Part 2 out of 4
"If it only had a spire," one said, "there'd be some chance." But as
far as could be recollected, the building had a dumpy tower.
"Once caught, twice shy," said another; "let us find it this once, an'
next time we'll have landmarks to dig it out by."
It was at sunrise that St. Piran, worn-out and heart-sick, let fall
his spade and spoke from one of the tall mounds, where he had been
digging for an hour.
"My children," he began, and the men uncovered their heads, "my
children, we are going to be disgraced this day, and the best we can
do is to pray that we may take it like men. Let us pray."
He knelt down on the great sand-hill, and the men and women around
dropped on their knees also. And then St. Piran put up the prayer that
has made his name famous all the world over.
_THE PRAYER OF ST. PIRAN.
Harr us, O Lord, and be debonair: for ours is a particular case. We
are not like the men of St. Neot or the men of St. Udy, who are for
ever importuning Thee upon the least occasion, praying at all hours
and every day of the week. Thou knowest it is only with extreme
cause that we bring ourselves to trouble Thee. Therefore regard our
moderation in time past, and be instant to help us now. Amen_.
There was silence for a full minute as he ceased; and then the
kneeling parishioners lifted their eyes towards the top of the mound.
St. Piran was nowhere to be seen!
They stared into each other's faces. For a while not a sound was
uttered. Then a woman began to sob--
"We've lost 'en! We've lost 'en!"
"Like Enoch, he's been taken!"
"Taken up in a chariot an' horses o' fire. Did any see 'en go?"
"An' what'll we do without 'en? Holy St. Piran, come back to us!"
"Hullo! hush a bit an' hearken!" cried Andrew Penhaligon, lifting a
They were silent, and listening as he commanded, heard a muffled voice
and a faint, calling as it were from the bowels of the earth.
"Fetch a ladder!" it said: "fetch a ladder! It's meself that's found
ut, glory be to God! Holy queen av heaven! but me mouth is full av
sand, an' it's burstin' I'll be if ye don't fetch a ladder quick!"
They brought a ladder and set it against the mound. Three of the men
climbed up. At the top they found a big round hole, from the lip of
which they scraped the sand away, discovering a patch of shingle roof,
through which St. Piran--whose weight had increased of late--had
broken and tumbled heels over head into his own church.
Three hours later there appeared on the eastern sky-line, against the
yellow blaze of the morning, a large cavalcade that slowly pricked its
way over the edge and descended the slopes of Newlyn Downs. It was the
Visitation. In the midst rode St. Petroc, his crozier tucked under his
arm, astride a white mule with scarlet ear-tassels and bells and a
saddle of scarlet leather. He gazed across the sands to the sea, and
turned to St. Neot, who towered at his side upon a flea-bitten grey.
"The parish seems to be deserted," said he: "not a man nor woman can I
see, nor a trace of smoke above the chimneys."
St. Neot tightened his thin lips. In his secret heart he was mightily
"Eight in the morning," he answered, with a glance back at the sun.
"They'll be all abed, I'll warrant you."
St. Petroc muttered a threat.
They entered the village street. Not a soul turned out at their
coming. Every cottage door was fast closed, nor could any amount of
knocking elicit an answer or entice a face to a window. In gathering
wrath the visiting saints rode along the sea-shore to St. Piran's
Here the door stood open: but the hut was empty. A meagre breakfast of
herbs was set out on the table, and a brand new scourge lay somewhat
ostentatiously beside the platter. The visitors stood nonplussed,
looked at each other, then eyed the landscape. Between barren sea
and barren downs the beach stretched away, with not a human shape in
sight. St. Petroc, choking with impotent wrath, appeared to study the
hollow green breakers from between the long ears of his mule, but with
quick sidelong glances right and left, ready to jump down the throat
of the first saint that dared to smile.
After a minute or so St. Enodar suddenly turned his face inland, and
held up a finger.
"Hark!" he shouted above the roar of the sea.
"What is it?"
"It sounds to me," said St. Petroc, after listening for some moments
with his head on one side, "it sounds to me like a hymn."
"To be sure 'tis a hymn," said St. Enodar, "and the tune is 'Mullyon,'
for a crown." And he pursed up his lips and followed the chant,
beating time with his forefinger--
_When, like a thief, the Midianite
Shall steal upon the camp,
O, let him find our armour bright,
And oil within our lamp!_"
"But where in the world does it come from?" asked St. Neot.
This could not be answered for the moment; but the saints turned their
horses' heads from the sea, and moved slowly on the track of the
sound, which at every step grew louder and more distinct.
"_It is at no appointed hours,
It is not by the dock,
That Satan, grisly wolf, devours
The unprotected flock_"
The visitors found themselves at the foot of an enormous sand-hill,
from the top of which the chant was pouring as lava from a crater.
They set their ears to the sandy wall. They walked round it, and
"_But ever prowls th' insidious foe,
And listens round the fold_"
This was too much. St. Petroc smote twice upon the sand-hill with his
crozier, and shouted--
The chant ceased. For at least a couple of minutes nothing happened;
and then St. Piran's bald head was thrust cautiously forward over the
"Holy St. Petroc! Was it only you, after all? And St. Neot--and St.
Udy O, glory be!"
"Why, who did you imagine we were?" St. Petroc asked, still in
"Why, throat-cutting Danes, to be sure, by the way you were comin'
over the hills when we spied you, three hours back. An' the trouble
we've had to cover up our blessed church out o' sight of thim
marautherin' thieves! An' the intire parish gathered inside here an'
singin' good-by songs in expectation of imminent death! An' to think
'twas you holy men, all the while! But why didn't ye send word ye was
comin', St. Petroc, darlint? For it's little but sand ye'll find in
your mouths for breakfast, I'm thinkin'."
IN THE TRAIN.
The first-class smoking compartment was the emptiest in the whole
train, and even this was hot to suffocation, because my only companion
denied me more than an inch of open window. His chest, he explained
curtly, was "susceptible." As we crawled westward through the glaring
country, the sun's rays reverberated on the carriage roof till I
seemed to be crushed under an anvil, counting the strokes. I had
dropped my book, and was staring listlessly out of the window. At the
other end of the compartment my fellow-passenger had pulled down the
blinds, and hidden his face behind the _Western Morning News_. He
was a red and choleric little man of about sixty, with a protuberant
stomach, a prodigious nose, to which he carried snuff about once in
two minutes, and a marked deformity of the shoulders. For comfort--and
also, perhaps, to hide this hump--he rested his back in the angle
by the window. He wore a black alpaca coat, a high stock, white
waistcoat, and trousers of shepherd's plaid. On these and a few other
trivial details I built a lazy hypothesis that he was a lawyer, and
Just before entering the station at Lostwithiel, our train passed
between the white gates of a level crossing. A moment before I had
caught sight of the George drooping from the church spire, and at the
crossing I saw it was regatta-day in the small town. The road was
thick with people and lined with sweet-standings; and by the near end
of the bridge a Punch-and-Judy show had just closed a performance. The
orchestra had unloosed his drum, and fallen to mopping the back of his
neck with the red handkerchief that had previously bound the panpipes
to his chin. A crowd still loitered around, and among it I noted
several men and women in black--ugly stains upon the pervading
The station platform was cram-full as we drew up, and it was clear at
once that all the carriages in the train would be besieged, without
regard to class. By some chance, however, ours was neglected, and
until the very last moment we seemed likely to escape. The guard's
whistle was between his lips when I heard a shout, then one or two
feminine screams, and a company of seven or eight persons came
charging out of the booking-office. Every one of them was apparelled
in black: they were, in fact, the people I had seen gaping at the
In a moment one of the men tore open the door of our compartment, and
we were invaded. One--two--four--six--seven--in they poured, tumbling
over my legs, panting, giggling inanely, exhorting each other to
hurry--an old man, two youths, three middle-aged women, and a little
girl about four years old. I heard a fierce guttural sound, and saw my
fellow-passenger on his feet, choking with wrath and gesticulating.
But the guard slammed the door on his resentment, and the train moved
on. As it gathered speed he fell back, all purple above his stock,
snatched his malacca walking-cane from under the coat-tails of a
subsiding youth, stuck it upright between his knees, and glared round
upon the intruders. They were still possessed with excitement over
their narrow escape, and unconscious of offence. One of the women
dropped into the corner seat, and took the little girl on her lap. The
child's dusty boots rubbed against the old gentleman's trousers. He
shifted his position, grunted, and took snuff furiously.
"That was nibby-jibby," observed the old man of the party, while his
eyes wandered round for a seat.
"I declare I thought I should ha' died," panted a robust-looking woman
with a wart on her cheek, and a yard of crape hanging from her bonnet.
"Can't 'een find nowhere to sit, uncle?"
"Reckon I must make shift 'pon your lap, Susannah."
This was said with a chuckle, and the woman tittered.
"What new-fang'd game be this o' the Great Western's? Arms to the
seats, I vow. We'll have to sit intimate, my dears."
"'Tis First Class," one of the young men announced in a chastened
whisper: "I saw it written on the door."
There was a short silence of awe.
"Well!" ejaculated Susannah: "I thought, when first I sat down, that
the cushions felt extraordinary plum. You don't think they'll fine
"It all comes of our stoppin' to gaze at that Punch-an'-Judy," the old
fellow went on, after I had shown them how to turn back the arm-seats,
and they were settled in something like comfort. "But I never _could_
refrain from that antic, though I feels condemned too, in a way, an'
poor Thomas laid in earth no longer ago than twelve noon. But in the
midst of life we are in death."
"I don't remember a more successful buryin'," said the woman who held
the little girl.
"That was partly luck, as you may say, it bein' regatta-day an' the
fun o' the fair not properly begun. I counted a lot at the cemetery I
didn' know by face, an' I set 'em down for excursionists, that caught
sight of a funeral, an' followed it to fill up the time."
"It all added."
"Oh, aye; Thomas was beautifully interred."
By this time the heat in the carriage was hardly more overpowering
than the smell of crape, broadcloth, and camphor. The youth who had
wedged himself next to me carried a large packet of "fairing," which
he had bought at one of the sweet-stalls. He began to insert it into
his side pocket, and in his struggles drove an elbow sharply into my
ribs. I shifted my position a little.
"Tom's wife would ha' felt it a source o' pride, had she lived."
