E-text prepared by Al Haines
'THE POMP OF YESTERDAY'
Author of 'All for a Scrap of Paper,' 'Dearer than Life,' 'The Curtain of Fire,' etc.
"Far famed our Navies melt away, On dune and headland sinks the fire, Lo, all the pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre. God of the Nations, spare us yet! Lest we forget, lest we forget." RUDYARD KIPLING.
Hodder and Stoughton London —— New York —— Toronto
JOSEPH HOCKING'S GREAT WAR STORIES
ALL FOR A SCRAP OF PAPER THE CURTAIN OF FIRE DEARER THAN LIFE THE PRICE OF A THRONE THE PATH OF GLORY 'THE POMP OF YESTERDAY' TOMMY TOMMY AND THE MAID OF ATHENS
OTHER STORIES BY JOSEPH HOCKING
Facing Fearful Odds O'er Moor and Fen The Wilderness Rosaleen O'Hara The Soul of Dominic Wildthorne Follow the Gleam David Baring The Trampled Cross
"Let us never forget in all that we do, that the measure of our ultimate success will be governed, largely if not mainly, by the strength with which we put our religious convictions into our action and hold fast firmly and fearlessly to the faith of our forefathers."
Extract of speech by General Sir William Robertson.
March 2, 1918.
I THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST II SIR ROGER GRANVILLE'S SUGGESTION III THE STRANGE BBHAVIOUR OF GEORGE ST. MABYN IV I MEET CAPTAIN SPRINGFIELD V HOW A MAN WORKED A MIRACLE VI PAUL EDGECUMBE'S MEMORY VII A CAUSE OF FAILURE VIII I BECOME AN EAVESDROPPER IX EDGECUMBE is MISSING X THE STRUGGLE IN THE TRENCHES XI EDGECUMBE'S STORY XII THE STRUGGLE ON THE SOMME XIII EDGECUMBE'S MADNESS XIV EDGECUMBE'S LOGIC XV DEVONSHIRE XVI LORNA BOLIVICK'S HOME XVII A NEW DEVELOPMENT XVIII A TRAGIC HAPPINESS XIX A MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS XX A STRANGE NIGHT XXI COLONEL MCCLURE'S VERDICT XXII EDGECUMBE'S RESOLVE XXIII SPRINGFIELD'S PROGRESS XXIV A STRANGE LOVE-MAKING XXV 'WHY IS VICTORY DELAYED?' XXVI 'WHERE DOES GOD COME IN?' XXVII SEEING LONDON XXVIII SUNSHINE AND SHADOW XXIX CROSS CURRENTS XXX THE MARCH OF EVENTS XXXI EDGECUMBE'S RETURN XXXII THE GREAT MEETING XXXIII THE LIFTED CURTAIN XXXIV MEMORY XXXV AFTERWARDS XXXVI EDGECUMBE'S RESOLUTION XXXVII MAURICE ST. MABYN XXXVIII A BOMBSHELL XXXIX SPRINGFIELD AT BAY XL MAURICE ST. MABYN'S GENEROSITY XLI THE NEW HOPE XLII AN UNFINISHED STORY
It is now fast approaching four years since our country at the call of duty, and for the world's welfare entered the great struggle which is still convulsing the nations of the earth. What this has cost us, and what it has meant to us, and to other countries, it is impossible to describe. Imagination reels before the thought. Still the ghastly struggle continues, daily comes the story of carnage, and suffering, and loss; and still the enemy who stands for all that is basest, and most degraded in life, stands firm, and proudly vaunts his prowess.
Why is Victory delayed?
That is the question which has haunted me for many months, and I have asked myself whether we, and our Allies, have failed in those things which are essential, not only to Victory, but to a righteous and, therefore, lasting peace.
In this story, while not attempting a full and complete answer to the question, I have made certain suggestions which I am sure the Nation, the Empire, ought to consider; for on our attitude towards them depends much that is most vital to our welfare.
Let it not be imagined, however, that The Pomp of Yesterday is anything in the nature of a polemic, or a treatise. It is first and foremost a story—a romance if you like—of incident, and adventure. But it is more than a story. It deals with vital things, and it deals with them—however inadequately—sincerely and earnestly. The statements, moreover, which will probably arouse a great deal of antagonism in certain quarters, are not inventions of the Author, but were related to him by those in a position to know.
Neither are the descriptions of the Battle of the Somme the result of the Author's imagination, but transcripts from the experiences of some who passed through it. Added to this, I have, since first writing the story, paid a Second Visit to the Front, during which I traversed the country on which Thiepval, Goomecourt, La Boiselle, Contalmaison; and a score of other towns and villages once stood. Because of this, while doubtless a military authority could point out technical errors in my descriptions, I have been able to visualize the scenes of the battle, and correct such mistakes as I made at the time of writing.
One other word. More than once, the chief character in the narrative anticipates what has taken place in Russia. While I do not claim to be a prophet, it is only fair to say that I finished writing the story in August, 1917, when very few dreamt of the terrible chaos which now exists in the once Great Empire on which we so largely depended.
THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST
My first meeting with the man whose story I have set out to relate was in Plymouth. I had been standing in the harbour, hoping that the friends I had come to meet might yet appear, even although the chances of their doing so had become very small. Perhaps a hundred passengers had landed at the historic quay, and practically all of them had rushed away to catch the London train. I had scrutinized each face eagerly, but when the last passenger had crossed the gangway I had been reluctantly compelled to assume that my friends, for some reason or other, had not come.
I was about to turn away, and go back to the town, when some one touched my arm. 'This is Plymouth, isn't it?'
I turned, and saw a young man. At that time I was not sure he was young; he might have been twenty-eight, or he might have been forty-eight. His face was marked by a thousand lines, while a look suggestive of age was in his eyes. He spoke to me in an apologetic sort of way, and looked at me wistfully.
I did not answer him for a second, as his appearance startled me. The strange admixture of youth and age gave me an eerie feeling.
'Yes,' I replied, 'this is Plymouth. At least, this is Plymouth Harbour.'
He turned toward the vessel, and looked at it for some seconds, and then heaved a sigh.
'Have you friends on board?' I asked.
'Oh, no,' he replied. 'I have just left it. I thought I remembered Plymouth, and so I got off.'
'Where have you come from?'
'Where did you come from?'
'From Bombay. It was a long journey to Bombay, but it seemed my only chance.' Then he shuddered.
'Aren't you well?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, I am very well now. But everything seems difficult to realize; you, now, and all this,' and he cast his eyes quickly around him, 'seem to be something which exists in the imagination, rather than objective, tangible things.'
He spoke perfect English, and his manner suggested education, refinement.
'You don't mind my speaking to you, do you?' he added somewhat nervously.
'Not at all,' and I scrutinized him more closely. 'If you did not speak English so well,' I said, 'I should have thought you were an Indian,'—and then I realized that I had been guilty of a faux pas, for I saw his face flush and his lips tremble painfully.
'You were thinking of my clothes,' was his reply. 'They were the best I could get. When I realized that I was alive, I was half naked; I was very weak and ill, too. I picked up these things,' and he glanced at his motley garments, 'where and how I could. On the whole, however, people were very kind to me. When I got to Bombay, my feeling was that I must get to England.'
'And where are you going now?' I asked.
'I don't know. Luckily I have a little money; I found it inside my vest. I suppose I must have put it there before——' and then he became silent, while the strange, wistful look in his eyes was intensified.
'What is your name?' I asked.
'I haven't the slightest idea. It's very awkward, isn't it?' and he laughed nervously. 'Sometimes dim pictures float before my mind, and I seem to have vague recollections of things that happened ages and ages ago. But they pass away in a second. I am afraid you think my conduct unpardonable, but I can hardly help myself. You see, having no memory, I act on impulse. That was why I spoke to you.'
'The poor fellow must be mad,' I said to myself; 'it would be a kindness to him to take him to a police station, and ask the authorities to take care of him.' But as I looked at him again, I was not sure of this. In spite of his strange attire, and in spite, too, of the wistful look in his eyes, there was no suggestion of insanity. That he had passed through great trouble I was sure, and I had a feeling that he must, at some time, have undergone some awful experiences. But his eyes were not those of a madman. In some senses they were bold and resolute, and suggested great courage; in others they expressed gentleness and kindness.
'Then you have no idea what you are going to do, now you have landed at Plymouth?'
'I'm afraid I haven't. Perhaps I ought not to have got off here at all. But again I acted on impulse. You see, when I first saw the harbour, I had a feeling that I had been here before, so seeing the others landing, I followed them. My reason for speaking to you was, I think, this,'—and he touched my tunic. 'Besides, there was something in your eyes which made me trust you.'
'Are you a soldier, then?' I asked.
'I don't know. You see, I don't know anything. But I rather think I must have been interested in the Army, because I am instinctively drawn to any one wearing a soldier's uniform. You are a captain, I see.'
'Yes,' I replied. 'I'm afraid my position in the Army is somewhat anomalous, but there it is. When the war broke out, I was asked by the War Office to do some recruiting, and thinking that I should have more influence as a soldier, a commission was given me. I don't know much about soldiering, although I have taken a great deal of interest in the Army all my life.'
He looked at me in a puzzled sort of way. 'War broke out?' he queried. 'Is England at war?'
'Didn't you know?'
He shook his head pathetically. 'I know nothing. All the way home I talked to no one. I didn't feel as though I could. You see, people looked upon me as a kind of curiosity, and I resented it somewhat. But, England at war! By Jove, that's interesting!'
His eyes flashed with a new light, and another tone came into his voice. 'Who are we at war with?' he added.
'Principally with Germany,' I replied, 'but it'll take a lot of explaining, if you've heard nothing about it. Roughly speaking, England, France, and Russia are at war with Germany, Austria and Turkey.'
'I always said it would come—always. The Germans have meant it for years.'
'The fellow is contradicting himself; he begins to have a memory in a remarkable manner,' I thought. 'When did you think it would come?' I asked.
He looked at me in a puzzled way as if he were trying to co-ordinate his thoughts, and then, with a sigh, gave it up as if in despair. 'It is always that way,' he said with a sigh, 'sometimes flashes of the past come to me, but they never remain. But what is England at war about?'
'I am afraid it would take too long to tell you. I say,' and I turned to him suddenly, 'have you done anything wrong in India, that you come home in this way?'
I was sorry the moment I had spoken, for I knew by the look in his eyes that my suspicion was unjust.
'Not that I know of,' he replied. 'I am simply a fellow who can't remember. You don't know how I have struggled to recall the past, and what a weary business it is.'
I must confess I felt interested in him. That he had been educated as a gentleman was evident from every word he spoke, and in spite of his motley garb, no one would take him for an ordinary man. I wanted to know more about him, and to look behind the curtain which hid his past from him.
'I'm afraid I must be an awful nuisance to you,' he said. 'I'm taking up a lot of your time, and doubtless you have your affairs to attend to.'
'No, I'm at a loose end just now. If you like, I'll help you to get some other clothes, and then you'll feel more comfortable.'
'It would be awfully good of you if you would.'
Two hours later, he sat with me in the dining-room of a hotel which faced The Hoe. His nondescript garments were discarded, and he was now clothed in decent British attire. That he had a good upbringing, and was accustomed to the polite forms of society, was more than ever evidenced while we were together at the hotel. There was no suggestion of awkwardness in his movements, and everything he did betrayed the fact that he had been accustomed to the habits and associations of an English gentleman.
After dinner, we went for a walk on The Hoe.
'It would be really ever so much easier to talk to you,' I said with a laugh, 'if you had a name. Have you no remembrance of what you were called?'
'Not the slightest. In a vague way I know I am an Englishman, and that's about all. Months ago I seemed to awake out of a deep sleep, and I realized that I was in India. By a kind of intuition, I found my way to Bombay, and hearing that a boat was immediately starting for England, I came by it. It was by the merest chance that I was able to come. I had walked a good way, and was foot-sore. I had a bathe in a pond by the roadside, and on examining a pocket inside my vest I found several L5 notes.'
'And you knew their value?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, perfectly,' he replied.
'Did you not realize that they might not belong to you?'
'No, I was perfectly sure that they belonged to me, and that I had put them there before I lost my memory, I can't give you any reason for this, but I know it was so. I have just another remembrance,' he added, and he shuddered as he spoke.
'What is that?'
'That I had been with Indians. Even now I dream about them, and I wake up in the night sometimes, seeing the glitter of their eyes, and the flash of their knives. I think they tortured me, too. I have curious scars on my body. Still, I don't think about that if I can help it.'
'And you have no recollection of your father or mother?'
He shook his head.
'No memories of your boyhood?'
'Then I must give you a name. What would you like to be called?'
He laughed almost merrily. 'I don't know. One name is as good as another. What a beautiful place!' and he pointed to one of the proudest dwellings in that part of the country. 'What is it called?'
'That is Mount Edgecumbe,' I said.
'Mount Edgecumbe,' he repeated, 'Edgecumbe? That sounds rather nice. Call me Edgecumbe.'
'All right,' I laughed; 'but what about your Christian name?'
'I don't mind what it is. What do you suggest?'
'There was a scriptural character who had strange experiences, called Paul.'
'Paul Edgecumbe,—that wouldn't sound bad, would it?'
'No, it sounds very well.'
'For the future, then, I'll be Paul Edgecumbe, until—my memory comes back;—if ever it does,' he added with a sigh. 'Paul Edgecumbe, Paul Edgecumbe,—yes, I shall remember that.'
'And what are you going to do?' I asked. 'Your little store of money will soon be gone. Have you any idea what you are fit for?'
'Not the slightest. Stay though——' A group of newly-made soldiers passed by as he spoke, and each of them, according to the custom of soldiers, saluted me. 'Strapping lot of chaps, aren't they?' he said, like one talking to himself; 'they'll need a lot of licking into shape, though. By Jove, that'll do.'
'You say England is at war, and you've been on a recruiting stunt. That will suit me. Recruit me, will you?'
'Do you know anything about soldiering?'
'I don't think so. I remember nothing. Why do you ask?'
'Because when those soldiers saluted me just now, you returned the salute.'
'Did I? I didn't know. Perhaps I saw you doing so and I unconsciously followed your lead. But I don't think I do know anything about soldiering. I remember nothing about it, anyhow.'
This conversation took place in the early spring of 1915, just as England began to realize that we were actually at war. The first flush of recruiting had passed, and hundreds of thousands of our finest young men had volunteered for the Army. But a kind of apathy had settled upon the nation, and fellows who should have come forward willingly hung back.
I had been fairly successful in my recruiting campaign; nevertheless I was often disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm manifested. I found that young men gave all sorts of foolish excuses as reasons for not joining; and when this stranger volunteered, as it seemed to me, unthinkingly, and without realizing the gravity of the step he was taking, I hesitated.
'Of course you understand that you are doing a very important thing?' I said. 'We are at war, and fellows who volunteer know that they are possibly volunteering for death.'
'Oh yes, of course.' He said this in what seemed to me such a casual and matter-of-fact way that I could not believe he realized what war was.
'The casualty list is already becoming very serious,' I continued. 'You see, we are having to send out men after a very short training, and thus it comes about that the lads who, when war broke out, never dreamed of being soldiers, are now, many of them, either maimed and crippled for life, or dead. You quite realize what you are doing?'
'Certainly,' he replied, 'but then, although I have forgotten nearly everything else, I have not forgotten that I am an Englishman, and of course, as an Englishman, I could do no other than offer myself to my country. Still, I'd like to know the exact nature of our quarrel with Germany.'
'You've not forgotten there is such a country as Germany, then?'
'Oh, no.' And then he sighed, as if trying to recollect something. 'I say,' he went on, 'my mind is a curious business. I know that Germany is a country in Europe. I can even remember the German language. I know that Berlin is the capital of the country, and I can recall the names of many of their big towns,—Leipzig, Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremburg; I have a sort of fancy that I have visited them; but I know nothing of the history of Germany,—that is all a blank. Funny, isn't it?' and then he sighed again.
'As it happens,' I said, 'I have to speak at a recruiting meeting to-night, here in Plymouth. Would you like to come? I am going to deal with the reasons for the war, and to show why it is every chap's duty to do his bit.'
'I'd love to come. My word! what's that?'
Away in the distance there was a sound of martial music, and as the wind was blowing from the south-west the strains reached us clearly. Evidently some soldiers were marching with a band.
'It's fine, isn't it!' he cried. He threw back his shoulders, stood perfectly erect, and his footsteps kept perfect time to the music. I felt more than ever convinced that he had had some former association with the Army.
On our way to the recruiting meeting, however, he seemed to have forgotten all about it. He was very listless, and languid, and depressed. He was like a man who wanted to hide himself from the crowd, and he slunk along the streets as though apologizing for his presence.
'That's the hall,' I said, pointing to a big building into which the people were thronging.
'I shall not be noticed, shall I? If you think I should, I'd rather not go.'
'Certainly not. Who's going to notice you? I'll get you a seat on the platform if you like.'
'Oh, no, no. Let me slink behind a pillar somewhere. No, please don't bother about me, I'll go in with that crowd. I'll find you after the meeting.' He left me as he spoke, and a minute later I had lost sight of him.
I am afraid I paid scanty attention to what was said to me in the anteroom, prior to going into the hall. The man interested me more than I can say. I found myself wondering who he was, where he came from, and what his experiences had been. More than once, I doubted whether I had not been the victim of an impostor. The story of his loss of memory was very weak and did not accord with the spirit of the men in the anteroom, who were eagerly talking about the war; or with the purposes of the meeting. And yet I could not help trusting in him, he was so frank and manly. In a way, he was transparent, too, and talked like a grown-up child.
When I entered the hall, which was by this time crowded with, perhaps, two thousand people, I scanned the sea of faces eagerly, but could nowhere see the man who had adopted the name of Paul Edgecumbe. I doubted whether he was there at all, and whether I should ever see him again. Still, I did not see what purpose he could have had in deceiving me. He had received nothing from me, save his dinner at the hotel, which I had persisted in paying for in spite of his protests. The clothes he wore were paid for by his own money, and he showed not the slightest expectation of receiving any benefits from me.
Just as I was called upon to speak, I caught sight of him. He was sitting only a few rows back from the platform, close to a pillar, and his eyes, I thought, had a vacant stare. When my name was mentioned, however, and I stood by the table on the platform, waiting for the applause which is usual on such an occasion to die down, the vacant look had gone. He was eager, alert, attentive.
Usually I am not a ready speaker, but that night my work seemed easy. After I had sketched the story of the events which led to the war, the atmosphere became electric, and the cause I had espoused gripped me as never before, and presently, when I came to the application of the story I had told, and of our duty as a nation which pretended to stand for honour and truth, and Christianity, my heart grew hot, and the meeting became wild with enthusiasm.
Just as I was closing, I looked toward the pillar by which Paul Edgecumbe sat, and his face had become so changed that I scarcely knew him. There were no evidences of the drawn, parchment-like skin; instead, his cheeks were flushed, and looked youthful. His eyes were no longer wistful and sad, but burned like coals of fire. He was like a man consumed by a great passion. If he had forgotten the past, the present, at all events, was vividly revealed to him.
Before I sat down, I appealed for volunteers. I asked the young men, who believed in the sacredness of promises, in the honour of life, in the sanctity of women, to come on to the platform, and to give in their names as soldiers of the King.
There was no applause, a kind of hush rested on the audience; but for more than a minute no one came forward. Then I saw Paul Edgecumbe make his way from behind the pillar, and come towards the platform, the people cheering as he did so. He climbed the platform steps, and walked straight toward the chairman, who looked at him curiously.
'Will you take me, sir?' he said, and his voice rang out clearly among the now hushed audience.
'You wish to join, do you?'
'Join!' he said passionately, 'how can a man, who is a man, do anything else?'
What I have related describes how I first met Paul Edgecumbe, and how he joined the Army. At least a hundred other volunteers came forward that night, but I paid little attention to them. The man whose history was unknown to me, and whose life-story was unknown even to himself, had laid a strong hand upon me.
As I look back on that night now, and as I remember what has since taken place, I should, if power had been given me to read the future, have been even more excited than I was.
SIR ROGER GRANVILLE'S SUGGESTION
When the meeting was over, I looked around for my new acquaintance, but he was nowhere to be found. I waited at the hall door until the last man had departed, but could not see him. Thinking he might have gone to the hotel where we had had dinner, I went up to The Hoe, and inquired for him; but he had not been seen. He had vanished as suddenly as he had appeared.
I must confess that I was somewhat anxious about him, and wondered what had become of him. He was alone; he knew no one but myself; he had lost his memory; he was utterly ignorant of Plymouth, and I feared lest something untoward should have happened to him. However, I reflected that, as volunteers had been ordered to report themselves at the barracks at nine o'clock on the following morning, I should find him there.
I went to the house I was staying at, therefore, hoping, in spite of my misgivings, that all would be well.
I had no opportunity of going to the barracks, however. Before I had finished breakfast the next day a telegram arrived, ordering me to go to Falmouth by the earliest possible train on an urgent matter. This necessitated my leaving Plymouth almost before my breakfast was finished. All I could do, therefore, was to scribble him a hasty line, explaining the situation, and urging him to communicate with me at an address I gave him in Falmouth. I also told him that on my return to Plymouth I would look him up, and do all I could for him.
As events turned out, however, I did not get back for more than a week, and when I did, although I made careful inquiries, I could learn nothing. Whether he remained in Plymouth, or not, I could not tell, and of course, among the thousands of men who were daily enlisting, it was difficult to discover the whereabouts of an unknown volunteer. Moreover, there were several recruiting stations in Plymouth besides the barracks, and thus it was easy for me to miss him.
Months passed, and I heard nothing about Paul Edgecumbe, and if the truth must be told, owing to the multifarious duties which pressed upon me at that time, I almost forgot him. But not altogether. Little as I knew of him, his personality had impressed itself upon me, while the remembrance of that wild flash in his eyes as he came on to the platform in Plymouth, and declared that he should join the Army, was not easily forgotten.
One day, about three months after our meeting, I was lunching with Colonel Gray in Exeter, when Sir Roger Granville, who was chairman of the meeting at which Edgecumbe had enlisted, joined us.
'I have often thought about that fellow who joined up at Plymouth, Luscombe,' he said. 'Have you ever heard any more about him?'
I shook my head. 'I've tried to follow him up, too. The fellow has had a curious history.' Whereupon I told Sir Roger what I knew about him.
'Quite a romance,' laughed Colonel Gray. 'It would be interesting to know what becomes of him.'
'I wonder who and what he is?' mused Sir Roger.
'Anything might happen to a fellow like that. He may be a peer or a pauper; he may be married or single, and there may be all sorts of interesting developments.'
He grew quite eloquent, I remember, as to the poor fellow's possible future, and would not listen to Colonel Gray's suggestions that probably everything would turn out in the most prosaic fashion.
About five o'clock that evening our train arrived at a little roadside station, where Sir Roger Granville's motor-car awaited us. It was a beautiful day in early summer, and the whole countryside was lovely.
'No wonder you Devonshire people are proud of your county,' I said, as the car swept along a winding country lane.
'Yes, you Cornishmen may well be jealous of us, although, for that matter, I don't know whether I am a Cornishman or a Devonshire man. There has always been a quarrel, you know, as to whether the Granvilles belonged to Cornwall or Devon, although I believe old Sir Richard was born on the Cornish side of the county boundary. In fact, there are several families around here who can hardly tell the county they hail from. You see that place over there?' and he pointed to a fine old mansion that stood on the slopes of a wooded hill.
'It's a lovely spot,' I ventured.
'It is lovely, and George St. Mabyn is a lucky fellow. But a propos of our conversation, George does not know which county his family came from originally, Cornwall or Devon. St. Mabyn, you know, is a Cornish parish, and I suppose that some of the St. Mabyns came to Devonshire from Cornwall three centuries ago. That reminds me, he is dining with us to-night. If I mistake not, he is a bit gone on a lady who's staying at my house,—fascinating girl she is, too; but whether she'll have him or not, I have my doubts.'
'Why?' I asked.
'Oh, she was engaged to his elder brother, who was killed in Egypt, and who was heir to the estate. It was awfully sad about Maurice,—fine fellow he was. But there was a row with the Arabs up by the Nile somewhere, and Maurice got potted.'
'And George not only came into the estate, but may also succeed to his brother's sweetheart?' I laughed.
'That's so. It's years ago now since Maurice's regiment was sent to Egypt, and the engagement, so I am informed, was fixed up the night before he went.'
'And is George St. Mabyn a good chap?'
'Oh, yes. He was a captain in the Territorials before the war broke out, and was very active in recruiting last autumn. In November he got sent to Ypres, and had a rough time there, I suppose. He was there until two months ago, when he was wounded. He's home on leave now. This war's likely to drag on, isn't it? We've been at it nine months, and there are no signs of the Germans crumbling up.'
'From all I can hear,' I said, 'it was touch and go with us a little while ago. If they had broken through our lines at Ypres, we should have been in a bad way.'
'My word, we should! Still, the way our fellows stuck it was magnificent.'
The car entered the drive just then which led to Sir Roger's place, and after passing more than a mile through fine park land, we swept up to an old, grey stone mansion.
'You possess one of the finest specimens of an Old English home that I know, Sir Roger,' I said.
'Yes, I do,' and there was a touch of pride in his voice. 'I love every stone of it,—I love every outbuilding,—I love every acre of the old place. I suppose it's natural, too,—my people have lived here so long. Heavens! suppose the Germans were to get here, and treat it as they have treated the old French chateaux! Hallo, here we are!' and he shouted to some people near the house. 'You see I have brought the orator with me!'
We alighted from the car, and made our way towards three ladies who sat in a secluded nook on the lawn. One I knew immediately as Lady Granville, the other two were strangers to me. But as they will figure more or less prominently in this story, and were closely associated with the events which followed, it will be necessary for me to give some description of them.
THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF GEORGE ST. MABYN
One was a tall, stylishly dressed, handsome girl, of striking appearance. I had almost called her a woman, for although she was still young, her appearance could not be called strictly girlish. She might be about twenty-five years of age, and her face, though free from lines, suggested a history. I thought, too, that there was a lack of frankness in her face, and that she had a furtive look in her eyes. There was nothing else in her appearance, however, which suggested this. She gave me a pleasant greeting, and expressed the hope that we should have a good meeting in the little town near Granitelands, which was the name of Lord Granville's house.
'I have heard such tremendous things about you, Captain Luscombe,' she said, 'that I am quite excited. Report has it that you are quite an orator.'
'Report is a lying jade,' I replied; 'still, I suppose since the people at the War Office think I am no use as a fighter, they must use me to persuade others to do their bit.'
'Of course I am going,' she laughed, 'although, personally, I don't like the Army.'
'Not like the Army, Norah!' It was the other girl who spoke, and who thus drew my attention to her.
I was not much impressed by Lorna Bolivick when I had been first introduced to her, but a second glance showed me that she was by far the more interesting of the two. In one sense, she looked only a child, and I judged her to be about nineteen or twenty years of age. She had all a child's innocence, and naivete, too; I thought she seemed as free from care as the lambs I had seen sporting in the meadows, or the birds singing among the trees. I judged her to be just a happy-go-lucky child of nature, who had lived among the shoals of life, and had never realized its depths. Her brown eyes were full of laughter and fun. Her frank, untrammelled ways suggested a creature of impulse.
'That girl never had a care in her life,' I reflected; 'she's just a happy kid who, although nearly a woman in years, is not grown up.'
I soon found myself mistaken, however. Something was said, I have forgotten what, which evidently moved her, and her face changed as if by magic. The look of carelessness left her in a moment, her great brown eyes burned with a new light, her face revealed possibilities which I had not dreamt of. I knew then that Lorna Bolivick could feel deeply, that she was one who heard voices, and had plumbed the depths of life which were unknown to the other.
She was not handsome, a passing observer would not even call her pretty, but she had a wondrous face.
'Do you like my name, Captain Luscombe?' she asked.
'It is one of the most musical I know,' I replied.
'I don't like it,' she laughed. 'You see, in a way it gives me such a lot to live up to. I suppose dad was reading Blackmore's great novel when I was born, and so, although all the family protested, he insisted on my being called Lorna. But I'm not a bit like her. She was gentle, and winsome, and beautiful, and I am not a bit gentle, I am not a bit winsome, and I am as ugly as sin,—my brothers all tell me so. Besides, in spite of the people who talk so much about Lorna Doone, I think she was insipid,—a sort of wax doll.'
Just then we heard the tooting of a motor horn, and turning, saw a car approaching the house.
'There's George St. Mabyn,' cried Sir Roger. 'You're just in time, George,—I was wondering if you would be in time for our early dinner.'
Immediately afterwards, I was introduced to a young fellow about twenty-eight years of age, who struck me as a remarkably good specimen of the English squire class. He had, as I was afterwards told, conducted himself with great bravery in Belgium and France, and had been mentioned in the dispatches. I quickly saw that Sir Roger Granville had been right when he said that George St. Mabyn was deeply in love with Norah Blackwater. In fact, he took no trouble to hide the fact. He flushed like a boy as he approached her, and then, as I thought, his face looked pained as he noticed her cold greeting. They were evidently well known to each other, however, as he called her by her Christian name, and assumed the attitude of an old friend.
I did not think Lorna Bolivick liked him. Her greeting was cordial enough, and yet I thought I detected a certain reserve; but of course it might be only my fancy. In any case, they were nothing to me. I was simply a bird of passage, and would, in all probability, go away on the morrow, never to see them again.
During the informal and somewhat hurried evening meal which had been prepared, I found myself much interested in the young squire. He had a frank, boyish manner which charmed me, and in spite of his being still somewhat of an invalid, his fresh, open-air way of looking at things was very pleasant.
'By the way, Luscombe,' said Sir Roger, as the ladies rushed away to their rooms to prepare for their motor drive, 'tell St. Mabyn about that fellow we were talking of to-day; he'll be interested.'
'It's only a man I met with in Plymouth some time ago, who has lost his memory,' I responded.
'Lost his memory? What do you mean?'
I gave him a brief outline of the story I have related in these pages, and then added: 'It is not so strange after all; I have heard of several cases since, where, through some accident, or shock, men have been robbed of the past. In some cases their memory has returned to them suddenly, and they have gone back to their people, who had given them up for dead. On the other hand, I suppose there have been lots who have never recovered.'
'The thing that struck me,' said Sir Roger, 'was the possibility of a very interesting denouement in this case. I was chairman of the meeting at Plymouth, where the fellow enlisted, and he struck me as an extraordinary chap. He had all the antiquity of Adam on his face, and yet he might have been young. He had the look of a gentleman, too, and from what Luscombe tells me, he is a gentleman. But there it is; he remembers nothing, the past is a perfect blank to him. What'll happen, if his memory comes back?'
'Probably nothing,' said St. Mabyn; 'he may have had the most humdrum past imaginable.'
'Of course he may, but on the other hand there may be quite a romance in the story. As I said to Luscombe, he may have a wife, or a sweetheart, who has been waiting for him for years, and perhaps given him up as dead. Think of his memory coming back, and of the meeting which would follow! Or supposing he is an heir to some estate, and somebody else has got it? Why, George, think if something like that had happened to your brother Maurice! It might, in fact it would alter everything. But there are the motors at the door; we must be off.'
He turned toward the door as he spoke, and did not see George St. Mabyn's face; but I did. It had become drawn and haggard, while in his eyes was a look which suggested anguish.
In spite of myself, a suspicion flashed across my mind. Of course the thing was improbable, if not impossible. But, perhaps influenced by Sir Roger's insistence upon the romantic possibilities of the story, I could not help thinking of it. There could be no doubt, too, that George St. Mabyn looked positively ghastly. A few minutes before, he looked ruddy and well, but now his face was haggard, as if he were in great pain.
Of course it was all nonsense; nevertheless I caught myself constantly thinking about it on my way to the meeting. In fact, so much did it occupy my attention that Lorna Bolivick, who sat with me in the car, laughingly suggested that I was a dull companion, and was evidently thinking more about my speech than how to be agreeable to a lady.
'St. Mabyn ought to be the speaker, not I,' I said. 'He has been to the front, and knows what real fighting means.'
'Oh, George can't speak,' she replied laughingly; 'why, even when he addressed his tenants, after Maurice was killed, he nearly broke down.'
'What sort of fellow was Maurice?' I asked.
'Oh, just splendid. Everybody loved Maurice. But he ought not to have stayed in the Army.'
'Because,—because—oh, I don't know why, but it didn't seem right. His father was old and feeble when he went away, and as he was the heir he ought to have stayed at home and looked after him, and the estate. But he would go. There were rumours about trouble in Egypt, and Maurice said he wanted to see some fighting. I suppose it was his duty, too. After all, he was a soldier, and when his regiment was ordered abroad, he had to go. But it seems an awful shame.'
'What kind of a looking fellow was he?'
'I don't think I am a judge; I was only a kiddy at the time, and people said I made an idol of Maurice. But to me he was just splendid, just the handsomest fellow I ever saw. He had such a way with him, too; no one could refuse him anything.'
'I suppose he was engaged to Miss Blackwater?'
The girl was silent. Evidently she did not wish to talk about it.
'Were the two brothers fond of each other?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, awfully fond. The news of Maurice's death almost killed George. You see, it happened not long after his father's death. You have no idea how he was cut up; it was just horrible to see him. But he's got over it now. It nearly broke my heart too, so I can quite understand what George felt. But this must be very uninteresting to you.'
'On the other hand, it is very interesting. Did you tell me that George St. Mabyn was engaged to Miss Blackwater?'
'No, I didn't tell you that.'
'Is he going to be?'
I knew I was rather overstepping the bounds of good taste, but the question escaped me almost before I was aware.
'I don't know. Oh, won't it be lovely when the war is over! You think it will be over soon, don't you?'
'I am afraid not,' I said; 'as far as I can see, we are only at the beginning of it.'
'Have you reason for saying that?'
'The gravest,' I replied; 'why do you ask?'
'Only that I feel so ashamed of myself. Here are you going to a meeting to-night to persuade men to join the Army, while some of us women do practically nothing. But I'm going to; I told dad I should, only this morning, but he laughed at me. He said I should stay at home and stick to my knitting.'
'What did you tell him you were going to do?'
'Train as a nurse. But he wouldn't hear of it. He said it was not a fit thing for a young girl to nurse wounded men. But if they are wounded for their country, surely we women ought to stop at nothing. But here we are at the hall. Mind you make a good speech, Captain Luscombe; I am going to be an awfully severe critic.'
After the meeting, George St. Mabyn returned with us to Granitelands, and Sir Roger, in talking about the men who had volunteered for service that night, again referred to the meeting at Plymouth, and to the man who had enlisted. He also again insisted upon the possible romantic outcome of the situation. Again I thought I saw the haunted look in George St. Mabyn's eyes, and I fancied that the cigar he held between his fingers trembled.
Miss Blackwater, however, showed very little interest in the story, and seemed to be somewhat bored by its recital. Lorna Bolivick, however, was greatly interested.
'And do you mean to say,' she asked, 'that you don't know where he is?'
'I have not the slightest idea.'
'And aren't you going to find out?'
'If I can, certainly.'
'Why,—why,'—and she spoke in a childish, impetuous way—'I think it is just cruel of you. If I were in your place, I wouldn't rest until I had found him. I would hunt the whole Army through.'
'I should have a long job,' I replied. 'Besides, he may not have joined the Army.'
'But he has,—of course he has. He could not help himself. It is your duty to be with him, and to help him. I think you are responsible for him.'
Of course every one laughed at this.
'But I do!' she insisted. 'It was not for nothing that they met like that. Mr. Luscombe was meant to meet him, meant to help him. It was he who persuaded him to join the Army, and now it is his bounden duty to find him out, wherever he is. Why, think of the people who may be grieving about him! Here he is, a gentleman, with all a gentleman's instincts, an ordinary private; and of course having no memory he'll, in a way, be helpless, and may be led to do all sorts of foolish things. I mean it, Captain Luscombe; I think it's just—just awful of you to be so careless.'
Again there was general laughter, and yet the girl's words made me feel uneasy. Although I could not explain it, it seemed to me that some Power higher than our own had drawn us together, that in some way this man's life would be linked with mine, and that I should have to take my part in the unravelling of a mystery.
All this time, George St. Mabyn had not spoken. He sat staring into vacancy, and what he was thinking about it was impossible to tell. Of course the thoughts which, in spite of myself, haunted my mind, were absurd. If I had not seen that ashen pallor come to his face, and caught the haunted look in his eyes, when earlier in the evening Sir Roger Granville had almost jokingly associated the unknown man with Maurice St. Mabyn, I do not suppose such foolish fancies would have entered-my mind. But now, although I told myself that I was entertaining an absurd suspicion, that suspicion would not leave me.
I looked for a resemblance between him and Paul Edgecumbe, but could find none. Was he, I wondered, in doubt about his brother's death? Had he entered into possession on insufficient proof? Many strange things happened in the East; soldiers had more than once been reported to be dead, and then turned up in a most remarkable way. Had George St. Mabyn, in his desire to become owner of the beautiful old house I had seen, taken his brother's death for granted, on insufficient grounds, and had not troubled about it since?
'Promise me,' said Lorna Bolivick, in her impetuous way, 'that you will never rest until you find this man again! Promise me that you will befriend him!' and she looked eagerly into my eyes as she spoke.
'Of course I will,' I said laughingly.
'No, but that won't do. Promise me that you will look for him as if he were your own brother!'
'That's a pretty large order. But why should you be so interested in this stranger?'
'I never give reasons,' she laughed, 'they are so stupid. But you will promise me, won't you?'
'Of course I will,' I replied.
'That's a bargain, then.'
'When are you leaving this neighbourhood?' asked George St. Mabyn, when presently he was leaving the house.
'To-morrow afternoon,' I replied. 'They are working me pretty hard, I can tell you.'
'Won't you look me up to-morrow morning?' he asked. 'There's a man staying with me whom you'd like to know. I tried to persuade him to come to the meeting to-night, but he did not feel up to it. He is convalescing at my place; he's had a baddish time. He could tell you some good stories, too, that would help you in this recruiting stunt.'
'By all means,' said Sir Roger, to whom I looked, as St. Mabyn spoke. 'I can send you over in the car.'
The next day, about eleven o'clock, I started to pay my promised visit, and passed through the same beautiful countryside which had so appealed to me before. I found that St. Mabyn's house was not quite so large as Granitelands, but it was a place to rejoice in nevertheless. It was approached by a long avenue of trees, which skirted park lands where deer disported themselves. Giant oaks studded the park, and the house, I judged, was built in the Elizabethan period. An air of comfort and homeliness was everywhere; the grey walls were lichen-covered, and the diamond-paned, stone-mullioned windows seemed to suggest security and peace.
'I wonder why he wanted me to come here?' I reflected, as the car drew up at the old, ivy-covered porch.
I MEET CAPTAIN SPRINGFIELD
I stood at the window of the room into which I had been shown, looking over the flower-beds towards the beautiful landscape. Devonshire has been called the Queen of the English counties, perhaps not without reason. Even my beloved Cornwall could provide no fairer sight than that which spread itself before me. For a coast scenery, Cornwall is unrivalled in the whole of England, but for sweet, rustic loveliness, I had to confess that we had nothing to surpass what I saw that day.
Mile after mile of field, and woodland, in undulating beauty, spread themselves out before me, while away in the distance was a fringe of rocky tors and wild moor-land.
At the bottom of the hill on the side of which the house stood ran a clear, sparkling river, which wound itself away down the valley like a ribbon of silver, hidden only here and there by trees and brushwood.
So enamoured was I that I stood like one entranced, and did not notice the two men who had entered, until St. Mabyn spoke.
Captain Horace Springfield was a tall, dark, lean man from thirty to thirty-five years of age, and from what I learnt afterwards, had spent a great deal of time abroad. Although still young, his intensely black hair was becoming tinged with grey, and his deeply-lined cheeks, and somewhat sunken eyes made him look older than he really was. Although he was home on sick leave, he showed no sign of weakness; his every movement suggested strength and decision.
'Glad to know you,' he said; 'it's a degrading sort of business to go round the country persuading men to do their duty, but since there are so many shirkers in the country, some one's obliged to do it. We shall need all the strength of England, and of the Empire, before we've done, if this job is to be finished satisfactorily; the Germans will need a lot of licking.'
'Still, our chaps are doing very well,' I ventured.
'Oh, yes, they are all right. But naturally these new fellows haven't the staying power of the men in the old Army. They, poor chaps, were nearly all done for in the early days of the war. Still, the Territorials saved the situation.'
'You've seen service in the East?' I ventured.
'Yes, Egypt and India.'
'It was in Egypt that Captain Springfield knew my brother Maurice,' and George St. Mabyn glanced quickly at him as he spoke.
'The country lost a fine soldier in Maurice St. Mabyn,' said Springfield. 'If he had lived, he'd have been colonel by now; in fact, there is no knowing what he mightn't have become. He had a big mind, and was able to take a broad grasp of things. I'd like to have seen him at the General Headquarters in France. What Maurice St. Mabyn didn't know about soldiering wasn't worth knowing. Still, he's dead, poor chap.'
'Were you with him when he died?' I asked.
'Yes, I was,—that is I was in the show when he was killed. It was one of those affairs which make it hard to forgive Providence. You see, it was only a small skirmish; some mad mullah of a fellow became a paid agitator among the natives. He stirred up a good deal of religious feeling, and quite a number of poor fools joined him. By some means, too, he obtained arms for them. St. Mabyn was ordered to put down what the English press called "a native rebellion." He was able to do it easily for although he hadn't many men, he planned our attack so perfectly that we blew them into smithereens in a few hours.'
'And you were in it?' I asked.
'Yes,' and then in a few words he described how Maurice St. Mabyn was killed.
'It's jolly hard when a friend dies like that,' I said awkwardly.
'Yes,' was Springfield's reply, 'it is. Of course it is one of the risks of the Army, and I am sure that Maurice would have gone into it, even if he had known what would take place. He was that sort. In a way, too, it was a glorious death. By his pluck and foresight he made the whole job easy, and put down what might have been a big rebellion. But that isn't quite how I look at it. I lost a pal, the best pal a man ever had. His death bowled me over, too, and I wasn't fit for anything for months. Poor old Maurice!'
I must confess that I was moved by the man's evident feeling. He had not struck me as an emotional man,—rather, at first, he gave me the impression of being somewhat hard and callous. His deep-set eyes, high cheek-bones, and tall gaunt form, suggested one of those men who was as hard as nails, and who could see his own mother die without a quiver of his lips.
'Forgive me, Luscombe,' he said, 'I'm not a sloppy kind of chap as a rule, and sentiment isn't my strong point. I have seen as much hard service as few men, and death has not been a rare thing to me. I have been in one or two little affairs out in India, and seen men die fast. It is no make-belief over in France, either, although I have seen no big engagement there. But to lose a pal is—— I say, shall we change the subject?'
After this, we went out into the grounds, and talked of anything rather than war or soldiering, and I must confess that Springfield talked well. There was a kind of rough strength about him which impressed me. That he was on good terms with George St. Mabyn was evident, for they called each other by their Christian names, and I judged that their friendship was of long standing.
After I had been there a little over an hour, and was on the point of telling the chauffeur to take me back to Granitelands, George St. Mabyn informed me that he and Springfield were going there to lunch. I was rather surprised at this, as no mention of it had been made before, and I wondered why, if they had arranged to be at Granitelands, I should have been asked to visit them that morning. Still, I did not give the matter a second thought, and before one o'clock St. Mabyn appeared in the seventh heaven of delight, for he was walking around the grounds of Granitelands with Norah Blackwater by his side.
I left soon after lunch, but before I went I had a few minutes' chat with Lorna Bolivick.
'You will remember your promise, won't you?' and she looked eagerly into my face as she spoke.
'You know. The promise, you made about that man, Paul Edgecumbe. I want you to promise something else, too.'
'What is that?'
'I want you to let me know when you have found him.'
'What possible interest can you have in him, Miss Bolivick?'
'I only know that I am interested in him; I couldn't sleep last night for thinking about him. It's—it's just awful, isn't it? Do you like Captain Springfield?'
'I neither like nor dislike him. I only met him an hour or two ago, and in all probability I shall never see him again.'
'Oh, but you will. You are a friend of Sir Roger Granville's, aren't you?'
'Scarcely. I happen to have been brought into contact with him because of this work I am doing, and he has been very kind to me. That is all. I have never been here before, and probably I shall never come again.'
'Oh, yes, you will. Sir Roger likes you, so does Lady Granville; they said so last night after you went to bed. I am sure you will come here again.'
'I shall be awfully glad if I do, especially if it will lead to my seeing you.'
'Don't be silly,' and she spoke with all the freedom of a child; 'all the same, I'd like you to meet my father. He'd like to know you, too. We only live about five miles away. Ours is a dear old house; it is close by the village of South Petherwin. Can you remember that?'
'If I have to write you about Paul Edgecumbe, will that find you?'
'Yes. You needn't put Bolivick, which is the name of the house, because every one who is called Bolivick lives at Bolivick, don't you see? I shall expect to hear from you directly you find him. You are sure you won't forget?'
I laughed at the girl's insistence. 'To make it impossible,' I said, 'I will put it down in my diary. Here we are. May 29,—you see there is a good big space for writing. "I give my promise, that as soon as I have found the man, Paul Edgecumbe, I will write Miss Lorna Bolivick and acquaint her of the fact."'
'That's right. Now then, sign your name.'
I laughingly did as she desired.
'I am going to witness it,' she said, and there was quite a serious tone in her voice. She took my pencil, and wrote in a somewhat crude, schoolgirl hand,—'Witnessed by Lorna Bolivick, Bolivick, South Petherwin.' 'You can't get rid of it now,' she said.
While she was writing, I happened to look up, and saw Norah Blackwater, who was accompanied by George St. Mabyn and Captain Springfield.
'What deep plot are you engaged in?' asked Norah Blackwater.
'It's only some private business Mr. Luscombe and I are transacting,' she replied, whereupon the others laughed and passed on.
'Do you know what that Captain Springfield makes me think of?' she asked.
'No,' I replied.
'Snakes,' she said.
As I watched the captain's retreating form, I shook my head.
'I can't help it. Have you noticed his eyes? There now, put your diary in your pocket, and don't forget what you've promised.'
'One thing is certain,' I said to myself, as I was driven along to the station that afternoon, 'my suspicions about George St. Mabyn are groundless. What a fool a man is when he lets his imagination run away with him! Here was I, building up all sorts of mad theories, and then I meet a man who knows nothing about my thoughts, but who destroys my theories in half a dozen sentences. Whoever Paul Edgecumbe is, it is certain he is not Maurice St. Mabyn.'
Several months passed, and still I heard nothing of Paul Edgecumbe. I made all sorts of inquiries, and did my best to find him, all without success, until I came to the conclusion that the man had not joined the Army at all. Then, suddenly, I ceased thinking about him. My recruiting work came to an end, and I was pitchforked into the active work of the Army. As I have said, I knew practically nothing about soldiering, and the little I had learnt was wellnigh useless, because, being merely an officer in the old Volunteers, my knowledge was largely out of date. Still, there it was. New schemes for obtaining soldiers were on foot, and as a commission had been given to me, and there being no need for me at the University, I became a soldier, not only in name, but in actuality. I suppose I was not altogether a failure as a battalion officer; indeed, I was told I picked up my duties with remarkable ease. Anyhow, I worked very hard. And then, before I had time to realize what had happened to me, I was ordered to the front.
Some one has described life at the front as two weeks of monotony and one week of hell. I do not say it is quite like that, although it certainly gives a hint of the truth. When one is in the trenches, it is often a very ghastly business, so ghastly that I will not attempt to describe it. On the other hand, life behind the lines is dreadfully monotonous, especially in the winter months, when the whole of our battle-line is a sea of mud and the quintessence of discomfort. Still, I did not fare badly. I was engaged in two small skirmishes, from which my battalion came out well, and although, during the winter of 1915-1916, things could not be described as lively, a great deal of useful work was done.
Then something took place which bade fair to put an end to my activities for the duration of the war, and which calamity was averted in what I cannot help describing now as a miraculous way. I need not go into the matter at length; it was a little affair as far as I was concerned, but was intended as a preliminary to something far more serious, but of which I had no knowledge. It was on a dark night, I remember, and my work was to raid a bit of the Boches' trenches, and do all the damage possible. Preparations had been carefully made, and as far as we could gather, everything promised success. I had twenty men under my command, and early in the morning, about an hour before daylight, we set out to do it. Everything seemed favourable to our enterprise. The German searchlights were not at work, and the bit of No Man's Land which we had to cross did not seem to be under enemy observation.
I was given to understand that my little stunt was only one of several others which was to take place, and so, although naturally our nerves were a bit strung up when we crawled over the parapets, we did not anticipate a difficult job.
As a matter of fact, however, the Boches had evidently been warned of our intentions, and had made their plans accordingly. We were allowed to cross the No Man's Land, which at this spot was about three hundred yards wide, and were nearing the place from which we could commence operations, when, without warning, a number of the enemy attacked us. The odds were against us at the very start; they had double our numbers, and were able to take advantage of a situation strongly in their favour.
Evidently some one on our side had either conveyed information to them, or their Intelligence Department was better served than we imagined. Anyhow, there it was. Instead of entering their trenches, and taking a number of prisoners, we had the worst of it. Still, we made a good fight, and I imagine their losses were greater than ours, in spite of their superiority of numbers. Most of our fellows managed to get away, but I was not so fortunate. Just at the first streak of dawn, I found myself a prisoner; while four of the men whom I had brought suffered a similar fate.
It was no use my trying to do anything, they out-numbered us several times over, and I was led away to what I suppose they regarded as a place of safety, until reports could be made concerning us.
I knew German fairly well, although I spoke it badly, and I tried to get some information as to the plans concerning me; but I could get no definite reply. It was bitterly cold, and in spite of all the Boches had done to make their condition comfortable, it was no picnic. Mud and slush abounded, and I heard the German soldiers complain one to another that it was ten hours since they had tasted any food.
Then, suddenly, there was a tremendous boom, followed by a terrific explosion, and although I was not wounded, I was wellnigh stunned. A British shell had fallen close to where we were, and, as far as I could judge, several Boches had been accounted for. A few seconds later, there was a regular tornado.
As I have said our work that night was intended to be preparatory to a big bombardment, and I had the misfortune to learn from the German trenches what a British bombardment meant.
'Gott in Himmel!' said one of my captors, 'let's get away from this.' Whereupon I was hurried on to what I supposed to be a safer place. A few minutes later, I was descending what seemed to me a concrete stairway, until I came to what struck me as a great cave, capable of holding two or three hundred men.
As I entered, a German officer looked up from some papers he had been examining, and saw us.
'What have you here?' he asked.
'English prisoners, sir.'
'Prisoners! what use have we for prisoners? Better put a bullet into their brains. They will mean only so many more mouths to feed.'
'One is an officer, sir,' and the soldier nodded toward me.
'Ah well, he may be useful. But I have no time to deal with him now. Himmel! what's that?'
It was the noise of a tremendous explosion, and the whole place shook as though there were an earthquake.
The captain gave some rapid instructions which I did not hear, and then hurried away.
HOW A MAN WORKED A MIRACLE
Since then, I have been under some terrific bombardments, but up to that time I had never experienced anything so terrible. Evidently our big guns were turned on, and they had located the German trenches to a nicety. Moreover, I judged that something serious was on hand, for it continued hour after hour. Before long all lights went out, and I knew by the hoarse cries which the Germans were making that they were in a state of panic.
The bombardment had lasted perhaps an hour, when part of the roof of the cave fell in with a tremendous crash, and I imagined that several men were buried.
'We'll get out of this,' said the lieutenant who had been left in charge; 'there's a safer place further down.'
'Yes, sir,' replied the soldier, evidently glad of the order, 'but what about the prisoners?'
The young officer seemed in doubt about us, and then grumbled something about his captain's orders.
'Our numbers are up, sergeant,' I said, for Sergeant Smith and I were the only two who were left alive. 'Either we shall be killed by our own guns, or else we shall suffer worse than death at the hands of these fellows.'
'Never say die, sir,' replied Sergeant Smith, who was noted for his optimistic temperament; 'anyhow, these chaps are all in a blue funk.'
'There can be no doubt about that,' was my reply. 'If we live through it, and if this bombardment is but the preliminary to an attack, there's a sporting chance that we may get away.'
'About a hundred to one, sir.'
After this, I have no clear recollection as to what took place. I remember that we moved along a tunnel until we came to another dug-out,—after that everything became a blank to me. Either I had been stunned by my captors, or I had been hurt by falling debris.
When I came to my senses again, the guns were still booming, although they seemed at a greater distance, and I judged that our captors regarded us as in a safer place. Then, suddenly, I heard a voice which set my nerves tingling. It was an English voice, too, although he spoke in German.
'You chaps are in an awful hole,' I heard some one say, in quiet matter-of-fact tones, as though the situation were of a most ordinary nature. 'Do you know what I think of you? You are a lot of idiots.'
'We're better off than you, anyhow,' and this time it was a German who spoke. 'If we come alive out of this, we shall be all right; but you are our prisoners.'
'Prisoners if you like, my dear fellow, but what's the good of that to you?'
'Every English prisoner taken is one step nearer to German victory,' replied the soldier sententiously.
'Nonsense! There'll never be a German victory, and you know it. You've never been behind the British lines, have you? Why, man, there are mountains of guns and ammunition—every day is adding to the stock, and soon, mark you, very soon, all these places of yours will become so many death-traps.'
The German laughed incredulously.
'Do you know what'll happen soon?' went on the English voice, 'there will be bombing parties along here; you may be safe for the moment, but you can't get out,—not one of you dare try. If you did, it would be all up with you.'
'What are you getting at?' snarled the German. 'You are our prisoner, anyhow, and if we are killed, so will you be!'
'Just so. But then I don't want to get killed, neither do you.'
'I know it's a beastly business,' said the German, 'and I wish this cursed war would come to an end.'
'Yes, you see you were mistaken now, don't you?' and the Englishman with the quiet voice laughed. 'You were told it was all going to be over in a few weeks, and that it was going to be a picnic. "Bah!" you said, "what can the English do?" But, my dear fellow, the English have only just begun. You are just ramming your heads against a stone wall. You won't hurt the wall, but your heads will get mightily battered. Oh yes, we are your prisoners, there are just three of us left alive, and you are thirty. But what is the good of it?'
'What are you getting at, Tommy?' asked another, 'and why are you talking all this humbug?'
'Because I can get you out of this.'
'Get us out of it! How?'
'Ah, that is my secret, but I can.'
'What! Every one of us, unhurt?'
'Every one of you, unhurt.'
There was a general laugh of incredulity.
'You don't believe me, I know. But I swear to you I can do it.'
'By taking you as prisoners to the British lines. I know a way by which it can be done.'
As may be imagined, I was not an uninterested listener to this conversation. Evidently another man had been taken prisoner; who I had no knowledge, but we had somehow been brought together. But it was not altogether the quiet confidence of the speaker which interested me, it was the sound of his voice. While it was not familiar to me, I felt sure I had heard it before. The light was so dim, that I could see neither his face nor any marks whereby I could discover his rank; but he spoke German so well that I judged him to be an officer. The Germans laughed aloud at his last remark.
'Your prisoners!' they shouted, 'and we ten to your one!'
'Why not,' he asked, 'if I take you to safety? Now just think, suppose you all get out of this, and we are lodged in one of your German prison camps; you remain here at the front, and be fodder for cannon. How many of you will come through this war alive, think you? Perhaps one out of ten. And the end of it will be that your country will be beaten. I am as sure of that as I am that the sun will rise to-morrow. Now supposing you adopt my plan, suppose you go with me as prisoners of war; I will take you to the British lines unhurt, and then you will be sent to the Isle of Wight, or some such place; you will be well housed, well clothed, well fed, until the war's over. Don't you think you are silly asses to stay here and play a losing game, amidst all this misery and suffering, when you can get away unhurt and enjoy yourselves?'
In spite of the madness of the proposal, he spoke in such a convincing way that he impressed them in spite of themselves. Indeed I, who am relating the conversation as nearly word for word as I can remember, cannot give anything like an idea of the subtle persuasion which accompanied his words. It might seem as though he were master of the situation, and they had to do his will; in fact, he seemed to hypnotize them by the persuasiveness of his voice, and by some magnetic charm of his presence.
'You may be safe here for the moment,' he went on, 'but I can tell you what'll happen. By this time your trenches are nearly level with the ground,—not a man in them will be alive. Your machine-gun emplacements will be all blown into smithereens, for this is no ordinary bombardment; it is tremendous, man, tremendous! In less than two hours from now, either the outlets of these dug-outs of yours will be stopped up, and you will die of foul air or starvation, or bombing parties will come, and then it'll be all up with you. I tell you, I know what I am talking about.'
'Yes, but if we are killed, so will you be!'
'And if we are, what good'll that do to any of us? We are young, we want to live.'
Just then we heard a terrific explosion, louder even than any which had preceded it. The ground shook; it seemed as though hell were let loose.
'Do you hear that?' he went on, when there was a moment's quiet. 'That's just a foretaste of what's coming. That's one of the big new guns, and there are hundreds of them, hundreds. Well, if you won't, you won't.'
'What do you want us to do?' and one of the Germans spoke excitedly.
'I tell you I know a way by which I can lead you out of this. I know the country round here, inch by inch; I have made it my business to study it; and I give you my word I will take you back to the British lines unhurt. And then your life as an English prisoner will be just a picnic.'
'Your word!' said one of them scornfully, 'what is it worth? You are only a Tommy.'
'Yes, my word,' and he spoke it in such a way that they felt him to be their master. It was one of those cases where one personality dominated thirty.
'Are you an officer?' said one of the Germans after a pause. 'You speak like a gentleman, but your uniform is that of a Tommy.'
'No matter what I am, I give you my promise, and I never broke my promise yet.'
Again it was not the words which affected them, it was the manner in which he spoke them. He might have been a king speaking to his subjects.
'Now then, which shall it be?' he went on; 'if we stay here, in all probability we shall every one of us be killed. Listen to that! There! there! don't you feel it?—the whole earth is trembling, I tell you, and all these fortifications of yours will be nothing but so much cardboard! And our men have mountains of munitions, man, mountains! I have seen them. It will be rather a horrible death, too, won't it? Whether we are buried alive, or blown up by bombs, it won't be pleasant. It seems such a pity, too, when in ten minutes from now we can be in safety.'
The man was working a miracle; he was accomplishing that which, according to every canon of common sense, was impossible. He was a prisoner in the power of thirty men, and yet he was persuading them to become his prisoners. Even Sergeant Smith, who could not understand a word of what was being said, knew it. He knew it by the tense atmosphere of the place, by the look on the faces of the German soldiers.
We had become so interested, that neither of us dared to move; we just sat and listened while the unknown man, with quiet, persuasive words, was working his will on them.
As I said, I could not see his face. For one thing, the light was dim, and for another his features were turned away from me; but I could hear every word he said. Even above the roar of the artillery, which sounded like distant thunder, and in spite of the trembling earth, every tone reached me, and I knew that his every word was sapping the Germans' resistance, just as a strong current of water frets away a foundation of sand. What at first I had felt like laughing at, became to me first a possibility, then a probability, then almost a certainty. So excited did I become that, more than once, I longed with an intense longing to join my persuasions to that of the stranger. But when I tried to speak, no words came. It might have been as though some magician were at work, or some powerful mesmerist, who mesmerized his hearers into obedience.
'I say, you fellows,' said one of the Germans to his companions, 'what do you say? Our life here is one prolonged hell,—what is the use of it? Our officers tell us to hold on, hold on. And why should we hold on? Just to become fodder for cannon? I had four brothers, and every one of them is killed. Who's to look after my mother, if I am dead?'
Three minutes later he had accomplished the impossible. He was leading the way out of the dug-out towards the open. Sergeant Smith and I went with him like men in a dream.
When we came out in the open air, the night had again fallen. More than twelve hours had elapsed since I had been taken prisoner; most likely I had been unconscious a great part of the time. I did not know where we were going. The guns were still booming, while the heavens were every now and then illuminated as if by some tremendous fireworks.
'Sergeant,' I whispered, 'the man's a magician.'
'Never heard of such a thing in my life, sir. I'm like a man dreaming. Who is he? He's got a Tommy's togs on, but he might be a field marshal.'
All this time I had not once caught sight of our deliverer's face, but the tones of his voice still haunted me like some half-forgotten dream. I had almost forgotten the wonder of our freedom in the excitement wrought by the way it was given to us.
When at length we entered the British trenches, and the German prisoners had been taken care of, I saw the face of the man who had wrought the miracle, and I recognized him as the stranger whom I had met at Plymouth Harbour many months before, and who had adopted the name of Paul Edgecumbe.
 The incident related above is not an invention on the part of the author. It was told me by a British officer, and it took place as nearly as possible as I have described it.
PAUL EDGECUMBE'S MEMORY
'You!' I exclaimed.
He stood like a soldier on parade, and saluted me.
'Yes, Captain Luscombe. I hope you are well, sir.'
He spoke as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.
'But—but—this is great!' I gasped. 'Tell me, how did you do it?'
But he had no time to answer the question, as at that moment orders came for us to report ourselves.
Never had I seen a man so excited as the colonel was when the story was told to him. First of all he stared at us as though we were madmen, then laughter overcame his astonishment, and he fairly roared with merriment.
'The brigadier and the divisional general must hear of it at once!' he cried. 'Why, it is the greatest thing since the war began! And you did nothing, Luscombe?'
'Nothing,' I said; 'this man did it all.' And I enlarged upon the difficulties of the situation, and the way Paul Edgecumbe had overcome them.
'Well, Edgecumbe,' I said, when at length I had an opportunity of speaking to him alone, 'give me an account of yourself. Where have you been? what have you been doing? and how have things been going with you?'
'All right, sir. As to where I have been, and what I have been doing, it's not worth telling about.'
'You don't mind my asking you awkward questions, do you?'
'Not a bit. Ask what you like, sir.'
'Has your memory come back?'
A shadow passed over his face, and a suggestion of the old yearning look came into his eyes.
'No,—no, nothing. Strange, isn't it? Ever since that day when I found myself a good many miles away from Bombay, and realized that I was alive, everything stands out plainly in my memory; but before that,—nothing. I could describe to you in detail almost everything that has taken place since then. But there seems to be a great, black wall which hides everything that took place before. I shudder at it sometimes because it looks so impenetrable. Now and then I have dreams, the same old dreams of black, evil faces, and flashing knives, and cries of agony; but they are only dreams,—I remember nothing.'
'During the time you were in England training,' I said, 'you went to various parts of the country?'
'Yes, I was in Exeter, Swindon, Bramshott, Salisbury Plain.'
'And you recognized none of them, you'd no feeling that you had seen those places before?'
'Faces, now,' I urged; 'do you ever see faces which suggest people you have known in the past?'
He was silent for two or three seconds.
'Yes, and no,' he replied. 'I see faces sometimes which, while they don't cause me to remember, give me strange fancies and incomprehensible longings. Sometimes I hear names which have the same effect upon me.'
'And your memory has been good for ordinary things?'
He laughed gaily. 'I think that whatever I went through has increased my powers of memory,—that is, those things that took place since I woke up. If you will ask the sub., or the drill sergeant who gave me my training, they will tell you that there was never any need to tell me anything twice. I forget nothing, I never have to make an effort to remember. When I hear a thing, or see a man's face, I never forget it. I worked hard, too. I have read a good deal. I found that I knew nothing of mathematics, and that my knowledge of German and French was very hazy. It is not so now. Things like that have come to me in a miraculous way.'
'Have you tried for a commission?'
'No. I have been offered one, but I wouldn't have it. Something, I don't know what, told me not to. I wouldn't even have a corporal's stripe.'
'And you have no more idea of who you really are than you had when I saw you first?'
'No, not a bit.'
'Let me see if I can help your memory,' I said. 'Devonshire, think of that word, now, and what it represents,—does it bring back anything to you?'
'Nothing, except that yearning. I have a feeling that I know something about it,—a great longing to—to—I hardly know what.'
I tried him a little farther. 'Granitelands,—does that mean anything to you?'
Again he hesitated. 'No, nothing.'
'Can you ever recall any remembrance of, or has the name of Maurice St. Mabyn any interest for you?'
I asked this because, even in spite of what Captain Springfield had told me, vague fancies had come to me that perhaps there might be some mistake, and—and——but I dared not bring my thoughts to a conclusion.
'Maurice St. Mabyn,' he repeated, 'Maurice St. Mabyn. It might be a name I heard when I was a kiddy, but—no.'
'Norah Blackwater.' I uttered the name suddenly, impressively, and I thought I saw his lips tremble, and certainly his eyes had a far-away look. He was like a man trying to see in a great darkness, trying to outline objects which were invisible to the natural eye.
'That seems like a dream name. Who is she? Why do you ask about her?'
'I am trying to help you,' I said. 'She is a lady I met at the house of Sir Roger Granville. She must be about twenty-five, perhaps not quite so old, a tall, stylish-looking girl. I expect by this time she is engaged to a fellow called George St. Mabyn. He is a brother to Maurice, who was killed in Egypt.'
