Part 2 out of 3
"Whom is he calling gentlemen?" whispered the old lady.
But Blink, by anxiously licking Mr. Lavender's lips, had produced a
silence in which the young-lady did not dare reply. The sound of the
little cat's purring broke the hush.
"Down, Blink, down!" said Mr. Lavender.
"Watch this little moon-cat and her perfect manners! We may all learn
from her how not to be crude. See the light shining through her pretty
The little cat, who had seen a bird, had left Mr. Lavender's shoulder,
and was now crouching and moving the tip of its tail from side to side.
"She would like a bird inside her; but let us rather go and find her some
milk instead," said Mr. Lavender, and he began to rise.
"Do you know, I think he's quite sane, whispered the old lady, "except,
perhaps, at intervals. What do you?"
"Glorious print!" cried Mr. Lavender suddenly, for a journal had fallen
from his pocket, and the sight of it lying there, out of his reach,
excited him. "Glorious print! I can read you even from here. When the
enemy of mankind uses the word God he commits blasphemy! How different
from us!" And raising his eyes from the journal Mr. Lavender fastened
them, as it seemed to his anxious listeners, on the tree which sheltered
them. "Yes! Those unseen presences, who search out the workings of our
heart, know that even the most Jingo among us can say, 'I am not as they
are!' Come, mooncat!"
So murmuring, he turned and moved towards the house, clucking with his
tongue, and followed by Blink.
"Did he mean us?" said the old lady nervously.
"No; that was one of his intervals. He's not mad; he's just crazy."
"Is there any difference, my dear?"
"Why, we're all crazy about something, you know; it's only a question of
"But what is his what?"
"He's got a message. They're in the air, you know."
"I haven't come across them," said the old lady. "I fear I live a very
quiet life--except for picking over sphagnum moss."
"Oh, well! There's no hurry."
"Well, I shall tell my nephew what I've seen," said the old lady. "Good-
"Good-bye," responded the young; and, picking up her yellow book, she got
back into the hammock and relighted her cigarette.
SEES AND EDITOR, AND FINDS A FARMER
Not for some days after his fall from the window did Mr. Lavender begin
to regain the elasticity of body necessary to the resumption of public
life. He spent the hours profitably, however, in digesting the
newspapers and storing ardour. On Tuesday morning, remembering that no
proof of his interview had yet been sent him, and feeling that he ought
not to neglect so important a matter, he set forth to the office of the
great journal from which, in the occult fashion of the faithful, he was
convinced the reporter had come. While he was asking for the editor in
the stony entrance, a young man who was passing looked at him attentively
and said: "Ah, sir, here you are! He's waiting for you. Come up, will
Mr. Lavender followed up some stairs, greatly gratified at the thought
that he was expected. The young man led him through one or two swing
doors into an outer office, where a young woman was typing.
Mr. Lavender shook his head, and sat down on the edge of a green leather
chair. The editor, resuming his seat, crossed his legs deferentially,
and sinking his chin again on his chest, began:
"About your article. My only trouble, of course, is that I'm running
that stunt on British prisoners--great success! You've seen it, I
"Yes, indeed," said Mr. Lavender; I read you every day.
The editor made a little movement which showed that he was flattered, and
sinking his chin still further into his chest, resumed:
"It might run another week, or it might fall down to-morrow--you never
can tell. But I'm getting lots of letters. Tremendous public interest."
"Yes, yes," assented Mr. Lavender, "it's most important."
"Of course, we might run yours with it," said the editor. "But I don't
know; I think it'd kill the other. Still----"
"I shouldn't like----" began Mr. Lavender.
"I don't believe in giving them more than they want, you know," resumed
the editor. "I think I'll have my news editor in," and he blew into a
tube. "Send me Mr. Crackamup. This thing of yours is very important,
sir. Suppose we began to run it on Thursday. Yes, I should think
they'll be tired of British prisoners by then."
"Don't let me," began Mr. Lavender.
The editor's eye became unveiled for the Moment. "You'll be wanting to
take it somewhere else if we----Quite! Well, I think we could run them
together. See here, Mr. Crackamup"--Mr. Lavender saw a small man like
Beethoven frowning from behind spectacles--"could we run this German
prisoner stunt alongside the British, or d'you think it would kill it?"
Mr. Lavender almost rose from his chair in surprise. "Are you----" he
said; "is it----"
The small man hiccoughed, and said in a raw voice:
"The letters are falling off."
"Ah!" murmured the editor, "I thought we should be through by Thursday.
We'll start this new stunt Thursday. Give it all prominence, Crackamup.
It'll focus fury. All to the good--all to the good. Opinion's ripe."
Then for a moment he seemed to hesitate, and his chin sank back on his
chest. "I don't know," he murmured of course it may----"
"Please," began Mr. Lavender, rising, while the small man hiccoughed
again. The two motions seemed to determine the editor.
"That's all right, sir," he said, rising also; "that's quite all right.
We'll say Thursday, and risk it. Thursday, Crackamup. "And he held out
his hand to Mr. Lavender. "Good morning, sir, good morning. Delighted
to have seen you. You wouldn't put your name to it? Well, well, it
doesn't matter; only you could have written it. The turn of phrase--
immense! They'll tumble all right!" And Mr. Lavender found himself,
with Mr. Crackamup, in the lobby. "It's bewildering," he thought, "how
quickly he settled that. And yet he had such repose. But is there some
mistake?" He was about to ask his companion, but with a distant hiccough
the small man had vanished. Thus deserted, Mr. Lavender was in two minds
whether to ask to be readmitted, when the four gentlemen with notebooks
repassed him in single file into the editor's room.
"My name is Lavender," he said resolutely to the young woman. "Is that
"Quite," she answered, without looking up.
Mr. Lavender went out slowly, thinking, "I may perhaps have said more in
that interview than I remember. Next time I really will insist on having
a proof. Or have they taken me for some other public man?" This notion
was so disagreeable, however, that he dismissed it, and passed into the
On Thursday, the day fixed for his fresh tour of public speaking, he
opened the great journal eagerly. Above the third column was the
headline: OUR VITAL DUTY: BY A GREAT PUBLIC MAN. "That must be it," he
thought. The article, which occupied just a column of precious space,
began with an appeal so moving that before he had read twenty lines Mr.
Lavender had identified himself completely with the writer; and if anyone
had told him that he had not uttered these sentiments, he would have
given him the lie direct. Working from heat to heat the article finished
in a glorious outburst with a passionate appeal to the country to starve
all German prisoners.
Mr. Lavender put it down in a glow of exultation. "I shall translate
words into action," he thought; "I shall at once visit a rural district
where German prisoners are working on the land, and see that the farmers
do their duty. "And, forgetting in his excitement to eat his breakfast,
he put the journal in his pocket, wrapped himself in his dust-coat and
broad-brimmed hat, and went out to his car, which was drawn up, with
Blink, who had not forgotten her last experience, inside.
"We will go to a rural district, Joe," he said, getting in.
"Very good, sir," answered Joe; and, unnoticed by the population, they
glided into the hazy heat of the June morning.
"Well, what abaht it, sir?" said Joe, after they had proceeded for some
three hours. "Here we are."
Mr. Lavender, who had been lost in the beauty of the scenes through which
he was passing, awoke from reverie, and said:
"I am looking for German prisoners, Joe; if you see a farmer, you might
"Any sort of farmer?" asked Joe.
"Is there more than one sort?" returned Mr. Lavender, smiling.
Joe cocked his eye. "Ain't you never lived in the country, sir?"
"Not for more than a few weeks at a time, Joe, unless Rochester counts.
Of course, I know Eastbourne very well."
"I know Eastbourne from the inside," said Joe discursively. "I was a
waiter there once."
"An interesting life, a waiter's, Joe, I should think."
"Ah! Everything comes to 'im who waits, they say. But abaht farmers--
you've got a lot to learn, sir."
"I am always conscious of that, Joe; the ramifications of public life are
"I could give you some rummikins abaht farmers. I once travelled in
"You seem to have done a great many things Joe."
"That's right, sir. I've been a sailor, a 'traveller,' a waiter, a
scene-shifter, and a shover, and I don't know which was the cushiest job.
But, talking of farmers: there's the old English type that wears
Bedfords--don't you go near 'im, 'e bites. There's the modern scientific
farmer, but it'll take us a week to find 'im. And there's the small-
'older, wearin' trahsers, likely as not; I don't think 'e'd be any use to
"What am I to do then?" asked Mr Lavender.
"Ah!" said Joe, "'ave lunch."
Mr. Lavender sighed, his hunger quarelling with his sense of duty. "I
should like to have found a farmer first," he said.
"Well, sir, I'll drive up to that clump o'beeches, and you can have a
look round for one while I get lunch ready.
"That will do admirably."
There's just one thing, sir," said Joe, when his master was about to
start; "don't you take any house you come across for a farm. They're
mostly cottages o' gentility nowadays, in'abited by lunatics."
"I shall be very careful," said Mr. Lavender.
"This glorious land!" he thought, walking away from the beech clump, with
Blink at his heels; "how wonderful to see it being restored to its former
fertility under pressure of the war! The farmer must be a happy man,
indeed, working so nobly for his country, without thought of his own
prosperity. How flowery those beans look already!" he mused, glancing
at a field of potatoes. "Now that I am here I shall be able to combine
my work on German prisoners with an effort to stimulate food production.
Blink!" For Blink was lingering in a gateway. Moving back to her, Mr.
Lavender saw that the sagacious animal was staring through the gate at a
farmer who was standing in a field perfectly still, with his back turned,
about thirty yards away.
"Have you----" Mr. Lavender began eagerly; "is it--are you employing any
German prisoners, sir?"
The farmer did not seem to hear. "He must," thought Mr. Lavender, "be of
the old stolid English variety."
The farmer, who was indeed attired in a bowler hat and Bedford cords,
continued to gaze over his land, unconscious of Mr. Lavender's presence.
"I am asking you a question, sir," resumed the latter in a louder voice."
And however patriotically absorbed you may be in cultivating your soil,
there is no necessity for rudeness."
The farmer did not move a muscle.
