Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Hermit of Far End by Margaret Pedler

Part 6 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Since the history of the court-martial had become common property,
Garth had been through hell. It was extraordinary how quickly the
story had leaked out, passing from mouth to mouth until there was
hardly a cottage in Monkshaven that was not in possession of it, with
lurid and fictitious detail added thereto.

The chambermaid at the Cliff Hotel had been the primary source of
information. From the further side of the connecting-door of an
adjoining room, she had listened with interest to the conversation
which had taken place between Elisabeth and Sara on the day following
the Haven Woods picnic, and had proceeded to circulate the news with
the avidity of her class. Nor had certain gossipy members of the
picnic party refrained from canvassing threadbare the significance of
the unfortunate scene which had taken place on that occasion--
contributory evidence to the truth of the chambermaid's account of
what she had overheard.

The whole town hummed with the tale, and Garth had not long been
allowed to remain in ignorance of the fact. Anonymous letters reached
him almost daily--for it must be remembered that ten years of an aloof
existence at Monkshaven had not endeared him to his neighbours. They
had resented what they chose to consider his exclusiveness, and, now
that it was so humiliatingly explained, the meaner spirits amongst
them took this way of paying off old scores.

It was suggested by one of the anonymous writers that Trent's
continued presence in the district was felt to be a blot on the fair
fame of Monkshaven; and, by another, that should the rumours now
flying hither and thither concerning the imminence of a European war
materialize into fact, the French Foreign Legion offered opportunities
for such as he.

Garth tore the letters into fragments, pitching them contemptuously
into the waste-paper basket; but, nevertheless, they were like so many
gnats buzzing about an open wound, adding to its torture.

Black Brady, with a lively recollection of the few days in gaol which
Trent had procured him in recompense for his poaching proclivities,
was loud in his denunciation.

"Retreated, they calls it," he observed, with fine scorn. "Runned
away's the plain English of it."

And with this pronouncement all the loafers round the hotel garage
cordially agreed, and, subsequently, black looks and muttered comments
followed Garth's appearance in the streets.

To all of which Garth opposed a stony indifference--since, after all,
these lesser things were of infinitely small moment to a man whose
whole life was lying in ruins about him.

"It was good of you to ask me over," he told Herrick, as they shook
hands. "Sure you're not afraid of contamination?"

"Quite sure," replied Miles, smiling serenely. "Besides, I had a
particular reason for wishing to see you."

"What was that?"

Miles unlocked the drawer where he had laid aside the papers he had
perused with so much interest two days ago, and, slipping them out of
the elastic bands that held them, handed them to Trent.

"I'd like you to read those documents, if you will," he said.

There was a short silence while Trent's eyes travelled swiftly down
the closely written sheets. When he looked up from their perusal his
expression was perfectly blank. Miles could glean nothing from it.

"Well?" he said tentatively.

Garth quietly tendered him back the letters.

"You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Herrick," was all he

"Then it isn't true?" asked Miles searchingly.

"It sounds improbable," replied Trent composedly.

Miles reflected a moment. Then, slowly replacing the papers within the
elastic band, he remarked--

"I think I'll take Sara's opinion."

If he had desired to break down the other's guard of indifference, he
succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

Trent sprang to his feet, his hand outstretched as though to snatch
the letters back again. His eyes blazed excitedly.

"No! No! You mustn't do that--you can't do that! It's---- Oh! You
won't understand--but those papers must be destroyed."

Herrick's fingers closed firmly round the papers in question, and he
slipped them into the inside pocket of his coat.

"They certainly will not be destroyed," he replied. "I hold them in
trust. But, tell me, why should I /not/ show them to Sara? It seems to
me the one obvious thing to do."

Trent shook his head.

"No. Believe me, it could do no good, and it might do an infinity of

Herrick looked incredulous.

"I can't see that," he objected.

"It is so, nevertheless."

A silence fell between them.

"Then you mean," said Herrick, breaking it at last, "that I'm to hold
my tongue?"

"Just that."

"It is very unfair."

"And if you published that information abroad, it's unfair to Tim.
Have you thought of that? He, at least, is perfectly innocent."

"But, man, it's inconceivable--grotesque!"

"Not at all. I gave Elisabeth Durward my promise, and she has married
and borne a son, trusting to that promise. My lips are closed--now and

"But mine are not."

"They will be, Miles, if I ask it. Don't you see, there's no going
back for me now? I can't wipe out the past. I made a bad mistake--a
mistake many a youngster similarly circumstanced might have made. And
I've been paying for it ever since. I must go on paying to the end--
it's my honour that's involved. That's why I ask you not to show those

Miles looked unconvinced.

"I forged my own fetters, Herrick," continued Trent. "In a way, I'm
responsible for Tim Durward's existence and I can't damn his chances
at the outset. After all, he's at the beginning of things. I'm getting
towards the end. At least"--wearily--"I hope so."

Herrick's quick glance took in the immense alteration the last few
days had wrought in Trent's appearance. The man had aged visibly, and
his face was worn and lined, the eyes burning feverishly in their

"You're good for another thirty or forty years, bar accidents," said
Herrick at last, deliberately. "Are you going to make those years
worse than worthless to you by this crazy decision?"

"I've no alternative. Good Lord, man!"--with savage irritability--"you
don't suppose I'm enjoying it, do you? But I've /no way out/. I took a
certain responsibility on myself--and I must see it through. I can't
shirk it now, just because pay-day's come. I can do nothing except
stick it out."

"And what about Sara?" said Herrick quietly. "Has she no claim to be

He almost flinched from the look of measureless anguish that leapt
into the others man's eyes in response.

"For God's sake, man, leave Sara out of it!" Garth exclaimed thickly.
"I've cursed myself enough for the suffering I've brought on her. I
was a mad fool to let her know I cared. But I thought, as Garth Trent,
that I had shut the door on the past. I ought to have known that the
door of the past remains eternally ajar."

Miles nodded understandingly.

"I don't think you were to blame," he said. "It's Mrs. Durward who has
pulled the door wide open. She's stolen your new life from you--the
life you had built up. Trent, you owe that woman nothing! Let me show
this letter, and the other that goes with it, to Sara!"

Trent shook his head in mute refusal.

"I can't," he said at last. "Elisabeth must be forgiven. The best
woman in the world may lose all sense of right and wrong when it's a
question of her child. But, even so, I can't consent to the making
public of that letter." He rose and paced the room restlessly. "Man!
Man!" he cried at last, coming to a halt in front of Herrick. "Can't
you see--that woman trusted me with her whole life, and with the life
of any child that she might bear, when she married on the strength of
my promise. And I must keep faith with her. It's the one poor rag of
honour left me, Herrick!"--with intense bitterness.

There was a long silence. Then, at last, Miles held out his hand.

"You've beaten me," he said sadly. "I won't destroy the letters. As I
said, they are a trust. But the secret is safe with me, after this.
You've tied my hands."

Trent smiled grimly.

"You'll get used to it," he commented. "Mine have been tied for three-
and-twenty years--though even yet I don't wear my bonds with grace,

He had become once more the hermit of old acquaintance--sardonic,
harsh, his emotions hidden beneath that curt indifference of manner
with which those who knew him were painfully familiar.

The two men shook hands in silence, and a few minutes later, Herrick,
left alone, replaced the letters in the drawer whence he had taken
them, and, turning the key upon them, slipped it into his pocket.



In remote country districts that memorable Fourth of August, when
England declared war on Germany, came and went unostentatiously.

People read the news a trifle breathlessly, reflected with a sigh of
contentment on the invincible British Navy, and with a little gust of
prideful triumph upon the Expeditionary force--ready to the last
burnished button of each man's tunic--and proceeded quietly with their
usual avocations.

Then came the soaring Bank Rate, and business men on holiday raced
back to London to contend with the new financial conditions and assure
their credit. That was all that happened--at first.

Few foresaw that the gaunt, grim Spectre of War had come to dwell in
their very midst, nor that soon he would pass from house to house,
palace and cottage alike, touching first this man, then that, on the
shoulder, with the single word "Come!" on his lips, until gradually
the nations, one by one, left their tasks of peace and rose and
followed him.

Monkshaven, in common with other seaside towns, witnessed the sudden
exodus of City men when the climbing Bank Rate sounded its alarm.
Beyond that, the war, for the moment, reacted very little on its daily
processes of life. There was no disorganization of amusements--tennis,
boating, and bathing went on much as usual, and clever people, proud
of their ability to add two and two together and make four of them,
announced that it was all explained now why certain young officers in
the neighbourhood had been hurriedly recalled a few days previously,
and their leave cancelled.

Then came the black news of that long, desperate retreat from Mons,
shaking the nation to its very soul, and in the wave of high courage
and endeavour that swept responsively across the country, the smaller
things began to fall into their little place.

To Sara, stricken by her own individual sorrow, the war came like a
rushing, mighty wind, rousing her from the brooding, introspective
habit which had laid hold of her and bracing her to take a fresh grip
upon life. Its immense demands, the illimitable suffering it carried
in its train, lifted her out of the contemplation of her own personal
grief into a veritable passion of pity for the world agony beating up
around her.

And, with Sara, to compassionate meant to succour. Nor did it require
more than the first few weeks of war to demonstrate where such help as
she was capable of giving was most sorely needed.

