' So far magnificently. Our outpost troops have
been withdrawn to the battle-zone ā that's all. The line
has held ever5rwhere. The Germans have lost heavily.'
314 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
' Outpost troops ! ' whispered the boy ā ' why, that's
nothing ! We always expected ā to lose the first line.
Good old Army ! '
A pause, and then ā so faintly breathed as to be
scarcely audible, and yet in ecstasy ā ' England ! ā
England ! '
His joy was wonderful ā heart-breaking ā while aU
those around him wept.
He lay murmuring to himself a little while, his hand
in Pamela's. Then for a last time he looked at his
father, but was now too weak to speak. His eyes,
intently fixed on the Squire, kept their marvellous
brightness ā no one knew how long. Then gently, as
though an unseen hand put out a light, the briUiance
died away ā the Uds fell ā and with a few breaths
Desmond's young life was past.
It was three weeks after Desmond's death. Pamela
was sitting in the ' den ' writing a letter to Arthur
Chicksands at Versailles. The first onslaught on Amiens
was over. The struggle between Bethune and Ypres
was in full swing.
' Dearest ā This house is so strange ā the world is so
strange ! Oh, if I hadn't my work to do ! ā how could
one bear it ? It seems wrong and hateful even, to let
one's mind dwell on the wonderful, wonderful thing,
that you love me ! The British Army retreating ā
retreating ā after these glorious years ā that is what bums
into me hour after hour ! Thank God Desmond didn't
know ! And if I feel like this, who am just an ignorant,
inexperienced girl, what must it be for you who are
working there, at the very centre, the news streaming
in on you all the time ? ā you who know how much
there is to fear ā but also how much there is to be certain
of ā to be confident of ā that we can't know. Our
splendid, splendid men ! Every day I watch for the
names I know in the death list ā and some of them seem
to be always there. The boy ā the other sub-lieutenant
ā who was with Desmond when he was wounded, was
in the list yesterday. Forest's boy is badly wounded.
The old gardener has lost another son. Perley's boy is
" missing," and so is the poor Pennington boy. They
3i6 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
are heroic ā ^the Penningtons ā but whenever I see them
I want to cry. . . . Oh, I can't write this any more.
I have been writing letters of sympathy all day.
' Dearest, you would be astonished if you could see
me at this moment. I am to-day a full-blown group
leader. Do you know what that means ? I have had
a long round among some of our farms to-day ā bargain-
ing with the farmers for the land-girls in my group,
and looking after their billets. Yesterday I spent half
the day in " docking " with six or eight village women
to give them a " send off." I don't believe you know
what docking means. It is pretty hard work, and at
night I have a nightmare ā of roots that never come to
an end, and won't pull out !
' You were quite right ā ^it is my work. I was born
in the country. I know and love it. The farmers are
very nice to me. They see I don't try to boss them as
the Squire's daughter ā that I'm just working as they
are. And I can say a good deal to them about the war,
because of Desmond. They all knew him and loved him.
Some of them tell me stories about his pluck out hunting
as a little chap, and though he had been such a short
time out in France he had written to two or three of
them about their sons in the Brookshires. He had a
heavenly disposition ā oh, I wish I had !
' At the present moment I am in knee-breeches,
gaiters, and tunic, and I have just come in. Six o'clock
to five, please sir, with half-an-hour for breakfast and
an hour for dinner (I eat it out of a red handkerchief
under a hedge). It was wet and nasty, and I am pretty
tired. But one does not want to stop ā because when
one stops one begins to think. And my thoughts,
except for that shining centre where you are, are so dark
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 317
and full of sorrow. I miss Desmond every hour, and
some great monstrous demon seems to be clutching at
me ā at you ā at England ā everything one loves and
would die for ā aU day long. But don't imagine that I
ever doubt for one moment. Not I ā
For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win ;
To doubt would be disloyalty.
To falter would be sin.
I know that's not good poetry. But I just love it ā
because it's plain and commonplace, and expresses just
what ordinary people feel and think.
' Oh, why was I such a fool about Elizabeth ! Now
that you are at a safe distance ā and of course on the
understanding that you never, never say a word to me
about it ā I positively will and must confess that I was
jealous of her about you ā yes, about you, Arthur ā
because you talked to her about Greek ā and about ash
for aeroplanes ā and I couldn't talk about them. There's
a nice nature for you ! Hadn't you better get rid of
me while you can ? But the thing that torments me is
that I can never have it quite out with Desmond. I
told him lies, simply. I didn't know they were lies, I
suppose ; but I was too angry and too unjust to care
whether they were or not. On the journey from France
I said a few little words to him ā just enough, thank
Heaven ! He was so sweet to her in those last days ā
and she to him. You know one side of her is the
managing woman ā and the other (I've only found it
out since Desmond's death) ā well, she seems to be just
asking you to creep under her wings and be mothered !
She mothered him, and she has mothered me since he
3i8 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
shut his dear eyes for ever. Oh, why won't she mother
us all ā for good and aU ! ā father first and foremost.
' I told you something about him last time I wrote,
but there is a great deal more to tell. The horrible thing
is that he seems not to care any more for any of his old
hobbies. He sits there in the hbrary day after day, or
walks about it for hours and hours, without ever opening
a book or looking at a thing. Or else he walks about
the woods ā sometimes quite late at night. Forest
beUeves he sleeps very Httle. I told you he never came
to Desmond's funeral. All business he hands over to
EHzabeth, and what she asks him he generally does.
But we all have vague, black fears about him. I know
EUzabeth has. Yet she is quite clear she can't stay
here much longer. Dear Arthur, I don't know exactly
what happened, but I think father asked her to marry
him, and she said no. And I am tolerably sure that I
counted for a good deal in it ā horrid wretch that I am !
ā that she thought it would make me unhappy.
' Well, I am properly punished. For if or when she
goes away ā and you and I are married ā ^if there is to
be any marrying any more in this awful world ! ā what
will become of my father ? He has been a terrifying
mystery to me aU my life. Now it is not that any
longer. I know at least that he worshipped Desmond.
But I know also that I mean nothing to him. I don't
honestly think it was much my fault ā and it can't be
helped. And nobody else in the family matters. The
only person who does matter is Elizabeth. And I quite
see that she can't stay here indefinitely. She told me she
promised Desmond she would stay as long as she could.
Just at present, of course, she is the mainspring of
everything on the estate. And they have actually made
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 319
her this last week Vice-Chairman of the County War
Agricultural Committee. She refused, but they made
her. Think of that ā a woman ā with aU those wise
men ! She asked father's leave. He just looked at
her, and I saw the tears come into her eyes.
' As to Beryl and Aubrey, he was here last Sunday,
and she spent the day with us. He seems to lean upon
her in a new way ā and she looks different somehow ā
happier, I think. He told me, the day after Desmond
died, that Dezzy had said something to him that had
given him courage ā " courage to go on," I think he said.
I didn't ask him what he meant, and he didn't tell me.
But I am sure he has told Beryl, and either that ā or
something else ā has made her more confident in herself
ā¢ ā and about him. They are to be married quite soon.
Last week father sent him, without a word, a copy of
his will. Aubrey says it is very fair. Mannering goes
to him, of course. You know that Elizabeth refused to
witness the codicil father wrote last October disinherit-
ing Aubrey, when he was so mad with Sir Henry ? It
was the first thing that made father take real notice of
her. She had only been six weeks here !
' Good-night, my dearest, dearest Arthur ! Don't be
too much disappointed in me. I shaU grow up some day.'
A few days later the Squire came back from Fallerton
to find nobody in the house, apparently, but himself.
He went through the empty hall and the Ubrary, and
shut himself up there. He carried an evening paper
crumpled in his hand. It contained a detailed report of
the breaking of the Portuguese centre near Richebourg St.
Vaast on April 10, and the consequent retreat, over some
seven miles, since that day of the British line, together
320 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
with the more recent news of the capture of Armentieres
and Merville. Sitting down at his own table he read
the telegrams again, and then in the stop-press Sir
Douglas Haig's Order of the Day ā
' There is no other course open to us but to fight it
out. Every position must be held to the last man :
there must be no retirement. With our backs to the
wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one
of us must fight to the end. The safety of our homes
and the freedom of mankind depend alike upon the
conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.'
The Squire read and re-read the words. He was
sitting close to the tall French window where through
some fine spring days Desmond had lain, his half- veiled
eyes wandering over the woods and green spaces which
had been his childhood's companions. There ā sub-
missive for himself, but, for England's sake, and so that
his mind might receive as long as possible the impress
of her fate, an ardent wrestler with Death through each
disputed hour ā he had waited ; and there, with the
word England on his lips, he had died. The Squire could
still see the marks made on the polished floor by the
rolling backward of the bed at night. And on the wall
near there was a brown mark on the wall-paper. He
remembered that it had been made by a splash from a
bowl of disinfectant, and that he had stared at it one
morning in a dumb torment which seemed endless,
because Desmond had woke in pain and the morphia
was slow to act.
England ! His boy was dead ā and his country had
its back to the wall. And he ā what had he done for
England, all these years of her struggle ? His careless-
ness, his indifference returned upon him ā his mad and
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 321
selfish refusal, day by day, to give his mind, or his body,
or his goods, to the motherland that bore him.
' Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by ? '
No ā it had been nothing to him. But Desmond, his
boy, had given everything. And the death-struggle was
still going on. ' Each one of us must fight on to the end.'
Before his eyes there passed the spectacle of the Army,
as he had actually seen it ā a division, for instance, on
the march near the Sahent, rank after rank of young
faces, the brown cheeks and smiUng eyes, the swing of
the lithe bodies. And while he sat there in the quiet
of the April evening, thousands of boys like Desmond
were offering those same lithe bodies to the Kaiser's
guns without murmur or revolt because England asked
it. Now he knew what it meant ā now he knew !
There was a knock at the door, and the sound of
something heavy descending. The Squire gave a dull
' Come in.' Forest entered, dragging a large bale behind
him. He looked nervously at his master.
' These things have just come from France, sir.'
The Squire started. He walked over in silence to
look while Forest opened the case. Desmond's kit, his
clothes, his few books, a stained uniform, a writing-case,
with a number of other miscellaneous things.
Forest spread them out on the floor, his Hps
trembHng. On several nights before the end Desmond
had asked for him, and he had shared the Squire's
' That'll do,' said the Squire presently ; ' I'U look
over them myself ! '
Forest went away. After shutting the door he saw
EUzabeth coming along the Ubrary passage, and stopped
to speak to her.
322 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
' The things have just come from France, Miss,' he
said in a low voice.
Ehzabeth hesitated, and was turning back, when the
Hbrary door opened and the Squire called her.
' Yes, Mr. Mannering.'
' Wni you come here, please, a moment ? '
She entered the room, and the Squire closed the
door behind her, pointing mutely to the things on the
The tears sprang to her eyes. She knelt down to
look at them.
' Do you remember anything about this ? ' he said,
holding out a little book. It was the pocket Anthology
she had found for Desmond on the day of his going into
camp. As she looked through it she saw a turned-down
leaf, and seemed stiU to hear the boy's voice, as he hung
over her shoulder translating the epigram
' Shame on you, mountains and seas ! '
With a sweUing throat she told the story. The
Squire listened, and when afterwards she offered the
book to him again, he put it back into her hand, with
some muttered words which she interpreted as bidding
her keep it.
She put it away in the drawer of her writing-table,
which had been brought back to its old place only that
morning. The Squire himself went to his own desk.
' Will you sit there ? ' He pointed to her chair. ' I
want to speak to you.*
Then after a pause he added slowly, ' Will you tell
me ā what you think I can now do with my time ? '
His voice had a curious monotony ā unlike its usual
tone. But Elizabeth divined a coming crisis. She
went very white.
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 323
' Dear Mr. Mannering ā I don't know what to say ā
except that the country seems to want everything that
each one of us can do.'
' Have you read Haig's Order of the Day ? '
' Yes, I have just read it.'
The Squire's eyes, fixed upon her, had a strange
' You and I have never known ā never dreamt ā of
anything Hke this.'
' No ā never. But England has had her back to the
wall before ! '
She sat proudly erect, her hands quietly crossed.
But he seemed to hear the beating of her heart.
' You mean when Pitt said, " Roll up the map of
Europe " ? Yes ā that too was vital. But the people
at home scarcely knew it ā and it was not a war of
' No matter ! England will never yield.'
' Till Germany is on her knees ? ' His long bony face,
more Uned, more emaciated than ever, seemed to catch
a sombre glow from hers.
' Yes ā though it last ten years. And America is
hurrying ! '
' Are all women hke you ? '
Her mouth trembled into scorn.
' Oh, think of the women whose shoe-strings I am
not worthy to unloose ! ā the nurses, the French peasant-
women, the women who have given their husbands ā
His look showed his agitation.
* So we are to be saved ā by boys like Desmond ā and
women like you ? '
' Oh, I am a cypher ā a nothing ! ' There was a
324 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
passionate humiliation in her voice. ' I should be
nursing in France '
' If it weren't for your mother and your sister ? '
She nodded. There was a pause. Then the Squire
said, in a different tone :
' But you have not answered my question. I should
be obliged if you would answer it. How am I, being I ā
how is a man of my kind to fill his time ā and hve his
Hfe ? If the country is in deadly peril ā if the ground
is shaking beneath our feet ā if we are to go on fighting
for years, with " our backs to the wall," even I can't go
on cataloguing Greek vases. I acknowledge that now.
So much I grant you. But what else am I good for ? '
The colour flushed in her fair skin, and her eyes filled
again with tears.
' Come and help ! ' she said simply. ' There is so
much to do. And for you ā a large landowner ā there
is everything to do.'
His face darkened.
' Yes, if I had the courage for it. But morally I am
a weakhng ā you know it. Do you remember that I
once said to you if Desmond fell, I should go with him ā
or after him ? '
She waited a moment before repljdng, and then said
with energy, ' That would be just desertion ! ā he would
tell you so.'
Their eyes met, and the passion in hers subdued him.
It was a strange dialogue, as though between two souls
bared and stripped of everything but the realities of
' Would it be ? That might be argued. But any-
way I should have done it ā the very night Desmond
died ā but for you ! '
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 325
' For me ? ' she said, shading her eyes with a hand
that trembled. ' No, Mr. Mannering, you could not
have done such a thing ! ā for your honour's sake ā for
your children's sake.'
' Neither would have restrained me. I was held to
life by one thread ā one hope only '
She was silent.
* ā the hope that if I was to put my whole life to
school again ā to burn what I had adored, and adore
what I had burned ā the one human being in the world
who could teach me such a lesson ā who had begun to
teach it me ā would stand by me ā would put her hand
in mine ā and lead me.'
His voice broke down. Elizabeth, shaken from head
to foot, could only hide her face and wait. Even the
strength to protest ā ' Not now ! ā not yet ! ' seemed to
have gone from her. He went on vehemently :
' Oh, don't imagine that I am making you an ordinary
proposal ā or that I am going to repeat to you the things
I said to you ā Uke a fool ā in Cross Wood. Then I
offered you a bargain ā and I see now that you despised
me as a huckster ! You were to help my hobby ; I was
to help yours. That was all I could find to say. I didn't
know how to tell you that all the happiness of my life
depended on your staying at Mannering. I was un-
unwiUing to acknowledge it even to myself. I have
been accustomed to put sentiment aside ā to try and
ignore it. To feel as I did was itself so strange a thing
to me, that I struggled to express it as prosaically as
possible. Well, then, you were astonished ā and repelled.
That I saw ā I reahsed it indeed more and more. I saw
that I had perhaps done a fatal thing, and I spent
much time brooding and thinking. I felt an acute
326 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
distress, such as I had never felt in my hfe before ā so
much so that I began even to avoid you, because I
used to say to myself, " She will go away some day
ā perhaps soon ā and I must accustom myself to it."
And yet '
He lifted the hand that shaded his eyes, and gave
her a long touching look.
' ā yet I felt sometimes that you knew what was
happening in me ā and were sorry for me. Then came
the news of Desmond. Of those days while he lay here
ā¢ ā of the days since ā I seem to know now hardly anything
in detail. One of the officers at the front said to me
that on the Somme he often lost all count of time, of
the days of the week, of the sequence of things. It
seemed to be aU one present ā one awful and torturing
now. So it is with me. Desmond is always here ' ā he
pointed to the vacant space by the window ā ' and you
are always sitting by him. And I know that if you
go away ā and I am left alone with my poor boy ā
though I shall never cease to hear the things he said to
me ā the things he asked me to do ā I shall have no
strength to do them. I cannot rise and walk ā unless
you help me.'
Elizabeth could hardly speak. She was in presence
of that tremendous thing in human experience ā the
emergence of a man's inmost self. That the Squire
could speak so ā could feel so ā that the man whose pupil
and bond-slave she had been in those early weeks should
be making this piteous claim upon her, throwing upon her
the weight of his whole future life, of his sorrow, of his
reaction against himself, overwhelmed her. It appealed
to that instinctive, that boundless tenderness which lies
so deep in the true woman.
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 327
But her will seemed paralysed. She did not know
how to act ā she could find no words that pleased her.
The Squire saw it, and began to speak again in the same
low measured voice, as though he groped his way along
from point to point. He sat with his eyes on the floor,
his hands loosely clasped before him.
' I don't, of course, dare to ask you to say ā at once ā
if you will be my wife. I dread to ask it ā for I am
tolerably certain that you would still say no. But if
only now you would say, " I will go on with my work
here ā I will help a man who is weak where I am strong
ā I will show him new points of view ā give him new
reasons for living " '
EUzabeth could only just check the sobs in her
throat. The sad humility of the words pierced her
The Squire raised himself a little, and spoke more
' Why should there be any change yet awhile ? Only
stay with us. Use my land ā use me and all I possess,
for the country ā for what Desmond would have helped
in ā and done. Show me what to do. I shall do it ill.
But what matter ? Every little helps. " We have our
backs to the wall." I have the power to give you
power. Teach me.'
Then reaching out, he took her hand in his. His
voice deepened and strengthened.
' EHzabeth ! ā be my friend ā my children's friend.
Bring your poor mother here ā and your sister ā till
Pamela goes. Then tell me ā what you decide. You
shall give me no pledge ā no promise. You shall be
absolutely free. But together let us do a bit of work,
a bit of service.'
328 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
She looked up. The emotion, the sweetness in her
face dazzled him.
' Yes/ she said gravely ā ' I wiU stay.'
He drew a long breath, and stooping over the hands
she had given him, he kissed them.
Then he released her and, rising, walked away. The
portrait of Desmond had been brought back, but it
stood with its face to the wall. He went to it and turned
it. It shone out into the room, under the westering sun.
He looked at it a httle ā while Elizabeth with trembling
fingers began to re-arrange her table in the old way.
Then he returned to her, speaking in the dry, slightly
peremptory voice she knew weU.
' I hear the new buildings at the Hohne Hill Farm
are nearly ready. Come and look at them to-morrow.
And there are some woods over there that would be
worth examining. The Air Board is stiU clamouring for
EHzabeth agreed. Her smile was a gleam through mist.
' And, on the way back, Pamela and I must go and
talk to the village ā about pigs and potatoes ! '
' Do you really know anything about either ? ' he
' Come and hear us ! '
There was silence. The Squire threw the window open
to the April sunset. The low hght was shining through
the woods, and on the reddening tops of the beeches.
There was a sparkle of leaf here and there, and already
a ' livelier emerald ' showed in the grass. Suddenly a
low booming sound ā repeated ā and repeated.
' Guns ? ' said the Squire, listening.
EHzabeth reminded him of the new artillery camp
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 329
But the sounds had transformed the April evening.
The woods, the grass, the wood-pigeons in the park had
disappeared. The thoughts of both the onlookers had
gone across the sea to that hell of smoke and fire, in which
their race ā in which England ! ā stood at bay. A few
days ā or weeks ā or months, would decide.
The vastness of the issue, as it came flooding in upon
the soul of EUzabeth, seemed to strain her very life ā to
make suspense unbearable.
An anguish seized her, and unconsciously her lips
framed the passionate words of an older patriotism ā
' Oh ! pray ā pray for the peace of ferusalem ! They
shall prosper that love thee ! '
Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limiteu, Edinburgh.
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