Part 1 out of 3
E-text prepared by Guus van Baalen
1. Words which may seem to be transcriber's typos, or otherwise
suspect, but which are reproduced faithfully (archaic spellings,
printer's typos--sometimes I couldn't tell):
Ch. I: befel, undigged
Ch. III: chaperon
Ch. IV: babby, mun, valtz
Ch. V: zounded, dimpsey, after'n, ax'n, ax
Ch. VI: picquet, damitol
Ch. XI: alwaies, Desarts, Eternitie
2. Diphthongs, given as single characters in the printed copy, are
transcribed as two separate characters.
ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES,
A spinster, having borrowed a man's hat to decorate her front hall,
excused herself on the ground that the house 'wanted a something.'
By inscribing your name above this little story I please myself at
the risk of helping the reader to discover not only that it wants a
something, but precisely what that something is. It wants--to confess
and have done with it--all the penetrating subtleties of insight, all
the delicacies of interpretation, you would have brought to Dorothea's
aid, if for a moment I may suppose her worth your championing. So I
invoke your name to stand before my endeavour like a figure outside
the brackets in an algebraical sum, to make all the difference by
multiplying the meaning contained.
But your consent gives me another opportunity even more warmly desired.
And I think that you, too, will take less pleasure in discovering how
excellent your genius appears to one who nevertheless finds it a
mystery in operation, than in learning that he has not missed to
admire, at least, and with a sense almost of personal loyalty, the
sustained and sustaining pride in good workmanship by which you have
set a common example to all who practise, however diversely, the art
in which we acknowledge you a master.
A. T. QUILLER-COUCH
October 25th, 1901
CHAPTER I THE WESTCOTES OF BAYFIELD
CHAPTER II THE ORANGE ROOM
CHAPTER III A BALL, A SNOWSTORM, AND A SNOWBALL
CHAPTER IV ENCOUNTER BETWEEN A HIGH HORSE AND A HOBBY
CHAPTER V BEGINS WITH ANCIENT HISTORY AND ENDS WITH AN OLD STORY
CHAPTER VI FATE IN A LAURELLED POST-CHAISE
CHAPTER VII LOVE AND AN OLD MAID
CHAPTER VIII CORPORAL ZEALLY INTERVENES
CHAPTER IX DOROTHEA CONFESSES
CHAPTER X DARTMOOR
CHAPTER XI THE NEW DOROTHEA
CHAPTER XII GENERAL ROCHAMBEAU TELLS A STORY; AND THE TING-TANG RINGS
FOR THE LAST TIME
THE WESTCOTES OF BAYFIELD
A mural tablet in Axcester Parish Church describes Endymion Westcote as
"a conspicuous example of that noblest work of God, the English Country
Gentleman." Certainly he was a typical one.
In almost every district of England you will find a family which,
without distinguishing itself in any particular way, has held fast to
the comforts of life and the respect of its neighbours for generation
after generation. Its men have never shone in court, camp, or senate;
they prefer tenacity to enterprise, look askance upon wit (as a
dangerous gift), and are even a little suspicious of eminence. On the
other hand they make excellent magistrates, maintain a code of manners
most salutary for the poor in whose midst they live and are looked up
to; are as a rule satisfied, like the old Athenian, if they leave to
their heirs not less but a little more than they themselves inherited,
and deserve, as they claim, to be called the backbone of Great Britain.
Many of the women have beauty, still more have an elegance which may
pass for it, and almost all are pure in thought, truthful, assiduous in
deeds of charity, and marry for love of those manly qualities which
they have already esteemed in their brothers.
Such a family were the Westcotes of Bayfield, or Bagvil, in 1810. Their
"founder" had settled in Axcester towards the middle of the seventeenth
century, and prospered--mainly, it was said, by usury. A little before
his death, which befel in 1668, he purchased Bayfield House from a
decayed Royalist who had lost his only son in the Civil Wars; and to
Bayfield and the ancestral business (exalted now into Banking) his
descendants continued faithful. One or both of the two brothers who,
with their half-sister, represented the family in 1810, rode in on
every week-day to their Bank-office in Axcester High Street,--a
Georgian house of brick, adorned with a porch of plaster fluted to the
shape of a sea-shell, out of which a. Cupid smiled down upon a brass
plate and the inscription "WESTCOTE AND WESTCOTE," and on the first
floor, with windows as tall as the rooms, so that from the street you
could see through one the shapely legs of Mr. Endymion Westcote at his
knee-hole table, and through another the legs of Mr. Narcissus. The
third and midmost window was a dummy, having been bricked up to avoid
the window-tax imposed by Mr. Pitt--in whose statesmanship, however,
the brothers had firmly believed. Their somewhat fantastic names were
traditional in the Westcote pedigree and dated from, the seventeenth
Endymion, the elder, (who took the lead of Narcissus in all, things),
was the fine flower of the Westcote stocks, and, out of question, the
most influential man in Axcester and for many a mile round justice of
the Peace for the county of Somerset and Major of its Yeomanry, he
served "our town," (so he called it) as Overseer of the Poor, Governor
of the Grammar School, Chairman of Feoffees, Churchwarden, everything
in short but Mayor--an office which he left to the tradesmen, while
taking care to speak of it always with respect, and indeed to see it
properly filled. The part of County Magistrate--to which he had been
born--he played to perfection, and with a full sense of its dignified
amenity. (It was whispered that the Lord Lieutenant himself stood in
some awe of him.) His favourite character, however, was that of plain
citizen of his native town. "I'm an Axcester man," he would declare in
his public speeches, and in his own way he loved and served the little
borough. For its good he held its Parliamentary representation in the
hollow of his hand; and, as Overseer of the Poor, had dared public
displeasure by revising the Voters' List and defying a mandamus of the
Court of King's Bench rather than allow Axcester to fail in its duty
of returning two members to support Mr. Percevall's Ministry. In 1800,
when the price of wheat rose to 184s a quarter, a poor woman dropped
dead in the market place of starvation. At once a mob collected,
hoisted a quartern-loaf on a pole with the label--"We will have Bread
or Blood," and started to pillage the shop's in High Street. It was
Endymion Westcote who rode up single-handed, (they, were carrying the
only constable on their shoulders) and faced and dispersed the rioters.
It was he who headed the subscription list, prevailed on the purchase a
wagon-load of potatoes and persuaded the people to plant them--for
even the seed potatoes had been eaten, and the gardens lay undigged.
It was he who met the immediate famine by importing large quantities of
rice. Finally, it was he, through his influence with the county, who
brought back prosperity by getting the French prisoners sent to Axcester.
We shall talk of these French prisoners by and by. To conclude this
portrait of Endymion Westcote. He was a handsome, fresh-complexioned
man, over six feet in height, and past his forty-fifth year; a bachelor
and a Protestant. In his youth he had been noted for gallantry, and
preserved some traces of it in his address. His grandfather had
married a French lady, and although this union had not sensibly diluted
the Westcote blood, Endymion would refer to it to palliate a youthful
taste for playing the fiddle. He spoke French fluently, with a British
accent which, when appointed Commissary, he took pains to improve by
conversation with the prisoners, and was fond of discussing heredity
with the two most distinguished of them--the Vicomte de Tocqueville
and General Rochambeau.
Narcissus, the younger brother, had neither the height nor the good
looks nor the masterful carriage of Endymion, and made no pretence to
rival him as a man of affairs. He professed to be known as the student
of the family, dabbled in archaeology, and managed two or three local
societies and field clubs, which met ostensibly to listen to his
papers, but really to picnic. An accident had decided this bent of his
--the discovery, during some repairs, of a fine Roman pavement beneath
the floor of Bayfield House, At the age of eighteen, during a Cambridge
vacation, Narcissus had written and privately printed a description of
this pavement, proving not only that its tessellae represented scenes
in the mythological story of Bacchus, but that the name "Bayfield," in
some old deeds and documents written "Bagvil" or "Baggevil," was
neither more nor less than a corruption of _Bacchi Villa_. Axcester and
its neighbourhood are rich in Roman remains--the town stands, indeed,
on the old Fosse Way--and, tempted by early success, Narcissus rode
his hobby further and further afield. Now, at the age of forty-two, he
could claim to be an authority on the Roman occupation of Britain, and
especially on the conquests of Vespasian. The circle of--the
Westcotes' acquaintance gathered in the fine hall of Bayfield--or, as
Narcissus preferred to call it, the atrium--drank tea, admired the
pavement, listened to the alleged exploits of Vespasian, and wondered
when the brothers would marry. Time went on, repeating these
assemblies; and the question became, Will they ever marry? Apparently
they had no thought of it, no idea that it was expected of them; and
since they had both passed forty, the question might be taken as
answered. But that so personable a man as Endymion Westcote would let
the family perish was monstrous to suppose. He kept his good looks and
his fresh complexion; even now some maiden would easily be found to
answer his Olympian nod; and a vein of recklessness sometimes cropped
up through his habitual caution, and kept his friends alert for
surprises. In the hunting-field, for instance,--and he rode to hounds
twice a week,--he made a rule of avoiding fences; but the world quite
rightly set this down to a proper care for his person rather than to
timidity, since on one famous occasion, riding up to find the whole
field hesitating before a "rasper" (they were hunting a strange country
that day), he put his horse at it and sailed over with a nonchalance
relieved only by his ringing laugh on the farther side. It was odds he
would clear the fence of matrimony, some day, with the same casual
heartiness; and, in any case, he was masterful enough to insist on
Narcissus marrying, should it occur to him to wish it.
Oddly enough, the gossips who still arranged marriages for the brothers
had given over speculating upon their hostess, Miss Dorothea. She could
not, of course, perpetuate the name; but this by no means accounted for
all the difference in their concern. Dorothea Westcote was now thirty-
seven, or five years younger than Narcissus, whose mother had died soon
after his birth. The widower had created one of the few scandals in the
Westcote history by espousing, some four years later, a young woman of
quite inferior class, the daughter of a wholesale glover in Axcester.
The new wife had good looks, but they did not procure her pardon; and
she made the amplest and speediest amends by dying within twelve
months, and leaving a daughter who in no way resembled her. The husband
survived her just a dozen years.
