E-text prepared by Lionel Sear
THE SHIP OF STARS.
Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (Q)
To THE RIGHT HON. LEONARD HENRY COURTNEY, M.P.
My Dear Mr. Courtney,
It is with a peculiar pleasure and, I dare to hope, with some appropriateness that I dedicate to you this story of the West Country, which claims you with pride. To be sure, the places here written of will be found in no map of your own or any neighbouring constituency. A visitor may discover Nannizabuloe, but only to wonder what has become of the lighthouse, or seek along the sand-hills without hitting on Tredinnis. Yet much of the tale is true in a fashion, even to fact. One or two things which happen to Sir Harry Vyell did actually happen to a better man, who lived and hunted foxes not a hundred miles from the "model borough" of Liskeard, and are told of him in my friend Mr. W. F. Collier's memoir of Harry Terrell, a bygone Dartmoor hero: and a true account of what followed the wreck of the Samaritan will be found in a chapter of Remembrances by that true poet and large-hearted man, Robert Stephen Hawker.
But a novel ought to be true to more than fact: and if this one come near its aim, no one will need to be told why I dedicate it to you. If it do not (and I wish the chance could be despised!), its author will yet hold that among the names of living Englishmen he could have chosen none fitter to be inscribed above a story which in the telling has insensibly come to rest upon the two texts, "Lord, make men as towers!" and "All towers carry a light." Although for you Heaven has seen fit to darken the light, believe me it shines outwards over the waters and is a help to men: a guiding light tended by brave hands. We pray, sir—we who sail in little boats—for long life to the tower and the unfaltering lamp.
A. T. Q. C. St. John's Eve, 1899.
I. THE BOY IN THE GATE-HOUSE.
II. MUSIC IN THE TOWN SQUARE.
III. PASSENGER'S BY JOBY'S VAN.
IV. THE RUNNING SANDS.
V. TAFFY RINGS THE CHURCH BELL.
VI. A COCK-FIGHT.
VIII. THE SQUIRE'S SOUL.
IX. ENTER THE KING'S POSTMAN.
X. A HAPPY DAY.
XI. LIZZIE REDEEMS HER DOLL AND HONORIA THROWS A STONE.
XII. TAFFY'S CHILDHOOD COMES TO AN END.
XIII. THE BUILDERS.
XIV. VOICES FROM THE SEA.
XV. TAFFY'S APPRENTICESHIP.
XVI. LIZZIE AND HONORIA.
XVII. THE SQUIRE'S WEIRD.
XVIII. THE BARRIERS FALL.
XX. TAFFY GIVES A PROMISE.
XXI. HONORIA'S LETTERS.
XXII. MEN AS TOWERS.
XXIII. THE SERVICE OF THE LAMP.
XXIV. FACE TO FACE.
XXV. THE WRECK OF THE "SAMARITAN".
XXVIII. A L'OUTRANCE.
XXIX. THE SHIP OF STARS.
THE SHIP OF STARS.
THE BOY IN THE GATE-HOUSE.
Until his ninth year the boy about whom this story is written lived in a house which looked upon the square of a county town. The house had once formed part of a large religious building, and the boy's bedroom had a high groined roof, and on the capstone an angel carved, with outspread wings. Every night the boy wound up his prayers with this verse which his grandmother had taught him:
"Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Bless the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed, Four angels round my head; One to watch, one to pray, Two to bear my soul away."
Then he would look up to the angel and say: "Only Luke is with me." His head was full of queer texts and beliefs. He supposed the three other angels to be always waiting in the next room, ready to bear away the soul of his grandmother (who was bed-ridden), and that he had Luke for an angel because he was called Theophilus, after the friend for whom St. Luke had written his Gospel and the Acts of the Holy Apostles. His name in full was Theophilus John Raymond, but people called him Taffy.
Of his parents' circumstances he knew very little, except that they were poor, and that his father was a clergyman attached to the parish church. As a matter of fact, the Reverend Samuel Raymond was senior curate there, with a stipend of ninety-five pounds a year. Born at Tewkesbury, the son of a miller, he had won his way to a servitorship at Christ Church, Oxford; and somehow, in the course of one Long Vacation, had found money for travelling expenses to join a reading party under the Junior Censor. The party spent six summer weeks at a farmhouse near Honiton, in Devon. The farm belonged to an invalid widow named Venning, who let it be managed by her daughter Humility and two paid labourers, while she herself sat by the window in her kitchen parlour, busied incessantly with lace-work of that beautiful kind for which Honiton is famous. He was an unassuming youth; and although in those days servitors were no longer called upon to black the boots of richer undergraduates, the widow and her daughter soon divined that he was lowlier than the others, and his position an awkward one, and were kind to him in small ways, and grew to like him. Next year, at their invitation, he travelled down to Honiton alone, with a box of books; and, at twenty-two, having taken his degree, he paid them a third visit, and asked Humility to be his wife. At twenty-four, soon after his admission to deacon's orders, they were married. The widow sold the small farm, with its stock, and followed to live with them in the friary gate-house; this having been part of Humility's bargain with her lover, if the word can be used of a pact between two hearts so fond.
About ten years had gone since these things happened, and their child Taffy was now past his eighth birthday.
It seemed to him that, so far back as he could remember, his mother and grandmother had been making lace continually. At night, when his mother took the candle away with her and left him alone in the dark, he was not afraid; for, by closing his eyes, he could always see the two women quite plainly; and always he saw them at work, each with a pillow on her lap, and the lace upon it growing, growing, until the pins and bobbins wove a pattern that was a dream, and he slept. He could not tell what became of all the lace, though he had a collar of it which he wore to church on Sundays, and his mother had once shown him a parcel of it, wrapped in tissue-paper, and told him it was his christening robe.
His father was always reading, except on Sundays, when he preached sermons. In his thoughts nine times out of ten Taffy associated his father with a great pile of books; but the tenth time with something totally different. One summer—it was in his sixth year—they had all gone on a holiday to Tewkesbury, his father's old home; and he recalled quite clearly the close of a warm afternoon which he and his mother had spent there in a green meadow beyond the abbey church. She had brought out a basket and cushion, and sat sewing, while Taffy played about and watched the haymakers at their work. Behind them, within the great church, the organ was sounding; but by-and-by it stopped, and a door opened in the abbey wall, and his father came across the meadow toward them with his surplice on his arm. And then Humility unpacked the basket and produced a kettle, a spirit-lamp, and a host of things good to eat. The boy thought the whole adventure splendid. When tea was done, he sprang up with one of those absurd notions which come into children's heads:
"Now let's feed the poultry," he cried, and flung his last scrap of bun three feet in air toward the gilt weather-cock on the abbey tower. While they laughed, "Father, how tall is the tower?" he demanded.
"A hundred and thirty-two feet, my boy, from ground to battlements."
"What are battlements?"
He was told.
"But people don't fight here," he objected.
Then his father told of a battle fought in the very meadow in which they were sitting; of soldiers at bay with their backs to the abbey wall; of crowds that ran screaming into the church; of others chased down Mill Street and drowned; of others killed by the Town Cross; and how—people said in the upper room of a house still standing in the High Street—a boy prince had been stabbed.
Humility laid a hand on his arm.
"He'll be dreaming of all this. Tell him it was a long time ago, and that these things don't happen now."
But her husband was looking up at the tower.
"See it now with the light upon it!" he went on. "And it has seen it all. Eight hundred years of heaven's storms and man's madness, and still foursquare and as beautiful now as when the old masons took down their scaffolding. When I was a boy—"
He broke off suddenly. "Lord, make men as towers," he added quietly after a while, and nobody spoke for many minutes.
To Taffy this had seemed a very queer saying; about as queer as that other one about "men as trees walking." Somehow—he could not say why—he had never asked any questions about it. But many times he had perched himself on a flat tombstone under the church tower at home, and tilted his head back and stared up at the courses and pinnacles, wondering what his father could have meant, and how a man could possibly be like a tower. It ended in this—that whenever he dreamed about his father, these two towers, or a tower which was more or less a combination of both, would get mixed up with the dream as well.
The gate-house contained a sitting-room and three bedrooms (one hardly bigger than a box-cupboard); but a building adjoined it which had been the old Franciscans' refectory, though now it was divided by common planking into two floors, the lower serving for a feoffee office, while the upper was supposed to be a muniment-room, in charge of the feoffees' clerk. The clerk used it for drying his garden-seeds and onions, and spread his hoarding apples to ripen on the floor. So when Taffy grew to need a room of his own, and his father's books to cumber the very stairs of the gate-house, the money which Humility and her mother made by their lace-work, and which arrived always by post, came very handy for the rent which the clerk asked for his upper chamber.
Carpenters appeared and partitioned it off into two rooms, communicating with the gate-house by a narrow doorway pierced in the wall. All this, whilst it was doing, interested Taffy mightily; and he announced his intention of being a carpenter one of these days.
"I hope," said Humility, "you will look higher, and be a preacher of God's Word, like your father."
His father frowned at this and said: "Jesus Christ was both."
Taffy compromised: "Perhaps I'll make pulpits."
This was how he came to have a bedroom with a vaulted roof and a window that reached down below the floor.
MUSIC IN THE TOWN SQUARE.
This window looked upon the Town Square, and across it to the Mayoralty. The square had once been the Franciscans' burial-ground, and was really no square at all, but a semicircle. The townspeople called it Mount Folly. The chord of the arc was formed by a large Assize Hall, with a broad flight of granite steps, and a cannon planted on either side of the steps. The children used to climb about these cannons, and Taffy had picked out his first letters from the words Sevastopol and Russian Trophy, painted in white on their lead-coloured carriages.
Below the Assize Hall an open gravelled space sloped gently down to a line of iron railings and another flight of granite steps leading into the main street. The street curved uphill around the base of this open ground, and came level with it just in front of the Mayoralty, a tall stuccoed building where the public balls were given, and the judges had their lodgings in assize time, and the Colonel his quarters during the militia training.
Fine shows passed under Taffy's window. Twice a year came the judges, with the sheriff in uniform and his chaplain, and his coach, and his coachman and lackeys in powder and plush and silk stockings, white or flesh-coloured; and the barristers with their wigs, and the javelin men and silver trumpets. Every spring, too, the Royal Rangers Militia came up for training. Suddenly one morning, in the height of the bird-nesting season, the street would swarm with countrymen tramping up to the barracks on the hill, and back, with bundles of clothes and unblackened boots dangling. For the next six weeks the town would be full of bugle calls, and brazen music, and companies marching and parading in suits of invisible green, and clanking officers in black, with little round forage caps, and silver badges on their side-belts; and, towards evening, with men lounging and smoking, or washing themselves in public before the doors of their billets.
Usually too, Whitsun Fair fell at the height of the militia training; and then for two days booths and caravans, sweet-standings and shooting-galleries lined the main street, and Taffy went out with a shilling in his pocket to enjoy himself. But the bigger shows—the menagerie, the marionettes, and the travelling Theatre Royal—were pitched on Mount Folly, just under his window. Sometimes the theatre would stay a week or two after the fair was over, until even the boy grew tired of the naphtha-lamps and the voices of the tragedians, and the cornet wheezing under canvas, and began to long for the time when they would leave the square open for the boys to come and play at prisoners' bars in the dusk.
One evening, a fortnight before Whitsun Fair, he had taken his book to the open window, and sat there with it. Every night he had to learn a text which he repeated next morning to his mother. Already, across the square, the Mayoralty house was brightly lit, and the bandsmen had begun to arrange their stands and music before it; for the Colonel was receiving company. Every now and then a carriage arrived, and set down its guests.
After a while Taffy looked up and saw two persons crossing the square—an old man and a little girl. He recognised them, having seen them together in church the day before, when his father had preached the sermon. The old man wore a rusty silk hat, cocked a little to one side, a high stock collar, black cutaway coat, breeches and gaiters of grey cord. He stooped as he walked, with his hands behind him and his walking-stick dangling like a tail—a very positive old fellow, to look at. The girl's face Taffy could not see; it was hidden by the brim of her Leghorn hat.
The pair passed close under the window. Taffy heard a knock at the door below, and ran to the head of the stairs. Down in the passage his mother was talking to the old man, who turned to the girl and told her to wait outside.
"But let her come in and sit down," urged Humility.
"No, ma'am; I know my mind. I want one hour with your husband."
Taffy heard the door shut, and went back to his window-seat.
The little girl had climbed the cannon opposite, and sat there dangling her feet and eyeing the house.
"Boy," said she, "what a funny window-seat you've got! I can see your legs under it."
"That's because the window reaches down to the floor, and the bench is fixed across by the transom here."
"What's your name?"
"Theophilus; but they call me Taffy."
"Father says it's an imperfect example of Grimm's Law."
"Oh! Then, I suppose you're quite the gentleman? My name's Honoria."
"Is that your father downstairs?"
"Bless the boy! What age do you take me for? He's my grandfather. He's asking your father about his soul. He wants to be saved, and says if he's not saved before next Lady-day, he'll know the reason why. What are you doing up there?"
"But, I say, can you really?"
"You listen." Taffy rested the big Bible on the window-frame; it just had room to lie open between the two mullions—"Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia they assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not. And they, passing by Mysia, came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. . . ."
"I don't wonder at it. Did you ever have the whooping-cough?"
"I've had it all the winter. That's why I'm not allowed in to play with you. Listen!"
She coughed twice, and wound up with a terrific whoop.
"Now, if you'd only put on your nightshirt and preach, I'd be the congregation and interrupt you with coughing."
"Very well," said Taffy, "let's do it."
"No; you didn't suggest it. I hate boys who have to be told."
Taffy was huffed, and pretended to return to his book. By-and-by she called up to him:
"Tell me, what's written on this gun of yours?"
"Sevastopol—that's a Russian town. The English took it by storm."
"What! the soldiers over there?"
"No, they're only bandsmen; and they're too young. But I expect the Colonel was there. He's upstairs in the Mayoralty, dining. He's quite an old man, but I've heard father say he was as brave as a lion when the fighting happened."
The girl climbed off the gun.
"I'm going to have a look at him," she said; and turning her back on Taffy, she sauntered off across the square, just as the band struck up the first note of the overture from Semiramide. A waltz of Strauss followed, and then came a cornet solo by the bandmaster, and a medley of old English tunes. To all of these Taffy listened. It had fallen too dark to read, and the boy was always sensitive to music. Often when he played alone broken phrases and scraps of remembered tunes came into his head and repeated themselves over and over. Then he would drop his game and wander about restlessly, trying to fix and complete the melody; and somehow in the process the melody always became a story, or so like a story that he never knew the difference. Sometimes his uneasiness lasted for days together. But when the story came complete at last—and this always sprang on him quite suddenly—he wanted to caper and fling his arms about and sing aloud; and did so, if nobody happened to be looking.
The bandmaster, too, had music, and a reputation for imparting it. Famous regimental bands contained pupils of his; and his old pupils, when they met, usually told each other stories of his atrocious temper. But he kept his temper to-night, for his youngsters were playing well, and the small crowd standing quiet.
The English melodies had scarcely closed with "Come, lasses and lads," when across in Mayoralty a blind was drawn, and a window thrown open, and Taffy saw the warm room within, and the officers and ladies standing with glasses in their hands. The Colonel was giving the one toast of the evening:
"Ladies and gentlemen—The Queen!"
The adjutant leaned out and lifted his hand for signal, and the band crashed out with the National Anthem. Then there was silence for a minute. The window remained open. Taffy still caught glimpses of jewels and uniforms, and white necks bending, and men leaning back in their chairs, with their mess-jackets open, and the candle-light flashing on their shirt-fronts. Below, in the dark street, the bandmaster trimmed the lamp by his music-stand. In the rays of it he drew out a handkerchief and polished the keys of his cornet; then passed the cornet over to his left hand, took up his baton, and nodded.
What music was that, stealing, rippling, across the square? The bandmaster knew nothing of the tale of Tannhauser, but was wishing that he had violins at his beck, instead of stupid flutes and reeds. And Taffy had never heard so much as the name of Tannhauser. Of the meaning of the music he knew nothing—nothing beyond its wonder and terror. But afterward he made a tale of it to himself.
In the tale it seemed that a vine shot up and climbed on the shadows of the warm night; and the shadows climbed with it and made a trellis for it right across the sky. The vine thrust through the trellis faster and faster, dividing, throwing out little curls and tendrils; then leaves and millions of leaves, each leaf unfolding about a drop of dew, which trickled and fell and tinkled like a bird's song.
The beauty and scent of the vine distressed him. He wanted to cry out, for it was hiding the sky. Then he heard the tramp of feet in the distance, and knew that they threatened the vine, and with that he wanted to save it. But the feet came nearer and nearer, tramping terribly.
He could not bear it. He ran to the stairs, stole down them, opened the front door cautiously, and slipped outside. He was half-way across the square before it occurred to him that the band had ceased to play. Then he wondered why he had come, but he did not go back. He found Honoria standing a little apart from the crowd, with her hands clasped behind her, gazing up at the window of the banqueting-room.
She did not see him at once.
"Stand on the steps, here," he whispered, "then you can see him. That's the Colonel—the man at the end of the table, with the big, grey moustache."
He touched her arm. She sprang away and stamped her foot.
"Keep off with you! Who told you?—Oh! you bad boy!"
"Nobody. I thought you hated boys who wait to be told."
"And now you'll get the whooping-cough, and goodness knows what will happen to you, and you needn't think I'll be sorry!"
"Who wants you to be sorry! As for you," Taffy went on sturdily, "I think your grandfather might have more sense than to keep you waiting out here in the cold, and giving your cough to the whole town!"
"Ha! you do, do you?"
It was not the girl who said this. Taffy swung round, and saw an old man staring down on him. There was just light enough to reveal that he had very formidable grey eyes. But Taffy's blood was up.
"Yes, I do," he said, and wondered at himself.
"Ha! Does your father whip you sometimes?"
"I should if you were my boy. I believe in it. Come, Honoria!"
The child threw a glance at Taffy as she was led away. He could not be sure whether she took his side or her grandfather's.
That night he had a very queer dream.
His grandmother had lost her lace-pillow, and after searching for some time, he found it lying out in the square. But the pins and bobbins were darting to and fro on their own account, at an incredible rate, and the lace as they made it turned into a singing beanstalk, and rose and threw out branches all over the sky. Very soon he found himself climbing among those branches, up and up until he came to a Palace, which was really the Assize Hall, with a flight of steps before it and a cannon on either side of the steps. Within sat a giant, asleep, with his head on the table and his face hidden; but his neck bulged at the back just like the bandmaster's during a cornet solo. A harp stood on the table. Taffy caught this up, and was stealing downstairs with it, but at the third stair the harp—which had Honoria's head and face—began to cough, and wound up with a whoop! This woke the giant—he turned out to be Honoria's grandfather—who came roaring after him. Glancing down below as he ran, Taffy saw his mother and the bandmaster far below with axes, hacking at the foot of the beanstalk. He tried to call out and prevent them, but they kept smiting. And the worst of it was, that down below, too, his father was climbing into a pulpit, quite as if nothing was happening. The pulpit grew and became a tower, and his father kept calling, "Be a tower! Be a tower, like me!"
But Taffy couldn't for the life of him see how to manage it. The beanstalk began to totter; he felt himself falling, and leapt for the tower. . . . And awoke in his bed shuddering, and, for the first time in his life, afraid of the dark. He would have called for his mother, but just then down by the turret clock in Fore Street the buglers began to sound the "Last Post," and he hugged himself and felt that the world he knew was still about him, companionable and kind.
Twice the buglers repeated their call, in more distant streets, each time more faintly; and the last flying notes carried him into sleep again.
PASSENGERS BY JOBY'S VAN.
At breakfast next morning he saw by his parents' faces that something unusual had happened. Nothing was said to him about it, whatever it might be. But once or twice after this, coming into the parlour suddenly, he found his father and mother talking low and earnestly together; and now and then they would go up to his grandmother's room and talk.
In some way he divined that there was a question of leaving home. But the summer passed and these private talks became fewer. Toward August, however, they began again; and by-and-by his mother told him. They were going to a parish on the North Coast, right away across the Duchy, where his father had been presented to a living. The place had an odd name—Nannizabuloe.
"And it is lonely," said Humility, "the most of it sea-sand, so far as I can hear."
It was by the sea, then. How would they get there?
"Oh, Joby's van will take us most of the way."
Of all the vans which came and went in the Fore Street, none could compare for romance with Joby's. People called it the Wreck Ashore; but its real name, "Vital Spark, J. Job, Proprietor," was painted on its orange-coloured sides in letters of vivid blue, a blue not often seen except on ship's boats. It disappeared every Tuesday and Saturday over the hill and into a mysterious country, from which it emerged on Mondays and Fridays with a fine flavour of the sea renewed upon it and upon Joby. No other driver wore a blue guernsey, or rings in his ears, as Joby did. No other van had the same mode of progressing down the street in a series of short tacks, or brought such a crust of brine on its panes, or such a mixture of mud and fine sand on its wheels, or mingled scraps of dry sea-weed with the straw on its floor.
"Will there be ships?" Taffy asked.
"I dare say we shall see a few, out in the distance. It's a poor, outlandish place. It hasn't even a proper church."
"If there's no church, father can get into a boat and preach; just like the Sea of Galilee, you know."
"Your father is too good a man to mimic the Scriptures in any such way. There is a church, I believe, though it's a tumble-down one. Nobody has preached in it for years. But Squire Moyle may do something now. He's a rich man."
"Is that the old gentleman who came to ask father about his soul?"
"Yes; he says no preaching ever did him so much good as your father's. That's why he came and offered the living."
"But he can't go to heaven if he's rich."
"I don't know, Taffy, wherever you pick up such wicked thoughts."
"Why, it's in the Bible!"
Humility would not argue about it; but she told her husband that night what the child had said. "My dear," he answered, "the boy must think of these things."
"But he ought not to be talking disrespectfully," contended she.
One Tuesday, towards the end of September, Taffy saw his father off by Joby's van; and the Friday after, walked down with his mother to meet him on his return. Almost at once the household began to pack. The packing went on for a week, in the midst of which his father departed again, a waggon-load of books and furniture having been sent forward on the road that same morning. Then followed a day or two during which Taffy and his mother took their meals at the window-seat, sitting on corded boxes; and an evening when he went out to the cannon in the square, and around the little back garden, saying good-bye to the fixtures and the few odds and ends which were to be left behind—the tool-shed (Crusoe's hut, Cave of Adullam, and Treasury of the Forty Thieves), the stunted sycamore-tree which he had climbed at different times as Zacchaeus, Ali Baba, and Man Friday with the bear behind him; the clothes' prop, which, on the strength of its forked tail, had so often played Dragon to his St. George. When he returned to the empty house, he found his mother in the passage. She had been for a walk alone. The candle was lit, and he saw she had been crying. This told him where she had been; for, although he remembered nothing about it, he knew he had once possessed a small sister, who lived with him less than two months. He had, as a rule, very definite notions of death and the grave; but he never thought of her as dead and buried, partly because his mother would never allow him to go with her to the cemetery, and partly because of a picture in a certain book of his, called Child's Play. It represented a little girl wading across a pool among water-lilies. She wore a white nightdress, kilted above her knees, and a dark cloak, which dragged behind in the water. She let it trail, while she held up a hand to cover one of her eyes. Above her were trees and an owl, and a star shining under the topmost branch; and on the opposite page this verse:
"I have a little sister, They call her Peep-peep, She wades through the waters, Deep, deep, deep; She climbs up the mountains, High, high, high; This poor little creature She has but one eye."
For years Taffy believed that this was his little sister, one-eyed, and always wandering; and that his mother went out in the dusk to persuade her to return; but she never would.
When he woke next morning his mother was in the room; and while he washed and dressed she folded his bed-clothes and carried them down to a waggon which stood by the door, with horses already harnessed. It drove away soon after. He found breakfast laid on the window-seat. A neighbour had lent the crockery, and Taffy was greatly taken with the pattern on the cups and saucers. He wanted to run round again and repeat his good-byes to the house, but there was no time. By-and-by the door opened, and two men, neighbours of theirs, entered with an invalid's litter; and, Humility directing, brought down old Mrs. Venning. She wore the corner of a Paisley shawl over her white cap, and carried a nosegay of flowers in place of her lace-pillow; but otherwise looked much as usual.
"Quite the traveller, you see!" she cried gaily to Taffy.
Then the woman who had lent the breakfast-ware came running to say that Joby was getting impatient. Humility handed the door-key to her, and so the little procession passed out and down across Mount Folly.
Joby had drawn his van up close to the granite steps. They were the only passengers, it seemed. The invalid was hoisted in and laid with her couch across the seats, so that her shoulders rested against one side of the van and her feet against the other. Humility climbed in after her; but Taffy, to his joy, was given a seat outside the box.
"C'k!"—they were off.
As they crawled up the street a few townspeople paused on the pavement and waved farewells. At the top of the town they overtook three sailor-boys, with bundles, who climbed up and perched themselves a-top of the van, on the luggage.
On they went again. There were two horses—a roan and a grey. Taffy had never before looked down on the back of a horse, and Joby's horses astonished him; they were so broad behind, and so narrow at the shoulders. He wanted to ask if the shape were at all common, but felt shy. He stole a glance at the silver ring in Joby's left ear, and blushed when Joby turned and caught him.
"Here, catch hold!" said Joby handing him the whip. "Only you mustn't use it too fierce."
"I suppose you'll be a scholar, like your father? Can ee spell?"
"That's more than I can. I counts upon my fingers. When they be used up, I begins upon my buttons. I ha'n't got no buttons—visible that is—'pon my week-a-day clothes; so I keeps the long sums for Sundays, and adds 'em up and down my weskit during sermon. Don't tell any person."
"That's right. I don't want it known. Ever see a gipsy?"
"Next time you see one you'll know why he wears so many buttons. You've a lot to learn."
The van zigzagged down one hill and up another, and halted at a turnpike. An old woman in a pink sun-bonnet bustled out and handed Joby a pink ticket. A little way beyond they passed the angle of a mining district, with four or five engine-houses high up like castles on the hillside, and rows of stamps clattering and working up and down like ogres' teeth. Next they came to a church town, with a green and a heap of linen spread to dry (for it was Tuesday), and a flock of geese that ran and hissed after the van, until Joby took the whip and, leaning out, looped the gander by the neck and pulled him along in the dust. The sailor-boys shouted with laughter and struck up a song about a fox and a goose, which lasted all the way up a long hill and brought them to a second turnpike, on the edge of the moors. Here lived an old woman in a blue sun-bonnet; and she handed Joby a yellow-ticket.
"But why does she wear a blue bonnet and give yellow tickets?" Taffy asked, as they drove on.
Joby considered for a minute. "Ah, you're one to take notice, I see. That's right, keep your eyes skinned when you travel."
Taffy had to think this out. The country was changing now. They had left stubble fields and hedges behind, and before them the granite road stretched like a white ribbon, with moors on either hand, dotted with peat-ricks and reedy pools and cropping ponies, and rimmed in the distance with clay-works glistening in the sunny weather.
"What sort of place is Nannizabuloe?"
"I don't go on there. I drop you at Indian Queens."
"But what sort of place is it?"
"Well, I'll tell you what folks say of it:"
'All sea and san's, Out of the world and into St. Ann's.'
"That's what they say, and if I'm wrong you may call me a liar."
"And Squire Moyle?" Taffy persevered. "What kind of man is he?"
Joby turned and eyed him severely. "Look here, sonny. I got my living to get."
This silenced Taffy for a long while, but he picked up his courage again by degrees. There was a small window at his back, and he twisted himself round, and nodded to his mother and grandmother inside the van. He could not hear what they answered, for the sailor-boys were singing at the top of their voices:
"I will sing you One, O! What is your One, O? Number One sits all alone, and ever more shall be-e so."
"They're home 'pon leave," said Joby. The song went on and reached Number Seven:
"I will sing you Seven, O! What is your Seven, O? Seven be seven stars in the ship a-sailing round in Heaven, O!"
One of the boys leaned from the roof and twitched Taffy by the hair. "Hullo, nipper! Did you ever see a ship of stars?" He grinned and pulled open his sailor's jumper and singlet; and there, on his naked breast, Taffy saw a ship tattooed, with three masts, and a half-circle of stars above it, and below it the initials W. P.
"D'ee think my mother'll know me again?" asked the boy, and the other two began to laugh.
"Yes, I think so," said Taffy gravely; which made them laugh more than ever.
"But why is he painted like that?" he asked Joby, as they took up their song again.
"Ah, you'll larn over to St. Ann's, being one to notice things." The nearer he came to it, the more mysterious this new home of Taffy's seemed to grow. By-and-by Humility let down the window and handed out a pasty. Joby searched under his seat and found a pasty, twice the size of Taffy's, in a nose-bag. They ate as they went, holding up their pasties from time to time and comparing progress. Late in the afternoon they came to hedges again, and at length to an inn; and in front of it Taffy spied his father waiting with a farm-cart. While Joby baited his horses, the sailor-boys helped to lift out the invalid and trans-ship the luggage; after which they climbed on the roof again, and were jogged away northward in the dusk, waving their caps and singing.
The most remarkable thing about the inn was its signboard. This bore on either side the picture of an Indian queen and two blackamoor children, all with striped parasols, walking together across a desert. The queen on one side wore a scarlet turban and a blue robe; but the queen on the other side wore a blue turban and a scarlet robe. Taffy dodged from side to side, comparing them, and had not made up his mind which he liked best when Humility called him indoors to tea.
They had ham and eggs with their tea, which they took in a great hurry; and then his grandmother was lifted into the cart and laid on a bed of clean straw beside the boxes, and he and his mother clambered up in front. So they started again, his father walking at the horse's head. They took the road toward the sunset. As the dusk fell closer around, Mr. Raymond lit a horn lantern and carried it before them. The rays of it danced and wheeled upon the hedges and gorse bushes. Taffy began to feel sleepy, though it was long before his usual bedtime. The air seemed to weigh his eyelids down. Or was it a sound lulling him? He looked up suddenly. His mother's arm was about him. Stars flashed above, and a glimmer fell on her gentle face—a dew of light, as it were. Her dark eyes appeared darker than usual as she leaned and drew her shawl over his shoulder.
Ahead, the rays of the lantern kept up their dance, but they flared now and again upon stone hedges built in zigzag layers, and upon unknown feathery bushes, intensely green and glistening like metal.
The cart jolted and the lantern swung to a soundless tune that filled the night. When Taffy listened it ceased; when he ceased listening, it began again.
The lantern stopped its dance and stood still over a ford of black water. The cart splashed into it and became a ship, heaving and lurching over a soft, irregular floor that returned no sound. But suddenly the ship became a cart again, and stood still before a house with a narrow garden-path and a light streaming along it from an open door.
His father lifted him down; his mother took his hand. They seemed to wade together up that stream of light. Then came a staircase and room with a bed in it, which, oddly enough, turned out to be his own. He stared at the pink roses on the curtains. Yes; certainly it was his own bed. And satisfied of this, he nestled down in the pillows and slept, to the long cadence of the sea.
THE RUNNING SANDS.
He awoke to find the sun shining in at his window. At first he wondered what had happened. The window seemed to be in the ceiling, and the ceiling sloped down to the walls, and all the furniture had gone astray into wrong positions. Then he remembered, jumped out of bed, and drew the blind.
He saw a blue line of sea, so clearly drawn that the horizon might have been a string stretched from the corner eaves to the snow-white light-house standing on the farthest spit of land; blue sea and yellow sand curving round it, with a white edge of breakers; inshore, the sand rising to a cliff ridged with grassy hummocks; farther inshore, the hummocks united and rolling away up to inland downs, but broken here and there on their way with scars of sand; over all, white gulls wheeling. He could hear the nearest ones mewing as they sailed over the house.
Taffy had seen the sea once before, at Dawlish, on the journey to Tewkesbury; and again on the way home. But here it was bluer altogether, and the sands were yellower. Only he felt disappointed that no ship was in sight, nor any dwelling nearer than the light-house and the two or three white cottages behind it. He dressed in a hurry and said his prayers, repeating at the close, as he had been taught to do, the first and last verses of the Morning Hymn:
"Awake, my soul, and with the sun Thy daily stage of duty run; Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise To pay thy morning sacrifice.
"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
He ran downstairs. In this queer house the stairs led right down into the kitchen. The front door, too, opened into the kitchen, which was really a slate-paved hall, with a long table set between the doorway and the big open hearth. The floor was always strewn with sand; there was no trouble about this, for the wind blew plenty under the door.
Taffy found the table laid, and his mother busily slicing bread for his bread and milk. He begged for a hot cake from the hearth, and ran out of doors to eat it. Humility lifted the latch for him, for the cake was so hot that he had to pass it from hand to hand.
Outside, the wind came upon him with a clap on the shoulder, quite as if it had been a comrade waiting.
Taffy ran down the path and out upon the sandy hummocks, setting his face to the wind and the roar of the sea, keeping his head low, and still shifting the cake from hand to hand. By-and-by he fumbled and dropped it; stooped to pick it up, but saw something which made him kneel and peer into the ground.
The whole of the sand was moving; not by fits and starts, but constantly; the tiny particles running over each other and drifting in and out of the rushes, like little creatures in a dream. While he looked, they piled an embankment against the edge of his cake. He picked it up, ran forward a few yards, and peered again. Yes, here too; here and yonder, and over every inch of that long shore.
He ate his cake and climbed to the beach, and ran along it, watching the sandhoppers that skipped from under his boots at every step, and were lost on the instant. The beach here was moist and firm. He pulled off his boots and stockings, and ran on, conning his footprints and the driblets of sand split ahead from his bare toes. By-and-by he came to the edge of the surf. The strand here was glassy wet, and each curving wave sent a shadow flying over it, and came after the shadow, thundering and hissing, and chased it up the shore, and fell back, leaving for a second or two an edge of delicate froth which reminded the boy of his mother's lace-work.
He began a sort of game with the waves, choosing one station after another, and challenging them to catch him there. If the edge of froth failed to reach his toes, he won. But once or twice the water caught him fairly, and ran rippling over his instep and about his ankles.
He was deep in this game when he heard a horn blown somewhere high on the towans behind him.
He turned. No one was in sight. The house lay behind the sand-banks, the first ridge hiding even its chimney-smoke. He gazed along the beach, where the perpetual haze of spray seemed to have removed the light-house to a vast distance. A sense of desolation came over him with a rush, and with something between a gasp and a sob he turned his back to the sea and ran, his boots dangling from his shoulders by their knotted laces.
He pounded up the first slope and looked for the cottage. No sign of it! An insane fancy seized him. These silent moving sands were after him.
He was panting along in real distress when he heard the baying of dogs, and at the same instant from the top of a hummock caught sight of a figure outlined against the sky, and barely a quarter of a mile away; the figure of a girl on horseback—a small girl on a very tall horse.
Just as Taffy recognised her, she turned her horse, walked him down into the hollow beyond, and disappeared. Taffy ran towards the spot, gained the ridge where she had been standing, and looked down.
In a hollow about twenty feet deep and perhaps a hundred wide were gathered a dozen riders, with five or six couples of hounds and two or three dirty terriers. Two of the men had dismounted. One of these, stripped to his shirt and breeches, was leaning on a long-handled spade and laughing. The other—a fellow in a shabby scarlet coat—held up what Taffy guessed to be a fox, though it seemed a very small one. It was bleeding. The hounds yapped and leapt at it, and fell back a-top of each other snarling, while the Whip grinned and kept them at bay. A knife lay between his wide-planted feet, and a visgy close behind him on a heap of disturbed sand.
The boy came on them from the eastward, and his shadow fell across the hollow.
"Hullo!" said one of the riders, looking up. It was Squire Moyle himself. "Here's the new Passon's boy!"
All the riders looked up. The Whip looked up too, and turned to the old Squire with a wider grin than before.
"Shall I christen en, maister?"
The Squire nodded. Before Taffy knew what it meant, the man was climbing toward him with a grin, clutching the rush bents with one hand, and holding out the blood-dabbled mask with the other. The child turned to run, but a hand clutched his ankle. He saw the man's open mouth and yellow teeth; and, choking with disgust and terror, slung his boots at them with all his small force. At the same instant he was jerked off his feet, the edge of the bank crumbled and broke, and the two went rolling down the sandy slope in a heap. He heard shouts of laughter, caught a glimpse of blue sky, felt a grip of fingers on his throat, and smelt the verminous odour of the dead cub, as the Whip thrust the bloody mess against his face and neck. Then the grip relaxed, and—it seemed to him, amid dead silence—Taffy sprang to his feet, spitting sand and fury.
"You—you devils!" He caught up the visgy and stood, daring all to come on. "You devils!" He tottered forward with the visgy lifted—it was all he could manage—at Squire Moyle. The old man let out an oath, and the curve of his whip-thong took the boy across the eyes and blinded him for a moment, but did not stop him. The grey horse swerved, and half-wheeled, exposing his flank. In another moment there would have been mischief; but the Whip, as he stood wiping his mouth, saw the danger and ran in. He struck the visgy out of the child's grasp, set his foot on it, and with an open-handed cuff sent him floundering into a sand-heap.
"Nice boy, that!" said somebody, and the whole company laughed as they walked their horses slowly out of the hollow.
They passed before Taffy in a blur of tears; and the last rider to go was the small girl Honoria on her tall sorrel. She moved up the broad shelving path, but reined up just within sight, turned her horse, and came slowly back to him.
"If I were you, I'd go home." She pointed in its direction.
Taffy brushed the back of his hand across his eyes. "Go away. I hate you—I hate you all!"
She eyed him while she smoothed the sorrel's mane with her riding-switch.
"They did it to me three years ago, when I was six. Grandfather called it 'entering' me."
Taffy kept his eyes sullenly on the ground. Finding that he would not answer, she turned her horse again and rode slowly after the others. Taffy heard the soft footfalls die away, and when he looked up she had vanished.
He picked up his boots and started in the direction to which she had pointed. Every now and then a sob shook him. By-and-by the chimneys of the house hove in sight among the ridges, and he ran toward it. But within a gunshot of the white garden-wall his breast swelled suddenly and he flung himself on the ground and let the big tears run. They made little pits in the moving sand; and more sand drifted up and covered them.
"Taffy! Taffy! Whatever has become of the child?"
His mother was standing by the gate in her print frock. He scrambled up and ran toward her. She cried out at the sight of him, but he hid his blood-smeared face against her skirts.
TAFFY RINGS THE CHURCH BELL.
They were in the church—Squire Moyle, Mr. Raymond, and Taffy close behind. The two men were discussing the holes in the roof and other dilapidations.
"One, two, three," the Squire counted. "I'll send a couple of men with tarpaulin and rick-ropes. That'll tide us over next Sunday, unless it blows hard."
They passed up three steps under the belfry arch. Here a big bell rested on the flooring. Its rim was cracked, but not badly. A long ladder reached up into the gloom.
"What's the beam like?" the Squire called up to someone aloft.
"Sound as a bell," answered a voice.
"I said so. We'll have en hoisted by Sunday, I'll send a waggon over to Wheel Gooniver for a tackle and winch. Damme, up there! Don't keep sheddin' such a muck o' dust on your betters!"
"I can't help no other, Squire!" said the voice overhead; "such a cauch o' pilm an' twigs, an' birds' droppins'! If I sneeze I'm a lost man."
Taffy, staring up as well as he could for the falling rubbish, could just spy a white smock above the beam, and a glint of daylight on the toe-scutes of two dangling boots.
"I'll dam soon make you help it. Is the beam sound?"
"Ha'n't I told 'ee so?" said the voice querulously.
"Then come down off the ladder, you son of a—"
"Gently, Squire!" put in Mr. Raymond.
The Squire groaned. "There I go again—an' in the House of God itself! Oh! 'tis a case with me! I've a heart o' stone—a heart o' stone." He turned and brushed his rusty hat with his coat-cuff. Suddenly he faced round again. "Here, Bill Udy," he said to the old labourer who had just come down the ladder, "catch hold of my hat an' carry en fore to porch. I keep forgettin' I'm in church, an' then on he goes."
The building stood half a mile from the sea, surrounded by the rolling towans and rabbit burrows, and a few lichen-spotted tombstones slanting inland. Early in the seventeenth century a London merchant had been shipwrecked on the coast below Nannizabuloe and cast ashore, the one saved out of thirty. He asked to be shown a church in which to give thanks for his preservation, and the people led him to a ruin bedded in the sands. It had lain since the days of Arundel's Rebellion. The Londoner vowed to build a new church there on the towans, where the songs of prayer and praise should mingle with the voice of the waves which God had baffled for him. The people warned him of the sand; but he would not listen to reason. He built his church—a squat Perpendicular building of two aisles, the wider divided into nave and chancel merely by a granite step in the flooring; he saw it consecrated, and returned to his home and died. And the church steadily decayed. He had mixed his mortar with sea-sand. The stonework oozed brine, the plaster fell piece-meal; the blown sand penetrated like water; the foundations sank a foot on the south side, and the whole structure took a list to leeward. The living passed into the hands of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, and from them, in 1730, to the Moyles. Mr. Raymond's predecessor was a kinsman of theirs by marriage, a pluralist, who lived and died at the other end of the Duchy. He had sent curates from time to time; the last of whom was dead, three years since, of solitude and drink. But he never came himself, Squire Moyle having threatened to set the dogs on him if ever he set foot in Nannizabuloe; for there had been some dispute over a dowry. The result was that nobody went to church, though a parson from the next parish held an occasional service. The people were Wesleyan Methodists or Bryanites. Each sect had its own chapel in the fishing village of Innis, on the western side of the parish; and the Bryanites a second one, at the cross-roads behind the downs, for the miners and warreners and scattered farmfolk.
It was Sunday morning, and Taffy was sounding the bell, by a thin rope tied to its clapper. The heavy bell-rope would be ready next week; but Humility must first contrive a woollen binding for it, to prevent its chafing the ringer's hands.
Out on the towans the rabbits heard the sound, and ran scampering. Others, farther away, paused in their feeding, and listened with cocked ears.
Mr. Raymond stood in the belfry at the boy's elbow. He wore his surplice, and held his prayer-book, with a finger between the pages. Glancing down toward the nave, he saw Humility sitting in the big vicarage pew—no other soul in church.
He took the cord from Taffy, "Run to the door, and see if anyone is coming."
Taffy ran, and after a minute came back.
"There's Squire Moyle coming along the path, and the little girl with him, and some servants behind—five or six of them. Bill Udy's one."
"I expect the people don't hear the bell," said Taffy. "They live too far away."
"God hears. Yes, and God sees the lamp is lit."
"What lamp?" Taffy looked up at his father's face, wondering.
"All towers carry a lamp of some kind. For what else are they built?"
It was exactly the tone in which he had spoken that afternoon at Tewkesbury about men being like towers. Both these sentences puzzled the boy; and yet Taffy never felt so near to understanding him as he had then, and did again now. He was shy of his father. He did not know that his father was just as shy of him. He began to ring with all his soul—ding—ding-ding, ding-ding.
The old Squire entered the church, paused, and blew his nose violently, and taking Honoria by the hand, marched her up to the end of the south aisle. The door of the great pew was shut upon them, and they disappeared. Before Honoria vanished Taffy caught a glimpse of a grey felt hat with pink ribbons.
The servants scattered and found seats in the body of the church. He went on ringing, but no one else came. After a minute or two Mr. Raymond signed to him to stop and go to his mother, which he did, blushing at the noise of his shoes on the slate pavement. Mr. Raymond followed, walked slowly past, and entered the reading-desk.
"When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. . . ."
Taffy looked towards the Squire's pew. The bald top of the Squire's head was just visible above the ledge. He looked up at his mother, but her eyes were fastened on her prayer-book. He felt—he could not help it—that they were all gathered to save this old man's soul, and that everybody knew it and secretly thought it a hopeless case. The notion dogged him all through the service, and for many Sundays after. Always that bald head above the ledge, and his father and the congregation trying to call down salvation on it. He wondered what Honoria thought, boxed up with it and able to see its face.
Mr. Raymond mounted an upper pulpit to preach his sermon. He chose his text from Saint Matthew, Chapter vii., verses 26 and 27:
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand;
"And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
Taffy never followed his father's sermons closely. He would listen to a sentence or two, now and again, and then let his wits wander.
"You think this church is built upon the sands. The rain has come, the winds have blown and beaten on it; the foundations have sunk and it leans to leeward. . . . By the blessing of God we will shore it up, and upon a foundation of rock. Upon what rock, you ask? . . . Upon that rock which is the everlasting foundation of the Church spiritual. . . . Hear what comfortable words our Lord spake to Peter. . . . Our foundation must be faith, which is God's continuing Presence on earth, and which we shall recognise hereafter as God Himself. . . . Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. . . . In other words, it is the rock we search for. . . . Draw near it, and you will know yourself in God's very shadow—the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. . . . As with this building, so with you, O man, cowering from wrath, as these walls are cowering. . . ."
The benediction was pronounced, the pew-door opened, and the old man marched down the aisle, looking neither to right nor to left, with his jaw set like a closed gin. Honoria followed. She had not so much as a glance for Taffy; but in passing she gazed frankly at Humility, whom she had not seen before.
Humility was rather ostentatiously cheerful at dinner that day; a sure sign that at heart she was disappointed. She had looked for a bigger congregation. Mrs. Venning, who had been carried downstairs for the meal, saw this and asked few questions. Both the women stole glances at Mr. Raymond when they thought he was not observing them. He at least pretended to observe nothing, but chatted away cheerfully.
"Taffy," he said, after dinner, "I want you to run up to Tredinnis with a note from me. Maybe I will follow later, but I must go to the village first."
A footpath led Taffy past the church, and out at length upon a high road, in face of two tall granite pillars with an iron gate between. The gate was surmounted with a big iron lantern, and the lantern with a crest—two snakes' heads intertwined. The gate was shut, but the fence had been broken down on either side, and the gap, through which Taffy passed, was scored with wheel-ruts. He followed these down an ill-kept road bordered with furze-whins, tamarisks, and clumps of bannel broom. By-and-by he came to a ragged plantation of stone pines, backed by a hedge of rhododendrons, behind which the hounds were baying in their kennels. It put him in mind of the "Pilgrim's Progress." He heard the stable clock strike three, and caught a glimpse, over the shrubberies, of its cupola and gilt weather-cock. And then a turn of the road brought him under the gloomy northern face of the house, with its broad carriage sweep and sunless portico. Half the windows on this side had been blocked up and painted black, with white streaks down and across to represent framework.
He pulled at an iron bell-chain which dangled by the great door. The bell clanged far within and a dozen dogs took up the note, yelping in full peal. He heard footsteps coming; the door was opened, and the dogs poured out upon him—spaniels, terriers, lurchers, greyhounds, and a big Gordon setter—barking at him, leaping against him, sniffing his calves. Taffy kept them at bay as best he could and waved his letter at a wall-eyed man in a dirty yellow waistcoat, who looked down from the doorstep but did not offer to call them off.
"Any answer?" asked the wall-eyed man.
Taffy could not say. The man took the letter and went to inquire, leaving him alone with the dogs.
It seemed an age before he reappeared, having in the interval slipped a dirty livery coat over his yellow waistcoat. "The Squire says you're to come in." Taffy and the dogs poured together into a high, stone-flagged hall; then through a larger hall and a long dark corridor. The footman's coat, for want of a loop, had been hitched on a peg by its collar, and stuck out behind his neck in the most ludicrous manner; but he shuffled ahead so fast that Taffy, tripping and stumbling among the dogs, had barely time to observe this before a door was flung open and he stood blinking in a large room full of sunlight.
"Hallo! Here's the parson's bantam!"
The room had four high, bare windows through which the afternoon sunshine streamed on the carpet. The carpet had a pattern of pink peonies on a delicate buff ground, and was shamefully dirty. And the vast apartment, with its white paint and gilding and Italian sketches in water-colour and statuettes under glass, might have been a lady's drawing-room. But paint and gilding were tarnished; the chintz chair-covers soiled and torn; the pictures hung askew; and a smell of dog filled the air.
Squire Moyle sat huddled in a deep chair beside the fire-place, facing the middle of the room, where a handsome, high-complexioned gentleman, somewhat past middle age, lounged on a settee and dangled a gold-mounted riding crop. A handsome boy knelt at the back of the settee and leaned over the handsome gentleman's shoulder. On the floor, between the two men, lay a canvas bag; and something moved inside it. At the end of the room, by the farthest window, Honoria knelt over a big portfolio. She wore the grey frock and pink sash which Taffy had seen in church that morning, and she tossed her dark hair back from her eyes as she looked up.
The Squire crumpled up the letter in his hand.
"Put the bag away," he said to the handsome gentleman. "'Tis Sunday, I tell 'ee, and Parson will be here in an hour. This is young six-foot I was telling about." He turned to Taffy—
"Boy, go and shake hands with Sir Harry Vyell."
Taffy did as he was bidden. "This is my son George," said Sir Harry; and Taffy shook hands with him, too, and liked his face.
"Put the bag away, Harry," said the Squire.
"Just to comfort 'ee, now!"
"I tell 'ee I won't look at en."
Sir Harry untied the neck of the bag, and drew out a smaller one; untied this, and out strutted a game-cock.
The old Squire eyed it. "H'm, he don't seem flourishing."
"Don't abuse a bird that's come twelve miles in a bag on purpose to cheer you up. He's a match for anything you can bring."
"Tuts, man, he's dull—no colour nor condition. Get along with 'ee; I wouldn' ask a bird of mine to break the Sabbath for a wastrel like that."
Sir Harry drew out a shagreen-covered case and opened it. Within, on a lining of pale blue velvet, lay two small sharp instruments of steel, very highly polished. He lifted one, felt its point, replaced it, set down the case on the carpet, and fell to toying with the ears of the Gordon setter, which had come sniffing out of curiosity.
"You're a very obstinate man," said Squire Moyle. After a long pause he added, "I suppose you're wanting odds?"
"Evens will do," said Sir Harry.
The old man turned and rang the bell.
"Tell Jim to fetch in the red cock," he shouted to the wall-eyed footman—who must have been waiting in the corridor, so promptly he appeared.
"And Jim won't be long about it either," whispered Honoria. She had come forward quietly, and stood at Taffy's elbow.
Sir Harry shook a finger at her and laid it on his lips. But the old Squire did not hear. He sat glum, pulling a whisker and keeping a sour eye on the bird, which was strutting about in rather foolish bewilderment at the pink peonies on the carpet.
"I'm giving you every chance," he grumbled at length.
"Oh, as for that," Sir Harry replied, equably, "have it out in the yard, if you please, on your own dunghill."
"No. Indoors is bad enough."
Jim appeared just then, and turned out to be Taffy's old enemy, the Whip, bearing the Squire's game-cock in a basket. He took it out; a very handsome bird, with a hackle in which gold, purple and the richest browns shone and were blended.
Sir Harry had picked up his bird and was heeling it with the long steel spurs; a very delicate process, to judge by the time occupied and the pucker on his good-tempered brow.
"Ready?" he asked at length.
Jim, who had been heeling the Squire's bird, nodded and the pair were set down. They ruffled and flew at each other without an instant's hesitation. The visitor, which five minutes before had been staring at the carpet so foolishly, was prompt enough now. For a moment they paused, beak to beak, eye to eye, furious, with necks outstretched and hackles stiff with the rage of battle. They began to rise and fall like two feathers tossing in the air, very quietly. But for the soft whir of wings there was no sound in the room. Taffy could scarcely believe they were fighting in earnest. For a moment they seemed to touch—to touch and no more, and for a moment only—but in that moment the stroke was given. The home champion fluttered down, stood on his legs for a moment, as if nothing had happened, then toppled over and lay twitching, as his conqueror strutted over him and lifted his throat to crow.
Squire Moyle rose, clutching the corner of his chair. His mouth opened and shut, but no words came. Sir Harry caught up his bird, whipped off his spurs, and thrust him back into the bag. The old man dropped back, letting his chin sink on his high stock-collar.
"It serves me right. Who shall deliver me from the wrath to come?"
"Oh! as for that—" Sir Harry finished tying the neck of the bag, and lazily fell to fingering the setter's ear.
The old man was muttering to himself. Taffy looked at the dead bird, then at Honoria. She was gazing at it too, with untroubled eyes.
"But I will be saved! I tell you, Harry, I will! Take those birds away. Honoria, hand me my Bible. It's all here"—he tapped the heavy book—"miracles, redemption, justification by faith—I will have faith. I will believe, every damned word of it!"
Sir Harry broke in with a peal of laughter. Taffy had never heard a laugh so musical.
The old man was adjusting his spectacles; but he took them off and laid them down, his hands shaking with rage.
"You came here to taunt me"—his voice shook as his hand—"me, an old man, with no son to my house. You think, because I'm seeking higher things, there's no fight left in us or in the parish. I tell you what; make that boy of yours strip and stand up, and I'll back the Parson's youngster for doubles or quits. Off with your coat, my son, and stand up to him!"
Taffy turned round in a daze. He did not understand. His eyes met Honoria's, and they were fastened on him curiously. He was white in the face; the sight of the murdered game-cock had sickened him.
"He doesn't look flourishing." Sir Harry mimicked the Squire's recent manner.
Taffy turned with the look of a hunted animal. He did not want to fight. He hated this house and its inhabitants. The other boy was stripping off his jacket with a good-humoured smile.
"I—I don't want—" Taffy began fumbling with a button. "Please—"
"Off with your coat, boy! You were game enough t'other day. If you lick en, I'll put a new roof on your father's church."
Taffy was still fumbling with his jacket-button when a bell sounded, clanging through the house.
Squire Moyle clutched at his Bible like a child who has been caught playing in school. Sir Harry stepped to the window and flung up the sash. "Out you tumble, youngsters—you too, Miss, if you like. Pick up your coat, George—cut and run to the stables; I'll be round in a minute—quick, out you go!"
The children scrambled over the sill and dropped on to the stone terrace. As his father closed the sash behind him, George Vyell laughed out. Then Taffy began to laugh; he laughed all the way as they ran. When they reached the stables he was swaying with laughter. There was a hepping-stock by the stable-wall, and he flung himself on to the slate steps. He could not stop laughing. The two others stared at him. They thought he had gone mad.
"Here comes Dad!" cried George Vyell.
This sobered Taffy. He sat up and brushed his eyes. Sir Harry whistled for Jim, and told him to saddle the horses.
George and Honoria stood by the stable-door and watched the saddling. The horses were led out; Sir Harry's, a tall grey, George's, a roan cob.
"Look here!" Sir Harry said to Jim; "you take my bird, and comfort your master with him. I don't want him any more."
The two rode out of the yard and away up the avenue. Honoria planted herself in front of Taffy.
"Would you have fought just now?" she asked.
"I—I don't know. That's my father calling."
"But, would you have fought?"
"I must go to him." He would not look her in the face.
"Don't bother! I don't know."
He ran out of the yard.
It appeared that Honoria and Taffy were to do lessons together, and Mr. Raymond was to teach them. This had been the meaning of his visit to Tredinnis House. They began the very next day in the library at Tredinnis—a deserted room carpeted with badgers' skins, and lined with undusted books—works on farriery, veterinary surgery, and sporting subjects, long rows of the Annual Register, the Arminian Magazine.
Taffy began by counting the badgers' skins. There were eighteen, and the moths had got into them, so that the draught under the door puffed little drifts of hair over the polished boards. Then he settled down to the first Latin declension—Musa, a muse; vocative, Musa, O muse!; genitive, Musae, of a muse. Honoria began upon the ABC.
Mr. Raymond brought a pile of his own books, and worked at them, scribbling notes in the margin or on long slips of paper, while the children learnt. A servant came in with a message from Squire Moyle, and he left them for a while.
"I call this nonsense," said Honoria. "How am I to get these silly letters into my head?"
Taffy was glad of the chance to show off. "Oh, that's easy. You make up a tale about them. See here. A is the end of a house; it's just like one with a beam across. B is a cat with his tail curled under him—watch me drawing it. C is an old woman stooping; and D is another cat, only his back is more rounded. Once upon a time, there lived in a cottage an old woman who went about with two cats, one on each side of her—that's how you go on."
"But I can't go on. You must do it for me."
"Well, each of these cats had a comb, and was combed every Saturday night. One was a good cat, and kept his comb properly—like E, you see. But the other had broken a tooth out of his—that's F—"
"I expect he was a fulmart," said Honoria.
Taffy agreed. He didn't know what a fulmart was, but he was not going to confess it. So he went on hurriedly, and Honoria thought him a wonder. They came to W.
"So they got into a ship (I'll show you how to make one out of paper, exactly like W), and sailed up into the sky, for the ship was a Ship of Stars—you make X's for stars; but that's a witch-ship; so it stuck fast in Y, which is a cleft ash-stick, and then came a stroke of lightning, Z, and burnt them all up!" He stopped, out of breath.
"I don't understand the ending at all," said Honoria. "What is a Ship of Stars?"
"Haven't you ever seen one?"
"I have. There's a story about it—"
"Tell me about it."
"I'll tell you lots of stories afterwards; about the Frog-king and Aladdin and Man Friday and The Girl who trod on a Loaf."
"And the Ship of Stars?"
"N—no." Taffy felt himself blushing. "That's one of the stories that won't come—and they're the loveliest of all," he added, in a burst of confidence.
Honoria thought for a moment, but did not understand in the least. All she said was, "what funny words you use!" She went back to her alphabet—A, house; B, cat. It came more easily now.
After lessons she made him tell her a story; and Taffy, who wished to be amusing, told her about the "Valiant Tailor who killed Seven at a Blow." To his disgust, it scarcely made her smile. But after this she was always asking for stories, and always listened solemnly, with her dark eyes fixed on his face. She never seemed to admire him at all for his gift, but treated it with a kind of indulgent wonder, as if he were some queer animal with uncommon tricks. This dashed Taffy a bit, for he liked to be thought a fine fellow. But he went on telling his stories, and sometimes invented new ones for her. George Vyell was much more appreciative. Sir Harry had heard of the lessons, and wrote to beg that his son might join the class. So George rode over three times a week to learn Latin, which he did with uncommon slowness. But he thought Taffy's stories stunning, and admired him without a shade of envy. The two boys liked each other; and when they were alone Taffy stood an inch or two higher in self-conceit than when Honoria happened to be by. But he took more pains with his stories if she was listening. As for her lessons, Honoria got through them by honest plodding. She never quite saw the use of them, but she liked Mr. Raymond. She learnt more steadily than either of the boys.
One day George rode over with two pairs of boxing-gloves dangling from his saddle. After lessons he and Taffy had a try with them, in a clearing behind the shrubberies where the gardener had heaped his sweepings of dry leaves to rot down for manure.
"But, look here," said George, after the first round; "you'll never learn if you hit so wild as that. You must keep your head up, and watch my eyes and feint."
Taffy couldn't help it. As soon as ever he struck out, he forgot that it was not real fighting. And he felt ashamed to look George straight in the face, for his own eyes were full of tears of excitement. At the end of the bout, when George said, "Now we must shake hands; it's the proper thing to do," he looked bewildered for a moment. It made George laugh in his easy way, and then Taffy laughed too.
After this they had a bout almost every day; and he was soon able to hold his own and treat it as sport. But somehow he always felt a passion behind it, whispering to him to put some nastiness into his blows, especially when Honoria came to look on. And yet he liked George far better than he liked Honoria. Indeed, he adored George, and the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings when George appeared were the bright spots in his week. Lessons were over at twelve o'clock; by one o'clock Taffy had to be home for dinner. Loneliness filled the afternoons, but the child peopled them with extravagant fancies. He and George were crusaders sworn to defend the Holy Sepulchre, and bound by an oath of brotherhood, though George was a Red Cross Knight and he a plain squire; and after the most surprising adventures Taffy received the barbed and poisoned arrow intended for his master, and died most impressively, with George and Honoria, and Richard Coeur de Lion, and most of the characters from "Ivanhoe," sobbing round his bed. There was a Blondel variant too, with George imprisoned in a high tower; and a monstrous conglomerate tale in which most of the heroes of history and romance played second fiddle to George, whose pre-eminence, though occasionally challenged by Achilles, Sir Lancelot, or the Black Prince, was regularly vindicated by Taffy's timely help.
This tale, with endless variations, actually lasted him for two good years. The scene of it never lay among the towans, but round about his old home or the well-remembered meadow at Tewkesbury. That was his plain of Troy, his Field of Cressy, his lists of Ashby de la Zouche. The high road at the back of the towans crossed a stream, by a ford and a footbridge; and the travelling postman, if he had any letters for the Parsonage, would stop by the footbridge and blow a horn. He little guessed what challenges it sounded to the small boy who came running for the post.
The postman came by, as a rule, at two o'clock or thereabouts. One afternoon in early spring Mr. Raymond happened to be starting for a walk when the horn was blown, and he and Taffy went to meet the post together. There were three or four letters which the Vicar opened; and one for Humility, which he put in his pocket. In the midst of his reading, he looked up, smiled over his spectacles, and said:
"Oxford has won the boat-race."
Taffy had been deep in the Fifth Aeneid for some weeks, and boat-racing ran much in his mind.
"Who is Oxford?" he asked.
Mr. Raymond took off his spectacles and wiped them. It came on him suddenly that this child, whom he loved, was shut out from many of his dearest thoughts.
"Oxford is a city," he answered; and added, "the most beautiful city in the world."
"Shall I ever go there?" Taffy asked.
Mr. Raymond walked off without seeming to hear the question. But that evening after supper he told the most wonderful tales of Oxford, while Taffy listened and hoped his mother would forget his bedtime; and Humility listened too, bending over her guipure. The love with which he looked back to Oxford was the second passion of Samuel Raymond's life; and Humility was proud of it, not jealous at all. He forgot all the struggle, all the slights, all the grip of poverty. To him those years had become an heroic age, and men Homeric men. And so he made them appear to Taffy, to whom it was wonderful that his father should have moved among such giants.
"And shall I go there too?"
Humility glanced up quickly, and met her husband's eyes.
"Some day, please God!" she said. Mr. Raymond stared at the embers of wreck-wood on the hearth.
From that night Oxford became the main scene of Taffy's imaginings; a wholly fictitious Oxford, pieced together of odds and ends from picture-books, and peopled with all the old heroes. And so, with contests on the models of the Fifth Aeneid, the story went forward gallantly for many months.
But the afternoons were long; and at times the interminable sand-hills and everlasting roar of the sea oppressed the child with a sense of loneliness beyond words. The rabbits and gulls would not make friends with him, and he ached for companionship. Of that ache was born his half-crazy adoration of George Vyell. There were hours when he lay in some nook of the towans, peering into the ground, seeing pictures in the sand—pictures of men and regiments and battles, shifting with the restless drift; until, unable to bear it, he flung out his hands to efface them, and hid his face in the sand, sobbing, "George! George!"
At night he would creep out of bed to watch the lighthouse winking away in the north-east. George lived somewhere beyond. And again it would be "George! George!"
And when the happy mornings came, and George with them, Taffy was as shy as a lover. So George never guessed. It might have surprised that very careless young gentleman, when he looked up from his verbs which govern the dative, and caught Taffy's eye, could he have seen himself in his halo there.
THE SQUIRE'S SOUL.
Two years passed, and a third winter. The church was now well on its way to restoration. The roof had been repaired, the defective timbers removed and sound ones inserted, the south wall strengthened with three buttresses, the foundations on that side examined and shored up. The old Squire did not halt here. Furniture arrived for the interior; a handsome altar cloth, a small gilt cross, a dozen hanging lamps, an oaken lectern, cushions, hymn-books, a big new Bible with purple book-markers. He promised to take out the east window—which was just a patchwork of common glass, like a cucumber frame—and replace it with sound mullions and stained glass, in memory of his only daughter, Honoria's mother. She had run away from Tredinnis House, and married a penniless captain; and Honoria's surname was Callastair, though nobody uttered it in the old man's hearing. Husband and wife had died in India, of cholera, within three years of their marriage; and the old man had sent for the child. Having relented so far, he went on to do it thoroughly, in his own fashion. He neglected Honoria; but she might have anything she wanted for the asking. It seemed, though, that she wanted very little.
He allowed Mr. Raymond to choose the design for this window. He only stipulated that the subject should be Jonah and the whale. "There's no story'll compare with it for trying a man's faith."
When the window came, and was erected, he complained that it left out most of the whale, of which the jaws and one wicked little red eye were all that appeared. "It looks half-hearted. Why didn't they swim en all in? 'Tis neck or nothin' wi' that story; but they've made it neck and nothin'. An' after colouring en violet too!"
In return, the Vicar had hunted up some county histories and heraldic works in the library at Tredinnis, and was now busy re-emblazoning with his own hand the devices carved on the Moyle pew.
Little by little, too, the congregation had grown. The people came shyly at first. They mistrusted the Established Church. But they treated the Vicar with politeness when he visited them. And seeing him so awkward, and how with all his book-learning he listened to their opinions and blushed when he offered any small service, they grew to like him, being shy themselves. They pitied him too, knowing the old Squire better than he did. So from Sunday to Sunday Taffy, pulling at his rope in the belfry, counted the new-comers, and Humility talked about them on the way home and at dinner. They were fisher folk for the most part; the men in blue guernseys and corduroy trousers, and some with curled black beards and rings in their ears; the women, in gayer colours than you see in an up-country church; a southern-seeming race, with southern-sounding names—Santo, Jose, Hugo, Bennet, Cara. They belonged—so Mr. Raymond often told himself—to the class which Christ called His Apostles. Sometimes, scanning an olive-coloured face, he would be minded of the Sea of Gennesareth; and, a minute later, the sight of the grey coast-line with its whirled spray would chill the fancy.
The congregation always lingered outside the porch after service; and then one would say to another: "Wall, there's more in the man than you'd think. See you up to the meetin' this evenin' I s'pose? So long!"
But having come once, they came again. And the family at the Parsonage were full of hope, though Taffy longed sometimes for a play-fellow, and sometimes for he knew not what, and Humility bent over her lace pillow and thought of green lanes and of Beer Village and women at work by sunshiny doorways; and wondered if their faces had changed.
"O, that I were where I would be! Then would I be where I am not; But where I am, there I must be, And where I would be, I cannot."
She never told a soul of her home thoughts. Her husband never guessed them. But Taffy (without knowing why), whenever this verse from his old playbook came into his head, connected it with his mother.
But the old Squire was getting impatient. He took quite a feudal view of the saving of his soul, and would have dragged the whole parish to church by main force, had it been possible.
Late one afternoon, Taffy was lying in one of his favourite nooks in the lee of the towans, when he heard voices and looked up. And there sat the old gentleman gazing down on him from horseback, with Bill Udy at his side. The Squire was in hunting dress.
"What be doin' down there?" he asked. "Praying?"
"I wish you would. I wish you'd pray for me. I've heerd that a child'll do good sometimes when grown folk can't. I doubt your father isn't goin' to do the good I looked for from en. He don't believe in sudden conversion. Here, Bill, take the mare and lead her home."
He dismounted, and seated himself with a groan on the edge of the sand-pit.
"Look here; I've got convictions of sin, but I can't get no forrader. What's to be done?"
"I don't know, sir," Taffy stammered, with his eyes on the Squire's spurs.
"You can pray for me, I suppose?"
"Well, do it. Do it to-night. I've got convictions, boy; but my heart's like a stone. I've had a wisht day of it. If the weather holds back, we'll kill a May fox this year. But where's the comfort? All the time to-day 'twas 'Lippety-lop, no peace for the wicked! Lippety-lop, no peace for the wicked!' I couldn't stand it; I came away. You'll do it, won't 'ee?"
"Is your father at home? I'll call an' speak to en. He does me good; but he can't melt what I carry here."
He tapped his breast and rising without another word strode off across the sand-hills with his head down and his hands clasped beneath his coat-tails, which flapped in the wind as he went.
Taffy ran and overtook Bill Udy and the mare.
"He's in a wisht poor state, id'n a'?" said Bill Udy, who was parish clerk. "Bless 'ee, tidn' no manner of use. His father before en was took in just the same way. Turned religious late in life. What d'ee think he did? Got his men together one Sunday mornin', marched them up to Meetin' house, up to Four Turnin's; slipped his ridin' crop through the haps o' the door, an' 'Now my Billies,' says he, through the key-hole, 'not a man or woman of 'ee leaves the place till you've said that Amazin' Creed. Come along,' he says, 'Whosoever will be saved an' the sooner 'tis over, the sooner you gets home to dinner.' A fine talk there was! Squire, he's just such another. Funny things he've a-done. Married a poor soul from Roseland way—a Miss Trevanion—quite a bettermost lady. When Miss Susannah was born—that's Miss Honoria's mother—she went to be churched. What must he do, to show his annoyance that 'twasn't a boy, but drive a she-ass into church? Very stiff behaviour. He drove the beast right fore an' into the big pew. The Moyles, you see, 've got a mule for their shield of arms. He've had his own way too much; that's of it.
"One day he dropped into church just before sarmon-time. There was a rabbit squattin' outside 'pon his father's tombstone. Squire crep' up an' clapped his Sunday hat 'pon top of en. Took en into church. One o' the curate chaps was preachin'—a timorous little fellah. By-'n'-by Squire slips out his rabbit. 'Wirroo, boys! Coorse en, coorse en—we'll have en for dinner!' Aw, a pretty dido! The curate fellah ran out to door an' the rabbit after en. Folks did say the rabbit was the old Squire's soul, an' that he'd turned black inside the young Squire's hat. Very stiff behaviour.
"He've had his own way too much; that's what it is. When he was pricked for sheriff, he hired a ramshackle po'shay, painted a mule 'pon the panel, an' stuffed the footmen's stockings with bran till it looked a case of dropsy. He was annoyed at bein' put to the expense. The judge lost his temper at bein' met in such a way, an' pitched into en in open court, specially about the mule. He didn't know 'twas the Squire's shield of arms. Squire stood it for some time; but at last he ups an' says, 'If you was an old woman of mine, I'd dress 'ee different; an' if you was an old woman of mine an' kep' scolding like that, I'd have 'ee in the duckin'-stool for your sauce!' He almost went to gaol for that. But they put it on the ground the judge had insulted his shield of arms, an' so he got off.
"Well, wish-'ee-well! Don't you trouble about he. He've had his own way too much, but he won't get it this time."
That night Taffy dreamt that he met Squire Moyle walking along the shore; but the sand clogged him, and his spurs sank in it and his riding-boots. When he was ankle deep he began to call out, "Pray for me!" Then Taffy saw a black rabbit running on the firm sand to the breakers; and the Squire cried "Pray for me! I must catch en! 'Tis my father's soul running off!" and put his hand into his breast and drew out a stone and flung it. But the stone, as soon as it touched the sand, turned into another rabbit, and the pair ran off together along the shore. The old man tried to follow, but the sand held him; and the tide was rising. . . .
ENTER THE KING'S POSTMAN.
A faint south wind murmured beneath the eaves. It died away, and for an hour there was peace on the towans. Then the sands began to trickle again, and the rushes to whisper and bend away from the sea, toward the high moors over which the gulls had flown yesterday and disappeared. By-and-by a spit or two of rain came flying out of the black north-west. The drops fell in the path of the sand, but the sand drove over and covered them, racing faster and faster.
Day rose, and Taffy awoke. The house walls were shaking. With each blow the wind ran up a scale of notes and ended with a howl. He looked out. Sea and sky had melted into one; only now and then white surf line heaved into sight, and melted back into grey. After breakfast he and his father started to battle their way to Tredinnis House, while Humility barricaded the door behind them. Taffy wore a suit of oilers, of which he was mightily proud.
They made their way under the lee of the towans to escape the stinging sand. Within Tredinnis Gates they found a couple of pine-trees blown down across the road, and scrambled over their trunks. Before lessons, Taffy boasted a lot of his journey to Honoria, and almost forgot to be sorry that George did not appear, though it was Wednesday.
They had no trouble in reaching home. The gale hurled them along. Taffy, leaning his back against it, could scarcely feel his feet touching ground. Humility unfastened the door, looking white and anxious. Before they could close it again, the wind swept a big dish off the dresser with a crash.
Taffy slept soundly that night. He did not hear a knocking which sounded on the house-door, soon after eleven o'clock. The man who knocked came from Tresedder, one of the moor farms. "Oh, sir! did 'ee see the rockets go up over Innis? There'll be dead men down 'pon the Island rocks."
Taffy slept on. When he came downstairs next morning there was a stranger in the kitchen—a little old man, huddled in a blanket before the great fireplace, where a line of clothes hung drying. Humility was stooping to wedge a sand-bag under the door. She looked up at Taffy with a wan little smile.
"There has been a wreck," she said.
"Glory be!" exclaimed the stranger from the fire-place.
Taffy glanced at him, but could see little more than the back of a bald head above the blankets.
"Where's the ship?" he asked.
"Gone," answered the Vicar, coming at that moment from the inner room where his books were. "She must have broken up in less than ten minutes after she struck the Island—parted and gone down in six fathoms of water."
"And the men? Was father there?" It bewildered Taffy that all this should have happened while he was sleeping.
"There was no time to fix the rocket apparatus. She was late in making her distress signals. But I doubt if anything could have been done. She went down too quickly."
"But—" Taffy's gaze wandered to the bald head.
"He was washed clean over the ridge where she struck, and swept into Innis Pool—one big wave carried him into safety—one man out of six."
"Hallelujah!" cried the rescued man facing round in his chair. "Might ha' been scat like an egg-shell, and here I be shoutin' praises!" Taffy saw that he was a clean-shaven little fellow, with puckered cheeks and two wisps of grey hair curling forward from his ears.
Mr. Raymond frowned. "I am sure," said he, "you ought not to be talking so much."
"I will sing and give praise, sir, beggin' you pardon, with the best member that I have. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not? Hallelujah! A-men!"
He took his basin of bread and milk from Humility's hand, and ate by the fire. She had wrung his clothes through fresh water, and as soon as they were thoroughly dry he retired upstairs to change. He came back to his seat by the fire.
"Now, I be like 'Possel Paul," he said, rubbing his hands, and stretching them out to the blaze. "After his shipwreck, you know, when the folks 'pon the island showed en kindness. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in your eyes.
"'Not fearing nor doubting, With Christ by my side, I hopes to die shouting, The Lord will provide!'"
Humility thought that for certain the shipwreck had turned his head.
"But where do you come from?" she asked.
"They call me Jacky Pascoe, ma'am; but I calls myself the King's Postman—
"'Jacky Pascoe is my name, Wendron is my nation, Nowhere is my dwelling-place, For Christ is my salvation—'
"I was brought to a miner, over to Wheal Jewel, in Illogan Parish; but got conversion fifteen years since, an' now I go about praising the Name. I've been miner, cafender, cooper, mason, seaman, scissor-grinder, umbrella-mender, holli-bubber, all by turns. I sticks my hands in my pockets, an' waits on the Lord; an' what he tells me to do, I do. This day week I was up to Fowey, working on the tip. There was a little schooner there, the Garibaldi, of Newport, discharging coal. The Lord said to me, 'Arise, go in that there schooner!' I sought out the skipper, and said, 'Where be bound for next?' 'Back to Newport,' says he. 'That'll suit me,' I says, an' persuaded en to take me. But the Lord knew where she were bound better'n the skipper; and here I be!"