She had been through a course of First Aid and held her certificate,
and, thanks to a year in France when she was seventeen--a much-grudged
year, at the time, since it had separated her from her beloved Patrick
--and to a natural facility for the language, inherited from her
French forbears, she spoke French almost as fluently as she did

In France they were crying out for nurses, for at that period of the
war there was work for any woman who had even a little knowledge plus
the grit to face the horrors of those early days, and it was to France
that Sara forthwith determined to go.

She had heard that an old friend of Patrick Lovell's, Lady Arronby by
name, proposed equipping and taking over to France a party of nurses,
and she promptly wrote to her, begging that she might be included in
the little company.

Lady Arronby, who had been a sister at a London hospital before her
marriage, recollected her old friend's ward very clearly. Sara rarely
failed to make a definite impression, even upon people who only knew
her slightly, and Lady Arronby, who had known her from her earliest
days at Barrow, answered her letter without hesitation.

"I shall be delighted to have you with me," she had written. "Even
though you are not a trained nurse, there's work out there for women
of your caliber, my dear. So come. It will be a week or two yet before
we have all our equipment, but I am pushing things on as fast as I
can, so hold yourself in readiness to come at a day's notice."

Meanwhile, Sara's earliest personal encounter with the reality of the
war came in a few hurried lines from Elisabeth telling her that Major
Durward had rejoined the Army and would be going out to France almost

Sara thrilled, and with the thrill came the answering stab of the
sword that was to pierce her again and again through the long months
ahead. Garth Trent--the man she loved--could have no part nor lot in
this splendid service of England's sons for England! The country
wanted brave men now--not men who faltered when faltering meant
failure and defeat.

She had not seen Garth since that day--a million years ago it seemed--
when she had sent him from her, and he had gone, admitting the justice
of her decision.

There was no getting behind that. She would have defied Elisabeth,
defied a whole world of slanderous tongues, had they accused him, if
he himself had denied the charge. But he had not been able to deny it.
it was true--a deadly, official truth, tabulated somewhere in the
records of her country, that the man she loved had been cashiered for

The knowledge almost crushed her, and she sometimes wondered if there
could be a keener suffering, in the whole gamut of human pain, than
that which a woman bears whose high pride in her lover has been laid
utterly in the dust.

The dread of danger, separation--even death itself--were not
comparable with it. Sara envied the women whose men were killed in
action. At least, they had a splendid memory to hold which nothing
could ever soil or take away.

Sometimes her thoughts wandered fugitively to Tim. Surely here was his
chance to break from the bondage his mother had imposed upon him! He
had not written to her of late, but she felt convinced that she would
have heard from Elisabeth had he volunteered. She was a little puzzled
over his silence and inaction. He had seemed so keen last winter at
Barrow, when together they had discussed this very subject of
soldiering. Could it be that now, when the opportunity offered, Tim
was--evading it? But the thought was dismissed almost as swiftly as it
had arisen, and Sara blushed scarlet with shame that the bare
suspicions should have crossed her mind, even for an instant,
recognizing it as the outcrop of that bitter knowledge which had cut
at the very roots of her belief in men's courage.

And there were men around her whose readiness to make the great
sacrifice combated the poison of one man's failure. Daily she heard of
this or that man whom she knew, either personally or by name, having
volunteered and been accepted, and very often she had to listen to
Miles Herrick's fierce rebellion against the fact that he was
ineligible, and endeavour to console him.

But it was Audrey Maynard who plumbed the full depths of bitterness in
Herrick's heart. She had been teaching him to knit, and he was
floundering through the intricacies of turning his first heel when one
day he surprised her by hurling the sock, needles and all, to the
other end of the room.

"There's work for a man when his country's at war! My God! Audrey, I
don't know how I'm going to bear it--to lie here on my couch, knitting
--/knitting!/--when men are out there dying! Why won't they take a
lame man? Can't a lame man fire a gun--and then die like the rest of

Audrey looked at him pitifully.

"My dear, war takes only the best--the youngest and the fittest. But
there's plenty of work for the women and men at home."

"For the women and crocks?" countered Miles bitterly.

She smiled at him suddenly.

"Yes--for the crocks, too."

He shook his head.

"No, Audrey, I'm an utterly useless person--a cumberer of the ground."

"Not in my eyes, Miles," she answered quietly.

He met her glance, and read, at last, what--as she told him later--he
might have read there any time during the last six months, had he
chosen to look for it.

"Do you mean that, Audrey?" he asked, suddenly gripping her hands
hard. "All of it--all that it implies?"

She slipped to her knees beside his couch.

"Oh, my dear!" she said, between laughing and crying. "I've been
meaning it--'all of it'--for ever so long. Only--only you won't ask me
to marry you!"

"How can I? A lame man, and not even a rich one?"

"I believe," said Audrey composedly, "we've argued both those points
before--from a strictly impersonal point of view! Couldn't you--
couldn't you get over your objection to coming to live with me at
Greenacres, dear?"

Audrey always declared, afterwards, that it had required the most
blatant encouragement on her part to induce Miles to propose to her,
and that, but for the war--which convinced him that he was of no use
to any one else--he never would have done so.

Presumably she was able to supply the requisite stimulus, for when the
Lavender Lady joined them later on in the afternoon, she found herself
called upon to perform that function of sheer delight to every old
maid of the right sort--namely, to bestow her blessing on a pair of
newly betrothed lovers.

Sara received the news the next morning, and though naturally, by
contrast, it seemed to add a keener edge to her own grief, she was
still able to rejoice whole-heartedly over this little harvesting of
joy which her two friends had snatched from amid the world's dreadful
harvesting of pain and sorrow.

By the same post as the radiant letters from Miles and Audrey came one
from Elisabeth Durward. She wrote distractedly.

"Tim is determined to volunteer," ran her letter. "I can't let him
go, Sara. He is my only son, and I don't see why he should be
claimed from me by this horrible war. I have persuaded him to wait
until he has seen you. That is all he will consent to. So will you
come and do what you can to dissuade him? There is a cord by which
you could hold him if you would."

A transient smile crossed Sara's face as she pictured Tim gravely
consenting to await her opinion on the matter. He knew--none better!--
what it would be, and, without doubt, he had merely agreed to the
suggestion in the hope that her presence might ease the strain and
serve to comfort his mother a little.

Sara telegraphed that she would come to Barrow Court the following
day, and, on her arrival, found Tim waiting for her at the station in
his two-seater.

"Well," he said with a grin, as the little car slid away along the
familiar road. "Have you come to persuade me to be a good boy and stay
at home, Sara?"

"You know I've not," she replied, smiling. "I'm gong to talk sense to
Elisabeth. Oh! Tim boy, how I envy you! It's splendid to be a man
these days."

He nodded silently, but she could read in his expression the tranquil
satisfaction that his decision had brought. She had seen the same look
on other men's faces, when, after a long struggle with the woman-love
that could not help but long to hold them back, the final decision had
been taken.

Arrived at the lodge gates, Tim handed over the car to the chauffeur
who met them there, evidently by arrangement.

"I thought we'd walk across the park," he suggested.

Sara acquiesced delightedly. There was a tender, reminiscent pleasure
in strolling along the winding paths that had once been so happily
familiar, and, hardly conscious of the sudden silence which had fallen
upon her companion, her thoughts slipped back to the old days at
Barrow when she had wandered, with Patrick beside her in his wheeled
chair, along these selfsame paths.

With a little thrill, half pain, half pleasure, she noted each well-
remembered landmark. There was the arbour where they used to shelter
from a shower, built with sloped boards at its entrance so that
Patrick's chair could easily be wheeled into it; now they were passing
the horse-chestnut tree which she herself had planted years ago--with
the head gardener's assistance!--in place of one that had been struck
by lightning. It had grown into a sturdy young sapling by this time.
Here was the Queen's Bench--an old stone seat where Queen Elisabeth
was supposed to have once sat and rested for a few minutes when paying
a visit to Barrow Court. Sara reflected, with a smile, that if history
speaks truly, the Virgin Queen must have spent quite a considerable
portion of her time in visiting the houses of her subjects! And here--

"Sara!" Tim's voice broke suddenly across the recollections that were
thronging into her mind. There was a curious intent quality in his
tone that arrested her attention, filling her with a nervous
foreboding of what he had to say.

"Sara, you know, of course, as well as I do, that I am going to
volunteer. I let mother send for you, because--well, because I thought
you would make it a little easier for her, for one thing. But I had
another reason."

"Had you?" Sara spoke mechanically. They had paused beside the Queen's
Bench, and half-unconsciously she laid her ungloved hand caressingly
on the seat's high back. The stone struck cold against the warmth of
her flesh.

"Yes." Tim was speaking again, still in that oddly direct manner. "I
want to ask you--now, before I go to France--whether there will ever
be any chance for me?"

Sara turned her eyes to his face.

"You mean----"

"I mean that I'm asking you once again if you will marry me? If you
will--if I can go away leaving /my wife/ in England, I shall have so
much the more to fight for. But if you can't give me the answer I wish
--well"--with a curious little smile--"it will make death easier,
should it come--that's all."

The quiet, grave directness of the speech was very unlike the old,
impetuous Tim of former days. It brought with it to Sara's mind a
definite recognition of the fact that the man had replaced the boy.

