Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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Reggie Vliet couldn't marry into a family with the fancy heritage that was the Vanderveers'. But he could go into the past and make a few changes...
"SAY what you have to say, young man. Say what you have to say, and stop standing there simpering like some blasted clown!" Colonel Vanderveer demanded testily, glaring at the blond, young man in the frock-coat and striped trousers.
Reggie Vliet shifted uncomfortably. This was not as he had planned it. He had known that Colonel Vanderveer would be as easy to handle as a wounded bear, but he had hoped that he could talk the old duffer out of his usual nasty frame of mind. But then Reggie's face assumed its bland smile once more as he shrugged inwardly. A start, he concluded, was better than none at all.
"Colonel Vanderveer," Reggie said, clearing his throat. "I want to talk to you about"—and he grabbed the bull by the horns— "your daughter."
"You do, eh?" the Colonel's tone was as soft as a file on a rusty hinge.
"Yes, I do—sir."
"Hmmmmm," the Colonel regarded Reggie with rheumy eyes. "I suppose," he measured his words menacingly, "you are ass enough to want her hand in marriage?"
Reggie smiled swiftly. This was capital. The old boy got right down to the point. Must have suspected it all along. Why, it was a breeze. The old goat would probably say a few fatherly words, and that would be that.
"Yes, sir. You guessed it. But I wouldn't say I was an ass, sir. She isn't as bad as all that. Why Sandra has any number of good points, and I—"
Colonel Vanderveer rose behind his huge mahogany desk, and, to Reggie, his lantern jaw never seemed squarer, or his eyes more baleful. He was gazing at Reggie with the curious interest of a man who has seen something scuttle out from under a damp board on a rainy day.
"Get the hell out of my study, you young whippersnapper!"
"But—" Reggie's protest was a muffled bleat as he backed three steps away from the figure of wrath.
"You, marry a Vanderveer!" The Colonel was shouting wildly, now. Shouting wildly and waving his arms in great confused circles. "You, a snivelling young blatherskite without a single scrap of family background. Don't try to argue with me, young man. I'm no damned fool. I've been shaking the branches of your family tree for the last two days, ever since I suspected that you and my daughter Sandra were getting sentimental and sloppy about one another!"
"Why, sir," the colonel bellowed, really beginning to warm up to his subject. "Do you realize that the Vanderveers have the finest, the most noble lineage, heredity, ancestry, of any family in this country? Why, the nerve, the insolence of your presumption, sir, is enough to nauseate even the most tolerant of men!"
"Yes, but—" Reggie began.
Colonel Vanderveer, however, was plunging onward. "Look," he bellowed, turning slightly to point to two portraits hanging side by side behind his huge study desk. "Look at those portraits, sir! Those, sir, are my forebearers, my noble ancestors. They are the two most glorious heroes of a noble Vanderveer line. The illustrious hero on the right," thundered the Colonel, pointing to one of the portraits, "is none other than Major Lucius Vanderveer, brilliant military genius without whose aid to General Sheridan, the Union Army never would have been able to win the American Civil War."
The Colonel paused only long enough to take a deep and reverent breath. Then he barged loudly ahead. "And this second portrait," he bellowed, pointing to the painting on his left, "is that of Colonel Horatio Vanderveer, possibly the most glorious of all my line. It was Major Horatio Vanderveer who gave the Duke of Wellington invaluable assistance in defeating Napoleon at Waterloo!"
"Don't interrupt me, sir. Haven't you even background enough to know that a gentleman never interrupts an other gentleman? Bah. What are you, sir. A Vliet! Nothing but a Vliet. And where, sir, were the Vliets among the world builders? Tell me that, just tell me that! Nowhere, sir. That's where they were. Why, there isn't a single Vliet anywhere on the pages of History. Not a single Vliet on anything but twentieth-century police records!"
"I had a grandfather who was a whisky-drummer in Mississippi," Reggie offered timidly.
"Whissssssssky drummer, indeed! You're a charlatan, young man. That is precisely what you are, sir. A charlatan!" The Colonel was pointing a horny and dramatic finger at the door of his study. "Get out of here, you young upstart. There is no room for the son of a son of a whisky-drummer in the Vanderveer line. That, sir, is final. I will not have the famous, the glorious, the splendid Vanderveer name polluted by intermarriage with a descendant of gypsies!"
Colonel Vanderveer's red face had turned stark crimson, and he was making fuzzy grabs at small objects on his desk. The line in his lantern jaw was twitching in frenzy. Reggie noted all this, and stepped quickly out of the study, closing the door behind him. He heard a blunt object thudding against the door, and shrugging his slim shoulders dejectedly, turned off down the hallway of the Vanderveer mansion...
REGGIE found Sandra Vanderveer waiting for him in the garden of the Vanderveer estate. She was slim, pretty, and brunette. She was dressed in blue slacks. Her face wore a look of anxious concern.
"Reggie, have you seen him?"
Reggie Vliet absently plucked a bit of fluff from the crease in his impeccable morning trousers.
"Yes, old girl. I saw him. Somehow, I am beginning to suspect that your father doesn't take to me."
Sandra's eyes became suddenly moist.
"Oh, Reggie, no. He didn't refuse?"
"He objected," Reggie corrected her, "violently." He shuddered. Faint in the distance he heard sounds that might have been the continued bull-rantings of Colonel Vanderveer.
Sandra Vanderveer's lovely blue eyes were suddenly filled with tears. And while Reggie put his arms around her waist, she clung to him, sobbing.
"Oh, Reggie, Reggie. This is terrible. What are we going to do?"
Reggie looked resigned.
"It's tough, old dear. But after all, we can elope."
"Elope?" Sandra wailed the word.
"Certainly. Nothing to it. Just pop off and get married. People do it all along, you know."
"But, Reggie. We can't. I wouldn't dare. What could we live on?"
"I hadn't thought of that."
"You haven't any job," Sandra reminded him softly, for this was a delicate subject. Reggie was engrossed in deep brooding.
"I must think," he muttered. "I must get off somewhere and put the Vliet brain to the wheel. You can't cook an omelette without breaking the egg, you know."
"Oh Reggie," Sandra breathed, eyes shining. "You're wonderful."
Reggie nodded, gloom returning to his face.
"I know," he conceded. "But now I must go off somewhere and think."
Turning on his heel, Reggie left Sandra in the garden, gazing in wistful awe at his retreating figure. There was scotch and soda, and solitude in the Vanderveer library. It was good scotch, and he could do his thinking there . . .
BUT thinking in the Vanderveer library was not the easy job that Reggie Randhope had imagined it would be; even from a deep leather chair, with a bottle and siphon beside him. For the walls of the room were alternately lined with books, and pictures.
The books were bad enough. The titles concerned such grave matters as Complete Guide To Ancestry, Burke's Peerage, Who's Who In Outer Arabia, and many more such volumes. Their morocco covers brought back to Reggie the realization that he was nothing but a Vliet. Just a Vliet. Not even a Lincoln, or an Adam.
Until Colonel Vanderveer's outburst of the afternoon, Reggie had never been particularly conscious of the fact that he was a Vliet. Neither had he been particularly ashamed of it. Of course he knew something of the importance attached to the legend of the Vanderveers. No man engaged to marry a Vanderveer could help but know the history of the Clan. If not completely, at least from the year 920 B.C. up to the French Revolution.
Reggie had even realized that his own family crest was somewhat lacking in comparison to the Vanderveer escutcheon. However, being an extremely confident young modern, it had never entered his head that this difference in family background might become the stumbling block to his marital ambitions.
But old Colonel Vanderveer had looked Reggie Vliet up. He had, in his own words, "shaken every damned limb" of the Vliet family tree. And now he was reacting as though he had found the thing infested with chattering monkeys, or fungoid growths.
Reggie Vliet sipped his scotch reflectively and frowned. It was obvious that something had to be done. Colonel Vanderveer had to be brought to his knees, or at least to his ankles.
And at this moment Lowndes appeared.
Lowndes was the butler of the Vanderveer manor. Lowndes had brooding eyes and a mouth full of gold teeth. His trouser-cuffs reached only to his ankles—a fact which everyone pretended not to notice, inasmuch as Lowndes was generally known to be eccentric.
Reggie regarded Lowndes. The fellow had an unpleasant habit of appearing unexpectedly, just as he had done now.
"Hello, Lowndes," Reggie said at last. "Where did you pop from?"
Lowndes looked imperturbably at him, while bending over to fix a flower in a vase.
"From the thirteenth century, sir," Lowndes replied.
"Oh." Reggie considered this. "That's nice, Lowndes."
Then Reggie again put his mind to thinking a way out of his dilemma. But the pictures and the books all around him continued to be bothersome. And something else was, too. Something Lowndes had said.
"Lowndes?" Reggie looked up. "What was it that you just said?"
Lowndes was arranging a lamp on a table.
"I said I just came back from the thirteenth century, sir."
"I see, the thirteenth century," Reggie said reflectively. Then: "That's quite a bit off, isn't it Lowndes? I mean, in time and all that? Sort of difficult to get to, I'd imagine."
Lowndes gazed tolerantly at Reggie.
"Oh, no sir. Not at all, sir. Not for me it isn't." Reggie considered this. "Not for you?"
Lowndes smiled confidentially.
"Oh, no sir. I can go anywhere I please in time. I can just zip off. Do it constantly, sir. An interesting hobby, sir."
"I should imagine. No end of fun, what? How do you go about it? Any special trick?"
Lowndes smiled confidingly.
"My watch, sir." He pointed to a wrist-watch on his left hand. "It's a time-machine stripped down to the essentials. Made it myself. A very cunning job, if I do say so, sir."
Reggie looked at the watch on the butler's wrist.
"Well," he declared, "this is rather novel. An odd sort of timepiece."
"Decidedly odd, sir." There was staunch pride in Lowndes tone. "I can just set it, as one would an ordinary watch, to any one of the centuries designated on the face of it."
"And off you'll go, to that particular century?" There was a marveling tone in Reggie's voice. A shrewd fellow, Lowndes.
"Yes, sir. Off I'll go, after I press this little button on the side." He indicated a button beneath the mainspring.
"Try it, Lowndes," Reggie suggested. "Shock me, old boy."
And while Reggie looked on in appreciation, Lowndes pressed the button beneath the mainspring and quite promptly vanished.
Reggie drew his breath in sharply.
"Well," he ejaculated, "what won't they think of next?"
And in the next instant, Lowndes was back in the room again, standing before him and smirking proudly.
"You see, sir. Simple, eh?"
"Where did you go to then?"
"The time of Christopher Columbus," Lowndes said calmly. "Back in the fifteenth century."
The smile was still on Reggie's features, the same bland, wondering smile. But a new glint was creeping into his eyes. And he looked around the walls of the library, from which the paintings of countless Vanderveers hung. Vanderveers in uniform, Vanderveers in costumes of state, Vanderveers on horses, Vanderveers signing great documents. All very impressive. All very historical.
It was then that Reggie noticed all the paintings were concerned with the dignified and very historical antics of the two most prominent of the Vanderveer clan, namely, Major Lucius Vanderveer, and Colonel Horatio Vanderveer. They were evidently the prize roots from the Vanderveer family tree, Reggie realized, especially since these two gents were the ones whose portraits hung behind the desk in Colonel Vanderveer's study.
And then the idea exploded in a blinding flash upon his brain.
He had it—had it proper! The Vanderveer family tree. The one thorn in the toe of his marriage, was based on these two historical old duffers who had been forebearers of the proud Vanderveer line.
Reggie thought aloud.
"Supposing," he wondered, "that these two old ducks in the pictures on the walls hadn't been famous?"
"Eh, sir?" Lowndes was puzzled.
Reggie waved his hand impatiently.
"One moment, Lowndes, I am thinking!" Then he drove on to the nub of this great idea that was dawning upon him. Supposing history hadn't been what it was? Wouldn't it then be possible that the Vanderveers might not have been famous? It would not only be possible, it would undoubtedly be probable. If history were different, there would be no place for the Vanderveer pride in a family tree. And old Colonel Vanderveer couldn't be so confounded arrogant. And he, Reggie Vliet, could marry Sandra Vanderveer just like that!
The thought was staggering, stupendous, colossal. And, better than that, it was a good, an excellent, a splendid idea!
Reggie grabbed Lowndes by the arm.
"Lowndes old boy," he breathed excitedly. "That dingus on your wrist—"
"You mean my simplified time-machine?" Lowndes asked coldly. "And while you're speaking of the scientific side of me, sir, I'd prefer you to call me Doctor Lowndes."
"No offense, Lowndes, I mean Doctor Lowndes," Reggie was babbling rapidly. "I am in a great state of excitement. What I want to know is this—do you ever lend your time whatchamacallit to anyone?"
"You want to borrow it, sir?"
Reggie nodded excitedly.
"That's it, Lowndes. I want to borrow it for a little while. I just thought of a few people and one or two things I'd like to take care of."
"Back in Time, sir?" Lowndes asked.
"Right, back in Time. You see, Lowndes, I mean Doctor Lowndes, here's the story." And Reggie lowered his voice to an excited whisper as he outlined his plan to the Vanderveer butler. Lowndes listened gravely, nodding now and then.
"I think you might be able to do it, sir," Lowndes said at last. "And, just between the two of us," Lowndes lowered his voice, "I have no particular relish for the blusterings of Colonel Vanderveer, myself. Perhaps, sir, if you mess up Time sufficiently, I shall be the employer of the old tyrant, rather than vice versa, as it is now." A thoughtful gleam came into Lowndes' dark brooding eyes.
Reggie was bubbling, now.
"Capital, Lowndes, capital. You probably shall. Now, if you'll just explain the workings of this Time thingamajig, and hand it over, I can be on my way."
"Where do you figure on starting, sir?" Lowndes was curious.
"Why," Reggie was thoroughly excited by his brilliant plan, now, "I'll pop back right to the nub of the trouble, old boy. I'll hie myself back to the era in which Colonel Horatio Vanderveer, invaluable aide to Wellington, was in flower!"
Reggie pounded a fist into his palm. "Damn, Lowndes, it's an excellent idea, eh?"
"Doctor Lowndes," the butler reproved him, "Doctor Lowndes, sir." Then, admiringly: "It is an excellent plan, sir, extraordinarily so."
"Napoleon Bonaparte's era!" Reggie rubbed his hands enthusiastically at the thought. "Wow, this is going to be festive, Lowndes, strictly festive!"
Lowndes essayed something that came fairly close to a smile. Then he unstrapped his time-machine from his wrist, handing it over to Reggie. As the young man listened intently, Lowndes then went into a detailed explanation of the gadget's workings. This done, he strapped the time-machine to Reggie's wrist and set the dial on it.
"It's all fixed to take me to where I want to go?" Reggie demanded.
"Absolutely, sir. The exact year, and time of year. I wish I could go along with you, sir. But the machine is too small to transport more than one person. Good luck, sir!"
Reggie gripped Lowndes hand.
"I shan't return, old boy, until I have thoroughly made a mess of history. I shall, in a sense, be the chap who will cut down the Vanderveer family tree!"
"Press the button, sir, and you'll be on the way," Lowndes directed.
"What ho, Lowndes," Reggie said, his finger finding the button. "If Miss Vanderveer asks for me, tell her I have a luncheon engagement with the Duke of Wellington. Pip, pip!"
And Reggie pressed the button...
REGGIE experienced, then, for a timeless interval the sensation a person might enjoy during a drop from the top of the Empire State building. A roaring river of sound thundered by his ears, blanketing all his senses by its very immensity. Blackness surrounded him on every side as he plummeted down and down and down.
Dizziness assailed him. The blackness began to dissolve into spinning multi-colored discs that were laced with flickering streaks of light. This kaleidoscopic phenomenon was the last straw. With a sigh Reggie's puzzled brain gave up the battle and slipped gratefully into the irresponsibility of oblivion...
The next sensation he experienced was one of delightful buoyancy and softness. It was as if he were floating on fleecy, downy clouds. His taut muscles relaxed and he breathed a sigh of pure relief and sheer animal comfort.
Then he opened his eyes. For an instant he blinked unbelievingly and then he sat up. He shook his head groggily and his mouth dropped open and stayed there. There was a roaring in his ears.
Now Reggie was conscious of two things. First of all, the roaring in his ears had ceased and sunlight was shining. Secondly he was standing on a dusty, clay-banked road, somewhere on a countryside. And if Lowndes' calculations in setting the time- machine had been correct, he was undoubtedly in France, in the year 1815, and somewhere in the vicinity of the Battle of Waterloo.
Reggie took a deep breath as he looked around.
"So this is France," he said aloud. And then, quite suddenly, his stomach seemed to be filled with butterflies. He felt much like a self-conscious valedictorian at a high school graduation who suddenly realizes the enormity of the audience facing him, and the monstrosity of the task that lies ahead of him.
Casually deciding to change history, matter-of-factly deciding to whip back over a hundred years in time while casually sipping a scotch and soda in the year 1941, was one thing; actually getting yourself out on a limb and having to do what you'd planned, was another.
But Reggie had no further time for stage-fright, for at that instant the silence was broken by a squeaking of wagon-wheels and a clumping of hoofs off down the road on which he stood.
Wheeling, Reggie saw an ancient haycart, pulled by two white work horses and driven by and old farmer, approaching leisurely.
"Hmmmmmmm," mused Reggie, "here's where I get a lift and some very valuable information." And then, for the first time, Reggie realized that he was still clad in the same garments he'd been wearing when he left the library of the Vanderveer manor. His dress, he knew, would definitely be odd in this historical background. However, he shrugged the problem off. He might easily pass as a juggler, an acrobat, or perhaps a vaudeville actor.
"Going my way, old man?" Reggie addressed the old farmer who sat looking quizzically down at him.
"Oui, monsieur," the old man said from atop his perch. "Climb on." He seemed polite enough not to mention Reggie's odd clothing. In a moment Reggie had climbed up beside the farmer, and the haycart lurched into forward motion once more.
Reggie looked upward. He had heard the sudden, ominous guttural noise of thunder.
"Are we in for some rain?"
The farmer shook his head sadly.
"Then what do you call that?" Reggie demanded.
"Monsieur, those are not the rumblings of thunder. Those are the Emperor's cannon."
Reggie gulped. Momentarily he had forgotten where he was and why. Lowndes' calculations had been correct—the cannon of the Emperor, of Napoleon, meant that he was within earshot of the battle of Waterloo!
But he had to make sure.
"Waterloo?" he asked shakily. "I mean, is that noise coming from Waterloo, where Napoleon is holding out?"
The old farmer nodded.
"This is a great day for France," he said. "Or a sad day. We will not know which until the battle is concluded."
Reggie looked curiously at him.
"You are quite a linguist," he said. "It is rather strange to find a French farmer who can speak English."
The old man glared at him.
"Monsieur, are you mad?" he asked blackly. "I have spoken no word of English. I know not a word of the cochon tongue."
"Uck!" Reggie gulped, and ran a finger under his collar. "Not a word..."
Absolutely, this was a problem for Lowndes—Doctor Lowndes—to answer! Until he could ask that gentleman of science, he would forget it. Which he did. He had other business to think of.
Suddenly Reggie snapped his fingers. It came upon him in a sudden Dawning of Light that, if he were to jump into the stream of history—so to speak—and do something about changing the course of events at Waterloo this day, he would have to work fast, and plenty so.
"How far are we from the battle ground?"
The old man squinted into the sun.
"About an hour's fast gallop on horseback, monsieur."
"Where can I get one?"
The old fellow was clearly perplexed.
"Get one? Get what, sire?"
"A steed, a nag, a stallion, a bangtail—horse to you." Reggie was growing excited.
The old man shrugged his shoulders.
"Horses which one could mount are scarce around here. The Emperor's army has appropriated most of them."
Reggie's jaws clamped shut. This was a fine mess. He couldn't miss this chance. But he would, if he were too late for the battle. Then he cocked his head to one side suddenly.
"What's that I hear, old boy? Sounds like your rear wheel is working loose!"
The French farmer looked immediately concerned.
"Better climb out and have a look at it, old boy. Wouldn't want it to fall off, would you?" Reggie kept his voice casual.
"No, monsieur," said the old fellow, halting his horses and rising in the seat of his cart. "No, I would not like that to happen."
As Reggie sat there looking innocently and blandly at the reins so carelessly tossed beside him the old fellow clambered from his cart and went around to the rear. He must have been just bending down to inspect the rear wheel when Reggie suddenly came alive, grabbing the reins and shouting a loud: "Gidyap!"
The cart lurched suddenly forward as the heavy horses responded instantly to the flicking whip that Reggie slashed down on their rumps. And as the horses dashed madly ahead, pulling Reggie and the cart behind them, the old man's shouting could be heard faintly in the background...
THE horses were just about spent, white with lather and breathing gaspingly through foam-flecked lips, and the cart was practically bounced into five or six pieces, when Reggie thundered up to the first straggling line of French troops on the roadways.
The cannons' thunder had been growing louder and louder as Reggie had jounced along the rutted clay roadways. And now he could hear intermittent volleys of rifle-fire, louder and more prolonged.
The troops straggling along the road were, for the most part, returning to the scene of combat. Many of them, from their appearances, had left the battle only long enough to have their wounds dressed and were now returning to the fray. None of them seemed tremendously enthusiastic, and Reggie suspected that things were not looking rosy for one N. Bonaparte.
It was while Reggie was flaying the remaining segments of hide from his already exhausted work horses that he suddenly realized he would have to get a change of clothes before he could safely take to the battlefield. In addition to the fact that his garments were most inappropriate it was also very important— considering the plan he had in mind—to get himself a uniform of some sort.
Seconds later, he saw what he wanted. The spread tents of an army camped some four miles off along a narrow side road. He could get a uniform there, he was certain.
Reggie lashed the weary animals down the side-road, galloping frenziedly along and through several sentry posts who fired wildly in their efforts to stop him. From the uniforms of the sentries Reggie suspected that they were a division of Wellington's troops for they were dressed quite differently from the French soldiers he had seen.
This was even more luck than Reggie had hoped for, since an English uniform would serve his plan even better.
His jaunt off onto the side-road had again taken him away from the immediate vicinity of the battle and now the sounds of cannon and musket were muffled to an almost inaudible murmur. Reggie slowed his galloping nags to a halt, for the camp was now only a few hundred yards away, and got down from the cart.
There were trees lining the roadway, and Reggie kept close to these as he approached the camp stealthily. The English troops weren't going to like what he would do—for it was going to lead to a complete reversal of the Battle of Waterloo.
At last Reggie crouched in some shrubbery at the edge of the encampment. A large tent, ornately beflagged and standing apart from the rest, caught his eye immediately. It was obviously the staff headquarters of a general.
Reggie worked frantically uprooting a section of shrubbery, and when he had it loose from the ground at last, he used it as a movable camouflage, inching across the open stretch that lay between him and the great tent. Soldiers, hurrying about, paid scant attention to the moving shrub which was Reggie Vliet. And finally, he was beside the rear flaps of the great tent.
Peering cautiously into the tent, Reggie breathed a sudden sharp gasp of astonishment and glee. A general, spangled and gaudy, sat alone at a table in the center of the tent pouring over maps!
REGGIE took a deep and tremulous breath. A general! He'd expected to deal with an ordinary private, perhaps a corporal, or possibly a lieutenant—but a general! And then Reggie steeled himself. A general's uniform would be even better than any other military regalia he could don. It would suit his purposes perfectly.
So far, the warrior in the tent hadn't noticed his presence. And so far, no one on the camping grounds had seen Reggie's stealthy approach on their leader's tent. But he would have to act swiftly. He entered the tent.
Reggie moved softly coming up on the General from behind. As he drew closer to the general, who was oblivious to all but the maps over which he hunched his great shoulders, Reggie picked up a heavy overcoat from a cot.
With one swift spring, Reggie leaped forward, enshrouding the startled military dignitary in the vast folds of the coat. The gurgling cries of the general were well muffled by the thickness of the garment as Reggie squeezed inward.
Reggie's next move was to relieve the general of his side- arms.
This being done, he was able to remove the overcoat from the general's head and step back, carefully pointing a heavy pistol at that military gentleman's skull.
"Not a peep out of you, old boy. This is serious, understand?" Reggie's words came hissed, and made him feel quite triumphantly dramatic. The general, being wise, shut his jaw firmly at the sight of the menacing pistol. He seemed, now that his shock was over, to be quite willing to comply with Reggie's every wish, rather than get plugged in the center of the skull.
"You will remove your uniform," Reggie directed, waving the pistol ever so slightly. The red face of the general grew lobster crimson, and his veins turned to bulging purple cords in his forehead. Obviously the suggestion had pricked his dignity.
But Reggie waved the pistol again ever so slightly.
It was obvious that the mad gleam in the eyes of the young man in the masquerade suit was dangerous. So the general grudgingly did as he was told. In a moment he stood shivering before Reggie in— of all things—long red-flannel underwear!
Reggie restrained the guffaws he felt like unloosing. It was delightful to realize that he was controlling history by the mere wave of a gun. He wished for one delicious instant that Sandra were here beside him, so that she could see the sort of stuff he, Reggie Vliet, was made of. But then grim purpose returned to him, and he realized he didn't dare tarry here any longer. He had a battle to win for Napoleon and this disrobing of a British general was part of his plan. Time was still essential.
HOLDING the pistol clumsily, Reggie managed to remove his togs and don the general's uniform without deflecting the point of the weapon from the fellow's skull. This done, he grabbed the general's tri-cornered hat, popped it jauntily on his head, and grinned.
"Well, old boy, old Son-of-Wars-and-Thunder, I'll be toddling along now. I have a battle to win and a bit of history that needs changing. Wish you could come with me, old chap. So sorry!"
The expression on the face of the be-underweared general had changed sharply. Changed to a look of infinite mortification; utter, naked shame. His voice, husky and trembling, gave Reggie further surprise.
"Please," the general pleaded. "Please. Do with me what you will, but give me back my uniform. The disgrace, the utter shame, the horrible embarrassment, it will—"
Reggie laughed quietly, but with vast pleasure.
"Exactly, old boy. Perhaps it will keep you confined to your tent, eh? Perhaps it might be wise to save embarrassment and climb under the blankets on your cot."
Like a whipped and beaten thing, the general darted to his cot hurling himself on it and pulling heavy blankets up to his neck. There he remained, while Reggie looked on grinning.
"If I am ever able to find you again," breathed the crimson- faced general, "I will kill you for this!"
Reggie laughed once more, and stepped outside, resplendent in his spangled general's uniform, closing the tent flaps behind him. He felt certain that there would be no sounding of any alarm. Not at any rate, until the general found something to cover up his red flannel underwear.
There was a horse tethered just outside the general's tent. A huge, magnificent, all-white animal—the general's mount. Reggie saw a soldier approaching him hurriedly, and just as hurriedly he leaped to the horse, climbing into the saddle.
"General," the soldier shouted. "The time has arrived. The message has come. We are ready to follow you!"
Reggie wheeled his great animal, reaching down and plucking an envelope from the hand of the excited orderly.
"Stay as you are until my return!" he commanded the orderly. "Say nothing of this to anyone. I'll be back!" And he took care to keep his face well hidden in the large collar of the general's tunic. Then he raked the sides of his mount with the sharp spurs he was now wearing.
Reggie galloped off in a cloud of dust...
THE sounds of battle pounded furiously in Reggie's ears, and the rhythm of the hoofbeats of his mighty steed was music as Reggie thundered up to the battlefield of Waterloo a half-hour later. As he rode, he had mapped out his plans in the last detail. The plans that were to save the day for Napoleon Bonaparte.
It would be simple, for Reggie remembered something of his high-school history, something of what had happened at Waterloo. Excitement pounded in Reggie's temples, for at last he was really accomplishing what he had set out to do. At last he would win, for once and for all the hand of Sandra Vanderveer.
The cannon thunder was terrific, and on every side of him Reggie saw men fighting, riding, charging, and dying. Bugle notes split the welter of sound occasionally, summoning fresh waves of fighting troops which met in the center of the mêlée, locked in death grips. On a tiny knoll, about a hundred yards from Reggie, a small band of officers were gathered, standing respectfully behind a short, dynamic figure in a wide flaring cape—Napoleon Bonaparte!
Bullets were zinging by Reggie's ears now, and he bent low over the neck of his charging mount, not quite certain as to who was shooting at him, but well aware that he presented a tempting target.
Seventy thousand Frenchmen were fighting against an equal number of English, fighting to change the destiny of the world. And Reggie gave his plan one last thought as he spurred his horse through the milling ranks of combatants. The whole scheme depended on a ditch.
For Reggie remembered that it had been a ditch, a sunken road, into which unsuspecting French cavalry fell when making a last and decisive charge against the English, that had turned the tide at Waterloo. Turned the tide in favor of Wellington's forces.
Reggie's plan was simple. In his English general's costume, mounted as he was on a great white steed, he could marshal the troops of Wellington into a charge before the French cavalry went into action. He could get enough of them into the charge, at any rate, to fill up that sunken road with the bodies of English rather than French soldiers. Then the French would be able to ride the ghastly span and defeat the English, rather than vice versa, as it had been.
Of course there was another point, but Reggie had taken it into consideration also. The second element that defeated the French at this historic battle had been the failure of a division of French reserves to arrive on the scene at the right moment. But Reggie had shrewdly taken into consideration the fact that the English who would now fall into the ditch would compensate for the lack of French reserves. And the French cavalry would then do the rest.
Reggie Vliet's jaw was grim, purposeful, and he wheeled his steed in the direction toward which the dynamic figure on the knoll was facing. Over there, he knew, on the opposite side, would be the soldiers of Wellington. The men milling around him were—and suddenly Reggie's jaw fell slack and he gulped hastily. He was on the French side of the battle-field, and it had never occurred to him until this instant!
Milling around on a white horse in the uniform of an English general. Nonchalantly dashing through hordes of fighting Frenchmen!
REGGIE shut his eyes tight, and wondered frantically why someone hadn't shot him down by now, or dragged him captive from his horse. He dug his spurs in deeper, urging his mount on, praying that his luck would hold, praying that the French wouldn't realize they had an English general in their midst. Ahead, perhaps two hundred yards, he could see the ditch, the sunken road, that he would have to span to get to the English sides of the lines. He flayed the sides of his horse again.
And then, in the midst of the shouting, shooting and confusion, someone grabbed the halter of his horse. Grabbed tightly, jerking the animal's neck back violently, while rough hands reached up and dragged Reggie down from the saddle. French hands!
"They've got me," Reggie bleated desperately, even as he was being dragged downward. "I'll be shot as an English spy, or something!"
Two French battery gunners were holding Reggie. Their faces and uniforms were blackened by gunpowder and sweat.
"General," cried one, "we cannot permit you to make such an heroic, such a foolish, charge into the midst of our enemy, the English. We will not allow you to sacrifice yourself, Sire!"
Reggie blinked dazedly at them. What was this? French soldiers addressing him as—and then Reggie noticed with a sudden sweeping wave of horrified despair. Their uniforms were the same as his own! He had taken an unfamiliar French uniform, instead of an English uniform as he had imagined! The general, the fellow he had left back in the tent—the chap who was now cowering in his long underwear—was a Frenchman!
Reggie groaned. Groaned and threw his hands to his face.
"You must go to the rear, General," the French battery gunners begged him. "We will hold off Wellington's charge, Sire, even though we die!"
But Reggie wasn't even listening. Cannons thundered all about him, louder than before. And from the hill where Napoleon stood, the French Old Guard Cavalry swept down in a sudden charge toward the sunken road and the English lines!
Reggie's heart was in his heels, for even as he watched this gallant, reckless charge, he knew that he had failed, that this was the end of the Little Corporal.
An Empire was tumbling about the ears of Reggie Vliet, and there on the other side of the ditch, where Wellington waited with cannon that would wither the gallant French Cavalry, another Empire was being born.
A sudden, awful premonition hit Reggie Vliet. He had not only failed to save the day for Napoleon by filling the ditch, but he had also—
His hand shook as he brought forth the note which the orderly had handed him just as he started from the camp over an hour ago. The note which had been intended for the general.
LETTER "General," the note read. "Bring your reserves to the battle immediately. The time is set, any delay will be fatal. Our Emperor wishes you luck.
And Reggie realized, now, that it was he who had caused the ultimate, the final, crushing defeat of Napoleon. That it was he who had left the general of the missing reserves crouching almost naked in his tent while France fell because of one man's embarrassment.
"I hope," Reggie told himself, "I'm satisfied." His voice was bitter and filled with self-accusation.
And then, just as Reggie was about to be engulfed in a vast wave of self-pity and terrible remorse, something exploded terrifically less than four yards from where he stood. Instead of the wave of self-pity, Reggie heard thunder in his ears as he was engulfed by a wave of utter, ebon blackness...
SOMEONE was sloshing water on his face when Reggie opened his eyes again. The sounds of thundering cannon and crackling rifle-fire were gone, but the acrid stench of gunpowder was still in the air, while all around him Reggie could hear voices.
Reggie tried to sit up, but found that his head was much too heavy to lift from the damp ground on which he was lying. Then, the swimming panorama before his eyes stopped swirling long enough for him to bring his surroundings into focus.
It was twilight, Reggie realized, and he was on or somewhere near what had been the battle-ground of Waterloo. The growing darkness and the trampled ground around him told him these two things. There were other like-uniformed men lying everywhere beside him. Some were on cots, others, like himself, on the cold earth. All were bandaged, and with a start, Reggie realized that his own arm was swathed in a sling.
And then he knew that somehow—possibly by a cannon explosion—he had been knocked out cold, not to mention injured. Suddenly he was looking up at a face, a kindly sympathetic face. The face belonged to a tall man in a military uniform and, as faces go, looked horsey.
"Where am I?" Reggie addressed the kindly horse-face, drawing on his vast store of original remarks.
"You'll be shipshape presently," said the tall, horse-faced fellow. "Just your arm that got banged a bit, General."
Reggie blinked in amazement. He'd been called "General"! But then he remembered that he'd been dressed in a French general's tunic at the time that everything had blacked out on him.
"Napoleon," Reggie asked hoarsely, "did he, did he—"
The kindly horse-face shook his head.
"Sorry, old boy, but your Emperor took a beating. It's all over for you Frenchmen. Wellington's the cock of the roost."
With a horrible premonition, Reggie began to realize precisely where he was, and precisely what his status amounted to.
"You mean," Reggie gasped, "that you are English? That I'm—"
The horse-face nodded.
"Sorry old boy. You put up a dashed good fight of it, but you are now the prisoner of the King's forces. I imagine your release will be shortly forthcoming, just as soon as prisoners are exchanged."
It came to Reggie, for the first time since regaining consciousness, that he was in a bit of a predicament. He hadn't— quite frankly—intended to stick around for the aftermath of Napoleon's defeat. If the damned cannon hadn't acted up and knocked him out, he would have fled this particular time era by now. But here he was, prisoner of Great Britain. This fact, in itself, was galling enough to Reggie. But even greater and deeper anguish to his soul was the realization that he had failed, utterly, miserably, in his efforts to alter the course of history and botch up the record of the Vanderveer clan.
For not only had he failed; he had been the cause of history's panning out the way it did. If he'd only left the French general alone, hadn't stolen his uniform, the French reserves would have arrived on the spot in time to gain victory for Napoleon!
Reggie felt sick inside. Unconsciously, he groaned aloud.
"Poor fellow," a voice muttered. "Painful thing, that arm." And Reggie looked up to the voice and remembered that horse-face was still standing over him. Moreover, horse-face was reaching into a little black bag he carried, and pulling forth a bottle containing pills.
"Wait a minute," Reggie bleated quickly. "Put that stuff away, old boy. I feel fine, absolutely. I don't need any pills, any sedative. I've got things to do. All sorts of things. I can't stick around. Much as I'd like to, I can't—Mughulppph!" Reggie's protests were cut short as two soldiers stepped up from nowhere, grabbing his arms and prying open his jaws as horse-face skillfully opened the bottle of pills and popped three or four of them into Reggie's mouth.
"Mughulppph!" Reggie repeated frantically. He was determined not to swallow the pills. Then, quite suddenly, fingers massaged his Adam's apple, and, in spite of himself, the pills slithered down his throat.
For what seemed to be hours after the horse-faced English medico had left him and gone on to other patients, the two soldiers continued to hold Reggie down. And in spite of anything Reggie could do to prevent it, Reggie was aware that he was becoming irresistibly drowsy, drowsy, drowsy...
He had a swimming vision of Sandra's face wheeling above his head, while Colonel Vanderveer, Napoleon, Lowndes, and the English medico leered in the whirling background. Then, while a roaring grew in his ears, the faces stopped wheeling and a thick blanket of fog settled down over his brain...
REGGIE VLIET opened one eye very slowly. Then, with equal care, he opened the other. He found, much to his amazement, that his head was still on his shoulders, and that the roaring in his ears had ceased completely. Even his arm had stopped throbbing.
While he looked quizzically around him, Reggie realized two things. He was flat on his back on a straw mattress in a small room, and there was the unpleasant aroma of manure all about him.
Reggie looked down at his garments and found that he still wore the now ragged tunic of a French general. Then, unpleasantly, the recollection of the English medico and his remarks about Reggie's being a prisoner, returned to him.
The same deep despair that had assailed Reggie as he lay wounded on the battlefield contemplating Napoleon's defeat and his own stupidity, now flooded briefly back to Reggie, giving him a sickening jolt.
"Oh, lord," Reggie moaned, "I am a benighted ass, nothing more." And for another moment he lay there motionless considering this gloomy self-description. Then, rolling over on the elbow of his uninjured arm, Reggie rose from his straw mat.
"A prisoner of war," Reggie mumbled woefully. "What a hell of a note." He sighed. "Trapped back here like a... a... rat, in a time era that is over a century away from where I want to be." He put his hand over his eyes, as if to shut out the picture.
"Not a chance to get out," he added despairingly, peering through the web-work of his fingers at the securely locked door to his room.
Just to convince himself, he stepped over to this door, tried it. It felt as though it were heavily barred on the outside, budging not an inch behind the pressure he put against it.
"Probably guards out there anyway," Reggie muttered dourly. He turned then, giving his tiny room closer appraisal. His hope that he might have ignored another avenue of escape promptly died on the realization that his stall was without a window. The aroma of manure now seemed overpoweringly oppressing.
Reggie sat down on his cot with heavy, morbid resignation. He was a goner. There was no way out. And at that moment he realized for the first time that this meant he should never see the fair face of Sandra Vanderveer again.
A tear trickled from the corner of Reggie's left eye.
Mentally, he was with her in the gardens at the Vanderveer Manor, holding her hand and looking lovingly into her eyes. A sense of nobility was stealing over Reggie, something akin to triumphant sorrow. For this disaster which now engulfed him was caused directly by his efforts to win the hand of the fair Sandra. Somewhat like a knight of Olde, he had gone to battle for his loved one. And now, a prisoner in chains, he was about to die for her.
This glorious picture was somewhat disrupted by his realization that he wasn't really in chains, and that for all he knew he might not have to die. It was further disrupted by the nasty recollection that his actions had been far from glorious or heroic. He'd been stupid and clownish.
"A benighted ass," he repeated again.
Reggie sighed heavily. There would be no chance now to go on with his plans against the Vanderveer family tree. His campaign had been nipped in the bud. He was a failure, a joke.
Suddenly Reggie sat bolt upright. The furrows in his brow disappeared. The corners of his mouth twitched in a happy smile.
"Why," he snapped his fingers. "I'm not licked, not at all. There's still another era of history in which I can ruin the Vanderveer name. There's the Civil War. I'd planned to go there anyway, after this battle, to make a complete wreck of the Vanderveer family tree. Why, dammit, even if I haven't messed things up for the Napoleonic Vanderveer, I can still raise hell in the era of the Civil War, Sheridan's Ride, Vanderveer!"
He was pacing excitedly back and forth now. Suddenly he stopped, breaking into a heavy chuckling.
"Why," he gasped between chuckles, "here I was moping around about imprisonment, failure, and what have you, and I have only to press a button to get the blazes away from here and into another time era."
Reggie laughed happily.
"A breeze, that's what it'll be," he chortled. "I'm not really locked in here at all. Boy, will they be surprised to find that one of their most prized prisoners has quite mysteriously flown the coop!"
Reggie continued to chuckle fondly at his own stupidity in not remembering his time-machine until now. Quite a joke, that. But what a blessed relief to remember it now. Still smiling, he looked down at his wrist to make the proper adjustments on the machine.
His smile froze at the halfway mark.
His jaw fell slack in stupefied, nauseating horror.
The time-machine was not on his wrist!
THE shock was far too much for the now watery substance of Reggie Vliet's knees, and slowly they collapsed as he sank to the floor. It was as if every muscle, every fibre, of Reggie's being were immersed in ice-water, numbed by the chilling terror of his predicament.
For fully five minutes, Reggie sat there on the floor like a man in a trance. His mouth was foolishly agape, and he opened and closed it wordlessly while the room spun giddily around his head.
Before, when he hadn't had sense enough to remember that escape was instantly attainable in his time-machine, Reggie's feelings had been merely those of dull, somewhat hopeless remorse over his imprisonment.
Now, however, since he had realized that escape was a simple matter, the staggering loss of his one means to effect that escape came as a hundred-fold dreadful blow. He felt much like a Bedouin who, having crawled thirst-crazed across an endless desert, comes at last upon the stream he'd seen in the distance— only to find a mirage.
But somehow reason began to return gradually to Reggie Vliet, and with it a sort of strength and newborn determination. At last he managed to pull himself to his feet. He was conscious now of only one motivation, and that was the necessity of getting back his time-machine.
"Wait," Reggie muttered, "until I get my hands on the chap who filched that thing!"
It was obvious that his time-machine had been appropriated by one of the soldiers who had held him helpless while the effects of the drugs crept over him. They would be the most likely thieves. Of course, Reggie's jailer could have had a hand in the theft. Or the English commander, perhaps, could have ordered the confiscation of the private effects of all French prisoners.
At any rate, Reggie was now passionately determined to regain his one means of escape from the predicament that engulfed him. He moved to the door of his tiny room and removed one of his boots. Then, with the boot in his hand he began a furious pounding against the door. After a moment he stopped, listening. Then he began pounding again. He stopped once more and listened. A look of grim satisfaction crept over his face. Footsteps could be heard outside, moving to his door.
Reggie stepped back from the door a pace.
There was a rattling of chains. Then heavy bolts were slid away. The door opened inward, while Reggie stood there breathlessly. A head peered in around the door.
A smarter man than Reggie Vliet would have used poisons, or body-changes, or elaborate ruses to escape from a prison. But Reggie Vliet was a simple soul. He raised his heavy boot high, as the head peered into the room, and brought it smashing down mightily upon the exposed surface of said peering head.
The result was simple and satisfying. A soldier—who belonged to the head—toppled face forward and unconscious into Reggie's cell-like little room.
Breathing heavily now, for he'd put every last ounce of strength into the blow, Reggie bent over the prostrate form of the English soldier. With typical buoyant optimism, Reggie lifted the fellow's arms and looked swiftly at his wrists. He wore no time-machine. Undaunted, Reggie began a through search of his pockets. Still no time-machine.
It occurred to Reggie, then, as he looked disgustedly down at the unconscious soldier, that there would be more to this escape business than he had originally planned on. In a short while more soldiers would be popping into his cell to see what had become of their comrade. Reggie realized that he didn't have any ready explanations for them. He realized, too, that his French uniform made him somewhat conspicuous in an English camp.
Two minutes later Reggie buttoned an English uniform over his French general's tunic. The size of the English guard's clothing had forced Reggie to be double clad. Half a minute after that, he was out in the hall. A quick glance up and down the hall showed him that he'd been imprisoned in a rather large stable—which accounted for the unpleasant aroma and the piles of ever-present straw.
He could hear voices, coming from one of the large rooms off the narrow hallway, and while his heart hammered in excitement, he forced himself to stroll nonchalantly in their direction. A soldier passed him before he'd walked fifty feet, and while Reggie held his breath, looked at him casually and moved by. So far so good.
Then Reggie was outside one of the large stable rooms. The one from which he'd heard the babble of voices. There was a certain sound to the voices that rang reminiscently in Reggie's ears. He'd heard men's voices raised in that peculiar pitch in the back of saloons off Broadway.
A wiser man, wearing a stolen uniform and stepping into the midst of hordes of men rightfully wearing the same type of uniform he'd stolen, would have been slightly uneasy at moving into such a precarious position. But not Reggie Vliet. One soldier had passed him without any trouble, so the rest of them shouldn't make any difference. Such was his determined calm as he turned off the hallway and stepped into the large stable room where the enlisted men of Wellington's forces had gathered to play cards and roll dice.
Reggie's entrance into the smoke-filled, noisy room caused absolutely no furore. Looking around he saw almost a hundred English soldiers sitting or kneeling in large groups around the wooden floor, all intent upon their particular gambling game.
Reggie, however, was not concerned with the men or the games. His one burning curiosity was to see the various objects—loot from the battlegrounds—which were being gambled for by Wellington's forces.
Moving in a studied, leisurely fashion, Reggie went from game to game, casually peering over shoulders in an effort to look over the assembled gadgets piled at the sides of each player. There was a little money in each group, but most of the stakes were comprised of lockets obviously taken from French soldiers, rings, decorations, souvenirs of battle, and miscellaneous odds and ends for which any average soldier has a curious attachment.
Reggie had peered into five games before he saw it. But the minute it caught his eye it was unmistakable—the time- machine!
A soldier had it in the pile he knelt beside, along with other baubles, and was busily engaged in dealing out cards to the ten or more other soldiers in the group. They were all completely absorbed in the pasteboards that fell to each of them; so completely absorbed that Reggie Vliet was able to smile in spite of the frantic hammering of his heart.
Reggie smiled again, slyly, and edged around toward the soldier who knelt beside the pile on which his time-machine reposed. This was going to be so gloriously simple. No one would notice. In another five minutes he'd be off, gone completely, thanks to the precious little wrist watch-ish gadget.
Now Reggie stood behind the possessor of the time-machine. Carefully, he looked from one to another of the players, noting that they were—to a man—utterly intent on the cards they sorted. His heart beat a furious tattoo against his chest as he crouched ever so slightly, ever so casually—as though leaning over to get a better view of the game—down toward the pile of baubles on which the time-machine rested.
Reggie took one last look around the room, a queasiness suddenly assailing his knees, and let his hand drop on the pile of trinkets. He felt the smooth, familiar surface of the time machine beneath his fingers, and then, quickly, he straightened up, the precious gadget concealed in his hand.
The cry rent the air before Reggie had time to catch his breath, and as he wheeled frightenedly in the direction of the voice a soldier who had been standing less than ten feet behind him was glaring fiercely and pointing an indignant finger in his direction!
Instantly a shocked silence fell over the room. And then the finger-pointing fellow screamed again.
"He stole from the gaming boards, he did!"
The huge roar of rage coming from every voice in the room shook the very walls of the place. And in that horrible moment while Time seemed to hang breathlessly suspended Reggie felt—beneath the murderous stares of all in the room—very much like a man hurled from the naked comfort of his bathtub out into the whirling traffic of 42nd and Broadway.
Time stopped hanging breathlessly and exploded into an enraged ball, as every last soldier in the room poured in on Reggie. It was with the instincts of the frightened fox that Reggie suddenly bolted toward the door by which he'd entered. Everywhere around him was clamoring confusion. Hands reaching out for him made Reggie glad that he'd played on the scrub team at college. A little snake-hipping threw most of them off. His clothing was torn and ragged by the time he reached the door, and he was certain that the hot breaths of his pursuers were literally scorching the hair from the nape of his neck.
A neatly-applied stiff arm dispatched a burly soldier who had just entered the room and tried to stop him at the doorway. Then, with boots clattering furiously in back of him, Reggie was flying down the hallway.
There was a twisting turn at the end of the hall leading off to three separate passages. Reggie hurled himself down the third of these—a darkened hallway that smelled of musty grain bins—and was relieved to hear the footsteps of his pursuers pounding onward through another passageway.
He breathing heavily, gaspingly, as he leaned against the wall in the darkened passage and began to strap the time-machine to his wrist. Then at last it was on, and Reggie peered down at the dial, recalling Lowndes' instructions concerning the gadget, in order to decide where it should be set.
Visibility was bad. There was a chink on the other side of the passage from which Reggie detected the faintest pinpoint of light emerging. Reggie moved around in a position that would enable him to fix the dial by the light coming from the chink.
Off in the distance, Reggie could still hear the occasional clatter of footsteps as his pursuers continued their search for him. Squinting, he peered again at the dial on his time- machine.
And then Reggie heard a voice. It came from behind the chinked partition through which the light was pouring. It was the solemn, grave, ponderous dignity of the voice that made Reggie pause, turn, and put his eye to the chink.
He looked into a comfortable room. A room in which an English colonel sat behind a desk facing a uniformed gentleman whom Reggie judged to be a general. The general was pacing back and forth before the desk, smoking a long pipe.
Reggie suddenly gasped. He recognized the general from pictures he had seen in history books—Wellington. And then, his heart almost stopped beating as the colonel at the desk turned so that his face was visible for the first time. It was the face of a Vanderveer, the same damned face that hung in a gold frame above the ornate desk in the library at the Vanderveer manor!
"It is all right, Jacques. There will be no trouble. You will not have to return to France."
Reggie frowned. "Jacques?" He didn't get it. The Vanderveer's name should be Horatio. And France—what would a Vanderveer want to return to France for?
"You will be known henceforth as Colonel Horatio Vanderveer," Wellington said. "England will decorate you for your service to her. There will never be any reference, or any indication, hereafter, that you were once a Frenchman. It is well that you studied in our schools; you speak as we do."
And then Colonel Vanderveer rose, smiling.
"It is good. If it were ever suspected that less than a year ago I was a soldier of France, my reputation might be somewhat tarnished. People have a nasty way of treating those they consider traitorous."
"Perhaps you were a traitor to your own France," Wellington admitted. "But you now have a new country to claim you. And you have done that country a noble service in betraying your former comrades-in-arms. War is a strange game, Colonel."
REGGIE VLIET gasped, gulped, gasped, and fought a fainting spasm. Here, through sheer chance, was a Vanderveer exposed before his very eyes. Here was information that was a hundred million times more precious than what Reggie had originally sought.
It was crystal clear to Reggie now. Horatio Vanderveer was not really a brilliant English hero; rather he was a traitorous Frenchman who had betrayed his own country by going over to the enemy. Then, since he was unwanted by the country he'd betrayed, his name had been anglicized from Jacques to Horatio, his identity given a phony aroma of honor by some decorations from the king!
This, then, was the first of the two staunch pillars of aristocracy claimed by the family Vanderveer. A fake, a fraud! Reggie felt like shouting for joy, dancing wildly up and down. He had this Vanderveer right where he wanted him. Why, when he got back to old 1941 Colonel Vanderveer, all he'd have to do would be to get a few French history books, and connect the traitor Jacques Vanderveer with the English hero Horatio Vanderveer.
But now Reggie was jubilant. There was still more to do. He felt much like a great general who, after conquering one country, immediately becomes dissatisfied and looks for more territory. Reggie could no more rest on his laurels now than he could fly.
"On to the next Vanderveer," Reggie muttered eagerly. "I'll eat 'em alive."
Then, carefully, he remembered Lowndes' instructions as to the time-machine and fixing it for departure from one era to another. He set the mechanism at precisely the same places Lowndes' had told him to, and then, before pressing the button, triumphantly squirmed out of his oversized English uniform.
"Won't need that," he observed. He was still left in his French general's tunic, but about this fact he was cheerfully unconcerned.
"Civil War," Reggie murmured happily, "Make way for the Conquering Vliet! I'm coming a-running."
Triumphantly, Reggie pressed the button.
REGGIE VLIET struggled out of the torrent of blackness that had swept him upward and onward through time. Thunder rang in his aching head and his first horrified thought was that he had gone blind. He scrambled dizzily to his feet and it was with hysterical relief that he realized that it was merely night-time.
He was standing on the edge of a brook, he knew, for he could hear its burbling rippling and he could see a faint glimmer of the moon reflected from its surface. As he gradually began to find his mental bearings again, he was conscious of a vast feeling of satisfaction that was as exhilarating as strong wine. For he realized that he'd knocked one of the strongest legs from beneath old Colonel Vanderveer's claims to ancestral glory. He, Reggie Vliet, knew the full and complete story of the perfidy of one of the hallowed Vanderveer clan. He almost chuckled thinking about it. The great and almighty Vanderveer Hero actually a traitor to the cause! Wait until Vanderveer heard that. He'd have little to say after that about the lack of background in the Vliet menagerie.
These pleasant musings were dissolved by the muffled roar of cannon and the sharp biting crackle of musketry off to his right. Reggie dropped to the ground and listened breathlessly. The sounds subsided after a few minutes and a thick silence settled again on the floor of the forest.
Reggie listened awhile to his thumping heart and then he crawled cautiously to his feet. A glance at his time-machine told him that he was smack-dab in the middle of the United States Civil War, and the same time he realized that the battle noises he had just heard were undoubtedly the results of a North-South encounter.
Reggie felt an almost uncontrollable exultation as he realized that he was within inches, so to speak, of his goal. For it was during this era that the illustrious Major Vanderveer had flourished and made ancestral hay for the Vanderveers who followed him. Reggie's jaw tightened grimly. He had already shown up one traitorous Vanderveer, who had been venerated through the ages as a glorious hero, and he felt just like tackling another. If Major Vanderveer, attached to Sheridan's command wasn't a phony, he'd darn soon make one out of him.
With these optimistic hopes Reggie's brain slipped into high gear. First he would have to contact Sheridan and through him, Major Vanderveer. After he had done that he would figure out something to make a joke or a spectacle out of the pride and joy of the Vanderveer clan. Reggie allowed himself one more fleeting gloat as he thought of the old Colonel Vanderveer's chagrin and consternation at the exposure of his ancestors, and then he banished the thoughts from his mind. Business first—then pleasure...
"Major Vanderveer," he said aloud to empty silent woods, "If you haven't got feet of clay you soon will have."
Then, like a thin and frayed ghost, Reggie set out through the black forest. He realized as he trudged along that he was getting hungrier by the minute for it had been, he figured roughly, two hundred years since he'd had a bite. Suddenly his nose twitched. For borne on the cool fresh air was the unmistakable odor of frying bacon!
WARS are not won on empty stomachs so Reggie followed his nose, moving along the creek-side in the direction of the tantalizing odors.
He had gone a hundred yards when a sentry suddenly stepped from behind a tree and prodded him sharply in the belly with a bayonet.
Reggie shot both hands into the air, without argument.
"Who goes theah?" The sentry was little, heavily bearded, with tired red-rimmed eyes. His voice was an unmistakable southern drawl but there was the rasp of steel beneath his soft tones.
"A-a friend," Reggie said diplomatically. "I'd be awfully obliged if you'd take me to your commander."
"We hain't any commander," the sentry said dubiously, "not near heah we hain't. This heah is an outpost picket-camp. Come along and ah'll take you to our sergeant."
Reggie nodded appreciatively and moved along in front of the sentry. Now to the odor of frying bacon was added the delightful fragrance of boiling coffee. Then he saw a camp fire through the trees and a few minutes later he was standing in the center of a Confederate picket-camp. The men looked curiously at his dusty, frayed French uniform, and then turned noncommittally back to their pans of bacon and coarse bread.
The sergeant to whom Reggie explained fast and furiously a few minutes later looked like a dime store edition of General Lee. Big and bearded, but seedy as hell.
"So you see, suh," Reggie concluded breathlessly, "Ah'm really a Confederation boy. Howevah, suh, if you don't believe me, if y'all think ah'm on the damn Yankee side of the fence, take me to your commander." Reggie was counting on what the sentry had said about there being no commissioned officers nearby.
The sergeant was still dubious. Reggie could see that. But the sergeant was also quite tired, and a little bit don't-give-a- damnish.
"Well," he drawled, scratching his flea-infested beard, "well, suh, ah'll just have to take your word. Sit down with us, suh, and dig in."
Hurling himself ravenously into the bacon and coffee, Reggie thanked history for its famous southern tradition of hospitality. When he had made sufficient pig of himself, he wiped the bacon- grease from his chin and got down to the matter on hand.
"What damn Yankee troops are on the other side of this creek?" he asked the sergeant.
"Sheridan's," the dime store Lee replied. "Damn Yankees!"
Reggie felt a swift surge of excitement. "Then this is Cedar, I mean, Cedah Creek we're encamped beside?"
The sergeant nodded.
Reggie was now violently excited.
"Take me to your commander, and quick!" he demanded. He was remembering that here, at Cedar Creek, the Confederate general, Early, had staged a to-the-death battle with Sheridan's men. He was remembering, too, that Early's forces had been defeated, and that this battle marked probably the strongest turning point in the Civil War.*
* Many historians are of the opinion that had General Early's troops been victorious at Cedar Creek, the Confederate army might easily have swept on to ultimate victory. —Ed.
These things flashed through Reggie's brain like nimble rabbits chasing each other. If—if he could arrange things so that Sheridan would lose this all-important battle, that would mean that Major Vanderveer, attached to Sheridan's command, would be defeated too, and it would ultimately mean that his triumphant position in history would be greatly altered. For losing generals, no matter how gallant, are rarely remembered.
Reggie was trembling with excitement. Here was his chance, his beautiful one-in-a-million chance to blot the fair Vanderveer escutcheon for all time. All he had to do was to, somehow, precipitate a Confederate victory. In the split-second that it took to realize this, Reggie's plan of action was already shaping in his mind.
He would see to it that Sheridan's men were defeated—or bust!
"Sergeant," he cried, "I've got to see your commander. The fate of the Confederacy, of Jeff Davis, of," and here he removed his hat, "General Lee, and the glorious General Early, depends on it."
It was the mention of General Lee that brought a tear to the rheumy eye of the sergeant. He rose to his feet, scratching the last flea from his beard.
"Come along with me, suh," he said huskily.
Reggie rose eagerly and strode after the sergeant. His plan was taking shape...
GENERAL EARLY was dressed in dusty gray, and sitting in a mud-splashed tent with several of his staff officers when Reggie, led by the sergeant, was led up to him.
The sergeant saluted and Reggie performed a clumsy imitation.
Early looked quizzically at Reggie's French uniform, but said nothing. The sergeant spoke first.
"This man, General, claims to have some information valuable to the Confederacy. I'll leave you to decide that, suh!" The sergeant saluted, clicked his heels and was gone.
Reggie cleared his throat. Once he had sold window-cleaning fluid to housewives—when he was just out of Princeton—but he knew that this was going to be the biggest and toughest selling job in all his life.
General Early sat there looking at him, quite nonplussed. But Reggie cleared his throat and started in. Perhaps it was the intense earnestness of his expression, or perhaps it was the very astuteness of his plan; at any rate, General Early's face began to register a genuine interest. Moments later Early was nodding with every third phrase Reggie poured forth. Then he pounded a large fist on the table before him.
"The plan is good," Early admitted. "We've already mapped out an attack, so we can't lose anything by this additional strategy. It all hinges, of course, on your ability to carry out your end of it."
Reggie cleared his throat, threw back his shoulders.
"Just give me a Union uniform, fix up some phony credentials, and give me a horse. I'll see to it that my end of the plan doesn't misfire!"
Early nodded, then, and turned to issue orders to a member of his staff. And Reggie, heart thumping hard against his ribs, thought that for the first time he was nearing the realization of his task. When this was over, he could return to the Present, and Sandra—without the complications of family heritage—would be waiting for him.
Early looked up at Reggie as one of the under-officers returned.
"It's all ready, suh. And good luck to you. Lee and the Confederacy will owe you an everlasting debt, suh, if you are successful." Early held out his hand. Reggie gulped twice and forced a smile of confidence...
REGGIE had forded Cedar Creek astride a great gray horse, and was now heading for the camp of the Union forces. He was wearing the uniform of a lieutenant in the cavalry of the Grand Army of the Republic. In his saddle-pouch, he carried several excellently forged papers.
A sentry picket of blue-uniformed soldiers stopped him at a road several hundred yards from Cedar Creek.
Reggie forced a calmness he didn't feel.
"Take me to General Sheridan," he told the picket. "I have a dispatch from headquarters." The Union soldiers looked doubtful, and Reggie had an unpleasant vision of himself dangling from a noose-end, or standing before a firing squad. He produced his papers, and while they were inspected, resisted a wild desire to gallop the hell away from there.
"Can't leave our picket," one of the boys in blue said at last, handing the papers back to Reggie. "But you'll find Sheridan stopping over in Winchester, about thirty miles down the road. He's jest come back from Washington. If you could wait at our general encampment about a mile from the road fork, he'd be a-coming in about ten hours."
Reggie stuffed the papers carefully back into his saddle- pouch. Then he dug his spurs into the flanks of his great gray mount, and the animal lurched into stride.
"Can't wait," Reggie shouted back over his shoulder. "This is urgent!" And then to himself, he added: "And how!"
Reggie bent low over the neck of his horse, letting the animal have its head. He was riding hell for leather—toward Winchester...
IN something around three hours later, Reginald Randhope, clinging to the reins for dear life, galloped into Winchester. And in less than five minutes he had reined up in front of the encampment to which he had been directed. General Sheridan was there, moustached and dashing, the picture of devil-may-care gallantry. And he looked quizzically at Reggie as he stumbled up to him and saluted.
It took Reggie several seconds to get his breath. Then he said:
"I come from Headquarters, General. I'm to accompany you, according to orders, to the end of the town. You're needed badly back at Washington, sir."
Sheridan's frown was dark, and he grabbed the papers from Reggie's shaking hand. After scrutinizing them for several minutes, he turned to an aide standing behind him.
"There's been a change of plan," he snapped. "They want me back at Washington. Muster out the troops, have 'em ready in five minutes. We're riding back."
General Sheridan turned then and peered closely at Reggie. His eyes traveled in keen scrutiny over the French uniform that Reggie was wearing.
"Are you," he asked, "by any chance a relation to our Major Vanderveer?"
Reggie swallowed nervously. This was ticklish going, he thought.
"N—no," he stammered, "I'm not. None at all."
General Sheridan wrinkled his brow and shook his head thoughtfully.
"Amazing likeness," he muttered, half to himself. He turned slowly, but stopped and peered at Reggie again.
Reggie wondered with rising hysteria what was wrong. He squared his shoulders, straightened his uniform automatically.
"I get it," General Sheridan cried suddenly. He grabbed Reggie's hand abruptly and crushed it between his own two big ones. "I understand perfectly," he said warmly. "We can't ever repay your family for all the assistance they've given us. You had me a bit puzzled until I noticed your uniform. Good luck."
With this the general wheeled and strode away. Reggie scratched his head in bewilderment. Was the general going loony? Reggie shrugged helplessly. It didn't really matter. With Sheridan and his men out of the way it would be a great Confederate victory. He looked about the encampment and saw men saddling and mounting their tough, wiry cavalry horses. Sheridan's command was ready to march—in the wrong direction. Reggie peered closely at the heavily-bearded faces of the Union soldiers, trying to pick Major Vanderveer out of the pack. He wanted to see the chap once before he departed with General Sheridan and his men to historical oblivion. The door behind him was suddenly thrown open and a lithe, muscular figure, dressed in an unfamiliar uniform hurried by him and climbed to the saddle of a near-by horse.
Reggie choked back a gasp of surprise as the horse wheeled and its rider's face was visible. He was too shocked to move or speak, all he could do was stare in dazed bewilderment—at the spitting, mirror-like image of himself, Reggie Vliet!
The image of himself on the horse stared at him in equal astonishment and then, as a shouted command echoed through the air, he wheeled his horse, and with a last look over his shoulder at Reggie's open-mouthed figure, he dashed away.
Reggie shook his head unbelievingly. The likeness was too exact to be possible. The man's bearing and features and expressions were the exact duplicates of Reggie Vliet. It was incredible. Like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself in different clothes performing different actions. Reggie came out of his dazed fog as he became aware of the presence of a grizzled veteran standing next to him.
Reggie grasped the man's arm excitedly.
"That fellow who just rode off," he said quickly, "Who was he?"
The veteran spat a huge quid onto the ground before replying. "Him?" he said querulously, "Thought ever'-body knew him. He's the Frenchie, Major Vanderveer!"
REGGIE digested this in stunned silence. He opened and closed his mouth foolishly. It was strangely disturbing news. It was more than that. It was deuced astonishing. His reason told him that it was merely a coincidence, but his instinct was telling him otherwise.
Major Vanderveer, the man he was going to discredit, was his own spitting image. That much he could appreciate. But his conscience was pricking him at the thought of sabotaging, as it were, this chap who looked enough like him to be his twin. It was like cutting off his nose to spite his face—or something.
It was while he was brooding over these confusing thoughts, that a voice behind him said:
"Here's an important dispatch for you, Major Vanderveer. Lucky I caught you before you rode off with General Sheridan."
Reggie turned guiltily and saw a dusty, tired-looking dispatch-rider standing next to a lathered horse. The dispatch- rider, a slim youthful chap, was holding a leather-covered roll of paper toward him.
Reggie knew a painful moment of indecision. The dispatch-rider had obviously mistaken him for Major Vanderveer. If he took the message he might be embroiling himself in some sort of intrigue or trouble. If he didn't take it, the dispatch-rider might became suspicious, do a little investigating, and the soup would soon be in the fire.
Reggie took the dispatch.
He opened it after the rider had saluted and led his tired horse away. Enclosed in the leather roll was a letter addressed to Major Vanderveer, attached to Sheridan's command. There were only a few lines to the letter and Reggie read them quickly. When he had finished, he replaced the letter in the leather roll and placed it in his pocket. His hands were trembling with excitement. The information in that letter had hit him with force of a bombshell. It was an astounding, an amazing revelation, but its authenticity was beyond question.
For minutes Reggie Vliet remained rooted to the spot, his brain churning madly with a dozen problems and complications. Then as the shock wore off, he realized with frantic desperation, that action, immediately vigorous action, was demanded of him. He had to ride after General Sheridan, stop him and send him back to meet the Confederate forces at Cedar creek. For it was of the most vital importance that the Confederate forces be defeated. They had to be defeated. And Sheridan and his men must share in the glory. That was imperative, too.
Reggie wheeled and raced for a horse...
REGGIE caught up with the rear-guard of Sheridan's forces in a little less than an hour. And in exactly three minutes of hard riding, Reggie finally drew up to the head of the column and alongside of Sheridan and his twin, Major Vanderveer.
"G-g-g-g-g-g-generrrrrrral!" Reggie blurted from his jogging mount. "T-t-t-thhhhhheee Reb-b-b-ellls have struck at Ced-d-d-dar Creek!"
General Sheridan instantly threw up his hand, and far down the road the entire column came to a halt.
"What's that you say?" he demanded.
Breathlessly, Reggie explained. But all Sheridan wanted was the synopsis of what had happened. And now fire danced in his Irish eyes, and his hand some jaw was set. He wheeled his mount—his famous black charger. To his fellow officers and Reggie, he bellowed:
"Ride, soldiers, we're going back!"
The next four hours were a breathless nightmare of anxiety of Reginald Randhope. Never had he been swept along on the crest of greater excitement, and confusion. Thundering wildly through Winchester, Sheridan and his men swept down the road to Cedar Creek, passing the straggling remnants of a retreating Union army.
Reggie, up in the fore, found his own steed matching Sheridan's black charger stride for stride, mile for mile. On the other side of Sheridan, raced major Vanderveer, saber in hand, shouting lusty encouragement to the Union forces.
Louder, louder, grew the thundering of cannon and the salvo of scattered Union rifles. Sheridan had drawn his gleaming saber, now, and he held it high. Imitating the gesture, Reggie, too, swung a sword wildly above his head.
And then, led by their gallant leader, Sheridan, the Union forces on the roadway turned back toward Cedar Creek, strengthened in courage and determination.
The infantrymen were singing wildly, and Reggie heard their voices above the pounding of gunfire. "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic" was the tune those voices bellowed, and tiny icicles of pride and excitement trickled down Reggie's spine.
Irresistibly, the dashing cavalry leader swept onward, and irresistibly, the infantrymen behind them followed up the charge. They were in the thick of the confused and shaken Confederate soldiers, now. Soldiers who had found sure victory was turning into certain death and defeat.
Reggie felt no sense of danger. He didn't give a damn if a cannon ball hit him in the midriff. He felt as though he could hurl it back smoking. This was a new Reginald Vliet, a Vliet inspired by the very strength of the comrades who rode beside him.
And in one vast rolling wave, the Union forces swept over the field of battle. The Confederates now were frankly routed, and any semblance of order that they had previously had was shattered. Gray-clad rebels ran for safety, and those who stayed to fight fell beneath the thundering hoofs of Sheridan's cavalry and the bullets of Union infantry.
Bugles trumpeted wild retreat, and answering bugles screamed attack. And somehow, through all this, Reggie Randhope kept his saddle. Kept his saddle alongside General Sheridan and these newfound comrades.
AT last it was over. Infantrymen, still poured onto the scene, mopping up the last resistance of the boys in gray. Sheridan, still at the head of his men, slowed his gallant column to a trot.
His eyes were shining, and there were tears in them as he gazed down from his black charger at the sprawling bodies of boys in blue and gray. For Sheridan was a soldier.
And then General Sheridan's black charger was beside Reggie's weary gray horse, and he extended a gauntleted hand.
"Fine riding, Lieutenant," Sheridan said.
Reggie choked up and couldn't reply. Then Sheridan moved off, and Major Vanderveer, the amazing image of Reggie Vliet, jogged up beside Reggie.
"I say," he said, with a puzzled frown, "we resemble each other a good deal y'know. I don't believe I know you but I feel, somehow, as if I should."
Reggie grinned broadly. "You should," he said lightly. He patted the precious leather packet nestling inside his jacket. The packet containing the all-important letter. "If I told you the whole story," he said to the puzzled Vanderveer, "you'd think I was as nutty as a fruit cake, so I won't try."
Still grinning, Reggie reined his horse away from the battle scene, and dismounted. He felt as buoyant and giddy as a school- girl. Success, complete and exhilarating, was within his reach Everything he had set out to accomplish had been handled with dash and éclat. He felt once again of the leather packet within his jacket and then squared his shoulders.
"Vanderveer you damned old goat, put up your hands—here I come!"
And with a vast sense of accomplishment, an overpowering feeling of confidence Reggie Vliet reached down to adjust the dial on the wrist-watchish time-machine.
Smilingly, he waited for the old familiar sensation of blackness to assail him. It would be great to get back. And it would be even greater to stay there—for good, and with Sandra.
He wondered vaguely how long he would have been gone by the time he returned. Wondered and then realized that barely five or six minutes would have elapsed. Maybe less.
"Pip-pip!" said Reggie.
Nothing happened. And with a horrible dropping sensation in the pit of his stomach, Reggie realized that almost a minute had elapsed while he'd been sitting atop his horse, waiting to be returned to the Present.
And still nothing happened.
The smile slid from Reggie's face. Frantically, now, he raised his wrist to his ear. The watch-like time-machine was silent.
It was supposed to tick. All the time. But it was silent.
Sweat in great rivers, broke out all over Reggie Randhope. He shook his wrist. Then put his ear to the watch.
It was still silent.
"Oh my God!" Reggie bleated. "I'm trapped!"
Reggie didn't hear the sudden thunder of a cannon to his left. A cannon discharged by Union soldiers in celebration of the victory. He was too stupefied, too frozen, by the horror of his situation. His heart had turned to ice.
But Reggie's startled gray horse had heard the cannon. Heard, and leaped madly, bucking Reggie's startled figure to the ground. Then it was galloping wildly away, while the still terror- stricken Reggie watched it go.
Despairingly, automatically, Reggie put the watch to his ear.
The jar to earth had started the thing working again.
Reggie felt like screaming his joy and hysterical relief as the old sensation of blackness closed in around him...
REGGIE completed the trip from the Civil War to the Present in what he considered to be jig time. The whirling, rushing blackness enveloped him, it seemed, but for an instant, and then he opened his eyes to behold the familiar surroundings of the Vanderveer library.
Memory swept over him in an electrifying wave. He was back in the present with all of the evidence and information necessary to completely blast Colonel Vanderveer's idolatry of his ancestors. One Vanderveer an out-and-out fraud, a traitor and villain of the first water, and the second illustrious Vanderveer—he felt carefully of the rolled leather packet in his breast pocket and chuckled triumphantly. It would be worth one million dollars to see the old goat's face when he learned that—
"Pardon sir," Lowndes' suave voice interrupted his thoughts, "but I see you're back."
Reggie looked up at Lowndes and smiled.
"You bet," he said happily. "Your time thingumajig worked like a charm." He unstrapped it and handed it to him. "Be a good chap now and get me a change of clothes. I've got a lot to talk over with a certain opinionated old goat and I'll feel better when I climb out of this uniform."
TWENTY minutes later Reggie slipped into a well-tailored tweed coat and stared at himself in the mirror. Then he slipped the leather packet from his pocket and, with it gripped firmly in his hand, he strode through the doorway and down the carpeted stairway that led to old Vanderveer's study.
But as he passed the staircase that led to the upper floors of the house, he looked up and saw Sandra descending. Sandra looking sad and wan, but still the blue-eyed apple of his eye.
"Darling," he cried.
She turned to his voice, her face lighting like a Christmas tree.
"Reggie," she exclaimed. Then she was running down the steps and the next instant his arms were around her. "I'm so upset," she sobbed, "we can't get married unless father changes his mind."
"He'll do that," Reggie promised grimly. "I'm going to give that fire-eating father of yours his last chance to give us his blessing. Come along my dear. Chin up."
"Oh Reggie," she cried, her eyes shining, "you're wonderful."
Reggie took her by the arm.
"You're probably right," he said modestly. "It's a pity, though, that your father doesn't quite share your opinion."
Then they were standing before the oak-paneled door that led to the lair of Colonel Vanderveer. Reggie squared his shoulder and shoved the door open and marched into the Vanderveer study.
The Old Goat was seated behind his massive desk thumbing through a thick copy of Aristocracy of Afghanistan, or Blue-Bloods of the Bush.
He looked up as the door banged and then he coughed.
A rumbling, ominous cough. His eyes lighted with the recognition of a man renewing acquaintance with a water-moccasin. He opened his mouth and four flabby chins shook angrily.
But Reggie beat him to the punch.
"Now listen to me, sir," he said grimly. "I intend to marry your daughter and you and your entire gallery of sour-pussed ancestors can be hanged."
Colonel Vanderveer eyed him with cold dislike.
"A Vanderveer marry one of your stripe?" he snorted derisively. "You must be mad. I've given you my decision and it's final."
With calculated deliberation Reggie drew the carefully-wrapped letter from his pocket. Without answering Colonel Vanderveer's blast, without so much as looking at him, he proceeded to slowly unwrap the leather wrappings, until the letter, now wrinkled and yellowed with age, was in his hand.
"This," he said, with diabolic deliberation, "might be of interest to you, Colonel Vanderveer. It is a letter to Major Vanderveer of the Union forces. It is from a fairly well known gentleman of that time. Shall I read it to you?"
Colonel Vanderveer was trying unsuccessfully to restrain his curiosity.
"G—go ahead," he said breathlessly, "Major Lucius Vanderveer is one of our proudest ancestors. A nobleman, a gentleman, a true blue-blood of the first water."
Sandra Vanderveer was looking at Reggie in undisguised admiration.
"Where did you find it?" she asked happily. "You really are so terribly smart at times, Reggie."
"Oh just around in—in a nook," Reggie answered noncommittally. "Now I'll read this letter. It's addressed to Major Lucius Vanderveer, attached to the command of General Philip Sheridan."
"Yes, go on, boy," urged Colonel Vanderveer from the edge of his chair.
"My dear Reginald," Reggie began loudly and distinctly.
"Here!" Colonel Vanderveer cried testily. "You said the letter was to Lucius. What's the blooming idea of this Reginald."
"Will you permit me to continue?" Reggie asked with all the aloof dignity he could muster.
Colonel Vanderveer subsided scratching his head perplexedly.
"My dear Reginald," Reggie began again. "There are not words to express this country's fervent gratitude to you for your gallant services in her behalf." Reggie paused, and then spoke the next sentence emphatically. "The Vliets of France should well be proud of you for your efforts in behalf of Liberty and Union."
Reggie rushed on before Colonel Vanderveer could interrupt.
"The name of Vanderveer which you have been forced to assume because of possible international complications has been honored excessively by your courage and idealism. But it is my stern duty to ask a still greater favor of you. It is my wish that you renounce your family name of Vliet and legally adopt the name of Vanderveer to circumvent the possibility of our foes learning that you have aided us.
"You are well aware what that might mean on the troubled international front. I am sure that one who has suffered and sacrificed as you have for our cause will not hesitate to make this last and most heart-felt sacrifice of an honored and distinguished family name. Trusting that you will grant me this last favor, I salute you for the last time as Reginald Vliet, and greet you for the first time as Lucius Vanderveer."
"Preposterous!" snorted Old Vanderveer. "Expect me to believe that our noblest forbear was a Vliet, one of your people. Rot! Absolutely tommyrot!"
"The paper and ink are genuine, the seals are authentic. It is, I am happy to say, the absolute and unimpeachable truth."
Beads of perspiration were standing out on Colonel Vanderveer's forehead. Reggie's casual air of assurance was upsetting him.
"Who's it from?" he asked uneasily.
"A gentleman," Reggie said coolly, "by the name of Abraham Lincoln." He rocked slightly on his heels and hooked both thumbs complacently in his vest holes. "Mr. Lincoln thought a lot of we Vliets. Yes indeed! Thought a powerful lot of us."
"Let me see it," Colonel Vanderveer said hoarsely. "There must be—be some mistake."
Reggie handed him the letter, and put his arm about Sandra's waist. She leaned against him, murmured,
"My but you're wonderful, Reggie."
Reggie nodded happily.
He was thinking of the old goat's face when he exploded the next bombshell in front of him. When he told him of the treachery and perfidy of the French Vanderveer who sold out to Wellington. That ought to be worth watching. The old goat would probably blow his top off proper then. Reggie smiled gloatingly, a delightful anticipation mounting in his veins. With both of the long- renowned Vanderveers consigned to ignominious oblivion, old Colonel Vanderveer would be a sadder but wiser human being.
COLONEL Vanderveer stood up then, pale and shaken.
"It appears to be genuine," he said weakly. "It would seem that the man we have venerated these long years as Major Vanderveer is actually a relative of yours, a Vliet."
Reggie nodded complacently. When he had received the communication from the dispatch rider back in the Civil war, he'd realized that it wouldn't do to make a chump out of his own relative. That was why it had been necessary to race after Sheridan and undo the damage he had done.
"Positively staggering," old Vanderveer said heavily.
"And that isn't all," Reggie said, with poisonous calm. "I have more information for you, Colonel Vanderveer. It seems—"
Colonel Vanderveer waved a hand.
"It must wait," he said, with some of his old fire. "I have something to say to you. Something that you, ahem, might consider in the way of restitution for the use of your name all these years.
"I receive a pension fund in the amount of five thousand pounds each year from the English government. It is given to me from the estate of Colonel Horatio Vanderveer, one of the outstanding English heroes, as you probably know."
Reggie smiled gloatingly. His time had just about arrived. Let the old bore ramble on and then he'd spring the fact that Colonel Horatio Vanderveer was actually a French traitor and deserter.
"This money," Colonel Vanderveer said pontifically, "I will bequeath to you and Sandra as a wedding present along with my blessings and best wishes for your happiness."
"Oh Daddy!" Sandra cried, hugging him.
Reggie felt as if he would collapse. The old man's capitulation was one amazing thing, but secondly there was the realization that the treachery of Colonel Horatio Vanderveer must continue to remain a dark secret. For Reggie knew that if the old man suspected his great-grandfather's treachery, he would never accept the lush pension from the English government. If he refused it, as he undoubtedly would, where would one Reginald Vliet get off? Probably out in the cold as far as a substantial lump of the stuff was concerned.
Reggie fought a brief battle with his conscience and his conscience lost by a wide margin. Reggie squared his shoulders, and decided to forget forever certain circumstances concerning Colonel Horatio Vanderveer.
"This is wonderful of you, Colo—I mean, Dad," he cried enthusiastically. He took Sandra by the arm. "Come darling," he said masterfully, "I have things to speak to you about. Important things."
They left the room, arm in arm, and Colonel Vanderveer winced as he heard Reggie's clear young tenor voice floating back, singing:
"Oh we cut down the fam-lee treeeee,
And we hauled it away to the mill."