Part 3 out of 6
"What the deuce is the meaning of this?" he roared, with an accusing
"You're sunk, that's all. You've been dead half a tide."
"Dead, am I? I'll show you whether I'm dead or not, Sir!"
"Well, you may be a survivor," said Moorshed ingratiatingly, "though it
isn't at all likely."
The officer choked for a minute. The midshipman crouched up in stern said,
half aloud: "Then I _was_ right--last night."
"Yesh," I gasped from the dinghy's coal-dust. "Are you member Torquay
"Hell!" said the first lieutenant, and fled away. The _Cryptic's_ boat was
already at that cruiser's side, and semaphores flicked zealously from ship
to ship. We floated, a minute speck, between the two hulls, while the
pipes went for the captain's galley on the _Devolution_.
"That's all right," said Moorshed. "Wait till the gangway's down and then
board her decently. We oughtn't to be expected to climb up a ship we've
Pyecroft lay on his disreputable oars till Captain Malan, full-uniformed,
descended the _Devolution's_ side. With due compliments--not acknowledged,
I grieve to say--we fell in behind his sumptuous galley, and at last, upon
pressing invitation, climbed, black as sweeps all, the lowered gangway of
the _Cryptic_. At the top stood as fine a constellation of marine stars as
ever sang together of a morning on a King's ship. Every one who could get
within earshot found that his work took him aft. I counted eleven able
seamen polishing the breechblock of the stern nine-point-two, four marines
zealously relieving each other at the life-buoy, six call-boys, nine
midshipmen of the watch, exclusive of naval cadets, and the higher ranks
past all census.
"If I die o' joy," said Pyecroft behind his hand, "remember I died
forgivin' Morgan from the bottom of my 'eart, because, like Martha, we
'ave scoffed the better part. You'd better try to come to attention, Sir."
Moorshed ran his eye voluptuously over the upper deck battery, the huge
beam, and the immaculate perspective of power. Captain Panke and Captain
Malan stood on the well-browned flash-plates by the dazzling hatch.
Precisely over the flagstaff I saw Two Six Seven astern, her black
petticoat half hitched up, meekly floating on the still sea. She looked
like the pious Abigail who has just spoken her mind, and, with folded
hands, sits thanking Heaven among the pieces. I could almost have sworn
that she wore black worsted gloves and had a little dry cough. But it was
Captain Panke that coughed so austerely. He favoured us with a lecture on
uniform, deportment, and the urgent necessity of answering signals from a
senior ship. He told us that he disapproved of masquerading, that he loved
discipline, and would be obliged by an explanation. And while he delivered
himself deeper and more deeply into our hands, I saw Captain Malan wince.
He was watching Moorshed's eye.
"I belong to Blue Fleet, Sir. I command Number Two Six Seven," said
Moorshed, and Captain Planke was dumb. "Have you such a thing as a frame-
plan of the _Cryptic_ aboard?" He spoke with winning politeness as he
opened a small and neatly folded paper.
"I have, sir." The little man's face was working with passion.
"Ah! Then I shall be able to show you precisely where you were torpedoed
last night in"--he consulted the paper with one finely arched eyebrow--"in
nine places. And since the _Devolution_ is, I understand, a sister ship"--
he bowed slightly toward Caplain Malan--"the same plan----"
I had followed the clear precision of each word with a dumb amazement
which seemed to leave my mind abnormally clear. I saw Captain Malan's eye
turn from Moorshed and seek that of the _Cryptic's_ commander. And he
telegraphed as clearly as Moorshed was speaking: "My dear friend and
brother officer, _I_ know Panke; _you_ know Panke; _we_ know Panke--good
little Panke! In less than three Greenwich chronometer seconds Panke will
make an enormous ass of himself, and I shall have to put things straight,
unless you who are a man of tact and discernment----"
"Carry on." The Commander's order supplied the unspoken word. The cruiser
boiled about her business around us; watch and watch officers together, up
to the limit of noise permissible. I saw Captain Malan turn to his senior.
"Come to my cabin!" said Panke gratingly, and led the way. Pyecroft and I
"It's all right," said Pyecroft. "They daren't leave us loose aboard for
one revolution," and I knew that he had seen what I had seen.
"You, too!" said Captain Malan, returning suddenly. We passed the sentry
between white enamelled walls of speckless small arms, and since that
Royal Marine Light infantryman was visibly suffocating from curiosity, I
winked at him. We entered the chintz-adorned, photo-speckled, brass-
fendered, tile-stoved main cabin. Moorshed, with a ruler, was
demonstrating before the frame-plan of H.M.S. _Cryptic_.
"--making nine stencils in all of my initials G.M.," I heard him say.
"Further, you will find attached to your rudder, and you, too, Sir"--he
bowed to Captain Malan yet again--"one fourteen-inch Mark IV practice
torpedo, as issued to first-class torpedo-boats, properly buoyed. I have
sent full particulars by telegraph to the umpires, and have requested them
to judge on the facts as they--appear." He nodded through the large window
to the stencilled _Devolution_ awink with brass work in the morning sun,
Captain Panke faced us. I remembered that this was only play, and caught
myself wondering with what keener agony comes the real defeat.
"Good God, Johnny!" he said, dropping his lower lip like a child, "this
young pup says he has put us both out of action. Inconceivable--eh? My
first command of one of the class. Eh? What shall we do with him? What
shall we do with him--eh?"
"As far as I can see, there's no getting over the stencils," his companion
"Why didn't I have the nets down? Why didn't I have the nets down?" The
cry tore itself from Captain Panke's chest as he twisted his hands.
"I suppose we'd better wait and find out what the umpires will say. The
Admiral won't be exactly pleased." Captain Malan spoke very soothingly.
Moorshed looked out through the stern door at Two Six Seven. Pyecroft and
I, at attention, studied the paintwork opposite. Captain Panke had dropped
into his desk chair, and scribbled nervously at a blotting-pad.
Just before the tension became unendurable, he looked at his junior for a
lead. "What--what are you going to do about it, Johnny--eh?"
"Well, if you don't want him, I'm going to ask this young gentleman to
breakfast, and then we'll make and mend clothes till the umpires have
Captain Panke flung out a hand swiftly.
"Come with me," said Captain Malan. "Your men had better go back in the
"Yes, I think so," said Moorshed, and passed out behind the captain. We
followed at a respectful interval, waiting till they had ascended the
Said the sentry, rigid as the naked barometer behind him: "For Gawd's
sake! 'Ere, come 'ere! For Gawd's sake! What's 'appened? Oh! come '_ere_
"Tell? You?" said Pyecroft. Neither man's lips moved, and the words were
whispers: "Your ultimate illegitimate grandchildren might begin to
understand, not you--nor ever will."
"Captain Malan's galley away, Sir," cried a voice above; and one replied:
"Then get those two greasers into their dinghy and hoist the blue peter.
We're out of action."
"Can you do it, Sir?" said Pyecroft at the foot of the ladder. "Do you
think it is in the English language, or do you not?"
"I don't think I can, but I'll try. If it takes me two years, I'll try."
* * * * *
There are witnesses who can testify that I have used no artifice. I have,
on the contrary, cut away priceless slabs of _opus alexandrinum_. My gold
I have lacquered down to dull bronze, my purples overlaid with sepia of
the sea, and for hell-hearted ruby and blinding diamond I have substituted
pale amethyst and mere jargoon. Because I would say again "Disregarding
the inventions of the Marine Captain whose other name is Gubbins, let a
plain statement suffice."
THE COMPREHENSION OF PRIVATE COPPER
THE KING'S TASK
After the sack of the City, when Rome was sunk to a name,
In the years when the Lights were darkened, or ever Saint Wilfrid came.
Low on the borders of Britain, the ancient poets sing,
Between the cliff and the forest there ruled a Saxon king.
Stubborn all were his people, a stark and a jealous horde--
Not to be schooled by the cudgel, scarce to be cowed by the sword;
Blithe to turn at their pleasure, bitter to cross in their mood,
And set on the ways of their choosing as the hogs of Andred's Wood ...
They made them laws in the Witan, the laws of flaying and fine,
Folkland, common and pannage, the theft and the track of kine;
Statutes of tun and of market for the fish and the malt and the meal,
The tax on the Bramber packhorse and the tax on the Hastings keel.
Over the graves of the Druids and over the wreck of Rome
Rudely but deeply they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Northman's ire,
Rudely but greatly begat they the body of state and of shire.
Rudely but greatly they laboured, and their labour stands till now
If we trace on our ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.
THE COMPREHENSION OF PRIVATE COPPER
Private Copper's father was a Southdown shepherd; in early youth Copper
had studied under him. Five years' army service had somewhat blunted
Private Copper's pastoral instincts, but it occurred to him as a memory of
the Chalk that sheep, or in this case buck, do not move towards one across
turf, or in this case, the Colesberg kopjes unless a stranger, or in this
case an enemy, is in the neighbourhood. Copper, helmet back-first advanced
with caution, leaving his mates of the picket full a mile behind. The
picket, concerned for its evening meal, did not protest. A year ago it
would have been an officer's command, moving as such. To-day it paid
casual allegiance to a Canadian, nominally a sergeant, actually a trooper
of Irregular Horse, discovered convalescent in Naauwport Hospital, and
forthwith employed on odd jobs. Private Copper crawled up the side of a
bluish rock-strewn hill thinly fringed with brush atop, and remembering
how he had peered at Sussex conies through the edge of furze-clumps,
cautiously parted the dry stems before his face. At the foot of the long
slope sat three farmers smoking. To his natural lust for tobacco was added
personal wrath because spiky plants were pricking his belly, and Private
Copper slid the backsight up to fifteen hundred yards....
