Part 6 out of 7
tryin' to save the hay she was nowheer. Of coorse, us thot she'd gone to
her bed. But she weern't, an' this mornin' we doan't see a atom of her, but
finds a envelope empty 'pon the kitchen floor. 'Twas addressed to Joan an'
comed from Lunnon."
"Aw jimmery! She've gone to en arter all, then--an' in her state."
"The floods was out, you see. Her might have marched off to Penzance to
larn 'bout the manner o' gwaine to Lunnon an' bin stopped in home-comin';
or her might have slept in Penzance to catch a early train away."
"Iss, or her might a got in the water, poor lamb," said Thomasin, who never
left the dark side of a position unconsidered. Mary's face showed that the
same idea had struck her.
"God grant 'tedn' nothin' like that, though maybe 'twould be better than
t'other. Us caan't say she've run away, but I thot I'd tell 'e how things
is so's you could spread it abroad that she'm lost. Maybe us'll hear
somethin' 'fore the day's much aulder. I be gwaine to Penzance now an' I'll
let 'e knaw if theer's anything to tell. Good-by, an' I be right glad all's
well wi' your husband, though I don't hold wi' his 'pinions."
But Mrs. Tregenza did not answer. Her eyes were fixed on the lugger which
had now got to its anchorage and looked strange and unnatural shorn of its
lesser mast. She saw the moorings dragged up; and a few minutes later the
boat, which had rolled and tumbled at them all night, was baled. Thereupon
men took their seats in her and began to row toward the harbor. It seemed
that Gray Michael was steering, and his crew clearly pulled very weak and
short, for their strength was spent.
Then, as they came between the arms of the harbor, as they shipped oars and
glided to the steps, Tregenza's hybrid yellow dog, who accompanied the
fisherman in all his goings, jumped ashore barking and galloped up the
slippery steps with joy; while, at the same moment, a woman's sharp cry cut
the air like a knife and two wild eyes looked down into the boat.
"Wheer'm the bwoy, Michael? Oh, my good God, wheer'm Tom?"
Everybody strained silently to hear the answer, but though the fisherman
looked up, he made no reply. The boat steadied and one after another the
men in her went ashore, Tregenza mounting the steps last. His wife broke
the silence. Only a murmur of thankfulness had greeted the other men, for
their faces showed a tragedy. They regarded their leader fearfully, and
there was something more than death in their eyes.
"Wheer'm the bwoy--Tom? For the love of God, speak, caan't 'e? Why be you
all dumb an' glazin' that awful!" cried the woman, knowing the truth before
she heard it. Then she listened to the elder Pritchard, who whispered his
wife, and so fell into a great convulsion of raving, dry-eyed sorrow.
"Oh, my bwoy! Drownded--my awn lil precious Tom! God a mercy! Dead! Then
let me die tu!"
She gave vent to extravagant and savage grief after the manner of her kind.
She would have torn her hair and thrown herself off the quay but for kindly
hands which restrained.
"God rot you, an' blast you, an' burn you up!" she screamed, shaking her
fists at the sea. "I knawed this would be the end. I dreamed it 'fore 'e
was born. Doan't 'e hold me back, you poor fools. Let me gaw an' bury
myself in the same graave along wi' en. My Tom, my Tom! I awnly had but
wan--awnly wan, an' now--"
She wailed and wrung her hands, while rough voices filled her ears with
such comfort as words could bring to her.
"Rest easy, bide at peace, dear sawl." "'Tis the Lard's doin', mother; an'
the lil bwoy's better off now." "Take it calm, my poor good creature." "Try
an' bring tears to your eyes, theer's a dear wummon."
Tears finally came to her relief, and she wept and moaned while friends
supported her, looking with wonder upon Michael, her husband. He stood
aloof with the men about him. But never a word he spoke to his wife or any
other. His eyes dilated and had lost their steady forward glance, though a
mad misery lighted them with flashes that came and went; his face was a
very burrow of time, seared and trenched with pits and wrinkles. His hat
was gone, his hair blew wild, the strong set of his mouth had vanished; his
head, usually held so high, hung forward on a shrunken neck.
The brothers Pritchard told their story as a party conducted Thomasin back
to her home. For the moment Gray Michael stood irresolute and alone, save
for his dog, which ran round him.
"Us was tackin' when it fust began to blaw, an' all bustlin' 'bout in the
dark, when the mainsail went lerrickin' 'cross an' knocked the poor dam
bwoy owerboard into as ugly a rage o' water as ever I seed. Tom had his
sea-boots on, an' every sawl 'pon the bwoat knawed 'twas all up as soon as
we lost en. We shawed a light an' tumbled 'bout for quarter o' an hour wi'
the weather gettin' wicked. Then comed a scat as mighty near thrawed us
'pon our beam-ends, an' took the mizzen 'long wi' it. 'Tis terrible bad
luck, sure 'nough, for never a tidier bwoy went feeshin'; but theer's worse
to tell 'e. Look at that gert, good man, Tregenza. Oh, my God, my blood do
creem when I think on't!"
The man stopped and his brother took up the story.
"'Twas arterwards, when us had weathered the worst an' was tryin' to fetch
home, Michael failed forward on's faace arter the bwoy was drownded; an' us
had to do all for the bwoat wi'out en. But he comed to bimebye an' didn't
take on much, awnly kept so dumb as a adder. Not a word did er say till
marnin' light; then a 'orrible thing fell 'pon en. You knaw that yaller dog
as sails wi' us most times? He turned 'pon en sudden an' sez: 'Praise God,
praise the Lard o' Hosts, my sons, here's Tom, here's my lad as us thot
weer drownded!' Then he kissed that beast, an' it licked his faace, an' he
cried--that iron sawl cried like a wummon! Then he thundered out as the
crew was to give God the praise, an' said the man as weern't on's knees in
a twinklin' should be thrawed out the bwoat to Jonah's whale. God's truth!
I never seed nothin' so awful as skipper's eyes 'pon airth! Then er calmed
down, an' the back of en grawed humpetty an' his head failed a bit forrard
an' he sat strokin' of the dog. Arter that, when us seed Newlyn, it 'peared
to bring en to his senses a bit, an' he knawed Tom was drownded. He rambled
in his speech a while; then went mute again, wi' a new look in his eyes as
though he'd grawed so auld as history in a single night. Theer he do stand
bedoled wi' all manner o' airthly sufferin', poor creature. Him wi' all his
righteousness behind en tu! But the thinkin' paarts of en be drownded wheer
his bwoy was, an' I lay theer ban't no druggister, nor doctor neither,
as'll bring 'em back to en."
"Look at that now!" exclaimed another man. "See who's a talkin' to
Tregenza! If that ban't terrible coorious! 'Tis Billy Jago, the softy!"
Billy was indeed addressing Gray Michael and getting an answer to his
remarks. The laborer's brains might be addled, but they still contained
sane patches. He had heard of the fisherman's loss and now touched his hat
and expressed regret.
"Ay, the young be snatched, same as a build-in' craw will pick sprigs o'
green wood for her nest an' leave the dead twig to rot. Here I be, rotten
an' coffin-ripe any time this two year, yet I'm passed awver for that
braave young youth. An' how is it wi' you, Mr. Tregenza? I s'pose the Lard
do look to His awn in such a pass?"
Gray Michael regarded the speaker a moment and then made answer.
"I be that sleepy, my son, an' hungry wi' it. Iss fay, I could eat a bloody
raw dog-fish an' think it no sin. See to this, but doan't say nothin' 'bout
it. The bwoat went down wi' all hands, but us flinged a bottle to Bucca for
en to wash ashore wi' the news. But it never comed, for why? 'Cause that
damnation devil bringed the bottle 'gainst granite rocks, an' the message
was washed away for mermaids to read an' laugh at; an' the grass-green
splinters o' glass as held the last cry o' drownin' men--why, lil childern
plays wi' 'em now 'pon the sand. 'Sing to the Lard, ye that gaw down to the
sea.' An' I'll sing--trust me for that, but I must eat fust. I speaks to
you, Billy, 'cause you be wan o' God's chosen fools."
He stopped abruptly, pressed his hand over his forehead, said something
about breaking the news to his wife, and then walked slowly down the quay.
The manner of his locomotion had wholly changed, and he moved like one
whose life was a failure.
Meantime Jago, full of the great discovery, hastened to the Pritchards and
other men who were now following Gray Michael at a distance. Them be told
that the fisherman had taken leave of his senses, that he had actually
called Billy himself one of God's chosen fools.
Several more boats had come in, and as it was certainly known that some had
taken refuge at Scilly, those vitally interested in the few remaining
vessels withdrew from the quay comforting each other and putting a hopeful
face on the position. Gray Michael followed his wife home. As yet she had
not learned of his state; but, although his conduct on returning was
somewhat singular, no word which fell now from him spoke clearly of a
disordered mind. He clamored first for food, and, while he ate, gave a
clear if callous account of his son's death and the lugger's danger. Having
eaten, he went to his bedroom, dragged off his boots, flung himself down
and was soon sleeping heavily; while Thomasin, marveling at his stolidity
and resenting it not a little, gave way to utter grief. During an interval
between storms of tears the woman put on a black gown, then went to her
work. The day had now advanced. On seeing her again downstairs, two or
three friends, including the Pritchards, entered the house and asked
anxiously after Michael, without, however, stating the nature of their
fears. She answered querulously that the man was asleep and showed no more
sorrow than a brute beast. She was very red-eyed and bedraggled. Every
utterance was an excuse for a fresh outburst of weeping, her breast heaved,
her hands moved spasmodically, her nerves were at extreme tension and she
could not stay long in one place. Seeing that she was nearly lightheaded
with much grief, and hoping that her husband's disorder would vanish after
his slumber was ended, her friends forbore to hint at what had happened to
him. They comforted her to the best of their power; then, knowing that long
hours of bitter sorrow must surely pass over the mother's head before such
grief could grow less, departed one by one, leaving her at last alone. She
moved restlessly about from room to room, carrying in one hand a photograph
of Tom, in the other a handkerchief. Now and then she sat down, looked at
the picture and wept anew. She tried to eat some supper presently but could
not. It is seldom a sudden loss strikes home so speedily as had her
tribulation sunk into Thomasin Tregenza's soul. She drank some brandy and
water which a friend had poured out for her and left standing on the
mantel--shelf. Then she went up to bed--a stricken ruin of the woman who
had risen from it in the morning. Her husband still slept, and Thomasin,
her grief being of a nature which required spectators for its fullest and
most soothing expression, felt irritated alike with him and with those
friends who had all departed, and, from the best motives, left her thus.
She flung herself into bed and anger obscured her misery--anger with her
husband. His heavy breathing worked her to a frenzy at last, and she sat
up, took him by the shoulder and tried to shake him.
"Wake up, for God's sake, an' speak to me, caan't 'e? You eat an' drink an'
sleep like a gert hog--you new--come from your awnly son's drownin'! Oh,
Christ, caan't 'e think o' me, as have lived a hunderd cruel years since
you went to sleep? Ain't you got a word for me? An' you, as had your sawl
centered 'pon en--how comes it you can--"
She stopped abruptly, for he lay motionless and made no sort of response to
her shrill complaining. She had yet to learn the cause; she had yet to know
that Michael had drifted beyond the reach of all further mental suffering
whatsoever. No religious anxieties, no mundane trials, none of the million
lesser carking troubles that fret the sane brain and stamp care on the face
of conscious intelligence would plague him more. Henceforth he was dead to
the changes and chances of human life.
At midnight there came the awful waking. Thomasin slept at last and
slumbered dream-tossed in a shadow-world of fantastic troubles. Then a
sound roused her--the sound of a voice speaking loudly, breaking off to
laugh, and speaking again. The voice she knew, but the laugh she had never
heard. She started up and listened. It was her husband who had wakened her.
"How do it go then? Lard! my memory be like a fishin' net, as holds the
gert things an' lets the little 'uns creep through. 'Twas a braave song as
faither singed, though maybe for God fearers it ban't a likely song."
Then the bed trembled and the man reared up violently and roared out an
order in such words as he had never used till then.
"Port! Port your God-damned helm if you don't want 'em to sink us."
Thomasin, of whose presence her husband appeared unconscious, crept
trembling from the bed. Then his voice changed and he whispered:
"Port, my son, 'cause of that 'pon the waters. Caan't 'e see--they bubbles
a glimmerin' on the foam? That's the last life of my lil Tom; an' the
foam-wreath's put theer by God's awn right hand. He'm saved, if 'twasn't
that down at the bottom o' the sea a man be twenty fathom nearer hell than
them as lies in graaves ashore. But let en wait for the last trump as'll
rip the deep oceans. An' the feesh--damn 'em--if I thot they'd nose Tom, by
God I'd catch every feesh as ever swum. But shall feesh be 'lowed to eat
what's had a everlasting sawl in it? God forbid. He'm theer, I doubt, wi'
seaweed round en an' sea-maids a cryin' awver his lil white faace an'
keepin' the crabs away. Hell take crabs--they'd a ate Christ 'isself if so
be He'd falled in the water. Pearls--pearls--pearls is on Tom, an' the sea
creatures gives what they can, 'cause they knaw as he'd a grawed to be a
man an' theer master. God bless 'em, they gives the best they can, 'cause
they knawed how us loved en. 'The awnly son o' his mother.' Well, well,
sleep's better'n medicine; but no sleepin' this weather if us wants to make
home again. Steady! 'Tis freshenin' fast!"
He was busy about some matter and she heard him breathing in the darkness
and stirring himself. Thomasin, her heart near standing still before this
awful discovery, hesitated between stopping and flying from the room before
he should discover her. But she felt no fear of the man himself, and
bracing her nerves, struck a light. It showed Gray Michael sitting up and
evidently under the impression he was at sea. He grasped the bed-head as a
tiller and peered anxiously ahead.
"Theer's light shawin' forrard!" he cried. Then he laughed, and Thomasin
saw his face was but the caricature of what it had been, with all the iron
lines blotted out and a strange, feeble expression about eyes and mouth. He
nodded his head, looked up at the ceiling from time to time, and presently
began to sing.
It was the old rhyme he had been trying to recollect, and it now came,
tossed uppermost in the mind-quake which had shattered his intellect,
buried matters of moment, and flung to the surface long hidden events and
words of his youth.
"'Bucca's a churnin' the waves of the sea,
Bucca's a darkenin' the sky wi' his frown,
His voice is the roll o' the thunder.
The lightnin' do shaw us the land on our lee,
An' do point to the plaace wheer our bodies shall drown
When the bwoat gaws down from under.'
"Ha, ha, ha, missis! So you'm aboard, eh? Well, 'tis a funny picksher you
makes, an' if tweern't murder an' hell-fire to do it, blamed if I wouldn't
thraw 'e out the ship. 'Thou mad'st him lower than the angels,' but not
much lower, I'm thinkin'. 'Tis all play an' no work wi' them. They ought to
take a back seat 'fore the likes o' us. They abbun no devil at theer tails
"'But I'll tame the wild devil afore very long.
If I caan't wi' my feests, I will wi' my tongue!'"
Thomasin Tregenza scuffled into her clothes while he babbled, and now,
bidding him sleep in a shaking voice, putting out the candle and taking the
matches with her, she fled into the night to rouse her neighbors and summon
a doctor. She forgot all her other troubles before this overwhelming
tragedy. And the man driveled on in the dark, concerning himself for the
most part with those interests which had occupied his life when he was a
THE DESTINATION OF JOAN
Mary Chirgwin did not return to Newlyn after making inquiries at Penzance.
There indeed she learned one fact which might prove important, but the
possibilities to be read from it were various. Joan had been at the
Penzance railway station, and chance made Mary question the identical
porter who had studied the timetable for her cousin.
"She was anxious 'bout the Lunnon trains an' tawld me she was travelin' up
to town to-morrow," explained the man. "I weer 'pon the lookout this
marnin', but she dedn' come again."
"What time did you see her last night?"
"'Bout nine or earlier. I mind the time 'cause the storm burst not so very
long arter, an' I wondered if the gal had got to her home."
"No, she didn't. Might she have gone by any other train?"
"She might, but I'm everywheers, an' 'tedn' likely as I shouldn't have seed
This much Mary heard, and then went home. Her news made Mr. Chirgwin very
anxious, for supposing that Joan had returned from Penzance on the previous
evening, or attempted to do so, it was probable that she had been in the
lowest part of the valley, at or near Buryas Bridge, about the time of the
flood. The waters still ran high, but Uncle Thomas sent out search parties
through the afternoon of that day, and himself plodded not a few miles in
the lower part of the coomb.
Meantime the truth must be stated. On the night of the storm Joan had gone
to Penzance, ascertained the first train which she could catch next day,
and then returned as quickly as she could toward Drift. But at Buryas
Bridge she remembered that her uncle was in the coomb with the farm hands,
and might be there all night. It was necessary that he should know her
intentions and direct her in several particulars. A farm vehicle must also
be ordered, for Joan would have to leave the farm at a very early hour.
Strung to a tension of nerves above all power of fatigue, in a whirl of
excitement and wholly heedless of the mysterious nocturnal conditions
around her, Joan determined to seek Uncle Thomas directly, and with that
intention, instead of climbing the hill to Drift and so placing herself in
a position of safety, passed the smithy and cots which lie by Buryas Bridge
and prepared to ascend the coomb in this fashion and so reach her friends
the quicker. She knew her road blindfold, but was quite ignorant of the
altered character of the stream. Joan had not, however, traveled above a
quarter of a mile through the orchard lands when she began to realize the
difficulties. Once well out of the orchards, she believed that the meadows
would offer an easier path, and thus, buried in her own thoughts, proceeded
with many stumblings and splashings over the wet grasses and earth, under a
darkness that made progress very slow despite her familiarity with the way.
Then it was that, deep hidden in the night and all alone, where the stream
ran into a pool above big bowlders which banked it--at the spot, indeed,
where she had reigned over the milky meadowsweets seated on a granite
throne--the vibrating thread of Joan Tregenza's little life was sharply
severed and she died with none to see or hear, in that tumult of rising
waters which splashed and gurgled and rose on the skirts of the coming
storm. A pathway ran here at the edge of the river, and the girl stepped
upon it to find the swollen current suddenly up to her knees. Bewildered
she turned, slipped, turned again, and then, under the impression that she
faced toward the meadow-bank, put up her hands to grapple safety, set her
foot forward and, in a moment, was drowning. Distant not half a mile,
laboring like giants to save a thing far less precious than this life,
toiled Uncle Thomas and his men. Had silence prevailed among them the
single cry which echoed up the valley might well have reached their ears;
but all were laboring amain, and Joan was at that moment the last thought
in the minds of any among them.
So she died; for the gathering waters soon beat out her life and silenced
her feeble struggle to save it. A short agony ended the nine months of
experience through which Joan's life has been followed; her fires were
quenched, and that most roughly; her fears, hopes, sorrows, joys were all
swept away; and Nature stood defeated by herself, to see a young life
strangled on the threshold of motherhood, and an infant being drowned so
near to birth that its small heart had already begun to beat.
Two men, tramping through the desolation of the ruined valley at Uncle
Chirgwin's command, discovered Joan's body. The elder was Amos Bartlett,
and he fell back a step at the spectacle with a sorrowful oath on his lip;
the younger searcher turned white and showed fear. The dead girl lay on her
back, so left by the water. Her dress had been caught between two great
bowlders near the pool of her drowning and the flood had thus caused her no
"God's goodness! how comed she here!" cried out Bartlett. "Oh, but this'll
be black news--black news; an' her brother drowned at sea likewise! Theer's
a hidden meanin' in it, I lay, if us awnly knawed." The lad who accompanied
Bartlett was shaking, and did not dare to look at the still figure which
lay so stiff and straight at their feet. Amos therefore bid him use his
legs, hasten to the farm, break the news, and dispatch a couple of men to
"I can pull up a hurdle an' wattle it with withys meantime," he said; "for
'tis allus well to have work for the hand in such a pass as this. Ban't no
good for me to sit an' look at her, poor fond wummon."
He busied himself with the hurdle accordingly, and when two of the hands
presently came down from Drift they found their burden ready for them.
The old, silent man called Gaffer Polglaze found sufficient excitement in
the tragedy to loosen a tongue which seldom wagged. He spat on his hands
and rubbed them together before seizing his end of the hurdle. Then he
"My stars! to see maaster when he heard! He rolled all about as if he was
drunk. An' yet 'tis the bestest thing as could fall 'pon the gal. 'Er was
lookin' for the cheel in a month or so, they do say. Poor sawl--so cold as
a quilkin [Footnote: _Quilkin_--A frog.] now, and the unborn baaby
tu." Then Mr. Bartlett answered:
"The unhappy creature was fine an' emperent to me 'bout a matter o'
drownin' chets in the spring. Yet here she'm drowned herself sure 'nough.
Well, well, God's will be done."
"'Tis coorious, to be sure, how bazzomy [Footnote: _Bazzomy_--Blue or
livid.] a corpse do get 'bout the faace arter a water death," said the
first speaker, regarding the dead with frank interest.
"Her eyes do make me wimbly-wambly in the stomach," declared the second
laborer; "when you've done talkin', Gaffer Polglaze, us'll go up-long, an'
the sooner the better."
"Butivul eyes, tu, they was--wance. Sky-color an' no less. What I'm
wonderin' is as to however she comed here 'tall."
"Piskey-led, I'll warrant 'e," said the ancient.
"Nay, man-led, which is worse. You mind that printed envelope us found in
the kitchen. 'Twas some dark doin' of that anointed vellun as brot her in
trouble. Ay, an' if I could do en a graave hurt I would, Methodist or no
"He'm away," answered Bartlett. "'Tedn' no call for you nor yet me to
meddle wi' the devil's awn business. The man'll roast for't when his time
do come. You'd best to take your coats off an' cover this poor clay, lest
the wummen should catch a sight an' go soundin'."
They did as he bid them, and Mr. Bartlett laid his own coat upon the body
likewise. Then slowly up the hill they passed, and rested now and again
above the steep places.
"A wisht home-comin' as ever a body heard tell on," commented Gaffer
Polglaze; "an' yet the Lard's good pleasure's allus right if you lives long
enough to look back an' see how things was from His bird's-eye view of 'em.
A tidy skuat [Footnote: Windfall, legacy.] o' money tu they tells me. Who
Be gwaine to come by that?"
"Her give it under hand an' seal to her brother."
"Theer's another 'mazin' thing for 'e! Him drownded in salt an' her in
fraish! We lives in coorious times to be sure, an' theer's more in such
happenings than meets the eye."
"Bear yourself more sorrow-stricken, Gaffer. Us be in sight of the house."
Mary Chirgwin met the mournful train, directed them to bring the body of
Joan into the parlor where a place was prepared for it, and then turned to
Bartlett. She was trembling and very pale for one of her complexion, but
the woman's self-command had not left her.
"The auld man's like wan daft," she said hurriedly. "He must be doin', so
he rushed away to Newlyn to tell 'em theer. He ban't himself 'tall. You'd
best to go arter en now this minute. An' theer's things to be done in
Penzance--the doctor an' the crowner an'--an' the coffin-maker. Do what you
can to take trouble off the auld man."
"Get me my coat an' I'll go straight 'way. 'Tis thrawed awver the poor
faace of her."
Two minutes later Mr. Bartlett followed his master, but Uncle Chirgwin had
taken a considerable start of him. The old man was terribly shocked to hear
the news, for he had clung to a theory that Joan was long since in London.
Dread and fear came over him. The thought of facing this particular corpse
was more than he could contemplate with self-control. A great nervous
terror mingled with his grief. He wished to avoid the return from the
valley, and the first excuse for so doing which came to his mind he
hurriedly acted upon. He declared it essential that the Tregenzas should be
told instantly, and hastened away before Mary could argue with him. Only
that morning they had heard of Gray Michael's condition, but Uncle Chirgwin
forgot it when the blasting news of his niece's death fell upon him. He
hurried snuffling and weeping along as fast as his legs would bear him, and
not until he stood at their cottage door did he recollect the calamities
which had overtaken the fisherman and those of his household.
Uncle Chirgwin began to speak hastily the moment Mrs. Tregenza opened the
door. He choked and gurgled over his news.
"She'm dead--Joan. They've found her in the brook as the waters went down.
Drownded theer--the awnly sunshine as ever smiled at Drift. Oh, my good
God!--'tis a miz-maze to drive us all out of our senses. An' you, mother
--my dear, dear sawl, my heart bleeds for 'e."
"I caan't cry for her--my tears be dried at the roots o' my eyes. I be
down-danted to the edge o' my awn graave. If my man wasn't gone daft
hisself, I reckon I should a gone. Come in--come in. Joan an' Tom dead in a
night, an' the faither of 'em worse than dead. I shall knaw it is so
bimebye. 'Tis awnly vain words yet. Iss, you'd best to see en now you'm
here. He may knaw 'e or he may not. He sits craakin' beside the fire, full
o' wild, mad, awful words. Doctor sez theer ban't no bettering of it. But
he may live years an' years, though 'tedn' likely. Tell en as Joan's dead.
