Part 3 out of 7
mind in being upon the spot sacred to him. Though he was not present, she
seemed closer far to him on Gorse Point than anywhere else. His foot had
marked the turf there; his eye had mirrored the furzes a hundred times; she
knew just where his shadow had fallen as be stood painting, and the spot
upon which he was wont to sit by the cliff-edge when came the time for
rest. Beside this holy place she now seated herself and waited with hope
higher in the splendor of morning; for sorrows, fears and ills are always
blackest when the sun has set, and every man or woman can better face
trouble on opening their eyes in a sunny dawn than after midnight has
struck, a sad day left them weakened, and nothing wakes in the world but
Care and themselves.
The morning wore away, and the old fears returned with greater force to
chill her soul. The sun was burnishing the sea, and she watched Mousehole
luggers putting out and dancing away through the gold. Under the cliffs the
gulls wheeled with sad cries and the long-necked cormorants hastened
backward and forward, now flying fast and low over the water, now fishing
here and there in couples. She saw them rear in the water as they dived,
then go down head first, leaving a rippling circle which widened out and
vanished long before the fishers bobbed up again twenty yards further on.
Time after time she watched them, speculating vaguely after each
disappearance as to how long the bird would remain out of sight. Then she
turned her face to the land, weary of waiting, weary of the bright sea and
sky, and the music of the gulls, and of life. She sat down again presently,
and put her hand over her face and struggled with her thoughts. Manifold
fears compassed her mind about, but one, not felt till then, rose now, a
giant above the rest. Yesterday she had been all alarm for "Mister Jan";
to-day there came terror for herself. Something said "He has gone, he has
left you." Her brain, without any warning, framed the words and spoke them
to her. It was as though a stranger had brought the news, and she rose up
white and stricken at this fatal explanation of the artist's continued
absence. She put the thought from her as she had put another, but it
returned with pertinacity, and each time larger than before, until the fear
filled all her mind and made her wild and desperate, under the conviction
of a sudden, awful life-quake launched against her existence to shatter all
her new joy and dash the brimming cup of love from her lips.
Hours passed, and she grew somewhat faint and hollow every way--in head and
heart and stomach. Her eyes ached, her brains were worn out with thinking;
she felt old, and her body was heavy and energy dead. The world changed,
too. The gorse looked strange as the sun went round, the lark sang no more,
the wind blew coldly, and the sea's gold was darkened by a rack of flying
clouds whose shadows fell purple and gray upon the waters. He had gone; he
had left her; perhaps she would never see him or hear of him again. Then
the place grew hateful to her and terrible as a grave. She dragged herself
away, dizzy, weary, wretched; and not until half way home again did she
find power to steady her mind and control thought. Then the old alarm
returned--that first fear which had pictured him dead, perhaps even now
rolling over and over under the precipices, or hid forever in the cranny of
some dark cavern at the root of the cliffs, where high tides spouted and
thundered and battered the flesh off his bones against granite. She
suffered terribly in mind upon that homeward journey. Her own light and
darkness mattered nothing now, and her personal and selfish fears had
vanished before she reached Newlyn. She was thinking how she should raise
an alarm, how she should tell his friends, who possibly imagined "Mister
Jan" safe and comfortable in his cow-byre. But who were his friends and how
should she approach them without such a step becoming known and getting
talked about? Her misery was stamped on her face when she at last returned
to the white cottage at three o'clock in the afternoon of that day, and
Mrs. Tregenza saw it there.
"God save us! wheer you bin to, an' what you bin 'bout? You'm so pasty an'
round-eyed as if you'd bin piskey-led somewheers. An' me worn to death wi'
work. An' wheer'm the nattlins an' the basket?"
Joan had quite forgotten her commission and left the basket on Gorse Point.
"I'll gaw back bimebye," she said. "I bin walkin' 'long the cliffs in the
sun an' forgot the time. Gimme somethin' t'ate, mother; I be hungry an'
fainty like wi' gwaine tu far. I could hardly fetch home."
"You'm a queer twoad," said Thomasin, "an' I doan't knaw what's come over
'e of late days. 'Pears to me you'm hidin' summat; an' if I thot that, I'd
mighty quick get faither to find out what 'twas, I can tell 'e."
Then she went off, and brought some cold potatoes and dripping, with bread
and salt, and a cup of milk.
The lesson which he had set for Joan Tregenza's learning taught John Barron
something also. Eight-and-forty hours he stayed in Newlyn, and was
astounded to find during that period what grip this girl had got upon his
mind, how she had dragged him out of himself. His first thought was to
escape all physical excitement and emotion by abandoning his picture almost
upon the moment of its completion and abandoning his model too; but various
considerations cried out against such a course. To go was to escape no
difficulty, but to fly from the spoils of victory. The fruit only wanted
plucking, and, through pleasure, he believed that he would proceed to
speedy, easy and triumphant completion of his picture. No lasting
compunction colored the tenor of his thoughts. Once, indeed, upon the day
when he returned to Gorse Point and saw Joan again, some shadow of regret
for her swept through his brain; but that and the issue of it will be
detailed in their place.
Time went heavily for him away from Joan. He roamed listlessly here and
there and watched the weather-glass uneasily; for this abstention from work
was a deliberate challenge to Providence to change sunshine for rain and
high temperature for low. Upon the third day therefore he returned at early
morning to his picture in the shed. The greater part was finished, and the
masses of gorse stood out strong, solid and complete with the slender brown
figure before them. The face of it was very sweet, but to Barron it seemed
as the face of a ghost, with no hot blood in its veins, no live interests
in its eyes.
"'Tis the countenance of a nun," he said sneeringly to himself. "No fire,
no love, no story--a sweet virgin page of life, innocent of history or of
interest as a new-blown lily." The problem was difficult, and he had now
quite convinced himself that solution depended on one course alone. "And
why not?" he asked himself. "Why, when pleasures are offered, shall I
refuse them? God knows Nature is chary enough with her delights. She has
sowed death in me, here in my lungs. I shall bleed away my life some day or
die strangled, unless I anticipate the climax and choose another exit. Why
not take what she throws to me in the meantime?"
He walked down to the Point, set up his easel and waited, feeling that Joan
had certainly made two pilgrimages since his last visit and little doubting
that she would come a third time. Presently indeed she did, scarcely daring
to raise her eyes, but flushing with great waves of joy when she saw him,
and crying "Mister Jan!" in a triumphant ripple of music from a full heart.
Then the artist rose very boldly and put his arms round her and looked into
her face, while she nestled close to him and shut her eyes with a sigh of
sheer content and thankfulness. She had learned her lesson thoroughly
enough; she felt she could not live without him now, and when he kissed her
she did not start from the caress, but opened her eyes and looked into his
face with great yearning love.
"Oh, thank the good God you'm comed back agin to me! To think it be awnly
two lil days! An' the time have seemed a hunderd years. I thot 'e was lost
or dead or killed, an' I seed 'e, when I slept, a tossin' over down in the
zawns [Footnote: _Zawns_--Sea caves.] where the sea roars an' makes the
world shake. Oh, Mister Jan, an' I woke screamin', an' mother comed up, an'
I near spoke your name, but not quite."
"You need not have feared for me, Joan, though I have been very miserable
too, my little sweetheart; I have indeed. I was overworked and worried and
wretched, so I stopped in Newlyn, but being away from you had only taught
me I cannot exist away from you. The time was long and dreary, and it would
have been still worse had I known that you were unhappy."
"'Tweer wisht days for me, Mister Jan. I be such a poor lass in brains, an'
I could awnly think of trouble 'cause I loved 'e so true. 'Tedn' like the
same plaace when you'm away. Then I thot you'd gone right back to Lunnon,
an' I judged my heart 'ud break for 'e, I did."
"Poor little blue-eyed woman! Could you really think I was such a brute?"
"'Twas awnly wan thot among many. I never thot so much afore in my life.
An' I looked 'bout tu; an' I went up to the lil byre, where your things
was, an' peeped in en. But I seed naught of 'e, awnly a gashly auld rat in
a trap. But 'e won't gaw aways like that ag'in, will 'e?"
"No, no. It was too bad."
"Coorse I knawed that if all was well with 'e, you'd a done the right
thing, but it 'peared as if the right thing couldn' be to leave me, Mister
Jan--not now, now you be my world like; 'cause theer edn' nothin' or nobody
else in the world but you for me. 'Tis wicked, but t'others be all faded
away; an' faither's nort, an' Joe's nort, alongside o' you."
He did not answer, and began to paint. Joan's face was far short of looking
its best; there were dark shadows under her eyes and less color than usual
brightened her cheeks. He tried to work, but circumstances and his own
feelings were alike against him. He was restless and lacked patience, nor
could his eye see color aright. In half an hour he had spoiled not a little
of what was already done. Then he took a palette-knife, made a clean sweep
of much previous labor and began again. But the music of her happy voice
was in his blood. The child had come out of the valley of sorrow and she
was boisterously happy and her laughter made him wild. Mists gathered in
his eyes and his breath caught now and again. Passion fairly gripped him by
the throat till even the sound of his own voice was strange to him and he
felt his knees shake. He put down his brushes, turned from the picture, and
went to the cliff-edge, there flinging himself down upon the grass.
"I cannot paint to-day, Joan; I'm too over-joyed at getting you back to me.
My hand is not steady, and my Joan of paint and canvas seems worse and
feebler than ever beside your flesh and blood. You don't know--you cannot
guess how I have missed you."
"Iss fay, but I can, Mister Jan, if you felt same as what I done. 'Tweer
cruel, cruel. But then you've got a many things an' folks to fill up your
time along with; I abbun got nothin' now but you."
"I expect Joe often thinks about you."
"I dunnaw. 'Tis awful wicked, but Joe he gone clean out my mind now. I thot
I loved en, but I was a cheel then an' I didn't 'sackly knaw what love was;
now I do. 'Twadden what I felt for Joe Noy 'tall; 'tis what I feels for
you, Mister Jan."
"Ah, I like to hear you say that. Nature has brought you to me, Joan, my
little jewel; and she has brought Jan to you. You could not understand that
last time I told you; now you can and you do. We belong to each other--you
and I--and to nobody else."
"I'd be well content to belong to 'e, Mister Jan. You'm my good fairy, I
reckon. If I could work for 'e allus an' see 'e an' 'ear 'e every day, I
shouldn' want nothin' better'n that."
Then it was that the shade of a compunction and the shadow of a regret
touched John Barron; and it cooled his hot blood for a brief moment, and he
swore to himself he would try to paint her again as she was. He would fight
Nature for once and try if pure intellect was strong enough to get the face
he wanted on to the canvas without the gratification of his flesh and
blood. In which determination glimmered something almost approaching to
self-sacrifice in such a man. He did not answer Joan's last remark, but
rose and went to his picture, and she, thinking herself snubbed by his
silence after her avowal, grew hot and uncomfortable.
"The weather is going to change, sweetheart," he said, allowing himself the
luxury of affectionate words in the moment of his half-hearted struggle;
"the weather-glass creeps back slowly. We must not waste time. Come, Joan;
we are the children of Nature, but the slaves of Art. Let me try again."
But she, who had spoken in all innocence and with a child's love, was
pained that he should have taken no note of her speech. She was almost
angry that he had power to conjure such words to her lips; and yet the
anger vanished from her mind quickly enough and her thoughts were all happy
as she resumed her pose for him.
The past few days had vastly deepened and widened her mental horizon; and
now Barron for the first time saw something of what he wanted in her eyes
as she gazed away over the sea and did not look at him as usual. There,
sure enough, was the soul that he knew slept somewhere, but had never seen
until then. And the sight of it came as a shock and swept away his
sophistries and ugly-woven ideas. Inclination had told him that Nature,
through one channel only, would bring the mystery of hidden thought to
Joan's blue eyes, and he had felt well satisfied to believe it was so; but
now even the plea of Art could not excuse the thing which had grown within
him of late, for experiences other than those he dreamed of had glorified
the frank blue eyes and brought mind into them. Now it only remained for
him to paint them if he could. Not wholly untroubled, but never much more
beautiful than that morning, Joan gazed out upon the remote sea. Then the
thoughtful mood passed, and she laughed and babbled again, and the new-born
beauty departed from her eyes for a season, and the warm blood raced
through her veins, and she was all happiness. Meanwhile nothing came of his
painting and he was not sorry when she ended the ordeal.