"Good evening, Khaki. Please don't move," said a voice on his left, and as
he jerked his head round he saw entirely down the barrel of a well-kept
Lee-Metford protruding from an insignificant tuft of thorn. Very few
graven images have moved less than did Private Copper through the next ten
"It's nearer seventeen hundred than fifteen," said a young man in an
obviously ready-made suit of grey tweed, possessing himself of Private
Copper's rifle. "Thank _you_. We've got a post of thirty-seven men out
yonder. You've eleven--eh? We don't want to kill 'em. We have no quarrel
with poor uneducated Khakis, and we do not want prisoners we do not keep.
It is demoralising to both sides--eh?"
Private Cooper did not feel called upon to lay down the conduct of
guerilla warfare. This dark-skinned, dark-haired, and dark-eyed stranger
was his first intimate enemy. He spoke, allowing for a clipped cadence
that recalled to Copper vague memories of Umballa, in precisely the same
offensive accent that the young squire of Wilmington had used fifteen
years ago when he caught and kicked Alf Copper, a rabbit in each pocket,
out of the ditches of Cuckmere. The enemy looked Copper up and down,
folded and re-pocketed a copy of an English weekly which he had been
reading, and said: "You seem an inarticulate sort of swine--like the rest
"You," said Copper, thinking, somehow, of the crushing answers he had
never given to the young squire, "are a renegid. Why, you ain't Dutch.
You're English, same as me."
"_No_, khaki. If you cannot talk civilly to a gentleman I will blow your
Copper cringed, and the action overbalanced him so that he rolled some six
or eight feet downhill, under the lee of a rough rock. His brain was
working with a swiftness and clarity strange in all his experience of Alf
Copper. While he rolled he spoke, and the voice from his own jaws amazed
him: "If you did, 'twouldn't make you any less of a renegid." As a useful
afterthought he added: "I've sprained my ankle."
The young man was at his side in a flash. Copper made no motion to rise,
but, cross-legged under the rock, grunted: "'Ow much did old Krujer pay
you for this? What was you wanted for at 'ome? Where did you desert from?"
"Khaki," said the young man, sitting down in his turn, "you are a shade
better than your mates. You did not make much more noise than a yoke of
oxen when you tried to come up this hill, but you are an ignorant diseased
beast like the rest of your people--eh? When you were at the Ragged
Schools did they teach you any history, Tommy--'istory I mean?"
"Don't need no schoolin' to know a renegid," said Copper. He had made
three yards down the hill--out of sight, unless they could see through
rocks, of the enemy's smoking party.
The young man laughed; and tossed the soldier a black sweating stick of
"True Affection." (Private Copper had not smoked a pipe for three weeks.)
"_You_ don't get this--eh?" said the young man. "_We_ do. We take it from
the trains as we want it. You can keep the cake--you po-ah Tommee." Copper
rammed the good stuff into his long-cold pipe and puffed luxuriously. Two
years ago the sister of gunner-guard De Souza, East India Railway, had, at
a dance given by the sergeants to the Allahabad Railway Volunteers,
informed Copper that she could not think of waltzing with "a poo-ah
Tommee." Private Copper wondered why that memory should have returned at
"I'm going to waste a little trouble on you before I send you back to your
picket _quite_ naked--eh? Then you can say how you were overpowered by
twenty of us and fired off your last round--like the men we picked up at
the drift playing cards at Stryden's farm--eh? What's your name--eh?"
Private Copper thought for a moment of a far-away housemaid who might
still, if the local postman had not gone too far, be interested in his
fate. On the other hand, he was, by temperament, economical of the truth.
"Pennycuik," he said, "John Pennycuik."
"Thank you. Well, Mr. John Pennycuik, I'm going to teach you a little
'istory, as you'd call it--eh?"
"'Ow!" said Copper, stuffing his left hand in his mouth. "So long since
I've smoked I've burned my 'and--an' the pipe's dropped too. No objection
to my movin' down to fetch it, is there--Sir?"
"I've got you covered," said the young man, graciously, and Private
Copper, hopping on one leg, because of his sprain, recovered the pipe yet
another three yards downhill and squatted under another rock slightly
larger than the first. A roundish boulder made a pleasant rest for his
captor, who sat cross-legged once more, facing Copper, his rifle across
his knee, his hand on the trigger-guard.
"Well, Mr. Pennycuik, as I was going to tell you. A little after you were
born in your English workhouse, your kind, honourable, brave country,
England, sent an English gentleman, who could not tell a lie, to say that
so long as the sun rose and the rivers ran in their courses the Transvaal
would belong to England. Did you ever hear that, khaki--eh?"
"Oh no, Sir," said Copper. This sentence about the sun and the rivers
happened to be a very aged jest of McBride, the professional humorist of D
Company, when they discussed the probable length of the war. Copper had
thrown beef-tins at McBride in the grey dawn of many wet and dry camps for
"_Of_ course you would not. Now, mann, I tell you, listen." He spat aside
and cleared his throat. "Because of that little promise, my father he
moved into the Transvaal and bought a farm--a little place of twenty or
thirty thousand acres, don't--you--know."
The tone, in spite of the sing-song cadence fighting with the laboured
parody of the English drawl, was unbearably like the young Wilmington
squire's, and Copper found himself saying: "I ought to. I've 'elped burn
"Yes, you'll pay for that later. _And_ he opened a store."
"Ho! Shopkeeper was he?"
"The kind you call "Sir" and sweep the floor for, Pennycuik.... You see,
in those days one used to believe in the British Government. My father
did. _Then_ the Transvaal wiped thee earth with the English. They beat
them six times running. You know _thatt_--eh?"
"Isn't what we've come 'ere for."
"_But_ my father (he knows better now) kept on believing in the English. I
suppose it was the pretty talk about rivers and suns that cheated him--eh?
Anyhow, he believed in his own country. Inn his own country. _So_--you
see--he was a little startled when he found himself handed over to the
Transvaal as a prisoner of war. That's what it came to, Tommy--a prisoner
of war. You know what that is--eh? England was too honourable and too
gentlemanly to take trouble. There were no terms made for my father."
"So 'e made 'em 'imself. Useful old bird." Private Copper sliced up
another pipeful and looked out across the wrinkled sea of kopjes, through
which came the roar of the rushing Orange River, so unlike quiet Cuckmere.
The young man's face darkened. "I think I shall sjambok you myself when
I've quite done with you. _No_, my father (he was a fool) made no terms
for eight years--ninety-six months--and for every day of them the
Transvaal made his life hell for my father and--his people."
"I'm glad to hear that," said the impenitent Copper.
"Are you? You can think of it when I'm taking the skin off your back--
eh?... My father, he lost everything--everything down to his self-respect.
You don't know what _thatt_ means--eh?"
"Why?" said Copper. "I'm smokin' baccy stole by a renegid. Why wouldn't I
If it came to a flogging on that hillside there might be a chance of
reprisals. Of course, he might be marched to the Boer camp in the next
valley and there operated upon; but Army life teaches no man to cross
"Yes, after eight years, my father, cheated by your bitch of a country, he
found out who was the upper dog in South Africa."
"That's me," said Copper valiantly. "If it takes another 'alf century,
it's me an' the likes of me."
"You? Heaven help you! You'll be screaming at a wagon-wheel in an hour....
Then it struck my father that he'd like to shoot the people who'd betrayed
him. You--you--_you_! He told his son all about it. He told him never to
trust the English. He told him to do them all the harm he could. Mann, I
tell you, I don't want much telling. I was born in the Transvaal--I'm a
burgher. If my father didn't love the English, by the Lord, mann, I tell
you, I hate them from the bottom of my soul."
The voice quavered and ran high. Once more, for no conceivable reason,
Private Copper found his inward eye turned upon Umballa cantonments of a
dry dusty afternoon, when the saddle-coloured son of a local hotel-keeper
came to the barracks to complain of a theft of fowls. He saw the dark
face, the plover's-egg-tinted eyeballs, and the thin excited hands. Above
all, he remembered the passionate, queerly-strung words. Slowly he
returned to South Africa, using the very sentence his sergeant had used to
the poultry man.
"Go on with your complaint. I'm listenin'."
"Complaint! Complaint about _you_, you ox! We strip and kick your sort by
The young man rocked to and fro above the rifle, whose muzzle thus
deflected itself from the pit of Private Copper's stomach. His face was
dusky with rage.
"Yess, I'm a Transvaal burgher. It took us about twenty years to find out
how rotten you were. _We_ know and you know it now. Your army--it is the
laughing-stock of the Continent." He tapped the newspaper in his pocket,
"You think you're going to win, you poor fools. Your people--your own
people--your silly rotten fools of people will crawl out of it as they did
after Majuba. They are beginning now. Look what your own working classes,
the diseased, lying, drinking white stuff that you come out of, are
saying." He thrust the English weekly, doubled at the leading article, on
Copper's knee. "See what dirty dogs your masters are. They do not even
back you in your dirty work. _We_ cleared the country down to Ladysmith--
to Estcourt. We cleared the country down to Colesberg."
"Yes, we 'ad to clean up be'ind you. Messy, I call it."
"You've had to stop farm-burning because your people daren't do it. They
were afraid. You daren't kill a spy. You daren't shoot a spy when you
catch him in your own uniform. You daren't touch our loyall people in Cape
Town! Your masters wont let you. You will feed our women and children till
we are quite ready to take them back. _You_ can't put your cowardly noses
out of the towns you say you've occupied. _You_ daren't move a convoy
twenty miles. You think you've done something? You've done nothing, and
you've taken a quarter of a million of men to do it! There isn't a nigger
in South Africa that doesn't obey us if we lift our finger. You pay the
stuff four pounds a month and they lie to you. _We_ flog 'em, as I shall
He clasped his hands together and leaned forward his out-thrust chin
within two feet of Copper's left, or pipe hand.
"Yuss," said Copper, "it's a fair knock-out." The fist landed to a hair on
the chin-point, the neck snicked like a gun-lock, and the back of the head
crashed on the boulder behind.