Dorothea, the daughter, was a plain girl; her brothers, though kind and
fond of her after a fashion, did not teach her to forget it. She loved
them, but her love partook of awe: they were so much cleverer, as well
as handsomer, than she. Having no mother or friend of her own sex to
imitate, she grow into an awkward woman, sensitive to charm in others
and responding to it without jealousy, but ignorant of what it meant or
how it could be acquired. She picked up some French from her brother
Endymion, and masters were hired who taught her to dance, to paint in
water colours, and to play with moderate skill upon the harp. But few
partners had ever sought her in the ballroom; her only drawings which
anyone ever asked to see were half-a-dozen of the Bayfield pavement,
executed for Narcissus' monograph; and her harp she played in her own
room. Now and then Endymion would enquire how she progressed with her
music, would listen to her report and observe: "Ah, I used to do a
little fiddling myself." But he never put her proficiency to the test.
Somehow, and long before the world came to the same conclusion, she had
resolved that marriage was not for her. She adored babies, though they
usually screamed at the sight of her, and she thought it would be
delightful to have one of her own who would not scream; but apart from
this vague sentiment, she accepted her fate without sensible regret.
By watching and copying the mistresses of the few houses she visited
she learned to play the hostess at Bayfield, and, as time brought
confidence, played it with credit. She knew that people laughed at her,
and that yet they liked her; their liking and their laughter puzzled
her about equally. For the rest, she was proud of Bayfield and content,
though one day much resembled another, to live all her life there,
devoted to God and her garden. Visitors always praised her garden.
Axcester lies on the western side and mostly at the foot of a low hill
set accurately in the centre of a ring of hills slightly higher-the
raised bottom of a saucer would be no bad simile. The old Roman road
cuts straight across this rise, descends between the shops of the High
Street, passes the church, crosses the Axe by a narrow bridge, and
climbing again passes the iron gates of Bayfield House, a mile above
the river. So straight is it that Dorothea could keep her brothers in
view from the gates until they dismounted before their office door,
losing sight of them for a minute or two only among the elms by the
bridge. Her boudoir window commanded the same prospect; and every day
as the London coach topped the hill, her maid Polly would run with
news of it. The two would be watching, often before the guard's horn
awoke the street and fetched the ostlers out in a hurry from the "Dogs
Inn" stables with their relay of four horses. Miss Dorothea possessed
a telescope, too; and if the coach were dressed with laurels and flags
announcing a victory, mistress and maid would run to the gates and wave
their handkerchiefs as it passed.
Sometimes, too, Polly would announce a post-chaise, and the telescope
decide whether the postboys wore the blue or the buff. Nor were these
their only causes of excitement; for the great Bayfield elm, a rood
below the gates and in full view of them, marked the westward boundary
of the French prisoners on parole. Some of these were quite regular in
their walks for instance, Rear-Admiral de Wailly-Duchemin and General
Rochambeau, who came at three o'clock or thereabouts on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, summer and winter. At six paces on the far side of the elm--
such was their punctilio--they halted, took snuff, linked arms again
and turned back. (Dorothea had entertained them both at Bayfield, and
met them at dinner in one or two neighbouring houses.) On the same
days, and on Mondays as well, old Jean Pierre Pichou, ex-boatswain of
the _Didon_ frigate, would come along arm-in-arm with Julien Carales,
alias Frap d'Abord, ex-_marechal des logis_--Pichou, with his wooden
leg, and Frap d'Abord twisting a grey moustache and uttering a steady
torrent of imprecation--or so it sounded. These could be counted on;
but scores of others stopped and turned at the Bayfield elm, and Polly
had names for them all. Moreover, on one memorable day Dorothea had
watched one who did not halt precisely at the elm. A few paces beyond
it, and on the side of the road facing the grounds, straggled an old
orchard, out of which her brother Endymion had been missing, of late,
a quantity of his favourite pippins--by name (but it may have been a
local one) Somerset Warriors. The month was October, the time about
half-past four, the light dusky. Yet Miss Dorothea, lingering by the
gate, saw a young man pass the Bayfield elm and climb the hedge; and
saw and heard him nail against an apple-tree overhanging the road, a
board with white letters on a black ground. When it was fixed, the
artist descended to the road and gazed up admiringly at his work. In
the act of departing he turned, and suddenly stood still again. His
face was toward the Bayfield gate. Dorothea could not tell if he saw
her, but he remained thus, motionless, for almost a minute. Then he
seemed to recollect himself and marched off briskly down the road.
Early next morning she descended and read the inscription, which ran:
"Restaurant pour les Aspirants."
She said nothing about it, and soon after breakfast the board was
THE ORANGE ROOM
Some weeks later, on a bright and frosty morning in December, Dorothea
rode into Axcester with her brothers. She was a good horsewoman and
showed to advantage on horseback, when her slight figure took a grace
of movement which made amends for her face. To-day the brisk air and a
canter across the bridge at the foot of the hill had brought roses to
her cheeks, and she looked almost pretty. General Rochambeau happened
to pass down the street as the three drew rein before the Town House
(so the Westcotes always called the Bank-office), and, pausing to help
her dismount, paid her a very handsome compliment.
Dorothea knew, of course, that Frenchmen were lavish of compliments,
and had heard General Rochambeau pay them where she felt sure they were
not deserved. Nevertheless she found this one pleasant--she had
received so few--and laughed happily. It may have come from the
freshness of the morning, but to-day her spirit sat light within her and
expectant she could not say of what, yet it seemed that something good
was going to happen.
"I have a guess," said the old General, "that Miss Westcote and I are
bound on the same errand. Her's cannot be to inspect dull bonds and
ledgers, bills of exchange or rates of interest."
He jerked his head towards the house, and Dorothea shook hers.
"I am going to 'The Dogs,' General."
"Eh?" He scented the jest and chuckled. "As you say, 'to the dogs'
hein? Messieurs, I beg you to observe and take warning that your sister
and I are going to the dogs together."
He offered his arm to Dorothea. Her brothers had dismounted and handed
their horses over to the ostler who waited by the porch daily to lead
them to the inn stables.
"I will stable Mercury myself," said she, addressing Endymion. She
submitted her smallest plans to him for approval.
"Do so," he answered. "After running through my letters, I will step
down to the Orange Room and join you. I entrust her to you, General--
the more confidently because you cannot take her far."
He laughed and followed Narcissus through the porch. Dorothea saw the
old General wince. She slipped an arm through Mercury's bridle-rein
and picked up her skirt; the other arm she laid in her companion's.
"You have not seen the Orange Room, Miss Dorothea?"
"Not since the decorations began." She paused and uttered the thought
uppermost in her mind. "You must forgive my brother; I am sorry he
spoke as he did just now."
"Then he is more than forgiven."
"He did not consider."
"Dear Mademoiselle, your brother is an excellent fellow, and not a bit
more popular than he deserves to be. Of his kindness to us prisoners--
I speak not of us privileged ones, but of our poorer brothers--I
could name a thousand acts; and acts say more than words."
Dorothea pursed her lips. "I am not sure. I think a woman would ask for
"Yes, that is so," he caught her up. "But don't you see that we
prisoners are--forgive me--just like women? I mean, we have learned
that we are weak. For a man that is no easy lesson, Mademoiselle. I
myself learned it hardly. And seeing your brother admired by all, so
strong and prosperous and confident, can I ask that he should feel as
we who have forfeited these things?"
Before she could find a reply he had harked back to the Orange Room.
"You have not seen it since the decorations began? Then I have a mind
to run and ask your brother to forbid your coming--to command you to
wait until Wednesday. We are in a horrible mess, I warn you, and smell
of turpentine most potently. But we shall be ready for the ball, and
then--! It will be prodigious. You do not know that we have a genius
at work on the painting?"
"My brother tells me the designs are extraordinarily clever."
"They are more than clever, you will allow. The artist I discovered
myself--a young man named Charles Raoul. He comes from the South, a
little below Avignon, and of good family--in some respects." The
General paused and took snuff. "He enlisted at eighteen and has seen
service; he tells me he was wounded at Austerlitz. Unhappily he was
shipped, about two years ago, on board the _Thetis_ frigate, with a
detachment and stores for Martinique. The _Thetis_ had scarcely left
L'Orient before she fell in with one of your frigates, whose name
escapes me; and here he is in Axcester. He has rich relatives, but for
some reason or other they decline to support him; and yet he seems a
gentleman. He picks up a few shillings by painting portraits; but you
English are shy of sitting--I wonder why? And we--well, I suppose we
prefer to wait till our faces grow happier."
Dorothea had it on the tip of her tongue to ask how the General had
discovered this genius; but the ring in his voice gave her pause.
Twice in the course of their short walk he had shown feeling; and she
wondered at it, having hitherto regarded him as a cynical old fellow
with a wit which cracked himself and the world like two dry nuts for
the jest of their shrivelled kernels. She did not, know that a kind
word of hers had unlocked his heart; and before she could recall her
question they had reached the stable-yard of "The Dogs." And after
stabling Mercury it was but a step across to the inn.
The "Dogs Inn" took its name from two stone greyhounds beside its porch--
supporters of the arms of that old family from which the Westcotes had
purchased Bayfield; and the Orange Room from a tradition that William
of Orange had spent a night there on his march from Torbay. There may
have been truth in the tradition; the room at any rate preserved in it
window-hangings of orange-yellow, and a deep fringe of the same hue
festooning the musicians' gallery. While serving Axcester for ball,
rout, and general assembly-room, it had been admittedly dismal--its
slate-coloured walls scarred and patched with new plaster, and relieved
only by a gigantic painting of the Royal Arms on panel in a blackened
frame; its ceiling garnished with four pendants in plaster, like bride-
cake ornaments inverted.
To-day, as she stepped across the threshold, Dorothea hesitated between
stopping her ears and rubbing her eyes. The place was a Babel.
Frenchmen in white paper caps and stained linen blouses were laughing,
plying their brushes, mixing paints, shifting ladders, and jabbering
all the while at the pitch of their voices. For a moment the din
bewildered her; the ferment had no more meaning, no more method, than
a schoolboy's game. But her eyes, passing over the chaos of paint-pots,
brushes, and step-ladders, told her the place had been transformed.
The ceiling between the four pendants had become a blue heaven with
filmy clouds, and Cupids scattering roses before a train of doves and
a recumbent goddess, whom a little Italian, perched on a scaffolding
and whistling shrilly, was varnishing for dear life. Around the walls--
sky-blue also--trellises of vines and pink roses clambered around the
old panels. The energy of the workmen had passed into their paintings,
or perhaps Dorothea's head swam; at any rate, the cupids and doves
seemed to be whirling across the ceiling, the vines, and roses mounting
towards it, and pushing out shoots and tendrils while they climbed.
