Strategy and Tactics
In which the Cavalry and Intelligence put to rout a crafty enemy
J. E. MIDDLETON
FROM his eyrie a mile high an eagle observes a fat gopher dozing on his sunny earth-heap, and swoops down with the speed of a bullet. Should that gopher nod a second too long his course is run.
Mr. ‘Annie’ Laurie, from a hall-bedroom four flights up, surveyed the human game afoot, and picked on Colonel Beverley Winter of Beverley House, sometime of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. The nickname ‘Annie’ was a happy compromise. It recalled a pleasant song, and, as the diminutive of Ananias paid tribute to Mr. Laurie’s pre-eminence in the field of practical fiction, a tribute accorded him, also, by the police of two Continents.
After a thorough reconnaisance, which occupied two full weeks, Mr. Laurie laid aside his poetic name, and with a sufficiency of well-labelled luggage registered at a hotel as ‘Captain, the Hon. Wilfrid Blunt Scarsdale.’ Perhaps he hoped that a keen reporter would look up Debrett and the Army List. Perhaps he suspected that this same reporter would seek an interview with so eminent a visitor as the son of Lord Denbigh. Yet when that very thing came to pass the captain stuck a glass in his eye and declined the privilege of taking the public into his confidence. “Really, you know,” he said with becoming modesty, “Inever do that sort of thing.” So the reporter went away and coopered a creditable story out of ‘Who’s Who’ about the captain’s war record and his interest in Imperial affairs.
/"'’OLONEL WINTER’S morning coat and trousers were of steel-grey; his waistcoat and spats were white —like his cavalry moustache—and he wore a grey tophat. His adornment was further accentuated by a blackand-white striped Ascot cravat and a single purple pansy in his buttonhole. Others at the race track slung field
glasses over their shoulders. The colonel had always declined to follow that fashion. He insisted—with reason -—that his eyes were sharp enough to see a foul on the back stretch, or to discern the colors on the jockeys, and what more could be needed? Perhaps he had the private opinion that the strap of a field glass case damaged the ‘set’ of a coat, but that is nobody’s business.
Certainly no other figure on the members’ lawn had more distinction than Colonel Beverley Winter; no other man was more affectionately regarded by society. The young matrons were very gay in his company; the elder matrons beamed upon him; even the debutantes— that bewildering kaleidoscopic—view of silk-stockings, ravishing costumes, rosy cheeks, merry eyes and French millinery—were about him like bees at a stalk of white clover.
General Winfield, the District Officer Commanding, had some difficulty in passing this shining barrier; he had to wait until the steeple-chase horses had taken the first jump. Then he slipped his hand through the colonel’s arm and said quietly, “I want you to meet one of our Imperialist friends from the other side, the late Lord Denbigh’s son.”
“Delighted I am sure,” returned the colonel with enthusiasm. “Denbigh and I were intimate for thirty years.” There was a snap, a vigor about Colonel Winter’s utterance, born of the habit of command, but his smile counteracted any passing appearance of truculence; a smile which almost closed those sharp brown eyes and set
up a dancing net-work of little wrinkles on the welltanned temples.
“Yes,” said the general, “I have heard you mention his part in the founding of the Royal Colonial Institute.”
They had crossed to the corner of the Lawn. “Captain Blunt Scarsdale,” General Winfield remarked in his most courteous manner, “here is one of your father’s oldest friends, Colonel Beverley Winter.”
Colonel Winter looked with approval on the clean, modest-looking young Englishman who stood before him, correct in raiment, easy in manner. He liked the tone of the captain’s voice as he said: “I am proud, Colonel Winter, to have the honor. My father had a very high regard for you.” The vowels had an Oxford breadth, but there was no trace of the loftiness which too often accompanies that manner of speech.
“A great pleasure, Captain; a great pleasure,” returned the colonel. “I have the happiest recollections of Denbigh House.” Then he added, “You are the naval officer I presume.”
“No, sir; that is my brother who has succeeded to the title. I was in the Tenth Hussars.”
The colonel’s bushy white eyebrows moved in a halffrown. “What!” he said, “a cavalry officer, and no moustache?”
The captain laughed. “I resigned my commission recently, sir, and had a shave.”
Colonel Winter stroked his own moustache and shook his head slightly. “I find times very much changed since I was a boy,” he answered in his most formidable manner.
“I have no doubt,” rejoined the young man coolly. “Some of us cavalrymen served for three years without even a horse.”
“Yes, by gad,” the colonel growled. “It was a devil of a war.”
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General Winfield broke in: “The captain has the D.S.O.”
A flush crept into the veteran’s cheek, the little wrinkles began to dance, he lifted his head. “Captain Scarsdale,” he said. “Will you do me the honor of shaking hands? I congratulate you, sir.”
“The honor is mine, Colonel Winter,” was the diplomatic reply. “I know your book, ‘Cavalry Tactics in a Hundred Wars.’ By Jove!” he added vigorously, pointing involuntarily to the track. One of the leading horses had fallen at the second hurdle and there was a sudden tangle of color as two jockeys were thrown. Eagerly the crowd gazed with a catching of the breath until the field swept on and the two jockeys rose and limped to the side of the track.
“I think they are all right,” remarked Winfield in a tone of relief.
“Short stirrups!” exclaimed the colonel. “How the devil can the boys be expected to hold a seat! This modern fashion of humping on the horse’s neck like a monkey is all damned nonsense. I remember a race thirty years ago on this very track—”
“There’s another down,” cried Winfield.
“They haven’t enough weight for steeplechasing,” said Scarsdale in a tone of disapproval.
“You’re right, sir,” said the colonel in his explosive manner. “Ninety-seven pounds only annoys a good horse. Will you dine with me to-morrow evening; seven o’clock?”
“With pleasure, sir. I wanted to have a talk with you in any event.”
“Very well. You too, Winfield?”
“Sorry, Colonel, but it is impossible. I am going to Ottawa to-night.”
“Too bad. Another time then. Ah-—is Mrs. Winfield here?”
“Yes. Perhaps we had better join her party. She has several young ladies with her.” The general spoke with some slyness, winking at Scarsdale. “I am not sure, Captain Scarsdale, that I should allow the colonel so much freedom. He devastates any company of young girls with his gallant ways.”
“The colonel chuckled as he replied: “Winfield, you are an artillery officer and have* no sensibility. This young man and I, as cavalrymen, know that a fine horse and a pretty girl are the two best things that God ever made, and we respect them. Lead us to your party.”
NOT a detail of the plan had miscarried. Mr. Annie Laurie was sitting at Colonel Winter’s table; that noble circle of mahogany which had been graced even by royalty itself. The letters of introduction which he had prepared with much laborious and clever penmanship were unnecessary. That little newspaper ‘story’ had brought cards from the secretary of the Military Institute, the secretary of the Jockey Club, two militia colonels, the president of an exclusive golf and country club-—himself a colonel —and General Winfield, the District Officer Commanding. ‘Captain Scarsdale’ had returned the calls promptly, his dress was punctilious, his personality was attractive, his conversation was ‘in character.’ There was nothing in his manner to shake the confidence of anyone; certainly not of military officers whose naivete, as a class is almost cherubic.
In contemplating the sublime naivete of Colonel Winter, the swindler’s fastidious soul was moved. “It is a shame to do it,” he thought. But of course this passing softness did not divert him from the business in hand. So with the deftness of long experience he fingered the stops of that mighty organ—Colonel Winter’s vanity. Little remarks about the veteran’s soldierly figure stiffened still more that ramrod back and set the colonel talking about the slouchy manner of to-day. Desultory questions about the Canadian West and the Soudan brought out a plan of the Riel Campaign and a description of Omdurman. A casual mention of British political affairs woke the Colonel’s memories of Chamberlain the First, Gladstone and Lord Salisbury. “I told Salisbury”—so the colonel ended one of his recitals—“I told Salisbury that I could not guarantee the integrity of the Empire if he adopted any such policy, and, of course, he made the necessary amendments.”
“Naturally,” returned the captain. “He knew the record of your family in Imperial interests.”
That was enough to start the host on a new tack; the duel fought by his greatgrandfather on Boston Common with Sam Adams, the flight to Canada, the trials of the Loyalists.
“Let us go into the library for our coffee,” he finished. “I have a fine portrait of the first Beverley Winter, which I would like you to see. They say that I resemble him; in appearance, that is.” “Perhaps also, Colonel, in your views on republicanism.”
“I shall not deny that,” Colonel Winter answered, stroking his moustache. He continued in a tone gradually getting louder and more forbidding: “The Americans individually are charming; hospitable, courteous people, but their infernal government is rooted in folly and flowers in lunacy.”
“I am strongly of your opinion,” said the guest. “I was military attache at the Washington embassy for a few months under Spring-Rice. A difficult time, Colonel; very difficult. But we have some friends there; dependable friends.” “You will find it hard to convince me of that.”
At this they came into the library, a spacious room in walnut panelling, crowded with books and yet luxuriously furnished. The light of the dying fire gleamed on the warlike decorations—a circle of bayonets, three assegai tied together with a sergeant’s sash, a musket of revolutionary days. Engravings of eminent soldiers; the first Winter, Roberts, Kitchener, Sir Garnet Wolseley; hung about the walls. Over the fireplace was à noble portrait of King George the Fifth, and beneath the picture, as a sort of challenge to His Majesty’s enemies, wheresoever found, hung the colonel’s service sword.
“A beautiful face, Colonel Winter,” remarked the captain as he paused to look at the founder of the family.
“It would look better if that fire were stirred up,” returned the colonel, and he picked up a poker of unusual design and began an assault on the smouldering logs.
“I beg pardon, sir,” exclaimed the younger man, as he looked with surprise at his host. “Do you use a sword as a poker?”
“I expected that,” responded Colonel Winter with a chuckle. “Nothing can hurt this blade. It is one of the heavy straight swords carried by Milhaud’s cuirassiers at Waterloo. My great-uncle brought it home and gave it to my grandfather as a souvenir. They were good swords, Scarsdale, infernally good swords; but not good enough with British troops opposite, eh, my boy?” He gave the chief log another poke and stood the weapon in the angle of the stone-work. Then he added: “You were talking about friends at Washington. To me that is a paradox.” “Do you know Senator Brassey?” asked the captain.
“No. Good name for a United States Senator, though.”
Scarsdale grew suddenly grave. “One of his sons was in our air force, and crashed at Gallipoli; the other was in my battalion.”
“No, Colonel, a ranker. Enlisted at Southampton as soon as the steamer landed and served three years.”
The old man straightened in his seat. “I apologize,” he said shortly.
“I have just spent a week-end with the senator in Washington,” remarked the captain in a tone of great satisfaction. “And that brings me to the subject I want to discuss with you-—on Lord Riverdale’s suggestion. He rose to get a cigarette from the table, “May I take the liberty,” he asked with a smile, and then he carefully closed the door leading to the hall way.
“I am sorry,” said the colonel. “There is always a draft from that door.”
“It was not the draft,” Scarsdale replied; “but the information I have to impart is confidential. A few months ago,’ he said, when he had returned to his seat, “the senator was in London and dined with me at my club. Lord Riverdale, Sir Geoffrey Hicks, Admiral Lyndon and a couple of journalist fellows were there; I ves of the Mowing Post and Dick Perry.”
“I know them all,” interposed the Colonel.
“Riverdale was complaining that Imperialist propaganda could make no headway while every Dominion had its nest of traitorous politicians.”
“Exactly,” growled the colonel
“Then Senator Brassey made a suggestion. He proposed that we set up an Imperial Intelligence League with the object of reckoning up the ringleaders, and the open enemies at Washington. Nearly every demagogue has had some discreditable phase in his career, and complete information about it in the hands of our friends would be most useful.”
“Hm!” said the colonel with a frown of intense thought.
“I do not want to trouble you too much with details, Colonel Winter, but the scheme would require a confidential resident in Melbourne, in Ottawa, in Cape Town, in Delhi and in Washington, with a central office in London—say £10,000 a year.”
“How would you finance it?” asked the colonel.
“By private subscription. Those of us who could afford it would provide say £500 a year for three years. We already have half the money pledged. We are hoping that you will join us. Perhaps chis will interest you.” He took from his wallet a folded green paper and handed it to his host with a triumphant smile— “Senator Brassey’s cheque for $2,000.”
“Why the devil should he subscribe?” was the sharp response.
“Well, sir, he believes that the safety and progress of the United States are assured so long as the British Empire is strong.”
“Tut! A scheme such as you have outlined should have no foreign connections.”
The captain raised his eyebrows. “Would you call Senator Brassey a foreigner?”
“I would. He may be a friendly foreigner, but Washington is as much a foreign Capital as Vienna, and always has been. Riverdale and some others over there are always thinking of the States as a favorite cousin or something of the sort. I live in Canada, like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before me. We know that Columbia is one of the harder, more indifferent relatives—say, a stepmother, or a maiden great-aunt. Your father shared my view. He was a very intelligent man.”
Scarsdale bowed. “You are very kind,” he said, with immeasurable deference. “Of course Brassey is quite out of sympathy with the view of many American politicians. He is a Southerner. I believe that as a boy he was a bugler in General Forrest’s Confederate cavalry.”
“What, what!” exclaimed the colonel with a frown. Then in more polished tones he said, “Really! You quite surprise me. I think I have a roster of Forrest’s first command. Very fine soldier, Forrest. Excuse me a moment. No, do not move, I beg.”
tJE CROSSED the room and began rummaging through a series of pamphlets which occupied one section of the book-shelves. As» he searched he made occasional, absent comments about Forrest’s military genius, and looked from time to time at the airy young man sitting before his fire. “Ah, here it is,” he said at last in tones of high satisfaction. “By the way, Captain, would you mind stirring up those logs? They must be green. They have no enthusiasm.”
Scarsdale laughed and wielded the old Milhaud weapon for a few moments with much success, the colonel watching with a smile. “Have another cigarette,” his host added in the voice of command and then ran down with his finger the musty record of sixty years ago. “I do not see the name here,” he said, “but that is of no consequence. The wastage was high and the lists would change materially in a few weeks. Of course the roster may be imperfect; there seems to be no bugler in the squadron. I do not doubt Senator Brassey’s word—-or yours.” He returned to his chair and looked studiously upon the fire.
“I suppose we can count upon your aid, sir,” said the captain in pleasant tones.
“It is an interesting scheme,” the old man replied, “and distinctly out of the common. I do not like the fact that it was proposed by a Yan—I mean an American; they are all so infernally efficient that they make me uneasy. But I have great faith in Riverdale and Hicks. I am going to take the liberty of sleeping on the matter, to determine what I can afford. The amount you suggest is rather larger than anything proposed in the past. How long will you be in town?”
“Until to-morrow evening at ten o’clock.”
“Could you call in about eight o’clock; rather after than before?”
“I shall be glad to do so,” was the captain’s response as he repocketed the Brassey cheque and rose to take his leave. “I must thank you for a most entertaining evening.”
“And I, you,” said Colonel Winter with a stately bow.
MR. ‘ANNIE’ LAURIE returned to his hotel heartened by his success and as merry as a grig. He played billiards until midnight and then slept the sleep of the righteous.
Next evening, dressed with peculiar care he rang the bell at Beverley House, his countenance composed into its diplomatic expression and his eyeglass ready for instant action. The parlor-maid smiled as she answered the door and said: “If you please, sir, the colonel is waiting for you in the library.” Thanking the girl he slipped out of his loose ulster and passed into the room to be warmly greeted.
“Glad to see you, Captain; glad to see you. This is my friend Mr. Marquess. Marquess, Captain the Hon. Wilfrid Blunt Scarsdale, Lord Denbigh’s son.” He rolled out the rame with immense satisfaction.
“I do not care to detain you to-night,” said Colonel Winter, addressing the captain, “as I have some business with this gentleman. But I have considered your proposal very carefully and I have pleasure in handing you my cheque for $2,500.”
“I do not know how to thank you, sir. Perhaps I had better leave that to Lord Riverdale. I am sure he will be delighted to have the support of the most distinguished imperialist in the Colonies.”
At that moment Marquess laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder and said sharply. “You are under arrest.” “What the devil—” exclaimed the supposed son of Lord Denbigh, his face suddenly red.
“All right, Annie,” piped Marquess. “No nonsense. We have you dead to rights, finger-prints and all. Hand over that cheque.”
There was a smile on the colonel’s face; the net-work of wrinkles was dancing on those leathern temples; his brown eyes were all a-sparkle. When he spoke it was in a vigorous, resonant tone. “You are the cleverest young rascal I have seen for some time, but you missed two tricks, so I sent to headquarters for Inspector Marquess.”
Mr. Annie Laurie laughed. He had nerve; police officers of London. Washington and Paris were agreed on that point and had admitted it on the‘wanted’ circulars. “You are a good old scout, Colonel,” he remarked in his ordinary accent, purged completely of Oxford influence, “and what I said goes about being glad to meet you. You do not mind me congratulating you because the bulls have me?” He spoke with such whimsical humor that the colonel’s anger disappeared.
“By gad, sir, you are an original scoundrel. I will say that of you.”
“Thanks. That sounds almost like a testimonial. “As Marquess snapped the steel on his wrists, Mr. Laurie smiled at the veteran and said: “What are the two tricks I missed, Colonel?”
“Come along,” interrupted the police officer impatiently.
The colonel spoke in high disdain: “You called a cavalry trumpeter a bugler, and you handled Milhaud’s sword like a —by gad, sir, like an infernal Army Service Corps private. I never saw such damned clumsiness.”
Mr. Annie Laurie laughed, and then went out, in company, his handsome head held high, his lips whistling, ‘Maxweltoon braes are bonnie.’