"No, Tim," she responded quietly. "I made one mistake--in promising to
marry you when I loved another man. I won't repeat it."

"But"--Tim's face expressed sheer wonder and amazement--"you don't
still care for Garth Trent--for that blackguard? Oh!" remorsefully, as
he saw her wince--"forgive me, Sara, but this war makes one feel even
more bitterly about such a thing than one would in normal times."

"I know--I understand," she replied quietly. "I'm--ashamed of loving
him." She turned her head restlessly aside. "But, don't you see, love
can't be made and unmade to order. It just /happens/. And it's
happened to me. In the circumstances, I can't say I like it. But there
it is. I do love Garth--and I can't /unlove/ him. At least, not yet."

"But some day, Sara, some day?" he urged.

She shook her head.

"I shall never marry anybody now, Tim. If--if ever I 'get over' this
fool feeling for Garth, I know how it would leave me. I shall be quite
cold and hard inside--like that stone"--pointing to the Queen's Bench.
"I wish--I wish I had reached that stage now."

Silently Tim held out his hand, and she laid hers within it, meeting
his grave eyes.

"I won't ever bother you again," he said, at last, quietly. "I think I
understand, Sara, and--and, old girl, I'm awfully sorry. I wish I
could have saved you--that."

He stooped his head and kissed her--frankly, as a big brother might,
and Sara, recognizing that henceforth she would find in him only the
good comrade of earlier days, kissed him back.

"Thank you, Tim," she said. "I knew you would understand. And, please,
we won't ever speak of it again."

"No, we won't speak of it again," he answered.

He tucked his arm under hers, and they walked on together in the
direction of the house.

"And now," she said, "let's go to Elisabeth and break it to her that
we are--both--going out to France as soon as we can get there."

He turned to look at her.

"You?" he exclaimed. "You going out? What do you mean?"

"I'm going with Lady Arronby. I want to go--badly. I want to be in the
heart of things. You don't suppose"--with a rather shaky little laugh
--"that I can stay quietly at home in England--and knit, do you?"

"No, I suppose /you/ couldn't. But I don't half like it. The women who
go--out there--have got to face things. I shan't like to think of you
running risks--"

She laughed outright.

"Tim, if you talk nonsense of that kind, I'll revenge myself by urging
Elisabeth to keep you at home," she declared. "Oh! Tim boy, can't you
see that just now I must have something to do--something that will
fill up every moment--and keep me from thinking!"

Tim heard the cry that underlay the words. There was no
misunderstanding it. He squeezed her arm and nodded.

"All right, old thing, I won't try to dissuade you. I can guess a
little of how you're feeling."

Sara's interview with Elisabeth was very different from anything she
had expected. She had anticipated passionate reproaches, tears even,
for an attractive women who has been consistently spoiled by her
menkind is, of all her sex, the least prepared to bow to the force of

But there was none of these things. It almost seemed as though in that
first searching glance of hers, which flashed from Sara's face to the
well-beloved one of her son, Elisabeth had recognized and accepted
that, in the short space of time since these two had met, the decision
concerning Tim's future had been taken out of her hands.

It was only when, in the course of their long, intimate talk together,
she had drawn from Sara the acknowledgment that she had once again
refused to be Tim's wife, that her control wavered.

"But, Sara, surely--surely you can't still have any thought of
marrying Garth Trent?" There was a hint of something like terror in
her voice.

"No," Sara responded wearily. "No, I shall never marry--Garth Trent."

"Then why won't you--why can't you--"

"Marry Tim?"--quietly. "Because, although I shall never marry Garth
now, I haven't stopped loving him."

"Do you mean that you can still care for him--now that you know what
kind of man he is?"

"Oh! Good Heavens, Elisabeth!"--the irritation born of frayed nerves
hardened Sara's voice so that it was almost unrecognizable--"you can't
turn love on and off as you would a tap! I shall never marry /anybody/
now. Tim understands that, and--you must understand it, too."

There was no mistaking her passionate sincerity. The truth--that Sara
would never, as long as she lived, put another in the place Garth
Trent had held--seemed borne in upon Elisabeth that moment.

With a strangled cry she sank back into her chair, and her eyes, fixed
on Sara's small, stern-set face, held a strange, beaten look. As she
sat there, her hands gripping the chair-arms, there was something
about her whole attitude that suggested defeat.

"So it's all been useless--quite useless!" she muttered in a queer,
whispering voice.

She was not looking at Sara now. Her vision was turned inward, and she
seemed to be utterly oblivious of the other's presence. "Useless!" she
repeated, still in that strange, whispering tone.

"What has been useless?" asked Sara curiously.

Elisabeth started, and stared at her for a moment in a vacant fashion.
Then, all at once, her mind seemed to come back to the present, and
simultaneously the familiar watchful look sprang into her eyes. Sara
was oddly conscious of being reminded of a sentry who has momentarily
slept at his post, and then, awakening suddenly, feverishly resumed
his vigilance.

"What was I saying?" Elisabeth brushed her hand distressfully across
her forehead.

"You said that it had all been useless," repeated Sara. "What did you

Elisabeth paused a moment before replying.

"I meant that all my hopes were useless," she explained at last. "The
hopes I had that some day you would be Tim's wife."

"Yes, they're quite useless--if that is what you meant," replied Sara.
But there was a perplexed expression in her eyes. She had a feeling
that Elisabeth was not being quite frank with her--that that whispered
confession of failure signified something other than the simple
interpretations vouchsafed.

The thing worried her a little, nagging at the back of her mind with
the pertinacity common to any little unexplained incident that has
caught one's attention. But, in the course of a few days, the manifold
happenings of daily life drove it out of her thoughts, not to recur
until many months had passed and other issues paved the way for its

Sara remained at Barrow until Tim had volunteered and been accepted,
and the settlement of her own immediate plans synchronizing with this
last event, it came about that it was only two hours after Tim's
departure that she, too, bade farewell to Elisabeth, in order to join
up in London with Lady Arronby's party.

Elisabeth stood at the head of the great flight of granite steps at
Barrow and waved her hand as the car bore Sara swiftly away, and
across the latter's mind flashed the memory of that day, nearly a year
ago, when she herself had stood in the same place, waiting to welcome
Elisabeth to her new home.

The contrast between then and now struck her poignantly. She recalled
Elisabeth as she had been that day--gracious, smiling, queening it
delightfully over her two big men, husband and son, who openly
worshipped her. Now, there remained only a great empty house, and that
solitary figure on the doorstep, standing there with white face and
lips that smiled perfunctorily.

Elisabeth turned slowly back into the house as the car disappeared
round the curve of the drive. For her, the moment was doubly bitter.
One by one, husband, son, and the woman whom she had ardently longed
to see that son's wife, had been claimed from her by the pitiless
demands of the madness men call War.

But there was still more for her to face. There was the utter downfall
of all her hopes, the defeat of all her purposes. She had striven with
the whole force that was in her to assure Tim's happiness. To compass
this, she had torn down the curtain of the past, proclaiming a man's
shame and hurling headlong into the dust the new life he had built up
for himself, and with it had gone a woman's faith, and trust, and

And it had all been so futile! Two lives ruined, and the purchase
price paid in tears of blood; and, after all, Tim's happiness was as
utterly remote and beyond attainment as though no torrent of disaster
had been let loose to further it! Elisabeth had bartered her soul in

In the solitude which was all the war had left her, she recognized
this, and, since she was normally a woman of kind and generous
impulses, she suffered in the realization of the spoiled and mutilated
lives for which she was responsible.

Not that she would have acted differently were the same choice
presented to her again. She did not /want/ to hurt people, but the
primitive maternal instinct, which was the pivot of her being, blinded
her to the claims of others if those claims reacted adversely on her

Only now, in the bitterness of defeat, as she looked back upon her
midnight interview with Garth Trent, she was conscious of a sick
repugnance. It had not been a pleasant thing, that thrusting of a
knife into an old wound. This, too, she had done for Tim's sake. The
pity of it was that Garth had suffered needlessly--uselessly!

She had thought the issue of events hung solely betwixt him and her
son, and, with her mind concentrated on this idea, she had overlooked
the possibility of any other outcome. But the acceptance of an
unexpected sequence had been forced upon her--Sara would never marry
any one now! Elisabeth recognized that all her efforts had been in

And the supreme bitterness, from which all that was honest and upright
within her shrank with inward shame and self-loathing, lay in the fact
that she, above all others, owed Garth Trent--that which he had begged
of her in vain--the tribute of silence concerning the past.



As Sara took her seat on board the train for Monkshaven, she was
conscious of that strange little thrill of the wanderer returned which
is the common possession of the explorer and of the school-girl at
their first sight of the old familiar scenes from which they have been

She could hardly believe that barely a year had elapsed since she had
quitted Monkshaven. So many things had happened--so many changes taken
place. Audrey had been transformed into Mrs. Herrick; Tim had been
given a commission; and Molly, the one-time butterfly, was now become
a working-bee--a member of the V.A.D. and working daily at Oldhampton
Hospital. Sara could scarcely picture such a metamorphosis!