But the panels themselves! They were nine in all: three down the long
black wall, two narrower ones at the far end, four between the orange-
curtained windows looking on the street. (The fourth wall had no panel,
being covered, by the musicians' gallery and the pillars supporting
it.) In each, framed by the vines and roses, glowed a scene of
classical or pseudo-classical splendour; golden sunsets, pale yellow
skies, landscapes cleverly imitated from recollections of Claude
Lorraine, dotted with temples and small figures in flowing drapery,
with here and there a glimpse of naked limbs. Here were Bacchus and
Ariadne, with a company of dancing revellers; Apollo and Marsyas; the
Rape of Helen; Dido welcoming Aeneas. . . . Dorothea (albeit she had
often glanced into the copy of M. Lempriere's Classical Dictionary in
her brother's library, and, besides, had picked up something of Greek
and Roman mythology in helping Narcissus) did not at once discriminate
the subjects of these panels, but her eyes rested on them with a
pleasant sense of recognition, and were still resting on them when she
heard General Rochambeau say:
"Ah, there is my genius! You must let me present him, Mademoiselle.
He will amuse you. Hi, there! Raoul!"
A young man, standing amid a group of workmen and criticising one of
the panels between the curtains, turned sharply. Almost before Dorothea
was aware, he had doffed his paper cap and the General was introducing
She recognised him at once. He was the young prisoner who had nailed
the board against her brother's apple-tree.
He bowed and began at once to apologise for the state of the room. He
had expected no visitors before Wednesday. The General had played a
surprise upon him. And Miss Westcote, alas! was a critic, especially
of classical subjects.
He had heard of her drawings for her brother's book.
"Indeed I am no artist. Please do not talk of those drawings. If you
only knew how much I am ashamed of them. And besides, they were meant
as diagrams to help the reader, not as illustrations. But these are
He turned with a pleasant laugh. She had already taken note of his
voice, but his laugh was even more musical.
"Daphne pursued by Apollo," he commenced, waving his hand towards the
panel in face of her. "Be pleased to observe the lady sinking into the
bush; an effect which the ingenious painter has stolen from no less a
masterpiece than the Buisson Ardent' of Nicholas Froment."
The General fumbled for the ribbon of his gold eye-glass. M. Raoul
moved towards the next panel, and Dorothea followed him.
"Perseus entering the Garden of the Hesperides."
The painting, though slapdash, was astonishingly clever; and in this,
as in other panels, no trace of the artist's hurry appeared in the
reposeful design. Coiled about the foot of the tree, the dragon Ladon
blinked an eye lazily at three maidens pacing hand in hand in the
dance, over-hung with dark boughs and golden fruit. Behind them
Perseus, with naked sword, halted in admiration, half issuing from a
thicket over which stretched a distant bright line of sea and white
"You like it?" he asked. "But it is not quite finished yet, and
Mademoiselle, if she is frank, will say that it wants something."
His voice held a challenge.
"I am sure, sir, I could not guess, even if I possessed--"
"A board, for example?"
She was completely puzzled.
He glanced at her sideways, turned to the panel, and with his
forefingers traced the outline of a square upon it, against the tree.
"Restaurant pour les Aspirants," he announced.
He said it quietly, over his shoulder. The sudden challenge, her sudden
discovery that he knew, made Dorothea gasp. She had not the smallest
notion how to answer him, or even what kind of answer he expected, and
stood dumb, gazing at his back. A workman, passing, apologised for
having brushed her skirt with the step-ladder he carried. She stammered
some words of pardon. And just then, to her relief, her brother
Endymion's voice rang out from the doorway:
"Ah, there you are. Well, I declare!" He looked around him. "A
Paradise, a perfect Paradise! Indeed, General, your nation has its
revenge of us in the arts. You build a temple for us, and on Wednesday
I hear you are to provide the music. Tum-tum, ta-ta-ta . . ." He hummed
a few bars of Gluck's "Paride ed Elenna," and paused, with the gesture
of one holding a fiddle, on the verge of a reminiscence. "There was a
time--but I no longer compete. And to whom, General, are we indebted
General Rochambeau indicated young Raoul, who stepped forward from the
wall and answered, with a respectful inclination:
"Well, M. le Commissaire, in the first place to Captain Seymour."
The General bit his moustache; Endymion frowned. The answer merely
puzzled Dorothea, who did not know that Seymour was the name of the
British officer to whom the _Thetis_ had struck her colours.
"Moreover," the young man went on imperturbably, "we but repay our
debt to M. le Commissaire--for the entertainment he affords us."
Dorothea looked up sharply now, even anxiously; but her brother took
the shot, if shot it were, for a compliment. He put the awkward idiom
aside with a gracious wave of the hand. His brow cleared.
"But we must do something for these poor fellows," he announced,--
sweeping all the work-men in a gaze; "in mere gratitude we must. A
stall, now, at the end of the room under the gallery, with one or two
salesmen whom you must recommend to me, General. We might dispose of
quite a number of their small carvings and _articles de Paris_, with
which the market among the townspeople is decidedly overstocked. The
company on Wednesday will be less familiar with them: they will serve
as mementoes, and the prices, I daresay, will not be too closely
"Sir, I beg of you--" General Rochambeau expostulated.
"They have given their labour--such as it is--in pure gratitude for
the kindness shown to them by all in Axcester. That has been the whole
meaning of our small enterprise," the old gentleman persisted.
"Still, I don't suppose they'll object if it brings a little beef to
their _ragouts_. Say no more, say no more. What have we here? Eh?
'Bacchus and Ariadne'? I am rusty in my classics, but Bacchus,
Dorothea! This will please Narcissus. We have in our house, sir,"--
here he addressed Raoul,--"a Roman pavement entirely--ah--concerned
with that personage. It is, I believe, unique. One of these days I must
give you a permit to visit Bayfield and inspect it, with my brother for
_cicerone_. It will repay you--"
"It will more than repay me," the young man interposed, with his gaze
demurely bent on the wall.
"I should have said, it will repay your inspection. You must jog my
It was clear Raoul had a reply on his tongue. But he glanced at
Dorothea, read her expression, and, turning to her brother, bowed
again. Her first feeling was of gratitude. A moment later she blamed
herself for having asked his forbearance by a look, and him for his
confidence in seeking that look. His eyes, during the moment they
encountered hers, had said, "We under-stand one another." He had no
right to assume so much, and yet she had not denied it.
Endymion Westcote meanwhile had picked up a small book which lay face
downward on one of the step-ladders.
"So here is the source of your inspiration? said he. An _Ovid_? How it
brings up old school-days At Winchester--old swishings, too, General,
hey?" He held the book open and studied the Ariadne on the wall.
"The source of my inspiration indeed, M. le Commissaire! But you will
not find Ariadne in that text, which contains only the _Tristia_."
"Ah, but, I told you my classics were a bit rusty," replied the
Commissary. He made the round of the walls and commended, in his breezy
way, each separate panel. "You must take my criticisms for what they
are worth, M. Raoul. But my grandmother was a Frenchwoman, and that
gives me a kind of--sympathy, shall we say? Moreover, I know what I
Dorothea, accustomed to regard her brother as a demigod, caught herself
blushing for him. She was angry with herself. She caught M. Raoul's
murmur, "Heaven distributes to us our talents, Monsieur," and was angry
with him, understanding and deprecating the raillery beneath his
perfectly correct attitude. He kept this attitude to the end. When the
time came for parting, he bent over her hand and whispered again:
"But it was kind of Mademoiselle not to report me."
She heard. It set up a secret understanding between them, which she
resented. There was nothing to say, again; yet she had found no way
of rebuking him, she was angry with herself all the way home.
A BALL, A SNOWSTORM, AND A SNOWBALL
Axcester's December Ball was a social event of importance in South
Somerset. At once formal and familiar--familiar, since nine-tenths of
the company dwelt close enough together to be on visiting terms--it
nicely preluded the domestic festivities of Christmas, and the more
public ones which began with the New Year and culminated in the great
County Balls at Taunton and Bath. Nor were the families around Axcester
jaded with dancing, as those in the neighbourhood of Bath, for example;
but discussed dresses and the prospects of the Ball for some weeks
beforehand, and, when the day came, ordered out the chariot or barouche
in defiance of any ordinary weather.
The weather since Dorothea's visit to the Orange Room had included a
frost, a fall of snow with a partial thaw, and a second and much
severer frost; and by Wednesday afternoon the hill below Bayfield wore
a hard and slippery glaze. Endymion, however, had seen to the roughing
of the horses. Thin powdery snow began to fall as the Bayfield barouche
rolled past the gates into the high road; and Narcissus, who considered
himself a weather-prophet, foretold a thaw before morning. Unless the
weather grew worse, the party would drive back to Bayfield; but the old
caretaker in the Town House had orders to light fires there and prepare
the bedrooms, and on the chance of being detained. Dorothea had brought
her maid Polly.
In spite of her previous visit, the Orange Room gave her a shock of
delight and wonder. The litter had vanished, the hangings were in
place; fresh orange-coloured curtains divided the dancing-floor from
the recess beneath the gallery, and this had been furnished as a
withdrawing-room, with rugs, settees, groups of green foliage plants,
and candles, the light of which shone through shades of yellow paper.
The prisoners, too, had adorned with varicoloured paperwork the
candelabra, girandoles and mirrors which drew twinkles from the long
waxed floor, and softened whatever might have been garish in the
decorations. Certainly the panels took a new beauty, a luminous
delicacy, in their artificial rays; and Dorothea, when, after much
greeting and hand-shaking, she joined one of the groups inspecting
them, felt a sort of proprietary pleasure in the praises she heard.
Had she known it, she too was looking her best tonight--in an old-
maidish fashion, be it understood. She wore a gown of ashen-grey
muslin, edged with swansdown, and tied with sash and shoulder-knots
of a flame-hued ribbon which had taken her fancy at Bath in the autumn.
Her sandal-shoes, stockings, gloves, cap--she had worn caps for six
or seven years now,--even her fan, were of the same ash-coloured grey.
