerity, but, unmistakably, with sincerity itself. "I had prepared a
speech," he was saying. "A prepared speech is useless in face of the
emotion I feel at the life of Timothy Martlow. I say advisedly to you
that when I think of Martlow, I know myself for a worm. He was despised
and rejected. What had England done for him that he should give his
life for her? We wronged him. We made an outcast of him. I personally
wronged him from the magistrate's bench, and he pays us back like this,
rising from an undeserved obscurity to a height where he rests secure
for ever, a reproach to us, and a great example of the man who won. And
against what odds he played it out to a supreme end, and----"

"You're right," said Tim Martlow, motioning the girl to close the door.
He wasn't used to hearing panegyrics on himself, nor was he aware that,
mechanically, he had raised the bottle to his lips.

Dolly meant to close the door discreetly; instead, she threw it from
her and jumped at the bottle. Tim was conscious of a double crash,
putting an emphatic stop to the sound of Sir William's eulogy--the
crash of the door and the bottle which Dolly snatched from him and
pitched against the wall.

"Letters of gold," she panted, "and you shan't tarnish them. I'll see
to that."

He gaped for a moment at the liquor flowing from the bottle, then
raised his eyes to hers. "You?" he said.

"I haven't got a baby to look after," said Dolly. "But--I've you. Where
were you thinking of going now?"

His eyes went to the door behind which Sir William was, presumably,
still praising him, and his head jerked resolutely. "Playing it out,"
he said. "I've got to vanish good, and sure after that. I'll play it
out, by God. I was a hero once, I'll be a hero still." His foot
crunched broken glass as he moved. "I'm going to America, my girl. It's

Perhaps she distrusted the absolute dryness of America, and perhaps
that had nothing to do with Dolly. She examined her hand minutely.
"Going to the Isle of Man on a rough day, I wasn't a bit ill," she said
casually. "I'm a good sailor."

"You put it across Sir William," he said. "You're a blinkin' marvel."

"No," she said, "but a thing that's worth doing is worth doing well.
I'm not a marvel, but I might be the metal polish in those gold letters
of yours if you think it worth while."

His trampish squalor seemed to him suddenly appalling. "There, don't do
that," he protested--her arm had found its way into his. "My sleeve's

"Idiot!" said Dolly Wainwright, drawing him to the door.



(From _The Graphic_)


Miss Crewe was born in the year 1821. She received a sort of education,
and at the age of twenty became the governess of a little girl, eight
years old, called Martha Bond. She was Martha's governess for the next
ten years. Then Martha came out and Miss Crewe went to be the governess
of somebody else. Martha married Mr. William Harper. A year later she
gave birth to a son, who was named Edward. This brings us to the year

When Edward was six, Miss Crewe came back, to be his governess. Four
years later he went to school and Miss Crewe went away to be the
governess of somebody else. She was now forty-two years old.

Twelve years passed and Mrs. Harper died, recommending Miss Crewe to
her husband's care, for Miss Crewe had recently been smitten by an
incurable disease which made it impossible for her to be a governess
any longer.

Mr. Harper, who had passionately loved his wife, gave instructions to
his solicitor to pay Miss Crewe the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds
annually. He had some thoughts of buying her an annuity, but she seemed
so ill that he didn't. Edward was now twenty-two.

In the year 1888, Mr. Harper died after a very short illness. He had
expected Miss Crewe to die any day during the past thirteen years, but
since she hadn't he thought it proper now to recommend her to Edward's
care. This is how he did it.

"That confounded old Crewe, Eddie. You'll have to see to her. Let her
have her money as before, but for the Lord's sake don't go and buy her
an annuity now. If you do, she'll die on your hands in a week!" Shortly
afterwards the old gentleman passed away.

Edward was now thirty-five. Miss Crewe was sixty-seven and reported to
be in an almost desperate state. Edward followed his father's advice.
He bought no annuity for Miss Crewe. Her one hundred and fifty pounds
continued to be paid each year into her bank; but by Edward, not by his
late father's solicitors.

Edward had his own ideas of managing the considerable fortune which he
had inherited. These ideas were unsound. The first of them was that he
should assume the entire direction of his own affairs. Accordingly he
instructed his solicitors to realise all the mortgages and
railway-stock and other admirable securities in which his money was
invested and hand over the cash to him. He then went in for the highest
rate of interest which anyone would promise him. The consequence was
that, within twelve years, he was almost a poor man, his annual income
having dwindled from about three thousand to about four hundred pounds.

