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On the following day Tidborough, opening its newspapers, shook hands with itself in all its houses, shops and offices on its own special and most glorious V.C.,—Lord Tybar.
Tybar’s V.C. was the first thing Sabre spoke of to Nona when, a fortnight later, she came down and he went up to her at Northrepps in the afternoon. Its brilliant gallantry, rendered so vivid to him by the intimacy with which he could see that thrice attractive figure engaged in its performance, stirred him most deeply. He had by heart every line of its official record in the restrained language of the Gazette.
...The left flank of the position was insecure, and the post, when taken over, was ill prepared for defence.... When the battalion was suffering very heavy casualties from a 77mm. field gun at very close range, Captain Lord Tybar rushed forward under intense machine gun fire and succeeded in capturing the gun single-handed after killing the entire crew.... Later, when repeated attacks developed, he controlled the defence at the point threatened, giving personal assistance with revolver and bombs.... Single-handed he repulsed one bombing assault.... It was entirely owing to the gallant conduct of this officer that the situation was relieved....
Oh, rare and splendid spirit! Fortune’s darling thrice worthy of her dowry!
Nona had written of it in ringing words. She flushed in beautiful ardour of the enthusiasm she joined with Sabre’s at his opening words of their meeting; but she ended with a sad little laugh. “And then!” she said.
“What do you mean, Nona, ’And then’?”
She took a letter from her bag. “I only got this this morning just as I was coming away. It’s in reply to the one I wrote him about his V.C. Oh, Marko, so splendid, so utterly splendid as he is, and then to be like this. Look, he says he’s just got leave and he’s going to spend it in Paris! One of his women is there. That Mrs. Winfred. He’s taken up with her again. He says, ’Poor thing. She’s all alone in Paris. I know how sorry you will feel for her, and I feel I ought to go and look after her. I know you will agree with me. I’ll tell her you sent me. That will amuse and please her so.’”
She touched her eyes with her handkerchief. “It rather hurts, Marko. It’s not that I mind his going. It’s just what he would do. But it’s the way he tells me. He just says it like that deliberately to be cruel because he knows it will hurt. So utterly splendid, Marko, and so utterly graceless.” She gave her little note of sadness again. “Utterly splendid! Look, this is all he says about his V.C. Isn’t this fine and isn’t it like him? He says, ’P.S. Yes, that V.C. business. You know why I got it, don’t you? It stands for Very Cautious, you know.’”
They laughed together. Yes, like him! Tybar exactly! Sabre could see him writing the letter. Delighting in saying words that would hurt; delighting in his own whimsicality that would amuse. Splendid; airy, untouched by fear; untouched by thought; fearless, faithless, heedless, graceless. Fortune’s darling; invested in her robe of mockery.