Dorothea knew how to dress. She also knew how to dance. The music made
her heart beat faster, and she never entered a ball-room without a
sense of happy expectancy. Poor lady! she never left but she carried
home heart-sickness, weariness, and a discontent of which she purged
her soul, on her knees, before lying down to sleep. She had a contrite
spirit; she knew that her lot was a fortunate one; but she envied her
maid Polly her good looks at times. With Polly's face, she might have
dancing to her heart's content. Usually she dropped some tears on her
pillow after a night's gaiety.
At Bath, at Taunton, at Axcester, it had always been the same, and with
time she had learnt to set her hopes low and steel her heart early to
their inevitable disappointment. So tonight she took her seat against
the wall and watched while the first three _contre-danses_ went by
without bringing her a partner. For the fourth--the "Soldier's joy"--
she was claimed by an awkward schoolboy, home for the holidays; whether
out of duty or obeying the law of Nature by which shy youths are
attracted to middle-aged partners, she could not tell, nor did she ask
herself, but danced the dance and enjoyed it more than her cavalier
was ever likely to guess. Such a chance had, before now, been looked
back upon as the one bright spot in a long evening's experience.
Dorothea loved all schoolboys for the kindness shown to her by these
She went back to her seat, hard by a group to which Endymion was
discoursing at large. Endymion's was a mellow voice, of rich compass,
and he had a knack of compelling the attention of all persons within
range. He preferred this to addressing anyone in particular, and his
eye sought and found, and gathered by instinct, the last loiterer
without the charmed circle.
"Yes," he was saying, "it is tasteful, and something more. It
illustrates, as you well say, the better side of our excitable
neighbours across the Channel. Setting patriotism apart and regarding
the question merely in its--ah--philosophical aspect, it has often
occurred to me to wonder how a nation so expert in the arts of life,
so--how shall I put it?--"
"Natty," suggested one of his hearers; but he waved the word aside.
"--of such lightness of touch, as I might describe it,--I say, it has
often occurred to me to wonder how such a nation could so far mistake
its destiny and the designs of Providence (inscrutable though they be)
as to embark on a career of foreign conquest which can only--ah--
have one end."
"Come to grief," put in Lady Bateson, a dowager in a crimson cap with
military feathers. She was supposed to cherish a hopeless passion for
Endymion. Also, she was supposed to be acting as Dorothea's chaperon
tonight; but having with little exertion found partners for a niece of
her own, a sprightly young lady on a visit from Bath, felt that she
deserved to relax her mind in a little intellectual talk. Endymion
accepted her remark with magnificent tolerance.
"Precisely." He inclined towards her. "You have hit it precisely."
Dorothea stole a glance at her brother. Military and hunt uniforms were
_de rigueur_ at these Axcester balls, and a Major of Yeomanry more
splendid than Endymion Westcote it would have been hard to find in
England. He stood with a hand negligently resting on his left hip--
the word hip,--his right foot advanced, the toe of his polished boot
tapping the floor. His smile, indulgent as it hovered over Lady
Bateson, descended to this protruded leg and became complacent, as it
had a right to be.
"Well, I've always said so from the start," Lady Bateson announced,
"and now I'm sure of it. I don't mind Frenchmen as Frenchmen; but what
I say is, let them stick to their fal-de-rals."
"That is the side of them which, in my somewhat responsible position,
I endeavour to humour. You see the result." He swept his hand towards
the painted panels. "One thing I must say, in justice to my charges,
I find them docile."
Dorothea had confidence in her brother's tact and his unerring eye for
his audience. Yet she looked about her nervously, to make sure that of
the few prisoners selected for invitation to the ball, none was within
earshot. The Vicomte de Tocqueville, a stoical young patrician, had
chosen a partner for the next dance, and was leading her out with that
air of vacuity with which he revenged himself upon the passing hour of
misfortune. "Go on," it seemed to say, "but permit me to remind you
that, so far as I am concerned, you do not exist." Old General
Rochambeau and old Rear-Admiral de Wailly-Duchemin, in worn but
carefully-brushed regimentals, patrolled the far end of the room
arm-in-arm. The Admiral seemed in an ill humour; and this was nothing
new, he grumbled at everything. But the General's demeanour, as he
trotted up and down beside his friend (doubtless doing his best to
pacify him), betrayed an unwonted agitation. It occurred to Dorothea
that he had not yet greeted her and paid his usual compliment.
"Miss Westcote is not dancing tonight?"
The voice was at her elbow, and she looked up with a start--to meet
the gaze of M. Raoul.
"Excuse me"--she wished to explain why she had been startled--"I did
"To see me here! It appears that they have given the scene-painter a
free ticket, and I assume that it carries permission to dance, provided
he does not display in an unseemly manner the patch in the rear of his
He turned his head in a serio-comic effort to stare down his back.
Dorothea admitted to herself that he made a decidedly handsome fellow
in his blue uniform with red facings and corded epaulettes; nor does a
uniform look any the worse for having seen a moderate amount of service.
"But Mademoiselle was in a--what do you call it?--a brown study, which
"I was wondering why General Rochambeau had, not yet come to speak with
"I can account for it, perhaps; but first you must answer my question,
Mademoiselle. Are you not dancing tonight?"
"That will depend, sir, on whether I am asked or no."
She said it almost archly, on the moment's impulse; and, the words out,
felt that they were over-bold. But she did not regret them when her
eyes met his. He was offering his arm, and she found herself joining in
his laugh--a happy, confidential little laugh. Dorothea cast a nervous
glance towards her brother, but Endymion's back was turned. She saw
that her partner noted the look, and half-defiantly she nodded towards
the gallery as the French musicians struck into a jolly jigging quick-
step with a crash at every third bar.
"_Mais cela me rend folle_," she murmured.
"Do you know the air? It's the 'Bridge of Lodi,' and we are to dance
'Britannia's Triumph' to it. Come, Mademoiselle, since the 'Triumph'
is nicely mixed, let your captive lead you."
Those were days of reels, poussettes, ladies' chains, and figure
dancing; honest heel-and-toe, hopping and twisting, hands across and
down the middle--an art contemned now, worse than neglected, insulted
by the vulgar caricature of "kitchen lancers"; but then seriously
practised, delighting the eye, bringing blood to the dancers' cheeks.
For five minutes and more Dorothea was entirely happy. M. Raoul--
himself no mean performer--tasted, after his first surprise, something
of the joy of discovery. Who could have guessed that this quiet
spinster, who, as a rule, held herself and walked so awkwardly, would
prove the best partner in the room? He had not the least doubt of it.
Others danced with more abandonment, with more exuberant vigour--
"romped" was his criticism--but none with such _elan_ perfectly
restrained, covering precision with grace. Hands across, cast off and
wheel; as their fingers met again he felt the tense nerves, the throb
of the pulse beneath the glove. Her lips were parted, her eyes and
whole face animated. She was not thinking of him, or of anyone; only
of the swing and beat of the music, the sway of life and colour, her
own body swaying to it, enslaved to the moment and answering no other
"I understand why they call it the Triumph," he murmured, as he led
her back to her seat. She turned her eyes on him as one coming out of
"I have never enjoyed a dance so much in my life," she said seriously.
"It must have been an inspiration--" he began, and checked himself,
with a glance over his shoulder at the painted panel behind them.
"You were saying--" She looked up after a moment.
"Nothing. Listen to the Ting-tang!"
He drew aside one of the orange curtains, and Dorothea heard the note
of a bell clanging in a distant street. "Time for all good prisoners
to be in bed, and Heaven temper the wind to the thin blanket! It is
"Do they suffer much in these winters?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"They die sometimes, though your brother does his best to prevent it.
It promises to be a hard season for them."
"I wish I could help; but Endymion--my brother does not approve of
ladies mixing themselves up in these affairs."
"Yet he has carried off half-a-dozen to the supper-room, where at a
side table three of my compatriots are vending knick-knacks, to add
a little beef to their _ragouts_."
"Is it that which has annoyed General Rochambeau?"
She had recognised the phrase, but let it pass.
She understood. For some reason her brain was unusually clear tonight.
At any other time she would have defended, or at least excused, her
brother. She knew it, and found time to wonder at her new practicality
as she answered:
"I must think of some way to help."
She saw his brow clear--saw that had risen in his esteem--and was
"To you, Mademoiselle, we shall find it easy to be grateful."
"By helping them," she explained, "I may also be helping my brother.
You do not understand him as I do, and you sharpen your wit upon him,"
"Be assured it does not hurt him, Mademoiselle."
"No, but it hurts _me_."
He bowed gravely.
"It shall not hurt you, again. Whom you love, you shall protect."
"Ah! M. Raoul!" Endymion Westcote hailed him from the doorway and
crossed the room with Narcissus in tow. "My brother is interested in
your panel of Bacchus and Ariadne; he will be glad to discuss it with
you. Br-r-r-!"--he shivered--"I have been down to the door, and it
is snowing viciously. Some of our friends will hardly find their homes
tonight. I hope, by the way, you have brought a great-coat?"
Raoul ignored the question.
"I fear, sir, your learning will discover half-a-dozen mistakes," said
he, addressing Narcissus and leading the way towards the panel.
"But whilst I think of it," Endymion persisted, "I saw half-a-dozen old
baize chair-covers behind the cloak-room door. Don't hesitate to take
one; you can return it to-morrow or next day." Dorothea being his only
audience, he beamed a look on her which said: "They come to us in a
hurry, these prisoners--no time to collect a wardrobe; but I think of
these little things."
"Rest assured, sir, I will turn up my coat-collar," said Raoul; and
Dorothea could see him, a moment later, shaking his head good-
naturedly, though the Commissary still protested.
Dorothea, left to herself, watched them examining and discussing the
panel of Bacchus and Ariadne. The orchestra started another _contre-
danse_, but no partner approached to claim her. The dance began. It
was the "Dashing White Sergeant," and one exuberant couple threatened
to tread upon her toes. She stood up and, for lack of anything better
to do, began to study the panel behind her.
A moment later her hand went up to her throat.
It was the panel on which M. Raoul had sketched an imaginary board
with his thumb-nail--the Garden of the Hesperides. But the Perseus
was different; he wore the face of M. Raoul himself. And beneath the
throat of the nymph on the right, half concealed in the folds about
her bosom, hung a locket--a small enamelled heart, edged with
brilliants. Just such a trinket--a brooch--had pinned the collar of
her close habit three days before, when she and M. Raoul had stood
together discussing the panel. It was a legacy from her mother.
Hastily she put out a hand and drew the edge of the orange curtain
over nymph and locket.
