Bertram Eastford had intended to pass the shop of his old friend, the curiosity dealer, into whose pockets so much of his money had gone for trinkets gathered from all quarters of the globe. He knew it was weakness on his part, to select that street when he might have taken another, but he thought it would do no harm to treat himself to one glance at the seductive window of the old curiosity shop, where the dealer was in the habit of displaying his latest acquisitions. The window was never quite the same, and it had a continued fascination for Bertram Eastford; but this time, he said to himself resolutely, he would not enter, having, as he assured himself, the strength of mind to forego this temptation. However, he reckoned without his window, for in it there was an old object newly displayed which caught his attention as effectually as a half-driven nail arrests the hem of a cloak. On the central shelf of the window stood an hour-glass, its framework of some wood as black as ebony. He stood gazing at it for a moment, then turned to the door and went inside, greeting the ancient shopman, whom he knew so well.
“I want to look at the hour-glass you have in the window,” he said.
“Ah, yes,” replied the curiosity dealer; “the cheap watch has driven the hour-glass out of the commercial market, and we rarely pick up a thing like that nowadays.” He took the hour-glass from the shelf in the window, reversed it, and placed it on a table. The ruddy sand began to pour through into the lower receptacle in a thin, constant stream, as if it were blood that had been dried and powdered. Eastford watched the ever-increasing heap at the bottom, rising conically, changing its shape every moment, as little avalanches of the sand fell away from its heightening sides.
“There is no need for you to extol its antiquity,” said Eastford, with a smile. “I knew the moment I looked at it that such glasses are rare, and you are not going to find me a cheapening customer.”
“So far from over-praising it,” protested the shopman, “I was about to call your attention to a defect. It is useless as a measurer of time.”
“It doesn’t record the exact hour, then?” asked Eastford.
“Well, I suppose the truth is, they were not very particular in the old days, and time was not money, as it is now. It measures the hour with great accuracy,” the curio dealer went on–“that is, if you watch it; but, strangely enough, after it has run for half an hour, or thereabouts, it stops, because of some defect in the neck of the glass, or in the pulverising of the sand, and will not go again until the glass is shaken.”
The hour-glass at that moment verified what the old man said. The tiny stream of sand suddenly ceased, but resumed its flow the moment its owner jarred the frame, and continued pouring without further interruption.
“That is very singular,” said Eastford. “How do you account for it?”
“I imagine it is caused by some inequality in the grains of sand; probably a few atoms larger than the others come together at the neck, and so stop the percolation. It always does this, and, of course, I cannot remedy the matter because the glass is hermetically sealed.”
“Well, I don’t want it as a timekeeper, so we will not allow that defect to interfere with the sale. How much do you ask for it?”
The dealer named his price, and Eastford paid the amount.
“I shall send it to you this afternoon.”
“Thank you,” said the customer, taking his leave.
That night in his room Bertram Eastford wrote busily until a late hour. When his work was concluded, he pushed away his manuscript with a sigh of that deep contentment which comes to a man who has not wasted his day. He replenished the open fire, drew his most comfortable arm-chair in front of it, took the green shade from his lamp, thus filling the luxurious apartment with a light that was reflected from armour and from ancient weapons standing in corners and hung along the walls. He lifted the paper-covered package, cut the string that bound it, and placed the ancient hour-glass on his table, watching the thin stream of sand which his action had set running. The constant, unceasing, steady downfall seemed to hypnotise him. Its descent was as silent as the footsteps of time itself. Suddenly it stopped, as it had done in the shop, and its abrupt ceasing jarred on his tingling nerves like an unexpected break in the stillness. He could almost imagine an unseen hand clasping the thin cylinder of the glass and throttling it. He shook the bygone time-measurer and breathed again more steadily when the sand resumed its motion. Presently he took the glass from the table and examined it with some attention.
He thought at first its frame was ebony, but further inspection convinced him it was oak, blackened with age. On one round end was carved rudely two hearts overlapping, and twined about them a pair of serpents.
“Now, I wonder what that’s for?” murmured Eastford to himself. “An attempt at a coat of arms, perhaps.”
There was no clue to the meaning of the hieroglyphics, and Eastford, with the glass balanced on his knee, watched the sand still running, the crimson thread sparkling in the lamplight. He fancied he saw distorted reflections of faces in the convex glass, although his reason told him they were but caricatures of his own. The great bell in the tower near by, with slow solemnity, tolled twelve. He counted its measured strokes one by one, and then was startled by a decisive knock at his door. One section of his brain considered this visit untimely, another looked on it as perfectly usual, and while the two were arguing the matter out, he heard his own voice cry: “Come in.”
The door opened, and the discussion between the government and the opposition in his mind ceased to consider the untimeliness of the visit, for here, in the visitor himself, stood another problem. He was a young man in military costume, his uniform being that of an officer. Eastford remembered seeing something like it on the stage, and knowing little of military affairs, thought perhaps the costume of the visitor before him indicated an officer in the Napoleonic war.
“Good evening!” said the incomer. “May I introduce myself? I am Lieutenant Sentore, of the regular army.”
“You are very welcome,” returned his host. “Will you be seated?”
“Thank you, no. I have but a few moments to stay. I have come for my hour-glass, if you will be good enough to let me have it.”
“Your hour-glass?” ejaculated Eastford, in surprise. “I think you labour under a misapprehension. The glass belongs to me; I bought it to-day at the old curiosity shop in Finchmore Street.”
“Rightful possession of the glass would appear to rest with you, technically; but taking you to be a gentleman, I venture to believe that a mere statement of my priority of claim will appeal to you, even though it might have no effect on the minds of a jury of our countrymen.”
“You mean to say that the glass has been stolen from you and has been sold?”
“It has been sold undoubtedly over and over again, but never stolen, so far as I have been able to trace its history.”
“If, then, the glass has been honestly purchased by its different owners, I fail to see how you can possibly establish any claim to it.”
“I have already admitted that my claim is moral rather than legal,” continued the visitor. “It is a long story; have I your permission to tell it?”
“I shall be delighted to listen,” replied Eastford, “but before doing so I beg to renew my invitation, and ask you to occupy this easy-chair before the fire.”
The officer bowed in silence, crossed the room behind Eastford, and sat down in the arm-chair, placing his sword across his knees. The stranger spread his hands before the fire, and seemed to enjoy the comforting warmth. He remained for a few moments buried in deep reflection, quite ignoring the presence of his host, who, glancing upon the hour-glass in dispute upon his knees, seeing that the sands had all run out silently reversed it and set them flowing again. This action caught the corner of the stranger’s eye, and brought him to a realisation of why he was there. Drawing a heavy sigh, he began his story.
* * * * *
“In the year 1706 I held the post of lieutenant in that part of the British Army commanded by General Trelawny, the supreme command, of course, being in the hands of the great Marlborough.”
Eastford listened to this announcement with a feeling that there was something wrong about the statement. The man sitting there was calmly talking of a time one hundred and ninety-two years past, and yet he himself could not be a day more than twenty-five years old. Somewhere entangled in this were the elements of absurdity. Eastford found himself unable to unravel them, but the more he thought of the matter, the more reasonable it began to appear, and so, hoping his visitor had not noted the look of surprise on his face, he said, quietly, casting his mind back over the history of England, and remembering what he had learned at school:–
“That was during the war of the Spanish Succession?”
“Yes: the war had then been in progress four years, and many brilliant victories had been won, the greatest of which was probably the Battle of Blenheim.”
“Quite so,” murmured Eastford.
“It was the English,” Casper cried,
“That put the French to rout;
“But what they killed each other for,
“I never could make out.”
The officer looked up in astonishment.
“I never heard anything like that said about the war. The reason for it was perfectly plain. We had to fight or acknowledge France to be the dictator of Europe. Still, politics have nothing to do with my story. General Trelawny and his forces were in Brabant, and were under orders to join the Duke of Marlborough’s army. We were to go through the country as speedily as possible, for a great battle was expected. Trelawny’s instructions were to capture certain towns and cities that lay in our way, to dismantle the fortresses, and to parole their garrisons. We could not encumber ourselves with prisoners, and so marched the garrisons out, paroled them, destroyed their arms, and bade them disperse. But, great as was our hurry, strict orders had been given to leave no strongholds in our rear untaken.
“Everything went well until we came to the town of Elsengore, which we captured without the loss of a man. The capture of the town, however, was of little avail, for in the centre of it stood a strong citadel, which we tried to take by assault, but could not. General Trelawny, a very irascible, hotheaded man, but, on the whole, a just and capable officer, impatient at this unexpected delay, offered the garrison almost any terms they desired to evacuate the castle. But, having had warning of our coming, they had provisioned the place, were well supplied with ammunition, and their commander refused to make terms with General Trelawny.
“‘If you want the place,’ said the Frenchman, ‘come and take it.’
“General Trelawny, angered at this contemptuous treatment, flung his men again and again at the citadel, but without making the slightest impression on it.
“We were in no wise prepared for a long siege, nor had we expected stubborn resistance. Marching quickly, as was our custom heretofore, we possessed no heavy artillery, and so were at a disadvantage when attacking a fortress as strong as that of Elsengore. Meanwhile, General Trelawny sent mounted messengers by different roads to his chief giving an account of what had happened, explaining his delay in joining the main army, and asking for definite instructions. He expected that one or two, at least, of the mounted messengers sent away would reach his chief and be enabled to return. And that is exactly what happened, for one day a dusty horseman came to General Trelawny’s headquarters with a brief note from Marlborough. The Commander-in-Chief said:–
“‘I think the Frenchman’s advice is good. We want the place; therefore, take it.’
“But he sent no heavy artillery to aid us in this task, for he could not spare his big guns, expecting, as he did, an important battle. General Trelawny having his work thus cut out for him, settled down to accomplish it as best he might. He quartered officers and men in various parts of the town, the more thoroughly to keep watch on the citizens, of whose good intentions, if the siege were prolonged, we were by no means sure.
“It fell to my lot to be lodged in the house of Burgomaster Seidelmier, of whose conduct I have no reason to complain, for he treated me well. I was given two rooms, one a large, low apartment on the first floor, and communicating directly with the outside, by means of a hall and a separate stairway. The room was lighted by a long, many-paned window, leaded and filled with diamond-shaped glass. Beyond this large drawing- room was my bedroom. I must say that I enjoyed my stay in Burgomaster Seidelmier’s house none the less because he had an only daughter, a most charming girl. Our acquaintance ripened into deep friendship, and afterwards into—-but that has nothing to do with what I have to tell you. My story is of war, and not of love. Gretlich Seidelmier presented me with the hour-glass you have in your hand, and on it I carved the joined hearts entwined with our similar initials.”
“So they are initials, are they?” said Eastford, glancing down at what he had mistaken for twining serpents.
“Yes,” said the officer; “I was more accustomed to a sword than to an etching tool, and the letters are but rudely drawn. One evening, after dark, Gretlich and I were whispering together in the hall, when we heard the heavy tread of the general coming up the stair. The girl fled precipitately, and I, holding open the door, waited the approach of my chief. He entered and curtly asked me to close the door.
“‘Lieutenant,’ he said, ‘it is my intention to capture the citadel to- night. Get together twenty-five of your men, and have them ready under the shadow of this house, but give no one a hint of what you intend to do with them. In one hour’s time leave this place with your men as quietly as possible, and make an attack on the western entrance of the citadel. Your attack is to be but a feint and to draw off their forces to that point. Still, if any of your men succeed in gaining entrance to the fort they shall not lack reward and promotion. Have you a watch?’
“‘Not one that will go, general; but I have an hourglass here.’
“‘Very well, set it running. Collect your men, and exactly at the hour lead them to the west front; it is but five minutes’ quick march from here. An hour and five minutes from this moment I expect you to begin the attack, and the instant you are before the western gate make as much noise as your twenty-five men are capable of, so as to lead the enemy to believe that the attack is a serious one.’
“Saying this, the general turned and made his way, heavy-footed, through the hall and down the stairway.
“I set the hour-glass running, and went at once to call my men, stationing them where I had been ordered to place them. I returned to have a word with Gretlich before I departed on what I knew was a dangerous mission. Glancing at the hour-glass, I saw that not more than a quarter of the sand had run down during my absence. I remained in the doorway, where I could keep an eye on the hour-glass, while the girl stood leaning her arm against the angle of the dark passageway, supporting her fair cheek on her open palm; and, standing thus in the darkness, she talked to me in whispers. We talked and talked, engaged in that sweet, endless conversation that murmurs in subdued tone round the world, being duplicated that moment at who knows how many places. Absorbed as I was in listening, at last there crept into my consciousness the fact that the sand in the upper bulb was not diminishing as fast as it should. This knowledge was fully in my mind for some time before I realised its fearful significance. Suddenly the dim knowledge took on actuality. I sprang from the door-lintel, saying:–
“‘Good heavens, the sand in the hour-glass has stopped running!’
“I remained there motionless, all action struck from my rigid limbs, gazing at the hour-glass on the table.
“Gretlich, peering in at the doorway, looking at the hour-glass and not at me, having no suspicion of the ruin involved in the stoppage of that miniature sandstorm, said, presently:–
“‘Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you it does that now and then, and so you must shake the glass.’
“She bent forward as if to do this when the leaden windows shuddered, and the house itself trembled with the sharp crash of our light cannon, followed almost immediately by the deeper detonation of the heavier guns from the citadel. The red sand in the glass began to fall again, and its liberation seemed to unfetter my paralysed limbs. Bareheaded as I was, I rushed like one frantic along the passage and down the stairs. The air was resonant with the quick-following reports of the cannon, and the long, narrow street was fitfully lit up as if by sudden flashes of summer lightning. My men were still standing where I had placed them. Giving a sharp word of command, I marched them down the street and out into the square, where I met General Trelawny coming back from his futile assault. Like myself, he was bareheaded. His military countenance was begrimed with powder-smoke, but he spoke to me with no trace of anger in his voice.
“‘Lieutenant Sentore,’ he said, ‘disperse your men.’
“I gave the word to disband my men, and then stood at attention before him.
“‘Lieutenant Sentore,’ he said, in the same level voice, ‘return to your quarters and consider yourself under arrest. Await my coming there.’
“I turned and obeyed his orders. It seemed incredible that the sand should still be running in the hour-glass, for ages appeared to have passed over my head since last I was in that room. I paced up and down, awaiting the coming of my chief, feeling neither fear nor regret, but rather dumb despair. In a few minutes his heavy tread was on the stair, followed by the measured tramp of a file of men. He came into the room, and with him were a sergeant and four soldiers, fully armed. The general was trembling with rage, but held strong control over himself, as was his habit on serious occasions.
“‘Lieutenant Sentore,’ he said, ‘why were you not at your post?”
“‘The running sand in the hour-glass’ (I hardly recognised my own voice on hearing it) ‘stopped when but half exhausted. I did not notice its interruption until it was too late.’
“The general glanced grimly at the hour-glass. The last sands were falling through to the lower bulb. I saw that he did not believe my explanation.
“‘It seems now to be in perfect working order,’ he said, at last.
“He strode up to it and reversed it, watching the sand pour for a few moments, then he spoke abruptly:–
“‘Lieutenant Sentore, your sword.’
“I handed my weapon to him without a word. Turning to the sergeant, he said: ‘Lieutenant Sentore is sentenced to death. He has an hour for whatever preparations he cares to make. Allow him to dispose of that hour as he chooses, so long as he remains within this room and holds converse with no one whatever. When the last sands of this hour-glass are run, Lieutenant Sentore will stand at the other end of this room and meet the death merited by traitors, laggards, or cowards. Do you understand your duty, sergeant?’
“General Trelawny abruptly left the room, and we heard his heavy steps echoing throughout the silent house, and later, more faintly on the cobble-stones of the street. When they had died away a deep stillness set in, I standing alone at one end of the room, my eyes fixed on the hour-glass, and the sergeant with his four men, like statues at the other, also gazing at the same sinister object. The sergeant was the first to break the silence.
“‘Lieutenant,’ he said, ‘do you wish to write anything—-?’
“He stopped short, being an unready man, rarely venturing far beyond ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’
“‘I should like to communicate with one in this household,’ I said, ‘but the general has forbidden it, so all I ask is that you shall have my body conveyed from this room as speedily as possible after the execution.’
“‘Very good, lieutenant,’ answered the sergeant.
“After that, for a long time no word was spoken. I watched my life run redly through the wasp waist of the transparent glass, then suddenly the sand ceased to flow, half in the upper bulb, half in the lower.
“‘It has stopped,’ said the sergeant; ‘I must shake the glass.’
“‘Stand where you are!’ I commanded, sharply. ‘Your orders do not run to that.’
“The habit of obedience rooted the sergeant to the spot.
“‘Send one of your men to General Trelawny,’ I said, as if I had still the right to be obeyed. ‘Tell him what has happened, and ask for instructions. Let your man tread lightly as he leaves the room.’
“The sergeant did not hesitate a moment, but gave the order I required of him. The soldier nearest the door tip-toed out of the house. As we all stood there the silence seeming the deeper because of the stopping of the sand, we heard the hour toll in the nearest steeple. The sergeant was visibly perturbed, and finally he said:–
“‘Lieutenant, I must obey the general’s orders. An hour has passed since he left here, for that clock struck as he was going down the stair. Soldiers, make ready. Present.’
“The men, like impassive machines levelled their muskets at my breast. I held up my hand.
“‘Sergeant,’ I said as calmly as I could, ‘you are now about to exceed your instructions. Give another command at your peril. The exact words of the general were, ‘When the last sands of this hour-glass are run.’ I call your attention to the fact that the conditions are not fulfilled. Half of the sand remains in the upper bulb.’
“The sergeant scratched his head in perplexity, but he had no desire to kill me, and was only actuated by a soldier’s wish to adhere strictly to the letter of his instructions, be the victim friend or foe. After a few moments he muttered, ‘It is true,’ then gave a command that put his men into their former position.
“Probably more than half an hour passed, during which time no man moved; the sergeant and his three remaining soldiers seemed afraid to breathe; then we heard the step of the general himself on the stair. I feared that this would give the needed impetus to the sand in the glass, but, when Trelawny entered, the status quo remained. The general stood looking at the suspended sand, without speaking.
“‘ That is what happened before, general, and that is why I was not at my place. I have committed the crime of neglect, and have thus deservedly earned my death; but I shall die the happier if my general believes I am neither a traitor nor a coward.’
“The general, still without a word, advanced to the table, slightly shook the hour-glass, and the sand began to pour again. Then he picked the glass up in his hand, examining it minutely, as if it were some strange kind of toy, turning it over and over. He glanced up at me and said, quite in his usual tone, as if nothing in particular had come between us:–
“‘Remarkable thing that, Sentore, isn’t it?’
“‘Very,’ I answered, grimly.
“He put the glass down.
“‘Sergeant, take your men to quarters. Lieutenant Sentore, I return to you your sword; you can perhaps make better use of it alive than dead; I am not a man to be disobeyed, reason or no reason. Remember that, and now go to bed.’
“He left me without further word, and buckling on my sword, I proceeded straightway to disobey again.
“I had a great liking for General Trelawny. Knowing how he fumed and raged at being thus held helpless by an apparently impregnable fortress in the unimportant town of Elsengore, I had myself studied the citadel from all points, and had come to the conclusion that it might be successfully attempted, not by the great gates that opened on the square of the town, nor by the inferior west gates, but by scaling the seemingly unclimbable cliffs at the north side. The wall at the top of this precipice was low, and owing to the height of the beetling cliff, was inefficiently watched by one lone sentinel, who paced the battlements from corner tower to corner tower. I had made my plans, intending to ask the general’s permission to risk this venture, but now I resolved to try it without his knowledge or consent, and thus retrieve, if I could, my failure of the foregoing part of the night.
“Taking with me a long, thin rope which I had in my room, anticipating such a trial for it, I roused five of my picked men, and silently we made our way to the foot of the northern cliff. Here, with the rope around my waist, I worked my way diagonally up along a cleft in the rock, which, like others parallel to it, marked the face of the precipice. A slip would be fatal. The loosening of a stone would give warning to the sentinel, whose slow steps I heard on the wall above me, but at last I reached a narrow ledge without accident, and standing up in the darkness, my chin was level with the top of the wall on which the sentry paced. The shelf between the bottom of the wall and the top of the cliff was perhaps three feet in width, and gave ample room for a man careful of his footing. Aided by the rope, the others, less expert climbers than myself, made their way to my side one by one, and the six of us stood on the ledge under the low wall. We were all in our stockinged feet, some of the men, in fact, not even having stockings on. As the sentinel passed, we crouching in the darkness under the wall, the most agile of our party sprang up behind him. The soldier had taken off his jacket, and tip-toeing behind the sentinel, he threw the garment over his head, tightening it with a twist that almost strangled the man. Then seizing his gun so that it would not clatter on the stones, held him thus helpless while we five climbed up beside him. Feeling under the jacket, I put my right hand firmly on the sentinel’s throat, and nearly choking the breath out of him, said:–
“‘Your life depends on your actions now. Will you utter a sound if I let go your throat?’
“The man shook his head vehemently, and I released my clutch.
“‘Now,’ I said to him, ‘where is the powder stored? Answer in a whisper, and speak truly.’
“‘The bulk of the powder,’ he answered, ‘is in the vault below the citadel.’
“‘Where is the rest of it?’ I whispered.
“‘In the lower room of the round tower by the gate.’
“‘Nonsense,’ I said: ‘they would never store it in a place so liable to attack.’
“‘There was nowhere else to put it,’ replied the sentinel, ‘unless they left it in the open courtyard, which would be quite as unsafe.’
“‘Is the door to the lower room in the tower bolted?’
“‘There is no door,’ replied the sentry, ‘but a low archway. This archway has not been closed, because no cannon-balls ever come from the northern side.’
“‘How much powder is there in this room?’
“‘I do not know; nine or ten barrels, I think.’
“It was evident to me that the fellow, in his fear, spoke the truth. Now, the question was, how to get down from the wall into the courtyard and across that to the archway at the southern side? Cautioning the sentinel again, that if he made the slightest attempt to escape or give the alarm, instant death would be meted to him, I told him to guide us to the archway, which he did, down the stone steps that led from the northern wall into the courtyard. They seemed to keep loose watch inside, the only sentinels in the place being those on the upper walls. But the man we had captured not appearing at his corner in time, his comrade on the western side became alarmed, spoke to him, and obtaining no answer, shouted for him, then discharged his gun. Instantly the place was in an uproar. Lights flashed, and from different guard-rooms soldiers poured out. I saw across the courtyard the archway the sentinel had spoken of, and calling my men made a dash for it. The besieged garrison, not expecting an enemy within, had been rushing up the stone steps at each side to the outer wall to man the cannon they had so recently quitted, and it was some minutes before a knowledge of the real state of things came to them. These few minutes were all we needed, but I saw there was no chance for a slow match, while if we fired the mine we probably would die under the tottering tower.
“By the time we reached the archway and discovered the powder barrels, the besieged, finding everything silent outside, came to a realisation of the true condition of affairs. We faced them with bayonets fixed, while Sept, the man who had captured the sentinel, took the hatchet he had brought with him at his girdle, flung over one of the barrels on its side, knocked in the head of it, allowing the dull black powder to pour on the cobblestones. Then filling his hat with the explosive, he came out towards us, leaving a thick trail behind him. By this time we were sorely beset, and one of our men had gone down under the fire of the enemy, who shot wildly, being baffled by the darkness, otherwise all of us had been slaughtered. I seized a musket from a comrade and shouted to the rest:–
“‘Save yourselves’, and to the garrison, in French, I gave the same warning; then I fired the musket into the train of powder, and the next instant found myself half stunned and bleeding at the farther end of the courtyard. The roar of the explosion and the crash of the falling tower were deafening. All Elsengore was groused by the earthquake shock, I called to my men when I could find my voice, and Sept answered from one side, and two more from another. Together we tottered across the debris-strewn courtyard. Some woodwork inside the citadel had taken fire and was burning fiercely, and this lit up the ruins and made visible the great gap in the wall at the fallen gate. Into the square below we saw the whole town pouring, soldiers and civilians alike coming from the narrow streets into the open quadrangle. I made my way, leaning on Sept, over the broken gate and down the causeway into the square, and there, foremost of all, met my general, with a cloak thrown round him, to make up for his want of coat.
“‘There, general,’ I gasped, ‘there is your citadel, and through this gap can we march to meet Marlborough.’
“‘Pray, sir, who the deuce are you?’ cried the general, for my face was like that of a blackamoor.
“‘I am the lieutenant who has once more disobeyed your orders, general, in the hope of retrieving a former mistake.’
“‘Sentore!’ he cried, rapping out an oath. ‘I shall have you court- martialled, sir.’
“‘I think, general,’ I said, ‘that I am court-martialled already,’ for I thought then that the hand of death was upon me, which shows the effect of imagination, for my wounds were not serious, yet I sank down unconscious at the general’s feet. He raised me in his arms as if I had been his own son, and thus carried me to my rooms. Seven years later, when the war ended, I got leave of absence and came back to Elsengore for Gretlich Seidelmier and the hour-glass.”
As the lieutenant ceased speaking, Eastford thought he heard again the explosion under the tower, and started to his feet in nervous alarm, then looked at the lieutenant and laughed, while he said:–
“Lieutenant, I was startled by that noise just now, and imagined for the moment that I was in Brabant. You have made good your claim to the hour-glass, and you are welcome to it.”
But as Eastford spoke, he turned his eyes towards the chair in which the lieutenant had been seated, and found it vacant. Gazing round the room, in half somnolent dismay, he saw that he was indeed alone. At his feet was the shattered hour-glass, which had fallen from his knee, its blood-red sand mingling with the colours on the carpet. Eastford said, with an air of surprise:–