Part 2 out of 3
hat, blue coat piped with white and gilt-buttoned, white breeches and
waistcoat, and broad black sword-belt; a youngster of the sort that
loves a scrimmage or a jest, but is better in a scrimmage than in a
jest when the laugh goes against him. He was eying the chaise just now,
and obviously cursing the hour in which he had decorated it with laurel.
Yet on the whole in a trying situation he bore himself well.
"Ah, much obliged to you, Vicomte!" Endymion hailed the pair. "There
has been a small misunderstanding, my dear Dorothea; not the slightest
cause for alarm! Still, you had better pass through to the coffee-room
and wait for me."
Dorothea dismissed M. de Tocqueville with a bow, passed into the dark
passage and pushed open the coffee-room door.
Within sat a young man, his elbows on the table, and his face bowed
upon his arms. His fingers convulsively twisted a torn scrap of
bunting; his shoulders heaved. It was M. Raoul.
Dorothea paused in the doorway and spoke his name. He did not look up.
She stepped towards him.
A sob shook him. She laid a hand gently on his bowed head, on the dark
wave of hair above his strong, shapely neck. She was full of pity,
longing to comfort . . .
He started, gazed up at her, and seized her hand. His eyes swam with
tears, but behind the tears blazed a light which frightened her. Yet--
oh, surely!--she could not mistake it.
He held both her hands now. He was drawing her towards him. She could
not speak. The room swam; outside the window she heard the noise of
starting hoofs, of wheels, of the English crowd hurrahing as the chaise
rolled away. Her head almost touched M. Raoul's breast. Then she broke
loose, as her brother's step sounded in the passage.
LOVE AND AN OLD MAID
I pray you be gentle with Dorothea. Find, if you can, something
admirable in this plain spinster keeping, at the age of thirty-seven,
a room in her breast adorned and ready for first love; find it pitiful,
if you must, that the blind boy should mistake his lodging; only do
not laugh, or your laughter may accuse you in the sequel.
She had a most simple heart. Wonder filled it as she rode home to
Bayfield, and by the bridge she reined up Mercury as if to take her
bearings in an unfamiliar country. At her feet rushed the Axe, swollen
by spring freshets; a bullfinch, wet from his bath, bobbed on the sand-
stone parapet, shook himself, and piped a note or two; away up the
stream, among the alders, birds were chasing and courting; from above
the Bayfield elms, out of spaces of blue, the larks' song fell like a
din of innumerable silver hammers. Either new sense had been given her,
or the rains had washed the landscape and restored obliterated lines,
colours, meanings. The very leaves by the roadside were fragrant as
For the moment it sufficed to know that she was loved, and that she
loved. She was no fool. At the back of all her wonder lay the certainty
that in the world's eyes such love as hers was absurd; that it must end
where it began; that Raoul could never be hers, nor she escape from a
captivity as real as his. But, perhaps because she knew all this so
certainly, she could put it aside. This thing had come to her: this
happiness to which, alone, in darkness, depressed by every look into
the mirror, by every casual proof that her brothers and intimates
accepted the verdict as final, her soul had been loyal--a forgotten
servant of a neglectful lord. In the silence of her own room, in her
garden, in the quiet stir of household duties, and again during the
long evenings while she sat knitting by the fire and her brothers
talked, she had pondered much upon love and puzzled herself with many
questions. She had watched girls and their lovers, wives and their
husbands. Can love (she had asked) draw near and pass and go its way
unrecognised? She had conned the signs. Now the hour had come, and she
had needed none of her learning--eyes, hands, and voice, she had
known the authentic god.
And she knew that it was not absurd; she knew herself worthy of love's
belated condescension--not Raoul's; for the moment she scarcely
thought of Raoul; for the moment Raoul's image grew faint and
indefinite in the glory of being loved. Instinct, too, thrust it into
the background; for as Raoul grew definite so must his youth, his
circumstances, the world's laughter, the barriers never to be overcome.
But merely to be loved, and to rest in that knowledge awhile--here
were no barriers. The thing had happened: it was: nothing could forbid
or efface it.
Yet when she reached home, after forcing the astonished Mercury to
canter up the entire length of Bayfield hill, she must walk straight
to her room, and study her face in the glass.
"It has happened to you--to you! Why has it not transfigured you?--
but then people would guess. Your teeth stand out--well, not so very
prominently--but they stand out, and that is why foreigners laugh at
Englishwomen. Yes, it has happened to you; but why? how?"
It so happened that she must meet him the next day. Narcissus had
engaged him to make drawings of the Bayfield pavement, a new series to
supersede hers in an enlarged edition of the treatise. Every one of
the _tessellae_ was to be drawn to scale, and she must meet him
to-morrow in the library with her brother and receive instructions, for
she had promised to help in taking measurements.
When the time came, and she entered the library, she did not indeed
dare to lift her eyes. But Narcissus, already immersed in calculations,
scarcely looked up from his paper. "Ah, there you are! Have you brought
the India-ink?" he asked, and after a minute she marvelled at her own
self-possession. Even when he left them to work out the measurements
together (and it flashed upon her that henceforth they would often be
left together, her immunity being taken for granted), she kept her head
bowed over the papers and managed to control her voice to put one or
two ordinary questions--until the pencil dropped from her fingers and
she felt her hand imprisoned.
"Oh, please, no!" she entreated hoarsely. "M. Raoul--!"
"Charles--" She attempted to draw her hand away; but, failing, lifted
her eyes for mercy. They were sick and troubled. "Charles," he insisted.
"Charles, then." She relented and he kissed her gaily. It was as if she
drank in the kiss and, the next moment, recoiled from it. He released
her hand and waited, watching her. She stood upright by the table, her
shoulder turned to him, her eyes gazing through the long window upon
the green stretch of lawn. She was trembling slightly.
"It--it hurts like a wound," she murmured, and her hand went up to her
breast. "But you must listen, please. You know--better than I--that
this is the end. Oh, yes"--as he would have interrupted--"it is
beautiful--for me. But I am old and you are a boy, and it is all quite
silly. Please listen: even apart from this, it would be quite silly and
could end nowhere."
He caught at her hand again, and she let it lie in his.
"Nowhere," she repeated, and, lifting her head, nodded twice. Her eyes
"But if you love me?" he began.
She waited a moment, but he did not finish. "Ah! there it is, you see:
you cannot finish. I was afraid to meet you to-day; but now I am glad,
because we can talk about it once and for all. Charles"--she hesitated
over the name--"dear, I have been thinking. Since we see this so
clearly, it can be no treachery to my brothers to let our love stand
where it does. At my age"--and Dorothea laughed nervously--"one is
more easily contented than at yours."
"I cannot bear your talking in this way."
"Oh yes, you can," she assured him with a practical little nod. "I
don't like it myself, but it has to be done. Now in the first place,
when we meet like this there must be no kissing." She blushed, while
her voice wavered again over the word; then, as again his hand closed
upon hers, she laughed. "Well--yes, you may kiss my hand. But I must
not have it on my conscience that I am hiding from Endymion and
Narcissus what they have a right to know. Of course they would be angry
if they knew that I--that I was fond of you at all; but they would
have no right, for they could not have forbidden or prevented it. Now
if our prospects were what folks would call happier, why then in
earnest of them you might kiss me, but then you would be bound to go to
my brothers and tell them. But since it can all come to nothing--"
A ghost of a smile finished the sentence.
"This war cannot last for ever."
"It seems to have lasted ever since I can remember. But what difference
could its ending make? Ah, yes, then I should lose you!" she cried in
dismay, but added with as sudden remorse: "Forgive my selfishness!"
"You are adorable," said he, and they laughed and picked up their
Dorothea's casuistry might prove her ignorant of love and its perils,
as a child is of fire; but having, as she deemed, discovered the limits
of her duty and set up her terms with Raoul upon them, she soon
developed a wonderful cunning in the art of being loved. Her plainness
and the difference in their ages she took for granted, and subtly
persuaded Raoul to take for granted; she had no affectations, no
_minauderies_; by instinct she avoided setting up any illusion which he
could not share; unconsciously and naturally she rested her strength on
the maternal, protective side of love. Raoul came to her with his woes,
his difficulties, his quarrel against fate; and she talked them over
with him, and advised him almost as might a wise elder sister. She had
read the _Confessions_; and, in spite of the missing pages, with less
of fascination than disgust; yet had absorbed more than she knew. In
Raoul she recognised certain points of likeness to his great
countryman--points which had puzzled, her in the book. Now the book
helped her to treat them, though she was unaware of its help. Still
less aware was she of any likeness between her and Madame de Warens,
of whom (again in spite of the missing pages) she had a poor opinion.
The business of the drawings brought Raoul to Bayfield almost daily,
and, as she had foreseen, they were much alone.
After all, since it could end in nothing, the situation had its
advantages; no one in the household gave it a thought, apparently.
Dorothea was not altogether sure about Polly; once or twice she had
caught Polly eying her with an odd expression--once especially, when
she had looked up as the girl was plaiting her hair, and their eyes
met in the glass. And once again Dorothea had sent her to the library
with a note of instructions left that morning by Narcissus, and,
following a few minutes later, had found her standing and talking with
M. Raoul in an attitude which, without being familiar, was not quite
"What was she saying?" her mistress asked, a moment or two later.
"Oh, nothing," he answered negligently. "I suppose that class of
person cannot be troubled to show respect to prisoners."
That evening Dorothea rated the girl soundly for her pertness. "And I
shall speak to Zeally," she threatened, "if anything of the kind
happens again. If Mr. Endymion is to let you two have a house when you
marry, and take in the Frenchmen as lodgers, he will want to know that
you treat them respectfully."
Polly wept, and was forgiven.
