Part 4 out of 5
The drive through the streets was, of course, as lovely as it could
be; not in the least because anyone could see anything--that was
hindered by the fact that the windows of the bus were so old that
they were crusted with a kind of glassy mildew, and no amount of
rubbing on the window- panes provided one with a view--but because
the inside of the bus was inevitably connected with adventure--
partly through its motion, partly through its noise, and partly
through its lovely smell. These were, of course, Jeremy's views, and
it can't definitely be asserted that all grown-up people shared
them. But whenever Jeremy had ridden in that bus he had always been
on his way to something delightful. The motion, therefore, rejoiced
his heart, although the violence of it was such that everyone was
thrown against everyone else, so that Uncle Samuel was suddenly
hurled against the bonnet of Miss Jones, and Helen struck Aunt Amy
in the chest, and Jeremy himself dived into his sister Barbara. As
to the smell, it was that lovely well-known one that has in it mice
and straw, wet umbrellas and whisky, goloshes and candle-grease,
dust and green paint! Jeremy loved it, and sniffed on this occasion
so often that Miss Jones told him to blow his nose. As to the noise,
who is there who does not remember that rattle and clatter, that
sudden, deafening report as of the firing of a hundred firearms, the
sudden pause when every bolt and bar and hinge sighs and moans like
the wind or a stormy sea, and then that sudden scream of the
clattering windows, when it is as though a frenzied cook, having
received notice to leave, was breaking every scrap of china in the
kitchen? "Who does not know that last maddened roar as the vehicle
stumbles across the last piece of cobbled road--a roar that drowns,
with a savage and determined triumph, all those last directions not
to forget this, that, and the other; all those inquiries as to
whether this, that, and the other had been remembered? Cobbles are
gone now, and old buses sleep in deserted courts, and Collins, alas,
is not. His youngest son has a motor-garage, and Polchester has
asphalt--sic transit gloria, mundi.
Jeremy, clutching his green box with one hand and Hamlet's lead with
the other, was in an ecstasy of happiness. The louder the noise, the
rocking motion, the stronger the smell, the better. "Isn't it
lovely?" he murmured to Miss Jones during one of the pauses.
It may be that it was at this moment that Uncle Samuel finally made
up his mind about Jeremy. In spite of his dislike, even hatred of
children, he had been coming slowly, during the last two years, to
an affection for, and interest in, his nephew that was something
quite new to his cynical, egoistic nature. It had leapt into
activity at Christmas time, then had died again. Now as, flung first
into his sister's bony arms, then on to the terrified spectacles of
his niece Mary, he tried to recover himself, he was caught and held
by that picture of his small nephew, seated, solid and square, in
his blue sailor suit, his bare knees swinging, his hand clutching
his precious box with an energy that defied Fate itself to take it
from him, his mouth set, his eyes staring, radiant with joy, in
front of him.
On arrival at the station it was found that the one o'clock to
Liskane was "just about due," so that there was no time to be lost.
They had to rush along under the great iron dome, passing by the
main line, disregarding the tempestuous express from Truxe that drew
up, as it were disdainfully, just as they passed, and finding the
modest side line to Liskane and St. Lowe. Here there was every kind
of excitement for Jeremy. Anyone who has any kind of passion for
observation must have discovered long ago that a side line has ever
so much more charm and appeal about it than a main line. A main line
is scornful of the station in whose heart it consents for a moment
to linger, its eyes are staring forward towards the vast cities who
are impatiently awaiting it; but a side line has its very home here.
So much gossip passes from day to day above its rails (and gossip
that has for its circumference five green fields, a country road,
and a babbling brook), that it knows all its passengers by heart.
To the people who travel on a side line, the train itself is still
something of a wonder. How much more was that true thirty years ago.
On this especial line there were only two stations-Liskane and St.
Lowe, and, of a certainty, these stations would not even now be in
existence were it not that St. Lowe was a fishing centre of very
great importance. The little district that comprehended St. Lowe,
Garth in Roselands, Stoep in Roselands, Lucent- Polwint, Rafiel, and
all the smaller hamlets around them, was fed by this line; but, even
so, the little train was never crowded. Tourists did not, and even
now do not, go to Polwint and St. Lowe because "they smell so
fishy," nor to Rafield "because it's too far from the railway," nor
to the Roseland valleys "because there's nothing to see there.", May
these reasons hold good for many years to come!
Today there were three farmers in brown leggings, with pipes, and
thick knotted walking-sticks, two or three women with baskets, and a
child or so, and an amiable, absent- minded clergyman in a black
cloth so faded that it was now green, reading The Times, and shaking
his head over it as he stumbled up and down the platform. One of the
farmers had a large, woolly sheep-dog, who, of course, excited
Hamlet to a frenzy. Jeremy, therefore, had his time fully occupied
in checking this; but he had, nevertheless, the opportunity to
observe how one of the farmers puffed the smoke out of his cheeks as
though he were an engine; how one of the women, with a back as broad
as a wall, had red stockings; and how the clergyman nearly fell on
to the railway-line every time he turned round, and only saved
himself from disaster by a miracle. The train arriving at last, they
all climbed into it, and then had to wait for a hot, grilling half-
hour whilst the engine made up its mind that it was worth its while
to take all the trouble to start off again.
"An hour late, upon my word," said Mr. Cole angrily, when at last,
with a snore and a heave, and a grunt and a scream, they started.
"It's really too bad. I shall have to complain," which, as everyone
present knew, he had not the slightest intention of doing. In
Jeremy's carriage there were his father, his mother, Uncle Samuel,
himself, Mary, and, of course, Hamlet. Hamlet had never been, in a
train before, and his terror at the way that the ground quivered
under him was pitiful to see. He lay first under the seat, trying to
hold himself tightly together, then, when that failed, he made
startled frenzied leaps on to laps (the lead had been removed for
the time), finally he cowered up into the corner behind Uncle
Samuel, who seemed to understand his case and sympathised with it.
Whenever the train stopped (which, being a Glebeshire train, it did
continually), he recovered at once his savoir-faire, asserted his
dignity, gazed through the windows at the fields and cows as though
he owned them all, and barked with the friendly greeting of comrade
to comrade whenever he saw another dog.
The next thing that occupied Jeremy's attention was lunch. Many
people despise sandwiches and milk out of beer-bottles and bananas
and seed-cake. Jeremy, of course, did not. He loved anything eaten
out of paper, from the ice-cream sold by the Barney man in
Polchester Square (only once did he secure some) down to the frills
that there are round the tail of any self-respecting ham. But the
paper on this journey to Rafield! There was nothing in the world to
touch it. In the first place you spread newspaper on your knees,
then there was paper under the sandwiches (chicken), and more paper
under the sandwiches (beef), and still more under the sandwiches
(egg); there was paper round the seed-cake, and, most wonderful of
all, paper round the jam-puffs. Jam-puffs with strawberry jam eaten
in the odour of ginger-beer and eggshells! Is it possible for life
at its very best to hold more? He kept his jam-puff so long as he
could, until at last Mr. Cole said: "Now, my boy! Finish it up--
finish it up. Paper out of the window-all neat and tidy; that's
right!" speaking in that voice which Jeremy hated, because it was
used, so especially, when cod-liver oil had to be taken. He
swallowed his puff in a gulp, and then gazed out of the window
lamenting its disappearance.
"Did you like it?" whispered Mary hoarsely.
"You've got some jam on the side of your nose," said Jeremy.
He was sitting next to his father, who had the corner seat, and he
now devoted all his energies to prevent himself from falling asleep
against his father's leg. But the ginger-beer, the glazed and
shining fields beyond the window, the little blobs of sunlight that
danced upon the floor of the carriage, the scents of food and
flowers, and the hot breeze, the hum of the train, and the dancing
of the telegraph wires--all these things were against him. His head
began to nod and then to jump back with a sudden terrible spring as
though an evil demon pulled it with a rope from behind, the carriage
swelled like a balloon, then dwindled into a thin, straight line.
The strangest things happened to his friends and relations. His
mother, who was reading The Church Family Newspaper, developed two
faces and a nose like a post, and Uncle Samuel, who had, in harsh
reality, two chins, seemed to be all folds and creases like a
balloon when it is shivering down into collapse. Jeremy fought with
these fantasies; the lines on the newspaper doubled and redoubled,
vanished and sprang to life again. He said: "I will not," and,
instantly, his head on the soft part of his father's thigh, was
In his dreams he was riding on a cloud all pink and gold, and behind
came a row of shining, white clouds fluffy like bales of wool
wrapped round lighted lanterns. His cloud rose and fell, rose and
fell, and a voice said in his ear: "All is well! All is well! You
can go on like this for ever. There will be jam-puffs soon, and ice-
cream, and fish-cakes, and you can go to China this way whenever you
And he said: "Can't I take Hamlet with me?"
And the voice answered: "Hamlet is with you already," and there,
behold, was Hamlet sitting on the pink cloud with a stiff gold
collar round his neck, wagging his tail. And then the voice shouted
so loudly that Jeremy jumped off the pink cloud in his astonishment:
"Liskane! Liskane! Liskane!" and Jeremy jumped and fell and fell--
right into his father's lap, with someone crying in his ear: "Wake
up, Jeremy! We're there! We're there!"
His first thought was for his green box, which was, he found, safely
and securely in his hand. Then for Hamlet, who was, he saw with
horror, already upon the platform, the lead trailing behind him like
a neglected conscience, his burning eyes piercing his hair in search
of another dog, whom he smelt but could not see.
Jeremy, rushing out of the train, seized the lead, scolded his
recovered property, who wore an expression of injured and abandoned
innocence, and looked about him. Yes, this was Liskane--wonderful,
marvellous, magical Liskane! To the bored and cynical adult Liskane
may easily appear to be one of the ugliest, most deserted stations
in the whole of Europe, having nothing on either side of it save
barren grey fields that never grow grass but only stones and
bottles, with its single decoration--a heavy iron bridge that
crosses the rails and leads up to the higher road and the town of
Liskane. Ugly enough, but to Jeremy, on this summer afternoon, the
gate to a sure and certain Paradise.
Although his family were fussing around him, Barbara crying, Mr.
Cole saying: "Four, Five, Six. . . But where's the black box? Your
black box, Amy. . . Six, Seven. . . But there should be Eight. . .
Seven . . ." and Mrs. Cole saying: "And there's my brown bag. The
little one with the black handle," and Helen saying. "OO, was it
adidums, then Nandy-Pandy, Nandy-Pandy. . ." and Miss Jones: "Now,
Mary! Now, Jeremy! Now, Helen!"; although this was going on just as
it always had gone on, his eyes were searching for the wagonette.
Ah, there it was! He could just see the top of it beyond the iron
bridge, and Jim, the man from the Farm, would be coming down to help
with the boxes; yes, there he was crossing the bridge now, with his
red face and broad shoulders, and the cap on the side of his head,
just as he always wore it. Jeremy recognised him with a strange,
little choking sensation. It was "coming home" to him, all this was-
-the great event of his life, and as he looked at the others he
realised, young as he was, that none of them felt it as he did, and
the realisation gave him a strange feeling, half of gratification,
half of loneliness. He stood there, a little apart from the rest of
them, clutching his box, and holding on to Hamlet's lead, feeling so
deeply excited that his heart was like a hard, cold stone jumping up
and down, bump, bump, behind his waistcoat.
"That's Jim! That's Jim!" he whispered in a hoarse gasp to Miss
"Now mind, dear," she answered in her kindly, groping voice. "You'll
be falling on to the rail if you aren't careful."
It strangely annoyed him that his father should greet Jim just as
though he were some quite ordinary man in Polchester. He himself
waited in a strange agitation until Jim should notice him. The man
turned at last, bending down to pick up a box, saw him, touched his
cap, smiling a long, crooked smile, and Jeremy blushed with
happiness. It was the first recognition that he had had from the
farm, and it pleased him.
They all moved up to the higher road. Uncle Samuel, coming on at the
last, in a dreamy, moody way, stopping on the bridge to look down at
the railway-line, and then suddenly saying aloud:
"Their minds are full of the number of boxes, and whether they'll
get tea, and who's to pay what, and 'How badly I want a wash!' and
already to-morrow they'll be wondering whether they oughn't to be
getting home to Polchester. All sham! All sham!"
He wasn't speaking to Jeremy, but to himself. However, Jeremy said:
"Did you see Jim, Uncle ?"
"No, I did not."
"He's fatter and redder than last year."
"I shouldn't wonder."
"Are you going to paint, Uncle?"
"Oh, just lines and circles."
Jeremy paused, standing for a moment, and looked puzzled. Then he
"Do you like babies, Uncle Samuel?"
"No, I do not."
"Not even Barbara ?"
"I don't, too. . . Why don't you paint cows and houses like other
people, Uncle Samuel? I heard Father say once that he never knew
what your pictures meant."
"That's why I paint them."
"So that your father shan't know what they mean."
Although he did not understand this any more than he understood his
uncle, Jeremy was pleased with this conversation. It had been,
somehow, in tone with the place and the hour; it had conveyed to him
in some strange fashion that his uncle cared for all of this rather
as he himself cared. Oh! he liked Uncle Samuel!
He had hoped that he might have sat on the box next to Jim, but that
place was now piled up with luggage, so he was squeezed in between
his mother and Mrs. Patcham, with Hamlet, very uncomfortable,
between his knees. They drove off down the high road, the hot smell
of the grass came to his nostrils, the sun blazed down upon them,
turning the path before them into gleaming steel, and the high
Glebeshire hedges, covered with thin powder, rose on both sides
above them, breaking once and again to show the folding valleys, and
the faint blue hills, and the heavy, dark trees with their thick,
black shadows staining the grass.
The cows were clustered sleeping wherever they could find shadow;
faintly sheep-bells tinkled in the distance, and now and then a
stream, like broken glass, floated, cried, and was gone. They drove
into a dark wood, and the sun scattered through the trees in pieces
of gold and shadowy streams of arrowed light. The birds were
singing, and whenever the hoofs of the horses and the wheels turned
onto soft moss or lines of grass, in the sudden silence the air was
filled with birds' voices. That proved that it must now be turning
to the evening of the day; the sun was not very high above the wood,
and the sea of blue was invaded by a high galleon of cloud that
hovered with spreading sail, catching gold into its heart as it
moved. They left the wood, crossed the River Garth, and came out on
to moorland. Here, for the first time, Jeremy smelt the sea; the
lanes had been hot, but here the wind blew across the moor, with the
smell of sea-pinks and sea- gulls in it. The grass was short and
rough; the soil was sand. On the horizon was the grey, melancholy
tower of a deserted mine. Some bird flew with swiftly driving wings,
crying as it went. The smell of the moor was as fresh as though the
foot of man had never crossed it--deserted, but not alone; bare, but
not empty; uninhabited, but peopled; silent, but full of voices.
Jeremy's excitement grew. He knew now how every line of the road
would be. They left the moor and were on the road leading to
Rafield. These were the days before they built the road from Liskane
wide enough for motor- cars and other horrible inventions. Thirty
years ago the way was so narrow that the briars and ferns brushed
your face as you passed, and you could reach out your hand and pluck
snap-dragons and dandelions and fox-gloves. Many roads twisted in
and out upon one another; the corners were so sharp that sometimes
the wagonette seemed to hang upon one wheel as it turned. Still no
sight of the sea, but the smell of it now was everywhere, and
sometimes at a sudden bend there would come a faint beat, beat upon
the ear with something rhyming and measured in it, like the murmur
of a sleeping giant.
They came to the bend where the hill suddenly dips at a fearful
angle down into Rafield. Here they turned to the right, deep between
edges again, then through a little copse, and then, as though with a
whisk of the finger, right on to Cow Farm itself.
It was an old square house, deep red brick, with crooked chimneys,
and s stone court in front of it. To either side of the court there
were barns. Behind the house thick trees, clouded with green,
showed. In the middle of the court was a pump, and all about the
flagged stones pigeons were delicately walking. As they drove up,
the pigeons rose in a wheeling flight against the sky now staining
faintly with amber; dogs rushed barking from the barns; a haycart
turned the comer, its wheels creaking, and four little children
perched high on the top of the hay. Then the hall-door opened, and
behold Mrs. Monk, Mr. Monk, and, clustering shyly behind, the little
In the scene that followed Jeremy was forgotten. He did not know
what it was that made him hang behind the others, but he stood
beside the wagonette, bent down and released Hamlet, and then
waited, hiding under the shadow of the cart. His happiness was
almost intolerable; he could not speak, he could not move, and in
the heart of his happiness there was a strange unhappiness that he
had never known before. The loneliness that he had felt at Liskane
Station was intensified, so that he felt like a stranger who was
seeing his father, or his mother, or aunt, or sisters for the first
time. Everything about him emphasised the loneliness: the slow
evening light that was stealing into the sky, the sound of some
machine in the farm-house turning with a melancholy rhythmic whine,
a voice calling in the fields, the rumble of the sea, the twittering
of birds in the garden trees, the bark of a dog far, far away, and,
through them all, the sense that the world was sinking down into
silence, and that all the sounds were slipping away, like visitors
hurrying from the park before the gates are shut; he stood there,
listening, caught into a life that was utterly his own and had no
share with any other. He looked around and saw that they were all
going into the house, that Jim and Mr. Monk were busy with the
boxes, and that no one was aware of him. He knew what he wanted.
He slipped across the court, and dropped into the black cavernous
hole of the farther barn. At first the darkness stopped him; but he
knew his way, found the steps that led up to the loft, and was soon
perched high behind a little square window that was now blue and
gold against the velvety blackness behind him. This was his
favourite spot in all the farm. Here, all the year, they stored the
apples, and the smell of the fruit was thick in the air, sweet and
strong, clinging about every fibre of the place, so that you could
not disturb a strand nor a stone without sending some new drift of
the scent up against your nostrils. All the year after his first
visit, Jeremy had been longing to smell that smell again, and now he
knelt up against the window, drinking it in. With his eyes he
searched the horizon. From here you could see the garden with the
sun- dial, the fields beyond, the sudden dip with the trees at the
edge of it bent crossways by the wind, and there, in such a cup as
one's hands might form, just beyond, was the sea. . .
He stared as though his eyes would start from his head. Behind him
was the cloudy smoke of the apple-scent; in front of him the sun was
sinking towards the dark elms. Soon the trees would catch the sun
and hide it; the galleon cloud that had been over them as they drove
was new banked in red and gold across the horizon; birds slowly,
lazily fled to their homes.
He heard someone call, "Jeremy! Jeremy!" With a last gaze he saw the
blue cup turn to gold, the sun reached the tops of the elms; the
fields were lit with the glitter of shining glass, then, even as he
watched, they were purple, then grey, then dim like smoke.
Again the voice called "Jeremy!" He slipped from the window, found
the little stair, ran across the dusky court and entered the house.
THE AWAKENING OF CHARLOTTE
Towards the end of the first fortnight's stay at Cow Farm it was
announced that very shortly there would be a picnic at Rafiel Cove.
Jeremy had been waiting for this proclamation; once or twice he had
asked whether they were going to the Cove and had been told "not to
bother," "all in good time," and other ridiculous elderly
finalities, but he knew that the day must come, as it had always
come every year. The picnic at Rafield was always the central event
of the summer. And he had this year another reason for excited
anticipation--the wonderful Charlotte Le Page was to be present.
Until now Jeremy had never taken the slightest interest in girls.
Mary and Helen, being his sisters, were necessities and
inevitabilities, but that did not mean that he could not get along
very easily without them, and indeed Mary with her jealousies, her
strange sulky temper and sudden sentimental repentances was
certainly a burden and restraint. As to the little girls in
Polchester, he had frankly found them tiresome and stupid, thinking
of themselves, terrified of the most natural phenomena and
untruthful in their statements. He had been always independent and
reserved with everyone, and bud never, in all his life, had a close
friend, but there had been, especially of late, boys with whom it
had been amusing to spend an hour or two, and since his fight with
the Dean's Ernest he had thought that it would be rather interesting
to make a further trial of strength with whomsoever . . .
Girls were stupid, uninteresting, conceited and slow. He never, in
all his life, wanted to have anything to do with girls. But
Charlotte Le Page was another matter. She had, in the first place,
become quite a tradition in the Cole family. She was the daughter of
a wealthy landowner, who always spent his holidays in Rafiel. She
and her very beautiful, very superior mother had been seen on many
occasions by the Coles driving about the Glebeshire roads in a fine
and languid manner, a manner to which the Coles knew, very well,
they themselves could never attain. Then Mrs. Cole had called, and
Mrs. Le Page and Charlotte had come to tea at Cow Farm. This had
been a year ago, when Jeremy had been only seven; nevertheless, he
had been present during the first part of the ceremony, and
Charlotte had struck him as entirely amazing.
He had simply gazed at her with his mouth open, forgetting all his
good manners. She was at this time nine or ten years of age but very
small and, as they say of the most modern kind of doll, "perfect in
every particular." She had wonderful hair of a bright rippling gold;
her cheeks were pink and her eyes were blue, and she was so
beautifully dressed that you could not take in details but must
simply surrender yourself to a cloudy film of white or blue, with
everything so perfectly in its place that it seemed to the rough and
ready Jeremy quite unearthly. Of course she had to be very careful
how she walked, when she sat down, in what way she moved her hands
and feet, and how she blew her nose. It was wonderful to see her do
these things, she did them so naturally and yet always with a sense
of an effort overcome for the good of humanity. Her mother never
ceased to empty praises at her feet, appealing to visitors with:
"Isn't Charlotte too lovely to-day?" or "Really, Mrs. Cole, did you
ever see anything like Charlotte's hair?" or "Just a moment, Mrs.
Cole, I'm sure you've never seen such hands and feet on any human
being before!"--and it was impossible to tell whether or no
Charlotte was moved by these praises, because she never said
anything at all. She was almost completely silent, and once, at the
tea-gathering in Cow Farm, when she suddenly said: "I'm tired,
Mama," Jeremy nearly jumped from his chair, so astonished he was.
Jeremy had, during the year that intervened between that visit and
this, sometimes thought of Charlotte, and he had looked back upon
her, not as a little girl but as something strange, fantastic,
wonderfully coloured, whom it would be interesting to see again. He
wondered why Mary and Helen could not be like that, instead of
running about and screaming and becoming red in the face. He said
once to Mary that she should imitate Charlotte, and the scene that
followed was terrible. Mary, from that moment, hated Charlotte with
an overpowering hatred.
Here this year they were again. Mrs. Le Page with her long neck, her
beautiful pearl ear-rings, her pale watery eyes and her tapering
fingers; Charlotte just as before, silent, beautiful and precious.
There was again a tea- party at Cow Farm, and on this occasion
Jeremy was asked to show Hamlet. But Hamlet behaved badly, trying to
jump upon Charlotte's white frock and soil her blue ribbons.
Charlotte screamed exactly as a doll screams when you press it in
the stomach, and Hamlet was so deeply astonished at the unexpected
noise that he stopped his bad behaviour, sat on his hind legs, and
gazed up at her with an anxious wondering expression. In spite of
this unfortunate incident, the visit went off well, and Mrs. Cole
said that she had never seen anything so lovely as Charlotte, and
Mrs. Le Page said, "No, had anyone ever?" and Charlotte never turned
a hair. The final arrangement was that there should be a picnic and
soon, because "Mr. Le Page has to return to Warwickshire to look
after the Estate--so tiresome, but I've no doubt it's all going to
wrack and ruin without him."
After the picnic had been arranged the Coles were, frankly, a little
uneasy. The family of Le Page was not the easiest in the world to
entertain, and the thought of a whole day with Mr. Le Page, who was
a very black, very silent gentleman and looked as though he were
always counting sums over in his head, was truly alarming. Moreover,
in the ordinary way, a picnic, which depended so entirely for its
success on the weather, was no great risk, because the Coles were
indifferent to rain, as all true Glebeshire people must be. But that
the Le Pages should be wet was quite another affair; the thought of
a dripping Mrs. Le Page was intolerable, but of a dripping Charlotte
quite impossible; moreover, the plain but excellent food--pasties,
saffron cake, apples and ginger beer--enjoyed by the Coles seemed
quite too terrestrial for the Le Pages. Mrs. Le Page and ginger
beer! Charlotte and pasties! . . . nevertheless, the invitation had
been given and accepted. The Coles could but anxiously inspect the
sky. . .
There was another reason why Jeremy looked forward to the picnic
with impatience. A funny old lady, named Miss Henhouse, who lived
near Cow Farm in a little cottage all by herself, called sometimes
upon the Coles and told them stories about the people and the place,
which made them "sit up in their chairs." She was an old lady with
sharp eyes, a black moustache and a double chin, wore an old shabby
bonnet, grey mittens and large shoes which banged after her as she
walked. She leant on a cane with a silver knob to it, and she wore a
huge cameo brooch on her breast with a miniature of herself inside
it. She was what is called in novels "a character." There was no one
who knew so much about Rafiel and its neighbourhood; she had lived
here for ever, her father had been a friend of Wellington's and had
known members of the local Press Gang intimately. It was from her
that Jeremy heard, in detail, the famous story of the Scarlet
Admiral. It was, of course, in any case, a well-known story, and
Jeremy had often heard it before, but Miss Henhouse made it a new, a
most vivid and realistic thing. She sat forward in her chair,
leaning on her silver-headed cane, her eyes staring in front of her,
her two chins bobbing, gazing, gazing as though it all had happened
before her very nose.
How one night outside Rafiel Cove there was a terrible storm, and on
the morning afterwards a wonderful, smiling calm, and how the
village idiot, out for his early morning stroll, saw a splendid ship
riding beyond the Cove, a ship of gold with sails of silk and
jewelled masts. As he watched, from the ship a boat pushed out, and
then landed on the sand of the Cove a wonderful company in cocked
hats of gold lace, plush breeches of red, and shoes with diamond
buckles. The leader of them was a little man with a vast cocked hat
and a splendid sword all studded with jewels. The fool, peering over
the hedge, saw him give orders to his men, and then walk, alone, up
the little winding path, to the cliff-top. Straight up the path he
came, then right past the fool himself, standing at last upon the
turnip field of Farmer Ede, one of the greatest of the farmers of
those parts. And here he waited, staring out to sea, his arms
crossed, his eyes very fierce and very, very sad. Then a second time
from the golden ship a boat pushed out, cutting its way through the
glassy sea--and there landed on the beach a young man, very
beautiful, in a suit of blue and gold, and he, without a glance at
the waiting sailors, also slowly climbed the sea-path, and at last
he too reached Farmer Ede's turnip field. Then he and the Scarlet
Admiral bowed to one another, very beautifully, very sadly, and
very, very fiercely. As the sun rose high in the sky, as the cows
passed clumsily down the lane behind the field so the fool, with
eyes staring and heart thumping, saw these two fight a duel to the
death. There could be no question, from the first, how it would end.
The beautiful young man in his fine blue suit and his white cambric
shirt had despair upon his face. He knew that his hour had come. And
the eyes of the Scarlet Admiral were ever sadder and ever fiercer.
Then, with a sudden move, a little turn of his agile body, the
Scarlet Admiral had the young man through the breast. The young man
threw up his arms and cried; and as the Scarlet Admiral withdrew his
sword, dripping with blood from his body, the young man fell
backwards over the cliff into the sea. Then the Scarlet Admiral
wiped his sword on the grass and, slowly and sadly, walked down the
cliff-path even as he had walked up. He joined his men, they found
their boat, pushed out to their ship, and even as they landed upon
her she had disappeared. A moment later the fool saw the parson of
Rafiel Church coming round the corner for his morning bathe, and two
minutes afterwards nothing human was to be seen save the naked limbs
of the parson and his little bundle of black clothes lying neatly
upon a stone. Then the fool ran all the way home to his mother who
was a widow, and sat and cried and cried for the beautiful young man
who had been slain, nor would he eat, nor taste the excellent Rafiel
beer, and he pined away, and at last he died, first telling this
history to his mother, who, like all widows, was a garulous woman
and loved a good story. . .
Impossible to imagine with what life and fire old Miss Henhouse gave
this history. You could see with your own eyes the golden ship, the
diamond buckles of the Scarlet Admiral, the young man's sad eyes,
the parson's black clothes. When she had finished it seemed to
Jeremy that it must have been just so. She told him that now on a
summer morning or evening the Scarlet Admiral might still be seen,
climbing the cliff-path, wiping his sword upon the grass, gazing out
with sad eyes to sea. Jeremy swore to himself that on the next
occasion of visiting the Cove he would watch . . . he would watch-
but to no single human being would he speak anything of this.
This was the second reason why he had looked forward so eagerly to
The day arrived, and it was marvellously fine--one of those days in
August when heat possesses the world and holds it tranced and still,
but has in the very strength of its possession some scent of the
decay and chill of autumn that is to follow so close upon its heels.
There was no breeze, no wind from the sea, only a sky utterly
without cloud and a world without sound.
Punctually at eleven of the morning the splendid Le Page equipage
arrived at Cow Farm. Splendid it was! A large wagonette, with a
stout supercilious fellow on the box who sniffed at the healthy
odours of the farm and stared haughtily at Mrs. Monk as though she
should be ashamed to be alive. The Coles had provided a small plump
"jingle" with a small plump pony, their regular conveyance; the pony
was Bob, and he would not go up hills unless persuaded with sugar,
but Jeremy loved him and would not have ridden behind any other
steed in the whole world. How contemptuously the big black horses of
the wagonette gazed down their nostrils at Bob, and how superbly
Mrs. Le Page, sitting very upright under her white sunshade, greeted
"Dear Mrs. Cole. Such a hot morning, isn't it? Lovely, of course,
but so hot."
"I'm afraid," Jeremy heard his mother say, "that your carriage will
never get down the Rafiel Lane, Mrs. Le Page. We hoped you'd come in
the dog-cart. Plenty of room. . ."
Superb to witness the fashion in which Mrs. Le Page gazed at the
"For all of us? . . . Dear Mrs. Cole, I scarcely think--And
Charlotte's frock . . ."
Then Jeremy turned his eyes to Charlotte. She sat under a miniature
sunshade of white silk and lace, a vision of loveliness. She was a
shimmer of white, a little white cloud that had settled for a moment
upon the seat of the carriage to allow the sun to dance upon it, to
caress it with fingers of fire, so to separate it from the rest of
the world for ever as something too precious to be touched. Jeremy
had never seen anything so lovely.
He blushed and scraped his boots the one against the other.
"And this is Jeremy?" said Mrs. Le Page as though she said: "And
this is where you keep your little pigs, Mr. Monk?"
"Yes," said Jeremy, blushing.
"Charlotte, you know Jeremy. You must be friends."
"Yes," said Charlotte, without moving. Then Jeremy tumbled into the
stern gaze of Mr. Le Page who, arrayed as he was in a very smart
suit of the whitest flannels, looked with his black beard and fierce
black eyebrows like a pirate king disguised.
"How are you ?" said Mr. Le Page in a deep bass voice.
"Very well, thank you," said Jeremy.
To tell the truth, Mrs. Cole's heart sadly misgave her when she saw
the Le Page family all sitting up so new and so bright in their new
and bright carriage. She thought of the simple preparations that had
been made--the pasties, the saffron buns and the ginger beer; she
looked around her at the very plain but useful garments worn by her
family, her husband in faded grey flannel trousers and a cricketing
shirt, Helen and Mary in the simplest blue cotton, and Jeremy in his
two-year-old sailor suit. She had intended to bring their bathing
things in a bundle, but now she put them aside. It was obvious that
the Le Pages had no intention of bathing. She sighed and foresaw a
difficult day ahead of her.
It was evident that the Le Pages did not intend to come one step
farther into Cow Farm than was necessary.
"Dear Mrs. Cole, on a hot day--how can you endure the smells of a
farm . . . such a charming farm, too, with all its cows and pigs,
but in this weather. . . Charlotte darling, you don't feel the heat?
No? Hold your sun-shade a little more to the right, love. That's
right. She was not quite the thing last night, Mrs. Cole. I had some
doubts about bringing her, but I knew you'd all be so disappointed.
She's looking rather lovely to-day, don't you think? You must
forgive a mother's partiality. . . Oh, you're not bringing that
little dog, are you? Surely--"
Jeremy, who had from the first hated Mrs. Le Page, forgot his
shyness and brought out fiercely:
"Of course he's coming. Hamlet always goes everywhere with us."
"Hamlet!" said Mr. Le Page in his deep bass voice.
"What a strange name for a dog!" said Mrs. Le Page in tones of vague
At last it was settled that one member of the Cole party should ride
with the Le Pages, and Mary was selected. Poor Mary! inevitably
chosen when something unpleasant must be done. To-day it was
especially hard for her, because she entertained so implacable a
hatred for the lovely Charlotte and looked, it must be confessed, so
plain and shabby by the side of her. Indeed, to any observer with a
heart it must have been touching to see Mary driven away in that
magnificent black carriage, staring with agonised hostility in front
of her through her large spectacles, compelled to balance herself
exactly between the magnificent sunshade of Mrs. Le Page and the
smaller but also magnificent sunshade of the lovely Charlotte. Mrs.
Cole, glancing in that direction, may have felt with a pang that she
would never be able to make her children handsome and gay as she
would like to do--but it was certainly a pang of only a moment's
She would not have exchanged her Mary for a wagon-load of
And Jeremy, bumping along in the jingle, also felt the contrast. Why
could not Mary wear her straw hat straight, and why must she have
elastic under her chin? Why did she look so cross and so stupid? Why
did she bother him so with her worries? Charlotte would never worry
him. She would just sit there, looking beautiful, with her golden
hair, and blue eyes and pink cheeks. Next week was to be Miss
Jones's birthday, and in preparation for this he had bought for her
in Polchester a silver thimble. He wondered whether he would not
give Charlotte this thimble instead of Miss Jones. He could give
Miss Jones some old thing he would find somewhere, or he would go
out and pick for her some flowers. She would be pleased with
anything. He wondered what Charlotte would say when he gave her the
thimble. She would like it, of course. She would smile. She would
open her eyes and look at him. Fortunately he had the thimble even
now in his pocket. He had bought it when he was wearing this same
suit. Yes, he would give it to her. As he decided this he looked at
Miss Jones guiltily, but she was making such odd faces as she
squinted to escape from the sun that he did not feel ashamed.
They came to that steep hill just beyond Garth woods, and Bob, of
course, refused to move. The superb Le Page affair dashed past them,
shouted something at them, and disappeared over the brow of the
hill. The last thing to be seen of them were the fierce despairing
eyes of the imprisoned Mary. A strange sensation of relief instantly
settled upon the Coles. For a moment they were alone; they began
slowly to walk up the hill, dragging with them the reluctant Bob.
About them was peace, absolute and unstained. The hard glitter of
the day shone upon the white road, but behind them the wood was dark
and cool, a green cloud against the sky. Behind the steep hedges the
harvesters were moving. In the air a lark was singing, and along the
ditch at the road side a tiny stream tumbled. And beyond these
sounds there was a vast tranquil silence.
The Coles moved up the hill very slowly, only Hamlet racing ahead to
find spots of shadow where he might lie down and pant. They would
not confess to themselves that this promised to be the happiest
moment of their day. They went bravely forward.
On the bend of the hill the Le Pages were waiting for them. What
Mrs. Cole had foreseen had in truth occurred. The Le Page carriage
would not go down the Rafiel Lane. No, it would, not. . . Nothing
would induce it to.
"James," said Mrs. Le Page to her stout and disdainful attendant.
"Nothing, ma'am," said James.
"Dear me, dear me," said Mrs. Le Page. "Well then, we must walk,"
said the deep despairing voice of the Pirate King.
And walk they did.
That walk was, as Mrs. Cole afterwards said, "a pity," because it
destroyed the Le Page tempers when the day was scarcely begun. Mr.
Le Page was, it was quickly descried, not intended for walking.
Strong and fierce though he seemed, heat instantly crumpled him up.
The perfect crease of his white trousers vanished, his collar was no
longer spotless, little beads of perspiration appeared almost at
once on his forehead, and his black beard dripped moisture. Mrs. Le
Page, with her skirts raised, walked as though she were passing
through the Valley of Destruction; every step was a risk and a
danger, and the difficulty of holding her skirts and her sunshade at
the same time, and of seeing that her shoes were not soiled and her
hat not caught by an offending bough gave her face an expression of
There was, unfortunately, one spot very deep down in the lane where
the ground was never dry even in the height of the hottest summer.
A little stream ran here across the path, and the ground on either
side was soft and sodden. Mrs. Le Page, struggling to avoid an
overhanging branch, stepped into the mud; one foot stuck there, and
it needed Mr. Cole's strong arm to pull her out of it.
"Charlotte! Charlotte!" she cried. "Don't let Charlotte step into
that! Mr. Cole! Mr. Cole! I charge you--my child!" Charlotte was
conveyed across, but the damage was done. One of Mrs. Le Page's
beautiful shoes was thick with mud.
When, therefore, the party, climbing out of the Lane, came suddenly
upon the path leading down to the Cove, with the sea, like a blue
cloud in front of them, no one exclaimed at the view. It was a very
beautiful view--one of the finest of its kind in the United
Kingdom, the high rocks closing in the Cove and the green hills
closing in the rocks. On the hill to the right was the Rafiel Old
Church, with its graveyard that ran to the very edge of the cliff,
and behind the Cove was a stream and a green orchard and a little
wood. The sand of the Cove was bright gold, and the low rocks to
either side of it were a dark red--the handsomest place in the
world, with the water so clear that you could see down, far down,
into green caverns laced with silver sand. Unfortunately, at the
moment when the Coles and their friends beheld it, it was blazing in
the sun; soon the sun would pass and, during the whole afternoon,
half of it at least would lie in shadow, but the Le Pages could not
be expected to think of that.
The basket was unloaded from the jingle and carried down to the
beach by Mr. Cole and Jim. Jeremy, finding himself at the side of
the lovely Charlotte, was convulsed with shyness, the more that he
knew that the unhappy Mary was listening with jealous ears.
Charlotte, walking like Agag, "delicately," had a piteous expression
in her eyes as though she were being led to the torture.
Jeremy coughed and began: "We always come here every year. Don't you
"Yes," she said miserably.
"And we paddle and bathe. Do you like bathing?"
"Going into the sea?"
"Oh, no! Mother says I mustn't, because it'll hurt my hair. Do you
like my hair?"
"Yes," said Jeremy, blushing at so direct an invitation to
"Mother says I've got to be very careful of my hair because it's my
"Yes," said Jeremy.
"I have a maid, Alice, and she brushes a whole hour every morning
and a whole hour every evening."
"Don't you get very tired?" asked Jeremy. "I know I should."
"Mother says if you have such beautiful hair you must take trouble
with it," Charlotte gravely replied.
Her voice was so like the voice of a parrot that Jeremy's
grandmother had once possessed that it didn't seem as though a human
being was speaking at all. They were near the beach now and could
see the blue slipping in, turning into white bubbles, then slipping
"Do you like my frock?" said Charlotte.
"Yes," said Jeremy.
"It was bought in London. All my clothes are bought in London."
"Mary's and Helen's aren't," said Jeremy with some faint idea of
protecting his sisters. "They're bought in Polchester."
"Mother says," said Charlotte, "that if you're not pretty it doesn't
matter where you buy your clothes."
They arrived on the beach and stared about them. It became at once a
great question as to where Mrs. Le Page would sit. She could not sit
on the sand which looked damp, nor equally, of course, on a rock
that was spiky and hard. What to do with her? She stood in the
middle of the beach, still holding up her skirts, gazing desperately
about her, looking first at one spot and then at another.
"Oh, dear, the heat!" she exclaimed. "Is there no shade anywhere?
Perhaps in that farm-house over there. . ." It was probable enough
that no member of the Cole family would have minded banishing Mrs.
Le Page into the farmhouse, but it would have meant that the whole
party must accompany her. That was impossible. They had come for a
picnic and a picnic they would have.
Mrs. Cole watched, with growing agitation, the whole situation. She
saw from her husband's face that he was rapidly losing his temper,
and she had learnt, after many experiences, that when he lost his
temper he was capable of anything. That does not mean, of course,
that he ever was angry to the extent of swearing or striking out
with his fists--no, he simply grew sadder, and sadder, and sadder,
and this melancholy had a way of reducing to despair all the people
with whom he happened to be at the time.
"What does everyone say to our having lunch now?" cried Mrs. Cole
cheerfully. "It's after one, and I'm sure everyone's hungry."
No one said anything, so preparations were begun. A minute piece of
shade was found for Mrs. Le Page, and here she sat on a flat piece
of rock with her skirts drawn close about her as though she were
afraid of rats or crabs. A tablecloth was laid on the sand and the
provisions spread out--pasties for everybody, egg-sandwiches, seed-
cake, and jam-puffs--and ginger beer. It looked a fine feast when it
was all there, and Mrs. Cole, as she gave the final touch to it by
placing a drinking glass containing two red rose-buds in the middle,
felt proud of her efforts and hoped that after all the affair might
pass off bravely. But alas, how easily the proudest plans fall to
"I hope, Alice, you haven't forgotten the salt!"
Instantly Mrs. Cole knew that she had forgotten it. She could see
herself standing there in Mrs. Monk's kitchen forgetting it. How
could she? And Mrs. Monk, how could SHE? It had never been forgotten
"Oh, no," she said wildly. "Oh, no! I'm sure I can't have forgotten
She plunged about, her red face all creased with anxiety, her hat on
one side, her hands searching everywhere, under the tablecloth, in
the basket, amongst the knives and forks.
"Jim, you haven't dropped anything?"
"No, mum. Beggin' your pardon, mum, the basket was closed, so to
speak--closed it was."
No, she knew that she had forgotten it.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Le Page, I'm afraid--"
"My dear Mrs. Cole! What does it matter? Not in the least, I assure
you. In this heat it's impossible to feel hungry, isn't it? I assure
you I don't feel as though I could touch a thing. A little fruit,
perhaps--an apple or a peach--"
Fruit? Why hadn't Mrs. Cole brought fruit? She might so easily have
done so, and she had never thought about it. They themselves were
rather tired of fruit, and so--
"I'm afraid we've no fruit, but an egg-sandwich--"
"Eggs need salt, don't you think? Not that it matters in the very
least, but so that you shouldn't think me fussy. Really, dear Mrs.
Cole, I never felt less hungry in my life. Just a drop of milk and
I'm perfectly satisfied."
"Jeremy shall run up to the farm for the milk. You don't mind,
Jeremy dear, do you? It's only a step. Just take this sixpence,
dear, and say we'll send the jug back this afternoon if they'll
Jeremy did mind. He was enjoying his luncheon, and he was gazing at
Charlotte, and he was teasing Hamlet with scraps--he was very happy.
Nevertheless, he started off.
So soon as he left the sands the noise of the sea was shut off from
him, and he was climbing the little green path up which the Scarlet
Admiral had once stalked.
Suddenly he remembered--in his excitement about Charlotte he had
forgotten the Admiral. He stood for a moment, listening. The green
hedge shut off the noise of the sea--only above his head some birds
were twittering. He fancied that he heard footsteps, then that
beyond the hedge something was moving. It seemed to him that the
birds were also listening for something. "Well, it's the middle of
the afternoon, anyway." He thought to himself, "He never comes
there--only in the morning or evening," but he hurried forward after
that, wishing that he had called to Hamlet to accompany him. It was
a pleasant climb to the farm through the green orchard, and he found
at the farm door an agreeable woman who smiled at him when she gave
him the milk. He had to come down the hill carefully, lest the milk
should be spilt. He walked along very happily, humming to himself
and thinking in a confused summer afternoon kind of manner of
Charlotte, Hamlet, Mrs. Le Page and himself. "Shall I give her the
thimble or shan't I? I could take her to the pools where the little
crabs are. She'd like them. I wonder whether we're going to bathe.
Mrs. Le Page will look funny bathing. . ." Then he was in the green
lane again, and at once his discomfort returned to him, and he
looked around his shoulder and into the hedges, and stopped once and
again to listen. There was no sound. The birds, it seemed, had all
fallen to sleep. The hedges, he thought, were closer about him. It
was very hot here, with no breeze and no comforting sound of the
sea. "I wonder whether he really does come," he thought. "It must be
horrid to see him--coming quite close." And the thought of the Fool
also frightened him. The Fool with his tongue out and his shaking
legs, like the idiot who lived near the Cathedral at home. At the
thought of this Jeremy suddenly took to his legs and ran, covering
the top of his jug with his hand; then, when he came out on to the
strip of grass that crossed the top of the beach, he stopped,
suddenly ashamed of himself. Scarlet Admirals! Scarlet Admirals! How
could there be Scarlet Admirals in a world that also contained so
blazing a sun, so blue a sea, and the gorgeous realities of the Le
Page family. He arrived at the luncheon party hot and proud and
smiling, so cheerful and stolid and agreeable that even Mrs. Le Page
was compelled to say, "Really, Mrs. Cole, that's a very nice little
boy of yours. Come here, little Jeremy, and talk to me!" How deeply
he hated being called "little Jeremy" only Mary and Helen knew.
Their eyes flew to his face to see how he would take it. He took it
very well. He sat down beside Mrs. Le Page, who very gracefully and
languidly sipped at her glass of milk.
"How old are you, Jeremy dear?" she asked him.
"Eight," he answered, wriggling.
"What a nice age! And one day you'll go to school?"
"And what will you be when you're a man?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'll be a soldier, perhaps."
"Oh, I'm sure you wouldn't like to be a soldier and kill people."
"Yes, I would. There's lots of people I'd like to kill."
Mrs. Le Page drew her skirts back a little.
"How horrible! I'm sure your mother wouldn't like to hear that."
But Mr. Cole had caught the last words of the dialogue and
"But what could be finer, Mrs. Le Page, than the defence of one's
country? Would you have our young lads grow up faint-hearted and
fail their Motherland when she calls? What can be finer, I say, than
to die for Queen and country? Would not every mother have her son
shed his blood for liberty and freedom? . . . No, Jeremy, not
another. You've had quite enough. It would indeed be a disheartening
sight if we elders were to watch our sons and grandchildren turning
their swords into ploughshares--"
He was interrupted by a shrill cry from Mrs. Le Page:
"Charlotte, darling, do hold your sunshade up. All the left side of
your face is exposed. That's better, dear. I beg your pardon, Mr.
But Mr. Cole was offended.
"I hope no son of mine will ever show himself a faint heart," he
The luncheon, in fact, had been a most dismal failure. The Coles
could fling their minds back to luncheons on this same beach that
had been simply riotous successes. What fun they had had! What
games! What bathes? Now the very sight of Mr. Le Page's black beard
was enough. Even Jeremy felt that things were wrong. Then he looked
at Charlotte and was satisfied. There she sat, straight and stiff,
her hands on her lap, her hair falling in lovely golden ripples down
her back, her gaze fixed on distance. Oh! she was beautiful! He
would do whatever she told him; he would give her Miss Noah and the
apple tree; he would--A sound disturbed his devotions. He turned.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Le Page were fast asleep.
"Children," whispered Mrs. Cole, "very quietly now, so that you
don't disturb anyone, run off to the farther beach and play. Helen,
you'll see that everything is all right, won't you?"
It was only just in time that Jeremy succeeded in strangling
Hamlet's bark into a snort, and even then they all looked round for
a moment at the sleepers in the greatest anxiety. But no, they had
not been disturbed. If only Mr. Le Page could have known what he
resembled lying there with his mouth open! But he did not know. He
was doubtless dreaming of his property.
The children crept away. Charlotte and Jeremy together. Jeremy's
heart beat thickly. At last he had the lovely creature in his
charge. It was true that he did not quite know what he was going to
do with her, and that even now, in the height of his admiration, he
did wish that she would not walk as though she were treading on red-
hot ploughshares, and that she could talk a little instead of giving
little shivers of apprehension at every step.
"I must say," he thought to himself, "she's rather silly in some
ways. Perhaps it wouldn't be fun to see her always."
They turned the corner round a projecting finger of rock, and a new
little beach, white and gleaming, lay in front of them.
"Well," said Jeremy, "here we are. What shall we play?"
There was dead silence.
"We might play pirates," he continued. "I'll be the pirate, and Mary
can sit on that rock until the water comes round her, and Charlotte
shall hide in that cave--"
There was still silence. Looking about him, he discovered from his
sisters' countenances that they were resolved to lend no kind of
assistance, and he then from that deduced the simple fact that his
sisters hated Charlotte and were not going to make it pleasant for
her in any way if they could help it. Oh! it was a miserable picnic!
The worst that he'd ever had.
"It's too hot to play," said Helen loftily. "I'm going to sit down
"So am I," said Mary.
They moved away, their heads in the air and their legs ridiculously
Jeremy gazed at Charlotte in distress. It was very wicked of his
sisters to go off like that, but it was also very silly of Charlotte
to stand there so helplessly. He was beginning to think that perhaps
he would give the thimble to Miss Jones after all.
"Would you like to go and see the pool where the little crabs are?"
"I don't know," she answered, her upper lip trembling as though she
were going to cry. "I want to go home with Mother."
"You can't go home," he said firmly, "and you can't see your mother,
because she's asleep."
"I've made my shoes dirty," she said, looking down at her feet, "and
I'm so tired of holding my sunshade."
"I should shut it up," Jeremy said without any hesitation. "I think
it's a silly thing. I'm glad I'm not a girl. Do you have to take it
with you everywhere?"
"Not if it's raining. Then I have an umbrella."
"I think you'd better come and see the crabs," he settled. "They're
only just over there."
She moved along with him reluctantly, looking back continually to
where her mother ought to be.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" Jeremy asked politely.
"No," she said, without any hesitation, "I want to go home."
"She's as selfish as anything," he thought to himself. "We're giving
the party, and she ought to have said 'Yes' even if she wasn't."
"Do you like my dog?" he asked, with another effort at light
"No," she answered, with a little shiver. "He's ugly."
"He isn't ugly," Jeremy returned indignantly. "He isn't perhaps the
very best breed, but Uncle Samuel says that that doesn't matter if
he's clever. He's better than any other dog. I love him more than
anybody. He isn't ugly!"
"He is," cried Charlotte with a kind of wail. "Oh! I want to go
"Well, you can't go home," he answered her fiercely. "So you needn't
think about it."
They came to the little pools, three of them, now clear as crystal,
blue on their surface, with green depths and red shelving rock.
"Now you sit there," he said cheerfully. "No one will touch you. The
crabs won't get at you."
He looked about him and noticed with surprise where he was. He was
sitting on the farther corner of the very beach where the Scarlet
Admiral had landed with his men. It was out there beyond that bend
of rock that the wonderful ship had rode, with its gold and silk,
its jewelled masts and its glittering board. Directly opposite to
him was the little green path that led up the hill, and above it the
very field--Farmer Ede's field!
For a long, long time they sat there in silence. He forgot Charlotte
in his interest over his discovery, staring about him and watching
how quickly the August afternoon was losing its heat and colour, so
that already a little cold autumnal wind was playing about the sand,
the colours were being drawn from the sky, and a grey web was slowly
pulled across the sea.
"Now," he said cheerfully at last, to Charlotte, "I'll look for the
"I hate crabs," she said. "I want to go home."
"You can't go home," he answered furiously. "What's the good of
saying that over and over again? You aren't going yet, so it's no
use saying you are."
"You're a horrid little boy," she brought out with a kind of
He did not reply to that; he was still trying to behave like a
gentleman. How could he ever have liked her? Why, her hair was not
so much after all. What was hair when you come to think of it? Mary
got on quite well with hers, ugly though it was. She was stupid,
stupid, stupid! She was like someone dead. As he searched for the
crabs that weren't there he felt his temper growing. Soon he would
lead her back to her mother and leave her there and never see her
But this was not the climax of the afternoon.
When he looked up from gazing into the pool the whole world seemed
to have changed. He was still dazzled perhaps by the reflection of
the water in his eyes, and yet it was not altogether that. It was
not altogether because the day was slipping from afternoon into
The lazy ripple of the water as it slutched up the sand and then
broke, the shadows that were creeping farther and farther from rock
to rock, the green light that pushed up from the horizon into the
faint blue, the grey web of the sea, the thick gathering of the
hills as they crept more closely about the little darkening beach .
. . it was none of these things.
He began hurriedly to tell Charlotte about the Scarlet Admiral. Even
as he told her he was himself caught into the excitement of the
narration. He forgot her; he did not see her white cheeks, her mouth
open with terror, an expression new to her, that her face had never
known before, stealing into her eyes. He told her how the Fool had
seen the ship, how the Admiral had landed, then left his men on the
beach, how he had climbed the little green path, how the young man
had followed him, how they had fought, how the young man had fallen.
What was that? Jeremy jumped from his rock. "I say, did you hear
And that was enough for Charlotte. With one scream, a scream such as
she had never uttered in her life before, sue turned, and then,
running as indeed she had never run before, she stumbled, half fell,
stumbled, finally ran as though the whole world of her ghosts was
behind her. Her screams were so piercing that they may well have
startled, the villagers of Rafiel.
Jeremy followed her, but his mind was not with her. Was he going to
see something? What was it? Who was it?
Then the awful catastrophe that finished the afternoon occurred.
Turning the corner of the rock, Charlotte missed her footing and
fell straight into a pool. Jeremy, Mary and Helen were upon her
almost as she fell. They dragged her out, but alas! what a sight was
there! Instead of the beautiful and magnificent Charlotte there was
a bedraggled and dirty little girl.
But also, instead of an inanimate and lifeless doll, there was at
last a human being, a terrified soul.
The scene that followed passes all power of description. Mrs. Le
Page wailed like a lost spirit; Mr. Le Page was so rude to Mr. Cole
that it might confidently be said that those two gentlemen would
never speak to one another again. Mrs. Cole, dismayed though she
was, had some fatalistic consolation that she had known from the
first that the picnic would be a most dreadful failure and that the
worst had occurred; there was no more to come.
Everyone was too deeply occupied to scold Jeremy. They all moved up
to the farm, Charlotte behaving most strangely, even striking her
mother and crying: "Let me go! Let me go! I don't want to be clean!
I'm frightened! I'm frightened!"
Jeremy hung behind the others. At the bottom of the little lane he
stood and waited. Was there a figure coming up through the dusk? Did
someone pass him? Why did he suddenly feel no longer afraid, but
only reassured and with the strangest certainty that the lane, the
beach, the field belonged to him now? He would come there and live
when he grew up. He would come often. Had the Scarlet Admiral passed
him? If not the Scarlet Admiral, then the other.
The sea picnic had, after all, been not quite a misfortune.
Jeremy had been made free of the land.
And Charlotte? Charlotte had been woken up, and never would go to
Mary Cole had been, all her life, that thing beloved of the
sentimental novelist, a misunderstood child. She was the only
misunderstood member of the Cole family, and she was misunderstood,
as is very often the case, in a large measure because she was so
plain. Had she been good-looking as Helen, or independent as Jeremy,
she would have either attracted the world in general, or have been
indifferent as to whether she attracted it or not. As it was, she
longed to attract everyone, and, in truth, attracted nobody. She
might have found consolation in books or her own highly-coloured
imaginations had it not been for the burning passions which she
formed, at a very early age, for living people. For some years now
her life had centred round her brother Jeremy. Had the Coles been an
observant family they might, perhaps, have found some pathos in the
way in which Mary, with her pale sallow complexion, her pear-shaped
face with its dull, grey eyes, her enormous glasses, her lanky
colourless hair, and her thin, bony figure, gazed at her masculine
and independent brother.
Uncle Samuel might have noticed, but he was occupied with his
painting. For the rest they were not observant. Mary was only seven
years of age, but she had the capacity for being hurt of a person of
thirty. She was hurt by everything and everybody. When somebody
said: "Now, Mary, hurry up. You're always so slow," she was hurt. If
Helen told her that she was selfish, she was hurt, and would sit
wondering whether she was selfish or no. If Mrs. Cole said that she
must brush her hair more carefully she was hurt, and when Jeremy
said anything sharp to her she was in agony. She discovered very
quickly that no one cared for her agonies. The Coles were a plain,
matter-of-fact race, and had the day's work to finish. They had no
intention of thinking too much of their children's feelings. Thirty
years ago that was not so popular as it is now. Meanwhile, her
devotion to her brother grew with every month of her life. She
thought him, in all honesty, the most miraculous of all human
beings. There was more in her worship than mere dog-like fidelity.
She adored him for reasons that were real and true; for his
independence, his obstinacy, his sense of fun, his sudden,
unexpected kindnesses, his sudden helplessness, and above all, for
his bravery. He seemed to her the bravest hero in all history, and
she felt it the more because she was herself compact of every fear
and terror known to man. It was not enough for her, the ordinary
panic that belongs to all human life at every stage of its progress.
She feared everything and everybody, and only hid her fear by a
persistent cover of almost obstinate stupidity, which deceived, to
some extent, her relations, but never in any degree herself. She
knew that she was plain, awkward and hesitating, but she knew also
that she was clever. She knew that she could do everything twice as
fast as Jeremy and Helen, that she was often so impatient of their
slow progress at lessons that she would beat her foot on the ground
in a kind of agonised impatience. She knew that she was clever, and
she wondered sometimes why her cleverness did not give her more
advantage. Why, for instance, should Helen's good looks be noticed
at once by every visitor and her own cleverness be unnoticed?
Certainly, on occasions, her mother would say: "And Mary? I don't
think you've met Mary. Come and say, how do you do, Mary. Mary is
the clever one of the family!" but it was always said in a
deprecating, apologetic tone, which made Mary hang her head and hate
both herself and her mother.
She told herself stories of the times when Jeremy would have to
depend entirely upon the splendour of her brains for his delivery
from some horror--death, torture or disgrace. At present those times
were, she was bound to confess to herself, very distant. He depended
upon no one for anything; he could not be said to need Mary's
assistance in any particular. And with this burning desire of hers
came, of course, jealousy. There are some happy, easy natures to
whom jealousy is, through life, unknown. They are to be envied.
Jealousy in a grown-up human being is bad; in a child it is
terrible. Had you told Mrs. Cole--good mother though she was--that
her daughter Mary, aged seven, suffered tortures through jealousy,
she would have assured you that it was not, in reality, jealousy,
but rather indigestion, and that a little medicine would put it
Mary was quite helpless. What is a child to do if she is jealous?
Other children do not understand her, her elders laugh at her. Mary,
with a wisdom greatly beyond her years, realised very quickly that
this was some sort of horrible disease, with which she must wrestle
alone. Above all, she must never allow Jeremy to know anything about
it. He was, of course, sublimely unaware of the matter; he knew that
Mary was silly sometimes, but he attributed that to her sex; he went
on his way, happily indifferent whether anyone cared for him or
no. . .
Mary suffered agonies when, as sometimes happened, Jeremy sat with
his arm round Helen's neck and his cheek up against hers. She
suffered when, in a mood of tempestuous affection to the whole
world, he kissed Miss Jones. She even suffered when he sat at his
mother's feet whilst she read "The Dove in the Eagle's Nest," or
"Engel the Fearless."
Most of all, however, she suffered over Hamlet. She knew that at
this present time Hamlet was the one creature for whom Jeremy
passionately cared. He loved his mother, but with the love that
custom and habit has tamed and modified, although since Mrs. Cole's
illness in the early summer he had cared for her in a manner more
demonstrative and openly affectionate. Nevertheless, it was Hamlet
who commanded Jeremy's heart, and Mary knew it. Matters were made
worse by the undoubted truth that Hamlet did not care very much for
Mary--that is, he never gave any signs of caring, and very often
walked out of the room when she came into it. Mary could have cared
for the dog as enthusiastically as Jeremy--she was always
sentimental about animals--but now she was shut out from their
alliance, and she knew that when she came up to them and began to
pat or stroke Hamlet, Jeremy was annoyed and Hamlet's skin wriggled
in a kind of retreating fashion under her fingers. Wise people will
say that it is impossible for this to be a serious trouble to a
child. It was increasingly serious to Mary.
Jeremy was not, perhaps, so tactful as he might have been. "Oh
bother, Mary!" he would say. "You've gone and waked Hamlet up!" or
"Don't stroke Hamlet that way, Mary; he hates it!" or "No, I'm going
for a walk with Hamlet; we don't want anyone!" Or Hamlet himself
would suddenly bark at her as though he hated her, or would bare his
teeth and grin at her in a mocking, sarcastic way that he had. At
first, as an answer to this, she had the ridiculous idea of herself
adopting an animal, and she selected, for this purpose, the kitchen
cat, a dull, somnolent beast, whose sleek black hair was furtive,
and green, crooked eyes malignant. The cat showed no signs of
affection for Mary, nor could she herself honestly care for it. When
she brought it with her into the schoolroom, Hamlet treated it in a
scornful, sarcastic fashion that was worse than outrageous attack.
The cat was uncleanly, and was speedily banished back into the
kitchen. Mary's jealousy of Hamlet then grew apace, and with that
jealousy, unfortunately, her secret appreciation of his splendours.
She could not help admitting to herself that he was the most
attractive dog in the world. She would look at him from under her
spectacles when she was supposed to be reading and watch him as he
rolled, kicking his legs in the air, or lay stretched out, his black
wet nose against his paws, his eyes gleaming, his gaze fixed like
the point of a dagger raised to strike, upon some trophy, or enemy,
or spoil, or sat, solemn and pompous, like the Lord Mayor holding a
meeting, as Jeremy said, up against his master's leg, square and
solid as though he were cut out of wood, his peaked beard
supercilious, his very ears at a patronising angle; or, as Mary
loved best of all to see him, when he was simply childish, playing,
as though he was still a new- found puppy, with pieces of paper or
balls of string, rolling and choking, growling, purring, staggering
and tumbling. At such times, again and again, her impulse would be
to go forward and applaud him, and then, the instinct that she would
be checked by Jeremy stayed her.
She knew very well that Jeremy realised nothing of this. Jeremy was
not given to the consideration of other people's motives--his own
independence saved him from anxiety about others. He had the English
characteristic of fancying that others must like and dislike as he
himself liked and disliked. Of sentiment he had no knowledge
As this year grew towards summer Mary had the feeling that Jeremy
was slipping away from her. She did not know what had happened to
him. In the old days he had asked her opinion about many things; he
had scorned to enjoy the long stories that she had told him--at any
rate, he had listened to them very politely--and he had asked her to
suggest games or to play with his toys. Now as the summer drew near,
he did none of these things. He was frankly impatient with her
stories, never asked her advice about anything, and never played
with her. Was he growing very conceited? Was it because he was going
to school, and thought himself too old for his sisters? No, he did
not seem to be conceited--he had always been proud, but never
conceited. It was rather as though he had lately had thoughts of his
own, almost against his will, and that these had shut him off from
the people round him.
Then, when their mother was so ill and Barbara made her startling
appearance Jeremy kept more to himself. He never talked about his
mother's illness, as did the others, and yet Mary knew that he had
been more deeply concerned than any of them. She had been miserable,
of course, but to Jeremy it had been as though he had been led into
a new world altogether; Helen and she were still in their old
places, and Jeremy had left them.
At last just before they all moved to Cow Farm Mary made a silly
scene. She had not intended to make a scene. Scenes seemed to come
upon her, like evil birds, straight out of the air, to seize her
before she knew where she was, to envelop and carry her up with
them; at last, when all the mischief was done, to set her on her
feet again, battered, torn and bitterly ashamed. One evening she was
sitting deep in "Charlotte Mary," and Hamlet, bunched up against his
master's leg, stared at her. She had long ago told herself that it
was ridiculous to mind what Hamlet did, that he was not looking at
her, and, in any case, he was only a, dog--and so on.
But to-night she was tired, and had read so long that her head
ached--Hamlet was laughing at her, his eyes stared through his hair
at her, cynically, superciliously, contemptuously. His lip curled
and his beard bristled. Moved by a sudden wild impulse she picked up
"The Chaplet of Pearls" and threw it at him. It hit him (not very
severely), and he gave the sharp, melodramatic howl that he always
used when it was his dignity rather than his body that was hurt.
Jeremy looked up, saw what had happened, and a fine scene followed.
Mary had hysterics, stamped and screamed and howled. Jeremy, his
face white, stood and said nothing, but looked as though he hated
her, which at that moment he undoubtedly did. It was that look which
more than anything else in the world she dreaded.
She made herself sick with crying; then apologised with an abjection
that only irritated him the more; finally remembered the smallest
details of the affair long after he had forgotten all about it.
During the first weeks at Cow Farm Mary was happy. She had then many
especial private joys, such as climbing into one of the old apple
trees behind the house and reading there, safe from the world, or
inventing for herself wonderful adventures out of the dark glooms
and sunlit spaces of the orchard, or creeping about the lofts and
barns as though they were full of the most desperate dangers and
hazards that she alone had the pluck and intelligence to overcome.
Then Mrs. Monk was kind to her, and listened to her imaginative
chatter with a most marvellous patience. Mary did not know that,
after these narrations, she would shake her head and say to her
husband: "Not long for this world, I'm thinking, poor worm. . .not
long for this world."
Then, at first Jeremy was kind and considerate. He was so happy that
he did not mind what anyone did, and he would listen to Mary's
stories quite in the old way, whistling to himself, not thinking
about her at all perhaps, really, but very patient. After the first
fortnight he slipped away from her again--and now more than ever
before. He went off for long walks with Hamlet, refusing to take her
with them; he answered her questions so vaguely that she could see
that he paid her no attention at all; he turned upon her and rent
her if she complained. And it was all, she was sure, that horrible
dog. Jeremy was always with Hamlet now. The free life that the farm
gave them, no lessons, no set hours, no care for appearances, left
them to choose their own ways, and so developed their
individualities. Helen was now more and more with her elders, was
becoming that invaluable thing, "a great help to her mother," and
even, to her own inexhaustible pride, paid two calls with Mrs. Cole
on the wives of neighbouring farmers. Then, Barbara absorbed more
than ever of Helen's attention, and Mary was not allowed to share in
these rites and services because "she always made Barbara cry."
She was, therefore, very much alone, and felt all her injuries twice
as deeply as she had felt them before. Hamlet began to be an
obsession with her. She had always had a habit of talking to
herself, and now she could be heard telling herself that if it were
not for the dog, Jeremy would always be with her, would play with
her, walk with her, laugh with her as he used to do. She acquired
now an awkward habit of gazing at him with passionate intensity. He
would raise his eyes and find the great moon-faced spectacles fixed
upon him with a beseeching, reproachful glare in the light of them.
This would irritate him intensely. He would say:
"You'll know me next time, Mary."
She would blush crimson and then, with trembling mouth, answer:
"I wasn't looking."
"Yes, you were."
"No, I wasn't."
"Of course, you were--staring as though I were an Indian or
Chinaman. If my face is dirty, say so."
"It isn't dirty."
"You're always so cross."
"I'm not cross--only you're so silly--"
"You usen't always to say I was silly. Now you always do--every
"So you are." Then as he saw the tears coming he would get up and go
away. He didn't mean to be unkind to her; he was fond of her--but he
"Mary's always howling about something now," he confided to Helen.
"Is she?" Helen answered with indifference. "Mary's such a baby."
So Mary began to attribute everything to the dog. It seemed to her
then that she met the animal everywhere. Cow Farm was a rambling
building, with dark, uneven stairs, low-ceilinged rooms, queer, odd
corners, and sudden unexpected doors. It seemed to Mary as though in
this place there were two Hamlets. When, in the evening she went to
her room, hurrying through the passages for fear of what she might
see, stumbling over the uneven boards, sniffling the mice and straw
under the smell of her tallow candle, suddenly out of nowhere at all
Hamlet would appear scurrying along, like the White Rabbit, intent
on serious business.
He came so softly and with so sudden a flurry and scatter when she
did hear him that her heart would beat for minutes afterwards, and
she would not dare that night to search, as she usually did, for
burglars under her bed, but would lie, quaking, hot and staring,
unable to sleep. When at last dreams came they would be haunted by a
monstrous dog, all hair and eyes, who, with padding feet, would
track her round and round a room from which there was no escape.
Hamlet, being one of the wisest of dogs, very quickly discovered
that Mary hated him. He was not a sentimental dog, and he did not
devote his time to inventing ways in which he might placate his
enemy, he simply avoided her. But he could not hinder a certain
cynical and ironic pleasure that he had of, so to speak, flaunting
his master in her face. He clung to Jeremy more resolutely than
ever, would jump up at him, lick his hands and tumble about in front
of him whenever Mary was there, and then suddenly, very straight and
very grave, would stare at her as though he were the most devout and
obedient dog in the place. Indeed, he bore her no malice; he could
afford to disregard the Marys of this world, and of women in general
he had a poor opinion. But he loved to tease, and Mary was an easy
prey. He had his fun with her.
After the affair of the sea-picnic, Jeremy was for some time under a
cloud. It was felt that he was getting too big for anyone to manage.
It was not that he was wicked, not that he kept bad company with the
boys on the farm, or was dishonest, or told lies, or stole things--
no, he gave no one that kind of anxiety--but that he was developing
quite unmistakably a will of his own, and had a remarkable way of
doing what he wanted without being actually disobedient, which was
very puzzling to his elders. Being a little in disgrace he went off
more than ever by himself, always appearing again at the appointed
time, but telling no one where he had been or what he had been
doing. His father had no influence over him at all, whilst Uncle
Samuel could make him do whatever he wanted--and this, as Aunt Amy
said, "was really a pity."
"It's a good thing he's going to school in September," sighed his
mother. "He's getting out of women's hands."
Mary longed with feverish longing to share in his adventures. If
only he would tell her what he did on these walks of his. But no,
only Hamlet knew. Perhaps, if he did not go with the dog he would go
with her. When this idea crept into her brain she seized it and
clutched it. That was all he wanted--a companion! Were Hamlet not
there he would take her. Were Hamlet not there. . . She began to
brood over this. She wandered. . . She considered. She shuddered at
her own wickedness; she tried to drive the thoughts from her head,
but they kept coming.
After all, no one need know. For a day or two Jeremy would be sorry
and then he would forget. She knew the man who went round selling
dogs--selling dogs and buying them.
She shuddered at her wickedness.
The last days of August came, and with them the last week of the
holiday. Already there was a scent of autumn in the air, leaves were
turning gold and red, and the evenings came cool and sudden, upon
the hot summer afternoons. Mary was not very well; she had caught a
cold somewhere, and existed in the irritating condition of going out
one day and being held indoors the next. This upset her temper, and
at night she had nightmares, in which she saw clouds of smoke
crawling in at her window, snakes on the floor, and crimson flames
darting at her from the ceiling. It was because she was in an
abnormal condition of health that the idea of doing something with
Hamlet had gained such a hold upon her. She considered the matter
from every point of view. She did not want to be cruel to the dog;
she supposed that after a week or two he would be quite happy with
his new master, and, in any case, he had strolled in so casually
upon the Cole family that he was accustomed to a wandering life.
She did not intend that anyone should know. It was to be a deep
secret all of her own.
Jeremy was going to school in September, and before then she must
make him friendly to her again. She saw stretching in front of her
all the lonely autumn without him and her own memories of the
miserable summer to make her wretched. She was an extremely
sentimental little girl.
As always happens when one is meditating with a placated conscience
a wicked deed, the opportunity was suddenly offered to Mary of
achieving her purpose. One morning Jeremy, after refusing to listen
to one of Mary's long romances, lost his temper.
"I can't stop," he said. "You bother and bother and bother. Aunt Amy
says you nearly make her mad."
"I don't care what Aunt Amy says," Mary on the edge of tears
"Hamlet and I are going out. And I'm sick of your silly old
stories." Then he suddenly stopped and gazed at Mary, who was
beginning, as usual, to weep.
"Look here, Mary, what's been the matter with you lately? You're
always crying now or something. And you look at me as though I'd
done something dreadful. I haven't done anything."
"I--never--said you--had," Mary gulped out. He rubbed his nose in a
way that he had when he was puzzled.
"If it's anything I do, tell me. It's so silly always crying. The
holidays will be over soon, and you've done nothing but cry."
"You're--never--with me--now," Mary sobbed.
"Well, I've been busy."
"You haven't. You can't be busy all--by yourself."
"Oh, yes, you can." He was getting impatient. "Anyway, you might let
Hamlet and me alone. You're always bothering one of us."
"No, I'm not." She choked an enormous sob and burst out with: "It's
always Hamlet now. I wish he'd never--come. It was much nicer
Then he lost his temper. "Oh, you're a baby! I'm sick of you and
your nonsense," he cried, and stamped off.
In Mary's red-rimmed eyes, as she watched him go, determination
It happened that upon the afternoon of that same day Miss Jones
announced that she would take Mary for a walk; then, just as they
passed through the farm gates, Hamlet, rushing out, joined them. He
did not often honour them with his company, despising women most
especially when they walked, but to-day his master was busy digging
for worms in the vegetable garden, and, after a quarter of an hour's
contemplation of this fascinating occupation, he had wandered off in
search of a livelier game. He decided to join Miss Jones; he could
do what he pleased, he could amuse himself with her ineffectual
attempts to keep him in order, and he could irritate Mary; so he
danced along, with his tail in the air, barking at imaginary rats
and poking his nose into hedges.
Mary, with a sudden tightened clutching of the heart, realised that
her hour was upon her. She felt so wicked as she realised this that
she wondered that the ground didn't open up and swallow her, as it
had done with those unfortunate people in the Bible. But no, the
world was calm. Little white milky clouds raced in lines and circles
across the sky, and once and again a leaf floated from a tree, hung
for a moment suspended, and then turned slowly to the ground. The
hedges were a dark black-green, high and thick above the dusty road;
there had been no rain for weeks. Truly a stable world. Mary,
glaring at Fate, wondered how it could be so.
Miss Jones, who was happy and optimistic to-day, talked in a
tenderly reminiscent tone of her youth. This vein of reminiscence
Mary, on her normal day, loved. To-day she did not hear a word that
Miss Jones said.
"I remember my mother saying so well to my dear brother: 'Do what
you like, my boy. I trust you.' And indeed Alfred was to be trusted
if ever a boy was. It is a remarkable thing, but I cannot remember a
single occasion of dishonesty on Alfred's part. 'A white lie,' he
would often say, 'is a lie, and a lie is a sin--white or black,
always a sin'; and I remember that he would often put mother to a
serious inconvenience by his telling callers that she was in when
she had wished it to be said that she was not at home. He felt it
his serious duty, and so he told Mother. 'Don't ask me to tell a
lie, Mother,' I remember his saying. 'I cannot do it.'"
"Like George Washington," said Mary, suddenly catching the last
words of Miss Jones's sentence.
"He was like many famous characters in history, I used to think.
Once I remember reading about Oliver Cromwell. . . "Where is that
dog? Hamlet! Hamlet! Perhaps he's gone after the sheep. Ah! there he
is! Hamlet, you naughty dog!"
They were approaching one of their favourite pieces of country--
Mellot Wood. Here, on the wood's edge, the ground broke away,
running down in a field of corn to a little green valley with
clustered trees that showed only their heads, so thickly embedded
were they, and beyond the valley the sea. The sea looked quite close
here, although it was in reality four miles distant. Never was such
a place as this view for light and shadow. The clouds raced like the
black wings of enormous birds across the light green valley, and the
red-gold of the cornfield was tossed into the haze and swept like a
golden shadow across the earth, bending back again when the breeze
had died. Behind Mellot Wood was Mellot Farm, an old eighteenth-
century house about which there was a fine tragic story with a
murder and a ghost in it, and this, of course, gave Mellot Wood an
additional charm. When they arrived at the outskirts of Mellot Wood
Mary looked about her. It was here, on the edge of the Rafiel Road
that skirted the wood, that she had once seen the dog-man eating his
luncheon out of a red pocket-handkerchief. There was no sign of him
to-day. All was silent and still. Only the little wood uttered
little sighs of content beneath the flying clouds. Hamlet, tired
with his racing after imaginary rabbits, walked quietly along by
Mary's side. What was she to do? She had once again the desperate
feeling that something stronger than she had swept down upon her and
was forcing her to do this thing. She seemed to have no will of her
own, but to be watching some other commit an act whose dangerous
wickedness froze her heart. How could she? But she must. Someone was
doing it for her.
And in very truth it seemed so. Miss Jones said that now they were
here she might as well call upon Miss Andrews, the sister of the
Mellot farmer. Miss Andrews had promised her some ducks' eggs. They
pushed open the farm gate, passed across the yard and knocked on the
house door. Near Mary was a large barn with a heavy door, now ajar.
Hamlet sat gazing pensively at a flock of geese, his tongue out,
"Wait here one minute, Mary," said Miss Jones. "I won't stay."
Miss Jones disappeared. Mary, still under the strange sense that it
was not she, but another, who did these things, moved back to the
barn, calling softly to Hamlet. He followed her, sniffing a rat
somewhere. Very quickly she pulled back the door; he, still
investigating his rat, followed into the dark excitements of the
barn. With a quick movement she bent down, slipped off his collar,
which she hid in her dress, then shut him in. She knew that for a
moment or two he would still be pursuing his rat, and she saw, with
guilty relief, Miss Jones come out to her just as she had finished
her evil deed.
"Miss Andrews is out," said Miss Jones. "They are all away at
They left the farm and walked down the road. Hamlet had not begun
Miss Jones was pleased. "Such a nice servant," she said. "One of the
old kind. She had been with the family fifty years, she told me, and
had nursed Mr. Andrews on her knee. Fancy! Such a large fat man as
he is now. Too much beer, I suppose. I suppose they get so thirsty
with all the straw and hay about. Yes, a really nice woman. She told
me that there was no place in Glebeshire to touch them for cream. I
dare say they're right. After all, you never can tell. I remember at
home . . ."
She broke off then and cried: "Where's Hamlet?"
Mary, wickeder than ever, stared through her spectacles down the
road. "I don't know, Miss Jones," she said. They had left the wood
and the farm, and there was nothing to be seen but the long white
ribbon of road hemmed in by the high hedges.
"Perhaps he stayed behind at the farm," said Miss Jones.
Then Mary told her worst lie.
"Oh, no, Miss Jones. He ran past us just now. Didn't you see him?"
"No, I didn't. He's gone on ahead, I suppose. He runs home
sometimes. Naughty dog! We shall catch him up."
But of course they did not. They passed through the gates of Cow
Farm and still nothing of Hamlet was to be seen.
"Oh dear! Oh dear!" said Miss Jones. "I do hope that he's arrived.
Whatever will Jeremy say if anything has gone wrong?"
Mary was breathing hard now, as though she had been running a
desperate race. She would at this moment have given all that she
possessed, or all that she was ever likely to possess, to recall her
deed. If she could have seen Hamlet rushing down the road towards
her she would have cried with relief; there seemed now to be
suddenly removed from her that outside agency that had forced her to
do this thing; now, having compelled her, it had withdrawn and left
her to carry the consequences. Strangely confused in her sentimental
soul was her terror of Jeremy's wrath and her own picture of the
wretched Hamlet barking his heart out, frightened, thirsty, and
lonely. Her teeth began to chatter; she clenched her hands together.
Miss Jones went across the courtyard, calling:
The family was collected, having just sat down to tea, so that the
announcement received its full measure of excitement.
"Has Hamlet come back? We thought he was ahead of us."
A chair had tumbled over. Jeremy had run round the table to Miss
"What's that? Hamlet? Where is he?"
"We thought he must be ahead of us. He ran past us down the road,
and we thought--"
They thought! Silly women! Jeremy, as though he were challenging a
god, stood up against Miss Jones, hurling questions at her. Where
had they been? What road had they taken? Had they gone into the
wood? Whereabouts had he run past them?
"I don't know," said Miss Jones to this last. "I didn't see him.
Jeremy turned upon Mary. "Where was it you saw him?"
She couldn't speak. Her tongue wouldn't move, her lips wouldn't
open; she could but waggle her head like an idiot. She saw nothing
but his face. It was a desperate face. She knew so much better than
all the others what the thought of losing Hamlet was to him. It was
part of the harshness of her fate that she should understand him so
much better than the others did.
But she herself had not realised how hardly he would take it.
"I didn't--I couldn't--"
"There's the dog-man," he stammered. "He'll have stolen him." Then
he was off out of the room in an instant.
And that was more than Mary could hear. She realised, even as she
followed him, that she was giving her whole case away, that she was
now, as always, weak when she should be strong, soft when she should
be hard, good when she should be wicked, wicked when she should be
good. She could not help herself. With trembling limbs and a heart
that seemed to be hammering her body into pieces she followed him
out. She found him in the hall, tugging at his coat.
"Where are you going?" she said weakly.
"Going?" he answered fiercely. "Where do you think?" He glared at
her. "Just like you." He broke off, suddenly appealing to her.
"Mary, CAN'T you remember? It will be getting dark soon, and if we
have to wait until to-morrow the dog-man will have got him. At any
rate, he had his collar--"
Then Mary broke out. She burst into sobs, pushed her hand into her
dress, and held out the collar to him.
"There it is! There it is!" she said hysterically.
"You've got it?" He stared at her, suspicion slowly coming to him.
"But how--? What have you done?"
She looked up at him wild-eyed, the tears making dirty lines on her
face, her hand out towards him.
"I took it off. I shut Hamlet into the barn at Mellot Farm. I wanted
him to be lost. I didn't want you to have him. I hated him--always
being with you, and me never."
Jeremy moved back, and at the sudden look in his eyes her sobbing
ceased, she caught her breath and stared at him with a silly fixed
stare as a rabbit quivers before a snake.
Jeremy said in his ordinary voice:
"You shut Hamlet up? You didn't want him to be found?"
She nodded her head several times as though now she must convince
him quickly of this--
"Yes, yes, yes. I did. . . I know I shouldn't, but I couldn't help
He clutched her arm, and then shook her with a sudden wave of fierce
physical anger that was utterly unlike him, and, therefore, the more
"You wicked, wicked--You beast, Mary!"
She could only sob, her head hanging down. He let her go.
"What barn was it?"
She described the place.
He gave her another look of contempt and then rushed off, running
across the courtyard.
There was still no one in the hall; she could go up to her room
without the fear of being disturbed. She found the room, all white
and black now with the gathering dusk. Beyond the window the evening
breeze was rustling in the dark trees of the garden and the boom of
the sea could be heard faintly. Mary sat, where she always sat when
she was unhappy, inside the wardrobe with her head amongst the
clothes. They in some way comforted her; she was not so lonely with
them, nor did she feel so strongly the empty distances of the long
room, the white light of the window-frames, nor the mysterious
secrecy of the high elms knocking their heads together in the garden
She had a fit of hysterical crying, biting the hanging clothes
between her teeth, feeling suddenly sick and tired and exhausted,
with flaming eyes and a dry, parched throat. Why had she ever done
such a thing, she loving Jeremy as she did? Would he ever forgive
her? No, never; she saw that in his face. Perhaps he would--if he
found Hamlet quickly and came back. Perhaps Hamlet never would be
found. Then Jeremy's heart would be broken.