Though he was a fool he was an honourable man, and so he continued to
pay Miss Crewe her one hundred and fifty pounds each year. This left
him about two hundred and fifty for himself. The capital which his so
reduced income represented was invested in a Mexican brewery in which
he had implicit faith. Nevertheless, he began to think that he might do
well were he to try to earn a little extra money.

The only thing he could do was to paint, not at all well, in
water-colours. He became the pupil, quite seriously, of a young artist
whom he knew. He was now forty-seven years old, while Miss Crewe was
seventy-nine. The year was 1900.

To everybody's amazement Edward soon began to make quite good progress
in his painting. Yes, his pictures were not at all unpleasant little
things. He sent one of them to the Academy. It was accepted. It was, as
I live, sold for ten pounds. Edward was an artist.

Soon he was making between thirty and forty pounds a year. Then he was
making over a hundred. Then two hundred. Then the Mexican brewery
failed, General Malefico having burned it to the ground for a lark.

This happened in the spring of 1914 when Edward was sixty-one and Miss
Crewe was ninety-three. Edward, after paying her money to Miss Crewe,
might flatter himself on the possibility of having some fifty pounds a
year for himself, that is to say, if his picture sales did not decline.
A single man can, however, get along, more or less, on fifty pounds
more or less.

Then the Great War broke out.

It has been said that in the autumn of 1914 the Old Men came into their
kingdom. As the fields of Britain were gradually stripped bare of their
valid toilers, the Fathers of each village assumed, at good wages, the
burden of agriculture. From their offices the juniors departed or were
torn; the senior clerks carried on desperately until the Girls were
introduced. No man was any longer too old at forty. Octogenarians could
command a salary. The very cinemas were glad to dress up ancient
fellows in uniform and post them on their doorsteps.

Edward could do nothing but paint rather agreeable water-colours, and
that was all. The market for his kind of work was shut. A patriotic
nation was economising in order to get five per cent on the War Loans.
People were not giving inexpensive little water-colours away to one
another as wedding gifts any longer. Only the painters of high
reputation, whose work was regarded as a real investment, could dispose
of their wares.

Starvation stared Edward in the face, not only his own starvation, you
understand, but Miss Crewe's. And Edward was a man of honour.

He hated Miss Crewe intensely, but he had undertaken to provide for
her, and provide for her he must--even if he failed to provide for

He wrapped some samples of his paintings in brown paper, and began to
seek for a job among the wholesale stationers. He offered himself as
one who was prepared to design Christmas-cards and calendars, and
things of the kind.

Adversity had sharpened his wits. Even the wholesale stationers were
not turning white-headed men from their portals. To Edward was accorded
the privilege of displaying the rather agreeable contents of his
parcel. After he had unpacked it and packed it up again some thirty
times he was offered work. His pictures were really rather agreeable.
It was piecework, and he was to do it off the premises, no matter
where. By toiling day and night he might be able to earn as much as L4
a week. He went away and toiled. His employers were pleased with what,
each Monday, he brought them. They did not offer to increase his
remuneration, but they encouraged him to produce, and took practically
everything he offered. Edward was very fortunate.

During the first year of the war he lived like a beast, worked like a
slave, and earned exactly enough to keep his soul in his body and pay
Miss Crewe her one hundred and fifty pounds. During the second year of
the war he did it again. The fourth year of the war found him still
alive and still punctual to his obligations towards Miss Crewe.

Miss Crewe, however, found one hundred and fifty pounds no longer what
it had been. Prices were rising in every direction. She wrote to Edward
pointing this out, and asking him if he couldn't see his way to
increasing her allowance. She invoked the memory of his dear mother and
father, added something about the happy hours that he and she had spent
together in the dear old school-room, and signed herself his

Edward petitioned for an increase of pay. He pointed out to his firm of
wholesale stationers that prices were rising in every direction. The
firm, who knew when they had a marketable thing cheap, granted his
petition. Henceforth Edward was able to earn five pounds a week. He
increased Miss Crewe's allowance by fifty pounds, and continued to live
more like a beast than ever, for the price of paper and paints was
soaring. He worked practically without ceasing, save to sleep (which he
could not do) and to eat (which he could not afford). He was now
sixty-four, while Miss Crewe was rising ninety-seven.

Edward had been ailing for a long time. On Armistice Day he struck work
for an hour in order to walk about in the streets and share in the
general rejoicing. He caught a severe cold, and the next day, instead
of staying between his blankets (he had no sheets), he went up to the
City with some designs which he had just completed. That night he was
feverish. The next night he was delirious. The third night he was dead,
and there was an end of him.

He had, however, managed, before he died (two days before), to send to
Miss Crewe a money order for her quarter's allowance of fifty pounds.
This had left him with precisely four shillings and twopence in the
Post Office Savings Bank.

He was, consequently, buried by the parish.

Miss Crewe received her money. She was delighted to have it, and at
once wrote to Edward her customary letter of grateful and affectionate
thanks. She added in a post-script that if he _could_ find it in his
generous heart to let her have a still little more next quarter it
would be most acceptable, because every day seemed to make it harder
and harder for her to get along.

Edward was dead when this letter was delivered.

Miss Crewe sent her money order to her bank, asking that it might be
placed to her deposit account. This she reminded the bank, would bring
up the amount of her deposit to exactly two thousand pounds.



(From _The Dial_)


At noon the tiler and the mason stepped down from the roof of the
village church which they were repairing and crossed over the road to
the tavern to eat their dinner. It had been a nice little morning, but
there were clouds massing in the south; Sam the tiler remarked that it
looked like thunder. The two men sat in the dim little tap-room eating,
Bob the mason at the same time reading from a newspaper an account of a
trial for murder.

"I dunno what thunder looks like," Bob said, "but I reckon this chap is
going to be hung, though I can't rightly say for why. To my thinking he
didn't do it at all: but murder's a bloody thing and someone ought to
suffer for it."

"I don't think," spluttered Sam as he impaled a flat piece of beet-root
on the point of a pocket-knife and prepared to contemplate it with
patience until his stuffed mouth was ready to receive it, "he ought to
be hung."

"There can be no other end for him though, with a mob of lawyers like
that, and a judge like that, and a jury too ... why the rope's half
round his neck this minute; he'll be in glory within a month, they only
have three Sundays, you know, between the sentence and the execution.
Well, hark at that rain then!"

A shower that began as a playful sprinkle grew to a powerful steady
summer downpour. It splashed in the open window and the dim room grew
more dim, and cool.

"Hanging's a dreadful thing," continued Sam, "and 'tis often unjust
I've no doubt, I've no doubt at all."

"Unjust! I tell you ... at majority of trials those who give their
evidence mostly knows nothing at all about the matter; them as knows a
lot--they stays at home and don't budge, not likely!"

"No? But why?"

"Why? They has their reasons. I know that, I knows it for truth ...
hark at that rain, it's made the room feel cold."

They watched the downfall in complete silence for some moments.

"Hanging's a dreadful thing," Sam at length repeated, with almost a

"I can tell you a tale about that, Sam, in a minute," said the other.
He began to fill his pipe from Sam's brass box which was labelled cough
lozenges and smelled of paregoric.

"Just about ten years ago I was working over in Cotswold country. I
remember I'd been into Gloucester one Saturday afternoon and it rained.
I was jogging along home in a carrier's van; I never seen it rain like
that afore, no, nor never afterwards, not like that. B-r-r-r-r! it came
down ... bashing! And we came to a cross-roads where there's a public
house called The Wheel of Fortune, very lonely and onsheltered it is
just there. I see'd a young woman standing in the porch awaiting us,
but the carrier was wet and tired and angry or something and wouldn't
stop. 'No room'--he bawled out to her--'full up, can't take you!' and
he drove on. 'For the love o' God, mate,' I says, 'pull up and take
that young creature! She's ... she's ... can't you see!' 'But I'm all
behind as 'tis'--he shouts to me--'You knows your gospel, don't you:
time and tide wait for no man?' 'Ah, but dammit all, they always call
for a feller'--I says. With that he turned round and we drove back for
the girl. She clumb in and sat on my knees; I squat on a tub of
vinegar, there was nowhere else and I was right and all, she was going
on for a birth. Well, the old van rattled away for six or seven miles;
whenever it stopped you could hear the rain clattering on the
tarpaulin, or sounding outside on the grass as if it was breathing
hard, and the old horse steamed and shivered with it. I had knowed the
girl once in a friendly way, a pretty young creature, but now she was
white and sorrowful and wouldn't say much. By and bye we came to
another cross-roads near a village, and she got out there. 'Good day,
my gal'--I says, affable like, and 'Thank you sir,'--says she, and off
she popped in the rain with her umbrella up. A rare pretty girl, quite
young, I'd met her before, a girl you could get uncommon fond of, you
know, but I didn't meet her afterwards: she was mixed up in a bad
business. It all happened in the next six months while I was working
round those parts. Everybody knew of it. This girl's name was Edith and
she had a younger sister Agnes. Their father was old Harry Mallerton,
kept The British Oak at North Quainy; he stuttered. Well, this Edith
had a love affair with a young chap William, and having a very loving
nature she behaved foolish. Then she couldn't bring the chap up to the
scratch nohow by herself, and of course she was afraid to tell her
mother or father: you know how girls are after being so pesky natural,
they fear, O they do fear! But soon it couldn't be hidden any longer as
she was living at home with them all, so she wrote a letter to her
mother. 'Dear Mother,' she wrote, and told her all about her trouble.