"The bwoats be comin' back home along, Mister Jan. I doan't mark faither's
yet, but when 'tis wance in sight he'll be to Newlyn sooner'n me. So I'd
best be gwaine, though it edn' more than noon, I s'pose. An' my heart's a
tidy sight lighter now than 'tweer issterday indeed."
"I'm almost afraid to let you go, Joan."
She looked at him curiously, waiting for his bidding, but he seemed moody,
and said no more.
"When be you comin' next?"
"To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow, my pearl above price. It is so
hard, so very hard," he answered. "Fine or wet I shall be here to-morrow,
for I am not going back to Newlyn again till my work is done. Three more
sittings, Joan, if you have enough patience--"
"In coorse, Mister Jan."
She did not explain to him what difficulties daily grew in the way of her
coming, how rumor was alive, and how her stepmother had threatened more
than once to tell Gray Michael that his wayward daughter was growing a
gadabout. Joan had explained away her roaming with a variety of more or
less ingenious lies, and she always found her brain startlingly fertile
where the artist and his picture were concerned. She felt little doubt that
three more visits to Gorse Point might be achieved--ay, and thirty more if
necessary. But afterward? What would follow the painting of the picture?
She asked herself the question as he kissed her, with a kiss that was
almost rough, while he bid her go quickly; and the former reply to every
doubt made answer. Her fears fled as usual before the invigorating
spectacle of this sterling, truth-loving man. With him all the future
remained and with him only. Hers was the pleasant, passive task of
obedience to one utterly trusted and passionately loved. Her fate lay
hidden in his heart, as the fate of the clay lies hid in the brain of the
And so home she went, walking in a sunshine of her own thoughts. The clouds
were gone; they massed gloomily on the horizon of the past; but looking
forward, she saw no more of them. All time to come was at the disposition
of the wisest man she had ever met. She did not know or guess at the battle
which this same wise man had fought and lost under her eyes; she gathered
nothing of the truth from his gloom, his silence, his changed voice, his
sudden farewell. She did not know passion when she saw it; and the ugly
visible signs thereof told no tale to her.
That night the change came and the wind veered first to the south, then to
the southwest. By morning, gray clouds hid the sky and hourly grew darker
and lower. As yet no rain fell, but the world had altered, and every
light-value, from an artist's standpoint, was modified.
John Barren sat by his stove in the byre, made himself a cup of black
coffee, and presently, wrapped in a big mackintosh, walked out to Gorse
Point. His picture he left, of course, at the shed, for painting was out of
Nature, who had been smiling so pleasantly in sunshine these many days, now
awoke in a grim gray mood. The sea ran high, its white foam-caps and ridges
fretting the rolling volume of it; the luggers fought their way out with
buried noses and laboring hulls; rain still held off, but it was coming
quickly, and the furze and the young grasses panted for it on Gorse Point.
Below the cliffs a wild spirit inhabited the sea fowl, and they screamed
and wheeled in many an aerial circle, now sliding with motionless
outstretched wing upon the gathering gale, now beating back against it, now
dancing in a fleet and making music far away in the foam. Upon the beach
the dry sand whipped round in little whirls and eddies where wind-gusts
caught it; the naked rocks poked shining weed-covered heads out of a low
tide, and the wet white light of them glimmered raw through the gray tones
of the atmosphere. Now and then a little cloud of dust would puff out from
the cliff-face where the wind dislodged a dry particle of stone or mould;
elsewhere Barren saw the sure-rooted samphire and tufts of sea-pink,
innocent of flowers as yet; and sometimes little squeaking dabs of down
might also be observed below where infant gulls huddled together in the
ledges outside their nests and gazed upon a condition of things as yet
beyond their experience.
Joan came presently to find the artist looking out at the sea.
"You ban't gwaine to paint, I s'pose, 'cause o' this ugly fashion weather?"
"No, sweetheart! All the gold has gone out of the world, and there is
nothing left but lead and dross. See how sharp the green is under the gray,
and note the clearness of the air. Everything is keen and hard upon the eye
to-day; the sky is full of rain and the sea is a wild harmony in gray and
"Iss, the cleeves be callin' this marnin'. 'Tis a sort o' whisper as comes
to a body's ear, an' it means that the high hills knaws the rain is nigh.
An' they tell it wan to t'other, and moans it mournful over the valleys
'pon the wind. 'The storm be comin', the storm be comin',' they sez."
The south and west regions of distance blackened as they sat there on the
cliff, and upon the sea separate heavy gusts of wind roughened up the
hollows of the waves. Which effect seen from afar flickered weirdly like a
sort of submarine lightning shivering white through dark water. Presently a
cloud broke, showing a bank of paler gray behind, and misty silver arrows
fell in broad bands of light upon the sea. They sped round, each upon the
last, like the spokes of a gigantic wheel trundling over the world; then
the clouds huddled together again and the gleam of brightness died.
"You'm wisht this marnin', Mister Jan. You abbun so much as two words for
me. 'Tis 'cause you caan't paint your picksher, I reckon."
He sighed and took her hand in his.
"Don't think that, my Joan. Once I cared nothing for you, everything for my
picture; now I care nothing for my picture, everything for you. And the
better I love you, the worse I paint you. That's funny, isn't it?"
"Iss, 'tis coorious. But I'm sure you do draw me a mighty sight finer than
I be. 'Tis wonnerful clever, an' theer edn' no call to be sad, for no man
else could a done better, I lay."
He did not answer, and still held her hand. Then there came a harder breath
of wind with a sob of sound in it, while already over the distant sea swept
separate gray curtains of rain.
"It's coming, Joan; the storm. It's everywhere, in earth and air and water;
and in my blood. I am savage to-day, Joan, savage and thirsty. What will be
the end of it?"
He spoke wildly, like the weather. She did not understand, but she felt his
hand clinch tightly over hers, and, looking at the white thin fingers
crooked round her wrist, they brought to her mind the twisted claws of a
dead sea-gull she remembered to have found upon the beach.
"What will be the end of it, Joan? Can't you answer me?"
"Doan't 'e, Mister Jan; you'm hurtin' my hand. I s'pose as a sou'westerly
gale be comin'. Us knaws 'em well enough in these paarts. Faither reckoned
theer was dirty weather blawin' up 'fore he sailed. He was away by
daylight. The gales do bring trouble to somebody most times."
"What will be the end of us, I mean, not of the weather? The rain will come
and the clouds will melt, and we know, as sure as God's in heaven, that we
shall see sunshine and blue sky again. But what about our storm, Joan; the
storm of love that's burst in my heart for you--what follows that?"
His question frightened her. She had asked herself the same and been well
content to leave an answer to him. Here he was faced with a like problem
and now invited her to solve it.
"I dunnaw. I thot such love never comed to no end, Mister Jan. I thot
'tweer good to wear; but--but how do I knaw if you doan't?"
"You trust me, Joan?"
"Why, who should I trust, if 'tweern't you? I never knawed any person else
as set such store 'pon the truth. I doan't s'pose the cherrybims in heaven
loves it more'n what you do."
"Here's the rain on the back of the wind," he said.
A few heavy drops fell, cold as ice upon his burning face, and Joan laughed
as she held out her hand, on which a great splash as big as a shilling had
"That be wan of Tregagle's tears," she said, "an' 'tis the voice of en as
you can hear howlin' in the wind. He's allus a bawlin' an' squealin', poor
sawl, but you can awnly hear en now an' again 'fore a storm when the gale
blaws his hollerin' this way."
"Who was Tregagle?"
"He was a lawyer man wance, an' killed a many wives, an' did a many
shameful deeds 'fore he went dead. Then, to Bodmin Court, theer comes a law
case, an' they wanted Tregagle, an' a man said Tregagle was the awnly
witness, and another said he wadden. The second man up an' swore 'If
Tregagle saw it done, then I wish to God he may rise from's graave and come
this minute.' Then, sure enough, the ghost of Tregagle 'peared in the
court-house an' shawed the man was a liar. But they couldn' lay the ghost
no more arter; an' it was a devil-ghost, which is the worstest kind; an' it
stuck close to thicky lyin' man an' wouldn' leave en nohow. But at last a
white witch bound the spirit an' condemned it to empty out Dosmery Pool wi'
a crogan wi' a hole in it. A crogan's a limpet shell, which you mightn't
knaw, Mister Jan. Tregagle, he done that party quick, an' then he was at
the man again; but a passon got the bettermost of en an' tamed en wi'
Scripture till Tregagle was as gentle as a cheel. Then they set en to work
agin an' bid en make a truss o' sand down in Gwenvor Cove, an' carry it
'pon his shoulder up to Carn Olva. Tregagle weer a braave time doin' that,
I can 'sure 'e, but theer comed a gert frost wan winter, an' he got water
from the brook an' poured it 'pon the truss o' sand, so it froze hard. Then
he carried it up Carn Olva; an' then, bein' a free spirit agin, he flew off
quicker'n lightning to that lyin' man to tear en to pieces this time. But
by good chance, when Tregagle comed to en, the man weer carryin' a lil
baaby in's arms--a lil cheel as had never done a single wicked act, bein'
tu young; so Tregagle couldn' do no hurt. An' they caught en again, an'
passon set en 'pon another job: to make a truss o' sand in Whitsand Bay
wi'out usin' any fresh water. But Tregagle caan't never do that; so he
cries bitter sometimes, an' howls; an' when 'e howls you knaw the storm's a
comin' to scatter the truss o' sand he's builded up."
Barron followed the legend with interest. Tregagle and his victim and the
charm of the pure child that saved one from the other filled his thought
and the event to which Fate was now relentlessly dragging him. He argued
with himself a little; then the rain came down and the wind leaped like a
lion over the edge of the land, and the man's blood boiled as he breathed
"Us'll be wetted proper. I'll run for it, Mister Jan, an' you'd best to go
up-long to your lil lew house. Wet's bad for 'e, I reckon."
"No," he said, "I can't let you go, Joan. Look over there. Another flood is
going to burst, I think. Follow me quickly, quickly."
The rain came slanting over the gorse in earnest, but Joan hesitated and
hung back. Louder than the wind, louder than the cry of the birds, than the
howling of Tregagle, than the calling of the cleeves, spoke something. And
it said "Turn, on the wing of the storm; fly before it, alone. Let this man
walk in the teeth of the gale if he will; but you, Joan Tregenza, follow
the wind and set your face to the east, where the sole brightness now left
in the sky is shining."
Sheets of gray swept over them; the world was wet in an instant; a little
mist of water splashed up two inches high off the ground; the gorse tossed
and swayed its tough arms; the sea and the struggling craft upon it
vanished like a dream; from the heart of the storm cried gulls, themselves
"Come, Joan, we shall be drowned."
He had wrapped her in a part of the mackintosh, and laughed as he fastened
them both into it and hugged her close to himself. But she broke away,
greatly fearing, yet knowing not what she feared.
"I reckon I'd best run down fast. Indeed an' I want to go."
"Go? Where? Where should you go? Come to me, Joan; you shall; you must. We
two, sweetheart--we two against the rain and the wind and the world. Come!
It will kill me to stand here, and you don't want that."
"Come, I say. Quicker and quicker! We two--only we two. Don't make me
command you, my priceless treasure of a Joan. Come with me. You are mine
now and always. Quicker and quicker, I say. God! what rain!"
Still she hesitated and he grew angry.
"This is folly, madness. Where is your trust and belief? You don't trust,
nor love, nor--"
"Doan't 'e say that! Never say that! It edn' true. You'm all to me, an' you
knaws it right well, an' I'll gaw to the world's end with 'e, I will--ay,
an' trust 'e wi' my life!"
He moved away and she followed, hastening as he hastened. Unutterable
desolation marked the spot. Life had vanished save only where sheep
clustered under a bank with their tails to the weather, and long-legged
lambs blinked their yellow eyes and bleated as the couple passed. Despite
their haste the man and the girl were very wet before reaching the shelter
of the byre. Rain-water dribbled off his cap on to his hot face and his
feet were soaking. Joan was breathless with haste; her draggled skirts
clung to her; and the struggle against the storm made her giddy.
So they reached the place of shelter; and the gale burst over it with a
great, crowning yell of wind and hurtle of rain. Then John Barren opened
the byre door and Joan Tregenza passed in before him; whereupon he followed
and shut the door.
A loose slate clattered upon the roof, and from inside the byre it sounded
like a hand tapping high above the artist's bed of brown fern--tapping some
message which neither the man nor the girl could read--tapping, tapping,
tapping tirelessly upon ears wholly deaf to it.