Theer edn' no call to be afeared. He's grawed quite calm--a poor droolin'
Uncle Chirgwin approached Gray Michael and the fisherman held out his hand
"'Tis farmer Chirgwin, to be sure. An' how is it with 'e, uncle?"
"Bad, bad, Tregenza. Your lil darter, your Joan, be dead--drownded in the
flood, poor sweet lamb."
"You'm wrong, my son. Joan's bin dead these years 'pon years. She was
damned afore 'er mother conceived her. Hell-meat in the womb. But the 'Lard
is King,' you mind. Joan--iss fay, her mother was a Hittite--a lioness o'
the Hittites, an' the mother's sins be visited 'pon the childern, 'cordin'
to the dark ways o' the livin' God."
"Doan't 'e say it, Michael! She died lovin' Christ. Be sure o' that."
The other laughed loudly, and burst into mindless profanity and obscenity.
So the purest liver and most cleanly thinker has often cursed and uttered
horrible imprecations and profanations under the knife, being chloroformed
and unconscious the while. Uncle Chirgwin gazed and listened open mouthed.
This spectacle of a shattered intellect came upon him as an absolutely new
manifestation. Any novel experience is rare when a man has passed the age
of seventy, and the farmer was profoundly agitated. Then a solemn fit fell
upon Gray Michael, and as his visitor rose to depart he quoted from words
long familiar to the speaker--weird utterances, and doubly weird from a
madman's mouth in Uncle Chirgwin's opinion. Out of the wreck and ruin of
quite youthful memories, Michael's maimed mind had now passed to these
later, strenuous days of his early religious existence, when he fought for
his soul, and lived with the Bible in his hand.
"Hark to me, will 'e? Hark to the word o' God echoed by His worm. 'He that
heareth let en hear, an' he that forbeareth let en forbear, for they are a
rebellious house.' An' what shall us do then? Theer was a man as builded a
heydge around a guckoo, thinkin', poor fool, to catch the bird; but her
flew off. That edn' the Lard's way. 'Make a chain, for the land is full o'
bloody crimes an' the city is full o' violence!' 'An' all that handle the
oar, the mariners, an' all the pilots o' the sea, shall come down from
theer ships,' an' me amongst the rest. That's why I be here now, wi'
bitterness o' heart an' bitter wailin' for my dead bwoy. 'As for theer
rings, they was (were) so high that they was (were) dreadful; an' theer
rings were full of eyes round about.' Huntin' damned sawls, my son--a
braave sight for godly folks. That's why the rings of 'em be so full of
eyes! They need be. An' theer wings whistle like a hawk arter a pigeon.
'Because o' the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon
He relapsed into absolute silence and sat with his eyes on the fire.
Sometimes he shook, sometimes he nodded his head; now he frowned, then
grinned vacuously at the current of his thoughts.
Mr. Chirgwin took his leave of Thomasin, prayed that she might be supported
in her tribulation, and so departing met Amos Bartlett who was standing
outside the cottage awaiting him. The man gave a forcible and blunt
description of his morning's work which brought many tears to Uncle
Chirgwin's eyes; then, together, they walked to Penzance, there to
chronicle the sudden death of Joan Tregenza and arrange for those necessary
formalities which must precede her burial.
The spectacle of Tregenza's insanity, which to an educated observer had
perhaps presented features of some scientific interest and appeared
grotesque rather than tremendous, fell upon the ignorant soul of Uncle
Chirgwin in a manner far different. The mystery of madness, the sublimity
and horror of it, rise only to tragic heights in the untutored minds of
such beholders as the farmer, for no mere scientific manifestation of
mental disease is presented to their intelligence. Instead they stand face
to face with the infinitely more terrific apparition of God speaking direct
through the mouth of one among His chosen insane. In their estimation a
madman's utterance is pregnant, oracular, a subject worthy of most grave
consideration and appraisement. And after Gray Michael's mental downfall
many humble folks, incited by the remarkable religious fame of his past
life, begged permission to approach within sound of his voice at those
moments when the desire for utterance was upon him. This, indeed, came to
be a privilege not a little sought after.
Mary Chirgwin would allow none but herself to perform the last offices of
kindness for her cousin. In poor Joan's pocket she found a wet, crumpled
mass of paper which might have been dried and read without difficulty, but
Mary lacked curiosity to approach the matter. She debated with herself as
to how her duty stood in connection with the communication from John
Barron, then took it in her hand, not without a sensation of much loathing,
and burned it to ashes. The act produced considerable and unforeseen
consequences. Her own mundane happiness was wholly dependent on the burning
of the letter, and a man's life likewise hung upon the incident; but these
results of her conduct were only brought to the woman's understanding in
the light of subsequent events. Then, and with just if superficial cause,
she directly read God's hand in the circumstance. Another discovery
saddened Mary far more than that of the letter, which had caused her little
surprise. Around Joan's white body was a strange amulet--the glen-ader. She
had sewed it upon flannel, then fastened the ends about herself, and so
worn the snake skin at all seasons since the finding of it. The fact was
nothing, the condition of mind which it indicated brought great grief to
the discoverer. She judged that Joan was little better than heathen after
all; she greatly feared that the girl had perished but half-believing. Any
soul which could thus cherish the slough of a serpent must most surely have
been wandering afar out of the road of faith. The all-embracing credulity
of Joan was, in fact, a phenomenon beyond Mary's power to estimate or
translate; and her present discovery, therefore, caused her both pain and
consternation. But as she had burned the letter, so she likewise destroyed
all evidence of her cousin's superstitious weakness; and of neither one nor
the other did she speak when the farmer returned to his home.
He was sadly crushed and broken; and the spectacle of his loved one, lying
silent and peaceful, brought with it deep grief for him. Not until he had
seen her and held her dead hand did he begin slowly to realize the truth.
"Her mother do lie at Paul 'cordin' to the wish o' Michael, but I seem as
Joan had best be laid 'long wi' the Chirgwins at Sancreed. If you'll awnly
give your mind to the matter an' settle it, I'll go this evenin' to wan
plaace or t'other an' see the diggers," said Mary.
"Sancreed for sartain. Her'll be nearer to us, an' us can see wheer she be
restin' 'pon Sundays. Sancreed's best an' fittest, for she was Chirgwin
all. They be comin' to sit 'pon her tomorrow marnin'. Please God He'll hold
me up agin it, but I feels as if I'd welcome death to be 'long-side my lil
He wept an old man's scanty tears, and Mary comforted him, while she
smothered her own real sorrows entirely before his. She spoke coldly and
practically; she fetched him a stiff dose of spirits and a mutton-chop
freshly cooked. These things she made him drink and eat, and she spoke to
the old man while he did so, larding the discussion of necessary details
with expressions of hope for the dead.
"Be strong, an' faace it, uncle. God knaws best. I lay the poor lovey was
took from gert evil to come. You knaw so well as me. You can guess wheer
her'd be now if livin'. She'm in a better home than that. I s'pose the
bury-in' might be two days off, or three. I'll step awver to Sancreed
bimebye, an' if the undertaker come, Mrs. Bartlett can be with him when he
do his work."
"Iss, an' I've said as 'tis to be oak--braave, bold, seasoned oak, an'
polished, wi' silvered handles to it. Her should lie in gawld, my awn Joan,
if I could bring it about."
"Ellum be more--" began Mary, then held her tongue upon that detail and
"Shall us ask Mrs. Tregenza? Sorrer be gripping her heart just now, but a
buryin's a soothin' circumstance to such as she. An' she could carry her
son in the mind. Poor young Tom won't get no good words said above his
dust; us can awnly think 'em for him."
"She might like to come if her could get some o' the neighbors to bide
along wi' Michael. He'm daft for all time, but 'tis said as he'll be
childlike wi' it, thank God. I let en knaw 'bout the lass an' he rolled his
head an' dropped his jaw, like to a feesh, an' said as 'tweern't no news to
en. Which maybe it weern't, for the Lard's got His awn way wi' the idiot.
The sayin's of en! Like as not Thomasin'll be here if 'tis awnly to get the
rids of Michael for a while."
The coroner's inquest found that Joan Tregenza had come by her death from
drowning upon the night of the flood; the tragedy filled an obscure
paragraph or two in local journals; Joan's funeral was fixed for two days
later, and Mrs. Tregenza decided that she would attend it.
At a spot where fell the shadow of the church when the sun sank far
westerly on summer days, they dug the grave in Sancreed churchyard. Round
about it on slate slabs and upright stones appeared the names of Chirgwins
not a few. Her maternal grandparents lay there, her uncle, Mary's father,
and many others. Some of the graves dated back for a hundred and more
On the morning of the funeral, Uncle Thomas himself tied scraps of crape
around the stems of his tall geraniums, according to an ancient custom; and
Mrs. Tregenza arrived at Drift in good time to join the few who mourned.
Six men bore Joan's oaken coffin to Sancreed, while there walked behind
her, Uncle Chirgwin, Mary and Thomasin, Mr. Bartlett, his wife, Gaffer
Polglaze, and two farm maidens. A few of the Drift folk and half a dozen
young children came in the wake of the procession proper; and that was all.
The mourners and their dead proceeded along the high lanes to Sancreed, and
conversation was general. Uncle Chirgwin tugged at his black gloves and
snuffled, then snuffled and tugged again; Mary walked on one side of him;
and Mrs. Tregenza, in new and heavy black bought for another, found the
opportunity convenient for the display of varied grief, as she marched
along on the farmer's right hand. Her condition indeed became hysterical,
and Mary only soothed her with difficulty. So the party crawled within
sound of the minute bell and presently reached the church. The undertaker
buzzed here and there issuing directions, an old clergyman met the dead at
the lych-gate and walked before her up the aisle; while those who had a
right to attend the service, clustered in the pews to right and left of the
trestles. Upon them lay Joan. The words of the service sounded with
mournful reverberations through the chill echoes of an unwarmed and almost
empty church; and then the little sister, sleeping peacefully enough after
her one short year of storm, was carried to the last abode of silence. Then
followed an old man's voice, sounding strangely thin in the open air, the
straining of cords, the sweating and hard breathing and shuffling of men,
the grating of oak on a grave-bottom, the updrawing of the ropes that had
lowered the coffin. Genuine grief accompanied the obsequies of Joan
Tregenza, and her uncle's sorrow touched even men to visible grief and
sympathy; but there was no heart to break for the heart which had itself
come so near to breaking, there was no mighty wellspring of love to be
choked with tears for one who had herself loved so much. A feeling, hidden
in some minds, expressed by others, latent in all, pervaded that throng;
and there was not one among those present, save Thomas Chirgwin, but felt
that Providence, harsh till now, had dealt kindly by Joan in dealing death
Upon the flowerless, shiny coffin-lid a staring plate of white metal
gleamed up at the world above like an eye and met the gaze of the mourners,
as each in turn, with Mrs. Tregenza first, peered down into Joan's grave
before departing. After which all went away; the children were shut out of
the churchyard; the old clergyman disappeared to the vestry; a young florid
man, with pale hair, tightened his leather belt, turned up his sleeves,
watched a grand pair of biceps roll up as he crooked his elbows, then,
taking a spade, set to work upon the wet mound he had dug from the earth
the day before to clear those few square feet of space below. As he worked,
he whistled, for his occupation held no more significance to him than an
alternative employment: the breaking of stones by the highway side. He
could see the black heads of the mourners bobbing away upon the road to
Drift, and stopped to watch them for a moment. But soon he returned to his
labor; the earth rose foot by foot, and the strong young man stamped it
down. Then it bulged and overflowed the full hole; whereupon he patted and
hammered it into the customary mound and slapped upon it sundry pieces of
sodden turf with gaping gashes between their edges. The surplus soil he
removed in a wheelbarrow, the boards he also took away, then raked over the
earth-smeared, bruised grass about the grave and so made an end of his
"Blamed if I ever filled wan quicker'n that," he thought, with some
satisfaction; "I reckoned the rain must fall afore I'd done, but it do hold
off yet seemin'ly."
The man departed, gray twilight fell, and out from the gathering darkness,
like a wound on the hand of Time, that new-made grave and its fringe of
muddy grass stood forth, crude of color, raw, unsightly in the deepening
monochrome of the gloaming.
At Drift the important meal which follows a funeral was enjoyed with sober
satisfaction by about fifteen persons. Cold fowls and a round of cold beef
formed the main features of the repast; Mary poured out tea for the women
at her end of the table, while the men drank two or three bottles of
grocer's sherry among them. The undertaker and his assistants followed when
the funeral assembly dispersed. Mrs. Tregenza was about to depart in the
fly specially ordered to take her home when a lawyer, who was of the
company, begged she would stay a little longer.
"I learn that you are the deceased's stepmother, madam, and as you stand
related to the parties both now unhappily swept away by Providence--I mean
Thomas Tregenza and Joan--it is sufficiently clear that you inherit
directly the bequest left by the poor girl to her brother. I framed her
little will myself; failing her own child, her property went to Thomas
Tregenza, his heirs and assigns--those were the words. The paper is here;
the sum mentioned lies at interest of three per cent. Let me know when
convenient what you would wish to be done."
So the pile of money, at a cost terrible enough, had reached Mrs. Tregenza
after all. She had been drinking brown sherry as well as tea, and was in a
condition of renewed tears approaching to maudlin, when the announcement
reached her. It steadied the woman. Then the thought that this wealth would
have been her son's made her weep again, until the fact that it was now her
own became grasped in her mind. There is a sort of people who find money a
reasonably good support in all human misfortune, and if Mrs. Tregenza did
not entirely belong to that callous company, yet it is certain that this
sudden afflux of gold was more likely to assuage her grief than most
things. She presently retired, all tears and care; but at intervals, when
sorrow rested to regain its strength, the lawyer's information recurred and
the distractions of mind caused by the contemplation of a future brightened
by this wealth soothed Thomasin's nerves to an extent beyond the power of
religion or any other force which could possibly have been brought to bear
upon them. She felt that her own position must henceforth be exalted in
Newlyn, for the effects of the combination of catastrophes led to that end.
Her husband was the sole care she had left, and physicians foretold no
great length of days for him. The lugger would be put up to auction, with
the drift nets and all pertaining thereto. The cottage was already Tregenza
property. Thomasin therefore looked through the overwhelming misery of the
time, counted her moneys and felt comforted without knowing it. As for her
insane husband, his very sufferings magnified him into a man of importance,
and she enjoyed the reflected glory of being his keeper. People came from
remote villages to listen to him, and it was held a privilege among the
humbler sort to view the ruin of Michael Tregenza and hark to the chaotic
ravings of a mind overthrown.
THE HOME-COMING OF JOE
A fortnight and four days after the funeral of Joan Tregenza there blew a
southwest wind over Newlyn, from out a gray sky, dotted with watery blots
of darker gray. No added light marked the western horizon at sunset, but
the short, dull day simply fell headlong into night; and with darkness came
About five o'clock in the afternoon, when the flicker and shine of many
lamps in little shop windows brightened the tortuous streets, a man clad in
tarpaulins, and carrying a big canvas bag on his back, passed rapidly
through the village. He had come that day from London upon the paying off
of his vessel; and while he left his two chests at the railway station, he
made shift to bring his sea-bag along himself; and that because he was
bound for the white cottage on the cliff, and the bag held many precious
foreign concerns for Joan Tregenza. It had been impossible to communicate
with the sailor; and he did not write from London to tell any of his
return, that their pleasure and surprise on his appearance might be the
more complete. Now a greater shock than that in his power to give waited
the man himself. The sailor's parents lived at Mousehole, but Michael's
cottage lay upon the way, and there he first designed to appear.
Joe Noy was a very big man, loosely but strongly set together, a Celt to
the backbone, hard, narrow of mind, but possessing rare determination. His
tanned, clean-shaven face was broader at the jaw than the eyes, and a
lowering heaviness of aspect, almost ape-like, resulted when his features
remained in repose. The effect, however, vanished when he spoke or listened
to the speech of another. That such a man had proved fickle in love was a
thing difficult to credit to the mind familiar with his character. Solid,
sober, simple, fearing God and lacking humor, the jilting of a woman was an
offense of all others least likely to have been associated with him. Yet
circumstances and some unsuspected secrets of disposition had brought about
that event; and now, as he hastened along, the vision of the dark woman he
once loved at Drift did not for an instant cross his thoughts, for they
were full of the fair girl he meant to marry at Newlyn. To her, at least,
he had kept faithful enough; she had been the guiding-star of his life for
hard upon a year of absence; not one morning, not one night, in fair
weather or foul, had he omitted to pray God's blessing upon her. A
fatalism, which his Luke Gospel tenets did not modify, was strong in the
sailor. He had seen death often enough in his business; and his instincts
told him, apart from all religious teaching, that those who died ripe for
salvation were but few. Every man appeared to be an instrument in God's
hand, and human free-will represented a condition quite beyond the scope of
his intelligence to estimate or even conceive. Had any justified in so
doing asked of him his reasons for desertion of Mary Chirgwin, Noy would
have explained that when inviting her to be his wife he took a wrong step
in darkness; that light had since suddenly shone upon him, as upon Saul,
and that Mary, choosing rather to remain outside the sure fold of Luke
Gospeldom, by so doing made it impossible for him to love her longer. He
would have added that the match was doubtless foredoomed according to the
arrangements of the Almighty.
Now Joe came back to his own; and his heart beat faster by several pulses,
and his steps quickened and lengthened, as, through darkness and rain, he
sighted the lamp-lighted cottage window of the Tregenzas. Thereupon he
stopped a moment, brought his bag to the ground, mopped his forehead, then,
raising the latch, strode straight into the kitchen without a knock of
warning. For a moment he imagined the room, lighted only by a dull glow of
firelight, to be empty; but then, amid familiar objects, he noted one not
familiar--a tall and roomy armchair. This stood beside the fireplace, and
in it sat Gray Michael.
"Why, so 'tis! Mr. Tregenza sure 'nough!" the traveler exclaimed, setting
down his bag and coming forward with hand outstretched. "Here I be at last
arter nine months o' salt water! An' Newlyn do smell pleasant in my nose as
I come back to it, I tell 'e!"
The other did not take Joe's hand; he looked up vaguely, with an open mouth
and no recognition in his expression; but Noy as yet failed to note how
insanity had robbed the great face of its power, had stamped out the
strength of it, had left it a mindless vague of limp features.
"Who be you then?" asked Mr. Tregenza.
"Why, blamed if you abbun forgot me! I be Joe--Joe Noy comed back-along at
last. My ivers! You, as doan't forget nothin', to forget me! Yet, maybe,
'tis the low light of the fire as hides me from 'e."
"You'm a mariner, I reckon?"
"I reckon so, if ever theer was wan. An' I'll be the richer by a mate's
ticket 'fore the year's dead. But never mind me. How be you all--all well?
I thot I'd pop in an' surprise 'e."
"Cruel fashion weather for pilchur fishin' us have had--cruel fashion
weather. I knawed 'tweer comin', same as Noah knawed 'fore the flood,
'cause the Lard tawld me. 'Forty years long was I grieved wi' this
generation.' But man tries the patience o' God these days. We'm like the
Ruan Vean men: 'doan't knaw an' won't larn.'"
"Iss fay, mister, true 'nough; but tell me 'bout 'e all an'--an' my Joan.
She've been the cherub aloft for me ever since I strained my eyes glazin'
for the last peep o' Carnwall when us sailed. How be my lil Joan?"
The other started, sat up in his chair and gripped the left arm of it,
while his right hand extended before him and he jolted it curiously with
all the fingers pointing down.
"Joan--Joan? In hell--ragin', roastin' hell--screechin', I lay, like a cat
in a bonfire. 'Tis lies they'll tell 'e 'bout her. She weern't
drownded--never. The devil set sail 'pon auld Chirgwin's hayrick, so they
sez, an' her sailed 'long wi' en. But 'theer rings, they was so high that
they was dreadful, an' theer rings weer full o' eyes round about.' She'm
damned, my son--called, not chosen. 'The crop o' the bunch' they called
her--the crop o' the devil's bunch she was--no cheel o' my gettin'. Her'll
burn for a million years or better--all along o' free-traadin'.
Free-traadin'! curse 'em--why doan't they call it smugglin' an' have done?"
Joe Noy had fallen back. He forgot to breathe, then Nature performed the
necessary act, and in a moment of the madman's silence his listener sucked
a long loud breath.
"Oh, my gracious Powers, what's fallen 'pon en?" he groaned aloud.
"God's strong, but the devil's stronger, you mind. Us must pray to the pit
now. 'Our devil which art in hell'--Ha! ha! ha! He hears fast enough, an'
pokes up the black horns of en at the first smell o' prayer. Not but what
my Tom's aloft, in the main-top o' paradise. I seed en pass 'pon a black
wave wi' a gray foamin' crest. An' the white sawl o' my bwoy went mountin'
and mountin' in shape o' a seabird. Men dies hard in salt water, you mind.
It plays wi' 'em like a cat wi' a mouse. But 'tis all wan: 'The Lard is
King an' sitteth 'tween the cherubims,' though the airth's twitchin', same
as a crab bein' boiled alive, all the time."
Noy looked round him wildly and was about to leave the cottage. Then it
struck him that the man's wife and daughter could not be far off. What
blasting catastrophe had robbed him of his mind the sailor knew not; but
once assured of the fact that Michael Tregenza was hopelessly insane, Noy
lent no credit to any of his utterances, and of course failed to dimly
guess at those facts upon which his ravings were based. Indeed he heard
little after the first rambling outburst, for his own thoughts were busy
with the problems of Tregenza's fate.
"Sit down, mariner. I shan't sail till marnin' an' you'm welcome. Theer be
thots in me so deep as Levant mine, but I doan't speak 'em for anybody's
hearin'. Joan weern't none o' mine, an' I knawed it, thanks be to God,
'fore ever she played loose. What do 'e think o' a thousand pound for a
sawl? Cheap as dirt--eh? 'Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud that our
prayer should not pass through.' Not as prayers can save what's lost for
all eternity 'fore 'tis born into time. He ruined her; he left her wi'
cheel; but ban't likely the unborn clay counts. God Hisself edn' gwaine to
damn a thing as never drawed breath. Who'd a thot the like o' her had got a
whore's forehead? An' tokened at that--tokened to a sailor-man by name o'
Noy. Let'n come home, let'n come home an' call the devil as did it to his
account. Let the Lard see to't so that man edn' 'lowed to flourish no more.
I be tu auld an' broken for any sich task. 'For the hurt o' the darter o'
my people I am hurt.'"
He spoke no more upon that head, though Noy, now awake to fear and horridly
conscious that he stood in the shadow of some tremendous ill, reaching far
beyond the madman, asked him frantically what he meant. But Michael's mind
had wandered off the subject again.
"I seed en cast forth a net, same as us does for macker'l, but 'twas sawls,
not feesh, they dragged in the bwoat; but braave an' few of 'em. The
devil's nets was the full wans, 'cause--"
At this moment Thomasin came in, saw a man by Mr. Tregenza, but did not
realize who had returned until she struck a light. Then, approaching, she
gasped her surprise and stood for a moment dumb, looking from her husband
to the sailor, from the sailor back to her husband. The horror on Noy's
face frightened her; indeed he was now strung to a pitch of frantic
excitement. He saw that the woman was altogether clad in black, that her
garments were new, that even her bonnet had a black flower in it; and,
despite his concern, he observed an appearance of prosperity about her,
though her face belied it, for Mrs. Tregenza was very thin, and far grayer
and older too than when he saw her last. He took the hand she stretched
shaking toward him; then a question burst from his lips.
"For God's sake speak an' tell me the worst on it. What terrible evil be
here? He'm--he'm daft seemin'ly; he's spawk the awfulest mad words as ever
comed from lips. An' Joan--doan't 'e say it--doan't 'e say 'tis true she'm
dead--not my lil treasure gone dead; an' me, ever since I went, countin'
the days an' hours 'gainst when I should come back?"
"Ay, my poor lad, 'tis true--all true. An' worse behind, Joe. Hip an' thigh
us be smitten--all gone from us; my awnly wan drownded--my awn bwoy; an'
Michael's brain brawk down along o' it. An' the bwoat an' nets be all sold;
though, thanks to God, they fetched good money. An' poor Joan tu--'pon the
same night as my Tom--drownded--in the gert land-flood up-long."
Gray Michael had been nodding his head and smiling as each item of the
mournful category was named. At Thomasin's last words he interrupted
angrily, and something of the old, deep tones of his voice echoed again.
"'Tis a lie! Dedn' I tell 'e, wummon, 'tweern't so? The devil took
her--body an' bones an' unborn baaby. They say she was found by the
meadowsweets; an' I say 'tis false. You may groan an' you may weep blood,
but you caan't chaange the things that have happened in time past--no; nor
more can God A'mighty."
