THE MONEY MOON
Author of "The Broad Highway," etc.
Frontispiece by A.I. KELLER
The One and Only
Whose unswerving FAITH was an Inspiration Whose GENEROSITY is a bye-word; This book is dedicated as a mark of GRATITUDE and AFFECTION
Jeffery Farnol Feb. 10, 1910
I WHICH, BEING THE FIRST, IS, VERY PROPERLY, THE SHORTEST CHAPTER IN THE BOOK
II HOW GEORGE BELLEW SOUGHT COUNSEL OF HIS VALET
III WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF WITH A HAYCART, AND A BELLIGERENT WAGGONER
IV HOW SMALL PORGES IN LOOKING FOR A FORTUNE FOR ANOTHER, FOUND AN UNCLE FOR HIMSELF INSTEAD
V HOW BELLEW CAME TO ARCADIA
VI OF THE SAD CONDITION OF THE HAUNTING SPECTRE OF THE MIGHT HAVE BEEN
VII WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF AMONG OTHER MATTERS, WITH "THE OLD ADAM"
VIII WHICH TELLS OF MISS PRISCILLA, OF PEACHES, AND OF SERGEANT APPLEBY LATE OF THE 19TH HUSSARS
IX IN WHICH MAY BE FOUND SOME DESCRIPTION OF ARCADIA, AND GOOSEBERRIES
X HOW BELLEW AND ADAM ENTERED INTO A SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT
XI OF THE "MAN WITH THE TIGER MARK"
XII IN WHICH MAY BE FOUND A FULL, TRUE, AND PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE SALE
XIII HOW ANTHEA CAME HOME
XIV WHICH, AMONG OTHER THINGS, HAS TO DO WITH SHRIMPS, MUFFINS, AND TIN WHISTLES
XV IN WHICH ADAM EXPLAINS
XVI IN WHICH ADAM PROPOSES A GAME
XVII HOW BELLEW BEGAN THE GAME
XVIII HOW THE SERGEANT WENT UPON HIS GUARD
XIX IN WHICH PORGES BIG, AND PORGES SMALL DISCUSS THE SUBJECT OF MATRIMONY
XX WHICH RELATES A MOST EXTRAORDINARY CONVERSATION
XXI OF SHOES, AND SHIPS, AND SEALING WAX, AND THE THIRD FINGER OF THE LEFT HAND
XXII COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE
XXIII HOW SMALL PORGES, IN HIS HOUR OF NEED, WAS DESERTED BY HIS UNCLE
XXIV IN WHICH SHALL BE FOUND MENTION OF A CERTAIN BLACK BAG
XXV THE CONSPIRATORS
XXVI HOW THE MONEY MOON ROSE
XXVII IN WHICH IS VERIFIED THE ADAGE OF THE CUP AND THE LIP
XXVIII WHICH TELLS HOW BELLEW LEFT DAPPLEMERE IN THE DAWN
XXIX OF THE MOON'S MESSAGE TO SMALL PORGES, AND HOW HE TOLD IT TO BELLEW—IN A WHISPER
XXX HOW ANTHEA GAVE HER PROMISE
XXXI WHICH, BEING THE LAST, IS, VERY PROPERLY, THE LONGEST, IN THE BOOK
Which, being the first, is, very properly, the shortest chapter in the book
When Sylvia Marchmont went to Europe, George Bellew being, at the same time, desirous of testing his newest acquired yacht, followed her, and mutual friends in New York, Newport, and elsewhere, confidently awaited news of their engagement. Great, therefore, was their surprise when they learnt of her approaching marriage to the Duke of Ryde.
Bellew, being young and rich, had many friends, very naturally, who, while they sympathized with his loss, yet agreed among themselves, that, despite Bellew's millions, Sylvia had done vastly well for herself, seeing that a duke is always a duke,—especially in America.
There were, also, divers ladies in New York, Newport, and elsewhere, and celebrated for their palatial homes, their jewels, and their daughters, who were anxious to know how Bellew would comport himself under his disappointment. Some leaned to the idea that he would immediately blow his brains out; others opined that he would promptly set off on another of his exploring expeditions, and get himself torn to pieces by lions and tigers, or devoured by alligators; while others again feared greatly that, in a fit of pique, he would marry some "young person" unknown, and therefore, of course, utterly unworthy.
How far these worthy ladies were right, or wrong in their surmises, they who take the trouble to turn the following pages, shall find out.
How George Bellew sought counsel of his Valet
The first intimation Bellew received of the futility of his hopes was the following letter which he received one morning as he sat at breakfast in his chambers in St. James Street, W.
MY DEAR GEORGE—I am writing to tell you that I like you so much that I am quite sure I could never marry you, it would be too ridiculous. Liking, you see George, is not love, is it? Though, personally, I think all that sort of thing went out of fashion with our great-grandmother's hoops, and crinolines. So George, I have decided to marry the Duke of Ryde. The ceremony will take place in three weeks time at St. George's, Hanover Square, and everyone will be there, of course. If you care to come too, so much the better. I won't say that I hope you will forget me, because I don't; but I am sure you will find someone to console you because you are such a dear, good fellow, and so ridiculously rich.
So good-bye, and best wishes,
Ever yours most sincerely,
Now under such circumstances, had Bellew sought oblivion and consolation from bottles, or gone headlong to the devil in any of other numerous ways that are more or less inviting, deluded people would have pitied him, and shaken grave heads over him; for it seems that disappointment (more especially in love) may condone many offences, and cover as many sins as Charity.
But Bellew, knowing nothing of that latter-day hysteria which wears the disguise, and calls itself "Temperament," and being only a rather ordinary young man, did nothing of the kind. Having lighted his pipe, and read the letter through again, he rang instead for Baxter, his valet.
Baxter was small, and slight, and dapper as to person, clean-shaven, alert of eye, and soft of movement,—in a word, Baxter was the cream of gentlemen's gentlemen, and the very acme of what a valet should be, from the very precise parting of his glossy hair, to the trim toes of his glossy boots. Baxter as has been said, was his valet, and had been his father's valet, before him, and as to age, might have been thirty, or forty, or fifty, as he stood there beside the table, with one eye-brow raised a trifle higher than the other, waiting for Bellew to speak.
"Take a seat."
"Thank you sir." And Baxter sat down, not too near his master, nor too far off, but exactly at the right, and proper distance.
"Baxter, I wish to consult with you."
"As between Master and Servant, sir?"
"As between man and man, Baxter."
"Very good, Mr. George, sir!"
"I should like to hear your opinion, Baxter, as to what is the proper, and most accredited course to adopt when one has been—er—crossed in love?"
"Why sir," began Baxter, slightly wrinkling his smooth brow, "so far as I can call to mind, the courses usually adopted by despairing lovers, are, in number, four."
"Name them, Baxter."
"First, Mr. George, there is what I may term, the Course Retaliatory,—which is Marriage—"
"With—another party, sir,—on the principle that there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out, and—er—pebbles on beaches, sir; you understand me, sir?"
"Perfectly, go on."
"Secondly, there is the Army, sir, I have known of a good many enlistments on account of blighted affections, Mr. George, sir; indeed, the Army is very popular."
"Ah?" said Bellew, settling the tobacco in his pipe with the aid of the salt-spoon, "Proceed, Baxter."
"Thirdly, Mr. George, there are those who are content to—to merely disappear."
"Hum!" said Bellew.
"And lastly sir, though it is usually the first,—there is dissipation, Mr. George. Drink, sir,—the consolation of bottles, and—"
"Exactly!" nodded Bellew. "Now Baxter," he pursued, beginning to draw diagrams on the table-cloth with the salt-spoon, "knowing me as you do, what course should you advise me to adopt?"
"You mean, Mr. George,—speaking as between man and man of course,—you mean that you are in the unfortunate position of being—crossed in your affections, sir?"
"Miss Marchmont marries the Duke of Hyde,—in three weeks, Baxter."
"You were, I believe, aware of the fact that Miss Marchmont and I were as good as engaged?"
"I had—hem!—gathered as much, sir."
"Then—confound it all, Baxter!—why aren't you surprised?"
"I am quite—over-come, sir!" said Baxter, stooping to recover the salt-spoon which had slipped to the floor.
"Consequently," pursued Bellew, "I am—er—broken-hearted, as I told you—"
"Crushed, despondent, and utterly hopeless, Baxter, and shall be, henceforth, pursued by the—er—Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been."
"Very natural, sir, indeed!"
"I could have hoped, Baxter, that, having served me so long,—not to mention my father, you would have shown just a—er shade more feeling in the matter."
"And if you were to ask me,—as between man and man sir,—why I don't show more feeling, then, speaking as the old servant of your respected father, Master George, sir,—I should beg most respectfully to say that regarding the lady in question, her conduct is not in the least surprising, Miss Marchmont being a beauty, and aware of the fact, Master George. Referring to your heart, sir, I am ready to swear that it is not even cracked. And now, sir,—what clothes do you propose to wear this morning?"
"And pray, why should you be so confident of regarding the—er—condition of my heart?"
"Because, sir,—speaking as your father's old servant, Master George, I make bold to say that I don't believe that you have ever been in love, or even know what love is, Master George, sir."
Bellew picked up the salt-spoon, balanced it very carefully upon his finger, and put it down again.
"Nevertheless," said he, shaking his head, "I can see for myself but the dreary perspective of a hopeless future, Baxter, blasted by the Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been;—I'll trouble you to push the cigarettes a little nearer."
"And now, sir," said Baxter, as he rose to strike, and apply the necessary match, "what suit will you wear to-day?"
"Something in tweeds."
"Tweeds, sir! surely you forget your appointment with the Lady Cecily Prynne, and her party? Lord Mountclair had me on the telephone, last night—"
"Also a good, heavy walking-stick, Baxter, and a knap-sack."
"A knap-sack, sir?"
"I shall set out on a walking tour—in an hour's time."
"Certainly, sir,—where to, sir?"
"I haven't the least idea, Baxter, but I'm going—in an hour. On the whole, of the four courses you describe for one whose life is blighted, whose heart,—I say whose heart, Baxter, is broken,—utterly smashed, and—er—shivered beyond repair, I prefer to disappear—in an hour, Baxter."
"Shall you drive the touring car, sir, or the new racer?"
"I shall walk, Baxter, alone,—in an hour."
Which concerns itself with a hay-cart, and a belligerent Waggoner
It was upon a certain August morning that George Bellew shook the dust of London from his feet, and, leaving Chance, or Destiny to direct him, followed a hap-hazard course, careless alike of how, or when, or where; sighing as often, and as heavily as he considered his heart-broken condition required,—which was very often, and very heavily,—yet heeding, for all that, the glory of the sun, and the stir and bustle of the streets about him.
Thus it was that, being careless of his ultimate destination, Fortune condescended to take him under her wing, (if she has one), and guided his steps across the river, into the lovely land of Kent,—that county of gentle hills, and broad, pleasant valleys, of winding streams and shady woods, of rich meadows and smiling pastures, of grassy lanes and fragrant hedgerows,—that most delightful land which has been called, and very rightly, "The Garden of England."
