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the families mentioned it was necessary to add the qualifying information
that they "used to live" at such and such a place; the countryside knew
them no longer. Their properties were for sale or had already passed
into the hands of strangers. But neither man cared to allude to the
grinning shadow that sat at the feast and sent an icy chill now and again
through the cheeriest jest and most jovial story. The brisk run with the
hounds that day had stirred and warmed their pulses; it was an evening
for comfortable forgetting. Later that night, in the stillness of his
bedroom, with the dwindling noises of a retiring household dropping off
one by one into ordered silence, a door shutting here, a fire being raked
out there, the thoughts that had been held away came crowding in. The
body was tired, but the brain was not, and Yeovil lay awake with his
thoughts for company. The world grew suddenly wide again, filled with
the significance of things that mattered, held by the actions of men that
mattered. Hunting-box and stable and gun-room dwindled to a mere pin-
point in the universe, there were other larger, more absorbing things on
which the mind dwelt. There was the grey cold sea outside Dover and
Portsmouth and Cork, where the great grey ships of war rocked and swung
with the tides, where the sailors sang, in doggerel English, that bitter-
sounding adaptation, "Germania rules t'e waves," where the flag of a
World-Power floated for the world to see. And in oven-like cities of
India there were men who looked out at the white sun-glare, the
heat-baked dust, the welter of crowded streets, who listened to the
unceasing chorus of harsh-throated crows, the strident creaking of cart-
wheels, the buzz and drone of insect swarms and the rattle call of the
tree lizards; men whose thoughts went hungrily to the cool grey skies and
wet turf and moist ploughlands of an English hunting country, men whose
memories listened yearningly to the music of a deep-throated hound and
the call of a game-bird in the stubble. Yeovil had secured for himself
the enjoyment of the things for which these men hungered; he had known
what he wanted in life, slowly and with hesitation, yet nevertheless
surely, he had arrived at the achievement of his unconfessed desires.
Here, installed under his own roof-tree, with as good horseflesh in his
stable as man could desire, with sport lying almost at his door, with his
wife ready to come down and help him to entertain his neighbours, Murrey
Yeovil had found the life that he wanted - and was accursed in his own
eyes. He argued with himself, and palliated and explained, but he knew
why he had turned his eyes away that evening from the little graveyard
under the trees; one cannot explain things to the dead.


"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines"

On a warm and sunny May afternoon, some ten months since Yeovil's return
from his Siberian wanderings and sickness, Cicely sat at a small table in
the open-air restaurant in Hyde Park, finishing her after-luncheon coffee
and listening to the meritorious performance of the orchestra. Opposite
her sat Larry Meadowfield, absorbed for the moment in the slow enjoyment
of a cigarette, which also was not without its short-lived merits. Larry
was a well-dressed youngster, who was, in Cicely's opinion, distinctly
good to look on - an opinion which the boy himself obviously shared. He
had the healthy, well-cared-for appearance of a country-dweller who has
been turned into a town dandy without suffering in the process. His blue-
black hair, growing very low down on a broad forehead, was brushed back
in a smoothness that gave his head the appearance of a rain-polished
sloe; his eyebrows were two dark smudges and his large violet-grey eyes
expressed the restful good temper of an animal whose immediate
requirements have been satisfied. The lunch had been an excellent one,
and it was jolly to feed out of doors in the warm spring air - the only
drawback to the arrangement being the absence of mirrors. However, if he
could not look at himself a great many people could look at him.

Cicely listened to the orchestra as it jerked and strutted through a
fantastic dance measure, and as she listened she looked appreciatively at
the boy on the other side of the table, whose soul for the moment seemed
to be in his cigarette. Her scheme of life, knowing just what you wanted
and taking good care that you got it, was justifying itself by results.
Ronnie, grown tiresome with success, had not been difficult to replace,
and no one in her world had had the satisfaction of being able to condole
with her on the undesirable experience of a long interregnum. To
feminine acquaintances with fewer advantages of purse and brains and
looks she might figure as "that Yeovil woman," but never had she given
them justification to allude to her as "poor Cicely Yeovil." And Murrey,
dear old soul, had cooled down, as she had hoped and wished, from his
white heat of disgust at the things that she had prepared herself to
accept philosophically. A new chapter of their married life and man-and-
woman friendship had opened; many a rare gallop they had had together
that winter, many a cheery dinner gathering and long bridge evening in
the cosy hunting-lodge. Though he still hated the new London and held
himself aloof from most of her Town set, yet he had not shown himself
rigidly intolerant of the sprinkling of Teuton sportsmen who hunted and
shot down in his part of the country.

The orchestra finished its clicking and caracoling and was accorded a
short clatter of applause.

"The Danse Macabre," said Cicely to her companion; "one of Saint-Saens'
best known pieces."

"Is it?" said Larry indifferently; "I'll take your word for it. 'Fraid I
don't know much about music."

"You dear boy, that's just what I like in you," said Cicely; "you're such
a delicious young barbarian."

"Am I?" said Larry. "I dare say. I suppose you know."

Larry's father had been a brilliantly clever man who had married a
brilliantly handsome woman; the Fates had not had the least intention
that Larry should take after both parents.

"The fashion of having one's lunch in the open air has quite caught on
this season," said Cicely; "one sees everybody here on a fine day. There
is Lady Bailquist over there. She used to be Lady Shalem you know,
before her husband got the earldom - to be more correct, before she got it
for him. I suppose she is all agog to see the great review."

It was in fact precisely the absorbing topic of the forthcoming Boy-Scout
march-past that was engaging the Countess of Bailquist's earnest
attention at the moment.

"It is going to be an historical occasion," she was saying to Sir Leonard
Pitherby (whose services to literature had up to the present received
only a half-measure of recognition); "if it miscarries it will be a
serious set-back for the fait accompli. If it is a success it will be
the biggest step forward in the path of reconciliation between the two
races that has yet been taken. It will mean that the younger generation
is on our side - not all, of course, but some, that is all we can expect
at present, and that will be enough to work on."

"Supposing the Scouts hang back and don't turn up in any numbers," said
Sir Leonard anxiously.

"That of course is the danger," said Lady Bailquist quietly; "probably
two-thirds of the available strength will hold back, but a third or even
a sixth would be enough; it would redeem the parade from the calamity of
fiasco, and it would be a nucleus to work on for the future. That is
what we want, a good start, a preliminary rally. It is the first step
that counts, that is why to-day's event is of such importance."

"Of course, of course, the first step on the road," assented Sir Leonard.

"I can assure you," continued Lady Bailquist, "that nothing has been left
undone to rally the Scouts to the new order of things. Special
privileges have been showered on them, alone among all the cadet corps
they have been allowed to retain their organisation, a decoration of
merit has been instituted for them, a large hostelry and gymnasium has
been provided for them in Westminster, His Majesty's youngest son is to
be their Scoutmaster-in-Chief, a great athletic meeting is to be held for
them each year, with valuable prizes, three or four hundred of them are
to be taken every summer, free of charge, for a holiday in the Bavarian
Highlands and the Baltic Seaboard; besides this the parent of every scout
who obtains the medal for efficiency is to be exempted from part of the
new war taxation that the people are finding so burdensome."

"One certainly cannot say that they have not had attractions held out to
them," said Sir Leonard.

"It is a special effort," said Lady Bailquist; "it is worth making an
effort for. They are going to be the Janissaries of the Empire; the
younger generation knocking at the doors of progress, and thrusting back
the bars and bolts of old racial prejudices. I tell you, Sir Leonard, it
will be an historic moment when the first corps of those little khaki-
clad boys swings through the gates of the Park."

"When do they come?" asked the baronet, catching something of his
companion's zeal.

"The first detachment is due to arrive at three," said Lady Bailquist,
referring to a small time-table of the afternoon's proceedings; "three,
punctually, and the others will follow in rapid succession. The Emperor
and Suite will arrive at two-fifty and take up their positions at the
saluting base - over there, where the big flag-staff has been set up. The
boys will come in by Hyde Park Corner, the Marble Arch, and the Albert
Gate, according to their districts, and form in one big column over
there, where the little flags are pegged out. Then the young Prince will
inspect them and lead them past His Majesty."

"Who will be with the Imperial party?" asked Sir Leonard.

"Oh, it is to be an important affair; everything will be done to
emphasise the significance of the occasion," said Lady Bailquist, again
consulting her programme. "The King of Wurtemberg, and two of the
Bavarian royal Princes, an Abyssinian Envoy who is over here - he will
lend a touch of picturesque barbarism to the scene - the general
commanding the London district and a whole lot of other military bigwigs,
and the Austrian, Italian and Roumanian military attaches."

She reeled off the imposing list of notables with an air of quiet
satisfaction. Sir Leonard made mental notes of personages to whom he
might send presentation copies of his new work "Frederick-William, the
Great Elector, a Popular Biography," as a souvenir of to-day's auspicious

"It is nearly a quarter to three now," he said; "let us get a good
position before the crowd gets thicker."

"Come along to my car, it is just opposite to the saluting base," said
her ladyship; "I have a police pass that will let us through. We'll ask
Mrs. Yeovil and her young friend to join us."

Larry excused himself from joining the party; he had a barbarian's
reluctance to assisting at an Imperial triumph.

"I think I'll push off to the swimming-bath," he said to Cicely; "see you
again about tea-time."

Cicely walked with Lady Bailquist and the literary baronet towards the
crowd of spectators, which was steadily growing in dimensions. A newsboy
ran in front of them displaying a poster with the intelligence "Essex
wickets fall rapidly" - a semblance of county cricket still survived under
the new order of things. Near the saluting base some thirty or forty
motorcars were drawn up in line, and Cicely and her companions exchanged
greetings with many of the occupants.

"A lovely day for the review, isn't it?" cried the Grafin von Tolb,
breaking off her conversation with Herr Rebinok, the little Pomeranian
banker, who was sitting by her side. "Why haven't you brought young Mr.
Meadowfield? Such a nice boy. I wanted him to come and sit in my
carriage and talk to me."

"He doesn't talk you know," said Cicely; "he's only brilliant to look

"Well, I could have looked at him," said the Grafin.

"There'll be thousands of other boys to look at presently," said Cicely,
laughing at the old woman's frankness.

"Do you think there will be thousands?" asked the Grafin, with an anxious
lowering of the voice; "really, thousands? Hundreds, perhaps; there is
some uncertainty. Every one is not sanguine."

"Hundreds, anyway," said Cicely.

The Grafin turned to the little banker and spoke to him rapidly and
earnestly in German.

"It is most important that we should consolidate our position in this
country; we must coax the younger generation over by degrees, we must
disarm their hostility. We cannot afford to be always on the watch in
this quarter; it is a source of weakness, and we cannot afford to be
weak. This Slav upheaval in south-eastern Europe is becoming a serious
menace. Have you seen to-day's telegrams from Agram? They are bad
reading. There is no computing the extent of this movement."

"It is directed against us," said the banker.

"Agreed," said the Grafin; "it is in the nature of things that it must be
against us. Let us have no illusions. Within the next ten years, sooner
perhaps, we shall be faced with a crisis which will be only a beginning.
We shall need all our strength; that is why we cannot afford to be weak
over here. To-day is an important day; I confess I am anxious."

"Hark! The kettledrums!" exclaimed the commanding voice of Lady
Bailquist. "His Majesty is coming. Quick, bundle into the car."

The crowd behind the police-kept lines surged expectantly into closer
formation; spectators hurried up from side-walks and stood craning their
necks above the shoulders of earlier arrivals.

Through the archway at Hyde Park Corner came a resplendent cavalcade,
with a swirl of colour and rhythmic movement and a crash of exultant
music; life-guards with gleaming helmets, a detachment of Wurtemberg
lancers with a flutter of black and yellow pennons, a rich medley of
staff uniforms, a prancing array of princely horsemen, the Imperial
Standard, and the King of Prussia, Great Britain, and Ireland, Emperor of
the West. It was the most imposing display that Londoners had seen since
the catastrophe.

Slowly, grandly, with thunder of music and beat of hoofs, the procession
passed through the crowd, across the sward towards the saluting base,
slowly the eagle standard, charged with the leopards, lion and harp of
the conquered kingdoms, rose mast-high on the flag-staff and fluttered in
the breeze, slowly and with military precision the troops and suite took
up their position round the central figure of the great pageant. Trumpets
and kettledrums suddenly ceased their music, and in a moment there rose
in their stead an eager buzz of comment from the nearest spectators.

"How well the young Prince looks in his scout uniform." . . . "The King
of Wurtemberg is a much younger man than I thought he was." . . . "Is
that a Prussian or Bavarian uniform, there on the right, the man on a
black horse?" . . . "Neither, it's Austrian, the Austrian military
attache" . . . "That is von Stoppel talking to His Majesty; he organised
the Boy Scouts in Germany, you know." . . . "His Majesty is looking very
pleased." "He has reason to look pleased; this is a great event in the
history of the two countries. It marks a new epoch." . . . "Oh, do you
see the Abyssinian Envoy? What a picturesque figure he makes. How well
he sits his horse." . . . "That is the Grand Duke of Baden's nephew,
talking to the King of Wurtemberg now."

On the buzz and chatter of the spectators fell suddenly three sound
strokes, distant, measured, sinister; the clang of a clock striking

"Three o'clock and not a boy scout within sight or hearing!" exclaimed
the loud ringing voice of Joan Mardle; "one can usually hear their drums
and trumpets a couple of miles away."

"There is the traffic to get through," said Sir Leonard Pitherby in an
equally high-pitched voice; "and of course," he added vaguely, "it takes
some time to get the various units together. One must give them a few
minutes' grace."

Lady Bailquist said nothing, but her restless watchful eyes were turned
first to Hyde Park Corner and then in the direction of the Marble Arch,
back again to Hyde Park Corner. Only the dark lines of the waiting crowd
met her view, with the yellow newspaper placards flitting in and out,
announcing to an indifferent public the fate of Essex wickets. As far as
her searching eyes could travel the green stretch of tree and sward
remained unbroken, save by casual loiterers. No small brown columns
appeared, no drum beat came throbbing up from the distance. The little
flags pegged out to mark the positions of the awaited scout-corps
fluttered in meaningless isolation on the empty parade ground.

His Majesty was talking unconcernedly with one of his officers, the
foreign attaches looked steadily between their chargers' ears, as though
nothing in particular was hanging in the balance, the Abyssinian Envoy
displayed an untroubled serenity which was probably genuine. Elsewhere
among the Suite was a perceptible fidget, the more obvious because it was
elaborately cloaked. Among the privileged onlookers drawn up near the
saluting point the fidgeting was more unrestrained.

"Six minutes past three, and not a sign of them!" exclaimed Joan Mardle,
with the explosive articulation of one who cannot any longer hold back a

"Hark!" said some one; "I hear trumpets!"

There was an instant concentration of listening, a straining of eyes.

It was only the toot of a passing motorcar. Even Sir Leonard Pitherby,
with the eye of faith, could not locate as much as a cloud of dust on the
Park horizon.

And now another sound was heard, a sound difficult to define, without
beginning, without dimension; the growing murmur of a crowd waking to a
slowly dawning sensation.

"I wish the band would strike up an air," said the Grafin von Tolb
fretfully; "it is stupid waiting here in silence."

Joan fingered her watch, but she made no further remark; she realised
that no amount of malicious comment could be so dramatically effective
now as the slow slipping away of the intolerable seconds.

The murmur from the crowd grew in volume. Some satirical wit started
whistling an imitation of an advancing fife and drum band; others took it
up and the air resounded with the shrill music of a phantom army on the
march. The mock throbbing of drum and squealing of fife rose and fell
above the packed masses of spectators, but no answering echo came from
beyond the distant trees. Like mushrooms in the night a muster of
uniformed police and plain clothes detectives sprang into evidence on all
sides; whatever happened there must be no disloyal demonstration. The
whistlers and mockers were pointedly invited to keep silence, and one or
two addresses were taken. Under the trees, well at the back of the
crowd, a young man stood watching the long stretch of road along which
the Scouts should come. Something had drawn him there, against his will,
to witness the Imperial Triumph, to watch the writing of yet another
chapter in the history of his country's submission to an accepted fact.
And now a dull flush crept into his grey face; a look that was partly new-
born hope and resurrected pride, partly remorse and shame, burned in his
eyes. Shame, the choking, searing shame of self-reproach that cannot be
reasoned away, was dominant in his heart. He had laid down his
arms - there were others who had never hoisted the flag of surrender. He
had given up the fight and joined the ranks of the hopelessly
subservient; in thousands of English homes throughout the land there were
young hearts that had not forgotten, had not compounded, would not yield.

The younger generation had barred the door.

And in the pleasant May sunshine the Eagle standard floated and flapped,
the black and yellow pennons shifted restlessly, Emperor and Princes,
Generals and guards, sat stiffly in their saddles, and waited.

And waited. . . .


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Online LibrarySakiWhen William Came → online text (page 12 of 12)