From the shaded lantern, lowered to just above the body, a yellowish glare fell on face and breast. The hands of the searcher moved in that little pool of light. The bearer who was taking notes bent down.
“Another boy,” he said. “That all he has?”
The searcher raised himself.
“Just those, and a photo.”
“Dispatch-case; pound loose; cigarette-case; wristwatch; photo. Let’s see it.”
The searcher placed the photo in the pool of light. The tiny face of a girl stared up at them, unmoved, from its short hair.
“Noel,” said the searcher, reading.
“H’m! Take care of it. Stick it in his case. Come on!”
The pool of light dissolved, and darkness for ever covered Cyril Morland.
When those four took their seats in the Grand Circle at Queen’s Hall the programme was already at the second number, which, in spite of all the efforts of patriotism, was of German origin—a Brandenburg concerto by Bach. More curious still, it was encored. Pierson did not applaud, he was too far gone in pleasure, and sat with a rapt smile on his face, oblivious of his surroundings. He remained thus removed from mortal joys and sorrows till the last applause had died away, and Leila’s voice said in his ear:
“Isn’t it a wonderful audience, Edward? Look at all that khaki. Who’d have thought those young men cared for music—good music—German music, too?”
Pierson looked down at the patient mass of standing figures in straw hats and military caps, with faces turned all one way, and sighed.
“I wish I could get an audience like that in my church.”
A smile crept out at the corner of Leila’s lips. She was thinking: ’Ah! Your Church is out of date, my dear, and so are you! Your Church, with its smell of mould and incense, its stained-glass, and narrowed length and droning organ. Poor Edward, so out of the world!’ But she only pressed his arm, and whispered:
“Look at Noel!”
The girl was talking to Jimmy Fort. Her cheeks were gushed, and she looked prettier than Pierson had seen her look for a long time now, ever since Kestrel, indeed. He heard Leila sigh.
“Does she get news of her boy? Do you remember that May Week, Edward? We were very young then; even you were young. That was such a pretty little letter you wrote me. I can see you still-wandering in your dress clothes along the river, among the ‘holy’ cows.”
But her eyes slid round again, watching her other neighbour and the girl. A violinist had begun to play the Cesar Franck Sonata. It was Pierson’s favourite piece of music, bringing him, as it were, a view of heaven, of devotional blue air where devout stars were shining in a sunlit noon, above ecstatic trees and waters where ecstatic swans were swimming.