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ravens, and loud-throated gulls occupied sections of a vast rockery, and
bright-hued Chinese pond-herons and delicately stepping egrets waded
among the waterlilies of a marble-terraced tank. One or two dusky shapes
seen dimly in the recesses of a large cage built round a hollow tree
would be lively owls when evening came on.

In the course of his many wanderings Yeovil had himself contributed three
or four inhabitants to this little feathered town, and he went round the
enclosures, renewing old acquaintances and examining new additions.

"The falcon cage is empty," said Lady Greymarten, pointing to a large
wired dome that towered high above the other enclosures, "I let the
lanner fly free one day. The other birds may be reconciled to their
comfortable quarters and abundant food and absence of dangers, but I
don't think all those things could make up to a falcon for the wild range
of cliff and desert. When one has lost one's own liberty one feels a
quicker sympathy for other caged things, I suppose."

There was silence for a moment, and then the Dowager went on, in a
wistful, passionate voice:

"I am an old woman now, Murrey, I must die in my cage. I haven't the
strength to fight. Age is a very real and very cruel thing, though we
may shut our eyes to it and pretend it is not there. I thought at one
time that I should never really know what it meant, what it brought to
one. I thought of it as a messenger that one could keep waiting out in
the yard till the very last moment. I know now what it means. . . . But
you, Murrey, you are young, you can fight. Are you going to be a
fighter, or the very humble servant of the fait accompli?"

"I shall never be the servant of the fait accompli," said Yeovil. "I
loathe it. As to fighting, one must first find out what weapon to use,
and how to use it effectively. One must watch and wait."

"One must not wait too long," said the old woman. "Time is on their
side, not ours. It is the young people we must fight for now, if they
are ever to fight for us. A new generation will spring up, a weaker
memory of old glories will survive, the eclat of the ruling race will
capture young imaginations. If I had your youth, Murrey, and your sex, I
would become a commercial traveller."

"A commercial traveller!" exclaimed Yeovil.

"Yes, one whose business took him up and down the country, into contact
with all classes, into homes and shops and inns and railway carriages.
And as I travelled I would work, work on the minds of every boy and girl
I came across, every young father and young mother too, every young
couple that were going to be man and wife. I would awaken or keep alive
in their memory the things that we have been, the grand, brave things
that some of our race have done, and I would stir up a longing, a
determination for the future that we must win back. I would be a counter-
agent to the agents of the fait accompli. In course of time the
Government would find out what I was doing, and I should be sent out of
the country, but I should have accomplished something, and others would
carry on the work. That is what I would do. Murrey, even if it is to be
a losing battle, fight it, fight it!"

Yeovil knew that the old lady was fighting her last battle, rallying the
discouraged, and spurring on the backward.

A footman came to announce that the carriage waited to take him back to
the station. His hostess walked with him through the hall, and came out
on to the stone-flagged terrace, the terrace from which a former Lady
Greymarten had watched the twinkling bonfires that told of Waterloo.

Yeovil said good-bye to her as she stood there, a wan, shrunken shadow,
yet with a greater strength and reality in her flickering life than those
parrot men and women that fluttered and chattered through London drawing-
rooms and theatre foyers.

As the carriage swung round a bend in the drive Yeovil looked back at
Torywood, a lone, grey building, couched like a watchdog with pricked
ears and wakeful eyes in the midst of the sleeping landscape. An old
pleading voice was still ringing in his ears:

Imperious and yet forlorn,
Came through the silence of the trees,
The echoes of a golden horn,
Calling to distances.

Somehow Yeovil knew that he would never hear that voice again, and he
knew, too, that he would hear it always, with its message, "Be a
fighter." And he knew now, with a shamefaced consciousness that sprang
suddenly into existence, that the summons would sound for him in vain.

The weary brain-torturing months of fever had left their trail behind, a
lassitude of spirit and a sluggishness of blood, a quenching of the
desire to roam and court adventure and hardship. In the hours of waking
and depression between the raging intervals of delirium he had
speculated, with a sort of detached, listless indifference, on the
chances of his getting back to life and strength and energy. The
prospect of filling a corner of some lonely Siberian graveyard or Finnish
cemetery had seemed near realisation at times, and for a man who was
already half dead the other half didn't particularly matter. But when he
had allowed himself to dwell on the more hopeful side of the case it had
always been a complete recovery that awaited him; the same Yeovil as of
yore, a little thinner and more lined about the eyes perhaps, would go
through life in the same way, alert, resolute, enterprising, ready to
start off at short notice for some desert or upland where the eagles were
circling and the wild-fowl were calling. He had not reckoned that Death,
evaded and held off by the doctors' skill, might exact a compromise, and
that only part of the man would go free to the West.

And now he began to realise how little of mental and physical energy he
could count on. His own country had never seemed in his eyes so comfort-
yielding and to-be-desired as it did now when it had passed into alien
keeping and become a prison land as much as a homeland. London with its
thin mockery of a Season, and its chattering horde of empty-hearted self-
seekers, held no attraction for him, but the spell of English country
life was weaving itself round him, now that the charm of the desert was
receding into a mist of memories. The waning of pleasant autumn days in
an English woodland, the whir of game birds in the clean harvested
fields, the grey moist mornings in the saddle, with the magical cry of
hounds coming up from some misty hollow, and then the delicious abandon
of physical weariness in bathroom and bedroom after a long run, and the
heavenly snatched hour of luxurious sleep, before stirring back to life
and hunger, the coming of the dinner hour and the jollity of a
well-chosen house-party.

That was the call which was competing with that other trumpet-call, and
Yeovil knew on which side his choice would incline.




CHAPTER XIV: "A PERFECTLY GLORIOUS AFTERNOON"


It was one of the last days of July, cooled and freshened by a touch of
rain and dropping back again to a languorous warmth. London looked at
its summer best, rain-washed and sun-lit, with the maximum of coming and
going in its more fashionable streets.

Cicely Yeovil sat in a screened alcove of the Anchorage Restaurant, a
feeding-ground which had lately sprung into favour. Opposite her sat
Ronnie, confronting the ruins of what had been a dish of prawns in aspic.
Cool and clean and fresh-coloured, he was good to look on in the eyes of
his companion, and yet, perhaps, there was a ruffle in her soul that
called for some answering disturbance on the part of that superbly
tranquil young man, and certainly called in vain. Cicely had set up for
herself a fetish of onyx with eyes of jade, and doubtless hungered at
times with an unreasonable but perfectly natural hunger for something of
flesh and blood. It was the religion of her life to know exactly what
she wanted and to see that she got it, but there was no possible
guarantee against her occasionally experiencing a desire for something
else. It is the golden rule of all religions that no one should really
live up to their precepts; when a man observes the principles of his
religion too exactly he is in immediate danger of founding a new sect.

"To-day is going to be your day of triumph," said Cicely to the young
man, who was wondering at the moment whether he would care to embark on
an artichoke; "I believe I'm more nervous than you are," she added, "and
yet I rather hate the idea of you scoring a great success."

"Why?" asked Ronnie, diverting his mind for a moment from the artichoke
question and its ramifications of sauce hollandaise or vinaigre.

"I like you as you are," said Cicely, "just a nice-looking boy to flatter
and spoil and pretend to be fond of. You've got a charming young body
and you've no soul, and that's such a fascinating combination. If you
had a soul you would either dislike or worship me, and I'd much rather
have things as they are. And now you are going to go a step beyond that,
and other people will applaud you and say that you are wonderful, and
invite you to eat with them and motor with them and yacht with them. As
soon as that begins to happen, Ronnie, a lot of other things will come to
an end. Of course I've always known that you don't really care for me,
but as soon as the world knows it you are irrevocably damaged as a
plaything. That is the great secret that binds us together, the
knowledge that we have no real affection for one another. And this
afternoon every one will know that you are a great artist, and no great
artist was ever a great lover."

"I shan't be difficult to replace, anyway," said Ronnie, with what he
imagined was a becoming modesty; "there are lots of boys standing round
ready to be fed and flattered and put on an imaginary pedestal, most of
them more or less good-looking and well turned out and amusing to talk
to."

"Oh, I dare say I could find a successor for your vacated niche," said
Cicely lightly; "one thing I'm determined on though, he shan't be a
musician. It's so unsatisfactory to have to share a grand passion with a
grand piano. He shall be a delightful young barbarian who would think
Saint Saens was a Derby winner or a claret."

"Don't be in too much of a hurry to replace me," said Ronnie, who did not
care to have his successor too seriously discussed. "I may not score the
success you expect this afternoon."

"My dear boy, a minor crowned head from across the sea is coming to hear
you play, and that alone will count as a success with most of your
listeners. Also, I've secured a real Duchess for you, which is rather an
achievement in the London of to-day."

"An English Duchess?" asked Ronnie, who had early in life learned to
apply the Merchandise Marks Act to ducal titles.

"English, oh certainly, at least as far as the title goes; she was born
under the constellation of the Star-spangled Banner. I don't suppose the
Duke approves of her being here, lending her countenance to the fait
accompli, but when you've got republican blood in your veins a Kaiser is
quite as attractive a lodestar as a King, rather more so. And Canon
Mousepace is coming," continued Cicely, referring to a closely-written
list of guests; "the excellent von Tolb has been attending his church
lately, and the Canon is longing to meet her. She is just the sort of
person he adores. I fancy he sincerely realises how difficult it will be
for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and he tries to make up for
it by being as nice as possible to them in this world."

Ronnie held out his hand for the list.

"I think you know most of the others," said Cicely, passing it to him.

"Leutnant von Gabelroth?" read out Ronnie; "who is he?"

"In one of the hussar regiments quartered here; a friend of the Grafin's.
Ugly but amiable, and I'm told a good cross-country rider. I suppose
Murrey will be disgusted at meeting the 'outward and visible sign' under
his roof, but these encounters are inevitable as long as he is in
London."

"I didn't know Murrey was coming," said Ronnie.

"I believe he's going to look in on us," said Cicely; "it's just as well,
you know, otherwise we should have Joan asking in her loudest voice when
he was going to be back in England again. I haven't asked her, but she
overheard the Grafin arranging to come and hear you play, and I fancy
that will be quite enough."

"How about some Turkish coffee?" said Ronnie, who had decided against the
artichoke.

"Turkish coffee, certainly, and a cigarette, and a moment's peace before
the serious business of the afternoon claims us. Talking about peace, do
you know, Ronnie, it has just occurred to me that we have left out one of
the most important things in our affaire; we have never had a quarrel."

"I hate quarrels," said Ronnie, "they are so domesticated."

"That's the first time I've ever heard you talk about your home," said
Cicely.

"I fancy it would apply to most homes," said Ronnie.

"The last boy-friend I had used to quarrel furiously with me at least
once a week," said Cicely reflectively; "but then he had dark slumberous
eyes that lit up magnificently when he was angry, so it would have been a
sheer waste of God's good gifts not to have sent him into a passion now
and then."

"With your excursions into the past and the future you are making me feel
dreadfully like an instalment of a serial novel," protested Ronnie; "we
have now got to 'synopsis of earlier chapters.'"

"It shan't be teased," said Cicely; "we will live in the present and go
no further into the future than to make arrangements for Tuesday's dinner-
party. I've asked the Duchess; she would never have forgiven me if she'd
found out that I had a crowned head dining with me and hadn't asked her
to meet him."

* * * * *

A sudden hush descended on the company gathered in the great drawing-room
at Berkshire Street as Ronnie took his seat at the piano; the voice of
Canon Mousepace outlasted the others for a moment or so, and then
subsided into a regretful but gracious silence. For the next nine or ten
minutes Ronnie held possession of the crowded room, a tense slender
figure, with cold green eyes aflame in a sudden fire, and smooth
burnished head bent low over the keyboard that yielded a disciplined riot
of melody under his strong deft fingers. The world-weary Landgraf forgot
for the moment the regrettable trend of his subjects towards
Parliamentary Socialism, the excellent Grafin von Tolb forgot all that
the Canon had been saying to her for the last ten minutes, forgot the
depressing certainty that he would have a great deal more that he wanted
to say in the immediate future, over and above the thirty-five minutes or
so of discourse that she would contract to listen to next Sunday. And
Cicely listened with the wistful equivocal triumph of one whose goose has
turned out to be a swan and who realises with secret concern that she has
only planned the role of goosegirl for herself.

The last chords died away, the fire faded out of the jade-coloured eyes,
and Ronnie became once more a well-groomed youth in a drawing-room full
of well-dressed people. But around him rose an explosive clamour of
applause and congratulation, the sincere tribute of appreciation and the
equally hearty expression of imitative homage.

"It is a great gift, a great gift," chanted Canon Mousepace, "You must
put it to a great use. A talent is vouchsafed to us for a purpose; you
must fulfil the purpose. Talent such as yours is a responsibility; you
must meet that responsibility."

The dictionary of the English language was an inexhaustible quarry, from
which the Canon had hewn and fashioned for himself a great reputation.

"You must gom and blay to me at Schlachsenberg," said the kindly-faced
Landgraf, whom the world adored and thwarted in about equal proportions.
"At Christmas, yes, that will be a good time. We still keep the Christ-
Fest at Schlachsenberg, though the 'Sozi' keep telling our schoolchildren
that it is only a Christ myth. Never mind, I will have the
Vice-President of our Landtag to listen to you; he is 'Sozi' but we are
good friends outside the Parliament House; you shall blay to him, my
young friendt, and gonfince him that there is a Got in Heaven. You will
gom? Yes?"

"It was beautiful," said the Grafin simply; "it made me cry. Go back to
the piano again, please, at once."

Perhaps the near neighbourhood of the Canon inspired this command, but
the Grafin had been genuinely charmed. She adored good music and she was
unaffectedly fond of good-looking boys.

Ronnie went back to the piano and tasted the matured pleasure of a
repeated success. Any measure of nervousness that he may have felt at
first had completely passed away. He was sure of his audience and he
played as though they did not exist. A renewed clamour of excited
approval attended the conclusion of his performance.

"It is a triumph, a perfectly glorious triumph," exclaimed the Duchess of
Dreyshire, turning to Yeovil, who sat silent among his wife's guests;
"isn't it just glorious?" she demanded, with a heavy insistent intonation
of the word.

"Is it?" said Yeovil.

"Well, isn't it?" she cried, with a rising inflection, "isn't it just
perfectly glorious?"

"I don't know," confessed Yeovil; "you see glory hasn't come very much my
way lately." Then, before he exactly realised what he was doing, he
raised his voice and quoted loudly for the benefit of half the room:

"'Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier's name,
Sounds, not deeds, shall win the prize,
Harmony the path to fame.'"

There was a sort of shiver of surprised silence at Yeovil's end of the
room.

"Hell!"

The word rang out in a strong young voice.

"Hell! And it's true, that's the worst of it. It's damned true!"

Yeovil turned, with some dozen others, to see who was responsible for
this vigorously expressed statement.

Tony Luton confronted him, an angry scowl on his face, a blaze in his
heavy-lidded eyes. The boy was without a conscience, almost without a
soul, as priests and parsons reckon souls, but there was a slumbering
devil-god within him, and Yeovil's taunting words had broken the slumber.
Life had been for Tony a hard school, in which right and wrong, high
endeavour and good resolve, were untaught subjects; but there was a
sterling something in him, just that something that helped poor street-
scavenged men to die brave-fronted deaths in the trenches of Salamanca,
that fired a handful of apprentice boys to shut the gates of Derry and
stare unflinchingly at grim leaguer and starvation. It was just that
nameless something that was lacking in the young musician, who stood at
the further end of the room, bathed in a flood of compliment and
congratulation, enjoying the honey-drops of his triumph.

Luton pushed his way through the crowd and left the room, without
troubling to take leave of his hostess.

"What a strange young man," exclaimed the Duchess; "now do take me into
the next room," she went on almost in the same breath, "I'm just dying
for some iced coffee."

Yeovil escorted her through the throng of Ronnie-worshippers to the
desired haven of refreshment.

"Marvellous!" Mrs. Menteith-Mendlesohnn was exclaiming in ringing trumpet
tones; "of course I always knew he could play, but this is not mere piano
playing, it is tone-mastery, it is sound magic. Mrs. Yeovil has
introduced us to a new star in the musical firmament. Do you know, I
feel this afternoon just like Cortez, in the poem, gazing at the newly
discovered sea."

"'Silent upon a peak in Darien,'" quoted a penetrating voice that could
only belong to Joan Mardle; "I say, can any one picture Mrs. Menteith-
Mendlesohnn silent on any peak or under any circumstances?"

If any one had that measure of imagination, no one acknowledged the fact.

"A great gift and a great responsibility," Canon Mousepace was assuring
the Grafin; "the power of evoking sublime melody is akin to the power of
awakening thought; a musician can appeal to dormant consciousness as the
preacher can appeal to dormant conscience. It is a responsibility, an
instrument for good or evil. Our young friend here, we may be sure, will
use it as an instrument for good. He has, I feel certain, a sense of his
responsibility."

"He is a nice boy," said the Grafin simply; "he has such pretty hair."

In one of the window recesses Rhapsodie Pantril was talking vaguely but
beautifully to a small audience on the subject of chromatic chords; she
had the advantage of knowing what she was talking about, an advantage
that her listeners did not in the least share. "All through his playing
there ran a tone-note of malachite green," she declared recklessly,
feeling safe from immediate contradiction; "malachite green, my
colour - the colour of striving."

Having satisfied the ruling passion that demanded gentle and dextrous
self-advertisement, she realised that the Augusta Smith in her craved
refreshment, and moved with one of her over-awed admirers towards the
haven where peaches and iced coffee might be considered a certainty.

The refreshment alcove, which was really a good-sized room, a sort of
chapel-of-ease to the larger drawing-room, was already packed with a
crowd who felt that they could best discuss Ronnie's triumph between
mouthfuls of fruit salad and iced draughts of hock-cup. So brief is
human glory that two or three independent souls had even now drifted from
the theme of the moment on to other more personally interesting topics.

"Iced mulberry salad, my dear, it's a specialite de la maison, so to
speak; they say the roving husband brought the recipe from Astrakhan, or
Seville, or some such outlandish place."

"I wish my husband would roam about a bit and bring back strange
palatable dishes. No such luck, he's got asthma and has to keep on a
gravel soil with a south aspect and all sorts of other restrictions."

"I don't think you're to be pitied in the least; a husband with asthma is
like a captive golf-ball, you can always put your hand on him when you
want him."

"All the hangings, violette de Parme, all the furniture, rosewood.
Nothing is to be played in it except Mozart. Mozart only. Some of my
friends wanted me to have a replica of the Mozart statue at Vienna put up
in a corner of the room, with flowers always around it, but I really
couldn't. I couldn't. One is so tired of it, one sees it everywhere. I
couldn't do it. I'm like that, you know."

"Yes, I've secured the hero of the hour, Ronnie Storre, oh yes, rather.
He's going to join our yachting trip, third week of August. We're going
as far afield as Fiume, in the Adriatic - or is it the AEgean? Won't it
be jolly. Oh no, we're not asking Mrs. Yeovil; it's quite a small yacht
you know - at least, it's a small party."

The excellent von Tolb took her departure, bearing off with her the
Landgraf, who had already settled the date and duration of Ronnie's
Christmas visit.

"It will be dull, you know," he warned the prospective guest; "our
Landtag will not be sitting, and what is a bear-garden without the bears?
However, we haf some wildt schwein in our woods, we can show you some
sport in that way."

Ronnie instantly saw himself in a well-fitting shooting costume, with a
Tyrolese hat placed at a very careful angle on his head, but he confessed
that the other details of boar-hunting were rather beyond him.

With the departure of the von Tolb party Canon Mousepace gravitated
decently but persistently towards a corner where the Duchess, still at
concert pitch, was alternatively praising Ronnie's performance and the
mulberry salad. Joan Mardle, who formed one of the group, was not openly
praising any one, but she was paying a silent tribute to the salad.

"We were just talking about Ronnie Storre's music, Canon," said the
Duchess; "I consider it just perfectly glorious."

"It's a great talent, isn't it, Canon," put in Joan briskly, "and of
course it's a responsibility as well, don't you think? Music can be such
an influence, just as eloquence can; don't you agree with me?"

The quarry of the English language was of course a public property, but
it was disconcerting to have one's own particular barrow-load of sentence-
building material carried off before one's eyes. The Canon's impressive
homily on Ronnie's gift and its possibilities had to be hastily whittled
down to a weakly acquiescent, "Quite so, quite so."

"Have you tasted this iced mulberry salad, Canon?" asked the Duchess;
"it's perfectly luscious. Just hurry along and get some before it's all
gone."


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