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The White Wolf and Other Fireside Tales
by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
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"Their object, it turned out, was merely to warn us not to pass the battery, or the chances were five to one that the Englishman would capture us. In no way discomposed, my friend maintained that we (he passed me off as his son) must either fish or starve; that we had come a long distance, knew every inch of the coast, and ran no danger. He backed this up by bribing the soldiers with our whole morning's catch, and in the end they contented themselves by insisting that we should wait under the battery until nightfall and so depart. And this we did: but in the meanwhile, pretending our anxiety to avoid her, we cross-questioned the soldiers so precisely on the Englishman's bearings that, when darkness fell and we slipped our anchor, we ran straight down on her without the slightest difficulty. She was the Agile sloop of twenty-four guns, and from her deck I waved good-bye to the fisherman, scarcely more delighted by my safety than he by his napoleons, which in my gratitude I had raised to fifteen.

"The Agile landed me in Plymouth without mishap: and so end my adventures. I ought to add, however, that, though my own conscience held no reproach for my trick upon Marmont, I sought and obtained permission from the War Office to select a prisoner of my own rank and exchange him with France; and with him I sent a precise account, which will afford some amusement to the Duke of Ragusa's enemies if he happen to have any at headquarters. You, my cousin, will doubtless consider this mere supererogation, but I should be glad of the reverend Doctor's opinion."

"We will reserve this," said the Doctor, "as Question Number Five."

"And you promptly reshipped for Lisbon, followed the army to Salamanca, and resumed your work?" said I.

"Even so: but I suspect that these adventures have rattled me. I am not the man I was: else I had not succumbed so easily to a mere coup-de-soleil. Will the reverend Doctor complete the narrative by describing how he found me?"

"In a ditch," said the reverend Doctor placidly. "My college was destroyed: my beloved Salamanca in ruins. 'To a philosopher,' said I, 'all the world is a home; but especially such wine-vaults as are found in Rueda.' I saddled, therefore, my mule; loaded her with a very few books and still fewer sticks of furniture; more frugal even than Juvenal's friend Umbricius, cui tota domus redo, componitur una. On my road, and almost under the shadow of this rock, my mule shied in the most ladylike fashion at sight of a redcoat prostrate in the dust. The rest you can guess: but assuredly I did not guess at the time that I had happened on one whose story will—if ever God restores me to my University—so illustrate my lectures as to make them appear that which they will not be—an entirely new set of compositions."

"Well," said I, "the hour is late: and however cheerfully you men of conscience and of casuistry may look forward to spending the night in these caves, I have seen enough, and have enough imagination at the back of it, to desire nothing so little."

"I will escort you," said the Doctor.

"That was implied," I answered: and after shaking hands with my kinsman and promising to visit him on the morrow, I suffered myself to be guided back along the horrible passages. On the way the Doctor Gonsalvez paused more than once to chuckle, and at each remove I found this indulgence more uncanny.

In the great cellar we came upon the sergeant of the 36th, still slumbering. I stirred him with my foot, and, sitting up, he amicably invited us to join him in a drink. I did so, the Doctor drawing it from the spigot into a pail.

"Might be worse!" hiccupped the sergeant, watching me.

I agreed that it might be a great deal worse. Between us we steered him out, through the tunnel, along the ledge, and so to the archway under which Venus sparkled in the purple heaven. Here the Doctor bade us good-night, and left me to pilot my drunkard down the cliff. At the foot he shook hands with me in a fervour of tipsy gratitude: and I returned the grasp with an empressement, a passion almost, the exact grounds of which unless he should happen to read these lines and remember the circumstances—contingencies equally remote—he will spend his life without surmising.



THE HAUNTED YACHT.

A YARN.

If any one cares to buy the yawl Siren, he may have her for 200 pounds, or a trifle less than the worth of her ballast, as lead goes nowadays. For sufficient reasons—to be disclosed in the course of this narrative—I am unable to give her builder's name, and for reasons quite as sufficient I must admit the figures of her registered tonnage (29.56), cut on the beam of her forecastle, to be a fraud. I will be perfectly frank; there is a mystery about the yacht. But I gave 400 pounds for her in the early summer of 1890, and thought her dirt cheap. She was built under the old "Thames rule," that is, somewhere between 1875 and 1880, and was therefore long and narrow to begin with. She has been lengthened since. Nevertheless, though nobody could call her a dry boat, she will behave herself in any ordinary sea, and come about quicker than most of her type. She is fast, has sound timbers and sheathing that fits her like a skin, and her mainmast and bowsprit are particularly fine spars of Oregon pine; her mizzen doesn't count for much. Let me mention the newest of patent capstans—I put this into her myself—cabins panelled in teak and pitch-pine and cushioned with red morocco, two suits of sails, besides a big spinnaker that does not belong to her present rig, a serviceable dinghy—well, you can see for yourselves without my saying more, that, even to break up, she is worth quite double the money.

In what follows I shall take leave here and there to alter a name or suppress it. With these exceptions you shall hear precisely how the Siren came into my hands.

Early in 1890 I determined, for the sake of my health, to take a longer holiday than usual, and spend the months of July, August, and September in a cruise about the Channel. My notion was to cross over to the French coast, sail down as far as Cherbourg, recross to Salcombe, and thence idle westward to Scilly, and finish up, perhaps, with a run over to Ireland. This, I say, was my notion: you could not call it a plan, for it left me free to anchor in any port I chose, and to stay there just as long as it amused me. One fixed intention I had, and one only— to avoid the big regattas. Money had to be considered, and I thought at first of hiring. I wanted something between twenty-five and forty tons, small enough to be worked by myself and a crew of three or at most three men and a boy, and large enough to keep us occupied while at sea.

Of course, I studied the advertisement columns, and for some time found nothing that seemed even likely to suit. But at last in The Field, and in the left-hand bottom corner—where it had been squeezed by the lists of the usual well-known agencies—I came on the following:—

"YAWL, 35 tons. For immediate SALE, that fast and comfortable cruiser Siren. Lately refitted and now in perfect condition throughout. Rigging, etc., as good as new. Cabin appointments of unusual richness and taste. 400 pounds. Apply, Messrs. Dewy and Moss, Agents and Surveyors, Portside Street, F—."

On reading this I took Lloyd's Yacht Register from its shelf, and hunted for further details. Sirens crowd pretty thickly in the Register; only a little less thickly than Undines. Including Sirenes and Sirenas, I found some fourteen—and not a yawl amongst them, nor anything of her tonnage. There were two more in Lloyd's List of American Yachts—one a centre-board schooner, the other a centre-board sloop; and, in a further list, I came upon a Siren that had changed her name to Mirage—a screw-schooner of one hundred and ninety tons, owned by no less a person than the Marquis of Ormonde. On the whole it seemed pretty clear that Lloyd knew not of the existence of this "fast and comfortable cruiser" of thirty-five tons.

However, if half the promises of the advertisement were genuine, the chance ought not to be lost for lack of further inquiry. So I sat down there and then and wrote a letter to the poetically-named Dewy and Moss, asking some questions in detail about the boat, and, in particular, where she was to be seen.

The answer came by return of post. The boat had been laid up since the autumn in a sheltered creek of the F— River, about three-quarters of a mile up from the harbour side, where Messrs. Dewy and Moss transacted business. The keys lay at their office, and she could be inspected at any time. Her sails, gear, and movable furniture were stored in a roomy loft at the back of Messrs, Dewy and Moss's own premises. Their client was a lady who wished to keep her name concealed—at any rate during the preliminaries; but they had full power to conduct the sale. The yacht was a bargain. The lady wished to be rid of it at once; but they might mention that she would not take a penny less than the quoted price of 400 pounds. They would be happy to deal with me in that or any other line of business; and they enclosed their card.

The card bore witness to the extraordinary versatility of Messrs. Dewy and Moss, if to nothing else. Here is the digest of it:— "Auctioneers; Practical Valuers; House and Estate Agents; Business Brokers; Ship Brokers; Accountants and Commission Merchants; Servants' Registry Office; Fire, Life, Accident, and Plate Glass Insurance Effected; Fire Claims prepared and adjusted; Live Stock Insured; Agents for Gibson's Non-Slipping Cycles; Agents for Packington's Manures, the best and cheapest for all crops; Valuations for Probate; Emigration Agents; Private Arrangements negotiated with Creditors; Old Violins cleaned and repaired; Vice-Consulate for Norway and Sweden."

I cannot say this card produced quite the impression which its composers no doubt desired. It seemed to me that Messrs. Dewy and Moss had altogether too many strings to their bow. And the railway journey to F— was a long one. So I hesitated for two days; and on the late afternoon of the third found myself some three hundred miles from home, standing in a windy street full of the blown odours of shipping, and pulling at a bell which sounded with terrifying alacrity just on the other side of the door. A window was thrown up, right above me, and a head appeared (of Dewy, as it turned out), and invited me to come upstairs.

Mr. Dewy met me on the landing, introduced himself, and led me into his office, where a fat young woman sat awkwardly upon a wooden chair several inches too high for her. Hastily reviewing the many professional capacities in which Mr. Dewy could serve her, I decided that she must be a cook in search of a place. The agent gave me the only other chair in the room—it was clear that in their various feats of commercial dexterity the firm depended very little upon furniture— and balanced himself on the edge of his knee-hole table. He was a little, round man, and his feet dangled three inches from the floor. He looked honest enough, and spoke straightforwardly.

"You have come about the yacht, sir. You would wish to inspect her at once? This is most unfortunate! Your letter only reached us this afternoon. The fact is, my partner, Mr. Moss, has gone off for the day to N— to attend a meeting of the Amateur Bee-keepers' Association—my partner is an enthusiast upon bee-culture."

The versatility of Moss began to grow bewildering. "—and will not be back until late to-night. As for me," he consulted his watch, "I am due in half an hour's time to conduct the rehearsal of a service of song at the Lady Huntingdon's Chapel, down the street, where I play the harmonium."

The diversity of Dewy dazed me.

"You are staying the night at F—?" he said.

"Why, yes. I sleep at the Ship Inn, but hoped to leave early to-morrow."

"Of course you could inspect the sails and gear at once; they are in the loft behind." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"So I understand, but it would be better to see the boat first."

"Naturally, naturally. I hope you see how I am placed? You would not desire me, I feel sure, to disappoint the chapel members who will be waiting presently for their rehearsal. Stay . . . perhaps you would not greatly object to rowing up and inspecting the yacht by yourself? Here are the keys, and my boat is at your disposal; or, if you prefer it, a waterman—"

"Nothing would suit me better, if you don't mind my using the boat."

"It will be a favour, sir, your using her, I assure you. This way, if you please."

He jumped down from the table and led the way downstairs, and through some very rickety back premises to the quay door, where his boat lay moored to a frape. As I climbed down and cast off, Mr. Dewy pulled out his watch again.

"The evenings are lengthening, and you will have plenty of time. Half an hour to high water; you will have the tide with you each way. The keys will open everything on board. By the way, you can't miss her—black, with a tarnished gilt line, moored beside a large white schooner, just three-quarters of a mile up. You can tie up the boat to the frape on your return; to-morrow will do for the keys; at your service any time after nine a.m. Good evening, sir!"

Mr. Dewy turned and hurried back to his client, whose presence during our interview he had completely ignored.

The sun had dropped behind the tall hills that line the western shore of the beautiful F— River; but a soft yellow light, too generously spread to dazzle, suffused the whole sky, and was reflected on the tide that stole up with scarcely a ripple. A sharp bend of the stream brought me in sight of the two yachts, not fifty yards away—their inverted reflections motionless as themselves; I rested on my oars and drifted up towards them, conning the black yawl carefully.

She struck me as too big for a 35-tonner, fore-shortened though she lay—a wall-sided narrow boat, but a very pretty specimen of her type. Her dismantled masts were painted white, and her upper boards had been removed, of course.

Hullo!

There was a man standing on her deck.

She lay with her nose pointing up the river and her stern towards me. The man stood by her wheel (for some idiotic reason, best known to himself, her builder had given her a wheel instead of a tiller), which was covered up with tarpaulin. He stood with a hand on this tarpaulin case, and looked back over his shoulder towards me—a tall fellow with a reddish beard and a clean-shaven upper lip. I was drifting close by this time—he looking curiously at me—and I must have been studying his features for half a minute before I hailed him.

"Yacht ahoy!" I called out. "Is that the Siren?"

Getting no answer, I pulled the boat close under the yacht's side, made her fast, and climbed on board by way of the channels.

"This is the Siren, eh?" I said, looking down her deck towards the wheel.

There was no man to be seen.

I stared around for a minute or so; ran to the opposite side and looked over; ran aft and leaned over her taffrail; ran forward and peered over her bows. Her counter was too short to conceal a man, and her stem had absolutely no overhang at all; yet no man was to be seen, nor boat nor sign of a man. I tried the companion: it was covered and padlocked. The sail-hatch and fore-hatch were also fastened and padlocked, and the skylights covered with tarpaulin and screwed firmly down. A mouse could not have found its way below, except perhaps by the stove-pipe or the pipe leading down to the chain-locker.

I was no believer in ghosts, but I had to hit on some theory there and then. My nerves had been out of order for a month or two, and the long railway journey must have played havoc with them. The whole thing was a hallucination. So I told myself while pulling the coverings off the skylights, but somehow got mighty little comfort out of it; and I will not deny that I fumbled a bit with the padlock on the main hatchway, or that I looked down a second time before setting foot on the companion ladder.

She was a sweet ship; and the air below, though stuffy, had no taste of bilge in it. I explored main cabin, sleeping cabins, forecastle. The movable furniture had been taken ashore, as I had been told; but the fixtures were in good order, the decorations in good taste. Not a panel had shrunk or warped, nor could I find any leakage. At the same time I could find no evidence that she had been visited lately by man or ghost. The only thing that seemed queer was the inscription "29.56" on the beam in the forecastle. It certainly struck me that the surveyor must have under-registered her, but for the moment I thought little about it.

Passing back through the main cabin I paused to examine one or two of the fittings—particularly a neat glass-fronted bookcase, with a small sideboard below it, containing three drawers and a cellaret. The bookcase was empty and clean swept; so also were the drawers. At the bottom of the cellaret I found a couple of flags stowed—a tattered yellow quarantine-signal tightly rolled into a bundle, and a red ensign neatly folded. As I lifted out the latter, there dropped from its folds and fell upon the cabin floor—a book.

I picked it up—a thin quarto bound in black morocco, and rather the worse for wear. On its top side it bore the following inscription in dingy gilt letters:—

JOB'S HOTEL, PENLEVEN,

VISITORS' BOOK.

J. JOB, Proprietor.

Standing there beneath the skylight I turned its pages over, wondering vaguely how the visitors' book of a small provincial hotel had found its way into that drawer. It contained the usual assortment of conventional praise and vulgar jocosity:—

Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Smith of Huddersfield, cannot speak too highly of Mrs. Job's ham and eggs.—September 15, 1881.

Arrived wet through after a 15-mile tramp along the coast; but thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Job were soon steaming over a comfortable fire.—John and Annie Watson, March, 1882.

Note appended by a humorist:

Then you sat on the hob, I suppose.

There was the politely patronising entry:

Being accustomed to Wolverhampton, I am greatly pleased with this coast.—F. B. W.

The poetical effusion:

Majestic spot! Say, doth the sun in heaven Behold aught to equal thee, wave-washed Penleven? etc.

Lighter verse:

Here I came to take my ease, Agreeably disappointed to find no fl— Mrs. Job, your bread and butter Is quite too utterly, utterly utter!

J. Harper, June 3rd, 1883.

The contemplative man's ejaculation:

It is impossible, on viewing these Cyclopean cliffs, to repress the thought, How great is Nature, how little Man! (A note: So it is, old chap! and a reproof in another hand: Shut up! can't you see he's suffering?)

The last entry was a brief one:

J. MacGuire, Liverpool. September 2nd, 1886.

Twilight forced me to close the book and put it back in its place. As I did so, I glanced up involuntarily towards the skylight, as if I half expected to find a pair of eyes staring down on me. Yet the book contained nothing but these mere trivialities. Whatever my apprehension, I was (as "J. Harper" would have said) "agreeably disappointed." I climbed on deck again, relocked the hatch, replaced the tarpaulins, jumped into the boat and rowed homewards. Though the tide favoured me, it was dark before I reached Mr. Dewy's quay-door. Having, with some difficulty, found the frape, I made the boat fast. I groped my way across his back premises and out into the gaslit street; and so to the Ship Inn, a fair dinner, and a sound night's sleep.

At ten o'clock next morning I called on Messrs. Dewy and Moss. Again Mr. Dewy received me, and again he apologised for the absence of his partner, who had caught an early train to attend a wrestling match at the far end of the county. Mr. Dewy showed me the sails, gear, cushions, etc., of the Siren—everything in surprising condition. I told him that I meant business, and added—

"I suppose you have all the yacht's papers?"

He stroked his chin, bent his head to one side, and asked, "Shall you require them?"

"Of course," I said; "the transfer must be regular. We must have her certificate of registry, at the very least."

"In that case I had better write and get them from my client."

"Is she not a resident here?"

"I don't know," he said, "that I ought to tell you. But I see no harm— you are evidently, sir, a bona fide purchaser. The lady's name is Carlingford—a widow—residing at present in Bristol."

"This is annoying," said I; "but if she lives anywhere near the Temple Mead Station, I might skip a train there and call on her. She herself desired no delay, and I desire it just as little. But the papers are necessary."

After some little demur, he gave me the address, and we parted. At the door I turned and asked, "By the way, who was the fellow on board the Siren last night as I rowed up to her?"

He gave me a stare of genuine surprise. "A man on board? Whoever he was, he had no business there. I make a point of looking after the yacht myself."

I hurried to the railway station. Soon after six that evening I knocked at Mrs. Carlingford's lodgings in an unattractive street of Bedminster, that unattractive suburb. A small maid opened the door, took my card, and showed me into a small sitting-room on the ground floor. I looked about me—a round table, a horsehair couch, a walnut sideboard with glass panels, a lithograph of John Wesley being rescued from the flames of his father's rectory, a coloured photograph—

As the door opened behind me and a woman entered, I jumped back almost into her arms. The coloured photograph, staring at me from the opposite wall above the mantelshelf, was a portrait—a portrait of the man I had seen on board the Siren!

"Who is that?" I demanded, wheeling round without ceremony.

But if I was startled, Mrs. Carlingford seemed ready to drop with fright. The little woman—she was a very small, shrinking creature, with a pallid face and large nervous eyes—put out a hand against the jamb of the door, and gasped out—

"Why do you ask? What do you want?"

"I beg your pardon," I said; "it was merely curiosity. I thought I had seen the face somewhere."

"He was my husband."

"He is dead, then?"

"Oh, why do you ask? Yes; he died abroad." She touched her widow's cap with a shaking finger, and then covered her face with her hands. "I was there—I saw it. Why do you ask?" she repeated.

"I beg your pardon sincerely," I said; "it was only that the portrait reminded me of somebody—But my business here is quite different. I am come about the yacht Siren which you have advertised for sale."

She seemed more than ever inclined to run. Her voice scarcely rose above a whisper.

"My agents at F— have full instructions about the sale."

"Yes, but they tell me you have the papers. I may say that I have seen the yacht and gear and am ready to pay the price you ask for immediate possession. I said as much to Mr. Dewy. But the papers, of course—"

"Are they necessary?"

"Certainly they are. At least the certificate of registry or, failing that, some reference to the port of registry, if the transfer is to be made. I should also like to see her warrant if she has one, and her sailmaker's certificate. Messrs. Dewy and Moss could draw up the inventory."

She still hesitated. At length she said, "I have the certificate; I will fetch it. The other papers, if she had any, have been lost or destroyed. She never had a warrant. I believe my husband belonged to no Yacht Club. I understand very little of these matters."

She left the room, and returned in five minutes or so with the open document in her hand.

"But," said I, looking over it, "this is a certificate of a vessel called the Wasp."

"Ah, I must explain that. I wished the boat to change her name with the new owner. Her old name—it has associations—painful ones—I should not like anyone else to know her as the Wasp."

"Well," I admitted, "I can understand that. But, see here, she is entered as having one mast and carrying a cutter rig."

"She was a cutter originally. My husband had her lengthened, in 1886, I think by five feet, and turned her into a yawl. It was abroad, at Malaga—"

"A curious port to choose."

"She was built, you see, as long ago as 1875. My husband used to say she was a broad boat for those days, and could be lengthened successfully and turned into quite a new-looking vessel. He gave her an entirely new sheathing, too, and all her spars are new. She was not insured, and, being in a foreign port, it was understood he would have her newly registered when he returned, which he fully intended. So no alterations were made in the certificate here, and, I believe, her old tonnage is still carved up somewhere inside her."

This was true enough. The figures on the certificate, 29.56, were those I had seen on the beam in the forecastle.

"My husband never lived to reach England, and when she came back to F—, though she was visited, of course, by the Custom House officer and coastguard, nobody asked for her certificate, and so the alterations in her were never explained. She was laid up at once in the F— River, and there she has remained."

Certain structural peculiarities in the main cabin—scarcely noted at the time, but now remembered—served to confirm Mrs. Carlingford's plainly told story. On my return to London that night I hunted up some back volumes of Hunt, and satisfied myself on the matter of the Wasp and her owner, William Carlingford. And, to be short, the transfer was made on a fresh survey, the cheque sent to Mrs. Carlingford, and the yawl Siren passed into my hands.

All being settled, I wrote to my old acquaintance, Mr. Dewy, asking him to fit the vessel out, and find me a steady skipper and crew—not without some apprehension of hearing by return of post that Dewy and Moss were ready and willing to sign articles with me to steer and sail the yacht in their spare moments. Perhaps the idea did not occur to them. At any rate they found me a crew, and a good one; and I spent a very comfortable three months, cruising along the south-western coast, across to Scilly, from Scilly to Cork and back to Southampton, where on September 29, 1891, I laid the yacht up for the winter.

Thrice since have I applied to Messrs. Dewy and Moss for a crew, and always with satisfactory results. But I must pass over 1892 and 1893 and come to the summer of 1894; or, to be precise, to Wednesday, the 11th of July. We had left Plymouth that morning for a run westward; but, the wind falling light towards noon, we found ourselves drifting, or doing little more, off the entrance of the small fishing haven of Penleven. Though I had never visited Penleven I knew, on the evidence of many picture-shows, that the place was well worth seeing. Besides, had I not the assurances of the Visitors' Book in my cabin? It occurred to me that I would anchor for an hour or two in the entrance of the haven, and eat my lunch ashore at Mr. Job's hotel. Mr. Job would doubtless be pleased to recover his long-lost volume, and I had no more wish than right to retain it.

Job's hotel was unpretending. Mrs. Job offered me ham and eggs and, as an alternative, a cut off a boiled silver-side of beef, if I did not mind waiting for ten minutes or so, when her husband would be back to dinner. I said that I would wait, and added that I should be pleased to make Mr. Job's acquaintance on his return, as I had a trifling message for him.

About ten minutes later, while studying a series of German lithographs in the coffee-room, I heard a heavy footstep in the passage and a knock at the door; and Mr. Job appeared, a giant of a man, with a giant's girth and red cheeks, which he sufflated as a preliminary of speech.

"Good day, Mr. Job," said I. "I won't keep you from your dinner, but the fact is, I am the unwilling guardian of a trifle belonging to you." And I showed him the Visitors' Book.

I thought the man would have had an apoplectic fit there on the spot. He rolled his eyes, dropped heavily upon a chair, and began to breathe hard and short.

"Where—where—?" he gasped, and began to struggle again for breath.

I said, "For some reason or other the sight of this book distresses you, and I think you had better not try to speak for a bit. I will tell you exactly how the book came into my possession, and afterwards you can let me have your side of the story, if you choose." And I told him just what I have told the reader.

At the conclusion, Mr. Job loosed his neckcloth and spoke—

"That book, sir, ought to be lyin' at the bottom of the sea. It was lost on the evening of September the 3rd, 1886, on board a yacht that went down with all hands. Now I'll tell you all about it. There was a gentleman called Blake staying over at Port William that summer—that's four miles up the coast, you know."

I nodded.

". . . staying with his wife and one son, a tall young fellow, aged about twenty-one, maybe. They came from Liverpool—and they had a yacht with them, that they kept in Port William harbour, anchored just below the bridge. She would be about thirty tons—a very pretty boat. They had only one hired hand for crew; used to work her themselves for the most part; the lady was extraordinary clever at the helm, or at the sheets either. Very quiet people they were. You might see them most days that summer, anchored out on the whiting grounds. What was she called? The Queen of Sheba—cutter-rigged-quite a new boat. It was said afterwards that the owner, Mr. Blake, designed her himself. She used often to drop anchor off Penleven. Know her? Why of course I'd know her; 'specially considerin' what happened.

"'What was that?' A very sad case; it made a lot of talk at the time. One day—it was the third of September, '86—Mr. and Mrs. Blake and the son, they anchored off the haven and came up here to tea. I supposed at the time they'd left their paid hand, Robertson, on board; but it turned out he was left home at Port William that day, barkin' a small mainsail that Mr. Blake had bought o' purpose for the fishin'. Well, Mrs. Blake she ordered tea, and while my missus was layin' the cloth young Mr. Blake he picks up that very book, sir, that was lyin' on the sideboard, and begins readin' it and laffin'. My wife, she goes out of the room for to cut the bread-and-butter, and when she comes back there was the two gentlemen by the window studyin' the book with their backs to the room, and Mrs. Blake lyin' back in the chair I'm now sittin' on, an' her face turned to the wall—so. The young Mr. Blake he turns round and says, 'This here's a very amusin' book, Mrs. Job. Would you mind my borrowing it for a day or two to copy out some of the poetry? I'll bring it back next time we put into Penleven.' Of course my wife says, 'No, she didn't mind.' Then the elder Mr. Blake he says, 'I see you had a visitor here yesterday—a Mr. MacGuire. Is he in the house?' My wife said, 'No; the gentleman had left his traps, but he'd started that morning to walk to Port William to spend the day.' Nothing more passed. They had their tea, and paid for it, and went off to their yacht. I saw that book in the young man's hand as he went down the passage.

"Well, sir, it was just dusking in as they weighed and stood up towards Port William, the wind blowing pretty steady from the south'ard. At about ten minutes to seven o'clock it blew up in a sudden little squall—nothing to mention; the fishing-boats just noticed it, and that was all. But it was reckoned that squall capsized the Queen of Sheba. She never reached Port William, and no man ever clapped eyes on her after twenty minutes past six, when Dick Crego declares he saw her off the Blowth, half-way towards home, and going steady under all canvas. The affair caused a lot of stir, here and at Port William, and in the newspapers. Short-handed as they were, of course they'd no business to carry on as they did—'specially as my wife declares from her looks that Mrs. Blake was feelin' faint afore they started. She always seemed to me a weak, timmersome woman at the best; small and ailin' to look at."

"And Mr. Blake?"

"Oh, he was a strong-made gentleman: tall, with a big red beard."

"The son?"

"Took after his father, only he hadn't any beard; a fine upstanding pair."

"And no trace was ever found of them?"

"Not a stick nor a shred."

"But about this Visitors' Book? You'll swear they took it with them? See, there's not a stain of salt-water upon it."

"No, there isn't; but I'll swear young Mr. Blake had it in his hand as he went from my door."

I said, "Mr. Job, I've kept you already too long from your dinner. Go and eat, and ask them to send in something for me. Afterwards, I want you to come with me and take a look at my yacht, that is lying just outside the haven."

As we started from the shore Mr. Job, casting his eyes over the Siren, remarked, "That's a very pretty yawl of yours, sir." As we drew nearer, he began to eye her uneasily.

"She has been lengthened some five or six feet," I said; "she was a cutter to begin with."

"Lord help us!" then said Mr. Job, in a hoarse whisper. "She's the Queen of Sheba. I'd swear to her run anywhere—ay, or to that queer angle of her hawse-holes."

A close examination confirmed Mr. Job that my yacht was no other than the lost Queen of Sheba, lengthened and altered in rig. It persuaded me, too. I turned back to Plymouth, and, leaving the boat in Cattewater, drove to the Millbay Station and took a ticket for Bristol. Arriving there just twenty-four hours after my interview with Mr. Job, I made my way to Mrs. Carlingford's lodgings.

She had left them two years before; nothing was known of her whereabouts. The landlady could not even tell me whether she had moved from Bedminster: And so I had to let the matter rest.

But just fourteen days ago I received the following letter, dated from a workhouse in one of the Midland counties:—

"DEAR SIR,—I am a dying woman, and shall probably be dead before this reaches you. The doctor says he cannot give me forty-eight hours. It is angina pectoris, and I suffer horribly at times. The yacht you purchased of me is not the Wasp, but the Queen of Sheba. My husband designed her. He was a man of some property near Limerick; and he and my son were involved in some of the Irish troubles between 1881 and 1884. It was said they had joined one of the brotherhoods, and betrayed their oaths. This I am sure was not true. But it is certain we had to run for fear of assassination. After a year in Liverpool we were forced to fly south to Port William, where we brought the yacht and lived for some time in quiet, under our own names. But we knew this could not last, and had taken measures to escape when need arose. My husband had chanced, while at Liverpool, upon an old yacht, dismantled and rotting in the Mersey—but of about the same size as his own and still, of course, upon the register. He bought her of her owner—a Mr. Carlingford, and a stranger—for a very few pounds, and with her—what he valued far more—her papers; but he never completed the transfer at the Custom House. His plan was, if pressed, to escape abroad, and pass his yacht off as the Wasp, and himself as Mr. Carlingford. All the while we lived at Port William the Queen of Sheba was kept amply provisioned for a voyage of at least three weeks, when the necessity overtook us, quite suddenly— the name of a man, MacGuire, in the Visitors' Book of a small inn at Penleven. We left Penleven at dusk that evening, and held steadily up the coast until darkness. Then we turned the yacht's head, and ran straight across for Morlaix; but the weather continuing fine for a good fortnight (our first night at sea was the roughest in all this time), we changed our minds, cleared Ushant, and held right across for Vigo; thence, after re-victualling, we cruised slowly down the coast and through the Straits, finally reaching Malaga. There we stayed and had the yacht lengthened. My husband had sold his small property before ever we came to Port William, and had managed to invest the whole under the name of Carlingford. There was no difficulty about letters of credit. At each port on the way we had shown the Wasp's papers, and used the name of Carlingford; and at Lisbon we read in an English newspaper about the supposed capsizing of the Queen of Sheba. Still, we had not only to persuade the officials at the various ports that our boat was the Wasp. We knew that our enemies were harder to delude, and our next step was to make her as unlike the Wasp or the Queen of Sheba as possible. This we did by lengthening her and altering her rig. But it proved useless, as I had always feared it would. The day after we sailed from Malaga, a Spanish-speaking seaman, whom we had hired there as extra hand, came aft as if to speak to my husband (who stood at the wheel), and, halting a pace or two from him, lifted a revolver, called him by name, and shot him dead. Before he could turn, my son had knocked him senseless, and in another minute had tumbled him overboard. We buried my husband in the sea, next day. We held on, we two alone, past Gibraltar— I steering and my son handling all the sails—and ran up for Cadiz. There we made deposition of our losses, inventing a story to account for them, and my son took the train for Paris, for we knew that our enemies had tracked the yacht, and there would be no escape for him if he clung to her. I waited for six days, and then engaged a crew and worked the yacht back to F—. I have never since set eyes on my son; but he is alive, and his hiding is known to myself and to one man only—a member of the brotherhood, who surprised the secret. To keep that man silent I spent all my remaining money; to quiet him I had to sell the yacht; and now that money, too, is gone, and I am dying in a workhouse. God help my son now! I deceived you, and yet I think I did you no great wrong. The yacht I sold you was my own, and she was worth the money. The figures on the beam were cut there by my husband before we reached Vigo, to make the yacht correspond with the Wasp's certificate. If I have wronged you, I implore your pardon.—Yours truly,

"CATHERINE BLAKE."

Well, that is the end of the story. It does not, I am aware, quite account for the figure I saw standing by the Siren's wheel. As for the Wasp, she has long since rotted to pieces on the waters of the Mersey. But the question is, Have I a right to sell the Siren? I certainly have a right to keep her, for she is mine, sold to me in due form by her rightful owner, and honestly paid for. But then I don't want to keep her!



PARSON JACK'S FORTUNE.



I.

From Langona church tower you see nothing of the Atlantic but a wedge between two cliffs of a sandy creek. The cottages—thirty in all, perhaps—huddle in a semicircle of the hills about a spring of clear water, which overflows and leaps as from a platform into the hollow coombe, its conduit down to the sands. But Langona Church stands out more boldly, on a high grassy meadow thrust forward like a bastion over the stream's right flank. It has no tree, no habitation between it and the ocean: it breaks the northerly gales for the cottages behind and under its lee, and these gales have given its tamarisk hedge and even its gravestones so noticeable a slant inland that, by a trick of eyesight, the church itself seems tilted perilously forward.

Forward, in fact—that is to say, seaward—the tower does lean; though but by a foot or so, and now not perilously; the salt winds, impotent against its masonry, having bitten with more effect into the earth around its base. But the church has been restored, the mischief arrested, and the danger no longer haunts its vicar as it haunted the Rev. John Flood on a bright September morning in 1885.

He sat on a thyme-covered hummock by the valley stream, with knees drawn up and palms pressed against his aching head: sat as he had been sitting for half an hour past, a shovel beside him and an empty sack, which he had brought down to fill with clean river-sand. A chaffinch, fresh from his bath, flitted incessantly between the rail of the footbridge, a dozen yards below, and the boughs of a tamarisk beside it. He paid no attention to Parson Jack. Few living creatures ever did.

Even his parishioners—those who knew of it—felt no great concern that Parson Jack had been drunk again last night. There was no harm in the man. "He had this failing, to be sure: with a little liquor he talked silly, though not so silly as you might suppose. Let him alone, and he'll find his way home somehow. Scandalous? Oh, no doubt! But you might easily go farther and find a worse parson than Flood."

It never occurred to them that he felt any special remorse. His agonies were private, and his chance of redemption lay in this, that they neither ceased nor eased with time; perhaps in this, too, that he wasted no breath in apologetics or self-pity, but blamed himself squarely like a man.

Yet a sentimentalist in his place might have run up a long and tearful account against Providence, fate, circumstances—whatever sentimentalists choose to arraign rather than themselves. Five-and-twenty years before, Jack Flood had been a rowdy undergraduate of Brasenose College, Oxford; in his third year of residence, with more than a fair prospect of being ploughed—or, in the language of that generation, "plucked"—at the end of it; a member of the Phoenix Wine Club, owner of a brute which he not only called a "hunter" but made to do duty for one at least twice a week; and debtor among various Oxford tradesmen to the tune of something like 500 pounds. At this point his father—a Berkshire rector—died suddenly of a paralytic stroke, leaving Jack and his elder brother Lionel (then abroad in the new Indian Civil Service) to realise and divide an estate of 1200 pounds.

Six hundred pounds is a fair equipment for starting a young man in life; but not when he already owes five hundred, and has few brains, no decided bent, and only a little of the most useless learning. Jack surrendered two-thirds of his patrimony to his pressing creditors, sold his hunter, read hard for a term, scrambled into his degree, and was received, a month or two later, into Holy Orders. His father had sent him to Brasenose College as a step to this, and Jack had looked forward to being a parson some day—a sporting parson, be it understood.

For the moment, however, he was almost penniless; and he had answered in vain some dozen advertisements of curacies, when a college friend came to the rescue and prevailed on a distant kinsman to offer him the living of Langona, with a net annual stipend of 51 pounds eighteen shillings and sixpence. There are such "livings."

It was offered, of course, and accepted, merely as a stopgap. But twenty-five years had passed, and at Langona Parson Flood remained. It had cost him twenty of these to wipe off his Oxford debts, with interest; but he had managed to retain the small remnant of his capital, and this with his benefice yielded an income better than a day labourer's. That he was still a bachelor goes without saying. In the summer he fished; in the winter he followed, afoot, a pack of harriers kept by his patron, Sir Harry Vyell of Carwithiel. These were his recreations. He could not afford to travel, and cared little for reading. His library consisted of his Bible, two or three small Divinity Handbooks, a Pickwick, Stonehenge on the Dog, and a couple of "Handley Cross" novels, with coloured illustrations by John Leech. Twice a year or thereabouts a letter reached him from his brother in Calcutta, who was apparently prospering, and had a wife and three children—though for some years the letters had brought no news of them.

"Something was wrong," Parson Jack decided after a while, finding that his messages to them met with no answer; and he felt a delicacy in asking questions. He believed that the children had been sent home to England—he did not know where—and would have liked to pay them a visit. But for him a journey was out of the question. So he lived on, alone and forgotten.

On Sundays he wore a black suit, which had lasted him for ten years, and would have to last for another five at least. On week-days he dressed in blue guernsey and corduroys, and smoked a clay pipe. His broad-brimmed clerical hat alone distinguished him from the farm-labourers in his parish; but when at work upon the church—patching its shingle roof, or pouring mortar into its gaping wounds—he discarded this for a maroon-coloured cap, not unlike a biretta, which offered less surface to the high winds.

He knew nothing of architecture: could not, in fact, distinguish Norman work from Perpendicular; and at first had taken to these odd jobs of masonry as a handy way of killing time. He had wit enough, however, to learn pretty soon that the whole fabric was eaten with rot and in danger from every gale; and by degrees (he could not explain how) the ruin had set up a claim on him. In his worst dreams he saw it toppling, falling; during the winter gales he lay awake listening, imagining the throes and shudders of its old beams, and would be abroad before daybreak, waiting for the light to assure him that it yet stood. A casual tourist, happening on him at work, some summers before, had mistaken him for a hired mason, and discoursed learnedly on the beauties of the edifice and the pity of its decay. "That's a vile job you have in hand, my friend— a bit of sheer vandalism," said the tourist; "but I suppose the Parson who employs you knows no better." Parson Jack had been within an ace of revealing himself, but now changed his mind and asked humbly enough what was amiss. Whereupon the tourist pulled out a pencil and an old envelope, and explained. "But there," he broke off, "it would take me a week to go into these matters, and you a deal longer to understand. I'd enjoy twenty minutes' talk with your Parson. The church wants restoration from beginning to end, and by a first-class man. It deserves no less, for it's interesting throughout; in some points unique." "That would cost money now?" suggested Parson Jack, pitching his voice to the true Langona sing-song. "Two thousand pounds would go a long way."—The tourist scanned the waggon-roof critically, and lowering his eyes, at length observed the Parson's smile. "Ah, I see! a sum that would take some collecting hereabouts. Parson's none too well off, eh?" "Fifty pounds a year or so." "Scandalous! Who's the lay impropriator?" He was told. "Well, but wouldn't he help?" Parson Jack shook his head; he had never asked a penny from Sir Harry Vyell, who was a notorious Gallio in all that concerned religion. He had a further reason, too. He suspected that Sir Harry chafed a little in a careless way at his continuing to hold the living, and would be glad to see him replaced by an incumbent with private means and no failings to be apologised for with a shrug of the shoulders. Sir Harry, he knew, was aware of these hateful lapses, though too delicate to allude to them, and far too charitable to use them (unless under compulsion) as a lever for getting rid of him. And this knowledge was perhaps the worst of his shame. Yet what could he do? since to surrender Langona was to starve. "Your Parson might at least make a beginning," pursued the tourist. "A box, now, inviting donations—that would cost nothing, and might relieve a visitor here and there of a spare sovereign. He could put up a second box for himself: it's quite a usual thing in churches when the parish priest is poor. You might make the suggestion, if he's not too proud."

"I will," said Parson Jack, and after the tourist had gone he thought much of these two boxes. Indeed, he made and fixed up the first that same week, though he labelled it "For Church Repairs," fighting shy of "Restoration" as too magniloquent. The second cost him long searchings of heart, and he walked over and laid the case before Parson Kendall, Rector of the near parish of St. Cadox, a good Christian and a good fellow, with whom he sometimes smoked a pipe. "Why not?" answered Parson Kendall; "it's the most ordinary thing in the world." "But Sir Harry may not like it." The Rector chuckled. "If he doesn't, he'll consult me; and I shall ask him why he hunts a pack by subscription."

So the second box was nailed beside the first, and excited little discussion. Indeed, the pair hung in so obscure a corner—behind the font—that at the first service only Parson Jack and the Widow Copping were aware of them. The Parson stumbled and hesitated so badly over the prayers that one or two worshippers felt sure he had been drinking; which was not the fact. The Widow Copping took no interest in collecting-boxes; and, besides, she could not read. So the innovation missed fire. Moreover, it suggested neither popery nor priestcraft, and only a fool would suspect Parson Flood of either.

The "Parson's Box" remained, provoking no criticism. He himself had a little plan for its contents. He would spend the money on a journey to his nephew and nieces, if they were anywhere in England. He would find out. There was no hurry, he told himself, with a queer smile.

There was not. The box provoked neither ill-criticism nor effusive charity. On Trinity Sunday, when he opened it and counted out one shilling in silver and sevenpence in coppers, Parson Jack pulled a wry face and then laughed aloud.



II.

Toot—toot—toot!

The postman's horn in the village street above him shook the Parson out of his idleness, if not out of his dark thoughts. He sprang up, gripped his shovel, and began spading the white river-sand into his sack.

"It is useless, after all," said he to himself. "The crack on the south of the tower stands still, but the smaller and more dangerous one—the one on the weather side—is widening fast. This winter, even, may finish matters."

He took up a few more shovelfuls. "Anyhow, it will not last my time; and since it will not—" He paused, as a thought rose before him like a blank wall. If the church fell—nay, when it fell—this comrade which had taken possession of his purposes, his fears, his fate—this enigmatic building of which he knew neither the history nor the founder's name, but only its wounds—why, then his occupation was gone! He might outlive it for years, perhaps a third of a lifetime; but he had no hopes beyond. In imagination he saw it fall, and after that— nothing. And he laughed—not the laugh with which he had counted out the money in his collecting-box, but one of sheer self-contempt, and passing bitter.

The impression had been so sharp that he flung a glance up at the grey tower topping the grey-green rise; and with that was aware of the postman swinging, with long strides, down the slope towards him.

He turned in confusion and resumed his shovelling. Why was the man coming this way, by a path out of his daily beat? Parson Jack stooped over his work. He wished to avoid greeting him. There was talk, no doubt, up at the village. . . .

But the postman was not to be denied. He stopped and hailed across the stream.

"Hulloa, Parson! I've just left a letter for you up at the Parsonage: a long blue letter, and important, by the look of it, with a seal—a man's hand coming out of a castle. Do you know it?"

"No," answered Parson Jack. "Did you come out of your way to tell me this?"

"Not quite; though I'd do as much for 'ee any day, out of friendliness. But, tell 'ee the truth, I was sent to seek you with a message."

"A message?"

"Sir Harry has ridden over from Carwithiel, and wants you up to church. He's there waitin' with his nephew, a narra-chested slip of a chap with a square-cut collar and a Popish sort of face."

Parson Jack lifted his shovel and passed his palm over its blade, which the sand had already polished. "Thank you," said he, "I'll be going at once."

But he made no motion to start while the postman stood eyeing him. A sudden selfish fear paralysed him. Had Sir Harry heard? And was this the end of his patron's forbearance? No; the news could not have reached Carwithiel so quickly. He had no enemy to arise early and carry it; to no living creature were even his follies of such importance.

"Don't forget your letter," the postman reminded him, moving off towards the foot-bridge.

Parson Jack watched him as he crossed it, and until he had scaled the western slope and disappeared over its shoulder. Then, kneeling by the stream, he dipped his head, and let the icy water run past his temples. When he raised it again his plain face was glowing, for hard fare and life in the open weather kept his complexion clear and ruddy. But the hand gripping the sack on his shoulder shook as he climbed the hill.

By the lych-gate he found two saddle-horses tethered, and just outside the porch stood Sir Harry Vyell—a strikingly handsome man with a careless thoroughbred look; in fact, well over sixty, but apparently ten years younger. By habit he dressed well, and was scrupulously careful of his person; by habit, too, he remained sweet of temper and kindly of speech. But beneath this mask of habit the heart had withered, a while ago, to dust, and lay in the grave of his only son.

"Ah? Good morning, Flood!" cried Sir Harry genially. Parson Jack, reassured, felt the colour rushing into his face. "I've brought over my nephew Clem to introduce to you—he's in Orders, you know—scholar of Balliol, Fellow of All Souls, and what not. High Anglican, too—he'll be a bishop one of these days, if money doesn't make him lazy. He's inside, dancing with delight in front of your chancel-screen—or, rather, the remains of it. Church architecture is his craze just now— that and Church History. Between ourselves"—Sir Harry glanced over his shoulder—"he has a bee or two in his bonnet; but that's as it should be. Every lad at his age wants to eat up the world."

Parson Jack could remember no such ambition. They passed into the church together.

Now the surprise which awaits you in Langona Church is its chancel, which stands high above the level of the nave, and, rising suddenly beneath a fine Early English arch, carries the eye upward to the altar with a strange illusion of distance. Even in those days the first impression was one of rare, almost singular, beauty—an impression lost in a series of small pangs as your eye rested on the ruinous details one by one. For of the great screen nothing remained but two tall uprights, surmounted by hideous knops—the addition of some local carpenter. Between the lozenge-shaped shafts of the choir arches, the worm-riddled parclose screens dripped sawdust in little heaps. Down in the nave, bench-ends leaned askew or had been broken up, built as panels into deal pews, and daubed with paint; the floor was broken and ran in uneven waves; the walls shed plaster, and a monstrous gallery blocked the belfry arch. Upon this gallery Parson Jack had spent most of his careful, unsightly carpentry, for the simple reason that it had been unsafe; and, for the simple reason that they had let in the rain, he had provided half a dozen windows with new panes, solid enough, but in appearance worthy only to cover cucumbers.

As he entered with Sir Harry, the Rev. Clement Vyell swung round upon him eagerly, but paused with a just perceptible start at sight of his unclerical garb.

"Let me introduce you, Clem. This is Mr. Flood."

Parson Jack bowed, and let his eyes travel around the church, which he had often enough pitied, but of which he now for the first time felt ashamed.

"We're in a sad mess, I'm afraid," he muttered.

"It's most interesting, nevertheless," Clement Vyell answered. He was a thin-faced youth with a high pedagogic voice. "Better a church in this condition than one restored out of all whooping—though I read on the box yonder that you are collecting towards a restoration."

Parson Jack blushed hotly.

"You have made a start, eh? What are your funds in hand?"

"Two pounds four shillings—as yet."

Sir Harry laughed outright; and after a moment Parson Jack laughed too— he could not help it. But Clement Vyell frowned, having no sense of humour.

"I patch it up, you know—after a fashion." Parson Jack's tone was humble enough and propitiatory; nevertheless, he glanced at his handiwork with something like pride. "The windows, for instance—"

The younger man turned with a shudder. "I suppose now," he said abruptly, staring up at an arch connecting the choir-stalls with the southern transept, "this bit of Norman work will be as old as anything you have?"

That it was Norman came as news to Parson Jack. He, too, stared up at it, resting a palm on a crumbling bench-end.

"Well," said he ingenuously, "I'm no judge of these things, you know; but I always supposed the tower was the oldest bit."

He broke off in confusion—not at his speech, but because Clement Vyell's eyes were resting on the back of his hand, which shook with a tell-tale palsy.

"The tower," said the young man icily, "is Perpendicular, and later than 1412, at all events, when a former belfry fell in, destroyed the nave, and cracked the pavement, as you see. All this is matter of record, as you may learn, sir, from the books which, I feel sure, my uncle will be pleased to lend you. I need not ask, perhaps, if in the course of your—ah—excavations you have come on any traces of the original pre-Augustine Oratory, or of the conventual buildings which existed here till, we are told, the middle of the thirteenth century."

He turned away, obviously expecting no answer, addressed himself henceforward to Sir Harry, and ignored Parson Jack, who followed him abashed, yet secretly burning to hear more, and wondering where all this knowledge could be obtained.

"But it is inconceivable!" Clement Vyell protested to his uncle, half an hour later, as they rode back towards Carwithiel. "The man has had the cure of that parish for—how long, do you say?—twenty-five years, and has never had the curiosity to discover the most rudimentary facts in its history."

"A hard case," assented Sir Harry. "He lifts his elbow, too."

"Eh?"

"Drinks." Sir Harry illustrated the idiom, lifting an imaginary glass to his mouth. "Oh, it's notorious. But what the deuce can we do? Kick him out?—not so easy; and, besides, he'd die under a hedge. You're hard on him, Clem. He has his notions of duty. Why"—the Baronet laughed—"I've seen him on the roof with a tar-bucket, caulking the leaks for dear life. He's a gentleman, too."

Clement Vyell tightened his lips and rode on in silence.

Left alone, Parson Jack stared around his church. His repairs, in which he had taken pride before now, seemed nakedly, hideously mean at this moment. But a new sense fought with his dejection—a sense altogether new to him—that his church had a history, a meaning into which he had never penetrated. The aisles seemed to expand, the chancel to reach up into a distance in which space and time were confused; and, following it, his eye rested on a patch of colour in the east window between the wooden tablets of the Law—a cluster of fragments of stained glass, rescued by some former vicar and set amid the clear panes—the legs and scarlet robe of a saint, an angel's wing, a broken legend on a scroll, part of a coat-of-arms, azure with a fesse,—wavy of gold—all thrown together as by a kaleidoscope gone mad. Each of these scraps had once a meaning: so this church held meanings, too long ignored by him, partly intelligible yet, soon to be mixed inextricably in a common downfall. For Clement Vyell might be wise in the history of architecture, but his eye had not read the one plain warning which stared a common workman in the face—that the days of this building were surely numbered, and were probably few.

Parson Jack had a mind to run after him. He must learn, and speedily, all about the church, its builders, this old colony of monks. But where? In books doubtless. Where could those books be found?

He had almost reached the door, when his eye fell on the two collecting-boxes. With a sudden thought he paused, drew a key from the pocket of his corduroys, and unlocked his own—the Parson's box. A sovereign lay within.

He picked up the coin and considered it, a dark flush growing on his face. Parson Jack had a temper, though few guessed it. With an effort he controlled it now, dropped the sovereign into the box labelled "Church Repairs," and walked slowly out.

He had no longer a mind to run after Clement Vyell. Instead, he bent his steps towards the four-roomed cottage which he called the Parsonage and found too large for his needs.

On the sitting-room table lay a letter, in a large blue envelope with a red seal.



III.

That same day, and soon after three o'clock in the afternoon, Parson Jack knocked at the door of St. Cadox Rectory.

The Rector, a widower, usually ate his dinner in the middle of the day, and immediately afterwards retired to his study (with a glass of hot brandy-and-water), presumably to meditate. At Parson Jack's entrance he started up from his arm-chair with a flushed face and a somewhat incoherent greeting, in the middle of which he suddenly observed that his friend's face, too, was agitated.

"But what brings you? Nothing wrong, I hope?"

"No—o," answered Parson Jack dubiously. Then, "Oh no; on the contrary, I came to ask if you have any books bearing on this part of the world— county histories, ecclesiastical histories, and the like—especially ecclesiastical histories. I want to read up about Langona."

The Rector's eyes twinkled. "This is rather sudden, eh?"

"After five-and-twenty years? I suppose it is." Parson Jack blushed like a schoolboy; but he laughed, nevertheless, for he held news, and it bubbled within him.

"Preparing a lecture?"

"No; the fact is"—he straightened his face—"I've just learnt of my brother Lionel's death in India. I've never seen him since we were boys," he added apologetically.

"H'm, h'm." The Rector paid his respect to Death in a serious little cough. "Still, I don't quite understand—"

"He has left me five thousand pounds."

"Ah? A very tidy sum—my dear Flood, I congratulate you; with all my heart I do. You have the prospect now of many happy days." He shook his friend's hand warmly. "But—excuse me—what has this to do with reading ecclesiastical history, of Langona or any other place?"

"Well," Parson Jack answered shyly, sitting down and filling his pipe, "I thought of restoring the church."

"My dear fellow, don't be a fool—if I may speak profanely. Five thousand pounds is a tidy sum, no doubt, in Langona especially. But you'll be leaving Langona. You can buy yourself a decent little living, or retire and set up comfortably as a bachelor on two hundred and fifty pounds a year, with a cob, and a gig as you grow older."

Parson Jack shook his head. "I've been paying debts all my life, with the help of Langona," said he, puffing slowly. "And now I see that I owe the place repayment. But it isn't that exactly," he went on with a quickening voice and another of his shy blushes, "and I don't want you to mistake that for the real reason. The fact is, I'm attached to the place—to the church especially. It seems a silly thing to say, when I haven't troubled to learn ten words of its history, and don't know Norman work from—well, from any but my own." He laughed grimly, biting on his pipe-stem. "But that can be mended, I suppose—and the old barn has become a sort of companion—and that's about the long and short of it."

The Rector leaned forward and tapped the bowl of his pipe reflectively on the fender-bars.

"You are the residuary legatee, I take it. Your brother was unmarried?"

"Oh dear, no! Lionel was married, and had three children—two girls and a boy: 'has,' I should say, for I imagine they're all alive—the widow, too. I don't know where they are. The lawyers merely speak of my five thousand as a legacy; they say nothing of the rest of the will."

"That's queer." The Rector reached for his tobacco-jar.

"Eh? You mean my not knowing the whereabouts of the family? Between ourselves, I believe there was a screw loose in Lionel's domestic affairs. I know nothing definite—positively. We corresponded now and then," continued Parson Jack—"say twice a year—and of late years he dropped all mention of them, and I gathered that questions were not wanted. But the wife and children are provided for, you may depend; and there's the pension."

"You are not an executor even?"

"No; it seems there were two; but one died. The survivor, a Major Bromham, lives in Plymouth—retired, apparently, and I suppose an old friend of Lionel's. It's through his solicitors that I had the news."

"And with it the first announcement of your brother's death. It seems queer to me that this Major Bromham didn't send you a line of his own. How do the lawyers put it?"

"Oh, the barest announcement. Here it is; you can read for yourself: 'On the instruction of our client, Major Bromham, late 16th Bengal Lancers, we have to inform you of the death, by syncope, at Calcutta, on the 5th of July last, of your brother, Lionel Flood, Esq., late of the Indian Civil Service, Assistant-Commissioner; and also that by the terms of his will, executed'—so-and-so—'of which our client is the surviving executor,' etc.—all precious formal and cold-blooded. No doubt his death was telegraphed home to the newspapers, and they take it for granted that I heard or read of it."

"Perhaps." The Rector rose. "Shall we have a stroll through the stables? Afterwards you shall have a book or two to carry off."

"But look here, Kendall; I came to you as a friend, you know. It seems to me all plain sailing enough. But you seem to imply—"

"Do I? Then I am doubtless an ass."

"You think this Major Bromham should have written to me direct—I see that you do. Well, he lives no farther away than Plymouth. I might run up and call on him. Why, to be sure"—Parson Jack's brow cleared—"and he can give me the address of the wife and children."



IV.

Parson Jack walked home with a volume of Gilbert's Survey and another of the Parochial History of Cornwall under his arm, and Parker's Glossary in his skirt pocket. He began that evening with the Parochial History, article "Langona," and smoked his pipe over it till midnight in a sort of rapture it would be hard to analyse. In fact, no doubt it was made up of that childish delight which most men feel on reading in print what they know perfectly well already. "The eastern end of the north aisle is used as a vestry, and the eastern end of the south aisle is impropriated to the church-warden's use." Yes, that was right. And the inscription on the one marble tablet was correctly given, and the legend over the south porch: "Ego sum Janua, per me qui intrabit Servabitur" But the delight of recognition was mixed with that of discovery. The lower part of the tower was Early English, the upper Perpendicular (a pause here, and a reference to Parker); the nave, too, Perpendicular. Ah, then, it could only have been the upper part— the belfry—which fell in and destroyed the nave. What was the date?— 1412. And they both had been rebuilt together—on the call of Edmund Stafford, Bishop of Exeter—in the August of that year. He read on, the familiar at each step opening new bypaths into the unguessed. But the delight of delights was to hug, while he read, his purpose to change all this story of ruin, to give it a new and happier chapter, to stand out eminent among the forgotten Vicars of Langona. . . .

The book slid from his knee to the floor with a crash. He picked it up carefully, turned down the lamp, laughed to himself, and went off to bed, shivering but happy.

He awoke to fresh day-dreams. Day-dreams filled the next week with visions of the church in all its destined beauty. To be sure, they were extravagant enough, fantasies in which flying buttresses and flamboyant traceries waltzed around solid Norman and rigid Perpendicular, nightmares of undigested Parker. But they kept Parson Jack happy.

He had not forgotten to answer Messrs. Cudmore's letter, thanking them for their information, and adding that he proposed to pay a visit to Plymouth, and would call upon Major Bromham, with that gentleman's leave, and discuss the legacy. They replied that their client was just then in the north of Devon on a shooting-party, but would return to Plymouth by an afternoon train on the following Wednesday and grant Mr. Flood an interview.

The tone of this letter, as of the previous one, was unmistakably cold, but Parson Jack read nothing more in it than professional formality. On the Wednesday, however, when he reached Plymouth, he presented himself at Messrs. Cudmore's office, and was admitted to see the head of the firm, the manner of his reception began to puzzle him.

"Mr.—ah—Flood?" began Mr. Cudmore senior, with the faintest possible bow. "Our client, Major Bromham, is not returning until late this afternoon—by the four-forty train, in fact. I myself dictated the letter in reply to yours, and fancied I had made it explicit."

"Oh, quite. I called merely in the hope that you would give me some further information about my brother's will; since, apart from this legacy, I know nothing."

"You must excuse me, but I prefer to leave that to the Major. In any case, the will is to be proved without delay, and may then, as you know, be inspected for a shilling."

Parson Jack, guileless man that he was, had a way of putting a straight question. "I want to know," said he quietly, "why on earth you are treating me like this?"

"My dear sir—" began the lawyer. But Parson Jack cut him short.

"I, for my part, will be plain with you. I ask to see the will simply because I know nothing of my brother's property, and wish to see how his wife and children are provided for. There is nothing extraordinary in that, surely?"

"H'm"—the lawyer pondered, eyeing him. Clearly there was something in this shabbily dressed clergyman which countered his expectations. "The person who could best satisfy you on this point would be Mrs. Flood herself; but I take it you have no desire to see her personally."

"Mrs. Flood? Do you mean my brother's wife?"

"Certainly."

"But—but is she here—in Plymouth?" Parson Jack's eyes opened wide.

"I presume so. Hoe Terrace, she informs me, has been her address for these eight years. But of course you are aware—"

"Aware, sir? I am aware of nothing. Least of all am I aware of any reason why I should not call upon her. Hoe Terrace, did you say? What number?"

"Thirty-four. You will bear in mind that I have not advised—"

"Oh, dear me, no; you have advised nothing. Good-morning, Mr. Cudmore!" And Parson Jack, fuming, found himself in the street.

He filled and lit his pipe, to soothe his humour. But he forgot that the clergy of Plymouth do not as a rule smoke clay pipes in the public streets, and the attention he excited puzzled and angered him yet further. He set it down to his threadbare coat and rustic boots. It was in no sweet mood that he strode up Hoe Terrace, eyeing the numbers above the doors, and halted at length to knock out his pipe before a house with an unpainted area-railing, to which a small boy in ragged knickerbockers was engaged in attaching with a string the tail of a protesting puppy.

"I shouldn't do that if I were you," said Parson Jack, rapping the bowl of his pipe against his boot-heel.

"I don't suppose you would," retorted the small boy. "But then there's some parsons wouldn't smoke a clay."

Before Parson Jack could discover a repartee the door opened and a young man with a weak chin and bright yellow boots came out laughing, followed by a good-looking girl, who turned on the step to close the door behind her. Although in black, she was outrageously over-dressed. An enormous black feather nodded above her "picture" hat, and with one hand she held up her skirt, revealing a white embroidered petticoat deplorably stained with mud.

In the act of turning she caught sight of the small boy, and at once began to rate him.

"Haven't I told you fifty times to let that dog alone? Go indoors this instant and get yourself cleaned! For my part, I don't know what Tillotson means, letting you out of school so early."

"I haven't been to school," the boy announced, catching at a dirty sheet of newspaper which fluttered against the railing, and nonchalantly folding it into a cocked hat.

"Your mumps have been all right for a week. There's not the slightest risk of infection, and you know it. You don't tell me you've persuaded mother—"

"I haven't said a word to her," the boy interrupted. "It isn't mumps; it's these breeches. If you can't find time to darn 'em, I'm not going to school till somebody can."

The young man tittered, and the girl—with a toss of her head and a glance at Parson Jack, who was pretending to tie his boot-lace—accepted defeat.

"Where did you pick up that puppy?" asked Parson Jack, after watching the pair up the street.

"What's that to you?"

"Nothing at all; only I'm a judge of wire-haired terriers, and he has a touch of breed somewhere. Well, if you won't answer that question, I'll try you with another. Is that Gertrude—or Ada?" He nodded up the street.

"That's Ada. Gertrude is indoors, trimming a hat. You seem to know a heap about us."

"Not much; but I'm going to call and find out more if I can. You're Richard, I suppose?"

"Dick, for short. Ring the bell, if you like, and I'll run round and open the door. Only don't say I didn't warn you." This sounded like an absurd echo of the lawyer, and set Parson Jack smiling. "We don't subscribe to anything, or take any truck in parsons; and the slavey has a whitlow on her finger, and mother's having fits over the cooking. But come in, if you want to."

"Thank you, I will."

While Parson Jack ascended to the front door and rang at the bell, Dick skipped down the area steps, and presently opened to him with a mock start of surprise. "Beg your pardon," said he, "but I took you for the rates, or the broker's man." He winked as he ushered in the visitor. The running click of a sewing-machine sounded above stairs, and up from the basement floated an aroma of fried onions, and filled the passage.

"First turning to the right!" admonished the boy, and stepping past him, to the head of the basement stairs, called down: "Mother! I say, mother, here's a gentleman to see you!"

"Then," came the answer, "tell Gerty to step down and find out what he wants. I'm busy."

Parson Jack discreetly shut the door, and fell to studying the not over-clean drawing-room, which was tricked out with muslin draperies, cheap Japanese fans, photographs—mostly of officers in the uniform of the Royal Marines—and such artistic trifles as painted tambourines, sabots, drain-pipes, and milking-stools. In one wicker-chair—the wicker daubed with royal-red enamel—lay a banjo; in another was curled a sleeping terrier—indubitable mother of the puppy outside. Near the door stood a piano with a comic opera score on the music-rest, open at No. 12, "I'm a Cheery Fusileery—O!" and on its rosewood top an ash-tray full of cigarette-ends and a shaded lamp the base of which needed wiping.

The terrier awoke, yawned, and was waddling down from its couch to make friends, when Master Dick returned.

"Mother wants to know who you are and what's your business. Gerty wouldn't come down when she heard you weren't Jack Phillips."

"Then tell your mother that I am your uncle, John Flood. That will satisfy her, perhaps."

"Whe—ew!" Dick took him in from top to toe, in a long incredulous stare; but turned and went without another word.

It may have been five minutes before the door opened and Mrs. Flood entered, with an air nicely balanced between curiosity, hauteur, and injured innocence—a shabby-genteel woman, in a widow's cap and a black cashmere gown which had been too near the frying-pan.

"Good morning."

Mrs. Flood bowed stiffly, not to say stonily, folded her wrists accurately in front of her, over her waistband, and waited.

"I am John Flood, you know—poor Lionel's brother. I have just come from Cudmore & Cudmore's, the solicitors, to talk with you, if I may, about this will. It seems that I have a legacy, but beyond this I know nothing, and indeed until Messrs. Cudmore wrote I wasn't even aware of an illness."

Mrs. Flood's eyes seemed to answer, if such a thing could be said in a ladylike way, that he might tell that to the Marines. But, without relenting their hostility, she took occasion to mop them.

"It was a cruel will," she murmured. "My husband and I had differences; in fact, we have lived apart for many years. Still—" She broke off. "You know, of course, that he went wrong—took to living with natives and adopted their horrible ways—in the end, I believe, turned Hindu."

"God bless my soul! But he used to write regularly—up to the end."

"No doubt." The two words were full of spiteful meaning, though what that meaning was Parson Jack could not guess.

"His letters gave no hint of—of this."

Again Mrs. Flood's bitter smile gave him—politely—the lie.

"He drank, too," she went on, after a cold pause. "I had always supposed it was the one thing those natives didn't do. We thought of contesting the will on the ground of undue influence and his mind being gone."

"Did Lionel leave them much, then?"

"'Them'?" she queried.

"His friends over there—the natives."

"He left nothing but this legacy of five thousand pounds, and the residue in equal shares to his poor family." Here her handkerchief came into play again. "Only, as it turns out, there isn't any residue— scarcely a penny more when all is realised—except the pension, of course." Unmasking her batteries with sudden spite, she added, "Even between you I couldn't be robbed of that!"

Parson Jack controlled himself. He was genuinely sorry for the woman. But either cheek showed a red spot and his voice shook a little as he answered, "This is a trifle gratuitous, then—your talk about undue influence."

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," replied Mrs. Flood, with a small and vicious titter; not because she believed him to be guilty or that it would do any good, but simply because her instinct told her it would hurt.

"That seems to close the discussion." Parson Jack bowed with honest, if clumsy, dignity. "I am sorry, madam, for what you have told me; but my regrets had better be expressed to Major Bromham."

"Regrets, indeed!" sniffed Mrs. Flood.

And these were the last words he ever heard from her. A minute later he found himself in the street, walking towards the Hoe and drawing deep breaths as his lungs felt the sea-breeze. He had not the least notion of his direction; but as he went he muttered to himself; and for a parson's his words sounded deplorably like swearing.

"Hi! hi!" called a shrill voice behind him. He swung right about and found himself frowning down upon Master Dick.

"How did you like it?" inquired that youngster, panting. "She's a caution, the mater; but it wasn't a patch on what I've heard her promise to give you if ever she sets eyes on you."

"Indeed? How do you know, pray?"

"Why, I listened at the door, of course," was the unabashed reply. "But I don't believe a word of it, you know," he added reassuringly.

"A word of what?"

"That rot about undue influence."

"I thank you. Did you follow me to tell me this?"

"Well, I dunno. Yes, I guess I did. You're a white man; I saw that at once, though you do smoke a clay pipe."

"Thank you again for the reminder." Parson Jack pulled out his clay and filled it. "So I'm a white man?"

Dick nodded. "I'm not saying anything about the legacy. That's hard lines on us, of course; but I believe you. There's no chance of my being a gentleman now, like you; but"—with a wry grin—"I'm not the sort of chap to bear malice."

They had walked on through the gate leading to the Hoe, and were in full view now of the splendid panorama of the Sound.

"And why shouldn't you be a gentleman?" asked Parson Jack, halting and cocking down an eye upon this queer urchin.

"Well, there's a goodish bit against it, you'll allow. You saw what we're like at home." He looked up at Parson Jack frankly enough, but into his speech there crept a strange embarrassment, too old for his years. "I mean, you saw enough without my telling you; and I mustn't give the show away."

"No, to be sure," assented Parson Jack. "Dick, you've the makings of a good fellow," he added musingly.

But the boy's eyes had wandered to the broad sheet of water below. "Crikey, there she goes!" he cried, and jerked his arm towards an unwieldy battle-ship nosing her way out of the Hamoaze, her low bows tracing a thin line of white. For half a minute they stood watching her.

"She's ugly enough, in all conscience," commented Parson Jack.

"She's a holy terror. But perhaps you don't believe in turrets. Nor do I, to that extent. It's tempting Providence."

"In what way?"

"Top-hamper," said Dick shortly. "But she's a terror all the same."

"What's her name, I wonder?"

"Sakes! You don't say you don't know the old Devastation? Why, it's fifteen years or so since they launched her at Portsmouth, and I hear tell she'll have to be reconstructed, though even then I guess they won't trust her far at sea. She has no speed, either, for these days. Oh, she's a holy fraud!" And Master Dick poured in a broadside of expert criticism as the monster felt her way and slowly headed around the Winter Buoy into the Smeaton Pass.

"Nevertheless, you wouldn't object to be on board of her?"

"Don't!" The boy's eyes had filled on a sudden. "You mayn't mean it, but it—it hurts."

Four hours later, in the early dusk, Parson Jack stepped into the street, after shaking hands with Major Bromham at the door. What is more, the Major stood bareheaded in the doorway for some moments, and stared after him. Dick had echoed Lawyer Cudmore once that day; it was now the Major's turn to echo Dick.

"That's a white man," he muttered to himself. "Curiously like his brother, too—in the days before he went wrong. But Lionel Flood had a soft strake in him, and India found it out. This parson seems tougher— result of hard work and plain living, no doubt."

His musings at this point grew involved, and he frowned. "Says he knew nothing of Lionel's affairs—offers to show me all the letters to prove it; but this behaviour of his is proof enough. Deuced handsome behaviour, too. I wonder if he can afford it? Gad, what a pack of falsehoods that woman has poured into me! She always had a gift of circumstantial lying. I believe, if Lionel had kept a tight rein on her and shown her the whip now and then—but what's the use of speculating? Anyway, it's rough on the Parson, and if I hadn't to consider Dick and the girls—"

Dusk had given way to gaslight, and Parson Jack still paced the streets, intending but still deferring to find a dinner and a night's lodging. He had shaken hands with Major Bromham in a mood of curious exaltation. He had decided almost without a struggle. To his mind the question was a clear one of right and wrong, and no argument helped it. Still, a man does not renounce five thousand pounds every day of his life; and, when he does, has some right to pat his conscience on the back. He derived some pleasure, too, from picturing the pretty gratitude with which his beneficiaries would hear Major Bromham's message. He did not know Mrs. Flood.

But . . . his church? He had forgotten it, or almost forgotten; and the recollection came upon him like a blow. He halted beneath a gas-lamp in dismay; not in resentment at the shattering of his dream, for he scarcely thought of himself; not in doubt, for he had done rightly, and his church could not be restored at the expense of right; but in sheer dismay before the blank certainty that now his church must fall. Nothing could save it. He must go home to it, live with it, watch it to the inevitable end. He put out a hand against the iron pillar, and of a sudden felt faint, almost sick. As a matter of fact, he had eaten nothing since his early breakfast.

A few doors down the street the bright lamp of a tavern—the Sword and Flag—caught his eye. He tottered in and asked for a glass of brandy. It did him good, and he called for another. Some soldiers entering, with a girl or two, and finding a clergyman seated with his glass in this not over-reputable den, began to chaff. He answered gently and good-naturedly, but with a slight stutter—enough to hint at fun ahead; and they improved upon the hint. By nine o'clock Parson Jack was silly drunk; at eleven, when the premises were closed, the police found him speechless; and the rest of the night he spent in the borough lock-up.



V.

It appeared in the newspapers, of course. "Deplorable story: A clergyman fined for drunkenness." This was more than even Sir Harry could stand.

"I'm sorry for you, Flood," said he, when, three days later, Parson Jack appeared at Carwithiel to resign his living. "But you've taken the only proper course. Otherwise, you'd have driven us to an inquiry, sequestration, no end of a scandal. I've had to keep my eyes shut once or twice in the past, as you probably guess."

"You have shown me all the kindness you could," answered Parson Jack. "I won't disgust you with thanks, and there are no excuses." He picked up his hat and turned to go.

"Well, but look here; don't be in a hurry. What about your prospects? They're none too healthy, I'm afraid. Still, if a few pounds could give you a fresh start somewhere—"

"I have no prospects, but for the moment I wasn't thinking of myself. I was thinking of Langona and the old church."

"Oh, the church is all right! Clem—my nephew—has a fad in his head. He asked me yesterday for the living—in case you resigned. I tell him it's folly; a youngster oughtn't to play with his chances. But he insists that it will do him good to fling up Oxford and play parish-priest for a year or two. He has taken a fancy to your church, and wants to restore it. He can pay for his whims: the money's all in his branch of the family."

"Restore it! The church—restored!"

Sir Harry looked up sharply, for the words came in a whisper of awe, almost of terror; and looking up, he saw Parson Jack's eyes dilated as a man's who stares on a vision; but while they stared there grew in them a slow, beatific surmise.

"The Lord taketh away," said Parson Jack. "Blessed be the name of the Lord!"

Six weeks later the Rev. Clement Vyell was inducted into the living of Langona, vacant by the resignation of the Rev. John Flood. His first sermon announced that the church was to be restored without delay; that plans were even now being prepared by an eminent architect, and that, as soon as they arrived and were approved, tenders would be invited.

Mr. Vyell was in no hurry to take possession of the Parsonage; indeed, bachelor though he was, and professed ascetic, he decided that, to be habitable, it needed a wing and a new kitchen at the back. For the present he accepted his uncle's invitation to use the hospitality, and the library, of Carwithiel. Parson Jack might give up possession at his own convenience. Nevertheless he gave it up at once, packed his few belongings, and hired a bedroom at the Widow Copping's. It appeared that he, too, needed time to look about him.

And so he loitered about Langona until the architect's plans were received, discussed, approved, and submitted to tender. A Bristol builder secured the contract.

The day after it was signed Parson Jack walked over to Carwithiel again, and asked leave to speak with Mr. Vyell. He wore his old working suit.

"I have come to ask a favour, sir," said he, speaking humbly. "I hear that the contract for the church has been given to Miles & Co., of Bristol; and I would take it kindly if you recommended me to them as a workman."

The new Vicar was taken by surprise, and showed it.

"I have picked up some knowledge of the work in these years," Parson Jack explained timidly. "And I know the weak points in the old fabric better than most men. As for steadiness," he wound up, "I only ask to be given a trial. You must discharge me the first time I give cause of complaint."

"What on earth could I say to the man?" Mr. Vyell demanded that evening, when he discussed the application with his uncle.

"I hope you accepted?" said Sir Harry sharply.

"Ye-es, though I fear it was imprudent."

"Fiddlestick! Speak a word for him to Miles; he won't find a better workman."

So Parson Jack stayed at Langona, and beheld his best dream take shape, though not at his command, and yet in part by his fashioning. Nay, even some measure of that personal pride for which he had once bargained was restored to him during the second year, on the day when the contractor— who shared the common knowledge of his past, but respected his unequalled knowledge of the old fabric and its weakness, his gentle ardour in learning, and his mild authority among the men—appointed him clerk of the works. In those days Parson Jack needed no man's pity, for all day long he redeemed a debt and wrought into substance an ambition that yet grew purer—as few ambitions do—in taking substance. And with it he wove another dream which, in the intervals of labour, would draw him out of the churchyard and hold him at gaze there, with his eyes on the wedge of blue sea beyond the coombe.

From the hour of his fall no strong drink passed his lips. His was an almost desperate case, but he fought with two strong allies. It was as though the old church, rallying under his eyes for a new lease of life, put new blood into him, repaying his love. Also he had Dick's letters.

"Upon my word," said Sir Harry to his nephew, "I've a mind to put Flood into the living again when this business is over and you tire of your whim. I suppose there's nothing to prevent it?"

There was nothing to prevent it; but as a reward it lay outside Parson Jack's speculation, perhaps beyond his desire. His reward came to him on the afternoon when, having mounted a ladder beside the new east window, he looked over his shoulder and saw Parson Kendall entering the churchyard by the lych-gate, and ushering in a youngster—a mere boy still, but splendid in the uniform of a freshly blown naval cadet.

Parson Jack can scarcely be said to have risen to the occasion. "Hullo, Dick!" he said, descending the ladder and holding out his hand.

But the Rector, standing aside, made a better speech; though this, too, was short enough.

"God fulfils Himself in many ways," said the Rector to himself.



THE BURGLARY CLUB.

"Yes," said the Judge, "I ought by this time to know something of Cornish juries. They acquit oftener than other juries, to be sure; and the general notion is that they incline more towards mercy. Privately, I believe that mercy has very little to do with it."

"Stupidity," said the High Sheriff sententiously, and sipped his wine. His own obtuseness on the Bench was notorious, and had kept adding for thirty years to the Duchy's stock of harmless merriment.

"Nothing of the sort," snapped his lordship. "You can convict a man, I presume, as stupidly as you can acquit him. No: with other juries a crime is a crime, and a misdemeanour is a misdemeanour. You tell them so and they accept it. But with Cornishmen you have first to explain that the alleged offence is illegal; next, you must satisfy them that it ought to be illegal; and then, if you choose, you can proceed to prove that the prisoner committed it. They will finally discharge him on the ground that he never had the advantage of such a clear exposition of the law as they have just enjoyed."

"Well, but isn't that stupidity?" persisted the High Sheriff.

The Judge turned impatiently and addressed a grey-headed man on his left. "Did I ever tell you, Mr.—, how I once enjoyed the hospitality of a Cornish village, through the simple accident of being mistaken for a burglar?"

The grey-headed man—an eminent Q.C. and leader of the Western Circuit— dropped an olive into his glass of sherry. He had been dozing. Two or three guests and members of the Junior Bar drew their chairs closer.

"It was in 1845," the Judge began, "just after I had taken my degree, and I had been walking through Cornwall with a knapsack—no small adventure, I can tell you, in those days. The inhabitants declined to believe that anyone could walk and carry a pack for the fun of the thing, and I left a trail of suspicion behind me. The folks were invariably hospitable, though convinced that I was pursuing no good. You remember, Mr.—, that when Telemachus visited Gerenia he was generously entertained, and afterwards politely asked if he happened to be a pirate. My case was pretty similar, only my Cornish hosts did not ask, but took it for granted.

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