Copper grabbed up both rifles, unshipped the cross-bandoliers, drew forth
the English weekly, and picking up the lax hands, looked long and intently
at the fingernails.
"No! Not a sign of it there," he said. "'Is nails are as clean as mine--
but he talks just like 'em, though. And he's a landlord too! A landed
proprietor! Shockin', I call it."
The arms began to flap with returning consciousness. Private Copper rose
up and whispered: "If you open your head, I'll bash it." There was no
suggestion of sprain in the flung-back left boot. "Now walk in front of
me, both arms perpendicularly elevated. I'm only a third-class shot, so,
if you don't object, I'll rest the muzzle of my rifle lightly but firmly
on your collar-button--coverin' the serviceable vertebree. If your friends
see us thus engaged, you pray--'ard."
Private and prisoner staggered downhill. No shots broke the peace of the
afternoon, but once the young man checked and was sick.
"There's a lot of things I could say to you," Copper observed, at the
close of the paroxysm, "but it doesn't matter. Look 'ere, you call me
'pore Tommy' again."
The prisoner hesitated.
"Oh, I ain't goin' to do anythin' _to_ you. I'm recon-noiterin' in my own.
Say 'pore Tommy' 'alf-a-dozen times."
The prisoner obeyed.
"_That's_ what's been puzzlin' me since I 'ad the pleasure o' meetin'
you," said Copper. "You ain't 'alf-caste, but you talk _chee-chee_--
_pukka_ bazar chee-chee. Proceed."
"Hullo," said the Sergeant of the picket, twenty minutes later, "where did
you round him up?"
"On the top o' yonder craggy mounting. There's a mob of 'em sitting round
their Bibles seventeen 'undred yards (you said it was seventeen 'undred?)
t'other side--an' I want some coffee." He sat down on the smoke-blackened
stones by the fire.
"'Ow did you get 'im?" said McBride, professional humorist, quietly
filching the English weekly from under Copper's armpit.
"On the chin--while 'e was waggin' it at me."
"What is 'e? 'Nother Colonial rebel to be 'orribly disenfranchised, or a
Cape Minister, or only a loyal farmer with dynamite in both boots. Tell us
all about it, Burjer!"
"You leave my prisoner alone," said Private Copper. "'E's 'ad losses an'
trouble; an' it's in the family too. 'E thought I never read the papers,
so 'e kindly lent me his very own _Jerrold's Weekly_--an' 'e explained it
to me as patronisin' as a--as a militia subaltern doin' Railway Staff
Officer. 'E's a left-over from Majuba--one of the worst kind, an' 'earin'
the evidence as I did, I don't exactly blame 'im. It was this way."
To the picket Private Copper held forth for ten minutes on the life-
history of his captive. Allowing for some purple patches, it was an
absolute fair rendering.
"But what I dis-liked was this baccy-priggin' beggar, 'oo's people, on 'is
own showin', couldn't 'ave been more than thirty or forty years in the
coun--on this Gawd-forsaken dust-'eap, comin' the squire over me. They're
all parsons--we know _that_, but parson _an'_ squire is a bit too thick
for Alf Copper. Why, I caught 'im in the shameful act of tryin' to start a
aristocracy on a gun an' a wagon an' a _shambuk_! Yes; that's what it was:
a bloomin' aristocracy."
"No, it weren't," said McBride, at length, on the dirt, above the
purloined weekly. "You're the aristocrat, Alf. Old _Jerrold's_ givin' it
you 'ot. You're the uneducated 'ireling of a callous aristocracy which 'as
sold itself to the 'Ebrew financier. Meantime, Ducky"--he ran his finger
down a column of assorted paragraphs--"you're slakin' your brutal
instincks in furious excesses. Shriekin' women an' desolated 'omesteads is
what you enjoy, Alf ..., Halloa! What's a smokin' 'ektacomb?"
"'Ere! Let's look. 'Aven't seen a proper spicy paper for a year. Good old
_Jerrold's!"_ Pinewood and Moppet, reservists, flung themselves on
McBride's shoulders, pinning him to the ground.
"Lie over your own bloomin' side of the bed, an' we can all look," he
"They're only po-ah Tommies," said Copper, apologetically, to the
prisoner. "Po-ah unedicated Khakis. _They_ don't know what they're
fightin' for. They're lookin' for what the diseased, lying, drinkin' white
stuff that they come from is sayin' about 'em!"
The prisoner set down his tin of coffee and stared helplessly round the
"I--I don't understand them."
The Canadian sergeant, picking his teeth with a thorn, nodded
"If it comes to that, _we_ don't in my country!... Say, boys, when you're
through with your English mail you might's well provide an escort for your
prisoner. He's waitin'."
"Arf a mo', Sergeant," said McBride, still reading.
"'Ere's Old Barbarity on the ramp again with some of 'is lady friends, 'oo
don't like concentration camps. Wish they'd visit ours. Pinewood's a
married man. He'd know how to be'ave!"
"Well, I ain't goin' to amuse my prisoner alone. 'E's gettin' 'omesick,"
cried Copper. "One of you thieves read out what's vexin' Old Barbarity an'
'is 'arem these days. You'd better listen, Burjer, because, afterwards,
I'm goin' to fall out an' perpetrate those nameless barbarities all over
you to keep up the reputation of the British Army."
From that English weekly, to bar out which a large and perspiring staff of
Press censors toiled seven days of the week at Cape Town, did Pinewood of
the Reserve read unctuously excerpts of the speeches of the accredited
leaders of His Majesty's Opposition. The night-picket arrived in the
middle of it, but stayed entranced without paying any compliments, till
Pinewood had entirely finished the leading article, and several occasional
"Gentlemen of the jury," said Alf Copper, hitching up what war had left to
him of trousers--"you've 'eard what 'e's been fed up with. _Do_ you blame
the beggar? 'Cause I don't! ... Leave 'im alone, McBride. He's my first
and only cap-ture, an' I'm goin' to walk 'ome with 'im, ain't I, Ducky?
... Fall in, Burjer. It's Bermuda, or Umballa, or Ceylon for you--and I'd
give a month's pay to be in your little shoes."
As not infrequently happens, the actual moving off the ground broke the
prisoner's nerve. He stared at the tinted hills round him, gasped and
began to struggle--kicking, swearing, weeping, and fluttering all
"Pore beggar--oh pore, _pore_ beggar!" said Alf, leaning in on one side of
him, while Pinewood blocked him on the other.
"Let me go! Let me go! Mann, I tell you, let me go----"
"'E screams like a woman!" said McBride. "They'll 'ear 'im five miles
"There's one or two ought to 'ear 'im--in England," said Copper, putting
aside a wildly waving arm.
"Married, ain't 'e?" said Pinewood. "I've seen 'em go like this before--
just at the last. '_Old_ on, old man, No one's goin' to 'urt you."
The last of the sun threw the enormous shadow of a kopje over the little,
anxious, wriggling group.
"Quit that," said the Serjeant of a sudden. "You're only making him worse.
Hands _up_, prisoner! Now you get a holt of yourself, or this'll go off."
And indeed the revolver-barrel square at the man's panting chest seemed to
act like a tonic; he choked, recovered himself, and fell in between Copper
As the picket neared the camp it broke into song that was heard among the
'E sent us 'is blessin' from London town,
(The beggar that kep' the cordite down,)
But what do we care if 'e smile or frown,
The beggar that kep' the cordite down?
The mildly nefarious
Beggar that kept the cordite down!
Said a captain a mile away: "Why are they singing _that?_ We haven't had a
mail for a month, have we?"
An hour later the same captain said to his servant: "Jenkins, I understand
the picket have got a--got a newspaper off a prisoner to-day. I wish you
could lay hands on it, Jenkins. Copy of the _Times_, I think."
"Yes, Sir. Copy of the _Times_, Sir," said Jenkins, without a quiver, and
went forth to make his own arrangements.
"Copy of the _Times_" said the blameless Alf, from beneath his blanket. "I
ain't a member of the Soldier's Institoot. Go an' look in the reg'mental
Readin'-room--Veldt Row, Kopje Street, second turnin' to the left between
'ere an' Naauwport."
Jenkins summarised briefly in a tense whisper the thing that Alf Copper
need not be.
"But my particular copy of the _Times_ is specially pro'ibited by the
censor from corruptin' the morals of the Army. Get a written order from K.
o' K., properly countersigned, an' I'll think about it."
"I've got all _you_ want," said Jenkins. "'Urry up. I want to 'ave a
Something gurgled in the darkness, and Private Copper fell back smacking
"Gawd bless my prisoner, and make me a good boy. Amen. 'Ere you are,
Jenkins. It's dirt cheap at a tot."
I know not in whose hands are laid
To empty upon earth
From unsuspected ambuscade
The very Urns of Mirth:
Who bids the Heavenly Lark arise
And cheer our solemn round--
The Jest beheld with streaming eyes
And grovellings on the ground;
Who joins the flats of Time and Chance
Behind the prey preferred,
And thrones on Shrieking Circumstance
The Sacredly Absurd,
Till Laughter, voiceless through excess.
Waves mute appeal and sore,
Above the midriff's deep distress,
For breath to laugh once more.
No creed hath dared to hail him Lord,
No raptured choirs proclaim,
And Nature's strenuous Overword
Hath nowhere breathed his name.
Yet, may it be, on wayside jape,
The selfsame Power bestows
The selfsame power as went to shape
His Planet or His Rose.
I caught sight of their faces as we came up behind the cart in the narrow
Sussex lane; but though it was not eleven o'clock, they were both asleep.
That the carrier was on the wrong side of the road made no difference to
his language when I rang my bell. He said aloud of motor-cars, and
specially of steam ones, all the things which I had read in the faces of
superior coachmen. Then he pulled slantwise across me.
There was a vociferous steam air-pump attached to that car which could be
applied at pleasure....
The cart was removed about a bowshot's length in seven and a quarter
seconds, to the accompaniment of parcels clattering. At the foot of the
next hill the horse stopped, and the two men came out over the tail-board.
My engineer backed and swung the car, ready to move out of reach.
"The blighted egg-boiler has steam up," said Mr. Hinchcliffe, pausing to
gather a large stone. "Temporise with the beggar, Pye, till the sights
"I can't leave my 'orse!" roared the carrier; "but bring 'em up 'ere, an'
I'll kill 'em all over again."
"Good morning, Mr. Pyecroft," I called cheerfully. "Can I give you a lift
The attack broke up round my forewheels.
"Well, we _do_ 'ave the knack o' meeting _in puris naturalibus,_ as I've
so often said." Mr. Pyecroft wrung my hand. "Yes, I'm on leaf. So's Hinch.
We're visiting friends among these kopjes."
A monotonous bellowing up the road persisted, where the carrier was still
calling for corpses.
"That's Agg. He's Hinch's cousin. You aren't fortunit in your family
connections, Hinch. 'E's usin' language in derogation of good manners. Go
and abolish 'im."
Henry Salt Hinchcliffe stalked back to the cart and spoke to his cousin. I
recall much that the wind bore to me of his words and the carrier's. It
seemed as if the friendship of years were dissolving amid throes.
"'Ave it your own silly way, then," roared the carrier, "an' get into
Linghurst on your own silly feet. I've done with you two runagates." He
lashed his horse and passed out of sight still rumbling.
"The fleet's sailed," said Pyecroft, "leavin' us on the beach as before.
Had you any particular port in your mind?"
"Well, I was going to meet a friend at Instead Wick, but I don't mind--"
"Oh! that'll do as well as anything! We're on leaf, you see."
"She'll hardly hold four," said my engineer. I had broken him of the
foolish habit of being surprised at things, but he was visibly uneasy.
Hinchcliffe returned, drawn as by ropes to my steam-car, round which he
walked in narrowing circles.
"What's her speed?" he demanded of the engineer.
"Twenty-five," said that loyal man.
"Easy to run?"
"No; very difficult," was the emphatic answer.
"That just shows that you ain't fit for your rating. D'you suppose that a
man who earns his livin' by runnin' 30-knot destroyers for a parstime--for
a parstime, mark you!--is going to lie down before any blighted land-
crabbing steam-pinnace on springs?"
Yet that was what he did. Directly under the car he lay and looked upward
into pipes--petrol, steam, and water--with a keen and searching eye.
I telegraphed Mr. Pyecroft a question.
"Not--in--the--least," was the answer. "Steam gadgets always take him that
way. We had a bit of a riot at Parsley Green through his tryin' to show a
traction-engine haulin' gipsy-wagons how to turn corners."
"Tell him everything he wants to know," I said to the engineer, as I
dragged out a rug and spread it on the roadside.
"_He_ don't want much showing," said the engineer. Now, the two men had
not, counting the time we took to stuff our pipes, been together more than
"This," said Pyecroft, driving an elbow back into the deep verdure of the
hedge-foot, "is a little bit of all right. Hinch, I shouldn't let too much
o' that hot muckings drop in my eyes, Your leaf's up in a fortnight, an'
you'll be wantin' 'em."
"Here!" said Hinchcliffe, still on his back, to the engineer. "Come here
and show me the lead of this pipe." And the engineer lay down beside him.
"That's all right," said Mr. Hinchcliffe, rising. "But she's more of a bag
of tricks than I thought. Unship this superstructure aft"--he pointed to
the back seat--"and I'll have a look at the forced draught."
The engineer obeyed with alacrity. I heard him volunteer the fact that he
had a brother an artificer in the Navy.
"They couple very well, those two," said Pyecroft critically, while
Hinchcliffe sniffed round the asbestos-lagged boiler and turned on gay
jets of steam.
"Now take me up the road," he said. My man, for form's sake, looked at me.
"Yes, take him," I said. "He's all right."
"No, I'm not," said Hinchcliffe of a sudden--"not if I'm expected to judge
my water out of a little shaving-glass."
The water-gauge of that steam-car was reflected on a mirror to the right
of the dashboard. I also had found it inconvenient.
"Throw up your arm and look at the gauge under your armpit. Only mind how
you steer while you're doing it, or you'll get ditched!" I cried, as the
car ran down the road.
"I wonder!" said Pyecroft, musing. "But, after all, it's your steamin'
gadgets he's usin' for his libretto, as you might put it. He said to me
after breakfast only this mornin' 'ow he thanked his Maker, on all fours,
that he wouldn't see nor smell nor thumb a runnin' bulgine till the
nineteenth prox. Now look at him Only look at 'im!"
We could see, down the long slope of the road, my driver surrendering his
seat to Hinchcliffe, while the car flickered generously from hedge to
"What happens if he upsets?"
"The petrol will light up and the boiler may blow up."
"How rambunkshus! And"--Pyecroft blew a slow cloud--"Agg's about three
hoops up this mornin', too."
"What's that to do with us? He's gone down the road," I retorted.
"Ye--es, but we'll overtake him. He's a vindictive carrier. He and Hinch
'ad words about pig-breeding this morning. O' course, Hinch don't know the
elements o' that evolution; but he fell back on 'is naval rank an' office,
an' Agg grew peevish. I wasn't sorry to get out of the cart ... Have you
ever considered how, when you an' I meet, so to say, there's nearly always
a remarkable hectic day ahead of us! Hullo! Behold the beef-boat
He rose as the car climbed up the slope, and shouted: "In bow! Way 'nuff!"
"You be quiet!" cried Hinchcliffe, and drew up opposite the rug, his dark
face shining with joy. "She's the Poetry o' Motion! She's the Angel's
Dream. She's------" He shut off steam, and the slope being against her,
the car slid soberly downhill again.
"What's this? I've got the brake on!" he yelled.
"It doesn't hold backwards," I said. "Put her on the mid-link."
"That's a nasty one for the chief engineer o' the _Djinn_, 31-knot,
T.B.D.," said Pyecroft. "_Do_ you know what the mid-link is, Hinch?"
Once more the car returned to us; but as Pyecroft stooped to gather up the
rug, Hinchcliffe jerked the lever testily, and with prawn-like speed she
retired backwards into her own steam.
"Apparently 'e don't," said Pyecroft. "What's he done now, Sir?"
"Reversed her. I've done it myself."
"But he's an engineer."
For the third time the car manoeuvred up the hill.
"I'll teach you to come alongside properly, if I keep you 'tiffies out all
night!" shouted Pyecroft. It was evidently a quotation. Hinchcliffe's face
grew livid, and, his hand ever so slightly working on the throttle, the
car buzzed twenty yards uphill.
"That's enough. We'll take your word for it. The mountain will go to
Ma'ommed. Stand _fast_!"
Pyecroft and I and the rug marched up where she and Hinchcliffe fumed
"Not as easy as it looks--eh, Hinch?"
"It is dead easy. I'm going to drive her to Instead Wick--aren't I?" said
the first-class engine-room artificer. I thought of his performances with
No. 267 and nodded. After all, it was a small privilege to accord to pure
"But my engineer will stand by--at first," I added.
"An' you a family man, too," muttered Pyecroft, swinging himself into the
right rear seat. "Sure to be a remarkably hectic day when we meet."
We adjusted ourselves and, in the language of the immortal Navy doctor,
paved our way towards Linghurst, distant by mile-post 11-3/4 miles.
Mr. Hinchcliffe, every nerve and muscle braced, talked only to the
engineer, and that professionally. I recalled the time when I, too, had
enjoyed the rack on which he voluntarily extended himself.
And the County of Sussex slid by in slow time.
"How cautious is the 'tiffy-bird!" said Pyecroft.
"Even in a destroyer," Hinch snapped over his shoulder, "you ain't
expected to con and drive simultaneous. Don't address any remarks to
"Pump!" said the engineer. "Your water's droppin'."
"_I_ know that. Where the Heavens is that blighted by-pass?"
He beat his right or throttle hand madly on the side of the car till he
found the bent rod that more or less controls the pump, and, neglecting
all else, twisted it furiously.
My engineer grabbed the steering-bar just in time to save us lurching into
"If I was a burnin' peacock, with two hundred bloodshot eyes in my shinin'
tail, I'd need 'em all on this job!" said Hinch.
"Don't talk! Steer! This ain't the North Atlantic," Pyecroft replied.
"Blast my stokers! Why, the steam's dropped fifty pounds!" Hinchcliffe
"Fire's blown out," said the engineer. "Stop her!"
"Does she do that often?" said Hinch, descending.
"Any time a cross-wind catches her."
The engineer produced a match and stooped.
That car (now, thank Heaven, no more than an evil memory) never lit twice
in the same fashion. This time she back-fired superbly, and Pyecroft went
out over the right rear wheel in a column of rich yellow flame.
"I've seen a mine explode at Bantry--once--prematoor," he volunteered.
"That's all right," said Hinchcliffe, brushing down his singed beard with
a singed forefinger. (He had been watching too closely.) "Has she any more
little surprises up her dainty sleeve?"
"She hasn't begun yet," said my engineer, with a scornful cough. "Some one
'as opened the petrol-supply-valve too wide."
"Change places with me, Pyecroft," I commanded, for I remembered that the
petrol-supply, the steam-lock, and the forced draught were all controlled
from the right rear seat.
"Me? Why? There's a whole switchboard full o' nickel-plated muckin's which
I haven't begun to play with yet. The starboard side's crawlin' with 'em."
"Change, or I'll kill you!" said Hinchcliffe, and he looked like it.
"That's the 'tiffy all over. When anything goes wrong, blame it on the
lower deck. Navigate by your automatic self, then! _I_ won't help you any
We navigated for a mile in dead silence.
"Talkin' o' wakes----" said Pyecroft suddenly.
"We weren't," Hinchcliffe grunted.
"There's some wakes would break a snake's back; but this of yours, so to
speak, would fair turn a tapeworm giddy. That's all I wish to observe,
Hinch. ... Cart at anchor on the port-bow. It's Agg!"
Far up the shaded road into secluded Bromlingleigh we saw the carrier's
cart at rest before the post-office.
"He's bung in the fairway. How'm I to get past?" said Hinchcliffe.
"There's no room. Here, Pye, come and relieve the wheel!"
"Nay, nay, Pauline. You've made your own bed. You've as good as left your
happy home an' family cart to steal it. Now you lie on it."
"Ring your bell," I suggested.
"Glory!" said Pyecroft, falling forward into the nape of Hinchcliffe's
neck as the car stopped dead.
"Get out o' my back-hair! That must have been the brake I touched off,"
Hinchcliffe muttered, and repaired his error tumultuously.
We passed the cart as though we had been all Bruges belfry. Agg, from the
port-office door, regarded us with a too pacific eye. I remembered later
that the pretty postmistress looked on us pityingly.
Hinchcliffe wiped the sweat from his brow and drew breath. It was the
first vehicle that he had passed, and I sympathised with him.
"You needn't grip so hard," said my engineer. "She steers as easy as a
"Ho! You suppose I ride bicycles up an' down my engine-room?" was the
answer. "I've other things to think about. She's a terror. She's a
whistlin' lunatic. I'd sooner run the old South-Easter at Simon's Town
"One of the nice things they say about her," I interrupted, "is that no
engineer is needed to run this machine."
"No. They'd need about seven."
"'Common-sense only is needed,'" I quoted.
"Make a note of that, Hinch. Just common-sense," Pyecroft put in.
"And now," I said, "we'll have to take in water. There isn't more than a
couple of inches of water in the tank."
"Where d'you get it from?"
"Oh!--cottages and such-like."
"Yes, but that being so, where does your much-advertised twenty-five miles
an hour come in? Ain't a dung-cart more to the point?"
"If you want to go anywhere, I suppose it would be," I replied.
"_I_ don't want to go anywhere. I'm thinkin' of you who've got to live
with her. She'll burn her tubes if she loses her water?"
"I've never scorched yet, and I not beginnin' now." He shut off steam
firmly. "Out you get, Pye, an' shove her along by hand."
"The nearest water-tank," was the reply. "And Sussex is a dry county."
"She ought to have drag-ropes--little pipe-clayed ones," said Pyecroft.
We got out and pushed under the hot sun for half-a-mile till we came to a
cottage, sparsely inhabited by one child who wept.
"All out haymakin', o' course," said Pyecroft, thrusting his head into the
parlour for an instant. "What's the evolution now?"
"Skirmish till we find a well," I said.
"Hmm! But they wouldn't 'ave left that kid without a chaperon, so to
say... I thought so! Where's a stick?"
A bluish and silent beast of the true old sheep-dog breed glided from
behind an outhouse and without words fell to work.
Pyecroft kept him at bay with a rake-handle while our party, in rallying-
square, retired along the box-bordered brick-path to the car.
At the garden gate the dumb devil halted, looked back on the child, and
sat down to scratch.
"That's his three-mile limit, thank Heaven!" said Pyecroft. "Fall in,
push-party, and proceed with land-transport o' pinnace. I'll protect your
flanks in case this sniffin' flea-bag is tempted beyond 'is strength."
We pushed off in silence. The car weighed 1,200 lb., and even on
ball-bearings was a powerful sudorific. From somewhere behind a hedge we
heard a gross rustic laugh.
"Those are the beggars we lie awake for, patrollin' the high seas. There
ain't a port in China where we wouldn't be better treated. Yes, a Boxer
'ud be ashamed of it," said Pyecroft.
A cloud of fine dust boomed down the road.
"Some happy craft with a well-found engine-room! How different!" panted
Hinchcliffe, bent over the starboard mudguard.
It was a claret-coloured petrol car, and it stopped courteously, as good
cars will at sight of trouble.
"Water, only water," I answered in reply to offers of help.
"There's a lodge at the end of these oak palings. They'll give you all you
want. Say I sent you. Gregory--Michael Gregory. Good-bye!"
"Ought to 'ave been in the Service. Prob'ly is," was Pyecroft's comment.
At that thrice-blessed lodge our water-tank was filled (I dare not quote
Mr. Hinchcliffe's remarks when he saw the collapsible rubber bucket with
which we did it) and we re-embarked. It seemed that Sir Michael Gregory
owned many acres, and that his park ran for miles.
"No objection to your going through it," said the lodge-keeper. "It'll
save you a goodish bit to Instead Wick."
But we needed petrol, which could be purchased at Pigginfold, a few miles
farther up, and so we held to the main road, as our fate had decreed.
"We've come seven miles in fifty-four minutes, so far," said Hinchcliffe
(he was driving with greater freedom and less responsibility), "and now we
have to fill our bunkers. This is worse than the Channel Fleet."
At Pigginfold, after ten minutes, we refilled our petrol tank and lavishly
oiled our engines. Mr. Hinchcliffe wished to discharge our engineer on the
grounds that he (Mr. Hinchcliffe) was now entirely abreast of his work. To
this I demurred, for I knew my car. She had, in the language of the road,
held up for a day and a half, and by most bitter experience I suspected
that her time was very near. Therefore, three miles short of Linghurst, I
was less surprised than any one, excepting always my engineer, when the
engines set up a lunatic clucking, and, after two or three kicks, jammed.
"Heaven forgive me all the harsh things I may have said about destroyers
in my sinful time!" wailed Hinchcliffe, snapping back the throttle.
"What's worryin' Ada now?"
"The forward eccentric-strap screw's dropped off," said the engineer,
"That all? I thought it was a propeller-blade."
"We must go an' look for it. There isn't another."
"Not me," said Pyecroft from his seat. "Out pinnace, Hinch, an' creep for
it. It won't be more than five miles back."
The two men, with bowed heads, moved up the road.
"Look like etymologists, don't they? Does she decant her innards often, so
to speak?" Pyecroft asked.
I told him the true tale of a race-full of ball bearings strewn four miles
along a Hampshire road, and by me recovered in detail. He was profoundly
"Poor Hinch! Poor--poor Hinch!" he said. "And that's only one of her
little games, is it? He'll be homesick for the Navy by night."
When the search-party doubled back with the missing screw, it was
Hinchcliffe who replaced it in less than five minutes, while my engineer
looked on admiringly.
"Your boiler's only seated on four little paperclips," he said, crawling
from beneath her. "She's a wicker-willow lunch-basket below. She's a
runnin' miracle. Have you had this combustible spirit-lamp long?"
I told him.
"And yet you were afraid to come into the _Nightmare's_ engine-room when
we were runnin' trials!"
"It's all a matter of taste," Pyecroft volunteered. "But I will say for
you, Hinch, you've certainly got the hang of her steamin' gadgets in quick
He was driving her very sweetly, but with a worried look in his eye and a
tremor in his arm.
"She don't seem so answer her helm somehow," he said.
"There's a lot of play to the steering-gear," said my engineer. "We
generally tighten it up every few miles."
"'Like me to stop now? We've run as much as one mile and a half without
incident," he replied tartly.
"Then you're lucky," said my engineer, bristling in turn.
"They'll wreck the whole turret out o' nasty professional spite in a
minute," said Pyecroft. "That's the worst o' machinery. Man dead ahead,
Hinch--semaphorin' like the flagship in a fit!"
"Amen!" said Hinchcliffe. "Shall I stop, or shall I cut him down?"
He stopped, for full in the centre of the Linghurst Road stood a person in
pepper-and-salt raiment (ready-made), with a brown telegraph envelope in
"Twenty-three and a half miles an hour," he began, weighing a small beam-
engine of a Waterbury in one red paw. "From the top of the hill over our
measured quarter-mile--twenty-three and a half."
"You manurial gardener----" Hinchcliffe began. I prodded him warningly
from behind, and laid the other hand on Pyecroft's stiffening knee.
"Also--on information received--drunk and disorderly in charge of a
motor-car--to the common danger--two men like sailors in appearance,"
the man went on.
"Like sailors! ... That's Agg's little _roose_. No wonder he smiled at
us," said Pyecroft.
"I've been waiting for you some time," the man concluded, folding up the
"Who's the owner?"
I indicated myself.
"Then I want you as well as the two seafaring men. Drunk and disorderly
can be treated summary. You come on."
My relations with the Sussex constabulary have, so far, been of the best,
but I could not love this person.
"Of course you have your authority to show?" I hinted.
"I'll show it you at Linghurst," he retorted hotly----"all the authority
"I only want the badge, or warrant, or whatever it is a plain-clothes man
has to show."
He made as though to produce it, but checked himself, repeating less
politely the invitation to Linghurst. The action and the tone confirmed my
many-times tested theory that the bulk of English shoregoing institutions
are based on conformable strata of absolutely impervious inaccuracy. I
reflected and became aware of a drumming on the back of the front seat
that Pyecroft, bowed forward and relaxed, was tapping with his knuckles.
The hardly-checked fury on Hinchcliffe's brow had given place to a greasy
imbecility, and he nodded over the steering-bar. In longs and shorts, as
laid down by the pious and immortal Mr. Morse, Pyecroft tapped out, "Sham
drunk. Get him in the car."
"I can't stay here all day," said the constable.
Pyecroft raised his head. Then was seen with what majesty the British
sailor-man envisages a new situation.
"Met gennelman heavy sheeway," said he. "Do tell me British gelman can't
give 'ole Brish Navy lif' own blighted ste' cart. Have another drink!"
"I didn't know they were as drunk as all that when they stopped me," I
"You can say all that at Linghurst," was the answer. "Come on."
"Quite right," I said. "But the question is, if you take these two out on
the road, they'll fall down or start killing you."
"Then I'd call on you to assist me in the execution o' my duty."
