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Title: Furze the Cruel
Author: John Trevena
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000841.txt
Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Furze the Cruel
Author: John Trevena

AUTHOR OF "A PIXY IN PETTICOATS" AND "ARMINEL OF THE WEST"

LONDON

ALSTON RIVERS, LTD.

BROOKE ST., HOLBORN BARS, E.C.

1907

*

     Almost everywhere on Dartmoor are Furze, Heather, and Granite. The
     Furze seems to suggest Cruelty, the Heather Endurance, and the
     Granite Strength. The Furze is destroyed by fire, but grows again;
     the Heather is torn by winds, but blossoms again; the Granite is
     worn away imperceptibly by the rain. This work is the first of a
     proposed trilogy, which the author hopes to continue and complete
     with "Heather" and "Granite."

*

CONTENTS


    INTRODUCTORY


    I. ABOUT THE TAVY FAMILY
    II. ABOUT BRIGHTLY
    III. ABOUT PASTOR AND MASTER
    IV. ABOUT BEETLES
    V. ABOUT THOMASINE
    VI. ABOUT VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
    VII. ABOUT FAIRYLAND
    VIII. ABOUT ATMOSPHERE
    IX. ABOUT A KNAVE AND A FOOL
    X. ABOUT THE VIGIL OF ST. GOOSE
    XI. ABOUT THE FEAST OF ST. GOOSE
    XII. ABOUT THE OCTAVE OF ST. GOOSE
    XIII. ABOUT VARIOUS EMOTIONS
    XIV. ABOUT A STRUGGLE AT THE GATE OF FAIRYLAND
    XV. ABOUT JUSTICE
    XVI. ABOUT WITCHCRAFT
    XVII. ABOUT PASTIMES
    XVIII. ABOUT AUTUMN IN FAIRYLAND
    XIX. ABOUT THE GOOD RIGHT HAND OF FELLOWSHIP
    XX. ABOUT THE PASSOVER OF THE BRUTE
    XXI. ABOUT WINTER IN REAL LIFE
    XXII. ABOUT THE PINCH
    XXIII. ABOUT A HOUSE ON THE HIDDEN LANES
    XXIV. ABOUT BANKRUPTS
    XXV. ABOUT SWALING-FIRES
    XXVI. ABOUT "DUPPENCE"
    XXVII. ABOUT REGENERATION AND RENUNCIATION

*



INTRODUCTORY

ABOUT RAINDROPS


The river of Tavy is a great mountain-carver. From its mud-holes of
Cranmere to the walls of Tavistock it is a hewer of rocks. Thenceforth
it becomes a gardener, raising flowers and herbs; it becomes idyllic.
It goes into Arcadia. And at last it floats ships of war.

There is a story in Hebrew literature of a king called Solomon, a man
reputed wise, although a fool with women, who desired to build a temple
to his God. There was a tradition which forbade the use of hammer or
chisel in the erection of a place of worship, because, according to the
Mischna, "Iron is used to shorten life, the altar to prolong it." The
stones were not to be hewn. The temple was to be built noiselessly. The
narrative suggests that Solomon had the stones cut and shaped at some
distance from the building site, which was a decidedly Jesuitical way of
solving the problem. Myth suggests that the king sought the aid of
Asmodeus, chief of the devils, who told him where he could discover a
worm which would split the toughest rock. The introduction of the devil
to assist in the building of the temple was no doubt of Persian origin,
since Persian thought influenced Hebrew literature just as Grecian
thought was later to influence that of Rome. The idea of noiseless
building, of an altar created by supernatural powers, of burrowing for
minerals and metals without tools, is common to the literature of every
country. It is one of the stock tales of folk-lore found everywhere. In
one place it is a worm which shatters the mountains; in another a black
stone; and in another a herb, such as the innocent forget-me-not, and
the various saxifrages of the cottage garden. All the stories agree upon
three points: the name of the rock-shatterer signifies irresistible
force; it is invariably a small and insignificant object; and it is
brought to mankind by a bird. That bird is the cloud; and the worm,
pebble, or herb, which shatters mountains is the raindrop.

This is the story of the river Tavy, its tors and cleave, just as the
pixy grandmother told it to the little round-eyed ones on a stormy
night, when the black-winged raven-cloud was bringing the rain over
Great Kneeset, and the whist hounds were yip-yip-yipping upon the
"deads"--

"It all happened a long time ago, my impets, a very long time ago, and
perhaps I shan't be telling you the story quite right. They say the
dates are cut upon the Scorhill Rocks. I couldn't make them out the last
time I was there, but then my eyes are getting feeble. You know the
Scorhill Rocks, my dears? They are just by the Wallabrook, and near our
big dancing stone which the silly mortals call a tolmen. You remember
how we danced there on All Hallows E'en. What a beautiful night it was,
sure 'nuff! And then you went and pinched the farm maids in their beds,
and made them dream of their lovers, mischievous young toads! Well, I
don't blame ye, my dears. I liked a bit of a gambol when I was a winikin
bit of a pisky maid myself.

"This old Dartymore was a gurt big solid mountain of granite in those
days, my pretties. You can't imagine what it was like then, and I can't
either. There was no grass on it, and there were no nice vuzzy-bushes to
dance round, and no golden blossoms to play with, and no fern to see-saw
on, and no pink heather to go to sleep in--and worse and worse, my
dears, there wasn't a single pixy in those days either."

"Oh, what a funny old Dartymore!" cried the little round-eyed ones.

"It wasn't an old Dartymore, my pets. It was a brand-new one. There were
no bullocks or ponies. There were no bogs and no will-o'-the-wisps.
There were no stone remains for stupid mortals to go dafty over, for as
you and I know well enough most of 'em are no more stone remains than
any other rocks, but are just as the wind and rain made them. There was
not a single mortal in those days either, and none of the triumphs of
their civilisation, such as workhouses, prisons, and lunatic asylums.
There was just the sun and the gurt grey mountain, and right upon the
top of the mountain was a little bit of jelly shivering and shaking in
the wind."

"But how did it get there?" cried the little round-eyed ones.

"Oh, my loves, you mustn't ask such silly questions. I don't know.
Nobody can know. It was there, and we can't say any more. Perhaps there
was a little bit of this jelly on the top of every mountain in the
world. I can't tell you anything about that. But this little bit on the
top of Dartymore was alive. It was alive, and it could feel the wind and
the sun, and it would have kicked if it had got any legs to kick with.
You will find it all written on the Scorhill Rocks. I couldn't find it,
but it must be there, because they say it is. Well, this little bit of
jelly shivered away for a long time, and then one day it began to rain.
That was a wonderful thing in those days, though we don't think anything
of it now. The little bit of jelly didn't like the rain. If it had been
a pixy it would have crawled under a toadstool. If it had been a mortal
it would have put up its umbrella. But toadstools and umbrellas hadn't
been invented. So the poor thing shivered and got wet, because it was a
very heavy shower. They say it lasted for several thousand years. While
it rained the little bit of jelly was thinking. At last it said to the
rain, 'Where do _yew_ come from?' But the rain only replied that it
hadn't the least idea.

"'What are ye doing?' went on the bit of jelly; and the rain answered,
'Making the world ready for you to live in.' The piece of jelly thought
about that for a million years, and then it said to the wind--the rain
had stopped, and it was the First Fine Day--'Someone must have made me
and put me here. I want to speak to that Someone. Can't you tell me what
to do?'

"'Ask again in a million years,' said the wind.

"'I think I'll go for a walk,' said the piece of jelly. You see, my
dears, it was getting tired of sitting still, and besides, it had
discovered little bits of things called legs. They had grown while it
had been thinking. So it got up, and stretched itself, and perhaps it
yawned, and then it went for a long walk. I don't know how long it
lasted, for they thought nothing of a few thousand years then; but at
last it got back to the top of Dartymore, and found everything changed.
The big mountain had been shattered and hewn into cleaves and tors.
There were rivers and bogs; grass and fern; vuzzy-bushes and golden
blooms. In every part, my dears, the mountain had been carved into tors
and cut into gorges; but there were still no pixies, and no mortals.
Then the piece of jelly went and looked at itself in the water, and was
very much astonished at what it saw. It was a piece of jelly no longer,
but a little hairy thing, with long legs and a tail, and a couple of
eyes and a big mouth."

"Was it the same piece of jelly? What a long time it lived!" cried the
little round-eyed ones. They didn't believe a word of the story, and
they were going to say so presently.

"Well, my pretties, it was, and it wasn't. You see, little bits of it
kept breaking off all those years, and they had become hairy creatures
with long legs and a tail. Part of the original piece of jelly was in
them all, for that was what is called the origin of life, which is a
thing you don't understand anything about, and you mustn't worry your
heads about it until you grow up. The little hairy creature stood beside
the Tavy, and scratched its ear with its foot just like a dog. A million
years later it used its hand because it couldn't get its foot high
enough, and the wise men said that was a sign of civilisation. It was
raining and blowing, and presently a drop of rain trickled down the nose
of the little hairy creature and made it sneeze.

"'Go away,' said the little hairy creature. 'I wun't have ye tickling my
nose.' You see, my dears, it knew the Devonshire dialect, which is a
proof that it is the oldest dialect in the world.

"'Let me bide. I be fair mazed,' said the Devonshire raindrop. 'I've
been drap-drappiting on this old Dartymore for years and years.'

"'You bain't no use. You'm only a drop o' rainwater,' said the little
hairy thing.

"'That's all. Only a drop o' rain-water,' came the answer. 'This gurt
big mountain has been worn away by drops o' rain-water. These tors were
made by drops o' rainwater. These masses of granite have been split by
drops o' rain-water. The river is nought but drops o' rain-water."

"'You'm a liar,' said the little hairy thing. You see, my dears, it
couldn't believe the raindrop."

The little round-eyed ones didn't believe it either. They were afraid to
say so because Grandmother might have smacked them. Besides, they knew
they would not have to go to bed in the pink heather until she had
finished her story. So they listened quietly, and pinched one another,
while Grandmother went on--

"It was a long time afterwards. There were bullocks and ponies and
plenty of pixies, and the little hairy thing had become what is called a
primitive man. Tavy Cleave was very much the same as it is now, and Ger
Tor was big and rugged, and Cranmere was full of river-heads. The
primitive man had a primitive wife, and there were little creatures with
them who were primitive children. They lived among the rocks and didn't
worry about clothes. But there was one man who was not quite so
primitive as the others, and therefore he was unpopular. He used to
wander by himself and think. You will find it all upon the Scorhill
Rocks, my dears. One evening he was beside the Tavy, which was known in
those days as the Little Water, and a memory stirred in him, and he
thought to himself: I was here once, and I asked a question of the wind;
and the wind said: 'Ask again in a million years.' Someone must have
made me and put me here. I want to speak to that Someone. Then the
Little Water shouted; and it seemed to say: 'I have worn away the
mountain of granite. I have shattered the rocks. Look at me, primitive
man! I have given you a dwelling-place. I was made by the raindrops. The
cloud brought the raindrops. And the wind brought you, primitive man.
That Someone sent you and the wind together. You want to speak to that
Someone. You must seek that Someone in a certain place. Look around you,
primitive man!'

"So he looked, my dears, and saw what the Little Water had done during
those millions of years. On the top of every little mountain it had
carved out a tor. They were rough heaps of rock, shapeless, and yet
suggesting a shape. They were not buildings, and yet they suggested a
building. The primitive man went up on the highest tor, and spoke to
that Someone. But, my pretties, I'm afraid you can't understand all
this."

The little round-eyed ones were yawning dreadfully. Grandmother was
getting wearisome in her old age. They thought they would rather be in
bed.

"The primitive man made himself a hut-circle. You see, my dears, the
Little Water had taught him. He had become what is called imitative.
When he made his hut-circle he just copied the tors. Later on he copied
them on a larger scale and built castles. And then the time came when
another man stood beside the Tavy and asked: 'I have had dreams of
treasure in the earth. How can I get at that treasure?'

"Then the Little Water shouted back: 'Look at me. I have worn away the
rocks. I have uncovered the metals. Work in the ground as I have done.'

"So the man imitated the river again and worked in the ground, until he
found tin and copper; and the river went on roaring just as it does now.
You see, my children, there would have been no river if there had been
no raindrops; and without the river no tors and cleaves, no vuzzy-bushes
and golden blossoms, no ferns or pink heather, no buildings, no mortals,
and no pixies. Dartymore would have remained a cold grey mountain of
granite, and the piece of jelly would never have become a primitive man
if it hadn't rained."

"But what is the rain doing now?" cried the little round-eyed ones.

"Just the same, my pretties. Making the river flow on and on. And the
river is making the cleave deeper, and Ger Tor higher, just as it has
always been doing. Only it works so slowly that we don't notice any
change. Now you must run away to bed, for it is quite late, and you are
gaping like young chickens. Come and kiss your old granny, my dearies,
and trot away and have your dew-baths. And when you are tucked up in the
pink heather don't be afraid of the black cloud and the raindrops, for
they won't harm little pisky boys and maids if they're good. They are
too busy wearing away the granite, and cutting the cleaves deeper, and
making the mountains higher and our dear old Tavyland stronger and
fresher. There, that's all for to-night, my impets. I'll tell ye another
story to-morrow."

"Funny old thing, G'an'mother," whispered the little round-eyed ones,
while they washed their pink toes in the dew. "She'm old and dafty."

That's the story of river Tavy and its cleave; not all of it by any
means, but the pixy grandmother did not know any more. Nobody knows all
of it, except that Someone who sent the wind, which swept up the cloud,
which brought the rain, which wetted the piece of jelly, which shivered
on the top of the big grey mountain of Dartmoor.

The pixy grandmother was right about the primitive man who wanted so
much to know things. She was right when she said that the river taught
him. He looked about him and he imitated. The river had made him models
and he copied them. The tor to which he ascended to speak to that
Someone was the first temple and the first altar--made without noise, a
temple of unhewn stone, an altar of whole stones over which no man had
lifted up any iron. It was the earliest form of religion; a better and
purer form than any existing now. It was the beginning of folk-lore. It
was the first and best of mysteries: the savage, the hill-top, and the
wind; the cloud and the sun; the rain-built temple; the rain-shaped
altar. It was the unpolluted dwelling-place which Hebrew literature
tried to realise and failed; which philosophers and theocrats have tried
to realise and failed; which men are always trying to realise and must
always fail, because it is the beginning of things, the awakening of the
soul, the birth of the mind, the first cry of the new-born. It is the
first of all stories, therefore it cannot die; but the condition can
never come again. The story of the rain-shattered rocks must live for
ever; but only in the dimly-lighted realm of folk-lore.

Thus, in a sense, Peter and Mary, and the other folk to be described in
these pages, are the children of the river, the grandchildren of the
cloud and the rain. Ages have passed since the cloud first settled upon
Dartmoor and the rain descended. Pandora's box has been opened since
then, and all the heavenly gifts, which were to prove the ruin of
mortals, escaped from it long ago, except hope left struggling in the
hinge. What have the ignorant, passionate, selfish creatures in common
with the freshness and purity of the wind and rain? Not much perhaps. It
is a change from the summit of Ger Tor, with its wind and rain-hewn
altar, to Exeter Cathedral, with its wind instrument and iron-cut
sculpture--a change for the worse. It is a change from the primitive
man, with his cry to the river, to Mary and Peter, and those who defile
their neighbours' daughters, and drink to excess. A change for the
worse? Who shall tell? Men cast back to primitive manners. The world was
young when the properties of the fruit of the vine were discovered; and
we all know the name of the oldest profession upon earth.

The river of Tavy flows on and on, dashing its rain sea-ward. Go upon
the spectral mount of Ger Tor. Let it be night and early spring. Let
there be full moonlight also. Hear the water roaring: "I have worn away
the mountain of granite. I have shattered the rocks. Look at me,
civilised man. I have made you a dwelling-place, but you will not have
it. You swarm in your cities like bees in a rotten tree. Come back to
the wind and the rain. They will cool your passions. They will heal your
diseases. Come back to Nature, civilised man."




CHAPTER I

ABOUT THE TAVY FAMILY


"Coop, coop!" called Mary Tavy. "Cooey, cooey! Aw now, du'ye come, my
dear. He be proper contrairy when he'm minded to," she cried to Farmer
Chegwidden as she shook a gorse-bush, which was her shepherd's staff,
towards a big goose waddling ahead of her in the path of its own
selection, and spluttering and hissing like a damp firework.

"Did ever see such a goosie?" said Mary. "When I wants 'en to go one way
he goes t'other. There he goes, down under, to Helmen Barton. If he lays
his egg there they'll keep 'en, and say one of their fowls dropped 'en.
He wun't come home till sundown. Contrairiest bird on Dartmoor be Old
Sal."

"I don't hold wi' old geese," said Farmer Chegwidden. "They'm more
trouble than they'm worth. When they gets old they'm artful."

"So be volks," said Mary. "Goosies be cruel human. Old Sal knows as much
as we. He'm twenty-two years old. He lays an egg every month. He'm the
best mother on Dartmoor, and Peter says he shan't die till he've a mind
to." By her continued use of the masculine gender any one might have
thought Mary was not quite convinced herself as to her goose's sex; but
it was not so really. There is nothing feminine on Dartmoor except
tom-cats.

Mary lived with brother Peter close to the edge of Tavy Cleave, a little
way beyond Wapsworthy. There was a rough road from the village of St.
Peter Tavy, passing round the foot of Lynch Tor, and ending in a bog
half-a-mile further on. Ger Cottage--so named because the most prominent
feature of the landscape was Ger, or Gurt, Tor--which was the home of
the Tavys, the man and the woman, not the river, nor the cleave, nor the
stannary town, nor the two villages of that ilk, appeared amid boulders
and furze between the rough road and the gorge cut by the river. The
cottage, or to be strictly accurate, the cottages, for Peter and Mary
had separate apartments, which was quite right and proper, was, or were,
in a situation which a house-agent would have been justified in
describing as entirely detached. There was no other dwelling-place
within a considerable distance. The windows looked out upon romantic
scenery, which has been described in somewhat inflated language,
six-syllabled adjectives, and mixed metaphors, as something absolute and
unassailable; and has been compared to the Himalayas and Andes by
excitable young people under commission to write a certain number of
words for cheap guide-book purposes. However, the ravine of the Tavy is
perhaps the finest thing of its kind on Dartmoor; and "gentle readers"
who go abroad every winter have some reason to feel ashamed of
themselves if they have not seen it.

When the New Zealander comes to explore England, he will, perhaps,--if
he is interested in such things--write letters to such newspapers as may
have survived concerning the source of the Tavy. He will probably claim
to have discovered some new source which the ignorant and vanished race
of Anglo-Saxons never happened on. Most people will say that the Tavy
rises at the south side of Cut Hill. Others, who do not wish to commit
themselves, will make the safe statement that its source is upon
Cranmere. As a matter of fact the Tavy would be a very wise river if it
knew its own head. By the time it has assumed any individuality of its
own and received its first titled tributary, which is the Rattle Brook,
it has come through so many changes, and escaped from such a complicated
maze of crevasses, that it would have to be provided with an Ariadne's
clue to retrace its windings to its source. In the face of general
opinion it seems likely that the Tavy begins its existence rather more
than two miles north of its accredited source, at a spot close to
Cranmere Pool, and almost within a stone's cast of the Dart. It would be
impossible, however, to indicate any one particular fissure, with its
sides of mud and dribble of slimy water, and declare that and none other
was the river of Tavy in extreme and gurgling infancy.

There is no doubt about the Tavy by the time it has swallowed the Rattle
Brook and a few streams of lesser importance, and has entered the cleave
which it has carved through the granite by its own endless erosion. It
is an exceedingly self-assertive river; passing down with a satisfied
chuckle in the hot months, when the slabs of granite are like the floors
of so many bakers' ovens; and in the winter roaring at Ger Tor, as
though it would say, "I have cut through a thousand feet of granite
since I began to trickle. I will cut through a thousand more before the
sun gets cold." It is a noble little river, this shallow mountain
stream, the proudest of all Dartmoor rivers. More romance has gathered
around the Tavy than about all the other rivers in England put together,
leaving out the Tamar. The sluggish Thames has no romance to compare
with that of the Tavy. The Thames represents materialism with its
pleasure-boats and glitter of wealth. It suggests big waistcoats and
massive watch-chains. The Tavy stands for the spiritual side. Were the
god of wine to stir the waters of each, the Thames would flow with beer;
good beer possibly, but nothing better; while the Tavy would flow with
champagne. The Tavy is the Rhine of England. It was beside the Tavy that
fern-seed could be gathered, or the ointment obtained, which opened the
eyes of mortals to the wonders of fairyland. It was on the banks of the
Tavy that the pixies rewarded girls who behaved themselves--and pinched
and nipped those who didn't. Beside the Tavy has grown the herb
forget-me-not, which not only restored sight to the blind, but life also
to the dead; and the marigold which, when touched early on certain
mornings by the bare foot of the pure-minded, gave an understanding of
the language of birds. Many legends current upon the big Rhine occur
also beside the shallow Tavy. There are mining romances; tales of
success, struggles, and failures, from the time of the Phoenicians;
tales of battles for precious tin; tales of misery and torture and human
agony. That is the dark side of the Tavy--the Tavy when it roars, and
its waters are black and white, and there are glaciers down Ger Tor. The
tiny Lyd runs near the Rattle Brook, the bloody little Lyd in which the
torturers of the stannary prison cleansed their horrible hands. The
Rattle Brook knew all about it, and took the story and some of the blood
down to Father Tavy; and the Tavy roared on with the evidence, and
dashed it upon the walls of Tavistock Abbey, where the monks were
chanting psalms so noisily they couldn't possibly hear anything else.
That was the way of the monks. Stannary Laws and Tavistock Abbey have
gone, and nobody could wish for them back; but the Tavy goes on in the
same old way. It is no longer polluted with the blood of tin-streamers,
but merely with the unromantic and discarded boots of tramps. The
copper-mines are a heap of "deads"; and Wheal Betsey lies in ruin; but
the Tavy still brings trout to Tavistock, although there are no more
monks to bother about Fridays; and it carries away battered saucepans
and crockery for which the inhabitants have no further use. This
attention on the part of the townsfolk is not respectful, when it is
remembered that the Tavy brought their town into being, named it, and
has supplied it always with pure water. It is like throwing refuse at
one's godfather.

The Tavy is unhappily named, so is its brother the Taw--both being sons
of Mother Cranmere--if it is true their names are derived the one from
the Gaelic _tav_, the other from the Welsh _taw_. The root word is
_tam_, which appears appropriately enough in Thames, and means placid
and spreading. The Tavy and the Taw are anything but that. They are
never placid, not even in the dog-days. They brawl more noisily than all
the other rivers in Devon. Perhaps they were so named on the _lucus a
non lucendo_ principle; because it is so obvious they are not placid.
The river Tavy has a good deal of property. Wherever it winds it has
bestowed its name. The family of Tavy is a very ancient one. It was rich
and important once, possessing a number of rights, many valuable mines,
much romance, to say nothing of towns abbeys, and castles; but, like
most old families, it has decayed, and its property is not worth much
now. It possesses Tavy Cleave; the villages of St. Peter and St. Mary
(they were twins, exceedingly healthy in their youth, but growing feeble
now); Mount Tavy, which is of no importance; Tavystoc, the fortified
place upon the Tavy, which has been turned into Tavistock and has become
famous, not for its Abbey, nor for its great men, but solely and simply
for its Goose Fair; and Mary and Peter Tavy, who were not made of cob,
or granite, or water, or tin, or any of those other things which made
the fortune of the Tavy family, but were two simple animals of the human
race, children of the river out of that portion of Dartmoor which it
owns, two ignorant beings who took life seriously enough and were like
the heather and gorse which surrounded them. Evolution has accomplished
such marvels that Peter and Mary may possibly have been lineally
descended from antediluvian heather and gorse; or perhaps Nature had
intended them for heather and gorse, and while making them had come
across a couple of shop-soiled souls which were not of much use, and had
stirred them into the mixture which, after a certain treatment only to
be explained by a good deal of medical dog-Latin, resulted in Mary and
Peter being brought forth as divine images upon the edge of Tavy Cleave.

Peter and Mary were savages, although they would have used strange
language had any one called them so. They did not display their
genealogical tree upon their cottage wall. Had they done so it would
have shown, had it been accurate, that they were descended from the
Gubbingses, who, as every man knows, were as disreputable a set of
savages as have ever lived. This pedigree would have shown that a
certain young Gubbings had once run away with a certain Miss Gubbings to
whom he was attached, and with whom he was probably related more or less
intimately. Fearing capture, as they had conveyed from the gorge of the
Lyd as much of the portable property of their connections as they could
conveniently handle, the young couple assumed the name of Tavy from the
river beside which they settled. They had a number of little Tavies,
who, it was said, founded the villages of Peter Tavy and Mary Tavy,
which good Christians subsequently canonised; and who, by intermarriage
without much respect for the tie of consanguinity, or for such a form of
religious superstition as a marriage service--if, indeed, they had ever
heard of such a thing--became in time a rival band of Scythians almost
as formidable to law-abiding commoners as their relations in Gubbings
Land. Peter and Mary were direct descendants of these pleasant people.
They didn't know it, however. It was just as well they were in
ignorance, because knowledge of the truth might have turned their heads.
The chief of the Gubbings was a king in his own land; therefore Peter
and Mary would certainly have boasted that they were of royal blood; and
Peter would assuredly have told his neighbours that if every man had his
rights he would be occupying the throne of England. He would have gone
on acquiring knowledge concerning those things which appertain unto
ancient families, and no doubt would have conferred upon himself,
although not upon Mary, a coat-of-arms such as a sheep in one quarter, a
bullock in another, a bag of gold in the third, and in the fourth a
peaceful commoner's head duly decollated, with the motto: "My wealth is
in other men's goods." Peter would have become an intolerable nuisance
had he known of his royal ancestry.

Mary was quite a foot taller than her brother. Peter was like a gnome.
He was not much more than four feet in height, with a beard like a
furze-bush, a nose like a clothes-peg, and a pair of eyes which had
probably been intended for a boar, but had got into Peter by mistake.
His teeth were much broken and were very irregular; here a tooth like a
tor, there a gap like a cleave. In that respect he resembled his
neighbours. Dartmoor folk have singularly bad teeth, and none of them
submit to dentistry. They appear to think that defective teeth are
necessary and incurable evils. When they are ill they send for the
doctor at once; but when they have toothache they grin and bear it.
Perhaps they know that dentists are mercenary folk, who expect to be
paid for their labours; whereas the doctor who has any claim to
respectability works solely for the love of his profession, and is not
to be insulted by any proposal of payment. A doctor is a sort of
wandering boon-companion, according to the Dartmoor mind. There is
nothing he enjoys so much as being called from his bed on a bitter
winter's night, to drive some miles across the moor that he may have a
pleasant chat with some commoner who feels dull. He will be invited to
sit by a smouldering peat-fire, and the proposal, "Have a drop o' cider?
you'm welcome," will fall gratefully upon his ears. He will be
encouraged to talk about certain ailments, and to suggest remedies for
the same. Then he will be pressed to finish the crock of cider, and be
permitted to depart. After such hospitality he would be a base-minded
man if he made any suggestion of a fee. Peter had often consulted a
doctor, but he could not remember ever parting with cash in return for
advice. The doctor could not remember it either.

Peter generally wore a big leather apron, which began somewhere about
the region of his neck and finished at his boots. He had taken it, in a
fit of absent-mindedness, out of the blacksmith of Bridestowe's smithy
some years ago. He was a bit of a traveller in those days. Peter often
boasted of his wanderings. That expedition to Bridestowe was one of
them. It would have been six miles across the moor from Tavy Cleave, and
yet Peter had made light of it. He had done much greater things. He had
put to silence one of those objectionable, well-washed, soft-handed,
expensively-dressed creatures who call themselves gentlemen. One of
these had described to Peter his wanderings about the world, mentioning
such fabulous countries as India, China, Mexico, and Peru. Peter
listened in an attitude which expressed nothing if not contempt. He
allowed the traveller to go oh some time before crushing him. "I've
travelled tu," he said at last. Then, with the manner of one dropping a
brick upon a butterfly, he added, "I've been to Plymouth." Peter often
mentioned that the traveller had nothing more to say.

Peter had been absent-minded when he procured the blacksmith's apron,
somewhat after the manner of his early ancestors who had inhabited Lyd
Gorge or Gubbings Land. He was liable to such fits. They were generally
brought on by beer. One evening Mary had sent him to a farm--or rather
he had permitted her to send him--with a can and a string-bag in order
that he might receive payment of a debt in the form of ducks' eggs and
buttermilk. On the way Peter became absent-minded. The attack was fully
developed by the time he reached the farm. He forced the eggs into the
can and poured the buttermilk into the string-bag.

Mary also must have been made during a fit of Nature's temporary
insanity. She had been started as a man; almost finished as one; then
something had gone wrong--Nature had poured the buttermilk into the
string-bag, so to speak, and Mary became a female to a certain extent.
She had a man's face and a man's feet. Larger feet had never scrambled
down Tavy Cleave since mastodons had gone out of fashion. The impression
of Mary's bare foot in the snow would have shocked a scientist. She was
stronger than most men. To see Mary forking fern, carrying furze-reek,
or cutting peat was a revelation in female strength. She wore stout
bloomers under a short ragged skirt; not much else, except a brown
jersey. The skirt was discarded sometimes in moments of emergency. She
was flat-chested, and had never worn stays. She was as innocent
concerning ordinary female underwear as Peter; more so, perhaps, for
Peter was not blind to frills. Mary would probably have worn her
brother's trousers sometimes, had it not been for that muddle-headed act
of Nature, which had turned her out a woman at the last moment. Besides,
Peter was a foot shorter than his sister, and his legs were merely a
couple of pegs.

Somewhere in his head Peter despised Mary. He did not tell her so, or
she might have beaten him with a furze-bush. He was far superior to her.
Peter could read, write, and reckon with a dangerous facility. He was
also an orator, and had been known to speak for five minutes at a
stretch in the bar-room. He had repeated himself certainly, but every
orator does that. Peter was a savage who knew just enough to look
civilised. Mary was a savage who knew nothing and was therefore
humorous. It was education which gave Peter the upper hand, Mary could
not assert her superiority over one who read the newspapers, spoke in a
bar-room, and described characters on a piece of paper which would
convey a meaning to some one far away.

Ger Cottage, or the twin huts occupied by the Tavys, had been once
hut-circles, belonging to the aboriginal inhabitants of Dartmoor. They
were side by side, semi-detached as it were, and the one was Peter's
freehold, while the other belonged to Mary. They had the same legal
rights to their property as rabbits enjoy in their burrows. Legal rights
are not referred to on Dartmoor, unless a foreigner intervenes with a
view to squatting. "What I have I hold" is every man's motto. The
hut-circles had been restored out of all recognition. They had been
enlarged, the walls had been built up, chimneys made, and roofs covered
with furze and held in place by lumps of granite had been erected. Peter
and Mary were quite independent. Peter was the best housewife, just as
Mary was the best farmer. Peter also called himself a handy man, which
was merely another way of saying that he was no good at anything. He
would undertake all kinds of jobs, ask for a little on account, then
postpone the work for a few years. He never completed anything. Mary was
the money-maker, and he was really her business-manager. Mary was so
ignorant that she never wondered how Peter got his money. It was
perfectly simple. Peter would sell a twelve-pound goose at eightpence a
pound. When he collected the money it naturally amounted to eight
shillings. When he paid it over to Mary it had dwindled to five
shillings. "Twelve times eight be sixty," Peter would explain. "Sixty
pence be five shilluns." Mary knew no better. Then Peter always asked
for a shilling as his commission, and Mary had to give it him. Peter had
studied ordinary business methods with some success; or perhaps it came
to him naturally. He had some ponies also. There is plenty of money in
pony-breeding as Peter practised it. He would go out upon the moor, find
a young pony which had not been branded, drive it home without any
ostentation, and shut it-up in his linhay. After a time he would set his
own brand upon it and let it run loose. When the annual pony-drift came
round he would claim it, subsequently selling it at Lydford market for
five pounds. Sometimes he would remove a brand, and obliterate all
traces of it by searing his own upon the same spot; but he never went to
this extreme unless he was hard pressed for money, because Peter had
certain religious convictions, and he always felt when he removed a
brand that he was performing a dishonest action.

The only other member of the Tavy family was Grandfather. He was the
reprobate. Peter and Mary had morals of their own, not many, but
sufficient for their needs; but Grandfather had none. He was utterly
bad; a wheezing, worn-out, asthmatic old sinner, who had never been
known to tell the truth. Grandfather was always in Peter's hut. Mary had
often begged for him to keep her company at nights, but Peter
steadfastly refused to let the old rascal leave his quarters. So
Grandfather lived with Peter, and spent his time standing with his back
to the wall, wheezing and chuckling and making all sorts of unpleasant
noises, as if there was some obstruction on his chest which he was
trying always to remove.

Grandfather's hands were very loose and shaky, and his face was
dreadfully dirty. Peter washed it sometimes, while the old fellow
wheezed and groaned. Sometimes Peter opened his chest and examined
Grandfather's organs, which he declared were in a perfectly healthy
condition. There appeared to be no excuse for Grandfather's mendacious
habits. He had got into the way of lying years back, and could not shake
it off. Grandfather was well over a hundred years old, and he was not
the slightest use except as a companion. Some people would have been
afraid of him, because of his unpleasant noises, but Peter and Mary
loved him like dutiful grandchildren. They recognised in Grandfather the
true Gubbings spirit. He was a weak, sinful creature like themselves.

Grandfather had commenced life as a clock, but he had soon given up that
kind of work, or something had occurred to turn him from a useful
career; just as Peter had been meant for some sort of quadruped, and
Mary had been a man up to the last possible moment. Some evil spirit
must have entered into Grandfather; a malicious impet from the Tavy
river perhaps; or possibly the wild wind of Dartmoor had passed down the
cleave one day, to enter Grandfather's chest and intoxicate him for
ever. The fact remained that Grandfather was hopelessly bad; he was a
regular misanthrope; his ticks were so many curses, his strikings were
oaths. He did his best to mislead the two grandchildren, although it
didn't matter much, because time is of no account on Dartmoor. "He'm a
proper old brute, Gran'vaither," Peter would say sometimes, but never in
the old clock's hearing.

Mary's mission in life was to breed geese. She had been sent into the
world for the express purpose of supplying folk with savoury meat
stuffed with sage and onions at Christmas time. She succeeded admirably.
She was the best goosewoman on Dartmoor, and her birds were always in
demand. One year Peter had obtained a shilling a pound for three
unusually fine young birds; but Mary didn't know that. She fattened her
geese, and incidentally Peter also.

"They'm contrairy birds," observed Farmer Chegwidden, while he smoked
and rested himself upon a boulder, watching Mary's efforts to collect
her flock. "Never goes the way us want 'em to. Like volks," he added,
with philosophic calm. He might have been assisting Mary, only he didn't
believe in violent exercise which would not be suitably rewarded.

"Volks calls 'en vulish, but they bain't. They'm just vull o' human
vices," said Mary, flopping to and fro and waving her furze-bush.

"They'm vulish to look at," explained Farmer Chegwidden.

"'Tis their artful way. Peter looks vulish tu, and he knows plenty.
More'n any of they goosies, I reckon. Coop, coop! Drat the toad! I'll
scat 'en."

The leader of the feathered choir was off again. Chegwidden could have
headed it off, only he had finished his day's work. He managed to summon
up the energy to remark, "They gets over the ground surprising, wi'
their wings spread."

"He'm a proper little brute. I wun't waste no more time over 'en," said
Mary, as she wiped her forehead with a bunch of fern. "He'll come home
when he've a mind to, and lay his egg in the linny likely, where
Peter'll tread on 'en in the morning. Peter be cruel clumsy wi' his
boots. Will ye please to step inside, Varmer Chegwidden?"

"I mun get home. Got the bullocks to feed."

"Fine bullocks tu. I seed 'em down cleave last night. Cooey, cooey! Come
along home, my purty angels. Wish ye good-night, Varmer Chegwidden."

"Why du'ye call 'em angels?" asked the farmer, making strange sounds of
laughter behind his hand.

"Aw now, I'll tell ye. There was a lady down along, a dafty lady what
painted, and her come to Peter, and her ses, 'I wants they goosies to
paint.' Well, us wouldn't have it. Us thought her wanted to paint 'em,
one of 'em red, 'nother green likely, 'nother yellow maybe, and it might
be bad for their bellies. But us found her wanted to put 'em on a
picture. Her had got a mazed notion about the cleave and resurrection,
wi' angels flapping over, and her wanted my goosies for angels. Peter
ses he didn't know goosies were like angels. Knows a lot, Peter du."

"Angels be like gals," declared Chegwidden. "Like them gals to Tavistock
what pulls the beer, wi' pert faces and vuzzy hair. That's what angels
be like. I've seed the pictures in a Bible."

"Aw now. Us couldn't make she out," went on Mary. "The lady said 'twas
just the wings her wanted. Her said angels ha' got goosies' wings, and
us couldn't say 'em hasn't, 'cause us ain't seed any. Her knew all about
it. So Peter druve the goosies down cleave, and her painted 'em for
angels sure 'nuff. Us never knew angels has goosies' wings, but the lady
knew. Her was sure on't."

Mary stalked towards the hut-circles at the head of her row of geese,
grave, waddling, self-important, and blissfully unconscious of anything
in the nature of sage and onions. There was a touch of humour about the
procession. It was not altogether unlike the spectacle to be witnessed
in certain country boroughs of the mayor and corporation walking into
church.

"Goosies be cruel human," said Mary.




CHAPTER II

ABOUT BRIGHTLY


Up the road from Brentor to St. Mary Tavy came Brightly, his basket
dragging on his arm. He was very tired, but there was nothing unusual in
that. He was tired to the point of exhaustion every day. He was very
hungry, but he was used to that too. He was thinking of bread and cheese
and cider; new bread and soft cheese, and cider with a rough edge to it.
He licked his lips, and tried to believe he was tasting them. Then he
began to cough. It was a long, heaving cough, something like that of a
Dartmoor pony. He had to put his basket down and lean over it, and tap
at his thin chest with a long raw hand.

Nobody wanted Brightly, because he was not of the least importance. He
hadn't got a home, or a vote, or any of those things which make the
world desire the presence of people. He was only a nuisance, who worried
desirable folk that he might exist, though the people whom he worried
did not ask him to live. Brightly was a purveyor of rabbit-skins. He
dealt in rubbish, possibly because he was rubbish himself. He tramped
about Dartmoor, between Okehampton and Tavistock, collecting
rabbit-skins. When he was given them for nothing he was grateful, but
his stock of gratitude was not drawn upon to any large extent. It is not
the way of Dartmoor folk to part with even rubbish for nothing. To
obtain his rabbit-skins Brightly had to dip his raw hand beneath the
scrap of oilcloth which covered his basket, and produce a horrible
little red and yellow vase which any decent-minded person would have
destroyed at sight. Brightly bore most things fairly well, but when, on
one occasion while climbing over the rocks, he had dropped the basket
and all the red and yellow vases were smashed to atoms, he had cried. He
had been tired and hungry as usual, and knew he had lost the capital
without which a man cannot do business. The dropping of that basket
meant bankruptcy to Brightly.

The dealer in rabbit-skins was not alone in the world. He had a dog,
which was rubbish like its master. The animal was of no recognised
breed, although in a dim light it called itself a fox-terrier. She could
not have been an intelligent dog, or she would not have remained
constant to Brightly. Her name was Ju, which was an abbreviation of
Jerusalem. One Sunday evening Brightly had slipped inside a church, and
somewhat to his surprise had been allowed to remain, although a sidesman
was told off to keep an eye upon him and see that he did not break open
the empty poor-box. A hymn was sung about Jerusalem the golden, a piece
of pagan doggerel concerning the future state, where happy souls were
indulging in bacchanalian revels, and over-eating themselves in a sort of
glorified dairy filled with milk and honey. The hymn enraptured
Brightly, who was, of course, tired and famished; and when he had left
the warm church, although without any of the promised milk and honey, he
kept on murmuring the lines and trying to recall the music. He could
think of nothing but Jerusalem for some days. He went into the public
library at Tavistock and looked it up in a map of the world, discovered
it was in a country called Palestine, and wondered how many rabbit-skins
it would cost to take him there. Brightly reckoned in rabbit-skins, not
in shillings and pence, which were matters he was not very familiar
with. He noticed that whenever he mentioned the name of Jerusalem the
dog wagged her tail, as though she too was interested in the dairy
produce; so, as the animal lacked a title, Jerusalem was awarded her.
Brightly thought of the milk and honey whenever he called his poor
half-starved cur.

Presently he thought he had coughed long enough, so he picked up his
basket and went on climbing the road, his body bent as usual towards the
right. At a distance he looked like the half of a circle. He could not
stand straight. The weight of his basket and habit had crooked him like
an oak branch. He tramped on towards the barren village of St. Mary
Tavy. There was a certain amount of wild scenery to be admired. Away to
the right was Brentor and the church upon its crags. To the left were
piled the "deads" of the abandoned copper-mines. The name of Wheal
Friendship might have had a cheerful sound for Brightly had he known
what friendship meant. He didn't look at the scenery, because he was
half blind. He could see his way about, but that was all. He lived in
the twilight. He wore a big pair of unsightly spectacles with
tortoise-shell rims. His big eyes were always staring widely behind the
glasses, seeing all they could, which was the little bit of road in
front and no more.

Brightly was known about that particular part of the moor which he
frequented as the Seal. Every one laughed whenever the Seal was
mentioned. Brightly's wardrobe consisted chiefly of an old and very
tightly-fitting suit of black, distinctly clerical in cut. They had been
obtained from a Wesleyan shepherd in exchange for a pair of red and
yellow vases to embellish the mantel of the nonconforming parlour. Rain
is not unknown upon Dartmoor, and in the neighbourhood of St. Mary Tavy
it descends with pitiless violence. Brightly would be quickly saturated,
having no means of protecting himself; and then the tight clerical
garments, sodden and sleek and shining, would certainly bear some
resemblance to the coat of a seal which had just left the sea; a
resemblance which was not lessened by his wizened little face and weary
shuffling gait.

Brightly did not think much while he tramped the moor. He had no right
to think. It was not in the way of business. Still, he had his dream,
not more than one, because he was not troubled with an active
imagination. He tried to fancy himself going about, not on his tired
rheumatic legs, but in a little ramshackle cart, with fern at the bottom
for Ju to lie on, and a bit of board at the side bearing in white
letters the inscription: "A. Brightly. Purveyor of rabbit-skins"; and a
lamp to be lighted after dark, and a plank for himself to sit on, and a
box behind containing the red and yellow vases. All this splendour to be
drawn by a little shaggy pony. What a great man he would be in those
days! Starting forth in the morning would be a pleasure and not a pain.
Frequently Brightly babbled of his hypothetical cart. He felt sure it
must come some day, and so he had begun to prepare for it. He had
secured the plank upon which he was to sit and guide the pony, and every
autumn he cut some fern to put at the bottom of the cart should it
arrive suddenly. The plank he had picked up, and the fern had been cut
upon the moor. He had clearly no right to them. The plank had probably
slipped out of a granite cart, and the fern belonged to the commoners.
There was plenty of it for every one, but, as the commoners would have
argued, that was not the point. They had a right to cut the fern, and
people like Brightly have no right to anything, except a cheap funeral.
Brightly had no business to wander about the moor, which was never made
for him, or to kick his boots to pieces against good Duchy of Cornwall
granite. All the commoners cheated the Duchy of Cornwall, while they
loyally cheered the name of the Duke. They took his granite and
skilfully evaded payment of the royalty, and prayed each Sunday in their
chapels for grace to continue in honesty; but the fact of their being
commoners, some of them having the privilege of the newtake, and others
not having the privilege but taking it all the same, made all the
difference. They had to assert themselves. When it came to a question of
a few extra shillings in the money-box, or even of a few extra pence,
minor matters, such as petty tyrannical ordinances of law and Church,
could take their seats in a back corner and "bide there." Brightly had
no privileges. He had to obey every one. He was only a worm which any
one was at perfect liberty to slice in half with a spade.

Brightly had a home. The river saw to that; not the Tavy, but the less
romantic Taw. Brightly belonged to the Torridge and Taw branch of the
family. On the Western side of Cawsand are many gorges in the great
cleave cut by the Taw between Belstone and Sticklepath. There narrow and
deep clefts have been made by the persistent water draining down to the
Taw from the bogs above. In the largest of these clefts Brightly was at
home. The sides were completely hidden by willow-scrub, immense ferns,
and clumps of whortleberries, as well as by overhanging masses of
granite. The water could be heard dripping below like a chime of fairy
bells. In winter the cleft appeared a white cascade of falling water,
but Brightly's cave was fairly dry and quite sheltered. He was never
there by day, and at night nobody could see the smoke of his fire. He
had built up the entrance with shaped stones taken from the
long-abandoned cots beside the old copper-mines below. The cleft was
full of copper, which stained the water a delightful shade of green.
Brightly had furnished his home with those things which others had
thrown away. He had long ago solved the difficulty of cooking with a
perforated frying-pan, and of turning to practical uses a kettle with a
bottom like a sieve.

Brightly reached the moor gate. On the other side was the long
straggling village of St. Mary Tavy. Beside the gate was a heap of
refuse. Brightly seated himself upon it, because he thought it was the
proper place for him.

"I be cruel hungry, Ju," explained Brightly.

"So be I," said the dog's tail.

"Fair worn to bits tu," went on Brightly.

"Same here," said the tail.

"Wait till us has the cart," said Brightly cheerily, placing the
rabbit-skins upon the dirt beside him. "Us won't be worn to bits then.
Us will du dree times the business, and have a cottage and potato-patch,
and us will have bread and cheese two times a day and barrel o' cider in
the linny. Us will have fat bacon on Sundays tu."

Brightly did not know that ambition is an evil thing. It was ridiculous
for him to aspire to a cottage and potato-patch, and bread and cheese
three times a day. Kindly souls had created stately mansions for such as
he. There was one at Tavistock and another in Okehampton; beautiful
buildings equipped with all modern conveniences where he could live in
comfort, and not worry his head about rabbit-skins, or about Ju, or
about such follies as liberty and independence, or about such
unnecessary aids to existence as the moorland wind, his river Taw, the
golden blossoms of the gorse, the moonlight upon the rocks, and the
sweet scent of heather. Brightly was an unreasonable creature to work
and starve when a large stone mansion was waiting for him.

"Us ha' come a cruel long way, Ju," said the little man, descending from
his dream. "Only two rabbit-skins. Business be cruel bad. Us mun get on.
This be an awkward village to work. It be all scattery about like."

Brightly rose with some alacrity. The moor gate rattled. The hand of the
village constable was upon it, and the eyes of that official, who was to
Brightly, at least, a far more considerable person than the Lord Chief
Justice, were regarding the vagabond with a suspicion which was
perfectly natural considering their respective positions.

"Good-evening, sir," said Brightly with deep humility. The policeman was
not called upon to answer such things as Brightly. He condescended,
however, to observe in the severe tones which his uniform demanded:
"Best be moving on, hadn't ye?"

Brightly agreed that it was advisable. He was well aware he had no right
to be sitting upon the heap of refuse. He had probably damaged it In
some way. The policeman had his bicycle with him, as he was on his way
to Lydford. Brightly stood in a reverential attitude, held the gate
open, and touched his cap as the great man rolled by. The constable
accepted the service, without thanks, and looked back until the little
wanderer was out of sight. Such creatures could be turned to profitable
uses after all. They could be made to supply industrious village
constables with opportunities for promotion. They could be arrested and
charged with house-breaking, rick-burning, or swaling out of season; if
such charges could not be supported, they could be summoned for keeping
a dog without a licence. The policeman made a note of Brightly, as
business was not very flourishing just then. There was the usual amount
of illegality being practised by the commoners; but the village
constable had nothing to do with that. Commoners are influential folk. A
man could not meddle with them and retain his popularity. The policeman
had to be polite to his social superiors, and salute the elders of
Ebenezer with a bowed head, and wink violently when it was incumbent
upon him so to do.

Dartmoor has no reason to be proud of St. Mary Tavy, as it is quite the
dreariest-looking village upon the moor. Even the river seems to be
rather ashamed of it, and turns away as if from a poor relation. St.
Peter, over the way, is much more cheerful. They were well-to-do once,
these two. They were not only saints, but wealthy, in the good days when
the wheals were working and the green stain of copper was upon
everything. Now they have come down in the world. The old gentleman lets
lodgings, and the old lady takes in washing. They have put away their
halos, dropped their saintly prefix, and it is exceedingly improbable
that they will ever want them again. They always found it hard work to
live up to their reputations; not that they tried very much; but now
they are both easy and comfortable as plain everyday folk, neither
better nor worse than their neighbours Brentor and Lydford. Peter is a
fine, rugged old gentleman; but Mary is decidedly plain with age. There
is nothing tender or pleasant about her. She is shamelessly naked;
without trees or bushes, and the wheal-scarred moor around is as bald as
an apple. The wind comes across her head with the blast of ten thousand
bagpipes; and when it rains upon St. Mary--it rains!

Brightly knew all about that rain. He had often played the Seal upon
that wild road, and had felt the water trickling down his back and
making reservoirs of his boots; while people would stand at their
windows and laugh at him. Nobody had ever asked him to come in and take
shelter. Such an idea would never have occurred to them. Ponies and
bullocks were out upon the moor in all weathers, and every winter some
died from exposure. Brightly was nothing like so valuable as a pony or
bullock, and if he were to die of exposure nobody would be out of
pocket.

Brightly went from cottage to cottage, but there were no rabbit-skins
that day. There seemed to be a rabbit famine just then. Lamps were
lighted in windows here and there. When the doors were opened Brightly
felt the warmth of the room, smelt the glowing peat and the fragrant
teapot, and sometimes saw preparations for a meal. What a wonderful
thing it must be, he thought, to have a room of one's own; a hearth, and
a mantelpiece holding china dogs, cows with purple spots, and
photographs of relations in the Army; a table covered with rare and
precious things, such as waxen fruit beneath a dome of glass, woollen
mats, and shells from foreign lands; a clock in full working order; a
dresser stocked with red and green crockery; and upon the walls
priceless oleographs framed in blue ribbon, designed and printed in
Austria, and depicting their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of
Cornwall, simpering approvingly at a scarlet Abraham in the act of
despatching a yellow Isaac with a bright-blue scimitar. Brightly sighed
as each door was closed upon him, and each smoky little paradise
disappeared. He was having a run of bad luck. Ju knew all about it. She
put what was left of her tail between her legs and shivered. No doubt
she wished she had been born into the world a genuine dog, and not a
mongrel; just as Brightly sometimes wished he had been born a real human
being, and not a poor thing which dealt in rabbit-skins.

He reached the top of the village. The road heaved above him, and then
came the bare upland. He could do no more that evening. There was no
food, or fire, or shelter for him. He knew of a barn in which he could
sleep at Brentor, but it was too late to go back there. Darkness was
coming on. Brightly did not require to feel in his pocket to discover
the state of his finances. He knew he had just twopence.

There was a gate beside him, and on the other side a row of very small
whitewashed cottages one room high, which had been built for miners in
the days when Mary Tavy had been a saint and prosperous; they were then
occupied by assorted families. Brightly stumbled through and knocked at
the door of the first. It was opened by a young woman nursing a baby;
another was hanging to her skirts; a third sprawled under the table;
there was a baby in a cradle, another wrapped upon a chair. It appeared
to be a congress of babies. The place was crawling with them. It was a
regular baby-warren. They had been turned out wholesale. Even Brightly
felt he had come to the wrong place, as he asked the extraordinarily
fertile female if she would give him a cup of tea and piece of bread for
one penny.

The answer was in the negative. The woman was inclined to be hysterical,
which was not surprising considering her surroundings. She was alone in
the house, if she could be called alone when it was hardly possible to
step across the floor for babies which were lying about like bees under
a lime-tree. Brightly was known as a vagabond. He looked quite the sort
of man who would murder her and all the children. She told him to go
away, and when he did not move, because he had not heard, she began to
scream.

"I'll send for policeman if ye don't go. You'm a bad man. Us knows ye.
Coming here to scare me, just as I be going to have a baby tu. 'Twill be
cross-eyed, poor dear, wi' yew overlooking me. Get along wi' yew, or
I'll call neighbours."

Brightly begged her pardon in his soft voice and went. He knew it was no
use trying the other cottages. The woman with the army of children would
only follow from door to door, and describe how he had insulted her. He
made his way to the top of the village and sat upon the hedge. Ju
crouched beside him and licked his boots. It was a fine evening, only
they were too hungry to appreciate it properly.

"Us mun get food, or us wun't tramp far in the morning," said Brightly.
"This wind du seem to mak' a stomach feel cruel empty."

"Makes a dog's stomach empty too, father," said the eloquent tail of Ju.

"Us will go to the shop, and get what us can for a penny. Mun keep one
penny for to-morrow," said Brightly.

He turned his dim eyes towards the road. A horse was trotting up the
long hill, and presently he saw it; a big ugly grey with a shaggy coat.
Brightly knew who it was approaching him, and had there been time he
would have hidden, because he was afraid of the man who rode. "It be
Varmer Pendoggat," he whispered. "Don't ye growl, Ju."

Possibly the rider would have passed without a word, but the grey horse
saw the creatures upon the hedge and shied, crushing the rider's leg
against one of the posts opposite. This was unfortunate for Brightly, as
it was clearly his fault. Quaint objects with big spectacles and
rabbit-skins have no business to sit upon a hedge in the twilight. He
had frightened the horse, just as he had frightened the woman with a
family. The horse had hurt his master, and Pendoggat was not the sort of
man to suffer patiently.

There is a certain language which must not be described. It may be heard
to perfection in the cheap enclosures at race-meetings, in certain
places licensed to sell beer, at rabbit-shoots, and in other places
where men of narrow foreheads come together and seem to revert to a type
of being which puzzles the scientist, because there is nothing else in
the entire animal world quite like it. Pendoggat made use of that
language. He had a low forehead, a scowling face, small eyes, which
looked anywhere except at the object addressed, bushy black moustache,
and high cheek-bones. He never laughed, but when he was angry he
grinned, and spittle ran down his chin. He was a strong man; it was said
he could pick up a sack of flour with one hand. He could have taken
Brightly and broken him up like a rotten stick. Most people were
respectful to Pendoggat. The village constable would have retired on a
pension rather than offend him.

"I be sorry, sir. I be cruel sorry," muttered poor shivering Brightly.
"I did bide still, sir, and I told the dog to bide still tu. I hopes you
hain't hurt, sir. Don't ye be hard on I, sir. Us have had a bad day, and
us be hungry, sir."

Pendoggat replied with more of the same language. He tried to destroy Ju
with his thick ground-ash, but the wise cur escaped. Then he sidled the
horse towards the hedge, and crushed Brightly against its stones. He saw
nothing pathetic in the poor thin creature's quivering face and
half-blind eyes; but he obtained some enjoyment out of the piping cry
for mercy. Brightly thought he was going to be killed, and though he
didn't mind that much, he did not want to be tortured.

"Don't ye, sir. Don't ye hurt I," he cried. "I didn't mean it, sir. I
was biding quiet. You'm hurting I cruel, sir. I'll give ye two vases,
sir, purty vases, if yew lets I go."

Pendoggat struck his horse, and the animal started back. Brightly
reached his raw hand up the hedge and lifted his basket tenderly. It was
like losing flesh and blood to part with his vases, but freedom from
persecution was worth any ransom. He removed the oil-cloth. What was
left of the light softened the hideous ware and made the crude colouring
endurable.

"Tak' two, sir," said Brightly piteously. "Them's the best, sir."

"Give me up the basket," Pendoggat muttered.

The shivering little man lifted it. Pendoggat snatched at the handle,
pulled out a vase, and flung it against the stone hedge. There was a
sharp sound, and then the road became spotted with red and yellow
fragments.

This was something which Brightly could hardly understand. It was too
raw and crude. He stood in the road, with his hands swaying like two
pendulums against his thin legs, and wondered why the world had been
made and what was the object of it all. There was another crash, and a
second shower of red and yellow fragments. Pendoggat had selected his
pair of vases, and he was also enjoying himself. He looked up and down,
saw there was no one in sight; Dartmoor is a wild and lawless place, and
nobody could dictate to him. He was a commoner; master of the rivers and
the granite. Brightly said nothing. He lifted a red hand for his basket,
which contained what was left of his capital, but Pendoggat only struck
the clumsy fingers with his ground-ash. It was darker, but a wild gleam
was showing over what had been Gubbings Land. The moon was coming up
that way.

"I'll learn ye to scare my horse," growled Pendoggat. "I saw you shake
your hand at him. I heard you setting on the dog. If I was to give you
what you deserve, I'd--" He lifted his arm, and there was another crash,
and more flesh and blood were wasted.

"Don't ye, sir," cried Brightly bitterly. "It be ruin, sir. I tored they
once avore, and 'twas nigh a month 'vore I could start again. I works
hard, sir, and I du try, but I've got this asthma, sir, and rheumatism,
and I can't properly see, master. I've been in hospital to Plymouth,
sir, but they ses I would never properly see. 'Tis hard to start again,
master, and I ain't got friends. Don't ye tear any more, master. I'll
never get right again."

Pendoggat went on smashing the vases. There were not many of them, not
nearly enough to satisfy him. The last was shattered, and he flung the
basket at Brightly, hitting him on the head, but fortunately not
breaking his spectacles. Brightly wanted to be alone; to crawl into the
bracken with Ju, and think about many things; only Pendoggat would not
let him go.

"Hand up those rabbit-skins," he shouted. He was growing excited.
Smashing the vases had put passion into him.

"I've tramped ten miles for they, master. Sourton to Lydford, and
Lydford to Brentor, and Brentor to Mary Tavy. Times be very bad, sir.
Ten miles for two rabbit-skins, master."

"Hand them up, or I'll break your head."

Brightly had to obey. Pendoggat flung the skins across the saddle and
grinned. He passed his sleeve across his lips, then put out his arm,
seized Brightly by the scarf round his neck, and dragged him near. "If I
was to give ye one or two across the head, 'twould learn ye not to scare
horses," he said.

Brightly shivered a little more, and lifted his wizened face.

"Got any money? Tell me the truth, or I'll pull the rags off ye."

"Duppence, master. 'Tis all I has now you'm torn the cloam and got my
rabbit-skins. If it warn't for the duppence I don't know what me and Ju
would du."

"Hand it over," said Pendoggat.

"I can't, master. I can't," whispered Brightly, gulping like a dying
fish.

"Hand it over, or I'll strangle ye." Then in a fit of passion he dragged
Brightly right across the saddle and tore his pocket open. The two
copper coins fell into his hand. He dropped Brightly upon the red and
yellow fragments, which cut his raw hands, then hit his horse, and rode
on triumphing. He had punished the miserable little dealer in rubbish;
and he fancied Brightly would not venture to frighten his horse again.

Pendoggat rode up to the high moor and felt the wind. He was about to
strike his horse into a canter, when a spectre started out of the gloom,
a wizened face reached his knee, an agonised voice cried: "Give I back
my duppence, master. Give I back my duppence."

Pendoggat shivered. He did not enjoy the sound of that voice, or the
sight of that face. He thought of death when he saw that face. Brightly
was only one of the mean things of the earth, and mean things make a
fuss about trifles. That face and that voice all over the loss of
twopence! Probably the wretched thing was mad. Honest men are often
frightened when they see lunatics.

"Us be cruel hungry, master. Us have eaten nought all day. Us have lost
our cloam and our rabbit-skins. Give I back my duppence, master. I'll
work for ye to-morrow."

Pendoggat hit his horse, and the animal cantered away, and the spectre
troubled him no longer. He wiped his chin again and felt satisfied. He
had made a poor creature suffer. There was a certain amount of crude
pleasure in that thought. But why had that face and voice suggested
death, the death of a man who has used his power to deprive a poor
wretch of his vineyard? Pendoggat flung the rabbit-skins into the gaping
pit of a mine-shaft and cantered on. He was a free man; he was a
commoner; the rivers and the rocks were his.

Brightly stumbled back to the hedge to reclaim his empty basket. He
talked to Ju for a little, and tried to understand things, but couldn't.
He would have to start all over again. He discovered a turnip, which had
probably rolled out of a cart and was therefore any one's property, and
he filled his stomach with that. Ju raked a bone bearing a few sinews
out of a rubbish-heap. So they might have done worse.

At the top of the village was an old cow-barn. Above was a loft
containing a little dry fern. Brightly and Ju lodged there. It was quite
away from other buildings, standing well out upon the moor, therefore
nobody heard a queer piping voice, singing and feasting on the quaint
doggerel far into the night--

     "Jerusalem the golden,
     Wi' milk and honey blest...




CHAPTER III

ABOUT PASTOR AND MASTER


Unpleasant creatures are so plentiful in the world that they cannot be
overlooked. Were there only a few they might be ignored; but they
throng, they thrust themselves forward, they shout to attract attention,
they push the decent-looking out of the way. The ugliest women make the
most noise; the ugliest men shove to the front in a crowd; the ugliest
insects make their way into bed-chambers. Why Nature made so much
ugliness, side by side with so much that is beautiful, only Nature
knows. Some countries are made detestable to live in by the presence of
hideous creatures. There is the fire-ant of the Amazon valley, which
will put human beings to flight. There is the Mygale spider, covered
with poisonous red hair, its body the size of a duck's egg, the spread
of its legs covering eight inches, which scuttles into a room by
moonlight and casts a horrible shadow upon the bed. There is the
wolf-spider which, if a man passes near its lair, will leap out and
pursue him, and bite him if it can. There are so many of these repulsive
things that they cannot be disregarded. Some things can be kept out of
the way: abattoirs, operating-theatres, vivisection-hells. People ignore
and forget these, because they are not seen; but the man wolf-spider
cannot be forgotten, because he leaps out and pursues those that come
near his lurking-place.

Nothing in the entire system of creation can be more inexplicable than
the persistent cruelty of Nature. Death there must be, but Nature
resents a painless death. Animals not only kill but torture those which
are inferior to them. Mason-wasps deliberately vivisect spiders, which
are insects extremely tenacious of life. It is the same all the way
along the scale up to and including man. Nature does her work with
bloody hands; birth, life, death, become a miserable dabble of blood and
passion. Some people shut their eyes to it all; others cannot; others
add to it; churches with their tolling bells and black masses revel in
the mystic side of it.

There is not a person living who has not done an act of cruelty. It is
impossible to refrain from it. However kindly the soul may be Nature
will whisper bloody messages; and some day there is sure to be a
temporary breakdown. In a town the wretched business is not much seen.
It lurks in the dark corners, like the Mygale spider, and comes out
perhaps at moonlight to cast its shadow upon the bed. On the sparsely
inhabited moor it is visible, for it cannot hide away so easily, and it
tries less because it is fiercer. It is like the wolf-spider which
dashes out in a mad fury. Upon a wild upland passions are fiercer, just
as physical strength is greater. Everything seems to suggest the dark
end of the scale; the rain is more furious, the clouds are blacker, the
wind is mightier, the rivers are colder; Nature is at full strength. She
is wild and lawless, and men are often wild and lawless too. Tender
lilies would not live upon the moor, and it is no use looking for them.
They are down in the valleys. Upon the moor there is the granite, the
spiny gorse, the rugged heather. It is no use looking for the qualities
of the lily in those men who are made of the granite, and gorse, and
heather.

Pendoggat was the sort of man who might have melted into tears at
hearing a violin played, and then have kicked the performer down a wheal
if he asked for a copper. Nature turns out a lot of contradictory work
like that. She never troubles to fit the joints together. Had any one
told Pendoggat he was a cruel man, he would first of all have stunned
the speaker into silence, and then have wondered whatever the man had
been driving at. It is a peculiarity of cruelty that it does not
comprehend cruelty. No argument will persuade a rabbit-trapper that the
wretched animals suffer in the iron jaws of his traps. The man who skins
an eel alive, and curses it because it won't keep still, cannot be
brought to understand that he is doing anything inhuman. Perhaps he will
admit he had never given the subject a thought; more probably he will
regard the apostle of mercy as a madman. The only way to enlighten such
men is to skin them alive, or compel them to tear themselves to death in
an iron trap; and there are, unfortunately, laws to prevent that. The
only just law ever made was the _lex talionis_, and Nature recognises
that frequently. Pendoggat trapped rabbits in his fields, and if they
were not dead when he found them he left them as a rule. The traps were
supposed to kill them in time, and the longer they were in dying the
longer their flesh would keep. That was the way he looked at it. Quite a
practical way.

Very likely Pendoggat was of Spanish extraction in spite of his Cornish
name. The average Cornishman has a thoroughly good heart, and is, if he
be of the true stock, invariably fair. The Cornish man or maid who is
dark owes something to foreign blood. There are in Cornwall many men and
women so strikingly dark as to attract attention at once; and if their
ancestry could be traced back a couple of hundred years it might be
found that a Spanish name occurred. While the stout men of Devon were
chasing the Armada up channel and plucking the Admiral's feathers one by
one, and the patriotic Manacles were doing Cornwall's share by giving
the big galleons a hearty welcome, many a shipwrecked sailor found his
way into the cottages of fishermen and wreckers, and with the aid of a
pocketful of gold pieces made themselves at home. Some possibly were
able to return to Spain; others probably seduced their protectors' young
women; others were lawfully wedded; others settled down in their new
land and took a Cornish name. It is a difficult piece of history to
trace, and much must remain pure hypothesis; but it is fairly certain
that had there been no Spanish Armada to invade England, and to send
Queen Elizabeth to her writing-tablets to reel off a lot of badly-rhymed
doggerel in imitation of Master Spenser, there would also have been no
Farmer Pendoggat dwelling at Helmen Barton in the parish of Lydford and
sub-parish of St. Mary Tavy, as a commoner of Dartmoor and a tenant in
name of Elizabeth's descendant the Duke of Cornwall.

There was nothing of a sinister nature about the Barton. Even its name
meant simply in its original Celtic the place of the high stone; _hel_
being a corruption of _huhel_, and _men_ one of the various later forms
of _maen_; just as huhel twr, the high tor, has now become Hel Tor.
Wherever people have been given a chance of dragging in the devil and
his dwelling-place they have taken it; actuated, perhaps, by the same
motive which impelled the old dame to make a profound reverence whenever
the name of the ghostly enemy was mentioned, as she didn't know what
would be her fate in a future state, so thought it wise to try and
propitiate both sides. The Barton was a long low house of granite, damp
and ugly. No architect could make a house built of granite look
pleasant; no art could prevent the tough stone from sweating. It was
tiled, which made it look colder still. Creepers would not crawl up its
walls on account of the winds. One half of the Barton was crowded with
windows, the other half appeared to be a blank wall. A good many
farm-houses are built upon that plan, the stable and loft being a
continuation of the dwelling-house, and to all outward appearance a part
of it. There was not a tree near the place. The farm was in a fuzzy
hollow; above was a fuzzy down. It ought to have been called Furzeland,
a name which is borne by a tiny hamlet in mid-Devon, which nobody has
ever heard of, where the furze does not grow. The high stone which had
named the place--probably a menhir--had disappeared long ago. Some
former tenant would have broken it up and built it into a wall. The
commoners' creed is a simple one, and runs thus: "Sometimes I believe in
God who made Dartmoor. I cling to my privileges of mining, turbary, and
quarrying. I take whatever I can find on the moor, and give no man pay
or thanks. I reverence my landlord, and straighten his boundary walls
when he, isn't looking. The granite is mine, and the peat, and the
rivers, and the fish in them, and so are the cattle upon the hills, if
no other man can put forward a better claim. No foreign devil shall
share my privileges. If any man offers to scratch my back he must pay
vor't. Amen."

It was fitting that a man like Pendoggat should live among the furze,
farm in the furze, fight with the furze. He resembled it in its
fierceness, its spitefulness, its tenacity of life; but not in its
beauty and fragrance. He brought forth no golden blossoms. There was no
thorn-protected fragrance in him. He was always struggling with the
furze, without realising that it must defeat him in the end. He burnt
it, but up it came in the spring. He grubbed it up, but portions of the
root escaped and sent forth new growth. He would reclaim a patch, but
directly he turned his back upon it to attack a fresh piece the furze
returned. To eradicate furze upon a moor was not one of the labours
allotted to Hercules. He would have found it worse than cutting off the
heads of the water-snake. Pendoggat had fought for twenty years, and the
enemy was still undefeated; he would die, and the gorse would go on; for
he was only a hardy annual, and the gorse is a perennial, as eternal as
the rivers and the granite. It bristled upon every side of the Barton,
the greater gorse as well as the lesser, and it was in flower all the
year round, as though boasting of its indomitable strength and vitality.
On the west side, where the moorland dipped and made an opening for the
winds from Tavy Cleave, a long narrow brake remained untouched to make a
shelter for the house. The gorse there was high and thick, and its ropy
stems were as big round as a man's wrist. Pendoggat would have
grievously assaulted any man who dared to fire that brake.

People who talked scandal in the twin villages, namely, the entire
population, wondered whether Mrs. Pendoggat was really as respectable as
she looked. They decided against her, as they were not the sort of
people to give any one the benefit of a doubt. They were right, however,
for Annie Pendoggat had no claim to the latter part of her name. She was
really Annie Crocker, a degraded member of one of those three famous
families--Cruwys and Copplestone being the other two--who reached their
zenith before the Norman invasion. She had come to Pendoggat as
housekeeper, and could not get away from him; neither could he dismiss
her. She was a little woman, with a sharp face and a soft voice; much
too soft, people said. She could insult any one in a manner which
suggested that she loved them. She had been fond of her master in her
snake-like way. She still admired his brute strength, and what she
thought was his courage. He had never lifted up his hand against her;
and when he threatened to, she would remark in her soft way that the
long brake of gorse darkened the kitchen dreadfully, and she thought she
would go and set a match to it. That always brought Pendoggat to his
senses.

It was a quiet life at the Barton. Pendoggat had no society, except that
of some minister whom he might bring back to dinner on Sundays. On that
day he attended chapel twice. He also went on Wednesday, when he
sometimes preached. His sermons were about a cruel God ruling the world
by cruelty, and preparing a state of cruelty for every one who didn't
attend chapel twice on Sundays and once during the week. He believed in
what he said. He also believed he was himself secure from such a
punishment; just as certain ignorant Catholics sincerely rely on the
power of a priest to forgive their sins. Pendoggat thought that he was
free to act as he pleased, so long as he didn't miss his attendances at
chapel. If he cheated a man, and missed chapel, his soul would be in
danger; but if he attended chapel the sin was automatically forgiven. It
was a strange form of theology, but not an uncommon one. Many excellent
people tend towards it. Pious old ladies will do all they can to induce
young men to attend church. It does not appear to trouble them much if
the young men read comic papers, wink at the girls, or slumber audibly,
while they are there. The great point has been gained. The young men are
in church; therefore they are religious. The young man who goes for a
walk to the top of the highest tor to watch the sunset is a vile
creature who will be damned some day.

The Barton had its parlour, and Pendoggat practised the entire ritual
connected with that mysterious apartment. No Dartmoor farm-house would
have the slightest pretensions to be regarded as a civilised home
without the parlour. Its rites and ceremonies remain unwritten, and yet
every farmer knows them, and practises them with the precision of a
Catholic priest obeying his rubrics, or with the zeal of an Anglican
parson defying his. It must be the best room in the house, and it must
be kept locked and regarded as holy ground. The windows must not be
opened lest fresh air should enter, and equally dangerous sunlight must
be excluded by blinds and curtains and a high bank of moribund plants.
The furniture is permitted to vary, with the exception of a few
ornaments which must be found in every house as a mark of stability and
respectability. There must be a piano which cannot be used for purposes
of music, and a lamp which is not to be lighted. Whatever books the
house contains must be arranged in a manner pleasing to the householder,
and they must never be opened. There is a central table, and upon it
recline albums containing photographs of the family at different stages
of their careers, together with those of ancestors; and these
photographs have little value if they are not yellow and faded to denote
their antiquity. In the centre of the table must appear a strange
device; a stuffed bird in a glass case, a piece of coral on a mat, or
some recognised family heirloom. The pictures must be strongly coloured
and should have a religious accent. As Germany has achieved surprising
results in the matter of colour, the pictures are usually from that
fatherland. Ruined temples on the Nile are a favourite subject; only the
temples should resemble dilapidated barns, and the Nile bear a distinct
likeness to a duck pond. Upon the mantel must stand a clock which has
not gone within living memory, and some assorted crockery which if
viewed continuously in a strong light will bring on neuralgia. A copy of
a penny novelette, and a sheet of music-hall songs lying about, denote
literary and musical tastes; but these are unusual. There is generally a
family Bible, used to support a large shell, or a framed photograph of
the master in his prime of life; and this is opened from time to time to
record a birth, marriage, or death. The pattern of the wall-paper must
be decided and easily discernible; scarlet flowers on a yellow
background are always satisfactory.

The ceremony of entering the parlour takes place usually on Sunday.
There is a Greater Entry and a Lesser Entry. The lesser takes place
after tea. The master in his best clothes, his face and hands washed,
although that point is not always insisted upon, carefully shaven, or
with well-groomed beard, as the case may be, his boots removed after the
manner of a Mussulman, enters the holy place, sits stiffly upon a chair
without daring to lean back lest he should disturb the antimacassar,
lights his pipe, and revels in the odour of respectability. He does not
really enjoy himself, but after a time he grows more confident and
ventures to cross his legs. From time to time he rises, goes out, walks
along the passage, and spits out of the front door. The greater entry
takes place after chapel. The entire family assemble by the light of the
kitchen lamp and say wicked things about their neighbours. Sometimes
guests are introduced, and these display independence in various ways,
chiefly by leaning back in their chairs and shuffling their boots on the
carpet. The ceremonies come to a close at an early hour; the members of
the family file out; father, leaving last, locks the door. The parlour
is closed for another week.

Pendoggat's parlour was orthodox; only more cold and severe than most.
The wall-paper was stained with moisture, and the big open fire-place
always smoked. The master thought himself better than the neighbouring
commoners, and none of them were ever invited to enter his sanctuary. In
a way he was their superior. He could write a good hand, and read
anything, and he spoke better than his neighbours. It is curious that of
two commoners, educated and brought up in exactly the same way, one will
speak broad dialect and the other good English. There was naturally very
little society for Pendoggat. He lived in his own atmosphere as a
philosopher might have done. He encouraged his minister to visit him,
but he had a good reason for that. Weak-minded ministers are valuable
assets and good advertising agents; for, if their congregations do not
exactly trust them, they will at least follow them, which is more than
they will do for any one else.

The sanctity of the parlour may be violated on weekdays; either upon the
occasion of some chapel festival, or when a visitor of higher rank than
a farmer calls. When Pendoggat reached the Barton he knew at once that
the place was haunted by a visiting body, because the blinds were up.
Annie Crocker met him in the yard, which in local parlance was known as
the court, and said: "The Maggot's waiting for ye in the parlour. Been
there nigh upon an hour. He'm singing Lighten our Darkness by now, I
reckon, vor't be getting whist in there, and he'm alone where I set 'en,
and told 'en to bide till you come along."

"Given him no tea?" said Pendoggat, appearing to address the stones at
his feet rather than the woman. That was his usual way; nobody ever saw
Pendoggat's eyes. They saw only a black moustache, a scowl, and a moving
jaw.

"No, nothing," said Annie. "No meat for maggots here. Let 'en go and eat
dirt. Bad enough to have 'en in the house. He'm as slimy as a slug."

"Shut your noise, woman," said Pendoggat. "Take the horse in, and slip
his bridle off."

"Tak' 'en in yourself, man," she snapped, turning towards the house.

Pendoggat repeated his command in a gentler voice; and this time he was
obeyed. Annie led the horse away, and the master went in.

The Reverend Eli Pezzack was the Maggot, so called because of his
singularly unhealthy complexion. Dartmoor folk have rich red or brown
faces--the hard weather sees to that--but Eli was not a son of the moor.
It was believed that he had originated in London of West-country
parents. He had none of the moorman's native sharpness. He was a tall,
clammy individual, with flabby hands dun and cold like mid-Devon clay;
and he was so clumsy that if he had entered a room containing only a
single article of furniture he would have been certain to fall against
it. He was no humbug, and tried to practise what he taught. He was
lamentably ignorant, but didn't know it, and he never employed a word of
one syllable when he could find anything longer. He admired and
respected Pendoggat, making the common mistake with ignorant men of
believing physical strength to be the same thing as moral strength. He
agreed with those grammarians who have maintained that the eighth letter
of the alphabet is superfluous.

"Sorry to have kept ye sitting in the dark," said Pendoggat as he
entered the parlour.

"The darkness has not been superlative, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli, as he
stumbled over the best chair while trying to shake hands. "The lunar
radiance has trespassed pleasantly into the apartment and beguiled the
time of lingering with pleasant fancies." He had composed that sentence
during "the time of lingering," but knew he would not be able to
maintain that high standard when he was called on to speak extempore.

"'The darkness is no darkness at all, but the night is as clear as the
day,'" quoted Pendoggat with considerable fervour, as he drew aside the
curtains to admit more moonlight.

"True, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli. "We know who uttered that sublime
contemplation."

This was a rash statement, but was made with conviction, and accepted
apparently in the same spirit.

"You know why I asked you to come along here. I'm going to build up your
fortune and mine," said Pendoggat. "Let us seek a blessing."

Eli tumbled zealously over a leg of the table, gathered himself into a
kneeling posture, clasped his clay-like hands, and prayed aloud with
fervour and without aspirates for several minutes. When Pendoggat
considered that the blessing had been obtained he dammed up the flow of
words with a stertorous "Amen." Then they stood upon their feet and got
to business.

"Seems there's no oil in this lamp," said the master, referring not to
the pastor, but to the lamp of state which was never used.

"We do not require it, Mr. Pendoggat," came the answer. "We stand in
God's light, the moonlight. That is sufficient for two honest men to see
each other's faces by."

Pendoggat ought to have winced, but did not, merely because he had so
little knowledge of himself. He didn't know he was a brute, just as
Peter and Mary did not know they were savages. Grandfather the clock
knew nearly as much about his internal organism as they did about
theirs.

"I want money," said Pendoggat sharply. "The chapel wants money. You
want money. You're thinking of getting married?"

Eli replied that celibacy was not one of those virtues which he felt
called upon to practise; and admitted that he had discovered a young
woman who was prepared to blend her soul indissolubly with his. The
expression was his own. He did not mention what he imagined would be the
result of that mixture. "More maggots," Annie Crocker would have said.
Annie had been brought up in the atmosphere of the Church, and for that
reason hated all pastors and people known as chapel-volk. Pendoggat was
the one exception with her; but then he was not an ordinary being. He
was a piece of brute strength, to be regarded, not so much as a man, but
as part of the moor, beaten by wind, and producing nothing but gorse,
which could only be burnt and stamped down; and still would live and
rise again with all its former strength and fierceness. Pastor Eli
Pezzack was the poor weed which the gorse smothers out of being.

"Come outside," said Pendoggat.

Eli picked up his hat, stumbled, and wondered. He did not venture to
disobey the master, because weak-minded creatures must always dance to
the tune piped by the strong. Pendoggat was already outside, tramping
heavily in the cold hall. Unwillingly Eli left the parlour, with its
half-visible memorials, its photographs, worthless curios, hair-stuffed
furniture and glaring pictures; blundering like a bee against a window
he followed; he heard Pendoggat clearing his throat and coughing in the
court.

"Got a stick?" muttered the master. "Take this, then." He gave the
minister a long ash-pole. "We're going down Dartmoor. It's not far. Best
follow me, or you'll fall."

Eli knew he was certain to fall in any case, so he protested mildly. "It
is dangerous among the rocks, Mr. Pendoggat."

The other made no answer. He went into the stable, and came out with a
lantern, unlighted; then, with a curt "Come on," he began to skirt the
furze-brake, and Eli followed more like a patient sheep than a foolish
shepherd.

There is nothing more romantic than a wide undulating region of high
moorland lighted by a full moon and beaten by strong wind. The light is
enough to show the hills and rock-piles. The wind creates an atmosphere
of perfect solitude. The two men came out of the dip; and the scene
about them was the high moor covered with moonlight and swept by wind.
Pendoggat's face looked almost black, and that of the Maggot was whiter
than ever by contrast.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked gently. "Need we proceed at this
present 'igh velocity, Mr. Pendoggat? I am not used to it. I cannot be
certain of my equilibrium."

The other stopped. Eli was deep in heather, floundering like a man
learning to swim.

"You're an awkward walker, man. Lift your feet and plant 'em down firm.
You shuffle. Catch hold of my arm if you can't see. We're not going far.
Down the cleave--a matter of half-a-mile, but it's bad walking near the
river."

Eli did not take the master's arm. He was too nervous. He struggled on,
tumbling about like a drunken man; but Pendoggat was walking slowly now
that they were well away from the Barton.

"Sorry to bring you out so late," he said. "I meant to be home earlier,
and then we'd have got down the cleave by daylight."

"But what are we going to inspect?" cried Eli.

"Something that may make our fortunes. Something better than scratching
the back of the moor for a living. I'll make a big man of you, Pezzack,
if you do as I tell ye."

"You are a wonderful man, and a generous man, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli.
Then he plunged heavily into a gorse-bush.

Pendoggat dragged him out grimly, almost crying with pain, with a
hundred little white bristles in his face and hands. He mentioned this
fact with suitable lamentations.

"They'll work out. What's a few furze-prickles?" Pendoggat muttered.
"Get your hands hard, and you won't feel 'em. Mind, now! there's bog
here. Best keep close to me."

Eli obeyed, but for all that he managed to step into the bog, and made
the ends of his clerical trousers objectionable. They reached the edge
of the cleave, and stopped while Pendoggat lighted his lantern. They had
to make their way across a wilderness of clatters. The moonlight was
deceptive and crossed with black shadows. The wind seemed to make the
boulders quiver. Eli looked upon the wild scene, heard the rushing of
the river, saw the rugged range of tors, and felt excited. He too felt
himself an inheritor of the kingdom of Tavy and a son of Dartmoor. He
was going to be wealthy perhaps; marry and rebuild his chapel; do many
things for the glory of God. He was quite in earnest, though he was a
simple soul.

"I lift up mine eyes to the 'ills, Mr. Pendoggat," he said reverently.

"Best keep 'em on your feet. If you fall here you'll smash your head."

"When I contemplate this scene," went on Eli, with religious zeal
undiminished, "so full of wonder and mystery, Mr. Pendoggat, I repeat to
myself the inspired words of Scripture, 'Why 'op ye so, ye 'igh 'ills?'"

Pendoggat agreed gruffly that the quotation was full of mystery, and it
was not for them to inquire into its meaning.

Somehow they reached the bottom of the cleave, Eli shambling and sliding
down the rocks, tumbling continually. Pendoggat observed his inartistic
scramblings with as much amusement as he was capable of feeling,
muttering to himself, "He'd trip over a blade o' grass."

They came to an old wall overgrown with fern and brambles; just below it
was the mossy ruin of a cot, the fire-place still showing, the remains
of the wall a yard in width. They were among works concerning which
history is hazy. They were in a place where the old miners wrought the
tin, and among the ruins of their industry. Perhaps a rich mine was
there once. Possibly it was the secret of that place which was guarded
so well by the Carthaginian captain, who sacrificed his tin-laden galley
to avoid capture by Roman coastguards. The history of the search for
"white metal" upon Dartmoor has yet to be learnt. They went cautiously
round the ruin, and upon the other side Eli dived across the bleached
skeleton of a pony and became mixed up in dry bones.

A deep cleft appeared overhung with gorse and willows. Eli would have
dived again had not Pendoggat been holding him. They clambered across,
then made their way along a shelf of rock between the cliff and the
river. Beyond, Pendoggat parted the bushes, and directed the light of
his lantern towards what appeared to be a narrow gully, black and
unpleasant, and musical with dripping water.

"Go on," he said curtly.

The minister held back. He was not a brave man, and that black hole in
the side of the moor conjured up horrors.

"Take my hand, and let yourself down. There's water, but not more than a
foot," said Pendoggat.

He pushed Eli forward, then caught his collar, and lowered him like a
sack. The minister shuddered when he felt the icy water round his legs
and the clammy ferns closing about his head. Pendoggat followed. They
were in a narrow channel leading towards a low cave. Frogs splashed in
front of them. Small streams trickled down a hundred tiny clefts.

"This is a very disagreeable situation, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli meekly.

"Come on," said the other gruffly. "I'll show you something to open your
eyes. Step low."

They splashed on, bent under the arch of the cave, and entered the womb
of the moor. Hundreds of feet of solid granite roofed them in. They were
out of the wind and moonlight. Pendoggat guided the minister in front of
him, keeping him close to the wall of rock to avoid the deep water in
the centre. About twenty paces from the entry was a shaft cut at right
angles. They went along it until they had to stoop again.

"Be'old, Mr. Pendoggat!" cried Eli, with amazed admiration. "Be'old the
colours! I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life. What is it?
Jewels, Mr. Pendoggat? You don't say they are jewels?"

"Pretty, ain't they? More than pretty too. Now you know what I've
brought you for," said Pendoggat, as he turned up the light to increase
the splendour of the wall.

It was a pretty sight for a child, or any other simple creature. The
side wall at the end of the shaft was streaked and veined with a
brilliant purple and green pattern. These colours were caused by the
iron in the rocks acting upon the slate, which was there abundant.
Pendoggat knew that well enough. He knew also that the sight would
impress the minister. He lifted the lantern, pointed to a streak of pale
blue which ran down the rock from the roof to the water, and said
gruffly: "You can see for yourself. That's the stuff."

"What is it?" whispered the excited pastor.

"Nickel. The rock's full of it."

"But don't they know? Does anybody know of it?"

"Only you and me," said Pendoggat.

"Why have you told me? You are a very generous man, but why do you let
me into the secret?"

"Come outside," said Pendoggat.

They went out. Not a word was spoken until they reached the side of the
cleave. Then Pendoggat turned upon the minister, holding his arm and
shaking it violently as he said: "I've chosen you as my partner. I can
trust you. Will you stand in with me, share the risks, and share the
profits? Answer now, and let's have done with it."

"I must go home and pray over it, Mr. Pendoggat," cried the excited and
shivering Eli. "I must seek for guidance. I do not know if it is right
for me to seek after wealth. But for the chapel's sake, for my future
wife's sake, for the sake of my unborn infants--"

"Yes or no," broke in Pendoggat. "We'll finish it before we move."

"What can I do?" said Eli, clasping his clay-like hands. "I know nothing
of these things. I don't know anything about nickel, except that I have
some spoons and forks--"

"Don't you see we must get money to work it? You can manage that. You
have several congregations. You can persuade them to invest. My name
must be kept out of it. The commoners don't like me. I'll do everything
else. You can leave the business in my hands. Your part will be to get
the money--and you take half profits."

"I will think over it, Mr. Pendoggat. I will think and pray."

"Make up your mind now, or I get another partner."

Pendoggat lifted the glass of the lantern and blew out the light.

"Have we the right to work a mine upon the moor?"

"Leave all that to me. You get the money. Tell 'em we will guarantee ten
per cent. Likely it will be more. It's as safe a thing as was ever
known, and it is the chance of your lifetime. Here's my hand."

Eli took the hand, and had the gorse-prickles forced well into his.

"I'll do my best, Mr. Pendoggat. I know you are an honest and a generous
man," he said.




CHAPTER IV

ABOUT BEETLES


There was a whitewashed cottage called Lewside beside the moorland road,
and at a window which commanded a view of that road sat a girl with what
appeared to be a glory round her face--it was nothing but soft red
hair--a girl of seventeen, called Boodles, or anything else sufficiently
idiotic; and this girl was learning doggerel and singing--

     "'The West wind always brings wet weather,
     The East wind wet and cold together;
     The South wind surely brings us rain,
     The North wind blows it back again.'

"And that means it's always raining, which is a lie. And as I'm saying
it I'm a liar," laughed Boodles.

It was raining then. Only a Dartmoor shower; the sort of downright rain
which makes holes in granite and plays Wagner-like music upon roofs of
corrugated iron.

"There's a bunny. Let me see. That's two buns, one man and a boy, a cart
and two horses, three wild ponies, and two jolly little sheep with horns
and black faces--all been along the road this afternoon," said Boodles.
"Now the next verse--

     'If the sun in red should set.
     The next day surely will be wet;
     If the sun should set in grey.
     The next will be a rainy day.'

"That's all. We can't go on lying for ever. I wish," said Boodles, "I
wish I hadn't got so many freckles on my nose, and I wish my hair wasn't
red, and thirdly and lastly, I wish--I wish my teeth weren't going to
ache next week. I know they will, because I've been eating jam pudding,
and they always ache after jam pudding; three days after, always three
days--the beasts! Now what shall I sing about? Why can't people invent
something for small girls to do upon a rainy day? I wish a battle was
being fought on the moor. It would be fun. I could sit here and watch
all day; and I would cut off bits of my hair and throw them to the
victorious generals. What a sell for me if they wouldn't pick them up! I
expect they would, though, for father says I'm a boodle girl, and that
means beautiful, though it's not true, and I wish it was. Another lie
and another wish! And when I'm dressed nicely I am boodle-oodle, and
that means more beautiful. And when the sun is shining on my hair I am
boodle-oodliest, and that means very beautiful. I suppose it's rather
nonsense, but it's the way we live here. We may be silly so long as we
are good. The next song shall be patriotic. We will bang a drum and wave
a flag; and sing with a good courage--

     'It was the way of good Queen Bess,
     Who ruled as well as mortal can,
     When she was stugged, and the country in a mess,
     She would send for a Devon man.'

"Well now, that's the truth. Miss Boodles. The principal county in
England is Devonshire, and the principal town is Tavistock, and the
principal river is the Tavy, and the principal rain is upon Dartmoor,
and the principal girl has red hair and freckles on her nose, and she's
only seventeen. And the dearest old man in Devon is just coming along
the passage, and now he's at the door, and here he is. Father," she
laughed, "why do people ask idiotic questions, like I'm doing now?"

"Because they are the easiest," said Abel Cain Weevil, in his gentle
manner and bleat-like voice.

"I was sitting here one day, and Mary Tavy came along," went on Boodles.
"She said: 'Aw, my dear, be ye sot by the window?' And I said: 'No,
Mary, I'm standing on my head.' She looked so frightened. The poor thing
thought I was mad."

"Boodles, you're a wicked maid," said Weevil fondly. "You make fun of
everything. Some day you will get your ears pulled."


The two were not related, except by affection, although they passed as
father and daughter. Boodles had come from the pixies. She had been left
one night in the porch of Lewside Cottage, wrapped up in a wisp of fern,
without clothing of any kind, and round her neck was a label inscribed:
"Take me in, or I shall be drowned to-morrow." Weevil had taken her in,
and when the baby smiled at him his eccentric old soul laughed back. He
entered into partnership at once with the baby-girl, and she had been a
blessing to him. He knew that she had been left in his porch as a last
resource; if he had not taken her in she would have been drowned the
next day. It was all very pretty to imagine that Boodles had come from
the pixies. The truth was nobody wanted her; the unmarried mother could
not keep the child, Weevil was believed to be a tender-hearted old fool,
so the baby was wrapped in fern and left in his porch; and the tenant of
Lewside Cottage lived up to his reputation. Boodles knew her history.
She sat at the cottage window every day, watching every one who passed;
and sometimes she would murmur: "I wonder if my mother went by to-day."
She had once or twice inserted an unpleasant adjective, but then she had
no cause to love her unknown parents. Much of her love was given to Abel
Cain Weevil; and all of it went out to some one else.

The old man was one of those mysteries who crop up in desolate places.
Nobody knew where he came from, what he had been, or what he was doing
in the region watered by the Tavy. He was poor and harmless. He kept out
of every one's way. "Quite mad," said St. Peter. "An honest madman,"
answered St. Mary. "He had at least the decency to recognise that child,
for of course she is his daughter." St. Peter had his doubts. He did not
like to think too highly of old Weevil. That was against his principles.
He suggested that Weevil intended to make some base use of the girl, and
St. Mary agreed. They could generally agree upon such matters.

Weevil was quite right to keep out of the world. He was handicapped in
every way. There was his name to begin with. He had no objection to
Abel, but he saw no necessity in the redundant Cain. It had been given
him, however, and he could not escape from it. Every one called him Abel
Cain Weevil. The children shouted it after him. As for the name Weevil,
it was objectionable, but no worse than many another. It was not
improper like some surnames.

"An insect, my dear," he explained to Boodles. "A dirty little beetle
which lives upon grain."

"I'm a weevil too," said she. "So I'm a dirty little beetle."

The old man wouldn't allow that. Boodles belonged to the angels, and he
told her so with foolish expressions; but she shook her glorious red
head at him and declared that beetles and angels had nothing in common.
She admitted, however, that she belonged to a delightful order of
beetles, and that on the whole she preferred chocolates to grain. The
silly old man reminded her that she belonged to the boodle-oodle order
of beetles, and so far she was the only specimen of that choice family
which had been discovered.

A man is eccentric in this world if he does anything which his
neighbours cannot understand. He may go out in the garden and cut a
cabbage-leaf. That is a sane action. But if he spreads jam on the
cabbage-leaf, and eats the same publicly, he is called a madman. Nothing
is easier than to be thought eccentric. You have only to behave unlike
other people. Stand in the middle of a crowded street and gaze vacantly
into the air. Every one will call you eccentric at once, just because
you are gazing in the air and they are not. Weevil was mad because he
was unlike his neighbours. The adoption of Boodles was not a sane
action; even if she were his daughter it was equally insane to
acknowledge her with such shameless publicity. A sane person would have
allowed Boodles to share the fate of many illegitimate children.

They were happy these two, papa Weevil and his Boodles. They had no
servant. The girl kept house and cooked. The old man washed up and
scrubbed. Boodles knew how to make, not only a shilling, but even the
necessary penny go all the way. She was a treasure, good enough for any
man; there were no dark spots upon her heart. If she had been made away
with one of the best little souls created would have gone back into
limbo.

No storm disturbed Lewside Cottage, except Dartmoor gales, and as for
religion they were sun-worshippers; like most people who come out in
fine raiment and glory in the sun, and when it is wet hide indoors, talk
of the sun, think of the sun, long for the sun, until he appears and
they can hurry out to worship. The savage calls the sun his god in so
many words; and the human nature which is in the savage is in the
primitive folk of open and desolate places also; it is present in the
most civilised of beings, but only those who live on a high moor through
the winter know what a day of sunshine means. The sun has places
dedicated to him upon Dartmoor. There is Bel Tor and there is Belstone.
A tradition of the Phoenician occupation still exists, handed down from
the remote time when the sun was directly worshipped. The commoners
still believe that good luck will attend the man who shall see the
rising sun reflected on the rock-basin of Bellivor. An altar to the sun
stood once upon that lonely tor. Weevil worshipped the sun quietly.
Boodles offered incense with enthusiasm. She deserved her name when the
sun shone upon her radiant head and made a glory round it. When the
greater gorse was in flower, and Boodles walked through it hatless,
wearing her green frock, she might have been the spirit of the prickly
shrub; and like it her head was in bloom all the year round.

"Have we got anything for supper, Boodle-oodle?" asked the silly old
male beetle.

"Ees, lots," said the small golden one.

It was not unpleasant to hear Boodles say "ees." She split the word up
and made a kind of anthem out of it. The first sound was very soft, a
mere whisper, and spoken with closed lips. The rest she sang, getting
higher as the final syllable was reached--there were more syllables in
the word than letters--then descending at the drawn-out sibilant, and
finishing in a whisper with closed lips.

"Oh, I forgot," she cried. "No eggs!"

They looked at each other with serious faces. In that simple household
small things were tragedies. There were no eggs. It was a matter for
serious reflection.

"Butter?" queried the old man nervously. "Milk? Cheese? Bread?"

"Heaps, piles, gallons. The kitchen is full of cheese, and you can't
move for bread, and the milk is running over and dripping upon
everything like a milky day," said penitent Boodles. "I have been saying
to myself: 'Eggs, eggs! Yolks, shells, whites--eggs!' I made puns that I
shouldn't forget. I egged myself on. I walked delicately, and said: 'I'm
treading on eggs.' I kept on scolding myself, and saying: 'Teach your
grandmother to suck eggs.' I reminded myself I mustn't put all my eggs
in one basket. Then I went and sat in the window, forgot all about them,
and now I'm a bad egg."

"Boodles, what shall we do?" said the chief beetle.

"I think you ought to torture me in some way," suggested the forgetful
one. "Drag me through the furze. Beat me with nettles. Torture would do
me a lot of good, I expect, only not too much, because I'm only a baby."

That was her usual defence. Whatever happened she was only a baby. She
was never likely to grow up.

"Don't jest. It is too serious. If I don't have two eggs for my supper I
shall have no sleep. I shall be ill to-morrow."

"I'll give you two poached kisses," promised Boodles.

"I cannot exist on spiritual food alone. I must have my eggs. Custom has
made it necessary."

"I'll make you all sorts of nice things," she declared.

But the eccentric old beetle could not be pacified. He had eggs upon the
mind. The produce of the domestic fowl had become an obsession. He
explained that if the house had been well stocked with eggs he might
have gone without. He would have known they were there to fall back upon
if desire should seize him during the silent watches of the night. But
the knowledge that the larder was destitute of eggs increased his
desire. He would have no peace until the deficiency was made good.

"Well," said Boodles resignedly, "it's my fault, so I'll suffer for it.
I don't want to hear you screaming for eggs all night. I'll go and get
wet for your salvation. I expect Mary can let me have some."

Weevil was himself again. He trotted off for the child's boots. He
always put her boots on, and took them off when she came in. Boodles was
a little sun-goddess, and as such she accepted adoration. It was part of
the tribute due to the sun-like head. When the boots were on--each ankle
having previously been worshipped as a part of the tribute--she assumed
a jacket, packed her hair under a fluffy green hat, stabbed it on four
times with long pins, picked up her walking-stick; and was off, Weevil
gazing after her adoringly until she passed out of sight. "There goes
the pride o' Devon," murmured the silly old man as the green hat
vanished.

The sight of Boodles took the weather's breath away. It forgot to go on
raining; and the sun was so anxious to shine upon her hair that he
pushed the clouds off him, as a late slumberer tosses away his blankets,
and came out to work a little before evening. It became quite pleasant
as Boodles went beside Tavy Cleave.

Peter was not visible, but Mary was. She was plodding about in her huge
boots with an eye upon her geese, especially upon the chief of the
flock. Old Sal, who, as usual, was anxious to seek pastures new. When
Boodles came up Mary smiled. She was very fond of the child. Boodles
seemed to have been made out of such entirely different materials from
the odds and ends which had gone towards her own construction. The
little girl's soft flesh was as unlike Mary's tough leather as the white
bark of the birch is unlike the rugged bark of the oak.

"Well, Mary, how are you?" said Boodles.

"I be purty fine, my dear, purty middling fine. Peter be purty fine tu.
And how be yew, my dear, and how be the old gentleman? Purty fine yew
be, I reckon."

"We are splendid," said Boodles. "How is the old goose, Mary?"

"Du'ye mean Old Sal, my dear? There he be trampesing 'bout Dartmoor as
though 'twas his'n. Aw, he be purty fine, sure 'nuff."

"She must be very old," said Boodles.

"Aw ees, he be old. He be a cruel old artful toad, my dear," said Mary.

"How old is she?"

"Well, my dear, he be older than yew. He be twenty-two come next
Michaelmas, I'm thinking."

"You will never kill her?" said Boodles. "You couldn't, after having her
for so long. You won't kill her, will you, Mary?"

"Goosies was made to kill. Us keeps 'en whiles they be useful, and then
us kills 'en," said Mary.

"But twenty-two years old!" cried Boodles. "She would be much too tough
to eat."

"Aw, my dear life," chuckled Mary. "He wouldn't be tough. I would kill
'en, and draw 'en, and rub a little salt in his belly, and hang 'en up
for a fortnight, and he would et butiful, my dear."

Boodles laughed delightfully, and said she thought no amount of salt or
hanging, to say nothing of sage and onions, could ever make the
venerable Sal palatable.

"Peter wun't let 'en be killed. Peter loves Old Sal," Mary went on. "He
laid sixteen eggs last year, and he'm the best mother on Dartmoor. Aw
ees, my dear. He be a cruel fine mother, and Peter ses he shan't die
till he've a mind to."

Then Boodles got to business and asked Mary for eggs, not those of Old
Sal, but the produce of the hen-house. Mary said she would go and
search. As it was dirty in that region Boodles declined to go with her.
"Please to go inside. There be only Gran'vaither. Go and have a look at
'en, my dear," said Mary, who always referred to Grandfather as if he
had been a living soul. "Hit 'en in the belly, and make 'en strike at
ye."

Boodles went into Hut Circle Number One, which was Peter's residence,
and stood in the presence of Grandfather. Obeying Mary's instructions,
she hit him "in the belly." The old sinner made weird noises when thus
disturbed. He appeared to resent the treatment, as most old gentlemen
would have done. He refused to strike, but he rattled himself, and
wheezed, and made sounds suggestive of expectoration. Grandfather was a
savage like Peter. He was a rough uneducated sort of clock, and he had
no passion for Boodles. Pendoggat would have been the man for him.
Grandfather would have shaken hands with Pendoggat had it been possible.
His own quivering hands were stretched across his lying face, announcing
quarter-past nine when it was really five o'clock. Grandfather was a
true man of Devon. He had no sense of time.

Boodles had nothing but contertipt for the old fellow. Having assaulted
him she opened his case. Evidently Grandfather had been drinking. His
interior smelt strongly of cider. There were splashes of it everywhere;
rank cider distilled from the lees; in one spot moisture was pronounced,
suggesting that Grandfather had recently been indulging. Apparently he
liked his liquor strong. Grandfather was a picker-up of unconsidered
trifles also. He was full of pins; all kinds of pins, bent and straight.
Item, Grandfather had a little money of his own; several battered
coppers, some green coins which had no doubt been dug up outside, or
discovered upon the "deads" beside one of the neighbouring wheals, and
there was a real fourpenny-bit with a hole through it. Fastened to the
back of the case behind the pendulum was a scrap of sheepskin as hard as
wood, and upon it some hand had painfully drawn what appeared to be an
elementary exercise in geometry. Boodles frowned and wondered what it
all meant.

"Here be the eggs, my dear. Twenty for a shillun to yew, and ten to a
foreigner," said Mary, standing in the door, making an apron out of her
ragged skirt, and blissfully unconscious that she was exposing the
sack-like bloomers which were her only underwear.

"Twenty-one, Mary. There's always one thrown in for luck and me,"
pleaded Boodles.

"Aw ees. One for yew, my dear," Mary assented.

That was the way Boodles got full value for her money.

"My dear life! What have yew been a-doing of?" cried Mary with alarm,
when she noticed Grandfather's open case. "Aw, my dear, yew didn't ought
to meddle wi' he. Grandfather gets cruel tedious if he be meddled with."

"I was only looking at his insides," said Boodles. "He's a regular old
rag-bag. What are all these things for--pins, coins, coppers? And he's
splashed all over with cider. No wonder he won't keep time."

"Shet 'en up, my dear. Shet 'en up," said superstitious Mary. "Aw, my
dear, don't ye ever meddle wi' religion. If Peter was to see ye he'd be
took wi' shivers. Let Gran'vaither bide, du'ye. Ain't ye got a pin to
give 'en? My dear life, I'll fetch ye one. Gran'vaither got tedious wi'
volks wance, Peter ses, and killed mun; ees, my dear, killed mun dead as
door nails; ees, fie 'a did, killed mun stark."

Boodles only laughed, like the wicked maid that she was. She couldn't be
bothered with the niceties of religion.

Peter and Mary were only savages. According to their creed pixies dwelt
in Grandfather's bosom; and it was necessary to retain the good-will of
the little people, and render the sting of their possible malevolence
harmless, by presenting votive offerings and inscribing spells. The rank
cider had been provided for midnight orgies, and, lest the pixies should
become troublesome when under the influence of liquor, the charm upon
the sheepskin had been introduced, like a stringent police-notice,
compelling them to keep the peace.

"It's all nonsense, you know," said Boodles, as she took the eggs, with
the sun flaming across her hair. "The pixies are all dead. I went to the
funeral of the last one."

Mary shook her head. She did not jest on serious matters. The friendship
of the pixies was as much to her as the lack of eggs had been to Weevil.

"Anyhow," went on wicked Boodles, "I should put rat-poison in there if
they worried me."

"Us have been bit and scratched by 'em in bed," Mary declared. "Peter
and me have been bit cruel. Us could see the marks of their teeth."

"Did you ever catch one?" asked Boodles tragically.

"Catch mun! Aw, my dear life! Us can't catch mun."

"You could, if you were quick--before they hopped," laughed Boodles.




CHAPTER V

ABOUT THOMASINE


Thomasine sat in the kitchen of Town Rising, sewing. It was a dreary
place, and she was alone and surrounded with stone. The kitchen walls
were stone; so was the floor. The window looked out upon the court, and
that was paved with stone. Beyond was the barn wall, made of blocks of
cold granite. Above peeped the top of a tor, and that was granite too.
Damp stone everywhere. It was the Stone Age back again. And Thomasine,
buried among it all, was making herself a frivolous petticoat for
Tavistock Goose Fair.

Among undistinguished young persons Thomasine was pre-eminent. She was
only Farmer Chegwidden's "help"; that is to say, general servant.
Undistinguished young persons will do anything that is menial under the
title of "help," which as a servant they would shrink from. To the lower
classes there is much in a name. Thomasine knew nothing. She was just a
work-a-day girl, eating her meals, sleeping; knowing there was something
called a character which for some inexplicable reason it was necessary
to keep; dreaming of a home of her own some day, but not having the
sense to realise that it would mean a probably drunken husband on a few
shillings a week, and a new gift from the gods to feed each year;
comprehending the delights of fairs, general holidays, and evenings out;
perceiving that it was pleasant to have her waist squeezed and her mouth
kissed; understanding also the charm in being courted in a ditch with
the temperature below freezing-point. That was nearly all Thomasine
knew. Plenty of animals know more. Her conversation consisted chiefly in
"ees" and "no."

It is not pleasant to see a pretty face, glorious complexion, well-made
body, without mind, intellect, or soul worth mentioning; but it is a
common sight. It is not pleasant to speak to that face, and watch its
vacancy increase. A dog would understand at once; but that human face
remains dull. A good many strange thoughts suggest themselves on
fair-days and holidays in and about the Stannary Towns. There are plenty
of pretty faces, glorious complexions, and well-made bodies surrounded
with clothing which the old Puritans would have denounced as immoral;
but not a mind, not an intellect above potato-peeling, in the lot. They
come into the towns like so many birds of passage; at nightfall they go
out, shrieking, many of them, for lack of intelligent speech, and return
to potato-peeling. The warmth of the next holiday brings them out again,
in the same clothes, knowing just as much as they did before--how to
shriek--then the pots and potatoes claim them again. All those girls
have undeveloped minds. They don't know it, not having been told, so
their minds remain unformed all their lives. The flower-like faces fade
quickly, because there is nothing to keep the bloom on. The mind does
not get beyond the budding stage. It is never attended to, so it rots
off without ever opening. Sometimes one of these girls discovers she has
something besides her body and her complexion; or somebody superior to
herself impresses the fact upon her; and she uses her knowledge,
cultivates her mind, and with luck rises out of the rut. She discovers
that her horizon is not limited by pots and potato-peel. Beyond it all,
for her, there is something called intelligence. Such girls are few.
Most of them have their eyes opened, not their minds, and then they
discover they are naked, and want to go away and hide themselves.

Thomasine's soul was about the size and weight of a grain of mustard
seed. She was a good maid, and her parents had no cause to be sorry she
had been born. She had come into the world by way of lawful wedlock,
which was something to be proud of in her part of the country, and was
living a decent life in respectable employment. She sat in the stone
kitchen, and built up her flimsy petticoat, with as much expression on
her face as one might reasonably expect to find upon the face of a cow.
She could not think. She knew that she was warm and comfortable; but
knowledge is not thought. She knew all about her last evening's
courting; but she could not have constructed any little romance which
differed from that courting. In a manner she had something to think
about; namely, what had actually happened. She could not think about
what had not happened, or what under different circumstances might have
happened. That would have meant using her mind; and she didn't know she
had one. Yet Thomasine came of a fairly clever family. Her grandfather
had used his mind largely, and had succeeded in building up, not a
large, but a very comfortable, business. He had emigrated, however; and
it is well known that there is nothing like a change of scene for
teaching a man to know himself. He had gone to Birmingham and started an
idol-factory. It was a quaint sort of business, but a profitable one. He
made idols for the Burmese market. He had stocked a large number of
Buddhist temples, and the business was an increasing one. Orders for
idols reached him from many remote places, and his goods always gave
satisfaction. The placid features of many a squatting Gautama in dim
Eastern temples had been moulded from the vacant faces of Devonshire
farm-maids. He was a most religious man, attending chapel twice each
Sunday, besides teaching in the Sunday-school. He didn't believe in
allowing religion to interfere with business, which was no doubt quite
discreet of him. He always said that a man should keep his business
perfectly distinct from everything else. He had long ago dropped his
Devonshire relations. Respectable idol-makers cannot mingle with common
country-folk. Thomasine's parents possessed a framed photograph of one
of the earlier idols, which they exhibited in their living-room as a
family heirloom, although their minister had asked them as a personal
favour to destroy it, because it seemed to him to savour of
superstition. The minister thought it was intended for the Virgin Mary,
but the good people denied it with some warmth, explaining that they
were good Christians, and would never disgrace their cottage in that
Popish fashion.

Innocent of idols, Thomasine went on sewing in her stone kitchen amid
the granite. She had finished putting a frill along the hem of her
petticoat; now she put one higher up in regions which would be invisible
however much the wind might blow, though she did not know why, because
she could not think. It was a waste of material; nobody would see it;
but she felt that a fair petticoat ought to be adorned as lavishly as
possible. She did not often glance up. There was nothing to be seen in
the court except the usual fowls. It was rarely an incident occurred
worth remembering. Sometimes one stag attacked another, and Thomasine
would be attracted to the window to watch the contest. That made a
little excitement in her life, but the fight would soon be over. It was
all show and bluster; very much like the sparring of two farm hands.
"You'm a liar." "So be yew." "Aw well, so be _yew_." And so on, with
ever-increasing accent upon the "yew." Not many people crossed the
court. There was no right of way there, but Farmer Chegwidden had no
objection to neighbours passing through.

Whether Thomasine was pretty could hardly be stated definitely. It must
remain a matter of opinion whether any face can be beautiful which is
entirely lacking in expression, has no mind behind the tongue, and no
speaking brain at the back of the eyes. Many, no doubt, would have
thought her perfection. She was plump and full of blood; it seemed ready
to burst through her skin. She was somewhat grossly built; too wide at
the thighs, big-handed, and large-footed, with not much waist, and a
clumsy stoop from the shoulders. She waddled in her walk like most
Devonshire farm-maids. Her complexion was perfect; so was her health.
She had a lust-provoking face; big sleepy eyes; cheeks absolutely
scarlet; pouting lips swollen with blood, almost the colour of an
over-ripe peach. It was more like paint than natural colouring. It was
too strong. She had too much blood. She was part of the exaggeration of
Dartmoor, which exaggerates everything; adding fierceness to fierceness,
colour to colour, strength to strength; just as its rain is fiercer than
that of the valleys, and its wind mightier. Thomasine was of the Tavy
family, but not of the romantic branch. Not of the folklore side like
Boodles, but of the Ger Tor family, the strong mountain branch which
knows nothing and cannot think for itself, and only feels the river
wearing it away, and the frost rotting it, and the wind beating it. The
pity was that Thomasine did not know she had a mind, which was already
fading for want of use. She knew only how to peel potatoes and make
herself wanton underwear. Although twenty-two years of age she was still
a maid.

There were steps upon the stones, and Thomasine looked up. She saw
nobody, but sounds came through the open window, a shuffling against the
wall of the house, and the stumbling of clumsy boots. Then there was a
knock.

There was nothing outside, except miserable objects such as Brightly
with an empty and battered basket and starving Ju with her empty and
battered stomach and her tongue hanging out. They were still trying to
do business, instead of going away to some lonely part of the moor and
dying decently. It was extraordinary how Brightly and Ju clung to life,
which wasn't of much use to them, and how steadfastly they applied
themselves to a sordid business which was very far less remunerative
than sound and honest occupations such as idol-making. Brightly looked
smaller than ever. He had forgotten all about his last meal. His face
was pinched; it was about the size of a two-year-old baby's. He looked
like an eel in man's clothing.

"Any rabbit-skins, miss?" he asked.

"No," said Thomasine.

Brightly crept a little nearer. "Will ye give us a bite o' bread? Us be
cruel hungry, and times be hard. Tramped all day yesterday, and got my
cloam tored, and lost my rabbit-skins and duppence. Give me and little
dog a bite, miss. Du'ye, miss."

"If master was to know I'd catch it," said Thomasine.

"Varmer Chegwidden would give I a bite. I knows he would," said
Brightly.

Chegwidden would certainly have given him a bite had he been present, or
rather his sheep-dog would. Chegwidden was a member of the Board of
Guardians in his sober moments, and it was his duty to suppress such
creatures as Brightly.


"I mun go on," said the weary little wretch, when he saw that Thomasine
was about to shut the door. "I mun tramp on. I wish yew could ha' given
us a bite, miss, for us be going to Tavistock, and I don't know if us
can. Me and little dog be cruel mazed."

"Bide there a bit," said Thomasine.

There was nobody in the house, except Mrs. Chegwidden, who was among her
pickle jars and had never to be taken into consideration. Chegwidden had
gone to Lydford. The girl had a good heart, and she didn't like to see
things starving. Even the fowls had to be fed when they were hungry, and
probably Brightly was nearly as good as the fowls. She returned to the
door with bread and meat, and a lump of cheese wrapped in a piece of
newspaper. She flung Ju a bone as big as herself and with more meat upon
it, and before the fit of charity had exhausted itself she brought out a
jug of cider, which Brightly consumed on the premises and increased in
girth perceptibly.

"Get off," said Thomasine. "If I'm caught they'll give me the door."

Brightly was not well skilled in expressing gratitude because he had so
little practice. He was generally apologising for his existence. He
tried to be effusive, but was only grotesque. Thomasine almost thought
he was trying to make love to her, and she drew back with her strained
sensual smile.

"I wun't forget. Not if I lives to be two hundred and one, I wun't,"
cried Brightly. "Ju ses her wun't forget neither. Us will get to
Tavistock now, and us can start in business again to-morrow. Ye've been
cruel kind to me, miss. God love ye and bless ye vor't, is what I ses.
God send ye a good husband vor't, is what I ses tu."

"You'm welcome," said Thomasine.

Brightly beamed in a fantastic manner through his spectacles. Ju wagged
what Nature had intended to be a tail, and staggered out of the court
with her load of savoury meat. Then the door was closed, and Thomasine
went back to her petticoat.

The girl could not exactly think about Brightly, but she was able to
remember what had happened. A starving creature supposed to be a man,
accompanied by a famished beast that tried to be a dog--both shocking
examples of bad work, for Nature jerry-builds worse than the most
dishonest of men--had presented themselves at the door of her kitchen,
and she had fed them. She had obeyed the primitive instinct which
compels the one who has food to give to those who have none. There was
nothing splendid about it, because she did not want the food. Yet her
master would not have fed Brightly. He would have flung the food into
the pig-sty rather than have given it to the Seal. So it was possible
after all that she had performed a generous action which was worthy of
reward.

It must not be supposed that Thomasine thought all that out for herself.
She knew nothing about generous actions. She had listened to plenty of
sermons in the chapel, but without understanding anything except that it
would be her duty some time to enter hell, which, according to the
preacher's account, was a place rather like the top of Dartmoor, only
hotter, and there was never any frost or snow. Will Pugsley, with whom
she was walking out just then, had summed up the whole matter in one
phrase of gloomy philosophy: "Us has a cruel hard time on't here, and
then us goes down under." That seemed to be the answer to the riddle of
the soul's existence: "having a cruel hard time, and then going down
under."

Thomasine had never read a book in her life. They did not come her way.
Town Rising had none, except the big Bible--which for half-a-century had
performed its duty of supporting a china shepherdess wreathing with
earthenware daisies the neck of a red and white cow--a manual upon
manure, and a ready reckoner. No penny novelette, dealing with such
matters of everyday occurrence as the wooing of servant-girls by earls,
had ever found its way into her hands, and such fictions would not have
interested her, simply because they would have conveyed no meaning. A
pretty petticoat and a fair-day; these were matters she could
appreciate, because they touched her sympathies and she could understand
them. They were some of the things which made up the joy of life. There
was so much that was "cruel hard"; but there were pleasures, such as
fine raiment and fair-days, to be enjoyed before she went "down under."

Thomasine was able to form mental pictures of scenes that were familiar.
She could see the tor above the barn. It was easy to see also the long
village on the side of the moor. She knew it all so well. She could see
Ebenezer, the chapel where she heard sermons about hell. Pendoggat was
sometimes the preacher, and he always insisted strongly upon the
extremely high temperature of "down under." Thomasine very nearly
thought. She almost associated the preacher with the place which was the
subject of his discourse. That would have been a very considerable
mental flight had she succeeded. It came to nothing, however. She went
on remembering, not thinking. Pendoggat had tried to look at her in
chapel. He could not look at any one with his eyes, but he had set his
face towards her as though he believed she was in greater need than
others of his warnings. He had walked close beside her out of chapel,
and had remarked that it was a fine evening. Thomasine remembered she
had been pleased, because he had drawn her attention towards a fact
which she had not previously observed, namely, that it was a fine
evening. Pendoggat was a man, not a creeping thing like Brightly, not a
lump of animated whisky-moistened clay like Farmer Chegwidden. No one
could make people uncomfortable like him. Eli Pezzack was a poor
creature in comparison, although Thomasine didn't make the comparison
because she couldn't. Pezzack could not make people feel they were
already in torment. The minister frequently referred to another place
which was called "up over." He reminded his listeners that they might
attain to a place of milk and honey where the temperature was normal;
and that was the reason why he was not much of a success as a minister.
He seemed indeed to desire to deprive his congregations of their
legitimate place of torment. What was the use of talking about "up
over," which could not concern his listeners, when they might so easily
be stimulated with details concerning the inevitable "down under"?
Pezzack was a weak man. He refused to face his destiny, and he tried to
prevent his congregations from facing theirs.

Thomasine looked at the clock. It was time to lift the peat from the
hearth and put on the coal. Chegwidden would soon be back from Lydford
and want his supper. She admired the petticoat, rolled it up, and put it
away in her work-basket.

"Dear life!" she murmured. "Here be master, and nothing done."

A horseman was in the court, and crossing it. The window was open. The
rider was not Chegwidden. It was the master of Helmen Barton, his head
down as usual, his eyes apparently fixed between his horse's ears; his
head was inclined a little towards the house. Thomasine stood back and
watched.

A piece of gorse in full bloom came through the window, fell upon the
stone floor, and bounded like a small beast. It jumped about on the
smooth cement, and glided on its spines until it reached the dresser,
and there remained motionless, with its stem, which had been bared of
prickles, directed upwards towards the girl like a pointing finger.
Pendoggat had gone on. His horse had not stopped, nor had the rider
appeared to glance into the kitchen. Obviously there was some connection
between Pendoggat, that piece of gorse, and herself, only Thomasine
could not work it out. She picked it up. She could not have such a thing
littering her tidy kitchen. The sprig was a smother of blossom, and she
could see its tiny spears among the blooms, their points so keen that
they were as invisible as the edge of a razor. She brought the blooms
suddenly to her nose, and immediately one of the tiny spears pierced the
skin and her strong blood burst through.

"Scat the vuzz," said Thomasine.

Iron-shod hoofs rattled again upon the stones, and the light of the
window became darkened. Pendoggat had changed his mind and was back
again. He tumbled from the saddle and stood there wagging his head as if
deep in thought. Supposing she was wanted for something, the girl came
forward. Pendoggat was close to the window, which was a low one. She did
not know what he was looking at; not at her certainly; but he seemed to
be searching for her, desiring her, sniffing at her like an animal.

"Du'ye want master, sir? He'm to Lydford," said Thomasine.

A drop of blood fell from her nose and splashed on the stone floor
between them. She searched for a handkerchief and found she had not got
one. There was nothing for it but to use the back of her hand, smearing
the blood across her lips and chin. Pendoggat saw it all. He noticed
everything, although he had his eyes on the window-sill.

"You're a fine maid," he said.

"Be I, sir?" said Thomasine, beginning to tremble. Pendoggat was her
superior. He was the tenant of Helmen Barton, a commoner, the owner of
sheep and bullocks, and married, or at least she supposed he was. She
felt somehow it was not right he should say such a thing to her.

"Going to chapel Sunday night?" he went on, with his head on one side,
and his face as immobile as a mask.

"Ees," murmured Thomasine, forgetting the "sir" somehow. The question
was such a familiar one that she did not remember for the moment the
standing of the speaker. This was the man who had drenched her with
hell-fire from the pulpit.

"How do ye come home? By the road or moor?"

"The moor, if 'tis fine, sir. I walks with Willum."

"Young Pugsley?"

"Ees, sir."

"You're too good for him. You're too fine a maid for that hind. You
won't walk with him Sunday night. I'll see you home."

"Ees, sir," was all Thomasine could say. She was only a farm-maid. She
had to do as she was told.

"Going to the fair?" he asked.

The answer was as usual.

"I'll meet you there. Take you for rides, and into the shows. Got your
clothes ready?"

The same soft word, which Thomasine made a dissyllable, and Boodles sang
as an anthem, followed. Goose Fair was the greatest day in the girl's
year, and to be treated there by a man with money was to glide along one
of the four rivers of Paradise, only that was not the expression which
occurred to Thomasine.


Pendoggat reached in and took her hand. It was large with labour, and
red with blood, but quite clean. He pulled her towards him. There was
nobody in the court; only the unobservant chickens, pecking diligently.
A cloud had settled upon the top of the tor, which was just visible
above the barn, an angry cloud purple like a wound, as if the granite
had pierced and wounded it. Thomasine wondered if it would be fine for
Goose Fair.

Her sleeve was loose. Pendoggat pressed his fingers under it, and
paddled the soft flesh like a cat up to her elbow.

"Don't ye, sir," pleaded Thomasine, feeling somehow this was not right.

"You're a fine, lusty maid," he muttered.

"'Tis time master was back from Lydford, I reckon," she murmured.

"You're bloody."

"'Twas that bit o' vuzz."

He drew her closer, threw his arm clumsily round her neck, dragged her
half through the window, kissing her savagely on the neck, lips, and
chin, until his own lips were smeared with her blood, and he could taste
it. She began to struggle. Then she cried out, and he let her go.

"Good blood," he muttered, passing his tongue over his lips. "The
strongest and best blood on Dartmoor."

Then, he flung himself across his horse, as if he had been drunk, and
rode out of the court.




