Gravity Out Of Bed
It is probable that Sir Archibald Roylance did not altogether believe Dickson's tale; it
may be that he considered him an agreeable romancer, or a little mad, or no more than a
relief to the tedium of a wet Sunday morning. But his incredulity did not survive one
glance at Saskia as she stood in that bleak drawing-room among Victorian water-colours
and faded chintzes. The young man's boyishness deserted him. He stopped short in his
tracks, and made a profound and awkward bow. "I am at your service, Mademoiselle," he
said, amazed at himself. The words seemed to have come out of a confused memory of
plays and novels.
She inclined her head--a little on one side, and looked towards Dickson.
"Sir Archibald's going to do his best for us," said that squire of dames. "I was telling him
that we had had our breakfast."
"Let's get out of this sepulchre," said their host, who was recovering himself. "There's a
roasting fire in my den. Of course you'll have something to eat--hot coffee, anyhow--I've
trained my cook to make coffee like a Frenchwoman. The housekeeper will take charge
of you, if you want to tidy up, and you must excuse our ramshackle ways, please. I don't
believe there's ever been a lady in this house before, you know."
He led her to the smoking-room and ensconced her in the great chair by the fire.
Smilingly she refused a series of offers which ranged from a sheepskin mantle which he
had got in the Pamirs and which he thought might fit her, to hot whisky and water as a
specific against a chill. But she accepted a pair of slippers and deftly kicked off the
brogues provided by Mrs. Morran. Also, while Dickson started rapaciously on a second
breakfast, she allowed him to pour her out a cup of coffee.
"You are a soldier?" she asked.
"Two years infantry--5th Battalion Lennox Highlanders, and then Flying Corps. Top-hole
time I had too till the day before the Armistice, when my luck gave out and I took a nasty
toss. Consequently I'm not as fast on my legs now as I'd like to be."
"You were a friend of Captain Kennedy?"
"His oldest. We were at the same private school, and he was at m'tutors, and we were
never much separated till he went abroad to cram for the Diplomatic and I started east to
"Then I will tell you what I told Captain Kennedy." Saskia, looking into the heart of the
peats, began the story of which we have already heard a version, but she told it
differently, for she was telling it to one who more or less belonged to her own world. She
mentioned names at which the other nodded. She spoke of a certain Paul Abreskov. "I
heard of him at Bokhara in 1912," said Sir Archie, and his face grew solemn. Sometimes
she lapsed into French, and her hearer's brow wrinkled, but he appeared to follow. When
she had finished he drew a long breath.