Part 7 out of 7
(Joscelyn: It's NOT a true story!
Martin: It IS a true story! If you don't say so at the end I'll give
Joscelyn: What?--I don't want you to give me anything!
Martin: All right then.
Joscelyn: What will you give me?
Martin: A yellow shoe-string.)
By six Gorgons (repeated Martin) who had the sharpest claws and the
snakiest hair of any Gorgons there ever were. And their faces--
(Joscelyn: Leave their faces alone!
Martin: You're being a perfect nuisance!
Joscelyn: I simply HATE this story!
Martin: Tell it yourself then!
Joscelyn: What ABOUT their faces?)
Their faces (said Martin) were as beautiful as day and night and the
four seasons of the year. They were so beautiful that I must stop
talking about them or I shall never talk about anything else. So I'd
better talk about the young Squire, who was a great deal less
interesting, except for one thing: that he was in love. Which is a
big advantage to have over Gorgons, who never are. The only other
noteworthy thing about him was that his voice was breaking because
he was merely fifteen years old. He was just a sort of Odd Boy about
the King's court.
(Martin: Mistress Joscelyn, if you keep on wiggling so much you'll
get a nasty tumble. Kindly sit still and let me get on. This isn't a
very long story.)
One morning in April this Squire sat down at the end of the world,
and he sobbed and he sighed like any poor soul; and a sort of
wandering fellow who was going by had enough curiosity to stop and
ask him what was the matter. And the Squire told him, and added that
his heart was breaking for longing of the flower that his lady wore
in her hair. So this fellow said, "Is that all?" And he got into his
boat, which had a painted prow, and a light green pennon, and a
gilded sail, and called itself The Golden Truant, and he sailed away
a thousand leagues over the water till he came to the island where
the princess was imprisoned; and the six Gorgons came hissing to the
shore, and asked him what he wanted. And he said he wanted nothing
but to play and sing to them; so they let him. And while he did so
they danced and forgot, and he ran to the tower and found the
Princess with her beautiful head bowed on the windowsill behind the
bars, weeping like January rain. And he climbed up the wall and took
from her hair the flower as she wept, in exchange for another
which--which the Squire had sent her. And she whispered a word of sorrow,
and he another of comfort, and came away. And the Gorgons suspected
nothing; except perhaps the littlest Gorgon, and she looked the
So in the summer the Squire told the Wanderer that he would surely
die unless he had his lady's ring to kiss; and the fellow went again
to the island. The Gorgons were not sorry to see him, and were
willing to dance while he played and sang as before; and as before
he took advantage of their pleasure, and stole the gold ring from
the Princess's hand as she lay in tears behind her bars. But in
place of the gold ring he left a silver one which had belonged to--
to the Squire. And the voice of her despair spoke through her tears,
and he answered it as best he could with the voice of hope. And went
away as before, leaving the Gorgons dancing.
Then in the autumn the Squire said to the Wanderer, "Who can live on
flowers and rings? If you do not get me my lady herself, let me lie
in my grave." So the Wanderer set sail for the third time, though he
knew that the dangers and difficulties of this last adventure were
supreme; and once more he landed on the island of the Imprisoned
Princess. And this time the Gorgons even appeared a little pleased
to see him, and let him stay with them six days and nights, telling
them stories, and singing them songs, and inventing games to keep
them amused. For he was very sorry for them.
(Joscelyn: Why? Why? Why?
Martin: Because he discovered that they were even unhappier than the
Princess in her tower.
Joscelyn: It isn't true! It isn't true!
Martin: Look out! you're losing your slipper.)
Of course the Gorgons were unhappier than the Princess. She was only
parted from her lover; but they were parted from love itself.
But as the week wore on, miracles happened; for every night one of
the Gorgons turned into the beautiful girl she used to be before the
Goddess of Reason, infuriated with the Irrational God who bestows on
girls their quite unreasonable loveliness, had made her what she
was. And night by night the Wanderer rubbed his eyes and wondered if
he had been dreaming; for the guardians of the tower no longer
hissed, but sighed at love, and instead of claws for the
destructions of lovers had beautiful kind hands that longed to help
them. Until on the sixth night only one remained this fellow's
enemy. But alas! she was the strongest and fiercest of them all.
(Joscelyn: How dare you!)
And her case (said Martin) was hopeless, because she alone of them
all had never known what love was, and so had nothing to be restored
(Joscelyn: How DARE you!)
And without her (said Martin) there was nothing to be done. She had
always had the others under her thumb, and by this time she had the
Wanderer in exactly the same place. And so--and so--
And so here is your shoe-string, Mistress Joscelyn; and I am sorry
the want of it has been such an inconvenience to you all day, so
that you could not make merry with us. But I must forfeit it now,
for the story is ended, and I think you must own it is true.
(Joscelyn: I won't take it! The story is NOT true! The story is NOT
ended! Finish it at once! None of the others ended like this.
Martin: The others weren't true.
Joscelyn: I don't care. You are to say what happened to the Gorgons.
Joyce: And to the Squire.
Jennifer: And to the Princess.
Jessica: And what she looked like.
Jane: And what happened to the King.
"Please, Martin," said little Joan, "please don't let the story come
to an end before we know what happened to the Wanderer."
"I'm tired of telling stories," said Martin, "and I'll never tell
another as long as I live. But I suppose I must add the trimmings to
this one, or I shall get no peace.")
All these things, dear maidens, are very quickly told, except what
the Princess looked like, for that is impossible. No man ever knew.
He never got further than her eyes, and then he was drowned. But
what does it matter how she looked? She died a thousand years ago of
a broken heart. And her Squire, hearing of her death, died too, a
thousand leagues away. And the King her father expired of remorse,
and his country went to rack and ruin. And the five kind Gorgons had
to pay the penalty of their regained humanity, and wilted into their
maiden graves. Only the Sixth Gorgon lived on for ever and ever. I
dare not think of her solitary eternity. But as for the Wanderer, he
is of no importance. A little while he still went wandering, singing
these lovers' sorrows to the world, and what became of him I never
That's the end.
And now, dear Mistress Joscelyn, let me lace up your shoe.
(Joscelyn buried her face in her hands and burst out crying.)
There was consternation in the Apple-Orchard.
All the milkmaids came tumbling from their perches to run and
comfort their weeping comrade. And as they passed Martin, Joyce
cried, "It's a shame!" and Jennifer murmured "How could you?" and
Jessica exclaimed "You brute!" and Jane said "I'm surprised at you!"
and even little Joan shook her head at him, and, while all the
others fondled Joscelyn, and petted and consoled her, took her hand
and held it very tight. But with her other hand she took Martin's
and held it just as tight, and looked a little anxious, with tears
in her blue eyes. Yet she looked a little smiling too. And there
were tears also in the eyes of all the milkmaids, because the story
had ended so badly, and because they did not in the least know what
was going to happen, and because a man had made one of them cry. And
Martin suddenly realized that all these girls were against him as
much as though it were six months ago. And he swung his feet and
looked as though he didn't care, so that Joan knew he was feeling
rather sheepish inside, and held his hand a little tighter.