CHAPTER VI

ABOUT VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC


There was a concert in Brentor village in aid of that hungry creature
the Church, which resembles so many tin- and copper-mines, inasmuch as
much more money goes into it than ever comes out. Brentor is overdone
with churches. There is one in the village, and the little one on the
tor outside. Maids like to be married on the tor. They think it gives
them a good start in life, but that idea is owing to tradition, which
connects Brentor with the worship of Baal. The transition from Paganism
to Christianity was gradual, and in many cases the old gods were merely
painted up and made to look like new. The statue of Jove was bereft of
its thunderbolt, given a bunch of keys, and called Peter; the goddess of
love became a madonna; the sun-temple was turned into a church. Where
the original idea was lost sight of a legend was invented; such as that
of the merchant who, overtaken by a storm when beating for shore, vowed
to build a church upon the first point of land which should appear in
sight. There is no getting away from sun-worship upon Dartmoor, and no
easy way of escape from tradition either. That is why maids like to be
sacrificed upon Brentor, even when the wind is threatening to sweep them
down its cliffs.

Local talent was not represented at the concert. People from Tavistock
came to perform; all sorts and conditions of amateurs in evening dress
and muddy boots. The room was crowded, as it was a fine evening, and
therefore there was nothing to prevent the inhabitants of the two holy
Tavys from walking across the moor, and a jabbering cartload had come
from Lydford also. There was no chattering in the room. The entire
audience became appalled by respectability as represented by gentlemen
with bulging shirt-fronts and ladies with visible bosoms. They stared,
they muttered hoarsely, they turned to and fro like mechanical figures;
but they did not chatter. They felt as if they were taking part in a
religious ceremony.

The young lady who opened proceedings, after the inevitable duet on the
piano--which, to increase the sense of mystery, was called on the
practically illegible programme a pianoforte--with a sentimental song,
made an error. She merely increased the atmosphere of despondency. When
she had finished some of the audience became restless. They were
wondering whether the time had come for them to kneel.

"Bain't him a cruel noisy thing?" exclaimed Mary, with a certain amount
of enthusiasm. "What du'ye call 'en?" she asked a small, dried-up
ancient man who sat beside her, while indicating the instrument of music
with an outstretched arm.

The old man tried to explain, which was a thing he was famous for doing.
He was a superannuated school-master of the nearly extinct type, the
kind that knew nothing and taught as much, but a brave learned man
according to some of the old folk.

Peter sat by his sister, trying to look at his ease; and he too listened
intently for what school-master had to say. Peter and Mary were
blossoming out, and becoming social and gregarious beings.

This was the first grand entertainment they had ever attended. Tickets
had been given them, or they would certainly not have been there. As
Peter had failed in his efforts to sell the tickets they had decided to
use them, although dressing for the event was something of an ordeal.
Mary had a black hat and a silk dress, both of early Victorian
construction, and beneath, her huge nailed boots innocent of blacking.
Peter wore a tie under his chin, and a wondrous collar some three inches
lower down. The rest of his costume was also early nineteenth century in
make, but effectual. He was very much excited by the music, but
dreadfully afraid of showing it.

"That there box," said Master, with an air of diving deep in the well of
wisdom "he'm full o' wires and hammers."

"My dear life!" gasped Mary. "Full o' wires and hammers! Du'ye hear,
Peter?"

Her brother replied in the affirmative, although in a manner which
suggested that the information was superfluous.

"Volks hit them bones, and the bones dra' on the hammers, and the
hammers hit the wires," proceeded Master.

"Bain't that artful now?" cried Mary.

"Sure 'nuff," agreed Peter, unable to restrain his admiration.

"Couldn't ye mak' one o' they? You'm main cruel larned wi' your hands,"
Mary went on.

Peter admitted that was so. Given the material, he had no doubt of his
ability to turn out a piano capable of producing that music which his
sister described as cruel noisy.

"It taketh a scholard to understand how to mak' they things," said
Master, with some severity. "See all that carved wood on the front of
him? You couldn't du that, and the piano wouldn't mak' no music if
'twasn't for the carved wood. 'Twould mak' a noise, you see, Peter, but
not music. 'Tis the noise coming out through the carving what makes the
music. Taketh a scholard to du that."

"Look at she!" cried Mary violently, as another lady rose to warble.
This songster had a good bust, and desired to convince her audience of
the fact. "Her ha' grown out of her clothes sure 'nuff. Her can't hardly
cover her paps."

"Shet thee noise, woman," muttered Peter.

"Her be in full evening dress," explained Master.

Mary subsided in deep reflection. She knew perfectly well what "full"
meant. There were plenty of full days upon Tavy Cleave. It meant a heavy
wet mist which filled everything so that nothing was visible. For Mary
every word had only one meaning. She could not understand how the word
"full" could bear two exactly opposite meanings.

The back seats were overflowing. Only threepence was charged there, but
seats were not guaranteed. The majority stood, partly to show their
independence, chiefly to look as if they had just dropped in, not with
any idea of being entertained, but that they might satisfy themselves
there was nothing objectionable in the programme. Several men stood
huddled together as near the door as possible, showing their disapproval
of such frivolity in the usual manner, by standing in antagonistic
attitudes and frowning at the performers. Chegwidden was there,
containing sufficient liquor to make him grateful for the support of the
wall. He had tried to get in for nothing, by explaining that he was a
member of the Board of Guardians, and had been from his youth a
steadfast opponent of the Church as by law established. These excuses
having failed, he had paid the threepence under protest, explaining at
the same time that if he heard anything to shock his innocent mind he
should demand his money back, visit his solicitor when next in Tavistock
with a view to taking action against those who had dared to pervert the
public mind, and indite letters to all the local papers. The
entertainment committee had a troublesome threepennyworth in Farmer
Chegwidden. He had already spent a couple of shillings in liquor, and
would spend another couple when the concert was over. That was money
spent upon a laudable object. But the threepence demanded for admission
was, as he loudly proclaimed, money given to the devil.

Near him stood Pendoggat, his head down as usual, and breathing heavily
as if he had gone to sleep. He looked as much at home there as a bat
flitting in the sunlight among butterflies. Every one was surprised to
see Pendoggat. Members of his own sect decided he was there to collect
material for a scathing denunciation of such methods from the pulpit of
Ebenezer. Chegwidden pushed closer, and asked hoarsely, "What do 'ye
think of it, varmer?"

"Taking money in God's name to square the devil," answered Pendoggat.

"Just what I says," muttered Chegwidden, greatly envying the other's
powers of expression. "Immortality! That's what it be, varmer. 'Tis a
hard word, but there ain't no other. Dirty immortality!" He meant
immorality, but was confused by righteous indignation, the music, and
other things.

"Can't us do nought?" Chegwidden went on. "Us lets their religion bide.
They'm mocking us, varmer. That there last song was blasphemy, and
immortality, and a-mocking us all through."

Pendoggat muttered something about a demonstration outside later on, to
mark their disapproval of such infamous attempts to seduce young people
from the paths of rectitude. Then he relapsed into taciturnity, while
Chegwidden went on babbling of people's sins.

Most of the ill-feeling was due to the fact that the room had been used
several years back as a meeting-house, where the pure Gospel had flowed
regularly. Chegwidden's father had carried his Bible into a front seat
there. Souls had been saved in that room; anniversary teas had been held
there; services of song had been given; young couples, whose
Nonconformity was unimpeachable, had conducted their amours there; and
upon the outside of the door had been scrawled shockingly crude
statements concerning such love-affairs, accompanied by anatomical
caricatures of the parties in question. It was holy ground, and
representatives of a hostile sect were defiling it.

Greater evils followed. An eccentric gentleman rose and recited a story
about a lady trying to mount an overcrowded street-car, and being
dragged along the entire length of a street, chatting to the conductor
the while; quite a harmless story, but it made Brentor to grin.
Church-people laughed noisily, and even Methodists tittered.
Nonconformist maids of established reputations giggled, and their young
men cackled like geese. It was in short a laughing audience. The
threepenny-bits shivered. Fire from heaven was already overdue. Complete
destruction might be looked for at any moment. One nervous old woman
crept out. She had heard the doctrine of eternal punishment expounded in
that place, and she explained she could remain there no longer and
listen to profanity. The performer again obliged; this time with a comic
song which set the seal of blasphemy upon the whole performance.
Chegwidden turned his face to the wall, moaned, and demanded of a
neighbour what he thought of it all.

"Brave fine singing," came the unscrupulous answer, which seemed to
denote that the speaker had also been carried away by enthusiasm.

This was the last straw. Even the lights of Ebenezer were flickering and
going out. Chegwidden and Pendoggat appeared to be the only godly men
left. The farmer turned upon the irreligious speaker, and crushed him
with weighty words.

"'Twas here father prayed," he said, in a voice unsteady with grief and
alcohol. "Twice every Sunday, and me with 'en, and he've a-shook me in
this chapel, and punched my ear many a time when I was cracking nuts in
sermon time. Father led in prayer here, and he've a-told me how he once
prayed twenty minutes by the clock. Some said 'twas nineteen, but father
knew 'twas twenty, 'cause he had his watch in his hand, and never took
his eyes off 'en. Never thought he'd do the last minute, but he did.
They was religious volks in them days. Father prayed here, I tells ye,
and I learnt Sunday-school here, and 'twas here us all learnt the
blessed truths of immorality."--again he blundered in his meaning--"and
now it be a place for dancing, and singing, and play-acting, and us will
be judged for it, and weighed in the balances and found wanting."

"Us can repent," suggested the neighbour.

Chegwidden would not admit this. "Them what have laughed here to-night
won't die natural, not in their beds," he declared. "They'll die sudden.
They'll be cut off. They've committed blasphemy, which is the sin what
ain't forgiven."

Then Chegwidden turned upon the doorkeeper and demanded his money back.
He was not going to remain among the wicked. He was going to spend the
rest of the evening respectably at the inn.

After that the programme continued for a little without interruption.
Then a young lady, who had been especially imported for the occasion,
obliged with a violin solo. She played well, but made the common mistake
of amateurs before a rural audience; preferring to exhibit her command
over the instrument by rendering classical music, instead of playing
something which the young men could whistle to. It was a very soft
piece. The performer bent to obtain the least possible amount of sound
from a string; and at that critical moment a loud weary voice startled
the religious silence of the room--

"Aw, my dear life! Bain't it a shocking waste o' time?"

It was Mary, who was feeling bored. The novelty of the performance had
worn off. She was prepared to sit there and hear a good noise. She liked
the piano when it was giving forth plenty of crashing chords; but that
whining scraping sound was intolerable. It was worse than any old cat.

There was some commotion in the front seats, and shocked faces were
turned upon Mary, while the performer almost broke down. She made
another effort, but it was no use, for Mary continued at the top of her
voice--

"Ole Will Chanter had a fiddle like thikky one. Du'ye mind, Peter?"

Indignant voices called for silence, but Mary only looked about in some
amazement. She couldn't think what the people were driving at. As she
was not being entertained there was nothing to prevent her from talking,
and it was only natural that she should speak to Peter; and if the folks
in front did not approve of her remarks they need not listen. The
violinist had dropped her arms in despair; but when she perceived
silence was restored she tried again.

"Used to play 'en in Peter Tavy church," continued Mary, with much
relish. "Used to sot up in the loft and fiddle cruel. Didn't 'en,
Master? Don't ye mind ole Will Chanter what had a fiddle like thikky
one? His brother Abe sot up wi' 'en, and blowed into a long pipe. Made a
cruel fine noise, them two."

Mary was becoming anecdotal, and threatening to address the audience at
some length, so the violinist had to give up and make way for a vocalist
with sufficient voice to drown these reminiscences of a former
generation.

After the concert there were disturbances outside. One faction cheered
the performers; another hooted them. Then a light of Ebenezer kindled
into religious fire and hit an Anglican postman in the eye. The response
of the Church Militant loosened two Nonconformist teeth. Chegwidden
reappeared on horseback, swaying from side to side, holding on by the
reins, and raising the cry of down with everything except Ebenezer and
liquor-shops.

Pendoggat stood aloof, looking on, hoping there would be a fight. He did
not mix in such things himself. It was his custom to stand in the
background and work the machinery from outside. He liked to see men
attacking one another, to watch pain inflicted, and to see the blood
flow. Turning to the man whose mouth had been damaged he muttered: "Go
at him again."

"I'm satisfied," came the answer.

"He called you a dirty monkey," lied Pendoggat.

The insult was sufficient. The Anglican postman was walking away, having
fought a good fight for the faith that was in him, by virtue of two
shillings a week for various duties, and his Opponent seizing the
opportunity attacked him vigorously from the rear. Peter and Mary
watched the conflict, and their savage souls rejoiced. This was better
than all the pianos and fiddles in the world. They felt at last they
were getting value for their free tickets.

Sport was terminated by the sudden appearance of the Maggot. He had been
drafting a prospectus of the "Tavy Nickel Mining Company, Limited," and
had issued forth to look for the managing director. He stopped the fight
and lectured the combatants in spiritual language. He comprehended how
the ex-chapel had been desecrated that night by godless people, and he
appreciated the zeal which had prompted a member of his congregation to
defend its sanctity; but he explained that it was not lawful for
Christians to brawl upon the streets. To take out a summons for assault
was far holier. The man with the loosened teeth explained that he should
do so. It was true he had incited the postman to fight by striking him
first; but then he had struck him with Christian charity in the eye,
which entailed only a slight temporary discomfort and no permanent loss;
whereas the postman had struck him with brutal ferocity on the mouth,
depriving him of the services of two teeth; and had moreover added
obscene language, as could be proved by impartial witnesses. Pezzack
assured him that the teeth Bad fallen in a good cause; men and women had
been tortured and burnt at the stake for their religion; and he quoted
the acts of Bloody Mary, that bigoted lady who has become the hardy
perennial of Nonconformist sermons, with a strong emphasis upon the
qualifying, adjective. The champion went away delighted. He had won his
martyr's crown, and his teeth were not so very loose after all. A little
beer would soon tighten them.

The crowd was dwindling away with its grievances. The folks would
chatter furiously for a few days; then the affair would drop and be
forgotten, and a fresh scandal would fill the vacancy. They would never
bite so long as they had liberty to bark. Chegwidden had galloped off
across the moor in his usual wild way. Every week he would visit some
inn, upon what might have been called his home circuit, and at closing
time would commit his senseless body to his horse with the certain hope
of being carried home. To gallop wildly over Dartmoor at night might be
ranked as an almost heroic action. The horse had brains fortunately.
Chegwidden was only the clinging monkey upon its back. The farmer had
fallen on several occasions, but had escaped with bruises. One night he
would break his neck, or crack his head upon a boulder, and die as he
had lived--drunk. Drunkenness is not a vice upon Dartmoor; nor a fault
even. It is a custom.

The Maggot found Pendoggat. They greeted one another in a fraternal way,
then began to walk down from the village. The night was clear ahead of
them, but above Brentor, with its church, which looked rather like an
exaggerated locomotive in that light, the sky, or "widdicote," as Mary
might have called it, was red and lowering.

"Well, what about business?" said Pendoggat.

"I am not finding it easy, Mr. Pendoggat," said the minister. "Folks are
nervous, and, as you know, there is not much money about. But they trust
me, Mr. Pendoggat. They trust me," he repeated fervently.

"Got any promises?"

"A few half-promises. I could do better if I was able to show them the
mine. If you would come forward, with your wisdom and experience, I
think we should do well. I mentioned that you were interested."

"I told you to keep my name out of it," said Pendoggat.

"But that is impossible. I cannot tell a lie, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli,
with the utmost deference.

"You're suspicious," said the other sharply. "You don't trust me. Say it
out, Pezzack."

"I do trust you, Mr. Pendoggat. I have given you this 'and," said Eli,
extending a clay-like slab. "I have seen with my own eyes the sides of
that cave gleaming with precious metal like the walls of the New
Jerusalem. I can take your 'and now, and look you in the heye, and say
'ow I trust you. We 'ave prayed side by side, and you 'ave always prayed
fair. Now that we are working side by side I know you'll work fair. But
I 'ave thought, Mr. Pendoggat, 'ow you seem to be putting too much upon
me."

"I'll tell you how it is. I'm pushed," Pendoggat muttered. "Nobody knows
it, but I'm deep in debt. Do you think I'd be such a fool as to give
this find of mine away for nothing, as you might say, unless I'd got
to?" he went on sullenly. "I've known of it for years. I've spent days
planting willows and fern about the entrance to that old shaft, to close
it up and make folk forget it's there. I meant to bide my time till I
could get mining folk in London to take it up and make a big thing out
of it. I'm a disappointed man, Pezzack. I'm in debt, and I've got to
suffer for it."

He paused, scowling sullenly at his companion.

"My 'eart bleeds for you, Mr. Pendoggat," said simple Eli. He thought
that was a good and sympathetic phrase, although he somewhat exaggerated
the actual state of his feelings.

"I've kept 'em quiet so far," said Pendoggat. "I've paid what I can, and
they know they can't get more. But if 'twas known about this mine, and
known I was running it, they'd be down on me like flies on a carcase,
and would ruin the thing at once. The only chance for me was to look out
for a straight man who could float the scheme in his name while I did
the work. I knew only one man I could really trust, and that man is
you."

"It is very generous of you, Mr. Pendoggat," said the buttered Eli.

They had reached the railway bridge, and there stopped, being upon the
edge of the moor. Beneath them was Brentor station gone to sleep;
beyond, in its cutting, that of Mary Tavy. The lines of two rival
companies ran needlessly side by side, silently proclaiming to the still
Dartmoor night the fact that railway companies are quite human and hate
each other like individuals. Pendoggat was looking down as usual,
therefore his eyes were fixed upon the rival lines. Possibly he found
something there to interest him.

"I'll get you some samples. You can take them about with you," he went
on. "We'll have a meeting too."

"At the Barton?" suggested Eli.

"The chapel," said Pendoggat.

"Commencing with a prayer-meeting," said Eli. "That is a noble thought,
Mr. Pendoggat. We will seek a blessing on the work."

"The chapel must be rebuilt," said Pendoggat.

"The Lord's work first. Yes, that is right. That is like you, Mr.
Pendoggat. I will communicate with some friends in London. I 'ave an
uncle who is a retired grocer. He lives at Bromley, Mr. Pendoggat. He
will invest part of his savings, I am convinced. He has confidence in
me. He had me educated for the ministry. He will persuade others to
invest, perhaps."

Pendoggat moved forward, and set his face towards the moor. "I must get
on," he said. "I'll see you on Sunday. Have something to tell me by
then."

"Let us seek a blessing before we part," said Pezzack.

Pendoggat turned back. He was always ready to obtain absolution. They
stood upon the bridge, removed their hats, while Eli prayed with vigour
and sincerity. He did not stop until the rumble of the night mail
sounded along the lines and the metals began to hum excitedly. The
"widdicote" above St. Michael's was still red and lowering. The church
might have been a furnace, emitting a strong glow from fires within its
tower.




CHAPTER VII

ABOUT FAIRYLAND


By the time Boodles was sixteen she was shaped and polished. Weevil had
done what he could; not much, for the poor old thing was neither learned
nor rich; and she had gone to Tavistock, where various arts had been
crammed into her brain, all mixed up together like the ingredients of a
patent pill. Boodles knew a good deal for seventeen; but Nature and
Dartmoor had taught her more than the school-mistress. She was a fresh
and fragrant child, with no unhealthy fancies; loving everything that
was clean and pretty; loathing spiders, and creeping things, and filth
in general; and longing ardently already to win for herself a name and a
soul a little higher than the beetles. They were presumptuous longings
for a child of passion, who did not know her parents, or anything about
her origin beyond the fact that she had been thrown out in a bundle of
fern, and taken in and cared for by Abel Cain Weevil.

At the tender age of fourteen Boodles received her love-wound. It was
down by the Tavy, where the water swirls round pebbles and rattles them
against its rocks below Sandypark. Her love-affair was idyllic, and
therefore dangerous, because the idyllic state bears the same
resemblance to rough and brutal life as the fairy-tale bears to the true
story of that life. The tales begin with "once upon a time," and end
with "they lived happily ever after." The idyllic state begins in the
same way, but ends, either with "they parted with tears and kisses and
never saw each other again," or "they married and were miserable ever
afterwards." Only children can blow idyll-bubbles which will float for a
time. Elderly people try, but they only make themselves ridiculous, and
the bubbles will not form. People of thirty or over cannot play at
fairy-tales. When they try they become as fantastic a sight as an old
gentleman wearing a paper hat and blowing a penny trumpet. Shakespeare,
who knew everything about human nature that men can know, made his Romeo
and Juliet children, and ended their idyll as such things must end.
Customs have changed since; even children are beginning to understand
that life cannot be made a fairy-tale; and Romeo prefers the football
field to sighing beneath a school-girl's balcony; and Juliet twists up
her hair precociously and runs amok with a hockey-stick.

Still fairy-tales lift their mystic blooms to the moon beside the Tavy,
and Boodles had seen those flowers, and wandered among them very
delicately. The boy was Aubrey Bellamie, destined for the Navy, and his
home was in Tavistock. He had come into the world, amid an odour of
respectability, two years before Boodles had crept shamefully up the
terrestrial back stairs. All he knew about Boodles was the fact that she
was a girl; that one all-sufficient fact that makes youths mad. He knew,
also, that her head was glorious, and that her lips were better than
wine. He was a clean, pretty boy; like most of the youths in the Navy,
who are the good fresh salt of Devon and England everywhere. Boodles
came into Tavistock twice a week to be educated, and he would wait at
the door of the school until she came out, because he wanted to educate
her too; and then they would wander beside the Tavy, and kiss new
knowledge into each other's young souls. The fairy-tale was real enough,
because real life had not begun. They were still in "once upon a time"
stage, and they believed in the happy ending. It was the age of
delusion; glorious folklore days. There was enough fire in them both to
make the story sufficiently life-like to be mistaken for the real thing.
Aubrey's parents did not know of the love-affair then; neither did
Weevil. In fairy-tales relations are usually wicked creatures who have
to be avoided. So for months they wandered beside the river of
fairyland, and plucked the flowers of that pleasant country which were
gleaming with idyllic dew.

"I can't think why you love my head so," Boodles had protested, when a
thunderstorm of affection had partially subsided. "It's like a big
tangle of red seaweed. The girls at the school call me Carrots."

"I should like to hear them," said Aubrey fiercely; "Darling, it's the
loveliest head in the world."

And then he went on to talk a lot of shocking nonsense about flowers and
sunsets, and all other wondrous flaming things, which had derived their
colour and splendour from the light of his sweetheart's head, and from
none other source or inspiration whatsoever.

"If I was a boy I shouldn't love a girl with red hair. There are such a
lot of girls you might love. Girls with silky flaxen hair, and girls
with lovely brown hair--"

"They are only girls," said Aubrey disdainfully. "Not angels."

"Do angels have red hair?" asked Boodles.

"Only a very few," said the boy. "Boodles--and one or two others whose
names I can't remember just now. It's not red hair, sweetheart. It's
golden, and your beautiful skin is golden too, and there is a lot of
gold-dust scattered all over your nose."

"Freckles," laughed Boodles. "Aubrey, you silly! Calling my ugly
freckles gold-dust! Why, I hate them. When I look in the glass I say to
myself: 'Boodles, you're a nasty little spotted toad.'"

"They are just lovely," declared the boy. "They are little bits of
sunshine that have dropped on you and stuck there."

"I'm not sticky."

"You are. Sticky with sweetness."

"What a dear stupid thing!" sighed Boodles. "Let me kiss your lovely
pink and white girl's face--there--and there--and there."

"Boodles, dear, I haven't got a girl's face," protested Aubrey.

"Oh, but you have, my boy. It's just like a girl's--only prettier. If I
was you, and you was me--that sounds rather shocking grammar, but it
don't matter--every one would say: 'Look at that ugly boy with that
boodle-oodle, lovely, _bu_tiful girl.' There! I've squeezed every bit of
breath out of him," cried Boodles.

There was a certain amount left, as she soon discovered; enough to
smother her.

"If you hadn't got golden hair, and freckles, I should never have fallen
in love with you," declared the boy. "If you were to lose your freckles,
if you lost only one, the tiniest of them all, I shouldn't love you any
more."

"And if you lose that dear girl's face I won't love you," promised
Boodles. "If you had a horrid moustache to tickle me and make me sneeze,
I wouldn't give you the smallest, teeniest, wee bit of a kiss. Well, you
can't anyhow, because you've got to be an admiral. How nice it will be
when you are grown up and have a lot of ships of your own."

"We shall be married long before then. Boodles, darling," cried the
eager boy. "Directly I am twenty-one we will be married. Only five more
years."

"Such a lot happens in a year," sighed Boodles. "You may meet five more
girls far more sunshiny than me, with redder hair and more freckles,
since you are so fond of them--"

"I shan't. You are the only girl who ever was or shall be."

That is how boys talk when they are sixteen, and when they are
twenty-six, and sometimes when they are very old boys of sixty; and
girls generally believe them.

"I wonder if it is right of you to love me," said Boodles doubtfully.

The answer was what might have been looked for, and ended with the usual
question: "Why not?"

"Because I'm only a baby."

"You are fourteen, darling. You will be nineteen by the time we are
married."

Although they were only at the beginning of the story they were already
slapping over the pages, anxious to reach the "lived happily ever after"
conclusion. Young people are always wanting to hurry on; middle-aged to
marktime; old to look back. The freshness of life is contained in the
first chapter. Youth is a time of unnatural strength, of insanity, a
dancing-round-the-may-pole sort of time. Common-sense begins to come
when one has grandchildren. Boodles and Aubrey wandered a thousand times
in love's fairyland on the romantic banks of the rattling Tavy, and knew
as much during their last walk as upon the first; knew they were in love
cleanly and honestly; knew that the joy of life was no myth; but knowing
nothing, either of them, concerning Giant Despair, who has his mantle
trimmed with lovers' hearts, or the history of the fair maid of Astolat,
or the existence of Castle Dolorous. Love is largely a pleasure of the
imagination, thus a fairy-tale, and sound practical knowledge sweeps the
romance of it all away.

The whole of that folly--if the only real ecstatic bliss of life which
is called first love be folly--seemed gone for ever. Aubrey was packed
off to do his part in upholding the honour of Boodlesland, as his
country named itself in his thoughts; and the years that intervened
discovered him probably kissing girls of all complexions, girls with
every shade of hair conceivable, girls with freckles and without; and
being kissed by them. Boys must have their natural food, and if the best
quality be not obtainable they must take what offers. In the interval
Boodles remained entirely unkissed, and received no letters. She wasn't
surprised. His love had been too fierce. It had blazed up, burnt her,
and gone out. Aubrey had forgotten her; forgotten those wonderful walks
in Tavyland; forgotten her radiant head and golden freckles. It was all
over, that romance of two babies. It was Boodles who did not forget;
Boodles who had the wet pillow sometimes; Boodles who was constant like
the gorse, which is in flower all the year round.

No one would call the ordinary Dartmoor postman an angel--his appearance
is too much against him--but he does an angel's work. Perhaps there is
nothing which quickens the heart of any lonely dweller on the moor so
perceptibly as the heavy tread of that red-faced and beer-tainted
companion of the goddess of dawn. He leaves curses as well as blessings.
He pushes love-letters and bills into the box together. Sometimes he is
an hour late, and the miserable watcher frets about the house. Sometimes
the wind holds him back. He can be seen struggling against it, and the
watcher longs to yoke him to wild horses. There are six precious
post-times each week, and the lonely inhabitant of the wilds would not
yield one of them to save his soul alive.

There was an angel's visit to Lewside Cottage, and a letter for Boodles
fell from heaven. The child pounced upon it, rushed up to her room like
a dog with a piece of meat, locked the door lest any one should enter
with the idea of stealing her prize, gloated upon it, almost rolled upon
it. She did not open it for some time. She turned it over, smelt it,
pinched it, loved it. Tavistock was blurred across the stamp. There was
no doubt about that letter. It was a tangible thing. It did not fade
away like morning dew. She opened it at last, but did not dare to read
it through. She took bites at it, tasting it here and there; and had
every sentence by heart before she settled down to read it properly. So
she was still dearest Boodles, and he was the same devoted Aubrey. The
child jumped upon her bed, and bit the pillow in sheer animal joy.

He had just come home, and was writing to her at once. She wouldn't
recognise him because he had become a tough brown sailor, and the girl's
face was his no longer. He was coming to see her at once; and they would
walk again by the Tavy and be just the same as ever; and swear the same
vows; and kiss the same kisses; and be each other's sun and moon, and
all the rest of the idyllic patter, which was as sweet and fresh as ever
to poor Boodles. For he had been all the world over and discovered there
was only one girl in it; and that was the girl with the radiant head,
and the golden skin, and the gold-dust upon her nose. He was as true as
he always had been, and as he always would be for ever and evermore.

Boodles saw nothing mad or presumptuous in that closing sentence. It was
just what she would have said. There is no hereafter for young people in
their teens; there is an ever and evermore for them. They are like a
kitten playing with its own tail, without ever realising that it is its
tail.

Boodles became at once very light and airy. She seemed to have escaped
from the body somehow. She felt as if she had been transformed into a
bit of sunshine. She floated down-stairs, lighted up the living-room,
wrapped herself round Abel Cain, floated into the kitchen to finish
preparations for breakfast, discovered the material nature of her hands
by breaking a milk-jug, and then humanity asserted itself and she began
to shriek.

"Boodle-oodle!" cried old Weevil; "you have been sleeping in the
moonshine."

"I've broken the milk-jug," screamed Boodles.

Weevil came shuffling along the passage. Small things were greatly
accounted of in Lewside Cottage. There were most of the ingredients of
tragedy in a broken milk-jug.

"How did you do it?" he wailed.

"It was all because the butter is so round," laughed Boodles.

Weevil was frightened. He thought the child's mind had broken too; and
that was even more serious than the milk-jug. He stood and stared, and
made disjointed remarks about bright Dartmoor moons, and girls who would
sleep with their blinds up, and insanity which was sure to follow such
rashness. But Boodles only laughed the more.

"I'll tell you," she said. "The butter is very round, and I had it on a
plate. I must have tilted the plate, and it was roll, butter, roll.
First on the table, where it knocked the milk-jug off its legs. Then it
rolled on the floor, and out of the door. It's still rolling. I expect
it is nearly at Mary Tavy station by now, and it ought to reach
Tavistock about ten o'clock at the rate it was going. It's sure to roll
on to Plymouth, right through the Three Towns, and then across the Hoe,
and about the time we go to bed there will be a little splash in the
sea, and that will be the end of the butter, which rolled off the plate,
and broke the milk-jug, and started from the top of Dartmoor at
half-past eight by the clock in Lewside Cottage, which is ten minutes
fast--and that's all I can think of now," gasped Boodles.

"My poor little girl," quavered Weevil. "The butter is on the plate in
front of you."

"Well, it must have rolled back again. It wanted to see its dear old
home once more."

Weevil began to pick up the fragments of the milk-jug. "There is
something wrong with you, Boodle-oodle," he said tenderly. "I don't want
you to have any secrets, my dear. You are too young. There was a letter
for you just now?"

At that the whole story came out with a rush. Boodles could hold nothing
back that morning. She told Weevil about the fairy-tale, from the "once
upon a time" up to the contents of that letter; and she begged him to
play the part of good genie, and with his enchantments cause
blissfulness to happen.

Weevil was very troubled. He had feared that the radiant head would do
mischief, but he had not expected trouble to come so soon. The thing was
impossible, of course. Even radiant growths must have a name of some
sort. Aubrey's parents could not permit weeds to grow in their garden.
There were plenty of girls "true to name," like the well-bred roses of a
florist's catalogue, wanting smart young husbands. There was practically
no limit to the supply of these sturdy young plants. Boodles might be a
Gloire de Devon, but she was most distinctly not in the catalogue. She
was only a way-side growth; a beautiful fragrant weed certainly, like
the sweet honeysuckle which trails about all the lanes, and is in itself
a lovely thing, but is not wanted in the garden because it is too
common; or like the gorse, which as a flowering shrub is the glory of
the moor, but not of the garden, because it is a rank wild growth. Were
it a rare shrub it would be grown upon the lawns of the wealthy; but
because it is common it must stay outside.

"Boodles, darling, I am so sorry," the old man murmured.

"But you mustn't be," she laughed. "Sorry because I'm so happy! You must
be a _bu_tiful old daddy-man, and say you are glad. I can't help being
in love. It's like the measles. We have to catch it, and it is so much
better to go through it when you're young. Now say something nice and
let me go. I want to run to the top of Ger Tor, and scream, and run back
again."

"Oh, dear heaven!" muttered Weevil, playing with the bits of milk-jug.
"I can't tell the poor baby, I can't tell it."

"Don't be weepy, daddy-dear-heart," murmured Boodles, coming and loving
him. "I know I'm only a baby, but then I'm growing fast. I'll soon be
eighteen. Such a grown-up woman then, old man! I'll never leave
him--that's the trouble, I know. I'll always boil him's eggs, and break
him's milk-jugs. Only he must be pretty to Boodles when she's happy, and
say he's glad she's got a lovely boy with the beautifullest girl's face
that ever was."

Weevil unmeshed himself and shuffled away, pelting imaginary foes with
bits of milk-jug, blinking his eyes like a cat in the sunshine. He could
not destroy the child's happiness. As well expect the painter who has
expended the best years of his life on a picture to cut and slash the
canvas. Boodles was his own. He had made and fashioned her. He could not
extinguish his own little sun. He must let her linger in fairyland, and
allow destiny, or human nature, or something else equally brutal, to
finish the story. Elementary forces of nature, like Pendoggat, might be
cruel, but Weevil was not a force, neither was he cruel. He was only an
eccentric old man, and he wanted it to be well with the child. She would
have her eyes opened soon enough. She would discover that innocents
thrust out on the moor to perish cannot by the great law of propriety
take that place in life which beauty and goodness deserve. They must go
back; like Undine, coming out with brave love to seek a soul, succeeding
at first, but failing in the end, and going back at last to the state
that was hers. Poor little bastard Boodles! How mad she was that
morning! Weevil hardly noticed that his eggs were hard-boiled.

"Darling," he said tenderly, anxious to divert her mind--as if it could
be diverted!--"go and see Peter, and tell him we must have that clock.
You had better bring it back with you."

That clock was a favourite subject of conversation. If had amused
Boodles for two years, and it amused her then. It was only a common
little clock, or Peter would never have been entrusted with it. Peter,
who knew nothing, was among other things a mechanician. He professed his
ability to mend and clean clocks. Possibly Grandfather had taught him
something. He had studied the old gentleman's internal arrangements all
his life, and had, he considered, mastered the entire principle of a
clock's construction and well-being. Therefore when Boodles met him one
day, and informed him that a little clock in Lewside Cottage was choked
with dust and refused to perform its duty, Peter promised he would
attend at his earliest convenience, to lay his hand upon it, and restore
it to activity. "When will you come?" asked Boodles.

"To-morrow," answered Peter.

The day came, but not Peter. He was hardly expected, because promises
are meaningless phrases in the mouths of Dartmoor folk. In the matter of
an eternal "to-morrow" they are like the Spanish peasantry. They always
promise upon their honour, but, as they haven't got any, the oath might
as well be omitted. When reminded of their solemn undertaking they have
a ready explanation. Their conscience would not permit them to come. It
is the same when they agree to charge an unsuspecting person so much for
duties performed, and then send in a bill for twice the amount.
Conscience would not allow them to charge less. The Dartmoor conscience
is a beautiful thing. It urges a man to act precisely as he wants to.

A month or so passed--the exact period is of no account in such a
place--and Boodles saw Peter approaching her. When within sight of her
he put out his arm and began to cry aloud. She hurried towards him,
afraid that something was wrong; the arm was still extended, and the cry
continued. Peter was like an owl crying in the wilderness. Drawing near,
he became at last intelligible. "I be coming," he cried. "I be coming to
mend the clock."

"Now?" asked Boodles.

"To-morrow," said Peter.

This sort of thing happened constantly. Whenever they came within sight
of each other, and Peter called often at the village to purchase pints
of beer, the little man would hurry towards Boodles, with his
outstretched arm and monotonous cry: "To-morrow." He was always on his
way to Lewside Cottage, but something always hindered him from getting
there. He did not despair, however. He felt confident that the day would
arrive when he would attend in person and restore the clock. It was
merely a matter of time. Thus a year went by and the pledge remained
unfulfilled.

One Sunday evening Boodles went to church, and it so happened that Peter
was there also. Peter had just then reasons of his own for wishing to
ingratiate himself with the church authorities, and he considered that
the appearance of his vile body in a devotional attitude somewhere in
the neighbourhood of the pulpit would be of material assistance to his
ambition. Peter entered with a huge lantern, the time being winter, and
the evening dark--the night rather, for the Dartmoor day in winter is
well over by five o'clock--flapped up the aisle with goose-like steps,
tumbled into a seat breathing heavily, and making as much noise with his
boots as a horse upon cobblestones, banged the lantern down, and gazed
about the building with an air of proprietorship. The next thing was to
blow out the candle in his lantern. He opened it, and made windy noises
which were not attended with success. "Scat 'en," cried Peter
boisterously. "When her's wanted to go out her never will, and when her
bain't wanted to go out her always du."

At that moment Boodles entered. Peter was delighted to see her friendly
face. The lantern clattered to the floor, and its master stretched out
his arm, and exclaimed in a whisper which would have carried from one
side of Tavy Cleave to the other: "I was a-coming yesterday, but I never
got as far. Had the tweezers in my trousers, and here they be." He
brought out the implement and brandished it in the faces of the
congregation. "I'm a-coming to-morrow sure 'nuff." Then he went to work
again at the lantern. Peter had not developed the spirit of reverence;
and the service was unable to commence until he had finished blowing.

When the proceedings were over he followed Boodles out of church and
along the road, all the time asserting that the tweezers and his
trousers had been inseparable for the last six months, that he had
started for Lewside Cottage every day, and something had always cropped
up to prevent him from reaching his destination, but that the next day
would bring him, wet or fine, upon his word of honour it would. He had
been remiss in the past, he owned, but if he failed to attend on Monday
morning at half-past eleven punctual, with the tweezers in his trousers,
he hoped the young lady and the old gentleman would never trust him
again.

A few more weeks went by, and then Boodles put the clock into a basket,
and came out to the hut-circles.

Peter was grievously dismayed. "Why didn't ye tell me?" he said. "I'd
ha' come for 'en. I wouldn't ha' troubled yew to ha' brought 'en. If yew
had told I there was a clock to mend, I'd ha' come for him all to wance,
and fetched him home, and mended him same day."

It would have been useless to remind Peter of his promises and his
eternal procrastination. He would only have pleaded that he had
forgotten all about it. People such as Peter cannot be argued with.

Boodles left the clock, and Peter promised it should be cleaned at once,
and brought back in a day or two.

During the next few months the couple at Lewside Cottage made merry over
that clock. Left to himself Peter would have said no more about it, but
would simply have added it to his stock of earthly possessions. However,
Boodles gave him no peace. Peter could hardly enter the village for the
necessity of his existence without being accosted upon the subject; and
at last the slumbering fires of mechanism within him kindled into flame.
He declared he had never seen such a clock; it was made all wrong; it
was not in the least like Grandfather. He explained that it would be
necessary to take it entirely to pieces, alter the works considerably,
and reconstruct it in accordance with the recognised model, adding such
things as weights and pendulum; and that would be a matter of a year's
skilled labour. He pointed out, moreover, that the clock was painted
green, and that in itself would be sufficient to clog the works, as it
was well known that clocks would not keep proper time unless they were
painted brown. That was a trade secret. Boodles replied that there was
nothing whatever wrong with the works of the clock. It only required
cleaning, and she believed she could do it herself. Peter wagged his
head in amazement. The folly and ignorance of young maids eclipsed his
understanding.


The second year came to an end, and the clock was in precisely the same
condition as at first. Peter was glad to have it because it made a nice
ornament for his section of Ger Cottage. He had only touched it once,
and then Mary, who happened to be present, exclaimed: "Dear life, Peter,
put 'en down, or you'll be tearing 'en."

The tenants of Lewside Cottage had become tired of the endless comedy.
So, on that morning when Boodles had her letter, it was the most natural
thing in the world for Weevil to suggest that she should go and reclaim
their property; and as the girl was longing for the open moor and the
sight of Tavy Cleave, which was on the way to fairyland, she went,
running part of the way for sheer joy, singing and laughing all the
time.

The hut-circles were deserted. Mary was out on the "farm," which was a
ridiculous scrap of reclaimed moor about the same size as an Italian
mountaineer's vineyard; and Peter had gone to the village inn on
business. Boodles looked inside. There was Grandfather, ticking in his
usual misanthropic way; and there was the uncleaned clock in the centre
of the long shelf which ran above the big fire-place. Boodles took it,
and ran off, laughing to think of Peter's dismay when he returned and
discovered that his mantelshelf lacked its principal ornament. He would
think some one had stolen it, and the fright would be a punishment for
him. Boodles raced home, put the clock on the kitchen table, opened it,
and placing the nozzle of the bellows among the works cleaned them
vigorously. When old Weevil came shuffling in the clock was going
merrily.

"I've done in two minutes what Peter couldn't do in two years," laughed
the happy child.

Weevil shuffled out. He was in a restless mood. He knew he ought to tell
Boodles that she mustn't be happy, only he could not. Somebody or
something would have to use her as she had used the clock; blow wildly
into her poor little soul, and do for her in two minutes what Weevil
would never have done in two years.




CHAPTER VIII

ABOUT ATMOSPHERE


There are secret places among the rocks of Tavy Cleave. The river has
many moods; one time in the barren lands, another time in bogland, and
then in hanging gardens and woodland. No other river displays such
startling Protean changes. The artist always fails to catch the Tavy. He
paints it winding between low banks of peat, with blossoms of pink
heather dripping into the water; but that is not the Tavy. He presents
it as a broiling milk-white torrent, thundering over rocks, with Ger Tor
wrapped in cloud, and bronzed bracken springing out of the clefts; but
that is not the Tavy. He represents it shaded with rowan and ferns, its
banks a fairy carpet of wind-flowers, and suggests a gentle river by
removing the lace-like pattern of foam and the big boulders, and
painting the water a wonderful green, with here and there a streak of
purple; but still he has not caught the Tavy. He goes down from the moor
and shows a stately stream, descending slowly a lew valley between
hills, partly wooded, partly cultivated; shows the smoke of scattered
Bartons mixing lazily with the clouds and going with them sea-ward; shows
cattle feeding and bluebells nodding; a general atmosphere that of
Amaryllis and her piping shepherd, though the lad is only a dull clod
and his pipe is of clay, and Amaryllis has dirty finger-nails; but again
the elusive Tavy has escaped somehow. Once more he tries. There is the
Tavy, like an ocean flood, coming across mud-flats, mingled with brother
Tamar of the border; a dull unromantic Tavy then. The magic mist of
bluebells has given way to the blue steel of the railroad, and wooden
battleships, their task over, float upon its waters instead of
fern-fronds. Not a fairy-tale is to be told, nor any pretty fancy to be
weaved there. The pictures go into galleries, and win fame, perhaps; but
the river of Tavy chuckles over his rocks, and knows he is not there.

It is a river of atmosphere. Only a dream can produce the Tavy; not the
written word, nor the painted picture. Unpleasant dreams some of them,
like nightmares, but human thought produces them; and human thought is
the dirtiest, as well as the noblest, thing created.

In one of the secret places among the rocks Pendoggat waited, and
Thomasine came to meet him there. She came because she had been told to,
and about the only thing that her mind was capable of realising was that
she must be obedient. Country girls have to do as they are told. They
are nearly as defenceless as the rabbits, and any commoner may trap them
as one of his rights. So Thomasine came down among the rocks. She had
not been out with Will Pugsley lately, because it was not allowed. She
wanted to, but Pendoggat had refused permission. He had indeed gone
further, and had threatened to murder her if she went with any other
man. Thomasine accepted the inevitable, and told her Will she could not
go out with him any more. Pugsley, having saved a little money, desired
to spend it upon matrimony, and as he could not have Thomasine he was
going about looking for another maid. One would serve his purpose as
well as another, so long as she had plenty of blood in her.

Such a thing as love without lust was unknown to Pendoggat. His only
idea of the great passion was to catch hold of a woman, maul her, enjoy
her flesh, and her warmth, and the texture of her clothes; the coarse,
crude passion which makes a man ruin himself, and destroy the life of
another, for the pleasure of a moment's madness; that same anarchy of
mind which has dethroned princes, lost kingdoms, and converted houses of
religion into houses of ill-fame. Pendoggat would not have gone mad over
Thomasine had she been merely pretty. It was that face of hers, the
blood in her, something in the shape of her figure, which had kindled
his fire. All men burn, more or less, and must submit; and when they do
not it is because Nature is not striving very hard in them. Much is
heard of the morality of Joseph; nothing concerning the age or ugliness
of Potiphar's wife. These conventional old tales are wiped out by one
touch of desire, and nothing remains except the overmastering thing. The
trees cannot help budding in spring. Nature compels it, as she compels
the desire of the human body also.

They were out of the wind. The heavy fragrance of gorse was in the hot
air. It was a well-hidden spot, and somewhat weird, a haunted kind of
place. The ruins of a miner's cot were close by, and what had been its
floor was then a mass of bracken. The stones were covered with flowering
saxifrage. There was a scrubby brake here and there, composed of a few
dwarf trees, rowan and oaks, only a few feet high, ancient enough but
small, because their roots obtained little nutriment from the
rock-bedded peat. Their branches twisted in a fantastic manner, reaching
across the sky like human limbs contorted with strange agony. They were
the sort of trees which force themselves into dreams. Some of them were
half dead, green on one side and black upon the other; while the dwarfed
trunks were covered with ivy and masses of polypodies; overgrown so
thickly with these parasites that the bark was nowhere visible. Such a
thickness of moss coated some of the boulders that the hardness of the
granite was not perceptible. Beneath the river tumbled; a rough and wild
Tavy; the river of rocks, the open, sun-parched region of the high moor;
the water clear and cold from Cranmere; and there was a long way to go
yet before it reached cover, the hanging trees, and the mossy bogs pink
with red-rattles, and the woods white with wind-flowers, and the stretch
of bluebell-land, the ferns, bracken, asphodel, and the pleasant winding
pathways where fairy-tales and decent love abide, and the little folk
laugh at moonlight.

"It be a whist old place," Thomasine said; the words, but not the
thought, frightened out of her by Pendoggat's rude embrace. Like most
girls of her class she was no talker, because she did not know how to
put words together. She could laugh without ceasing when the occasion
justified it, laughter being with her what tail-wagging is to a dog, the
natural expression of pleasure or good-will; but there was not much to
laugh at just then.

"You haven't told any one about our meetings? They don't know at Town
Rising?" said Pendoggat.

"No, sir," answered Thomasine.

"It wouldn't do for them to know. They'd talk themselves sick. You don't
wear much, my maid. Nothing under your blouse. If it wasn't for your fat
you'd take cold." He had thrust his hand into the front of her dress,
and clutched a handful of yielding flesh.

"Don't ye, sir. It ain't proper," entreated Thomasine.

She hardly dared to struggle because she was afraid. Instinct told her
certain behaviour was not proper, although it had not prevented her from
coming to that "whist old place." It was fear which had brought her
there.

"How would you like to come to the Barton, and be my married wife? I
want a fine maid to look after me, and you're a fine lusty sweetheart if
ever there was one. 'Tis a job that would suit you, Thomasine. Better
than working for those Chegwiddens. I'd find you something better to do
than sitting in a cold kitchen, keeping the fire warm. There's a good
home and a sober master waiting for you. Better than young Pugsley and
twelve shillings a week. Say the word, and I'll have you there, and Nell
Crocker can go to the devil."

Thomasine did not say the word. She had no conversation at all. She did
not know that Pendoggat was giving her the usual fair speech, making her
the usual offer, which meant nothing although it sounded so much. She
had heard Nell Crocker referred to as Mrs. Pendoggat, never before by
her actual name. She had come to meet him, supposing him to be a married
man, not because she wanted his company, but because she had to accept
it. She could only conclude that he really did love her. Thomasine's
ideas of love were simple enough; just to meet a man, and walk with him
in quiet places, and sit about with him, and be mauled by him. That was
the beginning and end of love according to Thomasine, for after marriage
it was all hard work. If a man made a girl meet him in secret places
among the rocks, it could only be because he loved her. There could be
no other reason. And if a man loved a girl he naturally suggested
marriage. The matter was entirely simple. Even she could understand it,
because it was elementary knowledge; the sort of knowledge which causes
many a quiet moorland nook, and many an innocent-looking back garden, to
become some smothered infant's grave.

"You'd like to come to the Barton, wouldn't you, my maid?" said
Pendoggat in a wheedling tone.

"Iss," murmured Thomasine at last. She didn't dare say anything else.
She was afraid he would strike her if she struggled. She was staring
without much expression at the little dwarfed oaks, and the blood was
working vigorously up and down her exposed neck and bosom as though a
pump was forcing it. She had a thought just then; or, if not quite a
thought, a wish. She wished she had taken a situation which had been
offered her at Sourton, and had never come to Town Rising. She felt
somehow it might have been better for her if she had gone to Sourton.
She might have escaped something, though she hardly knew what. She could
not have got into a town, as she was too ignorant and dull for anything
better than a moorland Barton.

"You've done with young Pugsley?" Pendoggat muttered.

He pulled her hair down roughly, hurting her. Thomasine had good brown
hair in abundance. He wanted to see it lying on her skin. Anything to
add fuel to the fire!

"Iss, sir."

"That's well. If you and he are seen together there'll be hell," he
cried savagely. "You're mine, blood and flesh, and all that's in you,
and I'll have you or die for it, and I'd kill the man who tried to get
you away from me, as I'd kill you if you played me false and ran off to
any one else. You young devil, you--you're as full of blood as a whort
is full of juice."

While speaking he was half dragging her towards the ruined miner's cot,
and there flung her savagely on the fern.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much lower down, where the Tavy fretted less, being freer from rocks;
where there were trees, and a shelter from the wind, and flowers also in
their season, honeysuckles and rose-bays, with fern in great
abundance--there could be no fairyland without ferns--and green water
oozing from the banks, and a fragrant kind of mist over it all; there,
where the river slanted perceptibly towards the lowland, "more down
under like," as Peter would have expressed it, two little people were
trying to strangle one another with pure affection. They were not
pixy-folk. They were only Boodles and her boy going on with the story.
They would have been out of place upon the high Tavy, on the rock-strewn
side of the cleave, among the ruins of the mines. There was nothing hard
or fierce about them. They were children, to be treated with tenderness;
kept out of the strong wind; put among the flowers where they could roll
and tumble without hurting themselves; wrapped in the clinging mist full
of that odour of sweet water and fresh foliage which cannot quickly be
forgotten when it has been enjoyed.

"I thought I was not going to see you any more," said Boodles with a
fine indifference.

"Should you have cared very much, sweetheart?"

"Not a bit, really. A girl mustn't expect too much from a sailor boy.
They are fickle, and keep a sweetheart at every place they stop at.
Girls at every port. Red, white, and yellow girls. A whole heap of
them!"

"But only one all the time," said Aubrey. "One best beautiful girl who
makes all the others seem nothing, and that's always the girl he leaves
at home and comes back to. You were always in my thoughts, darling."

"But you never wrote," murmured she.

"I promised mother I wouldn't," he said, with a little hesitation.

"Then she does know," cried Boodles quickly. "Well, I think she ought
to, because we can't go on being so chummy--"

"Lovers," he amended.

"No, we can't," she said decidedly. "Your people must know all about it,
and like me, and tell me I'm nice enough, if we are going on in the same
old way. You see, boy, I had got used to the idea of doing without you,
and I don't want to start again, and then your people to say I'm not
nice enough. We are growing up now. I'm in long frocks, and--and at our
age things begin to get serious," went on the seventeen-year-old girl of
the radiant head somewhat dolefully, as if she was rather afraid she was
past her prime.

"I'm going to take you to see mother. I promised her I would," said
Aubrey. "Before going away I told her I was awfully in love with you,
and she made me promise not to write, but to see what my feelings were
when I came back. And now I've come back, and I love you more than ever,
because I love you in a different way. I was only a boy then, and now I
am a man, and it is as a man that I love you, and that sweet golden head
and your lovely golden face; and if my people behave properly, I shall
get a ring, and put it on this little finger--"

"You silly boy. That's my right hand," she laughed.

"Then there will be only two more years to wait."

"I shall be only a baby," sighed Boodles.

"Darling, you will be as old as I am now; and I'm nineteen," said
Aubrey, with all the dignity and assurance of such longevity.

"Fancy such a child with an engagement-ring! It would be absurd!" said
Boodles.

"I shan't be well off, darling," he said, making the confession with a
boy's usual awkwardness.

"Then I won't have you," she declared. "I must have a boy with heaps of
money, who will give me all the luxuries I have been used to. You know
we live very expensively at Lewside. We have a joint of meat every week,
and father has two eggs for breakfast, and I have two new frocks every
year--I get the stuff and make them myself. If I had a hungry boy to
keep, I should want a lot of housekeeping money, though I can make a
penny do the work of three halfpence."

"Dear Boodles!"

"Does that 'dear' mean expensive? Well, I am. Some of the stuff for my
frocks costs I don't know how much a yard, and it's no use trying to be
pretty to a draper, for you can't smile them down a single penny."

"You are very silly, darling. As if I should let you make your own
frocks!"

"You are much sillier. So silly that you are hardly fit to live. Telling
me you won't be well off! I think if it was all over between us now I
shouldn't care a bit."

They came out upon an open space beside the river. It was clear of
trees, and the sun was able to shine upon the girl's head, so Aubrey
stopped and took off her hat with reverent hands. She looked up with a
pretty smile. He drew her close and they kissed fondly. It was a clean
healthy kiss, with less folly in it than most, as sweet as the water,
and fresh as the mist; the sort of kiss that makes the soul bud and
bring forth blossoms. They had changed a good deal since those days when
they had first entered fairyland. There was womanhood in Boodles, and a
good deal of the man in Aubrey. They felt the change. It added
responsibility, as well as pleasure, to that kiss. In much the same way
their appearance had altered. Boodles was rather thinner; she had not
quite the same soft, dumpling-like, school-girl cheeks. Aubrey had still
the girl's face, but it had become a little hardened and had lost its
down. Training and discipline had added self-reliance and determination
to his character. They were a pretty pair, little housewife Boodles and
her healthy boy. It was a pity they were transgressing the great
unwritten law of respectability by loving one another.

"The hair hasn't altered much," murmured the radiant child.

"Only to become more lovely. It is a deeper gold now, sweetheart--real
gold; and before it was trying to be gold but couldn't quite manage it."

"This face is just the same to me, except for the nutmeg-graters on the
chin and lips. You have been shaving in a hurry, Aubrey."

"You know why. I had to come and meet some one."

"I think you are such a nice boy, Aubrey," faltered Boodles.

Her eyes were so soft just then that he could not say anything. He took
the glowing head and placed it on his shoulder, and warmed his lips and
his heart with the radiant hair. What a life it would have been if they
could have gone on "happy ever after," just as they were then. The first
stage of love is so much the best, just as the bud is often more
beautiful than the flower.

They walked on between the sun and the fragrant mist, having by this
time got quite away from the dull, old place called earth. Boodles
carried her hat, swinging it by the strings, and placed her other hand
naturally on his arm. Aubrey had quite made up his mind by that time
about many important matters. He would marry Boodles whatever happened.
He was fond of his parents, but he could not permit them to come between
him and his happiness. As there was only one girl in the singularly
sparsely-populated world a big price must be paid for her. Even nineteen
can be determined upon matters of the heart.

"You know Mr. Weevil is not my father," she said timidly, hardly knowing
why she thought it necessary to make the admission; and then, rather
hurriedly, "I am only his adopted daughter."

She had to say that. She did not want him to have unpleasant thoughts
concerning her origin. She wanted to be perfectly honest, and yet at the
same time she dreaded his learning the truth about herself. She did not
realise how ill-suited they were from the ordinary social and
respectable point of view, although she wanted to justify her existence
and to convince him how unwilling she was to deceive.

"I am coming to see him soon," said Aubrey at once. He did not give the
matter a serious thought either. He was much too young to bother his
head about such things, and besides, he supposed that his sweetheart was
the daughter of some relation or connection of Weevil's, and that she
had been left an orphan in her childhood, and had been adopted as a
duty, not as an act of charity, by the eccentric old man. He had very
kindly thoughts of Weevil, because he knew that Boodles had been well
taken care of, and always worshipped in a devout and proper manner by
the tenant of Lewside Cottage.

"I have told him all about you," the girl went on. "I am sure he thinks
you quite a suitable person to take perpetual charge of his little maid,
only he is funny when I talk to him about you. It must be because he
doesn't like the idea of getting rid of me."

Aubrey supposed that was reasonable enough. He judged Weevil by his own
feelings. The idea of losing Boodles would have made him feel "funny"
too.

"It does seem selfish and ungrateful," the child went on. "To be brought
up and petted, and given everything by a dear old man, and then one day
to run off with a nice young boy. It's very fickle. I must try and feel
ashamed of myself. Still I'm not so wicked as you. If you would leave me
alone I should abide with him always--but then you won't! You come and
put selfish thoughts into my head. I think you are rather a bad boy,
Aubrey."

The young sailor would not admit that. He declared he was quite a
natural creature; and he reminded Boodles that if she hadn't been so
delightful he would not have fallen in love with her. So it was her own
fault after all. She said she was very sorry, but she couldn't help it.
She too had only behaved naturally. She was not responsible for so much
glowing hair and golden skin. Others had done that for her. And that
brought her back to the starting-point, and she felt vaguely there was
something she ought to say about those unknown persons, only she didn't
know what. So she said nothing at all, and they went on wandering beside
the river where it was wooded and pleasant, and thought only of the
present, and themselves, and how very nice it was to be together; until
a jarring note was struck by that disagreeable thing called Nature, who
never changes her mood, but works seven long days of spitefulness every
week.

Aubrey had brought his dog with him, and the little beast had put aside
his social instincts in that glorious hunting-ground, and had gone to
seek his own pleasures, leaving his master to the enjoyment of his. Just
then he returned, somewhat sheepishly, as if afraid he ought to expect a
beating, and slunk along at Aubrey's heels. Boodles at once set up a
lamentable cry: "Oh, Aubrey! he's got a bun, a poor little halfpenny
bun!"

The dog had caught a young rabbit about the size of a rat. He dropped it
with wicked delight, touched it up with his nose, made the poor little
wretch run, then scampered after it, caught and rolled upon it with much
satisfaction, shook it, tossed it in the air, made it run again, and
captured it as before. He was as happy as a child with a clockwork toy.

"Take it away," pleaded Boodles. "It's so horrid. Look at the poor
little thing's eyes! It's panting so! If he would kill it at once I
wouldn't mind, but I hate to see him torture it."

The boy called his dog, who refused to obey, thinking it all a part of
the glorious game. He would let Aubrey come near, then make the victim
run, and scamper after it. The clockwork was getting out of order. The
rabbit was nearly run down. Aubrey caught the dog, took the little
creature away, struck it smartly upon the back of its neck, and the
rabbit gave a little shriek, some small shivers, and died. Boodles
turned away, and felt miserable.

"Shall I beat him?" said Aubrey, who was very fond of his dog.

"No--please! I don't care now the poor bun is dead. That tiny scream!
Oh, you nasty little dog! You are not a bit like your master. Go away. I
hate you."

"He can't help doing what his nature tells him, dear."

"Is it his nature?" wondered Boodles. "I suppose it is, but it seems so
funny. He's so gentle and affectionate to us, and so very cruel to
another animal. If it is his nature to be gentle and affectionate, why
should he be cruel too?"

That was too deep for Aubrey, although in his confident boy's fashion he
tried to explain it. He said that every animal respects those stronger
than itself, and is cruel to those that are weaker. Boodles was not
satisfied. She said that was the same thing as saying that affection is
due to fear, and that a dog only loves his master because he is afraid
of him. She was sure that wasn't true.

They did not pursue the subject, however, for at that moment Nature
again intervened in her maliceful way. The dog was trotting on ahead,
his stump of tail erect, quite happy with himself. Suddenly he yelped,
and rushed off into the wood.

"Now he's been and trodden on an ants' nest," said Aubrey, with some
satisfaction.

"Or perhaps he saw a pixy under the bracken," said Boodles.

As she spoke Aubrey caught her, swung her back to a sound of furious
hissing, and Boodles saw a viper upon a patch of bleached grass, head
erect, swaying to and fro, and exceedingly angry at being disturbed. It
was a beautiful, as well as a malevolent, creature. Its black zig-zag
markings were vivid in the sunlight, and its open mouth was as red as a
poppy-leaf.

"You were just going to tread upon it," cried the boy.

"The poor dog!" lamented Boodles, all her sympathies naturally with the
suffering animal.

Then she had to be sorry for the reptile, for Aubrey declared it must
die, not so much because it had bitten the dog, as because it might have
bitten her ankle, and he went and destroyed it with his stick.

By that time Boodles was wretched. She felt that most of the pleasure
had gone out of their walk. They had been so happy, in a serene
atmosphere, and then the weather had changed, as it were, and the
cruelty and malevolence of Nature had come along to remind them they had
no business to be so happy, and that the place was not an ideal
fairyland after all. There was an atmosphere of suffering all around,
though they could not always see it, and cruelty in every living thing.
Even the sun was cruel, for it was beginning to make the radiant head
ache.

They went after the dog, and found him much distressed, because he had
been bitten in the neck, and swelling had commenced. Living upon
Dartmoor, Boodles knew all about viper-bites, and she ordered Aubrey to
take the dog back and attend to the wound at once. Then she had to gulp
down a lump in her throat and rub her eyes. The weather had changed
badly, and things had gone quite wrong. When they had walked in the wood
as little children nothing unpleasant had ever happened, or at least
they had never noticed anything disagreeable. Now they were grown up, as
she thought, all sorts of troubles came to spoil their ramble. The dog
had tortured the rabbit; the viper had bitten the dog; Aubrey had killed
the viper. The tale of suffering seemed to be running up the scale
towards herself. Was there any creature, stronger than themselves, who
could be so brutal as to take pleasure in biting or torturing such
harmless beings as Aubrey and herself?