But I ceased to listen; for in moving I had happened to glance at the
further end of the carriage, and there my attention was arrested by
a curious little piece of pantomime. The little girl--a dark-eyed,
intelligent child, whose pallor was emphasised by the crape which
smothered her--was looking very closely at the old gentleman with the
hump--staring at him hard, in fact. He, on the other hand, was leaning
forward, with both hands on the knob of his malacca, his eyes bent on
the floor and his mouth squared to the surliest expression. He
seemed quite unconscious of her scrutiny, and was tapping one foot
impatiently on the floor.
After a minute I was surprised to see her lean forward and touch him
gently on the knee.
He took no notice beyond shuffling about a little and uttering a
slight growl. The woman who held her put out an arm and drew back
the child's hand reprovingly. The child paid no heed to this, but
continued to stare. Then in another minute she again bent forward, and
tapped the old gentleman's knee.
This time she fetched a louder growl from him, and an irascible glare.
Not in the least daunted, she took hold of his malacca, and shook it
to and fro in her small hand.
"I wish to heavens, madam, you'd keep your child to yourself!"
"For shame, Annie!" whispered the poor woman, cowed by his look.
But again Annie paid no heed. Instead, she pushed the malacca towards
the old gentleman, saying--
"Please, sir, will 'ee warm Mister Barrabel wi' this?"
He moved uneasily, and looked harshly at her without answering. "For
shame, Annie!" the woman murmured a second time; but I saw her lean
back, and a tear started and rolled down her cheek.
"If you please, sir," repeated Annie, "will 'ee warm Mister Barrabel
The old gentleman stared round the carriage. In his eyes you could
read the question, "What in the devil's name does the child mean?" The
robust woman read it there, and answered him huskily--
"Poor mite! she's buried her father this mornin'; an' Mister Barrabel
is the coffin-maker, an' nailed 'en down."
"Now," said Annie, this time eagerly, "will 'ee warm him same as the
big doll did just now?"
Luckily, the old gentleman did not understand this last allusion. He
had not seen the group around the Punch-and-Judy show; nor, if he had,
is it likely he would have guessed the train of thought in the child's
mind. But to me, as I looked at my fellow-passenger's nose and the
deformity of his shoulders, and remembered how Punch treats the
undertaker in the immortal drama, it was all plain enough. I glanced
at the child's companions. Nothing in their faces showed that they
took the allusion; and the next moment I was glad to think that I
alone knew what had prompted Annie's speech.
For the next moment, with a beautiful change on his face, the old
gentleman had taken the child on his knee, and was talking to her as I
dare say he had never talked before.
"Are you her mother?" he asked, looking up suddenly, and addressing
the woman opposite.
"Her mother's been dead these two year. I'm her aunt, an' I'm takin'
her home to rear 'long wi' my own childer."
He was bending over Annie, and had resumed his chat. It was all
nonsense--something about the silver knob of his malacca--but it took
hold of the child's fancy and comforted her. At the next station I had
to alight, for it was the end of my journey. But looking back into
the carriage as I shut the door, I saw Annie bending forward over the
walking-stick, and following the pattern of its silverwork with her
small finger. Her face was turned from the old gentleman's, and behind
her little black hat his eyes were glistening.
II.--A CORRECTED CONTEMPT.
The whistles had sounded, and we were already moving slowly out of St.
David's Station, Exeter, to continue our journey westward, when
the door was pulled open and a brown bag, followed by a whiff of
_Millefleurs_ and an over-dressed young man, came flying into the
compartment where I sat alone and smoked.
The youth scrambled to a seat as the door slammed behind him; remarked
that it was "a near shave"; and laughed nervously as if to assure
me that he found it a joke. His face was pink with running, and the
colour contrasted unpleasantly with his pale sandy hair and moustache.
He wore a light check suit, a light-blue tie knotted through a
"Mizpah" ring, a white straw hat with a blue ribbon, and two
finger-rings set with sham diamonds--altogether the sort of outfit
that its owner would probably have described as "rather nobby."
Feeling that just now it needed a few repairs, he opened the bag,
pulled out a duster and flicked away for half-a-minute at his brown
boots. Next with a handkerchief he mopped his face and wiped round the
inner edge first of his straw hat, and then of his collar and cuffs.
After this he stood up, shook his trousers till they hung with
a satisfying gracefulness, produced a cigar-case--covered with
forget-me-nots in crewel work--and a copy of the _Sporting Times_, sat
down again, and asked me if I could oblige him with a light.
I think the train had neared Dawlish before the cigar was fairly
started, and his pink face hidden behind the pink newspaper. But even
so between the red sandstone cliffs and the wholesome sea this pink
thing would not sit still. His diamond rings kept flirting round the
edge of the _Sporting Times_, his brown boots shifting their position
on the cushion in front of him, his legs crossing, uncrossing,
recrossing, his cigar-smoke rising in quick, uneasy puffs.
Between Teignmouth and Newton Abbot this restlessness increased. He
dropped some cigar-ash on his waistcoat and arose to shake it off.
Twice or thrice he picked up the paper and set it down again. As we
ran into Newton Abbot Station, he came over to my side of the carriage
and scanned the small crowd upon the platform. Suddenly his pink
cheeks flushed to crimson. The train was slowing to a standstill, and
while he hesitated with a hand on the door, a little old man came
trotting down the platform--a tremulous little man, in greenish black
broadcloth, eloquent of continued depression in some village retail
trade. His watery eyes shone brimful of pride and gladness.
"Whai, Charley, lad, there you be, to be shure; an' lookin' as peart
as a gladdy! Shaaeke your old vather's vist, lad--ees fay, you be
The youth, scorched with a miserable shame, stepped out, put his hand
in his father's, and tried to withdraw him a little up the platform
and out of my hearing.
"Noa, noa; us'll bide where us be, zoa's to be 'andy vur the train
when her starts off. Her doan't stay no while. I vound Zam Emmet
zarving here as porter--you mind Zam? Danged if I knawed 'en, vurst
along, the vace of 'en's that altered: grawed a beard, her hev. But
her zays to me, 'How be gettin' 'long, Isaac?' an' then I zaw who
'twas--an' us fell to talkin', and her zaid the train staps vaive
minnits, no more nor less."
His son interrupted him with mincing haughtiness.
"Weist an' ailin', poor crittur--weist an' ailin'. Dree times her've
a-been through the galvanic battery, an' might zo well whistle. Turble
lot o' zickness about. An' old Miss Ruby's resaigned, an' a new
postmistress come in her plaaece--a tongue-tight pore crittur, an'
talks London. If you'll b'lieve _me_, Miss Ruby's been to Plymouth
'pon her zavings an' come back wi' vifteen pound' worth of valse teeth
in her jaws, which, as I zaid, 'You must excoose my plain speakin',
but they've a-broadened your mouth, Miss Ruby, an' I laiked 'ee better
as you was bevore.' 'Never mind,' her zays, 'I can chow.' There now,
Charley--zimme I've been doing arl the tarlk, an' thy mother'll be
waitin' wi' dree-score o' questions, zoon as I gets whome. Her'd ha'
corned to gie thee a kiss, if her'd a-been 'n a vit staaete; but her's
zent thee zummat--"
He foraged in the skirt pockets of his threadbare coat and brought
out a paper of sandwiches and a long-nosed apple. I saw the young man
"Her reckoned you'd veel a wamblin' in the stommick, travellin' arl
the waaey from Hexeter to Plymouth. There, stow it awaaey. Not veelin'
peckish? Never maind: there's a plenty o' taime betwix' this an'
"Tut-tut, now--" He insisted, and the packet, on the white paper
wrapper of which spots of grease were spreading, changed hands. The
little man peered wistfully up into his son's face: his own eyes were
full of love, but seemed to search for something.
"How dost laike it, up to Hexeter: an' how't get along?"
"Kepital--kepital. Give mothaw my love."
"E'es be shure. Fainely plaized her'll be to hear thee'rt zo naicely
adrest. Her'd maaede up her maind, pore zowl, that arl your buttons ud
be out, wi' nobody to zee arter 'en. But I declare thee'rt drest laike
And with this a dead silence fell between the two. The old man shifted
his weight from one foot to another, and twice cleared his throat. The
young counter-jumper averted his eyes from his father's quivering lip
to stare up the platform. The minutes ran on.
At last the old man found his voice--
"Thic' there's a stubbard apple you've got in your hand."
"Take your seats, please!"
The guard held the door while they shook hands again. "Charley" leaned
out at the window as our train began to move.
"Her comes from the zeccond 'spalier past the inyon-bed; al'ays the
vurst to raipen, thic' there tree."
The old fellow broke into something resembling a run as he followed
our carriage to shout--
"Turble bad zayson vur zaider!"
With that he halted at the end of the platform, and watched us out of
sight. His son flung himself on the seat with--I could have kicked him
for it--a deprecatory titter. Then he drew a long breath; but it was
twenty minutes before his blush faded, and he regained confidence to
ask me for another light.
Just eighteen months after I was travelling up to London in the Zulu
express. A large Fair Trade meeting had been held at Plymouth the
night before, and three farmers in the compartment with me were
discussing that morning's leader in the _Western Daily Mercury_. One
of them had already been goaded into violent speech when we halted at
Newton Abbot and another passenger stepped in--a little old man in a
suit of black.
I recognised him at once. And yet he was changed woefully. He had
fallen away in flesh; the lines had deepened beside his upper lip; and
in spite of a glossier suit he had an appearance of hopelessness which
he had not worn when I saw him for the first time.
He took his seat, looked about him vacantly and caught the eye of the
angry farmer, who nodded, broke off his speech in the middle of a
sentence, and asked in a curiously gentle voice--
"Travellin' up to Exeter?"
The old man bent his head for "yes," and I saw the tears well up in
his weak eyes.
"There's no need vur to ax your arrand." The farmer here dropped his
tone almost to a whisper.
"Naw, naw. I be goin' up to berry 'en. Ees, vriends," he went on,
looking around and asking, with that glance, the sympathy of all
present, "to berry my zon, my clever zon, my only zon."
Nobody spoke for a few seconds. Then the kindly farmer observed--
"Aye, I've heerd zay a' was very clever to his traaede. 'Uxtable an'
Co., his employers, spoke very handsome of 'en, they tell me. I can't
call to maind, tho', that I've a-zet eyes 'pon the young man since he
was a little tacker."
The old man began to fumble in his breastpocket, and drawing out a
photograph, handed it across.
"That's the last that was took of 'en."
