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A Diversity of Creatures by Rudyard Kipling

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'Of course, but you should have consulted a doctor before
using--palliatives.'

'It was driving me mad. And now I can't give them up.'

''Not so bad as that! One doesn't form fatal habits at twenty-five.
Think again. Were you ever frightened as a child?'

'I don't remember. It began when I was a boy.'

'With or without the spasm? By the way, do you mind describing the spasm
again?'

'Well,' said Conroy, twisting in the chair, 'I'm no musician, but
suppose you were a violin-string--vibrating--and some one put his finger
on you? As if a finger were put on the naked soul! Awful!'

'So's indigestion--so's nightmare--while it lasts.'

'But the horror afterwards knocks me out for days. And the waiting for
it ... and then this drug habit! It can't go on!' He shook as he spoke,
and the chair creaked.

'My dear fellow,' said the doctor, 'when you're older you'll know what
burdens the best of us carry. A fox to every Spartan.'

'That doesn't help _me_. I can't! I can't!' cried Conroy, and burst into
tears.

'Don't apologise,' said Gilbert, when the paroxysm ended. 'I'm used to
people coming a little--unstuck in this room.'

'It's those tabloids!' Conroy stamped his foot feebly as he blew his
nose. 'They've knocked me out. I used to be fit once. Oh, I've tried
exercise and everything. But--if one sits down for a minute when it's
due--even at four in the morning--it runs up behind one.'

'Ye-es. Many things come in the quiet of the morning. You always know
when the visitation is due?'

'What would I give not to be sure!' he sobbed.

'We'll put that aside for the moment. I'm thinking of a case where what
we'll call anaemia of the brain was masked (I don't say cured) by
vibration. He couldn't sleep, or thought he couldn't, but a steamer
voyage and the thump of the screw--'

'A steamer? After what I've told you!' Conroy almost shrieked. 'I'd
sooner ...'

'Of course _not_ a steamer in your case, but a long railway journey the
next time you think it will trouble you. It sounds absurd, but--'

'I'd try anything. I nearly have,' Conroy sighed.

'Nonsense! I've given you a tonic that will clear _that_ notion from
your head. Give the train a chance, and don't begin the journey by
bucking yourself up with tabloids. Take them along, but hold them in
reserve--in reserve.'

'D'you think I've self-control enough, after what you've heard?' said
Conroy.

Dr. Gilbert smiled. 'Yes. After what I've seen,' he glanced round the
room, 'I have no hesitation in saying you have quite as much
self-control as many other people. I'll write you later about your
journey. Meantime, the tonic,' and he gave some general directions
before Conroy left.

An hour later Dr. Gilbert hurried to the links, where the others of his
regular week-end game awaited him. It was a rigid round, played as usual
at the trot, for the tension of the week lay as heavy on the two King's
Counsels and Sir John Chartres as on Gilbert. The lawyers were old
enemies of the Admiralty Court, and Sir John of the frosty eyebrows and
Abernethy manner was bracketed with, but before, Rutherford Gilbert
among nerve-specialists.

At the Club-house afterwards the lawyers renewed their squabble over a
tangled collision case, and the doctors as naturally compared
professional matters.

'Lies--all lies,' said Sir John, when Gilbert had told him Conroy's
trouble. '_Post hoc, propter hoc_. The man or woman who drugs is _ipso
facto_ a liar. You've no imagination.'

''Pity you haven't a little--occasionally.'

'I have believed a certain type of patient in my time. It's always the
same. For reasons not given in the consulting-room they take to the
drug. Certain symptoms follow. They will swear to you, and believe it,
that they took the drug to mask the symptoms. What does your man use?
Najdolene? I thought so. I had practically the duplicate of your case
last Thursday. Same old Najdolene--same old lie.'

'Tell me the symptoms, and I'll draw my own inferences, Johnnie.'

'Symptoms! The girl was rank poisoned with Najdolene. Ramping, stamping
possession. Gad, I thought she'd have the chandelier down.'

'Mine came unstuck too, and he has the physique of a bull,' said
Gilbert. 'What delusions had yours?'

'Faces--faces with mildew on them. In any other walk of life we'd call
it the Horrors. She told me, of course, she took the drugs to mask the
faces. _Post hoc, propter hoc_ again. All liars!'

'What's that?' said the senior K.C. quickly. 'Sounds professional.'

'Go away! Not for you, Sandy.' Sir John turned a shoulder against him
and walked with Gilbert in the chill evening.

To Conroy in his chambers came, one week later, this letter:

DEAR MR. CONROY--If your plan of a night's trip on the 17th
still holds good, and you have no particular destination in
view, you could do me a kindness. A Miss Henschil, in whom I
am interested, goes down to the West by the 10.8 from
Waterloo (Number 3 platform) on that night. She is not
exactly an invalid, but, like so many of us, a little shaken
in her nerves. Her maid, of course, accompanies her, but if I
knew you were in the same train it would be an additional
source of strength. Will you please write and let me know
whether the 10.8 from Waterloo, Number 3 platform, on the
17th, suits you, and I will meet you there? Don't forget my
caution, and keep up the tonic.--Yours sincerely,

L. RUTHERFORD GILBERT.

'He knows I'm scarcely fit to look after myself,' was Conroy's thought.
'And he wants me to look after a woman!'

Yet, at the end of half an hour's irresolution, he accepted.

Now Conroy's trouble, which had lasted for years, was this:

On a certain night, while he lay between sleep and wake, he would be
overtaken by a long shuddering sigh, which he learned to know was the
sign that his brain had once more conceived its horror, and in time--in
due time--would bring it forth.

Drugs could so well veil that horror that it shuffled along no worse
than as a freezing dream in a procession of disorderly dreams; but over
the return of the event drugs had no control. Once that sigh had passed
his lips the thing was inevitable, and through the days granted before
its rebirth he walked in torment. For the first two years he had striven
to fend it off by distractions, but neither exercise nor drink availed.
Then he had come to the tabloids of the excellent M. Najdol. These
guarantee, on the label, 'Refreshing and absolutely natural sleep to the
soul-weary.' They are carried in a case with a spring which presses one
scented tabloid to the end of the tube, whence it can be lipped off in
stroking the moustache or adjusting the veil.

Three years of M. Najdol's preparations do not fit a man for many
careers. His friends, who knew he did not drink, assumed that Conroy had
strained his heart through valiant outdoor exercises, and Conroy had
with some care invented an imaginary doctor, symptoms, and regimen,
which he discussed with them and with his mother in Hereford. She
maintained that he would grow out of it, and recommended nux vomica.

When at last Conroy faced a real doctor, it was, he hoped, to be saved
from suicide by a strait-waistcoat. Yet Dr. Gilbert had but given him
more drugs--a tonic, for instance, that would couple railway
carnages--and had advised a night in the train. Not alone the horrors of
a railway journey (for which a man who dare keep no servant must e'en
pack, label, and address his own bag), but the necessity for holding
himself in hand before a stranger 'a little shaken in her nerves.'

He spent a long forenoon packing, because when he assembled and counted
things his mind slid off to the hours that remained of the day before
his night, and he found himself counting minutes aloud. At such times
the injustice of his fate would drive him to revolts which no servant
should witness, but on this evening Dr. Gilbert's tonic held him fairly
calm while he put up his patent razors.

Waterloo Station shook him into real life. The change for his ticket
needed concentration, if only to prevent shillings and pence turning
into minutes at the booking-office; and he spoke quickly to a porter
about the disposition of his bag. The old 10.8 from Waterloo to the West
was an all-night caravan that halted, in the interests of the milk
traffic, at almost every station.

Dr. Gilbert stood by the door of the one composite corridor-coach; an
older and stouter man behind him. 'So glad you're here!' he cried. 'Let
me get your ticket.'

'Certainly not,' Conroy answered. 'I got it myself--long ago. My bag's
in too,' he added proudly.

'I beg your pardon. Miss Henschil's here. I'll introduce you.'

'But--but,' he stammered--'think of the state I'm in. If anything
happens I shall collapse.'

'Not you. You'd rise to the occasion like a bird. And as for the
self-control you were talking of the other day'--Gilbert swung him
round--'look!'

A young man in an ulster over a silk-faced frock-coat stood by the
carriage window, weeping shamelessly.

'Oh, but that's only drink,' Conroy said. 'I haven't had one of my--my
things since lunch.'

'Excellent!' said Gilbert. 'I knew I could depend on you. Come along.
Wait for a minute, Chartres.'

A tall woman, veiled, sat by the far window. She bowed her head as the
doctor murmured Conroy knew not what. Then he disappeared and the
inspector came for tickets.

'My maid--next compartment,' she said slowly.

Conroy showed his ticket, but in returning it to the sleeve-pocket of
his ulster the little silver Najdolene case slipped from his glove and
fell to the floor. He snatched it up as the moving train flung him
into his seat.

'How nice!' said the woman. She leisurely lifted her veil, unbottoned
the first button of her left glove, and pressed out from its palm a
Najdolene-case.

'Don't!' said Conroy, not realising he had spoken.

'I beg your pardon.' The deep voice was measured, even, and low. Conroy
knew what made it so.

'I said "don't"! He wouldn't like you to do it!'

'No, he would not.' She held the tube with its ever-presented tabloid
between finger and thumb. 'But aren't you one of the--ah--"soul-weary"
too?'

'That's why. Oh, please don't! Not at first. I--I haven't had one since
morning. You--you'll set me off!'

'You? Are you so far gone as that?'

He nodded, pressing his palms together. The train jolted through
Vauxhall points, and was welcomed with the clang of empty milk-cans
for the West.

After long silence she lifted her great eyes, and, with an innocence
that would have deceived any sound man, asked Conroy to call her maid to
bring her a forgotten book.

Conroy shook his head. 'No. Our sort can't read. Don't!'

'Were you sent to watch me?' The voice never changed.

'Me? I need a keeper myself much more--_this_ night of all!'

'This night? Have you a night, then? They disbelieved _me_ when I told
them of mine.' She leaned back and laughed, always slowly. 'Aren't
doctors stu-upid? They don't know.'

She leaned her elbow on her knee, lifted her veil that had fallen, and,
chin in hand, stared at him. He looked at her--till his eyes were
blurred with tears.

'Have I been there, think you?' she said.

'Surely--surely,' Conroy answered, for he had well seen the fear and the
horror that lived behind the heavy-lidded eyes, the fine tracing on the
broad forehead, and the guard set about the desirable mouth.

'Then--suppose we have one--just one apiece? I've gone without since
this afternoon.'

He put up his hand, and would have shouted, but his voice broke.

'Don't! Can't you see that it helps me to help you to keep it off? Don't
let's both go down together.'

'But I want one. It's a poor heart that never rejoices. Just one. It's
my night.'

'It's mine--too. My sixty-fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh.' He shut his
lips firmly against the tide of visualised numbers that threatened to
carry him along.

'Ah, it's only my thirty-ninth.' She paused as he had done. 'I wonder if
I shall last into the sixties.... Talk to me or I shall go crazy. You're
a man. You're the stronger vessel. Tell me when you went to pieces.'

'One, two, three, four, five, six, seven--eight--I beg your pardon.'

'Not in the least. I always pretend I've dropped a stitch of my
knitting. I count the days till the last day, then the hours, then the
minutes. Do you?'

'I don't think I've done very much else for the last--' said Conroy,
shivering, for the night was cold, with a chill he recognised.

'Oh, how comforting to find some one who can talk sense! It's not always
the same date, is it?'

'What difference would that make?' He unbuttoned his ulster with a jerk.
'You're a sane woman. Can't you see the wicked--wicked--wicked' (dust
flew from the padded arm-rest as he struck it) unfairness of it? What
have I done?'

She laid her large hand on his shoulder very firmly.

'If you begin to think over that,' she said, 'you'll go to pieces and be
ashamed. Tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine. Only be quiet--be quiet,
lad, or you'll set me off!' She made shift to soothe him, though her
chin trembled.

'Well,' said he at last, picking at the arm-rest between them, 'mine's
nothing much, of course.'

'Don't be a fool! That's for doctors--and mothers.'

'It's Hell,' Conroy muttered. 'It begins on a steamer--on a stifling hot
night. I come out of my cabin. I pass through the saloon where the
stewards have rolled up the carpets, and the boards are bare and hot
and soapy.'

'I've travelled too,' she said.

'Ah! I come on deck. I walk down a covered alleyway. Butcher's meat,
bananas, oil, that sort of smell.'

Again she nodded.

'It's a lead-coloured steamer, and the sea's lead-coloured. Perfectly
smooth sea--perfectly still ship, except for the engines running, and
her waves going off in lines and lines and lines--dull grey. All this
time I know something's going to happen.'

'I know. Something going to happen,' she whispered.

'Then I hear a thud in the engine-room. Then the noise of machinery
falling down--like fire-irons--and then two most awful yells. They're
more like hoots, and I know--I know while I listen--that it means that
two men have died as they hooted. It was their last breath hooting out
of them--in most awful pain. Do you understand?'

'I ought to. Go on.'

'That's the first part. Then I hear bare feet running along the
alleyway. One of the scalded men comes up behind me and says quite
distinctly, "My friend! All is lost!" Then he taps me on the shoulder
and I hear him drop down dead.' He panted and wiped his forehead.

'So that is your night?' she said.

'That is my night. It comes every few weeks--so many days after I get
what I call sentence. Then I begin to count.'

'Get sentence? D'you mean _this_?' She half closed her eyes, drew a
deep breath, and shuddered. '"Notice" I call it. Sir John thought it was
all lies.'

She had unpinned her hat and thrown it on the seat opposite, showing the
immense mass of her black hair, rolled low in the nape of the columnar
neck and looped over the left ear. But Conroy had no eyes except for her
grave eyes.

'Listen now!' said she. 'I walk down a road, a white sandy road near the
sea. There are broken fences on either side, and Men come and look at me
over them.'

'Just men? Do they speak?'

'They try to. Their faces are all mildewy--eaten away,' and she hid her
face for an instant with her left hand. 'It's the Faces--the Faces!'

'Yes. Like my two hoots. I know.'

'Ah! But the place itself--the bareness--and the glitter and the salt
smells, and the wind blowing the sand! The Men run after me and I
run.... I know what's coming too. One of them touches me.'

'Yes! What comes then? We've both shirked that.'

'One awful shock--not palpitation, but shock, shock, shock!'

'As though your soul were being stopped--as you'd stop a finger-bowl
humming?' he said.

'Just that,' she answered. 'One's very soul--the soul that one lives
by--stopped. So!'

She drove her thumb deep into the arm-rest. 'And now,' she whined to
him, 'now that we've stirred each other up this way, mightn't we have
just one?'

'No,' said Conroy, shaking. 'Let's hold on. We're past'--he peered out
of the black windows--'Woking. There's the Necropolis. How long
till dawn?'

'Oh, cruel long yet. If one dozes for a minute, it catches one.'

'And how d'you find that this'--he tapped the palm of his glove--'helps
you?'

'It covers up the thing from being too real--if one takes enough--you
know. Only--only--one loses everything else. I've been no more than a
bogie-girl for two years. What would you give to be real again? This
lying's such a nuisance.'

'One must protect oneself--and there's one's mother to think of,' he
answered.

'True. I hope allowances are made for us somewhere. Our burden--can you
hear?--our burden is heavy enough.'

She rose, towering into the roof of the carriage. Conroy's ungentle grip
pulled her back.

'Now _you_ are foolish. Sit down,' said he.

'But the cruelty of it! Can't you see it? Don't you feel it? Let's take
one now--before I--'

'Sit down!' cried Conroy, and the sweat stood again on his forehead. He
had fought through a few nights, and had been defeated on more, and he
knew the rebellion that flares beyond control to exhaustion.

She smoothed her hair and dropped back, but for a while her head and
throat moved with the sickening motion of a captured wry-neck.

'Once,' she said, spreading out her hands, 'I ripped my counterpane
from end to end. That takes strength. I had it then. I've little now.
"All dorn," as my little niece says. And you, lad?'

'"All dorn"! Let me keep your case for you till the morning.'

'But the cold feeling is beginning.'

'Lend it me, then.'

'And the drag down my right side. I shan't be able to move in a minute.'

'I can scarcely lift my arm myself,' said Conroy. 'We're in for it.'

'Then why are you so foolish? You know it'll be easier if we have only
one--only one apiece.'

She was lifting the case to her mouth. With tremendous effort Conroy
caught it. The two moved like jointed dolls, and when their hands met it
was as wood on wood.

'You must--not!' said Conroy. His jaws stiffened, and the cold climbed
from his feet up.

'Why--must--I--not?' She repeated the words idiotically.

Conroy could only shake his head, while he bore down on the hand and the
case in it.

Her speech went from her altogether. The wonderful lips rested half over
the even teeth, the breath was in the nostrils only, the eyes dulled,
the face set grey, and through the glove the hand struck like ice.

Presently her soul came back and stood behind her eyes--only thing that
had life in all that place--stood and looked for Conroy's soul. He too
was fettered in every limb, but somewhere at an immense distance he
heard his heart going about its work as the engine-room carries on
through and beneath the all but overwhelming wave. His one hope, he
knew, was not to lose the eyes that clung to his, because there was an
Evil abroad which would possess him if he looked aside by a
hair-breadth.

The rest was darkness through which some distant planet spun while
cymbals clashed. (Beyond Farnborough the 10.8 rolls out many empty
milk-cans at every halt.) Then a body came to life with intolerable
pricklings. Limb by limb, after agonies of terror, that body returned to
him, steeped in most perfect physical weariness such as follows a long
day's rowing. He saw the heavy lids droop over her eyes--the watcher
behind them departed--and, his soul sinking into assured peace,
Conroy slept.

Light on his eyes and a salt breath roused him without shock. Her hand
still held his. She slept, forehead down upon it, but the movement of
his waking waked her too, and she sneezed like a child.

'I--I think it's morning,' said Conroy.

'And nothing has happened! Did you see your Men? I didn't see my Faces.
Does it mean we've escaped? Did--did you take any after I went to sleep?
I'll swear I didn't,' she stammered.

'No, there wasn't any need. We've slept through it.'

'No need! Thank God! There was no need! Oh, look!'

The train was running under red cliffs along a sea-wall washed by waves
that were colourless in the early light. Southward the sun rose mistily
upon the Channel.

She leaned out of the window and breathed to the bottom of her lungs,
while the wind wrenched down her dishevelled hair and blew it below
her waist.

'Well!' she said with splendid eyes. 'Aren't you still waiting for
something to happen?'

'No. Not till next time. We've been let off,' Conroy answered, breathing
as deeply as she.

'Then we ought to say our prayers.'

'What nonsense! Some one will see us.'

'We needn't kneel. Stand up and say "Our Father." We _must_!'

It was the first time since childhood that Conroy had prayed. They
laughed hysterically when a curve threw them against an arm-rest.

'Now for breakfast!' she cried. 'My maid--Nurse Blaber--has the basket
and things. It'll be ready in twenty minutes. Oh! Look at my hair!' and
she went out laughing.

Conroy's first discovery, made without fumbling or counting letters on
taps, was that the London and South Western's allowance of washing-water
is inadequate. He used every drop, rioting in the cold tingle on neck
and arms. To shave in a moving train balked him, but the next halt gave
him a chance, which, to his own surprise, he took. As he stared at
himself in the mirror he smiled and nodded. There were points about this
person with the clear, if sunken, eye and the almost uncompressed mouth.
But when he bore his bag back to his compartment, the weight of it on a
limp arm humbled that new pride.