CHAPTER IX

ABOUT A KNAVE AND A FOOL


Clever men are either philosophers or knaves; and as the world is
crawling with fools the clever men who are philosophers spend their time
making laws which will protect the fools from the clever men who are
knaves. Sharp practice can only be punished, not stopped, so long as
simpletons are willing to give a florin for a purse which they think
contains two half-crowns, which is the sort of folly which gives rise to
wonder how many men are really rational beings. The fool will believe
anything if the knave talks long enough. No sort of folly is too
hopeless when there is a clever man at the head of it. Shouting will
establish a patent pill, found a new religion, produce a revolution; do
any marvel, except make people decent.

Pendoggat was a clever man in his own way; and Pezzack would have been a
fool anywhere. The minister had piped to others, a little jig of mines
and speculations, and some of them had danced in a half-hearted way. In
his quaint but sincere fashion he had preached of gold and precious
jewels; of bdellium and the onyx stone. It was the doctrine of "get
rich" that he proclaimed, and his listeners opened their ears to that as
they would scarcely have opened them to any more orthodox message of
redemption. "Do good to your body, and your soul will do good to
itself," was in effect what Pezzack was teaching, although he didn't
know it, and would have been grieved had any one suggested it. He
desired to place his listeners in comfortable circumstances, from the
retired grocer of Bromley to the Dartmoor widow who had five pounds'
worth of pence saved up in a teapot; to take unto himself a helpmeet;
last and least--although again he did not put it in that way--to rebuild
Ebenezer. So he preached of treasures hidden in the earth, and promised
his hearers that every sovereign sown therein would germinate without a
doubt, and bring forth in due season a healthy crop of some ten per
cents, and some twenty per cents.

People did not tumble over one another in any haste to respond. They
might not be clever, but they could be suspicious, and they asked at
once for particulars, desired to see the good thing for themselves, and
some of them wanted the twenty per cent, paid in advance by way of
guarantee against loss. There were plenty of wild stories concerning the
treasures of the moor. Were there not, upon every side, evidences of the
existence of precious minerals in the shape of abandoned mines? There
were tales of rich lodes which had been lost, but were sure to be picked
up again some day. The mining tradition was strong; but it was notorious
that copper and tin could hardly be worked at a profit. Pezzack answered
that he had discovered nickel, which was something far better, and his
announcement certainly did cause some of the flutter which Pendoggat had
looked for. The retired grocer took advantage of an excursion train to
Plymouth, ascended upon the moor, and having been sworn to secrecy was
conducted by Pendoggat, acting as Pezzack's manager, to the treasure
cave, and shown the ripe nickel running down its sides. Pendoggat also
knocked off a piece of the wall and appeared to give it to the retired
grocer as a sample. What he actually gave him was a fragment of
dirty-grey metal, which had not come from that cave or anywhere near it,
but had been procured by Pendoggat at some expense, seeing that it
really was a sample of nickel. The retired grocer had come down in
doubt, but returned converted to Bromley, submitted the sample to an
analyst, and subsequently acted foolishly. He was meddling with what he
did not understand, which is one of the most attractive things in life.
Adulterated groceries he could comprehend, because he had won retirement
out of them; but the mining industry was something quite outside his
experience. Apparently he thought that nickel could be taken off the
sides of a cave in much the same way as blackberries are picked off a
hedge. He confided the matter to a few friends, making them swear to say
nothing about it; and when they had told all their acquaintances
applications for shares in the good thing began to reach the retired
grocer, who unfortunately had nothing to occupy his time. He was soon
feeling himself a man of some importance, and this naturally assisted
him to entertain a very avuncular regard for nephew Pezzack, and a
friendly feeling for the "simple countryman Pendoggat" and the precious
metal called nickel. He thought of himself as a financial magnate, and
subscribed to the _Mining Journal_. He talked no more of prime Dorset,
nor did he discuss concerning the most suitable sand to mingle with
sugar; but he rehearsed the slang of the money-market instead, remarked
that he had struck a gilt-edged security, looked in the paper every
morning and observed to his wife that copper was recovering, or that
diamonds continued to droop. The head-quarters of the Tavy Cleave Nickel
Mining Company were really not upon Dartmoor at all, but at Bromley in a
straight little jerry-built street; which was exactly what the "simple
countryman Pendoggat" wanted.

A meeting of prospective shareholders was held in the chapel, but it
turned out a wet stormy evening and very few attended. Brother Pendoggat
led in prayer, which took a pessimistic view of things generally;
Pezzack delivered an impressive address on the need of more stability in
human affairs; and when the party had been worked into a suitable state
of enthusiasm, and were prepared to listen to anything, they got to
business.

The minister was destined to be astounded that evening by his brother in
religion and partner in business. Eli told the party what it was there
for, which it knew already, and then unfolded his prospectus, as it
were, before their eyes, telling them he had discovered a rich vein of
nickel, and contemplated forming a small company to work the same. It
was to be quite a private affair, and operations would be conducted as
unobtrusively as possible. The capital suggested was £500, divided into
five-shilling shares. While Eli talked Pendoggat sat motionless, his
arms folded, and his eyes upon his boots.

"Where's the mine?" asked a voice.

Pezzack replied he was not at liberty to say at that stage of the
proceedings; but he had brought a sample to show them, which was
produced and handed round solemnly, no one examining it with more
interest than Pendoggat, who had provided it. Every one declared that it
was nickel sure enough, although they had never seen the metal before,
and had scarcely an idea between them as to its value or the uses to
which it could be put.

"Us had best talk about it," suggested one of the party, and every one
agreed that was a sound idea, but nobody offered to say anything, until
an old farmer arose and stated heavily--

"Us knows there be rich trade under Dartmoor. My uncle, he worked on
Wheal Betsey, and he worked on Wheal Virtuous Lady tu, and he told I
often there was a plenty of rich trade down under, but cruel hard to get
at. He told I that many a time. Wouldn't hardly pay to work, 'twas so
hard to get at, he said. Such a main cruel lot o' watter, he said. Fast
as they gotten it out back it comed again. That's what he said, but he
be dead now."

The old fellow sat down with the air of a man who had cleared away
difficulties, and the others dragged their boots upon the boards with a
melancholy sound. Then some one else rose and asked if water was likely
to interfere with the mining of the nickel. Eli replied that there
certainly was water, and that announcement brought the old farmer up to
say: "It wun't pay to work." He added reasons also, in the same strain
as before.

An interval of silence followed. A deadlock had been reached. Those
present were inclined to nibble, but they all wanted the nickel for
themselves. They did not like the idea of taking shares and sharing
profits. They wanted to be told the precise locality of the mine, so
that they could go and help themselves. Pezzack had nothing more to say.
The old farmer had only his former statements about his uncle to repeat;
and he did so several times, using the same words.

At last Pendoggat got up, began to mumble, and every one leaned forward
to listen. Most of them did not like Pendoggat because they were afraid
of him; but they believed him to be a man of superior knowledge to
themselves, and they were inclined on the whole to follow his
leadership.

"We all trust the minister," Pendoggat was saying. "He's found nickel,
and he thinks there is money to be got out of it. He's right enough.
There is nickel. I've found it myself. That sample he had handed round
is as good a bit of nickel as ever I saw. But there's not enough of it.
We couldn't work it so as to pay expenses. It's on the common too, and
we would have to get permission from the Duchy, and pay them a royalty."

"Us could get out of that," a voice interrupted. "Them who cracks
granite be supposed to pay the Duchy royalties, but none of 'em du."

"Mining's different," replied Pendoggat. "The Duchy don't worry to
collect their granite royalties. 'Twould cost 'em more trouble than the
stuff is worth. There's more money in minerals than in granite. They
don't let a mine be started without knowing all about it. Minister has
told us what he knows, and we believe him. He won't deceive us. He
wouldn't tell a lie to save his life. We are proud of our minister, for
he's a good one."

"He be," muttered a chorus of approving voices.

"Looks like a bishop, sitting up there," exclaimed one of the admirers.

"So he du. So he be," cried they all.

The meeting was waking up. Eli sat limply, gazing at Pendoggat, very
unhappy and white, and looking much more like a large maggot than a
bishop.

"There's the trouble about the water," Pendoggat went on. "The whole
capital would go in keeping that pumped out, and it would beat us in the
end. All the money in the world wouldn't keep Tavy Cleave pumped dry.
I'm against the scheme, and I've got up to say I won't have anything to
do with it. I'm not going to put a penny of my money into any Dartmoor
mine, and if I did I should expect to lose it. That's all I've got to
say. The minister's not a commoner, and he don't know Dartmoor. He don't
know anything about mining either, except what he's picked up from
folks. He's a good man, and he wants to help us. But I tell him, and I
tell you, there's not enough nickel on the whole of Dartmoor to pay the
expense of working it."

Pendoggat shambled back into his chair, while his listeners looked at
one another and admitted he had spoken wisely, and Eli writhed
worm-like, wondering if there could be anything wrong with his ears. He
had been prepared to hear a certain amount of destructive criticism; but
that the whole scheme should be swept aside by Pendoggat as hopeless was
inexplicable. The old farmer seized the opportunity to stand upright and
repeat his former observations concerning his uncle, and the wheals, and
the "cruel lot o' watter" in them. Then the meeting collapsed
altogether. Pendoggat had killed it. The only thing left was the
mournful conclusion of a suitable prayer; and then to face the rain and
a wild ride homewards. There was to be no local support for the Nickel
Mining Company, Limited. Pendoggat's opposition had done for it.

The tenant of Helmen Barton had risen several points in the estimation
of those present, with the obvious exception of the staggered Pezzack.
He had proved himself a bold man and fearless speaker. He had not shrunk
from performing the unpleasant duty of opposing his pastor. Eli always
looked like a maggot. Now he felt like one. Pendoggat had set his foot
upon him and squashed him utterly. He would not be a wealthy man, there
was no immediate prospect of matrimony, nor would there be any new
Ebenezer, the presence of which would attract a special blessing upon
them, and the architecture of which would be a perpetual reproach to
that portion of the moor. It was an exceedingly troubled maggot that
wriggled up to Pendoggat, when the others had departed, and the door had
been fastened against the wind.

"This is an appalling catostrophe, Mr. Pendoggat." Eli often blundered
over long words, never having learnt derivations. "The most excruciating
catostrophe I can remember. I am feeling like chaff scattered by the
wind."

He was trying to rebuke Pendoggat. He was too much in awe of him to
speak more bitterly. Besides, he was a good Christian, and Eli never
lost sight of that fact, knowing that as a minister it was his duty not
to revile his fellow-creatures more than was necessary.

Pendoggat stood under a cold lamp, which cast a cold light upon his
black head, and his eyes were upon his boots. Eli stumbled against a
chair, and in trying to regain his balance fell against his companion,
causing him to lose control over himself for an instant. He struck out
his arm and sent Pezzack sprawling among the chairs like an ash-faggot,
a prospect of long black coat and big flat boots. Eli did not mind
tumbling, because he was used to it, not having been endowed with much
sense of gravity. He went about on a bicycle, and was constantly falling
off, and cutting fantastic figures in the air, between Brentor and
Bridestowe. But just then he had an idea that brute force had been used
against him. Pendoggat had struck him, not like the righteous who smite
in friendly reproof, but like the heathen who rage together furiously.
"Why did you strike me, Mr. Pendoggat?" he muttered, dragging himself to
a sitting posture upon a chair and looking whiter than ever. "You cast
me aside like a potter's vessel. Your precious palm might have broke my
'ead."

"Why can't you stand up, man?" said Pendoggat amicably. "You fell
against my arm where I pinched it this morning in the linny door. I
couldn't help pushing you away, and maybe I pushed harder than I meant,
for you hurt me. You tumbled over your own feet. Not hurt, are ye?"

"Yes, Mr. Pendoggat," whispered Eli. It was so silent in that dreary
chapel that the least sound was audible. "Not 'ere, not in my body, but
in my 'eart; not by the push you gave me, but by the words you 'ave
spoken. I stood up to-night, and I spoke like a fool, and I felt like a
fool. I was doing the work that you gave me to do, Mr. Pendoggat, and
you spoke against me."

Eli was growing bold. He had scraped some skin from his leg, and the
smart gave him courage. He was feeling bitter also, and life seemed to
be a failure just then. There was nothing for it but to grub along and
preach the Gospel in poverty, a very laudable existence, but equally
unsatisfying. He was waking from a golden dream to discover himself in
the cold, just as Brightly dreamed of mythical Jerusalem and remained
upon the dungheap. A little more of such treatment and Eli might have
developed a tendency towards chronic misanthropy.

Pendoggat was amused. He realised that the minister was really
suffering, both in body and mind. Eli was like some wretched rabbit in
the iron jaws of a trap; and Pendoggat was the one who had set the trap,
and was standing over it, able to let the creature out, and intending to
do so, but not until a fair amount of suffering had been exacted.
Pezzack was as much in his power as the rabbit in the hands of the
trapper. He was weak and Pendoggat was strong. Eli was a poor stunted
thing grown in a London back yard; Pendoggat was a tough moorland
growth.

"I reckon you did speak like a fool," he said, while Eli wondered what
he was looking at: himself, the floor, or the granite wall with its
little beads of moisture glistening in the lamplight. "You put it to
them all wrong. If I hadn't stood up they might have got it into their
heads you were trying to trick 'em. You spoke all the time as if you
didn't know what you were talking about. You're a good preacher,
Pezzack, though not outspoken enough, but you're no good at business.
You wouldn't make a living outside the pulpit."

Eli was crushed again. His anger had departed, and he was nursing his
leg and his sorrows patiently. He believed that Pendoggat, with all his
roughness, was a man in whom he could trust. The commoner did not come
with a smooth smile, canting to his face, then departing to play him
false. He behaved like the honest rugged man he was; giving him a rough
grasp of the hand, pushing him off harshly when he hurt him, telling him
plainly of his faults, chiding him for his folly, speaking that which
was in his mind. Eli thought he knew something about human nature, and
that knowledge convinced him that if he should refuse to follow
Pendoggat he would lose his best friend. Pendoggat might behave like a
bear; but there was nothing of the bear about him except the skin.

"I was doing my best. I said all I could, but I know my words must 'ave
sounded poor and foolish," he said mournfully. "Now it's all over, and I
must write to Jeconiah, and tell her we can't be married just yet. It is
a cruel blow, but the things of this world, Mr. Pendoggat, are but as
dross. The moth corrupteth, and the worm nibbleth, and we are shadows
which pass away and come not again." Eli shivered and subsided. He was
mournful, and the interior of Ebenezer was as cold as an ice-house.

Pendoggat came forward and fastened his hands upon Eli's bony shoulders.
He thought it was time to take him out of the trap. The creature was
becoming torpid and indifferent to suffering, and there was no more
pleasure to be obtained from watching it. Besides, he was hungry, and
wanted to get home that his own needs might be satisfied.

"We'll do it yet," he said in his low mumbling voice. "We can get along
quite well without these folks. They haven't got much money, and if any
of 'em had invested a few pounds they would have been after us all the
time and given us no rest. We'll rely on your uncle and his friends. I
reckon they can invest enough among them to start the affair. I'll pull
you through, Pezzack. I'll make a rich man of you yet."

Pendoggat was proving his title to be ranked among the clever men who
are knaves. He had served himself well that evening; by making the
neighbourhood think better of him; by exposing himself to Pezzack as a
man of rough honesty; by rejecting local support, which would always
have been dangerous, and was after all worth little; and by fastening
his hopes upon the grocer of Bromley and his friends, who were a day's
journey distant, were worthy ignorant souls, and could not drop in
casually to ascertain how affairs were progressing. He had also seen the
maggot wriggling in his trap.

"Don't write to the maid," Pendoggat went on. "Have her down and marry
her. It's safe enough. There will be plenty of money coming your way
presently."

Eli looked up. He could not see the speaker because Pendoggat was
standing behind the chair. The minister could see nothing except the
chilly damps of Ebenezer. But his soul was rejoicing. Pendoggat was
making the rough places smooth. "I knew you wouldn't deceive me," he
said. "You gave me your 'and that night in Tavy Cleave, and told me I
could trust you. When you spoke to-night I did not understand, Mr.
Pendoggat. I almost thought you were going to leave me destitute. I will
write to Jeconiah. I shall tell her you are a generous man."

"Why not marry?" muttered Pendoggat. "It will be safe enough. The money
will come. I'll guarantee it."

"There is no immediate necessity, Mr. Pendoggat," said Eli with
ludicrous earnestness. "There has been nothing wrong between us. We are
able to wait. But we desire to enter the 'oly estate. We are always
talking when we meet of the 'appiness that must be found in that
condition. You 'ave always been as good as your word, Mr. Pendoggat. If
you can promise me the money will come, I think--I do really think, my
dear brother, Jeconiah and me might reasonably be welded together in the
bonds of matrimony at a very early date. I might even suggest next
month, Mr. Pendoggat."

Eli was becoming somewhat incoherent and extravagant in speech.

"I'll promise you the money. I'll see you through," said Pendoggat.

The minister could hardly put out the lamps, his hands were shaking so.
He stumbled out of Ebenezer, shivering with delight, and slobbering with
gratitude and benevolence.

Pendoggat went on his way alone. He was walking, and the road took him
beside Lewside Cottage. Rain was still falling, but he did not feel it
because it was being blown against his back. As he came near the cottage
he heard a sound of singing. The blinds had not been drawn down, and the
lamplight passed across the road to melt into the darkness of the moor.
Boodles was singing merrily. She was happy like Eli, and for much the
same reason, only she expressed her happiness in a delightful fashion,
just because she was a nice little girl, and he was only a poor weak
thing of a man. Pendoggat looked in at the window. The child was
standing under the lamp, sewing and singing industriously. The light was
full upon the radiant head. Opposite the window were some great
gorse-bushes, and the yellow blooms with which they were covered came
also within the lamplight. The girl's head and the gorse-flowers were
somewhat similar in colour.

Pendoggat suddenly lifted his stout stick at one of the gorse-bushes,
and struck a quantity of the golden blossoms off it.




CHAPTER X

ABOUT THE VIGIL OF ST. GOOSE


Mary's greatest possession was her umbrella, which was no ordinary
article, and would have been of little service to the orthodox woman,
because she would have lacked strength to raise it aloft in a breeze.
When unfurled it covered about as much ground as a military tent, and
cast a shade like an oak-tree. Not that Mary often unfurled it. The
umbrella was far too precious to be used. She carried it about on those
rare occasions when she went abroad, as a sort of symbol of the state of
civilisation to which she had attained. It was with her very much what
the pastoral staff is to a bishop; a thing unused, but exhibited.
Umbrellas are useless things upon Dartmoor, because the wind makes
wreckage of them at once. The Marian gamp was a monstrous creation, very
old and patched, possibly had been used once as a carriage umbrella, and
it was more baggy than its mistress's bloomers. Its stock was made of
holly, not from a branch, but a good-sized stem, and a yard of twine was
fastened about it to keep the ribs from flapping. Mary carried it
usually beneath her arm, and found it always terribly in the way.

Grandfather was tacitly admitted to be Peter's property. He had no
proprietary interest in the umbrella. Mary never ventured to touch
Grandfather, and Peter had not been known to place his hands upon the
umbrella. Primitive people like to take their possessions about with
them, that they may show others how well off they are. A little servant
girl goes out to the revel smothered with all her wearing apparel,
winter things on top of summer things, regardless of season, and with
all the cut glass in rolled-gold settings stuck about her that she can
lay her hands on. Two sisters are able to present a fine show by going
out in turn. Annie ventures forth clad with all the property in common,
while Bessie stays at home, not much better draped than a Greek statue.
Mary took her umbrella about, not because she wanted it, but to convince
strangers that she owned something to be proud of. Nobody was jealous.
She could have left the umbrella anywhere, and not a soul would have
touched it. Peter would have taken Grandfather about with him had it
been possible; but as the clock was twice Peter's size, and could not be
attached to a brass chain and slung in his waistcoat pocket, it had to
remain in Number One, Hut-Circles, and wheeze away the hours in
solitude.

There was suppressed excitement in New Gubbings Land. Peter was more
absent-minded than ever, and Mary was quite foolish. She served up
before her brother the barley-meal which her geese did eat, after
scattering their own dinner to the birds. It was all because they were
going on a long journey. Peter had remained quiescent for years; and,
like most men who have travelled much, he felt at last the call of the
outer world and the desire to be again in motion. Mary had the same
feeling, which was the more strange as she had never travelled. It was
the fault of the concert. Since that festival Mary had become unsettled.
It had taught her there were experiences which she had not enjoyed. Mary
thought she had done a good deal, but as a matter of fact she had never
been in a train, nor had she slept a night out of the parish. When Peter
said he meant to travel again, Mary declared she was coming too. Peter
tried to discourage her, explaining that travelling was expensive, and
dangerous also. A hardened wanderer like himself was able to face the
risks, but she would not be equal to the strain. It was a terrifying
experience to be carried swiftly along the railway, and had frightened
him badly the first time. He advised Mary to walk, and let him have the
money she would otherwise have squandered. Arguments were useless. Comic
songs had ruined Mary's contentment. She was sorry she had not travelled
before, and declared she was going to take her umbrella and begin. So
they decided to venture to Tavistock to keep the festival of St. Goose.

Mary had been to Goose Fair before, walking there and back; and for
Peter the experience was nothing. Peter had trodden the streets of
Plymouth, and had been long ago to Winkleigh Revel, although he could
recall little of that expedition--the morning after the event he
remembered nothing--but the certainty that he had made the great journey
into the wilds of mid-Devon remained, and there was proof in the
presence of a large mug with a tin handle upon the mantelshelf, bearing
the touching inscription, "Tak' a drop o' gin, old dear," in quaint
lettering, which mug, Peter declared, had come with him from Winkleigh
Revel, although any one curious enough to have turned it upside down
might have discovered "Manor Hotel, Lydford," stamped underneath.

Peter had always felt superior to his sister, apart from the sublime
fact of his manhood. He was not only highly educated, but he had
travelled, and he feared that if Mary travelled too her eyes would be
opened, and she might consider herself his equal. Therefore he had a
distinct motive in begging her to bide at home, although his eloquence
was in vain, for Mary was going to travel. She stated her intention of
walking across the moor to Lydford and catching the train there, which
was needless expense, as she might have gone down to St. Mary Tavy
station; but she desired to make a great journey, something to boast of
in days to come.

A vigil suggests sleeplessness, a watching through the night which
precedes the day of the feast; and Mary observed the vigil more
thoroughly than any nun. Plenty of girls were equally devout at the same
time; keeping awake, not because they wanted to, but because excitement
rendered sleep impossible. Thomasine observed the vigil, and even
Boodles watched and wished the dark gone. It was a long night all over
Dartmoor. Even Siberian Princetown was aroused; and those who were being
punished for their sins had the additional mortification of knowing that
they would be behind prison bars on the day when the greatest saint in
the calendar according to the use of Dartmoor, the blatant and waddling
St. Goose, was to be honoured by a special service of excursion trains
and various instruments of music.

Dawn impelled every maid to glance at the chair beside her bed, to be
sure that the pixies had not run away with her fair-clothes. Thomasine
looked for her completed petticoat, Boodles for her boy's photograph,
Mary for her umbrella. There had been no pixy-pranks, and the day came
in with a promise of sunshine. There were no lie-a-beds that morning.
Even Peter had been restless, and Grandfather possibly noticed that the
little man had not snored so regularly as usual.

To the dweller in the wilds there is no getting away from fair-day, the
great country holiday of the year. Those who would wish to abolish such
festivals should remember that country-folk have few pleasures, and the
fair is about the last, and is certainly one of the greatest,
inducements to keep them on the land. To a large number it is the single
outing of the year; a thing to talk about for months before and
afterwards; the day of family reunion, when a girl expects to see her
parents, the young man meets his brother, and the old folk keep
associations going. The fair is to country-folk very much what Christmas
is to the better classes. And as for the pleasures they are nothing like
so lurid as have been represented. Individuals are vicious; a
pleasure-seeking crowd is not. There is a vast deal of drunkenness, and
this is by far the worst feature, and one which cannot be eliminated
except by compulsory closing of all houses of refreshment, which would
be only possible under a Saturnian régime. As evening approaches there
is also much of that unpleasantness which is associated with
drunkenness, and is described in police-reports as obscene language. The
fair-ground is not the best place for highly respectable people. It is
the dancing-place of the lower classes; and as such the fair is a
success and practically harmless. The girls are out for fun, and when
they see a good-looking young man are not above making advances; and the
stranger who steps up and introduces himself is sure of a welcome on his
face value. It is all free and natural. Nearly every one is the better,
and very few are the worse, for the holiday. Liquor is the principal
cause of what evils there are. Tavistock Goose Fair after dark is far
more respectable than Hyde Park at midnight.

Peter and Mary set forth on their walk across the moor to Lydford
station, both of them attired in the festive garments which had been
last assumed for the concert, Mary's large right hand clutching the
umbrella by its ribs, Peter smoking industriously. They made a bee-line
for their destination, heedless of mossy bogs, which were fairly firm at
that time of the year. There were no rocks to hinder them. It is a bald
stretch of moor between St. Mary Tavy and Lydford. Mary was breathing
furiously from sheer excitement and nervousness, being dreadfully afraid
they would miss the train. There was the station "down under," not more
than half-a-mile away, and the train was not due for an hour, but Mary
continued on the double. She did not understand mathematics and
timetables. Peter trudged behind in a state of phlegmatic calm, natural
to an old traveller, who had been to Plymouth by the sea and to
Winkleigh on the hill.

For some time they had the platform to themselves. Then the moor began
to give forth its living: young men and maidens, old men and wives, all
going a-fairing, some treating the matter irreverently with unmusical
laughter, others regarding the occasion as meet for an austere
countenance. Peter was among those who cackled, while Mary was on the
side of the anxious. She had to remind herself continually that she was
enjoying life, although she would much rather have been at home chasing
Old Sal among the furze-bushes. When the signals fell, and the bell
rang, and the station began to rumble as the train approached, she
clutched Peter and suggested they should return home. "Don't ye get
mazed," said Peter crossly. "Come along wi' I."

Mary endeavoured to do so, but lost her head entirely when the train
drew up, and went on to behave very much like a dog at a fair. She lost
sight of her brother, scurried up and down the platform looking for him,
and became still more confused when the cry, "Take your seats, please,"
sounded in her ears. The guard, who was used to queer passengers, took
her by the arm with the idea of putting her into a carriage, but Mary
defended herself against his designs with her umbrella, and breaking
loose endeavoured to join the engine-driver. Meeting with no
encouragement there she turned back, and was seized by Peter, who told
her plainly she was acting foolishly, and again commanded her to come
along with him. Mary obeyed, and everything was going favourably, and
they were just about to enter a compartment when the umbrella slipped
oat of her nervous hand, bumped upon the edge of the platform, and slid
beneath the train.

Mary resumed her normal condition at once, caring no longer for train,
crowd, or fair, while the fear of travelling ceased to trouble when she
perceived that the umbrella had departed from her. She stood upon the
platform, and declared with an oath that the system of the railway
should work no more until the umbrella had been restored to her hands.
Time was of no account to Mary. She refused to enter the train without
her umbrella; neither should the train proceed, for she would hold on to
it. Peter upheld his sister. The umbrella was a family heirloom. The
station-master and guard urged and blasphemed in vain. The homely
epithets of the porter were received with contempt and the response, "Us
bain't a-going. Us be going to bide."

Passengers in the adjoining compartment were perturbed, because it was
rumoured among them that the poor woman had dropped a baby beneath the
train, and they believed that the officials were contending that there
was nothing in the regulations about ordinary humanity, and it was
therefore their duty to let the child remain there. The guard and
station-master became unpopular. The passengers were in no great hurry
to proceed, as they were out for a day's enjoyment; and as for Mary,
great was her lamentation for the lost umbrella.

"'Tis a little gal, name of Ella," explained a stout commoner with his
head out of the window, for the benefit of others in the carriage.

"Sounded to me like Bella," replied his wife, differing from him merely
as a matter of principle.

"There's no telling. They give 'em such fancy names now-a-days," said
another excursionist.

"Her be screaming cruel," said the stout commoner.

"I don't hear 'en," declared his wife. They got along very well
together, those two, and made conversation easily, one by offering a
statement, the other by differing.

"I du," said a young woman in a white frock, which was already showing
about the waist some finger-impressions of her young man, who sat beside
her. "She'm right underneath the carriage. Don't ye hear she, Ben?"

Ben gave a nervous smile, gulped, arranged his tie, which would keep
slipping up to his chin, moistened his lips, then parted them to utter
the monosyllable which was required. He heard the child screaming
distinctly. Having stated as much, he proceeded to record his
fingerprints accurately upon the young woman's waist.

A farmer from Inwardleigh, who had entered the train at Okehampton, and
had slept peacefully ever since, woke up at that moment, looked out, saw
the bare moor, remarked in a decided voice that he wouldn't live on
Dartmoor for a thousand pounds, and went to sleep again. The stout
commoner took up his parable and said--

"There be a little man got out now, and he'm poking about wi' a stick,
trying to get the baby out. Did ever hear of trying to get a baby up wi'
an ash-stick, woman?"

His wife replied that she had never heard of a baby getting underneath a
train before, and she thought people ought to be ashamed of themselves
getting drunk so early in the morning.

"Babies oughtn't to be took to the vair," said the young woman in the
white frock. "I shan't tak' mine when I has 'em."

This remark caused young man Ben to smile nervously again.

The Inwardleigh farmer opened his eyes and wanted to know why the train
was motionless. He was getting so thirsty that he could sleep no more.
"Us might sing a hymn," he suggested; and proceeded forthwith to make a
noise like a chaff-cutting machine, preparatory to describing himself in
song as a pure and spotless being whose sins had been entirely washed
away. Had he given his face and hands the attention which, according to
his own statement, his soul had received, he would have been a more
presentable object. The young woman in the white frock knew the hymn,
and joined in vigorously, claiming for her soul a whiteness which her
dress could not equal. The farmer was so delighted with her singing that
he leaned forward and kissed the damsel rapturously. The unhappy Ben
dared not remonstrate with his elders and betters, but merely sat and
gulped. By this time Peter had dropped his stick beneath the train,
where it reposed side by side with the umbrella.

"They'm going to run the train back," said the stout commoner.

"The baby 'll be dead," remarked his wife cheerfully. She was not going
to be depressed upon a holiday.

Peter and Mary stood upon the platform, a statuesque, obstinate pair,
determined to give the railway company no mercy. It was nothing to them
that the train was being delayed. Their property was underneath it, and
all the Gubbings blood in them rebelled.

"I'll bide till I gets my umbrella. Tak' your mucky old train off 'en,"
said Mary, wagging her big hand at the men in authority; while Peter
added that his intention was also to bide until his ash-stick should be
returned to him.

Finally the train was backed, the umbrella and stick were recovered, and
the savages permitted themselves to be bundled into the first
compartment handy, amid laughter from the heads at the windows and
profanity from the mouths of the officials. The train drew out of the
station, and Mary subsided into a corner and held on tightly, shouting
to her brother, "Shet the window, Peter, du'ye. Us may be falling out."

Peter tried to explain that would not be easy, but Mary was unable to
listen. Her former fears had returned. She clutched her umbrella,
trembled, and prayed to the gods of Brentor and the gods of
Ebenezer--Mary's religion was a misty affair--for a safe deliverance
from the perils of the railway. She had a feeling as if she was about to
part with her breakfast. She had also a distinct admiration just then
for all those who went down to the towns in trains, and for her brother,
who sat calmly upon the cushions--it was a first-class compartment which
they had invaded--and spat contentedly upon the carpet. The speed of the
train exceeded thirty miles an hour, and poor Mary's bullet head was
rolling upon her shoulders.

"Aw, my dear life!" she moaned. "I feels as if my belly were running
back to home again. Where be us, Peter?"

"On the railway," her brother answered, with truth, but without
brilliance. The remark was reassuring to Mary, however. She thought the
train had got upon the moor somehow and was speeding furiously down a
steep place towards destruction upon the rocks. A glance from the window
gave no comfort. It was terrible to see the big tors tumbling past like
a lot of drunken giants.

"Mind what I told ye," observed Peter. "Yew wun't like travelling, I
ses. 'Tis easy when yew begins young, but yew be too old to begin."

"Us ha' got legs, and us was meant to use 'em. Us was never meant to run
abroad on wheels," said Mary. "If ever I gets home, I'll bide."

Peter refilled his pipe, and began to boast of his experiences upon sea
and land; how he had ventured upon the ocean and penetrated to a far
country. Mary had heard it all before, but she had never been so
impressed as she was then by her brother's account of his famous
crossing of the Hamoaze in a fishing-boat, and his alighting upon the
distant shore of Torpoint to stand upon Cornish soil. But while Peter
was describing how he had been rocked "cruel and proper" upon the waves
of what it pleased him to style the Atlantic, brakes fell heavily upon
the wheels, a whistle sounded, and the train dragged itself gradually to
a standstill. There was no station in sight. The moor heaved on both
sides of the line. Even Peter was at a loss to explain the sudden
stoppage for a moment.

"The train be broke," said Mary, who was bold now that she had ceased
from travelling. "They've run 'en over a nail, and us mun bide till 'em
blows the wheels out again."

Mary comprehended bicycles, and had contemplated tourists, who were so
foolish as to bring their machines upon Dartmoor, pumping away at
punctured tyres. Peter did not contradict because he was perturbed. He
understood that the train had not broken down; but he believed that an
accident was impending. Out of his worldly wisdom he spoke: "It be a
collusion, I reckon."

Suspiciously Mary demanded an explanation.

"'Tis when two trains hit one into t'other," explained Peter, striking
his left fist into his right palm. "That be a collusion. Same as if yew
was to run into a wall in the dark," he added.

The meaning of these words did not dawn upon Mary for some moments. When
she did grasp them she made for the door, with the intention of
abandoning the railway forthwith; but the train gave a sudden jerk,
which threw her upon the seat, and then began to glide back. Peter
thrust his head out of the window and perceived they were making for a
siding. He and his sister had delayed the train so long that an express
which was due to follow had almost caught them up, and had made it
necessary for the local train, which has to wait for everything, to get
off the main line. Peter did not understand that. Even old travellers
make mistakes sometimes. He considered that the situation was desperate.

"They'm trying to get away, trying cruel hard," he said drearily.

"What be 'em getting away from?" gasped Mary.

"T'other train," her brother answered.

"Aw, Peter, will 'em du it?"

"Bain't hardly likely," said Peter dolefully.

"Be t'other train going to run into we?"

Peter admitted that it was so, adding: "I told ye to bide to home."

"Will us get hurt?" moaned Mary.

"Smashed to bits. They newspapers will tell us was cut to pieces," said
Peter, in his gloomiest fashion. "How much have ye got in the
money-box?" he asked.

With prophetic insight Peter perceived that he would be spared. Mary
would be destroyed, together with all the other passengers, and Peter
naturally was anxious to know the amount of hard cash he was likely to
inherit.

But Mary gave no heed to the avaricious question. She groaned and rubbed
her eyes with the umbrella. It was the umbrella she was thinking of
rather than herself. Somehow she could not imagine her own body mangled
upon the line; but a melancholy picture of the wrecked umbrella was
clear before her eyes.

In the next compartment the farmer was still singing hymns, accompanied
by a chorus. Mary thought they were praying. This was travelling,
enjoying life, a day's pleasure, St. Goose's Day! Mary wished with all
her heart she had never left her geese and her hut-circle. In the
meantime Peter was keeping her well informed.

"They be running the train off on Dartmoor," he explained. "There's a
gurt cleave down under, and they be going to run us down that. Us mun
get smashed either way."

"Why don't us get out and run away?" suggested frightened Mary.

As she spoke the train stopped. It was safe in the siding, although the
savages did not know that. They supposed that the motive power had
failed, or the engine-driver had come to realise that escape was
hopeless, and had abandoned the train to secure his own safety. Peter
saw a man running along the line. He was only a harmless pointsman going
about his business, but Peter supposed him to be the base engine-driver
flying for his life, and he told Mary as much. Even Peter's nerve was
somewhat shaken by this time. Mary said plainly she should follow the
example of the engine-driver. "My legs be as good as his," she cried. "I
hain't a-going to bide here and be broke up like an old goosie's egg. I
be a-going out."

"They'll fine ye," cried Peter. "There be a notice yonder. For
trampesing on the line a sum not exceeding forty shilluns--"

"Bain't that better than getting smashed to pieces?" shouted Mary.

Peter was not sure. He could not translate the phrase "not exceeding,"
but he had a clear notion that it meant considerably more than forty
shillings.

Mary was struggling with the door. In another moment she would have
opened it, but a terrific interruption occurred. There sounded a wild
whistling, and a roar which stunned her, and caused her to fall back
upon the seat to prepare hurriedly for her doom, to recall various
religious memories and family associations, and to mutter fervently such
disjointed scraps of sun-worship and Christianity as: "Our Vaither,
hollered be the name, kingdom come. Angels and piskies, long-stones and
crosses, glory to 'em all. Amen."

Then the express thundered past, shaking everything horribly. The
tragedy was soon over, and Peter emerged into the light with worm-like
wrigglings. For all his courage and experience he had dived beneath the
seat, conscious somehow that any change of position would be better than
no change. Everything seemed to have become very quiet all at once. They
could hear the wind whistling gently over the moor, and the water
splashing below. Mary had no idea what had happened, but she quite
believed that Peter's worst fears had been realised, and that the
"collusion" had actually occurred. So she groaned, and did not venture
to move, and muttered feebly: "I be cut to pieces."

"No, you bain't," said Peter cheerfully. "Us got away after all."

With a little more encouragement Mary stretched herself, discovered that
she and the umbrella were both intact, and from that moment the joy of
life was hers again. They had escaped somehow. The express had missed
them, and Peter assured her it was not likely to return. He admitted
they had gone through a terrifying experience, which was as novel to him
as to Mary; and his conclusion of the whole matter was that the
engine-driver had undoubtedly saved their lives by cool and daring
courage in the presence of fearful danger.

"He saw t'other train coming, and got us out o' the way just in time.
Yew saw how near t'other train was. Only just missed us," explained
Peter.

"He'm a cruel larned man," declared Mary. "He ought to be given
something. Ought to be fined forty shilluns." Poor Mary was anxious to
learn the English language; but when she made use of strange words she
betrayed her ignorance.

"You means rewarded," Peter corrected out of the depths of his
education.

"Aw ees," said Mary. "Us will reward 'en wi' a shillun."

Peter did not see the necessity. As they were perfectly safe, and as no
further advantage could possibly accrue to them from the engine-driver's
heroism, he thought they might as well keep the shilling. The train drew
out of the siding, continued its journey, and Mary became quite
comfortable, even venturing to lean forward and look out of the window,
though the telegraph-poles and bridges frightened her at first. They
looked as if they were going to run into her, she said.

Nothing else eventful happened until they reached Tavistock, although
there was a good deal of human nature at work in the adjoining
compartment, where the Inwardleigh farmer had exchanged hymn-singing for
amorous suggestions, and had proceeded to appropriate the unfortunate
Ben's white-frocked young woman to himself. It was especially hard upon
the poor young clown, as he had paid for the railway tickets; but he had
only a couple of shillings for fairing, and the Inwardleigh farmer had
gold in his fob, so the girl naturally preferred to spend the day with
the man of well-filled pockets. Weak-minded young bumpkins sometimes
murder their sweethearts, and it is not very surprising. Even
degenerates get weary of playing the singularly uninteresting part of
the worm that is trampled on.

"Tavistock! Good Lord!" exclaimed Mary, with great relief, as the train
entered the station.

She and Peter tumbled out. Such people always tumble out of railway
carriages. They merely bang the door open, fall forward, and find their
feet somehow. It is easy to tell whether a person is well-bred or not by
the way he or she leaves a railway carriage. A young lady comes forth
after the manner of a butterfly settling on a flower. The country maid
emerges like a falling sack of wheat. Peter and Mary tumbled out, and
were considerably astonished not to find a procession of grateful
passengers advancing towards the engine to thank the driver for the
courage he had displayed in saving their lives. Every one seemed anxious
to quit the platform as soon as possible. Peter was shocked to discover
so much ingratitude. It was ignorance perhaps, indifference possibly,
but to Peter and Mary it seemed utter callousness. They felt themselves
capable of something better. So they pushed through the crowd, reached
the engine, and insisted upon shaking hands, not only with the driver,
but with the fireman also, and thanked them very much for bringing them
safely into Tavistock, and for having; avoided the "collusion," which
they, the speakers, confessed had at one time appeared to them as
inevitable. Peter invited them to come and have a drop of gin, and Mary
asked sympathetically after the "volks to home."

The men enjoyed the joke immensely. They thought that the quaint couple
were thanking them for having backed the train at Lydford in order that
Mary might recover her umbrella and Peter his ash-stick. They chaffed
them in a subtle fashion, and after a minute's complete mutual
misunderstanding bade them farewell with the ironical hope they might
some day save them again.

Mary was overflowing with generosity. As she and her brother turned away
she produced two shillings and instructed Peter to reward the heroes
suitably. Peter slipped the shillings unobtrusively into his own pocket.
With all his faults he was a strict man of business.




CHAPTER XI

ABOUT THE FEAST OF ST. GOOSE


The cult of the goose, so far as it concerns Tavistock Fair, is
gastronomic entirely, and has no religious significance. At dedication
festivals of a church some particular saint is flattered with
decorations and services, and his existence upon this world at one time
is taken for granted. In certain places a few bones are produced for the
edification of the faithful, and advertised as the great toe or the jaw
of the patron in question. Goose bones are displayed at the "gurt vair"
in lieu of the living creature, and they are unmistakably genuine, for
there is plenty of sound meat upon them. St. Goose is honoured with the
fun of the fair, while he himself is offered up on a charger. The
congregation of countryfolk devour their canonised bird, and wash him
down with beer and cider. There is not a living goose to be seen about
the town, but the atmosphere of the principal street is thick and
fragrant with sage and onions.

Peter and Mary trod the wide roads as delicately as large boots could,
feeling far too nervous to enjoy themselves. Peter would not enter into
the pleasure of the fair until he had swallowed several stimulating
pints, and even Mary was willing to take a little cordial for the sake
of her nerves. It was not so much the noises which disconcerted
her--there was plenty of howling wind and roaring water down Tavy
Cleave--as their unaccustomed nature. She was not used to steam
roundabouts, megaphones, and all the drums and shoutings of the showmen.
When Peter proposed an aërial trip upon wooden horses, Mary moved an
amendment in favour of light refreshment. Peter could not object to a
suggestion so full of sense, so they passed beside the statue of Francis
Drake, crossed the road, and were getting clear of the crowd, when a
familiar laugh reached their ears, and Mary saw a fresh and happy pair
of youngsters. Boodles and Aubrey, in high spirits and good health,
laughing at everything merely because they were together for a good long
day. Boodles had never looked nicer. West-country beauty is nothing but
fair hair and tinted skin; but Boodles was all glorious just then. She
was a flame rather than a flower. Her hair had never looked so radiant,
or her skin more golden. She was as happy as she could be; and when a
girl is like that she has to look splendid, whether she likes it or no.

Mary was soon after her, bellowing like a bullock, lunging with the
umbrella, shouting! "Aw, Miss Boodles! Aw, my dear! I be come to the
vair tu. Me and Peter has come to Goosie Vair. Where be ye going, my
dear?"

Boodles turned with a look of amazement. She had her flaming hair up,
beneath a big straw hat which was trimmed with poppies, and her dainty
frock just touched her ankles. She looked so deliciously clean that Mary
hardly liked to come near her, and she smelt, not like a chemist's shop,
but like the sweet earth after a shower. Mary drew her right hand
swiftly across her big tongue, rubbed the palm upon her buttock, and
held it out. She always shook hands with Boodles whenever they met. She
felt that the civilising contact lent her some of the womanhood which
nature had withheld.

"It's so jolly!" cried the child. "Such a lovely day, and everything
perfect. I'm glad you have come--and Peter too! Aubrey, this is Mary who
gives us eggs and butter. She and Peter live upon Tavy Cleave. You
know!"

Mary cleansed her right hand again.

"Why, Where's Peter?" cried Boodles.

Peter was already across the road, following his little turned-up nose
in the direction of a door which suggested pewters.

"He'm thirsty," explained Mary.

"Poor Peter!" laughed Boodles. "You must look after him, Mary. Don't
bring him home staggery."

Mary was not listening. Of course Peter would go home staggery. It was
the proper thing to do. How could a man be said to enjoy a fair if he
went home sober? Mary was regarding the young man. She was able to
reason with a good deal of clearness sometimes. It was not easy to
believe that the title _man_ included beings So far apart as Aubrey and
her brother, just as she found it hard to understand how the word
_woman_ could serve for Boodles and herself.

"Bain't he a proper young gentleman?" she exclaimed. "A main cruel
butiful young gentleman. Aw ees, my dear! I'd like to kiss a gentleman
like yew."

Mary had not felt so womanly for a long time. She comprehended there was
something in life beyond breeding geese, and cleaning turnips, and
bringing the furze-reek home; something that was not for her, because
she was too much of a man to be a woman.

Their answering laughter did not upset her, although it was in a way
expressive of the truth that there could never be any pleasant gilt upon
her gingerbread.

"It wouldn't do here. Rather too public," said the boy, with a sly look
in his blue eyes, squeezing his sweetheart's fingers as he spoke.

Boodles had flushed with pleasure. She would rather have heard Aubrey
praised than be praised herself. She was quite right when she had
declared Aubrey was the prettiest boy ever made. It was obvious even to
poor old wooden-faced half-man Mary.

Boodles and Aubrey hurried on, representatives of fun and laughter,
which were otherwise somewhat wanting. It was too early in the day for
excitement. The countryfolk were not yet warmed up; they were reserved,
and took the holiday seriously; hanging about the streets with a lost
expression, unwilling to change their shillings into pence, oppressed
with the idea that it would be necessary soon to enjoy themselves,
studiously avoiding the pleasure-ground in order that they might cling
to their cash a little longer, and quite content to look on and listen,
and welcome acquaintances with prolonged handshakes. The spending of the
first penny was difficult; the rest would be easy. There were some who
had not a penny to spend, and even they would be happy when the
temperature went up. A poor plain girl from some remote village will
stand in a puddle all day, and declare when she gets home she has never
enjoyed herself so much in her life. It is a sufficient pleasure, for
those who live in lonely places, to stand at a corner and stare at a
rollicking crowd for a few hours.

There was the fair within the town, and the fair without. That within
was beside the Tavy and among the ruins of the Abbey; that without was
also beside the Tavy, but upon the opposite bank. There was also the
business-fair, where beasts were bargained for: ponies, bullocks, pigs,
sheep, everything except geese. It was a festival which would have
delighted the hearts of Abbot Cullyng's gay monks, who, it is recorded,
wore secular garments about the town, divided their time between hunting
the deer on Dartmoor and holding drunken suppers in their cells, and
cared not at all for religious discipline or black-lettered tomes. Part
of the fair is held upon the former site of those monastic buildings,
and the ruin of Betsey Grimbal's tower looks down upon more honest
pleasures from what was once the Abbey garden. The foundation was
despoiled of its gold and silver images, and the drones were smoked out
of their nest, centuries ago, and what was their refectory is now by the
irony of fate a Unitarian chapel; and St. Goose has become a greater
saint than St. Rumon, who was claimed as a bishop of renown by his
Church, although secular history suggests no such gentleman ever lived.

Certain objects were against the railings of the church, objects neither
beautiful nor necessary; Brightly and his mongrel, hungry and
business-like as ever. They occupied very little space, and yet they
were in the way, principally because they were not pleasant to look
upon, being rather like heaps of refuse which the street-cleaners had
overlooked. Brightly was not there for the fun of the thing. He did not
know the meaning of such words as holiday and pleasure. Had any one
given him five shillings, and told him to go and enjoy himself, he would
not have known what to do. Both he and Ju were thinner, though that was
only interesting as a physiological fact. Brightly held up his
ridiculous head and sniffed continually. Ju did the same. The atmosphere
was redolent of sage and onions; and they were trying to feed upon it.

"Trade be cruel dull," muttered Brightly.

Ju did not acknowledge the remark. She had heard it so often, or words
to the same effect, that she deemed it unnecessary to respond with a
tail-wag. Besides, that sort of thing required energy, and Ju had none
to spare. She was wondering, if she followed up that wonderful odour,
whether she would obtain gratuitous goose at the other end.

"Tie-clips, penny each. Dree for duppence. Butiful pipes, two a penny,"
sang Brightly; but his miserable voice was drowned by the roundabouts
and megaphones.

Brightly was celebrating the general holiday by exchanging one form of
labour for another. It would have been useless to follow his usual
calling of purveyor of rabbit-skins that day, so he had become for the
time being a general merchant. He had obtained a trayful of small goods
on credit. Brightly had one fault, a grave one in business; he was
honest. So far he had sold nothing. He was merely demonstrating the
marvellous purchasing powers of a penny. It never occurred to him that
he was opposing his miserable little trayful of rubbish to all the
booths and pleasures of the great fair. Tie-clips and clay-pipes were
all he had to offer in competition with attractions which had delighted
kings and princes, if the honesty of the showmen could be accepted as
advertised. Even the fat woman admitted that royal personages had
pinched her legs. If Brightly had followed the fat lady's example, and
declared in a loud enough voice that autocrats smoked nothing but his
clay-pipes, and kept their decorations in place with his tie-clips, he
might have acquired many pennies.

Above the town, where the cattle-fair was in full swing, various hawkers
had established themselves; men who looked as if they had been made out
of metal, with faces of copper and tongues of brass. One man was giving
away gold rings, and if a recipient was not satisfied he threw in a
silver watch as well. He couldn't explain why he did such things. It was
his evil fate to have been born a philanthropist. He owned he had come
to the fair with the idea of selling his goods; but when he found
himself among so many happy, smiling people, fine young men, beautiful
girls, dear old folks who reminded him of his own parents, all making
holiday and enjoying themselves, with the sun shining and Nature at her
best, he felt totally unable to restrain his benevolence. He couldn't
take their money. It was weak and foolish of him, he knew, but he had to
give them the rings and watches, which, as they could see for
themselves, had cost him pounds, shillings, and pence, because he wanted
to send them home happy. His only idea was to give them a little present
so that they would remember him, and tell their friends what a simple
and generous creature they had encountered at the fair. So he flowed on,
with an eloquence which any missionary would have envied. And then he
produced a black bag, and said he wished to draw their attention to
something which he must really ask them to buy, not because he wanted
their money, but because he knew that people never really valued a thing
unless they gave something for it. It was a fatal thing, this
philanthropy, but it made him happy to be kind to others. Out of the bag
came some more rubbish, and the rascal was soon doing a roaring trade.
What chance had Brightly against a metallic creature like that?

Higher up the road another gentleman established himself. He was well
dressed, his mottled hands were gleaming with immense rings, and his
clean-shaven face was as red as rhubarb. He assumed an academic cap and
gown, casually informing those who gathered around that he was entitled
to do so, as he was not only a man of gentle birth, but a graduate of
"one of our oldest universities," and a duly qualified physician also.
He stated with emphasis, and a slight touch of cynicism, that he was no
philanthropist. He belonged to an overcrowded profession; he had no
settled practice; and knowing how unwilling country-people were to come
to a medical man until they had to, when it was usually too late, and
knowing also how grievously afflicted many of them were with divers
diseases, he had decided to come out by the wayside and heal them. It
was entirely a matter of business. He was going to cure them of a number
of ailments which they were harbouring unawares, and they would pay him
a trifling sum in return. He wasn't going to give anything away. He
couldn't afford to be generous. He begged the people not to crowd about
him so closely, as there was plenty of time, and he would undertake to
attend to every one.

This man ought to have been a genius, if he hadn't been a rogue. He went
on to warn his listeners against quack doctors and patent medicines.
They were all frauds, he assured them, and he described in homely
language how he had often restored some poor sufferer whose health had
been undermined by the mischievous attentions of unqualified impostors.
He took a small boy, set him in the midst, and in flowing phrase
explained his internal structure. It was the liver which was the origin
of disease among men; liver, which caused women to faint, and men to
feel run down. Heart disease, consumption, eczema, cold feet, red nose,
and a craving for liquor were all caused by an unhealthy liver, and were
so many different names for the same disease. So far nobody but himself
had discovered any safe cure for the liver. There were a thousand
remedies mentioned in the _British Encyclopædia_--possibly he meant
pharmacopoeia--but not a genuine medicine among them. He had devoted his
life and fortune to discovering a remedy, and he had discovered it; and
his listeners should be allowed to benefit by it; for it needed but a
glance at their faces to convince him that the liver of every man and
woman in that circle was grievously out of order.

At that moment Peter and Mary came up, considerably elevated, and gazed
with immense satisfaction at the figure in cap and gown, Mary exclaiming
in her noisy way: "Aw, Peter! 'Tis a preacher."

The quack wiped his hands and face with a silk handkerchief, opened a
bag, and producing a small green bottle half full of grimy pellets,
continued solemnly; "The result of a life devoted to medical studies, my
friends. The one and only liver cure. The triumph of the human
intellect; more wonderful than the Pyramids of America; long life and
happiness in a small bottle; and the price only one shilling."

There was not much demand at first for long life and happiness in bottle
form. The listeners had come to Goose Fair to enjoy themselves, not to
buy pills. They were all obviously as healthy as wayside weeds. But the
artful rogue had only been playing with them so far. He made his living
by the gift of a tongue, and so far he had not used it. The time had
come for him to terrify them. He removed his cap, threw his shoulders
back and his arms out, and lectured them furiously; telling them they
were dying, not merely ill, but hovering every one of them on the brink
of the grave; that tan of health upon their faces was a deception; it
was actually a fatal symptom, a sign of physical degeneracy, a herald of
bodily impotence. They were all suffering from liver in some shape or
form, and with the majority, he feared, the disease was already too far
advanced to be arrested by any treatment, except one only--the little
green bottle of pills, which might be theirs for one shilling. He choked
them with eloquence for ten minutes, frightening, converting, and making
them feel horribly ill. He was irresistible, especially when he spoke
with pathos of his devotion for his fellow-creatures, and his pain when
he saw them suffering. That man would have made an ideal preacher, if he
had known how to speak the truth.

Mary listened open-mouthed. A bee flew in, and she spat it out and
gasped. For the first time in her life she realised she was in a state
of delicate health.

The quack advanced to Peter, who was looking particularly despondent,
being fully persuaded he had not long to live, and with a grave shake of
the head punched him in the body. "Does that hurt?" he asked.

"Cruel," said Peter.

"Enlarged liver, my friend," said the rogue. "It is not too late to save
the patient if he takes the remedy at once. Let me tell you how you
feel," and he went on to describe a condition of ill-health, which most
of his other hearers felt coming upon themselves also under the potent
influence of mere suggestion.

"Du'ye feel like that, Peter?" demanded Mary with great anxiety.

"I du," said Peter miserably.

"So du I," declared Mary. "I feels tired when I goes to bed, just like
he ses."

"Better have three bottles each," said the friend of mankind. "One
arrests the disease, three remove it."

That would have meant six shillings, which of course was not to be
thought of. Even ill-health was to be preferred to such an expenditure.
As Peter reminded his sister, he could almost bury her for that sum.
Finally they bought one bottle of pellets. Not even the quack's
conviction that Mary was suffering from an undue secretion of bile could
persuade them to purchase more. The rogue collected a pound's worth of
silver from the circle, and went on his way to capture a fresh lot of
gulls; and so the dishonesty and fun of the fair went on side by side;
while there was half-blind Brightly, squeezing against the railings of
the church, with his ridiculous honesty, and his trayful of pipes and
tie-clips which never grew less. Honesty is a money-making policy in the
land of Utopia, but not elsewhere; and Utopia means nowhere.
Christianity has been preached for nearly two thousand years, and still
the man is a fool who leaves his silver-mounted stick outside the door.

The next thing was luncheon, as elegant folk have it; or a proper old
guzzle, according to Peter. The savages had made up their minds to do
the fair properly, and eating was certainly a chief item of the
programme. Savoury goose, with plenty of sage and onions, was the dish
of the day. Peter put the pills in his pocket, and forgot that his liver
was out of order, as Mary ignored the untruth that she suffered from
"too much oil." It was useless to try strange words upon her. While she
was eating that portion of goose appointed for the day she tried to make
her brother explain how the oil had got into her system, but Peter was
much too busy to answer. He was guzzling like a monkey, with his face in
the plate, half choking in his hurry, gulping, perspiring, gasping with
sheer greediness, and splashing in the rich gravy very much as the goose
he was feeding on had once flopped through some moorland bog.

Boodles and Aubrey went to the Queen's Hotel for their goose dinner; a
place where good English fare may still be seen and eaten. Boodles had
witnessed the pleasure-fair only, the gay and noisy side of things, and
though the debased faces of some of the booth proprietors had alarmed
her at first, she had seen nothing actually nasty. Cruelty was not
there, or at least it had been out of sight. She did not go upon the
other side, where the rogues foregathered, and where beasts were bought
and sold; where sheep were penned in a mass of filth, with their mouths
open, tasting nothing but heat and dust; where ponies were driven from
side to side, half mad with fright, while drovers with faces like a
nightmare yelled and waved their hats at them, and brought their cudgels
down like hammers upon their sweating flanks; where calves, with big
patient eyes protruding with pain and terror, were driven through the
crowd by a process of tail-twisting; where fowls were stuffed in crates
and placed in the full heat of the sun; and stupid little pigs were
kicked on their heads to make them sensible. Boodles saw nothing of
that, and it was just as well, for it might have spoilt her day, and
have reminded her that, for some cause unexplained, the dominant note of
all things is cruelty; from the height of the unknown God, who gives His
beings a short life and scourges them through it, to the depth of the
invisible mite who rends a still smaller mite in pieces. Living
creatures were placed in the world, it is said, to perform the duty of
reproducing their species. It seems as reasonable to suggest that their
duty is to stamp out some other species; for the instinct of destruction
is at least as strong as the instinct of reproduction, making the world
a cold place often for the tender-hearted.

It was not a cold place for Boodles that day, because she was in a happy
state of love and ignorance. She was not worrying herself about Nature,
who vivisects most people under the base old plea of physiological
research. She and Aubrey went up a sage-and-onion-scented street, into
the similarly perfumed hotel, up a flight of stairs fragrant with
stuffing, and into a long room, to find themselves in a temple of
feasting, with incense to St. Goose streaming upward, and two score
famished and rather ill-bred folk licking their lips ostentatiously and
casting savage glances at the knives and forks.

Everything was on the grand scale. It was just such a meal as the
eighteenth-century post-houses gave passengers on the road before
railways had come to ruin appetites. It was a true Hogarthian dinner;
not a meal to approach with a pingling stomach; not a matter of "a
ragout of fatted snails and a chicken not two hours from the shell"; but
mighty geese, and a piece of beef as big as a Dartmoor tor--the lusty
cook's knees bowed as he staggered in with it--mounds of vegetables,
pyramids of dumplings, gravy enough to float a fishing-smack, and beer
and cider sufficient to bathe in. The diners were in complete sympathy
with the vastness of the feast, being mostly from ravenous Dartmoor. A
beefy farmer was voted to the chair, and carved until perspiration
trickled down his nose. A gentleman of severe appearance insisted upon
saying grace, but nobody took any notice. They were too busy sniffing,
and one who had been already helped was making strange noises with his
lips and throat. Boodles was laughing at his manners, and pinching
Aubrey's hand. "Such fun," she whispered.

"Ladies first," cried the carver.

"Quite right," gasped the man who had been served first, having snatched
the plate from the waiter as he was about to pass him. Then he gaped and
admitted an entire dumpling, nearly as big as a cricket-ball, and had
nothing else to say, except "Bit more o' that stuffing," for ten
minutes.

"What am I to do with it?" sighed Boodles, when the heaped plate was set
in front of her.

"Eat 'en, my dear!" said a commoner, who was wolfing bread until his
time came. "'Tis Goosie Vair," he added encouragingly.

"Take it, Aubrey," she said, with a slight titter.

"Go ahead," he replied. "Eat what you can, and leave the rest."

"I wish we were alone," she whispered. "These people are pigs."

Had they been alone they would probably have fed off the same plate, and
given each other kisses between every mouthful. As it was they could do
nothing, except play with each other's feet beneath the table. Everybody
else was hard at work. Faces were swollen on every side, and the sounds
were more suggestive of a farmyard at feeding time than a party of
immortal beings taking a little refreshment. There was no conversation.
All that had been done during the time of waiting. "'Tis a butiful day,
sure enough," and "A proper fine vair," had exhausted the topics.
Boodles was rather too severe when she called the feasters pigs, but
they were not pleasant to watch, and they seemed to have lost the divine
spark somehow. Philosophers might have wondered whether the species was
worth reproducing.

The young people soon left the table, and a couple very differently
constituted pressed themselves into the vacant places. The others were
not half satisfied. Some of them would stuff to the verge of apoplexy,
then roll down-stairs, and swill whisky-and-water by the tumblerful. It
was holiday; a time of over-eating and over-drinking. They had little
self-control. They unbuttoned their clothes at table, and wiped their
streaming faces with the cloth.

"I'm glad we went to goose dinner, but I shouldn't go again. It was
gorging, not eating," said Boodles, as they went along the street.

"Let's go and see the living pictures," said Aubrey.

"But we've seen them."

"We'll go again. Perhaps they will turn on a fresh lot."

They liked the living pictures, because the lights were turned down, and
they could snuggle together like two kittens and bite each other's
fingers.

"Then we'll go for a walk--our walk. But no," sighed Boodles; "we can't.
It will be time for the ordeal."

The fairy-tale was getting on. Ogre time had come. Boodles was to go and
drink tea with her boy's parents.

"Perhaps we can go our walk later on."

"It won't be a real day if we don't," said she.

