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

'Is that the Lady who practises the organ?' she whispered.

'No. She's gone into the organ-place. Besides, she wears black,' Dan replied.

The figure rose and came down the nave. It was a white-haired man in a long white gown with a sort of scarf looped low on the neck, one end hanging over his shoulder. His loose long sleeves were embroidered with gold, and a deep strip of gold embroidery waved and sparkled round the hem of his gown.

'Go and meet him,' said Puck's voice behind the font. 'It's only Wilfrid.'

'Wilfrid who?' said Dan. 'You come along too.'

'Wilfrid—Saint of Sussex, and Archbishop of York. I shall wait till he asks me.' He waved them forward. Their feet squeaked on the old grave-slabs in the centre aisle. The Archbishop raised one hand with a pink ring on it, and said something in Latin. He was very handsome, and his thin face looked almost as silvery as his thin circle of hair.

'Are you alone?' he asked.

'Puck's here, of course,' said Una. 'Do you know him?'

'I know him better now than I used to.' He beckoned over Dan's shoulder, and spoke again in Latin. Puck pattered forward, holding himself as straight as an arrow. The Archbishop smiled.

'Be welcome,' said he. 'Be very welcome.'

'Welcome to you also, O Prince of the church,' Puck replied.

The Archbishop bowed his head and passed on, till he glimmered like a white moth in the shadow by the font.

'He does look awfully princely,' said Una. 'Isn't he coming back?'

'Oh yes. He's only looking over the church. He's very fond of churches,' said Puck. 'What's that?'

The Lady who practices the organ was speaking to the blower-boy behind the organ-screen. 'We can't very well talk here,' Puck whispered. 'Let's go to Panama Corner.'

He led them to the end of the south aisle, where there is a slab of iron which says in queer, long-tailed letters: ORATE P. ANNEMA JHONE COLINE. The children always called it Panama Corner.

The Archbishop moved slowly about the little church, peering at the old memorial tablets and the new glass windows. The Lady who practises the organ began to pull out stops and rustle hymn-books behind the screen.

'I hope she'll do all the soft lacey tunes—like treacle on porridge,' said Una.

'I like the trumpety ones best,' said Dan. 'Oh, look at Wilfrid! He's trying to shut the Altar-gates!'

'Tell him he mustn't,' said Puck, quite seriously.

He can't, anyhow,' Dan muttered, and tiptoed out of Panama Corner while the Archbishop patted and patted at the carved gates that always sprang open again beneath his hand.

'That's no use, sir,' Dan whispered. 'Old Mr Kidbrooke says Altar-gates are just the one pair of gates which no man can shut. He made 'em so himself.'

The Archbishop's blue eyes twinkled. Dan saw that he knew all about it.

'I beg your pardon,' Dan stammered—very angry with Puck.

'Yes, I know! He made them so Himself.' The Archbishop smiled, and crossed to Panama Corner, where Una dragged up a certain padded arm-chair for him to sit on.

The organ played softly. 'What does that music say?'he asked.

Una dropped into the chant without thinking: '"O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; praise him and magnify him for ever." We call it the Noah's Ark, because it's all lists of things—beasts and birds and whales, you know.'

'Whales?' said the Archbishop quickly.

'Yes—"O ye whales, and all that move in the waters,"' Una hummed—'"Bless ye the Lord." It sounds like a wave turning over, doesn't it?'

'Holy Father,' said Puck with a demure face, 'is a little seal also "one who moves in the water"?'

'Eh? Oh yes—yess!' he laughed. 'A seal moves wonderfully in the waters. Do the seal come to my island still?'

Puck shook his head. 'All those little islands have been swept away.'

'Very possible. The tides ran fiercely down there. Do you know the land of the Sea-calf, maiden?'

'No—but we've seen seals—at Brighton.'

'The Archbishop is thinking of a little farther down the coast. He means Seal's Eye—Selsey—down Chichester way—where he converted the South Saxons,' Puck explained.

'Yes—yess; if the South Saxons did not convert me,' said the Archbishop, smiling. 'The first time I was wrecked was on that coast. As our ship took ground and we tried to push her off, an old fat fellow of a seal, I remember, reared breast-high out of the water, and scratched his head with his flipper as if he were saying: "What does that excited person with the pole think he is doing." I was very wet and miserable, but I could not help laughing, till the natives came down and attacked us.'

'What did you do?' Dan asked.

'One couldn't very well go back to France, so one tried to make them go back to the shore. All the South Saxons are born wreckers, like my own Northumbrian folk. I was bringing over a few things for my old church at York, and some of the natives laid hands on them, and—and I'm afraid I lost my temper.'

'It is said—' Puck's voice was wickedly meek—'that there was a great fight.'

Eh, but I must ha' been a silly lad.' Wilfrid spoke with a sudden thick burr in his voice. He coughed, and took up his silvery tones again. 'There was no fight really. My men thumped a few of them, but the tide rose half an hour before its time, with a strong wind, and we backed off. What I wanted to say, though, was, that the seas about us were full of sleek seals watching the scuffle. My good Eddi—my chaplain—insisted that they were demons. Yes—yess! That was my first acquaintance with the South Saxons and their seals.'

'But not the only time you were wrecked, was it?' said Dan.

'Alas, no! On sea and land my life seems to have been one long shipwreck.' He looked at the Jhone Coline slab as old Hobden sometimes looks into the fire. 'Ah, well!'

'But did you ever have any more adventures among the seals?' said Una, after a little.

'Oh, the seals! I beg your pardon. They are the important things. Yes—yess! I went back to the South Saxons after twelve—fifteen—years. No, I did not come by water, but overland from my own Northumbria, to see what I could do. It's little one can do with that class of native except make them stop killing each other and themselves—' 'Why did they kill themselves?' Una asked, her chin in her hand.

'Because they were heathen. When they grew tired of life (as if they were the only people!) they would jump into the sea. They called it going to Wotan. It wasn't want of food always—by any means. A man would tell you that he felt grey in the heart, or a woman would say that she saw nothing but long days in front of her; and they'd saunter away to the mud-flats and—that would be the end of them, poor souls, unless one headed them off. One had to run quick, but one can't allow people to lay hands on themselves because they happen to feel grey. Yes—yess—Extraordinary people, the South Saxons. Disheartening, sometimes.... What does that say now?' The organ had changed tune again.

'Only a hymn for next Sunday,' said Una. '"The Church's One Foundation." Go on, please, about running over the mud. I should like to have seen you.'

'I dare say you would, and I really could run in those days. Ethelwalch the King gave me some five or six muddy parishes by the sea, and the first time my good Eddi and I rode there we saw a man slouching along the slob, among the seals at Manhood End. My good Eddi disliked seals—but he swallowed his objections and ran like a hare.'

'Why?'said Dan.

'For the same reason that I did. We thought it was one of our people going to drown himself. As a matter of fact, Eddi and I were nearly drowned in the pools before we overtook him. To cut a long story short, we found ourselves very muddy, very breathless, being quietly made fun of in good Latin by a very well-spoken person. No—he'd no idea of going to Wotan. He was fishing on his own beaches, and he showed us the beacons and turf-heaps that divided his land from the church property. He took us to his own house, gave us a good dinner, some more than good wine, sent a guide with us into Chichester, and became one of my best and most refreshing friends. He was a Meon by descent, from the west edge of the kingdom; a scholar educated, curiously enough, at Lyons, my old school; had travelled the world over, even to Rome, and was a brilliant talker. We found we had scores of acquaintances in common. It seemed he was a small chief under King Ethelwalch, and I fancy the King was somewhat afraid of him. The South Saxons mistrust a man who talks too well. Ah! Now, I've left out the very point of my story. He kept a great grey-muzzled old dog-seal that he had brought up from a pup. He called it Padda—after one of my clergy. It was rather like fat, honest old Padda. The creature followed him everywhere, and nearly knocked down my good Eddi when we first met him. Eddi loathed it. It used to sniff at his thin legs and cough at him. I can't say I ever took much notice of it (I was not fond of animals), till one day Eddi came to me with a circumstantial account of some witchcraft that Meon worked. He would tell the seal to go down to the beach the last thing at night, and bring him word of the weather. When it came back, Meon might say to his slaves, "Padda thinks we shall have wind tomorrow. Haul up the boats!" I spoke to Meon casually about the story, and he laughed.

'He told me he could judge by the look of the creature's coat and the way it sniffed what weather was brewing. Quite possible. One need not put down everything one does not understand to the work of bad spirits—or good ones, for that matter.' He nodded towards Puck, who nodded gaily in return.

'I say so,' he went on, 'because to a certain extent I have been made a victim of that habit of mind. Some while after I was settled at Selsey, King Ethelwalch and Queen Ebba ordered their people to be baptized. I fear I'm too old to believe that a whole nation can change its heart at the King's command, and I had a shrewd suspicion that their real motive was to get a good harvest. No rain had fallen for two or three years, but as soon as we had finished baptizing, it fell heavily, and they all said it was a miracle.'

'And was it?' Dan asked.

'Everything in life is a miracle, but'—the Archbishop twisted the heavy ring on his finger—'I should be slow—ve-ry slow should I be—to assume that a certain sort of miracle happens whenever lazy and improvident people say they are going to turn over a new leaf if they are paid for it. My friend Meon had sent his slaves to the font, but he had not come himself, so the next time I rode over—to return a manuscript—I took the liberty of asking why. He was perfectly open about it. He looked on the King's action as a heathen attempt to curry favour with the Christians' God through me the Archbishop, and he would have none of it.

'"My dear man," I said, "admitting that that is the case, surely you, as an educated person, don't believe in Wotan and all the other hobgoblins any more than Padda here?" The old seal was hunched up on his ox-hide behind his master's chair.

'"Even if I don't," he said, "why should I insult the memory of my fathers' Gods? I have sent you a hundred and three of my rascals to christen. Isn't that enough?"

'"By no means," I answered. "I want you."

'"He wants us! What do you think of that, Padda?" He pulled the seal's whiskers till it threw back its head and roared, and he pretended to interpret. "No! Padda says he won't be baptized yet awhile. He says you'll stay to dinner and come fishing with me tomorrow, because you're over-worked and need a rest."

'"I wish you'd keep yon brute in its proper place," I said, and Eddi, my chaplain, agreed.

'"I do," said Meon. "I keep him just next my heart. He can't tell a lie, and he doesn't know how to love any one except me. It 'ud be the same if I were dying on a mud-bank, wouldn't it, Padda?"