"Pore young chap," said the farmer, holding the likeness level with
his eyes and studying it; "Pore young chap! Zuch a respectable lad to
look at! They tell me a' made ye a gude zon, too."
"Gude?" The tears ran down the father's face and splashed on his
hands, trembling as they folded over the knob of his stout stick.
"Gude? I b'lieve, vriends, ye'll call it gude when a young man zends
the third o' his earnin's week by week to help his parents. That's
what my zon did, vrum the taime he left whome. An' presunts--never a
month went by, but zome little gift ud come by the postman; an' little
'twas he'd got to live 'pon, at the best, the dear lad--"
The farmer was passing back the photograph. "May I see it?" I asked:
and the old man nodded.
It was the same face--the same suit, even--that had roused my contempt
eighteen months before.
It was on a cold and drenching afternoon in October that I spent an
hour at Woon Gate: for in all the homeless landscape this little
round-house offers the only shelter, its windows looking east and west
along the high-road and abroad upon miles of moorland, hedgeless,
dotted with peat-ricks, inhabited only by flocks of grey geese and a
declining breed of ponies, the chartered vagrants of Woon Down. Two
miles and more to the north, and just under the rim of the horizon,
straggle the cottages of a few tin-streamers, with their backs to the
wind. These look down across an arable country, into which the women
descend to work at seed-time and harvest, and whence, returning, they
bring some news of the world. But Woon Gate lies remoter. It was never
more than a turnpike; and now the gate is down, the toll-keeper dead,
and his widow lives alone in the round-house. She opened the door
to me--a pleasant-faced old woman of seventy, in a muslin cap, red
turnover, and grey gown hitched very high. She wore no shoes inside
her cottage, but went about in a pair of coarse worsted stockings on
all days except the very rawest, when the chill of the lime-ash floor
struck into her bones.
"May I wait a few minutes till the weather lifts?" I asked.
She smiled and seemed almost grateful.
"You'm kindly welcome, be sure: that's if you don't mind the
I suppose that my face expressed some wonder: for she went on, shaking
my dripping hat and hanging it on a nail by the fire--
"Doctor Rodda'll be comin' in half-an-hour's time. 'Tis district
Vaccination to-day, and he always inoculates here, 'tis so handy."
She nodded her head at half a dozen deal chairs and a form arrayed
round the wall under a row of sacred texts and tradesmen's almanacks.
"There'll be nine to-day, as I makes it out. I counted 'em up several
times last night."
It was evidently a great day in her eyes.
"But you've allowed room for many more than nine," I pointed out.
"Why, of course. There's some brings their elder childer for a
treat--an' there's always 'Melia Penaluna."
I was on the point of asking who Amelia Penaluna might be, when my
attention was drawn to the small eastern window. Just outside, and
but a dozen paces from the house, there stretched a sullen pond,
over which the wind drove in scuds and whipped the sparse reeds that
encroached around its margin. Beside the further bank of the pond
the high-road was joined by a narrow causeway that led down from
the northern fringe of Woon Down; and along this causeway moved a
procession of women and children.
They were about twenty in all, and, as they skirted the pond, their
figures were sharply silhouetted against the grey sky. Each of the
women held a baby close to her breast and bent over it as she advanced
against the wind, that beat her gown tightly against her legs and
blew it out behind in bellying folds. Yet beneath their uncouth and
bedraggled garments they moved like mothers of a mighty race, tall,
large-limbed, broad of hip, hiding generous breasts beneath the
shawls--red, grey, and black--that covered their babes from the wind
and rain. A few of the children struggled forward under ricketty
umbrellas; but the mothers had their hands full, and strode along
unsheltered. More than one, indeed, faced the storm without bonnet or
covering for the head; and all marched along the causeway like figures
on some sculptured frieze, their shadows broken beneath them on the
ruffled surface of the pond. I said that each of the women carried a
babe: but there was one who did not--a plain, squat creature, at the
tail of the procession, who wore a thick scarf round her neck, and a
shawl of divers bright colours. She led a small child along with one
hand, and with the other attempted to keep a large umbrella against
"Nineteen--twenty--twenty-one," counted the toll-keeper's widow behind
me as I watched the spasmodic jerkings of this umbrella. "I wasn't far
out in my reckon. And you, sir, make twenty-two. It niver rains but it
pours, they say. Times enow I don't see a soul for days together, not
to hail by name, an' now you drops in on top of a Vaccination."
Her sigh over this plethora of good fortune was interrupted by a
knocking at the door, and the mothers trooped in, their clothes
dripping pools of water on the sanded lime-ash. One or two of them,
after exchanging greetings with their hostess, bade me Good-morning:
others eyed me in silence as they took their seats round the wall.
All whose babes were not sound asleep quietly undid their bodices and
began to give them suck. The older children scrambled into chairs and
sat kicking their heels and tracing patterns on the floor with the
water that ran off their umbrellas. They were restless but rather
silent, as if awed by the shadow of the coming Vaccination. The woman
who had brought up the procession, found a place in the far corner,
and began to unwind the comforter around her neck. Her eyes were
brighter and more agitated than any in the room.
"A brave trapse all the way from Upper Woon," remarked the youngest
mother, wiping a smear of rain from her baby's forehead.
"Ah, 'tis your first, Mary Polsue. Wait till you've carried twelve
such loads, my dear," said a tall middle-aged woman, whose black hair,
coarse as a mane, was powdered grey with, raindrops.
"Dear now, Ellen; be this the twelfth?" our hostess exclaimed. "I was
reckonin' it the 'leventh."
"Ay, th' twelfth--tho' I've most lost count. I buried one, you know."
"For my part," put in a pale-eyed blonde, who sat near the door, "'t
seems but yestiddy I was here with Alsia yonder." She nodded her head
towards a girl of five who was screwing herself round in her chair and
trying to peep out of the window.
"Ay, they come and come: the Lord knows wherefore," the tall woman
assented. "When they'm young they make your arms ache, an' when they
grow up they make your heart ache."
"But 'Melia Penaluna's been here more times than any of us," said the
blonde with a titter, directing her eyes towards a corner of the room.
The rest looked too, and laughed. Turning, I saw that the plain-faced
woman had unwound her comforter, and now I could see, hanging low on
her chest, an immense lump wrapped in clean white linen and bound up
with a gaudy yellow handkerchief. It was a goitre.
"Iss, my dears," she answered, touching it and smiling, but with tears
in her eyes; "this here's my only child, an' iver will be. Ne'er a
man'll look 'pon me, so I'm forced to be content wi' this babe and
clothe 'en pretty, as you see. Ah, you'm lucky, you'm lucky, though
you talk so!"
"She's terrible fond o' childer," said one of the women audibly,
addressing me. "How many 'noculations have you 'tended, 'Melia?"
"Six-an'-twenty, countin' to-day," 'Melia announced with pride in her
trembling voice. But at this point one of the infants began to cry,
and before he could be hushed the noise of wheels sounded down the
road, and Dr. Rodda drove up in his reedy gig.
He was a round, dapper practitioner, with slightly soiled cuffs and
an extremely business-like manner. On entering the room he jerked his
head in a general nod to all present, and stepping to the table, drew
a small packet from his waistcoat, and unfolded it. It contained about
a score of small pieces of ivory, pointed like pens, but flat. Then,
pulling out a paper and consulting it hastily, he set to work,
beginning with the child that lay on the blonde woman's lap, next to
I looked around. The children were staring with wide, admiring eyes.
Their mothers also watched, but listlessly, still suckling their babes
as each waited its turn. Only 'Melia Penaluna winced and squeezed her
hands together whenever a feeble wailing told that one of the vaccine
points had made itself felt.
"Do 'ee think it hurts the poor mites?" the youngest mother asked.
"Not much, I reckon," answered the big woman.
Nevertheless her own child cried pitifully when its turn came. And as
it cried, the childless woman in the corner got off her chair and ran
"'Becca, let me take him. Do'ee, co!"
"'Melia Penaluna, you'm no better 'n a fool."
But poor, misnamed Amelia was already back in her corner with the
child, hugging it, kissing it, rocking it in her arms, crooning over
it, holding it tightly against the lump that hung down on her barren
bosom. Long after the baby had ceased to cry she sat crooning and
yearning over it. And the mothers watched her, with wonder and
scornful amusement in their eyes.
FROM A COTTAGE IN GANTICK.
I.--THE MOURNER'S HORSE.
The Board Schoolmaster and I are not friends. He is something of
a zealot, and conceives it his mission to weed out the small
superstitions of the countryside and plant exact information in their
stead. He comes from up the country--a thin, clean-shaven town-bred
man, whose black habit and tall hat, though considerably bronzed,
refuse to harmonise with the scenery amid which they move. His speech
is formal and slightly dogmatic, and in argument he always gets the
better of me. Therefore, feeling sure it will annoy him excessively, I
am going to put him into this book. He laid himself open the other day
to this stroke of revenge, by telling me a story; and since he loves
precision, I will be very precise about the circumstances.
At the foot of my garden, and hidden from my window by the clipt
box hedge, runs Sanctuary Lane, along which I see the heads of the
villagers moving to church on Sunday mornings. But in returning they
invariably keep to the raised footpath on the far side, that brings
the women's skirts and men's smallclothes into view. I have made many
attempts to discover how this distinction arose, and why it is adhered
to, but never found a satisfying explanation. It is the rule, however.
From the footpath a high bank (where now the primroses have given
place to stitchwort and ragged robin) rises to an orchard; so steeply
that the apple-blossom drops into the lane. Just now the petals lie
thickly there in the early morning, to be trodden into dust as soon
as the labourers fare to work. Beyond and above the orchard comes a
stretch of pastureland and then a young oak-coppice, the fringe of a
great estate, with a few Scotch firs breaking the sky-line on top of
all. The head gamekeeper of this estate tells me we shall have a hot
summer, because the oak this year was in leaf before the ash, though
only by a day. The ash was foliating on the 29th of April, the oak
on the 28th. Up there the blue-bells lie in sheets of mauve, and the
cuckoo is busy. I rarely see him; but his three notes fill the hot
noon and evening. When he spits (says the gamekeeper again) it is time
to be sheep-shearing. My talk with the gamekeeper is usually held at
six in the morning, when he comes down the lane and I am stepping
across to test the water in Scarlet's Well.
This well bubbles up under a low vault scooped in the bank by the
footpath and hung with hart's-tongue ferns. It has two founts, close
together; but whereas one of them oozes only, the other is bubbling
perennially, and, as near as I have observed, keeps always the same.
Its specific gravity is that of distilled water--1.000 deg.; and though,
to be sure, it upset me, three weeks back, by flying up to 1.005 deg., I
think that must have come from the heavy thunderstorms and floods of
rain that lately visited us and no doubt imported some ingredients
that had no business there. As for its temperature, I will select a
note or two of the observations I made with a Fahrenheit thermometer
this last year:--
_June 12th_.--Temperature in shade of well, 62 deg.; of water, 51 deg..
_August 25th_.--In shade of well (at noon), 73 deg.; of water, 52 deg..
_November 20th_.--In shade of well, 43 deg.; of water, 52 deg..
_January 1st_.--External air, 56 deg.; enclosure, 53 deg.; water, 52 deg..
_March 11th_.--A bleak, sunless day. Temperature in shade of well, at
noon, 54 deg.; water, 51 deg.. The _Chrysosplenium Oppositiflorium_ in rich
golden bloom within the enclosure.
But the spring has other properties besides its steady temperature. I
was early abroad in my garden last Thursday week, and in the act of
tossing a snail over my box hedge, when I heard some girls' voices
giggling, and caught a glimpse of half-a-dozen sun-bonnets gathered
about the well. Straightening myself up, I saw a group of maids
from the village, and, in the middle, one who bent over the water.
Presently she scrambled to her feet, glanced over her shoulder and
gave a shrill scream.
I, too, looked up the lane and saw, a stone's throw off, the
schoolmaster advancing with long and nervous strides. He was furiously
"Thomasine Slade," said he, "you are as shameless as you are
The girl tossed her chin and was silent, with a warm blush on her
cheek and a lurking imp of laughter in her eye. The schoolmaster
frowned still more darkly.
"Shameless as well as ignorant!" he repeated, bringing the ferule of
his umbrella smartly down upon the macadam; "and you, Jane Hewitt, and
you, Lizzie Polkinghorne!"
"Why, what's the matter?" I asked, stepping out into the road.
At sight of me the girls broke into a peal of laughter, gathered up
their skirts and fled, still laughing, down the road.
"What's the matter?" I asked again.
"The matter?" echoed the schoolmaster, staring blankly after the
retreating skirts; then more angrily--"The matter? come and look
here!" He took hold of my shirt-sleeve and led me to the well.
Stooping, I saw half-a-dozen pins gleaming in its brown depths.
The schoolmaster nodded.
"Thomasine Slade has been wishing for a husband. I see no sin in that.
When she looked up and saw you coming down the lane--"
I paused. The schoolmaster said nothing. He was leaning over the well,
gloomily examining the pins.
"--your aspect was enough to scare anyone," I wound up lamely.
"I wish," the schoolmaster hastily began, "I wish to Heaven I had the
gift of humour! I lose my temper and grow positive. I'd kill these
stupid superstitions with ridicule, if I had the gift. It's a great
gift. My God, I do hate to be laughed at!"
"Even by a fool?" I asked, somewhat astonished at his heat.
"Certainly. There's no comfort in comparing the laugh of fools with
the crackling of thorns under a pot, if you happen to be inside the
pot and in process of cooking."
He took off his hat, brushed it on the sleeve of his coat, and resumed
in a tone altogether lighter--
"Yes, I hate to be laughed at; and I'll tell you a tale on this point
that may amuse you at my expense.
"I am London-bred, as you know, and still a Cockney in the grain,
though when I came down here to teach school I was just nineteen and
now I'm over forty. It was during the summer holidays that I first set
foot in this neighbourhood--a week before school re-opened. I came
early, to look for lodgings and find out a little about the people and
settle down a bit before beginning work.
"The vicar--the late vicar, I mean--commended me to old Retallack, who
used to farm Rosemellin, up the valley, a widower and childless. His
sister, Miss Jane Ann, kept house for him, and these were the only two
souls on the premises till I came and was boarded by them for thirteen
shillings a week. For that price they gave me a bedroom, a fair-sized
sitting-room and as much as I could eat.
"A month after my arrival, Farmer Retallack was put to bed with a
slight attack of colic. This was on a Wednesday, and on Saturday
morning Miss Jane Ann came knocking at my door with a message that the
old man would like to see me. So I went across to his room and found
him propped up in the bed with three or four pillows and looking very
yellow in the gills, though clearly convalescent.
"'Schoolmaster,' said he, 'I've a trifling favour to beg of ye. You
give the children a half-holiday, Saturdays--hey? Well, d'ye think ye
could drive the brown hoss, Trumpeter, into Tregarrick this afternoon?
The fact is, my old friend Abe Walters, that kept the Packhorse Inn is
lying dead, and they bury 'en at half after two to-day. I'd be main
glad to show respect at the funeral and tell Mrs. Walters how much
deceased 'll be missed, ancetera; but I might so well try to fly in
the air. Now if you could attend and just pass the word that I'm on my
back with the colic, but that you've come to show respect in my place,
I'd take it very friendly of ye. There'll be lashins o' vittles an'
drink. No Walters was ever interred under a kilderkin.'" Now the fact
was, I had never driven a horse in my life and hardly knew (as they
say) a horse's head from his tail till he began to move. But that is
just the sort of ignorance no young man will readily confess to. So
I answered that I was engaged that evening. We were just organising
night-classes for the young men of the parish, and the vicar was to
open the first, with a short address, at half-past six.
"'You'll be back in lashins o' time,' the farmer assured me.
"This put me fairly in a corner. 'To tell you the truth,' said I, 'I'm
not accustomed to drive much.' But of course this was wickedly short
of the truth.
"He declared that it was impossible to come to grief on the way, the
brown horse being quiet as a lamb and knowing every stone of the road.
And the end was that I consented. The brown horse was harnessed by the
farm-boy and led round with the gig while Miss Jane Ann and I were
finishing our midday meal. And I drove off alone in a black suit and
with my heart in my mouth.
"Trumpeter, as the farmer had promised, was quiet as a lamb. He went
forward at a steady jog, and even had the good sense to quarter on
his own account for the one or two vehicles we met on the broad road.
Pretty soon I began to experiment gingerly with the reins; and by the
time we reached Tregarrick streets, was handling them with quite an
air, while observing the face of everyone I met, to make sure I
was not being laughed at. The prospect of Tregarrick Fore Street
frightened me a good deal, and there was a sharp corner to turn at the
entrance of the inn-yard. But the old horse knew his business so well
that had I pulled on one rein with all my strength I believe it would
have merely annoyed, without convincing, him. He took me into the yard
without a mistake, and I gave up the reins to the ostler, thanking
Heaven and looking careless.
"The inn was crowded with mourners, eating and drinking and discussing
the dead man's virtues. They packed the Assembly Room at the back,
where the subscription dances are held, and the reek of hot joints was
suffocating. I caught sight of the widow Walters bustling up and down
between the long tables and shedding tears while she changed her
guests' plates. She heard my message, welcomed me with effusion, and
thrusting a plateful of roast beef under my nose, hurried away to put
on her bonnet for the funeral.
"A fellow on my right paused with his mouth full to bid me eat. 'Thank
you,' I said, 'my only wish is to get out of this as quickly as
"He contemplated me for half a minute with an eye like an ox's;
remarked 'You'll be a furriner, no doubt;' and went on with his meal.
"If the feasting was long, the funeral was longer. We sang so many
burying-tunes, and the widow so often interrupted the service to
ululate, that the town clock had struck four when I hurried back from
the churchyard to the inn, and told the ostler to put my horse in the
gig. I had little time to spare.
"'Beg your pardon, sir,' the ostler said, 'but I'm new to this
place--only came here this day week. Which is your horse?'
"'Oh,' I answered, 'he's a brown. Make haste, for I'm in a hurry.'
"He went off to the stables and returned in about two minutes.
"'There's six brown hosses in the stable, sir. Would you mind coming
and picking out yours?'
"I followed him with a sense of impending evil. Sure enough there were
six brown horses in the big stable, and to save my life I couldn't
have told which was Trumpeter. Of any difference between horses,
except that of colour, I hadn't an idea. I scanned them all anxiously,
and felt the ostler's eye upon me. This was unbearable. I pulled out
my watch, glanced at it carelessly, and exclaimed--
"'By George, I'd no notion it was so early! H'm, on second thoughts, I
won't start for a few minutes yet.'
"This was my only course--to wait until the other five owners of brown
horses had driven home. I strolled back to the inn and talked and
drank sherry, watching the crowd thin by degrees, and speeding the
lingering mourners with all my prayers. The minutes dragged on till
nothing short of a miracle could take me back in time to open the
night-class. The widow drew near and talked to me. I answered her at
"Twice I revisited the stable, and the second time found but three
horses left. I walked along behind them, murmuring, 'Trumpeter,
Trumpeter!' in the forlorn hope that one of the three brutes would
give a sign.
"'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the ostler; 'were you saying
"'No--nothing,' said I, and luckily he was called away at this moment
to the further end of the stable. 'Oh,' sighed I, 'for Xanthus, horse
"I felt inclined to follow and confide my difficulty to the ostler,
but reflected that this wouldn't help me in the least: whereas, if
I applied to a fellow-guest, he must (if indeed he could give the
information) expose my previous hypocrisy to the ostler. After all,
the company was dwindling fast. I went back and consumed more sherry
"By this six o'clock had gone, and no more than a dozen guests
remained. One of these was my bovine friend, my neighbour at the
funeral banquet, who now accosted me as I struggled with a biscuit.
"'So you've got over your hurry. Glad to find ye settlin' down so
quick to our hearty ways.'
"He shook hands with the widow and sauntered out. Ten more minutes
passed and now there were left only the widow herself and a trio of
elderly men, all silent. As I hung about, trying to look unbounded
sympathy at the group, it dawned upon me that they were beginning to
eye me uneasily. I took a sponge cake and another glass of wine. One
of the men--who wore a high stock and an edging of stiff grey hair
around his bald head--advanced to me.
"'This funeral,' said he, 'is over.'
"'Yes, yes,' I stammered, and choked over a sip of sherry.
"'We are waiting--let me tap you on the back--'
"'We are waiting to read the will.'
"I escaped from the room and rushed down to the stables. The ostler
was harnessing the one brown horse that remained.
"I was thinking you wouldn't be long, sir. You're the very last, I
believe, and here ends a long day's work.'
"I drove off. It was near seven by this, but I didn't even think of
the night-class. I was wondering if the horse I drove were really
Trumpeter. Somehow--whether because his feed of corn pricked him or no
I can't say--he seemed a deal livelier than on the outward journey. I
looked at him narrowly in the twilight, and began to feel sure it was
another horse. In spite of the cool air a sweat broke out upon me.
"Farmer Retallack was up and dressed and leaning on a stick in the
doorway as I turned into the yard.
"'I've been that worried about ye,' he began, 'I couldn't stay abed.
Parson's been up twice from the schoolhouse to make inquiries. Where
in the name o' goodness have 'ee been?'
"'That's a long story,' said I, and then, feigning to speak
carelessly, though I heard my heart go thump--'How d'ye think
Trumpeter looks after the journey?'
"'Oh, _he's_ all right,' the old man replied indifferently; 'but come
along in to supper.'
"Now, my dear sir"--the schoolmaster thus concluded his tale,
tucking his umbrella tightly under his armpit, and tapping his right
forefinger on the palm of his left hand--"these pagans whom I teach
are as sensitive as I to ridicule. If I only knew how to take them--if
only I could lay my finger on the weak spot--I'd send their whole
fabric of silly superstitions tumbling like a house of cards."
This happened last Thursday week. Early this morning I crossed the
road as usual with my thermometer, and found a strip of pink calico
hanging from the brambles by the mouth of Scarlet's Well. I had seen
the pattern before on a gown worn by one of the villager's wives, and
knew the rag was a votive offering, hung there because her child, who
has been ailing all the winter, is now strong enough to go out into
the sunshine. As I bent the bramble carefully aside, before stooping
over the water, Lizzie Polkinghorne came up the lane and halted behind
"Have 'ee heard the news?" she asked.
"No." I turned round, thermometer in hand.
"Why, Thomasine Slade's goin' to marry the schoolmaster! Their banns
'll be called first time nest Sunday."
We looked at each other, and she broke into a shout of laughter.
Lizzie's laugh is irresistible.
The small rotund gentleman who had danced and spun all the way to
Gantick village from the extreme south of France, and had danced and
smiled and blown his flageolet all day in Gantick Street without
conciliating its population in the least, was disgusted. Towards dusk
he crossed the stile which divides Sanctuary Lane from the churchyard,
and pausing with a leg on either side of the rail, shook his fist back
at the village which lay below, its grey roofs and red chimneys just
distinguishable here and there between a foamy sea of apple-blossom
and a haze of bluish smoke. He could not well shake its dust off his
feet, for this was hardly separable on his boots from the dust of many
other villages, and also it was mostly mud. But his gesture betokened
"These Cor-rnishmen," he said, "are pigs all! There is not a
Cor-rnishman that is not a big pig!"
He lifted the second leg wearily over the rail.
"As for Art--"
"Words failed him here, and he spat upon the ground, adding--
"Moreover, they shut up their churches!"
This was really a serious matter; for he had not a penny-piece in his
pocket--the last had gone to buy a loaf--and there was no lodging to
be had in the village. The month was April--a bad time to sleep in
the open; and though the night drew in tranquilly upon a day of broad
sunshine, the earth had by no means sucked down the late heavy rains.
The church porch, however, had a broad bench on either side and faced
the south, away from the prevailing wind. He had made a mental note of
this early in the day, being schooled to anticipate such straits as
the present. While, with a gait like a limping hare's, he passed up
the narrow path between the graves, his eyes were busy.
The churchyard was narrow and surrounded by a high grey wall, mostly
hidden by an inner belt of well-grown cypresses. On the south side the
ranks of these trees were broken for some thirty feet, and here the
back of a small dwelling-house abutted on the cemetery. There was one
window only in the yellow-washed wall, and this window--a melancholy
square framed in moss-stained plaster--looked straight into the church
porch. The flageolet-player eyed it suspiciously; but the casement
was shut and the blind drawn down. The whole aspect of the cottage
proclaimed that its inhabitants were very poor folk--not at all the
sort to tell tales upon a casual tramp if they spied him bivouacking
upon holy ground.
He limped into the porch, and cast off the blue bag that was strapped
upon his shoulders. Out of it he drew a sheep's-wool cape, worn very
thin; and then turned the bag inside out, on the chance of a forgotten
crust. The disappointment that followed he took calmly--being on the
whole a sweet-tempered man, nor easily angered except by an affront on
his vanity. His violent rancour against the people of Gantick
arose from their indifference to his playing. Had they taken him
seriously--had they even run out at their doors to listen and
stare--he would not have minded their stinginess.
He who sleeps, sups. The little man passed the flat of his hand,
in the dusk, over the two benches, chose the one which had fewest
asperities of surface, tossed his bag and flageolet upon the other,
pulled off his boots, folded his cape to make a pillow, and stretched
himself at length. In less than ten minutes he was sleeping
For four hours he slept without movement. But just above his head
there hung a baize-covered board containing a list or two of the
parish ratepayers and the usual notice of the spring training of the
Royal Cornwall Eangers Militia. This last placard had broken from two
of its fastenings, and towards midnight flapped loudly in an eddy of
the light wind. The sleeper stirred, and passed a languid hand over
his face. A spider within the porch had been busy while he slept, and
his hand encountered gossamer.
His eyes opened. He sat upright, and lowered his bare feet upon
the flags. Outside, the blue firmament was full of stars sparkling
unevenly, as though the wind were trying in sport to puff them out.
In the eaves of the porch he could hear the martins rustling in the
crevices--they had returned but a few days back to their old quarters.
But what drew the man to step out under the sky was the cottage-window
over the wall.
The lattice was pushed back and the room inside was brightly lit. But
between him and the lamp a white sheet had been stretched right across
the window; and on this sheet two quick hands were weaving all kinds
of clever shadows, shaping them, moving them, or reshaping them with
the speed of summer lightning.
It was certainly a remarkable performance. The shadows took the forms
of rabbits, swans, foxes, elephants, fairies, sailors with wooden
legs, old women who smoked pipes, ballet-girls who pirouetted, anglers
who bobbed for fish, twirling harlequins, and the profiles of eminent
statesmen--all made with two hands and, at the most, the help of a
tiny stick or piece of string. They danced and capered, grew large
and then small, with such profusion of odd turns and changes that the
flageolet-player began to giggle as he wondered. He remarked that the
hands, whenever they were disentwined for a moment, appeared to be
very small and plump.
In about ten minutes the display ceased, and the shadow of a woman's
head and neck crossed the sheet, which was presently drawn back at one
"Is that any better?" asked a woman's voice, low but distinct.
The flageolet-player started and bent his eyes lower, across the
graves and into the shadow beneath the window. For the first time he
was aware of a figure standing there, a little way out from the wall.
As well as he could see, it was a young boy.
"Much better, mother. You can't think how you've improved at it this
"The harlequin and columbine seemed a little jerky. But your hands
were tired, I know."
"Never mind that: they mustn't be tired and it's got to be perfect.
We'll try them again."
She was about to drop the corner of the sheet when the listener sprang
out towards the window, leaping with bare feet over the graves and
waving his flageolet wildly.
"Ah, no--no, madame!" he cried. "Wait one moment, the littlest, and I
shall inspire you."
"Whoever is that?" cried the woman's voice at the window.
The youth below faced round on the intruder. He was white in the face
and had wanted to run, but mastered his voice and enquired gruffly--
"Who the devil are you?"
"I? I am an artist, and as such I salute madame and monsieur her son.
She is greater artist than I, but I shall help her. They shall dance
better this time, her harlequin and columbine. Why? Because they shall
dance to my music--the music that I shall make here, on this spot,
under the stars. _Tiens!_ I shall play as if possessed. I feel that. I
bet you. It is because I have found an artist--an artist in Gantick.
O-my-good-lor! It makes me expand!"
He had pulled off his greasy hat, and stood bowing and smiling,
showing his white teeth and holding up his flageolet, that the woman
might see and be convinced.
"That's all very well," said the boy; "but my mother doesn't want it
known that she practises at these shadows."
"Ha? It is perhaps forbidden by law?"
"Since you have found us out, sir," said the woman, "I will tell you
why we are behaving like this, and trust you to tell nobody. I have
been left a widow, in great poverty, and with this one son, who must
be educated as well as his father was. Richard is a promising boy, and
cannot be satisfied to stand lower in the world than his father stood.
His father was an auctioneer. But we are left very poor--poor as mice:
and how was I to get him better teaching than the Board Schools here?
Well, six months ago, when sadly perplexed, I found out by chance that
this small gift of mine might earn me a good income in London, at--at
"Mother!" interjected the youth reprovingly.
"Pursue, madame," said the flageolet-player.
"Of course, sir, Richard doesn't like or approve of me performing at
such places, but he agrees with me that it is necessary. So we are
hiding it from everybody in the village, because we have always been
respected here. We never guessed that anybody would see us from the
churchyard, of all places, at this time of night. As soon as I have
practised enough, we mean to travel up to London. Of course I shall
change my name to something French or Italian, and hope nobody will
But the flageolet-player sat suddenly down upon a damp grave, and
broke into hysterical laughter.
"Oh-oh-oh! Quick, madame! dance your pretty figures while yet I laugh
and before I curse. O stars and planets, look down on this mad world,
and help me play! And, O monsieur, your pardon if I laugh; for that
either you or I are mad is a cock-sure. Dance, madame!"
He put the flageolet to his lips and blew. In a moment or two
harlequin and columbine appeared on the screen, and began to caper
nimbly, naturally, with the airiest graces. The tune was a jigging
reel, and soon began to inspire the performer above. Her small dancers
in a twinkling turned into a gambolling elephant, then to a pair
of swallows. A moment after they were flower and butterfly, then
a jigging donkey, then harlequin and columbine again. With each
fantastic change the tune quickened and the dance grew wilder. At
length, tired out, the woman spread her hands out wide against the
sheet, as if imploring mercy.
The player tossed his flageolet over a headstone, and rolled back on
the grave in a paroxysm of laughter. Above him the rooks had poured
out of their nests, and were cawing in flustered circles.
"Monsieur," he gasped out, sitting up and wiping his eyes, "was it
good this time?"
"Yes, it was."
"Then could you spare from the house one little crust of bread? For I
The youth went round the churchyard wall, and came back in a couple of
minutes with some bread and cold bacon.
"Of course," said he, "if you should meet either of us in the village
to-morrow, you will not recognise us."
The little man bowed. "I agree," said he, "with your mother, monsieur,
that you must be educated at all costs."
THE DRAWN BLIND.
Silver trumpets sounded a flourish, and the javelin-men came pacing
down Tregarrick Fore Street, with the sheriff's coach swinging behind
them, its panels splendid with fresh blue paint and florid blazonry.
Its wheels were picked out with yellow, and this scheme of colour
extended to the coachman and the two lackeys, who held on at the back
by leathern straps. Each wore a coat and breeches of electric
blue, with a canary waistcoat, and was toned off with powder and
flesh-coloured stockings at the extremities. Within the coach, and
facing the horses, sat the two judges of the Crown Court and _Nisi
Prius_, both in scarlet, with full wigs and little round patches of
black plaister, like ventilators, on top; facing their lordships sat
Sir Felix Felix-Williams, the sheriff, in a tightish uniform of the
yeomanry with a great shako nodding on his knees, and a chaplain bolt
upright by his side. Behind trooped a rabble of loafers and small
boys, who shouted, "Who bleeds bran?" till the lackeys' calves itched
I was standing in the archway of the Packhorse Inn, among the maids
and stable-boys gathered to see the pageant pass on its way to hear
the Assize sermon. And standing there, I was witness of a little
incident that seemed to escape the rest.
At the moment when the trumpets rang out, a very old woman, in a blue
camlet cloak, came hobbling out of a grocer's shop some twenty yards
up the pavement, and tottered down ahead of the procession as fast as
her decrepit legs would move. There was no occasion for hurrying to
avoid the crowd; for the javelin-men had barely rounded the corner
of the long street, and were taking the goosestep very seriously
and deliberately. But she went by the Packhorse doorway as if swift
horsemen were after her, clutching the camlet cloak across her bosom,
glancing over her shoulder, and working her lips inaudibly. I could
not help remarking the position of her right arm. She held it bent
exactly as though she held an infant to her old breast, and shielded
it while she ran.
A few paces beyond the inn-door she halted on the edge of the kerb,
flung another look up the street, and darted across the roadway. There
stood a little shop--a watchmaker's--just opposite, and next to the
shop a small ope with one dingy window over it. She vanished up the
passage, at the entrance of which I was still staring idly, when, half
a minute later, a skinny trembling hand appeared at the window and
drew down the blind.
I looked round at the men and maids; but their eyes were all for the
pageant, now not a stone's-throw away.
"Who is that old woman?" I asked, touching Caleb, the head ostler, on
Caleb--a small bandy-legged man, with a chin full of furrows, and the
furrows full of grey stubble--withdrew his gaze grudgingly from the
"She that went by a moment since."
"She in the blue cloak, d'ee mean?--an old, ancient, wisht-lookin'
"A timmersome woman, like?"
"Well, her name's Cordely Pinsent."
The procession reclaimed his attention. He received a passing wink
from the charioteer, caught it on the volley and returned it with a
solemn face; or rather, the wink seemed to rebound as from a blank
wall. As the crowd closed in upon the circumstance of Justice, he
turned to me again, spat, and went on--
"--Cordely Pinsent, widow of old Key Pinsent, that was tailor to
all the grandees in the county so far back as I can mind. She's
eighty-odd; eighty-five if a day. I can just mind Key Pinsent--a
great, red, rory-cumtory chap, with a high stock and a wig like King
George--'my royal patron' he called 'en, havin' by some means got
leave to hoist the king's arms over his door. Such mighty portly
manners, too--Oh, very spacious, I assure 'ee! Simme I can see the old
Trojan now, with his white weskit bulgin' out across his doorway like
a shop-front hung wi' jewels. Gout killed 'en. I went to his buryin';
such a stretch of experience does a young man get by time he reaches
my age. God bless your heart alive, _I_ can mind when they were hung
"Who were hung?"
"People," he answered vaguely; "and young Willie Pinsent."
"This woman's son?"
"Ay, her son--her ewe-lamb of a child. 'Tis very seldom brought up
agen her now, poor soul! She's so very old that folks forgits about
it. Do 'ee see her window yonder, over the ope?"
He was pointing across to the soiled white blind that still looked
blankly over the street, its lower edge caught up at one corner by a
"I saw her pull it down."
"Ah, you would if you was lookin' that way. I've a-seed her do 't a
score o' times. Well, when the gout reached Key Pinsent's stomach and
he went off like the snuff of a candle at the age of forty-two, she
was left unprovided, with a son of thirteen to maintain or go 'pon the
parish. She was a Menhennick, tho', from t'other side o' the Duchy--a
very proud family--and didn't mean to dip the knee to nobody, and all
the less because she'd demeaned hersel', to start with, by wedding a
tailor. But Key Pinsent by all allowance was handsome as blazes, and
well-informed up to a point that he read Shakespeare for the mere
"Well, she sold up the stock-in-trade an' hired a couple o' rooms--the
self-same rooms you see: and then she ate less 'n a mouse an' took in
needle-work, plain an' fancy: for a lot o' the gentry's wives round
the neighbourhood befriended her--though they had to be sly an' hide
that they meant it for a favour, or she'd ha' snapped their heads off.
An' all the while, she was teachin' her boy and tellin' 'en, whatever
happened, to remember he was a gentleman, an' lovin' 'en with all the
strength of a desolate woman.
"This Willie Pinsent was a comely boy, too: handsome as old Key, an'
quick at his books. He'd a bold masterful way, bein' proud as ever his
mother was, an' well knowin' there wasn' his match in Tregarrick for
head-work. Such a beautiful hand he wrote! When he was barely turned
sixteen they gave 'en a place in Gregory's Bank--Wilkins an' Gregory
it was in those aged times. He still lived home wi' his mother,
rentin' a room extra out of his earnin's, and turnin' one of the
bedrooms into a parlour. That's the very room you're lookin' at. And
when any father in Tregarrick had a bone to pick with his sons, he'd
advise 'em to take example by young Pinsent--'so clever and good, too,
there was no tellin' what he mightn't come to in time.'
"Well-a-well, to cut it short, the lad was too clever. It came out,
after, that he'd took to bettin' his employers' money agen the rich
men up at the Royal Exchange. An' the upshot was that one evenin',
while he was drinkin' tea with his mother in his lovin' light-hearted
way, in walks a brace o' constables, an' says, 'William Pinsent,
young chap, I arrest thee upon a charge o' counterfeitin' old
Gregory's handwritin', which is a hangin' matter!'
"An' now, sir, comes the cur'ous part o' the tale; for, if you'll
believe me, this poor woman wouldn' listen to it--wouldn' hear a word
o't. 'What! my son Willie,' she flames, hot as Lucifer--'my son Willie
a forger! My boy, that I've missed, an' reared up, an' studied,
markin' all his pretty takin' ways since he learn'd to crawl!
Gentlemen,' she says, standin' up an' facin' 'em down, 'what mother
knows her son, if not I? I give you my word it's all a mistake.'
"Ay, an' she would have it no other. While her son was waitin' his
trial in jail, she walked the streets with her head high, scornin' the
folk as she passed. Not a soul dared to speak pity; an' one afternoon,
when old Gregory hissel' met her and began to mumble that 'he
trusted,' an' 'he had little doubt,' an' 'nobody would be gladder than
he if it proved to be a mistake,' she held her skirt aside an' went by
with a look that turned 'en to dirt, as he said. 'Gad!' said he, 'she
couldn' ha' looked at me worse if I'd been a tab!' meanin' to say
'instead o' the richest man in Tregarrick.'
"But her greatest freak was seen when th' Assizes came. Sir, she
wouldn' even go to the trial. She disdained it. An' when, that
mornin', the judges had driven by her window, same as they drove
to-day, what d'ee think she did?
"She began to lay the cloth up in the parlour yonder, an' there set
out the rarest meal, ready for her boy. There was meats, roasted
chickens, an' a tongue, an' a great ham. There was cheese-cakes that
she made after a little secret of her own; an' a bowl of junket,
an inch deep in cream, that bein' his pet dish; an' all kind o'
knick-knacks, wi' grapes an' peaches, an' apricots, an' decanters o'
wine, white an' red. Ay, sir, there was even crackers for mother an'
son to pull together, with scraps o' poetry inside. An' flowers--the
table was bloomin' with flowers. For weeks she'd been plannin' it: an'
all the forenoon she moved about an' around that table, givin' it
a touch here an' a touch there, an' takin' a step back to see how
beautiful it looked. An' then, as the day wore on, she pulled a chair
over by the window, an' sat down, an' waited.
"In those days a capital trial was kept up till late into the night,
if need were. By-an'-by she called up her little servin' gal that was
then (she's a gran'mother now), an' sends her down to the court-house
to learn how far the trial had got, an' run back with the news.
"Down runs Selina Mary, an' back with word--
"'They're a-summin'-up,' says she.
"Then Mrs. Pinsent went an' lit eight candles. Four she set 'pon the
table, an' four 'pon the mantel-shelf. You could see the blaze out
in the street, an' the room lit up, wi' the flowers, an' fruit, an'
shinin' glasses--red and yellow dahlias the flowers were, that bein'
the time o' year. An' over each candle she put a little red silk
shade. You never saw a place look cosier. Then she went back an'
waited: but in half-an-hour calls to Selina Mary agen:
"'Selina Mary, run you back to the courthouse, an' bring word how far
"So the little slip of a maid ran back, and this time 'twas--
"'Missis, the judge has done; an' now they're considerin' about Master
"So the poor woman sat a while longer, an' then she calls:
"'Selina Mary, run down agen, an' as he comes out, tell 'en to hurry.
They must be finished by now.'
"The maid was gone twenty minutes this time. The evenin' was hot an'
the window open; an' now all the town that wasn' listenin' to the
trial was gathered in front, gazin' cur'ously at the woman inside. She
was tittivatin' the table for the fiftieth time, an' touchin' up the
flowers that had drooped a bit i' the bowls.
"But after twenty minutes Selina Mary came runnin' up the street, an'
fetched her breath at the front door, and went upstairs slowly and
'pon tip-toe. Her face at the parlour door was white as paper; an'
while she stood there the voices o' the crowd outside began to take
all one tone, and beat into the room like the sound o' waves 'pon a
"'Oh, missis--' she begins.
"'Have they finished?'
"The poor cheald was only able to nod.
"'Then, where's Willie? Why isn't he here?'
"'Oh, missis, they're goin' to hang 'en!'
"Mrs. Pinsent moved across the room, took her by the arm, led her
downstairs, an' gave her a little push out into the street. Not a word
did she say, but shut the door 'pon her, very gentle-like. Then she
went back an' pulled the blind down slowly. The crowd outside watched
her do it. Her manner was quite ord'nary. They stood there for a
minute or so, an' behind the blind the eight candles went out, one by
one. By the time the judges passed homeward 'twas all dark, only the
blind showin' white by the street lamp opposite. From that year to
this she has pulled it down whenever a judge drives by."
A GOLDEN WEDDING.
On the very spot which the railway station has usurped, with its long
slate roof, wooden signal-box, and advertisements in blue and white
enamel, I can recall a still pool shining between beds of the
flowering rush; and to this day, as I wait for the train, the whir of
a vanished water-wheel comes up the valley. Sometimes I have caught
myself gazing along the curve of the narrow-gauge in full expectation
to see a sagged and lichen-covered roof at the end of it. And
sometimes, of late, it has occurred to me that there never was such a
mill as I used to know down yonder; and that the miller, whose coat
was always powdered so fragrantly, was but a white ghost, after all.
The station-master and porters remember no such person.
But he was no ghost; for I have met him again this week, and upon the
station platform. I had started at daybreak to fish up the stream
that runs down the valley in curves roughly parallel to the railway
embankment; and coming within sight of the station, a little before
noon, I put up my tackle and strolled towards the booking-office. The
water was much too fine for sport, and it seemed worth while to break
off for a pipe and a look at the 12.26 train. Such are the simple
pleasures of a country life.
I leant my rod against the wall, and was setting down my creel, when,
glancing down the platform, I saw an old man seated on the furthest
bench. Everybody knows how a passing event, or impression, sometimes
appears but a vain echo of previous experience. Something in the lines
of this old man's figure, as he leaned forward with both hands clasped
upon his staff, gave me the sensation. "All this has happened before,"
I told myself. "He and I are playing over again some small and futile
scene in our past lives. I wonder who he is, and what is the use of
But there was something wanting in the picture to complete its
resemblance to the scene for which I searched my memory.
The man had bent further forward, and was resting his chin on his
hands and staring apathetically across the rails. Suddenly it dawned
on me that there ought to be another figure on the bench--the figure
of an old woman; and my memory ran back to the day after this railway
was opened, when this man and his wife had sat together on the
platform waiting to see the train come in--that fascinating monster
whose advent had blotted out the very foundations of the old mill and
driven its tenants to a strange home.
The mill had disappeared many months before that, but the white dust
still hung in the creases of the miller's clothes. He wore his Sunday
hat and the Sunday polish on his shoes; and his wife was arrayed in
her best Paisley shawl. She carried also a bunch of cottage flowers,
withering in her large hot hand. It was clear they had never seen a
locomotive before, and wished to show it all respect. They had taken
a smaller house in the next valley, where they attempted to live on
their savings; and had been trying vainly and pitifully to struggle
with all the little habits that had been their life for thirty-five
years, and to adapt them to new quarters. Their faces were weary,
but flushed with expectation. The man kept looking up the line, and
declaring that he heard the rumble of the engine in the distance; and
whenever he said this, his wife pulled the shawl more primly about her
shoulders, straightened her back, and nervously re-arranged her posy.
When at length the whistle screamed out, at the head of the vale, I
thought they were going to tumble off the bench. The woman went white
to the lips, and stole her disengaged hand into her husband's.
"Startlin' at first, hey?" he said, bravely winning back his
composure: "but 'tis wunnerful what control the driver has, they tell
me. They only employ the cleverest men--"
A rattle and roar drowned the rest of his words, and he blinked and
leant back, holding the woman's hand and tapping it softly as the
engine rushed down with a blast of white vapour hissing under its fore
wheels, and the carriages clanked upon each other, and the whole train
came to a standstill before us.
The station-master and porter walked down the line of carriages,
bawling out the name of the station. The driver leaned out over his
rail, and the guard, standing by the door of his van, with a green
flag under his arm, looked enquiringly at me and at the old couple on
the bench. But I had only strolled up to have a look at the new train,
and meant to resume my fishing as soon as it had passed. And the
miller sat still, holding his wife's hand.
They were staring with all their eyes--not resentfully, though face to
face with the enemy that had laid waste their habitation and swept all
comfort out of their lives; but with a simple awe. Manifestly, too,
they expected something more to happen. I saw the old woman searching
the incurious features of the few passengers, and I thought her own
features expressed some disappointment.
"This," observed the guard scornfully, pulling out his watch as he
spoke, "is what you call traffic in these parts."
The station-master was abashed, and forced a deprecatory laugh. The
guard--who was an up-country man--treated this laugh with contempt,
and blew his whistle sharply. The driver answered, and the train moved
I was gazing after it when a woeful exclamation drew my attention back
to the bench.
"Why, 'tis gone!"
"Gone?" echoed the miller's wife. "Of course 'tis gone; and of all the
dilly-dallyin' men, I must say, John, you'm the dilly-dalliest. Why
didn' you say we wanted to ride?"
"I thought, maybe, they'd have axed us. 'Twouldn' ha' been polite to
thrust oursel's forrard if they didn' want our company. Besides, I
thought they'd be here for a brave while--"
"You was always a man of excuses. You knew I'd set my heart 'pon this
I had left them to patch up their little quarrel. But the scene stuck
in my memory, and now, as I walked down the platform towards the
single figure on the bench, I wondered, amusedly, if the woman had at
length taken the ride alone, and if the procrastinating husband sat
here to welcome her back.
As I drew near, I took note of his clothes for the first time.
There was no white dust in the creases to-day. In fact, he wore the
I sat down beside him, and asked if he remembered a certain small boy
who had used to draw dace out of his mill-pond. With some difficulty
he recalled my features, and by decrees let out the story of his life
during the last ten years.
He and his wife had fought along in their new house, hiding their
discomfort from each other, and abiding the slow degrees by which
their dwelling should change into a home. But before that change was
worked, the woman fell under a paralytic stroke, and their savings, on
which they had just contrived to live, threatened to be swallowed up
by the doctor's bill. After considering long, the miller wrote off to
his only son, a mechanic in the Plymouth Dockyard, and explained the
case. This son was a man of forty or thereabouts, was married, and had
a long family. He could not afford to take the invalid into his house
for nothing; but his daughters would look after their grandmother and
she should have good medical care as well, if she came on a small
"So the only thing to be done, sir, was for my old woman to go."
"Oh, I went into the 'House.' You see, there wasn' enough for both,
I stared down the line to the spot where the mill-wheel had hummed
so pleasantly, and the compassionate sentence I was about to utter
withered up and died on my lips.
"But to-day--Oh, to-day, sir--"
"What's happening to-day?"
"She's comin' down to see me for an hour or two; an' I've got a
holiday to meet her. 'Tis our Golden Weddin', sir."
"But why are you meeting her at this station instead of Tregarrick?
She can't walk, and you have no horse and trap; whereas there's always
a 'bus at Tregarrick."
"Well, you see, sir, there's a very tidy little cottage below where
they sell ginger-beer, an' I've got a whack o' vittles in the basket
here, besides what William is bringin'--William an' his wife are
comin' down with her. They'll take her back by the last train up; an'
I thought, as 'twas so little a while, an' the benches here are so
comfortable, we'd pass our day 'pon the platform here. 'Tis within
sight o' the old home, too, or ruther o' the spot where the old home
used to be: an' though 'tis little notice she seems to take o' things,
one never can tell if poor creatures in that state _hain't_ pleased
behind all their dazed looks. What do you think, sir?"
The whistle sounded up the valley, and mercifully prevented my answer.
I saw the woman for an instant as she was brought out of the train and
carried to the bench. She did not recognise the man she had married
fifty years before: but as we moved out of the station, he was sitting
beside her, his face transfigured with a solemn joy.
"What ho, there!"
At this feudal summons I turned, and spied the Bashaw elbowing his way
towards me through the Fleet Street crowd, his hat and tie askew and
his big face a red beacon of goodwill. He fell on my neck, and we
"Is me recreant child returned? Is he tired at last av annihilatin'
all that's made to a green thought in a green shade? An' did he
homesickun by the Cornish Coast for the Street that Niver Sleeps,
an' the whirroo an' stink av her, an' the _foomum et opase
strepitumke_--to drink delight av battle with his peers, an' see the
great Achilles whom he knew--meanin' meself?" The Bashaw's style in
conversation, as in print, bristles with allusion.
I shook my head.
"I go back to-morrow, I hope. Business brought me up, and as soon as
it's settled I pack."
"Too quick despairer--but I take it ye'll be bound just now for the
Cheese. Right y'are; and I'll do meself the honour to lunch wid ye, at
Everyone knows and loves the Bashaw, _alias_ the O'Driscoll, that
genial failure. Generations of Fleet Street youths have taken advice
and help from him: have prospered, grown reputable, rich, and even
famous: and have left him where he stood. Nobody can remember the time
when O'Driscoll was not; though, to judge from his appearance, he must
have stepped upon the town from between the covers of an illustrated
keepsake, such as our grandmothers loved--so closely he resembles the
Corsair of that period, with his ripe cheeks, melting eyes, and black
curls that twist like the young tendrils of a vine. The curls are
dyed now-a-days, and his waist is not what it used to be in the
picture-books; but time has worn nothing off his temper. He is
perennially enthusiastic, and can still beat any journalist in London
in describing a Lord Mayor's Show.
"You behould in me," he went on, with a large hand on my shoulder,
"the victum av a recent eviction--a penniless outcast. 'Tis no
beggar's petition that I'll be profferin', however, but a bargun. Give
me a salad, a pint av hock, an' fill me pipe wid the Only Mixture,
an' I'll repay ye across the board wid a narrative--the sort av
God-forsaken, ord'nary thrifle that you youngsters turn into copy--may
ye find forgiveness! 'Tis no use to me whatever. Ted O'Driscoll's
instrument was iver the big drum, and he knows his limuts."
"Yes, me boy," he resumed, five minutes later, as he sat in the
Cheshire Cheese, beneath Dr. Johnson's portrait, balancing a
black-handled knife between his first and second fingers, and nodding
good-fellowship to every journalist in the room, "the apartment in
Bloomsbury is desolut; the furnichur'--what was lift av ut--disparsed;
the leopard an' the lizard keep the courts where O'Driscoll gloried
an' drank deep; an' the wild ass--meanin' by that the midical student
on the fourth floor--stamps overhead, but cannot break his sleep. I've
been evicted: that's the long and short av ut. Lord help me!--I'd have
fared no worse in the ould country--here's to her! Think what immortal
copy I'd have made out av the regrettable incident over there!" His
voice broke, but not for self-pity. It always broke when he mentioned
"Is it comfort ye'd be speakin'?" he began again, filling his glass.
"Me dear fellow, divvle a doubt I'll fetch round tight an' safe. Ould
Mick Sullivan--he that built the _Wild Girl_, the fastest vessel that
iver put out av Limerick--ould Mick Sullivan used to swear he'd make
any ship seaworthy that didn' leak worse than a five-barred gate. An'
that's me, more or less. I'm an ould campaigner. But listen to this.
Me feelin's have been wrung this day, and that sorely. I promised ye
the story, an' I must out wid ut, whether or no."
It was the hour when the benches of the Cheese begin to empty. My work
was over for the day, and I disposed myself to listen.
"The first half I spent at the acadimy where they flagellated the
rudiments av polite learnin' into me small carcuss, I made a friend.
He was the first I iver made, though not the last, glory be to God!
But first friendship is like first love for the sweet taste it puts in
the mouth. Niver but once in his life will a man's heart dance to that
chune. 'Twas a small slip of a Saxon lad that it danced for then: a
son av a cursed agint, that I should say it. But sorra a thought had I
for the small boccawn's nationality nor for his own father's trade.
I only knew the friendship in his pretty eyes an' the sweetness that
knit our two sowls togither, like David's an' Jonathan's. Pretty it
was to walk togither, an' discourse, an' get the strap togither for
heaven knows what mischief, an' consowl each other for our broken
skins. He'd a wonderful gift at his books, for which I reverenced um,
and at the single-stick, for which I loved um. Niver to this day did
I call up the ould play-ground widout behowldin' that one boy, though
all the rest av the faces (the master's included) were vague as
wather--wather in which that one pair av eyes was reflected.
"The school was a great four-square stone buildin' beside a windy
road, and niver a tree in sight; but pastures where the grass would
cut your boot, an' stone walls, an' brown hills around, like the rim
av a saucer. All belonged to the estate that Jemmy Nichol's father
managed--a bankrupt property, or next door to that. It's done better
since he gave up the place; but when I've taken a glance at the
landscape since (as I have, once or twice) I see no difference. To me
'tis the naked land I looked upon the last day av the summer half,
when I said good-bye to Jemmy; for he was lavin' the school that same
afternoon for Dublin, to cross over to England wid his father.
"Sick at heart was I, an' filled already wid the heavy sense of
solitariness, as we stood by the great iron gate wishin' one another
"'Jemmy avick,' says I, 'dull, dull will it be widout ye here. And,
Jemmy--send some av my heart back to me when ye write, as ye promise
"'Wheniver I lay me down, Ned,' he answered me (though by nature a
close-hearted English boy), 'I'll think o' ye; an' wheniver I rise up
I'll think o' ye. May the Lord do so to me, an' more also, if I cease
from lovin' ye till my life's end.'
"So we kissed like a pair av girls, and off he was driven, leavin' a
great hollow inside the rim av the hills. An' I ran up to the windy
dormitory, stumblin' at ivery third step for the blindin' tears, and
watched um from the window there growin' small along the road. 'Ye
Mountains av Gilboa,' said I, shakin' my fist at the hills, 'let there
be no dew, neither let there be rain upon ye;' for I hated the place
now that Jemmy was gone.
"Well, 'twas the ould story--letters at first in plenty, then fewer,
then none at all. Long before I came over to try my luck I'd lost all
news of Jem: didn't know his address, even. Nor till to-day have I set
eyes on um. He's bald-headed, me boy, and crooked-faytured, to-day;
but I knew him for Jemmy in the first kick av surprise.
"I was evicted this mornin', as I've towld ye. Six years I've hung me
hat up in those same apartments in Bloomsbury; and, till last year,
aisy enough I found me landlord over a quarter's rent or two overjue.
But last midsummer year the house changed hands; and bedad it began to
be 'pay or quit.' This day it was 'quit.' The new landlord came up the
stairs at the head av the ejectin' army: I got up from breakfast to
open the door to um. I'd never set eyes on um since I'd been his
tenant. Bedad, it was Jemmy!"
O'Driscoll paused, and poured himself another glass of hock.
"So I suppose," I said, "you ran into each other's arms, and kissed
again with tears?"
"Then you suppose wrong," said he, and sat for a moment or two silent,
fingering the stem of his glass. Then he added, more gently--
"I looked in the face av um, and said to meself, 'Jemmy doesn't
remember me. If I introduce meself, I wonder what'll he do? Will he
love me still, or will he turn me out?' An' by the Lord I didn't care
to risk ut! I couldn't dare to lose that last illusion; an' so I put
on me hat an' walked out, tellin' him nothing at all."
PARENTS AND CHILDREN.
I.--THE FAMILY BIBLE
There lived a young man at Tregarrick called Robert Haydon. His father
was not a native of the town, but had settled there early in life and
became the leading solicitor of the place. At the age of thirty-seven
he married the daughter of a county magistrate, and by this step
bettered his position considerably. By the time that Robert was born
his parents' standing was very satisfactory. They were living well
inside an income of L1,200 a year, had about L8,000 (consisting
of Mrs. Haydon's dowry and Mr. Haydon's bachelor savings) safely
invested, and were on visiting terms with several of the lesser county
In other respects they were just as fortunate. They had a sincere
affection for each other, and coincident opinions on the proper
conduct of life. They were people into whose heads a misgiving seldom
or never penetrated. Their religious beliefs and the path of social
duty stood as plain before them as their front gate and as narrow as
the bridge which Mohammedans construct over hell. They loved Bob--who
of four children was their only son--and firmly intended to do their
best for him; and as they knew what was best for him, it followed
that Bob must conform. He was a light-coloured, docile boy, with a
pleasantly ingenuous face and an affectionate disposition; and he
loved his parents, and learned to lean on them.
They sent him in time to Marlborough, where he wrote Latin verses of
slightly unusual merit, and bowled with a break from the off which
meant that there lay a thin vein of genius somewhere inside of him.
When once collared, his bowling became futile; success made it deadly,
and on one occasion in a school match against the M.C.C. he did things
at Lord's which caused a thin gathering of spectators--the elderly
men who never miss a match--to stare at him very attentively as he
returned to the pavilion. They thought it worth while to ask, "Which
'Varsity was he bound for?"
Bob was bound for neither. He had to inherit, and consented to
inherit, his father's practice without question. His consuming desire
to go up to Oxford he hinted at once, and once only, in a conversation
with his father; but Mr. Haydon "did not care to expose his son to the
temptations which beset young men at the Universities"--this was
the very text--and preferred to keep him under his own eye in the
seclusion of Tregarrick.
To a young man who is being shielded from temptation in a small
provincial town there usually happens one of two things. Either he
takes to drink or to discreditable essays in love-making. It is to
Bob's credit that he did neither; a certain delicate sanity in the
fellow kept him from these methods of killing time. Instead, he spent
his evenings at home; listened to his parents' talk; accepted their
opinions on human conduct and affairs; and tumbled honourably into
love with his sisters' governess.
Ethel Ormiston, the governess, was about a year older than Bob, good
to look at, and the only being who understood what ailed Bob's soul
during this time. She was in prison herself, poor woman. Mrs. Haydon
asserted afterwards that Miss Ormiston had "deliberately set herself
to inveigle" the boy; but herein Mrs. Haydon was mistaken. As a matter
of fact Bob, having discovered someone obliging and intelligent enough
to listen, dinned the story of his aspirations into the girl's ear
with the persistent egoism of a hobbedehoy. It must be allowed,
however, that the counsel she gave him would have annoyed his parents
"But I do sympathise with you," she said after listening to an
immoderately long and peevish harangue; "and I should advise you to
go to your father, as a first step, and ask to be paid a very small
salary for the work you do--enough to set up in lodgings alone. At
present you are pauperising yourself."
Bob did not quite understand--so she explained:
"You are twenty-one, and still receiving food and lodging from your
parents as a dole. At your age, if a man receives anything at all from
father or mother, he should be earning it as a right."
She spoke impatiently, and longed to add that he was also
impoverishing his intellect. She felt a touch of contempt for him; but
a touch of contempt may go with love, and, indeed, competent observers
have held that this mixture makes the very finest cement. Certain it
is that when Bob answered pathetically, "But I don't want to leave
this roof, I--I _can't_, Miss Ormiston, you know!" she missed her
opportunity of pointing out that this confession stultified every one
of his previous utterances. She began a sentence, indeed, but broke
off, with her grey eyes fixed on the ground; and when at length she
lifted them, Bob felt something take him by the throat. The few
words he proceeded to blurt out stunned him much as if a grenade had
exploded close at hand. But when Miss Ormiston burst into tears and
declared she must go upstairs at once and pack her box, he recovered,
and, looking about, found the aspect of the world bewilderingly
changed. There were valleys where hills had stood a moment before.
"I'll go at once and tell my father," he said, drawing a full breath
and looking like the man he was for the moment.
"And," sobbed Miss Ormiston, "I'll go at once and pack my box."
Herein she showed foresight, for as soon as Bob's interview with his
father was over, she was commanded to leave the premises in time to
catch the early train next morning.
Then the Haydon family sat down and talked to Bob.
They began by pooh-poohing the affair. Then, inconsequently, they
talked of disgrace, and of scratching his name out of the Family
Bible, and said they would rather follow him to his grave than see him
married to Miss Ormiston. Lastly, Mrs. Haydon asked Bob who had nursed
him, and taught him to walk, and read and know virtue when he saw it.
Bob, in the words of the poet, replied, "My mother." "Very well then,"
said Mrs. Haydon.
After forty-eight hours of this Bob wrote to Miss Ormiston, saying,
"My father's indignation is natural, and can only be conquered by
time. But I love you always."
Miss Ormiston replied, "Your father's indignation is natural, perhaps.
But if you love me, it might be conquered by something else," or words
to that effect. At any rate, her letter implied that as it was Bob,
and not his father, who proposed to make her a wife, it was on Bob,
and not on his father, that she laid the responsibility of fulfilling