"Our walk" was beside the Tavy, where they had kissed as babies, and
loved to wander now that they were children. They thought they were
grown up, but that was absurd. People who are in love remain as they
were, and never grow up until some one opens the window and lets the
cold wind in. "Our walk" was fairyland; a strange and pleasant place
after goose dinner and Goose Fair.

Brightly was against the railings, and had done no business, although
the day was far spent. There was no demand for tie-clips or clay-pipes.
Somebody was playing the organ in the church, and Brightly had that
music for his dinner. Everybody seemed to be doing well, and he was the
one miserable exception. He put up his sharp face, and chirped
pathetically: "Wun't ye buy 'em, gentlemen? Tie-clips, penny each. Dree
for duppence. Butiful pipes, brave and shiny, two a penny."

The roundabout over the way was taking pennies by the bushel; but the
roundabout supplied a demand, and Brightly did not. A fat be-ribboned
dog passed and snapped at Ju. She took it patiently, having learnt the
lesson from her master. Then two young people swept round, and one of
them collided with Brightly, and almost knocked his thin figure through
the railings.

"I beg your pardon," said a bright young voice. "I hope I didn't hurt
you."

"You'm welcome, sir," said Brightly, wondering what on earth the young
gentleman was apologising for.

"Why, it's the man with the rabbit-skins. What does he do with them? Now
he's selling pipes. Aubrey, I'm going to buy some. Oh, look at the poor
little dog! How it shivers! What is the matter with it?"

"She'm hungry," explained Brightly.

"You look as if you were hungry too," said Aubrey with boyish candour.

"I be a bit mazed like, sir," admitted Brightly.

"I want some pipes, please--a lot. Don't laugh, Aubrey," said Boodles,
looking down on the tray, with moisture in each eye and a frown on her
forehead. She had no money to spare, poor child, only a threepenny-bit
and four coppers; but she would have parted with the lot to feed the
hungry had not Aubrey taken and restrained her charitable little hand.

"Give him this," he whispered.

"Feed the little dog," said Boodles, as she gave Brightly the coin,
which was half-a-crown, as white and big, it seemed to Brightly, as the
moon itself. Then they went on, while Brightly was left to see visions
and to dream. He called out to tell them they had taken neither pipes
nor tie-clips, but his asthmatic voice was drowned as usual by the
noises of the fair, and it was quite a different set of faces and
figures that went before him. He picked Ju up, tucked her under his arm,
and shuffled away to buy food. He had seen the girl's face with pity on
it through his big glasses, only dimly, but it was enough to show him
what she was; something out of the church window, or out of the big
black book they read from, the book that rested upon the wings of a
golden goose, or perhaps she had come from the wonderful restaurant
called Jerusalem just to show him and Ju there was somewhere or other,
either in Palestine or above Dartmoor, some very superior Duke of
Cornwall who took a kindly interest in worms, himself, and other
creeping things. Brightly stopped, oblivious to holiday-makers, and
tried to think of Boodles' name. He found it just as he reached the
place where he could obtain a royal meal of scraps for threepence.
"Her's a reverent angel, Ju," he whispered.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beyond the bridge, which crossed the Tavy near the entrance to the field
where the main pleasure-fair was making noises curiously suggestive of a
savage war-dance, Thomasine walked slowly to and fro. She had been doing
that ever since eleven o'clock, varying the occupation by standing still
for an hour or so gazing with patient cow's eyes along the road.
Pendoggat had promised to meet her there, and treat her to all the fun
of the fair. He had told her not to move from that spot until he
arrived, and she had to be obedient. She had been waiting four hours in
her best clothes, sometimes shaking the dust from her new petticoat, or
wiping her eyes with her Sunday handkerchief, but never going beyond the
bridge or venturing into the fair-field. One or two young men had
accosted her, but she had told them in a frightened way she was waiting
for a gentleman. She had seen her former young man. Will Pugsley, pass
with a new sweetheart upon his arm; and although Thomasine was unable to
reason she was able to feel miserable. Pendoggat was upon the other
side, kicking a calf he had purchased along the road, enjoying himself
after his own manner. He had forgotten all about Thomasine, and all that
his promise and the holiday meant to her. Besides, Annie Crocker was
with him like a sort of burr, clinging wherever he went, and not to be
easily shaken off; and she too wanted to be in the fair-field; only, as
she kept on reminding him, it was no place for a decent woman alone, and
she couldn't go unless he took her. To which Pendoggat replied that she
wasn't a decent woman, and if she had been nobody would want to speak to
her. They swore at each other in a subdued fashion whenever they found
themselves in a quiet corner.

"Come on, my love! Come along wi' I, and have a ride on the whirligig,"
shouted a drunken soldier with a big wart on his nose, staggering up to
Thomasine, and grabbing at her arm. The girl trembled, but allowed the
soldier to catch hold of her, because she did not know she had a legal
right to resist. After all this was a form of courtship, though it was
rather rough and sudden. Like many girls of her class Thomasine did not
see anything strange in being embraced by a man before she knew what his
name was. The soldier dragged her to the parapet of the bridge and
kissed her savagely, heedless of the passers-by. Then he began to take
her to the fair-ground, swearing at her when she hung back.

"I've got to bide here," she pleaded. "I'm waiting for a gentleman."

The drunken soldier declared he would smash the gentleman, or any one
else, who tried to take his prize from him; but he proved to be a man
whose words were mightier than his deeds, for when he saw a big
policeman approaching with a question in his eye he abandoned Thomasine
and fled. The girl dusted her clothes in a patient fashion and went on
waiting.

The next local excitement was the arrival of Peter and Mary in a kind of
whirlwind, both of them well warmed with excitement and Plymouth gin.
Thomasine nodded to them, but they did not see her. Mary had been buying
flower-seeds for her garden, a whole packet of sweet-peas and some
mignonette. Peter had objected to such folly when he discovered that the
produce would not be edible. Their garden was small, and they could not
waste good soil for the purpose of growing useless flowers. But Mary was
always insisting upon being as civilised as she could. "Miss Boodles du
grow a brave lot o' flowers in her garden, and she'm a proper young
lady," she said. Mary knew she could not become a proper lady, but she
might do her best by trying to grow "a brave lot o' flowers" in her
garden.

Later Thomasine saw Boodles and Aubrey pass over the bridge, walking
solemnly for the first time that day. The little girl was about to be
tried by ordeal, and she was getting anxious about her personal
appearance. Her shoes were so dusty, and there was a tiny hole in her
stocking right over her ankle, and her face was hot, and her hat was
crooked. "You did it, Aubrey," she said. She wasn't looking at all nice,
and her hair was tumbling, and threatening to be down her back any
moment. "And I'm only seventeen, Aubrey. I know they'll hate me."

They went up the hill among the green trees; and beneath the wall, where
nobody could see them, Aubrey dusted his sweetheart's shoes, and put her
hat straight, and guided her hands to where hairpins were breaking loose
from the radiant head, and told her she was sweetness itself down to the
smallest freckle. "Well, if they are not nice I shall say I'm only a
baby and can't help it. And then you must say it was all your fault,
because you came and kissed me with your pretty girl's face and made me
love it."

Thomasine watched Boodles as she went out of sight, trying to think, but
not succeeding. She regarded Boodles as a young lady, a being made like
herself, and belonging to her species, and yet as different from her as
Pendoggat was different from old Weevil. Boodles could talk, and
Thomasine could not; Boodles could walk prettily, while she could only
slouch; Boodles adorned her clothes, while she could only hang them upon
her in a misfitting kind of way. The life of the soul was in the eyes of
Boodles; the life of the body in Thomasine's. It was all the difference
between the rare bird which is costly, and the common one which any one
may capture, had Thomasine known it. She knew nothing except that she
was totally unlike the little girl of the radiant head. She did not know
how debased she was, how utterly ignorant, and how vilely cheap. She had
been accustomed to put a low price upon herself, because the market was
overstocked with girls as debased, ignorant, and cheap, as herself;
girls who might have been feminine, but had missed it somehow; girls
whose bodies cost twopence, and whose souls a brass ring.

The Bellamies had a pretty home on the hill above Tavistock overlooking
the moor. There was a verandah in front where every fine evening the
mistress sat to watch the tors melting in the sunset. She and her
husband were both artistic. Aubrey might have been said to be a proof of
it. Tea was set out upon the verandah, where Mr. Bellamie was frowning
at the crude noises of the fair, while his wife observed the old fashion
of "mothering" the cups. They were a fragile couple, and everything
about them seemed to suggest egg-shell porcelain--their faces, their
furniture, and even the flowers in their garden. It was useless to look
for passion there. It would have broken them as boiling water breaks a
glass. They never lost their self-control. When they were angry they
spoke and acted very much as they did when they were pleased.

"Here is the little girl," said Mr. Bellamie in his gentle way. "The red
poppies in her hat go well with her hair. Did you see her turn then? A
good deal of natural grace there. She does not offend at present. It is
a pretty picture, I think."

"Beauty and love--like his name. He is always a pretty picture,"
murmured the lady, looking at her son. "I wish he would not wear that
red tie."

"It suits on this occasion, with her strong colour. She is quite
artistic. The only fault is that she knocks her ankles together while
walking. That is said, though I know not why, to be a sign of innocence.
She is Titianesque, a combination of rich surface with splendid tints.
Not at all unfinished. Not in the least crude."

"Mother, here she is!" cried Aubrey, "I had to drag her up the hill. She
is so shy."

"It's not true," said Boodles. She advanced to Mrs. Bellamie, her golden
lashes drooping. Then she put up her mouth quite naturally, her eyes
asking to be kissed; and it was done so tastefully that the lady
complied, and said: "I have wanted to see you for a long time."

"A soft voice," murmured Mr. Bellamie. "I was afraid with that colour it
might be loud."

"They are very young. It will not last," said the lady to herself. "But
she will not do Aubrey any harm."

Boodles was soon talking in her pretty sing-song voice, describing all
their fun, and saying what a jolly day it had been, and how nice it was
to have Aubrey at home, and she hoped he would never be away for so long
again, until Mr. Bellamie roused himself and began to question her. The
child had to describe Lewside Cottage and her quiet dull life; and it
came out gradually--for Boodles was perfectly honest--how poor they
were, and the respectable Bellamies were shocked to hear of the numerous
housekeeping difficulties, and the limited number of the little girl's
frocks, and what was still worse, the fact that old Weevil was no
relation; until Mr. Bellamie began to fear that things were getting
inartistic, and his fragile wife asked gently whether the child's
parents were still living.

"I don't know," said Boodles, flushing painfully because she felt
somehow she had done wrong.

Aubrey could not stand that. He jumped up and tried to choke his
sweetheart with small cakes, while Mr. Bellamie began to examine her
concerning her favourite pictures, and found she hadn't any, as she had
not been east of Exeter, and knew nothing whatever about the big town,
which is chiefly in Middlesex and Surrey, and partly in most of the
other counties. Mr. Bellamie was rather upset. No girl could be really
artistic if she had not seen the picture galleries. He began to feel
that it would be necessary either to check Aubrey's amorous propensities
or to divert them into some more artistic channel. Mrs. Bellamie had
already arrived at much the same conclusion. Girls who know nothing of
their parents could not possibly be well-bred, and might easily become a
source of danger to those who were. Aubrey, of course, was not of their
opinion. While his father was weighing Boodles in the æsthetic balance
and finding her wanting, he went round to his mother, passed his arm
about her neck, and whispered fervently: "Isn't she sweet? I may get her
a ring, mother, mayn't I?"

"Don't be foolish, Aubrey," she whispered back. "You are only children."

They went soon afterwards, but not back to the fair, which was beginning
to be marred by the drunkard and his language; they went into the very
different atmosphere of Tavy woods; and there picked up the thread of
the story, with the trees and the kind weather about them. But it was
not the same somehow. Boodles had been to the gate of Castle Dolorous,
had looked inside, and thought she had seen the skulls and bones of the
young men and maidens, who had wandered in the woods to hear
nightingales and pick the tender grapes of passion, but had been caught
instead by the ogre, that he might trim his mantle with their hearts.
She began at last to wonder whether it could be a sin to have no
recognised parents and no name. Even the mongrel can be faithful, and
the hybrid flower beautiful; and in their way they are natural, and for
themselves they are loved. But they have no names of their own. The
plant may cast back in its seed to the weed stage, and the owner of the
mongrel may grow ashamed of it at last. Such a splendid name as Bellamie
could hardly be hyphened with a blank. Still Boodles was very young,
only a baby, as she said; and she soon forgot the ogre; and they went
down by the river and smeared their kisses with ripe blackberries.

Aubrey's parents strolled in their garden, and agreed that Miss Weevil's
head was perfect. They also agreed that the boy had better fall in love
with some one else.

"He is so constant. It is what I love in him," said the mother. "He has
been devoted to the child always, and now that he is approaching the age
when boys do foolish things without consulting their parents, he loves
her more than ever. I thought the last time he went away he would come
back cured. What a nose she has!"

"She is a perfect Romney," said, her husband.

"I don't believe she knows her name. Boodles, she told me, means
beautiful, and her foster-father is called Weevil. Boodles Weevil does
not go at all with Aubrey Bellamie," said the lady.

The fragile gentleman agreed that the girl's name violated every canon
of art. "If Aubrey will not give her up--" he began, breaking off a twig
which threatened to mar the symmetry of the border.

"I shall not influence him. It is foolish to oppose young people. Leave
them alone, and they usually get tired of each other as they get older.
She is a good child. Aubrey is perfectly safe. He may go about with her
as much as he likes, but we must see he does not run off with her and
marry her."

"We had better find out everything that is to be known," said Mr.
Bellamie. "I will go and see this old Weevil. He may be a fine old
gentleman with a Rembrandt head for all we know. She may be well-born,
only it is remarkable that she remembers nothing about her parents. She
would be a daughter to be proud of, if she had studied art. She offended
slightly in the matter of drapery. I noticed a hole in her stocking, but
it might have been caused during the day."

"You did not kiss her, I think?" said his wife quickly.

"No, certainly not," came the answer.

"I don't want you to. Her mouth is pretty."

"We must go in," said Mr. Bellamie decisively. "They are beginning to
light up the fair. How horribly inartistic it all is!"

Peter and Mary were being pushed about in the crowd below, still
enjoying themselves, although somewhat past riding on wooden horses, for
Mary was stupid and Peter was sleepy and absent-minded. They had
followed custom and done the fair thoroughly, and had not forgotten the
liquor. It was an unusual thing for Mary to have a head like a swing and
a body like a roundabout, but Peter was used to it. He had been throwing
at cocoa-nuts, without hitting anything except a man's knee; and for
some time he had admired the ladies dancing in very short skirts to the
tune of a merry music-hall melody until Mary, who was terribly hampered
by her big umbrella, dragged him away from a spectacle so degrading. It
was time for them to return home. They got clear of the crowd, and set
their faces, as they supposed, towards the station.

Thomasine was upon the bridge no longer. She had been joined by Will
Pugsley, who had lost sight of his new sweetheart, as they had managed
to drift apart in the crowd, and were not likely to meet again. She had
probably been picked up by some one and would be perfectly happy with
her new partner. Thomasine went off with young Pugsley, and it was only
in the natural order of things that she should meet Pendoggat at last,
not alone, but accompanied by Annie Crocker. It was unfortunate for
Thomasine that she should have Pugsley's arm round her waist, although
it was not her fault, as he had placed it there, and she supposed her
waist had been made for that sort of thing. It was impossible to tell
whether Pendoggat had seen her, as he never looked at any one. It was
not a happy holiday for Thomasine, although she did go home between
Pugsley and another drunken man, a young friend of his, who ought to
have made her feel common, had she been capable of self-examination.

It was at the bridge that Peter and Mary went wrong. They ought to have
crossed it, only they were so confused they hardly knew what they were
doing. It was another bridge of sighs. Lovers, who had probably met for
the first time that day, were embracing upon it; and a couple of young
soldiers were outraging the clear water of the Tavy by being sick over
the parapet. Peter and Mary stumbled on, found themselves in darkness
and a lonely road, and soon began to wonder what had become of the town
and the station. They had no idea they were walking straight away from
Tavistock in the direction of Yelverton.

"Here us be!" cried Mary at length. "A lot o' gals in white dresses
biding for the train. Us be in time."

"There be hundreds and millions of 'em," said Peter sleepily.

The road was very dark, but they could see a low wall, and upon the
other side what appeared to be a host of dim white figures waiting
patiently. They went up to a building and found an iron gate, but the
gate was locked, and the house was in darkness. It looked as if the last
train had gone, and the station was closed for the night.

"Us mun climb the wall," said Mary. She began to shout at the girls in
the white dresses: "Open the gate, some of ye. Open the gate."

There was no reply from the white figures; only the murmuring of the
river, and a dreary rustling of dry autumnal foliage. Peter rubbed his
eyes and stared, and put his little peg-nose over the wall.

"It bain't the station," he muttered, with a violent belch. "It be a
gentleman's garden."

"Aw, Peter, don't ye be so vulish. It be vull o' volks biding to go
home."

They climbed the wall, far too sleepy and intoxicated to know they were
in the cemetery; and finding themselves upon soft grass they went to
sleep, using the mound of a young girl's grave for their bolster, adding
their drunken slumbers to the heavier sleep of those who Mary thought
were "biding to go home."

About the middle of the night Peter awoke, much refreshed and less
absent-minded, and discovered the nature and the dampness of their
resting-place. The little man was not in the least dismayed. He aroused
Mary with his fist and facetious remarks. "Us be only lodgers. Us bain't
come to bide," he said cheerfully.

Mary also saw the fun of the thing. It was a fitting climax to her
travelling experiences. Without being at all depressed by her
surroundings she said: "Aw, Peter! To think us be sleeping among the
corpses like." To the novelty of this experience was to be added the
fact that she had slept at last outside her native parish.

They went back to Tavistock, to find the town at rest, and the fair dark
and silent. Returning to the house where they had eaten at midday, they
banged upon the door and shouted for sleeping accommodation, which was
at last provided. Peter felt a thrill of satisfaction when he
comprehended that he was putting up at what he was pleased to style an
hotel. While he was examining the furniture, the insecure bed, the chair
without a back, the cracked crockery, and all the other essentials of
the civilised bedroom, Mary began to shout violently--

"Aw, Peter, du'ye come along and see the light! 'Tis a hot hair-pin in a
bottle on a bit o' rope, and yew turns 'en on and off wi' a tap like
cider."

Peter had to admit that electric light was something startling. He
perceived that the same phenomenon occurred in his bedroom, and he was
at a loss to account for it. Mary's shouts had alarmed the young slut of
a maid who had introduced them to their rooms, and she hurried up to see
what was wrong, well accustomed, poor wench, to be on her feet most of
the day and night. She found Peter and Mary regarding their luminous
bottles with fear and amazement, not venturing to go too close lest some
evil should befall them.

"Where be the oil?" asked Mary.

The ignorant little wench said there wasn't any oil; at least she
thought not. She knew nothing about the light, except how to turn it on
and off. It had only been put into the house lately, and she confessed
it saved her a lot of work. She believed it was expensive, as her master
had told her not to waste it. A man had come in one day and hung the
little bottles in the rooms, and they had given light ever since when
they were wanted. They did not seem to wear out, and nothing was ever
put into them. Some telegraph-wires had been put about the house at the
same time, but she didn't know what they were for, as they did not
appear to have anything to do with the post-office. That was all the
little slut could tell them. She demonstrated how easy it was to turn
the light on and off. She plunged them into darkness, and restored them
to light. She couldn't tell them how it was done, but there was a big
barrel in the top attic, and perhaps the light was kept in that.

Peter was unable to concur. He had recovered from his first
bewilderment, and his learning asserted itself. He considered that the
light was natural, like that of the sun. It was merely a matter of
imprisoning it within an air-tight bottle; but what he could not
understand was where the light went to when the tap was turned. This,
however, was nothing but a little engineering problem, which a certain
amount of application on his part would inevitably solve. He could make
clocks and watches; at least he thought he could, though he had never
tried; and the lighting of Ger Cottage with luminous bottles would, he
considered, be an undertaking quite within his powers.

"Us wun't have no more lamps," he said. "Us will hang up thikky bottles.
Can us buy 'em?" he asked the little slut.

"There be a shop where they sells 'em, bits o' rope and all. I seed 'em
in the window," said the girl.

"Us will buy two or dree in the morning," declared Mary. "Can us hang
'em up, du'ye reckon, Peter?"

Her brother replied that the task would be altogether beyond her; but it
was not likely to present any serious difficulties to him. He promised
to hang up one light-giving bottle in his own hut-circle, and another in
Mary's. She would pay for the fittings, and he would in return charge
her a reasonable sum for his services.

The proprietor of the lodging-house made a poor bargain when he took in
Peter and Mary. They spent most of the remainder of the night turning
the wonderful light on and off, "like cider," as Mary said.




CHAPTER XII

ABOUT THE OCTAVE OF ST. GOOSE


Things had gone wrong with Peter and Mary ever since the festival.
Excitement, Plymouth liquors, and ignorance were largely to blame for
the general "contrairiness" of things; but the root of the trouble lay
in the fact of their refusal to be decent savages; of Peter's claims to
be a handy man, and of Mary's desire to be civilised.

Old Sal had last been seen wandering towards Helmen Barton; that was the
principal grievance. Others were the complete failure of Peter as an
electrical engineer; the discovery that nearly a pound's worth of
precious shillings had been dissipated at the fair in idle pleasures
alone; and the loss of a number of little packages containing such
things as tea, sugar, and rice, which Mary had bought in Tavistock and
placed, as she thought, in a position of safety. The pills and
flower-seeds had proved also a source of trouble. A bottle of almighty
pills had been thrust upon Peter for his liver's sake, and Mary had
later on acquired packets of sweet-peas and mignonette in order that her
garden might be made glorious.

The loss of the groceries caused the first lamentation. Mary had a clear
recollection of buying them, or at least she remembered paying for them,
but beyond that memory did nothing for her. She had no impression of
walking about the streets with her arms full of packages; they were not
in her pocket, nor had they ever been in Peter's; she could not have
left them in the shop; she was ready to swear she had not dropped them.
The only possible conclusion was that the pixies had stolen them. Peter
the hypocrite grunted at that. Although he offered sacrifice continually
to the pixies that dwelt in Grandfather's bosom, he declared there were
no such things. School-master had told him they were all dead. Education
had in some obscure way shot, trapped, or poisoned the lot.

"You'm a gurt vule," was Mary's retort. "Dartmoor be vull o' piskies,
allus was, and allus will be. When I was a little maid and went to
schule wi' Master, though he never larnt I more than ten fingers and ten
toes be twenty, though I allus remembered it, for Master had a brave way
of larning young volks--What was I telling, Peter? Aw ees, I mind now.
'Twas when I went to schule wi' Ann Middleweek, her picked up a pisky
oven and broke 'en all to bits, 'cause her said the piskies were proper
little brutes, and her was beat cruel that night wi' brimmles and
vuzzy-bushes 'cause her'd broke the oven, and her was green and blue
next day. 'Twas the piskies stole my tea and sugar, sure 'nuff. If I'd
ha' spat on 'em, and marked 'em proper wi' a cross betwixt two hearts,
they'd ha' been here now."

Mary worried so much over her lost groceries that she felt quite ill. As
Peter also became apprehensive of the state of his health every time
that he looked at the bottle of pills, they decided to take a few. Then
Peter went out into the garden to sow the flower-seeds, while Mary
tramped over the moor to search for her missing goose.

Peter imagined that he had mastered the science of horticulture. At
least he would not have accepted advice upon the subject from any one.
Vegetables he had grown all his life, and in exactly the same way as
they had been grown in his boyhood, and he was quite as successful as
his neighbours. He was a ridiculous little man, and in several ways as
much of a savage as his ancestors, but he had inherited something from
them besides their unpleasant ways. His pretensions to being skilled
with his hands and clever with his brain were grotesque enough; but he
possessed a faculty which is owned by few, because it is not required by
civilised beings, a faculty which to strangers appeared incredible. When
a bullock or a pony was pointed out to him, as it stood outlined against
the sky on the top of some distant tor, or even as it walked against the
dull background of the moor, he would put his hand to his eyes, and
almost at once, and always correctly, give the owner's name. He earned
several shillings at certain seasons of the year, and could have earned
more had he not been lazy, by going out to search for missing animals.
Peter was always in demand by the commoners about the time of the drift.

Flowers were useless things according to Peter, and concerning their
culture he knew nothing. However, Mary insisted upon the seeds being
planted, to give her garden a civilised appearance, so Peter set about
the task. The packet of sweet-peas had broken in his pocket during the
fair, and upon returning he had placed them in a small bottle. The
mignonette was his first care. The instructions outside stated that the
seed was to be sown "in February, under glass." Peter shook his head at
that. February was a long way off, but he went on to argue that if the
seed would grow during the winter it was certainly safe to sow it during
the far warmer month of October. It was the "under glass" that puzzled
him. This was evidently something new in gardening, and Peter objected
to new-fangled methods. It occurred to him that the expression might
have been intended for "under grass," but that seemed equally absurd.
School-master would know, but Peter was not going to expose his
ignorance by asking questions. Besides, it would mean a long walk, and
Master's cottage possessed the distinct disadvantage of being a
considerable distance from the inn. Peter had no idea what sort of a
plant mignonette might be, but he supposed it was a foreign growth which
managed to flourish upon certain nutritive qualities possessed by glass.
There were plenty of bottles in the linhay. Peter broke up a couple with
the crowbar, collected the fragments--the instructions omitted to state
how much glass--scattered the seeds in an unimportant corner of the
garden, strewed the pieces of glass over them, and trod the whole down
firmly. Then he dug a trench and buried the sweet-peas.

Soon afterwards he began to feel ill; and when Mary returned without
news of Old Sal she said she was "cruel sick-like tu." They conferred
together, agreed that the trouble was caused by "the oil in their
livers," and concluded they had better go on with the pills. Presently
they were suffering torments; the night was a sleepless time of groans
and invocations; and in the morning they were worse. Peter was the most
grievously afflicted, at least he said he was; and described the state
of his feelings with the expressive phrase: "My belly be filled wi'
little hot things jumping up and down."

"So be mine. Whatever be the matter wi' us?" groaned Mary.

"They pills. Us ha' took tu many."

"Mebbe us didn't tak' enough. Us ha' only took half the bottle, and he
said dree bottles for a cure."

"Us wun't tak' no more. I'll smash that old bottle on they seeds. 'Twill
dung 'em proper," said Peter, shuffling painfully across the floor and
reaching for the bottle.

A moment later he began to howl. He had discovered something, and terror
made him own to it.

"Us be dead corpses! Us be pizened! Us ha' swallowed they peas!" he
shouted.

"Aw, my dear life! Where be the pills, then?" cried Mary.

"I've tilled 'em," said Peter. "They be in the garden, and them peas be
growing in our bellies."

"Aw, Peter, us will die! I be a-going to see Master," groaned Mary.

Peter said he should come too. He was afraid to be left alone, with
Grandfather ticking sardonically at him, and sweet-peas germinating in
his bowels. If it had been only Mary who was suffering he would have
prescribed for her; but as he was himself in pain he argued that it
would be advisable to seek outside assistance. Master was a "brave
larned man," and he would know what ought to be done to save their
lives. They made themselves presentable, and laboured bitterly across
the moor to St. Mary Tavy village.

Master was never out. He lived in a little whitewashed cottage near the
road, gazing out of his front window all day, with a heap of books on a
little table beside him, and pedantic spectacles upon his nose. He was
nearly eighty, and belonged to the old school of dames and masters now
practically extinct, an entirely ignorant class, who taught the children
nothing because they were perfectly illiterate themselves. Master was
held in reverence by the villagers. That pile of books, and the
wonderful silver spectacles which he was always polishing with knowing
glances, were to them symbols of unbounded knowledge. They brought their
letters to the old man that he might read them aloud and explain obscure
passages. Not a pig was killed without Master's knowledge, and not a
child was christened until the Nestor of the neighbourhood had been
consulted.

"Please to come in, varmer. Please to sot down, Mary," said Master, as
he received the groaning pilgrims into his tiny owlery, "varmer" being
the correct and lawful title of every commoner. "Have a drop o' cider,
will ye? You'm welcome. I knows you be main cruel fond of a drop o'
cider, varmer."

Peter was past cider just then. He groaned and Mary moaned, and they
both doubled up in their chairs; while Master arranged his beautiful
spectacles, and looked at them in a learned fashion, and at last hit
upon the brilliant idea that they were afflicted with spasms of the
abdomen.

"You've been yetting too many worts?" he suggested with kindly sympathy.

"Us be tilling peas in our bellies," explained Mary. .

Master had not much sense of humour. He thought at first the remark was
made seriously, and he began to upbraid them for venturing on such
daring experiments. But Mary went on: "Us bought pills to Goosie Vair,
'cause us ha' got too much oil in our livers, and us bought
stinking-peas tu. Us ha' swallowed the peas, and tilled the pills. Us be
gripped proper, so us ha' come right to wance to yew."

Master replied that they had done wisely. He played with his books,
wiped his spectacles, and dusted the snuff from his nose with a
handkerchief as big as a bath-towel. Then he folded his gnarled hands
peacefully across his brass watch-chain, and talked to them like a good
physician.

"I'll tell ye why you'm gripped," he said. "'Tis because you swallowed
them peas instead o' the pills. Du'ye understand what I be telling?"

Peter and Mary answered that so far they were quite able to follow him,
and Mary added: "A cruel kind larned man be Master. Sees a thing to
wance, he du."

"Us ha' got innards, and they'm called vowels," Master went on. "Some
calls 'em intestates, but that be just another name for the same thing.
Us ha' got five large vowels, and two small ones. The large ones be
called _a, e, i, o, u_, and the small ones be called _w_ and _y_. I
can't tell ye why, but 'tis so. Some of them peas yew ha' swallowed have
got into _a_, and some ha' got into _o_, and mebbe some ha' got into _w_
and _y_. Du'ye understand what I mean?"

The invalids replied untruthfully that they did, while Peter stated that
Master had done him good already.

"They be growing there, and 'tis the growing that gripes ye. Du'ye
understand that?" continued Master.

Peter ventured to ask how much growth might be looked for.

"They grows six foot and more, if they bain't stopped," said Master
ominously.

"How be us to stop 'em?" wailed Mary.

"I'll tell ye," said Master. "Yew mun get home and bide quiet, and not
drink. Then mebbe the peas will wilt off and die wi'out taking root."

"Shall us dig up the pills and tak' some?" Suggested Peter.

"Best let 'em bide. They be doing the ground good," said Master. "It
bain't nothing serious, varmer," he went on. "Yew and Mary will be well
again to-morrow. Don't ye drink and 'twill be all right. The peas will
die of what us calls instantaneous combustion. If yew was to swallow
anything to pizen 'em 'twould pizen yew tu. Aw now, you might rub a
little ammonia on your bellies just to mak' 'em feel uneasy-like. I'll
get ye a drop in a bottle. Nothing's no trouble, varmer."

"It taketh a scholard to understand it," said Mary. "When he putched
a-telling I couldn't sense 'en, but I knows now it bain't serious. A
brave larned man be Master. There bain't many like 'en."

The invalids were pretty well by that evening. Their pains were
departing, and Mary was able to hunt again for Old Sal and bewail her
lost groceries, while Peter turned his attention towards establishing
electric light into the two hut-circles. He had brought back from
Tavistock two little bottles with taps, hairpins, and bits of rope
complete, also mystic circles made of china, which, he had been
informed, were used for securing the completed article to the roof, and
nearly a mile of thin wire, which he had picked up very cheaply, as it
was getting rusty.

The wire had excited Mary's amazement, but Peter refused to give her any
information concerning it. He had enjoyed an instructive conversation
with the man in the shop, who perceived that Peter was a savage, but did
not on that account refuse to sell him the required articles. Peter
asked how the light was made, and the answer "with water," or words to
that effect, so stunned him that he heard nothing for the next few
moments. If it could be true that fire and heat were made out of water
he was prepared to believe anything. The man seemed to be serious and
not trying to make a fool of him; for he went on to explain that the
light was conveyed from the water by a wire which communicated with the
little bottles--he showed Peter that what he had mistaken for a piece of
rope was in reality twisted wires--over any distance, although more
power would be required if the house to be lighted was far from the
water. The word "power" was explained to Peter's satisfaction as meaning
a strong current, preferably a waterfall. The entire art of electrical
engineering became clear to Peter at once. He remembered how the
ignorant little girl in the lodging-house had mentioned the telegraph
wires which had been put about the house. The child could not be
expected to understand what the wires were for--Peter had not much
tolerance for such stupidity--but it was evident, after the shopman's
explanation, that those wires communicated with the Tavy and brought the
light into the lodging-house from its waters. If the river at Tavistock,
which is wide and shallow, could give forth light of such excellent
quality, what might not be expected from the rushing torrent of Tavy
Cleave? Peter perceived that every difficulty had been smoothed away.

"Best tak' they old lamps to the village and sell 'em," he said, with
vast contempt for old and faithful servants. "Us ha' done wi' they. Us
will ha' lights in our bottles avore to-night." He had hung them up
already, one in his own hut, the other in Mary's, and they looked
splendid hanging from the beams. "Like a duke's palace," according to
the electrician.

"Aw ees, I'll sell 'em," said Mary, getting out a bit of sacking to wrap
the old lamps in. "Us won't be mazed wi' paraffin and wicks and busted
glasses. I'll tak' 'em' to Mother Cobley, and see if her will give us
two or dree shilluns for 'em."

Mary went off with the lamps, which Peter's science was about to render
superfluous, while the little man took up his bundles of wire and
stumbled down the cleave, to put the hidden radiance of the Tavy into
communication with their humble dwellings.

It was very pleasant down by the river that crisp October afternoon; the
rich autumnal sun upon the rocks, the bracken in every wonderful tint of
brown and gold, the scarlet seed-clumps of bog asphodel, and the
trailing red ropes of bramble sprinkled with jetty berries, full of
crimson blood like Thomasine's cheeks. It was nearly a month past
Barnstaple Fair, and yet the devil had not put his foot upon the
blackberries. The devil is supposed to attend Barnstaple Fair in state
and tread on brambles as he goes home; which is merely the pleasant
Devonshire way of saying that there is generally a frost about
Barnstaple Fair week which spoils the fruit. The fairy cult was much
prettier than all this demonology, but when education killed the little
people there was only the devil to fall back upon; and though education
will no doubt kill him in due time it has not done so yet.

Peter trampled among the brambles and swore at them because they caught
his legs. He saw nothing beautiful in their foliage. It was too common
for him to admire. The colours had been like that the year before; they
would be the same the year after. Peter appreciated bluebells and
primroses because they were soft to walk upon; but the blood-red
"brimmles" only pricked his legs and made him stumble; and the golden
bracken was only of use in the cow-shed, or in his hut as a
floor-litter; and the gracious heather was only good for stuffing
mattresses; and the guinea-gold gorse would have been an encumbrance
upon the side of the moor had it not been so useful as a thatch for his
hut, and a fence for his garden, and a mud-scraper for his boots. Peter,
though very much below the ordinary moorman, was artistically like them
all--insensible to beauty which is not of the flesh. Not a Dartmoor
commoner would pause a moment to regard the sun setting and glowing in a
mist upon the tors. Yet a Cornish fisherman would; and a Norman peasant
perhaps would take off his hat and cross himself, not so much with a
sense of religion, as because there is something in his mind which can
respond to the beauty and poetry and romance of the sun in a mist.
Possibly, with the Dartmoor commoner, it is his religion which is to
blame. His faith is as dark and ugly as the bottom of a well. The
Cornish fisherman has his Cymric blood, his instincts, his knowledge of
folklore, to help him through. The Norman peasant has the daily help of
gleaming vestments, glowing candles, clouds of sun-tinted
incense--pretty follies perhaps, but still pretty--the ritual of his
mass, and the Angelus bell. But the Dartmoor commoner has little but his
hell-fire.

In the midst of all the splendour of Tavy Cleave on fire with autumn,
Peter the ridiculous unwound a portion of the first roll of wire, and
pondered deeply. It seemed absurd even to him to place the end into the
water and leave Nature to do the rest; but he couldn't think of any
other method. The shopman had distinctly mentioned wire and waterfalls,
and both were ready to hand. As Peter went on to consider the matter it
became clearer in his mind. The ways of Nature are incomprehensible.
There were lightning-conductors, for instance. They were just bits of
wire sticking aimlessly into the air, and apparently they caught the
lightning, though Peter was not sure what they did with it. To put a
piece of wire into a waterfall to attract light could not be more absurd
than to erect a bit of wire into space to catch lightning. It was
amazing certainly, but Peter had nothing to do with marvels, except to
turn them to practical account. Once, when he was ill, a doctor had come
to visit him armed with a little instrument which he had put against his
chest and had then looked right inside him. Peter knew the doctor had
looked inside him, because he was able to describe all that he saw. That
was another marvellous thing, almost as wonderful as extracting light
and heat from cold water.

There was a waterfall lower down, and below it a pool fringed with fern
and boiling with foam. It was an ideal spot, thought Peter, so he went
there, and after fastening his wire to a stone, dropped it into the pool
at the foot of the falls. The silver foam and the coloured bubbles
laughed at him, and had Peter been blessed with anything in the form of
an imagination, he might have supposed they were inviting him to play
with them, and the sunlight made a rainbow out of flying foam. The scene
was so full of radiance that Peter easily believed how brilliantly the
hairpins in the bottles would presently be glowing.

It was a lengthy business laying the wire up the side of the cleave
among the boulders, fern, and brambles, and the task was not finished
until twilight. The wire was rotten stuff, breaking continually, and had
to be fastened together in a score of places.

Peter reached the top of the cleave at last, and discovered Mary waiting
to inform him in an angry way how Mother Cobley had given her only a
shilling for the two lamps, and that only under pressure, because they
were old and worn out. Mary wanted light in her bottle at once, as she
had to mix the bread and make the goose-feed. "That Old Sal be a proper
little brute. He bain't come home, and I can't hear nothing of 'en," she
concluded.

Peter replied that he would not be able to introduce the light into both
huts that evening. Mary would have to wait for hers, for it did not
occur to him that it would be possible to illumine Mary's hut before his
own.

"How be I to work in dimsies?" said Mary.

"Can't ye mix bread in my house?" replied Peter.

Mary admitted the thing was possible, so she stalked off for the
bread-pan, while Peter completed the installation by running the wire
through his door, along the roof, and twisting it about the "bit o'
rope" holding the little bottle which he fondly imagined would soon be
radiant.

"Bain't a first-class job, but I'll finish him proper to-morrow," he
said.

"Turn thikky tap!" cried excited Mary. "Aw, Peter, wun't the volks look
yaller when they sees 'en?"

The folks were not destined to look yellow, but Peter and Mary were soon
looking blue when repeated turning of the tap failed to lighten their
darkness. It was not such a simple matter as tapping a cask of cider
after all. They turned and twisted until the hut was dark and dreary,
but not a farthing's worth of rush-light was produced.

"Mebbe the wire's been and broke," suggested Peter hopefully.

He lighted his lantern, and they tramped together down the cleave,
following the wire all the way to the river and finding it intact.
Presumably it was the waterfall which was not doing its duty.

They returned to their gloomy huts, the one sorrowful, the other angry.
"You'm a gurt dafty-headed ole vule! That's what yew be!" cried the
angry one, when they reached the top of the cleave.

Peter received this opinion with unwonted humility; and replied as
meekly as any Christian martyr: "He be gone wrong somehow. I'll put 'en
right to-morrow."

"Put 'en right, will ye?" cried Mary scornfully. "How be I to mix bread'
and get supper? You'm a proper old horniwink, and I hopes the dogs 'll
have ye."

These curses aroused Peter. He spat upon the ground, and drew mystic
figures with his boot between Mary and himself. Having done what he
could to avert the evil, he turned upon Mary and threatened her with the
lantern. She continued her insults, having lost her temper completely,
not so much because Peter had failed in his electrical engineering, as
because she had an idea he had been making a fool of her. They were both
ignorant, but one did not know it and was brazen, while the other was
aware of it and was sensitive. She went on calling him weird names, and
hoping the whist hounds would hunt him, until he lost his temper too.
They had never quarrelled so violently before, but Peter was helpless in
spite of his big threats, for Mary could have tackled and beaten two men
as strong as her little brother. When he came to close quarters she
picked him up, lantern and all, cuffed him, carried him into her hut,
and snatching up her bulging umbrella whacked him well over the head
with it.

Peter was immediately overwhelmed, not merely by the umbrella, but with
packages which tumbled upon his shoulders, then to the floor, and were
revealed to Mary's eyes by the dull gleam of the lantern, which was
giving a very different light from that which had been anticipated from
what had been the little glass globe hanging from the roof--had been and
was not, for Mary had utterly demolished it with an upward sweep of her
immense umbrella.

"Lord love us all!" she cried, her good-humour returning at once. "If
there hain't the tea, and sugar, and t'other things what I bought to
Goosie Vair, and thought the piskies had been and took!"




CHAPTER XIII

ABOUT VARIOUS EMOTIONS


Pendoggat stood beneath the penthouse of his peat linhay, looking at a
newspaper. The issue was dated Friday, and it contained the news of the
week; not the news of the world, which was of no local interest, but a
condensed account of the great things begun, attempted, and accomplished
in the rural districts of Devon. The name of the parish was printed in
big letters, and under it appeared the wonder of the week: how little
Willie Whidden, while tramping to school, had picked a ripe strawberry
from the hedge; or how poor old Daniel Ashplant had been summoned for
drunkenness--P.C. Copplestone stating that defendant had behaved like a
madman--and fined half-a-crown, despite his solemn oath and covenant
that he had never tasted liquor in his life. Unimportant items, such as
the meeting of Imperial Parliament, and a great railway disaster, served
as stop-gaps in cases where advertisements just failed to fill the
column.

Pendoggat was looking for something. The testimony of a Wesleyan
minister after twenty years of faithful service, accompanied by his
photograph, caught his eye, and he thought he had found what he was
searching for. He was astonished to learn that friend and pastor Pezzack
was so popular; but when he read on he discovered it was only an
advertisement for a nerve tonic. He turned over a page, and at last came
upon the heading which he required. The title was that of a small
sub-parish north of the moor, celebrated for a recent pronouncement of
the curate-in-charge, who had congratulated the inhabitants upon their
greatly increased sobriety, as during the late year only forty-seven
persons, out of a total population of seventy-two, had been guilty of
drunkenness. Printers had blundered and mixed things up rather. A
hedge-builder had in the course of his duties come across a hole
containing a rabbit, a hedgehog, and a rat; and in the same paragraph
the Reverend Eli Pezzack had been safely married to Miss Jeconiah
Sampson, with a good deal of bell-ringing, local excitement--the bride
being well known in the neighbourhood for her untiring zeal in the
matter of chapel teas--and an exhibition of such numerous and costly
presents as a pair of brass candlesticks, an American clock, a set of
neat doyleys, and an artistic pin-tray.

It was one of Pendoggat's peculiarities that he did not smile. His idea
of expressing pleasure was to hurt something; just as a boy in moments
of excitement may slash at anything with his stick. Pendoggat dropped
the paper suddenly, ran at a goose which was waddling across his court,
captured the big strong bird, and wrung its neck. He flung the writhing
body on the stones and kicked it in his joy. The minister could not side
against him now. He had burdened himself with a wife, and there would
soon be the additional burden of a child. Pezzack was a free man no
longer, and had become dependent upon Pendoggat for food and home and
boots. He would have to obey his master and be his faithful dog, have to
keep his mouth shut when he discovered that the nickel-mine was a fraud,
for his home's sake and his wife's sake. Pendoggat could strip him naked
at a stroke.

Annie Crocker crossed the court towards the well with a crock in her
hand. Pendoggat noticed that her hair was growing grey, and that she was
getting slovenly.

"Who killed that old goose?" she said, standing and staring at the big
white body.

"I did," muttered Pendoggat.

"You'll have to pay," she said shrilly. "That be Mary Tavy's Old Sal,
what she thinks the world of. Killed him, have ye? I wouldn't be you,
Farmer Pendoggat, when Mary comes to hear on't. Mary's as good a man as
you."

"Shut your noise," he growled. "Who's to tell her?"

"Who? What's my tongue for? The first time you lift your hand to me Mary
knows."

Annie carried her crock to the well and lowered the bucket, muttering to
herself, and keeping a watchful eye upon the man who kept her; while
Pendoggat took the bird by the neck and dragged it towards the
furze-brake. He was afraid when he learnt that it was Mary's Old Sal,
for Mary was a creature whom he could not tackle. She seemed to him more
a power of Nature than a strong hermaphrodite; something like the wind,
or the torrential rain, or the storm-cloud. No commoner in his heart
disbelieves in witchcraft; and even the girls, who twist a bridal veil
across their faces when they are going to be married, know that the
face-covering is not an adornment, but a fetish or protection against
the "fascination" of the Evil Eye.

"Going to bury him!" sneered Annie. "Aye, he bain't the only one in
there. Bury him in the vuzz till Judgment, if ye can. The Lord will send
fire from heaven one day to consume that vuzz, and all that be hidden
shall be revealed. Drag him in by the neck, du'ye? Maybe they'll be
dragging you to a hole in the ground avore long."

She staggered across the court, splashing water like curses from the
crock, and slammed the house door violently. Pendoggat said nothing. He
bore with Anne because he was used to her, and because she knew too much
about him; but he felt he would murder her some day if he didn't get
away. He pushed the dead body of Old Sal as far into the furze as he
could with the pole that propped up the washing-line, then went into the
linhay, sat down upon the peat, and muttered hoarsely to the spiders in
the roof.

Two things he required: the return of Pezzack, and winter. He had
received through the minister nearly two hundred pounds from the retired
grocer and his friends, and he hoped to get more; but Pezzack the
secretary was a miserable correspondent without Pendoggat's assistance,
and nothing could be done until he came back to resume the duties which
were being interfered with by the honeymoon. Frost and snow were also
essential for his plans, because the fussy grocer, to whom had been
thrown the sop of chairman of the company--a jobbing printer had
prepared an ill-spelt prospectus, and the grocer never moved a yard
without a pocketful--was continually writing to know how things were
going, and Pendoggat wanted snow as an excuse for deferring mining
operations until spring. He would have left Dartmoor before then. He was
going to take Thomasine with him, and enjoy her youth until his passion
for her cooled; and then she could look after herself; and as for Annie,
the parish would look after her. He had reckoned on getting five hundred
pounds out of the visionary mine, only those respectable people of
Bromley were so chary of parting with their money, even though they had
Pezzack's unquestioned morality and good character to rely upon. His
only fear was lest the grocer should take fright and get it into his
head that the mine was a wild-cat scheme. It was hardly likely, as
Dartmoor is to Bromley minds an unknown and almost legendary district.

"I gave him five pounds of his uncle's money to get married on,"
Pendoggat muttered, without a trace of humour. "For the next few weeks
I'll give him fifteen shillings to live on, and then he may smash, if he
can't preach his pockets full."

He was more afraid of Annie than any one else. The suspicious nature of
women is one of their most animal-like characteristics. There had never
lived a man better able to keep a secret than Pendoggat; and yet Annie
knew there was something brewing, although he did not guess that she
knew. It was a matter of instinct, the same instinct which compels a dog
to be restless when, his master is about to go away. The animal knows
before his master begins to make any preparation for departure; and by
the same faculty Annie knew, or perhaps only guessed, that Pendoggat was
meditating how he could leave her. She was in the miserable position of
the woman who has lived for the best part of her life with a man without
being married to him, having no claim except a sentimental one upon him,
but compelled to cling to him for the sake of food and shelter, and
because he has taken everything from her whatever of charm and beauty
she might have possessed, and left her without the means of attracting
an honest man. She had passed as Mrs. Pendoggat for nearly twenty years.
Every one in the neighbourhood supposed she was married to her master.
Only he and she knew the truth: that her marriage-ring was a lie.
Pendoggat was a preacher, and a good one, people said. He was severe
upon human frailties. He preached the doctrine of eternal punishment,
and would have been the first to condemn those who straightened a
boundary wall or led a maid astray. He could not have maintained his
position had it been known that she who passed as his wife was actually
a spinster. Pendoggat did not know the truth about himself. When in the
pulpit religious zeal seized hold upon him, and he spoke from his heart,
meaning all that he said, believing it, and trying to impress it upon
the minds of his listeners. Outside the chapel his tempestuous passions
overwhelmed him. Inside the chapel he could not feel the Dartmoor winds,
although he could hear them; but the stone walls shielded him from them.
Outside they smote upon him, and there was nothing to protect him. He
was a man who lived two lives, and thought he was only living one. His
most strongly-marked characteristic, his inherent and incessant cruelty,
he overlooked entirely, not seeing it, not even knowing it was there. He
could steal a fowl from his neighbour's yard, and quote Scripture while
doing it; and the impression which would have remained in his mind was
that he had quoted Scripture, not that he had stolen the fowl. When he
thought of his conduct towards Pezzack he saw no cruelty in it. The only
thought which occurred to him was that the minister was a good man and
did his best, but that he, Pendoggat, was the better preacher of the
two.

It was Thursday; Thomasine's evening out, and her master's day to get
drunk. Farmer Chegwidden was regular in his habits. Every Thursday, and
sometimes on Saturdays, he went to one of the villages, drank himself
stupid, and galloped home like a madman. It was a matter of custom
rather than a pleasure. He had buried his father, mother, and sister, on
different Thursdays; and it was probably the carousal which followed
each of these events which had fixed Thursday in his mind as a day for
drowning sorrow.

Mrs. Chegwidden was one of the minor mysteries of human life. People
supposed that she lived in some shadowy kind of way, and they asked
after her health, and wondered what she was like by then; but nobody
seemed to have any clear notion concerning her. She was never visible in
the court of Town Rising, or in the garden, and yet she must have been
there sometimes. She never went to chapel, or to any other amusement.
She was like a mouse, coming out timidly when nobody was about, and
scuttling into some secret place at the sound of a footfall. She passed
her life among pots and pickle-jars, or, when she wanted a change, among
bottles and cider-casks, not drinking, or even tasting, but brewing,
preserving, pickling all the time. Chegwidden did not talk about her. He
always replied, "Her be lusty," if inquiries were made. The invisible
lady had no home talk. She was competent to remark upon the weather, and
in an occasional burst of eloquence would observe that she was troubled
with rheumatism. There are strange lives dragged out in lonely places.
No doubt Mrs. Chegwidden had been conceited once; and perhaps the
principal cause of her retirement into the dark ways and corners of Town
Rising might have been traced to the fact that she was bald. A woman
with no hair on her head is a grotesque object. Thomasine was really the
mistress of the house, and she did the work well just because she was
stupid. She worked mechanically, doing the same thing every day at the
same time. Stupid women make the best housekeepers. Thomasine was a
useful willing girl, who deserved to be well treated. Her master had not
meddled with her.

Young Pugsley had been round to the kitchen door after dark since Goose
Fair, and had urged Thomasine to wear a ring. The poor girl was willing,
but she could not accept the offer, for more than one reason. Young
Pugsley was not a bad fellow; not the sort to go about with a revolver
in his pocket and an intention to use it if his young woman proved
fickle. His wages were rising, and he thought he could get a cottage if
Thomasine would let him court her. He admitted he was giving his company
to another girl, and should go on with his attentions if Thomasine would
not have him. The girl went back into the kitchen and began to cry; and
Pugsley shuffled after her in a docile manner and sought to embrace her
in the dark; but she pushed him off, with the saying: "I bain't good
enough for yew, Will." Pugsley felt the age of chivalry echoing within
him as he replied that he was only an everyday young chap, but if he was
willing to take her it wasn't for her to have opinions about herself;
only he couldn't hang on for ever, and she must make up her mind one way
or the other, as he was doing well, getting fourteen shillings now, and
with all that money it was his duty to get married, and if he didn't he
might get into the way of spending his evenings in the pot-house.
Thomasine only cried the more, until at last she managed to find the
words of a confession which sent him from her company for ever. On that
occasion it was fortunate for the girl that she could not think, because
the faculty of reason could have done nothing beyond suggesting to her
that the opportunity of leading a respectable life had gone from her,
like her sweetheart, never to return.

She dressed herself in her best, and went to the old tumble-down linhay
on the moor where Brightly had taken shelter after his unfortunate
meeting with Pendoggat. She had been told to go there after dark and
wait. She did not know whether she was going to be murdered, but she
hoped not. She mended her gloves, put on her hat, twisted a feather boa
round her neck, though it would be almost as great a nuisance in the
wind as Mary's umbrella, but she had nothing else, gave a few tidying
touches to the kitchen, and stepped out. It was very dark, and the sharp
breeze pricked her hot face and made it smart.

She reached the linhay and waited. The place smelt unpleasantly, because
beasts driven from the high moor by bad weather had taken shelter there.
A ladder led up to a small loft half filled with dry fern except in
places where moisture dripped through the roof. It was very lonely,
standing on the brow of the hill where the wind howled. A couple of owls
were hooting pleasantly at one another. No drearier spot would be found
on all Dartmoor. Thomasine felt horror creeping over her, and her warm
flesh kept on shuddering. She would not be able to wait there alone for
long. Terror would make her disobedient. She wished she had been walking
along the sheltered road by Tavy station, with young Pugsley's arm about
her waist. It was not an evening to enjoy that bald stretch of moor with
its wild wind and gaping wheals.

A horse galloped up. The sound of its iron shoes suggested frost, and so
did the girl's breathing. She was wondering what her father was doing.
He was a village cobbler, and a strict Methodist, fairly straight
himself, and without sympathy for sinners. She moved, trod on some
filth, and cried out. A man's voice answered and told her roughly to be
quiet. Then Pendoggat groped his way in and felt towards her.

He had come in an angry mood, prepared to punish the girl, and to make
her suffer, for having dared to flaunt with young Pugsley before his
eyes in Tavistock. He had brought his whip into the linhay, with some
notion of using it, and of drawing the girl's blood, as he had drawn it
with the sprig of gorse at the beginning of his courtship. But inside
the dreary foul-smelling place his feelings changed. Possibly it was
because he was out of the wild wind, sheltered from it by the cracked
cob walls, or perhaps he felt himself in chapel; for when he took hold
of Thomasine and pulled her to him he felt nothing but tenderness, and
the desire in him then was not to punish, nor even to rebuke her, but to
preach, to tell her something of the love of God, to point out to her
how wicked she had been to yield to him, and how certain was the doom
which would come upon her for doing so. These feelings also passed when
he had the girl in his arms, feeling her soft neck, her big lips, her
hot blood-filled cheeks, and her knees trembling against his. For the
time passion went away and Pendoggat was a lover; a weak and foolish
being, intoxicated by that which has always been to mankind, and always
must be, what the fragrance of the lime-blossom is to the bee. Even
Pendoggat had that something in him which theologians say was made in
heaven, or at least outside this earth; and he was to know in that dirty
linhay, with moisture around and dung below, the best and tenderest
moments of his life. He was to enter, if only for once, that wonderful
land of perennial spring flowers where Boodles and Aubrey wandered,
reading their fairy-tales in each other's eyes.

"Been here long, my jewel?" he said, caressing her.

Thomasine could see nothing except a sort of suggestion of cobwebby
breath and the outline of a man's head; but she could hear and feel; and
these faculties were sharpened by the absence of vision. She did not
know who the man was. Pendoggat had galloped up to the linhay, Pendoggat
had entered and seized her, and then had disappeared to make way for
some one else. He had, as it were, pushed young Pugsley into her arms
and left them alone together, only her old sweetheart had never caressed
her in that way, with a devotional fondness and a kind of religious
touch. Pugsley's courtship had been more in the nature of a duty. If she
had been his goddess he had worshipped her in a Protestant manner, with
rather the attitude of an agnostic going to church because it was right
and proper; but now she was receiving the full Catholic ritual of love,
the flowers, incense, and religious warmth. This was all new to
Thomasine, and it seemed to awaken something in her, some chord of
tenderness which had never been aroused before, some vague desire to
give a life of attention and devotion to some one, to any one, who would
reward her by holding her like that.

"Who be ye?" she murmured.

"The man who loves you, who has loved you ever since he put his eyes
upon you," he answered. "I was angry with you, my beautiful strong girl.
You went off with that young fellow at the fair when I'd told you not
to. He's not for you, my precious. You are mine, and I am going to have
you, and keep you, and bite the life out of you if you torment me. Your
mouth's as hot as fire, and your body pricks me like a furze-bush. Throw
your arms around me and hold on--hold on as tight as the devil holds us,
and let me love you like God loves."

He buried his lips in her neck, and bit her like a dog playing with a
rabbit.

"I waited on the bridge all day," faltered Thomasine, merely making the
statement, not venturing a reproof. She wanted to go on, and explain how
young Pugsley had forced himself upon her and compelled her to go with
him, only she could not find the words.

"I couldn't get away from Annie. She stuck to me like a pin," he
muttered. "I'm going to get away from her this winter, leave her, go off
with you somewhere, anywhere, get off Dartmoor and go where you like.
Heaven or hell, it's the same to me, if I've got you."

This was all strange language to Thomasine. Passion she comprehended,
but the poetry and romance of love, even in the wild and distorted form
in which it was being presented, were beyond her. She could not
understand the real meaning of the awakening of that tenderness in her,
which was the womanhood trying to respond, and to make her, like
Boodles, a creature of love, but failing because it could not get
through the mass of flesh and ignorance, just as the seed too deeply
planted can only struggle, but must fail, to grow into the light. She
felt it would be pleasant to go away with Pendoggat if he was going to
love her like that. She would be something of a lady; have a servant
under her, perhaps. Thomasine was actually thinking. She would have a
parlour to keep locked up; be the equal of the Chegwiddens; far above
the village cobbler her father, and nearly as good as the idol-maker of
Birmingham. That Pendoggat loved her was certain. He would not have lost
his senses and behaved as he had done if he did not love her. Thomasine,
like most young women, believed as much as she wanted to, believed that
men are as good as their word, and that love and brute passion are
synonymous terms. Once upon a time she had been taught how to read,
write, and reckon; and she had forgotten most of that. She had not been
taught that love is like the flower of the Agave: rare, and not always
once in a lifetime; that passion is a wayside weed everywhere. Perhaps
if she had been taught that she would not have forgotten.

"We'll go away soon, my jewel," Pendoggat whispered. "Annie is not my
wife--you know that. I can leave her any day. My time at the Barton is
up in March, but we'll go before then."

"Don't this old place smell mucky?" was all Thomasine had to say.

They climbed up the ladder, and sat on the musty fern, which had made a
bed for Brightly and his bitch, and Pendoggat continued his pleasant
ways. He was in a curious state of happiness, still believing he was
with the woman that he loved. The walls of the linhay continued to be
the walls of Ebenezer and a shelter against the wind. They embraced and
sang a hymn, but softly, lest any chance passer-by should overhear and
discover them. Pendoggat knelt upon the fern and prayed aloud for their
future happiness, speaking from his heart and meaning what he said.
Thomasine was as happy as the fatted calf which knows nothing of its
fate. It was on the whole the most successful of her evenings out. She
was going to be a respectable married woman after all. Pendoggat had
sworn it in his prayer. He could do as he liked with her after that, now
that she was his in the sight of Heaven. The dirty linhay was a chapel,
and a place of love where they were married in word and deed.

Farmer Chegwidden came thundering home from Brentor, flung across his
horse like a sack of meal, and almost as helpless. He crossed the
railway by the bridge, and his horse began to plunge over the boggy
slope of the moor. It was darker, the clouds were hurrying, and the wind
was a gale upon the rider's side as he galloped for the abandoned mines,
clinging tighter. His horse knew what Thursday-night duty meant. He knew
he had to gallop direct for Town Rising with a drunken man upon his
back, and that he must not stumble more than he could help. There was no
question as to which was the finer animal of the two. They crossed
Gibbet Hill, down towards the road above St. Mary Tavy about two hundred
yards above the linhay; and there the more intelligent animal swerved to
the right, to avoid some posts and a gravel-pit which he could not see
but knew were there; but as they came down the lower animal struck his
superior savagely upon the ear to assert his manhood, and the horse, in
starting aside, stumbled upon a ridge of peat, came to his knees, and
Farmer Chegwidden dived across the road with a flourish that an acrobat
might have envied.

These gymnastics were no new thing, but the farmer had been lucky
hitherto and had generally alighted upon his hands. On this occasion his
shoulder and the side of his head were the first to touch ground, and he
was stunned. The horse, seeing that he could do nothing more, sensibly
trotted off towards his stable, and Farmer Chegwidden lay in a heap upon
the road after the manner of the man who went down from Jerusalem to
Jericho and fell among thieves.

There was no good Samaritan about that part of Dartmoor; or, if there
was one, he was not taking a walk abroad with the idea of practising his
virtues. There was, indeed, no reason why any one should pass that way
before morning, as people who live in lonely places require no curfew to
send them under cover, and the night was wild with the first big wind of
autumn. Still some one did come that way, not a Levite to cross over to
the other side, but Peter, to take a keen interest in the prostrate
form. Peter had been into the village, like a foolish virgin, to seek
oil, and new lamps to put it in. All attempts to install the electric
light had continued to prove that there was still something in the
science which he had failed to master; and as the evenings were getting
long, and the light afforded by the lantern was quite inadequate, Mary
had sent him into the village to buy their old lamps back. Mother Cobley
the shopwoman said she had sold them, which was not true, but she
naturally desired to make Peter purchase new lamps. He had done so under
compulsion, and was returning with a lamp under each arm and a bottle of
oil in his pocket, somewhat late, as an important engagement at the inn
had detained him, when he stumbled across Farmer Chegwidden. He placed
his purchases upon the road, then drew near to examine the body closely.

"He'm a dead corpse sure 'nuff," said Peter. "Who be ye?" he shouted.

As there was neither reply nor movement the only course was to apply a
test to ascertain whether the man was living or dead. The method which
suggested itself to Peter was to apply his boot, and this he did, with
considerable energy, but without success. Then he reviled the body; but
that too was useless.

