ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES,
A spinster, having borrowed a man's hat to decorate her front hall,
excused herself on the ground that the house 'wanted a something.'
By inscribing your name above this little story I please myself at
the risk of helping the reader to discover not only that it wants a
something, but precisely what that something is. It wants—to confess
and have done with it—all the penetrating subtleties of insight, all
the delicacies of interpretation, you would have brought to Dorothea's
aid, if for a moment I may suppose her worth your championing. So I
invoke your name to stand before my endeavour like a figure outside
the brackets in an algebraical sum, to make all the difference by
multiplying the meaning contained.
But your consent gives me another opportunity even more warmly desired.
And I think that you, too, will take less pleasure in discovering how
excellent your genius appears to one who nevertheless finds it a
mystery in operation, than in learning that he has not missed to
admire, at least, and with a sense almost of personal loyalty, the
sustained and sustaining pride in good workmanship by which you have
set a common example to all who practise, however diversely, the art
in which we acknowledge you a master.
A. T. QUILLER-COUCH
October 25th, 1901
CHAPTER I THE WESTCOTES OF BAYFIELD
CHAPTER II THE ORANGE ROOM
CHAPTER III A BALL, A SNOWSTORM, AND A SNOWBALL
CHAPTER IV ENCOUNTER BETWEEN A HIGH HORSE AND A HOBBY
CHAPTER V BEGINS WITH ANCIENT HISTORY AND ENDS WITH AN OLD STORY
CHAPTER VI FATE IN A LAURELLED POST-CHAISE
CHAPTER VII LOVE AND AN OLD MAID
CHAPTER VIII CORPORAL ZEALLY INTERVENES
CHAPTER IX DOROTHEA CONFESSES
CHAPTER X DARTMOOR
CHAPTER XI THE NEW DOROTHEA
CHAPTER XII GENERAL ROCHAMBEAU TELLS A STORY; AND THE TING-TANG RINGS
FOR THE LAST TIME
THE WESTCOTES OF BAYFIELD
A mural tablet in Axcester Parish Church describes Endymion Westcote as
"a conspicuous example of that noblest work of God, the English Country
Gentleman." Certainly he was a typical one.
In almost every district of England you will find a family which,
without distinguishing itself in any particular way, has held fast to
the comforts of life and the respect of its neighbours for generation
after generation. Its men have never shone in court, camp, or senate;
they prefer tenacity to enterprise, look askance upon wit (as a
dangerous gift), and are even a little suspicious of eminence. On the
other hand they make excellent magistrates, maintain a code of manners
most salutary for the poor in whose midst they live and are looked up
to; are as a rule satisfied, like the old Athenian, if they leave to
their heirs not less but a little more than they themselves inherited,
and deserve, as they claim, to be called the backbone of Great Britain.
Many of the women have beauty, still more have an elegance which may
pass for it, and almost all are pure in thought, truthful, assiduous in
deeds of charity, and marry for love of those manly qualities which
they have already esteemed in their brothers.
Such a family were the Westcotes of Bayfield, or Bagvil, in 1810. Their
"founder" had settled in Axcester towards the middle of the seventeenth
century, and prospered—mainly, it was said, by usury. A little before
his death, which befel in 1668, he purchased Bayfield House from a
decayed Royalist who had lost his only son in the Civil Wars; and to
Bayfield and the ancestral business (exalted now into Banking) his
descendants continued faithful. One or both of the two brothers who,
with their half-sister, represented the family in 1810, rode in on
every week-day to their Bank-office in Axcester High Street,—a
Georgian house of brick, adorned with a porch of plaster fluted to the
shape of a sea-shell, out of which a. Cupid smiled down upon a brass
plate and the inscription "WESTCOTE AND WESTCOTE," and on the first
floor, with windows as tall as the rooms, so that from the street you
could see through one the shapely legs of Mr. Endymion Westcote at his
knee-hole table, and through another the legs of Mr. Narcissus. The
third and midmost window was a dummy, having been bricked up to avoid
the window-tax imposed by Mr. Pitt—in whose statesmanship, however,
the brothers had firmly believed. Their somewhat fantastic names were
traditional in the Westcote pedigree and dated from, the seventeenth
Endymion, the elder, (who took the lead of Narcissus in all, things),
was the fine flower of the Westcote stocks, and, out of question, the
most influential man in Axcester and for many a mile round justice of
the Peace for the county of Somerset and Major of its Yeomanry, he
served "our town," (so he called it) as Overseer of the Poor, Governor
of the Grammar School, Chairman of Feoffees, Churchwarden, everything
in short but Mayor—an office which he left to the tradesmen, while
taking care to speak of it always with respect, and indeed to see it
properly filled. The part of County Magistrate—to which he had been
born—he played to perfection, and with a full sense of its dignified
amenity. (It was whispered that the Lord Lieutenant himself stood in
some awe of him.) His favourite character, however, was that of plain
citizen of his native town. "I'm an Axcester man," he would declare in
his public speeches, and in his own way he loved and served the little
borough. For its good he held its Parliamentary representation in the
hollow of his hand; and, as Overseer of the Poor, had dared public
displeasure by revising the Voters' List and defying a mandamus of the
Court of King's Bench rather than allow Axcester to fail in its duty
of returning two members to support Mr. Percevall's Ministry. In 1800,
when the price of wheat rose to 184s a quarter, a poor woman dropped
dead in the market place of starvation. At once a mob collected,
hoisted a quartern-loaf on a pole with the label—"We will have Bread
or Blood," and started to pillage the shop's in High Street. It was
Endymion Westcote who rode up single-handed, (they, were carrying the
only constable on their shoulders) and faced and dispersed the rioters.
It was he who headed the subscription list, prevailed on the purchase a
wagon-load of potatoes and persuaded the people to plant them—for
even the seed potatoes had been eaten, and the gardens lay undigged.
It was he who met the immediate famine by importing large quantities of
rice. Finally, it was he, through his influence with the county, who
brought back prosperity by getting the French prisoners sent to Axcester.
We shall talk of these French prisoners by and by. To conclude this
portrait of Endymion Westcote. He was a handsome, fresh-complexioned
man, over six feet in height, and past his forty-fifth year; a bachelor
and a Protestant. In his youth he had been noted for gallantry, and
preserved some traces of it in his address. His grandfather had
married a French lady, and although this union had not sensibly diluted
the Westcote blood, Endymion would refer to it to palliate a youthful
taste for playing the fiddle. He spoke French fluently, with a British
accent which, when appointed Commissary, he took pains to improve by
conversation with the prisoners, and was fond of discussing heredity
with the two most distinguished of them—the Vicomte de Tocqueville
and General Rochambeau.
Narcissus, the younger brother, had neither the height nor the good
looks nor the masterful carriage of Endymion, and made no pretence to
rival him as a man of affairs. He professed to be known as the student
of the family, dabbled in archaeology, and managed two or three local
societies and field clubs, which met ostensibly to listen to his
papers, but really to picnic. An accident had decided this bent of his
—the discovery, during some repairs, of a fine Roman pavement beneath
the floor of Bayfield House, At the age of eighteen, during a Cambridge
vacation, Narcissus had written and privately printed a description of
this pavement, proving not only that its tessellae represented scenes
in the mythological story of Bacchus, but that the name "Bayfield," in
some old deeds and documents written "Bagvil" or "Baggevil," was
neither more nor less than a corruption of Bacchi Villa. Axcester and
its neighbourhood are rich in Roman remains—the town stands, indeed,
on the old Fosse Way—and, tempted by early success, Narcissus rode
his hobby further and further afield. Now, at the age of forty-two, he
could claim to be an authority on the Roman occupation of Britain, and
especially on the conquests of Vespasian. The circle of—the
Westcotes' acquaintance gathered in the fine hall of Bayfield—or, as
Narcissus preferred to call it, the atrium—drank tea, admired the
pavement, listened to the alleged exploits of Vespasian, and wondered
when the brothers would marry. Time went on, repeating these
assemblies; and the question became, Will they ever marry? Apparently
they had no thought of it, no idea that it was expected of them; and
since they had both passed forty, the question might be taken as
answered. But that so personable a man as Endymion Westcote would let
the family perish was monstrous to suppose. He kept his good looks and
his fresh complexion; even now some maiden would easily be found to
answer his Olympian nod; and a vein of recklessness sometimes cropped
up through his habitual caution, and kept his friends alert for
surprises. In the hunting-field, for instance,—and he rode to hounds
twice a week,—he made a rule of avoiding fences; but the world quite
rightly set this down to a proper care for his person rather than to
timidity, since on one famous occasion, riding up to find the whole
field hesitating before a "rasper" (they were hunting a strange country
that day), he put his horse at it and sailed over with a nonchalance
relieved only by his ringing laugh on the farther side. It was odds he
would clear the fence of matrimony, some day, with the same casual
heartiness; and, in any case, he was masterful enough to insist on
Narcissus marrying, should it occur to him to wish it.
Oddly enough, the gossips who still arranged marriages for the brothers
had given over speculating upon their hostess, Miss Dorothea. She could
not, of course, perpetuate the name; but this by no means accounted for
all the difference in their concern. Dorothea Westcote was now thirty-
seven, or five years younger than Narcissus, whose mother had died soon
after his birth. The widower had created one of the few scandals in the
Westcote history by espousing, some four years later, a young woman of
quite inferior class, the daughter of a wholesale glover in Axcester.
The new wife had good looks, but they did not procure her pardon; and
she made the amplest and speediest amends by dying within twelve
months, and leaving a daughter who in no way resembled her. The husband
survived her just a dozen years.
Dorothea, the daughter, was a plain girl; her brothers, though kind and
fond of her after a fashion, did not teach her to forget it. She loved
them, but her love partook of awe: they were so much cleverer, as well
as handsomer, than she. Having no mother or friend of her own sex to
imitate, she grow into an awkward woman, sensitive to charm in others
and responding to it without jealousy, but ignorant of what it meant or
how it could be acquired. She picked up some French from her brother
Endymion, and masters were hired who taught her to dance, to paint in
water colours, and to play with moderate skill upon the harp. But few
partners had ever sought her in the ballroom; her only drawings which
anyone ever asked to see were half-a-dozen of the Bayfield pavement,
executed for Narcissus' monograph; and her harp she played in her own
room. Now and then Endymion would enquire how she progressed with her
music, would listen to her report and observe: "Ah, I used to do a
little fiddling myself." But he never put her proficiency to the test.
Somehow, and long before the world came to the same conclusion, she had
resolved that marriage was not for her. She adored babies, though they
usually screamed at the sight of her, and she thought it would be
delightful to have one of her own who would not scream; but apart from
this vague sentiment, she accepted her fate without sensible regret.
By watching and copying the mistresses of the few houses she visited
she learned to play the hostess at Bayfield, and, as time brought
confidence, played it with credit. She knew that people laughed at her,
and that yet they liked her; their liking and their laughter puzzled
her about equally. For the rest, she was proud of Bayfield and content,
though one day much resembled another, to live all her life there,
devoted to God and her garden. Visitors always praised her garden.
Axcester lies on the western side and mostly at the foot of a low hill
set accurately in the centre of a ring of hills slightly higher-the
raised bottom of a saucer would be no bad simile. The old Roman road
cuts straight across this rise, descends between the shops of the High
Street, passes the church, crosses the Axe by a narrow bridge, and
climbing again passes the iron gates of Bayfield House, a mile above
the river. So straight is it that Dorothea could keep her brothers in
view from the gates until they dismounted before their office door,
losing sight of them for a minute or two only among the elms by the
bridge. Her boudoir window commanded the same prospect; and every day
as the London coach topped the hill, her maid Polly would run with
news of it. The two would be watching, often before the guard's horn
awoke the street and fetched the ostlers out in a hurry from the "Dogs
Inn" stables with their relay of four horses. Miss Dorothea possessed
a telescope, too; and if the coach were dressed with laurels and flags
announcing a victory, mistress and maid would run to the gates and wave
their handkerchiefs as it passed.
Sometimes, too, Polly would announce a post-chaise, and the telescope
decide whether the postboys wore the blue or the buff. Nor were these
their only causes of excitement; for the great Bayfield elm, a rood
below the gates and in full view of them, marked the westward boundary
of the French prisoners on parole. Some of these were quite regular in
their walks for instance, Rear-Admiral de Wailly-Duchemin and General
Rochambeau, who came at three o'clock or thereabouts on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, summer and winter. At six paces on the far side of the elm—
such was their punctilio—they halted, took snuff, linked arms again
and turned back. (Dorothea had entertained them both at Bayfield, and
met them at dinner in one or two neighbouring houses.) On the same
days, and on Mondays as well, old Jean Pierre Pichou, ex-boatswain of
the Didon frigate, would come along arm-in-arm with Julien Carales,
alias Frap d'Abord, ex-marechal des logis—Pichou, with his wooden
leg, and Frap d'Abord twisting a grey moustache and uttering a steady
torrent of imprecation—or so it sounded. These could be counted on;
but scores of others stopped and turned at the Bayfield elm, and Polly
had names for them all. Moreover, on one memorable day Dorothea had
watched one who did not halt precisely at the elm. A few paces beyond
it, and on the side of the road facing the grounds, straggled an old
orchard, out of which her brother Endymion had been missing, of late,
a quantity of his favourite pippins—by name (but it may have been a
local one) Somerset Warriors. The month was October, the time about
half-past four, the light dusky. Yet Miss Dorothea, lingering by the
gate, saw a young man pass the Bayfield elm and climb the hedge; and
saw and heard him nail against an apple-tree overhanging the road, a
board with white letters on a black ground. When it was fixed, the
artist descended to the road and gazed up admiringly at his work. In
the act of departing he turned, and suddenly stood still again. His
face was toward the Bayfield gate. Dorothea could not tell if he saw
her, but he remained thus, motionless, for almost a minute. Then he
seemed to recollect himself and marched off briskly down the road.
Early next morning she descended and read the inscription, which ran:
"Restaurant pour les Aspirants."
She said nothing about it, and soon after breakfast the board was
THE ORANGE ROOM
Some weeks later, on a bright and frosty morning in December, Dorothea
rode into Axcester with her brothers. She was a good horsewoman and
showed to advantage on horseback, when her slight figure took a grace
of movement which made amends for her face. To-day the brisk air and a
canter across the bridge at the foot of the hill had brought roses to
her cheeks, and she looked almost pretty. General Rochambeau happened
to pass down the street as the three drew rein before the Town House
(so the Westcotes always called the Bank-office), and, pausing to help
her dismount, paid her a very handsome compliment.
Dorothea knew, of course, that Frenchmen were lavish of compliments,
and had heard General Rochambeau pay them where she felt sure they were
not deserved. Nevertheless she found this one pleasant—she had
received so few—and laughed happily. It may have come from the
freshness of the morning, but to-day her spirit sat light within her and
expectant she could not say of what, yet it seemed that something good
was going to happen.
"I have a guess," said the old General, "that Miss Westcote and I are
bound on the same errand. Her's cannot be to inspect dull bonds and
ledgers, bills of exchange or rates of interest."
He jerked his head towards the house, and Dorothea shook hers.
"I am going to 'The Dogs,' General."
"Eh?" He scented the jest and chuckled. "As you say, 'to the dogs'
hein? Messieurs, I beg you to observe and take warning that your sister
and I are going to the dogs together."
He offered his arm to Dorothea. Her brothers had dismounted and handed
their horses over to the ostler who waited by the porch daily to lead
them to the inn stables.
"I will stable Mercury myself," said she, addressing Endymion. She
submitted her smallest plans to him for approval.
"Do so," he answered. "After running through my letters, I will step
down to the Orange Room and join you. I entrust her to you, General—
the more confidently because you cannot take her far."
He laughed and followed Narcissus through the porch. Dorothea saw the
old General wince. She slipped an arm through Mercury's bridle-rein
and picked up her skirt; the other arm she laid in her companion's.
"You have not seen the Orange Room, Miss Dorothea?"
"Not since the decorations began." She paused and uttered the thought
uppermost in her mind. "You must forgive my brother; I am sorry he
spoke as he did just now."
"Then he is more than forgiven."
"He did not consider."
"Dear Mademoiselle, your brother is an excellent fellow, and not a bit
more popular than he deserves to be. Of his kindness to us prisoners—
I speak not of us privileged ones, but of our poorer brothers—I
could name a thousand acts; and acts say more than words."
Dorothea pursed her lips. "I am not sure. I think a woman would ask for
"Yes, that is so," he caught her up. "But don't you see that we
prisoners are—forgive me—just like women? I mean, we have learned
that we are weak. For a man that is no easy lesson, Mademoiselle. I
myself learned it hardly. And seeing your brother admired by all, so
strong and prosperous and confident, can I ask that he should feel as
we who have forfeited these things?"
Before she could find a reply he had harked back to the Orange Room.
"You have not seen it since the decorations began? Then I have a mind
to run and ask your brother to forbid your coming—to command you to
wait until Wednesday. We are in a horrible mess, I warn you, and smell
of turpentine most potently. But we shall be ready for the ball, and
then—! It will be prodigious. You do not know that we have a genius
at work on the painting?"
"My brother tells me the designs are extraordinarily clever."
"They are more than clever, you will allow. The artist I discovered
myself—a young man named Charles Raoul. He comes from the South, a
little below Avignon, and of good family—in some respects." The
General paused and took snuff. "He enlisted at eighteen and has seen
service; he tells me he was wounded at Austerlitz. Unhappily he was
shipped, about two years ago, on board the Thétis frigate, with a
detachment and stores for Martinique. The Thétis had scarcely left
L'Orient before she fell in with one of your frigates, whose name
escapes me; and here he is in Axcester. He has rich relatives, but for
some reason or other they decline to support him; and yet he seems a
gentleman. He picks up a few shillings by painting portraits; but you
English are shy of sitting—I wonder why? And we—well, I suppose we
prefer to wait till our faces grow happier."
Dorothea had it on the tip of her tongue to ask how the General had
discovered this genius; but the ring in his voice gave her pause.
Twice in the course of their short walk he had shown feeling; and she
wondered at it, having hitherto regarded him as a cynical old fellow
with a wit which cracked himself and the world like two dry nuts for
the jest of their shrivelled kernels. She did not, know that a kind
word of hers had unlocked his heart; and before she could recall her
question they had reached the stable-yard of "The Dogs." And after
stabling Mercury it was but a step across to the inn.
The "Dogs Inn" took its name from two stone greyhounds beside its porch—
supporters of the arms of that old family from which the Westcotes had
purchased Bayfield; and the Orange Room from a tradition that William
of Orange had spent a night there on his march from Torbay. There may
have been truth in the tradition; the room at any rate preserved in it
window-hangings of orange-yellow, and a deep fringe of the same hue
festooning the musicians' gallery. While serving Axcester for ball,
rout, and general assembly-room, it had been admittedly dismal—its
slate-coloured walls scarred and patched with new plaster, and relieved
only by a gigantic painting of the Royal Arms on panel in a blackened
frame; its ceiling garnished with four pendants in plaster, like bride-
cake ornaments inverted.
To-day, as she stepped across the threshold, Dorothea hesitated between
stopping her ears and rubbing her eyes. The place was a Babel.
Frenchmen in white paper caps and stained linen blouses were laughing,
plying their brushes, mixing paints, shifting ladders, and jabbering
all the while at the pitch of their voices. For a moment the din
bewildered her; the ferment had no more meaning, no more method, than
a schoolboy's game. But her eyes, passing over the chaos of paint-pots,
brushes, and step-ladders, told her the place had been transformed.
The ceiling between the four pendants had become a blue heaven with
filmy clouds, and Cupids scattering roses before a train of doves and
a recumbent goddess, whom a little Italian, perched on a scaffolding
and whistling shrilly, was varnishing for dear life. Around the walls—
sky-blue also—trellises of vines and pink roses clambered around the
old panels. The energy of the workmen had passed into their paintings,
or perhaps Dorothea's head swam; at any rate, the cupids and doves
seemed to be whirling across the ceiling, the vines, and roses mounting
towards it, and pushing out shoots and tendrils while they climbed.
But the panels themselves! They were nine in all: three down the long
black wall, two narrower ones at the far end, four between the orange-
curtained windows looking on the street. (The fourth wall had no panel,
being covered, by the musicians' gallery and the pillars supporting
it.) In each, framed by the vines and roses, glowed a scene of
classical or pseudo-classical splendour; golden sunsets, pale yellow
skies, landscapes cleverly imitated from recollections of Claude
Lorraine, dotted with temples and small figures in flowing drapery,
with here and there a glimpse of naked limbs. Here were Bacchus and
Ariadne, with a company of dancing revellers; Apollo and Marsyas; the
Rape of Helen; Dido welcoming Aeneas. . . . Dorothea (albeit she had
often glanced into the copy of M. Lempriere's Classical Dictionary in
her brother's library, and, besides, had picked up something of Greek
and Roman mythology in helping Narcissus) did not at once discriminate
the subjects of these panels, but her eyes rested on them with a
pleasant sense of recognition, and were still resting on them when she
heard General Rochambeau say:
"Ah, there is my genius! You must let me present him, Mademoiselle.
He will amuse you. Hi, there! Raoul!"
A young man, standing amid a group of workmen and criticising one of
the panels between the curtains, turned sharply. Almost before Dorothea
was aware, he had doffed his paper cap and the General was introducing
She recognised him at once. He was the young prisoner who had nailed
the board against her brother's apple-tree.
He bowed and began at once to apologise for the state of the room. He
had expected no visitors before Wednesday. The General had played a
surprise upon him. And Miss Westcote, alas! was a critic, especially
of classical subjects.
He had heard of her drawings for her brother's book.
"Indeed I am no artist. Please do not talk of those drawings. If you
only knew how much I am ashamed of them. And besides, they were meant
as diagrams to help the reader, not as illustrations. But these are
He turned with a pleasant laugh. She had already taken note of his
voice, but his laugh was even more musical.
"Daphne pursued by Apollo," he commenced, waving his hand towards the
panel in face of her. "Be pleased to observe the lady sinking into the
bush; an effect which the ingenious painter has stolen from no less a
masterpiece than the Buisson Ardent' of Nicholas Froment."
The General fumbled for the ribbon of his gold eye-glass. M. Raoul
moved towards the next panel, and Dorothea followed him.
"Perseus entering the Garden of the Hesperides."
