Part 4 out of 6
common sense--but he hadn't the time to work it. Yet it works easy
enough if you keep hold of the argument. The Old Masters--we're always
having it dinned into us--didn't hustle; they mugged away at a Saint, or
a Virgin and Child, and never minded if it took 'em half a lifetime.
Well, putting aside their being paid by time and not by the job--because
comparisons on a monetary basis ain't fair, one way or another--for
better or worse, Carpaccio hadn't a dad in the Oil Trust--I say, putting
this aside, the credit goes to their temperament, or, if you like, part
to that and part to their environment. It wasn't _in_ them to hustle:
they felt no call for it, but just sat and painted and took their meals
regular. Now that spacious holy sauntering don't figure in my bill.
When I get hold of a notion--same as this Infant Shakespeare, f'r
instance--it's apt to take hold on me as a mighty fine proposition; and
then, before I can slap it on canvas, the thing's gone, faded, extinct,
like a sunset." He paused and snapped his fingers expressively.
"I paint like Hades, but it beats me by a head every time."
--"And what's the reason? I'm fickle, you say. But that's my
temperament, and before a man kicks against _that_ he ought to be clear
whether it's original sin or the outcome of his environment. See what I
Arthur Miles was too truthful to say that he did. Indeed, he understood
next to nothing of this harangue. But the young American's manner, so
eager, so boyishly confidential, set him at his ease; while beneath this
voluble flow of talk there moved a deeper current for which, all
unconsciously, the child's spirit thirsted. He did not realise this at
all, but his eyes shone while he listened.
"I'll put it this way: We're in the twentieth century. Between the old
masters and us something has happened. What? Why Speed, sir--modern
civilisation has discovered Speed. Railways--telegraphs--'phones--
elevators--automobiles--Atlantic records. These inventions, sir"--here
as will happen to Americans when they philosophise, Mr. Jessup slipped
into an oratorical style--"have altered man's whole environment.
Velasquez, sir, was a great artist, and Velasquez could paint, in his
day, to beat the band. But I argue that, if you resurrected Velasquez
to-day, he'd have to alter his outlook, and everything along with it,
right away down to his brush-work. And I go on to argue that if I can't
paint like Velasquez--which is a cold fact--it's equally a fact that, if
I could, I oughtn't. Speed, sir: that's the great proposition--the
principles of Speed as applied to the Fine Arts--"
Here he glanced towards the clearing between the willows, where at this
moment Tilda reappeared in a hurry, followed--at a sedater pace--by a
young woman in a pale blue sunbonnet.
"Oh, Arthur Miles, it's just splendid!" she announced, waving a letter
in her hand. And with that, noting the boy's attitude, she checked
herself and stared suspiciously from him to the artist. "Wot yer doin'
to 'im?" she demanded.
"Painting his portrait."
"Then you didn't ought, an' 'e'd no business to allow it!"
She stepped to the canvas, examined it quickly, anxiously, then with a
puzzled frown that seemed to relax in a sigh of relief--
"Well, it don't seem as you've done much 'arm as yet. But all the same,
you didn't ought."
"I want to know what's splendid?" the artist inquired, looking from her
to the girl in the sun-bonnet, who blushed rosily.
Tilda, for her part, looked at Arthur Miles and to him addressed her
"'Enery's broke it off!"
"Oh!" said the boy. He reflected a moment, and added with a bright
smile, "And what about Sam?"
"It's all 'ere"--she held out the letter; "an' we got to take it to 'im.
'Enery says that waitin's a weary business, but 'e leaves it to 'er;
on'y 'e's just found out there's insanity on _'is_ side o' the family.
That's a bit 'ard on Sam, o' course; but 'Enery doesn' know about Sam's
feelin's. 'E was just tryin' to be tactful."
"You'll pardon my curiosity," put in young Mr. Jessup; "but I don't seem
to get the hang of this. So far as I figure it up, you two children
jump out of nowhere and find yourselves here for the first time in your
lives; and before I can paint one of you--and I'm no snail--the other
walks into a public-house, freezes on to an absolute stranger, bustles
her through one matrimonial affair and has pretty well fixed her with
another. As a student of locomotion"--he turned and stared down upon
Tilda--"I'd like you to tell me how you did it."
"Well," she answered, "I felt a bit nervous at startin'. So I walked
straight in an' ordered two-penn'orth o' beer--an' then it all came
"Was that so?" He perpended this, and went on, "I remember reading
somewhere in Ruskin that the more a man can do his job the more he can't
say how. It's rough on learners."
But Tilda was not to be drawn into a disputation on Art.
"Come along," she called to the boy.
"You mean to take him from me in this hurry? . . . Well, that breaks
another record. I never up to now lost a model before I'd weakened on
him: it's not their way."
"That young man," said Tilda as, holding Arthur Miles by the hand, she
drew him away and left the pair standing where the level sun slanted
through the willows--"that young man," she repeated, turning for a last
wave of the hand to the girl in the sunbonnet, "is 'e a bit touched in
'is 'ead, now?"
The dusk gathered as they retraced their way along Avon bank, and by the
time they reached the fair meadow the shows were hanging out their
lights. The children gave the field a wide berth, and fetching a
circuit, reached a grey stone bridge over which the road led into the
They crossed it. They were now in Stratford, in a street lit with
gas-lamps and lined with bright shop-windows; and Tilda had scarcely
proceeded a dozen yards before she turned, aware of something wrong with
the boy. In truth, he had never before made acquaintance with a town at
night. Lamps and shop-fronts alike bewildered him. He had halted,
irresolute. He needed her hand to pilot him.
She gave it, puzzled; for this world so strange to him was the world she
knew best. She could not understand what ailed him. But it was
characteristic of Tilda that she helped first and asked questions
afterwards, if she asked them at all. Usually she found that, given
time, they answered themselves. It was well, perhaps, that she asked
none now. For how could the boy have explained that he seriously
believed these shops and lighted windows to be Eastcheap, Illyria,
Verona, and these passers-by, brushing briskly along the pavements, to
be Shakespeare's people--the authentic persons of the plays? He halted,
gazing, striving to identify this figure and that as it hurried between
the lights. Which was Mercutio ruffling to meet a Capulet? Was this
the watch passing?--Dogberry's watch? That broad-shouldered man--could
he be Antonio, Sebastian's friend, lurking by to his seaport lodging?
. . .
They were deep in the town, when he halted with a gasp and a start that
half withdrew his hand from her clasp. A pale green light shone on his
face. It shone out on the roadway from a gigantic illuminated bottle in
a chemist's shop; and in the window stood three similar bottles, each
with a gas-jet behind it--one yellow, one amethystine violet, one ruby
His grip, relaxed for a second, closed on her fingers again. He was
drawing her towards the window. They stared through it together, almost
pressing their faces to the pane.
Beyond it, within the shop, surrounded by countless spotlessly polished
bottles, his features reflected in a flashing mirror, stood an old man,
bending over a mahogany counter, while with delicate fingers he
rearranged a line of gallipots in a glass-covered case.
The boy paused, and Tilda heard him gulp down something in his throat.
"Suppose," he whispered, "if--if it should be God?"
"Ga'r'n!" said Tilda, pulling herself together.
"You're sure it's only Prospero?" he asked, still in a whisper.
Before she could answer him--but indeed she could have found no answer,
never having heard of Prospero--the boy had dragged her forward and
thrust open one of the glass swing-doors. It was he who now showed the
"Hey?" The old chemist looked up over his spectacles, held for an
instant a gallipot suspended between finger and thumb, and set it down
with nice judgment. He was extremely bald, and he pushed his spectacles
high up on his scalp. Then he smiled benevolently. "What can I do for
you, my dears?"
The boy stepped forward bravely, while Tilda--the game for once taken
out of her hands--could only admire.
"If you would tell us where the Island is--it is called Holmness--"
Tilda caught her breath. But the old chemist still bent forward, and
still with his kindly smile.
"Holmness?--an island?" he repeated in a musing echo. "Let me see--"
"We ain't _sure_ it's an island, sir," put in Tilda, plucking up her
courage a little.
"It will be in the Gazetteer, of course," said the old chemist with a
happy thought; "and you'll find that in the Free Library."
"Gazetteer"--"Free Library." To Tilda these were strange words--names
of wide oceans, perhaps, or of far foreign countries. But the boy
caught at the last word: he remembered Prospero's--
"Me, poor man, my library
Was dukedom large enough,"
And this made him more confident than ever.
"But why do you want to know?" the old chemist went on. "Is it home
"'E," said Tilda, indicating Arthur Miles, "'e wants to find a relation
'e's got there--a kind of uncle--in 'Olmness, w'ich is in the
Gazetteer," she repeated, as though the scent lay hidden in a nest of
boxes, "'w'ich is in the Free Library."
"If you don't mind waiting a moment, I'll take you there."
The children gasped.
He turned and trotted around the back of his mirrored screen.
They heard him call and announce to someone in the back parlour--but the
boy made sure that it was to Miranda in her inner cave--that he was
going out for a few minutes; and by and by he reappeared, wearing a dark
skull-cap, with an Inverness cape about his shoulders, and carrying in
his hand a stout staff. He joined them by lifting--another marvel--a
mahogany flap and walking straight through the counter! and so led the
way out of the shop and up the street to the right, while the children
in delicious terror trotted at his heels.
They came to an open doorway, with a lamp burning above it.
Dark wavering shadows played within, across the threshold; but the old
man stepped through these boldly, and pushed open the door of a lighted
room. The children followed, and stood for a moment blinking.
The room was lined with books--shelves upon shelves of books; and among
their books a dozen men sat reading in total silence. Some held thin,
unbound pages of enormous size--Arthur Miles was unacquainted with
newspapers--open before them; all were of middle age or over; and none
of them showed surprise at the new-comers. The old chemist nodded to
one or two, who barely returned his nod and forthwith resumed their
He walked straight across the room--this was wonderful too, that he
should know, among so many books, exactly where to search--adjusted his
spectacles, stooped with palms on knees, peered for ten seconds or so
along the backs of a row of tall volumes, drew forth one, and bearing it
to the table, laid it open under the lamplight.
"Let me see--let me see," he muttered, turning the pages rapidly.
"H--H.O.--here we are! Hockley--Hoe--no." He turned another three or
four pages. "Holbeach--Hollington--Hollingwood--Holme--ah, here we have
it!--Holmfirth, Holme Fell, Holme Moss, HOLMNESS."
He paused for a moment, scanning the page while they held their breath.
Then he read aloud, yet not so as to disturb the other students--
"'_Holmness_. An Island or Islet in the Bristol Channel--'"
"Ah!" The boy let his breath escape almost in a sob.
The old chemist looked up over the rims of his spectacles; but whether
questioning or because the sound had interrupted him, Tilda could not
"Yes," said the boy eagerly. "They thought that about--about the other
Island, sir. Didn't they?"
The old man, either not hearing or not understanding, looked down at the
page again. He read out the latitude and longitude--words and figures
which neither of the children understood.
"'Extreme length, three-quarters of a mile; width at narrowest point,
165 yards. It contains 356 acres, all of short grass, and affords
pasturage in summer for a few sheep from the mainland. There is no
harbour; but the south side affords fair anchorage for vessels
sheltering from N.W. winds. The distance from nearest point of coast is
three and three-quarter miles. Reputed to have served anciently as
_rendezvous_ for British pirates, and even in the last century as a
smugglers' _entrepot_. Geological formation--'"
"Is that all?" asked Tilda as the old man ceased his reading.
"That is all."
"But the river will take us to it," said the boy confidently.
"Hey? What river?"
"Why _this_ river--the Avon. It leads down to it--of course it must!"
"Why, yes," answered the old chemist after considering a while. "In a
sense, of course, it does. I hadn't guessed at your age you'd be so
good at geography. The Avon runs down to Tewkesbury, and there it joins
the Severn; and the Severn leads down past Gloucester and into the
"I was sure!"
The boy said it in no very loud tone: but something shook in his voice,
and at the sound of it all the readers looked up with curiosity--which
changed, however, to protest at sight of the boy's rags.
"S--sh--sh!" said two or three.
The old chemist gazed around apologetically, closed the volume, replaced
it, and shepherded the children forth.
BY WESTON WEIR.
"_Down below the Weir Brake
Journeys end in lovers' meeting:
You and I our way must take,
You and I our way will wend
Farther on, my only friend--
Farther on, my more than friend--
My sweet sweeting._"--COUNTRY SONG.
In a private apartment of the Red Cow Public-house Sam Bossom sat
doggedly pulling at a short pipe while Mr. Mortimer harangued him.
On the table stood a cheap, ill-smelling oil-lamp between two mugs of
beer. Sam had drawn his chair close, and from time to time reached out
a hand for his mug, stared into its depths as though for advice, and
gloomily replaced it. For the rest, he sat leaning a little forward on
his crossed arms, with set, square chin, and eyes fixed on a knot in the
deal table top.
Mr. Mortimer stood erect, in a declamatory attitude, with his back to
the exiguous fire. In the pauses of his delivery, failing to draw
response from Sam, he glanced down at his wife for approval. But she
too, seated on a low stool, made pretence to be absorbed in her
knitting; and her upward look, when her lord compelled it, expressed
deep sympathy rather than assent.
"Consequently," perorated Mr. Mortimer, "I conceive my personal
obligations to Mr. Hucks to be satisfied; practically satisfied, even in
law; as keen men of business, and allowing for contingencies, satisfied
abundantly. To liquidate the seven pounds fifteen and six owing to your
master you have, on your own admission, six-seven-nine in hand. We--my
Arabella and I--are offered a fortnight here at forty-four shillings
_per_ week between us. Not princely, I own. But suffer me to remind
you that it realises the dream, as perchance it affords the opportunity,
of a lifetime. She will be Ophelia. She, the embodiment (I dare to say
it) of Shakespeare's visionary heroine, will realise his conception
here, on this classic ground. And if, at short notice, I must content
myself with doubling the parts of Guildenstern and First Gravedigger,
believe me I do so cheerfully, pending fuller--er--recognition."
"My Stanislas demeans himself by accepting them," said Mrs. Mortimer,
still with her eyes on her knitting.
"I should hope so, my poppet. Still, there is Fat in the First
Gravedigger; and as our Gallic neighbours put it, everything comes to
him who knows how to wait."
"All very well," observed Sam, withdrawing the pipe from his mouth.
"But 'ow about the children? I put it to _you_, ma'am."
"Ah, poor things!" sighed Mrs. Mortimer, and hesitated. She was about
to say more, when her husband interrupted--
"I trust--I sincerely trust--that my failings, such as they are, have
ever leaned to the side of altruism. Throughout life I have been apt to
injure myself in befriending others; and you see "--Mr. Mortimer
flourished a hand--"where it has landed me. We have convoyed these
children to Stratford, to use the language of commerce, as _per_
contract. To ask me--to ask Mrs. Mortimer--to dance attendance upon
them indefinitely, at the sacrifice of these golden prospects--"
But at this point someone tapped at the door.
"Come in!" called Sam, swinging around in his chair, and with that,
jumping to his feet, let out a cheerful "hooray!"
"Same to you," said Tilda, nodding, as she admitted Arthur Miles and
closed the door behind him. "Anything to eat in this public?"
"I'll order in supper at once," said Sam.
"No you won't; not for five minutes any'ow. Well, 'ere we are--and 'ow
'ave you three been gettin' along since I saw yer last?"
"Oh, _we're_ all right; but all the better for seein' you. That's
"W'ich I looks towards yer, and I likewise bows," said Tilda graciously.
"But what's the matter?" she asked, glancing from one to the other.
"A stranger might say as you wasn' the best o' friends."
"Nothin'," answered Sam after a slight pause. "Bit of a argymint--
"'Tisn worth mentionin'." Sam glanced at the other two. "The theayter
'ere's offered Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer an engagement."
"We was discussin' whether they ought to take it."
"Well, you see--Glasson bein' about--"
"After them too, is 'e? Don't mean ter say _they've_ been an' lost
their fathers an' mothers? No? Then I don't see."
"Them 'avin' contracted to look after you--"
He paused here, as Tilda, fixing him with a compassionate stare, began
to shake her head slowly.
"You don't deserve it--you reelly don't," she said, more in sorrow than
in anger; then with a sharp change of tone, "And you three 'ave been
allowin', I s'pose, that our best chance to escape notice is travellin'
around with a fur coat an' a sixty-foot Theayter Royal? . . . W'y, wot
was it put Glasson on our tracks? . . . Oh, I'm not blamin' yer!
Some folks--most folks, I'm comin' to think--just can't 'elp
theirselves. But it's saddenin'."
"0' course," suggested Sam, "I might take on the job single-'anded.
My orders don't go beyond this place; but the beer'll wait, and 'Ucks
per'aps won't mind my takin' a 'oliday--not if I explain."
Tilda regarded him for a while before answering. When at length she
spoke, it was with a fine, if weary, patience--"Got pen-an'-ink, any of
Mrs. Mortimer arose, stepped to a bundle of shawls lying in a Windsor
chair, unwrapped a portable writing-case which appeared to be the kernel
of the bundle, and laid it on the table--all this with extreme docility.
"I'll trouble you to do the writin'," said Tilda, laying a sheet of
paper before Sam after she had chosen a pen and unsnapped the ink-case.
"Why not Mortimer?" he protested feebly.
"I wouldn' make Arguin' a 'abit, if I was you."
Sam collapsed and took the pen from her, after eyeing the palms of his
hands as though he had a mind to spit on them.
"Now write," she commanded, and began to dictate slowly.
She had taken command of the room. The Mortimers could only stand by
and listen, as helpless as Arthur Miles. She spoke deliberately,
patiently, indulging all Sam's slowness of penmanship--
"'DEAR Mr. 'UCKS,--This comes 'opin' to find you well as it leaves us
all at present. I promised to write in my own 'and; but time is
pressin', as I am goin' to tell you. So you must please put up with Mr.
Bossom, and excuse mistakes. I will sign this to let you know there is
no fake. We are at Stratford-on-Avon: w'ich for slow goin' must be a
record: but all well and 'earty. Mr. M. 'as 'ad luck with 'is actin'--'
"Six-seven-nine," answered Sam as he caught up with her.
Sam nodded. "Barrin', o' course, the bill for to-night's board an'
"'--Up to date 'e 'as paid S. Bossom over six pound, and 'as picked up
with an engagement 'ere. Dear sir, you will see there's no risk, and
S. Bossom will stay 'ere a week an' collect the balance.'"
"The Lord forbid!" Sam protested, laying down his pen.
"I'd like to know oo's writin' this letter--you or me?" She pointed to
the paper. "Go on, please. 'Dear sir, a party as we will call W. B.
'as joined the company. W'ich is strange to say--'"
Sam looked up again, but Tilda's finger still pointed firmly.
"'W'ich 'e too continues 'earty; but You-know-Oo is close after 'im;
and so, dear sir, 'avin' 'eard of an Island called 'Olmness, we are off
there to-morrow, and will let you know further. W'ich I remain yours
respectfully--' Now 'and over the pen an' let me sign."
"'Olmness? Where's 'Olmness?"
She took the pen from him and slowly printed TILDA, in roman capitals;
examined the signature, made sure it was satisfactory, and at length
"It's a Island, somewhere in the Bristol Channel, w'ich is in the Free
Library. We've just come from there."
"An' you reckon I got nothin' better to do than go gallivantin' with
you, lookin' for islands in the Bristol Channel?"
"--W'en I said, on'y a minute back," she answered with composure, "that
we were leavin' you in Stratford for a week."
"Ho!" he commented scornfully. "Leavin' me, are you? _You_ leavin'
_me?_ . . . Well, if that ain't good, I declare!"
She looked at him as one disdaining argument.
"I'll tell you all about it termorrow. Let's 'ave in supper now; for
we're 'ungry, Arthur Miles an' me, an' the Fat Lady'll be expectin' us.
Between two an' three miles down the river there's a lock, near a place
they call Weston--you know it, I reckon? Well, meet us there
termorrow--say eight o'clock--an' we'll 'ave a talk."
"The child," said Mr. Mortimer, "has evidently something up her sleeve,
and my advice is that we humour her."
Tilda eyed him.
"Yes, that's right," she assented with unmoved countenance. "'Ave in
supper and 'umour me."
The supper consisted of two dishes--the one of tripe-and-onions, the
other of fried ham. There were also potatoes and beer, and gin, Mr.
Mortimer being a sufferer from some complaint which made this cordial,
as Mrs. Mortimer assured them, "imperative." But to-night, "to
celebrate the reunion," Mr. Mortimer chose to defy the advice of the
many doctors--"specialists" Mrs. Mortimer called them--who had
successively called his a unique case; and after a tough battle--his
wife demurring on hygienic, Sam on financial, grounds--ordered in a
bottle of port, at the same time startling the waitress with the demand
that it must not be such as that--
"She set before chance-comers,
But such whose father-grape grew fat
On Lusitanian summers."
That the beverage fulfilled this condition may be doubted. But it was
certainly sweet and potent, and for the children at any rate a couple of
glasses of it induced a haze upon the feast--a sort of golden fog
through which Mr. Mortimer loomed in a halo of diffusive hospitality.
He used his handkerchief for a table-napkin, and made great play with it
as they do in banquets on the stage.
He pronounced the tripe-and-onions "fit for Lucullus," whatever that
might mean. He commended the flouriness of the potatoes, in the cooking
of which he claimed to be something of an amateur--"being Irish, my dear
Smiles, on my mother's side." He sipped the port and passed it for
"sound, sir, a wine of unmistakable body," though for bouquet not
comparable with the contents of a famous bin once the pride of his
paternal cellars at Scaresby Hall, Northamptonshire. He became
reminiscential, and spoke with a break in his voice of a certain--
"Banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights were fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he [Mr. Mortimer] departed."
Here he wiped his eyes with the handkerchief that had hitherto done duty
for napkin, and passed, himself, with equal adaptability to a new
_role_. He would give them the toast of "Their Youthful Guests."--
"They are, I understand, about to leave us. It is not ours to gaze too
closely into the crystal of fate; nor, as I gather, do they find it
convenient to specify the precise conditions of their departure. But of
this"--with a fine roll of the voice, and a glance at Mrs. Mortimer--"
of this we may rest assured: that the qualities which, within the span
of our acquaintance, they have developed, will carry them far; yet not
so far that they will forget their fellow-travellers whose privilege it
was to watch over them while they fledged their wings; and perhaps not
so far but they may hear, and rejoice in, some echo of that fame which
(if I read the omens aright)"--here again he glanced at his wife--
"the public will be unable much longer to withhold."
Altogether, and in spite of his high-flown language, Mr. Mortimer gave
the children an impression that he and his wife were honestly sorry to
part with them. And when the supper--protracted by his various arts to
the semblance of a banquet of many courses--came at length to an end,
Mrs. Mortimer dropped a quite untheatrical tear as she embraced them and
bade them good-bye.
Sam Bossom walked with them to the bridge and there took his leave,
promising to meet them faithfully on the morrow by Weston Lock.
"Though," said he, "there be scenes hereabouts that I finds painful, and
I'm doin' a great deal to oblige you."
"It's a strange thing to me," said Tilda reflectively, gazing after him
until his tall figure was lost in the darkness between the gas-lamps,
"'ow all these grown-ups get it fixed in their 'eads that _they're_
doin' the pertectin'. I reckon their size confuses 'em."
They found the Fat Lady sitting up and awaiting them in some anxiety.
"It's on account of the dog," she explained while 'Dolph devoured them
with caresses. "I managed to keep him pretty quiet all day, but when
the time came for me to perform, and I had to leave him locked in the
van here, he started turnin' it into a menagerie. Gavel has sent around
twice to say that if it's a case of 'Love me, love my dog,' him and
me'll have to break contracts."
"Leadin' this sort o' life don't suit 'im," said Tilda.
"No," Mrs. Lobb agreed; "he's drunk as a lord again, and his temper
"I meant the dog," she explained.
So the children, looking forth and judging the coast clear, took
Godolphus for a scamper across the dark meadow. They returned to find
their hostess disrobed and in bed, and again she had the tea-equipage
arrayed and the kettle singing over the spirit-lamp.
"It's healthful, no doubt--all this exercise," she remarked with a
somewhat wistful look at their glowing faces; "but it's not for me," she
added. "There's another thing you've taught me. I've often wondered,
sittin' alone here--supposin' as there had really been a Mr. Lobb--how I
could have done with the children. Now, my dears, it's pleasant havin'
your company; but there's an anxiety about it that I find wearin'.
A week of it, and I'd be losin' flesh. And the moral is, if you're an
artist you must make sacrifices."
The Fat Lady sighed. She sighed again and more heavily as, having
extinguished the lamp, she composed herself to sleep.
Early next morning they bade her farewell, and departed with her
blessing. Now Tilda the match-maker had arranged in her mind a very
pretty scene of surprise and reconciliation. But, as she afterwards
observed, "there's times when you worrit along for days together, an' no
seemin' good of it; an' then one mornin' you wakes up to find everything
goin' like clockwork, an' yerself standin' by, an' watchin', an' feelin'
So it happened this morning as they drew near to Weston. There in the
morning light they saw the broken lock with a weir beside it, and over
the weir a tumble of flashing water; an islet or two, red with stalks of
loosestrife; a swan bathing in the channel between. And there, early as
they came, Sam Bossom stood already on the lock-bank; but not awaiting
them, and not alone. For at a distance of six paces, perhaps, stood the
girl of the blue sun-bonnet, confronting him.
"And I got 'er promise to wait till I called 'er. It's--it's
Sam turned and caught sight of them. He made as though to leave the
girl standing, and came a pace towards them, but halted. There was a
great awe in his face.
"'Enery's broke it off!" he announced slowly, and his voice trembled.
"I could a-told yer that." Tilda's manner was short, as she produced
the letter and handed it to him. "There--go to 'im," she said in a
gentler voice as she slipped past the girl. "'E's good, as men go; and
She walked resolutely away down the path.
"But where are you going?" asked Arthur Miles, running and catching up
"Farther on, as usual," she snapped. "Can't yer see they don't want
"Because they're love-makin'."
He made no answer, and she glanced at his face. Its innocent wonderment
nettled her the more, yet she had no notion why. She walked on faster
than ever. In the clearing by the "Four Alls" they came on the young
American. He had packed up his camp furniture, and was busy stowing it
in the canoe.
"Hullo!" he greeted them. "Can't stay for another sitting, if that's
what you're after."
With Tilda in her present mood the boy felt a sudden helplessness.
The world in this half-hour--for the first time since his escape--had
grown unfriendly. His friends were leaving him, averting their faces,
turning away to their own affairs. He stretched out his hands.
"Won't you take us with you?"
Mr. Jessup stared.
"Why, certainly," he answered after a moment. "Hand me the valise,
there, and nip on board. There's plenty of room."
He had turned to Tilda and was addressing her. She obeyed, and handed
the valise automatically. Certainly, and without her help, the world
was going like clockwork this morning.
"_ O, my heart! as white sails shiver,
And crowds are passing, and banks stretch wide,
How hard to follow, with lips that quiver,
That moving speck on the far-off side._"--JEAN INGELOW.
They were afloat: Arthur Miles in the bows, Tilda amidships, and both
facing Mr. Jessup, who had taken the stern seat, and there steered the
canoe easily with a single paddle, as the Indians do.
They shot under the scour of a steep bank covered with thorns and
crab-apple trees and hummocks of sombre grass. Beyond this they drifted
down to Welford Weir and Mill, past a slope where the yellowing
chestnuts all but hid Welford village. They had to run the canoe ashore
here, unlade her of the valises and camp furniture, and carry her across
the weir. The children enjoyed this amazingly.
"Boy, would you like to take a paddle?" asked Mr. Jessup.
Now this was what Arthur Miles had been desiring for twenty minutes
past, and with all his soul. So now, the canoe having been launched
again and Tilda transferred to the bows, he found himself perched
amidships, with his gaze fixed on the reaches ahead, and in his hand a
paddle, which he worked cautiously at first, following Mr. Jessup's
instructions. But confidence soon grew in him, and he began to put more
vigour into his strokes. "Right, sonny," and "Better and better"
commented his instructor, for the child took to it as a duck to water.
In twenty minutes or so he had learnt to turn his paddle slantwise after
the stroke, and to drag it so as to assist the steering; which was not
always easy, for here and there a snag blocked the main channel, or a
pebbly shallow where the eye had to search for the smooth V that signals
the best water. Tilda watched him, marvelling at his strange aptitude,
and once, catching her eye, he nodded; but still, as he mastered the
knack, and the stroke of the paddle became more and more mechanical, his
attention disengaged itself from the moment--from the voice of Mr.
Jessup astern, the girl's intent gaze, the swirl about the blade, the
scent and pageant of the green banks on either hand--and pressed forward
to follow each far curve of the stream, each bend as it slowly unfolded.
Bend upon bend--they might fold it a hundred deep; but somewhere ahead
and beyond their folding lay the Island.
In this wise they passed under a grassy hillside set with trimmed elms,
and came to Grange Mill and another portage; and below Grange to
Bidford, where there is a bridge of many arches carrying the old Roman
road called Icknield Street; and from the bridge and grey little town
they struck into a long reach that ran straight into the dazzle of the
sun--through flat meadows at first, and then, with a turn, under the
steep of Marcleeve Hill, that here borders Avon to the south for miles.
Here begin the spurs of the Cotswolds--scars of green and red marle
dotted with old thorn trees or draped with ash and maple, or smothered
with trails of the Traveller's Joy.
Mr. Jessup, whose instructions had become less and less frequent, and
indeed were by this time patently superfluous, so quick the boy showed
himself to anticipate the slightest warning, hereabouts engaged Tilda in
"He's a wonder, this child! I don't know where he comes from, or you,
or how far you 're willing I should take you. In fact, there's an
unholy flavour of kidnapping about this whole adventure. But I guess,
if I wanted to return you, there are no railways hereabouts. We must
strike the first depot we come to, and I'll frank you back, with
apologies to your parents."
"We got none," Tilda assured him.
"For a steady-going country like England that's unusual, eh?"
"There is a bit o' that about us," she conceded after a pause.
"But you must belong to somebody?" he urged.
"_He_ do . . . And that's what I got to find out. But it'll be all
right when we get to 'Olmness."
"Holmness?" queried Mr. Jessup. "Where's Holmness?"
"It's an Island, in the Bristol Channel, w'ich is in the Free Library.
We're goin' that way, ain't we?"
"That's our direction, certainly; though we're a goodish way off."
"No 'urry," said Tilda graciously. "We'll get there in time."
Mr. Jessup smiled.
"Thank you. I am delighted to help, of course. You'll find friends
"Though, as far as that goes," she allowed yet more graciously, "I'm
not conplainin'. We've made friends all the way yet--an' you're the
"I am honoured, though in a sense I hardly deserve it. You did--if I may
say--rather take charge of me, you know. Not that I mind. This is my
picnic, and I don't undertake to carry you farther than Tewkesbury.
But is does occur to me that you owe me something on the trip."
"You can put us ashore where you like," said she; "but one d. is all I
'ave in my pocket, as may be 'twould a-been fairer t' a-told yer."
The young man laughed outright and cheerfully as he headed the canoe for
shore. They were close upon another weir and an ancient mill, whence,
as they landed for another portage, clouds of fragrant flour-dust issued
from the doorway, greeting their nostrils.
"It's this way," he explained. "I'm here to sketch Shakespeare's
Country, and the trouble with me is, I've a theory."
"It's--it's not a bad one, I 'ope?"
She hazarded this sympathetically, never having heard of a theory.
It sounded to her like the name of an internal growth, possibly
"Not half bad," he assured her. He was cheerful about it, at any rate.
"I'm what they call an Impressionist. A man--I put it to you--has got
to hustle after culture in these days and take it, so to speak, in
tabloids. Now this morning, before you came along, I'd struck a
magnificent notion. As I dare say you've been told, the way to get at
the essence of a landscape is to half-close your eyes--you get the
dominant notes that way, and shed the details. Well, I allowed I'd go
one better, and see the whole show in motion. Have you ever seen a
biograph--or a cinematograph, as some call it?"
"'Course I 'ave," said Tilda. "There was one in Maggs's Circus."
"Then you'll have no trouble in getting the hang of my idea.
My complaint with Art is that it don't keep itself abreast of modern
inventions. The cinematograph, miss, has come to stay, and the Art of
the future, unless Art means to get left, will have to adopt its
principles . . . Well, I couldn't put Shakespeare's country into motion;
but on the river I could put myself in motion, which amounts to the same
thing. With the cinematograph, I grant you, it's mostly the scene
that's that in motion while _you_ sit still; but there's also a dodge by
which _you're_ in the railway car and flying past the scenery."
"Maggs 'ad 'old of that trick too. 'E called it _A Trip on the Over'ead
Railway, New York._"
"Right; and now you see. I allowed that by steering down Avon and
keeping my eyes half closed, by the time I reached Tewkesbury I'd have
Shakespeare's environment all boiled down and concentrated; and at
Tewkesbury I 'd stop and slap in the general impression while it was
fresh. But just here I ran my head full-butt against another principle
of mine, which is _plein air_."
"Why, that a landscape should be painted where it stands, and not in the
"You couldn' very well paint with one 'and an' paddle with the other,"
she began; but added in a moment, "Why there's Arthur Miles, o' course!
doin', as ush'al, while the others are talkin'. That child brings luck
w'erever 'e goes."
"You think that I could change places and trust him to steer."
"Think? Why for the las' ten minutes 'e _'as_ been steerin'?"
So below Cleeve they changed places, Mr. Jessup settling himself
amidships with his apparatus for sketching, while Arthur Miles was
promoted--if the word may be allowed--to the seat astern. For a while
he took his new responsibility gravely, with pursed lips and eyes intent
on every stroke of the paddle, watching, experimenting, as a turn of the
wrist more or less righted or deflected the steering. But in a few
minutes he had gained confidence, and again his gaze removed itself from
the swirl around the blade and began to dwell on the reaches ahead.
They were entering the rich vale of Evesham. On their left the slopes
of Marcleeve Hill declined gradually to the open plain; on their right,
behind a long fringe of willows, stretched meadow after meadow, all
green and flat as billiard-tables. They were passing down through the
scene of a famous battle. But the children had never heard of Evesham
fight; and Mr. Jessup had mislaid his guide-book. He sat with
half-closed eyes, now and again dipping his brush over the gunwale, and
anon, for a half-minute or so, flinging broad splashes of water-colour
upon his sketching-pad.
They were nearing the ferry at Harvington, and already began to lift the
bold outline of Bredon Hill that shuts out the Severn Valley, when
without warning the boy broke into song . . .
It was the strangest performance. It had no tune in it, no intelligible
words; it was just a chant rising and falling, as the surf might rise
and fall around the base of that Island for which his eyes sought the
green vale right away to the horizon.
Mr. Jessup looked up from his work. His eyes encountered Tilda's, and
Tilda's were smiling. But at the same time they enjoined silence.
The boy sang on. His voice had been low and tentative at first; but
now, gathering courage, he lifted it upon a note of high challenge. He
could not have told why, but he sang because he was steering towards his
fate. It might lie far, very far, ahead; but somewhere ahead it lay,
beyond the gradually unfolding hills; somewhere in the west these would
open upon the sea, and in the sea would be lying his Island. His song
already saluted it.
"I am coming!" it challenged. "O my fate, be prepared for me!"
So they floated down to Harvington Mill and Weir; and as Mr. Jessup
half-turned his head, warning him to steer for shore, the boy's voice
faltered and dropped suddenly to silence, as a lark drops down from the
sky. Tilda saw him start and come to himself with a hot blush, that
deepened when she laughed and ordered 'Dolph to bark for an encore.
They ported the canoe and luggage down a steep and slippery overfall,
launched her again, and shot down past Harvington Weir, where a crowd of
small sandpipers kept them company for a mile, flitting ahead and
alighting but to take wing again. Tilda had fallen silent. By and by,
as they passed the Fish and Anchor Inn, she looked up at Mr. Jessup and
"But if you want to paint fast, why not travel by train?"
"I thought of it," Mr. Jessup answered gravely. "But the railroad
hereabouts wasn't engineered to catch the sentiment, and it's the
sentiment I'm after--the old-world charm of field and high-road and
leafy hedgerow, if you understand me." Here he paused of a sudden, and
laid his sketch-block slowly down on his knee. "Je-hosaphat!" he
exclaimed, his eyes brightening. "Why ever didn't I think of it?"
"Think of wot?"
He nodded his head.
"You'll see, missie, when we get to Evesham! You've put a notion into
me--and we're going to rattle up Turner and make him hum. The
guide-books say he spent considerable of his time at Tewkesbury.
I disremember if he's buried there; but we'll wake his ghost, anyway."
So by Offenham and Dead Man Eyot they came to the high embankment of a
railway, and thence to a bridge, and a beautiful bell-tower leapt into
view, soaring above the mills and roofs of Evesham.
At Evesham, a little above the Workman Gardens, they left the canoe in
charge of a waterman, and fared up to the town, where Mr. Jessup led
them into a palatial hotel--or so it seemed to the children--and ordered
a regal luncheon. It was served by a waiter in a dress suit; an ancient
and benign-looking person, whose appearance and demeanour so weighed
upon Tilda that, true to her protective instinct, she called up all her
courage to nod across the table at Arthur Miles and reassure him.
To her stark astonishment, the boy was eating without embarrassment, as
though to be waited on with this pomp had been a mere matter of course.
When the cheese was brought, Mr. Jessup left them on a trivial pretext,
and absented himself so long that at length she began to wonder what
would happen if he had "done a bilk," and left them to discharge the
score. The waiter hovered around, nicking at the side-tables with his
napkin and brushing them clean of imaginary crumbs.
Tilda, eking out her last morsel of biscuit, opined that their friend
would surely be back presently. She addressed the remark to Arthur
Miles; but the waiter at once stepped forward.
"It is to be 'oped!" said he, absent-mindedly dusting the back of a
Just at this moment a strange throbbing noise drew him to the window, to
gaze out into the street. It alarmed the children too, and they were
about to follow and seek the cause of it, when Mr. Jessup appeared in
"I've managed it!" he announced, and calling to the waiter, demanded the
The waiter turned, whisked a silver-plated salver apparently out of
nowhere, and presented a paper upon it.
"Nine-and-six--_and_ one is ten-and-six. I thank you, sir," said the
waiter, bowing low.
He was good enough to follow them to the doorway, where Mr. Jessup waved
a hand to indicate a motor standing ready beside the pavement, and told
the children to tumble in.
"I've taken your tip, you see."
"My tip?" gasped Tilda.
"Well, you gave me the hint for it, like Sir Isaac Newton's apple.
I've hired the car for the afternoon; and now, if you'll tuck yourselves
in with these rugs, you two'll have the time of your lives."
He shut the door upon them, and mounted to a seat in front. The car was
already humming and throbbing, and the hired chauffeur, climbing to a
seat beside him, started her at once. They were off.
They took the road that leads northward out of Evesham, and then,
turning westward, rounds the many loops and twists of Avon in a long
curve. In a minute or so they were clear of the town, and the car
suddenly gathered speed. Tilda caught her breath and held tight; but
the pace did not seem to perturb the boy, who sat with his lips parted
and his gaze fixed ahead. As for Mr. Jessup, behind the shelter of the
wind-glass he was calmly preparing to sketch.
They had left the pastures behind, and were racing now through a land of
orchards and market gardens, ruled out and planted with plum trees and
cabbages in stiff lines that, as the car whirled past them, appeared to
be revolving slowly, like the spokes of a wheel. Below, on their left,
the river wandered--now close beneath them, now heading south and away,
but always to be traced by its ribbon of green willows. Thus they spun
past Wyre, and through Pershore--Pershore, set by the waterside, with
its plum orchards, and noble tower and street of comfortable red
houses--and crossed Avon at length by Eckington Bridge, under Bredon
Hill. Straight ahead of them now ran a level plain dotted with poplars,
and stretched--or seemed to stretch--right away to a line of heights,
far and blue, which Mr. Jessup (after questioning the chauffeur)
announced to be the Malverns.
At Bredon village just below, happening to pass an old woman in a red
shawl, who scurried into a doorway at the toot-toot of their horn, he
leant back and confided that the main drawback of this method of
sketching (he had discovered) was the almost total absence of middle
distance. He scarcely saw, as yet, how it could be overcome.
"But," said he thoughtfully, "the best way, after all, may be to ignore
it. When you come to consider, middle distance in landscape is more or
less of a convention."
Nevertheless Mr. Jessup frankly owned that his experiments so far
"I'll get the first principles in time," he promised, "and the general
hang of it. Just now I'm being fed up with its limitations."
He sat silent for a while gazing ahead, where the great Norman tower and
the mill chimneys of Tewkesbury now began to lift themselves from the
plain. And coming to the Mythe Bridge, he called a halt, bade the
children alight, and sent the car on to await him at an hotel in the
High Street, recommended by the chauffeur.
"This," said he, examining the bridge, "appears to be of considerable
antiquity. If you'll allow me, I'll repose myself for twenty minutes in
the hoary past." Unfolding a camp stool, he sat down to sketch.
The children and 'Dolph, left to themselves, wandered across the bridge.
The road beyond it stretched out through the last skirts of the town,
and across the head of a wide green level dotted with groups of
pasturing kine; and again beyond this enormous pasture were glimpses of
small white sails gliding in and out, in the oddest fashion, behind
clumps of trees and--for aught they could see--on dry land.
The sight of these sails drew them on until, lo! on a sudden they looked
upon a bridge, far newer and wider than the one behind them, spanning a
river far more majestic than Avon. Of the white sails some were tacking
against its current, others speeding down stream with a brisk breeze;
and while the children stood there at gaze, a small puffing tug emerged
from under the great arch of the bridge with a dozen barges astern of
her in a long line--boats with masts, and bulkier than any known to
Tilda. They seemed to her strong enough to hoist sail and put out to
sea on their own account, instead of crawling thus in the wake of a tug.
There was an old road-mender busy by the bridge end, shovelling together
the road scrapings in small heaps. He looked up and nodded. His face
was kindly, albeit a trifle foolish, and he seemed disposed to talk.
"Good day!" said Tilda. "Can you tell us where the boats are goin'?"
The old road mender glanced over the parapet.
"Eh? The trows, d'ee mean?"
"Trows? Is that what they are?"
"Aye; and they be goin' down to Glo'ster first, an' thence away to
Sharpness Dock. They go through the Glo'ster an' Berkeley, and at
Sharpness they finish."
"Is that anywhere in the Bristol Channel?" The old man ruminated for a
"You may call it so. Gettin' on for that, anyway. Fine boats they be;
mons'rously improved in my time. But where d'ee come from, you two?--
here in Tewkesbury, an' not to know about Severn trows?"
"We've--er--jus' run over here for the afternoon, in a motor," said
Tilda--and truthfully; but it left the old man gasping.
The children strolled on, idling by the bridge's parapet, watching the
strong current, the small boats as they tacked to and fro. Up stream
another tug hove in sight, also with a line of trows behind her. This
became exciting, and Tilda suggested waiting and dropping a stone--a
very small one--upon the tug's deck as she passed under the archway.
"If only she could take us on!" said Arthur Miles.
"We'd 'ave to drop a big stone for _that_," Tilda opined.
And with that suddenly 'Dolph, who had been chasing a robin, and
immersed in that futile sport, started to bark--uneasily and in small
yaps at first, then in paroxysms interrupted by eager whines.
"W'y wot the matter with 'im?" asked Tilda.
For the dog had sprung upon the parapet and stood there, with neck
extended and body quivering as he saluted the on-coming tug.
"'E can't see . . . No, surely, it can't be--" said Tilda, staring.
The tug was so near by this time that they could read her name, _Severn
Belle_, on the bows. Two men stood on her deck--one aft at the tiller
(for she had no wheel-house), the other a little forward of midships,
leaning over the port bulwarks; this latter a stoker apparently, or an
engineer, or a combination of both; for he was capless, and wore a
smoke-grimed flannel shirt, open at the breast.
Tilda could see this distinctly as the tug drew near; for the man was
looking up, staring steadily at the dog on the parapet. His chest was
naked. A cake of coal-dust obscured his features.
"It can't be," said Tilda; and then, as the tug drew close, she flung
herself against the parapet. "Bill! Oh, Bill!"
"Cheer-oh!" answered a voice, now already among the echoes of the arch.
"Oh, Bill! . . . _Where?_" She had run across the roadway. "Oh, Bill--
The boy running too--yet not so quickly as 'Dolph--caught a vision of a
face upturned in blankest amazement as tug and barges swept down stream
out of reach. But still Tilda hailed, beating back the dog, to silence
"Oh, Bill! Where're yer goin'?"
As she had cried it, so in agony she listened for the response.
It came; but Arthur Miles could not distinguish the word, nor tell if
Tilda had heard better. She had caught his hand, and they were running
together as fast as their small legs could carry them.
The chase was hopeless from the first. The tug, in midstream, gave no
sign of drawing to shore. Somehow--but exactly how the boy could never
tell--they were racing after her down the immense length of the green
It seemed endless, did this meadow. But it ended at last, by a grassy
shore where the two rivers met, cutting off and ending all hope.
And here, for the first and only time on their voyage, all Tilda's
courage forsook her.
"Bill! Oh, Bill!" she wailed, standing at the water's edge and
stretching forth her hands across the relentless flood.
But the dog, barking desperately beside her, drowned her voice, and no
THE S.S. EVAN EVANS
"_Then three times round went our gallant ship._"--OLD SONG.
The time is next morning, and the first grey hour of daylight.
The scene, an unlovely tidal basin crowded with small shipping--
schooners and brigantines dingy with coal-dust, tramp steamers, tugs,
Severn trows; a ship lock and beyond it the river, now grown into a
broad flood all grey and milky in the dawn.
Tilda and Arthur Miles sat on the edge of the basin, with Godolphus
between them, and stared down on the deck of the _Severn Belle_ tug,
waiting for some sign of life to declare itself on board. By leave of a
kindly cranesman, they had spent the night in a galvanised iron shed
where he stored his cinders, and the warmth in the cinders had kept them
comfortable. But the dawn was chilly, and now they had only their
excitement to keep them warm. For some reason best known to himself the
dog did not share in this excitement, and only the firm embrace of
Tilda's arm around his chest and shoulders held him from wandering.
Now and again he protested against this restraint.
Tilda's eyes never left the tug; but the boy kept intermittent watch
only, being busy writing with the stump of a pencil on a scrap of paper
he had spread on the gritty concrete. Somewhere in the distance a
hooter sounded, proclaiming the hour. Still but the thinnest thread of
smoke issued from the tug's funnel.
"It's not like Bill," Tilda muttered. "'E was always partic'lar about
early risin' . . . An' I don't know what _you_ feel like, Arthur Miles,
but _I_ could do with breakfast."
"And a wash," suggested the boy.
"It don't look appetisin'--not even if we knew 'ow to swim," said Tilda,
relaxing her watch for an instant only, and studying the water in the
basin. "We must 'old on--'old on an' wait till the clouds roll by--that
was one of Bill's sayin's. An' to think of 'im bein' so near!"
Tilda never laughed, but some mirth in her voice anticipated Bill's
astonishment. "Now read me what yer've written."
"It's no more than what you told me."
"Never mind; let's 'ear if it's c'rect."
Arthur Miles read--
'DEAR MR. HUCKS,--This comes to say that we are not at Holmness
yet, but getting on. This place is called Sharpness, and does a
big trade, and the size of the shipping would make you wonder,
after Bursfield. We left S.B. and the M.'s at Stratford, as _per_
"What does that mean?" asked the scribe, looking up.
"It's what they always put into business letters."
"But what does it mean?"
"It means--well, it means you're just as sharp as th' other man, so 'e
needn't try it on."
'--as _per_ my favour of yesterday. And just below Stratford we
picked up with a painter from America, but quite the gentleman, as
you will see by his taking us on to a place called Tukesberry in a
real moter car.'
[Let it be pleaded for Arthur Miles that his spelling had been
outstripped of late by his experience. His sentences were as Tilda had
constructed them in dictation.]
'Which at Tukesberry, happening to come across a gentleman friend of
mine, as used to work for Gavel, and by name William, this American
"Sounds odd, don't it?" interposed Tilda.
"There's too much about gentlemen in it," the boy suggested.
"Well, but _you're_ a gentleman. We shall find that out, right enough,
when we get to 'Olmness. 'Ucks don't know that, and I'm tonin' 'im up
to it. . . . You 'aven't put in what I told yer--about me tellin' Mr.
Jessup as Bill was my brother-in-law an' 'is callin' back to us that
'e'd look after us 'ere."
There was reason for Tilda's averted gaze. She had to watch the tug's
deck. But why did her face flush?
"Because it isn't true."
"It got us 'ere," she retorted. "True or not, 'twouldn't do yer no 'arm
to allow _that_, seemin' to me."
Although she said it defiantly, her tone carried no conviction.
Arthur Miles made no response, but read on--
'--this American gentleman paid our fares on by railway to join him,
and gave us half a suffering for X.'s.'
"Is that right?"
"Sure," said Tilda. "Gold money is all sufferin's or 'arf-sufferin's.
I got it tied in a corner o' what Miss Montagu taught me to call my
shimmy--shifts bein' vulgar, she said."
'--So here we are, and W.B. capital. Which we hope to post our next
from Holmness, and remain,'
'William will post this.'
"But you're not sure of that, you know," he urged. Hereat Tilda found
the excuse she wanted for losing her temper (for her falsehood--or,
rather, the boy's pained disapproval of it--yet shamed her).
"'Oo brought yer 'ere, I'd like to know? And where'd yer be at this
moment if 'twasn't for me an' 'Dolph? In Glasson's black 'ole, that's
where yer'd be! An' now sittin' 'ere so 'igh-an'-mighty, an'
The boy's eyes had filled with tears.
"But I'm not--I'm not!" he protested. "Tilda!--"
"As if," she jerked out between two hard, dry sobs (Tilda, by the way,
never wept)--"as if I wasn' _sure_, after chasin' Bill all this way on
purpose, and 'im the best of men!"
Just at this moment there emerged from the after-companion of the
_Severn Belle_, immediately below them, a large head shaped like an
enormous pear--shaped, that is, as if designed to persuade an upward
passage through difficult hatchways, so narrow was the cranium and so
extremely full the jowl. It was followed by a short bull neck and a
heavy pair of shoulders in a shirt of dirty grey flannel; and having
emerged so far, the apparition paused for a look around. It was the
steersman of yesterday afternoon.
"'Ullo, below there!" Tilda hailed him.
"'Ullo yerself!" The man looked up and blinked. "W'y, if you ain't the
gel and boy?"
"Where's Bill?" she asked, cutting him short.
"Yes, Bill--w'ich 'is full name is William; an' if 'e's sleepin' below
I'd arsk yer to roust 'im out."
"Oh," said the stout man slowly, "Bill, is it?--Bill? Well, he's gone."
"Aye; 'e's a rollin' stone, if you wants my pinion--'ere ter-day an'
gone ter-morrow, as you might put it. There's plenty o' that sort
"D'yer mean--ter say as Bill's--_gone?_"
"Maybe I didn' make myself clear," answered the stout man politely.
"Yes, gone 'e 'as, 'avin' only shipped on for the trip. At Stourport.
Me bein' short-'anded and 'im fresh off the drink."
"But Bill doesn't drink," protested Tilda, indignant in dismay.
"Oh, doesn't 'e? Then we're talkin' of two different parties, an' 'ad
best begin over again. . . . But maybe," conceded the stout man on
second thoughts, "you only seen 'im sober. It makes a difference.
The man I mean's dossin' ashore somewhere. An', I should say, drinkin'
'ard," he added reflectively.
But here Godolphus interrupted the conversation, wriggling himself
backwards and with a sudden yap out of Tilda's clutch. Boy and girl
turned, and beheld him rush towards a tall, loose-kneed man, clad in
dirty dungaree, dark-haired and dark-avised with coal-dust, who came
slouching towards the quay's edge.
"Bill! Oh, Bill!" Tilda sprang up with a cry. Perhaps the cry was
drowned in the dog's ecstatic barking. The man--he had obviously been
drinking--paid no attention to either; or, rather, he seemed (since he
could not disregard it) to take the dog's salutation for granted, and
came lurching on, fencing back 'Dolph's affectionate leaps.
He advanced unsteadily towards the edge of the basin, not perceiving, or
at any rate not recognising the children, though close to them.
"Let my cap be'ind," he grumbled; "elst they stole it."
He drew himself up at the water's edge, a dozen yards or so wide of the
_Severn Belle's_ stern.
"Oh, Bill!" Tilda flung herself before him as he stood swaying.
"'Ullo!" He recognised her slowly. "And wot might _you_ be doin' 'ere?
Come to remember, saw you yesterday--you _and_ your frien'. Yes, o'
course--ver' glad t' meet yer--_an'_ yer friend--any friend o' yours
welcome, 'm sure."
He stretched out a hand of cordiality towards Arthur Miles.
"Oh, Bill--we've been countin' on yer so--me an' 'Dolph. This is Arthur
Miles, an' I've told 'im all along as you're the best and 'elpfullest
o' men--an' so you are, if you pull yerself together. 'E only wants to
get to a place called 'Olmness, w'ich is right below 'ere--"
"It's an Island, somewhere in the Bristol Channel. It--it _can't_ be
far, Bill--an' I got 'arf-a-sufferin'--"
"Where?" asked Bill with unexpected promptness.
"Never you mind, just now."
Bill assumed an air of injured but anxious virtue.
"'Course, if you don't _choose_ to trust me, it's another matter . . .
but I'd like to know you came by it honest."
"Of course she did!" Arthur Miles spoke up to the rescue hotly.
Bill turned a stare on him, but dropped it, somewhat abashed.
"Oh, well, I'm not sayin' . . ." he muttered sulkily, and then with a
change of tone, "But find yer an Island--somewheres in the Bristol
Channel--me! It's ridicklus."
Tilda averted her face, and appeared to study the masts of the shipping.
Her cheek was red and something worked in her throat, but in a few
seconds she answered quite cheerfully--
"Well, the first thing is to pick up a breakfast. If Bill can't find us
an Island, maybe 'e can show us a respectable 'ouse, where they make
their cawfee strong--an' not the 'ouse where 'e slept last night, if
it's all the same to 'im."
They found a small but decent tavern--"The Wharfingers' Arms, _Shipping
Gazette_ daily"--and breakfasted on coffee and boiled eggs. The coffee
was strong and sticky. It did Bill good. But he persisted in treating
the adventure as a wild-goose chase. He had never heard of Holmness.
It was certainly not a port; and, that being so, how--unless they
chartered a steamer--could they be landed there?
"That's for you to find out," maintained Tilda.
"Well," said he, rising from the meal, "I don't mind lookin' around an'
makin' a few inquiries for yer. But I warn yer both it's 'opeless."
"You can post this letter on yer way," she commanded. "I'll pay fer the
But confidence forsook her as through the small window they watched him
making his way--still a trifle unsteadily--towards the docks. For a
little distance 'Dolph followed him, but halted, stood for a minute
wagging his tail, and so came trotting back.
"'E'll manage it," said Tilda at length.
Arthur Miles did not answer.
"Oh, I know what you're thinkin'!" she broke out. "But 'tisn' everyone
can look down on folks bein' born with _your_ advantages!" She pulled
herself up sharply, glancing at the back of the boy's head: for he had
turned his face aside. "No--I didn' mean that. An'--an' the way you
stood up fer me bein' honest was jus' splendid--after what you'd said
about tellin' lies, too."
They wandered about the docks all day, dodging official observation, and
ate their midday crust behind the cinder-shed that had been their
shelter over-night. Tilda had regained and kept her old courage, and in
the end her faith was justified.
Towards nightfall Bill sought them out where he had first found them, by
the quay-edge close above the _Severn Belle_.
"It's all right," he said. "I done it for yer. See that boat yonder?"
He jerked his thumb towards a small cargo steamer lying on the far side
of the basin, and now discernible only as a black blur in the foggy
twilight. "She's the _Evan Evans_ of Cardiff, an' bound for Cardiff.
Far as I can larn, Cardiff's your port, though I don't say a 'andy one.
Fact is, there's no 'andy one. They seem to say the place lies out of
everyone's track close down against the Somerset coast--or, it may be,
Devon: they're not clear. Anyway," he wound up vaguely, "at Cardiff
there may be pleasure steamers runnin', or something o' the sort."
"Bill, you're an angel!"
"I shipped for a stoker," said Bill.
"But what'll it cost?"
"I don't want ter speak boas'ful, after the tone you took with me this
mornin'"--Bill spoke with scarcely dissembled pride--"but that's where
the cleverness comes in. You see, there ain't no skipper to 'er--
leastways not till ter-morrow. The old man's taken train an' off to
Bristol, to attend a revival meetin', or something o' the sort--bein'
turned pious since 'is wife died, w'ich is about eighteen months ago.
I got that from the mate, when 'e shipped me. The mate's in charge;
with the engineer an' two 'ands. The engineer--'e's a Scotchman--'as as
much whisky inside 'im already as a man can 'old an' keep 'is legs; an'
the 'ole gang'll be goin' ashore again to-night--all but the mate.
The mate 'as to keep moderate sober an' lock 'er out on first 'igh water
ter-morrow for Kingroad, where she'll pick up the old man; and as
natcher'lly 'e'll want _somebody_ sober down in the engine-room, 'e's
got to rely on me. So now you see."
"I think I see," said Tilda slowly. "We're to ship as stowaways."
"You may call it so, though the word don't 'ardly seem to fit. I've
'eard tell of stowaways, but never as I remember of a pair as 'ad the
use of the captain's cabin, and 'im a widower with an extry bunk still
fitted for the deceased. O' course we'll 'ave to smuggle yer away
somewheres before the old man comes aboard. But the mate'll do that
easy. 'E promised me."
"Bill, you _are_ an angel!"
It was, after all, absurdly easy, as Bill had promised; and the easier
by help of the river-fog, which by nine o'clock--the hour agreed upon--
had gathered to a thick grey consistency. If the dock were policed at
this hour, no police, save by the veriest accident, could have detected
the children crouching with 'Dolph behind a breastwork of
paraffin-casks, and waiting for Bill's signal--the first two or three
bars of _The Blue Bells of Scotland_ whistled thrice over.
The signal came. The gang-plank was out, ready for the crew's return;
and at the head of it Bill met the fugitives, with a caution to tread
softly when they reached the deck. The mate was nowhere to be seen.
Bill whispered that he was in his own cabin "holding off the drink,"
whatever that might mean.
He conducted them to the after-companion, where, repeating his caution,
he stepped in front of the children and led the way down a narrow
twisting staircase. At the foot of it he pushed open a door, and they
gazed into a neat apartment, panelled with mirrors and bird's-eye maple.
A swing-lamp shone down upon a white-covered table; and upon the table
were bread and cheese and biscuits, with a jug of water and glasses.
Alongside the table ran two bunks, half-curtained, clean, cosy and
"Say what yer like," said Tilda half an hour later as, having selected
their bunks, the children composed themselves to sleep, "but Bill 'as
the 'ead of the two."
"Which two?" asked the boy, not quite ingenuously.
"As if I didn' know yer was comparin' 'im with Sam Bossom all day! W'y,
I seen it in yer face!" Getting no answer, she went on after a pause,
"Sam 'd never a' thought o' this, not if 'e'd lived to be a 'undred."
"All the same, I like Sam better," said the boy sleepily.
They slept soundly after their wanderings. The crew returned shortly
before half-past eleven, and tumbled aboard "happy and glorious"--so
Bill afterwards described their condition, in the language of the
National Anthem. But the racket was mainly for'ard, and did not awake
the children. After this, silence descended on the _Evan Evans_, and
lasted for five long hours. Still they slept; and the voice of the
mate, when a little before dawn he started cursing and calling to the
men to tumble up, was a voice heard in dreams and without alarm.
It was, as a matter of fact, scarcely more operative in the forecastle
than in the cabin. But Bill in the intervals of slumber had visited the
furnaces, and kept up a good head of steam; and in the chill of dawn he
and the mate cast off warps and (with the pilot) worked the steamer out
through the ship lock, practically unaided. The mate, when not in
liquor, was a first-class seaman; and Bill, left alone between the
furnaces and the engines, perspired in all the glory of his true
The noise of hooting, loud and protracted, awoke Tilda at last, and she
raised herself in her bunk to stare at the apparition of Bill in the
cabin doorway--a terrifying apparition, too, black with coal-dust and
shining with sweat.
For one moment her sleepy brain confused him with the diabolical noise
"Nothin'," he answered, "'cept that you must tumble out quick, you two.
We're off Avonmouth, an' the whistle's goin' for the old man."
They tumbled out and redded up the place in a hurry, folding away the
rugs and linen--which Bill, with his grimed fingers, did not dare to
touch--and stowing them as he directed. A damp fog permeated the cabin.
Even the engine-room (Bill reported) was full of it, and how the mate
had brought her along through it and picked up Avonmouth was a marvel.
"Single-'anded too, as you may say. 'E's a world's wonder, that man."
The children too thought it marvellous when they reached the deck and
gazed about them. They could spy no shore, not so much as a blur to
indicate it, but were wrapped wholly in a grey fog; and down over the
steamer's tall sides (for she was returning light after delivering a
cargo of Welsh coal) they stared upon nothing but muddy water crawling
beneath the fog.
They heard the mate's voice calling from the bridge, and the fog seemed
to remove both bridge and voice to an immeasurable height above them.
It was just possible to descry the length of the ship, and they saw two
figures bestir themselves forward. A voice answered, "Aye, aye, sir!"
but thickly and as if muffled by cotton wool. One of the two men came
running, halted amidships, lifted out a panel of the bulwarks, set in a
slide between two white-painted stanchions, and let down an
"_Evan Evans_, ahoy!" came a voice from the fog.
"Ahoy, sir!" sang out the mate's voice high overhead, and between two
blasts of the whistle, and just at this moment a speck--a small blur--
hove out of the grey on the port side. It was the skipper arriving in a
The children dodged behind a deck-house as he came up the ladder--a thin
little man habited much like a Nonconformist minister, and wearing--of
all amazing head-gear--a top-hat, the brim of which shed moisture in a
steady trickle. A grey plaid shawl swathed his shoulders, and the
fringe of this dripped too, as he gained the deck and stepped briskly
aft, without so much as a word to the men standing at the head of the
ladder, to whom after a minute the mate called down.
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"What did 'e say?"
Apparently the children were not alone in finding this singular, for
after another minute the mate descended from the bridge, walked aft, and
followed his chief down the companion. He stayed below for close on a
quarter of an hour, the steamer all this while moving dead slow, with
just a lazy turn now and then of her propeller. When he returned it was
with a bottle in his hand and a second bottle under his arm.
"Cracked as a drum," he announced to the seaman Lloyd on his way back to
the bridge. "Says 'e's 'ad a revelation."
"A revelation. Says 'e 'eard a voice from 'eaven las' night, tellin'
'im as Faith was dead in these times; that if a man only 'ad faith 'e
could let everything else rip . . . and," concluded the mate heavily,
resting his unoccupied hand on the ladder, "'e's down below tryin' it."
The seaman did not answer. The mate ascended again, and vanished in the
fog. After a pause a bell tinkled deep down in the bowels of the ship.
Her propeller began to churn the water, very slowly at first, then with
gathering speed, and the _Evan Evans_ forged ahead, shouldering her way
deeper and deeper into the fog.
It had certainly grown denser. There was not the slightest reason for
the children to hide. No one came near them; they could see nothing but
the wet and dirty deck, the cook's galley close by (in which, as it
happened, the cook lay in drunken slumber) and a boat swinging on davits
close above their heads, between them and the limitless grey. Bill had
disappeared some time before the skipper came aboard and was busy, no
doubt, in the engine-room. In the shrouded bows one of the crew was
working a fog-horn at irregular intervals, and for a while every blast
was answered by a hoot from the steam-whistle above the bridge.
This lasted three hours or more. Then, though the fog-horn continued
spasmodically, the whistle fell unaccountably silent. The children
scarcely noted this; they were occupied with staring into the fog.
Of a sudden the bridge awoke to life again, and now with the bell.
_Ting . . . ting, ting, ting--ting--ting, ting, ting_ then _ting, ting_
The fog-horn stopped as though to listen. By and by, as from minute to
minute the bridge continued this eccentric performance, even the
children became aware that something was amiss.
Abruptly the ringing ceased, ceased just as a tall man--it was the
Scotch engineer--emerged from somewhere below and stood steadying
himself by the rail of the ladder.
"What the deevil?" he demanded angrily, staring aloft. "What the
Here he collapsed on the lowest step. (A Glasgow man must be drunk
indeed before he loses his legs.)
The seaman Sam Lloyd came running, jumped over the engineer's prostrate
body and climbed to the bridge. There was a brief silence, and then he
"Dave! Dave Morgan!"
"Ahoy! What's wrong there?"
Another seaman came staggering aft.
"Run, one o' you an' fetch up th' old man. Mate 'e's dead drunk 'ere,
an' the ship pointin' any way this 'arf hour."
"I--I canna," said the engineer, raising himself erect from the waist
and collapsing again; but the other staggered on and disappeared down
the companion hatchway. Two or three minutes passed before he
"It's no go," he shouted up. "Skipper says as we must 'ave Faith.
Called me an onbelievin' generation o' vipers, an' would I kindly leave
'im alone to wrastle."
"Faith?" fairly yelled the voice from the bridge. "Tell 'im the man's
lyin' 'ere outside o' three pints o' neat Irish--tell 'im she's been
chasin' 'er own tail for this two--three hours--tell 'im the sound o'
breakers is distinkly audibble on the lee bow--tell 'im--oh, for Gawd's
sake tell 'im anythink so's it'll fetch 'im up!"
Dave Morgan dived down the companion again, and after a long interval
returned with the skipper at his heels. The old man was bare-headed
now, and the faint breeze, blowing back his grey locks, exposed a high
intellectual forehead underset with a pair of eyes curiously vague and
at the same time introspective.
The old man clutched at the coaming that ran around the hatchway,
steadied himself, and gazed around upon the fog.
"'Eavenly Father!" he said aloud and reproachfully, "_this_ won't do!"
And with that he came tripping forward to the bridge with a walk like a
bird's. At the sight of Tilda and Arthur Miles, who in their plight had
made no effort to hide, he drew himself up suddenly.
"Stowaways?" he said. "I'll talk to you presently." He stepped over
the engineer. "Heh? What's the matter?" he called up as he put his
foot on the ladder.
"Mate's drunk an' 'ncapable, sir," answered the seaman from above.
"What o' that?" was the unexpected reply. "Let the poor body lie, an'
you hold her to her course."
"But she's chasin' 'er tail, sir. She's pointin' near as possible due
south at this moment, an' no tellin' 'ow long it's lasted--"
"Then bring her round to west--west an' a point south, an' hold her to
it. You've got no _Faith_, Samuel Lloyd,--an' me wrestlin' with the
Lord for you this three hours. See yonder!"--the skipper waved a hand
towards the bows, and his voice rose to a note of triumph.
Sure enough, during the last two or three minutes the appearance of the
fog had changed. It was dense still, but yellower in colour and even
From the bridge came no answer.
"Liftin', that's what it is, an' I ask the Lord's pardon for lettin'
myself be disturbed by ye."
The skipper turned to leave the ladder, of which he had climbed but half
a dozen steps.
"Liftin' it may be "--Lloyd's voice arrested him--"but we're ashore
somewheres, or close upon it. I can 'ear breakers--"
The skipper listened, all listened, the fog the while growing steadily
more golden and luminous.
"Man, that's no sound of breakers--it's voices!"
"Voices--voices of singin'. Ah!"--the skipper caught suddenly at the
rail again--"a revelation! Hark!"
He was right. Far and faint ahead of the steamer's bows, where the fog,
meeting the sun's rays, slowly arched itself into a splendid halo--
a solid wall no longer, but a doorway for the light, and hung with
curtains that momentarily wore thinner--there, where the water began to
take a tinge of flame, sounded the voices of men and women, or of
angels, singing together. And while the crew of the _Evan Evans_
strained their ears the hymn grew audible--
'Nearer--and nearer still,
We to our country come;
To that celestial Hill,
The weary pilgrim's home! . . .'
Arthur Miles had clutched Tilda's hand. She herself gazed and listened,
awe-struck. The sound of oars mingled now with the voices, and out of
the glory ahead three forms emerged and took shape--three boats moving
in solemn procession.
They were of unusual length, and black--at any rate, seen against that
golden haze, they appeared black as Erebus. In the bows of each sat a
company of people singing as they pulled at the long oars; and in the
stern of each, divided from the rowers by the cargo--but what that cargo
was could not yet be distinguished--stood a solitary steersman.
Patently these people were unaware of the steamer's approach. They were
heading straight across her path--were, in fact, dangerously close--when
at length the seaman on the bridge recovered presence of mind to sound
her whistle, at the same time ringing down to stop the engines.
As the whistle sounded the singing ceased abruptly, the steersmen thrust
over their tillers in a flurry, and of the rowers some were still
backing water as the boats drifted close, escaping collision by a few
"Ahoy!" came the answer. "Who are you?"
"The _Evan Evans_, of Cardiff," responded the skipper between his
The foremost boat was close now and drifting alongside. Arthur Miles
and Tilda stared down upon the faces of the rowers. They were eight or
ten, and young for the most part--young men of healthy brown complexions
and maidens in sun-bonnets; and they laughed, with upturned eyes, as
they fell to their oars again to keep pace with the steamer's slackening
way. The children now discerned what cargo the boats carried--each a
score or two of sheep, alive and bleating, their fleeces all golden in
the strange light.
An old man stood in the stern of the leading boat. He wore a long white
beard, and his face was extraordinarily gentle. It was he who answered
"For Cardiff?" he echoed.
"Aye, the _Evan Evans_, of Cardiff, an' thither bound. Maybe you've
heard of him," added the skipper irrelevantly. "A well-known Temperance
Reformer he was."
The old steersman shook his head.
"You're miles away out o' your course, then--five an' twenty miles
"Where are we?"
"Right south-west--atween Holmness and the land. You've overshot
_everything_. Why, man, are ye all mazed aboard? Never a vessel comes
hereabouts, and 'tis the Lord's mercy you han't run her ashore."
"The Lord will provide," answered the skipper piously, "Which-a-way lies
Cardiff, say you?"
The old man pointed. But while he pointed Tilda ran forward.
"'Olmness? Is it 'Olmness?"
He stared up.
"Holmness it is, missie? But why?"
"An' you'll take us off? We're 'ere with a message. It's for Miles
Chandon, if you know 'im."
"Surely," the old man answered slowly. "Yes, surely--Sir Miles.
But who can have a message for Sir Miles?"
"For Miss Sally, then. You know Miss Sally?"
The old man's look changed in a moment.
"Miss Sally? Why o' course--Do we know Miss Sally?" he was appealing to
the crew of men and maidens forward, and they broke into a chime of
"What's this?" demanded the skipper, stepping forward. "Here's a
couple of stowaways. I know nothing about 'em. It's your risk if you
choose to take 'em off."
"If she've a message for Miss Sally--" answered the old steersman after
"It's life an' death!" pleaded Tilda.
The steamer, the upturned faces below, the fog all around--she saw it as
in a dream, and as in a dream she heard herself pleading . . .
"Get out the ladder, there!" called the skipper.
They were in the boat, still as in a dream, sitting among these strange,
kindly people. In a dream, too, she was waving to Bill, who had come up
from below and leant over the bulwarks, staring as steamer and boats
fell apart in the fog. Then, at a word from the bridge, he waved his
hand for the last time and ran below. In a minute or so the _Evan
Evans_ began to feel around and edge away for the northward.
She faded and was lost in the vaporous curtain. Still the children
gazed astern after her over the backs of the huddled sheep. The rowers
had fallen to singing again--men and maidens in harmony as they pulled--
'The ransom'd sons of God,
All earthly things we scorn,
And to our high abode
With songs of praise return! . . .'
Of a sudden, while they sang and while the children gazed, the fog to
northward heaved and parted, pierced by a shaft of the sinking sun, and
there in a clear hollow lay land--lay an Island vignetted in the fog,
with the light on its cliffs and green slopes--an Island, resting like a
shield on the milky sea.
Arthur Miles clutched Tilda by the arm and pointed.
The old steersman turned his head.
"Aye," said he, "she looks pretty of an evening sometimes, does
"_Clean, simple livers._"--CRASHAW.
The rowers in the leading boat were seven--four young men and three
young women; and they pulled two to an oar--all but the bowman, a young
giant of eighteen or thereabouts, who did without help. A fourth young
woman sat beside, suckling a baby. And so, counting the baby and the
two children and the old steersman, whom they all addressed as
"Father," and omitting 'Dolph and the sheep, they were twelve on board.
The second and third boats had half a dozen rowers apiece. The second
was steered by a wizened middle-aged man, Jan by name. Tilda learned
that he was the shepherd. More by token, he had his three shaggy dogs
with him, crowded in the stern.
At first these dogs showed the liveliest interest in 'Dolph, raising
themselves with their forepaws on the gunwale, and gazing across the
intervening twenty yards of water. But they were dignified creatures,
and their self-respect forbade them to bark. 'Dolph, who had no
breeding, challenged back loudly, all his bristles erect--and still the
more angrily as they forbore to answer; whereat the young men and women
laughed. Their laughter would have annoyed Tilda had it been less
unaffected; and, as it was, she cuffed the dog so sharply that he ceased
with a whine.
She had never met with folk like these. They gave her a sense of having
reached the ends of the earth--they were so simple and strong and
well-featured, and had eyes so kindly. She could understand but a bare
third of what they said, their language being English of a sort, but
neither that of the gentry--such as Arthur Miles spoke--nor that of the
gypsies; nor, in short, had she heard the human like of it anywhere in
her travels. She had never heard tell of vowels or of gutturals, and so
could not note how the voices, as they rose and fell, fluted upon the
one or dwelt, as if caressingly, on the other. To her their talk
resembled the talk of birds, mingled with liquid laughter.
Later, when she came to make acquaintance with the Scriptures and read
about the patriarchs and their families, she understood better.
Laban with his flocks, Rebekah and her maidens, the shepherds of
Bethlehem--for all of them her mind cast back to these innocent people,
met so strangely off an unknown coast.
For she had come by water; and never having travelled by ship before,
and being wholly ignorant of geography and distances, she did not dream
that the coast towards which they were rowing her could be any part of
It loomed close ahead now--a bold line of cliff, reddish brown in
colour, but with patches of green vivid in the luminous haze; the summit
of the cliff-line hidden everywhere in folds of fog; the dove-coloured
sea running tranquilly at its base, with here and there the thinnest
edge of white, that shone out for a moment and faded.
But now the cliffs, which had hitherto appeared to run with one
continuous face, like a wall, began to break up and reveal gullies and
fissures; and as these unfolded, by and by a line of white cottages
crept into view. They overhung a cove more deeply indented than the
rest, and close under them was a diminutive grey pier sheltering a
diminutive harbour and beach.
And now the voyage was soon ended. The boat shot around the pier-end
and took ground upon firm shingle. The others, close in her wake, ran
in and were beached alongside, planks were laid out from the gunwales,
and in half a minute all hands had fallen to work, urging, persuading,
pushing, lifting the sheep ashore, or rounding them up on the beach,
where they headed hither and thither, or stood obstinately still in
mazed fashion, all bleating. The middle-aged shepherd took command of
these operations, no man gainsaying, and shouted here, there and
everywhere, sparing neither age nor sex, but scolding all
indiscriminately, hallooing to his dogs and waving his arms--as his
master described it later--"like a paper man in a cyclone." And the dogs
were silent no longer, but coursed the beach with short, fierce yelps,
yet always intent on their business, as 'Dolph discovered when, spurred
on by his theatrical instincts, he made a feint of joining in the sport.
A snap of teeth close to his fore-legs sent him back yelping, and he
retired in dudgeon to a heap of seaweed; but by and by, when the sheep
were gathered into a compact crowd, he made a really heroic effort to
divert attention back to his own talents.
"Look to the dog, there--look to 'en!" cried a maiden of eighteen,
pointing and then resting a hand on either hip while she laughed.
This was Chrissy (short for Christiana), the prettiest, though not the
youngest of the girls. Beside her there were Dinah (it was she who
suckled the baby) and Polly, and Rose and Sabina, and Charity; and of
the young men John Edward, and William, 'Rastus, Donatus and Obed.
These were of the sons and daughters of the old steersman, with others
of whom Tilda had not yet learnt the names. There was Old William
also--Dinah's husband--a young man of thirty or so, but serious for his
years; and Old William's two sisters, Sheba and Bathsheba--the younger a
maiden, but the elder married to a youth they called Daniel; and Festus,
who appeared to be courting Chrissy; and Roger, the young giant who had
pulled the bow oar, and was courting nobody as yet. Quick though Tilda
was to find her feet in a crowd and distinguish names and faces, she
found the numbers bewildering. To Arthur Miles they were but a phantom
throng. He stood on the beach amid the small tumult and, while the
sheep blundered by, gazed back upon the Island, still in view, still
resting like a shield out yonder upon the milky, golden sea.
As yet Tilda could not know that the old man had been married twice,
that these stalwart youths and maidens were his offspring by two
mothers. Indeed, they might all have been his, and of one womb, so
frankly and so gently spoken they were one to another. Only the