Soon after supper Endymion Westcote informed his sister that it was
hopeless to think of returning to Bayfield. The barouche would convey
her back to the Town House; but already the snow lay a foot and a half
deep, and was still falling. He himself, after packing her off with
Narcissus, would remain and attend to the comfort of the guests, many
of whom must bivouac at "The Dogs" for the night as best they could.
At midnight, or a little later, the barouche was announced. It drew up
close to the porch, axle-deep in snow. Upstairs the orchestra was
sawing out the strains of "Major Malley's Reel," as Endymion lifted
his sister in and slammed the door upon her and Narcissus. The noise
prevented his hearing a sash-window lifted, immediately above the porch.
The inn-servant who had accompanied the Westcotes turned back to trim a
candle flaring in the draughty passage. But it so happened that, in
starting, the coachman entangled his off-rein in the trace-buckle.
Endymion, in his polished hessians, ran round to unhitch it.
On the window-sill above, two deft hands quickly scooped up and moulded
"He should turn up his coat-collar, the pig! _V'Ian pour le
Endymion Westcote did not hear the voice; but as the vehicle rolled
heavily forward, out of the darkness a snowball struck him accurately
on the nape of the neck.
ENCOUNTER BETWEEN A HIGH HORSE AND A HOBBY
"Your chocolate will be getting cold, Miss."
Dorothea, refreshed with sleep but still pleasantly tired, lay in bed
watching Polly as she relaid and lit the fire in the massive Georgian
grate. These occasions found the service in the Town House short-
handed, and the girl (a cheerful body, with no airs) turned to and
took her share in the extra work.
"Have they sent for Mudge?" (Mudge was the Bayfield butler.)
"Lord, no, Miss! Small chance of getting to Mudge, or of Mudge getting
to us. Why, the snow is half-way up the front door!"
Bed was deliciously warm, and the air in the room nipping, as Dorothea
found when she stretched out her hand for the cup.
"I always like waking in this room. It gives one a sort of betwixt and
between feeling--between being at home and on a visit. To be snowed-up
makes it quite an adventure."
"Pretty adventure for the gentry at 'The Dogs'! Tom Ryder, the dairyman
there, managed to struggle across just now with the milk, and he says
that a score of them couldn't get beds in the town for love or money.
The rest kept it up till four in the morning, and now they're sleeping
in their fine dresses round the fire in the Orange Room."
Dorothea laughed. "They were caught like this just eighteen years ago--
let me see--yes, just eighteen. I remember, because it was my second
ball. But then there were no prisoners filling up the lodgings, so
everyone found a room."
"Some of the French gentlemen gave up their lodgings last night, and
are down at 'The Dogs' now keeping themselves warm. There's that old
Admiral, for one. I'm sure he never ought to be out of bed, with his
rheumatics. It's enough to give him his death. Sam Zeally says that
General Rochambeau is looking after him, as tender as a mother with a
Polly mimicked Sam's pronunciation, and laughed. She was Somerset-born
herself, but had seen service in Bath.
"Where is Mr. Endymion?"
"I heard him let himself in just as I was going upstairs after
undressing you. That would be about one, or a quarter past. But he was
up again at six, called for Mrs. Morrish to heat his shaving water,
and had a cup of coffee in his room. He and Mr. Narcissus have gone out
to see the roll called, and get the volunteers and prisoners to clear
the streets. Leastways, that's what Mr. Narcissus is doing. I heard
Mr. Endymion say something about riding off to see what the roads are
By this time the fire was lit and crackling. Polly loitered awhile,
arranging the cinders. She had given up asking with whom her mistress
had danced; but Dorothea usually described the more striking gowns,
and how this or that lady had worn her hair.
"Well, yes, Polly; a little, but not uncomfortably. I danced several
times last night."
Polly pursed her mouth into an O; but her face was turned to the fire,
and Dorothea did not see it.
"I hope, Miss, you'll tell me about it later on. But Mrs. Morrish is
downstairs declaring that no hen will lay an egg in this weather, to
have it snowed up the next moment. 'Not that I blame mun,' she says,
'for I wouldn't do it myself,'"--here Polly giggled. "What to find
for breakfast she don't know, and never will until I go and help her."
Polly departed, leaving her mistress cosy in bed and strangely
reluctant to rise and part company with her waking thoughts.
Yes; Dorothea had danced twice again with M. Raoul since her discovery
of his boldness. He had seen her draw the orange curtain over his
offence, had sought her again and apologised for, it. He had done it
(he had pleaded) on a sudden impulse--to be a reminder of one kind
glance which had brightened his exile. 'No one but she was in the
least likely to recognise the trinket; in any case he would paint it
out at the first opportunity. And Dorothea had forgiven him. She
herself had a great capacity for gratitude, and understood the feeling
far too thoroughly to believe for an instant that M. Raoul could be
mightily grateful for anything she had said or done. No; whatever the
feeling which impels a young gentleman to secrete some little private
reminder of its object, it is not gratitude; and Dorothea rejoiced
inwardly that it was not. But what then was it? Some attraction of
sympathy, no doubt. To find herself attractive in any way was a new
experience and delightful. She had forgiven him on the spot. And
afterwards they had danced twice together, and he had praised her
dancing. Also, he had said something about a pretty foot--but
Frenchmen must always be complimenting.
A noise in the street interrupted her thoughts, and reminded her that
she must not be dawdling longer in bed. She shut her teeth, made a
leap for it, and, running to the window, peered over the blind. Some
score of the prisoners in a gang were clearing the pavement with
shovels and brushes, laughing and chattering all the while, and
breaking off to pelt each other with snowballs. She had discussed
these poor fellows with M. Raoul last night. Could she not in some way
add to their comfort, or their pleasure? He had dwelt most upon their
mental weariness, especially on Sundays. Of material discomfort they
never complained, but they dreaded Sundays worse than they dreaded
cold weather. Any small distraction now--.
The train of her recollections came to a sudden halt, before a tall
cheval-glass standing at an obtuse angle to the fireplace and on the
edge of its broad hearthrug. She had been moving aimlessly from the
window to the wardrobe in which Polly had folded and laid away her
last night's finery, and from the wardrobe back to a long sofa at the
bed's foot. And now she found herself standing before the glass and
holding her nightgown high enough to display a foot and ankle on which
she had slipped an ash-coloured stocking and shoe. A tide of red
flooded her neck and face.
* * * * * * * * *
Mrs. Morrish had laid the meal in the ground-floor room, once a
library, but now used as a bank-parlour--yet still preserving the d
ignified aspect of a private room: for banking (as the Westcote clients
were reminded by several sporting prints and a bust of the Medicean
Venus) was in those days of scarce money a branch of philanthropy
rather than of trade. The good caretaker was in tears over the
breakfast. "And I'm sure, Miss, I don't know what's to be done unless
you can eat bacon."
"Which I can," Dorothea assured her.
"Well, Miss, I am sure I envy you; for ever since that poor French
Captain Fioupi hanged himself from Mary Odling's bacon-rack, two years
ago the first of this very next month, I haven't been able to look at
"Poor gentleman! Why did he do it?"
"The Lord knows, Miss. But they said it was home-sickness."
From the street came the voices of Captain Fioupi's compatriots, merry
at their work. Dorothea had scarcely begun breakfast before her
brothers entered, and she had to pour out tea for them. Narcissus took
his seat at once. Endymion stood stamping his feet and warming his
hands by the fire. He bent and with his finger flicked out a crust of
snow from between his breeches and the tops of his riding-boots. It
fell on the hearthstone and sputtered.
"The roads," he announced, are not very bad beyond the bridge. That is
the worst spot, and I have sent down a gang to clear it. Our guests
ought to be able to depart before noon, though I won't answer for the
road Yeovil Way. One carrier--Allworthy--has come through to the
bridge, but says he passed Solomon's van in a drift about four miles
back, this side of the Cheriton oak. He reports Bayfield Hill safe
enough; but that I discovered for myself."
"It seems quite a treat for them," Dorothea remarked.
His eyebrows went up.
"The guests, do you mean?"
He turned to the fire and picked up the tongs.
"No, I mean the prisoners; I was listening to their voices. Just now
they were throwing snowballs."
Endymion dropped the tongs with a clatter; picked them up, set them in
place, and faced the room again with a flush which might have come
from stooping over the fire.
"Come to breakfast, dear," said Dorothea, busy with the tea-urn. "I
have a small plan I want your permission for, and your help. It is
about the prisoners. General Rochambeau and M. Raoul--"
"Are doubtless prepared to teach me my business," snapped Endymion,
who seemed in bad humour this morning.
"No--but listen, dear! They praise you warmly. For whom but my brother
would these poor men have worked as they did upon the Orange Room--
and all to show their gratitude? But it appears the worst part of
captivity is its tedium and the way it depresses the mind; one sees
that it must be. They dread Sundays most of all. And I said I would
speak to you, and if any way could be found--"
"My dear Dorothea," Endymion slipped his hands beneath his coat-tails
and stood astraddle, "I have not often to request you, to mind your
own affairs; but really when it comes to making a promise in my name--"
"Not a promise."
"May I ask you if you seriously propose to familiarise Axcester with
all the orgies of a Continental Sabbath? Already the prisoners spend
Sunday in playing chess, draughts, cards, dominoes; practices which I
connive at, only insisting that they are kept out of sight, but from
which I endeavour to wean them--those at least who have a taste for
music--by encouraging them to, take part in our Church services."
"But I have heard you regret, dear, that only the least respectable
fall in with this. The rest, being strict Roman Catholics, think it
"Are you quite sure last night did, not over-tire you? You are
certainly disposed to be argumentative this morning."
"I think," suggested Narcissus, buttering his toast carefully, "you
might at least hear what Dorothea has to say."
"Oh, certainly! Indeed, if she has been committing me to her projects,
I have a right to know the worst."
"I haven't committed you--I only said I would ask your advice," poor
Dorothea stammered. "And I have no project." She caught Narcissus' eye,
and went on a little more firmly: "Only I thought, perhaps, that if
you extended their walks a little on Sundays--they are scrupulous in
keeping their _parole_. And, once in a way, we might entertain them at
Bayfield--late in the afternoon, when you have finished your Sunday
nap. Narcissus might show them the pavement and tell them about
Vespasian--not a regular lecture, it being Sunday, but an informal
talk, with tea afterwards. And in the evening, perhaps, they might
meet in the Orange Room for some sacred music--it need not be called
a 'concert'--" Dorothea stopped short, amazed at her own inventiveness.