'My friend,' he said, half aloud, 'you go into training. You're putty.'

She met him in the spare compartment, where her maid had laid breakfast.

'By Jove!' he said, halting at the doorway, 'I hadn't realised how
beautiful you were!'

'The same to you, lad. Sit down. I could eat a horse.'

'I shouldn't,' said the maid quietly. 'The less you eat the better.' She
was a small, freckled woman, with light fluffy hair and pale-blue eyes
that looked through all veils.

'This is Miss Blaber,' said Miss Henschil. 'He's one of the soul-weary
too, Nursey.'

'I know it. But when one has just given it up a full meal doesn't agree.
That's why I've only brought you bread and butter.'

She went out quietly, and Conroy reddened.

'We're still children, you see,' said Miss Henschil. 'But I'm well
enough to feel some shame of it. D'you take sugar?'

They starved together heroically, and Nurse Blaber was good enough to
signify approval when she came to clear away.

'Nursey?' Miss Henschil insinuated, and flushed.

'Do you smoke?' said the nurse coolly to Conroy.

'I haven't in years. Now you mention it, I think I'd like a
cigarette--or something.'

'I used to. D'you think it would keep me quiet?' Miss Henschil said.

'Perhaps. Try these.' The nurse handed them her cigarette-case.

'Don't take anything else,' she commanded, and went away with the
tea-basket.

'Good!' grunted Conroy, between mouthfuls of tobacco.

'Better than nothing,' said Miss Henschil; but for a while they felt
ashamed, yet with the comfort of children punished together.

'Now,' she whispered, 'who were you when you were a man?'

Conroy told her, and in return she gave him her history. It delighted
them both to deal once more in worldly concerns--families, names,
places, and dates--with a person of understanding.

She came, she said, of Lancashire folk--wealthy cotton-spinners, who
still kept the broadened _a_ and slurred aspirate of the old stock. She
lived with an old masterful mother in an opulent world north of
Lancaster Gate, where people in Society gave parties at a Mecca called
the Langham Hotel.

She herself had been launched into Society there, and the flowers at the
ball had cost eighty-seven pounds; but, being reckoned peculiar, she had
made few friends among her own sex. She had attracted many men, for she
was a beauty--_the_ beauty, in fact, of Society, she said.

She spoke utterly without shame or reticence, as a life-prisoner tells
his past to a fellow-prisoner; and Conroy nodded across the smoke-rings.

'Do you remember when you got into the carriage?' she asked. '(Oh, I
wish I had some knitting!) Did you notice aught, lad?'

Conroy thought back. It was ages since. 'Wasn't there some one outside
the door--crying?' he asked.

'He's--he's the little man I was engaged to,' she said. 'But I made him
break it off. I told him 'twas no good. But he won't, yo' see.'

'_That_ fellow? Why, he doesn't come up to your shoulder.'

'That's naught to do with it. I think all the world of him. I'm a
foolish wench'--her speech wandered as she settled herself cosily, one
elbow on the arm-rest. 'We'd been engaged--I couldn't help that--and he
worships the ground I tread on. But it's no use. I'm not responsible,
you see. His two sisters are against it, though I've the money. They're
right, but they think it's the dri-ink,' she drawled. 'They're
Methody--the Skinners. You see, their grandfather that started the
Patton Mills, he died o' the dri-ink.'

'I see,' said Conroy. The grave face before him under the lifted veil
was troubled.

'George Skinner.' She breathed it softly. 'I'd make him a good wife, by
God's gra-ace--if I could. But it's no use. I'm not responsible. But
he'll not take "No" for an answer. I used to call him "Toots." He's of
no consequence, yo' see.'

'That's in Dickens,' said Conroy, quite quickly. 'I haven't thought of
Toots for years. He was at Doctor Blimber's.'

'And so--that's my trouble,' she concluded, ever so slightly wringing
her hands. 'But I--don't you think--there's hope now?'

'Eh?' said Conroy. 'Oh yes! This is the first time I've turned my corner
without help. With your help, I should say.'

'It'll come back, though.'

'Then shall we meet it in the same way? Here's my card. Write me your
train, and we'll go together.'

'Yes. We must do that. But between times--when we want--' She looked at
her palm, the four fingers working on it. 'It's hard to give 'em up.'

'But think what we have gained already, and let me have the case to
keep.'

She shook her head, and threw her cigarette out of the window. 'Not
yet.'

'Then let's lend our cases to Nurse, and we'll get through to-day on
cigarettes. I'll call her while we feel strong.'

She hesitated, but yielded at last, and Nurse accepted the offerings
with a smile.

'_You'll_ be all right,' she said to Miss Henschil. 'But if I were
you'--to Conroy--'I'd take strong exercise.'

When they reached their destination Conroy set himself to obey Nurse
Blaber. He had no remembrance of that day, except one streak of blue sea
to his left, gorse-bushes to his right, and, before him, a coast-guard's
track marked with white-washed stones that he counted up to the far
thousands. As he returned to the little town he saw Miss Henschil on the
beach below the cliffs. She kneeled at Nurse Blaber's feet, weeping
and pleading.

* * * * *

Twenty-five days later a telegram came to Conroy's rooms: '_Notice
given. Waterloo again. Twenty-fourth.'_ That same evening he was wakened
by the shudder and the sigh that told him his sentence had gone forth.
Yet he reflected on his pillow that he had, in spite of lapses, snatched
something like three weeks of life, which included several rides on a
horse before breakfast--the hour one most craves Najdolene; five
consecutive evenings on the river at Hammersmith in a tub where he had
well stretched the white arms that passing crews mocked at; a game of
rackets at his club; three dinners, one small dance, and one human
flirtation with a human woman. More notable still, he had settled his
month's accounts, only once confusing petty cash with the days of grace
allowed him. Next morning he rode his hired beast in the park
victoriously. He saw Miss Henschil on horse-back near Lancaster Gate,
talking to a young man at the railings.

She wheeled and cantered toward him.

'By Jove! How well you look!' he cried, without salutation. 'I didn't
know you rode.'

'I used to once,' she replied. 'I'm all soft now.'

They swept off together down the ride.

'Your beast pulls,' he said.

'Wa-ant him to. Gi-gives me something to think of. How've you been?'
she panted. 'I wish chemists' shops hadn't red lights.'

'Have you slipped out and bought some, then?'

'You don't know Nursey. Eh, but it's good to be on a horse again! This
chap cost me two hundred.'

'Then you've been swindled,' said Conroy.

'I know it, but it's no odds. I must go back to Toots and send him away.
He's neglecting his work for me.'

She swung her heavy-topped animal on his none too sound hocks.
''Sentence come, lad?'

'Yes. But I'm not minding it so much this time.'

'Waterloo, then--and God help us!' She thundered back to the little
frock-coated figure that waited faithfully near the gate.

Conroy felt the spring sun on his shoulders and trotted home. That
evening he went out with a man in a pair oar, and was rowed to a
standstill. But the other man owned he could not have kept the pace five
minutes longer.

* * * * *

He carried his bag all down Number 3 platform at Waterloo, and hove it
with one hand into the rack.

'Well done!' said Nurse Blaber, in the corridor. 'We've improved too.'

Dr. Gilbert and an older man came out of the next compartment.

'Hallo!' said Gilbert. 'Why haven't you been to see me, Mr. Conroy? Come
under the lamp. Take off your hat. No--no. Sit, you young giant. Ve-ry
good. Look here a minute, Johnnie.'

A little, round-bellied, hawk-faced person glared at him.

'Gilbert was right about the beauty of the beast,' he muttered. 'D'you
keep it in your glove now?' he went on, and punched Conroy in the
short ribs.

'No,' said Conroy meekly, but without coughing. 'Nowhere--on my honour!
I've chucked it for good.'

'Wait till you are a sound man before you say _that_, Mr. Conroy.' Sir
John Chartres stumped out, saying to Gilbert in the corridor, 'It's all
very fine, but the question is shall I or we "Sir Pandarus of Troy
become," eh? We're bound to think of the children.'

'Have you been vetted?' said Miss Henschil, a few minutes after the
train started. 'May I sit with you? I--I don't trust myself yet. I can't
give up as easily as you can, seemingly.'

'Can't you? I never saw any one so improved in a month.'

'Look here!' She reached across to the rack, single-handed lifted
Conroy's bag, and held it at arm's length. 'I counted ten slowly. And I
didn't think of hours or minutes,' she boasted.

'Don't remind me,' he cried.

'Ah! Now I've reminded myself. I wish I hadn't. Do you think it'll be
easier for us to-night?'

'Oh, don't.' The smell of the carriage had brought back all his last
trip to him, and Conroy moved uneasily.

'I'm sorry. I've brought some games,' she went on. 'Draughts and
cards--but they all mean counting. I wish I'd brought chess, but I can't
play chess. What can we do? Talk about something.'

'Well, how's Toots, to begin with?' said Conroy.

'Why? Did you see him on the platform?'

'No. Was he there? I didn't notice.'

'Oh yes. He doesn't understand. He's desperately jealous. I told him it
doesn't matter. Will you please let me hold your hand? I believe I'm
beginning to get the chill.'

'Toots ought to envy me,' said Conroy.

'He does. He paid you a high compliment the other night. He's taken to
calling again--in spite of all they say.'

Conroy inclined his head. He felt cold, and knew surely he would be
colder.

'He said,' she yawned. '(Beg your pardon.) He said he couldn't see how I
could help falling in love with a man like you; and he called himself a
damned little rat, and he beat his head on the piano last night.'