"Get up, man! Why don't ye get up?" he shouted.

There was no response, so Peter began to kick again; and when the figure
refused to be reanimated by such treatment he lost his temper at so much
obstinacy and went on shouting: "Get up, man! Wun't ye get up? To hell,
man! Why don't ye get up?"

It did not appear to occur to Peter that the man could not get up.

The next course was the very obvious one of securing those good things
which the gods had provided. Farmer Chegwidden had not much money left
in his pockets, but Peter discovered it was almost enough to pay for the
new lamps. Mary had advanced the money for them, so what Peter gained
through the farmer's misfortune was all profit. Then he picked up his
lamps, and hurried back to the village to lodge the information of the
"dead corpse lying up on Dartmoor" in the proper quarter.

He had not been gone long when Pendoggat rode up. Thomasine had hurried
back to Town Rising by the "lower town," afraid to cross by the moor in
that wind. He too discovered the farmer, or rather his horse did; and he
too refused to pass by on the other side. Dismounting, he knelt and
struck a match. The wind blew it out at once, but the sudden flash
showed him the man's face. Chegwidden was breathing heavily, a fact
which Peter had omitted to notice.

"Dead drunk! He can bide there," muttered Pendoggat.

He got upon his horse and rode on. As he crossed the brow, and reached a
point where there was nothing to break the strength of the wind, he
pulled his horse round, hesitated a moment, then cantered back. The wind
was in his lungs and in his nostrils, and he was himself again, a strong
man, not a weak creature in love with a farm-wench, not a singer of
hymns nor a preacher of sermons, but a hungry animal to whom power had
been given over weak and lesser beings of the earth.

He knelt at Chegwidden's side, and tore the clothes off him until he had
stripped him naked. He dragged the body to the side of the road and
toppled it into the gorse. The clothes he rolled up, took with him, and
higher up flung into an old mine-shaft. Then he rode on his way,
shouting, fighting with the wind.




CHAPTER XIV

ABOUT A STRUGGLE AT THE GATE OF FAIRYLAND


Old Weevil walked about the moor, because there was no room in the
cottage or garden, and whispered to the sun: "I wish she wasn't so
happy, I wish she wouldn't laugh so, I wish she wouldn't talk about that
boy." A good many other things he wished for. Mr. Bellamie had written
to present his compliments to Abel Cain Weevil, Esquire--though the old
man was not used to that title--and to announce that he proposed giving
himself the pleasure of calling at Lewside Cottage and enjoying a little
conversation with its tenant. Weevil guessed how he would blunder
through that interview in his simple beetle-hearted way; and then he
would have to break his little girl's heart as carefully as he could.
After all she was very young, and hearts broken early can be put
together again. Plants broken off in the spring grow up as well as ever.
It is when they are broken in the late summer that there is no chance,
and no time, to mend.

"She will feel it--like a butcher's knife," he whispered. "I was wrong
to pick her up that night. I ought to have left her. It would have been
all over long ago, and she would have been spared the knife. But no, she
is too nice, too good. She will do it! She will fight her way through!
You'll see, Abel-Cain. You watch her, my old dear! She will beat the
Brute yet." He chuckled, snapped his fingers at the sun, waved his hand
at Ger Tor, and trotted back to the cottage.

Weevil talked in parables with the eccentricity, not of genius, but of
habit. His life had been spoilt by "the Brute." He had done what he
could to fight the monster until he had realised his utter helplessness.
And now his little maid's life was to be spoilt by the Brute, but he
thought she would succeed better than he had done, and fight her way out
into a more serene atmosphere. Old Weevil's Brute was simply cruelty,
the ugly thing that encompassed him.

He was a silly old man in many ways. People with an intense kindness for
animals are probably freaks of Nature, who has tried to teach them to be
cruel, only they have rejected her teaching. Love for animals is,
strictly speaking, no part of the accepted religion. Hebrew literature,
so far from teaching kindness to animals, as the Koran does, recommends
the opposite; and the founder of Christianity in his dealings with
animals destroyed them. Fondness for animals began probably when men
first admitted beasts into their homes as members of the family, as the
Bedouin Arab treated his horse. Such animals developed new traits and
advanced towards a far higher state of evolution than they would have
attained under natural conditions. With higher intelligence came also a
greater sensitiveness to pain. Those animals, such as the horse and dog,
who have been brought up with men, and acquired so much from them, have
an equal right to be protected by the laws which protect men. Such were
some of Weevil's arguments, but perhaps he was mistaken. He had failed
signally to impart the doctrine of kindness to animals to his
neighbours. He went too far, a common fault among men who are obsessed
with a single idea. He attacked the rabbit-trap violently, which was
manifestly absurd, and only convinced people that he was mad. He
declared that the rabbit, caught and held in the iron jaws of the trap
to perish miserably hour by hour, must suffer agonies. He had himself
put his finger into such a trap, and was unable to bear the pain more
than ten minutes. Naturally people laughed at him. What a fool he must
be to put his finger in a trap! It had always been the custom to capture
rabbits in that savage way, and if it had been cruel the clergy would
have preached against it and the law would have prohibited it. But when
Weevil went on to assert that the rabbits had feelings he got beyond
them entirely, and they could only shake their heads at him, and feel
sorry for his insanity, and despise him for being such a bad sportsman.
Even the village constable felt he must draw the line somewhere, and
objected to paying any tribute of respect to a dafty old man who went
about telling people that rabbits could feel pain. When he met Weevil he
grinned, and looked the other way to avoid saluting him.

Weevil spent much of his time drafting petitions to Parliament for the
abolition of various instruments of torture, but of course nobody would
sign them; and he indited lengthy screeds to humane societies upon the
same subject, and these were always courteously acknowledged and placed
on file for future reference, which was another way of saying that they
would not be looked at again. He was himself a member of one society,
and some years back had induced it to prosecute a huntsman who had been
guilty of gross cruelty to a cat; but as the man was popular, and the
master of the hounds was upon the Bench in the company of other
sportsmen, the prosecution failed, although the offence was not denied;
and old Weevil had his windows broken the next day. After that he
quieted down, acknowledging that victory must remain with the strong. He
went on preparing his indictments, writing his letters, and drafting his
useless petitions; and whenever he discovered a rabbit-trap in his walks
he promptly sprung it; and if the river happened to be handy, and nobody
was about, that trap disappeared for ever.

It was unfortunate for Weevil that he was more eccentric in appearance
than in habits. He had a comic face and a nervous smile. The more in
earnest he was the more he grinned; and that helped to convince people
of his insanity. Then he was a loose character, and had evidently
enjoyed a lurid past. People were not going to be lectured by a wicked
old fellow, with a face like a rag-doll and a foolish smile, who lived
in a small cottage with an illegitimate daughter. Weevil had never
openly denied the paternity; he did not want it to be known that Boodles
was a child of shame for her own sake; and he was in his heart rather
proud to think people believed he was the father of such a radiant
little maid.

"You must do it," he said, as he trotted into the cottage. "You must
prepare the child, Abel-Cain. Don't be a fool now."

The little sitting-room was very neat. Boodles was not there, but
visible tokens of her industry were everywhere. A big bowl of late
heather from the moor, with rowan and dogwood berries from Tavy woods,
stood upon the table. A little stocking, rather plentifully darned, was
being darned again. A blotting-book was open, and a sheet of paper was
upon it, and all that was written on the sheet was the beginning of a
letter: "My dearest Boy," that and nothing more. It would have been a
pretty little room had it not been for that sheet of paper. The silly
old man bent over it, and a very good imitation of a tear splashed upon
the "dearest Boy" and blotted it out. "You must not be such an old fool,
Abel-Cain," he said, in his kindly scolding voice.

Then Boodles came in laughing, with a head like the rising sun. She had
been washing her hair, and it was hanging down to dry, and sparkling in
the strong light just as the broken granite on Dartmoor sparkles when
the sun casts a beam across and seems to fill the path with diamonds.

"Oh, what a grumpy face, old man!" she cried. "Such a toothachy face for
as butiful a morning as ever was! Have you been cruel and caught a wee
mousie and hurt it so much that you couldn't let it go? I think I shall
throw away that trap and get a benevolent pussycat instead."

Lewside Cottage was infested with mice, very much as Hamelin town was
once overrun with rats, and as Weevil could not pipe them into the Tavy
he had invested in a humane trap which caught the little victims alive.
Then the difficulty of disposing of them arose. Weevil solved it in a
simple fashion. He caught a mouse every night and let it go in the
morning. In spite of these methods of extermination the creatures
continued to increase and multiply.

"I was going out this afternoon," said Boodles, tugging at her hair with
a comb. "But if you have got one of your umpy-umpy fits I shall stop at
home. I want to go, daddy-man, 'cause my boy hasn't got much longer at
home, and he says it is nice to have Boodles with him, and Boodles
thinks, it is nice too."

"Boodle-oodle, my darling," quavered Weevil, "the sun may be shining
outside, but it is damp and clammy in here. The Brute has got hold of me
again."

"No, it isn't clamp and dammy, daddy," she laughed. "It's only a stupid
old cloud going by. There are lots of butterflies, if you will look out.
See! I can nearly tread upon my hair. Isn't it butiful?"

"You must try and grow up, little girl."

"Not till I'm twenty," said she.

"You mustn't laugh so much, my little maid."

"Why, daddy?" she cried quickly. "You mustn't say that. Oh, I don't
laugh too much; I couldn't. I'm not always so very happy when I laugh,
because it's not always afternoon out with me, but it does us good to
make believe, and I thought it helped you to forget things. You telling
me I mustn't laugh! You've been and killed a mouse."

"They say fair-haired girls don't feel it like the dark-haired ones,"
muttered Weevil.

"What are you talking about?" cried Boodles. She had stopped laughing.
The clouds were coming up all round and it was nearly snow time; and
there is little laughter in a Dartmoor winter. "Is it the Brute, daddy?"
she said sympathetically.

"Yes, Boodle-oodle," said the sorrowful old man, with his nervous grin.
"It is the Brute."

"I wish you could catch him in your trap. You wouldn't let him go," said
Boodles, with a little smile.

Weevil was kneeling at the table, his comic head jerking from side to
side, while his fingers tried to make a paper-boat out of the "dearest
Boy" sheet of note-paper.

"I want to talk to you, my little maid," he said. "I want to remind you
that we cannot get away from the Brute. I came to this lonely cottage to
hide from him, because he was making my life miserable. I could not go
out without meeting him. But it was no good. Boodles. Doors and bolts
won't keep him out. Do you know why? It is because he is a part of
ourselves."

"Such nonsense," said she. "Silly old man to call yourself cruel."

"The Brute is only ourself after all. I cannot put my foot to the ground
without crushing some insect. I cannot see the use of it--this prolific
creation of things, this waste of life. It drives me nearly mad,
tortures me, makes me a brute to myself."

"But you're such a--what do you call it?--such a whole-hogger," said the
child. "Try and not worry, daddy. You only make yourself wretched, and
you make me wretched too, and then you're being cruel to me--and that's
how things get cold and foggy," said she. "May I laugh now?"

"No, Boodles," he said, quite sternly. "I was cruel when I picked you up
that night and brought you in."

The girl winced a little. She wanted to forget all about that.

"Nature preserves only that she may destroy," he rambled on. "Take the
plants--"

"I've taken them," broke in Boodles merrily.

"Be serious, Boodle-oodle," said the old man, grinning worse than ever.
"The one and only duty of the flower is to bear seed, and when it has
done that it is killed, and that it may do so Nature protects it in a
number of different ways, many of which cause suffering to others. Some
plants are provided with thorns, others with stinging-cells, others with
poison, so that they shall not be destroyed by animals. These are
generally the less common plants. Those that are common are unprotected,
because they are so numerous that some are certain to survive. All the
plants of the desert have thorns, because vegetation is so scarce there
that any unprotected plant would soon be devoured. The rabbit is an
utterly defenceless creature among animals, and almost every living
thing is its enemy; but lest the animal should cease to survive Nature
compels it to breed rapidly. Surely it would have been kinder to have
given it the means of protecting itself. I cannot understand it,
Boodles. There seems to be no fixed law, no limit to Nature's cruelty,
although there is to her kindness. The world is a bloody field of
battle; everything fighting for life; a pitiful drama of cowardice right
through. I don't know whether I am talking nonsense, Boodles. I expect I
am, but I can't speak calmly about these things, I lose control over
myself, and want to hit my head against the wall."

Boodles slipped her arm about his neck and patted his white whiskers.
The paper-boat was a heap of pulp by this time.

"Now it's my turn," she said gaily. "Let Boodles preach, and let old men
be silent. Dear old thing, there are lots of queer puzzles, and I'm sure
it is best to leave them all alone. 'Let 'em bide,' as Mary would say.
We can't know much, and it's no use trying. You might as well worry your
dear white head about the queer thing called eternity. You start, and
you go round, and then you go round again faster until you begin to
whirl, and you see stars, and your head aches--that's as far as you can
ever get when you think about queer puzzles. And that's all I've got to
say. Don't you think it rather a good sermon for a babe and suckling?"

"It's no use. She doesn't see what I'm driving at," muttered poor old
Weevil.

"My hair is nearly dry. I think I'll go and do it up now," said Boodles.
"I'm going to wear my white muslin. Shan't I look nice?"

"She doesn't know why she looks nice," murmured the silly old man. "It
is Nature's cruel trick to make her attract young men. Just as the
flowers are given sweetness to attract the fertilising bee. There it is
again--no fixed law. Every sweet flower attracts its bees, but it is not
every sweet girl who may."

"What's all that about bees?" laughed Boodles. "Oh, I forgot! I'm not to
laugh."

"Boodle-oodle, do try and take things seriously. Do try and remember,"
he pleaded.

"Remember--what?" she said.

"We cannot get away from the Brute."

"But I'm not going to be grumpy until I have to," she said. "It would be
such nonsense. I expect there will be lots of worries later on. I must
be happy while I can. Girls ought not to be told anything about
unhappiness until they are twenty. There ought to be a law made to
punish any one who made a little girl grumpy. If there was you would go
to prison, old man."

"You must think, Boodles. We are putting it off too long--the question
of your future," he said blunderingly. Now he had got at the subject! "I
am getting old, I have only an annuity, and there will be nothing for
you when I die. I do not know what I shall do without you, but I must
send you away, and have you trained for a nurse, or something of the
kind. It will be bad to be alone again, with the Brute waiting for me at
every corner, but worse to think of you left unprovided for."

"My dear daddy-man," sighed Boodles, with wide-open eyes. "So that's the
trouble! Aren't you worrying your dear old head about another queer
puzzle? I don't think I shall have to work very dreadful hard for my
living."

"Why not?" said the old man, hoping his voice was stern.

"Why?" murmured Boodles prettily. "Well, you know, dear old silly, some
one says that my head is lovely, and my skin is golden, and I'm such a
jolly nice little girl--and I won't repeat it all, or I might swell up
with pride, and you might believe it and find out what an angel you have
been keeping unawares--"

"Believe," he broke in, catching at the straw as he went down with a
gurgle. "You mustn't believe too much, Boodle-oodle. You are so young.
You don't in the least know what is going to happen to you."

"Of course I know," declared Boodles; "I'm going to marry Aubrey when
I'm twenty."

"But his parents--" began Weevil, clutching at the edge of the table,
and wondering what made it feel so sharp.

"They are dears," said Boodles. "Such nice pretty people, and so kind.
He is just an old Aubrey, and I expect he had the same girl's face when
he fell in love with his wife. She's so fragile, with beautiful big
eyes. It's such a lovely house. Much too good for me."

"That's just it," he said eagerly, wishing she would not be dense. "It's
much too good for you, darling."

"Yes, but I don't think you ought to say it," pouted Boodles.

"We are ordinary people. I am not quite what the Bellamies would call a
gentleman. My father was only a piano-maker," old Weevil faltered,
hoping that the girl would think of her unknown parents when she heard
him refer to his. "I went to a grammar-school, then became a bank-clerk
until I was shelved, partly on account of my grey hairs, but chiefly
because I hit the cashier on the head with a ruler for kicking a dog. I
could not go into Mr. Bellamie's house, Boodles. It is too good for both
of us. There is nothing to be ashamed of in my name, but it is not a
genteel one. We are only unimportant beetles, and the Bellamies are big
bugs," he said, laughing in spite of his feelings at his joke because it
was so seldom that he made one.

"Aubrey knows all about it. He doesn't care," declared Boodles, nodding
cheerfully. "Besides, I'm not really your daughter anyhow."

Weevil gasped at her innocent impertinence. Here he was trying to make
her understand that she was a nameless little lady who could not
possibly marry any one of gentle birth, and she was calmly suggesting
she might be superior to him. It was only a thoughtless remark, but it
served to show him that nothing but plain speaking would serve with a
girl in love. She looked at everything through Aubrey's eyes; and Aubrey
was only a boy who could hardly know his own mind. A boy does not care
whether his sweetheart's father is a tinker or a rake; but a man, and an
only son, who has reached an age when he can understand what his family
and society and his profession demand of him, cares a great deal. There
comes a time for every young person when he or she must leave fairyland
and go into the world; and the pity of it is they cannot return. They
look back, but the gate is shut. It is a gate which opens only one
way--to exclude. For every child is born inside. They grow up, and see
their children in that pleasant land, and wish they could join them
there; but if they could go back they would not be happy, for it would
be to them no longer a place of romance and sunshine, but a place of
shadow, and dead selves, and memories. It would not be spring, with
primroses and bluebells in flower, but a Christmas Eve when the dead
life and the dead companions haunt the house, and grim Mother Holle is
plucking her geese and dropping the feathers down the chimney. Aubrey at
twenty adored Boodles. Aubrey at thirty might worry his head about her
parents and her birth-name. Boodles at thirty would be the same as she
was then, loving, and wanting nothing else. Weevil was right in some of
his theories. Every one must suffer from the Brute, except those who
deserve it most. The innocent have to suffer for them. Boodles too was
right. It is no use trying to solve queer puzzles.

"No, darling; you are not my daughter. I wish you were. I wish you
were."

"You are too old, daddy-man--at least rather too old," said Boodles
gently. "I should have been born when you were past fifty. Why, what's
the matter? You are dreadful funny to-day, old man."

Weevil had jumped up nimbly, and running to the window poked his head
out to gulp into his lungs a good mouthful of air. He ran back to the
astonished little girl, took her by the shoulders, shook her severely,
grinned at her; then he stumbled back into his chair and began to laugh
furiously.

"Shall I tell you a story, Boodle-oodle, a beautiful story of a little
girl who wasn't what she thought she was, though she didn't know who she
was, and didn't care, and wouldn't think, and couldn't listen when
people tried to tell her? Shall I tell you all that, darling?"

"Not now," gasped Boodles. "I must go and dress. And I shall laugh as
much as I like--mean old thing! Telling me I mustn't laugh, and then
shaking the house down. Dad, if you go on making explosions you'll bring
up rain-clouds, and my afternoon will be spoilt, and so will my frock;
and then I shall have to tell you a story of a horrid old man, who
wasn't a bit like what he hoped his daughter thought he was, though he
didn't know how horrid he was, and didn't care, and wouldn't listen when
people tried to tell him. Well, I'll give you a kiss anyhow, though you
are mad."

"Not daughter," cried the excited old man. "Remember you are not my
daughter, Boodles."

"I know. You needn't rub it in."

"I've got the Brute! I've got him by the neck. He's made me suffer, but
I'll pay him now. Run away, darling. Run away and put on your white
muslin. Laugh as much as you can, and be as pretty as you like. The
Brute shan't touch you. I'll put a muzzle on him. Don't forget to tell
them I am not your father. I've got the whole story in my head. Run
away, little girl, while I think it out."

Boodles was used to these fits, but usually she understood them. They
were generally provoked by rabbit-traps. She could not understand this
one. Evidently the old man had got hold of something new; but she
couldn't stop any longer, as it was nearly time to go down to the Tavy
and turn up the stones to look for fairies.

Weevil certainly had got hold of something new. When Boodles had gone he
jumped up and locked the door. Then he looked at his watch. Mr. Bellamie
might arrive at any time; and he was not nearly ready. He began to jump
about the room in a most eccentric way, snapping his fingers, and
grinning at his comic features in the mantel-glass.

"You've got to be a liar, Abel-Cain, the worst liar that ever lived, as
big a rogue as your namesake Cain, who murdered your namesake Abel.
You're an old man, and you ought not to do it, but if lies can save her
from the Brute lies shall. They'll punish you for it when you're dead,
but if she is saved no matter, none at all. I shall tell them they ought
not to have created the Brute. I won't be afraid of them. Now you
mustn't make a mess of it. I'm afraid you will, Abel-Cain. You're a
shocking old fool sometimes. Put it all down--write it out, then learn
it by heart. The old hands are shaking so. Steady yourself, old fool,
for her sake, for the sake of that pretty laugh. Come along now!
Abel-Cain _versus_ the Brute. We must begin with the marriage."

He pressed his cold hands upon his hot face, and began to scribble
tremulously on the paper.

"You were married at the age of twenty-five to a girl who was superior
to you socially. Her name--let me see--what was her name? You must find
one that sounds well. Fitzalan is a good name. You married Miss Fitzalan
at--at, why, of course, St. George's, Hanover Square. She's dead now.
She died of--of, well, it don't matter; she's dead. We had a daughter,
or was it a son? Better keep to one sex, and then there will be no
saying hims for hers, and you mustn't get confused, Abel-Cain, you must
keep your brain as clear as glass. We had a daughter, and called
her--now it must be something easy to remember. Titania is a pretty
name. We called her Tita for short, Titania Fitzalan-Weevil That's it!
You are doing it, Abel-Cain! Keep it up, you old liar. He'll be here
presently. You took the name of Fitzalan-Weevil because it sounded
better, but when your wife died you went back to your own. She was
buried in Hendon churchyard. You don't know why it should be Hendon. Ah
yes, you do, Abel-Cain. Don't you remember how you used to walk along
that road on Sundays and holidays, and have some bread and cheese in the
little tea-garden at Edgware; and then by Mill Hill and Arkley to
Barnet, and back by Hampstead Heath to your lodgings in Kentish Town?
That's why your wife was buried in Hendon churchyard. Then Titania was
married, a very grand marriage, Hanover Square again. It's a pity you
haven't got the press-cuttings, but they are lost--burnt, or something
of the sort--and Titania's husband was the youngest son of the Earl
of--No, that won't do. You mustn't lie too high, or you'll spoil the
story. He was Mr. Lascelles, Harold Lascelles, second son of the late
Reverend Henry Arthur Lascelles, sometime rector of St. Michael's,
Cornhill, and honorary canon of St. Paul's Cathedral. Drag the clergy
in, Abel-Cain. It's respectable. They lived in Switzerland for his
health. You remember he was rather delicate, and Titania wasn't very
strong either; and Boodles was born there. It's working out fine. You
can't be her father, but you can be her grandfather. Boodles was born in
Lausanne, at the hotel where Gibbons wrote his history.

"Now you come to the mystery; there must be a mystery about Boodles, but
it must be respectable, a tragedy in high life, a regrettable incident,
not a shameful episode. Titania disappeared. What happened to her nobody
knows. You don't know, and Harold doesn't know. She may have gone for a
walk in the mountains and never come back, or she may have gone out in a
boat on Lake Geneva and been drowned, or she may have been murdered by a
madman in a pine-wood. It was all very sad and dreadful, and has
naturally cast a cloud over Boodles's life, though she knows nothing
about it, as she was scarcely a year old when her mother disappeared.
You have never got over it, Abel-Cain, and you don't think you ever
will, as Titania was your only child. You couldn't bear to keep any of
her photographs, so you destroyed them all.

"Now there is Harold. You can't kill him, Abel-Cain. So much mortality
might be suspicious, and if you let him marry again that would mean a
lot more names to remember. Harold went into the Catholic Church and
became a priest. At the present time he is in charge of a mission in
British Guiana. That's a good long way off, but you must look it up in
the map and make sure where it is."

The old man leaned back and mopped his face. He was working under a kind
of inspiration, and was afraid it might die out before he had got to the
end of the story. Again he plunged into the narrative, and continued--

"Harold didn't know what to do with Boodles. Young Catholic priests
cannot be bothered with babies, so he sent her to you, to old
grandfather, and asked you to bring her up. He couldn't pay anything, as
he had devoted his fortune to building a church and establishing his
mission, and besides, you didn't need it in those days, He was a good
fellow, Harold, an earnest, devoted man, but you haven't heard anything
of him for a long time. You called the child Boodles when she was a baby
because it was the sort of name that seemed to suit her, and you have
never got out of it. Her real name is--There must be a lot of them. They
always have a lot in high life. No girl with a long string of names
could be anything but well-born. Her name is Titania Katherine Mary
Fitzalan-Lascelles."

He read out the list again and again, grinning and crying at the same
time, and chuckling joyfully: "There's nothing of the Weevil in her
now."

"Then there came the smash," he went on, resuming his pen to add the
finishing touches to the story. "You lost your money. It was gold-mines.
That is quite safe. One always loses money in gold-mines, and you were
never much of a man of business, always ready to listen to any one, and
so you were caught. You retired with what little you could reclaim from
the wreck of your shattered fortunes--that's a fine sentence. You must
get that by heart. It would convince any one that you couldn't tell a
lie. You retired, broken in health and mind and fortune, to this little
cottage on Dartmoor, and you have lived here ever since with Boodles,
whom you have brought up to the best of your ability, although you have
lacked the means to give her that education to which she is entitled by
her name and birth. It is almost unnecessary to add, Abel-Cain," he
concluded, "that you have told the child nothing about her parents lest
she should become dissatisfied with her present humble position. You are
keeping it all from her until she comes of age."

It was finished. Weevil stared at the blotted manuscript, jabbered over
it, and decided that it was a strong and careful piece of work which
would deceive any one, even the proudest father of an only son who was
much too precious to be thrown away. He was still jabbering when there
were noises outside the door, and he hurried to open it, and discovered
Titania Katherine Mary Fitzalan-Lascelles, looking every syllable of her
names; her beautiful hair coiled under her poppy-trimmed hat, the white
muslin about her dainty limbs, her lips and little nostrils sweet enough
to attract bees with their suggestion of honey, and about her that
wonderful atmosphere of perfect freshness which is the monopoly of such
pretty creatures as herself.

"You're looking quite wild, old man. What have you been doing?" she
said.

"Story-writing. About the little girl who--"

"I can't stop to listen. I must hurry. I just came to say good-bye," she
said, putting up her mouth. "Be good while I am gone. Don't fall into
the fire or play with the matches. You can say if this frock suits me."

"If I was a boy I shouldn't bother whether it suited you or not," said
Weevil, nodding at her violently.

"But as you are only an old daddy-man?" she suggested.

"It will do, Boodle-oodle. Sackcloth would look quite as well--on you."

"I'll wear sackcloth presently; when Aubrey goes and winter comes," she
laughed.

Weevil became excited again. He wished she would not make such heedless
and innocent remarks. They suggested the possibility of weak points in
his amazing story. Another unpleasant idea occurred as he looked at the
charming little maid. She was always walking about the moor alone. The
Brute might seize her in one of his Protean forms, and she might
disappear just as her fictitious mother had done. Weevil had invoked his
imagination, and as a result all sorts of ghostly things occurred to his
mind to which it had been a stranger hitherto. There were traps lying
about for girls as well as rabbits.

"Where are you going, little radiance?" he said.

"Down by the Tavy. Our walk. We have only one."

Boodles answered from the door, and then she went. She had only one
walk. On all Dartmoor there was only one. Weevil caught up his
manuscript and began to jabber again. She must not have that one walk
taken away from her.

For two hours he worked, like a student on the brink of an examination,
trying to commit his story to memory. Each time he read the fictions
they became to him more probable. He scarcely knew himself what a
miserable memory he had, but he was well aware how nervous he could be
in the presence of strangers, and how liable he was to be confused when
any special eccentricity asserted itself. As the time when his visitor
might be expected approached he went and put on his best clothes, tidied
himself, brushed his hair and whiskers, tried to make himself look less
like a Hindoo idol, burnished his queer face with scented soap, and
practised a few genteel attitudes before the glass. He hoped somebody
had told Mr. Bellamie he was eccentric.

Weevil was still poring over his manuscript when the visitor arrived.
With a frantic gesture the old man went to admit him. People were not
announced in that household. Mr. Bellamie entered with a kindly
handshake and a courteous manner; but his impressions were at once
unfavourable. Well-bred men tell much by a glance. The grotesque host,
the pictures, furniture, and ornaments, were alike inartistic. Mr.
Bellamie was a perfect gentleman. He had come merely as a matter of duty
to make the acquaintance of the tenant of Lewside Cottage, not because
it was a pleasure, but he had received Boodles at his house, and his
son's attachment for the little girl was becoming serious. He could not
definitely oppose himself to Aubrey's love-making until he had
ascertained what manner of people the Weevils were. The pictures and
ornaments told him. The cottage represented poverty, but it was hardly
genteel poverty. A poor gentleman's possessions proclaim his station as
clearly as those of a retired pork-butcher betray his lack of taste. A
few good engravings, a shelf or two of classical works, and a cabinet of
old china, would have done more for Boodles than all the wild romances
of her putative grandfather.

"You have a glorious view," said the visitor, turning his back upon art
that was degraded and rejoicing in that which was natural. "I have been
admiring it all the way up from the station. But you must get the wind
in the winter time."

"Yes, a great deal of it. But it is very fine and healthy, and we have
our windows open most days. Tita insists upon it."

"Tita?" questioned Mr. Bellamie, turning and looking puzzled. "I
understood that--"

"Her name is not Boodles," said Weevil decidedly. "That is only a pet
name I gave her when she was a baby, and I have never been able to break
myself of it. She is my grand-daughter, Mr. Bellamie, and her name is
Titania Katherine Mary Fitzalan-Lascelles," he said, reading carefully
from the manuscript. "I think she must have inherited her love of open
windows and fresh air from her father, who was the Reverend Henry--no, I
mean Harold Lascelles, second son of the Reverend Henry Arthur
Lascelles--the late, I should have said--sometime Director of St.
Michael's, Cornhill, and minor canon--no, honorary--honorary canon of
St. Paul's Cathedral. He was rather delicate and lived in Switzerland a
good deal, and died there--no, he didn't, that was Tita's mother. He is
in charge of a Catholic mission in British Guiana."

Polite astonishment was upon every feature of the visitor's fragile
face. He had not come there to talk about Boodles, but to see Weevil and
Lewside Cottage, that he might judge for himself whether the girl could
by any chance be considered a suitable subject for Aubrey's adoration;
to look at the pictures, and make a few conventional remarks upon the
view and the weather; then to return home and report to his wife. He had
certainly not expected to find Weevil bubbling over with family history,
pedigrees, and social intelligence, regarding the child whom he had been
led to suppose was not related to him. Mr. Bellamie glanced at Weevil's
excited face, at the pencil he held in one hand and at the sheet of
paper in the other; and just then he didn't know what to think. Then he
said quietly: "I will sit down if I may. That long hill from the station
was rather an ordeal. As you have mentioned your--your grand-daughter, I
believe you said, you will, I hope, forgive me if I express a little
surprise, as the girl--and a very pretty and charming girl she is--came
to see us one day, and on that occasion she distinctly mentioned that
she knew nothing of her parents."

Mr. Bellamie would have murmured on in his gentle brook-like way, but
Weevil could not suppress himself. While the visitor was speaking he
made noises like a soda-water bottle which is about to eject its cork;
and at the first opportunity he exploded, and his lying words and broken
bits of story flew all about the room.

"Quite true, Mr. Bellamie. Boodles--I mean Tita--was telling you the
truth. I have never known her to do the contrary. She has been told
nothing whatever of her parents, does not know that her daughter was my
mother--"

"You mean that her mother was your daughter," interposed the gentle
guest.

"Yes, Mr. Bellamie, that is what I did mean, but I am rather confused.
She does not know that her father is living, nor that her rightful name
is Lascelles, nor that her paternal grandfather was the rector of St.
Michael's, Cornhill, and prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral--"

"I understood you to say honorary canon," murmured the visitor.

"I am not certain," cried the excited old man, who was by no means sure
what a prebendary might be. "It is a long time ago, and some of the
facts are not very clear in my mind. You can easily find out," he went
on recklessly. The Reverend Canon Lascelles was a very well-known man.
He wrote a number of learned books. I believe he refused a bishopric.
Let me see. I was telling you about my little maid. I have kept
everything from her because I feared she might be upset if she knew the
truth and found out who she was. She mightn't be satisfied to go on
living in this little cottage with a poor shabby old man like me, if she
knew how well born she was. I am going to tell her everything when she
is twenty-one, and then she can choose for herself, whether to remain
with me, or to join her father if he wants her in British Guiana."

"There must be some reason," suggested Mr. Bellamie gently, with another
wondering glance at Weevil's surprising aspect. "I am not seeking to
intrude into any family secret, but you have introduced this subject,
and you must permit me to say that I feel interested in the little girl
on account of my son's--er--friendship with her."

"I was just coming to it," cried Weevil, exploding again. He was warmed
up by this time. He had lost his nervousness, felt he was playing a
winning game, and believed he had the story pat. The lies had stuck in
his throat at first, as he was a naturally truthful man, but they were
coming along glibly now. "You have a right to be told. There is a little
mystery about Tita's mother. They were living in Lausanne--Tita was born
in the hotel where Gibbings wrote his history--and one day her mother
went out and disappeared. She has never been heard of since that day. It
is supposed she went for a walk in the mountains. Perhaps she fell down
a glacier," he added, brilliantly inspired.

"A crevasse," corrected Mr. Bellamie mildly. "It is hardly likely.
Lausanne is not quite among the mountains."

Weevil had not known that. Hurriedly he suggested a fatal boating trip
upon the lake of Geneva, and was relieved when the visitor admitted in a
slightly incredulous manner that was more probable.

"You have interested me very much," he went on, "and surprised me. You
are the girl's grandfather on the mother's side?"

"Yes; and now I must tell you something about myself," said Weevil, with
a hurried glance at his notes which the visitor could not help
observing. "I am not your social equal, Mr. Bellamie, and I cannot
pretend to be. I have not enjoyed the advantages of a public-school and
university education, but I was left with a fortune from my father, who
was a manufacturer of pianos, at an early age, and I then contracted a
marriage with a lady who was slightly older than myself, and very much
my superior socially, mentally--possibly physically," he added, with
another inspiration, as he caught sight of his comic face in the
mantel-glass. "Her name was Miss Fitzalan, and we were married at St.
George's, Hanover Square."

The visitor inclined his head, and did so just in time to conceal a
smile. Weevil was overacting the part. He was placing an emphasis on
every word. In his excitement he dropped the manuscript, without which
he was helpless. It fluttered to Mr. Bellamie's feet, and before Weevil
could recover it the visitor had a distinct recollection of having read:
"Your wife was buried in Hendon churchyard." It was strange, he thought,
that a man should require to make a note of his wife's burying-place.

"Titania was our only child," Weevil went on, after refreshing his
memory, like a public speaker, with his notes. "She was something like
Boodles, only her hair was flaxen, and she was taller and more slim. I
am sorry I have not a photograph of her, but after her tragic
disappearance I burnt them all. I could not bear to look at them. There
was one of her in court dress which you would have liked. Some time
after my wife's death I lost my money in gold-mines. It was my own
fault. I was foolish, and I listened to the advice of knaves. I came
here with what little I could reclaim from the wreck of my shattered
fortunes," he said, pausing to notice the effect of that tremendous
sentence, and then repeating it with added emphasis. "I settled here,
and Father Lascelles, as he was by then, sent me my grandchild and asked
me to bring her up as my own. At first I shrank from the responsibility,
as I had not the means to educate her as her birth and name require, but
I have been given cause every day of my life since to be thankful that I
did accept, for she has been the light of my eyes, Mr. Bellamie, the
light and the apple of my eyes."

Weevil sank into a chair and wiped his face. His task was done, he had
told his story; and he fully believed that Boodles was safe and that the
Brute was conquered. The visitor was looking into the interior of his
hat. He seemed to have found something artistic there. He coughed, and
in his gentle well-bred way observed: "Thank you, Mr. Weevil. You have
told me a piece of very interesting family history."

Weevil detected nothing of a suspicious or ironical nature in that
admission. He nursed his knee, and wagged his head, and grinned
triumphantly as he replied in a naive fashion: "I took the name of
Fitzalan-Weevil after my marriage, because I thought it sounded better,
but after I lost my wife and fortune I went back to my own."

Mr. Bellamie took another glance round the room, just to make sure he
had missed nothing. There might be some little gem of a picture in a
dark corner, or a cracked bit of Wedgwood ware, which he had overlooked
in the former survey. There might be some redeeming thing, he thought,
in the environment which would fit in with the amazing story. The same
inartistic features met his eyes: Weevil pictures, Weevil furniture,
Weevil carpet and wall-paper. There was nothing to represent the family
of Fitzalan or the family of Lascelles. The simple old liar did not know
what a powerful advocate was fighting against him, and how his poor
little home was giving verdict and judgment against him. The visitor
completed his survey, turned his attention to the old man, regarding him
partly with contempt and pity, chiefly in admiration. Then he took out
his trap and set it cleverly where Weevil could hardly fail to blunder
into it.

"I think I knew Canon Lascelles a good many years ago," he said in his
gentle non-combative voice. "He was a curious-looking man, if I remember
rightly. Tall, stooping very much, with a red face which contrasted
strangely with his white hair, and he had a trick of snapping his
fingers loudly when excited. Do you recognise the portrait?"

Old Weevil gasped, said he did, declared it was life-like, and then
fumbled for his manuscript. Hadn't he made any notes on that subject?
There was nothing to help him in the inky scrawl. He was being examined
upon unprepared subjects. So there had been a Canon Lascelles in real
life, and Mr. Bellamie had known him. Well, there was nothing for it but
to agree to all that was said. His imagination would not work upon the
spur of the moment, and if he tried to force it he would be sure to
contradict himself or become confused. He replied that he distinctly
remembered the Canon's trick of snapping his fingers loudly when
excited.

"Your daughter married the second son Harold. Of course you knew Philip
the eldest. I think his name was Philip?"

"Quite right, Mr. Bellamie, quite right. Philip it was. He went into the
Army," gasped Weevil.

"Surely not," said Mr. Bellamie. "Excuse me for contradicting you, but I
know he went into the Navy, and I think he is now a captain. Aubrey will
tell me. Very possibly my son has met Captain Lascelles, and may indeed
have served under him."

Weevil was trying to look contemplative, but succeeding badly. He was
digging new ground and striking roots everywhere. There was nothing for
it but to admit his mistake. He was old and forgetful. He had probably
been thinking of some one else. Of course Philip Lascelles went into the
Navy. He had heard nothing of him for years, and was very glad to hear
he had risen to the rank of captain.

"Then there was a daughter. Only one, I think?" Mr. Bellamie continued,
in his pleasant conversational way.

"That's right," agreed Weevil, longing to add something descriptive, but
not venturing. He was not going to be caught again.

"Edith?" suggested the visitor. "I think the name was Edith."

"No," cried Weevil determinedly--he could not resist it; "Katherine. She
was the godmother of Boodles--Tita, I mean--and the child was named
after her."

"Yes, it is my mistake this time. Katherine of course," agreed Mr.
Bellamie. "But I am certain she was the eldest child, and she married
young and went to India. She must have been in India when your
grandchild was born."

"She came over for the ceremony. Harold was her favourite brother, and
when she heard of Tita's birth she came to London as fast as she could,"
cried Weevil, not realising what a wild thing he was saying.

"To London!" murmured Mr. Bellamie. "The child was baptised at St.
Michael's, Cornhill?" he added swiftly.

"No, in Hendon church."

"I thought you said she was born in Lausanne at the Hotel Gibbon?"

"So she was," gasped Weevil, perspiring and distraught. "I mean she was
buried in Hendon churchyard."

"What! the little girl--Boodles!" said Mr. Bellamie, laughing gently.

"No, my wife. We were married there." Weevil did not know what he was
saying. The pictures and ornaments, which had been his undoing, were
dancing about before his eyes.

"You are getting confused," said the gentle visitor. "I understood you
to say you were married at St. George's, Hanover Square."

"Ah, but I used to go to Hendon," said Weevil eagerly, nodding, and
grinning, and speaking the truth at last. "I used to walk out there on
Sundays and holidays, and have bread and cheese in a tea-garden at
Edgware, and then go on by Mill Hill and Arkley and round to Barnet, and
back across Hampstead Heath to my lodgings in Kentish Town. I was very
fond of that walk, but I couldn't do it now, sir. It would be much too
far for an old man like me."

Weevil was happy again. He thought he had succeeded in changing the
subject, and getting away from the fictitious family of Lascelles. Mr.
Bellamie was satisfied too. Canon Lascelles was a fiction with him also.
The pictures and furniture had given truthful evidence. Weevil was a
fraud, but such a well-meaning pitiable old humbug that the visitor
could not feel angry. They had fenced at each other with fictions, and
in such delicate play Weevil had not much chance; and his latest and
only truthful admission had done for him entirely. Gentlemen of means do
not walk up the Edgware Road on Sundays and holidays, and partake of
bread and cheese in suburban tea-gardens, and then return to lodgings in
Kentish Town.

"Thank you for what you have told me," said Mr. Bellamie, rising and
looking into his hat; and then, succumbing to the desire to add the
final artistic touch: "I understand you to have said that you were
married to Miss Fitzalan in Hendon church, and that your daughter
married Mr. Harold Lascelles, who disappeared in an unaccountable
fashion in Lausanne?"

"No, no," cried Weevil despairingly. He was tired and had put aside his
manuscript. "I never said that. You have got it quite wrong. I was
married to Miss Fitzalan in St. Michael's, Brentor, and our daughter
Boodles married Philip Lascelles--captain as he now is--at Hendon, and
Tita was baptised in St. George's, Hanover Square, and then went to
Lausanne to that hotel where Gubbings wrote his history, and there she
disappeared--no, not Boodles, but her mother Tita. But she may be alive
still. She may turn up some day."

"Then how about Father Lascelles?" suggested Mr. Bellamie.

"Why, he married my daughter Tita," said Weevil rather crossly. "And now
he is in British Columbia at his mission. He won't come back to England
again. Boodles doesn't know of his existence, but I shall tell her when
she is twenty-one."

The visitor smiled rather sadly, and after a moment's hesitation put out
his hand. Old Weevil had been turned inside out, and there was nothing
in him but a foolish loving heart. Mr. Bellamie understood the position
exactly. There was a mystery about the little girl's birth, and it was
probably a shameful one, and on that account the old man had concocted
his lying story, not for his own sake, but for hers. Mr. Bellamie could
not feel angry at the queer shaking figure, with tragedy inside and
comedy on its face. Boodles was his all, the only thing he had to love,
and he was prepared to do anything which he thought might ensure her
happiness. There was something splendid about his lies, which the
visitor had to admire although they had been prepared to dupe him. It
was not a highly moral proceeding, but it was an artistic one; and Mr.
Bellamie was able to forgive anything that was artistic.

"Good-bye," he said, in a perfectly friendly way. "I hope you will come
and see me at Tavistock, and look at your tors from my windows."

Weevil returned thanks effusively, happy in the belief that he had
played his part well; but it was characteristic of him that his thoughts
should be for Boodles rather than for himself. "If you would let her
come and see you sometimes it would make her happy. It's a dull life for
the little maid here, and she is so bright and full of laughter. I think
she laughs too much, and to-day I told her so. There is a lot of cruelty
in this world, Mr. Bellamie, and I want to keep her from it. The man who
makes a little maid miserable deserves all the cruelty that there is,
but it shan't touch Boodles if I can put myself before her and keep it
off. I could not see her suffer, I couldn't hear her laugh ring false. I
would rather see her dead."

Mr. Bellamie walked away slowly. He had prepared a mild revenge, but he
did not execute it. He had intended to tell Weevil a story of a man who
took a dog out to sea that he might drown it; but while fastening a
stone to its neck the boat overturned, the man was drowned, while the
dog swam safely to shore. He thought Weevil might be able to interpret
the parable. But when he heard those last words, and saw the love and
tenderness on that queer grinning face, he said no more. He walked away
slowly, with his eyes upon the ground.




CHAPTER XV

ABOUT JUSTICE


What luck is nobody can know, but it is certainly a gift to be preferred
before natural ability. Luck is that undefinable thing which enables a
man to push his head and shoulders well above the crowd. Make him wise
it cannot, but no man cares about wisdom if he can only be wealthy.
Lucky men pile up big fortunes, and invariably become humbugs in their
old age, and assure young men that their affluence is entirely owing to
the splendid virtues of application, perseverance, and early rising,
which they practised in their youth. No doubt the virtues help, but hard
work alone makes no man wealthy, let him toil like Sisyphus. It is luck
that lodges the stone on the top of the mountain. The idle apprentice
who has luck is far more likely to marry his master's daughter than the
industrious apprentice who hasn't it. The clever man and the lucky one
start out side by side, but they soon drift apart; the lucky man goes to
the right door, the clever man goes to the wrong one; and the end of it
is that the clever man writes from his cottage to the lucky man in his
mansion, begging the loan of a few pounds to keep the bailiffs out.
There is nothing to which a man without luck cannot attain by hard work,
except one thing--success.

Decidedly there had been no fairy godmothers at Brightly's christening.
None of the good things of life had fallen upon him; and yet he
possessed those virtues which are supposed to make for wealth; no man
could have worked harder or showed more perseverance; and as for early
rising it was easy because he had no bed to rise from. Still he could
not make a living. The elusive coppers refused to increase and multiply
into shillings; and as for sovereigns they were as extinct as dodos.

Brightly continued his various progresses with that strict attention to
business which had always characterised him, and with the empty stomach
which had become a habit; but without any luck. Any one might have
mistaken him for a poet.

He was working the same old stretch: Meldon, Sourton Down, Bridestowe,
Lydford, Brentor, and the Tavys, his basket dragging at his arm, and Ju
trotting her poor little life away at his heels. Ju also had been
deserted by canine fairy godmothers. Perhaps she too had dreams--of a
basket, furnished with soft cushions beside a fire, and perennial plates
of bones and biscuits.

Brightly had a fresh stock of atrocious yellow vases, thanks to the
generosity of the lovers at the fair; and he was hard at work again
collecting rabbit-skins; and still encouraged himself by thinking of the
glorious time when he would jog contentedly along the stony roads in a
little cart neatly littered with fern, with a lamp to be lighted after
dark, and the board bearing the inscription: "A. Brightly. Purveyor of
rabbit-skins," set forth for all to read. It was not a very lofty
ambition, although quite an impossible one. Brightly was getting on in
years; his rheumatism and asthma were increasing; so was his blindness;
he wept sometimes, but that did not assist his business. Sometimes he
thought the time was getting near when he would have to sell his vases
and buy two pennyworth of rat-poison. He thought he would do it with
rat-poison. Perhaps when he woke up, if he did wake up, he would find
himself in Jerusalem among the jugs of milk and honey-pots; and perhaps
there would be somebody like Boodles looking at him with the same moist
eyes. He could not go into the poorhouse. They would frighten him there,
and he would much rather be dead than in that prison. Nature seemed
rather to have overreached herself when she created Brightly. What was
the use of such a defenceless creature, this sort of human rabbit whom
any one could attack? Why turn him out feeble and half blind when he had
his living to make? Even the wayside weed is better cared for. When its
crown-bud is bitten off by a cow Nature sets to work to repair the
injury at once, and the plant grows up as well as ever. Nature did
nothing to repair Brightly's injuries. She did not even permit him to
enjoy tobacco, that one luxury of the lonely and friendless. Probably
she foresaw what a boon tobacco would be to him, so she afflicted him
with asthma. Nature delights in thus adding toil to toil and trouble to
trouble. It is only in the matter of adding pleasure to pleasure that
she is niggardly.

Brightly was coming up the moor towards St. Mary Tavy. His face looked
smaller and his hands bigger. There was another change, a far more
striking one; he was actually well dressed; there was nothing, of
course, in the shape of useless accessories, such as shirt or underwear,
but the black seal-like raiment had been discarded and a suit of brown
cloth had taken its place. He had picked up those clothes while
burrowing in a wheal to find shelter from a pitiless downpour. It had
been a great find which had rejoiced his heart, for although he was
accustomed to make a living by picking up things which other people
threw away, he had never before discovered anything half as priceless as
a suit of stout garments. It had never occurred to him that they might
not have been thrown away, but merely hidden in the wheal, or that he
had no right to them, or that it could be dangerous for him to be seen
about in them.

"Us will pitch here," said Brightly, stopping near the moor gate, and
lowering his basket carefully. "It be dinner time, Ju."

The little dog wagged at the prospect. Dinner time occurred frequently,
but generally without the dinner. She sniffed ravenously at the
handkerchief in the corner of the basket, and decided that the menu of
the day was cheese, largely rind, but still cheese, a slab of bread, and
two onions. It was one of the feast-days. They reposed upon heather, and
Brightly made a division of the food, reserving the onions for himself,
but allotting Ju a bigger piece of rind as compensation. "You'm a lot
littler than I," he explained. "Your belly be filled quicker. It be no
good giving yew an onion, 'cause yew wun't yet 'en. Tak' your
cheese--don't swallow like that, ye little stoopid! Yew don't get the
taste of 'en at all. Yet 'en slow, and tak' a bit o' bread wi' 'en same
as I du. Us wun't get no more to-day like enough."

The meal was soon over, and then Brightly sat up and began to whistle,
while Ju squatted upon the heather, her tongue lolling out, and her poor
little mongrel head following every motion of her master's body.
Brightly's only recreation was whistling, and he took the pastime
seriously. With his pinched face and big round glasses set towards
Brentor he piped away as hard as he could; first a ballad which he had
heard in an ale-house, then a hymn, and another ballad, and then the
favourite of all, Jerusalem the Golden. He whistled them all wrong, but
he didn't know it. For the time being he was happy enough, as he was a
contented soul, and his chief happiness was to be alone on the moor,
which then seemed to be his own property, with the scented garden of
heather and gorse about him, and the sweet wind blowing upon his face;
and they all seemed to be his own while he was alone. It was only when
he saw a cottage, or a farm, or a man approaching him, that he
understood they were not his own, but the property of the cottage, or
the farm, or the man approaching him, and that he lived only upon
sufferance, and might get into trouble for lying on the heather, and
smelling the gorse, or for permitting the pleasant wind to blow upon his
face.

After whistling he began to sing, making, it must be owned, a shocking
noise. He did not know the words of the ballads, nor more than a single
line of the Wesleyan hymn which children sing in procession upon chapel
anniversary day. Brightly had often listened as he tramped by, with his
full basket and his empty stomach, but he had never caught the Words
because the children gabbled them so in their hurry to get the religious
exercises over and attack the cakes and splits. "Jesu, Master, us
belongs to yew," he howled discordantly, while Ju howled in dismal
agreement, and began to whimper when her master went on to scream about
Jerusalem and dairy produce.

"I reckon that be the beautifullest tune as ever was sung," commented
Brightly, "I'll sing 'en again, Ju, and I'll get 'en right this time. I
mun sing him a bit stronger. I reckon the end o' the world can't be over
far off, wi' volks got so cruel wicked, and us mun get ready vor't."

He folded his hands upon his knees, and was about to resume his noises
when the moor gate clicked. Brightly's faculties were as keen as a
bat's. He could not see much, but he could sense the approach of danger;
and when he heard the gate slam violently, and a thick voice exclaim:
"There a' be!" he started up, anxious to get back to his solitude,
conscious somehow that unfriendly beings were upon him, to steal his
"duppence," and put him out of business by smashing his vases. He stared
through his glasses until he distinguished two fat figures, one in
uniform, the other in shabby raiment, advancing upon him with
threatening movements, one the village constable, the other the village
reprobate; and when he saw them, that grim thing called terror descended
upon Brightly. He had done nothing wrong so far as he knew, but all the
same he could not resist the fear, so he fled away as hard as he could,
the basket dragging upon his arm, and Ju trotting at his heels. He knew
what it meant to fall into the hands of his fellow-men. Pendoggat had
shown him, and most men were Pendoggats to Brightly.

He went up the moor towards the top of the village, and the stout
constable soon gave up the chase, as he was not used to violent
exercise, nor did he receive any extra pay for exerting himself.
Besides, he was sure of the man. He wiped his face and told the village
reprobate, who was his most obliging servant and had to be, that it was
cruel hot, and he'd got that lusty he didn't seem able to run properly,
and he thought he would return to the village and prepare for more
strenuous deeds with a drop o' cider; and he charged the reprobate to
follow Brightly and head him off at the top of the village, and keep him
close until he, the constable, should have cooled down and recovered
from his fatigue sufficiently to attend in great pomp and arrest the
rascal. He reminded the reprobate he must not arrest Brightly because
that was not allowed by law; but he was at perfect liberty to knock him
down, and trample on him, and inform him that the criminal law of the
land was about to spread its net around him. The constable's state of
mind regarding the law was peculiar. He had no idea that laws were made
to punish crime. He conceived that creatures like Brightly existed to
supply the demands of the law.

At the head of the village Brightly encountered more man-hunters, but he
managed to escape again, although he had to leave his basket behind.
Some children soon rifled it, and took the gorgeous vases home to their
mothers. With the instinct of the hunted animal the fugitive turned upon
his tracks, fled up a side lane, climbed over a hedge, waited until his
pursuers had passed, then hurried back for his basket, hoping to reclaim
it and get away upon the moor, where he could soon hide himself. But he
had not gone far when he saw a vision; the angel again, the angel of
Tavistock, the angel from Jerusalem, who had dropped out of the church
window and set him up in business with half-a-crown; and she came to
meet him in the road, as angels do, with his basket in her hand, and
just the same pitiful look in her eyes. There was no church just by,
only a little white cottage; but perhaps it was furnished like a church,
with coloured windows, booming organ, and a big black book on the
outspread wings of a golden goose.

"I have got some of the vases. The children have not taken them all,"
said Boodles. "I saw it from the window. What have you done?"

"They knows, your reverent; I don't," gasped Brightly. He didn't know
how he ought to address the angel, but he thought "your reverent" might
do for the present. He stood upon the road, panting, shivering, and
coughing, while Boodles looked at him and tried to laugh, but couldn't.

"What a dreadful cough!" she said sorrowfully.

"It's asthma, your reverent. I allus has it, and rheumatics tu--just
here, cruel, your reverent. I be getting blind. I don't seem able to see
you properly," he said, in the voice of one saying his prayers, and half
choking all the time.

"Don't call me your reverent," said Boodles. "How silly! I--I'm only a
little girl."

Brightly had always supposed that celestial beings are modest. He only
shook his head at that remark. He had seen little girls, and knew quite
well what they were like. They didn't have golden skin and a glory about
their heads, neither did they drop down suddenly before starving and
persecuted beings, to give them half-crowns, and save them from their
enemies.

"Asthma, rheumatics, and getting blind," he repeated, shattering the
words with coughs. He hoped the angel might touch him and heal his
infirmities if he told her all about them.

She only gave him the basket, and said: "You had better come in and
rest. I don't like to hear you cough so. I hope you haven't been
stealing anything?" she said reproachfully.

"I ain't done nothing--nothing serious," declared Brightly. "I was
a-sitting on the heather, singing about Jesus and us belonging to 'en,
when policeman comes a-shouting, there 'a be,' and I ran, your reverent.
I was that mazed I didn't hardly know what I was doing. They'm after I
now, and I ain't done nothing that I knows on. I was a-yetting my bread
and cheese and singing. I warn't a-harming a living thing. I warn't
a-harming not a butterfly, your reverent."

Boodles would have laughed had Brightly been a less pathetic object. She
said she believed he was honest, bent to pat Ju, then took them both
into the cottage and into the little room where old Weevil was preparing
a long screed, to be addressed to some society, and headed: "An Inquiry
into the Number of Earthworms mutilated annually by Agricultural
Implements." He was very much astonished when he saw Brightly, but
became as pitiful as the girl when he had heard the story.

"I am sure he speaks the truth," said Boodles for the defence.

"I don't care whether it's the truth or a lie. Another poor thing caught
by the Brute," muttered Weevil. "We must help him to escape. We will
keep him here until dark, and then he can creep away. It's what we are
always doing, all of us--trying to creep away from the Brute."

Brightly seated himself in a reverential attitude, regarding poor old
Weevil as a patriarch, a sort of modern Abraham who had pitched his tent
in that part of the country for the benefit of the poor and friendless.
He wondered if the patriarch was a prophet also, and could tell him if
he would ever attain to the pony and cart; but he had not the courage to
ask.

"What are those things in your basket?" said Weevil.

"Two rabbit-skins, sir. I makes my living out o' they. Least I tries
to," added Brightly drearily.

"Where have you come from?"

"To-day from Lydford, sir. Yesterday from Belstone, round Okehampton,
and over Sourton Down. Trade be bad, sir."

"How many miles is that?"

"Mebbe nearly twenty from Belstone. I went round about like, and pitched
to Lydford last night."

"Twenty miles for two rabbit-skins. Merciful God!" gasped Weevil.

"Amen, sir," said Brightly.

"Don't you know what the policeman wants you for?"

"I don't, sir. I was a-sitting on the heather when he come, and I ran. I
got to the top o' the village, and a lot more of 'em were after I, and I
ran again. I got away from 'em, and was a-coming back vor my basket,
when the reverent appeared avore I wi' my basket in the reverent's
hand."

"That's me," said Boodles, demurely and ungrammatically, in answer to
Weevil's puzzled look. She was feeding Ju with biscuit, stroking her
thin sides at the same time, and making the poor bitch share her
master's impressions concerning the pleasant nature of angelic visions.

There was a knock upon the door, not the timid knock of a visitor, nor
the obsequious knock of a tradesman, but the loud defiant knock of
authority. The constable had arrived, full of cider and a sense of duty,
and behind him a number of villagers had gathered together, with a
sprinkling of children, some of whom had stolen Brightly's vases, and
seen him enter Lewside Cottage, and then had run off to spread the news
everywhere.

"Very sorry, miss," said the policeman, with a polite hiccup. "You've
got the man I'm after. Got in when you wasn't looking, likely enough.
He'm a bad lot. I've been after him a long time, and now I've got him."

"What has he done?" said Boodles, guarding the door, and making signs to
Weevil to get Brightly out at the back.

"Robbery with violence, attempted murder, and keeping a dog wi'out a
licence," said the happy policeman, in the satisfied manner of a fat boy
chewing Turkish delight. "You must stand aside, if you plase, miss.
Mustn't interfere with the course of law and justice."

"It's horrid," cried the child. "I'm sure he has done nothing."

"Come away, my maid. We can't do anything," called Weevil tremulously.
"The man must go to the Brute. Innocent or guilty, it's all the same.
The Brute has us all in turn."

Brightly sat in the corner coughing, and beside him Ju huddled,
swallowing the last crumbs of biscuit. They were an unlovely but
entirely inoffensive pair. A student of human nature would have
acquitted the pinched little man of guilt at a glance, but the policeman
was not a student of either human nature, law, or morals. He had
promotion to consider, and weak and friendless beings like Brightly were
valuable assets in a place where opportunities for distinction were few.
Brightly had no relations to come behind the constable on a dark night
and half murder him. Little difficulties like that compelled him to look
the other way when commoners set the law aside. But Brightly and Ju were
fair game, and the constable had long regarded them as such.

"You come along with me," he said pleasantly, pulling at Brightly's
sleeve. "Best come quiet, and I've got to warn ye that anything you ses
will be used agin ye. If you tries to get away again 'twill go hard wi'
ye."

"What ha' I done, sir?" whispered Brightly, lifting his thin face and
pathetic spectacles. He was not usually of an inquisitive nature, but he
was curious then to learn the particular nature of the villainies he had
committed.

The policeman winked at Weevil and smiled greasily, meaning to imply
that the prisoner was an old hand and a desperate character.

"Ain't he a booty?" he said, with professional admiration for a daring
criminal. "Wants to know what he's done. Well, I'll tell ye. Thursday
night, not last week, but week avore, you set on Varmer Chegwidden as he
was a-riding home peaceable across Gibbet Hill, and you pulled 'en off
his horse, and stripped the clothes off 'en, and flung 'en into
vuzzy-bushes, and purty nigh murdered 'en, and you steals his money and
his clothes, and you'm a-wearing his clothes now; and he wants to know
what he've been and done," said the policeman, with another wink at
Weevil's distressed countenance.

"What nonsense!" cried Boodles. "He pull Chegwidden off his horse! Why,
Chegwidden could keep him off with two fingers."

"He'm one of the artfullest criminals in the country," explained the
constable.

"How did you get those clothes?" asked the girl, turning towards the
accused.

"Picked 'en up in a wheal, your reverent," answered Brightly.

"Didn't I tell ye?" cried the policeman. "Artful ain't the word for 'en.
If 'twasn't for me, and the evidence I got agin him, he'd purty nigh
make the magistrates believe he was innocent. Walks about in stolen
clothes, he du, and says he never stole 'em. Takes a bit of a bad 'un to
du that."

Brightly could not understand much about it, but he supposed it was all
right. He was evidently a rascal, but he felt almost proud to learn that
he had dragged Chegwidden off his horse, although he could not remember
having done so. His own impression was that if he had seen Chegwidden
approaching he would have fled like a frightened rabbit. He supposed
they would not hang him, and anyhow, if they did try, the angel would
very likely appear before him and help him to escape, and show him a
short-cut to Jerusalem, or tell him how he could get the pony and cart
without being accused of having stolen them. He got up, ready to go with
the policeman, and Ju rose too and shook herself, knowing nothing of the
law.

"Where's your dog-licence?" demanded the constable.

Brightly looked about in his misery, but his glasses were so dim he
could see nothing. He had always been afraid that question would come,
and he had often wondered how he should answer it. He had tried again
and again to save up for that licence in pennies and halfpence, but it
was quite impossible. The sum never reached a shilling. Prosperous
commoners could easily obtain exemption orders for their dogs; but a
large sum of money was demanded from him, although he had none, for the
right to keep his only little friend.