"H'm. I envy your simplicity, my dear soul, in believing that the--
ah--alleged _ennui_ of these men can he cured by a talk about
Vespasian. But when you go on to talk of sacred music, I must be
permitted to remind you that a concert is none the less a concert for
being called by another name. We Britons do not usually allow names to
disguise facts. A concert--call it even a 'sacred' concert--in the
Orange Room, amid those distinctly--ah--pagan adornments! I can
scarcely even term it the thin end of the wedge, so clearly can I see
it paving the way for other questionable indulgences. I don't doubt
your good intentions, Dorothea, but you cannot, as a woman, be expected
to understand how easily the best intentions may convert Axcester, with
its French community, into a veritable hot-bed of vice. And, by-the-by,
you might tell Morrish I shall want the horse again in half-an-hour's
Dorothea left the room on her errand. As she closed the door Narcissus
looked up from his toast.
"Hot-bed of fiddlesticks!" said he.
"I--ah--beg your pardon?"
Endymion, in the act of seating himself at table, paused to stare.
"Hot-bed of fiddlesticks!" repeated Narcissus. "You needn't have
snapped Dorothea's head off. I thought her suggestions extremely
"The concert, for instance?"
"Yes! you don't make sacred music irreverent by calling it a concert.
Moreover, I really don't see why, as intelligent men, they should not
find Vespasian interesting. His career in many respects resembled the
Endymion smiled at his plate.
"Well, well, we will talk about it later on," said he.
He never quarrelled with Narcissus, whose foibles amused him, but for
whose slow judgment he had a more than brotherly respect.
* * * * * * * * *
The Westcotes, though (at due intervals and with due notice given) they
entertained as handsomely as the Lord Lieutenant himself, were not a
household to be bounced (so to speak) into promiscuous or extemporised
hospitality. For an ordinary dinner-party, Dorothea would pen the
invitations three weeks ahead, Endymion devote an hour to selecting his
guests, and Narcissus spend a morning in the Bayfield cellar, which he
supervised and in which he took a just pride. And so well was this
inelasticity recognised, so clearly was it understood that by no
circumstances could Endymion Westcote permit himself to be upset, that
none of the snowed-up company at "The Dogs" thought a bit the worse of
him for having gone home and left them to shift as best they could.
Dorothea, when at about half-past ten she put on her bonnet and cloak
and stepped down to visit them--the prisoners having by that time
cleared the pavement--found herself surrounded by a crew humorously
apologetic for their toilettes, profoundly envious of her better luck,
but on excellent terms with one another and the younger ones, at any
rate, who had borne the worst of the discomfort--enjoying the
"But the life and soul of it all was that M. Raoul," confessed Lady
"By George!" echoed the schoolboy who had danced the "Soldier's Joy"
with Dorothea, "I wouldn't have believed it of a Frenchy."
For some reason Dorothea was not too well pleased.
"But I do not see M. Raoul."
"Oh, he's down by the bridge, helping the relief party. One would guess
him worn out. He ran from lodging to lodging, turning the occupants out
of their beds and routing about for fresh linen. They say he even
carried old Mrs. Kekewich pick-a-back through the snow."
"And tucked her in bed," added the schoolboy. "And then he came back,
wet almost to the waist, and danced."
He looked roguishly at Lady Bateson's niece, and the pair exploded in
They ran off as General Rochambeau, jaded and unshaven, approached and
"Until Miss Westcote appeared, we held our own against the face of day.
Now, alas, the conspiracy can no longer be kept up."
"You had no compliment for me last night, General."
"Forgive me, Mademoiselle." He lowered his voice and spoke earnestly.
"I have a genuine one for you to-day--I compliment your heart. M. Raoul
has told me of your interest in our poor compatriots, and what you
"I fear I can do little," Dorothea interrupted, mindful of her late
encounter and (as she believed) defeat. "By all accounts, M. Raoul
appears to have made himself agreeable to all," she added.
The old gentleman chuckled and took snuff.
"He loves an audience. At about four in the morning, when all the
elders were in bed--(pardon me, Mademoiselle, if I claim to reckon
myself among _les jeunes_; my poor back tells me at what cost)--at
about four in the morning the young lady who has just left you spoke
of a new dance she had seen performed this season at Bath. Well, it
appears that M. Raoul had also seen it a--valtz they called it, or
some such name. Whereupon nothing would do but they must dance it
together. Such a dance, Mademoiselle! Roll, roll--round and round--
roll, roll--but _perpendicularly_, you understand. By-and-by the
others began to copy them, and someone asked M. Raoul where he had
found this accomplishment. 'Oh, in my travels,' says he, and points
to one of the panels; and there, if you will believe me, the fellow
had actually painted himself as Perseus in the Garden of the
Poor Dorothea glanced towards the panel.
"Ah, you remember it! But he must have painted in the face after
showing it to us the other day, or I should have recognised it at the
time. You must come and see it; really an excellent portrait!"
He led her towards it. The orange curtain no longer hid the third
nymph. But the blood which had left Dorothea's face rushed back as
she saw that the trinket had been roughly erased.
"It was quite a _coup_, but M. Raoul loves an audience."
Shortly before noon the road by the bridge was reported to be clear.
Carriages were announced, and the guests shook hands and were rolled
away--the elder glum, their juniors in boisterous spirits. As each
carriage passed the bridge, where M. Raoul stood among the workmen,
handkerchiefs fluttered out, and he lifted his hat gaily in response.
BEGINS WITH ANCIENT HISTORY AND ENDS WITH AN OLD STORY
"_Ubicunque vicit Romanus habitat_,--Where the Roman conquered he
settled--and it is from his settlements that to-day we deduce his
conquests. Of Vespasian and his second legion the jejune page of
Suetonius records neither where they landed nor at what limit their
victorious eagles were stayed. Yet will the patient investigator trace
their footprints across many a familiar landscape of rural England,
led by the blurred imperishable impress he has learned to recognise.
The invading host sweeps forward, and is gone; but behind it the
homestead arises and smiles upon the devastated fields, arms yield to
the implements and habiliments of peace, and the colonist, who
supersedes the legionary, in time furnishes the sole evidence of his
feverish and ensanguined transit . . ."
Narcissus was enjoying himself amazingly. His audience endured him
because the experience was new, and their ears caught the rattle of
tea-cups in the adjoining library.
Dorothea sat counting her guests, and assuring herself that the number
of teacups would suffice. She had heard the lecture many times before,
and with repetition its sonorous periods had lost hold upon her,
although her brother had been at pains to model them upon Gibbon.
But the scene impressed her sharply, and she carried away a very
lively picture of it. The old Roman villa had been built about a
hollow square open to the sky, and this square now formed the great
hall of Bayfield. Deep galleries of two stories surrounded it, in
place of the old colonnaded walk. Out of these opened the principal
rooms of the house, and above them, upon a circular lantern of clear
glass, was arched a painted dome. Sheathed on the outside with green
weather-tinted copper, and surmounted by a gilt ball, this dome (which
could be seen from the Axcester High Street when winter stripped the
Bayfield elms) gave the building something of the appearance of an
On the north side of the hall a broad staircase descended from the
gallery to the tiled floor, in the midst of which a fountain played
beneath a cupola supported by slender columns. On the west the recess
beneath the gallery had been deepened to admit a truly ample fireplace,
with a flat hearthstone and andirons. Here were screens and rich Turkey
rugs, and here the Bayfield household ordinarily had the lamps set
after dinner and gathered before the fire, talking little, enjoying the
long pauses filled with the hiss of logs and the monotonous drip and
trickle of water in the penumbra.
To-day the prisoners--two hundred in all--crowded the floor, the
stairs, even the deep gallery above; but on the south side, facing the
staircase, two heavy curtains had been looped back from the atrium,
and there a ray of wintry sunshine fell through the glass roof upon
the famous Bayfield pavement and the figure of Narcissus gravely
He had reached his peroration, and Dorothea, who knew every word of it
by heart, was on the alert. At its close the audience held their breath
for a second or two and then--satisfied, as their hostess rose, that
he had really come to an end--tendered their applause, and, breaking
into promiscuous chatter, trooped towards the tea-room. Narcissus
lingered, with bent head, oblivious, silently repeating the last well-
worn sentences while he conned his beloved tessellae.
A voice aroused him from his brown study; he looked up, to find the
hall deserted and M. Raoul standing at his elbow.
"Will you remember your promise, Monsieur, and allow me to examine a
little more closely? Ah, but it is wonderful! That Pentheus! And the
Maenad there, carrying the torn limb! Also the border of vine-leaves
and crossed thyrsi; though that, to be sure, is usual enough. And this
next? Ah, I remember--_'Tu cum parentis regna per arduum'_; but what a
devil of a design! And, above all, what mellowness! You will, I know,
pardon the enthusiasm of one who comes from the Provence, a few miles
out of Arles, and whose mother's family boasts itself to be descended
from Roman colonists."
"To you then, M. Raoul, after your Forum and famous Amphitheatre, our
pavement must seem a poor trifle--though it by no means exhausts our
list of interesting remains. The praefurnium, for instance; I must
show you our praefurnium."
"The house would be remarkable anywhere--even in my own Provence--so
closely has it kept the original lines. In half-an-hour one could
"Ay!" chimed in the delighted Narcissus. "You shall try, M. Raoul,
you shall try! I promise to catch you tripping."
"Yonder runs the Fosse Way, west by south. The villa stands about two
hundred yards back from it, facing the south-east--"
"A little east of south. The outer walls did not run exactly true with
the enclosed quadrangle."
"You say that the front measured two hundred feet, perhaps a little
over. Clearly, then, it was a domain of much importance, and the
granaries, mills, stables, slaves' dwellings would occupy much space
about it--an acre and a half, at least."
"Portions of a brick foundation were unearthed no less than three
hundred yards away. A hypocaust lay embedded among them, much broken
"What puzzles me," mused M. Raoul, is how these southern settlers
managed to endure the climate."
