J s\^ L
LIFE IS LIFE
TALES AND EPISODES
LIFE IS LIFE
TALES AND EPISODES
Gr wen dot
CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS
LIFE is LIFE, 1
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPEBTY, . . . . . 121
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL, 145
THE ENGLISH GIBL S CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, . .157
THE BED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM, . . . .167
THE STONE PINE, . 225
THE STORM, 233
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR, . . . . . 245
TRAVELLING JOE, . . . . . . 255
EAB VINCH S WIFE, 273
WIDDER VLINT, . 293
DAVE, . . 307
O 4 O C i f -h
LIFE IS LIFE
CHIEFLY CONCERNING THE MAN ATTER
PAX INTRANTIBUS was carved on the
great gates of Thursby Chase ; but they
sagged on their rusty hinges, and looked as
if few cared to put their greeting to the test.
The old Jacobean house, visible from a bend
in the avenue, had an air of fallen fortunes ;
across the sleepy alleys grass crept undis
turbed, and in the old-world gardens old-
world flowers stretched up, cramped and cold,
to the gaze of the October sun. Beech woods
lined the back of the hill on which the house
stood ; below, in the valley, the river sidled,
till the trees in their turn were displaced by
gorse, then again by homely arable or quiet-
faced pasture. Leaning against a stile, close
to the river bank, was a thick-set, shrewd-
4 LIFE IS LIFE
faced man, dressed in corduroys and a brown
velveteen jacket with deep, wide pockets.
The sound of a sudden shot echoed across
the river from the plantations opposite, and
the man turned his head in that direction,
and listened attentively.
" I didn t know that Sir John wor going
to shoot they coverts to-day," he exclaimed.
A few minutes later a boy of about four
teen broke through the undergrowth, jumped
the stile, and flung a pheasant at the man s feet.
" Wilkie," he said, " that sneak Bayles saw
me shoot this."
" A phaysant, and a fine one," "Wilkie re
marked, turning the bird slowly over with
" What do you advise ? " asked the boy,
with a strong desire for maturer wisdom.
" Well, yer honour, if you vallers my ad
vice," Wilkie answered, "you ll ate un fust
and say he wor a rabbut arter."
" Oh ! " exclaimed the boy, a little taken
aback ; " do you think that is a good plan ? "
" The best I knows on, Master Humphrey,"
the man replied, " and now I reckon I ll be
LIFE IS LIFE 5
" Won t you stop and eat some of it your
self ? " Humphrey asked, with a vague feel
ing that the impending feast might be pleas-
anter if partaken of in company.
" I reckon not, yer honour, I reckon not,"
the man answered, moving away. " The bird
once took, other folk s poaching is best left
alone." He returned, however, after a few
moments " Ther s one thing," he said in a
hoarse whisper, " burn the feathers for all
you re worth." Having given this parting
piece of advice he disappeared, seeming to
melt into the trees.
" Look here," the boy called after him, " if
you ll see me through, the next time I get
half a sovereign I ll go shares with you."
There was a faint rustle, and Wilkie thrust
his face out through the undergrowth.
"Make it five-and-six and a pipe, yer
honour," he said, "and I ll take the bird
home and eat it myself."
" Will you ? " replied the boy in a relieved
voice. " It was a clean shot," he added, with
a natural desire for commendation, as Wilkie
dropped the pheasant into one of his capa
6 LIFE IS LIFE
" Twor so," the man answered. " You re
the moral o what yer father, the Cap en, wor
as a lad. He wud always a deal rather poach
Sir John s coverts to shoot his own."
"You think I m like him?" Humphrey
replied, glowing. " Tell me about my father,
" You ve heard the tale many a time, yer
honour," the man answered with an indul
" No matter," said Humphrey ; " tell me
everything, from the beginning straight on."
Wilkie took his pipe from his mouth, spat-
on the ground, and rubbed the spot clean with
his boot. " Folks say," he began after a
pause, " that the Thursbys an Thursby have
belonged to wan tother time out o mind ;
but they ve bin a free-handed lot, ave the
Thursbys, an wi all rispact to yer, Master
Humphrey, the place ain t what it wor;
tain t possible, becase most of the money s
gone, an the land arter it ; when the money
goes the land vallers, an thic mortal soon.
Happen the Squire thought on that, baing
alles tumble set on the Cap en, yer father,
marrying money ; but, bless ee, he niver
LIFE IS LIFE 7
tooked to it, niver. There wor Miss Mary
now, the darter of old Sir John, over to
Trevorton, folks say as how she wor most
powerful willin towards yer honour s father ;
but he wudn t hear o it, and wan night he
an the old Squire coonied to wuds ; they wor
tumble masterful, both o em. Us niver
knawed zackly what wor said, ouy Mr.
Henchel, ha that ba butler inter the house,
tulled me a score o times as how ha wor
staudin in the hall when the Cap en coomed
" i Pack my things, Henchel, ha zed, i I
must git out of this.
" Wull, wull, the Cap en ha wint to Aus-
tralie and died ther : a quare, lonesome place,
as I ve heard tell, wi a deal o nater about it.
I windered to mesulf, as I drapped inter the
charch this morning as they were a-openin
tha vault for his honour Squire Bellew s
corpse, I windered to mesulf wuther the
Cap en wor slap in sound over to furren parts,
wi maybe no stone a-tap o him to keep him
comfortable ; but ther, ther, he wor alles wan
o yer ventursome wans; happen he wild as
lief be up an walkin as bide quiet." Wilkie
8 LIFE IS LIFE
was silent a moment. " Tha Almighty ba win-
derf ul fair-handed takin Him all in all," he
continued meditatively. "Ther s the ginel-
folks as has ther hatchments an ther stones,
an there s the pore man wi nort maybe but
a daisy or so to mark un; but ha lies out
under the sky a deal nearer the Ressuraction :
ha won t ave no call to aminer this way an
thic when the last trump sounds, for they
bury him mortal shaller nowadays, wi out
much more than a sod twix ha and his Maker."
There was a long pause ; the boy waited
with considerable patience ; at last, however,
"But you haven t told all, Wilkie," he
said " not the awfully interesting part."
" An what part ba thic, Master Humphrey? "
"Oh, you know, where I come in, and
that ! "
A gleam of amusement flitted across the
man s face. " Shall I tull ee about the
poachin , or jest drap it ? " he asked.
Humphrey hastily considered the question.
" Tell all," he answered, " but cut the poach
ing rather short."
" Wull," Wilkie continued, " wan Christmas
LIFE IS LIFE 9
night a matter o dree years arter thic, I
minds the night wull becase that Mucksey
laid hold o me jest as I drapped upon a
hare, an I guv the piddlin lump a bit of a
scat an brauk his arm."
" I think we ll skip the poaching," said the
"As yer wull, Master Humphrey," Wilkie
answered; "but the tale ull be all tags
wi out it. Happen the best knawed road s
the shortest when coomes to heavy carting."
" Fire ahead," said the boy.
" I reckon twud ba as well to ern back
to the beginning," Wilkie remarked, and re
commenced accordingly. "Wan Christmas
"Oh, bother the poaching! leave it out
altogether," Humphrey interposed.
" Wiser not, Master Humphrey, wiser not."
The boy flung himself back impatiently on
the coarse grass. " Tell what you like," he
exclaimed, " only hurry up."
"Wull," Wilkie continued, " the Squire wor
mortal put out about Mucksey s arm. They
vussled me straight up to the house an inter
the buk-room. I wor always afeared o buks,
10 LIFE IS LIFE
they ba such quietsome things ; ther s no
tailing what may be inside o em.
" * Well, Wilkie, says the Squire, as soon
as they great gapnesting l gawkins had been
sent right about vace, * what s this I hears
about ee v ?
" i Happen, sir/ I answered, tis the break
ing o Mat Mucksey s arm yer mean ; twor
nort but a bit o a westerpoop 2 I guved him.
They Muckseys ba a vaniily o snippits ivery
wan o em. I stapped an fetched a bit o
breath, cuz twor mortal hard to find vitty
" < Wull, Wilkie, zed the Squire.
" Yer honour, I tummled out, l tworn t
no drab o a rabbit I wor arter that gaws
dabbin along wi his nose to the ground.
u < Wull, Wilkie, zed the Squire again.
I ain t no friend to your varigated talkers,
but dang me, Master Humphrey, if that
there l Well, Wilkie, wasn t a deal more
" Yer honour, I zed, ther s thic about
a hare that draws a man on ; happen twor
a hare, happen tworn t.
1 Open-mouthed. a Knock.
LIFE IS LIFE 11
" Then all to wance I seemed to find my
" Tain t the aitin o it, yer honour, but
jest the doing o it, that ba so powerful kin-
diddlin . 1 When coomes to dealin wi natur a
man needs ba mortal fingersome. Ther s yer
snare now none too high, none too low an
the binding o yer bit o phaysant s grass.
Belike tis a phaysant hisself yer arter, then
yer must look to yer cord, cuz as sure as
vath ha ll ern along the ground afore rising.
Yer ginelfolks, yer pays yer pun s ; yer buys
yer phaysant eggs; yer lays down yer par
tridges, and yer rings em round wi kapers,
an yer reckons yer have most graspit crea
tion. But natur her slips droo yer fingers
like water droo a sieve.
" The Squire he turned away to the fire.
4 Wilkie, ha zed, sorter slow, i if I let ee off
this time, wull ee gie up poachin ?
"It kind o coomed to me tempting like
to say Yes, though I knawed sich promises
didn t be held; but ther ba a trustdrawsome-
ness about real ginelfolks that makes a man
12 LIFE IS LIFE
" Yer honour, I zed, poachin is a kin-
diddlin 1 thing a kindidcllin thing.
" Then he tarned an looked inter my eyes,
right down droo me, and I felt my heart
give a great thud. i Wilkie, ha zed, ba ee
afeared to be a man ?
" Yer honour, I answered, "ave ee iver
swore to eezulf not to do a thing, an kind
o zeed eezulf despisablelike an low if ee
shud do it, an then gone strat an dooed it
jest the same? Ther s that in natur, yer
honour, as won t be drove ; an I reckon the
Almighty lows for thic when Ha coomes to
make up a man s settling.
The old poacher paused and fell into a pro
found reverie ; but the boy s face was full of
" Go on, Wilkie," he said ; " you are com
ing to the best part of all."
" Wull," Wilkie continued, as he slowly
loosened the tobacco in the bottom of his
pipe with his knife, "I hadn t much more
than laid out my tongue for the next wild
when Henchel coomed in to say as how Dick
Atter he as wor the Cap en s man wanted
LIFE IS LIFE 13
to speak to the Squire most uncommon par
ticular. I saw his honour turn a bit whitish.
" Let him coome in, he says, windervul
unconsarned, an in Dick coomed accordin .
His vace was mortal dyver d, 1 an looked
older by a good half -score years. He wor
karryin a quare dumped up sorter skiddik ;
but ha brought up his right hand to his face,
military fashion, turrible respactful.
" What do ee want wi me, my man ?
axed his honour.
" Dick he tooked a packet o sommat from
his coat pocket ; twor tied this way an thic,
an sealed most all over.
" The Cap en said I wor to give ee this,
sir, he said.
" His honour cut the string, but his vingers
didn t zim none too clever at untying the
packet for all o thic. Arter a bit, what shud
tummil out but the Cap en s gold watch and
chain, an a ring ha used to wear on the little
finger of his left hand !
" The Squire he guved a great start, an 7 his
face went reglar chalk-white. i Where is
your master ? he axed, sharplike.
14 LIFE IS LIFE
" < Dead, sir, said Dick.
"His honour walked to the winder an
stood an stared droo the trees at the Black
Swan lake that lay sorter gapnesting up at
the sky. Arter a bit he tarned round.
" Ther wor no message nothing ? he
" Dick put the big bundle down on a chair,
an arter a deal of unwinding o stuff, what
shud plump out but yer honour s self a little
snip o a chile o two year old, an as sound
aslape as a mole o Christmas.
" The Cap en said I wor to tell ee, sir,
that ha be a Thursby an a ginelman, said
Dick, tumble respactful.
" I wor that tooked aback. Begore ! I
rapped out, the wud slipping droo my teeth
unconscious. His honour tarned round ; I
reckon ha had most forgot I wor ther. i Wait
in the servants hall till I ring for ee, said
ha ; an I wor f oced to go, tho I wud ave
gied a deal to ave bided."
" It was an awful pity you said l Begore !
just then, Wilkie," the boy exclaimed.
" Twor so, Master Humphrey."
There was a pause. "And my mother,
LIFE IS LIFE 15
Wilkie," the boy asked, "you never heard
anything about her ? "
" Niver nort whatsoiver, yer honour."
"And Atter ? "
" Ay, Dick ? " the old poacher exclaimed in
an aggrieved voice.
" What did he do ? "
Wilkie withdrew his pipe from his mouth
and spat on the ground. " Hiked 1 away an 7
niver zed a wud to wan o us," he answered,
returning the pipe to his mouth and chewing
the stem with badly suppressed wrath. There
was a pause, and the old poacher slowly puffed
himself back into a calmer mood.
" Tworn t much loss, ther wor more beer
for better folk," he exclaimed, and relapsed
again into silence.
The boy picked up a bit of moss, rubbing
it to pieces between his fingers. " Why do
you think Dick Atter went away like that ? "
he asked at length.
Wilkie brought his right hand down on his
thigh with a resounding whack.
16 LIFE IS LIFE
" Many a time I ve axed meself thic, Mas
ter Humphrey," lie said. " Happen he wor
afeared of that stratch-gallip tongue o his."
Humphrey jumped to his feet with a quick
"I don t understand," he said.
The old poacher eyed him standing there,
a well-built lad enough, broad at the shoulders,
slim at the hips, the face keen, sensitive, with a
promise of will in the cut of the chin. Wilkie
seemed on the point of speaking, then changed
his mind, once more withdrawing the pipe
from his mouth, examined the old clay from
bowl to stem before refixing it in a gap be
tween two formidable, yellow, time-worn teeth.
"Dick Atter s a rapscallions lump; that ba
my pinion," he remarked at last.
" You always say that, Wilkie," the boy
answered with visible impatience, " but you
never tell me why you think so."
" When a man s rapscallious, ha s rapscal-
lious, Master Humphrey."
" What has he done ? "
" Ther ain t no call to say what ha s dooed.
I said ha wor a rapscallious lump; them wor
my wuds, Master Humphrey."
LIFE IS LIFE 17
" Yes," replied the boy, mounting colour,
" and you re hitting a man that can t defend
himself hitting below the belt, too."
" Belike yis ; belike no."
" Wilkie," exclaimed the boy, surprised out
of his anger, " I don t believe you understand
what I mean by hitting below the belt ! "
" Belike yis ; belike no," repeated the old
poacher with a stolid indifference that Hum
phrey found extremely irritating.
u It s it s dishonourable," he stuttered,
and coloured at repeating the insult in cooler
" Happen it ba ; happen it baint."
Wilkie s indifference once more set the
boy s rage floundering. " If a man called me
dishonourable," he exclaimed, " I would
knock him down like a shot."
The old poacher s eyes twinkled. "Law
bless ee, Master Humphrey," he answered,
" I let ee say yer say, yer ain t nought but
a snip o a chil ."
This new view of the situation somewhat
disconcerted Humphrey, and he changed the
" I hope some day to meet Atter myself,"
18 LIFE IS LIFE
he said; "I ve an awful lot to thank him
Wilkie searched in the tail-pocket of his
old brown velveteen coat for an imaginary
handkerchief ; finding none, he blew his nose
in a more primitive fashion. This, the sole
comment on Humphrey s remark, the boy
found out of all proportion irritating.
"Well, Wilkie," he said, in an annoyed
" Nought, Master Humphrey."
"I think Atter is a brick myself," the
annoyance visibly on the increase.
No answer. The old poacher lifting up his
left foot, examined the sole of the boot with
Humphrey s annoyance went full bound to
wards the brim. " There s nothing I wouldn t
do for Atter if I had the luck to meet him,"
Again no answer. Wilkie transferring his
scrutiny from the left to the right boot, the
examination being if possible more minute.
" I will just tell you what," said the boy
in a fierce voice, " the very instant I m of age,
the very instant, mind, I will go straight
LIFE IS LIFE 19
away, find Atter, and thank him. I should like
to hear what you Ve got to say to that,Wilkie?"
" Nought, Master Humphrey ; nought
Unconsciously the boy clenched his fists.
" I should just advise you to say something,"
he exclaimed, a sudden huskiness com ing into
Grim amusement was visible on the old
poacher s brown, leathery, deeply-wrinkled
face as he slowly looked the boy all over.
"Ay," he answered, "but women, childer,
an vools ba maist wan."
" I think we had better part, Wilkie, be
fore I am tempted to do you an injury,"
said the boy, trembling with rage.
" Wull," exclaimed the old poacher, rising
and stretching himself, " I reckon I shud ba
getting along ; Farmer Rod, over to Chope,
axed me to be down wi tha tamers a matter
avor dree : tha ba gwaying to drash them
corn-ricks : ther ull ba a sight o rats, I
reckon a sight o rats."
Humphrey, who had moved away, slack
ened pace : the old poacher glanced at him
out of the tail of one eye.
20 LIFE IS LIFE
" Us killed ern. by the score last year," he
said ; " vleas cudn t wull ave been thicker."
Humphrey pulled up dead short; back,
however, still turned in Wilkie s direction.
" Ay," remarked the latter, " twor purty
sport : a man had to keep his eyes unbut
toned an lay about him mortal smart or wan
o they rats wild ba up tha leg o his trous
ers in less time than Varmer Rod s old white
drake takes to shake his tail."
Humphrey wheeled straight round. " I
was thinking," he said, " of going to Chope
" Then us had better ba gittin along, yer
As they moved away the boy s thoughts
still jingled with Dick Atter s story.
" Wilkie," he said, " what do you think
my mother was like ? "
" I niver zeed hur mysulf , Master Hum
phrey, an niver drapped across no pusson
that had, for the matter o that," the old
poacher answered. " Happen hur wor pow
erful white about the vace an hands ; least
ways that ba how I ve alles reckoned hur,
ginelfolks baing sich."
LIFE IS LIFE 21
" Who told you that my mother was
dead ? " demanded the boy.
" No wan whatsoiver, Master Humphrey."
The old poacher glanced at him with a
good deal of kindly pity.
" I reckon hur s dead, pore soul," he said at
last. " I wudn t ba arter worrying hur if I
wor ee, Master Humphrey ; happen her wud
liefer bide quiet."
There was a long pause, and when the boy
spoke again his voice had a certain huski-
"I think, Wilkie," he said, "that ratting,
after all, is tame sport. I ll go back to the
house and splice my rod." He turned away,
suddenly to wheel round towards the poacher,
his face flushing.
" I was rather angry just now, wasn t I,
Wilkie ? " he asked, giving a fierce twiddle
to one of his jacket-buttons.
" Nought worth mentioning, yer honour."
Humphrey gave a gulp. " Well, I regret
it," he said ; " but," brightening, " you can t
box, can you, Wilkie ? "
" No, yer honour."
22 LIFE IS LIFE
" Well, I expect I should have made things
unpleasant for you."
"May be, yer honour, may be," the old
poacher answered ; " and as for Dick Atter,"
he continued, " ha ba a rapscallions lump for
sure " Humphrey winced, " but happen ha
acted fair by yer honour, an us ull let the
rapscalliousness bide over accordin ."
The tears shot into the boy s eyes. He
held out his hand ; what he said, however,
might to an ordinary mortal have sounded
" 1 am coming on Sunday," he remarked in
a casual tone, " to look at the ferrets ; after
noon church time. Don t forget, Wilkie."
"Right yer are, Master Humphrey," the
poacher answered ; " an ther s a bit of fair-
in , my old dummon bought inter Moulton,
awaitin for ee a-tap the dresser."
The two separated, and Wilkie, turning
back, glanced for a moment at the boy s re
treating figure. "Ay, but Dick Atter," he
muttered. " Wull, wull, he had his good
points the same as the rest ; when it coorned
to paying the score, your glass was as good
as his own."
LIFE IS LIFE
It was a mild spring evening some four
years later. The park and lawns, dew-thick
in moonlight, lay glistening like the blade
of a fresh-sharpened scythe, and upon them
gigantic shadows spread out long arms. A
faint scent of the night primrose drifted
against the Chase windows ; but the shutters
were closed, and the scent could not enter.
Humphrey was seated opposite the Squire,
over his wine ; the further end of the great
dining-hall was lost in shadow, against which
the lights from the candelabra beat vainly.
High up over his head the carved ceiling
looked as grim and as far away as the age
in which it had been designed. On the
walls hung the portraits of Thursbys, dead,
all but the eyes, which, ever alert, peered
down upon the boy. Humphrey glanced at
the Squire sipping his wine, and wondered
what were his thoughts : was he, too, haunted
by those ever-vigilant eyes, or had he grown
indifferent with years ?
24 LIFE IS LIFE
After a wHle the Squire pushed back his
chair. " Well," he exclaimed, rising from
the table, " it will be some time before we
dine again together, I suppose. I m sorry;
but if you will colonise you will."
" I am sorry to leave you too, sir," Hum
phrey answered, following his grandfather
into the smoking-room; "but I have made
up my mind to find that fellow Atter and
sift his story to the bottom."
" You are not likely to succeed where the
detectives failed," replied the Squire. Light
ing a cigar, he puffed at it a few moments
in silence. " Best leave the past alone, my
lad," he added.
Humphrey turned on him with quickened
pulses. " I know very little of that past,
sir," he said.
" You share in the general ignorance."
" But I know nothing"
There was a moment s pause. " And I
also," said the Squire.
"What!" exclaimed Humphrey, startled out
of himself, " you know absolutely nothing ? "
The Squire turned away. " Isn t it rather
late to discuss such a subject? " he said.
LIFE IS LIFE 25
" The truth means a great deal to me, sir,"
" Ah the truth ! "
The Squire laid a hand on Humphrey s
shoulder. " My lad," he said, "Atter s story
was as impossible to prove as disprove."
Humphrey s face went chalk-white. " But,
but, but," he stuttered and stopped short,
the words stuck in his throat ; pride prevented
him asking if the Squire believed him his
grandson. Standing there, however, the
question ran like a red-hot wire through his
" You acknowledged me on slender evi
dence," he said at last.
"And have not regretted it so far," the
Squire answered. " I admit," he continued
after a pause, " that I might have done other
wise, had I known from the first how difficult
Atter s story might prove to authenticate."
Humphrey shuddered, and hated himself
for shuddering. "I feel- a Thursby, sir," he
said, " every bit of me."
The Squire smiled. "Yes, yes," he an
swered ; " I think we all know that."
2u LIFE IS LIFE
" You are certain Atter went back to Aus
tralia?" Humphrey asked, suddenly.
"Yes. We traced him to New South
Wales; but there is very little chance of your
coming across him."
" I have a premonition that I shall run up
against him. You don t believe in premoni
tions, I expect, sir ? "
" No, not much."
" He was a well-built man, you say ? "
" Yes ; a great muscular fellow, with rather
a fine face, and had, I should imagine, a devil
ish temper of his own."
" And as to trustworthiness ? "
" Personally, I knew very little of the
man ; but your father thought well of
" Did he impress you that night as a man
who was speaking the truth ? "
" Yes," said the Squire, moving away, " he
told his story in a straightforward manner ;
but it is possible that I was not at that
moment the best of critics."
The Squire s voice trembled, and he went
to the window and, flinging back the shutters,
stared across the park, where the moonlight
LIFE IS LIFE 27
slept and the Black Swan lake held up a
shadow-soaked face to the sky.
" It must all come to the hammer," he ex
claimed half aloud.
Humphrey caught the words. " Not in
evitably," he answered, almost unconscious
that he had spoken.
The Squire glanced at him. " It is mort
gaged up to the hilt," he said. "At least,
most of it."
" But I may fall on my feet in Australia,"
Humphrey answered, blushing boyishly.
The Squire smiled. " By the way," he said,
" I think I told you that I had a very fair
offer for the Chope and Marston farms, \vhich
I have decided to close with. Well, I pro
pose, after the mortgages have been paid off,
placing the balance in some sound invest
ment ; the whole sum, including interest, to
be paid over to you when you reach the age
of twenty-five. It will be no great sum-
some few thousands, probably ; but by that
time you will have been able to look round
and have gained sufficient experience to make
the most of it."
He was silent a moment. A hundred
28 LIFE IS LIFE
different ideas buzzed off like fireworks in
the boy s brain. It seemed to Humphrey as
if this promised money was all that was
needed to found the fortune with which the
Chase was to be saved.
"There is only one objection," he said, in a
voice trembling with excitement.
"And that is?"
"Something might turn up before I was
twenty-five. You see, sir," he continued ex-
citedly, "the colonies are not like England;
a man has twice the chance there that he has
here. I heard a fellow saying the other day
that, with a little money and a decent head
piece, success was a practical certainty."
" H m," said the Squire.
" You ll allow I m no fool," said Humphrey,
with the proud conviction that he was a very
clever fellow indeed.
" It depends very much on the kind of fool
you mean," was the Squire s unexpected reply.
" Oh ah ! " exclaimed Humphrey, much
taken aback ; " I don t think fool is quite the
right word, sir. One might put it that I
have as much brains, perhaps more, than the
general run of fellows."
LIFE IS LIFE 29
" Well," replied the Squire, smiling, " sup
pose we put it that way ; what follows ? "
"Then," said Humphrey, with an uncon
scious ring of triumph in his voice, "the
chances are that I shall make a big pile. If
only " he stopped short.
" I m given a free hand, sir."
"What do you understand by a free
"Do you really intend the money you
spoke of for me ? "
" Well, give it to me outright; not when I
am twenty-five, but now."
" You would lose every penny of it before
you had been in Australia six months."
" I m not an absolute fool, sir."
" My dear lad," replied the Squire, laugh-
ing, "perhaps if you thought yourself one,
there would be more hope for you."
A dead pause. Humphrey kicked the rug
with his foot.
" Well," exclaimed the Squire at last, " tell
me your plans."
Humphrey brightened, he walked across to
30 LIFE IS LIFE
the window where the Squire stood. " I talk
as if I were awfully cock-sure of myself ; but
you understand, don t you ? " he said apolo
getically. Their eyes met, and the Squire
placed his arm in the boy s.
" Now tell me the plans," he repeated.
Humphrey glowed. " Well, what I should
suggest," he exclaimed, in an important voice,
" is that the money should be placed at de
posit in some good colonial bank, say the
Bank of Australasia (they gave you four
per cent some time back they don t now,
though) ; and then, if any really good thing
turned up, I should be in a position to take
advantage of it. You see, sir, having the
money on the spot might make all the differ
ence between a big or a small success. I
heard that fellow I was telling you about say
that he had the chance once of an absolutely
sure thing, thousands in it, and he kept tele
graphing and telegraphing home to his peo
ple (he was hard up, too, and had to pay ten
shillings a word) ; just as he reached his last
sovereign, back came the answer, and, would
you believe it, sir, all it said was Go to the
LIFE IS LIFE 31
The Squire chuckled.
" That is not giving a fellow a chance, is
" Not the ghost of one," replied the Squire,
" I am glad you see it in the right light,
"Yes," admitted the Squire humbly, "I
think I do."
" I can have the money, then ? " very
" Well, well," answered the Squire, " I must
think about it : I should be doing you a very
bad turn, I am afraid, by consenting."
There was a long silence. " I have never
told you," said Humphrey at last with a kind
of gulp, " but, but I think rather a lot of the
Chase myself ; and, and one of the principal
reasons why I want the money is, is Fin
rather a fool at explaining ; but, but "
he stopped dead, his eyes swimming.
" I understand," said the Squire shakily,
" I understand." His grasp on the boy s arm
tightened, and they both stood silent, looking
out over the lands so dear to the heart of each
of them. At this moment the butler entered.
32 LIFE IS LIFE
< If you please, sir," lie said, addressing
Humphrey, " Wilkie is here and is anxious
to see you."
" Tell him to come in, Henchel," Humphrey
answered, and after a brief interval the old
He was carrying a long, curiously-shaped
parcel. " A present to you from the parish,
yer honour," he said, placing the parcel on the
ground, where it stood up stiff and straight.
" What is it ? " asked Humphrey with
" No hurry, yer honour, no hurry ; I ain t
unpacked em yet," replied the poacher, un
winding the paper covering.
" Good heavens ! " ejaculated the Squire,
" a pair of trousers. What are they made of ?
Why, they stand upright of themselves ! "
"The best leather in the parish, yer
honour," answered Wilkie, whisking away
the last bit of paper from one of the legs.
" The village thought they would be mortal
handy over to f urren parts, where sich things
be scarce, so to speak. There s a deal o wear
in em," he continued, turning the trousers
round, with the air of a connoisseur ; " the
LIFE IS LIFE 33
Jidgement Day ull find em much the same
as they be now."
The Squire chuckled. "So I should be
inclined to think," he said.
" Ay, ay, yer honour, there ain t been the
like o sich a pair o trousers in the parish
afore," the poacher continued, glowing with
a showman s justifiable pride; "but the vil
lage is more eddycated than it wor since they
penny readings and village councils coomed in.
Five years agoneThursby wudn t have knowed
that Australie wor such a terrible place for
thorns. At least so folks wor saying down
at the Thursby Arms. Parson Jack s man
stid the trousers up on the counter, and the
whole parish coomed in jest to look at em."
" It is awfully good of you all," said Hum
phrey, with a suppressed groan. "Do you
think you could carry them up-stairs for me,
out ah out of this ? "
u Law bless yer honour," Wilkie an
swered, "that tiddlewinkie spit o doo that
be coming droo the winder won t wark em
Again the Squire chuckled audibly.
" No, no," Humphrey answered, reddening,
34 LIFE IS LIFE
"but they will have to be packed. Wait in
my room till I come up," he added, dropping
a sovereign into the old poacher s hand.
Wilkie pulled his forelock. " I wud have
taken good care o em wi out that," he an
swered ; u but there," he continued, looking
down on the gold piece, " health is better
than wealth, and a sovrun s a sovrun ; I
humbly hopes I sees you hearty, yer honour,"
so saying he raised the leather trousers once
more to his shoulder and left the room.
The Squire watched him, smiling. "So I
am to send all letters care of the bank
at Sydney?" he asked, changing the sub
" Yes ; that would be the safest. You see it
will be close on shearing-time when I reach
the colonies, and I thought of trying to get
work on some of the New South Wales sheep-
stations ; going from shed to shed as a rouse-
about 1 would give me my best chance of
coming across Atter."
" Well, my boy," said the Squire, flicking
the ash off his cigar, " I can t help thinking
1 Unskilled labourer ; used sometimes as a term of con
LIFE IS LIFE 35
you would be wiser to let the affair drop
" I can t, sir I would if it weren t for my
mother; but, but you see she might be
alive." The boy s eyes filled with quick tears,
and he turned away to hide his emotion.
" As you will," said the Squire hurriedly
u as you will."
" I must, sir."
" Well, that settles it."
The following day Humphrey left England
THE MAN ATTER
IT was summer on one of the New South
Wales border stations. The roof of the big
corrugated iron wool-shed lay like molten
lead beneath the sun, and the heat reeled off
it and fought the ammonia stench and red
dust-clouds rising from the sheep-yards.
Inside the thermometer fizzled at a few de
grees lower; there was no dust; the floor,
white and polished as a bread platter, was
littered with soft yolky fleeces. To all appear-
ance the shed was empty : shearer and rouse-
abouts, having struck work and declared for
the Union, were filing, swag on shoulder,
quart-pot and water-bag in hand, across the
plain towards their new camping-ground some
distance down the creek. Moving by, the
LIFE IS LIFE 37
sound of their voices clattered against the
shed walls; and a boy, who lay concealed be
hind a heap of fleeces, raised himself cautious
ly and glanced out at them. He was a straight-
limbed young fellow verging on manhood, and
looked, in spite of his ragged jumper and
tarred moleskins, a gentleman. As Hum
phrey, for it was he, stood watching, four
men broke ofE from the rest, and, after a short
consultation, came towards the wool-shed.
The boy s heart thumped against his ribs, but
he made no further attempt at concealment ;
the strikers walked up the gangway, pushed
back the door and entered. They were strong-
built men, lean, wiry, well-seasoned each
more than a match for the boy ; they knew
their superiority and made him feel it, as they
bound his hands and sent him out of the shed
with a rousing kick. He glanced across the
great red dusty plain with its trail of red-
eyed dusty shearers ; there was no living soul
among them who would stand his friend ; he
straightened his shoulders and determined to
stand by himself. Leaving the main track
the men forced him to enter the scrub, where
the tall, rank crab-grass marked the course of
38 LIFE IS LIFE
the last flood and hid the cracks and holes in
the ground. The boy stumbled awkwardly,
and the men laughed and kicked him so that
he stumbled again ; then he set his teeth and
planted his feet with care, for too much kick
ing is bad for the blood. Reaching the camp,
his appearance was greeted with jeers of
derision. : . -
" Here s your ha porth of milk, Bullocky,"
cried one of the men. The strike leader paid
no attention to the remark, but, striding up
to Humphrey, gripped his shoulder with the
force of a steel vice. Standing facing each
other, it was apparent that they were both
something of the same build ; but the man s
figure was the finer, the firmer set, his chest
deeper and of greater girth, and he carried
his immense height with ease. The head,
well poised and finely moulded, was covered
with a thick crop of white hair ; one deep
wrinkle cleft the forehead between the eyes;
the chin in its obstinate strength might have
been some devil s chin, but the mouth be
trayed the weakness of a man rocked by
passions. For a moment neither spoke, the
gaze of their grey eyes tense as a tightly
LIFE IS LIFE 39
strung steel wire. Then Bullocky relaxed
his grip. " Wot do yer mean by skulking,
yer blanked blackleg ? " he exclaimed.