"By all accounts the mother was angry as an old lion, but Harry took it
calm like and sent for young William, who'd not come at first. He lived
close by in the village so they went down at last and fetched him.

"'Alright, yes,' he said, 'I'll do what's lawful to be done. There you
are, I can't say no fairer, that I can't.'

"'No,' they said, 'you can't.'

"So he kissed the girl and off he went, promising to call in and settle
affairs in a day or two. The next day Agnes, which was the younger
girl, she also wrote a note to her mother telling her some more strange

"'God above!' the mother cried out, 'can it be true, both of you girls,
my own daughters, and by the same man! Oh, whatever were you thinking
on, both of ye! Whatever can be done now!"

"What!" ejaculated Sam, "both on 'em, both on 'em!"

"As true as God's my mercy--both on 'em--same chap. Ah! Mrs. Mallerton
was afraid to tell her husband at first, for old Harry was the devil
born again when he were roused up, so she sent for young William
herself, who'd not come again, of course, not likely. But they made him
come, O yes, when they told the girl's father.

"'Well may I go to my d-d-d-damnation at once!' roared old Harry--he
stuttered you know--'at once, if that ain't a good one!' So he took off
his coat, he took up a stick, he walked down street to William and cut
him off his legs. Then he beat him till he howled for his mercy, but
you couldn't stop old Harry once he were roused up--he was the devil
born again. They do say as he beat him for a solid hour; I can't say as
to that, but then old Harry picked him up and carried him off to The
British Oak on his own back, and threw him down in his own kitchen
between his own two girls like a dead dog. They do say that the little
one Agnes flew at her father like a raging cat until he knocked her
senseless with a clout over head; rough man he was."

"Well, a' called for it sure," commented Sam.

"Her did," agreed Bob, "but she was the quietest known girl for miles
round those parts, very shy and quiet."

"A shady lane breeds mud," said Sam.

"What do you say?--O ah!--mud, yes. But pretty girls both, girls you
could get very fond of, skin like apple bloom, and as like as two pinks
they were. They had to decide which of them William was to marry."

"Of course, ah!"

"I'll marry Agnes'--says he.

"'You'll not'--says the old man--'you'll marry Edie.'

"'No I won't'--William says--'it's Agnes I love and I'll be married to
her or I won't be married to e'er of 'em.' All the time Edith sat
quiet, dumb as a shovel, never a word, crying a bit; but they do say
the young one went on like a ... a young ... Jew."

"The jezebel!" commented Sam.

"You may say it; but wait, my man, just wait. Another cup of beer? We
can't go back to church until this humbugging rain have stopped."

"No, that we can't."

"It's my belief the 'bugging rain won't stop this side of four."

"And if the roof don't hold it off it 'ull spoil the Lord's
Commandments that's just done up on the chancel front."

"Oh, they be dry by now," spoke Bob reassuringly and then continued his
tale. "'I'll marry Agnes or I won't marry nobody'--William says--and
they couldn't budge him. No, old Harry cracked on, but he wouldn't have
it, and at last Harry says: 'It's like this.' He pulls a half-crown out
of his pocket and 'Heads it's Agnes,' he says, 'or tails it's Edith,'
he says."

"Never! Ha! ha!" cried Sam.

"Heads it's Agnes, tails it's Edie, so help me God. And it come down
Agnes, yes, heads it was--Agnes--and so there they were."

"And they lived happy ever after?"

"Happy! You don't know your human nature, Sam; wherever was you brought
up? 'Heads it's Agnes,' said old Harry, and at that Agnes flung her
arms round William's neck and was for going off with him then and
there, ha! But this is how it happened about that. William hadn't any
kindred, he was a lodger in the village, and his landlady wouldn't have
him in her house one mortal hour when she heard all of it; give him the
right-about there and then. He couldn't get lodgings anywhere else,
nobody would have anything to do with him, so of course, for safety's
sake, old Harry had to take him, and there they all lived together at
The British Oak--all in one happy family. But they girls couldn't bide
the sight of each other, so their father cleaned up an old outhouse in
his yard that was used for carts and hens and put William and his Agnes
out in it. And there they had to bide. They had a couple of chairs, a
sofa, and a bed and that kind of thing, and the young one made it quite

"'Twas a hard thing for that other, that Edie, Bob."

