The Day's Work [Vol. 1]
Part 6 out of 7
"Grey flint, then, if you put it that way. Why the dickens must I
go building towers of Babylon just because I have held up one of
"The expression he used in his third letter was that he wished to
'board her,'" said my companion in my ear. "That was very curious
- a marine delusion impinging, as it were, upon a land one. What
a marvellous world he must move in - and will before the curtain
falls. So young, too - so very young!"
"Well, if you want the plain English of it, I'm damned if I go
wall-building to your orders. You can fight it all along the line,
into the House of Lords and out again, and get your rulings by the
running foot if you like," said Wilton, hotly. "Great heavens, man,
I only did it once!"
"We have at present no guarantee that you may not do it again; and,
with our traffic, we must, in justice to our passengers, demand
some form of guarantee. It must not serve as a precedent. All this
might have been saved if you had only referred us to your legal
representative." The lawyer looked appealingly around the room.
The dead-lock was complete.
Wilton," I asked, "may I try my hand now?"
"Anything you like," said Wilton. "It seems I can't talk English.
I won't build any wall, though." He threw himself back in his
" Gentlemen," I said deliberately, for I perceived that the doctor's
mind would turn slowly, "Mr. Sargent has very large interests in the
chief railway systems of his own country."
"His own country?" said the lawyer.
"At that age?" said the doctor.
"Certainly. He inherited them from his father, Mr. Sargent, who
was an American."
"And proud of it," said Wilton, as though he had been a Western
Senator let loose on the Continent for the first time.
"My dear sir," said the lawyer, half rising, "why did you not
acquaint the Company with this fact - this vital fact - early in
our correspondence? We should have understood. We should have
"Allowances be damned. Am I a Red Indian or a lunatic?"
The two men looked guilty.
"If Mr. Sargent's friend had told us as much in the beginning,"
said the doctor, very severely, "much might have been saved." Alas!
I had made a life's enemy of that doctor.
"I hadn't a chance," I replied. "Now, of course, you can see that a
man who owns several thousand miles of line, as Mr. Sargent does,
would be apt to treat railways a shade more casually than other
"Of course; of course. He is an American; that accounts. Still,
it was the Induna; but I can quite understand that the customs of
our cousins across the water differ in these particulars from ours.
And do you always stop trains in this way in the States, Mr.
"I should if occasion ever arose; but I've never had to yet. Are
you going to make an international complication of the business?"
"You need give yourself no further concern whatever in the matter.
We see that there is no likelihood of this action of yours
establishing a precedent, which was the only thing we were afraid
of. Now that you understand that we cannot reconcile our system
to any sudden stoppages, we feel quite sure that - "
"I sha'n't be staying long enough to flag another train," Wilton
"You are returning, then, to our fellow-kinsmen across the-ah-big
pond, you call it?"
"No, sir. The ocean - the North Atlantic Ocean. It's three
thousand miles broad, and three miles deep in places. I wish it
were ten thousand."
"I am not so fond of sea-travel myself; but I think it is every
Englishman's duty once in his life to study the great branch of
our Anglo-Saxon race across the ocean," said the lawyer.
"If ever you come over, and care to flag any train on my system,
I'll - I'll see you through," said Wilton.
"Thank you - ah, thank you. You're very kind. I'm sure I should
enjoy myself immensely."
"We have overlooked the fact," the doctor whispered to me, "that
your friend proposed to buy the Great Buchonian."
"He is worth anything from twenty to thirty million dollars - four
to five million pounds," I answered, knowing that it would be
hopeless to explain.
"Really! That is enormous wealth. But the Great Buchonian is not
in the market."
"Perhaps he does not want to buy it now."
"It would be impossible under any circumstances," said the doctor.
"How characteristic!" murmured the lawyer, reviewing matters in his
mind. "I always understood from books that your countrymen were in
a hurry. And so you would have gone forty miles to town and back
- before dinner - to get a scarab? How intensely American! But
you talk exactly like an Englishman, Mr. Sargent."
"That is a fault that can be remedied. There's only one question
I'd like to ask you. You said it was inconceivable that any man
should stop a train on your road?"
"And so it is-absolutely inconceivable."
"Any sane man, that is?"
"That is what I meant, of course. I mean, with excep - "
The two men departed. Wilton checked himself as he was about to
fill a pipe, took one of my cigars instead, and was silent for
Then said he: "Have you got a list of the Southampton sailings on
Far away from the greystone wings, the dark cedars, the faultless
gravel drives, and the mint-sauce lawns of Holt Hangars runs a
river called the Hudson, whose unkempt banks are covered with the
palaces of those wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. Here, where
the hoot of the Haverstraw brick-barge-tug answers the howl of the
locomotive on either shore, you shall find, with a complete
installation of electric light, nickel-plated binnacles, and a
calliope attachment to her steam-whistle, the twelve-hundred-ton
ocean-going steam-yacht Columbia, lying at her private pier, to
take to his office, at an average speed of seventeen knots an
hour, - and the barges can look out for themselves, - Wilton Sargent,
MY SUNDAY AT HOME
If the Red Slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep and pass and turn again.
It was the unreproducible slid r, as he said this was his "fy-ist"
visit to England, that told me he was a New-Yorker from New York;
and when, in the course of our long, lazy journey westward from
Waterloo, he enlarged upon the beauties of his city, I, professing
ignorance, said no word. He had, amazed and delighted at the man's
civility, given the London porter a shilling for carrying his bag
nearly fifty yards; he had thoroughly investigated the first-class
lavatory compartment, which the London and Southwestern sometimes
supply without extra charge; and now, half-awed, half-contemptuous,
but wholly interested, he looked out upon the ordered English
landscape wrapped in its Sunday peace, while I watched the wonder
grow upon his face. Why were the cars so short and stilted? Why
had every other freight-car a tarpaulin drawn over it? What wages
would an engineer get now? Where was the swarming population of
England he had read so much about? What was the rank of all those
men on tricycles along the roads? When were we due at Plymouth
I told him all I knew, and very much that I did not. He was going
to Plymouth to assist in a consultation upon a fellow-countryman
who had retired to a place called The Hoe - was that up-town or
down-town - to recover from nervous dyspepsia. Yes, he himself
was a doctor by profession, and how any one in England could
retain any nervous disorder passed his comprehension. Never had
he dreamed of an atmosphere so soothing. Even the deep rumble of
London traffic was monastical by comparison with some cities he
could name; and the country - why, it was Paradise. A continuance
of it, he confessed, would drive him mad; but for a few months it
was the most sumptuous rest-cure in his knowledge.
"I'll come over every year after this," he said, in a burst of
delight, as we ran between two ten-foot hedges of pink and white
may. "It's seeing all the things I've ever read about. Of course
it doesn't strike you that way. I presume you belong here? What
a finished land it is! It's arrived. 'Must have been born this
way. Now, where I used to live - Hello I what's up?"
The train stopped in a blaze of sunshine at Framlynghame Admiral,
which is made up entirely of the name-board, two platforms, and an
overhead bridge, without even the usual siding. I had never known
the slowest of locals stop here before; but on Sunday all things
are possible to the London and Southwestern. One could hear the
drone of conversation along the carriages, and, scarcely less loud,
the drone of the bumblebees in the wallflowers up the bank. My
companion thrust his head through the window and sniffed luxuriously.
"Where are we now?" said he.
"In Wiltshire," said I.
"Ah! A man ought to be able to write novels with his left hand in
a country like this. Well, well! And so this is about Tess's
country, ain't it? I feel just as if I were in a book. Say, the
conduc - the guard has something on his mind. What's he getting
The splendid badged and belted guard was striding up the platform
at the regulation official pace, and in the regulation official
voice was saying at each door:
"Has any gentleman here a bottle of medicine? A gentleman has taken
a bottle of poison (laudanum) by mistake."
Between each five paces he looked at an official telegram in his
hand, refreshed his memory, and said his say. The dreamy look on
my companion's face - he had gone far away with Tess - passed with
the speed of a snap-shutter. After the manner of his countrymen,
he had risen to the situation, jerked his bag down from the overhead
rail, opened it, and I heard the click of bottles. "Find out where
the man is," he said briefly. "I've got something here that will
fix him - if he can swallow still."
Swiftly I fled up the line of carriages in the wake of the guard.
There was clamour in a rear compartment - the voice of one bellowing
to be let out, and the feet of one who kicked. With the tail of my
eye I saw the New York doctor hastening thither, bearing in his hand
a blue and brimming glass from the lavatory compartment. The guard
I found scratching his head unofficially, by the engine, and
murmuring: "Well, I put a bottle of medicine off at Andover - I'm
sure I did."
"Better say it again, any'ow',' said the driver. "Orders is orders.
Say it again."
Once more the guard paced back, I, anxious to attract his attention,
trotting at his heels.
"In a minute - in a minute, sir," he said, waving an arm capable of
starting all the traffic on the London and Southwestern Railway at
a wave. "Has any gentleman here got a bottle of medicine? A
gentleman has taken a bottle of poison (laudanum) by mistake."
"Where's the man?" I gasped.
"Woking. 'Ere's my orders." He showed me the telegram, on which
were the words to be said. "'E must have left 'is bottle in the
train, an' took another by mistake. 'E's been wirin' from Woking
awful, an', now I come to think of, it, I'm nearly sure I put a
bottle of medicine off at Andover."
"Then the man that took the poison isn't in the train?"
"Lord, no, sir. No one didn't take poison that way. 'E took it
away with 'im, in 'is 'ands. 'E's wirin' from Wokin'. My orders
was to ask everybody in the train, and I 'ave, an' we're four minutes
late now. Are you comin' on, sir? No? Right be'ind!"
There is nothing, unless, perhaps, the English language, more
terrible than the workings of an English railway-line. An instant
before it seemed as though we were going to spend all eternity at
Framlynghame Admiral, and now I was watching the tail of the train
disappear round the curve of the cutting.
But I was not alone. On the one bench of the down platform sat the
largest navvy I have ever seen in my life, softened and made affable
(for he smiled generously) with liquor. In his huge hands he nursed
an empty tumbler marked "L.S.W.R." - marked also, internally, with
streaks of blue-grey sediment. Before him, a hand on his shoulder,
stood the doctor, and as I came within ear-shot, this is what I
heard him say: "Just you hold on to your patience for a minute or
two longer, and you'll be as right as ever you were in your life.
I'll stay with you till you're better."
"Lord! I'm comfortable enough," said the navvy. "Never felt better
in my life."
Turning to me, the doctor lowered his voice. "He might have died
while that fool conduct-guard was saying his piece. I've fixed him,
though. The stuff's due in about five minutes, but there's a heap
to him. I don't see how we can make him take exercise."
For the moment I felt as though seven pounds of crushed ice had been
neatly applied in the form of a compress to my lower stomach.
"How - how did you manage it?" I gasped.
"I asked him if he'd have a drink. He was knocking spots out of
the car - strength of his constitution, I suppose. He said he'd
go 'most anywhere for a drink, so I lured onto the platform, and
loaded him up. 'Cold-blooded people, you Britishers are. That
train's gone, and no one seemed to care a cent."
"We've missed it," I said.
He looked at me curiously.
We'll get another before sundown, if that's your only trouble. Say,
porter, when's the next train down?"
"Seven forty-five," said the one porter, and passed out through the
wicket-gate into the landscape. It was then three-twenty of a hot
and sleepy afternoon. The station was absolutely deserted. The
navvy had closed his eyes, and now nodded.
"That's bad," said the doctor. "The man, I mean, not the train.
We must make him walk somehowwalk up and down."
Swiftly as might be, I explained the delicacy of the situation, and
the doctor from New York turned a full bronze-green. Then he swore
comprehensively at the entire fabric of our glorious Constitution,
cursing the English language, root, branch, and paradigm, through
its most obscure derivatives. His coat and bag lay on the bench
next to the sleeper. Thither he edged cautiously, and I saw
treachery in his eye.
What devil of delay possessed him to slip on his spring overcoat, I
cannot tell. They say a slight noise rouses a sleeper more surely
than a heavy one, and scarcely had the doctor settled himself in his
sleeves than the giant waked and seized that silk-faced collar in a
hot right hand. There was rage in his face-rage and the realisation
of new emotions.
"I'm - I'm not so comfortable as I were," he said from the deeps of
his interior. "You'll wait along o' me, you will." He breathed
heavily through shut lips.
Now, if there was one thing more than another upon which the doctor
had dwelt in his conversation with me, it was upon the essential
law-abidingness, not to say gentleness, of his much-misrepresented
country. And yet (truly, it may have been no more than a button
that irked him) I saw his hand travel backwards to his right hip,
clutch at something, and come away empty.
"He won't kill you," I said. "He'll probably sue you in court, if
I know my own people. Better give him some money from time to time."
"If he keeps quiet till the stuff gets in its work," the doctor
answered, "I'm all right. If he doesn't ... my name is Emory -
Julian B. Emory - 193 'Steenth Street, corner of Madison and - "
"I feel worse than I've ever felt," said the navvy, with suddenness.
The matter seemed to be so purely personal that I withdrew to a
strategic position on the overhead bridge, and, abiding in the exact
centre, looked on from afar.
I could see the white road that ran across the shoulder of Salisbury
Plain, unshaded for mile after mile, and a dot in the middle
distance, the back of the one porter returning to Framlynghame
Admiral, if such a place existed, till seven forty-five. The bell
of a church invisible clanked softly. There was a rustle in the
horse-chestnuts to the left of the line, and the sound of sheep
The peace of Nirvana lay upon the land, and, brooding in it, my
elbow on the warm iron girder of the footbridge (it is a
forty-shilling fine to cross by any other means), I perceived, as
never before, how the consequences of our acts run eternal through
time and through space. If we impinge never so slightly upon the
life of a fellow-mortal, the touch of our personality, like the
ripple of a stone cast into a pond, widens and widens in unending
circles across the aeons, till the far-off Gods themselves cannot
say where action ceases. Also, it was I who had silently set
before the doctor the tumbler of the first-class lavatory compartment
now speeding Plymouthward. Yet I was, in spirit at least, a million
leagues removed from that unhappy man of another nationality, who
had chosen to thrust an inexpert finger into the workings of an
alien life. The machinery was dragging him up and down the sunlit
platform. The two men seemed to be learning polka-mazurkas together,
and the burden of their song, borne by one deep voice, was: "What
did you give me the drink for?"
I saw the flash of silver in the doctor's hand. The navvy took it
and pocketed it with his left; but never for an instant did his
strong right leave the doctor's coat-collar, and as the crisis
approached, louder and louder rose his bull-like roar: "What did you
give me the drink for?"
They drifted under the great twelve-inch pinned timbers of the
foot-bridge towards the bench, and, I gathered, the time was very
near at hand. The stuff was getting in its work. Blue, white, and
blue again, rolled over the navvy's face in waves, till all settled
to one rich clay-bank yellow and - that fell which fell.
I thought of the blowing up of Hell Gate; of the geysers in the
Yellowstone Park; of Jonah and his whale: but the lively original,
as I watched it foreshortened from above, exceeded all these things.
He staggered to the bench, the heavy wooden seat cramped with iron
cramps into the enduring stone, and clung there with his left hand.
It quivered and shook, as a breakwater-pile quivers to the rush of
landward-racing seas; nor was there lacking when he caught his
breath, the "scream of a maddened beach dragged down by the tide."
His right hand was upon the doctor's collar, so that the two shook
to one paroxysm, pendulums vibrating together, while I, apart, shook
It was colossal-immense; but of certain manifestations the English
language stops short. French only, the caryatid French of Victor
Hugo, would have described it; so I mourned while I laughed, hastily
shuffling and discarding inadequate adjectives. The vehemence of
the shock spent itself, and the sufferer half fell, half knelt,
across the bench. He was calling now upon God and his wife, huskily,
as the wounded bull calls upon the unscathed herd to stay. Curiously
enough, he used no bad language: that had gone from him with the
rest. The doctor exhibited gold. It was taken and retained. So,
too, was the grip on the coat-collar.
"If I could stand," boomed the giant, despairingly, "I'd smash you
- you an' your drinks. I'm dyin' - dyin' -dyin'!"
"That's what you think," said the doctor. "You'll find it will do
you a lot of good"; and, making a virtue of a somewhat imperative
necessity, he added: "I'll stay by you. If you'd let go of me a
minute I'd give you something that would settle you."
"You've settled me now, you damned anarchist. Takin' the bread out
of the mouth of an English workin'man! But I'll keep 'old of you
till I'm well or dead. I never did you no 'arm. S'pose I were a
little full. They pumped me out once at Guy's with a stummick-pump.
I could see that, but I can't see this 'ere, an' it's killin' of me
by slow degrees."
"You'll be all right in half-an-hour. What do you suppose I'd want
to kill you for?" said the doctor, who came of a logical breed.
"'Ow do I know? Tell 'em in court. You'll get seven years for
this, you body-snatcher. That's what you are - a bloomin'
bodysnatcher. There's justice, I tell you, in England; and my
Union'll prosecute, too. We don't stand no tricks with people's
insides 'ere. They give a woman ten years for a sight less than
this. An' you'll 'ave to pay 'undreds an' 'undreds o' pounds,
besides a pension to the missus. You'll see, you physickin'
furriner. Where's your licence to do such? You'll catch it,
I tell you!"
Then I observed what I have frequently observed before, that a man
who is but reasonably afraid of an altercation with an alien has a
most poignant dread of the operations of foreign law. The doctor's
voice was flute-like in its exquisite politeness, as he answered:
"But I've given you a very great deal of money - fif-three pounds,
"An' what's three pound for poisonin' the likes o' me? They told
me at Guy's I'd fetch twenty-cold-on the slates. Ouh! It's comin'
A second time he was cut down by the foot, as it were, and the
straining bench rocked to and fro as I averted my eyes.
It was the very point of perfection in the heart of an English
May-day. The unseen tides of the air had turned, and all nature
was setting its face with the shadows of the horse-chestnuts
towards the peace of the coming night. But there were hours yet,
I knew - long, long hours of the eternal English twilight - to
the ending of the day. I was well content to be alive - to
abandon myself to the drift of Time and Fate; to absorb great peace
through my skin, and to love my country with the devotion that three
thousand miles of intervening sea bring to fullest flower. And what
a garden of Eden it was, this fatted, clipped, and washen land! A
man could camp in any open field with more sense of home and security
than the stateliest buildings of foreign cities could afford. And
the joy was that it was all mine alienably - groomed hedgerow,
spotless road, decent greystone cottage, serried spinney, tasselled
copse, apple-bellied hawthorn, and well-grown tree. A light puff
of wind - it scattered flakes of may over the gleaming rails - gave
me a faint whiff as it might have been of fresh cocoanut, and I
knew that the golden gorse was in bloom somewhere out of sight.
Linneeus had thanked God on his bended knees when he first saw a
field of it; and, by the way, the navvy was on his knees, too. But
he was by no means praying. He was purely disgustful.
The doctor was compelled to bend over him, his face towards the
back of the seat, and from what I had seen I supposed the navvy
was now dead. If that were the case it would be time for me to go;
but I knew that so long as a man trusts himself to the current of
Circumstance, reaching out for and rejecting nothing that comes his
way, no harm can overtake him. It is the contriver, the schemer,
who is caught by the Law, and never the philosopher. I knew that
when the play was played, Destiny herself would move me on from the
corpse; and I felt very sorry for the doctor.
In the far distance, presumably upon the road that led to
Framlynghame Admiral, there appeared a vehicle and a horse - the
one ancient fly that almost every village can produce at need. This
thing was advancing, unpaid by me, towards the station; would have
to pass along the deep-cut lane, below the railway-bridge, and come
out on the doctor's side. I was in the centre of things, so all
sides were alike to me. Here, then, was my machine from the machine.
When it arrived; something would happen, or something else. For the
rest, I owned my deeply interested soul.
The doctor, by the seat, turned so far as his cramped position
allowed, his head over his left shoulder, and laid his right hand
upon his lips. I threw back my hat and elevated my eyebrows in the
form of a question. The doctor shut his eyes and nodded his head
slowly twice or thrice, beckoning me to come. I descended
cautiously, and it was as the signs had told. The navvy was asleep,
empty to the lowest notch; yet his hand clutched still the doctor's
collar, and at the lightest movement (the doctor was really very
cramped) tightened mechanically, as the hand of a sick woman tightens
on that of the watcher. He had dropped, squatting almost upon his
heels, and, falling lower, had dragged the doctor over to the left.
The doctor thrust his right hand, which was free, into his pocket,
drew forth some keys, and shook his head. The navvy gurgled in his
sleep. Silently I dived into my pocket, took out one sovereign,
and held it up between finger and thumb. Again the doctor shook
his head. Money was not what was lacking to his peace. His bag
had fallen from the seat to the ground. He looked towards it, and
opened his mouth-O-shape. The catch was not a difficult one, and
when I had mastered it, the doctor's right forefinger was sawing
the air. With an immense caution, I extracted from the bag such a
knife as they use for cutting collops off legs. The doctor frowned,
and with his first and second fingers imitated the action of
scissors. Again I searched, and found a most diabolical pair of
cock-nosed shears, capable of vandyking the interiors of elephants.
The doctor then slowly lowered his left shoulder till the navvy's
right wrist was supported by the bench, pausing a moment as the
spent volcano rumbled anew. Lower and lower the doctor sank,
kneeling now by the navvy's side, till his head was on a level
with, and just in front of, the great hairy fist, and - there was
no tension on the coat-collar. Then light dawned on me.
Beginning a little to the right of the spinal column, I cut a huge
demilune out of his new spring overcoat, bringing it round as far
under his left side (which was the right side of the navvy) as I
dared. Passing thence swiftly to the back of the seat, and reaching
between the splines, I sawed through the silk-faced front on the
left-hand side of the coat till the two cuts joined.
Cautiously as the box-turtle of his native heath, the doctor drew
away sideways and to the right, with the air of a frustrated burglar
coming out from under a bed, and stood up free, one black diagonal
shoulder projecting through the grey of his ruined overcoat. I
returned the scissors to the bag, snapped the catch, and held all
out to him as the wheels of the fly rang hollow under the railway
It came at a footpace past the wicket-gate of the station, and the
doctor stopped it with a whisper. It was going some five miles
across country to bring home from church some one, - I could not
catch the name, - because his own carriage-horses were lame. Its
destination happened to be the one place in all the world that the
doctor was most burningly anxious to visit, and he promised the
driver untold gold to drive to some ancient flame of his - Helen
Blazes, she was called.
"Aren't you coming, too?" he said, bundling his overcoat into his
Now the fly had been so obviously sent to the doctor, and to no
one else, that I had no concern with it. Our roads, I saw, divided,
and there was, further, a need upon me to laugh.
"I shall stay here," I said. "It's a very pretty country."
"My God!" he murmured, as softly as he shut the door, and I felt
that it was a prayer.
Then he went out of my life, and I shaped my course for the
railway-bridge. It was necessary to pass by the bench once more,
but the wicket was between us. The departure of the fly had waked
the navvy. He crawled on to the seat, and with malignant eyes
watched the driver flog down the road.
"The man inside o' that," he called, "'as poisoned me. 'E's a
body-snatcher. 'E's comin' back again when I'm cold. 'Ere's my
He waved his share of the overcoat, and I went my way, because I
was hungry. Framlynghame Admiral village is a good two miles from
the station, and I waked the holy calm of the evening every step
of that way with shouts and yells, casting myself down in the
flank of the good green hedge when I was too weak to stand. There
was an inn, - a blessed inn with a thatched roof, and peonies in
the garden,- and I ordered myself an upper chamber in which the
Foresters held their courts for the laughter was not all out of
me. A bewildered woman brought me ham and eggs, and I leaned out
of the mullioned window, and laughed between mouthfuls. I sat
long above the beer and the perfect smoke that followed, till the
lights changed in the quiet street, and I began to think of the
seven forty-five down, and all that world of the "Arabian Nights"
I had quitted.
Descending, I passed a giant in moleskins who filled the low-ceiled
tap-room. Many empty plates stood before him, and beyond them a
fringe of the Framlynghame Admiralty, to whom he was unfolding a
wondrous tale of anarchy, of body-snatching, of bribery, and the
Valley of the Shadow from the which he was but newly risen. And as
he talked he ate, and as he ate he drank, for there was much room
in him; and anon he paid royally, speaking of Justice and the Law,
before whom all Englishmen are equal, and all foreigners and
anarchists vermin and slime.
On my way to the station, he passed me with great strides, his head
high among the low-flying bats, his feet firm on the packed
road-metal, his fists clinched, and his breath coming sharply. There
was a beautiful smell in the air - the smell of white dust, bruised
nettles, and smoke, that brings tears to the throat of a man who
sees his country but seldom - a smell like the echoes of the lost
talk of lovers; the infinitely suggestive odour of an immemorial
civilisation. It was a perfect walk; and, lingering on every step,
I came to the station just as the one porter lighted the last of
a truckload of lamps, and set them back in the lamp-room, while he
dealt tickets to four or five of the population who, not contented
with their own peace, thought fit to travel. It was no ticket that
the navvy seemed to need. He was sitting on a bench, wrathfully
grinding a tumbler into fragments with his heel. I abode in
obscurity at the end of the platform, interested as ever, thank
Heaven, in my surroundings. There was a jar of wheels on the road.
The navvy rose as they approached, strode through the wicket, and
laid a hand upon a horse's bridle that brought the beast up on his
hireling hind legs. It was the providential fly coming back, and
for a moment I wondered whether the doctor had been mad enough to
revisit his practice.
"Get away; you're drunk,"said the driver.
"I'm not," said the navvy. "I've been waitin' 'ere hours and hours.
Come out, you beggar inside there!"
"Go on, driver," said a voice I did not know - a crisp, clear,
"All right," said the navvy. "You wouldn't 'ear me when I was
polite. Now will you come?"
There was a chasm in the side of the fly, for he had wrenched the
door bodily off its hinges, and was feeling within purposefully.
A well-booted leg rewarded him, and there came out, not with delight,
hopping on one foot, a round and grey-haired Englishman, from whose
armpits dropped hymn-books, but from his mouth an altogether
different service of song.
"Come on, you bloomin' body-snatcher! You thought I was dead, did
you?" roared the navvy. And the respectable gentleman came
accordingly, inarticulate with rage.
"Ere's a man murderin' the Squire," the driver shouted, and fell
from his box upon the navvy's neck.
To do them justice, the people of Framlynghame Admiral, so many as
were on the platform, rallied to the call in the best spirit of
feudalism. It was the one porter who beat the navvy on the nose
with a ticket-punch, but it was the three third-class tickets who
attached themselves to his legs and freed the captive.
"Send for a constable! lock him up! " said that man, adjusting his
collar; and unitedly they cast him into the lamp-room, and turned
the key, while the driver mourned over the wrecked fly.
Till then the navvy, whose only desire was justice, had kept his
temper nobly. Then he went Berserk before our amazed eyes. The
door of the lamp-room was generously constructed, and would not give
an inch, but the window he tore from its fastenings and hurled
outwards. The one porter counted the damage in a loud voice, and
the others, arming themselves with agricultural implements from the
station garden, kept up a ceaseless winnowing before the window,
themselves backed close to the wall, and bade the prisoner think of
the gaol. He answered little to the point, so far as they could
understand; but seeing that his exit was impeded, he took a lamp
and hurled it through the wrecked sash. It fell on the metals and
went out. With inconceivable velocity, the others, fifteen in all,
followed, looking like rockets in the gloom, and with the last (he
could have had no plan) the Berserk rage left him as the doctor's
deadly brewage waked up, under the stimulus of violent exercise and
a very full meal, to one last cataclysmal exhibition, and - we heard
the whistle of the seven forty-five down.
They were all acutely interested in as much of the wreck as they
could see, for the station smelt to Heaven of oil, and the engine
skittered over broken glass like a terrier in a cucumber-frame.
The guard had to hear of it, and the Squire had his version of the
brutal assault, and heads were out all along the carriages as I
found me a seat.
"What is the row?" said a young man, as I entered. "'Man drunk?"
"Well, the symptoms, so far as my observation has gone, more
resemble those of Asiatic cholera than anything else," I answered,
slowly and judicially, that every word might carry weight in the
appointed scheme of things. Up till then, you will observe, I had
taken no part in that war.
He was an Englishman, but he collected his belongings as swiftly
as had the American, ages before, and leaped upon the platform,
crying: "Can I be of any service? I'm a doctor."
>From the lamp-room I heard a wearied voice wailing "Another bloomin'
And the seven forty-five carried me on, a step nearer to Eternity,
by the road that is worn and seamed and channelled with the
passions, and weaknesses, and warring interests of man who is
immortal and master of his fate.
THE BRUSHWOOD BOY
Girls and boys, come out to play
The moon is shining as bright as day!
Leave your supper and leave your sleep,
And come with your playfellows out in the street!
Up the ladder and down the wall-
A CHILD of three sat up in his crib and screamed at the top of his
voice, his fists clinched and his eyes full of terror. At first
no one heard, for his nursery was in the west wing, and the nurse
was talking to a gardener among the laurels. Then the housekeeper
passed that way, and hurried to soothe him. He was her special
pet, and she disapproved of the nurse.
"What was it, then? What was it, then? There's nothing to frighten
him, Georgie dear."
"It was - it was a policeman! He was on the Down -I saw him! He
came in. Jane said he would."
"Policemen don't come into houses, dearie. Turn over, and take my
"I saw him - on the Down. He came here. Where is your hand, Harper?"
The housekeeper waited till the sobs changed to the regular breathing
of sleep before she stole out.
"Jane, what nonsense have you been telling Master Georgie about
"I haven't told him anything."
"You have. He's been dreaming about them."
"We met Tisdall on Dowhead when we were in the donkey-cart this
morning. P'r'aps that's what put it into his head."
"Oh! Now you aren't going to frighten the child into fits with your
silly tales, and the master know nothing about it. If ever I catch
you again," etc.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A child of six was telling himself stories as he lay in bed. It was
a new power, and he kept it a secret. A month before it had occurred
to him to carry on a nursery tale left unfinished by his mother, and
he was delighted to find the tale as it came out of his own head
just as surprising as though he were listening to it "all new from
the beginning." There was a prince in that tale, and he killed
dragons, but only for one night. Ever afterwards Georgie dubbed
himself prince, pasha, giant-killer, and all the rest (you see, he
could not tell any one, for fear of being laughed at), and his tales
faded gradually into dreamland, where adventures were so many that
he could not recall the half of them. They all began in the same
way, or, as Georgie explained to the shadows of the night-light,
there was "the same starting-off place" - a pile of brushwood
stacked somewhere near a beach; and round this pile Georgie found
himself running races with little boys and girls. These ended,
ships ran high up the dry land and opened into cardboard boxes; or
gilt-and-green iron railings that surrounded beautiful gardens turned
all soft and could be walked through and overthrown so long as he
remembered it was only a dream. He could never hold that knowledge
more than a few seconds ere things became real, and instead of
pushing down houses full of grown-up people (a just revenge), he sat
miserably upon gigantic door-steps trying to sing the
multiplication-table up to four times six.
The princess of his tales was a person of wonderful beauty (she came
from the old illustrated edition of Grimm, now out of print), and
as she always applauded Georgie's valour among the dragons and
buffaloes, he gave her the two finest names he had ever heard in his
life - Annie and Louise, pronounced "Annieanlouise." When the dreams
swamped the stories, she would change into one of the little girls
round the brushwood-pile, still keeping her title and crown. She
saw Georgie drown once in a dream-sea by the beach (it was the day
after he had been taken to bathe in a real sea by his nurse); and he
said as he sank: "Poor Annieanlouise! She'll be sorry for me now!"
But "Annieanlouise," walking slowly on the beach, called, "'Ha! ha!'
said the duck, laughing," which to a waking mind might not seem to
bear on the situation. It consoled Georgie at once, and must have
been some kind of spell, for it raised the bottom of the deep, and
he waded out with a twelve-inch flower-pot on each foot. As he was
strictly forbidden to meddle with flower-pots in real life, he felt
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The movements of the grown-ups, whom Georgie tolerated, but did not
pretend to understand, removed his world, when he was seven years
old, to a place called "Oxford-on-a-visit. "Here were huge buildings
surrounded by vast prairies, with streets of infinite length, and,
above all, something called the "buttery," which Georgie was dying
to see, because he knew it must be greasy, and therefore delightful.
He perceived how correct were his judgments when his nurse led him
through a stone arch into the presence of an enormously fat man,
who asked him if he would like some, bread and cheese. Georgie was
used to eat all round the clock, so he took what "buttery " gave him,
and would have taken some brown liquid called "auditale" but that
his nurse led him away to an afternoon performance of a thing called
"Pepper's Ghost." This was intensely thrilling. People's heads
came off and flew all over the stage, and skeletons danced bone by
bone, while Mr. Pepper himself, beyond question a man of the worst,
waved his arms and flapped a long gown, and in a deep bass voice
(Georgie had never heard a man sing before) told of his sorrows
unspeakable. Some grown-up or other tried to explain that the
illusion was made with mirrors, and that there was no need to be
frightened. Georgie did not know what illusions were, but he did
know that a mirror was the looking-glass with the ivory handle on
his mother's dressing-table. Therefore the "grown-up" was "just
saying things" after the distressing custom of "grown-ups," and
Georgie cast about for amusement between scenes. Next to him sat
a little girl dressed all in black, her hair combed off her forehead
exactly like the girl in the book called "Alice in Wonderland,
"which had been given him on his last birthday. The little girl
looked at Georgie, and Georgie looked at her. There seemed to be
no need of any further introduction.
"I've got a cut on my thumb," said he. It was the first work of
his first real knife, a savage triangular hack, and he esteemed it
a most valuable possession.
"I'm tho thorry!" she lisped. "Let me look pleathe."
"There's a di-ack-lum plaster on, but it's all raw under," Georgie
"Dothent it hurt?" - her grey eyes were full of pity and interest.
"Awf'ly. Perhaps it will give me lockjaw."
"It lookth very horrid. I'm tho thorry!" She put a forefinger to
his hand, and held her head sidewise for a better view.
Here the nurse turned, and shook him severely. "You mustn't talk
to strange little girls, Master Georgie."
"She isn't strange. She's very nice. I like her, an' I've showed
her my new cut."
"The idea! You change places with me."
She moved him over, and shut out the little girl from his view,
while the grown-up behind renewed the futile explanations.
"I am not afraid, truly," said the boy, wriggling in despair; "but
why don't you go to sleep in the afternoons, same as Provost of
Georgie had been introduced to a grown-up of that name, who slept
in his presence without apology. Georgie understood that he was
the most important grown-up in Oxford; hence he strove to gild his
rebuke with flatteries. This grown-up did not seem to like it, but
he collapsed, and Georgie lay back in his seat, silent and enraptured.
Mr. Pepper was singing again, and the deep, ringing voice, the red
fire, and the misty, waving gown all seemed to be mixed up with the
little girl who had been so kind about his cut. When the performance
was ended she nodded to Georgie, and Georgie nodded in return. He
spoke no more than was necessary till bedtime, but meditated on new
colors and sounds and lights and music and things as far as he
understood them; the deep-mouthed agony of Mr. Pepper mingling with
the little girl's lisp. That night he made a new tale, from which
he shamelessly removed the Rapunzel-Rapunzel-let-down-your-hair
princess, gold crown, Grimm edition, and all, and put a new
Annieanlouise in her place. So it was perfectly right and natural
that when he came to the brushwood-pile he should find her waiting
for him, her hair combed off her forehead more like Alice in
Wonderland than ever, and the races and adventures began.
Ten years at an English public school do not encourage dreaming.
Georgie won his growth and chest measurement, and a few other
things which did not appear in the bills, under a system of cricket,
foot-ball, and paper-chases, from four to five days a week, which
provided for three lawful cuts of a ground-ash if any boy absented
himself from these entertainments. He became a rumple-collared,
dusty-hatted fag of the Lower Third, and a light half-back at
Little Side foot-ball; was pushed and prodded through the slack
backwaters of the Lower Fourth, where the raffle of a school
generally accumulates; won his "second-fifteen" cap at foot-ball,
enjoyed the dignity of a study with two companions in it, and
began to look forward to office as a sub-prefect. At last he
blossomed into full glory as head of the school, ex-officio captain
of the games; head of his house, where he and his lieutenants
preserved discipline and decency among seventy boys from twelve to
seventeen; general arbiter in the quarrels that spring up among
the touchy Sixth - and intimate friend and ally of the Head himself.
When he stepped forth in the black jersey, white knickers, and
black stockings of the First Fifteen, the new match-ball under his
arm, and his old and frayed cap at the back of his head, the small
fry of the lower forms stood apart and worshipped, and the "new caps"
of the team talked to him ostentatiously, that the world might see.
And so, in summer, when he came back to the pavilion after a slow
but eminently safe game, it mattered not whether he had made nothing
or, as once happened, a hundred and three, the school shouted just
the same, and women-folk who had come to look at the match looked
at Cottar - Cottar, major; "that's Cottar!" Above all, he was
responsible for that thing called the tone of the school, and few
realise with what passionate devotion a certain type of boy throws
himself into this work. Home was a faraway country, full of ponies
and fishing and shooting, and men-visitors who interfered with
one's plans; but school was the real world, where things of vital
importance happened, and crises arose that must be dealt with
promptly and quietly. Not for nothing was it written, "Let the
Consuls look to it that the Republic takes no harm," and Georgie
was glad to be back in authority when the holidays ended. Behind
him, but not too near, was the wise and temperate Head, now
suggesting the wisdom of the serpent, now counselling the mildness
of the dove; leading him on to see, more by half-hints than by any
direct word, how boys and men are all of a piece, and how he who
can handle the one will assuredly in time control the other.
For the rest, the school was not encouraged to dwell on its emotions,
but rather to keep in hard condition, to avoid false quantities,
and to enter the army direct, without the help of the expensive
London crammer, under whose roof young blood learns too much.
Cottar, major, went the way of hundreds before him. The Head gave
him six months' final polish, taught him what kind of answers best
please a certain kind of examiners, and handed him over to the
properly constituted authorities, who passed him into Sandhurst.
Here he had sense enough to see that he was in the Lower Third once
more, and behaved with respect toward his seniors, till they in turn
respected him, and he was promoted to the rank of corporal, and sat
in authority over mixed peoples with all the vices of men and boys
combined. His reward was another string of athletic cups, a
good-conduct sword, and, at last, Her Majesty's commission as a
subaltern in a first-class line regiment. He did not know that
he bore with him from school and college a character worth much
fine gold, but was pleased to find his mess so kindly. He had
plenty of money of his own; his training had set the public school
mask upon his face, and had taught him how many were the "things no
fellow can do." By virtue of the same training he kept his pores
open and his mouth shut.
The regular working of the Empire shifted his world to India, where
he tasted utter loneliness in subaltern's quarters, - one room and
one bullock-trunk, - and, with his mess, learned the new life from
the beginning. But there were horses in the land-ponies at
reasonable price; there was polo for such as could afford it; there
were the disreputable remnants of a pack of hounds; and Cottar
worried his way along without too much despair. It dawned on him
that a regiment in India was nearer the chance of active service
than he had conceived, and that a man might as well study his
profession. A major of the new school backed this idea with
enthusiasm, and he and Cottar accumulated a library of military
works, and read and argued and disputed far into the nights. But
the adjutant said the old thing: "Get to know your men, young un,
and they 'll follow you anywhere. That's all you want - know your
men." Cottar thought he knew them fairly well at cricket and the
regimental sports, but he never realised the true inwardness of
them till he was sent off with a detachment of twenty to sit down
in a mud fort near a rushing river which was spanned by a bridge
of boats. When the floods came they went forth and hunted strayed
pontoons along the banks. Otherwise there was nothing to do, and
the men got drunk, gambled, and quarrelled. They were a sickly
crew, for a junior subaltern is by custom saddled with the worst
men. Cottar endured their rioting as long as he could, and then
sent down-country for a dozen pairs of boxing-gloves.
"I wouldn't blame you for fightin'," said he, "if you only knew how
to use your hands; but you don't. Take these things, and I'll show
you." The men appreciated his efforts. Now, instead of blaspheming
and swearing at a comrade, and threatening to shoot him, they could
take him apart, and soothe themselves to exhaustion. As one
explained whom Cottar found with a shut eye and a diamond-shaped
mouth spitting blood through an embrasure: "We tried it with the
gloves, sir, for twenty minutes, and that done us no good, sir.
Then we took off the gloves and tried it that way for another twenty
minutes, same as you showed us, sir, an' that done us a world o'
good. 'T wasn't fightin', sir; there was a bet on."
Cottar dared not laugh, but he invited his men to other sports, such
as racing across country in shirt and trousers after a trail of
torn paper, and to single-stick in the evenings, till the native
population, who had a lust for sport in every form, wished to know
whether the white men understood wrestling. They sent in an
ambassador, who took the soldiers by the neck and threw them about
the dust; and the entire command were all for this new game. They
spent money on learning new falls and holds, which was better than
buying other doubtful commodities; and the peasantry grinned five
deep round the tournaments.
That detachment, who had gone up in bullock-carts, returned to
headquarters at an average rate of thirty miles a day, fair
heel-and-toe; no sick, no prisoners, and no court martials pending.
They scattered themselves among their friends, singing the praises
of their lieutenant and looking for causes of offense.
"How did you do it, young un?" the adjutant asked.
"Oh, I sweated the beef off 'em, and then I sweated some muscle on
to 'em. It was rather a lark."
"If that's your way of lookin' at it, we can give you all the larks
you want. Young Davies isn't feelin' quite fit, and he's next for
detachment duty. Care to go for him?"
"'Sure he wouldn't mind? I don't want to shove myself forward, you
"You needn't bother on Davies's account. We'll give you the
sweepin's of the corps, and you can see what you can make of 'em."
"All right," said Cottar. "It's better fun than loafin' about
"Rummy thing," said the adjutant, after Cottar had returned to his
wilderness with twenty other devils worse than the first. "If
Cottar only knew it, half the women in the station would give their
eyes - confound 'em! - to have the young un in tow."
"That accounts for Mrs. Elery sayin' I was workin' my nice new boy
too hard," said a wing commander.
"Oh, yes; and 'Why doesn't he come to the bandstand in the evenings?'
and 'Can't I get him to make up a four at tennis with the Hammon
girls?'" the adjutant snorted. "Look at young Davies makin' an ass
of himself over mutton-dressed-as-lamb old enough to be his mother!"
"No one can accuse young Cottar of runnin' after women, white or
black," the major replied thoughtfully. "But, then, that's the kind
that generally goes the worst mucker in the end."
"Not Cottar. I've only run across one of his muster before - a
fellow called Ingles, in South Africa. He was just the same
hard trained, athletic-sports build of animal. Always kept himself
in the pink of condition. Didn't do him much good, though. 'Shot
at Wesselstroom the week before Majuba. Wonder how the young un
will lick his detachment into shape."
Cottar turned up six weeks later, on foot, with his pupils. He never
told his experiences, but the men spoke enthusiastically, and
fragments of it leaked back to the colonel through sergeants, batmen,
and the like.
There was great jealousy between the first and second detachments,
but the men united in adoring Cottar, and their way of showing it
was by sparing him all the trouble that men know how to make for an
unloved officer. He sought popularity as little as he had sought
it at school, and therefore it came to him. He favoured no one -
not even when the company sloven pulled the company cricket-match
out of the fire with an unexpected forty-three at the last moment.
There was very little getting round him, for he seemed to know by
instinct exactly when and where to head off a malingerer; but he
did not forget that the difference between a dazed and sulky junior
of the upper school and a bewildered, browbeaten lump of a private
fresh from the depot was very small indeed. The sergeants, seeing
these things, told him secrets generally hid from young officers.
His words were quoted as barrack authority on bets in canteen and
at tea; and the veriest shrew of the corps, bursting with charges
against other women who had used the cooking-ranges out of turn,
forbore to speak when Cottar, as the regulations ordained, asked of
a morning if there were "any complaints."
"I'm full o' complaints," said Mrs. Corporal Morrison, "an' I'd kill
O'Halloran's fat sow of a wife any day, but ye know how it is. 'E
puts 'is head just inside the door, an' looks down 'is blessed nose
so bashful, an' 'e whispers, 'Any complaints' Ye can't complain after
that. I want to kiss him. Some day I think I will. Heigh-ho! she'll
be a lucky woman that gets Young Innocence. See 'im now, girls. Do
ye blame me?"
Cottar was cantering across to polo, and he looked a very
satisfactory figure of a man as he gave easily to the first excited
bucks of his pony, and slipped over a low mud wall to the
practice-ground. There were more than Mrs. Corporal Morrison who
felt as she did. But Cottar was busy for eleven hours of the day.
He did not care to have his tennis spoiled by petticoats in the
court; and after one long afternoon at a garden-party, he explained
to his major that this sort of thing was " futile priffle," and the
major laughed. Theirs was not a married mess, except for the
colonel's wife, and Cottar stood in awe of the good lady. She said
"my regiment," and the world knows what that means. None the less
when they wanted her to give away the prizes after a shooting-match,
and she refused because one of the prize-winners was married to a
girl who had made a jest of her behind her broad back, the mess
ordered Cottar to "tackle her," in his best calling-kit. This he
did, simply and laboriously, and she gave way altogether.
"She only wanted to know the facts of the case," he explained. "I
just told her, and she saw at once."
"Ye-es," said the adjutant. "I expect that's what she did. Comin'
to the Fusiliers' dance to-night, Galahad?"
"No, thanks. I've got a fight on with the major." The virtuous
apprentice sat up till midnight in the major's quarters, with a
stop-watch and a pair of compasses, shifting little painted
lead-blocks about a four-inch map.
Then he turned in and slept the sleep of innocence, which is full
of healthy dreams. One peculiarity of his dreams he noticed at the
beginning of his second hot weather. Two or three times a month
they duplicated or ran in series. He would find himself sliding
into dreamland by the same road - a road that ran along a beach
near a pile of brushwood. To the right lay the sea, sometimes at
full tide, sometimes withdrawn to the very horizon; but he knew it
for the same sea. By that road he would travel over a swell of
rising ground covered with short, withered grass, into valleys of
wonder and unreason. Beyond the ridge, which was crowned with some
sort of street-lamp, anything was possible; but up to the lamp it
seemed to him that he knew the road as well as he knew the
parade-ground. He learned to look forward to the place; for, once
there, he was sure of a good night's rest, and Indian hot weather
can be rather trying. First, shadowy under closing eyelids, would
come the outline of the brushwood-pile; next the white sand of the
beach-road, almost overhanging the black, changeful sea; then the
turn inland and uphill to the single light. When he was unrestful
for any reason, he would tell himself how he was sure to get there
- sure to get there - if he shut his eyes and surrendered to the
drift of things. But one night after a foolishly hard hour's polo
(the thermometer was 94° in his quarters at ten o'clock), sleep
stood away from him altogether, though he did his best to find the
well-known road, the point where true sleep began. At last he saw
the brushwood-pile, and hurried along to the ridge, for behind him
he felt was the wide-awake, sultry world. He reached the lamp in
safety, tingling with drowsiness, when a policeman - a common
country policeman - sprang up before him and touched him on the
shoulder ere he could dive into the dim valley below. He was
filled with terror, - the hopeless terror of dreams, - for the
policeman said, in the awful, distinct voice of dream-people, "I am
Policeman Day coming back from the City of Sleep. You come with
me." Georgie knew it was true - that just beyond him in the valley
lay the lights of the City of Sleep, where he would have been
sheltered, and that this Policeman-Thing had full power and
authority to head him back to miserable wakefulness. He found
himself looking at the moonlight on the wall, dripping with fright;
and he never overcame that horror, though he met the Policeman
several times that hot weather, and his coming was the forerunner
of a bad night.
But other dreams-perfectly absurd ones-filled him with an
incommunicable delight. All those that he remembered began by the
brushwood-pile. For instance, he found a small clockwork steamer
(he had noticed it many nights before) lying by the sea-road, and
stepped into it, whereupon it moved with surpassing swiftness over
an absolutely level sea. This was glorious, for he felt he was
exploring great matters; and it stopped by a lily carved in stone,
which, most naturally, floated on the water. Seeing the lily was
labelled "Hong-Kong," Georgie said: "Of course. This is precisely
what I expected Hong-Kong would be like. How magnificent!"
Thousands of miles farther on it halted at yet another stone lily,
labelled "Java."; and this, again, delighted him hugely, because he
knew that now he was at the world's end. But the little boat ran
on and on till it lay in a deep fresh-water lock, the sides of
which were carven marble, green with moss. Lilypads lay on the
water, and reeds arched above. Some one moved among the reeds -
some one whom Georgie knew he had travelled to this world's end to
reach. Therefore everything was entirely well with him. He was
unspeakably happy, and vaulted over the ship's side to find this
person. When his feet touched that still water, it changed, with
the rustle of unrolling maps, to nothing less than a sixth quarter
of the globe, beyond the most remote imagining of man - a place
where islands were coloured yellow and blue, their lettering strung
across their faces. They gave on unknown seas, and Georgie's urgent
desire was to return swiftly across this floating atlas to known
bearings. He told himself repeatedly that it was no good to hurry;
but still he hurried desperately, and the islands slipped and slid
under his feet; the straits yawned and widened, till he found
himself utterly lost in the world's fourth dimension, with no hope
of return. Yet only a little distance away he could see the old
world with the rivers and mountain-chains marked according to the
Sandhurst rules of mapmaking. Then that person for whom he had
come to the Lily Lock (that was its name) ran up across unexplored
territories, and showed him away. They fled hand in hand till they
reached a road that spanned ravines, and ran along the edge of
precipices, and was tunnelled through mountains. "This goes to our
brushwood-pile," said his companion; and all his trouble was at an
end. He took a pony, because he understood that this was the
Thirty-Mile Ride and he must ride swiftly, and raced through the
clattering tunnels and round the curves, always downhill, till he
heard the sea to his left, and saw it raging under a full moon,
against sandy cliffs. It was heavy going, but he recognised the
nature of the country, the dark-purple downs inland, and the bents
that whistled in the wind. The road was eaten away in places, and
the sea lashed at him-black, foamless tongues of smooth and glossy
rollers; but he was sure that there was less danger from the sea
than from "Them," whoever "They" were, inland to his right. He knew,
too, that he would be safe if he could reach the down with the lamp
on it. This came as he expected: he saw the one light a mile ahead
along the beach, dismounted, turned to the right, walked quietly
over to the brushwood-pile, found the little steamer had returned
to the beach whence he had unmoored it, and - must have fallen
asleep, for he could remember no more. "I'm gettin' the hang of
the geography of that place," he said to himself, as he shaved next
morning. "I must have made some sort of circle. Let's see. The
Thirty-Mile Ride (now how the deuce did I know it was called the
Thirty-Mile, Ride?) joins the sea-road beyond the first down where
the lamp is. And that atlas-country lies at the back of the
Thirty-Mile Ride, somewhere out to the right beyond the hills and
tunnels. Rummy things, dreams. 'Wonder what makes mine fit into
each other so?"
He continued on his solid way through the recurring duties of the
seasons. The regiment was shifted to another station, and he
enjoyed road-marching for two months, with a good deal of mixed
shooting thrown in, and when they reached their new cantonments
he became a member of the local Tent Club, and chased the mighty
boar on horseback with a short stabbing-spear. There he met the
mahseer of the Poonch, beside whom the tarpon is as a herring, and
he who lands him can say that he is a fisherman. This was as new
and as fascinating as the big-game shooting that fell to his portion,
when he had himself photographed for the mother's benefit, sitting
on the flank of his first tiger.
Then the adjutant was promoted, and Cottar rejoiced with him, for
he admired the adjutant greatly, and marvelled who might be big
enough to fill his place; so that he nearly collapsed when the
mantle fell on his own shoulders, and the colonel said a few sweet
things that made him blush. An adjutant's position does not differ
materially from that of head of the school, and Cottar stood in the
same relation to the colonel as he had to his old Head in England.
Only, tempers wear out in hot weather, and things were said and done
that tried him sorely, and he made glorious blunders, from which the
regimental sergeant-major pulled him with a loyal soul and a shut
mouth. Slovens and incompetents raged against him; the weak-minded
strove to lure him from the ways of justice; the small-minded - yea,
men whom Cottar believed would never do "things no fellow can do"
- imputed motives mean and circuitous to actions that he had not
spent a thought upon; and he tasted injustice, and it made him very
sick. But his consolation came on parade, when he looked down the
full companies, and reflected how few were in hospital or cells,
and wondered when the time would come to try the machine of his
love and labour.
But they needed and expected the whole of a man's working-day, and
maybe three or four hours of the night. Curiously enough, he never
dreamed about the regiment as he was popularly supposed to. The
mind, set free from the day's doings, generally ceased working
altogether, or, if it moved at all, carried him along the old
beach-road to the downs, the lamp-post, and, once in a while, to
terrible Policeman Day. The second time that he returned to the
world's lost continent (this was a dream that repeated itself again
and again, with variations, on the same ground) he knew that if he
only sat still the person from the Lily Lock would help him, and he
was not disappointed. Sometimes he was trapped in mines of vast
depth hollowed out of the heart of the world, where men in torment
chanted echoing songs; and he heard this person coming along through
the galleries, and everything was made safe and delightful. They
met again in low-roofed Indian railway-carriages that halted in a
garden surrounded by gilt-and-green railings, where a mob of stony
white people, all unfriendly, sat at breakfast-tables covered with
roses, and separated Georgie from his companion, while underground
voices sang deep-voiced songs. Georgie was filled with enormous
despair till they two met again. They foregathered in the middle
of an endless, hot tropic night, and crept into a huge house that
stood, he knew, somewhere north of the railway-station where the
people ate among the roses. It was surrounded with gardens, all
moist and dripping; and in one room, reached through leagues of
whitewashed passages, a Sick Thing lay in bed. Now the least noise,
Georgie knew, would unchain some waiting horror, and his companion
knew it, too; but when their eyes met across the bed, Georgie was
disgusted to see that she was a child - a little girl in strapped
shoes, with her black hair combed back from her forehead.
"What disgraceful folly!" he thought. "Now she could do nothing
whatever if Its head came off."
Then the Thing coughed, and the ceiling shattered down in plaster
on the mosquito-netting, and "They" rushed in from all quarters.
He dragged the child through the stifling garden, voices chanting
behind them, and they rode the Thirty-Mile Ride under whip and spur
along the sandy beach by the booming sea, till they came to the
downs, the lamp-post, and the brushwood-pile, which was safety.
Very often dreams would break up about them in this fashion, and
they would be separated, to endure awful adventures alone. But the
most amusing times were when he and she had a clear understanding
that it was all make-believe, and walked through mile-wide roaring
rivers without even taking off their shoes, or set light to populous
cities to see how they would burn, and were rude as any children to
the vague shadows met in their rambles. Later in the night they
were sure to suffer for this, either at the hands of the Railway
People eating among the roses, or in the tropic uplands at the far
end of the Thirty-Mile Ride. Together, this did no much affright
them; but often Georgie would hear her shrill cry of "Boy! Boy!"
half a world away, and hurry to her rescue before "They" maltreated
He and she explored the dark-purple downs as far inland from the
brushwood-pile as they dared, but that was always a dangerous matter.
The interior was filled with "Them," and "They" went about singing
in the hollows, and Georgie and she felt safer on or near the
seaboard. So thoroughly had he come to know the place of his dreams
that even waking he accepted it as a real country, and made a rough
sketch of it. He kept his own counsel, of course; but the
permanence of the land puzzled him. His ordinary dreams were as
formless and as fleeting as any healthy dreams could be, but once at
the brushwood-pile he moved within known limits and could see where
he was going. There were months at a time when nothing notable
crossed his sleep. Then the dreams would come in a batch of five or
six, and next morning the map that he kept in his writing case would
be written up to date, for Georgie was a most methodical person.
There was, indeed, a danger - his seniors said so - of his developing
into a regular "Auntie Fuss" of an adjutant, and when an officer
once takes to old-maidism there is more hope for the virgin of
seventy than for him.
But fate sent the change that was needed, in the shape of a little
winter campaign on the Border, which, after the manner of little
campaigns, flashed out into a very ugly war; and Cottar's regiment
was chosen among the first.
"Now," said a major, "this'll shake the cobwebs out of us all -
especially you, Galahad; and we can see what your hen-with-one-chick
attitude has done for the regiment."
Cottar nearly wept with joy as the campaign went forward. They
were fit - physically fit beyond the other troops; they were good
children in camp, wet or dry, fed or unfed; and they followed their
officers with the quick suppleness and trained obedience of a
first-class foot-ball fifteen. They were cut off from their apology
for a base, and cheerfully cut their way back to it again; they
crowned and cleaned out hills full of the enemy with the precision
of well-broken dogs of chase; and in the hour of retreat, when,
hampered with the sick and wounded of the column, they were
persecuted down eleven miles of waterless valley, they, serving as
rearguard, covered themselves with a great glory in the eyes of
fellow-professionals. Any regiment can advance, but few know how
to retreat with a sting in the tail. Then they turned to made
roads, most often under fire, and dismantled some inconvenient mud
redoubts. They were the last corps to be withdrawn when the
rubbish of the campaign was all swept up; and after a month in
standing camp, which tries morals severely, they departed to their
own place in column of fours, singing:
"'E's goin' to do without 'em -
Don't want 'em any more;
'E's goin' to do without 'em,
As 'e's often done before.
'E's goin' to be a martyr
On a 'ighly novel plan,
An' all the boys and girls will say,
'Ow! what a nice young man-man-man!
Ow! what a nice young man!'"
There came out a "Gazette" in which Cottar found that he had been
behaving with "courage and coolness and discretion" in all his
capacities; that he had assisted the wounded under fire, and blown
in a gate, also under fire. Net result, his captaincy and a
brevet majority, coupled with the Distinguished Service Order.
As to his wounded, he explained that they were both heavy men, whom
he could lift more easily than any one else. "Otherwise, of course,
I should have sent out one of my men; and, of course, about that
gate business, we were safe the minute we were well under the walls."
But this did not prevent his men from cheering him furiously whenever
they saw him, or the mess from giving him a dinner on the eve of his
departure to England. (A year's leave was among the things he had
"snaffled out of the campaign," I to use his own words.) The doctor,
who had taken quite as much as was good for him, quoted poetry about
"a good blade carving the casques of men," and so on, and everybody
told Cottar that he was an excellent person; but when he rose to
make his maiden speech they shouted so that he was understood to say,
"It isn't any use tryin' to speak with you chaps rottin' me like
this. Let's have some pool."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is not unpleasant to spend eight-and-twenty days in an easy-going
steamer on warm waters, in the company of a woman who lets you see
that you are head and shoulders superior to the rest of the world,
even though that woman may be, and most often is, ten counted years
your senior. P.O. boats are not lighted with the disgustful
particularity of Atlantic liners. There is more phosphorescence at
the bows, and greater silence and darkness by the hand-steering
Awful things might have happened to Georgie but for the little fact
that he had never studied the first principles of the game he was
expected to play. So when Mrs. Zuleika, at Aden, told him how
motherly an interest she felt in his welfare, medals, brevet, and
all, Georgie took her at the foot of the letter, and promptly talked
of his own mother, three hundred miles nearer each day, of his home,
and so forth, all the way up the Red Sea. It was much easier than
he had supposed to converse with a woman for an hour at a time.
Then Mrs. Zuleika, turning from parental affection, spoke of love
in the abstract as a thing not unworthy of study, and in discreet
twilights after dinner demanded confidences. Georgie would have
been delighted to supply them, but he had none, and did not know it
was his duty to manufacture them. Mrs. Zuleika expressed surprise
and unbelief, and asked - those questions which deep asks of deep.
She learned all that was necessary to conviction, and, being very
much a woman, resumed (Georgie never knew that she had abandoned)
the motherly attitude.
"Do you know," she said, somewhere in the Mediterranean, "I think
you're the very dearest boy I have ever met in my life, and I'd like
you to remember me a little. You will when you are older, but I
want you to remember me now. You'll make some girl very happy."
"Oh! Hope so," said Georgie, gravely; "but there's heaps of time
for marryin' an' all that sort of thing, ain't there?"
"That depends. Here are your bean-bags for the Ladies' Competition.
I think I'm growing too old to care for these tamashas."
They were getting up sports, and Georgie was on the committee. He
never noticed how perfectly the bags were sewn, but another woman
did, and smiled - once. He liked Mrs. Zuleika greatly. She was a
bit old, of course, but uncommonly nice. There was no nonsense
A few nights after they passed Gibraltar his dream returned to him.
She who waited by the brushwood-pile was no longer a little girl,
but a woman with black hair that grew into a "widow's peak," combed
back from her forehead. He knew her for the child in black, the
companion of the last six years, and, as it had been in the time of
the meetings on the Lost Continent, he was filled with delight
unspeakable. "They," for some dreamland reason, were friendly or
had gone away that night, and the two flitted together over all
their country, from the brushwood-pile up the Thirty-Mile Ride,
till they saw the House of the Sick Thing, a pin-point in the
distance to the left; stamped through the Railway Waiting-room
where the roses lay on the spread breakfast-tables; and returned,
by the ford and the city they had once burned for sport, to the
great swells of the downs under the lamp-post. Wherever they moved
a strong singing followed them underground, but this night there
was no panic. All the land was empty except for themselves, and at
the last (they were sitting by the lamp-post hand in hand) she
turned and kissed him. He woke with a start, staring at the waving
curtain of the cabin door; he could almost have sworn that the kiss
Next morning the ship was rolling in a Biscay sea, and people were
not happy; but as Georgie came to breakfast, shaven, tubbed, and
smelling of soap, several turned to look at him because of the light
in his eyes and the splendour of his countenance.
"Well, you look beastly fit," snapped a neighbour. "Any one left
you a legacy in the middle of the Bay?"
Georgie reached for the curry, with a seraphic grin. "I suppose
it's the gettin' so near home, and all that. I do feel rather
festive this mornin. 'Rolls a bit, doesn't she?"
Mrs. Zuleika stayed in her cabin till the end of the voyage, when
she left without bidding him farewell, and wept passionately on the
dock-head for pure joy of meeting her children, who, she had often
said, were so like their father.
Georgie headed for his own country, wild with delight of his first
long furlough after the lean seasons. Nothing was changed in that
orderly life, from the coachman who met him at the station to the
white peacock that stormed at the carriage from the stone wall above
the shaven lawns. The house took toll of him with due regard to
precedence - first the mother; then the father; then the housekeeper,
who wept and praised God; then the butler, and so on down to the
under-keeper, who had been dogboy in Georgie's youth, and called
him "Master Georgie," and was reproved by the groom who had taught
Georgie to ride.
"Not a thing changed," he sighed contentedly, when the three of them
sat down to dinner in the late sunlight, while the rabbits crept out
upon the lawn below the cedars, and the big trout in the ponds by
the home paddock rose for their evening meal.
"Our changes are all over, dear," cooed the mother; "and now I am
getting used to your size and your tan (you're very brown, Georgie),
I see you haven't changed in the least. You're exactly like the
The father beamed on this man after his own heart, - "youngest major
in the army, and should have had the V.C., sir," - and the butler
listened with his professional mask off when Master Georgie spoke
of war as it is waged to-day, and his father cross-questioned.
They went out on the terrace to smoke among the roses, and the shadow
of the old house lay long across the wonderful English foliage,
which is the only living green in the world.
"Perfect! By Jove, it's perfect!" Georgie was looking at the
round-bosomed woods beyond the home paddock, where the white pheasant
boxes were ranged; and the golden air was full of a hundred sacred
scents and sounds. Georgie felt his father's arm tighten in his.
"It's not half bad - but hodie mihi, cras tibi, isn't it? I suppose
you'll be turning up some fine day with a girl under your arm, if
you haven't one now, eh?"
"You can make your mind easy, sir. I haven't one."
" Not in all these years?" said the mother.
"I hadn't time, mummy. They keep a man pretty busy, these days, in
the service, and most of our mess are unmarried, too."
"But you must have met hundreds in society - at balls, and so on?"
"I'm like the Tenth, mummy: I don't dance."
"Don't dance! What have you been doing with yourself, then - backing
other men's bills?" said the father.
"Oh, yes; I've done a little of that too; but you see, as things are
now, a man has all his work cut out for him to keep abreast of his
profession, and my days were always too full to let me lark about
half the night."
"Hmm!" - suspiciously.
"It's never too late to learn. We ought to give some kind of
housewarming for the people about, now you've come back. Unless you
want to go straight up to town, dear?"
"No. I don't want anything better than this. Let's sit still and
enjoy ourselves. I suppose there will be something for me to ride
if I look for it?"
"Seeing I've been kept down to the old brown pair for the last six
weeks because all the others were being got ready for Master Georgie,
I should say there might be," the father chuckled. "They're
reminding me in a hundred ways that I must take the second place now."
"The pater doesn't mean it, dear; but every one has been trying to
make your home-coming a success; and you do like it, don't you?"
"Perfect! Perfect! There's no place like England - when you 've
done your work."
"That's the proper way to look at it, my son."
And so up and down the flagged walk till their shadows grew long in
the moonlight, and the mother went indoors and played such songs as
a small boy once clamoured for, and the squat silver candlesticks
were brought in, and Georgie climbed to the two rooms in the west
wing that had been his nursery and his playroom in the beginning.
Then who should come to tuck him up for the night but the mother?
And she sat down on the bed, and they talked for a long hour, as
mother and son should, if there is to be any future for the Empire.
With a simple woman's deep guile she asked questions and suggested
answers that should have waked some sign in the face on the pillow,
and there was neither quiver of eyelid nor quickening of breath,
neither evasion nor delay in reply. So she blessed him and kissed
him on the mouth, which is not always a mother's property, and said
something to her husband later, at which he laughed profane and
All the establishment waited on Georgie next morning, from the
tallest six-year-old, "with a mouth like a kid glove, Master Georgie,"
to the under-keeper strolling carelessly along the horizon, Georgie's
pet rod in his hand, and "There's a four-pounder risin' below the
lasher. You don't 'ave 'em in Injia, Mast-Major Georgie." It was
all beautiful beyond telling, even though the mother insisted on
taking him out in the landau (the leather had the hot Sunday smell
of his youth) and showing him off to her friends at all the houses
for six miles round; and the pater bore him up to town and a lunch
at the club, where he introduced him, quite carelessly, to not less
than thirty ancient warriors whose sons were not the youngest majors
in the army and had not the D.S.O. After that it was Georgie's turn;
and remembering his friends, he filled up the house with that kind
of officer who live in cheap lodgings at Southsea or Montpelier
Square, Brompton - good men all, but not well off. The mother
perceived that they needed girls to play with; and as there was no
scarcity of girls, the house hummed like a dovecote in spring. They
tore up the place for amateur theatricals; they disappeared in the
gardens when they ought to have been rehearsing; they swept off
every available horse and vehicle, especially the governess-cart and
the fat pony; they fell into the trout-ponds; they picnicked and
they tennised; and they sat on gates in the twilight, two by two,
and Georgie found that he was not in the least necessary to their
"My word!" said he, when he saw the last of their dear backs. "They
told me they've enjoyed 'emselves, but they haven't done half the
things they said they would."
"I know they've enjoyed themselves - immensely," said the mother.
"You're a public benefactor, dear."
"Now we can be quiet again, can't we?"
"Oh, quite. I've a very dear friend of mine that I want you to know.
She couldn't come with the house so full, because she's an invalid,
and she was away when you first came. She's a Mrs. Lacy."
"Lacy! I don't remember the name about here."
"No; they came after you went to India - from Oxford. Her husband
died there, and she lost some money, I believe. They bought The
Firs on the Bassett Road. She's a very sweet woman, and we're very
fond of them both."
"She's a widow, didn't you say?"
"She has a daughter. Surely I said so, dear?"
"Does she fall into trout-ponds, and gas and giggle, and 'Oh, Major
Cottah!' and all that sort of thing?"
"No, indeed. She's a very quiet girl, and very musical. She always
came over here with her music-books - composing, you know; and she
generally works all day, so you won't - "
"'Talking about Miriam?" said the pater, coming up. The mother edged
toward him within elbow-reach. There was no finesse about Georgie's
father. "Oh, Miriam's a dear girl. Plays beautifully. Rides
beautifully, too. She's a regular pet of the household. Used to
call me - " The elbow went home, and ignorant but obedient always,
the pater shut himself off.
"What used she to call you, sir?"
"All sorts of pet names. I'm very fond of Miriam."
"Sounds Jewish - Miriam."
"Jew! You'll be calling yourself a Jew next. She's one of the
Herefordshire Lacys. When her aunt dies - " Again the elbow.
"Oh, you won't see anything of her, Georgie. She's busy with her
music or her mother all day. Besides, you're going up to town
tomorrow, aren't you? I thought you said something about an
Institute meeting?" The mother spoke.
"Go up to town now! What nonsense!" Once more the pater was shut
"I had some idea of it, but I'm not quite sure," said the son of
the house. Why did the mother try to get him away because a musical
girl and her invalid parent were expected? He did not approve of
unknown females calling his father pet names. He would observe these
pushing persons who had been only seven years in the county.
All of which the delighted mother read in his countenance, herself
keeping an air of sweet disinterestedness.
"They'll be here this evening for dinner. I'm sending the carriage
over for them, and they won't stay more than a week."
"Perhaps I shall go up to town. I don't quite know yet." Georgie
moved away irresolutely. There was a lecture at the United Services
Institute on the supply of ammunition in the field, and the one man
whose theories most irritated Major Cottar would deliver it. A
heated discussion was sure to follow, and perhaps he might find
himself moved to speak. He took his rod that afternoon and went
down to thrash it out among the trout.
"Good sport, dear!" said the mother, from the terrace.
"Fraid it won't be, mummy. All those men from town, and the girls
particularly, have put every trout off his feed for weeks. There
isn't one of 'em that cares for fishin' - really. Fancy stampin'
and shoutin' on the bank, and tellin' every fish for half a mile
exactly what you're goin' to do, and then chuckin' a brute of a fly
at him! By Jove, it would scare me if I was a trout!"
But things were not as bad as he had expected. The black gnat was
on the water, and the water was strictly preserved. A
three-quarter-pounder at the second cast set him for the campaign,
and he worked down-stream, crouching behind the reed and meadowsweet;
creeping between a hornbeam hedge and a foot-wide strip of bank,
where he could see the trout, but where they could not distinguish
him from the background; lying almost on his stomach to switch the
blue-upright sidewise through the checkered shadows of a gravelly
ripple under overarching trees. But he had known every inch of the
water since he was four feet high. The aged and astute between sunk
roots, with the large and fat that lay in the frothy scum below some
strong rush of water, sucking as lazily as carp, came to trouble in
their turn, at the hand that imitated so delicately the flicker and
wimple of an egg-dropping fly. Consequently, Georgie found himself
five miles from home when he ought to have been dressing for dinner.
The housekeeper had taken good care that her boy should not go empty,
and before he changed to the white moth he sat down to excellent
claret with sandwiches of potted egg and things that adoring women
make and men never notice. Then back, to surprise the otter grubbing
for fresh-water mussels, the rabbits on the edge of the beechwoods
foraging in the clover, and the policeman-like white owl stooping to
the little fieldmice, till the moon was strong, and he took his rod
apart, and went home through well-remembered gaps in the hedges. He
fetched a compass round the house, for, though he might have broken
every law of the establishment every hour, the law of his boyhood
was unbreakable: after fishing you went in by the south garden
back-door, cleaned up in the outer scullery, and did not present
yourself to your elders and your betters till you had washed and
"Half-past ten, by Jove! Well, we'll make the sport an excuse. They
wouldn't want to see me the first evening, at any rate. Gone to bed,
probably." He skirted by the open French windows of the drawing-room.
"No, they haven't. They look very comfy in there."
He could see his father in his own particular chair, the mother in
hers, and the back of a girl at the piano by the big potpourri-jar.
The gardens looked half divine in the moonlight, and he turned down
through the roses to finish his pipe.
A prelude-ended, and there floated out a voice of the kind that in
his childhood he used to call "creamy" a full, true contralto; and
this is the song that he heard, every syllable of it:
Over the edge of the purple down,
Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
That is hard by the Sea of Dreams-
Where the poor may lay their wrongs away,
And the sick may forget to weep?
But we - pity us! Oh, pity us!
We wakeful; ah, pity us! -
We must go back with Policeman Day -
Back from the City of Sleep!
Weary they turn from the scroll and crown,
Fetter and prayer and plough
They that go up to the Merciful Town,
For her gates are closing now.
It is their right in the Baths of Night
Body and soul to steep
But we - pity us! ah, pity us!
We wakeful; oh, pity us! -
We must go back with Policeman Day -
Back from the City of Sleep!
Over the edge of the purple down,
Ere the tender dreams begin,
Look - we may look - at the Merciful Town,
But we may not enter in !
Outcasts all, from her guarded wall
Back to our watch we creep:
We - pity us! ah, pity us!
We wakeful; oh, pity us! -
We that go back with Policeman Day -
Back from the City of Sleep
At the last echo he was aware that his mouth was dry and unknown
pulses were beating in the roof of it. The housekeeper, who would
have it that he must have fallen in and caught a chill, was waiting
to catch him on the stairs, and, since he neither saw nor answered
her, carried a wild tale abroad that brought his mother knocking at
"Anything happened, dear? Harper said she thought you weren't - "
"No; it's nothing. I'm all right, mummy. Please don't bother."
He did not recognise his own voice, but that was a small matter
beside what he was considering. Obviously, most obviously, the
whole coincidence was crazy lunacy. He proved it to the satisfaction
of Major George Cottar, who was going up to town to-morrow to hear a
lecture on the supply of ammunition in the field; and having so
proved it, the soul and brain and heart and body of Georgie cried
joyously: "That's the Lily Lock girl - the Lost Continent girl -
the Thirty-Mile Ride girl - the Brushwood girl! I know her!"
He waked, stiff and cramped in his chair, to reconsider the situation
by sunlight, when it did not appear normal. But a man must eat, and
he went to breakfast, his heart between his teeth, holding himself
severely in hand.
"Late, as usual," said the mother. "'My boy, Miss Lacy."
A tall girl in black raised her eyes to his, and Georgie's life
training deserted him - just as soon as he realised that she did not
know. He stared coolly and critically. There was the abundant black
hair, growing in a widow's peak, turned back from the forehead, with
that peculiar ripple over the right ear; there were the grey eyes set
a little close together; the short upper lip, resolute chin, and the
known poise of the head. There was also the small well-cut mouth
that had kissed him.
"Georgie - dear!" said the mother, amazedly, for Miriam was flushing
under the stare.
"I - I beg your pardon!" he gulped. "I don't know whether the mother
has told you, but I'm rather an idiot at times, specially before I've
had my breakfast. It's - it's a family failing.' He turned to
explore among the hot-water dishes on the sideboard, rejoicing that
she did not know - she did not know.
His conversation for the rest of the meal was mildly insane, though
the mother thought she had never seen her boy look half so handsome.
How could any girl, least of all one of Miriam's discernment, forbear
to fall down and worship? But deeply Miriam was displeased. She
had never been stared at in that fashion before, and promptly retired
into her shell when Georgie announced that he had changed his mind
about going to town, and would stay to play with Miss Lacy if she
had nothing better to do.
"Oh, but don't let me throw you out. I'm at work. I've things to
do all the morning."
"What possessed Georgie to behave so oddly?" the mother sighed to
herself. "Miriam's a bundle of feelings - like her mother."
"You compose - don't you? Must be a fine thing to be able to do
that. [" Pig-oh, pig!" thought Miriam.] I think I heard you singin'
when I came in last night after fishin'. All about a Sea of Dreams,
wasn't it? [Miriam shuddered to the core of the soul that afflicted
her.] Awfully pretty song. How d' you think of such things?"
"You only composed the music, dear, didn't you?"
"The words too. I'm sure of it," said Georgie, with a sparkling eye.
No; she did not know.
"Yeth; I wrote the words too." Miriam spoke slowly, for she knew
she lisped when she was nervous.
"Now how could you tell, Georgie?" said the mother, as delighted as
though the youngest major in the army were ten years old, showing off
"I was sure of it, somehow. Oh, there are heaps of things about me,
mummy, that you don't understand. Looks as if it were goin' to be
a hot day - for England. Would you care for a ride this afternoon,
Miss Lacy? We can start out after tea, if you'd like it."
Miriam could not in decency refuse, but any woman might see she was
not filled with delight.
"That will be very nice, if you take the Bassett Road. It will save
me sending Martin down to the village," said the mother, filling in
Like all good managers, the mother had her one weakness - a mania for
little strategies that should economise horses and vehicles. Her
men-folk complained that she turned them into common carriers, and
there was a legend in the family that she had once said to the pater
on the morning of a meet: "If you should kill near Bassett, dear, and
if it isn't too late, would you mind just popping over and matching
" I knew that was coming. You'd never miss a chance, mother. If
it's a fish or a trunk I won't." Georgie laughed.
"It's only a duck. They can do it up very neatly at Mallett's,"
said the mother, simply. "You won't mind, will you? We'll have a
scratch dinner at nine, because it's so hot."
The long summer day dragged itself out for centuries; but at last
there was tea on the lawn, and Miriam appeared.
She was in the saddle before he could offer to help, with the clean
spring of the child who mounted the pony for the Thirty-Mile Ride.
The day held mercilessly, though Georgie got down thrice to look for
imaginary stones in Rufus's foot. One cannot say even simple things
in broad light, and this that Georgie meditated was not simple. So
he spoke seldom, and Miriam was divided between relief and scorn.
It annoyed her that the great hulking thing should know she had
written the words of the song overnight; for though a maiden may
sing her most secret fancies aloud, she does not care to have them
trampled over by the male Philistine. They rode into the little
red-brick street of Bassett, and Georgie made untold fuss over the
disposition of that duck. It must go in just such a package, and
be fastened to the saddle in just such a manner, though eight
o'clock had struck and they were miles from dinner.
"We must be quick!" said Miriam, bored and angry.
"There's no great hurry; but we can cut over Dowhead Down, and let
'em out on the grass. That will save us half an hour."
The horses capered on the short, sweet-smelling turf, and the
delaying shadows gathered in the valley as they cantered over the
great dun down that overhangs Bassett and the Western coaching-road.
Insensibly the pace quickened without thought of mole-hills; Rufus,
gentleman that he was, waiting on Miriam's Dandy till they should
have cleared the rise. Then down the two-mile slope they raced
together, the wind whistling in their ears, to the steady throb of
eight hoofs and the light click-click of the shifting bits.
"Oh, that was glorious!" Miriam cried, reining in. "Dandy and I are
old friends, but I don't think we've ever gone better together."
"No; but you've gone quicker, once or twice."
Georgie moistened his lips. "Don't you remember the Thirty-Mile
Ride - with me - when 'They' were after us - on the beach-road, with
the sea to the left - going toward the lamp-post on the downs?"
The girl gasped. "What - what do you mean?" she said hysterically.
"The Thirty-Mile Ride, and - and all the rest of it."
"You mean - ? I didn't sing anything about the Thirty-Mile Ride.
I know I didn't. I have never told a living soul.'"
"You told about Policeman Day, and the lamp at the top of the downs,
and the City of Sleep. It all joins on, you know - it's the same
country - and it was easy enough to see where you had been."
"Good God! - It joins on - of course it does; but - I have been -
you have been - Oh, let's walk, please, or I shall fall off!"
Georgie ranged alongside, and laid a hand that shook below her
bridle-hand, pulling Dandy into a walk. Miriam was sobbing as he
had seen a man sob under the touch of the bullet.
"It's all right - it's all right," he whispered feebly. "Only -
only it's true, you know."
"True! Am I mad?"
"Not unless I'm mad as well. Do try to think a minute quietly.
How could any one conceivably know anything about the Thirty-Mile
Ride having anything to do with you, unless he had been there?"
"But where? But where? Tell me!"
"There - wherever it may be - in our country, I suppose. Do you
remember the first time you rode it - the Thirty-Mile Ride, I
mean? You must."
"It was all dreams - all dreams!"
"Yes, but tell, please; because I know."
"Let me think. I - we were on no account to make any noise - on no
account to make any noise." She was staring between Dandy's ears,
with eyes that did not see, and a suffocating heart.
"Because 'It' was dying in the big house?" Georgie went on, reining
"There was a garden with green-and-gilt railings - all hot. Do you
"I ought to. I was sitting on the other side of the bed before 'It'
coughed and 'They' came in."
"You!" - the deep voice was unnaturally full and strong, and the
girl's wide-opened eyes burned in the dusk as she stared him through
and through. "Then you're the Boy - my Brushwood Boy, and I've known
you all my life!"
She fell forward on Dandy's neck. Georgie forced himself out of the
weakness that was overmastering his limbs, and slid an arm round her
waist. The head dropped on his shoulder, and he found himself with
parched lips saying things that up till then he believed existed
only in printed works of fiction. Mercifully the horses were quiet.
She made no attempt to draw herself away when she recovered, but lay
still, whispering, "Of course you're the Boy, and I didn't know -
I didn't know."
"I knew last night; and when I saw you at breakfast - "
"Oh, that was why! I wondered at the time. You would, of course."
"I couldn't speak before this. Keep your head where it is, dear.
It's all right now - all right now, isn't it?"
"But how was it I didn't know - after all these years and years?
I remember - oh, what lots of things I remember!"
"Tell me some. I'll look after the horses."
"I remember waiting for you when the steamer came in. Do you?"
"At the Lily Lock, beyond Hong-Kong and Java?"
"Do you call it that, too?"
"You told me it was when I was lost in the continent. That was you
that showed me the way through the mountains?"
"When the islands slid? It must have been, because you're the only
one I remember. All the others were 'Them.'
"Awful brutes they were, too."
"I remember showing you the Thirty-Mile Ride the first time. You
ride just as you used to - then. You are you!"
"That's odd. I thought that of you this afternoon. Isn't it
"What does it all mean? Why should you and I of the millions of
people in the world have this - this thing between us? What does
it mean? I'm frightened."
"This!" said Georgie. The horses quickened their pace. They thought
they had heard an order. "Perhaps when we die we may find out more,
but it means this now."
There was no answer. What could she say? As the world went, they
had known each other rather less than eight and a half hours, but
the matter was one that did not concern the world. There was a very
long silence, while the breath in their nostrils drew cold and sharp
as it might have been a fume of ether.
"That's the second," Georgie whispered. "You remember, don't you?"
"It's not!" - furiously. "It's not!"
"On the downs the other night-months ago. You were just as you are
now, and we went over the country for miles and miles."
"It was all empty, too. They had gone away. Nobody frightened us.
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