Rewards and Fairies
by Rudyard Kipling
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

'"Me too, I wish that," says Uncle Aurette. "But they'll be pressing better men than themselves to fight for 'em. The press-gangs are out already on our side. You look out for yours."

'"I'll have to bide ashore and grow cabbages for a while, after I've run this cargo; but I do wish"—Dad says, going over the lugger's side with our New Year presents under his arm and young L'Estrange holding the lantern—"I just do wish that those folk which make war so easy had to run one cargo a month all this winter. It 'ud show 'em what honest work means."

'"Well, I've warned ye," says Uncle Aurette. "I'll be slipping off now before your Revenue cutter comes. Give my love to Sister and take care o' the kegs. It's thicking to southward." 'I remember him waving to us and young Stephen L'Estrange blowing out the lantern. By the time we'd fished up the kegs the fog came down so thick Dad judged it risky for me to row 'em ashore, even though we could hear the ponies stamping on the beach. So he and Uncle Lot took the dinghy and left me in the smack playing on my fiddle to guide 'em back.

'Presently I heard guns. Two of 'em sounded mighty like Uncle Aurette's three-pounders. He didn't go naked about the seas after dark. Then come more, which I reckoned was Captain Giddens in the Revenue cutter. He was open-handed with his compliments, but he would lay his guns himself. I stopped fiddling to listen, and I heard a whole skyful o' French up in the fog—and a high bow come down on top o' the smack. I hadn't time to call or think. I remember the smack heeling over, and me standing on the gunwale pushing against the ship's side as if I hoped to bear her off. Then the square of an open port, with a lantern in it, slid by in front of my nose. I kicked back on our gunwale as it went under and slipped through that port into the French ship—me and my fiddle.'

'Gracious!' said Una. 'What an adventure!'

'Didn't anybody see you come in?' said Dan.

'There wasn't any one there. I'd made use of an orlop-deck port—that's the next deck below the gun-deck, which by rights should not have been open at all. The crew was standing by their guns up above. I rolled on to a pile of dunnage in the dark and I went to sleep. When I woke, men was talking all round me, telling each other their names and sorrows just like Dad told me pressed men used to talk in the last war. Pretty soon I made out they'd all been hove aboard together by the press-gangs, and left to sort 'emselves. The ship she was the Embuscade, a thirty-six-gun Republican frigate, Captain Jean Baptiste Bompard, two days out of Le Havre, going to the United States with a Republican French Ambassador of the name of Genet. They had been up all night clearing for action on account of hearing guns in the fog. Uncle Aurette and Captain Giddens must have been passing the time o' day with each other off Newhaven, and the frigate had drifted past 'em. She never knew she'd run down our smack. Seeing so many aboard was total strangers to each other, I thought one more mightn't be noticed; so I put Aunt Cecile's red cap on the back of my head, and my hands in my pockets like the rest, and, as we French say, I circulated till I found the galley.

'"What! Here's one of 'em that isn't sick!" says a cook. "Take his breakfast to Citizen Bompard."

'I carried the tray to the cabin, but I didn't call this Bompard "Citizen." Oh no! "Mon Capitaine" was my little word, same as Uncle Aurette used to answer in King Louis' Navy. Bompard, he liked it. He took me on for cabin servant, and after that no one asked questions; and thus I got good victuals and light work all the way across to America. He talked a heap of politics, and so did his officers, and when this Ambassador Genet got rid of his land-stomach and laid down the law after dinner, a rooks' parliament was nothing compared to their cabin. I learned to know most of the men which had worked the French Revolution, through waiting at table and hearing talk about 'em. One of our forecas'le six-pounders was called Danton and t'other Marat. I used to play the fiddle between 'em, sitting on the capstan. Day in and day out Bompard and Monsieur Genet talked o' what France had done, and how the United States was going to join her to finish off the English in this war. Monsieur Genet said he'd justabout make the United States fight for France. He was a rude common man. But I liked listening. I always helped drink any healths that was proposed—specially Citizen Danton's who'd cut off King Louis' head. An all-Englishman might have been shocked—but that's where my French blood saved me.

'It didn't save me from getting a dose of ship's fever though, the week before we put Monsieur Genet ashore at Charleston; and what was left of me after bleeding and pills took the dumb horrors from living 'tween decks. The surgeon, Karaguen his name was, kept me down there to help him with his plasters—I was too weak to wait on Bompard. I don't remember much of any account for the next few weeks, till I smelled lilacs, and I looked out of the port, and we was moored to a wharf-edge and there was a town o' fine gardens and red-brick houses and all the green leaves o' God's world waiting for me outside.

'"What's this?" I said to the sick-bay man—Old Pierre Tiphaigne he was. "Philadelphia," says Pierre. "You've missed it all. We're sailing next week."

'I just turned round and cried for longing to be amongst the laylocks.

'"If that's your trouble," says old Pierre, "you go straight ashore. None'll hinder you. They're all gone mad on these coasts—French and American together. 'Tisn't my notion o' war." Pierre was an old King Louis man.

'My legs was pretty tottly, but I made shift to go on deck, which it was like a fair. The frigate was crowded with fine gentlemen and ladies pouring in and out. They sung and they waved French flags, while Captain Bompard and his officers—yes, and some of the men—speechified to all and sundry about war with England. They shouted, "Down with England!"—"Down with Washington!"—"Hurrah for France and the Republic!" I couldn't make sense of it. I wanted to get out from that crunch of swords and petticoats and sit in a field. One of the gentlemen said to me, "Is that a genuine cap o' Liberty you're wearing?" 'Twas Aunt Cecile's red one, and pretty near wore out. "Oh yes!" I says, "straight from France." "I'll give you a shilling for it," he says, and with that money in my hand and my fiddle under my arm I squeezed past the entry-port and went ashore. It was like a dream—meadows, trees, flowers, birds, houses, and people all different! I sat me down in a meadow and fiddled a bit, and then I went in and out the streets, looking and smelling and touching, like a little dog at a fair. Fine folk was setting on the white stone doorsteps of their houses, and a girl threw me a handful of laylock sprays, and when I said "Merci" without thinking, she said she loved the French. They all was the fashion in the city. I saw more tricolour flags in Philadelphia than ever I'd seen in Boulogne, and every one was shouting for war with England. A crowd o' folk was cheering after our French Ambassador—that same Monsieur Genet which we'd left at Charleston. He was a-horseback behaving as if the place belonged to him—and commanding all and sundry to fight the British. But I'd heard that before. I got into a long straight street as wide as the Broyle, where gentlemen was racing horses. I'm fond o' horses. Nobody hindered 'em, and a man told me it was called Race Street o' purpose for that. Then I followed some black niggers, which I'd never seen close before; but I left them to run after a great, proud, copper-faced man with feathers in his hair and a red blanket trailing behind him. A man told me he was a real Red Indian called Red Jacket, and I followed him into an alley-way off Race Street by Second Street, where there was a fiddle playing. I'm fond o' fiddling. The Indian stopped at a baker's shop—Conrad Gerhard's it was—and bought some sugary cakes. Hearing what the price was I was going to have some too, but the Indian asked me in English if I was hungry. "Oh yes!" I says. I must have looked a sore scrattel. He opens a door on to a staircase and leads the way up. We walked into a dirty little room full of flutes and fiddles and a fat man fiddling by the window, in a smell of cheese and medicines fit to knock you down. I was knocked down too, for the fat man jumped up and hit me a smack in the face. I fell against an old spinet covered with pill-boxes and the pills rolled about the floor. The Indian never moved an eyelid.

'"Pick up the pills! Pick up the pills!" the fat man screeches.

'I started picking 'em up—hundreds of 'em—meaning to run out under the Indian's arm, but I came on giddy all over and I sat down. The fat man went back to his fiddling.

'"Toby!" says the Indian after quite a while. "I brought the boy to be fed, not hit."

'"What?" says Toby, "I thought it was Gert Schwankfelder." He put down his fiddle and took a good look at me. "Himmel!" he says. "I have hit the wrong boy. It is not the new boy. Why are you not the new boy? Why are you not Gert Schwankfelder?"

'"I don't know," I said. "The gentleman in the pink blanket brought me."

'Says the Indian, "He is hungry, Toby. Christians always feed the hungry. So I bring him."

'"You should have said that first," said Toby. He pushed plates at me and the Indian put bread and pork on them, and a glass of Madeira wine. I told him I was off the French ship, which I had joined on account of my mother being French. That was true enough when you think of it, and besides I saw that the French was all the fashion in Philadelphia. Toby and the Indian whispered and I went on picking up the pills.

'"You like pills—eh?" says Toby. "No," I says. "I've seen our ship's doctor roll too many of em."

'"Ho!" he says, and he shoves two bottles at me. "What's those?"

'"Calomel," I says. "And t'other's senna."

'"Right," he says. "One week have I tried to teach Gert Schwankfelder the difference between them, yet he cannot tell. You like to fiddle?" he says. He'd just seen my kit on the floor.

'"Oh yes!" says I.

'"Oho!" he says. "What note is this?" drawing his bow across.

'He meant it for A, so I told him it was.