"But I'd see you further first. You'd better come with us in the car. I'll
turn this passenger out." (This was my engineer, sitting quite silent.)
"You don't want him, and, anyhow, he'd only be a witness for the defence."
"That's true," said the constable. "But it wouldn't make any odds--at
My engineer skipped into the bracken like a rabbit. I bade him cut across
Sir Michael Gregory's park, and if he caught my friend, to tell him I
should probably be rather late for lunch.
"I ain't going to be driven by _him_." Our destined prey pointed at
Hinchcliffe with apprehension.
"Of course not. You sake my seat and keep the big sailor in order. He's
too drunk to do much. I'll change places with the other one. Only be
quick; I want to pay my fine and get it over."
"That's the way to look at it," he said, dropping into the left rear seat.
"We're making quite a lot out o' you motor gentry." He folded his arms
judicially as the car gathered way under Hinchcliffe's stealthy hand.
"But _you_ aren't driving?" he cried, half rising.
"You've noticed it?" said Pyecroft, and embraced him with one anaconda-
like left arm.
"Don't kill him," said Hinchcliffe briefly. "I want to show him what
twenty-three and a quarter is." We were going a fair twelve, which was
about the car's limit.
Our passenger swore something and then groaned.
"Hush, darling!" said Pyecroft, "or I'll have to hug you."
The main road, white under the noon sun, lay broad before us, running
north to Linghurst. We slowed and looked anxiously for a side track.
"And now," said I, "I want to see your authority."
"The badge of your ratin'?" Pyecroft added.
"I'm a constable," he said, and kicked. Indeed, his boots would have
bewrayed him across half a county's plough; but boots are not legal
"I want your authority," I repeated coldly; "some evidence that you are
not a common drunken tramp."
It was as I had expected. He had forgotten or mislaid his badge. He had
neglected to learn the outlines of the work for which he received money
and consideration; and he expected me, the tax-payer, to go to infinite
trouble to supplement his deficiencies.
"If you don't believe me, come to Linghurst," was the burden of his almost
"But I can't run all over Sussex every time a blackmailer jumps up and
says he is a policeman."
"Why, it's quite close," he persisted.
"'Twon't be--soon," said Hinchcliffe.
"None of the other people ever made any trouble. To be sure, _they_ was
gentlemen," he cried. "All I can say is, it may be very funny, but it
I laboured with him in this dense fog, but to no end. He had forgotten his
badge, and we were villains for that we did not cart him to the pub or
barracks where he had left it.
Pyecroft listened critically as we spun along the hard road.
"If he was a concentrated Boer, he couldn't expect much more," he
observed. "Now, suppose I'd been a lady in a delicate state o' health--
you'd ha' made me very ill with your doings."
"I wish I 'ad. 'Ere! 'Elp! 'Elp! Hi!"
The man had seen a constable in uniform fifty yards ahead, where a lane
ran into the road, and would have said more but that Hinchcliffe jerked
her up that lane with a wrench that nearly capsized us as the constable
came running heavily.
It seemed to me that both our guest and his fellow-villain in uniform
smiled as we fled down the road easterly betwixt the narrowing hedges.
"You'll know all about it in a little time," said our guest. "You've only
yourselves to thank for runnin' your 'ead into a trap." And he whistled
We made no answer.
"If that man 'ad chose, 'e could have identified me," he said.
Still we were silent.
"But 'e'll do it later, when you're caught."
"Not if you go on talking. 'E won't be able to," said Pyecroft. "I don't
know what traverse you think you're workin', but your duty till you're put
in cells for a highway robber is to love, honour, an' cherish _me_ most
special--performin' all evolutions signalled in rapid time. I tell you
this, in case o' anything turnin' up."
"Don't you fret about things turnin' up," was the reply.
Hinchcliffe had given the car a generous throttle, and she was well set to
work, when, without warning, the road--there are two or three in Sussex
like it--turned down and ceased.
"Holy Muckins!" he cried, and stood on both brakes as our helpless tyres
slithered over wet grass and bracken--down and down into forest--early
British woodland. It was the change of a nightmare, and that all should
fit, fifty yards ahead of us a babbling brook barred our way. On the far
side a velvet green ride, sprinkled with rabbits and fern, gently sloped
upwards and away, but behind us was no hope. Forty horse-power would never
have rolled wet pneumatic tyres up that verdurous cliff we had descended.
"H'm!" Our guest coughed significantly. "A great many cars thinks they can
take this road; but they all come back. We walks after 'em at our
"Meanin' that the other jaunty is now pursuin' us on his lily feet?" said
"An' you think," said Pyecroft (I have no hope to render the scorn of the
words), "_that'll_ make any odds? Get out!"
The man obeyed with alacrity.
"See those spars up-ended over there? I mean that wickyup-thing.
Hop-poles, then, you rural blighter. Keep on fetching me hop-poles at the
And he doubled, Pyecroft at his heels; for they had arrived at a perfect
There was a stack of hurdles a few yards down
stream, laid aside after sheep-washing; and there were stepping-stones in
the brook. Hinchcliffe rearranged these last to make some sort of
causeway; I brought up the hurdles; and when Pyecroft and his subaltern
had dropped a dozen hop-poles across the stream, laid them down over all.
"Talk o' the Agricultur'l Hall!" he said, mopping his brow--"'tisn't in it
with us. The approach to the bridge must now be paved with hurdles, owin'
to the squashy nature o' the country. Yes, an' we'd better have one or two
on the far side to lead her on to _terror fermior_. Now, Hinch! Give her
full steam and 'op along. If she slips off, we're done. Shall I take the
"No. This is my job," said the first-class engine-room artificer. "Get
over the far side, and be ready to catch her if she jibs on the uphill."
We crossed that elastic structure and stood ready amid the bracken.
Hinchcliffe gave her a full steam and she came like a destroyer on her
trial. There was a crack, a flicker of white water, and she was in our
arms fifty yards up the slope; or rather, we were behind her, pushing her
madly towards a patch of raw gravel whereon her wheels could bite. Of the
bridge remained only a few wildly vibrating hop-poles, and those hurdles
which had been sunk in the mud of the approaches.
"She--she kicked out all the loose ones behind her as she finished with
'em," Hinchcliffe panted.
"At the Agricultural Hall they would 'ave been fastened down with
ribbons," said Pyecroft. "But this ain't Olympia."
"She nearly wrenched the tiller out of my hand. Don't you think I conned
her like a cock-angel, Pye?"
"_I_ never saw anything like it," said our guest propitiatingly. "And now,
gentlemen, if you'll let me go back to Linghurst, I promise you you won't
hear another word from me."
"Get in," said Pyecroft, as we puffed out on to a metalled road once more.
"We 'aven't begun on _you_ yet."
"A joke's a joke," he replied. "I don't mind a little bit of a joke
myself, but this is going beyond it."
"Miles an' miles beyond it, if this machine stands up. We'll want water
Our guest's countenance brightened, and Pyecroft perceived it.
"Let me tell you," he said earnestly, "I won't make any difference to you
whatever happens. Barrin' a dhow or two Tajurrah-way, prizes are scarce in
the Navy. Hence we never abandon 'em."
There was a long silence. Pyecroft broke it suddenly.
"Robert," he said, "have you a mother?"
"Have you a big brother?"
"An' a little sister?"
"Robert. Does your mamma keep a dog?"
"All right, Robert. I won't forget it."
I looked for an explanation.
"I saw his cabinet photograph in full uniform on the mantelpiece o' that
cottage before faithful Fido turned up," Pyecroft whispered. "Ain't you
glad it's all in the family somehow?"
We filled with water at a cottage on the edge of St. Leonard's Forest,
and, despite our increasing leakage, made shift to climb the ridge above
Instead Wick. Knowing the car as I did, I felt sure that final collapse
would not be long delayed. My sole concern was to run our guest well into
the wilderness before that came.
On the roof of the world--a naked plateau clothed with young heather--she
retired from active life in floods of tears. Her feed-water-heater
(Hinchcliffe blessed it and its maker for three minutes) was leaking
beyond hope of repair; she had shifted most of her packing, and her water-
pump would not lift.
"If I had a bit of piping I could disconnect this tin cartridge-case an'
feed direct into the boiler. It 'ud knock down her speed, but we could get
on," said he, and looked hopelessly at the long dun ridges that hove us
above the panorama of Sussex. Northward we could see the London haze.
Southward, between gaps of the whale-backed Downs, lay the Channel's zinc-
blue. But all our available population in that vast survey was one cow and
"It's down hill to Instead Wick. We can run her there by gravity," I said
"Then he'll only have to walk to the station to get home. Unless we take
off 'is boots first," Pyecroft replied.
"That," said our guest earnestly, "would be theft atop of assault and very
"Oh, let's hang him an' be done," Hinchcliffe grunted. "It's evidently
what he's sufferin' for."
Somehow murder did not appeal to us that warm noon. We sat down to smoke
in the heather, and presently out of the valley below came the thick beat
of a petrol-motor ascending. I paid little attention to it till I heard
the roar of a horn that has no duplicate in all the Home Counties.
"That's the man I was going to lunch with!" I cried. "Hold on!" and I ran
down the road.
It was a big, black, black-dashed, tonneaued twenty-four horse Octopod;
and it bore not only Kysh my friend, and Salmon his engineer, but my own
man, who for the first time in our acquaintance smiled.
"Did they get you? What did you get? I was coming into Linghurst as
witness to character--your man told me what happened--but I was stopped
near Instead Wick myself," cried Kysh.
"Leaving car unattended. An infernal swindle, when you think of the loose
carts outside every pub in the county. I was jawing with the police for an
hour, but it's no use. They've got it all their own way, and we're
Hereupon I told him my tale, and for proof, as we topped the hill, pointed
out the little group round my car.
All supreme emotion is dumb. Kysh put on the brake and hugged me to his
bosom till I groaned. Then, as I remember, he crooned like a mother
returned to her suckling.
