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The Edge of the Evening


Ah! What avails the classic bent,
And what the chosen word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?

And what is Art whereto we press
Through paint and prose and rhyme--
When Nature in her nakedness
Defeats us every time?

'Hi! Hi! Hold your horses! Stop!... Well! Well!' A lean man in a
sable-lined overcoat leaped from a private car and barred my way up Pall
Mall. 'You don't know me? You're excusable. I wasn't wearing much of
anything last time we met--in South Africa.'

The scales fell from my eyes, and I saw him once more in a sky-blue army
shirt, behind barbed wire, among Dutch prisoners bathing at Simonstown,
more than a dozen years ago[3]. 'Why, it's Zigler--Laughton O. Zigler!'
I cried. 'Well, I _am_ glad to see you.'

[Footnote 3: 'The Captive': _Traffics and Discoveries_.]

'Oh no! You don't work any of your English on me. "So glad to see you,
doncher know--an' ta-ta!" Do you reside in this village?'

'No. I'm up here buying stores.'

'Then you take my automobile. Where to?... Oh, I know _them_! My Lord
Marshalton is one of the Directors. Pigott, drive to the Army and Navy
Cooperative Supply Association Limited, Victoria Street, Westminister.'

He settled himself on the deep dove-colour pneumatic cushions, and his
smile was like the turning on of all the electrics. His teeth were
whiter than the ivory fittings. He smelt of rare soap and
cigarettes--such cigarettes as he handed me from a golden box with an
automatic lighter. On my side of the car was a gold-mounted mirror, card
and toilette case. I looked at him inquiringly.

'Yes,' he nodded, 'two years after I quit the Cape. She's not an Ohio
girl, though. She's in the country now. Is that right? She's at our
little place in the country. We'll go there as soon as you're through
with your grocery-list. Engagements? The only engagement you've got is
to grab your grip--get your bag from your hotel, I mean--and come right
along and meet her. You are the captive of _my_ bow and spear now.'

'I surrender,' I said meekly. 'Did the Zigler automatic gun do all
this?' I pointed to the car fittings.

'Psha! Think of your rememberin' that! Well, no. The Zigler is a great
gun--the greatest ever--but life's too short, an' too interestin', to
squander on pushing her in military society. I've leased my rights in
her to a Pennsylvanian-Transylvanian citizen full of mentality and moral
uplift. If those things weigh with the Chancelleries of Europe, he will
make good and--I shall be surprised. Excuse me!'

He bared his head as we passed the statue of the Great Queen outside
Buckingham Palace.

'A very great lady!' said he. 'I have enjoyed her hospitality. She
represents one of the most wonderful institutions in the world. The next
is the one we are going to. Mrs. Zigler uses 'em, and they break her up
every week on returned empties.'

'Oh, you mean the Stores?' I said.

'Mrs. Zigler means it more. They are quite ambassadorial in their
outlook. I guess I'll wait outside and pray while you wrestle with 'em.'

My business at the Stores finished, and my bag retrieved from the hotel,
his moving palace slid us into the country.

'I owe it to you,' Zigler began as smoothly as the car, 'to tell you
what I am now. I represent the business end of the American Invasion.
Not the blame cars themselves--I wouldn't be found dead in one--but the
tools that make 'em. I am the Zigler Higher-Speed Tool and Lathe Trust.
The Trust, sir, is entirely my own--in my own inventions. I am the
Renzalaer ten-cylinder a๋rial--the lightest aeroplane-engine on the
market--one price, one power, one guarantee. I am the Orlebar
Paper-welt, Pulp-panel Company for aeroplane bodies; and I am the Rush
Silencer for military aeroplanes--absolutely silent--which the Continent
leases under royalty. With three exceptions, the British aren't wise to
it yet. That's all I represent at present. You saw me take off my hat
to your late Queen? I owe every cent I have to that great an' good Lady.
Yes, sir, I came out of Africa, after my eighteen months' rest-cure and
open-air treatment and sea-bathing, as her prisoner of war, like a giant
refreshed. There wasn't anything could hold me, when I'd got my hooks
into it, after that experience. And to you as a representative British
citizen, I say here and now that I regard you as the founder of the
family fortune--Tommy's and mine.'

'But I only gave you some papers and tobacco.'

'What more does any citizen need? The Cullinan diamond wouldn't have
helped me as much then; an'--talking about South Africa, tell me--'

We talked about South Africa till the car stopped at the Georgian lodge
of a great park.

'We'll get out here. I want to show you a rather sightly view,' said

We walked, perhaps, half a mile, across timber-dotted turf, past a lake,
entered a dark rhododendron-planted wood, ticking with the noise of
pheasants' feet, and came out suddenly, where five rides met, at a small
classic temple between lichened stucco statues which faced a circle of
turf, several acres in extent. Irish yews, of a size that I had never
seen before, walled the sunless circle like cliffs of riven obsidian,
except at the lower end, where it gave on to a stretch of undulating
bare ground ending in a timbered slope half-a-mile away.

'That's where the old Marshalton race-course used to be,' said Zigler.
'That ice-house is called Flora's Temple. Nell Gwynne and Mrs. Siddons
an' Taglioni an' all that crowd used to act plays here for King George
the Third. Wasn't it? Well, George is the only king I play. Let it go at
that. This circle was the stage, I guess. The kings an' the nobility sat
in Flora's Temple. I forget who sculped these statues at the door.
They're the Comic and Tragic Muse. But it's a sightly view, ain't it?'

The sunlight was leaving the park. I caught a glint of silver to the
southward beyond the wooded ridge.

'That's the ocean--the Channel, I mean,' said Zigler. 'It's twenty-three
miles as a man flies. A sightly view, ain't it?'

I looked at the severe yews, the dumb yelling mouths of the two statues,
at the blue-green shadows on the unsunned grass, and at the still bright
plain in front where some deer were feeding.

'It's a most dramatic contrast, but I think it would be better on a
summer's day,' I said, and we went on, up one of the noiseless rides, a
quarter of a mile at least, till we came to the porticoed front of an
enormous Georgian pile. Four footmen revealed themselves in a hall hung
with pictures.

'I hired this off of my Lord Marshalton,' Zigler explained, while they
helped us out of our coats under the severe eyes of ruffed and
periwigged ancestors. 'Ya-as. They always look at _me_ too, as if I'd
blown in from the gutter. Which, of course, I have. That's Mary, Lady
Marshalton. Old man Joshua painted her. Do you see any likeness to my
Lord Marshalton? Why, haven't you ever met up with him? He was Captain
Mankeltow--my Royal British Artillery captain that blew up my gun in the
war, an' then tried to bury me against my religious principles[4].
Ya-as. His father died and he got the lordship. That was about all he
got by the time that your British death-duties were through with him. So
he said I'd oblige him by hiring his ranch. It's a hell an' a half of a
proposition to handle, but Tommy--Mrs. Laughton--understands it. Come
right in to the parlour and be very welcome.'

[Footnote 4: "The Captive": _Traffics and Discoveries_.]

He guided me, hand on shoulder, into a babble of high-pitched talk and
laughter that filled a vast drawing-room. He introduced me as the
founder of the family fortunes to a little, lithe, dark-eyed woman whose
speech and greeting were of the soft-lipped South. She in turn presented
me to her mother, a black-browed snowy-haired old lady with a cap of
priceless Venetian point, hands that must have held many hearts in their
time, and a dignity as unquestioned and unquestioning as an empress. She
was, indeed, a Burton of Savannah, who, on their own ground, out-rank
the Lees of Virginia. The rest of the company came from Buffalo,
Cincinnati, Cleveland and Chicago, with here and there a softening
southern strain. A party of young folk popped corn beneath a mantelpiece
surmounted by a Gainsborough. Two portly men, half hidden by a cased
harp, discussed, over sheaves of typewritten documents, the terms of
some contract. A knot of matrons talked servants--Irish _versus_
German--across the grand piano. A youth ravaged an old bookcase, while
beside him a tall girl stared at the portrait of a woman of many loves,
dead three hundred years, but now leaping to life and warning under the
shaded frame-light. In a corner half-a-dozen girls examined the glazed
tables that held the decorations--English and foreign--of the late Lord

'See heah! Would this be the Ordeh of the Gyartah?' one said, pointing.

'I presoom likely. No! The Garter has "_Honey swore_"--I know that much.
This is "Tria juncta" something.'

'Oh, what's that cunning little copper cross with "For Valurr"?' a third

'Say! Look at here!' said the young man at the bookcase. 'Here's a first
edition of _Handley Cross_ and a Beewick's _Birds_ right next to
it--just like so many best sellers. Look, Maidie!'

The girl beneath the picture half turned her body but not her eyes.

'You don't tell _me_!' she said slowly. 'Their women amounted to
something after all.'

'But Woman's scope, and outlook was vurry limmutted in those days,' one
of the matrons put in, from the piano.

'Limmutted? For _her_? If they whurr, I guess she was the limmut. Who
was she? Peters, whurr's the cat'log?'

A thin butler, in charge of two footmen removing the tea-batteries, slid
to a table and handed her a blue-and-qilt book. He was button-holed by
one of the men behind the harp, who wished to get a telephone call
through to Edinburgh.

'The local office shuts at six,' said Peters. 'But I can get through
to'--he named some town--'in ten minutes, sir.'

'That suits me. You'll find me here when you've hitched up. Oh, say,
Peters! We--Mister Olpherts an' me--ain't goin' by that early morning
train to-morrow--but the other one--on the other line--whatever
they call it.'

'The nine twenty-seven, sir. Yes, sir. Early breakfast will be at
half-past eight and the car will be at the door at nine.'

'Peters!' an imperious young voice called. 'What's the matteh with Lord
Marshalton's Ordeh of the Gyartah? We cyan't find it anyweah.'

'Well, miss, I _have_ heard that that Order is usually returned to His
Majesty on the death of the holder. Yes, miss.' Then in a whisper to a
footman, 'More butter for the pop-corn in King Charles's Corner.' He
stopped behind my chair. 'Your room is Number Eleven, sir. May I trouble
you for your keys?'

He left the room with a six-year-old maiden called Alice who had
announced she would not go to bed ''less Peter, Peter, Punkin-eater
takes me--so there!'

He very kindly looked in on me for a moment as I was dressing for
dinner. 'Not at all, sir,' he replied to some compliment I paid him. 'I
valeted the late Lord Marshalton for fifteen years. He was very abrupt
in his movements, sir. As a rule I never received more than an hour's
notice of a journey. We used to go to Syria frequently. I have been
twice to Babylon. Mr. and Mrs. Zigler's requirements are, comparatively
speaking, few.'

'But the guests?'

'Very little out of the ordinary as soon as one knows their ordinaries.
Extremely simple, if I may say so, sir.'

I had the privilege of taking Mrs. Burton in to dinner, and was rewarded
with an entirely new, and to me rather shocking view, of Abraham
Lincoln, who, she said, had wasted the heritage of his land by blood and
fire, and had surrendered the remnant to aliens. 'My brother, suh,' she
said, 'fell at Gettysburg in order that Armenians should colonise New
England to-day. If I took any interest in any dam-Yankee outside of my
son-in-law Laughton yondah, I should say that my brother's death had
been amply avenged.'

The man at her right took up the challenge, and the war spread. Her eyes
twinkled over the flames she had lit.

'Don't these folk,' she said a little later, 'remind you of Arabs
picnicking under the Pyramids?'

'I've never seen the Pyramids,' I replied.

'Hm! I didn't know you were as English as all that.' And when I laughed,
'Are you?'

'Always. It saves trouble.'

'Now that's just what I find so significant among the English'--this was
Alice's mother, I think, with one elbow well forward among the salted
almonds. 'Oh, I know how _you_ feel, Madam Burton, but a Northerner
like myself--I'm Buffalo--even though we come over every year--notices
the desire for comfort in England. There's so little conflict or uplift
in British society.'

'But we like being comfortable,' I said.

'I know it. It's very characteristic. But ain't it a little, just a
little, lacking in adaptability an' imagination?'

'They haven't any need for adaptability,' Madam Burton struck in. 'They
haven't any Ellis Island standards to live up to.'

'But we can assimilate,' the Buffalo woman charged on.

'Now you _have_ done it!' I whispered to the old lady as the blessed
word 'assimilation' woke up all the old arguments for and against.

There was not a dull moment in that dinner for me--nor afterwards when
the boys and girls at the piano played the rag-time tunes of their own
land, while their elders, inexhaustibly interested, replunged into the
discussion of that land's future, till there was talk of coon-can. When
all the company had been set to tables Zigler led me into his book-lined
study, where I noticed he kept his golf-clubs, and spoke simply as a
child, gravely as a bishop, of the years that were past since our
last meeting.

'That's about all, I guess--up to date,' he said when he had unrolled
the bright map of his fortunes across three continents. 'Bein' rich
suits me. So does your country, sir. My own country? You heard what
that Detroit man said at dinner. "A Government of the alien, by the
alien, for the alien." Mother's right, too. Lincoln killed us. From the
highest motives--but he killed us. Oh, say, that reminds me. 'J'ever
kill a man from the highest motives?'

'Not from any motive--as far as I remember.'

'Well, I have. It don't weigh on my mind any, but it was interesting.
Life _is_ interesting for a rich--for any--man in England. Ya-as! Life
in England is like settin' in the front row at the theatre and never
knowin' when the whole blame drama won't spill itself into your lap. I
didn't always know that. I lie abed now, and I blush to think of some of
the breaks I made in South Africa. About the British. Not your official
method of doin' business. But the Spirit. I was 'way, 'way off on the
Spirit. Are you acquainted with any other country where you'd have to
kill a man or two to get at the National Spirit?'

'Well,' I answered, 'next to marrying one of its women, killing one of
its men makes for pretty close intimacy with any country. I take it you
killed a British citizen.'

'Why, no. Our syndicate confined its operations to aliens--dam-fool
aliens.... 'J'ever know an English lord called Lundie[5]? Looks like a
frame-food and soap advertisement. I imagine he was in your Supreme
Court before he came into his lordship.'

[Footnote 5: 'The Puzzler': _Actions and Reactions_.]

'He is a lawyer--what we call a Law Lord--a Judge of Appeal--not a real
hereditary lord.'

'That's as much beyond me as _this_!' Zigler slapped a fat Debrett on
the table. 'But I presoom this unreal Law Lord Lundie is kind o' real in
his decisions? I judged so. And--one more question. 'Ever meet a man
called Walen?'

'D'you mean Burton-Walen, the editor of--?' I mentioned the journal.

'That's him. 'Looks like a tough, talks like a Maxim, and trains with

'He does,' I said. 'Burton-Walen knows all the crowned heads of Europe
intimately. It's his hobby.'

'Well, there's the whole outfit for you--exceptin' my Lord Marshalton,
_n้_ Mankeltow, an' me. All active murderers--specially the Law Lord--or
accessories after the fact. And what do they hand you out for _that_, in
this country?'

'Twenty years, I believe,' was my reply.

He reflected a moment.

'No-o-o,' he said, and followed it with a smoke-ring. 'Twenty months at
the Cape is my limit. Say, murder ain't the soul-shatterin' event those
nature-fakers in the magazines make out. It develops naturally like any
other proposition.... Say, 'j'ever play this golf game? It's come up in
the States from Maine to California, an' we're prodoocin' all the
champions in sight. Not a business man's play, but interestin'. I've got
a golf-links in the park here that they tell me is the finest inland
course ever. I had to pay extra for that when I hired the ranche--last
year. It was just before I signed the papers that our murder
eventuated. My Lord Marshalton he asked me down for the week-end to fix
up something or other--about Peters and the linen, I think 'twas. Mrs.
Zigler took a holt of the proposition. She understood Peters from the
word "go." There wasn't any house-party; only fifteen or twenty folk. A
full house is thirty-two, Tommy tells me. 'Guess we must be near on that
to-night. In the smoking-room here, my Lord Marshalton--Mankeltow that
was--introduces me to this Walen man with the nose. He'd been in the War
too, from start to finish. He knew all the columns and generals that I'd
battled with in the days of my Zigler gun. We kinder fell into each
other's arms an' let the harsh world go by for a while.

'Walen he introduces me to your Lord Lundie. _He_ was a new proposition
to me. If he hadn't been a lawyer he'd have made a lovely cattle-king. I
thought I had played poker some. Another of my breaks. Ya-as! It cost me
eleven hundred dollars besides what Tommy said when I retired. I have no
fault to find with your hereditary aristocracy, or your judiciary, or
your press.

'Sunday we all went to Church across the Park here.... Psha! Think o'
your rememberin' my religion! I've become an Episcopalian since I
married. Ya-as.... After lunch Walen did his crowned-heads-of-Europe
stunt in the smokin'-room here. He was long on Kings. And Continental
crises. I do not pretend to follow British domestic politics, but in the
aeroplane business a man has to know something of international
possibilities. At present, you British are settin' in kimonoes on
dynamite kegs. Walen's talk put me wise on the location and size of some
of the kegs. Ya-as!

'After that, we four went out to look at those golf-links I was hirin'.
We each took a club. Mine'--he glanced at a great tan bag by the
fire-place--'was the beginner's friend--the cleek. Well, sir, this golf
proposition took a holt of me as quick as--quick as death. They had to
prise me off the greens when it got too dark to see, and then we went
back to the house. I was walkin' ahead with my Lord Marshalton talkin'
beginners' golf. (_I_ was the man who ought to have been killed by
rights.) We cut 'cross lots through the woods to Flora's Temple--that
place I showed you this afternoon. Lundie and Walen were, maybe, twenty
or thirty rod behind us in the dark. Marshalton and I stopped at the
theatre to admire at the ancestral yew-trees. He took me right under the
biggest--King Somebody's Yew--and while I was spannin' it with my
handkerchief, he says, "Look heah!" just as if it was a rabbit--and down
comes a bi-plane into the theatre with no more noise than the dead. My
Rush Silencer is the only one on the market that allows that sort of
gumshoe work.... What? A bi-plane--with two men in it. Both men jump out
and start fussin' with the engines. I was starting to tell Mankeltow--I
can't remember to call him Marshalton any more--that it looked as if the
Royal British Flying Corps had got on to my Rush Silencer at last; but
he steps out from under the yew to these two Stealthy Steves and says,
"What's the trouble? Can I be of any service?" He thought--so did
I--'twas some of the boys from Aldershot or Salisbury. Well, sir, from
there on, the situation developed like a motion-picture in Hell. The man
on the nigh side of the machine whirls round, pulls his gun and fires
into Mankeltow's face. I laid him out with my cleek automatically. Any
one who shoots a friend of mine gets what's comin' to him if I'm within
reach. He drops. Mankeltow rubs his neck with his handkerchief. The man
the far side of the machine starts to run. Lundie down the ride, or it
might have been Walen, shouts, "What's happened?" Mankeltow says,
"Collar that chap."

'The second man runs ring-a-ring-o'-roses round the machine, one hand
reachin' behind him. Mankeltow heads him off to me. He breaks blind for
Walen and Lundie, who are runnin' up the ride. There's some sort of
mix-up among 'em, which it's too dark to see, and a thud. Walen says,
"Oh, well collared!" Lundie says, "That's the only thing I never learned
at Harrow!"... Mankeltow runs up to 'em, still rubbin' his neck, and
says, "_He_ didn't fire at me. It was the other chap. Where is he?"

'"I've stretched him alongside his machine," I says.

'"Are they poachers?" says Lundie.

'"No. Airmen. I can't make it out," says Mankeltow.

'"Look at here," says Walen, kind of brusque. "This man ain't breathin'
at all. Didn't you hear somethin' crack when he lit, Lundie?"

'"My God!" says Lundie. "Did I? I thought it was my suspenders"--no, he
said "braces."

'Right there I left them and sort o' tiptoed back to my man, hopin' he'd
revived and quit. But he hadn't. That darned cleek had hit him on the
back of the neck just where his helmet stopped. He'd got _his_. I knew
it by the way the head rolled in my hands. Then the others came up the
ride totin' _their_ load. No mistakin' that shuffle on grass. D'you
remember it--in South Africa? Ya-as.

'"Hsh!" says Lundie. "Do you know I've broken this man's neck?"

'"Same here," I says.

'"What? Both?" says Mankeltow.

'"Nonsense!" says Lord Lundie. "Who'd have thought he was that out of
training? A man oughtn't to fly if he ain't fit."

'"What did they want here, anyway?" said Walen; and Mankeltow says, "We
can't leave them in the open. Some one'll come. Carry 'em to
Flora's Temple."

We toted 'em again and laid 'em out on a stone bench. They were still
dead in spite of our best attentions. We knew it, but we went through
the motions till it was quite dark. 'Wonder if all murderers do that?
"We want a light on this," says Walen after a spell. "There ought to be
one in the machine. Why didn't they light it?"

'We came out of Flora's Temple, and shut the doors behind us. Some
stars were showing then--same as when Cain did his little act, I guess.
I climbed up and searched the machine. She was very well equipped, I
found two electric torches in clips alongside her barometers by the
rear seat.

'"What make is she?" says Mankeltow.

'"Continental Renzalaer," I says. "My engines and my Rush Silencer."

'Walen whistles. "Here--let me look," he says, and grabs the other
torch. She was sure well equipped. We gathered up an armful of cameras
an' maps an' note-books an' an album of mounted photographs which we
took to Flora's Temple and spread on a marble-topped table (I'll show
you to-morrow) which the King of Naples had presented to grandfather
Marshalton. Walen starts to go through 'em. We wanted to know why our
friends had been so prejudiced against our society.

'"Wait a minute," says Lord Lundie. "Lend me a handkerchief."

'He pulls out his own, and Walen contributes his green-and-red bandanna,
and Lundie covers their faces. "Now," he says, "we'll go into the

'There wasn't any flaw in that evidence. Walen read out their last
observations, and Mankeltow asked questions, and Lord Lundie sort o'
summarised, and I looked at the photos in the album. 'J'ever see a
bird's-eye telephoto-survey of England for military purposes? It's
interestin' but indecent--like turnin' a man upside down. None of those
close-range panoramas of forts could have been taken without my
Rush Silencer.

'"I wish _we_ was as thorough as they are," says Mankeltow, when Walen
stopped translatin'.

'"We've been thorough enough," says Lord Lundie. "The evidence against
both accused is conclusive. Any other country would give 'em seven years
in a fortress. We should probably give 'em eighteen months as
first-class misdemeanants. But their case," he says, "is out of our
hands. We must review our own. Mr. Zigler," he said, "will you tell us
what steps you took to bring about the death of the first accused?" I
told him. He wanted to know specially whether I'd stretched first
accused before or after he had fired at Mankeltow. Mankeltow testified
he'd been shot at, and exhibited his neck as evidence. It was scorched.

'"Now, Mr. Walen," says Lord Lundie. "Will you kindly tell us what steps
you took with regard to the second accused?"

'"The man ran directly at me, me lord," says Walen. "I said, 'Oh no, you
don't,' and hit him in the face."

'Lord Lundie lifts one hand and uncovers second accused's face. There
was a bruise on one cheek and the chin was all greened with grass. He
was a heavy-built man.

'"What happened after that?" says Lord Lundie.

'"To the best of my remembrance he turned from me towards your

'Then Lundie goes ahead. "I stooped, and caught the man round the
ankles," he says. "The sudden check threw him partially over my left
shoulder. I jerked him off that shoulder, still holding his ankles, and
he fell heavily on, it would appear, the point of his chin, death being

'"Death being instantaneous," says Walen.

'Lord Lundie takes off his gown and wig--you could see him do it--and
becomes our fellow-murderer. "That's our case," he says. "I know how _I_
should direct the jury, but it's an undignified business for a Lord of
Appeal to lift his hand to, and some of my learned brothers," he says,
"might be disposed to be facetious."

'I guess I can't be properly sensitised. Any one who steered me out of
that trouble might have had the laugh on me for generations. But I'm
only a millionaire. I said we'd better search second accused in case
he'd been carryin' concealed weapons.

'"That certainly is a point," says Lord Lundie. "But the question for
the jury would be whether I exercised more force than was necessary to
prevent him from usin' them." _I_ didn't say anything. He wasn't talkin'
my language. Second accused had his gun on him sure enough, but it had
jammed in his hip-pocket. He was too fleshy to reach behind for business
purposes, and he didn't look a gun-man anyway. Both of 'em carried wads
of private letters. By the time Walen had translated, we knew how many
children the fat one had at home and when the thin one reckoned to be
married. Too bad! Ya-as.

'Says Walen to me while we was rebuttonin' their jackets (they was not
in uniform): "Ever read a book called _The Wreckers_, Mr. Zigler?"

'"Not that I recall at the present moment," I says.

'"Well, do," he says. "You'd appreciate it. You'd appreciate it now, I
assure you."

'"I'll remember," I says. "But I don't see how this song and dance helps
us any. Here's our corpses, here's their machine, and daylight's
bound to come."

'"Heavens! That reminds me," says Lundie. "What time's dinner?"

'"Half-past eight," says Mankeltow. "It's half-past five now. We knocked
off golf at twenty to, and if they hadn't been such silly asses, firin'
pistols like civilians, we'd have had them to dinner. Why, they might be
sitting with us in the smoking-room this very minute," he says. Then he
said that no man had a right to take his profession so seriously as
these two mountebanks.

'"How interestin'!" says Lundie. "I've noticed this impatient attitude
toward their victim in a good many murderers. I never understood it
before. Of course, it's the disposal of the body that annoys 'em. Now, I
wonder," he says, "who our case will come up before? Let's run through
it again."

'Then Walen whirls in. He'd been bitin' his nails in a corner. We was
all nerved up by now.... Me? The worst of the bunch. I had to think for
Tommy as well.

'"We _can't_ be tried," says Walen. "We _mustn't_ be tried! It'll make
an infernal international stink. What did I tell you in the smoking-room
after lunch? The tension's at breaking-point already. This 'ud snap it.
Can't you see that?"

'"I was thinking of the legal aspect of the case," says Lundie. "With a
good jury we'd likely be acquitted."

'"Acquitted!" says Walen. "Who'd dare acquit us in the face of what 'ud
be demanded by--the other party? Did you ever hear of the War of
Jenkins' ear? 'Ever hear of Mason and Slidel? 'Ever hear of an
ultimatum? You know who _these_ two idiots are; you know who _we_ are--a
Lord of Appeal, a Viscount of the English peerage, and me--_me_ knowing
all I know, which the men who know dam' well know that I _do_ know! It's
our necks or Armageddon. Which do you think this Government would
choose? We _can't_ be tried!" he says.

'"Then I expect I'll have to resign me club," Lundie goes on. "I don't
think that's ever been done before by an _ex-officio_ member. I must ask
the secretary." I guess he was kinder bunkered for the minute, or maybe
'twas the lordship comin' out on him.

'"Rot!" says Mankeltow. "Walen's right. We can't afford to be tried.
We'll have to bury them; but my head-gardener locks up all the tools at
five o'clock."

'"Not on your life!" says Lundie. He was on deck again--as the
high-class lawyer. "Right or wrong, if we attempt concealment of the
bodies we're done for."

"'I'm glad of that," says Mankeltow, "because, after all, it ain't
cricket to bury 'em."

'Somehow--but I know I ain't English--that consideration didn't worry
me as it ought. An' besides, I was thinkin'--I had to--an' I'd begun to
see a light 'way off--a little glimmerin' light o' salvation.

'"Then what _are_ we to do?" says Walen. "Zigler, what do you advise?
Your neck's in it too."

'"Gentlemen," I says, "something Lord Lundie let fall a while back gives
me an idea. I move that this committee empowers Big Claus and Little
Claus, who have elected to commit suicide in our midst, to leave the
premises _as_ they came. I'm asking you to take big chances," I says,
"but they're all we've got," and then I broke for the bi-plane.

'Don't tell me the English can't think as quick as the next man when
it's up to them! They lifted 'em out o' Flora's Temple--reverent, but
not wastin' time--whilst I found out what had brought her down. One
cylinder was misfirin'. I didn't stop to fix it. My Renzalaer will hold
up on six. We've proved that. If her crew had relied on my guarantees,
they'd have been half-way home by then, instead of takin' their seats
with hangin' heads like they was ashamed. They ought to have been
ashamed too, playin' gun-men in a British peer's park! I took big
chances startin' her without controls, but 'twas a dead still night an'
a clear run--you saw it--across the Theatre into the park, and I prayed
she'd rise before she hit high timber. I set her all I dared for a quick
lift. I told Mankeltow that if I gave her too much nose she'd be liable
to up-end and flop. He didn't want another inquest on his estate. No,
sir! So I had to fix her up in the dark. Ya-as!

'I took big chances, too, while those other three held on to her and I
worked her up to full power. My Renzalaer's no ventilation-fan to pull
against. But I climbed out just in time. I'd hitched the signallin' lamp
to her tail so's we could track her. Otherwise, with my Rush Silencer,
we might's well have shooed an owl out of a barn. She left just that way
when we let her go. No sound except the propellers--_Whoo-oo-oo!
Whoo-oo-oo!_ There was a dip in the ground ahead. It hid her lamp for a
second--but there's no such thing as time in real life. Then that lamp
travelled up the far slope slow--too slow. Then it kinder lifted, we
judged. Then it sure was liftin'. Then it lifted good. D'you know why?
Our four naked perspirin' souls was out there underneath her, hikin' her
heavens high. Yes, sir. _We_ did it!... And that lamp kept liftin' and
liftin'. Then she side-slipped! My God, she side-slipped twice, which
was what I'd been afraid of all along! Then she straightened up, and
went away climbin' to glory, for that blessed star of our hope got
smaller and smaller till we couldn't track it any more. Then we
breathed. We hadn't breathed any since their arrival, but we didn't know
it till we breathed that time--all together. Then we dug our
finger-nails out of our palms an' came alive again--in instalments.

'Lundie spoke first. "We therefore commit their bodies to the air," he
says, an' puts his cap on.

'"The deep--the deep," says Walen. "It's just twenty-three miles to the

'"Poor chaps! Poor chaps!" says Mankeltow. "We'd have had 'em to dinner
if they hadn't lost their heads. I can't tell you how this distresses
me, Laughton."

'"Well, look at here, Arthur," I says. "It's only God's Own Mercy you
an' me ain't lyin' in Flora's Temple now, and if that fat man had known
enough to fetch his gun around while he was runnin', Lord Lundie and
Walen would have been alongside us."

'"I see that," he says. "But we're alive and they're dead, don't ye

'"I know it," I says. "That's where the dead are always so damned unfair
on the survivors."

'"I see that too," he says. "But I'd have given a good deal if it hadn't
happened, poor chaps!"

'"Amen!" says Lundie. Then? Oh, then we sorter walked back two an' two
to Flora's Temple an' lit matches to see we hadn't left anything behind.
Walen, he had confiscated the note-books before they left. There was the
first man's pistol which we'd forgot to return him, lyin' on the stone
bench. Mankeltow puts his hand on it--he never touched the trigger--an',
bein' an automatic, of course the blame thing jarred off--spiteful as
a rattler!

'"Look out! They'll have one of us yet," says Walen in the dark. But
they didn't--the Lord hadn't quit being our shepherd--and we heard the
bullet zip across the veldt--quite like old times. Ya-as!

'"Swine!" says Mankeltow.

'After that I didn't hear any more "Poor chap" talk.... Me? I never
worried about killing _my_ man. I was too busy figurin' how a British
jury might regard the proposition. I guess Lundie felt that way too.

'Oh, but say! We had an interestin' time at dinner. Folks was expected
whose auto had hung up on the road. They hadn't wired, and Peters had
laid two extra places. We noticed 'em as soon as we sat down. I'd hate
to say how noticeable they were. Mankeltow with his neck bandaged (he'd
caught a relaxed throat golfin') sent for Peters and told him to take
those empty places away--_if you please_. It takes something to rattle
Peters. He was rattled that time. Nobody else noticed anything.
And now...'

'Where did they come down?' I asked, as he rose.

'In the Channel, I guess. There was nothing in the papers about 'em.
Shall we go into the drawin'-room, and see what these boys and girls are
doin?' But say, ain't life in England inter_es_tin'?


If any God should say
"I will restore
The world her yesterday
Whole as before
My Judgment blasted it"--who would not lift
Heart, eye, and hand in passion o'er the gift?

If any God should will
To wipe from mind
The memory of this ill
Which is mankind
In soul and substance now--who would not bless
Even to tears His loving-tenderness?

If any God should give
Us leave to fly
These present deaths we live,
And safely die
In those lost lives we lived ere we were born--
What man but would not laugh the excuse to scorn?

For we are what we are--
So broke to blood
And the strict works of war--
So long subdued
To sacrifice, that threadbare Death commands
Hardly observance at our busier hands.

Yet we were what we were,
And, fashioned so,
It pleases us to stare
At the far show
Of unbelievable years and shapes that flit,
In our own likeness, on the edge of it.

Rudyard Kipling

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