last of his men. They turned to spit livid spurts of
flame at the dark wall of the ravine. In a few
moments they were clambering up a steep path
through the wood on the other side.
Half an hour later the Germans felt the long line
of trenches on the lip of the ravine, attacked, and
were heavily repulsed.
At dawn the colonel reconnoitred the situation
from his position on the height. In front of him the
enemy, abandoning the valley in which lay so many
of his dead, had entrenched himself along the oppo-
site edge of the ravine. Vicious little bursts of rifle
fire at scattered parties or individuals who hazarded
themselves for a moment out of cover betokened the
vigilance of both sides, and on both sides the many
spadefuls of earth tossed in the air showed that the
work of strengthening the positions was proceeding
feverishly. So far no artillery had entered into the
fray, but at any moment the first shell from one
party or the other might come whining across the
gulf. To the right of the Zouaves another battalion
had established contact, was maintaining itself. To
the left, at the head of the ravine, where they joined
with the next regiment, a fierce fight was proceeding
ā attack and counter-attack which finally left the
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE 263
positions unchanged. Far to right and left the crackle
of rifle fire swelled and continued. Mingled with it
came the rapid detonations of field-guns, their reports
ever nearer. The battle was developing all along the
line. The colonel received positive orders to main-
tain himself at all costs, to risk nothing. Upon the
maintenance of this thin screen depended the safety
of two armies, forming and in motion, perhaps the
fate of France.
Through his glasses the colonel gazed into the depths
of the ravine, where the white stone chateau glinted
through the dark, thickly surrounding trees. A wisp
of smoke ascended from one of the chimneys and he
had to be content with that assurance that all was
well. A patrol sent out in the first light had failed
to reach it. All access to the chateau was commanded
by spurs from the other side of the ravine. But
apparently it was unoccupied by the enemy. He
thought suddenly of the dog, wondered what had
happened to it. In the stress of the night attack he
had lost sight of it, forgotten it. Even as he searched
his memory it came bounding along the trench
towards him, nosed against his leg. There was some-
thing fastened to its collar, a letter.
As he read it, all the passion of his ascetic, sun-
parched years, awakened by the exquisite charm of
that slender pale woman lonely there below him,
surged up in him, overmastering, obliterating all
else. The eloquent eyes under the auburn hair were
vivid to him, spoke to his deepest soul. Her letter
was a prose lyric of passion wherein all emotions ā
longing, tenderness, anxiety, surrender, pride in her
264 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
lover, even a flash of the doubt born of swiftly-given
love ā contended. It was revelatory of her inmost
self as her speech had never been. She, it seemed,
had also waited ā waited. Some of the phrases in it
ā " The burning sacrament of your kiss " ā " linked
in an instant for eternity " ā branded themselves
upon his brain. In a whirl of cerebral excitement
he tore out a page from his note -book, dashed off a
letter not less ardent, not less than hers the ecstasy
of a soul that lives at last in the consuming fire of
He attached it to the dog's collar, pointed away.
The animal sprang over the low parapet, disappeared
in the undergrowth below.
An artillery officer came up, reported himself as
the observer of the newly arrived battery. He
evinced much professional interest in the chateau,
seemed eager to make it the target for his guns.
The colonel explained the situation.
All through the multitudinous tasks and responsi-
bilities of the day his soul yearned out to the lonely
woman below. To have risked his life in an en-
deavour to see her would have been more than a joy,
it would have been the satisfaction of a need of his
being ā but his life was pledged to France. To him
his duty was a religion with which his love did not
conflict, nay both, upon the summit of his life,
blended and were one. Yet tempted, he found him-
self speculating upon the possibility of creeping down
But night saw the intense glare of three German
searchlights shoot out of the darkness. A storm of
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOIS^E 265
shrapnel burst fiercely over the trenches of the
Zouaves. A wild attack of shadowy forms surging
up out of the undergrowth beat against the parapet,
ebbed back in an inferno of noise from the long line
of countless stabs of flame, was hurled into the
ravine under the reiterated crashes, the sudden livid
flares of shrapnel from the battery behind.
Down below, at the highest window of the chateau,
the countess stood looking out into the night, her
lover's letter pressed close against her bosom. High
above her flickered and spurted the endless rifle
flashes from his trenches, paling the stars above the
dark hill. The noise of the conflict, the shouts and
cries amid the re-echoing din, was a tribute to his
power. She gloried in it, exulted when the attack
subsided, withdrew in a clamour of voices past the
chateau to the hill behind.
Descending, she wrote yet another letter to him ā
a proud paean of love triumphant. Then suddenly
she flung herself, face downward, arms outstretched,
across the table in a passion of irrepressible tears.
She lay thus a long time, until the heaving of her
body ceased and she slept, her cheek upon the
The morning was yet young when she despatched
the dog once more upon his mission to her lover.
Save for an occasional shot, the opposing trenches
were quiet. Stretcher parties were at work in the
valley. Waited upon by the ancient Marie ā eloquent
in her protestations of terror during the night ā she
breakfasted, counting the minutes until the return of
her messenger. Roland arrived, pleased with himself,
266 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
as his energetic tail testified. Once more with swell-
ing breast and radiant face she read her lover's letter,
passionate as the first. In a postscript, it begged her
to give no information that might imperil her.
During the day the battle woke again between the
trenches at the head of the ravine, continued in fierce
spasms hour after hour. In the afternoon she wrote
another letter, despatched it and received an answer.
She was strangely, exaltedly happy. He was holding
firm. No one came to the chateau. At night she
again posted herself at the window to watch the
flashes from his trenches.
The third day dawned. She wrote, assuring him
of her safety ā of much else. The reply duly arrived.
A false peace brooded over the little valley. Ceding
to an impulse, she went out, tried to get a clearer
view of his position, to see ā she would not admit to
herself her absurd hope. Then, regretting her im-
prudence, she returned hurriedly.
The grey of afternoon already filled the valley when
a loud, imperative knocking upon the great door re-
echoed through the house. The countess stood as if
turned to stone ; her heart seemed to stop. So soon !
The threat to her exalted, impassioned life of the
past days paralysed her. She could with difficulty
cry to Marie to admit.
A German officer entered, a group of soldiers
behind him. He saluted with stiff ceremony.
" Madame, I regret you must leave this house at
once ! " His French was painfully correct.
She faced him, tense.
" And if I refuse ? "
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE fc67
" Then, madame, you leave me no alternative but
to arrest you as a suspect."
She cried an inarticulate protest. The dog, hitherto
standing by her side as though straining at a leash,
sprang forward with an angry growl.
The German regarded the menace coolly, without
moving a muscle.
" Schones Tier ! " he murmured. Then, turning
to his men, he ordered : " Secure it, one of you ! M
Thunderously growling, with a puzzled look at his
mistress standing like a statue, the dog suffered a
cord to be slipped through its collar. The blood
surged into the countess's face.
" Monsieur ! " The sense of outrage choked her.
" Madame," he interrupted calmly, " I need
scarcely remind you that time presses. You will not,
I am sure, constrain us to violence."
She met his eyes, was confronted with inexorable
necessity. Her hands twitched.
" You will at least allow me a little time to collect
a few clothes and valuables ? "
" A little time, madame."
She ran from the room, hearing as a last sound the
dog choking as it struggled on the leash. In the hall
was Marie, haggard, her old body shaking with ex-
citement. She clutched at her mistress's arm.
" Madame ! what is happening ? " She lapsed
into patois under the stress.
The countess replied also, without noticing it, in
the language of her childhood.
" I am arrested. They are letting me fetch some
268 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
The servant suppressed a cry. " Madame ! "
The old hands trembled upon her. " The colonel ! ā
a note to him ā he will come ā give it to me ! "
" But Marie " They looked deep down into
each other's soul. With a sudden movement of
decision the countess ran into an adjoining room,
scribbled " They are taking me. P." on a piece of
paper, thrust it into the old woman's hand. " You
are sure, Marie ? " she asked wildly, seeking condona-
tion for herself.
" Chere dame ! " was the brief, eloquent reply.
The old woman disappeared.
The countess ran upstairs to her bedroom, the one
word " Delay ! ā delay ! ā delay ! ā delay ! " beating
in her brain.
Down in the salon the officer gave a few curt com-
mands to his men, ordered the dog to be taken into
the yard. Left alone, he strolled round the room
examining the pictures, the bibelots, opening the
drawers of the secretaire. The minutes passed. The
house was in deep silence. He began to get impatient,
to wonder if some trick But he was sure of the
vigilance of his men. A quarter of an hour had elapsed
when he heard a sharp little burst of fire from the
German trenches above. It was not answered. The
valley resumed its unwonted quiet. Exasperated at
the delay he began to pace up and down the room,
looked at his watch, gave his prisoner yet another
Suddenly his *eye was caught by a little piece of
folded paper on the floor under the piano. He picked
it up, opened it. It was a letter that had evidently
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE 269
fallen from the countess's dress when she ran from
the room. He read it through, a gleam in his eyes.
" So ! meine Grafin ! " he murmured, and smiled.
The colonel's passionate outpouring awoke no
sympathetic thrill of romance in his breast. The tip
of a pink tongue protruding under his fair moustache,
his clever blue eyes alight, he turned it over, pondering
the signature. From many indications he deduced
that the writer was in the trenches on the other side
of the ravine, was of commanding rank. Even as he
considered it there was a knock at the door.
" Herein ! " A German soldier entered and saluted.
He brought a message from the trenches above. It
explained the little burst of fire, warned him. The
officer stood for a moment in thought, then his face
lit up with a malicious pleasure. The clever blue
eyes saw a sequence of events ā the messenger from
the countess, whose sudden scramble over the oppos-
ing parapet had drawn the German fire, imploring
rescue of the distressed ; a French commander, in-
toxicated with love for a beautiful woman, catching
fire at the news, issuing wild orders, seeing only his
mistress in imminent danger ; a reckless avalanche
of French soldiery sweeping down the sides of the
ravine in a blind quixotic chivalry. He saw
" Famos ! " he ejaculated, and laughed softly to him-
self. He wrote out an answering message, a long one,
and handed it to the orderly.
When the countess returned to the room, garbed
for departure, she found him seated at the piano,
playing gently with a sentimental touch. He rose at
her entrance, performed a polite bow.
270 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
" Madame, you appear to have a very interesting
house," he said in his stiff French; "would you do
me the honour of escorting me over it ? "
The countess stared at him, dumbfounded. Were
her prayers miraculously answered ? Delay ! ā delay !
ā delay !
" If you wish, monsieur," she answered in a calm,
controlled voice. Following the twin thought in her
brain, her eyes searched the carpet.
He noticed the glance, drew the letter from his
" I think you dropped this, madame," he said,
handing it to her.
She took it from him. Had he read it ? The
blonde face that met her questioning gaze was im-
passive under its smiling courtesy.
For an instant they confronted each other. With
a cynical sense of superiority, pleasant to himself, he
read her delight at his unexpected request, carefully
though she tried to disguise it, read her quickly
banished doubt that he had penetrated her scheme,
was counter-plotting. He could almost phrase her
thankful prayer to God ā begging for a continuance
of the miracle ā that the barbarian had thus delivered
himself into the strong hands of her lover. He would
surely come ! Both as they stood thus silent were
calculating the necessary minutes ā but his calculation
was a double one. With the politest of bows, he
opened the door for her.
Together they went through salon after salon,
candlelit since he refused to have the shutters opened.
In contrast with his previous manner, he displayed
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE 271
not the least haste. Leisurely he lingered over each
piece, discussed it, appraised it with real connois-
seurship as though he were merely a cultured guest.
She loitered willingly, her brain on fire, every sense
at strain. The precious moments were accumulating.
She found new treasures for his admiration, racked
her memory for rare objects that might hold him
yet a little longer. He handled them, was enthusiastic,
with calm audacity regretted this terrible war which
imperilled so many beautiful things. Not once did
he depart from his attitude of studied politeness.
And while he spoke she was listening ā listening ā for
the sudden shout, the quick close detonations, which
should announce her deliverance.
At any moment now ! She glanced for the bar-
barian's weapon, her heart praying for his safety.
Out there beyond the shuttered windows he was
coming in might at the head of his men. She seemed
to see him ā running towards her, past the Cupid-
crowned fountain. She exulted in the crass absence
of suspicion in the hatefully calm enemy at her side.
Out there in the twilight the precincts of the
chateau were being lined with grey-clad soldiers,
settling themselves in hidden firing positions. The
officer saw them, with experienced second-sight. He
smiled, blandly. His prisoner loitered, desperately
prolonging his happy preoccupation.
When they returned to the salon it was to find
another German officer waiting. Unseen by her,
they exchanged a significant look.
There was a sharp, hissing, ugly rush in the air and
a loud crash in the courtyard.
272 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
By a fortunate chance the colonel was near when
the panting Marie scrambled over the parapet to the
accompaniment of a dozen rifle bullets. On the point
of collapse, the old woman sank into his arms, stam-
mered confused unintelligible words, gave him the
scrap of paper. Consigning her to the care of an
orderly, he read the message, then raised his head,
his fingers crushing the paper. He stood motionless,
in intense thought. Slowly his eyes turned, fell upon
the old woman shaking more with fright from the
narrowly escaped bullets than from her exertions.
Then his gaze lifted, fixed itself with frowning con-
centration upon the clay wall of the trench. He saw
only with an inner vision. Around him no one spoke.
His jaw set hard.
He raised himself upon the fire-step, gazed over
the parapet through his glasses. The opposing lip of
the ravine, bare of undergrowth a few yards from the
top, lay silent, seemingly deserted. He called up an
officer, handed him his glasses, indicated a point,
ordered an unceasing watch upon it. Then he sent
orderlies for his chefs-de-bataillon and the artillery
observation officer in all haste.
They came. The battalion commanders received
definite instructions and departed. The artillery
officer remained with him. The ancient Marie sat
upon the fire-step of the trench, trembling but re-
covering. She watched the saviour of her mistress
with fascinated eyes.
The trench began to fill with soldiers. They crouched
in their firing positions, their heads kept carefully below
the parapet. Here and there little groups were busy
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE 273
about the machine-guns, fitted the long comb -like
strips of cartridges, huddled ready to hoist the
weapon into action. The watching officer called,
without moving his head.
" Infantry are slipping into the ravine, mon
colonel ! "
The colonel, stern, impassive, ordered him to
report when the movement ceased.
The long trench filled with crouching riflemen lay
in a hush of intense expectancy. There was scarce a
movement save the quick, involuntary jerks of nerves
at strain. The old woman's eyes began to wander,
puzzled, seeking comprehension. The wild rush for-
ward she had imagined, would it never come ? She
waited, breathless, for the inspiring command of the
colonel that should wake the tumultuous Hurrah !
The watching officer reported :
" Movement has ceased, mon colonel. About two
The colonel drew his watch from his pocket,
glanced at the dial. Beyond that he made no move-
ment. The old woman's eyes were fixed upon him.
Suddenly she noticed that he wore neither sword nor
revolver. In a flash she understood. She sprang
up like a madwoman, crying at the top of her
" Soldiers ! To the rescue ! The Boches are taking
away my mistress ! Now ! Save her ! Your colonel
ā her lover ā abandons her ! Abandons her !
Cowards ! Cowards ! Do you want an old woman
to show you the way ? "
She leaped in a frenzy upon the fire-step, tearing
274 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
aside the soldiers to make way for her with cat-like
hands. There was a stir along the trench. The
soldiers knew her, knew her mistress, their generous
hostess. There was a murmur. The colonel stood
like a statue carved in stone. His face was that of an
ascetic at the supreme moment. In his eyes was the
glow of a mystic who beholds a vision.
He turned to the old woman.
" Be quiet ! " he commanded. His eyes rather
than his voice quelled her. She sank in a passion of
hysterical weeping to the floor of the trench. He
glanced at his watch again, replaced it, waited.
Age-long minutes passed. He turned to the artillery
" Now ! " he said. " But be careful ! As near to
the chateau as possible without touching it."
The officer shouted an order to the waiting tele-
phonist. Overhead there was the rush of a shell,
from far behind the sharp crack of a gun. Leisurely
ā one ā two ā three ā four ā the battery fired. The
observation officer looked over the parapet. The
colonel mounted by his side, watched also.
One ā two ā three ā four ā the battery fired again,
repeated itself once more. Down there among the
trees was a faint drifting smoke.
The colonel counted the minutes as the well -placed
shells dropped around the chateau of his dreams.
He saw, where none other saw, the sudden alarm
below ; the prisoner hurriedly evacuated from her
home, dragged scrambling up through the dark trees
into safety on the other side. One ā two ā three ā
four. She should be out of harm's way.
THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE 275
He turned his face to the trench, shouted an order.
As he turned his gaze again swiftly towards the enemy
he had a glimpse of something upon the bare lip of
the ravine ā something white, quickly moving. He
had miscalculated ! In a sudden agony, he shrieked
rather than shouted a countermanding order. Too
late ! His voice was drowned in one long smashing
detonation of a thousand rifles in an irregular volley
from the trench. From the battery behind came the
rapid, multiplied hammer-slams of the guns firing at
their maximum speed.
He had a ghostly vision of an anguished woman's
face, denying love.
The ravine was lashed by a tornado of shell and
bullets. Caught in its depths, unseen yet precisely
imagined from above, men were clambering in an
agony of desperation to escape from the death that
crashed unceasingly overhead and hailed about them.
The white shrapnel puffs were countless against the
dark background of the trees.
For a quarter of an hour the fierce fire continued,
was answered in bitter anger from the opposing
trenches. Then on both sides it died away. The
dead in the valley lay in quiet.
The colonel, his face rigid, turned to walk along the
trench. Suddenly a dog trailing a cord leaped over
the parapet, dashed at him in a frenzy of joy. Then,
perceiving the old woman, it jumped at her, nosed
around her with vigorously wagging tail. ^ [ 1
The old woman shrieked. The colonel looked.
There was blood upon the dog's coat. The old woman
drew herself up, held the colonel's eyes. " Mur-
276 THE CHATELAINE OF LYSBOISfiE
derer ! " she cried with the intensity of a curse, and
The colonel strode on.
On a bitter day in December, three months later,
the colonel returned from his morning tour of the
trenches for which he was responsible. They were
trenches in another landscape, far from those whose
memory lay like a sear across his soul. At the en-
trance to the sandbagged, wrecked farmhouse which
served him as a home the soldier-co^mer was in the
act of extracting letters from his wallet. The colonel
took the bundle destined for him. At the sight of
the topmost envelope he stopped as though he had
seen a ghost. With trembling fingers he tore it open,
" My hero ! I understood ! I understood ! Oh,
didn't you know I understood ? How grand you
are ā more than a man ! All these weary months of
imprisonment, trial, release and travel, I have been
hungering to tell you this. Home once more, France
is more than ever France to me since you ennobled
me in sacrifice. Beloved ! "
The colonel hurried into his quarters to read the
letter in solitude. None might see his face.
THEY COME BACK
Whittingham Street, N., had benefited by the war.
The long vista of its windows flush with the pave-
ment was decent with curtains of a cleanness un-
wonted before the cataclysm. There were strange
dots of reflected sunlight from brass door-handles
and knockers that were polished. These things were
symbols of the newly realised importance of Whit-
tingham Street's inhabitants in the scheme of society,
an importance which, swiftly translated into self-
esteem, expressed itself with a uniformity natural to
life in a mean street. That house was poor indeed
which did not possess its gramophone. The women-
folk were curiously predominant to those who remem-
bered the old-time loungers at the corner " pubs,"
and that womenfolk, disdainful of the feathers
of the long ago, was arrayed in startlingly smart,
well -emphasized, cheap copies of the latest fashions,
oddly incongruous with the tall, smoke-vomiting
chimneys of Messrs. Hathaway's great factory which
closed the vista of the street. The sparseness of the
men, immediately remarked, received a solemn
significance from the flag-hung shrine on the wall of
the Council School. The children who played in front
of it ā paper helmet, tin-can drum and wooden sword ā
were vividly cognizant that this was a time of War.
2*8 THEY COME BACK
It was evening, and from the great gates of Messrs.
Hathaway's factory poured a ceaseless stream of
women. But not this evening did that stream flow
down the street with its usual swift and uninter-
rupted course. There were checks in it ā obstacles
of groups that talked excitedly and forgot to progress
ā while others in eager haste eddied round them.
On the high wall by the gate, a bill-poster was cover-
ing a "War Savings" placard with another of different
meaning.. A black cloud of smoke drifted away
from the tall chimneys and was not reinforced
other than by faint and lessening wisps.
A young woman, one of those whose urgent haste