'"Augh! Augh!" said Padda, and put up his head to be scratched.

'Then Meon began to tease Eddi: "Padda says, if Eddi saw his Archbishop dying on a mud-bank Eddi would tuck up his gown and run. Padda knows Eddi can run too! Padda came into Wittering Church last Sunday—all wet—to hear the music, and Eddi ran out."

'My good Eddi rubbed his hands and his shins together, and flushed. "Padda is a child of the Devil, who is the father of lies!" he cried, and begged my pardon for having spoken. I forgave him.

'"Yes. You are just about stupid enough for a musician," said Meon. "But here he is. Sing a hymn to him, and see if he can stand it. You'll find my small harp beside the fireplace."

'Eddi, who is really an excellent musician, played and sang for quite half an hour. Padda shuffled off his ox-hide, hunched himself on his flippers before him, and listened with his head thrown back. Yes—yess! A rather funny sight! Meon tried not to laugh, and asked Eddi if he were satisfied.

'It takes some time to get an idea out of my good Eddi's head. He looked at me.

'"Do you want to sprinkle him with holy water, and see if he flies up the chimney? Why not baptize him?" said Meon.

'Eddi was really shocked. I thought it was bad taste myself.

'"That's not fair," said Meon. "You call him a demon and a familiar spirit because he loves his master and likes music, and when I offer you a chance to prove it you won't take it. Look here! I'll make a bargain. I'll be baptized if you'll baptize Padda too. He's more of a man than most of my slaves."

'"One doesn't bargain—or joke—about these matters," I said. He was going altogether too far.

'"Quite right," said Meon; "I shouldn't like any one to joke about Padda. Padda, go down to the beach and bring us tomorrow's weather!"

'My good Eddi must have been a little over-tired with his day's work. "I am a servant of the church," he cried. "My business is to save souls, not to enter into fellowships and understandings with accursed beasts."

'"Have it your own narrow way," said Meon. "Padda, you needn't go." The old fellow flounced back to his ox-hide at once.

'"Man could learn obedience at least from that creature," said Eddi, a little ashamed of himself. Christians should not curse. '"Don't begin to apologise Just when I am beginning to like you," said Meon. "We'll leave Padda behind tomorrow—out of respect to your feelings. Now let's go to supper. We must be up early tomorrow for the whiting."

'The next was a beautiful crisp autumn morning—a weather-breeder, if I had taken the trouble to think; but it's refreshing to escape from kings and converts for half a day. We three went by ourselves in Meon's smallest boat, and we got on the whiting near an old wreck, a mile or so off shore. Meon knew the marks to a yard, and the fish were keen. Yes—yess! A perfect morning's fishing! If a Bishop can't be a fisherman, who can?' He twiddled his ring again. 'We stayed there a little too long, and while we were getting up our stone, down came the fog. After some discussion, we decided to row for the land. The ebb was just beginning to make round the point, and sent us all ways at once like a coracle.'

'Selsey Bill,' said Puck under his breath. 'The tides run something furious there.'

'I believe you,' said the Archbishop. 'Meon and I have spent a good many evenings arguing as to where exactly we drifted. All I know is we found ourselves in a little rocky cove that had sprung up round us out of the fog, and a swell lifted the boat on to a ledge, and she broke up beneath our feet. We had just time to shuffle through the weed before the next wave. The sea was rising. '"It's rather a pity we didn't let Padda go down to the beach last night," said Meon. "He might have warned us this was coming."

'"Better fall into the hands of God than the hands of demons," said Eddi, and his teeth chattered as he prayed. A nor'-west breeze had just got up—distinctly cool.

'"Save what you can of the boat," said Meon; "we may need it," and we had to drench ourselves again, fishing out stray planks.'

'What for?' said Dan.

'For firewood. We did not know when we should get off. Eddi had flint and steel, and we found dry fuel in the old gulls' nests and lit a fire. It smoked abominably, and we guarded it with boat-planks up-ended between the rocks. One gets used to that sort of thing if one travels. Unluckily I'm not so strong as I was. I fear I must have been a trouble to my friends. It was blowing a full gale before midnight. Eddi wrung out his cloak, and tried to wrap me in it, but I ordered him on his obedience to keep it. However, he held me in his arms all the first night, and Meon begged his pardon for what he'd said the night before—about Eddi, running away if he found me on a sandbank, you remember. '"You are right in half your prophecy," said Eddi. "I have tucked up my gown, at any rate." (The wind had blown it over his head.) "Now let us thank God for His mercies."

'"Hum!" said Meon. "If this gale lasts, we stand a very fair chance of dying of starvation."

'"If it be God's will that we survive, God will provide," said Eddi. "At least help me to sing to Him." The wind almost whipped the words out of his mouth, but he braced himself against a rock and sang psalms.

'I'm glad I never concealed my opinion—from myself—that Eddi was a better man than I. Yet I have worked hard in my time—very hard! Yes—yess! So the morning and the evening were our second day on that islet. There was rain-water in the rock-pools, and, as a churchman, I knew how to fast, but I admit we were hungry. Meon fed our fire chip by chip to eke it out, and they made me sit over it, the dear fellows, when I was too weak to object. Meon held me in his arms the second night, just like a child. My good Eddi was a little out of his senses, and imagined himself teaching a York choir to sing. Even so, he was beautifully patient with them.

'I heard Meon whisper, "If this keeps up we shall go to our Gods. I wonder what Wotan will say to me. He must know I don't believe in him. On the other hand, I can't do what Ethelwalch finds so easy—curry favour with your God at the last minute, in the hope of being saved—as you call it. How do you advise, Bishop?" '"My dear man," I said, "if that is your honest belief, I take it upon myself to say you had far better not curry favour with any God. But if it's only your Jutish pride that holds you back, lift me up, and I'll baptize you even now."

'"Lie still," said Meon. "I could judge better if I were in my own hall. But to desert one's fathers' Gods—even if one doesn't believe in them—in the middle of a gale, isn't quite—What would you do yourself?"

'I was lying in his arms, kept alive by the warmth of his big, steady heart. It did not seem to me the time or the place for subtle arguments, so I answered, "No, I certainly should not desert my God." I don't see even now what else I could have said.

'"Thank you. I'll remember that, if I live," said Meon, and I must have drifted back to my dreams about Northumbria and beautiful France, for it was broad daylight when I heard him calling on Wotan in that high, shaking heathen yell that I detest so.

'"Lie quiet. I'm giving Wotan his chance," he said. Our dear Eddi ambled up, still beating time to his imaginary choir.

'"Yes. Call on your Gods," he cried, "and see what gifts they will send you. They are gone on a journey, or they are hunting."

'I assure you the words were not out of his mouth when old Padda shot from the top of a cold wrinkled swell, drove himself over the weedy ledge, and landed fair in our laps with a rock-cod between his teeth. I could not help smiling at Eddi's face. "A miracle! A miracle!" he cried, and kneeled down to clean the cod.

'"You've been a long time finding us, my son," said Meon. "Now fish—fish for all our lives. We're starving, Padda."

'The old fellow flung himself quivering like a salmon backward into the boil of the currents round the rocks, and Meon said, "We're safe. I'll send him to fetch help when this wind drops. Eat and be thankful."

'I never tasted anything so good as those rock-codlings we took from Padda's mouth and half roasted over the fire. Between his plunges Padda would hunch up and purr over Meon with the tears running down his face. I never knew before that seals could weep for joy—as I have wept.

'"Surely," said Eddi, with his mouth full, "God has made the seal the loveliest of His creatures in the water. Look how Padda breasts the current! He stands up against it like a rock; now watch the chain of bubbles where he dives; and now—there is his wise head under that rock-ledge! Oh, a blessing be on thee, my little brother Padda!"

'"You said he was a child of the Devil!" Meon laughed. '"There I sinned," poor Eddi answered. "Call him here, and I will ask his pardon. God sent him out of the storm to humble me, a fool."

'"I won't ask you to enter into fellowships and understandings with any accursed brute," said Meon, rather unkindly. "Shall we say he was sent to our Bishop as the ravens were sent to your prophet Elijah?"

'"Doubtless that is so," said Eddi. "I will write it so if I live to get home."

'"No—no!" I said. "Let us three poor men kneel and thank God for His mercies."

'We kneeled, and old Padda shuffled up and thrust his head under Meon's elbows. I laid my hand upon it and blessed him. So did Eddi.

'"And now, my son," I said to Meon, "shall I baptize thee?"

'"Not yet," said he. "Wait till we are well ashore and at home. No God in any Heaven shall say that I came to him or left him because I was wet and cold. I will send Padda to my people for a boat. Is that witchcraft, Eddi?"

'"Why, no. Surely Padda will go and pull them to the beach by the skirts of their gowns as he pulled me in Wittering Church to ask me to sing. Only then I was afraid, and did not understand," said Eddi.

'"You are understanding now," said Meon, and at a wave of his arm off went Padda to the mainland, making a wake like a war-boat till we lost him in the rain. Meon's people could not bring a boat across for some hours; even so it was ticklish work among the rocks in that tideway. But they hoisted me aboard, too stiff to move, and Padda swam behind us, barking and turning somersaults all the way to Manhood End!'

'Good old Padda!' murmured Dan.

'When we were quite rested and re-clothed, and his people had been summoned—not an hour before—Meon offered himself to be baptized.'

'Was Padda baptized too?' Una asked.

'No, that was only Meon's joke. But he sat blinking on his ox-hide in the middle of the hall. When Eddi (who thought I wasn't looking) made a little cross in holy water on his wet muzzle, he kissed Eddi's hand. A week before Eddi wouldn't have touched him. That was a miracle, if you like! But seriously, I was more glad than I can tell you to get Meon. A rare and splendid soul that never looked back—never looked back!' The Arch-bishop half closed his eyes.

'But, sir,' said Puck, most respectfully, 'haven't you left out what Meon said afterwards?' Before the Bishop could speak he turned to the children and went on: 'Meon called all his fishers and ploughmen and herdsmen into the hall and he said: "Listen, men! Two days ago I asked our Bishop whether it was fair for a man to desert his fathers' Gods in a time of danger. Our Bishop said it was not fair. You needn't shout like that, because you are all Christians now. My red war-boat's crew will remember how near we all were to death when Padda fetched them over to the Bishop's islet. You can tell your mates that even in that place, at that time, hanging on the wet, weedy edge of death, our Bishop, a Christian, counselled me, a heathen, to stand by my fathers' Gods. I tell you now that a faith which takes care that every man shall keep faith, even though he may save his soul by breaking faith, is the faith for a man to believe in. So I believe in the Christian God, and in Wilfrid His Bishop, and in the Church that Wilfrid rules. You have been baptized once by the King's orders. I shall not have you baptized again; but if I find any more old women being sent to Wotan, or any girls dancing on the sly before Balder, or any men talking about Thun or Lok or the rest, I will teach you with my own hands how to keep faith with the Christian God. Go out quietly; you'll find a couple of beefs on the beach." Then of course they shouted "Hurrah!" which meant "Thor help us!" and—I think you laughed, sir?'

'I think you remember it all too well,' said the Archbishop, smiling. 'It was a joyful day for me. I had learned a great deal on that rock where Padda found us. Yes—yess! One should deal kindly with all the creatures of God, and gently with their masters. But one learns late.'

He rose, and his gold-embroidered sleeves rustled thickly.

The organ cracked and took deep breaths.

'Wait a minute,' Dan whispered. 'She's going to do the trumpety one. It takes all the wind you can pump. It's in Latin, sir.'

'There is no other tongue,' the Archbishop answered.

'It's not a real hymn,' Una explained. 'She does it as a treat after her exercises. She isn't a real organist, you know. She just comes down here sometimes, from the Albert Hall.'

'Oh, what a miracle of a voice!' said the Archbishop.

It rang out suddenly from a dark arch of lonely noises—every word spoken to the very end:

'Dies Irae, dies illa, Solvet saeclum in favilla, Teste David cum Sibylla.' The Archbishop caught his breath and moved forward. The music carried on by itself a while.

'Now it's calling all the light out of the windows,' Una whispered to Dan.

'I think it's more like a horse neighing in battle,' he whispered back. The voice continued:

'Tuba mirum spargens sonum Per sepulchre regionum.'

Deeper and deeper the organ dived down, but far below its deepest note they heard Puck's voice joining in the last line:

'Coget omnes ante thronum.'

As they looked in wonder, for it sounded like the dull jar of one of the very pillars shifting, the little fellow turned and went out through the south door.

'Now's the sorrowful part, but it's very beautiful.' Una found herself speaking to the empty chair in front of her.

'What are you doing that for?' Dan said behind her. 'You spoke so politely too.'

'I don't know... I thought—' said Una. 'Funny!'

''Tisn't. It's the part you like best,' Dan grunted.

The music had turned soft—full of little sounds that chased each other on wings across the broad gentle flood of the main tune. But the voice was ten times lovelier than the music.

'Recordare Jesu pie, Quod sum causa Tuae viae, Ne me perdas illi die!'

There was no more. They moved out into the centre aisle.

'That you?' the Lady called as she shut the lid. 'I thought I heard you, and I played it on purpose.'

'Thank you awfully,' said Dan. 'We hoped you would, so we waited. Come on, Una, it's pretty nearly dinner-time.'

Song of the Red War-Boat

Shove off from the wharf-edge! Steady! Watch for a smooth! Give way! If she feels the lop already She'll stand on her head in the bay. It's ebb—it's dusk—it's blowing, The shoals are a mile of white, But (snatch her along!) we're going To find our master tonight.

For we hold that in all disaster Of shipwreck, storm, or sword, A man must stand by his master When once he had pledged his word!

Raging seas have we rowed in, But we seldom saw them thus; Our master is angry with Odin— Odin is angry with us! Heavy odds have we taken, But never before such odds. The Gods know they are forsaken, We must risk the wrath of the Gods!

Over the crest she flies from, Into its hollow she drops, Crouches and clears her eyes from The wind-torn breaker-tops, Ere out on the shrieking shoulder Of a hill-high surge she drives. Meet her! Meet her and hold her! Pull for your scoundrel lives!

The thunder bellow and clamour The harm that they mean to do; There goes Thor's Own Hammer Cracking the dark in two!

Close! But the blow has missed her, Here comes the wind of the blow! Row or the squall'll twist her Broadside on to it!—-Row!

Hearken, Thor of the Thunder! We are not here for a jest— For wager, warfare, or plunder, Or to put your power to test. This work is none of our wishing— We would stay at home if we might— But our master is wrecked out fishing, We go to find him tonight.

For we hold that in all disaster— As the Gods Themselves have said— A man must stand by his master Till one of the two is dead.

That is our way of thinking, Now you can do as you will, While we try to save her from sinking, And hold her head to it still. Bale her and keep her moving, Or she'll break her back in the trough... Who said the weather's improving, And the swells are taking off?

Sodden, and chafed and aching, Gone in the loins and knees— No matter—the day is breaking, And there's far less weight to the seas! Up mast, and finish baling— In oars, and out with the mead— The rest will be two-reef sailing... That was a night indeed! But we hold that in all disaster (And faith, we have found it true!) If only you stand by your master, The Gods will stand by you!


An Astrologer's Song

To the Heavens above us Oh, look and behold The planets that love us All harnessed in gold! What chariots, what horses, Against us shall bide While the Stars in their courses Do fight on our side?

All thought, all desires, That are under the sun, Are one with their fires, As we also are one; All matter, all spirit, All fashion, all frame, Receive and inherit Their strength from the same.

(Oh, man that deniest All power save thine own, Their power in the highest Is mightily shown. Not less in the lowest That power is made clear. Oh, man, if thou knowest, What treasure is here!)

Earth quakes in her throes And we wonder for why! But the blind planet knows When her ruler is nigh; And, attuned since Creation, To perfect accord, She thrills in her station And yearns to her Lord.

The waters have risen, The springs are unbound— The floods break their prison, And ravin around. No rampart withstands 'em, Their fury will last, Till the Sign that commands 'em Sinks low or swings past.

Through abysses unproven, And gulfs beyond thought, Our portion is woven, Our burden is brought. Yet They that prepare it, Whose Nature we share, Make us who must bear it Well able to bear.

Though terrors o'ertake us We'll not be afraid, No Power can unmake us Save that which has made. Nor yet beyond reason Nor hope shall we fall— All things have their season, And Mercy crowns all.

Then, doubt not, ye fearful— The Eternal is King— Up, heart, and be cheerful, And lustily sing: What chariots, what horses, Against us shall bide While the Stars in their courses Do fight on our side?

A Doctor of Medicine

They were playing hide-and-seek with bicycle lamps after tea. Dan had hung his lamp on the apple tree at the end of the hellebore bed in the walled garden, and was crouched by the gooseberry bushes ready to dash off when Una should spy him. He saw her lamp come into the garden and disappear as she hid it under her cloak. While he listened for her footsteps, somebody (they both thought it was Phillips the gardener) coughed in the corner of the herb-beds.

'All right,' Una shouted across the asparagus; 'we aren't hurting your old beds, Phippsey!'

She flashed her lantern towards the spot, and in its circle of light they saw a Guy Fawkes-looking man in a black cloak and a steeple-crowned hat, walking down the path beside Puck. They ran to meet him, and the man said something to them about rooms in their head. After a time they understood he was warning them not to catch colds.

'You've a bit of a cold yourself, haven't you?' said Una, for he ended all his sentences with a consequential cough. Puck laughed.

'Child,' the man answered, 'if it hath pleased Heaven to afflict me with an infirmity—'

'Nay, nay,' Puck struck In, 'the maid spoke out of kindness. I know that half your cough is but a catch to trick the vulgar; and that's a pity. There's honesty enough in you, Nick, without rasping and hawking.'

'Good people'—the man shrugged his lean shoulders—'the vulgar crowd love not truth unadorned. Wherefore we philosophers must needs dress her to catch their eye or—ahem!—-their ear.'

'And what d'you think of that?' said Puck solemnly to Dan.

'I don't know,' he answered. 'It sounds like lessons.'

'Ah—well! There have been worse men than Nick Culpeper to take lessons from. Now, where can we sit that's not indoors?'

'In the hay-mow, next to old Middenboro,' Dan suggested. 'He doesn't mind.'

'Eh?' Mr Culpeper was stooping over the pale hellebore blooms by the light of Una's lamp. 'Does Master Middenboro need my poor services, then?'

'Save him, no!' said Puck. 'He is but a horse—next door to an ass, as you'll see presently. Come!'

Their shadows jumped and slid on the fruit-tree walls. They filed out of the garden by the snoring pig-pound and the crooning hen-house, to the shed where Middenboro the old lawn-mower pony lives. His friendly eyes showed green in the light as they set their lamps down on the chickens' drinking-trough outside, and pushed past to the hay-mow. Mr Culpeper stooped at the door.

'Mind where you lie,' said Dan. 'This hay's full of hedge-brishings.

'In! in!' said Puck. 'You've lain in fouler places than this, Nick. Ah! Let us keep touch with the stars!' He kicked open the top of the half-door, and pointed to the clear sky. 'There be the planets you conjure with! What does your wisdom make of that wandering and variable star behind those apple boughs?'

The children smiled. A bicycle that they knew well was being walked down the steep lane. 'Where?' Mr Culpeper leaned forward quickly. 'That? Some countryman's lantern.'

'Wrong, Nick,' said Puck. ''Tis a singular bright star in Virgo, declining towards the house of Aquarius the water-carrier, who hath lately been afflicted by Gemini. Aren't I right, Una?' Mr Culpeper snorted contemptuously.

'No. It's the village nurse going down to the Mill about some fresh twins that came there last week. Nurse,' Una called, as the light stopped on the flat, 'when can I see the Morris twins? And how are they?'

'Next Sunday, perhaps. Doing beautifully,' the Nurse called back, and with a ping-ping-ping of the bell brushed round the corner.

'Her uncle's a vetinary surgeon near Banbury,' Una explained, and if you ring her bell at night, it rings right beside her bed—not downstairs at all. Then she 'umps up—she always keeps a pair of dry boots in the fender, you know—and goes anywhere she's wanted. We help her bicycle through gaps sometimes. Most of her babies do beautifully. She told us so herself.'

'I doubt not, then, that she reads in my books,' said Mr Culpeper quietly. 'Twins at the Mill!' he muttered half aloud. "And again He sayeth, Return, ye children of men."'

'Are you a doctor or a rector?' Una asked, and Puck with a shout turned head over heels in the hay. But Mr Culpeper was quite serious. He told them that he was a physician-astrologer—a doctor who knew all about the stars as well as all about herbs for medicine. He said that the sun, the moon, and five Planets, called Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus, governed everybody and everything in the world. They all lived in Houses—he mapped out some of them against the dark with a busy forefinger—and they moved from House to House like pieces at draughts; and they went loving and hating each other all over the skies. If you knew their likes and dislikes, he said, you could make them cure your patient and hurt your enemy, and find out the secret causes of things. He talked of these five Planets as though they belonged to him, or as though he were playing long games against them. The children burrowed in the hay up to their chins, and looked out over the half-door at the solemn, star-powdered sky till they seemed to be falling upside down into it, while Mr Culpeper talked about 'trines' and 'oppositions' and 'conjunctions' and 'sympathies' and 'antipathies' in a tone that just matched things.

A rat ran between Middenboro's feet, and the old pony stamped.

'Mid hates rats,' said Dan, and passed him over a lock of hay. 'I wonder why.'

'Divine Astrology tells us,' said Mr Culpeper. 'The horse, being a martial beast that beareth man to battle, belongs naturally to the red planet Mars—the Lord of War. I would show you him, but he's too near his setting. Rats and mice, doing their businesses by night, come under the dominion of our Lady the Moon. Now between Mars and Luna, the one red, t'other white, the one hot t'other cold and so forth, stands, as I have told you, a natural antipathy, or, as you say, hatred. Which antipathy their creatures do inherit. Whence, good people, you may both see and hear your cattle stamp in their stalls for the self-same causes as decree the passages of the stars across the unalterable face of Heaven! Ahem!' Puck lay along chewing a leaf. They felt him shake with laughter, and Mr Culpeper sat up stiffly.

'I myself' said he, 'have saved men's lives, and not a few neither, by observing at the proper time—there is a time, mark you, for all things under the sun—by observing, I say, so small a beast as a rat in conjunction with so great a matter as this dread arch above us.' He swept his hand across the sky. 'Yet there are those,' he went on sourly, 'who have years without knowledge.'

'Right,' said Puck. 'No fool like an old fool.'

Mr Culpeper wrapped his cloak round him and sat still while the children stared at the Great Bear on the hilltop.

'Give him time,' Puck whispered behind his hand. 'He turns like a timber-tug—all of a piece.'

'Ahem!' Mr Culpeper said suddenly. 'I'll prove it to you. When I was physician to Saye's Horse, and fought the King—or rather the man Charles Stuart—in Oxfordshire (I had my learning at Cambridge), the plague was very hot all around us. I saw it at close hands. He who says I am ignorant of the plague, for example, is altogether beside the bridge.'

'We grant it,' said Puck solemnly. 'But why talk of the plague this rare night?'

'To prove my argument. This Oxfordshire plague, good people, being generated among rivers and ditches, was of a werish, watery nature. Therefore it was curable by drenching the patient in cold water, and laying him in wet cloths; or at least, so I cured some of them. Mark this. It bears on what shall come after.'

'Mark also, Nick,' said Puck, that we are not your College of Physicians, but only a lad and a lass and a poor lubberkin. Therefore be plain, old Hyssop on the Wall!'

'To be plain and in order with you, I was shot in the chest while gathering of betony from a brookside near Thame, and was took by the King's men before their Colonel, one Blagg or Bragge, whom I warned honestly that I had spent the week past among our plague-stricken. He flung me off into a cowshed, much like this here, to die, as I supposed; but one of their priests crept in by night and dressed my wound. He was a Sussex man like myself.'

'Who was that?' said Puck suddenly. 'Zack Tutshom?'

'No, Jack Marget,' said Mr Culpeper.

'Jack Marget of New College? The little merry man that stammered so? Why a plague was stuttering Jack at Oxford then?' said Puck.

'He had come out of Sussex in hope of being made a Bishop when the King should have conquered the rebels, as he styled us Parliament men. His College had lent the King some monies too, which they never got again, no more than simple Jack got his bishopric. When we met he had had a bitter bellyful of King's promises, and wished to return to his wife and babes. This came about beyond expectation, for, so soon as I could stand of my wound, the man Blagge made excuse that I had been among the plague, and Jack had been tending me, to thrust us both out from their camp. The King had done with Jack now that Jack's College had lent the money, and Blagge's physician could not abide me because I would not sit silent and see him butcher the sick. (He was a College of Physicians man!) So Blagge, I say, thrust us both out, with many vile words, for a pair of pestilent, prating, pragmatical rascals.'

'Ha! Called you pragmatical, Nick?' Puck started up. 'High time Oliver came to purge the land! How did you and honest Jack fare next?'

'We were in some sort constrained to each other's company. I was for going to my house in Spitalfields, he would go to his parish in Sussex; but the plague was broke out and spreading through Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Hampshire, and he was so mad distracted to think that it might even then be among his folk at home that I bore him company. He had comforted me in my distress. I could not have done less; and I remembered that I had a cousin at Great Wigsell, near by Jack's parish. Thus we footed it from Oxford, cassock and buff coat together, resolute to leave wars on the left side henceforth; and either through our mean appearances, or the plague making men less cruel, we were not hindered. To be sure, they put us in the stocks one half-day for rogues and vagabonds at a village under St Leonard's forest, where, as I have heard, nightingales never sing; but the constable very honestly gave me back my Astrological Almanac, which I carry with me.' Mr Culpeper tapped his thin chest. 'I dressed a whitlow on his thumb. So we went forward.

'Not to trouble you with impertinences, we fetched over against Jack Marget's parish in a storm of rain about the day's end. Here our roads divided, for I would have gone on to my cousin at Great Wigsell, but while Jack was pointing me out his steeple, we saw a man lying drunk, as he conceived, athwart the road. He said it would be one Hebden, a parishioner, and till then a man of good life; and he accused himself bitterly for an unfaithful shepherd, that had left his flock to follow princes. But I saw it was the plague, and not the beginnings of it neither. They had set out the plague-stone, and the man's head lay on it.'

'What's a plague-stone?' Dan whispered.

'When the plague is so hot in a village that the neighbours shut the roads against 'em, people set a hollowed stone, pot, or pan, where such as would purchase victual from outside may lay money and the paper of their wants, and depart. Those that would sell come later—what will a man not do for gain?—-snatch the money forth, and leave in exchange such goods as their conscience reckons fair value. I saw a silver groat in the water, and the man's list of what he would buy was rain-pulped in his wet hand.

'"My wife! Oh, my wife and babes!" says Jack of a sudden, and makes uphill—I with him.

'A woman peers out from behind a barn, crying out that the village is stricken with the plague, and that for our lives' sake we must avoid it.

'"Sweetheart!" says Jack. "Must I avoid thee?" and she leaps at him and says the babes are safe. She was his wife.

'When he had thanked God, even to tears, he tells me this was not the welcome he had intended, and presses me to flee the place while I was clean.

'"Nay! The Lord do so to me and more also if I desert thee now," I said. "These affairs are, under God's leave, in some fashion my strength."

'"Oh, sir," she says, "are you a physician? We have none."

'"Then, good people," said I, "I must e'en justify myself to you by my works."

'"Look—look ye," stammers Jack, "I took you all this time for a crazy Roundhead preacher." He laughs, and she, and then I—all three together in the rain are overtook by an unreasonable gust or clap of laughter, which none the less eased us. We call it in medicine the Hysterical Passion. So I went home with 'em.'

'Why did you not go on to your cousin at Great Wigsell, Nick?' Puck suggested. ''tis barely seven mile up the road.'

'But the plague was here,' Mr Culpeper answered, and pointed up the hill. 'What else could I have done?'

'What were the parson's children called?' said Una.

'Elizabeth, Alison, Stephen, and Charles—a babe. I scarce saw them at first, for I separated to live with their father in a cart-lodge. The mother we put—forced—into the house with her babes. She had done enough.

'And now, good people, give me leave to be particular in this case. The plague was worst on the north side of the street, for lack, as I showed 'em, of sunshine; which, proceeding from the PRIME MOBILE, or source of life (I speak astrologically), is cleansing and purifying in the highest degree. The plague was hot too by the corn-chandler's, where they sell forage to the carters, extreme hot in both Mills, along the river, and scatteringly in other places, except, mark you, at the smithy. Mark here, that all forges and smith shops belong to Mars, even as corn and meat and wine shops acknowledge Venus for their mistress. There was no plague in the smithy at Munday's Lane—'

'Munday's Lane? You mean our village? I thought so when you talked about the two Mills,' cried Dan. 'Where did we put the plague-stone? I'd like to have seen it.'

'Then look at it now,' said Puck, and pointed to the chickens' drinking-trough where they had set their bicycle lamps. It was a rough, oblong stone pan, rather like a small kitchen sink, which Phillips, who never wastes anything, had found in a ditch and had used for his precious hens.

'That?' said Dan and Una, and stared, and stared, and stared. Mr Culpeper made impatient noises in his throat and went on.

'I am at these pains to be particular, good people, because I would have you follow, so far as you may, the operations of my mind. That plague which I told you I had handled outside Wallingford in Oxfordshire was of a watery nature, conformable to the brookish riverine country it bred in, and curable, as I have said, by drenching in water. This plague of ours here, for all that it flourished along watercourses—every soul at both Mills died of it,—could not be so handled. Which brought me to a stand. Ahem!'

'And your sick people in the meantime?'Puck demanded. 'We persuaded them on the north side of the street to lie out in Hitheram's field. Where the plague had taken one, or at most two, in a house, folk would not shift for fear of thieves in their absence. They cast away their lives to die among their goods.'

'Human nature,' said Puck. 'I've seen it time and again. How did your sick do in the fields?'

'They died not near so thick as those that kept within doors, and even then they died more out of distraction and melancholy than plague. But I confess, good people, I could not in any sort master the sickness, or come at a glimmer of its nature or governance. To be brief, I was flat bewildered at the brute malignity of the disease, and so—did what I should have done before—dismissed all conjectures and apprehensions that had grown up within me, chose a good hour by my Almanac, clapped my vinegar-cloth to my face, and entered some empty houses, resigned to wait upon the stars for guidance.'

'At night? Were you not horribly frightened?' said Puck.

'I dared to hope that the God who hath made man so nobly curious to search out His mysteries might not destroy a devout seeker. In due time—there's a time, as I have said, for everything under the sun—I spied a whitish rat, very puffed and scabby, which sat beneath the dormer of an attic through which shined our Lady the Moon. Whilst I looked on him—and her—she was moving towards old cold Saturn, her ancient ally—the rat creeped languishingly into her light, and there, before my eyes, died. Presently his mate or companion came out, laid him down beside there, and in like fashion died too. Later—an hour or less to midnight—a third rat did e'en the same; always choosing the moonlight to die in. This threw me into an amaze, since, as we know, the moonlight is favourable, not hurtful, to the creatures of the Moon; and Saturn, being friends with her, as you would say, was hourly strengthening her evil influence. Yet these three rats had been stricken dead in very moonlight. I leaned out of the window to see which of Heaven's host might be on our side, and there beheld I good trusty Mars, very red and heated, bustling about his setting. I straddled the roof to see better.

'Jack Marget came up street going to comfort our sick in Hitheram's field. A tile slipped under my foot.

Says he, heavily enough, "Watchman, what of the night?"

'"Heart up, Jack," says I. "Methinks there's one fighting for us that, like a fool, I've forgot all this summer." My meaning was naturally the planet Mars.

'"Pray to Him then," says he. "I forgot Him too this summer."

'He meant God, whom he always bitterly accused himself of having forgotten up in Oxfordshire, among the King's men. I called down that he had made amends enough for his sin by his work among the sick, but he said he would not believe so till the plague was lifted from 'em. He was at his strength's end—more from melancholy than any just cause. I have seen this before among priests and overcheerful men. I drenched him then and there with a half-cup of waters, which I do not say cure the plague, but are excellent against heaviness of the spirits.'

'What were they?' said Dan.

'White brandy rectified, camphor, cardamoms, ginger, two sorts of pepper, and aniseed.' 'Whew!' said Puck. 'Waters you call 'em!'

'Jack coughed on it valiantly, and went downhill with me. I was for the Lower Mill in the valley, to note the aspect of the Heavens. My mind had already shadowed forth the reason, if not the remedy, for our troubles, but I would not impart it to the vulgar till I was satisfied. That practice may be perfect, judgment ought to be sound, and to make judgment sound is required an exquisite knowledge. Ahem! I left Jack and his lantern among the sick in Hitheram's field. He still maintained the prayers of the so-called Church, which were rightly forbidden by Cromwell.'

'You should have told your cousin at Wigsell,' said Puck, 'and Jack would have been fined for it, and you'd have had half the money. How did you come so to fail in your duty, Nick?'

Mr Culpeper laughed—his only laugh that evening—and the children jumped at the loud neigh of it.

'We were not fearful of men's judgment in those days,' he answered. 'Now mark me closely, good people, for what follows will be to you, though not to me, remarkable. When I reached the empty Mill, old Saturn, low down in the House of the Fishes, threatened the Sun's rising-place. Our Lady the Moon was moving towards the help of him (understand, I speak astrologically). I looked abroad upon the high Heavens, and I prayed the Maker of 'em for guidance. Now Mars sparkingly withdrew himself below the sky. On the instant of his departure, which I noted, a bright star or vapour leaped forth above his head (as though he had heaved up his sword), and broke all about in fire. The cocks crowed midnight through the valley, and I sat me down by the mill-wheel, chewing spearmint (though that's an herb of Venus), and calling myself all the asses' heads in the world! 'Twas plain enough now!'

'What was plain?' said Una.

'The true cause and cure of the plague. Mars, good fellow, had fought for us to the uttermost. Faint though he had been in the Heavens, and this had made me overlook him in my computations, he more than any of the other planets had kept the Heavens—which is to say, had been visible some part of each night wellnigh throughout the year. Therefore his fierce and cleansing influence, warring against the Moon, had stretched out to kill those three rats under my nose, and under the nose of their natural mistress, the Moon. I had known Mars lean half across Heaven to deal our Lady the Moon some shrewd blow from under his shield, but I had never before seen his strength displayed so effectual.'

'I don't understand a bit. Do you mean Mars killed the rats because he hated the Moon?' said Una.

'That is as plain as the pikestaff with which Blagge's men pushed me forth,'Mr Culpeper answered. 'I'll prove it. Why had the plague not broken out at the blacksmith's shop in Munday's Lane? Because, as I've shown you, forges and smithies belong naturally to Mars, and, for his honour's sake, Mars 'ud keep 'em clean from the creatures of the Moon. But was it like, think you, that he'd come down and rat-catch in general for lazy, ungrateful mankind? That were working a willing horse to death. So, then, you can see that the meaning of the blazing star above him when he set was simply this: "Destroy and burn the creatures Of the moon, for they are the root of your trouble. And thus, having shown you a taste of my power, good people, adieu."'

'Did Mars really say all that?' Una whispered.

'Yes, and twice so much as that to any one who had ears to hear. Briefly, he enlightened me that the plague was spread by the creatures of the Moon. The Moon, our Lady of ill-aspect, was the offender. My own poor wits showed me that I, Nick Culpeper, had the people in my charge, God's good providence aiding me, and no time to lose neither.

'I posted up the hill, and broke into Hitheram's field amongst 'em all at prayers.

'"Eureka, good people!" I cried, and cast down a dead mill-rat which I'd found. "Here's your true enemy, revealed at last by the stars."

'"Nay, but I'm praying," says Jack. His face was as white as washed silver.

'"There's a time for everything under the sun," says I. "If you would stay the plague, take and kill your rats."

'"Oh, mad, stark mad!" says he, and wrings his hands.

'A fellow lay in the ditch beside him, who bellows that he'd as soon die mad hunting rats as be preached to death on a cold fallow. They laughed round him at this, but Jack Marget falls on his knees, and very presumptuously petitions that he may be appointed to die to save the rest of his people. This was enough to thrust 'em back into their melancholy. '"You are an unfaithful shepherd, jack," I says. "Take a bat" (which we call a stick in Sussex) "and kill a rat if you die before sunrise. 'Twill save your people."

'"Aye, aye. Take a bat and kill a rat," he says ten times over, like a child, which moved 'em to ungovernable motions of that hysterical passion before mentioned, so that they laughed all, and at least warmed their chill bloods at that very hour—one o'clock or a little after—when the fires of life burn lowest. Truly there is a time for everything; and the physician must work with it—ahem!—or miss his cure. To be brief with you, I persuaded 'em, sick or sound, to have at the whole generation of rats throughout the village. And there's a reason for all things too, though the wise physician need not blab 'em all. Imprimis, or firstly, the mere sport of it, which lasted ten days, drew 'em most markedly out of their melancholy. I'd defy sorrowful job himself to lament or scratch while he's routing rats from a rick. Secundo, or secondly, the vehement act and operation of this chase or war opened their skins to generous transpiration—more vulgarly, sweated 'em handsomely; and this further drew off their black bile—the mother of sickness. Thirdly, when we came to burn the bodies of the rats, I sprinkled sulphur on the faggots, whereby the onlookers were as handsomely suffumigated. This I could not have compassed if I had made it a mere physician's business; they'd have thought it some conjuration. Yet more, we cleansed, limed, and burned out a hundred foul poke-holes, sinks, slews, and corners of unvisited filth in and about the houses in the village, and by good fortune (mark here that Mars was in opposition to Venus) burned the corn-handler's shop to the ground. Mars loves not Venus. Will Noakes the saddler dropped his lantern on a truss of straw while he was rat-hunting there.'

'Had ye given Will any of that gentle cordial of yours, Nick, by any chance?' said Puck.

'A glass—or two glasses—not more. But as I would say, in fine, when we had killed the rats, I took ash, slag, and charcoal from the smithy, and burnt earth from the brickyard (I reason that a brickyard belongs to Mars), and rammed it with iron crowbars into the rat-runs and buries, and beneath all the house floors. The Creatures of the Moon hate all that Mars hath used for his own clean ends. For example—rats bite not iron.'

'And how did poor stuttering Jack endure it?' said Puck.

'He sweated out his melancholy through his skin, and catched a loose cough, which I cured with electuaries, according to art. It is noteworthy, were I speaking among my equals, that the venom of the plague translated, or turned itself into, and evaporated, or went away as, a very heavy hoarseness and thickness of the head, throat, and chest. (Observe from my books which planets govern these portions of man's body, and your darkness, good people, shall be illuminated—ahem!) None the less, the plague, qua plague, ceased and took off (for we only lost three more, and two of 'em had it already on 'em) from the morning of the day that Mars enlightened me by the Lower Mill.' He coughed—almost trumpeted—triumphantly.

'It is proved,' he jerked out. 'I say I have proved my contention, which is, that by Divine Astrology and humble search into the veritable causes of things—at the proper time—the sons of wisdom may combat even the plague.'

H'm!' Puck replied. 'For my own part I hold that a simple soul—'

'Mine? Simple, forsooth?' said Mr Culpeper.

'A very simple soul, a high courage tempered with sound and stubborn conceit, is stronger than all the stars in their courses. So I confess truly that you saved the village, Nick.'

'I stubborn? I stiff-necked? I ascribed all my poor success, under God's good providence, to Divine Astrology. Not to me the glory! You talk as that dear weeping ass Jack Marget preached before I went back to my work in Red Lion House, Spitalfields.'

'Oh! Stammering Jack preached, did he? They say he loses his stammer in the pulpit.'

'And his wits with it. He delivered a most idolatrous discourse when the plague was stayed. He took for his text: "The wise man that delivered the city." I could have given him a better, such as: "There is a time for—"'

'But what made you go to church to hear him?' Puck interrupted. 'Wail Attersole was your lawfully appointed preacher, and a dull dog he was!'

Mr Culpeper wriggled uneasily.

'The vulgar,' said he, 'the old crones and—ahem!—-the children, Alison and the others, they dragged me to the House of Rimmon by the hand. I was in two minds to inform on Jack for maintaining the mummeries of the falsely-called Church, which, I'll prove to you, are founded merely on ancient fables—'

'Stick to your herbs and planets,' said Puck, laughing. 'You should have told the magistrates, Nick, and had Jack fined. Again, why did you neglect your plain duty?'

'Because—because I was kneeling, and praying, and weeping with the rest of 'em at the Altar-rails. In medicine this is called the Hysterical Passion. It may be—it may be.'

'That's as may be,' said Puck. They heard him turn the hay. 'Why, your hay is half hedge-brishings,' he said. 'You don't expect a horse to thrive on oak and ash and thorn leaves, do you?'

Ping-ping-ping went the bicycle bell round the corner. Nurse was coming back from the mill.

'Is it all right?' Una called.

'All quite right,' Nurse called back. 'They're to be christened next Sunday.'

'What? What?' They both leaned forward across the half-door. It could not have been properly fastened, for it opened, and tilted them out with hay and leaves sticking all over them.

'Come on! We must get those two twins' names,' said Una, and they charged uphill shouting over the hedge, till Nurse slowed up and told them. When they returned, old Middenboro had got out of his stall, and they spent a lively ten minutes chasing him in again by starlight.

'Our Fathers of Old'

Excellent herbs had our fathers of old— Excellent herbs to ease their pain— Alexanders and Marigold, Eyebright, Orris, and Elecampane, Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue, (Almost singing themselves they run) Vervain, Dittany, Call-me-to-you— Cowslip, Melilot, Rose of the Sun. Anything green that grew out of the mould Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old.

Wonderful tales had our fathers of old— Wonderful tales of the herbs and the stars— The Sun was Lord of the Marigold, Basil and Rocket belonged to Mars. Pat as a sum in division it goes— (Every plant had a star bespoke)— Who but Venus should govern the Rose? Who but Jupiter own the Oak? Simply and gravely the facts are told In the wonderful books of our fathers of old.

Wonderful little, when all is said, Wonderful little our fathers knew. Half their remedies cured you dead— Most of their teaching was quite untrue— 'Look at the stars when a patient is ill, (Dirt has nothing to do with disease,) Bleed and blister as much as you will, Blister and bleed him as oft as you please.' Whence enormous and manifold Errors were made by our fathers of old.

Yet when the sickness was sore in the land, And neither planet nor herb assuaged, They took their lives in their lancet-hand And, oh, what a wonderful war they waged! Yes, when the crosses were chalked on the door— Yes, when the terrible dead-cart rolled, Excellent courage our fathers bore— Excellent heart had our fathers of old. Not too learned, but nobly bold, Into the fight went our fathers of old.

If it be certain, as Galen says, And sage Hippocrates holds as much— 'That those afflicted by doubts and dismays Are mightily helped by a dead man's touch,' Then, be good to us, stars above! Then, be good to us, herbs below! We are afflicted by what we can prove; We are distracted by what we know— So—ah, so! Down from your Heaven or up from your mould, Send us the hearts of our fathers of old!


The Thousandth Man

One man in a thousand, Solomon says, Will stick more close than a brother. And it's worth while seeking him half your days If you find him before the other. Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend on what the world sees in you, But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show Will settle the finding for 'ee. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go By your looks or your acts or your glory. But if he finds you and you find him, The rest of the world don't matter; For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more shame Than he uses yours for his spendings; And laugh and mention it just the same As though there had been no lendings. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call For silver and gold in their dealings; But the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all, Because you can show him your feelings!

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right, In season or out of season. Stand up and back it in all men's sight— With that for your only reason! Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide The shame or mocking or laughter, But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side To the gallows-foot—and after!

Simple Simon

Cattiwow came down the steep lane with his five-horse timber-tug. He stopped by the wood-lump at the back gate to take off the brakes. His real name was Brabon, but the first time the children met him, years and years ago, he told them he was 'carting wood,' and it sounded so exactly like 'cattiwow' that they never called him anything else.

'HI!' Una shouted from the top of the wood-lump, where they had been watching the lane. 'What are you doing? Why weren't we told?'

'They've just sent for me,' Cattiwow answered. 'There's a middlin' big log stacked in the dirt at Rabbit Shaw, and'—he flicked his whip back along the line—'so they've sent for us all.'

Dan and Una threw themselves off the wood-lump almost under black Sailor's nose. Cattiwow never let them ride the big beam that makes the body of the timber-tug, but they hung on behind while their teeth thuttered.

The Wood road beyond the brook climbs at once into the woods, and you see all the horses' backs rising, one above another, like moving stairs. Cattiwow strode ahead in his sackcloth woodman's petticoat, belted at the waist with a leather strap; and when he turned and grinned, his red lips showed under his sackcloth-coloured beard. His cap was sackcloth too, with a flap behind, to keep twigs and bark out of his neck. He navigated the tug among pools of heather-water that splashed in their faces, and through clumps of young birches that slashed at their legs, and when they hit an old toadstooled stump, they never knew whether it would give way in showers of rotten wood, or jar them back again.

At the top of Rabbit Shaw half-a-dozen men and a team of horses stood round a forty-foot oak log in a muddy hollow. The ground about was poached and stoached with sliding hoofmarks, and a wave of dirt was driven up in front of the butt.

'What did you want to bury her for this way?' said Cattiwow. He took his broad-axe and went up the log tapping it.

'She's sticked fast,' said 'Bunny' Lewknor, who managed the other team.

Cattiwow unfastened the five wise horses from the tug. They cocked their ears forward, looked, and shook themselves.

'I believe Sailor knows,' Dan whispered to Una.

'He do,' said a man behind them. He was dressed in flour sacks like the others, and he leaned on his broad-axe, but the children, who knew all the wood-gangs, knew he was a stranger. In his size and oily hairiness he might have been Bunny Lewknor's brother, except that his brown eyes were as soft as a spaniel's, and his rounded black beard, beginning close up under them, reminded Una of the walrus in 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.'

'Don't he justabout know?' he said shyly, and shifted from one foot to the other.

'Yes. "What Cattiwow can't get out of the woods must have roots growing to her."' Dan had heard old Hobden say this a few days before.

At that minute Puck pranced up, picking his way through the pools of black water in the ling.

'Look out!' cried Una, jumping forward. 'He'll see you, Puck!'

'Me and Mus' Robin are pretty middlin' well acquainted,' the man answered with a smile that made them forget all about walruses.

'This is Simon Cheyneys,' Puck began, and cleared his throat. 'Shipbuilder of Rye Port; burgess of the said town, and the only—'

'Oh, look! Look ye! That's a knowing one,' said the man.

Cattiwow had fastened his team to the thin end of the log, and was moving them about with his whip till they stood at right angles to it, heading downhill. Then he grunted. The horses took the strain, beginning with Sailor next the log, like a tug-of-war team, and dropped almost to their knees. The log shifted a nail's breadth in the clinging dirt, with the noise of a giant's kiss.

'You're getting her!' Simon Cheyneys slapped his knee. 'Hing on! Hing on, lads, or she'll master ye! Ah!'

Sailor's left hind hoof had slipped on a heather-tuft. One of the men whipped off his sack apron and spread it down. They saw Sailor feel for it, and recover. Still the log hung, and the team grunted in despair.

'Hai!' shouted Cattiwow, and brought his dreadful whip twice across Sailor's loins with the crack of a shot-gun. The horse almost screamed as he pulled that extra last ounce which he did not know was in him. The thin end of the log left the dirt and rasped on dry gravel. The butt ground round like a buffalo in his wallow. Quick as an axe-cut, Lewknor snapped on his five horses, and sliding, trampling, jingling, and snorting, they had the whole thing out on the heather.

'Dat's the very first time I've knowed you lay into Sailor—to hurt him,' said Lewknor.

'It is,' said Cattiwow, and passed his hand over the two wheals. 'But I'd ha' laid my own brother open at that pinch. Now we'll twitch her down the hill a piece—she lies just about right—and get her home by the low road. My team'll do it, Bunny; you bring the tug along. Mind out!'

He spoke to the horses, who tightened the chains. The great log half rolled over, and slowly drew itself out of sight downhill, followed by the wood-gang and the timber-tug. In half a minute there was nothing to see but the deserted hollow of the torn-up dirt, the birch undergrowth still shaking, and the water draining back into the hoof-prints.

'Ye heard him?' Simon Cheyneys asked. 'He cherished his horse, but he'd ha' laid him open in that pinch.'

'Not for his own advantage,' said Puck quickly. ''Twas only to shift the log.'

'I reckon every man born of woman has his log to shift in the world—if so be you're hintin' at any o' Frankie's doings. He never hit beyond reason or without reason,' said Simon.

'I never said a word against Frankie,' Puck retorted, with a wink at the children. 'An' if I did, do it lie in your mouth to contest my say-so, seeing how you—'

'Why don't it lie in my mouth, seeing I was the first which knowed Frankie for all he was?' The burly sack-clad man puffed down at cool little Puck.

'Yes, and the first which set out to poison him—Frankie—on the high seas—'

Simon's angry face changed to a sheepish grin. He waggled his immense hands, but Puck stood off and laughed mercilessly.

'But let me tell you, Mus' Robin,'he pleaded.

'I've heard the tale. Tell the children here. Look, Dan! Look, Una!'—-Puck's straight brown finger levelled like an arrow. 'There's the only man that ever tried to poison Sir Francis Drake!'

'Oh, Mus' Robin! 'Tidn't fair. You've the 'vantage of us all in your upbringin's by hundreds o' years. Stands to nature you know all the tales against every one.'

He turned his soft eyes so helplessly on Una that she cried, 'Stop ragging him, Puck! You know he didn't really.'

'I do. But why are you so sure, little maid?' 'Because—because he doesn't look like it,' said Una stoutly.

'I thank you,' said Simon to Una. 'I—I was always trustable-like with children if you let me alone, you double handful o' mischief.' He pretended to heave up his axe on Puck; and then his shyness overtook him afresh.

'Where did you know Sir Francis Drake?' said Dan, not liking being called a child.

'At Rye Port, to be sure,' said Simon, and seeing Dan's bewilderment, repeated it.

'Yes, but look here,'said Dan. '"Drake he was a Devon man." The song says so.'

'"And ruled the Devon seas,"' Una went on. 'That's what I was thinking—if you don't mind.'

Simon Cheyneys seemed to mind very much indeed, for he swelled in silence while Puck laughed.

'Hutt!' he burst out at last, 'I've heard that talk too. If you listen to them West Country folk, you'll listen to a pack o' lies. I believe Frankie was born somewhere out west among the Shires, but his father had to run for it when Frankie was a baby, because the neighbours was wishful to kill him, d'ye see? He run to Chatham, old Parson Drake did, an' Frankie was brought up in a old hulks of a ship moored in the Medway river, same as it might ha' been the Rother. Brought up at sea, you might say, before he could walk on land—nigh Chatham in Kent. And ain't Kent back-door to Sussex? And don't that make Frankie Sussex? O' course it do. Devon man! Bah! Those West Country boats they're always fishin' in other folks' water.'

'I beg your pardon,' said Dan. 'I'm sorry.

'No call to be sorry. You've been misled. I met Frankie at Rye Port when my Uncle, that was the shipbuilder there, pushed me off his wharf-edge on to Frankie's ship. Frankie had put in from Chatham with his rudder splutted, and a man's arm—Moon's that 'ud be—broken at the tiller. "Take this boy aboard an' drown him," says my Uncle, "and I'll mend your rudder-piece for love."

'What did your Uncle want you drowned for?'said Una.

'That was only his fashion of say-so, same as Mus' Robin. I'd a foolishness in my head that ships could be builded out of iron. Yes—iron ships! I'd made me a liddle toy one of iron plates beat out thin—and she floated a wonder! But my Uncle, bein' a burgess of Rye, and a shipbuilder, he 'prenticed me to Frankie in the fetchin' trade, to cure this foolishness.'

'What was the fetchin' trade?' Dan interrupted.

'Fetchin' poor Flemishers and Dutchmen out o' the Low Countries into England. The King o' Spain, d'ye see, he was burnin' 'em in those parts, for to make 'em Papishers, so Frankie he fetched 'em away to our parts, and a risky trade it was. His master wouldn't never touch it while he lived, but he left his ship to Frankie when he died, and Frankie turned her into this fetchin' trade. Outrageous cruel hard work—on besom-black nights bulting back and forth off they Dutch roads with shoals on all sides, and having to hark out for the frish-frish-frish-like of a Spanish galliwopses' oars creepin' up on ye. Frankie 'ud have the tiller and Moon he'd peer forth at the bows, our lantern under his skirts, till the boat we was lookin' for 'ud blurt up out o' the dark, and we'd lay hold and haul aboard whoever 'twas—man, woman, or babe—an' round we'd go again, the wind bewling like a kite in our riggin's, and they'd drop into the hold and praise God for happy deliverance till they was all sick.

'I had nigh a year at it, an' we must have fetched off—oh, a hundred pore folk, I reckon. Outrageous bold, too, Frankie growed to be. Outrageous cunnin' he was. Once we was as near as nothin' nipped by a tall ship off Tergoes Sands in a snowstorm. She had the wind of us, and spooned straight before it, shootin' all bow guns. Frankie fled inshore smack for the beach, till he was atop of the first breakers. Then he hove his anchor out, which nigh tore our bows off, but it twitched us round end-for-end into the wind, d'ye see, an' we clawed off them sands like a drunk man rubbin' along a tavern bench. When we could see, the Spanisher was laid flat along in the breakers with the snows whitening on his wet belly. He thought he could go where Frankie went.'

'What happened to the crew?' said Una.

'We didn't stop,' Simon answered. 'There was a very liddle new baby in our hold, and the mother she wanted to get to some dry bed middlin' quick. We runned into Dover, and said nothing.'

'Was Sir Francis Drake very much pleased?' 'Heart alive, maid, he'd no head to his name in those days. He was just a outrageous, valiant, crop-haired, tutt-mouthed boy, roarin' up an' down the narrer seas, with his beard not yet quilted out. He made a laughing-stock of everything all day, and he'd hold our lives in the bight of his arm all the besom-black night among they Dutch sands; and we'd ha' jumped overside to behove him any one time, all of us.'

'Then why did you try to poison him?' Una asked wickedly, and Simon hung his head like a shy child.

'Oh, that was when he set me to make a pudden, for because our cook was hurted. I done my uttermost, but she all fetched adrift like in the bag, an' the more I biled the bits of her, the less she favoured any fashion o' pudden. Moon he chawed and chammed his piece, and Frankie chawed and chammed his'n, and—no words to it—he took me by the ear an' walked me out over the bow-end, an' him an' Moon hove the pudden at me on the bowsprit gub by gub, something cruel hard!' Simon rubbed his hairy cheek.

'"Nex' time you bring me anything," says Frankie, "you bring me cannon-shot an' I'll know what I'm getting." But as for poisonin'—' He stopped, the children laughed so.

'Of course you didn't,' said Una. 'Oh, Simon, we do like you!'

'I was always likeable with children.' His smile crinkled up through the hair round his eyes. 'Simple Simon they used to call me through our yard gates.'

'Did Sir Francis mock you?' Dan asked.

'Ah, no. He was gentle-born. Laugh he did—he was always laughing—but not so as to hurt a feather. An' I loved 'en. I loved 'en before England knew 'en, or Queen Bess she broke his heart.'

'But he hadn't really done anything when you knew him, had he?' Una insisted. 'Armadas and those things, I mean.'

Simon pointed to the scars and scrapes left by Cattiwow's great log. 'You tell me that that good ship's timber never done nothing against winds and weathers since her up-springing, and I'll confess ye that young Frankie never done nothing neither. Nothing? He adventured and suffered and made shift on they Dutch sands as much in any one month as ever he had occasion for to do in a half-year on the high seas afterwards. An' what was his tools? A coaster boat—a liddle box o' walty plankin' an' some few fathom feeble rope held together an' made able by him sole. He drawed our spirits up In our bodies same as a chimney-towel draws a fire. 'Twas in him, and it comed out all times and shapes.' 'I wonder did he ever 'magine what he was going to be? Tell himself stories about it?' said Dan with a flush.

'I expect so. We mostly do—even when we're grown. But bein' Frankie, he took good care to find out beforehand what his fortune might be. Had I rightly ought to tell 'em this piece?' Simon turned to Puck, who nodded.

'My Mother, she was just a fair woman, but my Aunt, her sister, she had gifts by inheritance laid up in her,' Simon began.

'Oh, that'll never do,' cried Puck, for the children stared blankly. 'Do you remember what Robin promised to the Widow Whitgift so long as her blood and get lasted?' [See 'Dymchurch Flit' in PUCK OF POOK'S HILL.] 'Yes. There was always to be one of them that could see farther through a millstone than most,' Dan answered promptly.

'Well, Simon's Aunt's mother,' said Puck slowly, 'married the Widow's blind son on the Marsh, and Simon's Aunt was the one chosen to see farthest through millstones. Do you understand?'

'That was what I was gettin' at,' said Simon, 'but you're so desperate quick. My Aunt she knew what was comin' to people. My Uncle being a burgess of Rye, he counted all such things odious, and my Aunt she couldn't be got to practise her gifts hardly at all, because it hurted her head for a week after-wards; but when Frankie heard she had 'em, he was all for nothin' till she foretold on him—till she looked in his hand to tell his fortune, d'ye see? One time we was at Rye she come aboard with my other shirt and some apples, and he fair beazled the life out of her about it.

'"Oh, you'll be twice wed, and die childless," she says, and pushes his hand away.

'"That's the woman's part," he says. "What'll come to me-to me?" an' he thrusts it back under her nose.

'"Gold—gold, past belief or counting," she says. "Let go o' me, lad."

'"Sink the gold!" he says. "What'll I do, mother?" He coaxed her like no woman could well withstand. I've seen him with 'em—even when they were sea-sick.

'"If you will have it," she says at last, "you shall have it. You'll do a many things, and eating and drinking with a dead man beyond the world's end will be the least of them. For you'll open a road from the East unto the West, and back again, and you'll bury your heart with your best friend by that road-side, and the road you open none shall shut so long as you're let lie quiet in your grave."

[The old lady's prophecy is in a fair way to come true, for now the Panama Canal is finished, one end of it opens into the very bay where Sir Francis Drake was buried. So ships are taken through the Canal, and the road round Cape Horn which Sir Francis opened is very little used.]

'"And if I'm not?" he says.

'"Why, then," she says, "Sim's iron ships will be sailing on dry land. Now ha' done with this foolishness. Where's Sim's shirt?"

'He couldn't fetch no more out of her, and when we come up from the cabin, he stood mazed-like by the tiller, playing with a apple. '"My Sorrow!" says my Aunt; "d'ye see that? The great world lying in his hand, liddle and round like a apple."

'"Why, 'tis one you gived him," I says.

'"To be sure," she says. "'Tis just a apple," and she went ashore with her hand to her head. It always hurted her to show her gifts.

Him and me puzzled over that talk plenty. It sticked in his mind quite extravagant. The very next time we slipped out for some fetchin' trade, we met Mus' Stenning's boat over by Calais sands; and he warned us that the Spanishers had shut down all their Dutch ports against us English, and their galliwopses was out picking up our boats like flies off hogs' backs. Mus' Stenning he runs for Shoreham, but Frankie held on a piece, knowin' that Mus Stenning was jealous of our good trade. Over by Dunkirk a great gor-bellied Spanisher, with the Cross on his sails, came rampin' at us. We left him. We left him all they bare seas to conquest in.

'"Looks like this road was going to be shut pretty soon," says Frankie, humourin' her at the tiller. "I'll have to open that other one your Aunt foretold of."

'"The Spanisher's crowdin' down on us middlin' quick," I says. "No odds," says Frankie, "he'll have the inshore tide against him. Did your Aunt say I was to be quiet in my grave for ever?"

'"Till my iron ships sailed dry land," I says.

'"That's foolishness," he says. "Who cares where Frankie Drake makes a hole in the water now or twenty years from now?"

'The Spanisher kept muckin' on more and more canvas. I told him so.

'"He's feelin' the tide," was all he says. "If he was among Tergoes Sands with this wind, we'd be picking his bones proper. I'd give my heart to have all their tall ships there some night before a north gale, and me to windward. There'd be gold in My hands then. Did your Aunt say she saw the world settin' in my hand, Sim?"

'"Yes, but 'twas a apple," says I, and he laughed like he always did at me. "Do you ever feel minded to jump overside and be done with everything?" he asks after a while.

'"No. What water comes aboard is too wet as 'tis," I says. "The Spanisher's going about."

'"I told you," says he, never looking back. "He'll give us the Pope's Blessing as he swings. Come down off that rail. There's no knowin' where stray shots may hit." So I came down off the rail, and leaned against it, and the Spanisher he ruffled round in the wind, and his port-lids opened all red inside.

'"Now what'll happen to my road if they don't let me lie quiet in my grave?" he says. "Does your Aunt mean there's two roads to be found and kept open—or what does she mean? I don't like that talk about t'other road. D'you believe in your iron ships, Sim?"

'He knowed I did, so I only nodded, and he nodded back again. '"Anybody but me 'ud call you a fool, Sim," he says. "Lie down. Here comes the Pope's Blessing!"

'The Spanisher gave us his broadside as he went about. They all fell short except one that smack-smooth hit the rail behind my back, an' I felt most won'erful cold.

'"Be you hit anywhere to signify?" he says. "Come over to me."

'"O Lord, Mus' Drake," I says, "my legs won't move," and that was the last I spoke for months.'

'Why? What had happened?' cried Dan and Una together.

'The rail had jarred me in here like.' Simon reached behind him clumsily. 'From my shoulders down I didn't act no shape. Frankie carried me piggyback to my Aunt's house, and I lay bed-rid and tongue-tied while she rubbed me day and night, month in and month out. She had faith in rubbing with the hands. P'raps she put some of her gifts into it, too. Last of all, something loosed itself in my pore back, and lo! I was whole restored again, but kitten-feeble.

'"Where's Frankie?" I says, thinking I'd been a longish while abed.

'"Down-wind amongst the Dons—months ago," says my Aunt.

'"When can I go after 'en?" I says.

'"Your duty's to your town and trade now," says she. "Your Uncle he died last Michaelmas and he've left you and me the yard. So no more iron ships, mind ye."

'"What?" I says. "And you the only one that beleft in 'em!"

'"Maybe I do still," she says, "but I'm a woman before I'm a Whitgift, and wooden ships is what England needs us to build. I lay on ye to do so."

'That's why I've never teched iron since that day—not to build a toy ship of. I've never even drawed a draft of one for my pleasure of evenings.' Simon smiled down on them all. 'Whitgift blood is terrible resolute—on the she-side,'said Puck.

'Didn't You ever see Sir Francis Drake again?'Dan asked.

'With one thing and another, and my being made a burgess of Rye, I never clapped eyes on him for the next twenty years. Oh, I had the news of his mighty doings the world over. They was the very same bold, cunning shifts and passes he'd worked with beforetimes off they Dutch sands, but, naturally, folk took more note of them. When Queen Bess made him knight, he sent my Aunt a dried orange stuffed with spiceries to smell to. She cried outrageous on it. She blamed herself for her foretellings, having set him on his won'erful road; but I reckon he'd ha' gone that way all withstanding. Curious how close she foretelled it! The world in his hand like an apple, an' he burying his best friend, Mus' Doughty—'

'Never mind for Mus' Doughty,' Puck interrupted. 'Tell us where you met Sir Francis next.'

'Oh, ha! That was the year I was made a burgess of Rye—the same year which King Philip sent his ships to take England without Frankie's leave.'

'The Armada!' said Dan contentedly. 'I was hoping that would come.'

'I knowed Frankie would never let 'em smell London smoke, but plenty good men in Rye was two-three minded about the upshot. 'Twas the noise of the gun-fire tarrified us. The wind favoured it our way from off behind the Isle of Wight. It made a mutter like, which growed and growed, and by the end of a week women was shruckin' in the streets. Then they come slidderin' past Fairlight in a great smoky pat vambrished with red gun-fire, and our ships flyin' forth and duckin' in again. The smoke-pat sliddered over to the French shore, so I knowed Frankie was edgin' the Spanishers toward they Dutch sands where he was master. I says to my Aunt, "The smoke's thinnin' out. I lay Frankie's just about scrapin' his hold for a few last rounds shot. 'Tis time for me to go."

'"Never in them clothes," she says. "Do on the doublet I bought you to be made burgess in, and don't you shame this day."

'So I mucked it on, and my chain, and my stiffed Dutch breeches and all.

'"I be comin', too," she says from her chamber, and forth she come pavisandin' like a peacock—stuff, ruff, stomacher and all. She was a notable woman.'

'But how did you go? You haven't told us,' said Una.

'In my own ship—but half-share was my Aunt's. In the ANTONY OF RYE, to be sure; and not empty-handed. I'd been loadin' her for three days with the pick of our yard. We was ballasted on cannon-shot of all three sizes; and iron rods and straps for his carpenters; and a nice passel of clean three-inch oak planking and hide breech-ropes for his cannon, and gubs of good oakum, and bolts o' canvas, and all the sound rope in the yard. What else could I ha' done? I knowed what he'd need most after a week's such work. I'm a shipbuilder, little maid.

'We'd a fair slant o' wind off Dungeness, and we crept on till it fell light airs and puffed out. The Spanishers was all in a huddle over by Calais, and our ships was strawed about mending 'emselves like dogs lickin' bites. Now and then a Spanisher would fire from a low port, and the ball 'ud troll across the flat swells, but both sides was finished fightin' for that tide.

'The first ship we foreslowed on, her breastworks was crushed in, an' men was shorin' 'em up. She said nothing. The next was a black pinnace, his pumps clackin' middling quick, and he said nothing. But the third, mending shot-holes, he spoke out plenty. I asked him where Mus' Drake might be, and a shiny-suited man on the poop looked down into us, and saw what we carried.

'"Lay alongside you!" he says. "We'll take that all."

'"'Tis for Mus' Drake," I says, keeping away lest his size should lee the wind out of my sails.

'"Hi! Ho! Hither! We're Lord High Admiral of England! Come alongside, or we'll hang ye," he says.

''Twas none of my affairs who he was if he wasn't Frankie, and while he talked so hot I slipped behind a green-painted ship with her top-sides splintered. We was all in the middest of 'em then.

'"Hi! Hoi!" the green ship says. "Come alongside, honest man, and I'll buy your load. I'm Fenner that fought the seven Portugals—clean out of shot or bullets. Frankie knows me."

'"Ay, but I don't," I says, and I slacked nothing.

'He was a masterpiece. Seein' I was for goin' on, he hails a Bridport hoy beyond us and shouts, "George! Oh, George! Wing that duck. He's fat!" An' true as we're all here, that squatty Bridport boat rounds to acrost our bows, intendin' to stop us by means o' shooting.

'My Aunt looks over our rail. "George," she says, "you finish with your enemies afore you begin on your friends."

'Him that was laying the liddle swivel-gun at us sweeps off his hat an' calls her Queen Bess, and asks if she was selling liquor to pore dry sailors. My Aunt answered him quite a piece. She was a notable woman.

'Then he come up—his long pennant trailing overside—his waistcloths and netting tore all to pieces where the Spanishers had grappled, and his sides black-smeared with their gun-blasts like candle-smoke in a bottle. We hooked on to a lower port and hung.

'"Oh, Mus' Drake! Mus' Drake!" I calls up.

'He stood on the great anchor cathead, his shirt open to the middle, and his face shining like the sun.

'"Why, Sim!" he says. Just like that—after twenty year! "Sim," he says, "what brings you?"

'"Pudden," I says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

'"You told me to bring cannon-shot next time, an' I've brought 'em."

'He saw we had. He ripped out a fathom and a half o' brimstone Spanish, and he swung down on our rail, and he kissed me before all his fine young captains. His men was swarming out of the lower ports ready to unload us. When he saw how I'd considered all his likely wants, he kissed me again.

'"Here's a friend that sticketh closer than a brother!" he says. "Mistress," he says to my Aunt, "all you foretold on me was true. I've opened that road from the East to the West, and I've buried my heart beside it."

'"I know," she says. "That's why I be come."

'"But ye never foretold this"; he points to both they great fleets.

'"This don't seem to me to make much odds compared to what happens to a man," she says. "Do it?"

'"Certain sure a man forgets to remember when he's proper mucked up with work. Sim," he says to me, "we must shift every living Spanisher round Dunkirk corner on to our Dutch sands before morning. The wind'll come out of the North after this calm—same as it used—and then they're our meat."

'"Amen," says I. "I've brought you what I could scutchel up of odds and ends. Be you hit anywhere to signify?"

'"Oh, our folk'll attend to all that when we've time," he says. He turns to talk to my Aunt, while his men flew the stuff out of our hold. I think I saw old Moon amongst 'em, but he was too busy to more than nod like. Yet the Spanishers was going to prayers with their bells and candles before we'd cleaned out the ANTONY. Twenty-two ton o' useful stuff I'd fetched him. '"Now, Sim," says my Aunt, "no more devouring of Mus' Drake's time. He's sending us home in the Bridport hoy. I want to speak to them young springalds again."

'"But here's our ship all ready and swept," I says.

'"Swep' an' garnished," says Frankie. "I'm going to fill her with devils in the likeness o' pitch and sulphur. We must shift the Dons round Dunkirk corner, and if shot can't do it, we'll send down fireships."

'"I've given him my share of the ANTONY," says my Aunt. "What do you reckon to do about yours?"

'"She offered it," said Frankie, laughing.

'"She wouldn't have if I'd overheard her," I says; "because I'd have offered my share first." Then I told him how the ANTONY's sails was best trimmed to drive before the wind, and seeing he was full of occupations we went acrost to that Bridport hoy, and left him.

'But Frankie was gentle-born, d'ye see, and that sort they never overlook any folks' dues.

'When the hoy passed under his stern, he stood bare-headed on the poop same as if my Aunt had been his Queen, and his musicianers played "Mary Ambree" on their silver trumpets quite a long while. Heart alive, little maid! I never meaned to make you look sorrowful!

'Bunny Lewknor in his sackcloth petticoats burst through the birch scrub wiping his forehead.

'We've got the stick to rights now! She've been a whole hatful o' trouble. You come an' ride her home, Mus' Dan and Miss Una!'

'They found the proud wood-gang at the foot of the slope, with the log double-chained on the tug.

'Cattiwow, what are you going to do with it?'said Dan, as they straddled the thin part.

'She's going down to Rye to make a keel for a Lowestoft fishin'-boat, I've heard. Hold tight!'

'Cattiwow cracked his whip, and the great log dipped and tilted, and leaned and dipped again, exactly like a stately ship upon the high seas.

Frankie's Trade

Old Horn to All Atlantic said: (A-hay O! To me O!) 'Now where did Frankie learn his trade? For he ran me down with a three-reef mains'le.' (All round the Horn!)

Atlantic answered: 'Not from me! You'd better ask the cold North Sea, For he ran me down under all plain canvas.' (All round the Horn!)

The North Sea answered: 'He's my man, For he came to me when he began— Frankie Drake in an open coaster. (All round the Sands!)

'I caught him young and I used him sore, So you never shall startle Frankie more, Without capsizing Earth and her waters. (All round the Sands!)

'I did not favour him at all, I made him pull and I made him haul— And stand his trick with the common sailors. (All round the Sands!)

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