'The piano? You play, then?'

'Only to him. He thinks the world of my accomplishments. Then I told him
I wouldn't have you if you were the last man on earth instead of only
the best-looking--not with a million in each stocking.'

'No, not with a million in each stocking,' said Conroy vehemently.
'Isn't that odd?'

'I suppose so--to any one who doesn't know. Well, where was I? Oh,
George as good as told me I was deceiving him, and he wanted to go away
without saying good-night. He hates standing a-tiptoe, but he must if I
won't sit down.'

Conroy would have smiled, but the chill that foreran the coming of the
Lier-in-Wait was upon him, and his hand closed warningly on hers.

'And--and so--' she was trying to say, when her hour also overtook her,
leaving alive only the fear-dilated eyes that turned to Conroy. Hand
froze on hand and the body with it as they waited for the horror in the
blackness that heralded it. Yet through the worst Conroy saw, at an
uncountable distance, one minute glint of light in his night. Thither
would he go and escape his fear; and behold, that light was the light in
the watch-tower of her eyes, where her locked soul signalled to his
soul: 'Look at me!'

In time, from him and from her, the Thing sheered aside, that each soul
might step down and resume its own concerns. He thought confusedly of
people on the skirts of a thunderstorm, withdrawing from windows where
the torn night is, to their known and furnished beds. Then he dozed,
till in some drowsy turn his hand fell from her warmed hand.

'That's all. The Faces haven't come,' he heard her say. 'All--thank God!
I don't feel even I need what Nursey promised me. Do you?'

'No.' He rubbed his eyes. 'But don't make too sure.'

'Certainly not. We shall have to try again next month. I'm afraid it
will be an awful nuisance for you.'

'Not to me, I assure you,' said Conroy, and they leaned back and
laughed at the flatness of the words, after the hells through which they
had just risen.

'And now,' she said, strict eyes on Conroy, '_why_ wouldn't you take
me--not with a million in each stocking?'

'I don't know. That's what I've been puzzling over.'

'So have I. We're as handsome a couple as I've ever seen. Are you well
off, lad?'

'They call me so,' said Conroy, smiling.

'That's North country.' She laughed again. Setting aside my good looks
and yours, I've four thousand a year of my own, and the rents should
make it six. That's a match some old cats would lap tea all night to
fettle up.'

'It is. Lucky Toots!' said Conroy.

'Ay,' she answered, 'he'll be the luckiest lad in London if I win
through. Who's yours?'

'No--no one, dear. I've been in Hell for years. I only want to get out
and be alive and--so on. Isn't that reason enough?'

'Maybe, for a man. But I never minded things much till George came. I
was all stu-upid like.'

'So was I, but now I think I can live. It ought to be less next month,
oughtn't it?' he said.

'I hope so. Ye-es. There's nothing much for a maid except to be married,
and 7 ask no more. Whoever yours is, when you've found her, she shall
have a wedding present from Mrs. George Skinner that--'

'But she wouldn't understand it any more than Toots.'

'He doesn't matter--except to me. I can't keep my eyes open, thank God!
Good-night, lad.'

Conroy followed her with his eyes. Beauty there was, grace there was,
strength, and enough of the rest to drive better men than George Skinner
to beat their heads on piano-tops--but for the new-found life of him
Conroy could not feel one flutter of instinct or emotion that turned to
herward. He put up his feet and fell asleep, dreaming of a joyous,
normal world recovered--with interest on arrears. There were many things
in it, but no one face of any one woman.

* * * * *

Thrice afterward they took the same train, and each time their trouble
shrank and weakened. Miss Henschil talked of Toots, his multiplied
calls, the things he had said to his sisters, the much worse things his
sisters had replied; of the late (he seemed very dead to them) M.
Najdol's gifts for the soul-weary; of shopping, of house rents, and the
cost of really artistic furniture and linen.

Conroy explained the exercises in which he delighted--mighty labours of
play undertaken against other mighty men, till he sweated and, having
bathed, slept. He had visited his mother, too, in Hereford, and he
talked something of her and of the home-life, which his body, cut out of
all clean life for five years, innocently and deeply enjoyed. Nurse
Blaber was a little interested in Conroy's mother, but, as a rule, she
smoked her cigarette and read her paper-backed novels in her own
compartment.

On their last trip she volunteered to sit with them, and buried herself
in _The Cloister and the Hearth_ while they whispered together. On that
occasion (it was near Salisbury) at two in the morning, when the
Lier-in-Wait brushed them with his wing, it meant no more than that they
should cease talk for the instant, and for the instant hold hands, as
even utter strangers on the deep may do when their ship rolls underfoot.

'But still,' said Nurse Blaber, not looking up, 'I think your Mr.
Skinner might feel jealous of all this.'

'It would be difficult to explain,' said Conroy.

'Then you'd better not be at my wedding,' Miss Henschil laughed.

'After all we've gone through, too. But I suppose you ought to leave me
out. Is the day fixed?' he cried.

'Twenty-second of September--in spite of both his sisters. I can risk it
now.' Her face was glorious as she flushed.

'My dear chap!' He shook hands unreservedly, and she gave back his grip
without flinching. 'I can't tell you how pleased I am!'

'Gracious Heavens!' said Nurse Blaber, in a new voice. 'Oh, I beg your
pardon. I forgot I wasn't paid to be surprised.'

'What at? Oh, I see!' Miss Henschil explained to Conroy. 'She expected
you were going to kiss me, or I was going to kiss you, or something.'

'After all you've gone through, as Mr. Conroy said,'

'But I couldn't, could you?' said Miss Henschil, with a disgust as frank
as that on Conroy's face. 'It would be horrible--horrible. And yet, of
course, you're wonderfully handsome. How d'you account for it, Nursey?'

Nurse Blaber shook her head. 'I was hired to cure you of a habit, dear.
When you're cured I shall go on to the next case--that senile-decay one
at Bourne-mouth I told you about.'

'And I shall be left alone with George! But suppose it isn't cured,'
said Miss Henschil of a sudden. Suppose it comes back again. What can I
do? I can't send for _him_ in this way when I'm a married woman!' She
pointed like an infant.

'I'd come, of course,' Conroy answered. 'But, seriously, that is a
consideration.'

They looked at each other, alarmed and anxious, and then toward Nurse
Blaber, who closed her book, marked the place, and turned to face them.

'Have you ever talked to your mother as you have to me?' she said.

'No. I might have spoken to dad--but mother's different. What d'you
mean?'

'And you've never talked to your mother either, Mr. Conroy?'

'Not till I took Najdolene. Then I told her it was my heart. There's no
need to say anything, now that I'm practically over it, is there?'

'Not if it doesn't come back, but--' She beckoned with a stumpy,
triumphant linger that drew their heads close together. 'You know I
always go in and read a chapter to mother at tea, child.'

'I know you do. You're an angel,' Miss Henschil patted the blue
shoulder next her. 'Mother's Church of England now,' she explained. 'But
she'll have her Bible with her pikelets at tea every night like the
Skinners.'

'It was Naaman and Gehazi last Tuesday that gave me a clue. I said I'd
never seen a case of leprosy, and your mother said she'd seen too many.'

'Where? She never told me,' Miss Henschil began.

'A few months before you were born--on her trip to Australia--at Mola or
Molo something or other. It took me three evenings to get it all out.'

'Ay--mother's suspicious of questions,' said Miss Henschil to Conroy.
'She'll lock the door of every room she's in, if it's but for five
minutes. She was a Tackberry from Jarrow way, yo' see.'

'She described your men to the life--men with faces all eaten away,
staring at her over the fence of a lepers' hospital in this Molo Island.
They begged from her, and she ran, she told me, all down the street,
back to the pier. One touched her and she nearly fainted. She's ashamed
of that still.'

'My men? The sand and the fences?' Miss Henschil muttered.

'Yes. You know how tidy she is and how she hates wind. She remembered
that the fences were broken--she remembered the wind blowing.
Sand--sun--salt wind--fences--faces--I got it all out of her, bit by
bit. You don't know what I know! And it all happened three or four
months before you were born. There!' Nurse Blaber slapped her knee with
her little hand triumphantly.

'Would that account for it?' Miss Henschil shook from head to foot.

'Absolutely. I don't care who you ask! You never imagined the thing. It
was _laid_ on you. It happened on earth to _you_! Quick, Mr. Conroy,
she's too heavy for me! I'll get the flask.'

Miss Henschil leaned forward and collapsed, as Conroy told her
afterwards, like a factory chimney. She came out of her swoon with teeth
that chattered on the cup.

'No--no,' she said, gulping. 'It's not hysterics. Yo' see I've no call
to hev 'em any more. No call--no reason whatever. God be praised! Can't
yo' _feel_ I'm a right woman now?'

'Stop hugging me!' said Nurse Blaber. 'You don't know your strength.
Finish the brandy and water. It's perfectly reasonable, and I'll lay
long odds Mr. Conroy's case is something of the same. I've been
thinking--'

'I wonder--' said Conroy, and pushed the girl back as she swayed again.

Nurse Blaber smoothed her pale hair. 'Yes. Your trouble, or something
like it, happened somewhere on earth or sea to the mother who bore you.
Ask her, child. Ask her and be done with it once for all.'

'I will,' said Conroy.... 'There ought to be--' He opened his bag and
hunted breathlessly.

'Bless you! Oh, God bless you, Nursey!' Miss Henschil was sobbing. 'You
don't know what this means to me. It takes it all off--from the
beginning.'

'But doesn't it make any difference to you now?' the nurse asked
curiously. 'Now that you're rightfully a woman?'

Conroy, busy with his bag, had not heard. Miss Henschil stared across,
and her beauty, freed from the shadow of any fear, blazed up within her.
'I see what you mean,' she said. 'But it hasn't changed anything. I want
Toots. _He_ has never been out of his mind in his life--except over
silly me.'