April, May, June, went by, and still Dorothea lived in her dream,
troubled only by dread of the day which must bring her lover's task to
an end, and, with it, his almost daily visits. Bit by bit she learned
his story. He told her of Arles, his birthplace, with its Roman masonry
and amphitheatre; of a turreted terraced chateau and a family of
aristocrats lording it among the vineyards; conspiring a little later
with other noble families, entertaining them at secret meetings of the
_Chiffonne_, where oaths were taken; later again, defending itself
behind barricades of paving-stones; last of all, marched or carried in
batches to the guillotine or the fusillade. He told of Avignon and its
Papal Castle overhanging the Rhone, the city where he had spent his
school days, and at the age of nine had seen Patriot L'Escuyer stabbed
to death in the Cordeliers' Church with women's scissors; had seen
Jourdan, the avenger, otherwise Coupe-tete, march flaming by at the
head of his brave _brigands d'Avignon_. He told of the sequel, the
hundred and thirty men, women and babes slaughtered in the dungeon of
the _Glaciere_; of Choisi's Dragoons and Grenadiers at the gates, and
how, with roses scattered before them, they marched through the streets
to the Castle, entered the gateway and paused, brought to a stand by
the stench of putrefying flesh. He and his school mates had taken a
holiday--their master being in hiding--to see the bodies lifted out.
Also he had seen the search party ride out through the gates and return
again, bringing Jourdan, with feet strapped beneath his horse's belly.
He told of his journey to, Paris--his purpose to learn to paint (at
such a time!); of the great David, fat and wheezy, back at his easel,
panting from civil blood-shed; of the call to arms, his enlistment,
his first campaign of 1805; of the foggy morning of Austerlitz, his
wound, and he long hours he lay in the rear of a battery on the height
of Pratzen, writhing, watching the artillerymen at work and so on,
with stories of marching and fighting, nights slept out by him at full
length on the sodden turf beside his arms.
She had no history to tell him in exchange; she asked only to listen
and to comfort. Yet so cleverly he addressed his story that the longest
monologue became, by aid of a look or pressure of the hand, a
conversation in which she, his guardian angel, bore her part. Did he
talk of Avignon, for instance? It was the land of Laura and Petrarch,
and she, seated with half-closed eyes beneath the Bayfield elms, saw
the pair beside the waters of Vaucluse, saw the roses and orange-trees
and arid plains of Provence, and wondered at the trouble in their
spiritual love. She was not troubled; love as "a dureless content and
a trustless joy" lay outside of her knowledge, and she had no desire
to prove it. In this only she forgot the difference between Raoul's
age and hers.
The day came when his work was ended. They spent a great part of that
afternoon in the garden, now in the height of its midsummer glory.
Raoul was very silent.
"But this must not end. It cannot end so!" he groaned once or twice.
He never forgot for long his old spite against Time.
"It will never end for me," she murmured.
"Of what are you made, then, that you look forward to living on
shadows?--one would say, almost cheerfully! I believe you could be
happy if you never saw me again!"
"Even if that had to be," she answered gravely, "while I knew you
loved me I should never be quite unhappy. But you must find a way,
while you can, to come sometimes; yes, you must come."
CORPORAL ZEALLY INTERVENES
Dorothea sat in the great hall of Bayfield, between the lamplight and
the moonlight, listening to the drip of the fountain beneath its tiny
cupola. A midsummer moon-ray fell through the uncurtained lantern
beneath the dome and spread in a small pool of silver at her feet.
Beneath one of the two shaded lamps Endymion lounged in his armchair
and read the Sherborne Mercury. Narcissus had carried off the other to
a table across the hall by the long bookcase, and above the pot-plants
banked about the fountain she saw it shining on his shapely grey head
as he bent over a copy of the Antonine Itinerary and patiently worked
out a new theory of its distances. Her own face rested in deep shadow,
and she felt grateful for it as she leaned back thinking her own
thoughts. It was a whole week now since Charles had visited Bayfield,
but she had encountered him that morning in Axcester High Street as
she passed up it on horseback with her brothers. Narcissus had reined
up to put some question or other about the drawings, but Endymion (who
did not share his brother's liking for M. Raoul) had ridden on, and
she had ridden on too, though reluctantly. She recalled his salute,
his glance at her, and down-dropped eyes; she wondered what point
Narcissus and he had discussed, and blamed herself for not having
found courage to ask. . . .
The stable clock struck ten. She arose and kissed her brothers good-
night. By Narcissus she paused.
"Be careful of your eyes, dear. And if you are going to be busy with
that great book these next few evenings I will have the table brought
across to the other side where you will be cosier."
Narcissus came out of his calculations and looked up at her gently.
"Please do not disarrange the furniture for me; a change always fidgets
me, even before I take in precisely what has happened." He smiled.
"In that I resemble my old friend Vespasian, who would have no
alterations made when he visited his home--_manente villa qualis
fuerat olim, ne quid scilicet oculorum consuetudini deperiret_.
A pleasant trait, I have always thought."
He lit her candle and kissed her, and Dorothea went up the broad
staircase to her own room. Half-way along the corridor she stayed a
moment to look down upon the hall. Endymion had dropped his newspaper
and was yawning; a sure sign that Narcissus, already reabsorbed in the
Itinerary, would in a few moments be hurried from it to bed.
She reached the door of her room and opened it, then checked an
exclamation of annoyance. For some mysterious reason Polly had
forgotten to light her candle. This was her rule, never broken before.
She stepped to the bellpull. Her hand was on it, when she heard the
girl's voice muttering in the next room--the boudoir. At least, it
sounded like Polly's voice, though its tone was strangely subdued and
level. "Talking to herself," Dorothea decided, and smiled, in spite of
her annoyance, as everyone smiles who catches another in this trick.
She dropped the bellpull and opened the boudoir door.
Polly was not talking to herself. She was leaning far out of the open
window, and at the sound of the door started back into the room with a
gasp and a short cry.
"To whom were you talking?"
Dorothea had set the candle down in the bedroom. Outside the window
the park lay spread to the soft moonshine, but the moon did not look
directly into the boudoir. In the half-light mistress and maid sought
each other's eyes.
"To whom were you talking?" Dorothea demanded, sternly.
Polly was silent for a second or two, then her chin went up defiantly.
"To Mr. Raoul," she muttered.
"To M. Raoul!--to M. Raoul? I don't understand. Is M. Raoul--Oh, for
goodness sake speak, girl! What is that? I see a piece of paper in
Polly twisted it in her fingers, and made a movement to hide it in her
pocket; but with the movement she seemed to reflect.
"He gave it to me; I don't understand anything about it. I was
shutting the window, when he whistled to me; he gave me this. I--I
think he meant it for you."
Polly's tone suddenly became saucy, but her voice shook.
Dorothea was shaking too, as her fingers closed on the note. She
vainly sought to read the girl's eyes. Her own cheeks were burning;
she felt the blood rushing into them and singing in her ears. Yet in
her abasement she kept her dignity, and, motioning Polly to follow,
stepped into the bedroom, unfolded the letter slowly, and read it by
the candle there.
"I have hungered now for a week. Be at your window this evening
and let me, at least, be fed with a word. See what I risk for you.
"Yours devotedly and for ever."_
There was no signature, but well enough Dorothea knew the handwriting.
A wave of anger swelled in her heart--the first she had ever felt
towards him. He had behaved selfishly. "See what I risk for you!"--
but to what risk was he exposing her! He was breaking their covenant
too; demanding that which he must know her conscience abhorred. She
had not believed he could understand her so poorly, held her so cheap.
Cheap indeed, since he had risked her secret in Polly's hand!
She turned the paper over, noting its creases. Suddenly--"You have
opened and read this!" she said.
Polly admitted it with downcast eyes. The girl, after the first
surprise, had demeaned herself admirably, and now stood in the attitude
proper to a confidential servant; solicitous, respectful, prepared to
blink the peccadillo, even to sympathise discreetly at a hint given.
"I'm sorry, Miss, that I opened it; I ought to have told you, but you
took me by surprise. You know, Miss, that you gave me leave to run down
to my aunt's this evening; and on my way back--just as I was letting
myself in by the nursery gate, Mr. Raoul comes tearing up the hill
after me and slips this into my hand. To tell you the truth, it rather
frightened me being run after like that. And he said something and ran
back--for nine was just striking, and in a moment the Ting-tang would
be ringing and he must be back to answer his name. So in my fluster I
didn't catch what he meant. When I got home and opened it, I saw my
mistake. But you were downstairs at dinner--I couldn't get to speak
with you alone--I waited to tell you; and just now, when I was
drawing the blinds, I heard a whistle--"
"M. Raoul had no right to send me such a message, Polly. I cannot
think what he means by it. Nothing that I have ever said to him--"
"No, Miss," Polly assented readily. After a pause she added: "I suppose
you'd like me to go now? You won't be wanting your hair done to-night?"
"Certainly I wish you to stay. Is he--is M. Raoul outside?"
"I think so, Miss. Oh, yes--for certain he is."
"Then I must insist on your staying with me while I dismiss him."
"Very good, Miss. Would you wish me to stay here, or to come with you?"
Dorothea felt herself blushing, and her temper rose again. "For the
moment, stay here. I will leave the door open and call you when you
She passed into the boudoir and bent to the open window. At this corner
the foundations of the house stood some feet lower than the slope out
of which they had been levelled, and she looked down upon a glacis of
smooth turf, capped by a glimmering parapet of Bath stone. Beyond
stretched the moonlit park.
"M. Raoul!" she called, but scarcely above a whisper.
A figure crept out from the dark angle below and climbed to the parapet.
"Dorothea! Forgive me! Another night and no word with you--I could not
"You are mad. You are breaking your parole and risking shame for me.
Nay, you have shamed me already. Polly is here."
"Polly is a good girl; she understands. A word, then, if you must drive
"I can pass the sentries. No fear of the patrol hereabouts. Your hand--
let down your hand to me. I can reach it from the parapet here--with
my fingers only, not with my lips, though even that you never forbade!"
Weakly, she lowered her arm over the sill. He reached to touch it, and
she leaned her face towards his--hers in shadow, his pale in the
Before their fingers met, a yellow flame leapt from the angle to the
left; a loud report banged in her ears and echoed across the park; and
Raoul, after swaying a second, pitched forward with a sharp cry and
rolled to the foot of the glacis.
Dorothea forced herself back in the room, and stood there upright and
shook, with Polly beside her holding her two hands.
"They have shot him!"
The two women listened for a moment. All was still now. Polly stepped
to the window and, closed it softly.
"But why? What are you doing?" Dorothea asked, in a hoarse whisper.
"They will find quite enough without that," said the practical girl,
but her voice quavered.
"Yet if they had seen--Ah, how selfish to think of that now! Hush--
that was a groan! He is alive still."
She moved towards the window, but Polly dragged her back by main force.
Below they heard the sudden unbarring of doors, and Endymion's voice
calling for Mudge, the butler. A bell pealed in the servants' hall,
stopped, and began ringing again in short and violent jerks.
"Let me go," commanded Dorothea. "They will never find him, under the
slope there. He may be bleeding to death. I must tell--"
But Polly clung to her. "They'll find him safe enough, Miss Dorothea.
There's Sam, now--hark!--at the backdoor bell: he'll tell them."
"Sam Zeally, Miss."
"But I don't understand," Dorothea stammered; with a sharp suspicion
of treachery, she pushed the girl from her. "Was Zeally mounting guard
tonight? If I thought--don't tell me it was a trap! Oh, you wicked
"No; it wasn't," answered Polly, sulkily. "I don't know nothing of
Sam's movements. But he might be hanging about the house; and if he
saw a man talking to me, he's just as jealous as fire."
She broke off at the sound of voices below the window. The ray of a
lantern, as the search-party jolted it, flashed and danced on wall and
ceiling of the dim boudoir. A sharp exclamation announced that Raoul
was discovered. A confused muttering followed; and then Dorothea heard
Endymion's voice calling up to Mudge from the bottom of the trench.
"Run to Miss Westcote's room and tell her we shall require lint and
bandages. There is no cause for alarm, assure her; say there has been
an accident--a Frenchman overtaken out of bounds and wounded--I
think, not seriously. If she be gone to bed, get the medicine chest
and the key and bring them into the kitchen."
Dorothea had charge of the Bayfield medicine chest, and kept it in a
cupboard of the boudoir. She groped for it, pulled open drawer after
drawer, rifled them for lint and linen, and by the time Mudge tapped
on the door, stood ready with the chest under one arm and a heap of
bandages in the other.
"In the kitchen, Mr. Endymion said. I am coming at once; take the
chest, run, and have as many candles lit as possible."
Mudge ran; Dorothea followed--with Polly behind her, trembling like
The two women reached the kitchen as the party entered with Raoul,
and supported him to a chair beside the dying fire. His face was
colourless, and he lay back and closed his eyes weakly as Endymion
stooped to examine the wounded leg, with Narcissus in close attendance,
and the others standing respectfully apart--Mudge, the two footmen
(in their shirt sleeves), an under-gardener named Best, one of the
housemaids, and Corporal Zeally by the door in regimentals, with his
japanned shako askew and his Brown Bess still in his hand. Behind his
shoulder, three or four of the women servants hung about the doorway
and peered in, between curiosity and terror.
It was a part of Endymion's fastidiousness that the sight of blood--
that is, of human blood--turned his stomach. In her distress Dorothea
could not help admiring how he conquered this aversion; how he knelt
in his spick-and-span evening dress, and, after turning back his
ruffles, unlaced the prisoner's soaked shoe and rolled down the
He looked up gratefully as she entered. In such emergencies Narcissus
was worse than useless; but Dorothea had the nursing instinct, and her
brothers recognised it. The sight of a wound or a hurt steadied her
wits, and she became practical and helpful at once.
"A flesh wound only, I think; just above the ankle--the tendon cut,
but the bone apparently not broken."
"It may be splintered, though," said Dorothea. "Has anyone thought of
sending for Doctor Ibbetson? He must be fetched at once. A towel,
please--three or four--from the dresser there." A footman brought
the towels. She knelt, folded two on her lap, and, resting Raoul's foot
there, drew the stocking gently from the wound. "A basin and warm
water, not too hot. Polly, you will find a small sponge in the, second
drawer . . ." She nodded towards the medicine chest. "One of you, make
up a better fire and set on a fresh kettle . . ."
She gave her orders in a low firm voice, and continued to direct
everyone thus, while she sponged the wound and drew off the stocking.
Neither towards them nor towards Raoul did she lift her eyes. The bare
foot of her beloved rested in her lap. She heard him groan twice, but
with no pain inflicted by her fingers; if their slightest pressure had
hurt him she would have known. She went on bathing the wound--she,
who could have bathed it with her tears. As time passed, and still the
doctor did not come, she began to bandage it. She called on Polly for
the bandages; then, still without looking up, she divined that Polly
was useless--was engaged in trying to catch Zeally's eye, and warn
him or get a word with him.
"He's pale as a ghost yet," said Endymion. "Another dose of brandy
might set him up. I gave him some from my flask before bringing him in."
"He is not going to faint," she answered.
"Well, I won't bother him with questions until he comes round a bit.
You, Zeally, had better step into my room though, and give me your
version of the affair."
But as the Corporal saluted and took a step forward, the prisoner
opened his eyes.
"Before you examine Zeally, sir, let me save you what trouble I can."
He spoke faintly, but with deliberation. "I wish to deny nothing. I was
escaping, and he tracked me. He came on me as I cut across the park,
and challenged. I did not answer, but ran around a corner of the house
and jumped the parapet, thinking to double along the trench there and
put him off the scent--at least to dodge the bullet, if he fired. But
as I jumped for it, he winged me. A very pretty shot, too. With your
leave, sir, I 'd like to shake hands with him on it. Shake hands,
Corporal!" Raoul stretched out a hand, sideways. "You're a smart
fellow, and no malice between soldiers."
Dorothea heard Polly's gasp: it seemed to her that all the room must
hear it. Her own hand trembled on the bandage. She had forgotten her
danger--the all but inevitable scandal--until Raoul brought it back
to her, and in the same breath saved her by his heroic lie. She could
not profit by it, though. Her lips parted to refute it, and for the
first time she gazed up at him, her eyes brimming with sudden love,
gratitude, pride, even while they entreated against the sacrifice. He
was smiling down with an air of faint amusement; yet beneath the lashes
she read a command which mastered her will, imposed silence. He had
taken on a new manliness, and for the first time in the story of their
loves she felt herself dominated by something stronger than passion. He
had swept her off her feet, before now, by boyish ardour: her humility,
the marvel of being loved, had aided him; but hitherto in her heart she
had always felt her own character to be the stronger. Now he challenged
her on woman's own ground--that of self-abnegation; he commanded her
to his own hurt, he towered above her. She had never dreamed of a love
like this. Beaten, despairing for him, yet proud as she had never been
in her life, she held her breath.
Corporal Zeally was merely bewildered. His was a deliberate mind and
had hatched out the night's catastrophe after incubating it for weeks.
Unconvinced by Polly's explanation of her meeting with M. Raoul at the
Nursery gate, he had nursed a dull jealousy and set himself to watch,
and had dogged his man down at length with the slow cunning of a yokel
bred of a line of poachers. Raoul's tribute to his smartness perplexed
him and almost he scented a trap.
"Beg your pardon, Squire," he began heavily, forgetting military forms
of address, "but the gentleman don't put it right."
"Oh, hang your British modesty!" put in Raoul with a wry laugh. "If it
pleases you to represent that the whole thing was accidental and you
don't deserve to be promoted sergeant for tonight's work, at least you
might respect my vanity."
Polly saw her opportunity. She crossed boldly and made as if to lay
over the Corporal's mouth the hand that would fain have boxed his ears.
"Reckon this is my affair," she announced, with an effrontery at which
one of the footmen guffawed openly. "Be modest as you please, my lad,
when I've married 'ee; but I won't put up with modesty from anyone
under a sergeant, and that I warn 'ee!"
The Corporal eyed his sweetheart without forgiveness. His mouth was
open, but upon the word "sergeant," he shut it again and began to
digest the idea.
"You know, of course, sir," Endymion Westcote addressed the prisoner
coldly, "to what such a confession commits you? I do not see what other
construction the facts admit, but it is so serious in itself and in its
consequences that I warn you--"
"I have broken my _parole_, sir," said Raoul, simply. "Of the
temptations you cannot judge. Of the shame I am as profoundly sensible
as you can be. The consequences I am ready to suffer."
He sank back in his chair as Dr. Ibbetson entered.
An hour later Dorothea said goodnight to her brother in the great hall.
He had lit his candle and was mixing himself a glass of brandy and
"The sight of blood--" he excused himself. "I am sorry for the fellow,
though I never liked him. I suppose, now, there was nothing between him
and that girl Polly? For a moment--from Zeally's manner--" He gulped
down the drink. "His confession was honest enough, anyhow. Poor fool!
he's safe in hospital for a week, and his friends, if he has any, and
they know what it means, will pray for that week to be prolonged."
"What does it mean?" Dorothea managed to ask.
"It means Dartmoor."
Dorothea's candlestick shook in her hand, and the extinguisher fell on
the floor. Her brother picked it up and restored it.
"Naturally," he murmured with brotherly concern, "your nerves! It has
been a trying night, but you comported yourself admirably, Dorothea.
Ibbetson assures me he could not have tied the bandage better himself.
I felt proud of my sister." He kissed her gallantly and pulled out his
watch. "Past twelve o'clock!--time they were round with the barouche.
The sooner we get Master Raoul down to the Infirmary and pack him in
bed, the better."
As Dorothea went up the stairs she heard the sound of wheels on the
She could not accept his sacrifice. No; a way must be found to save
him, and in her prayers that night she began to seek it. But while
she prayed, her heart was bowed over a great joy. She had a hero for
She saw no more of him, and heard very little, before the Court Martial
met. No one acquainted with the code of that age--so strait-laced in
its proprieties, so full-blooded in its vices--will need to be told
that she never dreamed of asking her brother's permission to visit the
Prisoners' Infirmary. He reported--once a day, perhaps, and casually--
that the patient was doing well. Dorothea ventured once to sound
General Rochambeau, but the old aristocrat answered stiffly that he
took no interest in _declasses_, and plainly hinted that, in his
judgment, M. Raoul had sinned past pardon; which but added to her
remorse. From time to time she obtained some hearsay news through
Polly; but Polly's chief interest now lay in her approaching marriage.