It was thus, as has been said, upon a fair August morning, that Bellew set out on what he termed "a walking tour." The reservation is necessary because Bellew's idea of a walking-tour is original, and quaint. He began very well, for Bellew,—in the morning he walked very nearly five miles, and, in the afternoon, before he was discovered, he accomplished ten more on a hay-cart that happened to be going in his direction.
He had swung himself up among the hay, unobserved by the somnolent driver, and had ridden thus an hour or more in that delicious state between waking, and sleeping, ere the waggoner discovered him, whereupon ensued the following colloquy:
THE WAGGONER. (Indignantly) Hallo there! what might you be a doing of in my hay?
BELLEW. (Drowsily) Enjoying myself immensely.
THE WAGGONER. (Growling) Well, you get out o' that, and sharp about it.
BELLEW. (Yawning) Not on your life! No sir,—'not for Cadwallader and all his goats!'
THE WAGGONER. You jest get down out o' my hay,—now come!
BELLEW. (Sleepily) Enough, good fellow,—go to!—thy voice offends mine ear!
THE WAGGONER. (Threateningly) Ear be blowed! If ye don't get down out o' my hay,—I'll come an' throw ye out.
BELLEW. (Drowsily) 'Twould be an act of wanton aggression that likes me not.
THE WAGGONER. (Dubiously) Where be ye goin'?
BELLEW. Wherever you like to take me; Thy way shall be my way, and—er—thy people—(Yawn) So drive on, my rustic Jehu, and Heaven's blessings prosper thee!
Saying which, Bellew closed his eyes again, sighed plaintively, and once more composed himself to slumber.
But to drive on, the Waggoner, very evidently, had no mind; instead, flinging the reins upon the backs of his horses, he climbed down from his seat, and spitting on his hands, clenched them into fists and shook them up at the yawning Bellew, one after the other.
"It be enough," said he, "to raise the 'Old Adam' inside o' me to 'ave a tramper o' the roads a-snoring in my hay,—but I ain't a-going to be called names, into the bargain. 'Rusty'—I may be, but I reckon I'm good enough for the likes o' you,—so come on down!" and the Waggoner shook his fists again.
He was a very square man, was this Waggoner, square of head, square of jaw, and square of body, with twinkling blue eyes, and a pleasant, good-natured face; but, just now, the eyes gleamed, and the face was set grimly, and, altogether, he looked a very ugly opponent.
Therefore Bellew sighed again, stretched himself, and, very reluctantly, climbed down out of the hay. No sooner was he fairly in the road, than the Waggoner went for him with a rush, and a whirl of knotted fists. It was very dusty in that particular spot so that it presently rose in a cloud, in the midst of which, the battle raged, fast and furious.
And, in a while, the Waggoner, rising out of the ditch, grinned to see Bellew wiping blood from his face.
"You be no—fool!" panted the Waggoner, mopping his face with the end of his neckerchief. "Leastways—not wi' your fists."
"Why, you are pretty good yourself, if it comes to that," returned Bellew, mopping in his turn. Thus they stood a while stanching their wounds, and gazing upon each other with a mutual, and growing respect.
"Well?" enquired Bellew, when he had recovered his breath somewhat, "shall we begin again, or do you think we have had enough? To be sure, I begin to feel much better for your efforts, you see, exercise is what I most need, just now, on account of the—er—Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been,—to offset its effect, you know; but it is uncomfortably warm work here, in the sun, isn't it?"
"Ah!" nodded the Waggoner, "it be."
"Then suppose we—er—continue our journey?" said Bellew with his dreamy gaze upon the tempting load of sweet-smelling hay.
"Ah!" nodded the Waggoner again, beginning to roll down his sleeves, "suppose we do; I aren't above giving a lift to a chap as can use 'is fists,—not even if 'e is a vagrant, and a uncommon dusty one at that;—so, if you're in the same mind about it, up you get,—but no more furrin curses, mind!" With which admonition, the Waggoner nodded, grinned, and climbed back to his seat, while Bellew swung himself up into the hay once more.
"Friend," said he, as the waggon creaked upon its way, "Do you smoke?"
"Ah!" nodded the Waggoner.
"Then here are three cigars which you didn't manage to smash just now."
"Cigars! why it ain't often as I gets so far as a cigar, unless it be Squire, or Parson,—cigars, eh!" Saying which, the Waggoner turned and accepted the cigars which he proceeded to stow away in the cavernous interior of his wide-eaved hat, handling them with elaborate care, rather as if they were explosives of a highly dangerous kind.
Meanwhile, George Bellew, American Citizen, and millionaire, lay upon the broad of his back, staring up at the cloudless blue above, and despite heart break, and a certain Haunting Shadow, felt singularly content, which feeling he was at some pains with himself to account for.
"It's the exercise," said he, speaking his thought aloud, as he stretched luxuriously upon his soft, and fragrant couch, "after all, there is nothing like a little exercise."
"That's what they all say!" nodded the Waggoner. "But I notice as them as says it, ain't over fond o' doing of it,—they mostly prefers to lie on their backs, an' talk about it,—like yourself."
"Hum!" said Bellew, "ha! 'Some are born to exercise, some achieve exercise, and some, like myself, have exercise thrust upon them.' But, anyway, it is a very excellent thing,—more especially if one is affected with a—er—broken heart."
"A w'ot?" enquired the Waggoner.
"Blighted affections, then," sighed Bellew, settling himself more comfortably in the hay.
"You aren't 'inting at—love, are ye?" enquired the Waggoner cocking a somewhat sheepish eye at him.
"I was, but, just at present," and here Bellew lowered his voice, "it is a—er—rather painful subject with me,—let us, therefore, talk of something else."
"You don't mean to say as your 'eart's broke, do ye?" enquired the Waggoner in a tone of such vast surprise and disbelief, that Bellew turned, and propped himself on an indignant elbow.
"And why the deuce not?" he retorted, "my heart is no more impervious than anyone else's,—confound it!"
"But," said the Waggoner, "you ain't got the look of a 'eart-broke cove, no more than Squire Cassilis,—which the same I heard telling Miss Anthea as 'is 'eart were broke, no later than yesterday, at two o'clock in the arternoon, as ever was."
"Anthea!" repeated Bellew, blinking drowsily up at the sky again, "that is a very quaint name, and very pretty."
"Pretty,—ah,—an' so's Miss Anthea!—as a pict'er."
"Oh, really?" yawned Bellew.
"Ah!" nodded the Waggoner, "there ain't a man, in or out o' the parish, from Squire down, as don't think the very same."
But here, the Waggoner's voice tailed off into a meaningless drone that became merged with the creaking of the wheels, the plodding hoof-strokes of the horses, and Bellew fell asleep.
He was awakened by feeling himself shaken lustily, and, sitting up, saw that they had come to where a narrow lane branched off from the high road, and wound away between great trees.
"Yon's your way," nodded the Waggoner, pointing along the high road, "Dapplemere village lies over yonder, 'bout a mile."
"Thank you very much," said Bellew, "but I don't want the village."
"No?" enquired the Waggoner, scratching his head.
"Certainly not," answered Bellew.
"Then—what do ye want?"
"Oh well, I'll just go on lying here, and see what turns up,—so drive on, like the good fellow you are."
"Can't be done!" said the Waggoner.
"Why, since you ax me—because I don't have to drive no farther. There be the farm-house,—over the up-land yonder, you can't see it because o' the trees, but there it be."
So, Bellew sighed resignedly, and, perforce, climbed down into the road.
"What do I owe you?" he enquired.
"Owe me!" said the Waggoner, staring.
"For the ride, and the—er—very necessary exercise you afforded me."
"Lord!" cried the Waggoner with a sudden, great laugh, "you don't owe me nothin' for that,—not nohow,—I owe you one for a knocking of me into that ditch, back yonder, though, to be sure, I did give ye one or two good 'uns, didn't I?"
"You certainly did!" answered Bellew smiling, and he held out his hand.
"Hey!—what be this?" cried the Waggoner, staring down at the bright five-shilling piece in his palm.
"Well, I rather think it's five shillings," said Bellew. "It's big enough, heaven knows. English money is all O.K., I suppose, but it's confoundedly confusing, and rather heavy to drag around if you happen to have enough of it—"
"Ah!" nodded the Waggoner, "but then nobody never has enough of it,—leastways, I never knowed nobody as had. Good-bye, sir! and thankee, and—good luck!" saying which, the Waggoner chirrupped to his horses, slipped the coin into his pocket, nodded, and the waggon creaked and rumbled up the lane.
Bellew strolled along the road, breathing an air fragrant with honey-suckle from the hedges, and full of the song of birds; pausing, now and then, to listen to the blythe carol of a sky-lark, or the rich; sweet notes of a black-bird, and feeling that it was indeed, good to be alive; so that, what with all this,—the springy turf beneath his feet, and the blue expanse over-head, he began to whistle for very joy of it, until, remembering the Haunting Shadow of the Might Have Been, he checked himself, and sighed instead. Presently, turning from the road, he climbed a stile, and followed a narrow path that led away across the meadows, and, as he went, there met him a gentle wind laden with the sweet, warm scent of ripening hops, and fruit.
On he went, and on,—heedless of his direction until the sun grew low, and he grew hungry; wherefore, looking about, he presently espied a nook sheltered from the sun's level rays by a steep bank where flowers bloomed, and ferns grew. Here he sat down, unslinging his knap-sack, and here it was, also, that he first encountered Small Porges.
How Small Porges in looking for a fortune for another, found an Uncle for Himself instead
The meeting of George Bellew and Small Porges, (as he afterward came to be called), was sudden, precipitate, and wholly unexpected; and it befell on this wise:
Bellew had opened his knap-sack, had fished thence cheese, clasp-knife, and a crusty loaf of bread, and, having exerted himself so far, had fallen a thinking or a dreaming, in his characteristic attitude, i.e.:—on the flat of his back, when he was aware of a crash in the hedge above, and then, of something that hurtled past him, all arms and legs, that rolled over two or three times, and eventually brought up in a sitting posture; and, lifting a lazy head, Bellew observed that it was a boy. He was a very diminutive boy with a round head covered with coppery curls, a boy who stared at Bellew out of a pair of very round, blue eyes, while he tenderly cherished a knee, and an elbow. He had been on the brink of tears for a moment, but meeting Bellew's quizzical gaze, he manfully repressed the weakness, and, lifting the small, and somewhat weather-beaten cap that found a precarious perch at the back of his curly head, he gravely wished Bellew "Good afternoon!"
"Well met, my Lord Chesterfield!" nodded Bellew, returning the salute, "are you hurt?"
"Just a bit—on the elbow; but my name's George."
"Why—so is mine!" said Bellew.
"Though they call me 'Georgy-Porgy.'"
"Of course they do," nodded Bellew, "they used to call me the same, once upon a time,—
Georgy Porgy, pudding and pie Kissed the girls, and made them cry,
though I never did anything of the kind,—one doesn't do that sort of thing when one is young,—and wise, that comes later, and brings its own care, and—er—heart-break." Here Bellew sighed, and hacked a piece from the loaf with the clasp-knife. "Are you hungry, Georgy Porgy?" he enquired, glancing up at the boy who had risen, and was removing some of the soil and dust from his small person with his cap.
"Yes I am."
"Then here is bread, and cheese, and bottled stout,—so fall to, good comrade."
"Thank you, but I've got a piece of bread an' jam in my bundle,—"
"I dropped it as I came through the hedge, I'll get it," and as he spoke, he turned, and, climbing up the bank, presently came back with a very small bundle that dangled from the end of a very long stick, and seating himself beside Bellew, he proceeded to open it. There, sure enough, was the bread and jam in question, seemingly a little the worse for wear and tear, for Bellew observed various articles adhering to it, amongst other things, a battered penknife, and a top. These, however, were readily removed, and Georgy Porgy fell to with excellent appetite.
"And pray," enquired Bellew, after they had munched silently together, some while, "pray where might you be going?"
"I don't know yet," answered Georgy Porgy with a shake of his curls.
"Good again!" exclaimed Bellew, "neither do I."
"Though I've been thinking of Africa," continued his diminutive companion, turning the remain of the bread and jam over and over thoughtfully.
"Africa!" repeated Bellew, staring, "that's quite a goodish step from here."
"Yes," sighed Georgy Porgy, "but, you see, there's gold there, oh, lots of it! they dig it out of the ground with shovels, you know. Old Adam told me all 'bout it; an' it's gold I'm looking for, you see, I'm trying to find a fortune."
"I—er—beg your pardon—?" said Bellew.
"Money, you know," explained Georgy, Porgy with a patient sigh, "pounds, an' shillings, an' bank-notes—in a sack if I can get them."
"And what does such a very small Georgy Porgy want so much money for?"
"Well, it's for my Auntie, you know, so she won't have to sell her house, an' go away from Dapplemere. She was telling me, last night, when I was in bed,—she always comes to tuck me up, you know, an' she told me she was 'fraid we'd have to sell Dapplemere an' go to live somewhere else. So I asked why, an' she said ''cause she hadn't any money,' an' 'Oh Georgy!' she said, 'oh Georgy, if we could only find enough money to pay off the—the—'"
"Mortgage?" suggested Bellew, at a venture.
"Yes,—that's it, but how did you know?"
"Never mind how, go on with your tale, Georgy Porgy."
"'If—we could only find enough money, or somebody would leave us a fortune,' she said,—an' she was crying too, 'cause I felt a tear fall on me, you know. So this morning I got up, awful' early, an' made myself a bundle on a stick,—like Dick Whittington had when he left home, an' I started off to find a fortune."
"I see," nodded Bellew.
"But I haven't found anything—yet," said Georgy Porgy, with a long sigh, "I s'pose money takes a lot of looking for, doesn't it?"
"Sometimes," Bellew answered. "And do you live alone with your Auntie then, Georgy Porgy?"
"Yes;—most boys live with their mothers, but that's where I'm different, I don't need one 'cause I've got my Auntie Anthea."
"Anthea!" repeated Bellew, thoughtfully. Hereupon they fell silent, Bellew watching the smoke curl up from his pipe into the warm, still air, and Georgy Porgy watching him with very thoughtful eyes, and a somewhat troubled brow, as if turning over some weighty matter in his mind; at last, he spoke:
"Please," said he, with a sudden diffidence, "where do you live?"
"Live," repeated Bellew, smiling, "under my hat,—here, there, and everywhere, which means—nowhere in particular."
"But I—I mean—where is your home?"
"My home," said Bellew, exhaling a great cloud of smoke, "my home lies beyond the 'bounding billow."
"That sounds an awful' long way off."
"It is an awful' long way off."
"An' where do you sleep while—while you're here?"
"Anywhere they'll let me. To-night I shall sleep at some inn, I suppose, if I can find one, if not,—under a hedge, or hay-rick."
"Oh!—haven't you got any home of your own, then,—here?"
"And—you're not going home just yet,—I mean across the 'bounding billow?'"
"Then—please—" the small boy's voice was suddenly tremulous and eager, and he laid a little, grimy hand upon Bellew's sleeve, "please—if it isn't too much trouble—would you mind coming with me—to—to help me to find the fortune?—you see, you are so very big, an'—Oh!—will you please?"
George Bellew sat up suddenly, and smiled; Bellew's smile was, at all times, wonderfully pleasant to see, at least, the boy thought so.
"Georgy Porgy," said he, "you can just bet your small life, I will,—and there's my hand on it, old chap." Bellew's lips were solemn now, but all the best of his smile seemed, somehow, to have got into his gray eyes. So the big hand clasped the small one, and as they looked at each other, there sprang up a certain understanding that was to be an enduring bond between them.
"I think," said Bellew, as he lay, and puffed at his pipe again, "I think I'll call you Porges, it's shorter, easier, and I think, altogether apt; I'll be Big Porges, and you shall be Small Porges,—what do you say?"
"Yes, it's lots better than Georgy Porgy," nodded the boy. And so Small Porges he became, thenceforth. "But," said he, after a thoughtful pause, "I think, if you don't mind, I'd rather call you——Uncle Porges. You see, Dick Bennet—the black-smith's boy, has three uncles an' I've only got a single aunt,—so, if you don't mind—"
"Uncle Porges it shall be, now and for ever, Amen!" murmured Bellew.
"An' when d'you s'pose we'd better start?" enquired Small Porges, beginning to re-tie his bundle.
"Start where, nephew?"
"To find the fortune."
"Hum!" said Bellew.
"If we could manage to find some,—even if it was only a very little, it would cheer her up so."
"To be sure it would," said Bellew, and, sitting up, he pitched loaf, cheese, and clasp-knife back into the knap-sack, fastened it, slung it upon his shoulders, and rising, took up his stick.
"Come on, my Porges," said he, "and, whatever you do—keep your 'weather eye' on your uncle."
"Where do you s'pose we'd better look first?" enquired Small Porges, eagerly.
"Why, first, I think we'd better find your Auntie Anthea."
"But,—" began Porges, his face falling.
"But me no buts, my Porges," smiled Bellew, laying his hand upon his new-found nephew's shoulder, "but me no buts, boy, and, as I said before,—just keep your eye on your uncle."
How Bellew came to Arcadia
So, they set out together, Big Porges and Small Porges, walking side by side over sun-kissed field and meadow, slowly and thoughtfully, to be sure, for Bellew disliked hurry; often pausing to listen to the music of running waters, or to stare away across the purple valley, for the sun was getting low. And, ever as they went, they talked to one another whole-heartedly as good friends should.
And, from the boy's eager lips, Bellew heard much of "Auntie Anthea," and learned, little by little, something of the brave fight she had made, lonely and unaided, and burdened with ancient debt, to make the farm of Dapplemere pay. Likewise Small Porges spoke learnedly of the condition of the markets, and of the distressing fall in prices in regard to hay, and wheat.
"Old Adam,—he's our man, you know, he says that farming isn't what it was in his young days, 'specially if you happen to be a woman, like my Auntie Anthea, an' he told me yesterday that if he were Auntie he'd give up trying, an' take Mr. Cassilis at his word."
"Cassilis, ah!—And who is Mr. Cassilis?"
"He lives at 'Brampton Court'—a great, big house 'bout a mile from Dapplemere; an' he's always asking my Auntie to marry him, but 'course she won't you know."
"Well, I think it's 'cause he's got such big, white teeth when he smiles,—an' he's always smiling, you know; but Old Adam says that if he'd been born a woman he'd marry a man all teeth, or no teeth at all, if he had as much money as Mr. Cassilis."
The sun was low in the West as, skirting a wood, they came out upon a grassy lane that presently led them into the great, broad highway.
Now, as they trudged along together, Small Porges with one hand clasped in Bellew's, and the other supporting the bundle on his shoulder, there appeared, galloping towards them a man on a fine black horse, at sight of whom, Porges' clasp tightened, and he drew nearer to Bellew's side.
When he was nearly abreast of them, the horse-man checked his career so suddenly that his animal was thrown back on his haunches.
"Why—Georgy!" he exclaimed.
"Good evening, Mr. Cassilis!" said Small Porges, lifting his cap.
Mr. Cassilis was tall, handsome, well built, and very particular as to dress. Bellew noticed that his teeth were, indeed, very large and white, beneath the small, carefully trained moustache; also his eyes seemed just a trifle too close together, perhaps.
"Why—what in the world have you been up to, boy?" he enquired, regarding Bellew with no very friendly eye. "Your Aunt is worrying herself ill on your account,—what have you been doing with yourself all day?"
Again Bellew felt the small fingers tighten round his, and the small figure shrink a little closer to him, as Small Porges answered,
"I've been with Uncle Porges, Mr. Cassilis."
"With whom?" demanded Mr. Cassilis, more sharply.
"With his Uncle Porges, sir," Bellew rejoined, "a trustworthy person, and very much at your service."
Mr. Cassilis stared, his hand began to stroke and caress his small, black moustache, and he viewed Bellew from his dusty boots up to the crown of his dusty hat, and down again, with supercilious eyes.
"Uncle?" he repeated incredulously.
"Porges," nodded Bellew.
"I wasn't aware," began Mr. Cassilis, "that—er—George was so very fortunate—"
"Baptismal name—George," continued Bellew, "lately of New York, Newport, and—er—other places in America, U.S.A., at present of Nowhere-in-Particular."
"Ah!" said Mr. Cassilis, his eyes seeming to grow a trifle nearer together, "an American Uncle? Still, I was not aware of even that relationship."
"It is a singularly pleasing thought," smiled Bellew, "to know that we may learn something every day,—that one never knows what the day may bring forth; to-morrow, for instance, you also may find yourself a nephew—somewhere or other, though, personally, I—er doubt it, yes, I greatly doubt it; still, one never knows, you know, and while there's life, there's hope. A very good afternoon to you, sir. Come, nephew mine, the evening falls apace, and I grow aweary,—let us on—Excelsior!"
Mr. Cassilis's cheek grew suddenly red, he twirled his moustache angrily, and seemed about to speak, then he smiled instead, and turning his horse, spurred him savagely, and galloped back down the road in a cloud of dust.
"Did you see his teeth, Uncle Porges?"
"He only smiles like that when he's awful' angry," said Small Porges shaking his head as the galloping hoof-strokes died away in the distance, "An' what do you s'pose he went back for?"
"Well, Porges, it's in my mind that he has gone back to warn our Auntie Anthea of our coming."
Small Porges sighed, and his feet dragged in the dust.
"Tired, my Porges?"
"Just a bit, you know,—but it isn't that. I was thinking that the day has almost gone, an' I haven't found a bit of the fortune yet."
"Why there's always to-morrow to live for, my Porges."
"Yes, 'course—there's always to-morrow; an' then,—I did find you, you know, Uncle Porges."
"To be sure you did, and an uncle is better than nothing at all, isn't he,—even if he is rather dusty and disreputable of exterior. One doesn't find an uncle every day of one's life, my Porges, no sir!"
"An' you are so nice an' big, you know!" said Porges, viewing Bellew with a bright, approving eye.
"Long, would be a better word, perhaps," suggested Bellew, smiling down at him.
"An' wide, too!" nodded Small Porges. And, from these two facts he seemed to derive a deal of solid comfort, and satisfaction for he strode on manfully once more.
Leaving the high-road, he guided Bellew by divers winding paths, through corn-fields, and over stiles, until, at length, they were come to an orchard. Such an orchard as surely may only be found in Kent,—where great apple-trees, gnarled, and knotted, shot out huge branches that seemed to twist, and writhe; where were stately pear trees; where peaches, and apricots, ripened against time-worn walls whose red bricks still glowed rosily for all their years; where the air was sweet with the scent of fruit, and fragrant with thyme, and sage, and marjoram; and where the black-birds, bold marauders that they are, piped gloriously all day long. In the midst of this orchard they stopped, and Small Porges rested one hand against the rugged bole of a great, old apple tree.
"This," said he, "is my very own tree, because he's so very big, an' so very, very old,—Adam says he's the oldest tree in the orchard. I call him 'King Arthur' 'cause he is so big, an' strong,—just like a king should be, you know,—an' all the other trees are his Knights of the Round Table."
But Bellew was not looking at "King Arthur" just then; his eyes were turned to where one came towards them through the green,—one surely as tall, and gracious, as proud and beautiful, as Enid, or Guinevere, or any of those lovely ladies, for all her simple gown of blue, and the sunbonnet that shaded the beauty of her face. Yes, as he gazed, Bellew was sure and certain that she who, all unconscious of their presence, came slowly towards them with the red glow of the sunset about her, was handsomer, lovelier, statelier, and altogether more desirable than all the beautiful ladies of King Arthur's court,—or any other court so-ever.
But now Small Porges finding him so silent, and seeing where he looked, must needs behold her too, and gave a sudden, glad cry, and ran out from behind the great bulk of "King Arthur," and she, hearing his voice, turned and ran to meet him, and sank upon her knees before him, and clasped him against her heart, and rejoiced, and wept, and scolded him, all in a breath. Wherefore Bellew, unobserved, as yet in "King Arthur's" shadow, watching the proud head with its wayward curls, (for the sunbonnet had been tossed back upon her shoulders), watching the quick, passionate caress of those slender, brown hands, and listening to the thrilling tenderness of that low, soft voice, felt, all at once, strangely lonely, and friendless, and out of place, very rough and awkward, and very much aware of his dusty person,—felt, indeed, as any other ordinary human might, who had tumbled unexpectedly into Arcadia; therefore he turned, thinking to steal quietly away.
"You see, Auntie, I went out to try an' find a fortune for you," Small Porges was explaining, "an' I looked, an' looked, but I didn't find a bit—"
"My dear, dear, brave Georgy!" said Anthea, and would have kissed him again, but he put her off:
"Wait a minute, please Auntie," he said excitedly, "'cause I did find—something,—just as I was growing very tired an' disappointed, I found Uncle Porges—under a hedge, you know."
"Uncle Porges!" said Anthea, starting, "Oh! that must be the man Mr. Cassilis mentioned—"
"So I brought him with me," pursued Small Porges, "an' there he is!" and he pointed triumphantly towards "King Arthur."
Glancing thither, Anthea beheld a tall, dusty figure moving off among the trees.
"Oh,—wait, please!" she called, rising to her feet, and, with Small Porges' hand in hers, approached Bellew who had stopped with his dusty back to them.
"I—I want to thank you for—taking care of my nephew. If you will come up to the house cook shall give you a good meal, and, if you are in need of work, I—I—" her voice faltered uncertainly, and she stopped.
"Thank you!" said Bellew, turning and lifting his hat.
"Oh!—I beg your pardon!" said Anthea.
Now as their eyes met, it seemed to Bellew as though he had lived all his life in expectation of this moment, and he knew that all his life he should never forget this moment. But now, even while he looked at her, he saw her cheeks flush painfully, and her dark eyes grow troubled.
"I beg your pardon!" said she again, "I—I thought—Mr. Cassilis gave me to understand that you were—"
"A very dusty, hungry-looking fellow, perhaps," smiled Bellew, "and he was quite right, you know; the dust you can see for yourself, but the hunger you must take my word for. As for the work, I assure you exercise is precisely what I am looking for."
"But—" said Anthea, and stopped, and tapped the grass nervously with her foot, and twisted one of her bonnet-strings, and meeting Bellew's steady gaze, flushed again, "but you—you are—"
"My Uncle Porges," her nephew chimed in, "an' I brought him home with me 'cause he's going to help me to find a fortune, an' he hasn't got any place to go to 'cause his home's far, far beyond the 'bounding billow,'—so you will let him stay, won't you, Auntie Anthea?"
"Why—Georgy—" she began, but seeing her distressed look, Bellew came to her rescue.
"Pray do, Miss Anthea," said he in his quiet, easy manner. "My name is Bellew," he went on to explain, "I am an American, without family or friends, here, there or anywhere, and with nothing in the world to do but follow the path of the winds. Indeed, I am rather a solitary fellow, at least—I was, until I met my nephew Porges here. Since then, I've been wondering if there would be—er—room for such as I, at Dapplemere?"
"Oh, there would be plenty of room," said Anthea, hesitating, and wrinkling her white brow, for a lodger was something entirely new in her experience.
"As to my character," pursued Bellew, "though something of a vagabond, I am not a rogue,—at least, I hope not, and I could pay—er—four or five pounds a week—"
"Oh!" exclaimed Anthea, with a little gasp.
"If that would be sufficient—"
"It is—a great deal too much!" said Anthea who would have scarcely dared to ask three.
"Pardon me!—but I think not." said Bellew, shaking his head, "you see, I am—er—rather extravagant in my eating,—eggs, you know, lots of 'em, and ham, and beef, and—er—(a duck quacked loudly from the vicinity of a neighbouring pond),—certainly,—an occasional duck! Indeed, five pounds a week would scarcely—"
"Three would be ample!" said Anthea with a little nod of finality.
"Very well," said Bellew, "we'll make it four, and have done with it."
Anthea Devine, being absolute mistress of Dapplemere, was in the habit of exerting her authority, and having her own way in most things; therefore, she glanced up, in some surprise, at this tall, dusty, rather lazy looking personage; and she noticed, even as had Small Porges, that he was indeed very big and wide; she noticed also that, despite the easy courtesy of his manner, and the quizzical light of his gray eyes, his chin was very square, and that, despite his gentle voice, he had the air of one who meant exactly what he said. Nevertheless she was much inclined to take issue with him upon the matter; plainly observing which, Bellew smiled, and shook his head.
"Pray be reasonable," he said in his gentle voice, "if you send me away to some horrible inn or other, it will cost me—being an American, —more than that every week, in tips and things,—so let's shake hands on it, and call it settled," and he held out his hand to her.
Four pounds a week! It would be a veritable God-send just at present, while she was so hard put to it to make both ends meet. Four pounds a week! So Anthea stood, lost in frowning thought until meeting his frank smile, she laughed.
"You are dreadfully persistent!" she said, "and I know it is too much,—but—we'll try to make you as comfortable as we can," and she laid her hand in his.
And thus it was that George Bellew came to Dapplemere in the glory of the after-glow of an August afternoon, breathing the magic air of Arcadia which is, and always has been, of that rare quality warranted to go to the head, sooner, or later.
And thus it was that Small Porges with his bundle on his shoulder, viewed this tall, dusty Uncle with the eye of possession which is oft-times an eye of rapture.
And Anthea? She was busy calculating to a scrupulous nicety the very vexed question as to exactly how far four pounds per week might be made to go to the best possible advantage of all concerned.
Of the sad condition of the Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been
Dapplemere Farm House, or "The Manor," as it was still called by many, had been built when Henry the Eighth was King, as the carved inscription above the door testified.
The House of Dapplemere was a place of many gables, and latticed windows, and with tall, slender chimneys shaped, and wrought into things of beauty and delight. It possessed a great, old hall; there were spacious chambers, and broad stairways; there were panelled corridors; sudden flights of steps that led up, or down again, for no apparent reason; there were broad, and generous hearths, and deep window-seats; and everywhere, within, and without, there lurked an indefinable, old-world charm that was the heritage of years.
Storms had buffeted, and tempests had beaten upon it, but all in vain, for, save that the bricks glowed a deeper red where they peeped out beneath the clinging ivy, the old house stood as it had upon that far day when it was fashioned,—in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Five Hundred and Twenty-four.
In England many such houses are yet to be found, monuments of the "Bad Old Times"—memorials of the "Dark Ages"—when lath and stucco existed not, and the "Jerry-builder" had no being. But where, among them all, might be found such another parlour as this at Dapplemere, with its low, raftered ceiling, its great, carved mantel, its panelled walls whence old portraits looked down at one like dream faces, from dim, and nebulous backgrounds. And where might be found two such bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, quick-footed, deft-handed Phyllises as the two buxom maids who flitted here and there, obedient to their mistress's word, or gesture. And, lastly, where, in all this wide world, could there ever be found just such another hostess as Miss Anthea, herself? Something of all this was in Bellew's mind as he sat with Small Porges beside him, watching Miss Anthea dispense tea,—brewed as it should be, in an earthen tea-pot.
"Milk and sugar, Mr. Bellew?"
"This is blackberry, an' this is raspberry an' red currant—but the blackberry jam's the best, Uncle Porges!"
"Thank you, nephew."
"Now aren't you awful' glad I found you—under that hedge, Uncle Porges?"
"Nephew?" repeated Anthea, glancing at him with raised brows.
"Oh yes!" nodded Bellew, "we adopted each other—at about four o'clock, this afternoon."
"Under a hedge, you know!" added Small Porges.
"Wasn't it a very sudden, and altogether—unheard of proceeding?" Anthea enquired.
"Well, it might have been if it had happened anywhere but in Arcadia."
"What do you mean by Arcadia, Uncle Porges?"
"A place I've been looking for—nearly all my life, nephew. I'll trouble you for the blackberry jam, my Porges."
"Yes, try the blackberry,—Aunt Priscilla made it her very own self."
"You know it's perfectly—ridiculous!" said Anthea, frowning and laughing, both at the same time.
"What is, Miss Anthea?"
"Why that you should be sitting here calling Georgy your nephew, and that I should be pouring out tea for you, quite as a matter of course."
"It seems to me the most delightfully natural thing in the world," said Bellew, in his slow, grave manner.
"But—I've only known you—half an hour—!"
"But then, friendships ripen quickly—in Arcadia."
"I wonder what Aunt Priscilla will have to say about it!"
"She is our housekeeper,—the dearest, busiest, gentlest little housekeeper in all the world; but with—very sharp eyes, Mr. Bellew. She will either like you very much,—or—not at all! there are no half measures about Aunt Priscilla."
"Now I wonder which it will be," said Bellew, helping himself to more jam.
"Oh, she'll like you, a course!" nodded Small Porges, "I know she'll like you 'cause you're so different to Mr. Cassilis,—he's got black hair, an' a mestache, you know, an' your hair's gold, like mine,—an' your mestache—isn't there, is it? An' I know she doesn't like Mr. Cassilis, an' I don't, either, 'cause—"
"She will be back to-morrow," said Anthea, silencing Small Porges with a gentle touch of her hand, "and we shall be glad, sha'n't we, Georgy? The house is not the same place without her. You see, I am off in the fields all day, as a rule; a farm,—even such a small one as Dapplemere, is a great responsibility, and takes up all one's time—if it is to be made to pay—"
"An' sometimes it doesn't pay at all, you know!" added Small Porges, "an' then Auntie Anthea worries, an' I worry too. Farming isn't what it was in Adam's young days,—so that's why I must find a fortune—early tomorrow morning, you know,—so my Auntie won't have to worry any more—"
Now when he had got thus far, Anthea leaned over, and, taking him by surprise, kissed Small Porges suddenly.
"It was very good, and brave of you, dear," said she in her soft, thrilling voice, "to go out all alone into this big world to try and find a fortune for me!" and here she would have kissed him again but that he reminded her that they were not alone.
"But, Georgy dear,—fortunes are very hard to find,—especially round Dapplemere, I'm afraid!" said she, with a rueful little laugh.
"Yes, that's why I was going to Africa, you know."
"Africa!" she repeated, "Africa!"
"Oh yes," nodded Bellew, "when I met him he was on his way there to bring back gold for you—in a sack."
"Only Uncle Porges said it was a goodish way off, you know, so I 'cided to stay an' find the fortune nearer home."
And thus they talked unaffectedly together until, tea being over, Anthea volunteered to show Bellew over her small domain, and they went out, all three, into an evening that breathed of roses, and honeysuckle.
And, as they went, slow-footed through the deepening twilight, Small Porges directed Bellew's attention to certain nooks and corners that might be well calculated to conceal the fortune they were to find; while Anthea pointed out to him the beauties of shady wood, of rolling meadow, and winding stream.
But there were other beauties that neither of them thought to call to his attention, but which Bellew noted with observing eyes, none the less:—such, for instance, as the way Anthea had of drooping her shadowy lashes at sudden and unexpected moments; the wistful droop of her warm, red lips, and the sweet, round column of her throat. These, and much beside, Bellew noticed for himself as they walked on together through this midsummer evening.... And so, betimes, Bellew got him to bed, and, though the hour was ridiculously early, yet he fell into a profound slumber, and dreamed of—nothing at all. But, far away upon the road, forgotten, and out of mind,—with futile writhing and grimaces, the Haunting Shadow of the Might Have Been jibbered in the shadows.
Which concerns itself among other matters, with "the Old Adam"
Bellew awakened early next morning, which was an unusual thing for Bellew to do under ordinary circumstances since he was one who held with that poet who has written, somewhere or other, something to the following effect:
"God bless the man who first discovered sleep. But damn the man with curses loud, and deep, who first invented—early rising."
Nevertheless, Bellew, (as has been said), awoke early next morning, to find the sun pouring in at his window, and making a glory all about him. But it was not this that had roused him, he thought as he lay blinking drowsily,—nor the black-bird piping so wonderfully in the apple-tree outside,—a very inquisitive apple-tree that had writhed, and contorted itself most un-naturally in its efforts to peep in at the window;—therefore Bellew fell to wondering, sleepily enough, what it could have been. Presently it came again, the sound,—a very peculiar sound the like of which Bellew had never heard before, which, as he listened, gradually evolved itself into a kind of monotonous chant, intoned by a voice deep, and harsh, yet withal, not unmusical. Now the words of the chant were these:
"When I am dead, diddle, diddle, as well may hap, Bury me deep, diddle, diddle, under the tap, Under the tap, diddle, diddle, I'll tell you why, That I may drink, diddle, diddle, when I am dry."
Hereupon, Bellew rose, and crossing to the open casement leaned out into the golden freshness of the morning. Looking about he presently espied the singer,—one who carried two pails suspended from a yoke upon his shoulders,—a very square man; that is to say, square of shoulder, square of head, and square of jaw, being, in fact, none other than the Waggoner with whom he had fought, and ridden on the previous afternoon; seeing which, Bellew hailed him in cheery greeting. The man glanced up, and, breaking off his song in the middle of a note, stood gazing at Bellew, open-mouthed.
"What,—be that you, sir?" he enquired, at last, and then,—"Lord! an' what be you a doing of up theer?"
"Why, sleeping, of course," answered Bellew.
"W'ot—again!" exclaimed the Waggoner with a grin, "you do be for ever a-sleepin' I do believe!"
"Not when you're anywhere about!" laughed Bellew.
"Was it me as woke ye then?"
"Your singing did."
"My singin'! Lord love ye, an' well it might! My singin' would wake the dead,—leastways so Prudence says, an' she's generally right, —leastways, if she ain't, she's a uncommon good cook, an' that goes a long way wi' most of us. But I don't sing very often unless I be alone, or easy in my mind an' 'appy-'earted,—which I ain't."
"No?" enquired Bellew.
"Not by no manner o' means, I ain't,—contrariwise my 'eart be sore an' full o' gloom,—which ain't to be wondered at, nohow."
"And yet you were singing."
"Aye, for sure I were singin', but then who could help singin' on such a mornin' as this be, an' wi' the black-bird a-piping away in the tree here. Oh! I were singin', I don't go for to deny it, but it's sore 'earted I be, an' filled wi' gloom sir, notwithstanding."
"You mean," said Bellew, becoming suddenly thoughtful, "that you are haunted by the Carking Spectre of the—er Might Have Been?"
"Lord bless you, no sir! This ain't no spectre, nor yet no skellington,—which, arter all, is only old bones an' such,—no this ain't nothin' of that sort, an' no more it ain't a thing as I can stand 'ere a maggin' about wi' a long day's work afore me, axing your pardon, sir." Saying which, the Waggoner nodded suddenly and strode off with his pails clanking cheerily.
Very soon Bellew was shaved, and dressed, and going down stairs he let himself out into the early sunshine, and strolled away towards the farm-yard where cocks crew, cows lowed, ducks quacked, turkeys and geese gobbled and hissed, and where the Waggoner moved to and fro among them all, like a presiding genius.
"I think," said Bellew, as he came up, "I think you must be the Adam I have heard of."
"That be my name, sir."
"Then Adam, fill your pipe," and Bellew extended his pouch, whereupon Adam thanked him, and fishing a small, short, black clay from his pocket, proceeded to fill, and light it.
"Yes sir," he nodded, inhaling the tobacco with much apparent enjoyment, "Adam I were baptized some thirty odd year ago, but I generally calls myself 'Old Adam,'"
"But you're not old, Adam."
"Why, it ain't on account o' my age, ye see sir,—it be all because o' the Old Adam as is inside o' me. Lord love ye! I am nat'rally that full o' the 'Old Adam' as never was. An' 'e's alway a up an' taking of me at the shortest notice. Only t'other day he up an' took me because Job Jagway ('e works for Squire Cassilis, you'll understand sir) because Job Jagway sez as our wheat, (meanin' Miss Anthea's wheat, you'll understand sir) was mouldy; well, the 'Old Adam' up an' took me to that extent, sir, that they 'ad to carry Job Jagway home, arterwards. Which is all on account o' the Old Adam,—me being the mildest chap you ever see, nat'rally,—mild? ah! sucking doves wouldn't be nothin' to me for mildness."
"And what did the Squire have to say about your spoiling his man?"
"Wrote to Miss Anthea, o' course, sir,—he's always writing to Miss Anthea about summat or other,—sez as how he was minded to lock me up for 'sault an' battery, but, out o' respect for her, would let me off, wi' a warning."
"Miss Anthea was worried, I suppose?"
"Worried, sir! 'Oh Adam!' sez she, 'Oh Adam! 'aven't I got enough to bear but you must make it 'arder for me?' An' I see the tears in her eyes while she said it. Me make it 'arder for her! Jest as if I wouldn't make things lighter for 'er if I could,—which I can't; jest as if, to help Miss Anthea, I wouldn't let 'em take me an'—well, never mind what,—only I would!"
"Yes, I'm sure you would," nodded Bellew. "And is the Squire over here at Dapplemere very often, Adam?"
"Why, not so much lately, sir. Last time were yesterday, jest afore Master Georgy come 'ome. I were at work here in the yard, an' Squire comes riding up to me, smiling quite friendly like,—which were pretty good of him, considering as Job Jagway ain't back to work yet. 'Oh Adam!' sez he, 'so you're 'aving a sale here at Dapplemere, are you?' Meaning sir, a sale of some bits, an' sticks o' furnitur' as Miss Anthea's forced to part wi' to meet some bill or other. 'Summat o' that sir,' says I, making as light of it as I could. 'Why then, Adam,' sez he, 'if Job Jagway should 'appen to come over to buy a few o' the things,—no more fighting!' sez he. An' so he nods, an' smiles, an' off he rides. An' sir, as I watched him go, the 'Old Adam' riz up in me to that extent as it's a mercy I didn't have no pitchfork 'andy."
Bellew, sitting on the shaft of a cart with his back against a rick, listened to this narration with an air of dreamy abstraction, but Adam's quick eyes noticed that despite the unruffled serenity of his brow, his chin seemed rather more prominent than usual.
"So that was why you were feeling gloomy, was it, Adam?"
"Ah! an' enough to make any man feel gloomy, I should think. Miss Anthea's brave enough, but I reckon 'twill come nigh breakin' 'er 'eart to see the old stuff sold, the furnitur' an' that,—so she's goin' to drive over to Cranbrook to be out o' the way while it's a-doin'."
"And when does the sale take place?"
"The Saturday arter next, sir, as ever was," Adam answered. "But—hush,—mum's the word, sir!" he broke off, and winking violently with a side-ways motion of the head, he took up his pitch-fork. Wherefore, glancing round, Bellew saw Anthea coming towards them, fresh and sweet as the morning. Her hands were full of flowers, and she carried her sun-bonnet upon her arm. Here and there a rebellious curl had escaped from its fastenings as though desirous (and very naturally) of kissing the soft oval of her cheek, or the white curve of her neck. And among them Bellew noticed one in particular,—a roguish curl that glowed in the sun with a coppery light, and peeped at him wantonly above her ear.
"Good morning!" said he, rising and, to all appearance, addressing the curl in question, "you are early abroad this morning!"
"Early, Mr. Bellew!—why I've been up hours. I'm generally out at four o'clock on market days; we work hard, and long, at Dapplemere," she answered, giving him her hand with her grave, sweet smile.
"Aye, for sure!" nodded Adam, "but farmin' ain't what it was in my young days!"
"But I think we shall do well with the hops, Adam."
"'Ops, Miss Anthea,—lord love you!—there ain't no 'ops nowhere so good as ourn be!"
"They ought to be ready for picking, soon,—do you think sixty people will be enough?"
"Ah!—they'll be more'n enough, Miss Anthea."
"And, Adam—the five-acre field should be mowed today."
"I'll set the men at it right arter breakfast,—I'll 'ave it done, trust me, Miss Anthea."
"I do, Adam,—you know that!" And with a smiling nod she turned away. Now, as Bellew walked on beside her, he felt a strange constraint upon him such as he had never experienced towards any woman before, and the which he was at great pains with himself to account for. Indeed so rapt was he, that he started suddenly to find that she was asking him a question:
"Do you—like Dapplemere, Mr. Bellew?"
"Like it!" he repeated, "like it? Yes indeed!"
"I'm so glad!" she answered, her eyes glowing with pleasure. "It was a much larger property, once,—Look!" and she pointed away across corn-fields and rolling meadow to the distant woods. "In my grandfather's time it was all his—as far as you can see, and farther, but it has dwindled since then, and to-day, my Dapplemere is very small indeed."
"You must be very fond of such a beautiful place."
"Oh, I love it!" she cried passionately, "if ever I had to—give it up,—I think I should—die!" She stopped suddenly, and as though somewhat abashed by this sudden outburst, adding in a lighter tone: "If I seem rather tragic it is because this is the only home I have ever known."
"Well," said Bellew, appearing rather more dreamy than usual, just then, "I have journeyed here and there in this world of ours, I have wandered up and down, and to and fro in it,—like a certain celebrated personage who shall be nameless,—yet I never saw, or dreamed, of any such place as this Dapplemere of yours. It is like Arcadia itself, and only I am out of place. I seem, somehow, to be too common-place, and altogether matter-of-fact."
"I'm sure I'm matter-of-fact enough," she said, with her low, sweet laugh that, Bellew thought, was all too rare.
"You?" said he, and shook his head.
"Well?" she enquired, glancing at him through her wind-tossed curls.
"You are like some fair, and stately lady out of the old romances," he said gravely.
"In a print gown, and with a sun-bonnet!"
"Even so!" he nodded. Here, for no apparent reason, happening to meet his glance, the colour deepened in her cheek and she was silent; wherefore Bellew went on, in his slow, placid tones. "You surely, are the Princess ruling this fair land of Arcadia, and I am the Stranger within your gates. It behoves you, therefore, to be merciful to this Stranger, if only for the sake of—er—our mutual nephew."
Whatever Anthea might have said in answer was cut short by Small Porges himself who came galloping towards them with the sun bright in his curls.
"Oh, Uncle Porges!" he panted as he came up, "I was 'fraid you'd gone away an' left me,—I've been hunting, an' hunting for you ever since I got up."
"No, I haven't gone away yet, my Porges, you see."
"An' you won't go—ever or ever, will you?"
"That," said Bellew, taking the small hand in his, "that is a question that we had better leave to the—er—future, nephew."
"Well, you see, it doesn't rest with me—altogether, my Porges."
"Then who—" he was beginning, but Anthea's soft voice interrupted him.
"Georgy dear, didn't Prudence send you to tell us that breakfast was ready?"
"Oh yes! I was forgetting,—awfull' silly of me wasn't it! But you are going to stay—Oh a long, long time, aren't you, Uncle Porges?"
"I sincerely Hope so!" answered Bellew. Now as he spoke, his eyes,—by the merest chance in the world, of course,—happened to meet Anthea's, whereupon she turned, and slipped on her sunbonnet which was very natural, for the sun was growing hot already.
"I'm awful' glad!" sighed Small Porges, "an' Auntie's glad too,—aren't you Auntie?"
"Why—of course!" from the depths of the sunbonnet.
"'Cause now, you see, there'll be two of us to take care of you. Uncle Porges is so nice an' big, and—wide, isn't he, Auntie?"
"Y-e-s,—Oh Georgy!—what are you talking about?"
"Why I mean I'm rather small to take care of you all by myself alone, Auntie, though I do my best of course. But now that I've found myself a big, tall Uncle Porges,—under the hedge, you know,—we can take care of you together, can't we, Auntie Anthea?"
But Anthea only hurried on without speaking, whereupon Small Porges continued all unheeding:
"You 'member the other night, Auntie, when you were crying, you said you wished you had some one very big, and strong to take care of you—"
Bellew heartily wished that sunbonnets had never been thought of.
"But you did you know, Auntie, an' so that was why I went out an' found my Uncle Porges for you,—so that he—"
But here, Mistress Anthea, for all her pride and stateliness, catching her gown about her, fairly ran on down the path and never paused until she had reached the cool, dim parlour. Being there, she tossed aside her sunbonnet, and looked at herself in the long, old mirror, and,—though surely no mirror made by man, ever reflected a fairer vision of dark-eyed witchery and loveliness, nevertheless Anthea stamped her foot, and frowned at it.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, and then again, "Oh Georgy!" and covered her burning cheeks.
Meanwhile Big Porges, and Small Porges, walking along hand in hand shook their heads solemnly, wondering much upon the capriciousness of aunts, and the waywardness thereof.
"I wonder why she runned away, Uncle Porges?"
"Ah, I wonder!"
"'Specks she's a bit angry with me, you know, 'cause I told you she was crying."
"Hum!" said Bellew.
"An Auntie takes an awful lot of looking after!" sighed Small Porges.
"Yes," nodded Bellew, "I suppose so,—especially if she happens to be young, and—er—"
"An' what, Uncle Porges?"
"Oh! Do you think she's—really beautiful?" demanded Small Porges.
"I'm afraid I do," Bellew confessed.
"So does Mr. Cassilis,—I heard him tell her so once—in the orchard."
"Hum!" said Bellew.
"Ah! but you ought to see her when she comes to tuck me up at night, with her hair all down, an' hanging all about her—like a shiny cloak, you know."
"Hum!" said Bellew.
"Please Uncle Porges," said Georgy, turning to look up at him, "what makes you hum so much this morning?"
"I was thinking, my Porges."
"'Bout my Auntie Anthea?"
"I do admit the soft impeachment, sir."
"Well, I'm thinking too."
"What is it, old chap?"
"I'm thinking we ought to begin to find that fortune for her after breakfast."
"Why, it isn't quite the right season for fortune hunting, yet—at least, not in Arcadia," answered Bellew, shaking his head.
"Oh!—but why not?"
"Well, the moon isn't right, for one thing."
"The moon!" echoed Small Porges.
"Oh yes,—we must wait for a—er—a Money Moon, you know,—surely you've heard of a Money Moon?"
"'Fraid not," sighed Small Porges regretfully, "but—I've heard of a Honey-moon—"
"They're often much the same!" nodded Bellew.
"But when will the Money Moon come, an'—how?"
"I can't exactly say, my Porges, but come it will one of these fine nights. And when it does we shall know that the fortune is close by, and waiting to be found. So, don't worry your small head about it,—just keep your eye on your uncle."
Betimes they came in to breakfast where Anthea awaited them at the head of the table. Then who so demure, so gracious and self-possessed, so sweetly sedate as she. But the Cavalier in the picture above the carved mantel, versed in the ways of the world, and the pretty tricks and wiles of the Beau Sex Feminine, smiled down at Bellew with an expression of such roguish waggery as said plain as words: "We know!" And Bellew, remembering a certain pair of slender ankles that had revealed themselves in their hurried flight, smiled back at the cavalier, and it was all he could do to refrain from winking outright.
Which tells of Miss Priscilla, of peaches, and of Sergeant Appleby late of the 19th Hussars
Small Porges was at his lessons. He was perched at the great oak table beside the window, pen in hand, and within easy reach of Anthea who sat busied with her daily letters and accounts. Small Porges was laboriously inscribing in a somewhat splashed and besmeared copy-book the rather surprising facts that:
A stitch in time, saves nine. 9.
The Tagus, a river in Spain. R.
Artaxerxes was a king of the Persians. A.
and the like surprising, curious, and interesting items of news, his pen making not half so many curls, and twists as did his small, red tongue. As he wrote, he frowned terrifically, and sighed oft betwixt whiles; and Bellew watching, where he stood outside the window, noticed that Anthea frowned also, as she bent over her accounts, and sighed wearily more than once.
It was after a sigh rather more hopeless than usual that, chancing to raise her eyes they encountered those of the watcher outside, who, seeing himself discovered, smiled, and came to lean in at the open window.
"Won't they balance?" he enquired, with a nod toward the heap of bills, and papers before her.
"Oh yes," she answered with a rueful little smile, "but—on the wrong side, if you know what I mean."
"I know," he nodded, watching how her lashes curled against her cheek.
"If only we had done better with our first crop of wheat!" she sighed.
"Job Jagway said it was mouldy, you know,—that's why Adam punched him in the—"
"Georgy,—go on with your work, sir!"
"Yes, Auntie!" And immediately Small Porges' pen began to scratch, and his tongue to writhe and twist as before.
"I'm building all my hopes, this year, on the hops," said Anthea, sinking her head upon her hand, "if they should fail—"
"Well?" enquired Bellew, with his gaze upon the soft curve of her throat.
"I—daren't think of it!"
"Then don't—let us talk of something else—"
"Yes,—of Aunt Priscilla!" nodded Anthea, "she is in the garden."
"And pray who is Aunt Priscilla?"
"Go and meet her."
"Go and find her—in the orchard!" repeated Anthea, "Oh do go, and leave us to our work."
Thus it was that turning obediently into the orchard, and looking about, Bellew presently espied a little, bright-eyed old lady who sat beneath the shadow of "King Arthur" with a rustic table beside her upon which stood a basket of sewing. Now, as he went, he chanced to spy a ball of worsted that had fallen by the way, and stooping, therefore, he picked it up, while she watched him with her quick, bright eyes.
"Good morning, Mr. Bellew!" she said in response to his salutation, "it was nice of you to trouble to pick up an old woman's ball of worsted." As she spoke, she rose, and dropped him a courtesy, and then, as he looked at her again, he saw that despite her words, and despite her white hair, she was much younger, and prettier than he had thought.
"I am Miss Anthea's house-keeper," she went on, "I was away when you arrived, looking after one of Miss Anthea's old ladies,—pray be seated. Miss Anthea,—bless her dear heart!—calls me her aunt, but I'm not really—Oh dear no! I'm no relation at all! But I've lived with her long enough to feel as if I was her aunt, and her uncle, and her father, and her mother—all rolled into one,—though I should be rather small to be so many,—shouldn't I?" and she laughed so gaily, and unaffectedly, that Bellew laughed too.
"I tell you all this," she went on, keeping pace to her flying needle, "because I have taken a fancy to you—on the spot! I always like, or dislike a person—on the spot,—first impressions you know! Y-e-e-s," she continued, glancing up at him side-ways, "I like you just as much as I dislike Mr. Cassilis,—heigho! how I do—detest that man! There, now that's off my mind!"
"And why?" enquired Bellew, smiling.
"Dear me, Mr. Bellew I—how should I know, only I do,—and what's more—he knows it too! And how," she enquired, changing the subject abruptly, "how is your bed,—comfortable, mm?"
"You sleep well?"
"Like a top!"
"Any complaints, so far?"
"None whatever," laughed Bellew, shaking his head.
"That is very well. We have never had a boarder before, and Miss Anthea,—bless her dear soul! was a little nervous about it. And here's the Sergeant!"
"I—er—beg your pardon—?" said Bellew.
"The Sergeant!" repeated Miss Priscilla, with a prim little nod, "Sergeant Appleby, late of the Nineteenth Hussars,—a soldier every inch of him, Mr. Bellew,—with one arm—over there by the peaches." Glancing in the direction she indicated, Bellew observed a tall figure, very straight and upright, clad in a tight-fitting blue coat, with extremely tight trousers strapped beneath the insteps, and with a hat balanced upon his close-cropped, grizzled head at a perfectly impossible angle for any save an ex-cavalry-man. Now as he stood examining a peach-tree that flourished against the opposite wall, Bellew saw that his right sleeve was empty, sure enough, and was looped across his broad chest.
"The very first thing he will say will be that 'it is a very fine day,'" nodded Miss Priscilla, stitching away faster than ever, "and the next, that 'the peaches are doing remarkably well,'—now mark my words, Mr. Bellew." As she spoke, the Sergeant wheeled suddenly right about face, and came striding down towards them, jingling imaginary spurs, and with his stick tucked up under his remaining arm, very much as if it had been a sabre.
Being come up to them, the Sergeant raised a stiff arm as though about to salute them, military fashion, but, apparently changing his mind, took off the straw hat instead, and put it on again, more over one ear than ever.
"A particular fine day, Miss Priscilla, for the time o' the year," said he.
"Indeed I quite agree with you Sergeant," returned little Miss Priscilla with a bright nod, and a sly glance at Bellew, as much as to say, "I told you so!" "And the peaches, mam," continued the Sergeant, "the peaches—never looked—better, mam." Having said which, he stood looking at nothing in particular, with his one hand resting lightly upon his hip.
"Yes, to be sure, Sergeant," nodded Miss Priscilla, with another sly look. "But let me introduce you to Mr. Bellew who is staying at Dapplemere." The Sergeant stiffened, once more began a salute, changed his mind, took off his hat instead, and, after looking at it as though not quite sure what to do with it next, clapped it back upon his ear, in imminent danger of falling off, and was done with it.
"Proud to know you, sir,—your servant, sir!"
"How do you do!" said Bellew, and held out his hand with his frank smile. The Sergeant hesitated, then put out his remaining hand.
"My left, sir," said he apologetically, "can't be helped—left my right—out in India—a good many years ago. Good place for soldiering, India, sir—plenty of active service—chances of promotion—though sun bad!"
"Sergeant," said Miss Priscilla, without seeming to glance up from her sewing, "Sergeant,—your hat!" Hereupon, the Sergeant gave a sudden, sideways jerk of the head, and, in the very nick of time, saved the article in question from tumbling off, and very dexterously brought it to the top of his close-cropped head, whence it immediately began, slowly, and by scarcely perceptible degrees to slide down to his ear again.
"Sergeant," said Miss Priscilla again, "sit down,—do."
"Thank you mam," said he, and proceeded to seat himself at the other end of the rustic bench, where he remained, bolt upright, and with his long legs stretched out straight before him, as is, and has been, the manner of cavalrymen since they first wore straps.
"And now," said he, staring straight in front of him, "how might Miss Anthea be?"
"Oh, very well, thank you," nodded Miss Priscilla.
"Good!" exclaimed the Sergeant, with his eyes still fixed, "very good!" Here he passed his hand two or three times across his shaven chin, regarding an apple-tree, nearby, with an expression of the most profound interest:
"And how," said he again, "how might Master Georgy be?"
"Master Georgy is as well as ever," answered Miss Priscilla, stitching away faster than before, and Bellew thought she kept her rosy cheeks stooped a little lower over her work. Meanwhile the Sergeant continued to regard the tree with the same degree of lively interest, and to rasp his fingers to and fro across his chin. Suddenly, he coughed behind hand, whereupon Miss Priscilla raised her head, and looked at him.
"Well?" she enquired, very softly:
"And pray, mam," said the Sergeant, removing his gaze from the tree with a jerk, "how might—you be feeling, mam?"
"Much the same as usual, thank you," she answered, smiling like a girl, for all her white hair, as the Sergeant's eyes met hers.
"You look," said he, pausing to cough behind his hand again, "you look—blooming, mam,—if you'll allow the expression,—blooming,—as you ever do, mam."
"I'm an old woman, Sergeant, as well you know!" sighed Miss Priscilla, shaking her head.
"Old, mam!" repeated the Sergeant, "old, mam!—nothing of the sort, mam!—Age has nothing to do with it.—'Tisn't the years as count.—We aren't any older than we feel,—eh, sir?"
"Of course not!" answered Bellew.
"Nor than we look,—eh sir?"
"Certainly not, Sergeant!" answered Bellew.
"And she, sir,—she don't look—a day older than—"
"Thirty five!" said Bellew.
"Exactly, sir, very true! My own opinion,—thirty five exactly, sir."
"Sergeant," said Miss Priscilla, bending over her work again, "Sergeant,—your hat!" The Sergeant, hereupon, removed the distracting head-gear altogether, and sat with it upon his knee, staring hard at the tree again. Then, all at once, with a sudden gesture he drew a large, silver watch from his pocket,—rather as if it were some weapon of offence,—looked at it, listened to it, and then nodding his head, rose to his feet.
"Must be going," he said, standing very straight, and looking down at little Miss Priscilla, "though sorry, as ever,—must be going, mam,—Miss Priscilla mam—good day to you!" And he stretched out his hand to her with a sudden, jerky movement. Miss Priscilla paused in her sewing, and looked up at him with her youthful smile:
"Must you go—so soon, Sergeant? Then Good-bye,—until to-morrow," and she laid her very small hand in his big palm. The Sergeant stared down at it as though he were greatly minded to raise it to his lips, instead of doing which, he dropped it, suddenly, and turned to Bellew:
"Sir, I am—proud to have met you. Sir, there is a poor crippled soldier as I know,—My cottage is very small, and humble sir, but if you ever feel like—dropping in on him, sir,—by day or night, he will be—honoured, sir, honoured! And that's me—Sergeant Richard Appleby—late of the Nineteenth Hussars—at your service, sir!" saying which, he put on his hat, stiff-armed, wheeled, and strode away through the orchard, jingling his imaginary spurs louder than ever.
"Well?" enquired Miss Priscilla in her quick, bright way, "Well Mr. Bellew, what do you think of him?—first impressions are always best,—at least, I think so,—what do you think of Sergeant Appleby?"
"I think he's a splendid fellow," said Bellew, looking after the Sergeant's upright figure.
"A very foolish old fellow, I think, and as stiff as one of the ram-rods of one of his own guns!" said Miss Priscilla, but her clear, blue eyes were very soft, and tender as she spoke.
"And as fine a soldier as a man, I'm sure," said Bellew.
"Why yes, he was a good soldier, once upon a time, I believe,—he won the Victoria Cross for doing something or other that was very brave, and he wears it with all his other medals, pinned on the inside of his coat. Oh yes, he was a fine soldier, once, but he's a very foolish old soldier, now,—I think, and as stiff as the ram-rod of one of his own guns. But I'm glad you like him, Mr. Bellew, and he will be proud, and happy for you to call and see him at his cottage. And now, I suppose, it is half past eleven, isn't it?"
"Yes, just half past!" nodded Bellew, glancing at his watch.
"Exact to time, as usual!" said Miss Priscilla, "I don't think the Sergeant has missed a minute, or varied a minute in the last five years,—you see, he is such a very methodical man, Mr. Bellew!"
"Why then, does he come every day, at the same hour?"
"Every day!" nodded Miss Priscilla, "it has become a matter of habit with him."
"Ah?" said Bellew, smiling.
"If you were to ask me why he comes, I should answer that I fancy it is to—look at the peaches. Dear me, Mr. Bellew! what a very foolish old soldier he is, to be sure!" Saying which, pretty, bright-eyed Miss Priscilla, laughed again, folded up her work, settled it in the basket with a deft little pat, and, rising, took a small, crutch stick from where it had lain concealed, and then, Bellew saw that she was lame.
"Oh yes,—I'm a cripple, you see," she nodded,—"Oh very, very lame! my ankle, you know. That is why I came here, the big world didn't want a poor, lame, old woman,—that is why Miss Anthea made me her Aunt, God bless her! No thank you,—I can carry my basket. So you see,—he—has lost an arm,—his right one, and I—am lame in my foot. Perhaps that is why—Heigho! how beautifully the black birds are singing this morning, to be sure!"
In which may be found some description of Arcadia, and gooseberries
Anthea, leaning on her rake in a shady corner of the five-acre field, turned to watch Bellew who, stripped to his shirt-sleeves, bare of neck, and arm, and pitch-fork in hand, was busy tossing up great mounds of sweet-smelling hay to Adam who stood upon a waggon to receive it, with Small Porges perched up beside him.
A week had elapsed since Bellew had found his way to Dapplemere, a week which had only served to strengthen the bonds of affection between him and his "nephew," and to win over sharp-eyed, shrewd little Miss Priscilla to the extent of declaring him to be: "First a gentleman, Anthea, my dear, and Secondly,—what is much rarer, now-a-days,—a true man!" A week! and already he was hail-fellow-well-met with everyone about the place, for who was proof against his unaffected gaiety, his simple, easy, good-fellowship? So he laughed, and joked as he swung his pitch-fork, (awkwardly enough, to be sure), and received all hints, and directions as to its use, in the kindly spirit they were tendered. And Anthea, watching him from her shady corner, sighed once or twice, and catching herself, so doing, stamped her foot at herself, and pulled her sunbonnet closer about her face.
"No, Adam," he was saying, "depend upon it, there is nothing like exercise, and, of all exercise,—give me a pitch-fork."
"Why, as to that, Mr. Belloo, sir," Adam retorted, "I say—so be it, so long as I ain't near the wrong end of it, for the way you do 'ave of flourishin' an' a whirlin' that theer fork, is fair as-tonishin', I do declare it be."
"Why you see, Adam, there are some born with a leaning towards pitch-forks, as there are others born to the pen, and the—er—palette, and things, but for me, Adam, the pitch-fork, every time!" said Bellew, mopping his brow.
"If you was to try an' 'andle it more as if it was a pitchfork now, Mr. Belloo, sir—" suggested Adam, and, not waiting for Bellew's laughing rejoinder, he chirrupped to the horses, and the great waggon creaked away with its mountainous load, surmounted by Adam's grinning visage, and Small Porges' golden curls, and followed by the rest of the merry-voiced hay-makers.
Now it was, that turning his head, Bellew espied Anthea watching him, whereupon he shouldered his fork, and coming to where she sat upon a throne of hay, he sank down at her feet with a luxurious sigh. She had never seen him without a collar, before, and now she could not but notice how round, and white, and powerful his neck was, and how the muscles bulged upon arm, and shoulder, and how his hair curled in small, damp rings upon his brow.
"It is good," said he, looking up into the witching face, above him, "yes, it is very good to see you idle—just for once."
"And I was thinking it was good to see you work,—just for once."
"Work!" he exclaimed, "my dear Miss Anthea, I assure you I have become a positive glutton for work. It has become my earnest desire to plant things, and grow things, and chop things with axes; to mow things with scythes. I dream of pastures, and ploughs, of pails and pitchforks, by night; and, by day, reaping-hooks, hoes, and rakes, are in my thoughts continually,—which all goes to show the effect of this wonderful air of Arcadia. Indeed, I am as full of suppressed energy, these days, as Adam is of the 'Old Adam.' And, talking of Adam reminds me that he has solemnly pledged himself to initiate me into the mysteries of swinging a scythe to-morrow morning at—five o'clock! Yes indeed, my heart bounds responsive to the swish of a scythe in thick grass, and my soul sits enraptured upon a pitch-fork."
"How ridiculous you are!" she laughed.
"And how perfectly content!" he added.
"Is anyone ever quite content?" she sighed, glancing down at him, wistful-eyed.
"Not unless they have found Arcadia," he answered.
"Have you then?"
"Yes," he nodded complacently, "oh yes, I've found it."
"Arcadia!" she repeated, wrinkling her brows, "what is Arcadia and—where?"
"Arcadia," answered Bellew, watching the smoke rise up from his pipe, with a dreamy eye, "Arcadia is the—Promised Land,—the Land that everyone tries to find, sometime or other, and may be—anywhere."
"And how came you to—find it?"
"By the most fortunate chance in the world."
"Tell me," said Anthea, taking a wisp of hay, and beginning to plait it in dexterous, brown fingers, "tell me how you found it."
"Why then you must know, in the first place," he began in his slow, even voice, "that it is a place I have sought for in all my wanderings, and I have been pretty far afield,—but I sought it so long, and so vainly, that I began to think it was like the El Dorado of the old Adventurers, and had never existed at all."
"Yes?" said Anthea, busy with her plaiting.
"But, one day,—Fate, or Chance, or Destiny,—or their benevolent spirit, sent a certain square-shouldered Waggoner to show me the way, and, after him, a very small Porges,—bless him!—to lead me into this wonderful Arcadia."
"Oh, I see!" nodded Anthea, very intent upon her plaiting.
"But there is something more," said Bellew.
"Oh?" said Anthea.
"Shall I tell you?"
"If—it is—very interesting."
"Well then, in this delightful land there is a castle, grim, embattled, and very strong."
"A castle?" said Anthea, glancing up suddenly.
"The Castle of Heart's Desire."
"Oh!" said she, and gave all her attention to her plaiting again.
"And so," continued Bellew, "I am waiting, very patiently, until, in her own good time, she who rules within, shall open the gate to me, or—bid me go away."
Into Bellew's voice had crept a thrill no one had ever heard there before; he leaned nearer to her, and his dreamy eyes were keen now, and eager. And she, though she saw nothing of all this, yet, being a woman, knew it was there, of course, and, for that very reason, looked resolutely away. Wherefore, once again, Bellew heartily wished that sunbonnets had never been invented.
So there was silence while Anthea stared away across the golden corn-fields, yet saw nothing of them, and Bellew looked upon those slender, capable fingers, that had faltered in their plaiting and stopped. And thus, upon the silence there broke a sudden voice shrill with interest:
"Go on, Uncle Porges,—what about the dragons? Oh, please go on!—there's always dragons in 'chanted castles, you know, to guard the lovely Princess,—aren't you going to have any dragons that hiss, you know, an' spit out smoke, an' flames? Oh!—do please have a dragon." And Small Porges appeared from the other side of the hay-mow, flushed, and eager.
"Certainly, my Porges," nodded Bellew, drawing the small figure down beside him, "I was forgetting the dragons, but there they are, with scaly backs, and iron claws, spitting out sparks and flames, just as self-respecting dragons should, and roaring away like thunder."
"Ah!" exclaimed Small Porges, nestling closer to Bellew, and reaching out a hand to Auntie Anthea, "that's fine! let's have plenty of dragons."
"Do you think a—er—dozen would be enough, my Porges?"
"Oh yes! But s'pose the beautiful Princess didn't open the door,—what would you do if you were really a wandering knight who was waiting patiently for it to open,—what would you do then?"
"Shin up a tree, my Porges."
"Oh but that wouldn't be a bit right—would it, Auntie?"
"Of course not!" laughed Anthea, "it would be most un-knight-like, and very undignified."
"'Sides," added Small Porges, "you couldn't climb up a tree in your armour, you know."
"Then I'd make an awful' good try at it!" nodded Bellew.
"No," said Small Porges, shaking his head, "shall I tell you what you ought to do? Well then, you'd draw your two-edged sword, an' dress your shield,—like Gareth, the Kitchen Knave did,—he was always dressing his shield, an' so was Lancelot,—an' you'd fight all those dragons, an' kill them, an' cut their heads off."
"And then what would happen?" enquired Bellew.
"Why then the lovely Princess would open the gate, an' marry you of course, an' live happy ever after, an' all would be revelry an' joy."
"Ah!" sighed Bellew, "if she'd do that, I think I'd fight all the dragons that ever roared,—and kill them too. But supposing she—er—wouldn't open the gate."
"Why then," said Small Porges, wrinkling his brow, "why then—you'd have to storm the castle, of course, an' break open the gate an' run off with the Princess on your charger,—if she was very beautiful, you know."
"A most excellent idea, my Porges! If I should happen to find myself in like circumstances, I'll surely take your advice."
Now, as he spoke, Bellew glanced at Anthea, and she at him. And straightway she blushed, and then she laughed, and then she blushed again, and, still blushing, rose to her feet, and turned to find Mr. Cassilis within a yard of them.
"Ah, Miss Anthea," said he, lifting his hat, "I sent Georgy to find you, but it seems he forgot to mention that I was waiting."
"I'm awful' sorry, Mr. Cassilis,—but Uncle Porges was telling us 'bout dragons, you know," Small Porges hastened to explain.
"Dragons!" repeated Mr. Cassilis, with his supercilious smile, "ah, indeed! dragons should be interesting, especially in such a very quiet, shady nook as this,—quite an idyllic place for story-telling, it's a positive shame to disturb you," and his sharp, white teeth gleamed beneath his moustache, as he spoke, and he tapped his riding-boot lightly with his hunting-crop as he fronted Bellew, who had risen, and stood bare-armed, leaning upon his pitch-fork. And, as in their first meeting, there was a mute antagonism in their look.
"Let me introduce you to each other," said Anthea, conscious of this attitude,—"Mr. Cassilis, of Brampton Court,—Mr. Bellew!"
"Of nowhere in particular, sir!" added Bellew.
"And pray," said Mr. Cassilis perfunctorily as they strolled on across the meadow, "how do you like Dapplemere, Mr. Bellew?"
"Immensely, sir,—beyond all expression!"
"Yes, it is considered rather pretty, I believe."
"Lovely, sir!" nodded Bellew, "though it is not so much the beauty of the place itself, that appeals to me so much as what it—contains."
"Oh, indeed!" said Mr. Cassilis, with a sudden, sharp glance, "to what do you refer?"
"I—ah—beg your pardon?"
"Sir," said Bellew gravely, "all my life I have fostered a secret passion for goose-berries—raw, or cooked,—in pie, pudding or jam, they are equally alluring. Unhappily the American goose-berry is but a hollow mockery, at best—"
"Ha?" said Mr. Cassilis, dubiously.
"Now, in goose-berries, as in everything else, sir, there is to be found the superlative, the quintessence,—the ideal. Consequently I have roamed East and West, and North and South, in quest of it."
"Really?" said Mr. Cassilis, stifling a yawn, and turning towards Miss Anthea with the very slightest shrug of his shoulders.
"And, in Dapplemere," concluded Bellew, solemnly, "I have, at last, found my ideal—"
"Goose-berry!" added Anthea with a laugh in her eyes.
"Arcadia being a land of ideals!" nodded Bellew.
"Ideals," said Mr. Cassilis, caressing his moustache, "ideals and—ah—goose-berries,—though probably excellent things in themselves, are apt to pall upon one, in time; personally, I find them equally insipid,—"
"Of course it is all a matter of taste!" sighed Bellew.
"But," Mr. Cassilis went on, fairly turning his back upon him, "the subject I wished to discuss with you, Miss Anthea, was the—er —approaching sale."
"The sale!" she repeated, all the brightness dying out of her face.
"I wished," said Cassilis, leaning nearer to her, and lowering his voice confidentially, "to try to convince you how—unnecessary it would be—if—" and he paused, significantly.
Anthea turned quickly aside, as though to hide her mortification from Bellew's keen eyes; whereupon he, seeing it all, became, straightway, more dreamy than ever, and, laying a hand upon Small Porges' shoulder, pointed with his pitch-fork to where at the other end of the "Five-acre" the hay-makers worked away as merrily as ever:
"Come, my Porges," said he, "let us away and join yon happy throng, and—er—
'With Daphnis, and Clo, and Blowsabel We'll list to the—er—cuckoo in the dell.'"
So, hand in hand, the two Porges set off together. But when they had gone some distance, Bellew looked back, and then he saw that Anthea walked with her head averted, yet Cassilis walked close beside her, and stooped, now and then, until the black moustache came very near the curl—that curl of wanton witchery that peeped above her ear.
"Uncle Porges—why do you frown so?"
"Frown, my Porges,—did I? Well, I was thinking."
"Well, I'm thinking too, only I don't frown, you know, but I'm thinking just the same."
"And what might you be thinking, nephew?"
"Why I was thinking that although you're so awful fond of goose-berries, an' though there's lots of ripe ones on the bushes I've never seen you eat a single one."
How Bellew and Adam entered into a solemn league and covenant
"Look at the moon to-night, Uncle Porges!"
"I see it."
"It's awfull' big, an' round, isn't it?"
"Yes, it's very big, and very round."
"An'—rather—yellow, isn't it?"
"Just like a great, big golden sovereign, isn't it"
"Very much like a sovereign, my Porges."
"Well, do you know, I was wondering—if there was any chance that it was a—Money Moon?"
They were leaning out at the lattice, Small Porges, and Big Porges. Anthea and Miss Priscilla were busied upon household matters wholly feminine, wherefore Small Porges had drawn Bellew to the window, and there they leaned, the small body enfolded by Bellew's long arm, and the two faces turned up to the silvery splendour of the moon.
But now, Anthea came up behind them, and, not noticing the position of Bellew's arm as she leaned on the other side of Small Porges, it befell that her hand touched, and for a moment, rested upon Bellew's hand, hidden as it was in the shadow. And this probably began it.