"But that is explicable." Narcissus was off now, in full cry. "The
trees, my dear sir, the trees! I have not the slightest doubt that our
Bayfield elms are the ragged survivors of an immense forest--a forest
which covered the whole primaeval face of Somerset on this side of the
fens, and through which Vespasian's road-makers literally hewed their
way. Given these forests--which, by the way, extended over the greater
part of England--we must infer a climate totally unlike ours of this
present day, damper perhaps, but milder. Within his belt of trees the
colonist, secure from the prevailing winds, would plant a garden to
rival your gardens of the South--_'primus vere rosam atque autumno
"Yes," added M. Raoul, taking fire; "and, perhaps, a plant of
helichryse or a rose-cutting from Paestum, to twine about the house-
pillars and comfort his exile."
"M. Raoul?" Dorothea's voice interrupted them. She stood by the looped
curtain, and reproached Narcissus with a look. "He has had no tea yet;
it was cruel of you to detain him. My brother, sir," she turned to
Raoul, "has no conscience when once set going on his hobby; for, of
course, you were discussing the pavement?"
"We were talking, Mademoiselle, at that moment of the things which
brighten and comfort exile."
She lowered her eyes, conscious of a blush, and half angry that it
would not be restrained.
"And I was talking of tea, if that happens to be one of them," she
replied, forcing a laugh.
"Well, well," said Narcissus, "take M. Raoul away and give him his tea;
but he must come with me afterwards, while there is light, and we will
go over the site together. I must fetch my map."
He hurried across the hall.
"Come, M. Raoul," said Dorothea, stepping past her guest and leading
the way, "by a small detour we can reach that end of the library which
is least crowded."
He followed without lifting his eyes, apparently lost in thought. The
atrium on this side opened on a corridor which crossed the front door,
and was closed by a door at either end--the one admitting to the
service rooms, the other to the library. Flat columns relieved the
blank wall of this passage, with monstrous copies of Raphael's cartoons
filling the interspaces; on the other hand four tall windows, two on
either side of the door, looked out upon the _porte cochere_, the avenue,
and the rolling hills beyond Axcester. By one of these windows M. Raoul
halted--and Dorothea halted too, slightly puzzled.
"Ah, Mademoiselle, but there is one thing your brother forgets! What
became of his happy colonists in the end? He told us that early in the
fifth century the Emperor Honorius--was it not?--withdrew his
legions, and wrote that Britain must henceforth look after itself. I
listened for the end of the story, but your brother did not supply it.
Yet sooner or later one and the same dreadful fate must have overtaken
all these pleasant scattered homes--sack and fire and slaughter--
slaughter for all the men, for the women slavery and worse. Does one
hear of any surviving? Out of this warm life into silence--" He paused
and shivered. "Very likely they did not guess for a long while. Look,
Mademoiselle, at the Fosse Way, stretching yonder across the hills:
figure yourself a daughter of the old Roman homestead standing here and
watching the little cloud of dust that meant the retreating column, the
last of your protection. You would not guess what it meant--you, to
whom each day has brought its restful round; who have lived only to be
good and reflect the sunshine upon all near you. And I--your slave,
suppose me, standing beside you--might guess as little."
He took a step and touched her hand. His face was still turned to the
"Time! time!" he went on in a low voice, charged with passion. "It
eats us all! Brr--how I hate it! How I hate the grave! There lies the
sting, Mademoiselle--the torture to be a captive: to feel one's best
days slipping away, and fate still denying to us poor devils the chance
which even the luckiest--God knows--find little enough." He laughed,
and to Dorothea the laugh sounded passing bitter. "You will not
understand how a man feels; how even so unimportant a creature as I
must bear a sort of personal grudge against his fate."
"I am trying to understand," said Dorothea, gently.
"But this you can understand, how a prisoner loves the sunshine: not
because, through his grating, it warms him; but because it is the
sunshine, and he sees it. Mademoiselle, I am not grateful; I see
merely, and adore. Some day you shall pause by this window and see a
cloud of dust on the Fosse Way--the last of us prisoners as they march
us from Axcester to the place of our release; and, seeing it, you shall
close the book upon a chapter, but not without remembering"--he
touched her hand again, but now his fingers closed on it, and he raised
it to his lips,--"not without remembering how and when one Frenchman
said, 'God bless you, Mademoiselle Dorothea!'"
Dorothea's eyes were wet when, a moment later, Narcissus came bustling
through the atrium with a roll of papers in his hand.
"Ah, this is luck!" he cried. "I was starting to search for you."
He either assumed that they had visited the tea-room or forgot all
about it; and M. Raoul's look implored Dorothea not to explain.
"Suppose we take the _triclinium_ first, on the north side of the
house. That, sir, will tell you whether I am right or wrong about the
climate of those days. A summer parlour facing north, and with no
trace of heating-flues! . . ."
He led off his captive, and Dorothea heard his expository tones gather
volume as the pair crossed the great hall beneath the dome. Then she
turned the handle of the library door, and was instantly deafened by
the babel within.
The guests took their departure a little before sunset. M. Raoul was
not among the long train which shook hands with her and filed down the
avenue at the heels of M. de Tocqueville and General Rochambeau.
Twenty minutes later, while the servants were setting the hall in
order, she heard her brother's voice beneath the window of her boudoir,
explaining the system on which the Romans warmed their houses.
She had picked up a religious book, but found herself unable to fix her
attention upon it or even to sit still. Her hand still burned where
M. Raoul's lips had touched it. She recalled Endymion's prophecy that
these entertainments would throw the domestic mechanism--always more
delicately poised on Sundays than on weekdays--completely oft its
pivot. She had pledged herself to prevent this, and had made a private
appeal to the maidservants with whose Sunday-out they interfered. They
had responded loyally.
Still, this was the first experiment; she would go down to the hall
again and make sure that the couches were in position, the cushions
shaken up, the pot-plants placed around the fountain so accurately that
Endymion's nice eye for small comforts could detect no excuse for
saying, "I told you so."
As she passed along the gallery her eyes sought the pillar beside which
M. Raoul had stood during the lecture. By the foot of it a book lay
face downwards--a book cheaply bound between boards of mottled paper.
She picked it up and read the title; it was a volume of Rousseau's
Confessions--a book of which she remembered to have heard. On the
flyleaf was written the owner's name in full--"Charles Marie Fabien
Dorothea hurried downstairs with it and past the servants tidying the
She looked to find M. Raoul still buttonholed and held captive by
Narcissus at the eastern angle of the house. But before she reached the
front door she happened--though perhaps it was not quite accidental--
to throw a glance through the window by which he had stood and talked
with her, and saw him striding away down the avenue in the dusk.
She returned to her room and summoned Polly.
"You know M. Raoul? He has left, forgetting this book, which belongs to
him. Run down to the small gate, that's a good girl--you will overtake
him easily, since he is walking round by the avenue--and return it,
with my compliments."
Polly picked up her skirts and ran. A narrow path slanted down across
the slope of the park to the nurseries--a sheltered corner in which
the Bayfield gardener grew his more delicate evergreens--and here a
small wicket-gate opened on the high road.
The gate stood many feet above the road, which descended the hill
between steep hedges. She heard M. Raoul's footstep as she reached it,
and, peering over, saw him before he caught sight of her; indeed, he
had almost passed with-out when she hailed him.
"Holloa!" He swung almost rightabout and smiled up pleasantly. "Is it
highway robbery? If so, I surrender."
Polly laughed, showing a fine set of teeth.
"I'm 'most out of breath," she answered. "You've left your book behind,
and my mistress sent it after you with her compliments." She held it
above the gate.
He sprang up the bank towards her. "And a pretty book, too, to be
found in your hands! You haven't been reading it, I hope."
"La, no! Is it wicked?"
"Much depends on where you happen to open it. Now if your sweetheart--"
"Who told you I had one?"
"Tut-tut-tut! What's his name?"
"Well, if you must know, I'm walking out with Corporal Zeally. But what
are you doing to the book?" For M. Raoul had taken out a penknife and
was slicing out page after page--in some places whole blocks of pages
"When I've finished, I'm going to ask you to take it back to your
mistress; and then no doubt you'll be reading it on the sly. Here, I
must sit down: suppose you let me perch myself on the top bar of the
gate. Also, it would be kind of you to put up an arm and prevent my
"I shouldn't think of it."
"Oh, very well!" He climbed up, laid the book on his knee and went on
slicing. "I particularly want her to read M. Rousseau's reflections on
the Pont du Gard; but I don't seem to have a book marker, unless you
lend me a lock of your hair."
"Were you the gentleman she danced with, at 'The Dogs,' the night of
"The Pont du Gard, my dear, is a Roman antiquity, and has nothing to
do with dancing. If, as I suppose, you refer to the 'Pont de Lodi,'
that is a totally different work of art."
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"And I don't intend that you shall."
He cut a small strip of braid from his coat, inserted it for a
bookmarker, and began to fold away the excised pages. "That's why I am
keeping these back for my own perusal, and perhaps Corporal Zeally's."
"Do you know him?" She reached up to take the book he was holding out
in his left hand, and the next instant his right arm was round her neck
and he had kissed her full on the lips. "Oh, you wretch!" she cried,
breaking free; and laughed, next moment, as he nearly toppled off the
"Know him? Why of course I do." M. Raoul was reseating himself on his
perch, when he happened to throw a look down into the road, and at
once broke into immoderate laughter. "Talk of the wolf--"
Polly screamed and ran. Below, at a bend of the road, stood a stoutish
figure in the uniform of the Axcester Volunteers--scarlet, with white
facings. It was Corporal Zeally, very slowly taking in the scene.
M. Raoul skipped off the gate and stepped briskly past him. "Good-
evening, Corporal! We're both of us a little behind time, this
evening!" said he as he went by.
The Corporal pivoted on his heels and stared after him.
"Dang my living buttons!" he said, reflectively. "Couldn't even wait
till my back was turned, but must kiss the maid under my nose!" He
paused and rubbed his chin. "Her looked like Polly and her zounded
like Polly . . . Dang this dimpsey old light, I've got a good mind to
run after'n and ax'n who 'twas!" He took a step down the hill, but
thought better, of it. "No, I won't," he said; "I'll go and ax Polly."
FATE IN A LAURELLED POST-CHAISE
All the tongues of Rumour agreed that the Bayfield entertainment had
been a success, and Endymion Westcote received many congratulations
upon it at the next meeting of magistrates.
"Nonsense, nonsense!" he protested lightly. "One must do something to
make life more tolerable to the poor devils, and 'pon my word 'twas
worth it to see their gratitude. They behaved admirably. You see, two-
thirds of them are gentlemen, after a fashion; not, perhaps, quite in
the sense in which we understand the word, but then the--ah--modicum
of French blood in my veins counteracts, I dare say, some little
"My dear fellow, about such men as de Tocqueville and Rochambeau there
can be no possible question."