For a week the rain came down and it blew hard from the west. Then the
weather moderated, and there were intervals of brightness and mild, damp
warmth that brought a green veil trembling over the world like magic. The
elms broke into a million buds, the pear trees in sunny corners put forth
snowy flowers; the crimson knobs of the apple-blossom prepared to unfold.
In the market gardens around and about Newlyn the plums were already
setting, the wallflowers, which make a carpet of golden-brown beneath the
fruit-trees in many orchards, were velvety with bloom; the raspberry canes,
bent hoop-like in long rows, beautifully brightened the dark earth with
young green; and verdure likewise twinkled even to the heart of the
forests, to the stony nipples of the moor's vast, lonely bosom. So spring
came, heralded by the thrush; borne upon the wings of the western wind. And
then followed a brief change with more heavy rains and lower temperature.
The furzes on Gorse Point were a scented glory now--a nimbus of gold for
the skull of the lofty cliff. Here John Barren and Joan Tregenza had met
but twice since the beginning of the unsettled weather. For her this period
was in a measure mysterious and strange. Centuries of experience seemed to
separate her from the past, and, looking backward, infinite spaces of time
already stretched between what had been and what was. Now overmuch sorrow
mingled with her reflections, though a leaven of it ran through all--a
sense of loss, of sacrifice, of change, which flits, like the shadow of a
summer cloud, even through the soul of the most deeply loving woman who
ever opened her eyes to smile upon the first day-dawn of married life. But
Joan's sorrow was no greater than that, and little unquiet or uneasiness
went with it. She had his promises; from him they could but be absolute;
and not a hundred attested ceremonies had left her heart more at ease. In
fact she believed that John Barren was presently going to marry her, and
that when he vanished from Newlyn, she, as the better-loved part of
himself, would vanish too. It was the old, stale falsehood which men have
told a hundred thousand times; which men will go on telling and women
believing, because it is the only lie which meets all requirements of the
case and answers its exact purpose effectively. Age cannot wither it, for
experience is no part of the armor of the deceived, and Love and Trust have
never stopped to think since the world began.
As for the artist, each day now saw him slipping more deeply, more
comfortably back into the convolutions of his old impersonal shell. He had
been dragged out, not unwilling, by a giant passion, and he had sacrificed
to it, sent it to sleep again, and so returned. He felt infinitely kind to
Joan. A week after her visit to the linhay he, while sitting alone there,
had turned her picture about on the easel, withdrawn its face from the wall
and studied his work. And looking, with restored critical faculty and cold
blood, he loved the paint for itself and deemed it very good. The storm was
over, the transitory lightnings drowned lesser lights no more, and that
steady beacon-flame of his life, which had been merged, not lost, in the
fleeting blaze, now shone out again, steadfast and clear. Such a revulsion
of feeling argued well for the completion of his picture, ill for the model
They sat one day, as the weather grew more settled, beside a granite
bowlder, which studded the short turf at the extremity of Gorse Point,
where it jutted above the sea. Joan, with her chin upon her hands, looked
out upon the water; Barron, lying on a railway-rug, leaned back and smoked
his pipe and studied her face with the old, keen, passionless eagerness of
their earliest meetings.
"When'll 'e tell me, Jan love? When'll 'e tell me what 'e be gwaine to do?
Us be wan now--you an' me--but the lines be all the lovin'est wife can
p'int to in proof she _be_ a wife. Couldn't us be axed out in church
He did not make immediate answer, but only longed for his easel. There, in
her face, was the wistful, far-away expression he had sighed for; a measure
of thought had come to the little animal--her brains were awake and her
blue eyes had never looked liked this before. Joan asked the question
again, and Barren answered.
"The same matter was in my own mind, sweetheart. I am in a mighty hurry
too, believe it. You are safe with your husband, Joan. You belong to me
now, and you must trust the future with me. All that law demands to make us
man and wife it shall have; and all religion clamors for as well, if that
is a great matter to you. But not here--in this Newlyn. I think of you when
I say that, Joan, for it matters nothing to me."
"Iss. I dunnaw what awful sayin's might go abroad. Things is all contrary
to home as 'tis. Mother's guessed part an' she tawld faither I weer gwaine
daft or else in love wi' some pusson else than Joe. An' faither was short
an' sharp, an' took me out walkin', an' bid me bide at home an' give over
trapsin' 'bout. An' 'e said as 'ow I was tokened to Joe Noy an' bound by
God A'mighty to wait for en if 'twas a score years. But if faither had
knawed I weer never for Noy, he'd a' said more'n that. I ban't 'feared o'
faither now I knaws you, Jan, but I be cruel 'feared o' bein' cussed,
'cause theer's times when cusses doan't fall to the ground but sticks.
'Twouldn' be well for the likes o' you to have a ill-wished, awver-luked
body for wife. An' if faither knawed 'bout you, then I lay he'd do more'n
speak. So like's not he'd strike me dead for't, bein' that religious. But
you must take me away, Jan, dear heart. I'm yourn now an' you must go on
lovin' me allus, 'cause theer'll never be nobody else to not now. I've
chose you an' gived 'e myself an' I caan't do no more."
He listened to her delicious voice, and shut out the crude words as much as
might be while he marked the music. He was thinking that if Joan had
possessed a reasonable measure of intellect, a foundation for an education,
he would have been satisfied to keep her about him during that probably
limited number of years which must span his existence. But the gulf between
them was too wide; and, as for the present position, he considered that no
harm had been done which time would not remedy. Joan was not sufficiently
intelligent to suffer long or much. She would forget quickly. She was very
young. Her sailor must return before the end of the year. Then he began to
think of money, and then sneered at himself. But, after all, it was natural
that he should follow step by step upon the beaten track of similar events.
"Better not attempt originality," he thought, "for the thing I have done is
scarce capable of original treatment. I suppose the curtain always rings
down on a check--either taken or spurned."
"So you think you can give them all up for poor me, Joan? Your home, your
father, brother, mother--all?"
"I've gived up a sight more'n them, Jan. I've gived 'e what's all to a
maiden. But my folks weern't hard to give up. 'Tis long since they was
ought to me now. I gaws an' comes from the cottage an' sez, all the time,
'this ban't home no more. Mister Jan's home be mine,' I sez to myself. An'
each time as I breaks bread, an' sleeps, an' wakes, an' looks arter
faither's clothes I feels 'tis wan time nigher the last. They'll look back
an' think what a snake 'twas they had 'bout the house, I s'pose. Mother'll
whine an' say, 'Ah! 'er was a bitter weed for sartain,' an' faither'll
thunder till the crocks rattle an' bid none dare foul the air wi' my name
no more. But I be wearyin' of 'e wi' my clackin', Jan, dear heart?"
"Not so, Joan--never think that. I could listen to you till Doomsday. Only
we must act now and talk presently. I know you're tired of the picture, and
you were cross last time we met because I could speak of it; but I must for
a moment more. It cries out to be finished. A few hours' good work and
all's done. The weather steadies now and the glass is rising, so our
sittings may begin in a day or two. Let me make one last, grand struggle.
Then, if I fail, I shall fling the picture over this cliff, and my palette
and brushes after it. So we will keep our secret a little longer. Then,
when the picture is made or marred, away we'll go, and by the time they
miss you from your old home you will be half way to your new one."
But she did not heed the latter part of his remarks, for her thoughts were
occupied with what had gone before.
"'Pears, when all's said, you'd sooner have the picksher Joan than the real
wan. 'Tis all the picksher an' the picksher an' the picksher."
This was not less than the truth, but of course he blamed her for so
speaking, and said her words hurt him.
"'Tis this way," she said, "I've larned so much since I knawed 'e, an' I be
like as if I was woke from a sleep. Things is all differ'nt now; but 'tis
awnly my gert love for 'e as makes me 'feared sometimes 'cause life's too
butivul to last. An' the picksher frights me more'n fancy, 'cause,
seemin'ly, theer's two Joans, an' the picksher Joan's purtier than me.
'Er's me, but better'n me. 'Er's allus bright an' bonny; 'er's never
crossed an' wisht; 'er 'olds 'er tongue an' doan't talk countrified same as
me. Theer'll never be no tears nor trouble in her eyes; she'll bring 'e a
name, an' bide purty an'--an' I hates the picksher now, so I do."
Barron listened with considerable interest to these remarks. There was
passion in Joan's voice as she concluded, and her emotion presently found
relief in tears. She only uttered thoughts long in her mind, without for an
instant guessing the grim truth or suspecting what his work was to the man;
yet, things being as they were, she felt some real passing pain to find him
devote so much thought to it. Before the storm his painting had sunk to
insignificance, since then it began to grow into a great matter again; and
Joan was honestly jealous of the attention the artist bestowed upon it now.
If she had dared, she would have asked him to destroy it; but something
told her he would refuse. No fear for the future was mingled with this
emotion. Only his mighty interest in the work annoyed her. It was a natural
petty jealousy; and when John Barron laughed at her and kissed her tears
away, she laughed too and felt a little ashamed, though none the less glad
that she had spoken.
But while he flung jests at her anger, Barron felt secretly surprised to
note the strides his Awdrey's mind was making. Much worth consideration
appeared in her sudden attack upon the picture. She had evidently been
really reflecting, with coherence and lucidity. That astonished him. But
still he answered with a laugh.
"Jealous, Joan! Jealous of yourself--of the poor painted thing which has
risen from the contents of small tubes smeared over a bit of canvas! My
funny little dear delight! Will you always amuse me, I wonder? I hope you
will. Nobody else can. Why, the gorse there will grumble next and think I
love my poor, daubed burlesque of its gold better than the thing itself. If
I find pleasure in the picture, how much the more must I love the soul of
it? You see, I'm ambitious. You are quite the hardest thing I ever found to
paint, and so I go on trying and trying. Hard to win and hard to paint,
She stretched out her hands to him and shook her head.
"Not hard to win, Jan. Easy enough to win to you. I ne'er seed the likes o'
you in my small world. Not hard to win I wasn't."
"You won't refuse me a few more sittings, then, because you have become my
"In coorse not. An' I'm so sorry I was cranky. I 'dedn' mean what I said
To-day, coming fresh to his ear after a week's interval, after several days
spent with cultured friends and acquaintances in Newlyn, Joan's rustic
speech grated more painfully than usual. Once he had found pleasure in it;
but he was not a Cornishman to love the sound of those venerable words
which sprinkled Joan's utterances and which have long since vanished from
all vocabularies save those of the common people; and now her language
began to get upon his nerves and jar them. He was tired of it. Often, while
he painted, she had prattled and he, occupied with his work, had heard
nothing; but to-day he recognized the debt he owed and listened patiently
for a considerable time. Her deep expectancy irritated him too. He had
anticipated that, however, and was aware that her trust and confidence in
him were alike profound. Perhaps a shadow of fear, distrust or uneasiness
had pleased him better. He was snugly back in his tub of impersonality from
which he liked to view the fools' show drift pass. His last experiment in
the actively objective had ruined a girl and promised to produce a fine
picture. And that was the end of it. No fellow-creature could ever share
this cynic's barrel with him.
Presently Joan departed upon her long tramp home. She had gone to convey a
message to one of Thomasin Tregenza's friends at Paul. And when the girl
left him, with a promise to come at all costs upon the next sunny morning,
Barron began to think about money again. He found that the larger the
imaginary figures, the smaller shadow of discomfort clouded his thoughts.
So he decided upon an act of princely generosity, as the result of which
resolve peace returned and an unruffled mind. For the musty conventionality
of his conclusion, it merely served as a peg upon which to hang thoughts
not necessary to set down here.
Joan had only told her lover a part of what happened in her home when
Thomasin broke her suspicions to Gray Michael. He had taken the matter very
seriously indeed, delivered a stern homily and commanded his daughter to
read the Book of Ecclesiasticus through thrice.
