“Yes—get him exchanged, and sent home to his friends. The War Office owes me something, and will no doubt oblige me in a small affair like this without asking questions. Oh, certainly it can be managed. I will write at once.”
Dorothea had the profoundest faith in her brother’s ability. That he hit at once on this simple solution which had eluded her through many wakeful nights did not surprise her in the least. Nor did she doubt for a moment that he would manage it as he promised.
But she could not thank him. He had beaten her spirit sorely—so sorely, that for days her whole body ached with the bruise. She did not accuse him: her one flash of contempt had lasted for an instant only, and the old habit of reverence quickly effaced it. But he had exposed her weakness; had forced her to see it, naked and pitiful, with no chivalry—either manly or brotherly—covering it; and seeing it with nothing to depend upon, she learned for the first time in her life the high, stern lesson of independence.
She learned it unconsciously, but she never forgot it. And it is to Endymion’s credit that he recognised the great alteration and allowed for it. He had driven her too far. She would never again be the same Dorothea. And never again by word or look did he remind her of that hour of abasement.
An exchange of prisoners was not to be managed in a day, and would take weeks, perhaps six weeks or a couple of months. He discussed this with her, quietly, as a matter of business entrusted to him, explained what steps he had taken, what letters he had written; when he expected definite news from the War Office. She met him on the same ground. “Yes, he could not have done better.” She trusted him absolutely.
And in fact he had been better than his word. Ultimate success, to be sure, was certain. It were strange if Mr. Westcote, who had opened his purse to support a troop of Yeomanry, who held two parliamentary seats at the Government’s service and two members at call to bully the War Office whenever he desired, who might at any time have had a baronetcy for the asking—it were strange indeed if Mr. Westcote could not obtain so trivial a favour as the exchange of a prisoner. He could do this, but he could not appreciably hurry the correspondence by which Pall Mall bargained a Frenchman in the forest of Dartmoor against an Englishman in the fortress of Briancon in the Hautes Alpes. Foreseeing delays, he had written privately to the Commandant at Dartmoor—a Major Sotheby, with whom he had some slight acquaintance—advising him of his efforts and requesting him to show the prisoner meanwhile all possible indulgence. The letter contained a draft, for ten pounds, to be spent upon small comforts at the Commandant’s discretion; but M. Raoul was not to be informed of the donor, or of his approaching liberty.