"Divine! Divine!" he murmured. "Command me."
"Take charge of the situation," I said. "You'll find a Mr. Pyecroft on the
quarter-deck. I'm altogether out of it."
"He shall stay there. Who am I but the instrument of vengeance in the
hands of an over-ruling Providence? (And I put in fresh sparking-plugs
this morning.) Salmon, take that steam-kettle home, somehow. I would be
"Leggat," I said to my man, "help Salmon home with my car."
"Home? Now? It's hard. It's cruel hard," said Leggat, almost with a sob.
Hinchcliffe outlined my car's condition briefly to the two engineers. Mr.
Pyecroft clung to our guest, who stared with affrighted eyes at the
palpitating Octopod; and the free wind of high Sussex whimpered across the
"I am quite agreeable to walkin' 'ome all the way on my feet," said our
guest. "I wouldn't go to any railway station. It 'ud be just the proper
finish to our little joke." He laughed nervously.
"What's the evolution?" said Pyecroft. "Do we turn over to the new
I nodded, and he escorted our guest to the tonneau with care. When I was
in, he sat himself broad-armed on the little flap-seat which controls the
door. Hinchcliffe sat by Kysh.
"You drive?" Kysh asked, with the smile that has won him his chequered way
through the world.
"Steam only, and I've about had my whack for to-day, thanks."
The long, low car slid forward and then dropped like a bullet down the
descent our steam toy had so painfully climbed. Our guest's face blanched,
and he clutched the back of the tonneau.
"New commander's evidently been trained on a destroyer," said Hinchcliffe.
"What's 'is wonderful name?" whispered Pyecroft. "Ho! Well, I'm glad it
ain't Saul we've run up against--nor Nimshi, for that matter. This is
makin' me feel religious."
Our impetus carried us half-way up the next slope, where we steadied to a
resonant fifteen an hour against the collar.
"What do you think?" I called to Hinchcliffe.
"'Taint as sweet as steam, o' course; but for power it's twice the
_Furious_ against half the _Jaseur_ in a head-sea."
Volumes could not have touched it more exactly. His bright eyes were glued
on Kysh's hands juggling with levers behind the discreet backward sloping
"An' what sort of a brake might you use?" he said politely.
"This," Kysh replied, as the last of the hill shot up to one in eight. He
let the car run back a few feet and caught her deftly on the brake,
repeating the performance cup and ball fashion. It was like being daped
above the Pit at the end of an uncoiled solar plexus. Even Pyecroft held
"It ain't fair! It ain't fair!" our guest moaned. "You're makin' me sick."
"What an ungrateful blighter he is!" said Pyecroft. "Money couldn't buy
you a run like this ... Do it well overboard!"
"We'll just trundle up the Forest and drop into the Park Row, I think,"
said Kysh. "There's a bit of good going hereabouts."
He flung a careless knee over the low raking tiller that the ordinary
expert puts under his armpit, and down four miles of yellow road, cut
through barren waste, the Octopod sang like a six-inch shell.
"Whew! But you know your job," said Hinchcliffe. "You're wasted here. I'd
give something to have you in my engine-room."
"He's steering with 'is little hind-legs," said Pyecroft. "Stand up and
look at him, Robert. You'll never see such a sight again!"
"Nor don't want to," was our guest's reply. "Five 'undred pounds wouldn't
begin to cover 'is fines even since I've been with him."
Park Row is reached by one hill which drops three hundred feet in half a
mile. Kysh had the thought to steer with his hand down the abyss, but the
manner in which he took the curved bridge at the bottom brought my few
remaining hairs much nearer the grave.
"We're in Surrey now; better look out," I said.
"Never mind. I'll roll her into Kent for a bit. We've lots of time; it's
only three o'clock."
"Won't you want to fill your bunkers, or take water, or oil her up?" said
"We don't use water, and she's good for two hundred on one tank o' petrol
if she doesn't break down."
"Two hundred miles from 'ome and mother _and_ faithful Fido to-night,
Robert," said Pyecroft, slapping our guest on the knee. "Cheer up! Why,
I've known a destroyer do less."
We passed with some decency through some towns, till by way of the
Hastings road we whirled into Cramberhurst, which is a deep pit.
"Now," said Kysh, "we begin."
"Previous service not reckoned towards pension," said Pyecroft. "We are
doin' you lavish, Robert."
"But when's this silly game to finish, any'ow?" our guest snarled.
"Don't worry about the _when_ of it, Robert. The _where's_ the interestin'
point for you just now."
I had seen Kysh drive before, and I thought I knew the Octopod, but that
afternoon he and she were exalted beyond my knowledge. He improvised on
the keys--the snapping levers and quivering accelerators--marvellous
variations, so that our progress was sometimes a fugue and sometimes a
barn-dance, varied on open greens by the weaving of fairy rings. When I
protested, all that he would say was: "I'll hypnotise the fowl! I'll
dazzle the rooster!" or other words equally futile. And she--oh! that I
could do her justice!--she turned her broad black bows to the westering
light, and lifted us high upon hills that we might see and rejoice with
her. She whooped into veiled hollows of elm and Sussex oak; she devoured
infinite perspectives of park palings; she surged through forgotten
hamlets, whose single streets gave back, reduplicated, the clatter of her
exhaust, and, tireless, she repeated the motions. Over naked uplands she
droned like a homing bee, her shadow lengthening in the sun that she
chased to his lair. She nosed up unparochial byways and accommodation-
roads of the least accommodation, and put old scarred turf or new-raised
molehills under her most marvellous springs with never a jar. And since
the King's highway is used for every purpose save traffic, in mid-career
she stepped aside for, or flung amazing loops about, the brainless driver,
the driverless horse, the drunken carrier, the engaged couple, the female
student of the bicycle and her staggering instructor, the pig, the
perambulator, and the infant school (where it disembogued yelping on
cross-roads), with the grace of Nellie Farren (upon whom be the Peace) and
the lithe abandon of all the Vokes family. But at heart she was ever Judic
as I remember that Judic long ago--Judic clad in bourgeois black from
wrist to ankle, achieving incredible improprieties.
We were silent--Hinchcliffe and Pyecroft through professional
appreciation; I with a layman's delight in the expert; and our guest
because of fear.
At the edge of the evening she smelt the sea to southward and sheered
thither like the strong-winged albatross, to circle enormously amid green
flats fringed by martello towers.
"Ain't that Eastbourne yonder?" said our guest, reviving. "I've a aunt
there--she's cook to a J.P.--could identify me."
"Don't worry her for a little thing like that," said Pyecroft; and ere he
had ceased to praise family love, our unpaid judiciary, and domestic
service, the Downs rose between us and the sea, and the Long Man of
Hillingdon lay out upon the turf.
"Trevington--up yonder--is a fairly isolated little dorp," I said, for I
was beginning to feel hungry.
"No," said Kysh. "He'd get a lift to the railway in no time.... Besides,
I'm enjoying myself.... Three pounds eighteen and sixpence. Infernal
I take it one of his more recent fines was rankling in Kysh's brain; but
he drove like the Archangel of the Twilight.
About the longitude of Cassocks, Hinchcliffe yawned. "Aren't we goin' to
maroon our Robert? I'm hungry, too."
"The commodore wants his money back," I answered.
"If he drives like this habitual, there must be a tidyish little lump
owin' to him," said Pyecroft. "Well, I'm agreeable."
"I didn't know it could be done. S'welp me, I didn't," our guest murmured.
"But you will," said Kysh. And that was the first and last time he
addressed the man.
We ran through Penfield Green, half stupefied with open air, drugged with
the relentless boom of the Octopod, and extinct with famine.
"I used to shoot about here," said Kysh, a few miles further on. "Open
that gate, please," and he slowed as the sun touched the sky-line. At this
point we left metalled roads and bucked vigorously amid ditches and under
trees for twenty minutes.
"Only cross-country car on the market," he said, as we wheeled into a
straw-yard where a lone bull bellowed defiance to our growlings. "Open
that gate, please. I hope the cattle-bridge will stand up."
"I've took a few risks in my time," said Pyecroft as timbers cracked
beneath us and we entered between thickets, "but I'm a babe to this man,
"Don't talk to me. Watch _him!_ It's a liberal education, as Shakespeare
says. Fallen tree on the port bow, Sir."
"Right! That's my mark. Sit tight!"
She flung up her tail like a sounding whale and buried us in a fifteen-
foot deep bridle-path buttressed with the exposed roots of enormous
beeches. The wheels leaped from root to rounded boulder, and it was very
dark in the shadow of the foliage.
"There ought to be a hammer-pond somewhere about here." Kysh was letting
her down this chute in brakeful spasms.
"Water dead ahead, Sir. Stack o' brushwood on the starboard beam, and--no
road," sang Pyecroft.
"Cr-r-ri-key!" said Hinchcliffe, as the car on a wild cant to the left
went astern, screwing herself round the angle of a track that overhung the
pond. "If she only had two propellers, I believe she'd talk poetry. She
can do everything else."
"We're rather on our port wheels now," said Kysh; "but I don't think
she'll capsize. This road isn't used much by motors."
"You don't say so," said Pyecroft. "What a pity!"
She bored through a mass of crackling brushwood, and emerged into an
upward sloping fern-glade fenced with woods so virgin, so untouched, that
William Rufus might have ridden off as we entered. We climbed out of the
violet-purple shadows towards the upland where the last of the day
lingered. I was filled to my moist eyes with the almost sacred beauty of
sense and association that clad the landscape.
"Does 'unger produce 'alluciations?" said Pyecroft in a whisper. "Because
I've just seen a sacred ibis walkin' arm in arm with a British cock-
"What are you panickin' at?" said Hinchcliffe. "I've been seein' zebra
for the last two minutes, but I 'aven't complained."
He pointed behind us, and I beheld a superb painted zebra (Burchell's, I
think), following our track with palpitating nostrils. The car stopped,
and it fled away.
There was a little pond in front of us from which rose a dome of irregular
sticks crowned with a blunt-muzzled beast that sat upon its haunches.
"Is it catching?" said Pyecroft.
"Yes. I'm seeing beaver," I replied.
"It is here!" said Kysh, with the air and gesture of Captain Nemo, and
"No--no--no! For 'Eaven's sake--not 'ere!" Our guest gasped like a sea-
bathed child, as four efficient hands swung him far out-board on to the
turf. The car ran back noiselessly down the slope.
"Look! Look! It's sorcery!" cried Hinchcliffe.
There was a report like a pistol shot as the beaver dived from the roof of
his lodge, but we watched our guest. He was on his knees, praying to
kangaroos. Yea, in his bowler hat he kneeled before kangaroos--gigantic,
erect, silhouetted against the light--four buck-kangaroos in the heart of
And we retrogressed over the velvet grass till our hind-wheels struck
well-rolled gravel, leading us to sanity, main roads, and, half an hour
later, the "Grapnel Inn" at Horsham.
* * * * *
After a great meal we poured libations and made burnt-offerings in honour
of Kysh, who received our homage graciously, and, by the way, explained a
few things in the natural history line that had puzzled us. England is a
most marvellous country, but one is not, till one knows the eccentricities
of large land-owners, trained to accept kangaroos, zebras, or beavers as
part of its landscape.
When we went to bed Pyecroft pressed my hand, his voice thick with
"We owe it to you," he said. "We owe it all to you. Didn't I say we never
met in _pup-pup-puris naturalibus_, if I may so put it, without a
remarkably hectic day ahead of us?"
"That's all right," I said. "Mind the candle." He was tracing smoke-
patterns on the wall.
"But what I want to know is whether we'll succeed in acclimatisin' the
blighter, or whether Sir William Gardner's keepers 'll kill 'im before 'e
gets accustomed to 'is surroundin's?"
Some day, I think, we must go up the Linghurst Road and find out.
KASPAR'S SONG IN VARDA
(_From the Swedish of Stagnelius_.)
Eyes aloft, over dangerous places,
The children follow where Psyche flies,
And, in the sweat of their upturned faces,
Slash with a net at the empty skies.
So it goes they fall amid brambles,
And sting their toes on the nettle-tops,
Till after a thousand scratches and scrambles
They wipe their brows, and the hunting stops.
Then to quiet them comes their father
And stills the riot of pain and grief,
Saying, "Little ones, go and gather
Out of my garden a cabbage leaf.
"You will find on it whorls and clots of
Dull grey eggs that, properly fed,
Turn, by way of the worm, to lots of
Radiant Psyches raised from the dead."
* * * * *
"Heaven is beautiful, Earth is ugly,"
The three-dimensioned preacher saith,
So we must not look where the snail and the slug lie
For Psyche's birth ... And that is our death!
"It's a funny thing, this Marconi business, isn't it?" said Mr. Shaynor,
coughing heavily. "Nothing seems to make any difference, by what they tell
me--storms, hills, or anything; but if that's true we shall know before
"Of course it's true," I answered, stepping behind the counter. "Where's
old Mr. Cashell?"
"He's had to go to bed on account of his influenza. He said you'd very
likely drop in."
"Where's his nephew?"
"Inside, getting the things ready. He told me that the last time they
experimented they put the pole on the roof of one of the big hotels here,
and the batteries electrified all the water-supply, and"--he giggled--"the
ladies got shocks when they took their baths."
"I never heard of that."
"The hotel wouldn't exactly advertise it, would it? Just now, by what Mr.
Cashell tells me, they're trying to signal from here to Poole, and they're
using stronger batteries than ever. But, you see, he being the guvnor's
nephew and all that (and it will be in the papers too), it doesn't matter
how they electrify things in this house. Are you going to watch?"
"Very much. I've never seen this game. Aren't you going to bed?"
"We don't close till ten on Saturdays. There's a good deal of influenza in
town, too, and there'll be a dozen prescriptions coming in before morning.
I generally sleep in the chair here. It's warmer than jumping out of bed
every time. Bitter cold, isn't it?"
"Freezing hard. I'm sorry your cough's worse."
"Thank you. I don't mind cold so much. It's this wind that fair cuts me to
pieces." He coughed again hard and hackingly, as an old lady came in for
ammoniated quinine. "We've just run out of it in bottles, madam," said Mr.
Shaynor, returning to the professional tone, "but if you will wait two
minutes, I'll make it up for you, madam."
I had used the shop for some time, and my acquaintance with the proprietor
had ripened into friendship. It was Mr. Cashell who revealed to me the
purpose and power of Apothecaries' Hall what time a fellow-chemist had
made an error in a prescription of mine, had lied to cover his sloth, and
when error and lie were brought home to him had written vain letters.
"A disgrace to our profession," said the thin, mild-eyed man, hotly, after
studying the evidence. "You couldn't do a better service to the profession
than report him to Apothecaries' Hall."
I did so, not knowing what djinns I should evoke; and the result was such
an apology as one might make who had spent a night on the rack. I
conceived great respect for Apothecaries' Hall, and esteem for Mr.
Cashell, a zealous craftsman who magnified his calling. Until Mr. Shaynor
came down from the North his assistants had by no means agreed with Mr.
Cashell. "They forget," said he, "that, first and foremost, the compounder
is a medicine-man. On him depends the physician's reputation. He holds it
literally in the hollow of his hand, Sir."
Mr. Shaynor's manners had not, perhaps, the polish of the grocery and
Italian warehouse next door, but he knew and loved his dispensary work in
every detail. For relaxation he seemed to go no farther afield than the
romance of drugs--their discovery, preparation packing, and export--but it
led him to the ends of the earth, and on this subject, and the
Pharmaceutical Formulary, and Nicholas Culpepper, most confident of
physicians, we met.
Little by little I grew to know something of his beginnings and his hopes
--of his mother, who had been a school-teacher in one of the northern
counties, and of his red-headed father, a small job-master at Kirby Moors,
who died when he was a child; of the examinations he had passed and of
their exceeding and increasing difficulty; of his dreams of a shop in
London; of his hate for the price-cutting Co-operative stores; and, most
interesting, of his mental attitude towards customers.
"There's a way you get into," he told me, "of serving them carefully, and
I hope, politely, without stopping your own thinking. I've been reading
Christie's _New Commercial Plants_ all this autumn, and that needs keeping
your mind on it, I can tell you. So long as it isn't a prescription, of
course, I can carry as much as half a page of Christie in my head, and at
the same time I could sell out all that window twice over, and not a penny
wrong at the end. As to prescriptions, I think I could make up the general
run of 'em in my sleep, almost."
For reasons of my own, I was deeply interested in Marconi experiments at
their outset in England; and it was of a piece with Mr. Cashell's
unvarying thoughtfulness that, when his nephew the electrician
appropriated the house for a long-range installation, he should, as I have
said, invite me to see the result.
The old lady went away with her medicine, and Mr. Shaynor and I stamped on
the tiled floor behind the counter to keep ourselves warm. The shop, by
the light of the many electrics, looked like a Paris-diamond mine, for Mr.
Cashell believed in all the ritual of his craft. Three superb glass jars--
red, green, and blue--of the sort that led Rosamund to parting with her
shoes--blazed in the broad plate-glass windows, and there was a confused
smell of orris, Kodak films, vulcanite, tooth-powder, sachets, and almond-
cream in the air. Mr. Shaynor fed the dispensary stove, and we sucked
cayenne-pepper jujubes and menthol lozenges. The brutal east wind had
cleared the streets, and the few passers-by were muffled to their puckered
eyes. In the Italian warehouse next door some gay feathered birds and
game, hung upon hooks, sagged to the wind across the left edge of our
"They ought to take these poultry in--all knocked about like that," said
Mr. Shaynor. "Doesn't it make you feel fair perishing? See that old hare!
The wind's nearly blowing the fur off him."
I saw the belly-fur of the dead beast blown apart in ridges and streaks as
the wind caught it, showing bluish skin underneath. "Bitter cold," said
Mr. Shaynor, shuddering. "Fancy going out on a night like this! Oh, here's
young Mr. Cashell."
The door of the inner office behind the dispensary opened, and an
energetic, spade-bearded man stepped forth, rubbing his hands.
"I want a bit of tin-foil, Shaynor," he said. "Good-evening. My uncle told
me you might be coming." This to me, as I began the first of a hundred
"I've everything in order," he replied. "We're only waiting until Poole
calls us up. Excuse me a minute. You can come in whenever you like--but
I'd better be with the instruments. Give me that tin-foil. Thanks."
While we were talking, a girl--evidently no customer--had come into the
shop, and the face and bearing of Mr. Shaynor changed. She leaned
confidently across the counter.
"But I can't," I heard him whisper uneasily--the flush on his cheek was
dull red, and his eyes shone like a drugged moth's. "I can't. I tell you
I'm alone in the place."
"No, you aren't. Who's _that_? Let him look after it for half an hour. A
brisk walk will do you good. Ah, come now, John."
"But he isn't----"
"I don't care. I want you to; we'll only go round by St. Agnes. If you
He crossed to where I stood in the shadow of the dispensary counter, and
began some sort of broken apology about a lady-friend.
"Yes," she interrupted. "You take the shop for half an hour--to oblige
_me_, won't you?"
She had a singularly rich and promising voice that well matched her
"All right," I said. "I'll do it--but you'd better wrap yourself up, Mr.
"Oh, a brisk walk ought to help me. We're only going round by the church."
I heard him cough grievously as they went out together.
I refilled the stove, and, after reckless expenditure of Mr. Cashell's
coal, drove some warmth into the shop. I explored many of the glass-
knobbed drawers that lined the walls, tasted some disconcerting drugs,