"Sir," began Mr. Lavender again, very patiently, "though I have always
heard that the British farmer is of all men least amenable to influence
and new ideas, I have never believed it, and I am persuaded that if you
will but listen I shall be able to alter your whole outlook about the
agricultural future of this country." For it had suddenly occurred to
him that it might be a long time before he had again such an opportunity
of addressing a rural audience on the growth of food, and he was loth to
throw away the chance. The farmer, however, continued to stand with his
hack to the speaker, paying no more heed to his voice than to the buzzing
of a fly.
"You SHALL hear me," cried Mr. Lavender, unconsciously miming a voice
from the past, and catching, as he thought, the sound of a titter, he
flung his hand out, and exclaimed:
"Grass, gentlemen, grass is the hub of the matter. We have put our hand
to the plough"--and, his imagination taking flight at those words, he
went on in a voice calculated to reach the great assembly of farmers
which he now saw before him with their backs turned--"and never shall we
take it away till we have reduced every acre in the country to an arable
condition. In the future not only must we feed ourselves, but our dogs,
our horses, and our children, and restore the land to its pristine glory
in the front rank of the world's premier industry. But me no buts," he
went on with a winning smile, remembering that geniality is essential in
addressing a country audience, "and butter me no butter, for in future we
shall require to grow our margarine as well. Let us, in a word, put
behind us all prejudice and pusillanimity till we see this country of
ours once more blooming like one great cornfield, covered with cows.
Sirs, I am no iconoclast; let us do all this without departing in any way
from those great principles of Free Trade, Industrialism, and Individual
Liberty which have made our towns the largest, most crowded, and
wealthiest under that sun which never sets over the British Empire. We
do but need to see this great problem steadily and to see it whole, and
we shall achieve this revolution in our national life without the
sacrifice of a single principle or a single penny. Believe me,
gentlemen, we shall yet eat our cake and have it."
Mr. Lavender paused for breath, the headlines of his great speech in
tomorrow's paper dancing before his eyes: "THE CLIMACTERIC--EATS CAKE AND
HAS IT--A GREAT CONCLUSION." The wind, which had risen somewhat during
Mr. Lavender's speech, fluttered the farmer's garments at this moment, so
that they emitted a sound like the stir which runs through an audience at
a moment of strong emotion.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Lavender, "I see that I move you, gentlemen. Those have
traduced you who call you unimpressionable. After all, are you not the
backbone of this country up which runs the marrow which feeds the brain;
and shall you not respond to an appeal at once so simple and so
fundamental? I assure you, gentlemen, it needs no thought; indeed, the
less you think about it the better, for to do so will but weaken your
purpose and distract your attention. Your duty is to go forward with
stout hearts, firm steps, and kindling eyes; in this way alone shall we
defeat our common enemies. And at those words, which he had uttered at
the top of his voice, Mr. Lavender stood like a clock which has run down,
rubbing his eyes. For Blink, roaming the field during the speech, and
encountering quadruped called rabbit, which she had never seen before,
had backed away from it in dismay, brushed against the farmer's legs and
caused his breeches to fall down, revealing the sticks on which they had
been draped. When Mr. Lavender saw this he called out in a loud voice
Sir, you have deceived me. I took you for a human being. I now perceive
that you are but a selfish automaton, rooted to your own business,
without a particle of patriotic sense. Farewell!"
STARVES SOME GERMANS
After parting with the scarecrow Mr. Lavender who felt uncommonly hungry'
was about to despair of finding any German prisoners when he saw before
him a gravel-pit, and three men working therein. Clad in dungaree, and
very dusty, they had a cast of countenance so unmistakably Teutonic that
Mr. Lavender stood still. They paid little or no attention to him,
however, but went on sadly and silently with their work, which was that
of sifting gravel. Mr. Lavender sat down on a milestone opposite, and
his heart contracted within him. "They look very thin and sad," he
thought, "I should not like to be a prisoner myself far from my country,
in the midst of a hostile population, without a woman or a dog to throw
me a wag of the tail. Poor men! For though it is necessary to hate the
Germans, it seems impossible to forget that we are all human beings.
This is weakness," he added to himself, "which no editor would tolerate
for a moment. I must fight against it if I am to fulfil my duty of
rousing the population to the task of starving them. How hungry they
look already--their checks are hollow! I must be firm. Perhaps they
have wives and families at home, thinking of them at this moment. But,
after all, they are Huns. What did the great writer say? 'Vermin--
creatures no more worthy of pity than the tiger or the rat.' How true!
And yet--Blink!" For his dog, seated on her haunches, was looking at him
with that peculiarly steady gaze which betokened in her the desire for
food. "Yes," mused Mr. Lavender, "pity is the mark of the weak man. It
is a vice which was at one time rampant in this country; the war has made
one beneficial change at least--we are moving more and more towards the
manly and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat. To be brutal!
This is the one lesson that the Germans can teach us, for we had almost
forgotten the art. What danger we were in! Thank God, we have past
masters again among us now!" A frown became fixed between his brows.
"Yes, indeed, past masters. How I venerate those good journalists and
all the great crowd of witnesses who have dominated the mortal weakness,
pity. 'The Hun must and shall be destroyed--root and branch--hip and
thigh--bag and baggage man, woman, and babe--this is the sole duty of the
great and humane British people. Roll up, ladies and gentlemen, roll up!
Great thought--great language! And yet----"
Here Mr. Lavender broke into a gentle sweat, while the Germans went on
sifting gravel in front of him, and Blink continued to look up into his
face with her fixed, lustrous eyes. "What an awful thing," he thought,
"to be a man. If only I were just a public man and could, as they do,
leave out the human and individual side of everything, how simple it
would be! It is the being a man as well which is so troublesome. A man
has feelings; it is wrong--wrong! There should be no connection whatever
between public duty and the feelings of a man. One ought to be able to
starve one's enemy without a quiver, to watch him drown without a wink.
In fact, one ought to be a German. We ought all to be Germans. Blink,
we ought all to be Germans, dear! I must steel myself!" And Mr.
Lavender wiped his forehead, for, though a great idea had come to him, he
still lacked the heroic savagery to put it into execution. "It is my
duty," he thought, "to cause those hungry, sad-looking men to follow me
and watch me eat my lunch. It is my duty. God give me strength! For
unless I make this sacrifice of my gentler nature I shall be unworthy to
call myself a public man, or to be reported in the newspapers. 'En
avant, de Bracy!'" So musing, he rose, and Blink with him. Crossing the
road, he clenched his fists, and said in a voice which anguish made
"Are you hungry, my friends?"
The Germans stopped sifting gravel, looked up at him, and one of them
This time they all three nodded.
"Come on, then," said Mr. Lavender.
And he led the way back along the road, followed by Blink and the three
Germans. Arriving at the beech clump whose great trees were already
throwing shadows, denoting that it was long past noon, Mr. Lavender saw
that Joe had spread food on the smooth ground, and was, indeed, just
finishing his own repast.
"What is there to eat?" thought Mr. Lavender, with a soft of horror.
"For I feel as if I were about to devour a meal of human flesh." And he
looked round at the three Germans slouching up shamefacedly behind him.
"Sit down, please," he said. The three men sat down.
"Joe," said Mr. Lavender to his surprised chauffeur, "serve my lunch.
Give me a large helping, and a glass of ale. "And, paler than his
holland dust-coat, he sat resolutely down on the bole of a beech, with
Blink on her haunches beside him. While Joe was filling a plate with
pigeon-pie and pouring out a glass of foaming Bass, Mr. Lavender stared
at the three Germans and suffered the tortures of the damned. "I will
not flinch," he thought; "God helping me, I certainly will not flinch.
Nothing shall prevent my going through with it." And his eyes, more
prominent than a hunted rabbit's, watched the approach of Joe with the
plate and glass. The three men also followed the movements of the
chauffeur, and it seemed to Mr. Lavender that their eyes were watering.
"Courage!" he murmured to himself, transfixing a succulent morsel with
his fork and conveying it to his lips. For fully a minute he revolved
the tasty mouthful, which he could not swallow, while the three men's
eyes watched him with a sort of lugubrious surprise. "If," he thought
with anguish, "if I were a prisoner in Germany! Come, come! One effort,
it's only the first mouthful!" and with a superhuman effort, he
swallowed. "Look at me!" he cried to the three Germans, "look at me!
I--I--I'm going to be sick!" and putting down his plate, he rose and
staggered forward. "Joe," he said in a dying voice, "feed these poor
men, feed them; make them drink; feed them!" And rushing headlong to the
edge of the grove, he returned what he had swallowed--to the great
interest of Brink. Then, waving away the approach of Joe, and consumed
with shame and remorse at his lack of heroism, he ran and hid himself in
a clump of hazel bushes, trying to slink into the earth. "No," he
thought; "no; I am not for public life. I have failed at the first test.
Was ever so squeamish an exhibition? I have betrayed my country and the
honour of public life. These Germans are now full of beer and pigeon-
pie. What am I but a poltroon, unworthy to lace the shoes of the great
leaders of my land? The sun has witnessed my disgrace."
How long he stayed there lying on his face he did not know before he
heard the voice of Joe saying, "Wot oh, sir!"
"Joe," replied Mr. Lavender faintly, "my body is here, but my spirit has
"Ah!" said Joe, "a rum upset--that there. Swig this down, sir!" and he
held out to his master, a flask-cup filled with brandy. Mr. Lavender
"Have they gone?" he said, gasping.
"They 'ave, sir," replied Joe, "and not 'alf full neither. Where did you
pick 'em up?"
"In a gravel-pit," said Mr. Lavender. "I can never forgive myself for
this betrayal of my King and country. I have fed three Germans. Leave
me, for I am not fit to mingle with my fellows."
"Well, I don't think," said Joe. "Germans?"
Gazing up into his face Mr. Lavender read the unmistakable signs of
"Why do you look at me like that?" he said.
"Germans?" repeated Joe; "what Germans? Three blighters workin' on the
road, as English as you or me. Wot are you talkin' about, sir?"
"What!" cried Mr. Lavender do you tell me they were not Germans?"
"Well, their names was Tompkins, 'Obson, and Brown, and they 'adn't an
'aitch in their 'eads."
"God be praised said Mr. Lavender. "I am, then, still an English
gentleman. Joe, I am very hungry; is there nothing left?"
"Nothin' whatever, sir," replied Joe.
"Then take me home," said Mr. Lavender; "I care not, for my spirit has
come back to me."
So saying, he rose, and supported by Joe, made his way towards the car,
praising God in his heart that he had not disgraced his country.
CONVERSES WITH A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
"Yes," said Mr. Lavender, when they had proceeded some twenty miles along
the road for home, "my hunger is excessive. If we come across an hotel,
Joe, pull up."
"Right-o, sir," returned Joe. "'Otels, ain't what they were, but we'll
find something. I've got your coupons."
Mr. Lavender, who was seated beside his chauffeur on the driving-seat,
while Blink occupied in solitude the body of the car, was silent for a
minute, revolving a philosophic thought.
"Do you find," he said suddenly, "that compulsory sacrifice is doing you
"It's good for my thirst, sir," replied Joe. "Never was so powerful
thirsty in me life as I've been since they watered beer. There's just
'enough in it to tickle you. That bottle o' Bass you would 'ave 'ad at
lunch is the last of the old stock at 'ome, sir; an' the sight of it fair
gave me the wind up. To think those blighters 'ad it! Wish I'd known
they was Germans--I wouldn't 'ave weakened on it."
"Do not, I beg," said Mr. Lavender, "remind me of that episode. I
sometimes think," he went on as dreamily as his hunger would permit,
"that being forced to deprive oneself awakens one's worst passions; that
is, of course, speaking rather as a man than a public man. What do you
think will happen, Joe, when we are no longer obliged to sacrifice
"Do wot we've been doin all along--sacrifice someone else," said Joe
"Be serious, Joe," said Mr. Lavender.
"Well," returned Joe, "I don't know what'll 'appen to you, sir, but I
shall go on the bust permanent."
Mr. Lavender sighed. "I do so wonder whether I shall, too," he said.
Joe looked round at him, and a gleam of compassion twinkled in his
greenish eyes. "Don't you worry, sir," he said; "it's a question of
constitootion. A week'd sew you up."
"A week!" said Mr. Lavender with watering lips, "I trust I may not forget
myself so long as that. Public men do not go 'on the bust,' Joe, as you
"Be careful, sir! I can't drive with one eye."
"How can they, indeed?" went on Mr. Lavender; "they are like athletes,
ever in training for their unending conflict with the national life."
"Well," answered Joe indulgently, "they 'as their own kind of
intoxication, too--that's true; and the fumes is permanent; they're
gassed all the time, and chloroformed the rest.
"I don't know to what you allude, Joe," said Mr. Lavender severely.
"'Aven't you never noticed, sir, that there's two worlds--the world as it
is, and the world as it seems to the public man?"
"That may be," said Mr. Lavender with some excitement. "But which is the
greater, which is the nobler, Joe? And what does the other matter?
Surely that which flourishes in great minds, and by their utterances is
made plain. Is it not better to live in a world where nobody shrinks
from being starved or killed so long as they can die for their kings and
countries, rather than in a world where people merely wish to live?"
"Ah!" said Joe, "we're all ready to die for our countries if we've got
to. But we don't look on it, like the public speakers, as a picnic.
They're a bit too light-'earted."
"Joe," said Mr. Lavender, covering his ears, and instantly uncovering
them again, "this is the most horrible blasphemy I have ever listened
"I can do better than that, sir," answered Joe. "Shall I get on with
"Yes," said Mr. Lavender, clenching his hands, "a public man shrinks from
nothing--not even from the gibes of his enemies."
"Well, wot abaht it, sir? Look at the things they say, and at what
really is. Mind you, I'm not speakin' particular of the public men in
this country--or any other country; I'm speakin' of the lot of 'em in
every country. They're a sort of secret society, brought up on gas. And
every now and then someone sets a match to it, and we get it in the neck.
Look 'ere, sir. Dahn squats one on his backside an' writes something in
'igh words. Up pops another and says something in 'igher; an' so they go
on poppin' up an' squattin' dahn till you get an atmosphere where you
can't breathe; and all the time all we want is to be let alone, and 'uman
kindness do the rest. All these fellers 'ave got two weaknesses--one's
ideas, and the other's their own importance. They've got to be
conspicuous, and without ideas they can't, so it's a vicious circle.
When I see a man bein' conspicuous, I says to meself: 'Gawd 'elp us, we
shall want it!' And sooner or later we always do. I'll tell you what's
the curse of the world, sir; it's the gift of expressin' what ain't your
real feeling. And--Lord! what a lot of us 'ave got it!"
"Joe," said Mr. Lavender, whose eyes were almost starting from his head,
"your words are the knell of poetry, philosophy, and prose--especially of
prose. They are the grave of history, which, as you know, is made up of
the wars and intrigues which have originated in the brains of public men.
If your sordid views were true, how do you suppose for one minute that in
this great epic struggle we could be consoled by the thought that we are
'making history'? Has there been a single utterance of any note which
has not poured the balm of those words into our ears? Think how they
have sustained the widow and the orphan, and the wounded lying out in
agony under the stars. 'To make history,' 'to act out the great drama'--
that thought, ever kept before us, has been our comfort and their stay.
And you would take it from us? Shame--shame!" repeated Mr. Lavender.
You would destroy all glamour, and be the death of every principle."
"Give me facts," said Joe stubbornly, "an' you may 'ave my principles.
As to the other thing, I don't know what it is, but you may 'ave it, too.
And 'ere's another thing, sir: haven't you never noticed that when a
public man blows off and says something, it does 'im in? No matter what
'appens afterwards, he's got to stick to it or look a fool."
"I certainly have not," said Mr. Lavender. I have never, or very seldom,
noticed that narrowness in public men, nor have I ever seen them 'looking
fools' as you rudely put it."
"Where are your eyes, sir?" answered Joe; "where are your eyes? I give
you my word it's one or the other, though I admit they've brought
camouflage to an 'igh art. But, speaking soberly, sir, if that's
possible, public men are a good thing' and you can 'ave too much of it.
But you began it, sir," he added soothingly, "and 'ere's your hotel.
You'll feel better with something inside you."
So saying, he brought the car to a standstill before a sign which bore
the words, "Royal Goat."
Mr. Lavender, deep sunk in the whirlpool of feeling which had been
stirred in him by his chauffeur's cynicism, gazed at the square redbrick
building with bewildered eyes.
"It's quite O. K.," said Joe; "I used to call here regular when I was
travellin' in breeches. Where the commercials are gathered together the
tap is good," he added, laying a finger against the side of his nose.
"And they've a fine brand of pickles. Here's your coupon."
Thus encouraged, Mr. Lavender descended from the car, and, accompanied by
Blink, entered the hotel and sought the coffee-room.
A maid of robust and comely appearance, with a fine free eye, divested
him of his overcoat and the coupon, and pointed to a table and a pale and
intellectual-looking young man in spectacles who was eating.
"Have you any more beef?" said the latter without looking up.
"No, sir," replied the maid.
"Then bring me the ham and eggs," he added.
"Here's another coupon--and anything else you've got."
Mr. Lavender, whose pangs had leaped in him at the word "beef," gazed at
the bare bone of the beef-joint, and sighed.
"I, too, will have some ham and a couple of poached eggs," he said.
"You can have ham, sir," replied the maid, "but there are only eggs
enough for one."
"And I am the one," said the young man, looking up for the first time.
Mr. Lavender at once conceived an aversion from him; his appearance was
unhealthy, and his eyes ravened from behind the spectacles beneath his
"I have no wish to deprive you of your eggs, sir," he said, "though I
have had nothing to eat all day."
"I have had nothing to eat to speak of for six months," replied the young
man and in a fortnight's time I shall have nothing to eat again for two
Mr. Lavender, who habitually spoke, the truth, looked at him with a sort
of horror. But the young man had again concentrated his attention on his
plate. "How deceptive are appearances," thought Mr. Lavender; "one would
say an intellectual, not to say a spiritual type, and yet he eats like a
savage, and lies like a trooper!" And the pinchings of his hunger again
attacking him, he said rather acidly:
May I ask you, sir, whether you consider it amusing to tell such untruths
to a stranger?
The young man, who had finished what was on his plate, paused, and with a
faint smile said:
"I spoke figuratively. You, sir, I expect, have never been in prison."
At the word 'prison' Mr. Lavender's natural kindliness reasserted itself
at once. "Forgive me," he said gently; "please eat all the ham. I can
easily do with bread and cheese. I am extremely sorry you have had that
misfortune, and would on no account do anything which might encourage you
to incur it again. If it is a question of money or anything of that
sort," he went on timidly, "please command me. I abhor prisons; I
consider them inhuman; people should only be confined upon their honours."
The young man's eyes kindled behind his spectacles.
"I have been confined," he said, "not upon my honour, but because of my
honour; to break it in."
"How is that?" cried Mr. Lavender, aghast, "to break it in?"
"Yes," said the young man, cutting a large slice of bread, "there's no
other way of putting it with truth. They want me to go back on my word
to go back on my faith, and I won't. In a fortnight's time they'll gaol
me again, so I MUST eat--excuse me. I shall want all my strength." And
he filled his mouth too full to go on speaking.
Mr. Lavender stared at him, greatly perturbed.
How unjustly I judged him," he thought; and seeing that the maid had
placed the end of a ham before him he began carving off what little there
was left on it, and, filling a plate, placed it before the young man.
The latter thanked him, and without looking up ate rapidly on. Mr.
Lavender watched him with beaming eyes. "It's lovely to see him!" he
thought; "poor fellow!"
"Where are the eggs?" said the young man suddenly.
Mr. Lavender got up and rang the bell.
"Please bring those eggs for him," he said.
"Yes, sir," said the maid. "And what are you going to have? There's
nothing in the house now."
"Oh!" said Mr. Lavender, startled. "A cup of coffee and a slice of bread,
thank you. I can always eat at any time."
