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

The truants; a novel online

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for help or not. But I did not think that there was any
danger to the woman in the room, and I urged him to do

" Thank you," said Pamela, gratefully. " Indeed, you
were in time to help me."

But even then she did not know how much she was
indebted to the schoolmaster's advice. She was thinking of
the scandal which must have arisen had the police been
called in, of the publication of Millie's folly to the world of
her acquaintances. That was prevented now. If Tony took
back his wife — as with all her heart she hoped he would — he
would not, at all events, take back one of whom gossip would
be speaking with a slighting tongue. She was not aware
that Tony had deserted from the Legion to keep his tryst
upon the thirty-first of the month. Afterwards, when she
did learn this, she was glad that she had not lacked warmth
when she had expressed her gratitude to M. Giraud. A look
of pleasure came into the schoolmaster's face.

" I am very glad," he said. " When I brought the
doctor back the two within the room were talking quietly
together ; we could hear their voices through the door. So


I came away. I walked up to the villa here. But it was
already late, and the lights were out — except in one room on
an upper floor looking over the sea — that room," and he
pointed to a window.

"Yes, that is my room," said Pamela.

" I thought it was likely to be yours, and I hesitated
whether I should fling up a stone ; but I was not sure that
it was your room. So I determined to wait until the morning.
I am sorry, for you have been very anxious and have not
slept — I can see that. I could have saved you some hours of

Pamela laughed in friendliness, and the laugh told him
surely that her distress had gone from her.

" That does not matter," she said. " You have brought
me very good news. I could well afford to wait for it."

The schoolmaster remained in an awkward hesitation at
the gate ; it was clear that he had something more to say.
It was no less clear that he found the utterance of it very
difficult. Pamela guessed what was in his mind, and,
after her own fashion, she helped him to speak it. She
opened the gate, which up till now had stood closed between

" Come in for a little while, won't you ? " she said ; and
she led the way through the garden to that narrow corner on
the bluff of the hill which had so many associations for them
both. If M. Giraud meant to say what she thought he did,
here was the one place where utterance would be easy.
Here they bad interchanged, in other times, their innermost
thoughts, their most sacred confidences. The stone parapet,
the bench, the plot of grass, the cedar in the angle of the
corner — among these familiar things memories must throb
for him even as they did for her. Pamela sat down upon
the parapet and, leaning over, gazed into the torrent far
below. She wished him to take his time. She had a thought
that even if he had not in his mind that utterance which
she hoped to hear, the recollection of those other days.


vividly renewed, might suggest it. And in a moment or two
he spoke.

" It is true, mademoiselle, that I was of service to you
last night ? "

" Yes," replied Pamela, gently ; " that is quite true."

" I am glad," be continued. " I shall have that to
remember. I do not suppose that I shall see you often any
more. Very likely you will not come back to Roquebrune —
very likely I shall never see you again. And if I do not, I
should like you to know that last night will make a difference
to me."

He was now speaking with a simple directness. Pamela
raised her face towards his. He could see that his words
greatly rejoiced her ; a very tender smile was upon her lips,
and her eyes shone. There were tears in them.

" I am so glad," she said.

" I resented your coming to me at first," he went on —
11 1 was a fool ; I am now most grateful that you did come.
I learnt that you had at last found tbe bappiness which I
think you have always deserved. You know I have always
thought that it is a bad thing when such a one as you is
wasted upon loneliness and misery — the world is not so rich
that it can afford such waste. And if only because you told
me that a change had come for you, I should be grateful for
the visit which you paid me. But there is more. You
spoke a very true word last night when you told me it was a
help to be needed by those one needs."

" You think that too ? " said Pamela,

" Yes, now I do," he answered. " It will always be a
great pride to me that you needed me. I shall never forget
that you knocked upon my door one dark night in great
distress. I shall never forget your face, as I saw it framed
in the light when I came out into the porch. I shall never
forget that you stood within my room, and called upon me,
in tbe name of our old comradeship, to rise up and help you.
T think my room will be ballowed by that recollection,"



And he lowered bis voice suddenly and said, " I think I shall
see you as I saw you when I opened the door, between
myself and the threshold of the wineshop ; that is what I
meant to say."

He held out his hand, and, as Pamela took it, he raised
her hand to his lips and kissed it.

" Good-bye," he said ; and turning away quickly he left
her up in the place where she had known the best of him,
and went down to his schoolroom in the square of Roque-
brune. Very soon the sing-song of the children's voices was
droning from the open windows.

Pamela remained upon the terrace. The breaking of old
ties is always a melancholy business, and here was one
broken to-day. It was very unlikely, she thought, that she
would ever see her friend the little schoolmaster again. She
would be returning to England immediately, and she would
not come back to the Yilla Pontignard.

She was still in that corner of the garden when another
visitor called upon her. She heard his footsteps on the
gravel of the path, and, looking up, saw AVarrisden approach-
ing her. She rose from the parapet and went forward to
meet him. She understood that he had come with his old
question, and she spoke first. The question could wait just
for a little while.

" You have seen Tony ? " she asked.

" Yes ; late last night," he replied. " T waited at the
hotel for him. ITe said nothing more than 'Good night,' and
went at once to his room."

" And this morning ? "

"This morning," said Warrisden, " he has gone. I did
not Bee him. He went away with his luggage before I was
up, and he left no message."

Pamela stood thoughtful and silent.

"It is the best thing he could have dune," Warrisden
continued ; " for he is not safe in France."

- Not safe ? "


" No. Did he not tell you ? He deserted from the
French Legion. It was the only way in which he could
reach Roquebrane by the date you named."

Pamela was startled, but she was startled into activity.

" Will you wait for me here ? " she said. " I will get
my hat."

She ran into the villa, and coming out again said, " Let
us go down to the station.''

They hurried down the steep flight of steps. At the
station Warrisden asked, " Shall I book to Monte Carlo ? " .

" No ; to Eze," she replied.

She hardly spoke at all during the journey ; and War-
risden kept his question in reserve — this was plainly no time
to utter it. Pamela walked at once to the hotel.

" Is Lady Stretton in ? " she asked ; and the porter
replied —

" No, Madame. She left for England an hour ago."

" Alone ? " asked Pamela.

" No. A gentleman came and took her away."

Pamela turned towards Warrisden with a look of great
joy upon her face.

" They have gone together," she cried. " He has taken
his risks. He has not forgotten that lesson learnt on the
North Sea. I had a fear tins morning that he had."

" And you ? " said "Warrisden, putting his question at

Pamela moved away from the door until they were out of
earshot. Then she said —

" I will take my risks too." Her eyes dwelt quietly upon
her companion, and she added, " And I think the risks are
very small."




Pamela construed the departure of Tony and Lis wife
together according to her hopes. They were united again.
.She was content with that fact, and looked no further, since
her own affairs had become of an engrossing interest. But
the last word has not been said about the Truants. It was
not, indeed, until the greater part of a year had passed that
the section of their history which is related in this book
reached any point of finality.

In the early days of January the Truants arrived in
London at the close of a long visit to Scotland. They got
out upon Euston platform, and entering their brougham,
drove off. They had not driven far before Millie looked
out of the window and started forward with her hand upon
the check-string. It was dusk, and the evening was not
clear. But she saw, nevertheless, that the coachman had
turned down to the left amongst the squares of Bloomsbury,
and that is not the way from Euston to Regent's Park. She
did not pull the check-string, however. She looked curiously
at Tony, who was sitting beside her, and then leaned back in
the carriage. With her quick adaptability sin- had fallen
into a habit of not questioning her husband. Since the
night in the South of France she had given herself into his
hands with a devotion which, to tell the truth, had some-
thing of slavishness. It was his wish, apparently, that the
recollection of that night should still be a barrier between
them, hindering them from anything but an exchange of


courtesies. She bowed to the wish without complaint. To-
night, however, as they drove through the unaccustomed
streets, there rose within her mind a hope. She would have
stifled it, dreading disappointment ; but it was stronger than
her will. Moreover, it received each minute fresh encourage-
ment. The brougham crossed Oxford Street, turned down
South Audley Street, and traversed thence into Park Street.
Millie now sat forward in her seat. She glanced at her
husband. Tony, with a face of indifference, was looking out
of the window. Yet the wonderful thing, it seemed, was
coming to pass, nay, had come to pass. For already the
brougham had stopped, and the door at which it stopped was
the door of the little house in Deanery Street.

Tony turned to his wife with a smile.

" Home ! " he said.

She sat there incredulous, even though the look of the
house, the windows, the very pavement were speaking to her
memories. There was the blank wall on the north side
which her drawing-room window overlooked, there was the
sharp curve of the street into Park Lane, there was the end
of Dorchester House. Here the happiest years of her life,
yes, and of Tony's, too, had been passed. She had known
that to be truth for a long while now. She had come of late
to think that they were the only really happy years which
had fallen to her lot. The memories of them throbbed
about her now with a vividness which was poignant.

" Is it true ? " she asked, with a catch of her breath.
" Is it really true, Tony ? "

" Yes, this is our home."

Millie descended from the carriage. Tony looked at her
curiously. This sudden arrival at the new home, which was
the old, had proved a greater shock to her than he had
expected. For a little while after their return to England
Millie had dwelt upon the words which Tony had spoken to
her in the Reserve by the sea. He had dreamed of buying
the house in Deanery Street, of resuming there the life which


they had led together there, in the days when they had been
good friends as well as good lovers. That dream for a time
she had made her own. She had come to long for its fulfil-
ment, as she had never longed for anything else in the world ;
she had believed that sooner or later Tony would relent, and
that it would be fulfilled. But the months had passed, and
now, when she had given up hope, unexpectedly it had been
fulfilled. She stood upon the pavement, almost dazed.

" You never said a word of what you meant to do," she
said with a smile, as though excusing herself for her un-
responsive manner. The door was open. She went into the
house and Tony followed her. They mounted the stairs into
the drawing-room.

"As far as I could," Tony said, "I had the houso
furnished just as it used to be. I could not get all the
pictures which we once had, but you sec I have done my

Millie looked round the room. There was the piano
standing just as it used to do, the carpet, tlie wall-paper
were all of the old pattern. It seemed to her that she had
never left the house ; that the years in Berkeley Square and
Regent's Park were a mere nightmare from which she had
just awaked. And then she looked at Tony. No, these
latter years had been quite real— he bore the marks of them
upon his face. The boyishness had gone. Xo doubt, she
thought, it was the same with her.

Tony stood and looked at her with an eagerness which
she did not understand.

" Arc you glad ? " he asked earnestly. " Millie, are you
pleased ? "

She stood in front of him with a very serious face. Once
a Bmile brightened it ; but it was a smile of doubt, of

" I am not sure," she said. u I know that you have been

very kind. You have (low this to please inc. But "

And her voice wavered a little.


« Well ? " said Tony.

" But," she went on with difficulty, " I am not sure that
I can endure it, unless things are different from what they
have been lately. I shall be reminded every minute of other
times, and the comparison between those times and the
present will be very painful. I think that I shall be very
unhappy, much more unhappy than I have ever been, even

Her voice sank to a whisper at the end. The little house
in Deanery Street, even in her dreams, had been no more
than a symbol. She had longed for it as the outward and
visible sign of the complete reconciliation on which her heart
was set. But to have the sign and to know that it signified
nothing — she dreaded that possibility now. Only for a very
few moments she dreaded it.

" I don't think I can endure it, Tony," she said sadly.
And the next moment his arms were about her, and her head
was resting against his breast.

" Millie ! " he cried in a low voice ; and again " Millie ! "

Her face was white, her eyelids closed over her eyes.
Tony thought that she had swooned. But when he moved
her hands held him close to her, held him tightly, as though
she dreaded to lose him.

" Millie," he said, " do you remember the lights in Oban
Bay ? And the gulls calling at night above the islands ? "

" I am forgiven, then ? " she whispered ; and he answered
only —

" Hush ! "

But the one word was enough.




TONY wished for no mention of the word. He had not
brought her to that house that he might forgive her, but
because he wanted her there. If forgiveness was in question,
there was much to be said upon her side too. He was to
blame, as Pamela had written. He had during the last few
months begun to realise the justice of that sentence more
clearly than he had done even when the letter was fresh
within his thoughts.

" I have learnt something," he said to Millie, " which I
might have known before, but never did. It is this.
Although a man may be content to know that love exists,
that is not the case with women. They want the love
expressed, continually expressed, not necessarily in words,
but in a hundred little ways. I did not think of that.
There was the mistake I made : I left you alone to think
just what you chose. Well, that's all over now. I bought
this house not merely to please you, but as much to please
myself ; for as soon as I understood that after all the
compromise which I dreaded need not be our lot — that
nfter all the life together of which I used to dream was
possible, was within arm's reach if only one would put out
an arm and grasp it, I wanted you here. As soon as I
was sure, quite sure that I had recaptured you, I wanted you

He spoke with passion, holding her in his arms. Millie
remained quite still for a while, and then she asked —


" Do you miss the Legion ? As much as you thought
you would — as much as you did that night at Eze ? "

He answered, " Xo " ; and spoke the truth. On that
night at Eze he had not foreseen the outcome of his swift
return, of his irruption into the gaily lighted room murmurous
with the sea. On that night he had revealed himself to
Millie, and the revelation had been the beginning of love in
her rather than its resumption. This he had come to
understand, and, understanding, could reply with truth that
he did not miss the Legion as he had thought he would.
There were moments, no doubt, when the sound of a bugle
on a still morning would stir him to a sense of loss, and he
would fall to dreaming of Tavernay and Barbier, and his
old comrades, and the menacing silence of the Sahara. At
times, too, the yapping of dogs in the street would call up
vividly before his mind the picture of some tent village in
Morocco where he had camped. Or the wind roaring
amongst trees on a night of storm would set his mind
wondering whether the ketch Perseverance was heading to
the white-crested rollers, close-reefed between the Dogger
and the Fisker Banks ; and for a little while he would feel
the savour of the brine sharp upon his lips, and longing
would be busy at his heart — for the Ishmaehte cannot easily
become a stay-at-home. These, however, were but the
passing moods.

Of one other character who took an important if an
unobtrusive part in shaping the fortunes of the Truants a
final word may be said. A glimpse of that man, of the real
man in him, was vouchsafed to Warrisden two summers
later. It happened that "Warrisden attended a public dinner
which was held in a restaurant in Oxford Street. He left
the company before the dinner was over, since he intended
to fetch his wife Pamela, who was on that June evening
witnessing a performance of " Rigoletto " at the Opera
House in Covent Garden. 'Warrisden rose from the table
and slipped out, as he thought at eleven o'clock, but on


descending into the hall he found that he had miscalculated
the time. It was as yet only a quarter to the hour, and
having fifteen minutes to spare, he determined to walk.
The night was hot ; he threw his overcoat across his arm,
and turning southwards out of Oxford Street, passed down a
narrow road in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane. In those
days, which were not, after all, so very distant from our own,
the great blocks of model dwellings had not been as yet
erected ; squalid courts and rookeries opened on to ill-lighted
passages ; the houses had a ruinous and a miserable look.
There were few people abroad as Warrisden passed through
the quarter, and his breast-plate of white shirt-front made
hi in a conspicuous figure. He had come about half the way
from Oxford Street when he saw two men suddenly emerge
from the mouth of a narrow court a few yards in front of
him. The two men were speaking, or rather shouting, at
one another ; and from the violence of their gestures no
less than from the abusive nature of the language which they
used, it was plain that they were quarrelling. Words and
gestures led to blows. Warrisden saw one man strike the
other and fell him to the ground.

In an instant a little group of people was gathered about
the combatants, people intensely silent and interested — the
sightseers of the London streets who spring from nowhere
with inconceivable rapidity, as though they had been waiting
in some secret spot hard by for just this particular spectacle
in this particular place. Warrisden, indeed, was wondering
carelessly at the speed with which the small crowd had
gathered when he came abreast of it. He stopped and
peered over the shoulders of the men and women in front
of him that he might see the better. The two disputants
had relapsed apparently into mere vituperation. Warrisden
pressed forward, and those in front parted and made way
for him. He did not, however, take advantage of the
deference shown to his attire ; for at that moment a voice
whispered in his ear —


" You had better slip out. This row is got up for

Warrisden turned upon his heel. He saw a short, stout,
meanly dressed man of an elderly appearance moving away
from his side ; no doubt it was he who had warned him.
Warrisden took the advice, all the more readily because he
perceived that the group was, as it were, beginning to
reform itself, with him as the new centre. He was, however,
still upon the outskirts. He pushed quickly out into the
open street, crossed the road, and continued on his way. In
front of him he saw the stout, elderly man, and, quickening
his pace, he caught him up.

" I have to thank you," he said, " for saving me from an
awkward moment."

" Yes," replied the stout man ; and Warrisden, as he
heard his voice, glanced at him with a sudden curiosity.
But his hat was low upon his brows, and the street was dark.
M It is an old trick, but the old tricks are the tricks which
succeed. There was no real quarrel at all. Those two men
were merely pretending to quarrel in order to attract your
attention. You were seen approaching — that white shirt-front
naturally inspired hope. In another minute you would have
been hustled down the court and into one of the houses at the
end. Y r ou would have been lucky if, half an hour later, you
were turned out into the street stripped of everything of
value you possess, half naked and half dead into the bargain.
Good night ! "

The little man crossed the road abruptly. It was plain
that he needed neither thanks nor any further conversation.
It occurred, indeed, to Warrisden that he was deliberately
avoiding conversation. Warrisden accordingly walked on to
the Opera House, and, meeting his wife in the vestibule, told
her this story while they waited for their brougham.

As they drove together homewards, he added —

" That is not all, Pamela. I can't help thinking — it is
absurd, of course — and yet, I don't know ; but the little


stout man reminded me very much of some one we both

Pamela turned suddenly towards her husband —

" Mr. Mudge ? " she said.

" Yes," replied Warrisden, with some astonishment at
the accuracy of her guess. " He reminded me of Mudge."

" It was Mr. Mudge," she said. For a moment or two
she was silent ; then she let her hand fall upon her husband's :
" He was a very good friend to us," she said gently — " to all
of us."




NINTH IMPRESSION. Crown 8vo. 6s.



THE TIMES.— 'A tale which may be called— without a glance at the seventh
commandment — an "adventure novel," with the irreducible minimum of bloodshed : and
a love story, without a single kiss. . . . The plot is worked out with remarkable in-
genuity. . . . The whole book has elevated and restrained poetic quality, and is inspired
at once by keen sympathy and by a manly stoicism.'

SPECTATOR. — ' Interesting and exciting. . . . Mr. Mason is an admirable narrator,
with a gift for framing strong situations, and the interest of the reader is enlisted at the

COUNTRY LIFE.— 'Mr. A. E. W. Mason takes a firmer grip than ever upon the
affections of the world that reads. It is indeed a grand story, told with such sympathy
and spirit combined as are rarely to be found in books.'

DAILY TELEGRAPH.— ' In every sense a readab'e and absorbing book. ... It
is not the least of the merits of " The Four Feathers" that it is a book of adventure, for
the scenes in the Soudan, the tragedy of the " House of Stone," which is the prison
wherein Feversham and French suffer nameless toiture, are vivid and graphic pictures,
drawn with remarkable knowledge and skill.'

SKETCH. — 'This is a fine story, finely told — a happy combination of the novel of
character and the novel of incident. Mr. Mason is a genuine literary artist. . . . The
drawing of the three principal actors in it is masterly, while the motif which underlies it
all is developed from start to finish with real ability.'

GUARDIAN. — ' " The Four Feathers" is a novel of no ordinary type : it stands out
clearly from amongst the hosts that overwhelm us. . . . For a book such as this the

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Online LibraryA. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodley) MasonThe truants; a novel → online text (page 24 of 26)