His wife looked to see how Joe viewed this statement. A great local
superstition was growing up round Gray Michael, and his wild utterances
(sometimes profanely fearful beyond the possibility of setting down) were
listened to greedily as inspirations and oracles. Mrs. Tregenza herself
became presently imbued with something of this morbid and ignorant opinion.
Her deep wounds time promised to heal at the first intention, and the
significance now attributed to her insane husband grew to be a source of
real satisfaction to her. She dispensed the honor of interviews with
Michael as one distributes great gifts.
The force of circumstances and the futility of fighting against fate
impressed Thomasin mightily now, as Noy's wild eyes asked the question his
lips could not force themselves to frame. She sighed and bent her head and
turned her eyes away from him, then spoke hurriedly:
"I doan't knaw how to tell 'e, an' us reckoned theer weern't no call to,
an' us weern't gwaine to tell; but these things be in the Lard's hand an'
theer edn' no hidin' what He means to let out. A sorry, cruel home-comin'
for 'e, Joe. Poor lass, her's done wi' all her troubles now, an' the unborn
cheel tu. 'Tis very hard to stand up 'gainst, but the longest life's awnly
short, an' us ban't called 'pon to live it more'n wance, thank God."
Here she gave way to tears, and dried the same on a white
pocket-handkerchief with a black border.
"'Tis all so true as gospel," declared Gray Michael, rolling his head round
on his neck and laughing. "An' my auld wummon's fine an' braave, edn' her?
That's cause I cleared a thousan' pound in wan trip. Christ was aboard, an'
He bid me shoot the nets by munelight off the islands. He do look arter His
awn somethin' butivul, as I tawld En. An' now I be a feesher o' men, which
is better, an' high 'mong the salt o' the airth, bein' called to walk along
wi' James an' John an' the rest."
"He sits theer chitterin', ding dong, ding dong, all the wisht day. Tom's
death drove en cracked, but 'e ban't no trouble, 'cept at feedin' times.
Besides, I keeps a paid servant girl now," said Mrs. Tregenza.
Joe Noy had heard neither the man nor the woman. From the moment that he
knew the truth concerning Joan his own thoughts barred his ears to all
"Who weer it? Tell me the name. I want no more'n that," he said.
"'Tis Anne Bundle's darter," answered Mrs. Tregenza, her mind on her maid.
"The man!" thundered Noy, "the man who brot the thing about--the man what
ruined--O God o' Hosts, be on my side now! Who weer 'e? Give me the name of
en. That's all as I wants."
"Us doan't knaw. You see, Joan was away up Drift wi' the Chirgwins, an'
theer she was took when they found her arter the drownin'. She never knawed
the true name of en herself, poor dear. But 'twas a paintin' man--a artist.
It comed out arter as he'd made a picksher of her, an' promised to marry
her, an' stawl all she'd got to give 'pon the strength of the lie. Then
theer was a letter--"
"From the man?"
Mrs. Tregenza grew frightened at the thought of mentioning the money, and
now adroitly changed the first letter from Barron, which was in her mind
when she spoke, to the second, which Joan had received from him on the
night of her death.
"Iss, from him; an' Mary Chirgwin found it 'pon the dead frame o' the poor
gal, but 'twas partly pulp, along o' the water; an' Mary burned it wi'out
readin' a word--so she said, at least, though that's difficult to credit,
human nature bein' as 'tis."
"Then my work's the harder; but I'll find en, s'elp me God, even if us be
grawed gray afore we meet."
"Think twice, Joe; you caan't bring back your lass, nor wash her sins
white. 'Tis tu late."
"No, not that, but I can--I'm in God's hand for this. Us be tools, an' He
uses all for His awn ends. I sees whereto I was born now, an' the future be
writ clear afore my eyes. Thicky madman theer said the word; an' I lay the
Lard put it in en for my better light. Er said 'Let'n come home an' call
the devil as did it to account.' He was thinkin' o' me when he said it,
though he dedn' knaw me."
"Iss fay, 'tis generally allowed he be the lips o' God A'mighty now. But
you, Joe--doan't 'e waste life an' hard-won money huntin' down a damned
man. Leave en to his deserts."
"'Tis I that be his deserts, wummon--'tis I, in the hand o' the God o'
Vengeance. That's my duty now standin' stark ahead o' me. The Lard's
pleased to pay all my prayers an' good livin' like this here. His will be
done, an' so it shall to the dregs of it; an' if I be for the pit arter
all, theer's wan livin' as gaws along wi' me."
"That's worse than a fool's thot. Bide till you'm grawed cool anyways. 'Tis
very hard this fallin' 'pon a virtuous member like what you be; but 'tedn'
a straange tale 'tall. The man was like other men, I doubt; the maid was
like other maids. You thot differ'nt. You was wrong; an' you'll be wrong
again to break your heart now. Let en go--'tis best."
"Let en go! Blast en--I'll let heaven go fust! Us'll see what a wronged
sawl's patience can do now. Us'll see what the end of the road'll shaw! O
God o' the Righteous, fester this here man's bones in his body, an' eat his
life out of en wi' fiery worms! Tear his heartstrings, God o' Hosts, rob en
of all he loves, stamp his foul mind wi' memories till he shrieks for death
an' judgment; punish his seed forever; turn his prayers into swearin';
torture en, rot en sawl an' body till you brings me to en. Shaw no mercy,
God o' Heaven, but pile agony 'pon agony mountains high for en; an' let
mine be the hand to send his cussed sawl to hell, for Christ's sake, Amen!"
"Oh, my Guy Faux! theer's cussin'! An' yet 'tedn' gwaine to do a happard
[Footnote: _Happard_--Halfpennyworth.] o' good; an' you wouldn' be no
happier for knawin' sich a prayer was granted," said Thomasin; but Gray
Michael applauded the outburst, and his words ended that strange spectacle
of two men, for the time both mad.
"Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Braave prayin'! Braave savor for the Lard's
nose--sweeter than the blood o' beasts. You'm a shinin' light, cap'n--a
trumpet in the battle, like the sound o' the sea-wind when it begins to
sting afore heavy weather, an' the waters roll to the top o' the bulwarks
an' awver. 'The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan'--sea-horses us
calls 'em nowadays. Mount an' ride, mount an' ride! 'Cursed be the man that
trusteth in man,' saith the Lard; but the beasts be truer, thanks to the
wickedness o' God, who's spared 'em the curse o' brain paarts, but stricken
man wi' a mighty intelligence. 'Twas a fine an' cruel act, for the more
mind the more misery. 'Twas a damned act sure 'nough! Doan't 'e let on
'bout it, mate, but theer'll be clever surprises at Judgment, an' the fust
to be damned'll be the God o' the Hebrews Hisself for givin' o' brains to
weak heads. Then the thrawn o' heaven'll stand empty--empty--the plaace
'tween the cherubims empty; an' they'll call 'pon me to fill it so like's
not. Tarraway, I shall be named, same as the devil in the droll--a purty
word enough tu."
He broke into laughter, and Joe Noy, saying a few hasty words to Thomasin,
A NIGHT VISIT
He who less than an hour before had hastened hot-footed through the Newlyn
streets, whose habitual stern expression had softened before the well-known
sights and smells of the gray village, whose earnest soul was full of
happiness under the rain of the night, now turned back upon his way and
skulked through the darkness with a murderer's heart in him. The clear
spectacle of his revenge blinded lesser presentations and even distracted
his sorrow. There was no space now vacant in Noy's brain to hold the full
extent of his loss; and the fabric of happiness which for weary months on
various seas he had been building up in imagination, and which a madman's
word had now sent spinning to chaos, yet remained curiously with him, as an
impression stamped by steadfast gazing remains upon the eye. It recurred as
of old: a joy; and not till the former emotion of happiness had again and
again reappeared to be blunted, as a dream, at waking, by the new
knowledge, did truth sink into this man's mind and become part of memory.
Now he was dazed, as one who has run hard and well to a goal, and who,
reaching it, finds his prize stolen. Under these circumstances, Joe Noy's
natural fatalism--an instinct beyond the power of any religion to
destroy--appeared instant and strong. Chance had now fed these
characteristics, and they grew gigantic in an hour. But the religious habit
made him turn to his Maker in this pass, and the merely primitive passions,
which were now breaking loose within him, he regarded as the direct voices
of God. They proclaimed that solitary duty the world still held for him;
they marked out his road to the lurid end of it.
Thus Noy's own furious lust for revenge was easily and naturally elevated
into a mandate from the Highest--into a message echoed and reiterated upon
his ear by the multitudinous voices of that wild night. The rain whispered
it on the roof-trees, the wind and sea thundered it; out of elemental chaos
the awful command came, as from primal lips which had spoken since creation
to find at last the ultimate destination of their message within a human
ear. To Noy, his purpose, not yet an hour old, seemed ancient as eternity,
a fixed and deliberate impression which had been stamped upon his mind at a
period far earlier than his life in time. For one end had he been created;
that by some sudden short cut he should hurry to its close a vile life,
fill up God's bitter curse upon this man, destroy the destroyer, and speed
a black soul into the torment awaiting it.
Irresolute and deep in thought as to his future actions, Joe Noy walked
unconsciously forward. He felt unequal to returning to his home in
Mousehole after what he had learned at Newlyn; and he wandered back,
therefore, toward Penzance. A glare of gas lamps splashed the wet surface
of the parade with fire; while below him, against the sea wall, a high tide
spouted and roared. Now and again, after a heavy muffled thud of sea
against stone, columns of glimmering, gray foam shot upward, like gigantic
ghosts out of the water. For a moment they towered in the air, then,
wind-driven, swept hissing across the black and shining surfaces of the
Noy stood here a moment, and the cold wind cooled him, and the riot and
agony of the sea boiling against the granite face of the breakwater chimed
with the riot and agony of his mind, whose hopes were now rent in tatters,
riven, splintered and disannulled by chance. He turned a moment where the
Newlyn harbor light flashed across the darkness to him. From his standpoint
he knew that a line drawn through that light must fall upon the cottage of
the Tregenzas beyond it on the shore, and, fixing his eyes where the
building lay hidden, he stretched out his hand and spoke aloud.
"May God strike me blind and daft if ever I looks 'pon yon light an' yonder
cot again till the man be dead."
Then he turned, and was about to seek the station, with a vague purpose to
go straight to London at the earliest opportunity, when a wiser thought
arrested this determination. He must learn all that it was possible to
learn concerning the last days of Joan. Mrs. Tregenza had explained her
stepdaughter's life at Drift. To Drift, therefore, the sailor determined to
go; and the stress upon his mind was such that even the prospect of
conversation with Mary Chirgwin--a thing he had certainly shrunk from under
other circumstances--caused him no uneasiness.
Over the last road that Joan had ever walked, and under similar conditions
of night and storm, he tramped up to Drift, entered through the side gate,
and surprised Mr. Chirgwin and his niece at their supper. As before with
the Tregenzas, so now again in company of Uncle Thomas and Mary, Joe Noy
formed the third in a trio of curious significance. Though aware that the
sailor was due from his voyage, this sudden apparition of him at such a
time startled his former friends not a little. Mary indeed was unnerved in
a manner foreign to her nature, and the candle-lighted kitchen whirled in
her eyes as she felt her hand in his. Save for an ejaculation from the old
man, which conveyed nothing beyond his astonishment, Noy was the first to
speak; and his earliest words relieved the minds of his listeners in one
great particular; he already knew the worst that had happened.
"I be come from Newlyn, from the Tregenzas. Thomasin have tawld me of all
that's falled out; but I couldn't bide in my awful trouble wi'out comin'
up-long. I reckon you'll let the past be forgot now. I'm punished ugly
enough. You seed her last, dead an' alive; you heard the last words ever
she spoke to any of her awn folks. That drawed me. If I must ax pardon for
comin', then I will."
"Nay, nay, my poor sawl; sit you down an' eat, Joe, an' take they wet boots
off a while. Our hearts have bled for 'e this many days, Joe Noy, an' never
"I thank you, uncle; an' you, Mary Chirgwin--will 'e say as much? 'Tis you
I wants to speak with, 'cause you--you seed Joan arter 'twas awver."
"I wish you well, Joe Noy, an' if I ever done differ'nt 'tis past an'
forgot. What I can tell 'e 'bout our poor lass, as lived the end of her
days along wi' me an' uncle, you've a right to knaw."
"An' God bless 'e for sayin' so. I comed rough an' ready, an' thrust in
'pon you; but this news be but two hour auld in my heart, you see, an'
'tedn' easy for such as me to make choice o' words at a time like this."
"Eat, my son, an' doan't 'e fancy theer's any here but them as be friends.
Polly an' me seed more o' Joan through her last days than any; an' I do say
as she was a lamb o' God's foldin', beyond all manner o' doubt; an' Polly,
as feared it mightn't 'sactly be so, be of my 'pinion now. Them as suffered
for the sins o' other folk, like what she done, has theer hell-fire 'pon
this side o' the graave, not t'other."
"I lay that's a true sayin'," declared Noy shortly. "I won't keep 'e
ower-long from your beds," he added. "If you got a drink o' spirits I'll
thank you for it; then I'll put a question or two to she--to Mary Chirgwin,
if she'll allow; an' then I'll get going."
The woman was self-possessed again now, although Joe's voice and
well-remembered gestures moved her powerfully and made it difficult to keep
her voice within absolute control.
"All you can ax that I knaw, I'll tell 'e, though Joan shut her thots purty
close most times. Us awnly got side views of her mind, and them not often."
"The man," he said. "Tell me all--every-thin' you can call home--all what
her said of him."
"Fust she thot a 'mazin' deal 'bout en," explained the farmer; "then time
made her mind get stale of en, an' she begin to see us was right. He sent
money--a thousand pound, an' I--poor fool--thot Joan weern't mistook at
fust. But 'twas awnly conscience money; an' now Thomasin's the better for't
But this sensational statement was not appreciated, Joe's mind being
"You never heard the name of en?"
"Awnly the christening name, as was 'Jan.' You may have heard tell she got
a letter the night she passed. Us found the coverin' under the table next
day, an' Mary comed across the letter itself in her pocket at the last."
"'Tis that I be comed for. If you could tell so much as a word or two out
of it, Mary? They said you burned it an' the crowner was mighty angry, but
I thot as p'raps you'd looked at it all the same, awnly weern't pleased to
"No," she answered. "Tis true I found a letter, an' I might a read some of
it if I would, but I judged better not. 'Tweern't fair to her like."
"Was theer anything else as shawed anything 'bout en?"
"No--awnly a picksher of a ship he painted for her. I burned that tu; an'
I'd a burned his money if I could. He painted her--I knaw that much. She
tawld us wan night--a gert picksher near as large as life. He took it to
Lunnon--for a shaw, I s'pose."
"I'd think of en no more if I was you, Joe," said Uncle Chirgwin. "Leave
the likes of en to the God of en. Brace yourself agin this sore onset an'
pray to Heaven to forgive all sinners."
Noy looked at the old man and his great jaw seemed to spread laterally with
"God have gived the man to me! that's why I be here: to knaw all any can
teach me. I've got to be the undoin' o' that devil--the undoin' an' death
of en. I'll be upsides wi' the man if it takes me fifty year to do it.
Awnly 'more haste, more let.' I shall go slow an' sure. That's why I comed
here fust thing."
Mr. Chirgwin looked extremely alarmed, and Mary spoke.
"This be wild, wicked talkin', Joe Noy, an' no mort o' sorrer as ever was
can excuse sich words as them. 'Tedn' no task o' yourn to take the Lard's
work out His hand that way. He'll pay the evil-doer his just dues wi'out no
help from you."
"I've got a voice in my ear, Mary--a voice louder'n any human voice; an' it
bids me be doin' as the instrument of God A'mighty's just rage. If you can
help me, then I bid you do it, if not, let me be away. Did you read any o'
that theer letter--so much as a word, or did 'e larn wheer 'twas writ
"If I knawed, I shouldn't tell 'e, not now. I'd sooner cut my tongue out
than aid 'e 'pon the road you'm set. An' you a righteous thinkin' man
He looked at her and there was that in his face which showed a mind busy
with time past. His voice had changed and his eyes softened.
"I be punished for much, Mary Chirgwin. I be punished wi' loss an' wi' sich
work put on me as may lead to a terrible ugly plaace at the end. But theer
'tis. Like the chisel in the hand o' the carpenter, so I be a sharp tool in
the Lard's grip."
"Never! You be a poor, dazed worm in the grip o' your awn evil thots! You'm
foxing [Footnote: _Foxing_--Deceiving.] yourself, Joe; you'm listenin'
to the devil an' tellin' yourself 'tis God--knawin' 'tedn' so all the
while. Theer's no religion as would put you in the right wi' sich notions
as them. Listen to your awn small guidin' voice, Joe Noy; listen to me, or
to Luke Gosp'lers or any sober-thinkin', God-fearin' sawl. All the world
would tell 'e you was wrong--all the wisdom o' the airth be agin you, let
"If 'twas any smaller thing I'd listen to 'e, Mary, for I knaw you to be a
wise, strong wummon; but theer ban't no mistakin' the message I got
down-long when they told me what's fallen 'pon Joan Tregenza. No fay; my
way be clear afore me; an' the angel o' God will lead my footsteps nearer
an' nearer till I faace the man. Windin' ways or short 'tis all wan in the
end, 'tis all set down in the Book o' the Lard."
"How can the likes o' you dare to up an' say what be in the Book o' the
Lard, Joe?" asked Uncle Chirgwin, roused to words by the other's
sentiments. "You've got a gashly, bloody-minded fit on you along of all
your troubles. But doan't 'e let it fasten into your heart. Pray to God to
wipe away these here awful opinions. Else they'll be the ruin of 'e, body
an' sawl. If Luke Gosp'ling brot 'e to this pass in time o' darkness an'
tribulation, 'tis a cruel pity you didn't bide a church member."
"I wish I thot you was in the right, uncle," said the sailor calmly, "but I
knaws you ban't. All the hidden powers of the airth an' the sea edn' gwaine
to keep me from that man. Now I'll leave 'e; an' I'm sorry, Mary Chirgwin,
as you caan't find it in your heart to help me, but so the Lard wills it. I
won't ax 'e to shake my hand, for theer'll be blood on it sooner or
later--the damnedest blood as ever a angry God called 'pon wan o' His
creatures to spill out."
"Joe, Joe, stay an' listen to me! For the sake of the past, listen!"
But Noy rose as Mary cried these words, and before she had finished
speaking he was gone.
THE SEEKING OF THE MAN
Thus the sailor, Noy, wholly imbued with one idea, absolutely convinced
that to this end it had pleased Providence to give him life, went forth
into the world that he might seek and slay the seducer of Joan. After
leaving Drift he returned to Penzance, lay there that night, and upon the
following morning began a methodical visitation of the Newlyn studios. Five
he called at and to five artists he stated something of his case in general
terms; but none of those who heard him were familiar with any of the facts,
and none could offer him either information or assistance. Edmund Murdoch
was not in Newlyn, Brady had gone to Brittany; but at the seventh studio
which he visited, Joe Noy substantiated some of his facts. Paul Tarrant
chanced to be at home and at work when he called; and the artist would have
told Joe everything which he wished to learn, but that Noy was cautious and
reserved, not guessing that he stood before one who knew his enemy and
entertained no admiration for him.
"Axing pardon for taking up any of your time, sir," he began, "but theer'm
a matter concerning a party in your business as painted a maiden here, by
name o' Joan Tregenza. She weern't nobody--awnly a fisherman's darter, but
the picksher was said to be done in these paarts, an' I thot, maybe, you'd
knaw who drawed it."
Tarrant had not heard of Joan's death, and, indeed, possessed no
information concerning her, save that Barron had prevailed upon the girl to
sit for a portrait. The question, therefore, struck him as curious; and one
which he put in return, merely to satisfy his own curiosity, impressed Joe
in a similar way. His suspicious nature took fright and Tarrant's dark,
bright eyes seemed to read his secret and search his soul.
"Yes, a portrait of Joan Tregenza was painted here last spring, but not by
a Newlyn man. How does that interest you?"
"Awnly sideways. 'Tedn' nothin' to me. I knaws the parties an' wanted to
see the picksher if theer weern't no objection."
"That's impossible, I fear, unless you go to London. I cannot help you
further than to say the artist lives there and his picture is being
exhibited at an art gallery. Somebody told me that much; but which it is I
This was enough for Noy. Ignorant of the metropolis or the vague import of
the words "a picture gallery," he deemed these directions amply sufficient,
and, being anxious to escape further questioning, now thanked Tarrant and
speedily departed. Not until half way back again to Penzance did he realize
how slight was the nature of this information and how ill-calculated to
bring him to his object; the man he wanted lived in London and had a
painting of Joan Tregenza in a picture gallery there.
Yet upon these directions Joe Noy resolved to begin his search, and as the
train anon bore him away to the field of the great quest he weighed the
chances and considered a course of action. Allowing the ample margin of ten
picture galleries to London, and assuming that the portrait of Joan once
found would be easily recognized by him, the sailor considered that a
fortnight of work should bring him face to face with the picture. That
done, he imagined that it would not be difficult to learn the name and
address of the painter. He had indeed asked Tarrant this question
pointblank, but the artist's accidental curiosity and Joe's own caution
combined to prevent any extension of the interview, or a repetition of the
question. A word had at least placed him in possession of John Barron's
name, but Chance prevented it from being spoken, as Chance had burned
Barron's letter and prevented his name appearing at the inquest. Now Noy
viewed the task before him with equanimity. The end was already assured,
for, in his own opinion, he walked God-guided; but the means lay with him,
and he felt that it was his duty to spare no pains or labors and not to
hesitate from the terrible action marked for him when he should reach the
end of his journey. Mary's last words came to his ear like a whisper which
mingled with the jolt and rattle of the railway train; but they held no
power to upset his purpose or force to modify his rooted determination. Her
image occupied his thoughts, however, for a lengthy period. Then, with some
effort, he banished it and entered upon a calculation of ways and means,
estimating the capabilities of his money.
Entering the great hive to accomplish that assassination as he supposed
both planned and predestined for him before God made the sun, Noy set about
his business in a deliberate and careful manner. He hired a bedroom in a
mean street near Paddington, and, on the day after his arrival in London,
purchased a large map and index of the city which gave ample particulars of
public buildings and mentioned the names and positions of the great
permanent homes of art. By the help of newspaper advertisements he also
ascertained where to find some of the numerous private dealers' galleries
and likewise learned what public annual exhibitions chanced to be at that
time open. Whereupon, though the circumstance failed to quicken his pulse,
he discovered that the extent of his labors would prove far greater than he
at first imagined. He made careful lists of the places where pictures were
to be seen, and the number quickly ran up to fifty, sixty, seventy
exhibitions. That he would be able to visit all these Joe knew was
impossible, but the fact caused him no disquiet. The picture he sought and
the name of the man who painted it must be presented to him in due season.
For him it only remained to toil systematically at the search and allow no
clew to escape him. As for the issue, it was with the Lord.
London swept and surged about Joe Noy unheeded. He cared for nothing but
canvases and the places where they might be seen. Day by day he worked and
went early to rest, weary and worn by occupation of a nature so foreign to
his experience. Nightly his last act was to delete one or sometimes two of
the exhibitions figured upon his lists. Thus a week passed by and he had
visited ten galleries and seen upward of five thousand pictures. Not one
painting or drawing of them all was missed or hurried over; he compared
each with its number in the catalogue, then studied it carefully to see if
any hint or suggestion of Joan appeared in it. Her Christian name often met
his scrutiny in titles, and those works thus designated he regarded with
greater attention than any others; but the week passed fruitlessly, and
Joe, making a calculation at the termination of it, discovered that, at his
present rate of progression, it would be possible to inspect no more than
half of the galleries set down before his funds were exhausted. The
knowledge quickened his ingenuity and he discovered a means by which future
labors might be vastly modified and much time saved. He already knew that
the man responsible for Joan's destruction was called John; his mind now
quickened with the recollection of this important fact, and henceforth he
did a thing which any man less unintelligent had done from the first: he
scanned his catalogues without troubling about the pictures, and only
concerned himself with those canvases whose painters had "John" for their
Christian names. He thanked God on his knees that the idea should have
entered his mind, for his labors were thereby enormously lightened.
Notwithstanding, through ignorance of his subject, Joe wasted a great deal
of time and money. Thus he visited the National Gallery, the Old Masters at
the Academy and various dealers' exhibitions where collections of the
pictures of foreign men were at that season being displayed.
The brown sailor created some interest viewed in an environment so
peculiar. His picturesque face might well have graced a frame and looked
down upon the artistic throngs who swept among the pictures, but the living
man, full of almost tragic interest in what he saw, laboring along
catalogue in hand, dead to everything but the art around him, seemed wholly
out of place. He looked what he was: the detached thread of some story from
which the spectator only saw this chapter broken away and standing without
its context. Nine persons out of ten dismissed him with a smile; but
occasionally a thoughtful mind would view the man and occupy itself with
the problem of his affairs. Such built up imaginary histories of him and
his actions, which only resembled each other in the quality of remoteness
Once it happened that at a small gallery, off Bond Street, the sudden sight
of precious things brought new emotions to Joe Noy--sentiments and
sensations of a sort more human and more natural than those under which he
was at present pursuing his purpose. Before this spectacle, suddenly
presented in the quietness and loneliness of the little exhibition, that
stern spirit of revenge which had actuated him since the knowledge of his
loss, and which, gripping his mind like a frost from the outset, had
congested the gentler emotions of sorrow for poor Joan and for
himself--before this display of a familiar scene, hallowed beyond all
others in memory, the man's relentless mood rose off his mind for a brief
moment like a cloud, and he stood, with aching heartstrings, gazing at a
great canvas. Sweet to him it was as the unexpected face of one dearly
loved to the wanderer; and startling in a measure also, for, remembering
his oath, to see Newlyn no more until his enemy was dead, it seemed as
though the vow was broken by some miracle and that from the heart of the
roaring city he had magically plunged through space to the threshold of the
home of Joan.
Before him loomed a picture like a window opening upon Newlyn. The village
lay there in all the flame and glory of sunset lights. The gray and black
roofs clustered up the great dark hill and the gloaming fell out of a
primrose sky over sea and land. The waters twinkled full of light to the
very foreground of the canvas, and between the piers of the harbor a
fisher-boy was sculling his boat. Between the masts of stone-schooners at
the quay, Joe saw the white cottage of the Tregenzas, and there his survey
stopped, for at this spectacle thought broke loose. No man ever paid a
nobler tribute to a good picture. Very long he gazed motionless, then, with
a great sigh, moved slowly forward, his eyes still turning back.
The day and the experience which it brought him marked a considerable flux
of new impressions in Joe's mind--impressions which, without softening the
rugged aspect of his determination, yet added other lines of reflection.
Sorrow for what was lost fastened upon him, and an indignation burned his
soul that such things could be in a world designed and ordered by the
Almighty. Revenge, however, grew no less desirable in the light of sorrow.
He looked to it more and more eagerly as the only food which could lead to
peace of mind. His road probably embraced the circumstances of an
ignominious death; but none the less peace would follow--a peace beyond the
power of future life on earth to supply. Thus, at least, did his project
then present itself to him. Thought of the meeting with his enemy grew to
be a luxury which he feasted upon in the night watches after fruitless days
and the investigation of endless miles of pictures. Then he would lie awake
and imagine the inevitable climax. He saw himself standing before the man
who had ruined two lives; he felt his hand close over a knife or a pistol,
and wondered which it should be; he heard his own voice, slow and steady,
pronounce sentence of death, and he saw terror light that other man's face
as the blood fled from it. He rehearsed the words he should utter at that
great juncture and speculated as to what manner of answer would come; then
the last scene of all represented his enemy stretched dead at his feet and
himself with his hands linked in iron. There yet remained the end of the
tragedy for him--a spectacle horrible enough in the eyes of those still
left to love him, but for himself empty of terror, innocent of power to
alarm. Clean-living men would pity him, religious men would see in him an
instrument used by God to strike at a sinner. His death would probably
bring some wanderers to the fold; it must of a surety be long remembered as
the greatest sermon lived and preached by a Luke Gospeler. Lulled by the
humming woof and warp of such reflections, his mind nightly passed into the
unconsciousness of sleep; and quickened by subsequent visions, the brain
enacted these imaginings with an added gloom and that tremendous appearance
of reality proper to the domain of dreams.
Thus the days sped and grew shorter as December waned. Then, at the end of
the second week of his work, Noy chanced to read that an Exhibition at the
Institute of Painters in Oils was about to close; and not yet having
visited that collection he set out on the morning of the following day to
According to his custom, Noy worked through the exhibition catalogue for
each room before entering it. The hour was an early one, and but few
persons had as yet penetrated to the central part of the gallery. For
these, however, an experience of a singular character was now in store.
Wandering hither and thither in groups and talking in subdued voices after
the manner of persons in such a place, all were suddenly conscious of a
loud inarticulate cry. The sudden volume of sound denoted mixed emotions,
but amazement and grief were throned upon it, and the exclamation came from
a man standing now stiff and spellbound before "Joe's Ship," the famous
masterpiece of John Barron. The beholders viewed an amazed figure which
seemed petrified even to an expression on his face. There are countenances
which display the ordinary emotions of humanity in a fashion unusual and
peculiar to themselves. Thus, while the customary and conventional signs of
sorrow are a down-drawing slant to the corners of mouth and eye, yet it
sometimes happens that the lines more usually associated with gratification
are donned in grief. Of this freakish character was the face of Joe Noy.
His muscles seemed to follow the bones underneath them; and now beholding
him, the surprised spectators saw a man of gigantic proportions
gigantically moved. Yet, while sorrow was discernible in his voice, the
corners of his mouth were dragged up till his lips resembled a half-moon on
its back, and the lids and corners of his eyes were full of laughter
wrinkles, while the eyes themselves were starting and agonized. The man's
catalogue had fallen to the ground; his hands were clinched; now, as others
watched him, he came step by step nearer to the picture.
To estimate the force of the thing upon Noy's hungry heart, to present the
chaos of emotions which now gripped him at the goal of his pilgrimage, is
impossible. Here, restored to him by art, was his dead sweetheart, the sum
and total of all the beauty he had worshiped and which for nearly a year of
absence had been his guiding star. He knew that she was in her grave, yet
she stood before him sweet and fresh, with the moisture of life in her eyes
and on her lips. He recognized everything, to the windy spot where the
gorse flourished on the crown of the cliff. The clean sky told him from
whence the wind blew; the gray gull above was flying with it upon slanting
wings. And Joan stood below in a blaze of sunshine and yellow blossom. A
reflection from the corner of her sunbonnet brightened her face, though it
was shaded from direct sunlight by her hand; her blue eyes mirrored the sea
and the sky; and they met Joe's, like a question. She was looking away to
the edge of the world; and he knew from the name of the picture, which he
had read before he saw it, the object regarded. He glared on, and his
breath came quicker. The brown petticoat with the black patch was familiar
to him; but he had never seen the gleam of her white neck below the collar
where it was hidden from the sun. In the picture an unfastened button
showed this. The rest he knew: her hair, turning at the flapping edge of
the sunbonnet; her slight figure, round waist, and the shoes, whose strings
he had been privileged to tie more than once. Then he remembered her last
promise: to see his ship go down Channel from their old meeting-place upon
Gorse Point; and the memory, thus revived by the actual spectacle of Joan
Tregenza looking her last at his vanishing vessel, brought the wild cry to
Noy's lip with the wringing of his heart. He was absolutely dead to his
environment, and his long days of silence suddenly ended in a futile
outpouring of words addressed to any who might care to listen. Passion
surged to the top of his mind--rage for his loss, indignation that the
unutterably fair thing before them had been blotted out of the world while
he was far away, without power to protect her. For a few moments only was
the man beyond his own self-control, but in that brief time he spoke; and
his listeners enjoyed a sensation of a nature outside their widest
"Oh, Christ Jesus! 'tis Joan--my awn lil Joan, as I left her, as I seed her
He had reached the rail separating the pictures from the public. Here he
stood and spoke again, now conscious that there were people round about
"She'm dead--dead an' buried--my Joan--killed by the devil as drawed her
theer in that picksher. As large as life; an' yet she'm under ground wi' a
brawken heart. An' me, new-comed off the sea, hears of it fust thing."
"It's 'Joe's Ship' he means," whispered somebody, and Noy heard him.
"Iss fay, so 'tis, an' I be Joe--I talkin' to 'e; an' she'm shadin' her
eyes theer to see my vessel a-sailin' away to furrin paarts! 'Tis a story
that's true, an' the God-blasted limb what drawed this knawed I was gone to
the ends o' the airth outward bound."
A man from the turnstile came up here and inquired what was the matter. His
voice and tone of authority brought the sailor back to the position he
occupied; he restrained himself, therefore, and spoke no more. Already Noy
feared that his passion might have raised suspicions, and now, turning and
picking up his catalogue, he made hasty departure before those present had
opportunity to take much further notice of him. The man hurried off into
the rattle of the busy thoroughfare, and in a moment he and his sorrows and
his deadly purpose had vanished away.
Meantime the curator of the gallery, a man of intelligence, improved the
moment and addressed some apposite reflections to those spectators who
still clustered around John Barron's picture.
"It isn't often we get such a sight as that. Many people have wondered why
this great work was called as it is. The man who has gone explains it, and
you have had a glimpse of the picture's history--the inner history of it.
The painting has made a great sensation ever since it was first exhibited,
but never such a sensation as it made to-day."
"The beggar looked as though he meant mischief," said somebody.
"He knows the model is dead apparently, but there's another mystery there
too, for Mr. Barron himself isn't aware of the fact. He was here only the
day before yesterday--a little pale shadow of a man, like a ghost in a fur
coat. He came to see his picture and stopped ten minutes. Two gentlemen
were with him, and I heard him say, in answer to one of them as he left the
gallery, that he had quite recently endeavored to learn some particulars of
Joan Tregenza, his model, but had failed to do so as yet."
THE FINDING OF THE MAN
The gratification of his desire and the fulfillment of his revenge, though
steadfastly foreseen by Joe Noy from the moment when first he set foot in
London and began his search, now for a moment overwhelmed him at the
prospect of their extreme propinquity. Had anything been needed to
strengthen his determination on the threshold of a meeting with Joan's
destroyer, it was the startling vision of Joan herself from which he had
just departed. No event had brought the magnitude of his loss more cruelly
to the core of his heart than the sudden splendid representation of what he
had left behind him in her innocence and beauty; and, for the same reason,
nothing could have more thoroughly fortified his mind to the deed now lying
in his immediate future.
Noy's first act was to turn again to the gallery with a purpose to inquire
where John Barron might be found; but he recollected that many picture
catalogues contained the private addresses of the exhibitors, and
accordingly consulted the list he had brought with him. There he found the
name and also the house in which the owner of it dwelt--
JOHN BARRON, No. 6 Melbury Gardens, S. W.
Only hours now separated him from his goal, and it seemed strange to Noy
that he should have thus come in sight of it so suddenly. But his wits
cooled and with steady system he followed the path long marked out. He
stood and looked in at a gunsmith's window for ten minutes, then moved
forward to another. At the shop-fronts of cutlers he also dawdled, but
finally returned to the first establishment which had attracted him,
entered, and, for the sum of two pounds, purchased a small, five-chambered
revolver with a box of cartridges. He then went back to his lodging, and
set to work to find the position of Melbury Gardens upon his map. This done
the man marked his road to that region, outlining with a red chalk pencil
the streets through which he would have to walk before reaching it.
Throughout the afternoon he continued his preparations, acting very
methodically, and setting his house in order with the deliberation of one
who knows that he is going to die, but not immediately. Sometimes he rested
from the labor of letter-writing to think and rehearse again the scene
which was to close that day. A thousand times he had already done so; a
thousand times the imaginary interview had been the last thought in his
waking brain; but now the approach of reality swept away those unreal
dialogues, dramatic entrances, exits and events of the great scene as he
had pictured it. The present moment found Noy's brain blank as to
everything but the issue; and he surprised himself by discovering that his
mind now continually recurred to those events which would follow the
climax, while yet the death of John Barron was unaccomplished. His active
thoughts, under conditions of such excitation as the day had brought upon
the top of his discovery, traveled with astounding speed, and it was not
John Barron's end but his own which filled the imagination of the sailor as
he wrote. The shadow of the gallows was on the paper, though the event
which was to bring this consummation still lay some hours deep in
unrecorded time. But, for Noy, John Barron was as good as dead, and himself
as good as under sentence of death.
Grown quite calm, fixed in mind, and immovable as the black sea cliffs of
his mother-land, he wrote steadily on until thought sped whirling forward
to a new aspect of his future: the last. He saw himself in eternity, tossed
to everlasting flames by his Maker, as a man tosses an empty match-box,
after it has done its work, into the fire. He put down his pen and pictured
it. The terrific force of that conviction cannot fairly be set before the
intelligence of average cultured people, because, whatever they profess to
believe in their hearts, the truth is that, even with forty-nine Christians
out of fifty, hell appears a mere vague conceit meaning nothing. They
affirm that they believe in eternal torment; they confess all humanity is
ripe for it; but their pulses are unquickened by the assertion or
admission; they do _not_ believe in it. Nor can educated man so
believe, for that way madness lies, and he who dwells long and closely upon
this unutterable dogma, anon himself feels the first flickering of the
undying flame. It scorches, not his body, but his brain, and a lunatic
asylum presently shuts him from a sane world unless medical aid quickly
brings healthy relief.
But with primitive opinions, narrow beliefs and narrow intelligences, hell
can be a live conceit enough. Among Luke Gospelers and kindred sects there
shall be found such genuine fear and such trembling as the church called
orthodox never knows; and to Noy the tremendous spectacle of his
everlasting punishment now made itself actively felt. A life beyond
death--a life to be spent in one of two places and to endure eternally was
to Joe as certain as the knowledge that he lived; and that his destination
must be determined by the work yet lying between him and death appeared
equally sure. Further, that work must be performed. There was no loophole
of escape from it, and had there been such he would have blocked it against
himself resolutely. Moreover, as the will and desire to do the deed was an
action as definite in the eye of Heaven as the accomplishment of the deed
itself, he reckoned himself already damned. He had long since counted the
whole cost, and now it only seemed more vast and awful than upon past
surveys by reason of its nearer approach. Now he speculated curiously upon
the meetings which must follow upon the world's dissolution; and wondered
if those who kill do ever meet and hold converse in hell-fire with their
victims. Then again he fell to writing, and presently completed letters to
his father, his mother, to Mrs. Tregenza and to Mary Chirgwin. These he
left in his apartment, and presently going out into the air, walked, with
no particular aim, until darkness fell. Hunger now prompted him, and he ate
a big meal at a restaurant and drank with his food a pint of ale.
Physically fortified, he returned to his lodging, left upon the table in
his solitary room the sum he would that night owe for the hire of the
chamber, and, then, taking his letters, went out to return no more. A few
clothes, a brush and comb and a small wooden trunk was all he left behind
him. Joe Noy purchased four stamps for his letters and posted them. They
were written as though the murder of John Barron had been already
accomplished, and he thus completed and dispatched them before the event,
because he imagined that, afterward, the power of communicating with his
parents or friends would be denied him. That they might be spared the
horror of learning the news through a public source he wrote it thus, and
knew, as he did so, that to two of his correspondents the intelligence
would come without the full force of a novelty. Thomasin Tregenza and Mary
Chirgwin alike were familiar with his intention at the time of his
departure, and to them he therefore wrote but briefly; his parents, on the
other hand, for all Joe knew to the contrary, might still be ignorant of
the fact that he had come off his cruise. His letters to them were
accordingly of great length; and he set forth therein with the nervous
lucidity of a meager vocabulary the nature of his wrongs and the action
which he had taken under Heaven's guidance to revenge them. He stated
plainly in all four of his missives to Newlyn, Drift and Mousehole that the
artist, John Barron, was shot dead by his hand and that he himself intended
suffering the consequent punishment as became a brave man and the weapon of
the Lord. These notes then he posted, and so went upon his way that he
might fulfill to the letter his written words.
Following the roads he had studied upon his map and committed to memory,
Noy soon reached Melbury Gardens and presently stood opposite No, 6 and
scanned it. The hour was then ten o'clock and lights were in some of the
windows, but not many. Looking over the area railings, the sailor saw four
servants--two men and two women--eating their supper. He noted, as a
singular circumstance, that there were wineglasses upon the kitchen table
and that they held red liquor and white.
Noy's design was simple enough. He meant to stand face to face with John
Barron, to explain the nature of the events which had occurred, to tell
him, what it was possible he might not know: that Joan was dead; and then
to inform him that his own days were numbered. Upon these words Joe
designed to shoot the other down like a dog, and to make absolutely certain
of his death by firing the entire contents of the revolver. He expected
that a private interview would be vouchsafed to him if he desired it; and
his intention, after his victim should fall, was to blow the man's brains
out at close quarters before even those nearest at hand could prevent it.
At half-past ten Noy felt that his weapon was in the left breast pocket of
his coat ready for the drawing; then ascended the steps which rose to the
front door of John Barron's dwelling and rang the bell.
The man-servant whom he had seen through the area railings in the kitchen
came to the door, and, much to Noy's astonishment, accosted him before he
had time to say that he wished to see the master of the house.
"You've come at last, then," said the man.
Joe regarded him with surprise, then spoke.
"I want to see Mr. John Barron, please."
The other laughed, as if this was an admirable jest.
"I suppose you do, though that's a queer way to put it. You talk as though
you had come to smoke a cigar along with him."
In growing amazement and suspicion, Noy listened to this most curious
statement. Fears suddenly awoke that, by some mysterious circumstance,
Barron had learned of his contemplated action and was prepared for it. He
stopped, therefore, looked about him sharply to avoid any sudden surprise,
and put a question to the footman.
"You spoke as though I was wanted," he said. "What do you mean by that?"
"Blessed if you're not a rum 'un!" answered the man. "Of course you was
wanted, else you wouldn't be here, would you? You're not a party as calls
promiscuous, I should hope. Else it would be rather trying to delicate
nerves. You're the gentleman as everybody requires some time, though nobody
ever sends for himself."
Failing to gather the other's meaning, Noy only realized that John Barron
expected some visitor and felt, therefore, the more determined to hasten
his own actions. He saw the footman was endeavoring to be jocose, and
therefore humored him, pretending at the same time to be the individual who
"You're a funny fellow and must often make your master laugh, I should
reckon, Iss, I be the chap what you thought I was. An' I should like to see
him--the guv'nor--at once if he'll see me."
The footman chuckled again.
"He'll see you all right. He's been wantin' of you all day, and he'd have
been that dreadful disapp'inted if you 'adn't come. Always awful particular
about his clothes, you know, so mind you're jolly careful about the
measuring 'cause this overcoat will have to last him a long time."
Taking his cue from these words Noy, still ignorant of the truth, made
answer: "Iss, I'll measure en all right. Wheer is he to?"
"In the studio--there you are, right ahead. Knock at that baize door and
then walk straight in, 'cause he'll very likely be too much occupied to
answer you. He's quite alone--leastways I believe so. I'll come back in
quarter'n hour; and mind you don't talk no secrets or tell him how I
laughed at him behind his back, else he'd give me the sack for certain."
The man withdrew, sniggering at his own humor, and Noy, quite unable to see
rhyme or reason in his remarks, stood with an expression of bewilderment
upon his broad face and watched the servant disappear. Then his countenance
changed, and he approached a door covered with red baize at which the
passage terminated. He knocked, waited, and knocked again, straining his
ear to hear the voice he had labored so long to silence. Then he put his
revolver into the side pocket of his coat, and, afterward, following the
footman's directions, pushed open the swing door, which yielded to his
hand. A curtain hung inside it, and, pulling this aside, he entered a
spacious apartment with a glass roof. But scanty light illuminated the
studio from one oil lamp which hung by a chain from a bracket in the wall,
and the rays of which were much dimmed by a red glass shade. Some easels,
mostly empty, stood about the sides of the great chamber; here and there on
the white walls were sketches in charcoal and daubs of paint. A German
stove appeared in the middle of the room, but it was not burning; skins of
beasts scattered the floor; upon one wall hung the "Negresses Bathing at
Tobago." For the rest the room appeared empty. Then, growing accustomed to
the dim red light, Noy made a closer examination until he caught sight of
an object which made him catch his breath violently and hurry forward.
Under the lofty open windows which rose on the northern side of the studio,
remote from all other objects, was a couch, and upon it lay a small,
straight figure shrouded in white sheets save for its face.
John Barron had been dead twenty-four hours, and he had hastened his own
end, by a space of time impossible to determine, through leaving his
sick-room two days previously, that he might visit the picture gallery
wherein hung "Joe's Ship." It was a step taken in absolute defiance of his
medical men. The day of that excursion had chanced to be a very cold one,
and during the night which followed it John Barron broke a blood vessel and
precipitated his death. Now, in the hands of hirelings, without a friend to
put one flower on his breast or close his dim eyes, the man lay waiting for
an undertaker; and while Joe Noy glared at him, unconsciously gripping the
weapon he had brought, it seemed as though the dead smiled under the red
flicker of the lamp--as though he smiled and prepared to come back into
life to answer this supreme accuser.
As by an educated mind Joe Noy's estimate and assurance of the eternal
tortures of hell cannot be adequately grasped in its full force, so now it
is hard to set forth with a power sufficiently luminous and terrific the
effect of this discovery upon him. He, the weapon of the Almighty, found
his work finished and the fruits of his labors snatched from his hand. His
enemy had escaped, and the fact that he was dead only made the case harder.
Had Barron hastened from him and avoided his revolver, he could have
suffered it, knowing that the end lay in the future at the determination of
God; but now the end appeared before him accomplished; and it had been
attained without his assistance. His labor was lost and his longed-for,
prayed-for achievement rendered impossible. He stood and scanned the small,
marble-white face, then drew a box of matches from his pocket, lighted one
and looked closer. Worn by disease to mere skin and skull, there was
nothing left to suggest the dead man's wasted powers; and generation of
their own destroyers was the only task now left for his brains. The end of
Noy's match fell red-hot on John Barron's face. Then he turned as footsteps
sounded; the curtains were moved aside and the footman reappeared, followed
by another person.
"Why, you wasn't the undertaker after all!" he explained. "Did you think
the man was alive? Good Lord! But you've found him anyway."
"Iss, I thot he was alive. I wanted to see en livin' an' leave en--" he
stopped. Common sense for once had a word with him and convinced him of the
folly of saying anything now concerning his frustrated projects.
"He died night 'fore last--consumption--and he's left money enough to build
a brace of ironclads, they say, and never no will, and not a soul on God's
earth is there with any legal claim upon him. To tell the truth, we none of
us never liked him."
"If you'll shaw me the way out into the street, I'll thank 'e," said Noy.
The undertaker was already busy making measurements. Then, a minute later,
Joe found himself standing under the sky again; and the darkness was full
of laughter and of voices, of gibing, jeering noises in unseen throats, of
rapid utterances on invisible tongues. The supernatural things screamed
into his ears that he was damned for a wish and for an intention; then they
shrieked and yelled their derision, and he understood well enough, for the
point of view was not a new one. Given the accomplishment of his desire, he
was prepared to suffer eternally; now eternal suffering must follow on a
wish barren of fruit, and hell for him would be hell indeed, with no
accomplished revenge in memory to lessen the torment. When the voices at
length died and a clock struck one, Noy came to himself, and realized that,
in so far as the present affected him, Fate had brought him back to life
and liberty by a short cut. Then, seeing his position, he asked himself
whether life was long enough to make atonement and even allow of ultimate
escape after death. But the fierce disappointment which beat upon his soul
like a recurring wave, as thought drifted back and back, told him that he
had fairly won hell-fire and must abide by it.
So thinking, he returned to his lodging, entered unobserved and prowled the
small chamber till dawn. By morning light all his life appeared
transfigured and a ghastly anti-climax faced the man. Presently he
remembered the letters he had posted overnight, and the recollection of
them brought with it sudden resolves and a course of action.
Half an hour later he had reached Paddington Station, and was soon on his
way back to Cornwall.
STARLIGHT AND FROST
Born of the sunshine, on a morning in late December, gray ephemerae danced
and dipped and fashioned vanishing patterns against the green of the great
laurel at the corner of Drift farmyard. The mildness of the day had wakened
them into brief life, but even as they twinkled their wings of gauze death
was abroad. A sky of unusual clearness crowned the Cornish moorland, and
Uncle Chirgwin, standing at his kitchen door, already foretold frost,
though the morning was still young.
"The air's like milk just now, sure 'nough, an' 'twill bide so till noon;
then, when the sun begins to slope, the cold will graw an' graw to frost.
An' no harm done, thank God."
He spoke to his niece, who was in the room behind him; and as he did so a
circumstance of very unusual nature happened. Two persons reached the front
door of the farm simultaneously, and a maid, answering the double knock,
returned a moment later with two communications, both for Mary Chirgwin.
"Postman, he brot this here, miss, an' a bwoy from Mouzle brot t'other."
The first letter came from London, the second, directed in a similar hand,
reached Mary from the adjacent fishing hamlet. She knew the big writing
well enough, but showed no emotion before the maid. In fact her self
command was remarkable, for she put both letters into her pocket and made
some show of continuing her labors for another five minutes before
departing to her room that she might read the news from Joe Noy.
He, it may be said, had reached Penzance by the same train which conveyed
his various missives, all posted too late for the mail upon the previous
night. Thus he reached the white cottage on the cliff in time to see Mrs.
Tregenza and bid her destroy unread the letter she would presently receive;
and, on returning to his parents, himself took from the letter-carrier his
own communications to them and burned both immediately. He had also