The worst news had been that of Major Durward's death--he had been
killed in action, gallantly leading his men, in the early part of the
year. Elisabeth had written to Sara at the time--a wonderfully brave,
simple letter, facing her loss with a fortitude which Sara,
remembering her adoration for her husband and her curious antipathy to
soldiering as a profession, had not dared to anticipate. There was
something rather splendid about her quiet acceptance of it. It was
Elisabeth at her best--humanly hurt and broken, but almost heroic in
her endurance now that the blow had actually fallen. And Sara prayed
that no further sacrifice might be demanded from her--prayed that Tim
might come through safely. For herself, she mourned Geoffrey Durward
as one good comrade does another. She knew that his death would leave
a big gap in the ranks of those she counted friends.

It had been a wonderful year--that year which she had passed in France
--wonderful in its histories of tragedy and self-sacrifice, and in its
revelation both of the brutality and of the infinite fineness of
humanity. Few could have passed through such an experience and
remained unchanged, certainly no one as acutely sentient and receptive
as Sara.

She felt as though she had been pitchforked into a vast melting-pot,
where the cast-iron generalizations and traditions which most people
consider their opinions grew flexible and fluid in the scorching heat
of the furnace, assimilating so much of the other ingredients in the
cauldron that they could never reassume their former unqualified and
rigid state.

And now that year of crowded life and ardent service was over, and she
was side-tracked by medical orders for an indefinite period.

"Go back to England," her doctor had told her, "to the quietest corner
in the country you can find--and try to forget that there /is/ a war!"

This thin, eager-faced young woman, of whom every one on the hospital
staff spoke in such glowing terms, interested him enormously. He could
see that her year's work had taken out of her about double what it
would have taken out of any one less sensitively alive, and he made a
shrewd guess that something over and above the mere hard work
accounted for that curiously fine-drawn look which he had observed in

During a hastily snatched meal, before the advent of another batch of
casualties, he had sounded Lady Arronby on the subject. The latter
shook her head.

"I can tell you very little. I believe there was a bad love-affair
just before the war. All I know is that she was engaged and that the
engagement was broken off very suddenly."

"Humph! And she's been living on her reserves ever since. Pack her off
to England--and do it quick."

So October found Sara back in England once again, and as the train
steamed into Monkshaven station, and her eager gaze fell on the little
group of people on the platform, waiting to welcome her return, she
felt a sudden rush of tears to her eyes.

She winked them away, and leaned out of the window. They were all
there--big Dick Selwyn, and Molly, looking like a masquerading Venus
in her V.A.D. uniform, the Lavender Lady and Miles, and--radiant and
well-turned-out as ever--Mile's wife.

The Herrick's wedding had taken place very unobtrusively. About a
month after Sara had crossed to France, Miles and Audrey had walked
quietly into church one morning at nine o'clock and got married.

Monkshaven had been frankly disappointed. The gossips, who had so
frequently partaken of Audrey's hospitality and then discussed her
acrimoniously, had counted upon the lavish entertainment with which,
even in war-time, the wedding of a millionaire's widow might be
expected to be celebrated.

Instead of which, there had been this "hole-and-corner" sort of
marriage, as the disappointed femininity of Monkshaven chose to call
it, and, after a very brief honeymoon, Miles and Audrey had returned
and thrown themselves heart and soul into the work of organizing and
equipping a convalescent hospital for officers, of which Audrey had
undertaken to bear the entire cost.

Henceforth the mouths of Audrey's detractors were closed. She was no
longer "that shocking little widow with the dyed hair," but a woman
who had married into a branch of one of the oldest families in the
county, and whose immense private fortune had enabled her to give
substantial help to her country in its need.

"I think it's simply splendid of you, Audrey," declared Sara warmly,
as they were all partaking of tea at Greenacres, whither Audrey's car
had borne them from the station.

Audrey laughed.

"My dear, what else could I do with my money? I've got such a
sickening lot of it, you see! Besides"--with a bantering glance at her
husband--"I think it was only the prospect of being of some use at my
hospital which induced Miles to marry me! He's my private secretary,
you know, and boss of the commissariat department."

Miles saluted.

"Quartermaster, at your service, miss," he said cheerfully, adding
with a chuckle: "I saw my chance of getting a job if I married Audrey,
so of course I took it."

He was looking amazingly well. The fact of being of some use in the
world had acted upon him like a tonic, and there was no
misinterpreting the glance of complete and happy understanding that
passed between him and his wife.

Glad as she was to see it, it served to remind Sara painfully of all
that she had missed, to stir anew the aching longing for Garth Trent,
which, though struggled against, and beaten down, and sometimes
temporarily crowded out by the thousand claims of each day's labour,
had been with her all through the long months of her absence from

It was this which had worn her so fine, not the hard physical work
that she had been doing. Always slender, and built on racing lines,
there was something almost ethereal about her now, and her sombre eyes
looked nearly double their size in her small face of which the contour
was so painfully distinct. Yet she was as vivid and alive as ever; she
seemed to diffuse, as it were, a kind of spiritual brilliance.

"She makes one think of a flame," Audrey told her husband when they
were alone once more. "There is something so /vital/ about her, in
spite of that curiously frail look she has."

Miles nodded.

"She's burning herself out," he said briefly.

Audrey looked startled.

"What do you mean, Miles?"

"Good Heavens! I should think it's self-evident. She's exactly as much
in love with Trent as she was a year ago, and she's fighting against
it every hour of her life. And the strain's breaking her."

"Can't we do something to help?" Audrey put her question with a
helpless consciousness of its futility.

Herrick's eyes kindled.

"Nothing," he answered with quiet decision. "Every one must work out
his own salvation--if it's to be a salvation worth having."

Herrick had delved to the root of the matter when he had declared that
Sara was exactly as much in love as she had been a year ago.

She had realized this for herself, and it had converted life into an
endless conflict between her love for Garth and her shamed sense of
his unworthiness. And now, her return to Monkshaven, to its familiar,
memory-haunted scenes, had quickened the struggle into new vitality.

With the broadened outlook born of her recent experiences, she began
to ask herself whether a man need be condemned, utterly and for ever,
for a momentary loss of nerve--even Elisabeth had admitted that it was
probably no more than that! And then, conversely, her fierce
detestation of that particular form of weakness, inculcated in her
from her childhood by Patrick Lovell, would spring up protestingly,
and she would shrink with loathing from the thought that she had given
her love to a man who had been convicted of that very thing.

Nor was the attitude he had assumed in regard to the war calculated to
placate her. She had learned from Molly that he had abstained from
taking up any form of war-work whatsoever. He appeared to be utterly
indifferent to the need of the moment, and the whole of Monkshaven
buzzed with patriotic disapprobation of his conduct. There were few
idle hands there now. A big munitions factory had been established at
Oldhampton, and its demands, added to the necessities of the hospital,
left no loophole of excuse for slackers.

Sara reflected bitterly that the sole courage of which Garth seemed
possessed was a kind of cold, moral courage--brazen-facedness, the
townspeople termed it--which enabled him to refuse doggedly to be
driven out of Monkshaven, even though the whole weight of public
opinion was dead against him.

And then the recollection of that day on Devil's Hood Island, when he
had deliberately risked his life to save her reputation, would return
to her with overwhelming force--mocking the verdict of the court-
martial, repudiating the condemnation which had made her thrust him
out of her life.

So the pendulum swung, this way and that, lacerating her heart each
time it swept forward or back. But the blind agony of her recoil, when
she had first learned the story of that tragic happening on the Indian
frontier, was passed.

Then, overmastered by the horror of the thing, she had flung violently
away from Garth, feeling herself soiled and dishonoured by the mere
fact of her love for him, too revolted to contemplate anything other
than the severance of the tie between them as swiftly as possible.

Now, with the widened sympathies and understanding which the past year
of intimacy with human nature at its strongest, and at its weakest,
had brought her, new thoughts and new possibilities were awaking
within her.

The furnace--that fiercely burning furnace of life at its intensest--
had done its work.



"Tim is wounded, and has been recommended for the Military Cross."

Sara made the double announcement quite calmly. The two things so
often went together--it was the grey and gold warp and waft of war
with which people had long since grown pathetically familiar.

"How splendid!" Molly enthused with sparkling eyes, adding quickly, "I
hope he's not very badly wounded?"

"Elisabeth doesn't give any particulars in her letter. I can't
understand her," Sara continued, her brows contracting in a puzzled
fashion. "She seems so calm about it. She has always hated the idea of
Tim's soldiering, yet now, although she's lost her husband and her son
is wounded, she's taking it finely."

Selwyn looked up from filling his pipe.

"She's answering to the call--like every one else," he observed

"No." Sara shook her head. "I don't feel as though it were that. It's
something more individual. Perhaps"--thoughtfully--"it's pride of a
kind. The sort of impression I have is that she's so proud--so proud
of Geoffrey's fine death, and of Tim's winning the Military Cross,
that it has compensated in some way."

"The war's full of surprises," remarked Molly reflectively. "I never
was so astonished in my life as when I found that Lester Kent's wife
believed him to be a model of all the virtues! I wrote and told you--
didn't I, Sara?--that he was sent to Oldhampton Hospital? He got
smashed up, driving a motor ambulance, you know."

"Yes, you wrote and said that he died in hospital."

