Part 1 out of 2
Juliet Sutherland, Tonya Allen, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
DADDY DARWIN'S DOVECOT
AND OTHER STORIES
JULIANA HORATIO EWING.
"If I might buffet for my love, or bound my horse for her
favors, I could lay on like a butcher, and sit like a
Jackanapes, never off!"
KING HENRY V, Act 5, Scene 2.
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
The midnight brought the signal sound of strife,
The morn the marshalling in arms--the day
Battle's magnificently stern array!
The thunder clouds close o'er it, which when rent
The earth is covered thick with other clay,
Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider and horse:--friend, foe,--in one red burial blent.
Their praise is hymn'd by loftier harps than mine:
Yet one would I select from that proud throng.
----to thee, to thousands, of whom each
And one as all a ghastly gap did make
In his own kind and kindred, whom to teach
Forgetfuluess were mercy for their sake;
The Archangel's trump, not glory's, must awake
Those whom they thirst for.
Two Donkeys and the Geese lived on the Green, and all other residents of
any social standing lived in houses round it. The houses had no names.
Everybody's address was, "The Green," but the Postman and the people of
the place knew where each family lived. As to the rest of the world,
what has one to do with the rest of the world, when he is safe at home
on his own Goose Green? Moreover, if a stranger did come on any lawful
business, he might ask his way at the shop.
Most of the inhabitants were long-lived, early deaths (like that of the
little Miss Jessamine) being exceptional; and most of the old people
were proud of their age, especially the sexton, who would be ninety-nine
come Martinmas, and whose father remembered a man who had carried
arrows, as a boy, for the battle of Flodden Field. The Grey Goose and
the big Miss Jessamine were the only elderly persons who kept their ages
secret. Indeed, Miss Jessamine never mentioned any one's age, or
recalled the exact year in which anything had happened. She said that
she had been taught that it was bad manners to do so "in a mixed
The Grey Goose also avoided dates, but this was partly because her
brain, though intelligent, was not mathematical, and computation was
beyond her. She never got farther than "last Michaelmas," "the
Michaelmas before that," and "the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas
before that." After this her head, which was small, became confused, and
she said, "Ga, ga!" and changed the subject.
But she remembered the little Miss Jessamine, the Miss Jessamine with
the "conspicuous" hair. Her aunt, the big Miss Jessamine, said it was
her only fault. The hair was clean, was abundant, was glossy, but do
what you would with it, it never looked like other people's. And at
church, after Saturday night's wash, it shone like the best brass fender
after a Spring cleaning. In short, it was conspicuous, which does not
become a young woman--especially in church.
Those were worrying times altogether, and the Green was used for strange
purposes. A political meeting was held on it with the village Cobbler in
the chair, and a speaker who came by stage coach from the town, where
they had wrecked the bakers' shops, and discussed the price of bread. He
came a second time, by stage, but the people had heard something about
him in the meanwhile, and they did not keep him on the Green. They took
him to the pond and tried to make him swim, which he could not do, and
the whole affair was very disturbing to all quiet and peaceable fowls.
After which another man came, and preached sermons on the Green, and a
great many people went to hear him; for those were "trying times," and
folk ran hither and thither for comfort. And then what did they do but
drill the ploughboys on the Green, to get them ready to fight the
French, and teach them the goose-step! However, that came to an end at
last, for Bony was sent to St. Helena, and the ploughboys were sent back
to the plough.
Everybody lived in fear of Bony in those days, especially the naughty
children, who were kept in order during the day by threats of, "Bony
shall have you," and who had nightmares about him in the dark. They
thought he was an Ogre in a cocked hat. The Grey Goose thought he was a
fox, and that all the men of England were going out in red coats to hunt
him. It was no use to argue the point, for she had a very small head,
and when one idea got into it there was no room for another.
Besides, the Grey Goose never saw Bony, nor did the children, which
rather spoilt the terror of him, so that the Black Captain became more
effective as a Bogy with hardened offenders. The Grey Goose remembered
_his_ coming to the place perfectly. What he came for she did not
pretend to know. It was all part and parcel of the war and bad times. He
was called the Black Captain, partly because of himself, and partly
because of his wonderful black mare. Strange stories were afloat of how
far and how fast that mare could go, when her master's hand was on her
mane and he whispered in her ear. Indeed, some people thought we might
reckon ourselves very lucky if we were not out of the frying-pan into
the fire, and had not got a certain well-known Gentleman of the Road to
protect us against the French. But that, of course, made him none the
less useful to the Johnson's Nurse, when the little Miss Johnsons were
"You leave off crying this minnit, Miss Jane, or I'll give you right
away to that horrid wicked officer. Jemima! just look out o' the windy,
if you please, and see if the Black Cap'n's a-coming with his horse to
carry away Miss Jane."
And there, sure enough, the Black Captain strode by, with his sword
clattering as if it did not know whose head to cut off first. But he did
not call for Miss Jane that time. He went on to the Green, where he came
so suddenly upon the eldest Master Johnson, sitting in a puddle on
purpose, in his new nankeen skeleton suit, that the young gentleman
thought judgment had overtaken him at last, and abandoned himself to the
howlings of despair. His howls were redoubled when he was clutched from
behind and swung over the Black Captain's shoulder, but in five minutes
his tears were stanched, and he was playing with the officer's
accoutrements. All of which the Grey Goose saw with her own eyes, and
heard afterwards that that bad boy had been whining to go back to the
Black Captain ever since, which showed how hardened he was, and that
nobody but Bonaparte himself could be expected to do him any good.
But those were "trying times." It was bad enough when the pickle of a
large and respectable family cried for the Black Captain; when it came
to the little Miss Jessamine crying for him, one felt that the sooner
the French landed and had done with it the better.
The big Miss Jessamine's objection to him was that he was a soldier, and
this prejudice was shared by all the Green. "A soldier," as the speaker
from the town had observed, "is a bloodthirsty, unsettled sort of a
rascal; that the peaceable, home-loving, bread-winning citizen can never
conscientiously look on as a brother, till he has beaten his sword into
a ploughshare, and his spear into a pruning-hook."
On the other hand there was some truth in what the Postman (an old
soldier) said in reply; that the sword has to cut a way for us out of
many a scrape into which our bread-winners get us when they drive their
ploughshares into fallows that don't belong to them. Indeed, whilst our
most peaceful citizens were prosperous chiefly by means of cotton, of
sugar, and of the rise and fall of the money-market (not to speak of
such salable matters as opium, firearms, and "black ivory"),
disturbances were apt to arise in India, Africa and other outlandish
parts, where the fathers of our domestic race were making fortunes for
their families. And, for that matter, even on the Green, we did not wish
the military to leave us in the lurch, so long as there was any fear
that the French were coming. [Footnote: "'The political men declare
war, and generally for commercial interests; but when the nation is thus
embroiled with its neighbors the soldier ... draws the sword, at the
command of his country.... One word as to thy comparison of military and
commercial persons. What manner of men be they who have supplied the
Caffres with the firearms and ammunition to maintain their savage and
deplorable wars? Assuredly they are not military.... Cease then, if thou
would'st be counted among the just, to vilify soldiers."--W. Napier,
Lieut. General, _November_, 1851.]
To let the Black Captain have little Miss Jessamine, however, was
another matter. Her Aunt would not hear of it; and then, to crown all,
it appeared that the Captain's father did not think the young lady good
enough for his son. Never was any affair more clearly brought to a
conclusion. But those were "trying times;" and one moon-light night,
when the Grey Goose was sound asleep upon one leg, the Green was rudely
shaken under her by the thud of a horse's feet. "Ga, ga!" said she,
putting down the other leg, and running away.
By the time she returned to her place not a thing was to be seen or
heard. The horse had passed like a shot. But next day, there was
hurrying and skurrying and cackling at a very early hour, all about the
white house with the black beams, where Miss Jessamine lived. And when
the sun was so low, and the shadows so long on the grass that the Grey
Goose felt ready to run away at the sight of her own neck, little Miss
Jane Johnson, and her "particular friend" Clarinda, sat under the big
oak-tree on the Green, and Jane pinched Clarinda's little finger till
she found that she could keep a secret, and then she told her in
confidence that she had heard from Nurse and Jemima that Miss
Jessamine's niece had been a very naughty girl, and that that horrid
wicked officer had come for her on his black horse, and carried her
"Will she never come back?" asked Clarinda.
"Oh, no!" said Jane decidedly. "Bony never brings people back."
"Not never no more?" sobbed Clarinda, for she was weak-minded, and could
not bear to think that Bony never, never let naughty people go home
Next day Jane had heard more.
"He has taken her to a Green?"
"A Goose Green?" asked Clarinda.
"No. A Gretna Green. Don't ask so many questions, child," said Jane;
who, having no more to tell, gave herself airs.
Jane was wrong on one point. Miss Jessamine's niece did come back, and
she and her husband were forgiven. The Grey Goose remembered it well, it
was Michaelmastide, the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas before the
Michaelmas--but ga, ga! What does the date matter? It was autumn,
harvest-time, and everybody was so busy prophesying and praying about
the crops, that the young couple wandered through the lanes, and got
blackberries for Miss Jessamine's celebrated crab and blackberry jam,
and made guys of themselves with bryony-wreaths, and not a soul troubled
his head about them, except the children, and the Postman. The children
dogged the Black Captain's footsteps (his bubble reputation as an Ogre
having burst), clamoring for a ride on the black mare. And the Postman
would go somewhat out of his postal way to catch the Captain's dark eye,
and show that he had not forgotten how to salute an officer.
But they were "trying times." One afternoon the black mare was stepping
gently up and down the grass, with her head at her master's shoulder,
and as many children crowded on to her silky back as if she had been an
elephant in a menagerie; and the next afternoon she carried him away,
sword and _sabre-tache_ clattering war-music at her side, and the
old Postman waiting for them, rigid with salutation, at the four cross
War and bad times! It was a hard winter, and the big Miss Jessamine and
the little Miss Jessamine (but she was Mrs. Black-Captain now), lived
very economically that they might help their poorer neighbors. They
neither entertained nor went into company, but the young lady always
went up the village as far as the _George and Dragon_, for air and
exercise, when the London Mail [Footnote: The Mail Coach it was that
distributed over the face of the land, like the opening of apocalyptic
vials, the heart-shaking news of Trafalgar, of Salamanca, of Vittoria,
of Waterloo.... The grandest chapter of our experience, within the whole
Mail Coach service, was on those occasions when we went down from London
with the news of Victory. Five years of life it was worth paying down
for the privilege of an outside place. DE QUINCEY.] came in.
One day (it was a day in the following June) it came in earlier than
usual, and the young lady was not there to meet it.
But a crowd soon gathered round the _George and Dragon_, gaping to
see the Mail Coach dressed with flowers and oak-leaves, and the guard
wearing a laurel wreath over and above his royal livery. The ribbons
that decked the horses were stained and flecked with the warmth and foam
of the pace at which they had come, for they had pressed on with the
news of Victory.
Miss Jessamine was sitting with her niece under the oak-tree on the
Green, when the Postman put a newspaper silently into her hand. Her
niece turned quickly--"Is there news?"
"Don't agitate yourself, my dear," said her aunt. "I will read it aloud,
and then we can enjoy it together; a far more comfortable method, my
love, than when you go up the village, and come home out of breath,
having snatched half the news as you run."
"I am all attention, dear aunt," said the little lady, clasping her
hands tightly on her lap.
Then Miss Jessamine read aloud--she was proud of her reading--and the
old soldier stood at attention behind her, with such a blending of pride
and pity on his face as it was strange to see:--
"_June_ 22, 1815, 1 A.M."
"That's one in the morning," gasped the Postman; "beg your pardon, mum."
But though he apologized, he could not refrain from echoing here and
there a weighty word. "Glorious victory,"--"Two hundred pieces of
artillery,"--"Immense quantity of ammunition,"--and so forth.
"The loss of the British Army upon this occasion has unfortunately been
most severe. It had not been possible to make out a return of the killed
and wounded when Major Percy left headquarters. The names of the
officers killed and wounded, as far as they can be collected, are
"I have the honor----"
"The list, aunt! Read the list!"
"My love--my darling--let us go in and----"
"No. Now! now!"
To one thing the supremely afflicted are entitled in their sorrow--to be
obeyed--and yet it is the last kindness that people commonly will do
them. But Miss Jessamine did. Steadying her voice, as best she might,
she read on, and the old soldier stood bareheaded to hear that first
Roll of the Dead at Waterloo, which began with the Duke of Brunswick,
and ended with Ensign Brown. [Footnote: "Brunswick's fated chieftain"
fell at Quatre Bras, the day before Waterloo, but this first (very
imperfect) list, as it appeared in the newspapers of the day, did begin
with his name, and end with that of an Ensign Brown.] Five-and-thirty
British Captains fell asleep that day on the bed of Honor, and the Black
Captain slept among them.
* * * * *
There are killed and wounded by war, of whom no returns reach Downing
Three days later, the Captain's wife had joined him, and Miss Jessamine
was kneeling by the cradle of their orphan son, a purple-red morsel of
humanity, with conspicuously golden hair.
"Will he live, Doctor?"
"Live? GOD bless my soul, ma'am! Look at him! The young Jackanapes!"
And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old Nurse.
The Grey Goose remembered quite well the year that Jackanapes began to
walk, for it was the year that the speckled hen for the first time in
all her motherly life got out of patience when she was sitting. She had
been rather proud of the eggs--they are unusually large--but she never
felt quite comfortable on them; and whether it was because she used to
get cramp, and got off the nest, or because the season was bad, or what,
she never could tell, but every egg was addled but one, and the one that
did hatch gave her more trouble than any chick she had ever reared.
It was a fine, downy, bright yellow little thing, but it had a monstrous
big nose and feet, and such an ungainly walk as she knew no other
instance of in her well-bred and high-stepping family. And as to
behavior, it was not that it was either quarrelsome or moping, but
simply unlike the rest. When the other chicks hopped and cheeped on the
Green all at their mother's feet, this solitary yellow one went waddling
off on its own responsibility, and do or cluck what the spreckled hen
would, it went to play in the pond.
It was off one day as usual, and the hen was fussing and fuming after
it, when the Postman, going to deliver a letter at Miss Jessamine's
door, was nearly knocked over by the good lady herself, who, bursting
out of the house with her cap just off and her bonnet just not on,
fell into his arms, crying--
"Baby! Baby! Jackanapes! Jackanapes!"
If the Postman loved anything on earth, he loved the Captain's
yellow-haired child, so propping Miss Jessamine against her own
door-post, he followed the direction of her trembling fingers and made
for the Green.
Jackanapes had had the start of the Postman by nearly ten minutes. The
world--the round green world with an oak tree on it--was just becoming
very interesting to him. He had tried, vigorously but ineffectually, to
mount a passing pig the last time he was taken out walking; but then he
was encumbered with a nurse. Now he was his own master, and might, by
courage and energy, become the master of that delightful, downy, dumpy,
yellow thing, that was bobbing along over the green grass in front of
him. Forward! Charge! He aimed well, and grabbed it, but only to feel
the delicious downiness and dumpiness slipping through his fingers as he
fell upon his face. "Quawk!" said the yellow thing, and wobbled off
sideways. It was this oblique movement that enabled Jackanapes to come
up with it, for it was bound for the Pond, and therefore obliged to come
back into line. He failed again from top-heaviness, and his prey escaped
sideways as before, and, as before, lost ground in getting back to the
direct road to the Pond.
And at the Pond the Postman found them both, one yellow thing rocking
safely on the ripples that lie beyond duck-weed, and the other washing
his draggled frock with tears, because he too had tried to sit upon the
Pond, and it wouldn't hold him.
... If studious, copie fair what time hath blurred,
Redeem truth from his jawes; if souldier,
Chase brave employments with a naked sword
Throughout the world. Fool not; for all may have,
If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.
* * * * *
In brief, acquit thee bravely: play the man.
Look not on pleasures as they come, but go.
Defer not the least vertue: life's poore span
Make not an ell, by trifling in thy woe.
If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains.
If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains.
Young Mrs. Johnson, who was a mother of many, hardly knew which to pity
more; Miss Jessamine for having her little ways and her antimacassars
rumpled by a young Jackanapes; or the boy himself, for being brought up
by an old maid.
Oddly enough, she would probably have pitied neither, had Jackanapes
been a girl. (One is so apt to think that what works smoothest works to
the highest ends, having no patience for the results of friction.) That
Father in GOD, who bade the young men to be pure, and the maidens brave,
greatly disturbed a member of his congregation, who thought that the
great preacher had made a slip of the tongue.
"That the girls should have purity, and the boys courage, is what you
would say, good Father?"
"Nature has done that," was the reply; "I meant what I said."
In good sooth, a young maid is all the better for learning some robuster
virtues than maidenliness and not to move the antimacassars. And the
robuster virtues require some fresh air and freedom. As, on the other
hand, Jackanapes (who had a boy's full share of the little beast and the
young monkey in his natural composition) was none the worse, at his
tender years, for learning some maidenliness--so far as maidenliness
means decency, pity, unselfishness and pretty behavior.
And it is due to him to say that he was an obedient boy, and a boy whose
word could be depended on, long before his grandfather the General came
to live at the Green.
He was obedient; that is he did what his great aunt told him. But--oh
dear! oh dear!--the pranks he played, which it had never entered into
her head to forbid!
It was when he had just been put into skeletons (frocks never suited
him) that he became very friendly with Master Tony Johnson, a younger
brother of the young gentleman who sat in the puddle on purpose. Tony
was not enterprising, and Jackanapes led him by the nose. One summer's
evening they were out late, and Miss Jessamine was becoming anxious,
when Jackanapes presented himself with a ghastly face all besmirched
with tears. He was unusually subdued.
"I'm afraid," he sobbed; "if you please, I'm very much afraid that Tony
Johnson's dying in the churchyard."
Miss Jessamine was just beginning to be distracted, when she smelt
"You naughty, naughty boys! Do you mean to tell me that you've been
"Not pipes," urged Jackanapes; "upon my honor, Aunty, not pipes. Only
segars like Mr. Johnson's! and only made of brown paper with a very,
very little tobacco from the shop inside them."
Whereupon, Miss Jessamine sent a servant to the churchyard, who found
Tony Johnson lying on a tomb-stone, very sick, and having ceased to
entertain any hopes of his own recovery.
If it could be possible that any "unpleasantness" could arise between
two such amiable neighbors as Miss Jessamine and Mrs. Johnson--and if
the still more incredible paradox can be that ladies may differ over a
point on which they are agreed--that point was the admitted fact that
Tony Johnson was "delicate," and the difference lay chiefly in this:
Mrs. Johnson said that Tony was delicate--meaning that he was more
finely strung, more sensitive, a properer subject for pampering and
petting than Jackanapes, and that, consequently, Jackanapes was to blame
for leading Tony into scrapes which resulted in his being chilled,
frightened, or (most frequently) sick. But when Miss Jessamine said that
Tony Johnson was delicate, she meant that he was more puling, less
manly, and less healthily brought up than Jackanapes, who, when they got
into mischief together, was certainly not to blame because his friend
could not get wet, sit a kicking donkey, ride in the giddy-go-round,
bear the noise of a cracker, or smoke brown paper with impunity, as he
Not that there was ever the slightest quarrel between the ladies. It
never even came near it, except the day after Tony had been so very sick
with riding Bucephalus in the giddy-go-round. Mrs. Johnson had explained
to Miss Jessamine that the reason Tony was so easily upset, was the
unusual sensitiveness (as a doctor had explained it to her) of the
nervous centres in her family--"Fiddlestick!" So Mrs. Johnson
understood Miss Jessamine to say, but it appeared that she only said
"Treaclestick!" which is quite another thing, and of which Tony was
undoubtedly fond. It was at the fair that Tony was made ill by riding on
Bucephalus. Once a year the Goose Green became the scene of a carnival.
First of all, carts and caravans were rumbling up all along, day and
night. Jackanapes could hear them as he lay in bed, and could hardly
sleep for speculating what booths and whirligigs he should find fairly
established; when he and his dog Spitfire went out after breakfast. As a
matter of fact, he seldom had to wait long for news of the Fair. The
Postman knew the window out of which Jackanapes' yellow head would come,
and was ready with his report.
"Royal Theayter, Master Jackanapes, in the old place, but be careful o'
them seats, sir; they're rickettier than ever. Two sweets and a
ginger-beer under the oak tree, and the Flying Boats is just a-coming
along the road."
No doubt it was partly because he had already suffered severely in the
Flying Boats, that Tony collapsed so quickly in the giddy-go-round. He
only mounted Bucephalus (who was spotted, and had no tail) because
Jackanapes urged him, and held out the ingenious hope that the
round-and-round feeling would very likely cure the up-and-down
sensation. It did not, however, and Tony tumbled off during the first
Jackanapes was not absolutely free from qualms, but having once mounted
the Black Prince he stuck to him as a horseman should. During the first
round he waved his hat, and observed with some concern that the Black
Prince had lost an ear since last Fair; at the second, he looked a little
pale but sat upright, though somewhat unnecessarily rigid; at the
third round he shut his eyes. During the fourth his hat fell off, and he
clasped his horse's neck. By the fifth he had laid his yellow head
against the Black Prince's mane, and so clung anyhow till the
hobby-horses stopped, when the proprietor assisted him to alight, and he
sat down rather suddenly and said he had enjoyed it very much.
The Grey Goose always ran away at the first approach of the caravans,
and never came back to the Green till there was nothing left of the Fair
but footmarks and oyster-shells. Running away was her pet principle; the
only system, she maintained, by which you can live long and easily, and
lose nothing. If you run away when you see danger, you can come back
when all is safe. Run quickly, return slowly, hold your head high, and
gabble as loud as you can, and you'll preserve the respect of the Goose
Green to a peaceful old age. Why should you struggle and get hurt, if
you can lower your head and swerve, and not lose a feather? Why in the
world should any one spoil the pleasure of life, or risk his skin, if he
can help it?
"'What's the use'
Said the Goose."
Before answering which one might have to consider what world--which
life--whether his skin were a goose-skin; but the Grey Goose's head
would never have held all that.
Grass soon grows over footprints, and the village children took the
oyster-shells to trim their gardens with; but the year after Tony rode
Bucephalus there lingered another relic of Fairtime, in which Jackanapes
was deeply interested. "The Green" proper was originally only part of a
straggling common, which in its turn merged into some wilder waste land
where gipsies sometimes squatted if the authorities would allow them,
especially after the annual Fair. And it was after the Fair that
Jackanapes, out rambling by himself, was knocked over by the Gipsy's son
riding the Gipsy's red-haired pony at break-neck pace across the common.
Jackanapes got up and shook himself, none the worse, except for being
heels over head in love with the red-haired pony. What a rate he went
at! How he spurned the ground with his nimble feet! How his red coat
shone in the sunshine! And what bright eyes peeped out of his dark
forelock as it was blown by the wind!
The Gipsy boy had had a fright, and he was willing enough to reward
Jackanapes for not having been hurt, by consenting to let him have a
"Do you mean to kill the little fine gentleman, and swing us all on the
gibbet, you rascal?" screamed the Gipsy-mother, who came up just as
Jackanapes and the pony set off.
"He would get on," replied her son. "It'll not kill him. He'll fall on
his yellow head, and it's as tough as a cocoanut."
But Jackanapes did not fall. He stuck to the red-haired pony as he had
stuck to the hobbyhorse; but oh, how different the delight of this wild
gallop with flesh and blood! Just as his legs were beginning to feel as
if he did not feel them, the Gipsy boy cried "Lollo!" Round went the
pony so unceremoniously, that, with as little ceremony, Jackanapes clung
to his neck, and he did not properly recover himself before Lollo
stopped with a jerk at the place where they had started.
"Is his name Lollo?" asked Jackanapes, his hand lingering in the wiry
"What does Lollo mean?"
"Is Lollo your pony?"
"No. My father's." And the Gipsy boy led Lollo away.
At the first opportunity Jackanapes stole away again to the common. This
time he saw the Gipsy-father, smoking a dirty pipe.
"Lollo is your pony, isn't he?" said Jackanapes.
"He's a very nice one."
"He's a racer."
"You don't want to sell him, do you?"
"Fifteen pounds," said the Gipsy-father; and Jackanapes sighed and went
home again. That very afternoon he and Tony rode the two donkeys, and
Tony managed to get thrown, and even Jackanapes' donkey kicked. But it
was jolting, clumsy work after the elastic swiftness and the dainty
mischief of the red-haired pony.
A few days later Miss Jessamine spoke very seriously to Jackanapes. She
was a good deal agitated as she told him that his grandfather, the
General, was coming to the Green, and that he must be on his very best
behavior during the visit. If it had been feasible to leave off calling
him Jackanapes and to get used to his baptismal name of Theodore before
the day after to-morrow (when the General was due), it would have been
satisfactory. But Miss Jessamine feared it would be impossible in
practice, and she had scruples about it on principle. It would not seem
quite truthful, although she had always most fully intended that he
should be called Theodore when he had outgrown the ridiculous
appropriateness of his nickname. The fact was that he had not outgrown
it, but he must take care to remember who was meant when his grandfather
Indeed for that matter he must take care all along.
"You are apt to be giddy, Jackanapes," said Miss Jessamine.
"Yes aunt," said Jackanapes, thinking of the hobby-horses.
"You are a good boy, Jackanapes. Thank GOD, I can tell your grandfather
that. An obedient boy, an honorable boy, and a kind-hearted boy. But you
are--in short, you _are_ a Boy, Jackanapes. And I hope,"--added
Miss Jessamine, desperate with the results of experience--"that the
General knows that Boys will be Boys."
What mischief could be foreseen, Jackanapes promised to guard against.
He was to keep his clothes and his hands clean, to look over his
catechism, not to put sticky things in his pockets, to keep that hair of
his smooth--("It's the wind that blows it, Aunty," said
Jackanapes--"I'll send by the coach for some bear's-grease," said Miss
Jessamine, tying a knot in her pocket-handkerchief)--not to burst in at
the parlor door, not to talk at the top of his voice, not to crumple his
Sunday frill, and to sit quite quiet during the sermon, to be sure to
say "sir" to the General, to be careful about rubbing his shoes on the
doormat, and to bring his lesson-books to his aunt at once that she
might iron down the dogs' ears. The General arrived, and for the first
day all went well, except that Jackanapes' hair was as wild as usual,
for the hair-dresser had no bear's-grease left. He began to feel more at
ease with his grandfather, and disposed to talk confidentially with him,
as he did with the Postman. All that the General felt it would take too
long to tell, but the result was the same. He was disposed to talk
confidentially with Jackanapes.
"Mons'ous pretty place this," he said, looking out of the lattice on to
the Green, where the grass was vivid with sunset, and the shadows were
long and peaceful.
"You should see it in Fair-week, sir," said Jackanapes, shaking his
yellow mop, and leaning back in his one of the two Chippendale armchairs
in which they sat.
"A fine time that, eh?" said the General, with a twinkle in his left
eye. (The other was glass.)
Jackanapes shook his hair once more. "I enjoyed this last one the best
of all," he said. "I'd so much money."
"By George, it's not a common complaint in these bad times. How much had
"I'd two shillings. A new shilling Aunty gave me, and elevenpence I had
saved up, and a penny from the Postman--_sir_!" added Jackanapes
with a jerk, having forgotten it.
"And how did ye spend it--_sir_?" inquired the, General. Jackanapes
spread his ten fingers on the arms of his chair, and shut his eyes that
he might count the more conscientiously.
"Watch-stand for Aunty, threepence. Trumpet for myself, twopence, that's
fivepence. Ginger-nuts for Tony, twopence, and a mug with a Grenadier on
for the Postman, fourpence, that's elevenpence. Shooting-gallery a
penny, that's a shilling. Giddy-go-round, a penny, that's one and a
penny. Treating Tony, one and twopence. Flying Boats (Tony paid for
himself), a penny, one and threepence. Shooting-gallery again, one and
four-pence; Fat Woman a penny, one and fivepence. Giddy-go-round again,
one and sixpence. Shooting-gallery, one and sevenpence. Treating Tony,
and then he wouldn't shoot, so I did, one and eightpence. Living
Skeleton, a penny--no, Tony treated me, the Living Skeleton doesn't
count. Skittles, a penny, one and ninepence Mermaid (but when we got
inside she was dead), a penny, one and tenpence. Theatre, a penny
(Priscilla Partington, or the Green Lane Murder. A beautiful young lady,
sir, with pink cheeks and a real pistol), that's one and elevenpence.
Ginger beer, a penny (I _was_ so thirsty!) two shillings. And then
the Shooting-gallery man gave me a turn for nothing, because, he said, I
was a real gentleman, and spent my money like a man."
"So you do, sir, so you do!" cried the General. "Why, sir, you spend it
like a prince--And now I suppose you've not got a penny in your pocket?"
"Yes I have," said Jackanapes. "Two pennies. They are saving up." And
Jackanapes jingled them with his hand.
"You don't want money except at fair-times, I suppose?" said the
Jackanapes shook his mop.
"If I could have as much as I want, I should know what to buy," said he.
"And how much do you want, if you could get it?"
"Wait a minute, sir, till I think what twopence from fifteen pounds
leaves. Two from nothing you can't, but borrow twelve. Two from twelve,
ten, and carry one. Please remember ten, sir, when I ask you. One from
nothing you can't, borrow twenty. One from twenty, nineteen, and carry
one. One from fifteen, fourteen. Fourteen pounds nineteen and--what did I
tell you to remember?"
"Ten," said the General.
"Fourteen pounds nineteen shillings and ten-pence then, is what I want,"
"Bless my soul, what for?"
"To buy Lollo with. Lollo means red, sir. The Gipsy's red-haired pony,
sir. Oh, he is beautiful! You should see his coat in the sunshine! You
should see his mane! You should see his tail! Such little feet, sir, and
they go like lightning! Such a dear face, too, and eyes like a mouse!
But he's a racer, and the Gipsy wants fifteen pounds for him."
"If he's a racer, you couldn't ride him. Could you?"
"No--o, sir, but I can stick to him. I did the other day."
"You did, did you? Well, I'm fond of riding myself, and if the beast is
as good as you say, he might suit me."
"You're too tall for Lollo, I think," said Jackanapes, measuring his
grandfather with his eye.
"I can double up my legs, I suppose. We'll have a look at him
"Don't you weigh a good deal?" asked Jackanapes.
"Chiefly waistcoats," said the General, slapping the breast of his
military frock-coat. "We'll have the little racer on the Green the first
thing in the morning. Glad you mentioned it, grandson. Glad you
The General was as good as his word Next morning the Gipsy and Lollo,
Miss Jessamine, Jackanapes and his grandfather and his dog Spitfire,
were all gathered at one end of the Green in a group, which so aroused
the innocent curiosity of Mrs. Johnson, as she saw it from one of her
upper windows, that she and the children took their early promenade
rather earlier than usual. The General talked to the Gipsy, and
Jackanapes fondled Lollo's mane, and did not know whether he should be
more glad or miserable if his grandfather bought him.
"I've bought Lollo, but I believe you were right. He hardly stands high
enough for me. If you can ride him to the other end of the Green, I'll
give him to you."
How Jackanapes tumbled on to Lollo's back he never knew. He had just
gathered up the reins when the Gipsy-father took him by the arm.
"If you want to make Lollo go fast, my little gentleman--"
"_I_ can make him go!" said Jackanapes, and drawing from his pocket
the trumpet he had bought in the fair, he blew a blast both loud and
Away went Lollo, and away went Jackanapes' hat. His golden hair flew out,
an aureole from which his cheeks shone red and distended with
trumpeting. Away went Spitfire, mad with the rapture of the race, and
the wind in his silky ears. Away went the geese, the cocks, the hens,
and the whole family of Johnson. Lucy clung to her mamma, Jane saved
Emily by the gathers of her gown, and Tony saved himself by a
The Grey Goose was just returning when Jackanapes and Lollo rode back,
Spitfire panting behind.
"Good, my little gentleman, good!" said the Gipsy. "You were born to the
saddle You've the flat thigh, the strong knee, the wiry back, and the
light caressing hand, all you want is to learn the whisper Come here!"
"What was that dirty fellow talking about, grandson?" asked the General.
"I can't tell you, sir. It's a secret."
They were sitting in the window again, in the two Chippendale
arm-chairs, the General devouring every line of his grandson's face,
with strange spasms crossing his own.
"You must love your aunt very much, Jackanapes?"
"I do, sir," said Jackanapes warmly.
"And whom do you love next best to your aunt?"
The ties of blood were pressing very strongly on the General himself,
and perhaps he thought of Lollo. But Love is not bought in a day, even
with fourteen pounds nineteen shillings and ten-pence. Jackanapes
answered quite readily, "The Postman."
"Why the Postman?"
"He knew my father," said Jackanapes, "and he tells me about him, and
about his black mare. My father was a soldier, a brave soldier. He died
at Waterloo. When I grow up I want to be a soldier too." "So you shall,
my boy. So you shall."
"Thank you, grandfather. Aunty doesn't want me to be a soldier for fear
of being killed."
"Bless my life! Would she have you get into a feather-bed and stay
there? Why, you might be killed by a thunderbolt, if you were a
"So I might. I shall tell her so. What a funny fellow you are, sir! I
say, do you think my father knew the Gipsy's secret? The Postman says he
used to whisper to his black mare."
"Your father was taught to ride as a child, by one of those horsemen of
the East who swoop and dart and wheel about a plain like swallows in
autumn. Grandson! Love me a little too. I can tell you more about your
father than the Postman can."
"I do love you," said Jackanapes. "Before you came I was frightened. I'd
no notion you were so nice."
"Love me always, boy, whatever I do or leave undone. And--God help
me--whatever you do or leave undone, I'll love you! There shall never be
a cloud between us for a day; no, sir, not for an hour. We're imperfect
enough, all of us, we needn't be so bitter; and life is uncertain enough
at its safest, we needn't waste its opportunities. Look at me! Here sit
I, after a dozen battles and some of the worst climates in the world,
and by yonder lych gate lies your mother, who didn't move five miles, I
suppose, from your aunt's apron-strings,--dead in her teens; my
golden-haired daughter, whom I never saw."
Jackanapes was terribly troubled.
"Don't cry, grandfather," he pleaded, his own blue eyes round with
tears. "I will love you very much, and I will try to be very good. But I
should like to be a soldier."
"You shall, my boy, you shall. You've more claims for a commission than
you know of. Cavalry, I suppose; eh, ye young Jackanapes? Well, well; if
you live to be an honor to your country, this old heart shall grow young
again with pride for you; and if you die in the service of your
country--GOD bless me, it can but break for ye!"
And beating the region which he said was all waistcoats, as if they
stifled him, the old man got up and strode out on to the Green.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his
life for his friends."--JOHN XV. 13.
Twenty and odd years later the Grey Goose was still alive, and in full
possession of her faculties, such as they were. She lived slowly and
carefully, and she lived long. So did Miss Jessamine; but the General
He had lived on the Green for many years, during which he and the
Postman saluted each other with a punctiliousness that it almost drilled
one to witness. He would have completely spoiled Jackanapes if Miss
Jessamine's conscience would have let him; otherwise he somewhat
dragooned his neighbors, and was as positive about parish matters as a
ratepayer about the army. A stormy-tempered, tender-hearted soldier,
irritable with the suffering of wounds of which he never spoke, whom all
the village followed to his grave with, tears.
The General's death was a great shock to Miss Jessamine, and her nephew
stayed with her for some little time after the funeral. Then he was
obliged to join his regiment, which was ordered abroad.
One effect of the conquest which the General had gained over the
affections of the village, was a considerable abatement of the popular
prejudice against "the military." Indeed the village was now somewhat
importantly represented in the army. There was the General himself, and
the Postman, and the Black Captain's tablet in the church, and
Jackanapes, and Tony Johnson, and a Trumpeter.
Tony Johnson had no more natural taste for fighting than for riding, but
he was as devoted as ever to Jackanapes, and that was how it came about
that Mr. Johnson bought him a commission in the same cavalry regiment
that the General's grandson (whose commission had been given him by the
Iron Duke) was in, and that he was quite content to be the butt of the
mess where Jackanapes was the hero; and that when Jackanapes wrote home
to Miss Jessamine, Tony wrote with the same purpose to his mother;
namely, to demand her congratulations that they were on active service
at last, and were ordered to the front. And he added a postscript to the
effect that she could have no idea how popular Jackanapes was, nor how
splendidly he rode the wonderful red charger whom he had named after his
old friend Lollo.
* * * * *
A Boy Trumpeter, grave with the weight of responsibilities and
accoutrements beyond his years, and stained, so that his own mother
would not have known him, with the sweat and dust of battle, did as he
was bid; and then pushing his trumpet pettishly aside, adjusted his
weary legs for the hundredth time to the horse which was a world too big
for him, and muttering, "'Tain't a pretty tune," tried to see something
of this, his first engagement, before it came to an end.
Being literally in the thick of it, he could seen less or known less of
what happened in that particular skirmish if he had been at home in
England. For many good reasons; including dust and smoke, and that what
attention he dared distract from his commanding officer was pretty well
absorbed by keeping his hard-mouthed troop-horse in hand, under pain of
execration by his neighbors in the melde. By-and-by, when the newspapers
came out, if he could get a look at one before it was thumbed to bits,
he would learn that the enemy had appeared from ambush in overwhelming
numbers, and that orders had been given to fall back, which was done
slowly and in good order, the men fighting as they retired.
Born and bred on the Goose Green, the youngest of Mr. Johnson's
gardener's numerous off-spring, the boy had given his family "no peace"
till they let him "go for a soldier" with Master Tony and Master
Jackanapes. They consented at last, with more tears than they shed when
an elder son was sent to jail for poaching, and the boy was perfectly
happy in his life, and full of _esprit de corps_. It was this which
had been wounded by having to sound retreat for "the young gentlemen's
regiment," the first time he served with it before the enemy, and he was
also harassed by having completely lost sight of Master Tony. There had
been some hard fighting before the backward movement began, and he had
caught sight of him once, but not since. On the other hand, all the
pulses of his village pride had been stirred by one or two visions of
Master Jackanapes whirling about on his wonderful horse. He had been
easy to distinguish, since an eccentric blow had bared his head without
hurting it, for his close golden mop of hair gleamed in the hot sunshine
as brightly as the steel of the sword flashing round it.
Of the missiles that fell pretty thickly, the Boy Trumpeter did not take
much notice. First, one can't attend to everything, and his hands were
full. Secondly, one gets used to anything. Thirdly, experience soon
teaches one, in spite of proverbs, how very few bullets find their
billet. Far more unnerving is the mere suspicion of fear or even of
anxiety in the human mass around you. The Boy was beginning to wonder if
there were any dark reason for the increasing pressure, and whether they
would be allowed to move back more quickly, when the smoke in front
lifted for a moment, and he could see the plain, and the enemy's line
some two hundred yards away.
And across the plain between them, he saw Master Jackanapes galloping
alone at the top of Lollo's speed, their faces to the enemy, his golden
head at Lollo's ear.
But at this moment noise and smoke seemed to burst out on every side,
the officer shouted to him to sound retire, and between trumpeting and
bumping about on his horse, he saw and heard no more of the incidents of
his first battle.
Tony Johnson was always unlucky with horses, from the days of the
giddy-go-round onwards. On this day--of all days in the' year--his own
horse was on the sick list, and he had to ride an inferior,
ill-conditioned beast, and fell off that, at the very moment when it was
a matter of life or death to be able to ride away. The horse fell on
him, but struggled up again, and Tony managed to keep hold of it. It was
in trying to remount that he discovered, by helplessness and anguish,
that one of his legs was crushed and broken, and that no feat of which
he was master would get him into the saddle. Not able even to stand
alone, awkwardly, agonizingly unable to mount his restive horse, his
life was yet so strong within him! And on one side of him rolled the
dust and smoke-cloud of his advancing foe, and on the other, that which
covered his retreating friends.
He turned one piteous gaze after them, with a bitter twinge, not of
reproach, but of loneliness; and then, dragging himself up by the side
of his horse, he turned the other way and drew out his pistol, and
waited for the end. Whether he waited seconds or minutes he never knew,
before some one gripped him by the arm.
"Jackanapes! GOD bless you! It's my left leg. If you could get me on--"
It was like Tony's luck that his pistol went off at his horse's tail,
and made it plunge; but Jackanapes threw him across the saddle.
"Hold on anyhow, and stick your spur in. I'll lead him. Keep your head
down, they're firing high."
And Jackanapes laid his head down--to Lollo's ear.
It was when they were fairly off, that a sudden upspringing of the enemy
in all directions had made it necessary to change the gradual retirement
of our force into as rapid a retreat as possible. And when Jackanapes
became aware of this, and felt the lagging and swerving of Tony's horse,
he began to wish he had thrown his friend across his own saddle, and
left their lives to Lollo.
When Tony became aware of it, several things came into his head. 1. That
the dangers of their ride for life were now more than doubled. 2. That
if Jackanapes and Lollo were not burdened with him they would
undoubtedly escape. 3. That Jackanapes' life was infinitely valuable,
and his--Tony's--was not. 4. That this--if he could seize it--was the
supremest of all the moments in which he had tried to assume the virtues
which Jackanapes had by nature; and that if he could be courageous and
He caught at his own reins and spoke very loud--
"Jackanapes! It won't do. You and Lollo must go on. Tell the fellows I
gave you back to them, with all my heart. Jackanapes, if you love me,
There was a daffodil light over the evening sky in front of them, and it
shone strangely on Jackanapes' hair and face. He turned with an odd look
in his eyes that a vainer man than Tony Johnson might have taken for
brotherly pride. Then he shook his mop and laughed at him.
"_Leave you?_ To save my skin? No, Tony, not to save my soul!"
Mr. VALIANT _summoned. His will. His last words._
Then, said he, "I am going to my Father's.... My Sword I
give to him that shall succeed me in my Pilgrimage, and my
Courage and Skill to him that can get it." ... And as he
went down deeper, he said, "Grave, where is thy Victory?"
So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on
the other side.
BUNYAN'S _Pilgrim's, Progress_.
Coming out of a hospital-tent, at headquarters, the surgeon cannonaded
against, and rebounded from, another officer; a sallow man, not young,
with a face worn more by ungentle experiences than by age; with weary
eyes that kept their own counsel, iron gray hair, and a moustache that
was as if a raven had laid its wing across his lips and sealed them.
"Beg pardon, Major. Didn't see you. Oh, compound fracture and bruises,
but it's all right. He'll pull through."
It was probably an involuntary expression, for prayer and praise were
not much in the Major's line, as a jerk of the surgeon's head would have
betrayed to an observer. He was a bright little man, with his feelings
showing all over him, but with gallantry and contempt of death enough
for both sides of his profession; who took a cool head, a white
handkerchief and a case of instruments, where other men went hot-blooded
with weapons, and who was the biggest gossip, male or female, of the
regiment. Not even the Major's taciturnity daunted him.
"Didn't think he'd as much pluck about him as he has. He'll do all right
if he doesn't fret himself into a fever about poor Jackanapes"
"Whom are you talking about?" asked the Major hoarsely.
"Young Johnson. He--"
"What about Jackanapes?"
"Don't you know? Sad business. Rode back for Johnson, and brought him
in; but, monstrous ill-luck, hit as they rode. Left lung--"
"Will he recover?"
"No. Sad business."
"What a frame--what limbs--what health--and what good looks? Finest
"Where is he?"
"In his own tent," said the surgeon sadly.
The Major wheeled and left him.
* * * * *
"Can I do anything else for you?"
"Nothing, thank you. Except--Major! I wish I could get you to appreciate
"This is not an easy moment, Jackanapes."
"Let me tell you, sir--_he_ never will--that if he could have
driven me from him, he would be lying yonder at this moment, and I
should be safe and sound."
The Major laid his hand over his mouth, as if to keep back a wish he
would have been ashamed to utter.
"I've known old Tony from a child. He's a fool on impulse, a good man
and a gentleman in principle. And he acts on principle, which it's not
every--some water, please! Thank you, sir. It's very hot, and yet one's
feet get uncommonly cold. Oh, thank you, thank you. He's no fire-eater,
but he has a trained conscience and a tender heart, and he'll do his
duty when a braver and more selfish man might fail you. But he wants
encouragement; and when I'm gone----"
"He shall have encouragement. You have my word for it. Can I do nothing
"Yes, Major. A favor."
"Thank you, Jackanapes."
"Be Lollo's master, and love him as well as you can. He's used to it."
"Wouldn't you rather Johnson had him?"
The blue eyes twinkled in spite of mortal pain.
"Tony _rides_ on principle, Major. His legs are bolsters, and will
be to the end of the chapter. I couldn't insult dear Lollo, but if you
don't care----Whilst I live----which will be longer than I desire or
deserve----Lollo shall want nothing, but----you. I have too little
tenderness for----my dear boy, you're faint. Can you spare me for a
"My head drifts so--if you wouldn't mind."
"Say a prayer by me. Out loud please, I am getting deaf."
"My dearest Jackanapes--my dear boy----"
"One of the Church Prayers--Parade Service, you know----"
"I see. But the fact is--GOD forgive me, Jackanapes--I'm a very
different sort of fellow to some of you youngsters. Look here, let me
But Jackanapes' hand was in his, and it wouldn't let go.
There was a brief and bitter silence.
"'Pon my soul I can only remember the little one at the end."
"Please," whispered Jackanapes.
Pressed by the conviction that what little he could do it was his duty
to do, the Major--kneeling--bared his head, and spoke loudly, clearly,
and very reverently--
"The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ--"
Jackanapes moved his left hand to his right one, which still held the
"--The love of GOD."
And with that--Jackanapes died.
"Und so ist der blaue Himmel groesser als jedes
Gewolk darin, und dauerhafter dazu."
JEAN PAUL RICHTER.
Jackanapes' death was sad news for the Goose Green, a sorrow justly
qualified by honorable pride in his gallantry and devotion. Only the
Cobbler dissented, but that was his way. He said he saw nothing in it
but foolhardiness and vainglory. They might both have been killed, as
easy as not, and then where would ye have been? A man's life was a man's
life, and one life was as good as another. No one would catch him
throwing his away. And, for that matter, Mrs. Johnson could spare a
child a great deal better than Miss Jessamine.
But the parson preached Jackanapes' funeral sermon on the text,
"Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his
life for My sake shall find it;" and all the village went and wept to
Nor did Miss Jessamine see her loss from the Cobbler's point of view. On
the contrary, Mrs. Johnson said she never to her dying day should forget
how, when she went to condole with her, the old lady came forward, with
gentle-womanly self-control, and kissed her, and thanked GOD that her
dear nephew's effort had been blessed with success, and that this sad
war had made no gap in her friend's large and happy home circle.
"But she's a noble, unselfish woman," sobbed Mrs. Johnson, "and she
taught Jackanapes to be the same, and that's how it is that my Tony has
been spared to me. And it must be sheer goodness in Miss Jessamine, for
what can she know of a mother's feelings? And I'm sure most people seem
to think that if you've a large family you don't know one from another
any more than they do, and that a lot of children are like a lot of
store-apples, if one's taken it won't be missed."
Lollo--the first Lollo, the Gipsy's Lollo--very aged, draws Miss
Jessamine's bath-chair slowly up and down the Goose Green in the
The Ex-postman walks beside him, which Lollo tolerates to the level of
his shoulder. If the Postman advances any nearer to his head, Lollo
quickens his pace, and were the Postman to persist in the injudicious
attempt, there is, as Miss Jessamine says, no knowing what might happen.
In the opinion of the Goose Green, Miss Jessamine has borne her troubles
"wonderfully." Indeed, to-day, some of the less delicate and less
intimate of those who see everything from the upper windows, say (well
behind her back) that "the old lady seems quite lively with her military
The meaning of this is, that Captain Johnson is leaning over one side of
her chair, whilst by the other bends a brother officer who is staying
with him, and who has manifested an extraordinary interest in Lollo. He
bends lower and lower, and Miss Jessamine calls to the Postman to
request Lollo to be kind enough to stop, whilst she is fumbling for
something which always hangs by her side, and has got entangled with her
It is a two-penny trumpet, bought years ago in the village fair, and
over it she and Captain Johnson tell, as best they can, between them,
the story of Jackanapes' ride across the Goose Green; and how he won
Lollo--the Gipsy's Lollo--the racer Lollo--dear Lollo--faithful
Lollo--Lollo the never vanquished--Lollo the tender servant of his old
mistress. And Lollo's ears twitch at every mention of his name.
Their hearer does not speak, but he never moves his eyes from the
trumpet, and when the tale is told, he lifts Miss Jessamine's hand and
presses his heavy black moustache in silence to her trembling fingers.
The sun, betting gently to his rest, embroiders the sombre foliage of
the oak-tree with threads of gold. The Grey Goose is sensible of an
atmosphere of repose, and puts up one leg for the night. The grass glows
with a more vivid green, and, in answer to a ringing call from Tony, his
sisters, fluttering over the daisies in pale-hued muslins, come out of
their ever-open door, like pretty pigeons form a dovecote.
And, if the good gossips, eyes do not deceive them, all the Miss
Johnsons, and both the officers, go wandering off into the lanes, where
bryony wreaths still twine about the brambles.
* * * * *
A sorrowful story, and ending badly?
Nay, Jackanapes, for the end is not yet.
A life wasted that might have been useful?
Men who have died for men, in all ages, forgive the thought!
There is a heritage of heroic example and noble obligation, not reckoned
in the Wealth of Nations, but essential to a nation's life; the contempt
of which, in any people, may, not slowly, mean even its commercial fall.
Very sweet are the uses of prosperity, the harvests of peace and
progress, the fostering sunshine of health and happiness, and length of
days in the land.
But there be things--oh, sons of what has deserved the name of Great
Britain, forget it not!--"the good of" which and "the use of" which are
beyond all calculation of worldly goods and earthly uses; things such as
Love, and Honor, and the Soul of Man, which cannot be bought with a
price, and which do not die with death. "And they who would fain live
happily EVER after, should not leave these things out of the lessons of
DADDY DARWIN'S DOVECOT.
* * * * *
A summer's afternoon. Early in the summer, and late in the afternoon;
with odors and colors deepening, and shadows lengthening, towards
Two gaffers gossiping, seated side by side upon a Yorkshire wall. A wall
of sandstone of many colors, glowing redder and yellower as the sun goes
down; well cushioned with moss and lichen, and deep set in rank grass on
this side, where the path runs, and in blue hyacinths on that side,
where the wood is, and where--on the gray and still naked branches of
young oaks--sit divers crows, not less solemn than the gaffers, and also
One gaffer in work-day clothes, not unpicturesque of form and hue. Gray,
home-knit stockings, and coat and knee-breeches of corduroy, which takes
tints from Time and Weather as harmoniously as wooden palings do; so
that field laborers (like some insects) seem to absorb or mimic the
colors of the vegetation round them and of their native soil. That is,
on work-days. Sunday-best is a different matter, and in this the other
gaffer was clothed. He was dressed like the crows above him, _fit
excepted_: the reason for which was, that he was only a visitor, a
revisitor to the home of his youth, and wore his Sunday (and funeral)
suit to mark the holiday.
Continuing the path, a stone pack-horse track, leading past a hedge
snow-white with may, and down into a little wood, from the depths of
which one could hear a brook babbling. Then up across the sunny field
beyond, and yet up over another field to where the brow of the hill is
crowned by old farm-buildings standing against the sky.
Down this stone path a young man going whistling home to tea. Then
staying to bend a swarthy face to the white may to smell it, and then
plucking a huge branch on which the blossom lies like a heavy fall of
snow, and throwing that aside for a better, and tearing off another and
yet another, with the prodigal recklessness of a pauper; and so,
whistling, on into the wood with his arms full.
Down the sunny field, as he goes up it, a woman coming to meet him--with
_her_ arms full. Filled by a child with a may-white frock, and hair
shining with the warm colors of the sandstone. A young woman, having a
fair forehead visible a long way off, and buxom cheeks, and steadfast
eyes. When they meet he kisses her, and she pulls his dark hair and
smooths her own, and cuffs him in country fashion. Then they change
burdens, and she takes the may into her apron (stooping to pick up
fallen bits), and the child sits on the man's shoulder, and cuffs and
lugs its father as the mother did, and is chidden by her and kissed by
him. And all the babbling of their chiding and crowing and laughter
comes across the babbling of the brook to the ears of the old gaffers
gossiping on the wall.
Gaffer I. spits out an over-munched stalk of meadow soft-grass, and
"D'ye see yon chap?"
Gaffer II. takes up his hat and wipes it round with a spotted
handkerchief (for your Sunday hat is a heating thing for work-day wear),
and puts it on, and makes reply:
"Aye. But he beats me. And--see there!--he's t'first that's beat me yet.
Why, lad! I've met young chaps to-day I could ha' sworn to for mates of
mine forty years back--if I hadn't ha' been i't' churchyard spelling
over their fathers' tumstuns!"
"Aye. There's a many old standards gone home o' lately."
"What do they call _him?_"
"T' young chap?"
"They _call_ him--Darwin."
"Dar--win?" I should known a Darwin. They're old standards, is Darwins.
What's he to Daddy Darwin of t' Dovecot yonder?"
"He _owns_ t' Dovecot. Did ye see t' lass?"
"Aye. Shoo's his missus, I reckon?"
"What did they call her?"
"Phoebe Shaw they called her. And if she'd been _my_ lass--but
that's nother here nor there, and he's got t' Dovecot."
"Shaw? _They're_ old standards, is Shaws. Phoebe? They called her
mother Phoebe. Phoebe Johnson. She were a dainty lass! My father were
very fond of Phoebe Johnson. He said she allus put him i' mind of our
orchard on drying days; pink and white apple-blossom and clean clothes.
And yon's her daughter? Where d'ye say t'young chap come from? He don't
look like hereabouts."
"He don't come from hereabouts. And yet he do come from hereabouts, as
one may say. Look ye here. He come from t' wukhus. That's the short and
the long of it."
Stupefaction. The crows chattering wildly overhead.
"And he owns Darwin's Dovecot?"
"He owns Darwin's Dovecot."
"And how i' t' name o' all things did that come about'!"
"Why, I'll tell thee. It was i' this fashion."
* * * * *
Not without reason does the wary writer put gossip in the mouths of
gaffers rather than of gammers. Male gossips love scandal as dearly as
female gossips do, and they bring to it the stronger relish and energies
of their sex. But these were country gaffers, whose speech--like
shadows--grows lengthy in the leisurely hours of eventide. The gentle
reader shall have the tale in plain narration.
NOTE--It will be plain to the reader that the birds here described are
Rooks (_corvus frugilegus_). I have allowed myself to speak of them
by their generic or family name of Crow, this being a common country
practice. The genus _corvus_, or _Crow_, includes the Raven,
the Carrion Crow, the Hooded Crow, the Jackdaw, and the Rook.
One Saturday night (some eighteen years earlier than the date of this
gaffer-gossiping) the parson's daughter sat in her own room before the
open drawer of a bandy-legged black oak table, _balancing her
bags_. The bags were money-bags, and the matter shall be made clear
In this parish, as in others, progress and the multiplication of weapons
with which civilization and the powers of goodness push their conquests
over brutality and the powers of evil, had added to the original duties
of the parish priest, a multifarious and all but impracticable variety
of offices; which, in ordinary and late conditions, would have been
performed by several more or less salaried clerks, bankers, accountants,
secretaries, librarians, club-committees, teachers, lecturers, discount
for ready-money dealers in clothing, boots, blankets, and coal,
domestic-servant agencies, caterers for the public amusement, and
preservers of the public peace.
The country parson (no less than statesmen and princes, than men of
science and of letters) is responsible for a great deal of his work that
is really done by the help-mate--woman. This explains why five out of
the young lady's moneybags bore the following inscriptions in
marking-ink: "Savings' bank," "Clothing club," "Library," "Magazines and
hymn-books," "Three-halfpenny club"--and only three bore reference to
private funds, as--"House-money"--"Allowance "--"Charity."
It was the bag bearing this last and greatest name which the parson's
daughter now seized and emptied into her lap. A ten-shilling piece, some
small silver, and twopence halfpenny jingled together, and roused a
silver-haired, tawny-pawed terrier, who left the hearthrug and came to
smell what was the matter. His mistress's right hand--absently
caressing--quieted his feelings; and with the left she held the
ten-shilling piece between finger and thumb, and gazed thoughtfully at
the other bags as they squatted in a helpless row, with twine-tied
mouths hanging on all sides. It was only after anxious consultation with
an account-book that the half-sovereign was exchanged for silver; thanks
to the clothing-club bag, which looked leaner for the accommodation. In
the three-halfpenny bag (which bulged with pence) some silver was
further solved into copper, and the charity bag was handsomely distended
before the whole lot was consigned once more to the table-drawer.
Any one accustomed to book-keeping must smile at this bag-keeping of
accounts; but the parson's daughter could never "bring her mind" to
keeping the funds apart on paper, and mixing the actual cash. Indeed,
she could never have brought her conscience to it. Unless she had taken
the tenth for "charity" from her dress and pocket-money in coin, and put
it then and there into the charity bag, this self-imposed rule of the
duty of almsgiving would not have been performed to her soul's peace.
The problem which had been exercising her mind that Saturday night was
how to spend what was left of her benevolent fund in a treat for the
children of the neighboring work-house. The fund was low, and this had
decided the matter. The following Wednesday would be her twenty-first
birthday. If the children came to tea with her, the foundation of the
entertainment would, in the natural course of things, be laid in the
Vicarage kitchen. The charity bag would provide the extras of the feast.
Nuts, toys, and the like.
When the parson's daughter locked the drawer of the bandy-legged table,
she did so with the vigor of one who has made up her mind, and set about
the rest of her Saturday night's duties without further delay.
She put out her Sunday clothes, and her Bible and Prayer-book, and
class-book and pencil, on the oak chest at the foot of the bed. She
brushed and combed the silver-haired terrier, who looked abjectly
depressed whilst this was doing, and preposterously proud when it was
done. She washed her own hair, and studied her Sunday-school lesson for
the morrow whilst it was drying. She spread a colored quilt at the foot
of her white one for the terrier to sleep on--a slur which he always
Then she went to bed, and slept as one ought to sleep on Saturday night,
who is bound to be at the Sunday School by 9.15 on the following
morning, with a clear mind on the Rudiments of the Faith, the history of
the Prophet Elisha, and the destinations of each of the parish
A little work-house-boy, with a swarthy face and tidily-cropped black
hair, as short and thick as the fur of a mole, was grubbing, not quite
so cleverly as a mole, in the work-house garden.
He had been set to weed, but the weeding was very irregularly performed,
for his eyes and heart were in the clouds, as he could see them over the
big boundary wall. For there--now dark against the white, now white
against the gray--some Air Tumbler pigeons were turning somersaults on
their homeward way, at such short and regular intervals that they seemed
to be tying knots in their lines of flight.
It was too much! The small gardener shamelessly abandoned his duties,
and, curving his dirty paws on each side of his mouth, threw his whole
soul into shouting words of encouragement to the distant birds.
"That's a good un! On with thee! Over ye go! Oo--ooray!"
It was this last prolonged cheer which drowned the sound of footsteps on
the path behind him, so that if he had been a tumbler pigeon himself he
could not have jumped more nimbly when a man's hand fell upon his
shoulder. Up went his arms to shield his ears from a well-merited
cuffing; but fate was kinder to him than he deserved. It was only an old
man (prematurely aged with drink and consequent poverty), whose faded
eyes seemed to rekindle as he also gazed after the pigeons, and spoke as
one who knows.
"Yon's Daddy Darwin's Tumblers."
This old pauper had only lately come into "the House" (the house that
never was a home!), and the boy clung eagerly to his flannel sleeve, and
plied him thick and fast with questions about the world without the
workhouse-walls, and about the happy owner of those yet happier
creatures who were free not only on the earth, but in the skies.
The poor old pauper was quite as willing to talk as the boy was to
listen. It restored some of that self-respect which we lose under the
consequences of our follies to be able to say that Daddy Darwin and he
had been mates together, and had had pigeon-fancying in common "many a
long year afore" he came into the House.
And so these two made friendship over such matters as will bring man and
boy together to the end of time. And the old pauper waxed eloquent on
the feats of Homing Birds and Tumblers, and on the points of Almonds and
Barbs, Fantails and Pouters; sprinkling his narrative also with high
sounding and heterogeneous titles, such as Dragons and Archangels, Blue
Owls and Black Priests, Jacobines, English Horsemen and Trumpeters. And
through much boasting of the high stakes he had had on this and that
pigeon-match then, and not a few bitter complaints of the harsh
hospitality of the House he "had come to" now, it never seemed to occur
to him to connect the two, or to warn the lad who hung upon his lips
that one cannot eat his cake with the rash appetites of youth, and yet
hope to have it for the support and nourishment of his old age.
The longest story the old man told was of a "bit of a trip" he had made
to Liverpool, to see some Antwerp Carriers flown from thence to Ghent,
and he fixed the date of this by remembering that his twin sons were
born in his absence, and that though their birthday was the very day of
the race, his "missus turned stoopid," as women (he warned the boy) are
apt to do, and refused to have them christened by uncommon names
connected with the fancy. All the same, he bet the lads would have been
nicknamed the Antwerp Carriers, and known as such to the day of their
death, if this had not come so soon and so suddenly, of croup; when (as
it oddly chanced) he was off on another "bit of a holiday" to fly some
pigeons of his own in Lincolnshire.
This tale had not come to an end when a voice of authority called for
"Jack March," who rubbed his mole-like head, and went ruefully off,
muttering that he should "catch it now."
"Sure enough! sure enough!" chuckled the unamiable old pauper.
But again fate was kinder to the lad than his friend. His negligent
weeding passed unnoticed, because he was wanted in a hurry to join the
other children in the school-room. The parson's daughter had come, the
children were about to sing to her, and Jack's voice could not be
He "cleaned himself" with alacrity, and taking his place in the circle
of boys standing with their hands behind their backs, he lifted up a
voice worthy of a cathedral choir, whilst varying the monotony of sacred
song by secretly snatching at the tail of the terrier as it went
snuffing round the legs of the group. And in this feat he proved as much
superior to the rest of the boys (who also tried it) as he excelled them
in the art of singing.
Later on he learned that the young lady had come to invite them all to
have tea with her on her birthday. Later still he found the old pauper
once more, and questioned him closely about the village and the
Vicarage, and as to which of the parishioners kept pigeons, and where.
And when he went to his straw bed that night, and his black head
throbbed with visions and high hopes, these were not entirely of the
honor of drinking tea with a pretty young lady, and how one should
behave himself in such abashing circumstances. He did not even dream
principally of the possibility of getting hold of that silver-haired,
tawny-pawed dog by the tail under freer conditions than those of this
afternoon, though that was a refreshing thought.
What kept him long awake was thinking of this. Prom the top of an old
walnut-tree at the top of a field at the back of the Vicarage, you could
see a hill, and on the top of the hill some farm buildings. And it was
here (so the old pauper had told him) that those pretty pigeons lived,
who, though free to play about among the clouds, yet condescended to
make an earthly home--in Daddy Darwin's Dovecot.
Two and two, girls and boys, the young lady's guests marched down to the
Vicarage. The school-mistress was anxious that each should carry his and
her tin mug, so as to give as little trouble as possible; but this was
resolutely declined, much to the children's satisfaction, who had their
walk with free hands, and their tea out of teacups and saucers, like
It was a fine day, and all went well. The children enjoyed themselves,
and behaved admirably into the bargain. There was only one suspicion of
misconduct, and the matter was so far from clear that the parson's
daughter hushed it up, and, so to speak, dismissed the case.
The children were playing at some game in which Jack March was supposed
to excel, but when they came to look for him he could nowhere be found.
At last he was discovered, high up among the branches of an old
walnut-tree at the top of the field, and though his hands were unstained
and his pockets empty, the gardener, who had been the first to spy him,
now loudly denounced him as an ungrateful young thief. Jack, with
swollen eyes and cheeks besmirched with angry tears, was vehemently
declaring that he had only climbed the tree to "have a look at Master
Darwin's pigeons," and had not picked so much as a leaf, let alone a
walnut; and the gardener, "shaking the truth out of him" by the collar
of his fustian jacket, was preaching loudly on the sin of adding
falsehood to theft, when the parson's daughter came up, and, in the end,
acquitted poor Jack, and gave him leave to amuse himself as he pleased.
It did not please Jack to play with his comrades just then. Pie felt
sulky and aggrieved. He would have liked to play with the terrier who
had stood by him in his troubles, and barked at the gardener; but that
little friend now trotted after his mistress, who had gone to
Jack wandered about among the shrubberies. By-and-by he heard sounds of
music, and led by these he came to a gate in a wall, dividing the
Vicarage garden from the churchyard. Jack loved music, and the organ and
the voices drew him on till he reached the church porch; but there he
was startled by a voice that was not only not the voice of song, but was
the utterance of a moan so doleful that it seemed the outpouring of all
his lonely, and outcast, and injured feelings in one comprehensive howl.
It was the voice of the silver-haired terrier. He was sitting in the
porch, his nose up, his ears down, his eyes shut, his mouth open,
bewailing in bitterness of spirit the second and greater crook of his
To what purpose were all the caresses and care and indulgence of his
mistress, the daily walks, the weekly washings and combings, the
constant companionship, when she betrayed her abiding sense of his
inferiority, first, by not letting him sleep on the white quilt, and
secondly, by never allowing him to go to church?
Jack shared the terrier's mood. What were tea and plum-cake to him, when
his pauper-breeding was so stamped upon him that the gardener was free
to say--"A nice tale too! What's thou to do wi' doves, and thou a
work'us lad?"--and to take for granted that he would thieve and lie if
he got the chance?
His disabilities were not the dog's, however. The parish church was his
as well as another's, and he crept inside and leaned against one of the
stone pillars, as if it were a big, calm friend.
Far away, under the transept, a group of boys and men held their music
near to their faces in the waning light. Among them towered the burly
choirmaster, baton in hand. The parson's daughter was at the organ. Well
accustomed to produce his voice to good purpose, the choirmaster's words
were clearly to be heard throughout the building, and it was on the
subject of articulation and emphasis, and the like, that he was
speaking; now and then throwing in an extra aspirate in the energy of
that enthusiasm without which teaching is not worth the name.
"That'll not do. We must have it altogether different. You two lads are
singing like bumblebees in a pitcher--border there, boys!--it's no
laughing matter--put down those papers and keep your eyes on me--inflate
the chest--" (his own seemed to fill the field of vision) "and try and
give forth those noble words as if you'd an idea what they meant."
No satire was intended or taken here, but the two boys, who were
practicing their duet in an anthem, laid down the music, and turned
their eyes on their teacher.
"I'll run through the recitative," he added, "and take your time from
the stick. And mind that OH."
The parson's daughter struck a chord, and then the burly choirmaster
spoke with the voice of melody:
"My heart is disquieted within me. My heart--my heart is disquieted
within me. And the fear of death is fallen--is fallen upon me."
The terrier moaned without, and Jack thought no boy's voice could be
worth listening to after that of the choirmaster. But he was wrong. A
few more notes from the organ, and then, as night-stillness in a wood is
broken by the nightingale, so upon the silence of the church a
boy-alto's voice broke forth in obedience to the choirmaster's uplifted
"_Then_, I said--I said----"
Jack gasped, but even as he strained his eyes to see what such a singer
could look like, with higher, clearer notes the soprano rose above him
--"Then I sa--a--id," and the duet began:
"Oh that I had wings--O that I had wings like a dove!"
_Soprano_.--"Then would I flee away." _Alto_.--"Then would I
flee away." _Together_.--"And be at rest--flee away and be at
The clear young voices soared and chased each other among the arches, as
if on the very pinions for which they prayed. Then--swept from their
seats by an upward sweep of the choirmaster's arms--the chorus rose, as
birds rise, and carried on the strain.
It was not a very fine composition, but this final chorus had the
singular charm of fugue. And as the voices mourned like doves, "Oh that
I had wings!" and pursued each other with the plaintive passage, "Then
would I flee away--then would I flee away----," Jack's ears knew no
weariness of the repetition. It was strangely like watching the rising
and falling of Daddy Darwin's pigeons, as they tossed themselves by
turns upon their homeward flight.
After the fashion of the piece and period, the chorus was repeated, and
the singers rose to supreme effort. The choirmaster's hands flashed
hither and thither, controlling, inspiring, directing. He sang among the
Jack's voice nearly choked him with longing to sing too. Could words of
man go more deeply home to a young heart caged within workhouse walls?
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! Then would I flee away--" the
choirmaster's white hands were fluttering downwards in the dusk, and the
chorus sank with them--"flee away and be at rest!"
Jack March had a busy little brain, and his nature was not of the limp
type that sits down with a grief. That most memorable tea-party had
fired his soul with two distinct ambitions. First, to be a choir-boy;
and, secondly, to dwell in Daddy Darwin's Dovecot. He turned the matter
over in his mind, and patched together the following facts:
The Board of Guardians meant to apprentice him, Jack, to some master, at
the earliest opportunity. Daddy Darwin (so the old pauper told him) was
a strange old man, who had come down in the world, and now lived quite
alone, with not a soul to help him in the house or outside it. He was
"not to say _mazelin_ yet, but getting helpless, and uncommon
A nephew came one fine day and fetched away the old pauper, to his great
delight. It was by their hands that Jack despatched a letter, which the
nephew stamped and posted for him, and which was duly delivered on the
following morning to Mr. Darwin of the Dovecot.
The old man had no correspondents, and he looked long at the letter
before he opened it. It did credit to the teaching of the workhouse
"They call me Jack March. I'm a workhouse lad, but, sir, I'm a
good one, and the Board means to 'prentice me next time. Sir,
if you face the Board and take me out you shall never regret it.
Though I says it as shouldn't I'm a handy lad. I'll clean a floor
with any one, and am willing to work early and late, and at your
time of life you're not what you was, and them birds must take a
deal of seeing to. I can see them from the garden when I'm set
to weed, and I never saw nought like them. Oh, sir, I do beg and
pray you let me mind your pigeons. You'll be none the worse of a
lad about the place, and I shall be happy all the days of my life.
Sir, I'm not unthankful, but please GOD, I should like to have
a home, and to be with them house doves.
"From your humble servent--hoping to be--
"Mr. Darwin, Sir. I love them Tumblers as if they was my own."
Daddy Darwin thought hard and thought long over that letter. He changed
his mind fifty times a day. But Friday was the Board day, and when
Friday came he "faced the Board." And the little workhouse lad went home
to Daddy Darwin's Dovecot.
The bargain was oddly made, but it worked well. Whatever Jack's
parentage may have been (and he was named after the stormy month in
which he had been born), the blood that ran in his veins could not have
been beggar's blood. There was no hopeless, shiftless, invincible
idleness about him. He found work for himself when it was not given him
to do, and he attached himself passionately and proudly to all the
belongings of his new home.
"Yon lad of yours seem handy enough, Daddy;--for a vagrant, as one may
say." Daddy Darwin was smoking over his garden wall, and Mrs. Shaw, from
the neighboring farm, had paused in her walk for a chat. She was a
notable housewife, and there was just a touch of envy in her sense of
the improved appearance of the doorsteps and other visible points of the
Dovecot. Daddy Darwin took his pipe out of his mouth to make way for the
force of his reply:
"_Vagrant!_ Nay, missus, yon's no vagrant. _He's fettling up all
along._ Jack's the sort if he finds a key he'll look for the lock; if
ye give him a knife-blade he'll fashion a heft. Why, a vagrant's a chap
that, if he'd all your maester owns to-morrow, he'd be on the tramp
again afore t' year were out, and three years wouldn't repair the
mischief he'd leave behind him. A vagrant's a chap that if ye lend him a
thing he loses it; if ye give him a thing he abuses it----"
"That's true enough, and there's plenty servant-girls the same," put in
"Maybe there be, ma'am--maybe there be; vagrants' children, I reckon.
But yon little chap I got from t' House comes of folk that's had stuff
o' their own, and cared for it--choose who they were."
"Well, Daddy," said his neighbor, not without malice, "I'll wish you a
good evening. You've got a good bargain out of the parish, it seems."
But Daddy Darwin only chuckled, and stirred up the ashes in the bowl of
"The same to you, ma'am--the same to you. Aye! he's a good bargain--a
very good bargain is Jack March."
It might be supposed from the foregoing dialogue that Daddy Darwin was a
model householder, and the little workhouse boy the neatest creature
breathing. But the gentle reader who may imagine this is much mistaken.
Daddy Darwin's Dovecot was freehold, and when he inherited it from his
father there was, still attached to it a good bit of the land that had
passed from father to son through more generations than the church
registers were old enough to record. But the few remaining acres were so
heavily mortgaged that they had to be sold. So that a bit of house
property elsewhere, and the old homestead itself, were all that was
left. And Daddy Darwin had never been the sort of man to retrieve his
luck at home, or to seek it abroad.
That he had inherited a somewhat higher and more refined nature than his
neighbors had rather hindered than helped him to prosper. And he had
been unlucky in love. When what energies he had were in their prime, his
father's death left him with such poor prospects that the old farmer to
whose daughter he was betrothed broke off the match and married her
elsewhere. His Alice was not long another man's wife. She died within a
year from her wedding-day, and her husband married again within a year
from her death. Her old lover was no better able to mend his broken
heart than his broken fortunes. He only banished women from the Dovecot,
and shut himself up from the coarse consolation of his neighbors.
In this loneliness, eating a kindly heart out in bitterness of spirit,
with all that he ought to have had--
To plough and sow
And reap and mow--
gone from him, and in the hands of strangers; the pigeons, for which the
Dovecot had always been famous, became the business and the pleasure of
his life. But of late years his stock had dwindled, and he rarely went
to pigeon-matches or competed in shows and races. A more miserable fancy
rivalled his interest in pigeon fancying. His new hobby was hoarding;
and money that, a few years back, he would have freely spent to improve
his breed of Tumblers or back his Homing Birds he now added with
stealthy pleasure to the store behind the secret panel of a fine old oak
bedstead that had belonged to the Darwyn who owned Dovecot when the
sixteenth century was at its latter end. In this bedstead Daddy slept
lightly of late, as old men will, and he had horrid dreams, which old
men need not have. The queer faces carved on the panels (one of which
hid the money hole) used to frighten him when he was a child. They did
not frighten him now by their grotesque ugliness, but when he looked at
them, _and knew which was which_, he dreaded the dying out of
twilight into dark, and dreamed of aged men living alone, who had been
murdered for their savings. These growing fears had had no small share
in deciding him to try Jack March; and to see the lad growing stronger,
nimbler, and more devoted to his master's interests day by day, was a
nightly comfort to the poor old hoarder in the bed-head.
As to his keen sense of Jack's industry and carefulness, it was part of
the incompleteness of Daddy Darwin's nature, and the ill-luck of his
career, that he had a sensitive perception of order and beauty, and a
shrewd observation of ways of living and qualities of character, and yet
had allowed his early troubles to blight him so completely that he never
put forth an effort to rise above the ruin, of which he was at least as
conscious as his neighbors.
That Jack was not the neatest creature breathing, one look at him, as he
stood with pigeons on his head and arms and shoulders, would have been
enough to prove. As the first and readiest repudiation of his workhouse
antecedents he had let his hair grow till it hung in the wildest
elf-locks, and though the terms of his service with Daddy Darwin would
not, in any case, have provided him with handsome clothes, such as he
had were certainly not the better for any attention he bestowed upon
them. As regarded the Dovecot, however, Daddy Darwin had not done more
than justice to his bargain. A strong and grateful attachment to his
master, and a passionate love for the pigeons he tended, kept Jack
constantly busy in the service of both; the old pigeon-fancier taught
him the benefits of scrupulous cleanliness in the pigeon-cote, and Jack
"stoned" the kitchen-floor and the doorsteps on his own responsibility.
The time did come when he tidied up himself.
Daddy Darwin had made the first breach in his solitary life of his own
free will, but it was fated to widen. The parson's daughter soon heard
that he had got a lad from the workhouse, the very boy who sang so well
and had climbed the walnut-tree to look at Daddy Darwin's pigeons. The
most obvious parish questions at once presented themselves to the young
lady's mind. "Had the boy been christened? Did he go to Church and
Sunday School? Did he say his prayers and know his Catechism? Had he a
Sunday suit? Would he do for the choir?"
Then, supposing (a not uncommon case) that the boy _had_ been
christened, _said_ he said his prayers, _knew_ his Catechism,
and _was_ ready for school, church, and choir, but had not got a
Sunday suit--a fresh series of riddles propounded themselves to her busy
brain. Would her father yield up his everyday coat and take his Sunday
one into weekday wear? Could the charity bag do better than pay the
tailor's widow for adapting this old coat to the new chorister's back,
taking it in at the seams, turning it wrong-side out, and getting new
sleeves out of the old tails? Could she herself spare the boots which
the village cobbler had just re-soled for her--somewhat clumsily--and
would the "allowance" bag bear this strain? Might she hope to coax an
old pair of trowsers out of her cousin, who was spending his Long
Vacation at the Vicarage, and who never reckoned very closely with