The painting, though slapdash, was astonishingly clever; and in this,
as in other panels, no trace of the artist's hurry appeared in the
reposeful design. Coiled about the foot of the tree, the dragon Ladon
blinked an eye lazily at three maidens pacing hand in hand in the
dance, over-hung with dark boughs and golden fruit. Behind them
Perseus, with naked sword, halted in admiration, half issuing from a
thicket over which stretched a distant bright line of sea and white
"You like it?" he asked. "But it is not quite finished yet, and
Mademoiselle, if she is frank, will say that it wants something."
His voice held a challenge.
"I am sure, sir, I could not guess, even if I possessed—"
"A board, for example?"
She was completely puzzled.
He glanced at her sideways, turned to the panel, and with his
forefingers traced the outline of a square upon it, against the tree.
"Restaurant pour les Aspirants," he announced.
He said it quietly, over his shoulder. The sudden challenge, her sudden
discovery that he knew, made Dorothea gasp. She had not the smallest
notion how to answer him, or even what kind of answer he expected, and
stood dumb, gazing at his back. A workman, passing, apologised for
having brushed her skirt with the step-ladder he carried. She stammered
some words of pardon. And just then, to her relief, her brother
Endymion's voice rang out from the doorway:
"Ah, there you are. Well, I declare!" He looked around him. "A
Paradise, a perfect Paradise! Indeed, General, your nation has its
revenge of us in the arts. You build a temple for us, and on Wednesday
I hear you are to provide the music. Tum-tum, ta-ta-ta . . ." He hummed
a few bars of Gluck's "Paride ed Elenna," and paused, with the gesture
of one holding a fiddle, on the verge of a reminiscence. "There was a
time—but I no longer compete. And to whom, General, are we indebted
General Rochambeau indicated young Raoul, who stepped forward from the
wall and answered, with a respectful inclination:
"Well, M. le Commissaire, in the first place to Captain Seymour."
The General bit his moustache; Endymion frowned. The answer merely
puzzled Dorothea, who did not know that Seymour was the name of the
British officer to whom the Thétis had struck her colours.
"Moreover," the young man went on imperturbably, "we but repay our
debt to M. le Commissaire—for the entertainment he affords us."
Dorothea looked up sharply now, even anxiously; but her brother took
the shot, if shot it were, for a compliment. He put the awkward idiom
aside with a gracious wave of the hand. His brow cleared.
"But we must do something for these poor fellows," he announced,—
sweeping all the work-men in a gaze; "in mere gratitude we must. A
stall, now, at the end of the room under the gallery, with one or two
salesmen whom you must recommend to me, General. We might dispose of
quite a number of their small carvings and articles de Paris, with
which the market among the townspeople is decidedly overstocked. The
company on Wednesday will be less familiar with them: they will serve
as mementoes, and the prices, I daresay, will not be too closely
"Sir, I beg of you—" General Rochambeau expostulated.
"They have given their labour—such as it is—in pure gratitude for
the kindness shown to them by all in Axcester. That has been the whole
meaning of our small enterprise," the old gentleman persisted.
"Still, I don't suppose they'll object if it brings a little beef to
their ragoûts. Say no more, say no more. What have we here? Eh?
'Bacchus and Ariadne'? I am rusty in my classics, but Bacchus,
Dorothea! This will please Narcissus. We have in our house, sir,"—
here he addressed Raoul,—"a Roman pavement entirely—ah—concerned
with that personage. It is, I believe, unique. One of these days I must
give you a permit to visit Bayfield and inspect it, with my brother for
cicerone. It will repay you—"
"It will more than repay me," the young man interposed, with his gaze
demurely bent on the wall.
"I should have said, it will repay your inspection. You must jog my
It was clear Raoul had a reply on his tongue. But he glanced at
Dorothea, read her expression, and, turning to her brother, bowed
again. Her first feeling was of gratitude. A moment later she blamed
herself for having asked his forbearance by a look, and him for his
confidence in seeking that look. His eyes, during the moment they
encountered hers, had said, "We under-stand one another." He had no
right to assume so much, and yet she had not denied it.
Endymion Westcote meanwhile had picked up a small book which lay face
downward on one of the step-ladders.
"So here is the source of your inspiration? said he. An Ovid? How it
brings up old school-days At Winchester—old swishings, too, General,
hey?" He held the book open and studied the Ariadne on the wall.
"The source of my inspiration indeed, M. le Commissaire! But you will
not find Ariadne in that text, which contains only the Tristia."
"Ah, but, I told you my classics were a bit rusty," replied the
Commissary. He made the round of the walls and commended, in his breezy
way, each separate panel. "You must take my criticisms for what they
are worth, M. Raoul. But my grandmother was a Frenchwoman, and that
gives me a kind of—sympathy, shall we say? Moreover, I know what I
Dorothea, accustomed to regard her brother as a demigod, caught herself
blushing for him. She was angry with herself. She caught M. Raoul's
murmur, "Heaven distributes to us our talents, Monsieur," and was angry
with him, understanding and deprecating the raillery beneath his
perfectly correct attitude. He kept this attitude to the end. When the
time came for parting, he bent over her hand and whispered again:
"But it was kind of Mademoiselle not to report me."
She heard. It set up a secret understanding between them, which she
resented. There was nothing to say, again; yet she had found no way
of rebuking him, she was angry with herself all the way home.
A BALL, A SNOWSTORM, AND A SNOWBALL
Axcester's December Ball was a social event of importance in South
Somerset. At once formal and familiar—familiar, since nine-tenths of
the company dwelt close enough together to be on visiting terms—it
nicely preluded the domestic festivities of Christmas, and the more
public ones which began with the New Year and culminated in the great
County Balls at Taunton and Bath. Nor were the families around Axcester
jaded with dancing, as those in the neighbourhood of Bath, for example;
but discussed dresses and the prospects of the Ball for some weeks
beforehand, and, when the day came, ordered out the chariot or barouche
in defiance of any ordinary weather.
The weather since Dorothea's visit to the Orange Room had included a
frost, a fall of snow with a partial thaw, and a second and much
severer frost; and by Wednesday afternoon the hill below Bayfield wore
a hard and slippery glaze. Endymion, however, had seen to the roughing
of the horses. Thin powdery snow began to fall as the Bayfield barouche
rolled past the gates into the high road; and Narcissus, who considered
himself a weather-prophet, foretold a thaw before morning. Unless the
weather grew worse, the party would drive back to Bayfield; but the old
caretaker in the Town House had orders to light fires there and prepare
the bedrooms, and on the chance of being detained. Dorothea had brought
her maid Polly.
In spite of her previous visit, the Orange Room gave her a shock of
delight and wonder. The litter had vanished, the hangings were in
place; fresh orange-coloured curtains divided the dancing-floor from
the recess beneath the gallery, and this had been furnished as a
withdrawing-room, with rugs, settees, groups of green foliage plants,
and candles, the light of which shone through shades of yellow paper.
The prisoners, too, had adorned with varicoloured paperwork the
candelabra, girandoles and mirrors which drew twinkles from the long
waxed floor, and softened whatever might have been garish in the
decorations. Certainly the panels took a new beauty, a luminous
delicacy, in their artificial rays; and Dorothea, when, after much
greeting and hand-shaking, she joined one of the groups inspecting
them, felt a sort of proprietary pleasure in the praises she heard.
Had she known it, she too was looking her best tonight—in an old-
maidish fashion, be it understood. She wore a gown of ashen-grey
muslin, edged with swansdown, and tied with sash and shoulder-knots
of a flame-hued ribbon which had taken her fancy at Bath in the autumn.
Her sandal-shoes, stockings, gloves, cap—she had worn caps for six
or seven years now,—even her fan, were of the same ash-coloured grey.
Dorothea knew how to dress. She also knew how to dance. The music made
her heart beat faster, and she never entered a ball-room without a
sense of happy expectancy. Poor lady! she never left but she carried
home heart-sickness, weariness, and a discontent of which she purged
her soul, on her knees, before lying down to sleep. She had a contrite
spirit; she knew that her lot was a fortunate one; but she envied her
maid Polly her good looks at times. With Polly's face, she might have
dancing to her heart's content. Usually she dropped some tears on her
pillow after a night's gaiety.
At Bath, at Taunton, at Axcester, it had always been the same, and with
time she had learnt to set her hopes low and steel her heart early to
their inevitable disappointment. So tonight she took her seat against
the wall and watched while the first three contre-danses went by
without bringing her a partner. For the fourth—the "Soldier's joy"—
she was claimed by an awkward schoolboy, home for the holidays; whether
out of duty or obeying the law of Nature by which shy youths are
attracted to middle-aged partners, she could not tell, nor did she ask
herself, but danced the dance and enjoyed it more than her cavalier
was ever likely to guess. Such a chance had, before now, been looked
back upon as the one bright spot in a long evening's experience.
Dorothea loved all schoolboys for the kindness shown to her by these
She went back to her seat, hard by a group to which Endymion was
discoursing at large. Endymion's was a mellow voice, of rich compass,
and he had a knack of compelling the attention of all persons within
range. He preferred this to addressing anyone in particular, and his
eye sought and found, and gathered by instinct, the last loiterer
without the charmed circle.
"Yes," he was saying, "it is tasteful, and something more. It
illustrates, as you well say, the better side of our excitable
neighbours across the Channel. Setting patriotism apart and regarding
the question merely in its—ah—philosophical aspect, it has often
occurred to me to wonder how a nation so expert in the arts of life,
so—how shall I put it?—"
"Natty," suggested one of his hearers; but he waved the word aside.
"—of such lightness of touch, as I might describe it,—I say, it has
often occurred to me to wonder how such a nation could so far mistake
its destiny and the designs of Providence (inscrutable though they be)
as to embark on a career of foreign conquest which can only—ah—
have one end."
"Come to grief," put in Lady Bateson, a dowager in a crimson cap with
military feathers. She was supposed to cherish a hopeless passion for
Endymion. Also, she was supposed to be acting as Dorothea's chaperon
tonight; but having with little exertion found partners for a niece of
her own, a sprightly young lady on a visit from Bath, felt that she
deserved to relax her mind in a little intellectual talk. Endymion
accepted her remark with magnificent tolerance.
"Precisely." He inclined towards her. "You have hit it precisely."
Dorothea stole a glance at her brother. Military and hunt uniforms were
de rigueur at these Axcester balls, and a Major of Yeomanry more
splendid than Endymion Westcote it would have been hard to find in
England. He stood with a hand negligently resting on his left hip—
the word hip,—his right foot advanced, the toe of his polished boot
tapping the floor. His smile, indulgent as it hovered over Lady
Bateson, descended to this protruded leg and became complacent, as it
had a right to be.
"Well, I've always said so from the start," Lady Bateson announced,
"and now I'm sure of it. I don't mind Frenchmen as Frenchmen; but what
I say is, let them stick to their fal-de-rals."
"That is the side of them which, in my somewhat responsible position,
I endeavour to humour. You see the result." He swept his hand towards
the painted panels. "One thing I must say, in justice to my charges,
I find them docile."
Dorothea had confidence in her brother's tact and his unerring eye for
his audience. Yet she looked about her nervously, to make sure that of
the few prisoners selected for invitation to the ball, none was within
earshot. The Vicomte de Tocqueville, a stoical young patrician, had
chosen a partner for the next dance, and was leading her out with that
air of vacuity with which he revenged himself upon the passing hour of
misfortune. "Go on," it seemed to say, "but permit me to remind you
that, so far as I am concerned, you do not exist." Old General
Rochambeau and old Rear-Admiral de Wailly-Duchemin, in worn but
carefully-brushed regimentals, patrolled the far end of the room
arm-in-arm. The Admiral seemed in an ill humour; and this was nothing
new, he grumbled at everything. But the General's demeanour, as he
trotted up and down beside his friend (doubtless doing his best to
pacify him), betrayed an unwonted agitation. It occurred to Dorothea
that he had not yet greeted her and paid his usual compliment.
"Miss Westcote is not dancing tonight?"
The voice was at her elbow, and she looked up with a start—to meet
the gaze of M. Raoul.
"Excuse me"—she wished to explain why she had been startled—"I did
"To see me here! It appears that they have given the scene-painter a
free ticket, and I assume that it carries permission to dance, provided
he does not display in an unseemly manner the patch in the rear of his
He turned his head in a serio-comic effort to stare down his back.
Dorothea admitted to herself that he made a decidedly handsome fellow
in his blue uniform with red facings and corded epaulettes; nor does a
uniform look any the worse for having seen a moderate amount of service.
"But Mademoiselle was in a—what do you call it?—a brown study, which
"I was wondering why General Rochambeau had, not yet come to speak with
"I can account for it, perhaps; but first you must answer my question,
Mademoiselle. Are you not dancing tonight?"
"That will depend, sir, on whether I am asked or no."
She said it almost archly, on the moment's impulse; and, the words out,
felt that they were over-bold. But she did not regret them when her
eyes met his. He was offering his arm, and she found herself joining in
his laugh—a happy, confidential little laugh. Dorothea cast a nervous
glance towards her brother, but Endymion's back was turned. She saw
that her partner noted the look, and half-defiantly she nodded towards
the gallery as the French musicians struck into a jolly jigging quick-
step with a crash at every third bar.
"Mais cela me rend folle," she murmured.
"Do you know the air? It's the 'Bridge of Lodi,' and we are to dance
'Britannia's Triumph' to it. Come, Mademoiselle, since the 'Triumph'
is nicely mixed, let your captive lead you."
Those were days of reels, poussettes, ladies' chains, and figure
dancing; honest heel-and-toe, hopping and twisting, hands across and
down the middle—an art contemned now, worse than neglected, insulted
by the vulgar caricature of "kitchen lancers"; but then seriously
practised, delighting the eye, bringing blood to the dancers' cheeks.
For five minutes and more Dorothea was entirely happy. M. Raoul—
himself no mean performer—tasted, after his first surprise, something
of the joy of discovery. Who could have guessed that this quiet
spinster, who, as a rule, held herself and walked so awkwardly, would
prove the best partner in the room? He had not the least doubt of it.
Others danced with more abandonment, with more exuberant vigour—
"romped" was his criticism—but none with such élan perfectly
restrained, covering precision with grace. Hands across, cast off and
wheel; as their fingers met again he felt the tense nerves, the throb
of the pulse beneath the glove. Her lips were parted, her eyes and
whole face animated. She was not thinking of him, or of anyone; only
of the swing and beat of the music, the sway of life and colour, her
own body swaying to it, enslaved to the moment and answering no other
"I understand why they call it the Triumph," he murmured, as he led
her back to her seat. She turned her eyes on him as one coming out of
"I have never enjoyed a dance so much in my life," she said seriously.
"It must have been an inspiration—" he began, and checked himself,
with a glance over his shoulder at the painted panel behind them.
"You were saying—" She looked up after a moment.
"Nothing. Listen to the Ting-tang!"
He drew aside one of the orange curtains, and Dorothea heard the note
of a bell clanging in a distant street. "Time for all good prisoners
to be in bed, and Heaven temper the wind to the thin blanket! It is
"Do they suffer much in these winters?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"They die sometimes, though your brother does his best to prevent it.
It promises to be a hard season for them."
"I wish I could help; but Endymion—my brother does not approve of
ladies mixing themselves up in these affairs."
"Yet he has carried off half-a-dozen to the supper-room, where at a
side table three of my compatriots are vending knick-knacks, to add
a little beef to their ragoûts."
"Is it that which has annoyed General Rochambeau?"
She had recognised the phrase, but let it pass.
She understood. For some reason her brain was unusually clear tonight.
At any other time she would have defended, or at least excused, her
brother. She knew it, and found time to wonder at her new practicality
as she answered:
"I must think of some way to help."
She saw his brow clear—saw that had risen in his esteem—and was
"To you, Mademoiselle, we shall find it easy to be grateful."
"By helping them," she explained, "I may also be helping my brother.
You do not understand him as I do, and you sharpen your wit upon him,"
"Be assured it does not hurt him, Mademoiselle."
"No, but it hurts me."
He bowed gravely.
"It shall not hurt you, again. Whom you love, you shall protect."
"Ah! M. Raoul!" Endymion Westcote hailed him from the doorway and
crossed the room with Narcissus in tow. "My brother is interested in
your panel of Bacchus and Ariadne; he will be glad to discuss it with
you. Br-r-r-!"—he shivered—"I have been down to the door, and it
is snowing viciously. Some of our friends will hardly find their homes
tonight. I hope, by the way, you have brought a great-coat?"
Raoul ignored the question.
"I fear, sir, your learning will discover half-a-dozen mistakes," said
he, addressing Narcissus and leading the way towards the panel.
"But whilst I think of it," Endymion persisted, "I saw half-a-dozen old
baize chair-covers behind the cloak-room door. Don't hesitate to take
one; you can return it to-morrow or next day." Dorothea being his only
audience, he beamed a look on her which said: "They come to us in a
hurry, these prisoners—no time to collect a wardrobe; but I think of
these little things."
"Rest assured, sir, I will turn up my coat-collar," said Raoul; and
Dorothea could see him, a moment later, shaking his head good-
naturedly, though the Commissary still protested.
Dorothea, left to herself, watched them examining and discussing the
panel of Bacchus and Ariadne. The orchestra started another contre-
danse, but no partner approached to claim her. The dance began. It
was the "Dashing White Sergeant," and one exuberant couple threatened
to tread upon her toes. She stood up and, for lack of anything better
to do, began to study the panel behind her.
A moment later her hand went up to her throat.
It was the panel on which M. Raoul had sketched an imaginary board
with his thumb-nail—the Garden of the Hesperides. But the Perseus
was different; he wore the face of M. Raoul himself. And beneath the
throat of the nymph on the right, half concealed in the folds about
her bosom, hung a locket—a small enamelled heart, edged with
brilliants. Just such a trinket—a brooch—had pinned the collar of
her close habit three days before, when she and M. Raoul had stood
together discussing the panel. It was a legacy from her mother.
Hastily she put out a hand and drew the edge of the orange curtain
over nymph and locket.
Soon after supper Endymion Westcote informed his sister that it was
hopeless to think of returning to Bayfield. The barouche would convey
her back to the Town House; but already the snow lay a foot and a half
deep, and was still falling. He himself, after packing her off with
Narcissus, would remain and attend to the comfort of the guests, many
of whom must bivouac at "The Dogs" for the night as best they could.
At midnight, or a little later, the barouche was announced. It drew up
close to the porch, axle-deep in snow. Upstairs the orchestra was
sawing out the strains of "Major Malley's Reel," as Endymion lifted
his sister in and slammed the door upon her and Narcissus. The noise
prevented his hearing a sash-window lifted, immediately above the porch.
The inn-servant who had accompanied the Westcotes turned back to trim a
candle flaring in the draughty passage. But it so happened that, in
starting, the coachman entangled his off-rein in the trace-buckle.
Endymion, in his polished hessians, ran round to unhitch it.
On the window-sill above, two deft hands quickly scooped up and moulded
"He should turn up his coat-collar, the pig! V'Ian pour le
Endymion Westcote did not hear the voice; but as the vehicle rolled
heavily forward, out of the darkness a snowball struck him accurately
on the nape of the neck.
ENCOUNTER BETWEEN A HIGH HORSE AND A HOBBY
"Your chocolate will be getting cold, Miss."
Dorothea, refreshed with sleep but still pleasantly tired, lay in bed
watching Polly as she relaid and lit the fire in the massive Georgian
grate. These occasions found the service in the Town House short-
handed, and the girl (a cheerful body, with no airs) turned to and
took her share in the extra work.
"Have they sent for Mudge?" (Mudge was the Bayfield butler.)
"Lord, no, Miss! Small chance of getting to Mudge, or of Mudge getting
to us. Why, the snow is half-way up the front door!"
Bed was deliciously warm, and the air in the room nipping, as Dorothea
found when she stretched out her hand for the cup.
"I always like waking in this room. It gives one a sort of betwixt and
between feeling—between being at home and on a visit. To be snowed-up
makes it quite an adventure."
"Pretty adventure for the gentry at 'The Dogs'! Tom Ryder, the dairyman
there, managed to struggle across just now with the milk, and he says
that a score of them couldn't get beds in the town for love or money.
The rest kept it up till four in the morning, and now they're sleeping
in their fine dresses round the fire in the Orange Room."
Dorothea laughed. "They were caught like this just eighteen years ago—
let me see—yes, just eighteen. I remember, because it was my second
ball. But then there were no prisoners filling up the lodgings, so
everyone found a room."
"Some of the French gentlemen gave up their lodgings last night, and
are down at 'The Dogs' now keeping themselves warm. There's that old
Admiral, for one. I'm sure he never ought to be out of bed, with his
rheumatics. It's enough to give him his death. Sam Zeally says that
General Rochambeau is looking after him, as tender as a mother with a
Polly mimicked Sam's pronunciation, and laughed. She was Somerset-born
herself, but had seen service in Bath.
"Where is Mr. Endymion?"
"I heard him let himself in just as I was going upstairs after
undressing you. That would be about one, or a quarter past. But he was
up again at six, called for Mrs. Morrish to heat his shaving water,
and had a cup of coffee in his room. He and Mr. Narcissus have gone out
to see the roll called, and get the volunteers and prisoners to clear
the streets. Leastways, that's what Mr. Narcissus is doing. I heard
Mr. Endymion say something about riding off to see what the roads are
By this time the fire was lit and crackling. Polly loitered awhile,
arranging the cinders. She had given up asking with whom her mistress
had danced; but Dorothea usually described the more striking gowns,
and how this or that lady had worn her hair.
"Well, yes, Polly; a little, but not uncomfortably. I danced several
times last night."
Polly pursed her mouth into an O; but her face was turned to the fire,
and Dorothea did not see it.
"I hope, Miss, you'll tell me about it later on. But Mrs. Morrish is
downstairs declaring that no hen will lay an egg in this weather, to
have it snowed up the next moment. 'Not that I blame mun,' she says,
'for I wouldn't do it myself,'"—here Polly giggled. "What to find
for breakfast she don't know, and never will until I go and help her."
Polly departed, leaving her mistress cosy in bed and strangely
reluctant to rise and part company with her waking thoughts.
Yes; Dorothea had danced twice again with M. Raoul since her discovery
of his boldness. He had seen her draw the orange curtain over his
offence, had sought her again and apologised for, it. He had done it
(he had pleaded) on a sudden impulse—to be a reminder of one kind
glance which had brightened his exile. 'No one but she was in the
least likely to recognise the trinket; in any case he would paint it
out at the first opportunity. And Dorothea had forgiven him. She
herself had a great capacity for gratitude, and understood the feeling
far too thoroughly to believe for an instant that M. Raoul could be
mightily grateful for anything she had said or done. No; whatever the
feeling which impels a young gentleman to secrete some little private
reminder of its object, it is not gratitude; and Dorothea rejoiced
inwardly that it was not. But what then was it? Some attraction of
sympathy, no doubt. To find herself attractive in any way was a new
experience and delightful. She had forgiven him on the spot. And
afterwards they had danced twice together, and he had praised her
dancing. Also, he had said something about a pretty foot—but
Frenchmen must always be complimenting.
A noise in the street interrupted her thoughts, and reminded her that
she must not be dawdling longer in bed. She shut her teeth, made a
leap for it, and, running to the window, peered over the blind. Some
score of the prisoners in a gang were clearing the pavement with
shovels and brushes, laughing and chattering all the while, and
breaking off to pelt each other with snowballs. She had discussed
these poor fellows with M. Raoul last night. Could she not in some way
add to their comfort, or their pleasure? He had dwelt most upon their
mental weariness, especially on Sundays. Of material discomfort they
never complained, but they dreaded Sundays worse than they dreaded
cold weather. Any small distraction now—.
The train of her recollections came to a sudden halt, before a tall
cheval-glass standing at an obtuse angle to the fireplace and on the
edge of its broad hearthrug. She had been moving aimlessly from the
window to the wardrobe in which Polly had folded and laid away her
last night's finery, and from the wardrobe back to a long sofa at the
bed's foot. And now she found herself standing before the glass and
holding her nightgown high enough to display a foot and ankle on which
she had slipped an ash-coloured stocking and shoe. A tide of red
flooded her neck and face.
* * * * * * * * *
Mrs. Morrish had laid the meal in the ground-floor room, once a
library, but now used as a bank-parlour—yet still preserving the d
ignified aspect of a private room: for banking (as the Westcote clients
were reminded by several sporting prints and a bust of the Medicean
Venus) was in those days of scarce money a branch of philanthropy
rather than of trade. The good caretaker was in tears over the
breakfast. "And I'm sure, Miss, I don't know what's to be done unless
you can eat bacon."
"Which I can," Dorothea assured her.
"Well, Miss, I am sure I envy you; for ever since that poor French
Captain Fioupi hanged himself from Mary Odling's bacon-rack, two years
ago the first of this very next month, I haven't been able to look at
"Poor gentleman! Why did he do it?"
"The Lord knows, Miss. But they said it was home-sickness."
From the street came the voices of Captain Fioupi's compatriots, merry
at their work. Dorothea had scarcely begun breakfast before her
brothers entered, and she had to pour out tea for them. Narcissus took
his seat at once. Endymion stood stamping his feet and warming his
hands by the fire. He bent and with his finger flicked out a crust of
snow from between his breeches and the tops of his riding-boots. It
fell on the hearthstone and sputtered.
"The roads," he announced, are not very bad beyond the bridge. That is
the worst spot, and I have sent down a gang to clear it. Our guests
ought to be able to depart before noon, though I won't answer for the
road Yeovil Way. One carrier—Allworthy—has come through to the
bridge, but says he passed Solomon's van in a drift about four miles
back, this side of the Cheriton oak. He reports Bayfield Hill safe
enough; but that I discovered for myself."
"It seems quite a treat for them," Dorothea remarked.
His eyebrows went up.
"The guests, do you mean?"
He turned to the fire and picked up the tongs.
"No, I mean the prisoners; I was listening to their voices. Just now
they were throwing snowballs."
Endymion dropped the tongs with a clatter; picked them up, set them in
place, and faced the room again with a flush which might have come
from stooping over the fire.
"Come to breakfast, dear," said Dorothea, busy with the tea-urn. "I
have a small plan I want your permission for, and your help. It is
about the prisoners. General Rochambeau and M. Raoul—"
"Are doubtless prepared to teach me my business," snapped Endymion,
who seemed in bad humour this morning.
"No—but listen, dear! They praise you warmly. For whom but my brother
would these poor men have worked as they did upon the Orange Room—
and all to show their gratitude? But it appears the worst part of
captivity is its tedium and the way it depresses the mind; one sees
that it must be. They dread Sundays most of all. And I said I would
speak to you, and if any way could be found—"
"My dear Dorothea," Endymion slipped his hands beneath his coat-tails
and stood astraddle, "I have not often to request you, to mind your
own affairs; but really when it comes to making a promise in my name—"
"Not a promise."
"May I ask you if you seriously propose to familiarise Axcester with
all the orgies of a Continental Sabbath? Already the prisoners spend
Sunday in playing chess, draughts, cards, dominoes; practices which I
connive at, only insisting that they are kept out of sight, but from
which I endeavour to wean them—those at least who have a taste for
music—by encouraging them to, take part in our Church services."
"But I have heard you regret, dear, that only the least respectable
fall in with this. The rest, being strict Roman Catholics, think it
"Are you quite sure last night did, not over-tire you? You are
certainly disposed to be argumentative this morning."
"I think," suggested Narcissus, buttering his toast carefully, "you
might at least hear what Dorothea has to say."
"Oh, certainly! Indeed, if she has been committing me to her projects,
I have a right to know the worst."
"I haven't committed you—I only said I would ask your advice," poor
Dorothea stammered. "And I have no project." She caught Narcissus' eye,
and went on a little more firmly: "Only I thought, perhaps, that if
you extended their walks a little on Sundays—they are scrupulous in
keeping their parole. And, once in a way, we might entertain them at
Bayfield—late in the afternoon, when you have finished your Sunday
nap. Narcissus might show them the pavement and tell them about
Vespasian—not a regular lecture, it being Sunday, but an informal
talk, with tea afterwards. And in the evening, perhaps, they might
meet in the Orange Room for some sacred music—it need not be called
a 'concert'—" Dorothea stopped short, amazed at her own inventiveness.
"H'm. I envy your simplicity, my dear soul, in believing that the—
ah—alleged ennui of these men can he cured by a talk about
Vespasian. But when you go on to talk of sacred music, I must be
permitted to remind you that a concert is none the less a concert for
being called by another name. We Britons do not usually allow names to
disguise facts. A concert—call it even a 'sacred' concert—in the
Orange Room, amid those distinctly—ah—pagan adornments! I can
scarcely even term it the thin end of the wedge, so clearly can I see
it paving the way for other questionable indulgences. I don't doubt
your good intentions, Dorothea, but you cannot, as a woman, be expected
to understand how easily the best intentions may convert Axcester, with
its French community, into a veritable hot-bed of vice. And, by-the-by,
you might tell Morrish I shall want the horse again in half-an-hour's
Dorothea left the room on her errand. As she closed the door Narcissus
looked up from his toast.
"Hot-bed of fiddlesticks!" said he.
"I—ah—beg your pardon?"
Endymion, in the act of seating himself at table, paused to stare.
"Hot-bed of fiddlesticks!" repeated Narcissus. "You needn't have
snapped Dorothea's head off. I thought her suggestions extremely
"The concert, for instance?"
"Yes! you don't make sacred music irreverent by calling it a concert.
Moreover, I really don't see why, as intelligent men, they should not
find Vespasian interesting. His career in many respects resembled the
Endymion smiled at his plate.
"Well, well, we will talk about it later on," said he.
He never quarrelled with Narcissus, whose foibles amused him, but for
whose slow judgment he had a more than brotherly respect.
* * * * * * * * *
The Westcotes, though (at due intervals and with due notice given) they
entertained as handsomely as the Lord Lieutenant himself, were not a
household to be bounced (so to speak) into promiscuous or extemporised
hospitality. For an ordinary dinner-party, Dorothea would pen the
invitations three weeks ahead, Endymion devote an hour to selecting his
guests, and Narcissus spend a morning in the Bayfield cellar, which he
supervised and in which he took a just pride. And so well was this
inelasticity recognised, so clearly was it understood that by no
circumstances could Endymion Westcote permit himself to be upset, that
none of the snowed-up company at "The Dogs" thought a bit the worse of
him for having gone home and left them to shift as best they could.
Dorothea, when at about half-past ten she put on her bonnet and cloak
and stepped down to visit them—the prisoners having by that time
cleared the pavement—found herself surrounded by a crew humorously
apologetic for their toilettes, profoundly envious of her better luck,
but on excellent terms with one another and the younger ones, at any
rate, who had borne the worst of the discomfort—enjoying the
"But the life and soul of it all was that M. Raoul," confessed Lady
"By George!" echoed the schoolboy who had danced the "Soldier's Joy"
with Dorothea, "I wouldn't have believed it of a Frenchy."
For some reason Dorothea was not too well pleased.
"But I do not see M. Raoul."
"Oh, he's down by the bridge, helping the relief party. One would guess
him worn out. He ran from lodging to lodging, turning the occupants out
of their beds and routing about for fresh linen. They say he even
carried old Mrs. Kekewich pick-a-back through the snow."
"And tucked her in bed," added the schoolboy. "And then he came back,
wet almost to the waist, and danced."
He looked roguishly at Lady Bateson's niece, and the pair exploded in
They ran off as General Rochambeau, jaded and unshaven, approached and
"Until Miss Westcote appeared, we held our own against the face of day.
Now, alas, the conspiracy can no longer be kept up."
"You had no compliment for me last night, General."
"Forgive me, Mademoiselle." He lowered his voice and spoke earnestly.
"I have a genuine one for you to-day—I compliment your heart. M. Raoul
has told me of your interest in our poor compatriots, and what you
"I fear I can do little," Dorothea interrupted, mindful of her late
encounter and (as she believed) defeat. "By all accounts, M. Raoul
appears to have made himself agreeable to all," she added.
The old gentleman chuckled and took snuff.
"He loves an audience. At about four in the morning, when all the
elders were in bed—(pardon me, Mademoiselle, if I claim to reckon
myself among les jeunes; my poor back tells me at what cost)—at
about four in the morning the young lady who has just left you spoke
of a new dance she had seen performed this season at Bath. Well, it
appears that M. Raoul had also seen it a—valtz they called it, or
some such name. Whereupon nothing would do but they must dance it
together. Such a dance, Mademoiselle! Roll, roll—round and round—
roll, roll—but perpendicularly, you understand. By-and-by the
others began to copy them, and someone asked M. Raoul where he had
found this accomplishment. 'Oh, in my travels,' says he, and points
to one of the panels; and there, if you will believe me, the fellow
had actually painted himself as Perseus in the Garden of the
Poor Dorothea glanced towards the panel.
"Ah, you remember it! But he must have painted in the face after
showing it to us the other day, or I should have recognised it at the
time. You must come and see it; really an excellent portrait!"
He led her towards it. The orange curtain no longer hid the third
nymph. But the blood which had left Dorothea's face rushed back as
she saw that the trinket had been roughly erased.
"It was quite a coup, but M. Raoul loves an audience."
Shortly before noon the road by the bridge was reported to be clear.
Carriages were announced, and the guests shook hands and were rolled
away—the elder glum, their juniors in boisterous spirits. As each
carriage passed the bridge, where M. Raoul stood among the workmen,
handkerchiefs fluttered out, and he lifted his hat gaily in response.
BEGINS WITH ANCIENT HISTORY AND ENDS WITH AN OLD STORY
"Ubicunque vicit Romanus habitat,—Where the Roman conquered he
settled—and it is from his settlements that to-day we deduce his
conquests. Of Vespasian and his second legion the jejune page of
Suetonius records neither where they landed nor at what limit their
victorious eagles were stayed. Yet will the patient investigator trace
their footprints across many a familiar landscape of rural England,
led by the blurred imperishable impress he has learned to recognise.
The invading host sweeps forward, and is gone; but behind it the
homestead arises and smiles upon the devastated fields, arms yield to
the implements and habiliments of peace, and the colonist, who
supersedes the legionary, in time furnishes the sole evidence of his
feverish and ensanguined transit . . ."
Narcissus was enjoying himself amazingly. His audience endured him
because the experience was new, and their ears caught the rattle of
tea-cups in the adjoining library.
Dorothea sat counting her guests, and assuring herself that the number
of teacups would suffice. She had heard the lecture many times before,
and with repetition its sonorous periods had lost hold upon her,
although her brother had been at pains to model them upon Gibbon.
But the scene impressed her sharply, and she carried away a very
lively picture of it. The old Roman villa had been built about a
hollow square open to the sky, and this square now formed the great
hall of Bayfield. Deep galleries of two stories surrounded it, in
place of the old colonnaded walk. Out of these opened the principal
rooms of the house, and above them, upon a circular lantern of clear
glass, was arched a painted dome. Sheathed on the outside with green
weather-tinted copper, and surmounted by a gilt ball, this dome (which
could be seen from the Axcester High Street when winter stripped the
Bayfield elms) gave the building something of the appearance of an
On the north side of the hall a broad staircase descended from the
gallery to the tiled floor, in the midst of which a fountain played
beneath a cupola supported by slender columns. On the west the recess
beneath the gallery had been deepened to admit a truly ample fireplace,
with a flat hearthstone and andirons. Here were screens and rich Turkey
rugs, and here the Bayfield household ordinarily had the lamps set
after dinner and gathered before the fire, talking little, enjoying the
long pauses filled with the hiss of logs and the monotonous drip and
trickle of water in the penumbra.
To-day the prisoners—two hundred in all—crowded the floor, the
stairs, even the deep gallery above; but on the south side, facing the
staircase, two heavy curtains had been looped back from the atrium,
and there a ray of wintry sunshine fell through the glass roof upon
the famous Bayfield pavement and the figure of Narcissus gravely
He had reached his peroration, and Dorothea, who knew every word of it
by heart, was on the alert. At its close the audience held their breath
for a second or two and then—satisfied, as their hostess rose, that
he had really come to an end—tendered their applause, and, breaking
into promiscuous chatter, trooped towards the tea-room. Narcissus
lingered, with bent head, oblivious, silently repeating the last well-
worn sentences while he conned his beloved tessellae.
A voice aroused him from his brown study; he looked up, to find the
hall deserted and M. Raoul standing at his elbow.
"Will you remember your promise, Monsieur, and allow me to examine a
little more closely? Ah, but it is wonderful! That Pentheus! And the
Maenad there, carrying the torn limb! Also the border of vine-leaves
and crossed thyrsi; though that, to be sure, is usual enough. And this
next? Ah, I remember—'Tu cum parentis regna per arduum'; but what a
devil of a design! And, above all, what mellowness! You will, I know,
pardon the enthusiasm of one who comes from the Provence, a few miles
out of Arles, and whose mother's family boasts itself to be descended
from Roman colonists."
"To you then, M. Raoul, after your Forum and famous Amphitheatre, our
pavement must seem a poor trifle—though it by no means exhausts our
list of interesting remains. The praefurnium, for instance; I must
show you our praefurnium."
"The house would be remarkable anywhere—even in my own Provence—so
closely has it kept the original lines. In half-an-hour one could
"Ay!" chimed in the delighted Narcissus. "You shall try, M. Raoul,
you shall try! I promise to catch you tripping."
"Yonder runs the Fosse Way, west by south. The villa stands about two
hundred yards back from it, facing the south-east—"
"A little east of south. The outer walls did not run exactly true with
the enclosed quadrangle."
"You say that the front measured two hundred feet, perhaps a little
over. Clearly, then, it was a domain of much importance, and the
granaries, mills, stables, slaves' dwellings would occupy much space
about it—an acre and a half, at least."
"Portions of a brick foundation were unearthed no less than three
hundred yards away. A hypocaust lay embedded among them, much broken
"What puzzles me," mused M. Raoul, is how these southern settlers
managed to endure the climate."
"But that is explicable." Narcissus was off now, in full cry. "The
trees, my dear sir, the trees! I have not the slightest doubt that our
Bayfield elms are the ragged survivors of an immense forest—a forest
which covered the whole primaeval face of Somerset on this side of the
fens, and through which Vespasian's road-makers literally hewed their
way. Given these forests—which, by the way, extended over the greater
part of England—we must infer a climate totally unlike ours of this
present day, damper perhaps, but milder. Within his belt of trees the
colonist, secure from the prevailing winds, would plant a garden to
rival your gardens of the South—'primus vere rosam atque autumno
"Yes," added M. Raoul, taking fire; "and, perhaps, a plant of
helichryse or a rose-cutting from Paestum, to twine about the house-
pillars and comfort his exile."
"M. Raoul?" Dorothea's voice interrupted them. She stood by the looped
curtain, and reproached Narcissus with a look. "He has had no tea yet;
it was cruel of you to detain him. My brother, sir," she turned to
Raoul, "has no conscience when once set going on his hobby; for, of
course, you were discussing the pavement?"
"We were talking, Mademoiselle, at that moment of the things which
brighten and comfort exile."
She lowered her eyes, conscious of a blush, and half angry that it
would not be restrained.
"And I was talking of tea, if that happens to be one of them," she
replied, forcing a laugh.
"Well, well," said Narcissus, "take M. Raoul away and give him his tea;
but he must come with me afterwards, while there is light, and we will
go over the site together. I must fetch my map."
He hurried across the hall.
"Come, M. Raoul," said Dorothea, stepping past her guest and leading
the way, "by a small detour we can reach that end of the library which
is least crowded."
He followed without lifting his eyes, apparently lost in thought. The
atrium on this side opened on a corridor which crossed the front door,
and was closed by a door at either end—the one admitting to the
service rooms, the other to the library. Flat columns relieved the
blank wall of this passage, with monstrous copies of Raphael's cartoons
filling the interspaces; on the other hand four tall windows, two on
either side of the door, looked out upon the porte cochère, the avenue,
and the rolling hills beyond Axcester. By one of these windows M. Raoul
halted—and Dorothea halted too, slightly puzzled.
"Ah, Mademoiselle, but there is one thing your brother forgets! What
became of his happy colonists in the end? He told us that early in the
fifth century the Emperor Honorius—was it not?—withdrew his
legions, and wrote that Britain must henceforth look after itself. I
listened for the end of the story, but your brother did not supply it.
Yet sooner or later one and the same dreadful fate must have overtaken
all these pleasant scattered homes—sack and fire and slaughter—
slaughter for all the men, for the women slavery and worse. Does one
hear of any surviving? Out of this warm life into silence—" He paused
and shivered. "Very likely they did not guess for a long while. Look,
Mademoiselle, at the Fosse Way, stretching yonder across the hills:
figure yourself a daughter of the old Roman homestead standing here and
watching the little cloud of dust that meant the retreating column, the
last of your protection. You would not guess what it meant—you, to
whom each day has brought its restful round; who have lived only to be
good and reflect the sunshine upon all near you. And I—your slave,
suppose me, standing beside you—might guess as little."
He took a step and touched her hand. His face was still turned to the
"Time! time!" he went on in a low voice, charged with passion. "It
eats us all! Brr—how I hate it! How I hate the grave! There lies the
sting, Mademoiselle—the torture to be a captive: to feel one's best
days slipping away, and fate still denying to us poor devils the chance
which even the luckiest—God knows—find little enough." He laughed,
and to Dorothea the laugh sounded passing bitter. "You will not
understand how a man feels; how even so unimportant a creature as I
must bear a sort of personal grudge against his fate."
"I am trying to understand," said Dorothea, gently.
"But this you can understand, how a prisoner loves the sunshine: not
because, through his grating, it warms him; but because it is the
sunshine, and he sees it. Mademoiselle, I am not grateful; I see
merely, and adore. Some day you shall pause by this window and see a
cloud of dust on the Fosse Way—the last of us prisoners as they march
us from Axcester to the place of our release; and, seeing it, you shall
close the book upon a chapter, but not without remembering"—he
touched her hand again, but now his fingers closed on it, and he raised
it to his lips,—"not without remembering how and when one Frenchman
said, 'God bless you, Mademoiselle Dorothea!'"
Dorothea's eyes were wet when, a moment later, Narcissus came bustling
through the atrium with a roll of papers in his hand.
"Ah, this is luck!" he cried. "I was starting to search for you."
He either assumed that they had visited the tea-room or forgot all
about it; and M. Raoul's look implored Dorothea not to explain.
"Suppose we take the triclinium first, on the north side of the
house. That, sir, will tell you whether I am right or wrong about the
climate of those days. A summer parlour facing north, and with no
trace of heating-flues! . . ."
He led off his captive, and Dorothea heard his expository tones gather
volume as the pair crossed the great hall beneath the dome. Then she
turned the handle of the library door, and was instantly deafened by
the babel within.
The guests took their departure a little before sunset. M. Raoul was
not among the long train which shook hands with her and filed down the
avenue at the heels of M. de Tocqueville and General Rochambeau.
Twenty minutes later, while the servants were setting the hall in
order, she heard her brother's voice beneath the window of her boudoir,
explaining the system on which the Romans warmed their houses.
She had picked up a religious book, but found herself unable to fix her
attention upon it or even to sit still. Her hand still burned where
M. Raoul's lips had touched it. She recalled Endymion's prophecy that
these entertainments would throw the domestic mechanism—always more
delicately poised on Sundays than on weekdays—completely oft its
pivot. She had pledged herself to prevent this, and had made a private
appeal to the maidservants with whose Sunday-out they interfered. They
had responded loyally.
Still, this was the first experiment; she would go down to the hall
again and make sure that the couches were in position, the cushions
shaken up, the pot-plants placed around the fountain so accurately that
Endymion's nice eye for small comforts could detect no excuse for
saying, "I told you so."
As she passed along the gallery her eyes sought the pillar beside which
M. Raoul had stood during the lecture. By the foot of it a book lay
face downwards—a book cheaply bound between boards of mottled paper.
She picked it up and read the title; it was a volume of Rousseau's
Confessions—a book of which she remembered to have heard. On the
flyleaf was written the owner's name in full—"Charles Marie Fabien
Dorothea hurried downstairs with it and past the servants tidying the
She looked to find M. Raoul still buttonholed and held captive by
Narcissus at the eastern angle of the house. But before she reached the
front door she happened—though perhaps it was not quite accidental—
to throw a glance through the window by which he had stood and talked
with her, and saw him striding away down the avenue in the dusk.
She returned to her room and summoned Polly.
"You know M. Raoul? He has left, forgetting this book, which belongs to
him. Run down to the small gate, that's a good girl—you will overtake
him easily, since he is walking round by the avenue—and return it,
with my compliments."
Polly picked up her skirts and ran. A narrow path slanted down across
the slope of the park to the nurseries—a sheltered corner in which
the Bayfield gardener grew his more delicate evergreens—and here a
small wicket-gate opened on the high road.
The gate stood many feet above the road, which descended the hill
between steep hedges. She heard M. Raoul's footstep as she reached it,
and, peering over, saw him before he caught sight of her; indeed, he
had almost passed with-out when she hailed him.
"Holloa!" He swung almost rightabout and smiled up pleasantly. "Is it
highway robbery? If so, I surrender."
Polly laughed, showing a fine set of teeth.
"I'm 'most out of breath," she answered. "You've left your book behind,
and my mistress sent it after you with her compliments." She held it
above the gate.
He sprang up the bank towards her. "And a pretty book, too, to be
found in your hands! You haven't been reading it, I hope."
"La, no! Is it wicked?"
"Much depends on where you happen to open it. Now if your sweetheart—"
"Who told you I had one?"
"Tut-tut-tut! What's his name?"
"Well, if you must know, I'm walking out with Corporal Zeally. But what
are you doing to the book?" For M. Raoul had taken out a penknife and
was slicing out page after page—in some places whole blocks of pages
"When I've finished, I'm going to ask you to take it back to your
mistress; and then no doubt you'll be reading it on the sly. Here, I
must sit down: suppose you let me perch myself on the top bar of the
gate. Also, it would be kind of you to put up an arm and prevent my
"I shouldn't think of it."
"Oh, very well!" He climbed up, laid the book on his knee and went on
slicing. "I particularly want her to read M. Rousseau's reflections on
the Pont du Gard; but I don't seem to have a book marker, unless you
lend me a lock of your hair."
"Were you the gentleman she danced with, at 'The Dogs,' the night of
"The Pont du Gard, my dear, is a Roman antiquity, and has nothing to
do with dancing. If, as I suppose, you refer to the 'Pont de Lodi,'
that is a totally different work of art."
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"And I don't intend that you shall."
He cut a small strip of braid from his coat, inserted it for a
bookmarker, and began to fold away the excised pages. "That's why I am
keeping these back for my own perusal, and perhaps Corporal Zeally's."
"Do you know him?" She reached up to take the book he was holding out
in his left hand, and the next instant his right arm was round her neck
and he had kissed her full on the lips. "Oh, you wretch!" she cried,
breaking free; and laughed, next moment, as he nearly toppled off the
"Know him? Why of course I do." M. Raoul was reseating himself on his
perch, when he happened to throw a look down into the road, and at
once broke into immoderate laughter. "Talk of the wolf—"
Polly screamed and ran. Below, at a bend of the road, stood a stoutish
figure in the uniform of the Axcester Volunteers—scarlet, with white
facings. It was Corporal Zeally, very slowly taking in the scene.
M. Raoul skipped off the gate and stepped briskly past him. "Good-
evening, Corporal! We're both of us a little behind time, this
evening!" said he as he went by.
The Corporal pivoted on his heels and stared after him.
"Dang my living buttons!" he said, reflectively. "Couldn't even wait
till my back was turned, but must kiss the maid under my nose!" He
paused and rubbed his chin. "Her looked like Polly and her zounded
like Polly . . . Dang this dimpsey old light, I've got a good mind to
run after'n and ax'n who 'twas!" He took a step down the hill, but
thought better, of it. "No, I won't," he said; "I'll go and ax Polly."
FATE IN A LAURELLED POST-CHAISE
All the tongues of Rumour agreed that the Bayfield entertainment had
been a success, and Endymion Westcote received many congratulations
upon it at the next meeting of magistrates.
"Nonsense, nonsense!" he protested lightly. "One must do something to
make life more tolerable to the poor devils, and 'pon my word 'twas
worth it to see their gratitude. They behaved admirably. You see, two-
thirds of them are gentlemen, after a fashion; not, perhaps, quite in
the sense in which we understand the word, but then the—ah—modicum
of French blood in my veins counteracts, I dare say, some little
"My dear fellow, about such men as de Tocqueville and Rochambeau there
can be no possible question."
"Ah! I'm extremely glad to hear you say so. I feared, perhaps, the way
they managed their table-napkins—"
"Not at all. I was thinking rather of your bold attitude towards
Sunday observance. What does Milliton say?"
Endymion's eyebrows went up. Mr. Milliton was the vicar of Axcester
and the living lay in the Westcotes' gift. I am not—ah—aware that
I consulted Milliton. On such questions I recognise no responsibility
save to my own conscience. He has not been complaining, I trust?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Ah!" Endymion looked as if Mr. Milliton had better not. "I take, you
must know, a somewhat broad view on such matters—may I, without
offence, term it a liberal one? As a matter of fact I intend going yet
farther in the direction and granting permission for a small reunion on
Sunday evenings at 'The Dogs,' when selections of purely sacred music
will be performed. I shall, of course, deprecate the name 'concert ';
and even 'performance' may seem to carry with it some—ah—
suggestions of a theatrical nature. But, as Shakespeare says, 'What's
in a name?' Perhaps you can suggest a more suitable one?"
"A broad-minded fellow," was the general verdict; and some admirers
added that ideas which in weaker men might seem to lean towards free
thought, and even towards Jacobinism, became Mr. Westcote handsomely
enough. He knew how to carry them off, to wear them lightly as
flourishes and ornaments of his robust common sense, and might be
trusted not to go too far. Endymion, who had an exquisite flair for the
approval of his own class, soon learned to take an honest pride in his
liberalism and to enjoy its discreet display. 'The entertainment at
Bayfield' was nothing—a private experiment only; the unfamiliar must
be handled gently; a good rule to try it on your own household before
tackling the world. As a matter of fact, old Narcissus had enjoyed it.
But if the neighbouring families were really curious, and would promise
not to be shocked, they must come to "The Dogs" some Sunday evening:
No, not next Sunday, but in a week or two's time when the prisoners,
as intelligent fellows, would have grasped his notions.'
Sure enough, on the third Sunday he brought a round dozen of guests;
and the entrance of the Bayfield party (punctually five minutes late),
and their solemn taking of seats in the two front rows, thereafter
became a feature of these entertainments. On the first occasion the
musicians stopped, out of respect, in the middle of a motet of
Scarlatti's; but Endymion gave orders that in future this was not
"I have been something of an amateur myself," he explained, "and know
what is due to Art."
It vexed Dorothea to note that after the first two or three
performances some of her best friends among the prisoners absented
themselves, General Rochambeau for one. Indeed, the General had taken
to declining all invitations, and rarely appeared abroad. One March
morning, meeting him in the High Street, she made bold to tax him with
the change and ask his reasons.
The hour was eleven in the forenoon, the busiest of the day. In twenty
minutes the London coach would be due with the mails, and this always
brought the prisoners out into the street. The largest crowd gathered
in front of "The Dogs," waiting to see the horses changed and the bags
unloaded. But a second hung around the Post Office, where the
Commissary received and distributed the prisoners' letters, while
lesser groups shifted and moved about at the tail of the butchers'
carts, and others laden with milk, eggs, and fresh vegetables from the
country; for Axcester had now a daily market, and in the few minutes
before the mail's arrival the salesmen drove their best trade.
General Rochambeau tapped his snuffbox meditatively, like a man in two
minds. But he kept a sidelong eye upon Dorothea, as she turned to
acknowledge a bow from the Vicomte de Tocqueville. The Vicomte, with
an air of amused contempt, was choosing a steak for his dinner, using
his gold-ferruled walking-stick to direct the butcher how to cut it
out, while his servant stood ready with a plate.
"To tell you the truth, Mademoiselle, I find a hand at picquet with
the Admiral less fatiguing for two old gentlemen than these public
"In other words, you are nursing him. They tell me he has never been
well since that night of the snowstorm."
"Your informants may now add that he is better; these few Spring days
have done wonders for his rheumatism, and, indeed, he is dressed and
abroad this morning."
"Which explains why you are willing to stop and chat with me, instead
of hurrying off to the Post Office to ask for his letter—that letter
which never comes."
"So M. Raoul has been telling you all about us?"
"He happened to speak of it, at one of my working parties—"
"He has a fine gift for the pathetic, that young man; oh, yes, and a
pretty humour too! I can fancy what he makes of us—poor old Damon
and Pythias—while he holds the skeins; with a smile for poor old
Pythias' pigtail, and a tremor of the voice for the Emperor's
tabatière, and a tear, no doubt, for the letter which never comes.
M. Raoul is great with an audience."
"You do him injustice, General. An audience of half-a-dozen old women!"
General Rochambeau had an answer to this on his tongue, but repressed
"Ah, here comes the Admiral!" he cried, as the gaunt old man came
shuffling down the street towards them, with his stoop, his cross-
grained features drawn awry with twinges of rheumatism, his hands
crossed above his tall cane. All Axcester laughed at his long blue
surtout, his pigtail and little round hat. But Dorothea always found
him formidable, and wanted to run away. "Admiral, I was just about to
tell Miss Westcote that the time is come to congratulate her. Here is
winter past—except that of two years ago, the hardest known in
Axcester; and, thanks to her subscription lists and working parties,
our countrymen have never gone so well fed and warmly clad."
"Which," growled the Admiral, "does not explain why no less than eight
of them have broken their parole. An incredible, a shameful number!"
"As time goes on, Admiral, they grow less patient. Hope deferred—"
Ta-ra, tara-ra! Ta-ra, tara-ra-ra! The notes of the guard's horn
broke in upon Dorothea's excuse. Groups scattered, market carts were
hastily backed alongside the pavement, and down the mid-thoroughfare
came the mail at a gallop, with crack of whip and rushing chime of
bits and swingle-bars.
Dorothea watched the crowd closing round it as it drew up by "The
Dogs," and turned to note that the Admiral's face was pale and his
eyes sought those of his old friend.
"Better leave it to me to-day, if Miss Westcote will excuse me."
General Rochambeau lifted his hat and hurried after the crowd.
Then Dorothea understood. The old man beside her had lost courage to
pick up his old habit; at the last moment his friend must go for the
letter which never came. She cast about to say something; her last
words had been of hope deferred—it would not do to take up her
speech there . . .
The Admiral seemed to meet her eyes with an effort. He put out a hand.
"It is not good, Mademoiselle, that a man should pity himself. Beware
how you teach that; beware how you listen to him then."
He turned from her abruptly and tottered away. Glancing aside, she met
the Vicomte de Tocqueville's tired smile; he was using his cane to
prod the butcher and recall his attention to the half-cut steak. But
the butcher continued to stare down the street.
"Eh? But, dear me, it sounds like an émeute," said the Vicomte,
negligently; at the same time stepping to Dorothea's side.
The murmur of the crowd in front of "The Dogs" had been swelling, and
now broke into sharp, angry cries for a moment; then settled into a
dull roar, and rose in a hoarse crescendo. The mail coach was
evidently not the centre of disturbance, though Dorothea could see its
driver waving his arm and gesticulating from the box. The noise came
ahead of it, some twenty yards lower down the hill, where the street
had suddenly grown black with people pressing and swaying.
"There seems no danger here, whatever it is," said the Vicomte,
glancing up at the house-front above.
"Please go and see what is the matter. I am safe enough," Dorothea
assured him. "The folks in the house will give me shelter, if
The Vicomte lifted his hat. "I will return and report promptly, if the
affair be serious."
But it was not serious. The tumult died down, and Dorothea with her
riding-switch was guarding the half-cut steak from a predatory dog
when the Vicomte and the butcher returned together.
"Reassure yourself, Miss Westcote," said M. de Tocqueville. "There has
been no bloodshed, though bloodshed was challenged. It appears that
almost as the coach drew up there arrived from the westward a post-
chaise conveying a young naval officer from Plymouth, with despatches
and (I regret to tell it) a flag. His Britannic Majesty has captured
another of our frigates; and the high spirited young gentleman was
making the most of it in all innocence, and without an idea that his
triumph could offend anyone in Axcester. Unfortunately, on his way up
the street, he waved the captured tricolor under the nose of your
brother's protégé, M. Raoul—"
"M. Raoul!" Dorothea caught her breath on the name.
"And M. Raoul leapt into the chaise, then and there wrested the flag
from him—the more easily no doubt because he expected nothing so
little and holding it aloft, challenged him to mortal combat.
Theatrically, and apart from the taste of it (I report only from
hearsay), the coup must have been immensely successful. When I
arrived, your brother was restoring peace, the young Briton holding
out his hand—swearing he was sorry, begad! but how the deuce was he
to have known ?—and M. Raoul saving the situation, and still
demanding blood with a face as long as an Alexandrine:
"'Ce drapeau glorieux auquel, en sanglotant,
Se prosternent affaises vos membres, veterans!'
"'Vary sorry, damitol, shake hands, beg your pardon.'"
The Vicomte forgot his languor, and burlesqued the scene with real
Dorothea, however, was not amused.
"You say my brother is at 'The Dogs,' Monsieur? I think I will go
"You must allow me, then, to escort you."
"Oh, the street is quite safe. Your countrymen will not suspect me of
exulting over their misfortunes."
"Nevertheless—" he insisted, and walked beside her.
A mixed crowd of French and English still surrounded the chaise, to
which a couple of postboys were attaching the relay: the French no
longer furious, now that an apology had been offered and the flag
hidden, but silent and sulky yet; the English inclined to think the
young lieutenant hardly served, not to say churlishly. Frenchmen might
be thin-skinned; but war was war, and surely Britons had a right to
raise three cheers for a victory. Besides he had begged pardon at once,
and offered to shake hands like a gentleman—that is, as soon as he
discovered whose feelings were hurt; for naturally the fisticuffs had
come first, and in these Master Raoul had taken as good as he brought.
As the Vicomte cleared a path for her to the porch, where Endymion
stood shaking hands and bidding adieu, Dorothea caught her first and
last glimpse of this traveller, who—without knowing it, without
seeing her face to remember it, or even learning her name—was to
deflect the slow current of her life, and send it whirling down a
strange channel, giddy, precipitous, to an end unguessed.
She saw a fresh-complexioned lad, somewhat flushed and red in the face,
but of frank and pleasant features; dressed in a three-cornered cocked-
hat, blue coat piped with white and gilt-buttoned, white breeches and
waistcoat, and broad black sword-belt; a youngster of the sort that
loves a scrimmage or a jest, but is better in a scrimmage than in a
jest when the laugh goes against him. He was eying the chaise just now,
and obviously cursing the hour in which he had decorated it with laurel.
Yet on the whole in a trying situation he bore himself well.
"Ah, much obliged to you, Vicomte!" Endymion hailed the pair. "There
has been a small misunderstanding, my dear Dorothea; not the slightest
cause for alarm! Still, you had better pass through to the coffee-room
and wait for me."
Dorothea dismissed M. de Tocqueville with a bow, passed into the dark
passage and pushed open the coffee-room door.
Within sat a young man, his elbows on the table, and his face bowed
upon his arms. His fingers convulsively twisted a torn scrap of
bunting; his shoulders heaved. It was M. Raoul.
Dorothea paused in the doorway and spoke his name. He did not look up.
She stepped towards him.
A sob shook him. She laid a hand gently on his bowed head, on the dark
wave of hair above his strong, shapely neck. She was full of pity,
longing to comfort . . .
He started, gazed up at her, and seized her hand. His eyes swam with
tears, but behind the tears blazed a light which frightened her. Yet—
oh, surely!—she could not mistake it.
He held both her hands now. He was drawing her towards him. She could
not speak. The room swam; outside the window she heard the noise of
starting hoofs, of wheels, of the English crowd hurrahing as the chaise
rolled away. Her head almost touched M. Raoul's breast. Then she broke
loose, as her brother's step sounded in the passage.
LOVE AND AN OLD MAID
I pray you be gentle with Dorothea. Find, if you can, something
admirable in this plain spinster keeping, at the age of thirty-seven,
a room in her breast adorned and ready for first love; find it pitiful,
if you must, that the blind boy should mistake his lodging; only do
not laugh, or your laughter may accuse you in the sequel.
She had a most simple heart. Wonder filled it as she rode home to
Bayfield, and by the bridge she reined up Mercury as if to take her
bearings in an unfamiliar country. At her feet rushed the Axe, swollen
by spring freshets; a bullfinch, wet from his bath, bobbed on the sand-
stone parapet, shook himself, and piped a note or two; away up the
stream, among the alders, birds were chasing and courting; from above
the Bayfield elms, out of spaces of blue, the larks' song fell like a
din of innumerable silver hammers. Either new sense had been given her,
or the rains had washed the landscape and restored obliterated lines,
colours, meanings. The very leaves by the roadside were fragrant as
For the moment it sufficed to know that she was loved, and that she
loved. She was no fool. At the back of all her wonder lay the certainty
that in the world's eyes such love as hers was absurd; that it must end
where it began; that Raoul could never be hers, nor she escape from a
captivity as real as his. But, perhaps because she knew all this so
certainly, she could put it aside. This thing had come to her: this
happiness to which, alone, in darkness, depressed by every look into
the mirror, by every casual proof that her brothers and intimates
accepted the verdict as final, her soul had been loyal—a forgotten
servant of a neglectful lord. In the silence of her own room, in her
garden, in the quiet stir of household duties, and again during the
long evenings while she sat knitting by the fire and her brothers
talked, she had pondered much upon love and puzzled herself with many
questions. She had watched girls and their lovers, wives and their
husbands. Can love (she had asked) draw near and pass and go its way
unrecognised? She had conned the signs. Now the hour had come, and she
had needed none of her learning—eyes, hands, and voice, she had
known the authentic god.
And she knew that it was not absurd; she knew herself worthy of love's
belated condescension—not Raoul's; for the moment she scarcely
thought of Raoul; for the moment Raoul's image grew faint and
indefinite in the glory of being loved. Instinct, too, thrust it into
the background; for as Raoul grew definite so must his youth, his
circumstances, the world's laughter, the barriers never to be overcome.
But merely to be loved, and to rest in that knowledge awhile—here
were no barriers. The thing had happened: it was: nothing could forbid
or efface it.
Yet when she reached home, after forcing the astonished Mercury to
canter up the entire length of Bayfield hill, she must walk straight
to her room, and study her face in the glass.
"It has happened to you—to you! Why has it not transfigured you?—
but then people would guess. Your teeth stand out—well, not so very
prominently—but they stand out, and that is why foreigners laugh at
Englishwomen. Yes, it has happened to you; but why? how?"
It so happened that she must meet him the next day. Narcissus had
engaged him to make drawings of the Bayfield pavement, a new series to
supersede hers in an enlarged edition of the treatise. Every one of
the tessellae was to be drawn to scale, and she must meet him
to-morrow in the library with her brother and receive instructions, for
she had promised to help in taking measurements.
When the time came, and she entered the library, she did not indeed
dare to lift her eyes. But Narcissus, already immersed in calculations,
scarcely looked up from his paper. "Ah, there you are! Have you brought
the India-ink?" he asked, and after a minute she marvelled at her own
self-possession. Even when he left them to work out the measurements
together (and it flashed upon her that henceforth they would often be
left together, her immunity being taken for granted), she kept her head
bowed over the papers and managed to control her voice to put one or
two ordinary questions—until the pencil dropped from her fingers and
she felt her hand imprisoned.
"Oh, please, no!" she entreated hoarsely. "M. Raoul—!"
"Charles—" She attempted to draw her hand away; but, failing, lifted
her eyes for mercy. They were sick and troubled. "Charles," he insisted.
"Charles, then." She relented and he kissed her gaily. It was as if she
drank in the kiss and, the next moment, recoiled from it. He released
her hand and waited, watching her. She stood upright by the table, her
shoulder turned to him, her eyes gazing through the long window upon
the green stretch of lawn. She was trembling slightly.
"It—it hurts like a wound," she murmured, and her hand went up to her
breast. "But you must listen, please. You know—better than I—that
this is the end. Oh, yes"—as he would have interrupted—"it is
beautiful—for me. But I am old and you are a boy, and it is all quite
silly. Please listen: even apart from this, it would be quite silly and
could end nowhere."
He caught at her hand again, and she let it lie in his.
"Nowhere," she repeated, and, lifting her head, nodded twice. Her eyes
"But if you love me?" he began.
She waited a moment, but he did not finish. "Ah! there it is, you see:
you cannot finish. I was afraid to meet you to-day; but now I am glad,
because we can talk about it once and for all. Charles"—she hesitated
over the name—"dear, I have been thinking. Since we see this so
clearly, it can be no treachery to my brothers to let our love stand
where it does. At my age"—and Dorothea laughed nervously—"one is
more easily contented than at yours."
"I cannot bear your talking in this way."
"Oh yes, you can," she assured him with a practical little nod. "I
don't like it myself, but it has to be done. Now in the first place,
when we meet like this there must be no kissing." She blushed, while
her voice wavered again over the word; then, as again his hand closed
upon hers, she laughed. "Well—yes, you may kiss my hand. But I must
not have it on my conscience that I am hiding from Endymion and
Narcissus what they have a right to know. Of course they would be angry
if they knew that I—that I was fond of you at all; but they would
have no right, for they could not have forbidden or prevented it. Now
if our prospects were what folks would call happier, why then in
earnest of them you might kiss me, but then you would be bound to go to
my brothers and tell them. But since it can all come to nothing—"
A ghost of a smile finished the sentence.
"This war cannot last for ever."
"It seems to have lasted ever since I can remember. But what difference
could its ending make? Ah, yes, then I should lose you!" she cried in
dismay, but added with as sudden remorse: "Forgive my selfishness!"
"You are adorable," said he, and they laughed and picked up their
Dorothea's casuistry might prove her ignorant of love and its perils,
as a child is of fire; but having, as she deemed, discovered the limits
of her duty and set up her terms with Raoul upon them, she soon
developed a wonderful cunning in the art of being loved. Her plainness
and the difference in their ages she took for granted, and subtly
persuaded Raoul to take for granted; she had no affectations, no
minauderies; by instinct she avoided setting up any illusion which he
could not share; unconsciously and naturally she rested her strength on
the maternal, protective side of love. Raoul came to her with his woes,
his difficulties, his quarrel against fate; and she talked them over
with him, and advised him almost as might a wise elder sister. She had
read the Confessions; and, in spite of the missing pages, with less
of fascination than disgust; yet had absorbed more than she knew. In
Raoul she recognised certain points of likeness to his great
countryman—points which had puzzled, her in the book. Now the book
helped her to treat them, though she was unaware of its help. Still
less aware was she of any likeness between her and Madame de Warens,
of whom (again in spite of the missing pages) she had a poor opinion.
The business of the drawings brought Raoul to Bayfield almost daily,
and, as she had foreseen, they were much alone.
After all, since it could end in nothing, the situation had its
advantages; no one in the household gave it a thought, apparently.
Dorothea was not altogether sure about Polly; once or twice she had
caught Polly eying her with an odd expression—once especially, when
she had looked up as the girl was plaiting her hair, and their eyes
met in the glass. And once again Dorothea had sent her to the library
with a note of instructions left that morning by Narcissus, and,
following a few minutes later, had found her standing and talking with
M. Raoul in an attitude which, without being familiar, was not quite
"What was she saying?" her mistress asked, a moment or two later.
"Oh, nothing," he answered negligently. "I suppose that class of
person cannot be troubled to show respect to prisoners."
That evening Dorothea rated the girl soundly for her pertness. "And I
shall speak to Zeally," she threatened, "if anything of the kind
happens again. If Mr. Endymion is to let you two have a house when you
marry, and take in the Frenchmen as lodgers, he will want to know that
you treat them respectfully."
Polly wept, and was forgiven.
April, May, June, went by, and still Dorothea lived in her dream,
troubled only by dread of the day which must bring her lover's task to
an end, and, with it, his almost daily visits. Bit by bit she learned
his story. He told her of Arles, his birthplace, with its Roman masonry
and amphitheatre; of a turreted terraced chateau and a family of
aristocrats lording it among the vineyards; conspiring a little later
with other noble families, entertaining them at secret meetings of the
Chiffonne, where oaths were taken; later again, defending itself
behind barricades of paving-stones; last of all, marched or carried in
batches to the guillotine or the fusillade. He told of Avignon and its
Papal Castle overhanging the Rhone, the city where he had spent his
school days, and at the age of nine had seen Patriot L'Escuyer stabbed
to death in the Cordeliers' Church with women's scissors; had seen
Jourdan, the avenger, otherwise Coupe-tête, march flaming by at the
head of his brave brigands d'Avignon. He told of the sequel, the
hundred and thirty men, women and babes slaughtered in the dungeon of
the Glacière; of Choisi's Dragoons and Grenadiers at the gates, and
how, with roses scattered before them, they marched through the streets
to the Castle, entered the gateway and paused, brought to a stand by
the stench of putrefying flesh. He and his school mates had taken a
holiday—their master being in hiding—to see the bodies lifted out.
Also he had seen the search party ride out through the gates and return
again, bringing Jourdan, with feet strapped beneath his horse's belly.
He told of his journey to, Paris—his purpose to learn to paint (at
such a time!); of the great David, fat and wheezy, back at his easel,
panting from civil blood-shed; of the call to arms, his enlistment,
his first campaign of 1805; of the foggy morning of Austerlitz, his
wound, and he long hours he lay in the rear of a battery on the height
of Pratzen, writhing, watching the artillerymen at work and so on,
with stories of marching and fighting, nights slept out by him at full
length on the sodden turf beside his arms.
She had no history to tell him in exchange; she asked only to listen
and to comfort. Yet so cleverly he addressed his story that the longest
monologue became, by aid of a look or pressure of the hand, a
conversation in which she, his guardian angel, bore her part. Did he
talk of Avignon, for instance? It was the land of Laura and Petrarch,
and she, seated with half-closed eyes beneath the Bayfield elms, saw
the pair beside the waters of Vaucluse, saw the roses and orange-trees
and arid plains of Provence, and wondered at the trouble in their
spiritual love. She was not troubled; love as "a dureless content and
a trustless joy" lay outside of her knowledge, and she had no desire
to prove it. In this only she forgot the difference between Raoul's
age and hers.
The day came when his work was ended. They spent a great part of that
afternoon in the garden, now in the height of its midsummer glory.
Raoul was very silent.
"But this must not end. It cannot end so!" he groaned once or twice.
He never forgot for long his old spite against Time.
"It will never end for me," she murmured.
"Of what are you made, then, that you look forward to living on
shadows?—one would say, almost cheerfully! I believe you could be
happy if you never saw me again!"
"Even if that had to be," she answered gravely, "while I knew you
loved me I should never be quite unhappy. But you must find a way,
while you can, to come sometimes; yes, you must come."
CORPORAL ZEALLY INTERVENES
Dorothea sat in the great hall of Bayfield, between the lamplight and
the moonlight, listening to the drip of the fountain beneath its tiny
cupola. A midsummer moon-ray fell through the uncurtained lantern
beneath the dome and spread in a small pool of silver at her feet.
Beneath one of the two shaded lamps Endymion lounged in his armchair
and read the Sherborne Mercury. Narcissus had carried off the other to
a table across the hall by the long bookcase, and above the pot-plants
banked about the fountain she saw it shining on his shapely grey head
as he bent over a copy of the Antonine Itinerary and patiently worked
out a new theory of its distances. Her own face rested in deep shadow,
and she felt grateful for it as she leaned back thinking her own
thoughts. It was a whole week now since Charles had visited Bayfield,
but she had encountered him that morning in Axcester High Street as
she passed up it on horseback with her brothers. Narcissus had reined
up to put some question or other about the drawings, but Endymion (who
did not share his brother's liking for M. Raoul) had ridden on, and
she had ridden on too, though reluctantly. She recalled his salute,
his glance at her, and down-dropped eyes; she wondered what point
Narcissus and he had discussed, and blamed herself for not having
found courage to ask. . . .
The stable clock struck ten. She arose and kissed her brothers good-
night. By Narcissus she paused.
"Be careful of your eyes, dear. And if you are going to be busy with
that great book these next few evenings I will have the table brought
across to the other side where you will be cosier."
Narcissus came out of his calculations and looked up at her gently.
"Please do not disarrange the furniture for me; a change always fidgets
me, even before I take in precisely what has happened." He smiled.
"In that I resemble my old friend Vespasian, who would have no
alterations made when he visited his home—manente villa qualis
fuerat olim, ne quid scilicet oculorum consuetudini deperiret.
A pleasant trait, I have always thought."
He lit her candle and kissed her, and Dorothea went up the broad
staircase to her own room. Half-way along the corridor she stayed a
moment to look down upon the hall. Endymion had dropped his newspaper
and was yawning; a sure sign that Narcissus, already reabsorbed in the
Itinerary, would in a few moments be hurried from it to bed.
She reached the door of her room and opened it, then checked an
exclamation of annoyance. For some mysterious reason Polly had
forgotten to light her candle. This was her rule, never broken before.
She stepped to the bellpull. Her hand was on it, when she heard the
girl's voice muttering in the next room—the boudoir. At least, it
sounded like Polly's voice, though its tone was strangely subdued and
level. "Talking to herself," Dorothea decided, and smiled, in spite of
her annoyance, as everyone smiles who catches another in this trick.
She dropped the bellpull and opened the boudoir door.
Polly was not talking to herself. She was leaning far out of the open
window, and at the sound of the door started back into the room with a
gasp and a short cry.
"To whom were you talking?"
Dorothea had set the candle down in the bedroom. Outside the window
the park lay spread to the soft moonshine, but the moon did not look
directly into the boudoir. In the half-light mistress and maid sought
each other's eyes.
"To whom were you talking?" Dorothea demanded, sternly.
Polly was silent for a second or two, then her chin went up defiantly.
"To Mr. Raoul," she muttered.
"To M. Raoul!—to M. Raoul? I don't understand. Is M. Raoul—Oh, for
goodness sake speak, girl! What is that? I see a piece of paper in
Polly twisted it in her fingers, and made a movement to hide it in her
pocket; but with the movement she seemed to reflect.
"He gave it to me; I don't understand anything about it. I was
shutting the window, when he whistled to me; he gave me this. I—I
think he meant it for you."
Polly's tone suddenly became saucy, but her voice shook.
Dorothea was shaking too, as her fingers closed on the note. She
vainly sought to read the girl's eyes. Her own cheeks were burning;
she felt the blood rushing into them and singing in her ears. Yet in
her abasement she kept her dignity, and, motioning Polly to follow,
stepped into the bedroom, unfolded the letter slowly, and read it by
the candle there.
"I have hungered now for a week. Be at your window this evening
and let me, at least, be fed with a word. See what I risk for you.
"Yours devotedly and for ever."_
There was no signature, but well enough Dorothea knew the handwriting.
A wave of anger swelled in her heart—the first she had ever felt
towards him. He had behaved selfishly. "See what I risk for you!"—
but to what risk was he exposing her! He was breaking their covenant
too; demanding that which he must know her conscience abhorred. She
had not believed he could understand her so poorly, held her so cheap.
Cheap indeed, since he had risked her secret in Polly's hand!
She turned the paper over, noting its creases. Suddenly—"You have
opened and read this!" she said.
Polly admitted it with downcast eyes. The girl, after the first
surprise, had demeaned herself admirably, and now stood in the attitude
proper to a confidential servant; solicitous, respectful, prepared to
blink the peccadillo, even to sympathise discreetly at a hint given.
"I'm sorry, Miss, that I opened it; I ought to have told you, but you
took me by surprise. You know, Miss, that you gave me leave to run down
to my aunt's this evening; and on my way back—just as I was letting
myself in by the nursery gate, Mr. Raoul comes tearing up the hill
after me and slips this into my hand. To tell you the truth, it rather
frightened me being run after like that. And he said something and ran
back—for nine was just striking, and in a moment the Ting-tang would
be ringing and he must be back to answer his name. So in my fluster I
didn't catch what he meant. When I got home and opened it, I saw my
mistake. But you were downstairs at dinner—I couldn't get to speak
with you alone—I waited to tell you; and just now, when I was
drawing the blinds, I heard a whistle—"
"M. Raoul had no right to send me such a message, Polly. I cannot
think what he means by it. Nothing that I have ever said to him—"
"No, Miss," Polly assented readily. After a pause she added: "I suppose
you'd like me to go now? You won't be wanting your hair done to-night?"
"Certainly I wish you to stay. Is he—is M. Raoul outside?"
"I think so, Miss. Oh, yes—for certain he is."
"Then I must insist on your staying with me while I dismiss him."
"Very good, Miss. Would you wish me to stay here, or to come with you?"
Dorothea felt herself blushing, and her temper rose again. "For the
moment, stay here. I will leave the door open and call you when you
She passed into the boudoir and bent to the open window. At this corner
the foundations of the house stood some feet lower than the slope out
of which they had been levelled, and she looked down upon a glacis of
smooth turf, capped by a glimmering parapet of Bath stone. Beyond
stretched the moonlit park.
"M. Raoul!" she called, but scarcely above a whisper.
A figure crept out from the dark angle below and climbed to the parapet.
"Dorothea! Forgive me! Another night and no word with you—I could not
"You are mad. You are breaking your parole and risking shame for me.
Nay, you have shamed me already. Polly is here."
"Polly is a good girl; she understands. A word, then, if you must drive
"I can pass the sentries. No fear of the patrol hereabouts. Your hand—
let down your hand to me. I can reach it from the parapet here—with
my fingers only, not with my lips, though even that you never forbade!"
Weakly, she lowered her arm over the sill. He reached to touch it, and
she leaned her face towards his—hers in shadow, his pale in the
Before their fingers met, a yellow flame leapt from the angle to the
left; a loud report banged in her ears and echoed across the park; and
Raoul, after swaying a second, pitched forward with a sharp cry and
rolled to the foot of the glacis.
Dorothea forced herself back in the room, and stood there upright and
shook, with Polly beside her holding her two hands.
"They have shot him!"
The two women listened for a moment. All was still now. Polly stepped
to the window and, closed it softly.
"But why? What are you doing?" Dorothea asked, in a hoarse whisper.
"They will find quite enough without that," said the practical girl,
but her voice quavered.
"Yet if they had seen—Ah, how selfish to think of that now! Hush—
that was a groan! He is alive still."
She moved towards the window, but Polly dragged her back by main force.
Below they heard the sudden unbarring of doors, and Endymion's voice
calling for Mudge, the butler. A bell pealed in the servants' hall,
stopped, and began ringing again in short and violent jerks.
"Let me go," commanded Dorothea. "They will never find him, under the
slope there. He may be bleeding to death. I must tell—"
But Polly clung to her. "They'll find him safe enough, Miss Dorothea.
There's Sam, now—hark!—at the backdoor bell: he'll tell them."
"Sam Zeally, Miss."
"But I don't understand," Dorothea stammered; with a sharp suspicion
of treachery, she pushed the girl from her. "Was Zeally mounting guard
tonight? If I thought—don't tell me it was a trap! Oh, you wicked
"No; it wasn't," answered Polly, sulkily. "I don't know nothing of
Sam's movements. But he might be hanging about the house; and if he
saw a man talking to me, he's just as jealous as fire."
She broke off at the sound of voices below the window. The ray of a
lantern, as the search-party jolted it, flashed and danced on wall and
ceiling of the dim boudoir. A sharp exclamation announced that Raoul
was discovered. A confused muttering followed; and then Dorothea heard
Endymion's voice calling up to Mudge from the bottom of the trench.
"Run to Miss Westcote's room and tell her we shall require lint and
bandages. There is no cause for alarm, assure her; say there has been
an accident—a Frenchman overtaken out of bounds and wounded—I
think, not seriously. If she be gone to bed, get the medicine chest
and the key and bring them into the kitchen."
Dorothea had charge of the Bayfield medicine chest, and kept it in a
cupboard of the boudoir. She groped for it, pulled open drawer after
drawer, rifled them for lint and linen, and by the time Mudge tapped
on the door, stood ready with the chest under one arm and a heap of
bandages in the other.
"In the kitchen, Mr. Endymion said. I am coming at once; take the
chest, run, and have as many candles lit as possible."
Mudge ran; Dorothea followed—with Polly behind her, trembling like
The two women reached the kitchen as the party entered with Raoul,
and supported him to a chair beside the dying fire. His face was
colourless, and he lay back and closed his eyes weakly as Endymion
stooped to examine the wounded leg, with Narcissus in close attendance,
and the others standing respectfully apart—Mudge, the two footmen
(in their shirt sleeves), an under-gardener named Best, one of the
housemaids, and Corporal Zeally by the door in regimentals, with his
japanned shako askew and his Brown Bess still in his hand. Behind his
shoulder, three or four of the women servants hung about the doorway
and peered in, between curiosity and terror.
It was a part of Endymion's fastidiousness that the sight of blood—
that is, of human blood—turned his stomach. In her distress Dorothea
could not help admiring how he conquered this aversion; how he knelt
in his spick-and-span evening dress, and, after turning back his
ruffles, unlaced the prisoner's soaked shoe and rolled down the
He looked up gratefully as she entered. In such emergencies Narcissus
was worse than useless; but Dorothea had the nursing instinct, and her
brothers recognised it. The sight of a wound or a hurt steadied her
wits, and she became practical and helpful at once.
"A flesh wound only, I think; just above the ankle—the tendon cut,
but the bone apparently not broken."
"It may be splintered, though," said Dorothea. "Has anyone thought of
sending for Doctor Ibbetson? He must be fetched at once. A towel,
please—three or four—from the dresser there." A footman brought
the towels. She knelt, folded two on her lap, and, resting Raoul's foot
there, drew the stocking gently from the wound. "A basin and warm
water, not too hot. Polly, you will find a small sponge in the, second
drawer . . ." She nodded towards the medicine chest. "One of you, make
up a better fire and set on a fresh kettle . . ."
She gave her orders in a low firm voice, and continued to direct
everyone thus, while she sponged the wound and drew off the stocking.
Neither towards them nor towards Raoul did she lift her eyes. The bare
foot of her beloved rested in her lap. She heard him groan twice, but
with no pain inflicted by her fingers; if their slightest pressure had
hurt him she would have known. She went on bathing the wound—she,
who could have bathed it with her tears. As time passed, and still the
doctor did not come, she began to bandage it. She called on Polly for
the bandages; then, still without looking up, she divined that Polly
was useless—was engaged in trying to catch Zeally's eye, and warn
him or get a word with him.
"He's pale as a ghost yet," said Endymion. "Another dose of brandy
might set him up. I gave him some from my flask before bringing him in."
"He is not going to faint," she answered.
"Well, I won't bother him with questions until he comes round a bit.
You, Zeally, had better step into my room though, and give me your
version of the affair."
But as the Corporal saluted and took a step forward, the prisoner
opened his eyes.
"Before you examine Zeally, sir, let me save you what trouble I can."
He spoke faintly, but with deliberation. "I wish to deny nothing. I was
escaping, and he tracked me. He came on me as I cut across the park,
and challenged. I did not answer, but ran around a corner of the house
and jumped the parapet, thinking to double along the trench there and
put him off the scent—at least to dodge the bullet, if he fired. But
as I jumped for it, he winged me. A very pretty shot, too. With your
leave, sir, I 'd like to shake hands with him on it. Shake hands,
Corporal!" Raoul stretched out a hand, sideways. "You're a smart
fellow, and no malice between soldiers."
Dorothea heard Polly's gasp: it seemed to her that all the room must
hear it. Her own hand trembled on the bandage. She had forgotten her
danger—the all but inevitable scandal—until Raoul brought it back
to her, and in the same breath saved her by his heroic lie. She could
not profit by it, though. Her lips parted to refute it, and for the
first time she gazed up at him, her eyes brimming with sudden love,
gratitude, pride, even while they entreated against the sacrifice. He
was smiling down with an air of faint amusement; yet beneath the lashes
she read a command which mastered her will, imposed silence. He had
taken on a new manliness, and for the first time in the story of their
loves she felt herself dominated by something stronger than passion. He
had swept her off her feet, before now, by boyish ardour: her humility,
the marvel of being loved, had aided him; but hitherto in her heart she
had always felt her own character to be the stronger. Now he challenged
her on woman's own ground—that of self-abnegation; he commanded her
to his own hurt, he towered above her. She had never dreamed of a love
like this. Beaten, despairing for him, yet proud as she had never been
in her life, she held her breath.
Corporal Zeally was merely bewildered. His was a deliberate mind and
had hatched out the night's catastrophe after incubating it for weeks.
Unconvinced by Polly's explanation of her meeting with M. Raoul at the
Nursery gate, he had nursed a dull jealousy and set himself to watch,
and had dogged his man down at length with the slow cunning of a yokel
bred of a line of poachers. Raoul's tribute to his smartness perplexed
him and almost he scented a trap.
"Beg your pardon, Squire," he began heavily, forgetting military forms
of address, "but the gentleman don't put it right."
"Oh, hang your British modesty!" put in Raoul with a wry laugh. "If it
pleases you to represent that the whole thing was accidental and you
don't deserve to be promoted sergeant for tonight's work, at least you
might respect my vanity."
Polly saw her opportunity. She crossed boldly and made as if to lay
over the Corporal's mouth the hand that would fain have boxed his ears.
"Reckon this is my affair," she announced, with an effrontery at which
one of the footmen guffawed openly. "Be modest as you please, my lad,
when I've married 'ee; but I won't put up with modesty from anyone
under a sergeant, and that I warn 'ee!"
The Corporal eyed his sweetheart without forgiveness. His mouth was
open, but upon the word "sergeant," he shut it again and began to
digest the idea.
"You know, of course, sir," Endymion Westcote addressed the prisoner
coldly, "to what such a confession commits you? I do not see what other
construction the facts admit, but it is so serious in itself and in its
consequences that I warn you—"
"I have broken my parole, sir," said Raoul, simply. "Of the
temptations you cannot judge. Of the shame I am as profoundly sensible
as you can be. The consequences I am ready to suffer."
He sank back in his chair as Dr. Ibbetson entered.
An hour later Dorothea said goodnight to her brother in the great hall.
He had lit his candle and was mixing himself a glass of brandy and
"The sight of blood—" he excused himself. "I am sorry for the fellow,
though I never liked him. I suppose, now, there was nothing between him
and that girl Polly? For a moment—from Zeally's manner—" He gulped
down the drink. "His confession was honest enough, anyhow. Poor fool!
he's safe in hospital for a week, and his friends, if he has any, and
they know what it means, will pray for that week to be prolonged."
"What does it mean?" Dorothea managed to ask.
"It means Dartmoor."
Dorothea's candlestick shook in her hand, and the extinguisher fell on
the floor. Her brother picked it up and restored it.
"Naturally," he murmured with brotherly concern, "your nerves! It has
been a trying night, but you comported yourself admirably, Dorothea.
Ibbetson assures me he could not have tied the bandage better himself.
I felt proud of my sister." He kissed her gallantly and pulled out his
watch. "Past twelve o'clock!—time they were round with the barouche.
The sooner we get Master Raoul down to the Infirmary and pack him in
bed, the better."
As Dorothea went up the stairs she heard the sound of wheels on the
She could not accept his sacrifice. No; a way must be found to save
him, and in her prayers that night she began to seek it. But while
she prayed, her heart was bowed over a great joy. She had a hero for
She saw no more of him, and heard very little, before the Court Martial
met. No one acquainted with the code of that age—so strait-laced in
its proprieties, so full-blooded in its vices—will need to be told
that she never dreamed of asking her brother's permission to visit the
Prisoners' Infirmary. He reported—once a day, perhaps, and casually—
that the patient was doing well. Dorothea ventured once to sound
General Rochambeau, but the old aristocrat answered stiffly that he
took no interest in déclassés, and plainly hinted that, in his
judgment, M. Raoul had sinned past pardon; which but added to her
remorse. From time to time she obtained some hearsay news through
Polly; but Polly's chief interest now lay in her approaching marriage.
For the Commissary, while accepting Raoul's version of his capture, had
an intuitive gift which saved him from wholly believing in it. Indeed,
his conduct of the affair, if we consider the extent of his knowledge,
was nothing less than masterly. Corporal Zeally found himself a
sergeant within forty-eight hours, and within an hour of the
announcement he and Polly were given an audience in the Bayfield
library, with the result that Parson Milliton cried their banns in
Axcester Church on the following Sunday, and the bride-elect received
a month's wages and three weeks' notice of dismissal, with a hint that
the reason for her short retention—to instruct her successor in Miss
Dorothea's ways—was ostensible rather than real. With Raoul's fate he
declined to meddle. "Here," he said in effect, "is my report, including
the prisoner's confession. I do my simple duty in presenting it. But
the young man was captured in my grounds; he was known to be a protégé
of my brother's. Finding him wounded and faint with loss of blood, we
naturally did our best for him, and this again renders me perhaps too
sympathetic. The law is the law, however, and must take its course."
No attitude could have been more proper or have shown better feeling.
So Raoul, who made a rapid recovery—barring the limp which he carried
to the end of his days—was tried, condemned, and sentenced in the
space of two hours. He stuck to his story, and the court had no
alternative. Dartmoor or Stapleton inevitably awaited the prisoner who
broke parole and was retaken. The night after his sentence Raoul was
marched past the Bayfield gates under escort for Dartmoor. And Dorothea
had not intervened.
This, of course, proves that she was of no heroical fibre. She knew it.
Night after night she had lain awake, vainly contriving plans for his
deliverance; and either she lacked inventiveness or was too honest, for
no method could she discover which avoided confession of the simple
truth. As the days passed without catastrophe and without news save
that her lover was bettering in hospital, she staved off the truth,
trusting that the next night would bring inspiration. Almost she
hoped—being quite unwise in such matters—that his sufferings would
be accepted as cancelling his offence. So she played the coward. The
blow fell on the evening when Endymion announced, in casual tones,
that the Court Martial was fixed for the day after next.
That night, indeed, brought something like an inspiration; and on the
morrow she rode into Axcester and called upon Polly, now a bride of
six days' standing and domiciled in one of the Westcote cottages in
Church Street, a little beyond the bridge. For a call of state this
was somewhat premature, but it might pass.
Polly appeared to think it premature. Her furniture was topsy-turvy,
and her hair in curl-papers; she obviously did not expect visitors,
and resented this curtailment of the honeymoon. She showed it even
when Dorothea, after apologies, came straight to the point:
"Polly, I am very unhappy."
"You know that I must be, since M. Raoul is going to that horrible
war-prison rather than let the truth be known."
"But since you didn't encourage him, Miss—"
"Of course I didn't encourage him to come," said Dorothea, quickly.
"Why then it was his own fault, and he broke his word by breaking
"Yes, strictly his parole was broken; but the meaning of parole is,
that a prisoner promises to make no attempt to escape. M. Raoul never
dreamed of escaping, yet that is the ground of his punishment."
"Well," said Polly, "if he chooses to say he was escaping, I don't see
how we—I mean, how you—can help."
"Why, by telling the truth; and that's what we ought to do, though it
was wrong of him to expose us to it."
"To be sure it was," Polly assented.
"But," urged Dorothea, "couldn't we tell the truth of what happened
without anyone's wanting to know more? He gave you a note, which you
took without guessing what it contained. He wished to have speech with
me. Before you could give me the note and I could refuse to see him—
as I should certainly have done—he had arrived. His folly deserves
punishment, but no such punishment as being sent to Dartmoor."
Polly eyed her ex-mistress shrewdly.
"Have you burnt the note?" she asked.
Dorothea, blushing to the roots of her hair, stammered:
"No; I kept it—it was evidence for him, you see. I wish, now—"
She broke off as Polly nodded her head.
"I guessed you'd have kept it. And now you'll never make up your mind
to burn it. You're too honest."
"But, surely the note itself would not be called for?"
"I don't know. Folks ask curious questions in courts of law, I've
always heard. Beggin' your pardon, Miss, but your face tells too many
tales, and anyone but a fool would ask for that note before he'd been
dealing with you three minutes. If he didn't, he'd ask you what was in
it. And then you'd be forced to tell lies—which you couldn't, to
save your soul!"
Dorothea knew this to be true. She reflected a moment. "I should
decline to show it, or to answer."
Mrs. Zeally thought it about time to assert herself. "Very good, Miss.
And now, how about me? They'd ask me questions, too; and I'd have you
consider, Miss Dorothea, that though not shaken down to it yet—not,
as you might say, in a state to expect callers or make them properly
welcome—I'm a respectable married woman. I don't mind confessing to
you, Zeally isn't a comfortable man. He's pleased enough to be
sergeant, though he don't quite know how it came about; and he's that
sullen with brooding over it, that for sixpence he'd give me the strap
to ease his feelings. I ain't complaining. Mr. Endymion chose to take
me on the hop and hurry up the banns, and I'm going to accommodate
myself to the man. He's three-parts of a fool, and you needn't fear
but I'll manage him. But I ain't for taking no risks, and that I tell
Dorothea was stunned. "You don't mean to say that Zeally suspects you?"
"Why, of course he does!" said Polly. Prudence urged her to repeat
that Zeally was three-parts of a fool; but, being nettled, she spoke
the words uppermost: "Who d'ee think he'd suspect?"
Dorothea, however, was too desperately dejected to feel the prick of
this shaft. "You will not help me, then?" was all her reply to it.
"Why, no, Miss! if you put it in that point-blank way. A married
woman's got to think of her reputation first of all."
Polly's attitude might be selfish, unfeeling; but the fundamental
incapacity for gratitude in girls of Polly's class will probably
surprise and pain their mistresses until the end of the world. After
all, Polly was right. An attempt to clear Raoul by telling the
superficial truth must involve terrible risks, and might at any turn
enforce a choice between full confession and falsehood.
Dorothea could not bring herself to lie, even heroically; and there
would be no heroism in lying to save herself. On the other hand, the
thought of a forced confession—it might he before a tribunal—was
too hideous. No, the suggestion had been a mad one, and Polly had
rightly thrown cold water on it. Also, it had demanded too much of
Polly, who could not be expected to jeopardise her matrimonial
prospects to right a wrong for which she was not in truth responsible.
Dorothea loved a hero, but knew she was no heroine. She called herself
a pitiful coward—unjustly, because, nurtured as she had been on the
proprieties, surrounded all her days by men and women of a class most
sensitive to public opinion, who feared the breath of scandal worse
than a plague, confession for her must mean a shame unspeakable. What!
Admit that she, Dorothea Westcote, had loved a French prisoner almost
young enough to be her son! that she had given him audience at night!
that he had been shot and captured beneath her window!
Unjustly, too, she accused herself, because it is the decision, not
the terror felt in deciding, which distinguishes the brave from the
cowardly. If you doubt the event with Dorothea, the fault, must be
mine. She was timid, but she came of a race which will endure anything
rather than the conscious anguish of doing wrong.
Nor, had her conscience needed them, did it lack reminders. Narcissus
had been persuaded to send the drawings to London to be treated by
lithography, a process of which he knew nothing, but to which M. Raoul,
during his studies in Paris, had given much attention, and apparently
not without making some discoveries—unimportant perhaps, and such as
might easily reward an experimenter in an art not well past its
infancy. At any rate, he had drawn up elaborate instructions for the
London firm of printers, and when the proofs arrived with about a third
of these instructions neglected and another third misunderstood,
Narcissus was at his wits' end, aghast at the poorness of the
impressions, yet not knowing in the least how to correct them.
He gave Dorothea no peace with them. Evening after evening she was
invited to pore upon the drawings over which she and her lover had bent
together; to criticise here and offer a suggestion there; while every
line revived a memory, inflicted a pang. What suggestion could she find
save the one which must not be spoken?—to send, fetch the artist back
from Dartmoor, and remedy all this, with so much beside!
"But," urged Narcissus, "you and he spent hours together. I quite
understood that he had explained the process to you, and on the
strength of this I gave it too little attention. Of course, if one
could have foreseen—" He broke off, and added with some testiness:
"I'd give fifty pounds to have the fellow back, if only for ten
"But why couldn't we?" Dorothea asked suddenly, breathlessly.
They were alone by the table under the bookcase. On the far side of
the hall, before the fire, Endymion dozed after a long day with the
partridges. Narcissus's words awoke a wild hope.
"But why couldn't we?" she repeated, her voice scarcely louder than a
"Well, that's an idea!" he chuckled. "Confound the fellow, he imposed
on all of us! If we had only guessed what he intended, we might have
signed a petition telling him how necessary he had made himself, and
imploring him, for our sakes, to behave like a gentleman."
"But supposing—supposing he was innocent—that he had never meant—"
She put out a hand to lay it on her brother's. "Hush!" she could have
cried; but it was too late.
"Endymion!" Narcissus called across the room, jocosely.
"Eh! What is it?" Endymion came out of his doze.
"We're in a mess with these drawings, a complete mess; and we want
Master Raoul fetched out of Dartmoor to set us right. Come now—as
Commissary, what'll you take to work it for us? Fifty pounds has
already been offered."
Dorothea turned from the table with a sigh for her lost chance.
"He'd like it," answered Endymion, grimly. "But, my dear fellow,"—
he slewed himself in his chair for a look around the hall,—"pray
moderate your tones. I particularly deprecate levity on such matters
within possible hearing of the servants; that class of person never
understands a joke."
Narcissus rubbed the top of his head—a trick of his in perplexity.
"But, seriously: it has only this moment occurred to me. Couldn't the
drawings be conveyed to him, in due form, through the Commandant of the
Prison? The poor fellow owes us no grudge. I believe he would be eager
to do us this small service. And, really, they have made such a mess
of the stones—"
"Impossible! Out of the question! And I may say now, and once for all,
that the mention of that unhappy youth is repugnant to me. By good
fortune, we escaped being compromised by him; and I have refrained
from reminding you that your patronage of him was, to say the least,
"God bless me! You don't suggest, I hope, that I encouraged him to
"I suggest nothing. But I am honestly glad to be quit of him, and take
some satisfaction in remembering that I detested the fellow from the
first. He had too much cleverness with his bad style, or, if you prefer
it, was sufficiently like a gentleman to be dangerous. Pah! For his
particular offence, I would have had the old hulks maintained in the
Hamoaze, with all their severities; as it is, the posturer may find
Dartmoor pretty stiff, but will yet have the consolation of herding
with his betters."
Strangely enough this speech did more to fix Dorothea's resolve than
all she had read or heard of the rigours of the war-prison. Gently
reared though she was, physical suffering seemed to her less
intolerable than to be unjustly held in this extreme of scorn..
This was the deeper wrong; and putting herself in her lover's place,
feeling with his feelings, she knew it to be by far the deeper. In
Dartmoor he shared the sufferings of men unfortunate but not
despicable, punished for fighting in their country's cause. But here
was a moral punishment, deserved by none but the vilest; and she had
helped to bring it—was allowing it to rest—upon a hero!
In the long watches of that night it never occurred to her that the
brutality of her brother's contempt was over-done. And Endymion, not
given to self-questioning at any time, was probably unconscious of a
dull wrath revenging itself for many pin-pricks of Master Raoul's
clever tongue. Endymion Westcote, like many pompous men, usually hurt
somebody when he indulged in a joke, and for this cause, perhaps, had
a nervous dislike of wit in others. Dull in taking a jest, but almost
preternaturally clever in suspecting one, he had disliked Raoul's
sallies in proportion as they puzzled him. The remembrance of them
rankled, and this had been his bull-roar of revenge.
He spent the next morning in his office; and returning at three in the
afternoon, retired to the library to draw up the usual monthly report
required of him as Commissary. He had been writing tor an hour or more,
when Dorothea tapped at the door and entered.
Endymion did not observe her pallor; indeed, he scarcely looked up.
"Ah! You have come for a book? Make as little noise, then, as possible,
that's a good soul. You interrupted me in a column of figures."
He began to add them up afresh, tapping the table with the fingers of
his left hand, as his custom was when counting. Dorothea waited. The
addition made, he entered it, resting three shapely finger-tips on the
table's edge for the number to be carried over.
"I wish to speak with you particularly."
He laid down his pen resignedly. Her voice was urgent, and he knew
well enough that the occasion must be urgent when Dorothea interrupted
"It—it's about M. Raoul."
His eyebrows went up, but only to contract again upon a magisterial
"Really, after the request I was obliged to make to Narcissus last
night—you were present, I believe? Is it possible that I failed to
make plain my distaste?"
"Ah, but listen! It is no question of distaste, but of a great wrong.
He was not trying to escape; he told you an untruth, to—to save—"
Endymion had picked up a paper-knife, and leaned back, tapping his
teeth with it.
"Do you know?" he said, "I suspected something of this kind from the
first, though I had no idea you shared the knowledge. Zeally's
cleverness struck me as a trifle too—ah—phenomenal for belief.
I scented some low intrigue; and Polly's dismissal may indicate my
pretty shrewd guess at the culprit."
"But it was not Polly!"
Endymion sat bolt upright.
"You must not blame Polly. It was I whom M. Raoul came to see that
He stared at her, incredulous.
"My dear Dorothea, are you quite insane?"
"He wished to see me—to speak with me; he gave the girl a note for
me. I knew nothing about it until I went upstairs that night, and found
her at the boudoir window. M. Raoul was outside. He had arrived before
she could deliver the message."
"Quite so!" with a nasally derisive laugh. "And you really need me to
point out how prettily those turtles were befooling you?"
"Indeed, no; it was not that."
He struck the table impatiently with the paper-knife.
"My dear woman, do exert some common sense! What in the name of wonder
could the fellow have to discuss with you at that hour? Your pardon if,
finding no apparent limits to your innocence, I assume it to be
illimitable, and point out that he would scarcely break bounds and play
Romeo beneath the window of a middle-aged lady for the purpose of
discussing water-colours with her, or the exploits of Vespasian."
The taunt brought red to Dorothea's cheeks, and stung her into courage.
"He came to see me," she persisted. Her voice dropped a little. "I had
come to feel a regard for M. Raoul; and he—" She could not go on. Her
eyes met her brother's for a moment, then fell before them.
What she expected she could not tell. Certainly she did not expect what
happened, and his sudden laughter smote her like a whip. It broke in a
shout of high, incontrollable mirth, and he leaned back and shook in
his chair until the tears streamed down his cheeks.
"You!" he gasped. "You! Oh, oh, oh!"
She stood beneath the scourge, silent. She felt it curl across and bite
the very flesh, and thought it was killing her, Her bosom heaved.
It ceased. He sat upright again, wiping his eyes.
"But it's incredible!" he protested; "the scoundrel has fooled you all
along. Yes, of course," he pondered; "that explains the success of the
trick, which otherwise was clumsy beyond belief; in fact, its
clumsiness puzzled me. But how was I to guess?" He pulled himself up on
the edge of another guffaw. "Look here, Dorothea, be sensible. It's
clear as daylight the fellow was after Polly, and made you his cats-
paw. Face it, my dear; face it, and conquer your illusions. I
understand it must cost you some suffering, but, after all, you must
find some blame in yourself—in your heart, I mean, not in your
conduct. Doubtless your conduct showed weakness, or he would never have
dared—but, there, I can trust my sister. Face it; the thing's absurd!
You, a woman of thirty-eight (or is it thirty-nine?), and he, if I may
judge from appearances, young enough to be your son! Polly was his
game—the deceitful little slut! You must see it for yourself. And
after all, it's more natural. Immoral, I've no doubt—"
He paused in the middle of his harangue. A parliamentary candidate
(unsuccessful) for Axcester had once dared to poke fun at Endymion
Westcote for having asserted, in a public speech, that indecency was
worse than immorality. For the life of him Endymion could never see
where the joke came in; but the fellow had illustrated it with such a
wealth of humorous instances, and had kept his ignorant audience for
twenty minutes in such fits of laughter, that he never afterwards
approached the antithesis but he skirted it with a red face.
The scourge might cut into her heart; it could not reach the image of
Raoul she shielded there. She knew her lover too well, and that he was
incapable of this baseness. But the injurious charge, diverted from
him, fell upon her own defences, and, breaking them, let in the cruel
light at length on her passion, her folly. This was how the world
would see it. . . . Yes! Raoul was right—there is no enemy
comparable with Time. Looks, fortune, birth, breed, unequal hearts and
minds—all these Love may confound and play with; but Time which
divides the dead from the living, sets easily between youth and age a
gulf which not only forbids love but derides:
Age, I do abhor thee;
Youth, I do adore thee;
O, my Love, my Love is young!
She could give counsel, sympathy, care; could delight in his delights,
hope in his hopes, melt with his woes, and, having wept a little, find
comfort for them. She could thrill at his footsteps, blush at his
salutation, sit happily beside him and talk or be silent, reading his
moods. He might fill her waking day, haunt her dreams, in the end pass
into prison for her sake, having crowned love with martyrdom. And the
world would laugh as Endymion had laughed! Her hands went up to shut
out the roar of it. A coarse amour with Polly—that could be
understood. Polly was young. Polly . . .
"What will you do?" she heard herself asking, and could scarcely
believe the voice belonged to her.
"Do? Why, if my theory be right—and I hope I've convinced you—I see
no use in meddling. The girl is respectably married. It will cause her
quite unnecessary trouble if we rip this affair open again. Her husband
will have just ground for complaint, and it might—I need not point
out—be a little awkward, eh?"
For the first time in her life Dorothea regarded her brother with
something like contempt. But the flash gave way to a look of weary
"Then I must tell the truth—to others," she said.
It confounded him for a moment. But although here was a new Dorothea,
belying all experience, his instinct for handling men and women told
him at once what had happened. He had driven her too far. He was even
clever enough to foresee that winning her back to obedience would be
a ticklish, almost desperate, business; and even sensitive enough to
redden at his blunder.
"You do not agree with my view?" he asked, tapping the table slowly.
"I disbelieve it. I have no right to believe it, even if I had the
power. He is in prison. You must help me to set him free. If not—"
"He cannot, possibly return to Axcester."
"Oh, what is that to me?" she cried with sudden impatience. Then her
tone fell back to its dull level. "I have not been pleading for myself."
"No, no: I understand." His brow cleared, as a man's who faces a bad
business and resolves to go through with it. "Well, there is only one
way to spare you and everyone. We must get him a cartel."
"Yes—get him exchanged, and sent home to his friends. The War Office
owes me something, and will no doubt oblige me in a small affair like
this without asking questions. Oh, certainly it can be managed. I will
write at once."
Dorothea had the profoundest faith in her brother's ability. That he
hit at once on this simple solution which had eluded her through many
wakeful nights did not surprise her in the least. Nor did she doubt
for a moment that he would manage it as he promised.
But she could not thank him. He had beaten her spirit sorely—so
sorely, that for days her whole body ached with the bruise. She did not
accuse him: her one flash of contempt had lasted for an instant only,
and the old habit of reverence quickly effaced it. But he had exposed
her weakness; had forced her to see it, naked and pitiful, with no
chivalry—either manly or brotherly—covering it; and seeing it with
nothing to depend upon, she learned for the first time in her life the
high, stern lesson of independence.
She learned it unconsciously, but she never forgot it. And it is to
Endymion's credit that he recognised the great alteration and allowed
for it. He had driven her too far. She would never again be the same
Dorothea. And never again by word or look did he remind her of that
hour of abasement.
An exchange of prisoners was not to be managed in a day, and would take
weeks, perhaps six weeks or a couple of months. He discussed this with
her, quietly, as a matter of business entrusted to him, explained what
steps he had taken, what letters he had written; when he expected
definite news from the War Office. She met him on the same ground.
"Yes, he could not have done better." She trusted him absolutely.
And in fact he had been better than his word. Ultimate success, to be
sure, was certain. It were strange if Mr. Westcote, who had opened his
purse to support a troop of Yeomanry, who held two parliamentary seats
at the Government's service and two members at call to bully the War
Office whenever he desired, who might at any time have had a baronetcy
for the asking—it were strange indeed if Mr. Westcote could not
obtain so trivial a favour as the exchange of a prisoner. He could do
this, but he could not appreciably hurry the correspondence by which
Pall Mall bargained a Frenchman in the forest of Dartmoor against an
Englishman in the fortress of Briançon in the Hautes Alpes. Foreseeing
delays, he had written privately to the Commandant at Dartmoor—a
Major Sotheby, with whom he had some slight acquaintance—advising him
of his efforts and requesting him to show the prisoner meanwhile all
possible indulgence. The letter contained a draft, for ten pounds, to
be spent upon small comforts at the Commandant's discretion; but
M. Raoul was not to be informed of the donor, or of his approaching
In theory—such was the routine—Raoul remained one of the Axcester
contingent of prisoners, and all reports concerning him must pass
through the Commissary's hands. In the last week of October, when
brother and sister daily expected the cartel, arrived a report that
the prisoner was in hospital with a sharp attack of pleurisy. Major
Sotheby added a private note:-
"I feared yesterday that the exchange would come too late for him;
but to-day the Medical Officer, who has just left me, speaks hopefully.
I have no doubt, however, that a winter in this climate would be fatal.
The fellow's lungs are breaking down, and even if they could stand the
fogs, the cold must finish him."
Dorothea stood by a window in the library when Endymion read this out
to her; the very window through which she had been gazing that spring
morning when Raoul first kissed her. To-day the first of the winter's
snow fell gently, persistently, out of a leaden and windless sky.
She turned. "I must go to him," she said.
"But to what purpose—"
"Oh, you may trust me!"
"My dear girl, that was not in my mind." He spoke gently. "But until
the warrant arrives—"
"We will give it until to-morrow; by every account it should reach us
to-morrow. You shall take it with me. I must see him once more; only
once—in your presence, if you wish."
Next morning they rode into the town together, an hour before the
mail's arrival. Endymion alighted at the Town House to write a business
letter or two before strolling down to the post office. Dorothea
cantered on to the top of the hill, and then walked Mercury to and fro,
while she watched the taller rise beyond. The snow had ceased falling;
but a crisp north wind skimmed the drifts and powdered her dark habit.
Twice she pulled out her watch; but the coach was up to time in spite
of the heavy roads; and as it topped the rise she reined Mercury to the
right-about and cantered back to await it. Already the street had begun
to fill as usual; and, as usual, there was General Rochambeau picking
his way along the pavement to present himself for the Admiral's
letter—the letter which never arrived.
Would her letter never arrive?
He halted on the kerb by her stirrup. She asked after the Admiral's
"Ah, Mademoiselle, if ever he leaves his bed again, it will be a
She was not listening. Age, age again!—it makes all the difference.
Here came the coach—did it hold a letter for Raoul? Raoul was young.
The coach rolled by with less noise than usual, on the carpet of snow
churned brown with traffic. As it passed, the guard lifted his horn and
blew cheerily. She followed, telling herself it was a good omen. During
the long wait outside the post office she rebuked herself more than
once for building a hope upon it. Name after name was called, and at
each call a prisoner pushed forward to the doorway for his letter. She
caught sight of the General on the outskirts of the crowd. Her brother
would not come out until every letter had been distributed.
But when he appeared in the doorway she read the good news in his face.
He made his way briskly towards her, the prisoners falling back to
"Right; it has come," he said. "Trot away home and have the valises
packed, while I run into 'The Dogs' and order the chaise."
Once clear of the town, she galloped. There was little need to hurry,
for her own valise had been packed overnight.
Having sent Mudge to attend to her brother's, she ran to Narcissus'
room—his scriptorium, as he called it.
Narcissus was at home to-day, busy with the cellar accounts. He took
stock twice a year and composed a report in language worthy of a
survey of the Roman Empire. Before he could look up, Dorothea had
kissed him on the crown of his venerable head.
"Such news, dear! Endymion has ordered a chaise from 'The Dogs,' and
is going to take me to Dartmoor!"
"Dartmoor—God bless my soul!" He rubbed his head, and added with a
twinkle: "Why, what have you been doing?"
"Endymion has a cartel of exchange for M. Raoul, and we are to carry
"Ah, so that is what you two have been conspiring over? I smelt a rat
somewhere. But, really, this is delightful of you—delightful of you
both. Only, why on earth should you be carrying the release yourselves,
in this weather."
"He is very ill," said Dorothea, seriously.
"Indeed? Poor fellow, poor fellow. Still, that scarcely explains—"
"And you will be good, and take your meals regularly when Mudge beats
the gong? And you won't sit up late and set fire to the house? But I
must run off and tell everyone to take care of you."
She kissed him again, and was half-way down the corridor before he
called after her:
"Dorothea, Dorothea! the drawings!"
"Ah, to be sure; I forgot," she murmured, as he thrust the parcel into
"Forgot? Forgot the drawings? But, God bless my soul!—"
He passed his hand over his grey hairs and stared down the corridor
The roads were heavy to start, with, and beyond Chard they grew
heavier. At Honiton, which our travellers reached at midnight, it was
snowing; and Dorothea, when the sleepy chamber-maid aroused her at
dawn, looked out upon a forbidding world of white. The postboys were
growling, and she half feared that Endymion would abandon the journey
for the day. But if he lacked her zeal, he had the true Englishman's
hatred of turning back. She, who had known him always for a master of
men, learned a new awe of her splendid brother. He took command; he
cross-examined landlord and postboys, pooh-poohed their objections,
extracted from them in half-a-dozen curt questions more information
than, five minutes before, they were conscious of possessing, to judge
from the scratching of heads which produced it; finally, he handed
Dorothea into the chaise, sprang in himself, and closed discussion
with a slam of the door. They were driven off amid the salaams of
ostler, boots, waiter, and two chambermaids, among whom he had
scattered largess with the lordliest hand.
So the chaise ploughed through Exeter to Moreton Hampstead, where they
supped and rested for another night. But before dawn they were off
again. Snow lay in thick drifts on the skirts of the great moor, and
snow whirled about them as they climbed, until day broke upon a howling
desert, across which Dorothea peered but could discern no features.
Not leagues but years divided Bayfield from this tableland, high over
all the world, uninhabited, without tree or gate or hedge. Her eyes
were heavy with lack of sleep, smarting with the bite of the north
wind, which neither ceased nor eased until, towards ten o'clock, the
carriage began to lumber downhill towards Two Bridges, under the lee of
Crockern Tor. Beyond came a heavy piece of collar work, the horses
dropping to a walk as they heaved through the drifts towards a
depression between two tors closing the view ahead. Dorothea's eyes,
avoiding the wind, were fixed on the tor to the left, when Endymion
touched her hand and pointed towards the base of the other. There,
grey—almost black—against the white hillside, a mass of masonry
loomed up through the weather; the great circle of the War Prison.
The road did not lead them to it direct. They must halt first at the
bare village of Prince Town, and drink coffee and warm themselves at
the "Plume of Feathers Inn," before facing the last few hundred yards
beneath the lee of North Hessary. But a little before noon, Dorothea—
still with a sense of being lifted on a platform miles above the world
she knew—alighted before a tremendous archway of piled granite set
in a featureless wall, and closed with a sheeted gate of iron. A grey-
coated sentry, pacing here in front of his snow-capped box, challenged
and demanded their business.
"Visitors for the Commandant!" The sentry tugged at an iron bellpull,
and a bell tolled twice within. Dorothea's feet were half-frozen in
spite of her wraps—she stamped them in the snow while she studied the
gateway and the enormous blocks which arched it, unhewn save for two
words carved in Roman capitals—"PARCERE SUBJECTIS."
A key turned in the wicket. "Visitors for the Commandant!" They
stepped through, and after pausing a moment while the porter shot the
lock again behind them, followed him across the yard to the
The outer wall of the great War Prison enclosed a circle of thirty
acres; within it a second wall surrounded an acre in which stood the
five rectangular blocks of the prison proper, with two slightly smaller
buildings—the one a hospital, the other set apart for the petty
officers; and between the inner and outer walls ran a via militaris,
close on a mile in circumference, constantly paraded by the guard, and
having raised platforms from which the sentinels could overlook the
inner wall and the area. The area was not completely circular, since,
where it faced the great gate, a segment had been cut out of it for the
Commandant's quarters and outbuildings and the entrance yard, across
which, our travellers now followed their guide.
The Commandant hurried out from his office to welcome them—a bustling
little officer with sandy hair and the kindliest possible face; a
trifle self-important, obviously proud of his prison, and, after a
fashion, of his prisoners too; anxiously, elaborately polite in his
manner, especially towards Dorothea.
"Major Westcote!"—he gave Endymion his full title—"My dear sir,
this is indeed—And Miss Westcote?" he bowed as he was introduced,
"Delighted—honoured! But what a journey! You must be famished,
positively; you will be wanting luncheon at once—yes, really you must
allow me. No? A glass of sherry, then, and a biscuit at least . . ."
He ran to the door, called to his orderly to bring some glasses, and
came back rubbing his hands. "It's an ill wind, as they say . . ."
"We have come with the order about which we have corresponded."
"For that poor fellow Raoul?" The Commandant nodded gaily and smiled;
and Dorothea, who had been watching his face, felt the load dissolve
and roll off her heart, as a pile of snow slides from a bough in the
sunshine. "He is better, I am glad to report—out of bed and fairly
convalescent indeed. But I hope my message did not alarm you
needlessly. It was touch-and-go with him for twenty-four hours; still,
he was bettering when I wrote. And to bring you all this way, and in
"My sister and I," explained Endymion, "take a particular interest in
But the voluble officer was not so easily silenced.
"So, to be sure, I gathered." He bowed gallantly to Dorothea. "'O
woman! in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please'—not,
of course, that I attribute any such foibles to Miss Westcote, but for
the sake of the conclusion."
"Can we see him?"
"Eh? Before luncheon? Oh, most assuredly, if you wish it. He has been
transferred to the Convalescents' Ward. We will step across at once."
He drew from his pocket a small master-key, attached by a steel chain
to his belt, and blew into the wards thoughtfully while he studied the
paper handed to him by Endymion. "Quite in order, of course. No doubt,
you and Miss Westcote would prefer to break the good news to him in
private? Yes, yes; I will have him sent up to the Consulting Room. The
Doctor has finished his morning rounds, and you will be quite alone
He picked up his cap and escorted them out and across the court to the
gate of the main prison. Beyond this Dorothea found herself in a vast
snowy yard, along two sides of which ran covered ways or piazzas open
to the air, but faced with iron bars, and behind these bars flitted the
forms of the prisoners at exercise, stamping the flagged pavement to
keep their starved blood in circulation. At a sight of the Commandant
with his two visitors—so small a spectacle had power to divert them—
all this movement, this stamping, was hushed suddenly. Voices broke
into chatter; faces appeared between the bars and stared.
"Yes," said the Commandant, reading Dorothea's thought, "a large family
to be responsible for! How many would you guess, now?"
"A thousand, at least," she murmured.
"Six thousand! Each of those blocks yonder will accommodate fifteen
hundred men. And then there is the hospital—usually pretty full at
this season, I regret to say. Come, I won't detain you; but really in
passing you must have a look at one of our dormitories."
He threw open a door, and she gazed in upon a long-drawn avenue of iron
pillars slung with double tiers of hammocks. The place seemed clean
enough: at the far end of the vista a fatigue gang of prisoners was
busy with pails and brushes; but either it had not been thoroughly
ventilated, or the dense numbers packed in it for so many hours a day
had given the building an atmosphere of its own, warm and unpleasant,
if not precisely foetid, after the pure, stinging air of the moorland.
"We can sleep seven hundred here," said the Commandant; "and another
dormitory of the same size runs overhead. The top story they use as a
promenade and for indoor recreation." He pointed to a number of grilles
set in the wall at the back, at equal distances. "For air," he
explained, "and also for keeping watch on messieurs. Yes, we find
that necessary. Behind each is a small chamber, hollowed most
scientifically, quite a little temple of acoustics. If Miss Westcote,
now, would care to step into one and listen, while I stand below with
the Major and converse in ordinary tones—"
"No, no," Dorothea declined, hurriedly, and with a shiver.
It hurt her to think of Raoul herded among seven hundred miserables in
this endless barrack, his every movement overlooked, his smallest
speech overheard, by an eaves-dropping sentry.
"I think, Endymion chimed in, my sister feels her long journey, and
would be glad to get our business over."
"Ah, to be sure—a thousand pardons!"
The Commandant shut the door and piloted them across to the hospital
block. Here on the threshold the same warm, acrid atmosphere assailed
Dorothea's nostrils, and almost choked her breathing. Their guide led
the way up a flight of stone steps to the first floor, and down a
whitewashed corridor, lit along one side with narrow barred casements.
A little more than half-way down the corridor the blank wall facing
these casements was pierced by a low arched passage. Into this burrow
the Commandant dived; and, standing outside, they heard a key turned
in a lock. He reappeared and beckoned to them.
"From the gallery here," he whispered, "you look right down into the
Through the iron bars of the gallery Dorothea caught a glimpse of a
long bare room, with twenty or thirty dejected figures in suits and
caps of greyish-blue flannel, huddled about a stove. Some were playing
at cards, others at dominoes. The murmur of their voices ascended and
hummed in the little passage.
"Hist! Your friend is below there, if you care to have a peep at him."
But Dorothea had already drawn back. All this spying and listening
revolted her. The polite Commandant noted the movement.
"You prefer that he should be fetched at once?" He stepped past them
into the corridor. "Smithers!" he called. "Smithers!"
A hospital orderly appeared at a door almost opposite the passage,
"Run down to the Convalescent Ward and fetch up Number Two-six-seven-
two.—I know the number of each of my children. I never make a
mistake," he confided in Dorothea's ear. "As quick as you can, please!
Stay; you may add that some visitors have called and wish to speak
The orderly saluted again, and hurried off.
"You wish, of course, to see him alone together?"
"I think," answered Endymion, slowly, "my sister would prefer a word
or two with him alone."
"Certainly. Will you step into the surgery, Miss Westcote?" He
indicated the door at which the orderly had appeared. "Smithers will
not take two minutes in fetching the prisoner; and perhaps, if you
will excuse us, a visit to the hospital itself will repay your brother.
We are rather proud of our sanitation here: a glance over our
arrangements—five minutes only—"
Endymion, at a nod from Dorothea, permitted himself to be led away by
the inexorable man.
She watched them to the end of the corridor, and had her hand on the
surgery door to push it open, when a voice from below smote her ears.
"Number Two-six-seven-two to come to the surgery at once, to see
The voice rang up through the little passage behind her. She turned;
the door at the end of it stood half-open; beyond it she saw the bars
of the gallery, and through these a space of whitewashed wall at the
end of the ward.
She was turning again, when a babble of voices answered the orderly's
announcement. "Raoul! Raoul!" half-a-dozen were calling, and then one
spoke up sharp and distinct:
"Tenez, mon bonhomme, ce sera votre gilet, à coup sur!"
A burst of laughter followed.
"C'est son gilet—his little Waistcoat—à chauffer la poitrine—"
"Des visiteurs, dit il? Voyons, coquin, n'y-a-t-il pas par hasard une
visiteuse de la partie."
"Une 'Waistcoat' par example?—de quarante ans environ, le drap un
peu râpé . . ."
"Qui se nomme Dorothée—ce que veut dire le gilet dieudonné . . ."
"Easy now!" the Orderly's voice remonstrated. "Easy, I tell you, ye
born mill-clappers! There's a lady in the party, if that's what you're
Dorothea put out a hand against the jamb of the surgery door, to
steady herself She heard the smack of a palm below and some one uttered
a serio-comic groan.
"Enfoncé! Il m'a parié dix sous qu'elle viendrait avant le jour de Pan,
et aussi du tabac avec tout le Numero Six. Nous en ferons la dot de
Mademoiselle!" The fellow burst out singing—
"J'ai du bon tabac
Dans ma tabatière."
"Dites donc, mon petit,"—but the cheerful epithet he bestowed on
Raoul is unquotable here—"Elle ne fume pas, votre Anglaise? Elle
n'est pas Créole, c'est entendu."
Dorothea had stepped into the surgery. A small round table stood in the
middle of the room; she caught at the edge of it and rested so for a
moment, for the walls seemed to be swaying and she durst not lift her
hands to shut out the roars of laughter. They rang in her ears and
shouted and stunned her. Her whole body writhed.
The hubbub below sank to a confused murmur. She heard footsteps in the
corridor—the firm tramp of the orderly followed by the shuffle of
"Number Two-six-seven-two is outside, ma'am. Am I to show him in?"
She bent her head and moved towards the fireplace. She heard him
shuffle in, and the door shut behind him. Still she did not turn.
"Dorothea!"—his voice shook with joy, with passion. How well she
knew that deep Provençal tremolo. She could have laughed aloud in her
She faced him at length. He stood there, stretching out both hands to
her. He was handsome as ever, but pale and sadly pinched. Beyond all
doubt he had suffered. His grey-blue hospital suit hung about him in
In her eyes he read at once that something was wrong—but without
comprehending. "You sent for me," he stammered; "you have come—"
She found her voice and, to her surprise, it was quite firm.
"Yes, we have brought your release," she said; and, watching his eyes,
saw the joy leap up in them, saw it quenched the next instant as he
composed his features to a fond solicitude for her.
"But you?" he murmured. "What has happened? Tell me—no, do not draw
away! Your hand, at least."
Contempt, for herself or for him, gave her a moment's strength, but it
broke down again.
"It is horrible!" was all she answered and looked about her with a
"Ah, the place frightens you! Well," he laughed, reassuringly, "it
frightened me at first. But for the thought of you, dearest, to
She stepped past him and opened the door. For a moment a wild notion
seized him that she was escaping, and he put out an imploring hand;
but he saw that, with her hand on the jamb, she was listening, and he,
too, listened. The voices in the Convalescent Ward came up to them,
scarcely muffled, through the low passage, and with them a cackling
laugh. Then he understood.
Their eyes met. He bowed his head.
"Nevertheless, I have suffered."
He said it humbly, after many seconds, and in a voice so low that it
seemed a second or two before she heard. For the first time she put
out a hand and touched his sleeve.
"Yes, you have suffered, and for me. Let me go on believing that. You
did a noble thing, and I shall try to remember you by it—to remember
that you were capable of it. 'It was for my sake,' I shall say, and
then I shall be proud. Oh, yes, sometimes I shall be very proud! But
Her voice faltered, and he looked up sharply.
"In love"—she smiled, but passing faintly—"it's the little things,
is it not? It's the little things that count."
She touched his sleeve again, and passed into the room, leaving him
there at a standstill, as Endymion and the Commandant came round the
corner at the far end of the corridor.
"Excuse me," said Endymion, and, stepping past Raoul without a glance,
looked into the surgery. After a moment he shut the door quietly, and,
standing with his back to it, addressed the prisoner: "I perceive, sir,
that my sister has told you the news. We have effected an exchange for
you, and the Commandant tells me that to-morrow, if the roads permit,
you will be sent down to Plymouth and released. It is unnecessary for
you to thank me; it would, indeed, be offensive. I wish you a safe
passage home, and pray heaven to spare me the annoyance of seeing your
As Raoul bowed and moved away, dragging his feet weakly in their list
slippers, Mr. Westcote turned to the Commandant, who during this
address had kept a discreet distance.
"With your leave, we will continue our stroll, and return for my
sister in a few minutes."
The Commandant jumped at the suggestion.
Dorothea heard their footsteps retreating, and knew that her brother's
thoughtfulness had found her this short respite. She had dropped into
the orderly's chair, and now bowed her head upon the prison doctor's
ledger, which lay open on the table before it.
"Oh, my love! How could you do it? How could you? How could you?"
THE NEW DOROTHEA
Two hours later they set out on their homeward journey.
The Commandant, still voluble, escorted them to the gate. As Dorothea
climbed into the chaise and Endymion shook up the rugs and cushions, a
large brown-paper parcel rolled out upon the snow. She gave a little
cry of dismay:
"We forgot to deliver them."
"Oh, confound the things!"
Endymion was for pitching them back into the chaise.
"But no!" she entreated. "Why, Narcissus believes it was to deliver
them that we came!"
So the Commandant amiably charged himself to hand the parcel to
M. Raoul, and waved his adieux with it as the chaise rolled away.
Of what had passed between Dorothea and Raoul at the surgery door
Endymion knew nothing; but he had guessed at once, and now was assured
by the tone in which she had spoken of the drawings, that the chapter
was closed, the danger past. Coming, brother and sister had scarcely
exchanged a word for miles together. Now they found themselves chatting
without effort about the landscape, the horses' pace, the Commandant
and his hospitality, the arrangements of the prison, and the prospects
of a cosy dinner at Moreton Hampstead. It was all the smallest of small
talk, and just what might be expected of two reputable middle-aged
persons returning in a post-chaise from a mild jaunt; yet beneath it
ran a current of feeling. In their different ways, each had been moved;
each had relied upon the other for a degree of help which could not be
asked in words, and had not been disappointed.
Now that Dorothea's infatuation had escaped all risk of public
laughter, Endymion could find leisure to admire her courage in
confessing, in persisting until the wrong was righted, and, now at the
last, in shutting the door upon the whole episode.
And, now at the last, having shut the door upon it, Dorothea could
reflect that her brother, too, had suffered. She knew his pride, his
sensitiveness, his mortal dread of ridicule. In the smart of his wound
he had turned and rent her cruelly, but had recovered himself and
defended her loyally from worse rendings. She remembered, too, that he
had distrusted Raoul from the first.
He had been right. But had she been wholly wrong?
In the dusk of the fifth evening after their departure the chaise
rolled briskly in through Bayfield great gates and up the snowy drive.
Almost noiselessly though it came, Mudge had the door thrown wide and
stood ready to welcome them, with Narcissus behind in the comfortable
glow of the hall.
Dorothea's limbs were stiff, and on alighting she steadied herself for
a moment by the chaise-door before stepping in to kiss her brother. In
that moment her eyes took one backward glance across the park and
rested on the lights of Axcester glimmering between the naked elms.
"Well," demanded Narcissus, after exchange of greetings, "and what did
he say about the drawings?"
Dorothea had not expected the question in this form, and parried it
with a laugh:
"You and your drawings! I declare"—she turned to Endymion—"he has
been thinking of them all the time, and affects no concern in our
"Which, nevertheless, have been romantic to the last degree," he added,
playing up to her.
"My dear Dorothea—" Narcissus expostulated.
"But you are not going to evade me by any such tricks," she
interrupted, sternly; "for that is what it comes to. I left you with
the strictest orders to take care of yourself, and you ought to know
that I shall answer nothing until you have been catechised. What have
you been eating?"
"My dear Dorothea!"
Narcissus gazed helplessly at Mudge; but Mudge had been seized with a
flurry of his own, and misinterpreted the look as well as the stern
"I—I reckon 'tis me, Miss," he confessed. "Being partial to onions,
and taking that liberty in Mr. Endymion's absence, knowing his dislike
of the effluvium—"
Such are the pitfalls of a guilty conscience on the one hand, and, on
the other, of being unexpectedly clever.
An hour later, at dinner, Narcissus was informed that the drawings had
been conveyed to M. Raoul, who, doubtless, would return them with
hints for correction.
"But had he nothing to say at the time?"
"For my part," said Endymion, sipping his wine, "I addressed but one
sentence to him; and Dorothea, I daresay, exchanged but half a dozen.
Considering the shortness of the interview, and that our mission—at
least, our ostensible mission"—Endymion glanced at Dorothea, with a
smile at his own finesse—"was to carry him news of his release,
you will admit—"
"Oh—ah!—to be sure; I had forgotten the release," muttered
Narcissus, and was resigned.
"By the way," Dorothea asked, after a short pause, "what is happening
at 'The Dogs' tonight? All the windows are lit up in the Orange Room.
I saw it as I stepped out of the chaise."
"Yes; I have to tell you"—Narcissus turned towards his brother—
"that during your absence another of the prisoners has found his
discharge—the old Admiral."
"He died this morning: but you knew, of course, it was only a question
of days. Rochambeau was with him at the last. He has shown great
"You have made all arrangements, of course?" For Narcissus was Acting
Commissary in his brother's absence.
"I rode in at once on hearing the news, which Zeally brought before
daylight; and found the Lodge"—this was a Masonic Lodge formed among
the prisoners, and named by them La Paix Desiree—"anxious to pay
him something more than the full rites. With my leave they have hired
the Orange Room, and turned it into a chapelle ardente; and there, I
believe, he is reposing now, poor old fellow."
"He has no kith nor kin, I understand."
"None. He was never married, and his relatives went in the Terror—
the most of them (so Rochambeau tells me) in a single week."
Dorothea had heard the same story from the General and from Raoul. To
this old warrior his Emperor had been friends, kindred, wife, and
children—nay, almost God. He had enjoyed Napoleon's favour, and
followed his star from the days of the Directory: in that favour and
the future of France beneath that star his hopes had begun and ended.
His private ambitions he had resigned without a word on the day when
he put to sea out of Brest, under order from Paris, to perform a feat
he knew to be impossible, with ships ill-found, under-manned, and half-
victualled by cheating contractors: and he sailed cheerfully, believing
himself sacrificed to some high purpose of his master's. When, the
sacrifice made, he learned that the contractors slandered him to cover
their own villainy, and that Napoleon either believed them or was
indifferent, his heart broke. Too proud at first, he had ended by
drawing up a statement and forwarding it from his captivity, with a
demand for an enquiry. The answer to this was—the letter which never
Dorothea thought of the room where she had danced and been happy: the
many lights, the pagan figures merrymaking on the panels, the goddess
on the ceiling with her cupids and scattered roses, and, in the centre
of it all, that dead face, incongruous and calm.
How small had been her tribulation beside his! And it was all over for
him now—wages taken, account sealed up for judgment, parole ended,
and no heir to trouble over him or his good name.
Next morning she rode into Axcester, as well to do some light shopping
as because it seemed an age since her last visit, which, to be sure,
was absurd, and she knew it. Happening to meet General Rochambeau, she
drew rein and very gently offered her condolence on the loss of his
The General pressed her hand gratefully.
"Ah, never pity him, Mademoiselle. He carries a good pass for the
"And that is—?"
"The Emperor's tabatière: and, my faith! Miss Dorothea, there will be
sneezings in certain quarters when he opens it there.
"Il a du bon tabac
Dans sa tabatière
"has the Admiral. He had for you (if I may say it) a quite extraordinary
respect and affection. The saints rest his brave soul!"
The General lifted his tricorne. He never understood the tide of red
which surged over Dorothea's face; but she conquered it, and went on
to surprise him further:
"I heard of this only last night. We have been visiting Dartmoor, my
brother and I, with a release for—for that M. Raoul."
"So I understood." He noted that her confusion had gone as suddenly as
"But since I am back in time, and it appears I was so fortunate as to
win his regard, I would ask to see him—if it be permitted, and I may
have your escort."
"Certainly, Mademoiselle. You will, perhaps, wish to consult your
"I see no necessity," she answered.
* * * * * * * * *
The General was not the only one to discover a new and firmer note in
Dorothea's voice. Life at Bayfield slipped back into its old
comfortable groove, but the brothers fell—and one of them
consciously—into a habit of including her in their conversations and
even of asking her advice. One day there arrived a bulky parcel for
Narcissus; so bulky indeed and so suspiciously heavy, that it bore
signs of several agitated official inspections, and nothing short of
official deference to Endymion (under cover of whom it was addressed)
could account for its having come through at all. For it came from
France. It contained a set of the Bayfield drawings exquisitely cut in
stone; and within the cover was wrapped a lighter parcel addressed to
Miss Dorothea Westcote—a rose-tree, with a packet of seeds tied
about its root.
No letter accompanied the gift, at the sentimentality of which she
found herself able to smile. But she soaked the root carefully in warm
water, and smiled again at herself, as she planted it at the foot of
the glacis beneath her boudoir window—the very spot where Raoul had
fallen. Against expectation—for the journey had sorely withered it—
the plant throve. She lived to see it grown into a fine Provence rose,
draping the whole south-east corner of Bayfield with its yellow bloom.
"After all," she said one afternoon, stepping back in the act of
pruning it, "provided one sees things in their right light and is
not a fool—"
But this was long after the time of which we are telling.
Folks no longer smile at sentiment. They laugh it down: by which,
perhaps, no great harm would be done if their laughter came through the
mind; but it comes through the passions, and at the best chastises one
excess by another—a weakness by a rage, which is weakness at its
worst. I fear Dorothea may be injured in the opinion of many by the
truth—which, nevertheless, has to be told—that her recovery was
helped not a little by sentiment. What? Is a poor lady's heart to be
in combustion for a while and then—pf!—the flame expelled at a
blast, with all that fed it? That is the heroic cure, no doubt: but
either it kills or leaves a room swept and garnished, inviting devils.
In short it is the way of tragedy, and for tragedy Dorothea had no
aptitude at all. She did what she could—tidied up.
For an instance.—She owned a small book which had once belonged to a
namesake of hers—a Dorothea Westcote who had lived at the close of
the seventeenth and opening of the eighteenth centuries, a grand-
daughter of the first Westcote of Bayfield, married (so said the family
history) in 1704 to a squire from across the Devonshire border. The
book was a slender one, bound in calf, gilt-edged, and stamped with a
gold wreath in the centre of each cover. Dorothea called it an album;
but the original owner had simply written in, "Dorothea Westcote, her
book," on the first page, with the date 1687 below, and filled four-and-
twenty of its blank pages with poetry (presumably her favourite pieces),
copied in a highly ornate hand. Presumably also she had wearied of the
work, let the book lie, and coming to it later, turned it upside down
and started with a more useful purpose: for three pages at the end
contained several household recipes in the same writing grown severer,
including "Garland Wine (Mrs. Massiter's Way)" and "A good Cottage Pie
for a Pore Person."
Now the family history left no doubt that in 1687 this Dorothy had been
a bare fifteen years old; and although some of the entries must have
been made later (for at least two of them had not been composed at the
time), the bulk of the poems proved her a sprightly young lady whenever
she transcribed them. Indeed, some were so very free in calling a spade
a spade, that our Dorothea, having annexed the book, years ago, on the
strength of her name, and dipped within, had closed it in sudden virgin
terror and thrust it away at the back of her wardrobe.
There it had lain until disinterred in the hurried search for linen for
Mr. Raoul's wound. Next morning Dorothea was on the point of hiding it
again, when, as she opened the covers idly, her eyes fell on these lines
"But at my back I alwaies hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before me lie
Desarts of vast Eternitie . . ."
She read on. The poem, after all, turned out to be but a lover's appeal
to his mistress to give over coyness and use time while she might; but
Dorothea wondered why its solemn language should have hit her
namesake's fancy, and, turning a few more pages, discovered that this
merry dead girl had chosen and copied out other verses which were more
than solemn. How had she dug these gloomy gems out of Donne, Ford,
Webster, and set them here among loose songs and loose epigrams from
Wit's Remembrancer and the like? for gems they were, though Dorothea
did not know it nor whence they came. Dorothea had small sense of
poetry: it was the personal interest which led her on. To be sure the
little animal (she had already begun to construct a picture of her)
might have secreted these things for no more reason than their beauty,
as a squirrel will pick up a ruby ring and hide it among his nuts.
But why were they, all so darkly terrible? Had she, being young, been
afraid to die? Rather it seemed as if now and then, in the midst of
her mirth, she had paused and been afraid to live.
And in the end she had married a Devonshire squire, which on the face
of it is no darkly romantic thing to do. But it was over the maiden
that our Dorothea pondered, until by and by the small shade took
features and a place in her leisure time: a very companionable shade,
though tantalising; and innocent, though given to mischievously
sportive hints. Dorothea sometimes wondered what her own fate would
have been, with this naughtiness in her young blood—and this
It was sentiment, of course; but it is also a fact that this ghost of
a kinswoman brought help to her. For such a hurt as hers the specific
is to get away from self and look into such human thought as is kindly
yet judicial. Some find this help in philosophy, many more in wise
Dorothea had no philosophy, and no human being to consult; for
admirably as Endymion had behaved, he remained a person with obvious
limits. The General held aloof: she had no reason to fear that he
suspected her secret. And so Natura inventrix, casting about for a
cure, found and brought her this companion of her own sex from
between the covers of a book.
I set down the fact merely and its share in Dorothea's recovery.
GENERAL ROCHAMBEAU TELLS A STORY;
AND THE TING-TANG RINGS FOR THE LAST TIME
More than a year had passed when, one February morning, as he left the
breakfast table, Endymion handed Dorothea a slip of paper.
"Do you think we can entertain at dinner next Wednesday? If you can
manage it, I wish these invitations written out and despatched before
"Next Wednesday?" Dorothea's eyebrows went up. Invitations to dine at
Bayfield had always, as we know, been issued just three weeks ahead.
"If it will not inconvenience you," he answered; and his manner added,
as plainly as words, "I beg that you will not press for my reasons."
He was booted already for his ride into Axcester.
Dorothea ran her eye down the list: The Vicomte de Tocqueville, General
Rochambeau. . . . All the prisoners of distinction were included as
well as the chief notables of the neighbourhood, which made it a long
one, even without a full balance of ladies.
She went off to her room at once and penned the letters—twenty-five
Naturally, this break in the Bayfield custom set speculation going
among the invited; but it is doubtful if Narcissus, any more than
Dorothea, knew the reason of it. And on Wednesday, when the guests
assembled, the only one who might be suspected of sharing Endymion's
secret was (oddly enough) General Rochambeau. The old fellow seemed
ten years younger, and wore an air of sportiveness, almost of raillery,
as he caught his host's eye. The compliments he paid Lady Bateson
across the table were prodigious, and gave that good soul a hazy
sensation of being wafted back to the court of Louis XV, and behaving
brilliantly under the circumstances.
"Really, my dear Mr. Westcote," she protested at length, being a
chartered utterer of indiscretions which (as she delighted to prove)
Endymion would not tolerate in others, but took from her and allowed,
with a magisterial smile, to pass,—"really, I trust you have not
taken off the General's parole, or to-morrow I shall have to lock my
gates for fear of a chaise-and-pair."
"Ah, to-morrow!" the General echoed, turning to Endymion, with a twinkle
of malice in his eye. "But when Mr. Westcote releases us, it will be en
masse; and then, believe me, I shall come with an army, since I
underrate neither the strength of the fortress nor the feeling of the
"That reminds me," put in a Mr. Saxby, of Yeovil, or near by, "we have
heard of no escape or attempts at escape from Axcester this winter. I
congratulate you, Westcote—if the General will not think it
"Reassure yourself, my dear sir." General Rochambeau bowed. "No," he
continued, lifting his eyes for a moment towards Dorothea, "in one way
or another we are rid of our fence-breakers, and the rest must share
the credit with our Commissary."
"And yet the temptation—," began Lady Bateson.
"Is great, Madame, for some temperaments. But the Vicomte, here, and I
have tried to teach our poor compatriots that in resisting it they
fight for France as surely as if they stormed a breach. And, by the
way, I heard a story this morning—if the company would care to hear—"
They begged him to tell it.
"But not if the ladies leave us to our wine." He turned to Dorothea.
"If Miss Westcote will rally and stay her forces, good; for, though it
came to me casually in a letter, it is a tale of the sort which used
to be fashionable in my youth—ah! long before M. le Tocqueville
remembers—and for the telling it demanded an audience of ladies,
which must help me, who am rusty, to recapture the style, if I can."
He pushed back his chair and, crossing his legs, leaned forward and
pushed his fingers across the polished mahogany till they touched the
base of a wine-glass beside his plate. One or two of the guests smiled
at this formal opening. The Vicomte's eyes showed something of
amusement behind their apathy. But all listened.
"My tale, Miss Dorothea, is of a certain M. Benest, who until a few
weeks ago was a prisoner on parole in one of your towns on the south
coast. He had been chef de hune (which, as you know, is chief petty
officer) of the Embuscade frigate, captured by Sir John Warren. In
the action which lost her M. Benest lost a leg, and was placed in an
English hospital, where they gave him a wooden one.
"Now how it came about that on his discharge he was allowed to live in
a town—call it a village, rather—a haven, at any rate—where for
a couple of napoleons he might have found a boat any night of the week
to smuggle him over to Roscoff, is more than I can tell you. It may be
that he had once borne another name than Benest, one to command
privileges: since many of my countrymen, as you know, have found it
prudent in recent years to change their names and take up with
callings below their real rank. There, at any rate, he was; and on the
day after his arrival, he and the Rector of the parish—who was also
a magistrate—took a walk and marked out the bounds together: two
miles along the coast to the east, two miles along the coast to the
west, and two miles up the valley behind the town. At the end of these
two miles the valley itself branched into two and climbed inland, the
road branching likewise; and M. Benest's mark was the signpost at the
"Well, at first he walked little, because of his wooden leg. He had
lodgings with a widow in a white-washed cottage overlooking the
harbour-side, and seemed happy enough there, tending a monster
geranium which grew against the house-wall, or pottering about the
quay and making friends with the children. For the children soon picked
up an affection for him, seeing that he was never too busy to drop his
gardening and come and be umpire at their games of 'tig' or 'prisoners'
bars.' Also he had stories for them, and halfpennies or sweetmeats in
mysterious pockets, and songs which he taught them: Giroflé, girofla,
and Compagnons de la Marjolaine, and Les Petits Bateaux—do you
"'Papa, les p'tits bateaux
Qui vont sur I'eau,
Ont-ils des jambes?
—Mais oui, petit beta,
S'ils n'en avaient pas, ils n' march'raient pas!'
"In short, M. Benest, with his loose blue coat and three-cornered
naval cap, endeared himself to the children, and through the children
"It was some time before he began to take walks; and I believe he had
been living in the town for six months, when one day, having stumped
up the valley road for a change, and just as he was facing about for
the return journey, he heard a voice in his own language singing to
the air of Vive Henri Quatre.
"The voice was shaky and, I dare say, uncertain in its upper notes;
but it fetched M. Benest right-about-face again. He perceived that it
came from the garden of a solitary cottage up the road, a gunshot and
more beyond his signpost. But a tall hedge interrupted his view, and,
though he stared long and earnestly, all he could see that day was a
pea-stick nodding above it.
"He came again, however,—not the next day, but the day after,—and
was rewarded by a glimpse of a white cap with bows which seemed at
that distance of a purplish colour. Its wearer was standing in the
gateway and exchanging a word with the Rector, who had reined up his
horse in the road.
"M. Benest walked home and made inquiries; but his landlady could only
tell him that the cottage was rented by two ladies, sisters,—she had
heard that they came from the West Indies,—who saw nobody, but
wished only to be let alone. One of them, who suffered from an
incurable complaint, was never seen; the other could be seen on fine
days in her garden, where she worked vigorously; and what the pair
lived on was a mystery, for they bought nothing in the town or of
"On learning this, M. Benest became very cunning indeed. He bought a
"For I ought to have told you that a stream ran down the valley beside
the road, and it contained trout—perhaps as many as a dozen.
M. Benest had no desire to catch them; but, you see, he was forced to
acquire some show of expertness in order to deceive the wayfarers who
paused and watched him; and in time (I am told) the fish, after being
unhooked once or twice and restored apologetically to the water, came
to enjoy disconcerting him. You must understand that he had no foolish
illusions concerning the white cap and purplish ribbons—the
Mademoiselle Henriette, as he discovered she was called. He only knew
that here were two women, his compatriots, poor certainly, often hungry
perhaps, shipwrecked so close to him upon this corner of (pardon me,
Miss Dorothea) an unfriendly land, yet divided from any comfort he
could bring by fifty yards of road and his word of honour. She must be
of the true blood of France who quavered out Vive Henri Quatre so
resolutely over her digging and hoeing: but the sound of a French voice
might hearten her as hers had heartened him. Therefore he sang lustily
while he angled—which is not good for sport; and when he caught a
fish, broke into paeans addressed less to the captive—with which,
between you and me, he was secretly annoyed—than to an ear unseen,
perhaps a quarter of a mile away.
"But there came a day—how shall I tell it?—when calamity fell upon
the cottage. For some time the farmers up the valley had been missing
sheep. What so easy now as to suspect the two women who were never
known to buy either bread or butcher's meat? You can guess! A rabble
marched up from the town and broke in upon them. It found nothing, of
course; and I am told that at sight of the face of the poor elder
sister it fled back in panic, leaving the place a wreck.
"It so happened that M. Benest had pretermitted his angling, that
afternoon, for a stroll along the cliff: but he heard the news on his
return, from his landlady, while he sat at tea—that is to say, he
heard a part of it, for before the story was out he had set down his
teacup, caught up hat and stick, and stumped out of the house. The most
of the townspeople were indoors at tea, discussing the sensation; the
few he encountered had no greeting from him. He looked neither to the
right nor to the left; had no ears for his friends, the trout, as they
rose at the evening flies. He reached the signpost and—walked past
it! He stumped straight up to the garden gate, which stood ajar, and
pushed it wide with his stick.
"There were signs of trampling on the flower-beds; but—for it was
July—the whole garden blazed with hollyhocks, oeillets, sweet
Williams, sweet peas, above all with that yellow flower—mimulus,
monkey flower, is it not?—which grows so profusely in gardens beside
streams. The air was weighted with scent of the réséda and of the
jasmine which climbed the wall and almost choked the roses.
"The cottage door stood ajar also. He thrust this open too, and for
the first time stood face to face with Mademoiselle Henriette.
"She sat by the kitchen table, with one arm flung across it, and her
body bowed with grief. At her feet lay a trodden bunch of the monkey
flowers: and at the tap-tap of his wooden leg on the threshold she
sprang up and faced him, across the yellow blossoms.
"'Mademoiselle,' he began, 'I have just learnt—but it is an infamy!
Permettez—I am French, I also, though you do not know me perhaps.'
"And with that M. Benest stammered and came to a halt, for her eyes
were worse than woeful. They were accusing—yes, accusing him. Of
what? Nom de tonnerre, what had he done?
"'You, Monsieur! You—an officer of France!'
"'Mais quel rapport y a-t-il?'
"'Your parole, Monsieur!'
"'Peste! I forgot,' said M. Benest, half to himself.
"'Forgot? Forgot your parole? Mais ecoutez donc! Nous savons souffrir,
nous autres franfaises . . . Et la petite qui meurt—et—et moi qui
mourrai Presqu' a l'heure—mais nous nous en tenons a' ne pas
dishonorer la Patrie a la fin. Ca finira bien, sous-officier—allez-
vous—allez-vous en. Mais allez!'
"She stamped her foot upon the flowers, and M. Benest turned and fled
from her. Nay, in his haste, taking a short-cut towards the signpost,
he plunged his wooden leg deep in the marsh, and tumbled helpless,
overwhelmed with shame.
"He never passed the signpost again, nor caught another glimpse of
Mademoiselle Henriette's cap. Three days later the Rector broke into
the cottage and discovered her seated, dead and stiff, her hands
stained with digging her sister's grave.
"And the cottage had no new tenant. Only M. Benest continued to eye it
wistfully, as he cast his flies and pondered on his offence, which she
had died without forgiving.
"But one July, two years after her death, a patch of gold appeared on
the marsh below the hedge—a patch of the monkey-flower. Some seeds
had been blown thither, or carried down by the stream.
"Next July the patch had doubled its length.
"'The flowers are travelling towards me,' said M. Benest.
"And year by year the stream brought them nearer. That was a terrible
July for him when they came within two feet of the signpost; but he
would not stretch a hand beyond it.
"'She coquets with her forgiveness, the poor Mademoiselle Henriette.
But I can wait: 'faut pas deshonorer la patrie a la fin!'
"Before the next July he had made sure of one plant at least on his
side of the signpost; and fished beside it day after day, fearful lest
some animal should browse upon it. But when the happy morning came for
it to open, and M. Benest knelt beside his prize, he drew back a hand.
"'Is it quite open?' he asked. 'Better wait, since all is safe, for the
sun to warm it a little longer.'
"And he waited, until a trout, to remind him, perhaps, took a fly with
a splash beneath his nose. Then, with a start, M. Benest's fingers
closed and snapped off the yellow blossom.
"'She has forgiven me,' said he. Now I can forgive myself.'"
For a moment or two, though his story was ended, the General continued
to toy with the stem of his wine glass. One or two of the guests cried
"Bravo!" But Lady Bateson's eyes were wet, and Dorothea gazed hard for
a while into the polished surface of the mahogany before she recalled
herself, and, with a nod, swept the ladies away to the drawing-room.
Later, in a pause between two songs, the General dropped into a seat
"Can you guess who sent me that story?" he asked. "It was M. Raoul;
and he travelled across from Plymouth in the ship with this M. Benest,
who happened to get his exchange at about the same time. It was clever
of him to worm out the story—if, indeed, he did not invent it. But
that young man has genius for pathos."
"I did not know that you corresponded."
"Indeed, nor did I. He chose to write. I may answer; and, again, I may
not. To tell you the truth, I have never been sure if we condemned him
Dorothea found herself able to look straight into the kindly old eyes.
"It was a beautiful story. Did you tell it for me?"
"Yes, Mademoiselle, in thanks and in contrition. We are all prisoners
in this world; but while it is certain you have made fortitude easier
for us, I have suspected that there was a time when I, for one, might
have been bolder and repaid you, but stood aside. Also, I think you no
longer require help."
"No longer, General. But what you say is true: we are all prisoners
here, or sentries at the best." And Dorothea, resting her fan on her
lap, let these lines fall from her, not consciously quoting, but
musing on each word as it fell:
"Brutus and Cato might discharge their souls,
And give them furloughs for another world;
But we, like sentries, are obliged to stand
In starless nights, and wait the appointed hour."
The General stared.
"Ah, Mademoiselle, what poet taught you that?"
"It was a kinswoman," she answered, and caught herself blushing. "I do
not know the author."
* * * * * * * * *
The secret of the Commissary's dinner-party came out early next morning,
when the call came for the prisoners to leave Axcester. And, whenever
Dorothea looked back on this epoch in her life, what she found most
wonderful was the suddenness of its end. As day broke in a drizzle, and
before she was well awake, a troop of dragoons, followed by a company
of the 52nd Regiment of foot, passed the Bayfield gates on the way to
Axcester. The troopers entered the town while the Ting-tang was
sounding, and before the roll could be called the prisoners were
surrounded. Their release had come; and though many had sighed for it
for years, it found them quite unprepared.
Their release had come; but first they must be marched through the
length of the country to Kelso, there to await the formalities of
exchange. At four in the afternoon the infantry marched out with the
first great batch. Early next morning the rest—owners of furniture,
granted a few hours to arrange for its storage or sale—followed their
comrades. There was no cloud of dust upon the road for Dorothea to
watch. They departed in sheets of rain and under the dusk of dawn. She
never again saw General Rochambeau.
It is recorded that in his fifty-seventh year Endymion Westcote married
(but the bride was not Lady Bateson), and that children were born to
him. Narcissus lived on at Bayfield and compiled at his leisure a
History of Axcester, which mentions the decoration of the Orange Room
by "a young Frenchman of talent, who has been good enough to assist
the author in a most important work." But Dorothea preferred her
independence and a cottage not far from the bridge, where Endymion's
children might romp as they listed, but never seemed to disturb its