Again there was a silence ; and the boy
picked mechanically at a piece of wool on his
blue jumper. He did not look a heroic figure
standing there with the mark of a recent kick
on the back of his moleskins, neither did he
feel heroic, he felt something much nearer
akin to fear; but his quiet bearing distin
guished him as belonging to a different class
from his tormentors.
" I do not believe in strikes," he answered
A ripple of surprise passed through the
men; they turned by instinct and glanced at
their leader s face at his great jaw and
square-cut chin where the passion was frozen
solid, at the twitching mouth, at the over
bearing, passion-ripped brow.
" Inter the creek with him, Bullocky ; set
his blamed gullet a- wash," cried one of the
Involuntarily the boy s glance strayed to
the creek. It lay some ten feet below the
bank, a pleasant place enough to camp by
40 LIFE IS LIFE
at noon or sundown, with the bell of your
hobbled horse clinking in your ear, and the
red -back shuffling lazily from under the lig
num on to the black-faced water ; pleasant to
lie and watch the ibis fishing solemnly, lift
ing one lean-shanked leg from the centre of
a round-rimmed ripple, to place it bang in
the centre of another ; while far out on the
mirage-hunted plain the native companions
dance fantastic dances, the great bush-bustard
sails on awkward, rustling wings, and the emu
trots his wide-paced slinging trot with bob
bing rump ; pleasant enough, but somehow
it did not look so to Humphrey as he scanned
its black, snag-broken surface.
Bullocky, seeing the direction of the glance,
laughed, and the men surged in closer. One
of them tied a rope round the boy s waist,
not to prevent drowning, but to prevent es
cape ; a hundred hands tore at him, buffeted,
raised, shot him up and forth on what seemed
an everlasting journey through space ; then
the angle of his flight changed, and he began
to fall downwards ; again he seemed to feel
the hands, tearing at his vitals this time, till
with a crash he struck the water, which
LIFE IS LIFE 41
closed over, crushing him in a heavy em
brace. He was hauled ashore and lay with
the wind knocked out of him, af raid, sicken-
ingly afraid, not of the men, but of that
long, long flight through the air, and those
terrible, invisible hands that tore at his vitals
as he fell down towards the sharp-edged
Bullocky came forward and stooped down,
till the boy felt the man s hot, fetid breath
upon his face.
" Well, you long-tongued, corn -stalking son
of a kangaroo," he said, "have you had enough
of preaching, or do yer want another dose of
the creek ? "
Tearing and plunging in Humphrey s chest
a great sob rose, he fighting it back to silence,
as he would have fought a devil ; for Bullocky
was watching, tracking the sob with trium
phant scorn, and, when it broke bonds, stutter
ing out, kicked him very, very softly, in the
way he would, when not drunk, have toed out
his contempt on a woman.
The boy staggered to his feet. " You
cowardly cur," he cried, " I will never give in
42 LIFE IS LIFE
A moment later and a blow, planted above
the heart, sent him reeling into the creek;
a snag struck his eyes, tearing away the sight.
Two men went down the bank and brought
him ashore, and he lay limp as a corpse before
it is death-stiffened.
" He looks sorter dead," exclaimed one of
them, drawing back. " You hit him over the
The strike leader turned his fear-sodden
face on the speaker. " Git out o this," he
cried, " or, by the living God, I ll lay yer out
the same ! " and the man slunk away through
the trees. The blood began to ooze from
under the boy s closed eyelids, and one of
the strikers brought some water in his hat,
and stood looking at Bullocky, the water
dribbling from the hat on to the boy s blue
jumper. Bullocky Dick knelt down, opened
the jumper and placed his great, coarse, trem
bling hand over his victim s heart. After a
while he beckoned to the man.
" See if he s pegged out ; my hand s kind
o shaky," he said : his voice had a stiff sound
as if it worked on unoiled hinges.
The man ripped the juniper and shirt wider
LIFE IS LIFE 43
back, and laid Lis ear down against the lad s
heart ; shearers and rouse-abouts came a step
forward, gripping at their breath ; Bullocky
stared across the creek at the lignum scrub.
There was a moment s silence, then the man
turned a twitching face to the strikers.
" The blood in my head is so blanked noisy,
I can t tull," he said.
Another man came forward, knelt down,
raised the boy s eyelids, dropped them, and
exclaimed, " Not dead ; blinded ! "
A ripple of relief ran through the strikers;
then they glanced at the bleeding eyes, shud
dered, slunk back, humped swags, and moved
off through the trees, leaving their leader and
his victim alone. Bullocky Dick stood, his
face swept clean of passion ; turning, he saw
his late followers in full retreat, and burst
into a laugh that sent the men, shuddering,
faster on their way. His horse was hitched
by the bridle to a tree close by ; mounting,
he rode off in the direction of the nearest
The moon was up when he returned ; the
dry sapless grass lay white beneath it, and
the ring-barked gums, lining the creek s edge,
44 LIFE IS LIFE
stood whiter. The boy had regained con
sciousness, and half rolled, half slipped down
the bank, knelt bathing his eyes.
Silently Bullocky watched him try to climb
up the bank, miss his way among the roots,
and slide back once more towards the creek.
Dismounting, Bullocky carried his victim to
the foot of a great half-dead gum-tree, and
propped him with his swag against the trunk.
The boy murmured thanks. " Who are
you ? " he asked, turning his sightless, blood
stained face towards the strike leader. There
was a long silence ; a brown wood -duck shot
down upon the creek, and, skating forward
on her breast, threw up a great triangular
ripple behind on the level black water.
" In the old country they called me Dick
Atter," said Bullocky at last.
A spasm of pleasure crossed the boy s face ;
he raised himself.
" A man called Dick Atter once did me a
great service," he exclaimed eagerly. " I ve
always wanted to meet and thank him. I
suppose you can t be he? My name is
Thursby, one of the Thursbys of Thursby,
Devonshire. Do you know the name ? "
LIFE IS LIFE 45
" Yes," replied Atter, " I know the name."
" Well, 1 in Humphrey Thursby, Captain
Thursby s son. Twas you who brought me
home from Australia. I must have been a
fine nuisance ; but it s pleasant meeting you
Atter made no reply. Sitting there, he
seemed to age between one splash of moon
light and the next ; in twenty seconds he
grew older by as many years ; his lips formed
words, muttering, muttering, but no sound
broke the silence.
"Those brutes have knocked me about
rather badly," the boy continued ; " I must
get down to Bourke, the doctor will soon
patch me up ; I nAlind now, but it can t be
permanent. A fellow s career isn t destroyed
quite so easily eh, Atter ? "
Still no reply. Humphrey dragged himself
forward and laid his hands on Atter r s knees.
" You are the man I mean ? " he asked. " You
served under my father in the 4th, eh ? "
" You don t seem quite to understand ;
I m "
Atter burst into a loud, terrible laugh.
46 LIFE IS LIFE
" Yer ain t no bloody Thursby," he exclaimed ;
" you re my son, and I ve blinded yer."
" You lie in your throat ! " cried Hum
phrey, and fainted, his head striking Atter
across the chest as he fell forward.
The moon rose higher and the earth grew
whiter in her embrace. A flock of gulars,
startled by Atter s laugh, had flown chatter
ing out from a ring-barked gum, and chat
tering back, they stuttered a moment, and
then fell to silence and to sleep, leaving the
dying tree to stare down its dishevelled sides
at the bark-littered ground. Atter pushed
the boy from him and searched the roll of
swag till his trembling hand found, and drew
forth, a bottle of spirits Bush whisky. He
drank and drank, but did not become drunk ;
he became vividly, keenly, awfully awake :
but Humphrey lay unconscious, unheeding,
and around him the Bush, with its sapless
grass and shadeless trees, trembled in the
cooler air of dawn.
LIFE IS LIFE 47
It was noon two days later ; some hundred
strikers were collected near an entrance-gate
of the station : stretching out, a long line in
front of them, the main track between Bourke
and Brewarrina wound now across a hard red
plain, now sunk in mealy soil, grey-brown and
studded with holes like a pepper-pot lid.
There was no wind, the narrow leaves of the
mulga hung down stiff and awkward ; across
the plain, under mounted police convoy, three
coaches rolled steadily forward ; on top of
them and inside, thick as flies, swarmed the
" free labourers." The coaches drew nearer,
and a hail of sticks (the plain did not boast of
stones) fell on them ; the police drew their
revolvers, they had orders not to fire, and the
coaches continued to advance. Towards them
rode Atter, behind him heaved the strikers,
cursing as only an Australian can curse, till
the air seemed rank beneath its load of im
pious filth. Whirling a great stock-whip
round his head, Atter struck a trooper s mare
48 LIFE IS LIFE
across the eyes : the maddened animal dashed
into a wire fence, tore free, flinging her rider.
Cut to the bone, and with half a yard of
wire banging at her legs, the mare went
O o O /
careering towards the creek, a moment later
she had jumped the bank, a submerged snag
caught the bridle, dragging her down ; for a
while the poor brute spun round, then sank
screaming beneath the water. Meanwhile the
strikers had rushed the coaches, seething up
over the sides, a kicking, biting, limb-tearing
swarm, till the great coaches rocked, and
every man upon them had become a solid
Unionist before the drowning mare had ceased
to scream. Then the strikers and their new
allies went amicably away in the direction of
the nearest Bush public, there to drink to
gether to the general and particular discom
fiture of the " blanky squatter." The police
trooper who had been thrown from his horse
struggled to his feet ; he had been knocked a
bit silly, and began laughing in a mad, aim
less fashion, going up and down like a bell-
rope. Atter watched the man a moment, then
sent a piece of mulga whizzing towards him ;
it struck the side of his head, and he fell with
LIFE IS LIFE 49
the laugh choked out of him. The strikers
grinned appreciation, but Bullocky, with his
face set like a stone, left his companions and
rode away in the direction of his own camp.
Outside the tent, his head supported on his
arm, Humphrey lay asleep : the flies swarmed
across and around his bandaged face. Atter
looked at him awhile, sat down, filled his pipe,
and began smoking. The flies buzzed ; Hum
phrey rolled to one side, sighing heavily.
Atter glanced at him again : the boy, with his
mouth relaxed by sleep, looked very boyish,
and the man s hard brutal face became less
hard, less brutal. He picked up a bunch of
twigs, switched the flies away ; they swarmed
back, and he sat smoking and switching, and
the boy fell into a sounder sleep. At last
Humphrey awoke. Putting up his hand in
stinctively to his eyes, he tried to rearrange
the bandage ; Atter leaned over to where his
roll of swag lay, untied the bundle, fished
out a clean shirt, and tearing off a strip from
the tail, flung the piece of linen towards the
"There," he said, " tie em up wi that."
He watched the boy s vain, awkward efforts
50 LIFE IS LIFE
to find the linen; then, leaning forward,
folded and tied the fresh bandage for him, his
great coarse fingers shaking rather oddly.
" Blank me," he exclaimed, with a half
laugh, " tarring stud ewes 1 after shearing is
nothing to yer."
Humphrey turned his bandaged face tow
ards the sun.
" I must get down to Bourke," he said
" To the hospital ? "
" Yes. 17
" Ah well," exclaimed Atter, " I reckon
that this bally place will soon be a blanked
sight too hot to hold me."
Humphrey had an intense longing to escape
from the man, to get away somewhere and
" I could coach down," he said, " if you
would see me as far as Ryan s," Ryan s was
the name of the nearest Bush public.
The strike leader picked up a stick and
sent it after a great pink and grey iguana that
was scuttling up a gum-tree.
1 Tarring stud ewes, &c. The wounds of a sheep caused
by the slipping of the shears are always tarred.
LIFE IS LIFE 51
" No," he answered, after a pause, " I
reckon I ll run yer straight into the yards
There was a long silence. Humphrey shifted
his weight from one elbow to the other.
" Atter," he exclaimed at last, " you owe
me an explanation."
"Then yer blanked well won t git it."
"Yes," cried the boy fiercely, throwing
himself upon the man, " by God, you shall
Atter shook him off as he would a fly.
" None o that," he answered. Then, after a
pause, " Wot do yer want to know ? "
"The truth at last whether I am a
Thursby or "
" Go an be a blanked Thursby if yer like ;
I ll never blab on yer : her reckoned ee one,
" Who do you mean by her ? " asked
Humphrey, his voice trembling.
Atter cursed. " Your mother," he an
Humphrey s head sank down upon his
52 LIFE IS LIFE
hands ; he remembered over again how often
he had drawn mental visions of his mother,
from whom he had so long been parted, and
now he lay beside the black-faced creek and
" Atter," he said at last, lifting up his face,
" I came to Australia to find her to claim
"She s dead."
The boy gave a short cry. "Where?
How did she die ? "
" Mad ! "
" My God ! Atter, tell me the truth ; you
owe it to me."
Bullocky was silent ; the wrinkle that
clove his brow sank deeper, and on his hard
brutal face mental suffering scrawled deep
" Gawd help me ! I can t tell yer," he ex
claimed at last.
The boy sank his head down once more
upon his hands, and there was silence. Sud-
LIFE IS LIFE 53
denly Atter began to speak in a thick, stut
tering voice not to the boy, but as if to
some invisible auditor.
"Wot s a wuman?" he said. " Wot s a
blank wuman ? Wot s one wuman more than
another ? "
He stopped short, and sat staring straight
in front of him; a pair of bronze-winged
pigeons fluttered down, pecking at the dried
grass-roots near the camp.
" Hur wos poor," he began again, " poor as
any cockatoo s wife, an 7 wot s a blanked
wuman when hur s poor ? "
Again he fell silent; the bronze winged
pigeons flew away.
" If her ain t a bad un, her should be," he
exclaimed bitterly ; " if her ain t a bad un,
her should be. Tis her own fault if her
ain t; her wudn t sufEer then. Wot s a
wuman, any way ?
" Twas on board ship I saw her first, on
the voyage out. Her was a second-classer,
same as myself. I was servant to Cap en
Thursby in they days. Her wasn t nort
speshil about the face, I ve seen scores o
women as ad beat her for looks ; but her wos
54 LIFE IS LIFE
sorter different from other women, sorter dif
ferent, sorter different," he repeated to him
self, " sorter different. I took to watching her
kind o casual. I got a feeling somehow as if
her shouldn t have bin there as if her shud
o bin on the main deck olong o the leddies.
Then I wud look at her dress twas a pore,
thready, rain- crinkled affair and say to my
self, i Can t be ; an the next minet, maybe,
her wud git up an walk across the ship, an
I d know by the way of her moving that her
was one o em " He stopped short, adding
abruptly, " They be all women, same as the
rest. An wot s a wuman ? Wot s a wuman
when hur s poor ? Wot s a wuman, any
way ? " and fell back again to staring across
the black-faced creek.
" Ay, blank em ! " he exclaimed, " I niver
thort much o winien rneself. Whistle and
they ll come to ee, most o em ; an the more
you kick em, the more they ll lick yer hands.
But her Arter a bit, I took to wishing
her was the same as the rest ; I wanted her
badly, an ther was a blanked line at ween us
that I couldn t cross, do wot I wud. I said
to myself, Wot s this blamed line you have
LIFE IS LIFE 55
got hold of in yer head, Dick Atter ? Ther
ain t none such ; the wuman s dirt poor. A
man who was a man wud take her, use her,
and fling her away. But the line was at ween
us, the line was at ween us.
" One day twas cold and rough, and the
blanked ship rolling fair to split her sides ;
most o the passengers was sitting wi chairs
lashed up agin the hatchways, and all their
spare swag planked on top o em; but her
stud, kind o hunting for shelter. Ivery now
and then the wind ud come full on her, reg lar
licking her thin clothes up agin her legs : her
hadn t got no speshil chair the same as the
rest. All to once the Cap en Cap en Thursby
came along. He was a wild un, was the
Cap en, and wud play up hell sometimes wi
the women. But he was a sportsman niver
shot his bird sitting ; and if a wuman was
pore and sorter helpless, reckoned a man stud
her friend by keeping away. He d keep away
too, an why shudn t he ? The higher game
fell to him, dropped to his gun pretty much
as he blanked well liked. I saw the Cap en
look at her an frown, then look an frown
again : twas the first time he had ever seen
56 LIFE IS LIFE
her to take notice of. Arter a bit lie fetched
his own chair and a couple o rugs ; he made
the boatswain lash the chair well out o the
wind, and wint up to where her was standing,
took off his hat and talked sorter quiet, and
her smiled and turned back to where the chair
was, and sat down. Her acted terrible nat rel,
as if ther wasn t nothing speshil in it one
way or t other ; but, blank yer, most women
wud have half busted therselves squirming
and showing their pints. The Cap en he
tucked the rugs round her and wint away :
they didn t see over much of one nother arter
that. Sometimes he d lend her a book or
stop and talk a bit. She took it all terrible
simple ; but her fell a-thinking o him for
all that. I know, cos I watched her face. I
cussed him and I cussed her, and I cussed the
line that was atween me and her, and wasn t
atween her and him. I was blanked glad
when we put inter Sydney, where men are
ekal, and I cud say to him, i There ain t no
masters and servants in this country; you
go your way and I ll go mine. He smiled
kind o curious to hisself ; he saw things was
pretty wrong wi me. That s how you wish,
LIFE IS LIFE 57
Atter, seys he ; but if you want a friend,
and he took a card from his pocket wi some
thing scrawled on it, this address will find
me. Afore I knowed wot I was arter, I up
wi my hand and saluted ; then I cussed my
self for a blanked tame recruit, tore the card
across and spat on it, ther, to his face.
" Soon arter that the Cap en went up coun
try jackerooing, 1 but I hung about Sydney
cos she was ther. Her got a situation for the
first few months, then her left and tramped
round arter work, growing poor cockatoo 2
poor. Australia was a bit too noo for shabby
dressed women. One afternoon, I reckon
her was feeling terrible off colour ; her took
the penny steamboat across to one o the
islands, and I followed. I hadn t let her
know that I was still in Sydney, and I kept
aft so her shudn t spot me, and when her
landed I did my tracking careful, same as
usual. At last she sat down. Twas a lone
some spot, the trees that thick all round
ther wasn t room in em for a dog to bark.
Her sat thinking and thinking, and I watched
1 J acker oo & lately arrived colonist.
3 A settler on a small farm.
58 LIFE IS LIFE
her and sed to myself : t Dick Atter, if you re
the man I take yer for, you ll yard and brand
that filly once for all ! But the blanked
line was atween us, and I cudn t stir hand
nor fut. All to a sudden it coomed to me
that her was a-thinking o the Cap en, and
wi that the line melted like wax. I rose to
my feet and coomed towards her, and her
rose to her feet too, and us stood looking at
one nother. I reckon my face was a devil s
face, for her got sheet- white ; but her stood
there terrible quiet and proud, and the line
came atween us agin, cutting me off. And
when I felt that the line was atween us
agin, I swore to break it and her. Cap en
Thursby is dead, sed I, and her fell at
my feet as one wi the life knocked out
from her " He stopped abruptly, and
wrenched apart his shirt at the throat.
" Then twas," he said, " then twas . . . my
brain and heart seemed to burst ; but her
was mine, and the line might work its
will. Wot s a wuman ? Wot s one blanked
wuman more than another ? Wot s a wum
an, any way ? Then I hid among the scrub,
and by and bye her corned to herself ; and
LIFE IS LIFE 59
wi the consciousness corned the tears, and
her sat ther and cried cos her thort the
Cap en was dead. But her didn t know
her was dead herself her didn t know her
was dead herself. But wot s a wuraan
when her s poor? If her ain t bad, her
shud be ; tis her own fault if her ain t.
But wot s one wuman more than another?
Wot s a wuman, any way ?
" An the months went on. Her was poor,
workus poor, and I waited for her to go to hell
o herself I reckoned ifc ud be one then but
her wudn t go, her wudn t go : twas the line
that held her back ; ifc always stud atween her
and me. Then her got a situation, but four
months later they turned her out into the
streets; and I watched her close I feared
she d drown herself for horror o wot she bore
w in her. Then I went to a wuman that I
knowed and told the truth, word for word as
it was, and she took her in and cared for her.
Agin the winder of her room a green wilier
tree rubbed its branches sorter friendly, and
she lay and stared at the wilier, and stared.
Then her chil was born ; it wos a boy, fine
and healthy, and her was terrible content at
60 LIFE IS LIFE
last, cos her had gone inad, and reckoned her
was Cap en Thursby s wife, and the chil his
chil . I went up country and worked for em.
Two years later I corned across the Cap en ;
he spoke kind to me, bat I could have killed
him where he stud ; but a blanky bullock did
it for me horned him in the drafting yards,
bashing him up agin the postesses. They
put a bullet through the beast, but the Cap en
he was most done for : he just axed me to
take a message for him to the old Squire,
and the blood rose up in his throat and choked
the life out o him. The manager sealed the
Cap en s watch and chain in a bit o paper
and gived it to me, and I left the station and
went down south to Sydney, sorter blind stu
pid cos I cudn t fix things up in my mind one
way or tother. When I got to Sydney they
told me her was dying, and had axed for me.
I cursed her, and said I wudn t go a-nigh her;
but I walked up and down the street afore
her door night and day, and at last, whether
I wud or no, I entered the house and went up
the stairs and stud at the door o her room.
I cudn t knock and I cudn t stir, but I stood
ice-cold, wi the sweat upon me. Then some
LIFE IS LIFE 61
one opened the door; she called me, and I
was fo ced to come. She was lying propped
up wi pillys, the child aside her, and death
most nigh as near ; the sheets was blanked
coarse, and her bit o night-shift nort to speak
of, but, damn yer, it only made the breeding
in her show the more. Atter, she said, take
him back to his people and tell them he is a
Thursby and a gentleman, then she sorter
tried to hold yer towards me, and fell back
dead. So I took yer to the old Squire and
sed wot her told me ; her thought you was a
Thursby maybe her knows better now. But
wot s a wuman? wot s one wuman more
than another ? wot s a wuman, any way ? "
He rose from the ground. " Twas the line
that did it," he muttered, walking across to
where his horse stood. " Twas atween us
then ; tis atween us now," and mounting he
rode away in search of the horses.
An overpowering horror of this man who
was his father came to Humphrey, wiping out
all other feelings. Raising himself, he crept
away on his hands and knees through the rank
grass ; but as he struggled forward he met
Atter returning, driving the horses before
62 LIFE IS LIFE
him. Bullocky burst into a rough laugh.
" So yer reckoned to give me the slip," he ex
" I can t go with you," said the boy, rising
to his feet. " I d rather be bushed outright."
"Is your little bit o privit hell so cursed
much too much for yer ? " Atter answered.
" Yer fool, yer don t know what hell is ; yer
ain t niver bin in it."
" It isn t myself, it s Tier" said the boy.
"Her!" exclaimed Atter " her ! her s
mine, not yers. Ain t I gone to hell for her ?
Ain t the blanked line round my neck night
and day cos o her ? "
" For God s sake, Atter, leave me," the boy
u Leave yer," Atter answered ; " no, by God,
I ll not leave yer. I did once, cos her told
me, but now yer part of her, that s wot yer
are, tho her don t belong to yer; you laid
agin her, that s wot you did, tho her didn t
want ee. Ay, and by the living God, and
more than agin her ; twas you her was f o ced
to carry whether her wud or no ; twas you
her was f o ced to born, tho her went mad for
LIFE IS LIFE 63
" And I would like to kill you for that, you
devil," cried the boy. " But I ain bliiid, you
devil, I m blind ! "
" Kill me," repeated Atter, laughing wildly.
"I can t die, that s part o it; I m forced to
live wi the line strangling me half stran
gled, but never dead."
The man s fierce agony beat upon the boy,
but he was dull and impervious to it.
" She was helpless, and a woman," he said.
" Do you reckon to be the first to think of
that, yer fool, yer rouse-about, yer blanked
jackaroo ! " cried Atter fiercely. " You that
have been playing the busted fine gentleman
all your life, how long have yer bin in hell
cos o her tears, cos o her pain ? Go and git
they sheep s eyes o yers put right; start
crying on yer own account, and leave her
He slung himself to the ground as he
spoke, caught and saddled the other horses,
cording the swag across the pack-saddle.
" Come," he said to the boy, " here s yer
" I ll not go with you," cried Humphrey,
with growing excitement. " Aren t you con-
64 LIFE IS LIFE
tent with what you have done ? Do you want
to drive me mad too ? "
" By the living Gawd, I ll make yer come,"
Bullocky answered, taking a quick step tow
ards the boy. Then the passion died out
of his face, and, stopping short, "Mad," he
exclaimed in an altered voice " mad twas
her I sent mad; yer I blinded. Mother and
son ; mother and son."
The boy shuddered. " No power on earth
will make me acknowledge myself your son,"
he said. " It can t be true ; it can t be true."
" Tis sorter blanked true all the same,"
Atter answered slowly " sorter blanked tar
There was a sound of approaching foot
steps, and four police troopers closed in upon
" Hands up, Bullocky, or we ll fire," they
said, levelling revolvers.
Atter made no effort to escape, but stood
stone-still, staring at his son s face, with its
expression of sudden joy, of great elation.
LIFE IS LIFE 65
Atter was tried at the Sydney Assizes for
manslaughter (the police trooper had died),
and sentenced to three years hard labour.
He accepted the sentence with callous in
difference ; no vision of the murdered trooper
haunted him ; between him and the memory
of other misdeeds there stood a dead woman,
and into his fierce, passionate heart had come
a fierce, passionate need of her forgiveness.
Longing and dumb dumb with the dumb
ness of the beasts of the field, dumb even to
himself he could not analyse his own ter
rible yearning. Remorse, like cancer, spread
fibrous hands upon his life and ate its slow
way into his heart ; yet he did not realise
what ailed him, and, racked by conscience,
scarce understood that he had sinned. Ill,
dying, he toiled with the unceasing energy of
a man who would out-toil his own thoughts.
Work forbidden him, confined to the hos
pital, he wept like a child, and lay with his
face turned towards the ward door, as if he
66 LIFE IS LIFE
waited for the entry of some bringer of heal
ing. The prison chaplain, knowing the man
to be dying, and struck by the expression of
acute misery on the gaunt face, asked if there
was any person that he desired to see.
" Is there some one," he asked gently,
" whose forgiveness would make you hap
pier ? "
" Forgiveness ! " repeated Atter, glancing
at him in astonishment " wot the blanky
blank should I want with forgiveness ; I ain t
done nothing to be ashamed of. I ve alles
acted the man."
The chaplain smiled, but made no further
suggestion, and Atter fell back again to star
ing at the closed door. He did not know
whose face it was that he waited for with
such an intensity of yearning ; but one day
the chaplain entered, and with him was Hum
phrey, and when Atter s eyes fell upon his
son there came to him a sudden great elation.
" I sorter thought yer wud come," he ex
claimed. "I sorter thought it; I sorter
Humphrey stumbled forward till within
a few paces of the bed, and stood stock-still,
LIFE IS LIFE 67
his terrible repulsion of the man seeming to
bind him hand and foot. The chaplain went
out, leaving them alone.
" I ve bin reckoning things out, continued
Atter, " reckoning things out a bit ; but I ve
lost the hang o em, yer came so blanked
sudden. I sorter thought yer wud come, tho ;
sorter thought it. They blanked eyes o yers
ain t bin after healing, I see ; well, I sorter
reckoned they wudn t, sorter reckoned they
wud n t. Things have gone on the cross wi
me iver since I played on the cross wi her,
and her was nothing but a blanked wuman,
and wot s a wuman, any way ? "
Humphrey shuddered. "Atter," he said,
rushing into speech to avoid the greater horror
of listening, " I ve been a mucker myself since
we parted. I speculated with some money of
of my grandfather s of of , I mean
the Squire s ; he sent it to me under the im
pression that I was his grandson you under
stand, well, I speculated with the money."
Atter s face lit up. " Yer lost it, and corned
to me sorter reckoning I wud help yer make
it good. Ay, I know the brand ! "
The blood rushed up to the boy s fore-
68 LIFE IS LIFE
head. " No," lie answered a no, no; not for
But Atter did not heed him, into his eyes
had come an expression of mighty triumph.
" Wot s bred in the bone ull come out in the
flesh," he cried. " Twas my blood in yer
that forced ee to do it. Y are my son ; yer
ain t no blanked Thursby. Didn t I tell yer
yer wasn t no blanked Thursby ; y are my son
and hers, my son and hers."
As the words fell on Humphrey s ears he
staggered forward and clutched at the iron
bedstead for support, missed it, and fell across
the man s feet. Atter stretched out his great,
coarse, trembling hands towards his son.
" My oath," he said, " ye re blind, stone-
blind. I didn t reckon on yer being stone-
blind ; I didn t sorter reckon on yer being
" Stone-blind ! " repeated the boy, " stone-
Atter stared down on him in silence ; the
silence swelled, the agony in the man s heart
fighting with it ; at last he spoke. " Go back
along ome to em," he said, " they care for
yer. Go back and be a blanked Thursby ; I ll
LIFE IS LIFE
never blab on yer. Go and be a blanked
gintleman, they ll never know; they ll be
glad to see yer ; they ll miss yer ; yer ll be
at ome ther, you ain t niver bin easy long
" Atter, Atter," sobbed the boy, " I m stone-
blind; the doctor told me there was no hope."
" Go back to em, then," Atter answered.
" Wot s the good o yer staying here ? Yer
can t play no blanked concertina ; yer can t
go on the wallaby wi a blanked dawg and a
piece of string."
The boy s shoulders shook with sobs, but
he made no answer.
" Go back to em," harped Atter. " Yer ain t
built for nort else ; yer was alles blanked tar
nation shook on being a busted gintleman ; go
back and be one, then I ll never blab on ee."
" You don t understand," said Humphrey.
" But yer are shook on being a gintleman."
"Ah!" triumphantly, " thet s her blood
in ee. Twas mine thet made yer a thief ;
hers wud make ee a gintleman ; my son
and hers, my son and hers," again his face
70 LIFE IS LIFE
There was a long silence, then the boy
raised his blind eyes to Atter s face.
" It s no use, 7 he said, " I can t go back ;
it s too late."
" Why too late ? "
" I ve told them the truth. It is the
truth ? " he added with a wild hope that
Atter might even yet contradict his former
"Ay, God s truth."
" I ve told them, then."
" You ve told em ? told the old Squire ?
Yer have owned up owned to the brand ?
Yer sed I was yer father ? "
Into Atter s hard, brutal face there came
an expression of gladness, of great radiance ;
suddenly his expression changed. " Yer ain t
so blanked set on being a gintleman arter
all," he said.
The boy winced. "Clinging to a name
ih at was not mine would not make me a
gentleman," he answered.
" If nobody knowed, twud."
" But I should know."
" Wot blanked difference wud that make ? "
LIFE IS LIFE 71
" Atter," said the boy, " you don t under
" Maybe I don t ; tis a busted ring-tailed
consarn, any way. So yer are going to let
the gintleman business slide," he continued in
a regretful voice.
His son was silent, the colour coming and
going in his face. "No," he said, half to
himself, " I don t think so."
" Yer ll go back to em then, and ask em
not to peach on ee ? "
" Wot and play a blanked concertina ! "
" Something of the sort."
" Thet ain t being a gintleman."
Humphrey raised his blind eyes towards
the light. "The Squire said once," he ex
claimed, " that as long as a man is a man, he,
for one, wouldn t ask more of him."
"But," replied Atter, "that s a pore tale ;
I ve bin a gintleman myself on that show-
" It s no poor thing to keep one s record
clean," the boy answered ; " I haven t, but
72 LIFE IS LIFE
" he was silent a moment. " It doesn t
matter then," he continued, " how much one
fails in other things, one need not fear to look
any man in the face."
" Thet a gintleman ! " exclaimed Atter de
risively. " Why, blank yer, I niver was
af eared to look no blamed joker between the
eyes ; but then the Squire was a musclely
Humphrey made no comment, and after a
while Atter continued in a dull, monotonous
voice, as if talking aloud to himself : " I niver
was af eared of no man living nor dead, niver ;
and niver had no cause to be ashamed o not
acting the man ; her and the line near got the
best o me once ; but I broke em, her and the
line togither ; no man can throw it at me that
I didn t break em : I broke em, and I broke
meself a-breaking em ; but no man can throw
it at me that I didn t break em first. No ;
as I sed afore, I ain t done nothing to be
ashamed of, and ther s on y two thet I knows
on thet I wud like to make things right with :
one wos her ; I cud niver make things right
wi her, cos her sorter got away from me,
sorter kept outside; wint mad, and sorter
LIFE IS LIFE 73
kept outside. Ther was on y her and one
other, the lad her borned her son and mine,
her son and mine."
