Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

candle, she saw my eyes wandering among the gracious shadows,

"Isn't it wonderful," she said, "to have found a house which fits us like a glove?

No! Closer. Fits us as a bearskin fits the bear. It has taken our impress like wax.'

Somehow I didn't think that impress had come from the Giffens' side.

A November afternoon found Leithen and myself jogging homewards from a run with the Heythrop. It had been a wretched day. Twice we had found and lost, and then a deluge had set in which seattered the field. I had taken a hearty toss into a swamp, and got as wet as a man may be, but the steady downpour soon reduced every one to a like condition. When we turned towards Borrow by the rain ceased, and an ioy wind blew out of the east which partially dried our sopping clothes. All the grace had faded from the Cotswold valleys. The streams were brown torrents, the meadows lagoons, the ridges bleak and grey, and a sky of sourrying clouds east leaden shadows. It was a matter of ten miles to Borrowby: we had long ago emptied our flasks, and I longed for something hot to take the chill out of my bones.

"Let's look in at Fulloirele," said Leithen, as we emerged on the highroad from a muddy lane. "We'll make the Giffens give us tea. You'll find changes there."

I asked what changes, but he only smiled and told me to wait and see.

My mind was busy with sur

III.

mises as we rode up the avenue. I thought of drink or drugs, and promptly discarded the notion. Fullcircle was above all things decorous and wholesome. Leithen could not mean the change in the Giffens' ways which had so impressed me a year before, for he and I had long ago discussed that. I was still puzzling over his words when we found ourselves in the inner hall, with the Giffens making a hospitable fuss over us.

The place was more delectable than ever. Outside was a dark November day, yet the little house seemed to be transfused with sunshine. I do not know by what art the old builders had planned it, but the airy pilasters, the perfect lines of the ceiling, the soft colouring of the wood seemed to lay open the house to a clear sky. Logs burned brightly on the massive steel andirons, and the scent and the fine blue smoke of them strengthened the illusion of summer.

Mrs Giffen would have us change into dry things, but Leithen pleaded a waiting dinner at Borrowby. The two of us stood by the fireplace, drinking tea, the warmth drawing out a cloud of vapour from

our clothes to mingle with the wood-smoke. Giffen lounged in an arm-chair, and his wife sat by the tea-table. I was looking for the changes of which Leithen had spoken.

I did not find them in Giffen. He was much as I remembered him on the June night when I had slept here, a trifle fuller in the face perhaps, a little more placid about the mouth and eyes. He looked a man completely content with life. His smile came readily and his easy laugh. Was it my fancy, or had he acquired a look of the picture in the dining-room? I nearly made an errand to go and see it. It seemed to me that his mouth had now something of the portrait's delicate complacence. Lely would have found him a fit subject, though he might have boggled at his lean hands.

But his wife! Ah, there the changes were unmistakable. She was comely now rather than pretty, and the contours of her face had grown heavier. The eagerness had gone from her eyes and left only comfort and good-humour. There was a suspicion, ever so slight, of rouge and powder. She had a string of good pearls-the first time I had seen her wear jewels. The hand that poured out the tea was plump, shapely, and well cared for. I was looking at a most satisfactory mistress of a country house, who would see that nothing was lacking to the

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

"Shall Leithen asked.

She made a mouth. "Borrowby would crush me, but it suits a Gothic survival like you. Do you think you would be happy here?"

"Happy," said Leithen thoughtfully. "Happy? Yes, undoubtedly. But it might be bad for my soul. . . . There's just time for a pipe, Giffen, and then we must be off.”

I was filling my pipe as we crossed the outer hall, and was about to enter the smokingroom I so well remembered when Giffen laid a hand on

[blocks in formation]

looked in. . . . The place had suffered its third metamorphosis. The marble shrine which I had noticed on my first visit had been brought back, and the blue mosaic pavement and the ivory walls were bare. At the eastern end stood a little altar, with above it & copy of a Correggio Madonna.

A faint smell of incense hung in the air and the fragrance of hothouse flowers. It was a chapel, but, I swear, a more pagan place than when it had been workroom or smoking

room.

Giffen gently shut the door. "Perhaps you didn't know, but some months ago my wife became a Catholic. It is a good thing for women, I think. It gives them a regular ritual for their lives. So we restored the chapel. It had always been there in the days of the Carterons and the Applebys." "And you?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't bother much about these things. But I propose to follow suit. It will please Ursula and do no harm to any. body."

We halted on the brow of the hill and looked back on the garden valley. Leithen's laugh, as he gazed, had more awe than mirth in it.

"That wicked little house! I'm going to hunt up every sorap I can find about old Tom Carteron. He must have been an uncommon clever fellow. He's still alive down there and making people do as he did. In that kind of place you may expel the priest and sweep it and garnish it. But he always returns."

[ocr errors]

The wrack was lifting before the wind and a shaft of late watery sun fell on the grey walls. It seemed to me that the little house wore an air of gentle triumph.

THE FATE OF THE TURKOMANS.

BY LIEUT.-COLONEL THE HON. DUDLEY CARLETON.

THE Turkomans are a nomad and pastoral nation, numbering about two million souls, distributed throughout the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, eastward from the Caspian and north of Afghanistan as far as China. Strict Mahomedans by religion and intensely fanatical, for years they opposed the gradual advance of the Russians, but were finally subjugated and Russian Turkestan incorporated with the Russian Empire. The Tarkomans are of Mongolian extraction, descended from the invading hordes of Tamerlane or Timur the Tartar, and have preserved their racial characteristics in a wonderful degree, considering the proselytising influences to which they have been subjected by Russia. They may be roughly divided into two classes, the Wandering Turkoman, and the Sedentary Turkoman or Sarts. The former, as of old, move from oasis to oasis in the great Kara-Kum desert, or follow the pastures along the few rivers and streams of Turkestan. Their wealth consists in their cattle, sheep, and camel herds, whose flesh they eat, whose milk they drink, and from whose wool and skins they weave their clothes and manufacture the necessaries of life. This seotion of the Turkomans live as they have lived for centuries,

whereas the Sarts have gradually developed into an agricultural people with fixed dwellings grouped round such oases or along such rivers as ensure them a regular and sufficient water supply for their crops. In a waterless country like Turkestan, which sees no rain for eight or nine months in the year, the question of irrigation is of supreme importance. The Sart has brought the art of irrigation and the conservation and distribution of a limited water supply to the very highest pitoh, after the principles of irrigation were taught to him by the Russians. Russia too taught him the scientific cultivation of cotton, as well as the production of silk on mercial lines.

com

The principal cities of Turkestan are Bekhara, where the present Amir usually resides, Tashkent, Samarkand, Askhabad, and Merv. It might have been thought that a people so removed from Western civilisation would hardly have felt the shook of the world-war, but this is far from being the case, and at this moment the Turkomans are passing through the most violent national upheaval that they have known since their original great trek from China into Central Asia.

It may seem to the superficial observer that Turkestan

can have no interest for the of the different communities

British Empire, and that we can be in no way affected by whatever fate overtakes the Turkomans. On the contrary, we are going to be most deeply concerned in in the future of Turkestan both politically and commercially, and it is to be regretted that we have been compelled to sacrifice the great opportunities which recent events placed within our reach, Previous to the world - war Great Britain had no direct intercourse with Turkestan; it was divided from India by Afghanistan and Persia, and in addition Russia held complete sway there. We were more than willing that Russia should continue to develop that country and consolidate herself with the ruling Amirs, while encouraging the people to benefit by Western progress, which they were not unwilling to do. Now, however, the rule of Imperial Russia is at an end, and the whole political aspect of that part of the world has changed. The Bolshevists have penetrated into Turkestan, and are in occupation of Bokhara and Samarkand and all Eastern Turkestan, as well as Merv and probably Askhabad. Their propaganda is rampant east and west of the Oxus, they have their emissaries scattered throughout Western Turkestan as far as the Caspian, and along the northern frontier of Persia, and in Persia itself.

Of late the political situation in Transcaspia has been peculiarly intricate and involved owing to the antagonistic views

inhabiting that country. The Russian colonists, composed of railway workers, mechanies, and oil-field workers and agriculturists, favour Republicanism, but not Bolshevism, being industrious and prosperous; another section, principally military, is composed of the remnant of the Imperial Russian Army, and now forms the Russian Volunteer Army, who are bitterly opposed to the Bolshevists, but somewhat antagonistio to the Russian colony, in that they are said to favour the re-establishment of the Monarchy, to which the working colony is opposed. A third, and the most numerous group, consists of the indigenous Turkomans, the lords of the soil, who cannot as a whole be said to favour either the colonists or the volunteer army, because, in the first place, they want Turkestan for themselves, and, in the second, they have not quite forgiven Imperial Russia for their defeat at her hands. A fourth section, but until lately a very small minority, are the Bolshevists, who, however, only dared to show themselves when and where the Bolshevists were in power. The three principal groups of workmen, volunteer army, and Turkomans have been driven into an unnatural alliance against the common foe, the Bolshevist, and up till Maroh last they managed to preserve a solid front as far as the Oxus. In this they had the support of a small contingent from India, which acted as cement for the

« AnteriorContinuar »