* * * * *
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Novels. MRS. MARTIN'S MAN. ALICE AND A FAMILY.
Short Stories. EIGHT O'CLOCK AND OTHER STUDIES.
Plays. FOUR IRISH PLAYS MIXED MARRIAGE. THE MAGNANIMOUS LOVER. THE CRITICS. THE ORANGEMAN. JANE CLEGG. JOHN FERGUSON.
Political Study. SIR EDWARD CARSON AND THE ULSTER MOVEMENT.
* * * * *
ST. JOHN G. ERVINE
New York The Macmillan Company 1917
All rights reserved
Copyright, 1917, by St. John G. Ervine.
Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1917. Reprinted March, twice, May, twice, July, August, September, November, 1917.
THE MEMORY OF RUPERT BROOKE
The translations from the Gaelic on pages 77 and 78 were made by the late P. H. Pearse, who was executed in Dublin for his part in the Easter Rebellion. The translations appeared in New Ireland, and I am indebted to the Editor of that review for permission to reprint them here.
THE FIRST BOOK
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter, And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after, Frost, with a gesture, stays the winds that dance And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white, Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, A width, a shining peace, under the night.
THE FIRST CHAPTER
It would be absurd to say of Mr. Quinn that he was an ill-tempered man, but it would also be absurd to say that he was of a mild disposition. William Henry Matier, a talker by profession and a gardener in his leisure moments, summarised Mr. Quinn's character thus: "He'd ate the head off you, thon lad would, an' beg your pardon the minute after!" That, on the whole, was a just and adequate description of Mr. Quinn, and certainly no one had better qualifications for forming an estimate of his employer's character than William Henry Matier; for he had spent many years of his life in Mr. Quinn's service and had, on an average, been discharged from it about ten times per annum.
Mr. Quinn, the younger son of a poor landowner in the north of Ireland, had practised at the Bar without success. His failure to maintain himself at the law was not due to ignorance of the statutes of the land or to any inability on his part to distort their meaning: it was due solely to the fact that he was a Unionist and a gentleman. His Unionism, in a land where politics take the place of religion, prevented him from receiving briefs from Nationalists, and his gentlemanliness made it impossible for him to accept briefs from the Unionists; for if an Irish lawyer be a Unionist, he must play the lickspittle and tomtoady to the lords and ladies of the Ascendency and be ready at all times and on all occasions to deride Ireland and befoul his countrymen in the presence of the English people.
"I'd rather eat dirt," Mr. Quinn used to say, "than earn my livin' that way!"
He contrived, however, to win prosperity by his marriage to Miss Catherine Clotworthy, the only daughter of a Belfast mill-owner: a lady of watery spirit who irked her husband terribly because she affected an English manner and an English accent. He was very proud of his Irish blood and he took great pride in using Ulster turns of speech. Mrs. Quinn, whose education had been "finished" at Brighton, frequently urged him to abandon his "broad" way of talking, but the principal effect she had on him was to intensify the broadness of his accent.
"I do wish you wouldn't say Aye," she would plead, "when you mean Yes!"
And then he would roar at her. "What! Bleat like a damned Englishman! Where's your wit, woman?"
Soon after the birth of her son, she died, and her concern, therefore, with this story is slight. It is sufficient to say of her that she inherited a substantial fortune from her father and that she passed it on, almost unimpaired, to her husband, thus enabling him to live in comfortable disregard of the law as a means of livelihood. He had a small estate in County Antrim, which included part of the village of Ballymartin, and there he passed his days in agricultural pursuits.
Mr. Quinn, as has been stated, was a Unionist, and, in spite of his Catholic name, a Protestant; but he had a poor opinion of his Unionist neighbours who, so he said, were far more loyal to England than England quite liked. He hated the English accent ... "finicky bleatin'," he called it ... and declared, though he really knew better, that all Englishmen spoke with a Cockney intonation. "A lot of h-droppers," he called them, adding, "God gave them a decent language, but they haven't the gumption to talk it!" The Oxford voice, in his opinion, was educated Cockney, uglier, if possible, than the uneducated brand.
An Englishman, hearing Mr. Quinn talk in this fashion, might pardonably have imagined that he was listening to a fanatical Nationalist, a dynamiting Fenian, but if, being a Liberal, he had ventured to advocate Home Rule for Ireland in Mr. Quinn's presence, he would speedily have found that he was in error. "Damn the fear!" Mr. Quinn would say when people charged him with being a Home Ruler. The motive of his Unionism, however, was neither loyalty to England nor terror of Rome: it was wholly and unashamedly a matter of commerce. "The English bled us for centuries," he would say, "an' it's only fair we should bleed them. We've got our teeth in their skins, an' they're shellin' out their money gran'! That's what the Union's for—to make them keep on shellin' out their money. An' instead of tellin' the people to bite deeper an' get more money out of them, the fools o' Nationalists is tellin' them to take their teeth out! Never," he would exclaim passionately, "never, while there's a shillin' in an Englishman's pocket!"
Mr. Quinn, of course, treated every Englishman he met with courtesy, for he was an Irish gentleman, and he had sometimes been heard to speak affectionately of some person of English birth. The chief result of this civility, conjoined with the ferocity of his political statements, was that his English friends invariably spoke of him as "a typical Irishman." They looked upon him as so much comic relief to the more serious things of their own lives, and seemed constantly to expect him to perform some amusing antic, some innately Celtic act of comic folly. At such times, Mr. Quinn felt as if he could annihilate an Englishman.
"Ah, well," he would say, restraining himself, "we all know what the English are like, God help them!"
It was because of his strong feeling for Ireland and Irish things that he decided to have his son, Henry, educated in Ireland. "Anyway," he said to the lad, "you'll have an Irish tongue, whatever else you have!" He sent the boy to a school in the County Armagh and left him there until he discovered that he was not being educated at all. He had questioned Henry on the history and geography of Ireland one day, and had found to his horror that while Henry could tell him exactly where Popocatepetl was to be found, and knew that Mount Everest was 29,002 feet high, and could name the kings of England and the dates of their accession as easily as he could recite the Lord's Prayer, he had no knowledge of the whereabouts or character of Lurigedan, a hill in the County Antrim, and could tell him nothing of the Red Earls and the beautiful queens of Ireland. He knew something that was true, and much that was not, of Queen Elizabeth and King Alfred, but nothing, true or false, of Deirdre and Red Hugh O'Neill.
"What the hell's the good of knowin' about Popocatepetl," Mr. Quinn shouted at him, "when you don't know the name of a hill on your own doorstep!"
Lurigedan was hardly "on his own doorstep," and Mr. Quinn himself only knew of it because he had once, very breathlessly, climbed to its summit, but an Irish hill was of more consequence to him than the highest mountain in the world; and so he descended upon the master of the school, a dreepy individual with a tendency to lament the errors of Rome, and damned him from tip to toe so effectually that the alarmed pedagogue gladly consented to the immediate termination of Henry's career at his establishment. Thereafter, Henry was educated in England, for Mr. Quinn did not propose to sacrifice efficiency to patriotism.
"An' if you come back talkin' like a damned Cockney," he said to his son as he bade good-bye to him, "I'll cut the legs off you!"
When Henry came home in the holidays, Mr. Quinn would spend hours in testing his tongue.
"Sound your rs," he would say repeatedly, because he regarded one's ability to say the letter r as a test of a man's control of the English language. "If you were to listen to an Englishman talkin' on the telephone, you'd hear him yelpin' 'Ah yoh thah?' just like a big buck nigger, 'til you'd be sick o' listenin' to him! Say, 'Are you there?', Henry son!"
And Henry would say "Are you there, father?" very gravely.
"That's right," the old man would exclaim, listening with delight to the rolling rs. "Always sound your rs whatever you do. I'll not own you if you come home sayin,'Ah yoh thah?' when you mean 'Are you there?' Do you mind me, now?"
"Well, be heedin' me, then! Now, how are you on the hs. Are you as steady on them as you were when you were home before?"
Then Henry would protest. "But, father," he would say, "they don't all drop their hs. It's only the common ones that drop them!...
"They're all common, Henry ... the whole lot, common as dirt!" Mr. Quinn retorted once to that, and then began to tell his son how the English people had lost the habits and instincts of gentlemen in the eighteenth century ... "where Ireland still is, my son!" ... and had become money-grubbers. "The English," he said, lying back in his chair and delivering his sentences as if he were a monarch pronouncing decrees, "ceased to be gentlemen on the day that Hargreaves invented the spinnin'-jenny, and landlords gave way to mill-owners." He stopped for a second or two and then continued as if an idea had only just come into his head. "An' it was proper punishment for Hargreaves," he said, "that the English let him die in the workhouse. Proper punishment. What the hell did he want to invent the thing for?..."
Henry looked up, startled by the sudden anger that swept over his father, replacing the oracular banter with which he had begun his discourse on the decadence of manners in England.
"But, father," he said, "you aren't against machinery, are you?"
"Yes, I am," Mr. Quinn replied, banging the arm of his chair with his fist. "I'd smash every machine in the world, if I were in authority."
"That's absurd, father. I mean, what would become of progress?"
Mr. Quinn leaped out of his chair and strode up and down the room. "Progress! Progress!" he exclaimed. "D'ye think machines are progress? D'ye think a factory is progress? Some of you young chaps think you're makin' progress when you're only makin' changes. I tell you, Henry, the only thing that is capable of progression is the human soul, and machines can't develop that!" He came back to his seat as he said this and sat down, but he did not lie back as he had done before. He sat forward, gazing intently at his son, and spoke with a curious passion such as Henry had never heard him use before. "Look here, Henry!" he said, "there was a girl in the village once called Lizzie McCamley ... a fine bit of a girl, too, big and strong, an' full of fun, an' she got tired of the village. Her father was a labourer, an' all she could see in front of her was the life of a labourer's wife. Well, it isn't much of a life, that, an' Lizzie's mother had a poor life even for a labourer's wife because McCamley boozed. I don't blame Lizzie for wantin' somethin' better than that. I'd have despised her if she hadn't wanted somethin' better. But what did she do? She had an uncle in Belfast workin' in your grandfather's mill, an' she came to me an' she asked me to use my influence with your grandfather to get her a job in the mill. An' I did. An' by God, I'm sorry for it! I'll rue it 'til my dyin' day, I can tell you!"
"But why, father!"
"Your grandfather gave her a job in the weavin' room of his mill. Do you know what that's like, Henry?" Henry shook his head. He had never been inside a linen-mill. "The linen has to be woven in a moist atmosphere, or else it'd become brittle an' so it wouldn't be fine," Mr. Quinn went on; "an' the atmosphere is kept moist by lettin' steam escape from pipes into the room where the linen is bein' woven—a damp, muggy, steamy atmosphere, Henry ... an' Lizzie McCamley left this village ... left work in the fields there to go up to Belfast an' work in that for ten shillin's a week! An' that's what people calls progress! I wish you could see her now—half rotten with disease, her that was the healthiest girl in the place before she went away. She's always sick, that girl, an' she can't eat anythin' unless her appetite is stimulated with stuff like pickles. She's anaemic an' debilitated, an' the last time I saw her, she'd got English cholera.... She married a fellow that was as sick as herself, an' she had a child that wasn't fit to be born ... it died, thank God!... an' then she went back to her work an' became sicker. An' she'll go on like that 'til she dies, a rotten, worn-out woman, the mother of rotten children when she ought to have had fine healthy brats, an' could have had them too, if it hadn't been for this damned progress we're all makin'!"
Henry did not reply to his father. He did not know what to reply. His mind was still in the pliable state, and he found that he was being infected by his father's passion. But he had been taught at Rumpell's to believe in Invention, in Progress by the Development of Machinery, and so his mind reeled a little under this sudden onslaught on his beliefs.
"Well," said Mr. Quinn. "Is that your notion of progress, Henry! Makin' fine linen out of healthy girls?"
"No, father, of course not. Only!..."
Mr. Quinn stood up, and caught hold of his son's shoulder. "Come over to the window, Henry!" he said, and they walked across the room together. "Look out there," he said, pointing towards the fields that stretched to the foot of the hills. "That's fine, isn't it!" he exclaimed.
"It's very beautiful, father," Henry replied, looking across the fields of corn and clover and the pastures where the silken-sided cattle browsed and flocks of sheep cropped the short grass.
"It's land, Henry!" said Mr. Quinn, proudly. "You can do without machines in the long run, but you can't do without that!"
"An' what do you think a mill-owner'd make of it, Henry!" Mr. Quinn said as they stood there gazing on the richness of the earth. Near at hand, they could hear the sound of a lawn-mower, leisurely worked by William Henry Matier, and while they waited for him to come into view, a great fat thrush flew down from a tree and seized a snail and beat it against a stone until its shell was broken....
"I suppose he'd spoil it, father!" Henry answered.
"Spoil it!" Mr. Quinn exclaimed. "Damn it, Henry, he'd desecrate it! He'd tear up my cornfields and meadows and put factories and mills in their place! That's what he'd do!" He turned sideways and leant against the lintel of the window so that he was looking at his son. "There was a fellow came to see me once," he said, "from London. A speculatin' chap, an' he wanted me to put capital into a scheme he had on. Do you know what sort of a scheme it was, Henry?"
"He wanted to develop the mineral resources of the County Wicklow, an' he wanted me to lend him money to do it. He said that some Germans had surveyed the whole district, an' there was an immense fortune just waitin' to be torn out of the earth.... I could hardly keep my feet off his backside! 'Do you want to turn Glendalough into a place like Wigan?' I said to him. 'It's all in the interests of progress,' says he.... No, I didn't give him any of my money. I was as civil to him as I could be, an' he never knew how near he was to his death that day...."
Mr. Quinn's anger evaporated, and he began to laugh to himself as he thought of the difficulty he had had in restraining his rage against the speculator and how frightened that person would have been had he known how angry he had made him.
"He was a little smooth chap," he said, "with smooth hair an' smooth clothes and a smooth voice. You could hardly tell it was hair, it was that smooth. You'd nearly think somebody had painted it on his skull. He couldn't make me out when I said I'd rather starve than let a halfpenny of my money be used to make a mess of Glendalough, an' he talked about the necessity of havin' a broad outlook on the world. I suppose he went away an' told everybody that I was a reactionary an' a bad landlord. Oh, I can hear him spoutin' away about me ... he got into parliament soon after that, an' used to denounce landlords an' blether away about progress. An' I daresay everybody that listens to him thinks I'm a stupid fellow, standin' in the way of everything. I'm a landlord, an' so, of course, I'm obsolete and tyrannical an' thick-headed, an' all that, but I wouldn't treat one of my labourers the way your grandfather treated his for the wide world. Mind you, he was a religious man ... I don't mean that he pretended to be religious ... he really was religious, after a fashion ... wouldn't have missed goin' to church or sayin' his prayers night an' mornin' for a mint of money ... an' yet there didn't seem to him to be anything wrong in lettin' men an' women make money for him in that ... that disgustin' way. I can't understand that. I'm damned if I can!"
Something stirred uneasily in Henry's mind. He became acutely conscious of the principal source of his father's income, and he remembered things that had been said to him by Gilbert Farlow at Rumpell's. Gilbert Farlow was his chief friend at Rumpell's, the English school to which he had been sent after his experience at Armagh, and Gilbert called himself an hereditary socialist because his father had been a socialist before him. ("He was one of the first members of the Fabian Society," Gilbert used to say proudly.) Gilbert had strong, almost violent, views on Personal Responsibility for General Wrongs. He always referred to rich people as "oligarchs," or "the rotters who live on rent and interest" and declared that it was impossible for them to escape from the responsibility for the social chaos by asserting that they, individually, had kind hearts and had never been known to underpay or overwork any one. Remembering Gilbert's views, Henry could not help thinking that it was all very well for his father to denounce the mill in that fashion, but after all he was living on the money that was made in it....
"But, father," he said, hesitatingly, "haven't we got grandfather's money now ... and the mill!..."
"No, not the mill, Henry. Your grandfather turned that into a limited company, an' your mother sold her shares in it. I told her to sell them!"
Henry's conscience still pricked him. It seemed to him that selling the shares was very like running away from the responsibility.
"But all the same," he said, "we've got money that was made out of the mill by grandfather...."
"So we have, Henry," Mr. Quinn replied good-temperedly, "an' we're makin' a better use of it than he did. Some one's got to use it, an' I'm doin' the best I can with it. You've only got to look at my land to see how well I've used the money. It's better land than it was when I got it, isn't it?" Henry nodded his head. Even he knew that much. "I've enriched it an' drained it an' improved it in ways that'll benefit them that come after me ... not me, but you an' your children, Henry ... an' that's a good use to make of it. I've planted trees that I'll never reap a ha'penny from, an' I've spent money on experiments that did me no good but helped to increase knowledge about land. Look at the labourers' cottages I've built, an' the plots of land I've given them. Aren't they good! Didn't I put up the best part of the money to build the new school because the old one was lettin' in the wind an' rain?"
Henry's knowledge of sociology was not sufficient to enable him to cope with these arguments ... there was no Gilbert Farlow at his elbow to prompt him ... and so he collapsed.
"I suppose you're right, father," he said.
"Suppose I'm right," Mr. Quinn replied. "Of course I'm right!"
"I know well," he continued after he had fumed for a few moments, "there's people ... socialists an' radicals an' people like that ... makes out that landlords are the curse of the world. They think we're nothin' in comparison with mill-owners an' that sort, but I tell you, Henry, whatever we are an' whatever we were, we're better than the people that have taken our place. We didn't tear up the earth an' cover it with slag-heaps or turn good rivers into stinkin' sewers. We didn't pollute the rivers with filth an' poison the fish!" He turned suddenly to Henry and said in a quieter tone, "You've never seen Wigan, have you, Henry?"
"Well, you'd think by the look of it, it was made on the seventh day ... when God rested. Landlords didn't do that, Henry, or anything as bad as that. It was mill-owners that did it. Oh, I know well enough that landlords were not all they ought to have been, but I'm certain of this, that labourers on the land were healthier under landlords than they are under mill-owners, and even if we weren't as good to the labourers as we might have been, at least we had respect for God's world, an' I never met a mill-owner yet that had respect for anything but a bankbook. I've been in Lancashire an' I've listened to these mill-owners ... I've listened to them talkin', an' I've listened to them eatin' an' drinkin' ... an' they talked 'brass' an' they thought 'brass,' an' I'm damned if they didn't drink 'brass.' That's characteristic of them. They call money 'brass.' Brass! Do you think they care for the fine look of things or an old house or a picture or books or anything that's decent? No, Henry ... all they care for is 'brass,' an' that's what's the matter with the English ... they think too much about money ... easy money ... an' they think so much about gettin' it that none of them have any time to think of how they'll spend it when they do get it. An' they just fool it away! Eat it away, drink it away! An' then they have to go to Buxton an' Matlock an' Harrogate to sweat the muck out of their blood!"
Henry reminded his father of the bloods and bucks and macaronis of the eighteenth century ... the last of the English gentlemen.
"After all, father, they weren't so very much better than the lot you're denouncing!"
"Yes, they were. They had the tradition of gentlemen behind them. They were drunkards and gamblers and women-hunters an' Lord knows what not, but behind it all, Henry, they had the tradition of gentlemen, an' that saved them from things that a mill-owner does as a matter of course. An' anyway, their theory was right. They thought more of spendin' money than of makin' it, an' that was right. It isn't makin' money that matters ... any fool can do that ... it's spendin' money that matters. You're less likely to make a mess of the world when you're spendin', than when you're makin', money, an' the English'll find that out yet. God'll not forget in a hurry the way they tore up their good land an' made dirty, stinkin' towns out of it, an' by the Holy O, He'll make them suffer for it. If I was an Englishman, I wouldn't want any one to see places like Wigan an' the towns where they dig coal an' make pottery ... I'd ... I'd be ashamed to look God in the face when I had mind of them...."
Late that night, long after Henry had gone to bed, Mr. Quinn came to his room and wakened him.
"What is it, father!" Henry said, starting up in alarm.
"It's all right, son," Mr. Quinn replied. "I'm sorry I startled you. I've been thinkin' over what I said to you this afternoon ... about machinery. You're not to take me too seriously."
Henry, his eyes still full of sleep, blinked uncomprehendingly at his father.
"I mean, son," Mr. Quinn went on, "that it'd be silly to break up every machine in the world. Of course, it would! You must have thought I was daft talkin' like that. What I mean is, I'd smash up all the machines that make a mess of men an' women. That's all. I'm sorry I disturbed you, Henry, but I couldn't bear to think of you lyin' here mebbe thinkin' I was talkin' out of the back of my neck. I'm not very clever, son ... I've a moidhered sort of a mind ... an' I say things sometimes that aren't what I mean at all. You must be tired out, Henry. Good-night to you!"
Mr. Quinn walked towards the door of the room, shading the light of the candle from the draught, but before he had reached it, Henry called to him.
"Father," he said.
"Yes, Henry," Mr. Quinn replied, turning to look at his son.
"You're a Socialist!"
"No, I'm not. I'm a Conservative," said Mr. Quinn, and then he went out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Many things troubled Mr. Quinn, but the thing that troubled him most was his son's nervousness. Henry, when he was a child, would cry with fright during a thunderstorm, and he never in after life quite lost the sense of apprehension when the clouds blackened. He loved horses, but he could not sit on a horse's back without being haunted by the fear that the animal would run away or that he would be thrown from his seat. He could swim fairly well, but he was afraid to dive, and he never swam far out of his depth without a sensation of alarm that he would not be able to return in safety.
"Your mother was like that," Mr. Quinn said to him once. "She never was in a theatre in her life, 'til I married her. Her father was too religious to let her go to such a place, an' I had the great job to persuade her to go with me. I took her to see Henry Irving in Belfast once, an' all the time she kept whisperin' to me, 'Suppose I was to die now, where'd I wake up?' That's a fact, Henry! Your mother was terribly frightened of hell. An' even when she got over that, she was always wonderin' if it was safe to go to a theatre. She'd imagine the place was sure to go on fire, an' then she'd be burned alive or get crushed to death or somethin' like that. I nearly felt scared myself, the way she went on! I wish you weren't so nervous, Henry!"
They were at Cushendall when Mr. Quinn said this. They had ridden over on bicycles intent on a day's picnic by the sea, and soon after they had arrived, Mr. Quinn itched to be in the water. They had stripped on the beach, and clambered over the rocks to a place where a deep, broad pool was separated from the Irish Sea by a thick wedge of rock, covered by long, yellow sea-weed. There was a swell on the sea, and so Mr. Quinn decided to swim in the pool. "This is a good place for a dive," he said, standing on the edge of the flat rock and looking down into the deep pool, and then he put his hands above his head and, bending forward, dived down into the water so finely that there was hardly any splash. He came up, puffing and blowing, shaking the water from his eyes and hair, and swam up and down the pool, now on his back, now on his side, and then suddenly with a shout he would curl himself up and dive and swim beneath the water, and again come up, red and shiny and puffing and blowing and shouting, "Aw, that's grand! Aw, that's grand!" He could stand on his hands in the water and turn somersaults and find pennies on the sandy bottom. He loved all sport, but the sport that he loved best was swimming. He liked to sit on a rock and let great waves come and hit him hearty thumps in the back. He liked to bury his face in the water. He liked the feel of the water on his body. He liked to stand up in the sunshine and watch the drops of water glistening on his body. He liked to lie on the sea-weed or the sand after his swim and let the sun dry him. "It's great health, this!" he would say, kicking and splashing in the sea.
"Come on," he shouted to Henry, after he had dived.
Henry was sitting on the sea-weed, with his arms clutched tightly round his shins, shivering a little in the wind.
"You'll catch your death of cold if you sit there instead of jumpin' in," his father called to him. "Dive, man! That's a grand place!"
Henry stood up ... and then turned away from the rock. He caught hold of the sea-weed and slowly lowered himself into the water.
"That wasn't much of a dive," his father said, swimming up to him.
Henry did not answer. He swam across the pool and clambered out on the other side and waited for his father, who followed after him.
"I wish you weren't so nervous," Mr. Quinn said a second time, as he sat down on the sea-weed beside his son.
"So do I, father," Henry replied, "but I can't help it. I try to make myself not feel afraid, but I just can't. If I could only not think about it!..."
"Aye, that's it, Henry. You think too much. Do you mind that bit in Shakespeare about people that think bein' dangerous. Begod, that's true! Thin men think, that's what Shakespeare says, an' he's right, though I've known fat men to think, too, but anyway thin men aren't near the swimmers that fat men are. Well, I suppose it's no use complainin'. You can't help thinkin' if you have that kind of a mind ... only I wish it didn't make a coward of you!"
A twist of pain passed over the boy's face when his father said "Coward," and instantly Mr. Quinn was sorry.
"I didn't mean that exactly," he said very quickly, putting out his hand and touching Henry's bare back. "I didn't mean coward, Henry. I know you're not that sort at all. It's just nervousness, that's what it is!"
He scrambled to his feet as he spoke, and stood for a moment or two, slipping about on the wet sea-weed. He slapped his big, hairy chest with his hands, and then he swung his arms over his head in order to send the blood circulating more rapidly through his veins.
"I wish I were as big and strong as you are, father!" said Henry, gazing at his father's muscular frame.
"You're a greedy young rascal," his father answered. "Sure, haven't you more brains in your wee finger than I have in my whole body, an' what more do you want! It would be a poor thing if your father hadn't got something you haven't. Come on, now, an' I'll swim you a race to the end of the pool an' back, an' then we must go home."
He plunged into the water and swam about, making a great noise and splash, and deliberately looking away from his son. He was giving him an opportunity to slip into the water without being seen to shrink from the dive.
"Are you comin', Henry!" he asked, without looking back.
"Yes, father," the boy replied, standing up and looking fearfully into the water. He lifted his hands above his head and drew in his breath. He moved forward, half shutting his eyes, and poised himself on the edge of the rock, ready for the plunge. Then he put his hands down again and lowering himself on to the sea-weed, slipped slowly into the water and struck out. "I'm coming, father!" he said.
"That's right, my son, that's right!" Mr. Quinn replied, looking round.
He did not speak of Henry's nervousness again, but it troubled him none the less. He himself was so fearless, so careless of danger, so eager for adventure that he could not understand his son's shrinking from peril.
"I used to think," he said to himself one day, "that boys took their physique from their mothers an' their brains from their fathers, but it doesn't seem to have worked out like that with Henry. He doesn't seem to have got anything from me.... It's a rum business, whatever way you look at it."
THE SECOND CHAPTER
Mr. Quinn's horror of the English people was neither consistent nor rigid. When the Armagh schoolmaster was found wanting, Mr. Quinn instantly decided to send Henry to Rumpell's, a famous English school, and here Henry soon made friends of Ninian Graham and Roger Carey and Gilbert Farlow. Gilbert Farlow was the friend for whom he cared most, but his affection for Ninian Graham and Roger Carey was very strong. Henry's soft nature was naturally affectionate, but there had been little opportunity in his life for a display of affection. His mother was not even a memory to him, for she had died while he was still a baby. Old Cassie Arnott had nursed him, but Cassie, at an age when it seemed impossible for her to feel any emotion for men, had suddenly married and had gone off to Belfast. His memory of her speedily faded. Cassie was succeeded by Matilda Turnbull, who drank, and was dismissed by Mr. Quinn at the end of a fortnight; and then came Bridget Fallon.... Bridget had the longest hold on his memory, but she, too, disappeared and was seen no more; for Mr. Quinn came on her suddenly one day and found her teaching "Master Henry" to say prayers to the Virgin Mary! She had put a scapular about his neck and had taught him to make the sign of the cross....
"Take that damned rag off my child's neck," Mr. Quinn had roared at her, "an' take yourself off as soon as you can pack your box!"
And Bridget, poor, kindly, devout, gentle Bridget, was sent weeping away.
Long afterwards, Henry had talked to his father about Bridget, and Mr. Quinn had expressed regret for what he had said about the scapular. "I had no call to say it was a damned rag," he said, "though that's all it was. It meant a lot to her, of course, an' I suppose she was right to try an' make a Catholic of you. But I'd hate to have a son of mine a Catholic, Henry. It's an unmanly religion, only fit for women an' ... an' actors! It's not religion at all ... it's funk, Henry, that's what it is! I read 'The Garden of the Soul' one time, an' I'd be ashamed to pray the way that book goes on, with their 'Jesus, Mercy!' 'Mother of God, pity me!' 'Holy Saints, intercede for me!' Catholics don't pray, Henry; they whine; and I've no use for whinin'. If I can't go to heaven like a man, I'll go to hell like one. Anyway, if I commit a sin, I'll not whine about it, an' if God says to me on the last day, 'Did you commit this sin or that sin?' I'll answer Him to His face an' say, 'Yes, God, I did, an' if You'd been a man, You'd have done the same Yourself!'"
So it was that, in his childhood, no woman made a lasting impression on Henry's affectionate nature. No one, indeed, filled his affections except his father. Henry's love for his father was unfathomable. Their natures were so dissimilar that they never clashed. There were things about Henry, his nervousness, his sudden accessions of fright, which puzzled Mr. Quinn, and might, had he been a smaller man than he was, have made him angry with the boy, contemptuous of him; but when Mr. Quinn came across some part of Henry's nature which was incomprehensible to him, he tried first, to understand and then, failing that, to be tolerant. "We all have our natures," he used to say to himself, "an' it's no use complainin' because people are different. Sure, that's what makes them interestin' anyway!"
But Henry's affection for Gilbert Farlow and Ninian Graham and Roger Carey was a new affection, a thing that came spontaneously to him. There were other boys at Rumpell's whom he liked and others for whom he felt neither like nor dislike, but just the ordinary tolerance of temporary encounters and passing life; and there were a few for whom he felt a hatred so venomous that it sometimes frightened him. There was Cobain, a brutal, thick-jawed fellow who thumped small boys whenever they came near him, and there was Mullally!... He could not describe his feeling for Mullally! It was so strong that he could not sit still in the same room with him, could not speak civilly to him. And yet Mullally was civil enough to him, was anxious even to be friendly with him. There was something of a flabby sort in Mullally's nature that made Henry instinctively angry with him: his vague features, his weak, wandering eyes, peering from behind large glasses, his tow-coloured hair that seemed to have "washed-out," and above all, his squeaky voice that piped on one jerky note....
It was Gilbert Farlow who gave Mullally his nick-name. (It was the time of the Boer War, and the nick-name came easily enough.) "He isn't a man," said Gilbert; "he's a regrettable incident!"
Gilbert Farlow, though he was the youngest and the slightest of the four boys, was the leader of them. He had the gift of vivid language. He could cut a man with a name as sharply as if it were a knife. He invented new oaths for the delight of Ninian Graham, who had a taste for strong language but no genius in developing it. It was he who appointed Roger to the office of Purse-Bearer because Roger was careful. It was he who decided that their pocket-money, with small exceptions, should be spent conjointly, and that no money should be spent unless three out of four consented to the expenditure. ("Damn it, is it my money or is it not?" said Ninian when the rule was proposed, and "Fined sixpence for cheek!" Gilbert replied, ordering Roger to collect the sixpence which was then divided between the three who had not murmured.) It was he who declared that "Henry" was too long and "Quinn," too short (though Roger said the words were exactly the same length) and insisted on calling Henry "Quinny" (which Roger said was actually longer than either of the displaced words. "Well, it sounds shorter," said Gilbert decisively).
Gilbert planned their lives for them. "We'll all go to Cambridge," he said, "and then we'll become Great!"
"Righto!" said Ninian.
"If any of our people propose to send us to Oxford, there's to be a row! Sloppy asses go to Oxford ... fellows like Mullally!" Henry made a terrible grimace at the mention of Mullally's name and Gilbert, swift to notice the grimace, pointed the moral, "Well, Quinny, if your guv'nor tries to send you to Oxford, don't let him. Remember Mullally, the ... the boiled worm!" he continued, "an' say you won't go!"
"But my father was at Oxford," said Roger quietly.
"Your father was a parson and didn't know any better," Gilbert replied. "And that reminds me, if one of us becomes a parson, the rest of us give him the chuck. Is that agreed?"
Ninian held up both his hands. "Carried unanimous!" he said.
"I don't know!" Henry objected. "I used to think it'd be rather nice to be a parson ... standing in the pulpit in a surplice and talking like that to people!"
Gilbert got up from the grass where they were sitting. "He'll have to be scragged," he said.
"Righto!" said Ninian, and the three of them seized Henry and flung him to the ground and sat on him until he swore by the blood of his forefathers that he would never, never consent to be a clergyman. "Or give pi-jaws of any sort!" said Gilbert.
"Lemme go!" Henry squeaked, struggling to throw them off his back.
"When you've promised!..."
"Oh, all right, then!"
They released him and he stood up and straightened his clothes and searched his mind for something of a devastating character to say. "Funny ass!" he said at last, and then they scragged him again for being cheeky.
But he would have submitted to any amount of scragging from them because they were his friends and because he loved Gilbert and because they, too, in their turn submitted to being scragged.
When Henry had been at Rumpell's for a year, Ninian Graham asked him to spend the Easter holidays at his home in Devonshire. "I'll get my mater to write and ask you," he said. Henry hesitated. He had never spent a holiday away from home, and he knew that his father liked him to return to Ireland whenever he had the chance to do so. He himself enjoyed going home, but suddenly, when Henry had finished speaking, he felt a strong desire to accept this invitation. "I'll have to ask my father," he replied, and added, "I'd like to, Ninian. Thanks awf'lly!"
He had heard his father speak so contemptuously of English people that he was almost afraid to ask him for permission to accept Ninian's invitation. He wondered how he would explain his father's refusal to Ninian who was so kind.... But his fears were not warranted, for Mr. Quinn replied to his letter, urging him to accept the invitation.
"Enjoy yourself," he wrote. "The English are very hospitable when you get to know them, and the only way you can get to know them is to go and live in their homes! But I'll expect you to come here in the summer. You can bring your friends with you, the whole lot. William Henry says there'll be a grand lot of strawberries and goosegogs this year and you can all make yourselves as sick as you like on them." He signed himself, "Your affectionate Father, Henry Quinn."
And so Henry had gone that Easter to Boveyhayne, where Mrs. Graham and her daughter Mary lived. Ninian and he had travelled by train to Whitcombe where they were met by old Widger and driven over hilly country to Boveyhayne. There was a long climb out of Whitcombe and then a long descent into Boveyhayne, after which the road ran on the level to the end of Hayne lane which led to the Manor. Before they reached the end of the lane, Old Widger turned to them and, pointing with his whip in front of him, said, laughingly, "Here be Miss Mary waitin' for 'ee, Mas'er Ninyan!"
Ninian stood up in the carriage and looked ahead. "Hilloa, Mary!" he shouted, waving his hand, and then, before Old Widger had time to pull up, he jumped into the road and ran on ahead. "Come on, Quinny!" he shouted, and Henry, suddenly shy, got out of the carriage and followed after him.
"You needn't wait for us, Widger!" Ninian shouted again. "We'll walk home!"
And Widger, smiling largely, drove on.
Mary Graham was younger than Ninian, nearly two years younger, and very different from him. He was big in body and bone, and fair and very hearty in his manner. When Ninian approved of you he did not pat your back: he punched it so that your bones rattled and your flesh tingled. All his movements were large, splashy, as Gilbert said, and, his voice was incapable of whispers. But Mary was slight and small and dark and her laugh was like the sound of a little silver bell. She was standing on an earth mound at the entrance to the lane when Henry came up to Ninian and her, and he wondered to himself how her small, shapely head could bear the weight of the long dark hair which fell about her shoulders in a thick, flowing pile. Ninian was chattering to her so loudly and so rapidly that Henry could hardly hear her replies....
"Oh, this is Quinny!" Ninian said, jerking his thumb in Henry's direction. "His real name is Quinn, Henry Quinn, but we call him 'Quinny.' At least, Gilbert does, so, of course we do too. And he's Irish, but he isn't a Catholic, and he says Irish people don't keep pigs in their houses, and they eat other things besides potatoes and ... come on, Quinny, buck up and be civil!"
Mary stepped down from the mound, and held out her hand to Henry. "How do you do!" she said, smiling at him, and he took her hand and said he was very well and asked her how she did, and she said she was very well, and then she smiled again, and so Henry smiled too.
Ninian had moved on up the lane. "Buck up, you two!" he said. "I'm hungry!" He started to run, thinking of tea, and then he suddenly checked himself and came back. "I say, Mary," he said, "Quinny's fearfully gone on wildflowers and birds and ... and Nature ... and that sort of stuff. Show him the primroses and things, will you? I've got an awful hunger and I want to see the mater. Oh, Quinny, these are primroses, these yellow things, and Mary'll show you anything else you want to see. There's a jolly lot of honeysuckle and hazelnuts in these hedges later on. So long!" He went off again, running in a heavy, lumbering fashion because of the ascent and the broken, stony ground.
Henry stood still, waiting for Mary to make a decision. He could not think of anything to say and so he just smiled. He began to feel hot and uncomfortable, and it seemed to him suddenly that Mary must think he was a frightful fool, maundering about primroses and wild violets and bluebells, and yet not able to say a word for himself in her presence ... standing there, grinning like ... like anything, and ... and not saying a word.
She was standing sideways, with her head turned to look at her brother, now disappearing round a bend in the lane, and Henry was able to observe her more closely. He saw that she was wearing a short frock, reaching to her knees, and he plucked up heart. "She's only a kid," he said to himself, and then said aloud to her, "It's awf'lly nice here!"
She turned towards him as he spoke and he saw that her face was still smiling. "Yes, isn't it?" she answered. "Shall we go on now, or would you like to gather some primroses. There are lots in this lane, or if you like to walk up to the copse, there are more there, and we can mix them with bluebells. I think primroses and bluebells are lovely together, don't you?"
He thought it would be nicer to go to the copse, and so they moved on up the lane.
"I like these high hedges," he said. "We don't have high hedges in Ireland. In lots of places we don't have hedges at all—only stone walls!"
Mary made a grimace. "I shouldn't like that," she exclaimed. "I love hedges ... best in the spring because then they're new. There's always something living in them. I never go by the hedges without hearing something moving inside ... birds and mice and things. Of course, it's very stuffy in the lanes in summer because the hedges are so high and the leaves are so thick and the air can't get through!... Look! Look!" She climbed on to the bars of a gate, and pointed, and he climbed on to the bars beside her, and saw the English Channel, shining like a sheet of silver in the setting sun.
"Can you see the trawlers coming home?" she said. "Out there! Do you see? Those are our boats ... the Boveyhayne boats. That one with the brown sails is Tom Yeo's boat. He's awf'lly nice and his wife's going to have a baby. He told me so, and they hope it'll be a boy because Jim Rattenbury—that's Tom Yeo's mate in the boat ... his wife had a daughter last month, and they all think it would be awf'lly nice if Tom's son were to grow up and marry Jim's daughter, and I think it would, and of course it would, wouldn't it?"
"Would it?" said Henry.
"Of course it would. It would be so nice for everybody, and then the boat could be left to Tom's son and it would belong to Jim's daughter, too. I think that would be very nice! I do hope they've caught a lot of fish!" She jumped down from the gate and clapped her hands together. "I know," she said. "We won't pluck primroses now. We'll go home and simply swallow our tea like lightning, and then we'll tear down to the beach and see them landing the fish. Come on, let's run!" She started off and then suddenly checked herself and said, "Oh, I think I'd better call you 'Quinny,' like Ninian. It'll save a lot of trouble, won't it? Mother won't call you that. She'll probably call you 'Henry' or 'Harry.' If we hurry up, we'll be just in time to see the boats beached!"
She ran off, laughing pleasantly, and he followed after her.
"That's the copse," she shouted, pointing to the trees on her left. "We'll soon be there!"
They reached the top of the lane and crossed a narrow public road, and then were in a broad avenue, almost arched by trees, at the end of which was the Manor. It was a squarely-built sixteenth century house, made of stone, taken from the Roman quarry a mile or two away on the road to Franscombe. The first Graham to own it received it and the lands adjacent to it from Henry the Second, and ever since that time a Graham had been lord of the manor of Boveyhayne. Ninian was the last of his line. If he were to die, there would be no more Grahams at Boveyhayne. That was the fear that haunted Mrs. Graham....
Mary ran swiftly across the grass in the centre of the avenue and pushed open the gate that led through a fine stone arch. She held the gate open for Henry, and then they both passed up the flagged path into the house.
"Mother, mother!" Mary shouted, quickly entering the drawing-room, "here's Quinny, and please can we have tea at once because the trawlers are just coming home and we want to see them being beached and ... oh, I say, my hands are messy, aren't they. Still, it doesn't matter! I can wash them afterwards."
"My dear!" said Mrs. Graham reproachfully, and then she turned to greet Henry who had become awkward again. "How do you do, Mr. Quinn," she said, holding her hand out to him.
Henry flushed deeply. It was the first time any one had ever called him Mister, and he was very glad that Ninian was not present to hear. He was quite well, he said. No, he was not a bit tired. Yes, he would rather like to go to his room.... A maid had followed him into the room, and Mrs. Graham asked her to show Mr. Quinn to his room, and, flushing deeper still, he turned to go with her. As he left the room, he heard Mary saying to Mrs. Graham, "Oh, mother, you mustn't call him Mr. Quinn. He blushed frightfully when you said that. His name is 'Quinny,' or you can call him 'Henry' if you like!"
"I think I'll call him 'Henry,' my dear!" said Mrs. Graham.
It seemed to Henry that Mrs. Graham was the most beautiful woman in the world, and he had a great longing that she would draw him to her, as she drew Ninian, and put her arms about him and kiss him. Sometimes he had faint memories of the way in which poor Bridget Fallon had hugged him, and how she had cried over him once when she told him that his soul would be damned forever because he was a "black Protestant." ... He remembered that episode more vividly than any other because he had howled with fear when she narrated the pains and torments of hell to him. There had been a Mission at the chapel the previous week, and a preaching friar had frightened the wits out of her with his description of "the bad place." He had told the congregation of scared servants and frightened labourers that they would be laid on red-hot bars in hell and that the devil would send demons to nip their flesh with burning pincers.... Henry could not be comforted until she had promised to rescue him from the Evil One, and when she bade him wear the scapular, he hurriedly hung it round his neck as if he were afraid that before he could get it on, the Devil would have him.... Well, Bridget had loved him very tenderly, and of all the women he had ever known, she seemed to him to be the most beautiful. But Mrs. Graham was more beautiful than Bridget, more beautiful than Bridget could ever be. There was something so exquisite in her movements, her smile (Mary had her smile) and her soft sweet voice with its slight Devonshire burr, that Henry felt he wished to sit beside her and walk with her and always be by her. His sudden, growing love for her made him feel bold, and he lost the shy, nervous sensation he had had when he first came into her presence and heard her call him "Mr. Quinn," and so, when Ninian and Mary talked about the trawlers, he turned to Mrs. Graham quite naturally, and said, "Won't you come to the beach, too, Mrs. Graham?" Instantly Ninian and Mary were clamorous that she should go with them, and so she consented....
"We'll have to hurry," said Mary, "because the boats come in awf'lly quick."
"My dear, I can't run," Mrs. Graham said.
It was Ninian who suggested that Widger should harness the pony and that they should drive down to the beach in the buggy....
"Yes, yes," said Mary.
And Ninian went off to tell Widger to hurry harder than he had ever hurried before in his life.
"I'll do that for 'ee, Mas'er Ninyan, sure 'nough!" said Widger.
But Ninian and Mary were too impatient to wait for the buggy, and so they set off together, leaving Henry to follow with Mrs. Graham.
"Quinny'll drive you down, mater," Ninian said.
Mrs. Graham turned to Henry. "You won't let Peggy run away with me, will you?" she said, pretending to be alarmed, and Mary and Ninian burst into laughter at the thought of Peggy ... which was short for Pegasus ... running away with any one.
"He's fat and lazy," said Ninian.
"He goes to sleep in the shafts," Mary added, running out of the drawing-room on Ninian's heels.
Boveyhayne Bay is a little bay within the very large bay that is guarded at one end by Portland Bill and at the other end by Start Point. It lies in the shelter of two white cliffs which keep its water quiet even when the sea outside is rough, and so it is a fine home for fishermen though there is no harbour and the trawlers have to be hauled up the shingly beach every night. Nowhere else on that coast are chalk cliffs to be found, and the sudden whiteness of Boveyhayne Head and the White Cliff shining out of the red clay of the adjoining cliffs is a sign to sailors, passing down the Channel on their homeward beat, that they are off the coast of Devonshire. Mrs. Graham talked to Henry about the fishermen as they drove down Bovey Lane towards the village.
"I love Boveyhayne," she said, "because the people are so fine. They rely on themselves far more than any other people I know. That's because they're fishermen, I suppose, and have no employers. They work for themselves ... and it's frightfully hard work too. People come to Boveyhayne in the summer, but they can't spoil it because the villagers don't depend on visitors for a living: they depend on themselves ... and the sea. There isn't a man in Boveyhayne who is pretending to be a fisherman and is really a cadger on summer visitors. Some of them won't be bothered to take people out in rowing-boats—they feel that that is work for the old. I used to wonder," she went on, "why it was that I didn't really like the villagers in other places, but I never found out why until I came to Boveyhayne, and it was simply because I felt instinctively that they were spongers ... those other people ... that they hadn't any real work to do, and that they were living on us like ... like ticks on a sheep. The Boveyhayne men are splendid men. It wouldn't make any difference ... much difference, anyhow ... to them if another visitor never came to the place. And that is how it ought to be in every village in England!"
Henry was not quite certain that he understood all that she was saying, but he liked to listen to her, and so he did not interrupt her, except to say "Yes" and "I suppose so" when it seemed that she was waiting for him to say something.
"Do you like being in England?" she asked him suddenly.
"Oh, yes," he answered.
"Would you rather be in England than in Ireland?"
He did not know. He liked being at home with his father, but he also liked being at Rumpell's with Gilbert and Roger and Ninian, and now he felt that he would like to be at Boveyhayne with Mrs. Graham and Mary.
"Perhaps you like people better than you like places," Mrs. Graham said.
"I don't know," he replied. "I hadn't thought about that."
"You must come again to Boveyhayne. Perhaps, in the summer, Gilbert and Roger will come, too!"
Henry thought that that would be awf'lly jolly....
They turned down the village street and left Peggy at the foot of it while they went down the slope leading on to the beach where the trawlers were now being hauled up by the aid of hand winches. Henry could see Mary and Ninian in the group of fishermen who were working the nearest winch. They had hold of one of the wooden bars and were helping to push it round.
"We'll go down to the boats," said Mrs. Graham, "and see the fish!"
She put her hand on his shoulder, and he helped to steady her as they walked across the shingle to where the boats were slowly climbing out of the sea over wooden runners on to the high stones.
One of the boats had already been hauled up, and the fishermen, having thrown out their gear, were now getting ready to sell their fish. They threw out a heap of skate and dun-cows, and auctioned them to the dealers standing by.
"They're still alive," Henry whispered to Mrs. Graham as he watched the dun-cows curling their bodies and the skate gasping in the air. He looked over the side of the trawler and saw baskets of dabs and plaice and some soles and turbot and a couple of crabs. A plaice flapped helplessly and fell off the heap in the basket on to the bottom of the boat, and one of the fishermen trod on it.... "They're all alive," Henry said, turning again to Mrs. Graham.
"Yes," she answered.
"But ... isn't it cruel? Oughtn't they to kill them?"
"It would take a long time to kill all those fish," she said. "Most of them are dead already, and the others will be dead soon...."
But he could not rid himself of the feeling that the fish were suffering agonies, and he began to feel sick with pity.
"I think I'll go and see Mary and Ninian," he said to Mrs. Graham, edging away from the boat.
"All right," she replied.
But Ninian and Mary were on their way down to the boats, and so he did not get far.
"Come and see them cutting up the skate and dun-cows!" said Ninian, catching hold of Henry's arm and pulling him back.
"Yes, let's," Mary added.
The sick feeling was growing stronger in Henry. He hated the sight of blood. Once he had been ill in the street because William Henry Matier had shown a dead rabbit to him, the blood dribbling from its mouth ... and the sight of a butcher's shop always filled him with nausea. He did not wish to see the skate cut up, but he felt that Mary would despise him if he did not go with Ninian and her, so he followed after them.
The fishermen were sharpening their knives on the stones when they came up to them, and then one of them seized a dun-cow and struck its head on the shingle and cut it open, while another fisherman inserted his knife into the quivering body of a skate and cut out the entrails and the head in circular pieces.
"But they're alive," said Henry.
"Of course, they're alive," said Ninian, seizing a dun-cow and smacking its head against the beach. "Here you are, Jim," he added, passing the dun-cow to a fisherman. "Here's another one!"
Henry could not stay any longer. He turned away quickly and almost ran up the beach. "Hilloa," Ninian shouted after him, "where are you going?"
He stopped for a moment and looked back, wondering what excuse he should make for his running away. "I ... I'm just going to see if ... if Peggy's all right!"
"She's all right," Ninian replied.
"I think I'll just go all the same," said Henry.
"But you'll miss it all," Mary called to him.
"I'll ... I'll come back presently," he answered.
He had finished a game of cards with Mary and then Mary had gone off to bed. She had kissed her mother and Ninian, and then she held out her hand to him and said "Good-night, Quinny!" and he said "Good-night, Mary!" and held the door open for her so that she might pass out.
"Let's go out in a boat to-morrow," she said. "We'll go to the Smugglers' Cave...."
"Yes, let's," he answered.
When she had gone, Mrs. Graham called him to her. "Come and sit here," she said, pointing to a footstool at her feet. Ninian was trying to solve a chess problem and was deaf to the whole world....
"I suppose you didn't like to see the fish being gutted, Henry?" Mrs. Graham said.
He glanced up at her quickly. He had not spoken of his feeling to any of them because he was ashamed of it. "It's namby-pamby of me," he had said to himself. He flushed as he looked up, fearing that she must despise him for his weakness, and he almost denied that he had had any feeling at all about it; but he did not deny it. "I couldn't bear it, Mrs. Graham," he said quickly in a low voice. "I felt I should be ill if I stayed there any longer!"
"I used to feel like that," she said, patting his shoulder, "but you soon get used to it. The fishermen aren't really cruel. They are the kindest men I know!"
Ninian, having failed to solve his chess problem, got up from the table and stretched himself and yawned.
"I'm going to bed, Quinny," he said. "Are you coming?"
Henry rose and shook hands with Mrs. Graham. "Good-night," he said.
"Good-night, Henry!" she replied. "I hope you'll sleep well." And then she turned to kiss Ninian, who pushed a sleepy face against hers.
In the morning, there were fried plaice for breakfast, and Henry ate two of them.
"These are some of the fish you saw on the beach last night," said Mrs. Graham.
"Oh, yes," said Henry, reaching for the toast, and swallowing a mouthful of the fish. "And jolly nice, too!"
[Footnote 1: Dog-fish.]
THE THIRD CHAPTER
He stayed at Boveyhayne until the time came to return to Rumpell's, and the holiday passed so quickly that he could not believe that it was really over. They had picnicked in the Smugglers' Cave and on Boveyhayne Common where the gorse was in bloom, and Henry had plucked whinblossoms to dye Easter eggs when he found that the Grahams did not know that whinblossoms could be used in this way. "You boil the blossoms and the eggs together, and the eggs come out a lovely browny-yellow colour. We always dye our eggs like that in the north of Ireland!" And on the day they picnicked on Boveyhayne Common, Mrs. Graham took them down the side of the hill to the big farm at Franscombe and treated them to a Devonshire tea: bread and butter and raspberry jam and cream, cream piled thick on the jam, and cake. (But they ate so much of the bread and butter and jam and cream that they could not eat the cake.) And they swam every day.... Mary was like a sea-bird: she seemed to swim on the crest of every wave as lightly as a feather, and was only submerged when she chose to thrust her head into the body of some wave swelling higher and higher until its curled top could stay no longer and it pitched forward and fell in a white, spumy pile on the shore. She would climb over the stern of a rowing-boat and then plunge from it into the sea again, and come up laughing with the water streaming from her face and hair, or dive beneath Ninian and pull his feet until he kicked out....
And then the last evening of his visit came. The vicar of Boveyhayne and his wife were to dine at the Manor that night, and so they were bidden to put on their company manners and their evening clothes. Ninian grumbled lustily when he heard the news, for he had made arrangements with a fisherman to "clean" a skate that evening when the trawlers came home. "I bet him thruppence I could do it as good as he could, and now I'll have to pay up. Beastly swizz, that's what it is!" he said to Henry in the stable where he was busy rubbing down Peggy, although Peggy did not need or wish to be rubbed down. "I think Mother ought to give me the thruppence anyhow!..."
After dinner, Ninian and Henry and Mary had contrived to miss the drawing-room, whither Mrs. Graham led the Vicar and his wife, and they went to the room which had been the nursery and was now a work-room, and lit the fire and sat round it, talking and telling tales and reading until the time came for Mary to go to bed.
"We're going soon, too!" said Ninian. "We've got to get up jolly early to-morrow, blow it! I hate getting up early!"
Henry yawned and stretched out his hands to the fire. "I wish I weren't going to-morrow," he said, half reflectively.
"So do I," Mary exclaimed.
She was sitting on the floor beside him and he turned to look at her, a little startled by the suddenness of her speech.
"I wish you weren't going," she said, sitting up and leaning against him as she was accustomed to lean against Ninian. "It's been great fun this Easter!"
Ninian caught hold of her hair and pulled it. "He isn't a bad chap, old Quinny," he said. "Soft-hearted, a bit!"
"Shut up, Ninian!" Henry shouted, punching him in the ribs.
But Ninian would not shut up. "Blubs like anything if you kill a rabbit or anything. He eats them all the same!"
Mary put her hands over Ninian's mouth. "Leave Quinny alone, Ninian," she said. "He's much nicer than you, and I do think it's horrid of you to go gutting fish just for fun. The fishermen have to do it, else we wouldn't get any breakfast, and of course plaice are very nice for breakfast...."
"Yahhh!" yelled Ninian.
"Well, anyhow," she continued, "Quinny's much nicer than you are. Aren't you, Quinny?"
"No, he isn't," Ninian asserted stoutly. "I'm ten times nicer than he is!"
"No, you're not...."
Henry, embarrassed at first by Mary's admiration, plucked up his spirits and joined in.
"Of course, I'm nicer than you are, Ninian," he said. "Anybody could see that with half an eye in his head!"
"All right, then, I'll fight you for it," Ninian replied, squaring up at him in mock rage.
"I'll box your ears for you, Ninian Graham!" said Mary, "and I won't let Quinny fight you, and Quinny, if you dare to fight him, I shan't like you any more...."
"Then I won't fight him, Mary. She's saved your life, Ninian," he said, turning to his friend.
"Yahhh!" Ninian shouted.
"I'll get up very early to-morrow morning," said Mary, as she prepared to leave them, "and perhaps mother'll let me drive to Whitcombe with you to see you off!"
"No," Ninian objected, "we don't want you blubbing all over the platform!..."
"I shan't blub, Ninian. I never blub!..."
"Yes, you do. You always blub. You blubbed the last time and made me feel an awful ass!" he persisted.
"Well, I shan't blub this time, or if I do, it won't be about you.... Anyhow, I shall get up early and see Quinny off. I like Quinny!..."
Ninian pointed at Henry, and burst out laughing. "Oh! Oh, he's blushing! Look at him! Oh! Oh!!"
"Shut up, Ninian, you ass!" said Henry, turning away.
Mary went over to him and took hold of his arm. "Never mind, Quinny," she said, "I do like you. Good-night!"
Then she went out and left him alone with Ninian.
"I suppose," said Ninian when she had gone, "we ought to go down and say something to the Vicar!"
That night, Henry went to bed in the knowledge that he loved Mary Graham. "I'll marry her," he said, as he stripped his clothes off. "That's what I'll do. I'll jolly well marry her!"
In the excitement of his love, he forgot to wash his hands and face and clean his teeth, and he climbed into bed and lay there thinking about Mary. "I suppose," he said, "I ought to tell her about it. That ass, Ninian'll be sure to laugh if I tell him!" He sat up suddenly in bed. "Lord," he exclaimed, "I forgot to wash!" He got out of bed and washed himself. "Beastly fag, cleaning your teeth," he murmured, and then went back to bed.
"I know," he said, as he blew out the candle and hauled the clothes well about his neck. "I'll make Ninian look after the luggage and stuff, and then I'll tell her. On the platform! I hope she won't be cross about it!" And then he fell asleep.
In the morning, they went off, Mary with them, and they stood up in the carriage and waved their hands to Mrs. Graham until the dip in the road hid her from their view. Ninian, who had been so disdainful of "blubbers" the night before, sat down in a corner of the carriage and looked miserable, but neither Mary nor Henry said anything to him. They drove slowly down the Lane because it was difficult to do otherwise, but when they had come into the road that leads to Franscombe, Widger whipped up the horse, and the carriage moved quickly through the village, past the schools, until they came to the long hill out of the village ... and there Jim Rattenbury was waiting for them.
"I brought 'ee a li'l bit o' fish, Mas'er Ninyan," he said, putting a basket into the carriage.
"I say, Jim!" Ninian exclaimed, forgetting his misery for a while. They thanked him for the gift and enquired about the baby Rattenbury and wished him good-luck in the mackerel fishing, and were about to go on when Ninian recollected his failure to keep his appointment with Tom Yeo on the previous evening. "Oh, Jim," he said, "I bet Tom Yeo thruppence I'd 'clean' a skate as good as he can, but I couldn't come ... so here's the thruppence. You might give it to Tom for me, will you!"
Jim Rattenbury waved the money away. "Ah, that be all right, Mas'er Ninyan," he exclaimed. "You can try your 'and at it nex' time you comes 'ome. I'll tell Tom. 'Er'll be glad to 'ave longer to get ready for it, 'er will!" He laughed at his own joke, and they laughed, too. "Good luck to 'ee, Mas'er Ninyan," Jim went on, "an' to 'ee too, sir!" he added, turning to Henry.
"And me, Jim, and me!" Mary said impetuously.
"Why, of course, Miss Mary, an' to 'ee, too!"
They drove on up the hill, from which they could look down on the village, tucked snugly in the hollow of the rising lands, and along the top of the ridge, gaining glimpses of the blue Channel, dotted far out with the sails of trawlers, and down the hair-pin road where the pine trees stand like black sentinels, through Whitcombe to the station....
"I wish we weren't going!..." one or other of them said as they drove on.
"I'd love to have another swim," said Ninian.
"Or go out in a boat," said Henry.
The carriage entered the station-yard and they got out and walked towards the platform. There were very few people travelling by that early train, and Henry was glad because, if he could dispose of Ninian for a few moments, he thought he could settle his affairs with Mary.
"Ninian," he said, trying to speak very casually, "you and Widger can look after the luggage and tickets, can't you!"
Ninian, who had already induced one of the porters to describe a thrilling fox-hunt in which the fox took to the river and was killed, after a hard struggle, in the water, nodded his head and said "Righto!"
"Let's walk up and down," Henry said to Mary, and they walked towards the end of the platform. "It's been awf'lly nice here!" he added.
"Yes, hasn't it?" she replied. "You'll come again, won't you?"
"Ra-ther!" he exclaimed.
"How long will it be before you can come again?"
"I don't know. You see, my father'll expect me to go home in the summer...."
"But I might come for part of the hols. I'd like to!"
"Yes," she said, sliding one of her feet in front of her and regarding the tip of her shoe intently.
They did not speak for a few moments until he remembered that time was fleeting. "It's an awf'lly nice day," he said, and licked his lips.
"Yes, isn't it?..."
"Awf'lly nice," he continued and broke off lamely.
They could see the train coming into Coly station, and a sense of despair seized Henry when he thought that it would soon come into Whitcombe station and then go back again to the junction, carrying Ninian and him with it. He could feel his nervousness mounting up his legs until it began to gallop through his body.... He felt frightfully dry, and when he tried to speak, he could not do anything but cough. The train had started now from Coly station. He could see the white smoke rising from the engine's funnel almost in a straight line, so little wind was there in the valley.... "Oh, Lord!" he said to himself....
"What age are you?" he suddenly demanded of her.
"Fourteen," she replied.
"I'm sixteen ... nearly!" he continued.
"Ninian's over sixteen," Mary said, and added, "I wish I were sixteen!"
"Oh, I don't know. I just wish I were. When I'm sixteen, you'll be eighteen ... nearly!"
"So I shall. I say, Mary!..."
He could hear the rattle of the train on the railway lines, and, turning towards the other end of the platform, he saw that Ninian, having settled about the luggage and finished listening to the story of the fox hunt, was approaching them. "Come on," he said, catching hold of Mary's arm and drawing her to the other end of the platform.
"But that's the wrong end," she protested.
"I say, Mary!..."
"Oh, I say, Mary!..."
"I'd like to marry you awf'lly, if you don't mind!"
It was out ... oh, Lord, it was out!...
"Oh, I should love it, Quinny," said Mary, looking up at him and smiling.
"Would you really!"
"Yes. Of course, I would. Let's tell Ninian and Widger!..."
Her suggestion alarmed him. Ninian would be sure to chaff him about it.... "Oh, not yet!..." he began, but he was too late. Ninian had come up to them, grumbling, "I thought you two'd started to leg it to Rumpell's...."
Mary seized his arm and pressed it tightly. "Quinny and me are going to get married," she said.
"Silly asses," said Ninian. "Come on, here's the train in!"
They climbed into their carriage a few seconds before the train steamed out of the station again, and jammed themselves in the window to look out. Ninian was full of instructions to Widger about his terrier and his ferrets and a blind mouse that was supposed to recognise him with miraculous ease. There was also some point about the fox-hunt which required explanation....
"Good-bye, Mary!" Henry said, taking hold of her hand and pressing it. "I suppose," he whispered, "I ought to give you a ring or something. Chaps always do that!..."
Mary shook her head. "I don't think mother would like that," she replied.
"Well, anyhow, we're engaged, aren't we?"
"Oh, of course, Quinny!"
"It's most awf'lly nice of you to have me, Mary!"
"But I like you!"
"Do you really?"
The guard blew his whistle and waved his flag and the train began to move out of the station. He stood at the window looking back at Mary standing on the platform, waving her hands to him, until he could see her no longer.
"What are you looking at?" Ninian asked, taking down the basket of fish which Jim Rattenbury had given him and preparing to open it.
"I'm looking at Mary," he answered.
"Sloppy ass!" said Ninian, and then he added excitedly, "Oh, I say, plaice and dabs and a lobster ... a whopping big lobster! It's berried, too!" He pointed to the red seeds in the lobster's body. "My Heavenly Father, Quinny!" he exclaimed, "what a tuck-in we'll have to-night!"
"Eh?" Henry replied vaguely.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER
Gilbert summoned Roger and Henry and Ninian to a solemn council. "Look here," he said, "I've made up my mind about myself!"
"Oh!" they exclaimed.
"Yes. I'm going to be a dramatist and write plays!"
"Why?" Ninian asked.
"I dunno! I went to see a play in the hols, and I thought I'd like to write one, too. It seems easy enough. You just make up a lot of talk, and then you get some actors to say it...."
"I see," said Ninian.
"And when I was a kid," Gilbert continued, "I used to make up plays for parties. Jolly good, they were ... at least I thought so!"
Gilbert, having settled what his own career was to be, was eager that his friends should settle what their careers were to be. "Roger, of course," he said, "has made up his mind to be a barrister, so that's him, but what about you, Ninian, and what about Quinny?"
Ninian said that he did not know what he should do. Mrs. Graham was anxious that he should become a member of parliament and lead the life of a country gentleman who takes an intelligent interest in his estate and his country. His Uncle George, the Dean of Exebury, oscillated between two opinions: one that Ninian should become a parson....
Gilbert suddenly proposed a resolution, sternly forbidding their young friend, Ninian Graham, to become a parson on any conditions whatever. The resolution was seconded by Henry Quinn, and passed unanimously.
... and the other that he should enter the Diplomatic Service. The Dean had talked largely to Ninian on the subject of his career. On the whole he had inclined towards the Diplomatic Service. He had stood in front of the fire, his hands thrust through the belt of his apron and talked magnificently of the glories of diplomacy. "How splendid it would be, Ninian," he said in that rich, flowing voice which caused ladies to admire his sermons so much, "if you were to become an ambassador!" Ninian, feeling that he ought to say something, had murmured that he supposed it would be rather jolly. "An ambassador!" the Dean continued. "His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to the Imperial Court of ... of Vienna!" He liked the sound of the title so much that he repeated it: "His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador!..."
But Ninian had interrupted him. "I don't think I'd like that job very much, Uncle George!" he said. "You're supposed to have an awful lot of tact if you're an ambassador, and I'm rather an ass at tact!"
"Well, then, the Church!" the Dean suggested. "After all, the Church is still the profession of a gentleman!..."
But Ninian had as little desire to be a priest as he had to be an ambassador. He wished to be an engineer!
"A what?" the Dean had exclaimed in horror.
"An engineer, uncle!"
The Dean could not rid himself of the notion that Ninian was a small boy, and so he imagined that when Ninian said an "engineer" he meant a man who drives a railway engine.... The Dean was not insensible to the value of engineers to the community ... in fact, whenever he travelled by train, he invariably handed any newspapers he might have with him to the engine-driver at the end of the journey, "because," he said, "I wish to show my appreciation of the fact that without his care and skill I might—er—have been—well involved in a collision or something of the sort!" But, while the occupation of an engine-driver was a very admirable one ... very admirable one, indeed ... for a member of the working-class, it could hardly be described as a suitable occupation for a gentleman. "I think," he said, "that engine-drivers get thirty-eight shillings per week, or some such amount!" He adjusted his glasses and beamed pleasantly at Ninian. "My dear boy," he said, "thirty-eight shillings per week is hardly ... hardly an adequate income for a Graham!"
Ninian did not like to ask his uncle George to "chuck it," nor did he care to tell him that he was making a frightful ass of himself, and so he did not answer, and the beaming old gentleman felt that he had impressed the lad.... It was Mrs. Graham who reminded him of the larger functions of an engineer.
"I think," she said, "that Ninian wishes to build bridges and railways and ... and things like that!"
"Oh!" said the Dean, and his countenance altered swiftly. "Oh, yes, yes, yes! I was forgetting about bridges. Dear me, yes! I remember meeting Sir John Aird once. Remarkable man! Very remarkable man! He built the Assouan Dam, of course. Well, that would be a very nice occupation, Ninian. Rather different, of course, from the Diplomatic Service ... or the Church ... but still, very nice, very nice! And profitable, I'm told!..."
"Anyhow," said Ninian, when he had related the story of his uncle's views, "I'm going to be an engineer, no matter what Uncle George says, and I'm not going to be a parson and I'm not going to be a blooming ambassador, and I'm not going into parliament to make an ass of myself!..."
Ninian's chief horror was of "making an ass" of himself. It seemed that there was less likelihood of him doing this at engineering than at anything else.
"And a very good engineer you'll be," Gilbert said encouragingly. "You're always messing about with the insides of things, and I can't see what good that habit would be to an ambassador, or a parson, and anyhow you can't speak French for toffee, and that's the principal thing an ambassador has to do! Well, Quinny," he continued, turning to Henry, "what about you?"
"I used to think I'd like to be a clergyman," Henry answered.
"Oh, did you?..."
"And then," he went on rapidly, "I thought I'd like to be an actor!..."
They rose at him simultaneously. "A what?" they shouted.
"An actor," he repeated.
They gaped at him for a few moments without speaking. Then Ninian expressed their views. "You're balmy!" he said.
"Clean off your chump!" Gilbert added.
"It seems an odd choice," Roger said, quietly.
Henry blushed. "Of course," he hurried to say, "I've given up the idea. It was just a notion that came into my head!"
He went on to say that as Gilbert had resolved to be a writer, he did not see any reason why he should not become one too. "I've read an awful lot of books," he said, "so I daresay I could write one. I used to write things when I was a youngster, just like you, Gilbert!"
They gazed dubiously at Henry. A fellow who could make such choices of profession ... a parson or an actor ... was a rum bird, in their opinion, and they told him so. Gilbert said that the conjunction of actor with parson showed that all Henry cared about was the chance to show off. "All you want is to get yourself up," he said. "If you were a parson, you could get yourself up in a surplice!..."
"He'd turn High Churchman," Roger interrupted, "and trot about in chasubles and copes!..."
"And if he were an actor, he could get himself up in terrific style!..." Gilbert continued.
Henry got up and walked away from them. "It isn't fair," he said, as he went, "to chip me like that. I'm not going to be a parson and I'm not going to be an actor!..."
Gilbert followed him and brought him back to the council.
"All right, Quinny," he said, "we won't chip you any more. Only, don't talk like a soppy ass again, will you? Sit down and listen to me!..."
He forced Henry to sit beside him and then he proceeded to plan their lives for them.
"We'll all go to Cambridge," he said. "That's settled. I arranged that before, didn't I? Well, we all go to the same college, and we all promise to swot hard. We've got to Do Well, d'ye hear?" He said "do well" as if each word had a capital letter. "We've got to be the Pride of our College, d'ye hear, and work so that the dons will shed tears of joy when they hear our names mentioned. I draw the particular attention of Ninian Graham to what I am saying, and I warn him that if he goes on whittling a stick while I'm talking, I shall clout his fat head for him. I also trust that our young friend, Quinny, will make up his mind to work hard. He's Irish, of course, and we must make allowances for him!..."
There was almost a row when Gilbert said that, and it was not completely averted until Gilbert had admitted that the English had their faults.
"I need not say anything on the subject of hard work to our young friend, Roger," Gilbert continued, when the peace was restored, "beyond warning him of the danger of getting brain-fever. That's all I have to say about that. We're friends, we four, and we've got to do each other credit. Now, when we come down from Cambridge, my proposal is that we all live together in London. We can take a house and get some old girl to look after us. I know one who'll do. She lives in Cornwall, and she can cook ... like anything. Is that agreed?"
"Carried unanimous," said Ninian.
"Good egg!" Gilbert said.
But the plan was not carried out as Gilbert had made it. He and Ninian and Roger Carey went to Cambridge, but Henry did not go with them. It was Mr. Quinn who upset the plan. He suddenly gave notice to Rumpell's that Henry would not return to the school.
You're getting to be too English in your ways, Henry, he wrote to his son, and I want you at home for a while. There's a young fellow called Marsh who can tutor you until you go to the University. I met him in Dublin a while since, and I like him. He's a bit cranky, but he's clever and he'll teach you a lot about Ireland. He's up to his neck in Irish things, and speaks Gaelic and wears an Irish kilt. At least he used to wear one, but he's left it off now, partly because he gets cold in his knees and partly because he's not sure now that the ancient Irish ever wore kilts. I think you'll like him!...
"My God," said Gilbert when Henry read this letter to him, "fancy being tutored by a chap who wears petticoats!"
"You ought to talk pretty plainly to your guv'nor, Quinny!" Ninian said. "I don't think you ought to let him do that sort of thing. Here we've settled that we're all going to Cambridge together, and your guv'nor simply lumps in and upsets everything!"
Henry declared that he would talk to his father and compel him to be sensible, but his attempt at compulsion was ineffective. Mr. Quinn had made up his mind that Henry was to spend several months at home, under the tutelage of John Marsh, and then proceed to Trinity College, Dublin.
"Trinity College, Dublin!" Henry exclaimed. "But I want to go to Cambridge!..."
"Well, you can't go then. You'll go to T.C.D. or you'll go nowhere. I'm a T.C.D. man, an' your gran'da was a T.C.D. man, an' so was his da before him, an' a damned good college it is, too!" Mr. Quinn had always called his father his "da" when Mrs. Quinn was alive because she disliked the word and tried to insist on "papa"; and now he used the word as a matter of habit. "What do you want to go to an English college for?" he demanded. "You might as well want to go to that Presbyterian hole in Belfast!"
"I want to go to Cambridge," Henry replied a little angrily and therefore a little precisely, "because all my friends are going there. They're going up next year, and I want to go with them. They're my best friends!..."
"Make friends in Ireland, then!" Mr. Quinn interrupted. "You don't make friends with Englishmen ... you make money out of them. That's all they're fit for!"
He began to laugh when he said that, but Henry still scowled. "I hate to hear you talking like that, father!" he said. "I know you don't mean it...."
"Don't I, begod?..."
"No, you don't, but even in fun, I hate to hear you saying it. I like English people. I'm very fond of Gilbert Farlow!..."
"A nice fellow!" Mr. Quinn murmured, remembering how he had liked Gilbert when he had visited Rumpell's once to see Henry.
"And Ninian Graham and Roger Carey, I like them, too, and so do you. You liked them, didn't you?"
"Very nice fellows, both of them, very nice ... for all they're English!"
Henry wanted to go on ... to talk of Mrs. Graham and of Mary ... but shyness held his tongue for him.
"It's a habit I've got into," Mr. Quinn said, talking of his denunciation of the English, "but don't mind me, Henry. Sure, I'm like all the Ulstermen: my tongue's more bitter nor my behaviour. All the same, my son, you're goin' to T.C.D., an' that's an end of it. T.C.D.'ll make a man of you, but Oxford 'ud only make a snivellin' High Church curate of you ... crawlin' on your belly to an imitation altar an' lettin' on to be a Catholic!..."