A. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodley) Mason.

The truants; a novel online

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I. Pamela. Mardale learns a very little History 1

II. Pamela looks ox ... ... ... ... 15

III. The Truants ... ... ... ... 25

IV. Tony Stretton makes a Proposal ... ... 33

V. Pamela makes a Promise ... ... 42

VI. News of Tony ... ... ... ... 49

VII. The Lady on the Stair3 ... ... 58

VIII. Gideon's Fleece ... ... ... ... 71

IX. The New Eoad ... ... ... 77

X. Mr. Chase ... ... ... ... 88

XI. On the Dogger Bank ... ... ... 98

XII. Tony's Inspiration ... ... ... ... 110

XIII. Tony Stretton returns to Stepney ... 120

XIV. Tony Stretton pays a Visit to Berkeley

Square ... ... ... ... 129

XV. Mr. Mudge comes to the Rescue ... ... 138

XVI. The Foreign Legion ... ... ... 145

XVII. Callon leaves England ... ... ... 155

XVIII. South of Ouaf.gla ... ... ... 1GG



XIX. The Tcrstike Gate ... ... ... 178

XX. Mr. Chase does xot answer ... ... 188

XXI. Callon redivtvus ... ... ... 198

XXII. Mr. Mudge's Confession ... ... 209

XXIII. Roquebruxe Revisited ... ... ... 217

XXIV. The Exd of the Exfeeimext ... ... 228

XXV. Tony Strettox bids Farewell to the Legion 237

XXVI. Bad News for Pamela ... ... ... 219

XXVII. "Balak!" 256

XXVIII. Homewards 2G7

XXIX. Pamela meets a Straxger ... ... 278

XXX. M. Giraud AGAIN 28G

XXXI. At the Reserve 292

XXXII. Husband axd Wife ... ... ... 300

XXXIII. Millies Story 312

XXXIV. The Next Morxixo ... ... ... 318

XXXV. The Ltitle House in Deanery Street ... 324

XXXVI. The Exd 328





There were only two amongst all Pamela Mardale's friends
who guessed that anything was wrong with her ; and those
two included neither her father nor her mother. Her mother,
indeed, might have guessed, had she been a different woman.
But she was a woman of schemes and little plots, who watched
with concentration their immediate developments, but had
no eyes for any lasting consequence. And it was no doubt
as well for her peace of mind that she never guessed. But
of the others it was unlikely that any one would suspect the
truth. For Pamela made no outward sign. She hunted
through the winter from her home under the Croft Hill in
Leicestershire ; she went everywhere, as the saying is, during
the season in London ; she held her own in her own world,
lacking neither good spirits nor the look of health. There
were, perhaps, two small peculiarities which marked her off
from her companions. She was interested in things rather
than in persons, and she preferred to talk to old men rather
than to youths. But such points, taken by themselves, were
not of an importance to attract attention.

Yet there were two amongst her friends who suspected :
Alan "Warrisden and the schoohnaster of Roquebrune, the
little village carved out of the hillside to the east of Monte
Carlo. The schoolmaster was the nearer to the truth, for he



not only knew that something was amiss, he suspected what
the something was. But then he had a certain advantage,
since he had known Pamela Mardale when she was a child.
Their acquaintance came about in the following way —
i He was leaning one evening of December over the parapet
of the tiny square beside the schoolhouse, when a servant
from the Villa Pontignard approached him.

" Could M. Giraud make it convenient to call at the
villa at noon to-morrow ? " the servant asked. " Madame
Mardale was anxious to speak to him."

M. Giraud turned about with a glow of pleasure upon
his face.

. " Certainly," he replied. " But nothing could be more
simple. I will be at the Villa Pontignard as the clock strikes."

