TREACHERY

JAMES did not look as if he had been up all night, though he had spent
the most part of it on foot with Ferrier. The refreshment of morning
had bathed him too, but he was still harassed in mind by some of the
occurrences of the last few hours. Last night he had seen the mark on
the wrist stretched suddenly between himself and his friend, and had
understood its significance. It was the mark that he had put there. As
the two men listened to the flying footsteps that mystified them by
their doublings in the darkness, it had dawned upon them that the
intruder skulking behind the windlass and the tipsy reveller prone in
the close were one and the same person. The drunkard was a very daring
spy, as sober as themselves.

“You are out betimes,” said Archie, with friendly innocence.

“I often am,” replied James simply.

Archie pulled up a blade of grass and began to chew it meditatively.

“I see your long night has done you good,” began Logie. “There were
many things I should have liked to ask you, yesterday evening, but you
went away so early that I could not.”

Silence dropped upon the two: upon Logie, because his companion’s
manner last night had hinted at remembrances buried in regret and
painful to dig up; on Flemington, because he knew the value of that
impression, and because he would fain put off the moment when the more
complete deception of the man whose sympathetic attitude he divined
and whose generosity of soul was so obvious, must begin. He did not
want to come to close quarters with James. He had hunted him and been
hunted by him, but he had not yet been obliged to lie to him by word
of mouth; and he had no desire to do so, here and now, in cold blood
and in the face of all this beauty and peace.

“I could not but be interested in what you said,” continued the other.
“You did not tell us whether you had been at St. Germain yourself.”

“Never!” replied Archie. “I was sent to Scotland at eight years old,
and I have been here ever since.”

He had taken the plunge now, for he had been backwards and forwards to
France several times in the last few years, since he had begun to work
for King George, employed in watching the movements of suspicious
persons between one country and the other.

He looked down on the ground.

The more he hesitated to speak, the more he knew that he would impress
James. He understood the delicacy of his companion’s feeling by
instinct. It was not only dissimulation which bade him act thus, it
was the real embarrassment and discomfort which were creeping on him
under the eyes of the honourable soldier; all the same, he hoped that
his reluctant silence would save him.

“You think me impertinent,” said Logie, “but do not be afraid that I
mean to pry. I know how hard life can be and how anxious, nowadays.
There is so much loss and trouble–God knows what may happen to this
tormented country! But trouble does not seem natural when a man is
young and light-hearted, as you are.”

Archie was collecting materials wherewith to screen himself from his
companion’s sympathy. It would be easy to tell him some rigmarole of
early suffering, of want endured for the cause which had lain dormant,
yet living, since the unsuccessful rising of the ’15, of the devotion
to it of the parents he had scarcely known, of the bitterness of their
exile, but somehow he could not force himself to do it. He remembered
those parents principally as vague people who were ceaselessly playing
cards, and whose quarrels had terrified him when he was small. His
real interest in life had begun when he arrived at Ardguys and made
the acquaintance of his grandmother, whose fascination he had felt, in
common with most other male creatures. He had had a joyous youth, and
he knew it. He had run the pastures, climbed the trees, fished the
Kilpie burn, and known every country pleasure dear to boyhood. If he
had been solitary, he had yet been perfectly happy. He had gone to
Edinburgh at seventeen, at his own ardent wish, to learn painting, not
as a profession, but as a pastime. His prospects were comfortable, for
Madam Flemington had made him her heir, and she had relations settled
in England who were always ready to bid him welcome when he crossed
the border. Life had been consistently pleasant, and had grown
exciting since the beginning of his work for Government. He wished to
Heaven he had not met James this morning.

But to Logie, Archie was merely a youth of undoubted good breeding
struggling bravely for his bread in an almost menial profession, and
he honoured him for what he deemed his courage. There was no need to
seek a reason for his poverty after hearing his words last night. His
voice, when he spoke of his father’s death in exile, had implied all
that was necessary to establish a claim on James’s generous and rather
bigoted heart. For him, there were only two kinds of men, those who
were for the Stuarts and those who were not. People were very reticent
about their political feelings in those days; some from pure caution
and some because these lay so deep under mountains of personal loss
and misfortune.

“I dare not look back,” said Archie, at last, “I have to live by my
trade and fight the world with my brush. You live by sticking your
sword into its entrails and I by painting its face a better colour
than Nature chose for it, and I think yours is the pleasanter calling
of the two. But I am grateful to mine, all the same, and now it has
procured me the acquaintance of his lordship and the pleasure of being
where I am. I need not tell you that I find myself in clover.”

“I am heartily glad of it,” said James.

“Indeed, so am I,” rejoined Archie, pleased at having turned the
conversation so deftly, “for you cannot think what strange things
happen to a man who has no recognized place in the minds of
respectable people.”

James rolled over on his chest, leaning on his elbows, and looked up
at his companion sitting just above him with his dark, silky head
clear cut against the background of green bush. The young man’s words
seemed to trip out and pirouette with impudent jauntiness in their
hearer’s face. Logie did not know that Archie’s management of these
puppets was a part of his charm. His detached points of view were
restful to a man like James, one continually preoccupied by large
issues. It was difficult to think of responsibilities in Archie’s
presence.

“You might never imagine how much I am admired below stairs!” said the
latter. “While I painted a lady in the south, I was expected to eat
with the servants, and the attentions of a kitchen-girl all but cost
me my life. I found a challenge, offering me the choice of weapons in
the most approved manner, under my dish of porridge. It came from a
groom.”

“What did you do?” asked James, astounded.

“I chose warming-pans,” said Archie, “and that ended the matter.”

James laughed aloud, but there was bitterness in his mirth. And this
was a man born at St. Germain!

“We laugh,” said he, “but such a life could have been no laughing
matter to you.”

“But I assure you it was! What else could I do?”

“You could have left the place—-” began James. Then he stopped
short, remembering that beggars cannot be choosers.

His expression was not lost on Archie, who saw that the boat he had
steered so carefully into the shallows was drawing out to deep water
again, and that he had used his luxuriant imagination to small
purpose. He had so little self-consciousness that to keep James’s
interest upon himself was no temptation to him, though it might have
been to some men. He cast about for something wherewith to blot his
own figure from the picture.

“And you,” he said, gravely, “you who think so much of my discomforts,
and who have actually wielded the sword while I have merely threatened
to wield the warming-pan–you must have seen stranger things than the
kitchen.”

“I?” said James, looking fixedly out to where the town steeple threw
its reflection on the wet sand–“yes. I have seen things that I hope
you will never see. It is not for me to speak ill of war, I who have
turned to it for consolation as a man may turn to his religion. But
war is not waged against men alone in some countries. I have seen it
when it is waged against women and little children, when it is
slaughter, not war. I have seen mothers–young, beautiful
women–fighting like wild beasts for the poor babes that cowered
behind their skirts, and I have seen their bodies afterwards. It would
be best to forget–but who can forget?”

Archie sat still, with eyes from which all levity had vanished. He had
known vaguely that James had fought under Marshal Lacy in the War of
the Polish Succession, in the bloody campaign against the Turks, and
again in Finland. The ironic futility of things in general struck him,
for it was absurd to think that this man, seared by war and wise in
the realities of events whose rumours shook Europe, one who had looked
upon death daily in company with men like Peter Lacy, should come home
to be hunted down back streets by a travelling painter. He
contemplated his companion with renewed interest; no wonder he was
ruthless in small things. He was decidedly the most fascinating person
he had known.

“And you went to these things _for consolation_–so you said?”

“For consolation. For a thing that does not exist,” said the other
slowly.

He paused and turned to his companion with an expression that
horrified the young man and paralyzed his curiosity. The power in his
face seemed to have given way, revealing, for a moment, a
defencelessness like the defencelessness of a child looking upon the
dark; and it told Archie that there was something that even Logie
dreaded and that that something was memory.

The deep places he had guessed in James’s soul were deep indeed, and
again Flemington was struck with humility, for his own unimportance in
contrast with this experienced man seemed little less than pitiful.
The feeling closed his lips, and he looked round at the shortening
shadows and into the stir of coming sunlight as a man looks round for
a door through which to escape from impending stress. He, who was
always ready to go forward, recoiled because of what he foresaw in
himself. His self-confidence was ebbing, for he was afraid of how much
he might be turned out of his way by the influence on him of Logie. He
wished that he could force their talk into a different channel, but
his ready wits for once would not answer the call.

Something not understood by him was moving James to expression, as
reserved men are compelled towards it at times. Perhaps the bygone
youth in him rose up in response to the youth at his side. The many
years dividing him from his brother, the judge, had never consciously
troubled him in their intercourse, but the tremendous divergence in
their respective characters had thrown him back upon himself. Archie
seemed to have the power of turning a key that Balnillo had never
held.

“But I am putting you out of conceit with the world,” cried James
abruptly; “let no one do that. Take all you can, Flemington! I did–I
took it all. Love, roystering, good company, good wine, good play–all
came to me, and I had my bellyful! There were merry times in Holland
with the Scots Brigade. It was the best part of my life, and I went to
it young. I was sixteen the day I stood up on parade for the first
time.”

“I have often had a mind to invade Holland,” observed Archie, grasping
eagerly at the impersonal part of the subject; “it would be paradise
to one of my trade. The very thought of a windmill weaves a picture
for me, and those strange, striped flowers the Dutchmen raise–I
cannot think of their names now–I would give much to see them
growing. You must have seen them in every variety and hue.”

“Ay, I saw the tulips,” said James, in a strange voice.

“The Dutchmen can paint them too,” said Archie hurriedly.

“What devil makes you talk of tulips?” cried James. “Fate painted the
tulips for me. Oh, Flemington, Flemington! In every country, in every
march, in every fight, among dead and dying, and among dancers and the
music they danced to, I have seen nothing but those gaudy
flowers–beds of them growing like a woven carpet, and Diane among
them!”

No feminine figure had come into the background against which stood
Archie’s conception of Logie.

“Diane?” he exclaimed involuntarily.

James did not seem to hear him.

“Her eyes were like yours,” he went on. “When I saw you come into the
light of the house two evenings since, I thought of her.”

Neither spoke for a few moments; then James went on again:

“Fourteen years since the day I saw her last! She looked out at me
from the window with her eyes full of tears. The window was filled
with flowers–she loved them. The tulips were there again–crimson
tulips–with her white face behind them.”

Flemington listened with parted lips. His personal feelings, his
shrinking dread of being drawn into the confidence of the man whom it
was his business to betray, were swallowed by a wave of interest.

“I was no more than a boy, with my head full of cards and women and
horses, and every devilry under heaven, when I went to the house among
the canals. The Conte de Montdelys had built it, for he lived in
Holland a part of the year to grow his tulips. He was a rich man–a
hard, old, pinched Frenchman–but his passion was tulip-growing, and
their cultivation was a new thing. It was a great sight to see the
gardens he had planned at the water’s edge, with every colour
reflected from the beds, and the green-shuttered house in the middle.
Even the young men of the Brigade were glad to spend an afternoon
looking upon the show, and the Conte would invite now one, now
another. He loved to strut about exhibiting his gardens. Diane was his
daughter–my poor Diane! Flemington, do I weary you?”

“No, no, indeed!” cried Archie, who had been lost, wandering in an
enchanted labyrinth of bloom and colour as he listened. The image of
the house rising from among its waterways was as vivid to him as if he
had seen it with bodily eyes.

“She was so young,” said the soldier, “so gentle, so little suited to
such as I. But she loved me–God knows why–and she was brave–brave
to the end, as she lay dying by the roadside . . . and sending me her
love. . . .”

He stopped and turned away; Archie could say nothing, for his throat
had grown thick. Logie’s unconscious gift of filling his words with
drama–a gift which is most often given to those who suspect it
least–wrought on him.

James looked round, staring steadily and blindly over his companion’s
shoulder.

“I took her away,” he went on, as though describing another man’s
experiences; “there was no choice, for the Conte would not tolerate
me. I was a Protestant, and I was poor, and there was a rich Spaniard
whom he favoured. So we went. We were married in Breda, and for a year
we lived in peace. Such days–such days! The Conte made no sign, and I
thought, in my folly, he would let us alone. It seemed as though we
had gained paradise at last; but I did not know him–Montdelys.”

“Then the boy was born. When he was two months old I was obliged to
come back to Scotland; it was a matter concerning money which could
not be delayed, for my little fortune had to be made doubly secure
now, and I got leave from my regiment. I could not take Diane and the
child, and I left them at Breda–safe, as I thought. At twenty-three
we do not know men, not the endless treachery of them. Flemington,
when God calls us all to judgment, there will be no mercy for
treachery.”

Archie’s eyes, fixed on the other pair, whose keen grey light was
blurred with pain, dropped. He breathed hard, and his nostrils
quivered.

“You seem to me as young as I was then. May God preserve you from
man’s treachery. He did not preserve me,” said James.

“I do not know how Montdelys knew that she was defenceless,” continued
he, “but I think there must have been some spy of his watching us. As
soon as I had left Holland he sent to her to say he was ill, probably
dying, and that he had forgiven all. He longed for the sight of the
boy, and he asked her to bring him that he might see his grandchild;
she was to make her home with him while I was absent, and he would
send word to me to join them on my return. Diane sent me the good news
and went, fearing nothing, to find herself a prisoner.

“And all this time he had been working–he and the Spaniard–to get
the Pope to annul our marriage, and they had succeeded. What they said
to her, what they did, I know not, and never shall know, but they
could not shake Diane. I was on my way back to Holland when she
managed to escape with the boy. Storms in the North Sea delayed me,
but I was not disturbed, knowing her to be safe. I did not know when I
landed at last that she was dead. . . . She swam the canal,
Flemington, with the child tied on her shoulders, and the
brother-officer of mine–a man in my own company, whom she had
contrived to communicate with–was waiting for her with a carriage. My
regiment had moved to Bergen-op-Zoom, and he meant to take her there.
He had arranged it with the wife of my colonel, who was to give her
shelter till I arrived, and could protect her myself. They had gone
more than half-way to Bergen when they were overtaken, early in the
morning. She was shot, Flemington. The bullet was meant for
Carmichael, the man who was with her, but it struck Diane. . . . They
laid her on the grass at the roadside and she died, holding
Carmichael’s hand, and sending–sending—-”

He stopped.

“And the child?” said Archie at last.

“Carmichael brought him to Bergen, with his mother. He did not live.
The bullet had grazed his poor little body as he lay in her arms, and
the exposure did the rest. They are buried at Bergen.”

Again Archie was speechless.

“I killed the Spaniard,” said James. “I could not reach Montdelys; he
was too old to be able to settle his differences in the world of men.”

Archie did not know what to do. He longed with a bitter longing to
show his companion something of what he felt, to give him some sign of
the passion of sympathy which had shaken him as he listened; but his
tongue was tied fast by the blighting knowledge of his true position,
and to approach, by so much as a step, seemed only to blacken his soul
and to load it yet more heavily with a treachery as vile as that which
had undone James.

“I could not endure Holland afterwards,” continued Logie; “once I had
looked on that Spanish hound’s dead body my work was done. I left the
Scots Brigade and took service with Russia, and I joined Peter Lacy,
who was on his way to fight in Poland. Fighting was all I wanted, and
God knows I had it. I did not want to be killed, but to kill. Then I
grew weary of that, but I still stayed with Lacy, and followed him to
fight the Turks. We outlive trouble in time, Flemington; we outlive
it, though we cannot outlive memory. We outlast it–that is a better
word. I have outlasted, perhaps outlived. I can turn and look back
upon myself as though I were another being. It is only when some
chance word or circumstance brings my youth back in detail that I can
scarce bear it. You have brought it back, Flemington, and this morning
I am face to face with it again.”

“It does not sound as if you had outlived it,” said the young man.

“Life is made of many things,” said James; “whether we have lost our
all or not, we have to plough on to the end, and it is best to plough
on merrily. Lacy never complained of me as a companion in the long
time we were together, for I was on his staff, and I took all that
came to me, as I have done always. There were some mad fellows among
us, and I was no saner than they! But life is quiet enough here in the
year since I came home to my good brother.”

The mention of Lord Balnillo made Flemington start.

“Gad!” he exclaimed, rising, thankful for escape, “and I am to begin
the portrait this morning, and have set out none of my colours!”

“And I have gone breakfastless,” said Logie with a smile, “and worse
than that, I have spoilt the sunshine for you with my tongue, that
should have been silent.”

“No, no!” burst out Flemington rather hoarsely. “Don’t think of that!
If you only knew—-”

He stood, unable to finish his sentence or to utter one word of
comfort without plunging deeper into self-abhorrence.

“I must go,” he stammered. “I must leave you and run.”

James laid a detaining hand on him.

“Listen, Flemington,” he said. “Listen before you go. We have learnt
something of each other, you and I. Promise me that if ever you should
find yourself in such a position as the one you spoke of–if you
should come to such a strait as that–if a little help could make you
free, you will come to me as if I were your brother. Your eyes are so
like Diane’s–you might well be hers.”

Archie stood before him, dumb, as James held out his hand.

He grasped it for a moment, and then turned from him in a tumult of
horror and despair.