"Well, his wife came to see him, with her little boy. She was the
sweetest thing, and so plucky. 'My dear,' she said to me, after it was
all over, 'I hope you'll find a husband as dear and good. He was so
loyal and true--and now that he's gone, I shall always have that to
remember!' " Molly's eyes had grown very big and bright. "Oh! Sara,"
she went on, catching her breath a little, "supposing you hadn't
brought me home--that night, she would have had no beautiful memory to
help her now."

"And yet the memory is an utterly false one--though I suppose it will
help her just the same! It's knowing the truth that hurts, sometimes."
And Sara's lips twisted a little. "What a droll world it is--of shame
and truth all mixed up--the ugly and the beautiful all lumped

"And just now," put in Selwyn quietly, "it's so full of beauty."

"Beauty?" exclaimed both girls blankly.

Selwyn nodded, his eyes luminous.

"Isn't heroism beautiful--and self-sacrifice?" he said. "And this
war's full of it. Sometimes, when I read the newspapers, I think God
Himself must be surprised at the splendid things the men He made have

Sara turned away, swept by the recollection of one man she knew who
had nothing splendid, nothing glorious, to his credit. Almost
invariably, any discussion of the war ended by hurting her horribly.

"I'll take that basket of flowers across to the 'Convalescent' now, I
think," she said, rising abruptly from her seat by the fire.

Selwyn nodded, mentally anathematizing himself for having driven her
thoughts inward, and Molly, who had developed amazingly of late,
tactfully refrained from offering to accompany her.

The Convalescent Hospital, situated on the crest of a hill above the
town, was a huge mansion which had been originally built by a
millionaire named Rattray, who, coming afterwards to financial grief,
had found himself too poor to live in it when it was completed. It had
been frankly impossible as a dwelling for any one less richly dowered
with this world's goods, and, in consequence, when the place was
thrown on the market, no purchaser would be found for it--since
Monkshaven offered no attraction to millionaires in general.

Since then it had been known as Rattray's Folly, and it was not until
Audrey cast covetous eyes upon it for her convalescent soldiers that
the "Folly" had served any purpose other than that of a warning to
people not to purchase boots too big for them.

A short cut from Sunnyside to the hospital lay through Crabtree Moor,
and as Sara took her way across the rough strip of moorland, dotted
with clumps of gorse and heather, her thoughts flew back to that day
when she and Garth had encountered Black Brady there, and to the
ridiculous quarrel which had ensued in consequence of Garth's refusal
to condone the man's offence. For days they had not spoken to each

Looking backward, how utterly insignificant seemed that petty
disagreement now! Had she but known the bitter separation that must
come, she would have let no trifling difference, such as this had
been, rob her of a single precious moment of their friendship.

She wondered if she and Garth would ever meet again. She had been back
in Monkshaven for some weeks now, but he had studiously avoided
meeting her, shutting himself up within the solitude of Far End.

And then, with her thoughts still centred round the man she loved, she
lifted her eyes and saw him standing quite close to her. He was
leaning against a gate which gave egress from the moor into an
adjacent pasture field towards which her steps were bent. His arms,
loosely folded, rested upon the top of the gate, and he was looking
away from her towards the distant vista of sea and cliff. Evidently he
had not heard her light footsteps on the springy turf, for he made no
movement, but remained absorbed in his thoughts, unconscious of her

Sara halted as though transfixed. For an instant the whole world
seemed to rock, and a black mist rose up in front of her, blotting out
that solitary figure at the gateway. Her heart beat in great,
suffocating throbs, and her throat ached unbearably, as if a hand had
closed upon it and were gripping it so tightly that she could not
breathe. Then her senses steadied, and her gaze leapt to the face
outlined in profile against the cold background of the winter sky.

Her searching eyes, poignantly observant, sensed a subtle difference
in it--or, perhaps, less actually a difference than a certain
emphasizing of what had been before only latent and foreshadowed. The
lean face was still leaner than she had known it, and there were deep
lines about the mouth--graven. And the mouth itself held something
sternly sweet and austere about the manner of its closing--a severity
of self-discipline which one might look to see on the lips of a man
who has made the supreme sacrifice of his own will, bludgeoning his
desires into submission in response to some finely conceived impulse.

The recognition of this, of the something fine and splendid that had
stamped itself on Garth's features, came to Sara in a sudden blazoning
flash of recognition. This was not--could not be the face of a weak
man or a coward! And for one transcendent moment of glorious belief
sheer happiness overwhelmed her.

But, in the same instant, the damning facts stormed up at her--the
verdict of the court-martial, the details Elisabeth had supplied,
above all, Garth's own inability to deny the charge--and the light of
momentary ecstasy flared and went out in darkness.

An inarticulate sound escaped her, forced from her lips by the pang of
that sudden frustration of leaping hope, and, hearing it, Garth turned
and saw her.

"Sara!" The name rushed from his lips, shaken with a tumult of
emotion. And then he was silent, staring at her across the little
space that separated them, his hand gripping the topmost bar of the
gate as though for actual physical support.

The calm of his face, that lofty serenity which had been impressed
upon it, was suddenly all broken up.

"Sara!" he repeated, a ring of incredulity in his tones.

"Yes," she said flatly. "I've come back."

She moved towards him, trying to control the trembling that had seized
her limbs.

"I--I've just come back from France," she added, making a lame attempt
to speak conventionally.

It was an effort to hold out her hand, and, when his closed around it,
she felt her whole body thrill at his touch, just as it had been wont
to thrill in those few, short, golden days when their mutual happiness
had been undarkened by any shadow from the past. Swiftly, as though
all at once afraid, she snatched her hand from his clasp.

"What have you been doing in France?" he asked.

"Nursing," she answered briefly. "Did you think I could stay here and
do--nothing, at such a time as this?"

There was accusation in her tone, but if he felt that her speech
reflected in any way upon himself, he showed no sign of it. His eyes
were roving over her, marking the changes wrought in the year that had
passed since they had met--the sharpened contour of her face, the too
slender body, the white fragility of the bare hand which grasped the
handle of the basket she was carrying.

"You are looking very ill," he said, at last, abruptly.

"I'm not ill," she replied indifferently. "Only a bit over-tired. As
soon as I have had a thorough rest I am going back to France."

"You won't go back there again?" he exclaimed sharply. "You're not fit
for such work!"

"Certainly I shall go back--as soon as ever Dr. Selwyn will let me.
It's little enough to do for the men who are giving--everything!"
Suddenly, the pent-up indignation within her broke bounds. "Garth, how
can you stay here when men are fighting, dying--out there?" Her voice
vibrated with the sense of personal shame which his apathy inspired in
her. "Oh!"--as though she feared he might wound her yet further by
advancing the obvious excuse--"I know you're past military age. But
other men--older men than you--have gone. I know a man of fifty who
bluffed and got in! There are heaps of back doors into the Army these

"And there's a back door out of it--the one through which I was kicked
out!" he retorted, his mouth setting itself in the familiar bitter

The scoffing defiance of his attitude baffled her.

"Don't you want to help your country?" she pleaded. It was horrible to
her that he should stand aside--inexplicable except in terms of that
wretched business on the Indian Frontier, in the hideous truth of
which only his own acknowledgment had compelled her to believe.

He looked at her with hard, indifferent eyes.

"My country made me an outcast," he replied. "I'll remain such."

Somehow, even in her shamed bewilderment and anger, she sensed the
hurt that lay behind the curt speech.

"Men who have been cashiered, men who are too old--they're all going
back," she urged tremulously, snatching at any weapon that suggested

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Let them!"

She stared at him in silence. She felt exactly as though she had been
beating against a closed door. With a gesture of hopelessness she
turned away, recognizing the futility of pleading with him further.

"One moment"--he stepped in front of her, barring her path. "I want an
answer to a question before you go."

There was something of his old arrogance in the demand--the familiar,
dominating quality which had always swayed her. Despite herself, she
yielded to it now.

"Well?" she said unwillingly. "What is it you wish to know?"

"I want to know if you are engaged to Tim Durward."

For an instant the colour rushed into Sara's white face; then it ebbed
away, leaving it paler than before.

"No," she said quietly. "I am not." She lifted her eyes, accusing,
passionately reproachful, to his. "How could you--even ask me that?
Did you ever believe I loved you?" she went on fiercely. "And if I did
--could I care for any one else?"

A look of triumph leapt into his eyes.

"You care still, then?" he asked, and in his voice was blent all the
exultation, and the wonder, and the piercing torment of love itself.

Sara felt herself slipping, knew that she was losing her hold of
herself. Soon she would be a-wash in a sea of love, helpless to resist
as a bit of driftwood, and then the waters would close over her head
and she would be drawn down into the depths of shame which yielding to
her love for Garth involved.

She must go--leave him while she had the power. Summoning up her
strength, she faced him.

"I do," she answered steadily. "But I pray God every night of my life
that I may soon cease to care."

And with those few words, limitless in their scorn--for him, and for
herself because she still loved him--she turned to go.

But their contempt seemed to pass him by. His eyes burned.

"So Elisabeth has played her stake--and lost!" he muttered to himself.
"Ah! Pardon!" he drew aside as she almost brushed past him in her
sudden haste to escape--to get away--and stood, with bared head, his
eyes fixed on her receding figure.

Soon a bend in the path through the fields hid her from his sight.
But, long after she had disappeared, he remained leaning, motionless,
against the gateway through which she had passed, his face immobile,
twisted and drawn so that it resembled some sculptured mask of Pain,
his eyes staring straight in front of him, blank and unseeing.