The servant bowed, and without another word paced
away across the square and up the narrow winding street of
ftoquebrune, leaving the schoolmaster a little abashed at his
display of eagerness. M. Giraud recognised that in one
man's mind, at all events, he was now set clown for a snob,
for a lackey disguised as a schoolmaster. But the moment
of shame passed. lie had no doubt as to the reason of the
summons, and he tingled with pride from head to foot. It
was his little brochure upon the history of the village —
written with what timidity, and printed at what cost to his
meagre purse ! — which had brought him recognition from
the lady of the villa upon the spur of the hill. Looking
upwards he could just see the white walls of the villa glim-
mering through the dusk, he could imagine its garden of
brim lawns and dark cypresses falling from bank to bank in
ordered tiers down the hillside. i

" To-morrow at noon," he repeated to himself ; and now
lie was seized with a shiver of fear at the thought of the
mistakes in behaviour which lie was likely to make. AVhat
if Madame Mardale asked him to breakfast ? There would
be unfamiliar dishes to be eaten with particular forks. Some-
times a knife should be used and sometimes not. He turned


back to the parapet with the thought that he had better,
perhaps, send up a note in the morning pleading his duties
at the school as a reason for breaking his engagement. But
he was young, and as he looked down the steep slope of rock
on which the village is perched, anticipation again got the
better of fear. He began to build up his life like a fairy
palace from the foundation of this brief message.

A long lane of steps led winding down from the square,
and his eyes followed it, as his feet had often done, to the
little railway station by the sea through which people
journeyed to and fro between the great cities, westwards to
France and Paris, eastwards to Rome and Italy. His eyes
followed the signal lights towards another station of many
lamps far away to the right, and as he looked there blazed
out suddenly other lights of a great size and a glowing
brilliancy, lights which had the look of amazing jewels dis-
covered in an eastern cave. These were the lights upon the
terrace of Monte Carlo. The schoolmaster had walked that
terrace on his mornings of leisure, had sat unnoticed on the
benches, all worship of the women and their daintiness, all
envy of the men and the composure of their manner. He
knew none of them, and yet one of them had actually sent
for him, and had heard of his work. He was to speak with
her at noon to-morrow.

Let it be said at once that there was nothing of the
lackey under the schoolmaster's shabby coat. The visit
which he was bidden to pay was to him not so much a step
upwards as outwards. Living always in this remote high
village, where the rock cropped out between the houses, and
the streets climbed through tunnels of rock, he was always
tormented with visions of great cities and thoroughfares
ablaze ; he longed for the jostle of men, he craved for other
companionship than he could get in the village wineshop on
the first floor, as a fainting man craves for air. The stars
came out above his head ; it was a clear night, and they had
never shone brighter. The Mediterranean, dark and noiseless,


swept out at his feet beyond the woods of Cap Martin.
But he saw neither the Mediterranean nor any star. His
eyes turned to the glowing terrace upon his right, and to the
red signal-lamps below the terrace.

M. Giraud kept his engagement punctually. The clock
chimed upon the mantelpiece a few seconds after he was
standing in the drawing-room of the Villa Pontignard, and
before the clock had stopped chiming Mrs. Mardale came in
to him. 8he was a tall woman, who, in spite of her years,
still retained the elegance of her vouth, but her face was
bard and a trifle querulous, and M. Giraud was utterly
intimidated. On the other hand, she had good manners,
and the friendly simplicity with which she greeted him began
to set him at his case.

"You are a native of Roquebrunc, Monsieur?" said

" Xo, Madame, my father was a peasant at Aigucs-
Mortes. I was born there," he replied frankly.

"Yet you write, if I may say so, with the love of a
native for his village," she went on. M. Giraud was on the
point of explaining. Mrs. Mardale, however, was not in
the least interested in his explanation, and she asked him to
sit down.

" My daughter, Monsieur, has an English governess, 1 '
she explained, " but it seems a pity that she should spend
her winters here and lose the chance of becoming really
proficient in French. The cure recommended me to apply
to you, and I sent for you to see whether we could arrange
that you should read history with her in French during your
spare hours."

M. Giraud felt his head turning. Here was his oppor-
tunity so long dreamed of come at last. It mipht be the
beginning of a career — it was at all events that first difficult

]i outwards. lie was to be the teacher in appearance ; at
t he bottom of his heart he knew that he was to be the pupil,
lie accepted the offer with enthusiasm, and the arrangements


were made. Three afternoons a week he was to spend an
hour at the Villa Pontignard.

" Well, I hope the plan will succeed, said Mrs. Mardale,
but she spoke in a voice which showed that she had no great
hopes of success. And as M. Giraud replied that he would
at all events do his best, she rejoined plaintively —

" It is not of you, Monsieur, that I have any doubts.
But you do not know my daughter. She will learn nothing
which she does not want to learn, she will not endure any
governess who is not entirely her slave, and she is fifteen and
she really must learn something."

Pamela Mardale, indeed, was at this time the despair of
her mother. Mrs. Mardale had mapped out for her daughter
an ideal career. She was to be a model of decorum in the
Early Victorian style, at once an ornament for a drawing-
room and an excellent housekeeper, and she was subsequently
to make a brilliant marriage. The weak point of the scheme
was that it left Pamela out of the reckoning. There was
her passion for horses for one thing, and her distinct refusal,
besides, to sit quietly in any drawing-room. When she was
a child, horses had been persons to Pamela rather than
animals, and, as her conduct showed, persons preferable by
far to human beings. Visitors to the house under Croft
Hill were at times promised a sight of Pamela, and indeed
they sometimes did see a girl in a white frock, with long
black legs, and her hair tumbled all over her forehead,
neighing and prancing at them from behind the gate of the
stable yard. But they did not see her at closer quarters
than that, and it was certain that if by any chance her
lessons were properly learnt, they had been learnt upon the
corn-bin in the stables. Portraits of Pamela at the age of
nine remain, and they show a girl who was very pretty, but
who might quite well have been a boy, with a mass of unruly
dark hair, a pair of active dark eyes, and a good-humoured
face alertly watching for any mischief which might come
its way.


Something of the troubles which M. Giraud was likely to
find ahead of him Mrs. Mardale disclosed that morning, and
the schoolmaster returned to his house filled with appre-
hensions. The apprehensions, however, were not justified.
The little schoolmaster was so shy, so timid, that Pamela
was disarmed. She could be gentle when she chose, and she
chose now. She saw, too, M. Giraud's anxiety to justify her
mother's choice of him, and she determined with a sense of
extreme virtue to be a credit to his teaching. They became
friends, and thus one afternoon, when they had taken their
books out into the garden of the villa, M. Giraud confided
to her the history of the brochure which had made them

" It was not love for Roquebrune which led me to write
it," he said. " It was, on the contrary, my discontent. I
was tortured with longings, I was not content with the
children's lessons for my working hours, and the wineshop
for my leisure. I took long walks over Cap Martin to
Mentone, along the Corniche road to La Turbie, and up
Mont Agel. But still I had my longings as my constant
companions, and since everywhere I saw traces of antiquity,
I wrote this little history as a relief. It kept my thoughts
away from the great world."

The garden ran here to a point at the extreme end of
that outcropping spur of rock on which the villa was built.
They were facing westwards, and the sun was setting behind
the hills. It lay red upon the Mediterranean on their left,
but the ravine and front was already dark, and down the
hillside the shadows of the trees were lengthening. At their
feet, a long way below, a stream tumbled and roared amongst
the oleanders in the depths of the ravine. Pamela Bat gazing
downwards, her lips parted in a smile.

" The great world," she said in a low voice of eagerness.
" I wonder what it's like."

That afternoon marked a distinct step in their friendship,
and thereafter in the intervals of their reading they talked


continually upon this one point they had in common, their
curiosity as to the life of the world beyond their village.
But it happened that Pamela did the greater part of the
talking, and one afternoon that fact occurred to her.

" You always listen now, Monsieur," she said. " "Why
have you grown so silent ? "

" You know more than I do, Mademoiselle."

" I ? " she exclaimed in surprise. " I only know about
horses." Then she laughed. " Really, we both know
nothing. "We can only guess and guess."

And that was the truth. Pamela's ideas of the world
were as visionary, as dreamlike as his, but they were not his,
as he was quick to recognise. The instincts of her class, her
traditions, the influence of her friends, were all audible in
her voice as well as in her words. To her the world was a
great flower garden of pleasure with plenty of room for
horses. To him it was a crowded place of ennobling strife.

" But it's pleasant work guessing," she continued, " isn't
it ? Then why have you stopped ? "

" I will tell you, Mademoiselle. I am beginning to
guess through your eyes."

The whistle of a train, the train from Paris, mounted
through the still air to their ears.

" "Well," said Pamela, with a shrug of impatience, " we
shall both know the truth some time."

"You will, Mademoiselle," said the schoolmaster,
suddenly falling out of his dream.

Pamela looked quickly at him. The idea that he would
be left behind, that he would stay here all his life listening
to the sing-song drone of the children in the schoolroom,
teaching over and over again with an infinite weariness the
same elementary lessons, until he became shabby and worn
as the lesson-books he handled, had never struck her till this
moment. The trouble which clouded his face was reflected
by sympathy upon hers.

" But you won't stay here," she said gently. " Oh no I


Let me think ! " and she thought with a child's oblivion of
obstacles and a child's confidence. She imparted the wise
result of her reflections to M. Giraud the next afternoon.

He came to the garden with his eyes fevered and his
face drawn.

" You are ill ? " said Pamela. " We will not work

" It's nothing," he replied.

" Tell me," said she.

M. Giraud looked out across the valley.

tk Two travellers came up to Koquebrune yesterday. I
met them as I walked home from here. I spoke to them
and showed them the village, and took them by the short cut
of the steps down to the railway station. They were from
London. They talked of London and of Paris. It's as
well visitors come up to Roquebrune rarely. I have not
slept all night," and he clasped and unclasped his hands.

" Hannibal crossed the Alps," said Pamela. " I read it
in your book," and then she shook a finger at him, just as
the schoolmaster might have done to one of his refractory

" Listen," said she. " I have thought it all out."

The schoolmaster composed himself into the attentive
attitude of a pupil.

" You are to become a Deputy."

That was the solution of the problem. Pamela saw no
difficulties. He would need a dress-suit of course for
oilicial occasions, which she understood were numerous. A
horse, too, would be of use, but that didn't matter so much.
The horse was regretfully given up. It might come later,
lie must get elected first, never mind how. In a word, he
was as good as a Deputy already. And from a Deputy to
the President of the French Republic, the step after all was
not so very long. "Though I am not quite sure that I
approve of Republics," said Pamela, very seriously.

However, that was the best she could do in the way of


mapping out his future, and the schoolmaster listened,
seeing the world through her eyes. Thus three winters
passed and Pamela learned a very little history.

Towards the end of the third winter the history books
were put away. Pamela was now eighteen and looking
eagerly forward to her first season in London. And no
doubt frocks and hats occupied more of her thoughts than
did the fortunes of the schoolmaster. Some remorse for her
forgetfulness seized her the day before she went away. It
was a morning of spring, and the schoolmaster saw her
coming down the dark narrow streets towards him. She
was tall beyond the average, but without uugainliness,
long of limb and lightly built, and she walked with the very
step of youth. Her dark hair swept in two heavy waves
above her forehead, and was coiled down behind on the back
of her neck. Her throat rose straight and slim from the
firm shoulders, and her eyes glowed with anticipation.
Though her hair was dark, she was not sallow. Her face
was no less fresh and clear than were her eyes, and a soft
colour like the bloom of a fruit brightened her cheeks. In
that old brown street she shone like a brilliant flower, and
Giraud, as he watched her, felt all at once that he could
have no place in her life, and in his humility he turned
aside. But she ran after him and caught him up.

" I am going to-morrow," she said, and she tried to keep
the look of happiness out of her eyes, the thrill out of her
voice. And she failed.

" It is good-bye, then," said he.

" For a little while. I shall come back to Roquebrune
in December."

The schoolmaster smiled.

"I shall look forward from to-day until that month
comes. You will have much to tell me."

" Yes, shan't I ? " she cried ; and then, lest her eagerness
should hurt her friend, she added, " But I shall not forget
our quiet afternoons on the garden terrace."


TkG recollection of them, however, was not strong
enough to check either her thoughts or their utterance.
Late? on perhaps, in after years, she might in her mnsmgs
return to that terrace and the speculations they indulged in,
and the fairy palaces they built, with an envy of the ignorance
and the high thoughts of youth. To-day she was all alert to
grasp the future in her hands. One can imagine her loot-
in- much as she looked in those portraits of her childhood.

° " News of the great world," she cried. " I shall bring it
back. We will talk it over in Roquebrune and correct our
guesses. For I shall know."

As a fact, they never did talk over her news, but that she
could not foresee. She went on her way with a smile upon
her face: all confidence and courage, and expectation, a
brilliant image of youth. Giraud, as he watched her the
proud poise of her head, the light springing step, the thing
of beauty and gentleness which she was, breathed a prayer
that no harm might come to her, and no grief ever sadden

her face. , , . . .

The next morning she went away, and the schoolmastei
lost his one glimpse of the outer world. But he lived upon
the recollections of it, and took again to his long walks on
the Corniche road. The time hung heavily upon Ins hands.
He hungered for news, and no news came, and when in the
month of December he noticed that the shutters were opened
in the Villa Pontignard, and that there was a stir of servants
about the house, he felt that the shutters were being opened
•.Iter a long dark time from his one window on the outside
world He frequented the little station from that moment.
No « Eapide " passed from France on its way to Italy during
his leisure hours but he was there to watch its pj^engers.
Mrs. Mardale came first, and a fortnight afterwards Pamela
descended from a carriage with her maid. _

Giraud watched her with a thrill of longing. It was not
merely his friend who had returned, but his instructor, with
new and wonderful knowledge added to the old.


Then came his first chilling moment of disillusion. It
was quite evident that she saw him as she was stepping on
to the platform. Her eves went straight to his — and yet she
turned away without the slightest sign of recognition and
busied herself about her luggage. The world had spoilt her.
That was his first thought, but he came to a truer under-
standing afterwards. And indeed that thought had barely
become definite in his mind, when she turned again, and,
holding out her hand, came to him with a smile.

" You are well ? " she said.

" Yes," said he.

And they walked up the long flight of steps to Koque-
brune, talking banalities. She gave him none of the news
for which he longed, and they spoke not at all of the career
which together they had mapped out for him. All their
long talks upon the terrace, their plans and their specula-
tions seemed in an instant to Giraud to have become part of
a pleasant, very foolish, and very distant past. He was
aware of the vast gulf between them. "With a girl's in-
imitable quickness to adapt herself to new surroundings, she
had acquired in the few months of her absence the ease, the
polish, and the armour of a woman of the world. He was
still the village schoolmaster, the peasant tortured with vain
aspirations, feeding upon vain dreams ; and in this moment
he saw himself very clearly. Her silence upon their plan
helped him to see himself thus. Had she still believed in
that imagined career, surely she would have spoken of it.
In a word, he was still looking at the world through her

" You must come up to the villa, 1 ' she said. " I shall
look forward to your coming."

They were in the little square by the schoolhouse and he
took the words for his dismissal. She went up the hill alone
and slowly, like one that is tired. Giraud, watching her,
could not but compare her with the girl who had come
lightly down that street a few months ago. It dawned upon


him that, though knowledge had been acquired, something
had gone, something perhaps more valuable, the elasticity
from her step, the eagerness from her eyes.

Giraud did not go up to the villa of his own accord, but
he was asked to lunch in a week's time, and after lunch
Pamela and he went out into the garden. Instinctively they
walked down to that corner on the point of the bluff which
overhung the ravine and the white torrent amongst the
oleanders in its depths. They had come indeed to the bench
on which they used to sit before Pamela was quite aware of
the direction their steps had taken. She drew back suddenly
as she raised her head.

" Oh no, not here," she cried, and she moved away quickly
with a look of pain. Giraud suddenly understood why she
had turned away at the railway station. Here they had
dreamed, and the reality had shown the dreams to be bitterly
false, so false that the very place where they had dreamed
had become by its associations a place of pain. She had
needed for herself that first moment when she had stepped
down from the carriage. ^

" The world must be the home of great troubles,' said

Giraud, sadly.

" And how do you know that ? " Pamela asked with a


" From you," he replied simply.

The answer was unexpected. Pamela stopped and looked
at him with startled eyes. _

" From me ? I have said nothing— nothing at all.

" Yet I know. How else should I know except from yuu,
since through you alone I see the world ? "

Online LibraryA. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodley) MasonThe truants; a novel → online text (page 1 of 26)