"It was hard, Sam, in a way, and all this was happening just afore I
met her in the carrier's van. She was very sad and solemn then; a
pretty girl, one you could like. Ah, you may choke me, but there they
lived together. Edie never opened her lips to either of them again, and
her father sided with her, too. What was worse, it came out after the
marriage that Agnes was quite free of trouble--it was only a trumped-up
game between her and this William because he fancied her better than
the other one. And they never had no child, them two, though when poor
Edie's mischance come along I be damned if Agnes weren't fonder of it
than its own mother, a jolly sight more fonder, and William--he fair
worshipped it."

"You don't say!"

"I do. 'Twas a rum go, that, and Agnes worshipped it, a fact, can prove
it by scores o' people to this day, scores, in them parts. William and
Agnes worshipped it, and Edie--she just looked on, long of it all, in
the same house with them, though she never opened her lips again to her
young sister to the day of her death."

"Ah, she died? Well, it's the only way out of such a tangle, poor

"You're sympathizing with the wrong party." Bob filled his pipe again
from the brass box; he ignited it with deliberation; going to the open
window he spat into a puddle in the road. "The wrong party, Sam; 'twas
Agnes that died. She was found on the sofa one morning stone dead, dead
as a adder."

"God bless me," murmured Sam.

"Poisoned," added Bob, puffing serenely.


Bob repeated the word poisoned. "This was the way of it," he continued.
"One morning the mother went out in the yard to collect her eggs, and
she began calling out 'Edie, Edie, here a minute, come and look where
that hen have laid her egg; I would never have believed it'--she says.
And when Edie went out her mother led her round the back of the
outhouse, and there on the top of a wall this hen had laid an egg. 'I
would never have believed it, Edie'--she says--'scooped out a nest
there beautiful, ain't she; I wondered where her was laying. T'other
morning the dog brought an egg round in his mouth and laid it on the
doormat. There now, Aggie, Aggie, here a minute, come and look where
the hen have laid that egg.' And as Aggie didn't answer the mother went
in and found her on the sofa in the outhouse, stone dead."

"How'd they account for it?" asked Sam, after a brief interval.

"That's what brings me to the point about this young feller that's
going to be hung," said Bob, tapping the newspaper that lay upon the
bench. "I don't know what would lie between two young women in a
wrangle of that sort; some would get over it quick, but some would
never sleep soundly any more not for a minute of their mortal lives.
Edie must have been one of that sort. There's people living there now
as could tell a lot if they'd a mind to it. Some knowed all about it,
could tell you the very shop where Edith managed to get hold of the
poison, and could describe to me or to you just how she administrated
it in a glass of barley water. Old Harry knew all about it, he knew all
about everything, but he favoured Edith and he never budged a word.
Clever old chap was Harry, and nothing came out against Edie at the
inquest--nor the trial either." "Was there a trial then?"

"There was a kind of a trial. Naturally. A beautiful trial. The police
came and fetched poor William, they took him away and in due course he
was hanged."

"William! But what had he got to do with it?"

"Nothing. It was rough on him, but he hadn't played straight and so
nobody struck up for him. They made out a case against him--there was
some onlucky bit of evidence which I'll take my oath old Harry knew
something about--and William was done for. Ah, when things take a turn
against you it's as certain as twelve o'clock, when they take a turn;
you get no more chance than a rabbit from a weasel. It's like dropping
your matches into a stream, you needn't waste the bending of your back
to pick them out--they're no good on, they'll never strike again. And
Edith, she sat in court through it all, very white and trembling and
sorrowful, but when the judge put his black cap on they do say she
blushed and looked across at William and gave a bit of a smile. Well,
she had to suffer for his doings, so why shouldn't he suffer for hers.
That's how I look at it...."

"But God-a-mighty...!"

"Yes, God-a-mighty knows. Pretty girls they were, both, and as like as
two pinks."

There was quiet for some moments while the tiler and the mason emptied
their cups of beer. "I think," said Sam then, "the rain's give over

"Ah, that it has," cried Bob. "Let's go and do a bit more on this
'bugging church or she won't be done afore Christmas."



