The Rough Road


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THE ROUGH ROAD

by
WILLIAM J. LOCKE

First Edition . . . September 1918

JOHN LANE
THE BODLEY HEAD LTD

TO
SHEILA

THIS LITTLE TALE OF
THE GREAT WAR
AS A MEMORY FOR AFTER YEARS

THE ROUGH ROAD

CHAPTER I

This is the story of Doggie Trevor. It tells of his doings and of a girl in England and a girl in France. Chiefly it is concerned with the influences that enabled him to win through the war. Doggie Trevor did not get the Victoria Cross. He got no cross or distinction whatever. He did not even attain the sorrowful glory of a little white cross above his grave on the Western Front. Doggie was no hero of romance, ancient or modern. But he went through with it and is alive to tell the tale.

The brutal of his acquaintance gave him the name of "Doggie" years before the war was ever thought of, because he had been brought up from babyhood like a toy Pom. The almost freak offspring of elderly parents, he had the rough world against him from birth. His father died before he had cut a tooth. His mother was old enough to be his grandmother. She had the intense maternal instinct and the brain, such as it is, of an earwig. She wrapped Doggie---his real name was James Marmaduke---in cotton-wool, and kept him so until he was almost a grown man. Doggie had never a chance. She brought him up like a toy Pom until he was twenty-one---and then she died. Doggie being comfortably off, continued the maternal tradition and kept on bringing himself up like a toy Pom. He did not know what else to do. Then, when he was five-and-twenty, he found himself at the edge of the world gazing in timorous starkness down into the abyss of the Great War. Something kicked him over the brink and sent him sprawling into the thick of it.


That the world knows little of its greatest men is a commonplace among silly aphorisms. With far more justice it may be stated that of its least men the world knows nothing and cares less. Yet the Doggies of the War, who on the cry of "Havoc!" have been let loose, much to their own and everybody else's stupefaction, deserve the passing tribute sometimes, poor fellows, of a sigh, sometimes of a smile, often of a cheer. Very few of them---very few, at any rate, of the English Doggies---have tucked their little tails between their legs and run away. Once a brawny humorist wrote to Doggie Trevor "Sursum cauda." Doggie happened to be at the time in a water-logged front trench in Flanders and the writer basking in the mild sunshine of Simla with his Territorial regiment. Doggie, bidden by the Hedonist of circumstance to up with his tail, felt like a scorpion.

Such feelings, however, will be more adequately dealt with hereafter. For the moment, it is only essential to obtain a general view of the type to which Trevor belonged.


If there is one spot in England where the present is the past, where the future is still more of the past, where the past wraps you and enfolds you in the dreamy mist of Gothic beauty, where the lazy meadows sloping riverward deny the passage of the centuries, where the very clouds are secular, it is the cathedral town of Durdlebury. No factory chimneys defile with their smoke its calm air, or defy its august and heaven-searching spires. No rabble of factory hands shocks its few and sedate streets. Divine Providence, according to the devout, and the crass stupidity of the local authorities seventy years ago, according to progressive minds, turned the main line of railway twenty miles from the sacred spot. So that to this year of grace it is the very devil of a business to find out, from Bradshaw, how to get to Durdlebury, and, having found, to get there. As for getting away, God help you! But whoever wanted to get away from Durdlebury, except the Bishop? In pre-motor days he used to grumble tremendously and threaten the House of Lords with Railway Bills and try to blackmail the Government with dark hints of resignation, and so he lived and threatened and made his wearisome diocesan round of visits and died. But now he has his episcopal motor-car, which has deprived him of his grievances.

In the Close of Durdlebury, greenswarded, silent, sentinelled by immemorial elms that guard the dignified Gothic dwellings of the cathedral dignitaries, was James Marmaduke Trevor born. His father, a man of private fortune, was Canon of Durdlebury. For many years he lived in the most commodious canonical house in the Close with his sisters Sophia and Sarah. In the course of time a new Dean, Dr. Conover, was appointed to Durdlebury, and, restless innovator that he was, underpinned the North Transept and split up Canon Trevor's home by marrying Sophia. Then Sarah, bitten by the madness, committed abrupt matrimony with the Rev. Vernon Manningtree, Rector of Durdlebury. Canon Trevor, many years older than his sisters, remained for some months in bewildered loneliness, until one day he found himself standing in front of the cathedral altar with Miss Mathilda Jessup, while the Bishop pronounced over them words diabolically strange yet ecclesiastically familiar. Miss Jessup, thus transformed into Mrs. Trevor, was a mature and comfortable maiden lady of ample means, the only and orphan daughter of a late Bishop of Durdlebury. Never had there been such a marrying and giving in marriage in the cathedral circle. Children were born in Decanal, Rectorial and Canonical homes. First a son to the Manningtrees, whom they named Oliver. Then a daughter to the Conovers. Then a son, named James Marmaduke, after the late Bishop Jessup, was born to the Trevors. The profane say that Canon Trevor, a profound patristic theologian and an enthusiastic palontologist, couldn't make head or tail of it all, and, unable to decide whether James Marmaduke should be attributed to Tertullian or the Neolithic period, expired in an agony of dubiety. At any rate, the poor man died. The widow, of necessity, moved from the Close, in order to make way for the new Canon, and betook herself with her babe to Denby Hall, the comfortable house on the outskirts of the town in which she had dwelt before her marriage.

The saturated essence of Durdlebury ran in Marmaduke's blood: an honourable essence, a proud essence; an essence of all that is statically beautiful and dignified in English life; but an essence which, without admixture of wilder and more fluid elements, is apt to run thick and clog the arteries. Marmaduke was coddled from his birth. The Dean, then a breezy, energetic man, protested. Sarah Manningtree protested. But when the Dean's eldest born died of diphtheria, Mrs. Trevor, in her heart, set down the death as a judgment on Sophia for criminal carelessness; and when young Oliver Manningtree grew up to be an intolerable young Turk and savage, she looked on Marmaduke and, thanking heaven that he was not as other boys were, enfolded him more than ever beneath her motherly wing. When Oliver went to school in the town and tore his clothes, and rolled in mud and punched other boys' heads, Marmaduke remained at home under the educational charge of a governess. Oliver, lean and lanky and swift-eyed, swaggered through the streets unattended from the first day they sent him to a neighbouring kindergarten. As the months and years of his childish life passed, he grew more and more independent and vagabond. He swore blood brotherhood with a butcher-boy and, unknown to his pious parents, became the leader of a ferocious gang of pirates. Marmaduke, on the other hand, was never allowed to cross the road without feminine escort. Oliver had the profoundest contempt for Marmaduke. Being two years older, he kicked him whenever he had a chance. Marmaduke loathed him. Marmaduke shrank into Miss Gunter, the governess's, skirts whenever he saw him. Mrs. Trevor therefore regarded Oliver as the youthful incarnation of Beelzebub, and quarrelled bitterly with her sister-in-law.

One day, Oliver, with three or four of his piratical friends, met Marmaduke and Miss Gunter and a little toy terrier in the High Street. The toy terrier was attached by a lead to Miss Gunter on the one side, Marmaduke by a hand on the other. Oliver straddled rudely across the path.

"Hallo! Look at thet two little doggies!" he cried. He snapped his fingers at the terrier. "Come along, Tiny!" The terrier yapped. Oliver grinned and turned to Marmaduke. "Come along, Fido, dear little doggie."

"You're a nasty, rude, horrid boy, and I shall tell your mother," declared Miss Gunter indignantly.

But Oliver and his pirates laughed with the truculence befitting their vocation, and bowing with ironical politeness, let their victim depart to the parody of a popular song: "Good-bye, Doggie, we shall miss you."

From that day onwards Marmaduke was known as "Doggie" throughout all Durdlebury, save to his mother and Miss Gunter. The Dean himself grew to think of him as "Doggie." People to this day call him Doggie, without any notion of the origin of the name.

To preserve him from persecution, Mrs. Trevor jealously guarded him from association with other boys. He neither learned nor played any boyish games. In defiance of the doctor, whom she regarded as a member of the brutal anti-Marmaduke League, Mrs. Trevor proclaimed Marmaduke's delicacy of constitution. He must not go out into the rain, lest he should get damp, nor into the hot sunshine, lest he should perspire. She kept him like a precious plant in a carefully warmed conservatory. Doggie, used to it from birth, looked on it as his natural environment. Under feminine guidance and tuition he embroidered and painted screens and played the piano and the mandolin, and read Miss Charlotte Yonge and learned history from the late Mrs. Markham. Without doubt his life was a happy one. All that he asked for was sequestration from Oliver and his associates.

Now and then the cousins were forced to meet---at occasional children's parties, for instance. A little daughter, Peggy, had been born in the Deanery, replacing the lost firstborn, and festivals---to which came the extreme youth of Durdlebury---were given in her honour. She liked Marmaduke, who was five years her senior, because he was gentle and clean and wore such beautiful clothes and brushed his hair so nicely; whereas she detested Oliver, who, even at an afternoon party, looked as if he had just come out of a rabbit-hole. Besides, Marmaduke danced beautifully; Oliver couldn't and wouldn't, disdaining such effeminate sports. His great joy was to put out a sly leg and send Doggie and his partner sprawling. Once the Dean caught him at it, and called him a horrid little beast, and threatened him with neck and crop expulsion if he ever did it again. Doggie, who had picked himself up and listened to the rebuke, said:

"I'm very glad to hear you talk to him like that, Uncle. I think his behaviour is perfectly detestable."

The Dean's lips twitched and he turned away abruptly. Oliver glared at Doggie.

"Oh, my holy aunt!" he whispered hoarsely. "Just you wait till I get you alone!"

Oliver got him alone, an hour later, in a passage, having lain in ambush for him, and after a few busy moments, contemplated a bruised and bleeding Doggie blubbering in a corner.

"Do you think my behaviour is detestable now?"

"Yes," whimpered Doggie.

"I've a good mind to go on licking you until you say 'no,'" said Oliver.

"You're a great big bully," said Doggie.

Oliver reflected. He did not like to be called a bully. "Look here," said he, "I'll stick my right arm down inside the back of my trousers and fight you with my left."

"I don't want to fight. I can't fight," cried Doggie.

Oliver put his hands in his pockets.

"Will you come and play Kiss-in-the-Ring, then?" he asked sarcastically.

"No," replied Doggie.

"Well, don't say I haven't made you generous offers," said Oliver, and stalked away.

It was all very well for the Rev. Vernon Manningtree, when discussing this incident with the Dean, to dismiss Doggie with a contemptuous shrug and call him a little worm without any spirit. The unfortunate Doggie remained a human soul with a human destiny before him. As to his lack of spirit------

"Where," said the Dean, a man of wider sympathies, "do you suppose he could get any from? Look at his parentage. Look at his upbringing by that idiot woman."

"If he belonged to me, I'd drown him," said the Rector.

"If I had my way with Oliver," said the Dean, "I'd skin him alive."

"I'm afraid he's a young devil," said the Rector, not without paternal pride. "But he has the makings of a man."

"So has Marmaduke," replied the Dean.

"Bosh!" said Mr. Manningtree.


When Oliver went to Rugby, happier days than ever dawned for Marmaduke. There were only the holidays to fear. But as time went on, the haughty contempt of Oliver, the public-school boy, for the home-bred Doggie, forbade him to notice the little creature's existence; so that even the holidays lost their gloomy menace and became like the normal halcyontide. Meanwhile Doggie grew up. When he reached the age of fourteen, the Dean, by strenuous endeavour, rescued him from the unavailing tuition of Miss Gunter. But school for Marmaduke Mrs. Trevor would not hear of. It was brutal of Edward---the Dean---to suggest such a thing. Marmaduke---so sensitive and delicate---school would kill him. It would undo all the results of her unceasing care. It would make him coarse and vulgar, like other horrid boys. She would sooner see him dead at her feet than at a public school. It was true that he ought to have the education of a gentleman. She did not need Edward to point out her duty. She would engage a private tutor.

"All right. I'll get you one," said the Dean.

The Master of his old college at Cambridge sent him an excellent youth, who had just taken his degree---a second class in the Classical Tripos---an all-round athlete and a gentleman. The first thing he did was to take Marmaduke on the lazy river that flowed through the Durdlebury meadows, thereby endangering his life, woefully blistering his hands, and making him ache all over his poor little body. After a quarter of an hour's interview with Mrs. Trevor, the indignant young man threw up his post and departed.

Mrs. Trevor determined to select a tutor herself. A scholastic agency sent her a dozen candidates. She went to London and interviewed them all. A woman, even of the most limited intelligence, invariably knows what she wants, and invariably gets it. Mrs. Trevor got Phineas McPhail, M.A. Glasgow, B.A. Cambridge (Third Class Mathematical Greats), reading for Holy Orders.

"I was training for the ministry in the Free Kirk of Scotland," said he, "when I gradually became aware of the error of my ways, and saw that there could only be salvation in the episcopal form of Church government. As the daughter of a bishop, Mrs. Trevor, you will appreciate my conscientious position. An open scholarship and the remainder of my little patrimony enabled me to get my Oxford degree. You would have no objection to my continuing my theological studies while I undertake the education of your son?"

Phineas McPhail pleased Mrs. Trevor. He had what she called a rugged, honest Scotch face, with a very big nose in the middle of it, and little grey eyes overhung by brown and shaggy eyebrows. He spoke with the mere captivating suggestion of an accent. The son of decayed, proud, and now extinct gentlefolk, he presented personal testimonials of an unexceptionable quality.

Phineas McPhail took to Doggie and Durdlebury as a duck to water. He read for Holy Orders for seven years. When the question of his ordination arose, he would declare impressively that his sacred duty was the making of Marmaduke into a scholar and a Christian. That duty accomplished, he would begin to think of himself. Mrs. Trevor accounted him the most devoted and selfless friend that woman ever had. He saw eye to eye with her in every detail of Marmaduke's upbringing. He certainly taught the boy, who was naturally intelligent, a great deal, and repaired the terrible gaps in Miss Gunter's system of education. McPhail had started life with many eager curiosities, under the impulse of which he had amassed considerable knowledge of a superficial kind which, lolling in an arm-chair, with a pipe in his mouth, he found easy to impart. To the credit side of Mrs. Trevor's queer account it may be put that she did not object to smoking. The late Canon smoked incessantly. Perhaps the odour of tobacco was the only keen memory of her honeymoon and brief married life.

During his seven years of soft living, Phineas McPhail scientifically developed an original taste for whisky. He seethed himself in it as the ancients seethed a kid in its mother's milk. He had the art to do himself to perfection. Mrs. Trevor beheld in him the mellowest and blandest of men. Never had she the slightest suspicion of evil courses. To such a pitch of cunning in the observance of the proprieties had he arrived, that the very servants knew not of his doings. It was only later---after Mrs. Trevor's death---when a surveyor was called in by Marmaduke to put the old house in order, that a disused well at the back of the house was found to be half filled with hundreds of whisky bottles secretly thrown in by Phineas McPhail.

The Dean and Mr. Manningtree, although ignorant of McPhail's habits, agreed in calling him a lazy hound and a parasite on their fond sister-in-law. And they were right. But Mrs. Trevor turned a deaf ear to their slanders. They were unworthy to be called Christian men, let alone ministers of the Gospel. Were it not for the sacred associations of her father and her husband, she would never enter the cathedral again. Mr. McPhail was exactly the kind of tutor that Marmaduke needed. Mr. McPhail did not encourage him to play rough games, or take long walks, or row on the river, because he appreciated his constitutional delicacy. He was the only man in the world during her unhappy widowhood who understood Marmaduke. He was a treasure beyond price.

When Doggie was sixteen, fate, fortune, chance, or whatever you like to call it, did him a good turn. It made his mother ill, and sent him away with her to foreign health resorts. Doggie and McPhail travelled luxuriously, lived in luxurious hotels and visited in luxurious ease various picture galleries and monuments of historic or sthetic interest. The boy, artistically inclined and guided by the idle yet well-informed Phineas, profited greatly. Phineas sought profit to them both in other ways.

"Mrs. Trevor," said he, "don't you think it a sinful shame for Marmaduke to waste his time over Latin and mathematics, and such things as he can learn at home, instead of taking advantage of his residence in a foreign country to perfect himself in the idiomatic and conversational use of the language?"

Mrs. Trevor, as usual, agreed. So thenceforward, whenever they were abroad, which was for three or four months of each year, Phineas revelled in sheer idleness, nicotine, and the skilful consumption of alcohol, while highly paid professors taught Marmaduke---and, incidentally, himself---French and Italian.

Of the world, however, and of the facts, grim or seductive, of life, Doggie learned little. Whether by force of some streak of honesty, whether through sheer laziness, whether through canny self-interest, Phineas McPhail conspired with Mrs. Trevor to keep Doggie in darkest ignorance. His reading was selected like that of a young girl in a convent: he was taken only to the most innocent of plays: foreign theatres, casinos, and such-like wells of delectable depravity, existed almost beyond his ken. Until he was twenty it never occurred to him to sit up after his mother had gone to bed. Of strange goddesses he knew nothing. His mother saw to that. He had a mild affection for his cousin Peggy, which his mother encouraged. She allowed him to smoke cigarettes, drink fine claret, the remains of the cellar of her father, the bishop, a connoisseur, and crme de menthe. And, until she died, that was all poor Doggie knew of the lustiness of life.

Mrs. Trevor died, and Doggie, as soon as he had recovered from the intensity of his grief, looked out upon a lonely world. Phineas, like Mrs. Micawber, swore he would never desert him. In the perils of Polar exploration or the comforts of Denby Hall, he would find Phineas McPhail ever by his side. The first half-dozen or so of these declarations consoled Doggie tremendously. He dreaded the Church swallowing up his only protector and leaving him defenceless. Conscientiously, however, he said:

"I don't want your affection for me to stand in your way, sir."

"'Sir'?" cried Phineas, "is it not practicable for us to do away with the old relations of master and pupil, and become as brothers? You are now a man, and independent. Let us be Pylades and Orestes. Let us share and share alike. Let us be Marmaduke and Phineas."

Doggie was touched by such devotion. "But your ambitions to take Holy Orders, which you have sacrificed for my sake?"

"I think it may be argued," said Phineas, "that the really beautiful life is delight in continued sacrifice. Besides, my dear boy, I am not quite so sure as I was when I was young, that by confining oneself within the narrow limits of a sacerdotal profession, one can retain all one's wider sympathies both with human infirmity and the gladder things of existence."

"You're a true friend, Phineas," said Doggie.

"I am," replied Phineas.

It was just after this that Doggie wrote him a cheque for a thousand pounds on account of a vaguely indicated year's salary.

If Phineas had maintained the wily caution which he had exercised for the past seven years, all might have been well. But there came a time when unneedfully he declared once more that he would never desert Marmaduke, and declaring it, hiccoughed so horribly and stared so glassily, that Doggie feared he might be ill. He had just lurched into Doggie's own peacock-blue and ivory sitting-room when he was mournfully playing the piano.

"You're unwell, Phineas. Let me get you something."

"You're right, laddie," Phineas agreed, his legs giving way alarmingly, so that he collapsed on a brocade-covered couch. "It's a touch of the sun, which I would give you to understand," he continued with a self-preservatory flash, for it was an overcast day in June, "is often magnified in power when it is behind a cloud. A wee drop of whisky is what I require for a complete recovery."

Doggie ran into the dining-room and returned with a decanter of whisky, glass and siphon---an adjunct to the sideboard since Mrs. Trevor's death. Phineas filled half the tumbler with spirit, tossed it off, smiled fantastically, tried to rise, and rolled upon the carpet. Doggie, frightened, rang the bell. Peddle, the old butler, appeared.

"Mr. McPhail is ill. I can't think what can be the matter with him."

Peddle looked at the happy Phineas with the eyes of experience.

"If you will allow me to say so, sir," said he, "the gentleman is dead drunk."

And that was the beginning of the end of Phineas. He lost grip of himself. He became the scarlet scandal of Durdlebury and the terror of Doggie's life. The Dean came to the rescue of a grateful nephew. A swift attack of delirium tremens crowned and ended Phineas McPhail's Durdlebury career.

"My boy," said the Dean on the day of Phineas's expulsion, "I don't want to rub it in unduly, but I've warned your poor mother for years, and you for months, against this bone-idle, worthless fellow. Neither of you would listen to me. But you see that I was right. Perhaps now you may be more inclined to take my advice."

"Yes, Uncle," replied Doggie submissively.

The Dean, a comfortable florid man in the early sixties, took up his parable and expounded it for three-quarters of an hour. If ever young man heard that which was earnestly meant for his welfare, Doggie heard it from his Very Reverend Uncle's lips.

"And now, my dear boy," said the Dean by way of peroration, "you cannot but understand that it is your bounden duty to apply yourself to some serious purpose in life."

"I do," said Doggie. "I've been thinking over it for a long time. I'm going to gather material for a history of wall-papers."



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