THE LATE SIR W. BLINT
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
"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
"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,
"The eagle which comes every day to circle above Les Errues.
I, an amateur of ornithology am, perhaps, with all modesty, permitted to
"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,
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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:
"SIR W. BLINT, BART."
Below this he cut a deep, white oblong in the bark, and
with a coal from the burned airplane he wrote:
"THIS IS THE BEGINNING, NOT THE END. THIS ENGLISHMAN STILL
He stood at salute for a full minute. Then turned, dropped
to his knees, and began another thorough search among the debris and dead
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
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
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
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
"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.
Conference. Interesting theory even if slightly incredible.
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?'
I.--'Suppose you were a Hun eagle, Manitou--just a vulgar
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
Summoned by Sir D. H. Conference. Most interesting. Packed
up. Of at 5 P. M., taking my eagle, Manitou. Wrote Constance.
Paris. Yankees everywhere. Very ft. Have noticed no brag
so far. Wrote Constance.
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.
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.
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.
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
Engines! Manitou yelling with excitement. Symptoms of
taking wing, but whistle checks insubordination.... All ready. Wish Connie
McKay closed the little book, strapped and buckled the
"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
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:
"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.
"THAT'S AN AMERICAN EAGLE!"
The words shot out of McKay's lips. The girl sat upright,
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
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
Evelyn Erith had finished a duplicate copy of his notes
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
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
Madam, accept homage and deep respect from two Americans
who are, before long, rather likely to join your gallant husband in the
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
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.