In Secret

Robert W. Chambers




That two spies, a man and a woman, had penetrated the forest of Les Errues was known in Berlin on the 13th. Within an hour the entire machinery of the German Empire had been set in motion to entrap and annihilate these two people. 

The formula distributed to all operators in the Intelligence Department throughout Hundom, and wherever Boche spies had filtered into civilised lands, was this: 

"Two enemy secret agents have succeeded in penetrating the forest of Les Errues. One is a man, the other a woman. 

"Both are Americans. The man is that civilian prisoner, Kay McKay, who escaped from Holzminden, and of whom an exact description is available. 

"The woman is Evelyn Erith. Exact information concerning her is also available. 

"The situation is one of extremest delicacy and peril. Exposure of the secret understanding with a certain neutral Power which permits us certain temporary rights within an integral portion of its territory would be disastrous, and would undoubtedly result in an immediate invasion of this neutral (sic) country by the enemy as well as by our own forces. 

"This must not happen. Yet it is vitally imperative that these two enemy agents should be discovered, seized, and destroyed. 

"Their presence in the forest of Les Errues is the most serious menace to the Fatherland that has yet confronted it. 

"Upon the apprehension and destruction of these two spies depends the safety of Germany and her allies. 

"The war can not be won, a victorious German peace can not be imposed upon our enemies, unless these two enemy agents are found and their bodies absolutely destroyed upon the spot along with every particle of personal property discovered upon their persons. 

"More than that: the war will be lost, and with it the Fatherland, unless these two spies are seized and destroyed. 

"The Great Secret of Germany is in danger. 

"To possess themselves of it--for already they suspect its nature--and to expose it not only to the United States Government but to the entire world, is the mission of these two enemy agents. 

"If they succeed it would mean the end of the German Empire. 

"If our understanding with a certain neutral Power be made public, that also would spell disaster for Germany. 

"The situation hangs by a hair, the fate of the world is suspended above the forest of Les Errues." 

On the 14th the process of infiltration began. But the Hun invasion of Les Errues was not to be conducted in force, there must be no commotion there, no stirring, no sound, only a silent, stealthy, death-hunt in that shadowy forest--a methodical, patient, thorough preparation to do murder; a swift, noiseless execution. 

Also, on the 14th, the northern sky beyond the Swiss wire swarmed with Hun airplanes patrolling the border. 

Not that the Great Secret could be discovered from the air; that danger had been foreseen fifty years ago, and half a century's camouflage screened the results of steady, calculating relentless diligence. 

But French or British planes might learn of the presence of these enemy agents in the dark forest of Les Errues, and might hang like hawks above it exchanging signals with them. 

Therefore the northern sky swarmed with Boche aircraft--cautiously patrolling beyond the Swiss border, and only prepared to risk its violation if Allied planes first set them an example. 

But for a week nothing moved in the heavens above Les Errues except an eagle. And that appeared every day, sheering the blue void above the forest, hovering majestically in circles hour after hour and then, at last, toward sundown, setting its sublime course westward, straight into the blinding disk of
the declining sun. 

The Hun airmen patrolling the border noticed the eagle. After a while, as no Allied plane appeared, time lagged with the Boche, and he came to look for this lone eagle which arrived always at the same hour in the sky above Les Errues, soared there hour after hour, then departed, flapping slowly westward until lost in the flames of sunset. 

"As though," remarked one Boche pilot, "the bird were a phoenix which at the close of every day renews its life from its own ashes in the flames." 

Another airman said: "It is not a Lammergeier, is it?" 

"It is a Stein-Adler," said a third. 

But after a silence a fourth airman spoke, seated before the hangar and studying a wild flower, the petals of which he had been examining with the peculiar interest of a nature-student: 

"For ten days I have had nothing more important to watch than that eagle which appears regularly every day above the forest of Les Errues. And I have concluded that the bird is neither a Lammergeier nor a Stein-Adler." 

"Surely," said one young Hun, "it is a German eagle." 

"It must be," laughed another, "because it is so methodical and exact. Those are German traits." 

The nature-student contemplated the wild blossom which he was now idly twirling between his fingers by its stem. 

"It perplexes me," he mused aloud. 

The others looked at him; one said: "What perplexes you, Von Dresslin?" 

"That bird." 

"The eagle?" 

"The eagle which comes every day to circle above Les Errues. I, an amateur of ornithology am, perhaps, with all modesty, permitted to call myself?" 

"Certainly," said several airmen at once. 

Another added: "We all know you to be a naturalist." 

"Pardon--a student only, gentlemen. Which is why, perhaps, I am both interested and perplexed by this eagle we see every day." 

"It is a rare species?" 

"It is not a familiar one to the Alps." 

"This bird, then, is not a German eagle in your opinion, Von Dresslin?" 

"What is it? Asiatic? African? Chinese?" asked another. 

Von Dresslin's eyebrows became knitted. 

"That eagle which we all see every day in the sky above Les Errues," he said slowly, "has a snow-white crest and tail." 

Several airmen nodded; one said: "I have noticed that, too, watching the bird through my binoculars." 

"I know," continued Von Dresslin slowly, "of only one species of eagle which resembles the bird we all see every day... It inhabits North America," he added thoughtfully. 

There was a silence, then a very young airman inquired whether Von Dresslin knew of any authentic reports of an American eagle being seen in Europe. 

"Authentic? That is somewhat difficult to answer," replied Von Dresslin, with the true caution of a real naturalist. "But I venture to tell you that, once before--nearly a year ago now--I saw an eagle in this same region which had a white crest and tail and was otherwise a shining bronze in colour." 

"Where did you see such a bird?" 

"High in the air over Mount Terrible." A deep and significant silence fell over the little company. If Count von Dresslin had seen such an eagle over the Swiss peak called Mount Terrible, and had been near enough to notice the bird's colour, every man there knew what had been the occasion. 

For only once had that particular region of Switzerland been violated by their aircraft during the war. It had happened a year ago when Von Dresslin, patrolling the north Swiss border, had discovered a British flyer planing low over Swiss territory in the air-region between Mount Terrible and the forest of Les Errues. 

Instantly the Hun, too, crossed the line: and the air-battle was joined above the forest. 

Higher, higher, ever higher mounted the two fighting planes until the earth had fallen away two miles below them. 

Then, out of the icy void of the upper air-space, now roaring with their engines' clamour, the British plane shot earthward, down, down, rushing to destruction like a shooting-star, and crashed in the forest of Les Errues. 

And where it had been, there in mid-air, hung an eagle with a crest as white as the snow on the shining peaks below. 

"He seemed suddenly to be there instead of the British plane," said Von Dresslin. "I saw him distinctly--might have shot him with my pistol as he sheered by me, his yellow eyes aflame, balanced on broad wings. So near he swept that his bright fierce eyes flashed level with mine, and for an instant I thought he meant to attack me. 

"But he swept past in a single magnificent curve, screaming, then banked swiftly and plunged straight downward in the very path of the British plane." 

Nobody spoke. Von Dresslin twirled his flower and looked at it in an absent-minded way. 

"From that glimpse, a year ago, I believe I had seen a species of eagle the proper habitat of which is North America," he said. 

An airman remarked grimly: "The Yankees are migrating to Europe. Perhaps their eagles are coming too." 

"To pick our bones," added another. 

And another man said laughingly to Von Dresslin: 

"Fritz, did you see in that downfall of the British enemy, and the dramatic appearance of a Yankee eagle in his place, anything significant?" 

"By gad," cried another airman, "we had John Bull by his fat throat, and were choking him to death. And now--the Americans!" 

"If I dared cross the border and shoot that Yankee eagle to-morrow," began another airman; but they all knew it wouldn't do. 

One said: "Do you suppose, Von Dresslin, that the bird we see is the one you saw a year ago?" 

"It is possible." 

"An American white-headed eagle?" 

"I feel quite sure of it." 

"Their national bird," said the same airman who had expressed a desire to shoot it. 

"How could an American eagle get here?" inquired another man. 

"By way of Asia, probably." 

"By gad! A long flight!" 

Dresslin nodded: "An omen, perhaps, that we may also have to face the Yankee on our Eastern front." 

"The swine!" growled several. 

Von Dresslin assented absently to the epithet. But his thoughts were busy elsewhere, his mind preoccupied by a theory which, Hunlike, he, for the last ten days, had been slowly, doggedly, methodically developing. 

It was this: Assuming that the bird really was an American eagle, the problem presented itself very clearly--from where had it come? This answered itself; it came from America, its habitat. 

Which answer, of course, suggested a second problem; HOW did it arrive? 

Several theories presented themselves: 

1st. The eagle might have reached Asia from Alaska and so made its way westward as far as the Alps of Switzerland. 

2nd. It may have escaped from some public European zoological collection. 

3rd. It may have been owned privately and, on account of the scarcity of food in Europe, liberated by its owner. 

4th. It MIGHT have been owned by the Englishman whose plane Von Dresslin had destroyed. 

And now Von Dresslin was patiently, diligently developing this theory: 

If it had been owned by the unknown Englishman whose plane had crashed a year ago in Les Errues forest, then the bird was undoubtedly his mascot, carried with him in his flights, doubtless a tame eagle. 

Probably when the plane fell the bird took wing, which accounted for its sudden appearance in mid-air. 

Probably, also, it had been taught to follow its master; and, indeed, had followed in one superb plunge earthward in the wake of a dead man in a stricken plane. 

But--WAS this the same bird? 

For argument, suppose it was. Then why did it still hang over Les Errues? Affection for a dead master? Only a dog could possibly show such devotion, such constancy. And besides, birds are incapable of affection. They only know where to go for kind treatment and security. And tamed birds, even those
species domesticated for centuries, know only one impulse that draws them toward any human protector--the desire for food. 

Could this eagle remember for a whole year that the man who lay dead somewhere in the dusky wilderness of Les Errues had once been kind to him and had fed him? And was that why the great bird still haunted the air-heights above the forest? Possibly. 

Or was it not more logical to believe that here, suddenly cast upon its own resources, and compelled to employ instincts hitherto uncultivated or forgotten, to satisfy its hunger, this solitary American eagle had found the hunting good? Probably. And, knowing no other region, had remained there, and
for the first time, or at least after a long interval of captivity and dependence on man, it had discovered what liberty was and with liberty the necessity to struggle for existence. 

An airman, watching Dresslin's thoughtful features, said: 

"You never found out who that Englishman was, did you? 


"Did our agents search Les Errues?" 

"I suppose so. But I have never heard anything further about that affair," he shrugged; "and I don't believe we ever will until after the war, and until--" 

"Until Switzerland belongs to us," said an airman with a light laugh. 

Others, listening, looked at one another significantly, smiling the patient, confident and brooding smile of the Hun. 

Knaus unwittingly wrote his character and his epitaph: 

"Ich kann warten." 

The forest of Les Errues was deathly still. Hunters and hunted both were as silent as the wild things that belonged there in those dim woods--as cautious, as stealthy. 

A dim greenish twilight veiled their movements, the damp carpet of moss dulled sounds. 

Yet the hunted knew that they were hunted, realised that pursuit and search were inevitable; and the hunters, no doubt, guessed that their quarry was alert. 

Now on the tenth day since their entrance into Les Errues those two Americans who were being hunted came to a little wooded valley through which a swift stream dashed amid rock and fern, flinging spray over every green leaf that bordered it, filling its clear pools with necklaces of floating bubbles. 

McKay slipped his pack from his shoulders and set it against a tree. One of the two carrier pigeons in their cage woke up and ruffled. Looking closely at the other he discovered it was dead. His heart sank, but he laid the stiff, dead bird behind a tree and said nothing to his companion. 

Evelyn Erith now let go of her own pack and, flinging herself on the moss, set her lips to the surface of a brimming pool. 

"Careful of this Alpine water!" McKay warned her. But the girl satisfied her thirst before she rose to her knees and looked around at him. 

"Are you tired, Yellow-hair?" he asked. 

"Yes.... Are you, Kay?" 

He shook his head and cast a glance around him. 

It was beautiful, this little woodland vale with its stream dashing through and its slopes forested with beech and birch--splendid great trees with foliage golden green in the sun. 

But it was not the beauty of the scene that preoccupied these two. Always, when ready to halt, their choice of any resting-place depended upon several things more important than beauty. 

For one matter the place must afford concealment, and also a water supply. Moreover it must be situated so as to be capable of defence. Also there must be an egress offering a secure line of retreat. 

So McKay began to roam about the place, prowling along the slopes and following the stream. Apparently the topography satisfied him; for after a little while he came back to where Miss Erith was lying on the moss, one arm resting across her eyes. 

"You ARE tired," he said. 

She removed her arm and looked up at him out of those wonderful golden eyes. 

"Is it all right for us to remain here, Kay?" 

"Yes. You can see for yourself. Anybody coming into this valley must be visible on that ridge to the south. And there's an exit. This brook dashes through it--two vast granite gates that will let us through into the outer forest, where they might as well hunt for two pins as for us." 

The girl smiled; her eyes closed. "I'm glad we can rest," she murmured. So McKay went about his duties. 

First he removed his pack and hers a hundred yards down stream, through the granite gateway, and placed them just beyond. 

Then he came back for Miss Erith. Scarcely awakened as he lifted her, she placed one arm around his neck with the sleepy unconsciousness of a tired child. They had long been on such terms; there was no escaping them in the intimacy of their common isolation and common danger. 

He laid her on the moss, well screened by the granite barrier, and beyond range of the brook's rainbow spray. She was already asleep again. 

He took off both her shoes, unwound the spiral puttees and gave her bruised little feet a chance to breathe. 

He made camp, tested the wind and found it safe to build a fire, set water to simmer, and unpacked the tinned rations. Then he made the two beds side by side, laying down blankets and smoothing away the twigs underneath. 

The surviving carrier pigeon was hungry. He fed it, lifted it still banded from its place, cleaned the cage and set it to dry in a patch of sunshine. 

The four automatic pistols he loaded and laid on a shelf in the granite barricade; set ammunition and flashlight beside them. 

Then he went to his pack and got his papers and material, and unrolled the map upon which he had been at work since he and Evelyn Erith had entered the enemy's zone of operations. 

From time to time as he worked, drawing or making notes, he glanced at the sleeping girl beside him. 

Never but once had the word "love" been mentioned between these two. 

For a long while, now--almost from the very beginning--he had known that he was in love with this girl; but, after that one day in the garden, he also knew that there was scarcely the remotest chance that he should live to tell her so again, or that she could survive to hear him. 

For when they had entered the enemy's zone below Mount Terrible they both realised that there was almost no chance of their returning. 

He had lighted his pipe; and now he sat working away at his drawings, making a map of his route as best he could without instruments, and noting with rapid pencil all matters of interest for those upon whose orders he and this girl beside him had penetrated the forbidden forest of Les Errues. This for the slim chance of getting back alive. But he had long believed that, if his pigeons failed him at the crisis, no report would ever be delivered to those who sent him here, either concerning his discoveries or his fate and the fate of the girl who lay asleep beside him. 

An hour later she awoke. He was still bent over his map, and she presently extended one arm and let her hand rest on his knee. 

"Do you feel better, Yellow-hair?" 

"Yes. Thank you for removing my shoes." 

"I suppose you are hungry," he remarked. 

"Yes. Are you?" 

He smiled: "As usual. I wish to heaven I could run across a roebuck." They both craved something to satisfy the hunger made keen by the Alpine air, and which no concentrated rations could satisfy. McKay seldom ventured to kill any game--merely an auerhahn, a hare or two, a red squirrel--and sometimes he had caught trout in the mountain brooks with his bare hands--the method called "tickling" and only too familiar to Old-World poachers. 

"Roebuck," she repeated trying not to speak wistfully. 

He nodded: "One crossed the stream below. I saw the tracks in the moss, which was still stirring where the foot had pressed." 

"Dare you risk a shot in Les Errues, Kay?" 

"I don't think I'd hesitate." 

After a silence: "Why don't you rest? You must be dead tired," she said. And he felt a slight pressure of her fingers drawing him. 

So he laid aside his work, dropped upon his blanket, and turned on his left side, looking at her. 

"You have not yet seen any sign of the place from which you once looked out across the frontier and saw thousands and thousands of people as busy as a swarm of ants--have you, Kay?" 

"I remember this stream and these woods. I can't seem to recollect how far or in which direction I turned after passing this granite gorge." 

"Did you go far?" 

"I can't recollect," he said. "I'd give my right arm if I could." His worn and anxious visage touched her. 

"Don't fret, Kay, dear," she said soothingly. "We'll find it. We'll find out what the Hun is doing. We'll discover what this Great Secret really is. And our pigeons shall tell it to the world." 

And, as always, she smiled cheerfully, confidently. He had never heard her whine, had never seen her falter save from sheer physical weariness. 

"We'll win through, Yellow-hair," he said, looking steadily into her clear brown-gold eyes. 

"Of course. You are so wonderful, Kay." 

"That is the most wonderful thing in the world, Evelyn--to hear you tell me such a thing!" 

"Don't you know I think so?" 

"I can't believe it--after what you know of me--" 


"I'm sorry--but a scar is a scar--" 

"There is no scar! Do you hear me! No scar, no stain! Don't you suppose a woman can judge? And I have my own opinion of you, Kay--and it is a perfectly good opinion and suits me." 

She smiled, closed her eyes as though closing the discussion, opened them and smiled again at him. 

And now, as always, he wondered how this fair young girl could find courage to smile in the very presence of the most dreadful death any living woman could suffer--death from the Hun. 

He lay looking at her and she at him, for a while. 

In the silence, a dry stick snapped and McKay was on his feet as though it had been the crack of a pistol. 

Presently he stooped, and she lifted her pretty head and rested one ear close to his lips: 

"It's that roebuck, I think, down stream." Then something happened; her ear touched his mouth--or his lips, forming some word, came into contact with her--so that it was as though he had kissed her and she had responded. 

Both recoiled; her face was bright with mounting colour and he seemed scared. Yet both knew it was not a caress; but she feared he thought she had invited one, and he feared she believed he had offered one. 

He went about his affair with the theoretical roebuck in silence, picking up one of his pistols, loosening his knife in its sheath; then, without the usual smile or gesture for her, he started off noiselessly over the moss. 

And the girl, supporting herself on one arm, her fingers buried in the moss, looked after him while her flushed face cooled. 

McKay moved down stream with pistol lifted, scanning the hard-wood ridges on either hand. For even the reddest of roe deer, in the woods, seem to be amazingly invisible unless they move. 

The stream dashed through shadow and sun-spot, splashing a sparkling way straight into the wilderness of Les Errues; and along its fern-fringed banks strode McKay with swift, light steps. His eyes, now sharpened by the fight for life--which life had begun to be revealed to him in all its protean aspects, searched the dappled, demi-light ahead, fiercely seeking to pierce any disguise that protective colouration might afford his quarry. 

Silver, russet, green and gold, and with the myriad fulvous nuances that the, forest undertones lend to its ensembles, these were the patterned tints that met his eye on every side in the subdued gradations of woodland light. 

But nothing out of key, nothing either in tone, colour, or shape, betrayed the discreet and searched for discord in the vague and lovely harmony;--no spiked head tossed in sudden fright; no chestnut flank turned too redly in the dim ensemble, no delicate feet in motion disturbed the solemn immobility of tree-trunk and rock. Only the fern fronds quivered where spray rained across them; and the only sounds that stirred were the crystalline clash of icy rapids and the high whisper of the leaves in Les Errues. 

And, as he stood motionless, every sense and instinct on edge, his eyes encountered something out of key with this lovely, sombre masterpiece of God. Instantly a still shock responded to the mechanical signal sent to his eyes; the engine of the brain was racing; he stood as immobile as a tree. 

Yes, there on the left something was amiss,--something indistinct in the dusk of heavy foliage--something, the shape of which was not in harmony with the suave design about him woven of its Creator. After a long while he walked slowly toward it. 

There was much more of it than he had seen. Its consequences, too, were visible above him where broken branches hung still tufted with bronze leaves which no new buds would ever push from their dead clasp of the sapless stems. And all around him yearling seedlings had pushed up through the charred wreckage. Even where fire had tried to obtain a foothold, and had been withstood by barriers of green and living sap, in burnt spaces where bits of twisted metal lay, tender shoots had pushed out in that eternal promise of resurrection which becomes a fable only upon a printed page. 

McKay's business was with the dead. The weather-faded husk lay there amid dry leaves promising some day to harmonise with the scheme of things. 

Mice had cleaned the bony cage under the uniform of a British aviator. Mice gnaw the shed antlers of deer. And other bones. 

The pockets were full of papers. McKay read some of them. Afterward he took from the bones of the hand two rings, a wrist-watch, a whistle which still hung by a short chain and a round object attached to a metal ring like a sleigh-bell. 

There was a hollow just beyond, made once in time of flood by some ancient mountain torrent long dry, and no longer to be feared. 

The human wreckage barely held together, but it was light; and McKay covered it with a foot of deep green moss, and made a cairn above it out of glacial stones from the watercourse. And on the huge beech that tented it he cut a cross with his trench-knife, making the incision deep, so that it glimmered like ivory against the silvery bark of the great tree. Under this sacred symbol he carved: 


Below this he cut a deep, white oblong in the bark, and with a coal from the burned airplane he wrote: 


He stood at salute for a full minute. Then turned, dropped to his knees, and began another thorough search among the debris and dead leaves. 

"Hello, Yellow-hair!" 

She had been watching his approach from where she was seated balanced on the stream's edge, with both legs in the water to the knees. 

He came up and dropped down beside her on the moss. 

"A dead airman in Les Errues," he said quietly, "a Britisher. I put away what remained of him. The Huns may dig him up: some animals do such things." 

"Where did you find him, Kay?" she asked quietly. 

"A quarter of a mile down-stream. He lay on the west slope. He had fallen clear, but there was not much left of his machine." 

"How long has he lain there in this forest?" 

"A year--to judge. Also the last entry in his diary bears this out. They got him through the head, and his belt gave way or was not fastened.--Anyway he came down stone dead and quite clear of his machine. His name was Blint--Sir W. Blint, Bart.... Lie back on the moss and let your bruised feet hang in the pool.... Here--this way --rest that yellow head of yours against my knees. ... Are you snug?" 


"Hold out your hands. These were his trinkets." 

The girl cupped her hands to receive the rings, watch, the gold whistle in its little gem-set chains, and the sleigh-bell on its bracelet. 

She examined them one by one in silence while McKay ran through the pages of the notebook--discoloured pages all warped and stained in their leather binding but written in pencil with print-like distinction. 

"Sir W. Blint," murmured McKay, still busy with the notebook. "Can't find what W. stood for." 

"That's all there is--just his name and military rank as an aviator: I left the disk where it hung." 

The girl placed the trinkets on the moss beside her and looked up into McKay's face. 

Both knew they were thinking of the same thing. They wore no disks. Would anybody do for them what McKay had done for the late Sir W. Blint? 

McKay bent a little closer over her and looked down into her face. That any living creature should touch this woman in death seemed to him almost more terrible than her dying. It was terror of that which sometimes haunted him; no other form of fear. 

What she read in his eyes is not clear--was not quite clear to her, perhaps. She said under her breath: 

"You must not fear for me, Kay.... Nothing can really touch me now." 

He did not understand what she meant by this immunity--gathering some vague idea that she had spoken in the spiritual sense. And he was only partly right. For when a girl is beginning to give her soul to a man, the process is not wholly spiritual. 

As he looked down at her in silence he saw her gaze shift and her eyes fix themselves on something above the tree-tops overhead. 

"There's that eagle again," she said, "wheeling up there in the blue." 

He looked up; then he turned his sun-dazzled eyes on the pages of the little notebook which he held open in both hands. 

"It's amusing reading," he said. "The late Sir W. Blint seems to have been something of a naturalist. Wherever he was stationed the lives of the birds, animals, insects and plants interested him. ... Everywhere one comes across his pencilled queries and comments concerning such things; here he discovers a moth unfamiliar to him, there a bird he does not recognise. He was a quaint chap--" 

McKay's voice ceased but his eyes still followed the pencilled lines of the late Sir W. Blint. And Evelyn Erith, resting her yellow head against his knees, looked up at him. 

"For example," resumed McKay, and read aloud from the diary: 

"Five days' leave. Blighty. All top hole at home. Walked with Constance in the park. 

Pair of thrushes in the spinney. Rookery full. Usual butterflies in unusual numbers. Toward twilight several sphinx moths visited the privet. No net at hand so did not identify any. Pheasants in bad shape. Nobody to keep them down. Must arrange drives while I'm away. 

Late at night a barn owl in the chapel belfrey. Saw him and heard him. Constance nervous; omens and that sort, I fancy; but no funk. Rotten deal for her." 

"Who was Constance?" asked Miss Erith. 

"Evidently his wife.... I wish we could get those trinkets to her." His glance shifted back to the pencilled page and presently he read on, aloud: 

France again. Headquarters. Same rumour that Fritz has something up his sleeve. Conference. Letter from Constance. Wrote her also. 

10th inst.: 

Conference. Interesting theory even if slightly incredible. Wrote Constance. 

12th inst.: 

Another conference. Sir D. Haig. Back to hangar. A nightingale singing, clear and untroubled above the unceasing thunder of the cannonade. Very pretty moth, incognito, came and sat on my sleeve. One of the Noctuidae, I fancy, but don't know generic or specific names. About eleven o'clock Sir D. Haig.  Unexpected honour. Sir D. serene and cheerful. Showed him about. He was much amused at my eagle. Explained how I had found him as an eaglet some twenty years ago in America and how he sticks to me like a tame jackdaw. 

Told Sir D. that I had been taking him in my air flights everywhere and that he adored it, sitting quite solemnly out of harm's way and, if taking to the air for a bit of exercise, always keeping my plane in view and following it to earth. 

Showed Sir D. H. all Manitou's tricks. The old chap did me proud. This was the programme: 

I.--'Will you cheer for king and country, Manitou?' 

Manitou (yelping)--'Houp--gloup--houp!' 

I.--'Suppose you were a Hun eagle, Manitou--just a vulgar Boche buzzard?' 

Manitou (hanging his head)--'Houp--gloup--houp!' 

I.-'But you're not! You're a Yankee eagle! Now give three cheers for Uncle Sam!' 

Manitou (head erect)--'Houp--gloup--houp!' 

Sir D. convulsed. Ordered a trench-rat for Manitou as usual. While he was discussing it I told Sir D. H. how I could always send Manitou home merely by attaching to his ankle a big whistling-bell of silver. 

Explained that Manitou hated it and that I had taught him to fly home when I attached it by arranging that nobody except my wife should ever relieve him of the bell. 

It took about two years to teach him where to go for relief. 

Sir D, much amused--reluctant to leave. Wrote to Connie later. Bed. 

13th inst.: 

Summoned by Sir D. H. Conference. Most interesting. Packed up. Of at 5 P. M., taking my eagle, Manitou. Wrote Constance. 

14th inst.: 

Paris. Yankees everywhere. Very ft. Have noticed no brag so far. Wrote Constance. 

20th inst.: 

Paris. Yanks, Yanks, Yanks. And 'thanks' rimes. I said so to one of 'em. 'No,' said he, 'Tanks' is the proper rime--British Tanks!' Neat and modest. Wrote Connie. 

21st inst.: 

Manitou and I are off. Most interesting quest I ever engaged in. Wrote to my wife. 

Delle. Manitou and I both very fit. Machine in waiting. Took the air for a look about. Manitou left me a mile up. Evidently likes the Alps. Soared over Mount Terrible whither I dared not venture--yet! Saw no Huns. Back by sundown.  Manitou dropped in to dinner--like a thunderbolt from the zenith.  Astonishment of Blue Devils on guard. Much curiosity. Manitou a hero. All see in him an omen of American victory. Wrote Connie. 

30th inst.: 

Shall try 'it' very soon now. 

If it's true--God help the Swiss! If not--profound apologies I suppose. Anyway its got to be cleared up. Manitou enamoured of mountains. Poor devil, it's in his blood I suppose. Takes the air, now, quite independent of me, but I fancy he gets uneasy if I delay, for he comes and circles over the hangar until my machine takes the air. And if it doesn't he comes down to find out why, mad and yelping at me like an irritated goblin. 

I saw an Alpine butterfly to-day--one of those Parnassians all white with wings veined a greenish black. Couldn't catch him. Wrote to Connie. Bed. 

31st inst.: 

In an hour. All ready. It's hard to believe that the Hun has so terrorised the Swiss Government as to force it into such an outrageous concession. Nous verrons. 

A perfect day. Everything arranged. Calm and confident. Think much of Constance but no nerves. Early this morning Manitou, who had been persistently hulking at my heels and squealing invitations to take wing with him, became impatient and went up. 

I saw him in time and whistled him down; and I told the old chap very plainly that he could come up with me when I was ready or not at all. 

He understood and sat on the table sulking, and cocking his silver head at me while I talked to him. That's one thing about Manitou. Except for a wild Canada goose I never before saw a bird who seemed to have the slightest trace of brain. I know, of course, it's not affection that causes him to trail me, answer his whistle, and obey when he doesn't wish to obey. It's training and habit. But I like to pretend that the old chap is a little fond of me. 

I'm of in a few minutes. Manitou is aboard. Glorious visibility. Now for Fritz and his occult designs--if there are any. 

A little note to Connie--I scarcely know why. Not a nerve. Most happy. Noticed a small butterfly quite unfamiliar to me. No time now to investigate. 

Engines! Manitou yelling with excitement. Symptoms of taking wing, but whistle checks insubordination.... All ready. Wish Connie were here. 

McKay closed the little book, strapped and buckled the cover. 

"Exit Sir W. Blint," he said, not flippantly. "I think I should like to have known that man." 

The girl, lying there with the golden water swirling around her knees and her golden head on the moss, looked up through the foliage in silence. 

The eagle was soaring lower over the forest now. After a little while she reached out and let her fingers touch McKay's hand where it rested on the moss: 


"Yes, Yellow-hair." 

"It isn't possible, of course.... But are there any eagles in Europe that have white heads and tails?" 


"I know.... I wish you'd look up at that eagle. He is not very high." 

McKay lifted his head. After a moment he rose to his feet, still looking intently skyward. The eagle was sailing very low now. 


The words shot out of McKay's lips. The girl sat upright, electrified. 

And now the sun struck full across the great bird as he sheered the tree-tops above. HEAD AND TAIL WERE A DAZZLING WHITE. 

"Could--could it be that dead man's eagle?" said the girl. "Oh, could it be Manitou? COULD it, Kay?" 

McKay looked at her, and his eye fell on the gold whistle hanging from her wrist on its jewelled chain. 

"If it is," he said, "he might notice that whistle. Try it!" 

She nodded excitedly, set the whistle to her lips and blew a clear, silvery, penetrating blast upward. 

"Kay! Look!" she gasped. 

For the response had been instant. Down through the tree-tops sheered the huge bird, the air shrilling through his pinions, and struck the solid ground and set his yellow claws in it, grasping the soil of the Old World with mighty talons. Then he turned his superb head and looked fearlessly upon his two compatriots. 

"Manitou! Manitou!" whispered the girl. And crept toward him on her knees, nearer, nearer, until her slim outstretched hand rested on his silver crest. 

"Good God!" said McKay in the low tones of reverence. 

McKay had drawn a duplicate of his route-map on thin glazed paper. 

Evelyn Erith had finished a duplicate copy of his notes and reports. 

Of these and the trinkets of the late Sir W. Blint they made two flat packets, leaving one of them unsealed to receive the brief letter which McKay had begun: 

"Dear Lady Blint-- 

It is not necessary to ask the wife of Sir W. Blint to have courage. 

He died as he had lived--a fine and fearless British sportsman. 

His death was painless. He lies in the forest of Les Errues. I enclose a map for you. 

I and my comrade, Evelyn Erith, dare believe that his eagle, Manitou, has not forgotten the air-path to England and to you. With God's guidance he will carry this letter to you. And with it certain objects belonging to your husband. And also certain papers which I beg you will have safely delivered to the American Ambassador. 

If, madam, we come out of this business alive, my comrade and I will do ourselves the honour of waiting on you if, as we suppose, you would care to hear from us how we discovered the body of the late Sir W. Blint. 

Madam, accept homage and deep respect from two Americans who are, before long, rather likely to join your gallant husband in the great adventure" 


She came, signed the letter. Then McKay signed it, and it was enclosed in one of the packets. 

Then McKay took the dead carrier pigeon from the cage and tossed it on the moss. And Manitou planted his terrible talons on the inert mass of feathers and tore it to shreds. 

Evelyn attached the anklet and whistling bell; then she unwound a yard of surgeon's plaster, and kneeling, spread the eagle's enormous pinions, hold-ing them horizontal while McKay placed the two packets and bound them in place under the out-stretched wings. 

The big bird had bolted the pigeon. At first he submitted with sulky grace, not liking what was happening, but offering no violence. 

And even now, as they backed away from him, he stood in dignified submission, patiently striving to adjust his closed wings to these annoying though light burdens which seemed to have no place among his bronze feathers. 

Presently, irritated, the bird partially unclosed one wing as though to probe with his beak for the seat of his discomfort. At the same time he moved his foot, and the bell rattled on his anklet. 

Instantly his aspect changed; stooping he inspected the bell, struck it lightly with his beak as though in recognition. 

WAS it the hated whistling bell? Again the curved beak touched it. And recognition was complete. 

Mad all through, disgust, indecision, gave rapid place to nervous alarm. Every quill rose in wrath; the snowy crest stood upright; the yellow eyes flashed fire. 

Then, suddenly, the eagle sprang into the air, yelping fierce protest against such treatment: the shrilling of the bell swept like a thin gale through the forest, keener, louder, as the enraged bird climbed the air, mounting, mounting into the dazzling blue above until the motionless watchers in the woods below saw him wheel. 

Which way would he turn? 'Round and round swept the eagle in wider and more splendid circles; in tensest suspense the two below watched motionless. 

Then the tension broke; and a dry sob escaped the girl. 

For the eagle had set his lofty course at last. Westward he bore through pathless voids uncharted save by God alone--who has set His signs to mark those high blue lanes, lest the birds--His lesser children--should lose their way betwixt earth and moon.  


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