The maid went away muttering to herself, and bringing the eggs, plumped
them down before the young man, who ate them more hastily than words
"I mean," he said, "to do all I can in this fort-night to build up my
strength. I shall eat almost continuously. They shall never break me."
And, reaching out, he took the remainder of the loaf.
Mr. Lavender watched it disappear with a certain irritation which he
subdued at once. "How selfish of me," he thought, "even to think of
eating while this young hero is still hungry."
"Are you, then," he said, "the victim of some religious or political
"Both," replied the young man, leaning back with a sigh of repletion, and
wiping his mouth. "I was released to-day, and, as I said, I shall be
court-martialled again to-day fortnight. It'll be two years this time.
But they can't break me."
Mr. Lavender gasped, for at the word "courtmartialled" a dreadful doubt
had assailed him.
"Are you," he stammered--"you are not--you cannot be a Conscientious
"I can," said the young man.
Mr. Lavender half rose in horror.
"I don't approve," he ejaculated; "I do not approve of you."
"Of course not," said the young man with a little smile at once proud and
sad, "who does? If you did I shouldn't have to eat like this, nor should I
have the consciousness of spiritual loneliness to sustain me. You look
on me as a moral outcast, as a leper. That is my comfort and my
strength. For though I have a genuine abhorrence of war, I know full
well that I could not stick this if it were not for the feeling that I
must not and will not lower myself to the level of mere opportunists like
you, and sink myself in the herd of men in the street."
At hearing himself thus described Mr. Lavender flushed.
"I yield to no one, he said, "in my admiration of principle. It is
because of my principles that I regard you as a----"
"Shirker," put in the young man calmly. "Go on; don't mince words; we're
used to them."
"Yes," said Mr. Lavender, kindling, "a shirker. Excuse me! A renegade
from the camp of Liberty, a deserter from the ranks of Humanity, if you
will pardon me."
"Say a Christian, and have done with it," said the young man.
"No," said Mr. Lavender, who had risen to his feet, "I will not go so far
as that. You are not a Christian, you are a Pharisee. I abhor you."
"And I abhor you," said the young man suddenly. "I am a Christian
Socialist, but I refuse to consider you my brother. And I can tell you
this: Some day when through our struggle the triumph of Christian
Socialism and of Peace is assured, we shall see that you firebrands and
jingoes get no chance to put up your noxious heads and disturb the
brotherhood of the world. We shall stamp you out. We shall do you in.
We who believe in love will take jolly good care that you apostles of
hate get all we've had and more--if you provoke us enough that is."
He stopped, for Mr. Lavender's figure had rigidified on the other side of
the table into the semblance of one who is about to address the House of
"I can find here," he cried, "no analogy with religious persecution.
This is a simple matter. The burden of defending his country falls
equally on every citizen. I know not, and I care not, what promises were
made to you, or in what spirit the laws of compulsory service were
passed. You will either serve or go to prison till you do. I am a plain
Englishman, expressing the view of my plain countrymen."
The young man, tilting back in his chair, rapped on the table with the
handle of his dinner-knife.
"Hear, hear!" he murmured.
"And let me tell you this," continued Mr. Lavender, "you have no right to
put a mouthful of food between your lips so long as you are not prepared
to die for it. And if the Huns came here tomorrow I would not lift a
finger to save you from the fate you would undoubtedly receive."
During this colloquy their voices had grown so loud that the maid,
entering in dismay, had gone into the bar and informed the company that a
Conscientious Objector had eaten all the food and was "carrying on
outrageous" in the coffee-room. On hearing this report those who were
assembled--being four commercial travellers far gone in liquor--taking up
the weapons which came nearest to hand--to wit, four syphons--formed
themselves two deep and marched into the coffee-room. Aware at once from
Mr. Lavender's white hair and words that he was not the Objector in
question, they advanced upon the young man, who was still seated, and
taking up the four points of the compass, began squirting him
unmercifully with soda-water. Blinded and dripping, the unfortunate
young fellow tried desperately to elude the cordon of his persecutors,
only to receive a fresh stream in his face at each attempt. Seeing him
thus tormented, amid the coarse laughter of these half-drunken
"travellers," Mr. Lavender suffered a moment of the most poignant
struggle between his principles and his chivalry. Then, almost
unconsciously grasping the ham-bone, he advanced and called out loudly:
"Stop! Do not persecute that young man. You are four and he is one.
Drop it, I tell you--Huns that you are!"
The commercial fellows, however, laughed; and this infuriating Mr.
Lavender, he dealt one of them a blow with the ham-bone, which, lighting
on the funny point of his elbow, caused him to howl and spin round the
room. One of the others promptly avenged him with a squirt of syphon in
Mr. Lavender's left eye; whereon he incontinently attacked them all,
whirling the ham-bone round his head like a shillelagh. And had it not
been that Blink and the maid seized his coat-tails he would have done
them severe injury. It was at this moment that Joe Petty, attracted by
the hullabaloo, arrived in the doorway, and running up to his master,
lifted him from behind and carried him from the room, still brandishing
the ham-bone and kicking out with his legs. Dumping him into the car,
Joe mounted hastily and drove off. Mr. Lavender sat for two or three
minutes coming to his senses before full realization of what he had done
dawned on him. Then, flinging the ham-bone from him, he sank back among
the cushions, with his chin buried on his chest. "What have I done?" he
thought over and over again. "What have I done? Taken up the bone for a
Conscientious Objector--defended a renegade against great odds! My God!
I am indeed less than a public man!"
And in this state of utter dejection, inanition, and collapse, with Blink
asleep on his feet, he was driven back to Hampstead.
DREAMS A DREAM AND SEES A VISION
Though habitually abstemious, Mr. Lavender was so very hungry that
evening when he sat down to supper that he was unable to leave the
lobster which Mrs. Petty had provided until it was reduced to mere
integument. Since his principles prevented his lightening it with
anything but ginger-beer he went to bed in some discomfort, and, tired
out with the emotions of the day, soon fell into a heavy slumber, which
at dawn became troubled by a dream of an extremely vivid character. He
fancied himself, indeed, dressed in khaki, with a breastplate composed of
newspapers containing reports of speeches which he had been charged to
deliver to soldiers at the front. He was passing in a winged tank along
those scenes of desolation of which he had so often read in his daily
papers, and which his swollen fancy now coloured even more vividly than
had those striking phrases of the past, when presently the tank turned a
somersault, and shot him out into a morass lighted up by countless star-
shells whizzing round and above. In this morass were hundreds and
thousands of figures sunk like himself up to the waist, and waving their
arms above their heads. "These," thought Mr. Lavender, "must be the
soldiers I have come to speak to," and he tore a sheet off his
breastplate; but before he could speak from its columns it became thin
air in his hand; and he went on tearing off sheet after sheet, hoping to
find a speech which would stay solid long enough for him to deliver it.
At last a little corner stayed substantial in his hand, and he called out
in a loud voice: "Heroes!"
But at the word the figures vanished with a wail, sinking into the mud,
which was left covered with bubbles iridescent in the light of the star-
shells. At this moment one of these, bursting over his head, turned into
a large bright moon; and Mr. Lavender saw to his amazement that the
bubbles were really butterflies, perched on the liquid moonlit mud,
fluttering their crimson wings, and peering up at him with tiny human
faces. "Who are you?" he cried; "oh! who are you?" The butterflies
closed their wings; and on each of their little faces came a look so sad
and questioning that Mr. Lavender's tears rolled down into his
breastplate of speeches. A whisper rose from them. "We are the dead."
And they flew up suddenly in swarms, and beat his face with their wings.
Mr. Lavender woke up sitting in the middle of the floor, with light
shining in on him through a hole in the curtain, and Blink licking off
the tears which were streaming down his face.
"Blink," he said, "I have had a horrible dream." And still conscious of
that weight on his chest, as of many undelivered speeches, he was afraid
to go back to bed; so, putting on some clothes, he went carefully
downstairs and out of doors into the morning. He walked with his dog
towards the risen sun, alone in the silvery light of Hampstead,
meditating deeply on his dream. "I have evidently," he thought, "not yet
acquired that felicitous insensibility which is needful for successful
public speaking. This is undoubtedly the secret of my dream. For the
sub-conscious knowledge of my deficiency explains the weight on my chest
and the futile tearing of sheet after sheet, which vanished as I tore
them away. I lack the self-complacency necessary to the orator in any
surroundings, and that golden certainty which has enchanted me in the
outpourings of great men, whether in ink or speech. This is, however, a
matter which I can rectify with practice." And coming to a little may-
tree in full blossom, he thus addressed it:
"Little tree, be my audience, for I see in you, tipped with the sunlight,
a vision of the tranquil and beautiful world, which, according to every
authority, will emerge out of this carnival of blood and iron."
And the little tree lifted up its voice and answered him with the song of
Mr. Lavender's heart, deeply responsive to the voice of Nature, melted
"What are the realms of this earth, the dreams of statesmen, and all
plots and policies," he said, "compared with the beauty of this little
tree? She--or is it a he?--breathes, in her wild and simple dress, just
to be lovely and loved. He harbours the blackbird, and shakes fragrance
into the morning; and with her blossom catches the rain and the sun drops
of heaven. I see in him the witchery of God; and of her prettiness would
I make a song of redemption."
So saying he knelt down before the little tree, while Blink on her
haunches, very quiet beside him, looked wiser than many dogs.
A familiar gurgling sound roused him from his devotions, and turning his
head he saw his young neighbour in the garb of a nurse, standing on the
path behind him. "She has dropped from heaven," he thought for all
nurses are angels.
And, taking off his hat, he said:
"You surprised me at a moment of which I am not ashamed; I was communing
with Beauty. And behold! Aurora is with me."
"Say, rather, Borealis," said the young lady. "I was so fed-up with
hospital that I had to have a scamper before turning in. If you're going
home we might go together?"
"It would, indeed, be a joy," said Mr. Lavender. "The garb of mercy
"Do you think so?" replied the young lady, in whose cheeks a lovely flush
had not deepened. "I call it hideous. Do you always come out and pray
to that tree?"
"I am ashamed to say," returned Mr. Lavender, "that I do not. But I
intend to do so in future, since it has brought me such a vision."
And he looked with such deferential and shining eyes at his companion
that she placed the back of her hand before her mouth, and her breast
"I'm most fearfully sleepy," she said. "Have you had any adventures
lately--you and Samjoe?
"Samjoe?" repeated Mr. Lavender.
"Your chauffeur--I call him that. He's very like Sam Weller and Sancho
Panza, don't you think, Don Pickwixote?
"Ah!" said Mr. Lavender, bewildered; "Joe, you mean. A good fellow. He
has in him the sort of heroism which I admire more than any other."
"Which is that?" asked the young lady.
"That imperturbable humour in the face of adverse circumstances for which
our soldiers are renowned."
"You are a great believer in heroics, Don Pickwixote," said the young
"What would life be without them?" returned Mr. Lavender. "The war could
not go on for a minute."
"You're right there," said the young lady bitterly.
"You surely," said Mr. Lavender, aghast, cannot wish it to stop until we
have destroyed our common enemies?"
"Well," said the young lady," I'm not a Pacifist; but when you see as
many people without arms and legs as I do, heroics get a bit off, don't
you know." And she increased her pace until Mr. Lavender, who was not
within four inches of her stature, was almost compelled to trot. "If I
were a Tommy," she added, "I should want to shoot every man who uttered a
phrase. Really, at this time of day, they are the limit."
"Aurora," said Mr. Lavender, "if you will permit me, who am old enough--
alas!--to be your father, to call you that, you must surely be aware that
phrases are the very munitions of war, and certainly not less important
than mere material explosives. Take the word 'Liberty,' for instance;
would you deprive us of it?"
The young lady fixed on him those large grey eyes which had in them the
roll of genius. "Dear Don Pickwixote," she said, "I would merely take it
from the mouths of those who don't know what it means; and how much do
you think would be left? Not enough to butter the parsnips of a Borough
Council, or fill one leader in a month of Sundays. Have you not
discovered, Don Pickwixote, that Liberty means the special form of
tyranny which one happens to serve under; and that our form of tyranny is
"High heaven!" cried Mr. Lavender, "that I should hear such words from so
"I've not been a Pacifist, so far," continued the young lady, stifling a
yawn, "because I hate cruelty, I hate it enough to want to be cruel to
it. I want the Huns to lap their own sauce. I don't want to be
revengeful, but I just can't help it."
"My dear young lady," said Mr. Lavender soothingly, "you are not--you
cannot be revengeful; for every great writer and speaker tells us that
revengefulness is an emotion alien to the Allies, who are merely just.
At this familiar word, Blink who had been following their conversation
quietly, threw up her nose and licked the young lady's hand so
unexpectedly that she started and added:
Mr. Lavender, who took the expression as meant for himself, coloured
"Aurora," he said in a faint voice, "the rapture in my heart prevents my
taking advantage of your sweet words. Forgive me, and let us go quietly
in, with the vision I have seen, for I know my place."
The young lady's composure seemed to tremble in the balance, and her lips
twitched; then holding out her hand she took Mr. Lavender's and gave it a
"You really are a dear," she said. "I think you ought to be in bed. My
name's Isabel, you know."
"Not to me," said Mr. Lavender. You are the Dawn; nothing shall persuade
me to the contrary. And from henceforth I swear to rise with you every
"Oh, no!" cried the young lady please don't imagine that I sniff the
matutinal as a rule. I just happened to be in a night shift."
"No matter," said Mr. Lavender; "I shall see you with the eye of faith,
in your night shifts, and draw from the vision strength to continue my
public work beckoned by the fingers of the roseate future."
"Well," murmured the young lady, "so long for now; and do go back to bed.
It's only about five." And waving the tips of those fingers, she ran
lightly up the garden-path and disappeared into her house.
Mr. Lavender remained for a moment as if transfigured; then entering his
garden, he stood gazing up at her window, until the thought that she
might appear there was too much for him, and he went in.
BREAKS UP A PEACE MEETING
While seated at breakfast on the morning after he had seen this vision,
Mr. Lavender, who read his papers as though they had been Holy Writ, came
on an announcement that a meeting would be held that evening at a chapel
in Holloway under the auspices of the "Free Speakers' League," an
association which his journals had often branded with a reputation, for
desiring Peace. On reading the names of the speakers Mr. Lavender felt
at once that it would be his duty to attend. "There will," he thought,
"very likely be no one there to register a protest. For in this country
we have pushed the doctrine of free speech to a limit which threatens the
noble virtue of patriotism. This is no doubt a recrudescence of that
terrible horse-sense in the British people which used to permit everybody
to have his say, no matter what he said. Yet I would rather stay at
home," he mused "for they will do me violence, I expect; cowardice,
however, would not become me, and I must go."
He was in a state of flurry all day, thinking of his unpleasant duty
towards those violent persons, and garbishing up his memory by reading
such past leaders in his five journals as bore on the subject. He spoke
no word of his intentions, convinced that he ran a considerable risk at
the hands of the Pacifists, but too sensible of his honour to assist
anyone to put that spoke in his wheel which he could not help longing
At six o'clock he locked Blink into his study, and arming himself with
three leaders, set forth on his perilous adventure. Seven o'clock saw
him hurrying along the dismal road to the chapel, at whose door he met
with an unexpected check.
"Where is your ticket?" said a large man.
"I have none," replied Mr. Lavender, disconcerted; "for this is a meeting
of the Free Speakers' League, and it is for that reason that I
The large man looked at him attentively. "No admittance without ticket,"
"I protest," said Mr. Lavender. "How can you call yourselves by that
name and not let me in?"
The large man smiled.
"Well, he said, you haven't the strength of--of a rabbit--in you go!"
Mr. Lavender found himself inside and some indignation.
The meeting had begun, and a tall man at the pulpit end, with the face of
a sorrowful bull, was addressing an audience composed almost entirely of
women and old men, while his confederates sat behind him trying to look
as if they were not present. At the end of a row, about half-way up the
chapel, Mr. Lavender composed himself to listen, thinking, "However eager
I may be to fulfil my duty and break up this meeting, it behoves me as a
fair-minded man to ascertain first what manner of meeting it is that I am
breaking up." But as the speaker progressed, in periods punctuated by
applause from what, by his experience at the door, Mr. Lavender knew to
be a packed audience, he grew more and more uneasy. It cannot be said
that he took in what the speaker was saying, obsessed as he was by the
necessity of formulating a reply, and of revolving, to the exclusion of
all else, the flowers and phrases of the leaders which during the day he
had almost learned by heart. But by nature polite he waited till the
orator was sitting down before he rose, and, with the three leaders
firmly grasped in his hand, walked deliberately up to the seated
speakers. Turning his back on them, he said, in a voice to which
nervousness and emotion lent shrillness:
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is now your turn, in accordance with the
tradition of your society, to listen to me. Let us not mince matters
with mealy mouths. There are in our midst certain viperous persons, like
that notorious gentleman who had the sulphurous impudence to have a
French father--French! gentlemen; not German, ladies-mark the cunning and
audacity of the fellow; like that renegade Labour leader, who has never
led anything, yet, if he had his will, would lead us all into the pit of
destruction; like those other high-brow emasculates who mistake their
pettifogging pedantry for pearls of price, and plaster the plain issue
before us with perfidious and Pacifistic platitudes. We say at once, and
let them note it, we will have none of them; we will have----" Here his
words were drowned by an interruption greater even than that; which was
fast gathering among the row of speakers behind him, and the surprised
audience in front; and he could see the large man being forced from the
door and up the aisle by a posse of noisy youths, till he stood with arms
pinioned, struggling to turn round, just in front of Mr. Lavender.
Seeing his speech thus endangered, the latter cried out at the top of his
voice: "Free speech, gentlemen, free speech; I have come here expressly
to see that we have nothing of the sort." At this the young men, who now
filled the aisle, raised a mighty booing.
"Gentlemen," shouted Mr. Lavender, waving his leaders, "gentlemen---" But
at this moment the large man was hurled into contact with what served Mr.
Lavender for stomach, and the two fell in confusion. An uproar ensued of
which Mr. Lavender was more than vaguely conscious, for many feet went
over him. He managed, however, to creep into a corner, and, getting up,
surveyed the scene. The young men who had invaded the meeting, much
superior in numbers and strength to the speakers, to the large man, and
the three or four other able-bodied persons who had rallied to them from
among the audience, were taking every advantage of their superiority;
and it went to Mr. Lavender's heart to see how they thumped and
maltreated their opponents. The sight of their brutality, indeed,
rendered him so furious that, forgetting all his principles and his
purpose in coming to the meeting, he climbed on to a form, and folding
his arms tightly on his breast, called out at the top of his voice:
"Cads! Do not thus take advantage of your numbers. Cads!" Having thus
defended what in his calmer moments he would have known to be the wrong,
he awaited his own fate calmly. But in the hubbub his words had passed
unnoticed. "It is in moments like these," he thought, "that the great
speaker asserts his supremacy, quells the storm, and secures himself a
hearing." And he began to rack his brains to remember how they did it.
"It must require the voice of an ox," he thought, "and the skin of an
alligator. Alas! How deficient I am in public qualities!" But his
self-depreciation was here cut off with the electric light. At this
sheer intervention of Providence Mr. Lavender, listening to the
disentangling sounds which rose in the black room, became aware that he
had a chance such as he had not yet had of being heard.
"Stay, my friends!" he said; "here in darkness we can see better the true
proportions of this great question of free speech. There are some who
contend that in a democracy every opinion should be heard; that, just
because the good sense of the majority will ever lead the country into
the right paths, the minority should be accorded full and fair
expression, for they cannot deflect the country's course, and because
such expression acts as a healthful safety-valve. Moreover, they say
there is no way of preventing the minority from speaking save that of
force, which is unworthy of a majority, and the negation of what we are
fighting for in this war. But I say, following the great leader-writers,
that in a time of national danger nobody ought to say anything except
what is in accord with the opinions of the majority; for only in this way
can we present a front which will seem to be united to our common
enemies. I say, and since I am the majority I must be in the right, that
no one who disagrees with me must say anything if we are to save the
cause of freedom and humanity. I deprecate violence, but I am thoroughly
determined to stand no nonsense, and shall not hesitate to suppress by
every means in the power of the majority--including, if need be, Prussian
measures--any whisper from those misguided and unpatriotic persons whose
so-called principles induce them to assert their right to have opinions
of their own. This has ever been a free country, and they shall not
imperil its freedom by their volubility and self-conceit." Here Mr.
Lavender paused for breath, and in the darkness a faint noise, as of a
mouse scrattling at a wainscot, attracted his attention. "Wonderful," he
thought, elated by the silence, "that I should so have succeeded in
riveting their attention as to be able to hear a mouse gnawing. I must
have made a considerable impression." And, fearing to spoil it by further
speech, he set to work to grope his way round the chapel wall in the hope
of coming to the door. He had gone but a little way when his
outstretched hand came into contact with something warm, which shrank
away with a squeal.
"Oh!" cried Mr. Lavender, while a shiver went down his spine, "what is
"Me," said a stifled voice. "Who are you?"
"A public speaker, madam," answered Mr. Lavender, unutterably relieved.
Don't be alarmed.
"Ouch!" whispered the voice. That madman!
"I assure you, madam," replied Mr. Lavender, striving to regain contact,
"I wouldn't harm you for the world. Can you tell me in what portion of
the hall we are?" And crouching down he stretched out his arms and felt
about him. No answer came; but he could tell that he was between two
rows of chairs, and, holding to the top of one, he began to sidle along,
crouching, so as not to lose touch with the chairs behind him. He had
not proceeded the length of six chairs in the pitchy darkness when the
light was suddenly turned up, and he found himself glaring over the backs
of the chairs in front into the eyes of a young woman, who was crouching
and glaring back over the same chairs.
"Dear me," said Mr. Lavender, as with a certain dignity they both rose to
their full height, "I had no conception----"
Without a word, the young woman put her hand up to her back hair, sidled
swiftly down the row of chairs, ran down the aisle, and vanished. There
was no one else in the chapel. Mr. Lavender, after surveying the
considerable wreckage, made his way to the door and passed out into the
night. "Like a dream," he thought; "but I have done my duty, for no
meeting was ever more completely broken up. With a clear conscience and
a good appetite I can how go home."
SPEEDS UP TRANSPORT, AND SEES A DOCTOR
Greatly cheered by his success at the Peace meeting, Mr. Lavender
searched his papers next morning to find a new field for his activities;
nor had he to read far before he came on this paragraph:
"Everything is dependent on transport, and we cannot sufficiently
urge that this should be speeded up by
every means in our power."
"How true!" he thought. And, finishing his breakfast hastily, he went
out with Blink to think over what he could do to help. "I can exhort,"
he mused, "anyone engaged in transport who is not exerting himself to the
utmost. It will not be pleasant to do so, for it will certainly provoke
much ill-feeling. I must not, however, be deterred by that, for it is
the daily concomitant of public life, and hard words break no bones, as
they say, but rather serve to thicken the skins and sharpen the tongues
of us public men, so that, we are able to meet our opponents with their
own weapons. I perceive before me, indeed, a liberal education in just
those public qualities wherein I am conscious of being as yet deficient.
"And his heart sank within him, thinking of the carts on the hills of
Hampstead and the boys who drove them. "What is lacking to them," he
mused, "is the power of seeing this problem steadily and seeing it whole.
Let me endeavour to impart this habit to all who have any connection with
He had just completed this reflection when, turning a corner, he came on
a large van standing stockstill at the top of an incline. The driver was
leaning idly against the hind wheel filling a pipe. Mr. Lavender glanced
at the near horse, and seeing that he was not distressed, he thus
addressed the man:
"Do you not know, my friend, that every minute is of importance in this
national crisis? If I could get you to see the question of transport
steadily, and to see it whole, I feel convinced that you would not be
standing there lighting your pipe when perhaps this half-hour's delay in
the delivery of your goods may mean the death of one of your comrades at
The man, who was wizened, weathered, and old, with but few teeth, looked
up at him from above the curved hands with which he was coaxing the flame
of a match into the bowl of his pipe. His brow was wrinkled, and
moisture stood at the comers of his eyes.
"I assure you," went on Mr. Lavender, "that we have none of us the right
in these days to delay for a single minute the delivery of anything--not
even of speeches. When I am tempted to do so, I think of our sons and
brothers in the trenches, and how every shell and every word saves their
lives, and I deliver----"
The old man, who had finished lighting his pipe, took a long pull at it,
and said hoarsely:
"I will," said Mr. Lavender, "for I perceive that I can effect a
revolution in your outlook, so that instead of wasting the country's time
by leaning against that wheel you will drive on zealously and help to win
The old man looked at him, and one side of his face became drawn up in a
smile, which seemed to Mr. Lavender so horrible that he said: "Why do you
look at me like that?"
"Cawn't 'elp it," said the man.
"What makes you," continued Mr. Lavender, "pause here with your job half
finished? It is not the hill which keeps you back, for you are at the
top, and your horses seem rested."
"Yes," said the old man, with another contortion of his face, "they're
rested--leastways, one of 'em."
"Then what delays you--if not that British sluggishness which we in
public life find such a terrible handicap to our efforts in conducting
"Ah!" said the old man. "But out of one you don't make two, guv'nor.
Git on the offside and you'll see it a bit steadier and a bit 'oler than
you 'ave 'itherto."
Struck by his words, which were accompanied by a painful puckering of the
checks, Mr. Lavender moved round the van looking for some defect in its
machinery, and suddenly became aware that the off horse was lying on the
ground, with the traces cut. It lay on its side, and did not move.
"Oh!" cried Mr. Lavender; "oh!" And going up to the horse's head he
knelt down. The animal's eye was glazing.
"Oh!" he cried again, "poor horse! Don't die!" And tears dropped out of
his eyes on to the horse's cheek. The eye seemed to give him a look, and
became quite glazed.
"Dead!" said Mr Lavender in an awed whisper. "This is horrible! What a
thin horse--nothing but bones!" And his gaze haunted the ridge and
furrow of the horse's carcase, while the living horse looked round and
down at its dead fellow, from whose hollow face a ragged forelock drooped
in the dust.
"I must go and apologize to that old man," said Mr. Lavender aloud, "for
no doubt he is even more distressed than I am."
"Not 'e, guv'nor," said a voice, and looking beside him he saw the aged
driver standing beside him; "not 'e; for of all the crool jobs I ever
'ad--drivin' that 'orse these last three months 'as been the croolest.
There 'e lies and 'es aht of it; and that's where they'd all like to be.
Speed, done 'im in, savin' 'is country's 'time an' 'is country's oats;
that done 'im in. A good old 'orse, a willin' old 'orse, 'as broke 'is
'eart tryin' to do 'is bit on 'alf rations. There 'e lies; and I'm glad
'e does." And with the back of his hand the old fellow removed some
brown moisture which was trembling on his jaw. Mr. Lavender rose from
"Dreadful!--monstrous!" he cried; "poor horse! Who is responsible for
"Why," said the old driver, "the gents as sees it steady and sees it 'ole
from one side o' the van, same as you."
So smitten to the heart was Mr. Lavender by those words that he covered
his ears with his hands and almost ran from the scene, nor did he stop
till he had reached the shelter of his study, and was sitting in his arm-
chair with Blink upon his feet. "I will buy a go-cart," he thought, "Blink
and I will pull our weight and save the poor horses. We can at least
deliver our own milk and vegetables."
He had not been sitting there for half-an-hour revolving the painful
complexities of national life before the voice of Mrs. Petty recalled him
from that sad reverie.
"Dr. Gobang to see you, sir."
At sight of the doctor who had attended him for alcoholic poisoning Mr.
Lavender experienced one or those vaguely disagreeable sensations which
follow on half-realized insults.
"Good-morning, sir," said the doctor; thought I'd just look in and make
my mind easy about you. That was a nasty attack. Do you still feel your
"No," said Mr. Lavender rather coldly, while Blink growled.
"Nor your head ?"
"I have never felt my head," replied Mr. Lavender, still more coldly.
"I seem to remember----" began the doctor.
"Doctor," said Mr. Lavender with dignity, surely you know that public
men--do not feel--their heads--it would not do. They sometimes suffer
from their throats, but otherwise they have perfect health, fortunately."
The doctor smiled.
"Well, what do you think of the war?" he asked chattily.
"Be quiet, Blink," said Mr. Lavender. Then, in a far-away voice, he
added: "Whatever the clouds which have gathered above our heads for the
moment, and whatever the blows which Fate may have in store for us, we
shall not relax our efforts till we have attained our aims and hurled our
enemies back. Nor shall we stop there," he went on, warming at his own
words. "It is but a weak-kneed patriotism which would be content with
securing the objects for which we began to fight. We shall not hesitate
to sacrifice the last of our men, the last of our money, in the sacred
task of achieving the complete ruin of the fiendish Power which has
brought this great calamity on the world. Even if our enemies surrender
we will fight on till we have dictated terms on the doorsteps of
The doctor, who, since Mr. Lavender began to speak, had been looking at
him with strange intensity, dropped his eyes.
"Quite so," he said heartily, "quite so. Well, good-morning. I only
just ran in!" And leaving Mr. Lavender to the exultation he was
evidently feeling, this singular visitor went out and closed the door.
Outside the garden-gate he rejoined the nephew Sinkin.
"Well?" asked the latter.
"Sane as you or me," said the doctor. "A little pedantic in his way of
expressing himself, but quite all there, really."
"Did his dog bite you?" muttered the nephew. "No," said the doctor
absently. "I wish to heaven everyone held his views. So long. I must
be getting on." And they parted.
But Mr. Lavender, after pacing the room six times, had sat down again in
his chair, with a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach, such as other
men feel on mornings after a debauch.
ADDRESSES SOME SOLDIERS ON THEIR FUTURE
On pleasant afternoons Mr. Lavender would often take his seat on one of
the benches which adorned the Spaniard's Road to enjoy the beams of the
sun and the towers of the City confused in smoky distance. And strolling
forth with Blink on the afternoon of the day on which the doctor had come
to see him he sat down to read a periodical, which enjoined on everyone
the necessity of taking the utmost interest in soldiers disabled by the
war. "Yes," he thought, "it is indeed our duty to force them, no matter
what their disablements, to continue and surpass the heroism they
displayed out there, and become superior to what they once were." And it
seemed to him a distinct dispensation of Providence when the rest of his
bench was suddenly occupied by three soldiers in the blue garments and
red ties of hospital life. They had been sitting there for some minutes,
divided by the iron bars necessary to the morals of the neighbourhood,
while Mr. Lavender cudgelled his brains for an easy and natural method of
approach, before Blink supplied the necessary avenue by taking her stand
before a soldier and looking up into his eye.
"Lord!" said the one thus accosted, "what a fyce! Look at her moustache!
Well, cocky, 'oo are you starin' at?"
"My dog," said Mr. Lavender, perceiving his chance, "has an eye for the
strange and beautiful.
"Wow said the soldier, whose face was bandaged, she'll get it 'ere, won't
Encouraged by the smiles of the soldier and his comrades, Mr. Lavender
went on in the most natural voice he could assume.
"I'm sure you appreciate, my friends, the enormous importance of your own
The three soldiers, whose faces were all bandaged, looked as surprised as
they could between them, and did not answer. Mr. Lavender went on,
dropping unconsciously into the diction of the article he had been
reading: "We are now at the turning-point of the ways, and not a moment
is to be lost in impressing on the disabled man the paramount necessity
of becoming again the captain of his soul. He who was a hero in the
field must again lead us in those qualities of enterprise and endurance
which have made him the admiration of the world."
The three soldiers had turned what was visible of their faces towards Mr.
Lavender, and, seeing that he had riveted their attention, he proceeded:
"The apathy which hospital produces, together with the present scarcity
of labour, is largely responsible for the dangerous position in which the
disabled man now finds himself. Only we who have not to face his future
can appreciate what that future is likely to be if he does not make the
most strenuous efforts to overcome it. Boys," he added earnestly,
remembering suddenly that this was the word which those who had the
personal touch ever employed, "are you making those efforts? Are you
equipping your minds? Are you taking advantage of your enforced leisure
to place yourselves upon some path of life in which you can largely hold
your own against all comers?"
He paused for a reply.
The soldiers, silent for a moment, in what seemed to Mr. Lavender to be
sheer astonishment, began to fidget; then the one next him turned to his
neighbour, and said:
"Are we, Alf? Are we doin' what the gentleman says?"
"I can answer that for you," returned Mr. Lavender brightly; "for I can
tell by your hospitalized faces that you are living in the present; a
habit which, according to our best writers, is peculiar to the British.
I assure you," he went on with a winning look, "there is no future in
that. If you do not at once begin to carve fresh niches for yourselves
in the temple of industrialism you will be engulfed by the returning
flood, and left high and dry upon the beach of fortune."
During these last few words the half of an irritated look on the faces of
the soldiers changed to fragments of an indulgent and protective
"Right you are, guv'nor," said the one in the middle. Don't you worry,
we'll see you home all right.
"It is you," said Mr. Lavender, "that I must see home. For that is
largely the duty of us who have not had the great privilege of fighting
for our country."
These words, which completed the soldiers' conviction that Mr. Lavender
was not quite all there, caused them to rise.
"Come on, then," said one; we'll see each other home. We've got to be in
by five. You don't have a string to your dog, I see."
"Oh no!" said Mr. Lavender puzzled "I am not blind."
"Balmy," said the soldier soothingly. "Come on, sir, an' we can talk
abaht it on the way."
Mr. Lavender, delighted at the impression he had made, rose and walked
beside them, taking insensibly the direction for home.
"What do you advise us to do, then, guv'nor?" said one of the soldiers.
"Throw away all thought of the present," returned Mr. Lavender, with
intense earnestness; "forget the past entirely, wrap yourselves wholly in
the future. Do nothing which will give you immediate satisfaction. Do
not consider your families, or any of those transient considerations such
as pleasure, your homes, your condition of health, or your economic
position; but place yourselves unreservedly in the hands of those who by
hard thinking on this subject are alone in the condition to appreciate
the individual circumstances of each of you. For only by becoming a
flock of sheep can you be conducted into those new pastures where the
grass of your future will be sweet and plentiful. Above all, continue to
be the heroes which you were under the spur of your country's call, for
you must remember that your country is still calling you."
"That's right," said the soldier on Mr. Lavender's left. "Puss, puss!
Does your dog swot cats?"
At so irrelevant a remark Mr. Lavender looked suspiciously from left to
right, but what there was of the soldiers' faces told him nothing.
"Which is your hospital?" he asked.
"Down the 'ill, on the right," returned the soldier. "Which is yours?"
"Alas! it is not in a hospital that I----"
"I know," said the soldier delicately, "don't give it a name; no need.
We're all friends 'ere. Do you get out much?"
"I always take an afternoon stroll," said Mr. Lavender, "when my public
life permits. If you think your comrades would like me to come and
lecture to them on their future I should be only too happy."
"D'you 'ear, Alf?" said the soldier. "D'you think they would?"
The soldier, addressed put a finger to the sound side of his mouth and
uttered a catcall.
"I might effect a radical change in their views, continued Mr. Lavender,
a little puzzled. "Let me leave you this periodical. Read it, and you
will see how extremely vital all that I have been saying is. And then,
perhaps, if you would send me a round robin, such as is usual in a
democratic country, I could pop over almost any day after five. I
sometimes feel"--and here Mr. Lavender stopped in the middle of the road,
overcome by sudden emotion----" that I have really no right to be alive
when I see what you have suffered for me."
"That's all right, old bean,", said the soldier on his left; "you'd 'a
done the same for us but for your disabilities. We don't grudge it
"Boys," said Mr. Lavender, "you are men. I cannot tell you how much I
admire and love you."
"Well, give it a rest, then; t'ain't good for yer. And, look 'ere! Any
time they don't treat you fair in there, tip us the wink, and we'll come
over and do in your 'ousekeeper."
Mr. Lavender smiled.
"My poor housekeeper!" he said. "I thank you all the same for your
charming goodwill. This is where I live," he added, stopping at the gate
of the little house smothered in lilac and laburnum. "Can I offer you
The three soldiers looked at each other, and Mr. Lavender, noticing their
surprise, attributed it to the word tea.
"I regret exceedingly that I am a total abstainer," he said.
The remark, completing the soldiers' judgment of his case, increased
their surprise at the nature of his residence; it remained unanswered,
save by a shuffling of the feet.
Mr. Lavender took off his hat.
"I consider it a great privilege," he said, "to have been allowed to
converse with you. Goodbye, and God bless you!"
So saying, he opened the gate and entered his little garden carrying his
hat in his hand, and followed by Blink.
The soldiers watched him disappear within, then continued on their way
down the hill in silence.
"Blimy," said one suddenly, "some of these old civilians 'ave come it
balmy on the crumpet since the war began. Give me the trenches!"
ENDEAVOURS TO INTERN A GERMAN
Aglow with satisfaction at what he had been able to do for the wounded
soldiers, Mr. Lavender sat down in his study to drink the tea which he
found there. "There is nothing in life," he thought, "which gives one
such satisfaction as friendliness and being able to do something for
The moon-cat, who, since Mr. Lavender had given her milk, abode in his
castle, awaiting her confinement, purred loudly, regarding him with
burning eyes, as was her fashion when she wanted milk, Mr. Lavender put
down the saucer and continued his meditations. "Everything is vain; the
world is full of ghosts and shadows; but in friendliness and the purring
of a little cat there is solidity."
"A lady has called, sir."
Looking up, Mr. Lavender became aware of Mrs. Petty.
"How very agreeable!
"I don't know, sir," returned his housekeeper in her decisive voice; "but
she wants to see you. Name of Pullbody."
"Pullbody," repeated Mr. Lavender dreamily; "I don't seem----Ask her in,
Mrs. Petty, ask her in."
"It's on your head, sir," said Mrs. Petty, and went out.
Mr. Lavender was immediately conscious of a presence in dark green silk,
with a long upper lip, a loose lower lip, and a fixed and faintly raddled
air, moving stealthily towards him.
"Sit down, madam, I beg. Will you have some tea?"
The lady sat down. "Thank you, I have had tea. It was on the
recommendation of your next-door neighbour, Miss Isabel Scarlet----"
"Indeed," replied Mr. Lavender, whose heart began to beat; "command me,
for I am entirely at her service."
"I have come to see you," began the lady with a peculiar sinuous smile,
"as a public man and a patriot."
Mr. Lavender bowed, and the lady went on: I am in very great trouble.
The fact is, my sister's husband's sister is married to a German."
"Is it possible, madam?" murmured Mr. Lavender, crossing his knees, and
joining the tips of his fingers.
"Yes," resumed the lady, "and what's more, he is still at large."
Mr. Lavender, into whose mind there had instantly rushed a flood of
public utterances, stood gazing at her haggard face in silent sympathy.
"You may imagine my distress, sir, and the condition of my conscience,"
pursued the lady, "when I tell you that my sister's husband's sister is a
very old friend of mine--and, indeed, so was this German. The two are a
very attached young couple, and, being childless, are quite wrapped up in
each other. I have come to you, feeling it my duty to secure his
Mr. Lavender, moved by the human element in her words, was about to say,
"But why, madam?" when the lady continued:
"I have not myself precisely heard him speak well of his country. But
the sister of a friend of mine who was having tea in their house
distinctly heard him say that there were two sides to every question, and
that he could not believe all that was said in the English papers.
"Dear me!" said Mr. Lavender, troubled; "that is serious."
"Yes," went on the lady; "and on another occasion my sister's husband
himself heard him remark that a man could not help loving his country and
hoping that it would win."
"But that is natural," began Mr. Lavender.
"What!" said the lady, nearly rising, "when that country is Germany?"
The word revived Mr. Lavender's sense of proportion.
"True," he said, "true. I was forgetting for the moment. It is
extraordinary how irresponsible one's thoughts are sometimes. Have you
reason to suppose that he is dangerous?"
"I should have thought that what I have said might have convinced you,"
replied the lady reproachfully; "but I don't wish you to act without
satisfying yourself. It is not as if you knew him, of course. I have
easily been able to get up an agitation among his friends, but I should
not expect an outsider--so I thought if I gave you his address you could
form your own opinion."
"Yes," murmured Mr. Lavender, "yes. It is in the last degree undesirable
that any man of German origin should remain free to work possible harm to
our country. There is no question in this of hatred or of mere rabid
patriotism," he went on, in a voice growing more and more far-away; it is
largely the A. B. C. of common prudence."
"I ought to say," interrupted his visitor, "that we all thought him, of
course, an honourable man until this war, or we should not have been his
friends. He is a dentist," she added, "and, I suppose, may be said to be
doing useful work, which makes it difficult. I suggest that you go to
him to have a tooth out."
Mr. Lavender quivered, and insensibly felt his teeth.
"Thank you," he said I will see if I can find one. It is certainly a
matter which cannot be left to chance. We public men, madam, often have
to do very hard and even inhumane things for no apparent reason. Our
consciences alone support us. An impression, I am told, sometimes gets
abroad that we yield to clamour. Those alone who know us realize how
unfounded that aspersion is."
"This is his address," said the lady, rising, and handing him an
envelope. "I shall not feel at rest until he is safely interned. You
will not mention my name, of course. It is tragic to be obliged to work
against one's friends in the dark. Your young neighbour spoke in
enthusiastic terms of your zeal, and I am sure that in choosing you for
my public man she was not pulling--er--was not making a mistake."
Mr. Lavender bowed.
"I hope not, madam, he said humbly I try to do my duty."
The lady smiled her sinuous smile and moved towards the door, leaving on
the air a faint odour of vinegar and sandalwood.
When she was gone Mr. Lavender sat down on the edge of his chair before
the tea-tray and extracted his teeth while Blink, taking them for a bone,
gazed at them lustrously, and the moon-cat between his feet purred from
repletion. "There is reason in all things," he thought, running his
finger over what was left in his mouth, "but not in patriotism, for that
would prevent us from consummating the destruction of our common enemies.
It behoves us public men ever to set an extreme example. Which one can I
spare, I wonder?" And he fixed upon a large rambling tooth on the left
wing of his lower jaw. "It will hurt horribly, I'm afraid; and if I have
an anaesthetic there will be someone else present; and not improbably I
shall feel ill afterwards, and be unable to form a clear judgment. I
must steel myself. Blink!"
For Blink was making tremulous advances to the teeth. "How pleasant to
be a dog!" thought Mr. Lavender, "and know nothing of Germans and teeth.
I shall be very unhappy till this is out; but Aurora recommended me, and
I must not complain, but rather consider myself the most fortunate of
public men." And, ruffling his hair till it stood up all over his head,
while his loose eyebrow worked up and down, he gazed at the moon-cat.
"Moon-cat," he said suddenly, "we are but creatures of chance, unable to
tell from one day to another what Fate has in store for us. My tooth is
beginning to ache already. That is, perhaps, as it should be, for I
shall not forget which one it is. "So musing he resumed his teeth; and,
going to his bookcase, sought fortitude and inspiration in the records of
a Parliamentary debate on enemy aliens.
It was not without considerable trepidation, however, on the following
afternoon that he made his way up Welkin Street, and rang at the number
on the envelope in his hand.
"Yes sir, doctor is at home," said the maid.
Mr. Lavender's heart was about to fail him when, conjuring up the vision
of Aurora, he said in a faint voice: "I wish to see him professionally."
And, while the maid departed up the stairs, he waited in the narrow hall,
alternately taking his hat off and putting it on again, so great was his
"Doctor will see you at once, sir."
Putting his hat on hastily, Mr. Lavender followed her upstairs, feeling
at his tooth to make quite sure that he remembered which it was. His
courage mounted as he came nearer to his fate, and he marched into the
room behind the maid holding his hat on firmly with one hand and his
tooth in firmly with the other. There, beside a red velvet dentist's
chair, he saw a youngish man dressed in a white coat, with round eyes and
a domestic face, who said in good English:
"What can I do for you, my dear sir? I fear you are in bain."
"In great pain," replied Mr. Lavender faintly, "in great pain." And,
indeed, he was; for the nervous crisis from which he was suffering had
settled in the tooth, on which he still pressed a finger through his
"Sit down, sir, sit down," said the young man, "and perhaps it would be
better if you should remove your hat. We shall not hurd you--no, no, we
shall not hurd you."
At those words, which seemed to cast doubt on his courage, Mr. Lavender
recovered all his presence of mind. He took off his hat, advanced
resolutely to the chair, sat down in it, and, looking up, said:
"Do to me what you will; I shall not flinch, nor depart in any way from
the behaviour of those whose duty it is to set an example to others."
So saying, he removed his teeth, and placing them in a bowl on the little
swinging table which he perceived on his left hand, he closed his eyes,
put his finger in his mouth, and articulated:
"Excuse me, sir," said the young German, "but do you wish a dooth oud?"
"'At ish my deshire," said Mr. Lavender, keeping his finger on his tooth,
and his eyes closed. "'At one."
"I cannot give you gas without my anaesthedist."
"I dow," said Mr. Lavender; "be wick."
And, feeling the little cold spy-glass begin to touch his gums, he
clenched his hands and thought: "This is the moment to prove that I, too,
can die for a good cause. If I am not man enough to bear for my country
so small a woe I can never again look Aurora in the face."
The voice of the young dentist dragged him rudely from the depth of his
"Excuse me, but which dooth did you say?"
Mr. Lavender again inserted his finger, and opened his eyes.
The dentist shook his head. "Imbossible," he said; "that dooth is
perfectly sound. The other two are rotten. But they do not ache?"
Mr. Lavender shook his head and repeated:
"You are my first client this week, sir," said the young German calmly,
"but I cannot that dooth dake out."
At those words Mr. Lavender experienced a sensation as if his soul were
creeping back up his legs; he spoke as it reached his stomach.
"Noc?" he said.
"No," replied the young German. It is nod the dooth which causes you the
Mr. Lavender, suddenly conscious that he had no pain, took his finger
"Sir," he said, "I perceive that you are an honourable man. There is
something sublime in your abnegation if, indeed, you have had no other
client this week.
"No fear," said the young German. "Haf I, Cicely?"
Mr. Lavender became conscious for the first time of a young woman leaning
up against the wall, with a pair of tweezers in her hand.
"Take it out, Otto," she said in a low voice, "if he wants it."
"No no," said Mr. Lavender sharply, resuming his teeth; "I would not for
the world burden your conscience."
"My clients are all batriots," said the young dentist, "and my bractice
is Kaput. We are in a bad way, sir," he added, with a smile, "but we try
to do the correct ting."
Mr. Lavender saw the young woman move the tweezers in a manner which
caused his blood to run a little cold.
"We must live," he heard her say.
"Young madam," he said, "I honour the impulse which makes you desire to
extend your husband's practice. Indeed, I perceive you both to be so
honourable that I cannot but make you a confession. My tooth is indeed
sound, though, since I have been pretending that it isn't, it has caused
me much discomfort. I came here largely to form an opinion of your
husband's character, with a view to securing his internment."
At that word the two young people shrank together till they were standing
side by side, staring at Mr Lavender with eyes full of anxiety and
wonder. Their hands, which still held the implements of dentistry,
insensibly sought each other.
Be under no apprehension," cried Mr. Lavender, much moved; "I can see
that you are greatly attached, and even though your husband is a German,
he is still a man, and I could never bring myself to separate him from
"Who are you?" said the young woman in a frightened voice, putting her
arm round her husband's waist.
"Just a public man," answered Mr. Lavender.
"I came here from a sense of duty; nothing more, assure you."
"Who put you up to it?
"That," said Mr. Lavender, bowing as best he could from the angle he was
in, "I am not at liberty to disclose. But, believe me, you have nothing
to fear from this visit; I shall never do anything to distress a woman.
And please charge me as if the tooth had been extracted."
The young German smiled, and shook his head.
"Sir," he said, "I am grateful to you for coming, for it shows us what
danger we are in. The hardest ting to bear has been the uncertainty of
our bosition, and the feeling that our friends were working behind our
backs. Now we know that this is so we shall vordify our souls to bear
the worst. But, tell me," he went on, "when you came here, surely you
must have subbosed that to tear me away from my wife would be very
bainful to her and to myself. You say now you never could do that, how
was it, then, you came?"
"Ah, sir!" cried Mr. Lavender, running his hands through his hair and
staring at the ceiling, "I feared this might seem inconsistent to your
logical German mind. But there are many things we public men would never
do if we could see them being done. Fortunately, as a rule we cannot.
Believe me, when I leave you I shall do my best to save you from a fate
which I perceive to be unnecessary."
So saying, he rose from the chair, and, picking up his hat, backed
towards the door.
"I will not offer you my hand," he said, "for I am acutely conscious that
my position is neither dignified nor decent. I owe you a tooth that I
shall not readily forget. Good-bye!"
And backing through the doorway he made his way down the stairs and out
into the street, still emotionalized by the picture of the two young
people holding each other by the waist. He had not, however, gone far
before reason resumed its sway, and he began to see that the red velvet
chair in which he had been sitting was in reality a wireless apparatus
reaching to Berlin, or at least concealed a charge of dynamite to blow up
some King or Prime Minister; and that the looking-glasses, of which he
had noticed two at least, were surely used for signalling to Gothas or
Zeppelins. This plunged him into a confusion so poignant that, rather by
accident than design, he found himself again at Hampstead instead of at
Scotland Yard. "In the society of Aurora alone," he thought, "can I free
myself from the goadings of conscience, for it was she who sent me on
that errand." And, instead of going in, he took up a position on his
lawn whence he could attract her attention by waving his arms. He had
been doing this for some time, to the delight of Blink, who thought it a
new game, before he saw her in her nurse's dress coming out of a French-
window with her yellow book in her hand. Redoubling his efforts till he
had arrested her attention, he went up to the privet hedge, and said, in
a deep and melancholy voice: