It seemed to his hearers that this man took little thought of his drowned shipmates. Mr. Raymond looked up as he strapped his books together.
"You were not the only man in that schooner," he said, rather severely.
"Glory be! Who be I, to question the Lord's ways? One day I picked up a map, an' seed a place on it called 'Little Sins.' 'Little Sins wants great Deliverance,' says I, an' I started clane off an' walked to the place, though I'd never so much as heard of it till then. 'Twas harvest-time there, an' I danced into the field, shouting 'Glory, glory. The harvest is plenty, but the labourers be few!' The farmer was moved to give me a job 'pon the spot. I bided there two year, an' built them a chapel an' preached the Word in it. They offered me money to stop an' preach; and I laid it before the Lord. But He said, 'You're the King's Postman. Keep moving, keep on moving! 'I've built two more chapels since then."
Late that afternoon three bodies were recovered from the sea—the captain, the mate, and a boy of about sixteen; and were buried in the churchyard next day, as soon as the inquest was over. Pascoe followed the coffins, and pointed the service at the grave-side with interjaculations of his own. "Glory be!" "A-men!" "Hallelujah!" "Great Redemption!" To the Vicar's surprise the small crowd after a minute began to follow the man's lead, until at length he could scarcely read for these interruptions.
At supper that night Pascoe sprang a question on the Vicar.
"Be you convarted?" he asked, looking up with his mouth full of bread and cheese.
"I hope so."
"Aw, you hopes! 'Tis a bad case with 'ee, then. When a man's convarted, he knows. Seemin' to me, you baint. You don't show enough of the bright side. Now, as I go along, my very toes keep ticking salvation. Down goes one foot, 'Glory be!' Down goes the other, 'A-men!' Aw! I must dance for joy!"
He got up and danced around the kitchen.
"I wish the man would go," Humility thought to herself.
His very next words answered her wish. "I'll be leavin' to-morrow, friends. I've got a room down to the village, an' I've borreyed a razor. I'm goin' to tramp round the mines at the back here, an' shave the miners at a ha'penny a chin. That'll pay my way. There's a new preacher planned to the Bible Christians, down to Innis, an' I'm goin' to help he. My dears, don't 'ee tell me the Lord didn' know what He was about when He cast the Garibaldi ashore!"
He left the Parsonage next day. "Ma'am," he said to Humility on leaving, "I salute this here house. Peace be on this here house, for it is worthy. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward."
Two mornings later, Taffy, looking out from his bedroom window soon after daybreak, saw the prophet trudging along the road. He had a clean white bag slung across his shoulder; it carried his soap and razors, no doubt. And every now and then he waved his walking-stick and skipped as he went.
 Loading vessels from the jetties.
A HAPPY DAY.
A volley of sand darkened and shook the pane. Taffy, sponging himself in his tub and singing between his gasps, looked up hastily, then flung a big towel about him and ran to the window.
Honoria was standing below; and Comedy, her gray pony, with a creel and a couple of fishing rods strapped to his canvas girth.
"Wake up! I've come to take you fishing."
Mr. Raymond had started off at daybreak to walk to Truro on business; so there would be no lessons that morning, and Taffy had been looking forward to a lonely whole holiday.
"I've brought two pasties," said Honoria, "and a bottle of milk. We'll go over to George's country and catch trout. He is to meet us at Vellingey Bridge. We arranged it all yesterday, only I kept it for a surprise."
Taffy could have leapt for joy. "Go in and speak to mother," he said; "she's in the kitchen."
Honoria hitched Comedy's bridle over the gate, walked up the barren little garden, and knocked at the door. When Mrs. Raymond opened it she held out a hand politely.
"How do you do?" she said, "I have come to ask if Taffy may go fishing with me."
Except in church, and outside the porch for a formal word or two, Humility and Honoria had never met. This was Honoria's first visit to the Parsonage, and the sight of the clean kitchen and shining pots and pans filled her with wonder. Humility shook hands and made a silent note of the child's frock, which was torn and wanted brushing.
"He may go, and thank you. It's lonely for him here, very often."
"I suppose," said Honoria gravely, "I ought to have called before. I wish—" She was about to say that she wished Humility would come to Tredinnis. But her eyes wandered to the orderly dresser and the scalding-pans by the fireplace.
"I mean—if Taffy had a sister it would be different."
Humility bent to lift a kettle off the fire. When she faced round again, her eyes were smiling though her lip trembled a little.
"How bright you keep everything here!" said Honoria.
"There's plenty of sand to scour with; it's bad for the garden though."
"Don't you grow any flowers?"
"I planted a few pansies the first year; they came from my home up in Devonshire. But the sand covered them. It covers everything." She smiled, and asked suddenly, "May I kiss you?"
"Of course you may," said Honoria. But she blushed as Humility did it, and they both laughed shyly.
"Hullo!" cried Taffy from the foot of the stairs. Honoria moved to the window. She heard the boy and his mother laughing and making pretence to quarrel, while he chose the brownest of the hot cakes from the wood-ashes. She stared out upon Humility's buried pansies. It was strange—a minute back she had felt quite happy.
Humility set them off, and watched them till they disappeared in the first dip of the towans; and then sat down in the empty kitchen and wept a little before carrying up her mother's breakfast.
Honoria rode in silence for the first mile; but Taffy sang and whistled by turns as he skipped alongside. The whole world flashed and glittered around the boy and girl; the white gulls fishing, the swallows chasing one another across the dunes, the lighthouse on the distant spit, the white-washed mine-chimneys on the ridge beside the shore. Away on the rises of the moor one hill-farm laughed to another in a steady flame of furze blossom—laughed with a tinkling of singing larks. And beyond the last rise lay the land of wonders, George's country. "Hark!" Honoria reined up. "Isn't that the cuckoo?" Taffy listened. Yes, somewhere among the hillocks seaward its note was dinning.
"Cuckoo, cherry-tree, Be a good bird and tell to me How many years before I die?"
"Ninety-six!" Taffy announced.
"Ninety-two," said Honoria, "but we won't quarrel about it. Happy month to you!"
"It is the first of May. Come along; perhaps we shall meet the Mayers, though we're too late, I expect. Hullo! there's a miner— let's ask him."
The miner came upon them suddenly—footsteps make no sound among the towans; a young man in a suit stained orange-tawny, with a tallow candle stuck with a lump of clay in the brim of his hat, and a striped tulip stuck in another lump of clay at the back and nodding.
"Good-morning, miss. You've come a day behind the fair."
"Is the Maying over?" Honoria asked.
"Iss, fay. I've just been home to shift myself."
He walked along with them and told them all about it in the friendliest manner. It had been a grand Maying—all the boys and girls in the parish—with the hal-an-tow, of course—such dancing! Fine and tired some of the maids must be—he wouldn't give much for the work they'd do to-day. Two May mornings in one year would make a grass-captain mad, as the saying was. But there—'twas a poor spirit that never rejoiced.
"Which do you belong to?" Taffy nodded toward the mine-chimneys on the sky-line high on their left, which hid the sea, though it lay less than half a mile away and the roar of it was in their ears—just such a roar as the train makes when rushing through a tunnel.
"Bless you, I'm a tinner. I belong to Wheal Gooniver, up the valley. Wheal Vlo there, 'pon the cliff, he's lead. And the next to him, Wheal Penhale, he's iron. I came a bit out of my way with you for company."
Soon after parting from him they crossed the valley-stream (Taffy had to wade it), and here they happened on a dozen tall girls at work "spalling" the tin-ore, but not busy. The most of them leaned on their hammers or stood with hands on hips, their laughter drowning the thud, thud of the engine-house and the rattle of the stamps up the valley. And the cause of it all seemed to be a smaller girl who stood by with a basket in her arms.
"Here you be, Lizzie!" cried one. "Here's a young lady and gentleman coming with money in their pockets."
Lizzie turned. She was a child of fourteen, perhaps; brown skinned, with shy, wild eyes. Her stockings were torn, her ragged clothes decorated with limp bunches of bluebells, and her neck and wrists with twisted daisy chains. She skipped up to Honoria and held out a basket. Within it, in a bed of fern, lay a May-doll among a few birds' eggs—a poor wooden thing in a single garment of pink calico.
"Give me something for my doll, miss!" she begged.
"Aw, that's too tame," one of the girls called out, and pitched her voice to the true beggar's whine: "Spare a copper! My only child, dear kind lady, and its only father broke his tender neck in a blasting accident, and left me twelve to maintain!"
All the girls began laughing again. Honoria did not laugh. She was feeling in her pocket.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Lizzie Pezzack. My father tends the lighthouse. Give me something for my doll, miss!"
Honoria held out a half-crown piece.
"Hand it to me."
The child did not understand. "Give me something—" she began again in her dull, level voice.
Honoria stamped her foot. "Give it to me!" She snatched up the doll and thrust it into the fishing creel, tossed the coin into Lizzie's basket, and taking Comedy by the bridle, moved up the path.
"She've adopted en!" They laughed and called out to Lizzie that she was in luck's way. But Taffy saw the child's face as she stared into the empty basket, and that it was perplexed and forlorn.
"Why did you do that?" he asked, as he caught up with Honoria. She did not answer.
And now they turned away from the sea, and struck a high road which took them between upland farms and across the ridge of cultivated land to a valley full of trees. A narrow path led inland up this valley. They had followed it under pale green shadows, in Indian file, the pony at Honoria's heels and Taffy behind, and stepped out into sunlight again upon a heathery moor where a trout stream chattered and sparkled. And there by a granite bridge they found George fishing, with three small trout shining on the turf beside him.
This was a day which Taffy remembered all his life, and yet most confusedly. Indeed there was little to remember it by—little to be told except that all the while the stream talked, the larks sang, and in the hollow of the hills three children were happy. George landed half a dozen trout before lunch-time; but Taffy caught none, partly because he knew nothing about fishing, partly because the chatter of the stream set him telling tales to himself and he forgot the rod in his hand. And Honoria, after hooking a tiny fish and throwing it back into the water, wandered off in search of larks' nests. She came slowly back when George blew a whistle announcing lunch.
"Hullo! What's this?" he asked, as he dived a hand into her creel. "Ugh! a doll! I say, Taffy, let's float her down the river. What humbug, Honoria!"
But she had snatched the doll and crammed it back roughly into the creel. A minute later, when they were not looking, she lifted the lid again and disposed the poor thing more gently.
"Why don't you talk, one of you?" George demanded, with his mouth full.
Taffy shook himself out of his waking dream—"I was wondering where it goes to," he said, and nodded toward the running water.
"It goes down to Langona," said George, "and that's just a creek full of sand, with a church right above it in a big grass meadow—the queerest small church you ever saw. But I've heard my father tell that hundreds of years back a big city stood there, with seven fine churches and quays, and deep water alongside and above, so that ships could sail right up to the ford. They came from all parts of the world for tin and lead, and the people down in the city had nothing to do but sit still and grow rich."
"Somebody must have worked," interrupted Honoria; "on the buildings and all that."
"The building was done by convicts. The story is that convicts were transported here from all over the kingdom."
"Did they live in the city?"
"No; they had a kind of camp across the creek. They dug out the harbour too, and kept it clear of sand. You can still see the marks of their pickaxes along the cliffs; I'll show them to you some day. My father knows all about it, because his great-great-great-great— grandfather (and a heap more 'greats,' I don't know how many) was the only one saved when the city was buried."
"Was he from the city, or one of the convicts?" asked Honoria, who had not forgiven George's assault upon her doll.
"He was a baby at the time, and couldn't remember," George answered, with fine composure. "They say he was found high up the creek, just where you cross it by the foot-bridge. The bridge is covered at high water; and if you try to cross below, especially when the tide is flowing, just you look out! Twice a day the sands become quick there. They've swallowed scores. I'll tell you another thing: there's a bird builds somewhere in the cliffs there—a crake, the people call it—and they say that whenever he goes crying about the sands, it means that a man will be drowned there."
"Rubbish! I don't believe in your city."
"Very well, then, I'll tell you something else. The fishermen have seen it—five or six of them. You know the kind of haze that gets up sometimes on hot days, when the sun's drawing water? They say that if you're a mile or two out and this happens between you and Langona Creek, you can see the city quite plain above the shore, with the seven churches and all."
"I can see it!" Taffy blurted this out almost without knowing that he spoke; and blushed furiously when George laughed. "I mean—I'm sure—" he began to explain.
"If you can see it," said Honoria, "you had better describe George's property for him." She yawned. "He can't tell the story himself— not one little bit."
"Right you are, miss," George agreed. "Fire away, Taffy."
Taffy thought for a minute, then, still with a red face, began. "It is all true, as George says. A fine city lies there, covered with the sands; and this was what happened. The King of Langona had a son, a handsome young Prince, who lived at home until he was eighteen, and then went on his travels. That was the custom, you know. The Prince took only his foster-brother, whose name was John, and they travelled for three years. On their way back, as they came to Langona Creek, they saw the convicts at work, and in one of the fields was a girl digging alone. She had a ring round her ankle, like the rest, with a chain and iron weight, but she was the most beautiful girl the Prince had ever seen. So he pulled up his horse and asked her who she was, and how she came to be wearing the chain. She told him she was no convict, but the daughter of a convict, and it was the law for the convict's children to wear these things. 'To-night,' said the Prince, 'you shall wear a ring of gold and be a Princess,' and he commanded John to file away the ring and take her upon his horse. They rode across the creak and came to the palace; and the Prince, after kissing his father and mother, said, 'I have brought you all kinds of presents from abroad; but best of all I have brought home a bride.' His parents, who wondered at her beauty, and never doubted but that she must be a king's daughter, were full of joy, and set the bells ringing in all the seven churches. So for a year everybody was happy, and at the end of that time a son was born."
"You're making it up," said Honoria. Taffy's own stories always puzzled her, with hints and echoes from other stories she half-remembered, but could seldom trace home. He had too cunning a gift.
George said, "Do be quiet! Of course he's making it up, but who wants to know that?"
"Two days afterward," Taffy went on, "the Prince was out hunting with his foster-brother. The Princess in her bed at home complained to her mother-in-law, 'Mother, my feet are cold. Bring me another rug to wrap them in.' The Queen did so, but as she covered the Princess's feet she saw the red mark left by the ankle ring, and knew that her son's wife was no true Princess, but a convict's daughter. And full of rage and shame she went away and mixed two cups. The first she gave to the Princess to drink; and when it had killed her (for it was poison) she dipped a finger into the dregs and rubbed it inside the child's lips, and very soon he was dead too. Then she sent for two ankle-chains and weights—one larger and one very small—and fitted them on the two bodies and had them flung into the creek. When the Prince came home he asked after his wife. 'She is sleeping,' said the Queen, 'and you must be thirsty with hunting?' She held out the second cup, and the Prince drank and passed it to John, who drank also. Now in this cup was a drug which took away all memory. And at once the Prince forgot all about his wife and child; and John forgot too.
"For weeks after this the Prince complained that he felt unwell. He told the doctors that there was an empty place in his head, and they advised him to fill it by travelling. So he set out again, and John went with him as before. On their journey they stayed for a week with the King of Spain, and there the Prince fell in love with the King of Spain's daughter, and married her, and brought her home at the end of a year, during which she, too, had brought him a son.
"The night after their return, when the Prince and his second wife slept, John kept watch outside the door. About midnight he heard the noise of a chain dragging, but very softly, and up the stairs came a lady in white with a child in her arms. John knew his former mistress at once, and all his memory came back to him, but she put a finger to her lips and went past him into the bed-chamber. She went to the bed, laid a hand on her husband's pillow, and whispered:"
'Wife and babe below the river, Twice will I come and then come never.'
"Without another word she turned and went slowly past John and down the stairs."
"I know that, anyhow," Honoria interrupted. "That's 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon,' or else it's the Princess whose brother was changed into a Roebuck, or else—" But George flicked a pebble at her, and Taffy went on, warming more and more to the story:—
"In the morning, when the Prince woke, his second wife saw his pillow on the side farthest from her, and it was wet. 'Husband,' she said, 'you have been weeping to-night.' 'Well,' said he, 'that is queer, though, for I haven't wept since I was a boy. It's true, though, that I had a miserable dream.' But when he tried to remember it, he could not.
"The same thing happened on the second night, only the dead wife said:"
'Wife and babe below the river, Once will I come and then come never.'
"And again in the morning there was a mark on the pillow where her wet hand had rested. But the Prince in the morning could remember nothing. On the third night she came and said:"
'Wife and babe below the river, Now I am gone and gone for ever,'
"And went down the stairs with such a reproachful look at John that his heart melted and he ran after her. But at the outer door a flash of lightning met him, and such a storm broke over the palace and city as had never been before and never will be again.
"John heard screams, and the noise of doors banging and feet running throughout the palace; he turned back and met the Prince, his master, coming downstairs with his child in his arms. The lightning stroke had killed his second wife where she lay. John followed him out into the streets, where the people were running to and fro, and through the whirling sand to the ford which crossed the creek a mile above the city. And there, as they stepped into the water, a woman rose before John, with a child in her arms, and said: 'Carry us.' The Prince, who was leading, did not see. John took them on his back, but they were heavy because of the iron chains and weights on their ankles, and the sands sank under him. Then, by-and-by, the first wife put her child into John's arms and said, 'Save him,' and slipped off his back into the water. 'What sound was that?' asked the Prince. 'That was my heart cracking,' said John. So they went on till the sand rose half-way to their knees. Then the Prince stopped and put his child into John's arms. 'Save him,' he said, and fell forward on his face; and John's heart cracked again. But he went forward in the darkness until the water rose to his waist, and the sand to his knees. He was close to the farther shore now, but could not reach it unless he dropped one of the children; and this he would not do. He bent forward, holding out one in each arm, and could just manage to push them up the bank and prop them there with his open hand; and while he bent, the tide rose and his heart cracked for the third time. Though he was dead, his stiff arms kept the children propped against the bank. But just at the turning of the tide the one with the ankle-weight slipped and was drowned. The other was found next morning by the inland people, high and dry. And some do say," Taffy wound up, "that his brother was not really drowned, but turned into a bird, and that, though no one has seen him, it is his voice that gives the 'crake,' imitating the sound made by John's heart when it burst; but others say it comes from John himself, down there below the sands."
There was silence for a minute. Even Honoria had grown excited toward the end.
"But it was unfair!" she broke out. "It ought to have been the convict-child that was saved."
"If so, I shouldn't be here," said George; "and it's not very nice of you to say it."
"I don't care. It was unfair; and anyone but a boy "—with scorn—" would see it." She turned upon the staring Taffy—"I hate your tale; it was horrid."
She repeated it, that evening, as they turned their faces homeward across the heathery moor. Taffy had halted on the top of a hillock to wave good-night to George. For years he remembered the scene—the brown hollow of the hills; the clear evening sky, with the faint purple arch, which is the shadow of the world, climbing higher and higher upon it; and his own shadow stretching back with his heart toward George, who stood fronting the level rays and waved his glittering catch of fish.
"What was that you said?" he asked, when at length he tore himself away and caught up with Honoria.
"That was a horrid story you told. It spoiled my afternoon, and I'll trouble you not to tell any more of the sort."
LIZZIE REDEEMS HER DOLL AND HONORIA THROWS A STONE.
A broad terrace ran along the southern front of Tredinnis House. It had once been decorated with leaden statues, but of these only the pedestals remained.
Honoria, perched on the terraced wall, with her legs dangling, was making imaginary casts with a trout-rod, when she heard footsteps. A child came timidly round the angle of the big house—Lizzie Pezzack.
"Hullo! What do you want?"
"If you please, miss—"
"If you please, miss—"
"You've said that twice."
Lizzie held out a grubby palm with a half-crown in it: "I wants my doll back, if you please, miss."
"But you sold it."
"I didn't mean to. You took me so sudden."
"I gave you ever so much more than it was worth. Why, I don't believe it cost you three ha'pence!"
"Tuppence," said Lizzie.
"Then you don't know when you're well off. Go away."
"'Tisn't that, miss—"
"What is it, then?"
Lizzie broke into a flood of tears.
Honoria, the younger by a year or so, stood and eyed her scornfully; then turning on her heel marched into the house.
She was a just child. She went upstairs to her bedroom, unlocked her wardrobe, and took out the doll, which was clad in blue silk, and reposed in a dog-trough lined with the same material. Honoria had recklessly cut up two handkerchiefs (for underclothing) and her Sunday sash, and had made the garments in secret. They were prodigies of bad needlework. With the face of a Medea she stripped the poor thing, took it in her arms as if to kiss it, but checked herself sternly. She descended to the terrace with the doll in one hand and its original calico smock in the other.
"There, take your twopenny baby!"
Lizzie caught and strained it to her breast; covered its poor nakedness hurriedly, and hugged it again with passionate kisses.
"You silly! Did you come all this way by yourself?"
Lizzie nodded. "Father thinks I'm home, minding the house. He's off duty this evening, and he walked over here to the Bryanite Chapel, up to Four Turnings. There's going to be a big Prayer Meeting to-night. When his back was turned I slipped out after him, so as to keep him in sight across the towans."
"I'm terrible timid. I can't bear to walk across the towans by myself. You can't see where you be—they're so much alike—and it makes a person feel lost. There's so many bones, too."
"Yes, and dead folks, I've heard father say."
"Well, you'll have to go back alone, any way."
Lizzie hugged the doll. "I don't mind so much now. I'll keep along by the sea and run, and only open my eyes now and then. Here's your money, miss."
She went off at a run. Honoria pocketed the half-crown and went back to her fly-fishing. But after a few casts she desisted, and took her rod to pieces slowly. The afternoon was hot and sultry. She sat down in the shadow of the balustrade and gazed at the long, blank facade of the house baking in the sun; at the tall, uncurtained windows; at the peacock stalking to and fro like a drowsy sentinel.
"You are a beast of a house," she said contemplatively; "and I hate every stone of you!"
She stood up and strolled toward the stables. The stable yard was empty but for the Gordon setter dozing by the pump-trough. Across from the kitchens came the sound of the servants' voices chattering. Honoria had never made friends with the servants.
She tilted her straw hat further over her eyes, and sauntered up the drive with her hands behind her; through the great gates and out upon the towans. She had started with no particular purpose, and had none in her mind when she came in sight of the Parsonage, and of Humility seated in the doorway with her lace pillow across her knees.
It had been the custom among the women of Beer Village to work in their doorways on sunny afternoons, and Humility followed it.
She looked up smiling. "Taffy is down by the shore, I think."
"I didn't come to look for him. What beautiful work!"
"It comes in handy. Won't you step inside and let me make you a cup of tea?"
"No, I'll sit here and watch you." Humility pulled in her skirts, and Honoria found room on the doorstep beside her. "Please don't stop. It's wonderful. Now I know where Taffy gets his cleverness."
"You are quite wrong. This is only a knack. All his cleverness comes from his father."
"Oh, books! Of course, Mr. Raymond knows all about books. He's writing one, isn't he?"
Mrs. Raymond nodded.
"It's about St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews; in Greek, you know. He has been working at it for years."
"And he's indoors working at it now? What funny things men do!" She was silent for a while, watching Humility's bobbins. "But I suppose it doesn't matter just what they do. The great thing is to do it better than anyone else. Does Mr. Raymond think Taffy clever?"
"He never talks about it."
"But he thinks so. I know; because at lessons when he says anything to Taffy it's quite different from the way he talks to George and me. He doesn't favour him, of course; he's much too fair. But there's a difference. It's as if he expected Taffy to understand. Did Mr. Raymond teach him all those stories he knows?"
"Fairy tales, and that sort of thing."
"Good gracious me, no!"
"Then you must have. And you are clever, after all. Asking me to believe you're not, and making that beautiful lace all the while, under my very eyes!"
"I'm not a bit clever. Here's the pattern, you see, and there's the thread, and the rest is only practice. I couldn't make the pattern out of my head. Besides, I don't like clever women."
"A woman must try to be something." Honoria felt that this was vague, but wanted to argue.
"A woman wants to be loved," said Mrs. Raymond thoughtfully. "There's such a heap to be done about the house that she won't find time for much else. Besides, if she has children, she'll be planning for them."
"Isn't that rather slow?"
Humility wondered where the child had picked up the word. "Slow?" she echoed, with her eyes on the horizon beyond the dunes. "Most things are slow when you look forward to them."
"But these fairy-tales of yours?"
"I'll tell you about them. When my mother was a girl of sixteen she went into service as a nursemaid in a clergyman's family. Every evening the clergyman used to come into the nursery and tell the children a fairy-tale. That's how it started. My mother left service to marry a farmer—it was quite a grand match for her—and when I was a baby she told the stories to me. She has a wonderful memory still, and she tells them capitally. When I listen I believe every word of them; I like them better than books, too, because they always end happily. But I can't repeat them a bit. As soon as I begin they fall to pieces, and the pieces get mixed up, and, worst of all, the life goes right out of them. But Taffy, he takes the pieces and puts them together, and the tale is better than ever: quite different, and new, too. That's the puzzle. It's not memory with him; it's something else."
"But don't you ever make up a story of your own?" Honoria insisted.
Now you might talk with Mrs. Raymond for ten minutes, perhaps, and think her a simpleton; and then suddenly a cloud (as it were) parted, and you found yourself gazing into depths of clear and beautiful wisdom.
She turned on Honoria with a shy, adorable smile: "Why, of course I do—about Taffy. Come in and let me show you his room and his books."
An hour later, when Taffy returned, he found Honoria seated at the table and his mother pouring tea. They said nothing about their visit to his room; and though they had handled every one of his treasures, he never discovered it. But he did notice—or rather, he felt—that the two understood each other. They did; and it was an understanding he would never be able to share, though he lived to be a hundred.
Mr. Raymond came out from his study and drank his tea in silence. Honoria observed that he blinked a good deal. He showed no surprise at her visit, and after a moment seemed unaware of her presence. At length he raised the cup to his lips, and finding it empty set it down and rose to go back to his work. Humility interfered and reminded him of a call to be paid at one of the upland farms. The children might go too, she suggested. It would be very little distance out of Honoria's way.
Mr. Raymond sighed, but went for his walking-stick; and they set out.
When they reached the farmhouse he left the children outside. The town-place was admirably suited for a game of "Follow-my-leader," which they played for twenty minutes with great seriousness, to the disgust of the roosting poultry. Then Taffy spied a niche, high up, where a slice had been cut out of a last year's haystack. He fetched a ladder. Up they climbed, drew the ladder after them, and played at being Outlaws in a Cave, until the dusk fell.
Still Mr. Raymond lingered indoors. "He thinks we have gone home," said Honoria. "Now the thing would be to creep down and steal one of the fowls, and bring it back and cook it."
"We can make believe to do it," Taffy suggested.
Honoria considered for a moment. "I'll tell you what: there's a great Bryanite meeting to-night, down at the Chapel. I expect there'll be a devil hunt."
"They turn out the lights and hunt for him in the dark."
"But he isn't really there?"
"I don't know. Suppose we play at scouts and creep down the road? If the Chapel is lit up we can spy in on them; and then you can squeeze your nose on the glass and make a face, while I say 'Boo!' and they'll think the Old Gentleman is really come."
They stole down the ladder and out of the town-place. The Chapel stood three-quarters of a mile away, on a turfed wastrel where two high roads met and crossed.
Long before they reached it they heard clamorous voices and groans.
"I expect the devil hunt has begun," said Honoria. But when they came in sight of the building its windows were brightly lit. The noise inside was terrific.
The two children approached it with all the precaution proper to scouts. Suddenly the clamour ceased and the evening fell so silent that Taffy heard the note of an owl away in the Tredinnis plantations to his left. This silence was daunting, but they crept on and soon were standing in the illuminated ring of furze whins which surrounded the Chapel.
"Can you reach up to look in?"
Taffy could not; so Honoria obligingly went on hands and knees, and he stood on her back.
"Can you see? What's the matter?"
Taffy gasped. "He's in there!"
"What?—the Old Gentleman?"
"Yes; no—your grandfather!"
"What? Let me get up. Here, you kneel—"
It was true. Under the rays of a paraffin lamp, in face of the kneeling congregation, sat Squire Moyle; his body stiffly upright on the bench, his jaws rigid, his eyes with horror in them fastened upon the very window through which Honoria peered—fastened, it seemed to her, upon her face. But, no; he saw nothing. The Bryanites were praying; Honoria saw their lips moving. Their eyes were all on the old man's face. In the straining silence his mouth opened—but only for a moment—while his tongue wetted his parched lips.
A man by the pulpit-stairs shuffled his feet. A sigh passed through the Chapel as he rose and relaxed the tension. It was Jacky Pascoe. He stepped up to the Squire, and, laying a hand on his shoulder, said, gently, persuasively, yet so clearly that Honoria could hear every word:
"Try, brother. Keep on trying. O, I've knowed cases—You can never tell how near salvation is. One minute the heart's like a stone, and the next maybe 'tis melted and singing like fat in a pan. 'Tis working! 'tis working!"
The congregation broke out with cries: "Amen!" "Glory, glory!" The Squire's lips moved and he muttered something. But stony despair sat in his eyes.
"Ay, glory, glory! You've been a doubter, and you doubt no longer. Soon you'll be a shouter. Man, you'll dance like as David danced before the Ark! You'll feel it in your toes! Come along, friends, while he's resting a minute! Sing all together—oh, the blessed peace of it!—
"'I long to be there, His glory to share—'"
He pitched the note, and the congregation took up the second line with a rolling, gathering volume of song. It broke on the night like the footfall of a regiment at charge. Honoria scrambled off Taffy's back, and the two slipped away to the high road.
"Shall you tell your father?"
"I—I don't know."
She stooped and found a loose stone. "He shan't find salvation to-night," she said heroically.
As the stone crashed through the window the two children pelted off. They ran on the soft turf by the wayside, and only halted to listen when they reached Tredinnis's great gates. The sound of feet running far up the road set them off again, but now in opposite ways. Honoria sped down the avenue, and Taffy headed for the Parsonage, across the towans. Ordinarily this road at night would have been full of terrors for him; but now the fear at his heels kept him going, while his heart thumped on his ribs. He was just beginning to feel secure, when he blundered against a dark figure which seemed to rise straight out of the night.
Blessed voice! The wayfarer was his own father.
"Taffy! I thought you were home an hour ago. Where on earth have you been?"
"With Honoria." He was about to say more, but checked himself. "I left her at the top of the avenue," he explained.
TAFFY'S CHILDHOOD COMES TO AN END.
The summer passed. There was a talk in the early part of it that the Bishop would be coming, next spring, to consecrate the restored church and hold a confirmation service. Taffy and Honoria were to be confirmed, and early in August Mr. Raymond began to set apart an hour each day for preparing them. In a week or two the boy's head was full of religion. He spent much of his time in the church, watching the carpenter at work upon the new seats; his mind ran on the story of Samuel, and he wished his mother had followed Hannah's example and dedicated him to God; he had a suspicion that God would be angry with her for not doing so.
He did not observe that, as the autumn crept on, a shadow gathered on Humility's face. One Sunday the old Squire did not come to church; and again on the next Wednesday, at the harvest festival, Honoria sat alone in the Tredinnis pew. The shadow was on his mother's face as he chatted about this on their way home to the Parsonage; but the boy did not perceive it. He loved his parents, but their lives lay outside his own, and their sayings and doings passed him like a vain show. He walked in the separate world of childhood, and it seemed an enormous world yet, though a few weeks were to bring him abruptly to the end of it.
But just before he came to the precipice he was given a glimpse of the real world—and of a world beyond that, far more splendid and romantic than any region of his dreams.
The children had no lessons during Christmas, or for three weeks after. On the last morning before the holidays George brought a letter for Mr. Raymond, who read it, considered for a while, and laid it among his papers.
"It's an invitation," George announced in a whisper. "I wonder if he'll let you come."
"Where?" whispered Taffy.
"Up to Plymouth—to the Pantomime."
"Oh—clowns, and girls dressed up like boys, and policemen on slides, and that sort of thing."
Taffy sat bewildered. He vaguely remembered Plymouth as a mass of roofs seen from the train, as it drew up for a minute or two on a high bridge. Someone in the railway carriage had talked of an engine called Brutus, which (it appeared) had lately run away and crashed into the cloak-room at the end of the platform. He still thought of railway engines as big, blundering animals, with wills of their own, and of Plymouth as a town rendered insecure by their vagaries; but the idea that its roofs covered girls dressed up like boys and policemen on slides was new to him, and pleasant on the whole, though daunting.
"Will you give my thanks to Sir Harry," said Mr. Raymond, after lessons, "and tell him that Taffy may go."
So on New Year's Day Taffy found himself in Plymouth. It was an experience which he could never fit into his life except as a gaudy interlude; for when he awoke and looked back upon it, he was no longer the boy who had climbed up beside Sir Harry and behind Sir Harry's restless pair of bays. The whirl began with that drive to the station; began again in the train; began again as they stepped out on the pavement at Plymouth, just as a company of scarlet-coated soldiers came down the roadway with a din of brazen music. The crowd, the shops, the vast hotel, completely dazed him, and he seriously accepted the waiter, in his black suit and big white shirt-front, as a contribution to the fun of the entertainment.
"We must dine early," Sir Harry announced at lunch; "the Pantomime begins at seven."
"Isn't—isn't this the Pantomime?" Taffy stammered.
George giggled. Sir Harry set down his glass of claret, stared at the boy, and broke into musical laughter. Taffy perceived he had made some ridiculous mistake and blushed furiously.
"God bless the child—the Pantomime's at the theatre!"
"Oh!" Taffy recalled the canvas booth and wheezy cornet of his early days with a chill of disappointment.
But with George at his side it was impossible to be anything but happy. After lunch they sallied out, and it would have been hard to choose the gayest of the three. Sir Harry's radiant good-temper seemed to gild the streets. He took the boys up to the Hoe and pointed out the war-ships; he whisked them into the Camera Obscura; thence to the Citadel, where they watched a squad of recruits at drill; thence to the Barbican, where the trawling-fleet lay packed like herring, and the shops were full of rope and oilskin suits and marine instruments, and dirty children rolled about the roadway between the legs of seabooted fishermen; and so up to the town again, where he lingered in the most obliging manner while the boys stared into the fishing-tackle shops and toy shops. On the way he led them up a narrow passage and into a curious room, where fifteen or twenty men were drinking, and talking at the top of their voices. The most of them seemed to know Sir Harry well and greeted him with an odd mixture of respect and familiarity. Their talk was full of mysterious names and expressions, and Taffy thought at first they must be Freemasons. "The Moor point-to-point was a walk-over for the Milkman; Lapidary was scratched, which left it a soft thing, unless Sir Harry fancied a fox-catcher like Nursery Governess, in which case Billy behind the bar would do as much business as he liked at six-to-one." After a while Taffy discovered they were talking about horses, and wondered why they should meet to discuss horses in a dingy room up a back yard. "Youngster of yours is growin', Surrarry," said a red-faced man. "Who's his stable companion?" Taffy was introduced, and to his embarrassment Sir Harry began to relate his ridiculous mistake at lunch. The men roared with laughter.
He made another, quite as ridiculous, at the pastry-cook's where Sir Harry ordered tea. "What'll you take with it? Call for what you like, only don't poison yourselves." Taffy referring his gaze from the buns and confections on the counter to the card in his hands, which was inscribed with words in unknown tongues, made a bold plunge and announced that he would take a "marasheno."
This tickled Sir Harry mightily. He ordered the waitress with a wink to "bring the young gentleman a marasheno"; and Taffy, who had expected something in the shape of a macaroon, was confronted with a tiny glass of a pale liquor, which, when tasted, in the most surprising manner put sunshine into his stomach and brought tears into his eyes. But under Sir Harry's quizzical gaze he swallowed it down bravely, and sat gasping and blinking.
It may have been that the maraschino induced a haze upon the rest of the afternoon. The gas-lamps were lit when they left the pastry-cook's and entered a haberdasher's where Taffy, without knowing why, was fitted with a pair of white kid gloves. Of dinner at the hotel he remembered nothing except that the candles on the tables had red shades, of which the silverware gave funny reflections; that the same waiter flitted about in the penumbra; and that Sir Harry, who was dressed like the waiter, said, "Wake up, young Marasheno! Do you take your coffee black?" "It's usually pale brown at home," answered Taffy; at which Sir Harry laughed again. "Black will suit you better to-night," he said, and poured out a small cupful, which Taffy drank and found exceedingly nasty. And a moment later he was wide awake, and the three were following a young woman along a passage which seemed to run in a complete circle. The young woman flung open a door; they entered a little room with a balcony in front; and the first glorious vision broke on the child with a blaze of light, a crash of music, and the murmur of hundreds of voices.
Faces, faces, faces!—faces mounting from the pit below him, up and up to the sky-blue ceiling, where painted goddesses danced and scattered pink roses around the enormous gasalier. Fauns piping on the great curtain, fiddles sawing in the orchestra beneath, ladies in gay silks and jewels leaning over the gilt balconies opposite—which were real, and which a vision only? He turned helplessly to George and Sir Harry. Yes, they were real. But what of Nannizabuloe, and the sand-hills, and the little parsonage to which that very morning he had turned to wave his handkerchief?
A bell rang, and the curtain rose upon a company of russet-brown elves dancing in a green wood. The play was Jack the Giant-killer; but Taffy, who knew the story in the book by heart, found the story on the stage almost meaningless. That mattered nothing; it was the world, the new and unimagined world, stretching deeper and still deeper as the scenes were lifted—a world in which solid walls crumbled, and forests melted, and loveliness broke through the ruins, unfolding like a rose; it was this that seized on the child's heart until he could have wept for its mere beauty. Often he had sought out the trout-pools on the moors behind the towans, and lying at full length had watched the fish moving between the stones and water-plants; and watching through a summer's afternoon had longed to change places with them and glide through their grottoes or anchor among the reed-stalks and let the ripple run over him. As long back as he could remember, all beautiful sights had awakened this ache, this longing—
"O, that I were where I would be! Then would I be where I am not; For where I am I would not be, And where I would be, I cannot."
It seemed to him that these bright beings on the stage had broken through the barriers, had stepped beyond the flaming ramparts, and were happy. Their horseplay, at which George laughed so immoderately, called to Taffy to come and be happy, too; and when Jack the Giant-killer changed to Jack in the Beanstalk, and when in the Transformation Scene a real beanstalk grew and unfolded its leaves, and each leaf revealed a fairy seated, with the limelight flashing on star and jewelled wand, the longing became unbearable. The scene passed in a minute. The clown and pantaloon came on, and presently Sir Harry saw Taffy's shoulders shaking, and set it down to laughter at the harlequinade. He could not see the child's face.
But, perhaps, the queerest event of the evening (when Taffy came to review his recollections) was this: He must have fallen into a stupor on leaving the theatre, for when he awoke he found himself on a couch in a gas-lit room, with George beside him, and Sir Harry was shaking him by the collar, and saying, "God bless the children, I thought they were in bed hours ago!" A man—the same who had talked about racehorses that afternoon—was standing by the table, on which a quantity of cards lay scattered among the drinking-glasses; and he laughed at this, and his laugh sounded just like the rustling of paper. "It's all very well—" began Sir Harry, but checked himself and lit a candle, and led the two boys off shivering to bed.
The next morning, too, had its surprises. To begin with, Sir Harry announced at breakfast that he must go and buy a horse. He might be an hour or two over the business, and meanwhile the boys had better go out into the town and enjoy themselves. Perhaps a sovereign apiece might help them.
Taffy, who had never in his life possessed more than a shilling, was staring at the gold piece in his hand, when the door opened, and Sir Harry's horse-racing friend came in to breakfast and nodded "Good-morning."
"Pity you're leaving to-day," he said, as he took his seat at a table hard by them.
"My revenge must wait," Sir Harry answered.
It seemed a cold-blooded thing to be said so carelessly. Taffy wondered if Sir Harry's search for a horse had anything to do with this revenge, and the notion haunted him in the intervals of his morning's shopping.
But how to lay out his sovereign? That was the first question. George, who within ten minutes had settled his own problem by purchasing a doubtful fox-terrier of the Boots of the hotel, saw no difficulty. The Boots had another pup for sale—one of the same litter.
"But I want something for mother, and the others—and Honoria."
"Botheration! I'd forgotten Honoria, and now the money's gone! Never mind; she can have my pup."
"Oh!" said Taffy ruefully. "Then she won't think much of my present."
"Yes, she will. Suppose you buy a collar for him—you can get one for five shillings."
They found a saddler's and chose the dog-collar which came to four shillings; and for eighteenpence the shopman agreed to have "Honoria from Taffy," engraved on it within an hour. Humility's present was chosen with surprising ease—a large, framed photograph of the Bishop of Exeter; price, six shillings.
"I don't suppose," objected George, "your mother cares much for the Bishop of Exeter."
"Oh, yes, she does," said Taffy; "he's coming to confirm us next spring. Besides," he added, with one of those flashes of wisdom which surely he derived from her, "mother won't care what it is, so long as she's remembered. And it costs more than the collar."
This left him with eight-and-sixpence; and for three-and-sixpence he bought a work-box for his grandmother, with a view of Plymouth Hoe on the lid. But now came the crux. What should he get for his father?
"It must be a book," George suggested.
"But what kind of a book? He has so many."
"Something in Latin."
The bookseller's window was filled with yellow-backed novels and toy-books, which obviously would not do. So they marched in and demanded a book suitable for a clergyman who had a good many books already—"a middle-aged clergyman," George added.
"You can't go far wrong with this," suggested the bookseller, producing Crockford's "Clerical Directory" for the current year. But this was too expensive; "and," said Taffy, "I think he would rather have something in Latin." The bookseller rubbed his chin, went to his shelves, and took down a small De Imitatione Christi, bound in limp calf. "You can't go far wrong with this, either," he assured them. So Taffy paid down his money.
Just as the boys reached the hotel, Sir Harry drove up in a cab; and five minutes later they were all rattling off to the railway station. Taffy eyed the cab-horse curiously, never doubting it to be Sir Harry's new purchase; and was extremely surprised when the cabman whipped it up and trotted off—after receiving his money, too. But in the bustle there was no time to ask questions.
It was about three in the afternoon, and the sun already low in the south-west, when they came in sight of the cross-roads and Sir Harry pulled up his bays. And there, on the green by the sign-post, stood Mrs. Raymond. She caught Taffy in her arms and hugged him till he felt ashamed, and glanced around to see if the others were looking; but the phaeton was bowling away down the road.
"But why are you here, mother?"
Mrs. Raymond gazed a while after the carriage before speaking. "Your father had to be at the church," she said.
"But there's no service—" He broke off "See what I've brought for you!" And he pulled out the portrait. "Do you know who it is?"
Humility thanked him and kissed him passionately. There was something odd with her this afternoon.
"Don't you like your present?"
"Darling, it is beautiful," she stooped and kissed him again, passionately.
"I've a present for father, too; a book. Why are you walking so fast?" In a little while he asked again, "Why are you walking so fast?"
"I—I thought you would be wanting your tea."
"Mayn't I take father his book first?"
She did not answer.
"But mayn't I?" he persisted.
They had reached the garden-gate. Humility seemed to hesitate. "Yes; go," she said at length; and he ran, with the De Imitatione Christi under his arm.
As he came within view of the church he saw a knot of men gathered about the door. They were pulling something out from the porch. He heard the noise of hammering, and Squire Moyle, at the back of the crowd, was shouting at the top of his voice:
"The church is yours, is it? I'll see about that! Pitch out the furnitcher, my billies—that's mine, anyway!"
Still the hammers sounded within the church.
"Don't believe in sudden convarsion, don't 'ee? I reckon you will when you look round your church. Bishop coming to consecrate it, is he? Consecrate my furnitcher? I'll see you and your bishop to blazes first!"
A heap of shattered timber came flying through the porch.
"Your church, hey? Your church?"
The crowd fell back and Mr. Raymond stood in the doorway, between Bill Udy and Jim the Huntsman. Bill Udy held a brazen ewer and paten, and Jim a hammer; and Mr. Raymond had a hand on one shoulder of each.
For a moment there was silence. As Taffy came running through the lych-gate a man who had been sitting on a flat tombstone and watching, stood up and touched his arm. It was Jacky Pascoe, the Bryanite.
"Best go back," he said, "'tis a wisht poor job of it."
Taffy halted for a moment. The Squire's voice had risen to a sudden scream—he sputtered as he pointed at Mr. Raymond.
"There he is, naybours! Get behind the varmint, somebody, and stop his earth! Calls hisself a minister of God! Calls it his church!"
Mr. Raymond took his hands off the men's shoulders, and walked straight up to him. "Not my church," he said, aloud and distinctly. "God's church!"
He stretched out an arm. Taffy, running up, supposed it stretched out to strike. "Father!"
But Mr. Raymond's palm was open as he lifted it over the Squire's head. "God's church," he repeated. "In whose service, sir, I defy you. Go! or if you will, and have the courage, come and stand while I kneel amid the ruin you have done and pray God to judge between us."
He paused, with his eyes on the Squire's.
"You dare not, I see. Go, poor coward, and plan what mischief you will. Only now leave me in peace a little."
He took the boy's hand and they passed into the church together. No one followed. Hand in hand they stood before the dismantled chancel. Taffy heard the sound of shuffling feet on the walk outside, and looked up into Mr. Raymond's face.
"Kiss me, sonny."
The De Imitatione Christi slipped from Taffy's fingers and fell upon the chancel step.
So his childhood ended.
These things happened on a Friday. After breakfast next morning Taffy went to fetch his books. He did so out of habit and without thinking; but his father stopped him.
"Put them away," he said. "Some day we'll go back to them, but not yet."
Instead of books Humility packed their dinner in the satchel. They reached the church and found the interior just as they had left it. Taffy was set to work to pick up and sweep together the scraps of broken glass which littered the chancel. His father examined the wreckage of the pews.
While the boy knelt at his task, his thoughts were running on the Pantomime. He had meant, last night, to recount all its wonders and the wonders of Plymouth; but somehow the words had not come. After displaying his presents he could find no more to say: and feeling his father's hand laid on his shoulder, had burst into tears and hidden his face in his mother's lap. He wanted to console them, and they were pitying him—why he could not say—but he knew it was so.
And now the Pantomime, Plymouth, everything, seemed to have slipped away from him into a far past. Only his father and mother had drawn nearer and become more real. He tried to tell himself one of the old stories; but it fell into pieces like the fragments of coloured glass he was handling, and presently he began to think of the glass in his hands and let the story go.
"On Monday we'll set to work," said his father. "I dare say Joel"— this was the carpenter down at Innis village—"will lend me a few tools to start with. But the clearing up will take us all to-day."
They ate their dinner in the vestry. Taffy observed that his father said: "We will do this," or "Our best plan will be so-and-so," and spoke to him as to a grown man. On the whole, though the dusk found them still at work, this was a happy day.
"But aren't you going to lock the door?" he asked, as they were leaving.
"No," said Mr. Raymond. "We shall win, sonny; but not in that way."
On the morrow Taffy rang the bell for service as usual. To his astonishment Squire Moyle was among the first-comers. He led Honoria by the hand, entered the Tredinnis pew and shut the door with a slam. It was the only pew left unmutilated. The rest of the congregation— and curiosity made it larger than usual—had to stand; but a wife of one of the miners found a hassock and passed it to Humility, who thanked her for it with brimming eyes. Mr. Raymond said afterward that this was the first success of the campaign.
Not willing to tire his audience, he preached a very short sermon; but it was his manifesto, and all the better for being short. He took his text from Nehemiah, Chapter II., verses 19 and 20— "But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said: 'What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the King?'"
"Then answered I them and said unto them, 'The God of Heaven, He will prosper us; therefore, we His servants will arise and build.'
"Fellow-parishioners," he said, "you see the state of this church. Concerning the cause of it I require none of you to judge. I enter no plea against any man. Another will judge, who said, 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will rear it up.' But He spake of the temple of His body; which was destroyed and is raised up; and its living and irrevocable triumph I, or some other servant of God, will celebrate at this altar, Sunday by Sunday, that whosoever will may see, yes, and taste it. The state of this poor shell is but a little matter to a God whose majesty once inhabited a stable; yet the honour of this, too, shall be restored. You wonder how, perhaps. It may be the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. Go to your homes now and ponder this; and having pondered, if you will, pray for us."
As the Raymonds left the church they found Squire Moyle waiting by the porch. Honoria stood just behind him. The rest of the congregation had drawn off a little distance to watch. The Squire lifted his hat to Humility, and turned to Mr. Raymond with a sour frown.
"That means war?"
"It means that I stay," said the Vicar. "The war, if it comes, comes from your side."
"I don't think the worse of 'ee for fighting. You're not going to law then?"
Mr. Raymond smiled. "I don't doubt you've put yourself within the reach of it. But if it eases your mind to know, I am not going to law."
The Squire grunted, raised his hat again and strode off, gripping Honoria by the hand.
She had not glanced towards Taffy. Clearly she was not allowed to speak to him.
The meaning of the Vicar's sermon became plain next morning, when he walked down to the village and called on Joel Hugh, the carpenter.
"I knows what thee'rt come after," began Joel, "but 'tis no use, parson dear. Th' old fellow owns the roofs over us, and if I do a day's work for 'ee, out I goes, neck and crop."
Mr. Raymond had expected this. "It's not for work I'm come," said he; "but to hire a few tools, if you're minded to spare them."
Joel scratched his head. "Might manage that, now. But, Lord bless 'ee! thee'll never make no hand of it." He chose out saw, hammer, plane and auger, and packed them up in a carpenter's frail, with a few other tools. "Don't 'ee talk about payment, now; naybors must be nayborly. Only, you see, a man must look after his own."
Mr. Raymond climbed the hill toward the towans with the carpenter's frail slung over his shoulder. As luck would have it, near the top he met Squire Moyle descending on horseback. The Vicar nodded "Good-morning" in passing, but had not gone a dozen steps when the old man reined up and called after him.
The Vicar halted.
"Whose basket is that you're carrying?" Then, getting no answer, "Wait till next Saturday night, when Joel Hugh comes to thank you. I suppose you know he rents his cottage by the week?"
"No harm shall come to him through me," said the Vicar, and retraced his steps down the hill. The Squire followed at a foot-pace, grinning as he went.
That night Mr. Raymond went back to his beloved books, but not to read; and early next morning was ready at the cross-roads for the van which plied twice a week between Innis village and Truro. He had three boxes with him—heavy boxes, as Calvin the van-driver remarked when it came to lifting them on board.
"Thee'rt not leaving us, surely?" said he.
"But however didst get these lumping boxes up the hill?"
"My son helped me."
He had modestly calculated on averaging a shilling a volume for his books; but discovered on leaving the shop at Truro that it worked out at one-and-threepence. He returned to Nannizabuloe that night with one box only—but it was packed full of tools—and a copy of Fuller's "Holy State," which at the last moment had proved too precious to be parted with—at least, just yet.
The woodwork of the old pews—painted deal for the most part, but mixed with a few boards of good red pine and one or two of teak, relics of some forgotten shipwreck—lay stacked in the belfry and around the font under the west gallery. Mr. Raymond and Taffy spent an hour in overhauling it, chose out the boards for their first pew, and fell to work.
At the end of another hour the pair broke off and looked at each other. Taffy could not help laughing. His own knowledge of carpentry had been picked up by watching Joel Hugh at work, and just sufficed to tell him that his father was possibly the worst carpenter in the world.
"I think my fingers must be all thumbs," declared Mr. Raymond.
The puckers in his face set Taffy laughing afresh. They both laughed and fell to work again, the boy explained his notions of the difficult art of mortising. They were rudimentary, but sound as far as they went, and his father recognised this. Moreover, when the boy had a tool to handle he did it with a natural deftness, in spite of his ignorance. He was Humility's child, born with the skill-of-hand of generations of lace-workers. He did a dozen things wrongly, but he neither fumbled, nor hammered his fingers, nor wounded them with the chisel—which was Humility's husband's way.
At the end of four days of strenuous effort, they had their first pew built. It was a recognisable pew, though it leaned to one side, and the door (for it had a door) fell to with a bang if not cautiously treated. The triumph was, the seat could be sat upon without risk. Mr. Raymond and Taffy tested it with their combined weight on the Saturday evening, and went home full of its praises.
"But look at your clothes," said Humility; and they looked.
"This is serious," said Mr. Raymond. "Dear, you must make us a couple of working suits of corduroy or some such stuff: otherwise this pew-making won't pay."
Humility stood out against this for a day or two. That her husband and child should go dressed like common workmen! But there was no help for it, and on the Monday week Taffy went forth to work in moleskin breeches, blue guernsey, and loose white smock. As for Mr. Raymond, the only badge of his calling was his round clerical hat; and as all the miners in the neighbourhood wore hats of the same soft felt and only a trifle higher in the crown, this hardly amounted to a distinction.
Humility's eyes were full of tears as she watched them from the door that morning. But Taffy felt as proud as Punch. A little before noon he carried out a board that required sawing, and rested it on a flat tombstone where, with his knee upon it, he could get a good purchase. He was sawing away when he heard a dog barking, and looked up to see Honoria coming along the path with George's terrier frisking at her heels.
She halted outside the lych-gate, and Taffy, vain of his new clothes, drew himself up and nodded.
"Good-morning," said Honoria. "I'm not allowed to speak to you and I'm not going to, after this." She swooped on the puppy and held him. "See what George brought home from Plymouth for me. Isn't he a beauty?"
Held so, by the scruff of his neck, he was not a beauty. Taffy had it on the tip of his tongue to tell her about the collar. He wished he had brought it.
"I wonder," she went on pensively, "your mother had the heart to dress you out in that style. But I suppose now you'll be growing up into quite a common boy."
Taffy decided to say nothing about the collar. "I like the clothes," he declared defiantly.
"Then you can't have the common instincts of a gentleman. Well, good-bye! Grandfather has salvation all right this time; he said he'd put the stick about me if I dared to speak to you."
"He won't know."
"Won't know? Why I shall tell him, of course, when I get back."
"But—but he mustn't beat you!"
She eyed him for a moment or two in silence. "Mustn't he? I advise you to go and tell him." She walked away slowly, whistling; but by-and-by broke into a run and was gone, the puppy scampering behind her.
As the days grew longer and the weather milder, Taffy and his father worked late into the evenings; sometimes, if the job needed to be finished, by the light of a couple of candles.
One evening, about nine o'clock, the boy as he planed a bench paused suddenly. "What's that?"
They listened. The door stood open, and after a second or two they heard the sound of feet tiptoeing away up the path outside.
"Spies, perhaps," said his father. "If so, let them go in peace."
But he was not altogether easy. There had been strange doings up at the Bryanite Chapel of late. He still visited a few of his parishioners regularly—hill farmers and their wives for the most part, who did not happen to be tenants of Squire Moyle, and on whom his visits therefore could bring no harm; and one or two had hinted of strange doings, now that the Bryanites had hold of the old Squire. They themselves had been up—just to look; they confessed it shamefacedly, much in the style of men who have been drinking overnight. Without pressing them and showing himself curious, the Vicar could get at no particulars. But as the summer grew he felt a moral sultriness, as it were, growing with it. The people were off their balance, restless; and behind their behaviour he had a sense, now of something electric, menacing, now of a hand holding it in check. Slowly in those days the conviction deepened in him that he was an alien on this coast, that between him and the hearts of the race he ministered to there stretched an impalpable, impenetrable veil. And all this while the faces he passed on the road, though shy, were kindlier than they had been in the days before his self-confidence left him—it seemed not so long ago.
On a Saturday night early in May, the footsteps were heard again, and this time in the porch itself. While Mr. Raymond and Taffy listened the big latch went up with a creak, and a dark figure slipped into the church.
"Who is there?" challenged Mr. Raymond from the chancel where he stood peering out of the small circle of light.
"A friend. Pass, friend, and all's well!" answered a squeaky voice. "Bless you, I've sarved in the militia before now."
It was Jacky Pascoe, with his coat-collar turned up high about his ears.
"What do you want?" Mr. Raymond demanded sharply.
"We can pay for no work here."
"Wait till thee'rt asked, Parson, dear. I've been spying in upon 'ee these nights past. Pretty carpenters you be! T'other night, as I was a-peeping, the Lord said to me, 'Arise, go, and for goodness' sake show them chaps how to do it fitty.' 'Dear Lord,' I said, 'Thou knowest I be a Bryanite.' The Lord said to me, 'None of your back answers! Go and do as I tell 'ee.' So here I be."
Mr. Raymond hesitated. "Squire Moyle is your friend, I hear, and the friend of your chapel. What will he say if he discovers that you are helping us?"
Jacky scratched his head. "I reckon the Lord must have thought o' that, too. Suppose you put me to work in the vestry? There's only one window looks in on the vestry: you can block that up with a curtain, and there I'll be like a weevil in a biscuit."
When this screen was fixed, the little Bryanite looked round and rubbed his hands. "Now I'll tell 'ee a prabble," he said—"a prabble about this candle I'm holding. When God Almighty said 'let there be light,' He gave every man a candle—to some folks, same as you, long sixes perhaps and best wax; to others, a farthing dip. But they all helps to light up; and the beauty of it is, Parson"—he laid a hand on Mr. Raymond's cuff—"there isn't one of 'em burns a ha'porth the worse for every candle that's lit from en. Now sit down, you and the boy, and I'll larn 'ee how to join a board."
VOICES FROM THE SEA.
Before winter and the long nights came around again, Taffy had become quite a clever carpenter. From the first his quickness fairly astonished the Bryanite, who at the best was but a journeyman and soon owned himself beaten.
"I doubt," said he, "if you'll ever make so good a man as your father; but you can't help making a better workman." He added, with his eyes on the boy's face, "There's one thing in which you might copy en. He hasn't much of a gift: but he lays it 'pon the altar."
By this time Taffy had resumed his lessons. Every day he carried a book or two in his satchel with his dinner, and read or translated aloud while his father worked. Two hours were allowed for this in the morning, and again two in the afternoon. Sometimes a day would be set apart during which they talked nothing but Latin. Difficulties in the text of their authors they postponed until the evening, and worked them out at home, after supper, with the help of grammar and dictionary.
The boy was not unhappy, on the whole; though for weeks together he longed for sight of George Vyell, who seemed to have vanished into space, or into that limbo where his childhood lay like a toy in a lumber room. Taffy seldom turned the key of that room. The stories he imagined now were not about fairies or heroes, but about himself. He wanted to be a great man and astonish the world. Just how the world was to be astonished he did not clearly see; but the triumph, in whatever shape it came, was to involve a new gown for his mother, and for his father a whole library of books.
Mr. Raymond never went back to his books now, except to help Taffy. The Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews was laid aside. "Some day!" he told Humility. The Sunday congregation had dwindled to a very few, mostly farm people; Squire Moyle having threatened to expel any tenant of his who dared to set foot within the church.
In the autumn two things happened which set Taffy wondering.
During the first three years at Nannizabuloe, old Mrs. Venning had regularly been carried downstairs to dine with the family. The sea-air (she said) had put new life into her. But now she seldom moved from her room, and Taffy seldom saw her except at night, when— after the old childish custom—he knocked at her door to wish her pleasant dreams and pull up the weights of the tall clock which stood by her bed's head.
One night he asked carelessly, "What do you want with the clock? Lying here you don't need to know the time; and its ticking must keep you awake."
"So it does, child; but bless you, I like it."
"Like being kept awake?"
"Dear, yes! I have enough of rest and quiet up here. You mind the litany I used to say over to you?—Parson Kempthorne taught it to us girls when I was in service with him; 'twas made up, he said, by another old Devonshire parson, years and years ago—"
"'When I lie within my bed Sick in heart and sick in head, And with doubts discomforted, Sweet Spirit, comfort me! When the house do sigh and weep—'"
"That's it. You wouldn't think how quiet it is up here all day. But at night, when you're in bed and sleeping, all the house begins to talk; little creakings of furniture, you know, and the wind in the chimney and sometimes the rain in the gutter, running—it's all talk to me. Mostly it's quite sociable, too; but sometimes, in rainy weather, the tune changes and then it's like some poor soul in bed and sobbing to itself. That's when the verse comes in:"
"'When the house do sigh and weep And the world is drowned in sleep, Yet my eyes the watch do keep, Sweet Spirit, comfort me!'"
"And then the clock's ticking is a wonderful comfort. Tick-tack, tick-tack! and I think of you stretched asleep and happy and growing up to be a man, and the minutes running and trickling away to my deliverance—"
"My dear, I'm as well off as most; but that isn't saying I shan't be glad to go and take the pain in my joints to a better land. Before we came here, in militia-time, I used to lie and listen for the buglers, but now I've only the clock. No more bugles for me, I reckon, till I hear them blown across Jordan."
Taffy remembered how he too had lain and listened to the bugles; and with that he saw his childhood, as it were a small round globe set within a far larger one and wrapped around with other folks' thoughts. He kissed his grandmother and went away wondering; and as he lay down that night it still seemed wonderful to him that she should have heard those bugles, and more wonderful, that night after night for years she should have been thinking of him while he slept, and he never have guessed it.
One morning, some three weeks later, he and his father were putting on their oil-skins before starting to work—for it had been blowing hard through the night and the gale was breaking up in floods of rain—when they heard a voice hallooing in the distance. Humility heard it too and turned swiftly to Taffy. "Run upstairs, dear. I expect it's someone sent from Tresedder farm; and if so, he'll want to see your father alone."
Mr. Raymond frowned. "No," he said; "the time is past for that."
A fist hammered on the door. Mr. Raymond threw it open.
"Brigantine—on the sands! Half a mile this side of the light-house!" Taffy saw across his father's shoulder a gleam of yellow oilskins and a flapping sou'-wester hat. The panting voice belonged to Sam Udy—son of old Bill Udy—a labourer at Tresedder.
"I'll go at once," said Mr. Raymond. "Run you for the coast-guard!"
The oilskins went by the window; the side gate clashed to.
"Is it a wreck?" cried Taffy. "May I go with you?"
"Yes, there may be a message to run with."
From the edge of the towans, where the ground dipped steeply to the long beach, they saw the wreck, about a mile up the coast, and as well as they could judge a hundred or a hundred and twenty yards out. She lay almost on her beam ends, with the waves sweeping high across her starboard quarter and never less than six ranks of ugly breakers between her and dry land. A score of watchers—in the distance they looked like emmets—were gathered by the edge of the surf. But the coast-guard had not arrived yet.
"The tide is ebbing, and the rocket may reach. Can you see anyone aboard?"
Taffy spied through his hands, but could see no one. His father set off running, and he followed, half-blinded by the rain, now floundering in loose sand, now tripping in a rabbit hole. They had covered three-fourths of the distance when Mr. Raymond pulled up and waved his hat as the coast-guard carriage swept into view over a ridge to the right and came plunging across the main valley of the towans. It passed them close—the horses fetlock-deep in sand, with heads down and heaving, smoking shoulders; the coast-guardsmen with keen strong faces like heroes'—and the boy longed to copy his father and send a cheer after them as they went galloping by. But something rose in his throat.
He ran after the carriage, and reached the shore just as the first rocket shot singing out towards the wreck. By this time at least a hundred miners had gathered, and between their legs he caught a glimpse of two figures stretched at length on the wet sand. He had never looked on a dead body before. The faces of these were hidden by the crowd; and he hung about the fringe of it dreading, and yet courting, a sight of them.
The first rocket was swept down to leeward of the wreck. The chief officer judged his second beautifully, and the line fell clean across the vessel and all but amidships. A figure started up from the lee of the deckhouse, and springing into the main shrouds, grasped it and made it fast. The beach being too low for them to work the cradle clear above the breakers, the coast-guardsmen carried the shore end of the line up the shelving cliff and fixed it. Within ten minutes the cradle was run out, and within twenty the first man came swinging shoreward.
Four men were brought ashore alive, the captain last. The rest of the crew of six lay on the sands with Mr. Raymond kneeling beside them. He had covered their faces, and now gave the order to lift them into the carriage. Taffy noticed that he was obeyed without demur or question. And there flashed on his memory a grey morning, not unlike this one, when he had missed his father at breakfast: "He had been called away suddenly," Humility explained, "and there would be no lessons that day," and she kept the boy indoors all the morning and busy with a netting-stitch he had been bothering her to teach him.
"Father," he asked as they followed the cart, "does this often happen?"
"Your mother hasn't thought it well for you to see these sights."
"Then it has happened, often?"
"I have buried seventeen," said Mr. Raymond.
That afternoon he showed Taffy their graves. "I know the names of all but two. The bodies have marks about them—tattooed, you know— and that helps. And I write to their relatives or friends and restore whatever small property may be found on them. I have often wished to put up some gravestone, or a wooden cross at least, with their names."
He went to his chest in the vestry and took out a book—a cheap account book, ruled for figures. Taffy turned over the pages.
Nov. 3rd, 187-. Brig "James and Maria": J. D., fair-haired, height 5 ft. 8 in., marked on chest with initials and cross swords, tattooed, also anchor and coil of rope on right fore-arm: large brown mole on right shoulder-blade. Striped flannel drawers: otherwise naked: no property of any kind.
Ditto. Grown man, age 40 or thereabouts: dark; iron grey beard: lovers' knot tattooed on right forearm, with initials R. L., E. W., in the loops: clad in flannel shirt, guernsey, trousers (blue sea-cloth), socks (heather-mixture), all unmarked. Silver chain in pocket, with Freemason's token: a half-crown, a florin, and fourpence—
And so on. On the opposite page were entered the full names and details afterwards discovered, with notes of the Vicar's correspondence, and position of the grave.
"They ought to have gravestones," said Mr. Raymond. "But as it is, I can only get about thirty shillings for the funeral from the county rate. The balance has come out of my pocket—from two to three pounds for each. From the beginning the Squire refused to help to bury sailors. He took the ground that it wasn't a local claim."
"Hullo!" said Taffy, for as he turned the leaves his eye fell on this entry:—
Jan 30th, 187-. S.S. "Rifleman" (all hands). Cargo, China clay: W. P., age about eighteen, fair skin, reddish hair, short and curled, height 5ft. 10 and 3/4 in. Initials tattooed on chest under a three-masted ship and semicircle of seven stars; clad in flannel singlet and trousers (cloth): singlet marked with same initials in red cotton: pockets empty—
"But he was in the Navy!" cried Taffy, with his finger on the entry.
"Which one? Yes, he was in the Navy. You'll see it on the opposite page. He deserted, poor boy, in Cork Harbour, and shipped on board a tramp steamer as donkey-man. She loaded at Fowey and was wrecked on the voyage back. William Pellow he was called: his mother lives but ten miles up the coast: she never heard of it until six weeks after."
"But we—I, I mean—knew him. He was one of the sailor boys on Joby's van. You remember their helping us with the luggage at Indian Queens'? He showed me his tattoo marks that day."
And again he saw his childhood as it were set about with an enchanted hedge, across which many voices would have called to him, and some from near, but all had hung muted and arrested.
The inquest on the two drowned sailors was held next day at the Fifteen Balls, down in Innis village. Later in the afternoon, the four survivors walked up to the church, headed by the Captain.
"We've been hearing," said the Captain, "of your difficulties, sir: likewise your kindness to other poor seafaring chaps. We'd have liked to make ye a small offering for your church, but sixteen shillings is all we can raise between us. So we come to say that if you can put us on to a job, why we're staying over the funeral, and a day's work or more after that won't hurt us one way or another."
Mr. Raymond led them to the chancel and pointed out a new beam, on which he and Jacky Pascoe had been working a week past, and over which they had been cudgelling their brains how to get it lifted and fixed in place.
"I can send to one of the miners and borrow a couple of ladders."
"Ladders? Lord love ye, sir, and begging your pardon, we don't want ladders. With a sling, Bill, hey?—and a couple of tackles. You leave it to we, sir."
He went off to turn over the gear salved from his vessel, and early next forenoon had the apparatus rigged up and ready. He was obliged to leave it at this point, having been summoned across to Falmouth to report to his agents. His last words, before starting were addressed to his crew. "I reckon you can fix it now, boys. There's only one thing more, and don't you forget it: Hats off; and any man that wants to spit must go outside."
That afternoon Taffy learnt for the first time what could be done with a few ropes and pulleys. The seamen seemed to spin ropes out of themselves like spiders. By three o'clock the beam was hoisted and fixed; and they broke off their work to attend their shipmates' funeral. After the funeral they fell to again, though more silently, and before nightfall the beam shone with a new coat of varnish.
They left early next morning, after a good deal of handshaking, and Taffy looked after them wistfully as they turned to wave their caps and trudged away over the rise towards the cross-roads. Away to the left in the wintry sunshine a speck of scarlet caught his eye against the blue-grey of the towans. He watched it as it came slowly towards him, and his heart leapt—yet not quite as he had expected it to leap.
For it was George Vyell. George had lately been promoted to "pink" and made a gallant figure on his strapping grey hunter. For the first time Taffy felt ashamed of his working-suit, and would have slipped back to the church. But George had seen him, and pulled up.
"Hullo!" said he.
"Hullo!" said Taffy; and, absurdly enough, could find no more to say.
"How are you getting on?"
"Oh, I'm all right." There was another pause. "How's Honoria?"
"Oh, she's all right. I'm riding over there now: they meet at Tredinnis to-day." He tapped his boot with his hunting crop.