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her own private life in an unavailing attempt to draw the fern into the
gaze of publicity. And so it was with her other suggestions. They
suggested many things, but nothing that was announced on the programme.
Chiefly they suggested one outstanding reflection, that stage-dancing is
not like those advertised breakfast foods that can be served up after
three minutes' preparation. Half a life-time, or rather half a youth-
time is a much more satisfactory allowance.'"

"The Standard is prejudiced," said Cicely; "some of the other papers are
quite enthusiastic. The Dawn gives her a column and a quarter of notice,
nearly all of it complimentary. It says the report of her fame as a
dancer went before her, but that her performance last night caught it up
and outstripped it."

"I should not like to suggest that the Dawn is prejudiced," said Yeovil,
"but Shalem is a managing director on it, and one of its biggest
shareholders. Gorla's dancing is an event of the social season, and
Shalem is one of those most interested in keeping up the appearance, at
any rate, of a London social season. Besides, her debut gave the
opportunity for an Imperial visit to the theatre - the first appearance at
a festive public function of the Conqueror among the conquered.
Apparently the experiment passed off well; Shalem has every reason to
feel pleased with himself and well-disposed towards Gorla. By the way,"
added Yeovil, "talking of Gorla, I'm going down to Torywood one day next
week."

"To Torywood?" exclaimed Cicely. The tone of her exclamation gave the
impression that the announcement was not very acceptable to her.

"I promised the old lady that I would go and have a talk with her when I
came back from my Siberian trip; she travelled in eastern Russia, you
know, long before the Trans-Siberian railway was built, and she's
enormously interested in those parts. In any case I should like to see
her again."

"She does not see many people nowadays," said Cicely; "I fancy she is
breaking up rather. She was very fond of the son who went down, you
know."

"She has seen a great many of the things she cared for go down," said
Yeovil; "it is a sad old life that is left to her, when one thinks of all
that the past has been to her, of the part she used to play in the world,
the work she used to get through. It used to seem as though she could
never grow old, as if she would die standing up, with some unfinished
command on her lips. And now I suppose her tragedy is that she has grown
old, bitterly old, and cannot die."

Cicely was silent for a moment, and seemed about to leave the room. Then
she turned back and said:

"I don't think I would say anything about Gorla to her if I were you."

"It would not have occurred to me to drag her name into our
conversation," said Yeovil coldly, "but in any case the accounts of her
dancing performance will have reached Torywood through the
newspapers - also the record of your racially-blended supper-party."

Cicely said nothing. She knew that by last night's affair she had
definitely identified herself in public opinion with the Shalem clique,
and that many of her old friends would look on her with distrust and
suspicion on that account. It was unfortunate, but she reckoned it a
lesser evil than tearing herself away from her London life, its successes
and pleasures and possibilities. These social dislocations and severing
of friendships were to be looked for after any great and violent change
in State affairs. It was Yeovil's attitude that really troubled her; she
would not give way to his prejudices and accept his point of view, but
she knew that a victory that involved estrangement from him would only
bring a mockery of happiness. She still hoped that he would come round
to an acceptance of established facts and deaden his political malaise in
the absorbing distraction of field sports. The visit to Torywood was a
misfortune; it might just turn the balance in the undesired direction.
Only a few weeks of late summer and early autumn remained before the
hunting season, and its preparations would be at hand, and Yeovil might
be caught in the meshes of an old enthusiasm; in those few weeks,
however, he might be fired by another sort of enthusiasm, an enthusiasm
which would sooner or later mean voluntary or enforced exile for his
part, and the probable breaking up of her own social plans and ambitions.

But Cicely knew something of the futility of improvising objections where
no real obstacle exists. The visit to Torywood was a graceful attention
on Yeovil's part to an old friend; there was no decent ground on which it
could be opposed. If the influence of that visit came athwart Yeovil's
life and hers with disastrous effect, that was "Kismet."

And once again the reek from her burned and smouldering boats mingled
threateningly with the incense fumes of her Te Deum for victory. She
left the room, and Yeovil turned once more to an item of news in the
morning's papers that had already arrested his attention. The Imperial
Aufklarung on the subject of military service was to be made public in
the course of the day.




CHAPTER XI: THE TEA SHOP


Yeovil wandered down Piccadilly that afternoon in a spirit of
restlessness and expectancy. The long-awaited Aufklarung dealing with
the new law of military service had not yet appeared; at any moment he
might meet the hoarse-throated newsboys running along with their papers,
announcing the special edition which would give the terms of the edict to
the public. Every sound or movement that detached itself with isolated
significance from the general whirr and scurry of the streets seemed to
Yeovil to herald the oncoming clamour and rush that he was looking for.
But the long endless succession of motors and 'buses and vans went by,
hooting and grunting, and such newsboys as were to be seen hung about
listlessly, bearing no more attractive bait on their posters than the
announcement of an "earthquake shock in Hungary: feared loss of life."

The Green Park end of Piccadilly was a changed, and in some respects a
livelier thoroughfare to that which Yeovil remembered with affectionate
regret. A great political club had migrated from its palatial home to a
shrunken habitation in a less prosperous quarter; its place was filled by
the flamboyant frontage of the Hotel Konstantinopel. Gorgeous Turkey
carpets were spread over the wide entrance steps, and boys in Circassian
and Anatolian costumes hung around the doors, or dashed forth in
un-Oriental haste to carry such messages as the telephone was unable to
transmit. Picturesque sellers of Turkish delight, attar-of-roses, and
brass-work coffee services, squatted under the portico, on terms of
obvious good understanding with the hotel management. A few doors
further down a service club that had long been a Piccadilly landmark was
a landmark still, as the home of the Army Aeronaut Club, and there was a
constant coming and going of gay-hued uniforms, Saxon, Prussian,
Bavarian, Hessian, and so forth, through its portals. The mastering of
the air and the creation of a scientific aerial war fleet, second to none
in the world, was an achievement of which the conquering race was
pardonably proud, and for which it had good reason to be duly thankful.
Over the gateways was blazoned the badge of the club, an elephant, whale,
and eagle, typifying the three armed forces of the State, by land and sea
and air; the eagle bore in its beak a scroll with the proud legend: "The
last am I, but not the least."

To the eastward of this gaily-humming hive the long shuttered front of a
deserted ducal mansion struck a note of protest and mourning amid the
noise and whirl and colour of a seemingly uncaring city. On the other
side of the roadway, on the gravelled paths of the Green Park, small
ragged children from the back streets of Westminster looked wistfully at
the smooth trim stretches of grass on which it was now forbidden, in two
languages, to set foot. Only the pigeons, disregarding the changes of
political geography, walked about as usual, wondering perhaps, if they
ever wondered at anything, at the sudden change in the distribution of
park humans.

Yeovil turned his steps out of the hot sunlight into the shade of the
Burlington Arcade, familiarly known to many of its newer frequenters as
the Passage. Here the change that new conditions and requirements had
wrought was more immediately noticeable than anywhere else in the West
End. Most of the shops on the western side had been cleared away, and in
their place had been installed an "open-air" cafe, converting the long
alley into a sort of promenade tea-garden, flanked on one side by a line
of haberdashers', perfumers', and jewellers' show windows. The patrons
of the cafe could sit at the little round tables, drinking their coffee
and syrups and aperitifs, and gazing, if they were so minded, at the
pyjamas and cravats and Brazilian diamonds spread out for inspection
before them. A string orchestra, hidden away somewhere in a gallery, was
alternating grand opera with the Gondola Girl and the latest gems of
Transatlantic melody. From around the tightly-packed tables arose a
babble of tongues, made up chiefly of German, a South American rendering
of Spanish, and a North American rendering of English, with here and
there the sharp shaken-out staccato of Japanese. A sleepy-looking boy,
in a nondescript uniform, was wandering to and fro among the customers,
offering for sale the Matin, New York Herald, Berliner Tageblatt, and a
host of crudely coloured illustrated papers, embodying the hard-worked
wit of a world-legion of comic artists. Yeovil hurried through the
Arcade; it was not here, in this atmosphere of staring alien eyes and
jangling tongues, that he wanted to read the news of the Imperial
Aufklarung.

By a succession of by-ways he reached Hanover Square, and thence made his
way into Oxford Street. There was no commotion of activity to be noticed
yet among the newsboys; the posters still concerned themselves with the
earthquake in Hungary, varied with references to the health of the King
of Roumania, and a motor accident in South London. Yeovil wandered
aimlessly along the street for a few dozen yards, and then turned down
into the smoking-room of a cheap tea-shop, where he judged that the
flourishing foreign element would be less conspicuously represented.
Quiet-voiced, smooth-headed youths, from neighbouring shops and wholesale
houses, sat drinking tea and munching pastry, some of them reading,
others making a fitful rattle with dominoes on the marble-topped tables.
A clean, wholesome smell of tea and coffee made itself felt through the
clouds of cigarette smoke; cleanliness and listlessness seemed to be the
dominant notes of the place, a cleanliness that was commendable, and a
listlessness that seemed unnatural and undesirable where so much youth
was gathered together for refreshment and recreation. Yeovil seated
himself at a table already occupied by a young clergyman who was smoking
a cigarette over the remains of a plateful of buttered toast. He had a
keen, clever, hard-lined face, the face of a man who, in an earlier stage
of European history, might have been a warlike prior, awkward to tackle
at the council-board, greatly to be avoided where blows were being
exchanged. A pale, silent damsel drifted up to Yeovil and took his order
with an air of being mentally some hundreds of miles away, and utterly
indifferent to the requirements of those whom she served; if she had
brought calf's-foot jelly instead of the pot of China tea he had asked
for, Yeovil would hardly have been surprised. However, the tea duly
arrived on the table, and the pale damsel scribbled a figure on a slip of
paper, put it silently by the side of the teapot, and drifted silently
away. Yeovil had seen the same sort of thing done on the musical-comedy
stage, and done rather differently.

"Can you tell me, sir, is the Imperial announcement out yet?" asked the
young clergyman, after a brief scrutiny of his neighbour.

"No, I have been waiting about for the last half-hour on the look-out for
it," said Yeovil; "the special editions ought to be out by now." Then he
added: "I have only just lately come from abroad. I know scarcely
anything of London as it is now. You may imagine that a good deal of it
is very strange to me. Your profession must take you a good deal among
all classes of people. I have seen something of what one may call the
upper, or, at any rate, the richer classes, since I came back; do tell me
something about the poorer classes of the community. How do they take
the new order of things?"

"Badly," said the young cleric, "badly, in more senses than one. They
are helpless and they are bitter - bitter in the useless kind of way that
produces no great resolutions. They look round for some one to blame for
what has happened; they blame the politicians, they blame the leisured
classes; in an indirect way I believe they blame the Church. Certainly,
the national disaster has not drawn them towards religion in any form.
One thing you may be sure of, they do not blame themselves. No true
Londoner ever admits that fault lies at his door. 'No, I never!' is an
exclamation that is on his lips from earliest childhood, whenever he is
charged with anything blameworthy or punishable. That is why school
discipline was ever a thing repugnant to the schoolboard child and its
parents; no schoolboard scholar ever deserved punishment. However
obvious the fault might seem to a disciplinarian, 'No, I never'
exonerated it as something that had not happened. Public schoolboys and
private schoolboys of the upper and middle class had their fling and took
their thrashings, when they were found out, as a piece of bad luck, but
'our Bert' and 'our Sid' were of those for whom there is no condemnation;
if they were punished it was for faults that 'no, they never' committed.
Naturally the grown-up generation of Berts and Sids, the voters and
householders, do not realise, still less admit, that it was they who
called the tune to which the politicians danced. They had to choose
between the vote-mongers and the so-called 'scare-mongers,' and their
verdict was for the vote-mongers all the time. And now they are bitter;
they are being punished, and punishment is not a thing that they have
been schooled to bear. The taxes that are falling on them are a grievous
source of discontent, and the military service that will be imposed on
them, for the first time in their lives, will be another. There is a
more lovable side to their character under misfortune, though," added the
young clergyman. "Deep down in their hearts there was a very real
affection for the old dynasty. Future historians will perhaps be able to
explain how and why the Royal Family of Great Britain captured the
imaginations of its subjects in so genuine and lasting a fashion. Among
the poorest and the most matter-of-fact, for whom the name of no public
man, politician or philanthropist, stands out with any especial
significance, the old Queen, and the dead King, the dethroned monarch and
the young prince live in a sort of domestic Pantheon, a recollection that
is a proud and wistful personal possession when so little remains to be
proud of or to possess. There is no favour that I am so often asked for
among my poorer parishioners as the gift of the picture of this or that
member of the old dynasty. 'I have got all of them, only except Princess
Mary,' an old woman said to me last week, and she nearly cried with
pleasure when I brought her an old Bystander portrait that filled the gap
in her collection. And on Queen Alexandra's day they bring out and wear
the faded wild-rose favours that they bought with their pennies in days
gone by."

"The tragedy of the enactment that is about to enforce military service
on these people is that it comes when they've no longer a country to
fight for," said Yeovil.

The young clergyman gave an exclamation of bitter impatience.

"That is the cruel mockery of the whole thing. Every now and then in the
course of my work I have come across lads who were really drifting to the
bad through the good qualities in them. A clean combative strain in
their blood, and a natural turn for adventure, made the ordinary anaemic
routine of shop or warehouse or factory almost unbearable for them. What
splendid little soldiers they would have made, and how grandly the
discipline of a military training would have steadied them in after-life
when steadiness was wanted. The only adventure that their surroundings
offered them has been the adventure of practising mildly criminal
misdeeds without getting landed in reformatories and prisons; those of
them that have not been successful in keeping clear of detection are
walking round and round prison yards, experiencing the operation of a
discipline that breaks and does not build. They were merry-hearted boys
once, with nothing of the criminal or ne'er-do-weel in their natures, and
now - have you ever seen a prison yard, with that walk round and round and
round between grey walls under a blue sky?"

Yeovil nodded.

"It's good enough for criminals and imbeciles," said the parson, "but
think of it for those boys, who might have been marching along to the tap
of the drum, with a laugh on their lips instead of Hell in their hearts.
I have had Hell in my heart sometimes, when I have come in touch with
cases like those. I suppose you are thinking that I am a strange sort of
parson."

"I was just defining you in my mind," said Yeovil, "as a man of God, with
an infinite tenderness for little devils."

The clergyman flushed.

"Rather a fine epitaph to have on one's tombstone," he said, "especially
if the tombstone were in some crowded city graveyard. I suppose I am a
man of God, but I don't think I could be called a man of peace."

Looking at the strong young face, with its suggestion of a fighting prior
of bygone days more marked than ever, Yeovil mentally agreed that he
could not.

"I have learned one thing in life," continued the young man, "and that is
that peace is not for this world. Peace is what God gives us when He
takes us into His rest. Beat your sword into a ploughshare if you like,
but beat your enemy into smithereens first."

A long-drawn cry, repeated again and again, detached itself from the
throb and hoot and whir of the street traffic.

"Speshul! Military service, spesh-ul!"

The young clergyman sprang from his seat and went up the staircase in a
succession of bounds, causing the domino players and novelette readers to
look up for a moment in mild astonishment. In a few seconds he was back
again, with a copy of an afternoon paper. The Imperial Rescript was set
forth in heavy type, in parallel columns of English and German. As the
young man read a deep burning flush spread over his face, then ebbed away
into a chalky whiteness. He read the announcement to the end, then
handed the paper to Yeovil, and left without a word.

Beneath the courtly politeness and benignant phraseology of the document
ran a trenchant searing irony. The British born subjects of the Germanic
Crown, inhabiting the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, had
habituated themselves as a people to the disuse of arms, and resolutely
excluded military service and national training from their political
system and daily life. Their judgment that they were unsuited as a race
to bear arms and conform to military discipline was not to be set aside.
Their new Overlord did not propose to do violence to their feelings and
customs by requiring from them the personal military sacrifices and
services which were rendered by his subjects German-born. The British
subjects of the Crown were to remain a people consecrated to peaceful
pursuits, to commerce and trade and husbandry. The defence of their
coasts and shipping and the maintenance of order and general safety would
be guaranteed by a garrison of German troops, with the co-operation of
the Imperial war fleet. German-born subjects residing temporarily or
permanently in the British Isles would come under the same laws
respecting compulsory military service as their fellow-subjects of German
blood in the other parts of the Empire, and special enactments would be
drawn up to ensure that their interests did not suffer from a periodical
withdrawal on training or other military calls. Necessarily a heavily
differentiated scale of war taxation would fall on British taxpayers, to
provide for the upkeep of the garrison and to equalise the services and
sacrifices rendered by the two branches of his Majesty's subjects. As
military service was not henceforth open to any subject of British birth
no further necessity for any training or exercise of a military nature
existed, therefore all rifle clubs, drill associations, cadet corps and
similar bodies were henceforth declared to be illegal. No weapons other
than guns for specified sporting purposes, duly declared and registered
and open to inspection when required, could be owned, purchased, or
carried. The science of arms was to be eliminated altogether from the
life of a people who had shown such marked repugnance to its study and
practice.

The cold irony of the measure struck home with the greater force because
its nature was so utterly unexpected. Public anticipation had guessed at
various forms of military service, aggressively irksome or tactfully
lightened as the case might be, in any event certain to be bitterly
unpopular, and now there had come this contemptuous boon, which had
removed, at one stroke, the bogey of compulsory military service from the
troubled imaginings of the British people, and fastened on them the cruel
distinction of being in actual fact what an enemy had called them in
splenetic scorn long years ago - a nation of shopkeepers. Aye, something
even below that level, a race of shopkeepers who were no longer a nation.

Yeovil crumpled the paper in his hand and went out into the sunlit
street. A sudden roll of drums and crash of brass music filled the air.
A company of Bavarian infantry went by, in all the pomp and circumstance
of martial array and the joyous swing of rapid rhythmic movement. The
street echoed and throbbed in the Englishman's ears with the exultant
pulse of youth and mastery set to loud Pagan music. A group of lads from
the tea-shop clustered on the pavement and watched the troops go by,
staring at a phase of life in which they had no share. The martial
trappings, the swaggering joy of life, the comradeship of camp and
barracks, the hard discipline of drill yard and fatigue duty, the long
sentry watches, the trench digging, forced marches, wounds, cold, hunger,
makeshift hospitals, and the blood-wet laurels - these were not for them.
Such things they might only guess at, or see on a cinema film, darkly;
they belonged to the civilian nation.

The function of afternoon tea was still being languidly observed in the
big drawing-room when Yeovil returned to Berkshire Street. Cicely was
playing the part of hostess to a man of perhaps forty-one years of age,
who looked slightly older from his palpable attempts to look very much
younger. Percival Plarsey was a plump, pale-faced, short-legged
individual, with puffy cheeks, over-prominent nose, and thin colourless
hair. His mother, with nothing more than maternal prejudice to excuse
her, had discovered some twenty odd years ago that he was a well-favoured
young man, and had easily imbued her son with the same opinion. The
slipping away of years and the natural transition of the unathletic boy
into the podgy unhealthy-looking man did little to weaken the tradition;
Plarsey had never been able to relinquish the idea that a youthful charm
and comeliness still centred in his person, and laboured daily at his
toilet with the devotion that a hopelessly lost cause is so often able to
inspire. He babbled incessantly about himself and the accessory
futilities of his life in short, neat, complacent sentences, and in a
voice that Ronald Storre said reminded one of a fat bishop blessing a
butter-making competition. While he babbled he kept his eyes fastened on
his listeners to observe the impression which his important little
announcements and pronouncements were making. On the present occasion he
was pattering forth a detailed description of the upholstery and fittings
of his new music-room.

"All the hangings, violette de Parme, all the furniture, rosewood. The
only ornament in the room is a replica of the Mozart statue in Vienna.
Nothing but Mozart is to be played in the room. Absolutely, nothing but


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