TOMASO'S FORTUNE AND OTHER STORIES
By Henry Seton Merriman.
"The common problem, yours, mine, every one's,
Is—not to fancy what were fair in life
Provided it could be,—but, finding first
What may be, then find how to make it fair...."
A SMALL WORLD
IN A CROOKED WAY
THE TALE OF A SCORPION
ON THE ROCKS
IN LOVE AND WAR
PUTTING THINGS RIGHT
FOR JUANITA'S SAKE
AT THE FRONT
THE END OF THE "MOOROO"
IN A CARAVAN
IN THE TRACK OF THE WANDERING JEW
THROUGH THE GATE OF TEARS
THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN
It does not matter where it was. I do not want other people—that is
to say, those who were around us—to recognize Sister or myself. It
is not likely that she will see this, and I am not sure that she knows my
name. Of course, some one may draw her attention to this paper, and she
may remember that the name affixed to it is that which I signed at the
foot of a document we made out together—namely, a return of deaths.
At the foot of this paper our names stood one beneath the other—stand
there still, perhaps, in some forgotten bundle of papers at the War
I only hope that she will not see this, for she might consider it a breach
of professional etiquette; and I attach great importance to the opinion of
this woman, whom I have only seen once in my whole life. Moreover, on that
occasion she was subordinate to me—more or less in the position of a
Suffice it to say, therefore, that it was war-time, and our trade was what
the commercial papers call brisk. A war better remembered of the young
than of the old, because it was, comparatively speaking, recent. The old
fellows seem to remember the old fights better—those fights that
were fought when their blood was still young and the vessels thereof
It was, by the way, my first campaign, but I was not new to the business
of blood; for I am no soldier—only a doctor. My only uniform—my
full-parade dress—is a red cross on the arm of an old blue serge
jacket—such jacket being much stained with certain dull patches
which are better not investigated.
All who have taken part in war—doing the damage or repairing it—know
that things are not done in quite the same way when ball-cartridge is
served out instead of blank. The correspondents are very fond of reporting
that the behaviour of the men suggested a parade—which simile, it is
to be presumed, was borne in upon their fantastic brains by its utter
inapplicability. The parade may be suggested before the real work begins—when
it is a question of marching away from the landing-stage; but after the
work—our work—has begun, there is remarkably little
resemblance to a review.
We are served with many official papers which we never fill in, because,
on the spur of the moment, it is apt to suggest itself that men's lives
are more important. We misapply a vast majority of our surgical supplies,
because the most important item is usually left behind at headquarters or
at the seaport depot. In fact, we do many things that we should leave
undone, and omit to do more which we are expected (officially) to do.
For some reason—presumably the absence of better men—I was
sent up to the front before we had been three days at work. Our hospital
by the river was not full when I received orders to follow the flying
column with two assistants and the appliances of a field-hospital.
Out of this little nucleus sprang the largest depot for sick and wounded
that was formed during the campaign. We were within easy reach of
headquarters, and I was fortunately allowed a free hand. Thus our
establishment in the desert grew daily more important, and finally
superseded the hospital at headquarters.
We had a busy time, for the main column had now closed up with the first
expeditionary force, and our troops were in touch with the enemy not forty
miles away from me.
In the course of time—when the authorities learnt to cease despising
the foe, which is a little failing in British military high places—it
was deemed expedient to fortify us, and then, in addition to two medical
assistants, I was allowed three Government nurses. This last piece of news
was not hailed with so much enthusiasm as might have been expected. I am
not in favour of bringing women anywhere near the front. They are, for
their own sakes and for the peace of mind of others, much better left
behind. If they are beyond a certain age they break down and have to be
sent back at considerable trouble—that is to say, an escort and an
ambulance cart, of which latter there are never enough. If they are below
the climacteric—ever so little below it—they cause mischief of
another description, and the wounded are neglected; for there is no
passion of the human heart so cruel and selfish as love.
"I am sorry to hear it," I said to light-hearted little Sammy
Fitz-Warrener of the Naval Brigade, who brought me the news.
"Sorry to hear it? Gad! I shouldn't be. The place has got a different look
about it when there are women-folk around. They are so jolly clever in
their ways—worth ten of your red-cross ruffians."
"That is as may be," I answered, breaking open the case of whisky which
Sammy had brought up on the carriage of his machine-gun for my private
He was taking this machine-gun up to the front, and mighty proud he was of
"A clever gun," he called it; "an almighty clever gun."
He had ridden alongside of it—sitting on the top of his horse as
sailors do—through seventy miles of desert without a halt; watching
over it and tending it as he might have watched and tended his mother, or
perhaps some other woman.
"Gad! doctor," he exclaimed, kicking out his sturdy legs, and
contemplating with some satisfaction the yellow hide top-boots which he
had bought at the Army and Navy Stores. (I know the boots well, and—avoid
them.) "Gad! doctor, you should see that gun on the war-path. Travels as
light as a tricycle. And when she begins to talk—my stars!
Click-click-click-click! For all the world like a steam-launch's engine—mowing
'em down all the time. No work for you there. It will be no use you and
your satellites progging about with skewers for the bullet. Look at the
other side, my boy, and you'll find the beauty has just walked through
"Soda or plain?" I asked, in parenthesis.
"Soda. I don't like the flavour of dead camel. A big drink, please. I feel
as if I were lined with sand-paper."
He slept that night in the little shanty built of mud and roofed chiefly
with old palm-mats, which was gracefully called the head surgeon's
quarters. That is to say, he partook of such hospitality as I had to offer
Sammy and I had met before he had touched a rope or I a scalpel. We hailed
from the same part of the country—down Devonshire way; and, to a
limited extent, we knew each other's people—which little phrase has
a vast meaning in places where men do congregate.
We turned in pretty early—I on a hospital mattress, he in my bed;
but Sam would not go to sleep. He would lie with his arms above his head
(which is not an attitude of sleep) and talk about that everlasting gun.
I dozed off to the murmur of his voice expatiating on the extreme cunning
of the ejector, and awoke to hear details of the rifling.
We did not talk of home, as do men in books when lying by a camp-fire.
Perhaps it was owing to the absence of that picturesque adjunct to a
soldier's life. We talked chiefly of the clever gun; and once, just before
he fell asleep, Sammy returned to the question of the nurses.
"Yes," he said, "the head saw-bones down there told me to tell you that he
had got permission to send you three nurses. Treat 'em kindly, Jack, for
my sake. Bless their hearts! They mean well."
Then he fell asleep, and left me thinking of his words, and of the spirit
which had prompted them.
I knew really nothing of this man's life, but he seemed singularly happy,
with that happiness which only comes when daily existence has a background
to it. He spoke habitually of women, as if he loved them all for the sake
of one; and this not being precisely my own position, I was glad when he
The fort was astir next morning at four. The bugler kindly blew a blast
into our glassless window which left no doubt about it.
"That means all hands on deck, I take it," said Sam, who was one of the
few men capable of good humour before tiffin time.
By six o'clock he was ready to go. It was easy to see what sort of officer
this cheery sailor was by the way his men worked.
While they were getting the machine-gun limbered up, Sam came back to my
quarters, and took a hasty breakfast.
"Feel a bit down this morning," he said, with a gay smile. "Cheap—very
cheap. I hope I am not going to funk it. It is all very well for some of
you long-faced fellows, who don't seem to have much to live for, to fight
for the love of fighting. I don't want to fight any man; I am too fond of
'em all for that."
I went out after breakfast, and I gave him a leg up on to his very sorry
horse, which he sat like a tailor or a sailor. He held the reins like
tiller-lines, and indulged in a pleased smile at the effect of the yellow
"No great hand at this sort of thing," he said, with a nod of farewell.
"When the beast does anything out of the common, or begins to make heavy
weather of it, I AM NOT."
He ranged up alongside his beloved gun, and gave the word of command with
more dignity than he knew what to do with.
All that day I was employed in arranging quarters for the nurses. To do
this I was forced to turn some of our most precious stores out into the
open, covering them with a tarpaulin, and in consequence felt all the more
assured that my chief was making a great mistake.
At nine o'clock in the evening they arrived, one of the juniors having
ridden out in the moonlight to meet them. He reported them completely
exhausted; informed me that he had recommended them to go straight to bed;
and was altogether more enthusiastic about the matter than I personally or
officially cared to see.
He handed me a pencil note from my chief at headquarters, explaining that
he had not written me a despatch because he had nothing but a "J" pen,
with which instrument he could not make himself legible. It struck me that
he was suffering from a plethora of assistance, and was anxious to reduce
I sent my enthusiastic assistant to the nurses' quarters, with a message
that they were not to report themselves to me until they had had a night's
rest. Then I turned in.
At midnight I was awakened by the orderly, and summoned to the tent of the
officer in command. This youth's face was considerably whiter than his
linen. He was consulting with his second in command, a boy of twenty-two
A man covered with sand and blood was sitting in a hammock-chair, rubbing
his eyes, and drinking something out of a tumbler.
"News from the front?" I inquired without ceremony, which hindrance we had
long since dispensed with.
"Yes, and bad news."
It certainly was not pleasant hearing. Some one mentioned the word
"disaster," and we looked at each other with hard, anxious eyes. I thought
of the women, and almost decided to send them back before daylight.
In a few moments a fresh man was roused out of his bed, and sent full
gallop through the moonlight across the desert to headquarters, and the
officer in command began to regain confidence. I think he extracted it
from the despatch-bearer's tumbler. After all, he was not responsible for
much. He was merely a connecting-link, a point of touch between two
It was necessary to get my men to work at once, but I gave particular
orders to leave the nurses undisturbed. Disaster at the front meant hard
work at the rear. We all knew that, and endeavoured to make ready for a
sudden rush of wounded.
The rush began before daylight. As they came in we saw to them, dressing
their wounds and packing them as closely as possible. But the stream was
continuous. They never stopped coming; they never gave us a moment's rest.
At six o'clock I gave orders to awaken the nurses and order them to
prepare their quarters for the reception of the wounded. At half-past six
an Army Hospital Corps man came to me in the ward.
"Shockin' case, sir, just come in," he said. "Officer. Gun busted, sir."
"Take him to my quarters," I said, wiping my instruments on my sleeve.
In a few minutes I followed, and on entering my little room the first
thing I saw was a pair of yellow boots.
There was no doubt about the boots and the white duck trousers, and
although I could not see the face, I knew that this was Sammy
Fitz-Warrener come back again.
A woman—one of the nurses for whom he had pleaded—was bending
over the bed with a sponge and a basin of tepid water. As I entered she
turned upon me a pair of calmly horror-stricken eyes.
"OH!" she whispered meaningly, stepping back to let me approach. I had no
time to notice then that she was one of those largely built women, with
perfect skin and fair hair, who make one think of what England must have
been before Gallic blood got to be so widely disseminated in the race.
"Please pull down that mat from the window," I said, indicating a
temporary blind which I had put up.
She did so promptly, and returned to the bedside, falling into position as
it were, awaiting my orders.
I bent over the bed, and I must confess that what I saw there gave me a
thrill of horror which will come again at times so long as I live.
I made a sign to Sister to continue her task of sponging away the mud, of
which one ingredient was sand.
"Both eyes," she whispered, "are destroyed."
"Not the top of the skull," I said; "you must not touch that."
For we both knew that our task was without hope.
As I have said, I knew something of Fitz-Warrener's people, and I could
not help lingering there, where I could do no good, when I knew that I was
Suddenly his lips moved, and Sister, kneeling down on the floor, bent over
I could not hear what he said, but I think she did. I saw her lips frame
the whisper "Yes" in reply, and over her face there swept suddenly a look
of great tenderness.
After a little pause she rose and came to me.
"Who is he?" she asked.
"Fitz-Warrener of the Naval Brigade. Do you know him?"
"No, I never heard of him. Of course—it is quite hopeless?"
She returned to her position by the bedside, with one arm laid across his
Presently he began whispering again, and at intervals she answered him. It
suddenly occurred to me that, in his unconsciousness, he was mistaking her
for some one else, and that she, for some woman's reason, was deceiving
In a few moments I was sure of this.
I tried not to look; but I saw it all. I saw his poor blind hands wander
over her throat and face, up to her hair.
"What is this?" he muttered quite distinctly, with that tone of
self-absorption which characterizes the sayings of an unconscious man.
"What is this silly cap?"
His fingers wandered on over the snowy linen until they came to the
As an aspirant to the title of gentleman, I felt like running away—many
doctors know this feeling; as a doctor, I could only stay.
His fingers fumbled with the strings. Still Sister bent over the bed.
Perhaps she bent an inch or two nearer. One hand was beneath his neck,
supporting the poor shattered head.
He slowly drew off the cap, and his fingers crept lovingly over the soft
"Marny," he said, quite clearly, "you've done your hair up, and you're
nothing but a little girl, you know—nothing but a little girl."
I could not help watching his fingers, and yet I felt like a man
"When I left you," said the brainless voice, "you wore it down your back.
You were a little girl—you are a little girl now." And he slowly
drew a hairpin out.
One long lock fell curling to her shoulder. She never looked up, never
noticed me, but knelt there like a ministering angel—personating for
a time a girl whom we had never seen.
"My little girl," he added, with a low laugh, and drew out another
In a few moments all her hair was about her shoulders. I had never thought
that she might be carrying such glory quietly hidden beneath the simple
"That is better," he said—"that is better." And he let all the
hairpins fall on the coverlet. "Now you are my own Marny," he murmured.
"Are you not?"
She hesitated one moment. "Yes, dear," she said softly. "I am your own
With her disengaged hand she stroked his blanching cheek. There was a
certain science about her touch, as if she had once known something of
Lovingly and slowly the smoke-grimed fingers passed over the wonderful
hair, smoothing it.
Then he grew more daring. He touched her eyes, her gentle cheeks, the
quiet, strong lips. He slipped to her shoulder, and over the soft folds of
her black dress.
"Been gardening?" he asked, coming to the bib of her nursing apron.
It was marvellous how the brain, which was laid open to the day, retained
the consciousness of one subject so long.
"Yes—dear," she whispered.
"Your old apron is all wet!" he said reproachfully, touching her breast
where the blood—his own blood—was slowly drying.
His hand passed on, and as it touched her, I saw her eyes soften into such
a wonderful tenderness that I felt as if I were looking on a part of
Sister's life which was sacred.
I saw a little movement as if to draw back, then she resolutely held her
position. But her eyes were dull with a new pain. I wonder—I have
wondered ever since—what memories that poor senseless wreck of a man
was arousing in the woman's heart by his wandering touch.
"Marny," he said, "Marny. It was not TOO hard waiting for me?"
"It will be all right now, Marny. The bad part is all past."
"Marny, you remember—the night—I left—Marny—I want—no—no,
I knelt suddenly, and slipped my hand within his shirt, for I saw
something in his face.
As Sister's lips touched his I felt his heart give a great bound within
his breast, and then it was still. When she lifted her face it was as pale
I must say that I felt like crying—a feeling which had not come to
me for twenty years. I busied myself purposely with the dead man, and when
I had finished my task I turned, and found Sister filling in the papers—her
cap neatly tied, her golden hair hidden.
I signed the certificate, placing my name beneath hers.
For a moment we stood. Our eyes met, and—we said nothing. She moved
towards the door, and I held it open while she passed out.
Two hours later I received orders from the officer in command to send the
nurses back to headquarters. Our men were falling back before the enemy.
A SMALL WORLD
"Thine were the calming eyes
That round my pinnace could have stilled the sea,
And drawn thy voyager home, and bid him be
Pure with their pureness, with their wisdom wise,
Merged in their light, and greatly lost in thee."
It was midday at the monastery of Montserrat, and a monk, walking in the
garden, turned and paused in his meditative promenade to listen to an
unwonted noise. The silence of this sacred height is so intense that many
cannot sleep at night for the hunger of a sound. There is no running water
except the fountain in the patio. There are no birds to tell of spring and
morning. There are no trees for the cool night winds to stir, nothing but
eternal rock and the ancient building so closely associated with the life
of Ignatius de Loyola. The valley, a sheer three thousand feet below, is
thinly enough populated, though a great river and the line of railway from
Manresa to Barcelona run through it. So clear is the atmosphere that at
the great distance the contemplative denizens of the monastery may count
the number of the railway carriages, while no sound of the train, or
indeed of any life in the valley, reaches their ears.
What the monk heard was disturbing, and he hurried to the corner of the
garden, from whence a view of the winding road may be obtained. Floating
on the wind came the sound, as from another world, of shouting, and the
hollow rumble of wheels. The holy man peered down into the valley, and
soon verified his fears. It was the diligencia, which had quitted the
monastery a short hour ago, that flew down the hill to inevitable
destruction. Once before in the recollection of the watcher the mules had
run away, rushing down to their death, and carrying with them across that
frontier the lives of seven passengers, devout persons, who, having
performed the pilgrimage to the shrine of our Lady of Montserrat, had
doubtless received their reward. The monk crossed himself, but, being
human, forgot alike to pray and to call his brethren to witness the scene.
It was like looking at a play from a very high gallery. The miniature
diligencia on the toy road far below swayed from the bank of the highway
to the verge—the four mules stretched out at a gallop, as in a
picture. The shouts dimly heard at the monastery had the effect they were
intended to create, for the monk could see the carters and muleteers draw
aside to let the living avalanche go past.
There were but two men on the box-seat of the diligencia—the driver
and a passenger seated by his side. The monk recollected that this
passenger had passed two days at Montserrat, inscribing himself in the
visitors' book as Matthew S. Whittaker.
"I am ready to take the reins when your arms are cramped," this passenger
was saying at that precise moment, "but I do not know the road, and I
cannot drive so well as you."
He finished with a curt laugh, and, holding on with both hands, he turned
and looked at his companion. He was not afraid, and death assuredly stared
him in the face at that moment.
"Thanks for that, at all events," returned the driver, handling his reins
with a steady skill. Then he fell to cursing the mules. As he rounded each
corner of the winding road, he gave a derisive shout of triumph; as he
safely passed a cart, he gave voice to a yell of defiance. He went to his
death—if death awaited him—with a fine spirit, with a light in
his eyes and the blood in his tanned cheeks.
The man at his side could perhaps have saved himself by a leap which
might, with good fortune, have resulted in nothing more serious than a
broken limb. As he had been invited by the driver to take this leap and
had curtly declined, it is worth while to pause and give particulars of
this passenger on the runaway diligencia. He was a slightly built man,
dressed in the ordinary dark clothes and soft black felt hat of the middle
class Spaniard. His face was brown and sun-dried, with deep lines drawn
downwards from the nose to the lips in such a manner that cynicism and a
mildly protesting tolerance were contending for mastery in an otherwise
studiously inexpressive countenance.
"The Excellency does not blame me for this?" the driver jerked out, as he
hauled round a corner with a sort of pride.
"No, my friend," replied the American; and he broke off suddenly to curve
his two hands around his lips and give forth a warning shout in a clear
tenor that rang down the valley like a trumpet.
A muleteer leading a heavily laden animal drew his beast into the ditch,
and leapt into the middle of the road. He stepped nimbly aside and sprang
at the leading mule, but was rolled into the ditch like an old hat.
"That is an old torero," shouted the driver. "Bravo, bravo!"
As they flew on, Whittaker turned in his seat and caught a glimpse of the
man standing in the middle of the road, with arms spread out in an
attitude of apology and deprecation.
"Ah!" cried the driver, "we shall not pass these. Now leap!"
"No," answered the other, and gave his warning shout.
Below them on the spiral road two heavy carts were slowly mounting. These
were the long country carts used for the carriage of wine-casks, heavily
laden with barrels for the monastery. The drivers, looking up, saw in a
moment what to expect, and ran to the head of their long teams of eight
mules, but all concerned knew in a flash of thought that they could not
pull aside in time.
"Leap, in the name of a saint!" cried the driver, clenching his teeth.
Whittaker made no answer. But he cleared his feet and sat forward, his
keen face and narrow eyes alert to seize any chance of life. The maddened
mules rushed on, seeking to free themselves from the swaying destroyer on
their heels. The leaders swung round the corner, but refused to obey the
reins when they caught sight of the cart in front. The brakes had long
ceased to act; the wooden blocks were charred as by fire. The two heavier
mules at the pole made a terrified but intelligent attempt to check the
pace, and the weighty vehicle skidded sideways across the road, shuddering
and rattling as it went. It poised for a moment on the edge of the slope,
while the mules threw themselves into their collars—their
intelligence seeming to rise at this moment to a human height. Then the
great vehicle turned slowly over, and at the same moment Whittaker and the
driver leapt into the tangle of heels and harness. One of the leaders
swung right out in mid-air with flying legs, and mules and diligencia
rolled over and over down the steep in a cloud of dust and stones.
When Matthew S. Whittaker recovered consciousness, he found himself in a
richly furnished bedroom. He woke as if from sleep, with his senses fully
alert, and began at once to take an interest in a conversation of which he
had been conscious in the form of a faint murmur for some time.
"A broken arm, my child, and nothing more, so far as I can tell at
present," were the first comprehensible words. Whittaker tried to move his
left arm, and winced.
"And the other man?" inquired a woman's voice in Spanish, but with an
accent which the listener recognised at once. This was an Englishwoman
"Ah! the other man is dead. Poor Mogul! He was always civil and
God-fearing. He has driven the diligencia up to us for nearly twenty
Whittaker turned his head, and winced again. The speaker was a monk—fat
and good-natured—one of the few now left in the great house on
Montserrat. His interlocutor was a woman not more than thirty, with brown
hair that gleamed in the sunlight, and a fresh, thoughtful face. Her
attitude was somewhat independent, her manner indicated a self-reliant
spirit. This was a woman who would probably make mistakes in life, but
these would not be the errors of omission. She was a prototype of a sex
and an age which err in advancing too quickly, and in holding that
everything which is old-fashioned must necessarily be foolish.
Whittaker lay quite still and watched these two, while the deep-drawn
lines around his lips indicated a decided sense of amusement. He was in
pain, but that was no new condition to a man whose spirit had ever been
robuster than his body. He had, at all events, not been killed, and his
last recollection had been the effort to face death. So he lay with a
twisted smile on his lips listening to Brother Lucas, who, sad old monk
that he was, took infinite pleasure in glorifying to the young lady his
own action in causing the monastery cart to be brought out, and in driving
down the slope at a breakneck pace to place his medical knowledge at the
disposal of such as might require it. He bowed in a portly way, and
indicated with a very worldly politeness that he himself was, in fact, at
the disposal of the Senorita.
"I was not always a monk—I began life as a doctor," he explained.
And his companion looked at him with speculative, clever eyes, scenting
afar off, with the quickness of her kind, the usual little romance—the
"Ah!" she said slowly.
And Whittaker in the alcove coughed with discretion. Both turned and
hurried towards him.
"He has recovered his senses," said the girl.
The monk had, however, not laid aside all the things of this world. He
remembered the little ceremonies appertaining to the profession which he
had once practised. He waived aside the girl, and stooped over the bed.
"You understand what I say—you see me?" he inquired in a soothing
"Most assuredly," replied Whittaker, coolly. "Most assuredly, my father.
And I do not think there is much the matter with me."
"Holy Saints, but you go too quickly," laughed the monk. "You will be
wanting next to get up and walk."
"I should not mind trying."
"Ah, that is good! Then you will soon be well. Senorita, we shall have no
trouble with this patient. This, Senor, is the Senorita Cheyne; in whose
house you find yourself, and to whom your thanks are due."
Whittaker turned in bed to thank her; but instead of speaking, he quietly
fainted. He came to his senses again, and found that it was evening. The
windows of his room were open, and he could see across the valley the
brown hills of Catalonia, faintly tinged with pink. A nursing sister in
her dark blue dress and white winged cap was seated at the open window,
gazing reflectively across the valley. There was an odour of violets in
the room. A fitful breeze stirred the lace curtains. Whittaker perceived
his own travel-worn portmanteau lying half unpacked on a side table. It
seemed that some one had opened it to seek the few necessaries of the
moment. He noted with a feeling of helplessness that his simple travelling
accessories had been neatly arranged on the dressing-table. A clean
handkerchief lay on the table at the bedside. The wounded man became
conscious of a feeling that he had lost some of the solitary liberty which
had hitherto been his. It seemed that he had been picked up on the road
helpless and insensible by some one with the will and power to take entire
charge of him. The feeling was so new to this adventurer that he lay still
Presently the nun rose and came quietly towards him, disclosing within the
halo of her snowy cap a gentle pink-and-white face wrinkled by the passage
of uneventful years. She nodded cheerfully on seeing that his eyes were
open, and gave him some soup which was warming on a spirit lamp in
readiness for his return to consciousness.
"I will tell the Senorita," she said, and noiselessly quitted the room.
A minute later Miss Cheyne came in with a pleasant frou-frou of silk, and
Whittaker wondered for whom she had dressed so carefully.
"I did not know," she said in English, with an ease of manner which is of
this generation, "that I had succoured a countryman. You were literally
thrown at my gate. But the doctor, who has just left, confirms the opinion
of Brother Lucas that you are not seriously hurt. A broken fore-arm and a
severe shake, they say—to be cured by complete rest, which you will
be able to enjoy here. For there is no one in the house but my aunt, Mrs.
Dorchester, and myself."
She stood at the bedside, looking down at him with her capable, managing
air. Whittaker now knew the source of that sense of being "taken in and
done for," of which he had become conscious the moment his senses returned
"They say," she went on, with a decisiveness which was probably an
accentuation of her usual attitude, inspired by the necessity of sparing
the patient the exertion of an explanation or an apology—"they say,
however, that you are not naturally a very strong man, and that you have
tried your constitution in the past, so that greater care is required than
would otherwise be necessary in such a case."
She looked at the brown face and sinewy neck, the hollow cheeks, the lean
hands ("all wires," as she decided in her own prompt mind), and her clear
eyes were alight with a speculation as to what the past had been in which
this man had tried his constitution.
"I have led a rough life," explained Whittaker; and Miss Cheyne nodded her
head in a manner indicative of the fact that she divined as much.
"I thought you were a Spaniard," she said.
"No; I have lived in the Spanish colonies, however—the last few
years—since the troubles began."
Miss Cheyne nodded again without surprise. She had gone about the world,
with those clear eyes of hers very wide open, and was probably aware that
in those parts where, as Whittaker gracefully put it, "troubles" are, such
men as this are usually to be found. For it is not the large men who make
a stir in the world. These usually sit at home and love a life of ease. It
is even said that they take to novel-writing and other sedentary
occupations. And in the forefront, where things are stirring and history
is to be manufactured, are found the small and the frail, such as Matthew
S. Whittaker, who, in addition to the battles of progress, have to contend
personally against constitutional delicacy, nervous depression, and
Miss Cheyne kept silence for a few moments, and, during the pause, turned
at the sound of horses' feet on the gravel below the windows. She seemed
to have been expecting an arrival, and Whittaker noticed a sudden
brightening of the eyes, an almost imperceptible movement of the
shoulders, as if Miss Cheyne was drawing herself up. The American quickly
reflected that the somewhat elaborate "toilette" was unusual, and
connected it with the expected visitor. He was not surprised when, with a
polite assurance that he had only to ask for anything he might require,
she turned and left him.
Whittaker now remembered having been told by the voluble driver of the
diligencia the history of a certain English Senorita who, having inherited
property from a forgotten uncle, had come to live in her "possession" on
the mountain side. He further recollected that the house had been pointed
out to him—a long, low dwelling of the dull red stone quarried in
this part of Catalonia. Being of an observant habit, he remembered that
the house was overgrown by a huge wisteria, and faced eastward. He turned
his head painfully, and now saw that his windows were surrounded by mauve
fronds of wisteria. His room was, therefore, situated in the front of the
house. There was, he recollected, a verandah below his windows, and he
wondered whether Miss Cheyne received her visitors there in the cool of
the afternoon. He listened half-sleepily, and heard the horse depart, led
away by a servant. There followed the murmur of a conversation, between
two persons only, below his window. So far as he could gather from the
tones, for the words were inaudible, they were spoken in English. And thus
he fell asleep.
During the next few days Whittaker made good progress, and fully enjoyed
the quiet prescribed to him by the doctors. The one event of the day was
Miss Cheyne's visit, to which he soon learnt to look forward. He had,
during an adventurous life, had little to do with women, and Miss Cheyne
soon convinced him of the fact that many qualities—such as
independence, courage, and energy—were not, as he had hitherto
imagined, the monopoly of men alone. But the interest thus aroused did not
seem to be mutual. Miss Cheyne was kind and quick to divine his wants or
thoughts; but her visits did not grow longer day by day as, day by day,
Whittaker wished they would. Daily, moreover, the visitor arrived on
horseback, and the murmured conversation in the verandah duly followed. A
few weeks earlier Whittaker had made the voyage across to the island of
Majorca, to visit an old companion-in-arms there, and offer him a
magnificent inducement to return to active service. That comrade had
smilingly answered that he held cards of another suite. Miss Cheyne
likewise appeared to hold another suite, and the American felt vaguely
that the dealer of life's cards seemed somehow to have passed him by.
He daily urged the young doctor to allow him to leave his bed, "if only,"
he pleaded with his twisted smile, "to sit in a chair by the window." At
last he gained his point, and sat, watch in hand, awaiting the arrival of
Miss Cheyne's daily visitor. To the end of his life Matthew Whittaker
believed that some instinct guided him at this time. He had only spoken
with his nurse and the doctor, and had refrained from making inquiries of
either respecting the lady whose hospitality he enjoyed. He had now
carefully recalled all that the dead driver of the diligencia had told
him, and had dismissed half of it as mere gossip. Beyond the fact that
Miss Cheyne's aunt, Mrs. Dorchester, acted as her companion, he knew
nothing. But he had surmised, from remarks dropped by the young lady
herself, that her mother had been a Spaniard; hence the uncle from whom
she had inherited this estate. He also had reason to believe that Miss
Cheyne's mother had brought her up in the older faith.
He reflected on these matters, and smiled half cynically at the magnitude
of his own interest in Miss Cheyne as he sat at the open window. He had
not long to wait before the clatter of horse's feet on the hard road
became audible. The house stood back from the high-road in the midst of
terraced olive groves, and was entirely surrounded by a grove of cypress
and ilex trees. The visitor, whose advent was doubtless awaited with as
keen an impatience by another within the red stone house, now leisurely
approached beneath the avenue of evergreen oak. Whittaker got painfully
upon his feet, and stood, half concealed by the curtain. He was conscious
of a singular lack of surprise when he recognized the face of the horseman
as one that he had already seen, though, when he came in a flash of
thought to reflect upon it, this among all he knew was the last face that
he could have expected to see in that place.
He sat down quite coolly and mechanically, thinking and acting as men
think and act, by instinct, in a crisis. He seemed to be obeying some
The horseman was dark and clean-shaven—the happy possessor of one of
those handsome Andalusian faces which are in themselves a passport in a
world that in its old age still persists in judging by appearance.
Whittaker scrupulously withdrew from the window. He had no desire to
overhear their conversation. But his eyes were fierce with a sudden anger.
The very attitude of the new-comer—his respectful, and yet
patronizing, manner of removing his hat—clearly showed that he was a
lover, perhaps a favoured one. And the American, who, with all his
knowledge of the world, knew so little of women, stood in the middle of
the room wrapt in thought. It seemed hardly possible that a woman of Miss
Cheyne's intelligence, a woman no longer in the first flush of girlhood,
should fail to perceive the obvious. He did not know that so far as her
vanity is concerned a woman does not grow older, by the passage of years,
but younger—that she will often, for the sake of a little
admiration, accept the careless patronage of a man, knowing well that his
one good quality is the skill with which he flatters her. He was not aware
that Miss Cheyne was distinctly handicapped, and that her judgment was
warped by the fact that she had by some chance or another reached to years
of discretion without ever having had a lover.
Whittaker was not an impulsive man, although as prompt in action as he was
quick to make a decision. He was a citizen of that new country where an
old chivalry still survives. His sense of chivalry was also intensified by
the fact, already stated, that he knew but little of that sex which is at
the moment making a superficial stir in the world.
"If the harm is done, a day more will make it no worse, I reckon," he said
reflectively. He would not listen to what they said, though he could have
heard easily enough, had he so desired. He watched Miss Cheyne and her
lover, however, as they slowly walked the length of the garden—she,
holding a fan in the Spanish fashion, to shield her face from the setting
sun; the man, hat in hand, and carrying himself with a sort of respectful
grandeur, characteristic of his race. At the end of the garden they
paused, and Whittaker smiled cynically at the sight of the man's dark eyes
as he looked at Miss Cheyne. He was apparently asking for something, and
she at last yielded, giving him slowly, almost shyly, a few violets that
she had worn in her belt. Whittaker gave a curt laugh, but his eyes were
by no means mirthful.
Later in the evening Miss Cheyne came into his room.
"You have had a visitor," he said, in the course of their usual
"Yes," she answered frankly; and Whittaker reflected that, at all events,
she knew her own mind.
He said nothing further upon that subject, but later he referred to a
topic which he had hitherto scrupulously avoided. He had passed his life
among a class of men who were not in the habit of growing voluble
"I think you take me for an Englishman," he said. "I am not. I am an
"Indeed! You have no accent," replied Miss Cheyne; and, despite that other
suite of cards that she held, she looked at him speculatively. She was, in
a way, interested in him.
"I have lived abroad a great deal, the last few years in Cuba." And his
quick eyes flashed across her face. She was not interested in Cuba, at all
events, and evidently knew nothing of that distressful island. When she
left him, he stood looking at the closed door reflectively.
"It will be for to-morrow," he said to himself, with his short laugh.
The next morning the doctor paid his usual visit, and Whittaker handed him
"I am leaving this evening," he said, "and I shall leave in your debt."
The doctor, who was a young man and a Spanish gentleman, slipped the
envelope into his pocket.
"Thank you," he said. "The debt is mine. You are not fit to be moved yet;
but it is as you like."
"Will you order me a carriage to be here at five o'clock this evening?"
"I will do as you like."
"And omit to mention it to my hostess. You understand my position here,
and my fear of outstaying a most courteous welcome?"
"I understand," said the doctor, and departed.
At four o'clock Whittaker had packed his portmanteau. He took up his
position at the window and waited. Before long he heard the sound of a
horse's feet. Miss Cheyne's visitor presently appeared, and swung off his
hat with the usual deferential pride. The horse was led away. The usual
murmured conversation followed. Whittaker rose and walked to the door. He
paused on the threshold, and looked slowly round the room as if conscious
then that the moment was to be one of the indelible memories of his life.
On the stairs he needed the support of the balustrade. When he reached the
verandah his face was colourless, with shining eyes. Miss Cheyne was
sitting with her back turned towards him, but her companion saw him at
once and rose to his feet, lifting his hat with a politely inquiring air.
From long habit acquired among a naturally polite people, Whittaker
returned the salutation.
"You do not recognise me, Senor?" he said, in English.
And the other shook his head, still polite and rather surprised.
"I was known in Cuba by the name of Mateo."
The Spaniard's handsome, sunburnt face slowly turned to the colour of
ashes. His eyes looked into Whittaker's, not in anger, but with a pathetic
mingling of reproach and despair.
"What is the meaning of this?" said Miss Cheyne, alert, and rising,
characteristically, to the emergency of the moment.
Whittaker bit his lip and looked at the Spaniard, who seemed to be dazed.
"You had better go," he said, almost gently.
"What is the meaning of this?" repeated Miss Cheyne, looking from one to
the other. Then she turned to Whittaker, by what instinct she never knew.
"Who is this gentleman?" she asked, angrily. "What have you against him?"
Whittaker, still biting his lip, looked hard at her. Then he made a
gesture with his two hands, which was more eloquent than a thousand words;
for it seemed to convey to the two persons who breathlessly awaited his
words that he found himself in a position that was intolerable.
"I knew him in Cuba," he said slowly. "I have nothing against him, Miss
Cheyne; but the man is a priest."
* * *
"There, Senorita—I have made it myself."
The proprietor of the Venta of the Moor's Mill set down upon the table in
front of the inn a cracked dish containing an omelette. It was not a bad
omelette, though not quite innocent of wood-ash, perhaps, and somewhat
ill-shapen. The man laughed gaily and drew himself up. So handsome a man
could surely be forgiven a broken omelette and some charcoal, if only for
the sake of his gay blue eyes, his curling brown hair, and his
devil-may-care air of prosperity. He looked at the Senorita and laughed in
the manner of a man who had never yet failed to "get on" with women. He
folded his arms with fine, open gestures, and stood looking with approving
nods upon his own handiwork. He was without the shadow of the trailing
vine which runs riot over bamboo trelliswork in front of the Venta,
affording a much needed shade in this the sunniest spot in all Majorca,
and the fierce sun beat down upon his face, which was tanned a deep,
healthy brown. He was clad almost in white; for his trousers were of
canvas, his shirt of spotless linen. Round his waist he wore the usual
Spanish faja or bright red cloth. He was consciously picturesque, and
withal so natural, so good-natured, so astonishingly optimistic, as to be
quite inoffensive in his child-like conceit.
The Venta of the Moor's Mill stands, as many know, at the northern end of
the Val D'Erraha, looking down upon the broader valley, through which runs
the high road from Palma to Valdemosa. The city of Palma, itself, is only
a few miles away, for such as know the mountain path. Few customers come
this way, and the actual trade of the Venta is small. Some day a German
doctor will start a nerve-healing establishment here, with a table d'hote
at six o'clock, and every opportunity for practising the minor virtues—and
the Valley of Repose will be the Valley of Repose no longer.
"Ah! It is a good omelette," said the host of the Venta, as Miss Cheyne
took up her fork. "Though I have not always been a cook, nor yet an
He raised one finger, shook it from side to side in an emphatic negation,
and laughed. Then he turned suddenly, and looked down into the valley with
a grave face and almost a sigh.
The man had a history it appeared—and, rarer still, was willing to
She knew too much of the Spanish race, or perhaps of all men, to ask
"Yes," she said pleasantly, "it is a good omelette." And the man turned
sharply and looked at her as if she had said something startling. She
noticed his action, and showed surprise.
"It is nothing," he said with a laugh, "only a coincidence—a mere
accident. It is said by the peasants that the mind of a friend has wings.
Perhaps it is so. As I looked down into the valley I was thinking of a man—a
friend. Yes—name of a Saint—he was a friend of mine, although
a gentleman! Educated? Yes, many languages, and Latin. And I—what am
I? You see, Senorita, a peasant, who wears no coat."
And he laughed heartily, only to change again suddenly to gravity.
"And as I looked down into the valley I was thinking of my friend—and,
believe me, you spoke at that moment with something in your voice—in
your manner—who knows?—which was like the voice and manner of
my friend. Perhaps, Senorita, the peasants are right, and the mind of my
friend, having wings, flew to us at that moment."
The lady laughed, and said that it might be so.
"It is not that you are English," the innkeeper continued, with easy
volubility. "For I know you belong to no other nation. I said so to myself
the moment I saw you, riding up here on horseback alone. I called upstairs
to Juanita that there was an English Senorita coming on a horse, and
Juanita replied with a malediction, that I should raise my voice when the
nino was asleep. She said that if it was the Pope of Rome who came on a
horse he must not wake the child. 'No,' I answered, 'but he would have to
go upstairs to see it;' and Juanita did not laugh. She sees no cause to
laugh at anything connected with the nino—oh, no! it is a serious
He was looking towards the house as he spoke.
"Juanita is your wife?" said the Englishwoman.
"Yes. We have been married a year, and I am still sure that she is the
most beautiful woman in the world. Is it not wonderful? And she will be
jealous if she hears me talking all this while with the Senorita."
"You can tell her that the Senorita has grey hair," said Miss Cheyne,
"That may be," said the innkeeper, looking at her with his head on one
side, and a gravely critical air. "But you still have the air"—he
shrugged his shoulders, and spread out his hands—"the air that takes
a man's fancy. Who knows?"
Miss Cheyne, who had dealt much with a simple people, accustomed to the
statement of simple facts in plain language, only laughed. There is a
certain rough purity of thought which vanishes at the advance of
civilisation. And cheap journalism, cheap fiction, cheap prudery have not
yet reached Spain.
"I know nothing," went on the man, with a shrewd, upward nod of the head.
"But the Senorita has a lover. He may be faithless, he may be absent, he
may be dead—but he is there—the God be thanked!"
He touched his broad chest in that part where a deadly experience told him
that the heart was to be found, and looked up to Heaven, all with a change
of expression and momentary gravity quite incomprehensible to men of
Miss Cheyne laughed again without self-consciousness. Uneducated people
have a way of arriving at once at those matters that interest rich and
poor alike, which is rather refreshing, even to the highly educated.
"But I, who talk like a washerwoman, forget that I am an innkeeper," said
the man, with a truer tact than is often found under fine linen. And he
proceeded to wait on her with a grand air, as if she were a queen and he a
"If Juanita were about it would be different," he said, whipping the cloth
from the table and shaking the crumbs to the four winds. "And the Senorita
would be properly served. But—what will you? the nino is but a
fortnight old, and I—I am new at my trade. The Senorita takes
Miss Cheyne intimated that she did take coffee.
"And you, perhaps, will take a cup also," she added, whereupon the man
bowed in his best manner. He had that perfect savoir-faire—a certain
innate gentlemanliness—which is the characteristic of all Spaniards.
His manner indicated an appreciation of the honour, and conveyed at the
same time the intimation that he knew quite well how to behave under the
He went into the house from which—all the doors and windows being
open—came the sound of his conversation with Juanita, while he
prepared the coffee. It was quite a frank and open conversation, having
Miss Cheyne for its object, and stating that she had not only found the
omelette good, but had eaten it all.
Presently he returned with the coffee-pot, two cups, and a small jug of
cream on a tray. He turned the handle of the coffee-pot towards Miss
Cheyne, and conveyed in one inimitable gesture that he would take his
coffee from no other hand.
"The Senorita is staying in Palma?" he asked, pleasantly.
The innkeeper laughed gaily and deprecatingly, as if between persons of
their station business was a word only to be mentioned as a sort of jest.
"I am the owner of a small property in the island—over in that
direction—towards Soller. It is held on the 'rotas' system by a good
farmer, who has frequently come to see me where I live at Monistrol, near
Barcelona. He has often begged me to come to Majorca to see the property,
and now I have come. I am staying a few days at Palma."
"Farming is good in Majorca," said the man, shrewdly. "You should receive
a large sum for your share of the harvest. I, too, shall buy land
presently when I see my chance, for I have the money. Ah, yes: I was not
always an innkeeper!"
He sipped his coffee pensively.
"That reminds me again of my friend," he said, after a pause. "Why do I
think of him this afternoon? It is a strange story; shall I tell it?"
"I shall be glad to hear it," replied Miss Cheyne, in her energetic way.
She was stirring her coffee slowly and thoughtfully.
"I knew him in his own country—in America; and then in Cuba—"
Miss Cheyne ceased stirring her coffee suddenly, as if she had come
against some object in the cup. A keen observer might have guessed that
she had become interested at that moment in this idle tale.
"Ah! You know Cuba?" she said, indifferently interrogative.
"If I know Cuba?" he laughed, and spread out his hands in mute appeal to
the gods. "If I know Cuba! When Cuba is an independent republic, Senorita—when
the history of all this trouble comes to be written, you will find two
names mentioned in its pages. The one name is Antonio. When you are an old
woman, Senorita, you can tell your children—or perhaps your
grandchildren, if the good God is kind to you—that you once knew
Antonio, and took a cup of coffee with him. But you must not say it now—never—never.
And the other name is Mateo. You can tell your children, Senorita, when
your hair is white, that you once spoke to a man who was a friend to this
He finished with his gay laugh, as if he were fully alive to his own fine
conceit, and begged indulgence.
"He has been here—sitting where you sit now," he continued, with
impressive gravity. "He came to me: 'Antonio,' he said, 'There are five
thousand men out there who want you.' 'Amigo,' replied I, 'there is one
woman here who does the same'—and I bowed, and Mateo went away
without me. I thought he had gone back there to conduct affairs—to
fight in his careless way, with his tongue in his cheek, as it were. He
did all with his tongue in his cheek—that queer Mateo. And then came
a message from Barcelona, saying that he wanted me. Name of a dog, I went—for
his letter was unmistakable. He had, it appeared, had an accident. I found
him with his arm in a sling. He had been cared for in the house of an
Englishwoman—so much he told—but I guessed more. This
Englishwoman—well, he said so little about her, that I could only
conclude one thing. You know, Senorita—when a man will not talk of a
woman—well, it assuredly means something. But there was, it appears,
another man—this man, I grind my teeth to tell you of it—he
was a priest. One Bernaldez, whom we had both known in Cuba. He had, it
appears, come over to Spain in ordinary dress; for he was too well known
to travel as Bernaldez, the priest. He was a fine man—so much I will
say for him. The Englishwoman was, no doubt, beautiful. Bernaldez met her.
She did not know that he was a priest."
Antonio paused, shrugged his shoulders and spread out his arms.
"The devil did the rest, Senorita. And she? Did she care for him? Ah—one
never knows with women."
"Perhaps they do not always know themselves," suggested Miss Cheyne,
without meeting her companion's eyes.
"Perhaps that is so, Senorita. At all events, Mateo went to these two,
when they were together. Mateo was always quick and very calm. He faced
Bernaldez, and he told the woman. Then he left them. And I found him in
Barcelona, two days afterwards, living at the Hotel of the Four Nations,
like one in his sleep. 'If Bernaldez wants me,' he said, 'he knows where
to find me.' And the next day Bernaldez came to us, where we sat in front
of the Cafe of the Liceo on the Rambla. 'Mateo,' he said, 'you will have
to fight me.' And Mateo nodded his head. 'With the revolver.' Mateo looked
up with his dry smile. 'I will take you at that game,' he said, 'for nuts'—in
the American fashion, Senorita—one of their strange sad jokes. Then
Bernaldez sat down—his eyes were hollow; he spoke like one who has
been down to the bottom of misery. 'I know a place,' he said, 'that will
suit our purpose. It is among the mountains, on the borders of Andorra.
You take the train from Barcelona to Berga, the diligencia from Berga to
Organa. Between Organa and La Seo de Urgel is a bridge called La Puente
del Diabolo. I will meet you at this bridge on foot on Thursday morning at
nine o'clock. We can walk up into the mountains together. I shall bring a
small travelling clock with me. We shall stand it on the ground between
us, and when it strikes, we fire.'"
Antonio had, in the heat of his narrative, leant forward across the table.
With quick gestures he described the whole scene, so that Miss Cheyne
could see it as it had passed before his eyes.
"There is a madness, Senorita," he went on, "which shows itself by a
thirst for blood. I looked at Bernaldez. He was sane enough, but I think
the man's heart was broken. 'It is well,' said Mateo; 'I am your man—at
the Puente del Diabolo at nine o'clock on Thursday morning.' And mind you,
Senorita, these were not Italians or Greeks—they were a Spaniard and
an American—men who mean what they say, whether it be pleasant or
Miss Cheyne was interested enough now. She sat, leaning one arm on the
table, and her chin in the palm of her hand. She held her lip with her
teeth, and watched the man's quick expressive face.
"We were there at nine o'clock," he went on, "that Mateo, with his arm in
a sling. We had passed the night at the hotel of the Libertad at Organa,
where we both slept well enough. What will you?—when one is no
longer young, the pulse is slow. The morning mist had descended the
mountain side, the air was cold. There at the Puente, leaning against the
wall, cloaked and quiet—was Bernaldez. 'Ah!' he said to me, 'you
have come, too?' 'Yes, Amigo,' I answered, 'but I do not give the word for
two friends to let go at each other. Your little clock can do that.' He
nodded and said nothing. Senorita, I was sorry for the man. Who was I that
I should judge? You remember, you, who read your Bible, the writing on the
ground? Bernaldez led the way, and we climbed up into the mountains in the
morning mist. Somewhere above us there was a little waterfall singing its
eternal song. In the cloud, where we could not see him, a curlew hung on
his heavy wings, and gave forth his low warning whistle. 'Have a care—have
a care,' he seemed to cry. Presently Bernaldez stopped, and looked around
him. It was a desolate place. 'This will do,' he said. 'And he who drops
may be left here. The other may turn on his heel, say "A Dios," and go in
safety. 'Yes,' answered Mateo. 'This will do as well as any other place.'
Bernaldez looked at him, with a laugh. 'Ah,' he said, 'you think that you
are sure to kill me—but I shall, at all events, have a shot for my
money. Who knows? I may kill you.' 'That is quite possible,' answered
Mateo. Bernaldez threw back his cloak. He carried the little travelling
clock in one hand—a gilt thing made in Paris. 'We will stand it
here,' he said, 'on a rock between us.' We were in a little hollow far up
the mountain side, and the mist wrapped us round like a cloak. I know
these mountains, Senorita, for it was here that the fiercest of the
fighting in the last Carlist War took place. There are many dead up there
even now, who have never been found. I also was in that trouble—ah,
no, I was not always an innkeeper!"
"Go on with your story," said Miss Cheyne, curtly, and closed her teeth
over her lower lip again.
"We stood there, then, and watched Bernaldez take the clock from its case.
He held it to his ear to make sure that it was going. It seemed to me that
it ticked as loud up there as a clock ticks in a room at night. Bernaldez
set forward the hands till they stood at five minutes to eleven. 'The
eleventh hour,' said Mateo, with his dry laugh. Bernaldez set the clock
down again. He took off his hat and threw it down to mark the ground. 'Ten
paces,' he said, and, turning on his heel, counted aloud. I looked
half-instinctively at his bared head. The tonsure was still visible to any
who sought it; for it was but half-grown over. Mateo counted his steps and
then turned. The clock gave a little tick, as such clocks do, four minutes
before they strike. It seemed to me to hurry its pace as we three stood
listening in that silence. We could hear the whisper of the clouds as they
hurried through the mountains. The clock gave another click, and the two
men raised their pistols of a similar pattern. The little gong rang out,
and immediately after two shots, one following the other. Bernaldez had
fired first. Mateo—a man with a reputation to care for—took a
moment longer for his aim. I heard Bernaldez's bullet sing past his ear
like a mosquito. Bernaldez fell forward—thus, on his arm—and
the clock had not ceased striking when we stood over him; and Mateo had
held the pistol in his left hand."
The narrator finished abruptly with a quick gesture. All through his story
he had added a vividness to his description by quick movements of the hand
and head, by his flashing eyes, his southern fire, so that his hearer
could see the scene as he had seen it; could feel the stillness of the
mountains; could hear the whisper of the clouds; could see the two men
facing each other in the mist. With a gesture he showed her how Bernaldez
lay, on his face on the wet stones, with a half-concealed tonsure, turned
towards heaven in mute appeal, awaiting the last great hearing of his case
in that Court where there is no appeal.
"And there we left him, Senorita," added Antonio, shortly.
He rose, walked away from her to the edge of the great slope, and stood
looking down into the valley that lay shimmering below him. After a time
he came back slowly. In his simplicity he was not ashamed of dimmed eyes.
"I tell you this, Senorita," he said with a laugh, "because you are an
Englishwoman, and because this Mateo was my friend. He is an American. His
name is Whittaker—Matthew S. Whittaker. And this afternoon I was
reminded of him; I know not why. Perhaps it was something that I said
myself, or some gesture that I made, which I had caught from him. If one
thinks much about a person, one may catch his gestures or his manner: is
it not so? And then you reminded me of him a second time. That was
"Yes," said Miss Cheyne, thoughtfully; "that was strange."
"He went to Cuba again at once, Senorita; that was a year ago. And I have
never heard from him. If, as the peasants say, the mind of a friend has
wings, perhaps Mateo's mind has flown on to tell me that he is coming. He
said he would come back."
"Why was he coming back?" asked Miss Cheyne.
"I do not know, Senorita."
Miss Cheyne had risen, and was making ready to depart. Her gloves and
riding-whip lay on the table. The afternoon was far spent, and already the
shadows were lengthening on the mountain-side. She paid the trifling
account, Antonio taking the money with such a deep bow that the smallness
of the coin was quite atoned for. He brought her horse from the stable.
"The horse and the Senorita are both tired," he said, with his pleasant
laugh. And, indeed, Miss Cheyne looked suddenly weary. "It is not right
that you should go by the mountain path," he added. "It is so easy to lose
the way. Besides, a lady alone—it is not done in Spain."
"No; but in England women are learning to take care of themselves,"
laughed Miss Cheyne.
She placed her foot within his curved hands, and he lifted her to the
saddle. All her movements were easy and independent. It seemed that she
only stated a fact, and the man shook his head forebodingly. He belonged
to a country which in some ways is a century behind England and America.
She nodded a farewell, and turned the horse's head towards the mountain
"I shall find my way," she said. "Never fear."
"Only by good fortune," he answered, with a shake of the head.
The sun had almost set when she reached Palma. At the hotel her lawyer,
who had made the voyage from Barcelona with her, awaited her with
impatience, while her maid leant idly from the window. In the evening she
went abroad again, alone, in her independent way. She walked slowly on the
Cathedral terrace, where priests lingered, and a few soldiers from the
neighbouring barracks smoked a leisurely cigarette. All turned at
intervals, and looked in the same direction—namely, towards the
west, where the daylight yet lingered in the sky. The moon, huge and
yellow, was rising over the mountains, above Manacor, at the eastern end
of the island. One by one the idlers dropped away, moving with leisurely
steps towards the town. In very idleness Miss Cheyne followed them. She
knew that they were going to the harbour in anticipation of the arrival of
the Barcelona steamer. She was on the pier with the others, when the boat
came alongside. The passengers trooped off, waving salutations to their
friends. One among them, a small-made, frail man, detached himself from
the crowd, and made his way towards Miss Cheyne, as if this meeting had
been prearranged—and who shall say that it was not?—by the dim
decrees of Fate.
IN A CROOKED WAY
"And let the counsel of thine own heart stand."
It was almost dark, and the Walkham River is much overhung in the parts
that lie between Horrabridge and the old brickworks.
In the bed of the river a man stumbled heavily along, trusting more to his
knowledge of the river than to his eyesight. He was fishing dexterously
with flies that were almost white—flies which seemed to suit
admirably the taste of those small brown trout which never have the sense
to leave alone the fare provided for their larger white brethren.
Suddenly he hooked a larger fish, and, not daring to step back beneath the
overhanging oak, he proceeded to tire his fish out in the deep water. In
ten minutes he brought it to the landing-net, and as he turned to open his
creel his heart leapt in his breast. A man was standing in the water not
two feet behind him.
"Holloa," he gasped.
"I won't insult you by telling you not to be frightened," said the voice
of a gentleman. There was no mistaking it. The speaker stood quite still,
with the water bubbling round his legs. He was hatless, and his hair was
cut quite short.
A thought flashed across the fisherman's slow brain. Like the rest of his
craft, he was slower of mind than of hand.
"Yes," said the other, divining his thoughts, "I'm from Dartmoor. You
probably heard of my escape two days ago."
"Yes," replied the other, quietly, while he wound in his line. "I heard of
"And where do they say I am?"
"Oh, the police have got a clue—as usual," replied the fisherman.
The escaped convict laughed bitterly, but the laugh broke off into a
"I've been in those brickworks," he said, "all the time, meditating
murder. I stole a loaf from a baker's cart; but man cannot live by bread
alone; ah! Ha! ha!"
The fisherman held out his flask, which the other took, and opened the
somewhat uncommon silver top with ease bred of knowledge.
He poured himself out a full glass and drank it off.
"I haven't had that taste in my mouth for four years," he said, returning
the flask. "And you are guilty of felony!"
The fisherman probably knew this, for he merely laughed.
"Do you know Prince Town?" the convict asked abruptly.
The other nodded, glancing in the direction of the rising moor.
"And you've read the rules on the gate? Parcere subjectis, cut in the
stone over the top. Good God!"
The fisherman nodded again.
"The question is," said the convict, after a pause, during which they had
waded back to the bank, "whether you are going to help me or not? Heavens!
I NEARLY killed you while you were playing that fish."
"Ya-as," drawled the fisherman. "I take it that you must have been
tempted. I never heard you, owing to the rush of the water."
They were both big men, and the convict stared curiously into the long,
clean-shaven face of this calm speaker. A smile actually flickered for a
moment in his desperate eyes.
"What I want," he said, "is your mackintosh, your waders, and your hat—also
your rod-case with a long stick in it. The handle of your landing-net will
do. Where do you come from?"
"Plymouth. I am going back by the seven-thirty from Horrabridge."
"With a return ticket?"
"I should like that also."
The fisherman was slowly disjointing his rod.
"Suppose I told you to come and take 'em?" he said, with the drawl again.
The convict looked him up and down with a certain air of competent
"Then there would be a very pretty fight," he said, with a laugh, which he
checked when he detected the savour of the prison-yard that was in it.
"We haven't time for the fight," said the fisherman.
And there came a hot gasp of excitement from the convict's lips. His stake
was a very large one.
In the same slow, reflective manner, the fisherman unbuttoned the straps
of his waders at the thigh, and sat down to unlace his brogues.
"Here," he said, "pull 'em off for me. They're so damnably sopped."
He held up his leg, and the convict pulled off the wet fishing-stockings
with some technical skill.
He drew them on over his own stockinged legs, and the fisherman kicked the
brogues towards him. In exchange the convict handed him his own shoes.
"Am I to wear these?" the fisherman asked, with something in his voice
that might have been amusement.
"Yes; they're a little out of shape, I'm afraid. The Queen is no judge of
"I guess not!" answered the other, lacing.
There was a little silence.
"I suppose," said the convict, with a curious eagerness, "that you have
seen a bit of the world?"
"Here and there," answered the other, searching for the return half of his
"Should you think, now, that a girl would wait four years for a chap who,
in the eyes of the world, was not worth waiting for?"
The fisherman, not being an absolute fool, knew that there was only one
answer to give. But he was a kind-hearted man, so he told a lie. There was
something about this convict that made him do it.
"Yes; I should think she would. Girls are not always rational, I guess."
The other said nothing. He took the mackintosh-coat and the creel and the
rod-case without a word—even of thanks. His manners were brisker, as
if the angler's lie had done him good. The change of costume was now
complete, and the convict would pass anywhere for an innocent disciple of
For a moment they stood thus, looking at each other. Then the convict
"Can you lend me a fiver?" he asked.
Carelessly opening his purse, and displaying a good number of bank-notes,
he passed one to the unsteady hand held out.
"Want any more?" he asked, with a queer laugh.
"I'll take another if you can spare it."
A second note passed from hand to hand.
"Thanks," said the convict. "Now, tell me your name and address; I shall
want to send these things back to you if—if I have any luck."
And the effort to steady his voice was quite apparent.
"Caleb S. Harkness, United States frigate Bruiser, now lying at Plymouth,"
replied the other, tersely.
"Ah! you are an American?"
"That is why I don't care a d—n for your laws."
"MR. Harkness—or what?"
"I'm her captain," he replied modestly.
They shook hands and parted.
It was only as he plodded along the Tavistock Road, limping in the
regulation shoes, that the American remembered that he had quite omitted
to ask the convict any questions. He had parted with his mackintosh, and
it was pouring. Tavistock was two miles off, and he had no notion what
trains there were to Plymouth. Yet he regretted nothing, and at times a
queer smile flitted over his countenance. He was a man holding very
decided views of his own upon most subjects, and no one suspected him of
it, because he never sought to force them upon others. What he loved above
all in men was that species of audacious and gentlemanly coolness which is
found in greater perfection in the ranks of the British aristocracy than
anywhere else in the world.
He was not the sort of man to be afraid of any one, or two, or three men—he
had never, for a moment, thought of fearing the fellow who had gone off
with his mackintosh, his waders, and his two five-pound notes. We all try
to be our ideal, and Caleb S. Harkness prided himself on being the coolest
man in the two hemispheres. He had met a cooler, and rather than
acknowledge his inferiority he had parted with the valuables above
mentioned, with no other guarantee of their safe return than a gentlemanly
inflection of voice.
Two days later he received his waders, mackintosh, and brogues; also a new
fishing-rod of the very best quality made in England, and two five-pound
America loves to show her appreciation of her great sons, but she does not
always do it wisely when she begins to cast honours about. If England
showed the same appreciation, some of us would not be so cruelly
industrious with our pens; but that is the affair of the British public,
who suffer most.
Caleb S. Harkness was bound to get on. Firstly, because his audacity was
unrivalled, and secondly, he knew it was wise to be audacious.
In due course he rose as high as he conveniently could in the Navy active,
and turned his attention to the Navy passive, which latter means a nice
little house in Washington, and the open arms of the best society in that
enlightened city. Here also he got on, because men were even more
impressed by his audacity than the sea had been. Also he developed a new
talent. He found within himself an immense capacity for making others
appear ridiculous, and there is no man in the world so sensitive as your
Thus in six years' time we find Caleb S. Harkness moving, not in the bed
of an English trout-stream, but in the lap of Washingtonian luxury. It was
a great night in the Government city, for England had sent one of her
brightest stars to meet the luminaries of the United States in peaceful
arbitration. The British Plenipotentiary had not yet been seen of the
multitude—but he was the eldest son of a British Earl, and had a
title of his own. That was enough for Washington, with some to spare for
Boston and New York. Also he had proved himself equal to two American
statesmen and their respective secretaries. He was, therefore, held in the
highest esteem by all the political parties except that to which the
worsted statesmen belonged.
The President's levee was better attended than usual; that is to say,
there was not even room on the stairs, and America's first-born, as per
election, had long ago lost all feeling in the digits of his right hand.
Caleb S. Harkness was moving about in the quieter rooms, awaiting the
great crush, when a lady and a man entered and looked around them with
"Lord!" ejaculated Admiral Harkness, when his slow and mournful eyes
rested on the lady. The exclamation, if profane, was justified, for it is
probable that the American had never before set eyes on such a masterpiece
of the Creator's power. There was in this woman's being—in her eyes,
her face, her every movement—that combination of nonchalance and
dignity which comes to beautiful and bright-minded girls when they are
beginning to leave girlhood behind them. She was moderately tall, with
hair of living brown, and deep blue eyes full of life and sweetness. She
was not slim, but held herself like a boy with the strength that comes of
perfect proportion. She was one of those women who set a soldier or a
sailor thinking what manner of men her brothers must be.
Caleb Harkness observed all this with the unobtrusive scrutiny of his
nation. He was standing near a curtained doorway buttoning his glove, and
some one coming behind him pushed against him.
"Beg pardon, Harkness," said a voice, and the Chief Secretary of the
English Legation patted him on the shoulder. "Didn't see you. Looking for
some one. By George, what a heat! Ah! there he is—thank goodness!"
And he went towards the lady and man who had just entered.
"Here, Monty, you're wanted at once," Harkness heard him say to the youth,
who appeared to be a few years younger than his beautiful companion.
He spoke a few words to the lady, who replied laughingly, and the British
Attache came towards Harkness.
"Harkness," he said; "want to introduce you to Lady Storrel."
The American followed with a smile on his lean face. He knew that he was
being introduced to Lady Storrel merely because there happened to be no
one else at hand and her cavalier was wanted elsewhere.
"Lady Storrel, let me present to you Admiral Harkness, the man," he added,
over his shoulder, "who is going to make the United States the first Naval
Power in the world."
And with a good-natured laugh the two men went off, speaking hurriedly
"Is that true?" asked the lady, smiling with that mixture of girlishness
and English grand-ladyism, which was so new to Caleb S. Harkness.
"Quite," he answered; "but I am not going to tell you how."
"No, please don't. Of course, you are an American?"
"Yes; but you need not mind that."
"What do you mean?" she asked, looking at him frankly.
"I take it," he answered, with a twinkle in his grave eyes, which she saw,
and liked him for, "that you want some one to listen to your impressions
of—all this. It IS rum, is it not?"
She laughed. "Yes," she admitted, "it is—RUM."
In a few minutes they had found a seat beneath a marvellous stand of
flowers, and she was chattering away like a schoolgirl while he listened,
and added here and there a keen comment or a humorous suggestion.
Presently she began talking of herself, and in natural sequence of her
husband, of their home in England, of his career, and her hatred of
"And," she said suddenly, at the end of it, "here IS my husband."
Harkness followed the direction of her glance, and looked upon a man in
English Court-dress coming towards them.
"Ah!" he said, in a peculiar, dull voice, "that is your husband?"
She was smiling upon the man who approached, beckoning to him to come with
her eyes, as women sometimes do. She turned sharply upon Harkness, her
attention caught by something in his voice.
"Yes?" she answered.
Harkness had risen with a clatter of his sword on the polished floor, and
stood awaiting the introduction.
"My husband—Admiral Harkness."
The men bowed, and, before they could exchange a banal observation, the
fair young man who had been called away came up.
"Phew, this is worse than Simla," he said; then, offering his arm to Lady
Storrel, "Alice," he continued, "I have discovered some ices, THE most
They moved away, the lady favouring Harkness with a little nod, leaving
the two tallest men in that assembly facing each other.
When they were gone, Caleb S. Harkness and Lord Storrel looked into each
"So," said Harkness, lapsing suddenly into a twang, "she waited."
The other nodded. He raised his perfectly gloved hand to his moustache,
which he tugged pensively to either side.
"Yes," he answered; "she waited."
Then he looked round the room, and, seeing that they were almost alone, he
moved towards the seat just vacated by his wife.
"Come and sit down," he said, "and I will tell you a little story."
"Does she know it?" enquired Harkness, when they were seated.
"Then I don't want to hear it! You'd better keep it to yourself, I
The Englishman gave a little laugh, and lapsed into silence—thinking
"I should like to tell you some of it, for my own sake. I don't want you
to go away thinking—something that is not the fact."
"I would rather not have the story," persisted Harkness. This American had
some strange notions of a bygone virtue called chivalry. "Give me a few
facts—I will string them together."
Lord Storrel was sitting forward on his low chair, with his hands clasped
between his knees. They were rather large hands—suggestive of manual
"Suppose," he said, without looking round, "that a man is in a street row
in Dublin, when no one knows he is even in the town. Suppose the—eh—English
side of the question is getting battered, and he hits out and kills a
drunken beast of an Irish agitator. Suppose an innocent man is accused of
it and the right chap is forced to come forward and show up UNDER A FALSE
NAME and gets five years. Suppose he escapes after three and a half, and
goes home, saying that he has been in America, cattle ranching—having
always been a scapegrace, and a ne'er-do-well, who never wrote home when
he had gone off in a huff. Suppose he had tried all this for the sake of—a
girl, and had carried it through—"
Caleb Harkness had discovered that the identity of the British
Plenipotentiary had become known to some of the more curious of the
President's guests, who were now mooning innocently around them as they
sat. He moved in his chair as if to rise.
"Yes—I can suppose all that," he said.
The Englishman's nerve was marvellous. He saw what Harkness had seen a
moment before, and over his face came the bland smile of an intelligent
English man talking naval matters with an American admiral.
"Of course," he said, "I am at your mercy."
"I was at yours once; so now we are quits, I take it."
And the two big men rose and passed out of the room together.
THE TALE OF A SCORPION
Spain is a country where custom reigns supreme. The wonder of to-day is by
to-morrow a matter of indifference.
The man who came a second time to the Cafe Carmona in the Calle Velasquez
in Seville must have known this; else the politely surprised looks, the
furtive glances, the whisperings that met his first visit would have sent
him to some other house of mild entertainment. The truth was that the Cafe
Carmona was, and is still, select; with that somewhat narrow
distinctiveness which is observed by such as have no friendly feelings
towards the authorities that be.
It is a small Cafe, and foreigners had better not look for it. Yet this
man was a foreigner—in fact an Englishman. He was one of those
quiet, unobtrusive men, who are taller than they look, and more important
than they care to be considered. He could, for instance, pass down the
crowded Sierpe of an evening, without so much as attracting a glance; for,
by a few alterations in dress, he converted his outward appearance into
that of a Spaniard. He was naturally dark, and for reasons of his own he
spared the razor. His face was brown, his features good, and a hat with a
flat brim is easily bought. Thus this man passed out of his hotel door in
the evening the facsimile of a dozen others walking in the same street.
Moreover, he had no great reason for doing this. He preferred, he said, to
pass unnoticed. But at the Foreign Office it was known that no man knew
Spain as Cartoner knew it. Some men are so. They take their work
seriously. Cartoner had looked on the map of Europe some years before for
a country little known of the multitude, and of which the knowledge might
prove to be of value. His eye lighted on Spain; and he spent his next
leave there, and the next, and so on.
Consequently there was no one at the Foreign Office who could hold a
candle to Cartoner in matters Spanish. That is already something—to
have that said of one. He is a wise man nowadays who knows something
(however small it be) better than his neighbour. Like all his kind, this
wise man kept his knowledge fresh. He was still learning—he was
studying at the Cafe Carmona in the little street in Seville, called
When he pushed the inner glass door open and lounged into the smoke-filled
room, the waiter, cigarette in mouth, nodded in a friendly way without
betraying surprise. One or two old habitues glanced at him, and returned
to the perusal of La Libertad or El Imparcial without being greatly
interested. The stranger had come the night before. He liked the place—the
coffee suited his taste—"y bien," let him come again.
The waiter came forward without removing the cigarette from his lips;
which was already a step. It placed this new-comer on a level with the
older frequenters of the Carmona.
"Cafe?" he inquired.
"Cafe!" replied the stranger, who spoke little.
He had selected a little table standing rather isolated at one end of the
room, and he sat with his back to the wall. The whole Cafe Carmona lay
before him, and through the smoke of his cigarette he looked with quiet,
unobtrusive eyes, studying... studying.
Presently an old man entered. This little table was his by right of
precedence. He had been sitting at it the night before when the Englishman
had elected to sit beside him; bowing as he did so in the Spanish manner,
and clapping his hands in the way of Spain, to call the waiter when he was
It was this evening the turn of the old man to bow, and the Englishman
returned his salutation. They sat some time in silence, but when Cartoner
passed the sugar the innate politeness of the Spaniard perceived the call
"His Excellency is not of Seville?" he said, with a pleasant smile on his
wrinkled, clean-shaven face.
"No; I am an Englishman."
The keen old face hardened suddenly, until the features were like the
wrinkles of a walnut; and the Spaniard drew himself up with all the
dignity of his race.
The quiet eyes of Cartoner of the Foreign Office never left his face.
Cartoner was surprised; for he knew Spain—he was aware that the
Peninsular War had not been forgotten. He had never, in whatsoever place
or situation, found it expedient to conceal his nationality.
The old Spaniard slowly unfolded his cloak, betraying the shabbiness of
its crimson plush lining. He lighted a cigarette, and then the national
sense of politeness prevailed against personal feeling.
"His Excellency knows Gibraltar?"
"I have been there."
"Pardon me," said the old man, with a grave bow. "I thought—the
Spanish of His Excellency misled me."
The Englishman laughed quietly. "You took me for a scorpion," he said. "I
am not that. I learnt your language here and in the mountains of
"Then, I beg the pardon of His Excellency."
Cartoner made a Spanish gesture with his hand and shoulders, indicating
that no such pardon was called for.
"Like you," he said, "I do not love the Scorpion."
The Spaniard's eyes lighted up with a gleam which was hardly pleasant to
"I HATE them," he hissed, bringing his face close to the quiet eyes; and
the Spanish word means more than ours.
Then he threw himself back in his chair with an upward jerk of the head.
"I have good reason to do so," he added. "I sometimes wonder why I ever
speak to an Englishman; for they resemble you in some things, these
Scorpions. This one had a fair moustache, blue eyes, clean-cut features,
like some of those from the North. But he was not large, this one—the
Rock does not breed a large race. They are mean little men, with small
white hands and women's feet. Ah, God! how I hate them all!"
The Englishman took a fresh cigarette from a Russia leather case, and
pushed the remainder across the table for his companion to help himself
when he had finished mashing the crooked paper between his lips.
"I know your language," the Spaniard went on, "as well almost as you know
mine. But I do not speak it now. It burns my throat—it hurts."
Cartoner lighted his cigarette. He betrayed not the smallest feeling of
curiosity. It was marvellous how he had acquired the manner of these
self-contained Sons of the Peninsula.
"I will tell it."
The Englishman leant his elbow on the table, and his chin within his hand,
gazing indifferently out over the marble tables of the Cafe Carmona. The
men seated there interchanged glances. They knew from the fierce old face,
from the free and dramatic gestures, that old Pedro Roldos was already
telling his story to the stranger.
"Santa Maria!" the old man was saying. "It is not a pleasant story. I
lived at Algeciras—I and my little girl, Lorenza. Too near the Rock—too
near the Rock. You know what we are there. I had a business—the
contraband, of course—and sometimes I was absent for days together.
But Lorenza was a favourite with the neighbours—good women who had
known my wife when she was the beauty of St. Roque—just such a girl
as Lorenza. And I trusted Lorenza; for we are all so. We trust and trust,
and yet we know that love and money will kill honesty and truth at any
moment. These two are sacred—more sacred than honesty or truth.
Diavolo! What a fool I was. I ought to have known that Lorenza was too
pretty to be left alone—ignorant as she was of the ways of the
"Then the neighbours began to throw out hints. They spoke of the English
Caballero, who was so fond of riding round the Bay, and they hinted that
it was not to see our old town of Algeciras that he came.
"One night I came home after a successful journey. I had been as far as
Buceita with a train of five mules—a clear run. When I opened the
door Lorenza was gone. Mother of God! gone—gone without a word! I
went and fetched Nino—Nino, whose father had been my partner until
he was shot by the Guardia Civile one night in the mountain behind Gaucin.
There was no one like Nino for mule work in the mountains or for the
handling of a boat when the west wind blew across the Bay. Nino, whom I
wanted for a son-in-law, having no Nino of my own. I told him. He said
nothing, but followed me to the quay and we got the boat out. In half an
hour I was at the office of the Chief of the Police at Gibraltar. We sat
there all night, Nino and I. By ten o'clock the next morning we knew that
it was not one of the English officers—nor any civilian living on
the Rock. 'It may,' said the Chief of Police, who seemed to know every one
in his little district, 'be a passing stranger or—or a Scorpion. We
do not know so much about them. We cannot penetrate to their houses.' I
gave him a description of Lorenza; he undertook to communicate with
England and with the Spanish police. And Nino and I went back to our work.
It is thus with us poor people. Our hearts break—all that is worth
having goes from our lives, and the end of it is the same; we go back to
The old man paused. His cigarette had gone out long ago. He relighted it
and smoked fiercely in silence for some moments. Cartoner made a sign to
the waiter, who, with the intelligence of his race, brought a decanter of
the wine which he knew the Spaniard preferred.
During all the above relation Cartoner had never uttered a syllable. At
the more violent points he had given a sympathetic little nod of the head—nothing
"It was from that moment that I began to learn the difference between
Englishmen and Scorpions," Pedro Roldos went on. "Up to then I had not
known that it made a difference being born on the Rock or in England. I
did not know what a Scorpion was—with all the vices of England and
Spain in one undersized body. I haunted the Rock. I learnt English. All to
no avail. Lorenza was gone. Nino never said anything—he merely
stayed by my side—but I think that something—some fibre had
broken within him while he held the sheet that first night, sailing across
the Bay in a gale of wind.
"Thus—for a year. Then came a letter from Cadiz. Lorenza was there,
alone with her child. Her husband had deserted her in England, and she had
got back to Cadiz. We went to her, Nino and I, in our boat. We brought her
back; but she was no longer Lorenza. Our grief, our love were nothing to
her. She was like a woman hewn out of marble. Maria! how I hated that man!
You cannot understand—you Englishmen. Though there is something in
your eyes, senor, which makes me think that you too could have felt as I
"From Lorenza I learnt his name, and without telling her, I went across to
Gibraltar. I inquired and found that he was there—there in
Gibraltar. Almost within my grasp—think of that! At once I was
cunning. For we are a simple people, except when we love or hate!"
"Yes," said Cartoner, speaking for the first time. "I know."
"In an hour I knew where he lived. His father was an English groom who had
set up large breeding stables in Gibraltar, and was a rich man. The son
had the pretension of being a gentleman. He had been in England they told
me for a year, buying stud-horses—and—and something else. He
was married. Ah-ha! He had been married three years before he ever saw
Lorenza, and the ceremony which had been observed in the English Church at
Seville was a farce. My heart was hot within me; hot with the hatred for
this man, and I sat in the Cafe Universal, which you know! Yes, you know
everything. I sat there thinking of how I should kill him—slowly,
taking my own time—talking to him all the while.
"What I had learnt was no more than I expected. The woman (his wife), it
appeared, was the daughter of a merchant at Gibraltar. They were a whole
nest of Scorpions. I went back to Algeciras, and said nothing then to
Lorenza. The next night I heard by chance that he and his wife and
children had taken passage in a steamer that sailed for England in two
days. Madre de Dio! he nearly slipped through our fingers. It was not a P.
and O. ship: the passengers had to take a boat from the Old Mole, which is
always crowded with Algeciras boats and others. Nino and I sailed across
there and waited among the small craft. We saw the woman (his wife) and
the children go on board in the afternoon. In the evening he came. I had
arranged it with the licensed boatmen; a few pesetas did that. Our boat
was nearest the steps. In the dim light of the quay lamp he noticed
nothing, but stepped over the gunwale and mentioned the name of his
steamer in a quick way, which he thought was that of the English.
"Nino took the oars, and when we were round the pier head we hoisted the
sail. Then I spoke.
"'I am the father of Lorenza Roldos,' I said, 'and that man is Nino, her
cortejo. We are going to kill you.'
"He started up, and was about to raise a cry, when Nino whipped out his
country knife. We carry them, you know."
"Yes," said Cartoner, speaking for the second time, "I know."
He was watching the old man now beneath the shadow of his hand.
"'If you raise your voice,' I said, 'Nino will put his knife through your
"I saw him glance sideways at the water.
"'You would have no chance that way,' I said; 'I would turn the boat on
you, and run you down.'
"He gave a sort of gasp, and I had the happiness of hearing his teeth
"'I have money,' he said, in his thin, weak voice; 'not here, on board.'
"We said nothing, but I hauled in the sheet a little, and ran for the
"'We are going to kill you,' I said quietly, without hurry.
"We landed just beyond the lighthouse, where there are no sentinels, and
we made him walk up the Europa Road past the Governor's house. Nino's
knife was within two inches of his throat all the while. I think he knew
that his end was near. You know the Third Europa Advance Battery?"
"Yes," answered Cartoner.
"The cliff recedes there. There is a drop of four hundred metres, and then
"Yes, I know."
"It was there," hissed the old Spaniard, with a terrible gleam in his
eyes. "We sat there on the low walk, and I spoke to him. As we came along,
Nino had said to me in our dialect: 'With a man like this, fear is better
than pain;' and I knew that he was right.
"We did not touch him with our knives. We merely spoke to him. And then we
began quietly making our arrangements. That man died a hundred times in
the ten minutes wherein we ballasted him. We tied heavy stones upon his
body—we filled his pockets with smaller ones. We left his arms free,
but to the palm of each hand we bound a stone as large as my head. The
same to each foot.
"Then I said, 'Lie down! Hands and legs straight out! It is only right
that a Scorpion should die from his own rock, and taking some souvenirs
"I took his arms and Nino his feet. We swung him three times, and let him
fly into the darkness.
"And Lorenza never forgave us. She told me that she loved him still. One
never comes to understand a woman!"
ON THE ROCKS
"For they are blest that have not much to rue—
That have not oft misheard the prompter's cue."
The gale was apparently at its height—that is to say, it was blowing
harder than it had blown all through the night. But those whose business
is on the great waters know that a gale usually finishes its wrath in a
few wild squalls. "'Tis getting puffy," the sailors say; "'tis nearly
A man hurrying through the narrow main street of Yport was thrown against
the shutters of the little baker's shop on the left-hand side, and stood
there gasping for breath.
"Mon Dieu!" he muttered. "It's a dog's night."
And he wiped the rain from his face. The wind, which blew from a wild
north-west, roared against the towering cliffs, and from east and west
concentrated itself funnel-wise on the gap where Yport lies. Out seaward
there was a queer, ghostly light lying on the face of the waters—the
storm-light—and landsmen rarely see it. For the sea was beaten into
unbroken foam. The man, who was clad in oilskins, was in the neck of the
funnel. Overhead, he heard the wind roaring through the pines far up on
the slope of the narrow valley—close at hand, a continuous whistle
told of its passage across the housetops. The man steadied himself with
his left hand. He had but one, and he cursed the empty sleeve which
flapped across his face.
"Provided," he muttered, "that I can waken that cure."
He crept on, while the gale paused to take breath, and a moment later
cowered in the porch of a little yellow house. He kicked the door with his
heel and then waited, with his ear to the great keyhole. Surely the cure
must have been a good man to sleep in such a night. The street had
naturally been deserted, for it was nearly three o'clock in the morning,
and dawn could not be far off.
"A one-armed man and a priest!" said the man to himself, with an
expressive jerk of the head. And, indeed, all the men of Yport had sailed
for the Northern fisheries, leaving the village to the women and children,
and the maimed.
Within the house there were sounds of some one astir.
"One comes!" cried a cheery voice belonging assuredly to some one who was
brave, for none expects to be called from his bed to hear good news. A
single bolt was drawn and the door thrown open. The cure—a little
man—stood back, shading the candle with his hand.
"Ah, Jean Belfort! it is you."
"Yes, I and my one arm," replied the man, coming in and closing the door.
The rain dripped from his oilskins to the clean floor.
"Ah, but this is no night to complain. Better be on shore with one arm
than at sea with two to-night."
The little cure looked at his visitor with bright eyes, and a shake of the
head. A quick-spoken man this, with a little square mouth, a soft heart, a
keen sense of humour.
"Why have you got me from my bed, malcontent?" he asked.
"Because there are some out there that want your prayers," replied
Belfort, jerking his head towards the sea. He was an unbeliever, this
maimed sailor, who read the Petit Journal, and talked too loudly in the
Cafe de la Marine of an evening. He spoke mockingly now.
"One can pray in the morning. Come with me while I get on some clothes—if
it is a wreck," said the priest, simply.
The man followed him to a little bare room, of which the walls were
decorated by two cheap sacred prints and a crucifix, such as may be bought
for ten sous at any fair on the coast.
"Never mind your hat," said the priest, seeing the man's fingers at the
strings of his sou'wester. "Give me my great boots from the cupboard. A
wreck is it? The summer storms are always the worst. Is it a boat?"
"Who knows?" replied the man. "It is my wife who looked from the window an
hour ago, and saw a light at sea two points to the east of north—a
red light and then a green and then the masthead light."
"So it would appear; and now there are no lights. That is all."
The priest was dressed, and now pulled on a great oilskin coat. There are
men who seem compact in mind and body, impressing their fellows with a
sense of that restfulness which comes of assured strength. This little
priest was one of these, and the mental impress that he left upon all who
came in contact with him was to the effect that there is nothing in a
human life that need appal, no sorrow beyond the reach of consolation—no
temptation too strong to be resisted. The children ran after him in the
streets, their faces expectant of a joke. The women in the doorways gave a
little sigh as he passed. A woman will often sigh at the thought of that
which another woman has lost, and this touches a whole gamut of thoughts
which are above the reach of a man's mind.
The priest tied the strings of a sou'wester under his pink chin. He was
little more than a boy after all—or else he was the possessor of a
very young heart.
"Between us we make a whole man—you and I," he said cheerily.
"Perhaps we can do something."
They went out into the night, the priest locking the door and pausing to
hide the key under the mat in the porch. They all keep the house-door key
under the mat at Yport. In the narrow street, which forms the whole
village, running down the valley to the sea, they met the full force of
the gale, and stood for a moment breathlessly fighting against it. In a
lull they pushed on.
"And the tide?" shouted the priest.
"It is high at four o'clock—a spring tide, and the wind in the
north-west—not standing room on the shore against the cliff for a
man from here to Glainval."
At high tide the waves beat against the towering cliff all along this grim
coast, and a man standing on the turf may not recognize his son on the
rocks below, while the human voice can only span the distance in calmest
weather. There are spaces of three and four miles between the gaps in the
great and inaccessible bluffs. An evil lee-shore to have under one's
quarter—one of the waste places of the world which Nature has set
apart for her own use. When Nature speaks it is with no uncertain voice.
"There is old Loisette," shouted the cure. "He may have gone to bed
"There is no reason to suppose it," shouted the man in reply. "No, my
father, if there is aught to be done, you and I must do it."
What with the wind and the flannel ear-flaps of the sou'wester, it was
hard to make one's self heard, and the two faces almost touched—the
unbeliever who knew so little, and the priest who knew not only books but
men. They made their way to the little quay, or, rather, the few yards of
sea-wall that protect the houses at the corner of the street. But here
they could not stand, and were forced to retire to the lee side of the
Hotel de la Plage, which, as all know, stands at the corner, with two
timorous windows turned seaward, and all the rest seeking the comfort of
In a few words Belfort explained where the light had been seen, and where,
according to his judgment, the steamer must have taken the rocks.
"If the good God has farther use for any of them, he will throw them on
the shore a kilometre to the east of us, where the wire rope descends from
the cliff to the shore for the seaweed," said the priest.
The other nodded.
"What must be done must be done quickly. Let us go," said the little cure
in his rather bustling manner, at which the great, slow-limbed fishermen
were wont to laugh.
"Along the shore."
"With a rising tide racing in before a north-westerly wind?" said Belfort,
grimly, and shook his head.
"Why not? You have your two legs, and there is Some One—up there!"
"I shouldn't have thought it," answered the man, glancing up at the
storm-driven clouds. "However, where a priest can go a one-armed man can
surely follow. We need lanterns and a bottle of brandy."
"Yes; I will wait and watch here while you fetch them."
The priest, left alone, peered round the corner, shading his eyes with his
soft, white hand, upon which the cold rain pattered. To the east of him he
knew that there were three miles of almost impassable shore, of unbroken,
unscalable cliff. To the west of him the same. On the one hand Fecamp,
five miles away by a cliff path that none would attempt by night, nine
miles by road. On the other hand Etretat, still further by road and cliff
path. Inland a few farms and many miles of forest. He and Belfort had
stumbled over the fallen telegraph wires as they struggled down the
village street. No; if there was a wreck out there in the darkness, and
men, clinging half-drowned to the rigging, were looking towards the shore,
they had better look elsewhere. The sea, like the wind, treated Yport as
the mouth of a funnel, and a hundred cross currents were piling up such
waves as no boat could pass, though the Yport women were skilful as any
man with oar or sail.
Presently Belfort returned carrying two lanterns.
"I have told her that we will not quit the seawall," he said with a short
And straightway they both clambered over the wall and down the iron ladder
to the beach. A meandering, narrow pathway is worn on the weed-grown chalk
from the village to the washing-ground on the beach, a mile to the
eastward, where, at low tide, a spring of fresh water wells up amid the
shingle and the rock. Along this pathway the two men made their way, the
cure following on his companion's heel. They stumbled and fell many times.
At every step they slipped, for their boots were soaked, and the chalk was
greasy and half decomposed by the salt water. At times they paused to
listen, and through the roar of the wind and sea came the distant note of
a bell clanging continuously.
"It is the bell on Fecamp pier," said Belfort. "The mist is coming before
To the east the long arm of Fecamp light swung slowly round the horizon,
from the summit of the great bluff of Notre Dame du Salut, as if sweeping
the sea and elbowing away all that dared approach so grim a coast.
"Ah!" exclaimed the priest, "I am in the water—the tide is coming
To their left a wall of foam and spray shut off all view of the sea. On
the right the cliff rose, a vast barrier, and cut the sky in two. These
two men had nothing in common. They had, indeed, standing between them
that sword which was brought into the world nineteen hundred years ago,
and is still unsheathed. But neither thought of turning back. It had been
agreed between them that they should make what speed they could along the
shore, and only turn back at the last moment, searching the sea and beach
as they returned in the light of dawn.
Belfort, the leader, the expert in night and tide and wind, led the way
with one eye on the sea, the other on the eastern sky, which was now
showing grey through tossing clouds.
"Here we must turn," he said suddenly, "and the last half-mile to the
sea-wall we shall have to wade."
They paused and looked up to the sky. In half an hour the day would come,
but in seventy minutes the breakers must beat against the sheer cliff.
"None has reached the shore alive and with his senses," said Belfort,
looking out to sea. "He would have seen our lights and come to us, or
called if he had broken limbs. It is useless to search the shore too
closely. We shall find them here at the edge, half in, half out,
especially those with life belts, such as we find any winter morning after
He spoke grimly, as one who knew that it is not the deep sea that must be
paid its toll, but the shoal water where the rocks and quicksands and
crabs and gulls are waiting. They made their way back in silence, and
slowly a new grey day crept into life. At last they could see the horizon
and read the face of the water still torn into a seething chaos of foam.
There was no ship upon them. If there had been a wreck the storm had done
its work thoroughly. Belfort climbed to the summit of a rock, and looked
back towards Fecamp. Then he turned and searched the shore towards Yport.
"There is one," he cried, "half in, half out, as I said. We shall cheat
the crabs at all events, my father."
And clambering down, he stumbled on with a reckless haste that contrasted
strangely with his speech. For, whatever our words may be, a human life
must ever command respect. Any may (as some have done) die laughing, but
his last sight must necessarily be of grave faces.
"This one is not dead," said the priest, when they had turned the man over
and dragged him to dry land. Belfort cut away the life-belt, examining it
as he did so.
"No name," he said. "They will have to wait over there in London, till he
can tell them what ship it was. See, he has been struck on the head. But
he is alive—a marvel."
He looked up, meeting the priest's eyes, and, remembering his words spoken
under the lee of the wall of the Hotel de la Plage, he laughed as a fencer
may laugh who has been touched beyond doubt by a skilful adversary.
"He is a small-made man and light enough to carry—some town mouse
this, my father—who has never had a wet jacket before—see his
face how white it is, and his little arms and hands. We can carry him,
turn and turn about, and shall reach the sea-wall before the tide is up,
provided we find no more."
It was full daylight when they at length reached the weed-grown steps at
the side of the sea-wall, and the smoke was already beginning to rise from
the chimneys of Yport. The gale was waning as the day came, but the sea
was at its highest, and all the houses facing northward had their wooden
shutters up. The waves were breaking over the sea-wall, but the two men
with their senseless burden took no heed of it. They were all past
thinking of salt water.
In answer to their summons, the Mother Senneville came hastily enough to
the back door of the Hotel de la Plage—a small inn of no great
promise. The Mother Senneville was a great woman, six feet high, with the
carriage of a Grenadier, the calm eye of some ruminating animal, the soft,
deep voice, and perhaps the soft heart, of a giant.
"Already!" she said simply, as she held the door back for them to pass in.
"I thought there would likely be some this morning without the money in
"This one will not call too loud for his coffee," replied Belfort, with a
cynicism specially assumed for the benefit of the cure. "And now," he
added, as they laid their burden on the wine-stained table, "if he has
papers that will tell us the name of the ship, I will walk to Fecamp, to
Lloyds' agents there, with the news. It will be a five-franc piece in my
They hastily searched the dripping clothing, and found a crumpled
envelope, which, however, told them all they desired to know. It was
addressed to Mr. Albert Robinson, steamship Ocean Waif, Southampton.
"That will suffice," said Belfort. "I take this and leave the rest to you
and Mother Senneville."
"Send the doctor from Fecamp," said the woman—"the new one in the
Rue du Bac. It is the young ones that work best for nothing, and here is
no payment for any of us."
"Not now," said the priest.
"Ah!" cried Belfort, tossing off the brandy, which the Mother Senneville
had poured out for him. "You—you expect so much in the Hereafter,
Mr. the Cure."
"And you—you expect so much in the present, Mr. the one-armed
malcontent," replied the priest, with his comfortable little laugh. "Come,
Madame Senneville. Let me get this man to bed."
"It is an Englishman, of course," said the Mother Senneville, examining
the placid white face. "They throw their dead about the world like
By midday the news was in the London streets, and the talk was all of
storms and wrecks and gallant rescues. And a few whose concern it was
noted the fact that the Ocean Waif, of London, on a voyage from Antwerp
and Southampton to the River Plate, had supposedly been wrecked off the
north coast of France. Sole survivor, Albert Robinson, apparently a
fireman or a steward, who lay at the Hotel de la Plage at Yport,
unconscious, and suffering from a severe concussion of the brain. By
midday, also, the cure was established as sick nurse in the back bedroom
of the little hotel with an English conversation-book, borrowed from the
schoolmaster, protruding from the pocket of his soutane, awaiting the
return of Albert Robinson's inner consciousness.
"Are you feeling better?" the cure had all ready to fire off at him as
soon as he awoke. To which the conversation-book made reply: "Yes, but I
have caught a severe chill on the mountain," which also the cure had made
ready to understand—with modifications.
But the day passed away without any use having been found for the
conversation-book. And sundry persons, whose business it was, came and
looked at Albert Robinson, and talked to the priest and to Jean Belfort—who,
to tell the truth, made much capital and a number of free glasses of red
wine out of the incident—and went away again.
The cure passed that night on the second bed of the back bedroom of the
Hotel de la Plage, and awoke only at daylight, full of self-reproach, to
find his charge still unconscious, still placid like a statue, with cheeks
a little hollower, and lips a little whiter. The young doctor came and
shook his head, and discoursed of other cases of a similar nature which he
had read up since the previous day, and pretended now to have remembered
among his experiences. He also went away again, and Yport seemed to drop
out of the world once more into that oblivion to which a village with such
a poor sea front and no railway station, or lodging houses, or hotels
where there are waiters, must expect to be consigned.
The cure had just finished his dejeuner of fish and an omelette—the
day being Friday—when a carriage rattled down the village street,
leaving behind it doorways suddenly occupied by the female population of
Yport wiping its hands upon its apron.
"It is Francois Morin's carriage from Fecamp," said the Mother Senneville,
"with a Parisienne, who has a parasol, if you please."
"No," corrected the cure; "that is an Englishwoman. I saw several last
year in Rouen."
And he hurried out, hatless, conversation-book in hand. He was rather
taken aback—never having spoken to a person so well-dressed as this
English girl, who nodded quickly in answer to his salutation.
"Is this the hotel? Is he here? Is he conscious yet?" she asked in
"Yes—madam. He is here, but he is not conscious yet. The doctor—"
"I am not madam—I am mademoiselle. I am his sister," said the girl,
quickly descending from the carriage and frankly accepting the assistance
of the cure's rather timid hand.
He followed her meekly, wondering at her complete self-possession—at
an utter lack of ceremony—at a certain blunt frankness which was new
to Yport. She nodded to Madame Senneville.
"Where is he?" she asked.
"Monsieur le Cure will show you. It is he who has saved his life."
The young lady turned and looked into the priest's pink face, which grew
pinker. This was not the material of which gallant rescuers are usually
"Thank you, Monsieur le Cure," she said, with a sudden gentleness. "Thank
you. It is so difficult—is it not?—to thank any one."
"There is not the necessity," murmured the little cure, rather confusedly;
and he led the way upstairs.
Once in the sick-room he found his tongue again, and explained matters
volubly enough. Besides, she made it easy. She was so marvellously
natural, so free from a certain constraint which in some French circles is
mistaken for good manners. She asked every detail, and made particular
inquiry as to who had seen the patient.
"No one must be allowed to see him," she said, in her decisive way. "He
must be kept quite quiet. No one must approach this room, only you and I,
Monsieur le Cure."
"Yes, mademoiselle," he said slowly. "Yes."
"You have been so good—you have done such wonders, that I rely upon
you to help me;" and a sudden, sharp look of anxiety swept across her
face. "We shall be good friends—n'est ce pas?" she said, turning to
look at him as he stood near the door.
"It will be easy, I think, mademoiselle."
Then he turned to Madame Senneville, who was carrying the baggage
"It is his sister, Madame Senneville," he said. "She will, of course, stay
in the hotel."
"Yes, and I have no room ready," replied the huge woman, pessimistically.
"One never knows what a summer storm may bring to one."
"No, Mother Senneville, no; one never knows," he said rather absently, and
went out into the street. He was thinking of the strange young person
upstairs, who was unlike any woman he had met or imagined. Those in her
station in life whom he had seen during his short thirty years were mostly
dressed-up dolls, to whom one made banal remarks without meaning. The rest
were almost men, doing men's work, leading a man's life.
That same evening the injured man recovered consciousness, and it was the
cure who sent off the telegram to the doctor at Fecamp. For the wire had
been repaired with the practical rapidity with which they manage such
affairs in France.
Through the slow recovery it was the cure who was ever at the beck and
call of the two strangers, divining their desires, making quite easy a
situation which otherwise might have been difficult enough. Not only the
cure, but the whole village soon became quite reconciled to the hitherto
unheard-of position assumed by this young girl, without a guardian or a
chaperon, who lived a frank, fearless life among them, making every day
terrible assaults upon that code of feminine behaviour which hedges
Frenchwomen about like a wall.
In the intimacy of the sick-room the little priest soon learnt to talk
with the Englishwoman and her brother quite freely, as man to man, as he
had talked to his bosom friend by selection at St. Omer. And there was in
his heart that ever-abiding wonder that a woman may thus be a companion to
a man, sharing his thoughts, nay, divining them before he had shaped them
in his own mind. It was all very wonderful and new to this little priest,
who had walked, as it were, on one side of the street of life since
boyhood without a thought of crossing the road.
When the three were together they were merry enough; indeed, the
Englishman's mistakes in French were sufficient to cause laughter in
themselves without that re-action which lightens the atmosphere of a
sick-room when the danger is past. But while he was talking to the Mother
Senneville downstairs, or waiting a summons to come up, the cure never
heard laughter in the back bedroom. There seemed to be some shadow there
which fled before his cheery smile when he went upstairs. When he and the
girl were together when she walked on the sea-wall with him for a breath
of air, she was grave enough too, as if now that she knew him better she
no longer considered it necessary to assume a light-heartedness she did
"Are you sure there is nothing I can do to make your life easier here?" he
asked suddenly one day.
"Quite sure," she answered without conviction.
"Have you all that you want, mademoiselle?"
But he felt that there was some anxiety weighing upon her. He was always
at or near the Hotel de la Plage now, so that she could call him from the
window or the door. One day—a day of cloud and drizzle, which are
common enough at Yport in the early summer—he went into the little
front room, which the Mother Senneville fondly called her salon, to read
the daily office from the cloth-bound book he ever carried in his pocket.
He was engaged in this devout work when the Englishwoman came hastily into
the room, closing the door and standing with her back against it.
"There is a gendarme in the street," she said, in little more than a
whisper, her eyes glittering. She was breathless.
"What of it, mademoiselle? It is my old friend the Sergeant Grall. It is I
who christen his children."
"Why is he here?"
"It is his duty, mademoiselle. The village is peaceful enough now that the
men are away at the fisheries. You have nothing to fear."
She glanced round the room with a hunted look in her eyes.
"Oh," she said, "I cannot keep it up any longer. You must have guessed—you
who are so quick—that my brother is a great criminal. He has ruined
thousands of people. He was escaping with the money he had stolen when the
steamer was wrecked."
The cure did not say whether this news surprised him or not, but walked to
the window and looked thoughtfully out to sea. The windows were dull and
"Ah!" the girl cried, "you must not judge hastily. You cannot know his
"I will not judge at all, mademoiselle. No man may judge of another's
temptation. But—he can restore the money."
"No. It was all lost in the steamer."
She had approached the other window, and stood beside the little priest
looking out over the grey sea.
"It was surely my duty to come here and help him, whatever he had done."
"But he says you can give him up if you like."
She glanced at him and caught her breath. The priest shook his head.
"Why not? Because you are too charitable?" she whispered; and again he
shook his head. "Then, why not?" she persisted with a strange pertinacity.
"Because he is your brother, mademoiselle."
And they stood for some moments looking out over the sea, through the
rime-covered windows, in a breathless silence. The cure spoke at length.
"You must get him removed to Havre," he said, in his cheery way, "as soon
as possible. There he can take a steamer to America. I will impress upon
the doctor the necessity of an early departure."
It was not lately, but many years ago, that the Ocean Waif was wrecked in
a summer storm. And any who penetrate to Yport to-day will probably see in
the sunlight on the sea-wall a cheery little cure, who taps his snuff-box,
while he exchanges jokes with the idlers there. Yport has slowly crept
into the ken of the traveller, and every summer sees English tourists pass
that way. They are not popular with the rough natives, who, after all, are
of the same ancestry as ourselves; but the little cure is quick and kind
with information or assistance to all who seek it. When the English tongue
is spoken he draws near and listens—snuff-box in hand; when the
travellers speak in French his eyes travel out to sea with a queer look,
as if the accent aroused some memory.
And in an obscure English watering-place there lives a queer little old
maid—churchy and prim—who does charitable work, gives her
opinion very freely concerning the administration of matters parochial,
thinks the vicar very self-indulgent and idle—and in her own heart
has the abiding conviction that there are none on earth like the Roman
"Golossa-a-l!" I heard him say. "Golossa-a-l, these Englishmen! Are they
A moment later I was introduced to him, and he rose to shake hands—a
tall, fair, good-natured German student. Heavy if you will—but clean
withal, and of a cleanly mind.
"Honour," he muttered politely. "It is not often we have an English
student at Gottingen—but perhaps we can teach you something—eh?"
And he broke into a boyish laugh. "You will take beer?" he added, drawing
forward an iron chair—for we were in the Brauerei Garden.
"A doctor of medicine—the Herr Professor tells me," he said
pleasantly. "Prosit," he added, as he raised his great mug to his lips.
"Prosit! Yes, a doctor of medicine—of the army."
"Ah, of the army, that is good. I also I hope, some day! And you come to
pass our Gottingen examination. Yes, but it is hard—ach Gott!—devilish
There was a restrained shyness about the man which I liked. Shy men are so
rare. And, although he could have cleared the Brauerei Garden in five
minutes, there was no bluster about this Teutonic Hercules. His loud,
good-natured laugh was perhaps the most striking characteristic of Carl
von Mendebach. Next to that, his readiness to be surprised at everything
or anything, and to class it at once as colossal. Hence the nickname by
which he was known amongst us. The term was applied to me a thousand times—figuratively.
For I am a small man, as I have had reason to deplore more than once while
carrying the wounded out of action. It takes so much longer if one is
I cannot exactly say why Carl von Mendebach and I became close friends;
but I do not think that Lisa von Mendebach had anything to do with it. I
was never in love with Lisa, although I admired her intensely, and I never
see a blue-eyed, fair-haired girl to this day without thinking of Lischen.
But I was not in love with her. I was never good-looking. I did not begin
by expecting much from the other sex, and I have never been in love with
anybody. I wonder if Lisa remembers me.
The students were pleasant enough fellows. It must be recollected that I
speak of a period dating back before the war of 1870—before there
was a German Empire. I soon made a sort of place for myself at the
University, and I was tolerated good-naturedly. But Carl did more than
tolerate me. He gave me all the friendship of his simple heart. Without
being expansive—for he was a Hanoverian—he told me all about
himself, his thoughts and his aims, an open-hearted ambition and a very
Germanic contentment with a world which contained beer and music. Then at
last he told me all about his father, General von Mendebach, and Lisa.
Finally he took me to his house one evening to supper.
"Father," he said in his loud, cheery way, "here is the Englishman—a
good friend of mine—a great scholar—golossa-a-l."
The General held out his hand and Lisa bowed, prettily formal, with a
quaint, prim smile which I can see still.
I went to the house often—as often, indeed, as I could. I met the
Von Mendebachs at the usual haunts—the theatre, an occasional
concert, the band on Sunday afternoon, and at the houses of some of the
professors. It was Lisa who told me that another young Briton was coming
to live in Gottingen—not, however, as a student at the University.
He turned out to be a Scotsman—one Andrew Smallie, the dissolute
offspring of a prim Edinburgh family. He had been shipped off to
Gottingen, in the hope that he might there drink himself quietly to death.
The Scotch do not keep their skeletons at home in a cupboard. They ship
them abroad and give them facilities.
Andrew Smallie soon heard that there was an English student in Gottingen,
and, before long, procured an introduction. I disliked him at once. I took
good care not to introduce him to any friends of mine.
"Seem to lead a quiet life here," he said to me one day when I had
exhausted all conversation and every effort to get him out of my rooms.
"Very," I replied.
"Don't you know anybody? It's a deuced slow place. I don't know a soul to
talk to except yourself. Can't take to these beer-drinking, sausage-eating
Germans, you know. Met that friend of yours, Carl von Mendebach,
yesterday, but he didn't seem to see me."
"Yes," I answered. "It is possible he did not know you. You have never
"No," he answered dubiously. "Shouldn't think that would matter in an
out-of-the-way place like this."
"It may seem out of the way to you," I said, without looking up from my
book. "But it does not do so to the people who live here."
"D—d slow lot, I call them," he muttered. He lighted a cigar and
stood looking at me for some time and then he went away.
It was about this time that Carl von Mendebach fought his first student
duel, and he was kind enough to ask me to be his surgeon. It was, of
course, no quarrel of his own, but a point of honour between two clubs;
and Carl was selected to represent his "corps." He was delighted, and the
little slit in his cheek which resulted from the encounter gave him
infinite satisfaction. I had been elected to the "corps" too, and wore my
cap and colours with considerable pride. But, being an Englishman, I was
never asked to fight. I did not then, and I do not now, put forward any
opinion on student duelling. My opinion would make no difference, and
there is much to be said on both sides.
It was a hard winter, and I know few colder places than Gottingen. An ice
fete was organized by the University. I believe Carl and I were among the
most energetic of the organizers. I wish I had never had anything to do
I remember to this day the pleasure of skating with Lisa's warmly gloved
little hands in my own—her small furred form touching me lightly
each time we swung over to the left on the outside edge. I saw Andrew
Smallie once or twice. Once he winked at me, knowingly, as I passed him
with Lisa—and I hated him for it. That man almost spoilt Gottingen
for me. Britons are no friends of mine out of their own country. They
never get over the fallacy that everywhere except London is an
out-of-the-way place where nothing matters.
As the evening wore on, some of the revellers became noisy in a harmless
German way. They began to sing part songs with a skill which is not heard
out of the Fatherland. Parties of young men and maidens joined hands and
swung round the lake in waltz time to the strain of the regimental band.
Lisa was tired, so she sought a seat with the General, leaving Carl and me
to practise complicated figures. They found a seat close to us—a
seat somewhat removed from the lamps. In the dusk it was difficult to
distinguish between the townspeople and the gentlefolk.
We were absorbed in our attempts when I heard a voice I knew—and
"Here, you, little girl in the fur jacket—come and have a turn with
me," it was saying in loud, rasping, intoxicated tones.
I turned sharply. Smallie was standing in front of Lisa with a leer in his
eyes. She was looking up at him—puzzled, frightened—not
understanding English. The General was obesely dumfounded.
"Come along—my dear," Andrew Smallie went on. He reached out his
hand, and, grasping her wrist, tried to drag her towards him.
Then I went for him. I am, as I have confessed, a small man. But if a man
on skates goes for another, he gathers a certain impetus. I gave it to him
with my left, and Andrew Smallie slid along the ice after he had fallen.
The General hustled Lisa away, muttering oaths beneath his great white
When Andrew Smallie picked himself up, Carl von Mendebach was standing
"Tell him," said Carl in German, "that that was my sister."
I told Smallie.
Then Carl von Mendebach slowly drew off his fur glove and boxed Smallie
heavily on the ear so that he rolled over sideways.
"Golossa-a-l," muttered Von Mendebach, as we went away hurriedly together.
The next morning Carl sent an English-speaking student with a challenge to
Andrew Smallie. I wrote a note to my compatriot, telling him that although
it was not our habit in England, he would do well to accept the challenge
or to leave Gottingen at once. Carl stood over me while I wrote the
"Tell him," he said, "where he can procure fencing lessons."
I gave Smallie the name of the best fencing-master in Gottingen. Then we
called for beer and awaited the return of our messenger. The student came
back looking grave and pale.
"He accepts," he said. "But—"
"Well!" we both exclaimed.
"He names pistols."
"What?" I cried. Carl laughed suddenly. We had never thought of such a
thing. Duelling with pistols is forbidden. It is never dreamt of among
"Ah—all right!" said Carl. "If he wishes it."
I at once wrote a note to Smallie, telling him that the thing was
impossible. My messenger was sent back without an answer. I wrote,
offering to fight Carl myself with the usual light sword or the sabre, in
his name and for him. To this I received no answer. I went round to his
rooms and was refused admittance.
The next morning at five—before it was light—Carl and I
started off on foot for a little forest down by the river. At six o'clock
Andrew Smallie arrived. He was accompanied by an Einjahriger—a
German who had lived in England before he came home to serve his year in
We did not know much about it. Carl laughed as I put him in position. The
fresh pink of his cheek—like the complexion of a healthy girl—never
faded for a moment.
"When I've done with him," cried Smallie, "I'll fight you."
We placed our men. The German soldier gave the word. Carl von Mendebach
went down heavily.
He was still smiling—with a strange surprise on his simple face.
"Little man," he said, "he has hit me."
He lay quite still while I quickly loosened his coat. Then suddenly his
"Golossa-a-l!" he muttered. His eyes glazed. He was dead.
I looked up and saw Smallie walking quickly away alone. The Einjahriger
was kneeling beside me.
I have never seen or heard of Andrew Smallie since. I am a grey-haired man
now. I have had work to do in every war of my day. I have been wounded—I
walk very lame. But I still hope to see Andrew Smallie—perhaps in a
country where I can hold him to his threat; if it is only for the
remembrance of five minutes that I had with Lisa when I went back to
Gottingen that cold winter morning.
"Si je vis, c'est bien; si je meurs, c'est bien."
"Ai-i-ieah," the people cried, as Juan Quereno passed—the cry of the
muleteers, in fact. And this was considered an excellent joke. It had been
a joke in the country-side for nearly twenty years; one of perhaps half a
dozen, for the uneducated mind is slow to comprehend, and slower to
forget. Some one had nicknamed Juan Quereno the "Mule" when he was at
school, and Spain, like Italy and parts of Provence, is a country where
men have two names—the baptismal, and the so-called. Indeed, the
custom is so universal, that official records must needs take cognizance
of it, and grave Government papers are made out in the name of so-and-so,
"named the monkey."
There were, after all, worse by-names in the village than the Mule, which
is, as many know, a willing enough beast if taken the right way. If taken
in the wrong—well, one must not take him in the wrong way, and there
is an end of it! A mule will suddenly stop because, it would appear, he
has something on his mind and desires to think it out then and there. And
the man who raises a stick is, of course, a fool. Any one knows that.
There is nothing for it but to stand and watch his ears, which are a
little set back, and cry, "Ai-i-ieah," patiently and respectfully, until
the spirit moves him to go on. And then the mule will move on, slowly at
first, without enthusiasm, a quality which, by the way, is, of all the
animals, only to be found in the horse and the dog.
The quick-witted who had dealings with Quereno knew, therefore, by his
name what manner of man this was, and dealt with him accordingly. Juan
Quereno was himself a muleteer, and in even such a humble capacity as
scrambling behind a beast of burden over a rocky range of mountains and
through a stream or two, a man may make for himself a small reputation in
his small world. Juan Quereno was, namely, a Government muleteer, and
carried the mails over nineteen chaotic miles of rock and river. When the
mails were delayed owing, it was officially announced, to heavy snow or
rain in the mountains, the delay never occurred on Quereno's etapa.
For nine years, winter and summer, storm and shine, he got his mails
through, backwards and forwards, sleeping one night at San Celoni, the
next at Puente de Rey. Such was Juan Quereno, "a stupid enough fellow,"
the democratic schoolmaster of San Celoni said, with a shrug of his
shoulders and a wave of the cigarette which he always carried half-smoked
and unlighted in his fingers.
The schoolmaster was, nevertheless, pleasant enough when the Mule,
clean-shaven and shy, with a shrinking look in his steady, black eyes,
asked one evening if he could speak to him alone.
"But yes—amigo!" he replied; "but yes." And he drew aside on the
bench that stands at the schoolhouse door. "Sit down."
The Mule sat down, leant heavily against the wall, and thrust out first
one heavy foot and then the other. Then he sat forward with his elbows on
his knees, and looked at his dusty boots. His face was tanned a deep brown—a
stolid face—not indicative of much intelligence perhaps, not
spiritual, but not bad on the other hand, which is something in a world
that abounds in bad faces. He glanced sideways at the schoolmaster, and
moistened his lips with his tongue, openly, after the manner of the
"It is about Caterina, eh?" inquired the elder man.
"Yes," replied the Mule, with a sort of gasp. If the Mule had ever been
afraid in his life, it was at that moment—afraid, if you please, of
a little democrat of a schoolmaster no bigger than the first-class boys,
blinking through a pair of magnifying spectacles which must have made the
world look very large, if one could judge from the effect that they had
upon his eyes.
The schoolmaster looked up towards the mountains, to the goats poised
there upon the broken ground, seeking a scanty herbage in the crannies.
"How many beasts is it that you have—four or five?" he inquired
kindly enough, after a moment, and the Mule drew a deep breath.
"Five," he replied; and added, after a minute's deep and honest thought,
"and good ones, except Cristofero Colon, the big one. He eats much, and
yet, when the moment comes"—he paused and looked towards the
mountains, which rose like a wall to the south, a wall that the Mule must
daily climb—"when the moment comes he will sometimes refuse—especially
in an east wind."
The schoolmaster smiled, thinking perhaps of that other Cristofero Colon
and the east wind that blew him to immortal fame.
"And Caterina," he asked. "What does she think of it?"
"I don't know."
The schoolmaster looked at his companion with an upward jerk of the head.
It was evident that he thought him a dull fellow. But that assuredly was
Caterina's affair. It was, on the other hand, distinctly the affair of
Caterina's father to remember those five beasts of the Mule's, than which
there were none better in the country-side—to recollect that the
Mule himself had a good name at his trade, and was trusted by the
authorities. There was no match so good in all the valley, and certainly
none to compare with this dull swain in the accursed village of San
Celoni. The schoolmaster never spoke of the village without a malediction.
He had been planted there in his youth with a promise of promotion, and
promotion had never come. For a man of education it was exile—no
newspapers, no passing travellers at the Cafe. The nearest town was twenty
miles away over the Sierra Nevada, and Malaga—the paved Paradise of
his rural dreams—forty rugged miles to the south. No wonder he was a
democrat, this disappointed man. In a Republic, now, such as his father
had schemed for in the forties, he would have succeeded. A Republic, it
must be remembered, being a community in which every man is not only
equal, but superior to his neighbour.
"You don't know?"
"No," answered the Mule, with a dull look of shame at his own
faint-heartedness. Moreover, he was assuredly speaking an untruth. The man
who fears to inquire—knows.
As a matter of fact, he had hardly spoken to Caterina. Conversation was
not the Mule's strong point. He had exchanged the usual greetings with her
at the fountain on a fiesta day. He had nodded a good morning to her,
gruff and curt (for the Mule had no manners), more times than he could
count. And Caterina had met his slow glance with those solemn eyes of
hers, and that, so to speak, had settled the Mule's business. Just as it
would have settled the business of five out of six men. For Caterina had
Moorish eyes—dark and solemn and sad, which said a hundred things
that Caterina had never thought of—which seemed to have some history
in them that could hardly have been Caterina's history, for she was only
seventeen. Though, as to this, one cannot always be sure. Perhaps the
history was all to come. Of course, the Mule knew none of these things. He
was a hard-working, open-air Andalusian, and only knew that he wanted
Caterina, and, as the saying is, could not live without her. Meantime he
lived on from day to day without that which he wanted, and worked—just
as the reader may be doing. That, in fact, is life—to live on
without something or other, and work. Than which there is one thing worse,
namely, to live on and be idle.
"But—" said the schoolmaster, slowly, for Andalusian tongues are
slow, if the knives are quick—"but one may suppose that you would
make her a good husband."
And a sudden gruff laugh was the answer. A woman would have understood it;
but Caterina had no mother. And the schoolmaster was thinking of the five
beasts and the postal appointment. The muleteer's face slowly sank back
into stolidity again. The light that had flashed across it had elevated
that dull physiognomy for a moment only.
"Yes," said the Mule slowly, at length.
"You can read and write?" inquired the man of education.
"Yes, but not quickly!"
"That," said the schoolmaster, "is a matter of practice. You should read
Which was bad advice, for the Mule was simple and might have believed what
The conversation was a long one; that is to say, it lasted a long time;
until, indeed, the sun had set and the mountains had faded from blue to
grey, while the far-off snow peaks reared their shadowy heads into the
very stars. The schoolmaster had a few more questions to ask, and the Mule
answered them in monosyllables. He was tired, perhaps, after his day's
journey; for he had come the northward trip, which was always the hardest,
entailing as it did a rocky climb on the sunny side of the mountains. He
had nothing to say in his own favour, which is not such a serious matter
as some might suspect. The world does not always take us at our own
valuation, which is just as well—for the world.
Indeed, the schoolmaster only succeeded in confirming his own suspicion
that this was nothing but a dull fellow, and he finally had to dismiss the
Mule, who had not even the savoir faire to perceive when conversation was
"Vederemos," he said, judicially, "we shall see."
And the Mule went away with that heaviness of heart which must surely
follow a mean action. For he knew that in applying to Caterina's father he
had placed Caterina at a disadvantage. The schoolmaster, be it remembered,
was a democrat, and such are usually autocrats in their own house. He was,
moreover, a selfish man, and had long cherished the conviction that he was
destined to be great. He thought that he was an orator, and that gift,
which is called by those who do not possess it the gift of the gab, is the
most dangerous that a man can have. There was no one in San Celoni to
listen to him. And if Caterina were married and he were a free man, he
could give up the school and go to Malaga, where assuredly he could make a
So the schoolmaster told Caterina the next morning that she was to marry
the Mule—that the matter was settled. The dusky roses faded from
Caterina's cheek for a moment, and her great dark eyes had a hunted look.
That look had often come there of late. The priest had noticed it, and one
or two old women.
"Almost as if she were in the mountains," they said, which is a local
polite way of referring to those unfortunate gentlemen who, for some
reason or another, do not desire to meet the Guardia Civil, and haunt the
upper slopes of the Sierra Nevada, where they live, as live the beasts of
the forest, seeking their meat from God, while the charitable, and, it is
even whispered, the priest or the Alcalde himself, will at times lay an
old coat or a loaf of bread at the roadside above the village, and never
inquire who comes to take it.
The Mule himself, it is known, buys more matches than he can ever burn, so
much as six boxes at a time, of those cheap sulphurous wooden matches that
are made at Barcelona, and the next day will buy more. The Mule, however,
is such a silent man that those who are "in the mountains" make no
concealment with him, but meet him (wild, unkempt figures that appear
quietly from behind a great rock) as he passes on his journeys, and ask
him if he has a match upon him. They sometimes look at the mail-bags slung
across the stubborn back of Cristofero Colon with eyes that have the
hunted, hungry look which Caterina has.
"There is, perhaps, money in there," they say.
"Perhaps," answers the Mule, without afterthought.
"It may be a thousand pesetas."
And the Mule, who is brave enough where Caterina is not concerned, quietly
turns his back upon a man who carries a gun, and follows Cristofero Colon.
It sometimes happens that he trudges his nineteen miles without meeting
any one, with no companion but his mules and his dog. This last-named
animal is such as may be met in Spain or even in France at any street
corner—not a retriever, nor a foxhound, nor anything at all but a
dog as distinguished from a cat or a goat, living a troubled and uncertain
life in a world that will always cringe to a pedigree, but has no respect
for nondescripts. It was on these journeys that the Mule had so much
leisure for thought. For even he could think, according to his dim lights.
He was only conscious, however, of an ever-increasing feeling of a
sickness—a physical nausea (for he was, of course, a mere
earthy-creature)—at the thought of a possible life without Caterina.
And it was at the end of a grilling day that the schoolmaster beckoned to
him as he passed the school-house, and told him that it was settled—that
Caterina would marry him.
"Would you like to see her? She is indoors," inquired the bearer of the
"No," answered the Mule, after a dull pause. "Not to-night. I have my
mail-bags, as you see."
And he clattered on down the narrow street with a dazed look, as if the
brightness of Paradise had flashed across his vision.
So it was settled. Caterina and the Mule were to be married, and there had
been no love-making, the old women said. "And what," they asked, "is youth
for, if there is to be no love-making?"
"And God knows they were right," said the priest who heard the remark, and
who was a very old man himself.
Two days after that, the Mule met Caterina as she was going to the
fountain. He said "Good morning." They both stopped, and the Mule looked
into Caterina's eyes and had nothing to say. For he saw something there
which he did not understand, and which made him feel that he was no better
than Cristofero Colon, scraping and stumbling up the narrow street with
the mail-bags, in such a vile temper, by the way, that the Mule had to
hurry after him.
"It is a slow business," said the schoolmaster to Sergeant Nolveda, of the
Guardia Civil, who lived in San Celoni and trained one young recruit after
another according to the regulations of this admirable corps. For one
never meets a Guardia Civil alone, but always in company—an old head
and a pair of young legs. "A slow business. He is not a lover such as I
should choose were I a pretty girl like Caterina; but one can never tell
Indeed, matters did not progress very quickly. The Mule appeared to take
so much for granted—to take as said so much that had not been said.
Even the love-making seemed to him to have been understood, and he
appeared to be quite content to go his daily journeys with the knowledge
that Caterina was to be his wife. There were, of course, others in the
valley who would have been glad enough to marry Caterina, but she had
shown no preference for any of these swains, who knew themselves inferior,
in a worldly sense, to the Mule. So the whole country-side gradually
accustomed itself also to the fact that Caterina was to marry Quereno. The
news even spread to the mountains. The Mule heard of it there one day when
he had accomplished fourteen daily journeys to the accompaniment of this
As he was nearing the summit of the pass he saw Pedro Casavel, who had
been "in the mountains" three years, seated on a stone awaiting him. Pedro
Casavel was a superior man, who had injured another in a dispute
originating in politics. His adversary was an old man, now stricken with a
mortal disease. And it was said that Pedro Casavel could safely return to
the village, where his father owned a good house and some land. His enemy
had forgiven him, and would not prosecute. But Casavel lingered in the
mountains, distrusting so Christian a spirit.
He rose as the Mule slowly approached. He carried a gun always, and was
more daring than his companions in retreat. The Mule mechanically sought
in his jacket pocket for a box of matches, which he knew would be a
welcome gift, and held them out silently as he neared Casavel. But Casavel
did not take them.
"I hear that you are to marry Caterina," he said, with a half disdainful
laugh. "Is it true?"
"It is true," answered the Mule.
"If you do," cried the other, passionately, with a bang on the stock of
his gun that startled Cristofero Colon—"if you do, I will shoot
The Mule smiled slowly, just as he smiled when the people cried
"Ai-i-ieah" as he passed them.
"I am going to marry her," he said, with a shake of the head. And
mechanically he handed the other the box of matches, which Casavel took,
though his eyes still flashed with anger and that terrible jealousy which
flows in Southern blood. Then the Mule walked slowly on, while his dog
shambled after him, turning back once or twice to glance apprehensively at
the man left standing in the middle of the rocky path. Dogs, it is known,
have a keener scent than human beings—perhaps, also, they have a
keener vision, and see more written on the face of man than we can
The Mule turned at the summit of the pass, and looked down, as he always
did, at the village where Caterina lived, before turning his face to the
sunnier southern slope. He saw Casavel standing where he had left him,
holding up the gun with a threatening gesture. The Mule had no eye for
effect. He did not even shrug his shoulders.
It was finally the schoolmaster who hurried matters to their natural
conclusion. By his advice, the Mule, who had hitherto lodged in the house
of the postmaster, rented a cottage of his own and bought some simple
furniture. He consulted Caterina on several points, and she was
momentarily aroused from a sort of apathy which had come over her of late,
by a very feminine interest in the kitchen fittings. The best that could
be said for Caterina was that she was resigned. As for the Mule, like the
animal from which he had acquired his habits of thought as well as his
name, he seemed to expect but little from life. So, one morning before
departing on his daily journey, the Mule was unobtrusively married to
Caterina in the little pink stucco chapel that broods over the village of
San Celoni like a hen over her chickens. And Cristofero Colon and the dog
It was a commonplace ceremony, and at its conclusion the bridegroom
trudged off up the village street behind his mail-bags. The Mule, it must
be admitted, was a deadly dull person—y nada mas—and nothing
more, as his fond father-in-law observed at the cafe that same morning.
But when he returned on the second evening, he made it evident that he had
been thinking of Caterina in his absence, for he gave her, half shyly and
very awkwardly, some presents that he had brought from a larger village
than San Celoni, which he had passed on his way. There were shops in the
village, and it was held in the district that articles bought there were
of superior quality to such as came even from Granada or Malaga. The Mule
had expended nearly a peseta on a coloured kerchief such as women wear on
their heads, and a brooch of blue glass.
"Thank you," said Caterina, taking the presents and examining them with
bright eyes. She stood before him in a girlish attitude, folding the
kerchief across her hand, and holding it so that the light of their new
lamp fell upon it. "It is very pretty."
The Mule had washed his face and hands at the fountain, as he came into
San Celoni, remembering that he was a bridegroom. He stood, sleek and
sunburnt, looking down at her, and, if he had only had the words, the
love-making might have commenced then and there, at a point where the
world says it usually ends.
"There was nothing," he said slowly at length, "in the shops that seemed
to me pretty at all—" He paused, and turned away to lay his beret
aside, then, with his back towards her, he finished the sentence. "Not
pretty enough for you."
Caterina winced, as if he had hurt instead of pleased her. She busied
herself with the preparations for their simple supper, and the Mule sat
silently watching her—as happy, perhaps, in his dull way, as any
king has ever been. Then suddenly Caterina's fingers began to falter, and
she placed the plates on the table with a clatter, as if her eyes were
blinded. She hesitated, and with a sort of wail of despair, sat down and
hid her face in her apron. And the Mule's happiness was only human after
all, for it was transformed in the twinkling of an eye into abject misery.
He sat biting his lip, and looking at her as she sobbed. Then at length he
rose slowly, and, going to her, laid his great, solid, heavy hand upon her
shoulder. But he could not think of anything to say. He could only meet
this as he had met other emergencies, with that silence which he had
acquired from the dumb beasts amid the mountains.
At length, after a long pause, he spoke. He had detected a movement, made
by Caterina and instantly restrained, to withdraw from the touch of his
hand, and this had set his slow brain thinking. He had dealt with animals
more than with men, and was less slow to read a movement than to
understand a word.
"What is it?" he asked. "Is it that you are sorry you married me?"
And Caterina, who belonged to a people saying yea, yea, and nay, nay,
nodded her head.
"Why?" asked the Mule, with a deadly economy of words. And she did not
answer him. "Is it because—there is another man?"
It was known in the valley that the Mule had never used his knife, not
even in self-defence. Caterina did not dare, however, to answer him. She
only whispered a prayer to the Virgin.
"Is it Pedro Casavel?" asked the Mule; and the question brought her to her
feet, facing him with white cheeks.
"No—no—no!" she cried. "What made you think that? Oh—no!"
Woman-like, she thought she could fool him. The Mule turned away from her
and sat down again. Woman-like, she had forgotten her own danger at the
mere thought that Casavel might suffer.
"And he—in the mountains," said the Mule, thinking aloud. He was
beginning to see now, at last, when it was too late, as better men than he
have done before, and will continue to do hereafter. Caterina could not
have held out as an objection to her marriage the fact that she loved a
man who was in the mountains. The schoolmaster was not one to listen to
such an argument as that, especially from a girl who could not know her
own mind. For the schoolmaster was, despite his radical tendencies,
bigoted in his adherence to the old mistakes.
Caterina might have told the Mule, perhaps, if he had asked her; for she
knew that he was gentle even with the stubborn Cristofero Colon. But he
had not asked her, failing the necessary courage to face the truth.
It was, of course, the woman who spoke first, in a quiet voice, with that
philosophy of life which is better understood by women than by men.
"You must, at all events, eat," she said, "after your journey. It is a
cocida that I have made."
She busied herself among the new kitchen utensils with movements hardly
yet as certain as the movements of a woman, but rather those of a child,
hasty and yet deft enough. The Mule watched her, seated clumsily, with
round shoulders, in the attitude of a field labourer indoors. When the
steaming dish, which smelt of onions, was set upon the table, he rose and
dragged his chair forward. He did not think of setting a chair in place
for Caterina, who brought one for herself, and they sat down—to
their wedding feast.
They appeared to accept the situation, as the poor and the hard-worked
have to accept the many drawbacks to their lot, without further comment.
The Mule cultivated a more complete silence than hitherto; but he was
always kind to Caterina, treating her as he would one of his beasts which
had been injured, with a mutual silent acceptance of the fact that she had
a sorrow, a weak spot as it were, which must not be touched. With a stolid
tact he never mentioned the mountains, or those unfortunate men who dwelt
therein. If he met Pedro Casavel he did not mention the encounter to
Caterina. Neither did he make any reference to Caterina when he gave Pedro
a box of matches. Indeed, he rarely spoke to Casavel at all, but nodded
and passed on his way. If Casavel approached from behind he stopped
without looking round, and waited for him just as his mules stopped, and
as mules always do when they hear any one approaching from behind.
So time went on, and the schoolmaster, resigning his situation, departed
to Malaga, where, by the way, he came to no good; for of talking there is
too much in this world, and a wise man would not say thank you for the
gift of the gab. The man whom Pedro Casavel had injured died quietly in
his bed. Caterina went about her daily work with her unspoken history in
her eyes, while Pedro himself no doubt ate his heart out in the mountains.
That he ate it out in silence could scarcely be, for the tale got about
the valley somehow that he and Caterina had been lovers before his
And as for the Mule, he trudged his daily score of miles, and said nothing
to any man. It would be hard to say whether he noticed that Pedro Casavel,
when he showed himself now in the mountains, appeared rather
ostentatiously without his gun—harder still to guess whether the
Mule knew that as he passed across the summit Casavel would sometimes lie
amid the rocks, and cover him with that same gun for a hundred yards or
so, slowly following his movements with the steady barrel so that the
mail-carrier's life hung, as it were, on the touch of a trigger for
minutes together. Pedro Casavel seemed to shift his hiding place, as if he
were seeking to perfect certain details of light and range and elevation.
Perhaps it was only a grim enjoyment which he gathered from thus holding
the Mule's life in his hand for five or six minutes two or three times a
week; perhaps, after all, he was that base thing, a coward, and lacked the
nerve to pull a trigger—to throw a bold stake upon life's table and
stand by the result. Each day he crept a little nearer, grew more daring;
until he noticed a movement made by the lank, ill-fed dog, that seemed to
indicate that the beast, at all events, knew of his presence in the rocks
above the footpath.
Then one day, when there was no wind, and the light was good and the range
had been ascertained, Pedro Casavel pulled the trigger. The report and a
puff of bluish smoke floated up to heaven, where they were doubtless taken
note of, and the Mule fell forward on his face.
"I have it," he muttered, in the curt, Andalusian dialect. And then and
there the Mule died.
It happened to be Cristofero Colon's day to do the southward journey, and
despite the lank dog's most strenuous efforts, he continued his way,
gravely carrying the dusty mail-bags to their destination. The dog
remained behind with the Mule, pessimistically sniffing at his clothing,
recognizing, no doubt, that which, next to an earthquake, is the easiest
thing to recognize in nature. Then at length he turned homewards, towards
San Celoni, with hanging ears and a loose tail. He probably suspected that
the Mule had long stood between him and starvation—that none other
would take his place or remember to feed a dog of so unattractive an
appearance and no pedigree whatever.
Caterina did not expect the Mule to return that evening, which was his
night away from home at Puente de Rey. She hurried to the door, therefore,
when she heard, after nightfall, the clatter of hoofs in the narrow
street, and the shuffling of iron heels at her very step. She opened the
door, and in the bright moonlight saw the cocked-hats and long cloaks of
the Guardia Civil. There were other men behind them, and a beast shuffled
his feet as he was bidden to stand still.
"What is it?" she asked. "An accident to the Mule?"
"Not exactly that," replied the Sergeant, grimly, as he made way for two
men who approached carefully, carrying a heavy weight. It was the Mule
whom they brought in and laid on the table.
"Shot," said the Sergeant, curtly. He had heard the gossip of the valley,
and doubted whether Caterina would need much pity or consideration. His
companion-in-arms now appeared, leading by the sleeve one who was
evidently his captive. Caterina looked up and met his eyes. It was Pedro
Casavel, sullen, ill-clad, half a barbarian, with the seal of the
mountains upon him. "The mail-bags are missing," pursued the Sergeant, who
in a way was the law-giver of the valley. "Robbery was doubtless the
object. We shall find the mail-bags among the rocks. The Mule must have
shown fight; for his pistol was in his pocket with one barrel discharged."
As he spoke he laid his hand upon the Mule's broad chest without heeding
the stained shirt. That stain was no new sight to an old soldier.
"Robbery," he repeated, with a glance at Casavel and Caterina, who stood
one on each side of the table that bore such a grim burden, and looked at
each other. "Robbery and murder. So we brought Pedro Casavel, whose
hiding-place we have known these last two years, with us—on the
chance, eh?—on the chance. It was the dog that came and told us.
Whoever shot the man should have shot the dog too—for safety's
As the Sergeant spoke, he mechanically made sure that the Mule's pockets
were empty. Suddenly he stopped, and withdrew a folded paper from the
inside pocket of the jacket. He turned towards the lamp to read the
writing on it. It was the Mule's writing. The Sergeant turned, after a
moment's thought, and faced Casavel again.
"You are free to go, Pedro," he said. "I have made a mistake, and I ask
He held out the paper, which, however, Casavel did not take, but stood
stupidly staring, as if he did not understand.
Then the Sergeant turned to the lamp again. He unfolded the paper, which
was crumpled as if with long friction in the pocket, and read aloud—
"Let no one be accused of my death. It is I, who, owing to private
trouble, shall shoot myself. Juan Quereno, so-called the 'Mule.'"
IN LOVE AND WAR
"Secret de deux, secret de Dieu."
"Guess anybody could be a soldier and swing a sword, while it takes brains
to make a doctor."
Now I was a doctor, and a very young one in those days, new to the
regiment and conscious of my inferiority to its merest subaltern. The
young person who made the above observation was, moreover, pretty, with
dark eyes and the most bewitching lips that ever gave voice to an American
accent. My heart was young, and therefore easily stirred by such vanities—nothing
stirs it now but the cry of the bugle and the sullen roar that rises from
the ranks when, at last, T. Atkins is allowed to get to the bayonet.
We were sitting in the verandah of the Residency in the capital of a
northern tributary state which need not be further specified here. The
Rajah was in difficulties and unable, without our aid, to dispose of a
claimant to his throne, whose hereditary right originated somewhere in the
lifetime of St. Paul. General Elias J. Watson, of Boston, U.S.A., was
travelling for the enlargement of his own and his daughter's mind.
"Pa is just going to write a book about things in general," explained Miss
Bertha Watson, with a wise little smile, when her father's thirst for
information became irksome.
Hearing in Simla that an expeditionary force was about to be despatched to
the assistance of the Rajah of Oadpur, General Watson hastened thither. He
had letters of introduction from sundry persons who wished to get rid of
him to sundry others who had no desire to assist in any way. But the old
man's naivete and characteristically simple interest in details soon made
their way, while Bertha's wise little smile carried all before it. It
somehow conveyed the impression that she knew a thing or two of which we
were ignorant, and like one man we fell to desiring knowledge of those
things. I was nowhere. Doctors never are anywhere in regimental
competitions, for they are usually, like myself, deadly poor. Sometimes
Bertha danced with me, as on this occasion, at the impromptu
entertainments given by the Resident.
"Say, shall we have another?" she observed before my heart had recovered
from the effect of the last remark. And she handed me the stationery
department envelope which served as a programme on these occasions.
I fumbled for my pencil in a seventh heaven of joy. I had read somewhere
that women sometimes give their hearts to small and insignificant men. But
it seemed unlikely that this referred to such women as Bertha Watson. I
had never dreamt of cutting out the other men: Major Le Mesurier-Groselin,
who had money, for instance, or Austin Graham—especially Austin
Graham. There had been a rumour in the air—planted there, no doubt,
by some of the women who have a marvellous scent for a light trail—that
there was an understanding between Graham and Bertha. I noticed that she
never looked at him with her bewitching little smile as she did at the
rest of us. But that was all I could detect. Perhaps she thought that he
was wiser than herself. Perhaps, moreover, she was right; for Graham was
the wisest man up there, and I think the bravest. He meant business, he
told me, and had come to make his name in this little war.
He was a quiet-going, fair man, with that inestimable advantage of looking
at all times exactly what he was, namely, a gentleman by long descent. He
was a great friend of mine, and we shared quarters in a sort of gatehouse
to the Rajah's palace, where I knew that he worked night and day, for he
was chief of the staff, and had a great scheme of crushing the
insurrection, at one blow, by a surprise assault of the fortified town
twenty miles away, where the claimant lay with his forces.
"Seems to me," said Bertha, when I had duly inscribed my name on the
Government envelope, "that this is what you call a demonstration in force.
This is not serious war. You are not going to fight at all. Things are
much too quiet and orderly—with church parade, and
soirees-dansantes, and visiting cards."
She looked at me, and if I had had any secrets I should have told them to
her then and there.
"Then you think there'll be fighting," she added, with a calmness of
demeanour which was in itself unusual and fascinating enough.
She had no reason to arrive at such a conclusion, for I had not uttered a
sound. I probably did not know, however, in those days that the lies
requiring the minutest care are the unspoken ones.
"You see, I'm only a doctor," I answered, "and, strange to say, the
Brigadier has not as yet taken me into his confidence."
"I know a lot about war," she went on after a momentary pause. She
appeared to have some misgiving about one of the buttons on her long glove
which she had undone and was tentatively tugging at the thread.
"May I button that?" I said hurriedly in my extreme youth, and with a
"Why, yes—if you have any ambition that way." And she extended her
arm towards me. "Now," she said, with a grave air of confidence which I
now distrust whenever it is tried upon me, "if I was the man in charge of
this show, I would just go on like this, giving balls and private
theatricals and exchanging visiting cards. This place is full of spies, of
course. The very servants who wait on the General probably read all his
letters and send copies of them to the enemy. The plan of campaign is
probably as well known to What-'em-you-call-it Khan as it is to the
"No, I am sure it isn't," I interrupted; "because Graham keeps it locked
up in a medical-comfort chest with his dressing-case locked, which we
screwed on ourselves."
"Ah, is that so, doctor? Well, you can't be too careful, can you? As I was
saying, I should convey to the spies the impression that it was only a
demonstration in force. Then one night I should start off quietly, march
twenty miles, and give What-'em-you-call-it Khan Hail Columbia before
She looked at me, gave a knowing little nod of the head, and began fanning
"That is my plan of campaign," she said. "You know Pa is here on purpose
to see the British soldier fight. We have been waiting here a month now,
and I hope you are going to ring up the curtain soon. Pa has theories
about the British soldier, and although he is a General, you know he has
never seen a fight. I tell him if I was a General who hadn't seen a fight,
I'd just go out and sell myself cheap! What?"
"I guess you spoke."
"I said you'd probably do that at any rate."
"Not cheap," she answered gravely, and then we changed the subject. So far
as I recollect, we returned to the discussion of doctors and their trade,
and before long I had the opportunity of airing my special hobby at that
time—the study of native drugs. Miss Watson was deeply interested—at
least, she made me think so, and before we parted I had promised to send
round to her "diggings," as she called them, a bottle of a perfectly
harmless narcotic which I had made up for the use of persons suffering
from sea-sickness or toothache. I use it still, and have some always by me
on service in a bottle labelled "Bertha," for there is, after all,
something in a name.
I went home to my quarters rather thoughtful that night; for Bertha
Watson's plan of campaign was Austin Graham's plan of campaign, and I knew
that Graham was not the man to divulge so much as a hint of this secret. I
know now that if a woman loves a man she knows much that he never tells
her, but I was ignorant of this and many other matters at the time when I
made Bertha's acquaintance.
The days dragged on and we seemed to be no nearer solving the Rajah's
difficulties. There were at that time no native newspapers, and bazaar
gossip, which is, by the way, surer and speedier than the most enlightened
press, made up for the want. Bazaar gossip held much the same opinion as
Bertha Watson—namely, that we were only a demonstration in force.
This opinion gained ground daily, and began like a hardy weed to throw out
tendrils in the shape of details. We were afraid of the claimant to the
throne, it seemed. We had quarrelled with the Rajah, and would not risk a
defeat on his account.
Austin Graham came and went. I sometimes found mysterious natives waiting
for him in our quarters. One of these natives spoke Hindustanee with a
faint Scotch accent, and laughed when I told him so.
"I'm all right in the dialects though," he said, in Glasgow English, and
asked for a cigarette. We sat and talked for half an hour awaiting
Graham's arrival, but he never told me who he was.
One night, about midnight, I was aroused by Le Mesurier-Groselin, who was
in full fighting kit and had a queer light in his eyes which was new to
me, though heaven and the Horse Guards know that I have seen it often
"Get up—Sawbones!" said Le Mesurier-Groselin. "You'll be wanted at
any rate, but now I want you badly. We're just off to smoke the old Khan
out, and something has gone wrong with Graham. For God's sake, man, hurry
up! It will be a pretty fight, and I would not miss it for worlds."
I looked at Le Mesurier-Groselin as I hauled on my clothes. He had eight
thousand a year, an Elizabethan manor in England, and the certainty of a
baronetcy; but the thought of these things never brought to his eyes the
light that was there now.
"What is wrong with Graham?"
"I don't know—wish I did. Can't move him. Seems quite stupid or dead
drunk," answered Le Mesurier-Groselin, handing me my belt.
We hurried upstairs to the room occupied by Austin Graham, and there found
him lying on the bed with his eyes almost, but not quite, shut.
"Where was he to-night—dining with you at mess?" I asked, raising
one heavy lid with my finger.
"No, he dined with the Watsons."
"When did you last see him?"
"About ten o'clock at my quarters. He was coming here to change in time
for the assembly at eleven forty-five—the column is just marching. I
came here to hurry him up and found him like this. The whole attack is his
planning. It would have been the making of him. He was to have led the
ladders. Gad! what a chance the man had—and look at the poor devil
I was examining Austin Graham with a thumping heart, for a queer suspicion
was in my mind. Presently I ran downstairs and uncorked the bottle which I
now label "Bertha." The smell was identical, and I went upstairs again.
"Help me to get him into his boots and tunic," I said.
And Le Mesurier-Groselin and I huddled the man's fighting clothes on to
him by the light of a flickering candle. Le Mesurier-Groselin was a big
man, and my trade had taught me a certain skill in the handling of the
dead. We soon had Austin Graham in full uniform sitting up in my arms,
with the helmet crammed on his head at an unseemly angle. He was perfectly
insensible, but his heart went well.
"Now help me to get him on to his horse," I said.
Le Mesurier-Groselin dropped his eye-glass for the first and last time on
record, and looked at me with a surprised eye and a solemn one.
"I'll obey orders," he said. "But I take it that you are very drunk or
We carried him downstairs and I climbed into Graham's saddle. Le
Mesurier-Groselin lifted Graham, who must have weighed fourteen stone,
into the saddle in front of me, and I rode twenty miles that night with
him there. He recovered consciousness an hour before we reached the Khan's
stronghold, and, as I expected, awoke, as if from sleep, refreshed and
ready for any exertion. We had no time for explanations.
"You were drugged," I said, "by some native spy, who must have got wind of
the intended attack to-night. I knew that the stuff would have to run its
course, so I did not physic you, but brought you along with the column."
I am glad to say he believed me.
Some one found me a restless field-artillery horse which was giving the
gunners a lot of trouble, and I rode back to Oadpur alone—not having
any business at the front. As I approached the old Gate House, the flutter
of a white dress caught my eye. It was almost dawn, and a pink haze hung
over the paddy-fields. The world had that appearance of peace and
cleanliness which is left by the passage of an Indian night. My rooms were
on the ground-floor, and it seemed to me that, at the sound of my horse's
feet, some one had come out of them to pass up the stone stairs that led
to Graham's quarters. As I slipped out of the saddle the sound of a
distant cannon broke the silence of the night, and my horse, despite his
forty miles accomplished in little more than five hours, pricked up his
ears. I tied him up, and instead of going to my own rooms went upstairs.
Miss Watson was standing in the first room I entered. The quick tropic
dawn had come, and I saw the face of a woman who had not slept.
"Major Graham's servant told me that he was ill. I have—a—a
right to know how he is, and where he is," she said with her imperturbable
"Graham is at the front," I answered, and the sound of the cannon, dull
and distant, finished the sentence for me.
Bertha Watson bit her lip to hide its quivering, and looked at me,
"We have rung up the curtain," I added, remembering our talk in the
verandah of the Residency.
"How did he get there?"
"Across my saddle in a state of insensibility, which passed off, as I
expected it would, an hour before the time fixed for the storming of the
fortifications. Some one drugged him in order that he might not take part
in this action. Some one who feared him—or for him. Le
Mesurier-Groselin called me to him, and only we three know of it. I am the
only medical man connected with the affair, and I can certify that it was
a native drug that was used, and that therefore a native must have done
this thing. Probably a native spy, Miss Watson, who, finding out the
proposed surprise too late to warn the rebels, attempted to disorganize
the force by this means. Do you understand?"
She looked at me with all her keen wits in her eyes.
"No one would ever dream that another had done it—say some one who
was attached to Graham, and who, in a panic, gave way to temptation and
did him a great wrong, while saving him from danger."
I stood aside as I spoke and motioned her towards the door, for the place
would soon be astir.
"My!" she exclaimed. "And I reckoned you were a fool—behind that
single eye-glass. It is not you that is the fool, doctor."
Then suddenly she turned at the head of the stairs and whispered hoarsely—
"And if he is killed?"
"That is what he is paid for, Miss Watson. We can only wait and hope that
Austin Graham was not killed, but came back with, as the Brigadier said,
the Victoria Cross up his sleeve. I happened to be near Bertha Watson when
they met, and there was that in her eyes when they encountered his which
was a revelation to me and makes me realize even now what a lonely man I
"You talk of poor men, Senora—then you talk of me. See, I have
nothing but the wits that are under my hat."
And Felipe Fortis spread himself out on the trellis-bordered bench of the
little Venta that stands at the junction of the Valdemosa Road and the new
road from Miramar to Palma in the island of Majorca.
Felipe was, of course, known to be a young man of present position and
future prospects, or he would not have said such a thing. It was supposed,
indeed, by some, to be a great condescension that he should stop at the
little Venta of the Break of Day and take his half of wine on market-days.
And, of course, there were women who eagerly sought the woman in it, and
said that Felipe drank the widow Navarro's sour wine to the bright eyes of
the widow's daughter.
"No such luck for her," said Rosa's cousins and aunts, who were dotted all
up the slopes of the valley on either side in their little stone cottages;
right up from the river to the Val d'Erraha—that sunny valley of
repose which lies far above the capital of Majorca, far above the hum of
life and sound of the restless sea.
Felipe, who was a good-looking young fellow, threw his hat down on the
bench beside him. He had fair hair and a white skin—both, he
understood, much admired by the dark-eyed daughters of the Baleares. He
shook his finger with a playful condescension at the widow Navarro, with
whom he was always kind enough to exchange a few light pleasantries. And
she, womanlike, suited her fire to the calibre of the foe, for she was an
"That is all—the wits that are under my hat," he repeated.
And Rosa, who was standing in the deep shadow of the doorway, muttered to
"Then you are indeed a poor man."
Felipe glanced towards her, and wondered whether the sun was shining
satisfactorily through the trellis on his fair hair.
Rosa looked at him with inscrutable eyes—deep as velvet, grave and
meditative. She was slight and girlish, with dull blue-black hair, and a
face that might have been faithfully cut on a cameo. It was the colour of
a sun-burnt peach, and usually wore that air of gentle pride which the
Moors seem to have left behind them in those lands through which they
passed, to the people upon whom they have impressed an indelible mark. But
when she smiled, which was not often, her lips tilted suddenly at the
corners in a way to make an old man young and a young man mad.
Tomaso of the Mill, who sat on the low wall across the road in the shadow
of a great fig-tree, was watching with steady eyes. Tomaso was always
watching Rosa. He had watched for years. She had grown up under that
steady eye. And now, staring into the deep shadow of the cottage interior,
he thought that he saw Rosa smile upon Felipe. And Felipe, of course,
concluded that she was smiling at him. They all did that. And only Rosa
knew the words she had whispered respecting the gallant Felipe.
Tomaso of the Mill was a poor man if you like, and usually considered a
dull one to boot. He only had the mill half-way up the hill to the Val
d'Erraha—a mill to which no grist came now that there was steam
communication between Palma and Barcelona, and it paid better to ship the
produce of the island to the mainland, buying in return the adulterated
produce of the Barcelona mills. Tomaso's father had been a prosperous man
almost to the day of his death, but times had moved on, leaving Tomaso and
his mill behind. And there is no man who watches the times move past him
with a prouder silence than a Spaniard. The mill hardly brought in ten
pesetas a month now, and that was from friends—poor men like himself
who were yet gentlemen, and found some carefully worded reason why they
preferred home-milled flour. Tomaso, moreover, was deadly simple: there is
nothing more fatal than simplicity in these days. It never occurred to him
to sell his mill, or let it fall in ruins and go elsewhere for work. His
world had always been bounded on the south by the Val d'Erraha, on the
north by the Valdemosa road, on the west by the sea, and on the east by
Rosa. He had never suffered from absolute hunger, and nothing but absolute
hunger will make a Spaniard leave his home. So Tomaso of the Mill remained
at the mill, and, like his forefathers, only repaired the sluices and
conduit when the water-supply was no longer heavy enough to drive the
Since the death of his mother he had lived alone, cooking his own food,
washing his own clothes, and no man in the valley wore a whiter shirt. As
to the food, perhaps there was not too much of it, or it may have been
badly cooked; for Tomaso had a lean and hungry look, and his tanned cheek
had diagonal lines drawn from the cheek-bone to the corner of the
clean-shaven mouth. The lips were firm, the chin was long. It was a solemn
face that looked out from beneath the shadow of the great fig-tree. And—there
was no mistaking it—it was the face of that which the world calls a
Felipe turned towards him in his good-natured grand way, and invited him
by a jerk of the head to come and partake of his half-bottle of Majorcan
wine. There was a great gulf between these two men, for Tomaso wore no
jacket and Felipe was never seen without one. Tomaso therefore accepted
the invitation with a grave courtesy. Felipe knew his manners also. He
poured a few drops into his own glass, for fear the cork should have left
a grain of dust, and then filled his guest's little thick tumbler to the
brim. They touched glasses gravely and drank, Felipe making a swinging
gesture towards Rosa in the dark doorway before raising the glass to his
"And affairs at the mill?" inquired Felipe, with a movement of the hand
demanding pardon if the subject should be painful.
"The wheel is still," replied Tomaso, with that grand air of indifference
with which Spain must eventually go to the wall. He slowly unrolled and
re-rolled a cheap cigarette, and sat down on the bench opposite to Felipe.
Felipe looked at him with that bright and good-natured smile which was
known to be so deadly. He spread out his arms in a gesture of lofty
"What will you?" he asked, with a laugh. "It will come—your
And Tomaso smiled gravely. He was quite convinced also, in his simple way,
that his fortune would come; for it had been predicted by a gipsy from
Granada at the Trinity Fair on the little crowded market-place at Palma.
The prediction had caught the popular fancy. Tomaso's poverty, it must be
remembered, was a proverb all over the island. "As poor as Tomaso of the
Mill," the people said; it being understood that a church mouse failed to
suggest such destitution. Moreover, the gipsy foretold that Tomaso should
make his own fortune with his own two hands, which added to the joke, for
no one in Majorca is guilty of such manual energy as will lead to more
than a sufficiency.
"Now, I say," continued Felipe, turning to the widow with that unconscious
way of discussing some one who happens to be present which is only
understood in Southern worlds. "Now, I say that when it comes, it will
have something to do with horses. See how he sits in the saddle!"
And Felipe sketched perfection with a little gesture of his brown hand,
which was generous of Felipe; for Tomaso was (by one of those strange
chances which lead the Spaniards to say that God gives nuts to those who
have no teeth) a born horseman, and sat in the saddle like a god—one
straight line from heel to shoulder.
Tomaso had risen from the bench and walked slowly across the road to his
former seat on the low wall. He was a shy and rather modest man, and felt,
perhaps, that there was a suggestion of condescension in Felipe's
attitude. If Felipe had come here to pay his addresses to Rosa, he,
Tomaso, was not the man to put difficulties in the way. For he was one of
those rare men who, in loving, place themselves in the background. He
loved Rosa, in a word, better than he loved himself. And in the solitude
of his life at the mill he had worked out a grim problem in his own mind.
He had weighed himself carefully in the balance, nothing extenuating. He
had taken as precise a measure of Felipe Fortis with his present position
and his future prospects. And, of course, the only solution was that Rosa
would do well to marry Felipe. So Tomaso withdrew to the outer side of the
road and the shade of the fig-tree, while Felipe talked gaily with Rosa's
mother, and Rosa looked on from the doorway with deep, dark eyes that said
nothing at all. For Felipe was wooing the daughter through the mother, as
men have often done before him; and the widow smiled on Felipe's suit. The
whole business, it appeared, was to be conducted in a sane and gentlemanly
way, over a half of the widow's wine, with clinking glasses and a grave
politeness. And, of course, Felipe had it all his own way. The question of
rivalry did not so much as suggest itself to him, so he could the more
easily be kind to the quiet man with the steady eyes who withdrew with
such tact when he had finished his wine.
Of course, there was Tomaso's fortune to take into consideration. No one
seemed to think of doubting that the prediction must eventually come true,
but it was hardly likely to be verified in time to convert Tomaso into a
serious rival to Felipe Fortis. There were assuredly no fortunes to be
made out of the half-ruined mill. The trade had left that for ever. There
was no money in the whole valley, and Tomaso did not seem disposed to go
and seek it elsewhere. He passed his time between the mill and the low
wall opposite the Venta of the Break of Day, of which the stones beneath
the fig-tree were polished with his constant use of them. He usually came
down from the mill, which is a mile above the Venta, as any one may prove
who seeks the Valley of Repose to-day, by the new road recently cut on the
hillside by a spasmodically active Town Council—the road from
Miramar to Palma.
It had been at one time supposed that Tomaso's fortune would come to him
through this new road, for the construction of which a portion of the land
attached to the mill must be purchased. But it was a very small portion,
and the purchase-money a ridiculous little sum, which was immediately
swallowed up in repairs to the creaking wheel. The road-makers, however,
turned aside the stream below the mill, and conducted it to a chasm in the
rock, where it fell a great height to a tunnel beneath the road. And half
the valley said they could not sleep for the sound of it, and the other
half said they liked it. And Rosa, whose bedroom window was nearer to it
than any other in the valley, said nothing at all.
Sitting beneath the fig-tree, Tomaso looked up suddenly towards the mill.
He was so much accustomed to the roar of his own mill-stream that his ears
never heeded it, and heard through it softer and more distant sounds. He
heard something now—the regular beat of trotting horses on the road
far above his home. He looked up towards the heights, though, of course,
he could see nothing through the pines, which are thickly planted here and
almost as large as the pines of Vizzavona, in the island of Corsica. He
listened to the sound with that quiet interest which comes to those who
live in constant sunshine, and is in itself nearly akin to indifference.
"What is it?" asked the widow, noting his attitude.
"It is a carriage on the new road—some traveller from Miramar."
Travellers from Miramar were few and far between. None had as yet made use
of the new road. This was, therefore, a matter of considerable interest to
the four persons idling away the afternoon at the Venta of the Break of
"The horses will as likely as not take fright at the new waterfall made by
these mules of road-makers," said Tomaso, rising slowly and throwing away
the end of his cigarette.
He took his stand in the middle of the road, looking uphill with a gleam
of interest in his eyes. He knew horses so well that his opinion arrested
the attention of his hearers. Tomaso had always said that the diversion of
his mill-stream would be dangerous to the traffic on the new road. But it
was nobody's business to consult Tomaso.
He stood in the middle of the road, contemplatively biting his lower lip—a
lean, lithe man, who had lived a clean and simple life—and never
dreamt that this might be his fortune trotting down the new Miramar road
"Ah!" he exclaimed, curtly.
The steady pace was suddenly broken, and at the same moment the hollow
roar of the wheels told that the carriage was passing over the little
tunnel through which the stream escaped to the valley below. Then came the
clatter of frightened horses and the broken cry of one behind them. Felipe
leapt to his feet and stood irresolute. The widow gave a little cry of
fear, and Rosa came out into the sunlight. There the three stood, rigid,
watching Tomaso contemplatively biting his lip in the middle of the
In a moment the suspense was over—the worst was realized. A carriage
swung round the corner a quarter of a mile higher up the road, with two
horses stretched at a frantic gallop, and the driver had no reins in his
hand; for his reins had broken, and the loose ends fluttered on either
side. He was stooping forward, with his right hand at the screw-brake
between his legs, and in his left hand he swung his heavy whip. He was a
brave man, at all events, for he kept his nerve and tried to guide the
horses with his whip. There was just a bare chance that he might reach the
Venta, but below it—not a hundred yards below it—the road
turned sharply to the right, and everything failing to take that sharp
turn would leap into space and the rocky bed of the river five hundred
The man gave a shout as he came round the corner, and to his credit it was
always remembered that his gesture waved Tomaso aside. But Tomaso stood in
the middle of the road, and his steady eyes suddenly blazed with a fierce
excitement. His lips were apart. He was breathless, and Rosa found herself
with her two hands at her throat, watching him.
The carriage seemed to bear right down upon him, but he must have stepped
aside, for it passed on and left the road clear. Tomaso was somewhat in
the dust, in the confusion of tossing heads and flying reins. Then his
white shirt appeared against the black of the horses' manes.
"Name of God!" cried Felipe; "he is on top!"
And Felipe Fortis forgot his fine clothes and superior manners. He was out
on the road in an instant, running as he never ran before, and shouting a
hundred Catalonian oaths which cannot be transcribed here, even in
It was difficult to see what happened during these moments which were just
those instants of time in which one man does well and another badly. But
Rosa and her mother saw at length that Tomaso was apparently half standing
on the pole between the two horses. He was swinging and jerking from side
to side, but all the while he was gathering the scattered reins in his
hands. Then suddenly he threw himself back, and the horses' heads went up
as if they were being strangled. They jerked and tugged in vain. Tomaso's
arms were like steel. Already the pace was slackening—the gallop was
broken. And a minute later the carriage was at a standstill in the ditch.
Already the driver was on the ground explaining excitedly to Tomaso how it
had happened, and Tomaso was smiling gravely as he wiped some blood from
his hand. It was Felipe who, arriving at this moment, thought of opening
the carriage-door. There was a pause while Felipe looked into the
carriage, and Rosa and her mother ran towards him. Rosa helped Felipe to
assist an old man to alight. He was a very fat man, with grey and flaccid
cheeks, with shiny black hair and a good deal of gold chain and ring about
him. He seemed only half-conscious of the assistance proffered to him, and
walked slowly across the road to the shade of the trees. Here he sat down
on the low wall, with his elbows on his knees, his two hands to his head,
and looked thoughtfully at the ground between his feet. It was precisely
the attitude of one who has had a purler at football. And the others
looked on in the waiting silence which usually characterizes such moments.
"The gentleman is not hurt?" suggested Felipe, who was always affable and
ready with his tongue.
But the gentleman was not prepared to confirm this optimistic view of the
case. He simply sat staring at the ground between his feet. At length he
lifted his head and looked Felipe slowly up and down.
"Who stopped the horses?" he asked. "A man in a white shirt."
"It was Tomaso of the Mill," answered the widow, who would have spoken
sooner if she had had her breath. "He washes his own," she added, anxious
to say a good word for a neighbour.
Tomaso should, of course, have come forward and bowed. But Tomaso's
manners were not of a showy description. He was helping the driver to
repair the reins, and paused at this moment to remove the perspiration
from his forehead with two fingers, which he subsequently wiped on the
seam of his trousers.
"He!" cried the fat man sitting on the wall.
One could see that he was a business man; for he had the curt manner of
"He, Tomaso!" added the widow Navarro, in a shrill voice.
And Tomaso came slowly forward.
"Your name?" said the man of business.
"Tomaso of the Mill." And his face fell a little when the fat man produced
a pocket-book and wrote the name down with a shaking hand. The action
rather savoured of the police and the law, and Tomaso did not like it.
The stout man leant forward with his chin in the palm of his hand and
reflected for some moments. He was singularly reflective, and seemed to be
making a mental calculation.
"See here," he said at length, looking at Tomaso with quick business-like
eyes. He was beginning to recover his colour now. "See here, I am not
going to give you money—between gentlemen, eh! such things are not
done. You have saved my life. Good! You are a brave man, and you risked
your neck for a perfect stranger! I happen to be a rich man, and my life
is of some value. I came from Barcelona to Majorca on business—business
with a good profit. If I had gone over there"—he paused, and jerked
his thumb towards the blue and hazy space that lay below them—"the
transaction would have fallen through. You have enabled me, by your prompt
action, to return to Palma this evening and sign the papers connected with
this affair. Good! You are therefore entitled to a commission on the
profit that I shall make. I have reckoned it out. It amounts to ten
thousand pesetas—a modest fortune, eh?"
Tomaso nodded his head. He had always known that it would come. The widow
Navarro threw up her eyes, and in a whisper called the attention of her
own special black-letter saint to this business. Rosa was glancing
surreptitiously at Felipe, who, to do him justice, was smiling on the old
man with much appreciation.
"You see what I am," continued the man of business, tapping his exuberant
waistcoat; "I am fat and I am sixty-seven. When I return to Palma, I shall
notify to a lawyer that I leave to you, 'Tomaso of the Mill,' ten thousand
pesetas, to be paid as soon after my death as possible. At Barcelona I
shall put the matter into legal form with my own notary there."
He rose from his seat on the wall and held out his thick white hand, which
Tomaso took, and they shook hands gravely.
"As between gentlemen, eh?" said he; "as between gentlemen."
Then he walked slowly to the other side of the road, where the driver was
engaged in drawing his carriage out of the ditch.
"I will enter your malediction of a carriage," he said, "but you must lead
the horses to the bottom of the hill."
The carriage went slowly on its way, while the others, after watching it
turn the corner, returned to the Venta. In the twinkling of an eye
Tomaso's fortune had come. And he had won it with his own hands, precisely
as the gipsy from Granada had predicted. The tale, moreover, is true, and
any one can verify it who will take the trouble to go to Palma de
Mallorca, where half a dozen independent witnesses heard the prediction
made at a stall in the crowded and narrow market-place nearly six months
before the new Miramar road was completed.
As it was getting dusk, Felipe Fortis mounted his horse and rode on to his
home in the valley far down the Valdemosa road. And Tomaso, with his
handkerchief bound round his hand, walked thoughtfully up to his solitary
home. The great problem which he had thought out so carefully and brought
to so grim and certain a conclusion had suddenly been reopened. And Rosa
had noticed with the quickness of her sex that Tomaso had carefully
avoided looking at her from the moment that his good fortune had been made
known. His manner, as he bade mother and daughter a gruff good-night was
rather that of a malefactor than one who had just done a meritorious
action, and Rosa watched him go with an odd little wise smile tilting the
corners of her lips.
"Goodnight," she said. "You—and your fortune."
And Tomaso turned the words over and over in his mind a hundred times, and
could make nothing of them.
Rosa was early astir the next morning, and happened to be at the open door
when Tomaso came down the road. He was wearing his best hat—a
flat-brimmed black felt—which, no doubt, the girl noticed, for it is
by the piecing together of such trifles that women hold their own in this
world. There was otherwise no change in Tomaso's habiliments, which
consisted, as usual, of dark trousers, a white shirt, and a dark-blue faja
"Where are you going?" cried Rosa, stepping out into the sunlight with a
haste called forth, perhaps, by the suspicion that Tomaso would fain have
passed by unnoticed.
He stopped, his bronzed face a deeper red, his steady eyes wavering for
once. But he did not come towards the Venta, which stands on the higher
side of the road.
"I am going down to Palma—to make sure."
"Of your fortune?" inquired Rosa, looking at the cup she was drying with
the air of superior knowledge which so completely puzzled the simple
"Yes," he answered, slowly turning on his heel as if to continue his
"And then—?" asked Rosa.
He looked up inquiringly.
"When you have made sure of your precious fortune?" she explained.
She had raised her hand to her hair, and was standing in a very pretty,
indifferent attitude. Tomaso held his lower lip between his teeth as he
looked at her.
"I don't know what I shall do with it," he answered, and, turning, he
walked hurriedly down the sun-lit road.
"Come in on your way back and tell us about it," she called out after him,
and then stood watching him until he turned the corner where he had picked
up his fortune on the road the day before.
It was characteristic of the man that he never turned to look at her, and
the girl gave a little nod of the head as he disappeared. She had
apparently expected him not to look back, and yet wanted him to do it, and
at the same time would rather he did not do it. Felipe Fortis would have
turned half a dozen times, with a salutation and a wave of the hat.
But the sun went down behind the tableland of the Val d'Erraha and Tomaso
did not return. Then the moon rose, large and yellow, beyond the Valdemosa
Heights, and the widow Navarro, her day's work done, walked slowly up the
road to visit her sister, the road-keeper's wife. Rosa sat on the bench
beneath the trellis, and thought those long thoughts that belong to youth.
She heard Tomaso's step long before he came in sight, for the valley is
thinly populated and as still as Sahara. He was walking slowly, and
dragged his feet as if fatigued. The moon was now well up, and the girl
could distinguish Tomaso's gleaming white shirt as he turned the corner.
As he approached he kept on the left-hand side of the road. It was evident
that he intended to call at the Venta.
"He—Tomaso!" cried Rosa, when he was almost at the steps.
"He—Rosa!" he answered.
"I am all alone," said Rosa. "Mother has gone to see Aunt Luisa. Have you
your fortune in your pocket?"
He came up the steps and leant against the trellis, looking down at her.
She could not see his face, but a woman does not always need to do that.
"What is it—Tomaso?" she asked gravely.
"That poor man," he explained simply—for the Spaniards hold human
life but cheaply—"was found dead in his carriage when they reached
Palma. The doctors say it was the shock—and he so fat. At all events
he is dead."
Rosa crossed herself mechanically, and devoutly thought first of all of
the merchant's future state.
"His last action was a good one," she said. "There is that to remember."
"Yes," said Tomaso, in a queer voice. And at the sound Rosa looked up at
him sharply; but she could see nothing, for his face was in the shadow.
"And as for you," she said tentatively, "you will get your fortune all the
"I shall never get it at all," answered Tomaso, with a curt laugh. "I went
down to Palma this morning with my head full of plans—in the
sunshine. I came back with an empty brain—in the dark."
He stood motionless, looking down at her. They are slow of tongue in
Majorca, and Rosa reflected for quite a minute before she spoke—which
is saying a good deal for a woman.
"Tell me," she said at length, gently, "why is it that you will not get
"I went to the notary and told him what had happened, what the merchant
had said, and who had heard him—and the notary laughed. 'Where is
your paper?' he asked; and, of course, I had no paper. I went to another
notary, and at last I saw the Alcalde. 'You should have asked for a paper
properly signed,' he said. But no gentleman could have asked for that."
"No," replied Rosa, rather doubtfully.
"I found the driver of the carriage," continued Tomaso, "and took him to
the Alcalde, but that was no better. The Alcalde and the notaries laughed
at us. Such a story, they said, would make any lawyer laugh."
"But there is Felipe Fortis, who heard it too."
"Yes," answered Tomaso, in a hollow voice, "there is Felipe Fortis. He was
in Palma, and I found him at the cafe. But he said he had not time to come
to the Alcalde with me then, and he was sure that if he did it would be
"Ah!" said Rosa.
She got up and walked to the edge of the terrace, looking down into the
moonlit valley in silence for some minutes. Then she came slowly back, and
stood before him looking up into his face. He was head and shoulders above
"So your fortune is gone?" she said. And the moonlight shining on her face
betrayed the presence of that fleeting wise smile which Tomaso had noticed
more than once with wonder.
"Yes—it is gone. And there is an end of it."
"Of what?" asked Rosa.
"Oh!—of everything," replied Tomaso, with a grim stoicism.
Rosa stood looking at him for a moment. Then she took two deliberate steps
forward and leant against him just as he was leaning against the trellis,
as if he had been a tree or something solid and reliable of that sort. She
laid her cheek, of a deeper colour than a sunburnt peach, against his
white shirt. In a sort of parenthesis of thought she took a sudden,
half-maternal interest in the middle button of his shirt, tested it, and
found it more firmly fixed than she had supposed. Her dusky hair just
brushed his chin.
"Then you are nothing but a stupid," she said.
"Aucun chemin de fleurs ne conduit a la gloire."
It was nearly half-past eight when the Grandhaven ran into a fog-bank, and
the second officer sent a message to the captain's steward, waiting at
that great man's dinner-table in the saloon.
The captain's steward was a discreet man. He gave the message in a whisper
as he swept the crumbs from the table with a jerk of his napkin. The
second officer could not, of course, reduce speed on his own
responsibility. The Grandhaven had been running through fog-banks ever
since she left Plymouth in the grey of a November afternoon.
Every Atlantic traveller knows the Grandhaven. She was so well known that
every berth was engaged despite the lateness of the season. It was
considered a privilege to sail with Captain Dixon, the most popular man on
the wide seas. A few millionaires considered themselves honoured by his
friendship. One or two of them called him Tom on shore. He was an
Englishman, though the Grandhaven was technically an American ship. His
enemies said that he owed his success in life to his manners, which
certainly were excellent. Not too familiar with any one at sea, but
unerringly discriminating between man and man, between a real position and
an imaginary one. For, in the greatest Republic the world has yet seen,
men are keenly alive to social distinctions.
On the other hand, his friends pointed to his record. Captain Dixon had
never made a mistake in seamanship.
He was a handsome man, with a trim brown beard cut to a point in the naval
style, gay blue eyes, and a bluff way of carrying his head. The lady
passengers invariably fell into the habit of describing him as a splendid
man, and the word seemed to fit him like a glove. Nature had certainly
designed him to be shown somewhere in the front of life, to be placed upon
a dais and looked up to and admired by the multitude. She had written
success upon his sunburnt face.
He had thousands of friends. Every seat at his table was booked two
voyages ahead, and he knew the value of popularity. He was never carried
off his feet, but enjoyed it simply and heartily. He had fallen in love
one summer voyage with a tall and soft-mannered Canadian girl, a Hebe with
the face of a Madonna, with thoughtful, waiting blue eyes. She was only
nineteen, and, of course, Captain Dixon carried everything before him. The
girl was astonished at her good fortune; for this wooer was a king on his
own great decks. No princess could be good enough for him, had princesses
been in the habit of crossing the Atlantic. Captain Dixon had now been
married some years.
His marriage had made a perceptible change in the personnel of his
intimates. A bachelor captain appeals to a different world. He was still a
great favourite with men.
Although the Grandhaven had only been one night at sea, the captain's
table had no vacant seats. These were all old travellers, and there had
been libations poured to the gods, now made manifest by empty bottles and
not a little empty laughter. Dixon, however, was steady enough. He had
reluctantly accepted one glass of champagne from the bottle of a Senator
powerful in shipping circles. He and his officers made a point of drinking
water at table. The modern sailor is one of the startling products of
these odd times. He dresses for dinner, and when off duty may be found
sitting on the saloon stairs discussing with a lady passenger the
respective merits of Wagner and Chopin as set forth by the ship's band,
when he ought to be asleep in bed in preparation for the middle watch.
The captain received the message with a curt nod. But he did not rise from
the table. He knew that a hundred eyes were upon him, watching his every
glance. If he jumped up and hurried from the table, the night's rest of
half a hundred ladies would inevitably suffer.
He took his watch from his pocket and rose, laughing at some sally made by
a neighbour. As he passed down the length of the saloon, he paused to
greet one and exchange a laughing word with another. He was a very
On deck it was wet and cold. A keen wind from the north-west seemed to
promise a heavy sea and a dirty night when the Lizard should be passed and
the protection of the high Cornish moorlands left behind. The captain's
cabin was at the head of the saloon stairs. Captain Dixon lost no time in
changing his smart mess-jacket for a thicker coat. Oilskins and a
sou'wester transformed him again to the seaman that he was, and he climbed
the narrow iron ladder into the howling darkness of the upper bridge with
a brisk readiness to meet any situation.
The fog-bank was a thick one. It was like a sheet of wet cotton-wool laid
upon the troubled breast of the sea. The lights at the forward end of the
huge steamer were barely visible. There was no glare aloft where the
masthead light stared unwinking into the mist.
Dixon exchanged a few words with the second officer, who stood, rather
restless, by the engine-room telegraph. They spoke in monosyllables. The
dial showed "Full speed ahead." Captain Dixon stood chewing the end of his
golden moustache, which he had drawn in between his teeth. He looked
forward and aft and up aloft in three quick movements of the head. Then he
laid his two hands on the engine-room telegraph and reduced the pace to
half-speed. There were a hundred people on board who would take note of it
with a throb of uneasiness at their hearts, but that could not be helped.
The second officer stepped sideways into the chart-room, reluctant to turn
his eyes elsewhere than dead ahead into the wind and mist, to make a note
in two books that lay open on the table under the shaded electric lamp. It
was twenty minutes to nine.
The Grandhaven was a quick ship, but she was also a safe one. The captain
had laid a course close under the Lizard lights. He intended to alter it,
but not yet. The mist might lift. There was plenty of time, for by dead
reckoning they could scarcely hope to sight the twin lights before eleven
o'clock. The captain turned and said a single word to his second officer,
and a moment later the great fog-horn above them in the darkness coughed
out its deafening note of warning. A dead silence followed. Captain Dixon
nodded his head with a curt grunt of satisfaction. There was nothing near
them. They could carry on, playing their game of blindman's-buff with
Fate, open-eared, steady, watchful.
There was no music to-night, though the band had played the cheeriest
items of its repertoire outside the saloon door during dinner. Many of the
passengers were in their cabins already, for the Grandhaven was rolling
gently on the shoulder of the Atlantic swell. The sea was heavy, but not
so heavy as they would certainly encounter west of the Land's End.
Presently the Grandhaven crept out into a clear space, leaving the
fog-bank in rolling clouds like cannon-smoke behind her.
"Ah!" said Captain Dixon, with a sigh of relief; he had never been really
The face of the second officer, ruddy and glistening with wet, lighted up
suddenly, and sundry lines around his eyes were wiped away as if by the
passage of a sponge as he stooped over the binnacle. Almost at once his
face clouded again.
"There is another light ahead," he muttered. "Hang them."
The captain gave a short laugh to reassure his subordinate, whom he knew
to be an anxious, careful man, on his promotion. Captain Dixon was always
self-confident. That glass of champagne from the Senator's hospitable
bottle made him feel doubly capable to-night to take his ship out into the
open Atlantic, and then to bed with that easy heart which a skipper only
knows on the high seas.
Suddenly he turned to look sharply at his companion, whose eyes were fixed
on the fog-bank, which was now looming high above the bows. There were
stars above them, but no moon would be up for another three hours. Dixon
seemed to be about to say something, but changed his mind. He raised his
hands to the ear-flaps of his sou'wester, and, loosening the string under
his chin, pushed the flannel lappets up within the cap. The second officer
wore the ordinary seafaring cap known as a cheese-cutter. He was much too
anxious a man to cover his ears even in clear weather, and said, with his
nervous laugh, that the colour did not come out of his hair, if any one
suggested that the warmer headgear would protect him from rain and spray.
Dixon stood nearer to his companion, and they stood side by side, looking
into the fog-bank, which was now upon them.
"Any dogs on board?" he asked casually.
"No—why do you ask?"
"Thought I heard a little bell; such a thing as a lady's lap-dog wears
round his neck on a ribbon."
The second officer turned and glanced sharply up at the captain, who,
however, made no further comment, and seemed to be thinking of something
"Couldn't have been a bell-buoy, I suppose?" he suggested, with a
tentative laugh as he pushed his cap upwards away from his ears.
"No bell-buoys out here," replied the captain, rather sharply, with his
They stood side by side in silence for five minutes or more. The mist was
a little thinner now, and Captain Dixon looked upwards to the sky, hoping
to see the stars. He was looking up when the steamer struck, and the shock
threw him against the after rail of the bridge. The second officer was
thrown to the ground and struggled there for an instant before getting to
his feet again.
"God Almighty!" he said, and that was all.
Captain Dixon was already at the engine-room telegraph wrenching the
pointer round to full speed ahead. The quartermaster on watch was at his
side in a moment, and several men in shining oilskins swarmed up the
ladder to the bridge for their orders.
The Grandhaven was quite still now, but trembling like a horse that had
stumbled badly and recovered itself with dripping knees. Already the seas
were beating the bluff sides of the great vessel, throwing pyramids of
spray high above the funnels.
Captain Dixon grabbed the nearest man by the arm.
"The boats," he shouted in his ear. "Tell Mr. Stoke to take charge. Tell
him it's the Manacles."
There seemed to be no danger, for the ship was quite steady, with level
decks. Turning to another quartermaster, Dixon gave further orders clearly
"Keep her at that," he said to the second officer, indicating the dial of
"Stay where you are!" he shouted to the two steersmen who were preparing
to quit the wheelhouse.
If Captain Dixon had never made a mistake in seamanship he must have
thought out the possibilities of this mistake in all their bearings. For
the situation was quite clear and compact in his mind. The orders he gave
came in their proper sequence and were given to the right men.
From the decks beneath arose a confused murmur like the stirring of bees
in an overturned hive. Then a sharp order in one voice, clear and strong,
followed by a dead silence.
"Good!" said the captain. "Stoke has got 'em in hand."
He broke off and looked sharply fore and aft and up above him at the
"She is heeling," he said. "Martin, she's heeling."
The ship was slowly turning on her side, like some huge and stricken dumb
animal laying itself down to die.
"Yes," said the captain with a bitter laugh, to the two steersmen who had
come a second time to the threshold of the wheel-house, "yes, you can go."
He turned to the engine-room telegraph and rang the "Stand by." But there
was no answer. The engineers had come on deck.
"She's got to go," said Martin, the second officer, deliberately.
"You had better follow them," replied the captain, with a jerk of his head
towards the ladder down which the two steersmen had disappeared.
"Go, be d—d," said Martin. "My place is here." There was no
nervousness about the man now.
The murmur on the decks had suddenly risen to shrieks and angry shouts.
Some were getting ready to die in a most unseemly manner. They were
fighting for the boats. The clear, strong voice had ceased giving orders.
It afterwards transpired that the chief officer, Stoke, was engaged at
this time on the sloping decks in tying lifebelts round the women and
throwing them overboard, despite their shrieks and struggles. The
coastguards found these women strewn along the beach like wreckage below
St. Keverne—some that night, some at dawn—and only two were
The captain snapped his finger and thumb, a gesture of annoyance which was
habitual to him. Martin knew the meaning of the sound, which he heard
through the shouting and the roar of the wind and the hissing of a cloud
of steam. He placed his hand on the deck of the bridge as if to feel it.
He had only to stretch out his arm to touch the timbers, for the vessel
was lying over farther now. There was no vibration beneath his hand; the
engines had ceased to work.
"Yes," said Dixon, who was holding to the rail in front of him with both
hands. "Yes, she has got to go."
And as he spoke the Grandhaven slid slowly backwards and sideways into the
deep water. The shrieks were suddenly increased, and then died away in a
confused gurgle. Martin slid down on to the captain, and together they
shot into the sea. They sank through a stratum of struggling limbs.
The village of St. Keverne lies nearly two miles from the sea, high above
it on the bare tableland that juts out ten miles to the Lizard lights. It
is a rural village far from railway or harbour. Its men are
agriculturists, following the plough and knowing but little of the sea,
which is so far below them that they rarely descend to the beach, and they
do no business in the great waters. But their churchyard is full of
drowned folk. There are one hundred and four in one grave, one hundred and
twenty in another, one hundred and six in a third. An old St. Keverne man
will slowly name thirty ships and steamers wrecked in sight of the church
steeple in the range of his memory.
A quick-eared coastguard heard the sound of the escape of steam, which was
almost instantly silenced. Then he heard nothing more. He went back to the
station and made his report. He was so sure of his own ears that he took a
lantern and went down to the beach. There he found nothing. He stumbled on
towards Cadgwith along the unbroken beach. At times he covered his lantern
and peered out to sea, but he saw nothing. At last something white caught
his eye. It was half afloat amid the breakers. He went knee-deep and
dragged a woman to the shore; she was quite dead. He held his lantern
above his head and stared out to sea. The face of the water was flecked
with dark shadows and white patches. He was alone, two miles from help up
a steep combe and through muddy lanes, and as he turned to trudge towards
the cliffs his heart suddenly leapt to his throat. There was some one
approaching him across the shingle.
A strong deep voice called to him, with command and a certain resolution
in its tones.
"You, a coastguard?" it asked.
The man came up to him and gave him orders to go to the nearest village
for help, for lanterns and carts.
"What ship?" asked the coastguard.
"Grandhaven, London, New Orleans," was the answer. "Hurry, and bring as
many men as you can. Got a boat about here?"
"There is one on the beach half a mile along to the south'ard. But you
cannot launch her through this."
"Oh yes, we can."
The coastguard glanced at the man with a sudden interest.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Stoke—first mate," was the reply.
The rest of the story of the wreck has been told by abler pens in the
daily newspapers. How forty-seven people were saved; how the lifeboat from
Cadgwith picked up some, floating insensible on the ebbing tide with
lifebuoys tied securely round them; how some men proved themselves great,
and some women greater; how a few proved themselves very contemptible
indeed; how the quiet chief officer, Stoke, obeyed his captain's orders to
take charge of the passengers;—are not these things told by the
newspapers? Some of them, especially the halfpenny ones, went further, and
explained to a waiting world how it had all come about, and how easily it
might have been avoided. They, moreover, dealt out blame and praise with a
liberal hand, and condemned the owners or exonerated the captain with the
sublime wisdom which illumines Fleet Street. One and all agreed that
because the captain was drowned he was not to blame, a very common and
washy sentiment which appealed powerfully to the majority of their
readers. Some of the newspapers, while agreeing that the first officer,
having saved many lives by his great exertions during the night, and
perfect organization for relief and help the next day, had made for
himself an immortal name, hinted darkly that the captain's was the better
part, and that they preferred to hear in such cases that all the officers
Stoke despatched the surviving passengers by train from Helston back to
London. They were not enthusiastic about him, neither did they subscribe
to present him with a service of plate. They thought him stern and
unsympathetic. But before they had realized quite what had happened they
were back at their homes or with their friends. Many of the dead were
recovered, and went to swell the heavy crop of God's seed sown in St.
Keverne churchyard. It was Stoke who organized these quiet burials, and
took a careful note of each name. It was he to whom the friends of the
dead made their complaint or took their tearful reminiscences, to both of
which alike he gave an attentive hearing emphasized by the steady gaze of
a pair of grey-blue eyes which many remembered afterwards without knowing
"It is all right," said the director of the great steamship company in
London. "Stoke is there."
And they sent him money, and left him in charge at St. Keverne. The
newspaper correspondents hurried thither, and several of them described
the wrong man as Stoke, while others, having identified him, weighed him,
and found him wanting in a proper sense of their importance. There was no
"copy" in him, they said. He had no conception of the majesty of the
At length the survivors were all sent home and the dead thrown up by the
sea were buried. Martin, the second officer, was among these. They found
the captain's pilot-jacket on the beach. He must have made a fight for his
life, and thrown aside his jacket for greater ease in swimming.
Twenty-nine of the crew, eleven passengers, and a stewardess were never
found. The sea would never give them up now until that day when she shall
relinquish her hostages—mostly Spaniards and English—to come
from the deep at the trumpet call.
Stoke finished his business in St. Keverne and took the train to London.
Never an expansive man, he was shut up now as the strong are shut up by a
sorrow. The loss of the Grandhaven left a scar on his heart which time
could not heal. She had come to his care from the builder's yard. She had
never known another husband.
He was free now—free to turn to the hardest portion of his task. He
had always sailed with Dixon, his life-long friend. They had been boys
together, had forced their way up the ladder together, had understood each
other all through. His friend's wife, by virtue of her office perhaps, had
come nearer to this man's grim and lonely heart than any other woman. He
had never defined this feeling; he had not even gone back to its source as
a woman would have done, or he might have discovered that the gentle air
of question or of waiting in her eyes which was not always there, but only
when he looked for it, had been there long ago on a summer voyage before
she was Captain Dixon's wife at all.
All through his long swim to shore, all through the horrors of that
November night and the long-drawn pain of the succeeding days, he had done
his duty with a steady impassiveness which was in keeping with the square
jaw, the resolute eyes, the firm and merciful lips of the man; but he had
only thought of Mary Dixon. His one thought was that this must break her
It was this thought that made him hard and impassive. In the great office
in London he was received gravely. With a dull surprise he noted a quiver
in the lips of the managing director when he shook hands. The great
business man looked older and smaller and thinner in this short time, for
it is a terrible thing to have to deal in human lives, even if you are
paid heavily for so doing.
"There will be an official inquiry—you will have to face it, Stoke."
"Yes," he answered, almost indifferently.
"And there is Dixon's wife. You will have to go and see her. I have been.
She stays at home and takes her punishment quietly, unlike some of them."
And two hours later he was waiting for Mary Dixon in the little
drawing-room of the house in a Kentish village which he had helped Dixon
to furnish for her. She did not keep him long, and when she came into the
room he drew a sharp breath; but he had nothing to say to her. She was
tall and strongly made, with fair hair and delicate colouring. She had no
children, though she had been married six years, and Nature seemed to have
designed her to be the mother of strong, quiet men.
Stoke looked into her eyes, and immediately the expectant look came into
them. There was something else behind it, a sort of veiled light.
"It was kind of you to come so soon," she said, taking a chair by the
fireside. There was only one lamp in the room, and its light scarcely
reached her face.
But for all the good he did in coming it would seem that he might as well
have stayed away, for he had no comfort to offer her. He drew forward a
chair and sat down with that square slowness of movement which is natural
to the limbs of men who deal exclusively with Nature and action, and he
looked into the fire without saying a word. Again it was she who spoke,
and her words surprised the man, who had only dealt with women at sea,
where women are not seen at their best.
"I do not want you to grieve for me," she said quietly. "You have enough
trouble of your own without thinking of me. You have lost your friend and
He made a little movement of the lips, and glanced at her slowly, holding
his lip between his teeth as he was wont to hold it during the moments of
suspense before letting go the anchors in a crowded roadstead as he stood
at his post on the forecastle-head awaiting the captain's signal. She was
the first to divine what the ship had been to him. Her eyes were waiting
for his. They were alight with a gentle glow, which he took to be pity.
She spoke calmly, and her voice was always low and quiet. But he was quite
sure that her heart was broken, and the thought must have been conveyed to
her by the silent messenger that passes to and fro between kindred minds.
For she immediately took up his thought.
"It is not," she said, rather hurriedly, "as if it would break my heart.
Long ago I used to think it would. I was very proud of him and of his
And she said no more. But sat with dreaming eyes looking into the fire.
After a long pause she spoke again.
"So you must not grieve for me," she said, returning persistently to her
She was quite simple and honest. Hers was that rare wisdom which is given
only to the pure in heart; for they see through into the soul of man and
sift out the honest from among the false.
It seemed that she had gained her object, for Stoke was visibly relieved.
He told her many things which he had withheld from other inquirers. He
cleared Dixon's good name from anything but that liability to error which
is only human, and spoke of the captain's nerve and steadiness in the hour
of danger. Insensibly they lapsed into a low-voiced discussion of Dixon as
of the character of a lost friend equally dear to them both.
Then he rose to take his leave before it was really necessary to go in
order to catch his train, impatient to meet her eyes—which were
waiting for his—for a moment as they said good-bye, as the man who
is the slave of a habit waits impatiently for the time when he can give
way to it.
He went home to the rooms he always occupied near his club in London.
There he found a number of letters which had been sent on from the
steamship company's offices. The first he opened bore the postmark of St.
Just in Cornwall. It was from the coastguard captain of that remote
western station, and it had been originally posted to St. Keverne.
"Dear Sir," he wrote. "One of your crew or passengers has turned up here
on foot. He must have been wandering about for nearly a week and is
destitute. At times his mind is unhinged. He began to write a letter, but
could not finish it, and gives no name. Please come over and identify him.
Meanwhile, I will take good care of him."
Stoke opened the folded paper, which had dropped from the envelope.
"Dear Jack," it began. One or two sentences followed, but there was no
sequence or sense in them. The writing was that of Captain Dixon without
its characteristic firmness or cohesion.
Stoke glanced at his watch and took up his bag—a new bag hurriedly
bought in Falmouth—stuffed full of a few necessities pressed upon
him by kind persons at St. Keverne when he stood among them in the clothes
in which he had swum ashore, which had dried upon him during a long
November night. There was just time to catch the night mail to Penzance.
Heaven was kind to him and gave him no time to think.
The coach leaves Penzance at nine in the morning for a two hours' climb
over bare moorland to St. Just—a little grey, remote town on the
western sea. The loneliness of the hills is emphasized here and there by
the ruin of an abandoned mine. St. Just itself, the very acme of
remoteness, is yearly diminishing in importance and population, sending
forth her burrowing sons to those places in the world where silver and
copper and gold lie hid.
The coastguard captain was awaiting Stoke's arrival in the little deserted
square where the Penzance omnibus deposits its passengers. The two men
shook hands with that subtle and silent fellowship which draws together
seamen of all classes and all nations. They walked away together in the
calm speechlessness of Englishmen thrown together on matters of their
"He doesn't pick up at all," said the coastguard captain, at length. "Just
sits mum all day. My wife looks after him, but she can't stir him up. If
anybody could, she could." And the man walked on, looking straight in
front of him with a patient eye. He spoke with unconscious feeling. "He is
a gentleman, despite the clothes he came ashore in. Getting across to the
Southern States under a cloud, as likely as not," he said, presently.
"Some bank manager, perhaps. He must have changed clothes with some
forecastle hand. They were seaman's clothes, and he had been sleeping or
hiding in a ditch."
He led the way to his house, standing apart in the well-kept garden of the
station. He opened the door of the simply furnished drawing-room.
"Here is a friend come to see you," he said; and, standing aside, he
invited Stoke by a silent gesture of the head to pass in.
A man was sitting in front of the fire with his back towards the door. He
did not move or turn his head. Stoke closed the door behind him as he
entered the room, and went slowly towards the fireplace. Dixon turned and
looked at him with shrinking eyes, like the eyes of a dog that has been
"Let us get out on to the cliffs," he said in a whisper. "We cannot talk
He was clean-shaven, and his hair was grizzled at the temples. His face
looked oddly weak; for he had an irresolute chin, hitherto hidden by his
smart beard. Few would have recognized him.
By way of reply Stoke went back towards the door.
"Come on, then," he said rather curtly.
They did not speak until they had passed out beyond the town towards the
bare tableland that leads to the sea.
"Couldn't face it, Jack, that's the truth," said the captain, at last.
"And if you or any others try to make me, I'll shoot myself. How many was
it? Tell me quickly, man."
"Over a hundred and ninety," replied Stoke.
They walked out on to the bare tableland and sat down on a crumbling wall.
"And what do the papers say? I have not dared to ask for one."
Stoke shrugged his square shoulders.
"What does it matter what they say?" answered the man who had never seen
his own name in the newspapers. Perhaps he failed to understand Dixon's
point of view.
"Have you seen Mary?" asked the captain.
Then they sat in silence for some minutes. There was a heavy sea running,
and the rocks round the Land's End were black in a bed of pure white. The
Longship's lighthouse stood up, a grey shadow in a grey scene.
"Come," said Stoke. "Be a man and face it."
There was no answer, and the speaker sat staring across the lashed waters
to the west, his square chin thrust forward, his resolute lips pressed,
his eyes impassive. There was obviously only one course through life for
this seaman—the straight one.
"If it is only for Mary's sake," he added at length.
"Keeping the Gull Lightship east-south-east, and having the South Foreland
west by north, you should find six fathoms of water at a neap tide,"
muttered Captain Dixon, in a low monotone. His eyes were fixed and far
away. He was unconscious of his companion's presence, and spoke like one
talking in his dreams.
Stoke sat motionless by him while he took his steamer in imagination
through the Downs and round the North Foreland. But what he said was
mostly nonsense, and he mixed up the bearings of the inner and outer
channels into a hopeless jumble. Then he sat huddled up on the wall and
lapsed again into a silent dream, with eyes fixed on the western sea.
Stoke took him by the arm and led him back to the town, this harmless,
soft-speaking creature who had once been a brilliant man, and had made but
one mistake at sea.
Stoke wrote a long letter to Mary Dixon that afternoon. He took lodgings
in a cottage outside St. Just, on the tableland that overlooks the sea. He
told the captain of the coastguards that he had been able to identify this
man, and had written to his people in London.
Dixon recognized her when she came, but he soon lapsed again into his
dreamy state of incoherence, and that which made him lose his grip on his
reason was again the terror of having to face the world as the captain of
the lost Grandhaven. To humour him they left St. Just and went to London.
They changed their name to that which Mary had borne before her marriage,
a French Canadian name, Baillere. A great London specialist held out a dim
hope of ultimate recovery.
"It was brought on by some great shock," he suggested.
"Yes," said Stoke. "By a great shock."
"Yes," answered Stoke, slowly.
It is years since the loss of the Grandhaven, and her story was long ago
superseded and forgotten. And the London specialist was wrong.
The Bailleres live now in the cottage westward of St. Just towards the
sea, where Stoke took lodgings. It was the captain's wish to return to
this remote spot. Whenever Captain Stoke is in England he spends his brief
leave of absence in journeying to the forgotten mining town. Baillere
passes his days in his garden or sitting on the low wall, looking with
vacant eyes across the sea whereon his name was once a household word. His
secret is still safe. The world still exonerates him because he was
"He sits and dreams all day," is the report that Mary always gives to
Stoke when she meets him in the town square, where the Penzance omnibus,
the only link with the outer world, deposits its rare passengers.
"And you?" Stoke once asked her in a moment of unusual expansion, his deep
voice half muffled with suppressed suspense.
She glanced at him with that waiting look which he knows to be there, but
never meets. For he is a hard man—hard to her, harder to himself.
"I," she said, in a low voice, "I sit beside him."
And who shall gauge a woman's dream?
PUTTING THINGS RIGHT
"Want Berlyng," he seemed to be saying, though it was difficult to catch
the words, for we were almost within range, and the fight was a sharp one.
It was the old story of India frontier warfare; too small a force, and a
foe foolishly underrated.
The man they had just brought in—laying him hurriedly on a bed of
pine-needles, in the shade of the conifers where I had halted my little
train—poor Charles Noon of the Sikhs, was done for. His right hand
was off at the wrist, and the shoulder was almost severed.
I bent my ear to his lips, and heard the words which sounded like "Want
We had a man called Berlyng in the force—a gunner—who was
round at the other side of the fort that was to be taken before night, two
miles away at least.
"Do you want Berlyng?" I asked slowly and distinctly.
Noon nodded, and his lips moved. I bent my head again till my ear almost
touched his lips.
"How long have I?" he was asking.
"Not long, I'm afraid, old chap."
His lips closed with a queer distressed look. He was sorry to die.
"How long?" he asked again.
"About an hour."
But I knew it was less. I attended to others, thinking all the while of
poor Noon. His home life was little known, but there was some story about
an engagement at Poonah the previous warm weather. Noon was rich, and he
cared for the girl; but she did not return the feeling. In fact, there was
some one else. It appears that the girl's people were ambitious and poor,
and that Noon had promised large settlements. At all events, the
engagement was a known affair, and gossips whispered that Noon knew about
the some one else, and would not give her up. He was, I know, thought
badly of by some, especially by the elders, who had found out the value of
money as regards happiness, or rather the complete absence of its value.
However, the end of it all lay on the sheet beneath the pines, and watched
me with such persistence that I was at last forced to go to him.
"Have you sent for Berlyng?" he asked, with a breathlessness which I know
Now I had not sent for Berlyng, and it requires more nerve than I possess
to tell unnecessary lies to a dying man. The necessary ones are quite
different, and I shall not think of them when I go to my account.
"Berlyng could not come if I sent for him," I replied soothingly. "He is
two miles away from here trenching the North Wall, and I have nobody to
send. The messenger would have to run the gauntlet of the enemy's
"I'll give the man a hundred pounds who does it," replied Noon, in his
breathless whisper. "Berlyng will come sharp enough if you say it's from
me. He hates me too much." He broke off with a laugh which made me feel
sick. "Could he get here in time," he asked after a pause, "if you sent
"Yes," I replied, with my hand inside his soaked tunic.
I found a wounded water-carrier—a fellow with a stray bullet in his
hand—who volunteered to find Berlyng, and then I returned to Noon
and told him what I had done. I knew that Berlyng could not come.
He nodded, and I think he said, "God bless you."
"I want to put something right," he said, after an effort; "I've been a
I waited a little in case Noon wished to repose some confidence in me.
Things are so seldom put right that it is wise to facilitate such
intentions. But it appeared obvious that what Noon had to say could only
be said to Berlyng. They had, it subsequently transpired, not been on
speaking terms for some months.
I was turning away when Noon suddenly cried out in his natural voice,
"There IS Berlyng."
I turned and saw one of my men, Swearney, carrying in a gunner. It might
be Berlyng, for the uniform was that of a captain, but I could not see his
face. Noon, however, seemed to recognize him.
I showed Swearney where to lay his man, close to me alongside Noon, who at
that moment required all my attention, for he had fainted.
In a moment Noon recovered, despite the heat, which was tremendous. He lay
quite still looking up at the patches of blue sky between the dark
motionless tops of the pine trees. His face was livid under the sunburn,
and as I wiped the perspiration from his forehead he closed his eyes with
the abandon of a child. Some men, I have found, die like children going to
He slowly recovered, and I gave him a few drops of brandy. I thought he
was dying, and decided to let Berlyng wait. I did not even glance at him
as he lay, covered with dust and blackened by the smoke of his beloved
nine-pounders, a little to the left of Noon, and behind me as I knelt at
the latter's side.
After a while his eyes grew brighter, and he began to look about him. He
turned his head, painfully, for the muscles of his neck were injured, and
caught sight of the gunner's uniform.
"Is that Berlyng?" he asked excitedly.
He dragged himself up and tried to get nearer to Berlyng. And I helped
him. They were close alongside each other. Berlyng was lying on his back,
staring up at the blue patches between the pine trees.
Noon turned on his left elbow and began whispering into the smoke-grimed
"Berlyng," I heard him say, "I was a blackguard. I am sorry, old man. I
played it very low down. It was a dirty trick. It was my money—and
her people were anxious for her to marry a rich man. I worked it through
her people. I wanted her so badly that I forgot I—was supposed—to
be a—gentleman. I found out—that it was you—she cared
for. But I couldn't make up my mind to give her up. I kept her—to
her word. And now it's all up with me—but you'll pull through and it
will all—come right. Give her my—love—old chap. You can
now—because I'm—done. I'm glad they brought you in—because
I've been able—to tell you—that it is you she cares for. You—Berlyng,
old chap, who used to be a chum of mine. She cares for you—God!
you're in luck! I don't know whether she's told you—but she told me—and
I was—a d—d blackguard."
His jaw suddenly dropped, and he rolled forward with his face against
Berlyng was dead when they brought him in. He had heard nothing. Or
perhaps he had heard and understood—everything.
FOR JUANITA'S SAKE
Cartoner, of the Foreign Office, who is still biding his time, is not
tired of Spain yet—and it must be remembered that Cartoner knows the
Peninsula. He began to know it twenty years ago, and his knowledge is
worthy of the name, inasmuch as it moves with the times. Some day there
will be a war in Spain, and we shall fight either for or against the Don,
which exercise Englishmen have already enjoyed more than once. Cartoner
hopes that it may come in his time, when, as he himself puts it, he will
be "there or thereabouts." Had not a clever man his opportunity when the
Russian war broke out, and he alone of educated Britons knew the Crimea?
That clever man had a queer temper, as we all know, and so lost his
opportunity; but, if he gets it, Cartoner will take his chance coolly and
steadily enough. In the mean time he is, if one may again borrow his own
terse expression, "by no means nowhere," for in the Foreign Office those
who know Spain are a small handful; and those who, like Cartoner, can
cross the Pyrenees and submerge themselves unheeded in the quiet, sleepy
life of Andalusia, are to be numbered on two fingers, and no more. When a
question of Spain or of, say, Cuba, arises, a bell is rung in the high
places of the Foreign Office, and a messenger in livery is despatched for
Cartoner, who, as likely as not, will be discovered reading El Imparcial
in his room. It is always pleasant to be able to ring a bell and summon a
man who knows the difference between Andalusia and Catalonia—and can
without a moment's hesitation say where Cuba is and to what Power it
belongs, such matters not always being quite clear to the comprehension of
a Cabinet Minister who has been brought up to the exclusive knowledge of
the Law, or the manufacture of some article of daily domestic consumption.
While possessing his knowledge in patience, Cartoner naturally takes a
mean advantage of those in high places who have it not, nor yet the shadow
of it. About once in six months he says that he thinks he ought to go to
Spain, and raps out a few technicalities relating to the politics of the
Peninsula. A couple of days later he sets off for the land of sun and
sleep with what he calls his Spanish kit in a portmanteau. This he
purchased in the "Sierpe" for forty pesetas at a ready-made tailor's,
where it was labelled "Fantasia." It is merely a tweed suit, but, wearing
it, Cartoner is safe from the reproach that doggeth the step of the
British tourist abroad.
It was during one of these expeditions that Cartoner, in his unobtrusive
way, found himself in Toledo, where, the guide-books tell us, the
traveller will obtain no fit accommodation. It was evening, and the
company who patronized the Cafe of the New Gate were mostly assembled at
small tables in the garden of that house of entertainment. The moon was
rising over the lower lands across the Tagus, behind the gate which gives
its name to this cafe. It is very rightly called the New Gate. Did not
Wemba build it in the sixth century, as he has cheerfully written upon its
Cartoner sat at one of the outside tables, where the hydrangeas, as large
as a black currant bush, are ranged in square green boxes against the city
wall. He was thoughtfully sipping his coffee when a man crawled between
his legs and hid himself like a sick dog between Cartoner's chair and the
hydrangea trees. The hiding-place was a good one, provided that the
fugitive had the collusion of whosoever sat in Cartoner's chair.
"His Excellency would not betray a poor unfortunate," whispered an eager
voice at Cartoner's elbow, while, with a sang-froid which had been partly
acquired south of the Pyrenees, the Briton sat and gazed across the Tagus.
"That depends upon what the unfortunate has been after."
There was a silence while Truth wrestled with the Foe in the shadows of
the bush in the green box.
"His Excellency is not of Toledo."
"Nor yet of Spain," replied Cartoner, knowing that it is good to speak the
truth at times.
"They have chased me from Algodor. They on horseback, I running through
the forest. You will hear them rattling across the bridge soon. If I can
only lie hidden here until they have ridden on into the town, I can double
and get away to Barcelona."
Cartoner was leaning forward on the little tin table, his chin in the palm
of his hand.
"You must not speak too loud," he said, "especially when the music is
For the Cafe of the New Gate had the additional attraction of what the
proprietor called a concert. The same consisting of a guitar and a
bright-coloured violin, the latter in the hands of a wandering scoundrel,
who must have had good in him somewhere—it peeped out in the lower
"Has his Excellency had coffee?" inquired the man behind Cartoner's chair.
"Does any sugar remain? I have not eaten since morning."
Cartoner dropped the two square pieces of sugar over his shoulder, and
there was a sound of grinding.
"His Excellency will not give me up. I can slip a knife into his
Excellency's liver where I sit."
"I know that. What have you been doing?"
"I killed Emmanuelo Dembaza, that is all."
"Indeed—but why kill Senor Dembaza?"
"I did it for Juanita's sake."
A queer smile flitted across Cartoner's face. He was a philosopher in his
way, and knew that such things must be.
"He was a scoundrel, and had already ruined one poor girl," went on the
voice from the tree. The cheap violin was speaking about good and bad
mixed together again—and to talk aloud was safe. "But she was no
better than she should be—a tobacco-worker. And tobacco for work or
pleasure ever ruins a woman, Senor. Look at Seville. But Juanita is
different. She irons the fine linen. She is good—as good as his
Excellency's mother—and beautiful. Maria! His Excellency should see
her eyes. You know what eyes some Spanish women have. A history and
something one does not understand."
"Yes," answered Cartoner again. "I know."
"Juanita thought she liked him," went on the voice, bringing its hearer
suddenly back to Toledo; "she thought she liked him until she found him
out. Then he turned upon her and said things that were not true. Such
things, Senor, ruin a girl, whether they be true or not—especially
if the women begin to talk. Is it not so?"
"She told me of it, and we decided that there was nothing to do but kill
Emmanuelo Dembaza. She kissed me, Excellency, and every time she did that
I would kill a man if she asked me."
"And if you are taken and sent to prison for, say, twenty years?"
"Then Juanita will drown herself. She has sworn it."
"And if I do not give you up? If you escape?"
"She will follow me to Argentina, Excellency; and, Madre de Dios, we shall
At this moment the waiter came up, cigarette in mouth, after the manner of
Spain, and suggested a second cup of coffee, to which Cartoner assented—with
plenty of sugar.
"Have you money?" asked Cartoner, when they were alone again.
"In this world it is no use being a criminal unless you are rich. If you
are poor you must be honest. That is the first rule of the game."
"I am as poor as a street-dog," said the voice, unconcernedly.
"And you would not take a loan as from one gentleman to another?"
"No," answered Spanish pride, crouching in the bushes, "I could not do
Cartoner reflected for some moments. "In the country from which I come,"
he said at length, "we have a very laudable reverence for relics and a
very delicate taste in such matters. If one man shoots another we like to
see the gun, and we pay sixty centimes to look upon it. There are people
who make an honest living by such exhibitions. If they cannot get the gun
they put another in its place, and it is all the same. Now, your knife—the
one the Senorita sharpens with a kiss—in my country it will have its
value. Suppose I buy it; suppose we say five hundred pesetas?"
And Cartoner's voice was the voice of innocence.
There was silence for some time, and at last the knife came up handlewise
between the leaves of the hydrangea. Spanish pride is always ready to shut
"But you must swear that what you tell me is true and that Juanita will
join you in Argentina. Honour of a gentleman."
"Honour of a gentleman," repeated the voice; and the hand of a blacksmith
came through the leaves, seeking Cartoner's grasp.
"They are turning the lights out," said Cartoner, when the bargain was
concluded. "But I will wait until it is safe to leave you here. Your
friends the guardia civile do not arrive."
"Pardon, Senor, I think I hear them."
And the fugitive's ears did not err. For presently a tall man, white with
dust in his great swinging cloak, stalked suspiciously among the tables,
looking into each face. He saluted Cartoner, who was better dressed than
the other frequenters of the Cafe of the New Gate, and passed on. A horrid
"The good God will most likely remember that you have done this deed
to-night," said the voice, with a queer break in it.
"He may," answered Cartoner, who was lighting his cigarette before going.
"On the other hand, I may get five years in a Spanish prison."
AT THE FRONT
"Some one who is not girlish now"
It was only yesterday that I saw her. It happened that the string of
carriages was stopped at that moment, and I went to the door of her
"Do you ever feel that shoulder," I asked, raising my hat, "at the changes
of the weather, or when it is damp?"
She turned and looked at me in surprise. Her face had altered little. It
was the face of a happy woman, despite a few lines, which were not the
marks left by a life of gaiety and dissipation. They were not quite the
lines that Time had drawn on the faces of the women in the carriages
around her. In some ways she looked younger than most of them, and her
eyes had an expression which was lacking in the gas-wearied orbs of her
fashionable sisters. It was the shadowy reflection of things seen.
She looked into my face—noting the wear and tear that life had left
there. Then suddenly she smiled and held out her hand.
"You!" she said. "You—how strange!"
She blushed suddenly and laughed with a pretty air of embarrassment which
was startlingly youthful.
"No," she went on, in answer to my question; "I never feel that shoulder
now—thanks to you."
There were a number of questions I wanted to ask her. But I had fallen
into a habit, years ago, of restraining that inexpedient desire; and she
did not seem to expect interrogation. Besides, I could see many answers in
"You limped just now," she said, leaning towards me with a little grave
air of sympathy which was quite familiar to me—like an old friend
forgotten until seen again. "You limped as you crossed the road."
"I shall limp until the end of the chapter."
"And you have been at that work ever since?"
She looked past me over the trees of the Park—as if looking back
into a bygone period of her life.
"Will you come and dine to-morrow night?" she said suddenly. "Fred will
be... very pleased to see you. And—I want to show you the children."
The line of carriages moved on slowly towards the Park gate, and left me
baring a grizzled old bullet-head in answer to her smile and nod.
As I limped along it all came back to me. A good many years before—in
the days when hard work was the salt of life—I was entrusted with my
first field hospital. I was sent up to the front by the cleverest surgeon
and the poorest organizer that ever served the Queen.
Ah, that WAS a field hospital! My first! We were within earshot of the
front—that is to say, we could hear the platoon firing. And when the
wounded came in we thought only of patching them up temporarily—sewing,
bandaging, and plastering them into travelling order, and sending them
down to the headquarters at the coast. It was a weary journey across the
desert, and I am afraid a few were buried on the way.
Early one morning, I remember, they brought in Boulson, and I saw at once
that he had come to stay. We could not patch him up and send him off. The
jolting of the ambulance waggon had done its work, and Boulson was
insensible when they laid him on one of the field-cots. He remained
insensible while I got his things off. The wound told its own story. He
had been at the hand-to-hand work again, and a bayonet never meets a
broad-headed spear without trouble coming of it. Boulson meant to get on—consequently
I had had him before. I had cut his shirt off him before this, and knew
that it was marked "F.L.G.M.," which does not stand for Boulson.
Boulson's name was not Boulson; but that was not our business at the time.
We who patch up Thomas Atkins when he gets hurt in the interests of his
Queen and country are never surprised to find that the initials on his
underlinen do not tally with those in the regimental books. When the
military millennium arrives, and ambulance services are perfect, we shall
report things more fully. Something after this style—"Killed:
William Jones. Coronet on his razor-case. Linen marked A. de M.F.G."
While I was busy with a sponge, Boulson opened his eyes and recognized me.
"Soon got YOU back again," I remarked, with ghastly professional
He smiled feebly. "Must get into the despatches somehow," he answered, and
promptly fainted again.
I took especial care of Boulson, being mindful of a letter I had received
while he was recovering from his last wound. It was a long and rambling
letter, dated from a place on the west coast of Ireland. It was signed
with a name which surprised me, and the writer, who addressed me as "Sir,"
and mentioned that he was my humble servant, stated that he was Boulson's
father. At least he said he thought he was Boulson's father—if
Boulson was tall and fair, with blue eyes, and a pepper-castor mark on his
right arm, where a charge of dust-shot had lodged from a horse-pistol.
There had, he informed me, been family misunderstandings about a foolish
fancy formed by Boulson for a military career. And Boulson had gone off—God
bless him—like the high-spirited Irishman that he was—to
enlist as a private soldier. And then came the news of the serious wound,
and if there was a God in heaven (which I never doubted), any kindness and
care that I could bestow upon Boulson would not be forgotten at the last
reckoning. And more to a like effect.
Moreover, Boulson pulled through and was duly sent down to the fine, roomy
convalescent hospital on the coast, where they have ice, and newspapers,
and female nurses fresh from Netley.
This second wound was, however, a more serious affair. While others came
and went, Boulson seemed inclined to stay for ever. At all events he
stayed for ten days, and made no progress worth mentioning.
At the end of that time I was sitting at my table writing perversions of
God's truth to the old gentleman on the west coast of Ireland when I heard
the rumble of ambulance waggons. I thought that it was only a returned
empty—there having been an informal funeral that evening—so
hardly disturbed myself.
Presently, however, some one came and stood in front of my table outside
the tent. I looked up, and looked into the face of one of the few women I
have met who make me believe in love stories.
"Halloa!" I said, somewhat rudely.
"I beg to report myself," she answered quietly. There was a peculiar
unsteadiness in her eyes. It seemed to me that this woman was labouring
under great excitement.
"Did the Surgeon-Major send you?" I asked.
"Hum! I think I ought to have been asked first. This is no place for
"Wherever there is nursing to be done, we can hardly be out of place," she
answered, with a determination which puzzled me.
"Theoretically," I answered; and, seeing that she had arrived, I made a
shift to find her suitable quarters and get her to work.
"Have you any serious cases?" she asked, while unpacking and setting out
for my inspection sundry stores she had brought.
"I have Boulson again," I answered. "The man you had in the spring."
She buried her head in the case, and did not answer for some seconds.
When at length she did speak, her voice was indifferent and careless.
"Badly hurt?" she asked.
She finished unpacking her stores rather hurriedly, and expressed her
readiness to go round the cots with me.
"Are you not too tired after your journey?"
"No, I—I should like to begin at once. Please let me."
I took her round, and altogether I was pleased with her.
In a day or two I almost became resigned to her presence, though I hate
having women anywhere near the action. It is always better to get the
nasty cases cleaned up before the women see them.
Then suddenly came bad news. There was something wrong at the front. Our
fellows were falling back upon us. A final stand was to be made at our
position until reinforcements came up.
I sent for Nurse Fielding, and told her to get ready to leave for
headquarters at once. I was extremely business-like and formal. She was
neither. That is the worst of women.
"Please let me stay," she said. "Please."
I shook my head.
"I would rather stay and be killed than go away and be safe."
That aroused my suspicions. Perhaps they ought to have been aroused
before; but, then, I am only a man. I saw how the Surgeon-Major had been
"Please," she repeated softly.
She laid her hand on my arm, and did not withdraw it when she found that
the sleeve was wet with something that was thicker than water.
"Please," she whispered.
"Oh, all right—stay!"
I was sorry for it the next day, when we had the old familiar music of the
Later in the morning matters became more serious. The enemy had a gun with
which they dropped six-pound shot into us. One of these fell on to the
corner of our hospital where Boulson lay. It tore the canvas, and almost
closed Boulson's career.
Nurse Fielding was at him like a terrier, and lifted him bodily from his
cot. She was one of those largely framed fair women who have strength,
both physical and mental.
She was carrying him across the tent when I heard the thud of a bullet.
Nurse Fielding stopped for a moment and seemed to hesitate. She laid
Boulson tenderly down on the ground, and then fell across him, while the
blood ran from her cotton bodice over his face and neck.
And that was what I meant when I asked the lady in the barouche at the
Park gate whether she ever felt that shoulder now. And the man I dine with
to-night is not called Boulson, but he has a charge of dust-shot—the
result of a boyish experiment—in his right arm.
THE END OF THE "MOOROO"
"How long can you give us?"
The man who asked this question turned his head and looked up through a
maze of bright machinery. But he did not rise from his recumbent position.
He was, in fact, lying on his face on a steel-bar grating—in his
shirt-sleeves—his hands black with oil and steel filings.
The captain of the Mooroo—far up above on the upper platform—leant
his elbow on the steel banister and reflected for exactly two seconds. He
was in the habit of sleeping and thinking very quickly.
"I reckon that we will be on the rocks in about twenty minutes to half an
hour—unless you can get her going."
The chief engineer muttered something which was not audible above the roar
of the wind through the rigging and the wash of the green seas that leapt
over the bulwarks of the well-deck.
"What?" yelled the captain, leaning over the balustrade.
"D—n it," reiterated the chief, with his head hidden.
They were all down there—the whole engineer's staff of the Mooroo—in
their shirt-sleeves, lying among the bright steel rods—busy at their
craft—working against time for their lives.
It was unfortunate that the engines should have held good right across the
Arabian Sea, through the Red Sea, through the trying "fast" and "slow" and
"stand by" and "go ahead" of the Canal—right through to the Pointe
de Raz light, which was blinking down upon them now.
The ship had been got round with difficulty. Her sails, all black with
coal-dust and the smoke of many voyages, had been shaken out. They served
to keep the vessel's bluff prow pushing into the gale, but that was all.
The Mooroo was drifting—drifting.
While the passengers were at dinner the engines had suddenly stopped, and
almost before the fact had been realized, the captain, having exchanged
glances with his officers, was out of the saloon.
"Something in the engine-room," said the doctor and the fifth officer—left
at table. The engineer had probably stopped to replace a worn washer or
something similarly simple.
The stewards hurried to and fro with the dishes. And the passengers went
on eating their last dinner on earth in that sublime ignorance which is
the prerogative of passengers.
Mrs. Judge Barrowby, who, in view of the captain's vacant chair on her
left hand, took, as it were, moral command of the ship, was heard to state
in a loud voice that she had every confidence in the officers and the
Young Skeen, of the Indian Intelligence, who sat within hearing of Mrs.
Judge Barrowby, for his own evil ends and purposes, thereafter said that
he could now proceed with his dinner—that his appetite was beginning
"Of course," he went on to say, "if Mrs. Judge Barrowby says that it is
But he got no farther than this. For a young lady with demure eyes and
twitching lips, who was sitting next to him, whispered that Mrs. Judge
Barrowby was looking, and that he must behave himself.
"I have every confidence in Mrs. Judge Barrowby," he, nevertheless,
managed to assure a grave-looking man across the table.
The truth was that Mrs. Judge Barrowby had had her eye on these two young
people all the voyage. There was no reason that they should not fall in
love with each other, and marry and be happy ever afterwards; but Mrs
Judge Barrowby felt that it was incumbent upon them to ask her first, or
at all events to keep her posted as to the progress of matters, so that
she might have the satisfaction of knowing more than her neighbours. But
the young people simply ignored her.
Lady Crafer, the mother of the girl with the demure eyes, was a foolish
woman, who passed most of her days in her cabin; and Mrs. Judge Barrowby
felt, and went so far as to say to more than one person, that the least
that a nice-minded girl could, under the circumstances, do was to place
herself under the protection of some experienced lady—possibly
herself. From the fact that Evelyn Crafer had failed to do this, Mrs.
Judge Barrowby intimated that each might draw an individual inference.
While these thoughts were in course of lithography upon the expressive
countenance of the lady at the captain's end of the saloon table, strange
things were taking place on the deck of the good steamship Mooroo. The
entire crew had, in fact, been summoned on deck. The boats were being
pushed out—the davits swung round, the tarpaulin covers removed, and
the awnings unbent. Life-belts were being collected in the music-room on
deck, and the purser had given orders to the stewards to prolong dinner as
much as possible.
"Let 'em have their dinner first," the captain had said significantly.
And all the while the Mooroo was drifting.
Immediately over the stern rail a light came and went at regular intervals
on the horizon, while to eastward, at a higher elevation, a great, yellow
staring eye looked out into the night. This was the light on the
westernmost point of Europe—the Pointe de Raz. The smaller beacon,
low down on the horizon, was that of the Ile de Sein, whose few
inhabitants live by what the sea brings them in—be it fish or
wreckage. There is enough of both. A strong current sets north and east,
and it becomes almost a "race" in the narrow channel between the Ile de
Sein and the rock-bound mainland. The Mooroo was in this current.
The captain had said no more than the truth. There are times when nature
is too strong for the strongest man and the keenest brain. There was
simply nothing to be done but to try and get the repair completed in time—and
on deck to send up rockets, and—to prepare for the worst. This the
captain had done—even to unlacing his own boots. The latter is
always a bad sign. When the captain thinks of his own boots it is time for
others to try and remember the few good deeds they may have done.
In ten minutes the passengers knew; for the captain went and told them—before
they had their dessert. The result was confusion, and a rush for the
saloon stairs. The boats were already lowered and alongside the gangway
steps in a terrible sea.
The old ladies did wonderfully well, considering their age and other
things. Mrs. Judge Barrowby was heard to say that she would never travel
by anything but P. and O. in future, and that it was all her husband's
fault. But she was third on the stairs, and in time to select the roomiest
life-belt. Lady Crafer was a great believer in stewards. She clung to one,
and, calling upon Evelyn to follow her, made very good practice down the
There was no doubt whatever about young Skeen of the Indian Intelligence.
He simply took charge of Evelyn Crafer. He took possession of her and told
her what to do. He even found time to laugh at Mrs. Judge Barrowby's
ankles as she leapt over a pile of dirty plates.
"Stay here," he cried to Evelyn. "It is useless going with that rabble.
Our only chance is to stay."
She obeyed him. Women sometimes do it still. They stood in the gaily
lighted saloon, and witnessed the rush for the deck—a humiliating
When at length the stairs were clear, Skeen turned and looked into her
face. Then suddenly he took her in his arms and kissed her. They had been
drifting towards this for some weeks past. Circumstances had hurried it
on. That was all.
"Dear," he said, "will you stay here while I go on deck and see what
chances there are? If you once get up there in the dark and the confusion,
I shall lose you."
"Yes," she answered; and as she spoke there was a great crash, which threw
her into his arms a second time, and made a clean sweep of the tables.
They stood literally ankle-deep in wine-glasses, dessert, and plates. The
Mooroo had taken the rocks. There was a rolling crash on the deck
overhead, and a confused sound of shouting.
"You will stay?" cried Skeen again.
He turned and left her there, alone.
On deck he found a crowd. The passengers were being allowed to go to the
boats. Taking into consideration the darkness, the roaring sea, and the
hopelessness of it all, the organization was wonderful. The children were
going first. A quarter-master stood at the head of the gangway steps and
held the people in check. When Skeen arrived, Mrs. Judge Barrowby was
giving this man a piece of what she was pleased to call her mind.
"Man," she was saying, "let me pass! You do not know who I am. I am the
wife of Judge Barrowby."
"Marm, you may be the wife of the harkangel Gabriel as far as I knows; but
I've my orders. Stand aside please. Any more babies in arms?" he cried.
But Mrs. Judge Barrowby knew the value of a good useful life, and
persistently blocked up the gangway.
"One woman is as good as another," she said.
"Ay, except the mothers, and they're better," said the man, pushing her
aside to let a lady and her child pass.
"THAT woman!" cried Mrs. Judge Barrowby. "A woman who has been the talk of
the whole ship—before ME—a flirting grass widow!"
"Gawd knows," said the man, holding her back. "It's little enough to fight
"I will report you, man."
"Yes, marm, to the good God, and I ain't afraid o' HIM! NOW you may go!"
And, fuming, Mrs. Judge Barrowby went down to her death. Not one boat
could reach the shore through such a surf, as captain and crew well knew;
but there are certain formalities vis-a-vis to human lives which must be
observed by ship-captains and doctors and others.
Skeen ran to the other side. Lights were twinkling through the spray; the
land was not two hundred yards off, but it was two hundred yards of rock
and surf. There was only one chance.
Skeen kicked off his boots and ran back to the saloon. It was all a matter
of seconds. For a few moments the brilliant lights dazzled him, and he
looked round wildly for Evelyn Crafer. A great fear seized his heart as in
a grip of cold iron—but only for a moment. He saw her. She was
kneeling by the table, unaware of his presence.
"Oh God," she was praying aloud, "save him—save HIM from this
He heard the words as he stopped to lift her like a child from her knees—bringing
her back from God to man.
And the end of the Mooroo was a girl sitting before a driftwood fire in
the cottage of the old cure of the Ile de Sein, while at her feet knelt a
man with his broken arm bound to his side. And he was stroking her hands
softly and repeatedly. He was trying to soothe her and make her understand
that she was safe.
"Give her time, my son," the old cure said, with his deep, wise smile.
"She only requires time. I have seen them before taken from the sea like
her. They all require time. It is in our nature to recover from all things—in
IN A CARAVAN
"Which means, I think, that go or stay
Affects you nothing, either way."
"And that is where Parker sleeps."
We craned our necks, and, stooping low, saw beneath the vehicle a
parasitic square box like a huge barnacle fixed to the bottom of the van.
A box about four feet by two. The door of it was open, and Parker's
bedfellows—two iron buckets and a sack of potatoes—stood
"Oh yes—very nice," we murmured.
"Oh, it's awfully jolly!" said the host-in-himself.
We looked at Parker, who was peeling potatoes on the off-shaft—Parker,
six feet two, with a soldier's bearing—and we drifted off into
"And who drives?" we asked, with an intelligent interest.
"Oh, Parker. And we do all the rest, you know."
It was seven o'clock in the evening when we joined the caravan, in a
stackyard on the outskirts of an Eastern county town.
"That's 'im—that's Lord George Sanger," was said of the writer by
one of the crowd of small boys assembled at the stackyard gate. A
travelling menagerie and circus was advertised in a somewhat "voyant"
manner on the town walls, and a fancied resemblance to the aristocratic
manager thereof accredited us with an honourable connection in the
"When do you open?" inquired an intelligent spectator, anxious to show
"See small handbills," replied the host-in-himself, with equal courtesy.
"'Oo are yer, at any rate?" inquired an enlightened voter.
"Who are YOU?" we replied with spirit; and, passing through the gate, we
closed it to keep out the draught. Then we paid a domiciliary visit, and
were duly shown Parker's apartments.
In outward appearance the caravan suggested an overgrown bathing-machine.
The interior resembled the cabin of a yacht. The walls were gaily
decorated with painting on the panels; flowers bloomed in vases fixed upon
the wall; two prettily curtained windows—one a bay, the other flat—gave
a view of the surrounding country. At the forward end, against the
bulkhead, so to speak, was a small but enterprising chest of drawers, and
above it a large looking-glass which folded down, developed legs, and
owned to the soft impeachment of being a bed. Beneath the starboard window
a low and capacious sofa, combining the capacity of a locker. Under the
port window was fixed a table against the bulkhead, where four people
could and did dine sumptuously. When en voyage and between meals, charts,
maps, and literature littered this table pleasantly. A ship's clock hung
over it, and a corner cupboard did its duty in the port quarter. A heavy
plush curtain closed off the kitchen and pantry, which were roomy and of
marvellous capacity. Then the back door—in halves—and the back
step, brassbound, treacherous.
In front there was a little verandah with supporting columns of bamboo.
Here we usually sat when travelling—Parker in the right-hand corner
handling the ribbons of the tandem cart-horses with skill and discretion.
As dinner was not ready, we proceeded to pitch the small tent wherein the
two men were to sleep. It was a singular tent, with a vast number of
pendent ropes which became entangled at the outset. We began with zeal,
but presently left the ropes and turned our attention to the pegs. These
required driving in with a wooden mallet and a correct eye. Persons
unaccustomed to such work strike the peg on one side—the mallet goes
off at a tangent and strikes the striker with force upon the shin-bone.
Finally Parker said he would put up the tent "by'n-by."
There was a Bedlington terrier—Parker's dog—attached
(literally) to the caravan. He was tied to one of the bamboo columns on
the forecastle, and when Parker absented himself for long he usually
leaped off the platform and sought death by strangulation—this we
discovered later. When we abandoned the tent we thought we would cheer up
"Don't touch him, sir; he'll bite you," said Parker.
Of course we touched him; no man who respects himself at all is ready to
admit that a dog bites HIM. It was wonderful how that dog and Parker
understood each other. But the bite was not serious.
At last dinner was ready, and we are prepared to take any horrid oath
required that no professional cook could set before a king potatoes more
mealy. This only, of all the items in the menu, is mentioned, because
where potatoes are good the experienced know that other things will never
We waited on ourselves, and placed the dirty dishes, plates, and forks
upon the back step, where Parker replaced them in a few minutes, clean.
"Oh!" exclaimed the hostess-in-herself, about 10 p.m., when we were
smoking the beatific pipe, "by the way—Parker's dinner!"
In response to united shouts Parker appeared, and learned with apparent
surprise that he had omitted to dine. He looked pale and worn, and told us
that he had been blowing out the air-beds. At eleven o'clock we two men
left the ladies and went out into the cold moonlight, where our tent
looked remarkably picturesque. Of course we fell over a tent-peg each, and
the host lost his watchkey. Parker came forward—dining—to
explain where the ropes were, and fell over one himself, losing a piece of
cold boiled beef in the grass. We hunted for it with a lucifer match. Its
value was enhanced by the knowledge that when the bed was shut down and
had developed its legs the larder was inaccessible. After some time Parker
discovered that the dog had been let loose and had found the beef some
moments before. He explained that it was a singular dog and preferred to
live by dishonesty. Unstolen victuals had for him no zest. He added that
the loss was of no consequence, as he never had been very keen on that
piece of beef. We finally retired into the tent, and left Parker still at
work completing several contracts he had undertaken to carry through
"by'n-by." He said he preferred doing them overnight, as it was no good
getting up BEFORE five on these dark autumnal mornings.
As an interior the tent was a decided success. We went inside and hooked
the flap laboriously from top to bottom. Then we remembered that the
host's pyjamas were outside. He undid two hooks only and attempted to
effect a sortie through the resultant interstice. He stuck. The position
was undignified, and conducive to weak and futile laughter. At last Parker
had to leave the washing-up of the saucepans to come to the rescue, while
the dog barked and imagined that he was attending a burglary.
It was nearly midnight before we made our first acquaintance with an
air-bed, and it took us until seven o'clock the next morning to get on to
speaking terms with it. The air-bed, like the Bedlington terrier, must be
approached with caution. Its manner is, to say the least of it, repellent.
Unless the sleeper (save the mark!) lies geometrically in the centre, the
air rushes to one side, and the ignorant roll off the other. If there were
no bedclothes one could turn round easily, but the least movement throws
the untucked blanket incontinently into space, while the instability of
the bed precludes tucking in. Except for these and a few other drawbacks,
the air-bed may safely be recommended.
The next morning showed a white frost on the grass, and washing in the
open, in water that had stood all night in a bucket, was, to say the least
of it, invigorating. Parker browned our boots, put a special edge of his
own upon our razors, attended to the horses, oiled the wheels, fetched the
milk, filled the lamps of the paraffin stove, bought a gallon of oil, and
carried a can of water from a neighbouring farm before breakfast, just by
way—he explained—of getting ready to start his day's work.
An early start had been projected, but owing to the fact that after
breakfast Parker had to beat the carpet, wash the dishes, plates, cups and
saucers, knives and forks, and his own face, strike the tent, let the air
out of the air-beds, roll up the waterproof sheets, clean the saucepans,
groom the horses, ship the shafts, send off a parcel from the station, buy
two loaves of bread, and thank the owner of the stackyard—owing, I
say, to the fact that Parker had these things to accomplish while we "did
the rest," it was eleven o'clock before all hands were summoned to get
"her" out of the narrow gateway. This was safely accomplished, by Parker,
while we walked round, looked knowingly at the wheels, sternly at the
gate-posts, and covertly at the spectators.
Then we clambered up, the host-in-himself cracked the whip, Parker
gathered up his reins.
"Come up, Squire! Come up, Nancy!"
And the joy of the caravaneer was ours.
This joy is not like the joy of other men. For the high-road, the
hedgerows, the birds, the changing sky, the ever-varying landscape, belong
to the caravaneer. He sits in his moving home and is saturated with the
freedom of the gipsy without the haunting memory of the police, which sits
like Care on the roof of the gipsy van. Book on lap, he luxuriates on the
forecastle when the sun shines and the breeze blows soft, noting idly the
passing beauty of the scene, returning peaceably to the printed page. When
rain comes, as it sometimes does in an English summer, he goes inside and
gives a deeper attention to the book, while Parker drives and gets wet.
Getting wet is one of Parker's duties. And through rain and sunshine he
moves on ever, through the peaceful and never dull—the incomparable
beauty of an English pastoral land. The journey is accomplished without
fatigue, without anxiety; for the end of it can only be the quiet corner
of a moor, or some sleepy meadow. Speed is of no account—distance
immaterial. The caravaneer looks down with indifference upon the dense
curiosity of the smaller towns; the larger cities he wisely avoids.
The writer occupied the humble post of brakesman—elected thereto in
all humility by an overpowering majority. The duties are heavy, the glory
small. A clumsy vehicle like a caravan can hardly venture down the
slightest incline without a skid under the wheel and a chain round the
spoke. This necessitates the frequent handling of a heavy piece of iron,
which is black and greasy at the top of a hill, and red-hot at the bottom.
A steep hill through the town dispelled the Lord George Sanger illusion at
one fell blow, the rustic-urban mind being incapable of conceiving that
that self-named nobleman could demean himself to the laying of the skid.
Of the days that followed there remains the memory of pleasant sunny days
and cool evenings, of the partridge plucked and cleaned by the roadside,
fried deliciously over the paraffin flame, amidst fresh butter and
mushrooms with the dew still on them. We look back with pleasure to the
quiet camp in a gravel-pit on a hill-top far from the haunts of men—to
the pitching of the tent by moonlight in a meadow where the mushrooms
gleamed like snow, to be duly gathered for the frying-pan next morning by
the host-in-himself, and in pyjamas. Nor are the sterner sides of caravan
life to be forgotten—the calamity at the brow of a steep hill, where
a nasty turn made the steady old wheeler for once lose his head and his
legs; the hard-fought battle over a half-side of bacon between the
Bedlington terrier and the writer when that mistaken dog showed a marked
preference for the stolen Wiltshire over the partridge bone of charity.
And there are pleasant recollections of friends made, and, alas! lost so
soon; of the merry evening in a country house, of which the hospitable
host, in his capacity of justice of the peace, gave us short shrift in the
choice between the county gaol and his hospitality. Unless we consented to
sleep beneath his roof and eat his salt, he vowed he would commit us for
vagabonds without visible means of support. We chose the humiliation of a
good dinner and a sheeted bed. The same open-handed squire hung partridges
in our larder, and came with us on the forecastle to pilot us through his
own intricate parish next day.
Also came the last camp and the last dinner, at which the writer
distinguished himself, and the host-in-himself was at last allowed to
manipulate (with accompanying lecture) a marvellous bivouac-tin containing
a compound called beef a la mode, which came provided with its own spirits
of wine and wick, both of which proved ineffectual to raise the
temperature of the beef above a mediocre tepidity. Parker, having heard
that the remains of this toothsome dish were intended for his breakfast,
wisely hid it with such care that the dog stole it and consumed it, with
results which cannot be dwelt upon here.
Of the vicissitudes of road travel we recollect but little. The incipient
sea-sickness endured during the first day has now lost its sting; the
little differences about the relative virtues of devilled partridge and
beef a la mode are forgotten, and only the complete novelty, the heedless
happiness of it all, remains. We did not even know the day of the week or
the date; which ignorance, my masters, has a wealth of meaning nowadays.
"Date—oh, ask Parker!" we would say.
And Parker always knew.
IN THE TRACK OF THE WANDERING JEW
What hope is ours—what hope? To find no mercy
After much war, and many travails done?
"Well, somebody must go; that is certain."
And more than one man looked at me. It was not because I could possibly be
that somebody, although I was young enough and of little enough
consequence. But Fortune had been busy with me. She had knocked all the
interest out of my life, and then she had proceeded to shower her fickle
favours upon me. I was by way of becoming a success in that line of life
wherein I had been cast. I had been mentioned in despatches, and somehow
the bullets had passed by on the other side. Her gracious Majesty had
written to me twice as her dearly beloved Thomas, and I was well up in my
In those days things were differently done in India. There was less
telegraphing here and there for instructions. There was more action and
less talk. The native gentleman did not sit on a jury then.
"Yes," said young Martello, "somebody must go. Question is—who?"
And they looked at me again.
"There be those in high places," I said, "who shall decide."
They laughed and made no answer. They were pleased to think that I should
have to decide which doctor should go to Capoo, where a sickness unknown
and incomprehensible had broken out. It was true that I was senior surgeon
of the division; indeed, I was surgeon-major of a tract of country as big
as Scotland. It is India now, but in the days of which I write the
question had not been settled with a turbulent native prince. We were, in
fact, settling that question.
Capoo was right in the heart of the new country, while we were in
occupation of a border town. Behind us lay India; in front, the Unknown.
The garrison of Capoo was small and self-important, but sickness made
itself conspicuous among its members. Their doctor—poor young Barber—died,
and the self-importance of the Capoo garrison oozed out of their
finger-ends. They sent down post-haste to us for help, and a special
letter addressed to me detailed symptoms of no human malady.
I had two men under me. The question seemed simple enough. One of them
would have to go. As to which one there was really no doubt whatever. The
duty fell upon Thurkow. Thurkow was junior. This might prove to be
Thurkow's opportunity, or—the other thing.
We all knew that he would be willing enough to go; nay, he would be eager.
But Thurkow's father was in command, which made all the difference.
While we were thinking over these things an orderly appeared at the
"Brigadier would like to see you, sir," he said to me. And I had to throw
away the better half of a first-class manilla.
The brigadier's quarters were across a square in the centre of a long
rambling palace, for which a handsome rent was duly paid. We were not
making war. On the contrary, we were forcing peace down the throat of the
native prince on the point of a sword.
Everything was upon a friendly footing. We were not an invading force. Oh,
no! we were only the escort of a political officer. We had been quartered
in this border town for more than a year, and the senior officers'
lady-wives had brought their lares and penates in three bullock-carts
I suppose we were objects of envy. We had all the excitement of novelty
without any of the penalties of active warfare. We were strong enough to
make an awful example of the whole Principality at a day's notice, and the
Principality knew it, which kept bazaar prices down and made the coloured
brother remember the hue of his cheek.
In the palace there were half a dozen officers' quarters, and these had
been apportioned to the married; consequently the palace had that air of
homeliness which is supposed to be lacking in the quarters of single men.
As I was crossing the square I heard some one running after me, and,
turning, I faced Fitz. Fitz Marner—usually called Fitz—was my
second in command and two years my junior. He was quite a different sort
of man to myself, and, if I may say so, a much better man. However, I am
not going to talk about myself more than I can help this time. Some day I
shall, and then I shall have a portrait on the cover. This is an age of
portraits. But some day the British public will wake up and will refuse to
read the works of a smug-faced man in spectacles who tries to make them
believe that he is doughty, fearless, and beloved of beautiful damsels.
The bookstalls are full to-day of works written in the first person
singular, and relating deeds of the utmost daring; while on the cover is a
portrait of the author—the aforesaid smug man in spectacles—who
has not the good sense to suppress himself.
Fitz was tall and lithe. He had a large brown moustache and pleasantly
thoughtful eyes. His smile was the kindliest I have ever met. Moreover, a
modester man than Fitz never breathed. He had a way of carrying his chin
rather low, so that when he looked at one he had to raise his eyes, which
imparted a pleasing suggestion of attention to his face. It always seemed
to me that Fitz listened more carefully to what was said to him than other
men are in the habit of doing.
"Say, doctor," he said, looking up at me in his peculiar thoughtful way,
"give me a chance."
I knew what he meant. He wanted me to send him to a certain death instead
of young Thurkow. Those little missions to that bourne from whence no
traveller returns are all in the work of a soldier's life, and we two were
soldiers, although ours was the task of repairing instead of doing the
damage. Every soldier-man and most civilians know that it is sometimes the
duty of a red-coat to go and get killed without pausing to ask whether it
be expedient or not. One aide-de-camp may be sent on a mad attempt to get
through the enemy's lines, while his colleague rides quietly to the rear
with a despatch inside his tunic, the delivery of which to the
commander-in-chief will ensure promotion. And in view of this the
wholesome law of seniority was invented. The missions come in rotation,
and according to seniority the men step forward.
Fitz Marner's place was at my side, where, by the way, I never want a
better man, for his will was iron, and he had no nerves whatever. Capoo,
the stricken, was calling for help. Fitz and I knew more about cholera
than we cared to discuss just then. Some one must go up to Capoo to fight
a hopeless fight and die. And old Fitz—God bless him!—was
asking to go.
In reply I laughed.
"Not if I can help it. The fortune of war is the same for all."
Fitz tugged at his moustache and looked gravely at me.
"It is hard on the old man," he said. "It is more than you can expect."
"Much," I answered. "I gave up expecting justice some years ago. I am
sorry for the brigadier, of course. He committed the terrible mistake of
getting his son into his own brigade, and this is the result. All that he
does to-night he does on his own responsibility. I am not inclined to help
him. If it had been you, I should not have moved an inch—you know
He turned half away, looking up speculatively at the yellow Indian moon.
"Yes," he muttered, "I know that."
And without another word he went back to the mess-room.
I went on and entered the palace. To reach the brigadier's quarters I had
to pass down the whole length of the building, and I was not in the least
surprised to see Elsie Matheson waiting for me in one of the passage-like
ante-rooms. Elsie Matheson was bound to come into this matter sooner or
later—I knew that; but I did not quite know in what capacity her
advent might be expected.
"What is this news from Capoo?" she asked, without attempting to disguise
her anxiety. Her father, assistant political officer in this affair, was
not at Capoo or near there. He was upstairs playing a rubber.
"Bad," I answered.
She winced, but turned no paler. Women and horses are always surprising
me, and they never surprise me more than when in danger. Elsie Matheson
was by no means a masculine young person. Had she been so, I should not
have troubled to mention her. For me, men cannot be too manly, nor women
"What is the illness they have?" she asked.
"I really cannot tell you, Elsie," I answered. "Old Simpson has written me
a long letter—he always had a fancy for symptoms, you know—but
I can make nothing of it. The symptoms he describes are quite impossible.
They are too scientific for me."
"You know it is cholera," she snapped out with a strange little break in
her voice which I did not like, for I was very fond of this girl.
"Perhaps it is," I answered.
She gave a funny little helpless look round her as if she wanted something
to lean against.
"And who will go?" she asked. She was watching me keenly.
"Ah—that does not rest with me."
"And if it did?"
"I should go myself."
Her face lighted up suddenly. She had not thought of that. I bore her no
ill-feeling, however. I did not expect her to love ME.
"But they cannot spare you," she was kind enough to say.
"Everybody can always be spared—with alacrity," I answered; "but it
is not a question of that. It is a question of routine. One of the others
will have to go."
"Which one?" she asked with a suddenly assumed indifference.
It was precisely the question in my own mind, but relative to a very
different matter. If the decision rested with Miss Matheson, which of
these two men would she send to Capoo? Perhaps I looked rather too keenly
into her face, for she turned suddenly away and drew the gauzy wrap she
had thrown over her evening dress more closely round her throat, for the
passages were cold.
"That does not rest with me," I repeated, and I went on towards the
brigadier's quarters, leaving her—a white shadow in the dimly
I found the chief at his own dinner-table with an untouched glass of wine
"This is a bad business," he said, looking at me with haggard eyes. I had
never quite realized before what an old man he was. His trim beard and
moustache had been white for years, but he had always been a hale man up
to his work—a fine soldier but not a great leader. There was a vein
of indolence in Brigadier-General Thurkow's nature which had the same
effect on his career as that caused by barnacles round a ship's keel. This
inherent indolence was a steady drag on the man's life. Only one interest
thoroughly aroused him—only one train of thought received the full
gift of his mind. This one absorbing interest was his son Charlie, and it
says much for Charlie Thurkow that we did not hate him.
The brigadier had lost his wife years before. All that belonged to ancient
history—to the old Company days before our time. To say that he was
absorbed in his son is to state the case in the mildest imaginable form.
The love in this old man's heart for his reckless, happy-souled offspring
was of that higher order which stops at nothing. There is a love that
worketh wonders, and the same love can make a villain of an honest man.
I looked at old Thurkow, sitting white-lipped behind the decanter, and I
knew that there was villainy in his upright, honest heart. He scarcely met
my eyes. He moved uneasily in his chair. All through a long life this man
had carried nobly the noblest name that can be given to any—the name
of gentleman. No great soldier, but a man of dauntless courage. No
strategist, but a leader who could be trusted with his country's honour.
Upright, honourable, honest, brave—and it had come to this. It had
come to his sitting shamefaced before a poor unknown sawbones—not
daring to look him in the face.
His duty was plain enough. Charlie Thurkow's turn had come. Charlie
Thurkow must be sent to Capoo—by his father's orders. But the old
man—the soldier who had never turned his back on danger—could
not do it.
We were old friends, this man and I. I owed him much. He had made my
career, and I am afraid I had been his accomplice more than once. But we
had never wronged any other man. Fitz had aided and abetted more than
once. It had been an understood thing between Fitz and myself that the
winds of our service were to be tempered to Charlie Thurkow, and I imagine
we had succeeded in withholding the fact from his knowledge. Like most
spoilt sons, Charlie was a little selfish, with that convenient blindness
which does not perceive how much dirty work is done by others.
But we had never deceived the brigadier. He was not easily deceived in
those matters which concerned his son. I knew the old man very well, and
for years I had been content to sit by the hour together and talk with him
of Charlie. To tell the honest truth, Master Charlie was a very ordinary
young man. I take it that a solution of all that was best in five Charles
Thurkows would make up one Fitz Marner.
There was something horribly pathetic in the blindness of this usually
keen old man on this one point. He would sit there stiffly behind the
decanter fingering his wine-glass, and make statements about Charlie which
would have made me blush had that accomplishment not belonged to my past.
A certain cheery impertinence which characterized Charlie was fondly set
down as savoir-faire and dash. A cheap wit was held to be brilliancy and
conversational finish. And somehow we had all fallen into the way of
humouring the brigadier. I never told him, for instance, that his son was
a very second-rate doctor and a nervous operator. I never hinted that many
of the cures which had been placed to his credit were the work of Fitz—that
the men had no confidence in Charlie, and that they were somewhat
justified in their opinion.
"This is a bad business," repeated the brigadier, looking hard at the
despatch that lay on the table before him.
"Yes," I answered.
He tossed the paper towards me and pointed to a chair.
"Sit down!" he said sharply. "Have you had any report from poor Barber?"
In response I handed him the beginning of an official report. I say the
beginning, because it consisted of four lines only. It was in Barber's
handwriting, and it broke off suddenly in the middle of a word before it
began to tell me anything. In its way it was a tragedy. Death had called
for Barber while he was wondering how to spell "nauseous." I also gave him
Colonel Simpson's letter, which he read carefully.
"What is it?" he asked suddenly, as he laid the papers aside.
"Officially—I don't know."
"I am afraid it is cholera."
The brigadier raised his glass of claret a few inches from the table, but
his hand was too unsteady, and he set the glass down again untouched. I
was helplessly sorry for him. There was something abject and humiliating
in his averted gaze. Beneath his white moustache his lips were twitching
For a few moments there was silence, and I dreaded his next words. I was
trembling for his manhood.
"I suppose something must be done for them," he said at length, hoarsely,
and it was hard to believe that the voice was the voice of our leader—a
man dreaded in warfare, respected in peace.
"Yes," I answered uncompromisingly.
"Some one must go to them—"
Again there was that horrid silence, broken only by the tramp of the
sentinel outside the glassless windows.
"Who?" asked the brigadier, in little more than a whisper.
I suppose he expected it of me—I suppose he knew that even for him,
even in mercy to an old man whose only joy in life trembled at that moment
in the balance, I could not perpetrate a cruel injustice.
"It devolves on Charlie," I answered.
He gave one quick glance beneath his lashes, and again lowered his eyes. I
heard a long gasping sound, as if he found difficulty in breathing. He sat
upright, and threw back his shoulders with a pitiable effort to be strong.
"Is he up to the work?" he asked quietly.
"I cannot conscientiously say that he is not."
"D—n it, man," he burst out suddenly, "is there no way out of it?"
"What is it?"
"I will go."
"That is impossible," he answered with a sublime unconsciousness of his
own huge selfishness which almost made me laugh. This man would have asked
nothing for himself. For his son he had no shame in asking all. He would
have accepted my offer, I could see that, had it been possible.
At this moment the door opened, and Charlie Thurkow came in. His eyes were
bright with excitement, and he glanced at us both quickly. He was quite
well aware of his father's weakness in regard to himself, and I am afraid
he sometimes took advantage of it. He often ignored discipline entirely,
as he did in coming into the room at that moment.
I suppose there is in every one a sense of justice which accounts for the
subtle annoyance caused by the devotion of parents and others—a
devotion which has not the good sense to hide itself. There are few things
more annoying than an exhibition of unjust love. I rose at once. The
coming interview would be either painful or humiliating, and I preferred
not to assist at it.
As I went down the dark passages a man in a staff uniform, wearing spurs,
clanked past me. I did not know until later that it was Fitz, for I could
not see his face.
I went back to my quarters, and was busy for some time with certain
technicalities of my trade which are not worth detailing here. While I and
my two dispensers were still measuring out and mixing drugs, Fitz came to
"I am going to Capoo," he said quietly.
In his silent, quick way he was taking in all that we were doing. We were
packing medical stores for Capoo. I did not answer him, but waited for
further details. We could not speak openly before the two assistants at
that moment, and somehow we never spoke about it at all. I glanced up at
him. His face was pale beneath the sunburn. There was a drawn look just
above his moustache, as if his lips were held tightly.
"I volunteered," he said, "and the brigadier accepted my offer."
Whenever the word "duty" is mentioned, I think of Fitz to this day.
I said nothing, but went on with my work. The whole business was too
disgusting, too selfish, too unjust, to bear speaking of.
I had long known that Fitz loved Elsie Matheson. In my feeble way,
according to my scanty opportunity, I had endeavoured to assist him. But
her name had never been mentioned between us except carelessly in passing
conversation. I knew no details. I did not even know whether Elsie knew of
his love; but it was exceedingly likely that if she did, he had not told
her. As to her feelings, I was ignorant. She loved somebody, that much I
knew. One can generally tell that. One sees it in a woman's eyes. But it
is one thing to know that a woman loves, and quite another to find out
whom she loves. I have tried in vain more than once. I once thought that I
was the favoured person—not with Elsie, with quite another woman—but
I was mistaken. I only know that those women who have that in their eyes
which I have learnt to recognize are better women than those who lack it.
Fitz was the first to speak.
"Don't put all of that into one case," he said to one of the dispensers,
indicating a row of bottles that stood on the floor. "Divide the different
drugs over the cases, so that one or two of them can be lost without doing
His voice was quite calm and practical.
"When do you go?" I asked curtly. I was rather afraid of trusting my voice
too long, for Fitz was one of the few men who have really entered into my
life sufficiently to leave a blank space behind them. I have been a
rolling stone, and what little moss I ever gathered soon got knocked off,
but it left scars. Fitz left a scar.
"My orders are to start to-night—with one trooper," he answered.
"In half an hour."
"I will ride with you a few miles," I said.
He turned and went to his quarters, which were next to mine. I was still
at work when Charlie Thurkow came in. He had changed his dress clothes for
an old working suit. I was working in my evening dress—a subtle
"Do you want any help?" he asked. I could hear a grievance in his voice.
"Of course; get on packing that case; plenty of straw between the
He obeyed me, working slowly, badly, without concentration, as he always
"It's a beastly shame, isn't it?" he muttered presently.
"Yes," I answered, "it is."
I suppose he did not detect the sarcasm.
"Makes me look a fool," he said heatedly. "Why couldn't the governor let
me go and take my chance?"
The answer to this question being beyond my ken, I kept a discreet
silence. Giving him further instructions, I presently left my junior to
complete the task of packing up the necessary medicaments for Capoo.
In less than half an hour Fitz and I mounted our horses. A few of the
fellows came out of the messroom, cigar in mouth, to say good-bye to Fitz.
One or two of them called out "Good luck" as we left them. Each wish was
followed by a little laugh, as if the wisher was ashamed of showing even
so minute an emotion. It was, after all, all in the way of our business.
Many a time Fitz and I had stood idle while these same men rode out to
face death. It was Fitz's turn now—that was all.
The Sikh trooper was waiting for us in the middle of the square—in
the moonlight—a grand picturesque figure. A long-faced, silent man,
with deep eyes and a grizzled moustache. He wheeled his horse, and dropped
ten paces in our rear.
In the course of a varied experience Fitz and I had learnt to ride hard.
We rode hard that night beneath the yellow moon, through the sleeping,
odorous country. We both knew too well that cholera under canvas is like a
fire in a timber-yard. You may pump your drugs upon it, but without avail
unless the pumping be scientific. Fitz represented science. Every moment
meant a man's life. Our horses soon settled into their stride with a
pleasant creaking sound of warm leather and willing lungs.
The moon was above and behind us; we each had a galloping shadow beneath
our horse's forefeet. It was a sandy country, and the hoofs only produced
a dull thud. There was something exhilarating in the speed—in the
shimmering Indian atmosphere. A sense of envy came over me, and I dreaded
the moment when I should have to turn and ride soberly home, leaving Fitz
to complete his forty-five miles before daylight.
We were riding our chargers. They had naturally fallen into step, and
bounded beneath us with a regular, mechanical rhythm. Both alike had their
heads down, their shoulders forward, with that intelligent desire to do
well which draws a man's heart towards a horse in preference to any other
animal. I looked sideways at Fitz, and waited for him to speak. But he was
staring straight in front of him, and seemed lost in thought.
"You know," I said at length, "you have done that old man an ill-turn.
Even if you come back he will never forgive himself. He will never look
either of us straight in the face again."
"Can't help that," replied Fitz. "The thing—" He paused, as if
choosing his words. "If," he went on rather quickly, "the worst comes to
the worst, don't let people—ANY ONE—think that I did it
because I didn't care, because I set no value on my life. The thing was
forced upon me. I was asked to volunteer for it."
"All right," I answered, rather absent-mindedly perhaps. I was wondering
who "any one" might be, and also who had asked him to throw away his life.
The latter might, of course, be the brigadier. Surely it could not have
been Elsie. But, as I said before, I always was uncertain about women.
I did not say anything about hoping for the best. Fitz and I had left all
that nonsense behind us years before. We did our business amidst battle,
murder, and sudden death. Perhaps we were callous, perhaps we had only
learnt to value the thing at its true worth, and did not set much fear on
And then, I must ask you to believe, we fell to talking "shop." I knew a
little more about cholera than did Fitz, and we got quite interested in
our conversation. It is, I have found, only in books that men use the last
moment to advantage. Death has been my road-fellow all through life, and
no man has yet died in my arms saying quite the right thing. Some of them
made a joke, others were merely commonplace, as all men really are whether
living or dying.
When the time came for me to turn back, Fitz had said nothing fit for
post-mortem reproduction. We had talked unmitigated "shop," except the few
odd observations I have set down.
We shook hands, and I turned back at once. As I galloped I looked back,
and in the light of the great tropical moon I saw Fitz sitting forward in
his saddle as the horse rose to the slope of a hill, galloping away into
the night, into the unknown, on his mission of mercy. At his heels rode
the Sikh, enormous, silent, soldierly.
During my steady run home I thought of those things concerning my craft
which required immediate consideration. Would it be necessary to send down
to India for help? Cholera at Capoo might mean cholera everywhere in this
new unknown country. What about the women and children? The Wandering Jew
was abroad; would he wander in our direction, with the legendary curse
following on his heels? Was I destined to meet this dread foe a third
time? I admit that the very thought caused a lump to rise in my throat.
For I love Thomas Atkins. He is manly and honest according to his lights.
It does not hurt me very much to see him with a bullet through his lungs
or a sabre cut through the collar-bone down to the same part of his
anatomy. But it does hurt me exceedingly to see honest Thomas die between
the sheets—the death of any common civilian beggar. Thomas is too
good for that.
It was nearly three o'clock in the morning when I rode into the palace
square. All round I saw the sentinels, their bayonets gleaming in the
moonlight. A man was walking backwards and forwards in the middle of the
square by himself. When he heard me he came towards me. At first I thought
that it was my servant waiting to take the horse, but a moment later I
recognized Charlie Thurkow—recognized him by his fair hair, for he
was hatless. At the same time my syce roused himself from slumber in the
shadow of an arch, and ran forward to my stirrup.
"Come to the hospital!" said Thurkow, the moment I alighted. His voice was
dull and unnatural. I once heard a man speak in the same voice while
collecting his men for a rush which meant certain death. The man was duly
killed, and I think he was trembling with fear when he ran to his death.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I don't know."
We walked—almost ran—to the hospital, a long low building in
the palace compound. Charlie Thurkow led the way to a ward which we had
never used—a ward I had set apart for infectious cases. A man was
dozing in a long chair in the open window. As we entered he rose hastily
and brought a lamp. We bent over a bed—the only one occupied. The
occupant was a man I did not know. He looked like a Goorkha, and he was
dying. In a few moments I knew all that there was to know. I knew that the
Wandering Jew had passed our way.
"Yes," I said, rising from my knees at the bedside; "we have it."
Of the days that followed it is not my intention to say much. A woman once
told me that I was afraid of nothing. She was mistaken. If she chance to
read this and recognize it, I hope she will believe the assertion: I am,
and always have been, afraid of cholera—in India. In Europe it is a
different matter. The writing of those days would be unpleasant to me; the
reading would be still less pleasant to the reader.
Brigadier-General Thurkow rose to the occasion, as we all expected him to
do. It is one thing to send a man to a distant danger, and quite another
to go with him into a danger which is close at hand. Charlie Thurkow and I
were the only two doctors on the spot, and before help could reach us we
should probably all be dead or cured. There was no shirking now. Charlie
and I were at work night and day, and in the course of thirty-six hours
Charlie got interested in it. He reached the fighting point—that
crisis in an epidemic of which doctors can tell—that point where
there is a certain glowing sense of battle over each bed—where death
and the doctor see each other face to face—fight hand to hand for
The doctor loses his interest in the patient as a friend or a patient; all
his attention is centred on the life as a life, and a point to be scored
against the adversary Death.
We had a very bad time for two days. At the end of that time I had
officers bearing Her Majesty's commission serving under me as assistant
nurses, and then the women came into it. The first to offer herself was
the wife of a non-commissioned officer in the Engineers, who had been
through Netley. I accepted her. The second woman was Elsie Matheson. I
refused point blank.
"Sooner or later," she said, looking at me steadily with something in her
eyes which I could not make out, "you will have to take me."
"Does your father know you have come to me?" I retorted.
"Yes; I came with his consent."
I shook my head and returned to my writing. I was filling in a list of
terrific length. She did not go away, but stood in front of me with a
certain tranquillity which was unnatural under the circumstances.
"Do you want help?" she asked calmly.
"God knows I do."
"But not mine—?"
"Not yet, Elsie. I have not got so far as that yet."
I did not look up, and she stood quite still over me—looking down at
me—probably noting that the hair was getting a little thin on the
top of my head. This is not a joke. I repeat she was probably noting that.
People do note such things at such moments.
"If you do not take me," she said, in a singularly even voice, "I shall go
up to Capoo. Can you not see that that is the only thing that can save me
from going to Capoo—or going mad?"
I laid aside my pen, and looked up into her face, which she made no
pretence of hiding from me. And I saw that it was as she said.
"You can go to work at once," I said, "under Mrs. Martin, in ward number
When she had left me I did not go on filling in the list from the notes in
my pocket-book. I fell to wasting time instead. So it was Fitz. I was not
surprised, but I was very pleased. I was not surprised, because I have
usually found that the better sort of woman has as keen a scent for the
good men as we have. And I thought of old Fitz—the best man I ever
served with—fighting up at Capoo all alone, while I fought down in
the valley. There was a certain sense of companionship in the thought,
though my knowledge and experience told me that our chances of meeting
again were very small indeed.
We had not heard from Capoo. The conclusion was obvious: they had no one
Elsie Matheson soon became a splendid nurse. She was quite fearless—not
with dash, but with the steady fearlessness that comes from an
ever-present sense of duty, which is the best. She was kind and tender,
but she was a little absent. In spirit she was nursing at Capoo; with us
she was only in the body.
When Charlie Thurkow heard that she had gone into ward number four, he
displayed a sudden, singular anger.
"It's not fit for her," he said. "How could you do it?"
And I noticed that, so far as lay in his power, he kept the worst cases
away from number four.
It occasionally happens in life that duty is synonymous with inclination;
not often, of course, but occasionally. I twisted inclination round into
duty, and put Elsie to night work, while Charlie Thurkow kept the day
watches. I myself was forced to keep both as best I could.
Whenever I went into number four ward at night before (save the mark)
going to bed, I found Elsie Matheson waiting for me. It must be remembered
that she was quite cut off from the little world that surrounded us in the
palace. She had no means of obtaining news. Her only link with the outer
universe was an occasional patient brought in more dead than alive, and
too much occupied with his own affairs to trouble about those of other
"Any news?" she would whisper to me as we went round the beds together;
and I knew that she meant Capoo. Capoo was all the world for her. It is
strange how some little unknown spot on the earth will rise up and come
into our lives never to leave the memory again.
"Nothing," I replied with a melancholy regularity.
Once only she broke through her reserve—through the habit of bearing
pain in silence which she had acquired by being so much among dying men.
"Have you no opinion?" she asked, with a sharpness in her voice which I
forgave as I heard it.
"Upon what subject?"
"Upon... the chances."
I shrugged my shoulders.
"He is a good man—there is no better in India—that is all I
can say. Just hold the candle a little closer, will you, please? Thanks—yes—he
is quite dead."
We passed on to the next bed.
"It is both his duty and his inclination to take care of himself," I said
as we went—going back with her in the spirit to Capoo.
"How do you know it is his inclination?" she asked guardedly.
And I knew that I was on the right path. The vague message given to "any
one" by Fitz as he rode by my side that night—only a week before,
although it seemed to be months—that message was intended for Elsie.
It referred to something that had gone before, of which I had no
"Because he told me so," I answered.
And then we went on with our work. Charlie Thurkow was quite right. I knew
that all along. It was not fit for her. Elsie was too young, too gentle
and delicate for such a place as ward number four. I make no mention of
her beauty, for I took no heed of it then. It was there—but it had
nothing to do with this matter. Also I have never seen why women who are
blessed or cursed by beauty should be more considered in such matters, as
they undoubtedly are.
I was up and about all that night. The next morning rose gloomily, as if
the day was awakening unrefreshed by a feverish sleep. The heat had been
intense all night, and we could look for nothing but an intensification of
it when the sun rose with a tropical aggressiveness. I wanted to get my
reports filled in before lying down to snatch a little rest, and was still
at work when Charlie Thurkow came in to relieve me. He looked ghastly, but
we all did that, and I took no notice. He took up the ward-sheets and
glanced down the columns.
"Wish I had gone to Capoo," he muttered. "It couldn't have been worse than
I had finished my writing, and I rose. As I did so Charlie suddenly
clapped his hand to his hip.
"I say!" he exclaimed, "I say!"
He looked at me in a stupid way, and then suddenly he tottered towards me,
and I caught him.
"Old chap!" he exclaimed thickly, with his face against my shoulder, "I've
got it. Take me to number four."
He had seen by the list that there was a vacant cot in number four.
I carried him there, stumbling as I went, for I was weak from want of
Elsie had just gone to her room, and Mrs. Martin was getting the vacant
bed ready. I was by that bedside all day. All that I knew I did for
Charlie Thurkow. I dosed myself with more than one Indian drug to
stimulate the brain—to keep myself up to doing and thinking. This
was a white man's life, and God forgive me if I set undue store upon it as
compared with the black lives we were losing daily. This was a brain that
could think for the rest. There was more than one man's life wrapped up in
Charlie Thurkow's. One can never tell. My time might come at any moment,
and the help we had sent for could not reach us for another fortnight.
Charlie said nothing. He thanked me at intervals for some little service
rendered, and nearly all the time his eyes were fixed upon the clock. He
was reckoning with his own life. He did not want to die in the day, but in
the night. He was deliberately spinning out his life till the night nurse
came on duty. I suppose that in his superficial, happy-go-lucky way he
I pulled him through that day, and we managed to refrain from waking Elsie
up. At nightfall she came to her post. When she came into the room I was
writing a note to the brigadier. I watched her face as she came towards
us. There was only distress upon it—nothing else. Even women—even
beautiful women grow callous; thank Heaven! Charlie Thurkow gave a long
sigh of relief when she came.
My note was duly sent to the brigadier, and five minutes afterwards I went
out on to the verandah to speak to him. I managed to keep him out of the
room by a promise that he should be sent for later. I made no pretence
about it, and he knew that it was only the question of a few hours when he
walked back across the palace square to his quarters. I came back to the
verandah, and found Elsie waiting to speak to me.
"Will he die?" she asked.
There was a strange glitter in her eyes which I could not understand.
"Quite," I answered, forgetting to be professional. She looked at me for a
moment as if she were about to say something, and then she apparently
decided not to say it.
I went towards a long chair which stood on the verandah.
"I shall lie down here," I said, "and sleep for an hour."
"Yes, do," she answered almost gratefully.
"You will wake me if you want me?"
"Wake me when... the change comes."
In a few moments I was asleep. I do not know what woke me up. It seemed to
be very late. All the sounds of barrack life were hushed. The moon was
just up. I rose to my feet and turned to the open window. But there I
Elsie was kneeling by Charlie Thurkow's bed. She was leaning over him, and
I could see that she was kissing him. And I knew that she did not love
I kicked against the chair purposely. Elsie turned and looked towards me,
with her hand still resting on Charlie Thurkow's forehead. She beckoned me
to go to them, and I saw at once that he was much weaker. She was stroking
his hair gently. She either gave me credit for great discernment, or she
did not care what I thought.
I saw that the time had come for me to fulfil my promise to the brigadier,
and went out of the open window to send one of the sentinels for him. As I
was speaking to the man I heard the clatter of a horse's feet, and a Sikh
rode hard into the palace square. I went towards him, and he, recognizing
me, handed me a note which he extracted from the folds of his turban. I
opened the paper and read it by the light of the moon. My heart gave a
leap in my throat. It was from Fitz. News at last from Capoo.
"We have got it under," he wrote. "I am coming down to help you. Shall be
with you almost as soon as the bearer."
As I walked back towards the hospital the brigadier came running behind
me, and caught me up as I stepped in by the window. I had neither time nor
inclination just then to tell him that I had news from Capoo. The Sikh no
doubt brought official news which would reach their destination in due
course. And in the mean time Charlie Thurkow was dying.
We stood round that bed and waited silent, emotionless for the angel.
Charlie knew only too well that the end was very near. From time to time
he smiled rather wearily at one or the other of us, and once over his face
there came that strange look of a higher knowledge which I have often
noted, as if he knew something that we did not—something which he
had been forbidden to tell us.
While we were standing there the matting of the window was pushed aside,
and Fitz came softly into the dimly lighted room. He glanced at me, but
attempted no sort of salutation. I saw him exchange a long silent look
with Elsie, and then he took his station at the bedside next to Elsie, and
opposite to the brigadier, who never looked up.
Charlie Thurkow recognized him, and gave him one of those strangely
patronizing smiles. Then he turned his sunken eyes towards Elsie. He
looked at her with a gaze that became more and more fixed. We stood there
for a few minutes—then I spoke.
"He is dead," I said.
The brigadier raised his eyes and looked across to Fitz. For a second
these two men looked down into each other's souls, and I suppose Fitz had
his reward. I suppose the brigadier had paid his debt in full. I had been
through too many painful scenes to wish to prolong this. So I turned away,
and a general move was the result.
Then I saw that Elsie and Fitz had been standing hand-in-hand all the
So wags the world.
THROUGH THE GATE OF TEARS
Give us—ah! give us—but Yesterday!
In the old days, when the Mahanaddy was making her reputation, she had her
tragedy. And Dr. Mark Ruthine has not forgotten it, nor forgiven himself
yet. Doctors, like the rest of us, are apt to make a hideous mistake or
two which resemble the stream anchors of a big steamer warping out into
the Hooghly. We leave them behind, but we do not let go of them. They make
a distinct difference to the course of our journey down the stream.
Sometimes they hold us back; occasionally they swing us into the middle of
the current, where there is no shoal. Like the stream anchors, they are
always there, behind us, for our good.
Some few of the Mahanaddy passengers have remarked that Mark Ruthine
invariably locks his cabin-door whenever he leaves the little den that
serves him for surgery and home. This is the outward sign of an inward
This, by the way, is not a moral tale. Virtue does not triumph, nor will
vice be crushed. It is the mere record of a few mistakes, culminating in
Mark Ruthine's blunder—a little note on human nature without vice in
it; for there is little vice in human nature if one takes the trouble to
sift that which masquerades as such.
It was, therefore, in old days, long ago, on an outward voyage to Madras,
that Miss Norah Hood was placed under the care of the captain, hedged
safely round by an engagement to an old playmate, and shipped off to the
land where the Anglo-Saxon dabbles in tragedy.
Norah is fortunately not a common name. Mark Ruthine's countenance—a
still one—changes ever so slightly whenever he hears the name or
sees it in print. Another outward sign, and, as such, naturally small.
When the captain was introduced by a tall and refined old clergyman to
Miss Norah Hood, he found himself shaking hands with a grave young person
of unassertive beauty. Hers was the loveliness of the violet, which is apt
to pall in this modern day—to aggravate, and to suggest wanton
waste. For feminine loveliness is on the wane—marred, like many
other good things, by over-education. Norah Hood was a typical country
parson's daughter, who knew the right and did it, ignored the wrong and
refused to believe in it.
The captain was busy with his Mahanaddy. He looked over his shoulder, and,
seeing Mark Ruthine, called him by a glance.
"This is my doctor," he said, to the scholarly parson. "He will be happy
to see that Miss Hood is comfortably settled among us. I am naturally
rather a busy man until we leave the Start Light behind us."
So Mark Ruthine hovered about, and discreetly looked the other way when
the moment of parting came. He suspected, shrewdly enough, that Norah was
the eldest of a large family—one less to feed and clothe. An old
story. As the great ship glided gently away from the quay—in those
days the Mahanaddy loaded at Southampton—he went and stood beside
Norah Hood. Not that he had anything to say to her; but his calling of
novelist, his experience of doctor, taught him that a silent support is
what women sometimes want. They deal so largely in words that a few
unexplained deeds sometimes refresh them.
He stood there until the tall, slim form in the rusty black coat was no
longer discernible. Then he made a little movement and spoke.
"Have you been to your cabin?" he asked. "Do you know where it is?"
"I have not seen it," she answered composedly. "The number of my berth is
There was a singular lack of fluster. It was impossible to divine that she
had never trod the deck of a big steamer before—that her walk in
life had been limited to the confines of a tiny, remote parish in the
eastern counties. Ruthine glanced at her. He saw that she was quite
self-possessed, with something more complete than the self-possession of
good breeding. It was quite obvious that this woman—for Norah Hood
was leaving girlhood behind—had led a narrow, busy life. She had
obviously lost the habit of attaching much importance to her own feelings,
her own immediate fate or passing desires, because more pressing matters
had so long absorbed her. There was a faint suggestion of that
self-neglect, almost amounting to self-contempt, which characterizes the
manner of overburdened motherhood. This would account for her apparent
ignorance of the fact that she was beautiful.
As he led the way down below Ruthine glanced at her again. He had an easy
excuse for so doing on the brass-bound stairs, where landsmen feet may
slip. He was, above all things, a novelist, although he wrote under
another and greater name, and those around him knew him not. He looked
more at human minds than human bodies, and he was never weary of telling
his friends that he was a poor doctor. He concluded—indeed, her
father had almost told him—that she was going out to be married. But
he needed not to be told that she was going to marry a man whom she did
not love. He found that out for himself in a flash of his quiet grey eyes.
An expert less skilful than himself could see that Norah Hood did not know
what love was. Some women are thus—some few, God help them! go
through life in the same ignorance.
He took her down to her cabin—a small one, which she was fortunate
enough to have to herself. He told her the hours of the meals, the habits
of the ship, and the customs of the ocean. He had a grave way with him,
this doctor, and could put on a fatherly manner when the moment needed it.
Norah listened with a gravity equal to his own. She listened, moreover,
with an intelligence which he noted.
"If you will come," he said, "on deck again, I will introduce you to a
very kind friend of mine—Mrs. Stellasis. You have heard of John
"No," answered Norah, rather indifferently.
"You will some day—all the world will. Stellasis is one of our great
men in India. Mrs. Stellasis is a great lady."
This was a prophecy.
They went on deck, and Mark Ruthine effected the introduction. He stayed
beside them for a few moments, and did not leave them until they were
deeply engrossed in a conversation respecting babies in general, and in
particular a small specimen which Mrs. Stellasis had lately received.
An Indian-going steamer is rather like a big box of toys. She goes bumping
down Channel, rolling through the Bay, and, by the time that Gibraltar is
left behind, she has shaken her passengers into their places.
Norah Hood shook down very quietly into the neighbourhood of Mrs.
Stellasis, who liked her and began to understand her. Mrs. Stellasis—a
good woman and a mother—pitied Norah Hood with an increasing pity;
for as the quiet Mediterranean days wore to a close she had established
without doubt the fact that the engagement to the old playmate was a
sordid contract entered into in all innocence by a girl worthy of a better
fate. But Mrs. Stellasis hoped for the best. She thought of the "specimen"
slumbering in a berth six sizes too large for it, and reflected that Norah
Hood might snatch considerable happiness out of the contract after all.
"Do you know anything of the old playmate?" Mrs. Stellasis asked Dr.
Ruthine suddenly one afternoon in the Red Sea.
Mark Ruthine looked into the pleasant face and saw a back to the question—many
backs, extending away into a perspective of feminine speculation.
"No," he answered slowly.
They lapsed into a little silence. And then they both looked up, and saw
Norah Hood walking slowly backwards and forwards with Manly Fenn of the
After all, it was only natural that these two young persons should drift
together. They were both so "quiet and stupid." Neither had much to say to
the world, and they both alike heard what the world had to say with that
somewhat judicial calm which knocks down feeble wit.
There was no sparkle about either of them, and the world is given to
preferring bad champagne to good burgundy because of the sparkle. The
world therefore left Manly Fenn alone; and Manly Fenn, well pleased, went
about his own business. It has been decreed that men who go about their
own business very carefully find that it is a larger affair than they at
first took it to be. Manly Fenn had never been aware until quite lately
that these things which he took to be his own affairs were in reality the
business of an Empire. The Empire found it out before Manly Fenn—found
it out, indeed, when its faithful servant was hiring himself out as
assistant-herdsman to a large farmer on the Beloochistan frontier.
And Major Fenn had to buy a new uniform, had to interview many high-placed
persons, and had, finally, to present himself before his Gracious
Sovereign, who hooked a little cross into the padding of his tunic—all
of which matters were extremely disagreeable to Manly Fenn.
Finally, the devil—as the captain bluffly affirmed—brought it
to pass that he, Manly Fenn, should take passage in the Mahanaddy on the
voyage of which we have to do.
It was very sudden, and many thorough things are so. It happened somewhere
in the Red Sea, and Mrs. Stellasis was probably the first to sniff danger
in the breeze. That was why she asked Mark Ruthine if he knew anything
about the old playmate to whom Norah Hood was engaged. That was why Mark
Ruthine looked for the back of the question; for he was almost as expert
as a woman among the humanities.
Somewhere between Ismailia and the Gate of Tears, Love came on board the
Mahanaddy—a sorry pilot—and took charge of Manly Fenn and the
girl who was going out to marry her old playmate.
It was a serious matter from the first—like a fever that takes a man
of middle age who has never been ill before.
There was a consultation of the authorities—Mrs Stellasis, namely,
and the captain, and Mark Ruthine.
The captain disgraced himself early in the proceedings.
"Perhaps it is only a flirtation," he said.
Whereupon Mrs. Stellasis laughed scornfully, and the mariner collapsed.
Moreover, the consultation resulted in nothing, although Stellasis himself
joined it, looking grave and thoughtful behind his great grey moustache.
"Known Manly Fenn for ten years," he said; "but I am afraid of him still.
I cannot speak to him. Can you not say something to the girl?"
But Mrs. Stellasis shook her head with determination. That was the worst
of it—they were not the sort of persons to whom one can say such
things. The captain was technically responsible, but he had proved himself
utterly incompetent. "No," said Mrs. Stellasis finally. There was nothing
to be done but hope for the best. Of course, Mrs. Stellasis was without
conscience—quite without justice. It is to be feared that nearly all
women are. She was all for Manly Fenn and dead against the old playmate,
whom she intuitively described as "that stupid."
In the mean time all the ship knew it. In some ways the two culprits were
singularly innocent. It is possible that they did not know that the world
is never content unless it is elbow-deep in its neighbour's pie—that
their affairs were the talk of the Mahanaddy. It is also possible that
they knew and did not care.
The good steamer pounded out of the Gate of Tears and struck a bee-line
across the Arabian Sea. The passengers settled down to await the sequel
which would be delivered to them at Madras.
Norah Hood and Fenn were together from morning till night. They seemed to
ignore the sequel, which made it all the more exciting for the lookers-on.
Norah still saw a good deal of Mrs. Stellasis. She still took a great
interest in the "specimen," whose small ailments received her careful
attention. With Mark Ruthine she was almost familiar, in her quiet way.
She came to his little surgery to get such minute potions as the
"specimen" might require. She even got to know the bottles, and mixed the
drugs herself while he laughingly watched her. She had dispensed for a
village population at home, and knew a little medicine.
Ruthine encouraged her to come, gave her the freedom of his medicine
chests, and all the while he watched her. She interested him. There were
so many things which he could not reconcile.
In some ways she was quite a different woman. This love which had come to
her suddenly—rather late in her life—had made a strange being
of her. She was still gentle, and rather prim and quite self-possessed.
She looked Ruthine in the face, and knew that he knew all about her; but
she was not in the least discomposed. She was astonishingly daring. She
defied him and the whole world—gently.
The little Dutch lighthouse at Galle was duly sighted, and the Mahanaddy
was in the Bay of Bengal. The last dinner was duly consumed, and the usual
speech made by the usual self-assertive old civilian. And, for the last
time, the Mahanaddy passengers said good night to each other, seeking
their cabins with a pleasant sense of anticipation. The next day would
bring the sequel.
A stewardess awoke Mark Ruthine up before it was light. He followed the
woman to number seventy-seven cabin. There he found Norah Hood, dressed,
lying quietly on her berth—dead.
A bottle—one of his bottles from the medicine-chest—stood on
the table beside her.
"I have heard that there is corn in Egypt."
Slyne's Chare is in South Shields, and Mason's Chop House stands at the
lower corner of Slyne's Chare—Mason's Chop House, where generations
of honest Tyneside sailors have consumed pounds of honest mutton and beef,
and onions therewith. For your true salt loves an onion ashore, which
makes him a pleasanter companion at sea. Mason's Chop House is a
low-roofed, red-tiled, tarred cottage with a balcony—a "balcohny"
overhanging the river. It is quite evident that the "balcohny" was
originally built, and has subsequently been kept in repair, by ships'
carpenters. It is so glaringly ship-shape, so redolent of tar, so
The keen fresh breeze—and there is nothing keener, fresher,
stronger, and wholesomer in the world than that which comes roaring up
between the two piers of the Tyne—this breeze blows right through
Mason's, and blows the fume of cooking out into Slyne's Chare.
It is evening—tea-time—and the day's work is almost done; for
Mason's does little in suppers. A bullet-headed boy is rubbing pewter pots
at the door. Mrs. Mason, comfortably somnolent at the entrance of the
little kitchen, watches her daughter—comely, grave-faced Annie Mason—"our
Annie," as she is called, who is already folding the table-cloths. A few
belated customers linger in the partitioned loose-boxes which lend a
certain small privacy to the tables, and often save a fight. They are
talking in gruff, North-country voices, which are never harsh.
A man comes in, after a moment's awkward pause at the open door, and seeks
a secluded seat where the gas overhead hardly affords illumination. He is
a broad-built man—a Tynesider; not so very big for South Shields; a
matter of six feet one, perhaps. He carries a blue spotted handkerchief
against his left cheek, and the boy with the pewter pots stares eagerly at
the other. A boy of poor tact this; for the customer's right cheek is
horribly disfigured. It is all bruised and battered in from the curve of a
square jaw to the cheek-bone, which is broken. But the eye is intact; a
shrewd, keen eye, accustomed to the penetration of a Northern mist—accustomed
to a close scrutiny of men's faces. It is painfully obvious that this
sailor—for gait and clothes and manner set aside all other crafts—is
horribly conscious of his deformity.
"Got the toothache?" inquires the tactless youth.
The new-comer replies in the negative and orders a cup of tea and a
herring. It is Annie who brings the simple meal and sets it down without
looking at the man.
"Thanks," he growls in his brown beard, and the woman pauses suddenly. She
listens, as if hearing some distant sound. Then she slowly turns—for
she has gone a step or two from the table—and makes a pretence of
setting the salt and pepper closer to him.
Three ships had come up with the afternoon tide—a coaster, a
Norwegian barque in ballast, and a full-rigged ship with nitrate from the
West Coast of South America.
"Just ashore?" inquired Annie—economical with her words, as they
mostly are round the Northern river.
"From the West Coast?"
"Ay," grumbles the man. He holds the handkerchief to his cheek, and turns
the herring tentatively with a fork.
"You'll find it's a good enough fish," says the woman, bluntly. Her two
hands are pressed to her comely bosom in a singular way.
"Ay!" says the man again, as if he had no other word.
The clock strikes six, and the boy, more mindful of his own tea than his
neighbour's ailments, slips on his jacket and goes home. The last
customers dawdle out with a grunt intended for a salutation. Mrs. Mason is
softly heard to snore. And all the while Annie Mason—all the colour
vanished from her wholesome face—stands with her hands clutching her
dress, gazing down at the man, who still examines the herring with a
"Geordie!" she says. They are all called Geordie in South Shields.
"Ay, lass!" he answers, shamefacedly.
Annie Mason sits down suddenly—opposite to him. He does not look up
but remains, his face half hidden by the spotted blue handkerchief, a
picture of self-conscious guilt and shame.
"What did ye did it for, Geordie?" she asks, breathlessly. "Eleven years,
come March—oh, it was cruel!"
"What did I do it for?" he repeats. "What did I do it for? Why, lass,
can't ye see my face?"
He drops the handkerchief, and holds up his poor scarred countenance. He
does not look at her, but away past her with the pathetic shame of a
maimed dog. The cheek thus suddenly exposed to view is whole and brown and
healthy. Beneath the mahogany-coloured skin there is a glow singularly
suggestive of a blush.
"Ay, I see your face," she answers, with a note of tenderness for the poor
scarred cheek. "I hope you haven't been at the drink."
He shakes his head with a little sad smile that twists up his one-sided
"Is it because you wanted to get shot of me?" asks the woman, with a sort
of breathlessness. She has large grey-blue eyes with a look of constant
waiting in them—a habit of looking up at the open door at the sound
of every footstep.
"D—n it, Annie. Could I come back to you with a face like this; and
you the prettiest lass on the Tyneside?"
She is fumbling with her apron string. There is a half-coquettish bend of
her head—with the grey hairs already at the temple—awakened
perhaps by some far-off echo in his passionate voice. She looks up slowly,
and does not answer his question.
"Tell us," she says slowly. "Tell us where ye've been."
"Been?—oh, I don't know, lass! I don't rightly remember. Not that it
matters. Up the West Coast, trading backwards and forwards. I've got my
master's certificate now. Serving first mate on board the Mallard to
Falmouth for orders, and they ordered us to the Tyne. I brought her round—I
knew the way. I thought you'd be married, lass. But maybe ye are?"
"Maybe I'm daft," puts in Annie coolly.
"I greatly feared," the man goes on with the slow self-consciousness of
one unaccustomed to talk of himself. "I greatly feared I'd meet up with a
bairn of yours playing in the doorway. Losh! I could not have stood THAT!
But that's why I stayed away, Annie, lass! So that you might marry a man
with a face on him. I thought you would not know me if I held up my
handkerchief over my other cheek!"
There is a strange gleam in the woman's eyes—a gleam that one or two
of the old masters have succeeded in catching and imparting to the face of
their Madonnas, but only one or two.
"How did you come by your hurt?" she asks in her low voice.
"Board the old Walleroo going out. You mind the old ship? We had a fire in
the hold, and the skipper he would go down alone to locate it before we
cut a hole in the deck and shipped the hose in. The old man did not come
up again. Ye mind him. Old Rutherford of Jarrow. And I went down and
looked for him. It was a hell of smoke and fire, and something in the
cargo stinking like—like hell fire as it burnt. I got a hold of the
old man, and was fetching him out on my hands and knees, when something
busts up and sends us all through the deck. I had three months in
Valparaiso hospital; but I saved old Jack Rutherford of Jarrow. And when I
got up and looked at my face I saw that it was not in the nature of things
that I could ever ask a lass to have me. So I just stayed away and made
believe that—that I had changed my mind."
The man pauses. He is not glib of speech, though quick enough at sea. As
he takes up the little teapot and shakes it roundwise, after the manner of
the galley, his great brown hand shakes too.
"I would not have come back here," he goes on after a silence; "but the
Mallard was ordered to the Tyne. And a chap must do his duty by his
shipmates and his owners. And I thought it would be safe—after
eleven years. When I saw the old place and smelt the smell of the old
woman's frying-pan, I could not get past the door. But I hung around,
looking to make sure there were no bairns playing on the floor. I have
only come in, lass, to pass the time of day and to tell you ye're a free
He is not looking at her. He seems to find that difficult. So he does not
see the queer little smile—rather sadder, in itself, than tears.
"And you stayed away eleven years—because o' THAT?" says the woman,
"Ay, you know, lass, I'm no great hand at the preaching and Bibles and the
like; but it seems pretty clear that them who's working things did not
think it fit that we should marry. And so it was sent. I got to think it
so in time—least, I think it's that sometimes. And no woman would
like to say, 'That's my man—him with only half a face.' So I just
"All for that?" asks the woman, her face, which is still, pretty and round
and rosy, working convulsively.
"Then, honey," she cries softly, "you dinna understand us women!"
THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN
"Yes, mother, he will come. Of course he will come!" And the girl turned
her drawn and anxious young face towards the cottage door, just as if her
blind mother could see the action.
It is probable that the old woman divined the longing glance from the
change in the girl's tone, for she, too, half turned towards the door. It
was a habit these two women had acquired. They constantly looked towards
the door for the arrival of one who never came through the long summer
days, through the quiet winter evenings; moreover, they rarely spoke of
other things, this arrival was the topic of their lives. And now the old
woman's life was drawing to a close, as some lives do, without its object.
She herself felt it, and her daughter knew it.
There was in both of them a subtle sense of clinging. It was hard to die
without touching the reward of a wondrous patience. It was cruel to
deprive the girl of this burden, for in most burdens there is a safeguard,
in all a duty, and in some the greatest happiness allotted to human
It was no new thing, this waiting for the scapegrace son; the girl had
grown up to it, for she would not know her brother should she meet him in
the street. Since sight had left the old mother's eyes, she had fed her
heart upon this hope.
He had left them eighteen years before in a fit of passionate resentment
against his father, whose only fault had been too great an indulgence for
the son of his old age. Nothing had been too good for dear Stephen—hardly
anything had been good enough. Educated at a charity school himself, the
simple old clergyman held the mistaken view that no man can be educated
above his station.
There are some people who hold this view still, but they cannot do so much
longer. Strikes, labour troubles, and the difficulties of domestic
service, so called gentleman farmers, gentleman shopkeepers and lady
milliners—above all, a few colonies peopled by University failures,
will teach us in time that to educate our sons above their station is to
handicap them cruelly in the race of life.
Stephen Leach was one of the early victims to this craze. His father,
having risen by the force of his own will and the capabilities of his own
mind from the People to the Church, held, as such men do, that he had only
to give his son a good education to ensure his career in life. So
everything—even to the old parson's sense of right and wrong—was
sacrificed to the education of Stephen Leach at public school and
University. Here he met and selected for his friends youths whose futures
were ensured, and who were only passing through the formula of an
education so that no one could say they were unfit for the snug Government
appointment, living, or inheritance of a more substantial sort, that might
be waiting for them. Stephen acquired their ways of life without
possessing their advantages, and the consequence was something very nearly
approaching to ruin for the little country rectory. Not having been a
University man himself, the rector did not know that at Oxford or
Cambridge, as in the army, one may live according to one's taste. Stephen
Leach had expensive tastes, and he unscrupulously traded on his father's
ignorance. He was good-looking, and had a certain brilliancy of manner
which "goes down" well at the 'Varsity. Everything was against him, and at
last the end came. At last the rector's eyes were opened, and when a
narrow-minded man's eyes are once opened he usually becomes stony at
Stephen Leach left England, and before he landed in America his father had
departed on a longer journey. The ne'er-do-well had the good grace to send
back the little sums of money saved by his mother in her widowhood, and
gradually his letters ceased. It was known that he was in Chili, and there
was war going on there, and yet the good old lady's faith never wavered.
"He will come, Joyce," she would say; "he will surely come."
And somehow it came to be an understood thing that he was to come in the
afternoon when they were all ready for him—when Joyce had clad her
pretty young form in a dark dress, and when the old lady was up and seated
in her chair by the fire in winter, by the door in summer. They had never
imagined his arrival at another time. It would not be quite the same
should he make a mistake and come in the morning, before Joyce had got the
house put right.
Yet, he never came. A greater infirmity came instead, and at last Joyce
suggested that her mother should not get up in bad weather. They both knew
what this meant, but the episode passed as others do, and Mrs. Leach was
bedridden. Still she said—
"He will come, Joyce! He will surely come."
And the girl would go to the window and draw aside the curtain, looking
down the quiet country road towards the village.
"Yes, mother, he will come!" was her usual answer; and one day she gave a
little exclamation of surprise and almost of fear.
"Mother," she exclaimed, "there is some one coming along the road."
The old lady was already sitting up in bed, staring with her sightless
orbs towards the window.
Thus they waited. The man stopped opposite the cottage, and the two women
heard the latch of the gate. Then Joyce, turning, saw that her mother had
fainted. But it was only momentary. By the time she reached the bed her
mother had recovered consciousness.
"Go," said the old lady, breathlessly; "go and let him in yourself."
Downstairs, on the doorstep, the girl found a tall man of thirty or
thereabouts with a browner face than English suns could account for. He
looked down into her eager eyes with a strange questioning wonder.
"Am I too late?" he asked in a voice which almost seemed to indicate a
hope that it might be so.
"No, Stephen," she answered. "But mother cannot live much longer. You are
just in time."
The young man made a hesitating little movement with his right hand and
shuffled uneasily on the clean stone step. He was like an actor called
suddenly upon the stage having no knowledge of his part. The return of
this prodigal was not a dramatic success. No one seemed desirous of
learning whether he had lived upon husks or otherwise and with whom he had
eaten. The quiet dignity of the girl, who had remained behind to do all
the work and bear all the burden seemed in some subtle manner to deprive
him of any romance that might have attached itself to him. She ignored his
half-proffered hand, and turning into the little passage, led the way
Stephen Leach followed silently. He was rather large for the house, and
especially for the stairs; moreover, he had a certain burliness of walk,
such as is acquired by men living constantly in the open. There was a
vaguely-pained look in his blue eyes, as if they had suddenly been opened
to his own shortcomings. His attitude towards Joyce was distinctly
When he followed the girl across the threshold of their mother's bedroom
the old lady was sitting up in bed, holding out trembling arms towards the
Here Stephen Leach seemed to know better what to do. He held his mother in
his arms while she sobbed and murmured out her joy. He had no words, but
his arms meant more than his lips could ever have told.
It would seem that the best part of happiness is the sharing of it with
some one else.
"Joyce," was the first distinct word the old lady spoke, "Joyce, he has
come at last. He has come! Come here, dear. Kiss your brother. This is my
firstborn—my little Steve."
The young man had sunk upon his knees at the bedside, probably because it
was the most convenient position. He did not second his mother's proposal
with much enthusiasm. Altogether he did not seem to have discovered much
sympathy with the sister whom he had left in her cradle.
Joyce came forward and leaned over the bed to kiss her brother while the
old lady's hands joined theirs. Just as her fresh young lips came within
reach he turned his face aside, so that the kiss fell on barren ground on
his tanned cheek.
"Joyce," continued the old lady, feverishly, "I am not afraid to die now,
for Stephen is here. Your brother will take care of you, dear, when I am
It was strange that Stephen had not spoken yet; and it was perhaps just as
well, because there are occasions in life when men do wisely to keep
"He is strong," the proud mother went on. "I can feel it. His hands are
large and steady and quiet, and his arms are big and very hard."
The young man knelt upright and submitted gravely to this maternal
"Yes," she said, "I knew he would grow to be a big man. His little fingers
were so strong—he hurt me sometimes. What a great moustache! I knew
you had been a soldier. And the skin of your face is brown and a little
rough. What is this? what is this, Stephen dear? Is this a wound?"
"Yes," answered the Prodigal, speaking for the first time. "That is a
sword cut. I got that in the last war. I am a colonel in the Chilian army,
or was, before I resigned."
The old lady's sightless eyes were fixed on his face, as if listening for
the echo of another voice in his deep quiet tones.
"Your voice is deeper than your father's ever was," she said; and all the
while her trembling fingers moved lovingly over his face, touching the
deep cut from cheek-bone to jaw with soft inquiry. "This must have been
very near your eye, Stephen. Promise me, dear, no more soldiering."
"I promise that," he replied, without raising his eyes.
Such was the home-coming of the Prodigal. After all, he arrived at the
right moment in the afternoon, when the house was ready. It sometimes does
happen so in real life, and not only in books. There is a great deal that
might be altered in this world, but sometimes, by a mere chance, things
come about rightly. And yet there was something wrong, something subtle,
which the dying woman's duller senses failed to detect. Her son, her
Stephen, was quiet, and had not much to say for himself. He apparently had
the habit of taking things as they came. There was no enthusiasm, but
rather a restraint in his manner, more especially towards Joyce.
The girl noticed it, but even her small experience of human kind had
taught her that large, fair-skinned men are often thus. They are not "de
ceux qui s'expliquent," but go through life placidly, leaving unsaid and
undone many things which some think they ought to say and do.
After the first excitement of the return was over it became glaringly
apparent that Stephen had arrived just in time. His mother fell into a
happy sleep before sunset; and when the active young doctor came a little
later in the evening he shook his head.
"Yes," he said, "I see that she is asleep and quiet—too quiet. It is
a foretaste of a longer sleep; some old people have it."
For the first time Joyce's courage seemed to give way. When she had been
alone she was brave enough, but now that her brother was there,
woman-like, she seemed to turn to him with a sudden fear. They stood side
by side near the bed; and the young doctor involuntarily watched them.
Stephen had taken her hand in his with that silent sympathy which was so
natural and so eloquent. He said nothing, this big, sun-tanned youth; he
did not even glance down at his sister, who stood small, soft-eyed, and
gentle at his side.
The doctor knew something of the history of the small family thus
momentarily united, and he had always feared that if Stephen Leach did
return it would only kill his mother. This, indeed, seemed to be the
result about to follow.
Presently the doctor took his leave. He was a young man engaged in getting
together a good practice, and in his own interest he had been forced to
give up waiting for his patients to finish dying.
"I am glad you are here," he said to Stephen, who accompanied him to the
door. "It would not do for your sister to be alone; this may go on for a
couple of days."
It did not go on for a couple of days, but Mrs. Leach lived through that
night in the same semi-comatose state. The two watchers sat in her room
until supper-time, when they left their mother in charge of a hired nurse,
whose services Joyce had been forced to seek.
After supper Stephen Leach seemed at last to find his tongue, and he
talked in his quiet, almost gentle voice, such as some big men possess,
not about himself or the past, but about Joyce and the future. In a
deliberate business-like way, he proceeded to investigate the affairs of
the dying woman and the prospects of her daughter; in a word, he asserted
his authority as a brother, and Joyce was relieved and happy to obey him.
It is not in times of gaiety that friendships are formed, but in sorrow or
suspense. During that long evening this brother and sister suddenly became
intimate, more so than months of prosperous intercourse could have made
them. At ten o'clock Stephen quietly insisted that Joyce should go to bed
while he lay down, all dressed, on the sofa in the dining-room.
"I shall sleep perfectly; it is not the first time I have slept in my
clothes," he said simply.
They went upstairs together and told the nurse of this arrangement. Joyce
remained for some moments by the bedside watching her mother's peaceful
sleep, and when she turned she found that Stephen had quietly slipped
away. Wondering vaguely whether he had intentionally solved her difficulty
as to the fraternal good-night, she went to her own room.
The next morning Mrs. Leach was fully conscious, and appeared to be
stronger; nevertheless, she knew that the end was near. She called her two
children to her bedside, and, turning her blind eyes towards them, spoke
in broken sentences.
"I am ready now—I am ready," she said. "Dears, I am going to your
father—and... thank God, I can tell him that I have left you
together. I always knew Stephen would come back. I found it written
everywhere in the Bible. Stephen—kiss me, dear!"
The man leant over the bed and kissed her.
"Ah!" she sighed, "how I wish I could see you—just once before I
die. Joyce!" she added, suddenly turning to her daughter, who stood at the
other side of the bed, "tell me what he is like. But—I know .. I
KNOW—I feel it. Listen! He is tall and spare, like his father. His
hair is black, like—like his father's—it was black before he
went away. His eyes, I know, are dark—almost black. He is pale—like
Joyce, looking across the bed with slow horror dawning in her face, looked
into a pair of blue eyes beneath tawny hair, cut short as a soldier's hair
should be. She looked upon a man big, broad, fair—English from crown
to toe—and the quiet command of his lips and eyes made her say—
"Yes, mother, yes."
For some moments there was silence. Joyce stood pale and breathless,
wondering what this might mean. Then the dying woman spoke again.
"Kiss me," she said. "I... am going. Stephen first—my firstborn! And
now, Joyce... and now kiss each other—across the bed! I want to hear
it... I want... to tell... your... father."
With a last effort she raised her hands, seeking their heads. At first
Joyce hesitated, then she leant forward, and the old woman's chilled
fingers pressed their lips together. That was the end.
Half an hour afterwards Joyce and this man stood facing each other in the
little dining-room. He began his explanation at once.
"Stephen," he said, "was shot—out there—as a traitor. I could
not tell her that! I did not mean to do this, but what else could I do?"
He paused, moved towards the door with that same strange hesitation which
she had noticed on his arrival. At the door he turned, to justify himself.
"I still think," he said gravely, "that it was the best thing to do."
Joyce made no answer. The tears stood in her eyes. There was something
very pathetic in the distress of this strong man, facing, as it were, an
emergency of which he felt the delicacy to be beyond his cleverness to
"Last night," he went on, "I made all the necessary arrangements for your
future just as Stephen would have made them—as a brother might have
done. I... he and I were brother officers in a very wild army. Your
brother—was not a good man. None of us were." His hand was on the
door. "He asked me to come and tell you," he added. "I shall go back
They stood thus: he watching her face with his honest soft blue eyes, she
failing to meet his glance.
"May I come back again?" he asked suddenly.
She gave a little gasp, but made no answer.
"I will come back in six months," he announced quietly, and then he closed
the door behind him.