"Ah! I'm extremely glad to hear you say so. I feared, perhaps, the way
they managed their table-napkins--"
"Not at all. I was thinking rather of your bold attitude towards
Sunday observance. What does Milliton say?"
Endymion's eyebrows went up. Mr. Milliton was the vicar of Axcester
and the living lay in the Westcotes' gift. I am not--ah--aware that
I consulted Milliton. On such questions I recognise no responsibility
save to my own conscience. He has not been complaining, I trust?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Ah!" Endymion looked as if Mr. Milliton had better not. "I take, you
must know, a somewhat broad view on such matters--may I, without
offence, term it a liberal one? As a matter of fact I intend going yet
farther in the direction and granting permission for a small reunion on
Sunday evenings at 'The Dogs,' when selections of purely sacred music
will be performed. I shall, of course, deprecate the name 'concert ';
and even 'performance' may seem to carry with it some--ah--
suggestions of a theatrical nature. But, as Shakespeare says, 'What's
in a name?' Perhaps you can suggest a more suitable one?"
"A broad-minded fellow," was the general verdict; and some admirers
added that ideas which in weaker men might seem to lean towards free
thought, and even towards Jacobinism, became Mr. Westcote handsomely
enough. He knew how to carry them off, to wear them lightly as
flourishes and ornaments of his robust common sense, and might be
trusted not to go too far. Endymion, who had an exquisite flair for the
approval of his own class, soon learned to take an honest pride in his
liberalism and to enjoy its discreet display. 'The entertainment at
Bayfield' was nothing--a private experiment only; the unfamiliar must
be handled gently; a good rule to try it on your own household before
tackling the world. As a matter of fact, old Narcissus had enjoyed it.
But if the neighbouring families were really curious, and would promise
not to be shocked, they must come to "The Dogs" some Sunday evening:
No, not next Sunday, but in a week or two's time when the prisoners,
as intelligent fellows, would have grasped his notions.'
Sure enough, on the third Sunday he brought a round dozen of guests;
and the entrance of the Bayfield party (punctually five minutes late),
and their solemn taking of seats in the two front rows, thereafter
became a feature of these entertainments. On the first occasion the
musicians stopped, out of respect, in the middle of a motet of
Scarlatti's; but Endymion gave orders that in future this was not
"I have been something of an amateur myself," he explained, "and know
what is due to Art."
It vexed Dorothea to note that after the first two or three
performances some of her best friends among the prisoners absented
themselves, General Rochambeau for one. Indeed, the General had taken
to declining all invitations, and rarely appeared abroad. One March
morning, meeting him in the High Street, she made bold to tax him with
the change and ask his reasons.
The hour was eleven in the forenoon, the busiest of the day. In twenty
minutes the London coach would be due with the mails, and this always
brought the prisoners out into the street. The largest crowd gathered
in front of "The Dogs," waiting to see the horses changed and the bags
unloaded. But a second hung around the Post Office, where the
Commissary received and distributed the prisoners' letters, while
lesser groups shifted and moved about at the tail of the butchers'
carts, and others laden with milk, eggs, and fresh vegetables from the
country; for Axcester had now a daily market, and in the few minutes
before the mail's arrival the salesmen drove their best trade.
General Rochambeau tapped his snuffbox meditatively, like a man in two
minds. But he kept a sidelong eye upon Dorothea, as she turned to
acknowledge a bow from the Vicomte de Tocqueville. The Vicomte, with
an air of amused contempt, was choosing a steak for his dinner, using
his gold-ferruled walking-stick to direct the butcher how to cut it
out, while his servant stood ready with a plate.
"To tell you the truth, Mademoiselle, I find a hand at picquet with
the Admiral less fatiguing for two old gentlemen than these public
"In other words, you are nursing him. They tell me he has never been
well since that night of the snowstorm."
"Your informants may now add that he is better; these few Spring days
have done wonders for his rheumatism, and, indeed, he is dressed and
abroad this morning."
"Which explains why you are willing to stop and chat with me, instead
of hurrying off to the Post Office to ask for his letter--that letter
which never comes."
"So M. Raoul has been telling you all about us?"
"He happened to speak of it, at one of my working parties--"
"He has a fine gift for the pathetic, that young man; oh, yes, and a
pretty humour too! I can fancy what he makes of us--poor old Damon
and Pythias--while he holds the skeins; with a smile for poor old
Pythias' pigtail, and a tremor of the voice for the Emperor's
_tabatiere_, and a tear, no doubt, for the letter which never comes.
M. Raoul is great with an audience."
"You do him injustice, General. An audience of half-a-dozen old women!"
General Rochambeau had an answer to this on his tongue, but repressed
"Ah, here comes the Admiral!" he cried, as the gaunt old man came
shuffling down the street towards them, with his stoop, his cross-
grained features drawn awry with twinges of rheumatism, his hands
crossed above his tall cane. All Axcester laughed at his long blue
surtout, his pigtail and little round hat. But Dorothea always found
him formidable, and wanted to run away. "Admiral, I was just about to
tell Miss Westcote that the time is come to congratulate her. Here is
winter past--except that of two years ago, the hardest known in
Axcester; and, thanks to her subscription lists and working parties,
our countrymen have never gone so well fed and warmly clad."
"Which," growled the Admiral, "does not explain why no less than eight
of them have broken their parole. An incredible, a shameful number!"
"As time goes on, Admiral, they grow less patient. Hope deferred--"
_Ta-ra, tara-ra! Ta-ra, tara-ra-ra!_ The notes of the guard's horn
broke in upon Dorothea's excuse. Groups scattered, market carts were
hastily backed alongside the pavement, and down the mid-thoroughfare
came the mail at a gallop, with crack of whip and rushing chime of
bits and swingle-bars.
Dorothea watched the crowd closing round it as it drew up by "The
Dogs," and turned to note that the Admiral's face was pale and his
eyes sought those of his old friend.
"Better leave it to me to-day, if Miss Westcote will excuse me."
General Rochambeau lifted his hat and hurried after the crowd.
Then Dorothea understood. The old man beside her had lost courage to
pick up his old habit; at the last moment his friend must go for the
letter which never came. She cast about to say something; her last
words had been of hope deferred--it would not do to take up her
speech there . . .
The Admiral seemed to meet her eyes with an effort. He put out a hand.
"It is not good, Mademoiselle, that a man should pity himself. Beware
how you teach that; beware how you listen to him then."
He turned from her abruptly and tottered away. Glancing aside, she met
the Vicomte de Tocqueville's tired smile; he was using his cane to
prod the butcher and recall his attention to the half-cut steak. But
the butcher continued to stare down the street.
"Eh? But, dear me, it sounds like an _emeute_," said the Vicomte,
negligently; at the same time stepping to Dorothea's side.
The murmur of the crowd in front of "The Dogs" had been swelling, and
now broke into sharp, angry cries for a moment; then settled into a
dull roar, and rose in a hoarse _crescendo_. The mail coach was
evidently not the centre of disturbance, though Dorothea could see its
driver waving his arm and gesticulating from the box. The noise came
ahead of it, some twenty yards lower down the hill, where the street
had suddenly grown black with people pressing and swaying.
"There seems no danger here, whatever it is," said the Vicomte,
glancing up at the house-front above.
"Please go and see what is the matter. I am safe enough," Dorothea
assured him. "The folks in the house will give me shelter, if
The Vicomte lifted his hat. "I will return and report promptly, if the
affair be serious."
But it was not serious. The tumult died down, and Dorothea with her
riding-switch was guarding the half-cut steak from a predatory dog
when the Vicomte and the butcher returned together.
"Reassure yourself, Miss Westcote," said M. de Tocqueville. "There has
been no bloodshed, though bloodshed was challenged. It appears that
almost as the coach drew up there arrived from the westward a post-
chaise conveying a young naval officer from Plymouth, with despatches
and (I regret to tell it) a flag. His Britannic Majesty has captured
another of our frigates; and the high spirited young gentleman was
making the most of it in all innocence, and without an idea that his
triumph could offend anyone in Axcester. Unfortunately, on his way up
the street, he waved the captured tricolor under the nose of your
brother's _protege_, M. Raoul--"
"M. Raoul!" Dorothea caught her breath on the name.
"And M. Raoul leapt into the chaise, then and there wrested the flag
from him--the more easily no doubt because he expected nothing so
little and holding it aloft, challenged him to mortal combat.
Theatrically, and apart from the taste of it (I report only from
hearsay), the coup must have been immensely successful. When I
arrived, your brother was restoring peace, the young Briton holding
out his hand--swearing he was sorry, begad! but how the deuce was he
to have known ?--and M. Raoul saving the situation, and still
demanding blood with a face as long as an Alexandrine:
"_'Ce drapeau glorieux auquel, en sanglotant,
Se prosternent affaises vos membres, veterans!'_
"'Vary sorry, damitol, shake hands, beg your pardon.'"
The Vicomte forgot his languor, and burlesqued the scene with real
Dorothea, however, was not amused.
"You say my brother is at 'The Dogs,' Monsieur? I think I will go
"You must allow me, then, to escort you."
"Oh, the street is quite safe. Your countrymen will not suspect me of
exulting over their misfortunes."
"Nevertheless--" he insisted, and walked beside her.
A mixed crowd of French and English still surrounded the chaise, to
which a couple of postboys were attaching the relay: the French no
longer furious, now that an apology had been offered and the flag
hidden, but silent and sulky yet; the English inclined to think the
young lieutenant hardly served, not to say churlishly. Frenchmen might
be thin-skinned; but war was war, and surely Britons had a right to
raise three cheers for a victory. Besides he had begged pardon at once,
and offered to shake hands like a gentleman--that is, as soon as he
discovered whose feelings were hurt; for naturally the fisticuffs had
come first, and in these Master Raoul had taken as good as he brought.
As the Vicomte cleared a path for her to the porch, where Endymion
stood shaking hands and bidding adieu, Dorothea caught her first and
last glimpse of this traveller, who--without knowing it, without
seeing her face to remember it, or even learning her name--was to
deflect the slow current of her life, and send it whirling down a
strange channel, giddy, precipitous, to an end unguessed.
She saw a fresh-complexioned lad, somewhat flushed and red in the face,
but of frank and pleasant features; dressed in a three-cornered cocked-