He stopped speaking, and the boy, staring
with blind eyes into a dark world, made no
" It s a queer thing," continued Atter, " a
queer ring-tailed thing. I hadn t sorter spe-
shil wanted to work her no harm hadn t
sorter speshil wanted to hurt em, either o
em ; but I sent her mad, I blinded him
mother and son, mother and son."
" You didn t mean to blind me," Humphrey
" I hadn t no sorter speshil wish no sorter
" I shall pull through all right," said Hum
phrey. " I m not beaten yet."
"Yer ain t beaten yit," Atter answered,
" but yer won t niver make things right wi
" Atter," exclaimed the boy, " I could if it
weren t for her."
"Her," repeated Atter, and his voice was
infinitely sad "her, her, her; her corned
atween me and herself, her comes atween me
74 LIFE IS LIFE
and ner son ; her was niver name tho I held
her in my arms; and when I reckoned to
have her body and soul, her stud away from
rne her stud away from me."
"Atter, Atter," said the boy, "Atter,
"Ay, Atter, Atter," the man repeated,
" Atter, Atter ; Atter twas wi yer from the
fust, Atter twill be wi yer to the end."
" Father," said the boy huskily.
In hesitation the words came stuttering
forth. Atter s heart stopped a beat to listen,
and then slammed back against his ribs, the
whole man rocking in the unreality of his own
happiness. He put out his hands in trem
bling hesitation, then, conquered by all-
mastering desire, drew the boy to him, up
against his breast ; and within the breast his
heart clanged and throbbed as some impris
oned engine. Gripped close in his father s
arms, inert from pity, sundered from him by
repulsion, the son s mind groped in agonising
longing for some link that should be an
ennobling bond of union.
"Father," he said, "shall we not lead
straighter lives because of her ? "
LIFE IS LIFE 75
Tlie great engine within Atter s breast
strained more wildly against its imprison
"Her cudn t change me when her was
alive ; her ll never do it now her s dead," he
answered. " No, no, I ll bide as I am : when
my time comes for loosing ropes and slipping
the stock-yard rails, I reckon hell ull about do
me a place where a man can curse free and
fight for his own, come God, come devil,"
and so saying, his heart burst bonds, his grip
on his son relaxed, and with a sob he fell back
HUMPHREY, SON OF ATTER
IT was late afternoon; Atter had been
buried in the prison graveyard, and Hum
phrey, refusing the chaplain s offer of a tem
porary home, returned to his lodgings. They
were ill-furnished rooms in a mean street, but
the rent was more than he could afford, and
he decided that he must leave them. On the
mantelpiece in the sitting-room was an un
opened telegram. Searching with his long,
awkward fingers, Humphrey found and held
the telegram a moment in his hand before
tearing it slowly into bits, then he left the
room and the house.
He crossed the street, taking short, unde
cided steps, resenting as ignominious the
necessity which obliged him to tap with his
LIFE IS LIFE 77
stick each foot of the ground in advance,
and, wandering on, turned at last into a blind
alley in one of the poorest quarters of the
town. Seated close to a doorstep, a short,
deep-chested man was mending the broken
ribs of a still more broken umbrella, whist
ling over his work with such evident satisfac
tion that Humphrey could not help sharing in
" Good day," said the man ; " I reckon, by
the sound of your stick, you re blind yirself."
" Were you whistling just now ? " asked
Humphrey in reply.
"I was so."
" Well, I should never have imagined that
you were blind."
" And why not ? " said the man ; " I ain t
heard as blindness puts a shut on whistling."
Humphrey leant up against the wall of the
house ; the stick slipping from his hand com
pelled him to grovel along the none too clean
street in search of it, and when, the stick re
gained, he once more resumed his position, his
face burnt with anger and tears of shame
stood in his eyes.
" Great heavens ! " he exclaimed, " how I
78 LIFE IS LIFE
liate being compelled to tap my way along
with a stick."
" Well," said the man, " the stick was put
in the world to be o some use, I reckon, the
same as the rest o us ; but then," he added,
"maybe you re noo to it, a stick wants
knowing the same as a man. I fell out with
my little gidea a mint o times before us took
to one another comfortable, and now us is as
thick as thieves."
Humphrey smiled. " How long have you
been blind? " he asked.
" A matter o twenty years."
" Twenty years ! "
" Well," replied the man, " you ll be saying
the like some day, I reckon."
Humphrey turned the subject with a
shudder. "What are you working at?"
"Mending ginghams, and a mighty pore
trade it is, by the same token."
" I wonder you don t hang yourself."
" Wot good wud that do, wi the Missus
slaving herself to the bone as tis ? "
" You have a wife dependent on you ? "
" Well," replied the man, with a slow smile,
LIFE IS LIFE 79
" us puts it that way, though maybe the truth
is t other end about."
Humphrey was silent a moment, he won
dered at the man acknowledging so lightly a
" How did you become blind ? " he asked
at length. " Was it an accident ? "
" Yes ; one of they things that there ain t
no speshil reason why they should happen,
but happen they does. I was doing a job o
fencing up Cooram ingle way ; twas summer,
and powerful hot by the same token ; I had
sandy blight tarnation bad sorter feel as if
yer eyes was full of red-hot grit ; termaters
is the best thing, cut em in half and reg lar
soak your eyes in the squash ; but there
wasn t no termaters, so I had to blamed well
do without em. Jim Day, the chap I was
working long with, a good-hearted jumbuck
but a reg lar mutton-head, let on to me that
he had some doctor s stuff that wud put a set
on the blight smart enough. I hadn t no
great trust in Jim s cures, but my eyes was
that bad I thort they couldn t be much wuss,
so I ses to him, Jim, bring out that healing
o nations o a cure o yirs ; so he brought it
80 LIFE IS LIFE
out, powerful pleased, a better-hearted chap
there never was. i You must go the whole
hog, Joe, he ses; half measures ain t no
manner o use ; set to, and souse yir eyes in
it, same as if they was afire. My oath ! but
they look bad ! "
" Holy Moses ! but this stuff o yirs is
powerful strong, Jim, I ses; twas burning
fair to scorch my eyes out.
" It s got a decent opinion o itself, ses he.
" Well, I ses, * it fair needs to, for I much
misdoubt if twill find another to speak for it,
less tis a salamander.
" * Be they easing a bit now ? ses Jim.
" I lifted up my head. Jim, I ses, have
I any eyes left, for, by all the snakes, I feel
the same as if they was burnt clean out !
" i Strike me dead ! ses Jim, i but I think
they re healing slow.
" You ain t got hold of the wrong stuff ?
" i I ll take another look at the bottle, ses
he. Why, tis Barty s Patent Sciatica
Singe-ger, by all the crawling sons o a bul
lock ! he cried.
" Well, ses I, it s patented me sure
LIFE IS LIFE 81
enough ; and so it had, licked the sight out
o my eyes as clean as a cat a cream- jug.
Holy Moses ! but I was fair mad wi Jim at
the time, but now there ain t one day in seven
that I notices there s anything wrong with
my eyes at all."
" Can a man get as used to being blind as
" Blind ain t the right name for it. You
sees less of the outside of a pussen s head,
but you learns a deal more wot goes on
inside o it; and, pon my sam, you gains
by the change, tho I allow tis tarnation
hard to swaller. Jest you wait till you ve
bin blind as long as I have, and, mark me,
you ll say the same."
Humphrey was silent ; the colour came and
went in his face. " Is your work difficult ? "
he asked at last.
" No ; any mug could learn it."
" Well " hurriedly " take me as a pupil
an apprentice. I mean I I wish you
" In the umbrella trade ? What s bin your
line so far ? " the man asked in an astonished
82 LIFE IS LIFE
The blood rushed back into Humphrey s
face. " I have never done much worth the
doing, I m afraid," he answered.
" How long have you bin blind ? "
" Six months."
" You haven t got the feel o your fingers
yit, then ? "
" No ; I muff things rather."
" Ain t you got no friends ? "
" I hate being dependent."
"That s it, is it?"
"I could pay for my food and lodging
for the first few months," Humphrey plead
A woman walked with heavy tread from
the interior of the house and joined them.
" Don t you be after doing nothing rash,
Joe," she exclaimed in a harsh, high-pitched
tone. " The young man s a step above us ;
he s stood behind counters I can see that
by the look of his hands."
" I never stood behind a counter in my
life ! " spluttered Humphrey indignantly.
" Then you ve bin after no good, that s all I
can say," rejoined the woman. " Them hands
speaks for thirselves : they look, for all the
LIFE IS LIFE 83
world, the same as William Splinter s hands
did after he corned out o jail."
" Hush, mother ! the young chap s blind,"
Joe interposed soothingly. "You needn t
pay no manner o attention to what she ses,"
he continued, turning to Humphrey; "her
ain t dipped in alum farther than the tongue."
Humphrey laughed a little awkwardly,
and the woman cast a quick glance at him
and smiled to herself.
"Now go along in, mother, and bring us
a cup o tea," said Joe, and his wife returned
once more to the kitchen. " I used to give
her the strap one time," he continued, lower
ing his voice ; " that was when I could see,
the same as the rest. Now the strap hangs
on the nail aside the dresser, and I find her
acts a sight more reasonable wi out it. A
woman is a queer thing more heart than
sense ; but the sense her has carries her tar
nation far on the right road."
As he spoke his wife called them into the
house to tea, and Humphrey, drawing his
chair forward to the little table, felt strange
" How good your bread and butter tastes ! "
84 LIFE IS LIFE
he said. " I do wish you would let me work
Joe laughed. " Holy Moses ! " he ex
claimed, " but that s an uncommon rum rea
son for taking to a trade eh, mother ? "
The woman s somewhat hard face softened
into a smile. " Bread and butter is bread
and butter," she answered sententiously.
" Take me on trial," urged Humphrey,
pressing his advantage ; " I shouldn t be any
expense to you."
" What do you say, mother ? " Joe asked,
and the boy waited with keen anxiety for the
answer. He had a sudden longing to be near
this man, who was blind, and whom he sus
pected of being happy.
The woman s eyes rested a moment on him
with a half-amused, half -pitying expression.
" Oh," she answered, " let him come ; tis only
a fad. Twon t last long any way."
" Not a fad, but a bargain ! " exclaimed
Humphrey, stretching his hand across the
table towards her. " Shake hands on it, and
wish me every success in the umbrella trade."
The woman took the proffered hand in her
crinkly red one a little awkwardly. " Come
LIFE IS LIFE 85
right up-stairs and look at your room first
along," she said. "As like as not the bed
won t suit ee. Tis nought but a straw mat
tress ; but it s clean, I ll lay to that."
" Oh, bother the bed ! " exclaimed Hum
phrey. " Haven t I tasted the bread and
butter ? "
" Don t try and come over me with yer soft
sawder," replied the woman in a severe voice.
" When a bed is hills and dales, I niver heard
as bread and butter ud mend it."
Humphrey rose and stumbled up the steep
" Now," she exclaimed, as they entered the
attic, " let me see you take the feel o the
Reddening, the boy crossed the attic, hands
extended, hitting his shins against the poor
bits of furniture.
" Stay right where you are," said the
woman peremptorily. He halted. " Now,
find the door," she continued. But he failed
to do so, knocking the little painted wash-
stand till the jug rang in the basin.
" Ah ! " she exclaimed, " you ll never be a
patch on Joe."
86 LIFE IS LIFE
Humphrey rubbed his knees. " I very
much doubt if I shall," he answered, laugh
ing. But the woman did not smile in return ;
in her eyes the subject was too serious for
smiles. Leading him across the room, she
told him to feel the mattress ; and he did so
"Surely that is mignonette I smell," he
Her face relaxed. " We always had some
in the Old Country, and me and Joe thought
twud be a pore thing if us cudn t have some
here," she answered.
" You re English ! " he exclaimed, adding
impulsively, "aren t you, aren t you home
sick sometimes, I mean ? "
She picked a dead leaf off the mignonette.
" Ah, whiles," she answered slowly ; " but
ther, as I ve said many a time, i life s life.
Humphrey was silent ; at last he spoke,
changing the subject. "Tell me about the
board," he said. " Would a pound a-week
be right ? "
" Why, bless us," she answered, " half that
is more than enough, and I d mend and wash
ee for the same."
LIFE IS LIFE 87
" Am I to have bread and butter every day
as good as I bad this afternoon ? " he asked,
She glanced at him with quick suspicion ;
but his boyish face with its look of suffering
"Ah," she said, "you re a soft-tongued
one, you are."
" You ll forgive me for not having stood
behind counters or been in jail ? " he asked.
" Fve known good men who have done
both," she said.
" But we are friends," he urged : his smile
was whimsical, but there was almost entreaty
in his voice. He had seated himself at the head
of the bed opposite her. She looked a moment
at his thin white face before answering.
" I shall mother ee my own way," she said.
Humphrey returned to his lodgings full of
thought but very elate. His landlady met
him in the hall. "A letter, sir," she said;
" would you like me to read it to you ? " she
added, with an uncurbed curiosity that
jarred upon the boy.
" No, no," he replied, holding out his hand
for the letter.
88 LIFE IS LIFE
" From England," she continued, still re
taining her hold of it.
" Post-mark Thursby, a queer, angular
handwriting, something like the herring-bone
" My grandfather s," exclaimed Humphrey
below his breath.
" Best let me read it to you, sir."
"No, thanks," he answered, his fingers
closing on the letter. " I m not particularly
interested in the contents."
" Who knows but it s a death and a fort
une," she said, striving to whet his curiosity.
Humphrey took the letter from her with a
gentle force, and, entering his room, shut the
door upon the prying woman. Stumbling
into a chair the boy sank his face in his
hands. " Blind, blind, blind," he sobbed,
" blind, blind, blind, I can t read it myself ;
I couldn t stand her prying eyes. I shall
never know what he thinks; I shall never
know what he thinks."
Long he sat staring down on the letter
with sightless eyes; the sun sank; the
woman entered with a lamp.
LIFE IS LIFE 89
" IVe brought you a lamp, sir," she said ;
"maybe it will be welcome to you."
He laughed brokenly. " Yes," he an
swered, " a little light, a little light." Then
he put the unopened letter in his pocket and
The next week Humphrey left his lodg
ings and went to live with Joe and his wife.
Some days later he was seated with an old
disreputable umbrella that Joe had given
him to repair on his knees ; but the only
point about the umbrella of which he felt
complete assurance was its offensive smell.
"Joe," he said, "where did you pick up
this umbrella ? "
" 80 long ago I can t remember," the man
answered. " It s the one I learned the trade
on. What s the matter with it ? "
" Don t notice nothing particular," Joe re
plied, handing it back. " Laid in a drain, I
Humphrey dropped the umbrella, and its
90 LIFE IS LIFE
ancient ribs were still clattering protestingly
against the stone floor when the woman,
entering the kitchen, crossed to where he
sat with depression heavy upon him.
" If your room ain t a reglar disgrace, I
don t know what is," she exclaimed. " Every
thing left sixes and sevens, as if I hadn t
enough to do looking after a blind husband
without trapesing round after you all day
long. Why, it s my firm belief you ve stud
in that basin, which ain t big enough to hold
a six months old baby, and had a bath all
round it ; the whole room is fair swimming
wi water, and that s not counting the things
that be splashing about by theirselves a
coat here, a shirt there, and goodness knows
what else anywhere and everywhere ! Now,
jest you march straight up-stairs this very
instant and mop up ivery drop o that watter
Humphrey stumbled to his feet, red in
the face, impelled by a strong desire to take
flight before the woman s angry tongue.
" Take the cloth right along up wi you,"
the woman continued, thrusting a heavy
moist floor-cloth into his reluctant hands,
LIFE IS LIFE 91
" and don t you dare show your face down
here till that room is fit to be seen ! "
" You mustn t be too hard on him, mother,"
interposed Joe soothingly, as the door of
Humphrey s attic closed with a bang. U I
reckon that life long o us comes fair strange
" Twas his own free will that he came
here, nobody axed him," replied the angry
woman ; " but as like as not he ll be putting
his bit o things together at this very minnit,
and a good riddance too."
"No, no, mother, you don t mean that,"
her husband answered. " Besides, the poor
chap s blind."
" And ain t you blind yourself ? " she re
plied indignantly. " I ve niver heard you ax
no speshil grace a-cos o it."
" Maybe I hadn t so much to lose as him."
" Niver you tell me that your sight ain t as
much vally as his. He niver used his eyes to
look about him when he had em, or he wudn t
be so blind as he is."
" Well," said Joe, " I reckon he s a gintle-
man, and ain t bin used to taking notice."
"Ay, gintlemari," the woman answered;
92 LIFE IS LIFE
"he s got the vices o one any way wot wi
wasting good victuals and swamping the
place ; but there, gintleman or no, he s got to
learn the same as the rest. Life s life for high
" Maybe, mother, but then steamed sticks
straighten a mint better taken gradual than
fo ced all to once."
" You was always a bit of a soft, Joe," an
swered his wife, busying herself pouring out
a cup of tea. Placing it beside him, she
fetched another cup from the dresser, filled it
with tea dark in colour, bitter in taste
and, adding much brown sugar, as a sign of
reconciliation, she climbed up-stairs and
opened the door of Humphrey s room. The
attic presented a deplorable spectacle : water
stood in pools on the unplaned boards, and
Humphrey, after giving an ineffectual swab,
had thrown the cloth out of the window. A
hasty glance into the garden revealed it to the
woman lying on Joe s freshly- washed linen.
Her anger kindled anew at the sight ; but,
turning, she saw the boy seated in so forlorn
an attitude, and with so forlorn an expression
on his face, that though it went to her heart
LIFE IS LIFE 93
not to speak her mind, she put the cup of tea
down on the chest of drawers and left the
room in silence.
Coming back later she found Humphrey
had rubbed the floor dry with one of his
"Bless us, did you iver see the like o
that ! " she exclaimed, dropping her hands
despairingly on to her apron. " A four-years-
old chile wud have known better ; but there,"
she continued, stemming back her indignation,
" let the floor alone, do, and drink your tea
it s stone cold by this time."
He took the cup from her. " I am afraid
I am an awful nuisance to you," he said.
" You ain t niver bin taught better," she
answered. "I warrant you ve bin fine and
spoiled in your time ; but then the Almighty
seed for Hisself that you needed a dressing,
or He would never have brought ee to the
pass He has."
Putting the cup down, the boy turned away
with a sort of half sob, and the woman s face
" Ah, lad, us have all got to go through
wi it," she said. " Life s life."
94 LIFE IS LIFE
" I m an awful fool," he said, straightening
his back ; " it s only the being blind,"
" Poor lad ! " said the woman, " poor lad ! "
"Joe is a fine fellow," exclaimed the boy,
" He s lamed," she answered, " he s larned."
"It seems so desperatety hard," said the
boy, " anything but blindness anything in
the whole world but that."
" Us ain t got the choosing of our own bur
dens ; us must fit em to our backs 1 as best us
can," she answered.
Turning to her he held out his hands.
"Will you have patience with me while I
learn ? " he asked.
"I shall mother ee my own way," she
" Mother is a comforting word," said Hum
" Oh, you re a sof t-tongued one, you are,"
The days passed slowly away, and little by
little Humphrey found what Joe called " the
feel o his fingers." Other things he learned
of greater value ; unperceived by himself his
views of life were altering, and he realised
LIFE IS LIFE 95
dimly that a position of dependence might
still be compatible with self-respect. Perhaps
he was able to look at the subject with less
bias, because he could now earn sufficient to
support himself; and, having escaped being
dependent, recognised that another might be
justified in submitting to so galling a position.
One afternoon he was seated at work beside
his blind friend; the woman was ironing
clothes, and the bang, bang of her hot iron
on the clean linen resounded monotonously
through the small kitchen. After a while
Joe, who had let his work fall on his knees,
turned to her.
" Mother," he said, " my throat has been
fine and sore these last weeks ; I reckon that
one of your poultices might do it a good
"Now that s just like you, Joe, being so
long a-mentioning it," she answered in a tart
"Well, I thought twud better itself; but
tis rare and contrary," he replied, sipping
some cold tea from a pannikin beside him.
The woman watched him, but made no
96 LIFE IS LIFE
" Why not get a doctor to look at it ? " sug
" Oh, it takes a pound o money to git a
penn orth o sense out o them," Joe replied,
draining the pannikin to the dregs. His wife
rose and quietly refilled the tin mug with tea.
" I have a friend you can consult for noth"
ing, if you like," rejoined Humphrey ; " and
a clever fellow too."
" Ay," said the woman, " do ee go up and
see the gintleman. I ain t no friend to sore
Joe did not answer for a moment, and
sighed rather weariedly. "Well," he ex
claimed at last, " maybe I will."
On the examination taking place, the doc
tor refused to give an opinion, asking him to
come back again on the following day. Re
turning home after the second consultation,
his wife met him at the door.
" What did the gintleman say ? " she in
"Why, there was three of em there this
arternoon," he answered, smiling, "and it
took the whole busted lot jest to tell me I
wasn t on no account to smoke."
LIFE IS LIFE 97
" Didn t they say no more than that, Joe ? "
" Not a blamed word."
" Bless us ! " exclaimed his wife, " but
doctors git their laming hard. Where s the
lad ? " she continued, after a pause.
"Oh, he stayed on there to dinner."
" Why, he had his dinner at twelve o clock
before he went away."
u Oh," said Joe, seating himself and stretch
ing out his legs, " tis a gintleman s meal
meat-tea, with the tea left out."
"Thank the Lord I ve never been asked to
fathom such heathenish meals as they," his
wife exclaimed piously.
Joe dropped his head between his hands.
"I m powerful thirsty, mother," he said.
" My throat burns that bad I reckon some
times that I can most hear it fizz."
The woman turned towards the fire. " The
kettle s jest on the boil," she answered ; " I ll
make yer a drop o tea. Tis a queer thing,"
she added after a pause, " that jest the leav
ing off o smoking shud cure ee ; but there, I
was niver no friend to terbacca."
When the doctors had departed, Humphrey
joined his friend in the smoking-room. He
98 LIFE IS LIFE
had been one of the doctors at the hospital
where Humphrey had undergone treatment,
and had taken a liking for the boy ; but
Humphrey kept apart from him, confiding
his troubles to no one.
" What was the result of the consultation? "
The doctor rolled a cigarette neatly between
his fingers before answering. " The man has
cancer in the throat," he replied at length.
Humphrey s face contracted. " Is the case
hopeless ? " he exclaimed.
" Quite ; it means "
" Loss of voice first, starvation afterwards."
The boy pushed his chair violently back.
" What a hell of suffering this world is ! "
The doctor made no comment.
" Did you tell him ? " Humphrey continued
after a pause.
" No ; I thought it might be advisable for
you to break the truth to his wife, and let
her tell him."
" Don t ask me to do that" protested the
LIFE IS LIFE 99
" It would be the kinder way of breaking
the truth to him."
Humphrey stumbled up from his chair,
crossed the room, and stood with his back
to his friend. " How, how, how," he ex
claimed, "could I tell her such a terrible
truth as that ? "
"I cannot answer you," said the doctor.
" My lad," he continued after a moment,
rising and laying his hand dn Humphrey s
shoulder, " some one must tell her."
" She has been so awfully good to me,"
protested the boy again.
"Well, and isn t that? eh? "
" I understand what you mean," said Hum
phrey. "Damn it, man, I see what you
mean; I ll I ll tell her."
The next afternoon Joe was absent ; his
wife sat sewing at the little table by the
window, and Humphrey, putting down the
umbrella he had been recovering, came and
stood beside her.
" Mother," he said (he had taken to call
ing her mother), " I have something to tell
" Well, lad," she answered, " say on."
100 LIFE IS LIFE
A great knob rose in his throat. " It s
about Joe s illness," he said.
She dropped her work, and looking up at
him, " Yer ain t going to tell me nothing bad
o it ? " she exclaimed anxiously.
He knelt down and put his arms round
her. " Oh, mother ! " he answered, " it is the
old terrible thing, life s life."
She gave a little abrupt, cry. " He ain t
to be took from me ; it ain%that ? " she said,
" it ain t that ? "
Humphrey looked at her, but answered
nothing ; she turned from him and dropping
her head on the table, " My pore Joe," she
said, " my pore Joe." After a while she
asked suddenly, " What illness is it ? "
Drawing a quick, painful breath, Hum
phrey answered, " Cancer in the throat."
"Oh, tis cruel, cruel," she cried, "and he
with such a throat for trills. There ain t his
ekal for singing Banks and braes.
The boy made no answer.
" I know what tis," she continued ; " I ve
heard tell o it before ; twenty years he s bin
blind, now he s to be dumb, then starved.
Oh, Joe, my pore Joe, the Almighty must
LIFE IS LIF^
have been fair mazed wi the joys o heaven
when He reckoned such suffering nought
compared to it." She dropped her head
once more upon the table and sobbed. At
last she lifted up her face, the rugged lines
on it a little softened.
" He ll be able to take his drop o tea to
the end," she said. " Maybe the Almighty
thought on that when He made him look
unkind on victuals."
In the silence that ensued the distant tap
ping of Joe s stick on the pavement became
audible. "There he comes," exclaimed the
woman, " there he comes." Humphrey put
his arms round her and gave her a big, boy
ish hug. "Dear mother," he said, "dear
mother ; " then he went out and left the
husband and wife alone.
Joe seemed very tired ; he sat on the worn,
shiny chair, the palms of his hands upon his
knees. The woman rose and poured him out
a cup of tea from the little brown teapot that
always stood upon the hob.
" You ve bin a long time," she said. " Did
you buy they withies ? "
"No," he answered; "they was touched
102 LIFE IS LIFE
wi the rot, so I went on as far as the Heads
and laid down on the grass a bit ; tis a long
while since I ve heard the sound o the sea."
"Yer was alles fond o the sea and the
" Ther s a blamed lot o 7 nater in em," he
answered; " but they alles sets me thinking
o the Old Country. I reckons us won t set
eyes on the Old Country again, mother ? "
She did not answer.
" You ve bin a good wife to me," he said.
" Nought to speak of," she answered, her
"Ay, but you have," he said. "I was
reckoning to myself this arternoon twas a
poor day when I put the strap to yer."
" It hangs on the nail now," she exclaimed,
half to herself.
"Ay, and let it"
" I ve spoke my mind to the rest o em,
but you was alles my master, Joe," she said.
" There ain t no disputing I ve layed it into
ee at times," he answered, with a half smile.
" I ve slept the easier for it. I ve known
your mind when maybe I shud niver have
known my own."
LIFE IS LIFE 103
"Well, well," he exclaimed, "they days be
She turned away, and taking up the loaf
began cutting the bread. "I ve nought but
a bit o dripping for ee to-day," she said ;
" they ain t paid me for the washing yet along,
and I was niver no friend to debt."
" You re right there, mother," he answered ;
" and I likes a bit o dripping turn about."
" There have bin times when us cudn t git
either," she said.
" Yes," he replied, smiling across at her
" us have bin fo ced to fare scanty now and
agin ; but ther, hard times haven t hurt us."
" You was alles a well-plucked un, Joe,"
" Us fared and fared alike, mother, and I
reckon, God willing, us ull do it till the
" Ay, God willing," she said, and her voice
" Wot s come to ee, mother ? "
" Joe, Joe," she answered, putting her arms
around his neck, " God ain t willing. "Tis
just that; tis just that."
" Wot makes ee take on so ? " he asked
104 LIFE IS LIFE
anxiously. " Yer ain t kept it from me that
you re ill?"
She drew him close to her. " Oh, Joe ! "
she exclaimed, " tis yerself that is sicker
than you reckon."
He did not answer, but putting up his
hand stroked her faded hair : the tears coursed
down her red freckled face, God wot she was
ugly enough; but she had a heart to love
with, and what greater gift has He given to
man or woman yet? what greater, though
the symbol be a crown of Thorns, a Cross, and
the steep steps of Calvary ?
" Ay, mother," he exclaimed at last, " ain t
us alles said as how life was life ? "
" Life s life," she answered ; " but oh, Joe,
lad, tis hard to live it."
The grisly disease that had attacked the
blind man pursued its course with startling
rapidity ; and, favoured by the climate, drove
its victim along the road to death at a right
merry pace, so that he had reached his des
tination before he had half realised the direc.
LIFE IS LIFE 105
tion in which he had been hurried. Joe dead,
his former customers found a passable make
shift in Humphrey ; they grumbled, paid less,
but gave him plenty of employment. This
was all that he needed from them, caring
little for their grumbling, for his thoughts
were full of other matters. Seated on the
broken doorstep, repairing the ribs of some
neighbour s broken gingham, his heart would
swell with homesickness, and a terrible long
ing for the people he had known and loved in
childhood take possession of him. Then the
umbrella would drop from his hand, and his
blind eyes fill with visions of his English
home; the crude street noises around him
would hush themselves, and the lop-lop of the
river, as it humped its way over brown peb
bles, become audible : he watched it wind
through the Thursby meadows where the big
elms lolled and sunned themselves, past the
gorse-covered hills, and the shuffling woods in
their spring coat of beech-green. He saw again
the long green alleys of the Chase, played in
its old- wo rid gardens, where old -world flowers
dozed with drooping heads as if dog-tired of
blooming. Watching, the boy s heart would
106 LIFE IS LIFE
swell with homesickness, and lie would creep
up-stairs to the little attic, fling himself upon
the bed, and sob like the fool that he was.
The woman marked the traces of tears on his
face, but made no comment; and the days
crept on, each much as the other. Humphrey
had bought a small book of Devonshire sto
ries, and when the evenings came and the
woman had put away her work, she would sit
upright in the wooden arm-chair and read to
him from the pages of the book, monotonously
and with much labour, and he would sit on
the floor at her feet, his head resting against
her knee. She never commented on the stories.
They were descriptive of rustic life in Devon
shire, and one day Humphrey asked for her
opinion of them.
" The book has a fine cover of its own," she
said ; " but there, I reckoned when you laid
out your money on such things you wud have
liked to walk in higher life. I ain t come
across no dook, though I ve read each page
" Why a duke, mother ? "
" There ain t nothing scanty about a dook,"
she answered. " Set him where you will, he
LIFE IS LIFE 107
makes the page look full. I ve alles held it a
queer thing that, thinking of dooks as I do,
the Almighty has never seen fit to throw us
together; but ther, that s life all over, the
man as admires ee most is fate sure to miss
ee by the turn of a street."
Into Humphrey s face there came a mingled
expression of amused, delighted affection. He
rose from his chair and put his arms round
the old woman.
" You are worth all the dukes and duch
esses put together," he said. " If ever I
could write a book, it would be about
" Oh, you re a soft-tongued one, you are,"
she answered, smiling. He lifted her crinkled
red hand and put it tenderly to his lips.
"Mother," he said, "you suspect flattery
" Bless the boy," she exclaimed, " you ve
tored the pocket o your coat most clean out,
so jest you take it off and I ll put a stitch in
it at once. "Why," she continued a moment
later, " if you ain t got three letters from the
Old Country in yer pocket, and niver so much
as broke the seal o one o them ! "
108 LIFE IS LIFE
Humphrey flushed heavily, but made no
"Lad, "said the old woman, in a serious
voice, " I much misdoubt if you have acted
fair to them that loves yer."
" I couldn t read the letters myself, and I
couldn t endure the thought of an outsider
reading them," protested Humphrey.
She shook her head. "You larn hard,
lad," she said.
" Mother, you read them," he answered at
Searching in her work-basket, she found
a second pair of spectacles ; she cleaned the
glasses carefully, stopping from time to time
to glance at the boy s face.
" I was niver no f athomer o handwriting,"
He knelt down in front of her, and took
her hands in his trembling ones.
" Love me a little first," he pleaded.
Parting the hair on his forehead, she stooped
and kissed him. " You re a terrible chile for
liking to be mothered," she answered, smiling.
" I reckon you laid fine and easy as a baby."
" I never told you anything about my life
LIFE IS LIFE 109
before we met," lie said ; " and you have been
very good in not asking."
" I was niver no friend o questions," she
He was silent a while, and buried his face
in her lap, she rubbing her hand softly
through his hair. " I was educated by a
gentleman under the impression that I was
his grandson," he exclaimed at last, and
" Ah ! " she said, " I alles knowed you was
a gintleman from the first."
" Why, mother," he answered, lifting up
his head and smiling at her, " that is hardly
a compliment, you remember you thought
I had just been released from jail."
" I was niver no friend to spoiling at
sight," she said.
"Well, as things turned out," Humphrey
continued, " instead of being his son s child,
I proved to be the child of " he stopped
a second time, sinking his face in her lap.
She stroked his hair.
" Best leave the story alone, lad," she
said ; " there ain t no call for nothing so
110 LIFE IS LIFE
" Ah, it is simple enough," replied Hum
phrey, simulating ease. " Instead of being
the son of the man every one supposed, I
turned out to be the son of his servant."
" Ah ! " exclaimed the woman, " that s life
" I was a coward," Humphrey continued
bitterly ; " I wouldn t face things out. I
realised after a fashion that Atter s story
was true, but I wouldn t face it. I had just
" How did that come on you, lad ? " the
" An accident," said Humphrey, turning
" Poor lad, poor lad."
" Well, I wouldn t face things," Humphrey
repeated. " I had only one idea, and that
was to get away from the man Atter, my
father, you understand; then he was ar
rested for manslaughter, and I was free.