(From _Truth_)


Mary Clay looked out of the window of the old farmhouse. The view was
dreary enough--hill and field and woodland, bare, colourless,
mist-covered--with no other house in sight. She had never been a woman
to crave for company. She liked sewing. She was passionately fond of
reading. She was not fond of talking. Probably she could have been very
happy at Cromb Farm--alone. Before her marriage she had looked forward
to the long evenings with her sewing and reading. She knew that she
would be busy enough in the day, for the farmhouse was old and
rambling, and she was to have no help in the housework. But she looked
forward to quiet, peaceful, lamplit evenings; and only lately, after
ten years of married life, had she reluctantly given up the hope of
them. For peace was far enough from the old farm kitchen in the
evening. It was driven away by John Clay's loud voice, raised always in
orders or complaints, or in the stumbling, incoherent reading aloud of
his newspaper.

Mary was a silent woman herself and a lover of silence. But John liked
to hear the sound of his voice; he liked to shout at her; to call for
her from one room to another; above all, he liked to hear his voice
reading the paper out loud to her in the evening. She dreaded that most
of all. It had lately seemed to jar on her nerves till she felt she
must scream aloud. His voice going on and on, raucous and sing-song,
became unspeakably irritating. His "Mary!" summoning her from her
household work to wherever he happened to be, his "Get my slippers,"
or "Bring me my pipe," exasperated her almost to the point of
rebellion. "Get your own slippers" had trembled on her lips, but had
never passed them, for she was a woman who could not bear anger. Noise
of any kind appalled her.

She had borne it for ten years, so surely she could go on with it. Yet
today, as she gazed hopelessly at the wintry country side, she became
acutely conscious that she could not go on with it. Something must
happen. Yet what was there that could happen?

It was Christmas next week. She smiled ironically at the thought. Then
she noticed the figure of her husband coming up the road. He came in at
the gate and round to the side-door.


She went slowly in answer to the summons. He held a letter in his hand.

"Met the postman," he said. "From your aunt."

She opened the letter and read it in silence. Both of them knew quite
well what it contained.

"She wants us to go over for Christmas again," said Mary.

He began to grumble.

"She's as deaf as a post. She's 'most as deaf as her mother was. She
ought to know better than to ask folks over when she can't hear a word
any one says."

Mary said nothing. He always grumbled about the invitation at first,
but really he wanted to go. He liked to talk with her uncle. He liked
the change of going down to the village for a few days and hearing all
its gossip. He could quite well leave the farm to the "hands" for that

The Crewe deafness was proverbial. Mary's great-grandmother had gone
stone deaf at the age of thirty-five; her daughter had inherited the
affliction and her grand-daughter, the aunt with whom Mary had spent
her childhood, had inherited it also at exactly the same age.

"All right," he said at last, grudgingly, as though in answer to her
silence, "we'd better go. Write and say we'll go."

* * * * *

It was Christmas Eve. They were in the kitchen of her uncle's
farmhouse. The deaf old woman sat in her chair by the fire knitting.
Upon her sunken face there was a curious sardonic smile that was her
habitual expression. The two men stood in the doorway. Mary sat at the
table looking aimlessly out of the window. Outside, the snow fell in
blinding showers. Inside, the fire gleamed on to the copper pots and
pans, the crockery on the old oak dresser, the hams hanging from the

Suddenly James turned.

"Jane!" he said.

The deaf woman never stirred.


Still there was no response upon the enigmatic old face by the


She turned slightly towards the voice.

"Get them photos from upstairs to show John," he bawled.

"What about boats?" she said.

"_Photos_!" roared her husband.

"Coats?" she quavered.

Mary looked from one to the other. The man made a gesture of irritation
and went from the room.

He came back with a pile of picture postcards in his hand.

"It's quicker to do a thing oneself," he grumbled. "They're what my
brother sent from Switzerland, where he's working now. It's a fine
land, to judge from the views of it."

John took them from his hand. "She gets worse?" he said nodding towards
the old woman.

She was sitting gazing at the fire, her lips curved into the curious

Her husband shrugged his shoulders. "Aye. She's nigh as bad as her
mother was."

"And her grandmother."

"Aye. It takes longer to tell her to do something than to do it myself.
And deaf folks get a bit stupid, too. Can't see what you mean. They're
best let alone."

The other man nodded and lit his pipe. Then James opened the door.

"The snow's stopped," he said. "Shall we go to the end of the village
and back?"

The other nodded, and took his cap from behind the door. A gust of cold
air filled the room as they went out.

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