Then Joscelyn, who had the loveliest brown, as Joan had the
loveliest blue, eyes in England, lifted her young head and looked at
Martin so defiantly through her tears that he knew she had given up
the game at last; and he pressed Joan's hand for all he was worth,
and began to look ashamed of himself, so that Joan knew he had
stopped feeling sheepish in the least. And Joscelyn, in a voice that
shook like birch-leaves, said, "I don't want it to end like that."
Martin: Dear Mistress Joscelyn, is it my fault? I promised you the
truth, and with your help I have told it.
Joscelyn: How dare you say it's with my help? If I had my way--!
Martin: You shall have it. We will leave the end of the story in
Joscelyn: I won't have anything to do with it!
Martin: Then I'm afraid it's your fault.
Joscelyn: That's what a man always says!
Martin: Did he?
Joscelyn: Yes, he did! he said it was Eve's fault.
Martin: So it was.
Joscelyn: How dare you!
Martin: He said nothing but the truth. And what did you say?
Joscelyn: I said it was Adam's fault.
Martin: So it was. YOU said nothing but the truth.
Joscelyn: How could it be two people's fault?
Martin: How could it be anything else? Oh, Joscelyn! there are two
things in this world that one person alone cannot bring to
perfection. And one of them is a fault. It takes two people to make
a perfect fault. Eve tempted Adam; and Adam was jolly glad to get
tempted if he was half as sensible as he ought to have been. And Eve
knew it. And Adam let her know it. And if after that she had not
tempted him he would never have forgiven her. When it came to
fault-making they understood each other perfectly. And between them
they made the most perfect fault in the world.
Joscelyn: (after a very long pause): You said there were two things.
Martin: Two things?
Joscelyn: That one person alone can't bring to perfection.
Martin: Did I?
Joscelyn: What is the other thing?
Martin: Love. Isn't it?
Joscelyn: How dare you ask me?
Martin: I dare ask more than that. Joscelyn, how old are you?
Joscelyn: I sha'n't tell you.
Martin: Joscelyn, you are the tallest of the milkmaids, but you
can't help that. How old are you?
Joscelyn: Mind your own business.
Martin: Joscelyn, the first three times I saw you, you had your hair
down your back. But ever since I told you my first story you have
done it up, like beautiful dark flowers, on each side of your head.
And it is my belief that you have no business to have it up at all.
Joscelyn (very angrily): How dare you! Of course I have! Am I not
Joscelyn: Well, next June.
Martin: Oh, Hebe! it's worse than I thought. How dare I? You
whipper-snapper! How dare YOU have us all under your thumb? How dare
YOU play the Gorgon to Gillian? How dare YOU cry your eyes out
because my lovers had an unhappy ending? Go back to your dolls'-
house! What does sixteen next June know about Adam? What does
sixteen next June know about love?
Joscelyn: Everything! how dare you? everything!
Martin: Am I to believe you? Then by all you know, you baby, give me
the sixth key of the Well-House!
And he took from his pocket the five keys he already had, and held
out his hand for the last one. Joscelyn's eyes grew bigger and
bigger, and the doubt that had troubled her all day became a
certainty as she looked from the keys to her comrades, who all got
very red and hung their heads.
"Why did you give them up?" demanded Joscelyn.
"Because," Martin answered for them, "they know everything about
love. But then they are all more than sixteen years of age, and
capable of making the right sort of ending which is so impossible to
children like you and me."
Then Joscelyn looked as old as she could and said, "Not so
impossible, Master Pippin, if--if--"
But all of a sudden she began to laugh. It was the first time Martin
had ever heard her laugh, or her comrades for six months. Their
faces cleared like magic, and they all clapped their hands and ran
away. And Martin got down from his bough, because when Joscelyn
laughed she didn't look more than fourteen.
"If what, Joscelyn?" he said.
"If you'd stolen the right shoe-string, Martin," said she. And she
stuck out her right foot with its neatly-laced yellow slipper. Then
Martin knelt down, and instead of lacing the left shoe unlaced the
right one, and inside the yellow slipper found the sixth key just
under the instep. "Is that the right ending?" said Joscelyn. And
Martin held the little foot in his hands rubbing it gently, and said
compassionately, "It must have been dreadfully uncomfortable."
"It was sometimes," said Joscelyn.
"Didn't it hurt?" asked Martin, beginning to lace up her shoes for
"Now and then," said Joscelyn.
"It was an awfully kiddish place to hide it in," said Martin
finishing, and as he looked up Joscelyn laughed again, rubbing her
tear-stained cheeks with the back of her hand, and for all the great
growing girl that she was looked no more than twelve. So he slid
under the swing and stood up behind her and kissed her on the back
of the neck where babies are kissed.
Then all the milkmaids came back again.
To every girl Martin handed her key. "This is your business," said
he. And first Joan, and next Joyce, and then Jennifer, and then
Jessica, and then Jane, and last of all Joscelyn, put her key into
its lock and turned. And not one of the keys would turn. They bit
their lips and held their breath, and turned and turned in vain.
"This is dreadful," said Martin. "Are you sure the keys are in the
"They all fit," said little Joan.
"Let me try," said Martin. And he tried, one after another, and then
tried each key singly in each lock, but without result. Jane said,
"I expect they've gone rusty," and Jessica said, "That must be it,"
and Jennifer turned pale and said, "Then Gillian can never get out
of the Well-House or we out of the orchard." And Martin sat down in
the swing and thought and thought. As he thought he began to swing a
little, and then a little more, and suddenly he cried "Push me!" and
the six girls came behind him and pushed with all their strength. Up
he went with his legs pointed as straight as an arrow, and back he
flew and up again. The third time the swing flew clean over the
Well-House, and as true as a diving gannet Martin dropped from
mid-air into the little court, and stood face to face with Gillian.
She was not weeping. She was bathed in blushes and laughter. She
held out her hands to him, and Martin took them. She had golden hair
of lights and shadows like a wheatfield that fell in two thick
plaits over her white gown, and she had gray eyes where smiles met
you like an invitation, but you had to learn later that they were
really a little guard set between you and her inward tenderness, and
that her gayety, like a will-o'-the-wisp, led you into the flowery
by-ways of her spirit where fairies played, but not to the heart of
it where angels dwelled. Few succeeded in surprising her behind her
bright shield, but sometimes when she wasn't thinking it fell aside,
and what men saw then took their breath from them, for it was as
though they were falling through endless wells of infinite
sweetness. And afterwards they could have told you nothing further
of her loveliness; when they got as far as her eyes they were
drowned. Her features, the curves of her cheeks and lips and chin
and delicate nostrils, were as finely-turned as the edge of a
wild-rose petal, and her skin had the freshness of dew. The sight of her
brought the same sense of delight as the sight of a meadow of
cowslips. As sweet and sunny a scent breathed out from her beauty.
But all this Martin only felt without seeing, for he was drowned.
Gillian, I suppose, wasn't thinking. So they held each other's hands
and looked at each other.
Presently Martin said, "It's time now, Gillian, and you can go."
"Yes, Martin," said Gillian. "How shall I go?"
"As I came," said he.
"Before I go," said she, "I am going to ask you a question. You have
asked my friends a lot of questions these six nights, which they
have answered frankly, and you have twisted their answers round your
little finger. Now you must answer my question as frankly."
"And what will you do?" asked Martin.
"I won't twist your answer," said Gillian gently. "I'll take it for
what it is worth. You have been laughing up your sleeve a little at
my friends because, having a quarrel with men, they were sworn to
live single. But you live single too. Tell me, if you please, what
is your quarrel with girls?"
Martin dropped her hands until he held each by the little finger
only, and then he answered, "That they are so much too good for us,
"Thank you, Martin," said Gillian, taking her hands away. "And now
please ask them to send over the swing, for it is time for me to go
to Adversane." And as she spoke the light played over her eyes again
and floated him up to the surface of things where he could swim
without drowning. He saw now the flowers of her loveliness, but no
longer the deeps of those gray pools where the light shimmered
between herself and him. So he turned and climbed to the pent roof
of the Well-House, and looked towards the group of shadows clustered
under the apple-tree around the swing; and they understood and
launched it through the air, and he caught it as it came. And
Gillian in a moment was up beside him.
"Are you ready?" said Martin.
"Yes," she answered getting on the swing, "thank you. And thank you
for everything. Thank you for coming three times this year. Thank
you for the stories. Thank you for giving their happiness again to
my darling friends. Thank you for all the songs. Thank you for
drying my tears."
"Are they all dried up?" said Martin.
"All," said Gillian.
"If they were not," said he, "you shall find Herb-Robert growing
along the roadside, and the Herbman himself in Adversane."
And holding the swing fast as he sat on the roof, Martin sang her
his last song, not very loud, but so clearly that the shadows under
the apple-tree heard every note and syllable.
Good morrow, good morrow, dear Herbman Robert!
Good morrow, sweet sir, good morrow!
Oh, sell me a herb, good Robert, good Robert,
To cure a young maid of her sorrow.
And hath her sorrow a name, sweet sir?
No lovelier name or purer,
With its root in her heart and its flower in her eyes,
Yet sell me a herb shall cure her.
Oh, touch with this rosy herb of spring
Both heart and eyes when she's sleeping,
And joy will come out of her sorrowing,
And laughter out of her weeping.
"I want to ask you a lot more questions, Martin."
"Off you go!" cried he. And let the swing fly. Back it came.
"Martin! why didn't--"
"Jump when you're clear!" called Martin. But back it came.
"Why didn't the young Squire in the story--"
"Jump this time!" And back it came.
"--come to fetch her himself, Martin?"
"Jump!" shouted Martin; and shut his eyes and put his hands over his
ears. But it was no use; again and again he felt the rush of air,
and questions falling through it like shooting-stars about his head.
"Martin! what was the name on the eighth floret of grass?"
"Martin! what was the letter you threw with the Lady-peel?"
"Martin! why is my silver ring all chased with little apples?"
"Martin! do you--do you--do you--?"
"Shall I never be rid of this swing?" cried Martin. "Jump, you
nuisance, jump when I tell you!"
And she jumped, and was caught and kissed among the shadows.
And then like a golden wave and she the foam, they bore her over the
moonlit grass to the green wicket, and they threw it open, and she
went like a skipping stone across the duckpond and over the fields
When she had vanished Martin slid down the roof, walked across to
the coping, put one leg over, and stepped out of the Well-House.
The six milkmaids were waiting for him in the apple-tree--no;
Joscelyn was in the swing.
"And so," said Martin, sitting down on the bough, "on the sixth
night the sixth Gorgon also became a maiden as lovely as her
fellows, and gave the Wanderer the sixth key to the Tower. And they
let out the Princess and set her in The Golden Truant, and she
sailed away to her Squire a thousand leagues over the water. And
everybody lived happily ever after."
"What a beautiful story!" said Jane. And they all thought so too.
"I knew from the first," said Joscelyn, "that it would have a happy
"And so did I," said Joyce.
"And I." said Jennifer,
"And I." said Jessica,
"And I," said Jane and
"And I." said little Joan.
"The verdict is passed," said Martin. "And look! over our heads
hangs the moon, as round and beautiful as a penny balloon, with an
eye as wide awake as a child's at six in the morning. If she will
not go to sleep in heaven to-night, why on earth should we? Let's
have a party!"
The girls looked at one another in amazement and delight. "A party?
Oh!" cried they. "But who will give it?"
"I will," said Martin.
"And who will come to it?"
"Whoever luck sends us," said Martin. "But we'll begin with
ourselves. Joan and Joyce and Jennifer and Jessica and Jane and
Joscelyn, will you come to my party in the Apple-Orchard?"
"Yes, thank you, Martin!" cried they. And ran away to change. But
the only change possible was to take the kerchiefs off their white
necks, and the shoes and stockings off their little feet, and let
down their pretty hair. So they did these things, and made wreaths
for one another, and posies for their yellow dresses. And it is time
for you to know that Jennifer's dress was primrose and Jane's
cowslip yellow, and that Joyce looked like buttercups and Jessica
like marigolds; and Joscelyn's was the glory of the kingcups that
rise like magic golden isles above the Amberley floods in May. But
little Joan had not been able to decide between the two yellows that
go to make wild daffodils, so she had them both. Under their
flowerlike skirts their white ankles and rosy heels moved as lightly
as windflowers swaying in the grass. And just when they were ready
they heard Martin Pippin's lute under the apple-tree, so they came
to the party dancing. Round and round the tree they danced in the
moonlight till they were out of breath. But when they could dance no
more they stood stock still and stared without speaking; for spread
under the trees was such a feast as they had not seen for months and
In the middle was a great heap of apples, red and brown and green
and gold; but besides these was a dish of roasted apples and another
of apple dumplings, and between them a bowl of brown sugar and a
full pitcher of cream. The cream had spilled, and you could see
where Martin had run his finger up the round of the pitcher to its
lip, where one drip lingered still. Near these there was a plum-cake
of the sort our grannies make. It is of these cakes we say that
twenty men could not put their arms round them. There were nuts in
it too, and spices. And there was a big basin of curds and whey, and
a bigger one of fruit salad, and another of custard; and plates of
jam tarts and lemon cheesecakes and cheesestraws and macaroons; and
gingerbread in cakes and also in figures of girls and boys with
caraway comfits for eyes, and a unicorn and a lion with gilded horn
and crown; and pots of honey and quince jelly and treacle; and
mushrooms and pickled walnuts and green salads. Even Mr. Ringdaly
did not provide a bigger feast when he married Mrs. Ringdaly. For
there were also all the best sorts of sweets in the world: sugar-
candy on a string, and twisted barley-sticks, and bulls'-eyes, and
peardrops, and licorice shoe-strings, and Turkish Delight, and pink
and white sugar mice; besides these there was sherbet, not to drink
of course, but to dip your finger in. There were a good many other
things, but these were what the milkmaids took in at a glance.
"OH!"cried six voices at once. "Where did they come from?"
"Through the gap," said Martin.
"But who brought them?"
"Don't ask me," said Martin.
At first the girls were rather shy--you can't help that at parties.
But as they ate (and you know what each ate first) they got more and
more at their ease, and by the time they were licking their sticky
fingers were in the mood for any game. So they played all the best
games there are, such as "Cobbler! Cobbler!" (Joscelyn's shoe), and
Hunt the Thimble (Jane's thimble), and Mulberry Bush, and Oranges
and Lemons, and Nuts in May. And in Nuts in May Martin insisted on
being a side all by himself, and one after another he fetched each
girl away from her side to his. And Joan came like a bird, and Joyce
pretended to struggle, and Jennifer had no fight in her at all, and
Jessica really tried, and Jane didn't like it because it was
undignified and so rough. But when Joscelyn's turn came to be
fetched as she stood all alone on her side deserted by her
supporters, she put her hands behind her back, and jumped over the
handkerchief of her own accord, and walked up to Martin and said,
"All right, you've won." For when it comes to fetching away it is a
game that boys are better at than girls.
"In that case," said Martin, "it's time for Hide-and-Seek." And he
sat down on the swing and shut his eyes.
At the same moment the moon went behind a cloud.
And as he waited a light drop fell on Martin's cheek, and another,
and another, like the silent weeping of a girl; so that he couldn't
help opening his eyes quickly and looking by instinct toward the
empty Well-House. It was still empty, for wherever the girls had
hidden themselves, it was not there.
Then through the shadowed raining orchard a low voice called
"Cuckoo!" and "Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" called another. And softly, clearly,
laughingly, mockingly, defiantly, teasingly, sweetly, caressingly,
"Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" they called on every side. Martin stood up
and stole among the trees. At first he went quietly, but soon he ran
and darted. And never a girl could he find. For this after all is
the game that girls are better at than boys, and when it comes to
hiding if they will not be found they will not. And if they will
they will. But their will was not for Martin Pippin. Through the
pattering moonless orchard he hunted them in vain; and the place was
full of slipping shadows and whispers. And every now and then those
cuckooing milkmaids called him, sometimes at a distance, sometimes
at his very ear. But he could not catch a single one.
And now it seemed to Martin that there were more of these elusive
shadows than he could have believed, and whisperings that needed
For once he heard somebody whisper, "Oh, you were right! the world
IS flat--for six months it's been as flat as a pancake!" And a
second voice whispered, "Then I was wrong! for pancakes are round."
And Martin said to himself, "That's Joyce!" but the first voice he
couldn't recognize. And then followed a sound that was not exactly a
whisper, yet not exactly unlike one; and Martin darted towards it,
but touched only air.
And again he heard a mysterious voice whisper, "How could you keep
yourself so secret all these months? I couldn't have. However can
girls keep secrets so long?" And the answer was, "They can't keep
them a single instant if you come and ask them--but you didn't
come!" "What a fool I was!" whispered the first voice, but whose
Martin could not for the life of him imagine. Yet he was sure that
the other was Jennifer's. And again he heard that misleading sound
which seemed to be something, yet, when he sought it, was nothing.
And now he heard another unknown whisperer say, "You should have
seen my drills in the wheatfield last April! How the drill did
wobble! Why, I was that upset, any girl could have thrown straighter
than I drilled that wheat." And a second whisperer replied, "It MUST
have been a sight, then, for girls throw crookeder than swallows
fly!" This was surely Jessica; but who was the first speaker?
He was as strange to Martin as another one who whispered, "It was
the silence got on my nerves most--it was having nobody to listen to
of an evening. Of course there were the lads, but they never talk to
the point." "I often fear," whispered a second voice, "that I talk
too much at random." "Good Lord! you couldn't, if you talked for
ever!" Each of these two cases ended as the first two had ended; and
for Martin in as little result.
He hastened to another part of the orchard where the whispers were
falling fast and fierce. "It was Adam's fault after all!" "No, I've
found out that it was Eve's fault!" "But I've been looking it up."
"And I've been thinking it over." "Rubbish! it WAS Adam's fault."
"It was NOT Adam's fault. What can a stupid little boy know about
it?" "I'm a month older than you are." "I don't care if you are. It
was Eve's fault." "Well, don't make a fuss if it was." "Wasn't it?"
"Stuff!" "WASN'T it?" "Oh, all right, if you like, it was Eve's
fault." "Here's an apple for you," said Joscelyn quite distinctly.
"Oh, ripping! but I'd rather have a--" "Sh-h! RUN!" Martin was just
too late. "Rather have a what?" said Martin to himself.
He was beginning to feel lonely. His hair was wet with rain. He
hadn't seen a milkmaid for an hour. He prowled low in the grass
hoping to catch one unawares. In the swing he saw a shadow--or was
it two shadows? It looked like one. And yet--
One half of the shadow whispered, "Do you like my new corduroys?"
"Ever so much," whispered the other half. "I'm rather bucked about
them myself," whispered the first half, "or ought I to say about
IT?" "I think it's them," said the second half. The first half
reflected, "It might be either one thing or two. But arithmetic's a
nuisance--I never was good at it." The second half confessed, "I
always have to guess at it myself. I'm only really sure of one bit."
"Which bit's that?" whispered the first half, and the second half
whispered, "That one and one make two." "Oh, you darling! of course
they don't, and never did and never will." "Well, I don't really
mind," said little Joan. And then there was a pause in which the two
shadows were certainly one, until the second half whispered, "Oh!
oh, you've shaved it off!" And this delighted the first half beyond
all bounds; because even in the circumstances it was clever of the
second half to have noticed it.
But Martin could bear no more. He sprang forward crying "Joan!"--and
he grasped the empty swing. And round the orchard he flew, his hands
before him, calling now "Joyce!" now "Jane!" now "Jessica!"
"Jennifer!" "Joscelyn!" and again "Joan! Joan! Joan!" And all his
answer was rustlings and shadows and whispers, and faint laughter
like far-away echoes, and empty air.
All of a sudden the light rain stopped and the moon came out of her
cloud. And Martin found himself standing beside the Well-House, and
nobody near him. He gazed all around at the familiar things, the
apple-trees, the swing, the green wicket, the broken feast in the
grass. And then at the far end of the orchard he saw an unfamiliar
thing. It was a double ladder, arched over the hawthorn. And up the
ladder, like a golden shaft of the moon, went six quick girls, and
ahead of each her lad.* And on the topmost rung each took his
milkmaid by the hand and vanished over the hedge.
Martin Pippin was left alone in the Apple-Orchard.
*It is not important, but their names were Michael, Tom, Oliver,
John, Henry, and Charles. And Michael had dark hair and light
lashes, and Tom freckles and a snub-nose, and Oliver a mole on his
left cheek, and John fine red-gold hair on his bronzed skin; and
Henry was merely the Odd-Job Boy whose voice was breaking, so he
imagined that it was he alone who ran the farm. But Charles was a
dear. He had a tuft of white hair at the back of his dark head, like
the cotton-tail of a rabbit, and as well as corduroy breeches he
wore a rabbit-skin waistcoat, and he was a great nuisance to
gamekeepers, who called him a poacher; whereas all he did was to let
the rabbits out of the snares when it was kind to, and destroy the
snares. And he used the bring "bunny-rabbits" (which other people
call snapdragons) of the loveliest colors to plant in the little
garden known as Joan's Corner. I should like to tell you more about
Charles (but there isn't time) because I am fond of him. If I hadn't
been I shouldn't have let him have Joan.
At cockcrow came the call which in that orchard was now as familiar
as the rooster's.
"Maids! Maids! Maids!"
Martin Pippin was leaning over the green wicket throwing jam tarts
to the ducks. Because in the Well-House Gillian had not left so much
as a crumb. But when he heard Old Gillman's voice, he flicked a
bull's-eye at the drake, getting it very accurately on the bill, and
walked across to the gap.
"Good morning, master," said Martin cheerfully. "Pray how does
Lemon, Joscelyn's Sussex, fare?"
Old Gillman put down his loaves with great deliberation, and spent a
few minutes taking Martin in. Then he answered, "There's scant milk
to a Sussex, and allus will be. And if there was not, there'd be
none to Joscelyn's Lemon. And if there was, it would take more than
Henry to draw it. And so that's you, is it?"
"That's me," said Martin Pippin.
"Well," said Old Gillman, "I've spent the best of six mornings
trying not to see ye. And has my daughter taken the right road yet?"
"Yes, master," said Martin, "she has taken the road to Adversane."
"Which SHE'S spent the best of six months trying not to see," said
Old Gillman. "Women's a nuisance. Allus for taking the long cut
"I've known many a short cut," said Martin, "to end in a blind
"Well, well, so long as they gets there," grunted Gillman. "And
what's this here?"
"A pair of steps," said Martin.
"What for?" said Gillman.
"Milkmaids and milkmen," said Martin.
"So they maids have cut too, have they?"
"It was a full moon, you see."
"I dessay. But if they'd gone by the stile they could have hopped it
in the dark six months agone," said Old Gillman. And he got over the
stile, which was the other way into the orchard and has not been
mentioned till now, and came and clapped Martin on the shoulder.
"Women's more trouble," said he, "than they're worth."
"They're plenty of trouble," said Martin; "I've never discovered yet
what they're worth."
"We'll not talk of em more. Come up to the house for a drink, boy,"
said Old Gillman.
Martin said pleasantly, "You can drink milk now, master, to your
heart's content. Or even water." And he walked over to the
Well-House, and pointed invitingly to the bucket.
Old Gillman followed him with one eye open. "It's too late for that,
boy. When you've turned toper for six months, after sixty sober
years, it'll take you another six to drop the habit. That's what
these daughters do for their dads. But we'll not talk of em." He
stood beside Martin and stared down at the padlock. "How did the
"In the swing, like a swift."
"Why not through the gate like a gal?"
"The keys wouldn't turn."
"The right way."
"You should ha' tried em the wrong way, boy."
"That would have locked it," said Martin.
"Azactly," said Old Gillman; and slipped the padlock from the staple
and put it in his pocket. "Come along up now."
Martin followed him through the orchard and the paddock and the
garden and the farmyard to the house. He noticed that everything was
in the pink of condition. But as he passed the stables he heard the
cows lowing badly.
The farm-kitchen was a big one. It had all the things that go to
make the best farm-kitchens: such as red bricks and heavy smoke-
blackened beams, and a deep hearth with a great fire on it and
settles inside, from which one could look up at the chimney-shaft to
the sky, and clay pipes and spills alongside, and a muller for wine
or beer; and hams and sides of bacon and strings on onions and
bunches of herbs; much pewter, and a copper warming-pan, and brass
candlesticks, and a grandfather clock; a cherrywood dresser and
wheelback chairs polished with age; and a great scrubbed oaken table
to seat a harvest-supper, planed from a single mighty plank. It was
as clean as everything else in that good room, but all the scrubbing
would not efface the circular stains wherever men had sat and drunk;
and that was all the way round and in the middle. There were mugs
and a Toby jug upon it now. Old Gillman filled two of the mugs, and
lifted one to Martin, and Martin echoed the action like a looking-
glass. And they toasted each other in good Audit Ale.
"Well," said Old Gillman stuffing his pipe, "it's been a peaceful
time, and now us must just see how things go."
"They look shipshape enough at the moment," said Martin.
"Ah," said Old Gillman shaking his head, "that's the lads. They're
good lads when you let em alone. But what it'll be now they maids
get meddling again us can't foretell. It were bad enough afore, wi'
their quarrelsomeness and their shilly-shally. It sends all things
to rack and ruin."
"What does?" said Martin.
"This here love." Old Gillman refilled his mug. "We'll not talk of
it. She were a handy gal afore Robin began unmaking her mind along
of his own. Lord! why can't these young things be plain and say what
they want, and get it? Wasn't I plain wi' her mother?"
"Were you?" said Martin.
"Ah, worse luck!" said Gillman, "and me a happy bachelor as I was.
What did I want wi' a minx about the place?" He filled his mug
"What do any of us?" said Martin. "These women are the deuce."
"They are," said Gillman. "We'll not talk of em."
"There are a thousand better things to talk of," agreed Martin.
"There is Sloe Gin."
Old Gillman's eye brightened. "Ah!" said Old Gillman, and puffed at
his pipe. "Her name," he said, "was Juniper, but as oft as not I'd
call her June, for she was like that. A rose in the house, boy.
Maybe you think my Jill has her share of looks? She has her mother's
leavings, let me tell ye. So you may judge. But what's this Robin to
dilly-dally with her daughter, till the gal can't sleep o' nights
for wondering will he speak in the morning or will he be mum? And so
she becomes worse than no use in kitchen and dairy, and since
sickness is catching the maids follow suit. It's all off and on wi'
them and their lads. In the morning they will, in the evening they
won't. Ah, twas a tarrible life. And all along o' Robin Rue. Young
man, the farm, I tell ye, was going to fair rack and ruin."
"You seem to have found a remedy," said Martin.
"If they silly maids couldn't make up their minds," said Old
Gillman, "there was nothing for it but to turn em out neck and crop
till they learned what they wanted. And Robin into the bargain. He's
no better than a maid when it comes to taking the bull by the horns.
Yet that's the man's part, mark ye. Don't I know? Smockalley she
come from, the Rose of Smockalley they called her, for a Rose in
June she were. There weren't a lass to match her south of Hagland
and north of Roundabout. And the lads would ha' died for her from
Picketty to Chiltington. But twas a Billinghurst lad got her, d'ye
see?" Old Gillman filled his mug.
"How did that come about?" asked Martin, filling his.
"All along o' the Murray River."
"WHAT'S that!" said Martin Pippin. But Old Gillman thought he said,
" Tis the biggest river in Sussex, young man, and the littlest
known, and the fullest of dangers, and the hardest to find; because
nobody's ever found it yet but her and me. And she'd sworn to wed
none but him as could find it with her. Don't I remember the day!
Twas the day the Carrier come, and that was the day o' the week for
us folk then. He had a blue wagon, had George, with scarlet wheels
and a green awning; and his horse was a red-and-white skewbald and
jingled bells on its bridle. A small bandy-legged man was George,
wi' a jolly face and a squint, and as he drives up he toots on a tin
trumpet wi' red tassels on it. Didn't it bring the crowd running!
and didn't the crowd bring HIM to a standstill, some holding old
Scarlet Runner by the bridle, and others standing on the very axles.
And the hubbub, young man! It was Where's my six yards of dimity?'
from one, and Have you my coral necklace?' from another. Where's
my bag of comfits? where's my hundreds and thousands?' from the
children; and I can't wait for my ivory fan?' My bandanna hanky!'
My two ounces of snuff!' My guitar!' My clogs!' My satin
dancing-shoes!' My onion-seed!' My new spindle!' My fiddle-bow!'
My powder-puff!' And some little un would lisp, I'm sure you've
forgotten my blue balloon!' And then they'd cry, one-and-all, in a
breath, George! what's the news?' And he'd say, Give a body elbow-
room!' and handing the packages right and left would allus have
something to tell. But on this day he says, News? There BE no news
excepting THE News.' And what's THE News?' cries one-and-all.
Why,' says George, that the Rose of Smockalley consents to be wed
at last.' The Rose!' they cries, and me the loudest, to whom?' To
him,' says George, as can find her the Murray River. For a sailor
come by last Tuesday wi' a tale o' the Murray River where he'd been
wrecked and seen wonders; and a woman tormented by curiosity will go
as far as a man tormented by love. And so she's willing to be wed at
last. But she's liker to die a maid.' Then I ups and asks why. And
George he says, For that the sailor breathed such perils that the
lasses was taken wi' the trembles and the lads with the shudders.
For, he says, the river's haunted by spirits, and a mystery at the
end of it which none has ever come back from. And no man dares
hazard so dark and dangerous an adventure, even for love of the
Rose.' That pricks a man's pride to hear, boy, and Shame,' says I,
on all West Sussex if that be so. Here be one man as is ready, and
here be fifty others. What d'ye say, lads?' But Lord! as I looks
from one to another they trickles away like sand through an
hourglass, and before we knows it me and George has the road to
ourselves. So he says, I must be getting on to Wisboro', but first
I'll deliver ye your baggage.' You've no baggage o' mine,' says I.
Yes, if you'll excuse me,' says he; and wi' that he parts the green
awning and says, There she be.' And there she were, sitting on a
barrel o' cider."
"What was she like to look at?" asked Martin.
"Yaller hair and gray eyes," said Gillman. "And me a bachelor."
"It was hopeless," said Martin.
"It were," said Old Gillman. "And it were the end o' my peace of
life. She looks me straight in the eye and she says, Juniper's my
name, but I'm June to them as loves me. And June I'll be to you. For
I have traveled his rounds wi' this Carrier for a week, and sat
behind his curtain while he told men my wishes. And you be the only
one of them all as is willing to do a difficult thing for an idle
whim, if what is the heart's desire can ever be idle. So I will sit
behind the curtain no longer, and if you will let me I will follow
you to the ends of Sussex till the Murray River be found, or we be
dead.' And I says Jump, lass!' and down she jumps and puts up her
mouth." Gillman filled his mug.
Martin filled his. "Well," said he, "a man must take his bull by the
horns. And did you ever succeed in finding the Murray River?"
"Wi' a child's help. It can only be found by a child's help. Tis
the child's river of all Sussex. Any child can help you to it."
"Yes," said Martin, "and all children know it."
Old Gillman put down his mug. "Do YOU know it, boy?"
"I live by it," said Martin Pippin, "when I live anywhere."
"Do children play in it still?" asked Gillman.
"None but children," said Martin Pippin. "And above all the child
which boys and girls are always rediscovering in each other's
hearts, even when they've turned gray in other folks' sight. And at
the end of it is a mystery."
"She were a child to the end," said Old Gillman. "A fair nuisance,
so she were. And Jill takes after her."
"Well, SHE'S off your hands anyhow," said Martin getting up. "She's
to be some other body's nuisance now, and your maids have come back
to their milking."
"Ah, have they?" grunted Gillman. "The lads did it better. And they
cooked better. And they cleaned better. There is nothing men cannot
do better than women."
"I know it," said Martin Pippin, "but it would be unkind to let on."
"Then we'll wash our hands of em. But don't go, boy," said Old
Gillman. "Talking of Sloe Gin--"
Martin sat down again.
They talked of Sloe Gin for a very long time. They did not agree
about it. They got out some bottles to see if they could not manage
to agree. Martin thought one bottle hadn't enough sugar-candy in it,
so they put in some more; and Old Gillman thought another bottle
hadn't enough gin in it, so they also put in some more. But they
couldn't get it right, though they tried and tried. Old Gillman
thought it should be filtered drop by drop seventy times through
seven hundred sheets of blotting-paper, but Martin thought seven
hundred times through seventy sheets was better; and Martin thought
it should then be kept for seven thousand years, but Old Gillman
thought seven years sufficient. But neither of these points had ever
been really proved, and was not that day.
After this, as they couldn't reach an agreement, they changed the
subject to rum punch, and argued a good deal as to the right
quantities of lemon and sugar and nutmeg; and whether it was or was
not improved by the addition of brandy, and how much; and an orange
or so, and how many; and a tangerine, if you had it; and a tot of
gin, if you had it left. Yet in this case too the most repeated
practice proved as inadequate as the most confirmed theory.
So after a bit Old Gillman said, "This is child's play, boy. After
all, there's but one drink for kings and men. Give us a song over
our cup, and I'll sing along o' ye."
"Right," said Martin, "if you can fetch me the only cup worthy to
"What cup's that, boy?"
"What but a kingcup?" said Martin.
"A king once drank from this," said Gillman, fetching down a goblet
as golden as ale. "He looked like a shepherd, and had a fold just
across the road, but he was a king for all that. So strike up."
"After me, then," said Martin; and they pushed the cup between them,
and the song too.
Martin: What shall we drink of when we sup?
Gillman: What d'ye say to the King's own cup?
Martin: What's the drink?
Gillman: What d'ye think?
Martin: Farmer, say!
Martin: Red wine?
Martin: White wine?
Martin: Yellow wine?
Martin: What in fine,
What wine then?
Gillman: The only wine
That's fit for men
Who drink of the King's Cup when they dine,
And that is the Old Brown Barley Wine!
>From This I'll drink ye high,
Point I I'll drink ye low,
Don't Know Till the stars run dry
Which Of Of their juices oh!
Them Was I'll drink ye up,
Singing; I'll drink ye down,
And No More Till the old moon's cup
Did They: Is cracked all round,
And the pickled sun
Jumps out of his brine,
And you cry Done!
To the Barley Wine.
Come, boy, sup! Come, fill up!
Here's King's own drink for the King's own cup!
What happened after this I really don't know. For I was not there,
though I should like to have been.
I only know that when Martin Pippin stepped out of Gillman's Farm
with his lute on his back, Old Gillman was fast asleep on the
settle. But Martin had never been wider awake.
It was late in the afternoon. There was no sign of human life
anywhere. In their stables the cows were lowing very badly.
"Oh, maids, maids, maids!" sighed Martin Pippin. "Rack and ruin, my
dears, rack and ruin!"
And he fetched the milkpails and went into the stalls, and did the
milkmaids' business for them. And Joyce's Blossom, and Jennifer's
Daisy, and Jessica's Clover stood as still for him as they stand in
the shade of the willows on Midsummer Day. And Jane's Nellie whisked
her tail over his mouth, but seemed sorry afterwards. And Joscelyn's
Lemon kicked the bucket and would not let down her milk till he sang
to her, and then she gave in. But little Joan's little Jersey Nancy,
with her soft dark eyes, and soft dun sides, and slender legs like a
deer's, licked his cheek. And this was Martin's milking-song.
You Milkmaids in the hedgerows,
Get up and milk your kine!
The satin Lords and Ladies
Are all dressed up so fine,
But if you do not skim and churn
How can they dine?
Get up, you idle Milkmaids,
And call in your kine.
You milkmaids in the hedgerows,
You lazy lovely crew,
Get up and churn the buttercups
And skim the milkweed, do!
But the Milkmaids in their country prints
And faces washed with dew,
They laughed at Lords and Ladies
And sang "Cuckoo! Cuckoo!"
And if you know their reason
I'm not so wise as you.
When he had done, Martin carried the pails to the dairy and turned
his back on Gillman's. For his business there was ended. So he went
out at the gate and lifted his face to the Downs.
It was a lovely evening. Half the sky was clear and blue, and the
other half full of silky gold clouds--they wanted to be heavy and
wet, but the sun was having such fun on the edge of the Downs,
somewhere about Duncton, that they had to be gold in spite of
One evening at the end of the first week in September, Martin Pippin
walked along the Roman Road to Adversane. And as he approached he
said to himself, "There are many sweet corners in Sussex, but few
sweeter than this, and I thank my stars that I have been led to see
it once in my life."
While he was thanking his stars, which were already in the sky
waiting for the light to go out and give them a chance, he heard the
sound of weeping. It came from the malthouse, which is the most
beautiful building in Sussex. So persistent was it that after he had
listened to it for six minutes it seemed to Martin that he had been
listening to it for six months, and for one moment he believed
himself to be sitting in an orchard with his eyes shut, and warm
tears from heaven falling on his face. But knowing himself to be too
much given to fancies he decided to lay those ghosts by
investigation, and he went up to the malthouse and looked inside.
There he found a young man flooring the barley. As he turned and
re-turned it with his spade he wept so copiously above it that he was
frequently obliged to pause and wipe away his tears with his arm,
for he could no longer see the barley he was spreading. When the
maltster had interrupted himself thus for the third occasion, Martin
Pippin concluded that it was time to address him.
"Young master," said Martin, "the bitters that are brewed from your
barley will need no adulterating behind the bar, and that's flat."
The maltster leaned on his spade to reply.
"There are no waters in all the world," said he, "plentiful enough
to adulterate the bitterness of my despair."
"Then I would preserve these rivers for better sport," said Martin.
"And if memory plays me no tricks, your name was once Robin Rue."
"And Rue it will be to my last hour," said Robin, "for a man can no
more escape from his name than from his nature."
"Men," observed Martin, "have been in this respect worse served than
women. And when will Gillian Gillman change her name?"
"No sooner than I," sighed Robin Rue; "a maid she must die, as I a
bachelor. And if she do not outlive me, we shall both be buried
"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Martin. And stepping into the malthouse
he offered Robin six keys.
"How will these help us?" said Robin Rue.
"They are the keys of your lady's Well-House," said Martin Pippin,
"and how I have outpaced her I cannot imagine, for she was on the
road to you twenty hours ago."
"This is no news," said Robin. "There she is."
And he turned his face to the dark of the malthouse, and there,
sitting on a barrel, with a slice of the sunset falling through a
slit on her corn-colored hair, was Gillian.
"In love's name," cried Martin Pippin, putting his hands to his
head, "what more do you want?"
"A husband worthy of her," moaned Robin Rue, "and how can I suppose
that I am he? Oh, that I were only good enough for her! oh, that she
could be happily mated, as after all her sorrows she deserves to
Then Martin looked down at the patch on his shoe saying, "And tell
me now, if you knew Gillian happily wed, would you ask nothing more
"Oh, sir," cried Robin Rue, "if I knew any man who could give her
all I cannot, I would contrive at least to live long enough to drown
my sorrows in the beer brewed from this barley."
"It is a solace," said Martin, "that must be denied to no man. It
seems that I must help you out to the last. And if you will take one
glance out of doors, you will see that the working-day is over."
Robin Rue looked out of doors, saw by the sun that it was so, put
down his spade, and went home to supper.
"Gillian," said Martin Pippin, "the Squire did not come himself to
fetch her away because he was a young fool. There was no eighth
floret on the grass-blade, so the rime stayed at the seventh. The
letter I threw with the Lady-peel was a G. There are apples all
round your silver ring because it was once my ring. I do, you dear,
I do, I do. And now I have answered your many questions, answer me
one. Why did you sit six months in the Well-House weeping for love?"
"Oh, Martin," said Gillian softly, "could you tell my friends so
much they did not know, and not know this?--girls do not weep for
love, they weep for want of it." And she lifted her heavenly eyes,
and out of the last of the sunlight looked at him without thinking.
And Martin, like a drowning man catching at straws, caught her
corn-colored plaits one in either hand, and drawing himself to her by
them, whispered, "Do girls do that? But they are so much too good
for us, Gillian."
"I know they are," whispered Gillian, "but if all men were like
Robin Rue, what would become of us? Must we be punished for what we
And she put her little finger on his mouth, and he kissed it.
Then Martin himself sat down on the barrel where there was only room
for one; but it was Martin who sat on it. And after a while he said,
"You mightn't think it, but I have got a cottage, and there is
nothing whatever in it but a table which I made myself, and I think
that is enough to begin with. On the way to it we shall pass
Hardham, where in the Priory Ruins lives a Hermit who is sometimes
in the mood. Beyond Hardham is the sunken bed of the old canal that
is a secret not known to everybody; all flowering reeds and plants
that love water grow there, and you have to push your way between
water-loving trees under which grass and nettles in their season
grow taller than children; but at other times, when the pussy-
willows bloom with gray and golden bees, the way is clear. Beyond
this presently is a little glade, the loveliest in Sussex; in spring
it is patterned with primroses, and windflowers shake their fragile
bells and show their silver stars above them. Some are pure and
colorless, like maidens who know nothing of love, and others are
faintly stained with streaks of purple-rose. So exquisite is the
beauty of these earthly flowers that it is like a heavenly dream,
but it is a dream come true; and you will never pass it in April
without longing to turn aside and, kneeling among all that pallid
gold and silver, offer up a prayer to the fairies. And I shall
always kneel there with you. But beyond this is a land of bracken
and undiscovered forests that hides a special secret. And you may
run round it on all sides within fifty yards, yet never find it;
unless you happen to light upon a land where grass springs under
your feet among deep cart-ruts, and blackberry branches scramble on
the ground from the flowery sides. The lane is called Shelley's
Lane, for a reason too beautiful to be told; since all the most
beautiful reasons in the world are kept secrets. And this is why,
dear Gillian, the world never knows, and cannot for the life of it
imagine, what this man sees in that maid and that maid in this man.
The world cannot think why they fell in love with each other. But
they have their reason, their beautiful secret, that never gets told
to more than one person; and what they see in each other is what
they show to each other; and it is the truth. Only they kept it
hidden in their hearts until the time came. And though you and I may
never know why this lane is called Shelley's, to us both it will
always be the greenest lane in Sussex, because it leads to the
special secret I spoke of. At the end of it is an old gate,
clambered with blue periwinkle, and the gate opens into a garden in
the midst of the forest, a garden so gay and so scented, so full of
butterflies and bees and flower-borders and grass-plots with fruit-
trees on them, that it might be Eden grown tiny. The garden runs
down a slope, and is divided from a wild meadow by a brook crossed
by a plank, fringed with young hazel and alder and, at the right
time, thick-set with primroses. Behind the meadow, in a glimpse of
the distance full of soft blue shadows and pale yellow lights, lie
the lovely sides of the Downs, rounded and dimpled like human
beings, dimpled like babies, rounded like women. The flow of their
lines is like the breathing of a sleeper; you can almost see the
tranquil heaving of a bosom. All about and around the garden are the
trees of the forest. Crouched in one of the hollows is my cottage
with the table in it. And the brook at the bottom of the garden is
the Murray River."
Gillian looked up from his shoulder. "I always meant to find that
some day," she said, "with some one to help me."
"I'll help you," said Martin.
"Do children play there now?"
"Children with names as lovely as Sylvia, who are even lovelier than
their names. They are the only spirits who haunt it. And at the
source of it is a mystery so beautiful that one day, when you and I
have discovered it together, we shall never come back again. But
this will be after long years of gladness, and a life kept always
young, not only by our children, but by the child which each will
continually rediscover in the other's heart."
"What is this you are telling me?" whispered Gillian, hiding her
"The Seventh Story."
"I'm glad it ends happily," said Gillian. "But somehow, all the
time, I thought it would."
"I rather thought so too," said Martin Pippin. "For what does
furniture matter as long as Sussex grows bedstraw for ladies to
And tuning his lute he sang her his very last song.
My Lady sha'n't lie between linen,
My Lady sha'n't lie upon down,
She shall not have blankets to cover her feet
Or a pillow put under her crown;
But my Lady shall lie on the sweetest of beds
That ever a lady saw,
For my Lady, my beautiful Lady,
My Lady shall lie upon straw.
Strew the sweet white straw, he said,
Strew the straw for my Lady's bed--
Two ells wide from foot to head,
Strew my Lady's bedstraw.
My Lady sha'n't sleep in a castle,
My Lady sha'n't sleep in a hall,
She shall not be sheltered away from the stars
By curtain or casement or wall;
But my lady shall sleep in the grassiest mead
That ever a Lady saw,
Where my Lady, my beautiful Lady,
My Lady shall lie upon straw.
Strew the warm white straw, said he,
My arms shall all her shelter be,
Her castle-walls and her own roof-tree--
Strew my Lady's bedstraw.
When he had done Martin Said, "Will you go traveling, Gillian?"
And Gillian answered, "With joy, Martin. But before I go traveling,
I will sing to you."
And taking the lute from him she sang him her very first song.
I saw an Old Man by the wayside
Sit down with his crutch to rest,
Like the smoke of an angry kettle
Was the beard puffed over his breast.
But when I tugged at the Old Man's beard
He turned to a beardless boy,
And the boy and myself went traveling,
Traveling wild with joy.
With eyes that twinkled and hearts that danced
And feet that skipped as they ran--
Now welcome, you blithe young Traveler!
And fare you well, Old Man!
When she had done Martin caught her in his arms and kissed her on
the mouth and on the eyes and on both cheeks and on her two hands,
and on the back of the neck where babies are kissed; and standing
her up on the barrel and himself on the ground, he kissed her feet,
one after the other. Then he cried, "Jump, lass! jump when I tell
you!" and Gillian jumped. And as happy as children they ran
hand-in-hand out of the Malthouse and down the road to Hardham.
Overhead the sun was running away from the clouds with all his
might, and they were trying to catch hold of him one by one, in
vain; for he rolled through their soft grasp, leaving their hands
bright with gold-dust.