'Maurice killed in Egypt!' he repeated.
'Yes. I think Maurice had a friend called Springfield.'
'I remember that,—Springfield. Springfield,—Springfield.'
For a moment there was a change in his voice, a change, too, in the look of his eyes. At least I thought so. I could fancy I detected anger, contempt; but perhaps it was only fancy, and it was only for a moment.
'A tall, dark fellow. He has rather a receding forehead, black hair streaked with grey, a thin, somewhat cadaverous-looking face, deep-set eyes, a scar on his cheek, just below his right temple.'
He laughed again. 'By Jove, sir,' he said, 'you might be describing a man I know. I seem to see his face as plainly as I see yours. I don't think I like him, either, but—but—no, it has gone, gone! Have you any suspicions about me? Have you found out anything?'
'No,' I said, 'I have found out nothing. But I have a hundred suspicions. You see, you interested me tremendously when I saw you first, and I wondered greatly about you. I was awfully disappointed when I could not find you.'
'Why should you want to find me?' he asked.
'Because I told some one about you, and she got tremendously interested. She got angry with me because I had lost sight of you.'
'Who was she, sir?'
'Her name is Lorna Bolivick, and, I say,—I have something to show you.' And I searched in my tunic until I had found the previous year's diary in which I had written the promise.
'There,' I said, and opened the diary at May 29.
'And this girl was interested in me, was she?'
Our conversation suddenly terminated at that moment, as an urgent message reached me that my colonel wanted to see me. A few minutes later I learnt that little short of a calamity had befallen us; that the Germans had broken into some trenches which had lately been taken, and that there was imminent danger of some of our best positions falling into their hands.
Twelve hours later, the danger was averted; but it was at a frightful cost. It was reported to me that a battalion was largely decimated, and the positions which we ought to have gained remained in the hands of the enemy.
I saw that the colonel looked very perturbed; indeed his face, which was usually ruddy and hopeful, was haggard and drawn.
'Anything serious the matter?' I asked.
'Serious!' he replied, 'it is calamitous!'
'But we've cleared them out, haven't we?'
'Cleared them out! Why, man!' and he walked to and fro like one demented. 'There's sure to be an inquiry,' he said at length, 'and there'll be no end of a row; there ought to be, too. But what could one do?'
'What is the trouble, then?' for the look in his eyes had made me very anxious.
He made no reply, but I could see that his mind was busily at work.
'You remember that chap who got you out of that hole the day before yesterday?' he asked.
'What, Edgecumbe? I should think I do!'
'I hear he is missing.'
'Edgecumbe missing? Taken prisoner, you mean?'
'I don't know. I have not heard particulars yet. I should not have heard anything about him at all, but for the way he brought himself into prominence over that affair. But it seems he was last seen fighting with two Huns, so I expect he is done for. Terrible pity, isn't it? I was going to recommend him for decoration, and—and other things.'
In a way I could not understand, my heart grew heavy; I felt as though I were responsible for it, and that I had failed in my duty. And I had a sort of feverish desire to know what had become of him.
'Good night, colonel,' I said suddenly, and I hurried away into the darkness. I felt that at all costs I must find out the truth about Paul Edgecumbe.
A CAUSE OF FAILURE
In spite of all my inquiries that night, I could discover nothing of a satisfactory nature. The reports I obtained were conflicting. One man had it that he was wounded badly, and left dying on No Man's Land; another told me he had seen him taken prisoner by two Germans; another, still, that he was seen to break away from them. But everything was confused and contradictory. The truth was, that there was a great deal of hand-to-hand fighting, and when that is the case it is ofttimes difficult to tell what becomes of a single individual. The fact remained, however, that he was missing, and no one knew anything definite about him.
As a battalion officer, moreover, I had many duties to perform, and in spite of my desires, I had to give up my inquiries about him, and attend to my work.
The following day I was sitting in my quarters, and was on the point of writing a letter to Lorna Bolivick, telling her what had taken place, when my orderly informed me that a soldier wished to see me.
'He gave me this, sir,' added Jenkins, handing me a slip of paper.
No sooner did I see it than, starting to my feet, I rushed to the door, and saw Paul Edgecumbe, pale and wan, but standing erect nevertheless.
I quickly got him into the room of the cottage where I was billeted, and then took a second look at him.
'You are ill—wounded, man! You ought not to be here,' I said, scarcely realizing what I was saying.
'The wound's nothing, sir. I lost a little blood, that's all; and I got the M.O.'s consent to come and see you. I shall be right as ever in two or three days.'
'You are sure of that?' I asked eagerly.
I laughed aloud, I was so much relieved. I need not send my letter to Lorna Bolivick after-all.
'I've wasted a lot of good sentiment over you, Edgecumbe,' I said. 'I've heard all sorts of things about you.'
'I did have a curious experience,' he replied, 'and at one time I thought my number was up; still I got out of it.'
'Tell me about it,' I said.
'It's very difficult, sir. As I told you, my memory has been specially good since the time when——but you know. In these skirmishes, however, it's difficult to carry anything definite in your mind, things get mixed up so. You are fighting for your life, and that's all you know. Two German chaps did get hold of me, and then, I don't know how it was, but we found ourselves in No Man's Land. The Huns were two big, strong chaps, too, but I managed to get away from them.'
'How did you do it?'
'You see they were drugged,' he replied.
'Yes, drugged with ether, or something of that sort, and although they fought as though they were possessed with devils, their minds were not clear, they acted like men dazed. So I watched for my opportunity, and got it. I spent the whole day in a shell hole,—it wasn't pleasant, I can tell you. Still, it offered very good cover, and if my arm hadn't been bleeding, and if I wasn't so beastly faint and hungry, I shouldn't have minded. However, I tied up my arm as well as I could, and made up my mind to stay there. I got back under the cover of night, and—here I am.'
'I saw nothing of the affair,' I said. 'I had a job to do farther back, and so was out of it. I wish I had been in it.'
'I wish you had, sir.' There was a change in his voice, and he looked at me almost pathetically.
'What's the matter?'
'Of course I have no right to say anything,' he said. 'Discipline is discipline, and I am only a private soldier. Are you busy, sir? If you are, I will go away. But, owing to this scratch, I am at a loose end, and—and—I'd like a chat with you, sir, if you don't mind.'
'Say what you want to say.'
He was silent for a little while, and seemed to be in doubt how to express what he had in his mind. I saw the old, yearning, wistful look in his eyes, too, the look I had noticed when we were walking on The Hoe at Plymouth.
'Has your memory come back?' I asked eagerly. 'Has it anything to do with that?'
'No,' he replied, 'my memory has not come back. The old black wall stands still, and yet I think it has something to do with it. I am afraid I forget myself sometimes, sir, forget that you are an officer, and I am a private.'
'Never mind about that now. Tell me what you have to say.'
'This war has shaken me up a bit, it has made me think. I don't know what kind of a man I was before I lost my memory; but I have an idea that I look at things without prejudice. You see, I have no preconceived notions. I am a full-grown man starting life with a clean page, that's why I can't understand.'
'I don't think I am a religious man,' he went on, without seeming to heed me. 'When we were in England I went to Church parade and all that sort of thing, but it had no effect upon me; it seemed to mean nothing. Perhaps it will some day, I don't know. At present I look at things from the outside; I judge by face values. Forgive me if I am talking a great deal about myself, sir, and pardon me if I seem egotistical, I don't mean to be. But you are the only officer with whom I am friendly, and I was led to look upon you as a man of influence in England. The truth is, I am mystified, confused, bewildered. Either I am wrong, mad; or else we are waging this war in a wrong way.'
'While I was in the training camps, I was so much influenced by that speech which you gave in Plymouth, that I determined to study the causes of this war carefully. I did so. I gave months to it. I read the whole German case from their own standpoint. I thought out the whole thing as clearly as I was able, and certainly I had no prejudices.'
'Well?' I asked.
'If ever a country ought to have gone to war, we ought. If ever a country had a righteous cause, we had, and have; if ever a Power needed crushing, it was German power. Prussianism is the devil. I tell you, I have been physically sick as I have read the story of what they did in Belgium and France. I have gone, as far as I have been able, to the tap-roots of the whole business. I have got at the philosophy of the German position. I have studied the resources of our country; I have tried to realize what we stand for. I fancy I must have been a fairly intelligent man before I lost my memory. Perhaps I was tolerably well educated, too. Anyhow, I think I have got a grasp of the whole position.'
I did not speak, but waited for him to proceed.
'I am saying this, sir, that you may see that I am not talking wildly, and my conviction is that Germany ought to have been beaten before now; but it's nowhere like beaten, the devil stalks about undaunted.'
'You forget that Germany is a great country,' I answered, 'and that she is supported by Austria, and Turkey, and Bulgaria. You forget, too, that she had all the advantages at the start, and that she had been preparing for this for forty years. You forget that she had the finest trained fighting machine in the world, the biggest and best-equipped army ever known. You forget, too, that she took the world practically unawares, and that all her successes, especially in the West, were gained at the beginning.'
'No, I do not forget,' he replied, and there was passion in his voice; 'I have gone through all that; I made allowance for it. All the same, they ought to have been beaten before now. Anyhow, their backs ought to have been broken, and we ought to be within sight of the end.'
'I am afraid I don't understand. The whole resources of the country have been strained to the utmost. Besides, see what we have done; see the army we have made; think of all the preparations in big guns and munitions!'