“His father and mother?”
“They are both dead. There is a large family place in Warwickshire, and a chateau, just now, I am afraid, in the hands of the Germans. It was somewhere quite close to the frontier. Lady Granet was an Alsatian. He was to have gone out with the polo team, you know, to America, but broke a rib just as they were making the selection. He played cricket for Middlesex once or twice, too and he was Captain of Oxford the year that they did so well.”
“An Admirable Crichton,” Major Thomson murmured.
“In sport, at any rate,” his neighbour assented. “He has always been one of the most popular young men about town, but of course the women will spoil him now.”
“Is it my fancy,” he asked, “or was he not reported a prisoner?”
“He was missing twice, once for over a week,” Mrs. Cunningham replied. “There are all sorts of stories as to how he got back to the lines. A perfect young dare-devil, I should think. I must talk to Mr. Daniell for a few minutes or he will never publish my reminiscences.”
She leaned towards her neighbour on the other side and Major Thomson was able to resume the role of attentive observer, a role which seemed somehow his by destiny. He listened without apparent interest to the conversation between Geraldine Conyers and the young man whom they had been discussing.
“I think,” Geraldine complained, “that you are rather overdoing your diplomatic reticence, Captain Granet. You haven’t told me a single thing. Why, some of the Tommies I have been to see in the hospitals have been far more interesting than you.”
“I can assure you,” he protested, “it isn’t my fault. You can’t imagine how fed up one gets with things out there, and the newspapers can tell you ever so much more than we can. One soldier only sees a little bit of his own corner of the fight, you know.”
“But can’t you tell me some of your own personal experiences?” she persisted. “They are so much more interesting than what one reads in print.”
“I never had any,” he assured her. “Fearfully slow time we had for months.”
“Of course, I don’t believe a word you say,” she declared, laughing.
“You’re not taking me for a war correspondent, by any chance, are you?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Your language isn’t sufficiently picturesque! Tell me, when are you going back?”
“As soon as I can pass the doctors-in a few days, I hope.”
“You hope?” she repeated. “Do you really mean that, or do you say it because it is the proper thing to say?”
He appeared for the moment to somewhat resent her question.
“The fact that I hope to get back,” he remarked coldly, “has nothing whatever to do with my liking my job when I get there. As a matter of fact, I hate it. At the same time, you can surely understand that there isn’t any other place for a man of my age and profession.”