'"That is how I was honoured by the King," I said. "They'll hang ye for killing me, Benedetto. And, since you've killed in the King's Palace, they'll draw and quarter you; but you're too mad to care. Grant me, though, ye never heard a better tale." 'He said nothing, but I felt him shake. My head on his chest shook; his right arm fell away, his left dropped the knife, and he leaned with both hands on my shoulder—shaking—shaking! I turned me round. No need to put my foot on his knife. The man was speechless with laughter—honest craftsman's mirth. The first time I'd ever seen him laugh. You know the mirth that cuts off the very breath, while ye stamp and snatch at the short ribs? That was Benedetto's case.
'When he began to roar and bay and whoop in the passage, I haled him out into the street, and there we leaned against the wall and had it all over again—waving our hands and wagging our heads—till the watch came to know if we were drunk.
'Benedetto says to 'em, solemn as an owl: "You have saved me thirty pounds, Mus' Dawe," and off he pealed. In some sort we were mad-drunk—I because dear life had been given back to me, and he because, as he said afterwards, because the old crust of hatred round his heart was broke up and carried away by laughter. His very face had changed too.
'"Hal," he cries, "I forgive thee. Forgive me too, Hal. Oh, you English, you English! Did it gall thee, Hal, to see the rust on the dirty sword? Tell me again, Hal, how the King grunted with joy. Oh, let us tell the Master."
'So we reeled back to the chapel, arms round each other's necks, and when we could speak—he thought we'd been fighting—we told the Master. Yes, we told Torrigiano, and he laughed till he rolled on the new cold pavement. Then he knocked our heads together.
'"Ah, you English!" he cried. "You are more than pigs. You are English. Now you are well punished for your dirty fishes. Put the draft in the fire, and never do so any more. You are a fool, Hal, and you are a fool, Benedetto, but I need your works to please this beautiful English King."
'"And I meant to kill Hal," says Benedetto. "Master, I meant to kill him because the English King had made him a knight."
'"Ah!" says the Master, shaking his finger. "Benedetto, if you had killed my Hal, I should have killed you—in the cloister. But you are a craftsman too, so I should have killed you like a craftsman, very, very slowly—in an hour, if I could spare the time!" That was Torrigiano—the Master!'
Mr Springett sat quite still for some time after Hal had finished. Then he turned dark red; then he rocked to and fro; then he coughed and wheezed till the tears ran down his face. Dan knew by this that he was laughing, but it surprised Hal at first.
'Excuse me, sir,' said Mr Springett, 'but I was thinkin' of some stables I built for a gentleman in Eighteen hundred Seventy-four. They was stables in blue brick—very particular work. Dunno as they weren't the best job which ever I'd done. But the gentleman's lady—she'd come from Lunnon, new married—she was all for buildin' what was called a haw-haw—what you an' me 'ud call a dik—right acrost his park. A middlin' big job which I'd have had the contract of, for she spoke to me in the library about it. But I told her there was a line o' springs just where she wanted to dig her ditch, an' she'd flood the park if she went on.'
'Were there any springs at all?' said Hal.
'Bound to be springs everywhere if you dig deep enough, ain't there? But what I said about the springs put her out o' conceit o' diggin' haw-haws, an' she took an' built a white tile dairy instead. But when I sent in my last bill for the stables, the gentleman he paid it 'thout even lookin' at it, and I hadn't forgotten nothin', I do assure you. More than that, he slips two five-pound notes into my hand in the library, an' "Ralph," he says—he allers called me by name—"Ralph," he says, "you've saved me a heap of expense an' trouble this autumn." I didn't say nothin', o' course. I knowed he didn't want any haws-haws digged acrost his park no more'n I did, but I never said nothin'. No more he didn't say nothin' about my blue-brick stables, which was really the best an' honestest piece o' work I'd done in quite a while. He give me ten pounds for savin' him a hem of a deal o' trouble at home. I reckon things are pretty much alike, all times, in all places.'
Hal and he laughed together. Dan couldn't quite understand what they thought so funny, and went on with his work for some time without speaking.
When he looked up, Mr Springett, alone, was wiping his eyes with his green-and-yellow pocket-handkerchief.
'Bless me, Mus' Dan, I've been asleep,' he said. 'An' I've dreamed a dream which has made me laugh—laugh as I ain't laughed in a long day. I can't remember what 'twas all about, but they do say that when old men take to laughin' in their sleep, they're middlin' ripe for the next world. Have you been workin' honest, Mus' Dan?'
'Ra-ather,' said Dan, unclamping the schooner from the vice. 'And look how I've cut myself with the small gouge.'
'Ye-es. You want a lump o' cobwebs to that,' said Mr Springett. 'Oh, I see you've put it on already. That's right, Mus' Dan.'
King Henry VII and the Shipwrights
Harry our King in England from London town is gone, And comen to Hamull on the Hoke in the countie of Suthampton. For there lay the MARY OF THE TOWER, his ship of war so strong, And he would discover, certaynely, if his shipwrights did him wrong.
He told not none of his setting forth, nor yet where he would go (But only my Lord of Arundel), and meanly did he show, In an old jerkin and patched hose that no man might him mark; With his frieze hood and cloak about, he looked like any clerk. He was at Hamull on the Hoke about the hour of the tide, And saw the MARY haled into dock, the winter to abide, With all her tackle and habiliments which are the King his own; But then ran on his false shipwrights and stripped her to the bone.
They heaved the main-mast overboard, that was of a trusty tree, And they wrote down it was spent and lost by force of weather at sea. But they sawen it into planks and strakes as far as it might go, To maken beds for their own wives and little children also.
There was a knave called Slingawai, he crope beneath the deck, Crying: 'Good felawes, come and see! The ship is nigh a wreck! For the storm that took our tall main-mast, it blew so fierce and fell, Alack! it hath taken the kettles and pans, and this brass pott as well!'
With that he set the pott on his head and hied him up the hatch, While all the shipwrights ran below to find what they might snatch; All except Bob Brygandyne and he was a yeoman good, He caught Slingawai round the waist and threw him on to the mud.
'I have taken plank and rope and nail, without the King his leave, After the custom of Portesmouth, but I will not suffer a thief. Nay, never lift up thy hand at me! There's no clean hands in the trade. Steal in measure,' quo' Brygandyne. 'There's measure in all things made!'
'Gramercy, yeoman!' said our King. 'Thy counsel liketh me.' And he pulled a whistle out of his neck and whistled whistles three. Then came my Lord of Arundel pricking across the down, And behind him the Mayor and Burgesses of merry Suthampton town.
They drew the naughty shipwrights up, with the kettles in their hands, And bound them round the forecastle to wait the King's commands. But 'Since ye have made your beds,' said the King, 'ye needs must lie thereon. For the sake of your wives and little ones—felawes, get you gone!'
When they had beaten Slingawai, out of his own lips, Our King appointed Brygandyne to be Clerk of all his ships. 'Nay, never lift up thy hands to me—there's no clean hands in the trade. But steal in measure,'said Harry our King. 'There's measure in all things made!'
God speed the 'Mary of the Tower,' the 'Sovereign' and 'Grace Dieu,' The 'Sweepstakes' and the 'Mary Fortune,' and the 'Henry of Bristol' too! All tall ships that sail on the sea, or in our harbours stand, That they may keep measure with Harry our King and peace in Engeland!
The Way Through the Woods
They shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ring-dove broods, And the badgers roll at ease, There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods Of a summer evening late, When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools Where the otter whistles his mate (They fear not men in the woods Because they see so few), You will hear the beat of a horse's feet And the swish of a skirt in the dew, Steadily cantering through The misty solitudes, As though they perfectly knew The old lost road through the woods... But there is no road through the woods!
When Dan took up boat-building, Una coaxed Mrs Vincey, the farmer's wife at Little Lindens, to teach her to milk. Mrs Vincey milks in the pasture in summer, which is different from milking in the shed, because the cows are not tied up, and until they know you they will not stand still. After three weeks Una could milk Red Cow or Kitty Shorthorn quite dry, without her wrists aching, and then she allowed Dan to look. But milking did not amuse him, and it was pleasanter for Una to be alone in the quiet pastures with quiet-spoken Mrs Vincey. So, evening after evening, she slipped across to Little Lindens, took her stool from the fern-clump beside the fallen oak, and went to work, her pail between her knees, and her head pressed hard into the cow's flank. As often as not, Mrs Vincey would be milking cross Pansy at the other end of the pasture, and would not come near till it was time to strain and pour off.
Once, in the middle of a milking, Kitty Shorthorn boxed Una's ear with her tail.
'You old pig!' said Una, nearly crying, for a cow's tail can hurt.
'Why didn't you tie it down, child?' said a voice behind her.
'I meant to, but the flies are so bad I let her off—and this is what she's done!' Una looked round, expecting Puck, and saw a curly-haired girl, not much taller than herself, but older, dressed in a curious high-waisted, lavender-coloured riding-habit, with a high hunched collar and a deep cape and a belt fastened with a steel clasp. She wore a yellow velvet cap and tan gauntlets, and carried a real hunting-crop. Her cheeks were pale except for two pretty pink patches in the middle, and she talked with little gasps at the end of her sentences, as though she had been running.
'You don't milk so badly, child,' she said, and when she smiled her teeth showed small and even and pearly.
'Can you milk?' Una asked, and then flushed, for she heard Puck's chuckle.
He stepped out of the fern and sat down, holding Kitty Short-horn's tail. 'There isn't much,' he said, 'that Miss Philadelphia doesn't know about milk—or, for that matter, butter and eggs. She's a great housewife.'
'Oh,' said Una. 'I'm sorry I can't shake hands. Mine are all milky; but Mrs Vincey is going to teach me butter-making this summer.' 'Ah! I'm going to London this summer,' the girl said, 'to my aunt in Bloomsbury.' She coughed as she began to hum, '"Oh, what a town! What a wonderful metropolis!"
'You've got a cold,' said Una.
'No. Only my stupid cough. But it's vastly better than it was last winter. It will disappear in London air. Every one says so. D'you like doctors, child?'
'I don't know any,' Una replied. 'But I'm sure I shouldn't.'
'Think yourself lucky, child. I beg your pardon,' the girl laughed, for Una frowned.
'I'm not a child, and my name's Una,'she said.
'Mine's Philadelphia. But everybody except Rene calls me Phil. I'm Squire Bucksteed's daughter—over at Marklake yonder.' She jerked her little round chin towards the south behind Dallington. 'Sure-ly you know Marklake?'
'We went a picnic to Marklake Green once,' said Una. 'It's awfully pretty. I like all those funny little roads that don't lead anywhere.'
'They lead over our land,' said Philadelphia stiffly, 'and the coach road is only four miles away. One can go anywhere from the Green. I went to the Assize Ball at Lewes last year.' She spun round and took a few dancing steps, but stopped with her hand to her side.
'It gives me a stitch,' she explained. 'No odds. 'Twill go away in London air. That's the latest French step, child. Rene taught it me. D'you hate the French, chi—Una?'
'Well, I hate French, of course, but I don't mind Ma'm'selle. She's rather decent. Is Rene your French governess?'
Philadelphia laughed till she caught her breath again.
'Oh no! Rene's a French prisoner—on parole. That means he's promised not to escape till he has been properly exchanged for an Englishman. He's only a doctor, so I hope they won't think him worth exchanging. My uncle captured him last year in the FERDINAND privateer, off Belle Isle, and he cured my uncle of a r-r-raging toothache. Of course, after that we couldn't let him lie among the common French prisoners at Rye, and so he stays with us. He's of very old family—a Breton, which is nearly next door to being a true Briton, my father says—and he wears his hair clubbed—not powdered. Much more becoming, don't you think?'
'I don't know what you're—' Una began, but Puck, the other side of the pail, winked, and she went on with her milking. 'He's going to be a great French physician when the war is over. He makes me bobbins for my lace-pillow now—he's very clever with his hands; but he'd doctor our people on the Green if they would let him. Only our Doctor—Doctor Break—says he's an emp—or imp something—worse than imposter. But my Nurse says—'
'Nurse! You're ever so old. What have you got a nurse for?' Una finished milking, and turned round on her stool as Kitty Shorthorn grazed off.
'Because I can't get rid of her. Old Cissie nursed my mother, and she says she'll nurse me till she dies. The idea! She never lets me alone. She thinks I'm delicate. She has grown infirm in her understanding, you know. Mad—quite mad, poor Cissie!'
'Really mad?' said Una. 'Or just silly?'
'Crazy, I should say—from the things she does. Her devotion to me is terribly embarrassing. You know I have all the keys of the Hall except the brewery and the tenants' kitchen. I give out all stores and the linen and plate.'
'How jolly! I love store-rooms and giving out things.'
Ah, it's a great responsibility, you'll find, when you come to my age. Last year Dad said I was fatiguing myself with my duties, and he actually wanted me to give up the keys to old Amoore, our housekeeper. I wouldn't. I hate her. I said, "No, sir. I am Mistress of Marklake Hall just as long as I live, because I'm never going to be married, and I shall give out stores and linen till I die!"
And what did your father say?'
'Oh, I threatened to pin a dishclout to his coat-tail. He ran away. Every one's afraid of Dad, except me.' Philadelphia stamped her foot. 'The idea! If I can't make my own father happy in his own house, I'd like to meet the woman that can, and—and—I'd have the living hide off her!'
She cut with her long-thonged whip. It cracked like a pistol-shot across the still pasture. Kitty Shorthorn threw up her head and trotted away.
'I beg your pardon,' Philadelphia said; 'but it makes me furious. Don't you hate those ridiculous old quizzes with their feathers and fronts, who come to dinner and call you "child" in your own chair at your own table?'
'I don't always come to dinner, said Una, 'but I hate being called "child." Please tell me about store-rooms and giving out things.'
Ah, it's a great responsibility—particularly with that old cat Amoore looking at the lists over your shoulder. And such a shocking thing happened last summer! Poor crazy Cissie, my Nurse that I was telling you of, she took three solid silver tablespoons.'
'Took! But isn't that stealing?' Una cried.
'Hsh!' said Philadelphia, looking round at Puck. 'All I say is she took them without my leave. I made it right afterwards. So, as Dad says—and he's a magistrate-, it wasn't a legal offence; it was only compounding a felony.
'It sounds awful,' said Una.
'It was. My dear, I was furious! I had had the keys for ten months, and I'd never lost anything before. I said nothing at first, because a big house offers so many chances of things being mislaid, and coming to hand later. "Fetching up in the lee-scuppers," my uncle calls it. But next week I spoke to old Cissie about it when she was doing my hair at night, and she said I wasn't to worry my heart for trifles!'
'Isn't it like 'em?' Una burst out. 'They see you're worried over something that really matters, and they say, "Don't worry"; as if that did any good!'
'I quite agree with you, my dear; quite agree with you! I told Ciss the spoons were solid silver, and worth forty shillings, so if the thief were found, he'd be tried for his life.' 'Hanged, do you mean?'Una said.
'They ought to be; but Dad says no jury will hang a man nowadays for a forty-shilling theft. They transport 'em into penal servitude at the uttermost ends of the earth beyond the seas, for the term of their natural life. I told Cissie that, and I saw her tremble in my mirror. Then she cried, and caught hold of my knees, and I couldn't for my life understand what it was all about,—she cried so. Can you guess, my dear, what that poor crazy thing had done? It was midnight before I pieced it together. She had given the spoons to Jerry Gamm, the Witchmaster on the Green, so that he might put a charm on me! Me!'
'Put a charm on you? Why?'
'That's what I asked; and then I saw how mad poor Cissie was! You know this stupid little cough of mine? It will disappear as soon as I go to London. She was troubled about that, and about my being so thin, and she told me Jerry had promised her, if she would bring him three silver spoons, that he'd charm my cough away and make me plump—"flesh up," she said. I couldn't help laughing; but it was a terrible night! I had to put Cissie into my own bed, and stroke her hand till she cried herself to sleep. What else could I have done? When she woke, and I coughed—I suppose I can cough in my own room if I please—she said that she'd killed me, and asked me to have her hanged at Lewes sooner than send her to the uttermost ends of the earth away from me.'
'How awful! What did you do, Phil?'
'Do? I rode off at five in the morning to talk to Master Jerry, with a new lash on my whip. Oh, I was furious! Witchmaster or no Witchmaster, I meant to—'
Ah! what's a Witchmaster?'
'A master of witches, of course. I don't believe there are witches; but people say every village has a few, and Jerry was the master of all ours at Marklake. He has been a smuggler, and a man-of-war's man, and now he pretends to be a carpenter and joiner—he can make almost anything—but he really is a white wizard. He cures people by herbs and charms. He can cure them after Doctor Break has given them up, and that's why Doctor Break hates him so. He used to make me toy carts, and charm off my warts when I was a child.' Philadelphia spread out her hands with the delicate shiny little nails. 'It isn't counted lucky to cross him. He has his ways of getting even with you, they say. But I wasn't afraid of Jerry! I saw him working in his garden, and I leaned out of my saddle and double-thonged him between the shoulders, over the hedge. Well, my dear, for the first time since Dad gave him to me, my Troubadour (I wish you could see the sweet creature!) shied across the road, and I spilled out into the hedge-top. Most undignified! Jerry pulled me through to his side and brushed the leaves off me. I was horribly pricked, but I didn't care. "Now, Jerry," I said, "I'm going to take the hide off you first, and send you to Lewes afterwards. You well know why."
'"Oh!" he said, and he sat down among his bee-hives. "Then I reckon you've come about old Cissie's business, my dear." "I reckon I justabout have," I said. "Stand away from these hives. I can't get at you there." "That's why I be where I be," he said. "If you'll excuse me, Miss Phil, I don't hold with bein' flogged before breakfast, at my time o' life." He's a huge big man, but he looked so comical squatting among the hives that—I know I oughtn't to—I laughed, and he laughed. I always laugh at the wrong time. But I soon recovered my dignity, and I said, "Then give me back what you made poor Cissie steal!"
'"Your pore Cissie," he said. "She's a hatful o' trouble. But you shall have 'em, Miss Phil. They're all ready put by for you." And, would you believe it, the old sinner pulled my three silver spoons out of his dirty pocket, and polished them on his cuff. "Here they be," he says, and he gave them to me, just as cool as though I'd come to have my warts charmed. That's the worst of people having known you when you were young. But I preserved my composure. "Jerry," I said, "what in the world are we to do? If you'd been caught with these things on you, you'd have been hanged."
'"I know it," he said. "But they're yours now."
'"But you made my Cissie steal them," I said.
'"That I didn't," he said. "Your Cissie, she was pickin' at me an' tarrifyin' me all the long day an' every day for weeks, to put a charm on you, Miss Phil, an' take away your little spitty cough."
'"Yes. I knew that, Jerry, and to make me flesh-up!" I said. "I'm much obliged to you, but I'm not one of your pigs!"
'"Ah! I reckon she've been talking to you, then," he said. "Yes, she give me no peace, and bein' tarrified—for I don't hold with old women—I laid a task on her which I thought 'ud silence her. I never reckoned the old scrattle 'ud risk her neckbone at Lewes Assizes for your sake, Miss Phil. But she did. She up an' stole, I tell ye, as cheerful as a tinker. You might ha' knocked me down with any one of them liddle spoons when she brung 'em in her apron."
'"Do you mean to say, then, that you did it to try my poor Cissie?" I screamed at him.
'"What else for, dearie?" he said. "I don't stand in need of hedge-stealings. I'm a freeholder, with money in the bank; and now I won't trust women no more! Silly old besom! I do beleft she'd ha' stole the Squire's big fob-watch, if I'd required her."
'"Then you're a wicked, wicked old man," I said, and I was so angry that I couldn't help crying, and of course that made me cough.
'Jerry was in a fearful taking. He picked me up and carried me into his cottage—it's full of foreign curiosities—and he got me something to eat and drink, and he said he'd be hanged by the neck any day if it pleased me. He said he'd even tell old Cissie he was sorry. That's a great comedown for a Witchmaster, you know.
'I was ashamed of myself for being so silly, and I dabbed my eyes and said, "The least you can do now is to give poor Ciss some sort of a charm for me."
'"Yes, that's only fair dealings," he said. "You know the names of the Twelve Apostles, dearie? You say them names, one by one, before your open window, rain or storm, wet or shine, five times a day fasting. But mind you, 'twixt every name you draw in your breath through your nose, right down to your pretty liddle toes, as long and as deep as you can, and let it out slow through your pretty liddle mouth. There's virtue for your cough in those names spoke that way. And I'll give you something you can see, moreover. Here's a stick of maple, which is the warmest tree in the wood."' 'That's true,' Una interrupted. 'You can feel it almost as warm as yourself when you touch it.'
'"It's cut one inch long for your every year," Jerry said. "That's sixteen inches. You set it in your window so that it holds up the sash, and thus you keep it, rain or shine, or wet or fine, day and night. I've said words over it which will have virtue on your complaints."
"I haven't any complaints, Jerry," I said. "It's only to please Cissie."
'"I know that as well as you do, dearie," he said. And—and that was all that came of my going to give him a flogging. I wonder whether he made poor Troubadour shy when I lashed at him? Jerry has his ways of getting even with people.'
'I wonder,' said Una. 'Well, did you try the charm? Did it work?'
'What nonsense! I told Rene about it, of course, because he's a doctor. He's going to be a most famous doctor. That's why our doctor hates him. Rene said, "Oho! Your Master Gamm, he is worth knowing," and he put up his eyebrows—like this. He made joke of it all. He can see my window from the carpenter's shed, where he works, and if ever the maple stick fell down, he pretended to be in a fearful taking till I propped the window up again. He used to ask me whether I had said my Apostles properly, and how I took my deep breaths. Oh yes, and the next day, though he had been there ever so many times before, he put on his new hat and paid Jerry Gamm a visit of state—as a fellow-physician. Jerry never guessed Rene was making fun of him, and so he told Rene about the sick people in the village, and how he cured them with herbs after Doctor Break had given them up. Jerry could talk smugglers' French, of course, and I had taught Rene plenty of English, if only he wasn't so shy. They called each other Monsieur Gamm and Mosheur Lanark, just like gentlemen. I suppose it amused poor Rene. He hasn't much to do, except to fiddle about in the carpenter's shop. He's like all the French prisoners—always making knickknacks; and Jerry had a little lathe at his cottage, and so—and so—Rene took to being with Jerry much more than I approved of. The Hall is so big and empty when Dad's away, and I will not sit with old Amoore—she talks so horridly about every one—specially about Rene.
'I was rude to Rene, I'm afraid; but I was properly served out for it. One always is. You see, Dad went down to Hastings to pay his respects to the General who commanded the brigade there, and to bring him to the Hall afterwards. Dad told me he was a very brave soldier from India—he was Colonel of Dad's Regiment, the Thirty-third Foot, after Dad left the Army, and then he changed his name from Wesley to Wellesley, or else the other way about; and Dad said I was to get out all the silver for him, and I knew that meant a big dinner. So I sent down to the sea for early mackerel, and had such a morning in the kitchen and the store-rooms. Old Amoore nearly cried.
'However, my dear, I made all my preparations in ample time, but the fish didn't arrive—it never does—and I wanted Rene to ride to Pevensey and bring it himself. He had gone over to Jerry, of course, as he always used, unless I requested his presence beforehand. I can't send for Rene every time I want him. He should be there. Now, don't you ever do what I did, child, because it's in the highest degree unladylike; but—but one of our Woods runs up to Jerry's garden, and if you climb—it's ungenteel, but I can climb like a kitten—there's an old hollow oak just above the pigsty where you can hear and see everything below. Truthfully, I only went to tell Rene about the mackerel, but I saw him and Jerry sitting on the seat playing with wooden toy trumpets. So I slipped into the hollow, and choked down my cough, and listened. Rene had never shown me any of these trumpets.'
'Trumpets? Aren't you too old for trumpets?' said Una.
'They weren't real trumpets, because Jerry opened his short-collar, and Rene put one end of his trumpet against Jerry's chest, and put his ear to the other. Then Jerry put his trumpet against Rene's chest, and listened while Rene breathed and coughed. I was afraid I would cough too.
'"This hollywood one is the best," said Jerry. "'Tis won'erful like hearin' a man's soul whisperin' in his innards; but unless I've a buzzin' in my ears, Mosheur Lanark, you make much about the same kind o' noises as old Gaffer Macklin—but not quite so loud as young Copper. It sounds like breakers on a reef—a long way off. Comprenny?"
'"Perfectly," said Rene. "I drive on the breakers. But before I strike, I shall save hundreds, thousands, millions perhaps, by my little trumpets. Now tell me what sounds the old Gaffer Macklin have made in his chest, and what the young Copper also."
'Jerry talked for nearly a quarter of an hour about sick people in the village, while Rene asked questions. Then he sighed, and said, "You explain very well, Monsieur Gamm, but if only I had your opportunities to listen for myself! Do you think these poor people would let me listen to them through my trumpet—for a little money? No?"—Rene's as poor as a church mouse.
'"They'd kill you, Mosheur. It's all I can do to coax 'em to abide it, and I'm Jerry Gamm," said Jerry. He's very proud of his attainments.
'"Then these poor people are alarmed—No?" said Rene.
'"They've had it in at me for some time back because o' my tryin' your trumpets on their sick; and I reckon by the talk at the alehouse they won't stand much more. Tom Dunch an' some of his kidney was drinkin' themselves riot-ripe when I passed along after noon. Charms an' mutterin's an' bits o' red wool an' black hens is in the way o' nature to these fools, Mosheur; but anything likely to do 'em real service is devil's work by their estimation. If I was you, I'd go home before they come." Jerry spoke quite quietly, and Rene shrugged his shoulders.
'"I am prisoner on parole, Monsieur Gamm," he said. "I have no home."
'Now that was unkind of Rene. He's often told me that he looked on England as his home. I suppose it's French politeness.
'"Then we'll talk o' something that matters," said Jerry. "Not to name no names, Mosheur Lanark, what might be your own opinion o' some one who ain't old Gaffer Macklin nor young Copper? Is that person better or worse?"
'"Better—for time that is," said Rene. He meant for the time being, but I never could teach him some phrases.
'"I thought so too," said Jerry. "But how about time to come?"
'Rene shook his head, and then he blew his nose. You don't know how odd a man looks blowing his nose when you are sitting directly above him.
'"I've thought that too," said Jerry. He rumbled so deep I could scarcely catch. "It don't make much odds to me, because I'm old. But you're young, Mosheur—you're young," and he put his hand on Rene's knee, and Rene covered it with his hand. I didn't know they were such friends.
'"Thank you, mon ami," said Rene. "I am much oblige. Let us return to our trumpet-making. But I forget"—he stood up—"it appears that you receive this afternoon!"
'You can't see into Gamm's Lane from the oak, but the gate opened, and fat little Doctor Break stumped in, mopping his head, and half-a-dozen of our people following him, very drunk.
'You ought to have seen Rene bow; he does it beautifully.
'"A word with you, Laennec," said Doctor Break. "Jerry has been practising some devilry or other on these poor wretches, and they've asked me to be arbiter."
'"Whatever that means, I reckon it's safer than asking you to be doctor," said Jerry, and Tom Dunch, one of our carters, laughed.
'"That ain't right feeling of you, Tom," Jerry said, "seeing how clever Doctor Break put away your thorn in the flesh last winter." Tom's wife had died at Christmas, though Doctor Break bled her twice a week. Doctor Break danced with rage.
'"This is all beside the mark," he said. "These good people are willing to testify that you've been impudently prying into God's secrets by means of some papistical contrivance which this person"—he pointed to poor Rene—"has furnished you with. Why, here are the things themselves!" Rene was holding a trumpet in his hand.
'Then all the men talked at once. They said old Gaffer Macklin was dying from stitches in his side where Jerry had put the trumpet—they called it the devil's ear-piece; and they said it left round red witch-marks on people's skins, and dried up their lights, and made 'em spit blood, and threw 'em into sweats. Terrible things they said. You never heard such a noise. I took advantage of it to cough.
'Rene and Jerry were standing with their backs to the pigsty. Jerry fumbled in his big flap pockets and fished up a pair of pistols. You ought to have seen the men give back when he cocked his. He passed one to Rene.
'"Wait! Wait!" said Rene. "I will explain to the doctor if he permits." He waved a trumpet at him, and the men at the gate shouted, "Don't touch it, Doctor! Don't lay a hand to the thing."
'"Come, come!" said Rene. "You are not so big fool as you pretend. No?"
'Doctor Break backed toward the gate, watching Jerry's pistol, and Rene followed him with his trumpet, like a nurse trying to amuse a child, and put the ridiculous thing to his ear to show how it was used, and talked of la Gloire, and l'Humanite, and la Science, while Doctor Break watched jerry's pistol and swore. I nearly laughed aloud.
'"Now listen! Now listen!" said Rene. "This will be moneys in your pockets, my dear confrere. You will become rich."
'Then Doctor Break said something about adventurers who could not earn an honest living in their own country creeping into decent houses and taking advantage of gentlemen's confidence to enrich themselves by base intrigues.
'Rene dropped his absurd trumpet and made one of his best bows. I knew he was angry from the way he rolled his "r's."
'"Ver-r-ry good," said he. "For that I shall have much pleasure to kill you now and here. Monsieur Gamm,"—another bow to Jerry—"you will please lend him your pistol, or he shall have mine. I give you my word I know not which is best; and if he will choose a second from his friends over there"—another bow to our drunken yokels at the gate—"we will commence."
'"That's fair enough," said Jerry. "Tom Dunch, you owe it to the Doctor to be his second. Place your man." '"No," said Tom. "No mixin' in gentry's quarrels for me." And he shook his head and went out, and the others followed him.
'"Hold on," said Jerry. "You've forgot what you set out to do up at the alehouse just now. You was goin' to search me for witch-marks; you was goin' to duck me in the pond; you was goin' to drag all my bits o' sticks out o' my little cottage here. What's the matter with you? Wouldn't you like to be with your old woman tonight, Tom?"
'But they didn't even look back, much less come. They ran to the village alehouse like hares.
'"No matter for these canaille," said Rene, buttoning up his coat so as not to show any linen. All gentlemen do that before a duel, Dad says—and he's been out five times. "You shall be his second, Monsieur Gamm. Give him the pistol."
'Doctor Break took it as if it was red-hot, but he said that if Rene resigned his pretensions in certain quarters he would pass over the matter. Rene bowed deeper than ever.
'"As for that," he said, "if you were not the ignorant which you are, you would have known long ago that the subject of your remarks is not for any living man."
'I don't know what the subject of his remarks might have been, but he spoke in a simply dreadful voice, my dear, and Doctor Break turned quite white, and said Rene was a liar; and then Rene caught him by the throat, and choked him black.
'Well, my dear, as if this wasn't deliciously exciting enough, just exactly at that minute I heard a strange voice on the other side of the hedge say, "What's this? What's this, Bucksteed?" and there was my father and Sir Arthur Wesley on horseback in the lane; and there was Rene kneeling on Doctor Break, and there was I up in the oak, listening with all my ears.
'I must have leaned forward too much, and the voice gave me such a start that I slipped. I had only time to make one jump on to the pigsty roof—another, before the tiles broke, on to the pigsty wall—and then I bounced down into the garden, just behind Jerry, with my hair full of bark. Imagine the situation!'
'Oh, I can!' Una laughed till she nearly fell off the stool.
'Dad said, "Phil—a—del—phia!" and Sir Arthur Wesley said, "Good Ged" and Jerry put his foot on the pistol Rene had dropped. But Rene was splendid. He never even looked at me. He began to untwist Doctor Break's neckcloth as fast as he'd twisted it, and asked him if he felt better.
'"What's happened? What's happened?" said Dad.
'"A fit!" said Rene. "I fear my confrere has had a fit. Do not be alarmed. He recovers himself. Shall I bleed you a little, my dear Doctor?" Doctor Break was very good too. He said, "I am vastly obliged, Monsieur Laennec, but I am restored now." And as he went out of the gate he told Dad it was a syncope—I think. Then Sir Arthur said, "Quite right, Bucksteed. Not another word! They are both gentlemen." And he took off his cocked hat to Doctor Break and Rene.
'But poor Dad wouldn't let well alone. He kept saying, "Philadelphia, what does all this mean?"
'"Well, sir," I said, "I've only just come down. As far as I could see, it looked as though Doctor Break had had a sudden seizure." That was quite true—if you'd seen Rene seize him. Sir Arthur laughed. "Not much change there, Bucksteed," he said. "She's a lady—a thorough lady."
'"Heaven knows she doesn't look like one," said poor Dad. "Go home, Philadelphia."
'So I went home, my dear—don't laugh so!—-right under Sir Arthur's nose—a most enormous nose—feeling as though I were twelve years old, going to be whipped. Oh, I beg your pardon, child!'
'It's all right,' said Una. 'I'm getting on for thirteen. I've never been whipped, but I know how you felt. All the same, it must have been funny!'
'Funny! If you'd heard Sir Arthur jerking out, "Good Ged, Bucksteed!" every minute as they rode behind me; and poor Dad saying, '"'Pon my honour, Arthur, I can't account for it!" Oh, how my cheeks tingled when I reached my room! But Cissie had laid out my very best evening dress, the white satin one, vandyked at the bottom with spots of morone foil, and the pearl knots, you know, catching up the drapery from the left shoulder. I had poor mother's lace tucker and her coronet comb.'
'Oh, you lucky!' Una murmured. 'And gloves?'
'French kid, my dear'—Philadelphia patted her shoulder—'and morone satin shoes and a morone and gold crape fan. That restored my calm. Nice things always do. I wore my hair banded on my forehead with a little curl over the left ear. And when I descended the stairs, en grande tenue, old Amoore curtsied to me without my having to stop and look at her, which, alas! is too often the case. Sir Arthur highly approved of the dinner, my dear: the mackerel did come in time. We had all the Marklake silver out, and he toasted my health, and he asked me where my little bird's-nesting sister was. I know he did it to quiz me, so I looked him straight in the face, my dear, and I said, "I always send her to the nursery, Sir Arthur, when I receive guests at Marklake Hall."'
'Oh, how chee—clever of you. What did he say?' Una cried. 'He said, "Not much change there, Bucksteed. Ged, I deserved it," and he toasted me again. They talked about the French and what a shame it was that Sir Arthur only commanded a brigade at Hastings, and he told Dad of a battle in India at a place called Assaye. Dad said it was a terrible fight, but Sir Arthur described it as though it had been a whist-party—I suppose because a lady was present.'
'Of course you were the lady. I wish I'd seen you,'said Una.
'I wish you had, child. I had such a triumph after dinner. Rene and Doctor Break came in. They had quite made up their quarrel, and they told me they had the highest esteem for each other, and I laughed and said, "I heard every word of it up in the tree." You never saw two men so frightened in your life, and when I said, "What was 'the subject of your remarks,' Rene?" neither of them knew where to look. Oh, I quizzed them unmercifully. They'd seen me jump off the pigsty roof, remember.'
'But what was the subject of their remarks?' said Una.
'Oh, Doctor Break said it was a professional matter, so the laugh was turned on me. I was horribly afraid it might have been something unladylike and indelicate. But that wasn't my triumph. Dad asked me to play on the harp. Between just you and me, child, I had been practising a new song from London—I don't always live in trees—for weeks; and I gave it them for a surprise.'
'What was it?'said Una. 'Sing it.'
'"I have given my heart to a flower." Not very difficult fingering, but r-r-ravishing sentiment.'
Philadelphia coughed and cleared her throat.
'I've a deep voice for my age and size,' she explained. 'Contralto, you know, but it ought to be stronger,' and she began, her face all dark against the last of the soft pink sunset:
'I have given my heart to a flower, Though I know it is fading away, Though I know it will live but an hour And leave me to mourn its decay!
'Isn't that touchingly sweet? Then the last verse—I wish I had my harp, dear—goes as low as my register will reach.'She drew in her chin, and took a deep breath:
'Ye desolate whirlwinds that rave, I charge you be good to my dear! She is all—she is all that I have, And the time of our parting is near!'
'Beautiful!' said Una. 'And did they like it?' 'Like it? They were overwhelmed—accables, as Rene says. My dear, if I hadn't seen it, I shouldn't have believed that I could have drawn tears, genuine tears, to the eyes of four grown men. But I did! Rene simply couldn't endure it! He's all French sensibility. He hid his face and said, "Assez, Mademoiselle! C'est plus fort que moi! Assez!" And Sir Arthur blew his nose and said, "Good Ged! This is worse than Assaye!" While Dad sat with the tears simply running down his cheeks.'
'And what did Doctor Break do?'
'He got up and pretended to look out of the window, but I saw his little fat shoulders jerk as if he had the hiccoughs. That was a triumph. I never suspected him of sensibility.'
'Oh, I wish I'd seen! I wish I'd been you,'said Una, clasping her hands. Puck rustled and rose from the fern, just as a big blundering cock-chafer flew smack against Una's cheek.
When she had finished rubbing the place, Mrs Vincey called to her that Pansy had been fractious, or she would have come long before to help her strain and pour off. 'It didn't matter,' said Una; 'I just waited. Is that old Pansy barging about the lower pasture now?'
'No,' said Mrs Vincey, listening. 'It sounds more like a horse being galloped middlin' quick through the woods; but there's no road there. I reckon it's one of Gleason's colts loose. Shall I see you up to the house, Miss Una?'
'Gracious, no! thank you. What's going to hurt me?' said Una, and she put her stool away behind the oak, and strolled home through the gaps that old Hobden kept open for her.
I was very well pleased with what I knowed, I reckoned myself no fool— Till I met with a maid on the Brookland Road That turned me back to school.
Low down—low down! Where the liddle green lanterns shine— Oh! maids, I've done with 'ee all but one, And she can never be mine! 'Twas right in the middest of a hot June night, With thunder duntin' round, And I seed her face by the fairy light That beats from off the ground.
She only smiled and she never spoke, She smiled and went away; But when she'd gone my heart was broke, And my wits was clean astray.
Oh! Stop your ringing and let me be— Let be, O Brookland bells! You'll ring Old Goodman * out of the sea, Before I wed one else!
Old Goodman's farm is rank sea sand, And was this thousand year; But it shall turn to rich plough land Before I change my dear!
Oh! Fairfield Church is water-bound From Autumn to the Spring; But it shall turn to high hill ground Before my bells do ring!
Oh! leave me walk on the Brookland Road, In the thunder and warm rain— Oh! leave me look where my love goed And p'raps I'll see her again! Low down—low down! Where the liddle green lanterns shine— Oh! maids, I've done with 'ee all but one, And she can never be mine!
*Earl Godwin of the Goodwin Sands(?)
THE KNIFE AND THE NAKED CHALK
The Run of the Downs
The Weald is good, the Downs are best— I'll give you the run of 'em, East to West. Beachy Head and Winddoor Hill, They were once and they are still. Firle, Mount Caburn and Mount Harry Go back as far as sums'll carry. Ditchling Beacon and Chanctonbury Ring, They have looked on many a thing; And what those two have missed between 'em I reckon Truleigh Hill has seen 'em. Highden, Bignor and Duncton Down Knew Old England before the Crown. Linch Down, Treyford and Sunwood Knew Old England before the Flood. And when you end on the Hampshire side— Butser's old as Time and Tide. The Downs are sheep, the Weald is corn, You be glad you are Sussex born!
The Knife and the Naked Chalk
The children went to the seaside for a month, and lived in a flint village on the bare windy chalk Downs, quite thirty miles away from home. They made friends with an old shepherd, called Mr Dudeney, who had known their Father when their Father was little. He did not talk like their own people in the Weald of Sussex, and he used different names for farm things, but he understood how they felt, and let them go with him. He had a tiny cottage about half a mile from the village, where his wife made mead from thyme honey, and nursed sick lambs in front of a coal fire, while Old Jim, who was Mr Dudeney's sheep-dog's father, lay at the door. They brought up beef bones for Old Jim (you must never give a sheep-dog mutton bones), and if Mr Dudeney happened to be far in the Downs, Mrs Dudeney would tell the dog to take them to him, and he did.
One August afternoon when the village water-cart had made the street smell specially townified, they went to look for their shepherd as usual, and, as usual, Old Jim crawled over the doorstep and took them in charge. The sun was hot, the dry grass was very slippery, and the distances were very distant.
'It's Just like the sea,' said Una, when Old Jim halted in the shade of a lonely flint barn on a bare rise. 'You see where you're going, and—you go there, and there's nothing between.'
Dan slipped off his shoes. 'When we get home I shall sit in the woods all day,' he said.
'Whuff!' said Old Jim, to show he was ready, and struck across a long rolling stretch of turf. Presently he asked for his beefbone.
'Not yet,' said Dan. 'Where's Mr Dudeney? Where's Master?' Old Jim looked as if he thought they were mad, and asked again.
'Don't you give it him,' Una cried. 'I'm not going to be left howling in a desert.'
'Show, boy! Show!' said Dan, for the Downs seemed as bare as the palm of your hand.
Old Jim sighed, and trotted forward. Soon they spied the blob of Mr Dudeney's hat against the sky a long way off.
'Right! All right!' said Dan. Old Jim wheeled round, took his bone carefully between his blunted teeth, and returned to the shadow of the old barn, looking just like a wolf. The children went on. Two kestrels hung bivvering and squealing above them. A gull flapped lazily along the white edge of the cliffs. The curves of the Downs shook a little in the heat, and so did Mr Dudeney's distant head.
They walked toward it very slowly and found themselves staring into a horseshoe-shaped hollow a hundred feet deep, whose steep sides were laced with tangled sheep-tracks. The flock grazed on the flat at the bottom, under charge of Young Jim. Mr Dudeney sat comfortably knitting on the edge of the slope, his crook between his knees. They told him what Old Jim had done.
'Ah, he thought you could see my head as soon as he did. The closeter you be to the turf the more you see things. You look warm-like,'said Mr Dudeney.
'We be,' said Una, flopping down. 'And tired.'
'Set beside o' me here. The shadow'll begin to stretch out in a little while, and a heat-shake o' wind will come up with it that'll overlay your eyes like so much wool.'
'We don't want to sleep,' said Una indignantly; but she settled herself as she spoke, in the first strip of early afternoon shade.
'O' course not. You come to talk with me same as your father used. He didn't need no dog to guide him to Norton Pit.'
'Well, he belonged here,' said Dan, and laid himself down at length on the turf.
'He did. And what beats me is why he went off to live among them messy trees in the Weald, when he might ha' stayed here and looked all about him. There's no profit to trees. They draw the lightning, and sheep shelter under 'em, and so, like as not, you'll lose a half-score ewes struck dead in one storm. Tck! Your father knew that.'
'Trees aren't messy.' Una rose on her elbow. 'And what about firewood? I don't like coal.'
'Eh? You lie a piece more uphill and you'll lie more natural,' said Mr Dudeney, with his provoking deaf smile. 'Now press your face down and smell to the turf. That's Southdown thyme which makes our Southdown mutton beyond compare, and, my mother told me, 'twill cure anything except broken necks, or hearts. I forget which.'
They sniffed, and somehow forgot to lift their cheeks from the soft thymy cushions.
'You don't get nothing like that in the Weald. Watercress, maybe?' said Mr Dudeney.
'But we've water—brooks full of it—where you paddle in hot weather,' Una replied, watching a yellow-and-violet-banded snail-shell close to her eye.
'Brooks flood. Then you must shift your sheep—let alone foot-rot afterward. I put more dependence on a dew-pond any day.'
'How's a dew-pond made?' said Dan, and tilted his hat over his eyes. Mr Dudeney explained.
The air trembled a little as though it could not make up its mind whether to slide into the Pit or move across the open. But it seemed easiest to go downhill, and the children felt one soft puff after another slip and sidle down the slope in fragrant breaths that baffed on their eyelids. The little whisper of the sea by the cliffs joined with the whisper of the wind over the grass, the hum of insects in the thyme, the ruffle and rustle of the flock below, and a thickish mutter deep in the very chalk beneath them. Mr Dudeney stopped explaining, and went on with his knitting. They were roused by voices. The shadow had crept halfway down the steep side of Norton Pit, and on the edge of it, his back to them, Puck sat beside a half-naked man who seemed busy at some work. The wind had dropped, and in that funnel of ground every least noise and movement reached them like whispers up a water-Pipe.
'That is clever,' said Puck, leaning over. 'How truly you shape it!'
'Yes, but what does The Beast care for a brittle flint tip? Bah!' The man flicked something contemptuously over his shoulder. It fell between Dan and Una—a beautiful dark-blue flint arrow-head still hot from the maker's hand.
The man reached for another stone, and worked away like a thrush with a snail-shell.
'Flint work is fool's work,' he said at last. 'One does it because one always did it; but when it comes to dealing with The Beast—no good!' He shook his shaggy head. 'The Beast was dealt with long ago. He has gone,' said Puck.
'He'll be back at lambing time. I know him.' He chipped very carefully, and the flints squeaked.
'Not he. Children can lie out on the Chalk now all day through and go home safe.'
'Can they? Well, call The Beast by his True Name, and I'll believe it,' the man replied. 'Surely!' Puck leaped to his feet, curved his hands round his mouth and shouted: 'Wolf! Wolf!'
Norton Pit threw back the echo from its dry sides—'Wuff!' Wuff!' like Young jim's bark.
'You see? You hear?' said Puck. 'Nobody answers. Grey Shepherd is gone. Feet-in-the-Night has run off. There are no more wolves.'
'Wonderful!' The man wiped his forehead as though he were hot. 'Who drove him away? You?'
'Many men through many years, each working in his own country. Were you one of them?' Puck answered.
The man slid his sheepskin cloak to his waist, and without a word pointed to his side, which was all seamed and blotched with scars. His arms, too, were dimpled from shoulder to elbow with horrible white dimples.
'I see,' said Puck. 'It is The Beast's mark. What did you use against him?' 'Hand, hammer, and spear, as our fathers did before us.'
'So? Then how'—Puck twitched aside the man's dark-brown cloak—'how did a Flint-worker come by that? Show, man, show!' He held out his little hand.
The man slipped a long dark iron knife, almost a short sword, from his belt, and after breathing on it, handed it hilt-first to Puck, who took it with his head on one side, as you should when you look at the works of a watch, squinted down the dark blade, and very delicately rubbed his forefinger from the point to the hilt.
'Good!' said he, in a surprised tone.
'It should be. The Children of the Night made it,' the man answered.
'So I see by the iron. What might it have cost you?'
'This!' The man raised his hand to his cheek. Puck whistled like a Weald starling.
'By the Great Rings of the Chalk!' he cried. 'Was that your price? Turn sunward that I may see better, and shut your eye.' He slipped his hand beneath the man's chin and swung him till he faced the children up the slope. They saw that his right eye was gone, and the eyelid lay shrunk. Quickly Puck turned him round again, and the two sat down.
'It was for the sheep. The sheep are the people,' said the man, in an ashamed voice. 'What else could I have done? You know, Old One.'
Puck sighed a little fluttering sigh. 'Take the knife. I listen.' The man bowed his head, drove the knife into the turf, and while it still quivered said: 'This is witness between us that I speak the thing that has been. Before my Knife and the Naked Chalk I speak. Touch!'
Puck laid a hand on the hilt. It stopped shaking. The children wriggled a little nearer.
'I am of the People of the Worked Flint. I am the one son of the Priestess who sells the Winds to the Men of the Sea. I am the Buyer of the Knife—the Keeper of the People,' the man began, in a sort of singing shout. 'These are my names in this country of the Naked Chalk, between the Trees and the Sea.'
'Yours was a great country. Your names are great too,' said Puck.
'One cannot feed some things on names and songs.' The man hit himself on the chest. 'It is better—always better—to count one's children safe round the fire, their Mother among them.'
'Ahai!' said Puck. 'I think this will be a very old tale.' 'I warm myself and eat at any fire that I choose, but there is no one to light me a fire or cook my meat. I sold all that when I bought the Magic Knife for my people. It was not right that The Beast should master man. What else could I have done?'
'I hear. I know. I listen,' said Puck.
'When I was old enough to take my place in the Sheepguard, The Beast gnawed all our country like a bone between his teeth. He came in behind the flocks at watering-time, and watched them round the Dew-ponds; he leaped into the folds between our knees at the shearing; he walked out alongside the grazing flocks, and chose his meat on the hoof while our boys threw flints at him; he crept by night 'into the huts, and licked the babe from between the mother's hands; he called his companions and pulled down men in broad daylight on the Naked Chalk. No—not always did he do so! This was his cunning! He would go away for a while to let us forget him. A year—two years perhaps—we neither smelt, nor heard, nor saw him. When our flocks had increased; when our men did not always look behind them; when children strayed from the fenced places; when our women walked alone to draw water—back, back, back came the Curse of the Chalk, Grey Shepherd, Feet-in-the-Night—The Beast, The Beast, The Beast!
'He laughed at our little brittle arrows and our poor blunt spears. He learned to run in under the stroke of the hammer. I think he knew when there was a flaw in the flint. Often it does not show till you bring it down on his snout. Then—Pouf!—-the false flint falls all to flinders, and you are left with the hammer-handle in your fist, and his teeth in your flank! I have felt them. At evening, too, in the dew, or when it has misted and rained, your spear-head lashings slack off, though you have kept them beneath your cloak all day. You are alone—but so close to the home ponds that you stop to tighten the sinews with hands, teeth, and a piece of driftwood. You bend over and pull—so! That is the minute for which he has followed you since the stars went out. "Aarh!" he "Wurr-aarh!" he says.' (Norton Pit gave back the growl like a pack of real wolves.) 'Then he is on your right shoulder feeling for the vein in your neck, and—perhaps your sheep run on without you. To fight The Beast is nothing, but to be despised by The Beast when he fights you—that is like his teeth in the heart! Old One, why is it that men desire so greatly, and can do so little?'
'I do not know. Did you desire so much?' said Puck.
'I desired to master The Beast. It is not right that The Beast should master man. But my people were afraid. Even, my Mother, the Priestess, was afraid when I told her what I desired. We were accustomed to be afraid of The Beast. When I was made a man, and a maiden—she was a Priestess—waited for me at the Dew-ponds, The Beast flitted from off the Chalk. Perhaps it was a sickness; perhaps he had gone to his Gods to learn how to do us new harm. But he went, and we breathed more freely. The women sang again; the children were not so much guarded; our flocks grazed far out. I took mine yonder'—he pointed inland to the hazy line of the Weald—'where the new grass was best. They grazed north. I followed till we were close to the Trees'—he lowered his voice—'close there where the Children of the Night live.' He pointed north again.
'Ah, now I remember a thing,' said Puck. 'Tell me, why did your people fear the Trees so extremely?'
'Because the Gods hate the Trees and strike them with lightning. We can see them burning for days all along the Chalk's edge. Besides, all the Chalk knows that the Children of the Night, though they worship our Gods, are magicians. When a man goes into their country, they change his spirit; they put words into his mouth; they make him like talking water. But a voice in my heart told me to go toward the north. While I watched my sheep there I saw three Beasts chasing a man, who ran toward the Trees. By this I knew he was a Child of the Night. We Flint-workers fear the Trees more than we fear The Beast. He had no hammer. He carried a knife like this one. A Beast leaped at him. He stretched out his knife. The Beast fell dead. The other Beasts ran away howling, which they would never have done from a Flint-worker. The man went in among the Trees. I looked for the dead Beast. He had been killed in a new way—by a single deep, clean cut, without bruise or tear, which had split his bad heart. Wonderful! So I saw that the man's knife was magic, and I thought how to get it,—thought strongly how to get it.
'When I brought the flocks to the shearing, my Mother the Priestess asked me, "What is the new thing which you have seen and I see in your face?" I said, "It is a sorrow to me"; and she answered, "All new things are sorrow. Sit in my place, and eat sorrow." I sat down in her place by the fire, where she talks to the ghosts in winter, and two voices spoke in my heart. One voice said, "Ask the Children of the Night for the Magic Knife. It is not fit that The Beast should master man." I listened to that voice.
'One voice said, "If you go among the Trees, the Children of the Night will change your spirit. Eat and sleep here." The other voice said, "Ask for the Knife." I listened to that voice.
'I said to my Mother in the morning, "I go away to find a thing for the people, but I do not know whether I shall return in my own shape." She answered, "Whether you live or die, or are made different, I am your Mother."
'True,' said Puck. 'The Old Ones themselves cannot change men's mothers even if they would.'
'Let us thank the Old Ones! I spoke to my Maiden, the Priestess who waited for me at the Dew-ponds. She promised fine things too.' The man laughed. 'I went away to that place where I had seen the magician with the knife. I lay out two days on the short grass before I ventured among the Trees. I felt my way before me with a stick. I was afraid of the terrible talking Trees. I was afraid of the ghosts in the branches; of the soft ground underfoot; of the red and black waters. I was afraid, above all, of the Change. It came!'
They saw him wipe his forehead once again, and his strong back-muscles quivered till he laid his hand on the knife-hilt.
'A fire without a flame burned in my head; an evil taste grew in my mouth; my eyelids shut hot over my eyes; my breath was hot between my teeth, and my hands were like the hands of a stranger. I was made to sing songs and to mock the Trees, though I was afraid of them. At the same time I saw myself laughing, and I was very sad for this fine young man, who was myself. Ah! The Children of the Night know magic.'
'I think that is done by the Spirits of the Mist. They change a man, if he sleeps among them,' said Puck. 'Had you slept in any mists?'
'Yes—but I know it was the Children of the Night. After three days I saw a red light behind the Trees, and I heard a heavy noise. I saw the Children of the Night dig red stones from a hole, and lay them in fires. The stones melted like tallow, and the men beat the soft stuff with hammers. I wished to speak to these men, but the words were changed in my mouth, and all I could say was, "Do not make that noise. It hurts my head." By this I knew that I was bewitched, and I clung to the Trees, and prayed the Children of the Night to take off their spells. They were cruel. They asked me many questions which they would never allow me to answer. They changed my words between my teeth till I wept. Then they led me into a hut and covered the floor with hot stones and dashed water on the stones, and sang charms till the sweat poured off me like water. I slept. When I waked, my own spirit—not the strange, shouting thing—was back in my body, and I was like a cool bright stone on the shingle between the sea and the sunshine. The magicians came to hear me—women and men—each wearing a Magic Knife. Their Priestess was their Ears and their Mouth.
'I spoke. I spoke many words that went smoothly along like sheep in order when their shepherd, standing on a mound, can count those coming, and those far off getting ready to come. I asked for Magic Knives for my people. I said that my people would bring meat, and milk, and wool, and lay them in the short grass outside the Trees, if the Children of the Night would leave Magic Knives for our people to take away. They were pleased. Their Priestess said, "For whose sake have you come?" I answered, "The sheep are the people. If The Beast kills our sheep, our people die. So I come for a Magic Knife to kill The Beast."
'She said, "We do not know if our God will let us trade with the people of the Naked Chalk. Wait till we have asked."
'When they came back from the Question-place (their Gods are our Gods), their Priestess said, "The God needs a proof that your words are true." I said, "What is the proof?" She said, "The God says that if you have come for the sake of your people you will give him your right eye to be put out; but if you have come for any other reason you will not give it. This proof is between you and the God. We ourselves are sorry."
'I said, "This is a hard proof. Is there no other road?"
'She said, "Yes. You can go back to your people with your two eyes in your head if you choose. But then you will not get any Magic Knives for your people."
'I said, "It would be easier if I knew that I were to be killed."
'She said, "Perhaps the God knew this too. See! I have made my knife hot."
'I said, "Be quick, then!" With her knife heated in the flame she put out my right eye. She herself did it. I am the son of a Priestess. She was a Priestess. It was not work for any common man.'
'True! Most true,' said Puck. 'No common man's work that. And, afterwards?'
'Afterwards I did not see out of that eye any more. I found also that a one eye does not tell you truly where things are. Try it!'
At this Dan put his hand over one eye, and reached for the flint arrow-head on the grass. He missed it by inches. 'It's true,' he whispered to Una. 'You can't judge distances a bit with only one eye.'
Puck was evidently making the same experiment, for the man laughed at him.
'I know it is so,' said he. 'Even now I am not always sure of my blow. I stayed with the Children of the Night till my eye healed. They said I was the son of Tyr, the God who put his right hand in a Beast's mouth. They showed me how they melted their red stone and made the Magic Knives of it. They told me the charms they sang over the fires and at the beatings. I can sing many charms.' Then he began to laugh like a boy.
'I was thinking of my journey home,' he said, 'and of the surprised Beast. He had come back to the Chalk. I saw him—I smelt his lairs as soon as ever I left the Trees. He did not know I had the Magic Knife—I hid it under my cloak—the Knife that the Priestess gave me. Ho! Ho! That happy day was too short! See! A Beast would wind me. "Wow!" he would say. "Here is my Flint-worker!" He would come leaping, tail in air; he would roll; he would lay his head between his paws out of merriness of heart at his warm, waiting meal. He would leap—and, oh, his eye in mid-leap when he saw—when he saw the knife held ready for him! It pierced his hide as a rush pierces curdled milk. Often he had no time to howl. I did not trouble to flay any beasts I killed. Sometimes I missed my blow. Then I took my little flint hammer and beat out his brains as he cowered. He made no fight. He knew the Knife! But The Beast is very cunning. Before evening all The Beasts had smelt the blood on my knife, and were running from me like hares. They knew! Then I walked as a man should—the Master of The Beast!
'So came I back to my Mother's house. There was a lamb to be killed. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and I told her all my tale. She said, "This is the work of a God." I kissed her and laughed. I went to my Maiden who waited for me at the Dew-ponds. There was a lamb to be killed. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and told her all my tale. She said, "It is the work of a God." I laughed, but she pushed me away, and being on my blind side, ran off before I could kiss her. I went to the Men of the Sheepguard at watering-time. There was a sheep to be killed for their meat. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and told them all my tale. They said, "It is the work of a God." I said, "We talk too much about Gods. Let us eat and be happy, and tomorrow I will take you to the Children of the Night, and each man will find a Magic Knife."
'I was glad to smell our sheep again; to see the broad sky from edge to edge, and to hear the sea. I slept beneath the stars in my cloak. The men talked among themselves.
'I led them, the next day, to the Trees, taking with me meat, wool, and curdled milk, as I had promised. We found the Magic Knives laid out on the grass, as the Children of the Night had promised. They watched us from among the Trees. Their Priestess called to me and said, "How is it with your people?" I said "Their hearts are changed. I cannot see their hearts as I used to." She said, "That is because you have only one eye. Come to me and I will be both your eyes." But I said, "I must show my people how to use their knives against The Beast, as you showed me how to use my knife." I said this because the Magic Knife does not balance like the flint. She said, "What you have done, you have done for the sake of a woman, and not for the sake of your people." I asked of her, "Then why did the God accept my right eye, and why are you so angry?" She answered, "Because any man can lie to a God, but no man can lie to a woman. And I am not angry with you. I am only very sorrowful for you. Wait a little, and you will see out of your one eye why I am sorry." So she hid herself.
'I went back with my people, each one carrying his Knife, and making it sing in the air—tssee-sssse. The Flint never sings. It mutters—ump-ump. The Beast heard. The Beast saw. He knew! Everywhere he ran away from us. We all laughed. As we walked over the grass my Mother's brother—the Chief on the Men's Side—he took off his Chief's necklace of yellow sea-stones.'
'How? Eh? Oh, I remember! Amber,' said Puck.
'And would have put them on my neck. I said, "No, I am content. What does my one eye matter if my other eye sees fat sheep and fat children running about safely?" My Mother's brother said to them, "I told you he would never take such things." Then they began to sing a song in the Old Tongue—The Song of Tyr. I sang with them, but my Mother's brother said, "This is your song, O Buyer of the Knife. Let us sing it, Tyr."
'Even then I did not understand, till I saw that—that no man stepped on my shadow; and I knew that they thought me to be a God, like the God Tyr, who gave his right hand to conquer a Great Beast.'
'By the Fire in the Belly of the Flint was that so?' Puck rapped out.
'By my Knife and the Naked Chalk, so it was! They made way for my shadow as though it had been a Priestess walking to the Barrows of the Dead. I was afraid. I said to myself, "My Mother and my Maiden will know I am not Tyr." But still I was afraid, with the fear of a man who falls into a steep flint-pit while he runs, and feels that it will be hard to climb out.
'When we came to the Dew-ponds all our people were there. The men showed their knives and told their tale. The sheep guards also had seen The Beast flying from us. The Beast went west across the river in packs—howling! He knew the Knife had come to the Naked Chalk at last—at last! He knew! So my work was done. I looked for my Maiden among the Priestesses. She looked at me, but she did not smile. She made the sign to me that our Priestesses must make when they sacrifice to the Old Dead in the Barrows. I would have spoken, but my Mother's brother made himself my Mouth, as though I had been one of the Old Dead in the Barrows for whom our Priests speak to the people on Midsummer Mornings.'
'I remember. Well I remember those Midsummer Mornings!' said Puck.
'Then I went away angrily to my Mother's house. She would have knelt before me. Then I was more angry, but she said, "Only a God would have spoken to me thus, a Priestess. A man would have feared the punishment of the Gods." I looked at her and I laughed. I could not stop my unhappy laughing. They called me from the door by the name of Tyr himself. A young man with whom I had watched my first flocks, and chipped my first arrow, and fought my first Beast, called me by that name in the Old Tongue. He asked my leave to take my Maiden. His eyes were lowered, his hands were on his forehead. He was full of the fear of a God, but of me, a man, he had no fear when he asked. I did not kill him. I said, "Call the maiden." She came also without fear—this very one that had waited for me, that had talked with me, by our Dew-ponds. Being a Priestess, she lifted her eyes to me. As I look on a hill or a cloud, so she looked at me. She spoke in the Old Tongue which Priestesses use when they make prayers to the Old Dead in the Barrows. She asked leave that she might light the fire in my companion's house—and that I should bless their children. I did not kill her. I heard my own voice, little and cold, say, "Let it be as you desire," and they went away hand in hand. My heart grew little and cold; a wind shouted in my ears; my eye darkened. I said to my Mother, "Can a God die?" I heard her say, "What is it? What is it, my son?" and I fell into darkness full of hammer-noises. I was not.'
'Oh, poor—poor God!' said Puck. 'And your wise Mother?'
'She knew. As soon as I dropped she knew. When my spirit came back I heard her whisper in my ear, "Whether you live or die, or are made different, I am your Mother." That was good—better even than the water she gave me and the going away of the sickness. Though I was ashamed to have fallen down, yet I was very glad. She was glad too. Neither of us wished to lose the other. There is only the one Mother for the one son. I heaped the fire for her, and barred the doors, and sat at her feet as before I went away, and she combed my hair, and sang.
'I said at last, "What is to be done to the people who say that I am Tyr?"
'She said, "He who has done a God-like thing must bear himself like a God. I see no way out of it. The people are now your sheep till you die. You cannot drive them off."
'I said, "This is a heavier sheep than I can lift." She said, "In time it will grow easy. In time perhaps you will not lay it down for any maiden anywhere. Be wise—be very wise, my son, for nothing is left you except the words, and the songs, and the worship of a God."
'Oh, poor God!' said Puck. 'But those are not altogether bad things.'
'I know they are not; but I would sell them all—all—all for one small child of my own, smearing himself with the ashes of our own house-fire.'
He wrenched his knife from the turf, thrust it into his belt and stood up.
'And yet, what else could I have done?' he said. 'The sheep are the people.'
'It is a very old tale,' Puck answered. 'I have heard the like of it not only on the Naked Chalk, but also among the Trees—under Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.'
The afternoon shadows filled all the quiet emptiness of Norton Pit. The children heard the sheep-bells and Young jim's busy bark above them, and they scrambled up the slope to the level.
'We let you have your sleep out,' said Mr Dudeney, as the flock scattered before them. 'It's making for tea-time now.'
'Look what I've found, said Dan, and held up a little blue flint arrow-head as fresh as though it had been chipped that very day.
'Oh,' said Mr Dudeney, 'the closeter you be to the turf the more you're apt to see things. I've found 'em often. Some says the fairies made 'em, but I says they was made by folks like ourselves—only a goodish time back. They're lucky to keep. Now, you couldn't ever have slept—not to any profit—among your father's trees same as you've laid out on Naked Chalk—could you?'
'One doesn't want to sleep in the woods,' said Una.
'Then what's the good of 'em?' said Mr Dudeney. 'Might as well set in the barn all day. Fetch 'em 'long, Jim boy!'
The Downs, that looked so bare and hot when they came, were full of delicious little shadow-dimples; the smell of the thyme and the salt mixed together on the south-west drift from the still sea; their eyes dazzled with the low sun, and the long grass under it looked golden. The sheep knew where their fold was, so Young Jim came back to his master, and they all four strolled home, the scabious-heads swishing about their ankles, and their shadows streaking behind them like the shadows of giants.
Song of the Men's Side
Once we feared The Beast—when he followed us we ran, Ran very fast though we knew It was not right that The Beast should master Man; But what could we Flint-workers do? The Beast only grinned at our spears round his ears— Grinned at the hammers that we made; But now we will hunt him for the life with the Knife— And this is the Buyer of the Blade!
Room for his shadow on the grass—let it pass! To left and right—stand clear! This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid! This is the great God Tyr!
Tyr thought hard till he hammered out a plan, For he knew it was not right (And it is not right) that The Beast should master Man; So he went to the Children of the Night. He begged a Magic Knife of their make for our sake. When he begged for the Knife they said: 'The price of the Knife you would buy is an eye!' And that was the price he paid.
Tell it to the Barrows of the Dead—run ahead! Shout it so the Women's Side can hear! This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid! This is the great God Tyr!
Our women and our little ones may walk on the Chalk, As far as we can see them and beyond. We shall not be anxious for our sheep when we keep Tally at the shearing-pond.
We can eat with both our elbows on our knees, if we please, We can sleep after meals in the sun; For Shepherd-of-the-Twilight is dismayed at the Blade, Feet-in-the-Night have run! Dog-without-a-Master goes away (Hai, Tyr aie!), Devil-in-the-Dusk has run!
Then: Room for his shadow on the grass—let it pass! To left and right—stand clear! This is the Buyer of the Blade—be afraid! This is the great God Tyr!
If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning, You mustn't take my stories for a guide. There's little left indeed of the city you will read of, And all the folk I write about have died. Now few will understand if you mention Talleyrand, Or remember what his cunning and his skill did. And the cabmen at the wharf do not know Count Zinnendorf, Nor the Church in Philadelphia he builded.
It is gone, gone, gone with lost Atlantis (Never say I didn't give you warning). In Seventeen Ninety-three 'twas there for all to see, But it's not in Philadelphia this morning.
If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning, You mustn't go by everything I've said. Bob Bicknell's Southern Stages have been laid aside for ages, But the Limited will take you there instead. Toby Hirte can't be seen at One Hundred and Eighteen, North Second Street—no matter when you call; And I fear you'll search in vain for the wash-house down the lane Where Pharaoh played the fiddle at the ball.
It is gone, gone, gone with Thebes the Golden (Never say I didn't give you warning). In Seventeen Ninety-four 'twas a famous dancing-floor— But it's not in Philadelphia this morning.
If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning, You must telegraph for rooms at some Hotel. You needn't try your luck at Epply's or the 'Buck,' Though the Father of his Country liked them well. It is not the slightest use to inquire for Adam Goos, Or to ask where Pastor Meder has removed—so You must treat as out-of-date the story I relate Of the Church in Philadelphia he loved so.
He is gone, gone, gone with Martin Luther (Never say I didn't give you warning). In Seventeen Ninety-five he was (rest his soul!) alive, But he's not in Philadelphia this morning. If you're off to Philadelphia this morning, And wish to prove the truth of what I say, I pledge my word you'll find the pleasant land behind Unaltered since Red Jacket rode that way. Still the pine-woods scent the noon; still the cat-bird sings his tune; Still Autumn sets the maple-forest blazing. Still the grape-vine through the dusk flings her soul-compelling musk; Still the fire-flies in the corn make night amazing. They are there, there, there with Earth immortal (Citizens, I give you friendly warning). The things that truly last when men and times have passed, They are all in Pennsylvania this morning!
It was almost the end of their visit to the seaside. They had turned themselves out of doors while their trunks were being packed, and strolled over the Downs towards the dull evening sea. The tide was dead low under the chalk cliffs, and the little wrinkled waves grieved along the sands up the coast to Newhaven and down the coast to long, grey Brighton, whose smoke trailed out across the Channel.
They walked to The Gap, where the cliff is only a few feet high. A windlass for hoisting shingle from the beach below stands at the edge of it. The Coastguard cottages are a little farther on, and an old ship's figurehead of a Turk in a turban stared at them over the wall. 'This time tomorrow we shall be at home, thank goodness,' said Una. 'I hate the sea!'
'I believe it's all right in the middle,' said Dan. 'The edges are the sorrowful parts.'
Cordery, the coastguard, came out of the cottage, levelled his telescope at some fishing-boats, shut it with a click and walked away. He grew smaller and smaller along the edge of the cliff, where neat piles of white chalk every few yards show the path even on the darkest night. 'Where's Cordery going?'said Una.
'Half-way to Newhaven,'said Dan. 'Then he'll meet the Newhaven coastguard and turn back. He says if coastguards were done away with, smuggling would start up at once.'
A voice on the beach under the cliff began to sing:
'The moon she shined on Telscombe Tye— On Telscombe Tye at night it was— She saw the smugglers riding by, A very pretty sight it was!'
Feet scrabbled on the flinty path. A dark, thin-faced man in very neat brown clothes and broad-toed shoes came up, followed by Puck.
'Three Dunkirk boats was standin' in!'
the man went on. 'Hssh!' said Puck. 'You'll shock these nice young people.'
'Oh! Shall I? Mille pardons!' He shrugged his shoulders almost up to his ears—spread his hands abroad, and jabbered in French. 'No comprenny?' he said. 'I'll give it you in Low German.' And he went off in another language, changing his voice and manner so completely that they hardly knew him for the same person. But his dark beady-brown eyes still twinkled merrily in his lean face, and the children felt that they did not suit the straight, plain, snuffy-brown coat, brown knee-breeches, and broad-brimmed hat. His hair was tied 'in a short pigtail which danced wickedly when he turned his head.
'Ha' done!' said Puck, laughing. 'Be one thing or t'other, Pharaoh—French or English or German—no great odds which.'
'Oh, but it is, though,' said Una quickly. 'We haven't begun German yet, and—and we're going back to our French next week.'
'Aren't you English?' said Dan. 'We heard you singing just now.'
'Aha! That was the Sussex side o' me. Dad he married a French girl out o' Boulogne, and French she stayed till her dyin' day. She was an Aurette, of course. We Lees mostly marry Aurettes. Haven't you ever come across the saying:
'Aurettes and Lees, Like as two peas. What they can't smuggle, They'll run over seas'?
'Then, are you a smuggler?' Una cried; and, 'Have you smuggled much?'said Dan.
Mr Lee nodded solemnly.
'Mind you,' said he, 'I don't uphold smuggling for the generality o' mankind—mostly they can't make a do of it—but I was brought up to the trade, d'ye see, in a lawful line o' descent on'—he waved across the Channel—'on both sides the water. 'Twas all in the families, same as fiddling. The Aurettes used mostly to run the stuff across from Boulogne, and we Lees landed it here and ran it up to London Town, by the safest road.'
'Then where did you live?' said Una.
'You mustn't ever live too close to your business in our trade. We kept our little fishing smack at Shoreham, but otherwise we Lees was all honest cottager folk—at Warminghurst under Washington—Bramber way—on the old Penn estate.'
'Ah!' said Puck, squatted by the windlass. 'I remember a piece about the Lees at Warminghurst, I do:
'There was never a Lee to Warminghurst That wasn't a gipsy last and first.
I reckon that's truth, Pharaoh.'
Pharaoh laughed. 'Admettin' that's true,' he said, 'my gipsy blood must be wore pretty thin, for I've made and kept a worldly fortune.'
'By smuggling?' Dan asked. 'No, in the tobacco trade.'
'You don't mean to say you gave up smuggling just to go and be a tobacconist!' Dan looked so disappointed they all had to laugh.
'I'm sorry; but there's all sorts of tobacconists,' Pharaoh replied. 'How far out, now, would you call that smack with the patch on her foresail?' He pointed to the fishing-boats.
'A scant mile,' said Puck after a quick look.
'Just about. It's seven fathom under her—clean sand. That was where Uncle Aurette used to sink his brandy kegs from Boulogne, and we fished 'em up and rowed 'em into The Gap here for the ponies to run inland. One thickish night in January of 'Ninety-three, Dad and Uncle Lot and me came over from Shoreham in the smack, and we found Uncle Aurette and the L'Estranges, my cousins, waiting for us in their lugger with New Year's presents from Mother's folk in Boulogne. I remember Aunt Cecile she'd sent me a fine new red knitted cap, which I put on then and there, for the French was having their Revolution in those days, and red caps was all the fashion. Uncle Aurette tells us that they had cut off their King Louis' head, and, moreover, the Brest forts had fired on an English man-o'-war. The news wasn't a week old.
'"That means war again, when we was only just getting used to the peace," says Dad. "Why can't King George's men and King Louis' men do on their uniforms and fight it out over our heads?"