'It's all right,' said Conroy, stooping under the lamp,
Bradshaw in hand. 'If I change at Templecombe--for Bristol
(Bristol--Hereford--yes)--I can be with mother for breakfast in her room
and find out.'

'Quick, then,' said Nurse Blaber. 'We've passed Gillingham quite a
while. You'd better take some of our sandwiches.' She went out to get
them. Conroy and Miss Henschil would have danced, but there is no room
for giants in a South-Western compartment.

'Good-bye, good luck, lad. Eh, but you've changed already--like me. Send
a wire to our hotel as soon as you're sure,' said Miss Henschil. 'What
should I have done without you?'

'Or I?' said Conroy. 'But it's Nurse that's saving us really.'

'Then thank her,' said Miss Henschil, looking straight at him. 'Yes, I
would. She'd like it.'

When Nurse Blaber came back after the parting at Templecombe her nose
and her eyelids were red, but, for all that, her face reflected a great
light even while she sniffed over _The Cloister and the Hearth_.

Miss Henschil, deep in a house furnisher's catalogue, did not speak for
twenty minutes. Then she said, between adding totals of best, guest, and
servants' sheets, 'But why should our times have been the same, Nursey?'

'Because a child is born somewhere every second of the clock,' Nurse
Blaber answered. 'And besides that, you probably set each other off by
talking and thinking about it. You shouldn't, you know.'

'Ay, but you've never been in Hell,' said Miss Henschil.

The telegram handed in at Hereford at 12.46 and delivered to Miss
Henschil on the beach of a certain village at 2.7 ran thus:

'"_Absolutely confirmed. She says she remembers hearing noise of
accident in engine-room returning from India eighty-five._"'

'He means the year, not the thermometer,' said Nurse Blaber, throwing
pebbles at the cold sea.

'"_And two men scalded thus explaining my hoots._" (The idea of telling
me that!) "_Subsequently silly clergyman passenger ran up behind her
calling for joke, 'Friend, all is lost,' thus accounting very words._"'

Nurse Blaber purred audibly.

'"_She says only remembers being upset minute or two. Unspeakable
relief. Best love Nursey, who is jewel. Get out of her what she would
like best._" Oh, I oughtn't to have read that,' said Miss Henschil.

'It doesn't matter. I don't want anything,' said Nurse Blaber, 'and if I
did I shouldn't get it.'

'HELEN ALL ALONE'

There was darkness under Heaven
For an hour's space--
Darkness that we knew was given
Us for special grace.
Sun and moon and stars were hid,
God had left His Throne,
When Helen came to me, she did,
Helen all alone!

Side by side (because our fate
Damned us ere our birth)
We stole out of Limbo Gate
Looking for the Earth.
Hand in pulling hand amid
Fear no dreams have known,
Helen ran with me, she did,
Helen all alone!

When the Horror passing speech
Hunted us along,
Each laid hold on each, and each
Found the other strong.
In the teeth of things forbid
And Reason overthrown,
Helen stood by me, she did,
Helen all alone!

When, at last, we heard the Fires
Dull and die away,
When, at last, our linked desires
Dragged us up to day,
When, at last, our souls were rid
Of what that Night had shown,
Helen passed from me, she did,
Helen all alone!

Let her go and find a mate,
As I will find a bride,
Knowing naught of Limbo Gate
Or Who are penned inside.
There is knowledge God forbid
More than one should own.
So Helen went from me, she did,
Oh my soul, be glad she did!
Helen all alone!

The Honours of War

(1911)

A hooded motor had followed mine from the Guildford Road up the drive to
The Infant's ancestral hall, and had turned off to the stables.

'We're having a quiet evening together. Stalky's upstairs changing.
Dinner's at 7.15 sharp, because we're hungry. His room's next to yours,'
said The Infant, nursing a cobwebbed bottle of Burgundy.

Then I found Lieutenant-Colonel A.L. Corkran, I.A., who borrowed a
collar-stud and told me about the East and his Sikh regiment.

'And are your subalterns as good as ever?' I asked.

'Amazin'--simply amazin'! All I've got to do is to find 'em jobs. They
keep touchin' their caps to me and askin' for more work. 'Come at me
with their tongues hangin' out. _I_ used to run the other way at
their age.'

'And when they err?' said I. 'I suppose they do sometimes?'

'Then they run to me again to weep with remorse over their virgin
peccadilloes. I never cuddled my Colonel when I was in trouble.
Lambs--positive lambs!'

'And what do you say to 'em?'

'Talk to 'em like a papa. Tell 'em how I can't understand it, an' how
shocked I am, and how grieved their parents'll be; and throw in a
little about the Army Regulations and the Ten Commandments. 'Makes one
feel rather a sweep when one thinks of what one used to do at their age.
D'you remember--'

We remembered together till close on seven o'clock. As we went out into
the gallery that runs round the big hall, we saw The Infant, below,
talking to two deferential well-set-up lads whom I had known, on and
off, in the holidays, any time for the last ten years. One of them had a
bruised cheek, and the other a weeping left eye.

'Yes, that's the style,' said Stalky below his breath. 'They're brought
up on lemon-squash and mobilisation text-books. I say, the girls we knew
must have been much better than they pretended they were; for I'll swear
it isn't the fathers.'

'But why on earth did you do it?' The Infant was shouting. 'You know
what it means nowadays.'

'Well, sir,' said Bobby Trivett, the taller of the two, 'Wontner talks
too much, for one thing. He didn't join till he was twenty-three, and,
besides that, he used to lecture on tactics in the ante-room. He said
Clausewitz was the only tactician, and he illustrated his theories with
cigar-ends. He was that sort of chap, sir.'

'And he didn't much care whose cigar-ends they were,' said Eames, who
was shorter and pinker.

'And then he _would_ talk about the 'Varsity,' said Bobby. 'He got a
degree there. And he told us we weren't intellectual. He told the
Adjutant so, sir. He was just that kind of chap, sir, if you
understand.'

Stalky and I backed behind a tall Japanese jar of chrysanthemums and
listened more intently.

'Was all the Mess in it, or only you two?' The Infant demanded, chewing
his moustache.

'The Adjutant went to bed, of course, sir, and the Senior Subaltern said
he wasn't going to risk his commission--they're awfully down on ragging
nowadays in the Service--but the rest of us--er--attended to him,'
said Bobby.

'Much?' The Infant asked. The boys smiled deprecatingly.

'Not in the ante-room, sir,' said Eames. 'Then he called us silly
children, and went to bed, and we sat up discussin', and I suppose we
got a bit above ourselves, and we--er--'

'Went to his quarters and drew him?' The Infant suggested.

'Well, we only asked him to get out of bed, and we put his helmet and
sword-belt on for him, and we sung him bits out of the Blue Fairy
Book--the cram-book on Army organisation. Oh yes, and then we asked him
to drink old Clausewitz's health, as a brother-tactician, in milk-punch
and Worcester sauce, and so on. We had to help him a little there. He
bites. There wasn't much else that time; but, you know, the War Office
is severe on ragging these days.' Bobby stopped with a lopsided smile.

'And then,' Eames went on, 'then Wontner said we'd done several pounds'
worth of damage to his furniture.'

'Oh,' said The Infant, 'he's that kind of man, is he? Does he brush his
teeth?'

'Oh yes, he's quite clean all over!' said Trivett; 'but his father's a
wealthy barrister.'

'Solicitor,' Eames corrected, 'and so this Mister Wontner is out for our
blood. He's going to make a first-class row about it--appeal to the War
Office--court of inquiry--spicy bits in the papers, and songs in the
music-halls. He told us so.'

'That's the sort of chap he is,' said Trivett. 'And that means old
Dhurrah-bags, our Colonel, 'll be put on half-pay, same as that case in
the Scarifungers' Mess; and our Adjutant'll have to exchange, like it
was with that fellow in the 73rd Dragoons, and there'll be misery all
round. He means making it too hot for us, and his papa'll back him.'

'Yes, that's all very fine,' said The Infant; 'but I left the Service
about the time you were born, Bobby. What's it got to do with me?'

'Father told me I was always to go to you when I was in trouble, and
you've been awfully good to me since he ...'

'Better stay to dinner.' The Infant mopped his forehead.

'Thank you very much, but the fact is--' Trivett halted.

'This afternoon, about four, to be exact--' Eames broke in.

'We went over to Wontner's quarters to talk things over. The row only
happened last night, and we found him writing letters as hard as he
could to his father--getting up his case for the War Office, you know.
He read us some of 'em, but I'm not a good judge of style. We tried to
ride him off quietly--apologies and so forth--but it was the milk-punch
and mayonnaise that defeated us.'

'Yes, he wasn't taking anything except pure revenge,' said Eames.

'He said he'd make an example of the regiment, and he was particularly
glad that he'd landed our Colonel. He told us so. Old Dhurrah-bags don't
sympathise with Wontner's tactical lectures. He says Wontner ought to
learn manners first, but we thought--' Trivett turned to Eames, who was
less a son of the house than himself, Eames's father being still alive.

'Then,' Eames went on, 'he became rather noisome, and we thought we
might as well impound the correspondence'--he wrinkled his swelled left
eye--'and after that, we got him to take a seat in my car.'

'He was in a sack, you know,' Trivett explained. 'He wouldn't go any
other way. But we didn't hurt him.'

'Oh no! His head's sticking out quite clear, and'--Eames rushed the
fence--'we've put him in your garage--er _pendente lite_.'

'My garage!' Infant's voice nearly broke with horror.

'Well, father always told me if I was in trouble, Uncle George--'

Bobby's sentence died away as The Infant collapsed on a divan and said
no more than, 'Your commissions!' There was a long, long silence.

