Jeremy by Hugh Walpole

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  • 1919
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This etext was produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
















“It is due to him to say that he was
an obedient boy and a boy whose word could be depended on . . .”





About thirty years ago there was at the top of the right-hand side of Orange Street, in Polchester, a large stone house. I say “was”; the shell of it is still there, and the people who now live in it are quite unaware, I suppose, that anything has happened to the inside of it, except that they are certainly assured that their furniture is vastly superior to the furniture of their predecessors. They have a gramophone, a pianola, and a lift to bring the plates from the kitchen into the dining-room, and a small motor garage at the back where the old pump used to be, and a very modern rock garden where once was the pond with the fountain that never worked. Let them cherish their satisfaction. No one grudges it to them. The Coles were, by modern standards, old-fashioned people, and the Stone House was an old-fashioned house.

Young Jeremy Cole was born there in the year 1884, very early in the morning of December 8th. He was still there very early in the morning of December 8th, 1892. He was sitting up in bed. The cuckoo clock had just struck five, and he was aware that he was, at this very moment, for the first time in his life, eight years old. He had gone to bed at eight o’clock on the preceding evening with the choking consciousness that he would awake in the morning a different creature. Although he had slept, there had permeated the texture of his dreams that same choking excitement, and now, wide awake, as though he had asked the cuckoo to call him in order that he might not be late for the great occasion, he stared into the black distance of his bedroom and reflected, with a beating heart, upon the great event. He was eight years old, and he had as much right now to the nursery arm-chair with a hole in it as Helen had.

That was his first definite realisation of approaching triumph. Throughout the whole of his seventh year he had fought with Helen, who was most unjustly a year older than he and persistently proud of that injustice, as to his right to use the wicker arm-chair whensoever it pleased him. So destructive of the general peace of the house had these incessant battles been, so unavailing the suggestions of elderly relations that gentlemen always yielded to ladies, that a compromise had been arrived at. When Jeremy was eight he should have equal rights with Helen. Well and good. Jeremy had yielded to that. It was the only decent chair in the nursery. Into the place where the wicker, yielding to rude and impulsive pressure, had fallen away, one’s body might be most happily fitted. It was of exactly the right height; it made the handsomest creaking noises when one rocked in it–and, in any case, Helen was only a girl.

But the sense of his triumph had not yet fully descended upon him. As he sat up in bed, yawning, with a tickle in the middle of his back and his throat very dry; he was disappointingly aware that he was still the same Jeremy of yesterday. He did not know what it was exactly that he had expected, but he did not feel at present that confident proud glory for which he had been prepared. Perhaps it was too early.

He turned round, curled his head into his arm, and with a half- muttered, half-dreamt statement about the wicker chair, he was once again asleep.


He awoke to the customary sound of the bath water running into the bath. His room was flooded with sunshine, and old Jampot, the nurse (her name was Mrs. Preston and her shape was Jampot), was saying as usual: “Now, Master Jeremy, eight o’clock; no lying in bed–out–you get–bath–ready.”

He stared at her, blinking.

“You should say ‘Many Happy Returns of the Day, Master Jeremy,'” he remarked. Then suddenly, with a leap, he was out of bed, had crossed the floor, pushed back the nursery door, and was sitting in the wicker arm-chair, his naked feet kicking a triumphant dance.

“Helen! Helen!” he called. “I’m in the chair.”

No sound.

“I’m eight,” he shouted, “and I’m in the chair.”

Mrs. Preston, breathless and exclaiming, hurried across to him.

“Oh, you naughty boy . . . death of cold . . . in your nightshirt.”

“I’m eight,” he said, looking at her scornfully, “and I can sit here as long as I please.”

Helen, her pigtails flapping on either shoulder, her nose red, as it always was early in the morning, appeared at the opposite end of the nursery.

“Nurse, he mustn’t, must he? Tell him not to. I don’t care how old you are. It’s my chair. Mother said–“

“No, she didn’t. Mother said–“

“Yes, she did. Mother said–“

“Mother said that when–“

“Oh, you story. You know that Mother said–” Then suddenly a new, stiffening, trusting dignity filled him, as though he had with a turn of the head discovered himself in golden armour.

He was above this vulgar wrangling now. That was for girls. He was superior to them all. He got down from the chair and stood, his head up, on the old Turkey rug (red with yellow cockatoos) in front of the roaring fire.

“You may have your old chair,” he said to Helen. “I’m eight now, and I don’t want it any more . . . although if I do want it I shall have it,” he added.

He was a small, square boy with a pug-nosed face. His hair was light brown, thin and stiff, so that it was difficult to brush, and although you watered it, stood up in unexpected places and stared at you. His eyes were good, dark brown and large, but he was in no way handsome; his neck, his nose ridiculous. His mouth was too large, and his chin stuck out like a hammer.

He was, plainly, obstinate and possibly sulky, although when he smiled his whole face was lighted with humour. Helen was the only beautiful Cole child, and she was abundantly aware of that fact. The Coles had never been a good-looking family.

He stood in front of the fireplace now as he had seen his father do, his short legs apart, his head up, and his hands behind his back.

“Now, Master Jeremy,” the Jampot continued, “you may be eight years old, but it isn’t a reason for disobedience the very first minute, and, of course, your bath is ready and you catching your death with naked feet, which you’ve always been told to put your slippers on and not to keep the bath waiting, when there’s Miss Helen and Miss Mary, as you very well know, and breakfast coming in five minutes, which there’s sausages this morning, because it’s your birthday, and them all getting cold–“


He was across the floor in a moment, had thrown off his nightshirt and was in his bath. Sausages! He was translated into a world of excitement and splendour. They had sausages so seldom, not always even on birthdays, and to-day, on a cold morning, with a crackling fire and marmalade, perhaps–and then all the presents.

Oh, he was happy. As he rubbed his back with the towel a wonderful glowing Christian charity spread from his head to his toes and tingled through every inch of him. Helen should sit in the chair when she pleased; Mary should be allowed to dress and undress the large woollen dog, known as “Sulks,” his own especial and beloved property, so often as she wished; Jampot should poke the twisted end of the towel in his ears and brush his hair with the hard brushes, and he would not say a word. Aunt Mary should kiss him (as, of course, she would want to do), and he would not shiver; he would (bravest deed of all) allow Mary to read “Alice in Wonderland” in her sing-sing voice so long as ever she wanted. . . Sausages! Sausages!

In his shirt and his short blue trousers, his hair on end, tugging at his braces, he stood in the doorway and shouted:

“Helen, there are sausages–because it’s my birthday. Aren’t you glad?”

And even when the only response to his joyous invitation was Helen’s voice crossly admonishing the Jampot: “Oh, you do pull so; you’re hurting!”–his charity was not checked.

Then when he stood clothed and of a cheerful mind once more in front of the fire a shyness stole over him. He knew that the moment for Presents was approaching; he knew that very shortly he would have to kiss and be kissed by a multitude of persons, that he would have to say again and again, “Oh, thank you, thank you so much!” that he would have his usual consciousness of his inability to thank anybody at all in the way that they expected to be thanked. Helen and Mary never worried about such things. They delighted in kissing and hugging and multitudes of words. If only he might have had his presents by himself and then stolen out and said “Thank you” to the lot of them and have done with it.

He watched the breakfast-table with increasing satisfaction–the large teapot with the red roses, the dark blue porridge plates, the glass jar with the marmalade a rich yellow inside it, the huge loaf with the soft pieces bursting out between the crusty pieces, the solid square of butter, so beautiful a colour and marked with a large cow and a tree on the top (he had seen once in the kitchen the wooden shape with which the cook made this handsome thing). There were also his own silver mug, given him at his christening by Canon Trenchard, his godfather, and his silver spoon, given him on the same occasion by Uncle Samuel.

All these things glittered and glowed in the firelight, and a kettle was singing on the hob and Martha the canary was singing in her cage in the window. (No one really knew whether the canary were a lady or a gentleman, but the name had been Martha after a beloved housemaid, now married to the gardener, and the sex had followed the name.)

There were also all the other familiar nursery things. The hole in the Turkey carpet near the bookcase, the rocking-horse, very shiny where you sit and very Christmas- tree-like as to its tail; the doll’s house, now deserted, because Helen was too old and Mary too clever; the pictures of “Church on Christmas Morning” (everyone with their mouths very wide open, singing a Christmas hymn, with holly), “Dignity and Impudence,” after Landseer, “The Shepherds and the Angels,” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” So packed was the nursery with history for Jeremy that it would have taken quite a week to relate it all. There was the spot where he had bitten the Jampot’s fingers, for which deed he had afterwards been slippered by his father; there the corner where they stood for punishment (he knew exactly how many ships with sails, how many ridges of waves, and how many setting suns there were on that especial piece of corner wallpaper–three ships, twelve ridges, two and a half suns); there was the place where he had broken the ink bottle over his shoes and the carpet, there by the window, where Mary had read to him once when he had toothache, and he had not known whether her reading or the toothache agonised him the more; and so on, an endless sequence of sensational history.

His reminiscences were cut short by the appearance of Gladys with the porridge. Gladys, who was only the between-maid, but was nevertheless stout, breathless from her climb and the sentiment of the occasion, produced from a deep pocket a dirty envelope, which she laid upon the table.

“Many ‘appy returns, Master Jeremy.” Giggle . . . giggle. . . “Lord save us if I ‘aven’t gone and forgotten they spunes,” and she vanished. The present-giving had begun.

He had an instant’s struggle as to whether it were better to wait until all the presents had accumulated, or whether he would take them separately as they arrived. The dirty envelope lured him. He advanced towards it and seized it. He could not read very easily the sprawling writing on the cover, but he guessed that it said “From Gladys to Master Jeremy.” Within was a marvellous card, tied together with glistening cord and shining with all the colours of the rainbow. It was apparently a survival from last Christmas, as there was a church in snow and a peal of bells; he was, nevertheless, very happy to have it.

After his introduction events moved swiftly. First Helen and Mary appeared, their faces shining and solemn and mysterious–Helen self- conscious and Mary staring through her spectacles like a profound owl.

Because Jeremy had known Mary ever since he could remember, he was unaware that there was anything very peculiar about her. But in truth she was a strange looking child. Very thin, she had a large head, with big outstanding ears, spectacles, and yellow hair pulled back and “stringy.” Her large hands were always red, and her forehead was freckled. She was as plain a child as you were ever likely to see, but there was character in her mouth and eyes, and although she was only seven years old, she could read quite difficult books (she was engaged at this particular time upon “Ivanhoe”), and she was a genius at sums.

The passion of her life, as the family were all aware, was Jeremy, but it was an unfortunate and uncomfortable passion. She bothered and worried him, she was insanely jealous; she would sulk for days did he ever seem to prefer Helen to herself. No one understood her; she was considered a “difficult child,” quite unlike any other member of the family, except possibly Samuel, Mr. Cole’s brother- in-law, who was an unsuccessful painter and therefore “odd.”

As Mary was at present only seven years of age it would be too much to say that the family was afraid of her. Aunt Amy’s attitude was: “Well, after all, she’s sure to be clever when she grows up, poor child;” and although the parishioners of Mary’s father always alluded to her as “the ludicrous Cole child,” they told awed little stories about the infant’s mental capacities, and concluded comfortably, “I’m glad Alice (or Jane or Matilda or Anabel) isn’t clever like that. They overwork when they are young, and then when they grow up–“

Meanwhile Mary led her private life. She attached herself to no one but Jeremy; she was delicate and suffered from perpetual colds; she therefore spent much of her time in the nursery reading, her huge spectacles close to the page, her thin legs like black sticks stuck up on the fender in front of the fire or curled up under her on the window-seat.

Very different was Helen. Helen had a mass of dark black hair, big black eyes with thick eye-lashes, a thin white neck, little feet, and already an eye to “effects” in dress. She was charming to strangers, to the queer curates who haunted the family hall, to poor people and rich people, to old people and young people. She was warm-hearted but not impulsive, intelligent but not clever, sympathetic but not sentimental, impatient but never uncontrolled. She liked almost everyone and almost everything, but no one and nothing mattered to her very deeply; she liked going to church, always learnt her Collect first on Sunday, and gave half her pocket- money to the morning collection. She was generous but never extravagant, enjoyed food but was not greedy. She was quite aware that she was pretty and might one day be beautiful, and she was glad of that, but she was never silly about her looks.

When Aunt Amy, who was always silly about everything, said in her presence to visitors, “Isn’t Helen the loveliest thing you ever saw?” she managed by her shy self- confidence to suggest that she was pretty, that Aunt Amy was a fool, and life was altogether very agreeable, but that none of these things was of any great importance. She was very good friends with Jeremy, but she played no part in his life at all. At the same time she often fought with him, simply from her real deep consciousness of her superiority to him. She valued her authority and asserted it incessantly. That authority had until last year been unchallenged, but Jeremy now was growing. She had, although she did not as yet realise it, a difficult time before her.

Helen and Mary advanced with their presents, laid them on the breakfast-table, and then retreated to watch the effect of it all.

“Shall I now?” asked Jeremy.

“Yes, now,” said Helen and Mary.

There were three parcels, one large and “shoppy,” two small and bound with family paper, tied by family hands with family string. He grasped immediately the situation. The shoppy parcel was bought with mother’s money and only “pretended” to be from his sisters; the two small parcels were the very handiwork of the ladies themselves, the same having been seen by all eyes at work for the last six months, sometimes, indeed, under the cloak of attempted secrecy, but more often–because weariness or ill-temper made them careless–in the full light of day.

His interest was centred almost entirely in the “shoppy” parcel, which by its shape might be “soldiers”; but he knew the rules of the game, and disregarding the large, ostentatious brown-papered thing, he went magnificently for the two small incoherent bundles.

He opened them. A flat green table-centre with a red pattern of roses, a thick table-napkin ring worked in yellow worsted, these were revealed.

“Oh!” he cried, “just what I wanted.” (Father always said that on his birthday.)

“Is it?” said Mary and Helen.

“Mine’s the ring,” said Mary. “It’s dirty rather, but it would have got dirty, anyway, afterwards.” She watched anxiously to see whether he preferred Helen’s.

He watched them nervously, lest he should be expected to kiss them. He wiped his mouth with his hand instead, and began rapidly to talk:

“Jampot will know now which mine is. She’s always giving me the wrong one. I’ll have it always, and the green thing too.”

“It’s for the middle of a table,” Helen interrupted.

“Yes, I know,” said Jeremy hurriedly. “I’ll always have it too–like Mary’s–when I’m grown up and all. . . . I say, shall I open the other one now?”

“Yes, you can,” said Helen and Mary, ceasing to take the central place in the ceremony, spectators now and eagerly excited.

But Mary had a last word.

“You do like mine, don’t you?”

“Of course, like anything.”

She wanted to say “Better than Helen’s?” but restrained herself.

“I was ever so long doing it; I thought I wouldn’t finish it in time.”

He saw with terror that she meditated a descent upon him; a kiss was in the air. She moved forward; then, to his extreme relief, the door opened and the elders arriving saved him.

There were Father and Mother, Uncle Samuel and Aunt Amy, all with presents, faces of birthday tolerance and “do-as-you-please-to-day, dear” expressions.

The Rev. Herbert Cole was forty years of age, rector of St. James’s, Polchester, during the last ten years, and marked out for greater preferment in the near future. To be a rector at thirty is unusual, but he had great religious gifts, preached an admirable “as-man-to- man” sermon, and did not believe in thinking about more than he could see. He was an excellent father in the abstract sense, but the parish absorbed too much of his time to allow of intimacies with anyone.

Mrs. Cole was the most placid lady in Europe. She had a comfortable figure, but was not stout, here a dimple and there a dimple. Nothing could disturb her. Children, servants, her husband’s sermons, district visiting, her Tuesday “at homes,” the butcher, the dean’s wife, the wives of the canons, the Polchester climate, bills, clothes, other women’s clothes–over all these rocks of peril in the sea of daily life her barque happily floated. Some ill-natured people thought her stupid, but in her younger days she had liked Trollope’s novels in the Cornhill, disapproved placidly of “Jane Eyre,” and admired Tennyson, so that she could not be considered unliterary.

She was economical, warm-hearted, loved her children, talked only the gentlest scandal, and was a completely happy woman–all this in the placidest way in the world. Miss Amy Trefusis, her sister, was very different, being thin both in her figure and her emotions. She skirted tempestuously over the surface of things, was the most sentimental of human beings, was often in tears over reminiscences of books or the weather, was deeply religious in a superficial way, and really–although she would have been entirely astonished had you told her so–cared for no one in the world but herself. She was dressed always in dark colours, with the high shoulders of the day, elegant bonnets and little chains that jingled as she moved. In her soul she feared and distrusted children, but she did not know this. She did know, however, that she feared and distrusted her brother Samuel.

Her brother Samuel was all that the Trefusis family, as a conservative body who believed in tradition, had least reason for understanding. He had been a failure from the first moment of his entry into the Grammar School in Polchester thirty-five years before this story. He had continued a failure at Winchester and at Christ Church, Oxford. He had desired to be a painter; he had broken from the family and gone to study Art in Paris. He had starved and starved, was at death’s door, was dragged home, and there suddenly had relapsed into Polchester, lived first on his father, then on his brother-in-law, painted about the town, painted, made cynical remarks about the Polcastrians, painted, made blasphemous remarks about the bishop, the dean and all the canons, painted, and refused to leave his brother-in-law’s house. He was a scandal, of course; he was fat, untidy, wore a blue tam-o’-shanter when he was “out,” and sometimes went down Orange Street in carpet slippers.

He was a scandal, but what are you to do if a relative is obstinate and refuses to go? At least make him shave, say the wives of the canons. But no one had ever made Samuel Trefusis do anything that he did not want to do. He was sometimes not shaved for three whole days and nights. At any rate, there he is. It is of no use saying that he does not exist, as many of the Close ladies try to do. And at least he does not paint strange women; he prefers flowers and cows and the Polchester woods, although anything less like cows, flowers and woods, Mrs. Sampson, wife of the Dean, who once had a water-colour in the Academy, says she has never seen. Samuel Trefusis is a failure, and, what is truly awful, he does not mind; nobody buys his pictures and he does not care; and, worst taste of all, he laughs at his relations, although he lives on them. Nothing further need be said.

To Helen, Mary and Jeremy he had always been a fascinating object, although they realised, with that sharp worldly wisdom to be found in all infants of tender years, that he was a failure, a dirty man, and disliked children. He very rarely spoke to them; was once quite wildly enraged when Mary was discovered licking his paints. (It was the paints he seemed anxious about, not in the least the poor little thing’s health, as his sister Amy said), and had publicly been heard to say that his brother-in-law had only got the children he deserved.

Nevertheless Jeremy had always been interested in him. He liked his fat round shape, his rough, untidy grey hair, his scarlet slippers, his blue tam-o’-shanter, the smudges of paint sometimes to be discovered on his cheeks, and the jingling noises he made in his pocket with his money. He was certainly more fun than Aunt Amy.

There, then, they all were with their presents and their birthday faces.

“Shall I undo them for you, darling?” of course said Aunt Amy. Jeremy shook his head (he did not say what he thought of her) and continued to tug at the string. He was given a large pair of scissors. He received (from Father) a silver watch, (from Mother) a paint-box, a dark blue and gold prayer book with a thick squashy leather cover (from Aunt Amy).

He was in an ecstasy. How he had longed for a watch, just such a turnip-shaped one, and a paint-box. What colours he could make! Even Aunt Amy’s prayer book was something, with its squashy cover and silk marker (only why did Aunt Amy never give him anything sensible?). He stood there, his face flushed, his eyes sparkling, the watch in one hand and the paint-box in the other. Remarks were heard like: “You mustn’t poke it with, your finger, Jerry darling, or you’ll break the hands off”; and “I thought he’d, better have the square sort, and not the tubes. They’re so squashy”; and “You’ll be able to learn your Collect so easily with that big print, Jerry dear. Very kind of you, Amy.”

Meanwhile he was aware that Uncle Samuel had given him nothing. There was a little thick catch of disappointment in his throat, not because he wanted a present, but because he liked Uncle Samuel. Suddenly, from somewhere behind him his uncle said: “Shut your eyes, Jerry. Don’t open them until I tell you”–then rather crossly, “No, Amy, leave me alone. I know what I’m about, thank you.”

Jeremy shut his eyes tight. He closed them so that the eyelids seemed to turn right inwards and red lights flashed. He stood there for at least a century, all in darkness, no one saying anything save that once Mary cried “Oh!” and clapped her hands, which same cry excited him to such a pitch that he would have dug his nails into his hands had he not so consistently in the past bitten them that there were no nails with which to dig. He waited. He waited. He waited. He was not eight, he was eighty when at last Uncle Samuel said, “Now you may look.”

He opened his eyes and turned; for a moment the nursery, too, rocked in the unfamiliar light. Then he saw. On the middle of the nursery carpet was a village, a real village, six houses with red roofs, green windows and white porches, a church with a tower and a tiny bell, an orchard with flowers on the fruit trees, a green lawn, a street with a butcher’s shop, a post office, and a grocer’s. Villager Noah, Mrs. Noah and the little Noahs, a field with cows, horses, dogs, a farm with chickens and even two pigs. . .

He stood, he stared, he drew a deep breath.

“It comes all the way from Germany,” said Aunt Amy, who always made things uninteresting if she possibly could.

There was much delighted talk. Jeremy said nothing. But Uncle Samuel understood.

“Glad you like it,” he said, and left the room.

“Aren’t you pleased ?” said Helen.

Jeremy still said nothing.

“Sausages. Sausages!” cried Mary, as Gladys, grinning, entered with a dish of a lovely and pleasant smell. But Jeremy did not turn. He simply stood there–staring.


It is of the essence of birthdays that they cannot maintain throughout a long day the glorious character of their early dawning. In Polchester thirty years ago there were no cinematographs, no theatre save for an occasional amateur performance at the Assembly Rooms and, once and again, a magic-lantern show. On this particular day, moreover, Mr. and Mrs. Cole were immensely busied with preparations for some parochial tea. Miss Trefusis had calls to make, and, of course, Uncle Samuel was invisible. The Birthday then suddenly became no longer a birthday but an ordinary day–with an extraordinary standard. This is why so many birthdays end in tears.

But Jeremy, as was usual with him, took everything quietly. He might cry aloud about such an affair as the conquest of the wicker chair because that did not deeply matter to him, but about the real things he was silent. The village was one of the real things; during all the morning he remained shut up in his soul with it, the wide world closed off from them by many muffled doors. How had Uncle Samuel known that he had deep in his own inside, so deep that he had not mentioned it even to himself, wanted something just like this? Thirty years ago there were none of the presents that there are for children now–no wonderful railways that run round the nursery from Monte Carlo to Paris with all the stations marked; no dolls that are so like fashionable women that you are given a manicure set with them to keep their nails tidy; no miniature motor-cars that run of themselves and go for miles round the floor without being wound up. Jeremy knew none of these things, and was the happier that he did not. To such a boy such a village was a miracle. . . . It had not come from Germany, as Aunt Amy said, but from heaven. But it was even more of Uncle Samuel than the village that he was thinking. When they started–Helen, Mary and he in charge of the Jampot–upon their afternoon walk, he was still asking himself the same questions. How had Uncle Samuel known so exactly? Had it been a great trouble to bring from so far away? Had Uncle Samuel thought it bad of him not to thank him?

He was lost in such considerations when the Jampot inquired of him the way that their walk should take–it was his choice because it was his Birthday. He had no choice. There was one walk that far exceeded all others in glory, straight down Orange Street, straight again through the Market, past the Assembly Rooms and the Town Hall, past the flower and fruit stalls, and the old banana woman under the green umbrella and the toy stall with coloured balloons, the china dogs and the nodding donkeys, up the High Street, into the cobble- stones of the Close, whence one could look down, between the houses on to the orchards, round the Cathedral with the meadows, Pol Meads sloping down to the river, so through Orchard Lane into Orange Street once again.

Such a walk combined every magic and delight known to the heart of man, but it was not generally allowed, because Jeremy would drag past the shops, the stalls in the Market Place and the walk behind the Cathedral, whence one might sometimes see boats on the river, sheep and cows in the meads, and, in their proper season, delight of delights–lambs.

They set out. . .

Thirty years ago the winter weather in Polchester was wonderful. Now, of course, there are no hard winters, no frost, no snow, no waits, no snowmen, and no skating on the Pol. Then there were all those things. To-day was of a hard, glittering frost; the sun, like a round, red lacquer tray, fell heavily, slowly through a faint pale sky that was not strong enough to sustain it. The air had the cold, sweet twang of peppermints in the throat. Polchester was a painted town upon a blue screen, the Cathedral towers purple against the sky; the air was scented with burning leaves, and cries from the town rose up clear and hard, lingering and falling like notes of music. Somewhere they were playing football, and the shouting was distant and regular like the tramp of armed men. “Three” struck the Cathedral clock, as though it were calling “Open Sesame.” Other lesser clocks repeated the challenge cry through the town. “Woppley- -Woppley–Why!” sung the man who was selling skins down Orange Street. The sky, turning slowly from blue to gold, shone mysteriously through the glass of the street lamps, and the sun began to wrap itself in tints of purple and crocus and iris.

“Woppley–Woppley–Why!” screamed the skin-man suddenly appearing at the top of the street.

“Now ‘urry, Master Jeremy,” said the Jampot, “or we shall never get ‘ome this night, and I might have known you’d choose the longest walk possible. Come along, Miss Mary, now–none of that dawdling.”

Jeremy, in his H.M.S. Adventure’s cap and rough blue navy coat, felt himself superior to the Jampot, so he only said, “Oh, don’t bother, Nurse,” and then in the same breath, “I’ll run you down the hill, Mary,” and before anyone could say a word there they were at the bottom of Orange Street, as though they had fallen into a well. The sun was gone, the golden horizon was gone–only the purple lights began to gather about their feet and climb slowly the high black houses.

Mary liked this, because she now had Jeremy to herself. She began hurriedly, so that she should lose no time:

“Shall I tell you a story, Jeremy? I’ve got a new one. Once upon a time there were three little boys, and they lived in a wood, and an old witch ate them, and the Princess who had heaps of jewellery and a white horse and a lovely gold dress came, and it was snowing and the witch–“

This was always Mary’s way. She loved to tell Jeremy interesting stories, and he did not mind because he did not listen and could meanwhile think his own thoughts.

His chief decision arrived at as he marched along was that he would keep the village to himself; no one else should put their fingers into it, arrange the orchard with the coloured trees, decide upon the names of the Noah family, settle the village street in its final order, ring the bell of the church, or milk the cows. He alone would do all these things. And, so considering, he seemed to himself very like God. God, he supposed, could pull Polchester about, root out a house here, another there, knock the Assembly Rooms down and send a thunderbolt on to the apple woman’s umbrella. Well, then–so could he with his village. He walked swollen with pride. He arrived at the first Island of Circe, namely, the window of Mr. Thompson, the jeweller in Market Street, pressed his nose to the pane, and refused to listen when the Jampot suggested that he should move forward.

He could see the diamonds like drops of water in the sun, and the pearls like drops of milk, and the rubies like drops of blood, but it was not of diamonds, pearls or rubies that he was thinking–he thought only of his village. He would ring the church bell, and then all the Noah family should start out of the door, down the garden, up the village street. . . It did not matter if one of the younger Noahs should be lazy and wish to stay at home beneath the flowering trees of the orchard. She would not be allowed. . . He was as God. . . He was as God. . . The butcher should go (if he was not stuck to his shop), and even some of his cows might go. . . . He was as God. . .

He heard Mary’s voice in his ear.

“And after that they all ate chocolates with white cream and red cream, and they sucked it off pins, and there were hard bits and soft bits, and the Princess (she was a frog now. You remember, don’t you, Jeremy? The witch turned her) hotted the oven like cook has, with black doors, and hotted it and hotted it, but suddenly there was a noise–“

And, on the other side, the Jampot’s voice: “You naughty boy, stoppin’ ‘ere for everyone to see, just because it’s your birthday, which I wish there wasn’t no birthdays, nor there wouldn’t be if I had my way.”

Jeremy turned from Mr. Thompson’s window, a scornful smile on his face:

“I’m bigger’n you, Nurse,” he said. “If I said out loud, ‘I won’t go,’ I wouldn’t go, and no one could make me.”

“Well, come along, then,” said Nurse.

“Don’t be so stupid, Jerry,” said Helen calmly. “If a policeman came and said you had to go home you’d have to go.”

“No I wouldn’t,” said Jeremy.

“Then they’d put you in prison.”

“They could.”

“They’d hang you, perhaps.”

“They could,” replied Jeremy.

Farther than this argument cannot go, so Helen shrugged her shoulders and said: “You are silly.”

And they all moved forward.

He found then that this new sense or God-like power detracted a little from the excitements of the Market Place, although the flower-stall was dazzling with flowers; there was a new kind of pig that lifted its tail and lowered it again on the toy stall, and the apple-woman was as fat as ever and had thick clumps of yellow bananas hanging most richly around her head. They ascended the High Street and reached the Close. It was half-past three, and the Cathedral bells had begun to ring for evensong. All the houses in the Close were painted with a pale yellow light; across the long green Cathedral lawn thin black shadows like the fingers of giants pointed to the Cathedral door. All was so silent here that the bells danced against the houses and back again, the echoes lingering in the high elms and mingling with the placid cooing of the rooks.

“There’s Mrs. Sampson,” said Jeremy. “Aunt Amy says she’s a wicked woman. Do you think she’s a wicked woman, Nurse?” He gazed at the stout figure with interest. If he were truly God he would turn her into a rabbit. This thought amused him, and he began to laugh.

“You naughty boy; now come along, do,” said the Jampot, who distrusted laughter in Jerry.

“I’ll ring the bells when I grow up,” he said, “and I’ll ring them in the middle of the night, so that everyone will have to go to church when they don’t want to. I’ll be able to do what I like when I grow up.”

“No, you won’t,” said Helen. “Father and Mother can’t do what they like.”

“Yes they can,” said Jeremy.

“No they can’t,” answered Helen, “or they would.”

“So they do,” said Jeremy–“silly.”

“Silly yourself,” said Helen very calmly, because she knew very well that she was not silly.

“Now, children, stop it, do,” said the Jampot.

Jeremy’s sense of newly received power reached its climax when they walked round the Close and reached the back of the Cathedral. I know that now, both for Jeremy and me, that prospect has dwindled into its proper grown- up proportions, but how can a man, be he come to threescore and ten and more, ever forget the size, the splendour, the stupendous extravagance of that early vision?

Jeremy saw that day the old fragment of castle wall, the green expanse falling like a sheeted waterfall from the Cathedral heights, the blue line of river flashing in the evening sun between the bare- boughed trees, the long spaces of black shadow spreading slowly over the colour, as though it were all being rolled up and laid away for another day; the brown frosty path of the Rope Walk, the farther bank climbing into fields and hedges, ending in the ridge of wood, black against the golden sky. And all so still! As the children stood there they could catch nestlings’ faint cries, stirrings of dead leaves and twigs, as birds and beasts moved to their homes; the cooing of the rooks about the black branches seemed to promise that this world should be for ever tranquil, for ever cloistered and removed; the sun, red and flaming above the dark wood, flung white mists hither and thither to veil its departure. The silence deepened, the last light flamed on the river and died upon the hill.

“Now, children, come along do,” said the Jampot who had been held in spite of herself, and would pay for it, she knew, in rheumatism to- morrow. It was then that Jeremy’s God-flung sense of power, born from that moment early in the day when he had sat in the wicker chair, reached its climax. He stood there, his legs apart, looking upon the darkening world and felt that he could do anything– anything. . .

At any rate, there was one thing that he could do, disobey the Jampot.

“I’m not coming,” he said, “till I choose.”

“You wicked boy!” she cried, her temper rising with the evening chills, her desire for a cup of hot tea, and an aching longing for a comfortable chair. “When everyone’s been so good to you to-day and the things you’ve been given and all–why, it’s a wicked shame.”

The Jampot, who was a woman happily without imagination, saw a naughty small boy spoiled and needing the slipper.

A rook, taking a last look at the world before retiring to rest, watching from his leafless bough, saw a mortal spirit defying the universe, and sympathised with it.

“I shall tell your mother,” said the Jampot. “Now come, Master Jeremy, be a good boy.”

“Oh, don’t bother, Nurse,” he answered impatiently. “You’re such a fuss.”

She realised in that moment that he was suddenly beyond her power, that he would never be within it again. She had nursed him for eight years, she had loved him in her own way; she, dull perhaps in the ways of the world, but wise in the ways of nurses, ways that are built up of surrender and surrender, gave him, then and there, to the larger life. . .

“You may behave as you like, Master Jeremy,” she said. “It won’t be for long that I’ll have the dealing with you, praise be. You’ll be going to school next September, and then we’ll see what’ll happen to your wicked pride.”

“School!” he turned upon her, his eyes wide and staring.

“School!” he stared at them all.

The world tumbled from him. In his soul was a confusion of triumph and dismay, of excitement and loneliness, of the sudden falling from him of all old standards, old horizons, of pride and humility. . . How little now was the Village to him. He looked at them to see whether they could understand. They could not.

Very quietly he followed them home. His birthday had achieved its climax. . .




That winter of Jeremy’s eighth birthday was famous for its snow. Glebeshire has never yielded to the wishes of its children in the matter of snowy Christmases, and Polchester has the reputation of muggy warmth and foggy mists, but here was a year when traditions were fulfilled in the most reckless manner, and all the 1892 babies were treated to a present of snow on so fine a scale that certainly for the rest of their days they will go about saying: “Ah, you should see the winters we used to have when we were children. . .”

The snow began on the very day after Jeremy’s birthday, coming down doubtfully, slowly, little grey flakes against a grey sky, then sparkling white, then vanishing flashes of moisture on a wet, unsympathetic soil. That day the snow did not lie; and for a week it did not come again; then with a whirl it seized the land, and for two days and nights did not loosen its grip. From the nursery windows the children watched it, their noses making little rings on the window-pane, their delighted eyes snatching fascinating glimpses of figures tossed through the storm, cabs beating their way, the rabbit-skin man, the milkman, the postman, brave adventurers all, fighting, as it seemed, for their very lives.

For two days the children did not leave the house, and the natural result of that was that on the second afternoon tempers were, like so many dogs, straining, tugging, pulling at their chains.

It could not be denied that Jeremy had been tiresome to everyone since the afternoon when he had heard the news of his going to school next September. It had seemed to him a tremendous event, the Beginning of the End. To the others, who lived in the immediate present, it was a crisis so remote as scarcely to count at all. Mary would have liked to be sentimental about it, but from this she was sternly prevented. There was then nothing more to be said. . .

Jeremy was suddenly isolated from them all. His destiny was peculiar. They were girls, he was a boy. They understood neither his fears nor his ambitions; he needed terribly a companion. The snow, shutting them in, laughed at their struggles against monotony. The nursery clock struck three and they realised that two whole hours must pass before the next meal. Mary, her nose red from pressing on the window-pane, her eyes gazing through her huge spectacles wistfully at Jeremy, longed to suggest that she should read aloud to him. She knew that he hated it; she pretended to herself that she did not know.

Jeremy stared desperately at Helen who was sitting, dignified and collected, in the wicker chair hemming a minute handkerchief.

“We might play Pirates,” Jeremy said with a little cough, the better to secure her attention. There was no answer.

“Or there’s the hut in the wood–if anyone likes it better,” he added politely. He did not know what was the matter. Had the Jampot not told him about school he would at this very moment be playing most happily with his village. It spread out there before him on the nursery floor, the Noah family engaged upon tea in the orchard, the butcher staring with fixed gaze from the door of his shop, three cows and a sheep absorbed in the architecture of the church.

He sighed, then said again: “Perhaps Pirates would be better.”

Still Helen did not reply. He abandoned the attempted control of his passions.

“It’s very rude,” he said, “not to answer when gentlemen speak to you.”

“I don’t see any gentlemen,” answered Helen quietly, without raising her eyes, which was, as she knew, a provoking habit.

“Yes, you do,” almost screamed Jeremy. “I’m one.”

“You’re not,” continued Helen; “you’re only eight. Gentlemen must be over twenty like Father or Mr. Jellybrand.”

“I hate Mr. Jellybrand and I hate you,” replied Jeremy.

“I don’t care,” said Helen.

“Yes, you do,” said Jeremy, then suddenly, as though even a good quarrel were not worth while on this heavily burdened afternoon, he said gently: “You might play Pirates, Helen. You can be Sir Roger.”

“I’ve got this to finish.”

“It’s a dirty old thing,” continued Jeremy, pursuing an argument, “and it’ll be dirtier soon, and the Jampot says you do all the stitches wrong. I wish I was at school.”

“I wish you were,” said Helen.

There was a pause after this. Jeremy went sadly back to his window- seat. Mary felt that her moment had arrived. Sniffing, as was her habit when she wanted something very badly, she said in a voice that was little more than a whisper:

“It would be fun, wouldn’t it, perhaps if I read something, Jeremy?”

Jeremy was a gentleman, although he was only eight. He looked at her and saw behind the spectacles eyes beseeching his permission.

“Well, it wouldn’t be much fun,” he said, “but it’s all beastly this afternoon, anyway.”

“Can I sit on the window too?” asked Mary.

“Not too close, because it tickles my ear, but you can if you like.”

She hurried across to the bookshelf. “There’s ‘Stumps’ and ‘Rags and Tatters,’ and ‘Engel the Fearless,’ and ‘Herr Baby’ and ‘Alice’ and- -“

“‘Alice’ is best,” said Jeremy, sighing. “You know it better than the others.” He curled himself into a corner of the window-seat. From his position there he had a fine view. Immediately below him was the garden, white and grey under the grey sky, the broken fountain standing up like a snow man in the middle of it. The snow had ceased to fall and a great stillness held the world.

Beyond the little iron gate of the garden that always sneezed “Tishoo” when you closed it, was the top of Orange Street; then down the hill on the right was the tower of his father’s church; exactly opposite the gate was the road that led to the Orchards, and on the right of that was the Polchester High School for Young Ladies, held in great contempt by Jeremy, the more that Helen would shortly be a day-boarder there, would scream with the other girls, and, worst of all, would soon be seen walking with her arm round another girl’s neck, chattering and eating sweets. . .

The whole world seemed deserted. No colour, no movement, no sound. He sighed once more–“I’d like to eat jam and jam–lots of it,” he thought. “It would be fun to be sick.”

Mary arrived and swung herself up on to the window-seat.

“It’s the ‘Looking Glass’ one. I hope you don’t mind,” she said apprehensively.

“Oh, it’s all right,” he allowed. He flung a glance back to the lighted nursery. It seemed by contrast with that grey world outside to blaze with colour; the red- painted ships on the wallpaper, the bright lights and shadows of “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” the salmon fronts of the doll’s house, the green and red of the village on the floor with the flowery trees, the blue tablecloth, the shining brass coal-scuttle all alive and sparkling in the flames and shadows of the fire, caught and held by the fine gold of the higher fender. Beyond that dead white–soon it would be dark, the curtains would be drawn, and still there would be nothing to do. He sighed again.

“It’s a nice bit about the shop,” said Mary. Jeremy said nothing, so she began. She started at a run:

“She looked at the Queen, who seemed to have'”–sniff, sniff-” ‘sud- den-ly suddenly wra-wra-w-r-a-p-p-e-d wrapped–‘”

“Wrapped?” asked Jeremy.

“I don’t know,” said Mary, rubbing her nose, “what it means, but perhaps we’ll see presently, herself up in w-o-o-l wool. ‘Alice rubbed her eyes and looked again she couldn’t–‘”

“‘Looked again she couldn’t’?” asked Jeremy. “It should be, ‘she couldn’t look again.'”

“Oh, there’s a stop,” said Mary. “I didn’t see. After ‘again’ there’s a stop. ‘She couldn’t make out what had happened at all–‘”

“I can’t either,” said Jeremy crossly. “It would be better perhaps if I read it myself.”

“It will be all right in a minute,” said Mary confidently. “‘Was she in a shop? And was that really–was it really a ship that was sitting on the counter?'” she finished with a run.

“A what?” asked Jeremy.

“A ship–“

“A ship! How could it sit on a counter?” he asked.

“Oh no, it’s a sheep. How silly I am!” Mary exclaimed.

“You do read badly,” he agreed frankly. “I never can understand nothing.” And it was at that very moment that he saw the Dog.


He had been staring down into the garden with a gaze half abstracted, half speculative, listening with one ear to Mary, with the other to the stir of the fire, the heavy beat of the clock and the rustlings of Martha the canary.

He watched the snowy expanse of garden, the black gate, the road beyond. A vast wave of pale grey light, the herald of approaching dusk, swept the horizon, the snowy roofs, the streets, and Jeremy felt some contact with the strange air, the mysterious omens that the first snows of the winter spread about the land. He watched as though he were waiting for something to happen.

The creature came up very slowly over the crest of Orange Street. No one else was in sight, no cart, no horse, no weather-beaten wayfarer. At first the dog was only a little black smudge against the snow; then, as he arrived at the Coles’ garden-gate, Jeremy could see him very distinctly. He was, it appeared, quite alone; he had been, it was evident, badly beaten by the storm. Intended by nature to be a rough and hairy dog, he now appeared before God and men a shivering battered creature, dripping and wind-tossed, bedraggled and bewildered. And yet, even in that first distant glimpse, Jeremy discerned a fine independence. He was a short stumpy dog, in no way designed for dignified attitudes and patronising superiority; nevertheless, as he now wandered slowly up the street, his nose was in the air and he said to the whole world: “The storm may have done its best to defeat me–it has failed. I am as I was. I ask charity of no man. I know what is due to me.”

It was this that attracted Jeremy; he had himself felt thus after a slippering from his father, or idiotic punishments from the Jampot, and the uninvited consolations of Mary or Helen upon such occasions had been resented with so fierce a bitterness that his reputation for sulkiness had been soundly established with all his circle.

Mary was reading. . .! “‘an old Sheep, sitting in an arm-chair, knitting, and every now and then leaving off to look at her through a great pair of spec-t-a-c-les spectacles!'”

He touched her arm and whispered:

“I say, Mary, stop a minute–look at that dog down there.”

They both stared down into the garden. The dog had stopped at the gate; it sniffed at the bars, sniffed at the wall beyond, then very slowly but with real dignity continued its way up the road.

“Poor thing,” said Jeremy. “It IS in a mess.” Then to their astonishment the dog turned back and, sauntering down the road again as though it had nothing all day to do but to wander about, and as though it were not wet, shivering and hungry, it once more smelt the gate.

“Oh,” said Mary and Jeremy together.

“It’s like Mother,” said Jeremy, “when she’s going to see someone and isn’t sure whether it’s the right house.”

Then, most marvellous of unexpected climaxes, the dog suddenly began to squeeze itself between the bottom bar of the gate and the ground. The interval was fortunately a large one; a moment later the animal was in the Coles’ garden.

The motives that led Jeremy to behave as he did are uncertain. It may have been something to do with the general boredom of the afternoon, it may have been that he felt pity for the bedraggled aspect of the animal–most probable reason of all, was that devil- may-care independence flung up from the road, as it were, expressly at himself.

The dog obviously did not feel any great respect for the Cole household. He wandered about the garden, sniffing and smelling exactly as though the whole place belonged to him, and a ridiculous stump of tail, unsubdued by the weather, gave him the ludicrous dignity of a Malvolio.

“I’m going down,” whispered Jeremy, flinging a cautious glance at Helen who was absorbed in her sewing.

Mary’s eyes grew wide with horror and admiration. “You’re not going out,” she whispered. “In the snow. Oh, Jeremy. They WILL be angry.”

“I don’t care,” whispered Jeremy back again. “They can be.”

Indeed, before Mary’s frightened whisper he had not intended to do more than creep down into the pantry and watch the dog at close range; now it was as though Mary had challenged him. He knew that it was the most wicked thing that he could do–to go out into the snow without a coat and in his slippers. He might even, according to Aunt Amy, die of it, but as death at present meant no more to him than a position of importance and a quantity of red- currant jelly and chicken, THAT prospect did not deter him. He left the room so quietly that Helen did not even lift her eyes.

Then upon the landing he waited and listened. The house had all the lighted trembling dusk of the snowy afternoon; there was no sound save the ticking of the clocks. He might come upon the Jampot at any moment, but this was just the hour when she liked to drink her cup of tea in the kitchen; he knew from deep and constant study every movement of her day. Fortune favoured him. He reached without trouble the little dark corkscrew servants’ staircase. Down this he crept, and found himself beside the little gardener’s door. Although here there was only snow-lit dusk, he felt for the handle of the lock, found it, turned it, and was, at once, over the steps, into the garden.

Here, with a vengeance, he felt the full romance and danger of his enterprise. It was horribly cold; he had been in the nursery for two whole days, wrapped up and warm, and now the snowy world seemed to leap up at him and drag him down as though into an icy well. Mysterious shadows hovered over the garden; the fountain pointed darkly against the sky, and he could feel from the feathery touches upon his face that the snow had begun to fall again.

He moved forward a few steps; the house was so dark behind him, the world so dim and uncertain in front of him, that for a moment his heart failed him. He might have to search the whole garden for the dog.

Then he heard a sniff, felt something wet against his leg–he had almost stepped upon the animal. He bent down and stroked its wet coat. The dog stood quite still, then moved forward towards the house, sniffed at the steps, at last walked calmly through the open door as though the house belonged to him. Jeremy followed, closed the door behind him; then there they were in the little dark passage with the boy’s heart beating like a drum, his teeth chattering, and a terrible temptation to sneeze hovering around him. Let him reach the nursery and establish the animal there and all might be well, but let them be discovered, cold and shivering, in the passage, and out the dog would be flung. He knew so exactly what would happen. He could hear the voices in the kitchen. He knew that they were sitting warm there by the fire, but that at any moment Jampot might think good to climb the stairs and see “what mischief they children were up to.” Everything depended upon the dog. Did he bark or whine, out into the night he must go again, probably to die in the cold. But Jeremy, the least sentimental of that most sentimental race the English, was too intent upon his threatened sneeze to pay much attention to these awful possibilities.

He took off his slippers and began to climb the stairs, the dog close behind him, very grave and dignified, in spite of the little trail of snow and water that he left in his track. The nursery door was reached, pushed softly open, and the startled gaze of Mary and Helen fell wide-eyed upon the adventurer and his prize.


The dog went directly to the fire; there, sitting in the very middle of the golden cockatoos on the Turkey rug, he began to lick himself. He did this by sitting very square on three legs and spreading out the fourth stiff and erect, as though it had been not a leg at all but something of wood or iron. The melted snow poured off him, making a fine little pool about the golden cockatoos. He must have been a strange-looking animal at any time, being built quite square like a toy dog, with a great deal of hair, very short legs, and a thick stubborn neck; his eyes were brown, and now could be seen very clearly because the hair that usually covered them was plastered about his face by the snow. In his normal day his eyes gleamed behind his hair like sunlight in a thick wood. He wore a little pointed beard that could only be considered an affectation; in one word, if you imagine a ridiculously small sheep-dog with no legs, a French beard and a stump of a tail, you have him. And if you want to know more than that I can only refer you to the description of his great-great-great-grandson “Jacob,” described in the Chronicles of the Beaminster Family.

The children meanwhile gazed, and for a long time no one said a word. Then Helen said: “Father WILL be angry.”

But she did not mean it. The three were, by the entrance of the dog, instantly united into an offensive and defensive alliance. They knew well that shortly an attack from the Outside World must be delivered, and without a word spoken or a look exchanged they were agreed to defend both themselves and the dog with all the strength in their power. They had always wanted a dog; they had been prevented by the stupid and selfish arguments of uncomprehending elders.

Now this dog was here; they would keep him.

“Oh, he’s perfectly sweet,” suddenly said Helen.

The dog paused for a moment from his ablutions, raised his eyes, and regarded her with a look of cold contempt, then returned to his task.

“Don’t be so silly,” said Jeremy. “You know you always hate it when Aunt Amy says things like that about you.”

“Did Nurse see?” asked Mary.

“No, she didn’t,” said Jeremy; “but she’ll be up in a minute.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Mary her mouth wide open.

“Do? Keep him, of course,” said Jeremy stoutly; at the same time his heart a little failed him as he saw the pool of the water slowly spreading and embracing one cockatoo after another in its ruinous flood.

“We ought to wipe him with a towel,” said Jeremy; “if we could get him dry before Nurse comes up she mightn’t say so much.”

But alas, it was too late for any towel; the door opened, and the Jampot entered, humming a hymn, very cheerful and rosy from the kitchen fire and an abundant series of chronicles of human failings and misfortunes. The hymn ceased abruptly. She stayed there where she was, “frozen into an image,” as she afterwards described it. She also said: “You could ‘ave knocked me down with a feather.”

The dog did not look at her, but crocked under him the leg that had been stiff like a ramrod and spread out another. The children did not speak.

“Well!” For a moment words failed her; then she began, her hands spread out as though she was addressing a Suffragette meeting in Trafalgar Square. (She knew, happy woman, nothing of Suffragettes.) “Of all the things, and it’s you, Master Jeremy, that ‘as done it, as anyone might have guessed by the way you’ve been be’aving this last fortnight, and what’s come over you is more nor I nor anyone else can tell, which I was saying only yesterday to your mother that it’s more than one body and pair of hands is up to the managing of now you’ve got so wild and wicked; and wherever from did you get the dirty animal dropping water all over the nursery carpet and smelling awful, I’ll be bound, which anyone can see that’s got eyes, and you’d know what your father will do to you when he knows of it, and so he shall, as sure as my name is Lizzie Preston. . .. Go on out, you ugly, dirty animal-ough, you ‘orrible creature you. I’ll–“

But her advance was stopped. Jeremy stopped it. Standing in front of the dog, his short thick legs spread defiantly apart, his fists clenched, he almost shouted:

“You shan’t touch him. . .. No, you shan’t. I don’t care. He shan’t go out again and die. You’re a cruel, wicked woman.”

The Jampot gasped. Never, no, never in all her long nursing experience had she been so defied, so insulted.

Her teeth clicked as always when her temper was roused, the reason being that thirty years ago the arts and accomplishments of dentistry had not reached so fine a perfection as to-day can show.

She had, moreover, bought a cheap set. Her teeth clicked. She began: “The moment your mother comes I give her notice. To think that all these years I’ve slaved and slaved only to be told such things by a boy as–“

Then a very dramatic thing occurred. The door opened, just as it might in the third act of a play by M. Sardou, and revealed the smiling faces of Mrs. Cole, Miss Amy Trefusis and the Rev. William Jellybrand, Senior Curate of St. James’s, Orange Street.

Mr. Jellybrand had arrived, as he very often did, to tea. He had expressed a desire, as he very often did, to see the “dear children.” Mrs. Cole, liking to show her children to visitors, even to such regular and ordinary ones as Mr. Jellybrand, at once was eager to gratify his desire.

“We’ll catch them just before their tea,” she said happily.

There is an unfortunate tendency on the part of our Press and stage to caricature our curates; this tendency I would willingly avoid. It should be easy enough to do, as I am writing about Polchester, a town that simply abounds–and also abounded thirty years ago–in curates of the most splendid and manly type. But, unfortunately, Mr. Jellybrand was not one of these. I, myself, remember him very well, and can see him now flinging his thin, black, and–as it seemed to me then–gigantic figure up Orange Street, his coat flapping behind him, his enormous boots flapping in front of him, and his huge hands flapping on each side of him like a huge gesticulating crow.

He had, the Polchester people who liked him said, “a rich voice.” The others who did not like him called him “an affected ass.” He ran up and down the scale like this:
______________________________________________________________ Mrs.
______________________________________________________________ dear
_____________________________________________________________ My
______________________________________________________________ Cole.

and his blue cheeks looked colder than any iceberg. But then I must confess that I am prejudiced. I did not like him; no children did.

The Cole children hated him. Jeremy because he had damp hands, Helen because he never looked at her, Mary because he once said to her, “Little girls must play as well as work, you know.” He always talked down to us as though we were beings of another and inferior planet. He called it, “Getting on with the little ones.” No, he was not popular with us.

He stood on this particular and dramatic occasion in front of the group in the doorway and stared–as well he might. Unfortunately the situation, already bad enough, was aggravated by this dark prominence of Mr. Jellybrand. It cannot be found in any chronicles that Mr. Jellybrand and the dog had met before; it is simply a fact that the dog, raising his eyes at the opening of the door and catching sight of the black-coated figure, forgot instantly his toilet, rose dripping from his rug, and advanced growling, his lips back, his ears out, his tail erect, towards the door. Then everything happened together. Mr. Jellybrand, who had been afraid of dogs ever since, as an infant, he had been mistaken for a bone by a large retriever, stepped back upon Aunt Amy, who uttered a shrill cry. Mrs. Cole, although she did not forsake her accustomed placidity, said: “Nurse . . . Nurse . . .” Jeremy cried: “It’s all right, he wouldn’t touch anything, he’s only friendly.” Mary and Helen together moved forward as though to protect Jeremy, and the Jampot could be heard in a confused wail: “Not me, Mum . . . Wickedest boy . . . better give notice . . . as never listens . . . dog . . . dog . . .”

The animal, however, showed himself now, as at that first earlier view of him, indifferent to his surroundings. He continued his advance and then, being only a fraction of an inch from Mr. Jellybrand’s tempting gleaming black trousers, he stopped, crouched like a tiger, and with teeth still bared continued his kettle-like reverberations. Aunt Amy, who hated dogs, loved Mr. Jellybrand, and was not in the least sentimental when her personal safety was in danger, cried in a shrill voice: “But take it away. Take it away. Alice, tell him. It’s going to bite Mr. Jellybrand.”

The dog raised one eye from his dreamy contemplation of the trousers and glanced at Aunt Amy; from that moment may be dated a feud which death only concluded. This dog was not a forgetful dog.

Jeremy advanced. “It’s all right,” he cried scornfully. “He wouldn’t bite anything.” He bent down, took the animal by the scruff of the neck, and proceeded to lead it back to the fire. The animal went without a moment’s hesitation; it would be too much to say that it exchanged a wink with Jeremy, but something certainly passed between them. Back again on the Turkey rug he became master of the situation. He did the only thing possible: he disregarded entirely the general company and addressed himself to the only person of ultimate importance–namely, Mrs. Cole. He lay down on all fours, looked up directly into her face, bared his teeth this time in a smile and not in a growl, and wagged his farcical tail.

Mrs. Cole’s psychology was of the simplest: if you were nice to her she would do anything for you, but in spite of all her placidity she was sometimes hurt in her most sensitive places. These wounds she never displayed, and no one ever knew of them, and indeed they passed very quickly–but there they occasionally were. Now on what slender circumstances do the fates of dogs and mortals hang. Only that afternoon Mr. Jellybrand, in the innocent self-confidence of his heart, had agreed with Miss Maple, an elderly and bitter spinster, that the next sewing meeting of the Dorcas Sisterhood should be held in her house and not at the Rectory. He had told Mrs. Cole of this on his way upstairs to the nursery. Now Mrs. Cole liked the Dorcas meetings at the Rectory; she liked the cheerful chatter, the hospitality, the gentle scandal and her own position as hostess.

She did not like–she never liked–Miss Maple, who was always pushing herself forward, criticising and back- biting. Mr. Jellybrand should not have settled this without consulting her. He had taken it for granted that she would agree. He had said: “I agreed with Miss Maple that it would be better to have it at her house. I’m sure you will think as I do.” Why should he be sure? Was he not forgetting his position a little? . . .

Kindest woman in the world, she had seen with a strange un-Christian pleasure the dog’s advance upon the black trousers. Then Mr. Jellybrand had been obviously afraid. He fancied, perhaps, that she too had been afraid. He fancied, perhaps, that she was not mistress in her house, that she could be browbeaten by her sister and her nurse.

She smiled at him. “There’s no reason to be afraid, Mr. Jellybrand. . . . He’s such a little dog.”

Then the dog smiled at her.

“Poor little thing,” she said. “He must have nearly died in the snow.”

Thus Miss Maple, bitterest of spinsters, influenced, all unwitting, the lives not only of a dog and a curate, but of the entire Cole family, and through them, of endless generations both of dogs and men as yet unborn. Miss Maple, sitting in her little yellow- curtained parlour drinking, in jaundiced contentment, her afternoon’s cup of tea, was, of course, unaware of this. A good thing that she was unaware – she was quite conceited enough already.


After that smiling judgment of Mrs. Cole’s, affairs were quickly settled.

“Of course it can only be for the night, children. Father will arrange something in the morning. Poor little thing. Where did you find him?”

“We saw him from the window,” said Jeremy quickly, “and he was shivering like anything, so we called him in to warm him.”

“My dear Alice, you surely don’t mean–” began Aunt Amy, and the Jampot said: “I really think, Mum-,” and Mr. Jellybrand, in his rich voice, murmured: “Is it quite wise, dear Mrs. Cole, do you think?”

With thoughts of Miss Maple she smiled upon them all.

“Oh, for one night, I think we can manage. He seems a clean little dog, and really we can’t turn him out into the snow at once. It would be too cruel. But mind, children, it’s only for one night. He looks a good little dog.”

When the “quality” had departed, Jeremy’s mind was in a confused condition of horror and delight. Such a victory as he had won over the Jampot, a victory that was a further stage in the fight for independence begun on his birthday, might have very awful qualities. There would begin now one of the Jampot’s sulks–moods well known to the Cole family, and lasting from a day to a week, according to the gravity of the offence. Yes, they had already begun. There she sat in her chair by the fire, sewing, sewing, her fat, roly-poly face carved into a parody of deep displeasure. Life would be very unpleasant now. No tops of eggs, no marmalade on toast, no skins of milk, no stories of “when I was a young girl,” no sitting up five minutes “later,” no stopping in the market-place for a talk with the banana woman–only stern insistence on every detail of daily life; swift judgment were anything left undone or done wrong.

Jeremy sighed; yes, it would be horrid and, for the sake of the world in general, which meant Mary and Helen, he must see what a little diplomacy would do. Kneeling down by the dog, he looked up into her face with the gaze of ingenuous innocence.

“You wouldn’t have wanted the poor little dog to have died in the snow, would you, Nurse ? . . . It might, you know. It won’t be any trouble, I expect–“

There was no reply. He could hear Mary and Helen drawing in their breaths with excited attention.

“Father always said we might have a dog one day when we were older– and we are older now.”

Still no word.

“We’ll be extra good, Nurse, if you don’t mind. Don’t you remember once you said you had a dog when you were a little girl, and how you cried when it had its ear bitten off by a nasty big dog, and how your mother said she wouldn’t have it fighting round the house, and sent it away, and you cried, and cried, and cried, and how you said that p’r’aps we’ll have one one day?–and now we’ve got one.”

He ended triumphantly. She raised her eyes for one moment, stared at them all, bit off a piece of thread, and said in deep, sepulchral tones:

“Either it goes, or I go.”

The three stared at one another. The Jampot go? Really go? . . . They could hear their hearts thumping one after another. The Jampot go?

“Oh, Nurse, would you really?” whispered Mary. This innocent remark of Mary’s conveyed in the tone of it more pleased anticipation than was, perhaps, polite. Certainly the Jampot felt this; a flood of colour rose into her face. Her mouth opened. But what she would have said is uncertain, for at that very moment the drama was further developed by the slow movement of the door, and the revelation of half of Uncle Samuel’s body, clothed in its stained blue painting smock, and his ugly fat face clothed in its usual sarcastic smile.

“Excuse me one moment,” he said; “I hear you have a dog.”

The Jampot rose, as good manners demanded, but said nothing.

“Where is the creature?” he asked.

The new addition to the Cole family had finished his washing; the blazing fire had almost dried him, and his hair stuck out now from his body in little stiff prickles, hedgehog fashion, giving him a truly original appearance. His beard afforded him the air of an ambassador, and his grave, melancholy eyes the absorbed introspection of a Spanish hidalgo; his tail, however, in its upright, stumpy jocularity, betrayed his dignity.

“There he is,” said Jeremy, with a glance half of terror, half of delight, at the Jampot. “Isn’t he lovely?”

“Lovely. My word!” Uncle Samuel’s smile broadened. “He’s about the most hideous mongrel it’s ever been my lot to set eyes on. But he has his points. He despises you all, I’m glad to see.”

Jeremy, as usual with Uncle Samuel, was uncertain as to his sincerity.

“He looks a bit funny just now,” he explained. “He’s been drying on the rug. He’ll be all right soon. He wanted to bite Mr. Jellybrand. It was funny. Mr. Jellybrand was frightened as anything.”

“Yes, that must have been delightful,” agreed Uncle Samuel. “What’s his name?”

“We haven’t given him one yet. Wouldn’t you think of one, Uncle Samuel?”

The uncle considered the dog. The dog, with grave and scornful eyes, considered the uncle.

“Well, if you really ask me,” said that gentleman, “if you name him by his character I should say Hamlet would be as good as anything.”

“What’s Hamlet?” asked Jeremy.

“He isn’t anything just now. But he was a prince who Was unhappy because he thought so much about himself.”

“Hamlet’11 do,” said Jeremy comfortably. “I’ve never heard of a dog called that, but it’s easy to say.”

“Well, I must go,” said Uncle Samuel, making one of his usual sudden departures. “Glad to have seen the animal. Good-bye.”

He vanished.

“Hamlet,” repeated Jeremy thoughtfully. “I wonder whether he’ll like that-“

His attention, however, was caught by the Jampot’s sudden outburst.

“All of them,” she cried, “supporting you in your wickedness and disobedience. I won’t ‘ave it nor endure it not a minute longer. They can ‘ave my notice this moment, and I won’t take it back, not if they ask me on their bended knees – no, I won’t – and that’s straight.”

For an instant she frowned upon them all – then she was gone, the door banging after her.

They gazed at one another.

There was a dreadful silence. Once Mary whispered: “Suppose she really does.”

Hamlet only was unmoved.

Ten minutes later, Rose, the housemaid, entered with the tea-things. For a little she was silent. Then the three faces raised to hers compelled her confidence.

“Nurse has been and given notice,” she said, “and the Missis has taken it. She’s going at the end of the month. She’s crying now in the kitchen.”

They were alone again. Mary and Helen looked at Jeremy as though waiting to follow his lead. He did not know what to say. There was Tragedy, there was Victory, there was Remorse, there was Triumph. He was sorry, he was glad. His eyes fell upon Hamlet, who was now stretched out upon the rug, his nose between his paws, fast asleep.

Then he looked at his sisters.

“Well,” he said slowly, “it’s awfully nice to have a dog–anyway.”

Such is the true and faithful account of Hamlet’s entrance into the train of the Coles.




I am sometimes inclined to wonder whether, in very truth, those Polchester Christmases of nearly thirty years ago were so marvellous as now in retrospect they seem. I can give details of those splendours, facts and figures, that to the onlooker are less than nothing at all–a sugar elephant in a stocking, a box of pencils on a Christmas tree, “Hark, the Herald Angels. . .” at three in the morning below one’s window, a lighted plum- pudding, a postman four hours late, his back bent with bursting parcels. And it is something further–behind the sugar cherries and the paper caps and the lighted tree–that remains to give magic to those days; a sense of expectancy, a sense of richness, a sense of worship, a visit from the Three Kings who have so seldom come to visit one since.

That Christmas of Jeremy’s ninth year was one of the best that he ever had; it was perhaps the last of the MAGICAL Christmases. After this he was to know too much, was to see Father Christmas vanish before a sum in arithmetic, and a stocking change into something that “boys who go to school never have”–the last of the Christmases of divine magic, when the snow fell and the waits sang and the stockings were filled and the turkey fattened and the candles blazed and the holly crackled by the will of God rather than the power of man. It would be many years before he would realise that, after all, in those early days he had been right. . .

A very fat book could be written about all that had happened during that wonderful Christmas, how Hamlet the Dog caught a rat to his own immense surprise; how the Coles’ Christmas dinner was followed by a play acted with complete success by the junior members of the family, and it was only Mr. Jellybrand the curate who disapproved; how Aunt Amy had a new dress in which, by general consent, she looked ridiculous; how Mary, owing to the foolish kindness of Mrs. Bartholomew, the Precentor’s wife, was introduced to the works of Charlotte Mary Yonge and became quite impossible in consequence; how Miss Maple had a children’s party at which there was nothing to eat, so that all the children cried with disappointment, and one small boy (the youngest son of the Precentor) actually bit Miss Maple; how for two whole days it really seemed that there would be skating on The Pool, and everyone bought skates, and then, of course, the ice broke, and so on, and so on. . . there is no end to the dramatic incidents of that great sensational time.

The theme that I sing, however, is Jeremy’s Progress, and although even Hamlet’s catching of a rat influenced his development, there was one incident of this Christmas that stands out and away from all the others, an affair that he will never all his days forget, and that even now, at this distance of time and experience, causes his heart to beat roughly with the remembered excitement and pleasure.

Several weeks before Christmas there appeared upon the town walls and hoardings the pictured announcements of the approaching visit to Polchester of Denny’s Great Christmas Pantomime “Dick Whittington.” Boxing Night was to see the first performance at our Assembly Rooms, and during every afternoon and evening of the next three weeks this performance was to be repeated.

A pantomime had, I believe, never visited our town before; there had, of course, for many years been the Great Christmas Pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Drymouth, but in those days trains were not easy, and if you wished to attend an afternoon performance at the Drymouth Theatre you must rise very early in the morning by the candle-light and return late in the evening, with the cab forgetting to meet you at the station as commanded, and the long walk up Orange Street, and a headache and a bad temper next day.

It happened naturally then that the majority of the Polchester children had never set their inquisitive noses within the doors of a theatre, and although the two eldest daughters of the Dean, aged ten and eleven, had been once to London and to Drury Lane Theatre, their sense of glory and distinction so clouded their powers of accuracy and clarity that we were no nearer, by their help and authority, to the understanding of what a pantomime might really be.

I can myself recall the glory of those “Dick Whittington” pictures. Just above Martin’s the pastry-cook’s (where they sold lemon biscuits), near the Cathedral, there was a big wooden hoarding, and on to this was pasted a marvellous representation of Dick and his Cat dining with the King of the Zanzibar Islands. The King, a Mulatto, sat with his court in a hall with golden pillars, and the rats were to be seen flying in a confused flood towards the golden gates, whilst Dick, in red plush and diamond buckles, stood in dignified majesty, the Cat at his side. There was another wonderful picture of Dick asleep at the Cross Roads, fairies watching over him, and London Town in a lighted purple distance–and another of the streets of Old London with a comic fat serving man, diamond- paned windows, cobblestones and high pointing eaves to the houses.

Jeremy saw these pictures for the first time during one of his afternoon walks, and returned home in such a state of choking excitement that he could not drink his tea. As was ever his way he was silent and controlled about the matter, asked very few questions, and although he talked to himself a little did not disturb the general peace of the nursery. On Mary and Helen the effect of the posters had been less. Mary was following the adventures of the May family in “The Daisy Chain,” and Helen was making necklaces for herself out of a box of beads that had been given her.

When Jeremy said once, “Who was the man in the red trousers with gold on them?” no one paid any attention save Hamlet, who wagged his tail, looked wise and growled a little.

Who indeed could tell how he ached and longed and desired He had a very vague idea as to the nature of a play; they had often dressed up at home and pretended to be different things and people, and, of course, he knew by heart the whole history of Dick Whittington, but this knowledge and experience did not in the least force him to realise that this performance of Mr. Denny’s was simply a larger, more developed “dressing up” and pretending. In some mysterious but nevertheless direct fashion Dick Whittington was coming to Polchester. It was just as he had heard for a long time of the existence of Aunt Emily who lived in Manchester–and then one day she appeared in a black bonnet and a shawl, and gave them wet kisses and sixpence apiece.

Dick Whittington was coming, having perhaps heard that Polchester was a very jolly place. So might come any day Jack of the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Queen Victoria, and God.

There were questions meanwhile that he would like to ask, but he was already a victim to that properly English fear of making a fool of himself, so he asked nothing. He dragged out his toy village and tried to make it a bridge in his imagination between the nursery and Whittington’s world. As the village opened a door from the nursery, so might Whittington open a door from the village.

He considered Hamlet and wondered whether he knew anything about it. Hamlet, in spite of his mongrel appearance, was a very clever dog. He had his especial corners in the garden, the kitchen and the nursery. He never misbehaved, was never in the way, and was able to amuse himself for hours together. Although he attached himself quite deliberately to Jeremy, he did this in no sentimental fashion, and in his animosities towards the Jampot, Aunt Amy and the boy who helped with the boots and the knives, he was always restrained and courteous. He did indeed growl at Aunt Amy, but always with such a sense of humour that everyone (except Aunt Amy) was charmed, and he never actually supported the children in their rebellions against the Jampot, although you could see that he liked and approved of such things. The Jampot hated him with a passion that caused the nursery to quiver with emotion. Was he not the cause of her approaching departure, his first appearance having led her into a tempest of passion that had caused her to offer a “notice” that she had never for an instant imagined would be accepted? Was he not a devilish dog who, with, his quiet movements and sly expressions, was more than human? “Mark my words,” she said in the kitchen, “there’s a devil in that there animal, and so they’ll find before they’re many years older–‘Amlet indeed–a ‘eathenish name and a ‘eathenish beast.”

Her enemy had discovered that in one corner of the nursery there were signs and symbols that witnessed to something in the nature of a mouse or a rat. That nursery corner became the centre of all his more adventurous instincts. It happened to be just the corner where the Jampot kept her sewing machine, and you would think, if you came to the nursery as a stranger, and saw him sitting, his eyes fixed beamingly upon the machine, his tail erect, and his body here and there quivering a little, that from duties of manly devotion he was protecting the Jampot’s property. She knew better; she regarded, in some undefined way, this continued contemplation by him of her possessions as an ironical insult. She did everything possible to drive him from the corner; he inevitably returned, and as he always delicately stepped aside when she approached, it could not be said that he was in her way. Once she struck him; he looked at her in such a fashion that “her flesh crept.” . . . She never struck him again.

For Jeremy he became more and more of a delight. He understood so much. He sympathised, he congratulated, he sported, always at the right moment. He would sit gravely at Jeremy’s feet, his body pressed against Jeremy’s leg, one leg stuck out square, his eyes fixed inquisitively upon the nursery scene. He would be motionless; then suddenly some thought would electrify him–his ears would cock, his eyes shine, his nose quiver, his tail tumble. The crisis would pass; he would be composed once more. He would slide down to the floor, his whole body collapsing; his head would rest upon Jeremy’s foot; he would dream of cats, of rats, of birds, of the Jampot, of beef and gravy, of sugar, of being washed, of the dogs’ Valhalla, of fire and warmth, of Jeremy, of walks when every piece of flying paper was a challenge, of dogs, dogs that he had known of when he was a puppy, of doing things he shouldn’t, of punishment and wisdom, pride and anger, of love-affairs of his youth, of battle, of settling-down, of love- affairs in the future, again of cats and beef, and smells–smells–smells, again of Jeremy, whom he loved. And Jeremy, watching him now, thus sleeping, and thinking of Dick Whittington, wondered why it was that a dog would understand so easily, without explanations, the thoughts and desires he had, and that all grown-up people would not understand, and would demand so many explanations, and would laugh at one, and pity one, and despise one. Why was it? he asked himself.

“I know,” he suddenly cried, turning upon Helen; “it can be your birthday treat!”

“What can?” she asked.

“Why, going to Dick Whittington–all of us.”

Helen had, most unfortunately for herself, a birthday only a week after Christmas, the result being that, in her own opinion at any rate, she never received “proper presents” on either of those two great present-giving occasions. She was always allowed, however, a “treat”; her requests were generally in the nature of food; once of a ride in the train; once even a visit to the Polchester Museum. . . It was difficult in those days to find “treats” in Polchester.

“Oh, do you think they’d let us?” she said, her eyes wide.

“We can try,” said Jeremy. “I heard Aunt Amy say the other day that she didn’t think it was right for children to see acting, and Mother always does the opposite to what Aunt Amy says, so p’r’aps it will be all right. I wish Hamlet could go,” he added.

“Don’t be silly!” said Helen.

“It isn’t silly,” Jeremy said indignantly. “It’s all about a cat, anyway, and he’d love to see all the rats and things. He wouldn’t bark if we told him not to, and I held his collar.”

“If Aunt Amy sat next him he would,” said Mary.

“Oh, bother Aunt Amy,” said Jeremy.

After this Helen needed a great deal of urging; but she heard that Lucy and Angela, the aforesaid daughters of the Dean, were going, and the spirit of rivalry drove her forward.

It happened that the Dean himself one day said something to Mr. Cole about “supporting a very praiseworthy effort. They are presenting, I understand, the proceeds of the first performance to the Cathedral Orphanage.”

Helen was surprised at the readiness with which her request was granted.

“We’ll all go,” said Mr. Cole, in his genial, pastoral fashion. “Good for us . . . good for us . . . to see the little ones laugh . . . good for us all.”

Only Uncle Samuel said “that nothing would induce him–“


I pass swiftly over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after, although I should like to linger upon these sumptuous dates. Jeremy had a sumptuous time; Hamlet had a sumptuous time (a whole sugar rat, plates and plates of bones, and a shoe of Aunt Amy’s); Mary and Helen had sumptuous times in their own feminine fashion.

Upon the evening of Christmas Eve, when the earth was snow-lit, and the street-lamps sparkled with crystals, and the rime on the doorsteps crackled beneath one’s feet, Jeremy accompanied his mother on a present-leaving expedition. The excitement of that! The wonderful shapes and sizes of the parcels, the mysterious streets, the door- handles and the door-bells, the glittering stars, the maidservants, the sense of the lighted house, as though vou opened a box full of excitements and then hurriedly shut the lid down again. Jeremy trembled and shook, not with cold, but with exalting, completely satisfying happiness.

There followed the Stocking, the Waits, the Carols, the Turkey, the Christmas Cake, the Tree, the Presents, Snapdragon, Bed. . . There followed Headache, Ill- temper, Smacking of Mary, Afternoon Walk, Good Temper again, Complete Weariness, Hamlet sick on the Golden Cockatoos, Hamlet Beaten, Five minutes with Mother downstairs, Bed. . . Christmas was over.

From that moment of the passing of Boxing Day it was simply the counting of the minutes to “Dick Whittington.” Six days from Boxing Day. Say you slept from eight to seven–eleven hours; that left thirteen hours; six thirteen hours was, so Helen said, seventy- eight. Seventy-eight hours, and Sunday twice as long as the other days, and that made thirteen more; ninety-one, said Helen, her nose in the air.

The week dragged along, very difficult work for everybody, and even Hamlet felt the excitement and watched his corner with the Jampot’s sewing machine in it with more quivering intensity than ever. The Day Before The Day arrived, the evening before The Day, the last supper before The Day, the last bed before The Day. . . Suddenly, like a Jack-in-the-Box, The Day itself.

Then the awful thing happened.

Jeremy awoke to the consciousness that something terrific was about to occur. He lay for a minute thinking–then he was up, running about the nursery floor as though he were a young man in Mr. Rossetti’s poetry shouting: “Helen! Mary! Mary! Helen! . . . It’s Dick Whittington! Dick Whittington!”

On such occasions he lost entirely his natural reserve and caution. He dressed with immense speed, as though that would hasten the coming of the evening. He ran into the nursery, carrying the black tie that went under his sailor-collar.

He held it out to the Jampot, who eyed him with disfavour. She was leaving them all in a week and was a strange confusion of sentiment and bad temper, love and hatred, wounded pride and injured dignity.

“Nurse. Please. Fasten it,” he said impatiently.

“And that’s not the way to speak, Master Jeremy, and well you know it,” she said. “‘Ave you cleaned your teeth?”

“Yes,” he answered without hesitation. It was not until the word was spoken that he realised that he had not. He flushed. The Jampot eyed him with a sudden sharp suspicion. He was then and ever afterwards a very bad hand at a lie. . .

He would have taken the word back, he wanted to take it back–but something held him as though a stronger than he had placed his hand over his mouth. His face flamed.

“You’ve truly cleaned them?” she said.

“Yes, truly,” he answered, his eyes on the ground. Never was there a more obvious liar in all the world.