"'The gad-about is a vain thing and a mighty cause for stumblin'.' You mind
that, an' take better care hencefarrard to set a right example to other
maids an' not lead 'em wrong. Theer shan't be no froward liver under this
roof, Joan Tregenza, an' you, as be my awn darter's the last I'd count to
She lied as to particulars. She had no fear of her father now as a man, but
hard words always hurt her, and superstition, though she was fast breaking
from many forms of it under Barron's tuition, still chained her soul in
some directions. Did her father know even a shadow of the truth, some dire
and blasting prediction would probably result from it, and though
personally he was little to her now, as a mouthpiece of supernatural powers
he might bring blighting words upon her; for he walked with God. But
Michael's God was Joan's no more. She had fled from that awful divinity to
the more beautiful Creator of John Barron. He was kind and gentle, and she
loved to hear His voice in the hum of the bees upon the gorse and see His
face everywhere in the fair on-coming of spring. Nature, as she understood
it now, chimed with the things her mother had taught Joan. She found room
for all the old, pretty stories in this new creed. The dear saints fitted
in with it, and their wonders and mysteries, and the comprehensive if vague
knowledge that "God is Love." She believed she understood the truth about
religion at last; and Nature smiled very sweetly at her and shared in the
delight of the time. So she walked dreaming on toward the invisible door of
her fool's paradise, and never guessed how near it was or what Nature would
look like from the other side.
She still dwelt at the little home on the cliff, so unreal and shadowy now;
she built cloud castles ablaze with happiness; she found falsehood not
difficult, for her former absolute truthfulness deadened her stepmother's
suspicion. Certain lies told at home enabled her to keep faith with the
artist; and the weather also befriending him, three more sittings in speedy
succession brought John Barron to the end of his labors. After Joan's
exhibition of jealousy he was careful to say little about his work and
affect no further interest in it. He let her chatter concerning the future,
told her of his big house in London, and presently took care to drop hints
from time to time that the habitation was by no means as yet ready to
receive his bride. She always spoke on the assumption that when the picture
was done he would leave for London and take her with him. She already
imagined herself creeping off to join him at the station, sitting beside
him in the train, and then rolling away, past Marazion, into the great
unfamiliar world which lay beyond. And he knew that no such thing would
happen. He intended that Joan should become a pleasant memory, with the
veil of distance and time over it to beautify what was already beautiful.
He wanted to remember the music of her throbbing voice, and forget the
words it used to utter. The living girl's part was played and ended. Their
lives had crossed at right angles and would never meet again. "Nature makes
a glorious present to Art, and I am privileged to execute the deed of
gift," thought Barron; "that is the position in an epigram." He felt very
grateful to Joan. He knew her arm must have ached often enough, but whether
her heart would presently do so he hardly felt qualified to judge. The
incidents of that stormy day might have been buried in time ten years, so
faint was his recollection of them now. He remembered the matter with no
greater concern than the image of the shivering negresses in the blue water
And so the picture, called "Joe's Ship," was finished, and while it fell
far short of what Barron had hoped, yet he knew his work was great and the
best thing he had done. A packing case for the canvas was already ordered
and he expected it upon the identical day that saw his farewell to Joan.
Bit by bit he had broken to her that it was not his intention to take her
with him, but that he must go to his house alone and order things in
readiness. Then he would come back and fetch her. And she had accepted the
position and felt wondrous sad at the first meeting with Barren after the
completion of the picture. It seemed as though a great link was broken
between them, and she realized now what folly her dislike of his work had
"I wish I could take you right away with me, Joan, my little love; but a
bachelor's house is a comfortless concern from a woman's point of view. You
will hear from me in a day or two. You must call at the post-office in
Penzance for letters, because I shall not send them here."
"You'll print out what you writes big, so's I doan't miss nort, won't 'e?"
"I'll make the meaning as clear as possible, Joan."
"'Tis wisht to think as theer'll be hunderds o' miles 'twixt us. I doan't
know how I be gwaine to live the days out."
"Only a fortnight, remember."
"Fourteen whole days an' nights."
"Yes, indeed. It seems a terribly long time. You must comfort me,
sweetheart, and tell me that they will be very quickly done with."
Joan laughed at this turning of the tables.
"I reckon a man's allus got a plenty things to make time pass for en. But
'tis different wi' a gal."
She trusted him as she trusted God to lift the sun out of the eastern sea
next morning and swing it in its solemn course over heaven. And as there
was no fear of danger and no shadow of distrust upon her, Joan made a
braver parting than her lover expected.
"Some men are coming to see my picture presently," he said, very gently. "I
expect my sweet Joan would like to be gone before they arrive."
She took the hint, braced her heart for the ordeal, and rose from where
they had been sitting on Gorse Point. She looked dreamily a moment at the
furzes and the place whereon she had stood so often, then turned to the man
and came close and held up four little spring lilies which she had brought
with her. Her voice grew unsteady, but she mastered it again and smiled at
"I brot these for 'e, dear Jan. Us calls 'em butter-an'-eggs, 'cause o' the
colors, I s'pose. They'm awnly four lil flowers. Will 'e keep 'em? An'--an'
give me summat as I can knaw's just bin in your hand, will 'e? 'Tis
fulishness, dear heart, but I'm thinkin' 'twould make the days a dinky bit
He took the gift, thought a moment, and gave her a little silver ring off
his finger. Then he kissed her, pressed her close to him and said
"good-by," asking God to bless her, and so forth.
With but a few tears rebelling against her determination, Joan prayed good
upon his head, repaid the caress, begged him for his love to come quickly
back again, then tore herself away, turned and hastened off with her head
held bravely up. But the green fields swam and the sea danced for her a
moment later. The world was all splashed and blotched and misty. "I'll be
braave like him," she thought, smothering the great sobs and rubbing her
knuckles into her eyes till she hurt them. But she could not stem the
sorrow in a moment, and, climbing through a gap in the hedge, she sat down,
where only ewes and lambs might see, and cried bitterly a while. And so
weeping, a sensation, strange, vague, tremendous, came into her being; and
she knew not what it meant; but the mystery of it filled her with great
awe. "'Tis God," she said to herself, "'tis God's hand upon me. He've
touched me, He've sealed me to dear, dear Jan. 'Tis a feelin' to bring
happiness along with it, nor sorrer." She battled with herself to read the
wonder aright, and yet at the bottom of her heart was fear. Then physical
sensations distracted her; she found her head was aching and her body
feeling sick. Truly the girl had been through an ordeal that day, and so
she explained her discomfort. "I be wivvery an' wisht along o' leavin' en,"
she said; "oh! kind, good God A'mighty, as hears all, send en back to me,
send en back to me very soon, for I caan't live wi'out en no more."
As for the man, he sighed when Joan disappeared; and the expiration of
breath was short and sharp as the sound of a key in a lock. He had in truth
turned the key upon a diary to be opened no more; for the sweetness of the
closed chapter was embalmed in memory, blazoned on canvas. Yet there was
bitterness, too, of a sort in his sigh, and the result of this sunken
twinge at his heart appeared when Brady, Tarrant and one or two other
artists presently joined him. They saw their companion was perturbed, and
found him plunged into a black, cynic fit more deeply than usual. He spared
no subject, no individual, least of all himself.
Paul Tarrant--a Christian painter, already mentioned--was the first to
find fault with Barron's picture. The rest had little but praise for it,
and Brady, who grew madly enthusiastic, swore that "Joe's Ship" was the
finest bit of work that ever went out of Cornwall. But Tarrant cherished a
private grievance, and, as his view of art and ethics made it possible for
him, from his standpoint, to criticise the picture unfavorably in some
respects, he did so. It happened that he had recently finished a curious
work for the Academy: a painting called "The Good Shepherd." It represented
a young laboring man with a face of rare beauty but little power, plodding
homeward under setting sunlight. Upon his arm he bore a lamb, and behind
his head the sinking sun made a glorious nimbus. Barron had seen this work,
admired some of the painting, but bluntly sneered at the false sentiment
and vulgar parade of religious conviction which, as he conceived, animated
the whole. And now, the other man, in whose heart those contemptuous words
still rankled, found his turn had come. He had bitterly resented Barron's
sarcastic reference to those holy things which guided his life; there was
something of feminine nature in him too; so he did not much regret the
"And you, Tarrant? This gives you scant pleasure--eh?" asked Barron.
"It is very wonderful painting, but there's nothing under the paint that I
"Nothing but the canvas--in so far at least as the spectator is concerned.
Every work of art must have a secret history only known to its creator."
"What the divil d'you mean, Paul?" asked Brady.
"You know what I mean well enough," answered the first speaker coldly. "My
views are not unfamiliar to any of you. Here is a thing without a soul--to
"God! you say that! You can look at those eyes and say that?"
"I admire the painting, but _cui bono_? Who is the better, the wiser?
There is nothing under the paint."
"You are one of those who turn shadows into crosses, clouds into angels. Is
it not so?" asked Barron smiling; and the other fired at this allusion to
his best known picture.
"I am one of those who know that Art is the handmaid of God," he answered
hotly. "I happen to believe in Jesus Christ, and I conceive that no picture
is worthy to be called great or worthy of any Christian's painting unless
it possess some qualities calculated to ennoble the mind of those who see.
Art is the noblest labor man can employ time upon. The thing comes from
God; it is a talent only to be employed in the highest sense when devoted
to His glory."
"Then what of heathen art? You let your religion distort your view of
Nature. You sacrifice truth to a dogma. Nature has no ethics. You profess
to paint facts and paint them wrong. You are not a mystic; that we could
understand and criticise accordingly. You try to run with the hare and hunt
with the hounds. You talk about truth and paint things not true."
"From your standpoint possibly. Yours is the truth of naturalism; mine is
the truth of Faith."
"If you are going to entrench yourself behind Faith, I have done, of
course. Only, don't go about saying, as you did just now, that Art is the
noblest labor man can employ time upon. That's bosh, pure and simple. There
are some occupations not so noble, that is all. Art is a heathen and always
will be, and you missionary-men, with a paint-brush in one hand and a Bible
in the other, are even worse than certain objectionable literary
celebrities, whose novels reek of the 'new journalism' and the Sermon on
the Mount--the ridiculous and sublime in tasteless combination. You
missionaries, I say, sap the primitive strength of Art; you demoralize her.
To dare to make Art pander to a passing creed is vile--worse than the
spectacle of the Salvation Army trying to convert Buddhists. That I saw in
India, and laughed. But we won't quarrel. You paint Faith's jewelry; I'll
amuse myself with Truth's drabs and duns. The point of view is all. I
depict pretty Joan Tregenza looking over the sea to catch a glimpse of her
sweetheart's outward-bound ship. I paint her just as I saw her. There was
no occasion to leave out or put in. I reveled in a mere brutal transcript
of Nature. You would have set her down by one of the old Cornish crosses
praying to Christ to guard her man. And round her you would have wrought a
world of idle significance. You would have twisted dogma into the flowers
and grass-blades. The fact that the girl happened to be practically
brainless and a Luke Gospeler would not have weighed with you a moment."
"I'm weary of the old cant about Nature," said Tarrant. "You're a
naturalist and a materialist. That ends it. There is no possibility of
argument between us."
"Would the man who painted that gorse cant?" burst out Brady. "Damn it all,
Tarrant, if a chap can teach us to paint, perhaps he can teach us something
else as well. Look at that gorse, I tell you. That's the truth, won with
many a wrestle and heartache, I'll swear. You know as well as I do what
went to get that, and yet you say there's nothing behind the paint. That's
cant, if you like. And as to your religious spirit, what's the good of
preaching sermons in paint if the paint's false? We're on it now and I'll
say what I believe, which is that your 'Good Shepherd' is all wrong, apart
from any question of sentiment at all. Your own party will probably say
it's blasphemous, and I say it's ridiculous. You've painted a grand sky and
then ruined it with the subject. Did you ever see a man's head bang between
you and a clear setting sun? Any way, that figure of yours was never
painted with a sunset behind him, I'll swear."
"You can't paint truth as you find it and preach truth as you believe it on
the same canvas if you belong to any creed but mine," said Barron calmly.
"You build on the foundations of Art a series of temples to your religious
convictions. You blaze Christianity on every canvas. I suppose that is
natural in a man of your opinions, but to me it is as painful as the
spectacle of advertisements of quack nostrums planted, as you shall see
them, beside railway lines--here in a golden field of buttercups, there
rising above young barley. Of course, I don't presume to assert that your
faith is a quack nostrum; only real Art and Religion won't run in double
harness for you or anybody. They did once, but the world has passed beyond
"Never," answered Tarrant. "We have proof of it. Souls have been saved by
pictures. That is as certain as that God made the earth and everything on
"There again! Every word you speak only shows how difficult it is for us to
exchange ideas. Why is it so positively certain that God made the earth and
everything on it? To attribute man's origin direct to God is always, in my
mind, the supreme proposition of human conceit. Did it need a God to
manufacture you or me or Brady? I don't think so. Consider creation. I
suppose if an ant could gauge the ingenuity of a steam engine, he would
attribute it without hesitation to God, but it happens that the steam
engine is the work of a creature--a being standing somewhere between God
and the ant, but much nearer the latter than the former. You follow me?
Even Tarrant will admit, for it is an article of his creed, that there
exist many beings nearer to God than man. They have wings, he would tell
us, and are eternal, immortal, everlasting."
"I see," said Brady, "you're going to say next that faulty concerns like
this particular world are the work of minor intelligences. What rot you can
talk at times, old man!"
"Yet is it an honor to God Almighty that we attribute the contents of this
poor pill of a planet to Him? I think it would be an insult if you ask me.
Out of respect to the Everlasting, I would rather suppose that the earth,
being by chance a concern too small for His present purposes, He tosses it,
as we toss a dog a bone, to some ingenious archangel with a theory. Then
you enjoy the spectacle of that seraph about as busy over this notable
world as a child with a mud pie. The winged one sets to work with a will. A
little pinch of life; develops under his skillful manipulation; evolution
takes its remorseless course through the wastes of Time until--behold! the
apotheosis of the ape at last. Picture that well-meaning but muddle-headed
archangel's dismay at such a conclusion! All his theories and conceits--his
splendid scheme of evolution and the rest--end in a mean but obstinate
creature with conscious intelligence and an absolute contempt and disregard
for Nature. This poor Frankenstein of a cherub watches the worm he has
produced defy him and refuse absolutely to obey his most fundamental
postulates or accept his axioms. The fittest survive no more; these
gregarious, new-born things presently form themselves into a pestilential
society, they breed rubbish, they--"
"By God! stop it, John," said Murdoch. "Now you're going too far. Look at
Tarrant. He'd burn you over a slow fire for this if he could. Speak for
yourself at any rate, not for us."
"I do," answered the other bitterly. "I speak for myself. I know what a
poor, rotten cur I am physically and mentally--not worth the bread I eat to
keep me alive. And shall I dare say that God made me?"
"But what's the end of this philosophy of despair, old chap?" asked Brady;
"what becomes of your worst of all possible planets?"
"The end? Dust and ashes. My unfortunate workman, having blundered on for
certain millions of years tinkering and patching and improving his dismal
colony, will give the thing up; and God will laugh and show him the
mistakes and then blot the essay out, as a master runs his pen through the
errors in a pupil's exercise. The earth grows cold at last, and the herds
of humanity die, and the countless ages of agony and misery are over. Yes,
the poor vermin perish to the last one; then their black tomb goes whirling
on until it shall be allowed to meet another like itself, when a new sun
shines in heaven and space is the richer by one more star."
"May God forgive you for your profanity, John Barren," said Tarrant. "That
He places in your hand such power and suffers your brain to breed the
devil's dung that fills it, is to me a mystery. May you live to learn your
errors and regret them."
He turned away and two men followed him. Conversation among those who
remained reverted to the picture; and presently all were gone, excepting
only Barren, who had to wait and see his work packed.
Remorse will take strange shapes. His bitter tirade against his environment
and himself was the direct result of this man's recent experiences. He knew
himself for a mean knave in his dealings with an innocent girl and the
thought turned the aspect of all things into gall.
Solitude brought back a measure of peace. The picture was packed and
started to Penzance railway-station, while Barron's tools also went, by
pony-cart, back to his rooms in Newlyn. He was to leave upon the following
morning with Murdoch and others who were taking their work to the
Now he looked round the cow-byre before locking it for the last time and
returning the key to Farmer Ford's boy, who waited outside to receive it.
"The chapter is ended," he said to himself. "The chapter which contains the
best thing that ever I did, and, I suppose, the worst, as morals have it.
Yet Art happily rises above those misty abstractions which we call right
and wrong. She resembles Nature herself there. Both demand their
sacrifices. 'The white martyrdom of self-denial, the red martyrdom of
blood--each is a thousand times recorded in the history of painting and
will be a thousand times again."
THE ACT OF FAITH
So John Barren set forth, well content to believe that he would never again
visit Cornwall, and Joan called at the Penzance post-office on the morning
which followed his departure. Her geographical knowledge was scanty. Truro
and Plymouth, in her belief, lay somewhere upon the edge of the world; and
she scarcely imagined that London could be much more remote.
But no letter awaited her, and life grew to be terribly empty. For a week
she struggled with herself to keep from the post-office, and then, nothing
doubting that her patience would now be well rewarded, Joan marched off
with confidence for the treasure. But only a greater disappointment than
the last resulted; and she went home very sorrowful, building up
explanations of the silence, finding excuses for "Mister Jan." The prefix
to his name, which had dropped during their latter intimacy, returned to
her mind now the man was gone: as "Mister Jan" it was that she thought
about him and prayed for him.
The days passed quickly, and when a fortnight stood between herself and the
last glimpse of her lover, Joan began to grow very anxious. She wept
through long nights now, and her father, finding the girl changed, guessed
she had a secret and told his wife to find it out. But it was some time
before Thomasin made any discovery, for Joan lied stoutly by day and prayed
to God to pardon by night. She strove hard to follow the teaching of the
artist, to find joy in flowers and leaves, in the spring music of birds, in
the color of the sea. But now she dimly guessed that it was love of him
which went so far to make all things beautiful, that it was the magic and
wisdom of his words which had gilded the world with gold and thrown new
light upon the old familiar objects of life. Nature's organ was dumb now
that the hands which played upon it so skillfully had passed far away. But
she was loyal to her teacher; she remembered many things which he had said
and tried hard to feel as he felt, to put her hand in beautiful Mother
Nature's and walk with her and be at peace. Mister Jan would soon return;
the fortnight was already past; each day as she rose she felt he might come
to claim her before the evening.
And, meanwhile, other concerns occupied her thoughts. The voice which spoke
to her after she bid John Barren "good-by," had since then similarly
sounded on the ear of her heart. Alike at high noon and in the silence of
the night watches it addressed her; and the mystery of it, taken with her
other sorrows, began to affect her physically. For the first time in her
life the girl felt ill in body. Her appetite failed, dawn found her sick
and weary; her glass told her of a white, unhappy face, of eyes that were
lighted from within and shone with strange thoughts. She was always
listening now--listening for the new voice, that she might hear the word it
uttered. Her physical illness she hid with some cunning and put a bright
face upon life as far as she could do so before those of her home; but the
task grew daily more difficult. Then, with a period of greatly increased
discomfort, Joan grew alarmed and turned to the kind God of "Mister Jan,"
and made great, tearful praying for a return of strength. Her petition was
apparently granted, for the girl enjoyed some improvement of health and
spirit. Whereupon she became fired with a notable thought, and determined
to seek her patron saint where still she suspected his power held sway: at
the little brook which tinkles along beside the ruins of St. Madron's
chapel in a fair coomb below the Cornish moorlands. The precious water, as
Joan remembered, had brought strength and health to her when a baby; and
now the girl longed to try its virtues again, and a great conviction grew
upon her that the ancient saint never forgot his own little ones.
Opportunity presently offered, and through the first misty gray of a
morning in early April, she set out upon her long tramp from Newlyn through
Madron to the ruined baptistery.
St. Madron, or Padern, lived in the sixth century, somewhat earlier than
Augustine. A Breton by birth, he labored chiefly in Wales, established a
monastery on Brito-Celtic lines in Cardiganshire, and became its bishop
when a see was established in that district. He traveled far, visited
Mount's Bay and established the church of Madron, still sacred to his name,
while doubtless the brook and chapel hard by were associated with him from
the same period. In Scawen's time folk were wont to take their hurts
thither on Corpus Christi evening, drink of the water, deposit an offering,
and repose upon the chapel floor till dawn. Then, drinking again, they
departed whole, if faith sufficiently mighty had supported them. Norden
remarks of the water that "its fame was great for the supposed vertue of
healinge, which St. Maderne had thereunto infused; and maine votaries made
anuale pilgrimages unto it...." In connection with the custom of immersion
here indicated, we find there obtained the equally venerable practice of
hanging votive rags upon the thorn bushes round about the chapel. This
conceit is ancient as Japan, and one not only in usage to this day among
the Shintoists of that land, but likewise common throughout Northern Asia
and, nearer home, in the Orkneys, in Scotland, in Ireland. Older far than
Christianity are these customs; the megalithic monuments of the pagan
witness similar practices in remote corners of the earth; rag-trees,
burdened with the tattered offerings of the devout, yet stud the desert of
Suez, and those who seek shall surely find some holy well or grave hard at
hand in every case. To mark and examine the junction of these venerable
fancies with Christian superstition is no part of our present purpose, but
that ideas, pagan in their birth, have lent themselves with sufficient
readiness to successive creeds and been knit into the dogmas of each in
turn, is certain enough. Thus, through Cornwall, the imaginings of wizard
and wonder-worker in hoary time come, centuries later, to be the glory and
special power of a saint. Such fantastic lore was definitely interdicted in
King Edgar's reign, when "stone worshipings, divinations, well worshipings
and necromances" were proclaimed things heathen, and unhallowed; but with
the advent of the Saint-Bishops from Wales, from Ireland, from Brittany,
primitive superstitions were patched upon the new creed, and, to suit
private purposes, the old giants of the Christian faith sanctified holy
well and holy stone, posing by right divine as sure dispensers of the
hidden virtue in stream and granite. But the roots of these fables burrow
back to paganism. Hundreds of weakly infants were passed through
Men-an-tol--the stone with a hole or the "crick-stone"--in the names of
saints; and hundreds had already been handed through it centuries before
under like appeal to pagan deities.
Of Madron baptistery, now a picturesque ruin, it seems clear that until the
Reformation regular worship and the service of baptism were therein
celebrated. The place has mercifully escaped all restoration or renovation
and stands at this moment open to the sky in the slow hand of Time. A brook
runs babbling outside, but the holy well or colymbethra is now dry, though
it might easily be filled again. This interesting portion of the chapel
remains intact, and the entrance to it lies upon the level of the floor
according to ancient custom, being so ordered that the adult to undergo
baptism might step down into the water, and that not without dignity.
Hither came Joan. Her patchwork of faith and Nature-worship was a live
thing to her now, and she found no difficulty in reconciling the sweet
saint-stories heard in childhood from her dead mother's lips, with the
beautiful and fair exposition of truth which "Mister Jan" found written
large upon the world by Nature in spring-time.
It was half-past four o'clock when she trudged through Madron to see the
gray church and the little gray houses all sleeping under the gray sky. She
plodded on up the hill past the gaunt workhouse which stands at the top of
it; and what had seemed soft, sweet repose among the cottage homes, felt
like cold death beneath these ashy walls. To Joan, the workhouse was a word
of shame unutterable. Those among whom she lived would hurl the word
against enemies as a prophecy of the utmost degradation. She shivered as
she passed, and was sad, knowing that a whole world of poverty, failure,
sorrow, regret, was hidden away in that cold, still pile. But the hand of
sleep lay softly there; only a sick soul or two stirred, the paupers were
the equal of princes till a hoarse bell brought them back out of blessed
Bars of light streaked the east, and Joan, only stopping at the hill crest
to see dawn open silver eyes on the sea, hastened inland through silent,
dewy fields. Presently a fence and wall cut civilization from the wild land
of the coomb, and the girl proceeded where grass-grown cart-ruts wound
among furze and heather and the silver coils of new-born bracken just
beginning to peep up above the dead fern of last year. This hollow ran
between undulations of fallow and meadow; no harrow clinked as yet; only
the cows stood here and there above the dry patches on the dewy fields
where their bodies had lain in sleep. She saw their soft eyes and smelled
the savor of them. Presently the cart-ruts disappeared in fine grass all
bediamonded, knobbed with heather, sprouting rusty-red, and sprinkled with
tussocks of coarser grass, whereon green blades sprang up above the dead
ones, where they struggled, matted and bleached and sere. Rabbits flashed
here and there, the white under-side of their little scuts twinkling
through the gorse; and then the birds woke up; a thrush sang low, sleepy
notes from the heart of a whitethorn; yellowhammers piped their mournful
calls from the furze. On Joan's left hand there now rose a clump of
wind-worn beech-trees, their brown spikes breaking to green, even where
dead red leaves still clung to the parent branches. Beneath them ran a
hedge of earth above a deep pool or two, very clear and fringed with young
rushes, upright and triumphant above the old dead ones. Everywhere Joan saw
Life trampling and leaping, growing and laughing over the ruins of things
that had lived and died. It saddened her a little. Did Nature forget so
soon? Then she told herself that kind Nature had loved them and gloried in
them too; and now she would presently bury all her dead children in
beautiful graves of new green. The mosses and marsh were lovely and the
clear pools full of living creatures. But these things were not
saint-blessed and eternal. No spring fed these silent wells, no holy man of
old had ever smiled upon them.
A stepping-stone by a wall lay before her now; this she crossed, heard the
stream murmuring peace, and hastened, and presently stood beside it. Here
were holy ground and water; here were peace and a place to pray in. Blue
forget-me-nots looked wondering up, seeing eyes as blue as their own, and
she smiled at them and drank of the ripples that ran at their roots. Gray
through the growing haze of green, a ruined wall showed close to the girl.
The blackthorns' blooms were faded around her, the hawthorn was not yet
powdered with white. She cast one look to right and left before entering
the chapel. A distant view of the moorland rose to the sky, and the ragged
edge of the hills was marked by a gaunt engine-stack noting past
enterprise, triumphs long gone by, ruined hopes but recently dead. Snug
fox-covers of rhododendron swept up toward the head of the coomb; and
below, distant half a mile or more, cottages already showed a glimmer of
gold on their thatches where the increasing splendor of day brightened
them, and morning mists were raising jeweled arms. Then Joan passed into
the ruin through that narrow opening which marks the door of it. The
granite walls now stand about the height of a man's shoulder and the
chamber itself is small. Stone seats still run round two sides of it; ivy
and stone-worts and grasses have picked the mortar from the walls and
clothed them, even as emerald moss and gray lichens and black and gold
glorify each piece of granite; a may-bush, tangled about a great shiny
ivy-tod, surmounts the western walls above the dried well; furzes and
heather and tall grasses soften the jagged outlines of the ruin, and above
a stone altar, at the east end of it, rises another white-thorn. At this
season of the year the subsequent floral glories of the little chapel were
only indicated: young briers already thrust their soft points over the
stone of the altar and the first leaves of foxgloves were unfolding, with
dandelions and docks, biting-stone-crop and ferns, ragged-robins and wild
geraniums. These infant things softened no outline yet. The flat paving of
the floor, where it yet remained, was bedded in grass; a little square
incision upon the stone of the altar glimmered full of water and reflected
the light from fleecy clouds which now climbed into heaven, bearing sunrise
fires upward over a pale blue sky.
Here, under the circumambient, sparkling clearness, coolness and silence,
Joan stood with strange medley of thoughts upon her soul. The saints and
the fairies mingled there with visions of Nature, always smiling, with a
vague shadow of one great God above the blue, but dim and very far away;
and a nearer picture which quickened her heart-beat: the picture of "Mister
Jan." Here she felt herself at one with the world spread round her. The
mother eyes of a blackbird, sitting upon her eggs in the ivy-tod, kept
their bright gold on Joan, but showed no fear; the young rabbits frisked at
hand; a mole poked his snout and little paddle-paws out of the grass; all
was peace and happiness, it seemed, with the voice of good St. Madron
murmuring love in his brooklet at hand.
Joan knelt down by the old altar and bowed her head there and prayed to
Nature and to God. At first merely wordless prayers full of passionate
entreaty rose to the Throne; then utterance came in a wild simple throng of
petitions; and all her various knowledge, won from her mother and John
Barren, found a place. Pan and Christ might each have heard and listened,
for she called on the gods of earth and heaven from a heart that was full.
"Kind Mother o' the flowers, doan't 'e forget a poor maiden what loves 'e
so dear. I be sad an' sore-hearted 'cause things is bad wi' me now Mister
Jan's gone; an' I knaws as I've lied an' bin wicked 'bout Joe, but, kind
Mother, I awnly done what Mister Jan, as was wise an' loved me, bid. Oh,
God A'mighty, doan't 'E let en forget me, 'cause I've gived up all--all the
lil I had for en, an' Nature made me as I be. Oh, kind God, make me happy
an' light-hearted an' strong agin, same as the lil birds an' sich like is
happy an' strong; an' forgive me for all my sins an' make me well for
Mister Jan, an' clever for Mister Jan, so's I'll be a fine an' good wife to
en. An' forgive me for lyin', 'cause what I done was Nature, 'cordin' to
Mister Jan; an' Nature's kind to young things, 'cordin' to Mister Jan; an'
I be young yet. An' make me a better lass, for I caan't abear to feel as I
do; an' make me think o' the next world arter this wan. But, oh, dear God,
make me well an' braave agin, for 'tis awful wisht for me wi'out Mister
Jan; an' make Mister Jan strong too. I be all in a miz-maze and doan't knaw
wheer to turn 'cept to Nature, dear Lard. Oh, kind God A'mighty, lemme have
my angel watchin' over me close, same as what mother used to say he did
allus. An' bring Mister Jan back long very quick, 'cause I'm nothin' but
sadness wi'out en. An', dear St. Madern, I ax 'e to bless me same as you
done when--when I was a lil baaby, 'cause I be gwaine to bathe in your
brook, bein' a St. Madern cheel. Oh, dear, good God o' all things, please
to help me an' look to me, 'cause I be very sad, an' I never done no harm
to none, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
Then she said the Lord's Prayer, because her mother had taught her that no
human petition was ever heard unless accompanied by it. And it seemed as
though the lark, winding upward with wide spiral to his song-throne in the
sky and tinkling thin music on the morning wind, was her messenger: which
thought was beautiful to Joan and made her heart glad.
Never had she looked fairer. Her blue eyes were misty, but the magic of
prayer, the glory of speaking straight to the Father of all, call Him what
she might, had nobly fortified her sinking spirit. Peace brooded in her
soul then, and faith warmed her blood. She was sure her prayer would be
answered; she was certain that her health and her loved one would both come
back to her. And she stood by the altar and smiled at the golden morning,
herself the fairest thing the sun shone upon.
Having peeped shyly about her, Joan took off her clothes, placed them on
the altar-stones, shook down her hair, and glided softly to the stream. At
one point its waters caught the sunshine and babbled over white sand
between many budding spikes of wild parsley and young fronds of fern. Naked
and beautiful the girl stood, her bright hair glinting to her waist, all
rippled with the first red gold of the morning, her body very white save
where the sun and western wind had browned both arms and neck; her form
innocent as yet of the mystery hid for her in Time. Joan's fair limbs spoke
of blood not Cornish, of days far past when a race of giants swept up from
behind the North Sea to tread a new earth and take wives of the little dark
women of the land, abating the still prevalent nigrescence of the Celt with
Saxon eyes and hair, adding their stature and their strength to races
unborn. A sweet embodiment of all that was lovely and pure and fresh, she
looked--a human incarnation of youth and springtime.
There was a pool deeper than the general shallowness of the stream which
served for Joan's bath, and she entered there, where soft white sand made
pleasant footing for her toes, where more forget-me-nots twinkled their
turquoise about the margin, where shining gorse towered like a sentinel
She suffered the holy water to flow over every inch of her body, and then,
rubbing her white self red and glowing with the dead brake fern of last
year and squeezing the water out of her hair, Joan quickly dressed again
and prepared to depart. She was about to leave a fragment torn from her
skirt hanging by the chapel, but changed her mind, and getting a splinter
of granite, rough-edged, she began to chip away a tress of her own bright
hair, sawing it off upon the stone table as best she could. Like a fallen
star it presently glimmered in the thorn bush above St. Madron's altar
where she wound the little lock, presently to bring gold to the nests and
joy to the heart of small feathered folk.
Joan walked home with the warm blood racing in her veins, roses on her
cheeks and the glory of hope in her eyes. Already she felt her prayers were
being heard; already she was thanking God for heeding her cry, and St
Madron for the life-giving waters of his holy stream. Thee, where finches
chattered and fluttered forward, breakfasting together in pleasant company,
a shadow and a swift, strong wing flashed across Joan's sight--and a hawk
struck. The little people shrieked, a few gray feathers puffed here and
there, and one spark of life was blown out that other sparks might shine
the brighter. For presently Joan's kind "Mother o' the flowers" watched the
beaks of fledgeling hawks grow red, and the parent bird of prey's cold eyes
brightened with satisfaction; as will every parent eye brighten at the
spectacle of baby things eating wholesome food with hearty appetite.
The death of the small fowl clouded the pilgrim's thoughts, but only for a
moment. Sentiment and emotion had passed; now she was eager with delicious
physical hunger and longing for her breakfast. The girl had not felt so
well or so happy for a considerable time. Half her prayer, she told
herself, was answered already; and the other half, relating to "Mister
Jan," would doubtless meet with similar merciful response ere many hours
So joyfully homeward out of dreamland into a world of facts Joan hastened.
A THOUSAND POUNDS
A glad heart shortens the longest road, and Joan, whose return journey from
the holy well was for the most part downhill, soon found herself back again
in Penzance. The fire of devotion still actuated her movements, and she
walked fearlessly, doubting nothing, to the post-office. There would be a
letter to-day; she knew it; she felt it in her consciousness, as a
certainty. And when she asked for it and mentioned her name, she put her
hand out and waited until the sleepy-eyed clerk rummaged through a little
pile of letters standing together and tied with a separate string. She
watched him slowly untie them and scan the addresses, grumbling as he did
so. Then he came to the last of all and read out:
"'Miss Joan Tregenza, Post-Office, Penzance. To be left until called for.'"
"Mine, mine, sir! I knawed 'e'd have it! I knawed as the kind, good--"
Then she stopped and grew red, while the clerk looked at her curiously and
then yawned. "What's a draggle-tailed chit like her got to do with such a
thing?" he wondered, and then spoke to Joan:
"Here you are; and you must sign this paper--it's a registered letter."
Joan, her hand shaking with excitement, printed her name where he directed,
thanked the man with a smile that softened him, and then hastened away.
The girl was faint with hunger and happiness before she reached home. She
did not dare to open the letter just then, but took it from her pocket a
dozen times before she reached Newlyn and feasted her eyes on her own name,
very beautifully and legibly printed. He had written it! His precious hand
had held the pen and formed each letter.
Deep, wordless thanks welled up in Joan's heart, for God was not very far
away, after all. He had heard her prayer already, and answered it within an
hour. No doubt it was easy for Him to grant such a little prayer. It could
be nothing much to God that one small creature should enjoy such happiness;
but what seemed wonderful was that He should have any time to listen at
all, that He should have been able to turn from the mighty business of the
great awakening world and give a thought to her.
"Sure 'twas the lil lark as the good Lard heard, an' my asking as went
up-long wi' en," said Joan to herself.
She found her father at home and the family just about to take breakfast.
Gray Michael had returned somewhat unexpectedly, with a fine catch, and did
not intend sailing again before the evening tide. A somewhat ominous
silence greeted the girl, a silence which her father was the first to
"Ayte your food, my lass, an' then come in the garden 'long with me," he
said. "I do want a word with 'e, an' things must be said which I've put off
the sayin' of tu long. So be quick's you can."
But this sauce did not spoil the girl's enjoyment of her porridge and
treacle. She ate heartily, and her happy humor seemed catching, at least so
far as Tom was concerned. A bright color warmed Joan's cheek; the cloud
that had dimmed her eyes was there no longer; and more than once Mr.
Tregenza looked at his wife inquiringly, for the tale she had been telling
of Joan's recent moods and disorder was at variance with her present
spirits and appetite. After breakfast she went to her room while her father
waited; and then it was that Joan snatched a moment to open John Barron's
letter. There would be no time to read it then, she knew: that delicious
task must take many hours of loving labor; but she wanted to count the
pages and see "Mister Jan's" name at the end. She knew that crosses meant
kisses, too. There might be crosses somewhere. So she opened the envelope
in a fever of joyous excitement, being careful, however, not to tear a
letter of the superscription. And from it there came a fat, folded pile of
tissue paper. Joan knew it was money, and flung it on her bed and fumbled
with sinking heart for something better. But there was nothing else--only
ten pieces of tissue-paper. She remembered seeing her father with similar
pieces; and her mother saying there was nothing like Bank of England notes.
But they had been crumpled and dirty, these were snowy white. Each had a
hundred pounds marked upon it; and Joan was aware that ten times a hundred
is a thousand. But a thousand pounds possessed no more real meaning for her
than a million of money does for the average man. She could not estimate
its significance in the least or gauge its possibilities. Only she knew
that she would far rather have had a few words from "Mister Jan" than all
the money in the world.
Mr. Tregenza's voice below broke in upon the girl's disappointment, and,
hastily hiding the money under some linen in a little chest of drawers,
where the picture of Joe's ship was also concealed, she hurried to join her
father. But the empty envelope, with her name printed on it, she put into
her pocket that it might be near her.
Joan did not for an instant gather what meaning lay under this great gift
of money, and to her the absence of a letter was no more than a passing
sorrow. She read nothing between the lines of this silence; she only saw
that he had not forgotten, and only thought that he perhaps imagined such
vast sums of money would give her pleasure and make the waiting easier.
What were banknotes to Joan? What was life to her away from him? She
sighed, and fell back upon the thought of his wisdom and knowledge. He must
be in the right to delay, because he was always in the right. A letter
would presently come to explain why he had sent the money and to treat of
his return. The girl felt that she had much to thank God for, after all. He
had sent her the letter; He had answered her prayer in His own way. It ill
became her, she thought, to question more deeply. She must wait and be
patient, however hard the waiting.
So thinking, she joined her father. Tom was away up the village, Mrs.
Tregenza found plenty to occupy her mind and body indoors; Joan and Mr.
Tregenza had the garden to themselves. He was silent until they reached the
wicket, then, going through it, he led the way slowly up a hill which wound
above the neighboring stone quarry; and as he walked he addressed Joan.
She, weary enough already, prayed that her parent intended going no further
than the summit of the hill; but when he spoke she forgot physical fatigue,
for his manner was short and stern.
"Theer's things bein' hid 'twixt you an' me, darter, an' 'tis time you
spoke up. Every parent's got some responsibility in the matter of his
cheel's sawl, an', if theer's aught to knaw, 'tis I must hear it. 'The
faither waketh for the darter when no man knaweth,' sez the Preacher, an'
he never wrote nothin' truer. I've waked for you, Joan. 'Keep a sure watch
over a shameless darter,' sez the Preacher agin; but God forbid you'm that.
Awnly you'm allus wool-gatherin', an' roamin', an' wastin' time. An' time
wance squandered do never come agin. I hear tell this has been gwaine
forrard since Joe went to sea. What's the matter with 'e? Say it out plain
an' straight an' now this minute."
Joan had particularly prayed by the Madron altar that the Everlasting would
keep her from lying. She remembered the fact as her father put his
question; and she also recollected that John Barron had told her to say
nothing about their union until he returned to her. So she lied again, and
that the more readily because Gray Michael's manner of asking his question
put a reasonable answer into her head.
"I s'pose as it might be I'm wisht 'cause o' Joe Noy, faither."
"Then look 'e to it an' let it cease. Joe's in the hand o' the Lard same as
we be. He's got to work out his salvation in fear an' tremblin' same as us.
Some do the Lard's work ashore, some afloat, some--sich as me--do it by
land an' sea both. You doan't work Joe no good trapsing 'bout inland, here,
theer, an' everywheers; an' you do yourself harm, 'cause it makes 'e oneasy
an' restless. Mendin' holes an' washin' clothes an' prayin' to the Lard to
'a' mercy on your sinful sawl's what you got to do. Also learnin' to cook
'gainst the time you'm a wife an' the mother o' childern, if God so wills.
But this ban't no right way o' life for any wan, gentle or simple, so mend
it. A gad-about, lazy female's hell-meat in any station. Theer's enough of
'em as 'tis, wi'in the edge o' Carnwall tu. What was you doin' this
marnin'? Mother sez 'er heard you stirrin' 'fore the birds."
"I went out a long walk to think, faither."
"What 'e want to think 'bout? Your plaace is to du, not to think. God'll
think for 'e if 'e ax; an' the sooner you mind that an' call 'pon the
A'mighty the better; 'cause the Devil's ready an' willin' to think for 'e
tu. Read the Book more an' look about 'e less. Man's eyes, an' likewise
maid's, is best 'pon the ground most time. Theer's no evil writ theer. The
brain of man an' woman imagineth ill nearly allus, for why? 'Cause they
looks about an' sees it. Evil comes in through the eyes of 'em; evil's
pasted large 'pon every dead wall in Newlyn. Read the Book--'tis all summed
up in that. You've gotten a power o' your mother in 'e yet. Not but you've
bin a good darter thus far, save for back-slidin' in the past; but I saved
your sawl then, thanks be to the voice o' God in me, an' I saved your
mother's sawl, though theer was tidy wraslin' for her; an' I'll save yourn
yet if you'll do your paart."
Here Gray Michael paused and turned homeward, while Joan congratulated
herself upon the fact that a conversation which promised to be difficult
had ended so speedily and without misfortune. Then her father asked her
"An' what's this I hear tell 'bout you bein' poorly? You do look so well as
ever I knawed 'e, but mother sez you'm that cranky with vittles as you
never was afore, an' wrong inside likewise."
"Ban't nothin', faither. 'Tis awver an' done. I ate tu much or some sich
thing an' I be bonny well agin now."
"Doan't be thinkin' then. 'Tis all brain-sickness, I'll lay. I doan't want
no doctor's traade in my 'ouse if us can keep it outside. The Lard's my
doctor. Keep your sawl clean, an' the Lard'll watch your body. 'E's said as
much. 'E knaws we'm poor trashy worms an' even a breath o' foul air'll take
our lives onless 'E be by to filter it. Faith's the awnly medicine worth
Joan remembered her morning bath and felt comforted by this last
reflection. Had she not already found the magic result? For a moment she
thought of telling her father what she had done, but she changed her mind.
Such faith as that would have brought nothing but wrath upon her.
While Mr. Tregenza improved the hour and uttered various precepts for his
daughter's help and guidance, Thomasin was occupied at home with grave
thoughts respecting Joan. She more than suspected the truth from signs of
indisposition full of meaning to a mother; but while duly mentioning the
girl's illness, Mrs. Tregenza did not dare to breathe the color of her own
explanation. She prayed to God in all honesty to prove her wrong, but her
lynx eyes waited to read the truth she feared. If things were really so
with Joan, then they could not be hid from her eyes much longer; and in the
event of her suspicions proving correct, Mrs. Tregenza told herself, as a
right Luke Gospeler, she must proclaim her horrid discovery and let the
perdition of her husband's daughter be generally made manifest. She knew so
many were called, so few chosen. No girl had ever been more surely called
than Joan: her father's trumpet tongue had thundered the ways of
righteousness into her ears from her birth; but, after all, it began to
look as though she was not chosen. The circumstance, of course, if proved,
would rob her of every Luke Gospeler's regard. No weak pandering with
sentiment and sin was permitted in that fold. And Mrs. Tregenza had little
pity herself for unfortunate or mistaken women. Let a girl lose her
character and Thomasin usually refused to hear any plea of mercy from any
source. Only once did she find extenuating circumstances: in a case where a
ruined farmer's daughter brought an action for breach of promise and won
it, with heavy damages. But money acted in a peculiar way with this woman.
It put her conscience and her judgment out of focus, softened the outlines
of events, furnished excuses for unusual practices, gilded with a bright
lining even the blackest cloud of wrongdoing. Where Mrs. Tregenza could see
money she could see light. Money made her charitable, broad-minded, even
tolerant. She knew she loved it, and was careful to keep the fact out of
Gray Michael's sight as far as possible. She held the purse, and he felt
that it was in good hands, but cautioned her from time to time against the
awful danger of letting a lust for this world's wealth come between the
soul and God.
And now a course long indicated in Thomasin's mind was being by her
pursued. Having convinced herself that under the present circumstances any
step to found or dispel her fears concerning Joan would be just and proper,
she took the exceptional one of searching the girl's little room while her
stepdaughter was out with Michael. Even as Mr. Tregenza turned to go
homeward again, his wife stood in the midst of Joan's small sanctuary, and
cast keen, inquiring eyes about her. She rarely visited the apartment, and
had not been in it for six months. Now she came to set doubt at rest if
possible, or confirm it. Her own secret opinion was that Joan had come to
serious trouble with her superiors. In that case letters, presents or
tokens had probably passed into her hands; and, if such existed, in this
room they would be.
"God send as I'm makin' a mistake an' shaan't find nothin' 'tall," said
Mrs. Tregenza to herself. And then she began her scrutiny.
Thomasin saw that all things about Joan's room were neat, spotless, and in
order. For one brief moment a sense of disquiet at the action before her
touched the woman's heart and head; but duty alike to her husband and her
stepdaughter demanded the search in her opinion. Should there be nothing to
find, so much the better; if, on the other hand, matters affecting Joan's
temporal and eternal welfare were here hidden, then they could not be
uncovered too quickly. She looked first through the girl's little wooden
trunk, the key of which was in the lock, but nothing save a childish
treasure or two rewarded Mrs. Tregenza here. In a broken desk, which had
belonged to her mother, Joan kept a few Christmas cards, and two
silhouettes: one of Uncle Thomas, of Drift, one of Mary Chirgwin. Here were
also some cooking recipes copied in her mother's writing, an agate marble
which Joan had found on Penzance beach, lavender tied up in a bag, and an
odd toy that softened Thomasin's heart not a little as she picked it up and
looked at it. The thing brought back to her memory a time four years
earlier. It was a small, grotesque figure on wires, built up of chestnuts
and acorns with a hazel-nut for its head and black pins stuck in for the
eyes. She remembered Tom making it and giving it to Joan on her birthday.
Then the memory of Joan's love for Tom from the time he was born came like
a glow of sunshine into the mother's heart, and for a moment she was minded
to relinquish her unpleasant task upon the spot; but she changed her
intention again and proceeded. The box held little else save a parcel of
old clothes tied up with rosemary in brown paper. These the woman surveyed
curiously, and knew, without being told, that they had belonged to Joan's
mother. For some reason the spectacle killed sentiment and changed her
mood. She shut down the box, and then, going to the chest of drawers,
pulled out each compartment in turn. Nothing but Joan's apparel and her few
brooches and trinkets appeared here. The history of each and all was
familiar to Mrs. Tregenza. But on reaching the bottom drawer of the chest,
she found it locked and the key absent. To continue her search, however,
was not difficult. Nothing separated the drawers, and by removing that
above the last, the contents of the lowest lay at her mercy, It was full of
linen for the most part, but hidden at the bottom, Thomasin made a
discovery, and found certain matters which at once spoke of tremendous
mystery, and, to her mind, indicated the nature of it. First she came upon
the little picture of Joe's ship in its rough gilded frame. This might be
an innocent gift from some of the young men who had asked in the past to be
allowed to paint Joan and received a curt negative from Gray Michael. But
the other discovery meant more. Pushing her hand about the drawer she found
a pile of paper, felt the crackle of it, and pulled it eagerly to the
light. Then, and before she learned the grandeur of the sum, she was seized
with a sudden palpitation and sat down on Joan's bed. Her mouth grew full
as a hungry man's before a feast, her lips were wet, her hand shook as she
opened and spread the notes. Then she counted them and sat gasping like a
landed fish. Thomasin had never seen so much money before in her life. A
thousand pounds! Unlike Joan, to whom the sum conveyed no significance,
Mrs. Tregenza could estimate it. Her mind reached that far, and the
bank-notes, for her, lay just within the estimation of avarice. Every snowy
fragment meant a hundred pounds--a hundred sovereigns--two hundred
ten-shilling pieces. The first shock overpast, and long before she grew
sufficiently calm to associate the treasure with its possessor, Mrs.
Tregenza began spending in her mind's eye. The points in house and garden,
outhouse and sty, whereon money might be advantageously expended, rose up
one after the other. Then she put aside eight hundred and fifty out of the
grand total and pictured herself taking it to the bank. She thought of a
nest-egg that would "goody" against the time Tom should grow into a man;
she saw herself among the neighbors, pointed at, whispered of as a woman
with hundreds and hundreds of pounds put by; she saw the rows of men
sitting basking about in Newlyn, as their custom is when off the sea; and
she heard them drop words of admiration at the sight of her. Presently,
however, this gilded vision vanished, and she began to connect the money
with Joan. She solved the mystery then with a brutal directness which hit
the mark in one direction; as to the source of the money, but went wide of
it in some measure upon the subject of the girl. Thomasin held briefly that
her stepdaughter had fallen, and now, knowing her condition, had informed
some man of it, with the result that from him came this unutterable gift.
That the money made an enormous difference to Mrs. Tregenza's mental
attitude must be confessed. She found herself fashioning absolute excuses
for Joan. Girls so often came to ill through no fault of their own. The man
must at least have been a gentleman to pay for his pleasure in four
figures. Four figures! Here she stopped thinking in order to picture the
vision of a unit followed by three ciphers. Then she marveled as to what
manner of man he was who could send a girl like Joan a thousand pounds. She
never heard of such a price for the value received. Her respect for Joan
began to increase when she realized that the money was hers. Probably there
was even more where that came from. "Anyway," she reflected, "it ban't no
use cryin' ower spilt milk. What's done's done. An' a thousand pounds'll go
long ways to softenin' the road. She might travel up-long to Truro to my
cousin an' bide quiet theer till arter, an' no harm done, poor lass. When
all's said, us knaws the Lard Hissel weer mighty easy wi' the like o' she,
an' worser wenches tu. But Michael--God A'mighty knaws he won't be easy.
She'm a damned wummon, I s'pose, but she's got to live through 'er life
here--damned or saved; an' she's got a thousand pound to do't with. A
terrible braave dollop o' money, sure 'nough. To think 'ow 'ard a man's got
to work 'fore he earns five of 'em!" But her imagination centered upon Gray
Michael now, and she almost forgot the banknotes for a moment. She thought
of his agony and trembled for the result. He might strike Joan down and
kill her. The man's anger against evil-doers was always a terrific thing;
and he had no idea of the value of money. She hazarded guesses at the
course he would pursue, and each idea was blacker than the last. Then
Thomasin fell to wondering what Michael would be likely to do with the
money. She sighed at this thought, and then she grew pale at the imaginary
spectacle of her husband tearing the devil-sent notes to pieces and
scattering them over the cliff to the sea. This horrible possibility stung
her to another train of ideas. Might it be within her power to win Joan's
secret, share it, and keep it from the father? Her pluck, however, gave way
when she looked a little deeper into the future. She would have done most
things in her power for a thousand pounds, but she would not have dared any
treachery to Michael. The woman put the notes together and stroked them and
listened to the rustle of them and rubbed her hard cheek with them. Then,
looking from the little window of Joan's garret, she saw the girl herself
approaching with Mr. Tregenza. They were nearly home again, so Thomasin
returned the money and the picture to their places in the chest of drawers,
smoothed the bed, where she had been sitting for half an hour, and went
downstairs still undetermined as to a course of action.
Before dinner was eaten, however, she had decided that her husband must
know the truth. Even her desire toward the money cooled before the prospect
of treachery to him. Fear had something to do with this decision, but the
woman's own principles were strong. It is unlikely that in any case they
would have broken down. She sent Joan on an errand to the village after the
meal was ended; and upon her departure addressed her husband hurriedly.
"You said I was 'mazed to dinner, an' so I was. I've gotten bad news for
'e, Michael, touchin' Joan."
"No more o' that, mother," he answered, "I've talked wi' she an' said a
word in season. She'm well in body an' be gwaine to turn a new leaf, so
theer's an end o' the matter."
"'Tedn' so," she declared, "I've bin in the gal's room an' I've found--but
you bide here an' I'll bring 'em to 'e. Hold yourself back, Michael, for us
caan't say nothin' sure till us knaws the truth from Joan."
"She've tawld me the truth out a walkin' an' I've shawed her the narrer
path. What should you find?"
"Money--no lil come-by-chance neither; more money than ever you or me seed
in our born days afore or shall agin."
"You'm dreamin', wummon!" he said.
"God knaws I wishes it weer so," she answered, and went once more to Joan's
Gray Michael was walking up and down the kitchen when she returned, and
Thomasin said nothing, but put money and picture upon the table. Her
husband fought with himself a moment, as it appeared, then seemed to pray a
while, standing still with his hand pressed over his eyes, and finally sat
himself down beside the things which Thomasin had brought.
"I'd no choice but to tell 'e," she said.
Gray Michael's eyes were on the picture and utter astonishment appeared in
"Why! 'tis Joe Noy's ship. Us seed her off the islands, outward bound! He
might 'a' gived it her hisself surely?"
"But t'other thing; the money. Count them notes. Noy never gived Joan
He spread the parcel, counted the money, and sat back thunderstruck.
"God in heaven! A thousan' pound, an' notes as never went through no dirty
hands neither! What do it mean?"
"How should I tell what it means? I found the whole fortune hid beneath her
smickets. Lard knaws how she comed by it. What have the likes o' she to
give for money?"
"What do 'e mean by that?" he blazed out, rising to his feet and clinching
"Ax your darter. Do 'e think I'd dare to say a word onless I was sartain
sure? You'd smash me, your own wife, if I weer wrong, like enough. I ban't
wrong. Joan's wi' cheel or I never was. Maybe that thraws light on the
money, maybe it doan't. I did pray as it might 'a' comed out to be her man
at sea. But you'll find it weern't. God help 'e, Michael, my heart do bleed
for 'e. Can 'e find it in 'e to be merciful same as the Lard in like case,
He raised his hand to stop her. He was sitting back in his chair with a
face that had grown gray even to the skin, with eyes that looked out at
nothing. There was a moment's silence save for the tall clock in the
corner; then Tregenza brushed beads of water off his forehead and dried his
hand on his trousers. He raised his eyes to the roof and gripped his hands
together on his chest and slowly spoke a text which his wife had heard upon
his lips before, but only at times of deep concern or emotion.
"'The Lard is king, be the people never so impatient; He sitteth between
the cherubims, be the airth never so unquiet.'"
Few saw any particular meaning in this quotation applied in moments of
stress, as Michael usually employed it; but to the man it was a supreme
utterance, the last word to be spoken in the face of all the evil and
wickedness of the world. Come what might, God still reigned in heaven.
He spoke aloud thus far, and afterward, by the movement of his beard and
lip, Thomasin could see he was still talking or praying.
"Let the Lard lead 'e, husband, in this hard pass," she said. "'Vengeance
is Mine,' the Book sez."
He turned his eyes upon her. His brows were dragged down upon them; he had
brushed his gray hair like bristles upright on his head; across the mighty
wall of his forehead jagged cross-lines were stamped, like the broken
strata over a cliff-face.
"Ay, you say it. Vengeance be God's awn, an' mercy be God's awn. 'Tedn' for
no man to meddle wi' them. Us caan't be aught but just. She'll have justice
from me--no more'n that. 'Tis all wan now. Wanton or no wanton, she've
flummoxed me this day. The giglot lied an' said the thing that was not.
She'm not o' the Kingdom--the fust Tregenza as ever lied--the fust."
"God send it edn' as bad as it do look, master. 'Er caracter belike ban't
gone. S'pose as she'm married?"
"Hould your clack, wummon. I be thinkin'."
He was thinking, indeed. In the face of this discovery, the ghost of an
idea, which had haunted Gray Michael's mind more than once during the
upbringing of Joan, returned a greater and more pronounced shadow than ever
before. The conviction carried truth stamped upon it from the standpoint of
his present horrid knowledge. To an outsider his thought had appeared
absolutely devilish, to the man himself it was as a buoy thrown to one
drowning. The belief flooded his mind, swept him away, convinced him. Its
nature presently appeared as he answered Thomasin. She was still thinking
of the thousand pounds.
"Theer's no word in the Book agin mercy, Michael. Joan's your awn
darter--froward or not froward."
"You'm wrong theer," he said. He was now cool and quiet. "I did think so
wance; I did tell her so when us walked not two hour agone. Now I sees
differ'nt. She'm none o' mine. She'm no Tregenza. Be Nature, as made us
God-fearin' to a man, to a wummon, to a cheel, gwaine to lie after
generations 'pon generations? Look back at them as bred me, an' them as
bred them--back, an' back, an' back. All Tregenzas was o' the Lard's
harvest; an' should I, as feared God more'n any o' 'em, an' fought for the
Lard of Hosts 'fore I was higher'n this table--should I--Michael Tregenza,
breed a damned sawl? The thot's comed black an' terrible 'pon my mind 'fore
to-day; an' I've put en away from me, judgin' 'twas the devil. Now I knaw
'twas God spoke; now I knaw that her's none o' my gettin'. 'Who honoreth
his faither shall 'a' joy o' his awn childern.' Shall I, as weer a pattern
son, be cussed wi' a strumpet for a darter?"
"You'm speakin' a hard thing o' dead bones, then. The Chirgwins is upland
folks o' long standin', knawn so far as the Land's End, an' up Drift an'
down Lizard likewise."
"She've lied to me," was his answer; "she've lied oftentimes; she'm false
to whatever I did teach her; she've sawld herself--she've--no more on
it--no more on it but awnly this: I call 'pon God A'mighty to bear witness
she'm no Tregenza--never--never."
"'Tweer her mother in the gal; but doan't 'e say more 'bout that, Michael.
Poor dear sawl, she'm dead an' gone, an' she loved 'e wi' all her 'eart, as
I, what knawed her, can testify to."
"No more o' that," he said, "the gal's comin'. Thank God she ban't no cheel
o' mine--thank God, as 'ave tawld me 'tedn' so. He whispered it, an' I put
it away an' away. Now I knaws. You bide here, Thomasin Tregenza, and I'll
speak what's fittin'."
Thus in one moment this hideous conviction was stamped upon the man's soul
for life. He judged the dead mother by the daughter and visited the child's
sin upon the parent's memory. Any conclusion more monstrous, more directly
opposed to every natural instinct, can hardly be conceived, but the man had
been strangling natural instincts for fifty years. Only pride of family
remained. There were but few Tregenzas left and soon there would be none
unless Tom carried on the name. Michael was the quintessence of the
Tregenza spirit, the fruit of generations, the high-water mark. He stood on
that giddy pinnacle which has religious mania for its precipice. To damn a
dead woman was easier than to accept a wanton daughter. Better an
unfaithful wife than that any soul born of Tregenza blood should be lost.
So he washed his hands of both, thanking God, who had launched the truth
into his mind at last; and then he rose to his feet as Joan entered the
She stood for a moment in the doorway with her blue eyes fixed in amazement
upon the kitchen table. Then she grew very red to the roots of her hair and
came forward. There was almost a joy in her mind that the long story of
falsehood must end at last. She did not fear her father now and looked up
into his face quite calmly as she approached the table.
"These be mine," she said. "Was it you, faither, as took 'em from wheer
"'Twas me, Joan," answered Mrs. Tregenza; "an' I judge the Lard led me."
The girl stood erect and scornful.
"I'm glad you found them; now I can tell the truth."
"Truth!" thundered Michael. "Truth--what do you knaw 'bout Truth, darter o'
Baal? Your life's a lie, your tongue's rotten in your mouth wi' lyin'.
Never look in no honest faace agin!"
"You'd do best to bide still while I tell 'e what this here means," said
Joan quietly. The man's anger alarmed her no more than the squeak of a
caged rat. "I ban't no darter o' Baal, an' the money's come by honest. I've
lied afore, but never shall again. An' I've let Joe go 'is ways thinkin' I
loved en, which I doan't. I be tokened to a furriner from London, an' he's
took me for his awn, an' he be gwaine to come down-long mighty soon an'
take me away. But I couldn't tell 'e nothin' of that 'cause he bid me keep
my mouth shut. So theer."
"'Took 'e for 'is awn'! Wheer is he, then? Why be you here?"
"He'm comin', I tell 'e. He'm a true man, an' he shawed me what 'tis to
"Bought you, you damned harlot!"
She knew the word was vile, but a shred of John Barron's philosophy
"My awnly sin is I've lied to you, faither; an' you've no right to call me
"Never call me faither no more, lewd slut! I be no faither o' thine, nor
never was. God A'mighty! a Tregenza a wanton! I'd rather cut my hand off
than b'lieve it so. It's this--this--blood-money--the price o' a damned
sawl! No more lyin'. I knaw--I knaw--an' the picksher--the ship of a true
man. It did ought to break your heart to see it, if you had wan. A
devil-spawned painting feller, in coorse. An' his black heart happy an'
content 'cause he've sent this filth. You stare, wi' your mother's
eyes--you stare, an' stare. Hell's yawning for 'e, wretched wummon, an' for
him as brot 'e to it!"
"He doan't believe in hell, no more doan't I," said Joan calmly; "an' it
ban't a faither's plaace to damn's awn flaish an' blood no way."
"Never name me thy faither no more! I ban't your faither, I tell 'e, an' I
do never mean to see thy faace agin. Go wheer you'm minded; but get 'e gone
from here. Tramp the broad road with the crowd--the narrer path's closed
agin 'e. And this--this--let it burn same as him what sent it will."