"Hullo, Trent!"

Miles Herrick, returning from the town to the hospital and taking,
like every one else, the short cut across the fields, waved a friendly
arm as he caught sight of Garth's figure silhouetted against the sky-

Then he drew nearer, and the set, still face of the other filled him
with a sudden sense of dismay. There was a new look in it, a kind of
dogged hopelessness. It entirely lacked that suggestion of austere
sweetness which had made it so difficult to reconcile his smirched
reputation with the man himself.

"What is it, Garth?" Instinctively Miles slipped into the more
familiar appellation.

Trent looked at him blankly. It seemed as though he had not heard the
question, or, at any rate, had not taken in its meaning.

"What did you say?" he muttered, his brows contracting painfully.

Miles slung the various packages with which he was burdened on to the
ground, and leaned up leisurely against the gatepost. It was
characteristic of him that, although the day was never long enough for
the work he crowded into it, he could always find time to give a
helping hand to a pal with his back against the wall.

"Out with it, man!" he said. "What's up?"

Slowly recognition came back in the other's eyes.

"What I might have anticipated," he answered, at last, in a curious
flat voice, devoid of expression. "I've sunk a degree or two lower in
Sara's estimation since the war broke out."

Miles regarded him quietly for a moment, a queer, half-humorous glint
in his eyes.

"I suppose she doesn't know you've half-beggared yourself, helping on
the financial side?"

"A man could hardly do less, could he?" he returned awkwardly. "But if
she did know--which she doesn't--it would make no earthly difference."

"Then--it's because you're not soldiering?"

"Exactly. I've not volunteered."

"Well"--composedly--"why don't you?"

Trent laughed shortly.

"That's my affair."

"With your physique you could wangle the age limit," pursued Miles

"I should have to 'wangle' a good deal more than that,"--harshly.
"Have you forgotten that I was chucked from the Army?"

"There's such a thing as enlisting under another name."

"There is--and then of running up against one of the old crowd and
being recognized! It isn't so easy to lose your identity. I've had my
lesson on that."

Miles looked away quickly. The hard, implacable stare of the other
man's eyes, with the blazing defiance, hurt him. It spoke too
poignantly of a bitterness that had eaten into the heart. But he had
put his hand to the plough, and he refused to turn back.

"Wouldn't it"--he spoke with a sudden gentleness, the gentleness of
the surgeon handling a torn limb--"wouldn't it help to straighten
things out with Sara?"

"If it did, it would only make matters worse. No. Take it from me,
Herrick, that soldiering is the one thing of all others I can't do."

He turned away as though to signify that the discussion was at an end.

"I don't see it," persisted Miles. "On the contrary, it's the one
thing that might make her believe in you. In spite of that Indian
Frontier business."

Garth swung suddenly round, a dull, dangerous gleam in his eyes. But
Miles bore the savage glance serenely. He had applied the spur with
intention. The other was suffering--suffering intolerably--in a dumb
silence that shut him in alone with his agony. That silence must be
broken, no matter what the means.

"You'd wipe out the stigma of cowardice, if you volunteered," he went
on deliberately.

Garth laughed derisively.

"Cut it out, Herrick," he flung back. "I'm not a damned story-book
hero, out for whitewash and the V.C."

But Miles continued undeterred.

"And you'd convince Sara," he finished quietly.

A stifled exclamation broke from Garth.

"To what end?" he burst out violently. "Can't you realize that's just
the one thing in the world forbidden me? Sara is--oh, well, it's
impossible to say what she is, but I suppose most good women are half
angel. And if I gave her the smallest chance, she'd begin to believe
in me again--to ask questions I cannot answer. . . . What's the use? I
can't get away from the court-martial and all that followed. I can't
clear myself. And I could never offer Sara anything more than a name
that has been disgraced--a miserable half-life with a man who can't
hold up his head amongst his fellows! Yes"--answering the unspoken
question in Herrick's eyes--"I know what you're thinking--that I was
willing to marry her once. But I believed, then, that--Garth Trent had
cut himself free from the past. Now I know"--more quietly--"that there
is no such thing as getting away from the mistakes one has made. . . .
I'm tied hand and foot--every way! And it's better Sara should
continue to think the worst of me. Then, in the future, she may find
some sort of happiness--with Durward, perhaps." His lips greyed a
little, but he went on. "The worse she thinks me, the easier it will
be for her to cut me out of her life."

"Then do you mean"--Miles spoke very slowly--that you are--
deliberately--holding back from soldiering?"

"Quite deliberately!" It was like the snap of a tormented animal,
baited beyond bearing. "If I could go with a clean name, as other men
can---- Good God, man! Do you think I haven't thought it out--knocked
my head against every stone wall in the whole damned business?"

Miles was silent. There was so much of truth in all Garth said, so
much of warped vision, biased by the man's profound bitterness of
soul, that he could find no answer.

After a moment Garth spoke again, jerkily, as though under pressure.

"There's my promise to Elisabeth, as well. That binds me if I were
recognized and taxed with my identity. I should have to hold my peace
--and stick it all over again! . . . There's a limit to a man's

Then, after a pause: "If I could go--and be sure of not returning"--
grimly--"I'd go to-morrow--the Foreign Legion, anyway. But sometimes a
man hasn't even the right to get himself neatly killed out of the

"What are you driving at now?"

"I should think it's plain enough! Don't you see what it would mean to
Sara if--that--happened? She'd never believe--afterwards--that I'm as
black as I'm painted, and I should saddle her with an intolerable
burden of self-reproach. No, the Army is a closed door for me. . . .
Damn it, Herrick!" with the sudden nervous violence of a man goaded
past endurance. "Can't you understand? I ought never to have come into
her life at all. I've only messed things up for her--damnably. The
least I can do is to clear out of it so that she'll never regret my
going. . . . I've gone under, and a man who's gone under had better
stay there."

Both men were silent--Trent with the bitter, brooding silence of a man
who has battered uselessly against the bars that hem him in, and who
at last recognizes that they can never be forced asunder, Herrick
trying to focus his vision to that of the man beside him.

"No"--Garth spoke with a finality there was no disputing--"I've been
buried three-and-twenty years, and my resurrection hasn't been exactly
a success. There's no place in the world for me unless some one else
pays the price. It's better for every one concerned that I should--
stay buried."



"He didn't do it!"

Suddenly, Sara found herself saying the words aloud in the darkness
and solitude of the night.

Since her meeting with Garth, on her way to the hospital, every hour
had been an hour of conflict. That brief, strained interview had
shaken her to the depths of her being, and, unable to sleep when night
came, she had lain, staring wide-eyed into the dark, struggling
against its influence.

Little enough had been said. It had been the silences, the dumb,
passion-filled silences, vibrant with all that must not be spoken,
which had tried her endurance to the utmost, and she had fled, at
last, incontinently, because she had felt her resolution weakening
each moment she and Garth remained together--because, with him beside
her, the love against which she had been fighting for twelve long
months had wakened into fierce life again, beating down her puny
efforts to withstand it.

The mere sound of his voice, the lightest touch of his hand, had power
to thrill her from head to foot, to rock those barriers which his own
act had forced her to build up between them.

The recollection of that one perfect moment, when the serene austerity
of his face had given the lie to that of which he was accused,
lingered with her, a faint elusive thread of hope which would not
leave her, urging, suggesting, combating the hard facts to which he
himself had given ruthless confirmation.

Almost without her cognizance, Sara's characteristic, vehement belief
in whomsoever she loved--stunned at the first moment of Elisabeth's
revelation--had been gradually creeping back to feeble, halting life,
weakened at times by the mass of evidence arrayed against it, yet
still alive--growing and strengthening secretly within her as an
unborn babe grows and strengthens.

And since that moment on the moor, when her eyes had searched Garth's
face--his face with the mask off--the dormant belief within her had
sprung into conscious knowledge.

Throughout the long hours of the night she had fought against it,
deeming it but the passionate outcome of her love for the man himself.
She /wanted/ to believe him innocent; it was only her love for him
which had raised this phantom doubt of the charges brought against
him; the wish had been father to the thought. So she told herself,
struggling conscientiously against that to which she longed to yield.

And then, making a mockery of the hateful thing of which he had been
accused, her individual knowledge of Garth himself rose up and
confronted her accusingly.

Nothing that she had ever known of him had pointed to any lack of
courage. It had been on no sudden, splendid impulse of a moment that
he had plunged into the sea and fought that treacherous, racing tide
off Devil's Hood Island. Quite composedly, deliberately, he had
calculated the risks--and taken them!

Once more, she recalled the vision of his face as she had seen it
yesterday, in that instant before he had perceived her nearness to him
--strong and steadfast, imprinted with a disciplined nobility--and the
repudiation of his dishonour leapt spontaneously from her lips.

"He didn't do it!"

She had spoken involuntarily, the thought rushing into words before
she was aware, and the sound of her own voice in the darkness startled
her. It seemed almost like a voice from some Otherwhere,
authoritatively assuring her of all she had ached to believe.

She lay back on her pillows, smiling a little at the illusion. But the
sense of peace, of blessed assuredness, remained with her. She had
struggled through the darkness of those bitter months of unbelief, and
now she had come out into the light on the other side. She felt
dreamily contented and at rest, and presently she fell asleep,
trustfully, as a little child may sleep, the smile still on her lips.

With morning came reaction--blank, sordid reaction, depressing her

Amid the score of trifling details incidental to the day's
arrangements, with the usual uninspiring conversation prevalent at the
breakfast-table going on around her, the mood of the previous night,
informed, as it had been, with that triumphant sense of exaltation,
slipped from her like a garment.

Supposing she were to tell them--to tell Selwyn and Molly--that,
without any further evidence, she was convinced of Garth's innocence?
Why, they would think she had gone mad! Regretfully, with infinite
pain it might be, but still none the less conclusively, they had
accepted the fact of his guilt. And indeed, what else could be
expected of them, seeing that he had himself acknowledged it?

And yet--that inner feeling of belief which had stirred into new life
refused to be repressed.

Mechanically she went about the small daily duties which made up life
at Sunnyside--interviewed Jane Crab, read the newspapers to Mrs.
Selwyn, accomplished the necessary shopping in the town, each and all
with a mind that was only superficially concerned with the matter in
hand, while, behind this screen of commonplace routine, she felt as
though her soul were struggling impotently to release itself from the
bonds which had bound it in a tyranny of anguish for twelve long

In the afternoon, she paid a visit to the Convalescent Hospital. She
made a practice of going there at least once a day and giving what
assistance she could. Frequently she relieved Miles of part of his
secretarial work, or checked through with him the invoices of goods
received. There were always plenty of odd jobs to be done, and, after
her strenuous work in France, she found it utterly impossible to
settle down to the life of masterly inactivity which Selwyn had
prescribed for her.

Audrey greeted her with a little flurry of excitement.

"Do you know that there was a Zepp over Oldhampton last night?" she
asked, as they went upstairs together. "Did you hear it?"

Sara shook her head. The memory of the previous night surged over her
like the memory of a vivid dream--the absolute assurance it had
brought her of Garth's innocence, an assurance which had grown vague
and doubtful with the daylight, just as the happenings of a dream grow
blurred and indistinct.

"No, I didn't hear anything," she replied absently. "Did they do much
damage? I suppose they were after the munitions factory?"

"Yes. They dropped one bomb, that's all. It fell in a field, luckily.
But goodness knows how they got over without any one's spotting them!
Everybody's asking where our search-lights were. As for our anti-
aircraft guns, they've never had the opportunity yet to do anything
more than try our nerves by practicing! And last night a golden
opportunity came and went unobserved."

"The milkman was babbling to Jane about Zeppelins this morning, but I
thought it was probably only the result of overnight potations at 'The
Jolly Sailorman.' "

"No, it was the real thing--'made in Germany,' " smiled Audrey. "I
begin to feel as if we were quite the hub of the universe, now that
the Zepps have acknowledged our existence."

They paused outside the door of the room allotted to her husband's

"Miles will be glad to see you to-day," she pursued. "He's bemoaning a
new manifestation of war-fever among the feminine population of
Monkshaven. Go in to him, will you? I must run off--I've got a million
things to see to. You're not looking very fit to-day"--suddenly
observing the other's white face and shadowed eyes. "Are you feeling
up to work?"

Sara nodded indifferently.

"Quite," she said. "I shouldn't have come otherwise."

Miles welcomed her joyfully.

"Bless you, my dear!" he exclaimed. "You're the very woman I wanted to
see. I'm snowed under with fool letters from females anxious to
entertain 'our poor, brave, wounded officers.' Head 'em off, will
you?" He thrust a bundle of letters into her hands. Then, as she moved
toward the windows, and the cold, searching light of the wintry
sunshine fell full on her face, his voice altered. "What is it? What
has happened, Sara?" he asked quickly.

She looked at him dumbly. Her lips moved, but no sound came. The
sudden question, accompanied by the swift, penetrating glance of
Miles's brown eyes, had taken her off her guard.

He limped across to her.

"Not a stroke of work for you to-day," he said decisively, taking the
bundle of letters out of her hands. "Now tell me what's wrong?"

She looked away from him, a slow, shamed red creeping into her face.
At last--

"I've seen Garth," she said very low.

Herrick nodded. He knew what that meeting had meant to one of these
two friends of his. Now he was to see the reverse of the medal. He
waited, his silence sympathetic and far more helpful than any eager,
probing question, however well-intentioned.

"Miles," she burst out suddenly, "I'm--I'm wretched!"

"How's that?" He did not make the mistake of attributing her outburst
to a transient mood of depression. Something deeper lay behind it.

"Since I saw Garth yesterday I've been asking myself whether--whether
I've been doing him a ghastly injustice"--she moistened her dry lips--
"whether he was really guilty of--running away."

"Ah!" Miles stuffed his hands in his pockets and limped the length of
the room and back. In that moment, he realized something of the
maddening, galling restraint of the bondage under which Garth Trent
had lived for years--the bondage of silence, and, within his pickets,
his hands were clenched when he halted again at Sara's side.

"Why?" he shot at her.

She hesitated. Then she caught her breath a little hysterically.

"Why--because--because I just can't believe it! . . . I've seen a lot
since I went away. I've seen brave men--and I've seen men . . . who
were afraid." She turned her head aside. "They--the ones who were
afraid--didn't look . . . as Garth looks."

Herrick made no comment. He put a question.

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. I expect you think I'm a fool? I've nothing to go on--
on the contrary, I've Garth's own admission that--that he /was/
cashiered. And yet---- Oh! Miles, if he were only doing anything--now
--it would be easier to believe in him! But--he holds absolutely
aloof. It's as though he /were/ afraid--still."

"Have you ever thought"--Herrick spoke slowly, without looking at her
--"what this year of war must have meant to a man who has been a
soldier--and is one no longer?" His eyes came back to her face

"How--what do you mean?" she whispered.

"You've only got to look at the man to know what I mean. I think--
since the war broke out--that Trent has been through the bitterness of

"But--but he could have enlisted--got in somehow--under another name,
had he /wanted/ to fight. Or he might have gone out and driven an
ambulance car--as Lester Kent did."

Sara was putting to Herrick the very arguments which had arisen in her
own mind to confound the intuitive belief of which she had been
conscious since that moment of inward revelation on Crabtree Moor--
putting them forward in all their repulsive ugliness of fact, in the
desperate hope that Herrick might find some way to refute them.

"Some men might have done, perhaps," answered Miles quietly. "But not
a man of Trent's temperament. Some trees bend in a storm--and when the
worst of it is past, they spring erect again. Some /can't/; they

The words recalled to Sara's mind with sudden vividness the last
letter Patrick Lovell had ever written her--the one which he had left
in the Chippendale bureau for her to receive after his death. He had
applied almost those identical words to the Malincourt temperament, of
which he had recognized the share she had inherited. And she realized
that her guardian and Miles Herrick had been equally discerning.
Though differing in its effect upon each of them, consequent upon
individual idiosyncrasy, the fact remained that she and Garth were
both "breaking" beneath the strain which destiny had imposed on them.

With the memory of Patrick's letter came an inexpressible longing for
the man himself--for the kindly, helping hand which he would have
stretched out to her in this crisis of her life. She felt sure that,
had he been beside her now, his shrewd counsel would have cleared away
the mists of doubt and indecision which had closed about her.

But since he was no longer there to be appealed to, she had turned
instinctively to Herrick, and, somehow, he had failed her. He had not
given her a definite expression of his own belief. She had been
humanly craving to hear that he, too, believed in Garth,
notwithstanding the evidence against him--that he had some explanation
to offer of that ghastly tragedy of the court-martial episode. And
instead, he had only hazarded some tolerant suggestions--sympathetic
to Garth, it is true, but not carrying with them the vital,
unqualified assurance she had longed to hear.

In spite of this, she knew that Herrick's friendship with Garth had
remained unbroken by the knowledge of the Indian Frontier story. The
personal relations of the two men were unchanged, and she felt as
though Miles were withholding something from her, observing a
reticence for which she could find no explanation. He had been very
kind and understanding--it would not have been Miles had he been
otherwise--but he had not helped her much. In some curious way she
felt as though he had thrown the whole onus of coming to a decision,
unaided by advice, upon her shoulders.

She returned to Sunnyside oppressed with a homesick longing for
Patrick. The two years which had elapsed since his death had blunted
the edge of her sorrow--as time inevitably must--but she still missed
the shrewd, kindly, worldly-wise old man unspeakably, and just now,
thrown back upon herself in some indefinable way by Miles's attitude,
her whole heart cried out for that other who was gone.

She wondered if he knew how much she needed him. She almost believed
that he must know--wherever he might be now, she felt that Patrick
would never have forgotten the child of the woman whom, in this world,
he had loved so long and faithfully.

With an instinctive craving for some tangible memory of him, she
unlocked the leather case which held her mother's miniature, together
with the last letter which Patrick had ever written; and, unfolding
the letter, began to read it once again.

Somehow, there seemed comfort in the very wording of it, in every
little characteristic phrase that had been Patrick's, in the familiar
appellation, "Little old pal," which he had kept for her alone.

All at once her fingers gripped the letter more tightly, her
attentions riveted by a certain passage towards the end.

". . . And when love comes to you, never forget that it is the
biggest thing in the world, the one altogether good and perfect
gift. Don't let any twopenny-halfpenny considerations of worldly
advantage influence you, or the tittle-tattle of other folks, and
even if it seems that something unsurmountable lies between you
and the fulfillment of love, go over it, or round it, or through
it! If it's real love, your faith must be big enough to remove the
mountains in the way--or to go over them."

Had Patrick foreseen the exact circumstances in which his "little old
pal" would one day find herself, he could not have written anything
more strangely applicable.

Sara sat still, every nerve of her taut and strung. She felt as though
she had laid bare the whole of her trouble, revealed her inmost soul
in all its anguished perplexity, to those shrewd blue eyes which had
been wont to see so clearly through externals, piercing infallibly to
the very heart of things.

Patrick had always possessed that supreme gift of being able to
separate the grain from the chaff--to distinguish unerringly between
essentials and non-essentials, and now, in the quiet, wise counsel of
an old letter, Sara found an answer to all the questionings that had
made so bitter a thing of life.

It was almost as if some one had torn down a curtain from before her
eyes, rent asunder a veil which had been distorting and obscuring the
values of things.

Mountains! There were mountains indeed betwixt her and Garth--and
there was no way round them or through them! But now--now she would go
over them--go straight ahead, unregarding of the mountains between, to
where Garth and love awaited her.

No man is all angel--or all devil. Supposing Garth /had/ been guilty
of cowardice, had had his one moment of weakness? She no longer cared!
He was hers, her lover, alike in his weakness and in his strength. She
had known men in France shrink in terror at the evil droning of a
shell, and then die selflessly that others might live.

"Your faith must be big enough to remove the mountains in the way--or
to go over them," Patrick had written.

And Sara, hiding her face in her hands, thanked God that now, at last,
her faith was big enough, and that love--"the one altogether good and
perfect gift"--was still hers if she would only go over the mountains.




The words, in staring white capital letters, had been chalked up by
some one on the big wooden double-doors that shut the world out from
Far End.

Sara stood quite still, gazing at them fixedly, and a tense white-heat
of anger flared up within her. Who had dared to put such an insult
upon the man she loved?"

"/Coward/!" No one had ever actually applied that term to Garth in her
hearing. They had skirted delicately round it, or wrapped up its
meaning in some less harsh-sounding tangle of phrases, and although
she had bitterly used the word herself, now that the opprobrious
expression publicly confronted her, writ large by some unfriendly
hand, she was swept by a sheer fury of indignant denial. It roused in
her the immediate instinct to defend, to range herself unmistakably on
Garth's side against a world of traducers.

With a faint smile of self-mockery, she realized that had this
flagrant insult been leveled at him in the beginning, had her first
knowledge of the black shadow which hung over him been thus brutally
flung at her, instead of diffidently, reluctantly broken to her by
Elisabeth, she would probably, with the instinctive partisanship of
woman for her mate, have utterly refused to credit it--against all
reason and all proof.

She wondered who could have done this ting, nailed this insult to
Garth's very door. The illiterate characters stamped it as the work of
some one in the lower walks of life, and, with a frown of annoyance,
Sara promptly--and quite correctly--ascribed it to Black Brady.

"I never forgits to pay back," he had told her once, belligerently.
Probably this was his notion of getting even with the man who had
prosecuted him for poaching. But had Brady realized that, in
retaliating upon Trent, he would be giving pain to his beloved Sara,
whom he had grown to regard with a humble, dog-like devotion, he would
certainly have refrained from recording his vengeance upon Garth's

Surmising that Garth could not have seen the offending legend--or it
would scarcely have been left for all who can to read--Sara whipped
out her handkerchief and set to work to rub it off. He should not see
it if she could help it!

But Black Brady had done his work very thoroughly, and she was still
diligently scrubbing at it with an inadequate piece of cambric when
she heard steps behind her, and wheeling round, found herself
confronted by Garth himself.

His eyes rested indifferently and without surprise upon the chalked-up
words, then turned to Sara's face inquiringly.

"Why are you doing that?" he asked. "Is--cleaning gates the latest
form of war-work?"

Sara, her face scarlet, answered reluctantly.

"I didn't want you to see it."

A curious expression flashed into his eyes.

"I saw it--two hours ago."

"And you left it there?"--with amazement.

"Why not? It's true, isn't it?"

And in that moment the long struggle in Sara's heart ended, and she
answered out of the fullness of the faith that was in her.

"No! It is /not/ true! I've been a fool to believe it for an instant.
But I'm one no longer. I don't believe it." She paused, then, very
deliberately and steadily, she put her question.

"Garth--tell me, were you ever guilty of cowardice?"

"The court-martial thought so."

Sara's foot tapped impatiently on the ground.

"Please answer my question," she said quickly.

But he remained unmoved.

"Elisabeth Durward has surely supplied you with all the information on
that subject which you require," he said in expressionless tones, and
Sara was conscious anew of the maddening feeling of impotence with
which a contest of wills between herself and Garth never failed to
imbue her.

"Garth"--there was appeal in her voice, yet it was still very steady
and determined--"I want to know what /you/ say about it. What
Elisabeth--or any one else--may say, doesn't matter any longer."

Something in the quiet depth of emotion in her voice momentarily broke
through his guard. He made an involuntary movement towards her, then
checked himself, and, with an effort, resumed his former detached

"More important than anything either I, or Elisabeth, can say, is the
verdict of the court," he answered.

The deadly calm of his voice ripped away her last remnant of

"The verdict of the court!" she burst out. "/Damn/ the verdict of the

"I have done--many a time!"--bitterly.

"Garth," she came a step nearer to him and her sombre eyes blazed into
his. "I /will/ have an answer! For God's sake, don't fence with me any
longer! . . . There have been misunderstandings enough, reticences
enough, between us. For this once, let us be honest with each other. I
pretended I didn't care--I pretended I could go on living, believing
you to be what--what they have called you. And I can't! . . . I can't
go on. . . . I can't bear it any longer. You must answer me! /Were you

He was white to the lips by the time she had finished, and his eyes
held a look of dumb torture. Twice he essayed to answer her, but no
sound came.

At last he turned away, as though the passionate question in her face
--the eager, hungry longing to hear her faith confirmed--were more
than he could bear.

"I cannot deny it." The words came hoarsely, almost whispered.

Her eyes never left his face.

"I didn't ask you to deny it," she persisted doggedly. "I asked you--
were you guilty?"

Again there fell as heavy silence. Then, reluctantly, as if the
admission were dragged from him, he spoke.

"I'm afraid I can give you no other answer to that question."

A light like the tender, tremulous shining of dawn broke across Sara's

"Then you /weren't/ guilty!" she exclaimed, and there was a deep,
surpassing joy in her shaken tones. "I knew it! I was sure of it. Oh!
Garth, Garth, what a fool I've been! And oh! My dear, why did you do
it? Why did you let me go on thinking you--what it almost killed me to

He stared down at her with wondering, uncertain eyes.

"But I've just told you that I can't deny it!"

She smiled at him--a smile of absolute content, with a gleam of humour
at the back of it.

"I didn't ask you to deny it. I asked you to own to it; I tried to
make you--every way. And you can't!"


She laid her hand across his mouth--laughing the tender, triumphant
laughter of a woman who has won, and knows that she has.

"You needn't blacken yourself any longer on my account, Garth. I shall
never again believe anything that you may say against--the man I

She stood leaning a little towards him, surrender in every line of her
slender body, and her face was like a white flame--transfigured,
radiant with some secret, mystic glory of love's imparting.

With an inarticulate cry he opened wide his arms and she went to him--
swiftly, unerringly, like a homing bird--and, as he folded her close
against his breast and laid his lips to hers, all the hunger and the
longing of the empty past was in his kiss. For the moment, pain and
bitterness and regret were swept away in that ecstasy of reunion.

Presently, with a little sigh of spent rapture, she leaned away from

"To think we've wasted a whole year," she said regretfully. "Garth, I
wish I had trusted you better!" There was a sweet humility of
repentance in her tones.

"I don't see why you should trust me now," he rejoined quietly. "The
facts remain as before."

"Only that the verdict of the court-martial was wrong," she said
swiftly. "There was some horrible mistake. I am sure of it--I know it!
Garth!--after a moment's pause--"are you going to tell me everything?
I have the right to know--haven't I?--now that I'm going to be your

She felt the clasp of his arms relax, and, looking up quickly, she saw
his face suddenly revert to its old lines of weariness. Slowly,
reluctantly, he drew away from her.

"Garth!" There was a shrilling note of apprehension in her voice.
"Garth! What is it? Why do you look like that?"

It was a full minute before he answered. When he did, he spoke
heavily, as one who knows that his next words will dash all the joy
out of life.

"Because," he said quietly, "I can no more tell you anything now than
I could before. I can't clear myself, Sara!"

Her eyes were fixed on his.

"Do you mean--you will /never/ be able to?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, I mean that."

"Answer me one more question, Garth. Is it that you /cannot/--or /will
not/ clear yourself?"

"I /must/ not," he replied steadily. "I am not the only one concerned
in the matter. There is some one to whom I owe it to be silent. Honour
forbids that I should even try to clear myself. Now you know all--all
that I can ever tell you."

Book of the day: