I returned to France on 13 September, and took over my old brigade on the 19t_f the same month. We were shoved in at the Polygon Wood on the 26th, an_fter four days got so badly mauled that we were brought out to refit. On _ctober, very much to my surprise, I was given command of a division and wa_n the fringes of the Ypres fighting during the first days of November. Fro_hat front we were hurried down to Cambrai in support, but came in only fo_he last backwash of that singular battle. We held a bit of the St Quenti_ector till just before Christmas, when we had a spell of rest in billets, which endured, so far as I was concerned, till the beginning of January, whe_ was sent off on the errand which I shall presently relate.
That is a brief summary of my military record in the latter part of 1917. I a_ot going to enlarge on the fighting. Except for the days of the Polygon Woo_t was neither very severe nor very distinguished, and you will find it in th_istory books. What I have to tell of here is my own personal quest, for al_he time I was living with my mind turned two ways. In the morasses of th_aanebeek flats, in the slimy support lines at Zonnebeke, in the torture_plands about Flesquieres, and in many other odd places I kept worrying at m_rivate conundrum. At night I would lie awake thinking of it, and many a tos_ took into shell-holes and many a time I stepped off the duckboards, becaus_y eyes were on a different landscape. Nobody ever chewed a few wretched clue_nto such a pulp as I did during those bleak months in Flanders and Picardy.
For I had an instinct that the thing was desperately grave, graver even tha_he battle before me. Russia had gone headlong to the devil, Italy had take_t between the eyes and was still dizzy, and our own prospects were none to_right. The Boche was getting uppish and with some cause, and I foresaw _ocky time ahead till America could line up with us in the field. It was th_hance for the Wild Birds, and I used to wake in a sweat to think what devilr_very might be engineering. I believe I did my proper job reasonably well, bu_ put in my most savage thinking over the other. I remember how I used to g_ver every hour of every day from that June night in the Cotswolds till m_ast meeting with Bullivant in London, trying to find a new bearing. I shoul_robably have got brain-fever, if I hadn't had to spend most of my days an_ights fighting a stiffish battle with a very watchful Hun. That kept my min_alanced, and I dare say it gave an edge to it; for during those months I wa_ucky enough to hit on a better scent than Bullivant and Macgillivray an_lenkiron, pulling a thousand wires in their London offices.
I will set down in order of time the various incidents in this private ques_f mine. The first was my meeting with Geordie Hamilton. It happened jus_fter I rejoined the brigade, when I went down to have a look at our Scot_usilier battalion. The old brigade had been roughly handled on 31st July, an_ad had to get heavy drafts to come anywhere near strength. The Fusilier_specially were almost a new lot, formed by joining our remnants to th_emains of a battalion in another division and bringing about a dozen officer_rom the training unit at home.
I inspected the men and my eyes caught sight of a familiar face. I asked hi_ame and the colonel got it from the sergeant-major. It was Lance-Corpora_eorge Hamilton.
Now I wanted a new batman, and I resolved then and there to have my ol_ntagonist. That afternoon he reported to me at brigade headquarters. As _ooked at that solid bandy-legged figure, standing as stiff to attention as _obacconist's sign, his ugly face hewn out of brown oak, his honest, sulle_outh, and his blue eyes staring into vacancy, I knew I had got the man _anted.
'Hamilton,' I said, 'you and I have met before.'
'Sirr?' came the mystified answer.
'Look at me, man, and tell me if you don't recognize me.'
He moved his eyes a fraction, in a respectful glance.
'Sirr, I don't mind of you.'
'Well, I'll refresh your memory. Do you remember the hall in Newmilns Stree_nd the meeting there? You had a fight with a man outside, and got knocke_own.'
He made no answer, but his colour deepened.
'And a fortnight later in a public-house in Muirtown you saw the same man, an_ave him the chase of his life.'
I could see his mouth set, for visions of the penalties laid down by th_ing's Regulations for striking an officer must have crossed his mind. But h_ever budged.
'Look me in the face, man,' I said. 'Do you remember me now?'
He did as he was bid.
'Sirr, I mind of you.'
'Have you nothing more to say?'
He cleared his throat. 'Sirr, I did not ken I was hittin' an officer.'
'Of course you didn't. You did perfectly right, and if the war was over and w_ere both free men, I would give you a chance of knocking me down here an_ow. That's got to wait. When you saw me last I was serving my country, thoug_ou didn't know it. We're serving together now, and you must get your reveng_ut of the Boche. I'm going to make you my servant, for you and I have _retty close bond between us. What do you say to that?'
This time he looked me full in the face. His troubled eye appraised me and wa_atisfied. 'I'm proud to be servant to ye, sirr,' he said. Then out of hi_hest came a strangled chuckle, and he forgot his discipline. 'Losh, but ye'r_he great lad!' He recovered himself promptly, saluted, and marched off.
* * * * *
The second episode befell during our brief rest after the Polygon Wood, when _ad ridden down the line one afternoon to see a friend in the Heavy Artillery.
I was returning in the drizzle of evening, clanking along the greasy pat_etween the sad poplars, when I struck a Labour company repairing the ravage_f a Boche strafe that morning. I wasn't very certain of my road and asked on_f the workers. He straightened himself and saluted, and I saw beneath _isreputable cap the features of the man who had been with me in the Cooli_revice.
I spoke a word to his sergeant, who fell him out, and he walked a bit of th_ay with me.
'Great Scot, Wake, what brought you here?' I asked.
'Same thing as brought you. This rotten war.'
I had dismounted and was walking beside him, and I noticed that his lean fac_ad lost its pallor and that his eyes were less hot than they used to be.
'You seem to thrive on it,' I said, for I did not know what to say. A sudde_hyness possessed me. Wake must have gone through some violent cyclones o_eeling before it came to this. He saw what I was thinking and laughed in hi_harp, ironical way.
'Don't flatter yourself you've made a convert. I think as I always thought.
But I came to the conclusion that since the fates had made me a Governmen_ervant I might as well do my work somewhere less cushioned than a chair i_he Home Office … Oh, no, it wasn't a matter of principle. One kind of work'_s good as another, and I'm a better clerk than a navvy. With me it was self- indulgence: I wanted fresh air and exercise.'
I looked at him—mud to the waist, and his hands all blistered and cut wit_naccustomed labour. I could realize what his associates must mean to him, an_ow he would relish the rough tonguing of non-coms.
'You're a confounded humbug,' I said. 'Why on earth didn't you go into a_.T.C. and come out with a commission? They're easy enough to get.'
'You mistake my case,' he said bitterly. 'I experienced no sudden convictio_bout the justice of the war. I stand where I always stood. I'm a non- combatant, and I wanted a change of civilian work … No, it wasn't any idioti_ribunal sent me here. I came of my own free will, and I'm really rathe_njoying myself.'
'It's a rough job for a man like you,' I said.
'Not so rough as the fellows get in the trenches. I watched a battalio_arching back today and they looked like ghosts who had been years in mudd_raves. White faces and dazed eyes and leaden feet. Mine's a cushy job. I lik_t best when the weather's foul. It cheats me into thinking I'm doing m_uty.'
I nodded towards a recent shell-hole. 'Much of that sort of thing?'
'Now and then. We had a good dusting this morning. I can't say I liked it a_he time, but I like to look back on it. A sort of moral anodyne.'
'I wonder what on earth the rest of your lot make of you?'
'They don't make anything. I'm not remarkable for my bonhomie. They think I'_ prig—which I am. It doesn't amuse me to talk about beer and women or liste_o a gramophone or grouse about my last meal. But I'm quite content, than_ou. Sometimes I get a seat in a corner of a Y.M.C.A. hut, and I've a book o_wo. My chief affliction is the padre. He was up at Keble in my time, and, a_ne of my colleagues puts it, wants to be "too bloody helpful"… . What are yo_oing, Hannay? I see you're some kind of general. They're pretty thick on th_round here.'
'I'm a sort of general. Soldiering in the Salient isn't the softest of jobs, but I don't believe it's as tough as yours is for you. D'you know, Wake, _ish I had you in my brigade. Trained or untrained, you're a dashed stout- hearted fellow.'
He laughed with a trifle less acidity than usual. 'Almost thou persuadest m_o be combatant. No, thank you. I haven't the courage, and besides there's m_olly old principles. All the same I'd like to be near you. You're a goo_hap, and I've had the honour to assist in your education … I must be gettin_ack, or the sergeant will think I've bolted.'
We shook hands, and the last I saw of him was a figure saluting stiffly in th_et twilight.
* * * * *
The third incident was trivial enough, though momentous in its results. Jus_efore I got the division I had a bout of malaria. We were in support in th_alient, in very uncomfortable trenches behind Wieltje, and I spent three day_n my back in a dug-out. Outside was a blizzard of rain, and the water now an_hen came down the stairs through the gas curtain and stood in pools at my be_oot. It wasn't the merriest place to convalesce in, but I was as hard a_ails at the time and by the third day I was beginning to sit up and be bored.
I read all my English papers twice and a big stack of German ones which I use_o have sent up by a friend in the G.H.Q. Intelligence, who knew I liked t_ollow what the Boche was saying. As I dozed and ruminated in the way a ma_oes after fever, I was struck by the tremendous display of one advertisemen_n the English press. It was a thing called 'Gussiter's Deep-breathin_ystem,' which, according to its promoter, was a cure for every ill, mental, moral, or physical, that man can suffer. Politicians, generals, admirals, an_usic-hall artists all testified to the new life it had opened up for them. _emember wondering what these sportsmen got for their testimonies, an_hinking I would write a spoof letter myself to old Gussiter.
Then I picked up the German papers, and suddenly my eye caught a_dvertisement of the same kind in the Frankfurter Zeitung. It was not Gussite_his time, but one Weissmann, but his game was identical—'deep breathing'. Th_un style was different from the English—all about the Goddess of Health, an_he Nymphs of the Mountains, and two quotations from Schiller. But th_rinciple was the same.
That made me ponder a little, and I went carefully through the whole batch. _ound the advertisement in the Frankfurter and in one or two rather obscur_olkstimmes and Volkszeitungs. I found it too in Der Grosse Krieg, th_fficial German propagandist picture- paper. They were the same all but one, and that one had a bold variation, for it contained four of the sentences use_n the ordinary English advertisement.
This struck me as fishy, and I started to write a letter to Macgillivra_ointing out what seemed to be a case of trading with the enemy, and advisin_im to get on to Mr Gussiter's financial backing. I thought he might find _un syndicate behind him. And then I had another notion, which made me rewrit_y letter.
I went through the papers again. The English ones which contained th_dvertisement were all good, solid, bellicose organs; the kind of thing n_ensorship would object to leaving the country. I had before me a small shea_f pacifist prints, and they had not the advertisement. That might be fo_easons of circulation, or it might not. The German papers were either Radica_r Socialist publications, just the opposite of the English lot, except th_rosse Krieg. Now we have a free press, and Germany has, strictly speaking, none. All her journalistic indiscretions are calculated. Therefore the Boch_as no objection to his rags getting to enemy countries. He wants it. He like_o see them quoted in columns headed 'Through German Glasses', and made th_ext of articles showing what a good democrat he is becoming.
As I puzzled over the subject, certain conclusions began to form in my mind.
The four identical sentences seemed to hint that 'Deep Breathing' had Boch_ffiliations. Here was a chance of communicating with the enemy which woul_efy the argus-eyed gentlemen who examine the mails. What was to hinder Mr _t one end writing an advertisement with a good cipher in it, and the pape_ontaining it getting into Germany by Holland in three days? Herr B at th_ther end replied in the Frankfurter, and a few days later shrewd editors an_cute Intelligence officers—and Mr A—were reading it in London, though only M_ knew what it really meant.
It struck me as a bright idea, the sort of simple thing that doesn't occur t_lever people, and very rarely to the Boche. I wished I was not in the middl_f a battle, for I would have had a try at investigating the cipher myself. _rote a long letter to Macgillivray putting my case, and then went to sleep.
When I awoke I reflected that it was a pretty thin argument, and would hav_topped the letter, if it hadn't gone off early by a ration party.
* * * * *
After that things began very slowly to happen. The first was when Hamilton, having gone to Boulogne to fetch some mess-stores, returned with the startlin_ews that he had seen Gresson. He had not heard his name, but described hi_ramatically to me as the wee red-headed devil that kicked Ecky Brockie's kne_on time in Glesca, sirr,' I recognized the description.
Gresson, it appeared, was joy-riding. He was with a party of Labour delegate_ho had been met by two officers and carried off in chars-a-bancs. Hamilto_eported from inquiries among his friends that this kind of visitor cam_eekly. I thought it a very sensible notion on the Government's part, but _ondered how Gresson had been selected. I had hoped that Macgillivray ha_eeks ago made a long arm and quodded him. Perhaps they had too littl_vidence to hang him, but he was the blackest sort of suspect and should hav_een interned.
A week later I had occasion to be at G.H.Q. on business connected with my ne_ivision. My friends in the Intelligence allowed me to use the direct line t_ondon, and I called up Macgillivray. For ten minutes I had an exciting talk, for I had had no news from that quarter since I left England. I heard that th_ortuguese Jew had escaped—had vanished from his native heather when they wen_o get him. They had identified him as a German professor of Celtic languages, who had held a chair in a Welsh college—a dangerous fellow, for he was a_pright, high-minded, raging fanatic. Against Gresson they had no evidence a_ll, but he was kept under strict observation. When I asked about his crossin_o France, Macgillivray replied that that was part of their scheme. I inquire_f the visit had given them any clues, but I never got an answer, for the lin_ad to be cleared at that moment for the War Office. I hunted up the man wh_ad charge of these Labour visits, and made friends with him. Gresson, h_aid, had been a quiet, well- mannered, and most appreciative guest. He ha_ept tears on Vimy Ridge, and—strictly against orders—had made a speech t_ome troops he met on the Arras road about how British Labour was rememberin_he Army in its prayers and sweating blood to make guns. On the last day h_ad had a misadventure, for he got very sick on the road—some kidney troubl_hat couldn't stand the jolting of the car—and had to be left at a village an_icked up by the party on its way back. They found him better, but stil_haky. I cross-examined the particular officer in charge about that halt, an_earned that Gresson had been left alone in a peasant's cottage, for he sai_e only needed to lie down. The place was the hamlet of Eaucourt Sainte-Anne.
For several weeks that name stuck in my head. It had a pleasant, quaint sound, and I wondered how Gresson had spent his hours there. I hunted it up on th_ap, and promised myself to have a look at it the next time we came out t_est. And then I forgot about it till I heard the name mentioned again.
On 23rd October I had the bad luck, during a tour of my first-line trenches, to stop a small shell-fragment with my head. It was a close, misty day and _ad taken off my tin hat to wipe my brow when the thing happened. I got _ong, shallow scalp wound which meant nothing but bled a lot, and, as we wer_ot in for any big move, the M.O. sent me back to a clearing station to hav_t seen to. I was three days in the place and, being perfectly well, ha_eisure to look about me and reflect, so that I recall that time as a queer, restful interlude in the infernal racket of war. I remember yet how on my las_ight there a gale made the lamps swing and flicker, and turned the grey-gree_anvas walls into a mass of mottled shadows. The floor canvas was muddy fro_he tramping of many feet bringing in the constant dribble of casualties fro_he line. In my tent there was no one very bad at the time, except a boy wit_is shoulder half-blown off by a whizz-bang, who lay in a drugged sleep at th_ar end. The majority were influenza, bronchitis, and trench-fever—waiting t_e moved to the base, or convalescent and about to return to their units.
A small group of us dined off tinned chicken, stewed fruit, and radon chees_ound the smoky stove, where two screens manufactured from packing cases gav_ome protection against the draughts which swept like young tornadoes down th_ent. One man had been reading a book called the Ghost Stories of a_ntiquary, and the talk turned on the unexplainable things that happen t_verybody once or twice in a lifetime. I contributed a yarn about the men wh_ent to look for Kruger's treasure in the bushveld and got scared by a gree_ildebeeste. It is a good yarn and I'll write it down some day. A tal_ighlander, who kept his slippered feet on the top of the stove, and whos_ostume consisted of a kilt, a British warm, a grey hospital dressing-gown, and four pairs of socks, told the story of the Camerons at First Ypres, and o_he Lowland subaltern who knew no Gaelic and suddenly found himsel_ncouraging his men with some ancient Highland rigmarole. The poor chap had _acking bronchial cough, which suggested that his country might well use hi_n some warmer battle-ground than Flanders. He seemed a bit of a scholar an_xplained the Cameron business in a lot of long words.
I remember how the talk meandered on as talk does when men are idle an_hinking about the next day. I didn't pay much attention, for I was reflectin_n a change I meant to make in one of my battalion commands, when a fres_oice broke in. It belonged to a Canadian captain from Winnipeg, a very silen_ellow who smoked shag tobacco.
'There's a lot of ghosts in this darned country,' he said.
Then he started to tell about what happened to him when his division was las_ack in rest billets. He had a staff job and put up with the divisiona_ommand at an old French chateau. They had only a little bit of the house; th_est was shut up, but the passages were so tortuous that it was difficult t_eep from wandering into the unoccupied part. One night, he said, he woke wit_ mighty thirst, and, since he wasn't going to get cholera by drinking th_ocal water in his bedroom, he started out for the room they messed in to tr_o pick up a whisky-and-soda. He couldn't find it, though he knew the roa_ike his own name. He admitted he might have taken a wrong turning, but h_idn't think so. Anyway he landed in a passage which he had never seen before, and, since he had no candle, he tried to retrace his steps. Again he wen_rong, and groped on till he saw a faint light which he thought must be th_oom of the G.S.O., a good fellow and a friend of his. So he barged in, an_ound a big, dim salon with two figures in it and a lamp burning between them, and a queer, unpleasant smell about. He took a step forward, and then he sa_hat the figures had no faces. That fairly loosened his joints with fear, an_e gave a cry. One of the two ran towards him, the lamp went out, and th_ickly scent caught suddenly at his throat. After that he knew nothing till h_woke in his own bed next morning with a splitting headache. He said he go_he General's permission and went over all the unoccupied part of the house, but he couldn't find the room. Dust lay thick on everything, and there was n_ign of recent human presence.
I give the story as he told it in his drawling voice. 'I reckon that was th_enuine article in ghosts. You don't believe me and conclude I was drunk? _asn't. There isn't any drink concocted yet that could lay me out like that. _ust struck a crack in the old universe and pushed my head outside. It ma_appen to you boys any day.'
The Highlander began to argue with him, and I lost interest in the talk. Bu_ne phrase brought me to attention. 'I'll give you the name of the darne_lace, and next time you're around you can do a bit of prospecting fo_ourself. It's called the Chateau of Eaucourt Sainte-Anne, about seve_ilometres from Douvecourt. If I was purchasing real estate in this country _uess I'd give that location a miss.'
After that I had a grim month, what with the finish of Third Ypres and th_ustles to Cambrai. By the middle of December we had shaken down a bit, bu_he line my division held was not of our choosing, and we had to keep a war_ye on the Boche doings. It was a weary job, and I had no time to think o_nything but the military kind of intelligence —fixing the units against u_rom prisoners' stories, organizing small raids, and keeping the Royal Flyin_orps busy. I was keen about the last, and I made several trips myself ove_he lines with Archie Roylance, who had got his heart's desire and by goo_uck belonged to the squadron just behind me. I said as little as possibl_bout this, for G.H.Q. did not encourage divisional generals to practise suc_ethods, though there was one famous army commander who made a hobby of them.
It was on one of these trips that an incident occurred which brought my spel_f waiting on the bigger game to an end.
One dull December day, just after luncheon, Archie and I set out t_econnoitre. You know the way that fogs in Picardy seem suddenly to reek ou_f the ground and envelop the slopes like a shawl. That was our luck thi_ime. We had crossed the lines, flying very high, and received the usua_alute of Hun Archies. After a mile or two the ground seemed to climb up t_s, though we hadn't descended, and presently we were in the heart of a cold, clinging mist. We dived for several thousand feet, but the confounded thin_rew thicker and no sort of landmark could be found anywhere. I thought if w_ent on at this rate we should hit a tree or a church steeple and be eas_ruit for the enemy.
The same thought must have been in Archie's mind, for he climbed again. We go_nto a mortally cold zone, but the air was no clearer. Thereupon he decided t_ead for home, and passed me word to work out a compass course on the map.
That was easier said than done, but I had a rough notion of the rate we ha_ravelled since we had crossed the lines and I knew our original direction, s_ did the best I could. On we went for a bit, and then I began to ge_oubtful. So did Archie. We dropped low down, but we could hear none of th_ow that's always going on for a mile on each side of the lines. The world wa_ery eerie and deadly still, so still that Archie and I could talk through th_peaking-tube.
'We've mislaid this blamed battle,'he shouted.
'I think your rotten old compass has soured on us,' I replied.
We decided that it wouldn't do to change direction, so we held on the sam_ourse. I was getting as nervous as a kitten, chiefly owing to the silence.
It's not what you expect in the middle of a battle-field … I looked at th_ompass carefully and saw that it was really crocked. Archie must have damage_t on a former flight and forgotten to have it changed.
He had a very scared face when I pointed this out.
'Great God!' he croaked—for he had a fearsome cold—'we're either about Calai_r near Paris or miles the wrong side of the Boche line. What the devil are w_o do?'
And then to put the lid on it his engine went wrong. It was the sam_erformance as on the Yorkshire moors, and seemed to be a speciality of th_hark-Gladas type. But this time the end came quick. We dived steeply, and _ould see by Archie's grip on the stick that he was going to have his work cu_ut to save our necks. Save them he did, but not by much for we jolted down o_he edge of a ploughed field with a series of bumps that shook the teeth in m_ead. It was the same dense, dripping fog, and we crawled out of the old bu_nd bolted for cover like two ferreted rabbits.
Our refuge was the lee of a small copse.
'It's my opinion,' said Archie solemnly, 'that we're somewhere about L_ateau. Tim Wilbraham got left there in the Retreat, and it took him nin_onths to make the Dutch frontier. It's a giddy prospect, sir.'
I sallied out to reconnoitre. At the other side of the wood was a highway, an_he fog so blanketed sound that I could not hear a man on it till I saw hi_ace. The first one I saw made me lie flat in the covert … For he was a Germa_oldier, field-grey, forage cap, red band and all, and he had a pick on hi_houlder.
A second's reflection showed me that this was not final proof. He might be on_f our prisoners. But it was no place to take chances. I went back to Archie, and the pair of us crossed the ploughed field and struck the road farther on.
There we saw a farmer's cart with a woman and child in it. They looked French, but melancholy, just what you would expect from the inhabitants of _ountryside in enemy occupation.
Then we came to the park wall of a great house, and saw dimly the outlines o_ cottage. Here sooner or later we would get proof of our whereabouts, so w_ay and shivered among the poplars of the roadside. No one seemed abroad tha_fternoon. For a quarter of an hour it was as quiet as the grave. Then came _ound of whistling, and muffled steps.
'That's an Englishman,' said Archie joyfully. 'No Boche could make such _eastly noise.'
He was right. The form of an Army Service Corps private emerged from the mist, his cap on the back of his head, his hands in his pockets, and his walk th_alk of a free man. I never saw a welcomer sight than that jam-merchant.
We stood up and greeted him. 'What's this place?' I shouted.
He raised a grubby hand to his forelock. Ockott Saint Anny, sir,' he said.
'Beg pardon, sir, but you ain't whurt, sir?'
Ten minutes later I was having tea in the mess of an M.T. workshop whil_rchie had gone to the nearest Signals to telephone for a car and giv_nstructions about his precious bus. It was almost dark, but I gulped my te_nd hastened out into the thick dusk. For I wanted to have a look at th_hateau.
I found a big entrance with high stone pillars, but the iron gates were locke_nd looked as if they had not been opened in the memory of man. Knowing th_ay of such places, I hunted for the side entrance and found a muddy roa_hich led to the back of the house. The front was evidently towards a kind o_ark; at the back was a nest of outbuildings and a section of moat whic_ooked very deep and black in the winter twilight. This was crossed by a ston_ridge with a door at the end of it.
Clearly the Chateau was not being used for billets. There was no sign of th_ritish soldier; there was no sign of anything human. I crept through the fo_s noiselessly as if I trod on velvet, and I hadn't even the company of my ow_ootsteps. I remembered the Canadian's ghost story, and concluded I would b_magining the same sort of thing if I lived in such a place.
The door was bolted and padlocked. I turned along the side of the moat, hopin_o reach the house front, which was probably modern and boasted a civilize_ntrance. There must be somebody in the place, for one chimney was smoking.
Presently the moat petered out, and gave place to a cobbled causeway, but _all, running at right angles with the house, blocked my way. I had half _ind to go back and hammer at the door, but I reflected that major-general_on't pay visits to deserted chateaux at night without a reasonable errand. _hould look a fool in the eyes of some old concierge. The daylight was almos_one, and I didn't wish to go groping about the house with a candle.
But I wanted to see what was beyond the wall—one of those whims that beset th_oberest men. I rolled a dissolute water-butt to the foot of it, and gingerl_alanced myself on its rotten staves. This gave me a grip on the flat bric_op, and I pulled myself up.
I looked down on a little courtyard with another wall beyond it, which shu_ff any view of the park. On the right was the Chateau, on the left mor_utbuildings; the whole place was not more than twenty yards each way. I wa_ust about to retire by the road I had come, for in spite of my fur coat i_as uncommon chilly on that perch, when I heard a key turn in the door in th_hateau wall beneath me.
A lantern made a blur of light in the misty darkness. I saw that the beare_as a woman, an oldish woman, round-shouldered like most French peasants. I_ne hand she carried a leather bag, and she moved so silently that she mus_ave worn rubber boots. The light was held level with her head and illumine_er face. It was the evillest thing I have ever beheld, for a horrible sca_ad puckered the skin of the forehead and drawn up the eyebrows so that i_ooked like some diabolical Chinese mask.
Slowly she padded across the yard, carrying the bag as gingerly as if it ha_een an infant. She stopped at the door of one of the outhouses and set dow_he lantern and her burden on the ground. From her apron she drew somethin_hich looked like a gas-mask, and put it over her head. She also put on a pai_f long gauntlets. Then she unlocked the door, picked up the lantern and wen_n. I heard the key turn behind her.
Crouching on that wall, I felt a very ugly tremor run down my spine. I had _limpse of what the Canadian's ghost might have been. That hag, hooded lik_ome venomous snake, was too much for my stomach. I dropped off the wall an_an—yes, ran till I reached the highroad and saw the cheery headlights of _ransport wagon, and heard the honest speech of the British soldier. Tha_estored me to my senses, and made me feel every kind of a fool.
As I drove back to the line with Archie, I was black ashamed of my funk. _old myself that I had seen only an old countrywoman going to feed her hens. _onvinced my reason, but I did not convince the whole of me. An insensat_read of the place hung around me, and I could only retrieve my self-respec_y resolving to return and explore every nook of it.