For the Commissary, while accepting Raoul's version of his capture, had
an intuitive gift which saved him from wholly believing in it. Indeed,
his conduct of the affair, if we consider the extent of his knowledge,
was nothing less than masterly. Corporal Zeally found himself a
sergeant within forty-eight hours, and within an hour of the
announcement he and Polly were given an audience in the Bayfield
library, with the result that Parson Milliton cried their banns in
Axcester Church on the following Sunday, and the bride-elect received
a month's wages and three weeks' notice of dismissal, with a hint that
the reason for her short retention--to instruct her successor in Miss
Dorothea's ways--was ostensible rather than real. With Raoul's fate he
declined to meddle. "Here," he said in effect, "is my report, including
the prisoner's confession. I do my simple duty in presenting it. But
the young man was captured in my grounds; he was known to be a _protege_
of my brother's. Finding him wounded and faint with loss of blood, we
naturally did our best for him, and this again renders me perhaps too
sympathetic. The law is the law, however, and must take its course."
No attitude could have been more proper or have shown better feeling.
So Raoul, who made a rapid recovery--barring the limp which he carried
to the end of his days--was tried, condemned, and sentenced in the
space of two hours. He stuck to his story, and the court had no
alternative. Dartmoor or Stapleton inevitably awaited the prisoner who
broke parole and was retaken. The night after his sentence Raoul was
marched past the Bayfield gates under escort for Dartmoor. And Dorothea
had not intervened.
This, of course, proves that she was of no heroical fibre. She knew it.
Night after night she had lain awake, vainly contriving plans for his
deliverance; and either she lacked inventiveness or was too honest, for
no method could she discover which avoided confession of the simple
truth. As the days passed without catastrophe and without news save
that her lover was bettering in hospital, she staved off the truth,
trusting that the next night would bring inspiration. Almost she
hoped--being quite unwise in such matters--that his sufferings would
be accepted as cancelling his offence. So she played the coward. The
blow fell on the evening when Endymion announced, in casual tones,
that the Court Martial was fixed for the day after next.
That night, indeed, brought something like an inspiration; and on the
morrow she rode into Axcester and called upon Polly, now a bride of
six days' standing and domiciled in one of the Westcote cottages in
Church Street, a little beyond the bridge. For a call of state this
was somewhat premature, but it might pass.
Polly appeared to think it premature. Her furniture was topsy-turvy,
and her hair in curl-papers; she obviously did not expect visitors,
and resented this curtailment of the honeymoon. She showed it even
when Dorothea, after apologies, came straight to the point:
"Polly, I am very unhappy."
"You know that I must be, since M. Raoul is going to that horrible
war-prison rather than let the truth be known."
"But since you didn't encourage him, Miss--"
"Of course I didn't encourage him to come," said Dorothea, quickly.
"Why then it was his own fault, and he broke his word by breaking
"Yes, strictly his parole was broken; but the meaning of parole is,
that a prisoner promises to make no attempt to escape. M. Raoul never
dreamed of escaping, yet that is the ground of his punishment."
"Well," said Polly, "if he chooses to say he was escaping, I don't see
how we--I mean, how you--can help."
"Why, by telling the truth; and that's what we ought to do, though it
was wrong of him to expose us to it."
"To be sure it was," Polly assented.
"But," urged Dorothea, "couldn't we tell the truth of what happened
without anyone's wanting to know more? He gave you a note, which you
took without guessing what it contained. He wished to have speech with
me. Before you could give me the note and I could refuse to see him--
as I should certainly have done--he had arrived. His folly deserves
punishment, but no such punishment as being sent to Dartmoor."
Polly eyed her ex-mistress shrewdly.
"Have you burnt the note?" she asked.
Dorothea, blushing to the roots of her hair, stammered:
"No; I kept it--it was evidence for him, you see. I wish, now--"
She broke off as Polly nodded her head.
"I guessed you'd have kept it. And now you'll never make up your mind
to burn it. You're too honest."
"But, surely the note itself would not be called for?"
"I don't know. Folks ask curious questions in courts of law, I've
always heard. Beggin' your pardon, Miss, but your face tells too many
tales, and anyone but a fool would ask for that note before he'd been
dealing with you three minutes. If he didn't, he'd ask you what was in
it. And then you'd be forced to tell lies--which you couldn't, to
save your soul!"
Dorothea knew this to be true. She reflected a moment. "I should
decline to show it, or to answer."
Mrs. Zeally thought it about time to assert herself. "Very good, Miss.
And now, how about me? They'd ask me questions, too; and I'd have you
consider, Miss Dorothea, that though not shaken down to it yet--not,
as you might say, in a state to expect callers or make them properly
welcome--I'm a respectable married woman. I don't mind confessing to
you, Zeally isn't a comfortable man. He's pleased enough to be
sergeant, though he don't quite know how it came about; and he's that
sullen with brooding over it, that for sixpence he'd give me the strap
to ease his feelings. I ain't complaining. Mr. Endymion chose to take
me on the hop and hurry up the banns, and I'm going to accommodate
myself to the man. He's three-parts of a fool, and you needn't fear
but I'll manage him. But I ain't for taking no risks, and that I tell
Dorothea was stunned. "You don't mean to say that Zeally suspects you?"
"Why, of course he does!" said Polly. Prudence urged her to repeat
that Zeally was three-parts of a fool; but, being nettled, she spoke
the words uppermost: "Who d'ee think he'd suspect?"
Dorothea, however, was too desperately dejected to feel the prick of
this shaft. "You will not help me, then?" was all her reply to it.
"Why, no, Miss! if you put it in that point-blank way. A married
woman's got to think of her reputation first of all."
Polly's attitude might be selfish, unfeeling; but the fundamental
incapacity for gratitude in girls of Polly's class will probably
surprise and pain their mistresses until the end of the world. After
all, Polly was right. An attempt to clear Raoul by telling the
superficial truth must involve terrible risks, and might at any turn
enforce a choice between full confession and falsehood.
Dorothea could not bring herself to lie, even heroically; and there
would be no heroism in lying to save herself. On the other hand, the
thought of a forced confession--it might he before a tribunal--was
too hideous. No, the suggestion had been a mad one, and Polly had
rightly thrown cold water on it. Also, it had demanded too much of
Polly, who could not be expected to jeopardise her matrimonial
prospects to right a wrong for which she was not in truth responsible.
Dorothea loved a hero, but knew she was no heroine. She called herself
a pitiful coward--unjustly, because, nurtured as she had been on the
proprieties, surrounded all her days by men and women of a class most
sensitive to public opinion, who feared the breath of scandal worse
than a plague, confession for her must mean a shame unspeakable. What!
Admit that she, Dorothea Westcote, had loved a French prisoner almost
young enough to be her son! that she had given him audience at night!
that he had been shot and captured beneath her window!
Unjustly, too, she accused herself, because it is the decision, not
the terror felt in deciding, which distinguishes the brave from the
cowardly. If you doubt the event with Dorothea, the fault, must be
mine. She was timid, but she came of a race which will endure anything
rather than the conscious anguish of doing wrong.
Nor, had her conscience needed them, did it lack reminders. Narcissus
had been persuaded to send the drawings to London to be treated by
lithography, a process of which he knew nothing, but to which M. Raoul,
during his studies in Paris, had given much attention, and apparently
not without making some discoveries--unimportant perhaps, and such as
might easily reward an experimenter in an art not well past its
infancy. At any rate, he had drawn up elaborate instructions for the
London firm of printers, and when the proofs arrived with about a third
of these instructions neglected and another third misunderstood,
Narcissus was at his wits' end, aghast at the poorness of the
impressions, yet not knowing in the least how to correct them.
He gave Dorothea no peace with them. Evening after evening she was
invited to pore upon the drawings over which she and her lover had bent
together; to criticise here and offer a suggestion there; while every
line revived a memory, inflicted a pang. What suggestion could she find
save the one which must not be spoken?--to send, fetch the artist back
from Dartmoor, and remedy all this, with so much beside!
"But," urged Narcissus, "you and he spent hours together. I quite
understood that he had explained the process to you, and on the
strength of this I gave it too little attention. Of course, if one
could have foreseen--" He broke off, and added with some testiness:
"I'd give fifty pounds to have the fellow back, if only for ten
"But why couldn't we?" Dorothea asked suddenly, breathlessly.
They were alone by the table under the bookcase. On the far side of
the hall, before the fire, Endymion dozed after a long day with the
partridges. Narcissus's words awoke a wild hope.
"But why couldn't we?" she repeated, her voice scarcely louder than a
"Well, that's an idea!" he chuckled. "Confound the fellow, he imposed
on all of us! If we had only guessed what he intended, we might have
signed a petition telling him how necessary he had made himself, and
imploring him, for our sakes, to behave like a gentleman."
"But supposing--supposing he was innocent--that he had never meant--"
She put out a hand to lay it on her brother's. "Hush!" she could have
cried; but it was too late.
"Endymion!" Narcissus called across the room, jocosely.
"Eh! What is it?" Endymion came out of his doze.
"We're in a mess with these drawings, a complete mess; and we want
Master Raoul fetched out of Dartmoor to set us right. Come now--as
Commissary, what'll you take to work it for us? Fifty pounds has
already been offered."
Dorothea turned from the table with a sigh for her lost chance.
"He'd like it," answered Endymion, grimly. "But, my dear fellow,"--
he slewed himself in his chair for a look around the hall,--"pray
moderate your tones. I particularly deprecate levity on such matters
within possible hearing of the servants; that class of person never
understands a joke."
Narcissus rubbed the top of his head--a trick of his in perplexity.
"But, seriously: it has only this moment occurred to me. Couldn't the
drawings be conveyed to him, in due form, through the Commandant of the
Prison? The poor fellow owes us no grudge. I believe he would be eager
to do us this small service. And, really, they have made such a mess
of the stones--"
"Impossible! Out of the question! And I may say now, and once for all,
that the mention of that unhappy youth is repugnant to me. By good
fortune, we escaped being compromised by him; and I have refrained
from reminding you that your patronage of him was, to say the least,
"God bless me! You don't suggest, I hope, that I encouraged him to
"I suggest nothing. But I am honestly glad to be quit of him, and take
some satisfaction in remembering that I detested the fellow from the
first. He had too much cleverness with his bad style, or, if you prefer
it, was sufficiently like a gentleman to be dangerous. Pah! For his
particular offence, I would have had the old hulks maintained in the
Hamoaze, with all their severities; as it is, the posturer may find
Dartmoor pretty stiff, but will yet have the consolation of herding
with his betters."
Strangely enough this speech did more to fix Dorothea's resolve than
all she had read or heard of the rigours of the war-prison. Gently
reared though she was, physical suffering seemed to her less
intolerable than to be unjustly held in this extreme of scorn..
This was the deeper wrong; and putting herself in her lover's place,
feeling with his feelings, she knew it to be by far the deeper. In
Dartmoor he shared the sufferings of men unfortunate but not
despicable, punished for fighting in their country's cause. But here
was a moral punishment, deserved by none but the vilest; and she had
helped to bring it--was allowing it to rest--upon a hero!
In the long watches of that night it never occurred to her that the
brutality of her brother's contempt was over-done. And Endymion, not
given to self-questioning at any time, was probably unconscious of a
dull wrath revenging itself for many pin-pricks of Master Raoul's
clever tongue. Endymion Westcote, like many pompous men, usually hurt
somebody when he indulged in a joke, and for this cause, perhaps, had
a nervous dislike of wit in others. Dull in taking a jest, but almost
preternaturally clever in suspecting one, he had disliked Raoul's
sallies in proportion as they puzzled him. The remembrance of them
rankled, and this had been his bull-roar of revenge.
He spent the next morning in his office; and returning at three in the
afternoon, retired to the library to draw up the usual monthly report
required of him as Commissary. He had been writing tor an hour or more,
when Dorothea tapped at the door and entered.
Endymion did not observe her pallor; indeed, he scarcely looked up.
"Ah! You have come for a book? Make as little noise, then, as possible,
that's a good soul. You interrupted me in a column of figures."
He began to add them up afresh, tapping the table with the fingers of
his left hand, as his custom was when counting. Dorothea waited. The
addition made, he entered it, resting three shapely finger-tips on the
table's edge for the number to be carried over.
"I wish to speak with you particularly."
He laid down his pen resignedly. Her voice was urgent, and he knew
well enough that the occasion must be urgent when Dorothea interrupted
"It--it's about M. Raoul."
His eyebrows went up, but only to contract again upon a magisterial
"Really, after the request I was obliged to make to Narcissus last
night--you were present, I believe? Is it possible that I failed to
make plain my distaste?"
"Ah, but listen! It is no question of distaste, but of a great wrong.
He was not trying to escape; he told you an untruth, to--to save--"
Endymion had picked up a paper-knife, and leaned back, tapping his
teeth with it.
"Do you know?" he said, "I suspected something of this kind from the
first, though I had no idea you shared the knowledge. Zeally's
cleverness struck me as a trifle too--ah--phenomenal for belief.
I scented some low intrigue; and Polly's dismissal may indicate my
pretty shrewd guess at the culprit."
"But it was not Polly!"
Endymion sat bolt upright.
"You must not blame Polly. It was I whom M. Raoul came to see that
He stared at her, incredulous.
"My dear Dorothea, are you quite insane?"
"He wished to see me--to speak with me; he gave the girl a note for
me. I knew nothing about it until I went upstairs that night, and found
her at the boudoir window. M. Raoul was outside. He had arrived before
she could deliver the message."
"Quite so!" with a nasally derisive laugh. "And you really need me to
point out how prettily those turtles were befooling you?"
"Indeed, no; it was not that."
He struck the table impatiently with the paper-knife.
"My dear woman, do exert some common sense! What in the name of wonder
could the fellow have to discuss with you at that hour? Your pardon if,
finding no apparent limits to your innocence, I assume it to be
illimitable, and point out that he would scarcely break bounds and play
Romeo beneath the window of a middle-aged lady for the purpose of
discussing water-colours with her, or the exploits of Vespasian."
The taunt brought red to Dorothea's cheeks, and stung her into courage.
"He came to see me," she persisted. Her voice dropped a little. "I had
come to feel a regard for M. Raoul; and he--" She could not go on. Her
eyes met her brother's for a moment, then fell before them.
What she expected she could not tell. Certainly she did not expect what
happened, and his sudden laughter smote her like a whip. It broke in a
shout of high, incontrollable mirth, and he leaned back and shook in
his chair until the tears streamed down his cheeks.
"You!" he gasped. "You! Oh, oh, oh!"
She stood beneath the scourge, silent. She felt it curl across and bite
the very flesh, and thought it was killing her, Her bosom heaved.
It ceased. He sat upright again, wiping his eyes.
"But it's incredible!" he protested; "the scoundrel has fooled you all
along. Yes, of course," he pondered; "that explains the success of the
trick, which otherwise was clumsy beyond belief; in fact, its
clumsiness puzzled me. But how was I to guess?" He pulled himself up on
the edge of another guffaw. "Look here, Dorothea, be sensible. It's
clear as daylight the fellow was after Polly, and made you his cats-
paw. Face it, my dear; face it, and conquer your illusions. I
understand it must cost you some suffering, but, after all, you must
find some blame in yourself--in your heart, I mean, not in your
conduct. Doubtless your conduct showed weakness, or he would never have
dared--but, there, I can trust my sister. Face it; the thing's absurd!
You, a woman of thirty-eight (or is it thirty-nine?), and he, if I may
judge from appearances, young enough to be your son! Polly was his
game--the deceitful little slut! You must see it for yourself. And
after all, it's more natural. Immoral, I've no doubt--"
He paused in the middle of his harangue. A parliamentary candidate
(unsuccessful) for Axcester had once dared to poke fun at Endymion
Westcote for having asserted, in a public speech, that indecency was
worse than immorality. For the life of him Endymion could never see
where the joke came in; but the fellow had illustrated it with such a
wealth of humorous instances, and had kept his ignorant audience for
twenty minutes in such fits of laughter, that he never afterwards
approached the antithesis but he skirted it with a red face.
The scourge might cut into her heart; it could not reach the image of
Raoul she shielded there. She knew her lover too well, and that he was
incapable of this baseness. But the injurious charge, diverted from
him, fell upon her own defences, and, breaking them, let in the cruel
light at length on her passion, her folly. This was how the world
would see it. . . . Yes! Raoul was right--there is no enemy
comparable with Time. Looks, fortune, birth, breed, unequal hearts and
minds--all these Love may confound and play with; but Time which
divides the dead from the living, sets easily between youth and age a
gulf which not only forbids love but derides:
Age, I do abhor thee;
Youth, I do adore thee;
O, my Love, my Love is young!
She could give counsel, sympathy, care; could delight in his delights,
hope in his hopes, melt with his woes, and, having wept a little, find
comfort for them. She could thrill at his footsteps, blush at his
salutation, sit happily beside him and talk or be silent, reading his
moods. He might fill her waking day, haunt her dreams, in the end pass
into prison for her sake, having crowned love with martyrdom. And the
world would laugh as Endymion had laughed! Her hands went up to shut
out the roar of it. A coarse amour with Polly--that could be
understood. Polly was young. Polly . . .
"What will you do?" she heard herself asking, and could scarcely
believe the voice belonged to her.
"Do? Why, if my theory be right--and I hope I've convinced you--I see
no use in meddling. The girl is respectably married. It will cause her
quite unnecessary trouble if we rip this affair open again. Her husband
will have just ground for complaint, and it might--I need not point
out--be a little awkward, eh?"
For the first time in her life Dorothea regarded her brother with
something like contempt. But the flash gave way to a look of weary
"Then I must tell the truth--to others," she said.
It confounded him for a moment. But although here was a new Dorothea,
belying all experience, his instinct for handling men and women told
him at once what had happened. He had driven her too far. He was even
clever enough to foresee that winning her back to obedience would be
a ticklish, almost desperate, business; and even sensitive enough to
redden at his blunder.
"You do not agree with my view?" he asked, tapping the table slowly.
"I disbelieve it. I have no right to believe it, even if I had the
power. He is in prison. You must help me to set him free. If not--"
"He cannot, possibly return to Axcester."
"Oh, what is that to me?" she cried with sudden impatience. Then her
tone fell back to its dull level. "I have not been pleading for myself."
"No, no: I understand." His brow cleared, as a man's who faces a bad
business and resolves to go through with it. "Well, there is only one
way to spare you and everyone. We must get him a cartel."
"Yes--get him exchanged, and sent home to his friends. The War Office
owes me something, and will no doubt oblige me in a small affair like
this without asking questions. Oh, certainly it can be managed. I will
write at once."
Dorothea had the profoundest faith in her brother's ability. That he
hit at once on this simple solution which had eluded her through many
wakeful nights did not surprise her in the least. Nor did she doubt
for a moment that he would manage it as he promised.
But she could not thank him. He had beaten her spirit sorely--so
sorely, that for days her whole body ached with the bruise. She did not
accuse him: her one flash of contempt had lasted for an instant only,
and the old habit of reverence quickly effaced it. But he had exposed
her weakness; had forced her to see it, naked and pitiful, with no
chivalry--either manly or brotherly--covering it; and seeing it with
nothing to depend upon, she learned for the first time in her life the
high, stern lesson of independence.
She learned it unconsciously, but she never forgot it. And it is to
Endymion's credit that he recognised the great alteration and allowed
for it. He had driven her too far. She would never again be the same
Dorothea. And never again by word or look did he remind her of that
hour of abasement.
An exchange of prisoners was not to be managed in a day, and would take
weeks, perhaps six weeks or a couple of months. He discussed this with
her, quietly, as a matter of business entrusted to him, explained what
steps he had taken, what letters he had written; when he expected
definite news from the War Office. She met him on the same ground.
"Yes, he could not have done better." She trusted him absolutely.
And in fact he had been better than his word. Ultimate success, to be
sure, was certain. It were strange if Mr. Westcote, who had opened his
purse to support a troop of Yeomanry, who held two parliamentary seats
at the Government's service and two members at call to bully the War
Office whenever he desired, who might at any time have had a baronetcy
for the asking--it were strange indeed if Mr. Westcote could not
obtain so trivial a favour as the exchange of a prisoner. He could do
this, but he could not appreciably hurry the correspondence by which
Pall Mall bargained a Frenchman in the forest of Dartmoor against an
Englishman in the fortress of Briancon in the Hautes Alpes. Foreseeing
delays, he had written privately to the Commandant at Dartmoor--a
Major Sotheby, with whom he had some slight acquaintance--advising him
of his efforts and requesting him to show the prisoner meanwhile all
possible indulgence. The letter contained a draft, for ten pounds, to
be spent upon small comforts at the Commandant's discretion; but
M. Raoul was not to be informed of the donor, or of his approaching
In theory--such was the routine--Raoul remained one of the Axcester
contingent of prisoners, and all reports concerning him must pass
through the Commissary's hands. In the last week of October, when
brother and sister daily expected the cartel, arrived a report that
the prisoner was in hospital with a sharp attack of pleurisy. Major
Sotheby added a private note:-
_"I feared yesterday that the exchange would come too late for him;
but to-day the Medical Officer, who has just left me, speaks hopefully.
I have no doubt, however, that a winter in this climate would be fatal.
The fellow's lungs are breaking down, and even if they could stand the
fogs, the cold must finish him."_
Dorothea stood by a window in the library when Endymion read this out
to her; the very window through which she had been gazing that spring
morning when Raoul first kissed her. To-day the first of the winter's
snow fell gently, persistently, out of a leaden and windless sky.
She turned. "I must go to him," she said.
"But to what purpose--"
"Oh, you may trust me!"
"My dear girl, that was not in my mind." He spoke gently. "But until
the warrant arrives--"
"We will give it until to-morrow; by every account it should reach us
to-morrow. You shall take it with me. I must see him once more; only
once--in your presence, if you wish."
Next morning they rode into the town together, an hour before the
mail's arrival. Endymion alighted at the Town House to write a business
letter or two before strolling down to the post office. Dorothea
cantered on to the top of the hill, and then walked Mercury to and fro,
while she watched the taller rise beyond. The snow had ceased falling;
but a crisp north wind skimmed the drifts and powdered her dark habit.
Twice she pulled out her watch; but the coach was up to time in spite
of the heavy roads; and as it topped the rise she reined Mercury to the
right-about and cantered back to await it. Already the street had begun
to fill as usual; and, as usual, there was General Rochambeau picking
his way along the pavement to present himself for the Admiral's
letter--the letter which never arrived.
Would _her_ letter never arrive?
He halted on the kerb by her stirrup. She asked after the Admiral's
"Ah, Mademoiselle, if ever he leaves his bed again, it will be a
She was not listening. Age, age again!--it makes all the difference.
Here came the coach--did it hold a letter for Raoul? Raoul was young.
The coach rolled by with less noise than usual, on the carpet of snow
churned brown with traffic. As it passed, the guard lifted his horn and
blew cheerily. She followed, telling herself it was a good omen. During
the long wait outside the post office she rebuked herself more than
once for building a hope upon it. Name after name was called, and at
each call a prisoner pushed forward to the doorway for his letter. She
caught sight of the General on the outskirts of the crowd. Her brother
would not come out until every letter had been distributed.
But when he appeared in the doorway she read the good news in his face.
He made his way briskly towards her, the prisoners falling back to
"Right; it has come," he said. "Trot away home and have the valises
packed, while I run into 'The Dogs' and order the chaise."
Once clear of the town, she galloped. There was little need to hurry,
for her own valise had been packed overnight.
Having sent Mudge to attend to her brother's, she ran to Narcissus'
room--his scriptorium, as he called it.
Narcissus was at home to-day, busy with the cellar accounts. He took
stock twice a year and composed a report in language worthy of a
survey of the Roman Empire. Before he could look up, Dorothea had
kissed him on the crown of his venerable head.
"Such news, dear! Endymion has ordered a chaise from 'The Dogs,' and
is going to take me to Dartmoor!"
"Dartmoor--God bless my soul!" He rubbed his head, and added with a
twinkle: "Why, what have you been doing?"
"Endymion has a cartel of exchange for M. Raoul, and we are to carry
"Ah, so that is what you two have been conspiring over? I smelt a rat
somewhere. But, really, this is delightful of you--delightful of you
both. Only, why on earth should you be carrying the release yourselves,
in this weather."
"He is very ill," said Dorothea, seriously.
"Indeed? Poor fellow, poor fellow. Still, that scarcely explains--"
"And you will be good, and take your meals regularly when Mudge beats
the gong? And you won't sit up late and set fire to the house? But I
must run off and tell everyone to take care of you."
She kissed him again, and was half-way down the corridor before he
called after her:
"Dorothea, Dorothea! the drawings!"
"Ah, to be sure; I forgot," she murmured, as he thrust the parcel into
"Forgot? Forgot the drawings? But, God bless my soul!--"
He passed his hand over his grey hairs and stared down the corridor
The roads were heavy to start, with, and beyond Chard they grew
heavier. At Honiton, which our travellers reached at midnight, it was
snowing; and Dorothea, when the sleepy chamber-maid aroused her at
dawn, looked out upon a forbidding world of white. The postboys were
growling, and she half feared that Endymion would abandon the journey
for the day. But if he lacked her zeal, he had the true Englishman's
hatred of turning back. She, who had known him always for a master of
men, learned a new awe of her splendid brother. He took command; he
cross-examined landlord and postboys, pooh-poohed their objections,
extracted from them in half-a-dozen curt questions more information
than, five minutes before, they were conscious of possessing, to judge
from the scratching of heads which produced it; finally, he handed
Dorothea into the chaise, sprang in himself, and closed discussion
with a slam of the door. They were driven off amid the salaams of
ostler, boots, waiter, and two chambermaids, among whom he had
scattered largess with the lordliest hand.
So the chaise ploughed through Exeter to Moreton Hampstead, where they
supped and rested for another night. But before dawn they were off
again. Snow lay in thick drifts on the skirts of the great moor, and
snow whirled about them as they climbed, until day broke upon a howling
desert, across which Dorothea peered but could discern no features.
Not leagues but years divided Bayfield from this tableland, high over
all the world, uninhabited, without tree or gate or hedge. Her eyes
were heavy with lack of sleep, smarting with the bite of the north
wind, which neither ceased nor eased until, towards ten o'clock, the
carriage began to lumber downhill towards Two Bridges, under the lee of
Crockern Tor. Beyond came a heavy piece of collar work, the horses
dropping to a walk as they heaved through the drifts towards a
depression between two tors closing the view ahead. Dorothea's eyes,
avoiding the wind, were fixed on the tor to the left, when Endymion
touched her hand and pointed towards the base of the other. There,
grey--almost black--against the white hillside, a mass of masonry
loomed up through the weather; the great circle of the War Prison.
The road did not lead them to it direct. They must halt first at the
bare village of Prince Town, and drink coffee and warm themselves at
the "Plume of Feathers Inn," before facing the last few hundred yards
beneath the lee of North Hessary. But a little before noon, Dorothea--
still with a sense of being lifted on a platform miles above the world
she knew--alighted before a tremendous archway of piled granite set
in a featureless wall, and closed with a sheeted gate of iron. A grey-
coated sentry, pacing here in front of his snow-capped box, challenged
and demanded their business.
"Visitors for the Commandant!" The sentry tugged at an iron bellpull,
and a bell tolled twice within. Dorothea's feet were half-frozen in
spite of her wraps--she stamped them in the snow while she studied the
gateway and the enormous blocks which arched it, unhewn save for two
words carved in Roman capitals--"PARCERE SUBJECTIS."
A key turned in the wicket. "Visitors for the Commandant!" They
stepped through, and after pausing a moment while the porter shot the
lock again behind them, followed him across the yard to the
The outer wall of the great War Prison enclosed a circle of thirty
acres; within it a second wall surrounded an acre in which stood the
five rectangular blocks of the prison proper, with two slightly smaller
buildings--the one a hospital, the other set apart for the petty
officers; and between the inner and outer walls ran a _via militaris_,
close on a mile in circumference, constantly paraded by the guard, and
having raised platforms from which the sentinels could overlook the
inner wall and the area. The area was not completely circular, since,
where it faced the great gate, a segment had been cut out of it for the
Commandant's quarters and outbuildings and the entrance yard, across
which, our travellers now followed their guide.
The Commandant hurried out from his office to welcome them--a bustling
little officer with sandy hair and the kindliest possible face; a
trifle self-important, obviously proud of his prison, and, after a
fashion, of his prisoners too; anxiously, elaborately polite in his
manner, especially towards Dorothea.
"Major Westcote!"--he gave Endymion his full title--"My dear sir,
this is indeed--And Miss Westcote?" he bowed as he was introduced,
"Delighted--honoured! But what a journey! You must be famished,
positively; you will be wanting luncheon at once--yes, really you must
allow me. No? A glass of sherry, then, and a biscuit at least . . ."
He ran to the door, called to his orderly to bring some glasses, and
came back rubbing his hands. "It's an ill wind, as they say . . ."
"We have come with the order about which we have corresponded."
"For that poor fellow Raoul?" The Commandant nodded gaily and smiled;
and Dorothea, who had been watching his face, felt the load dissolve
and roll off her heart, as a pile of snow slides from a bough in the
sunshine. "He is better, I am glad to report--out of bed and fairly
convalescent indeed. But I hope my message did not alarm you
needlessly. It was touch-and-go with him for twenty-four hours; still,
he was bettering when I wrote. And to bring you all this way, and in
"My sister and I," explained Endymion, "take a particular interest in
But the voluble officer was not so easily silenced.
"So, to be sure, I gathered." He bowed gallantly to Dorothea. "'O
woman! in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please'--not,
of course, that I attribute any such foibles to Miss Westcote, but for
the sake of the conclusion."
"Can we see him?"
"Eh? Before luncheon? Oh, most assuredly, if you wish it. He has been
transferred to the Convalescents' Ward. We will step across at once."
He drew from his pocket a small master-key, attached by a steel chain
to his belt, and blew into the wards thoughtfully while he studied the
paper handed to him by Endymion. "Quite in order, of course. No doubt,
you and Miss Westcote would prefer to break the good news to him in
private? Yes, yes; I will have him sent up to the Consulting Room. The
Doctor has finished his morning rounds, and you will be quite alone
He picked up his cap and escorted them out and across the court to the
gate of the main prison. Beyond this Dorothea found herself in a vast
snowy yard, along two sides of which ran covered ways or piazzas open
to the air, but faced with iron bars, and behind these bars flitted the
forms of the prisoners at exercise, stamping the flagged pavement to
keep their starved blood in circulation. At a sight of the Commandant
with his two visitors--so small a spectacle had power to divert them--
all this movement, this stamping, was hushed suddenly. Voices broke
into chatter; faces appeared between the bars and stared.
"Yes," said the Commandant, reading Dorothea's thought, "a large family
to be responsible for! How many would you guess, now?"
"A thousand, at least," she murmured.
"Six thousand! Each of those blocks yonder will accommodate fifteen
hundred men. And then there is the hospital--usually pretty full at
this season, I regret to say. Come, I won't detain you; but really in
passing you must have a look at one of our dormitories."
He threw open a door, and she gazed in upon a long-drawn avenue of iron
pillars slung with double tiers of hammocks. The place seemed clean
enough: at the far end of the vista a fatigue gang of prisoners was
busy with pails and brushes; but either it had not been thoroughly
ventilated, or the dense numbers packed in it for so many hours a day
had given the building an atmosphere of its own, warm and unpleasant,
if not precisely foetid, after the pure, stinging air of the moorland.
"We can sleep seven hundred here," said the Commandant; "and another
dormitory of the same size runs overhead. The top story they use as a
promenade and for indoor recreation." He pointed to a number of grilles
set in the wall at the back, at equal distances. "For air," he
explained, "and also for keeping watch on _messieurs_. Yes, we find
that necessary. Behind each is a small chamber, hollowed most
scientifically, quite a little temple of acoustics. If Miss Westcote,
now, would care to step into one and listen, while I stand below with
the Major and converse in ordinary tones--"
"No, no," Dorothea declined, hurriedly, and with a shiver.
It hurt her to think of Raoul herded among seven hundred miserables in
this endless barrack, his every movement overlooked, his smallest
speech overheard, by an eaves-dropping sentry.
"I think, Endymion chimed in, my sister feels her long journey, and
would be glad to get our business over."
"Ah, to be sure--a thousand pardons!"
The Commandant shut the door and piloted them across to the hospital
block. Here on the threshold the same warm, acrid atmosphere assailed
Dorothea's nostrils, and almost choked her breathing. Their guide led
the way up a flight of stone steps to the first floor, and down a
whitewashed corridor, lit along one side with narrow barred casements.
A little more than half-way down the corridor the blank wall facing
these casements was pierced by a low arched passage. Into this burrow
the Commandant dived; and, standing outside, they heard a key turned
in a lock. He reappeared and beckoned to them.
"From the gallery here," he whispered, "you look right down into the
Through the iron bars of the gallery Dorothea caught a glimpse of a
long bare room, with twenty or thirty dejected figures in suits and
caps of greyish-blue flannel, huddled about a stove. Some were playing
at cards, others at dominoes. The murmur of their voices ascended and
hummed in the little passage.
"Hist! Your friend is below there, if you care to have a peep at him."
But Dorothea had already drawn back. All this spying and listening
revolted her. The polite Commandant noted the movement.
"You prefer that he should be fetched at once?" He stepped past them
into the corridor. "Smithers!" he called. "Smithers!"
A hospital orderly appeared at a door almost opposite the passage,
"Run down to the Convalescent Ward and fetch up Number Two-six-seven-
two.--I know the number of each of my children. I never make a
mistake," he confided in Dorothea's ear. "As quick as you can, please!
Stay; you may add that some visitors have called and wish to speak
The orderly saluted again, and hurried off.
"You wish, of course, to see him alone together?"
"I think," answered Endymion, slowly, "my sister would prefer a word
or two with him alone."
"Certainly. Will you step into the surgery, Miss Westcote?" He
indicated the door at which the orderly had appeared. "Smithers will
not take two minutes in fetching the prisoner; and perhaps, if you
will excuse us, a visit to the hospital itself will repay your brother.
We are rather proud of our sanitation here: a glance over our
arrangements--five minutes only--"
Endymion, at a nod from Dorothea, permitted himself to be led away by
the inexorable man.
She watched them to the end of the corridor, and had her hand on the
surgery door to push it open, when a voice from below smote her ears.
"Number Two-six-seven-two to come to the surgery at once, to see
The voice rang up through the little passage behind her. She turned;
the door at the end of it stood half-open; beyond it she saw the bars
of the gallery, and through these a space of whitewashed wall at the
end of the ward.
She was turning again, when a babble of voices answered the orderly's
announcement. "Raoul! Raoul!" half-a-dozen were calling, and then one
spoke up sharp and distinct:
"Tenez, mon bonhomme, ce sera votre _gilet_, a coup sur!"
A burst of laughter followed.
"C'est son _gilet_--his little Waistcoat--a chauffer la poitrine--"
"Des visiteurs, dit il? Voyons, coquin, n'y-a-t-il pas par hasard une
visiteuse de la partie."
"Une 'Waistcoat' par example?--de quarante ans environ, le drap un
peu rape . . ."
"Qui se nomme Dorothee--ce que veut dire le gilet dieudonne . . ."
"Easy now!" the Orderly's voice remonstrated. "Easy, I tell you, ye
born mill-clappers! There's a lady in the party, if that's what you're
Dorothea put out a hand against the jamb of the surgery door, to
steady herself She heard the smack of a palm below and some one uttered
a serio-comic groan.
"Enfonce! Il m'a parie dix sous qu'elle viendrait avant le jour de Pan,
et aussi du tabac avec tout le Numero Six. Nous en ferons la dot de
Mademoiselle!" The fellow burst out singing--
"J'ai du bon tabac
Dans ma tabatiere."
"Dites donc, mon petit,"--but the cheerful epithet he bestowed on
Raoul is unquotable here--"Elle ne fume pas, votre Anglaise? Elle
n'est pas Creole, c'est entendu."
Dorothea had stepped into the surgery. A small round table stood in the
middle of the room; she caught at the edge of it and rested so for a
moment, for the walls seemed to be swaying and she durst not lift her
hands to shut out the roars of laughter. They rang in her ears and
shouted and stunned her. Her whole body writhed.
The hubbub below sank to a confused murmur. She heard footsteps in the
corridor--the firm tramp of the orderly followed by the shuffle of
"Number Two-six-seven-two is outside, ma'am. Am I to show him in?"
She bent her head and moved towards the fireplace. She heard him
shuffle in, and the door shut behind him. Still she did not turn.
"Dorothea!"--his voice shook with joy, with passion. How well she
knew that deep Provencal tremolo. She could have laughed aloud in her
She faced him at length. He stood there, stretching out both hands to
her. He was handsome as ever, but pale and sadly pinched. Beyond all
doubt he had suffered. His grey-blue hospital suit hung about him in
In her eyes he read at once that something was wrong--but without
comprehending. "You sent for me," he stammered; "you have come--"
She found her voice and, to her surprise, it was quite firm.
"Yes, we have brought your release," she said; and, watching his eyes,
saw the joy leap up in them, saw it quenched the next instant as he
composed his features to a fond solicitude for her.
"But you?" he murmured. "What has happened? Tell me--no, do not draw
away! Your hand, at least."
Contempt, for herself or for him, gave her a moment's strength, but it
broke down again.
"It is horrible!" was all she answered and looked about her with a
"Ah, the place frightens you! Well," he laughed, reassuringly, "it
frightened me at first. But for the thought of you, dearest, to
She stepped past him and opened the door. For a moment a wild notion
seized him that she was escaping, and he put out an imploring hand;
but he saw that, with her hand on the jamb, she was listening, and he,
too, listened. The voices in the Convalescent Ward came up to them,
scarcely muffled, through the low passage, and with them a cackling
laugh. Then he understood.
Their eyes met. He bowed his head.
"Nevertheless, I have suffered."
He said it humbly, after many seconds, and in a voice so low that it
seemed a second or two before she heard. For the first time she put
out a hand and touched his sleeve.
"Yes, you have suffered, and for me. Let me go on believing that. You
did a noble thing, and I shall try to remember you by it--to remember
that you were capable of it. 'It was for my sake,' I shall say, and
then I shall be proud. Oh, yes, sometimes I shall be very proud! But
Her voice faltered, and he looked up sharply.
"In love"--she smiled, but passing faintly--"it's the little things,
is it not? It's the little things that count."
She touched his sleeve again, and passed into the room, leaving him
there at a standstill, as Endymion and the Commandant came round the
corner at the far end of the corridor.
"Excuse me," said Endymion, and, stepping past Raoul without a glance,
looked into the surgery. After a moment he shut the door quietly, and,
standing with his back to it, addressed the prisoner: "I perceive, sir,
that my sister has told you the news. We have effected an exchange for
you, and the Commandant tells me that to-morrow, if the roads permit,
you will be sent down to Plymouth and released. It is unnecessary for
you to thank me; it would, indeed, be offensive. I wish you a safe
passage home, and pray heaven to spare me the annoyance of seeing your
As Raoul bowed and moved away, dragging his feet weakly in their list
slippers, Mr. Westcote turned to the Commandant, who during this
address had kept a discreet distance.
"With your leave, we will continue our stroll, and return for my
sister in a few minutes."
The Commandant jumped at the suggestion.
Dorothea heard their footsteps retreating, and knew that her brother's
thoughtfulness had found her this short respite. She had dropped into
the orderly's chair, and now bowed her head upon the prison doctor's
ledger, which lay open on the table before it.
"Oh, my love! How could you do it? How could you? How could you?"
THE NEW DOROTHEA
Two hours later they set out on their homeward journey.
The Commandant, still voluble, escorted them to the gate. As Dorothea
climbed into the chaise and Endymion shook up the rugs and cushions, a
large brown-paper parcel rolled out upon the snow. She gave a little
cry of dismay:
"We forgot to deliver them."
"Oh, confound the things!"
Endymion was for pitching them back into the chaise.
"But no!" she entreated. "Why, Narcissus believes it was to deliver
them that we came!"
So the Commandant amiably charged himself to hand the parcel to
M. Raoul, and waved his adieux with it as the chaise rolled away.
Of what had passed between Dorothea and Raoul at the surgery door
Endymion knew nothing; but he had guessed at once, and now was assured
by the tone in which she had spoken of the drawings, that the chapter
was closed, the danger past. Coming, brother and sister had scarcely
exchanged a word for miles together. Now they found themselves chatting
without effort about the landscape, the horses' pace, the Commandant
and his hospitality, the arrangements of the prison, and the prospects
of a cosy dinner at Moreton Hampstead. It was all the smallest of small
talk, and just what might be expected of two reputable middle-aged
persons returning in a post-chaise from a mild jaunt; yet beneath it
ran a current of feeling. In their different ways, each had been moved;
each had relied upon the other for a degree of help which could not be
asked in words, and had not been disappointed.
Now that Dorothea's infatuation had escaped all risk of public
laughter, Endymion could find leisure to admire her courage in
confessing, in persisting until the wrong was righted, and, now at the
last, in shutting the door upon the whole episode.
And, now at the last, having shut the door upon it, Dorothea could
reflect that her brother, too, had suffered. She knew his pride, his
sensitiveness, his mortal dread of ridicule. In the smart of his wound
he had turned and rent her cruelly, but had recovered himself and
defended her loyally from worse rendings. She remembered, too, that he
had distrusted Raoul from the first.
He had been right. But had she been wholly wrong?
In the dusk of the fifth evening after their departure the chaise
rolled briskly in through Bayfield great gates and up the snowy drive.
Almost noiselessly though it came, Mudge had the door thrown wide and
stood ready to welcome them, with Narcissus behind in the comfortable
glow of the hall.
Dorothea's limbs were stiff, and on alighting she steadied herself for
a moment by the chaise-door before stepping in to kiss her brother. In
that moment her eyes took one backward glance across the park and
rested on the lights of Axcester glimmering between the naked elms.
"Well," demanded Narcissus, after exchange of greetings, "and what did
he say about the drawings?"
Dorothea had not expected the question in this form, and parried it
with a laugh:
"You and your drawings! I declare"--she turned to Endymion--"he has
been thinking of them all the time, and affects no concern in our
"Which, nevertheless, have been romantic to the last degree," he added,
playing up to her.
"My dear Dorothea--" Narcissus expostulated.
"But you are not going to evade me by any such tricks," she
interrupted, sternly; "for that is what it comes to. I left you with
the strictest orders to take care of yourself, and you ought to know
that I shall answer nothing until you have been catechised. What have
you been eating?"
"My _dear_ Dorothea!"
Narcissus gazed helplessly at Mudge; but Mudge had been seized with a
flurry of his own, and misinterpreted the look as well as the stern
"I--I reckon 'tis _me_, Miss," he confessed. "Being partial to onions,
and taking that liberty in Mr. Endymion's absence, knowing his dislike
of the effluvium--"
Such are the pitfalls of a guilty conscience on the one hand, and, on
the other, of being unexpectedly clever.
An hour later, at dinner, Narcissus was informed that the drawings had
been conveyed to M. Raoul, who, doubtless, would return them with
hints for correction.
"But had he nothing to say at the time?"
"For my part," said Endymion, sipping his wine, "I addressed but one
sentence to him; and Dorothea, I daresay, exchanged but half a dozen.
Considering the shortness of the interview, and that our mission--at
least, our ostensible mission"--Endymion glanced at Dorothea, with a
smile at his own _finesse_--"was to carry him news of his release,
you will admit--"
"Oh--ah!--to be sure; I had forgotten the release," muttered
Narcissus, and was resigned.
"By the way," Dorothea asked, after a short pause, "what is happening
at 'The Dogs' tonight? All the windows are lit up in the Orange Room.
I saw it as I stepped out of the chaise."
"Yes; I have to tell you"--Narcissus turned towards his brother--
"that during your absence another of the prisoners has found his
discharge--the old Admiral."
"He died this morning: but you knew, of course, it was only a question
of days. Rochambeau was with him at the last. He has shown great
"You have made all arrangements, of course?" For Narcissus was Acting
Commissary in his brother's absence.
"I rode in at once on hearing the news, which Zeally brought before
daylight; and found the Lodge"--this was a Masonic Lodge formed among
the prisoners, and named by them _La Paix Desiree_--"anxious to pay
him something more than the full rites. With my leave they have hired
the Orange Room, and turned it into a _chapelle ardente_; and there, I
believe, he is reposing now, poor old fellow."
"He has no kith nor kin, I understand."
"None. He was never married, and his relatives went in the Terror--
the most of them (so Rochambeau tells me) in a single week."
Dorothea had heard the same story from the General and from Raoul. To
this old warrior his Emperor had been friends, kindred, wife, and
children--nay, almost God. He had enjoyed Napoleon's favour, and
followed his star from the days of the Directory: in that favour and
the future of France beneath that star his hopes had begun and ended.
His private ambitions he had resigned without a word on the day when
he put to sea out of Brest, under order from Paris, to perform a feat
he knew to be impossible, with ships ill-found, under-manned, and half-
victualled by cheating contractors: and he sailed cheerfully, believing
himself sacrificed to some high purpose of his master's. When, the
sacrifice made, he learned that the contractors slandered him to cover
their own villainy, and that Napoleon either believed them or was
indifferent, his heart broke. Too proud at first, he had ended by
drawing up a statement and forwarding it from his captivity, with a
demand for an enquiry. The answer to this was--the letter which never
Dorothea thought of the room where she had danced and been happy: the
many lights, the pagan figures merrymaking on the panels, the goddess
on the ceiling with her cupids and scattered roses, and, in the centre
of it all, that dead face, incongruous and calm.
How small had been her tribulation beside his! And it was all over for
him now--wages taken, account sealed up for judgment, _parole_ ended,
and no heir to trouble over him or his good name.
Next morning she rode into Axcester, as well to do some light shopping
as because it seemed an age since her last visit, which, to be sure,
was absurd, and she knew it. Happening to meet General Rochambeau, she
drew rein and very gently offered her condolence on the loss of his
The General pressed her hand gratefully.
"Ah, never pity him, Mademoiselle. He carries a good pass for the
"And that is--?"
"The Emperor's _tabatiere_: and, my faith! Miss Dorothea, there will be
sneezings in certain quarters when he opens it there.
"Il a du bon tabac
Dans sa tabatiere
"has the Admiral. He had for you (if I may say it) a quite extraordinary
respect and affection. The saints rest his brave soul!"
The General lifted his tricorne. He never understood the tide of red
which surged over Dorothea's face; but she conquered it, and went on
to surprise him further:
"I heard of this only last night. We have been visiting Dartmoor, my
brother and I, with a release for--for that M. Raoul."
"So I understood." He noted that her confusion had gone as suddenly as
"But since I am back in time, and it appears I was so fortunate as to
win his regard, I would ask to see him--if it be permitted, and I may
have your escort."
"Certainly, Mademoiselle. You will, perhaps, wish to consult your
"I see no necessity," she answered.
* * * * * * * * *
The General was not the only one to discover a new and firmer note in
Dorothea's voice. Life at Bayfield slipped back into its old
comfortable groove, but the brothers fell--and one of them
consciously--into a habit of including her in their conversations and
even of asking her advice. One day there arrived a bulky parcel for
Narcissus; so bulky indeed and so suspiciously heavy, that it bore
signs of several agitated official inspections, and nothing short of
official deference to Endymion (under cover of whom it was addressed)
could account for its having come through at all. For it came from
France. It contained a set of the Bayfield drawings exquisitely cut in
stone; and within the cover was wrapped a lighter parcel addressed to
Miss Dorothea Westcote--a rose-tree, with a packet of seeds tied
about its root.
No letter accompanied the gift, at the sentimentality of which she
found herself able to smile. But she soaked the root carefully in warm
water, and smiled again at herself, as she planted it at the foot of
the glacis beneath her boudoir window--the very spot where Raoul had
fallen. Against expectation--for the journey had sorely withered it--
the plant throve. She lived to see it grown into a fine Provence rose,
draping the whole south-east corner of Bayfield with its yellow bloom.
"After all," she said one afternoon, stepping back in the act of
pruning it, "provided one sees things in their right light and is
not a fool--"
But this was long after the time of which we are telling.
Folks no longer smile at sentiment. They laugh it down: by which,
perhaps, no great harm would be done if their laughter came through the
mind; but it comes through the passions, and at the best chastises one
excess by another--a weakness by a rage, which is weakness at its
worst. I fear Dorothea may be injured in the opinion of many by the
truth--which, nevertheless, has to be told--that her recovery was
helped not a little by sentiment. What? Is a poor lady's heart to be
in combustion for a while and then--pf!--the flame expelled at a
blast, with all that fed it? That is the heroic cure, no doubt: but
either it kills or leaves a room swept and garnished, inviting devils.
In short it is the way of tragedy, and for tragedy Dorothea had no
aptitude at all. She did what she could--tidied up.
For an instance.--She owned a small book which had once belonged to a
namesake of hers--a Dorothea Westcote who had lived at the close of
the seventeenth and opening of the eighteenth centuries, a grand-
daughter of the first Westcote of Bayfield, married (so said the family
history) in 1704 to a squire from across the Devonshire border. The
book was a slender one, bound in calf, gilt-edged, and stamped with a
gold wreath in the centre of each cover. Dorothea called it an album;