Read CHAPTER VI - THE COMFORT OF APPLES of Anthony Lyveden , free online book, by Dornford Yates, on ReadCentral.com.

Anthony was healthily tired. So much so, in fact, that he was sorely tempted to retire to bed without more ado. On reflecting, however, that at least twenty minutes must elapse before his faithful digestion could also rest from its labours, he lighted a pipe slowly and then afraid to sit down, lest he should fall asleep leaned his tired back against a side of the enormous fireplace and folded his arms.

It is probable that the chamber which his eyes surveyed was more than four hundred years old. That it was at once his hall, kitchen, and parlour, is undeniable. One small stout wall contained the front door and the window, a third part of which could be induced to open, but was to-night fast shut. Another hoisted the breakneck staircase which led to the room above. A third stood blank, while the fourth was just wide enough to frame the tremendous fireplace, which, with its two chimney-corners, made up a bay nearly one half the size of the little room it served. The ceiling, itself none too high, was heavy with punishing beams, so that a tall man must pick and choose his station if he would stand upright; and the floor was of soft red brick, a little sunken in places, but, on the whole, well and truly laid.

A cupboard under the stairs served as a larder and store-room; a flap beneath the window made a firm table; in spite of their age, a Windsor and a basket chair, when called upon, satisfactorily discharged the duties for which they were contrived. A battered foot-bath did more. In a word, it received platters and knives and forks which needed cleansing, and in due season delivered them cleansed; of a Sunday morning it became a terrier’s tub; and upon one afternoon in the week a vessel in which clothes were washed.

Since this was all the furniture, the place looked bare. As a living-room it left much to be desired; but, since Major Anthony Lyveden did not live in it, that did not trouble him. He used the room, certainly he was using it now; nightly he slept above it but he lived in the open air.

This was patent from the look of him.

Wind, rain, and sun set upon their favourites a mark which there is no mistaking. Under the treatment of these three bluff specialists the handsome face had in a short month become a picture. In all his life the ex-officer had never looked so well.

It was when he had given his late master notice and had twenty-one pounds in the world that Lyveden had seen the advertisement

A solitary existence, hard work, long hours, L3 a week, fuel, a bachelor’s unfurnished lodging, and an open-air life is offered to an ex-officer: the job has been considered and abusively rejected by five ex-other ranks on the score that it is “not good enough”; as an ex-officer myself, I disagree with them; incidentally, I can pay no more; sorry to have to add that applicants must be physically fit. Write, Box 1078, c/o “The Times,” E.C.4.

Immediately he had applied by telegram, paying for a reply....

Three days later he and Patch had emerged from the London train into the keen night air of Chipping Norton.

There on the platform to meet him had stood his new employer a tremendous figure of a man, with the eyes of an explorer and the physique of an Atlas, and, after a little delay, Lyveden had found himself seated in a high dog-cart, which, in the wake of an impatient roan, was bowling along over the cold white roads, listening to the steady deep voice foretelling his fate.

“We’re going to Girdle. I’ve taken a room at the inn there for you to-night. Your cottage is two miles from there. I’ll show you the way and meet you there in the morning at half-past eight, please. It’s water-tight I had the thatch tended this year and it’s got its own well good water. It’s in the park, by the side of the London road, so you won’t be too lonely. Now, your work. Woodman, road-maker, joiner, keeper, forester, gardener that’s what I want.” Anthony’s brain reeled. “That’s what I am myself. Listen. I’ve inherited this estate, which has been let go for over a hundred years. There isn’t a foot of fencing that isn’t rotten, a road that you can walk on, a bridge that is safe. The woods it’s all woodland have gone to blazes. I want to pull it round.... Fifty R.E.’s and a Labour Battalion is what it wants, but that’s a dream. I’ve tried the obvious way. I asked for tenders for mending a twelve-foot bridge. The lowest was seventy pounds. I did it myself, single-handed, in seven days.... I’ve saved my stamps since then. Well, I’ve got a small staff.” Anthony heaved a sigh of relief. “Two old carters, two carpenters, three magnificent sailors all deaf, poor chaps and a little lame engineer. But I haven’t an understudy.... I hope you’ll like it, and stay. It’s a man’s life.”

“I like the sound of it,” said Lyveden. “What are you on now?”

“Road-making at the moment. The fence is the most important, but the roads are so bad we can’t get the timber through. It’s all sawn ready we’ve got a toy saw-mill but we can’t carry it. You see...”

The speaker’s enthusiasm had been infectious. Lyveden had found himself violently interested in his new life before he had entered upon it.

The next day he had accepted the tiny cabin as his future home, and had had a fire roaring upon the hearth before nine o’clock. Colonel Winchester, who had expected to lodge him at Girdle for the best part of a week, had abetted his determination to take immediate possession with a grateful heart, presenting his new tenant with some blankets and an excellent camp-bed, and putting a waggon at his disposal for the rest of the day. Seven o’clock that evening had found Anthony and his dog fairly installed in their new quarters.

And now a month had gone by to be exact, some thirty-four days, the biggest ones, perhaps, in all Lyveden’s life. In that short space of time the man whose faith had frozen had become a zealot.

Five thousand acres of woodland and the fine frenzy of an Homeric Quixote had wrought the miracle. Of course the soil was good, and had been ruthlessly harrowed and ploughed into the very pink of condition to receive such seed. For months Lyveden’s enterprise had been stifled: for months Necessity had kept his intellect chained to a pantry-sink: such ambition as he had had was famished. To crown it all, Love had lugged him into the very porch of Paradise, to slam the gates in his face.... Mind and body alike were craving for some immense distraction. In return for board and lodging for his terrier and himself, the man would have picked oakum furiously: but not in Hampshire. That was the county of Paradise Paradise Lost.

As we have seen, the bare idea of the employment had found favour in Lyveden’s eyes, and, before they had been together for half an hour, the personality of Winchester had taken him by the arm. When, two days later, master and man strode through the splendid havoc of the woods, where the dead lay where they had fallen, and the quick were wrestling for life, where the bastard was bullying the true-born, and kings were mobbed by an unruly rabble dogs with their paws upon the table, eating the children’s bread where avenues and glades were choked with thickets, where clearings had become brakes, and vistas and prospects were screened by aged upstarts that knew no law; when they followed the broken roads, where fallen banks sprawled on the fairway, and the laborious rain had worn ruts into straggling ditches, where culverts had given way and the dammed streams had spread the track with wasting pools, where sometimes time-honoured weeds blotted the very memory of the trail into oblivion; when they stood before an old grey mansion, with what had once been lawns about it and the ruin of a great cedar hard by its side, its many windows surveying with a grave stare the wreck and riot of the court it kept then for the first time Anthony Lyveden heard the sound of the trumpets.

The physical attraction, no doubt, of the work to be done was crooking a beckoning finger. To pass his time among these glorious woods, to have a healthy occupation which would never be gone, to enjoy and provide for his dog a peaceful possession of the necessities of life, was an alluring prospect.

Yet this was not the call the trumpets had wound. That distant silvery flourish was not of the flesh. It was the same fanfare that has sent men to lessen the mysteries of the unknown world, travel the trackless earth, sail on uncharted seas, trudge on eternal snows, to sweat and shiver under strange heavens, grapple with Nature upon the Dame’s own ground and try a fall with the Amazon with none to see fair play for the tale of her secrets.

Anthony’s imagination pricked up its flattened ears....

Gazing upon the crookedness about him, he saw it straightened: looking upon the rough places, he saw them made plain. He saw the desolation banished, the wilderness made glad. He saw the woods ordered, the broken roads mended, the bridges rebuilt, streams back in their beds, vistas unshuttered, avenues cleared.... He saw himself striving, one of a little company sworn to redeem the stolen property. Man had won it by the sweat of his brow his seal was on it yet that great receiver Nature must give it up. It was not the repair of an estate that they would compass; it was the restoration of the kingdom of man.

Marking the light in his employee’s eyes, Colonel Winchester could have flung up his cap. Opening his heart, he spoke with a rough eloquence of the great days the place had seen, of lords and ladies who had slept at the house, of coaches that had rumbled over that broken bridge, of a troop ambushed at the bend of the avenue, of a duel fought upon that sometime sward....

“The world ’d think me mad. In the clubs I used to belong to they’d remember that I was always a bit of a crank. To the Press I should be a curio worth three lines and a photograph of the ’Brigadier Breaks Stones’ order. But there’s a zest to the job you won’t find in Pall Mall. There’s an encouragement to go ahead that you seldom strike in this world. There’s a gratitude the old place’ll hand you that no reporter could ever understand....”

It was true.

As the short days went tearing by, the spirit of the place entered into Anthony’s soul. He laboured thirstily, yet not so much laboured as laid his labour as a thank-offering at his goddess’s feet. He counted himself happy, plumed himself on his selection for the office, thanked God nightly. But that he needed the pay, he would not have touched it. As it was, a third of it went into his tool-bag. The appalling magnitude of the task never worried him nor, for the matter of that, his fellow-workers. Master and men went toiling from dawn to dusk under a spell, busy, tireless as gnomes, faithful as knights to their trust. Their zeal was quick with the devotion to a cause that went out with coat-armour. Rough weather might chill one iron, but another was plucked from the fire ere the first was cold. There never was seen such energy. Place and purpose together held them in thrall. Had encouragement been needed, the death of every day showed some material gain. Foot by foot the kingdom was being restored.

Whether the goddess of the estate had charmed Patch also, it is not for me to say. He was certainly a happy fellow. Life had apparently developed into one long, glorious ramble, which nothing but nightfall could curtail. To his delight, too, Anthony and the other men showed an unexpected and eventful interest in stones and boughs and ditches and drains, and sometimes they even dragged trees along the ground for him to bark at. It is to be hoped that he also expressed his gratitude of nights......

If he has not done so this night, it is too late now, for he is stretched upon the warm bricks in a slumber which will allow of no orisons this side of to-morrow.

Let us take his tip, gentlemen. The night is young, I know, but Anthony has been abroad since cock-crow. Besides, I have led you a pretty dance. You have, in fact, tramped for miles ’tis two and an odd furlong to the old grey house alone and the going is ill, as you know, and the night, if young, is evil. A whole gale is coming, and the woods are beside themselves. The thrash of a million branches, the hoarse booming of the wind, lend to the tiny chamber an air of comfort such as no carpets nor arras could induce. The rain, too, is hastening to add its insolence to the stew. That stutter upon the pane is its advance-guard....

Did you hear that dull crash, gentlemen? Or are your ears not practised enough to pluck it out of the welter of rugged harmony? It was an elm, sirs, an old fellow, full of years, gone to his long home. For the last time the squirrels have swung from his boughs: for the last time the rooks have sailed and cawed about his proud old head. To-morrow there will be another empty stall in that majestic quire which it has taken Time six hundred years to fill....

The distant crash brought Lyveden out of a sleep-ridden reverie. For a second he listened intently, as if he hoped that he had been mistaken, and that the sound he had heard had been but a trick of the wind. Then he gave a short sigh and knocked out his pipe.

“And you’ve had no answer?” said the Judge, snapping a wafer betwixt his fingers and thumb.

His guest shook his head. Then he hastened to enlighten the wine-waiter, who had been about to refill his glass with port and had construed the gesture as a declension of the nectar.

“Never a line,” he said shortly. “Of course the letter may never have reached him. But, if it did, he may not have thought it worth while ... I mean, I wrote very guardedly.”

“Naturally,” said the Judge, “naturally. Still, I should have thought...”

The two men sat facing each other across a small mahogany table from which the cloth had been drawn. The surface thus exposed gave back such light as fell upon it enriched and mellowed. In this it was typical of the room, which turned the common air into an odour of luxury.

Servants, perfectly trained, faultlessly groomed, stepped noiselessly to and fro, handing dishes, replenishing glasses, anticipating desires. A tremendous fire glowed in its massive cage; a crimson carpet and curtains of almost barbaric gravity contributed to the admirable temperature and deadened unruly noise. A brace of shaded candles to each small table made up nine several nebulae, whose common radiance provoked an atmosphere of sober mystery, dim and convenient. Light so subdued subdued in turn the tones of the company of hosts and visitors. Conversation became an exchange of confidences; laughter was soft and low; the murmurous blend of talk flowed unremarked, yet comforted the ear. The flash of silver, the sparkle of glass, the snow of napery, gladdened the eye. No single circumstance of expediency was unobserved, no detail of propriety was overlooked. Pomp lay in a litter which he had borrowed of Ease.

“Shall I write again?” said the solicitor.

Mr. Justice Molehill stared at his port. After a moment

“No,” he said slowly. “Not at present, at any rate. I don’t want to push the matter, because I’ve got so very little to go on. In moving at all, I’m laying myself open to the very deuce of a snub.”

“I shall get the snub,” said his guest. “But that’s what I’m paid for. Besides, I’m fairly hardened.”

That he evinced not the slightest curiosity regarding his mysterious instructions argued a distinction between the individual and the adviser, firmly drawn and religiously observed. For a Justice of the King’s Bench suddenly to be consumed by a desire to know the names of the uncles of somebody else’s footman smacked of collaboration by Gilbert and Chardenal. Once, however, the solicitor knew his client, he asked no questions. Reticence and confidence were in his eyes equally venerable. Usually he had his reward. He had it now.

“In the spring,” said his companion, “of 1914 I went to Sicily. On my way back I stopped for one night at Rome. The day I left, while I was resting after luncheon, the manager of the hotel brought a priest to my room a Catholic priest of some position, I fancy an Englishman. I can’t remember his name. He spoke very civilly, and begged my instant attention.

“An old Englishman, it seemed, lay dying upon the first floor. He was all alone no relations no servant. He could speak no Italian. Realizing that he was dying, he was frantic to make a will. His frenzied attempts to convey this desire to the attendant doctor had resulted in the latter dashing into the street and stopping and returning with the first priest he encountered. This happened to be my friend. Upon beholding him, the patient, who had hoped for a lawyer, had turned his face to the wall. Then, to his relief, he found that, though a priest, yet he was English, and begged him to fetch an attorney. The priest hurried to the manager, and the manager brought him to me....

“You know how much I know about wills. All the same, argument was not to be thought of. To the laity, solicitor, lawyer, barrister, and attorney are synonymous terms. Moreover, they are all will-wrights. A judge is a sort of shop-steward....

“Well, I drew one. To tell you the truth, I don’t think it was so bad. I attended the poor man. I took his instructions. And there and then in the sickroom I drew the will upon a sheet of notepaper. He signed it in my presence and that of the priest. The latter then took charge of it, with a view to getting it stamped next morning at the British Consulate. We both had some hazy idea that that was desirable.

“I left Rome the same night.

“Gradually we’ve all had a lot to think about in the last seven years I forgot the whole incident. Then, some two months ago, when I was at Brooch, a fellow gives evidence before me in a burglary case. A footman called Anthony Lyveden. For a long time I couldn’t imagine where I’d heard the names before. Then something I’ll tell you what in the smoking-room brought it all back. Anthony Lyveden was the nephew of the man whose will I made, and he was named as the sole legatee.

“In a way it’s no affair of mine, and yet I feel concerned. I’ll tell you why. That footman was a gentleman born. Moreover, he was down on his luck. He didn’t look like a fellow who’d run through money, and I think the old testator was pretty rich. He gave that impression. And for a will made in such circumstances to go astray it would be easy enough obviously. The devil of it is, except for the name of Lyveden, I can remember nothing else.”

The solicitor sipped his port. Then

“A search at Somerset House,” he said slowly, “should give us the maiden surname of Anthony Lyveden’s mother. If she had a brother....”

Sir Giles Molehill raised his eyes and sighed.

“And it never occurred to me,” he said. “It’s high time I went to the Court of Appeal.”

Two days later his lordship received a letter informing him that a search at Somerset House had revealed the fact that a son named Anthony had been born upon the fourteenth of January, 1891, to a Mrs. Katharine Lyveden, formerly Roach.

As he read it, the Judge exclaimed audibly.

The note which he wrote there and then shall speak for itself.

DEAR BLITHE,

Roach was the surname of the testator. Please go on. When you can submit a Christian name to my memory, please do so. I am not sure that it will respond, but we can try.

Yours sincerely,
GILES MOLEHILL.

When Anthony Lyveden had been for a week at Gramarye, he had reluctantly posted a letter containing his new address. This he had done because he had promised to do it. As the letter had fallen into the box, he had prayed fervently, but without the faintest hope, that it might never be delivered. A galley-slave who has broken ship and won sanctuary does not advertise his whereabouts with a light heart. He may be beyond pursuit, yet he and the galley are both of this world; things temporal only keep them apart, and if the master came pricking, with a whip in his belt.... You must remember that Anthony had been used very ill. At first, bound to the oar of Love, he had pulled vigorously and found the sea silken, his chains baubles. Then a storm had arisen. In his hands the docile oar had become a raging termagant, and, when he would have been rid of it, the baubles had opposed his will. He had been dragged and battered unspeakably. Over all, the lash had been laid upon his bare shoulders; and that with a nicety of judgment which should have been foreign to so white a wrist and to eyes that could look so tender. Now that he had escaped out of hell, it was not surprising that he was loth to discover his refuge. Still, a promise must be respected....

For that matter, supplications do not always go empty away. The answer to Anthony’s came in the shape of a fire which attacked the last coach but one upon a London train and partially destroyed two mailbags before its flames were subdued. It follows that, though he did not know it, such friends as the ex-officer had knew no more where he was than did the man in the moon.

It is here convenient, believe me, to go imagining.

We have looked into Anthony’s mind at the hour when he posted his letter. Had he posted it this nineteenth day of January, instead of six weeks ago, and we, as before, peered into his brain-pan, we should have found his supplication that the missive might go astray even more urgent. We should have noted that, while he was just as fearful to be reminded of the galley and the tall dark ganger with the red, red mouth and the merciless thong, he also viewed with alarm the possibility of any distraction from his work. The galley-slave was become a votary.

Let us be quite clear about it.

Anthony had come to Gramarye to try to forget. In this he was steadily unsuccessful. At the end of a month he had not advanced one inch. His love for Valerie was as breathless, haunting, wistful as it had ever been. The whole of the kingdom of his heart was hers alone, and, so far as he could see, like to remain hers only for the rest of his life. Since, therefore, he could not dispatch Memory, he sought to immure her. Since Valerie’s sovereignty was so fast stablished that it could not be moved, he sought to rule his heart out of his system. Had it been possible, he would, like Aesop’s Beaver, have ripped the member from him and gone heartless ever after. The Fabulous Age being dead, Anthony made the best shift he could, and strove to bury kingdom and queen together so deep within him that their existence should not trouble his life. If he could not put out the light, he would hide it under a bushel. It occurred to him that his mind, appropriately occupied, should make an excellent bushel appropriately occupied.... He resolved that Gramarye should have his mind. Of this he would make a kingdom, mightier and more material than that of his heart. The trouble was, his mind, though more tractable, liked Valerie’s occupation, found it desirable, and clung to its present tenant for all it was worth. By no means dismayed, Anthony, as before, had recourse to ejection by crowding out.... Two things, however, made this attempt more formidable. First, he did not have to be for ever scouring the highways and hedges for a new tenantry; Gramarye was always at hand. Secondly, though Anthony did not know it, there was no need for Gramarye to be compelled to come in. He was pressing an invitation upon one who had invited herself. The hooded personality of the place had stolen up to the door: already its pale fingers were lifting the latch.... Before he had been in the Cotswolds for seven weeks, she had thrust and been thrust into the doorway.

It was the thin end of the wedge.

Each passing day fell upon the wedge like the stroke of a hammer. Sometimes they drove it: oftener the wedge stayed still where it was. But it never slipped back. When it was stubbornest, and the days seemed to lose their weight, when Valerie’s hold seemed indefeasible, when the woods were quick with memory, when Anthony heard an old faint sigh in the wind, and the laughter of a brook fluted the note of a soft familiar voice, then more than once that strange, cool, silvery call had stolen out of the distance, to melt upon the air as soon as uttered and leave its echoes at play upon the edge of earshot.... Before the echoes had died, the wedge would have moved.

For a master at once so tireless and so devotedly served, Colonel Winchester handled his team with a prudence which must have chafed his infatuation to the bone. Of every week, five and a half days did they labour and not an hour more. No matter how loudly a chore called for completion, no matter how blackly wind and weather were threatening the half-done work, upon Wednesday afternoon and Sunday not an axe was lifted, not a cord hitched, not a nail driven. It was a wise rule and fruitful. The Sabbath rest leavened the labour of the week. As for the midweek breathing space, the men were not monks; however zealous their studies of the lilies of the field, the provision of meat and raiment must have some crumbs of consideration...

It was, indeed, these two commodities which had taken Lyveden to Girdle this January day. The milkman, the baker, the grocer, had all to be interviewed and paid. A kindly farmer’s wife, who baked fresh meat for him and sent it thrice a week to his cottage in the shape of a cold pasty, had to be visited and made to accept payment for a slab of sweet fresh butter he had not asked for. A little linen had to be picked up....

By half-past three Anthony’s errands were run. He had dealt with them quickly, for there was work waiting at the cottage; a load of fuel had to be stacked, and Patch had been bogged that morning and was, consequently, fit neither to be seen nor smelt. Besides, there was a book about forestry which Winchester had lent him.... Anthony bent his steps homeward eagerly enough.

As he left the village, a horsewoman overtook him, shot him a sharp glance, and passed ahead. Her habit was mired, and it was evident that she had had a fall hunting. That Anthony did not remark this was because he was regarding her horse. There was nothing unusual about the animal, but of the two beings it alone touched his attention. If Valerie was like to be buried, at least she had killed all other women stone dead.

It was consequently in some annoyance that, upon rounding the second bend of the infamous Gallowstree Hill, he saw the lady before him with her mount across the road, placidly regarding a hunting-crop which lay upon the highway. As he came up

“Would you be so good?” said the girl.

“With pleasure.”

Anthony picked up the crop and offered it. As he did so, the horse became restive, and there was quite a substantial bickering before his mistress could accept the whip. Anthony, if he thought about it at all, attributed the scene to caprice. In this he was right, yet wrong. Caprice was the indirect reason. The direct cause was the heel of a little hunting-boot adroitly applied to a somewhat sensitive flank. There is no doubt at all that Anthony had a lot to learn.

Out of the broil stepped Conversation lightly enough.

“You must forgive us both,” said the lady, turning her mount towards Gramarye. “We’ve had a bad day. Quite early on we took the deuce of a toss, and I lost him. A labourer caught him, and then let him go again. By the time I’d got him, the hounds were miles away. I’d never ’ve believed it was possible to go so fast or so far as I did and never hear of them. After two solid hours I gave it up.”

Anthony was walking by her side, listening gravely.

“What a shame!” he said. Then: “I hope you weren’t hurt.”

“Shoulder’s a bit stiff. I fell on the point. But a hot bath’ll put that right. D’you live here?”

“About a mile on. At Gramarye.”

The girl stared at him.

“Gramarye?”

“Not at the house,” said Anthony. “I live in the cottage at the south-west end of the park.”

“Oh, I know. D’you work there, then?”

Anthony nodded.

“That’s my job.”

“So you’re Major Lyveden?” said the girl.

Anthony looked up.

“How did you know?” he said.

A pair of large brown eyes regarded him steadily. Then the red lips parted, and Andre Strongi’th’arm flung back her handsome head and laughed merrily.

“Did you think,” she said, panting, “did you really think that you could come to dwell in the parish of Girdle, and the fact escape the notice of the other parishioners?” She hesitated, and a suggestion of mockery crept into her voice. “Or are you too wrapped up in the estate to think about anything else?”

“I believe I am,” said Anthony.

“I beg your pardon,” said Miss Strongi’th’arm with an elaborate courtesy. “Thank you very much for enduring me for three minutes. If I’d ”

Her hunter broke into a trot.

“No, no,” cried Anthony, running beside her. “Please walk again.” She pulled the horse up. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I meant ”

“I should leave it alone,” said Andre. “You’ll only make it worse. You’re much too honest. Besides, I love the country, and I I think,” she added dreamily, “I can understand.”

“Can you?”

The eagerness in Anthony’s voice was arrestingly pathetic, and Andre started at the effect of her idle words.

“I I think so. I’ve given water to a thirsty plant.... I suppose the gratitude of a landscape...”

“That’s it,” said Lyveden excitedly. “You’ve got it in one. The place is so pathetically grateful for every stock and stone you set straight, that you just can’t hold your hand. And all the time the work’s so fascinating that you don’t deserve any thanks. You seem to get deeper in debt every day. You’re credited with every cheque you draw. If I stopped, it’d haunt me.”

“It is plain,” said Andre, “that, when you die, ‘Gramarye’ will be graven upon your heart. All the same, are you sure you were meant for this? Aren’t there things in life besides the straightening of stocks and stones?”

“The War’s over,” said Lyveden.

“I know. But there was a world before 1914. I think your occupation’s wonderful, but isn’t it a little unnatural unfair to yourself and others to give it the whole of your life? As estates go, I fancy the possibilities of Eden were even more amazing than those of Gramarye I daresay you won’t admit that, but then you’re biassed and yet the introduction of Eve was considered advisable.”

“With the result that ...”

Miss Strongi’th’arm laughed.

“With the result that you and I are alive this glorious day, with our destinies in our pockets and the great round world at our feet. I wonder whether I ought to go into a nunnery.”

“I’ve tried kicking the world,” said Anthony, “and I’m still lame from it. And Fate picked my pocket months and months ago.”

“So Faint Heart turned into the first monastery he came to,” said Andre, leaning forward and caressing her hunter’s neck. “What d’you think of that, Joshua?”

As if by way of comment, the horse snorted, and Anthony found himself joining in Miss Strongi’th’arm’s mirth.

“There’s hope for you yet,” gurgled that lady. “Your sense of humour is still kicking. And that under the mud appears to be a scrap of a dog. When you take your final vows, will you give him to me?”

“In my monastery,” said Lyveden, “monks are allowed to keep dogs. There is also no rule against laughter.”

“Isn’t there, now?” flashed Andre. “I wonder why? There’s no rule against idleness either, is there?” She laughed bitterly. “Rules are made to cope with inclinations. Where there’s no inclination ” She broke off suddenly and checked her horse. Setting her hand upon Lyveden’s shoulder, she looked into his eyes. “You laughed just now, didn’t you? When did you last laugh before that?”

Anthony stared back. The girl’s intuition was uncanny. Now that he came to think of it, Winchester and his little band never laughed over their work never. There was she was perfectly right there was no inclination. Eagerness, presumably, left no room for Merriment. Or else the matter was too high, too thoughtful. Not that they laboured sadly far from it. Indeed, their daily round was one long festival. But Laughter was not at the board. Neither forbidden, nor bidden to the feast, she just stayed away. Yet Mirth was no hang-back.... Anthony found himself marvelling.

“Who are you?” he said suddenly,

For a second the brown eyes danced; then their lids hid them. With flushed cheeks the girl sat up on her horse.

“Who am I? I’m a daughter of Eve, Major Lyveden. Eve, who cost Adam his Gramarye. So you be careful. Bar your door of nights. Frame rules against laughter and idleness just to be on the safe side. And next time a girl drops her crop ”

“I hope,” said Anthony gravely, “I hope I shall be behind her to pick it up and have the honour of her company to turn a mile into a furlong.”

“O-o-oh, blasphemy!” cried Andre, pretending to stop her ears. “Whatever would Gramarye say? Come on, Joshua.”

The next moment she was cantering up the broad white way....

As she rounded a bend, she flung up an arm and waved her crop cheerily.

Anthony waved back.

Miss Valerie French sat in her library at Bell Hammer, with her elbows propped on the writing-table and her head in her hands. She had been free of the great room ever since she could remember. Long before her father’s death she had been accustomed to sit curled in its great chairs, to lie upon the huge tiger-skin before the hearth, or gravely to face her father across that very table and draw houses and flights of steps and stiff-legged men and women with flat feet upon his notepaper, while Mr. French dealt with his correspondence. Always, when the picture was completed, it would be passed to him for his approval and acceptance; and he would smile and thank her and audibly identify the objects portrayed; and, if he were not too busy, they would remind him of a tale, the better to follow which she must leave her chair and climb on to his knee....

Then he had died ten years after her birth, nine years after her mother’s death. There were who said he had died of a broken heart a heart broken nine years before. It may have been true. Valerie loved the room more than ever....

When she was come of age, she made it her boudoir. Flowers and silks and silver lit up its stateliness. Beneath the influence of a grand piano and the soft-toned cretonnes upon the leather chairs, the solemnity of the chamber melted into peace. The walls of literature, once so severe, became a kindly background, wearing a wise, grave smile.

Such comfort, however, as the room extended was to-day lost upon Valerie. Beyond the fact that it was neither noisome nor full of uproar, Miss French derived no consolation from an atmosphere to which she had confidently carried her troubles for at least twenty years. The truth is, she was sick at heart. There was no health in her. She had been given a talent and had cast it into the sea. She had stumbled upon a jewel, more lustrous than any she had dreamed this earth could render, and of her folly she had flung it into the draught. She had suspected him who was above suspicion, treated her king like a cur, unwarrantably whipped from her doors the very finest gentleman in all the world. What was a thousand times worse, he had completely vanished. Had she known where he was, she would have gone straight to him and, kneeling upon her knees, begged his forgiveness. Her pride was already in tatters, her vanity in rags: could she have found him, she would have stripped the two mother-naked. In a word, she would have done anything which it is in the power of a mortal to do to win back that wonder of happiness which they had together built up. It must be remembered that Valerie was no fool. She realized wholly that without Anthony Lyveden Life meant nothing at all. She had very grave doubts whether it would, without him, ever mean anything again. And so, to recover her loss, she was quite prepared to pay to the uttermost farthing. The trouble, was, the wares were no longer for sale; at any rate, they were not exposed to her eyes. The reflection that, after a little, they might be offered elsewhere and somebody else secure them, sent Valerie almost out of her mind. And it might happen any day easily. The wares were so very attractive.... Moreover, if their recovery was to beggar her, by a hideous paradox, failure to repurchase the wares meant ruin absolute....

When Valerie French had discovered that her jealousy of her lover was utterly baseless, she had had the sense to make no bones about it, but to strike her colours at once. That Anthony was not there to witness her capitulation did not affect her decision. If she was to have their intelligent assistance, the sooner others saw it and appreciated her plight, so much the better for her. Only her aunt and the Alisons could possibly help at all; to those four she spoke plainly, telling the cold facts and feeling the warmth of well-doing in tearing her pride to tatters. Then she rent her vanity and begged their services to find and, if necessary, plead for her with the ex-officer. The Alisons had promised readily, but there was no confidence in their eyes. Lady Touchstone, however, had sent her niece’s hopes soaring. She had reason, it seemed, to expect a letter. Major Lyveden had promised to let her have his address. And, he being a man of his word, it was bound to come bound to come....

For more than a month Valerie hung upon every incoming post. Then she knew that the letter had gone astray.

For the hundredth time Miss French read through the three letters which lay before her upon the table, written in the firm, clear hand of Anthony Lyveden. Except she drew upon the store of Memory, she had nothing else at all that spoke of him. Hence the common envelopes became three reliquaries, the cheap thin notepaper relics above all price, piteously hallowed by the translation of the scribe.

The letters affording no comfort, Valerie rose and moved to a great window which looked on to the terrace and thence into the park. Instantly the memory of one sweet September night rose up before her a night when he and she had paced those flags together, while music had floated out of the gallery, and the stars had leaped in the heavens, and the darkness had quivered at the breath of the cool night air; when he had wrapped his love in a fairy tale and she had listened with a hammering heart ... when he at last had put her hand to his lips, and she had given back the homage before he could draw away....

The terrace was worse than the letters, and Valerie turned to the books. Idly she moved along the wall, reading the names upon the calf bindings and not knowing whether she read them or no. A sudden desire to look at the topmost shelves made her cross to the great step-ladder and climb to its balustered pulpit. Before she was half-way there the desire had faded, but she went listlessly on. Come to the top, she turned to let her eye wander over the nearest shelf. Old, little-read volumes only met her gaze Hoole’s works, Jessey, John Sadler, Manley.... Of the ten small volumes containing Miss Manley’s outpourings, the seventh was out of place, and Valerie stretched out a hand to straighten it. As she did so, she saw the title The Lost Lover. For a moment she stared at it. Then she turned and, descending one step of the ladder, sat down on the edge of the pulpit and buried her face in her hands.

We will leave her there with her beauty, her shapely head bowed, her exquisite figure hunched with despair, her cold, white, pointed fingers pressed tight upon those glorious temples, her little palms hiding the misery of that striking face, her knees convulsively closed, that shining foot tucked beneath the other in the contortion of grief. We will leave her there on the ladder, learning that sorry lesson which Great Love only will set its favourites when they have gone a-whoring after false gods in whom is no faith.

At half-past six upon the following Monday evening Lyveden returned to his cottage with Patch at his heels. In spite of the hard frost, the work had gone well. A bridge had been finished which should laugh to scorn the elements for a long century; a sore-needed staff had been set beneath the arm-pit of a patriarch oak; a truant stream had been tucked into its rightful bed. It had been a good day.

Arrived at his door, Anthony turned and looked upward. The cold white brilliance of the stars stared winking back; the frozen silence of the firmament hung like a magic cloak upon the shoulders of darkness; the pool of Night lay in a breathless trance, ice-cold and fathomless. Anthony opened the door and passed in.

Within three minutes the lamp and lantern were lighted and a fire was crackling upon the hearth; within ten, fuel had been fetched and water drawn from the well; within twenty, the few odd jobs on whose performance the comfort of regularity depended, had been disposed of; and by seven o’clock the Sealyham had had his dinner, and his master, washed and groomed, was free to sit down to a substantial meal.

At the first glance, the latter’s dress was highly reminiscent of the warfare so lately dead. The shade and stuff of the stout breeches, the heavy ankle boots, the grey shirt-cuff emerging from the sleeve of the coarse cardigan, were old familiar friends. The fact that Lyveden had laid aside his collar heightened the comparison. Only his gaiters struck a discordant note. These were of good box-cloth and buttoned from knee to ankle. Tight-fitting about the calf, but not shaped to the leg, they fell well over the tops of the heavy boots, resting, indeed, upon the insteps. They suited Anthony, for whom they might have been made, admirably. They were, moreover, a wholly redeeming feature, and turned his garb from that of a thousand corporals into the homely attire of a gentleman farmer. So soon as you saw them, you forgot the War. The style of them was most effective. It beat the spear into a pruning hook. With this to leaven them, the rough habiliments were most becoming. In a word, they supplied the very setting which manhood should have; and since Anthony, sitting there at his meat, was the personification of virility, they served, as all true settings should, by self-effacement to magnify their treasure. The ex-officer might have stepped out of Virgil’s Eclogues.

He had finished his meal, cleared away the remains, set the table for breakfast, and was in the act of filling his pipe, when the Sealyham growled. Anthony, whose ears were becoming sharper every day, listened intently. The next moment came a sharp tapping upon the door. In an instant Patch was across the room, barking furiously....

Laying down his pipe and tobacco, Anthony followed the terrier and, picking him up in his arms, threw open the door.

“So you didn’t bar it, after all,” said a mocking voice. “Well, my conscience is clear. I warned you. And since you are at home and the door is open, will you extend your hospitality to a benighted Eve?”

Anthony stepped to one side.

“I’m all alone,” he said hesitatingly.

“So am I,” said Andre, entering. “Oh, what a lovely fire! I’m just perished,” she added, crossing to spread her hands to the blaze. “It’s not a night to be motoring.”

Anthony shut the door and put the terrier down. The latter ran to the lady and sniffed the hem of her garments. After a careful scrutiny he turned away....

“It’s not a night,” said Anthony, “to be walking the countryside in evening dress. Have you had a breakdown?”

“Not that I know of,” replied Miss Strongi’th’arm. “Don’t be so modest. I happened to be passing and I happened to see your light, so I thought I’d come and see how Adam was getting on. Is it against the rules?”

“I’m all alone,” said Lyveden steadily.

“Is that an order to quit?”

“I’m only thinking of you,” said Anthony. “I know I’ve dropped out of things lately, and the world goes pretty fast, but I’d hate people to talk about you.” He felt himself flushing, and went on jerkily: “I mean, I don’t honestly know what’s done nowadays and what isn’t. If you’re quite easy ... you see, I’m older than you,” he added desperately.

There was a little silence. Then

“Don’t stop,” said Andre, with a mischievous smile. “I’ve never been lectured by a monk before. Besides, I collect points of view.”

“Is mine extraordinary?”

“An exceptionally rare specimen. I shall always treasure it.” She produced a cigarette case. “May I smoke a cigarette? Or is that also against the rules?”

Without a word Anthony struck a match....

“Thanks,” said the lady. She unbuttoned her coat. “It’s nice and warm in here,” she added comfortably. “Oh, please don’t look so reproachful! I just can’t bear it. I’m not doing anything wrong, and it makes me feel awful. Of course, if you don’t want me...”

“You know it isn’t that,” he protested. “I only thought possibly I mean...” He broke off helplessly and touched the back of a chair. “Wouldn’t you like to sit down?”

“Shall you sit down if I do?” Anthony shook his head. “Then I shan’t either. I’d much rather stand.” And, with that, my lady set her back against the side of the fireplace and crossed her shapely ankles.

It must be confessed that she made an arresting picture. Mean as the light was, it woke the luminous beauty of her auburn hair; a sprinkling of freckles gave to her exquisite complexion a jolly look; the bright brown eyes and the merry mouth were those of a Bacchante. Above her plain black frock her throat and chest showed dazzling white; below, the black silk stockings shone with a lustre which was not that of silk alone; over all, the voluminous mink coat framed her from head to toe with a rich luxury.

“And how,” said Andre, “is Gramarye? Have you finished the bridge?”

Anthony stared at her.

“How did you know?” he said.

Miss Strongi’th’arm shrugged her fair shoulders.

“What does it matter?” she said. “Let’s talk about something else if you can. Have you thought over what I said? No. I can see you haven’t. Well, well.... Have you laughed since we met?”

“I I don’t think I have.”

“Ah.... Why not?”

“There’s been nothing to laugh at. The work’s big serious.”

“Wasn’t the War serious?”

Anthony crossed to the hearth and kicked a log into flame.

“I suppose so,” he said reluctantly.

“Yet you laughed every day.”

“Yes, but ”

“But what?”

“The War was different. You can’t compare the two. Then you laughed because it was better than crying. Now there’s no reason for it. There’s no time on your hands. The work’s too urgent too solemn. It’s like restoring a cathedral. You don’t feel you want to laugh.” He swung round and faced her. “There’s a religion in the atmosphere; Gramarye’s a sort of temple; when you’re in the woods, instinctively you lower your voice; there’s something sacred about the place; there’s ”

Miss Strongi’th’arm dropped her cigarette and caught her vis-a-vis by the shoulders.

“Don’t!” she cried. “Don’t! It’s all wrong! The place isn’t sacred. It’s absurd. You’re infatuated. Gramarye’s getting into your blood. Soon you won’t be able to think of anything else. And gradually it’ll eat up your life your splendid, glorious life. I know what I’m talking about. D’you hear? I say I know! I’ve seen one man go under, and now you’re going you!” The flame died out of her voice leaving it tender and passionate. “And you’re too wonderful a thing, lad; you’re too perfect a specimen; you’re too strong and gentle ... too honest.... Ah” her hands slipped from his shoulders and her eyes dropped “you needn’t look so reproachful. I know I’m a rotter. I dropped my crop on purpose the other day, because I wanted to talk to you; and I lied to my mother and said I was dining out to-night, and then came here, because...” Anthony put out an appealing hand. The girl laughed bitterly. “All right. I won’t say it.” She started feverishly to fasten her coat. “It’s about time I was going, isn’t it? About time....”

In silence Anthony passed with her to the door.

There was simply nothing to say.

Together they walked to her car, a well-found coupe standing dark and silent upon the wasted track, facing the London road. Andre opened its door, thrust in a groping hand.... For a moment her fingers hunted. Then two shafts of light leaped from the head-lamps. A second later the near side-lamp showed Anthony how pale was her face....

The lights in the car went up, and Andre picked up her gloves. Standing with her back to Lyveden, she pulled them on fiercely, but her hands were shaking, and the fastening of the straps was a difficult business.

Patch, who had come with them and was facing the opposite way, put his head on one side and stared up the line of the track. Then he trotted off into the darkness....

The straps fastened, Andre turned about.

Anthony put out his hand.

“Good-bye,” he said gently.

For a moment the girl looked at him. Then she gave a little sob, and, putting her arms about his neck, drew down his head and kissed him frantically. A moment later she was leaning wearily against the car, with the sleeve of her right arm across her eyes. As she let it fall, Winchester stepped out of the darkness with Patch at his heels.

“Andre?” he said. And then again, “Andre?” Anthony swung on his heel and faced the speaker. The latter stared at him with smouldering eyes.

“Lyveden?” he said hoarsely.

There was an electric silence.

Then Anthony turned to Miss Strongi’th’arm.

“I most humbly apologize,” he said. “My feelings got the better of me.
I pray that you will try to forgive me.” He turned to Winchester.
“This lady needed some water for her radiator, and came to my door ”

“You blackguard!” said Winchester. “You ”

“It’s a lie!” flamed Andre.

The cold steel of her tone fairly whistled. Instinctively both men started.

“It’s a lie, Richard. He’s the cleanest, straightest man that ever breathed. He’d no idea who I was. He hasn’t now. He never knew my name till you said it. I forced myself upon him the other day. I forced myself upon him to-night. And he’s he’s just turned me down.... He said what he did just now to try and shield me. But he’s blameless. It was I who made the running. And I’m glad you saw it. Glad!” She tore off her left glove. “Because it’s your own fault. It’s eighteen months since I promised to be your wife. Eighteen solid months. And I’m tired sick of waiting fed up. First it was Russia: then the North of France: then Gramarye. Gramarye!” She flung back her head and laughed wildly. Then she snatched a ring from her finger and hurled it on to the ground. “There’s the ring you gave me. God knows why I didn’t give it you back yesterday months ago. I’d reason enough. I suppose I still hoped.... But now you’ve killed it. I don’t even care what happens to you. You’ve messed up my life, you’ve messed up your own, and, what’s a million times worse, you’re doing your level best to mess up his.”

Upon the last words her voice broke piteously, and Andre covered her eyes. So she stood for a moment, white-faced, her lips trembling.... Then she whipped into the car and slammed the door. A moment later the engine was running. She let in the clutch, and the car moved forward....

As she turned on to the London road, she changed into second speed ... into third ... top....

The two men stood as she had left them, motionless, the little white dog eyeing them curiously.

The steady purr of the engine grew fainter and fainter.

When it had quite died, Anthony turned and touched the other upon the shoulder.

“There’s always Gramarye,” he said.

For a moment the giant peered at him. Then he straightened his bowed shoulders and threw up his head.

“Yes,” he shouted, “yes. There’s always Gramarye!”