'What price your latter-day lime-juice subaltern?' I whispered to
Stalky behind my hand. His nostrils expanded, and he drummed on the edge
of the Japanese jar with his knuckles.

'Confound your father, Bobby!' The Infant groaned. 'Raggin's a criminal
offence these days. It isn't as if--'

'Come on,' said Stalky. 'That was my old Line battalion in Egypt. They
nearly slung old Dhurrah-bags and me out of the Service in '85 for
ragging.' He descended the stairs and The Infant rolled appealing
eyes at him.

'I heard what you youngsters have confessed,' he began; and in his
orderly-room voice, which is almost as musical as his singing one, he
tongue-lashed those lads in such sort as was a privilege and a
revelation to listen to. Till then they had known him almost as a
relative--we were all brevet, deputy, or acting uncles to The Infant's
friends' brood--a sympathetic elder brother, sound on finance. They had
never met Colonel A.L. Corkran in the Chair of Justice. And while he
flayed and rent and blistered, and wiped the floor with them, and while
they looked for hiding-places and found none on that floor, I remembered
(1) the up-ending of 'Dolly' Macshane at Dalhousie, which came
perilously near a court-martial on Second-Lieutenant Corkran; (2) the
burning of Captain Parmilee's mosquito-curtains on a hot Indian dawn,
when the captain slept in his garden, and Lieutenant Corkran, smoking,
rode by after a successful whist night at the club; (3) the
introduction of an ekka pony, with ekka attached, into a brother
captain's tent on a frosty night in Peshawur, and the removal of tent,
pole, cot, and captain all wrapped in chilly canvas; (4) the bath that
was given to Elliot-Hacker on his own verandah--his lady-love saw it and
broke off the engagement, which was what the Mess intended, she being an
Eurasian--and the powdering all over of Elliot-Hacker with flour and
turmeric from the bazaar.

When he took breath I realised how only Satan can rebuke sin. The good
don't know enough.

'Now,' said Stalky, 'get out! No, not out of the house. Go to your
rooms.'

'I'll send your dinner, Bobby,' said The Infant. 'Ipps!'

Nothing had ever been known to astonish Ipps, the butler. He entered and
withdrew with his charges. After all, he had suffered from Bobby since
Bobby's twelfth year.

'They've done everything they could, short of murder,' said The Infant.
'You know what this'll mean for the regiment. It isn't as if we were
dealing with Sahibs nowadays.'

'Quite so.' Stalky turned on me. 'Go and release the bagman,' he said.

''Tisn't my garage,' I pleaded. 'I'm company. Besides, he'll probably
slay me. He's been in the sack for hours.'

'Look here,' Stalky thundered--the years had fallen from us both--'is
your--am I commandin' or are you? We've got to pull this thing off
somehow or other. Cut over to the garage, make much of him, and bring
him over. He's dining with us. Be quick, you dithering ass!'

I was quick enough; but as I ran through the shrubbery I wondered how
one extricates the subaltern of the present day from a sack without
hurting his feelings. Anciently, one slit the end open, taking off his
boots first, and then fled.

Imagine a sumptuously-equipped garage, half-filled by The Infant's
cobalt-blue, grey-corded silk limousine and a mud-splashed, cheap,
hooded four-seater. In the back seat of this last, conceive a fiery
chestnut head emerging from a long oat-sack; an implacable white face,
with blazing eyes and jaws that worked ceaselessly at the loop of the
string that was drawn round its neck. The effect, under the electrics,
was that of a demon caterpillar wrathfully spinning its own cocoon.

'Good evening!' I said genially. 'Let me help you out of that.' The head
glared. 'We've got 'em,' I went on. 'They came to quite the wrong shop
for this sort of game--quite the wrong shop.'

'Game!' said the head. 'We'll see about that. Let me out.'

It was not a promising voice for one so young, and, as usual, I had no
knife.

'You've chewed the string so I can't find the knot,' I said as I worked
with trembling fingers at the cater-pillar's throat. Something untied
itself, and Mr. Wontner wriggled out, collarless, tieless, his coat
split half down his back, his waistcoat unbuttoned, his watch-chain
snapped, his trousers rucked well above the knees.

'Where,' he said grimly, as he pulled them down, 'are Master Trivett and
Master Eames?'

'Both arrested, of course,' I replied. 'Sir George'--I gave The Infant's
full title as a baronet--'is a Justice of the Peace. He'd be very
pleased if you dined with us. There's a room ready for you.' I picked
up the sack.

'D'you know,' said Mr. Wontner through his teeth--but the car's bonnet
was between us, 'that this looks to me like--I won't say conspiracy
_yet_, but uncommonly like a confederacy.'

When injured souls begin to distinguish and qualify, danger is over. So
I grew bold.

''Sorry you take it that way,' I said. 'You come here in trouble--'

'My good fool,' he interrupted, with a half-hysterical snort, 'let me
assure you that the trouble will recoil on the other men!'

'As you please,' I went on. 'Anyhow, the chaps who got you into trouble
are arrested, and the magistrate who arrested 'em asks you to dinner.
Shall I tell him you're walking back to Aldershot?'

He picked some fluff off his waistcoat.

'I'm in no position to dictate terms yet,' he said. 'That will come
later. I must probe into this a little further. In the meantime, I
accept your invitation without prejudice--if you understand what
that means.'

I understood and began to be happy again. Sub-alterns without
prejudices were quite new to me. 'All right,' I replied; 'if you'll go
up to the house, I'll turn out the lights.'

He walked off stiffly, while I searched the sack and the car for the
impounded correspondence that Bobby had talked of. I found nothing
except, as the police reports say, the trace of a struggle. He had
kicked half the varnish off the back of the front seat, and had bitten
the leather padding where he could reach it. Evidently a purposeful and
hard-mouthed young gentleman.

'Well done!' said Stalky at the door. 'So he didn't slay you. Stop
laughing. He's talking to The Infant now about depositions. Look here,
you're nearest his size. Cut up to your rooms and give Ipps your dinner
things and a clean shirt for him.'

'But I haven't got another suit,' I said.

'You! I'm not thinking of you! We've got to conciliate _him_. He's in
filthy rags and a filthy temper, and he won't feel decent till he's
dressed. You're the sacrifice. Be quick! And clean socks, remember!'

Once more I trotted up to my room, changed into unseasonable unbrushed
grey tweeds, put studs into a clean shirt, dug out fresh socks, handed
the whole garniture over to Ipps, and returned to the hall just in time
to hear Stalky say, 'I'm a stockbroker, but I have the honour to hold
His Majesty's commission in a Territorial battalion.' Then I felt as
though I might be beginning to be repaid.

'I have a very high opinion of the Territorials myself,' said Mr.
Wontner above a glass of sherry. (Infant never lets us put bitters into
anything above twenty years old.) 'But if you had any experience of the
Service, you would find that the Average Army Man--'

Here The Infant suggested changing, and Ipps, before whom no human
passion can assert itself, led Mr. Wontner away.

'Why the devil did you tell him I was on the Bench?' said Infant
wrathfully to me. 'You know I ain't now. Why didn't he stay in his
father's office? He's a raging blight!'

'Not a bit of it,' said Stalky cheerfully. 'He's a little shaken and
excited. Probably Beetle annoyed him in the garage, but we must overlook
that. We've contained him so far, and I'm going to nibble round his
outposts at dinner. All you've got to do, Infant, is to remember you're
a gentleman in your own house. Don't hop! You'll find it pretty
difficult before dinner's over. I don't want to hear anything at all
from you, Beetle.'

'But I'm just beginning to like him,' I said. 'Do let me play!'

'Not till I ask you. You'll overdo it. Poor old Dhurrah-bags! A scandal
'ud break him up!'

'But as long as a regiment has no say as to who joins it, it's bound to
rag,' Infant began. 'Why--why, they varnished me when I joined!' He
squirmed at the thought of it.

'Don't be owls! We ain't discussing principles! We've got to save the
court of inquiry if we can,' said Stalky.

Five minutes later--at 7.45 to be precise--we four sat down to such a
dinner as, I hold, only The Infant's cook can produce, with wines worthy
of pontifical banquets. A man in the extremity of rage and injured
dignity is precisely like a typhoid patient. He asks no questions,
accepts what is put before him, and babbles in one key--very often of
trifles. But food and drink are the very best of drugs. I think it was
Heidsieck Dry Monopole '92--Stalky as usual stuck to Burgundy--that
began to unlock Mr. Wontner's heart behind my shirt-front. Me he snubbed
throughout, after the Oxford manner, because I had seen him in the sack,
and he did not intend me to presume; but to Stalky and The Infant, while
I admired the set of my dinner-jacket across his shoulders, he made his
plans of revenge very clear indeed. He had even sketched out some of the
paragraphs that were to appear in the papers, and if Stalky had allowed
me to speak, I would have told him that they were rather neatly phrased.

'You ought to be able to get whackin' damages out of 'em, into the
bargain,' said Stalky, after Mr. Wontner had outlined his
position legally.

'My de-ah sir,' Mr. Wontner applied himself to his glass, 'it isn't a
matter that gentlemen usually discuss, but, I assure you, we
Wontners'--he waved a well-kept hand--'do not stand in any need of
filthy lucre.' In the next three minutes, we learned exactly what his
father was worth, which, as he pointed out, was a trifle no man of the
world dwelt on. Stalky envied aloud, and I delivered my first kick at
The Infant's ankle. Thence we drifted to education, and the Average Army
Man, and the desolating vacuity--I remember these words--of Army
Society, notably among its womenkind. It appeared there was some sort of
narrow convention in the Army against mentioning a woman's name at Mess.
We were much surprised at this--Stalky would not let me express my
surprise--but we took it from Mr. Wontner, who said we might, that it
was so. Next he touched on Colonels of the old school, and their
cognisance of tactics. Not that he himself pretended to any skill in
tactics, but after three years at the 'Varsity--none of us had had a
'Varsity education--a man insensibly contracted the habit of clear
thinking. At least, he could automatically co-ordinate his ideas, and
the jealousy of these muddle-headed Colonels was inconceivable. We would
understand that it was his duty to force on the retirement of his
Colonel, who had been in the conspiracy against him; to make his
Adjutant resign or exchange; and to give the half-dozen childish
subalterns who had vexed his dignity a chance to retrieve themselves in
other corps--West African ones, he hoped. For himself, after the case
was decided, he proposed to go on living in the regiment, just to
prove--for he bore no malice--that times had changed, _nosque mutamur in
illis_--if we knew what that meant. Infant had curled his legs out of
reach, so I was quite free to return thanks yet once more to Allah for
the diversity of His creatures in His adorable world.

And so, by way of an eighty-year-old liqueur brandy, to tactics and the
great General Clausewitz, unknown to the Average Army Man. Here The
Infant, at a whisper from Ipps--whose face had darkened like a mulberry
while he waited--excused himself and went away, but Stalky, Colonel of
Territorials, wanted some tips on tactics. He got them unbrokenly for
ten minutes--Wontner and Clausewitz mixed, but Wontner in a film of
priceless cognac distinctly on top. When The Infant came back, he
renewed his clear-spoken demand that Infant should take his depositions.
I supposed this to be a family trait of the Wontners, whom I had been
visualising for some time past even to the third generation.

'But, hang it all, they're both asleep!' said Infant, scowling at me.
'Ipps let 'em have the '81 port.'

'Asleep!' said Stalky, rising at once. 'I don't see that makes any
difference. As a matter of form, you'd better identify them. I'll show
you the way.'

We followed up the white stone side-staircase that leads to the
bachelors' wing. Mr. Wontner seemed surprised that the boys were not in
the coal-cellar.

'Oh, a chap's assumed to be innocent until he's proved guilty,' said
Stalky, mounting step by step. 'How did they get you into the sack,
Mr. Wontner?'

'Jumped on me from behind--two to one,' said Mr. Wontner briefly. 'I
think I handed each of them something first, but they roped my arms
and legs.'

'And did they photograph you in the sack?'

'Good Heavens, no!' Mr. Wontner shuddered.

'That's lucky. Awful thing to live down--a photograph, isn't it?' said
Stalky to me as we reached the landing. 'I'm thinking of the newspapers,
of course.'

'Oh, but you can easily have sketches in the illustrated papers from
accounts supplied by eye-witnesses,' I said.

Mr. Wontner turned him round. It was the first time he had honoured me
by his notice since our talk in the garage.

'Ah,' said he, 'do you pretend to any special knowledge in these
matters?'

'I'm a journalist by profession,' I answered simply but nobly. 'As soon
as you're at liberty, I'd like to have your account of the affair.'

Now I thought he would have loved me for this, but he only replied in an
uncomfortable, uncoming-on voice, 'Oh, you would, would you?'

'Not if it's any trouble, of course,' I said. 'I can always get their
version from the defendants. Do either of 'em draw or sketch at all, Mr.
Wontner? Or perhaps your father might--'

Then he said quite hotly, 'I wish you to understand very clearly, my
good man, that a gentleman's name can't be dragged through the gutter to
bolster up the circulation of your wretched sheet, whatever it may be.'

'It is ----' I named a journal of enormous sales which specialises in
scholastic, military, and other scandals. 'I don't know yet what it
can't do, Mr. Wontner.'

'I didn't know that I was dealing with a reporter' said Mr. Wontner.

We were all halted outside a shut door. Ipps had followed us.

'But surely you want it in the papers, don't you?' I urged. 'With a
scandal like this, one couldn't, in justice to the democracy, be
exclusive. We'd syndicate it here and in the United States. I helped you
out of the sack, if you remember.'

'I wish to goodness you'd stop talking!' he snapped, and sat down on a
chair. Stalky's hand on my shoulder quietly signalled me out of action,
but I felt that my fire had not been misdirected.

'I'll answer for him,' said Stalky to Wontner, in an undertone that
dropped to a whisper. I caught--'Not without my leave--dependent on me
for market-tips,' and other gratifying tributes to my integrity.

Still Mr. Wontner sat in his chair, and still we waited on him. The
Infant's face showed worry and heavy grief; Stalky's, a bright and
bird-like interest; mine was hidden behind his shoulders, but on the
face of Ipps were written emotions that no butler should cherish towards
any guest. Contempt and wrath were the least of them. And Mr. Wontner
was looking full at Ipps, as Ipps was looking at him. Mr. Wontner's
father, I understood, kept a butler and two footmen.

'D'you suppose they're shamming, in order to get off?' he said at last.
Ipps shook his head and noiselessly threw the door open. The boys had
finished their dinner and were fast asleep--one on a sofa, one in a long
chair--their faces fallen back to the lines of their childhood. They had
had a wildish night, a hard day, that ended with a telling-off from an
artist, and the assurance they had wrecked their prospects for life.
What else should youth do, then, but eat, and drink '81 port, and
remember their sorrows no more?

Mr. Wontner looked at them severely, Ipps within easy reach, his hands
quite ready. 'Childish,' said Mr. Wontner at last. 'Childish but
necessary. Er--have you such a thing as a rope on the premises, and a
sack--two sacks and two ropes? I'm afraid I can't resist the temptation.
That man understands, doesn't he, that this is a private matter?'

'That man,' who was me, was off to the basement like one of Infant's own
fallow-deer. The stables gave me what I wanted, and coming back with it
through a dark passage, I ran squarely into Ipps. 'Go on!' he grunted.
'The minute he lays hands on Master Bobby, Master Bobby's saved. But
that person ought to be told how near he came to being assaulted. It was
touch-and-go with me all the time from the soup down, I assure you.'

I arrived breathless with the sacks and the ropes. 'They were two to one
with me,' said Mr. Wontner, as he took them. 'If they wake--'

'We'll stand by,' Stalky replied. 'Two to one is quite fair.'

But the boys hardly grunted as Mr. Wontner roped first one and then the
other. Even when they were slid into the sacks they only mumbled, with
rolling heads, through sticky lips, and snored on.

'Port?' said Mr. Wontner virtuously.

'Nervous exhaustion. They aren't much more than kids, after all. What's
next?' said Stalky.

'I want to take 'em away with me, please.'

Stalky looked at him with respect.

'I'll have my car round in five minutes,' said The Infant. 'Ipps'll help
carry 'em downstairs,' and he shook Mr. Wontner by the hand.

We were all perfectly serious till the two bundles were dumped on a
divan in the hall, and the boys waked and began to realise what
had happened.

'Yah!' said Mr. Wontner, with the simplicity of twelve years old. 'Who's
scored now?' And he sat upon them. The tension broke in a storm of
laughter, led, I think, by Ipps.

'Asinine--absolutely asinine!' said Mr. Wontner, with folded arms from
his lively chair. But he drank in the flattery and the fellowship of it
all with quite a brainless grin, as we rolled and stamped round him, and
wiped the tears from our cheeks.

'Hang it!' said Bobby Trivett. 'We're defeated!'

'By tactics, too,' said Eames. 'I didn't think you knew 'em, Clausewitz.
It's a fair score. What are you going to do with us?'

'Take you back to Mess,' said Mr. Wontner.

'Not like this?'

'Oh no. Worse--much worse! I haven't begun with you yet. And you
thought you'd scored! Yah!'

They had scored beyond their wildest dream. The man in whose hands it
lay to shame them, their Colonel, their Adjutant, their Regiment, and
their Service, had cast away all shadow of his legal rights for the sake
of a common or bear-garden rag--such a rag as if it came to the ears of
the authorities, would cost him his commission. They were saved, and
their saviour was their equal and their brother. So they chaffed and
reviled him as such till he again squashed the breath out of them, and
we others laughed louder than they.

'Fall in!' said Stalky when the limousine came round. 'This is the score
of the century. I wouldn't miss it for a brigade! We shan't be
long, Infant!'

I hurried into a coat.

'Is there any necessity for that reporter-chap to come too?' said Mr.
Wontner in an unguarded whisper. 'He isn't dressed for one thing.'

Bobby and Eames wriggled round to look at the reporter, began a joyous
bellow, and suddenly stopped.

'What's the matter?' said Wontner with suspicion.

'Nothing,' said Bobby. 'I die happy, Clausewitz. Take me up tenderly.'

We packed into the car, bearing our sheaves with us, and for half an
hour, as the cool night-air fanned his thoughtful brow, Mr. Wontner was
quite abreast of himself. Though he said nothing unworthy, he triumphed
and trumpeted a little loudly over the sacks. I sat between them on the
back seat, and applauded him servilely till he reminded me that what I
had seen and what he had said was not for publication. I hinted, while
the boys plunged with joy inside their trappings, that this might be a
matter for arrangement. 'Then a sovereign shan't part us,' said Mr.
Wontner cheerily, and both boys fell into lively hysterics. 'I don't see
where the joke comes in for you,' said Mr. Wontner. 'I thought it was my
little jokelet to-night.'

'No, Clausewitz,' gasped Bobby. 'Some is, but not all. I'll be good now.
I'll give you my parole till we get to Mess. I wouldn't be out of this
for a fiver.'

'Nor me,' said Eames, and he gave his parole to attempt no escape or
evasion.

'Now, I suppose,' said Mr. Wontner largely to Stalky, as we neared the
suburbs of Ash, 'you have a good deal of practical joking on the Stock
Exchange, haven't you?'

'And when were you on the Stock Exchange, Uncle Leonard?' piped Bobby,
while Eames laid his sobbing head on my shoulder.

'I'm sorry,' said Stalky, 'but the fact is, I command a regiment myself
when I'm at home. Your Colonel knows me, I think.' He gave his name. Mr.
Wontner seemed to have heard of it. We had to pick Eames off the floor,
where he had cast himself from excess of delight.

'Oh, Heavens!' said Mr. Wontner after a long pause. 'What have I done?
What haven't I done?' We felt the temperature in the car rise as
he blushed.

'You didn't talk tactics, Clausewitz?' said Bobby. 'Oh, say it wasn't
tactics, darling!'

'It was,' said Wontner.

Eames was all among our feet again, crying, 'If you don't let me get my
arms up, I'll be sick. Let's hear what you said. Tell us.'

But Mr. Wontner turned to Stalky. 'It's no good my begging your pardon,
sir, I suppose,' he said.

'Don't you notice 'em,' said Stalky. 'It was a fair rag all round, and
anyhow, you two youngsters haven't any right to talk tactics. You've
been rolled up, horse, foot, and guns.'

'I'll make a treaty. If you'll let us go and change presently,' said
Bobby, 'I'll promise we won't tell about you, Clausewitz. _You_ talked
tactics to Uncle Len? Old Dhurrah-bags will like that. He don't love
you, Claus.'

'If I've made one ass of myself, I shall take extra care to make asses
of you!' said Wontner. 'I want to stop, please, at the next milliner's
shop on the right. It ought to be close here.'

He evidently knew the country even in the dark, for the car stopped at a
brilliantly-lighted millinery establishment, where--it was Saturday
evening--a young lady was clearing up the counter. I followed him, as a
good reporter should.

'Have you got--' he began. 'Ah, those'll do!' He pointed to two hairy
plush beehive bonnets, one magenta, the other a conscientious electric
blue. 'How much, please? I'll take them both, and that bunch of peacock
feathers, and that red feather thing.' It was a brilliant crimson-dyed
pigeon's wing.

'Now I want some yards of muslin with a nice, fierce pattern, please.'
He got it--yellow with black tulips--and returned heavily laden.

'Sorry to have kept you,' said he. 'Now we'll go to my quarters to
change and beautify.'

We came to them--opposite a dun waste of parade-ground that might have
been Mian Mir--and bugles as they blew and drums as they rolled set
heart-strings echoing.

We hoisted the boys out and arranged them on chairs, while Wontner
changed into uniform, but stopped when he saw me taking off my jacket.

'What on earth's that for?' said he.

'Because you've been wearing my evening things,' I said. 'I want to get
into 'em again, if you don't mind.'

'Then you aren't a reporter?' he said.

'No,' I said, 'but that shan't part us.'

'Oh, hurry!' cried Eames in desperate convulsions. 'We can't stand this
much longer. 'Tisn't fair on the young.'

'I'll attend to you in good time,' said Wontner; and when he had made
careful toilet, he unwrapped the bonnets, put the peacock's feather into
the magenta one, pinned the crimson wing on the blue one, set them
daintily on the boys' heads, and bade them admire the effect in his
shaving-glass while he ripped the muslin into lengths, bound it first,
and draped it artistically afterwards a little below their knees. He
finished off with a gigantic sash-bow, obi fashion. 'Hobble skirts,' he
explained to Stalky, who nodded approval.

Next he split open the bottom of each sack so that they could walk, but
with very short steps. 'I ought to have got you white satin slippers,'
he murmured, 'and I'm sorry there's no rouge.'

'Don't worry on our account, old man--you're doing us proud,' said Bobby
from under his hat. 'This beats milk-punch and mayonnaise.'

'Oh, why didn't we think of these things when we had him at our mercy?'
Eames wailed. 'Never mind--we'll try it on the next chap. You've a
mind, Claus.'

'Now we'll call on 'em at Mess,' said Wontner, as they minced towards
the door.

'I think I'll call on your Colonel,' said Stalky. 'He oughtn't to miss
this. Your first attempt? I assure you I couldn't have done it better
myself. Thank you!' He held out his hand.

'Thank _you_, sir!' said Wontner, shaking it. 'I'm more grateful to you
than I can say, and--and I'd like you to believe some time that I'm not
quite as big a--'

'Not in the least,' Stalky interrupted. 'If I were writing a
confidential report on you, I should put you down as rather adequate.
Look after your geishas, or they'll fall!'

We watched the three cross the road and disappear into the shadow of the
Mess verandah. There was a noise. Then telephone bells rang, a sergeant
and a Mess waiter charged out, and the noise grew, till at last the Mess
was a little noisy.

We came back, ten minutes later, with Colonel Dalziell, who had been
taking his sorrows to bed with him. The ante-room was quite full and
visitors were still arriving, but it was possible to hear oneself speak
occasionally. Trivett and Eames, in sack and sash, sat side by side on a
table, their hats at a ravishing angle, coquettishly twiddling their
tied feet. In the intervals of singing 'Put Me Among the Girls,' they
sipped whisky-and-soda held to their lips by, I regret to say, a Major.
Public opinion seemed to be against allowing them to change their
costume till they should have danced in it. Wontner, lying more or less
gracefully at the level of the chandelier in the arms of six subalterns,
was lecturing on tactics and imploring to be let down, which he was with
a run when they realised that the Colonel was there. Then he picked
himself up from the sofa and said: 'I want to apologise, sir, to you and
the Mess for having been such an ass ever since I joined!'

This was when the noise began.

Seeing the night promised to be wet, Stalky and I went home again in The
Infant's car. It was some time since we had tasted the hot air that lies
between the cornice and the ceiling of crowded rooms.

After half an hour's silence, Stalky said to me: 'I don't know what
you've been doing, but I believe I've been weepin'. Would you put that
down to Burgundy or senile decay?'

THE CHILDREN

These were our children who died for our lands: they
were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their home-treasured
sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not
another's hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
_But who shall return us the children_?

At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts
that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time
prepared for us--
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment
o'ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning.

Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour.
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed
on them.

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven--
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled on the wires--
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes--to be cindered by fires--
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.
_But who shall return us our children_?

The Dog Hervey

(April 1914)

My friend Attley, who would give away his own head if you told him you
had lost yours, was giving away a six-months-old litter of Bettina's
pups, and half-a-dozen women were in raptures at the show on
Mittleham lawn.

We picked by lot. Mrs. Godfrey drew first choice; her married daughter,
second. I was third, but waived my right because I was already owned by
Malachi, Bettina's full brother, whom I had brought over in the car to
visit his nephews and nieces, and he would have slain them all if I had
taken home one. Milly, Mrs. Godfrey's younger daughter, pounced on my
rejection with squeals of delight, and Attley turned to a dark,
sallow-skinned, slack-mouthed girl, who had come over for tennis, and
invited her to pick. She put on a pince-nez that made her look like a
camel, knelt clumsily, for she was long from the hip to the knee,
breathed hard, and considered the last couple.

'I think I'd like that sandy-pied one,' she said.

'Oh, not him, Miss Sichliffe!' Attley cried. 'He was overlaid or had
sunstroke or something. They call him The Looney in the kennels.
Besides, he squints.'

'I think that's rather fetching,' she answered. Neither Malachi nor I
had ever seen a squinting dog before.

'That's chorea--St. Vitus's dance,' Mrs. Godfrey put in. 'He ought to
have been drowned.'

'But I like his cast of countenance,' the girl persisted.

'He doesn't look a good life,' I said, 'but perhaps he can be patched
up.' Miss Sichliffe turned crimson; I saw Mrs. Godfrey exchange a glance
with her married daughter, and knew I had said something which would
have to be lived down.

'Yes,' Miss Sichliffe went on, her voice shaking, 'he isn't a good life,
but perhaps I can--patch him up. Come here, sir.' The misshapen beast
lurched toward her, squinting down his own nose till he fell over his
own toes. Then, luckily, Bettina ran across the lawn and reminded
Malachi of their puppyhood. All that family are as queer as Dick's
hatband, and fight like man and wife. I had to separate them, and Mrs.
Godfrey helped me till they retired under the rhododendrons and had it
out in silence.

'D'you know what that girl's father was?' Mrs. Godfrey asked.

'No,' I replied. 'I loathe her for her own sake. She breathes through
her mouth.'

'He was a retired doctor,' she explained. 'He used to pick up stormy
young men in the repentant stage, take them home, and patch them up till
they were sound enough to be insured. Then he insured them heavily, and
let them out into the world again--with an appetite. Of course, no one
knew him while he was alive, but he left pots of money to his daughter.'

'Strictly legitimate--highly respectable,' I said. 'But what a life for
the daughter!'

'Mustn't it have been! _Now_ d'you realise what you said just now?'

'Perfectly; and now you've made me quite happy, shall we go back to the
house?'

When we reached it they were all inside, sitting in committee on names.

'What shall you call yours?' I heard Milly ask Miss Sichliffe.

'Harvey,' she replied--'Harvey's Sauce, you know. He's going to be quite
saucy when I've'--she saw Mrs. Godfrey and me coming through the French
window--'when he's stronger.'

Attley, the well-meaning man, to make me feel at ease, asked what I
thought of the name.

'Oh, splendid,' I said at random. 'H with an A, A with an R, R with a--'

'But that's Little Bingo,' some one said, and they all laughed.

Miss Sichliffe, her hands joined across her long knees, drawled, 'You
ought always to verify your quotations.'

It was not a kindly thrust, but something in the word 'quotation' set
the automatic side of my brain at work on some shadow of a word or
phrase that kept itself out of memory's reach as a cat sits just beyond
a dog's jump. When I was going home, Miss Sichliffe came up to me in the
twilight, the pup on a leash, swinging her big shoes at the end of her
tennis-racket.

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