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Full text of "Life is life : and other tales and episodes"

J s\^ L 






LIFE IS LIFE 



AND OTHER 



TALES AND EPISODES 



LIFE IS LIFE 



AND OTHER 



TALES AND EPISODES 



BY 



ZACK 



Gr wen dot 



NEW YORK 
CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS 

1898 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

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 

3404.16 



LIFE IS LIFE 



PART I 

CHIEFLY CONCERNING THE MAN ATTER 

CHAPTER I 

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 
his foot. 

" 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 
moving." 



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 
cious pockets. 



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, 
Wilkie." 

" You ve heard the tale many a time, yer 
honour," the man answered with an indul 
gent smile. 

" 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 
droo. 

" 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, 
he interposed. 

"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 
boy. 

"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 
night " 

"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 
wuds. 

" < 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 
puzzlecacious. 

" 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 
tongue like. 

" 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 
unusual truthful. 

1 Enticing. 



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 
suppressed excitement. 

" 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 

1 Enticing. 



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. 

1 Worn. 



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 
axed. 

" 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 ? " 



"Yes." 

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. 

1 Went. 



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 
impatient movement. 

"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 
blood. 

" 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 
subject. 

" I hope some day to meet Atter myself," 

2 



18 LIFE IS LIFE 

he said; "I ve an awful lot to thank him 
for." 

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 
voice. 

" 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 
minute attention. 

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," 
he exclaimed. 

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 
whatsoiver." 

Unconsciously the boy clenched his fists. 
" I should just advise you to say something," 
he exclaimed, a sudden huskiness com ing into 
his voice. 

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 
myself." 

" Then us had better ba gittin along, yer 
honour." 

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." 

"Then " 

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- 
ness. 

"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 
somewhat inconsequent. 

" 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 



CHAPTER II 

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." 

o o 

" 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," 
Humphrey answered. 

" Ah the truth ! " 

" Yes." 

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 
brain. 

" 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 
him." 

" 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. 

"Well?" 

" I m given a free hand, sir." 

"What do you understand by a free 
hand?" 

"Do you really intend the money you 
spoke of for me ? " 

" Certainly." 

" 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 
devil. " 



LIFE IS LIFE 31 

The Squire chuckled. 

" That is not giving a fellow a chance, is 
it?" 

" Not the ghost of one," replied the Squire, 
still chuckling. 

" I am glad you see it in the right light, 



sir." 



"Yes," admitted the Squire humbly, "I 
think I do." 

" I can have the money, then ? " very 
eagerly. 

" 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 
poacher entered. 

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 
some curiosity. 

" 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 
no harm." 

Again the Squire chuckled audibly. 

" No, no," Humphrey answered, reddening, 
3 



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 
ject. 

" 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." 

o 

" 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 
tempt. 



LIFE IS LIFE 35 

you would be wiser to let the affair drop 
altogether." 

" 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 
for Australia. 



PART II 

THE MAN ATTER 

CHAPTER I 

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 

36 



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 
deliberately. 

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 
strikers. 

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 
water. 

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 
to you." 



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 
heart, Bullocky." 

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 
Bush public. 

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 
at last." 

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 ? " 

No answer. 

" 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 



CHAPTER II 

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 
boy. 

"There," he said, " tie em up wi that." 
He watched the boy s vain, awkward efforts 
4 



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 
wistfully. 

" 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 
think. 

" 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 
myself." 

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 



answer me." 



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, 
any way." 

" Who do you mean by her ? " asked 
Humphrey, his voice trembling. 

"Ther wuman." 

"What woman?" 

Atter cursed. " Your mother," he an 
swered sullenly. 

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 
wondered, trembling. 

" Atter," he said at last, lifting up his face, 
" I came to Australia to find her to claim 
her." 

"She s dead." 

"Dead?" 

"Yes." 

The boy gave a short cry. "Where? 
How did she die ? " 

"Died mad." 

" Mad ! " 

"Yes." 

" 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 
lines. 

" 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 
claimed. 

" 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 
said. 

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 
it " 



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 
to me." 

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 
stirrup " 

" 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 
nation true." 

There was a sound of approaching foot 
steps, and four police troopers closed in upon 
them. 

" 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 



CHAPTER III 

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 

5 



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 
thought it." 

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 
that? 

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." 

" Stone-blind ! " repeated the boy, " stone- 
blind!" 

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 



o me." 



" 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." 

"Yes." 

"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 
glowed. 



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 
statement. 

"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 ? " 

" Yes." 

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 
stand." 

" 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 ? " 

"No." 

"Stay here?" 

"Yes." 

" 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- 
ing." 

" 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 
man hisself." 

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 
answer. 

" 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 
answered huskily. 

" I hadn t no sorter speshil wish no sorter 
speshil wish." 

" 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 



me." 



" 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, 
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 
ment. 

"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 
dead. 



PART III 

HUMPHREY, SON OF ATTER 

CHAPTER I 

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 

76 



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 
the enjoyment. 

" 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?" 
he said. 

"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 
galling dependence. 

" 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 ? 
ses I. 

" 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 
that?" 

" 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 
would." 

" In the umbrella trade ? What s bin your 
line so far ? " the man asked in an astonished 
voice. 



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 
ed. 

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 
ly content. 

" How good your bread and butter tastes ! " 



84 LIFE IS LIFE 

he said. " I do wish you would let me work 
under you." 

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 
staircase. 

" Now," she exclaimed, as they entered the 
attic, " let me see you take the feel o the 



room." 



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 
half-heartedly. 

"Surely that is mignonette I smell," he 
exclaimed, brightening. 

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, 
smiling. 

She glanced at him with quick suspicion ; 
but his boyish face with its look of suffering 
disarmed her. 

"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. 

o 

" 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. 

"Ah!" 

" Post-mark Thursby, a queer, angular 
handwriting, something like the herring-bone 
stitch." 

" 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 
went out. 



CHAPTER II 

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 ? " 

"Smell it." 

" Don t notice nothing particular," Joe re 
plied, handing it back. " Laid in a drain, I 
spose." 

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 
yirself." 

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 
to him." 

" 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 
and low." 

" 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 
shirts. 

"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 
softened. 

" 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, 
enviously. 

" 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 
answered. 

" Mother is a comforting word," said Hum 
phrey, smiling. 

" Oh, you re a sof t-tongued one, you are," 
she answered. 

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 
turn." 

"Now that s just like you, Joe, being so 
long a-mentioning it," she answered in a tart 
voice. 

"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 
remark. 



96 LIFE IS LIFE 

" Why not get a doctor to look at it ? " sug 
gested Humphrey. 

" 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 
throats." 

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 
quired anxiously. 

"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 

7 



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? " 
asked Humphrey. 

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 " 

"What?" 

" Loss of voice first, starvation afterwards." 

The boy pushed his chair violently back. 
" What a hell of suffering this world is ! " 
he exclaimed. 

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 
boy passionately. 



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 
you." 

" 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 
grass, Joe." 

" 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 
voice breaking. 

"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 
done." 

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," 
she said. 

" Us fared and fared alike, mother, and I 
reckon, God willing, us ull do it till the 
end." 

" Ay, God willing," she said, and her voice 
broke. 

" 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." 



CHAPTER III 

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 
careful." 

" 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 
you." 

" 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 
in everything." 

" 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 
answer. 

"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 
last. 

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," 
she said. 

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 
answered. 

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 
stopped dead. 

" 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 
long-winded." 



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 
all over." 

" 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 
been blinded." 

" How did that come on you, lad ? " the 
woman interposed. 

" An accident," said Humphrey, turning 
away. 

" 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 
claimed drearily. 

" 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 
the woman. 

" If only I had acted straight, had faced it 
from the first, if only I hadn t taken the 
money " 

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 
them letters." 

There was silence in the small kitchen 
while the woman held each letter in turn 
up to the lamp, and laboriously re-read the 
address. 

" 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 
page." 

"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 
speaking. 

" Well ! " he exclaimed, and she recom 
menced. 

" Did I not always tell you you were a 
young fool ? " she read slowly, and stopped 
again. 

" 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 
hands. 

" 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 
home." 



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 
both." 

Humphrey put his arms round her. "I 
couldn t leave you, mother, I love you so," 
he exclaimed. 

" 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 

"Mother?" 

" 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 
nantly. 

" 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 
tested. 

" 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 
own. 

"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 
the boy. 

"Oh, lad, lad," she answered, "I was 
never for denying the Almighty was the 
Almighty." 



THE FAILURE OF FLIPPERTY 



THE FAILUEE OF FLIPPERTY 

PART I 

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 
imagination. 

The red-headed boy edged nearer. " My 

123 



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 
jump." 

"Who s Philip?" 

" My brother ; he is at the Teetulpa gold- 
fields ; I m going to help him to dig for 
gold." 

" 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 
fiantly. 

" What did you give them ? " 

"Oh, things." 

"What things?" 

" 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." 
"Promise?" 
" Solemn Dick" 
" Well, then, I m a girl." 
"A girl!" 
"Yes." 
"Cracky!" 

" 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 

egg-" 

"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 
ment. 

" 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 
formed." 

Flipperty changed the conversation. 
" Philip," she said, " can bowl first - rate 
yorkers." 

" Does he know you re coming ? " Buster 
asked. 

"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 
answered, brusquely. 

" Supposing he doesn t ? " 

" I shan t suppose anything of the kind, 
so there." 

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. 
9 



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. " 

"SoJa?" 

Yes." 

" 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 

egg-" 

" No," she said with decision ; " I shall 

ask questions." 



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 
Teetulpa." 

" 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 
smooth-haired girl." 

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 
leave it." 

"Yes," she answered sadly; "that must 
belt." 

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 
no more. 



PART II 

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 

134 



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, 
little un?" 

" 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 
yours." 

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 
Deene." 

" 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 
tliem asked. 

" 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 
perty. 

" 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 
wait." 

But he did not answer her. 

"Philip, Philip," she sobbed, "Philip, 
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 
somehow." 

The sound of revolver shots echoed through 
the tent. 

" 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 
find him." 

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 
tent. 

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 
dead." 

" The flies," she cried, " the flies are eating 
his face." 

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 
Philip." 

"My poor little fellow, you can do him 
no good." 

" 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 
yer." 

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 
long-legged digger. 

" 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 
the stranger. 

" 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 

147 



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- 
off Abruzzi. 

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 
in it." 

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 
away. 

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 
fiercely. 

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 
the gloves." 

He took his pipe out of his mouth and 
pressed his horny thumb down on the red-hot 
ashes. 

" I wudn t lay too much on that jumpt-up 
blue doll, if I was yer," he said. 

Battista smiled. "You don t understand," 
he answered. 



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 
jest yet." 

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 
again. 

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 
expenses. 

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 
PRESENTS 



THE ENGLISH GIRL S CHRISTMAS 
PRESENTS 

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, 

159 



160 

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 
shippers. 

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 
11 



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 
with friends." 



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 



snows." 



" Sit by the fire and tell me things," said 
the girl. 

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 

CHAPTER I 

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. 

169 



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 
rubbed off." 

" 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 
Albergo. 

Roch gave a sigh of relief as she clam 
bered up the steps and opened the creaky 
door. 

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 
gether. 

" Whose ? " Jess asked, inattentively. 

" Why, the Bed-haired Man s," Koch an 
swered. 



CHAPTER II 

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 
all day?" 

"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 
the remark. 

" 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 
prove myself." 

" 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 
blushing. 

" 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 
direction. 

" 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 
versation. 

" Well," she replied, returning once more 
to the foot of the bank. " Will you buy me 
a pig ? " 

"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, 
fiercely. 

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. 

CHAPTER III 

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 
12 



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 
woman elsewhere. 

"I suppose it is improbable," he said, "but 
I have a strange feeling that we have met 
before." 

" Most improbable," she answered ; " I 
have not been in England since I was a 
child." 



" But it is long ago that I seem to remem 
ber you." 

" Ah ! " she exclaimed slowly, as some 
vague recollection began to take shape in her 
mind. 

" 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 
voice. 

" 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 
rupted. 

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 
pessimistic." 

" 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." 

CHAPTER IV 

"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, 
growing crimson. 

" 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 
grow fat." 

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 
smiles. 

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 
resonant chord. 

"Life has it s good things," he said, 
"though I don t believe you have tasted 
them yet." 

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 
the duel." 

"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, 
"oh, no!" 

" 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 
have " 

" 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 
said, gruffly. 

" I can t trust you," she sobbed, " you re 
too mean." 

" 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 
her." 



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 

13 



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 
hard." 

Roch glanced at him, and something in the 
expression of his face thrilled her strangely. 



CHAPTER V 

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 
her arm. 

"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 
grateful." 

" 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 
its existence. 

" 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 
feeling. 

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 
kissed her. 

" 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, 
softly. 

" 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 
lame." 

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 
nothing. 

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." 



CHAPTER VI 

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 
Queen." 

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 
claimed, angrily. 

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 
count. 

" 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 
me?" 

" Oh ! " she exclaimed, getting a little red, 
" that is quite easy. One thinks of character 
istics." 

" 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 
ished voice. 

"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 " 

No answer. 

" Oh, don t you see the difference ? " she 
exclaimed, almost in tears. 

The Red-haired Man raised himself, breath 
ing heavily. 

" 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 
difference." 

"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 
repeated. 

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. 



CHAPTER VII 

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 
analyse it. 

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 



CHAPTER VIII 

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 
friend. 



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 

14 " 



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 
the story. 

" 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 



CHAPTER IX 

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 
breast. 

" 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 
sacrilege. 

" 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 
greater. 

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 



CHAPTER X 

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. 



CHAPTER XI 

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 
face. 

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 
claimed, suddenly. 

" What candles ? " 
i "MadGentia s " 

" Poor Gentia ; but the man is dead." 

" He is not dead," Jess answered, in a 
dreamy voice. 

" 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 
shadows. 

" 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 
to-day." 

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 
know you." 

" 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 



15 



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 

227 



228 THE STONE PINE 

strayed away, and the " Weary One " that 
ever lagged behind and needed much herd- 

oo 

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 
burn restlessly. 

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 
wondered. 

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 
soul. 



THE STORM 



THE STOEM 

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, 
low wail. 

" Poor lamb ! " she said ; " he frets as if 
your breast was cold to him." 

" Maybe tis cold," replied the sick girl, 
indifferently. 

235 



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 
ways handier." 

"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- 
mat." 

" 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 
other, wearily. 



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 
to it." 

" 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- 
ten tsome." 

" 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 
born dead." 

" 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- 
ingly. 

" No, us never spoke much to one 
Mother." 

" 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." 
"No." 

" Maybe you didn t speak to him sorter 



THE STORM 241 

tender afore you horned him same as I did 
my little girl." 

"No." 

" 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, 
stonily. 

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 
mother. 

" And ain t I praying for em ? " expostu 
lated the old woman, passionately. 

" Say the words aloud, mother, and let us 
join in." 

The old woman clasped her hands, worn 

16 



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 
husband." 

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 



I 



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. 

247 



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 
this?" 

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 
the hour." 

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 
the Lord." 

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. 



TRAVELLING JOE 



TRAVELLING JOE 

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 
fetch it." 

lo the boy lying there, his heart full of 

17 257 



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 
tha rest." 

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 
a bit?" 

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 
1 Plump 



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 
murmured sleepily. 

" 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, 

Looked intensely. 



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 

o o 

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- 

7 O 

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 

Elm. 



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 " 

o 

" 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 
ther." 

" I ba mortal wangery, 1 grandfer," Travel 
ling Joe answered, sighing; U I reckon I cud 
zlape." 

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. 

1 Tired. 



RAB VINCH S WIFE 



18 



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. 

275 



276 EAB VINCH S WIFE 

"An tha Squoire ain t done nought!" he 
exclaimed. 

"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 
with. " 

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 
Vinch." 

"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. 



278 

" 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 
folk." 

" 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 
rest." 

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, 
fiercely. 

" 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 
grim smile. 

" 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 



snares." 



"Lame Tom ba wakezome," lie said, and 
his voice trembled. 

" Yes," she repeated " wakezome, mortal 
wakezome." 

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 
a vision. 

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 
softened. 

" 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 
too late." 

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 : 

1 Fussed. 



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 
behind him. 

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. 

9 Dawn. 



RAB VINCH S WIFE 287 

cudn t vire cuz tliey baistesses wez tliic van- 
tysheeny." 

But she only saw that an animal caught in 
such a snare would be hung. 

" Come away, Rab," she cried ; " come 
away." 

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 
silence. 

" 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 

19 



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 
for me." 



WIDDER VLINT 



WIDDER VLINT 

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 



1 Enticing. 
293 



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 
mezulf. 

" 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 

1 Plump. 



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 
deal." 

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 

Ran. 



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 
a bit." 

" 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 

J:5 

the tharst thet tay didn t git houldt of, but 
tis a powerzome gud tay, an moast vull o 
scratt all-the-zame." 

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 
zat. 

" Ate a bit o bacon like a gud chil ," hur 
zed, kindiddlin like ; " tis from the ztreaky 
end." 

" It zmells windervul tasty, moather," ha 
answered, " an I wid dearly like a bit o it 

1 Scrape. 



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 
little lad. 

1 Eight. 



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- 
sulf." 

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 



em. 



" Zay zommat, moather, zay zommat," ha 
axed. 

Hur looked away acrass hiz hed inter the 
vire, ez if hur zaw zoniethin mazin particu 
lar down aiming the coals. 

1 Rick. 



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 
pain. 

" No, lad," hur answered, " wangery, 2 tur- 
rible wangery, thics all." 

Just about vour o the clock hur zeerned a 
bit brighter. 

" 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 
er?" 

"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," 
Dave ended. 

" 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 
me thee." 

Hur only spoke wance after thic. " Lay 
me zide o Jesse," hur zed ; " I reckon the 
little lad ull be warmer along o hiz 
moather." 



20 



DAVE 



DAVE 

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 
a table. 

" 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 



wor." 



The elder man leant forward and caught 
hold of the button of his companion s coat. 

309 



310 DAVE 

" 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 
him curiously. 

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 



DAVE 311 

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. 



312 DAVE 

mat pertikler spesb.il?" Dave asked at 
length. 

" 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 



more." 



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- 
Showy. 



DAVE 313 

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 
heart." 

" 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 
now 

"Phoebe, lass, tis better that I bide 
away." 

" You shud ave thought o that afore," she 
said, bitterly. 

"Ay, sartin I shud." 



314 DAVE 

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 
a sob. 

"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," 
she urged. 

Turning from her, he caught hold of a tree- 



DAVE 315 

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 
that bedimpled." 

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, 



316 DAVE 

the man and woman fell trembling, then 
apart. 

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- 



DAVE 317 

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 



318 DAVE 

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 
last." 

The bottle glistened : he brought it nearer 
his lips, his thirst pressed for quenching, the 
thirst that he would slake before he shot 
himself. 

" 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 
dog." 

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. 



DAVE 319 

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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Life is JLife, by 
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