« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
certainty, from Marlborough. So tragically fares the man who tries
to serve two masters.
France time so to fortify Brest as to render all approaches to it impracticable." 2 Oldmixon is a bad authority, but-the advance was retarded! Macaulay inconsistently enough (if he believes Oldmixon) attributes the delays to bad weather. An instant blow, by Russell, would have left Marlborough's letter as innocuous as he may have intended it to be. Who were the traitors in council? We have from Captain Lloyd a view of the loyalty of Godolphin. According to Colonel Parnell, Godolphin, then First Lord of the Treasury, was "one of the most faithful Ministers of William," and was Marlborough's "congenial rade." Arcades ambo!
But probably there was other treason, there were other traitors. Why did Russell on May 5 sail away, and "return after an absence of eighteen days, having ascertained that the French fleet had quitted Brest"? Why did he again dally "for a few days with his whole fleet, troopships included"? Why did he give Vauban a delay of three weeks? According to Oldmixon, whose version Macaulay, as Mr Paget shows, unscrupulously perverts, the dying Talmash "named the traitors, those pernicious counsellors who had retarded the descent, and by that means given.
1 Marlborough could not be one of these counsellors. He was in William's disgrace.
2 Oldmixon, iii. 92.
A DOUBTFUL ACQUISITION.
"In der Liebe ist anders. Du verdienst sie weil du dich nicht darum bewirbst."-GOETHE.
As he sat in the Pavillon Henri Quatre waiting for his déjeuner, Everard West was wondering why he had come to St Germain. It could not be the conventional joy of obeying the guide-book; for that does not appeal with exhilarating force to a man who has roamed over three-fourths of the globe: no, it was clear that his chief reason had been the commonplace desire to extinguish one phase of boredom by another. For bored he certainly was, in spite of surroundings worthy of inspiriting even a blasé traveller. Here was a glorious morning in May, a comfortable seat, and a unique landscape. The trees of the forest in their tenderest green smiled coquettishly from the Terrace down the vine-clad slopes to the glittering Seine basking in lazy loops at their feet; thence over the plain the hot white roads stretched pitilessly under an ultramarine sky, past villages and chateaux, until they were lost in the sullen heights of Montmartre and Mont Valérien -a quivering horizon of battlemented haze only broken by the impudent tracery of the Eiffel Tower. Yet from this scene West turned away wearily, with the blasphemous comment that it would provide a fine artillery-ground. Within the salle-à-manger man was commendably vile. Tourists eating or expecting to eat are not fascinating, even when they include a French party whose père de famille was naïvely conscious of his red button, a couple of English parsons squabbling over Baedeker and their bill, three shrill emancipated American young ladies quarrelling with the waiter be
cause he did not Americanese, and a quartette of French bicyclists in the most irrational English costumes. To this bilingual assemblage West formed a grim contrast. His wiry figure and keen face, tanned as only an Eastern sun can tan, not to speak of that honourable scar seaming his left cheek, proclaimed that he had some right to look as soldierly as he did. As he sat beating a tattoo on the tablecloth, his wandering attention was arrested by the entrance of an obviously English pair,—the man a delicate intellectual - looking young fellow, but as uninteresting as average intellectuality always is; the woman-well! despite her severely plain black and white dress and hat, there floated about her something of the subtle witchery with which birth and breeding when aided by art will always invest womanhood. She could not be more than five-and-twenty; "beautiful" she could hardly be called, and "good-looking" was an outrageously commonplace term to apply to that refined profile and girlish figure, which seemed so conscious of their sex. She was laughing merrily enough as she and her companion strove to convey their wishes in intelligible French; but with the sudden intuition which sometimes flashes across even men, West felt that those joyous eyes and smiling lips were at best a mask. What lay behind, who could say? But it was certainly not laughter. Yes; Life-Life which had carelessly scrawled its trite text on his own face had begun early with her As she sat down she had
cast from under her long lashes a negligent look round the room, and her eye had rested for a moment on the table in the corner. West perhaps had met her gaze with unnecessary sympathy, for it was hurriedly withdrawn, but in that brief second he had been overpowered by the uncomfortable feeling that between this young woman and himself there existed some mysterious bond. He began to survey her narrowly, admiring the pose of her head with its coils of brown hair, the easy vivacity of her gestures, the insinuated delicacy of her exquisitely appropriate dress and hat. He even detected her slyly taking stock of himself, and it was almost with a sense of relief that he settled that her companion was her brother, and swore to himself that he had never seen her before. Then followed a shock. In drawing off her gloves she revealed to West's keen eye unmistakable glitter of a weddingring. He promptly called himself "ass" or something worse. Why should she not be married? What was it to him where her husband was? Yet he was so annoyed that he left his lunch half-finished and retired to the Terrace. There, lapped in a nirvana of tobaccosmoke and sunshine, he made the amazing discovery that he was no longer bored by St Germain.
He had hardly finished his first pipe when he was joined by the unknown woman's companion, and in five minutes they had exchanged newspapers and views on the beauties of the landscape. There was much of his sister's charm in this young man's smile as he remarked with a frank laugh
"We must introduce ourselves, I fancy. My name is Jackson; by compulsion of no profession, by taste a dabbler in literature and a dram-drinker in history."
"And I," replied West, "am called West; by profession a soldier, by taste dier, by taste a piratical condottiere."
"What! the Captain West?" ejaculated the young man.
West smiled. "I don't know about the 'the,' but I must own to being a Captain West," he replied, somewhat brusquely.
"But I mean," persisted Jackson, "the Captain West, the West of the Illustrated Papers, the West who "
"I may as well Own up," broke in the other, hurriedly. "I can't help those confounded journalists making copy of me; but really
"I am in luck. You must let me introduce you to my sister” (it was his sister, then !), "if it won't bore you. For you know, of course, that half the women in England are off their heads to know you."
"That is why I am here. I couldn't-pardon me-stand all that absurd rot just for doing what any one would have done quite as well, and so I fled where as yet no one but yourself has discovered me."
Despite this naïve confession they continued to chat. When their pipes were finished Jackson suggested a stroll in the Forest to find his sister, and West readily agreed. Fate clearly had ordained that he should make this woman's acquaintance.
They very soon found her, and West observed how she flushed when her eyes first fell on himself. He was, of course, not aware that his own tanned skin perceptibly browned a little too
if that were possible.
"Ida," said her brother, "may introduce my new acquaintance? Captain West, my sister Mrs Heathcote."
This time it was West's turn
to start most unmistakably as her name tripped innocently from her brother's lips. He always prided himself on not having a nerve in his body, yet Mrs Heathcote's searching eyes made him very uncomfortable. As their hands touched there again shot through him the weird feeling that in the dim recesses of the past there was a mysterious bond between them.
The conversation was at first irredeemably stupid. The weather, St Germain, the Forest, Paris, the Americans - all had their turn. Young Jackson, however, was not to be balked, and before long West had to tell in embarrassed jerks the story of that wonderful campaign on the Indian frontier-the revolt, the great ride, the holding of the fort, the sortie and its vic. tory with which England had been ringing. By the time that the fort was relieved they had regained the Terrace, now bathed in an afternoon sun. After all, it is not so very unpleasant even to a modest hero to dilate on one's acchievements when the audience includes a young woman who will adroitly punctuate your stories with the silent homage of glowing eyes and deep-drawn breaths. Nor was the place so incongruous. True, the Forest was sinking into the blood-red peace of a perfect sunset, and round them the nurses and children played in blissful contempt for the English tourist; but not so long ago this smiling valley too had suffered the long-drawn agony of a heroic siege, and had shuddered at the shriek of Prussian shells. In answer to Mrs Heathcote's questions, West gaily rattled on from skirmishes with dervishes in the Soudan to dacoit-hunts in Burmah and the "twisting of the tails of restless Indian tribes. South Africa of course could not be forgotten.
"Then you have been in South Africa too?" Mrs Heathcote asked with peculiar eagerness.
West smiled with dry satisfaction. "As far as I can make out," he said, quietly, "there are few countries in which I have not shed blood, either my own or that of others generally that of others," he added, with grim humour.
Mrs Heathcote was fingering nervously the white lace on her parasol; her brother also had become very attentive. West felt that the conversation had reached a crisis.
"You are interested in South Africa?" he asked, carelessly. "Perhaps," he went on, with an awkwardly light laugh, "you have shares in
"Oh no!" she replied, almost petulantly. Her voice dropped. "I had a friend who went out there." Then she stopped abruptly. But her look, West asked of himself, what did that look mean? There are some looks, surging up from the depths of the soul, whose tragedy no one can mistakelooks like those of a dumb animal in inexpressible torture—and this was one of them. He felt rather than saw that his questioner was on the verge of tears.
"Hullo!" he cried, jumping up and pulling out his watch, "sixthirty. I must be getting back to Paris. I had no idea it was so late."
Mrs Heathcote rewarded his adroitness with a glance of deep gratitude, but she left her brother to speak.
"What! you are going back to Paris!" the young man said, in genuine dismay. "I thought you were staying here, and I was hoping- " he turned appealingly to
however, already divined the meaning of his glance.
"Oh, do stay, if you can!" she intervened, almost pleadingly. "You have not half told us all I want to know. You have still got to tell me all about South Africa." With a little more coaxing he agreed to wire for his things. The piquant aroma of mystery which hung round her stirred him vaguely; but even apart from this, an hour in her society had created in him a longing to sip a few more draughts of the refreshing spell which her voice and eyes had to offer. He flattered himself, too, that he had read in her looks that kind of interest in himself which deserves the reward of further selfindulgence.
Yet, when alone in his room, he took himself severely to task. "Come, come," he said, "you haven't come to Paris to make a fool of yourself over a woman who is already married-you, too, who have been wooed by women until you are sick of the sex. Dash it all!" with a vicious dab of the brush at his hair, "you know better than that. But I mean to see it out," he added, firmly. Then he broke into a long whistle. "This is rum, deuced rum," he muttered, as he produced his pocket-book and drew from it a scrap of yellow foreign notepaper. His fingers trembled as he looked at it, and he swore softly. The soiled fragment was merely the end of a letter, but the faded ink distinctly bore the signature "Ida Heathcote." "I thought I could not be mistaken," was his comment at last; no wonder I jumped in the Forest." And he swore softly again. He stuck his hands in his pocket, sat down on the bed, and gazed stupidly at his boots. Presently an idea struck him. He hurried off to the portier and demanded the visitors' book. Once safe in
the fumoir, he put his yellow relic beside the entry of the day. The recent writing, "Mrs Heathcote, England," was certainly more fully formed, but even to the unpractised eye it was clearly the same hand as that which had penned the scrap in his possession. "And her name is Ida," he murmured. "Dash it all! this is rum. I am glad I am staying."
To his disappointment, however, Mrs Heathcote did not appear at dinner. She had gone to bed, her brother apologetically explained, with a bad headache. So West perforce had to defer further unravelling of the mystery until a more favourable season. He tried to dismiss the subject from his mind, but when bedtime came he was reminded in the most provoking way that even "V.C." heroes are human. West, who had slept on a rain-soaked ridge to the lullaby of a sputtering musketry-fire, found it impossible to sleep, and in the early morning, vanquished by the unusual struggle, he sallied forth to explore the Forest.
If St Germain had looked splendid the day before, it was positively entrancing in all the cool glory of the rising sun. To eyes long blistered by the glare of Egyptian sands or the scorched plains of the Punjaub, this sylvan paradise of winding paths and coy glades just awakening from their dewy sleep, this riotous maze of ever-changing greens, was an intoxicating dream. In this magic fairyland new charms revealed themselves at every step-now a peep of the Seine a dazzling ribbon of silver grey, now a vista of the plains reluctantly parting from the embrace of the dawn, now some unexplored copse wreathed in a broken aureole of dancing light.
Before the soothing breath of the breeze, the carolled matins of the birds, and the lingering