Part 4 out of 7
"Then just you untie yourself and we'll get aboard and haul
She unfastened the rope from her body, and helped him down to her
"You take the paddle," he said. "My arm's damaged. But I can pull on
the rope with the other."
"Are you sure? Are you all right? What's your name?"
"Yes, I can manage. My name's Peter. This would have been a lark
thirty years ago, wouldn't it? It's rather a lark now."
She nodded vaguely, wondering what she would do if he fell off the
log in mid-water.
"Suppose you faint again?"
"Don't look for trouble," said the man. "Push off, now."
Pulling and paddling they got to the bank. He took her helping-hand
up it, and she saw by his movements that he was very feeble. He
leaned on her as they went back to the mill; they walked without
When they reached the door Peter said, "It's twenty years since I
was here, but I expect you don't remember."
"Oh, yes," said Helen, "I remember."
"Do you now?" said Peter. "It's funny you should remember."
And with that he did faint again. And this time when he recovered he
was in a fever. His staying-power was gone.
She put him to bed and nursed him. She sat day and night in his
room, doing by instinct what was right and needful. At first he lay
either unconscious or delirious. She listened to his incoherent
speech in a sort of agony, as though it might contain some clue to a
riddle; and sat with her passionate eyes brooding on his
countenance, as though in that too might lie the answer. But if
there was one, neither his words nor his face revealed it. "When he
wakes," she whispered to herself, "he'll tell me. How can there be
barriers between us any more?"
After three days he came to himself. She was sitting by the window
preparing sheep's-wool for her spindle. She bent over her task,
using the last of the light, which fell upon her head. She did not
know that he was conscious, or had been watching her, until he
"Your hair used to be quite brown, didn't it?" he said. "Nut-brown."
She started and turned to him, and a faint flush stained her cheeks.
"Ah, you're not pleased," said Peter with a slight grin. "None of us
like getting old, do we?"
Helen put by the question. "You're yourself again."
"Doing my best," said he. "How long is it?"
"As much as that? I could have sworn it was only yesterday. Well,
He said no more, and fell into a doze. Helen was as grateful for
this as she could have been for anything just then. She couldn't
have gone on talking. She was stunned with misgivings. How could he
ever have thought her hair was brown? Couldn't he see even now that
it had once been as black as jet? She put her hand up to her head,
and unpinned a coil of her heavy hair, and spread it over her breast
and looked at it. Yes, the silver was there, too much and too soon.
But there was less silver than black. It was still time's stitchery,
not his fabric. The man who was not her boy need never have seen her
before to know that once her hair had been black. This was worse
than forgetfulness in him; it was misremembrance. She pulled at the
silver hairs passionately as though she would pluck them out and
make him see her as she had been. But soon she stopped her futile
effort to uncount the years. "I am foolish," she whispered to
herself, and coiled her lock again and bound it in its place. "There
are other ways of making him remember. Presently when he wakes again
I will talk to him. I will remind him of everything, yes, and I'll
tell him everything. I WON'T be afraid." She waited with longing his
But to her woe she found herself defeated. While he slept she was
able, as when he had been delirious or absent, to create the
occasion and the talk between them. She dropped all fears, and in
frank tenderness brought him her twenty years of dreams. And in her
thought he accepted and answered them. But when he woke and spoke to
her from the bed, she knew at once that the man who lay there was
not the man with whom she had been speaking. His personality fenced
with hers; it had barriers she could not pass. She dared not try,
for dread of his indifference or his smiles.
"What made you stick on in this place?" he asked her.
"I don't know," said Helen. "Places hold one, don't they?"
"None ever held me. I couldn't have been content to stay the best
half of my life in one spot. But I suppose women are different."
"You speak as though all women were the same."
"Aren't they? I thought they might be. I don't know much about
them," said Peter, rubbing his chin. "Rough as a porcupine, aren't
I? You must have thought me a savage when you found me stuck
upside-down in that tree like a sloth. What DID you think?"
She looked at him, longing to tell him what she had thought. She
longed to tell him of the boy she had expected to find in the tree.
She longed to tell him how the finding had shocked her by bringing
home to her her loss--not of the boy, but of something in that
moment still more precious to her. Because (she longed to tell him)
she had so swiftly rediscovered the lost boy, not in his face but in
his glance, not in his words but in the tones of his voice.
But when she looked at him and saw him leaning on his elbow waiting
for her answer with his half-shut lids and the half-smile on his
lips, she answered only, "I was thinking how to get you back to the
"Was that it? Well, you managed it. I've never thanked you, have I?"
"Don't!" said Helen with a quick breath, and looked out of the
He waited for a few moments and then said, "I'm a bad hand at
thanking. I can't help being a savage, you know. I'm not fit for
women's company. I don't look so rough when I'm trimmed."
"I don't want to be thanked," said Helen controlling her voice; and
added with a faint smile, "No one looks his best when he's ill."
"Wait till I'm well," grinned Peter, "and see if I'm not fit to walk
you out o' Sundays." He lay back on his pillow and whistled a snatch
of tune. Her heart almost stopped beating, because it was the tune
he had whistled at the door twenty years ago. For a moment she
thought she could speak to him as she wished. But desire choked her
power to choose her words; so many rushed through her brain that she
had to pause, seeking which of them to utter; and that long pause,
in which she really seemed to have uttered them all aloud, checked
the impulse. But surely he had heard her? No; for she had not spoken
yet. And before she could make the effort he had stopped whistling,
and when she looked at him to speak, he was fumbling restlessly
about his pillow.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Something I had--where's my clothes?"
She brought them to him, and he searched them till he had found
among them a small metal box which he thrust under the pillow; and
then he lay back, as though too tired to notice her. So her impulse
died in her, unacted on.
And during the next four days it was always so. A dozen times in
their talks she tried to come near him, and could not. Was it
because he would not let her? or because the thing she wished to
find in him was not really there? Sometimes by his manner only, and
sometimes by his words, he baffled her when she attempted to
approach him--and the attempt had been so painful to conceive, and
its still-birth was such agony to her. He would talk frequently of
the time when he would be making tracks again.
"Where to?" asked Helen.
"I leave it to chance. I always have. I've never made plans. Or very
seldom. And I'm not often twice in the same place. You look tired.
I'm sorry to be a bother to you. But it'll be for the last time,
most likely. Go and lie down."
"I don't want to," said Helen under her breath. And in her thoughts
she was crying, "The last time? Then it must be soon, soon! I'll
make you listen to me now!"
"I want to sleep," said Peter.
She left the room. Tears of helplessness and misery filled her eyes.
She was almost angry with him, but more angry with herself; but her
self-anger was mixed with shame. She was ashamed that he made her
feel so much, while he felt nothing. Did he feel nothing?
"It's my stupidity that keeps us apart," she whispered. "I will
break through it!" As quickly as she had left him she returned, and
stood by the bed. He was lying with his hand pressed over his eyes.
When he was conscious of her being there, his hand fell, and his
keen eyes shot into hers. His brows contracted.
"You nuisance," he muttered, and hid his eyes again. She turned and
left him. When she got outside the door she leaned against it and
shook from head to foot. She hovered on the brink of her delusions
and felt as though she would soon crash into a precipice. She longed
for him to go before she fell. Yes, she began to long for the time
when he should go, and end this pain, and leave her to the old
strange life that had been so sweet. His living presence killed it.
After that third day she had had no more fears for his safety, and
he was strong and rallied quickly. The gull too was saved. He saved
it. It had drooped and sickened with her. She did not know what to
do with it. On the fourth day as he was so much better, she brought
it to him. He reset its wing and kept it by him, making it his
patient and his playfellow. It thrived at once and grew tame to his
hand. He fondled and talked to it like a lover. She would watch him
silently with her smoldering eyes as he fed and caressed the bird,
and jabbered to it in scraps of a dozen foreign tongues. His
tenderness smote her heart.
"You're not very fond of birds," he said to her once, when she had
been sitting in one of her silences while he played with his pet.
The words, question or statement, filled her with anger. She would
not trust herself to protest or deny. "I don't know much about
them," she said.
"That's a pity," said Peter coolly. "The more you know em the more
you have to love em. Yet you could love them for all sorts of
things without knowing them, I'd have thought."
She said nothing.
"For their beauty, now. That's worth loving. Look at this one--
you're a beauty all right, aren't you, my pretty? Not many girls to
match you." He paused, and ran his finger down the bird's throat and
breast. "Perhaps you don't think she's beautiful," he said to Helen.
"Yes, she's beautiful," said Helen, with a difficulty that sounded
"Ah, you don't think so. You ought to see her flying. You shall some
day. When her hurt's mended she'll fly--I'll let her go."
"Perhaps she won't go," said Helen.
"Oh, yes, she will. How can she stop in a place like this? This is
no air for her--she must fly in her own."
"You'll be sorry to see her go," said Helen.
"To see her free? No, not a bit. I want her to fly. Why should I
keep her? I'd not let her keep me. I'd hate her for it. Why should I
make her hate me?"
"Perhaps she wouldn't," said Helen, in a low voice.
"Oh, I expect she would. Ungrateful little beggar. I've saved her
life, and she ought to know she belongs to me. So she might stay out
of gratitude. But she'd come to hate me for it, all the same. Not at
first; after a bit. Because we change. Bound to, aren't we?"
"I know I do. We can none of us stay what we were. You haven't
"You haven't much to go by," said Helen.
"Seven minutes at the door, wasn't it? This time it's been seven
"It's a long time for me," said Peter.
"It's not much out of a lifetime."
"No. But suppose it were more than seven days?"
Helen looked at him and said slowly, "It will be, won't it? You
won't be able to go to-morrow."
"No," said Peter, "not to-morrow, or next day perhaps. Perhaps I
won't be able to go for the rest of my life."
This time Helen looked at him and said nothing.
Peter stroked his bird and whistled his tune and stopped abruptly
and said, "Will you marry me, Helen?"
"I'd rather die," said Helen.
And she got up and went out of the room.
("Oh, the green grass!" chuckled Martin like a bird.
"Nobody asked her you to begin a song, Master Pippin," quavered
"It was not the beginning of a song, Mistress Jennifer. It was the
epilogue of a story."
"But the epilogue comes at the end of a story," said Jennifer.
"And hasn't my story come to its end?" said Martin.
Joscelyn: Ridiculous! oh, dear! there's no bearing with you. How CAN
this be the end? How can it be, with him on one side of the door and
her on the other?"
Joyce: And her heart's breaking--you must make an end of that.
Jennifer: And you must tell us the end of the shell.
Jessica: And of the millstones.
Jane: What did he have in his box?
"Please," said little Joan, "tell us whether she ever found her boy
again--oh, please tell us the end of her dreams."
"Do these things matter?" said Martin. "Hasn't he asked her to marry
"But she said no," said Jennifer with tears in her eyes.
"Did she?" said Martin. "Who said so?"
"Master Pippin," said Joscelyn, and her voice shook with the
agitation of her anger, "tell us immediately the things we want to
"When, I wonder," said Martin, "will women cease to want to know
little things more than big ones? However, I suppose they must be
indulged in little things, lest--"
"Lest?" said little Joan.
"There is such a thing," said Martin, "as playing for safety.")
Well, then, my dear maids, when Helen ran out of his room she went
to her own, and she threw herself on the bed and sobbed without
weeping. Because everything in her life seemed to have been taken
away from her. She lay there for a long time, and when she moved at
last her head was so heavy that she took the pins from her hair to
relieve herself of its weight. But still the pain weighed on her
forehead, which burned on her cold fingers when she pressed them
over her eyes, trying to think and find some gleam of hope among her
despairing thoughts. And then she remembered that one thing at least
was left her--her shell. During his illness she had never carried it
to the millstones. It was as though his being there had been the
only answer to her daily dreams, an answer that had failed them all
the time. But now in spite of him she would try to find the old
answers again. So she went once more to the millstones with her
shell. And when she got there she held it so tightly to her heart
that it marked her skin.
And the millstones had nothing to say. For the first time they
refused to grind her corn.
Then Helen knew that she really had nothing left, and that the
home-coming of the man had robbed her of her boy and of the child she had
been. Nothing was left but the man and woman who had lost their
youth. And the man had nothing to give the woman. Nothing but
gratitude and disillusion. And now a still bitterer thought came to
her--the thought that the boy had had nothing to give the girl. For
twenty years it had been the girl's illusion. The storms in her
heart broke out. She put her face in her hands and wept like wild
rain on the sea. She wept so violently that between her passion and
the speechless grinding of the stones she did not hear him coming.
She only knew he was there when he put his arm round her.
"What is it, you silly thing?" said Peter.
She looked up at him through her hair that fell like a girl's in
soft masses on either side of her face. There was a change in him,
but she didn't know then what it was. He had got into his clothes
and made himself kempt. His beard was no longer rough, though his
hair was still unruly across his forehead, and under it his gray-green
eyes looked, half-anxious, half-smiling, into hers. His face
was rather pale, and he was a little unsteady in his weakness. But
the look in his eyes was the only thing she saw. It unlocked her
speech at last.
"Oh, why did you come back?" she cried. "Why did you come back? If
you had never come I should have kept my dream to the end of my
life. But now even when you go I shall never get it again. You have
destroyed what was not there."
He was silent for a moment, still keeping his arm round her. Then he
said, "Look what's here." And he opened his hand and showed her his
metal box without its lid; in it were the mummies of seven ears of
corn. Some were only husks, but some had grain in them still.
She stared at them through her tears, and drew from her breast her
hand with the shell in it. Suddenly her mouth quivered and she cried
passionately, "What's the use?" And she snatched the old corn from
him and flung it to the millstones with her shell. And the
millstones ground them to eternal atoms....
"My boy! my boy! it was you over there in the tree!"
"Oh, child, you came at last in your blue gown!"
"Why didn't you call to me?"
"I'd no breath. I was spent. And I knew you'd seen me and would do
"I'll never forget that sight of you in the tree, with your old
jersey and your hair as red as ever."
"I shall always see your free young figure standing on the high bank
against the sky."
"Oh, I was desperate."
"I wondered what you'd do. I knew you'd do something."
"I thought I'd never get across the water."
"Do you know what I thought as I saw you coming so bravely and so
badly? I thought, I'll teach her to swim one day. Shall I, child?"
"I can't swim without you, my boy," she whispered.
"But you pretended not to know me!"
"I couldn't help it, it was such fun."
"How COULD you make fun of me then?"
"I always shall, you know."
"Oh, yes," she said, "do, always."
"What DID you think when you saw me in the tree? What did you see
when you got there? Not what you expected."
"No. I saw twenty years come flying upon me, twenty years I'd
forgotten all about. Because for me it has always been twenty years
"And you expected to see a boy, and you saw a grizzled man."
"No," said Helen, her eyes shining with tears, "I expected to see a
boy, and I saw a gray-haired woman. I've seen her ever since."
"I've only seen her once," said Peter. "I saw her rise up from the
water and sit in my tree. And when she spoke and looked at me, it
was a child." He put his hand over her wet eyes. "You must stop
seeing her, child," he said.
"When I told you my name, were you disappointed?"
"No. It's the loveliest name in the world."
"You said it at once."
"I had to. I'd wanted to say it for twenty years. But I sha'n't say
it often, Helen."
"Now and then, for a treat?" she looked up at him half-shy, half-merry.
"Oh, you CAN smile, can you?"
"You were to teach me that too."
"Yes, I've a lot to teach you, haven't I?--I've yet to teach you to
say my name."
"You've never said it once."
"I've said it a thousand times."
"You've never let me hear you."
"Let me hear you!"
"Say it again!"
"Peter! Peter! Peter!"
"When we got back to the mill-door the last of the twenty years,
that had been melting faster and faster, melted away for ever. And
you and I were standing there as we'd stood then; and I wanted to
kiss your mouth as I'd wanted to then."
"Oh, why didn't you?--both times!"
"Shall I now, for both times?"
"Oh!--oh, that's for a hundred times."
"Think of all the times I've wanted to, and been without you."
"You've never been without me."
"I know that. How often I came to the mill."
"Did you come to the mill?"
"As often as I ate your grain. Didn't you know?"
"I know how often your sea brought me to you."
"And, oh, my boy! at last the sea brought you to me."
"And the mill," he said. "Where has that brought us?"
"I thought perhaps you'd die."
"I couldn't have died so close on finding you. I was fighting the
demons all the time--fighting my way through to you. And at last I
opened my eyes and saw you again, your black hair edged with light
against the window."
"My black hair? you mean my brown hair, don't you?"
"Oh, weren't you cross! I loved you for being cross."
"I wasn't cross. Why will you keep on saying I'm things I'm not?"
"You were so cross that you pretended our twenty years were sixty."
"I never said anything about twenty years, OR sixty."
"You did, though. Sixty! why, in sixty years we'd have been very
nearly old. So to punish you I pretended to go to sleep, and I saw
you take your hair down. It was so beautiful. You've seen the
threads spiders spin on blackened furze that gypsies have set fire
to? Your hair was like that. You were angry with those lovely lines
of silver, and you wanted to get rid of them. I nearly called to you
to stop hurting what I loved so much, but you stopped of yourself,
as though you had heard me before I called."
"I was ashamed of myself," whispered Helen. "I was ashamed of trying
to be again what I was the only other time you saw me."
"You've never stopped being that, child," said Peter.
"You knew, didn't you, why it was I had stayed on at the mill? You
knew what it was that held me, and why I could never leave it?"
"Yes, I knew. It held you because it held me too. I wondered if
you'd tell me that."
"I longed to, but I couldn't. I've never been able to tell you
things. And I never shall."
"Oh, child, don't look so troubled. You've always told me things and
always will. Do you think it's with our tongues we tell each other
things? What can words ever tell? They only circle round the truth
like birds flying in the sun. The light bathes their flight, yet
they are millions of miles away from the light they fly in. We
listen to each other's words, but we watch each other's eyes."
"Some people half-shut their eyes, Peter."
"Some people, Helen, can't shut their eyes at all. Your eyes will
never stop telling me things. And the strangest thing about them is
that looking into them is like being able to see in the dark. They
are darkness, not light. And in darkness dreams are born. When I
look into your eyes I go into your dream."
"I shall never shut my eyes again," she whispered. "I will keep you
in my dream for ever."
"Women aren't all the same, Peter."
"And yet--they are."
"Well, I give it up."
"Didn't you know?"
"No. I told you the truth that time. I've not had very much to do
"Then I've something to teach you, Peter."
"I don't know what you can prove," said Peter. "One woman by herself
can't prove a difference."
"Can't she?" said Helen; and laughed and cried at once.
"But why did you call me a nuisance?"
"You were one--you are one. You leave a man no peace--you're like
the sea. You're full of storms, aren't you?"
"Not only storms."
"I know. But the sea wouldn't be the sea without her storms. They're
one of her ways of holding us, too. And there are more storms in her
than ever break. I see them in you, big ones and little ones,
brooding. Then you're a--nuisance. You always will be, won't you?"
"Not to wreck you."
"You won't do that. Or if you do--I can survive shipwreck."
"How do you know? I nearly gave up once, but the thought of you
stopped me. I wanted to come back--I'd always meant to. So I held
"How do you know? I never told you, did I?"
"Oh, Peter, the things we have to tell each other. The times you
thought you were alone--the times I thought I was! You've had a life
you never dreamed of--and I another life that was not in my dreams."
"You've saved me from death more than once," said Peter.
"You've done more than that," said Helen, "you've given me the only
life I've had. But a thing doesn't belong to you because you've
saved its life or given it life. It only belongs to you because you
love it. I know you belong to me. But you only know if I belong to
"That's not true now. You do know. And I know."
"Yes; and we know that as that belonging has nothing to do with
death, it can't have anything either to do with the saving or even
the giving of life. So you must never thank me, or I you. There are
no thanks in love. And that was why I couldn't bear your asking me
to marry you to-day. I thought you were thanking me."
"When you played with the seagull..."
"How you loved it!"
"I looked to see how you felt when you loved a thing. I wanted so
much to be the seagull in your hands."
"When I touched it I was touching you."
She put his hand to her breast and whispered, "I love birds."
He smiled. "I knew you loved them; and best free. All birds must fly
in their own air."
"Yes," she said. "But their freedom only means their power to choose
what air they'll fly in. And every choice is a cage too."
"I shall leave the door open, child."
"I shall never fly out," said Helen.
"You talked of going away."
"Yes. But not from you."
"Am I to go with you always, following chance and making no plans?"
"Will you? You are the only plan I ever made. Will you leave
everything else but me to chance? Perhaps it will lead us all over
the earth; and perhaps after all we shall not go very far. But I
never could see ahead, except one thing."
"What was it?"
"The mill-door and you in your old blue gown. And for seven days
I've stopped seeing that. I haven't it to steer by. Will you chance
"Must you be playing with meanings even in dreams? Don't you
know--don't you know that for a woman who loves, and is not sure that she
is loved, her days and nights are all chances, every minute she
lives is a chance? It might be...it might not be...oh, those ghosts
of joy and pain! they are almost too much to bear. For the joy isn't
pure joy, or the pain pure pain, and she cannot come to rest in
either of them. Sometimes the joy is nearly as great as though she
knew; yet at the instant she tries to take it, it looks at her with
the eyes of doubt, and she trembles, and dare not take it yet. And
sometimes the pain is all but the death she foresees; yet even as
she submits to it, it lays upon her heart the finger of hope. And
then she trembles again, because she need not take it yet. Those are
her chances, Peter. But when she knows that her beloved is her
lover, life may do what it will with her; but she is beyond its
chances for ever."
"Your corn! you kept my corn!"
"Till it should bear. And your shell there--you've kept my shell."
"Till it should speak. And now--oh, see these things that have held
our dreams for twenty years! The life is threshed from them for
ever--they are only husks. They can hold our dreams no more. Oh, I
can't go on dreaming by myself, I can't, it's no use. I thought my
heart had learned to bear its dream alone, but the time comes when
love in its beauty is too near to pain. There is more love than the
single heart can bear. Good-by, my boy--good-by!"
"Helen! don't suffer so! oh, child, what are you doing?--"
"Letting my dear dreams go...it's no use, Peter..."
The millstones took them and crushed them.
She uttered a sharp cry....
His arm tightened round her. "What is it, child?" she heard him say.
She looked at him bewildered, and saw that he too was dazed. She
looked into the gray-green eyes of a boy of twenty. She said in a
voice of wonder, "Oh, my boy!" as he felt her soft hair.
"Such a fuss about an empty shell and a bit of dead wheat."
She hid her face on his jersey.
"You are a silly, aren't you?" said Peter. "I wish you'd look up."
Helen looked up, and they kissed each other for the first time.
I defy you now, Mistress Jennifer, to prove that your grassblade is
greener than mine.
The girls now turned their attention to their neglected apples,
varying this more serious business with comments on the story that
had just been related.
Jessica: I should be glad to know, Jane, what you make of this
Jane: Indeed, Jessica, it is difficult to make anything at all of
matter so bewildering. For who could have divined reality to be the
illusion and dreams the truth? so that by the light of their dreams
the lovers in this tale mistook each other for that which they were
Martin: Who indeed, Mistress Jane, save students of human nature
like yourselves?--who have doubtless long ago observed how men and
women begin by filling a dim dream with a golden thing, such as
youth, and end by putting a shining dream into a gray thing, such as
age. And in the end it is all one, and lovers will see to the last
in each other that which they loved at the first, since things are
only what we dream them to be, as you have of course also observed.
Joscelyn: We have observed nothing of the sort, and if we dreamed at
all we would dream of things exactly as they are, and never dream of
mistaking age for youth. But we do not dream. Women are not given to
Martin: They are the fortunate sex. Men are such incurable dreamers
that they even dream women to be worse preys of the delusive habit
than themselves. But I trust you found my story sufficiently
wide-awake to keep you so.
Joscelyn: It did not make me yawn. Is this mill still to be found on
the Sidlesham marshes?
Martin: It is where it was. But what sort of gold it grinds now,
whether corn or dreams, or nothing, I cannot say. Yet such is the
power of what has been that I think, were the stones set in motion,
any right listener might hear what Helen and Peter once heard, and
even more; for they would hear the tale of those lovers' journeys
over the changing waters, and their return time and again to the
unchanging plot of earth that kept their secrets. Until in the end
they were together delivered up to the millstones which thresh the
immortal grain from its mortal husk. But this was after long years
of gladness and a life kept young by the child which each was always
re-discovering in the other's heart.
Jennifer: Oh, I am glad they were glad. Do you know, I had begun to
think they would not be.
Jessica: It was exactly so with me. For suppose Peter had never
returned, or when he did she had found him dead in the tree?
Jane: And even after he returned and recovered, how nearly they were
removed from ever understanding each other!
Joan: Oh, no, Jane! once they came together there could be no doubt
of the understanding. As soon as Peter came back, I felt sure it
would be all right.
Joyce: And I too, all along, was convinced the tale must end
Martin: Strange! so was I. For Love, in his daily labors, is as
swift in averting the nature of perils as he is deft in diverting
the causes of misunderstanding. I know in fact of but one thing that
would have foiled him.
Four of the Milkmaids: What then?
Martin: Had Helen not been given to dreams.
Not a word was said in the Apple-Orchard.
Joscelyn: It would have done her no harm had she not been, singer.
Nor would your story have suffered, being, like all stories, a thing
as important as thistledown. In either event, though Peter had
perished, or misunderstood her for ever, it would not have concerned
me a whit. Or even in both events.
Jessica: Nor me.
Jane: Nor me.
Martin: Then farewell my story. A thing as important as thistledown
is as unimportantly dismissed. And yonder in heaven the moon sulks
at us through a cloud with a quarter of her eye, reproaching us for
our peace-destroying chatter. It destroys our own no less than hers.
To dream is forbidden, but at least let us sleep.
One by one the milkmaids settled in the grass and covered their
faces with their hands, and went to sleep. But Jennifer remained
where she was. She sat with downcast eyes, softly drawing the
grassblade through and through her fingers, and the swing swayed a
little like a branch moving in an imperceptible wind, and her breast
heaved a little as though stirred with inaudible sighs. She sat so
long like that that Martin knew she had forgotten he was beside her,
and he quietly put out his hand to draw the grassblade from hers.
But before he had even touched it he felt something fall upon his
palm that was not rain or dew.
"Dear Mistress Jennifer," said Martin gently, "why do you weep?"
She shook her head, since there are times when the voice plays a
girl false, and will not serve her.
"Is it," said Martin, "because the grass is not green enough?"
"Pray let me judge," entreated Martin, and took the grassblade from
her fingers. Whereupon she put her face into her two hands,
"Master Pippin, Master Pippin, oh, Master Pippin."
"Let me judge," said Martin again, but in a whisper too.
Then Jennifer took her hands from her wet face, and looked at him
with her wet eyes, and said with great braveness and much faltering:
"I will be nineteen in November."
At this Martin looked very grave, and he got down from the tree and
walked to the end of the orchard full of thought. But when he turned
there he found that she had stolen after him, and was standing near
him hanging her head, yet watching him with deep anxiety.
Jennifer: It is t-t-too old, isn't it?
Martin: Too old for what?
Jennifer: I--I--I don't know.
Martin: It is, of course, extremely old. There are things you will
never be able to do again, because you are so old.
Martin: You are too old to be rocked in a cradle. You are too old to
write pothooks and hangers, and too old, alas, to steal pickles and
jam when the house is abed. Yet there are still a few things you
might do if--
Jennifer: Oh, if?
Martin: If you could find a friend as old as yourself, or even a
little older, to help you.
Jennifer: But think how old h--h--h-- the friend would have to be.
Martin: What would that matter? For all grass is green enough if it
not near grass that looks greener.
Jennifer: Oh, is this true?
Martin: It is indeed. And I believe too that were your friend's hair
red enough, and your friend's freckled nose snub enough, since youth
resides long in these qualities, you might even, with such a
companion, begin once more to steal pickles and jam by night, to
learn your pothooks and hangers, and even in time to be rocked
asleep by a cradle.
Jennifer: D-d-dear Master Pippin.
Martin: They look quite green, don't they?
And he laid the two blades side by side on her palm, and Jennifer,
whose voice once more would not serve her, nodded and put the two
blades in her pocket. Then Martin took out his handkerchief and very
carefully dried her eyes and cheeks, saying as he did so, "Now that
I have explained this to your satisfaction, won't you, please,
explain something to mine?"
Jennifer: I will if I can.
Martin: Then explain what it is you have against men.
Jennifer: I don't know how to tell you, it is so terrible.
Martin: I will try to bear it.
Jennifer: They say women cannot--cannot--
Jennifer: Keep secrets!
Martin: Men say so?
Martin: MEN say so?
Jennifer: They do, they do!
Martin: Men! Oh, Jupiter! if this were true--but it is not--these
men would be blabbing the greatest of secrets in saying so. If I had
a secret--but I have not--do you think I would trust it to a man?
Not I! What does a man do with a secret? Forgets it, throws it
behind him into some empty chamber of his brain and lets the cobwebs
smother it! buries it in some deserted corner of his heart, and lets
the weeds grow over it! Is this keeping a secret? Would you keep a
garden or a baby so? I will a thousand times sooner give my secret
to a woman. She will tend it and cherish it, laugh and cry with it,
dress it in a new dress every day and dandle it in the world's eye
for joy and pride in it--nay, she will bid the whole world come into
her nursery to admire the pretty secret she keeps so well. And under
her charge a little secret will grow into a big one, with a hundred
charms and additions it had not when I confided it to her, so that I
shall hardly know it again when I ask for it: so beautiful, so
important, so mysterious will it have become in the woman's care.
Oh, believe me, Mistress Jennifer, it is women who keep secrets and
men who neglect them.
Jennifer: If I had only thought of these things to say! But I am not
clever at argument like men.
Martin: I suspect these clever arguers. They can always find the
right thing to say, even if they are in the wrong. Women are not to
be blamed for washing their hands of them for ever.
Jennifer: I know. Yet I cannot help wondering who bakes them
gingerbread for Sunday.
Martin: Let them go without. They do not deserve gingerbread.
Jennifer: I know, I know. But they like it so much. And it is nice
making it, too.
Martin: Then I suppose it will have to be made till the last of
Sundays. What a bother it all is.
Jennifer: I know. Good night, dear Master Pippin.
Martin: Dear milkmaid, good night. There lie your fellows, careless
of the color of the grass they lie on, and of the years that lie on
them. They have forsworn the baking of cakes, the eating of which
begets dreams, to which women are not given. Go lie with them, and
be if you can as careless and dreamless as they are.
And then, seeing the tears refilling her eyes, he hastily pulled out
his handkerchief again and wiped them as they fell, saying, "But if
you cannot--if you cannot (don't cry so fast!)--if you cannot, then
give me your key (dear Jennifer, please dry up!) to Gillian's
Well-House, because you were glad that my tale ended gladly, and also
because all lovers, no matter of what age, are green enough, and
chiefly because my handkerchief's sopping."
Then Jennifer caught his hands in hers and whispered, "Oh, Martin!
are they? ALL lovers?--are they green enough?"
"God help them, yes!" said Martin Pippin.
She dropped his hands, leaving her key in them, and looked up at him
with wet lashes, but happiness behind them. So he stooped and kissed
the last tears from her eyes. Since his handkerchief had become
quite useless for the purpose.
And she stole back to her place, and he lay down in his, and
Jennifer dreamed that she was baking gingerbread, and Martin that he
was eating it.
"Maids! maids! maids!"
It was Old Gillman on the heels of dawn.
"A pest on him and all farmers," groaned Martin, "who would harvest
men's slumbers as soon as they're sown."
"Get into hiding!" commanded Joscelyn.
"I will not budge," said Martin. "I am going to sleep again. For at
that moment I had a lion in one hand and a unicorn in the other--"
"WILL you conceal yourself!" whispered Joscelyn, with as much fury
as a whisper can compass.
"And the lion had comfits in his crown, and the unicorn a gilded
horn. And both were so sticky and spicy and sweet--"
Joscelyn flung herself upon her knees before him, spreading her
yellow skirts which barely concealed him, as Old Gillman thrust his
head through the hawthorn gap.
"Good morrow, maids," he grunted.
"--that I knew not, dear Mistress Joscelyn," murmured Martin, "which
to bite first."
"Good morrow, master!" cried the milkmaids loudly; and they
fluttered their petticoats like sunshine between the man at the
hedge and the man in the grass.
"Is my daughter any merrier this morning?"
"No, master," said Jennifer, "yet I think I see smiles on their
"If they lag much longer," muttered the farmer, "they'll be on the
wrong side of her mouth when they do come. For what sort of a home
will she return to?--a pothouse! and what sort of a father?--a
drunkard! And the fault's hers that deprives him of the drink he
loved in his sober days. Gillian!" he exclaimed, "when will ye give
up this child's whim to learn by experience, and take an old man's
word for it?"
But Gillian was as deaf to him as to the cock crowing in the
"Come fetch your portion," said Old Gillman to the milkmaids, "since
there's no help for it. And good day to ye, and a better morrow."
"Wait a bit, master!" entreated Jennifer, "and tell me if Daisy, my
Lincoln Red, lacks for anything."
"For nothing that Tom can help her to, maid. But she lacks you, and
lacking you, her milk. So that being a cow she may be said to lack
everything. And so do I, and the men, and the farm--ruin's our
portion, nothing but rack and ruin."
Saying which he departed.
"To breakfast," said Martin cheerfully.
"Suppose you'd been seen," scolded Joscelyn.
"Then our tales would have been at an end," said Martin. "Would this
have distressed you?"
"The sooner they're ended the better," said Joscelyn, "if you can do
nothing but babble of sticky unicorns."
"It was fresh from the oven," explained Martin meekly. "I wish we
could have gingerbread for breakfast instead of bread."
"Do not be sure," said Joscelyn severely, "that you will get even
"I am in your hands," said Martin, "but please be kinder to the
Joscelyn, all of a fluster, then put new bread in the place of
Gillian's old; but her annoyance was turned to pleasure when she
discovered that the little round top of yesterday's loaf had
"Upon my word!" cried she, "the cure is taking effect."
"I believe you are right," said Martin. "How sorry the ducks will
They quickly fed the ducks, and then themselves; and Martin received
his usual share, Joscelyn having so far relented that she even
advised him as to the best tree for apples in the whole orchard.
After breakfast Martin found six pair of eyes fixed so earnestly
upon him that he began to laugh.
"Why do you laugh?" asked little Joan.
"Because of my thoughts," said he. So she took a new penny from her
pocket and gave it to him.
"I was thinking," said Martin, "how strange it is that girls are all
so exactly alike."
"Oh!" cried six different voices in a single key of indignation.
"What a fib!" said Joyce. "I am like nobody but me."
"Nor am !" cried all the others in a breath.
"Yet a moment ago," said Martin, "you, Mistress Joyce, were
wondering with all your might what diversion I had hit upon for this
morning. And so were Jane and Jessica and Jennifer and Joan and
"I was NOT!" cried six voices at once.
"What, none of you?" said Martin. "Did I not say so?"
And they were very provoked, not knowing what to answer for fear it
might be on the tip of her neighbor's tongue. So they said nothing
at all, and with one accord tossed their heads and turned their
backs on him. And Martin laughed, leaving them to guess why. On
which, greatly put out, every girl without even consulting one
another they decided to have nothing further to do with him, and
each girl went and sat under a different apple-tree and began to do
"Heigho!" said Martin. "Then this morning I must divert myself." And
he began to spin his golden penny in the sun, sometimes spinning it
very dexterously from his elbow and never letting it fall. But the
girls wouldn't look, or if they did, it was through stray bits of
their hair; when they could not be suspected of looking.
"I shall certainly lose this penny," communed Martin with himself,
quite audibly, "if somebody does not lend me a purse to keep it in."
But nobody offered him one, so he plucked a blade of Shepherd's
Purse from the grass, soliloquizing, "Now had I been a shepherd, or
had the shepherd's name been Martin, here was my purse to my hand.
And then, having saved my riches I might have got married. Yet I
never was a shepherd, nor ever knew a shepherd of my name; and a
penny is in any case a great deal too much money for a man to marry
on, be he a shepherd or no. For it is always best to marry on
next-to-nothing, from which a penny is three times removed."
Then he went on spinning his penny in the air again, humming to
himself a song of no value, which, so far as the girls could tell
for the hair over their ears, went as follows:
If I should be so lucky
As a farthing for to find.
I wouldn't spend the farthing
According to my mind,
But I'd beat it and I'd bend it
And I'd break it into two,
And give one half to a Shepherd
And the other half to you.
And as for both your fortunes,
I'd wish you nothing worse
Than that YOUR half and HIS half
Should lie in the Shepherd's Purse.
At the end of the song he spun the penny so high that it fell into
the Well-House; and endeavoring to catch it he flung the spire of
wild-flower after it, and so lost both. And nobody took the least
notice of his song or his loss.
Then Martin said, "Who cares?" and took a new clay pipe and a little
packet from his pocket; and he wandered about the orchard till he
had found an old tin pannikin, and he scooped up some water from the
duckpond and made a lather in it with the soap in the packet, and
sat on the gate and blew bubbles. The first bubble in the pipe was
always crystal, and sometimes had a jewel hanging from it which made
it fall to the earth; and the second was tinged with color, and the
third gleamed like sunset, or like peacocks' wings, or rainbows, or
opals. All the colors of earth and heaven chased each other on their
surfaces in all the swift and changing shapes that tobacco smoke
plays at on the air; but of all their colors they take the deepest
glow of one or two, and now Martin would blow a world of flame and
orange through the trees, or one of blue and gold, or another of
green and rose. And, as he might have watched his dreams, he watched
the bubbles float away; and break. But one of the loveliest at last
sailed over the Well-House and between the ropes of the swing and
among the fruit-laden boughs, miraculously escaping all perils; and
over the hedge, where a small wind bore it up and up out of sight.
And Martin, who had been looking after it with a rapt gaze, sighed,
"Oh!" And six other "Ohs!" echoed his. Then he looked up and saw the
six milkmaids standing quite close to him, full of hesitation and
longing. So he took six more pipes from his pockets, and soon the
air was glistening with bubbles, big and little. Sometimes they blew
the bubbles very quickly, shaking the tiny globes as fast as they
could from the bowl, till the air was filled with a treasure of
opals and diamonds and moonstones and pearls, as though the king of
the east had emptied his casket there. And sometimes they blew
steadily and with care, endeavoring to create the best and biggest
bubble of all; but generally they blew an instant too long, and the
bubble burst before it left the pipe. Whenever a great sphere was
launched the blower cried in ecstasy, "Oh, look at mine!" and her
comrades, merely glancing, cried in equal ecstasy, "Yes, but see
mine!" And each had a moment's delight in the others' bubbles, but
everlasting joy in her own, and was secretly certain that of all the
bubbles hers were the biggest and brightest. The biggest and
brightest of all was really blown by little Joan: as Martin, in a
whisper, assured her. He whispered the same thing, however, to each
of her friends, and for one truth told five lies. Sometimes they
played together, taking their bubbles delicately from one pipe to
another, and sometimes blew their bubbles side by side till they
united, and made their venture into the world like man and wife. And
often they put all their pipes at once into the pannikin, and blew
in the water, rearing a great palace of crystal hemispheres, that
rose until it hit their chins and cheeks and the tips of their
noses, and broke on them, leaving on their fair skin a trace of
glistening foam. And as the six laughing faces bent over the
pannikin on his knees, Martin observed that Joscelyn's hair was
coiled like two great lovely roses over her ears, and that Joyce's
was in clusters of ringlets, and that Jane's was folded close and
smooth and shining round her small head, and that Jessica's was
tucked under like a boy's, while Jennifer's lay in a soft knot on
her neck. But little Joan's was hanging still in its plaits over her
shoulders, and one thick plait was half undone, and the loose hair
got in her own and everybody's way, and was such a nuisance that
Martin was obliged at last to gather it in his hand and hold it
aside for the sake of the bubble-blowers. And when they lifted their
heads he was looking at them so gravely that Joyce laughed, and
Jessica's eyes were a question, and Jane looked demure, and Jennifer
astonished, and Joscelyn extremely composed and indifferent. And
little Joan blushed. To cover her blushing she offered him another
"I was thinking," said Martin, "how strange it is that girls are so
Then six demure shadows appeared at the very corners of their
mouths, and they rose from their knees and said with one accord, "It
must be dinner-time." And it was.
"Bread is a good thing," said Martin, twirling a buttercup as he
swallowed his last crumb, "but I also like butter. Do not you,
"It depends on who makes it," said she. "There is butter and
"I believe," said Martin, "that you do not like butter at all."
"I do not like other people's butter," said Joscelyn.
"Let us be sure," said Martin. And he twirled his buttercup under
her chin. "Fie, Mistress Joscelyn!" he cried. "What a golden chin! I
never saw any one so fond of butter in all my days."
"Is it very gold?" asked Joscelyn, and ran to the duckpond to look,
but couldn't see because she was on the wrong side of the gate.
"Do I like butter?" cried Jessica.
"Do I?" cried Jennifer.
"Do I?" cried Joyce.
"Do I?" cried Jane.
"Oh, do I?" cried Joan.
"We'll soon find out," said Martin, and put buttercups under all
their chins, turn by turn. And they all liked butter exceedingly.
"Do YOU like butter, Master Pippin?" asked little Joan.
"Try me," said he.
And six buttercups were simultaneously presented to his chin, and it
was discovered that he liked butter the best of them all.
Then every girl had to prove it on every other girl, and again on
Martin one at a time, and he on them again. And in this delicious
pastime the afternoon wore by, and evening fell, and they came
golden-chinned to dinner.
Supper was scarcely ended--indeed, her mouth was still full--when
Jessica, looking straight at Martin, said, "I'm dying to swing."
"I never saved a lady's life easier," said Martin; and in one moment
she found herself where she wished to be, and in the next saw him
close beside her on the apple-bough. The five other girls went to
their own branches as naturally as hens to the roost. Joscelyn
inspected them like a captain marshalling his men, and when each was
armed with an apple she said:
"We are ready now, Master Pippin."
"I wish I were too," said he, "but my tale has taken a fit of the
shivers on the threshold, like an unexpected guest who doubts his
"Are we not all bidding it in?" said Joscelyn impatiently.
"Yes, like sweet daughters of the house," said Martin. "But what of
the mistress?" And he looked across at Gillian by the well, but she
looked only into the grass and her thoughts.
"Let the daughters do to begin with," said Joscelyn, "and make it
your business to stay till the mistress shall appear."
"That might be to outstay my welcome," said Martin, "and then her
appearance would be my discomfiture. For a hostess has, according to
her guests, as many kinds of face as a wildflower, according to its
"Some kinds have only one name," said Jessica, plucking a stalk
crowned with flowers as fine as spray. "What would you call this but
"If I were in Anglia," said Martin, "I would call it Queen's Lace."
"That's a pretty name," said Jessica.
"Pretty enough to sing about," said Martin; and looking carelessly
at the Well-House he thrummed his lute and sang--
The Queen netted lace
On the first April day,
The Queen wore her lace
In the first week of May,
The Queen soiled her lace
Ere May was out again,
So the Queen washed her lace
In the first June rain.
The Queen bleached her lace
On the first of July,
She spread it in the orchard
And left it there to dry,
But on the first of August
It wasn't in its place
Because my sweetheart picked it up
And hung it o'er her face.
She laughed at me, she blushed at me,
With such a pretty grace
That I kissed her in September
Through the Queen's own lace.
At the end of the song Gillian sat up in the grass, and looked with
all her heart over the duckpond.
Joscelyn: I find your songs singularly lacking in point, singer.
Martin: You surprise me, Mistress Joscelyn. The kiss was the point.
Joscelyn: It is like you to think so. It is just like you to think
Joscelyn: Sufficient conclusion to any circumstances.
Martin: Isn't it?
Joscelyn: My goodness! You might as soon ask, is a peardrop
sufficient for a body's dinner.
Martin: It would suffice me. I love peardrops. But then I am a man.
Women doubtless need more substance, being in themselves more
insubstantial. Now as to your quarrel with my song--
Joscelyn: It is of no consequence. You raise expectations which you
do not fulfill. But it is not of the least consequence.
Martin: Dear Mistress Joscelyn, my only desire is to please you. We
will not conclude on a kiss. You shall fulfill your own
Joscelyn: Mine?--I have no expectations whatever.
Martin: But I have disappointed you. What shall I do with my
sweetheart? Shall she be whipped for her theft? Shall she be shut in
a dungeon? Shall she be thrown before elephants? Choose your
Joan: But, Master Pippin!--why must the poor sweetheart be punished?
I am sure Joscelyn never wished her to be punished. There are other
Martin: Dunderhead that I am, I can't think of any! What, Mistress
Joscelyn, was the conclusion you expected?
Joscelyn: I tell you, I expected none!
Joan: Why, Master Pippin! I should have fancied that, seeing the
dear sweetheart had hung the veil over her face, she might--
Joan: Be expected--
Joan: To be about to be--
Joscelyn: I am sick to death of this silly sweetheart. And since our
mistress appears to be listening with both her ears, it would be
more to the point to begin whatever story you propose to relate
to-night, and be done with it.
Martin: You are always right. Therefore add your ears to hers, while
I tell you the tale of Open Winkins.
There were once, dear maidens, five lords in the east of Sussex, who
owned between them a single Burgh; for they were brothers. Their
names were Lionel and Hugh and Heriot and Ambrose and Hobb. Lionel
was ten years of age and Hobb was twenty-two, there being exactly
three years all but a month between the birthdays of the brothers.
And Lionel had a merry spirit, and Hugh great courage and daring,
and Heriot had beauty past any man's share, and Ambrose had a wise
mind; but Hobb had nothing at all for the world's praise, for he
only had a loving heart, which he spent upon his brothers and his
garden. And since love begets love, they all loved him dearly, and
leaned heavily on his affection, though neither they nor any man
looked up to him because he was a lord. Although he was the eldest,
and in his quiet way administered the affairs of the Burgh and of
the people of Alfriston under the Burgh, it was Ambrose who was
always thinking of new schemes for improvement, and Heriot who
undertook the festivities. As for the younger boys, they kept the
old place alive with their youth and spirits; and it was evident
that later on Hugh would win honor to the Burgh in battle and
adventure, and Lionel would draw the world thither with his charm.
But Hobb, to whom they all brought their shapeless dreams white-hot,
since sympathy helps us to create bodies for the things which begin
their existence as souls--Hobb differed from the four others not
only in his name, but in his plain appearance and simple tastes. And
all these things, as well as his tender heart, he got from his
mother, who was the only daughter of a gardener of Alfriston. The
gardener, to whom she was the very apple of his eye, had kept her
privately in a place on a hill, fearing lest in her youth and
inexperience she should fall to the lot of some man not worthy of
her; for her knew, or believed, that a young girl of her sweetness
and tenderness and devotedness of disposition would by her sweetness
attract a lover too early, and by her tenderness respond to him too
readily, and by her devotedness follow him too blindly, before she
had time to know herself or men. And he also knew, or believed, that
first love is as often a will-o'-the-wisp as the star for which all
young things take it. Five days in the week he tended the gardens of
Alfriston, the sixth he gave to the Lord of the Burgh that lay among
the hills, and the seventh he kept for his daughter on the hill a
few miles distant, which was afterwards known as Hobb's Hawth. She
on her part spent her week in endeavoring to grow a perfect rose of
a certain golden species, and her heart was given wholly to her
father and her flower. And he watched her efforts with interest and
advice, and for the first she thanked him but of the second took no
heed. "For," said she, "this is MY garden, father, and MY rose, and
I will grow it in my own way or not at all. Have you not had a
lifetime of gardens and roses which you have brought to perfection?
And would you let any man take your own upon his shoulders, even
your own mistakes, and shoulder at last the praise after the blame?"
Then Hobb, her father, laughed at her indulgently and said, "Nay,
not any man; yet once I let a woman, and without her aid I would
never have brought my rarest and dearest flower to perfection. So if
I should let a woman help me, why not you a man?" "Was the woman
your mother?" said she. And her father was silent. Then a day came
when he trudged up and down the hills from Alfriston, and standing
at the gate of her garden saw his child in the arms of a stranger;
and her face, as it lay against his heart, seemed to her father also
to be the face of a stranger, and not of his child. He recognized in
the stranger the Lord of the Burgh. And he saw that what he had
feared had come to pass, and that his daughter's heart would be no
more divided between her father and her flower, for it was given
whole to the lover who had first assailed it. Hobb came into the
garden, and they looked up as the gate clicked, and their faces grew
as red as though one had caught the reflection from the other. But
both looked straight into his eyes. And his daughter, pointing to
her bush, said, "Father, my rose is grown at last," and he saw that
the bush was crowned with a glorious golden bloom, perfect in every
detail. Then it was the turn of the Lord of the Burgh, and he said,
"Sir, I ask leave to rob your garden of its rose." "Do robbers ask
leave?" said Hobb. And he shook his head, adding, "Nay, when the
thief and the theft are in collusion, what say is left to the owner
of the treasure? Yet I do not like this. Sir, have you considered
that she is a gardener's child? Daughter, have you considered that
he is a lord?" And neither of them had considered these questions,
and they did not propose to do so. Then Hobb shook his head again
and said, "I will not waste words. I know when a plant can drink no
more water. And though you pretend to ask my leave, I know that you
are prepared to dispense with it. But by way of consent I will say
this: whatever you may call your other sons, you shall call your
first Hobb, to remind you to-morrow of what you will not consider
to-day. For my daughter, when she is a lord's wife, will none the
less still be a gardener's daughter, and your children will be
grafted of two stocks. And if this seems to you a hard condition,
then kiss and bid farewell." And they both laughed with joy at the
lightness of the condition; but the gardener did not laugh. And so
the Lord of the Burgh married the gardener's daughter, and they
called their first son Hobb. He was born on a first of August, and
thirty-five months later Ambrose was born on the first of July, and
in due course Heriot in June, and Hugh in May, and Lionel in April.
And the Lord, loving his sons equally, made them equal possessors of
the Burgh when in time it should pass out of his hands. Which, since
men are mortal, presently came to pass, and there were five lords
instead of one.
It happened on a roaring night of March, when the wind was
blustering over the barren ocean of the east Downs, and Lionel was
still a boy of ten, but soon to be eleven, that the five brothers
sat clustered about the great hearth in the hall, roasting apples
and talking of this and that. But their talk was fitful, and had
long pauses in which they listened to the gusty night, which had so
much more to say than they. And after one of the silences Lionel
shuddered slightly, and drawing his little stool close to Hobb he
"It sounds like witches." Hobb put his big hand round the child's
head and face, and Lionel pressed his cheek against his brother's
"Or lions," said Hugh, jumping up and running to the window, where
he flattened his nose to stare into the night. "I wish it were lions
coming over the Downs."
"What would you do with them?" said Hobb, smiling broadly.
"Fight them," said Hugh, "and chain them up. I should like to have
lions instead of dogs--a red lion and a white one."
"I never heard tell of lions of those colors," said Hobb. "But
perhaps Ambrose has with all his reading."
"Not I," said Ambrose, "but I haven't read half the books yet. The
wind still knows more than I, and it may be that he knows where red
and white lions are to be found. For he knows everything."
"And has seen everything," murmured Heriot, watching a lovely flame
of blue and green that flickered among the red and gold on the
"And has been everywhere," muttered Hugh. "If I could find and catch
him, I'd ask him for a red and a white lion."
"I'd rather have peacocks," said Heriot, his eyes on the fire.
"What would you choose, Ambrose?" asked Hobb.
"Nothing," said he, "but it's the hardest of all things to have, and
I doubt if I'd get it. But what business have we to be choosing
presents? That is Lionel's right before ours, for isn't his birthday
next month? What will you ask of the wind for your birthday, Lal?"
Then Lionel, who was getting very drowsy, smiled a sleepy smile, and
said, "I'd like a farm of my own in the Downs, a very little farm
with pink pigs and black cocks and white donkeys and chestnut horses
no bigger than grasshoppers and mice, and a very little well as big
as my mug to draw up my water from, and a little green paddock the
size of my pocket-handkerchief, and another of yellow corn, and
another of crimson trefoil. And I would have a blue farm-wagon no
larger than Hobb's shoe, and a haystack half as big as a seed-cake,
and a duckpond that I could cover with my platter. And I'd live
there and play with it all day long, if only I knew where the wind
lives, and could ask him how to get it."
"Don't start till to-morrow," jested Ambrose, "to-night you're too
sleepy to find the way."
Then he turned to his book, and Hugh was still at the window, and
Heriot gazing into the fire. And as he felt the child's head droop
in his hand, Hobb picked him up in his arms and carried him to bed.
And he alone of all those brothers had made no choice, nor had they
thought to ask him, so accustomed were they to see him jog along
without the desires that lead men to their goals--such as Ambrose's
thirst for knowledge, and Heriot's passion for beauty, and Hugh's
lust for adventure, and Lionel's pursuit of delight. And yet,
unknown to them all, he had a heartfelt wish, which, among other
things, he had inherited from his mother. For on a height west of
the Burgh he had made a garden where, like her, he labored to
produce a perfect golden rose. But so far luck was against him,
though his height, which was therefore spoken of as the Gardener's
Hill, bloomed with the loveliest flowers of all sorts imaginable.
But year by year his rose was attacked by a special pest, the nature
of which he had not succeeded in discovering. Yet his patience was
inexhaustible, and his brothers who sometimes came to his garden
when they needed a listener for their achieved or unachieved
ambitions, never suspected that he too had an ambition he had not
realized, for they saw only a lovely garden of his creating, where
wisdom, beauty, adventure, and delight were made equally welcome by
Now on the March day following the night of the brothers' windy
(But suddenly Martin, with a nimble movement, stood upright on his
bough, and grasping that to which the swing was attached, shook it
with such frenzy that a tempest seemed to pass through the tree, and
the girls shrieked and clung to the trunk, and leaves and apples
flew in all directions; and Jessica, between clutching at her ropes,
and letting go to ward off the cannonade of fruit, gasped in a
tumult of laughter and indignation.
Jessica: Have you gone mad, Master Pippin? have you gone mad?
Martin: Mad, Mistress Jessica, stark staring mad! March hares are
pet rabbits to me!
Jessica: Sit down this instant! do you hear? this instant! That's
better. What fun it was! Aha, you thought you could shake me off,
but you didn't. Are you still mad?
Martin: Melancholy mad, since you will not let me rave.
Jessica: You are the less dangerous. But I hate you to be
Martin: It is no one's fault but yours. How can I be jolly when my
story upsets you?
Jessica: How do you know it upsets me?
Martin: You put out your tongue at me.
Jessica: Did I?
Martin: Yes, without reason. So what could I do but whistle mine to
Jessica: You were too hasty, for I had my reason.
Martin: If it was a good one I'll whistle mine back again.
Jessica: It was this. That no man in a love-tale should be wiser or
braver or more beautiful or more happy than the hero; or how can he
be the hero? Yet I am sure Hobb is the hero and none of the others,
because he is the only one old enough to be married.
Martin: Ambrose in nineteen, and will very soon be twenty.
Jessica: What's nineteen, or even twenty, in a man? Fie! a man's not
a man till he comes of age, and the hero's not Ambrose for all his
wisdom, though wisdom becomes a hero. Nor Heriot for all his beauty,
though a hero should be beautiful. Nor Hugh, who will one day be
brave enough for any hero, though now he's but a boy. Nor the happy
Lionel, who is only a child--yet I love a gay hero. It's none of
these, full though they be of the qualities of heroes. And here is
your Hobb with nothing to show but a fondness for roses.
Martin: You deserve to be stood in a corner for that nothing,
Mistress Jessica. Your reason was such a bad one that I see I must
return to sense if only to teach you a little of it. Did I not say
Hobb had a loving heart?
Jessica: But he was plain and simple and patient and contented. Are
these things for a hero?
Martin: Mistress Jessica, I will ask you a riddle. What is it--? Oh,
but first, I take it you love apple-trees?
Jessica: Who doesn't?
Martin: What is it, then, you love in an apple-tree? Is it the
dancing of the leaves in the wind? Is it the boldness of the boughs?
Or perhaps the loveliness of the flower in spring? Or again the
fruit that ripens of the flower amongst the leaves on the boughs?
What is it you love in an apple-tree?
Jessica: All riddles are traps. I must consider before I answer.
Martin: You shall consider until the conclusion of my story, and not
till you are satisfied that many things can be contained in one,
will I require your solution. And as for traps, it is always the
solver of riddles who lays his own trap, by looking all round the
question and never straight at it. Put on your thinking-cap, I beg,
while I go on babbling.)
On the March day following the brothers' talk (continued Martin)
Lionel was missing. It was some time before his absence was noticed,
for Hobb was in his distant garden, and Ambrose among his books, and
Heriot had ridden north to the market-town to buy stuff for a
jerkin, and Hugh had run south to the sea to watch the ships. So
Lionel was left to his own devices, and what they were none tried to
guess till evening, when the brothers met again and he was not
there. Then there was hue and cry among the hills, but to no
purpose. The child had vanished like a cloud. And the month wore by,
and their hearts grew heavier day by day.
It was in the last week of March that Hugh one morning came red-eyed
to his brothers and said, "I am going away, and I will not come back
until I have found Lionel. For I can't rest."
"None of us can do that," said Ambrose, "and we have searched and
sent messengers everywhere. You are too young to go alone."
"I am nearly fourteen," said Hugh, "and stronger than Heriot, and
even than you, Ambrose, and I can take care of myself and Lionel
too. There are more ways than one to seek, and I'll go my way while
you go yours. But I will find him or die." And he looked with
defiance at Ambrose, and then turned to Hobb and said doggedly, "I'm
Hobb, who himself sought the hills unwearingly day after day, and
then sat up three parts of the night attending to the duties of the
Burgh, said, "Go, and God bless you."
And Hugh's mouth grew less set, and he kissed his brothers, and put
his knife in his belt, and took food in his wallet, and walked out
of the Burgh. He followed the grass-track to the north, and had
walked less than half-an-hour when the wind took his cap and blew it
into the middle of a pond, where it lay soddening out of reach. So
he took off his shoes and walked into the pond to fetch it out,
stirring up the yellow mud in thick soft clouds. But as he stooped
to grab his cap, something else stirred the mud in the middle, and a
body heaved itself sluggishly into view. At first Hugh thought it
must be the body of a sheep that had tumbled into the water, but to
his amazement the sulky head of an old man appeared. He was barely
distinguishable from the mud out of which he had risen.
"Drat the boys!" said the muddy man. "Will they never be done with
disturbing the newts and me? Drat em, I say!"
"Who are you?" demanded Hugh, staring with all his might.
"Jerry I am, and this is my pond. Why can't you leave me in peace?"
"The wind took my cap," said Hugh.
"Finding's keepings," said the muddy man, taking the cap himself,
"and windfalls on this water is mine. So I'll keep your cap, and
it's the second wind's brought me this March. And if you're in want
of another you'd best go to where Wind lives and ask him for it,
like t'other one. But he said he'd ask for a toy farm instead."
"A toy farm?" shouted Hugh.
"Go away and don't deafen a body," said Jerry, and prepared to sink
again. But Hugh caught him by the hair and said fiercely, "Keep my
cap if you like, but I won't let you go until you tell me where my
"Your brother was it?" growled the muddy man. "He went to High and
Over, dancing like a sunbeam."
"What's High and Over?"
"Where Wind lives."
"Find out," mumbled the muddy man; and he wriggled himself out of
Hugh's clutch and buried himself like a monstrous newt in the mud.
And though Hugh groped and fumbled shoulder-deep he could not feel a
trace of him.
"But," said he, "there's at least a name to go on." And he got out
of the pond and went in search of High and Over. And his brothers
waited in vain for his return. And the heaviness of four hearts was
now divided between three, and doubled because of another brother
But on the first of April, which was Lionel's birthday, Lionel came
back. Or rather, Hobb found him in a valley north of his garden
hill, when he was wandering on one of his forlorn searches. And when
he found him Hobb could not believe his eyes. For the child was
sitting in the middle of the prettiest plaything in the world. It
was a tiny farm, covering perhaps a quarter of an acre, with minute
barns and yards and stables, and pigmy livestock in the little
pastures, and hand-high crops in the little meadows; and smoke came
from the tiny chimney of the farmhouse, and Lionel was drawing water
from a well in a bucket the size of a thimble. And all the colors
were so bright and painted that the little farmstead seemed to have
been conceived of the gayest mind on earth. But through his
amazement Hobb had no thought except for the child, and he ran
calling him by his name, but Lionel never looked up. And then Hobb
lifted him in his arms, and embraced him closely, but the child did
Then Hobb looked at him anxiously, and was so shocked that he forgot
the strange blithe little farm entirely. For Lionel was as wan and
wasted as though he had been through a fever, and his rosy face was
white, and his merry eyes were melancholy. And suddenly, as Hobb
clasped him, he flung his arms round his big brother's neck and
buried his face in his bosom and wept bitterly.
Then Hobb tried to soothe and comfort him, asking him little
questions in a coaxing voice--"Where has the child been? Why did he
run away and leave us? Where did he get this pretty, wonderful toy?
Is he hurt, or hungry? Does he remember it is his birthday? There
will be presents for him at the Burgh, and a cake for tea. Did Hugh
bring him home? Has he seen Hugh? Lal, Lal, where is Hugh?"
But Lionel answered none of these questions, he only sobbed and
sobbed, and suddenly slipped out of Hobb's arms, and began to play
once more with his farm, while the tears ran down his thin cheeks.
Presently he let Hobb take him home, and there Heriot and Ambrose
rejoiced and sorrowed over him. For he would scarcely speak or eat,
and only shook his head at their questions. At Hugh's name his tears
flowed twice as fast, but he would tell them nothing of him. Very
soon Hobb carried him to bed, and in undressing him noticed that he
had no shirt. This too Lionel would not explain, and Hobb ceased
troubling him with talk, and knelt and prayed by him, and laid him
down to sleep, hoping that in the morning he would be better. But
morning brought no change. Lionel from that day was given up to
grief. Each morning he went dejectedly to play with his marvelous
toy in the valley, but how he came by it he would not say.
Towards the end of April Heriot came to Hobb and Ambrose and said,
"I cannot bear this; Lionel is home and we are none the better for
it, and Hugh is gone and we are all the worse. Hugh is capable of
looking after himself, yet perhaps danger has befallen him; and even
if not, he will roam the country fruitlessly for months, and it may
be years; since Lionel is restored and he does not know it. The
Burgh can spare me better than it can you, and I will ride abroad
and see if I can find him, and return in seven days, whether or no."
So they embraced him, and he departed. But at the end of seven days
he did not appear. And Ambrose and Hobb were dismayed at his
vanishing like the others, and so heavy a gloom descended on the
Burgh that each could scarcely have endured it without the other.
And every day they went forth in search of Hugh and Heriot, or of
traces of them, but found none.
Then it happened that on the first of May, which was Hugh's
birthday, Hobb, wandering further north than usual, to the brow of
the great ridge east of the Ouse, heard a wild roaring and bellowing
on the Downs; or rather, it was two separate roarings, as you may
sometimes hear two separate storms thundering at once over two
ranges of hills. And in astonishment he went first to Beddingham,
and there, bound by an iron chain to a stake beside a pond, he found
a mighty lion, as white as a young lamb. But he had not a lamb's
meekness, for he ramped and raved in a great circle around the
stake, and his open throat set in his shaggy mane looked like the
red sun seen upon white mist. Hobb rubbed his eyes and turned
towards Ilford, where the second roaring sought to outdo the first.
And there beside another pond he found another stake and chain, and
a lion exactly similar, except that he was as red as a rose. But he
had not a rose's sweetness, for he snarled and leaped with fury at
the end of his chain, and his flashing teeth under his red muzzle
looked like the blossom of the scarlet runner.
And then, turning about for an explanation of these wonders, Hobb
saw what drove them from his mind--the figure of Hugh crouched in a
little hollow, and shaking like a leaf. Hobb ran towards him with a
shout, and at the shout Hugh leaped to his feet, with the eyes of a
hunted hare, and looked on all sides as though seeking where to
hide. But Hobb was soon beside him, with his arm round the boy's
shoulder, and gazing earnestly into his face.
"Why, lad," said he, "do you not know me again?"
Hugh stole a glance at him, and suddenly smiled and nodded, and
tried to answer, but could not for the chattering of his teeth. And
he clung hard to his brother's side, and shuddered from head to
"Are you ill, Hugh?" Hobb asked him, bewildered at the boy's
unlikeness to himself.
"No, Hobb," said Hugh, "but need we stay here now?"
"Why, no," said Hobb gently, "we will go when you like. Where do
these beasts come from?"
Hugh set his lips and began to move away.
Hobb went beside him and said, "Lionel is home, but Heriot is lost.
Have you seen Heriot?"
Hugh hesitated, and then stammered, "No, I have not seen him."
And Hobb knew that he had lied, Hugh who had always been as fearless
of the truth as of anything else. So after that he asked no more,
fearing to get another lie for an answer; and he led Hugh home,
supporting him with his arm, for he was full of fits and starts and
shiverings. If a lump of chalk rolled under his shoe he blanched and
cried, "What's that?" and once when a field-mouse ran across the
path he swooned. Then Hobb, opening his tunic at the neck, saw that
nothing was between it and his body; for he, like Lionel, was
without his shirt.
They got back to the Burgh, and Hobb found Ambrose and told him how
it was. And Ambrose came to Hugh and talked with him, and turned
away with knitted brows. For here was a puzzle not dealt with in his
books. And May went by in miserable fashion, with Lionel spending
the days in playing mournfully beside his farm, and Hugh in cowering
abjectly between his lions. And sometimes Ambrose and Hobb, after
searching for Heriot or news of him, or spending their spirits in
endeavoring to hearten their two brothers, or to elicit from them
something that should give them the key to the mystery, would meet
in Hobb's hill-garden, where seemed to be the only peace and
loveliness left upon earth. And Hobb would weed and tend his
neglected flowers, and they bloomed for him as though they knew he
loved them--as indeed they did. Only his golden rose-tree would not
flourish, but this small sorrow was unguessed by Ambrose.
One evening as they sat in the garden in the last week of May,
Ambrose said to his brother, "I have been thinking, Hobb, that at
all costs Heriot must be found, and not for his own sake only. He is
younger than we, and nearer in spirit to the boys; and he may be
able to help them as we cannot. For if this goes on, Hugh will die
of his fears and Lionel of his melancholy. You must stay and
administer our affairs as usual, and look after the boys; and I will
go further afield in search of Heriot."
Hobb was silent for a moment, and then he sighed and said, "No good
has come of these seekings. Our lads returned of themselves, as
Heriot may. And their return was worse than anything we feared of
their absence, as, if he come back, I pray Heriot's will not be. And
for you, Ambrose--" But then he paused, not saying what was in his
mind. And Ambrose said, "Do not be afraid for me. These boys are
young, and I am older than my years. And though I cannot face danger
with a stouter heart than our brothers, I can perhaps see into it a
little further than they. And foresight is sometimes a still better
tool than courage."
Then he took Hobb's hand in his, and they gripped with the grip of
men who love each other; and Ambrose went out of the garden, and
Hobb was left alone. For Hugh and Lionel were companions to none but
But on the first of June Hobb, coming to the gate of his garden, saw
with surprise a peacock strutting on the hillbrow, his fan spread in
the sun, a luster of green and blue and gold, and behind him was
another, and further south three more. So Hobb went out to look at
them, and found not five but fifty peacocks sweeping the Downs with
their heavy trains, or opening and shutting them like gigantic
magical flowers. Following the throng of birds, he came shortly to a
barn already known to him, but he had never seen it as he saw it
now. For the roof was crowded with peacocks, and peacocks strayed in
flocks within and without; and sitting in the doorway was Heriot,
the sight of whom so overjoyed his brother that Hobb forgot the
thousand peacocks in the one man. And he made speed to greet him,
but within a few yards halted full of doubt. For was this Heriot? He
had Heriot's air and attitude, yet the grace was gone from his body;
and Heriot's features, surely, but the beauty had melted away like
morning dew. And his dress, which had always been orderly and
beautiful, was neglected; so that under the half-laced jerkin Hobb
saw that he was shirtless. Yet after the first moment's shock, he
knew this gaunt and ugly youth was Heriot. And Heriot seeing his
coming hung his head, and made a shamed movement of retreat into the
shadow of the barn. But Hobb hurried to him, and took him by the
shoulders, and beheld him with the eyes of love which always find
its object beautiful. Then the flush faded from Heriot's haggard
cheeks, and he looked as full at Hobb as Hobb at him. And as at the
steadfast meeting of eyes men see no longer the physical appearance,
but for an eternal instance the appearance of the soul, these
brothers knew that they were to each other what they had always
been. And Heriot saw that Hobb was full of questions, and he laid
his hand over Hobb's mouth and said, "Hobb, do not ask me anything,
for I can tell you nothing."
"Neither of yourself nor of Ambrose?" said Hobb.
"Nothing," repeated Heriot.
So Hobb left his questions unspoken, and as they went home together
told Heriot of Hugh's return, and what had happened to him. And
Heriot heard it without comment. And in the evening, when Lionel and
Hugh returned, they had nothing to say to Heriot, nor he to them;
and it seemed to Hobb that this was because these three everything
It was a lonely June for Hobb, with his eldest brother away, and the
three others spending all their days beside their strange
possessions, which brought them no tittle of joy; and had it not
been for his garden he would have felt utterly bereft. Yet here too
failure sat heavily on his heart; for an many a night he saw upon
his bush a bud that promised perfection to come, and in the morning
it hung dead and rotten on its stem.
So the month wore on, and Hobb began to feel that the Burgh, where
now his brothers only came to sleep, was a dead shell, too desolate
to inhabit if Ambrose did not soon return. And he was impelled to go
in search of him, yet decided to remain until Ambrose's birthday had
dawned, for had not their birthdays brought his three youngest
brothers home? And it might be so with Ambrose. And so it was.
For on the first of July, before going to his garden, he stayed at
Heriot's barn to try to induce him to leave his peacocks for once,
and spend the day with him in search of Ambrose; but Heriot, who was
feeding his fowl, never looked up, and said sadly, "What need to