'"My brother," he says to the Indian. "I think this is the hand of Providence! I warned that Gert if he went to play upon the wharves any more he would hear from me. Now look at this boy and say what you think."

'The Indian looked me over whole minutes—there was a musical clock on the wall and dolls came out and hopped while the hour struck. He looked me over all the while they did it.

'"Good," he says at last. "This boy is good."

'"Good, then," says Toby. "Now I shall play my fiddle and you shall sing your hymn, brother. Boy, go down to the bakery and tell them you are young Gert Schwankfelder that was. The horses are in Davy jones's locker. If you ask any questions you shall hear from me."

'I left 'em singing hymns and I went down to old Conrad Gerhard. He wasn't at all surprised when I told him I was young Gert Schwankfelder that was. He knew Toby. His wife she walked me into the back-yard without a word, and she washed me and she cut my hair to the edge of a basin, and she put me to bed, and oh! how I slept—how I slept in that little room behind the oven looking on the flower garden! I didn't know Toby went to the Embuscade that night and bought me off Dr Karaguen for twelve dollars and a dozen bottles of Seneca Oil. Karaguen wanted a new lace to his coat, and he reckoned I hadn't long to live; so he put me down as "discharged sick."

'I like Toby,' said Una.

'Who was he?' said Puck.

'Apothecary Tobias Hirte,' Pharaoh replied. 'One Hundred and Eighteen, Second Street—the famous Seneca Oil man, that lived half of every year among the Indians. But let me tell my tale my own way, same as his brown mare used to go to Lebanon.'

'Then why did he keep her in Davy Jones's locker?' Dan asked. 'That was his joke. He kept her under David Jones's hat shop in the "Buck" tavern yard, and his Indian friends kept their ponies there when they visited him. I looked after the horses when I wasn't rolling pills on top of the old spinet, while he played his fiddle and Red Jacket sang hymns. I liked it. I had good victuals, light work, a suit o' clean clothes, a plenty music, and quiet, smiling German folk all around that let me sit in their gardens. My first Sunday, Toby took me to his church in Moravian Alley; and that was in a garden too. The women wore long-eared caps and handkerchiefs. They came in at one door and the men at another, and there was a brass chandelier you could see your face in, and a nigger-boy to blow the organ bellows. I carried Toby's fiddle, and he played pretty much as he chose all against the organ and the singing. He was the only one they let do it, for they was a simple-minded folk. They used to wash each other's feet up in the attic to keep 'emselves humble: which Lord knows they didn't need.'

'How very queer!' said Una.

Pharaoh's eyes twinkled. 'I've met many and seen much,' he said; 'but I haven't yet found any better or quieter or forbearinger people than the Brethren and Sistern of the Moravian Church in Philadelphia. Nor will I ever forget my first Sunday—the service was in English that week—with the smell of the flowers coming in from Pastor Meder's garden where the big peach tree is, and me looking at all the clean strangeness and thinking of 'tween decks on the Embuscade only six days ago. Being a boy, it seemed to me it had lasted for ever, and was going on for ever. But I didn't know Toby then. As soon as the dancing clock struck midnight that Sunday—I was lying under the spinet—I heard Toby's fiddle. He'd just done his supper, which he always took late and heavy. "Gert," says he, "get the horses. Liberty and Independence for Ever! The flowers appear upon the earth, and the time of the singing of birds is come. We are going to my country seat in Lebanon."

'I rubbed my eyes, and fetched 'em out of the "Buck" stables. Red Jacket was there saddling his, and when I'd packed the saddle-bags we three rode up Race Street to the Ferry by starlight. So we went travelling. It's a kindly, softly country there, back of Philadelphia among the German towns, Lancaster way. Little houses and bursting big barns, fat cattle, fat women, and all as peaceful as Heaven might be if they farmed there. Toby sold medicines out of his saddlebags, and gave the French war-news to folk along the roads. Him and his long-hilted umberell was as well known as the stage-coaches. He took orders for that famous Seneca Oil which he had the secret of from Red Jacket's Indians, and he slept in friends' farmhouses, but he would shut all the windows; so Red Jacket and me slept outside. There's nothing to hurt except snakes—and they slip away quick enough if you thrash in the bushes.'

'I'd have liked that!' said Dan.

'I'd no fault to find with those days. In the cool o' the morning the cat-bird sings. He's something to listen to. And there's a smell of wild grape-vine growing in damp hollows which you drop into, after long rides in the heat, which is beyond compare for sweetness. So's the puffs out of the pine woods of afternoons. Come sundown, the frogs strike up, and later on the fireflies dance in the corn. Oh me, the fireflies in the corn! We were a week or ten days on the road, tacking from one place to another—such as Lancaster, Bethlehem-Ephrata—"thou Bethlehem-Ephrata." No odds—I loved the going about. And so we jogged 'into dozy little Lebanon by the Blue Mountains, where Toby had a cottage and a garden of all fruits. He come north every year for this wonderful Seneca Oil the Seneca Indians made for him. They'd never sell to any one else, and he doctored 'em with von Swieten pills, which they valued more than their own oil. He could do what he chose with them, and, of course, he tried to make them Moravians. The Senecas are a seemly, quiet people, and they'd had trouble enough from white men—American and English—during the wars, to keep 'em in that walk. They lived on a Reservation by themselves away off by their lake. Toby took me up there, and they treated me as if I was their own blood brother. Red Jacket said the mark of my bare feet in the dust was just like an Indian's and my style of walking was similar. I know I took to their ways all over.'

'Maybe the gipsy drop in your blood helped you?' said Puck.

'Sometimes I think it did,' Pharaoh went on. 'Anyhow, Red Jacket and Cornplanter, the other Seneca chief, they let me be adopted into the tribe. It's only a compliment, of course, but Toby was angry when I showed up with my face painted. They gave me a side-name which means "Two Tongues," because, d'ye see, I talked French and English.

'They had their own opinions (I've heard 'em) about the French and the English, and the Americans. They'd suffered from all of 'em during the wars, and they only wished to be left alone. But they thought a heap of the President of the United States. Cornplanter had had dealings with him in some French wars out West when General Washington was only a lad. His being President afterwards made no odds to 'em. They always called him Big Hand, for he was a large-fisted man, and he was all of their notion of a white chief. Cornplanter 'ud sweep his blanket round him, and after I'd filled his pipe he'd begin—"In the old days, long ago, when braves were many and blankets were few, Big Hand said-" If Red Jacket agreed to the say-so he'd trickle a little smoke out of the corners of his mouth. If he didn't, he'd blow through his nostrils. Then Cornplanter 'ud stop and Red Jacket 'ud take on. Red Jacket was the better talker of the two. I've laid and listened to 'em for hours. Oh! they knew General Washington well. Cornplanter used to meet him at Epply's—the great dancing-place in the city before District Marshal William Nichols bought it. They told me he was always glad to see 'em, and he'd hear 'em out to the end if they had anything on their minds. They had a good deal in those days. I came at it by degrees, after I was adopted into the tribe. The talk up in Lebanon and everywhere else that summer was about the French war with England and whether the United States 'ud join in with France or make a peace treaty with England. Toby wanted peace so as he could go about the Reservation buying his oils. But most of the white men wished for war, and they was angry because the President wouldn't give the sign for it. The newspaper said men was burning Guy Fawkes images of General Washington and yelling after him in the streets of Philadelphia. You'd have been astonished what those two fine old chiefs knew of the ins and outs of such matters. The little I've learned of politics I picked up from Cornplanter and Red Jacket on the Reservation. Toby used to read the Aurora newspaper. He was what they call a "Democrat," though our Church is against the Brethren concerning themselves with politics.'

'I hate politics, too,' said Una, and Pharaoh laughed.

'I might ha' guessed it,' he said. 'But here's something that isn't politics. One hot evening late in August, Toby was reading the newspaper on the stoop and Red Jacket was smoking under a peach tree and I was fiddling. Of a sudden Toby drops his Aurora.

'"I am an oldish man, too fond of my own comforts," he says. "I will go to the Church which is in Philadelphia. My brother, lend me a spare pony. I must be there tomorrow night."

'"Good!" says Red Jacket, looking at the sun. "My brother shall be there. I will ride with him and bring back the ponies."

'I went to pack the saddle-bags. Toby had cured me of asking questions. He stopped my fiddling if I did. Besides, Indians don't ask questions much and I wanted to be like 'em.

'When the horses were ready I jumped up.

'"Get off," says Toby. "Stay and mind the cottage till I come back. The Lord has laid this on me, not on you. I wish He hadn't."

'He powders off down the Lancaster road, and I sat on the doorstep wondering after him. When I picked up the paper to wrap his fiddle-strings in, I spelled out a piece about the yellow fever being in Philadelphia so dreadful every one was running away. I was scared, for I was fond of Toby. We never said much to each other, but we fiddled together, and music's as good as talking to them that understand.'

'Did Toby die of yellow fever?'Una asked.

'Not him! There's justice left in the world still. He went down to the City and bled 'em well again in heaps. He sent back word by Red Jacket that, if there was war or he died, I was to bring the oils along to the City, but till then I was to go on working in the garden and Red Jacket was to see me do it. Down at heart all Indians reckon digging a squaw's business, and neither him nor Cornplanter, when he relieved watch, was a hard task-Master. We hired a nigger-boy to do our work, and a lazy grinning runagate he was. When I found Toby didn't die the minute he reached town, why, boylike, I took him off my mind and went with my Indians again. Oh! those days up north at Canasedago, running races and gambling with the Senecas, or bee-hunting 'in the woods, or fishing in the lake.' Pharaoh sighed and looked across the water. 'But it's best,' he went on suddenly, 'after the first frosts. You roll out o' your blanket and find every leaf left green over night turned red and yellow, not by trees at a time, but hundreds and hundreds of miles of 'em, like sunsets splattered upside down. On one of such days—the maples was flaming scarlet and gold, and the sumach bushes were redder—Cornplanter and Red Jacket came out in full war-dress, making the very leaves look silly: feathered war-bonnets, yellow doeskin leggings, fringed and tasselled, red horse-blankets, and their bridles feathered and shelled and beaded no bounds. I thought it was war against the British till I saw their faces weren't painted, and they only carried wrist-whips. Then I hummed "Yankee Doodle" at 'em. They told me they was going to visit Big Hand and find out for sure whether he meant to join the French in fighting the English or make a peace treaty with England. I reckon those two would ha' gone out on the war-path at a nod from Big Hand, but they knew well, if there was war 'twixt England and the United States, their tribe 'ud catch it from both parties same as in all the other wars. They asked me to come along and hold the ponies. That puzzled me, because they always put their ponies up at the "Buck" or Epply's when they went to see General Washington in the city, and horse-holding is a nigger's job. Besides, I wasn't exactly dressed for it.'

'D'you mean you were dressed like an Indian?'Dan demanded.

Pharaoh looked a little abashed. 'This didn't happen at Lebanon,' he said, 'but a bit farther north, on the Reservation; and at that particular moment of time, so far as blanket, hair-band, moccasins, and sunburn went, there wasn't much odds 'twix' me and a young Seneca buck. You may laugh'—he smoothed down his long-skirted brown coat—'but I told you I took to their ways all over. I said nothing, though I was bursting to let out the war-whoop like the young men had taught me.'

'No, and you don't let out one here, either,' said Puck before Dan could ask. 'Go on, Brother Square-toes.'

'We went on.' Pharaoh's narrow dark eyes gleamed and danced. 'We went on—forty, fifty miles a day, for days on end—we three braves. And how a great tall Indian a-horse-back can carry his war-bonnet at a canter through thick timber without brushing a feather beats me! My silly head was banged often enough by low branches, but they slipped through like running elk. We had evening hymn-singing every night after they'd blown their pipe-smoke to the quarters of heaven. Where did we go? I'll tell you, but don't blame me if you're no wiser. We took the old war-trail from the end of the Lake along the East Susquehanna through the Nantego country, right down to Fort Shamokin on the Senachse river. We crossed the Juniata by Fort Granville, got into Shippensberg over the hills by the Ochwick trail, and then to Williams Ferry (it's a bad one). From Williams Ferry, across the Shanedore, over the Blue Mountains, through Ashby's Gap, and so south-east by south from there, till we found the President at the back of his own plantations. I'd hate to be trailed by Indians in earnest. They caught him like a partridge on a stump. After we'd left our ponies, we scouted forward through a woody piece, and, creeping slower and slower, at last if my moccasins even slipped Red Jacket 'ud turn and frown. I heard voices—Monsieur Genet's for choice—long before I saw anything, and we pulled up at the edge of a clearing where some niggers in grey-and-red liveries were holding horses, and half-a-dozen gentlemen—but one was Genet—were talking among felled timber. I fancy they'd come to see Genet a piece on his road, for his portmantle was with him. I hid in between two logs as near to the company as I be to that old windlass there. I didn't need anybody to show me Big Hand. He stood up, very still, his legs a little apart, listening to Genet, that French Ambassador, which never had more manners than a Bosham tinker. Genet was as good as ordering him to declare war on England at once. I had heard that clack before on the Embuscade. He said he'd stir up the whole United States to have war with England, whether Big Hand liked it or not.

'Big Hand heard him out to the last end. I looked behind me, and my two chiefs had vanished like smoke. Says Big Hand, "That is very forcibly put, Monsieur Genet—"

'"Citizen—citizen!" the fellow spits in. "I, at least, am a Republican!"

"Citizen Genet," he says, "you may be sure it will receive my fullest consideration." This seemed to take Citizen Genet back a piece. He rode off grumbling, and never gave his nigger a penny. No gentleman!

'The others all assembled round Big Hand then, and, in their way, they said pretty much what Genet had said. They put it to him, here was France and England at war, in a manner of speaking, right across the United States' stomach, and paying no regards to any one. The French was searching American ships on pretence they was helping England, but really for to steal the goods. The English was doing the same, only t'other way round, and besides searching, they was pressing American citizens into their Navy to help them fight France, on pretence that those Americans was lawful British subjects. His gentlemen put this very clear to Big Hand. It didn't look to them, they said, as though the United States trying to keep out of the fight was any advantage to her, because she only catched it from both French and English. They said that nine out of ten good Americans was crazy to fight the English then and there. They wouldn't say whether that was right or wrong; they only wanted Big Hand to turn it over in his mind. He did—for a while. I saw Red Jacket and Cornplanter watching him from the far side of the clearing, and how they had slipped round there was another mystery. Then Big Hand drew himself up, and he let his gentlemen have it.'

'Hit 'em?' Dan asked.

'No, nor yet was it what you might call swearing. He—he blasted 'em with his natural speech. He asked them half-a-dozen times over whether the United States had enough armed ships for any shape or sort of war with any one. He asked 'em, if they thought she had those ships, to give him those ships, and they looked on the ground, as if they expected to find 'em there. He put it to 'em whether, setting ships aside, their country—I reckon he gave 'em good reasons—whether the United States was ready or able to face a new big war; she having but so few years back wound up one against England, and being all holds full of her own troubles. As I said, the strong way he laid it all before 'em blasted 'em, and when he'd done it was like a still in the woods after a storm. A little man—but they all looked little—pipes up like a young rook in a blowed-down nest, "Nevertheless, General, it seems you will be compelled to fight England." Quick Big Hand wheeled on him, "And is there anything in my past which makes you think I am averse to fighting Great Britain?"

'Everybody laughed except him. "Oh, General, you mistake us entirely!" they says. "I trust so," he says. "But I know my duty. We must have peace with England."

'"At any price?" says the man with the rook's voice.

'"At any price," says he, word by word. "Our ships will be searched—our citizens will be pressed, but—"

'"Then what about the Declaration of Independence?" says one.

'"Deal with facts, not fancies," says Big Hand. "The United States are in no position to fight England."

'"But think of public opinion," another one starts up. "The feeling in Philadelphia alone is at fever heat."

'He held up one of his big hands. "Gentlemen," he says—slow he spoke, but his voice carried far—"I have to think of our country. Let me assure you that the treaty with Great Britain will be made though every city in the Union burn me in effigy."

'"At any price?" the actor-like chap keeps on croaking.

'"The treaty must be made on Great Britain's own terms. What else can I do?" 'He turns his back on 'em and they looked at each other and slinked off to the horses, leaving him alone: and then I saw he was an old man. Then Red Jacket and Cornplanter rode down the clearing from the far end as though they had just chanced along. Back went Big Hand's shoulders, up went his head, and he stepped forward one single pace with a great deep Hough! so pleased he was. That was a statelified meeting to behold—three big men, and two of 'em looking like jewelled images among the spattle of gay-coloured leaves. I saw my chiefs' war-bonnets sinking together, down and down. Then they made the sign which no Indian makes outside of the Medicine Lodges—a sweep of the right hand just clear of the dust and an inbend of the left knee at the same time, and those proud eagle feathers almost touched his boot-top.'

'What did it mean?' said Dan.

'Mean!' Pharaoh cried. 'Why it's what you—what we—it's the Sachems' way of sprinkling the sacred corn-meal in front of—oh! it's a piece of Indian compliment really, and it signifies that you are a very big chief.

'Big Hand looked down on 'em. First he says quite softly, "My brothers know it is not easy to be a chief." Then his voice grew. "My children," says he, "what is in your minds?"

'Says Cornplanter, "We came to ask whether there will be war with King George's men, but we have heard what our Father has said to his chiefs. We will carry away that talk in our hearts to tell to our people."

'"No," says Big Hand. "Leave all that talk behind—it was between white men only—but take this message from me to your people—'There will be no war.'"

'His gentlemen were waiting, so they didn't delay him-, only Cornplanter says, using his old side-name, "Big Hand, did you see us among the timber just now?"

'"Surely," says he. "You taught me to look behind trees when we were both young." And with that he cantered off.

'Neither of my chiefs spoke till we were back on our ponies again and a half-hour along the home-trail. Then Cornplanter says to Red Jacket, "We will have the Corn-dance this year. There will be no war." And that was all there was to it.'

Pharaoh stood up as though he had finished.

'Yes,' said Puck, rising too. 'And what came out of it in the long run?'

'Let me get at my story my own way,'was the answer. 'Look! it's later than I thought. That Shoreham smack's thinking of her supper.' The children looked across the darkening Channel. A smack had hoisted a lantern and slowly moved west where Brighton pier lights ran out in a twinkling line. When they turned round The Gap was empty behind them.

'I expect they've packed our trunks by now,' said Dan. 'This time tomorrow we'll be home.'


If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim, If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!


A St Helena Lullaby

How far is St Helena from a little child at play? What makes you want to wander there with all the world between? Oh, Mother, call your son again or else he'll run away. (No one thinks of winter when the grass is green!)

How far is St Helena from a fight in Paris street? I haven't time to answer now—the men are falling fast. The guns begin to thunder, and the drums begin to beat (If you take the first step you will take the last!)

How far is St Helena from the field at Austerlitz? You couldn't hear me if I told—so loud the cannons roar. But not so far for people who are living by their wits. ('Gay go up' means 'gay go down' the wide world o'er!)

How far is St Helena from an Emperor of France? I cannot see—I cannot tell—the crowns they dazzle so. The Kings sit down to dinner, and the Queens stand up to dance. (After open weather you may look for snow!)

How far is St Helena from the Capes of Trafalgar? A longish way—a longish way—with ten year more to run. It's South across the water underneath a setting star. (What you cannot finish you must leave undone!)

How far is St Helena from the Beresina ice? An ill way—a chill way—the ice begins to crack. But not so far for gentlemen who never took advice. (When you can't go forward you must e'en come back!)

How far is St Helena from the field of Waterloo? A near way—a clear way—the ship will take you soon. A pleasant place for gentlemen with little left to do. (Morning never tries you till the afternoon!)

How far from St Helena to the Gate of Heaven's Grace? That no one knows—that no one knows—and no one ever will. But fold your hands across your heart and cover up your face, And after all your trapesings, child, lie still!

'A Priest in Spite of Himself'

The day after they came home from the sea-side they set out on a tour of inspection to make sure everything was as they had left it. Soon they discovered that old Hobden had blocked their best hedge-gaps with stakes and thorn-bundles, and had trimmed up the hedges where the blackberries were setting.

'It can't be time for the gipsies to come along,' said Una. 'Why, it was summer only the other day!'

'There's smoke in Low Shaw!' said Dan, sniffing. 'Let's make sure!'

They crossed the fields towards the thin line of blue smoke that leaned above the hollow of Low Shaw which lies beside the King's Hill road. It used to be an old quarry till somebody planted it, and you can look straight down into it from the edge of Banky Meadow.

'I thought so,' Dan whispered, as they came up to the fence at the edge of the larches. A gipsy-van—not the show-man's sort, but the old black kind, with little windows high up and a baby-gate across the door—was getting ready to leave. A man was harnessing the horses; an old woman crouched over the ashes of a fire made out of broken fence-rails; and a girl sat on the van-steps singing to a baby on her lap. A wise-looking, thin dog snuffed at a patch of fur on the ground till the old woman put it carefully in the middle of the fire. The girl reached back inside the van and tossed her a paper parcel. This was laid on the fire too, and they smelt singed feathers.

'Chicken feathers!' said Dan. 'I wonder if they are old Hobden's.'

Una sneezed. The dog growled and crawled to the girl's feet, the old woman fanned the fire with her hat, while the man led the horses up to the shafts, They all moved as quickly and quietly as snakes over moss.

'Ah!' said the girl. 'I'll teach you!' She beat the dog, who seemed to expect it.

'Don't do that,' Una called down. 'It wasn't his fault.'

'How do you know what I'm beating him for?' she answered.

'For not seeing us,' said Dan. 'He was standing right in the smoke, and the wind was wrong for his nose, anyhow.'

The girl stopped beating the dog, and the old woman fanned faster than ever.

'You've fanned some of your feathers out of the fire,' said Una. 'There's a tail-feather by that chestnut-tot.'

'What of it?' said the old woman, as she grabbed it.

'Oh, nothing!' said Dan. 'Only I've heard say that tail-feathers are as bad as the whole bird, sometimes.'

That was a saying of Hobden's about pheasants. Old Hobden always burned all feather and fur before he sat down to eat.

'Come on, mother,' the man whispered. The old woman climbed into the van, and the horses drew it out of the deep-rutted shaw on to the hard road.

The girl waved her hands and shouted something they could not catch.

'That was gipsy for "Thank you kindly, Brother and Sister,"' said Pharaoh Lee.

He was standing behind them, his fiddle under his arm. 'Gracious, you startled me!' said Una.

'You startled old Priscilla Savile,' Puck called from below them. 'Come and sit by their fire. She ought to have put it out before they left.'

They dropped down the ferny side of the shaw. Una raked the ashes together, Dan found a dead wormy oak branch that burns without flame, and they watched the smoke while Pharaoh played a curious wavery air.

'That's what the girl was humming to the baby,' said Una.

'I know it,'he nodded, and went on:

'Ai Lumai, Lumai, Lumai! Luludia! Ai Luludia!'

He passed from one odd tune to another, and quite forgot the children. At last Puck asked him to go on with his adventures in Philadelphia and among the Seneca Indians.

'I'm telling it,' he said, staring straight in front of him as he played. 'Can't you hear?'

'Maybe, but they can't. Tell it aloud,' said Puck.

Pharaoh shook himself, laid his fiddle beside him, and began:

'I'd left Red Jacket and Cornplanter riding home with me after Big Hand had said that there wouldn't be any war. That's all there was to it. We believed Big Hand and we went home again—we three braves. When we reached Lebanon we found Toby at the cottage with his waistcoat a foot too big for him—so hard he had worked amongst the yellow-fever people. He beat me for running off with the Indians, but 'twas worth it—I was glad to see him,—and when we went back to Philadelphia for the winter, and I was told how he'd sacrificed himself over sick people in the yellow fever, I thought the world and all of him. No, I didn't neither. I'd thought that all along. That yellow fever must have been something dreadful. Even in December people had no more than begun to trinkle back to town. Whole houses stood empty and the niggers was robbing them out. But I can't call to mind that any of the Moravian Brethren had died. It seemed like they had just kept on with their own concerns, and the good Lord He'd just looked after 'em. That was the winter—yes, winter of 'Ninety-three—the Brethren bought a stove for the church. Toby spoke in favour of it because the cold spoiled his fiddle hand, but many thought stove-heat not in the Bible, and there was yet a third party which always brought hickory coal foot-warmers to service and wouldn't speak either way. They ended by casting the Lot for it, which is like pitch-and-toss. After my summer with the Senecas, church-stoves didn't highly interest me, so I took to haunting round among the French emigres which Philadelphia was full of. My French and my fiddling helped me there, d'ye see. They come over in shiploads from France, where, by what I made out, every one was killing every one else by any means, and they spread 'emselves about the city—mostly in Drinker's Alley and Elfrith's Alley—and they did odd jobs till times should mend. But whatever they stooped to, they were gentry and kept a cheerful countenance, and after an evening's fiddling at one of their poor little proud parties, the Brethren seemed old-fashioned. Pastor Meder and Brother Adam Goos didn't like my fiddling for hire, but Toby said it was lawful in me to earn my living by exercising my talents. He never let me be put upon.

'In February of 'Ninety-four—No, March it must have been, because a new Ambassador called Faucher had come from France, with no more manners than Genet the old one—in March, Red Jacket came in from the Reservation bringing news of all kind friends there. I showed him round the city, and we saw General Washington riding through a crowd of folk that shouted for war with England. They gave him quite rough music, but he looked 'twixt his horse's ears and made out not to notice. His stirrup brished Red Jacket's elbow, and Red Jacket whispered up, "My brother knows it is not easy to be a chief." Big Hand shot just one look at him and nodded. Then there was a scuffle behind us over some one who wasn't hooting at Washington loud enough to please the people. We went away to be out of the fight. Indians won't risk being hit.'

'What do they do if they are?' Dan asked.

'Kill, of course. That's why they have such proper manners. Well, then, coming home by Drinker's Alley to get a new shirt which a French Vicomte's lady was washing to take the stiff out of (I'm always choice in my body-linen) a lame Frenchman pushes a paper of buttons at us. He hadn't long landed in the United States, and please would we buy. He sure-ly was a pitiful scrattel—his coat half torn off, his face cut, but his hands steady; so I knew it wasn't drink. He said his name was Peringuey, and he'd been knocked about in the crowd round the Stadt—Independence Hall. One thing leading to another we took him up to Toby's rooms, same as Red Jacket had taken me the year before. The compliments he paid to Toby's Madeira wine fairly conquered the old man, for he opened a second bottle and he told this Monsieur Peringuey all about our great stove dispute in the church. I remember Pastor Meder and Brother Adam Goos dropped 'in, and although they and Toby were direct opposite sides regarding stoves, yet this Monsieur Peringuey he made 'em feel as if he thought each one was in the right of it. He said he had been a clergyman before he had to leave France. He admired at Toby's fiddling, and he asked if Red Jacket, sitting by the spinet, was a simple Huron. Senecas aren't Hurons, they're Iroquois, of course, and Toby told him so. Well, then, in due time he arose and left in a style which made us feel he'd been favouring us, instead of us feeding him. I've never seen that so strong before—in a man. We all talked him over but couldn't make head or tail of him, and Red Jacket come out to walk with me to the French quarter where I was due to fiddle at a party. Passing Drinker's Alley again we saw a naked window with a light in it, and there sat our button-selling Monsieur Peringuey throwing dice all alone, right hand against left.

'Says Red Jacket, keeping back in the dark, "Look at his face!"

'I was looking. I protest to you I wasn't frightened like I was when Big Hand talked to his gentlemen. I—I only looked, and I wondered that even those dead dumb dice 'ud dare to fall different from what that face wished. It—it was a face!

'"He is bad," says Red Jacket. "But he is a great chief. The French have sent away a great chief. I thought so when he told us his lies. Now I know."

'I had to go on to the party, so I asked him to call round for me afterwards and we'd have hymn-singing at Toby's as usual. "No," he says. "Tell Toby I am not Christian tonight. All Indian." He had those fits sometimes. I wanted to know more about Monsieur Peringuey, and the emigre party was the very place to find out. It's neither here nor there, of course, but those French emigre parties they almost make you cry. The men that you bought fruit of in Market Street, the hairdressers and fencing-masters and French teachers, they turn back again by candlelight to what they used to be at home, and you catch their real names. There wasn't much room in the washhouse, so I sat on top of the copper and played 'em the tunes they called for—"Si le Roi m'avait donne," and such nursery stuff. They cried sometimes. It hurt me to take their money afterwards, indeed it did. And there I found out about Monsieur Peringuey. He was a proper rogue too! None of 'em had a good word for him except the Marquise that kept the French boarding-house on Fourth Street. I made out that his real name was the Count Talleyrand de Perigord—a priest right enough, but sorely come down in the world. He'd been King Louis' Ambassador to England a year or two back, before the French had cut off King Louis' head; and, by what I heard, that head wasn't hardly more than hanging loose before he'd run back to Paris and prevailed on Danton, the very man which did the murder, to send him back to England again as Ambassador of the French Republic! That was too much for the English, so they kicked him out by Act of Parliament, and he'd fled to the Americas without money or friends or prospects. I'm telling you the talk in the washhouse. Some of 'em was laughing over it. Says the French Marquise, "My friends, you laugh too soon. That man 'll be on the winning side before any of us."

'"I did not know you were so fond of priests, Marquise," says the Vicomte. His lady did my washing, as I've told you.

'"I have my reasons," says the Marquise. "He sent my uncle and my two brothers to Heaven by the little door,"—that was one of the emigre names for the guillotine. "He will be on the winning side if it costs him the blood of every friend he has in the world."

'"Then what does he want here?" says one of 'em. "We have all lost our game."

'"My faith!" says the Marquise. "He will find out, if any one can, whether this canaille of a Washington means to help us to fight England. Genet" (that was my Ambassador in the Embuscade) "has failed and gone off disgraced; Faucher" (he was the new man) "hasn't done any better, but our Abbe will find out, and he will make his profit out of the news. Such a man does not fall."

'"He begins unluckily," says the Vicomte. "He was set upon today in the street for not hooting your Washington." They all laughed again, and one remarks, "How does the poor devil keep himself?"

'He must have slipped in through the washhouse door, for he flits past me and joins 'em, cold as ice.

'"One does what one can," he says. "I sell buttons. And you, Marquise?"

'"I?"—she waves her poor white hands all burned—"I am a cook—a very bad one—at your service, Abbe. We were just talking about you."

They didn't treat him like they talked of him. They backed off and stood still.

'"I have missed something, then," he says. "But I spent this last hour playing—only for buttons, Marquise—against a noble savage, the veritable Huron himself."

'"You had your usual luck, I hope?" she says.

'"Certainly," he says. "I cannot afford to lose even buttons in these days."

'"Then I suppose the child of nature does not know that your dice are usually loaded, Father Tout-a-tous," she continues. I don't know whether she meant to accuse him of cheating. He only bows. '"Not yet, Mademoiselle Cunegonde," he says, and goes on to make himself agreeable to the rest of the company. And that was how I found out our Monsieur Peringuey was Count Charles Maurice Talleyrand de Perigord.'

Pharaoh stopped, but the children said nothing.

'You've heard of him?' said Pharaoh.

Una shook her head. 'Was Red Jacket the Indian he played dice with?' Dan asked.

'He was. Red Jacket told me the next time we met. I asked if the lame man had cheated. Red Jacket said no—he had played quite fair and was a master player. I allow Red Jacket knew. I've seen him, on the Reservation, play himself out of everything he had and in again. Then I told Red Jacket all I'd heard at the party concerning Talleyrand.

'"I was right," he says. "I saw the man's war-face when he thought he was alone. That's why I played him. I played him face to face. He's a great chief. Do they say why he comes here?"

'"They say he comes to find out if Big Hand makes war against the English," I said.

'Red Jacket grunted. "Yes," he says. "He asked me that too. If he had been a small chief I should have lied. But he is a great chief. He knew I was a chief, so I told him the truth. I told him what Big Hand said to Cornplanter and me in the clearing—'There will be no war.' I could not see what he thought. I could not see behind his face. But he is a great chief. He will believe."

'"Will he believe that Big Hand can keep his people back from war?" I said, thinking of the crowds that hooted Big Hand whenever he rode out.

'"He is as bad as Big Hand is good, but he is not as strong as Big Hand," says Red Jacket. "When he talks with Big Hand he will feel this in his heart. The French have sent away a great chief. Presently he will go back and make them afraid."

'Now wasn't that comical? The French woman that knew him and owed all her losses to him; the Indian that picked him up, cut and muddy on the street, and played dice with him; they neither of 'em doubted that Talleyrand was something by himself—appearances notwithstanding.'

'And was he something by himself?' asked Una.

Pharaoh began to laugh, but stopped. 'The way I look at it,'he said, 'Talleyrand was one of just three men in this world who are quite by themselves. Big Hand I put first, because I've seen him.' 'Ay,' said Puck. 'I'm sorry we lost him out of Old England. Who d'you put second?'

'Talleyrand: maybe because I've seen him too,' said Pharaoh.

'Who's third?'said Puck.

'Boney—even though I've seen him.'

'Whew!' said Puck. 'Every man has his own weights and measures, but that's queer reckoning.' 'Boney?' said Una. 'You don't mean you've ever met Napoleon Bonaparte?'

'There, I knew you wouldn't have patience with the rest of my tale after hearing that! But wait a minute. Talleyrand he come round to Hundred and Eighteen in a day or two to thank Toby for his kindness. I didn't mention the dice-playing, but I could see that Red Jacket's doings had made Talleyrand highly curious about Indians—though he would call him the Huron. Toby, as you may believe, was all holds full of knowledge concerning their manners and habits. He only needed a listener. The Brethren don't study Indians much till they join the Church, but Toby knew 'em wild. So evening after evening Talleyrand crossed his sound leg over his game one and Toby poured forth. Having been adopted into the Senecas I, naturally, kept still, but Toby 'ud call on me to back up some of his remarks, and by that means, and a habit he had of drawing you on in talk, Talleyrand saw I knew something of his noble savages too. Then he tried a trick. Coming back from an emigre party he turns into his little shop and puts it to me, laughing like, that I'd gone with the two chiefs on their visit to Big Hand. I hadn't told. Red Jacket hadn't told, and Toby, of course, didn't know. 'Twas just Talleyrand's guess. "Now," he says, "my English and Red Jacket's French was so bad that I am not sure I got the rights of what the President really said to the unsophisticated Huron. Do me the favour of telling it again." I told him every word Red Jacket had told him and not one word more. I had my suspicions, having just come from an emigre party where the Marquise was hating and praising him as usual.

'"Much obliged," he said. "But I couldn't gather from Red Jacket exactly what the President said to Monsieur Genet, or to his American gentlemen after Monsieur Genet had ridden away."

'I saw Talleyrand was guessing again, for Red Jacket hadn't told him a word about the white men's pow-wow.'

'Why hadn't he?' Puck asked.

'Because Red Jacket was a chief. He told Talleyrand what the President had said to him and Cornplanter; but he didn't repeat the talk, between the white men, that Big Hand ordered him to leave behind. 'Oh!' said Puck. 'I see. What did you do?'

'First I was going to make some sort of tale round it, but Talleyrand was a chief too. So I said, "As soon as I get Red Jacket's permission to tell that part of the tale, I'll be delighted to refresh your memory, Abbe." What else could I have done?

'"Is that all?" he says, laughing. "Let me refresh your memory. In a month from now I can give you a hundred dollars for your account of the conversation."

'"Make it five hundred, Abbe," I says. '"Five, then," says he.

'"That will suit me admirably," I says. "Red Jacket will be in town again by then, and the moment he gives me leave I'll claim the money."

'He had a hard fight to be civil, but he come out smiling.

'"Monsieur," he says, "I beg your pardon as sincerely as I envy the noble Huron your loyalty. Do me the honour to sit down while I explain."

'There wasn't another chair, so I sat on the button-box.

'He was a clever man. He had got hold of the gossip that the President meant to make a peace treaty with England at any cost. He had found out—from Genet, I reckon, who was with the President on the day the two chiefs met him. He'd heard that Genet had had a huff with the President and had ridden off leaving his business at loose ends. What he wanted—what he begged and blustered to know—was just the very words which the President had said to his gentlemen after Genet had left, concerning the peace treaty with England. He put it to me that in helping him to those very words I'd be helping three great countries as well as mankind. The room was as bare as the palm of your hand, but I couldn't laugh at him.

'"I'm sorry," I says, when he wiped his forehead. "As soon as Red Jacket gives permission—"

'"You don't believe me, then?" he cuts in. '"Not one little, little word, Abbe," I says; "except that you mean to be on the winning side. Remember, I've been fiddling to all your old friends for months."

'Well, then his temper fled him and he called me names.

'"Wait a minute, ci-devant," I says at last. "I am half English and half French, but I am not the half of a man. I will tell thee something the Indian told me. Has thee seen the President?"

'"Oh yes!" he sneers. "I had letters from the Lord Lansdowne to that estimable old man."

'"Then," I says, "thee will understand. The Red Skin said that when thee has met the President thee will feel in thy heart he is a stronger man than thee."

'"Go!" he whispers. "Before I kill thee, go."

'He looked like it. So I left him.'

'Why did he want to know so badly?' said Dan.

'The way I look at it is that if he had known for certain that Washington meant to make the peace treaty with England at any price, he'd ha' left old Faucher fumbling about in Philadelphia while he went straight back to France and told old Danton—"It's no good your wasting time and hopes on the United States, because she won't fight on our side—that I've proof of!" Then Danton might have been grateful and given Talleyrand a job, because a whole mass of things hang on knowing for sure who's your friend and who's your enemy. Just think of us poor shop-keepers, for instance.'

'Did Red Jacket let you tell, when he came back?' Una asked.

'Of course not. He said, "When Cornplanter and I ask you what Big Hand said to the whites you can tell the Lame Chief. All that talk was left behind in the timber, as Big Hand ordered. Tell the Lame Chief there will be no war. He can go back to France with that word."

'Talleyrand and me hadn't met for a long time except at emigre parties. When I give him the message he just shook his head. He was sorting buttons in the shop.

'"I cannot return to France with nothing better than the word of an unsophisticated savage," he says.

'"Hasn't the President said anything to you?" I asked him.

'"He has said everything that one in his position ought to say, but—but if only I had what he said to his Cabinet after Genet rode off I believe I could change Europe—the world, maybe." '"I'm sorry," I says. "Maybe you'll do that without my help."

'He looked at me hard. "Either you have unusual observation for one so young, or you choose to be insolent," he says.

'"It was intended for a compliment," I says. "But no odds. We're off in a few days for our summer trip, and I've come to make my good-byes."

'"I go on my travels too," he says. "If ever we meet again you may be sure I will do my best to repay what I owe you."

'"Without malice, Abbe, I hope," I says.

'"None whatever," says he. "Give my respects to your adorable Dr Pangloss" (that was one of his side-names for Toby) "and the Huron." I never could teach him the difference betwixt Hurons and Senecas.

'Then Sister Haga came in for a paper of what we call "pilly buttons," and that was the last I saw of Talleyrand in those parts.'

'But after that you met Napoleon, didn't you?' said Una. 'Wait Just a little, dearie. After that, Toby and I went to Lebanon and the Reservation, and, being older and knowing better how to manage him, I enjoyed myself well that summer with fiddling and fun. When we came back, the Brethren got after Toby because I wasn't learning any lawful trade, and he had hard work to save me from being apprenticed to Helmbold and Geyer the printers. 'Twould have ruined our music together, indeed it would. And when we escaped that, old Mattes Roush, the leather-breeches maker round the corner, took a notion I was cut out for skin-dressing. But we were rescued. Along towards Christmas there comes a big sealed letter from the Bank saying that a Monsieur Talleyrand had put five hundred dollars—a hundred pounds—to my credit there to use as I pleased. There was a little note from him inside—he didn't give any address—to thank me for past kindnesses and my believing in his future, which he said was pretty cloudy at the time of writing. I wished Toby to share the money. I hadn't done more than bring Talleyrand up to Hundred and Eighteen. The kindnesses were Toby's. But Toby said, "No! Liberty and Independence for ever. I have all my wants, my son." So I gave him a set of new fiddle-strings, and the Brethren didn't advise us any more. Only Pastor Meder he preached about the deceitfulness of riches, and Brother Adam Goos said if there was war the English 'ud surely shoot down the Bank. I knew there wasn't going to be any war, but I drew the money out and on Red Jacket's advice I put it into horse-flesh, which I sold to Bob Bicknell for the Baltimore stage-coaches. That way, I doubled my money inside the twelvemonth.' 'You gipsy! You proper gipsy!' Puck shouted.

'Why not? 'Twas fair buying and selling. Well, one thing leading to another, in a few years I had made the beginning of a worldly fortune and was in the tobacco trade.'

'Ah!' said Puck, suddenly. 'Might I inquire if you'd ever sent any news to your people in England—or in France?'

'O' course I had. I wrote regular every three months after I'd made money in the horse trade. We Lees don't like coming home empty-handed. If it's only a turnip or an egg, it's something. Oh yes, I wrote good and plenty to Uncle Aurette, and—Dad don't read very quickly—Uncle used to slip over Newhaven way and tell Dad what was going on in the tobacco trade.'

'I see—

Aurettes and Lees— Like as two peas.

Go on, Brother Square-toes,' said Puck. Pharaoh laughed and went on.

'Talleyrand he'd gone up in the world same as me. He'd sailed to France again, and was a great man in the Government there awhile, but they had to turn him out on account of some story about bribes from American shippers. All our poor emigres said he was surely finished this time, but Red Jacket and me we didn't think it likely, not unless he was quite dead. Big Hand had made his peace treaty with Great Britain, just as he said he would, and there was a roaring trade 'twixt England and the United States for such as 'ud take the risk of being searched by British and French men-o'-war. Those two was fighting, and just as his gentlemen told Big Hand 'ud happen—the United States was catching it from both. If an English man-o'-war met an American ship he'd press half the best men out of her, and swear they was British subjects. Most of 'em was! If a Frenchman met her he'd, likely, have the cargo out of her, swearing it was meant to aid and comfort the English; and if a Spaniard or a Dutchman met her—they was hanging on to England's coat-tails too—Lord only knows what they wouldn't do! It came over me that what I wanted in my tobacco trade was a fast-sailing ship and a man who could be French, English, or American at a pinch. Luckily I could lay my hands on both articles. So along towards the end of September in the year 'Ninety-nine I sailed from Philadelphia with a hundred and eleven hogshead o' good Virginia tobacco, in the brig BERTHE AURETTE, named after Mother's maiden name, hoping 'twould bring me luck, which she didn't—and yet she did.'

'Where was you bound for?' Puck asked.

'Er—any port I found handiest. I didn't tell Toby or the Brethren. They don't understand the ins and outs of the tobacco trade.'

Puck coughed a small cough as he shifted a piece of wood with his bare foot.

'It's easy for you to sit and judge,' Pharaoh cried. 'But think o' what we had to put up with! We spread our wings and run across the broad Atlantic like a hen through a horse-fair. Even so, we was stopped by an English frigate, three days out. He sent a boat alongside and pressed seven able seamen. I remarked it was hard on honest traders, but the officer said they was fighting all creation and hadn't time to argue. The next English frigate we escaped with no more than a shot in our quarter. Then we was chased two days and a night by a French privateer, firing between squalls, and the dirty little English ten-gun brig which made him sheer off had the impudence to press another five of our men. That's how we reached to the chops of the Channel. Twelve good men pressed out of thirty-five; an eighteen-pound shot-hole close beside our rudder; our mainsail looking like spectacles where the Frenchman had hit us—and the Channel crawling with short-handed British cruisers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it next time you grumble at the price of tobacco!

'Well, then, to top it off, while we was trying to get at our leaks, a French lugger come swooping at us out o' the dusk. We warned him to keep away, but he fell aboard us, and up climbed his Jabbering red-caps. We couldn't endure any more—indeed we couldn't. We went at 'em with all we could lay hands on. It didn't last long. They was fifty odd to our twenty-three. Pretty soon I heard the cutlasses thrown down and some one bellowed for the sacri captain.

'"Here I am!" I says. "I don't suppose it makes any odds to you thieves, but this is the United States brig BERTHE AURETTE."

'"My aunt!" the man says, laughing. "Why is she named that?"

'"Who's speaking?" I said. 'Twas too dark to see, but I thought I knew the voice.

'"Enseigne de Vaisseau Estephe L'Estrange," he sings out, and then I was sure.

'"Oh!" I says. "It's all in the family, I suppose, but you have done a fine day's work, Stephen."

'He whips out the binnacle-light and holds it to my face. He was young L'Estrange, my full cousin, that I hadn't seen since the night the smack sank off Telscombe Tye—six years before.

'"Whew!" he says. "That's why she was named for Aunt Berthe, is it? What's your share in her, Pharaoh?"

'"Only half owner, but the cargo's mine."

'"That's bad," he says. "I'll do what I can, but you shouldn't have fought us." '"Steve," I says, "you aren't ever going to report our little fall-out as a fight! Why, a Revenue cutter 'ud laugh at it!"

'"So'd I if I wasn't in the Republican Navy," he says. "But two of our men are dead, d'ye see, and I'm afraid I'll have to take you to the Prize Court at Le Havre."

'"Will they condemn my 'baccy?" I asks.

'"To the last ounce. But I was thinking more of the ship. She'd make a sweet little craft for the Navy if the Prize Court 'ud let me have her," he says.

'Then I knew there was no hope. I don't blame him—a man must consider his own interests, but nigh every dollar I had was in ship or cargo, and Steve kept on saying, "You shouldn't have fought us."

'Well, then, the lugger took us to Le Havre, and that being the one time we did want a British ship to rescue us, why, o' course we never saw one. My cousin spoke his best for us at the Prize Court. He owned he'd no right to rush alongside in the face o' the United States flag, but we couldn't get over those two men killed, d'ye see, and the Court condemned both ship and cargo. They was kind enough not to make us prisoners—only beggars—and young L'Estrange was given the BERTHE AURETTE to re-arm into the French Navy.

'"I'll take you round to Boulogne," he says. "Mother and the rest'll be glad to see you, and you can slip over to Newhaven with Uncle Aurette. Or you can ship with me, like most o' your men, and take a turn at King George's loose trade. There's plenty pickings," he says.

'Crazy as I was, I couldn't help laughing.

'"I've had my allowance of pickings and stealings," I says. "Where are they taking my tobacco?" 'Twas being loaded on to a barge.

'"Up the Seine to be sold in Paris," he says. "Neither you nor I will ever touch a penny of that money."

'"Get me leave to go with it," I says. "I'll see if there's justice to be gotten out of our American Ambassador."

'"There's not much justice in this world," he says, "without a Navy." But he got me leave to go with the barge and he gave me some money. That tobacco was all I had, and I followed it like a hound follows a snatched bone. Going up the river I fiddled a little to keep my spirits up, as well as to make friends with the guard. They was only doing their duty. Outside o' that they were the reasonablest o' God's creatures. They never even laughed at me. So we come to Paris, by river, along in November, which the French had christened Brumaire. They'd given new names to all the months, and after such an outrageous silly piece o' business as that, they wasn't likely to trouble 'emselves with my rights and wrongs. They didn't. The barge was laid up below Notre Dame church in charge of a caretaker, and he let me sleep aboard after I'd run about all day from office to office, seeking justice and fair dealing, and getting speeches concerning liberty. None heeded me. Looking back on it I can't rightly blame 'em. I'd no money, my clothes was filthy mucked; I hadn't changed my linen in weeks, and I'd no proof of my claims except the ship's papers, which, they said, I might have stolen. The thieves! The door-keeper to the American Ambassador—for I never saw even the Secretary—he swore I spoke French a sight too well for an American citizen. Worse than that—I had spent my money, d'ye see, and I—I took to fiddling in the streets for my keep; and—and, a ship's captain with a fiddle under his arm—well, I don't blame 'em that they didn't believe me.

'I come back to the barge one day—late in this month Brumaire it was—fair beazled out. Old Maingon, the caretaker, he'd lit a fire in a bucket and was grilling a herring.

'"Courage, mon ami," he says. "Dinner is served."

'"I can't eat," I says. "I can't do any more. It's stronger than I am." '"Bah!" he says. "Nothing's stronger than a man. Me, for example! Less than two years ago I was blown up in the Orient in Aboukir Bay, but I descended again and hit the water like a fairy. Look at me now," he says. He wasn't much to look at, for he'd only one leg and one eye, but the cheerfullest soul that ever trod shoe-leather. "That's worse than a hundred and eleven hogshead of 'baccy," he goes on. "You're young, too! What wouldn't I give to be young in France at this hour! There's nothing you couldn't do," he says. "The ball's at your feet—kick it!" he says. He kicks the old fire-bucket with his peg-leg. "General Buonaparte, for example!" he goes on. "That man's a babe compared to me, and see what he's done already. He's conquered Egypt and Austria and Italy—oh! half Europe!" he says, "and now he sails back to Paris, and he sails out to St Cloud down the river here—don't stare at the river, you young fool!—-and all in front of these pig-jobbing lawyers and citizens he makes himself Consul, which is as good as a King. He'll be King, too, in the next three turns of the capstan—King of France, England, and the world! Think o' that!" he shouts, "and eat your herring."

'I says something about Boney. If he hadn't been fighting England I shouldn't have lost my 'baccy—should I?

'"Young fellow," says Maingon, "you don't understand."

'We heard cheering. A carriage passed over the bridge with two in it. '"That's the man himself," says Maingon. "He'll give 'em something to cheer for soon." He stands at the salute.

'"Who's t'other in black beside him?" I asks, fairly shaking all over.

'"Ah! he's the clever one. You'll hear of him before long. He's that scoundrel-bishop, Talleyrand."

'"It is!" I said, and up the steps I went with my fiddle, and run after the carriage calling, "Abbe, Abbe!"

'A soldier knocked the wind out of me with the back of his sword, but I had sense to keep on following till the carriage stopped—and there just was a crowd round the house-door! I must have been half-crazy else I wouldn't have struck up "Si le Roi m'avait donne Paris la grande ville!" I thought it might remind him.

'"That is a good omen!" he says to Boney sitting all hunched up; and he looks straight at me.

'"Abbe—oh, Abbe!" I says. "Don't you remember Toby and Hundred and Eighteen Second Street?"

'He said not a word. He just crooked his long white finger to the guard at the door while the carriage steps were let down, and I skipped into the house, and they slammed the door in the crowd's face. '"You go there," says a soldier, and shoves me into an empty room, where I catched my first breath since I'd left the barge. Presently I heard plates rattling next door—there were only folding doors between—and a cork drawn. "I tell you," some one shouts with his mouth full, "it was all that sulky ass Sieyes' fault. Only my speech to the Five Hundred saved the situation."

'"Did it save your coat?" says Talleyrand. "I hear they tore it when they threw you out. Don't gasconade to me. You may be in the road of victory, but you aren't there yet."

'Then I guessed t'other man was Boney. He stamped about and swore at Talleyrand.

'"You forget yourself, Consul," says Talleyrand, "or rather you remember yourself—Corsican."

'"Pig!" says Boney, and worse.

'"Emperor!" says Talleyrand, but, the way he spoke, it sounded worst of all. Some one must have backed against the folding doors, for they flew open and showed me in the middle of the room. Boney whipped out his pistol before I could stand up.

"General," says Talleyrand to him, "this gentleman has a habit of catching us canaille en deshabille. Put that thing down."

'Boney laid it on the table, so I guessed which was master. Talleyrand takes my hand—"Charmed to see you again, Candide," he says. "How is the adorable Dr Pangloss and the noble Huron?"

'"They were doing very well when I left," I said. "But I'm not."

'"Do you sell buttons now?" he says, and fills me a glass of wine off the table.

'"Madeira," says he. "Not so good as some I have drunk."

'"You mountebank!" Boney roars. "Turn that out." (He didn't even say "man," but Talleyrand, being gentle born, just went on.)

'"Pheasant is not so good as pork," he says. "You will find some at that table if you will do me the honour to sit down. Pass him a clean plate, General." And, as true as I'm here, Boney slid a plate along just like a sulky child. He was a lanky-haired, yellow-skinned little man, as nervous as a cat—and as dangerous. I could feel that.

'"And now," said Talleyrand, crossing his game leg over his sound one, "will you tell me your story?" 'I was in a fluster, but I told him nearly everything from the time he left me the five hundred dollars in Philadelphia, up to my losing ship and cargo at Le Havre. Boney began by listening, but after a bit he dropped into his own thoughts and looked at the crowd sideways through the front-room curtains. Talleyrand called to him when I'd done.

'"Eh? What we need now," says Boney, "is peace for the next three or four years."

'"Quite so," says Talleyrand. "Meantime I want the Consul's order to the Prize Court at Le Havre to restore my friend here his ship."

'"Nonsense!" says Boney. "Give away an oak-built brig of two hundred and seven tons for sentiment? Certainly not! She must be armed into my Navy with ten—no, fourteen twelve-pounders and two long fours. Is she strong enough to bear a long twelve forward?"

'Now I could ha' sworn he'd paid no heed to my talk, but that wonderful head-piece of his seemingly skimmed off every word of it that was useful to him.

'"Ah, General!" says Talleyrand. "You are a magician—a magician without morals. But the brig is undoubtedly American, and we don't want to offend them more than we have."

'"Need anybody talk about the affair?" he says. He didn't look at me, but I knew what was in his mind—just cold murder because I worried him; and he'd order it as easy as ordering his carriage.

'"You can't stop 'em," I said. "There's twenty-two other men besides me." I felt a little more 'ud set me screaming like a wired hare.

'"Undoubtedly American," Talleyrand goes on. "You would gain something if you returned the ship—with a message of fraternal good-will—published in the MONITEUR" (that's a French paper like the Philadelphia AURORA).

'"A good idea!" Boney answers. "One could say much in a message."

'"It might be useful," says Talleyrand. "Shall I have the message prepared?" He wrote something in a little pocket ledger.

'"Yes—for me to embellish this evening. The MONITEUR will publish it tonight."

'"Certainly. Sign, please," says Talleyrand, tearing the leaf out.

'"But that's the order to return the brig," says Boney. "Is that necessary? Why should I lose a good ship? Haven't I lost enough ships already?" 'Talleyrand didn't answer any of those questions. Then Boney sidled up to the table and jabs his pen into the ink. Then he shies at the paper again: "My signature alone is useless," he says. "You must have the other two Consuls as well. Sieyes and Roger Ducos must sign. We must preserve the Laws."

'"By the time my friend presents it," says Talleyrand, still looking out of window, "only one signature will be necessary."

'Boney smiles. "It's a swindle," says he, but he signed and pushed the paper across.

'"Give that to the President of the Prize Court at Le Havre," says Talleyrand, "and he will give you back your ship. I will settle for the cargo myself. You have told me how much it cost. What profit did you expect to make on it?"

'Well, then, as man to man, I was bound to warn him that I'd set out to run it into England without troubling the Revenue, and so I couldn't rightly set bounds to my profits.'

'I guessed that all along,' said Puck.

'There was never a Lee to Warminghurst— That wasn't a smuggler last and first.'

The children laughed.

'It's comical enough now,' said Pharaoh. 'But I didn't laugh then. Says Talleyrand after a minute, "I am a bad accountant and I have several calculations on hand at present. Shall we say twice the cost of the cargo?"

'Say? I couldn't say a word. I sat choking and nodding like a China image while he wrote an order to his secretary to pay me, I won't say how much, because you wouldn't believe it.

'"Oh! Bless you, Abbe! God bless you!" I got it out at last.

'"Yes," he says, "I am a priest in spite of myself, but they call me Bishop now. Take this for my episcopal blessing," and he hands me the paper.

'"He stole all that money from me," says Boney over my shoulder. "A Bank of France is another of the things we must make. Are you mad?" he shouts at Talleyrand.

'"Quite," says Talleyrand, getting up. "But be calm. The disease will never attack you. It is called gratitude. This gentleman found me in the street and fed me when I was hungry."

'"I see; and he has made a fine scene of it, and you have paid him, I suppose. Meantime, France waits."

'"Oh! poor France!" says Talleyrand. "Good-bye, Candide," he says to me. "By the way," he says, "have you yet got Red Jacket's permission to tell me what the President said to his Cabinet after Monsieur Genet rode away?"

'I couldn't speak, I could only shake my head, and Boney—so impatient he was to go on with his doings—he ran at me and fair pushed me out of the room. And that was all there was to it.' Pharaoh stood up and slid his fiddle into one of his big skirt-pockets as though it were a dead hare.

'Oh! but we want to know lots and lots more,'said Dan. 'How you got home—and what old Maingon said on the barge—and wasn't your cousin surprised when he had to give back the BERTHE AURETTE, and—'

'Tell us more about Toby!' cried Una.

'Yes, and Red Jacket,' said Dan.

'Won't you tell us any more?' they both pleaded.

Puck kicked the oak branch on the fire, till it sent up a column of smoke that made them sneeze. When they had finished the Shaw was empty except for old Hobden stamping through the larches.

'They gipsies have took two,' he said. 'My black pullet and my liddle gingy-speckled cockrel.'

'I thought so,' said Dan, picking up one tail-feather that the old woman had overlooked.

'Which way did they go? Which way did the runagates go?' said Hobden.

'Hobby!' said Una. 'Would you like it if we told Keeper Ridley all your goings and comings?'

'Poor Honest Men'

Your jar of Virginny Will cost you a guinea, Which you reckon too much by five shilling or ten; But light your churchwarden And judge it accordin' When I've told you the troubles of poor honest men.

From the Capes of the Delaware, As you are well aware, We sail with tobacco for England—but then Our own British cruisers, They watch us come through, sirs, And they press half a score of us poor honest men.

Or if by quick sailing (Thick weather prevailing) We leave them behind (as we do now and then) We are sure of a gun from Each frigate we run from, Which is often destruction to poor honest men!

Broadsides the Atlantic We tumble short-handed, With shot-holes to plug and new canvas to bend, And off the Azores, Dutch, Dons and Monsieurs Are waiting to terrify poor honest men!

Napoleon's embargo Is laid on all cargo Which comfort or aid to King George may intend; And since roll, twist and leaf, Of all comforts is chief, They try for to steal it from poor honest men!

With no heart for fight, We take refuge in flight, But fire as we run, our retreat to defend, Until our stern-chasers Cut up her fore-braces, And she flies off the wind from us poor honest men!

Twix' the Forties and Fifties, South-eastward the drift is, And so, when we think we are making Land's End, Alas, it is Ushant With half the King's Navy, Blockading French ports against poor honest men!

But they may not quit station (Which is our salvation), So swiftly we stand to the Nor'ard again; And finding the tail of A homeward-bound convoy, We slip past the Scillies like poor honest men.

'Twix' the Lizard and Dover, We hand our stuff over, Though I may not inform how we do it, nor when; But a light on each quarter Low down on the water Is well understanded by poor honest men. Even then we have dangers From meddlesome strangers, Who spy on our business and are not content To take a smooth answer, Except with a handspike... And they say they are murdered by poor honest men!

To be drowned or be shot Is our natural lot, Why should we, moreover, be hanged in the end— After all our great pains For to dangle in chains, As though we were smugglers, not poor honest men?


Eddi's Service

Eddi, priest of St Wilfrid In the chapel at Manhood End, Ordered a midnight service For such as cared to attend. But the Saxons were keeping Christmas, And the night was stormy as well. Nobody came to service Though Eddi rang the bell.

'Wicked weather for walking,' Said Eddi of Manhood End. 'But I must go on with the service For such as care to attend.' The altar candles were lighted,— An old marsh donkey came, Bold as a guest invited, And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows, The water splashed on the floor, And a wet yoke-weary bullock Pushed in through the open door. 'How do I know what is greatest, How do I know what is least? That is My Father's business,' Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.

'But, three are gathered together— Listen to me and attend. I bring good news, my brethren!' Said Eddi, of Manhood End. And he told the Ox of a manger And a stall in Bethlehem, And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider That rode to jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel, They listened and never stirred, While, just as though they were Bishops, Eddi preached them The Word.

Till the gale blew off on the marshes And the windows showed the day, And the Ox and the Ass together Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him, Said Eddi of Manhood End, 'I dare not shut His chapel On such as care to attend.'

The Conversion of St Wilfrid

They had bought peppermints up at the village, and were coming home past little St Barnabas' Church, when they saw Jimmy Kidbrooke, the carpenter's baby, kicking at the churchyard gate, with a shaving in his mouth and the tears running down his cheeks.

Una pulled out the shaving and put in a peppermint. Jimmy said he was looking for his grand-daddy—he never seemed to take much notice of his father—so they went up between the old graves, under the leaf-dropping limes, to the porch, where Jim trotted in, looked about the empty Church, and screamed like a gate-hinge.

Young Sam Kidbrooke's voice came from the bell-tower and made them jump.

'Why, jimmy,'he called, 'what are you doin' here? Fetch him, Father!'

Old Mr Kidbrooke stumped downstairs, jerked Jimmy on to his shoulder, stared at the children beneath his brass spectacles, and stumped back again. They laughed: it was so exactly like Mr Kidbrooke.

'It's all right,' Una called up the stairs. 'We found him, Sam. Does his mother know?'

'He's come off by himself. She'll be justabout crazy,' Sam answered.

'Then I'll run down street and tell her.' Una darted off.

'Thank you, Miss Una. Would you like to see how we're mendin' the bell-beams, Mus' Dan?'

Dan hopped up, and saw young Sam lying on his stomach in a most delightful place among beams and ropes, close to the five great bells. Old Mr Kidbrooke on the floor beneath was planing a piece of wood, and Jimmy was eating the shavings as fast as they came away. He never looked at Jimmy; Jimmy never stopped eating; and the broad gilt-bobbed pendulum of the church clock never stopped swinging across the white-washed wall of the tower.

Dan winked through the sawdust that fell on his upturned face. 'Ring a bell,' he called.

'I mustn't do that, but I'll buzz one of 'em a bit for you,' said Sam. He pounded on the sound-bow of the biggest bell, and waked a hollow groaning boom that ran up and down the tower like creepy feelings down your back. Just when it almost began to hurt, it died away in a hurry of beautiful sorrowful cries, like a wine-glass rubbed with a wet finger. The pendulum clanked—one loud clank to each silent swing.

Dan heard Una return from Mrs Kidbrooke's, and ran down to fetch her. She was standing by the font staring at some one who kneeled at the Altar-rail.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse