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Jeremy by Hugh Walpole

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She said no more; he moved to the fireplace. His joy was gone. There
was a cold clammy sensation about his heart. Slowly, very slowly,
the consciousness stole upon him that he was a liar. He had not
thought it a lie when he had first spoken, now he knew.

Still there was time. Had he turned round and spoken, all might
still have been well. But now obstinacy held him. He was not going
to give the Jampot an opportunity for triumphing over him. After
all, he would clean them so soon as she went to brush Helen's hair.
In a moment what he had said would be true.

But he was miserable. Hamlet came up from the nether regions where
he had spent the night, showing his teeth, wagging his tail, and
even rolling on the cockatoos. Jeremy paid no attention. The weight
in his heart grew heavier and heavier. He watched, from under his
eyelids, the Jampot. In a moment she must go into Helen's room. But
she did not. She stayed for a little arranging the things on the
breakfast-table--then suddenly, without a word, she turned into
Jeremy's bedchamber. His heart began to hammer. There was an awful
pause; he heard from miles away Mary's voice: "Do do that button,
Helen, I can't get it!" and Helen's "Oh, bother!"

Then, like Judgment, the Jampot appeared again. She stood in the
doorway, looking across at him.

"You 'ave not cleaned your teeth, Master Jeremy," she said. "The
glass isn't touched, nor your toothbrush. . . You wicked, wicked
boy. So it's a liar you've become, added on to all your other

"I forgot," he muttered sullenly. "I thought I had."

She smiled the smile of approaching triumph.

"No, you did not," she said. "You knew you'd told a lie. It was in
your face. All of a piece--all of a piece."

The way she said this, like a pirate counting over his captured
treasure, was enraging. Jeremy could feel the wild fury at himself,
at her, at the stupid blunder of the whole business rising to his

"If you think I'm going to let this pass you're making a mighty
mistake," she continued, "which I wouldn't do not if you paid me all
the gold in the kingdom. I mayn't be good enough to keep my place
and look after such as you, but anyways I'm able to stop your lying
for another week or two. I know my duty even though there's them as
thinks I don't."

She positively snorted, and the excitement of her own vindication
and the just condemnation of Jeremy was such that her hands

"I don't care what you do," Jeremy shouted. "You can tell anyone you
like. I don't care what you do. You're a beastly woman."

She turned upon him, her face purple. "That's enough, Master
Jeremy," she said, her voice low and trembling. "I'm not here to be
called names by such as you. You'll be sorry for this before you're
much older. . . . You see."

There was then an awful and sickly pause. Jeremy seemed to himself
to be sinking lower and lower into a damp clammy depth of
degradation. What must this world be that it could change itself so
instantly from a place of gay and happy pleasure into a dim groping
room of punishment and dismay?

His feelings were utterly confused. He supposed that he was terribly
wicked. But he did not feel wicked. He only felt miserable, sick and
defiant. Mary and Helen came in, their eyes open to a crisis, their
bodies tuned sympathetically to the atmosphere of sin and crime that
they discerned around them.

Then Mr. Cole came in as was his daily habit--for a moment before
his breakfast.

"Well, here are you all," he cried. "Ready for to-night? No
breakfast yet? Why, now . . . ?"

Then perceiving, as all practised fathers instantly must, that the
atmosphere was sinful, he changed his voice to that of the
Children's Sunday Afternoon Service--a voice well known in his

"Please, sir," began the Jampot, "I'm sorry to 'ave to tell you,
sir, that Master Jeremy's not been at all good this morning."

"Well, Jeremy," he said, turning to his son, "what is it?"

Jeremy's face, raised to his father's, was hard and set and sullen.

"I've told a lie," he said; "I said I'd cleaned my teeth when I
hadn't. Nurse went and looked, and then I called her a beastly

The Jampot's face expressed a grieved and at the same time
triumphant confirmation of this.

"You told a lie?" Mr. Cole's voice was full of a lingering sorrow.

"Yes," said Jeremy.

"Are you sorry?"

"I'm sorry that I told a lie, but I'm not sorry I called Nurse a
beastly woman."


"No, I'm not. She is a beastly woman."

Mr. Cole was always at a loss when anyone defied him, even though it
were only a small boy of eight. He took refuge now in his
ecclesiastical and parental authority.

"I'm very distressed--very distressed indeed. I hope that
punishment, Jeremy, will show you how wrong you have been. I'm
afraid you cannot come with us to the Pantomime to-night."

At that judgement a quiver for an instant held Jeremy's face,
turning it, for that moment, into something shapeless and old. His
heart had given a wild leap of terror and dismay. But he showed no
further sign. He simply stood there waiting.

Mr. Cole was baffled, as he always was by Jeremy's moods, so he

"And until you've apologised to Nurse for your rudeness you must
remain by yourself. I shall forbid your sisters to speak to you.
Mary and Helen, you are not to speak to your brother until he has
apologised to Nurse."

"Yes, Father," said Helen

"Oh, Father, mayn't he come to-night?" said Mary.

"No, Mary, I'm afraid not."

A tear rolled down her cheek. "It won't be any fun without Jeremy,"
she said. She wished to make the further sacrifice of saying that
she would not go unless Jeremy did, but some natural caution
restrained her.

Mr. Cole, his face heavy with sorrow, departed. At the dumb misery
of Jeremy's face the Jampot's hear--in reality a kind and even
sentimental heart--repented her.

"There, Master Jeremy, you be a good boy all day, and I dare say
your father will take you, after all; and we won't think no more
about what you said to me in the 'eat of the moment."

But Jeremy answered nothing; nor did he respond to the smell of
bacon, nor the advances of Hamlet, nor the flood of sunlight that
poured into the room from the frosty world outside.

A complete catastrophe. They none of them had wanted to see this
thing with the urgent excitement that he had felt. They had not
dreamt of it for days and nights and nights and days, as he had
done. Their whole future existence did not depend upon their
witnessing this, as did his.

During that morning he was a desperate creature, like something
caged and tortured. Do happy middle-aged philosophers assure us that
children are light-hearted and unfeeling animals? Let them realise
something of the agony which Jeremy suffered that day. His whole
world had gone.

He was wicked, an outcast; his word could never be trusted again; he
would be pointed at, as the boy who had told a lie . . . And he
would not meet Dick Whittington.

The eternity of his punishment hung around his neck like an iron
chain. Childhood's tragedies are terrible tragedies, because a child
has no sense of time; a moment's dismay is eternal; a careless word
from an elder is a lasting judgment; an instant's folly is a
lifetime's mistake.

The day dragged its weary length along, and he scarcely moved from
his corner by the fire. He did not attempt conversation with anyone.
Once or twice the Jampot tried to penetrate behind that little mask
of anger and dismay.

"Come, now, things aren't so bad as all that. You be a good boy, and
go and tell your father you're sorry. . ." or "Well, then, Master
Jeremy, there'll be another time, I dare say, you can go to the the-
ayter. . ."

But she found no response. If there was one thing that she hated, it
was sulks. Here they were, sulks of the worst--and so, like many
wiser than herself, she covered up with a word a situation that she
did not understand, and left it at that.

The evening came on; the curtains were drawn. Tea arrived; still
Jeremy sat there, not speaking, not raising his eyes, a condemned
creature. Mary and Helen and Hamlet had had a wretched day. They all
sympathised with him.

The girls went to dress. Seven o'clock struck. They were taken
downstairs by Nurse, who had her evening out. Rose, the housemaid,
would sit with Master Jeremy.

Doors closed, doors opened, voices echoed, carriage-wheels were

Jeremy and Hamlet were left to themselves. . .


The last door had closed, and the sudden sense that everyone had
gone and that he might behave now as he pleased, removed the armour
in which all day he had encased himself.

He raised his head, looked about the deserted nursery, and then,
with the sudden consciousness of that other lighted and busied place
where Whittington was pursuing his adventures, he burst into tears.
He sobbed, his head down upon his arms, and his body squeezed
together so that his knees were close to his nose and his hair in
his boots. Hamlet restored him to himself. Instead of assisting his
master's grief, as a sentimental dog would have done, by sighing or
sniffing or howling, he yawned, stretched himself, and rolled on the
carpet. He did not believe in giving way to feelings, and he was
surprised, and perhaps disappointed, at Jeremy's lack of restraint.

Jeremy felt this, and in a little while sobs came very slowly, and
at last were only little shudders, rather pleasant and healthy. He
looked about him, rubbed his red nose with a hideously dirty
handkerchief, and felt immensely sleepy.

No, he would not cry any more. Rose would shortly appear, and he did
not intend to cry before housemaids. Nevertheless, his desolation
was supreme. He was a liar. He had told lies before, but they had
not been discovered, and so they were scarcely lies. . . Now, in
some strange way, the publication of his lie had shown him what
truly impossible things lies were. He had witnessed this effect upon
the general public; he had not believed that he was so wicked. He
did not even now feel really wicked, but he saw quite clearly that
there was one world for liars and one for truthful men. He wanted,
terribly badly, someone to tell him that he was still in the right
world. . .

And then, on the other side, the thought that Mary and Helen were at
this very moment witnessing the coloured history of Dick
Whittinglon, the history that he had pursued ceaselessly during all
these days and nights--that picture of them all in the lighted
theatre--once more nearly overcame him. But he pulled himself

He sniffed, left his dirty handkerchief, and went slowly and
sorrowfully to drag out his toy village from its corner and see
whether anything could be done with it. . .. After all, he was going
to school in September. His punishment could not be quite limitless.
Hamlet had just shown his approval of this manly conduct by
strolling up and sniffing at the Noah family, who were, as usual, on
their way to church, when the door suddenly opened, and in came
Uncle Samuel.

Jeremy had forgotten his uncle, and now blinked up at him from the
floor, where he was squatting, rather ashamed of his swollen eyes
and red nose.

Uncle Samuel, however, had no time for details; he was apparently in
a hurry. He did not wear his blue painting-smock, but was in a
comparatively clean black suit, and on the back of his head was a
squashy brown hat.

"Come on," he said, "or we shall be too late."

Jeremy choked. "Too late?" he repeated.

"You're coming, aren't you--to the Pantomime? They sent me back for

The room suddenly got on to its legs, like the food and the families
during Alice's feast in the "Looking Glass," and swung round,
lurching from side to side, and causing the fire to run into the gas
and the gas to fly out of the window.

"I--don't--understand," Jeremy stammered.

"Well, if you don't understand in half a shake," said Uncle Samuel,
"you won't see any of the show at all. Go on. Wash your face. There
are streaks of dirt all down it as though you were a painted Indian;
stick on your cap and coat and boots and come along."

Exactly as one moves in sleep so Jeremy now moved. He had once had a
wonderful dream, in which he had been at a meal that included every
thing that he had most loved--fish-cakes, sausages, ices, strawberry
jam, sponge- cake, chocolates, and scrambled eggs--and he had been
able to eat, and eat, and had never been satisfied, and had never
felt sick--a lovely dream.

He often thought of it. And now in the same bewildering fashion he
found his boots and cap and coat and then, deliberately keeping from
him the thought of the Pantomime lest he should suddenly wake up, he

"I'm ready, Uncle."

Samuel Trefusia looked at him.

"You're a strange kid," he said; "you take everything so quietly--
but, thank God, I don't understand children."

"There's Hamlet," said Jeremy, wondering whether perhaps the
dream would extend to his friend. "I suppose he can't come too."

"No, he certainly can't," said Uncle Samuel grimly.

"And there's Rose. She'll wonder where I've gone."

"I've told her. Don't you worry. What a conscientious infant you
are. Just like your father. Anything else?"

"No," said Jeremy breathlessly, and nearly murdered himself going
downstairs because he shut his eyes in order to continue the dream
so long as it was possible. Then in the cold night air, grasping his
uncle's hand with a feverish hold, he stammered:

"Is it really true? Are we going--really?"

"Of course we're going. Come on--step out or you'll miss the Giant."

"But--but--oh!" he drew a deep breath. "Then they don't think me a
liar any more?


"Father and Mother and everyone."

"Don't you think about them. You'd better enjoy yourself."

"But you said you wouldn't go to the Pantomime--not for anything?"

"Well, I've changed my mind. Don't talk so much. You know I hate you
children chattering. Always got something to say."

So Jeremy was silent. They raced down Orange Street, Jeremy being
almost carried off his feet. This was exactly like a dream. This
rushing movement and the way that the lamp-posts ran up to you as
though they were going to knock you down, and the way that the stars
crackled and sputtered and trembled overhead. But Uncle Samuel's
hand was flesh and blood, and the heel of Jeremy's right shoe hurt
him and he felt the tickle of his sailor-collar at the back of his
neck, just as he did when he was awake.

Then there they were at the Assembly Rooms door, Jeremy having
become so breathless that Uncle Samuel had to hold him up for a
moment or he'd have fallen.

"Bit too fast for you, was it? Well, you shouldn't be so fat. You
eat too much. Now we're not going to sit with your father and
mother--there isn't room for you there. So don't you go calling out
to them or anything. We're sitting in the back and you'd better be
quiet or they'll turn you out."

"I'll be quiet," gasped Jeremy.

Uncle Samuel paused at a lighted hole in the wall and spoke to a
large lady in black silk who was drinking a cup of tea. Jeremy
caught the jingle of money. Then they moved forward, stumbling in
the dark up a number of stone steps, pushing at a heavy black
curtain, then suddenly bathed in a bewildering glow of light and
scent and colour.

Jeremy's first impression, as he fell into this new world, was of an
ugly, harsh, but funny voice crying out very loudly indeed: "Oh, my
great aunt! Oh, my great aunt! Oh, my great aunt!" A roar of
laughter rose about him, almost lifting him off his feet, and close
to his car a Glebeshire voice sobbed: "Eh, my dear. Poor worm! Poor

He was aware then of a strong smell of oranges, of Uncle Samuel
pushing him forward, of stumbling over boots, knees, and large hands
that were clapping in his very nose, of falling into a seat and then
clinging to it as though it was his only hope in this strange
puzzling world. The high funny voice rose again: "Oh, my great aunt!
Oh, my great aunt!" And again it was followed by the rough roar of
delighted laughter.

He was aware then that about him on every side gas was sizzling, and
then, as he recovered slowly his breath, his gaze was drawn to the
great blaze of light in the distance, against which figures were
dimly moving, and from the heart of which the strange voice came. He
heard a woman's voice, then several voices together; then suddenly
the whole scene shifted into focus, his eyes were tied to the light;
the oranges and the gas and the smell of clothes and heated bodies
slipped back into distance--he was caught into the world where he
had longed to be.

He saw that it was a shop--and he loved shops. His heart beat
thickly as his eyes travelled up and up and up over the rows and
rows of shelves; here were bales of cloth, red and green and blue;
carpets from the East, table-covers, sheets and blankets. Behind the
long yellow counters young men in strange clothes were standing. In
the middle of the scene was a funny old woman, her hat tumbling off
her head, her shabby skirt dragging, large boots, and a red nose. It
was from this strange creature that the deep ugly voice proceeded.
She had, this old woman, a number of bales of cloth under her arms,
and she tried to carry them all, but one slipped, and then another,
and then another; she bent to pick them up and her hat fell off; she
turned for her hat and all the bales tumbled together. Jeremy began
to laugh--everyone laughed; the strange voice came again and again,
lamenting, bewailing, she had secured one bale, a smile of cautious
triumph began to spread over her ugly face, then the bales all fell
again, and once more she was on her knees. It was then that her
voice or some movement brought to Jeremy's eyes so vividly the
figure of their old gardener, Jordan, that he turned round to Uncle
Samuel, and suddenly grasping that gentleman's fat thigh, exclaimed
convulsively: "Why, she's a man!"

What a strange topsy-turvy world this was in which women were men,
and shops turned (as with a sudden creaking and darkness and
clattering did this one) into gardens by the sea. Jeremy drew his
breath deeply and held on. His mouth was open and his hair on end. .

It is impossible to define exactly Jeremy's ultimate impression as
the entertainment proceeded. Perhaps he had no ultimate impression.
It cannot in reality have been a very wonderful Pantomime. Even at
Drury Lane thirty years back there were many things that they did
not know, and it is not likely that a touring company fitted into so
inadequate an old building as our Assembly Rooms would have provided
anything very fine. But Jeremy will never again discover so complete
a realisation for his illusions. Whatever failures in the
presentation there were, he himself made good.

As a finale to the first half of the entertainment there was given
Dick's dream at the Cross-Roads. He lay on the hard ground, his head
upon his bundle, the cat as large as he watching sympathetically
beside him. In the distance were the lights of London, and then, out
of the half dusk, fairies glittering with stars and silver danced up
and down the dusky road whilst all the London bells rang out "Turn
again, "Whittington, Lord Mayor of London."

Had Jeremy been of the age and wisdom of Uncle Samuel he would have
discovered that Dick was a stout lady and probably the mother of a
growing family; that the fairies knew as much about dancing as the
Glebeshire wives sitting on the bench behind; that the London bells
were two hand instruments worked by a youth in shirt sleeves behind
the scenes so energetically that the High Road and the painted
London blew backwards and forwards in sympathy with his movements.
Jeremy, happily, was not so worldly wise as his uncle. This scene
created for him then a tradition of imperishable beauty that would
never fade again. The world after that night would be a more magical
place than it had ever been before. "Turn again, Whittington"
continued the education that the Toy Village and Hamlet had already

When the gas rose once again, sizzling like crackling bacon, he was
white with excitement. The only remark that he made was: "It's much
better than the pictures outside Martin's, isn't it, Uncle Samuel?"
to which Uncle Samuel, who had been railing for weeks at the
deflowering of Polchester by those abominable posters, could
truthfully reply, "Much better." Little by little he withdrew
himself from the other world and realised his own. He could see that
he and his uncle were certainly not amongst the Quality. Large
ladies, their dresses tucked up over their knees, sucked oranges.
Country farmers with huge knobbly looking sticks were there, and
even some sailors, on their way probably to Drymouth. He recognised
the lady who kept charge of the small Orange Street post-office, and
waved to her with delighted excitement. The atmosphere was thick
with gas and oranges, and I'm afraid that Uncle Samuel must have
suffered a great deal. I can only put it on record that he, the most
selfish of human beings, never breathed a word of complaint.

They were all packed very closely together up there in the gallery,
where seventy years before an orchestra straight from Jane Austen's
novels had played to the dancing of the contemporaries of Elizabeth
Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, and the dear lady of "Persuasion." Another
thirty-two years and that same gallery would be listening to
recruiting appeals and echoing the drums and fifes of a martial
band. The best times are always the old times. The huge lady in the
seat next to Jeremy almost swallowed him up, so that he peered out
from under her thick arm, and heard every crunch and crackle of the
peppermints that she was enjoying. He grew hotter and hotter, so
that at last he seemed, as once he had read in some warning tract
about a greedy boy that Aunt Amy had given him, "to swim in his own
fat." But he did not mind. Discomfort only emphasised his happiness.
Then, peering forward beneath that stout black arm, he suddenly
perceived, far below in the swimming distance, the back of his
mother, the tops of the heads of Mary and Helen, the stiff white
collar of his father, and the well- known coral necklace of Aunt
Amy. For a moment dismay seized him, the morning's lie which he had
entirely forgotten suddenly jumping up and facing him. But they had
forgiven him.

"Shall I wave to them?" he asked excitedly of Uncle Samuel.

"No, no," said his uncle very hurriedly. "Nonsense. They wouldn't
see you if you did. Leave them alone."

He felt immensely superior to them up where he was, and he wouldn't
have changed places with them for anything. He gave a little sigh of
satisfaction. "I could drop an orange on to Aunt Amy's head," he
said. "Wouldn't she jump!"

"You must keep quiet," said Uncle Samuel. "You're good enough as you

"I'd rather be here," said Jeremy. "It's beautifully hot here and
there's a lovely smell."

"There is," said Uncle Samuel.

Then the gas went down, and the curtain went up, and Dick, now in a
suit of red silk with golden buttons, continued his adventures. I
have not space here to describe in detail the further events of his
life--how, receiving a telegram from the King of the Zanzibars about
the plague of rats, he took ship with his cat and Alderman
Fitzwarren and his wife, how they were all swallowed by a whale,
cast up by a most lucky chance on the Zanzibars, nearly cooked by
the natives, and rescued by the King of the Zanzibars' beautiful
daughter, killed all the rats, were given a huge feast, with dance
and song, and finally Dick, although tempted by the dusky Princess,
refused a large fortune and returned to Alice of Eastcheap, the true
lady of his heart. There were, of course, many other things, such as
the aspirations and misadventures of Mrs. Fitzwarren, the deep-
voiced lady who had already so greatly amused Jeremy. And then there
was a Transformation Scene, in which roses turned into tulips and
tulips into the Hall of Gold, down whose blazing steps marched stout
representatives of all the nations.

It was in the middle of this last thrilling spectacle, when Jeremy's
heart was in his mouth and he was so deeply excited that he did not
know whether it were he or the lady next to him who was eating
peppermints, that his uncle plucked him by the sleeve and said in
his ear: "Come on. It's close on the end. We must go."

Jeremy very reluctantly got up, and stumbled out over knees and legs
and exclamations like:

"There's Japan!" "No, it ain't; it's Chiney!" "You's a fine, hearty
young woman!" and so on. He was dragged through the black curtain,
down the stone steps, and into the street.

"But it wasn't the end," he said.

"It will be in one minute," said his uncle. "And I want us to get
home first."

"Why?" said Jeremy.

"Never you mind. Come on; we'll race it."

They arrived home breathless, and then, once again in the old
familiar hall, Uncle Samuel said:

"Now you nip up to the nursery, and then they'll never know you've
been out at all."

"Never know?" said Jeremy. "But you said they'd sent for me."

"Well," said Uncle Samuel, "that wasn't exactly true. As a matter of
fact, they don't know you were there."

"Oh!" said Jeremy, the corner of his mouth turning down. "Then I've
told a lie again!"

"Nonsense!" said Uncle Samuel impatiently. "It wasn't you; it was

"And doesn't it matter your telling lies?" asked Jeremy.

The answer to this difficult question was, happily for Uncle Samuel,
interrupted by the arrival of the household, who had careened up
Orange Street in a cab.

When Mr. and Mrs. Cole saw Jeremy standing in the hall, his great
coat still on and his muffler round his neck, there was a fine scene
of wonder and amazement.

Uncle Samuel explained. "It was my fault. I told him you'd forgiven
him and sent for him to come, after all. He's in an awful state now
that you shouldn't forgive him."

Whatever they thought of Uncle Samuel, this was obviously neither
the time nor the place to speak out. Mrs. Cole looked at her son.
His body defiant, sleepy, excited. His mouth was obstinate, but his
eyes appealed to her on the scene of the common marvellous
experience that they had just enjoyed.

She hugged him.

"And you won't tell a lie again, will you, Jeremy, dear?"

"Oh, no!" And then, hurrying on: "And when the old woman tumbled
down the steps, Mother, wasn't it lovely? And the fairies in Dick
Whittington's sleep, and when the furniture all fell all over the

He went slowly upstairs to the nursery, the happiest boy in the
kingdom. But through all his happiness there was this puzzle: Uncle
Samuel had told a lie, and no one had thought that it mattered.
There were good lies and bad ones then. Or was it that grown-up
people could tell lies and children mustn't? . . .

He tumbled into the warm, lighted nursery half asleep. There was
Hamlet watching in front of the Jampot's sewing machine.

He would have things to think about for years and years and
years. . .

There was the Jampot.

"I'm sorry I called you a beastly woman," he said.

She sniffed.

"Well, I hope you'll be a good boy now," she said.

"Oh, I'll be good," he smiled. "But, Nurse, are there some people
can tell lies and others mustn't?"

"All them that tell lies goes to Hell," said the Jampot. "And now,
Master Jeremy, come along and take your things off. It's past
eleven, and what you'll be like to-morrow--"




The coming of the new year meant the going of the Jampot, and the
going of the Jampot meant the breaking of a life-time's traditions.
The departure was depressing and unsettling; the weather was--as it
always is during January in Glebeshire--at its worst, and the
Jampot, feeling it all very deeply, maintained a terrible Spartan
composure, which was meant to show indifference and a sense of
injustice. She had to the very last believed it incredible that she
should really go. She had been in the old Orange Street house for
eight years, and had intended to be there until she died. She was
forced to admit that Master Jeremy was going beyond her; but in
September he would go to school, and then she could help with the
sewing and other things about the house. The real truth of the
matter was that she had never been a very good servant, having too
much of the Glebeshire pride and independence and too little of the
Glebeshire fidelity.

Mrs. Cole had been glad of the opportunity that Hamlet's arrival in
the family had given her. The Jampot, only a week before the date of
her departure, came to her mistress and begged, with floods of
tears, to be allowed to continue in her service. But Mrs. Cole, with
all her placidity, was firm. The Jampot had to go.

I would like to paint a pleasant picture of the sentiment of the
Cole children on this touching occasion; something, perhaps, in the
vein of tragi-comedy with which Mr. Kenneth Graham embroiders a
similar occasion in his famous masterpiece--but in this case there
was very little sentiment and no tragedy at all. They did not think
of the event beforehand, and then when it suddenly occurred there
was all the excitement of being looked after by Rose, the housemaid,
of having a longer time with their mother in the evening, and, best
of all, a delightful walk with Aunt Amy, whose virginal peace of
mind they attacked from every possible quarter.

The Jampot left in a high state of sulks, declaring to the kitchen
that no woman had ever been so unfairly treated; that her married
sister Sarah Francis, of Rafiel, with whom she was now to live,
should be told all about it, and that the citizens of Rafiel should
be compelled to sympathise. The children were not unfeeling, but
they hated the Jampot's sulks, and while she waited in the nursery,
longing for a word or movement of affection, but wearing a face of
stony disapproval, they stood awkwardly beholding her, and aching
for her to go. She was the more unapproachable in that she wore her
Sunday silks and a heavy black bonnet with shiny rattling globes of
some dark metal that nodded and becked and bowed like live things.
Hamlet, who had, of course, always hated the Jampot, barked at this
bonnet furiously, and would have bitten at it had it been within his
reach. She had meant to leave them all with little sentences about
life and morals; but the noise of the dog, the indifference of the
children, and the general air of impatience for her departure
strangled her aphorisms. Poor Jampot! She was departing to a married
sister who did not want her, and would often tell her so; her
prospects in life were not bright, and it is sad to think that no
inhabitant of the Orange Street house felt any sorrow at the sight
of the last gesticulating wave of her black bonnet as she stepped
into the old mouldy Polchester cab.

"The King is dead--long live the King!" The Jampot as a power in the
Cole family has ceased to be.

The day following the Jampot's departure offered up the news that,
for the first time in the history of the Coles, there was to be a
governess. The word "governess" had an awful sound, and the children
trembled with a mixture of delight and terror. Jeremy pretended

"It's only another woman," he said. "She'll be like the Jampot--
only, a lady, so she won't be able to punish us as the Jampot

I expect that Mr. and Mrs. Cole had great difficulty in finding
anyone who would do. Thirty years ago governesses were an incapable
race, and belonged too closely either to the Becky Sharp or the
Amelia type to be very satisfactory. It was then that the New Woman
was bursting upon the scene, but she was not to be found amongst the
governesses. No one in Polchester had learnt yet to cycle in
rational costume, it was several years before the publication of
"The Heavenly Twins," and Mr. Trollope's Lilys and Lucys were still
considered the ideal of England's maidenhood. Mrs. Cole, therefore,
had to choose between idiotic young women and crabbed old maids, and
she finally chose an old maid. I don't think that Miss Jones was the
very best choice that she could have made, but time was short.
Jeremy, aided by Hamlet, was growing terribly independent, and Mr.
Cole had neither the humour nor the courage to deal with him. No,
Miss Jones was not ideal, but the Dean had strongly recommended her.
It is true that the Dean had never seen her, but her brother, with
whom she had lived for many years, had once been the Dean's curate.
It was true that he had been a failure as a curate, but that made
the Dean the more anxious to be kind now to his memory, he--Mr.
Jones--having just died of general bad-temper and selfishness.

Miss Jones, buried during the last twenty years in the green depths
of a Glebeshire valley, found herself now, at the age of fifty,
without friends, without money, without relations. She thought that
she would be a governess.

The Dean recommended her, Mrs. Cole approved of her birth, education
and sobriety, Mr. Cole liked the severity of her countenance when
she came to call, and she was engaged.

"Jeremy needs a tight hand," said Mr. Cole. "It's no use having a
young girl."

"Miss Jones easily escapes that charge," said Uncle Samuel, who had
met her in the hall.

The children were prepared to be good. Jeremy felt that it was time
to take life seriously. He put away his toy village, scolded Hamlet
for eating Mary's pincushion, and dragged out his dirty exercise-
book in which he did sums.

"I do hate sums!" he said, with a sigh, regarding the hideous
smudges of thumbs and tears that scored the page. "I shall never
understand anything about them."

"I'll help you," said Mary, who was greatly excited at the thought
of a governess. "We'll do them together."

"No we won't," said Jeremy, who hated to be dependent.

"I'll learn it myself--if only the paper didn't get dirty so

"Mother says," remarked Helen, "that she's had a very hard life, and
no one's ever been kind to her. 'She wants affection,' Mother says."

"I'll give her my napkin-ring that you gave me last Christmas,
Mary," said Jeremy. "You don't mind, do you? It's all dirty now. I
hope Hamlet won't bark at her."

Hamlet was worrying Mary's pincushion at the moment, holding it
between his paws, his body stretched out in quivering excitement,
his short, "snappy" tail, as Uncle Samuel called it, standing up
straight in air. He stopped for an instant when he heard his name,
and shook one ear.

"Mother says," continued Helen, "that she lived with a brother who
never gave her enough to eat."

Jeremy opened his eyes. This seemed to him a horrible thing.

"She shall have my porridge, if she likes," he said; "I don't like
it very much. And I'll give her that chocolate that Mr. Jellybrand
sent us. There's still some, although it's rather damp now, I

"How silly you are!" said Helen scornfully. "Of course, Mother will
give her anything she wants."

"It isn't silly," said Jeremy. "Perhaps she'll want more than she
really wants. I often do."

"Oh, you!" said Helen.

"And if for ever so long," said Jeremy, "she hasn't had enough to
eat, she'll want twice as big meals now as other people--to make

"Mother says we've got to remember she's a lady," said Helen.

"What's the difference," asked Jeremy, "between a lady and not a

"Oh, you are!" said Helen. "Why, Aunt Amy's a lady, and Rose isn't."

"Rose is nicer," said Jeremy.

Miss Jones had, I am sorry to say, lied to Mrs. Cole in one
particular. She had told her that "she had had to do with children
all her life," the fact being that on several occasions some little
cousins had come to stay with herself and her brother. On these
occasions the little cousins had been so paralysed with terror that
discipline had not been difficult. It was from these experiences
that Miss Jones flattered herself that "she understood children."

So audacious a self-confidence is doomed to invite the scornful
punishment of the gods.

Miss Jones arrived upon a wet January afternoon, one of those
Glebeshire days when the town sinks into a bath of mud and mist and
all the pipes run water and the eaves drip and horses splash and
only ducks are happy. Out of a blurred lamp-lit dusk stumbled Miss
Jones's cab, and out of a blurred unlit cab stumbled Miss Jones.

As she stood in the hall trying to look warm and amiable, Mrs.
Cole's heart forsook her. On that earlier day of her visit Miss
Jones had looked possible, sitting up in Mrs. Cole's drawing-room,
smiling her brightest, because she so desperately needed the
situation, and wearing her best dress. Now she was all in pieces;
she had had to leave her little village early in the morning to
catch the village bus; she had waited at wayside stations, as in
Glebeshire only one can wait; the world had dripped upon her head
and spattered upon her legs. She had neuralgia and a pain in her
back; she had worn her older dress because, upon such a day, it
would not do to travel in her best; and then, as a climax to
everything, she had left her umbrella in the train. How she could do
such a thing upon such a day! Her memory was not her strongest
point, poor lady, and it was a good umbrella, and she could not
afford to buy another. Perhaps they would find it for her, but it
was very unlikely.

She had had it for a number of years.

She was a little woman, all skin and bone, with dried withered
cheeks, a large brown nose and protruding ears. Her face had formed
severe lines in self-defence against her brother, but her eyes were
mild, and when she smiled her mouth was rather pleasantly pathetic.

"Oh, she'll never do," thought Mrs. Cole, as she looked at her
dripping in the hall.

"I can't think how I forgot it, said the poor lady, her mind fixed
upon her umbrella. "They said that perhaps they would find it for
me, but there was a man in my carriage, I remember, who will most
certainly have taken it--and it was a nice one with a silver

"Never mind," said Mrs. Cole cheerfully, "I'm sure they'll find it.
You must come up to the nursery--or the schoolroom I suppose we must
call it now; there's a lovely fire there, and we'll both have tea
with the children to-day, so as to feel at home, all of us, as
quickly as possible."

What Miss Jones wanted was to lie down on a bed in a dark room and
try and conquer her neuralgia. The thought of a lighted nursery
filled her with dismay. However, first impressions are so important.
She pulled herself together.

The children had heard the arrival; they waited in a bunch by the
fire, their eyes partly fixed on the door, partly on the strawberry
jam that they were allowed to-day as a treat in the new governess's
honour. Hamlet, his eyes and ears also upon the door, expecting
perhaps a rat, perhaps Aunt Amy, sat in front of the group, its

"She's in the hall," said Helen, "and now Mother's saying: 'Do take
off your things. You must be wet,' and now she's saying: 'You'll
like to see the children, I expect,' and now--"

There they were, standing in the doorway, Mrs. Cole and Miss Jones.
There followed a dismal pause. The children had not expected anyone
so old and so ugly as Miss Jones. Hamlet did not bark--nothing

At last Mrs. Cole said: "Now, children, come and say, 'How do you
do?' to Miss Jones. This is Helen, our eldest--this Mary--and this

Miss Jones did a dreadful thing. In her eagerness to be pleasant and
friendly she kissed the girls, and then, before anyone could stop
her, kissed Jeremy. He took it like a man, never turning his head
nor wiping his mouth with his hand afterwards, but she might have
seen in his eyes, had she looked, what he felt about it.

She said: "I hope we shall be happy together, dears."

The children said nothing, and presently they all sat down to tea.


It was unfortunate that there was so little precedent on both sides.
Miss Jones had never been a governess before and the children had
never had one. Of course, many mistakes were made. Miss Jones had
had a true admiration for what she used to call "her brother's
indomitable spirit," her name for his selfishness and bad temper.
She was herself neither selfish nor bad-tempered, but she was
ignorant, nervous, over-anxious, and desperately afraid of losing
her situation. She had during so many years lived without affection
that the wells of it had dried up within her, and now, without being
at all a bad old lady, she was simply preoccupied with the business
of managing her neuralgia, living on nothing a week, and building to
her deceased brother's memory a monument, of heroic character and
self-sacrifice. She was short-sighted and had a perpetual cold; she
was forgetful and careless. She had, nevertheless, a real knowledge
of many things, a warm heart somewhere could she be encouraged to
look for it again, and a sense of humour buried deep beneath her
cares and preoccupations. There were many worse persons in the world
than Miss Jones. But, most unfortunately, her love for her brother's
memory led her to resolve on what she called "firmness." Mrs. Cole
had told her that Jeremy was "getting too much" for his nurse; she
approached Jeremy with exactly the tremors and quaking boldness that
she would have summoned to her aid before a bull loose in a field.
She really did look frightening with her large spectacles on the end
of her large nose, her mouth firmly set, and a ruler in her hand. "I
insist on absolute obedience," was her motto. Jeremy looked at her
but said no word. It was made clear to them all that the new regime
was to be far other than the earlier nursery one. There were to be
regular lesson hours--nine to twelve and four to five. A neat piece
of white paper was fastened to the wall with "Monday: Geography 9-
10, Arithmetic 10-11," and so on. A careful graduation of
punishments was instituted, copies to he written so many times,
standing on a chair, three strokes on the hand with a ruler, and,
worst of all, standing in the corner wearing a paper Dunce's cap.
(This last she had read of in books.) At first Jeremy had every
intention of behaving well, in spite of that unfortunate embrace. He
was proud of his advance in life; he was no longer a baby; the
nursery was now a schoolroom; he stayed up an hour later at night;
he was to be allowed twopence a week pocket-money; his whole social
status had risen. He began to read for pleasure, and discovered that
it was easier than he had expected, so that he passed quite quickly
through "Lottie's Visit to Grandmama" into "Stumps" and out again in
"Jackanapes." He heard some elder say that the road to a large
fortune lay through "Sums," and, although this seemed to him an
extremely mysterious statement, he determined to give the theory a
chance. In fact, he sat down the first day at the schoolroom table,
Mary and Helen on each side of him, and Miss Jones facing them, with
fine resolves and high ambitions. Before him lay a pure white page,
and at the head of this the noble words in a running hand: "Slow and
steady wins the race." He grasped his pencil, and Miss Jones, eager
to lose no time in asserting her authority, cried: "But that's not
the way to hold your pencil, Jeremy, your thumb so, your finger so."
He scowled and found that lifting his thumb over the pencil was as
difficult as lifting Hamlet over a gate. He made a bold attempt, but
the pencil refused to move.

"Can't hold it that way," he said.

"You must never say 'can't,' Jeremy," remarked Miss Jones. "There
isn't such a word."

"Oh, yes," said Mary eagerly, "there is; I've seen it in books."

"You musn't contradict, Mary," said Miss Jones. "I only meant that
you must behave as though there isn't, because nothing is impossible
to one who truly tries."

"My pencil waggles this way," said Jeremy politely. "I think I'll
hold it the old way, please."

"There's only one way of doing anything," said Miss Jones, "and
that's the right way."

"This is the right way for me," said Jeremy.

"If I say it's not the right way--"

"But it waggles," cried Jeremy.

The discussion was interrupted by a cry from Helen.

"Oh, do look, Miss Jones, Hamlet's got your spectacle- case. He
thinks it's a mouse."

There followed general confusion. Miss Jones jumped up, and, with
little cries of distress, pursued Hamlet, who hastened into his
favourite corner and began to worry the spectacle-case, with one eye
on Miss Jones and one on his spoils.

Jeremy hurried up crying: "Put it down, Hamlet, naughty dog, naughty
dog," and Mary and Helen laughed with frantic delight.

At last Miss Jones, her face red and her hair in disorder, rescued
her property and returned to the table, Hamlet meanwhile wagging his
tail, panting and watching for a further game.

"I can't possibly," said Miss Jones, "allow that dog in here during
lesson hours. It's impossible."

"Oh, but Miss Jones--" began Jeremy.

"Not one word," said she, "let us have no more of this. Lead him
from the room, Jeremy!"

"But, Miss Jones, he must be here. He's learning too. In a day or
two he'll be as good as anything, really he will. He's so
intelligent. He really thought it was his to play with, and he did
give it up, didn't he, as soon as I said--"

"Enough," said Miss Jones, "I will listen to no more. I say he is
not to remain--"

"But if I promise--" said Jeremy.

Then Miss Jones made a bad mistake. Wearied of the argument, wishing
to continue the lesson, and hoping perhaps to please her tormentors,
she said meekly:

"Well, if he really is good, perhaps--"

From that instant her doom was sealed. The children exchanged a
glance of realisation. Jeremy smiled. The lesson was continued. What
possessed Jeremy now? What possesses any child, naturally perhaps,
of a kindly and even sentimental nature at the sight of something
helpless and in its power? Is there any cruelty in after life like
the cruelty of a small boy, and is there anything more powerful,
more unreasoning, and more malicious than the calculating tortures
that small children devise for those weaker than themselves? Jeremy
was possessed with a new power.

It was something almost abstract in its manifestations; it was
something indecent, sinister, secret, foreign to his whole nature
felt by him now for the first time, unanalysed, of course, but
belonging, had he known it, to that world of which afterwards he was
often to catch glimpses, that world of shining white faces in dark
streets, of muffled cries from shuttered windows, of muttered
exclamations, half caught, half understood. He was never again to be
quite free from the neighbourhood of that half-world; he would never
be quite sure of his dominance of it until he died.

He had never felt anything like this power before. With the Jampot
his relations had been quite simple; he had been rebellious,
naughty, disobedient, and had been punished, and there was an end.
Now there was a game like tracking Red Indians in the prairie or
tigers in the jungle.

He watched Miss Jones and discovered many things about her. He
discovered that when she made mistakes in the things that she taught
them she was afraid to confess to her mistakes, and so made them
worse and worse. He discovered that she was very nervous, and that a
sudden noise made her jump and turn white and put her hand to her
heart. He discovered that she would punish him and then try to
please him by saying he need not finish his punishment. He
discovered that she would lose things, like her spectacles, her
handkerchief, or her purse, and then be afraid to confess that she
had lost them and endeavour to proceed without them. He discovered
that she hated to hit him on the hand with a ruler (he scarcely felt
the strokes). He discovered that when his mother or father was in
the room she was terrified lest he should misbehave.

He discovered that she was despised by the servants, who quite
openly insulted her.

All these things fed his sense of power. He did not consider her a
human being at all; she was simply something upon which he could
exercise his ingenuity and cleverness. Mary followed him in whatever
he did; Helen pretended to be superior, but was not. Yes, Miss Jones
was in the hands of her tormentors, and there was no escape for her.

Surely it must have been some outside power that drove Jeremy on.
The children called it "teasing Miss Jones," and the aboriginal
savagery in their behaviour was as unconscious as their daily speech
or fashion of eating their food--some instinct inherited, perhaps,
from the days when the gentleman with the biggest muscles extracted
for his daily amusement the teeth and nails of his less happily
muscular friends.

There were many games to be played with Miss Jones. She always began
her morning with a fine show of authority, accumulated, perhaps,
during hours of Spartan resolution whilst the rest of the household
slept. "To-morrow I'll see that they do what I tell them--"

"Now, children," she would say, "I'm determined to stand no nonsense
this morning. Get out your copy books." Five minutes later would
begin: "Oh, Miss Jones, I can't write with this pencil. May I find a
better one?" Granted permission, Mary's head and large spectacles
would disappear inside the schoolroom cupboard. Soon Jeremy would
say very politely: "Miss Jones, I think I know where it is. May I
help her to find it?" Then Jeremy's head would disappear. There
would follow giggles, whispers, again giggles; then from the
cupboard a book tumbles, then another, then another. Then Miss Jones
would say: "Now, Jeremy, come back to the table. You've had quite
enough time--" interrupted by a perfect avalanche of books. Mary

"Oh, Jeremy!" Jeremy crying: "I didn't; it was you!" Miss Jones:
"Now, children--"

Then Jeremy, very politely:

"Please, Miss Jones, may I help Mary to pick the books up? There are
rather a lot." Then, both on their knees, more whispers and giggles.
Miss Jones, her voice trembling: "Children, I really insist--" And
more books dropped, and more whispers and more protests, and so on
ad infinitum. A beautiful game to be played all the morning.

Or there was the game of Not Hearing. Miss Jones would say: "And
twice two are four." Mary would repeat loudly: "And twice two is

"Four, Mary."

"Oh, I thought you said five."

And then a second later Jeremy would ask:

"Did you say four or five, Miss Jones?"

"I told Mary I said four--"

"Oh, I've written five--and now it's all wrong. Didn't you write
five, Mary?"

"Yes, I've written five. You did say four, didn't you, Miss Jones?"

"Yes--yes. And three makes--"

"What did you say made five?" asked Jeremy.

"I didn't say five. I said four. Twice two."

"Is that as well as 'add three,' Miss Jones? I've got twice two, and
then add three, and then twice two--"

"No, no. I was only telling Jeremy--"

"Please, Miss Jones, would you mind beginning again--"

This is a very unpleasant game for a lady with neuralgia.

Or there is the game of Making a Noise. At this game, without any
earlier training or practice, Jeremy was a perfect master. The three
children would be sitting there very, very quiet, learning the first
verse of "Tiger, Tiger, burning bright--" A very gentle creaking
sound would break the stillness--a creaking sound that can be made,
if you are clever, by rubbing a boot against a boot. It would not
come regularly, but once, twice, thrice, a pause, and then once,
twice and another pause.

"Who's making a noise?"

Dead silence. A very long pause, and then it would begin again.

"That noise must cease, I say. Jeremy, what are you doing?"

He would lift to her then eyes full of meekness and love.

"Nothing, Miss Jones."

Soon it would begin again. Miss Jones would be silent this time, and
then Mary would speak.

"Please, would you ask Jeremy not to rub his boots together? I can't
learn my verse--"

"I didn't know I was," says Jeremy.

Then it would begin again. Jeremy would say:

"Please, may I take my boots off?"

"Take your boots off? Why?"

"They will rub together, and I can't stop them, because I don't know
when I do it, and it is hard for Mary--"

"Of course not! I never heard of such a thing! Next time you do it
you must stand on your chair."

Soon Jeremy is standing on his chair. Soon his poetry book drops
with a terrible crash to the ground, and five million pins stab Miss
Jones's heart. With white face and trembling hands, she says:

"Go and stand in the corner, Jeremy! I shall have to speak to your

He goes, grinning at Mary, and stands there knowing that his victim
is watching the door in an agony lest Mrs. Cole should suddenly come
in and inquire what Jeremy had done, and that so the whole story of
his insubordination be revealed and Miss Jones lose her situation
for incapacity.

How did he discover this final weakness of Miss Jones? No one told
him; but he knew, and, as the days passed, rejoiced in his power and
his might and his glory.

Then came the climax. The children were not perfectly sure whether,
after all, Miss Jones might not tell their mother. They did not wish
this to happen, and so long as this calamity was possible they were
not complete masters of the poor lady. Then came a morning when they
had been extremely naughty, when every game had been played and
every triumph scored. Miss Jones, almost in tears, had threatened
four times that the Powers Above should be informed. Suddenly Mrs.
Cole entered.

"Well, Miss Jones, how have the children been this morning? If
they've been good I have a little treat to propose."

The children waited, their eyes upon their governess. Her eyes
stared back upon her tormentors. Her hands worked together. She
struggled. Why not call in Mrs. Cole's authority to her aid? No; she
knew what it would mean--"I'm very sorry, Miss Jones, but I think a
younger governess, perhaps--"

Her throat moved.

"They've been very good this morning, Mrs. Cole."

The eyes of Mary and of Jeremy were alight with triumph.

They had won their final victory.


I know what Miss Jones suffered during those weeks. She was not an
old lady of very great power of resistance, and it must have
positively terrified her that these small children should so
vindictively hate her. She could not have seen it as anything but
hatred, being entirely ignorant of children and the strange forces
to whose power they are subject, and she must have shivered in her
bedroom at the dreariness and terror of the prospect before her.
Many, many times she must have resolved not to be beaten, and many,
many times she must have admitted herself beaten as badly as any one
can be.

Her life with the people downstairs was not intimate enough, nor
were those people themselves perceptive enough for any realisation
of what was occurring to penetrate.

"I hope you're happy with the children, Miss Jones," once or twice
said Mrs. Cole.

"Very, thank you," said Miss Jones.

"They're good children, I think, although parents are always
prejudiced, of course. Jeremy is a little difficult perhaps. It's so
hard to tell what he's really thinking. You find him a quiet,
reserved little boy?"

"Very," said Miss Jones.

"In a little while, when you know him better, he will come out. Only
you have to let him take his time. He doesn't like to be forced--"

"No," said Miss Jones.

Meanwhile, that morning descent into the schoolroom was real hell
for her. She had to summon up her courage, walking about her
bedroom, pressing her hands together, evoking the memory of her
magnificent iron-souled brother, who would, she knew, despise such
tremors. If only she could have discovered some remedy! But
sentiment, attempted tyranny, anger, contempt, at all these things
they laughed. She could not touch them anywhere. And she saw Jeremy
as a real child of Evil in the very baldest sense. She could not
imagine how anyone so young could be so cruel, so heartless, so
maliciously clever in his elaborate machinations. She regarded him
with real horror, and on the occasions when she found him acting
kindly towards his sisters or a servant, or when she watched him
discoursing solemnly to Hamlet, she was helplessly puzzled, and
decided that these better manifestations were simply masks to hide
his devilish young heart. She perceived meanwhile the inevitable
crisis slowly approaching, when she would be compelled to invite
Mrs. Cole's support. That would mean her dismissal and a hopeless
future. There was no one to whom she might turn. She had not a
relation, not a friend--too late to make friends now.

She could see nothing in front of her at all.

The crisis did come, but not as she expected it.

There arrived a morning when the dark mist outside and badly made
porridge inside tempted the children to their very worst. Miss Jones
had had a wakeful night struggling with neuralgia and her own
hesitating spirit. The children had lost even their customary half-
humourous, half-contemptuous reserve. They let themselves appear for
what they were--infant savages discontented with food, weather and

I will not detail the incidents of that morning. The episodes that
were on other mornings games were today tortures. There was the
Torture of Losing Things, the Torture of Not Hearing, the Torture of
Many Noises, the Torture of Sudden Alarm, the Torture of Outright
Defiance, the Torture of Expressed Contempt. When twelve struck and
the children were free, Miss Jones was not far from a nervous panic
that can be called, without any exaggeration, incipient madness. The
neuralgia tore at her brain, her own self-contempt tore at her
heart, her baffled impotence bewildered and blinded her. She did not
leave the schoolroom with the children, but went to the broad
window-sill and sat there looking out into the dreary prospect.
Then, suddenly for no reason except general weakness and physical
and spiritual collapse she began to cry.

Jeremy was considered to have a cold, and was, therefore, not
permitted to accompany his mother and sisters on an exciting
shopping expedition, which would certainly lead as far as old
Poole's, the bookseller, and might even extend to Martins', the
pastrycook, who made lemon biscuits next door to the Cathedral. He
was, therefore, in a very bad temper indeed when he returned sulkily
to the schoolroom. He stood for a moment there unaware that there
was anybody in the room, hesitating as to whether he should continue
"A Flat Iron for a Farthing" or hunt up Hamlet. Suddenly he heard
the sound of sobbing. He turned and saw Miss Jones.

He would have fled had flight been in any way possible, but she had
looked up and seen him, and her sudden arrested sniff held them both
there as though by some third invisible power. He saw that she was
crying; he saw her red nose, mottled cheeks, untidy hair. It was the
most awful moment of his young life. He had never seen a grown-up
person cry before; he had no idea that they ever did cry. He had,
indeed, never realised that grown-up persons had any active
histories at all, any histories in the sense in which he and Mary
had them. They were all a background, simply a background that blew
backwards and forwards like tapestry according to one's need of
them. His torture of Miss Jones had been founded on no sort of
realisation of her as a human being; she had been a silly old woman,
of course, but just as the battered weather-beaten Aunt Sally in the
garden was a silly old woman.

Her crying horrified, terrified, and disgusted him. It was all so
dreary, the horrible weather outside, the beginning of a cold in his
head, the schoolroom fire almost out, everyone's bad temper,
including his own, and this sudden horrible jumping-to-life of a
grown-up human being. She, meanwhile, was too deeply involved now in
the waters of her affliction to care very deeply who saw her or what
anyone said to her. She did feel dimly that she ought not to be
crying in front of a small boy of eight years old, and that it would
be better to hide herself in her bedroom, but she did not mind--she
COULD not mind--her neuralgia was too bad.

"It's the neuralgia in my head," she said in a muffled confused
voice. That he could understand. He also had pains in his head. He
drew closer to her, flinging a longing backward look at the door.
She went on in convulsed tones:

"It's the pain--awake all night, and the lessons. I can't make them
attend; they learn nothing. They're not afraid of me--they hate me.
I've never really known children before--"

He did not know what to say. Had it been Mary or Helen the formula
would have been simple. He moved his legs restlessly one against the

Miss Jones went on:

"And now, of course, I must go. It's quite impossible for me to stay
when I manage so badly--" She looked up and suddenly realised that
it was truly Jeremy. "You're only a little boy, but you know very
well that I can't manage you. And then where am I to go to? No one
will take me after I've been such a failure."

The colour stole into his cheeks. He was immensely proud. No grown-
up person had ever before spoken to him as though he was himself a
grown-up person--always laughing at him like Uncle Samuel, or
talking down to him like Aunt Amy, or despising him like Mr.
Jellybrand. But Miss Jones appealed to him simply as one grown-up to
another. Unfortunately he did not in the least know what to say. The
only thing he could think of at the moment was: "You can have my
handkerchief, if you like. It's pretty clean--"

But she went on: "If my brother had been alive he would have advised
me. He was a splendid man. He rowed in his college boat when he was
at Cambridge, but that, of course, was forty years ago. He could
keep children in order. I thought it would be so easy. Perhaps if my
health had been better it wouldn't have been so hard."

"Do your pains come often?" asked Jeremy.

"Yes. They're very bad."

"I have them, too," said Jeremy. "It's generally, I expect, because
I eat too much--at least, the Jampot used to say so. They're in my
head sometimes, too. And then I'm really sick. Do you feel sick?"

Miss Jones began to pull herself together. She wiped her eyes and
patted her hair.

"It's my neuralgia," she said again. "It's from my eyes partly, I

"It's better to be sick," continued Jeremy, "if you can be--"

She flung him then a desperate look, as though she were really an
animal at bay.

"You see, I can't go away," she said. "I've nowhere to go to. I've
no friends, nor relations, and no one will take me for their
children, if Mrs. Cole says I can't keep order."

"Then I suppose you'd go to the workhouse," continued Jeremy,
pursuing her case with excited interest. "That's what the Jampot
always used to say, that one day she'd end in the workhouse; and
that's a horrible place, SHE said, where there was nothing but
porridge to eat, and sometimes they took all your clothes off and
scrubbed your back with that hard yellow soap they wash Hamlet

His eyes grew wide with the horrible picture.

"Oh, Miss Jones, you mustn't go there!"

"Would you mind," she said, "just getting me some water from thejug
over there? There's a glass there."

Still proud of the level to which he had been raised, but puzzled
beyond any words as to this new realisation of Miss Jones, he
fetched her the water, then, standing quite close to her, he said:

"You must stay with us, always."

She looked up at him, and they exchanged a glance.

With that glance Miss Jones learnt more about children than she had
ever learnt before--more, indeed, than most people learn in all
their mortal lives.

"I can't stay," she said, and she even smiled a little, "if you're
always naughty."

"We won't be naughty any more." He sighed. "It was great fun, of
course, but we won't do it any more. We never knew you minded."

"Never knew I minded?"

"At least, we never thought about you at all. Helen did sometimes.
She said you had a headache when you were very yellow in the
morning, but I said it was only because you were old. But we'll be
good now. I'll tell them too--"

Then he added: "But you won't go away now even if we're not always
good? We won't always be, I suppose; and I'm going to school in
September, and it will be better then, I expect. I'm too old,
really, to learn with girls now."

She wanted terribly to kiss him, and, had she done so, the whole
good work of the last quarter of an hour would have been undone. He
was aware of her temptation; he felt it in the air. She saw the
warning in his eyes. The moment passed.

"You won't go away, will you?" he said again.

"Not if you're good," she said.


Half an hour later, when Mary and Helen returned from their walk,
they were addressed by Jeremy.

"She was crying because we'd been so naughty, and she had pains in
her head, and her brother was dead. Her brother was very strong, and
he used to row in a boat forty years ago. She told me all about it,
just as though I'd been Aunt Amy or Mother. And she says that if we
go on being naughty she'll go away, and no one else will have her,
because they'll hear about our having been naughty. And I told her
about the workhouse and the porridge and the yellow soap that the
Jampot told us of, and it would be awful if she went there because
of us, wouldn't it?"

"Awful," said Mary.

But Helen said: "She wouldn't go there. She'd take a little house,
like Miss Dobell, and have tea-parties on Thursdays--somewhere near
the Cathedral."

"No, she wouldn't!" said Jeremy excitedly. "How could she take a
little house if she hadn't any money? She told me she hadn't, and no
friends, nor nobody, and she cried like anything--" He paused for
breath, then concluded: "So we've got to be good now, and learn
sums, and not make her jump. Really and truly, we must."

"I always thought you were very silly to make so much noise," said
Helen in a superior fashion. "You and Mary--babies!"

"We're not babies," shouted Jeremy.

"Yes, you are."

"No, we're not."

Miss Jones was no longer the subject of the conversation.

That same day it happened that rumours were brought to Mrs. Cole
through Rose, the housemaid, or some other medium for the first
time, of Miss Jones's incapacity.

That evening Jeremy was spending his last half-hour before bedtime
in his mother's room happily in a corner with his toy village. He
suddenly heard his mother say to Aunt Amy:

"I'm afraid Miss Jones won't do. I thought she was managing the
children, but now I hear that she can't keep order at all. I'm
sorry--it's so difficult to get anyone."

Jeremy sprang up from the floor, startling the ladies, who had
forgotten that he was there.

"She's all right," he cried. "Really she is, Mother. We're going to
be as good as anything, really we are. You won't send her away, will

"My dear Jeremy," his mother said, "I'd forgotten you were there.
Rose says you don't do anything Miss Jones tells you."

"Rose is silly," he answered. "She doesn't know anything about it.
But you will keep her, won't you, Mother?"

"I don't know--if she can't manage you--"

"But she can manage us. We'll be good as anything, I promise. You
will keep her, won't you, Mother?"

"Really, Jeremy," said Aunt Amy, "to bother your mother so! And it's
nearly time you went to bed."

He brushed her aside. "You will keep her, Mother, won't you ?"

"It depends, dear," said Mrs. Cole, laughing. "You see--"

"No--we'll be bad with everyone else," he cried. "We will, really--
everyone else. And we'll be good with Miss Jones."

"Well, so long as you're good, dear," she said. "I'd no idea you
liked her so much."

"Oh, she's all right," he said. "But it isn't that--" Then he
stopped; he couldn't explain--especially with that idiot Aunt Amy
there, who'd only laugh at him, or kiss him, or something else

Afterwards, as he went slowly up to bed, he stopped for a moment in
the dark passage thinking. The whole house was silent about him,
only the clocks whispering.

What a tiresome bother Aunt Amy was! How he wished that she were
dead! And what a bore it would be being good now with Miss Jones. At
the same time, the renewed consciousness of her personal drama most
strangely moved him--her brother who rowed, her neuralgia, her lack
of relations. Perhaps Aunt Amy also had an exciting history! Perhaps
she also cried!

The world seemed to be suddenly filled with pressing, thronging
figures, all with businesses of their own.

It was very odd.

He pushed back the schoolroom door and blinked at the sudden light.




Very few matter-of-fact citizens of the present-day world will
understand the part that the sea used to play in our young lives
thirty years ago in Polchester.

It is very easy to look at the map and say that the sea is a
considerable distance from Polchester, and that even if you stood on
the highest ridge of the highest cornfield above the town you would
not be able to catch the faintest glimpse of it. That may be true,
although I myself can never be completely assured, possessing so
vividly as I do a memory of a day when I stood with my nurse at the
edge of Merazion Woods and, gazing out to the horizon, saw a fleet
of ships full-sail upon the bluest of seas, and would not be
persuaded that it was merely wrack of clouds. That may be or no; the
fact remains that Polchester sniffed the sea from afar, was caught
with sea breezes and bathed in reflected sea-lights; again and again
of an evening the Cathedral sailed on dust and shadow towards the
horizon, a great white ghost of a galleon, and the young citizens of
the town with wondering eyes, watched it go. But there were more
positive influences than mere cloud and light. We had, in the lower
part of our town, sailors, quite a number of them. There were the
old white-bearded ones who would sit upon tubs and tell smuggling
tales; these haunted the River Pol, fished in it, ferried people
across it, and let out boats for hire. There were younger sailors
who, tired of the still life of their little villages and dreading
the real hard work of a life at sea, lurched and slouched by the
Pol's river bed, fishing a little, sleeping, eating and drinking a
great deal.

And there were the true sailors, passing through perhaps on their
way to Drymouth to join their ships, staying in the town for a day
or two to visit their relations, or simply stopping for an hour or
so to gaze open-mouthed at the Cathedral and the market-place and
the Canons and the old women. These men had sometimes gold rings in
their ears, and their faces were often coloured a dark rich brown,
and they carried bundles across their backs all in the traditional

Then there were influences more subtle than either clouds or men.
There were the influences of the places that we had ourselves seen
in our summer holidays--Rafiel and St. Lowe, Marion Bay or Borhaze--
and, on the other coast, Newbock with its vast stretch of yellow
sand, St. Borse with its wild seas and giant Borse Head, or St.
Nails-in-Cove with its coloured rocks and sparkling shells. Every
child had his own place; my place was, like Jeremy's, Rafiel, and a
better, more beautiful place, in the whole world you will not find.
And each place has its own legend: at Rafiel the Gold lured Pirates,
and the Turnip- Field; at Polwint the Giant Excise Man; at Borhaze
the Smugglers of Trezent Rock; at St. Borse the wreck of "The Golden
Galleon" in the year 1563, with its wonderful treasure; and at St.
Maitsin Cove the famous Witch of St. Maitsin Church Town who turned
men's bones into water and filled St. Maitsin Church with snakes.
Back from one summer holiday, treasuring these stories together with
our collections of shells and seaweed and dried flowers, we came,
and so the tales settled in Polchester streets and crept into the
heart of the Polchester cobbles and haunted the Polchester corners
by the fire, and even invaded with their romantic, peering,
mischievous faces the solemn aisles of the Cathedral itself.

The sea was at the heart of all of them, and whenever a sea-breeze
blew down the street carrying with it wisps of straw from the field,
or dandelion seeds, or smell of sea- pinks, we children lifted our
noses and sniffed and sniffed and saw the waves curl in across the
shore, or breakers burst upon the rock, and whispered to one another
of the Smugglers of Trezent or the Gold-laced Pirates of Rafiel.

But I think that none of us adored the sea as Jeremy did. From that
first moment when, as a small baby, he had been held up in Rafiel
Cove to see the tops of the waves catch the morning light as they
rolled over to shore, he had adored it. He had never felt any fear
of it; he had been able to swim since he could remember, and he
simply lived for those days at the end of July when they would all,
in a frantic hurry and confusion, take the train for Rafiel and
arrive at Cow Farm in the evening, with the roar of the sea coming
across the quiet fields to mingle with the lowing of the cows and
the bleating of the sheep. He had in his bedroom a wonderful
collection of dusty and sticky sea-shells, and these he would turn
over and over, letting them run through his fingers as a miner
counts his gold.

Let him catch the faintest glimpse of a shadow of a sailor in the
street and he was after it, and he had once, when he was only four
or five, been caught by the terrified Jampot, only just in time,
walking away confidently down the market-place, his hand in the huge
grasp of a villainous looking mariner. He was exceedingly happy in
his home, but he did often wonder whether he would not run away to
sea; of course, he was going to be a sailor, but it seemed so long
to wait until he was thirteen or fourteen, and there was the sea all
the time rolling in and out and inviting him to come.

Mrs. Cole warned Miss Jones of this taste of Jeremy's: "Never let
him speak to a sailor, Miss Jones. There are some horrible men in
the town, and Jeremy simply is not to be trusted when sailors are

Miss Jones, however, could not be always on her guard, and Fate is
stronger than any governess. . .

Early in February there came one of those hints of spring that in
Glebeshire more than in any other place in the world thrill and stir
the heart. Generally they give very little in actual reward and are
followed by weeks of hail and sleet and wind, but for that reason
alone their burning promise is beyond all other promises beguiling.
Jeremy got up one morning to feel that somewhere behind the thick
wet mists of the early hours there was a blazing sun. After
breakfast, opening the window and leaning out, he could see the
leaves of the garden still shining with their early glitter and the
earth channelled into fissures and breaks, dark and hard under the
silver-threaded frost; beneath the rind of the soil he could feel
the pushing, heaving life struggling to answer the call of the sun
above it. Far down the road towards the Orchards a dim veil of gold
was spreading behind the walls of mist; the sparrows on the almond
tree near his window chattered like the girls of the High School,
and blue shadows stole into the dim grey sky, just as light breaks
upon an early morning sea; the air was warm behind the outer wall of
the frosty morning, and the faint gold of the first crocus beneath
the garden wall near the pantry door, where always the first
crocuses came, caught his eye. Even as he watched the sun burst the
mist, the trees changed from dim grey to sharp black, the blue
flooded the sky, and the Cathedral beyond the trees shone like a
house of crystal.

All this meant spring, and spring meant hunting for snowdrops in the
Meads. Jeremy informed Miss Jones, and Miss Jones was, of course,
agreeable. They would walk that way after luncheon.

The Meads fall in a broad green slope from the old Cathedral
battlement down to the River Pol. Their long stretches of meadow are
scattered with trees, some of the oldest oaks in Glebeshire, and
they are finally bounded by the winding path of the Rope Walk that
skirts the river bank. Along the Rope Walk in March and April the
daffodils first, and the primroses afterwards, are so thick that,
from the Cathedral walls, the Rope Walk looks as though it wandered
between pools and lakes of gold. In the Orchards on the hill also
they run like rivers.

Upon this afternoon there were only the trees, faintly pink, along
the river and the wide unbroken carpet of green. Miss Jones walked
up and down the Rope Walk, whilst Mary told her an endless and
exceedingly confused story that had begun more than a week ago and
had reached by now such a state of "To be continued in our next"
that Miss Jones had only the vaguest idea of what it was all about.
Her mind therefore wandered, as indeed, did always the minds of
Mary's audiences, and Mary never noticed but stared with the rapt
gaze of the creator through her enormous glasses, out into an
enchanted world of golden princesses, white elephants and ropes and
ropes of rubies. Miss Jones meanwhile thought of her young days, her
illnesses and a certain hat that she had seen in Thornley's windows
in the High Street. Jeremy, attended by Hamlet, hunted amongst the
trees for snowdrops.

Hamlet had been worried ever since he could remember by a theory
about rabbits. He had been told, of course, about rabbits by his
parents, and it had even been suggested to him that he would be a
mighty hunter of the same when he grew to a certain age. He had now
reached that age, but never a rabbit as yet had he encountered. He
might even have concluded that the whole Rabbit story was a myth and
a legend were it not that certain scents and odours were for ever
tantalising his nose that could, his instinct told him, mean Rabbit
and only Rabbit. These scents met him at the most tantalising times,
pulling him this way and that, exciting the wildest hopes in him,
afterwards condemned to sterility; as ghosts haunt the convinced and
trusting spiritualist, so did rabbits haunt Hamlet. He dreamt of
Rabbits at night, he tasted Rabbits in his food, he saw them scale
the air and swim the stream--now, he was close on their trail, now
he had them round that tree, up that hill, down that hole . . .
sitting tranquilly in front of the schoolroom fire he would scent
them; always they eluded him, laughed at him, mocked him with their
stumpy tails. They were rapidly becoming the obsession of his nights
and days.

Upon this afternoon the air was full of Rabbit. The Meads seemed to
breathe Rabbit. He left his master, rushed hither and thither,
barked and whined, scratched the soil, ran round the trees, lay
cautiously motionless waiting for his foes, and now and then sat and
laughed at himself for a ludicrous rabbit-bemused idiot. He had a
delightful afternoon. . .

Jeremy then was left entirely to himself and wandered about, looking
for snowdrops under the trees, talking to himself, lost in a chain
of ideas that included food and the sea and catapults and a sore
finger and what school would be like and whether he could knock down
the Dean's youngest, Ernest, whom he hated without knowing why.

He was lost in these thoughts, and had indeed wandered almost into
the little wood that lies at the foot of the Orchards, when he heard
a deep rich voice say:

"I suppose you 'aven't such a thing as a match upon you anywhere,
young gentleman?"

He liked to be asked for a match, a manly thing to be supposed to
possess, but, of course, he hadn't one, owing to the stupidity of
elderly relations, so he looked up and said politely: "No, I'm
afraid I haven't." Then how his heart whacked beneath his waistcoat!
There, standing in front of him, was the very figure of his dreams!
Looking down upon Jeremy was a gentleman of middle-age whom
experienced men of the world would have most certainly described as

Jeremy did not see his "seediness." He saw first his face, which was
of a deep brown copper colour, turning here and there to a handsome
purple; ill-shaved, perhaps, but with a fine round nose and a large
smiling mouth. He saw black curling hair and a yachting cap, faded
this last and the white of it a dirty grey but set on jauntily at a
magnificent angle. He saw a suit of dark navy blue, this again
faded, spotted too with many stains, ragged at the trouser-ends and
even torn in one place above the elbow, fitting also so closely to
the figure that it must have been at bursting point. He saw round
the neck a dark navy handkerchief, and down the front of the coat
brass buttons that shook and trembled as their owner's chest heaved.

And what a chest! Jeremy had never conceived that any human being
could be so thick and so broad. The back, spreading to the farthest
limits of the shiny seams of the coat, was like a wall. The thighs
were pillows, the arms bolsters and yet not fat, mind you, simply
muscle, all of it. One could see in a minute that it was all muscle,
the chest thrust forward, the legs spread wide, the bull-neck
bursting the handkerchief, everything that Jeremy himself most
wished to be. A sailor, a monument of strength, with the scent of
his "shag" strong enough to smell a mile away, and--yes, most
marvellous of all, gold rings in his ears! His chest would be
tatooed probably, and perhaps his legs also!

There, on the back of his hand, was a blue anchor. . . . Jeremy
looked up and trembled lest the vision should fade, then flung a
hurried look around him to see whether Miss Jones were near. No one
was about. He was alone with the desire of his life.

"I'm so so sorry I haven't a match," he said. "I'm not allowed to
have them, you know."

"No, I suppose not," said the vision. "Just my blamed luck. There I
am with 'undreds of pounds lying around my room at 'ome careless as
you please, and then held up for a bloomin' match. What's gold to a
man like me? But a match . . . there you are . . . that's life."

He looked at Jeremy with great interest; he took in, as Jeremy
realised, every detail of his personal appearance.

"I like boys," he said. "'Ad two myself--'ealthy little nippers they
was. Both dead-'ere to-day and gone to-morrer, as you might say. Got
your nurse 'anging around anywhere?"

"Nurse?" said Jeremy indignantly. "I don't have a nurse. I'm much
too old! There is a governess, but she's over there talking to Mary.
She's my sister--but they won't bother yet--not till the Cathedral
bell begins."

"No intention of 'urting your feelings, young fellow my lad. Didn't
think you'd want a nurse of course--big chap like you. Thought you
might 'ave a baby brother or such. No offence--I suppose you 'aven't
begun to smoke yet. Can't offer you some tobacco."

Jeremy coloured. The man was laughing at him.

"I'm eight if you want to know," he said, "and I'm going to school
in September."

"School!" said the mariner, sniffing contemptuously. "I don't think
much of school if you ask me. Now I never went to school, and I
can't see that I'm much the worse for not 'aving been there.
Contrariwise--I've seen many a fine promising lad spoiled by too
much schoolin'. Be a man of the world, I say; that's the direction
you want to sail in."

"Did you really never go to school?" asked Jeremy.

"Not I!" relied the sailor. "Flung out at the age of six, I was,
turned into a boat sailing to the West Indies and left to shift for
myself--and 'ere I am to-day a Captain of as fine a craft as you're
ever likely to see, with gold in 'er lockers and peacocks in the
'old--all in a manner of speaking, you know."

Jeremy's eyes glittered; his face was flushed a brilliant red.
Hamlet had returned from his rabbit hunting and sat with his tongue
out and a wild adventurous eye glittering up at his master from
behind his hair, yet he was not noticed.

"You were very lucky," he said devoutly, then he went on hurriedly:
"Would you mind--you see, Miss Jones may come at any moment--would
you mind--" he choked.

"Would I mind what?" asked the Captain.

"Would you mind telling me? Are you tatooed on your body, snakes and
ships and things, like a gardener once we had? He had a sea-serpent
all down his back. He showed me one day."

The Captain smiled proudly.

"Tatooed! Talk of tatooing! I'll show yer--and it isn't everybody
I'd do it for neither. But I've taken a fancy to you, like my own
young nipper what died."

With an air of vast ceremony, as though he were throwing open the
door to all the universe, he slowly unwound from about his neck the
dark blue handkerchief, unbuttoned his coat, then a grimy shirt and
displayed a wall of deep brown chest. This fine expanse had no hair
upon it, but was illuminated with a superb picture of a ship in full
sail against a setting sun, all worked in the most handsome of blue
tatoo. Jeremy gasped. He had never dreamed that such things could
be. He ventured to touch the ship with his finger, and he could feel
the Captain's manly heart thumping like a muffled hammer beneath the

"There's Queen Victoria on my right thigh and Nelson on my left, and
the battle of Trafalgar on the middle of my back. P'raps I'll show
'em you one day. It wouldn't be decent exactly 'ere--too public. But
one day you come to my little place and I'll show 'em you."

"Will you really?" said Jeremy. "Didn't it hurt terribly?"

"Hurt!" said the Captain. "I should just think it did. I 'ad to put
cotton wool behind my teeth to prevent myself from screaming. But
that's nothing. What do you say to being tortured by the Caribbees
natives every day after breakfast for three 'ole months. A tooth out
a day--"

"But your teeth are all there," said Jeremy.

"False," said the Captain. "Every one of 'em. And the things they'll
do to your toenails--it 'ud make your 'air creep on your 'ead to
listen to the things I could tell you--"

"Oh, it's awful!" said Jeremy. "And where is your ship now?"

"Ah, my ship!" the Captain replied, winking in the most mysterious
fashion; "it would be telling to say where that is. I can trust you,
I know; I'm a great judge o' character, I am, but not even with my
own mother, gone to glory now twenty years and as holy a soul as
ever breathed, I wouldn't trust even 'er with the secret."

"Why is it a secret?" asked Jeremy breathlessly.

"Treasure," said the Captain, dropping his voice.

"Treasure, nothing less nor more. Between you and me there's enough
gold on that there ship to satisfy the Prime Minister 'imself, to
say nothing of the jewels--rubies, pearls, diamonds. My word, if
you could see them diamonds. I'm looking about me now for an extra
man or two, and then I'm off again--silent come, silent go's my

"I suppose you don't happen to want a cabin-boy?" gasped Jeremy, his
voice choked in his throat.

"Well, now, that's a funny thing," said the Captain. "It's one of
the very things. But I'm afraid you're a bit young. Yet I don't
know. We might--"

He broke off, suddenly lifted his finger to his lip, whispered:

"Keep your eyes open. I'll be round again," and had vanished.

Directly after Jeremy heard Miss Jones's unwelcome voice: "Why,
Jeremy, we couldn't find you anywhere. It's turning cold--tea-time -

With a thump and a thud and a bang he fell back into the homely


Jeremy was a perfectly normal little boy, and I defy anyone to have
discovered in him at this stage in his progress, those strange
morbidities and irregular instincts that were to be found in such
unhappy human beings as Dostoieffsky's young hero in "Podrostok," or
the unpleasant son and heir of Jude and Sue. Nevertheless, eight
years old is not too early for stranger impulses and wilder dreams
than most parents ever conceive of, and the fortnight that followed
Jeremy's meeting with the Sea-Captain was as peculiar and fantastic
a fortnight as he was ever, in all his later life, to know.

For he was haunted--really haunted in the good old solid practical
meaning of the term--haunted with the haunting that pursued Sintram
and many another famous hero. And he was haunted not only by the
Sea-Captain, but by a thousand things that attended in that hero's
company. He was haunted by a picture--whence it had come to him he
did not know--of a dead-white high road, dropping over the hill into
shadow, the light fading around it, black, heavy hedges on every
side of it. From below the hill came the pounding of the sea,
exactly as he had heard it so many many times on the hill above
Rafiel, and he knew, although his eyes could not catch it, that in
the valley round the head of the road was the fishing village with
the lights just coming in the windows, and beyond the village the
sloping shingly Cove. But he could see only the dead- white road,
and upon this his eyes were always fixed as though he were expecting
someone. And he could smell the sea-pinks and the grass damp with
evening dew, and the cold dust of the road, and the sea-smell in the
wind. And he waited, knowing that the time would come when he would
be told to descend the hill, pass through the village, and step out,
under the heavy grey clouds, upon the little shingly beach. He was
aware then that out at sea a dark, black ship was riding, slipping a
little with the tide, one light gleaming and swinging against the
pale glow of the dusky horizon. The church clock struck four below
the hill; he was still on the high road waiting, his eyes straining
for figures. . . He was prepared for some journey, because he had at
his feet a bundle. And he knew that he ought not to be there. He
knew that something awful was about to happen and that, when it had
occurred, he would be committed always to something or someone. . .
A little cold breeze then would rise in the hedges and against the
silence that followed the chiming of the clock he could hear first
the bleating of a sheep, then a sudden pounding of the sea as though
the breakers responded to the sudden rising of the wind, then the
hoofs of a horse, clear and hard, upon the road. . . At that moment
the picture clouded and was dim. Had this been a dream? Was it
simply a confusion of summer visits to Rafiel, stories told him by
Mary, pictures in books (a fine illustrated edition of "Redgauntlet"
had been a treasure to him since he was a baby), the exciting figure
of the Captain, and the beginning of spring? And yet the vision was
so vividly detailed that it was precisely like a remembered event.
He had always seen things in pictures; punishment meant standing in
the corner counting the ships on the wallpaper; summer holidays
meant the deep green meadows of Cow Farm, or a purple pool under an
afternoon sun; religion meant walking up the great wide aisle of the
Cathedral in creaking boots and clean underclothes, and so on. It
was nothing new for him to make a picture, and to let that picture
stand for a whole complex phase of life. But this? What had it to do
with the Sea-Captain, aud why was it, as he knew in his heart that
it was, wicked and wrong and furtive? For this had begun as a high
adventurous romance. There had been nothing wrong in that first talk
in the Meads, when the Captain had shown him the tatooes. The
wickedness of it had developed partly with his growing longing to
see the Captain again, partly with the meeting that actually
followed, and partly with the sense that grew and grew as the days
passed that the Captain was always watching him.

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