At Bourke the doctors told me that my
blindness would be permanent, but I didn t
believe them, and went on to Sydney ; the
doctors there said the same thing, but I
couldn t take it in somehow, and I tried the
LIFE IS LIFE 111
Melbourne and Adelaide oculists, and their
opinion coincided with the others. A big
boom was on in Broken Hills when I reached
Adelaide; every other man one met had
turned stockbroker, and to get away from
the misery of things I began speculating.
Just then my grandfather you understand
whom I mean wired me out some money
five thousand pounds. Of course he was still
under the impression that I was his grandson.
I hadn t told him ; I hadn t faced things out.
I knew I hadn t any right to the money, but
I took it. I felt a Thursby somehow ; it
sounds foolish to say so, but I felt a Thursby ;
I felt a Thursby every bit of me. Well I
speculated with the money and lost it."
He stopped abruptly and sank his face in
the woman s lap.
" Poor lad," she said, stroking his hair,
" poor lad."
" It s a shabby story, eh, mother ? " he ex
" Poor lad," repeated the old woman, " poor
lad, and you such a gintleman in spite of it ;
but there, the Almighty knows who can stand
a dressing and who can t."
112 LIFE IS LIFE
" I wrote to my grandfather, I mean you
understand and owned up, and these letters
are in answer to mine."
" They ll be comfortsome, no doubt," said
" If only I had acted straight, had faced it
from the first, if only I hadn t taken the
But it was contrary to the woman s nature
to see faults in those she loved when the hand
of fate was heavy upon them.
" I was niver no friend to over remorse,"
she said, " and now twud be as well to read
There was silence in the small kitchen
while the woman held each letter in turn
up to the lamp, and laboriously re-read the
" I ll take em according to date," she re
marked at last, opening carefully one of the
envelopes, and as carefully extracting the en
closed letter. " Bless us ! " she exclaimed, as
she smoothed the first page out on the table,
" but tis fine and controlled, not more than
three lines from the first word to the last. I
might have written it myself."
LIFE IS LIFE 113
"Then it s from my grandfather," said
Humphrey ; " he detests letter- writing."
" Tis a fine eddicated hand," exclaimed
the old woman admiringly " twud most
take a gintleman himself to read it; but
there, the address is printed on top o the
"Oh, don t bother about the address,"
said Humphrey, consumed with impatience.
" How does it begin ? "
" My dear boy, " she read, and stopped ;
he leant his head back against her knee and
smiled, he could almost hear the Squire
" Well ! " he exclaimed, and she recom
" Did I not always tell you you were a
young fool ? " she read slowly, and stopped
" Ah ! " she interpolated, " a gintleman will
have his jokes."
" Go on," commanded the boy, and she
read the letter steadily on to the end.
" Come home at once, and give me the
pleasure of telling you so in person. En-
114 LIFE IS LIFE
closed find a draft for a hundred pounds.
Yours affectionately, JOHN THUKSBY. :
" There," exclaimed the woman, with genu
ine admiration, " there ain t no mistaking a
gintleman when you meet him." But Hum
phrey was fighting with a lump in his throat,
and made no answer. She folded the letter
and draft carefully together, and laid them
on the little table. " Just as I ve said many
a time," she continued, running her fingers
through the boy s hair with a slow mechani
cal movement, "the fewer the words, the
fuller the sense ; that s what comes o bein
eddicated. Eddication, mark me, is the
shortest way there ; not that I hold wi
things as they are nowadays, when every frog
busts hisself out trying to be took for a bull :
there s more in eddication than book-larning,
whativer the State may say to the contrary.
But there, I ain t no speshil friend to the
State, as I ve said to Joe many a time, the
State is taking a deal more on itself than be
comes it ; twas all very well in the old days,
when it was content wi the making o roads
and suchlike, but when it takes into its head
LIFE IS LIFE 115
that the pudding in my pot is the same size
as my neighbour s, I thank it to let well
alone. It wasn t long after Joe was took ill
that I heard that radical jumbuck William
Harness a-telling him, Us ain t got no
masters now, says he, the State is master
now. An a poor exchange, I sed ; if I
am to have a master, let him be o flesh and
blood the same as meself. i Women ain t
got no right understanding in such matters/
ses he. No, nor men either, if the laws be
a token, ses I ; why, if I had my will, I d
disinf ranchify the whole lot o ye ! t You re
jealous cos you ain t got no vote yirself,
Missus, ses he. Women have their dues
the same as the rest, sed I, i tho maybe
their first right should be to stand aside
and hold their tongue. I m with ee there,
Missus, ses he. Well, well," she added,
folding up her spectacles, and putting them
in the work-basket, " if ther wasn t no laws,
ther ud be a sight more unemployed : wot
wi the making o em and setting o ein in
acting they gives a deal o amusement to the
men ; and, bless ee, a man likes his bit o
play the same as a chile. Many s the time
116 LIFE IS LIFE
I ve said to Joe, i Take a man to pieces and
you ll find he s a chile at heart. " Humphrey
smiled, and gained possession of one of her
" When will you be thinking of going back
along home ? " she asked.
His face contracted. " There are lots of
reasons why I can t go, mother," he said.
"Don t you see I ve failed in everything."
" You re wonderful frivolous at times, lad,"
she answered. " And as to failing, ther s two
kinds of failing, I reckon: the failing to do
what us have marked out for ourselves, and
the failing to do what the Almighty has laid
clown for us ; many s the time in missing the
first us follers the last, unconscious."
" I like my own programme best, notwith
standing," replied Humphrey.
"Ah, may be," she answered. "I ain t niver
yet found the pusson who took to life as tis."
" Mother," he said, after a long silence, " if
I went home, would you come with me ? "
" Faith, no, lad," she answered, " I ve given
up wearying for the Old Country ; after all,
it ain t the place but the people that makes
LIFE IS LIFE 117
"But you haven t many friends here, have
you ? " he asked gently.
" I wasn t a-talking o the push, 1 lad ; twas
Joe I was reckoning on."
" You would be so lonely if I left you,
even for a time."
The woman looked down on his upturned
face, her dim eyes dimmer with tears.
" I won t deny it s pleasant for me to see
you about," she said, "but I shan t miss ee
the same as you think. I niver wanted no
other company than Joe s since the first day
he corned courting, and us 7 ull kind o pine
one for t other till the same sod covers us
Humphrey put his arms round her. "I
couldn t leave you, mother, I love you so,"
" Nay, nay, lad," she answered indignantly,
" there s the right and the wrong o things,
and you ve bin hungering after your own
folk this long while."
He did not answer.
She stooped and retied his neckerchief.
" I d liefer that you went," she said.
The crowd, outsiders.
118 LIFE IS LIFE
" Ay, true ; you re a troublesome chile, and
need a deal o washing and mending. Why,
twas only this morning that you put on a
clean shirt, and as sure as fate you ll be
hunting for another to-morrow."
" I ve been a terrible trouble to you."
" You ain t spared me, and I m getting up
along in years."
" Mother, mother, what a thoughtless brute
I ve been ! "
" Well, go right along home then ; outsid
ers will do your washing," her face contract
ing as she spoke. "I much misdoubt,
though," she added, " if they ll have the
same feel for starch."
He put up his hands and felt her face.
" Mother," he said, " you re crying ! "
"None such thing," she replied indig
" If I go home, I shall come back again to
you I shall, I swear it."
"Now jest you leave swearing alone; I
ain t no friend to rash promises."
" I don t believe you care for me after all,"
he said, in a hurt voice.
LIFE IS LIFE 119
" You are terrible much a chile, lad," she
answered, bending and kissing him.
" If I leave you, tell me something better
than 4 life s life, " he said, drawing her face
close to his own.
" Ah, lad," she answered, " when a thing is,
what does us gain by saying it isn t ? "
"But it s a dreary philosophy," he pro
" What do the ills of life matter if us faces
em courageous ? " she answered ; but her old,
tired voice trembled, for of life and life s ills
she was somewhat weary.
Again he drew her face down towards his
"Mother," he asked, "did you say life s
life when first you knew Joe loved you ? "
" Ay, on my knees I said it."
" God bless you for having lived ! " cried
"Oh, lad, lad," she answered, "I was
never for denying the Almighty was the
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
THE FAILUEE OF FLIPPERTY
THE great Australian liner steamed west,
and Port Melbourne lay a bluer streak
on a blue horizon. Passengers were grouped
about the deck ; and at the stern of the vessel,
hidden from the others by a cabin, stood two
children, boys. It was evident that they now
met for the first time : they looked at one
another with shy hesitant interest; both
wanted to be friends ; each wished the other
to make the first advance. In appearance
they were strangely unlike : the one was
short, broad, with red hair and ears agape ;
the other, who looked about eleven, was
slim, his face small and finely drawn, with
a straight, determined little nose, the brow
and eyes giving an impression of width and
The red-headed boy edged nearer. " My
124 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
name is Buster," he said, with affected in
difference ; " what s yours ? "
" Flipperty," the other answered, " an I ve
got an anchor and two cricket-bats tattooed
on my left arm ; what have you got \ "
Buster s arm did not happen to be tattooed,
so he changed the conversation. " Compare
muscles," he said.
Flipperty bent a little thin arm back to
his shoulder with a great deal of action.
" Putty," commented Buster ; " feel mine."
" You are hard," his companion admitted.
" Practised in the gym every day ; did you
have a good gym in your school ? "
" I never went to school," Flipperty an
swered, looking ashamed ; but brightening,
" Philip did : Philip s splendid, why, he
could throw a cricket-ball farther than any
fellow in the college. I m good at the long
"Who s Philip?"
" My brother ; he is at the Teetulpa gold-
fields ; I m going to help him to dig for
" You dig for gold ! " Buster interrupted
with scorn ; " why, you look as if you had
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 125
sat on a high chair all your life and fed the
poor out of a long spoon."
" Well, I just didn t, so there."
" Now, upon your solemn Dick, did you
never in all your life give a thing to the poor? "
"Only once, so there," he answered, de
" What did you give them ? "
" Shan t say."
" You re afraid."
" I m not."
" Well, say."
The blood rushed into Flipperty s face and
then receded, leaving it quite white. " It
was a flannel petticoat," he answered.
" Cracky, do you wear flannel petticoats ? "
Buster exclaimed, too astonished for further
comment. After a moment he added, " I
always thought there was something odd
about the look of you ; I ll tell my brother,
won t he laugh ! "
Flipperty caught Buster by the arm and
drew him nearer. " Will you keep a secret
if I tell you something ? " he whispered.
126 THE FAILUHE OF FLIPPERTY
" Fire away ; don t take your tongue for
a sugar-plum and swallow it."
" Solemn Dick"
" Well, then, I m a girl."
" Do you think it very wrong ? "
"What, to be a girl?"
" No ; to pretend to be a boy ? "
"The police will nab you as sure as an
"Philip won t let them; I m not afraid."
" They will dress you in yellow and black
like a wasp, and paint you all over arrows
solemn Dick. I ve seen pictures of thieves
in a book."
" I m not a thief," indignantly.
" What are you, then ? "
"I m just a girl, who hates being a girl
because girls are stupid cooped-up things ; so
I ran away from home, and now I m a boy,
and I will never be a girl again ; so there."
" You a boy ! why, you haven t any more
muscle than a cat."
THE FAILUKE OF FLIPPEKTY 127
Flipperty appeared not to liear this com
" Philip," she said, " is six feet high ; I
shall grow like him some day."
" Pooh," Buster answered, contemptuously,
" you ll never reach four feet on tiptoe ;
you re small all over, I daresay you re de
Flipperty changed the conversation.
" Philip," she said, " can bowl first - rate
" Does he know you re coming ? " Buster
"Yes; I wrote and told him."
" Supposing he doesn t get the letter ? "
A curious scared expression crossed Flip-
perty s face. " He will get the letter," she
" Supposing he doesn t ? "
" I shan t suppose anything of the kind,
u Letters like that always go wrong,"
Buster declared with emphasis.
Flipperty s eyes filled with angry tears.
" I hate you," she said, passionately, " you
red-headed, mean-minded, supposing thing."
128 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
Her vehemence seemed to surprise Buster.
He looked at her a moment in silence, then
he took a large red apple from his pocket.
" You may have two bites," he said, " as
large as you can make them."
A big tear splashed down over Flipperty s
face on to the deck. She covered the spot
with her foot impatiently.
"The apple is very red," Buster remarked.
" Bite just there," he added, indicating the
desired spot with a short dirty finger.
Flipperty took a small sobby bite.
" You may eat half," Buster said, " if you
promise solemn Dick not to go over your side
of the core. Come into my cabin and I ll
show you things," he continued, after a pause.
" There," he said, a few minutes later, tak
ing an old pistol from his trunk, " what do
you think of that ? it s real. I expect it
has killed heaps of people ; blew their brains
out on the floor burglars, you know."
" Will it fire off? " she asked.
" No," he replied sadly, " it s broken ; but
you can pull the trigger. I tell you what,"
he added, drawing in his breath, " supposing
I lend it to you only supposing, you know."
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 129
" Buster, how good you are ! but I don t
think I shall need it."
His face brightened ; he continued to press
the pistol on her.
" You will be glad of it," he said, " even if
it doesn t go off sleeping at night with a
nugget under your head and murder all
around. Why, Flipperty, I daresay you will
have to kill a man yourself."
"No," she answered with decision; "I
shall let him off. But come and look at the
sea, and think of sharks."
"Yes," said Buster. "I wish some one
would tumble in, don t you? only a baby,
you know, or the boatswain the cross one
with the swivel eye."
" We d save them," cried Flipperty, flush
ing ; " and nearly get drowned ourselves, and
the boatswain would entreat us to ask ques
tions ever afterwards."
"Yes," chimed Buster; "and the captain
would let us steer the ship, and beg us to eat
more at dessert."
Then they both relapsed into silence, and
watched the foam flung back by the churning
of the gigantic screw.
130 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPEETY
" Flipperty," said Buster, breaking the
silence, " you mustn t cry when we say good
bye to-morrow, or kiss or anything."
She did not answer.
"Promise, solemn Dick," he said.
" I never, never cry, so there," she an
swered, with an impatient little stamp of
her foot ; " and, Buster, if you will tell me
something very manly, I ll say it."
" Well," he replied, after a pause, " you d
better say Sola. "
" It sounds rather empty," she objected.
" That s being a man," he answered.
But Flipperty did not look comforted.
" It will be very nice seeing Philip to-mor
row," she said. " No one in the whole, whole
world is as good as Philip."
" If he doesn t come will you go to Tee-
tulpa to find him ? " Buster asked.
" Yes," she answered.
" You ll lose yourself, as sure as an
" No," she said with decision ; " I shall
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 131
" Supposing your people find you and drag
you home ? "
" IVe only a stepfather, and he thinks I m
with a horrid smooth-haired girl, who likes
sewing and two-and-two walks at school."
" It will cost heaps and heaps to get to
" I know," she answered. " IVe saved all
my pennies ever since Philip went away, and
my uncle gave me ten pounds on my birth
day to buy a pony, and Philip gave me a
whole sovereign when he said good-bye."
" I wonder what Philip will say when he
sees you ? "
Her eyes filled with tears. " He will say,
1 Flipperty, it w r ould have been braver to
have stayed at home. I knew that all along.
I tried and tried, because I did want to oe
brave and grow like Philip, only somehow I
never can be brave when he s not there.
Philip is quite different from you and me.
He doesn t think much of big grand deeds,
like the Crusades and that; he says that
small, dull, stay-at-horne things are harder
to do, and ever, ever so much nobler. Why,
he even thinks learning to sew noble if you
132 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
don t like it : of course it isn t noble for the
But Buster was not interested. " Let us
steal dessert from the steward," he said.
Early the next morning the steamer an
chored opposite Glenelg, and the children
watched the approaching tender that was to
bring Philip but he was not on board her.
" Philip hasn t come," Flipperty exclaimed.
" No more he has," echoed Buster ; " but
perhaps he s found a nugget and is afraid to
"Yes," she answered sadly; "that must
The tender bell rang, and the passengers
who wished to go on shore scrambled down
the long companion-ladder.
" You must go now," Buster said.
The tears rushed to her eyes, and she
clung to his arm.
" Don t cry," he said. " See," and he pro
duced a large nobby green apple from his
pocket ; " how much do you bet that I can t
get this apple into my mouth at one go ? "
She was put into the tender : looking up
at the great vessel to say good-bye to Buster,
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPEKTiT 133
the "So-la" died on her lips. The boy s
face was a dull purple hue, his mouth wide
open, and tightly wedged inside was the
nobby apple : a compassionate passenger
led him away, and Flipperty saw Buster
THE Teetulpa express steamed out of the
Adelaide station : in the corner of one of
the carriages sat Flipperty. The other
passengers were men : they took the cush
ions off the seats, improvised a table, and be
gan playing cards. Gradually the carriage
filled with smoke, and Flipperty fell asleep.
Every now and again the train would stop
at a station, a passenger scramble across her
toes, and she would wake and stare drearily
out through the smoke-blurred windows.
Early the next morning the train reached
the terminus : some roughly-built coaches
on great leather springs stood outside the
station, waiting to take the passengers to
the gold-fields. Flipperty climbed on the
box of one of the coaches : the other pas
sengers crowded on anywhere some sat on
the roof with their legs dangling over the
side. They were a curious mixture of types
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 135
swagmen, shop-boys, gentlemen, larrikins,
and the bond-fide digger. They smoked,
swore, spat spat, swore, smoked.
The coach rolled heavily over the great red
sand plain a plain that stretches its weary
length through hundreds of miles of Central
Australia. Here and there were patches of
blue or salt bush, and a line of bare-breasted
gum-trees marked the course of the creek, but
of water there was none : the bones of dead
bullocks gaped wide against the plain, or an
appalling stench and a flock of crows marked
the spot where some animal had lately died of
thirst and over-work.
A man sitting next to Flipperty eyed her
curiously. He was spare, lean, long-legged,
and dressed in a flannel shirt and old pair of
moleskins, with a short, black, clay pipe stuck
in the band of his wide-brimmed hat.
" Only got to pinch his nose for the milk to
run out," he said, turning to his companions.
A roar of laughter greeted this sally.
" Was born on the way up," exclaimed a
loose-lipped, red-eyed larrikin. " How old
may yer be, you blanked little new chum?"
lie added, turning to Flipperty.
136 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPEKTY
" Eleven," she answered.
" Why, the damned little pup is out on the
spree," said the long-legged digger, laughing.
" Well, I ran away from home myself when I
wasn t much higher than a big-sized cigar : a
boy ain t the worse for a bit of spunk. What
are you going to do when you reach Teetulpa,
" Philip and I are going to dig for gold,"
she replied. "Philip is my brother; he s
very big bigger than you. Buster thinks
that Philip has found a nugget already;
that s why he didn t meet me. You see he
would have to defend the nugget."
There was another roar of laughter, and
Flipperty blushed painfully.
" Nuggets ain t so easy found, youngster,"
the long-legged digger answered. " Fever
terrible bad at the diggin s, I hear," he said,
turning to his companions. " See a man alive
and hearty one morning ; the next week yer
go into his tent, and there he is lying with his
face as black as my hat."
"Why black? " Flipperty asked.
" Flies," he answered, shortly.
At this moment the conductor came round
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 137
to collect the fares; tlie red-eyed larrikin
declared that " he hadn t a blanked cent."
But the conductor, who was a muscular
young fellow, had his own especial way of
treating impecunious passengers.
" Slack a bit, Bill," he called to the driver.
The horses fell into a slower trot; there
was a short struggle, a volley of oaths, and
the red-eyed larrikin was dropped off the roof
of the coach on to the sand, where he lay
swearing so fearfully that the wonder was
that he held together. After this episode the
other passengers paid their fares.
On they jogged over the great plain. Flip-
perty fell asleep, and the long-legged digger
put his arm around her to prevent her from
slipping off the seat.
" Poor little pup," he said, looking down
on her tired face " poor damned little pup."
The sun was sinking west when some one
called out " Teetulpa ! "
Flipperty saw rows and rows of dirty ob
long tents, intersected by half -dug claims. A
thick yellow mist hung above the diggings ;
in some places it seemed to sag down till it
almost rested on the tents.
138 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
The driver drew up at the store.
" Well, boys, what noos ? " he cried to a
group of men, who gathered round.
" Gold found at Kidd s gully," one of the
bystanders answered. " A nine-ounce nug
get ; but, darn yer eyes, they stick such lies
inter yer that it may be devil s bunkum for
all I know."
The long-legged digger turned to Flip-
perty. " Come inter the store," he said ;
" we ll see if we can t fix that brother of
The store was a roughly constructed
wooden shed with a corrugated iron roof;
the interior was divided by a canvas parti
tion running half-way to the roof. The room
that they now entered was full of men, some
playing cards, others leaning up against the
walls, smoking and drinking.
" What name does your brother hang out
by?" the digger asked.
"Philip," Flipperty answered, "Philip
" Have any of you chaps seen a cove called
Deene lately ? " he inquired, turning to a
group of men standing at the bar.
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 139
"Wot s the bally beggar like?" one of
" He s very tall," Flipperty answered,
" with blue eyes and hair all over curls."
" Ain t clapped eyes on the damned doll,"
he said, with a coarse laugh.
"There s a long-legged chap called Deene
down with the fever," one of the card-players
exclaimed, looking round.
"Where does he hang out?" asked the
friendly digger, with a quick glance at Flip
" Foller the creek down past they big gums,
and his canvas is the last on the left bank."
The long-legged digger turned and went
out of the store, followed by Flipperty. She
put her small hand into his rough one, and
the man s great fingers, scored with purple
scars from the barcoo rot, closed over them.
They reached the tent indicated, the digger
pushed aside the canvas flap, and Flipperty
entered. Lying on some tattered blankets,
with parched lips, burning skin, and eyes
that failed to recognise her, was Philip.
The child rushed forward. "Philip!
Philip ! " she cried, flinging herself down
140 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
beside him, " it s Flipperty, your little Flip-
perty. I couldn t wait, Philip, I couldn t
But he did not answer her.
"Philip, Philip," she sobbed, "Philip,
The sick man pushed her from him and
sprang to his feet.
" I shall be too late," he cried ; " O God !
I shall be too late." Then he fell forward
on his face, unconscious.
The long-legged digger raised him gently
and laid him back on the rough bed.
" The poor beggar is half dead with fever,"
he exclaimed. "You stay here, little un,"
he added, turning to Flipperty, " and I ll see
if I can t lay hands on the bally doctor.
Great God Almighty, how hot it is ! I won
der if I can t fix the flap of the tent back
The sound of revolver shots echoed through
" There s some of those drunken devils fir
ing away at each other," he said ; " a bullet
through the heart of a good round dozen of
em wouldn t do the credit of the camp any
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 141
harm. Well, keep your pecker up, little un.
I ll prospect round for the doctor ; half the
camp is down with the fever, they say. I
reckon I shall have the devil s own work to
Then he went out, leaving Flipperty alone
with Philip. She lay down beside him, placed
her cheek against his cheek, and her small,
thin arms clasped his broad shoulders. The
sun sank and swept the long shadows into
one uniform grey-black mass ; then the moon
rose, and its soft light stole across the great
plain, making the blue bush look quite soft :
it fell, too, on the brother and sister. The
hours crept by, but the long-legged digger
did not return, nor did Philip wake. The
grey light of dawn shivered in the east, and
Flipperty realised that Philip had grown
strangely cold : she drew the blanket close,
and pressed her own little form nearer to
him. Then day broke, and as the great plain
reddened beneath the sun a vast crowd of
flies rose from the ground and entered the
Flipperty gave a shriek of agony : myriads
had settled on Philip s face.
142 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
Long she knelt and fought an ever-losing
battle with the insects : then the doctor en
tered the tent.
" My poor lad," he said, " your brother is
" The flies," she cried, " the flies are eating
The doctor took off his coat and spread it
over the dead man s face.
"They cannot touch him now," he said.
"Come outside with me, and we will get
some gum-tree boughs to put over him."
"No," she said, "I will stay with Philip."
The doctor went out, and returned in a
few moments, his arms full of eucalyptus
branches: he crossed the dead man s arms
upon his breast, and covered him with the
gum-tree boughs. Then he turned to Flip-
perty, and taking a flask out of his pocket,
poured some brandy into a cup.
" Drink this," he said.
She drank obediently.
" You must tell me where to find your
people," he asked, kindly.
But she stood staring down at Philip, and
did not answer him.
THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 143
"Poor little chap," the doctor exclaimed
softly, turning away. " You must come with
me now, like a brave boy," he added.
" No," she answered, " I will stay with
"My poor little fellow, you can do him
" Go away, go away," she cried, passion
ately ; "I want to be with Philip."
Pie went out : later in the afternoon he
returned, and with him were two men bear
ing a rough coffin ; one of the men was the
long-legged digger. There was a look of
shame in his face, and he bent down over
Flipperty. She was lying with her arms
clasped round her brother.
" God strike me for a damned hound,"
he said, " but I got drunk and forgot
Philip s body was placed in the coffin ; it
had been made out of old packing-cases
" five prize medals " was painted in big black
letters across the side. The lid was nailed
down, and they carried the coffin outside the
camp to where a rough grave had been dug
beneath a great gum-tree. The doctor took
144 THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY
a prayer-book out of his pocket, but the
burial-service had been torn out.
He began quoting from memory, " < And
they shall rest from their labours.
" A damned good thing, too," said the
" Fill up the grave, men, it s too horrible,"
the doctor exclaimed.
The men fell to work : soon the grave was
filled in. Flipperty flung herself down on
the spot beneath which Philip lay buried.
" Best leave him alone a bit, lads," the
doctor said, in a voice that choked strangely.
Then they left her.
Later the long-legged digger returned ;
with him was another man. Raising Flip
perty in his arms, he held her out towards
" Her be yer pup, ain t her ? " he asked.
" I m her stepfather."
" Wall," said the long-legged digger,
slowly, " her s sleeping now ; maybe her ll
wake soon enough," and he turned on his
heel and left them.
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
ITvEEP in the Australian Alps is the little
U town of Omeo. The hills around are
scored with worked-out and long-forsaken
gold-mines ; here and there the thud of the
pick may still be heard issuing from some
deep shaft ; but most of the claims are de
serted, and the men who worked them swept
away towards other adventures, or lying quiet
and ambitionless under the Gippsland sod.
Far up the mountain, where the sarsapa-
rilla hangs from the gum-trees its ragged
flame of blue, is a deserted mine ; great heaps
of yellow mullock line the shaft s mouth;
above, the windlass rots out its broken exist
ence ; and farther in the shadow an uneven
mound, a broad crack, a post with a piece of
tin and the name " Battista " scrawled upon
it, mark a grave.
One of the early rushes had brought Bat
tista to Australia, and drifted him to the
148 THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
little mining camp among the Gippsland hills.
The men had laughed at his high-pointed hat
with its flapping curves, and at his blue-and-
gold image of the Madonna ; but Battista had
wandered under the gum-trees, and paid scant
heed to them. Sometimes he had stooped to
pick up a piece of quartz and rub it absently
on his sleeve ; and when the evening came he
had taken up his shepherd s pipe and sounded
once more the airs he had played in the far-
At dawn, as Battista stood and watched the
sun flame up in the east, and fall in a broad
yellow stream upon the Madonna s image, the
thought came to him that there where the ray
fell he would dig for gold, and the idea com
forted him : it seemed as if the Blessed Virgin
herself had deigned to point out a way of
escape from this strange and homeless land.
Many days he worked : the yellow mullock-
heaps rose higher beside the rapidly deepen
ing shaft, when a long-limbed, brown-faced
American "jumped" his claim. Battista had
neglected to procure a licence.
At first he could not understand what had
happened : afterwards, when he realised, he
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL 149
took his broad keen-edged knife, and laying
it at the Madonna s feet, begged her to bless
it, and having crossed himself, turned away
and went down the mountain-side till he
reached the camp. He touched the American
on the arm and pointed to his knife ; the man
from the States laughed lightly ; then they
drew aside and fought together, and Battista s
foot slipped so that his enemy escaped him ;
but that evening the American sold the mine
to Termater Bill the storekeeper for three
long drinks and a new swag, going away to
try his luck elsewhere. As for Battista, he
returned once more to his claim at the foot of
the ragged-breasted gum-trees, and here it
was that Termater Bill found him.
" I ve jest cum," he said, sitting down on
a great heap of mullock, " to talk over that
blanky claim. I reckon myself there is gold
But Battista answered that, gold or no
gold, the mine was his, and he would kill
any one who tried to take it from him.
Termater Bill was silent for a while, and
spat meditatively down the narrow shaft.
At last he observed in an undertone
150 THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
" The boys says that jumpt-up busted blue
doll o yers brings luck."
Battista did not understand the allusion
to the Madonna, and made no reply.
Again there was a long silence: at last
Termater Bill rose and stretched himself.
" Spose," he exclaimed, " I was ter give yer
a fifteen years lease, wi a half share in the
profits, twud be a blanky sight better than
a poke in the eye with a burnt stick." But
Battista went on digging, and paid no heed
to him, till after a while the storekeeper went
Time passed by : the great mullock-heaps
grew higher, but Battista did not find gold.
Sometimes Termater Bill strolled up and
asked him if he had " struck that blanky lead
yet ? " Then Battista shook his head, but
added that he knew the gold was there, the
Blessed Madonna had said so. Termater Bill
spat down the long shaft and exclaimed, "That
ther jumpt-r.p busted blue doll gits me quite."
But when night fell and grotesque things
moved in and out among the shadows, and
the spirit of desolation crept through the
bush, then had come into Battista s heart a
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL 151
great weariness of waiting, and he had flung
himself down before the image of the Ma
donna and wept.
And the little blue-and-gold figure had
stared out into the gathering darkness with
its blank meaningless smile as vacant and as
indifferent as before.
It happened that in one of these moments
Terinater Bill had come to the hut, and Bat-
tista, realising that another person was pres
ent, sprang to his feet.
"There s gold in that claim," he cried
Termater Bill spat on the ground and said,
" Thet s so."
" I tell you there is gold in that claim,"
Battista re-echoed with rising anger.
And Termater Bill spat on the ground
once more and repeated, " Thet s so " ; then
had turned and gone down the mountain
towards the camp. "If it warn t for that
busted blue doll," he repeated to himself
" the jumpt-up busted thing.""
The next day he came again and sat down
on an old hide bucket in front of Battista s
hut. " I ve bin fixin things up a bit in my
152 THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
mind," he said ; " I reckon last night I was a
bit ski-wift. Now spose," he continued, tak
ing off his hat and placing it before him on
the ground, "that thar at is the Brown
Snake Mine ; wall, us knows their main lead
runs purty slick to the nor -east; say yer put
in a drive by that tarnation bit o grass
bush," and he spat neatly into the centre of
the spot indicated, "wot s ter prevent yer
dropping on gold ? "
Battista s lips relaxed into a smile. Ter-
mater Bill rubbed the sleeve of his shirt
across his rough red face, glancing as he did
so at his companion.
" Luck is a thundering quare consarn," he
exclaimed, after a pause ; " I niver bottomed
it myself : if yer don t git it, it gits yer, an 7
I reckon the darned thing is the smartest wi
He took his pipe out of his mouth and
pressed his horny thumb down on the red-hot
" I wudn t lay too much on that jumpt-up
blue doll, if I was yer," he said.
Battista smiled. "You don t understand,"
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL 153
And Termater Bill spat on the ground.
" Eh, thet s so," he said, " thet s so."
There was a pause.
" But," began Termater Bill.
" Well ? " said the Italian.
" Tis the tarnation grin on the thing that
gits me," the storekeeper burst out, "jest as
if her was kinder larfin at yer ; her ain t no
rnug that busted doll, I ll lay to that."
Battista frowned. "You don t under
stand," he reiterated.
Again Termater Bill spat on the ground.
"Eh, thet s so," he said, "thet s so."
A few weeks later a big bush-fire swept
across the hills, and the storekeeper had
enough to do without troubling himself
about the mine ; but when a sudden change
of wind sent the fire raging and tearing
through the Fainting Ranges and away in
the direction of Mount Hopeless, he retraced
his steps over the blackened ground till he
reached Battista s hut. It was empty : close
by the hide rope dangled from the windlass ;
the woods were silent except for the crashing
of some half -charred tree as it toppled over
and fell with a great splutter of cinders and
154 THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
wide swirling clouds of soft grey ashes ; and
stretched face downwards, near the shaft s
mouth, the Italian lay dead. Ter mater Bill
turned the body over.
" Pegged out," he said softly " the blanky
cuss has pegged out." Then he turned to the
door of the hut and stopped short. " No," he
exclaimed, " I reckon I won t : I reckon I
cudn t stummick thet God s cuss o a grin
That afternoon they dug Battista s grave
beside his claim, a crowd of idle diggers and
dogs looked on. One man, an old fossicker,
who was recovering from an attack of the
jim-jams (delirium tremens), and whose ideas
were still rather hazy, expressed a desire to
fight the corpse.
" Git up," he said, " an I will wrastle wi
yer ; git up, yer blanked-out son o 7 a working
bullock, an I will fight yer for a note."
But the dead man lay still and paid no
heed to him.
Terniater Bill said he reckoned the com
pany wud low him to say a few words.
The company lowed him.
Some of the men sat down on the mullock-
THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL 155
heaps and began to fill their pipes ; others
stood about ; and one, a jackeroo, 1 took off
his hat and then rather sheepishly put it on
Terniater Bill cleared his throat and spat
into the open grave. " Life," he said, " was a
jumpt-up quare thing : there wa 7 they who
bottomed payable dirt 2 fust go off, an thar
wa they who didn t." He was silent for a
moment, and rubbed his face with his sleeve.
" But," he continued, " maybe out thar," and
he pointed vaguely towards a patch of sunset
sky, " across the Divide, they finds colour." 8
He ceased speaking, and the men puffed away
at their pipes in silence : at last some one
suggested that it was time for the corpse to
" turn in."
They lowered the dead man into the grave,
there was no cofiin. His arms had stiffened
spread-eagle fashion, and he lay sideways
against the walls of the grave and looked as if
he were about to turn a wheel into eternity.
They shovelled back the earth rather gingerly,
lately arrived colonist.
2 Bottom payable dirt=ftud sufficient gold to pay working
3 Find cofowr=find gold.
156 THE BUSTED BLUE DOLL
avoiding the dead man s face ; but, after all,
it had to be covered the same as the rest.
When they had finished their task they
strolled ofE towards the camp, only Termater
Bill remaining behind. He went to Battista s
hut and peered through the half-shut door :
there in the corner the little blue-and-gold
image stared, smiling down inscrutable, in
different. Long the man gazed back on it ;
then with sudden determination he entered
the hut, and taking Battista s coat from a
bench, covered the small figure, then lifting it
in his arms, carried it out and flung it down
the deep shaft.
But under the gum-trees Battista lay still,
silent, satisfied. The years went on, the
bottom of the shaft filled with water, and the
mullock slipped back into it with a heavy
splash; the windlass rotted and grew green,
and some one stole the bucket and hide rope ;
far, far below in the valley the sweet-scented
wattle burst into tufted yellow balls, and the
blue mists lay on Onieo.
THE ENGLISH GIRL S CHRISTMAS
THE ENGLISH GIRL S CHRISTMAS
SHE had no particular reason for coming to
Dresden, unless it was that a friend had
once told her of two very old, very poor Ger
man ladies who kept a pension there, and who
were on bad terms with their pension because
it refused to keep them. The clock in the
Kreutz Kirche struck one as the droschlce
drew up in front of their door ; but the table
in the dining-room was not laid for lunch
she had come either too early or too late for
the meal. She took two rooms; there were
no other boarders.
It was Christmas week : snow lay on the
ground and Christmas day at the door ; there
was a general air of bustle and excitement
about the streets. The pension, however,
remained quiet enough, the two Frauleins
had not yet begun their Christmas prepara
tions. The rooms were cold, damp, musty,
Fraulein Kathe said that "when the fire
was lit, then ! Hein ! " she concluded, hold
ing up her hands, "we have this morning
run out of coals."
The English girl asked them to change a
hundred-mark note, to take the first week s
rent out of it she needed small money.
Soon a fire was spluttering in the tall china
stove; the two Frauleins buzzed about it
like bees : they had a half -scared, half -awed
look, they might almost have been fire-wor
A little later, Fraulein Marta, the younger
of the two sisters, went out to make some
purchases ; the English girl went with her.
The Alt Markt, Neu Markt, and each spare
Platz were massed with green fir-trees, all
shapes, sizes, and price. Fraulein Maria s
eyes glowed. " Every German," she said,
" rich or poor, has his tree at Christmas.
We " she stopped short. "We- -"
she stopped again "ah, possibly this year
we shall have one at our friend s." Depres
sion seemed to fall on her, but it was only
momentary. " Just look at those Stotten"
she exclaimed, flattening her small, round
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS 161
nose against a confectioner s window. " Stol-
len is our Christmas cake Marzipan !
Chocolade ! Du lieber Hirnrnel ! but there
is no time like Christmas. It heals the
heart through the eyes."
She stood a moment in front of a stall and
fingered some brilliant coloured stuffs lovingly
with her worn hands. " My sister," she said,
" would call such colours vulgar, but I love
the bright things. You," she continued, turn
ing to the girl, " you will have lots of Christ
mas presents, no doubt. Ach, what it is to
be young ! We we shall have many gifts,
too: Christmas is for the old and young alike."
The English girl expected no presents, but
she did not say so : she felt a little ashamed
of her friendless condition, and as the days
went on the feeling increased. She gathered
from the conversation of the two sisters that
they, on their part, were assured of being
almost overburdened with gifts.
But then, as they said, " Christmas is
Christmas, and one takes the little things and
one gives them in the same spirit."
The girl lay awake at night and counted
the people who might possibly send her a
162 THE ENGLISH GIRL^S
present ; she could only think of two, and the
more she thought about the matter, the
more certain she became that this year they
would neglect to do so. The moment came
when she would have telegraphed to them,
" For Heaven s sake send me a present "
but Christmas Eve had already arrived.
Reduced to despair, she determined at last
to buy herself a number of presents, and tell
the sisters that they had been given to her by
friends. She bought things that she needed,
pins, sealing-wax, string : then the thought
struck her that, should either Fraulein Kathe
or Marta ask to see the contents of such par
cels, they would certainly fail of being im
pressed. So she went out a second time and
tried to look at the shops with their eyes, and
buy things that they would think beautiful.
On her return she hid her purchases deep
down in her trunk. She was still on her knees
before the box when Fraulein Marta entered.
The girl blushed, shame-faced ; the Fraulein
seemed also a little discomposed.
" You will be dining to-morrow with friends,
no doubt," she said. " We also shall dine
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS 163
The English girl knew no one in Dresden.
" Oh ah yes, of course," she said, " I shall
be dining with friends several friends."
Fraulein Marta smiled down upon her :
" Frbliliclie Weihnackt, Merry Christmas,
as you say in your country."
" Merry Christmas," the girl repeated, with
a sob in her throat. " Dear old Christmas, I
love it don t you ? "
" Yes," answered the old woman, simply ;
" I have always loved it, even when
well, well " she stopped. u See," she
added, with a half shiver, " how thickly it
" Sit by the fire and tell me things," said
Fraulein Maria s face brightened : " My
sister knows so many more stories than I do.
Shall I call her ? "
Will you ? "
But when the two sisters sat before the
high white china stove the heat seemed to
make them drowsy, and they fell asleep.
Christmas day brought the girl a number
of letters and parcels which she had posted
over-night. She laid them in a conspicuous
164 THE ENGLISH GIKL ? S
place on the table, but the two Frauleins
seemed occupied with their own affairs, and
did not glance that way. The evening came ;
the candles on the Christmas trees were lit,
and round them children big and little
crowded with eyes and mouths wide open,
expectant. The English girl went out into
the streets, crossed the Biirgerwiese, and
entered the Grosser Garten. It had been
freezing hard, the ground clanged like metal
beneath her feet ; from time to time a branch
split off short from beneath its weight of
snow, and the air below the ice-bound ponds
growled heavily. Leaving the road for a
narrow foot-track, she pierced deeper into
the solitude. A great self-pity fell upon
her, she sobbed because every one in the
whole world was more happy than she : even
the two Frauleins had friends ; they were not
obliged to buy presents for themselves, and
she sobbed again. High up in the sky the
moon kicked a way through the heavy clouds,
but the stars were hidden. Suddenly the
girl heard voices ; unnoticed by herself she
had approached a summer-house. She drew
nearer, and, peering in, saw the two sisters.
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS 165
Far away in the town the Kreutz Kirche
clock tolled nine.
Fraulein Marta sighed. " Are you cold,
sister ? " she said. " In another half hour
we might go home."
"Ah yes, in another half hour; but what
shall we do if she asks to see the presents ? "
"Perhaps she may not ask; I was careful
not even to glance at hers." The girl stole
away, and, hurrying back to the house, lifted
the presents out from the trunks and wrote on
them Fraulein Marta andKathe s names, then,
making them into one big package, went out
again into the night. The snow fell softly
upon her as she stood in the street waiting for
the two sisters to return home. At last she
saw them cross the Platz, their thin figures
bent, as if they were afraid of the white light
that the snow flung back upon them. They
cast a fugitive look round, before entering
their house. The door clanged close on their
heels, the echo ringing down the street. For
a moment the girl stood and listened to it, then
moving away, she found a dienstman, gave
him the parcel containing the presents, and
told him to deliver it at the pension. When
16G THE ENGLISH GIRL S CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
she returned later, Fraulein Marta called her
into the dining-room. " Sehen Sie nur," she
said, pointing at the presents that lay un
packed upon the table; " Christmas is Christ
mas for old and young alike."
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
DUSK had fallen on the close of a March
afternoon, when, the train having
bumped slowly across the Roman Campagna,
stopped at Valmonte station and deposited
two English girls. A few minutes later it
crawled away, and the two girls scrambled
up on the yellow diligence, with its big,
flapping leather hood. The driver mounted
the box, the three horses broke into a gallop,
the long-lashed whip cracking loud and clear
in the gathering darkness. A man, seated
face to his donkey s tail while the animal
drank, gazed mildly after them.
The younger girl glanced at him a mo
ment, then, laying her hand on her friend s
knee, " How unlike all this is to England,
Jess ! " she said. The other was silent a mo
ment, staring out into the gathering darkness.
170 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" I was born in a queer old grey stone
house on the border of Exmoor," she ex
claimed at length. "I learnt to love those
moors, with their look as if the peace of
God had settled on them and couldn t be
" It is a long time now since you were
in England," her friend said, reflectively.
" Don t you ever want to see your old home
again ? "
" Home ! " Jess repeated in a bitter voice.
" I have no home ; it was sold years ago
when my parents died. Ah, Roch, I hate
the past ! Don t let us talk about it ; " and
they both relapsed again into silence.
The clock had struck eleven when they
reached Olevano : the village stared down
indifferently at them, looking as if it needed
all its strength to cling to the rocky ridge
on which it had obtained foothold. The old
castle, the tall, narrow clock- tower, and the
lichened roofs, lay wrapt in shadow. Around,
the Hernican Mountains guarded the silence,
and in the valley the mist, like some huge
serpent, slept heavily. A few minutes later
the girls were climbing up the crumbling
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 171
steps that led through the village to the
Albergo. Every now and again the rays
from the lamps, mixing with the moon
beams, would light up the entrance of some
grim stone house, where below, in an atmos
phere thick with smells, the inhabitants
pigs included slumbered. A gate admitted
them to an olive-garden, at the end of which
rose an irregular, battered house, it was the
Roch gave a sigh of relief as she clam
bered up the steps and opened the creaky
Standing close to the lamp was a tall, gaunt
young Englishman : his head was bent, and
sagging down on his forehead was a tumbled
mop of red hair. In his hands, which were
grotesquely big, was a kitten, and from one
of its paws he was extracting a thorn. For
a moment they regarded each other in silence ;
then, the thorn extracted, he placed the kitten
upon the ground, and Jess entering at the
same time, he noticed that she was lame, and
that she looked tired and sad : the expression
of annoyed surprise which had gathered on
his face passed away.
172 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
"I will hunt up the padrona," he said.
"I am afraid every one has gone to bed."
" Did you see his hands ! " Roch exclaimed,
when she and her friend were left alone to
" Whose ? " Jess asked, inattentively.
" Why, the Bed-haired Man s," Koch an
ROCH rose early next morning, pulled back
the worm-eaten green shutters, gave one
glance at Olevano, where it lay sunning its
old, patched walls, and then concentrated
her attention on dressing. Later, when she
entered the village, she was greeted by the
grunting and snorting of innumerable pigs.
Roch, fresh and charming herself and in no
wise dismayed, nodded to the women with
the water-cans and baskets of hot polenta
on their heads, and they, in their turn, smiled
back at her. At the foot of the hill a boy
was playing ruzzola: passing him, she fol
lowed a small path that branched off from
the main road, leading upwards. Before her
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 173
and around lay the bracken-covered hills,
here and there a group of olive trees ; a
freshly turned patch of earth marked where
some peasant had scrawled his laborious pot
hooks. As Koch strolled along she saw above
her, lying full length on a sloping bank, the
Ked-haired Man, and seated astride across
his chest was a small, bullet-headed child
about two years old. The Ked-haired Man
appeared to be wrapped in profound slumber,
hat drawn down over his eyes and big loose-
jointed hands clasped behind his head. The
baby, on the contrary, was much awake, and
Koch began to make faces at it : the child re
sponded with a fat crow of delight, thumping
the man s chest to emphasise approval. Koch
glanced round : no one being in sight, she
picked up her skirts and executed a wild jig ;
the baby gave one chuckling scream, lost its
balance, rolled rapidly down the sloping bank,
and lay, a fat little lump of surprised, pleased
alarm, at Koch s feet. The Ked-haired Man
jumped up, blushing violently.
"Dear me," exclaimed Koch, glancing at
the baby in apparent astonishment. " Where
did it come from ? "
174 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" It is Pico, the washerwoman s baby," he
answered, stiffly. "I borrowed it."
" And do you roll it up and down banks
"I was asleep."
" Is that how you take care of babies when
you borrow them ? "
" It would never have fallen if you hadn t
made faces at it."
" I thought you said you were asleep."
The Red-haired Man appeared not to hear
" Now, tell me," Roch exclaimed with in
terest, " was it a good work you were doing ?
Were you trying to improve the poor by
showing them beautiful scenery ? Because if
you were, I assure you it is quite useless."
His wide mouth expanded into a smile,
showing a row of strong white teeth.
Roch decided that it was a pleasant smile,
but then, it was on so gigantic a scale, there
was room for something pleasant to creep in.
" No," he answered, " I was trying to im
" Oh how ? " she asked, genuinely aston
ished. The colour rushed into his face : the
THE KED-HAIKED MAN S DREAM 175
Red-haired Man had a detestable habit of
" Babies believe in things," he said, lightly.
"They believe in themselves, in you, in the
world in general."
Roch was silent a moment, scanning him
with some attention. His face, boyish in
spite of its gauntness, was that of a man
whose first tussle with facts was yet to come,
and who was ignorant alike of the powers or
passions that were slumbering in him.
" You must be very " she stopped short.
"What? "he asked.
" Young" she said, slowly.
There was a pause : it is possible that, at
moments, the Red-haired Man had himself
been haunted by such a thought.
His manner stiffened. " Woman s lack of
penetration is proverbial," he answered.
" H mn," said Roch, turning away, " h mn."
She walked a few paces, halted, and glanced
back at him. He was still standing at the
top of the bank, gazing indignantly in her
" Can you speak Italian ? " she asked.
"A little," he answered, with cool terse-
176 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
ness. He had no desire to prolong the con
" Well," she replied, returning once more
to the foot of the bank. " Will you buy me
a pig ? "
" Yes, it is the fashion in Olevano. Now,
if you had had a pig with you this morning
instead of a baby dear me," glancing round
as she spoke, " where is the baby ? Why,"
she continued, flinging away her sunshade
and running along the path, " there it is
crawling down a precipice."
With a couple of strides the Red-haired
Man had cleared the bank and was past her ;
the next moment he had grabbed Pico, drag
ging him back into safety by the heels.
"How careless you are," cried Koch, who
had been thoroughly frightened. " Just
think," she added indignantly, " in another
instant it might have been killed."
His face was very white. " I shan t think
anything of the kind," he replied with equal
indignation, " because it is saved."
" Saved ! " she exclaimed. " Why, you
are holding it by the heels ! "
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 177
The Red-li aired Man hastily righted Pico,
who, astonished at the marvellous yet in
voluntary evolutions he had been made to
perform, was howling with some lustiness.
" Give it to me," said Roch. " You are
not fit to be trusted with a child."
" I shall do no such thing," he answered,
Roch looked at him, and then burst into a
peal of laughter.
" Well," she said, " the sooner that baby
gives up believing in you the better." Then
she proceeded on her way, leaving the Red-
haired Man consumed with indignation.
A FEW days later Jess was sitting under the
Albergo loggia when the Bed-haired Man
joined her. He glanced down as she leant
back in the rocking-chair, remembering, with
a pang of pity, that she was lame. It seemed
to him that this lameness probably accounted
for the bitter expression of her face : it was
a strange, contradictory face ; well-bred in
detail, there was a certain nobility about the
178 THE EED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
wide brow and full-couraged eyes, but the
mouth, thin, hard, compressed, was the mouth
of a middle-aged, disappointed woman. Yet
the girl was young enough twenty-two, at
most. Looking at her, he found himself
wondering whether the lips would grow full
and soft if kissed : they were not the lips a
man would feel much inclination to kiss she
was in so great need of love, the chances were
she would never get it. He felt a great pity
for her : a woman, he told himself, is not a
woman unless she is loved she remains a
half-finished sketch of something she might
be. Then Jess looked across at him and
smiled, her smile raised the veil between
herself and him ; for a brief moment he saw
sheer down into her heart, and all that he saw
was beautiful. He had a sudden sense of
nearness, a belief that he had known this
"I suppose it is improbable," he said, "but
I have a strange feeling that we have met
" Most improbable," she answered ; " I
have not been in England since I was a
" But it is long ago that I seem to remem
" Ah ! " she exclaimed slowly, as some
vague recollection began to take shape in her
" Do you know Devonshire ? " he asked,
with sudden quick glimmer of facts.
"Yes, but we lived in an out-of-the-way
part. Gorston was the nearest place, and it
was hardly within driving distance."
" It was there I must have met you. Old
Fronde Gorston is my uncle ! " he exclaimed.
Then she remembered, and put out her hand
with an instinctive movement as if to push
the subject from her ; but he, unconscious of
her distaste, continued : " I used to spend my
holidays at Gorston. Very good trout-fishing
in some of those streams, at least I thought so
in my boyish days. Why, it was trout-fish
ing, arid you must have been but you
weren t lame." He stopped, and his face
suddenly blanched. " Great Heavens ! " he
exclaimed; "it wasn t that jump, the jump
from the rock that I made you take, that
caused your lameness ? "
" Of course not," she answered, hastily.
180 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" You had nothing to do with it." A sudden
conviction came to him that she was not
speaking the truth.
" How did it happen ? " he asked, in a harsh
" Why talk about it ? " she replied, gently.
"Tell me about yourself. How strange that
you should have recognised me after all these
years ! "
" Then I am responsible," he said. It was
horrible to him to be the indirect cause of
suffering to any one.
" No, no," she answered. " I should have
jumped whether you had been there or not:
the rock always had a fascination for me. Be
sides," she continued, trying to turn his atten
tion from the subject, " it was the little book
that I wanted. I remember in those days I
had a ridiculous belief that in some book lay
the secret of how to escape from unhappiness
though I am afraid that, as far as I am con
cerned, the secret has remained unanswered."
He was full of bitter self-accusation. " I
went back to school the next day and thought
it was only a sprain. How could I have been
such a fool ! " he said.
THE HED-II AIRED MAN S DREAM 181
"Why should you have thought other
wise ? " she replied. " Do you remember how
good you were to me ? You carried me almost
all the way home. You were strong even in
those days," she smiled at the involuntary
recollection of him that rose before her, a
lanky, grotesque, red-haired boy, but infi
nitely, awkwardly gentle.
" And I have spoilt your life," he said.
" Do you never learn to judge things with
reasonable common-sense?" she answered,
with a touch of impatience. " Besides, lame
ness is not the same trial to a woman as it is
to a man."
"But still it is lameness," he inter
She rose from her chair, and drew closer to
him. " Do you think it has not also had its
good side ? " she said. " Do you think it has
not been the cause of a hundred little acts of
kindness which, otherwise, I should have gone
without ? People are not ungenerous ; but
they are in a hurry. Well, this lameness,
which you think so terrible, has made them
stop and ask themselves if they could do
something for me. I have noticed it over
182 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
and over again ; my childhood was solitary
enough I do not suppose that any one cared
for me unless it was Nanny, my old nurse ;
but I know she never loved me before my
accident as she did afterwards. Don t you
think," and she stopped a moment and smiled
at him, "don t you think," she continued,
" that a little love is worth a lot of lameness ?
because if you don t, I do." She put out her
hand ; he grasped it in his big, strong fingers,
and the boyish tears came into his eyes. She
saw them, but pretended not to notice, talk
ing on to avoid silence.
"Poor Nanny," she said; "I don t think
she ever got over my being sent to school in
Germany. < A eathen land, she called it, < a
eathen land. I believe she thought it was
inhabited by blacks. She always wrote on
my birthday and sent me a card. Her letters
were rather hard to read, because each word
began with a capital, and she had a confused
notion as to the difference between y s, 1 s, and
g s, but they were the only letters I ever re
ceived. I don t think I cared very much
whether I could read them or not. The card
too was always the same; it represented a
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 183
long pinkish hand holding a cabbage-shaped
purple rose. Somehow, the fact that it was
always the same comforted me. I knew, too,
where she had bought it, and I used to lie
awake at night and picture her going into the
small shop at the end of the village. It was
kept by an old woman named Rogers, who
had never had any teeth. She sold a thin,
flat sort of gingerbread that the poor people
called fairin, and if you spent more than
f ourpence, she would open her mouth and tap
her gums with a long wooden spoon that she
used to ladle out her brown sugar. * Ard ez
horn, she would say, l ard ez horn. Nanny
is dead now : I don t know that I ever did
much to make her life happy ; but the only
moments in my childhood I care to look back
on I owe to her."
She was silent a moment, and the bitter
ness left her face.
" Don t worry over that stupid episode," she
said. " We were both children, and I am a
strong believer in Fate."
" Fate," he repeated ; " that is a paralysing
belief have nothing to do with it."
" Each forms his theory on his own experi-
184 TPIE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
ence," she answered, " and mine has made me
" We have always the Future," he said. " I
am glad that we have met again."
" Ah ! " she answered, " I am wiser than
you I always wait to be glad."
His face contracted. " Your theory is all
wrong," he said. "En joy the minutes; the
long hours will take care of themselves."
She saw that he was hurt. " We won t
bother about the theory this time," she ex
claimed, with quick compunction.
He smiled. "No," he said, "we won t
bother about the theory, and we will make a
little grab at happiness. Is it a pact ? "
" Yes," she replied, returning the smile, " it
is a pact."
"THE pig has arrived, come and see it,"
cried Koch a few days later, bursting into
Jess s room. " It is very small, and has two
crinkles in its tail. But first put on your
hat, because the Red-haired Man has found
you a mule, and we are all going to pick
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 185
white heather on the hills. There," she
added a moment later, when Jess limped
down the steps, u there it is," pointing at a
little black object that was struggling vio
lently in a peasant woman s arms.
" I have paid three paoli more for its man
ners," she continued, in a triumphant voice ;
" I shall call it Felice. I am sure that it is a
very happy little pig."
" The Signorina is fond of bacon," said the
peasant woman, sympathetically.
"Oh!" exclaimed Koch.
" What did she say ? " Jess asked.
" She talks patois," Roch explained hur
riedly ; " I couldn t translate it."
" Ah ! " the woman continued, " it comes
from a well-favoured stock, does that pig.
It was only on the day of the blessed St.
Joseph that I salted down its own brothers,
and if the Signorina pleases, I will bring her
a spare rib that she may taste it herself."
" What a horrid woman," exclaimed Koch,
" Please tell her to put the pig down and
tie a string round its leg," she continued,
turning to the Red-haired Man, who joined
186 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
them at this moment. " I will go on ; I am
sure that Felice needs exercise ; Jess, you can
easily catch me up on the mule."
No sooner did the pig regain terra firma
than it clattered grunting and squealing down
the path, Roch, in the rear, holding tight to
the string, with a breathless energy worthy
of a better cause. The woman watched them
in astonished despair.
" Madonna mia ! " she exclaimed, wringing
her hands, " but the Signorina s pig will never
Jess and the Red-haired Man followed more
slowly with the mule. She glanced down at
his big form as he strode beside, and deftly
prevented the overhanging boughs from
touching her, and was conscious of a curious
subtle pleasure in her own weakness. The
path led through a small wood ; descending
precipitous fashion, it turned a sudden angle
and wound round the hills, where the wild
thorn bushes thrust their shaggy white heads
out from among the bracken. Below, in the
v f alley, a yellow-faced stream hustled along,
while innumerable rivulets scrambled over
the bare grey rocks, leaving a glistening
THE KED-H AIRED MAN S DREAM 187
track as if the stroll of some Brobdingnagian
snail had taken him past that way.
It was very pleasant to the Red-haired Man
to wait upon this woman, to help her in some
small way ; his pulses beat with a big boyish
happiness. He put his hand on the flap of
the saddle : " A man is some use in the world
when he can protect a woman. Why don t
you need more protection ? " he asked, his
mouth expanding into one of its gigantic
She was so unused to being protected, her
eyes filled with tears at the thought. When
he saw the tears and the trembling of her
lips, the strings of his heart vibrated like a
"Life has it s good things," he said,
"though I don t believe you have tasted
She did not answer : she had a great long
ing for life s good things, but she was also
afraid of them, she was so certain that hap
piness had to be paid for with tears. In the
silence the mule s hoofs pattered sharply on
the rough ground; little black and green
lizards scuttled away through the dried grass,
188 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
making a pretence of being more frightened
than in truth they were. A sudden bend in
the road brought them in sight of Koch, who
was hurrying in their direction.
" Come quickly, please," she cried. " There
are two artists asleep under a rock. Felice is
eating up their sketch-books. I can t get her
away, and the fattest artist looks as if he
were going to wake."
The Red-haired Man ran off in the direction
in which she pointed, and Roch, having placed
the responsibility on his shoulders, followed
more slowly behind; but, hearing excited
voices, she climbed a neighbouring rock from
which she could obtain an advantageous yet
safe view of the situation.
" Potztausend Donnerwetter ! " cried the fat
artist, pointing at an uninviting clumped up
heap upon the ground. " You will me say
dat is my skedch-book, dat my lofely
drawings \ "
"H mn humph, pon my word, h nm
humph," replied the Red-haired Man. " It
looks uncommonly as if it might be."
At this moment the pig, endeavouring to
escape, ran over the face of the other artist.
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 189
" Du lieber Himmel ! " he exclaimed, jump
ing to his feet. " Was geht vor ? "
" Ach ! it is a f orreign verdamnter Schwein
that eats our things," the fat man cried,
wringing his hands.
" Was," replied the other, " the picture I
did make of the lofely Madchen. Gott be-
wahre, es 1st nicht wahr. You sir, you Eng-
leesh sgentleman," he continued, in a voice
of rising anger, as the full extent of his loss
came home to him " I ask you how came
that Schwein here to be ? "
"H nm humph, most unfortunate occur
rence," the Red-haired Man said. "Hang it
all," he ended, abruptly. " Confound you
and the pig together."
" Confound me and the pee-ig," spluttered
the German, choking with anger. " I have,
you know that in our land we ask for such to
"Pooh!" said the Eed-haired Man. "Pooh !"
" Pooh ! " repeated the artist, fiercely,
" pooh ! It is noding to do with pooh. Ach,
Engleeish Meess," he continued, catching
sight of Hoch, "you laugh? Is it dat I do
see you laugh 2 "
190 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" Oh, no ! " exclaimed Roch, hurriedly,
" To who belongs that Schwein ? " inter
posed the fat German, taking out his note
book. " How calls the man his name ? "
" He bought it," cried Roch, pointing at
the Red-haired Man. " He s responsible."
Then she slithered down the rock, and, run
ning up to Jess, who was approaching on the
mule " Fly, fly," she cried, in breathless ex
citement ; " they want our names."
" Were they very angry ? " Jess asked, as
the mule ambled down a little side path.
" Very," assented Roch.
" It must have been awkward," pursued
Jess. " Did you explain how it happened ? "
" Oh ! they were Germans."
" I thought you spoke German."
Roch did not answer. "Here comes the
Red-haired Man," she exclaimed.
"Well," he burst out, "if all girls be
" How unchivalrous you are, abusing wom
en," Roch interrupted. "Men always com
plain that women nowadays want to do every
thing for themselves. I am sure I have never
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 191
wished to cany my own parcels, and on the
very first opportunity a man is rude to me."
" Rude," he repeated, hotly. " I don t want
to be rude ; but there are limits
" Where is Felice ? You have not left her
behind ? " she cried, turning on him.
" Yes," he said, " and those Germans will
have made her into a sausage by now."
" Oh, how brutal men are ! " Roch ex
claimed. "My poor dear little Felice," and
she began to run back towards the big rock
with quick, wavy steps, that seemed to re
quire a great deal of energy for the small
portion of ground over which they progressed.
A couple of strides, and the Red-haired Man
had caught her up.
"Don t bother, I will get your pig," he
" I can t trust you," she sobbed, " you re
" Why, there is the detestable little pig
hunting about by itself in the bracken," he
exclaimed, with some relief. " Now, do sit
down and I will catch it for you."
"Dear Felice," said Koch; "don t pinch
192 THE RED-HAIKED MAN S DREAM
" As if I should pinch a pig," lie answered
indignantly, striding away. But it was one
thing to promise to catch Felice and quite
another to do it, and Roch, whose tears were
soon dried, burst into peals of laughter, as
she watched the Red-haired Man pursuing
the pig round the thorn bushes and over the
slippery grey boulders. Once, when Felice,
hard pressed, ran close by, her mistress made
no endeavour to catch, but instead cheered
her back into the fray.
At last the Red-haired Man returned with
Felice grunting protestations under his arm.
" Just look at my coat," he exclaimed, in
dignantly. u Torn to rags ! "
" I never could have believed a pig could
run so far and keep so cool," said Roch, in a
surprised voice. " Oh, Jess, there you are ! "
she added, as the latter joined them. " Do
let us sit down and enjoy ourselves. What
a pleasant world it is ! Whenever I see a
view I am always afraid that some author
will come by and describe it. Dear Felice,"
she continued, glancing in apparent admira
tion at the little pig, "how pretty you are,
and how happy you look! Happiness is
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 193
hereditary in our family none of us can
escape it. When my great-great-grandfather
had reached some marvellous age, he said he
would like to live each moment of his life
again. I believe every one was relieved when
he didn t, because he took snuff. There was
an old woman in our village who took snuff ;
she lived to be a hundred, grew fresh hair,
new teeth, and died before she could use
them. They put on her tombstone
1 Her grawed a fresh load o hair on the tap o her head,
But before she could comb it, by Gosh her was dead.
Only the clergyman, old Passon Bellew, as
the villagers called him, insisted on the words
being erased, so they just wrote : Twas the
teeth that carried her off " Go thou and do
likewise." I think that was the text. I often
wonder if it was the snuff that made all that
happen. I borrowed some from her once and
gave it to the cat during prayers : she flew up
the back of a fat little bishop who was staying
with us. My brothers and I giggled so loud
we were obliged to turn it into an Amen.
Now Jess, when you look like that, I know
you are concocting ideals, or thinking about
194 THE RED-HAIKED MAN S DKEAM
right and wronger other disagreeable things.
I never can understand why people are so
anxious to know what is right when it is so
much more convenient not to. Oh, Felice
has eaten up all the chocolates ! " she ex
claimed, with an abrupt change of subject.
" I do think that the three paoli paid extra
for her manners were quite thrown away."
In the general commotion that ensued the
sun sank : for a while the mountains glowed
porphyry red, and then drew a veil blue as
lapis-lazuli across their none too modest faces.
The valleys, crammed with shadows, lay
crumpled and forlorn, the maid in the nur
sery ballad, who was tossed by a cow, could
not have looked more disconsolate.
Roch bent down and gave Jess a suspicion
of a kiss, just where her brown hair curled
back from the nape of her neck,
" Dear Jess," she exclaimed, lightly, though
there was a sound of tears in her voice, " how
battered you will be when you reach heaven ;
but then, I am sure you will get there ! "
The Red-haired Man s eyes rested on the
two girls, but it was only Jess that he saw.
" Yes," he told himself, " life so far had been
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 195
hard to her, but it should not always be
Roch glanced at him, and something in the
expression of his face thrilled her strangely.
A NARROW foot-track leads from the Albergo
past the cemetery, winding round the hills
above Olevano. Opposite, oil its great
pointed mountain, is Rocca di Cava, washed
up there in the middle ages and left stranded,
crimes and all, while the centuries strode
on, knocking the outside world into other
forms, and whispering to it other ideas.
Along this path, late one afternoon, Jess
limped somewhat wearily, for walking was
always a painful exertion to her. At last
an old broken stump offered a resting-place,
and sitting down, she turned to look at the
sun, as it tossed its beams at the clouds,
and they, colouring with exertion, cast them
in their turn, in great flakes of orange, gold,
and umber, on the patient sky. Absorbed in
watching, she hardly noticed the Red-haired
Man stood beside her, and yet something
196 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
that stirred within him, something which
had drawn all the dreaminess out of his
face, troubled her unconsciously.
A stray gleam from the fast-setting sun fell
on him, throwing into relief his muscular
figure and the strength and weakness of his
face. He bent down and laid his hand upon
"Do you remember once telling me," he
said, " that love was worth a great deal of
lameness, and I "
She had risen to her feet. "You," she
interrupted, " you pity me, and I am not
sure," her voice broke, "that I am altogether
" Who is talking of pity ? I love you," he
exclaimed, trying to draw her towards him.
She shrank back. " It is all so sudden,"
she said, helplessly.
" Does that make you afraid," he asked,
" when you feel, you know, that it is true ? "
She loved him, but the intense happiness
that his love would bring made her distrust
" I feel nothing except that you are de
ceived," she answered ; then a sudden fierce
THE RED-HAIRED MAN 5 8 DREAM 197
despair swept away her self-control. " Oh, I
hate pity ! " she cried, passionately. " Hate
it ! hate it ! "
" It is you who are deceived," he said.
His strong arms closed round her and drew
her straight up against his breast. "We
love each other, and you are mine," he ended,
his voice vibrating with a resistless rush of
She broke into bitter, tearless sobs. "It
is a dream," she said, "a desolate, deceiving
dream." And yet she knew that, dream or
no dream, it was too strong for her she could
not fight against it. But the Red-haired Man
had no fears. He raised her face, which
drooped half ashamed against his breast, and
" Men do not sleep so soundly, dear one,"
he answered. " When you have trusted your
self to me," a passion of tenderness shook
him, " when you are my wife, you will learn
that it is no dream." As he spoke she opened
wide her heart to the coming joy or grief,
she knew not which awaited her.
"Dearest," he said, "tell me that you are
not afraid. Tell me that you are glad."
198 THE EED-HAIKED MAN S DREAM
" I am glad," she whispered.
A wave of exultation swept over him.
" And it is worth the past pain ? " he
asked, with fierce, impatient joy.
" It is worth the past pain," she repeated,
" And the pain of the future ? "
She drew a quick, trembling breath. "That
too ! " she said. Later they walked on : the
path was uneven, she leant upon his arm.
" Jess ! Jess ! " he exclaimed, turning to
her, "tell me you are glad that you are
She smiled through her tears. "I ain
glad," she answered, "glad, glad."
"See, "he said, "see how rough the path
is I must carry you." He raised her in his
strong arms. At the foot of the hill he put
her gently down.
" Dearest," he said, " it is good that we love
each other." But she, trembling, answered
The sun sank, and the stars shot out, rather
reluctantly. "How strange," said Jess, at
last, " that it is me you love and not Koch."
" She is a child," he answered, smiling.
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 199
" No, she is not a child," Jess said, " and
she is very beautiful."
He stooped and kissed her. " Is she ? " he
answered, indifferently. "I do not think I
have ever noticed it. I believe I have always
been looking at you."
OLEVANO cannot boast of many woods, but,
strolling along, the Red-haired Man had
come on a group of trees gathered round a
small brown-faced pool that lapped in their
shadows as a starved cat milk. Near it was
seated Roch, engaged in a somewhat heated
controversy with her little black pig on the
subject of education.
" Now, Felice," she exclaimed, " what ob
jection can a loyal, intelligent pig have to
die for the Queen ? "
Felice refused to state her reasons in
words, but, having whisked her small, curly
tail, made a frantic endeavour to scuttle
away. The effort, however, proved unsuc
cessful, and her attention was once more
drawn to the subject in question.
200 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" Oh, Felice ! " the girl remonstrated,
" when it is not only dying, but chocolates
afterwards ! "
At the mention of chocolates the little
black pig cocked up one ear, and appeared
to reconsider the question.
" When you look like that," cried Roch,
flinging her arms round Felice, " you are the
very dearest little pig that ever, ever was
made. And I tell you what," she added,
magnanimously, " we will eat all the choco
lates up ourselves, and not bother about the
In the silence that followed the proposi
tion a chuckle made itself heard, and Koch,
glancing round, saw the Red-haired Man try
ing to dodge behind a tree.
" How mean you are, watching ! " she ex
The Red-haired Man came nearer, and
flung himself down on the grass, Felice util
ising the opportunity to scamper off and
make private investigations on her own ac
" I never saw a more intelligent pig in my
life," he answered, with conviction. Roch
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 201
was not quite sure how to take this remark,
so she changed the subject.
" Now, while I remember it," she said,
" what is your name ? "
" My name ? " he repeated in astonishment.
" You don t mean to say that you haven t
learnt that yet? Why, what do you call
" Oh ! " she exclaimed, getting a little red,
" that is quite easy. One thinks of character
" Characteristics ? What characteristics ? "
" Well, what do you think ? " she asked.
"Think," he repeated. " H m,hum, humph.
I m tall."
" Yes," she answered, in a voice that some
how had the effect of diminishing his height.
"You re tall."
" And strong," he said, surveying himself
with justifiable pride.
" So are most men," she remarked, sniffily.
" And heavy," he said, interrupting her.
" What a thing to boast of ! " she ex
claimed, in genuine surprise.
" Bother characteristics," he said. " I can t
think of anything else."
202 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
"Can t you really guess?" in an aston
"No," he said.
" Why, what do you think made the bull
run at you the other day ? "
" The bull run at me?"
" Why, what colour is your hair ? " she
said in desperation.
" The same colour as yours, of course."
She was almost too astonished for speech.
" Oh," she cried at last, " mine s auburn ! "
" Pouf ! " he said ; " I see no difference."
"Come, and look for yourself," she ex
claimed, excitedly, pulling him towards the
little brown-faced pool.
They both knelt down in front of it : there
was a moment s silence.
" Well," cried Roch, " what do you see ? "
He saw a small, oval face ; eyes deeply
blue, peering down, full of anxiety, at the
reflection of the chestnut hair that curled out,
glinting with gold, and scrambled along the
edge of her broad white forehead. The short
nose, tip-tilted, delicate, expressed a faint,
questioning surprise ; the mouth too large to
be small, freshly, childishly red, curved back
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 203
indignant, only the dimple that had been
pressed into the chin was content in its own
happiness, and refused at all costs to express
anything but pleasure. His eyes rested on
her face, lingeringly, then they followed the
lines of her white throat till they rested on
the soft curves that proclaimed her woman.
" Well ? " cried Eoch again, " well 2 "
" Oh, don t you see the difference ? " she
exclaimed, almost in tears.
The Red-haired Man raised himself, breath
" What colour is it ? " she cried, wringing
her hands with impatience.
He looked at her in a dazed, dull way, as
if he were blind as well as dumb.
" Do speak ! " she cried, catching him by
the coat. "You must you must see the
"The difference," he repeated, in a far
away voice. " What difference ? "
" Oh, how stupid you are ! " she exclaimed,
despairingly. " Is my hair red ? "
He drew a deep breath, pulling himself
together. " Red ! " he cried. " It flames, it
204 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
glows you could roast an ox before it ! "
Then he turned and fled, leaving Roch over
whelmed with vexation and astonishment.
" He must be mad ! " she exclaimed. She
knelt down in front of the little pool and
looked at herself. " He must be mad ! " she
She glanced again at the pool. " Oh, I am
sure he s mad ! " she added, in a more satisfied
voice. She took another little glimpse into
the pool. " There isn t the least doubt he s
mad ! " she cried, exultantly. " Oh dear ! "
she ended in a voice of dismay, her eyes
falling on a crushed box beneath the tree,
" there are the chocolates, and the Red-haired
Man has sat upon them ! "
High up on the hill opposite she could see
the Red-haired Man tearing along with great,
wide-paced strides. She watched him a
moment. "He s rough and gauche," she ex
claimed ; " he s not a bit clever ; he has
nothing that one really cares for or expects
to find in a man ; he s an unlicked cub and
yet " she stopped short, and. returning to
the pool, knelt down once more, peering again
into its shadowy waters. " It would be very
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 205
strange if he should be the first man who did
not think uie beautiful," she said at length.
THE sun beat hotly down on the hills round
Olevano. Roch and the Red-haired Man had
been gathering cyclamen, and, with hands and
arms full of flowers, left the woods and sat
down beneath the shadow of a rock. Down
the rock s face, with a full-lunged gurgle, ran
a stream, sending up a shower of spray which
fell in beads on Roch s hair, making it crinkle
up like a baby s tight-closed fist. Some
distance from her mistress lay Felice, full in
the sun, emitting from time to time a short
pleased grunt of satisfaction as the genial
warmth penetrated her black skin. The Red-
haired Man had dropped his flowers into
Roch s lap and flung himself down at her
feet. He was supremely happy, and asked
nothing more of life just then than to watch
her deft, slim fingers rearranging the cycla
men. He had entered into that state of
delight which at the same time arrests the
mind and forces on it the impression that the
206 THE EED-HAIKED MAN S DREAM
faculties were never more keenly awake :
he was certain that he had never lived,
never come into full possession of himself,
till that moment. Further than that he
did not wish to analyse: possibly it may
be a part of supreme happiness that we
have neither the desire nor the capacity to
The soft warm air blew between them. She
raised her eyes and smiled at him, he smiled
back at her : as a sensitive plant trembles at
the far-off tramp of horses, their hearts thrilled
at the unperceived approach of love. Neither
had any thought of being untrue to Jess.
Unconsciously they had stepped out of the
cold land of thought into the warm land of
emotion ; and as he lay and watched the faint
quiver of her gown above her bosom, it seemed
to him that he embraced life and put his lips
on happiness. Suddenly, subtly his gaze op
pressed her. Springing to her feet, gather
ing the cyclamen together with both hands,
she flung them full in his face. Shaking
himself free from the flowers, he pursued her.
She took shelter in the white cloud of spray,
he following, and they stood there the water
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 207
flashing in their hair and eyes, youth in their
hearts. High up on the mountain the great
horned cattle lowed to each other, and along
the steep path came the goats towards the
stream to drink. Roch and the Red-haired
Man, looking out across the valley, laughed
for sheer joy of living.
Unheeded by them, clouds had begun to
mass overhead ; there was a dull, heavy clang
of thunder ; in the far horizon the lightning
worried the sky. They turned and began to
retrace their steps towards the Albergo. The
rain overtook them, and they found shelter at
last in an empty reed- hut. Before the door
was an almond-tree in full bloom ; a gust of
wind tore off its blossoms, and the little tree
bowed over the broken petals that were the
spoils of its own beauty.
Suddenly the sky ripped from end to end,
and over the brink a sea of flame rolled
down upon the mountain. The man and
woman shrunk together, and in that blaze
of light they read their own hearts. A sense
of separation fell on them both. In silence
they went out into the storm and returned
back again to the Albergo.
208 THE KED-HAIKED MAN^S DKEAM
THE sun was nearing its setting, when, some
days later, the Red-haired Man, with Pico
astride on his shoulders, made his way along
the narrow mountain-track. He walked
rapidly as if to out-distance his thoughts ;
the tuneless, wavering whistle of the shep
herd s pipes beat on the still air, but he
heard no sound except the thud of his own
pulses. He did not even glance round when
a herd of big horned cattle swept across the
path at a lopping gallop. Only Pico crowed
loudly at the rush of their hoofs, at the
tossing of their majestic heads.
At last he stopped, and, having found a
soft green spot between the bracken for Pico,
flung himself down beside him. But the
baby crawled up to his accustomed place
on the broad chest, and, stretching out his
little fat legs, doubling his fist, beat a loud
tattoo, wishing perhaps to awaken the Red-
haired Man, who lay and stared dully into
the sky, oblivious to the wants of his small
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 209
" Ah, Pico, old man ! " he said, as if in
response to the thumps, " never try and set
the world to rights. It doesn t pay, old
man it doesn t pay."
The baby crowed derisively. In his eyes
the world was a very fine place indeed, and
needed no setting to rights.
" Pico," continued the Red-haired Man,
" I suppose it never happened to you not to
know your own mind not even when you
cried for the moon ? "
The baby snatched at a belated butterfly,
paying no heed to such trivial questions.
" Pico, Pico," said the man, taking the
baby s two little fat fists in one of his great
hands, "let us talk things out. Truth is
the very devil when we run away from it.
You see, Pico," he continued, "it was like
this. There was a woman "
The baby pulled his hands free and turned
his back at the mention of woman.
" You ve a lot to learn yet, Pico," the Red-
haired Man remonstrated, " a lot to learn.
Woman isn t quite a nonentity in this world,
Pico she s very much alive. Now, this one
I was telling you about life has been hard
210 THE RED-HAIRED MAlSf s DREAM
down on her from the first, but she had
plenty of pluck : she put her back up against
the wall and faced it, till I came along and
mulled everything. A man doesn t like to
see a woman facing things too much, Pico ;
he wants to stand up beside her and hit out.
You don t understand now, old fellow, but
you will understand right enough by and by.
Well, that s how I felt, only I thought there
was something more. It doesn t matter what
I thought, because, because " he stopped
short, and the baby crowed and thumped his
friend s broad chest to emphasise approval of
" It was a dream," continued the Red-
haired Man, u a damned dream," he ended
with a sob.
But Pico s dream at that moment was to
catch a big green beetle, so he crawled away
on his own account and the man flung him
self on his face. " Dreams are hell," he cried
bitterly, " dreams are hell."
THE RED-HAIKED MAN S DREAM 211
ON his way back to the Albergo the Ked-
haired Man met Jess. She was seated on a
broken tree stump, near the spot where he
had first told her of his love, and below him
wound the stony path over which he had
carried her. His thoughts were full of that
scene ; he seemed to hear his own voice re
peating " Tell me you are glad that you are
lame," and her answer, " I am glad, glad ! "
Looking at her, remembering all the love he
had promised, of which he had now none left
to give, nothing but the pity that she so
despised, his heart ached for her and himself.
She had been waiting for him, and when he
stopped in front of her, and raised a troubled
face to his, it seemed almost as if she had
some dim prescience of the truth. He shud
dered to think of the suffering such know
edge would entail on her sensitive proud
nature, and told himself that, at all costs, it
should be kept from her. Yet, with the in
consistency of weakness, he felt irritated at
the greatness of her need of him, at her
212 THE KED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
weakness, at her love. " Why," he asked him
self, " did she come to meet me ? " Will she
always make a parade of her love in this
fashion ? "
She scanned his face anxiously, trying to
interpret each change of expression. Her
scrutiny irritated him further he turned
away to hide his annoyance. A quick pang
shot through her ; she caught his hands.
" Have I vexed you ? " she asked.
" Vexed ! No," he answered, still keeping
his face averted.
" What is it ? " she pressed. " I feel there
is something between us."
" Aren t you just a little difficult to
please ? " he replied. The tone of his voice,
not the words, hurt her. His love meant so
much to her : but she had learnt to believe
in it lately ; yet she had a sudden keen long
ing to reassure herself of its reality.
u It isn t that you love me any less ? " she
asked. Her voice trembled, and something
in the tone of it went straight to the man s
heart. He turned to her, took both her
hands in his own. " I care for you more than
you think, Jess," he said, " and, perhaps," he
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 213
added under his breath, " more than I myself
know." Her eyes filled with tears ; she drew
close to him and hid her face against his
" Your love is so much to me," she sobbed.
" At first I couldn t believe that you loved
me, I seemed so different from the kind of
women men love ; and now, if you took your
love back, I would bear it, because it would
be you who willed it back, but oh, it would
be hard, hard, hard."
He caressed her hair, and his voice shook
with contrition. She fell to sobbing, as a
child cries, short, broken, full-throated sobs,
and he stroked her hair with his big awkward
fingers ; but the nearness of her bosom to his
gave him no thrill, and he comforted her
coldly. Then Pico, who from his perch on the
man s shoulders had peered down curiously
at the weeping woman, set up a sudden odd
little wail on his own account, and Jess, rais
ing her face, held out her arms to the child.
A subtle displeasure entered the man s heart
he drew back.
" Let me have him," she pleaded.
" No, no, he is too heavy for you."
214 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
" Ob, give him to me ! " She stretched out
her hands towards the child, as if she was
stretching out her hands towards motherhood.
" No, no," he said, fiercely. It seemed to
him that if she touched the child it would be
" Oh, give him to me ! " she cried again ;
"the touch of his little hands would make
our love seem less like a dream."
" Life is too real for dreams," he said, in a
harsh, grating voice. He walked on towards
the village, she limped after him ; but each
step he took made the distance between them
She saw him give the child to its mother,
and Pico borne into the house and the door
closed. The Red-haired Man did not turn
back to her, but strode off down the road.
She covered her face with her hands. " It is
a dream, a dream," she cried, bitterly ; " he is
beginning to awake."
And yet she could not believe it was a
dream, even though she said it with her lips.
THE KED-UAIKEB MAN S DREAM 215
THE villagers were returning from their day s
work in the fields as the Red-haired Man
harried down the long grey road. He met
groups of girls and lads chatting and laugh
ing ; a man on a mule ambled by, clasping in
front of him a small child, while a boy perched
behind the saddle gripped him tightly round
the waist. Trudging after him came a woman,
bearing in the basket on her head, which she
steadied with one hand, her baby, who gazed
out on the world in proud security of posi
tion. Through the little procession there ran
the thread of natural human affection, the
affection that the Red-haired Man felt that
he, with his own hands, was tearing out from
the woof of his life. His heart swelled and
protested bitterly against the sacrifice ; the
sight of the groups of peasants became hate
ful to him ; he broke away from them, jumped
the hedge, and climbed up through an olive
orchard towards the brow of the hill. When
the trees hid him from sight he stopped, and
putting his hands on a branch rested his face
216 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
upon them. All day thought on thought had
jarred one against the other in his rnind ; now
his mind was empty of thought his brain
and heart had room for nothing but pain. The
sweat broke out on his forehead. " For my
whole life for my whole life," he muttered
" I can t, I can t " His agony drove him
from the spot, and, hurrying through the
orchard, he came to the farm-house. On the
doorstep a woman sat nursing her child : for
a moment he stood staring at her with so
strange an expression on his face that the
woman crossed herself involuntarily. Burst
ing into a wild, miserable laugh, he rushed
on : suddenly he saw Koch in front of him.
She was standing on the brow of the hill,
looking out across the valley. He came and
stood beside her : neither of them spoke ; but
the nearness of her presence quieted him, and
thought began once more to flow in his brain.
At last, as if by one accord, they turned and
looked at each other : he saw that her face
was no longer that of a child, but of a
woman, and when he marked the change, so
much the more passionate became his need of
her. Pie drew closer. " Come away with
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 217
me," he said ; " there is nothing in the whole
world beside our love."
Despair swept down upon her : it was all
so strange, sudden, terrible, she was so un
accustomed to facing the stern realities of
life. Involuntarily she raised her eyes to his,
seeking help ; but manliness had forsaken
him. He laid his hands upon her breast : the
touch of his hands burnt her like fire ; but her
bosom was to him womanhood, and the soft,
fresh joys of the bridal night.
" Come," he said, " come, my beloved, you
are mine ; do I not possess you already ? " and
his hands slipped from her breast to her waist
and soft rounded hips.
She sprang back, and stood trembling like
a tall flame. Many moments went by his
passionate need of her rose in rebellion, pro
testing at her coldness. With a half articu
late curse, he turned and left her.
THAT evening the Red-haired Man did not
return to the Albergo. When night fell
Jess sat in the loggia waiting for him. At
218 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
tbe little shrine below Mad Gentia had lit
her candles in honour of the Madonna, and
in mute appeal to her pity ; for Mad Gentia s
lover had lingered long far out at sea, and
the Blessed Mother of Christ remembering
this might hasten his return. Jess s heart
filled with pity, for she knew, as did all but
the mad woman, that the lover was drowned,
and would not return till the sea gave up
its dead. The candles burnt bravely, but
Gentia turned away, her heart beating high
with hope ; then a sudden gust of wind blew
them out: but, after all, the man was drowned,
and even the Mother of God could not bring
a dead man to life. Still, be that as it may,
Jess rose from her seat, and, limping painfully
down the village steps, relit the candles.
Late that night, when the doors of the Al-
bergo were fast shut and the Padrona and
her sons lay snoring heavily, Jess crept into
Roch s room. She shook her friend by the
shoulder: "He has not come back," she said.
" Why do you think he has not come back ? "
Koch made no answer; and Jess, thinking
that she slept, left her. The days lengthened
into weeks, and the Red-haired Man did not
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 219
return. Every night fresh candles burnt be
fore the little shrine : the villagers wondered
openly where Mad Gentia got the money to
buy so many candles, but Jess, sitting watch
ing the spear-shaped flames, murmured to
herself, " Who knows, he may come back to
night." At first Koch thought of the Red-
haired Man s return with horror, then to the
horror was added a great longing to see his
Jess had never spoken much to Koch about
the Red-haired Man, but now it seemed that
her heart was overburdened with words, and
she was unwearied in telling of her faith in
him and of his unshakeable fidelity : some
times her voice clanged hard like steel, some
times it shook with tears, but the theme of
her talk in each case was the same, for it
was not Roch whom she worked to convince,
but herself. Neither did Roch s feeling in
listening vary, nor did she cease to shudder
at each recurring of the word " faith."
One evening Roch sat upon her bed : her
chestnut hair, unwound, looked like rusted
gold against her white nightgown ; her small
feet, crossed and pink, pressed the floor. Jess
220 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
stood at the window, staring across the
shadow-wrapt village at the little shrine.
"The candles have gone out," she ex
" What candles ? "
i "MadGentia s "
" Poor Gentia ; but the man is dead."
" He is not dead," Jess answered, in a
" Not dead ? How do you know ? "
" I cannot explain : Gentia knows; I know,
we feel it. You could not understand,
Roch, because " she stopped short, and
then added gently, " When women love they
learn these things."
Roch shivered. " Love is full of pain and
horror," she said.
" No, no, no," replied Jess, putting out her
hands protestingly ; " love is most beauti
ful." She was silent a moment, and the
white moonlight fell on her white face and
figure, her hair hung about her, soft like
" Listen, Roch," she said; "long ago, when
you first knew me, I was hard, believed in
no one : then I met him, and he loved me,"
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DKEAM 221
she was silent a moment. " I know," she con
tinued, in a soft, hushed voice, " you think
that he will not come back to me, but, oh, I
am not afraid."
Roch flung herself face downwards on the
bed, and answered nothing.
All that night Eoch lay awake: she did
not think, only suffered. The day dawned,
throwing white, then pale yellow, tints upon
the sky; but the earth beneath the mists
slept heavily. A fresh coolness fell upon
everything, and the bracken-covered hills
dripped dew. Faint, shuffling noises made
themselves heard, and one startled lark rose
straight upward, poising for a while on lev
elled wings, then sinking back songless to
earth. Eastward, from behind a deeply dip
ping mountain, the sun, slowly at first, and
then with a great smooth sweep, took its place
above the horizon. The goatherds unfastened
the pens, and the goats leapt and butted down
the steep mountain paths. Olevano itself
awoke ; men, women, and children came out
into the streets, singly at first, then in groups ;
the copper cans clanged at the well, and the
232 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
lichen-stained houses echoed back the patter
of the unshod feet of mules. After a while
Koch rose, dressed herself, and went out. It
was her last day in Olevano : she was to leave
by the early diligence, and join her mother in
Rome, Jess had refused to leave Olevano.
At the corner of the street she saw Pico :
taking him from his mother, she carried him
in her arms up the narrow winding paths that
led away from the village out on to the hills.
She came at last to the small pool in whose
writers the Red- haired Man had first seen her
beauty : beside the pool the Red-haired Man
lay asleep. Roch stood watching him, his
face was worn with much suffering. The
freshness of the morning stirred Pico s heart,
he crowed loudly. The Red-haired Man
moved in his sleep, woke, saw Roch with the
baby pressed close against her breast, and
thought that he dreamed ; but Pico struggled
down from the girl s arms, crawled away,
chuckling loudly, for he had been awake an
hour or more.
On the loose stones of the mountain path
there was the sound of a slow, halting tread:
as it fell on the man s ears he awoke hur-
THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM 223
riedly, and fell back behind the; shelter of
the trees. At the bend of the hill above
Jess limped slowly into sight. He felt no
surprise ; it was as if he had been waiting
for her. Each halting step that she took
forward entered his heart like a knife. For
a while Jess stood looking at the broken
path ; then it seemed that her courage failed
her, and, turning, she went back the way she
had come. The echo of her footsteps died ;
Eoch and the Bed-haired Man stood and
stared each into the other s white face.
" She must never know," they stuttered
hoarsely, " she must never learn the truth."
A great haste to be away came to the man
a great fear lingering.
" I will go to her," he said ; " but you
we must never meet again."
"No," Koch answered, dully, "we must
never meet again."
"The diligence you can leave Olevano
His haste bruised her like stones. " Yes,
I leave Olevano to-day."
" You must never write."
" No, I must never write."
224 THE RED-HAIRED MAN S DREAM
"And if we meet you in the street you
must not know us."
" If I meet you in the street I must not
" Swear ! " he said, turning from her.
" I swear."
Then he fled hurriedly, and she, raising
Pico in her arms, pressed the baby close up
against her breast for upon her there was a
lust of motherhood.
THE STONE PINE
THE STONE PINE
rjlHEY dwelt beside the mulberry-shadowed
Mediterranean, and were goatherds: he,
a bare-legged, ragged boy ; she, a short-kilted
maiden in an olive green petticoat and blue
blouse, faded and stained. Each day at ebb
tide they drove their flock along the shore
that they might gather what the sea had cast
aside, for the goats had a keen appetite, and
scarce anything came amiss to them. In
front of the flock the boy walked, playing
upon his reed pipe ; the girl tripped content
in the rear. He never turned back and
looked on her, but talked to his pipe, or
fell listening when it told him of the men s
thoughts and deeds. As for the maid, she
knitted her stocking, and was content, for
she was but nine summers old, and felt scant
curiosity about herself or him. The goats,
too, needed a watchful eye, there was the
^ Devil with the thousand Tricks " which
228 THE STONE PINE
strayed away, and the " Weary One " that
ever lagged behind and needed much herd-
ing. Now the "Devil with the thousand
Tricks " made the boy laugh : he would
punish it, fight with it and feel strong ; but
for the " Weary One " he had nothing but
contempt, calling it feeble- couraged and a
woman. The maid, however, loved it ; but
the kid grew thin, do what she would. At
night the goats were penned, and the boy
and girl slept beside them in a reed hut,
conical-shaped, with a small picture of the
Blessed Virgin nailed above the door, and
on the roof a curious prickly arrangement
to keep away witches for who knew whether
with fall of sun strange things might be
abroad ? Even the boy was sometimes afraid,
and would permit his small companion to
creep close to him and be comforted. She
was grateful, as became her, holding his hand
long after he had dropped off to sleep, while
without the black and silent night seemed
ever about to speak and spoke not.
On the shore there grew a Stone Pine : it
was taller than all other pines, and as solitary
as God. Even when the children and goats
THE STONE PINE 229
lay close by, still it remained solitary ; and
at rise and set of sun the red stem would
glow like a soul : fear would fall on the
children, and, rising, they would stand before
it with bent heads. Sometimes the girl
wondered on the loneliness of the pine:
was it God-lonely from being above men,
their thoughts and ways? The boy had
other thoughts, caring little for the pine, his
mind dwelling on curious bladed knives,
horses, and lands far out at sea, wreck-be-
girdled, and untrod by the foot of man. Yet
there were moments when he also tasted of
loneliness and felt brief fellowship with the
Pine; moments when the beauty of all the
earth seemed ripe, but in the harvest some
thing lacking, though he knew not what it
was, neither had met any one who could
name it by name, the Pine also remaining
silent. The years passed the boy, reaching
up towards manhood, becoming good to look
on, so that when the maid walked behind the
flock she ceased to gaze down on her knitting,
but looked always at him. He did not glance
back at her, because the whole wide world
lay before him : besides, he had known her
230 THE STONE PINE
from a child, and, let her strive much or little,
nothing but womanhood awaited her, a poor
state of scant account.
One day a great restlessness fell upon the
boy, so that taking his pipe he strayed away,
leaving the girl and flock alone. It was vint
age time : men and maids pressed the stain
ing grape with quick-paced feet, and he stood
and played to them while the purple juice
frothed in the old brown wooden vats. His
heart quickened, and drove him from them,
seeking satisfaction elsewhere. Climbing the
mountains, he passed white oxen dragging
blocks of marble. A sweet scent hung about
the beasts, so that he lingered a moment,
before pressing on, to look at their heavy
dewlaps and big luminous eyes.
Later he came to a seaport, and sailed that
evening in one of the feluccas. The west
wind blew upon him ,sof t and fragrant, and
bore with it the scent of other lands, and his
heart waxed impatient for the sight of them.
Many weeks passed, and the felucca coasted
slowly down the Mediterranean, then ported
helm, and began to sail as slowly back.
Sometimes the boat lay becalmed, and all on
THE STONE PINE 231
board except the boy slept beneath the
shadow of the brown sail : he alone was glad
when the breeze sprang up once more, and
the waves leapt like a laugh against the bows.
Sometimes, too, they would drop anchor at
strange ports; the sailors would go ashore
and drink their fill of red wine and of the
red lips of girls : but such scenes moved the
boy little, though his heart did not cease to
Then one day, the felucca having reached
its journey s end, the sails were clewed up,
and the boy was free, if he would, to return
home. The sun lay low upon the horizon
when he drew near and saw the maid seated
beneath the shadow of the Stone Pine. She
rose to her feet, and they stood and looked at
each other : he saw that she was beautiful,
and the restlessness left his heart, so that he
A great fear fell on them both : the maid
turned and fled, he following, though why
she fled, or why he, who could have overtaken
her, did not, neither of them knew.
Then at last her knees trembled, and she
ran back to the Pine for shelter. But when
232 THE STONE PINE
the boy saw that she was afraid, he grew bold,
took her in his arms, and kissed her on the
lips the Pine beside them glowing like a
A SUDDEN gale had sprung up from the
north-east ; great black-backed gull and
feeble-winged puffin had been forced alike
through the smoking mists inland. Night
fell amid the clash of wind and sea. A nar
row track winding round the cliffs led past a
cottage ; light shone from the windows, and
in the kitchen were three women. The young
est lay in a truckle bed, a baby against her
breast ; an old woman, tall, gaunt, and white-
haired, sat at a table, the Bible before her,
muttering over familiar passages with awk
ward lips ; the third moved softly about the
room preparing supper. She stood a moment
by the bed, as the child broke into a long,
" Poor lamb ! " she said ; " he frets as if
your breast was cold to him."
" Maybe tis cold," replied the sick girl,
236 THE STORM
"Ay, but not to-night, Nan," the other
protested, " and his father out in a storrn like
this ! "
" The Lord have mercy on the lad ! " ex
claimed the old woman, glancing up; "he s
got that scamp Rab Tapp wi him in the boat.
Scores o times I ve told Joss twould be safer
to sail long o decent folk."
Nan stirred uneasily. " Rab s as good as
the rest o em," she muttered, " and a long
"Handy wi his tongue belike," retorted
the old woman; "there ain t his equal for
lying in this here parish. Tis only reason
able that the Lord should be angered agin
him ; though maybe the Almighty will mind
that Joss has been a good son to me, and
spare the boat."
She was silent a moment, listening to the
continuous clamour of the massive door-bolts
that barred back the storm. " Ay, that Rab,"
she burst out, fiercely, " they should cast him
overboard the same as the men o Joppa cast
the prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Who
knows but the Almighty may be speaking
now by the voice o the wind Cast him out,
THE STORM 237
cast him out, and the raging waves of the
sea shall foam upon his shame.
" How dare ee speak such words as them ! "
cried the girl, springing up in bed. " The
Lord ain t no Moloch to devour men s lives."
"And what s Kab Tapp s life to thee?"
replied the other, sternly. " It ill becomes a
mother with her first chile at breast to be
taking such thought for furren men s lives."
" Come, come, mother," interposed the third
woman, "let Nan be: supper s on the table,
and you d feel better for a snatch o som-
" I did well to name ee Martha," cried the
old woman, turning on her. "Your thoughts
be too much taken up wi the things o this
world. What call have I for bite or sup when
the great starved sea is hungering after my
son? Ay, but Joss, lad, lad," she continued
to herself, " and you that fond o whistling ! "
Martha made no answer, but, pouring out
a cup of tea, brought it to the sick girl.
"Happen twill quench your thirst a bit,
Nan," she said.
" Tain t that kind o thirst," replied the
238 THE STOKM
" Take it all the same, lass," Martha urged ;
and the girl drank.
" Tis salt as the sea ! " she exclaimed, push
ing the cup from her with a shudder. " Seems
as if I knowed the taste o 7 drowning."
"And well you may," exclaimed the old
woman, " when your man is forced so nigh
" Joss will not be drowned," replied her
daughter-in-law carelessly. " What-for should
he be drowned ? Oh, my God ! " she ended,
with abrupt change of voice, as the hurrying
scream of the storm wrenched its way through
the cottage, " why did yer make the sea ? "
She flung herself back in the bed, and the
child began once more to cry, but she paid
no heed to it.
" Poor heart ! " said Martha, stooping and
raising the baby in her arms, " he frets over
things." She walked to and fro in the little
kitchen, her face pressed close against the
child s, her soft brown hair mingling with his
soft downy fluff. "My own chile," she con
tinued meditatively, " was wonderful con-
" Your own chile ! " exclaimed the harsh-
THE STORM 239
voiced old woman. " Why, your own chile
was born dead."
"Her was never dead to me," Martha
answered, gently. "I used to talk a deal to
her lying there so close and trustful agin my
heart. But now I sorter feel that if me and
Jim had another chile, maybe twould be
" Ay, and no wonder," retorted her mother ;
"a more shiftless body than Jim I ain t come
across always trapesing round in searching
work and never finding it. He s a poor stick ;
the sea never gave him no call, and you can
sit here and eat your victuals content, come
storm, come clear."
The sick girl raised herself on her arm.
"There s one thing I never could fathom,"
she exclaimed with sudden interest, " and
that s his being own brother to Rab. Why,
he ain t no patch on him ! "
" No," rejoined her mother-in-law, sharply ;
" he s more fool than cheat, for certain. If
twor he out in the boat wi Joss, happen the
Lord might overlook him."
The girl s dark eyes flashed, and Martha
interposed, in a hurt voice, " Maybe Jim
240 THE STOEM
ain t so quick at the take up as Rab ; but
lie s mortal persevereshous at trying. After
all, Nan," she added, "you ain t never seen
E-ab but twice."
"No, I ain t never seen him but twice,"
the girl repeated.
" And when ye did meet never spoke much
to one nother ! " continued Martha, wonder-
" No, us never spoke much to one
" Ay, certain," exclaimed Martha ; " why,
the last time he corned in here twas a matter
of three weeks ago; you was sitting up in
front of the fire nursing the chile, and he just
stood over again ee by the chimney-piece,
sorter thoughtful. Do you love it? he
axed, do you love it ? but you didn t
make no answer. Them were his words.
Do you mind, Nan ? "
" Yes," said the girl, softly, " I mind."
" Twas a queer question I reckoned to put
to a mother ; but there, you ain t never been
terrible took up wi the chile."
" Maybe you didn t speak to him sorter
THE STORM 241
tender afore you horned him same as I did
my little girl."
" Yet twor my chile that wor born dead."
" Ay," the girl answered, fiercely, " and
ain t mine born dead too ? "
The elder woman glanced at her in aston
ishment. " What ails you, Nan ? " she ex
claimed. "Why, the poor lamb is calling
for the breast."
" I don t hear it call," the girl answered,
Martha looked down with sad eyes at the
child on her knee. " You don t love it ter
rible tendersome," she said.
The girl, turning away her head, made no
reply. Without the storm clamoured more
fiercely, and the faces of the listening women
grew white and tense. " Pray for them at
sea," exclaimed Martha, glancing at her
" And ain t I praying for em ? " expostu
lated the old woman, passionately.
" Say the words aloud, mother, and let us
The old woman clasped her hands, worn
242 THE STOKM
with toil, knotted with age, and sank on her
knees ; her thin lips trembled, but no words
broke from them. Wind and sea, as if in
derision at her helplessness, burst into more
hideous combat, and the thunder heaved its
way through their clamour with a noise like
the splitting of mountains.
" O God ! " sobbed the woman, " he wor a
good son to me a good son to me." She
was silent a moment, and the storm without
upreared itself against the cliffs, rocking the
cottage in its heavy embrace. " O God ! "
she burst forth again, " ye would have spared
Sodoin for the sake of ten righteous men, and
twor a terrible big and wicked city spare
the boat cause o Joss ! I wouldn t have
axed so bold if it wor a ship ; but it s nought
but a boat, mortal small and tiddleliwinkie,
wi only dree men an a lad in it ; and the
lad s a decent lad come o respectable church
folk, no chappelites, a-setting o theirselves
up above their betters. Happen you re an
gered again Rab Tapp, and well you might
be, for he s not over and above conspicuous
in good works ; still, he s young, and youth s
laming time : but, if ye be terrible set on
THE STORM 243
cutting him off and I ll not deny the temp
tation then, O Lord God ! speak to Joss
through the mouth o the winds, same as ye
did the men o Joppa, so that he shall rise
and cast Rab forth into the deep, and the
sea shall cease her raging."
As she uttered the last words the sick girl
sprang from the bed and caught the old
woman by the shoulders. " How dare ee
mind the Almighty o Rab s weaknesses at
such a time ! " she cried, passionately.
"And do you reckon that the Lord has
forgotten em ? " replied the old woman, in a
hard voice. " Ain t they all written in the
Book o Judgment ? "
" There be scores and scores o folk on
the sea to-night," the girl answered, " deal
wickeder folk than Rab, and why should the
Almighty be special took up wi he ? Oh,
twas cruel, cruel of yer to put Him in mind
o the lad ! "
" Ain t the names o all sailor men written
on the same page, that the Lord may read
and choose in the winking o an eye ? And
shall I see my own son cast away for fear o
speaking out ?" remonstrated the old woman,
244 THE STORM
fiercely. " My first-born, that lay at my breast
and milked me trustsome ? Shame on you to
think o stranger folk afore your own wedded
While she spoke there was the sound of
heavy knocking on the door without. Mar
tha crossed the room, shot back the great
bolts, and a man, pale-faced, drenched, and
battered, staggered in. The old woman gave
an abrupt, keen cry. " My son ! " she ex
claimed, and would have taken him in her
arms, but he put her gently aside and came
towards the girl, who stood barefooted on the
cold stone floor, her long brown hair curling
over her coarse night-gown.
" Nan," he cried, " sweetheart, woman,
wife, God s given me back to ee ! "
" And Rab ? " she said, hoarsely.
"The sea has taken its toll Rab s
drowned," he answered.
" Twas he I loved ! " she cried, and fell at
the man s feet as dead.
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
T was Christmas Eve, the snow lay thick
on the village street, the waits were out,
and small children sat up in bed feeling very
happy, though they did not well know why.
But Sam Crag, sitting alone in his cottage,
did not feel happy. Fifty years had he been
clerk-sexton in the parish church, and now
he was to be clerk-sexton no more ; therefore
the world seemed to him a sorry place, and
Christmas out of joint. Fifty dull, stiff-
jointed, yawnful years; but they had not
seemed long to Sam Crag, and it was the
death of the rector that first brought home
to him that he too had lagged behind his
time. The supposition pained him, and he
fought against it, for his sap of obstinacy
had not yet run dry. Crag had always
spoken of the rector and himself as " us
two " ; and for years " us two " had managed
the little, out-of-the-way country parish much
as they had wished.
248 AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
The new rector was a young man, not
without ideas, and determined among other
things to restore the church, sweep away the
high-backed pews and creaky galleries, and
Sam Crag along with them.
In the village there were certain almshouses
known as the Bede cottages. The occupiers
of these cottages received a weekly dole of
half-a-crown and a quartern loaf of bread.
The bread was often heavy, and apt to con
tain foreign substances not previously recog
nised as nutritious ; but then, as the baker
said, "It was a charity loaf, and good for
such," though in a moment of unusual ex-
pansiveness he had been known to add, " that
they who set out to live on charity had best
look to their teeth."
When the rector had told Crag that he had
grown too old for his work, he had told him
also that he was to have a vacant Bede cot
tage, the weekly half-crown and quartern
loaf of bread. Nothing, therefore, seemed
more certain than that life for him was to be
shorn of all care, and that he might totter to
the grave without fear of starving by the
way; but Crag, with the strange ingratitude
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR 249
of the poor, had declared he would have
" none o their charities," and when remon
strated with had cursed the new rector to his
face for " a snip of a currit."
So it had come about that sorrow on this
Christmas Eve laid a heavy hand on Crag,
and his ears had grown deaf to the song of
the waits. Now, sitting in the corner of his
kitchen, his eyes fell suddenly on the massive
church keys. He rose and unhooked them
from the nail behind the door the nail on
which, each Sunday night, they had come
back to rest till the following Saturday, when
the church was unlocked and cleaned. They
had grown used to that nail, and the nail to
them, for the Crags, father and son, had been
clerk-sextons for three generations.
It was at this moment that a knock sounded
on the door and a man entered : he looked at
Crag with a mixture of curiosity and pity.
" I ve come," he said, " for the keys."
Crag made no attempt to give them to him,
but stood turning them over and over in his
hand, his chest heaved, and a tear splashed
through the clumsy wards on to the floor.
" I ve kuowed em," he exclaimed, " ever
250 AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
since I was a chile." The man s face grew
red. He looked first at Crag, then at the
keys, and after a moment s hesitation turned
on his heel and went out.
"I reckon," he muttered, " twould be as
well to call terinarrer."
After a while Crag, having locked his cot
tage door, made his way slowly through the
village street, and up the hill where the church
stood sentinel above the dead.
Entering, he went to where, in a corner of
one of the crypts, he kept his shovel and pick,
and having taken them passed out of church
again. He climbed over the rugged graves
till he reached an elrn-tree, at the foot of
which his wife lay buried. Forty years she
had lain there, her baby at her breast
he had placed them in one coffin. "Her ll
sleep quieter so," he said, and she had never
stirred, but still slept on.
It had been on Christmas Eve that she had
died : he- remembered that night well the
snow lay on the ground, and the moon shone
full. The waits had been singing a Christmas
hymn, and she had told him to open wide the
window that she might hear more clearly, for
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR 251
the deafness of death was upon her. He had
done so, and the words
" Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled,"
floated in through the falling snow, and she,
hearing them, smiled and passed out to meet
Him in whose praise they sang.
Crag cleared the snow away from the
patch of ground next to his wife s grave,
and then began to dig. It seemed to him
that, somewhere in his dulled brain, two
voices spoke, and one said, " Whose grave is
And the other answered, " Wait and you
will know all."
Then Loony Jack, the village idiot, came
and peered down upon him. A strange fool
was Loony Jack, and some there were w^ho
said that he had the power of scenting death
afar off. He watched the old man pick and
shovel, shovel and pick, and then burst into
a laugh, wild, mocking, miserable ; but Crag
heeded him not, for now he knew that it was
his own grave he dug, and he desired to dig
it well. Loony Jack got tired of watching
252 AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
and went his way, but the echo of the laugh
lingered among the graves. At last Crag
finished his work and returned once more to
the church, and as he shut the door behind
him his left hand fumbled restlessly with the
handkerchief around his neck ; a moment
later and he had untied it. Passing between
the high-backed pews he came to the altar,
and stood there, drawing the handkerchief
through his fingers, backwards and forwards.
It was at those same altar-steps that he, one
morning in May, had knelt to be married ;
and now the memory of that day came back
to him again. Once more he saw himself rise
at dawn, and steal hand in hand with her, who
so soon was to be his bride, across the quiet
fields, where the blue mist hung sleepily.
There, with none but the sky to see them,
they had made a daisy chain. His part had
been to kiss the daisies, hers to weave the
flowers. The chain woven, she hung it
around his hat, for a lad must needs look
his best upon his wedding morning. Then
they had stolen home, to meet again before
the altar of the old church and swear to
love and cherish each other till Death did
AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR 253
them part. And Death had parted them ;
but now, he said to himself, Death should
bring them together again. The clock in the
tower gave a great whirring scream, prepar
atory to striking the hour.
"I ll do it on the stroke o the hour,"
muttered the old man " on the stroke o
He wound the handkerchief round his neck,
his eyes still filled with visions of his dead
wife. Young and fair she seemed to him,
and he himself felt like a lad going to meet
his bride. Then there came to him the knowl
edge that between the death that she he loved
had died, and that which he would bring upon
himself, there was a great gulf fixed. Think
ing of it, he fell upon his knees. " Oh, God,"
he sobbed, " is the difference so mortal great,
so mortal great ? "
From out of the gloom of the church a voice
answered, " Blessed are the dead that die in
For one awful moment the old man rose to
his feet, then swayed, and fell forward on
his face. Through the church rang peal after
peal of discordant laughter. Loony Jack was
254 AT THE STROKE OF THE HOUR
playing at funerals; but Crag heeded him
not, for he was dead.
Then with a whir the clock tolled twelve,
and Christmas Day dawned upon the world.
IT was Sunday : the mill was silent, and the
water pressed idly against the big dam,
opposite which stood old Zam Tapp s cottage.
Zam was seated in the dark kitchen, a bucket
of water between his knees, peeling potatoes ;
and lying in a truckle-bed was his grandson
Travelling Joe, a boy of about nine years old,
small, wizen, and partly paralysed. The tall
clock in the corner of the room had struck
twelve, and groups of people passed the cot
tage on their return from church and chapel.
Zam, who did not " howld wi zich things,"
eyed them with indifference, not unmixed
with contempt. He "reckoned," he said,
"thet ha didn t want no praicher to teach
him tha way tu eaven ; zalvation wez a
koovis thing, and, like cream, let it alone and
twid come to ee : meddle and praying widn t
lo the boy lying there, his heart full of
253 TRAVELLING JOE
the spirit of adventure, and his life bounded
by the truckle-bed and the four walls of the
small kitchen, the thought of heaven was of
piercing interest; it haunted his dreams sleep
ing and waking, it was his New America, the
land which he would one day explore. To
him it never ceased to be a matter of regret
that the Crystal Sea lay in front of the
throne of God ; he would have wished it
might have been in what he called the " dim-
met 1 part o eaven " ; a far border-land un
known to the angels, and where even the eye
of God fell seldom. And now as he lay and
watched Zam peeling the potatoes, he longed
unconsciously to hear the " loosing of the
mill," for the sound of the great waters leap
ing forth was to him as the rushing of the
River of Life.
Zain s mind was occupied by the thought of
his dead wife. " Eh ! eh ! " he exclaimed,
suddenly, " hur wez a windervul and at biling
a tetty, wez my owld wuman, and when it
coomed tu tha last hur mind dwelt on it
painvul. Vather, hur zed, < I reckon I ve
cooked ee my last tetty. i I reckon ee ave,
1 Dusky, dim, full of shadows.
TRAVELLING JOE 259
moather, I answered. Hur wez zileut a bit,
then all-ta-wance liur zot up in bed and
ketclied howldt o me by tha weskit. Tull
Jane thic wez yer pore moather tull
Jane/ hur zed, twez tha zalt thet did it ;
twez all along o tha zalt. But, law bless
ee, zalt or no zalt, Jane s tetties wez niver
a patch on hum. I reckon hur hand will
ba raoast out o biling tetties by tha time I
jines hur; but law, I doant complain, moast
like tez zweet stuff they lives on up ther :
I niver cud stomach zich stuff mezulf ; but
bless ee, glory hez tu be paid for the same ez
A vision of his grandmother s portly form
arose in the child s mind as he lay and lis
tened. " Grandfer," he said, u do ee reckon
thet grandmoather took tu wings natrel fust
along ? "
Zam stopped peeling the potatoes. " Many s
tha time I ve thought on thic, Joe," he an
swered, sorrowfully, " and I ba moast a-feardt
hur didn t ; tha noo-fangled ways wez alwiz
contrary tu hur, and if ther wez wan thing
more than a tother hur cudn t abide twez
a loose veather in her bed. Eh ! eh ! I wid
260 TRAVELLING JOE
dearly o liked tu o gone along fust and put
hur in tha way o things a bit ; but ther, if
yer doant lave things tu tha Almighty, who
shall ee leave em to ? "
" Tha Laurd ba turribul mindful o poor
folk," the boy said, questioningly.
" Ay, ay, lad," the old man answered,
"ther ba a deal o tha wuman about tha
Almighty. Ha wull pramise ee an ill tarn
if yer doant mend ; but Ha ba zlow tu lay it
on zlow tu lay it on."
Joe was silent a moment, and Zam began
once more to peel the potatoes. At last the
boy spoke. " Sposing grandmoather wez tu
break her wing," he cried, excitedly, " what
then, grandfer what then ? "
The old man flushed. " Angels baint for
doing zich things ez thic, Joe," he answered ;
" there s nought promiscuous in eaven. I
reckon thet they thet ba noo tu tha trade
flies mortal zlow fust along zummat like
owld Varmer Rod s payhen ; no hitting o
theirselves agin a tray. Yer grandmoather
kind o thought o thic hurzulf, and jest avor
hur turned over in hur bed for tha last time,
her looked up in me vace kind o trustzome,
TRAVELLING JOE 201
I ll take it aisy, vather, her zed, and the
Laurd wull do the rast. Eh ! eh ! moather,
I zed, Ha woant forzake ee. Ha s bin a
pore man Hiszulf, an knaws what tiz not tu
ba larned. Hur smiled, but I zaw tha tears
in hur eyes. I shall miss yer hand, vather,
hur zed, i tha valley o tha shader ba turribul
dark. The Laurd wull walk wi ee,
moather, I zed, i Hiz hand ba more restful
than mine. i Eh, but vust along, her mur
mured, vust long ; then hur claused hur
eyes and died quietvul. Hur wez mortal
much a daman, poor zoul. Conzarvitive to
tha end conzarvitive to tha end."
Later, when the frugal dinner had been
cooked and eaten, Zam drew his big arm-chair
up to the fire and fell asleep. The boy closed
his eyes too, but only that he might the more
easily dwell in an imaginary world. He
wondered what the far confines of heaven
looked like, and whether he should find vol
canoes there, and as he pictured the scene he
suddenly startled the old man out of his sleep.
" Grandfer, grandfer," he cried excitedly,
" sposing eaven shid blaw up ! "
"Bless tha boy," Zam answered, looking
262 TRAVELLING JOE
anxiously at the small fire, " I thought vor
zure tha kettle wez biling auver."
" Naw, granf er," said Joe, " I wez only a-
wondering what tha diinmet parts o eaven
might be arter when God wez kind o think
ing o zommat ulse."
Zam s deep-set eyes twinkled. " A bit con
trary may ba," he said, " but nought light-
zome, Joe nought lightzoine."
" Folk ba turribul spiritless up tu eaven,"
the boy answered, sadly. " They baistesses
now that stand avor tha throne do ee reckon
thet they iver roar ? "
" Wull," his grandfather answered after a
moment, " I widn t reckon on it, if I wez you,
Joe I widn t reckon on it ; but," he added, as
his eyes fell upon the boy s disappointed face,
" who can tull what the talking o zich crit
ters as thic wull be like fearsome, no doubt."
" And, grandfer," Joe exclaimed, with ris
ing colour, " if lame Tom wez ther wi hiz
crutch now, and jest stepped on tha taw o
wan o they baistesses, then ha wid talk mor
tal spiritty, grandfer, widn t ha? "
" Eh, for zure, for zure, mortal spiritty, I ll
be bound," Zam answered.
TRAVELLING JOE 2C3
The flush of excitement died out from the
boy s face. " Moast like twull niver happen,"
he said, in a sorrowful voice ; " up tu eaven
things ba painful riglar."
" Ba ee tired, lad ? " Zam asked, as he rose
from his chair and lifted the child tenderly
in his arms. " Shall I carry ee tu and fraw
Joe pressed his thin white face against the
old man s breast.
" Tull me about things avor I wez born,
grandfer," he said. " Tull me about vather ;
wez ha vine and upstanding ? " 1
"Ay, ay, lad, ha wez pleasant tu look
upon," Zam answered, " but habrauk yer pore
mother s heart for all o thic. He wez turribul
wild, wez Jim ; good-hearted anuff, but turri
bul wild ; ha wezn t built for marrying ; ha
cudn t stay pauking about in a little vullage
zich ez this ba; ha zed thet tha wordel wez
zmall anuif, but ez vor tha village, ha couldn t
breathe in it ; and yer pore moather hur
cudn t get tu understand thet nohow hur
reckoned thet if ha loved hur, ha wud stay ;
but, law bless ee, lad, vor men zich ez Jim
1 Well built.
264 TRAVELLING JOE
ther ba zommat ulse in the wordel beside tha
love o women-folk, tho they, pore zouls, cant
gaw fur tu zee it. But ha wez turribul fond
o hur vor all thic, and I cud zee thet it jest
went tu his heart tu act contrary; but ha
cudn t help it, pore lad twez the nater thet
wez in him fo ced him on. Eh, but they made
a windervul haridzome couple tha day they
wez merrid ; the vullage riglar tamed out tu
look on ? em, and I thort tu mezulf thet twid
o bin a proud day vor my pore owld wuman
if tha Almighty had spared hur ; but twez
better ez it twez better ez it wez. Wull,
they hadn t a-bin merrid a skaur o wiks avore
Jim wez riglar pining tu ba off : ha didn t
zay nought, but wid gaw and wander about
in tha wids for haurs, and wan day ha didn t
coome ome ; he wrote from Liverpool tu zay
ha wez starting vor Merikey. But tha ship
wez lost wi all ands ; ay, ay, pore lad, I
reckon ha zlapes zound anuff now wi tha
zay a-rolling a-tap o him : ha cud niver o
breathed iv it had bin airth. But yer
moather, hur niver forgave him vor it niver :
twez a Zunday thet tha noos coomed, and
Martha Snykes and zome o tha naybours
TRAVELLING JOE 205
rinned up yhere ez fast ez they cud, pore
zouls, reckoning thet yer moather wid like to
cry all-tugether comfortabul, tha zame ez it
iz uyshil wi wirnen ; but, law bless ee, when
her saw they well-nmining dumans cooming
droo tha door, hur tarned hur back quat 1 on
em and marched up- stairs. Arter a bit her
coomed down wi a bonnet all auver pink roses
atap o 7 hur ead, and Martha Snykes wez thet
tooked aback thet hur fell down wi tha recur
ring spasams and drank ivery drop o brandy
ther wez in the ause avor hur wez brought to.
Yer moather didn t throw a look at hur,
but went off down tha strait tu charch wi
all tha naybours standing at ther doors and
crying shame ; but, law bless ee, hur didn t
heed em ony more than tha geese on tha
green. Ay, ay, pore zoul, hur wez alwiz
wan for howlding hur head high ; hur niver
cud stomach tha contrary. Wull, wull,
women s women, mortal strong in tha af
fections, but managing tu tha last manag
ing tu tha last. Them wez turribul days,
and yer moather s vace grew that hard I wez
moast afeardt tu look at it. I thought mayba
2C8 TRAVELLING JOE
tliet when yer coomed things might o bin
diffurrent ; I tooked ee in tu hur. Jane,
I zed, i ha wull want ee alwiz, and when I
zed thic hur kained l acrass at ee, and hur
vace changed back intu a wuman s vace agin ;
then all-ta-wance zommat coomed auver hur
and hur tarned hur vace round agin tha
wall. Take im away, hur zed, ha ba
nought tu me. Hur niver spoke arter thic;
ther wez ony wan pusson in the wordel thet
hur iver loved, and thet wez Jim, and when ha
died, hur wi all hur pride wez f o ced tu valler."
Later, when Zam laid the boy in the old
truckle-bed, Joe looked up in his face.
" Vather wez mortal understandabul," he
" But not tu women-folk," Zam answered,
" not tu women-folk. Wull, wull," he con
tinued to himself, " tha lad hez hiz vather s
spirut, ivery bit o it ; but ha wull niver
break no wuman s heart wi wandering, tha
Lord hez minded otherwise."
It was about a week after the conversation
recorded had taken place that Joe s uncle,
TRAVELLING JOE 2C7
Ben Tapp, came to Zam s cottage ; but the
old man was not at home, and Ben, who,
after many years spent in America, had ar
rived in England only to find that most of
his relations were dead and he himself for
gotten, sat down on Travelling Joe s bed in
an exceedingly bad humour with himself
and the world in general.
" Wall, Travelling Joe," he said, " thet be
a darned queer start o a name yer have fixed
to yerself anyhow. They pins o yars ain t
extra spry at covering the ground, I shud
think from the look o em."
" But things wull ba mortal diffurent up
ta eaven, uncle Ben," the boy answered.
" Ther woant ba no diffurence twixt me and
tother folk then, cept rnayba I shall ba more
rasted. I shall do a sight o travelling when
I gets up ther ; you zee, uncle Ben, tha Al
mighty ba powerful understandzome, zo I
ain t got no cause tu ba feardt when I gaws
up avore tha throne, and I shall jest ax Him
tu let me vind noo ways droo tha dimmet
parts o eaven. Dear Laurd, I shall zay,
i I knaws what rasting ba like, and now I
wid dearly like tu ba doing. "
268 TRAVELLING JOE
Just as Ben Tapp would have tortured
any helpless animal that fell into his power,
so now, as he looked down on the boy s
eager, pathetic face, a desire came into his
heart to crush out its happiness.
" Thar ain t no such place as eaven, Joe,"
he said, leaning forward and placing his great
hand on the child s cripple form ; " tis all
darned rot bunkum, as us says out in the
States. And as for the Almighty that yer
talk so slick about, tha bally old oss has
kicked his last kick. Natur hez played low
down on yer, Joe, and tied yer up to yar
darned bed ; but when Death gits hould of
yer, ha wull tie yer a tarnation sight tighter,
yer can bet yer bottom dollar on thet, Joker ; "
and the man burst into a laugh of coarse en
joyment. " Thar, young shaver," he added,
as he rose from the bed, " thet s the opinion
o wan thet has covered a darned sight more
miles in his life than yer have minutes, so
stow it in yar pipe and smoke it " : so saying,
he left the child alone. But from that mo
ment a change came over Travelling Joe he
began to pine away, and the villagers said he
was " marked for death " ; but Zam, as he
TRAVELLING JOE 269
walked to and fro with the dying boy in his
arms, muttered, " Better death than thet tha
Union shid ave him ; better thet than thic
better thet than thic."
One day, when it was plain that Joe was
more than usually ill, Martha Snykes came to
the cottage. " I jest drapped in, Zam Tapp,"
she said, sinking her stout form in the near
est chair, " to tull ee o a remedy, a mortal
efficumcasious remedy, tho I zay it ez shudn t,
baing, zo tu spake, the inventor o tha zame.
But, law, I ve suffered thet turribul bad me-
zulf ; what wi tha recurring spasams, and a
percussion in the head that jest drones on con-
tinuel for all the wordel like the passon o
praiching o Zundays, thet I cant a-bear tu
think of the pore child wi death rampaging
auver him, and tha cure, zo tu spake, at hiz
vurry door ; tha zame baing nort ulse but a
tayspoonf ul o tha brownest o sugar, togither
wi a tayspoonf ul o tha strongest o brandies,
and let it be tooked zitting, Natur liking
a smoothness at zich times. I have alwiz
reckoned mezulf thet if thet child s inoather
had vallered my advice and tooked thickey
remedy, hur wid niver ave bin lying in tha
270 TRAVELLING JOE
charchyard at this yhere blessid minnit ; tho
I won t gaw for tu deny thet hur made a vine
corpse, straight vaychers favouring the zarne.
The which I have alwiz allowed, and many s
the time I ve zed ez much. Jane Vaggis,
I ve zed, i may have acted a bit contrary in
hur life, zich ez tha wearing o roses at mis-
taken moments, but taken ez a corpse, hur
did hur dooty, hur looked hur part. Not thet
I would ever act contrary tu them ez Natur
hed less vavoured at zich times ; and when
my pore moather came tu the last, and what
wi dropsy and wan thing and tother, hur wez
moast tha size o tha feather-bed that hur
layed on, i Moather, I zed, if yer ave a
fancy in coffins, zay the wud and I woant
go for tu deny ee. i Martha, hur answered,
4 ony colour but black, and let the handles
ba shiny ; and I guved hur hallum l picked
out wi brass, and ther ain t a corpse in tha
parish ez wez hurried more comfortabul. But
ther," she added as she rose from her seat, " I
must be gettin along ome ; law bless us ! "
she exclaimed, looking down on Joe, " how
turribul bad the pore chil does look; but
TRAVELLING JOE 271
there, ha iz gwaying tu a home o light, tho
I alwiz reckoned mezulf thet eaven must ba
trying tu tha eyes. Wull, I wish ee good
day, Zam Tapp," she added, "and doan t
forget a tayspoonful o the brownest o
sugars togither wi a tayspoonful o tha
strongest o brandies, and let the zame ba
tooked zittinor "
" Grandfer," said the boy when the door
closed on Martha Snykes s fat, comfortable
form, " carry me tu and fraw a bit and tull
me zommat; tull me what the wordel ba like
out ther, ba it mortal wide ? "
" Ay, ay, lad," Zam answered, raising the
dying child in his arms, " wide and lonezome,
wide and lonezome."
" But windervull full o ditches," Joe said ;
" do ee jump they ditches, grandfer, when
yer gaws tu and fraw tu wark ? "
"Naw, lad, I ba getting owld," Zam an
swered ; " I moastly walks longzide."
There was silence for a moment, and then
Joe spoke. " Grandfer," he said, " do ee
reckon thet they knaws more about eaven
auver tu Merikey than they does yhere ? "
" Tiz tha tother zide o tha wordel," the
272 TRAVELLING JOE
old man answered ; " maybe they zees clearer
" I ba mortal wangery, 1 grandfer," Travel
ling Joe answered, sighing; U I reckon I cud
Zam laid the dying boy back in the old
truckle-bed. " Shall I tull ee zommat from
the Buk, lad ? " he asked.
The child shivered. " Naw, grandf er," he
answered, " I wid liefer bide quiet." He
sank into a broken slumber, suddenly to
awake with a start.
" Tiz turribul dinimet," he exclaimed ;
" but," and his face brightened, " I zees
things like ditches : " so saying, he died.
RAB VINCH S WIFE
RAB VINCH S WIFE
THE chill October dusk swept down upon
the village, as it lay sheltered against a
red-breasted Devonshire hill, at the foot of
which, where the river meandered brown-faced
and silent out among the meadows, stood Rab
Vinch s cottage. The firelight crept across
the threshold, throwing shadows by the way
on the white-washed walls of the small
kitchen, and outlining Rab s harsh passionate
features as he sat and stared down on the
flames. A certain peaceful quiet which reigned
in the room for Rab s wife, who was prepar
ing the evening meal, moved softly was
broken by the sound of footsteps, and with a
brief knock a man entered.
" They ve brought it in murder agin lame
Tom," he cried, excitedly.
Rab shifted back his chair, and his face
grew grey beneath his tanned skin.
276 EAB VINCH S WIFE
"An tha Squoire ain t done nought!" he
"Eh? tha Squoire," repeated the man,
turning towards him ; but a sudden movement
on the part of the woman prevented him from
seeing Rab. " It pears," he continued, " thet
inter tha sizes tha Squoire bain t no more than
ony tother man ; tho ha did git a speshil doc
tor down from Lonnon, costing pounds an
pounds, jest tu show thet lame Tom wezn t
fixed tu his chump 1 tha zame ez moast folk ;
but tha jidge wez vor hanging, jidges baing
paid vor zich, zo hanging it s ta ba ; ony down
in tha vullage uz reckons ther wez more than
wan pusson mixed up in that ther murder."
" Down in tha vullage they ba mazing cliv-
var, no doubt," the woman answered, scorn
fully; "but tha law ain t no vule to ba
a-hanging o hinnocent folk."
The man moved a step nearer, and laid his
hand upon her arm.
" Thet ba jest wher ee ba wrong, Zusan
Vinch," he said. " I zeed thickey corpse a vull
dree hours a-vour tha perlice iver clapped eyes
on it, an twez riglar ringed round wi f ut-
1 Off the chump-=wti> quite in his right mind.
RAB VINCH S WIFE 277
marks thet wez niver made by ony boot o
lame Tom s ; eh, an if it had not rained thet
powerful spirited, tha perlice wid o zeen em
themzulves, blind ez tha ba. An my wife
hur zed ta me a skaur o times, Tummas
Wulkie, hur s zed, why doant ee gaw inter
Extur an tull tha law what yer ave zeen wi
yer own eyes ? An I ve up an zed tu hur,
Naw, zes I, * tha law ba a catchy thing, an
like tother folk s turnips, best not meddled
An expression of fear passed over the
woman s face. "Tha law ain t for the hang
ing o hinnocent folk," she repeated, doggedly.
" Tha law an tha perlice ba moast wan,"
the man answered with contempt, "alwiz
snuffing round arter tha wrong scent, like
varmer Plant s tarrier dawg. Why did Josh
Tuckitt sail for Meriky tha day arter the
murder? wat call had ha to ba zo mazing
smart all-ta-wance ? answer me that, Zusan
"Josh Tuckitt had nought watever to do
wi it," Rab interposed, impetuously,
" How do yer coome to knaw thic ? " the
man asked, with a look of suspicion.
" Cuz uz wez togither that night."
There was a moment s silence, and then
Susan Finch spoke.
" Why can t yer let things bide as they
ba, Tummas Wulkie ? " she exclaimed, pas
sionately. " Wan wid think yer had
killed tha poor man yersulf, tha way
yer ba alwiz pauking tha blame on tother
" Tiz a quare thing," the man answered,
turning on his heel, " that a long tongue an 7
a short understandin moast times run in
couples ; but ther wuman wez a kind o extry
thought o tha Almighty s, an uz all knaw
thet tiz tha way o zich things to cost a deal
more than they ba worth. An ez for tha
pauking o tha blame on tother folk," he con
tinued, as he opened the door and stepped
out into the night, " I wid never ave belaved
thet a dumman not more than a skaur o
months merried wid o bin zo zet on tha hang
ing o a pore natrel ; but ther women ba con
trary critters, tumble zet on tha squashing
o vlies, but aiting ther roast pork with tha
The echo of the man s retreating footsteps
EAB VINCH S WIFE 279
died away, and the kettle seemed to hiss more
loudly in the silence that fell upon the little
kitchen. At last Rab spoke.
" Hanging ba a stuffy death," he said,
hoarsely " a mortal stuffy death."
She knelt down beside him. "Twez an
accident," she whispered ; " yer ba thet strong
ee doant alwiz knaw."
" Yer ba a riglar dumman wi yer hacci-
dents, haccidents," he interrupted, with fierce
contempt ; " ain t I towld ee a skaur o times
thet twezn t no haccident."
" An lame Tom ? " she asked, faltering-
" Lame Tom wezn t in it."
"Nor Josh Tuckitt?"
" Naw, nor Josh Tuckitt."
" O God, Rab ! " she exclaimed. He drew
away from her, but she, bending forward, let
her face droop upon his knee. The tall clock
in the corner ticked on towards night, and
the kettle boiled over, but the man and the
woman heeded neither : he was dimly con
scious that her hot tears were falling upon
his hand, but when she spoke her voice
seemed far away.
280 RAB VINCH S WIFE
"Rab," she said, "an zoon ther wull ba
dree o uz."
He turned and looked at her, and his face
softened, and an expression of pity came into
his fierce, deep-set eyes.
" Little Moather," he said.
She clung to him with passionate vehe
mence. " There cud niver ba no tother man
but yer for me, Rab," she sobbed " niver,
niver, whatever ee did."
His muscular hands closed round her with
a rare tenderness, and great beads of sweat
gathered upon his forehead.
" What made ee gaw for to do it when uz
wez that happy ? " she said.
His lips trembled, as if he were about to
speak, but he did not answer her.
u Rab," she cried, with a sudden shiver,
" things dursn t bide ez they ba ; they dursn t,
they dursn t."
His whole expression changed, the fierce
look returned to his eyes.
" Dursn t ? " he repeated, in a voice of ris
ing anger ; " who axed ee for yer pinion wan
way or tother ? "
She did not answer him, and a silence fell
RAB VINCH S WIFE 281
between them, till with a sudden rush of
suspicion the thought came to Rab that she
was condemning him.
" What ba ee a-thinking of ? " he asked,
" Rab," she said, in her soft, low voice, as
she rubbed the lapel of his brown velveteen
coat with her hand, "I wez ony reckoning
thet twezn t for nought thet our Lord coomed
inter tha wordel feeble in body ; twezn t for
nought thet Ha let Simon o Gyrene carry
tha cross up tha steep hill to Golgotha ; it
bain t tha strong who s tu lane on tha wake."
She stopped a moment, and he looked down
on her upturned face with a curious mixture
of pity, tenderness, and irritation.
" Ee ba powerful anxious to git me ter
Eaven, wan way or tother," he said, with a
" Rab," she answered, taking his great
knotted hands and pressing them against her
breast, " I widn t ave ee act contrary to
tha best thet ba in ee, tez ony thic, tiz ony
thic ; and O Rab, if yer had zeen lame Tom
ez I did when tha perlice tooked him, his
vace thet scart wi fear, ha might a been
282 EAB VINCH S WIFE
a poor dumb critter caught in wan o 7 yer
"Lame Tom ba wakezome," lie said, and
his voice trembled.
" Yes," she repeated " wakezome, mortal
Pie looked past her at the closed door, as if
his sight could pierce the wooden panels and
see the world that lay beyond, and into his
rugged passionate face there came a certain
expression of nobleness. " Mayba I wull,"
he began ; but she, following a train of
thoughts of her own, interrupted him.
" Twid ba the zame ez if yer wez to
let a chile die for ee," she said, in a slow,
dreamy voice, speaking as one who had seen
He thrust her from him and rose to his
feet : " Then I wull gi mezulf up ta-rnarrer,"
he said ; " but ez for ee," he added, with con
centrated bitterness, " yer ba no wife o mine
from this hour," and he turned from her and
climbed the rickety stairs that led to their
bedroom. But he could not sleep, and the
slow hours passed away, and then he heard
the door open softly, and by-and-by her little
KAB VINCH S WIFE 283
cold form crept into the bed and lay down
beside him, and she, thinking that he slept,
rested her head up against his shoulder and
sobbed comfortlessly. He remained stiff and
silent, as if the deafness of sleep was upon
him ; but his memory had travelled back to
a day in their mutual childhood, the day on
which he had first seen her cry. She had
told her fortune on the long quaking-grasses,
and had wept because Fate had ordained that
she should marry a tinker ; and though he
had been but six years old at the time, and
his mind little troubled with the thought of
maidens, yet, because her weeping had been
very heavy, he had promised to marry her
himself, and she had been comforted. And
now as he lay angry and resentful beside her,
the old distich rang in his brain tinker,
tailor, soldier, sailor, rich-man, poor-man,
apothecary, thief; tinker, tailor. Then a
sudden rush of tenderness came to him, and
he put out his hand and touched her; but
she had fallen asleep.
With the first streak of dawn he rose and
drew back the lattice, so that the light fell
upon her face with its curves that tilted up-
284 EAB VINCH S WIFE
wards, as the petals of some flower that seeks
its happiness in the sun, and he noticed over
again that her chestnut hair had a glint on
it like the breast of a cock pheasant. Her
nightdress had fallen open at the neck, mak
ing visible the curves of her bosom, rounded
with coming motherhood, and he remem
bered with an exceeding bitterness that he
must also part from his child; but as he
looked at the woman lying there, his face
" Mayba I widn t gaw for tu do lame Torn
no harm," he said, " if her wezn t thet t umbel
meddlezome ; tain t dying I ba a-f eard of
I reckon I can die tha zame ez ony tother
man ; but I doant want tu ba vustled l inter
it ; but hurs a riglar wumman all-over, push
ing ee t wards Eaven wi hur eart an pull
ing ee back wi hur tongue. But ther, tain t
no good talking ; niayba hur ll larn when tis
He turned away and crept softly down the
old, creaky stairs : below, in one corner of
the kitchen, there stood a big box in which
lived his two ferrets, Cross-eyes and Poley :
RAB VINCH S WIFE 285
he gave them their usual breakfast of bread
and milk, and let them play for a moment
about his neck. Then he took down his guns,
one by one, from the great beam against
which they rested : there was the old muzzle-
loader on which he had first learnt to shoot,
" a riglar terror to kick, but mortal depend-
zome for a right and left " ; and the long
duck-gun that had carried straight in its time
it was a family heirloom, and his great
grandfather had carried it on the night he
had been pixie-led; and, lastly, there was
Kab s own favourite gun, a pin-fire breech
loader that had once belonged to the young
Squire. Rab took each gun in turn and
rubbed the barrel tenderly with an old oil
rag, and then returned it to its former rest
ing-place; his big yellow lurcher stood
watching him with eyes that in their
alertness curiously resembled Rab s own.
When he had finished he tied up the dog,
and, going out, shut the door of his cottage
A rough sob rose in his throat. " I didn t
reckon her wid zlape like thic," he said ; " but
tlier, women be alwiz contrary."
286 RAB VINCIl S WIFE
Up through the great woods he went, for
his road to the town lay that way. And in
a certain hedge facing west a hare had made
its seat. Rab had often tried to catch it, but
the hare had been too wary for him, and now
as he passed the accustomed spot he stopped
instinctively, and noticed that the snare had
been brushed away but that the animal had
escaped. He knelt down and reset the wire,
and as he did so he heard footsteps, and look
ing up he saw his wife. The blood rushed
into his face, but he assumed an air of indif
ference. "I reckon I ve alwiz zet thickey
snare a deal too low," he said, bending down
over his work ; " a hare howlds hiz ead won-
dervul igh when ha ba movetting along
unconscious. Eh," he continued, drawing
a deep breath, " but hares ba vantysheeny l
baistesses ; skaurs o times I ve ruckeed 2
down behind a bit o vuzz wi tha moon
a-glinting a-tap o me and cock-leert 3 jest
on tha creep an iverything thet quiet
ee cud moast a-yhear tha dew a-valling;
eh, an I ve ad tha gun a-zide o me an
1 Showy, handsome. 2 Stooped down low.
RAB VINCH S WIFE 287
cudn t vire cuz tliey baistesses wez tliic van-
But she only saw that an animal caught in
such a snare would be hung.
" Come away, Rab," she cried ; " come
He looked down at the snare meditatively.
" Zome o em," he said, half to himself,
" makes a to-do, but moast die mortal quiet."
" O Rab ! come away," she repeated in a
voice of agony ; " come away."
" Ba ee afraid I shull ba late for tha hang
ing ? " he cried, and sprang to his feet ; then
without waiting for her answer he rushed
past her and was hidden from view behind
the thick trees.
" Rab ! " she called, running after him,
Rab ! Rab ! Rab ! "
But there came no reply : later in the day
she learned that he had surrendered himself
to the police, but permission to see him was
refused. So when evening came she crept
homewards alone through the great woods,
and when she had reached the spot where he
had set the snare, she heard a strange cry :
the hare had been caught in the wire. Cov-
288 RAB VINCH S WIFE
ering her ears with her hands she fled away,
yet ever and ever the cry followed her.
It was the day of Rab ? s trial : the court
was crowded, and the counsel for the defence
in despair ; to all questions as to his motive
for the crime Rab had maintained a dogged
" Twezn t no haccident," he repeated ; " I
did it o puppuss."
He cut short the trial by pleading guilty,
and the judge, following the usual formula,
rose, and having taken the black cap, turned
to the prisoner and asked if he had anything
to say why the sentence of death should not
be passed upon him.
The ensuing silence was broken by the
sound of a woman s voice. " Yer honour,"
Susan Finch said, for it was she who spoke,
" they tull me that tha law ba agin a woman
testifying for hur husband ; but ther ba thic
thet ba higher than the law, an thet ba
Nater ; and it ain t in nater thet a woman
shid zee the man thet hur loves, an who
hur knaws tu ba hinnocent tain t in nater,
I zay, thet hur shid zee him given auver
RAB VINCH S WIFE 289
to death an bur not to up and zay tha truth.
An I tull yer honour the zame ez I wid tull
tha Almighty if I stud a-vor His throne, thet
twezn t no murder Rab did thickey night;
twez an haccident, an 7 don t ee iver gaw for
to believe nought else. Yer doant knaw Rab
tha zame ez I do ; uz wez chiles togither, an
they thet ba chiles togither kind o larns
wun-an-tother s hearts unconscious. Rab
bain t tha sort thet takes to murder, Rab
ain t ; ha s tempestuous o times, an thic
strong thet ha doesn t alwiz knaw, but his
heart is ez tenderzome ez a chil s. I cud tull
ee a skaur o things, on y Rab aint wan o
they ez likes to ba boasted of ; but I ax yer
honour why ba Rab a-standing a-vor ee at
this yhere blessid niinit ? Did the perlice
catch him ? naw ; then why ba ha a-stand-
ing ther a-vor ee, wi they cruel iron things
on the hands o em ? Why, becuz Lame
Tom ba wakezome : ther bain t no tother
lad thet wid up an put tha rope round hiz
neck rather then anything wakezome shid
suffer unjust. But ther baint no call for a
rope, and if Rab wid ony spake ha cud tull
ee zo hiszulf. An if yer ax me why ha
290 EAB VINCll S WIFE
hezn t stud up vrorn tha vust an zed it twez
an haccident, then I tull ee it was becase I
wez alwiz a-worritting o him thet kept him
to zilence. I wez alwiz a-axing questions,
an ha doan t like it, an ha wants tu larn
me. I ve done a power o thinkin zince
thickey marning Rab gi ed hiszulf up, an
I ve reckoned it all out. I wez too mortal
anxious tu show him tha way, an Rab ain t
no wumman tu ba showed things. Ha likes
tu do hiz right hiz own way ha doan t want
no wan tu larn him ; an I wez alwiz a-zay-
ing, yer dursn t do thic an yer must do thet,
zo ha ba jest a-larning o me ; but, O Rab ! "
she ended, in a voice of passionate entreaty,
turning to him, "I ve larned, I ve lamed;
ony tull em tull em."
When the woman ceased speaking a silence
fell upon the court, and the eyes of all there
turned to the prisoner. Rab s harsh obstinate
face had grown grey beneath the tanned skin ;
his lips, pressed one on the other with the
grip of a vice, looked as if no power could
ever force them to unclose : then his eyes
met those of his wife, and with a convulsive
effort he spoke. " Twez done temperzome,"
KAB VINCH S WIFE 291
he exclaimed, brokenly " powerful temper-
zome; lia said thic thet wez baisteous o
hur," and Kab pointed with his hand in the
direction of his wife. " Mayba," he con
tinued, huskily, " if yer cud find Josh Tuck-
itt, ha cud make things look a bit better
IDDER VLINT S cottage stud at the
tap o the vullage, wi a banging girt
vlight o staps a-vor the door. The staps
wez brauken an mortal zlippeiy when it
rained ; but thet wezn t here nor there, cuz
vew folks iver came up em. Widder Vlint,
hur wez disrespactit in the vullage, aving
borned dree drunkards, tho the naybours wez
kind o zorry vor hur now an agin ; an when
hur zon Josh wez drawed vrom hiz hoss an
brauk hiz neck, they jest zed that " wan o 7
the tu wez drunk," an left folk to judge
at ween the man an the mare.
Wan arternoon I d rapped in to zee how
hur wez getting on, cuz thcr wez a moast
kincliddlin 1 zmell o fried bacon cooming droo
the door. The table wez layed for tay, zo I
zat mezulf down. I wez a kind o relation o
Widder Vlint s, tho I didn t make much o
296 WIDDEB VLINT
it zept at mait times an zich, cuz o hur baing
so mortal disrespactit. It zeeined to me hur
didn t take anuir* count o the pinion o the
vullage, hur wez thic tumble zet on her chil-
der, women not aving no discarnment in zich
things. Wull, I adn t bin vive minets inzide
the door vor hur got talkin o em, tho I
didn t vind no speshul intrast in the subject
" I ve a deal to be thankvul vor, a deal,"
hur zed. " Ther wez Tummas, now," then
hur stapped quat 1 ; I reckon twez ard even
vor hur to vind anything vavourzome to zay
o Tummas. " Wull," hur dawdled on, " ha
had a windervul ead o hair, had Tummas.
Pore lad ! ha wez alwez a good lad to me ;
ha braut me the vurst shillun that iver ha
arned, an thin ha kinder tuk it back. Ha
aimed high, did Tummas, tho maybe ha
didn t alwez raitch."
Hur wez zilent a minet an tarned the bacon
in the pan where twez spittin an zmellin
moast amazin tasty.
" Then there wez Josh," hur contineed, " ha
thet wez drawed vrom hiz hoss an brauk hiz
WIDDER VLINT 297
neck Ha had a wondervul kindiddlin zmile o
times had Josh, an when they braut him ome
to me the last time an layed him down in the
corner o the kitchen, thickey zmile wez on
his vace kind o pacevul like. I stapped a-zide
him droo the night; I thought maybe the
pore chil might find it lonesome out ther wi
iverything so noo. I tooked his hand cuz
twez dark vust a-long, an Josh wez alwez
mortal a-feardt o the dark. An I kind o
thought ez how ha wez ez a little lad, I
knawed ha hadn t alwez acted zactly vor the
best zince he had grawed to be a man. The
moon riz an staled in upon him an ha zmiled
back at hur, an twez a tumble pacevul zmile
thic ha guved hur. An thin ther coomed to
me they words vrom the Buk, Gaw in pace,
vor thy zins be vorguved to ee. An I veil
a-sobbing, quiet-like, cuz I didn t want to dis-
tarb him, pore lamb, but ha jest zmiled on.
The pace o the Laurd ain t like our pace, it
ain t to be brauk, it ain t to be brauk."
Hur stapped short an wan banging girt
tear fell strat in the pan. I thort twez a
mortal pity to spile good bacon zo, speshul
ez Josh w r ez the biggest rapscallion thet ever
298 WIDDER VLINT
walked ; but I cudn t help baing a bit zorry
vor the pore owld dumman, cuz tis the way
wi 7 women to git tumble vond o trash.
" Jesse was the next to gaw," hur zed, after
hur had kind o come to hurself like, " my
little lad dead now along o the rast ! " Hur
alwez called Jesse " hur little lad," tho ha wuz
vull sax veefc high an* weighed nigh on vour-
teen stone ; but women ain t got no discrim
ination in zich things.
" Wull, wull," hur ended up, " I ve only
Dave luft now, but ha be a vine upstanding
lad, an I ve a deal to be thankvul vor, a
Then the big clock in the corner struck sax,
an Dave coomed in, an I wez moast mortal
glad to see him, cuz the bacon wez jest ready
to be dished, an I niver cud a-bear things
burnt to a cinder. " Moather," ha zed ez ha
hunged up hiz tools behind the door, u ee
have got on thickey boots thet coom zo hard
on yer little taw."
" Wull, Dave, lad," hur answered, "I wez
a gwaying to buy a noo pair ez I promised
ee I wid, only I erned 1 up agin Maister
WIDDER VLINT 299
Parsons, lia ez kapes the little grocer s shap
down the lower end o the vullage, an ha zed
ez how ha had got a powerzome noo tay in, cuz
I towld him ez how yer didn t vind anuff
scratt 1 in thickey last thet uz ad, zo I thort
I wud jest buy a pun an let the boots bide
" Wull, moather," ha zed ez ha pulled his
cheer up to the table, " I do zeem a moast
winder vul and at rizzing a tharst, but zome-
how" an ha pushed hiz cup acrass to be
vulled airin " it zeems ez if ther wez thic in
the tharst thet tay didn t git houldt of, but
tis a powerzome gud tay, an moast vull o
I saw hur look zmart down at hiz plate
ha hadn t tiched a bit o victuals, ony drunk
away ez if his throat wez a red ot coal. Ton
me Zain, I cud amoast yhear it fizz where I
" Ate a bit o bacon like a gud chil ," hur
zed, kindiddlin like ; " tis from the ztreaky
" It zmells windervul tasty, moather," ha
answered, " an I wid dearly like a bit o it
300 WIDDER VLINT
cold ta-marrer; but the tay iz zo powerzome
gud, I doan t zeem to care for naught ulse."
Later on, when the table had been cleared
an iverything made vitty, 1 uz all drawed our
cheers up to the vire. Widder Vlint hur
tooked hur knittin vrom the drawer in the
owld dresser, an when I yhear d thickey
naydles clacking away, I claused my eyes an
reckoned I wud gaw to slape. After a bit
Dave ha turned to the owld dumman
" Moather," ha zed, " do ? ee dap back on
thic night when pore Jesse got kind o mad
wi tha drink an shat hizsulf, an how yer an
me wint out and in and an vound him, an
yer tarned to me an zed, I ve ony thee luft
now, Dave ; an I tooked pore Jesse s hand
an layed it atween yers an mine, an zwore
thet I wid niver touch strong drink, an if I
had to die vor it I wid die game ? Moather,
moather," he ended up kind o sharp like, " I
reckon the drink ull ave me yet."
Hur put hur arms round him an drawed
hiz head down upon hur lap, ez maybe hur
had done many times a-vor when ha wez a
WIDDER VLINT 301
" Pore lamb ! " hur zed, " pore lamb ! "
Arter a bit hur contineed, "Dave," hur
zed, " do ee mind on the pore widdy wuman
in the Buk, an how she guved her mite to
the Laurd, an tho ther wez urch 1 volks
alongside o hur ez guved gorgeus gufts, yit
the Laurd Ha valleyed the mite moast. An
zo I reckon tiz wi uz tain t wat uz does,
but wat uz tries to do, that the Laurd vallys,
an thin Ha kind o makes up the rast Hiz-
But Dave ha ony gripped howldt o the
pore dumman more tight like. " Moather,
moather," ha zed, "spose I shudn t die
game ? "
Hur rinned hur vingers droo hiz hair kind
o tender vashion, but hur didn t zay naught.
I reckon mezulf hur wez thunkin thet twad
be wi ha the zame ez twez wi the rast o
" Zay zommat, moather, zay zommat," ha
Hur looked away acrass hiz hed inter the
vire, ez if hur zaw zoniethin mazin particu
lar down aiming the coals.
302 WIDDEK VLIKT
" Dave," hur answered, kind o zlovv, " when
vust I coomed to be disrespactit in the vul-
lage, an 7 folks drawed it at me that I had
horned dree drunkards, it zeemed a bit hard,
tho I cudn t gaw vor to lay blame on the
lads. Then Tunimas wez tuk, an 7 the nay-
bours wez a bit sniffy an thin. Claus on
tap o ha, pore Josh ha brauk his neck, an
tho the folks coomed to the vuneral, they
kind o made a vavour o it. Wull, then,
Jesse ha shat hizsulf, an I bought the hat
bands an gluves, an they wez real gud uns
too, but no wan wez ther to put em on, an
uz waited an they niver coomed, zo yer an I
uz wint on a-lone. An ez I walked a-long-
side o ee Dave, the strait it niver seemed zo
long a-vor or the vullage zo full o folk.
An when I passed thickey hauses, I kinder
zed to mezulf ain t ther wan pusson in ee
that wull coom out an voller me lad. Then
uz tarned the corner where Mat Mucksey s
hause stands, an I thought he wud coom
surely, vor they played togither ez little lads.
An ha stud at the winder an looked out, an
I kind o gripped howldt o him wi my eyes.
I thort maybe the Laurd wud let me draw
WIDDER VLINT 303
him so, but twezn t to be. Then me heart
wez anger t that they shud sarve my boy zo,
my lamb, my little lad, my Jesse, an I didn t
yhear naught o the sarvice, tho ther be
terrible comforting words in it, but I tooked
my boy an layed him ther on the disrespactit
north zide, where the zun only creeps round
o whiles ; but maybe the Laurd will think
on thic when the Jidgment day cooms an riz
him tenderer accordin . An Dave, why shud
yer want to be more than ha, pore lamb, pore
lamb ? wezn t ha the uldest, an why shud
yer want to make yerzulf higher ? "
Dave ha looked up in hur vace, but hur
kind o tarned her eyes tother way.
" Moather," ha zed, " yer wudn t ave me
die a drunkard, surely ? "
But hur didn t answer ha at all.
" Moather, moather," ha zed.
" Dave," hur zed, " didn t I borne ee all,
didn t ee all lay upon my brast, an ain t ee
all my childer, an why shud wan gaw vor to
make hizsulf higher than tothers ? "
Dave ha drapped hiz head down on hur
knay, an the kitchen wez zilencevul.
At last ha lifted up hiz vace, an twez
304 WIDDER VLINT
a windervul pitying luk ha gived her.
" Moather," ha zed, " I reckon uz zons ave
brought ee a power o zarrar." l
But hur answered kind o random like.
" Dave," hur zed, " God vorgive me an make
ee do wat iz vitty."
When the winter coomed round, Widder
Vlint hur kind o veil togither. The riay-
bours zed, " Hur hadn t no more spirit than
a warm, an vor sich dreary some folk warms
wez the best company." Then hur tooked to
hur bed, an wan Vriday marning hur wez
thet bad Dave didn t gaw to hiz work, but
zat azide hur droo the day, an I kind o kapt
him company. Hur dauzed a bit, an when
hur wauk up Dave axed hur if hur had any
" No, lad," hur answered, " wangery, 2 tur-
rible wangery, thics all."
Just about vour o the clock hur zeerned a
" Dave," hur zed, u I reckon I wid like a
chapter vrom the Buk."
" Shall I vetch it, moather ? " he axed.
1 Sorrow. a Tired.
WIDDEK VLINT 305
" No, lad," she zed. " I misremembered it
wez down-stairs ; maybe yer cud zay a pray
"I ony knaws Our Vather an the
Blessin , moather," he answered.
"Then I reckon tiz the Blessin I wull
ave," she zed ; " tiz a bootivul zaying, i Vor
wat us ave recaved zay on, lad."
"The Laurd make uz truly thankvul,"
" An uz ave ad a deal to be thankvul vor,
a deal," hur zed.
But Dave ha jest zat ther like a stone an
didn t zay naught.
" Zay, lad, zay," hur axed, kind o painvul.
Thin ha tooked hur hands, mazing owld an
knotted hands they wez, ha tooked em in hiz
an ha kneeled azide the bed an put his vace
down agin hur heart.
" Moather, moather," he zed, " God guved
Hur only spoke wance after thic. " Lay
me zide o Jesse," hur zed ; " I reckon the
little lad ull be warmer along o hiz
QPEAWLING down one hill and half-way
U up another was a little village; at the
corner of its main street stood the White Lion
Inn. The sun poured yellow light through
the bar windows on to the sanded floor, and
on the figures of two men who sat talking at
" I tell you he s sweet on my cousin Phoebe,
damn him," exclaimed the younger man,
bringing his fist down on the table.
" And what s that got to say to it ? " replied
the other, in a slow, heavy voice. " Josh
Tuckett ull never see no darter o his married
to a drunkard."
" Dave ain t no drunkard ; he takes his
glass and goes out. Dang him, I wish he
The elder man leant forward and caught
hold of the button of his companion s coat.
" Answer me this, Tummas Rod," he said,
"didn t Ms father die o drink?"
" Ay, sure."
11 And his grandfather afore him ? "
" Ay, certain."
"Bain t his three brothers lying in the
churchyard at this very minnit reg lar soak
ing the place wi spirits; the grass niver
growed casual over their graves the same as
it did over t other folks ."
" What s that got to do wi Dave ? "
"Why, begore, he ll come to the like sooner
or later, mark my words if he don t. He s
a drunkard now at heart. Scores o times
I ve reckoned to hear his throat split and
crack when the drink dizzies down it."
A heavy flush rose to Rod s face. " And
may it ; the sooner the better," he said.
" You and he were thick anuff as boys,"
replied the old man, rising, and regarding
Rod turned away and went back to the
bar. " Didn t I tell ee that he be sweet on
my cousin and her on him," he answered, in
a sullen voice.
There was a sound of footsteps, and Dave
entered, the old man taking his departure at
the same time. Rod glanced with quick scru
tiny at the newcomer s gaunt but boyish face,
as, dropping his bag of tools, he flung sixpence
on the counter.
"A half-and-half, Tom," he said. "My
throat ba reglar dring d l wi thirst."
The flush on Rod s face receded, leaving it
ash-grey. He filled a small glass to the brim
with spirits, and pushed it across the bar.
Dave swallowed the contents at a gulp, and
stood, fingering the glass nervously.
" Take another nip," said Rod.
" Naw, wan ba anuff, thank ee."
" Come, I ll stand yer."
Dave s thin white face reddened. "I
dursn t," he said, turning away and picking
up his bag of tools.
The innkeeper burst into a rough laugh.
" You puts me in mind of a maid before her
first kiss, terrible afraid, but wonderful will
ing," he replied. " Come," he urged, un
steadily, "drink me success to something I ve
set my mind on."
There was silence a moment. " Ba it zum-
1 Squeezed up.
mat pertikler spesb.il?" Dave asked at
" I told ee I d set my mind on it."
" Drink ba kindiddling temptsome," Dave
muttered, half to himself, as he watched Rod
fill two glasses with spirits. "Wull," he
added, gulping down the spirits with fever
ish impatience, " may ee git wat ee want and
Rod looked at him a moment, his lips
twitching : " To the damnation of Dave
Vlint, body and soul ! " he exclaimed, and
draining the glass, flung it across the bar at
the wall opposite. For a moment the two
men regarded each other in silence; then
Dave turned on his heel, halted a moment at
the door, and glanced back, " Did ee mean
they wuds ? " he said.
"Twor nort but a bit o fun," Rod an
swered, forcing a laugh.
" Ther ain t nort speshil vantysheeny 1 in
sich jokes," replied Dave, and going out he
left Rod alone. He made his way through
the street, and up the hill behind the village,
where the pine-trees stood massing them-
selves against the blue sky like heavy blue-
green clouds. Leaving the road, he entered
the wood by a footpath. It was autumn :
the ground was strewn with cones ; overhead
the wind soughed with the sound of the sea.
Standing beside a broken stile was a girl ;
her chestnut hair, escaping from the kerchief
that bound it, rippled and curled about her
neck and forehead. Dave started when he
saw her, and advanced more slowly. She
came towards him, and they stood together :
she was not tall, " about as high as his
" What s come to ee Dave ! " she exclaimed,
in a soft, guttural voice ; " it s dree weeks
since you ve bin a-nigh me."
He was silent, averting his eyes as if he
were afraid to look into hers.
" You made me love ee, you made me love
ee," she burst out, her voice trembling ; " and
"Phoebe, lass, tis better that I bide
" You shud ave thought o that afore," she
"Ay, sartin I shud."
She caught hold of the two lapels of his
coat, " Dave, Dave," she cried, " you don t
love me arter all ; and you swore me true
down by the Wishing Well."
" I didn t love ee then the zame as I do
now by a deal," he answered, taking her
hands in his.
" Oh lad, I can t fathom ee," she said, with
"Sweetheart, tis the drink I m afeard of;
twull have me wan day like did my vather
and brothers afore me."
"But I bain t afeard."
" I might be cruel hard on ee, lass," he
said, pressing her hands tight against his
broad chest. " A man can t answer for his-
sulf when the drink s upon him."
Her dark grey eyes filled with tears. " But
I bain t afeard, Dave," she reiterated. "I
bain t afeard."
He looked at her with great tenderness.
" I dursn t, dear heart ; I dursn t," he said,
and his voice shook.
" Ther wud ba the times atween whiles,"
Turning from her, he caught hold of a tree-
bough and steadied himself. "Lass, lass,
don t put me in mind o em."
" You ain t loving me the zame as you did,
or ee wudn t need no minding," she exclaimed,
brokenly. " And I ain t fallen off in looks."
She came round the tree, stood in front of
him, and unbinding her kerchief, shook her
thick chestnut hair about her shoulders.
" See, Dave," she continued, " it s vine and
long for all it loses in the curl ; and my voot
too, Dave," she kicked ofE her shoe, " tis
wonderful arched, and a deal smaller than
the young ladies up to the great House.
My arms, Dave," she slipped back her
sleeve, "they might be a chile s, they re
Stopping abruptly, she burst into tears,
" Oh, lad, lad," she sobbed, " you bain t look
ing, you bain t looking."
He let go the branch of the tree, took her
in his arms, and drew her close up against
his breast. He put back her head with
gentle force, and kissed her mouth and eyes,
her throat and bosom. As they stood molten
in one mould, there came down the wind
the sound of children s laughter : hearing it,
the man and woman fell trembling, then
They stood staring at each other like two
people guilty of a crime.
"There ba them that might ba born arter
us," he said, hoarsely.
She watched the sudden hardening of his
mouth. " Must us mind on em? " she plead
ed " must us mind on em ? "
" I cud niver fo ce no chile o ours to bear
wat I ve bin fo ced to bear," he answered;
" twad ba devil s wark I cudn t do it."
Her face grew white and hopeless. "I
can t feel for the childer, I ain t no mother
yet," she said, brokenly.
Desire shook him : he looked at her slight
form that seemed to tremble into woman
hood before his eyes, then, with an abrupt
cry, he turned and left her.
She flung herself down and wept,
through the trees her wailing followed him,
yet his heart cried out so loudly that he
knew not if the wailing came from her lips
or his own. Long he wandered in the wood,
but when night fell returned again to his
cottage. Pushing open the door, the moon-
light streaming in after him, he entered the
small kitchen. On the table, the cork with
drawn, was a bottle of spirits, the air
reeled with the smell of it. He did not
know whose hand had placed the bottle
there, but his harsh thirst demanded slak
ing, and forced him forward. Clutching at
his throat, striving to tear the thirst from it,
he advanced the bottle glistening in the
moonlight, looking as if it were alive. He
cast an agonised glance round the walls, seek
ing help from familiar things, and his eyes
fell on his gun. A sob of relief broke from
him : he took down the gun, loaded it hur
riedly, the smell of the spirits dripping on to
his lips, he licking it down. He snatched
the bottle from the table, shouldered his gun,
and went out, up through the woods, past
the broken stile, where the coarse grass lay
pressed close to the earth and Phcebe had
flung herself down and wept. With averted
face he passed the spot, and entered deep
into the heart of the wood. At last he
stopped : about him the trees grew close and
thick, no eye but God s could see his shame.
He leant his gun up against a branch ; the
moonlight edged itself between the trees,
and he held the bottle up to it.
" So yer have got the best o me at last,"
he said, " yer have got the best o me at
The bottle glistened : he brought it nearer
his lips, his thirst pressed for quenching, the
thirst that he would slake before he shot
" Yer smiling devil," he burst out, with
sudden fierceness, " yer reckon to catch me,
do ee. No, by hell! yer don t; I ll die
wi out tasting ee," and he dashed the bottle
into fragments at his feet. A moment later
he had flung himself upon the ground, striv
ing to lick up the spirits with his tongue.
" Dog that I ba, dog that I ba," he sobbed.
"No better than a dog no better than a
Sick with shame and horror, he regained
his feet : he took a piece of cord from his
pocket, made a loop in it, attaching one end
to the trigger of the gun. He pressed the
cold steel barrel up against his hot beating
heart, and placed his foot in the loop. " A
dog s death for a dog," he muttered.
The moonlight shone on him, on the gun,
and on the broken bottle at his feet : the
glistening glass attracted him and he stared
at it, fresh thoughts crowding his brain. A
tremor ran through him : raising his eyes, he
fixed them on the moonlit heavens and grey
wind-spun clouds. " Ther ba zommat in me
a zide the dog," he said, slowly. " Ay, be-
gore, I ll live game, I ll zee it droo," and
drawing himself together, he turned his face
once more on life.
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