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- The Grey Lady - 1/45 -
THE GREY LADY BY HENRY SETON MERRIMAN.
"The dog that snapt the shadow, dropt the bone."
BOOK THE FIRST
I. TWO IN THE FIELD. II. A MAN DOWN. III. A SEA DOG. IV. PURGATORIO. V. THE VALLEY OF REPOSE. VI. AN ACTOR PASSES OFF THE STAGE. VII. IN THE STREET OF THE PEACE. VIII. THE DEAL. IX. CUT FOR PARTNERS. X. THE GAME OPENS. XI. SHIPS UPON THE SEA. XII. A SHUFFLE. XIII. A CHOICE. XIV. A QUATRE. XV. DON QUIXOTE. XVI. BROKEN.
BOOK THE SECOND
I. BITS OF LIFE. II. A COMPACT. III. BAFFLED. IV. FOR THE HIGHEST BIDDER. V. THE TEAR ON THE SWORD. VI. THE COUNT STANDS BY. VII. A VOYAGE. VIII. A GREAT FIGHT. IX. THE EDITOR'S ROOM. X. THE CURTAIN LOWERS. XI. "MILKSOP". XII. THE END OF THE "CROONAH." XIII. AT D'ERRAHA AGAIN. XIV. THE COUNT'S STORY.
BOOK THE FIRST.
CHAPTER I. TWO IN THE FIELD.
Qui n'accepte pas le regret n'accepte pas la vie.
The train technically known as the "Flying Dutchman," tearing through the plains of Taunton, and in a first-class carriage by themselves, facing each other, two boys.
One of these boys remembers the moment to this day. A journey accomplished with Care for a travelling companion usually adheres to the wheels of memory until those wheels are still. Grim Care was with these boys in the railway carriage. A great catastrophe had come to them. A FitzHenry had failed to pass into her Majesty's Navy. Back and back through the generations--back to the days when England had no navy--she had always been served at sea by a FitzHenry. Moreover, there had always been a Henry of that name on the books. Henry, the son of Henry, had, as a matter of course, gone down to the sea in a ship, had done his country's business in the great waters.
There was, if they could have looked at it from a racial point of view, one small grain of consolation. The record was not even now snapped--for Henry had succeeded, Luke it was who had failed.
Henry sat with his back to the engine, looking out over the flat meadow-land, with some moisture remarkably like a tear in either eye. The eyes were blue, deep, and dark like the eastern horizon when the sun is setting over the sea. The face was brown, and oval, and still. It looked like a face that belonged to a race, something that had been handed down with the inherent love of blue water. It is probable that many centuries ago, a man with features such as these, with eyes such as these, and crisp, closely curling hair, had leaped ashore from his open Viking boat, shouting defiance to the Briton.
This son of countless Henrys sat and thought the world was hollow, with no joy in it, and no hope, because Luke had failed.
We are told that there shall be two in the field, that the one shall be taken and the other left. But we have yet to learn why, in our limited vision, the choice seems invariably to be mistaken. We have yet to learn why he who is doing good work is called from the field, leaving there the man whose tastes are urban.
Except for the sake of the record--and we cannot really be expected in these busy times to live for generations past or yet unborn-- except for the record it would have been more expedient that Henry should fail and Luke succeed. Everybody knew this. It was the common talk on board the Britannia. Even the examiners knew it. Luke himself was aware of it. But there had always been a fatality about Luke.
And now, when it was quite apparent that Luke was a sailor and nothing else, the Navy would have none of him. Those who knew him-- his kindly old captain and others--averred that, with a strict and unquestionable discipline, Luke FitzHenry could be made a first- class officer and a brilliant sailor. No one quite understood him, not even his brother Henry, usually known as Fitz. Fitz did not understand him now; he had not understood him since the fatal notice had been posted on the broad mainmast, of which some may wot. He did not know what to say, so, like the wise old Duke, he said nothing.
In the meantime the train raced on. Every moment brought them nearer to London and to the Honourable Mrs. Harrington.
Fitz seemed to be realising this, for he glanced uneasily at his brother, whose morose, sullen face was turned resolutely towards the window.
"She'll be a fool," he said, "if she does not give you another chance."
"I would not take it," answered Luke mechanically.
He was darker than his brother, with a longer chin and a peculiar twist of the lips. His eyes were lighter in colour, and rather too close together. A keen observer would have put him down as a boy who in manhood might go wrong. The strange thing was that no one could have hesitated for a moment in selecting Luke as the cleverer of the two.
Fitz paused. He was not so quick with his tongue as with his limbs. He knew his brother well enough to foresee the effect of failure. Luke FitzHenry was destined to be one of those unfortunate men who fail ungracefully.
"Do not decide in too great a hurry," said Fitz at length, rather lamely. "Don't be a fool!"
"No, it has been decided for me by my beastly bad luck."
"It WAS bad luck--deuced bad luck."
They had bought a packet of cigarettes at Exeter, but that outward sign of manhood lay untouched on the seat beside Fitz. It almost seemed as if manhood had come to them both in a more serious form than a swaggering indulgence in tobacco.
The boys were obviously brothers, but not aggressively twins. For Luke was darker than Fitz, and somewhat shorter in stature.
It is probable that neither of them had ever seriously contemplated the possibility of failure for one and not for the other. Neither had ever looked onward, as it were, into life to see himself there without the other. The life that they both anticipated was that life on the ocean wave, of which home-keeping poets sing so eloquently; and it had always been vaguely taken for granted that no great difference in rank or success could sever them. Fitz was too simple-minded, too honest to himself, to look for great honours in his country's service. He mistrusted himself. Luke mistrusted Providence.
Such was the difference between these two boys--the thin end of a wedge of years which, spreading out in after days, turned each life into a path of its own, sending each man inexorably on his separate way.
These two boys were almost alone in the world. Their mother had died in giving them birth. Their father, an old man when he married, reached his allotted span when his sons first donned Her Majesty's brass buttons, and quietly went to keep his watch below. Discipline had been his guiding star through life, and when Death called him he obeyed without a murmur, trusting confidently to the Naval Department in the first place, and the good God in the second, to look after his boys.
That the late Admiral FitzHenry had sorely misplaced his confidence in the first instance was a fact which the two boys were now called upon to face alone in their youthful ignorance of the world. Fitz was uneasily conscious of a feeling of helplessness, as if some all- powerful protector had suddenly been withdrawn. Their two lives had been pre-committed to the parental care of their country, and now it almost took their breath away to realise that Luke had no such protector.
His was the pride that depreciates self. During the last twenty- four hours Fitz had heard him boast of his failure, holding it up with a singularly triumphant sneer, as if he had always distrusted his destiny and took a certain pleasure in verifying his own prognostications. There are some men who find a satisfaction in bad luck which good fortune could never afford them.
In a large house in Grosvenor Gardens two ladies were at that same
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