"I ain't got no paper, sir," he said. "I've tried time and time, but the
pennies wun't keep. I couldn't mak' it up. I'll tell 'en how I tried to
save it, sir."

Boodles turned to the window and her shoulders began to shake, while old
Weevil was using his handkerchief as if he had a cold. The constable was
grinning more than ever. After such zeal on his part he considered that
his promotion to a more important station was practically assured.

"Don't tak' the little dog away, sir; don't ye. I ain't got much, sir,
only the basket and bit of oil-cloth to keep the rain off, and the
vases, and two rabbit-skins, and four pennies in my pocket, and she,
sir. I ain't got nothing else, 'cept an old pan to Belstone Cleave what
I cooks in, and a few bits o' cloam, and a blanket I sleeps under. I
never stoled the clothes, sir. I picked 'en up in the wheal, and
reckoned they'd been thrown away. I'll give 'em back, sir. I'll tak' 'em
back to Varmer Chegwidden to wance, sir."

The policeman did not listen to that nonsense. He had his duty to think
of, and with a loud "Come on here" he fished a bit of rope out of his
pocket and tied it round Ju's neck. The dog shrank back, frightened at
such roughness, so the man promptly kicked her with his big boot and
growled angrily, "Bite me, will ye?"

There was a yelp of pain from the poor beast, and the next moment the
constable had himself to think of. Brightly lost control over himself.
He could bear most things fairly well, but not cruelty to Ju. He flung
out his raw hands in a blind sort of way, and one went against the
policeman's nose, and the other on his ear, astonishing the fat creature
a good deal, but not hurting him in the least, as Brightly's arms had no
strength in them.

"Assaulting the police," he cried triumphantly, feeling for his
note-book, "resisting arrest, and keeping a furious animal not under
proper control."

"She did not try to bite you," choked Boodles in a tearful manner. "He
did not assault you. He was only protecting his dog;" while old Weevil
clutched the table, his head nodding wildly as if it was about to fall
off, muttering continually, "The Brute! the Brute!"

"You had better be careful," the child went on. "We shall come and give
evidence against you."

The fat constable was more amused than angry at the threat. As if the
magistrates would believe a silly old man and a foolish young girl, when
he had the crowd of villagers outside to swear that Brightly had knocked
him about and Ju had bitten him. Not that the villagers had seen
anything, but that would not make much difference, as he could easily
tell them what had happened. He had always kept in with them, and winked
at their little peccadilloes, and they would not forsake him in the hour
of need. On the whole the constable was a much bigger rogue than
Brightly.

Presently there was a scene upon the road and much laughter. The
policeman went before dragging Ju at the end of the rope, and the
villagers followed after, enjoying themselves exceedingly. There was not
much excitement in their lives, and this was as good as a pony-drift or
an otter-hunt, for Brightly had assumed the part of buffoon and was
making a fool of himself for their delectation. The policeman did not
hold him, as he was unlikely to escape again, and besides, Ju was giving
so much trouble. She had to be dragged along over the stones and through
the gorse, with her tongue hanging out and the rope chafing her neck,
and the policeman found it necessary to kick her frequently because she
was "so contrairy like"; while Brightly jumped about like a new kind of
frog, his glasses nearly tumbling from his nose, his big useless eyes
bulging, and his foolish hands flapping in the air, whining and panting
like his dog, and blubbering like a baby.

"Give I back my little dog. Don't ye tak' my little dog away, sir. You'm
hurting she cruel, and her ain't done nothing. Ah, don't ye kick she,
sir. Let she come wi' I, sir. Her will follow I close. Her wun't run
away. Her be scared of yew, sir, and you'm hurting she cruel."

The villagers applauded these sayings, and tried to encourage Brightly
to perform again for their benefit. He was funnier than a dancing-bear,
and his dramatic efforts were very much appreciated. "Go at 'en again,"
they shouted, and Brightly responded nobly.

"I'll starve and pinch for the money, sir, if yew lets she go. I'll save
'en up somehow, pennies and duppences, till I gets the seven-and-sixpence
for the paper. 'Tis a cruel lot o' money for a hungry man, but I'll get
it, sir. I'll work day and night and get it, sir."

"Steal it from one of you, likely," shouted the constable, grinning more
greasily than ever at the tumultuous laughter which welcomed his subtle
humour. He was so delighted at having discovered within him a hitherto
unsuspected vein of humour that he tried again, and won instant
recognition of his brilliant talent with the inspired witticism, "Walks
about in Varmer Chegwidden's clothes, and says he never stole 'em."

"Purty near killed varmer tu. Tored 'en off his horse and beat 'en
mazed," added the reprobate, who saw no reason why the policeman should
have all the jokes.

Some of the others regarded Brightly with admiration. He was not only a
clever low-comedian, but he was also the most desperate character on all
Dartmoor. They were well able to appreciate the spirit of lawlessness
because their own careers had been strongly marked with the same
peculiarity. He was not exactly their idea of what a criminal ought to
be, as in appearance he was little better than a half-starved worm, but
the fact remained that he was a criminal, and as such was entitled to
receive their admiration and their stones.

"Listen to 'en! He'm play-acting again," shouted the reprobate.

"Du'ye let I have my little dog, sir. Don't ye tak' she away 'cause I
can't pay for the paper," whined Brightly, continuing his strange dance
of agony. "I ain't got nothing now, sir. My vases be took, and my basket
and rabbit-skins, and her be all I have. I'd ha' paid the fine for she,
sir, but trade be cruel dull, and the pennies wun't keep. Don't ye tak'
she away, sir. I couldn't go abroad on Dartmoor wi'out she. I'd think
and wonder what had come to she, and 'twould hurt I cruel."

"You ain't going to tramp about on Dartmoor. You'm going to prison,"
shouted the witty policeman, while the villagers applauded him again,
and Ju struggled, and Brightly went on weeping.

Not every one would have enjoyed the spectacle, although the constable
and the crowd appreciated it. The rugged little mountains stood about
silently, and became tired perhaps of looking on, for they began to mask
their heads in mist. Even the sun didn't like it, and rolled himself up
in a dark cloud, and came out no more that day. It was autumn, there was
a smell of decay in the air, and a sense of sorrow somehow. The dark
days were near; the time when warm earth, bright flowers, joy of life,
are so unreal, so far away, that it seems sometimes they may not return
again.

In due course Brightly appeared before the magistrates, as sober a set
of justices as ever lived, as learned in law as a row of owls, but
carefully driven by a clerk, who kept their heads up, and their feet
from stumbling into the ditch. The case was fully stated, and witnesses
were called, among them Chegwidden, who had missed several Thursday
evenings out, and was then only just well enough to attend the court. He
explained that he had been riding home from Brentor on a dark windy
night, and had been suddenly attacked, dragged off his horse, and
stunned by a blow on the head. He remembered nothing more until he found
himself in bed at home. He identified the clothes as his property. In
answer to a question he admitted he had seen no one, but the attack had
been made suddenly, and the night was very dark. Had he been drinking?
Well, he might have taken a glass at Brentor, but not enough to upset
him. He was a sober man. Nobody had ever seen him the worse for liquor,
although he confessed he was not a teetotaler.

Others, who also owned they were not teetotalers, although they were for
the most part habitual drunkards, swore that Chegwidden was a sober man,
and they had never seen him the worse for liquor. They did not add it
was because they had been probably too drunk to see anything. Their
evidence was accepted, although the magistrates might have known that it
is impossible to obtain evidence which will incriminate a commoner from
his own parishioners. They will give evidence against a man of the next
parish, but not against one of their own. In such a case perjury is not
with them a fault, but a virtue. The members of a parish hang together.
They may hate each other, curse each other, fight with each other, but
they will not give evidence against one another before outsiders.
Brightly lived nowhere apparently, having no parish and no clan;
therefore any one was prepared to give evidence against him, more
especially as he had attacked one of themselves. His guilt was clear
enough. The members of the Bench could not in their hearts believe that
he had overpowered a strong man like Chegwidden; but the testimony of
the clothes could not be set aside. It was obvious he had stolen them.
The constable gave him a bad character. There was no doubt he had been
guilty of all kinds of grievous offences, only he was such an artful
creature that he had hitherto succeeded in evading the law. He feigned
to be asthmatic and half blind in order that he might secure a
reputation for inoffensiveness; and he pretended to go about the moor
buying rabbit-skins, while it was suspected that his real motive was to
steal from farm-houses, or to pass on any information he might acquire in
his wanderings to a gang of burglars who had not as yet been
apprehended. The constable made up a very pretty story against Brightly.

The little man listened and tried not to be amazed. So he had been a
rascal all the time and had never known it. No doubt it was true, for
the gentlemen said so. He had pleaded not guilty, but he could not be
sure about it, and he began to suspect that he must have told them a
lie.

The chairman, a kindly old gentleman, who had lived long enough to know
that it is a pleasant thing to be merciful, was inclined to deal with
the case summarily, as it was a first offence; but, unfortunately for
Brightly, there was a clergyman upon the Bench, a very able man, who
received eight hundred a year for keeping a curate to preach twice on
Sundays and perform any little week-day duties that might be required.
He objected strongly, stating it was one of the worst cases he had ever
known, and certainly not one in which the quality of mercy could be
strained. Clemency on their part would be a mistaken kindness, and would
assuredly tend to a regrettable increase of the lawlessness which, as he
and his brother magistrates were so well aware, prevailed to such an
alarming extent in the mid-Devon parishes. They were then given the
opportunity of dealing with an individual who was, he feared, though he
was sorry to have to say it plainly, one of the pests of civilisation.
They were there to do their duty, which was necessarily unpleasant and
even painful. They were there, not to yield to a false sentiment, and to
encourage vice, but to suppress it by every means in their power. If
they did not protect law-abiding people from highwaymen and robbers, of
what use were they? He ventured to think, and to say, none whatever. He
concluded by stating that he was strongly in favour of committing the
prisoner for trial at the Assizes.

There was another charge against the miserable Brightly. He had kept a
dog without a licence. At that point Boodles stepped forward, with
quaint old Weevil at her side, and said in her pretty girlish way that
if the magistrates would allow it she would pay for the licence.
Brightly began to weep at that, which was a bad thing for him, as only
the worst type of cunning criminals venture upon that sort of appeal to
the court. Boodles had a little money saved, and she had easily obtained
Weevil's permission to spend part of it in this manner.

The chairman beamed at her through his glasses, and said she was a very
kind-hearted little girl, and he regretted very much they could not take
advantage of her generous offer. They appreciated it very much, but he
assured her that she was wasting her kindness and sympathy upon an
object totally unworthy. It was their duty, he hoped, to encourage
generosity; but it was still more their duty just then to punish vice.
They thanked her very much, but it was quite impossible for many reasons
to encourage her kindness on the prisoner's behalf. He hoped she would
devote the money to some more deserving cause. Boodles listened with her
head down, sighed very much, and then she and Weevil left the court.

The constable's chance had come. He described Ju as a savage and mangy
cur, and he offered to produce her for the inspection of their worships.
He said the dog had tried to bite him, and he hoped the Bench would
issue an order for the animal's destruction. The magistrates conferred
together, and the clergyman was soon saying that he had enjoyed a very
large experience with dogs, chiefly sporting-dogs he admitted, but he
knew that animals which had been associated with criminals were always
unpleasant, frequently diseased, and generally ferocious. He should
certainly vote in favour of the animal's destruction.

Brightly confirmed the worst suspicions of the Bench by his foolish and
extravagant conduct.

The deliberations were soon over. Brightly was committed for trial, and
Ju was sentenced to be destroyed.




CHAPTER XVI

ABOUT WITCHCRAFT


One day Peter went into the village to buy stimulants, and found, when
he reached the house of the creaking sign-board, that he was penniless;
a serious discovery, because the landlord was an austere man who allowed
no "slate." Some people are born thirsty, others have thirstiness thrust
upon them, and a third class, to which Peter belonged, acquire
thirstiness by toilsome and tedious endeavour. It was a long walk, and
the moor, like the bones in the valley, was very dry; there was not a
foot of shade, and the wind was parching. Peter had long ago discovered
it was easy to acquire thirst by the simple expedient of proceeding as
directly as possible to the place where it could be quenched. He would
borrow three-halfpence from his sister, or extract it from her box if
she was absent, and then make for the village by the nearest route,
winning the necessary dryness as he went. On this occasion he had
forgotten about money, chiefly because he had not been compelled to
borrow or steal from Mary recently, as Chegwidden had unconsciously
supplied him with the means for enjoyment.

Peter leaned against the wall, and cursed all living creatures and
things inanimate. He flattered himself with the belief that he was a man
who never wasted time. He had walked from the hut-circles with a
definite object, which was twofold: the acquiring of thirst and the
quenching of the same. The first part had been attained to perfection,
but unfortunately it was the inferior part, it was the laborious side,
and the reward was not to come because he had been absent-minded before
the event, instead of, as was usually the case, afterwards. He wondered
if there was in the immediate neighbourhood any charitable soul who
would lend him twopence, not to be repaid.

It was a feast-day in the village. Chapel tea and an Ebenezer love-feast
were in full swing, for Pezzack and his bride had arrived that day to
take up their abode in a cottage which had been freshly whitewashed to
symbolise the spotless nature of its new occupants' souls. Children,
dressed in their best, had earlier paraded the street with a yellow
banner, shrill hymn-screaming, and a box to collect the offerings of the
faithful.

It had been announced that Pezzack would preside over the tea, and that
his bride would pour it out. Eli would recite grace, and all the
children would say amen. Later there would be prayer and preaching, when
Pendoggat was expected to give further proof of his rough eloquence and
of his devotion to the particular form of religion which he favoured and
to the pastor who was its faithful and local representative. Then a
blessing would be given, and the girls and young men would pair off in
the dark and embrace in lonely places.

Peter saw signs of the love-feast, and tokens of the refreshments, and
the sight increased his thirst. Had beer been on supply within the
chapel, instead of rather weak tea, he would probably have experienced a
sudden ardour for religion, and have hurried there with incoherent
entreaties to be placed on the penitential bench and received into the
Wesleyan fold. As the festivities were of an entirely temperate nature,
so far as things fluid were concerned, he decided to go and visit
school-master. It was not in the least likely that the old man would
lend him twopence, but Peter had enough wit to argue that it is often
the most unlikely things which happen.

Master was sitting at his window, writing a letter to his son in Canada.
He welcomed Peter gladly, and at once asked him to spell "turnips." It
was a strange question, considering their positions, but Master
explained he was getting so old and forgetful, and never could get the
simple words right. The long and difficult words he could spell readily
enough, but when it came to anything easy he felt so mazed he couldn't
seem to think of anything.

"I be telling my Jackie how amazing fine the turnips be this fall," he
explained.

Peter was glad to oblige Master. To help him with such an obscure word
would be worth twopence. Slowly and stertorously he spelt it thus:
"Turnnups."

"B'est sure that's right?" said Master, rather suspiciously.

Peter had no doubt whatever. He could spell harder words than that, and
with the same accuracy.

"Seems to me somehow some spells 'en wi' one _n_," said Master.

"Us don't. Us allus spells 'en wi' two," said Peter.

"I reckon you'm right. What yew knows I larnt ye," said Master. "I larnt
yew and Mary to spell, and I mind the time when yew was a bit of a lad
wi' a turned-up nose and squinty eyes. Proper ugly yew was. Didn't I
whack they old breeks o' yourn? Aw now, didn't I? Dusted 'em proper, I
did. In these council schules what they has now there bain't no beating,
but love ye, Peter, in the old village schules us used to whack the lads
every day--aye, and the maids tu. There be many a dame about here and
Lydford whose buttocks I warmed when her was a maid. Them was brave
times, Peter, sure 'nuff."

"Better volks tu. Us had Dartmoor to ourselves them days," said Peter,
anxious to propitiate the old man.

"Mun spell all the words proper when I writes to Jackie. He'm vull o'
education," Master went on. "T-u-r-double-n, turnn, n-u-p-s, nups,
turnnups. Aw, Peter, yew ain't forgot what I larnt ye."

He put down his pen, assumed the mantle of Nestor, and asked: "Can I
oblige ye, Peter?"

The little man replied that he could, to the extent of twopence.

Master became grave and sorrowful, wagged his head, and behaved
generally as people will when the integrity of their purse is
threatened.

"Anything else, Peter--advice, sympathy, loving-kindness, you'm
welcome," he answered. "I be a poor man. I was never treated as I
deserved, yew mind. If I lends two pennies they don't come back. I be an
old man, and I've a-larnt that. They be like little birds, what come to
my window in winter for crumbs, and don't come back 'cept for more
crumbs. I be advising yew, Peter; don't ye borrow money, I ses. And I be
advising myself; don't ye lend it, I ses."

This was all very wise, only Peter could not appreciate it. Wisdom
slakes no man's thirst. He replied that he had come to the village for
sugar, and Mother Cobley at the shop refused to serve him without the
money, which he had unfortunately forgotten. He added an opinion of
Mother Cobley which was not charitable.

Master recited other verses from his book of wisdom. To succeed in trade
it was necessary to be severe when people came buying without money. He
admitted that Mother Cobley practised severity to the point of
ruthlessness, he was not prepared to deny that Mother Cobley would
rather permit her closest relations to walk in darkness than advance
them one tallow candle to walk by on credit, but he impressed upon Peter
the fact that Mother Cobley was a "poor lone widdie" who had to protect
herself against the wiles of customers. To sum up the matter: "If yew
buys her sugar her wants your twopence. It bain't no profit to she if
yew has her sugar and she don't ha' your twopence. It gives she what us
calls book-debts, and they be muddlesome and contrairy things."

With the ethics of business Peter was not concerned while the thirst was
spreading through his body. So far it had been confined to the tongue
and throat, but while Master talked it extended its ravages throughout
the whole of his system. Peter began to be afraid he would not be able
to walk home without liquid assistance. Not the smallest copper coin of
the realm could be hoped for from Master; but Peter was something of a
strategist, he comprehended there were more ways than one out of his
present difficulties, just as there are more ways than one into a house,
and an enemy can be attacked from the rear as well as in front. Master
certainly refused to advance him twopence, but he could hardly in common
charity refuse him what the twopence would have purchased, if he was
convinced that the need was urgent. So Peter put a hand to his throat,
and made strange noises, and said it was coming on again.

"What be the matter?" asked Master.

"Hot vuzzy kind o' prickiness all over like. Starts in the throat, and
goes all through. I be main cruel sick, Master."

"My dear life, but that be serious," cried Master. "What du'ye tak' for
'en, Peter?"

"Something cooling. Water will du. Beer be better though."

"I ain't got any beer, but I ha' cider, I'll fetch ye some in a mug,"
said Master.

He trotted off, while Peter sat and chuckled, and felt much better. He
was not wasting his time after all; neither was he spending any money.
When Master returned with a froth-topped cloam Peter adopted something
of the reverential attitude of Sir Galahad in the presence of the
Sangreal, drank deeply, and when he could see the bottom of the mug
declared that the dangerous symptoms had departed from him for a season.
Having nothing else to detain him he rose to go, and was at the door
when Master called him back.

"Purty nigh forgot to tell ye," he said, pointing to a goose-quill erect
in a flower-pot upon the window-seat. "Put that feather there to mind me
to tell Mary or yew, if so be I saw yew go by. There be volks stopping
wi' Betty Middleweek, artist volks, and they'm got a gurt ugly spaniel
dog what's been and killed a stray goosie. Betty ses 'tis Mary's Old
Sal, and I was to tell ye. Betty ha' got the goosie in her linny. Mary
had best go and look at 'en."

Peter rubbed his hands and became very convalescent. The heavens were
showering favours upon him. Artist folks could afford to pay heavy
damages. "I'll go and tell Mary to wance," he said. "Us will mak' 'em
pay. Old Sal be worth a sight o' money. Us wouldn't ha' lost she for
fifty pound. Thank ye kindly, Master."

"Nothing's no trouble, Peter. Hope you'll be better to-morrow," said the
kindly old man.

Peter brought on another thirst by the haste with which he hurried back
to inform his sister that her Old Sal had been destroyed "by artist
volks stopping wi' Betty Middleweek, at least not by they, but by a gurt
big ugly Spanish dog what belongs to 'em."

Mary wasted no time. She did not trouble to attire herself suitably, but
merely took a great stick "as big as two years and a dag," as she
described it, and set off for the village; while Peter, who had "got the
taste," as he described it, determined to help himself from Mary's
money-box and follow her later on with a view to continuing the
treatment which had benefited him so greatly in Master's cottage.

The artists were having their evening meal when Mary arrived and beat
heavily upon the door. They were summoned, the body of the goose was
brought from the linhay, Mary became coroner and sat upon the defunct
with due solemnity. There was no question about its identity. The name
of the bird which had been done to death by the dangerous dog was Old
Sal beyond all argument.

"Aw now, bain't it a pity, a cruel pity, poor Old Sal!" wailed Mary, and
would not be comforted until the artist produced his purse and said he
was willing to pay, while his wife hovered in attendance to see that he
did not pay too much. "He was a booty, the best mother on Dartmoor, and
he laid eggs, my dear. Aw ees, a butiful lot o' eggs. He was always
a-laying of 'em. And now he'm dead, and wun't lay no more, and wun't
never be a mother again. Hurts I cruel to see him lying there. Would
rather see Peter lying there than him."

"I understand the market price of geese is eightpence a pound," said the
artist nervously, awed by the gaunt presence of Mary and her patriarchal
staff. "If you will have the bird weighed I will pay you, as I cannot
deny that my dog killed it."

At that Mary gave an exceeding bitter cry. Eightpence a pound for Old
Sal! That was the market price, she admitted, but Old Sal had been
unique, a paragon among web-footed creatures, a model for other geese to
imitate if they could, the original goose of which all others were
indifferent copies, the very excellence and quintessence of ganders. It
was impossible to estimate the value of Old Sal in mere cash, although
she was willing to make that attempt. It was the perfection of Old Sal's
moral character and domestic attainments that Mary dwelt upon. He had
been all that a mother and an egg-layer should be. He was---- Words were
wanting to express what. He had been the leader of the flock, the
guiding star of the young, and the restraining influence of the foolish.
The loss was irreparable. Such geese appeared possibly once in a
century, and Mary would not live to see the like of her Old Sal again.
Then there were the mental and moral damages to be considered. Money
could not mend the evil which had been done, although money should
certainly be allowed to try. Mary suggested that the experiment might
commence with the transfer of five pounds.

"This bird is in very poor condition. It is quite thin," said the
artist's wife.

"Thin!" shouted Mary. "Aw, my dear, du'ye go under avore yew be struck
wi' lightning. He'm vull o' meat. Look at 'en, not a bone anywheres.
He'm as soft wi' fat as a bog be o' moss, and so cruel heavy I can't
hardly lift 'en. Yew don't know a goosie when yew sees one, my dear.
Never killed one in your life, I reckon. Aw now, never killed a goosie,
and ses Old Sal be thin! He was as good a mother as yew, my dear, and
when it comes to laying eggs--"

The artist's wife thought it was time to "go under," or at all events to
disappear, as Mary was getting excited.

At that point Betty Middleweek appeared and whispered to Mary; and at
the same time a little boy in quaint costume, with a head two sizes too
large, shuffled up the garden path, and stood staring at the defunct
goose with large vacant eyes. "He bain't your Old Sal after all," said
Betty. "He belongs to Mary Shakerley, and her little Charlie ha' come
for him. He saw the dog go after 'en, and he ran away mazed like to tell
his mother, but her had gone to Tavistock market, and ha' just come
home."

"He've only got one eye," piped little Charlie in evidence.

Mary examined the dead body. It was that of a one-eyed goose.

"Aw now," she said in a disappointed fashion, "I reckon he bain't my Old
Sal after all."

"I am willing to pay some one. Who is it to be?" asked the artist, who
wanted to get back to his food.

"Please to pay little Charlie, sir," said Betty Middleweek. "Charlie,
come up to the gentleman."

"Well, my lad, how much do you want for your goose? Eightpence a pound,
is it?"

"Dear life!" cried Mary. "He hain't worth eightpence a pound. Look at
'en! He'm a proper old goosie, wi'out a bit o' meat on his bones, and
the feathers fair dropping out o' his skin wi' age. He'd ha' scared the
dog off if he'd been a young bird, or got away from 'en. My Old Sal
would ha' tored any dog to pieces. Don't ye pay eightpence a pound. He
hain't worth it. He never laid no eggs, I reckon, and he warn't no good
for a mother. He'd ha' died purty soon if that dog o' yours hadn't
killed 'en."

"You seem to have altered your opinions rather suddenly," said the
artist.

"Well, I bain't a one-eyed old gander," said Mary. "I knows what goosies
ought to be to fetch eightpence a pound, and I can see he ain't got
enough meat on him to feed a heckimal. Aw, my dear life, if I can't tell
a goosie when I sees him who can?" And off went Mary, striking her big
stick noisily on the ground, wiping her nose on the back of her hand,
and muttering an epitaph upon the still missing Old Sal, who, she
supposed, had been carried off by some evil beast and devoured in the
secret places of the moor.

It was dark by this time, and the Ebenezer love-feast was over, so far
as the eating and drinking and prayer-meeting were concerned. The god of
good cheer had been worshipped, and now the goddess of common wayside
love was receiving incense. Autumn invariably discovers those hardy
perennials of the hedges and ditches--lovers--leaning against gates as
if they were tied there. The fields and the moor are too wet to sprawl
on, so at the end of October the gate season sets in, and continues
until spring dries the grass. The gates are nothing like so damp as the
hedges, and are much softer than boundary walls, although the latter are
not without their patrons. Lovers are orthodox folk, who never depart
from their true religion, or seek to subtract any clause from their
creed. The young girl knows that her mother was courted against a gate,
and that her grandmother was courted against a gate, so she is quite
ready to be courted against a gate. It must be difficult to feel the
necessary ardour, when several degrees of frost are nipping their noses,
and a regular Dartmoor wind whirls up and down the lanes; but these
gate-leaners manage it somehow.

Peter was having a pleasant day. He had followed up his success at
Master's expense with a little bout at Mary's, and it was with a feeling
of unalloyed satisfaction with himself that he started for home,
returning thanks after his own manner to the god who presides over
beer-houses. The benign influence of malted liquors was over him,
stimulating his progress, rendering him heedless of the dark, and
impervious to the cold. It was an unpleasant night, not frosty, but
choked with clouds, and filled with raw mist. Peter had passed several
gates, most of them occupied by couples finishing the day in a devout
fashion, but he had said nothing, not even the customary "good-night,"
because it was not lawful to speak to people when thus privily engaged.
Couples are supposed to be invisible while courting, and with the full
knowledge of this point of etiquette they usually conduct themselves as
if they were. Peter got up upon the moor, where the wind twisted his
beard about as if it had been a furze-bush, and made his way beside one
of the boundary walls which denoted some commoner's field. It was the
usual Dartmoor wall, composed of blocks of granite placed one above the
other in an irregular pattern without mud or method, each stone kept in
place by the weight of those above it; a wall which a boy could have
pulled down quickly one stone at a time, but if unmolested would stand
and defy the storms for ever. It was a long wall, and there were three
gates in it, but no lovers against them; at least not against the first
two. But as Peter approached the last, which was well out on the moor
where nobody but himself would be likely to pass that night, he heard
voices, or rather one voice, speaking loudly, either in anger or in
passion, and he recognised that it was Pendoggat who was speaking.

Peter crept up stealthily, keeping close beside the wall, which was just
about the height of his nose. When near the gate he went on his hands
and knees. The voice had ceased, but he heard kisses, and various other
sounds which suggested that if Pendoggat was upon the other side of the
wall there was probably a woman with him. Peter crawled closer, lifted
himself, placed the grimy tips of his fingers upon the top stones, which
were loose and rocking, and peeped over. There was a certain amount of
light upon the high moor, enough of a weird ghostly sort of
phosphorescence for him to see the guilty couple, Pendoggat and
Thomasine. They were quite near, upon the peat, beside one of the
granite gate-posts, and directly underneath Peter's nose. The little man
grinned to see such sport. The moral side of the affair did not present
itself before his barbaric mind. It was the spectacular part which
appealed to him. He decided to remain there, and play the part of
Peeping Tom.

Had Pendoggat been sensible, which was not possible, as sense and
passion do not run together, he must have known that the discovery of
his liaison with Thomasine could only be a matter of time. The greatest
genius that ever lived would find it beyond him to conduct an illicit
love-affair in a Dartmoor parish without being found out in the long
run. He had employed every ordinary caution. It was not in the least
likely that any one would be crossing beside that wall after dark; but
the least likely things are those which happen, not only in Dartmoor
parishes, but elsewhere.

Peter had not stood there long when very ordinary things occurred, all
of them unfortunate for him. To begin with, he developed a violent
attack of hiccups which could not be restrained. Then the stone to which
he was holding kept on rocking and giving forth grating noises. The wind
was also blowing pretty strongly; and what with the wind externally and
the hiccups within Peter was soon in a bad way. He made up his mind to
beat a retreat, but his decision came rather too late. He felt a hiccup
approaching more violent than its predecessors; he compressed his lips
and held his breath, hoping to strangle it; but Nature was not to be
cheated; his lips were forced asunder, the hiccup came, its sound went
out into the moor, and at the same moment Peter slipped, grabbed at the
stone, and sent it bowling upon the peat on the other side of the wall.
He gave a squeal like a frightened rabbit, and with another parting
hiccup turned and ran.

He did not get far before Pendoggat caught him. Peter was a stumpy
little creature with no idea of running; and he was captured at the end
of the wall, and received a blow upon the head which nearly stunned him.
Pendoggat stood over him, half mad with fury, striking at him again and
again; while Peter made quaint noises, half passion and half pain.

Suddenly the clouds parted westward, and Pendoggat could see Ger Tor
outlined against a liverish patch of night sky. By the same light he saw
Peter; and his madness departed, and he became a coward, when he caught
a glimpse of the little man's malignant eyes. Peter was his enemy for
ever, and he knew it.

Neither of them had spoken a word. Pendoggat had growled and spluttered;
Peter had choked and mumbled; the river far beneath roared because it
was full of rain. These were all incoherent noises. Pendoggat began to
slink away, as if he had received the beating, shivering and looking
back, but seeing nothing except a dull little heap beside the wall,
which seemed to have many hands, all of them scrabbling in the dirt.
Peter panted hard, as if he had been hunted across the moor by the whist
hounds, and had come there to take shelter; but all the time he went on
scraping up the clay, gathering it into a ball, spitting on it, moulding
it, and muttering madly from time to time: "You'm him! You'm him!"

During those first few moments, after leaving that horrible little man
beneath the wall scrabbling with his hands, Pendoggat swore solemnly
that he would make Thomasine his wife, swore it to himself, to the God
that he believed in, and to her, if only nothing happened.

Presently Peter went on towards his home; and in his arms was a
fantastic little thing of clay, a thing forked and armed like a human
being, a sort of doll. When he got back he cleared the hearthstone, blew
the peat into a red smoulder with his mouth, then took the doll, spoke
to it solemnly, placed it upon the hottest part of the hearth, and piled
the red embers round it. When Mary came in to call him to supper she
found Peter sitting in a kind of trance before the hearthstone, and
following his gaze she saw the quaint clay doll sitting upright in the
centre of the fire, with the red peat gathered into a fiery little hell
around it on every side.

"Aw, Peter!" she gasped in a tremulous whisper, falling on her knees at
his side. "Who be the mommet, Peter? Who be the mommet?"

"Varmer Pendoggat," said Peter.




CHAPTER XVII

ABOUT PASTIMES


One cannot help wondering how the early inhabitants of Dartmoor spent
their time. Possibly the men found plenty of work for their hands, while
the ladies talked of their babies, though they could hardly talk of
their clothes. Chapel teas and beer-houses were unknown, and the people
may have led a wandering existence, following their cattle and goats
from place to place, and merely erecting rough shelters at every pasture
ground. It is said that they appeared before the Roman agents, who came
to the Cassiterides, which no doubt included the Dartmoor region, to
procure the precious white metal, clad in black cloaks, with tunics
reaching to their feet, and girdles round their waist. A more unsuitable
costume for the moor could not have been devised, but it is probable
that they were then in holiday attire. They were simple, taciturn,
heavily-bearded men. Of their women nothing is known, because the
historians of those days did not trouble themselves about inferior
details, and ladies had not then commenced to brawl in the streets for
their rights. The numerous hut-circles about the moor were no doubt
built by these men, utilised more as temporary sheltering-places than
permanent homes, and were possibly regarded as common property. The
stone avenues may have been boundaries, and the circles are more likely
to be the remains of pounds than the ruins of temples. The lamp of
architecture had not then been lighted in Britain, and sun-worship is by
its very nature antagonistic to temples. So much is conjecture, and
cannot be anything else. Light is reached when we regard the great
mounds beside the rivers, and the huge stone slabs which span them; and
we know that prehistoric man was a miner, and that he objected to
getting his feet wet. These rivers are mere streams to-day, which any
one can wade across, and they could not have been larger when the
bridges were erected. We know also by the presence of these slabs of
granite, and various other stone remains, that the system of the corvée
must have been practised upon Dartmoor; a good custom which disappeared
centuries ago as an obligation on free people, but is still retained as
an obligation on prisoners in such penal establishments as Princetown.
The existence of rates for the maintenance of roads is a survival of the
corvée in a form of demand upon those who can afford to pay, and not a
few who cannot, for the upkeep of roads which many of them do not use;
the idea of the rate being that the householder pays a sum which shall
exempt him from the labours of the corvée, although without being given
the option of offering his labour in lieu of cash.

We may safely conjecture that prehistoric men attended to their duties
of obligation as well as to their pastoral affairs; and made a little
profit at odd times in the form of tin which they bartered for salt,
vases, and domestic utensils, with the Roman agents, very much as
Brightly, who was their descendant, bartered his vases for rabbit-skins.
But what about their pastimes?

History and tradition are alike silent on that point. They could not
have been making love to their wives all their spare time. There must
have been something to take the place of the beer-house, the chapel tea,
the sing-songs, the rough-and-ready carnival. If tradition does not
exactly speak it gives an echo. We listen to that echo, we put against
it our knowledge of human nature, which does not change, and to that we
add our experience of the desires, customs, and pastimes of the men who
have passed into their places and live upon what was their ground; and
then we get near the truth, possibly at the very heart of it. Their
pastime was the shedding of blood. They fought together for the mere
pleasure of inflicting wounds upon each other. They tortured inoffensive
creatures because they were strong, the animals were weak, and the sight
of suffering gave them a kind of pleasure. Since that barbaric age more
than a thousand years of Christianity have done their civilising and
humane work; have taught until there can be surely nothing left to
teach; have practised until the virtues would have been pretty well worn
out had they been practised less theoretically. And to-day one finds--

There were notices posted all over the place, upon walls and doors and
gate-posts, little bills announcing a great pigeon- and rabbit-shoot,
with money prizes for the three most successful competitors; the sport
to conclude with a big feed at the inn at so much a head, drinks being
extra. These shoots are among the most ordinary features of village life
upon Dartmoor, and they are usually organised by the landlord of
licensed premises, because at the conclusion of the sporting event the
men gather together for the feed in a state of feverish excitement and
soon drink themselves mad. That sort of thing means a handsome profit
for the landlord. The men's passions are gratified, the victualler's
pockets are filled, so every one is satisfied, and shoots do not lose in
popularity year by year.

The event was held in a field upon the side of the moor, and all
sportsmen of the district were gathered together, with a few women, and
as many children as could possibly get there. It was a great time for
the small boys; better than a Sunday-school tea or chapel anniversary;
no self-control was required of them at the shoot, they could let
themselves go, and release every one of the seven little devils in them.
Farmer Chegwidden was there, completely restored to health, though he
had an ugly black scar on the side of his head. He was half drunk before
proceedings commenced, because he said he could shoot better when in
that condition, Pendoggat was there, silent and gloomy, but handling his
gun as if he loved it. The old Master was there, tottering about with
two sticks, beaming upon every one, and wishing the young men good-luck;
and the landlord of the inn, who presided over the safe conveyance of
the victims from his barn to the place of massacre, jumped here and
there in a wild state of excitement, explaining the programme and
issuing instructions to competitors. The constable was there, dropping
fatness; and near him Pezzack, with grave and reverend aspect and new
clothes, stood and made the thing respectable with his blessing.

Two others were there who looked singularly out of place, and stood
apart from the noisy crowd, both of them nervous and uncomfortable. They
were Boodles and old Weevil. Close to them were crates stuffed full of
pigeons, uttering from time to time little mournful notes, and bulging
sacks filled with healthy rabbits.

"It is so silly," said Boodles, rather petulantly. "You will only be
ill. We had much better go away."

"I must see it, darling--as much as I can bear. I am going to prepare a
petition about these things, and I want to be fair. I must see for
myself. It may not be so brutal as I believe it is."

"Yes, it is, and worse. I know I shall be ill," said Boodles.

"Go home, little girl. There is no reason why you should stay."

"I'm not going to leave you," declared Boodles bravely. "Only do let's
go further away from those poor things in the sacks. They keep on
heaving so."

"I must see it all," said the old man stubbornly. "Look the other way."

"I can't. It fascinates me," she said.

"Willum!" yelled the landlord. "Come along, my lad. Pigeons first. Dra'
first blood, Willum."

A young man stepped out, smiling in a watery fashion, handling his gun
nervously. The landlord plunged his hand into a crate, caught a pigeon
by the neck, and dragged it out. The trap was merely a basket with a
string fastened to it, and it was placed scarcely a dozen yards from the
shooter.

"Kill 'en, Willum!" shouted the landlord as he pulled the string.

Willum fired and missed. The bird flew straight at him, and with the
second shot he broke its wing. The pigeon fell on the grass, fluttering
helplessly, and Willum walked up to it with a solemn grin, gave it a
kick, then flung it aside to die at its leisure. The small boys pounced
upon it, and assisted its departure from the world.

"Little devils," murmured Boodles, beginning to bite her handkerchief.

"I think we are all devils here," said old Weevil.

"This field is full of them. It is the field-day of the Brute, the
worship of the Brute, the deification of the Brute."

The shoot proceeded, and the men began to get warmed up. Not a single
pigeon escaped, because those that got away from the field with the loss
of only a few feathers were bound to fall victims to the men who had
posted themselves all round with the idea of profiting by the
competitors' bad shots. The only man who was perfectly composed was
Pendoggat. He shot at the pigeons, and killed them, as if he had been
performing a religious duty. Chegwidden, on the other hand, shouted all
the time and fired like a madman. The little boys were kept hard at work
torturing the maimed birds to death, with much joyous and innocent
laughter.

"How be ye, Master? Purty fine shooting, I reckon," cried an old crony,
hobbling up with a holiday air.

"Butiful," said Master. "Us be too old vor't, I reckon."

"Us bain't too old to enjoy it," said the old crony,

"Sure 'nuff, man. Us bain't too old to enjoy it. 'Tis a brave sight to
see 'em shoot."

Then there was a pause. The string had been pulled, the basket had
tumbled aside, but the pigeon would not stir. Possibly it had been
maimed in the crate, or by the rough hand which had dragged it out.
Everybody shouted wildly, waving arms and hats, but the bird did nothing
except peck at the grass to get a little food into its hungry body. The
landlord ran up and kicked it. The pigeon merely fell over, then hopped
a little way feebly, but still refusing to fly, so the landlord kicked
it again, shouting: "He be contrairy. There be no doing nought wi' 'en."

"Tread on 'en, landlord," shouted a voice.

"What be I to du?" asked the man whose turn it was to kill.

"Shoot 'en on the ground. Shoot 'en, man! Don't let 'en get away. Kill
'en, man!" screamed the landlord.

The competitor grinned contentedly, and at a distance of half-a-dozen
paces blandly riddled the creature with pellets. This was the funniest
thing which had happened yet, and the crowd could not stop laughing for
a long time.

"Now the rabbits! Fetch out two or dree," shouted the landlord. "Kill
'en quick, lads!" The worthy soul was anxious to have the massacre over,
and start the real business of the day at the bar.

With the rabbits fun began in earnest. All that had gone before was tame
in comparison, for pigeons die quickly, but rabbits continue to run
after being shot, and still provide excellent amusement, if the vital
parts are untouched. It was not shooting at all; not a particle of skill
was required, as the basket was close to the competitor, and he shot
immediately the animal began to run, and sometimes before; but it was
killing, it was a sort of bloodshed, and nothing more was asked for.
Hardly a rabbit was killed cleanly, as the moormen are, as a rule,
awkward with the gun. As the creatures invariably ran straight away from
the crowd, they were usually shot in the hinder parts, and then would
drag themselves on, until they were seized, either by the man who had
fired, or by the small boys, and carried back to be flung upon the heap
of bodies, some of them dead, and some not. Even feeble old Master
entered into the fun of the thing, and begged permission to break a
rabbit's neck with his own hands, so that he might still call himself a
sportsman.

"Come away, daddy. I'm getting queer," said Boodles.

Weevil woke from a sort of trance, and shook his head oddly, but said
nothing. Power of speech was not his just then. He had hitherto kept
himself scrupulously apart from such innocent village pleasures, afraid
to trust himself at them, but what he saw quite confirmed what he had
believed. It was not sport in any sense of the word. It was mere animal
passion and lust for blood. It was love of cruelty, not any ambition to
take a prize, which animated the competitors. It would have meant small
enjoyment for them had the pigeons been made of clay and the rabbits of
clockwork. Because the creatures they shot at could feel, could shed
blood, and were feeling pain, were shedding blood, the men were happy;
not only happy, but drunk with the passion, and half mad with the lust,
of their bloody game.

Weevil looked about, fighting down his weakness, which was not then
altogether eccentric. He saw the transformed faces of the crowd. Not
only the competitors but the spectators had the faces that a London mob
of old might have presented, watching the hanging, drawing, and
quartering of criminals, and finding the spectacle very much to their
taste. They had become so excited as to be inarticulate. They could not
make their shoutings intelligible to one another. They were
gesticulating like so many Italian drunkards. Their boots were marked
with blood, and it was also upon their hands, and smeared upon their
faces. Blood was upon the ground too, with other matter more offensive.
The ghastly pile of pigeons and rabbits, which were supposed to be done
for, was not without motion. Sometimes it heaved; but there was no
sound. Two little boys were enjoying a rare game of tug-of-war with a
living rabbit. Another youngster was playfully poking out the eyes of a
fluttering pigeon. They would make good sportsmen when they grew up. A
tiny little fellow, nothing more than a baby, was begging a bigger boy
to instruct him in the art of killing rabbits. A little girl was
practising the deed upon her own account. The constable who had arrested
Brightly looked on and said it was "brave sport." There were other
things which Weevil saw, but he did not mention them afterwards, because
he tried to forget them; but the sight made him feel faint, not being a
sportsman, but a rather ignorant, somewhat foolish, and decidedly
eccentric old man.

"I think I must go. Boodles," he said feebly.

He turned away, and his eyes fell upon the village. There was a church,
and there was Ebenezer, and a meeting-house also. Surely so many
religious houses were hardly necessary in one small village. Church and
chapels dominated the place; and in those buildings a vast amount of
theory was preached concerning ancient literature, and a place of morbid
imagination called Hell, and a place of healthier imagination called
Heaven; and upon that field on the side of the moor the regular
worshippers at those buildings were enjoying themselves. There was a
failure somewhere, only Weevil had not the sense to find out where. High
above were the tors, and it was there, no doubt, that the early
inhabitants stood to worship Baal; and there possibly a vast amount of
theory was preached concerning the whole duty of man, and a twofold
future state; and then the men went down to fight and plunder. It seemed
to have been a theoretical religion then. It is a theoretical religion
now. Theories have swamped the world, submerging the practical side like
the lost Atlantis. It is not religion which compels men to cease from
doing murder. It is the fear of vengeance.

Boodles and Weevil left the field, pale and miserable. When they were
outside the old man went away and was violently sick. They abandoned the
field in time, for the men were getting beyond control. When the rabbits
were slaughtered they sought for small birds and shot at them until
their cartridges were exhausted. Even Pendoggat had lost his
self-restraint, although he did not show it like the rest. The smell of
blood was in his nostrils, and he wanted to go on killing. He longed to
shoot at the men around him. The victims were all dead at last. The
happy children had seen to that, and went off home to get their hands
and faces washed, tired out with the day's fun. That clever painter of
human nature, Hogarth, missed something during his lifetime. He could
not have seen a rabbit-shoot in a Dartmoor village. Had he done so,
there might have been a fifth plate added to his Four Stages of Cruelty.

"I must drink something," said Weevil, when he reached home. "You were
right, little maid. I ought not to have gone."

"Haunted water, daddy?" suggested Boodles, with a wan little smile.

"Yes, darling. I think I have earned it. But not badly haunted."

"Just a gentle rapping, not groans and chain-rattling," she said, trying
to be merry, having no reason to feel unhappy, as she went for the
brandy bottle. That was how the water was to be haunted. Weevil was
practically a teetotaler, in a different sense from Farmer Chegwidden,
but he sometimes took a suspicion of brandy when he was run down, as
then.

"Boodle-oodle," he said in a feeble way, after refreshing himself, "you
have seen the Brute rampant. What do you think of it?"

"I don't think, daddy-man. It's no use when you can't do anything. I
just label it a queer puzzle, and put it away along with all the other
queer puzzles. And you would be much happier if you would do the same."

"I cannot," he groaned. "I suppose those men were enjoying themselves,
but what right have they to an enjoyment which makes other people
suffer? I say they have no right. Animals have to be killed for food;
but what would be done to a butcher who slaughtered his beasts in the
middle of the street? Those men were not killing for any purpose apart
from the love of killing, and they were doing it publicly. They were
mad. They had the faces one sees in a bad dream. And now they have gone
to stuff themselves with food, and then they will swill liquor until
they are mad again."

"Don't," said Boodles. "It's not fair on me. You will be giving me
umpy-umpy feelings, and I'm going to see Aubrey to-morrow, and it may be
the last time for ages, and I shall feel quite bad enough without having
your worries to carry as well. Let's light up, and draw the curtains,
and make believe that every one is as nice as we are, and that there are
no troubles or worries in the whole wide world."

Old Weevil only moaned and shuffled about the room in a miserable
fashion. "I can't get rid of the Brute, darling. He sits upon my
shoulders and strangles me. Why should these people be outside the law
because they are commoners? One hundred years ago you might have seen
horrible deeds of cruelty in every London street. There are none to be
seen now, because townsfolk have become civilised, and law-makers have
recognised that what may please the few is distressing to the many. But
in these wild lonely places people may be fiends, and the law does not
touch them. It exists for the populous centres, not for the solitudes."

"I'm going to get supper. Mind you are good when I come back," said the
little housewife quickly.

"That is not all," raved the poor old man, still shuffling to and fro,
heedless that he was alone. "The cry of the animals goes up to Heaven.
There are the ponies and bullocks turned out upon the moor all winter,
in weather which would kill the hardiest man, if he was exposed to it,
in a few hours. They get no food. There is not a bit of grass for them.
Many of them are done to death by cruel weather and starvation. In
spring their carcases are found lying upon the moor."




CHAPTER XVIII

ABOUT AUTUMN IN FAIRYLAND


The devil had passed through Tavy woods late that year, and in his path
blackberries were blasted, the bracken was scorched, and all the foliage
smouldered. He had trampled upon, and burnt, everything; the next time
he passed through he would breathe on them and they would rot away. At
last he would come with his big bellows; clear the wood out, and scatter
a lot of dusty frost about the place to make it look tidy. Directly he
was out of the way a busy little body in green would bustle into the
woods with a big basket of buds on her arm, and she would stick these
buds about upon the honeysuckles and the primroses, and then run away in
a snowstorm laughing. Nobody would notice her; she is too small and
shadowy, and yet observant folk would know she had been because the
plants which had received the buds would smarten up at once. Every one
loves the little green fairy, although she is often quite a plain
creature, and usually is afflicted with a dreadful cold. She beats the
devil and restores all that he has trampled and blown upon. She may
often be seen in April, sweeping up the remains of the hoar-frost and
attending to her buds, sneezing all the time. People call her Spring in
those days. Her cold is quite incurable, but fortunately it does not
kill her.

Even in fairyland it is not always pretty. Were it so the pleasant place
would lose its charm, for it is the dull time which makes the gay time
glorious. There is no winter for the little people, just as there is no
winter for the flowers; and flowers and fairies are one and the same
thing. They go to sleep until the sun comes to wake them up, and tell
them it is time to dance and blossom as they did last year. There is a
winter, only they know nothing of it. That is why the little people are
so much happier than the big ones. When sorrow comes they simply go to
sleep. Bigger people are not allowed to do that.

"You are going away, Aubrey," said Boodles. "You are going away."

She was always saying it, and thinking it when she was not saying it,
and dreaming about it when she was not thinking of it. She was playing
with a toy upon her finger, a hoop of gold, a little ring which he had
given her, whose posy was the usual motto: "Love me and leave me not,"
and its symbol the pale-blue forget-me-not. Lovers are fond of adding
poetry to poetry and piling sentiment upon sentiment.

It was not exactly an engagement-ring, but a present, and a promise of
the full-flowered ring; just as the crown-buds upon the primroses were a
promise of the spring. Boodles was eighteen at last. How slowly the
years passed at that age! And the ring with the blue forget-me-nots was
a birthday gift, although it was given and received as something more,
and put upon a finger which meant much, and worn and fondled as if it
meant everything. The girl's radiant hair was up relentlessly, and her
frocks trailed for evermore. She was a baby no longer.

It was not a happy walk because it was to be their last for a long time,
and they could not ramble there without treading upon and bruising some
poor little memory; just as the devil had trodden on the blackberries,
although the memories were not spoilt; they were the kisses of those
first days of first love, and they were immortal memories, birth-marks
upon their souls. They had grown up; their bodies were formed, although
their minds were not matured; but whatever happened those memories were
planted in Tavy woods perennially, and nothing could kill them. Tears
would only water them and make them grow more strongly. Their sweet wild
fragrance would cling eternally, because the odour was that of deep
first love; the one gift, the only gift, which passes direct from the
hands of the gods and has no dirt upon it.

Somehow Aubrey had never appeared as a perfectly distinct personality to
Boodles. Her love was in a mist. He seemed to have come into her life in
a god-like sort of way, to have dropped upon her as a child like rain
from the clouds, saying: "You thought of me, and I have come." While she
went on thinking of him he would remain, but directly she ceased to
think he would vanish again. They had simply come together as children
and walked about; and now they were grown up children still walking
about; and they felt they would like to grow up a little more, then stop
growing, but still go on walking about. First love is a marvellous dose
of fern-seed. They were content to look at one another, and while two
young people remain in that state the gods can give them nothing. But
Boodles was going on with her song: "You are going away, Aubrey. You are
going away." There was a gate at the end of the wood, and it was
something more than the gate of the wood. It opened only one way.

Aubrey loved the little girl. He was steadier than most young men and
less fickle than most. Even when he was away from Boodles he did not
forget her, and when they were together she absorbed him. She was so
fresh. He had never met any girl with a tithe of her wonderful
spring-like freshness, which suggested the sweet earth covered with
flowers and steaming after a shower of warm rain. Boodles seemed to him
to be composed of this warm earth, sunshine and rain, with the beauty
and sweetness of the flowers added. She had taken him when young, and
planted him in her warm little heart, and tended him so carefully that
he could not help growing there; and he could not be torn up, for that
would have lacerated the heart; the roots were down so deep; and he
might not bear transplanting. First love thinks such things, and it is
good for the lovers. Life gives them nothing else to equal it.

Still Aubrey had his troubles. It was the last walk for some time. He
was disobeying his parents, and deceiving them. He had promised not to
walk with Boodles again. No boy could have been blessed with kinder
parents; but Mr. Bellamie, after his strange visit to old Weevil, and
subsequent discussion with his wife, conceived that it was his duty to
pull the reins. Aubrey had been allowed a free head long enough, and the
old gentleman was afraid he might get the bit between his teeth and run.
Boodles was a most delightful child in every way, but she knew nothing
about art, and what was far more serious she knew nothing of her
parents. Mr. Bellamie spoke plainly to his son; reminded him of the duty
he owed his family; told him he had been to see Weevil and that the
interview had not been satisfactory; mentioned that the old man either
knew nothing of the girl's origin, or had certain reasons for
withholding his knowledge; explained that to interfere with his son's
happiness was his last wish, and that to interfere with the happiness of
others was equally distasteful; and concluded by impressing upon Aubrey,
what was true enough, namely, that it was not kind to encourage a young
girl to fall in love with him when he could not possibly marry her. The
boy had been then sufficiently impressed to give the promise which he
was now breaking. He felt he could not help himself; he must see Boodles
again, and at least tell her that he would never dream of giving her up,
but that his parents were inclined to be nasty about it. Besides, it was
the little girl's birthday; or rather what Weevil was pleased to style
her birthday, as he could not possibly know the exact day of her birth.
Aubrey eased his conscience by reminding himself that he had forgotten
to urge the point with his father, and if he had done so the old
gentleman would certainly have consented to one more meeting. So he
bought the pretty ring for Boodles, met her, and the mischief was done
again.

When the first stage of their walk was over, and they were getting
reasonable, and Boodles had ceased singing her plaintive: "You are going
away," Aubrey began to suggest that his father was not in alliance with
them; and poor Boodles sighed and wanted to know what evil she had done.

"Nothing, darling. But he wants to know something about your parents."

"I told him. I don't know anything."

"But Weevil must know."

Somehow that had not occurred to Boodles. Perhaps Weevil did know, and
for reasons of his own had kept the information from her.

"I'll ask him," she promised. "But Mr. Bellamie has been to see daddy.
Why didn't he ask him?"

"Weevil told him he is your grandfather."

"You mean my old daddy-man is my grandfather?" cried Boodles, very much
astonished. "Why hasn't he told me then?"

"Hasn't he?"

"Never."

Aubrey was too young to care; but he certainly felt suspicions about
Weevil, and thoughtlessly expressed them by saying: "I suppose he was
telling the truth."

"Of course he was," said Boodles. "Old daddy couldn't tell a lie however
much he wanted to. It would hurt him so badly he would groan and grunt
for a week. What else did he tell your father?"

"He didn't say. But, darling, you'll find out."

"Oh, Aubrey," she said pathetically. "Do you care?"

"Lovely little thing, of course I don't. Your parents must have been the
best and nicest people that ever lived, or you wouldn't have been so
sweet. But you see, darling, my people worry no end about name and
family and all that sort of rubbish, and if they think any one is not
what they call well-born they kick up no end of a smother."

"Well-born," murmured Boodles. She was beginning to comprehend at last,
to recognise the existence of that grim thing called convention, and to
feel a sort of misty shadow creeping up the wood. She felt something on
one of her fingers, and it seemed to her that the pretty ring, which she
loved so much, was trying to work itself off. "Well-born," the child
murmured to herself. "Whatever does it mean?"

This was what being eighteen meant. Boodles was learning things.

"I must have had a father and mother," she said, though in a somewhat
dubious manner.

Aubrey only hummed something unintelligible, and wished the cloud out of
her eyes.

"Now I must find out all about them?"

"I expect my people would like to know, dear," he said.

"If I can't find out, Aubrey?" she went on, in a moist kind of way.

"Then you will have to take mine," he said as lightly as he could.

Boodles stopped, turned away, began to play with a golden frond of
bracken almost as bright as her hair, and began to cry as gently as an
April shower. She had been on the point of it all the afternoon; and she
persuaded herself it was all because Aubrey was going away, although she
knew that wasn't true. It was because she was finding out things.

"Don't," she sobbed. "It's doing me good,"

However, Aubrey took her in his arms and tried to pet her, and that did
her as much good as anything, although she went on crying.

"Can't give me yours--you silly! They won't be given. They don't want me
to love you, they hate me, and your mother kissed me--she did--on my
mouth."

"Mother is very fond of you, darling. She is really," Aubrey whispered
as quickly as he could. "She said you were perfect, and father agreed
with her, and said you would be all that a girl could be, if--if--"

"Go on," murmured Boodles. "It won't hurt. I've got hold of you. I'm
taking all the starch out of your collar."

"Never mind what he said."

"We don't say good-bye until you have told me. I'll hang on to you. Stop
you, perhaps. Oh, Aubrey, you are going away--that's why I'm crying.
Your father said I should be a nice little girl, if--go on."

"If you had a name," said Aubrey, with an effort.

Boodles let him go and stepped back. She looked rather nice, with her
eyes in the rain, and her head in the sunshine.

"What does that mean, Aubrey?" she said, almost fiercely.

"Nothing whatever to me, darling. Don't be silly," he said tenderly.
"It's only father's nonsense. He thinks so much of his name because it's
a fossilised old concern which has been in the county since Noah. He
doesn't want me to marry you, only because he's afraid your people may
not have lived about here since Noah. If you went and told him you're a
Raleigh or a Cruwys he would lay his pedigree at your feet and ask you
to roll on it."

"Not well-born. No name," said Boodles, aloud this time. "I think we
have been silly babies. I seem to have grown up all at once. Oh, Aubrey,
was it you and I who used to walk here--years ago?"

He bent and took her face between his hands and kissed the pretty head.

"We never bothered about names," sobbed Boodles.

"We are not bothering now--at least I'm not. It's all the same to me,
darling."

"It's not. It can't be. How silly I was not to see it before. If your
parents say I'm not--not your equal, you mustn't love me any more. You
must go away and forget me. But what am I to do? I can't forget you,"
she said. "It's not like living in a town, where you see people always
passing--living as I do, on the moor, alone with a poor old man who
imagines horrors."

"Listen, darling." Aubrey was only a boy, and he was nearly crying too.
"I'm not going to give you up. I'll tell you the whole truth. My people
wanted me not to see you again, but I shall tell them that things have
gone too far with us. They won't like it at first, but they must get to
like it. I shall write to you every week while I am away, and when I
come back I shall tell father we must be married."

"I wouldn't, not without his consent. I shall go on loving you because I
cannot help it, but I won't marry you unless he tells me I may."

"Well, I will make him," said Aubrey. "I know how to appeal to him. I
shall tell him I have loved you ever since you were a child, and we were
promised to each other then, and we have renewed the promise nearly
every year since."

"Then he will say you were wicked to make love to the first little
red-headed girl you could find, and he will call me names for
encouraging you, and then the whole world will explode, and there will
be nothing left but lumps of rock and little bits of me," said Boodles,
mopping her eyes with his handkerchief. She was getting more cheerful.
She knew that Aubrey loved her, and as for her name perhaps it was not
such a bad one after all. At all events it was not yet time for the big
explosion. "I'm only crying because you are going away," she declared,
and this time she decided she meant it. "What a joke it would be if I
turned out something great. I would go to Mr. Bellamie and ask him for
his pedigree, and turn up my nose when I saw it, and say I was very
sorry, but I must really look for something better than his son, though
he has got a girl's face and is much prettier than I am. Oh, Aubrey,"
she cried, with a sudden new passion. "You have always meant it? You
will be true to your little maid of the radiant head? I don't doubt you,
but love is another of the queer puzzles, all flaming one time, all dead
another, and only a little white dust to show for all the flame. The
dust may mean a burnt-out heart, and I think that is what would happen
if you gave me up."

He satisfied her in the usual way, declaring that if they ever were
separated it would be by her action, not by his. She would have to
unfasten the lover's knot. Then they went on. It was getting late, and
the short day was already in the dimsies. They stood beside the gate,
saying good-bye, not in two words, but in the old method which never
grows musty. They passed on, the gate slammed, and they were outside;
only just outside, but already they were lost and could not have found
their way back; for the wand of the magician had been waved over "our
walk," and fairyland had gone away like smoke to the place where babies
come from.

Weevil was sitting in the dark, mumbling and moaning, when Boodles came
in. He was in the seventh Hell of misery, as he had been for a walk and
discovered beneath a hedge a rusty iron trap with its jaws fastened upon
the leg of a rabbit. The creature had been caught days before, as
decomposition had set in, and as it was only just held by one leg it
must have suffered considerably. Such a sight is quite one of the common
objects of the country, therefore Weevil ought not to have been
perturbed; only in his case familiarity failed to breed indifference. He
sat down in the dark, and as soon as the child entered began to quaver
his usual grievance: "What right have they to make me suffer? Why may I
not go a walk without being tortured? What right have the brutes to
torment me so?"

"Groaning and grunting again, poor old man," said Boodles cheerfully,
rather glad there was no light, as she did not want him to see she had
been crying. "You must laugh and be funny now, please, for I've come
home dreadful tired, and if you go on worrying I shall begin to groan
and grunt too. I'm ready to have my boots taken off."

"Don't talk like that. Your throat sounds all lumpy," the old man
complained, getting up and groping towards her in the dark. "What have
you been doing--quarrelling?"

Boodles made noises which were intended to express ridicule, and then
said miserably: "Saying good-bye."

Weevil knelt upon the carpet and began to unlace the first boot he could
find, groaning and grunting again like a professional mourner.

"Did it hurt, Boodle-oodle?" he asked tenderly.

"Horrid," she sighed.

"It made you cry?"

"Ees."

"That was the Brute, darling. I've warned you of him so often. He
doesn't let any of us escape. He shows me rabbits in traps, and he makes
you cry. I believe you are crying now."

"Not much, daddy. Only a few little tears that were late for the big
weep," said Boodles, burrowing her face into a cool cushion.

"I want you to laugh. You don't laugh so much now," he complained,
drawing the boot off carefully, and then feeling inside to make sure
that the foot had not come away too.

"One day you said I laughed too much, and I wasn't to do it any more,"
said a doleful voice.

"Ah, but there was a reason for that," said the old man cunningly. "I
thought the Brute would be angry if he saw you laughing so much. That
was before I took him by the throat and flung him out of the house. He
hasn't been here since--not to worry you anyhow," he chuckled.

"You must explain that, please, and a lot of other things besides," she
said hurriedly, sitting up and trying to locate the exact position of
his head.

Old Weevil laughed in a silly sort of way. "It's a little personal
matter between the Brute and me," he chuckled.

"But I come in. I'm the respondent, or whatever you call it. Now I must
hear all about it," she said.

"You're not old enough. I shan't tell you anything until you are
twenty-one."

"Yes, you will. I'm not a baby now. I am eighteen, and I feel
more--nearly eighty-one to-night. I've got one boot on still, and if you
won't answer I'll kick."

The old man jumped playfully upon the threatening foot like a kitten
upon a ball of wool.

"Daddy-man, I'm serious. I'm not laughing a bit. I believe there is
another cry coming on, and that will make you groan and grunt dreadful.
Is it true you are my grandfather?"

The question was out with a rush, and murmuring: "There, I've done it,"
Boodles put her face back into the cushion, breathing as quickly as any
agitated maid who has just received an unexpected offer of marriage.

Whatever Weevil was doing she could not think. He appeared to be
scrabbling about the floor, playing with her foot. Both of them were
glad it was so dark.

"Who told you that?" he said.

"Aubrey. You told his father. Why haven't you ever told me?"

"Boodle-oodle," he quavered, "let me take your other boot off."

"The boot can wait. Don't be unkind, daddy," she pleaded. "I've been
worried dreadful to-day. Why did you tell Mr. Bellamie you are my
grandfather, if you're not?"

"I am," cried old Weevil. "Of course I am. I have been your grandfather
for a long time, ever since you were born, but I wasn't going to tell
you until you were twenty-one."

"Why not? Why ever shouldn't I know? Are you ashamed of me?"

At that the old man began to throw himself about and make horrible faces
in the dark.

"I expect you are," Boodles went on. "Mr. Bellamie is ashamed of me. He
says I'm not well-born, and I have no name. Aubrey told me this
afternoon."

"The liar," cried old Weevil. Then he began to cackle in his own
grotesque way. He couldn't help being amused at the idea that he should
be calling Mr. Bellamie a liar. "How did he know? How did he find that
out?" he muttered. "Nobody could have told him. He must have guessed
it."

"You are my grandfather," Boodles murmured. "Now you must tell me all
about my father and mother. I've got to let Mr. Bellamie know," she went
on innocently.

"I told him. I told him the whole story," cried Weevil. "He sat in this
room for an hour, and I gave him the whole history. What a forgetful man
he must be. I will write it out and send it him."

"Tell me," said Boodles. "How could you say that you picked me up on
your doorstep, and never knew where I had come from?"

"It's a long story, my darling. I don't fancy I can remember it now."
The old man wondered where he had put that precious piece of paper.

"Don't squeeze my foot so. Who was my mother? Do you really know who my
mother was?"

"Tita, we called her that for short, Katherine, Mary--no, that's you.
I've got it all written down somewhere. I must tell her the same story.
Shall I light the lamp and find it?"

"You must remember. Are you my mother's father?" she asked impatiently.

"Wait a moment, Boodle-oodle. These sudden questions confuse me so. Mr.
Bellamie would know. I told him. Yes, it was your mother. Miss Lascelles
was her name, and I married her in Switzerland. We stayed at that hotel
where Gubbings wrote his history of the world, and we fell out of a boat
on Lake Geneva, and she was never heard of again."

"Where was I?" cried Boodles, knowing that impatience would only perplex
him more.

"You were not born, darling. It was a long time after that when you were
born, and your father was Canon Lascelles of Hendon."

"Dear old man, don't be so agitated," she said, putting out a hand to
stroke his whiskers. "You are so puzzled you don't know what you are
saying. How could my mother be drowned before I was born?"

"No, no, darling, you misunderstand me. It was my wife who disappeared
mysteriously, not your mother."

"My mother was your daughter. That's one thing I want to know," said
perplexed Boodles.

"Tita, we called her Tita for short," he said, glad of one fact of which
he was certain.

"And my father, Canon Lascelles--really? A real canon, a man with a sort
of title?" she cried, with a little joyous gasp.

"He's in British Honduras. I think that was the place--"

"Alive! My father alive!" cried Boodles. "And you never told me before!
Why haven't I seen him? Why doesn't he write to me? Oh, I think you have
been cruel to me, telling me those wild stories of how I came to you,
keeping the truth from me all these years."

Old Weevil sat at her feet, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. He was
protecting Boodles, giving her happiness, he thought; but when he heard
that cry it suggested to him that his false story might bring her in the
end more sorrow than the truth. He could not go back now that he had
gone so far. A lie is a rapid breeder of lies; and old Weevil, with his
lack of memory, and natural instinct for the truth, was a man singularly
ill-fitted for fictions. He had overlooked a great many things in his
wild desire to make the child happy. It had never occurred to him that
she would feel a natural love for her parents.

"I wanted to be kind to you, Boodles," he quavered. "I kept the truth
from you because there were good reasons."

"What were they?"

"I can't tell you, darling," he answered truly. "You must not ask me,"
he said firmly, because she had touched upon a mystery which his
inventive faculties were quite incapable of solving.

"And my mother--where is she?"

"Oh, she is dead," said Weevil cheerfully. He was not going to have any
trouble with the mother, and he was sorry he had not killed the father
too. "I told you she was drowned mysteriously."

"That was your wife, my grandmother. You are not playing with me? You
are not deceiving me?" said Boodles pitifully.

"I'm trying to tell you, only it is all mixed up. It happened so long
ago, and the Brute has worried me so much since that I don't seem able
to remember anything very clearly. Your mother went out of the hotel one
day, and never came back."

"Where?"

"Lausanne, the hotel where--"

"But she may be alive still," interrupted the child.

"Oh no, darling. Quite impossible. She was never heard of again, and it
was nearly thirty years ago."

"Don't ramble. You are wandering off again. How could it be thirty years
ago, when I'm only just eighteen?"

Weevil admitted the difficulty, and replied that he had been thinking
just then of his wife. She would keep mixing herself up with the girl's
mother.

"Now I'm getting at it," said Boodles, with a kind of fierce
seriousness. "My mother is supposed to be dead. My father is in British
Honduras--"

"British Guiana," corrected Weevil.

"Are you sure?"

"Almost certain. I looked it up on the map. I wish I had that piece of
paper," the poor old man muttered.

"Well, it does not matter much for the present. You say my mother was
Miss Lascelles, and my father was Canon Lascelles; but if my mother was
your daughter her name would have been Weevil."

"So it was, my dear," he cried, with a new inspiration, "at least it
would have been if--if--I mean, darling, my name is really Lascelles,
only I changed it to Weevil when I lost my fortune."

"Why ever couldn't you have told me all this before? How is it that
Canon Lascelles had the same name as you? Was he a relation?"

"Yes, darling, first cousin," he faltered, wondering if the story
resembled that which he had told to Mr. Bellamie.

"So my name is really Lascelles?"

"Titania Lascelles. But there are a lot of others. I was nearly
forgetting them. You have a whole string of names, but I can't remember
them now, except Katherine and Mary--ah, yes, and there was Fitzalan. I
never could understand why they called you Fitzalan. I've got them all
written down somewhere, and I'll read them to you presently. We called
you Tita after your mother, but I got into the way of calling you
Boodles, which means beautiful, and have never got out of it."

"You told all this to Mr. Bellamie?" asked Boodles excitedly.

"I think so. I tried to," said Weevil hopefully.

"Then what does he mean by saying I am of low birth and have no name?"
she cried indignantly.

"Perhaps he did not understand. Perhaps he hadn't grasped it. I tell a
story very badly, dear."

That point could not be disputed, and the child seized upon it eagerly.
There was no telling what wild rambling statements her grandfather might
have poured into the ears of Aubrey's father. But she could tell him now
she was quite a well-born little dame, and had a splendid name which was
all her own, and she was really good enough for Aubrey after all. She
put her head back upon the cushion and began to laugh because she was
happy, the day was ending nicely, and she believed the story would end
nicely too. She had cried because Aubrey was going away and for no other
reason; at one time that afternoon she had not been sure of it, she had
almost been afraid that the tears had been brought on by Mr. Bellamie's
evil suggestions about her birth; but now she knew that she could hold
up her nose with the best of them. She was accustomed to Weevil's
eccentric language, his contradictions gave her no suspicions; she
swallowed the rambling story whole and wanted more. There were so many
questions to be asked and answered. She thought she would write to
Aubrey and sign herself Titania Lascelles with great flourishes.

"I am glad to hear you laughing, Boodles," said Weevil tenderly.

The poor old man was far from the laughing mood. He was indeed getting
frightened at what he had done, and was wondering how he could carry it
on, and how the story would end. Left to himself he would not have told
the child anything; but she had caught him in an unguarded moment with a
direct question, and he had been forced to answer without time to
prepare himself by another rehearsal in private. He had hardly expected
her to take things so seriously, forgetting how much the story meant to
her, so utterly obsessed was his mind with the one great idea, which was
her preservation from the Brute. Love blinds every one. The young it
dazzles, like the sun low down on the horizon, so that they see no
faults. Into the eyes of the old it flings dust to prevent them from
seeing the end of the road.

"Now we must light the lamp and have supper," he said drearily, gently
removing the child's other boot and pressing her warm little foot in his
cold loving hand.

"I don't want lamps or suppers," she sighed. "What is that light, over
in the corner?"

"I think it is the moon shining in between the curtains."

"The wind has got up. It's howling. I don't care, for I've got a name.
I'm not Boodles Blank any more. I'm tired and happy."

"I have given you a little happiness. Boodles?" he quavered.

"Heavensfull. You have always been a funny old daddy-man, and now that
you are my grand-daddy-man you are funnier than ever. Fancy keeping me
in the dark all the time! To-morrow you must tell me everything. What
was my mother like? Go on. Tell me a lot about my mother."

"I don't know, Boodles--I mean I can't think to-night."

Weevil had left her, and was tumbling about the room, knocking himself
against things and groaning. He was beginning to understand that his
efforts to destroy the Brute might only end by investing him with new
powers. But the child was happy, and that was everything; she was
singing to herself, and laughing, and thinking of her mother; not the
mother who had tied her up in fern and flung her at his door, but the
mother who existed only in his fantastic brain. Suppose Mr. Bellamie had
found it out. But that was impossible, for nobody knew except that
unknown mother and himself. He was doing what was right. His little maid
was perfectly happy then. Sufficient for that day was the happiness
thereof. There was just one trouble remaining--the problem of Mr.
Bellamie's incredulity. Why had he not accepted the story which she was
so ready to believe? Eccentric manner and contradictory statements did
not explain everything. Mr. Bellamie had no right to put the whole story
aside just because it had been badly told.

"I can tell you, Boodles. I have just found it out," he cried out of the
darkness with a miserable sort of triumph. "There has been a lot of
scandal about you, which I have never troubled to answer, and Mr.
Bellamie has heard it, and finds it easier to believe than what I told
him. There is the Brute again. He makes people prefer scandal to the
truth. Nobody knows how you came to me, and so they invented a story to
suit them. Everybody knows that story, and as I have not denied it Mr.
Bellamie believes it is true. I think I'll write to him to-morrow."

"How did I come to you?" asked Boodles.

"It's a long story," he faltered. "I can't tell you now because I am
feeling so tired. I shall have to think about it all night," he
muttered.

"Why did you make up that queer story about finding me one night at your
door?"

"That is true. Your father chose that way of sending you to me," he said
lamely. "I kept the truth from you because I was afraid you might not
want to stay with me if you knew everything. Your father wished you to
be kept in ignorance. I was going to tell you on your twenty-first
birthday."

"You needn't have told me you thought I was a poor woman's child," she
said reproachfully.

"I am very sorry, darling. I won't do it again," the poor old creature
promised.

Boodles jumped up, pattered to the window, and flung aside the curtains.
The room was flooded at once with moonlight, and she could feel the wind
coming through the chinks. Weevil looked up patiently, and she saw his
weary old eyes and wrinkled face, ghastly in that light. It struck her
he was looking very worn and ill.

"You are dreadful tired," she said very tenderly.

"Yes, Boodles, the noise of the wind makes me feel very tired."

"I am not Boodles now. That was my baby-name. I am Tita. And the
others--Katherine, Mary--what are the rest?"

"I don't know, dear. I will try and think to-morrow."

"I won't tease you, but there is so much I want to know. Poor great big
old grand-daddy-man, you look quite dead."

He shuffled towards her, put his arms round her, and began to make
noises as if he was in pain. "I am tired and weak. That is all, darling,
and the rabbit in the trap made me sick. I am weak and old and very
tired, and I know I have done no good in my life. Shut it out, my
maid--shut it out."

It was the prospect which he wanted shut out. They could see the bare
stretch of moor, upon it the moon shining, and over it the wind rushing.
There is nothing more dreary than a windy moonlit night upon the moor,
filled with its own emptiness of sound, suggestive of wild motion and
yet motionless, covered with light that is not light.

"It is like a lonely life," said Weevil bitterly.

Boodles dropped the curtains and tried to laugh. She did not like the
look on the old man's face.

"The lonely life has gone," she said. "Now we will have some light."

Weevil shuffled after her, muttering to himself: "You have done it,
Abel-Cain. You must keep it up. You must hold the Brute off her somehow,
or she may have to go out, into the windy moonlight, into the lonely
life."




CHAPTER XIX

ABOUT THE GOOD RIGHT HAND OF FELLOWSHIP


One of the creeping-things to be crushed at the forthcoming Assizes was
Brightly. Ju had been already stamped out of existence, and it was meet
and right that the little man should follow her example, and be placed
behind some stone walls where it would be impossible for him to drag
lusty farmers from their horses and half-murder them for the sake of
their clothes. Brightly had not long to wait in prison. Exeter put on
the full panoply of the law during the first week of November; scarlet
and gold were flourished; trumpeters and a special preacher brayed;
bells clanged, the small grocer and the candle-maker were summoned to
serve on the jury, to fail not at their peril, lawyers buzzed
everywhere, and a lot of money was spent just because Brightly and a few
poor yokels had misconducted themselves. It was a curious sort of net,
this Assize net; it was constructed and cast in such a manner that it
permitted a lot of coarse fish and golden carp to escape through its
meshes, while all the little tadpoles and mud-grubbers were caught and
held.

One of the coarse fish to swim into the judicial circuit was Pendoggat.
He came to Exeter, partly that he might spend a portion of the capital
of the Nickel Mining Company, and partly that he might visit the
Guildhall to see sinners punished. Pendoggat had a keen sense of justice
and a certain amount of dull humour. The Assizes represented to him a
foreshadowing of the fiery pleasures of Hell--they were a pleasure to
his mind because he was secure from them--and it amused him to think
that another man was going to suffer for his wrongdoing. The idea that
he was a sinner had never occurred to him. He had stripped Chegwidden,
and flung him into the furze, because the wind had swept upon him,
urging him to persecute the unconscious man, and he had obeyed. He had
not robbed Chegwidden, nor had he stolen his clothes; and that was the
principal charge against Brightly. If he had stood up in court, and
confessed that he had dragged the farmer from his horse and stolen his
clothes, he would have been telling a lie, which would have been painful
to him. Brightly was not charged with finding Chegwidden unconscious,
stripping the clothes from him, and throwing them down a wheal. Had that
been the charge against him Pendoggat would probably have recognised
that the purveyor of rabbit-skins was a good Christian, who had learnt
the great principles of the gospel, and was willing to sacrifice himself
for another. The mind of Pendoggat when it turned towards theology
became incomprehensible.

The weather was changing into winter and there was a smell of snow upon
the moor. Pendoggat had played his game, and so far as he could see had
won it. The success was not brilliant, because the people of Bromley had
proved to be a stingy set, and the amount of money subscribed for the
mining venture did not reach three hundred pounds. The chairman of the
company, Pezzack's retired grocer-uncle, who had after repeated failures
at last discovered how to spell the word committee, was continually
writing to know when the first consignment of ore was to be placed on
the market, and, what was of far greater importance, when the first
dividend might be expected. Pendoggat as frequently replied, through the
agency of Pezzack, that operations could not be commenced until spring,
as the climate of Dartmoor was not the same as that of Bromley; but the
grocer could not understand, and went on writing. He appeared to think
that nickel was like the inferior American and disreputable
margarine--which in his business had been labelled respectively prime
Cheddar and best butter--and would not keep. The little grocer deserved
to lose his money, though he was eminently respectable. His position
proved it, as only men of assured respectability can make enough money
to retire and purchase a little suburban villa, with such modern
improvements as walls one brick thick, roofs of thin plaster, and
defective drainage. His front doorstep was whitened daily. His parlour
window was heavily curtained, and in it were geraniums and ferns further
to attest respectability; and behind the curtains and floral display was
a chamber crowded with stately furniture. All was very beautiful in
front, and very dirty behind. The display in front was for the benefit
of the road. The negligence and dirt behind were only visible from the
railway. It was best butter according to the parlour window, and
disreputable margarine judging by the testimony of the back-yard.

Queer objects of the country had come from all parts of Devon to assert
their intelligence as witnesses in the various trials. Peter was a
witness in the Brightly case, Peter who had comforted his system with
many a pint of beer, paid for with Chegwidden's money, and was then
enjoying himself at the expense of the country, although he had taken
the opportunity to get his railway fare from Mary. Peter was not only
travelling again, but he was principal witness, as he had discovered
Chegwidden lying unconscious and fully dressed upon the road; and Peter
did not underestimate his importance.

Brightly had not been fortunate of late, but luck was to turn his way a
little at the trial. No doubt sentences upon small prisoners depend very
much upon the state of his lordship's liver. A bottle of corked wine, or
a burnt soup, may quite possibly mean another couple of months to the
man in the dock. Mercy is supposed to have its lodging somewhere in the
bowels, and if they are out of order, or offended by inferior cookery,
mercy may conceivably be out of order too. The judge upon this occasion
was in a robust state of health. His wine had not been corked, nor had
his soup been burnt, and he was quite in the mood to temper the panoply
of the law with a playful kind of mercy which presented counsel with
several somewhat obsolete jokes and one new pun. When Brightly appeared
another pun was instantly forthcoming upon his name. His lordship had at
once a kindly feeling for the prisoner who had contributed towards the
maintenance of his own reputation as a humorist; and he was soon saying
that it was absurd to suppose that such a poor creature could be guilty
of robbery with violence against the person of a strong man like Farmer
Chegwidden.

A very able young barrister defended Brightly at the request of the
judge, a youngster recently called, who had every inducement to do his
best. That was Brightly's second bit of luck. The health of the judge
was perfect, and he had been allotted a strong advocate, although he
could not understand why the gentleman took such an interest in him and
tried so hard to get him off. The fat constable and the other witnesses
were given a melancholy time by the young barrister, who treated them
all very much as Pendoggat had treated Chegwidden. He stripped the lies
off them and left them shivering in the strangeness of the truth. Peter
was a difficult witness at first, but after a few minutes counsel could
probably have made him swear that when he had discovered Chegwidden the
farmer was undressing himself with a view to taking a bath.

"In what condition was he when you found him lying upon the road?" asked
counsel.

"Mazed," replied Peter. "Same as I be," he muttered.

"Was he drunk?"

"No," said Peter stoutly.

"Do you know a drunken man when you see one?"

Peter thought he did, but was not certain. They were common objects, and
as long as a man could proceed from one place to another, and shout
occasionally, he was, according to Peter, a fairly sober person.

"Do you suppose he had fallen from his horse and stunned himself?"

"Likely," said Peter. "He'm a cruel hard rider."

"You have often seen him galloping over the moor, in what some people
might call a reckless way?"

"Seen 'en often," said Peter.

"Thursday evenings usually?" went on counsel, in a pleasant
conversational manner.

Peter agreed that it was so.

"You know, of course, that it is the farmer's habit on these evenings to
frequent some public-house; one night at Lydford, another at Brentor,
and so on? There's nothing remarkable about that, but still you are well
aware of it?"

Peter was.

"And you know what he goes there for? Everybody knows that. You know why
you go to a public-house. You go to get beer, don't you?"

"I du," said Peter with some enthusiasm.

"Sometimes there is a glass too much, and you are not quite sure of the
way home. That's only human nature. We all have our little failings.
When you have that glass too much you might ride 'cruel hard,' as you
express it, over the moor, without caring whether you had a spill or
not. Probably you would have a tumble. Chegwidden comes off pretty
often, I believe?"

"More often that he used to du," mumbled Peter, not in the least knowing
where he was being led.

"Well, that's natural enough. He's getting older and less confident.
Perhaps he drinks a bit harder too. A man can hardly find it easy to
gallop over the rough moor when he is very drunk. Don't you feel
surprised that Chegwidden has never hurt himself badly?"

Peter was not flustered then. Counsel was half-sitting on the edge of
the table, talking so nicely that Peter began to regard him as an old
friend, and thought he would like to drink a few glasses with this
pleasant gentleman who, he fancied, had a distinctly convivial eye.
"'Tis just witchery," he said in a confidential manner, feeling he was
in some bar-room, and the judge might be the landlord about to draw the
beer. "He'm got a little charm to his watch-chain, and that makes 'en
fall easy like."

"I suppose he hadn't got it on that night?"

"Forgot 'en, likely," said Peter with some regret, knowing that had
Chegwidden been wearing the charm and chain he would have gained
possession of them.

Counsel smiled at Peter, and the witness grinned back, with a feeling
that he was adding to his acquaintances. The next question followed
quite naturally--

"I suppose Chegwidden was pretty far gone that night. Now I want you to
use your memory, and tell me if you have ever seen him more drunk than
he was that night?"

"When us gets drunk us comes to a stop like," said Peter thoughtfully.
"Us gets no drunker," he explained to his new friend.

"You think Farmer Chegwidden had reached that stage? He could hardly
have been more intoxicated than he was when you found him?"

Peter admitted that the farmer's condition was unquestionably as his
friend had stated.

"He was dead drunk?"

"Mucky drunk," said Peter with a burst of confidence.

"You were not astonished, as you know he is an habitual drunkard?"

Peter was just going to agree, when he remembered he didn't know the
meaning of the word habitual.

"He gets drunk frequently. Makes a habit of it," explained counsel.

"He du," said Peter, in the emphatic manner which makes for good
evidence.

"Why did you say just now he was not drunk when you found him?" asked
counsel smoothly.

Peter's eyes were opened, and he discovered he was not in a bar-room,
but in the Guildhall between rows of unsympathetic faces, and his nice
young companion was not a friend at all; and he knew also he had been
giving evidence against a parishioner. It was useless after that to
proceed with the charge against Brightly in its original form; and his
advocate then attempted to show that he was equally innocent of theft.

Here, however, he failed, and his lordship himself, who felt in the mood
to be merciful, could only point out that circumstantial evidence went
entirely against the prisoner. He didn't believe that Brightly, was a
bad character. A long experience upon the Bench had enabled him to
determine fairly accurately between the hardened criminal and the poor
man who succumbed to sudden temptation. It was a wild cold night, and
the prisoner in his wretched clothes had happened to pass that way, and
when he found the drunken and stunned farmer lying upon the road the
temptation to strip him of his clothing had been too strong. The
subsequent ill-treatment of the senseless man, no doubt to gratify some
old grudge, was the unpleasant feature of the case. It was not
altogether easy for him to believe that Brightly had worked
single-handed. He left the case to the small grocer and the candle-maker
with every confidence that they would bring in a verdict in accordance
with the evidence, and he hoped that their consciences would direct them
aright. The consciences did their work rapidly, Brightly was declared
guilty, and the learned judge found that he would not be doing his duty
to the country if he sentenced him to less than three months'
imprisonment with hard labour. The next case was called, and the police
began as usual to complain about the sentence, and to declare that it
was no use doing their duty when judges wouldn't do theirs. The prisoner
was removed weeping, asking the gentlemen if they wouldn't let him have
his little dog, and begging the warder to take his "duppence" and go out
to buy him some rat-poison.

Brightly had indulged in several fits of play-acting since his
committal. He was a dull-witted man, and they could not make him
comprehend that he was a criminal of a particularly dangerous type, and
his little Ju a furious beast which it had been found necessary to
destroy. He was, indeed, so foolish that he failed to grasp the fact
that Ju was dead. He was always asking if he mightn't have her to talk
to. When they brought him food he would set a portion aside for Ju, and
beg the warder to see that she got it. When he sang his hymns he put out
his hand and patted the floor, thinking it was Ju. He did not want to go
to the wonderful dairy without his little dog. She would like the milk
and honey too. He would never have the heart to drive about in the
pony-cart, which was sure to come some day if he only waited long
enough, unless Ju was squatting upon the fern at the bottom or on the
seat beside him. It would be dreary Dartmoor indeed without tail-wagging
starving Ju. They could not make him understand that Ju was starving no
longer. Since his committal Brightly had failed to benefit from the
food, which was the best he had ever eaten in his life, though it was
prison fare. He was thinner because he could not feed upon the air and
the solitude, or smell the moor, and he was more blind because the
healing touch of the sun was off his eyes. He often thought of an
evening how beautifully the sun would be shining across Sourton Down,
and he wondered if the gentlemen would let him go, just to get a feel of
it for a few minutes. Sometimes he thought he could hear the Tavy
roaring, but it was nothing but the prison van rumbling in.

After sentence Brightly became more foolish, and rambled about his
little dog worse than ever. The doctor certified he was totally
incapable of undergoing hard labour, and he was removed to the
infirmary, where kind people visited him and gave him tracts and hoped
he would see the wickedness of his ways before it was too late. At last
Brightly began to comprehend that he was a vagabond of the baser sort.
All the gentlemen had said so, and they would not have impressed it upon
him so frequently if it was untrue. It appeared that he had led a life
of vice from his earliest years. It had been wicked to walk about the
moor trading in rabbit-skins, and vile to live in a cave upon Belstone
Cleave; and he had never known it until then. There was so much that he
didn't know. He learnt a lot about literature in his confinement. A lady
read portions of the Bible to him, and Brightly found some of it
interesting, although he could not understand why the Hebrew gentlemen
were always fighting, and his teacher didn't seem able to explain it.
Another lady tried to teach him "Jerusalem the Golden," and he responded
as well as he could, but the words would not remain in his poor memory,
and he always gave a quaint rendering of his own when he tried to repeat
the lines. He had the same question for every one: might he have his
little dog and talk to her for a bit? At last the doctor made him
understand that Ju was dead, and after that Brightly changed. His soul
became rusty, as it were, and he did not respond to his teachers. He
accepted everything with the same patient spirit, but he showed
indifference. He became like a tortoise, and when people stroked his
shell he refused to put his head out. It was all owing to the same old
fault--he could not understand things. He comprehended that he was a
criminal, and it had been fully explained to him that criminals must be
kept in confinement because they constitute a danger to other people.
But he could not understand what Ju had done that she should be taken
away from him and killed. Apparently she too had been a criminal, and
much worse than himself; for he had only been sent to prison, while she
had been executed. That was what Brightly couldn't understand; but then
he was only a fool.

Pendoggat left the court after sentence upon Brightly had been
pronounced, and began his homeward journey. The trial had pleased him,
and satisfied his sense of justice. He was hurrying back because there
was a service that evening and he was going to preach. Brightly would
make a good subject for his sermon, the man who was alone because he was
not fit to dwell with his kind, the man who had been caught in his sins
and punished for them. He had always tried to impress his listeners with
the fact that every man is sure to suffer for his sins some day; and he
believed what he said, and could not understand why people were so dull
as to think they would escape. Pendoggat had discovered long ago that
every man regards his neighbours as sinners and himself as a saint. He
behaved in exactly the same way himself. He would not be punished,
because he always made a point of repenting of his sins. He saved
himself by prayer and chapel attendances, and every day would insure his
soul against fire by reading the Bible. And yet he thought himself
different from other people, and was amazed when they had the effrontery
to declare that they too were saved, although neighbour This and
neighbour That ought to have known they were most assuredly and
everlastingly damned.

The region of the Tavy was cold and clear; a great change from the
low-lying city on the Exe and Greedy where there had been mist and
drizzle. As Pendoggat rode up from Lydford he noticed white pools and
splashes upon the dark tower and roof of St. Michael's church upon its
mount, and his heart warmed at the cold sight. It was to him what the
note of the cuckoo is to many, a promise, not of spring, but of the wild
days when solitude increases and the bogs become blue glaciers. Winter
had come and there would soon be the usual November fall of snow.
Pendoggat prepared his discourse as he rode up. The night was coming
when no man could work, miners least of all. His was not a cold theology
by any means. It contained, indeed, little that was not red-hot. The
old-fashioned lake of fire, surrounded by attendants in a uniform of
tails and hoofs, armed with pitchforks to keep sinners sizzling and turn
them occasionally, was good enough for him. Every one would have to be
burnt some time, like the gorse in swaling-time, except himself.

Ebenezer was crowded that evening. The week-day services were popular,
especially in winter, when the evenings were long, and there was no
money for the inn. Chapel upon the moor occupies much the same place in
the affections of the parishioners as the music-hall has obtained over
the minds of dwellers in big towns; and for much the same reason,
everybody likes to be entertained, and praying and hymn-singing are
essentially dramatic performances. A warm church or chapel is an
attractive place on a winter's evening, when it is dull at home, and
there is nothing doing outside. Middle-aged men will always speak
lovingly of their village church and its pleasant evening services. They
do not remember much about the prayers and hymns; but they have a very
clear and tender recollection of the golden-haired girl who used to sit
in the next pew but one.

Pezzack did not come in until Pendoggat had finished his discourse. He
was a sort of missionary, carrying the gospel over many villages, and
his unfortunate habit of tumbling from his bicycle kept many a
congregation waiting. He entered at last, with a bruised nose and tender
ear, and took possession of the reading-desk which his friend and
partner had been keeping warm for him; and then in his usual ridiculous
fashion he undid Pendoggat's good work by preaching of a pleasant land
on the other side of this world of woe. Eli had always been an optimist,
and now that he was happily married his lack of a proper religious
pessimism became more strongly marked than ever. He would never make a
really popular minister while he insisted upon looking at the bright
side of things. Many of his listeners thought him frivolous when he
spoke of happiness after death. They couldn't think wherever he got his
strange ideas from. It seemed as if Pezzack wanted to deprive them of
that glowing hell which they had learnt to love at their mother's knee.

The congregation melted away quickly to the echo of Eli's blessing, and
the friends found themselves alone, to put out the lamps, lock the
chapel, and leave everything in order. The minister was elated; they had
enjoyed a "blessed hour;" the world was going very well just then; and
he longed to clasp Pendoggat by the hand and tell him what a good and
generous man he was. He stood near the door, and with the enthusiasm of
a minor prophet exclaimed: "'Ow beautiful is this place, Mr. Pendoggat!"

A more hideous interior could hardly have been conceived, only the
minister was fortunate enough to know nothing about art. Temples of
Nonconformity on Dartmoor, as elsewhere, do not conform to any
recognised style of architecture, unless it be that of the wooden
made-in-Germany Noah's Ark; but Pezzack was able to regard the wet walls
and dreary benches through rose-tinted spectacles; or perhaps his
bruised eye lent a kind of glamour to the scene. It was certain,
however, that Pezzack had never yet seen men or things accurately. He
regarded Pendoggat as a saint, and the chapel as a place of beauty. His
eyes were apparently of as little use to him as his judgment. A blind
man might have discovered more with his finger-tips.

"You'll never make a preacher, man," said Pendoggat, as the last light
went out. "I'd got them worked up, and then you come and let them down
again. Your preaching don't bring them to the sinner's bench. It makes
them sit tight and think they are saved."

"I can't talk about 'ell. It don't come to me natural," said Eli in his
simple fashion.

"Sinners ain't saved by kindness. We've got to scare them. If you don't
flog a biting horse he'll bite again. You're too soft with them. You
want to get manly."

"I endeavour to do my duty," said Eli fervently. "But I can't talk to
them rough when I feel so 'appy."

"Happy, are ye?" muttered Pendoggat, his eyes upon the ground.

"My 'appiness is beyond words. I get up 'appy, and I go to bed 'appy,
and I eat 'appy. It's 'eaven on earth, Mr. Pendoggat, and when a man's
so 'appy he can't talk about 'ell. I owe it all to you, Mr. Pendoggat."

"The happiness or hell?" said Pendoggat, with a flash of grim humour.

"The wonderful and beautiful 'appiness. My wife and I pray for you
every night and morning. We are very comfortable in our little cottage,
and when, Mr. Pendoggat," he went on with enthusiasm, "when God sends
our first little olive-branch we shall 'ave all that our 'earts can
desire. Ah, Mr. Pendoggat, you don't know what a blessed thing it is to
be a father."

"You don't either," said the other sharply.

"I feel it coming upon me. I feel the pride and the glory and the honour
of it swelling up in my 'eart and making me 'appy with the world and all
that therein is. Amen. I can see myself walking about with it, saying:
'Open your eyes, my dear, and look at the proud and 'appy father of your
being.' 'Ow beautiful it all is, Mr. Pendoggat!"

Pezzack spoke like a fool. Why such men should swell with pride when
they become putative or actual parents is one of the wonders of the
universe. Gratification is permissible enough, but not a sense of pride,
which implies they have done something marvellous. Pezzack was like a
hen cackling because she has laid an egg, and supposing she has
accomplished something which entitles her to a chief place among hens,
when she has only performed an ordinary function of Nature which she
could not possibly have prevented.

"You're too soft," muttered Pendoggat, as they turned away from the
gloomy box-shaped chapel and began to ascend the silent road. It was a
clear night, the stars were large, and the wind was cold enough to
convey the idea of heat. There was enough light for them to see the
white track crossed ahead by another narrow road cut out of the black
moor. By morning there would be a greyness upon everything, and the
heather would be covered with frosted gossamers.

Pezzack was blowing on his big red hands, and stumbling about as if he
had been Farmer Chegwidden. He had never learnt how to walk, and it was
getting late to learn. Pendoggat was carrying a huge black Bible, which
was almost as cumbersome as Mary's umbrella. He always took it to chapel
with him, because it was useful to shake at the doubters and weaker
vessels. Big books in sombre bindings generally terrify the young or
illiterate, whatever their contents; and a big Bible brandished at a
reading-desk suggests a sort of court of appeal to which the preacher is
ready to carry his hearers' difficulties.

"I think we are going to get some snow," said Eli, falling back
naturally upon the state of the weather.

"There is a bit on Brentor," said Pendoggat.

"Then there will be some on Ger Tor. I must take my wife out to-morrow
to look at it. She does not know Dartmoor. It will be a little pleasure
for her."

The Pezzacks were easily amused. The first sprinkle of snow on Ger Tor
was worth going out to see, and could be discussed during the long
evening.

"It will mean the closing of the mine. There must be a lot of water in
it," suggested Eli in a nervous manner, although he was anticipating
things rather, seeing that the precious mine had never been opened.

"Afraid you won't get your fifteen shillings a week, are ye?" said
Pendoggat, in what was for him a pleasant voice.

"I don't think of that," lied Eli, stumbling along, with his hands
flapping like a pair of small wings. "I am in your 'ands, Mr. Pendoggat,
so I am safe. But my uncle writes every week and sends me a
mining-paper, and wants to know why we don't throw ourselves about a
bit. I think he means by that we ought to be at work. My uncle talks
slang, Mr. Pendoggat."

"Tell him he's a fool," said Pendoggat curtly.

"I 'ave," said Eli meekly. "At least I suggested it, but I think he
misunderstood me. He says that if we don't make a start he will come
down and make things 'um a bit. I am sorry my uncle uses such
expressions. They use funny phrases in Bromley, Mr. Pendoggat."

"He can come down if he likes, and you can give him a pick and tell him
to mine for himself until the commoners catch him," said Pendoggat
pleasantly. "We've done with your uncle. He won't subscribe any more
money, and I reckon his friends won't either. We've done our part. We've
got the money, nothing like so much as we wanted, but still a good bit,
and they can have the nickel, or what they think is nickel, and they can
come here and work it till the Duchy asks them what they're after, or
till the commoners fling them into the Tavy. Write that to your uncle,"
said Pendoggat, poking his victim in the ribs with his big Bible.

The minister stopped, but his companion went on, so he had to follow,
stumbling after him very much as Brightly had followed upon that same
road begging for his "duppence."

"What do you mean, Mr. Pendoggat? What do you mean?" he kept on saying.

"You're a happy man," muttered Pendoggat like a mocking bird. "Got a
wife, hoping for a child, manager of a mining company, with a rich fool
of an uncle. You're a lucky man, Pezzack."

"I'm a 'appy and fortunate man," gasped Eli.

"Every one respects you. They think you're a poor preacher, but they
know you're honest. It's a fine thing to be honest. You'll be called to
a town some day, and have a big congregation to sit under you if you
keep honest."

"I 'ope so. You're walking so fast I don't seem able to keep up with
you."

"It's a cold night. Come on, and get warm. How would you feel if people
found out you weren't honest? I saw a man sentenced to-day--hard labour,
for robbery. How would you feel if you were sentenced for robbery? Gives
you a cold feeling, I reckon. Not much chance of a pulpit when you came
out. Prison makes a man stink for the rest of his life."

"I can't keep up with you, Mr. Pendoggat, unless I run. I haven't enough
breath," panted Eli.

Pendoggat put the Bible under his arm, turned, caught Eli by the wrist
and strode on, dragging the clumsy minister after him.

"Mr. Pendoggat, I seem to think some'ow you don't 'ardly know what you
are a-doing of." Pezzack was confused and becoming uncertain of grammar.

"You'd stand and freeze. Breathe this wind into you and walk like a man.
What would you think, I'm asking ye, if you were found guilty of robbery
and sent to prison? Tell me that."

"I can't think no'ow," sobbed Eli, trying to believe that his dear
friend and brother had not gone mad.

"Can't think," growled Pendoggat. "See down under! That's where the mine
is, your mine, Pezzack, your nickel mine."

"You are 'urting my arm, Mr. Pendoggat, my rheumatic arm. Don't go on so
fast if you kindly please, for I don't seem able to do it. Yonder ain't
my mine, Mr. Pendoggat. It's yours, but I called it mine because you
told me to."

"Your uncle thinks it's yours. So do his friends. All the business has
gone through you. What do they think of me? Who do they think I am?"

"Oh, Mr. Pendoggat, I told them you are the manager."

"Your man. Your paid servant. Does it pinch here, Pezzack? 'Tis a bit up
here, and the moor's rough."

"Your 'and pinches, the good right 'and of fellowship," panted Eli.

"Don't the words pinch? Suppose the mine fails, where are you? Your
uncle will be down on you, and he'll cast you over. You won't see any of
his savings, and there's a wife to keep, and children coming, but you're
a happy man. We're all happy on a frosty night like this. Come on!"

"What are you a-saying? I don't seem to get hold of it. Let me stop, Mr.
Pendoggat. I want to wipe the sweat off my face."

"Let it bide there. My name don't appear in the mining business. The
thing is yours from start to finish, and I'm your man. There will be
none more against you if the mine fails, and I'm thrown out of a job.
I've got the cash, Pezzack, every penny of it down to the Barton in
notes. When are we going to start on the new chapel, minister? We're
going to build a new chapel, the finest on the moor. We can't start till
the spring. You told your uncle that? The snow's coming. It's in the air
now, and I reckon 'tis falling thick on the high tors. We can't build
the chapel and get out the nickel while the snow lasts."

Pendoggat was walking at a furious pace, devouring the keen wind, his
head bent forward, chin upon his chest, lurching from side to side,
dragging the minister like a parent hauling a refractory child.

"He 'ave lost his senses. He don't know what he's doing with me," Eli
panted, becoming for the first time indirect.

"We're getting near the top. There will be a fine wind. Do you good,
Pezzack. Make a man of you. What do you think of the nickel down under?
Pretty good stuff, ain't it? Had it analysed yet? Found out what it's
worth a ton? Got permission from the Duchy? I reckon you've done all
that. You're a fine business man. You know a good sample of nickel when
you see it."

"I left it all to you, Mr. Pendoggat. You know all about it."

Pezzack tried to say more, something about his feet and rheumatic arm
and the perspiration which blinded him, but he had no more breath.
Pendoggat's fingers were like a handcuff about his wrist.

"Suppose it ain't nickel at all. I never heard of any on Dartmoor.
They'll be down on you, Pezzack, for the money, howling at ye like so
many wolves, and if you can't pay there's prison. What are you going to
say for yourself? You can't drag me into it. If I tell you there ain't a
penn'orth of nickel down under you can't touch me. If you had proof
against me you couldn't use it, for your own sake. You'd have to keep
your mouth shut, for the sake of your wife and the family what's coming.
It's a fine thing to have a wife, and a fine thing to be expecting a
child, but it's a better thing to be sure of your position. It ain't
wise to marry when you're in debt, and when you've got a wife, and are
depending upon a man for your living, you can't make an enemy of that
man. I reckon we're on top. Bide here a bit and rest yourself."

They were on the summit of one of the big rounded hills. The heather was
stiff with frost and seemed to grate against their boots. The weather
had changed completely while they had been coming up from the chapel.
Already the stars were covered over with dense clouds which were
dropping snowflakes. There was nothing in sight, and the only sound was
the eternal roar of the Tavy in the distance. Helmen Barton was below.
The house was invisible, but the smell of its peat fire ascended.
Pendoggat was breathing noisily through his nose, while Pezzack stood
before him utterly exhausted, his weak knees trembling and knocking
against each other, and his mouth open like a dog.

"Why have you done this to me, Mr. Pendoggat?" he gasped at length.

"To make a man of you. If I have a puppy I make a dog out of him with a
whip. When I get hold of a weak man I try to knock the weakness out of
him."

"Was it because I didn't talk proper about 'ell?" sobbed the frightened
minister.

"Come on," cried Pendoggat roughly. "Let's have a bout, man. It's a fine
night for it. Put out your arms. I'll be the making of you yet. Here's
to get your blood warm."

He raised his Bible and brought it down on Pezzack's head, crushing his
hat in.

Eli stumbled aside, crying out: "Oh, Mr. Pendoggat, you don't know what
you're doing. 'Itting me with the 'oly word. Let me go home, Mr.
Pendoggat. My wife is waiting for me."

Pendoggat was too far gone to listen. He followed the wretched man,
hitting at him with the big book, driving him along the top of the hill
with resounding blows. Eli could not escape; he was unable to run, and
he was dazed; he kept on stumbling and bleating, until another good blow
on the head settled his business and sent him sprawling into the
heather.

"Get up, man," shouted Pendoggat. "Get up and make a bout of it;" but
Eli went on lying flat, sobbing and panting, and trying to pray for his
persecutor.

"Get up, or I'll walk on ye with my nailed boots."

Eli shambled up slowly like some strange quadruped, found his awkward
feet, and stood swaying and moaning before his tormentor, convinced that
he was in the hands of a madman, and terribly afraid of losing his life.
Pendoggat stood grim and silent, his head down, the Bible tucked
reverently beneath his arm, the snow whitening his shoulders. It had
become darker in the last few minutes, the clouds were pressing lower,
and the sound of the Tavy was more distant than it had been.

"'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest,'" quoted Pendoggat slowly. "'Tis a cheering text for a whist
winter's night."

He had finished amusing himself, and now that he was cool again his mind
reverted naturally to his religion.

Eli could not say anything. It was as much as he could do to stand
upright. His clay-like right hand was pressed to his forehead. He was
afraid he would fall down a great many times going home.

"Shake," said Pendoggat in a friendly way. "Give me the good right hand
of fellowship, minister."

Eli heard him, comprehended the meaning of the words, and hesitated,
partly from inability to act, and partly from unwillingness to respond.
He felt he might fall down if he removed the hand from his dazed head.
He smiled in a stupid fashion and managed to say: "You 'ave been cruel
to me, Mr. Pendoggat. You 'ave used me like a beast."

Pendoggat stepped forward, caught the big cold hand in his, pulled it
roughly from the minister's forehead, and shook it heartily. Not content
with that, he dragged the poor dazed wretch nearer, threw an arm about
his neck, and kissed him on the cheek. Perhaps it was the influence of
his Spanish blood which suggested the act. Possibly it was a genuine
wave of sorrow and repentance. He did not know himself; but the
frightened Maggot only groaned and sobbed, and had no caresses to give
in return.

"'How good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in
unity,'" quoted Pendoggat, with the utmost reverence.




CHAPTER XX

ABOUT THE PASSOVER OF THE BRUTE


Mary soon forgave her brother for his failure over the electric light
business, and they became as good friends as ever, except when Peter
demanded sums of money for services which Mary could not remember he had
rendered. Peter had a trick of benefiting himself, and charging the cost
to his sister. They were settled for the winter; Peter had turfed up the
chinks in the walls, adding a solid plaster of clay; had repaired the
thatch of gorse where it had rotted, laying on big stones to prevent the
removal of any portion by the gales; and had cut the winter supply of
fern. He sent in the bill to Mary, and she had taken it to Master, and
Master had put on silver spectacles and golden wisdom and revised the
costs so thoroughly, that Peter had to complain he had not received the
price of the tobacco smoked during the work of restoration.

Mary still mourned for Old Sal, knowing she would never see "the like o'
he again," while Peter cooked his mommet and cursed Pendoggat. Peter was
a weak little creature, who could only revenge himself by deeds of
witchcraft. He was not muscular like his sister, who would have stood up
to any man on Dartmoor, and made some of them sorry for themselves
before she had done with them. Mary believed in witchcraft, because she
was to a certain extent religious; she had been baptised, for instance,
and that was an act of witchcraft pure and simple, as it was intended to
protect the child from being overlooked by the devil; but, if any man
had insulted her, she would not have made a mommet of him, or driven a
nail into his footprint; she would have taken her stick, "as big as two
spears and a dag," and whacked him well with it.

The prospect of winter encouraged Peter to turn his mind towards
literary pursuits. There were days of storm and long evenings to be
occupied; and the little savage considered he might fill those hours
with work for which his talents seemed to qualify him, and possibly
bequeath to posterity some abiding monument of his genius. Peter had a
weekly paper and studied it well. He gathered from it that people still
wrote books; apparently every one wrote thern, though only about one in
every hundred was published. Most people had the manuscripts of their
books put away in cupboards, linhays, and old teapots, waiting the
favourable moment to bring them forth and astonish the world. This was
something of a revelation to Peter. Where was his book! Why had he
remained so long a mute inglorious scholar? Possibly the commoners who
met him in daily intercourse had their books completed and stored away
safely in their barns, and he was certainly as learned as any of them.
Peter went off to Master, and opened to him the secret of his mind.

Master was entirely sympathetic. He gave it as his opinion that any one
could write a book. When the art of forming letters of the alphabet had
been acquired, nothing indeed remained, except pen, ink, and paper; and,
as he reminded Peter, Mother Cobley sold ink at one penny the bottle,
while pen and paper could be obtained from the same source for an
additional twopence. Genius could therefore startle the world at
threepence a head.

Peter was profoundly interested. He indicated the big tomes, which
Master kept always lying beside him: a copy of the _Arcadia_, a Bible
dictionary, a volume of Shakespeare, and a few books of poetry, most of
them presents from a former rector long deceased, and suggested that
Master was accountable for the lot. The old man beamed through his
spectacles, coughed uneasily, and generally assumed that attitude of
modesty which is said to be one of the most marked traits of literary
men.

"You can spell turnips," Master reminded.

"Sure 'nuff," said Peter. "I can spell harder words than he. I can spell
hyacinth, and he'm a proper little brute."

He proceeded to spell the word, making only three mistakes. Master
advised him to confine himself for the present to more simple language,
and went on to ask what was the style and subject of Peter's proposed
undertaking.

"I wants yew to tell me," was the answer.

Master had an idea that genius ought to be inspired from within and not
from without, but he merely answered: "Nothing's no trouble, varmer,"
and suggested that Peter should compose a diary. "'Tis what a man does
every day," he explained. "How he gets up, and how he goes to bed, and
how he yets his dinner, and how his belly feels."

Peter considered that the idea was brilliant. Such an item as how he
drank his beer would certainly prove entertaining, and might very well
be original.

"Then he ses things about other volk, and about the weather," Master
went on. "He puts down all he can think of, so long as it be decent.
Mun't put down anything that bain't decent 'cause that would shock
volks."

"Nothing 'bout Varmer Pendoggat and Chegwidden's maid?" the other
suggested, in rather a disappointed voice.

"Hark ye, Peter," said Master decidedly, "you had best bide quiet about
that. Volks wun't tak' your word against his, and if he purty nigh
murders ye no one wun't try to stop 'en. A man bain't guilty till he be
found out, and Varmer Pendoggat ain't been found out."

"He can't touch I. Mary wun't let 'en, and I've made a mommet of 'en
tu," said the little man.

"Made a mommet, ha' ye? Aw, man, that be an awful thing to du. It be
calling in the devil to work for ye, and the devil wun't work wi'out
pay, man. He'll come sure 'nuff, and say to yew: 'I wants your soul,
Peter. I've a bought 'en wi' that mommet what yew made.' I be main cruel
sorry for yew, Peter."

"It be done now," said Peter gloomily.

Master wagged his head until his silver spectacles dropped off his nose,
added a little wisdom, then returned to his subject.

"Yew mun write things what you wun't be ashamed to let folk read. When
'tis a wet day yew ses so, and when it be fine you ses it be butiful.
When yew gets thoughts yew puts 'em all down."

"What du'ye mean?" asked the aspirant.

"Why, you think as how it be a proper feeling when you'm good, and yew
ses so. That be a thought."

"S'pose yew bain't feeling good?" suggested Peter quite naturally.

"Then yew writes about what it feels like to be bad," explained Master.
"Yew puts it down this sort o' way: 'I feels bad to-day. I don't mean I
feels bad in my body, for that be purty middling, but I feels bad in my
soul. It be a cruel pity, and I hopes as how I wun't feel so bad
to-morrow.' All them be thoughts, Peter; and that be the way books are
written."

"Thank ye kindly, master. It be proper easy," said Peter.

"You'm welcome, varmer. Nothing's no trouble."

Peter bought the articles necessary for fame, and went home. Mary was
forking manure, pausing only to spit on her hands; but she stopped for
another reason when Peter told her he was going to keep a diary.

"What be yew talking about?" she cried, amazed at such folly. "Us ha'
got one as 'tis. What du us want wi' another?"

Peter had to explain that the business of his diary had nothing to do
with such base commerce as cream and butter, but consisted in recording
the actions of a blameless life upon a pennyworth of paper for the
instruction and edification of those who should come after them. Mary
grasped her fork, and told him he was mazed.

Peter was not sure that Mary had spoken falsely when he came to test his
'prentice hand. In theory the art of writing was so simple, and
consisted in nothing more difficult than setting down what he would
otherwise have spoken, adding those gems of thought with which his mind
was occasionally enriched under the ennobling influence of moderate
beer. But nothing appeared upon the sheet of paper except dirt. Even the
simplest art requires practice. Not every man can milk a cow at the
first attempt. After much labour he recorded the statement: "This be a
buke, and when 'tis dun 'twill be a dairy. All volks write bukes, and it
bain't easy till you'm yused to it." There he stopped for the day. As
soon as he left the paper all sorts of ideas crowded into his mind, and
he hurried back to put them down, but directly he took up the pen his
mind was a blank again. The ideas had been swept away like butterflies
on a windy day. Mary called him "a proper old vule," and her thought was
probably quite as good as any that were likely to occur to him. "'Tis
bravish times us lives in. Us mun keep up wi' em," was Peter's answer.

The next day he tried again, but the difficulties remained. Peter
managed to place on record such imperishable facts as there was snow and
more would come likely, and he had got up later than usual, and he and
Mary were tolerably well, and the fare for the day was turnips and
bacon--he wanted to drag in turnips because he could spell the word, and
he added a note to inform posterity that he had taught Master how to do
so--but nothing came in the way of thoughts, and without them Peter was
persuaded his book could not properly be regarded as belonging to the
best order of literature. At the end of his second day of creation Peter
began to entertain a certain feeling of respect, if not of admiration,
for those who made a living with the pen; but on the third day
inspiration touched his brain, and he became a literary soul. The old
gentleman who shared his house, so called out of courtesy, as it
contained only one room, was making more noise than usual, as if the
cold had got into his chest. The diarist kept looking up to peer at
Grandfather's worn features, wondering what was wrong, and at last the
great idea came to him. "Dalled if Gran'vaither bain't a telling to I,"
he exclaimed; and then he got up and went cautiously across the room,
which was the same thing as going from one side of the house to the
other, his boots rustling in the fern which covered the floor.

"Be'ye alright, Gran'vaither?" he asked, lapping the old fellow's chest
with great respect. He was accustomed to chat with the clock, when
alone, as another man higher in the scale of civilisation might have
talked to his dog. Peter noticed that it was getting dark around him,
although it was still early in the afternoon.

"I be cruel sick," a voice answered.

Peter cried out and began to shiver. He stared at the window, the panes
of which were no longer white, but blue. Something was taking place
outside, not a storm, as the moor was unusually silent, and there seemed
to be no wind. Peter tried to collect his thoughts into a form suitable
for publication. He shivered his way to the other side of the room and
wrote laboriously: "Gran'vaither be telling to I. Ses he be cruel sick."
Then he had another attack of shivers.

"Who was that a telling to I?" he shouted, the noise of his voice making
him bolder.

"'Twas me," came the answer at once; and Peter gulped like a dying fish,
but managed to put it down in the diary.

"Who be ye?" he called.

"Old Gran'vaither."

Peter stood in the fern, biting his fingers and sweating. He was
trembling too much to write any more. So Grandfather was a living
creature after all. He had always supposed that the clock had a sort of
existence, not the same as his own, but the kind of life owned by the
pixies, and now he was sure of it.

"Why didn't ye tell to I avore?" he asked reproachfully.

Grandfather appeared to regard the question as impertinent, as he gave
no answer.

"Yew was making creepy noises last night. I heard ye," Peter went on,
waxing bold. "Seemed as if yew was trying to crawl out o' your own
belly."

"I was trying to talk," the clock explained.

Peter had some more shivers. It seemed natural enough to hear old
Grandfather talking, and he tried to persuade himself it was not the
voice which frightened him, but the queer blue light that seemed to be
filling the hut. He remembered that pixies always go about with blue
lanterns, and he began to believe that the surrounding moor was crowded
with the little people out for a frolic at his expense. Then he thought
he would go for Mary, but remembered she had gone to Lewside Cottage
with dairy produce. That reminded him of the diary. What a wonderful
work he would make of it now!

"Gran'vaither," he called.

"Here I be," said the voice.

"I knows yew be there," said Peter, somewhat sharply. The old gentleman
was not so intellectual as he could have wished. "I wants to know how
yew be telling to I?"

"Same as yew," said Grandfather.

"Yew ain't got no tongue."

"I've got a pendulum," said the clock, with a malevolent sort of titter.

"Yew'm sick?" asked Peter.

"I be that. 'Tis your doing," came the answer.

"I've looked after ye fine, Gran'vaither," said Peter crossly.

"'Tis that there thing on the hearthstone makes me sick," said the
voice.

"That be a mommet," said Peter.

"I know 'tis. A mommet of Farmer Pendoggat."

"What du'ye know 'bout Varmer Pendoggat?" asked Peter suspiciously.

"Heard you talk about 'en," Grandfather answered. "Don't ye play wi'
witchery, Peter. Smash the mommet up, and throw 'en away." The voice was
talking quickly and becoming hoarser. "Undo what you've done if you can,
and whatever you du don't ye put 'en in the fire again. If ye du I'll be
telling to ye all night and will scare ye proper. I wun't give ye any
sleep, Peter."

"You'm an old vule, Gran'vaither," said Peter.

"I'll get the pixies to fetch ye a crock o' gold if you leaves off
witching Pendoggat. I'll mak' 'em fetch ye sovereigns, brave golden
sovereigns, Peter."

"Where will 'em put the gold?" cried Peter with the utmost greediness.

"Bottom o' the well. Let the bucket down to-night, and when you pulls
'en up in the morning the gold will be in the bucket. If it ain't there
to-night, look the night after. But it wun't be no good looking, Peter,
if you ain't done what I told ye, and you mun put the broken bits o'
mommet by the well, so as the pixies can see 'em."

"I'll du it," chuckled Peter.

"Swear you'll do it?"

"Sure 'nuff I'll du it. You'm a brave old Gran'vaither if yew can fetch
a crock o' gold into the well."

"Good-bye, Peter. I wun't be telling to you again just yet."

"Good-bye, Gran'vaither. You'm welcome. I hopes you'll soon be better."

The voice did not come again, and Peter was left in the strange light
and eerie silence to recover, which he did slowly, with a feeling that
he had undergone a queer dream. It was not long before he was telling
himself he had imagined it all. Superstitious little savage as he was,
he could hardly believe that Grandfather had been chatting with him as
one man might have talked to another. As he went on thinking suspicious
features presented themselves to his mind. Grandfather's language had
not always been correct. He had not talked like a true Gubbings, but
more as a man of better education trying to bring himself down to his
listener's mode of speech. Then what interest could he feel in Pendoggat
that he should plead for the destruction of the mommet?

Peter addressed a number of questions to Grandfather upon these
subjects, but the old clock had not another word to say. That was
another suspicious feature; why should the clock be unable to talk then
when it had chatted so freely a few minutes before? Peter rubbed his
eyes, declared he was mazed, lighted his lamp, and scribbled the
wonderful story in his diary until Mary came back.

"Peter," she called at once. "Aw, man, come and look! Us be going to
judgment."

Peter rose, overflowing with mysticism, but he too gasped when he got
outside and saw the moor and sky. Indigo-tinted clouds were rolling
slowly down Tavy Cleave, there was apparently no sky, and through rents
in the clouds they could see blocks of granite and patches of black moor
hanging as it were in space. In the direction of Ger Tor was a column of
dark mist rising from the river. On each side of this column the outlook
was clear for a little way before the clouds again blotted out
everything. Those clouds in front were beneath their feet, and they
could hear the roaring of the invisible river still further down.
Overhead there was nothing except a dense blue mist from which the
curious light, like the glow of pixy lanterns, seemed to be reflected.

"I ha' never seen the like," said frightened Mary. "None o' the volks
ha' ever seen the like on't. Some of 'em be praying down under, and
wanting chapel opened. Old Betty Middleweek be scared so proper that
her's paying money what her owes. They ses it be judgment coming. There
be volks to the village a sotting wi' fingers in their ear-holes so as
they wun't hear trumpets. What shall us du if it be judgment, Peter?"

"Us mun bide quiet, and go along wi' the rest. If 'tis judgment us wun't
have no burying expenses," said Peter.

"I'd ha' gone in and asked Master if 'twas judgment, if I hadn't been so
mazed like. He'd ha' knowed. A brave cruel larned man be Master. What
happens to we if they blows on the trumpets?"

"Us goes up to heaven in a whirlpool and has an awful doom," said Peter
hazily.

"Us mun go up wi' vull bellies," said practical Mary, marching off to
blow at the fire.

Peter followed, walking delicately, hoping that witchcraft would come to
an end so soon as he had procured the crock of gold. Inside the hut,
surrounded with comforting lamplight, he told his sister all about
Grandfather's loquacity. Mary was so astounded that she dropped a piece
of peat into the pot and placed a turnip on the fire. "Aw, Peter! Telled
to ye same as Master might?" she gasped.

"Ah, told I to break the mommet and he'd give I gold."

Mary sat down, as she could think better that way. She had always
regarded Grandfather as a sentient member of the family, but in her
wildest moments had never supposed he would arouse himself to preach
morality in their own tongue. Things were coming to a pretty pass when
clocks began to talk. She would have her geese lecturing her next. She
did not want any more men about the place, as one Peter was quite
enough. If Grandfather had learnt to talk he would probably proceed to
walk; and then he would be like any other man, and go to the village
with her brother, and return in the same condition, and be pestering her
continually for money. The renaissance of Grandfather was regarded by
Mary as a particularly bad sign; and for that reason she decided that it
was impossible and Peter had been dreaming.

"You'm a liar," he answered in the vulgar tongue. "'Tis down in my
buke."

This was sufficient evidence, and Mary could only wag her head at it.
She had a reverence for things that were written in books.

"Be yew going to break the mommet?" she asked; and Peter replied that it
was his intention to make yet another clay doll, break it into
fragments, and commit the original doll, which was the only one capable
of working evil, to the fire as before. Thus he would earn the crock of
gold, and obtain vengeance upon Pendoggat also. Pixies were simple folk,
who could easily be hoodwinked by astute human beings; and he ventured
to propose that the mommet should be baked upon Mary's hearthstone in
future, so that Grandfather would see nothing of the operation which had
made him sick.

Mary remained an agnostic. She could understand Grandfather when he
played impish pranks upon them, but when it came to bold brazen speech
she could not believe. Peter had been asleep and imagined it all. They
argued the matter until they nearly quarrelled, and then Mary said she
was going to look about her brother's residence to try and find out
whether any one had been playing a joke upon him. They went outside, and
were relieved to discover that a change had taken place in the weather.
Evidently judgment was not imminent, Betty Middleweek could cease paying
her debts, and the chapel could be closed again. The blue light had
faded, the clouds were higher, and had turned to ghostly grey.

"Aw, Peter, 'tis nought but snow," said Mary cheerfully.

"Snow never made Gran'vaither talk avore," Peter reminded her.

Mary looked about her brother's little hut without seeing anything
unusual. Then she strode around the walls thereof, and her sharp eyes
soon perceived a branch of dry furze lying about a yard away from the
side of the cot. She asked Peter if he had dropped it there, and he
replied that it might have been there for days. "Wind would ha' took it
away," said Mary. "There was wind in the night, but ain't been none
since. That's been broke off from the linny."

At the end of the hut was a small shed, its sides made of old
packing-cases, its roof and door composed of gorse twisted into hurdles.
The back wall of the cot, a contrivance of stones plastered together
with clay, was also the end wall of the linhay. Mary went into the
linhay, which was used by Peter as a place for storing peat. She soon
made a discovery, and called for the lantern. When it was brought she
pulled out a loose stone about the centre of the wall, and holding the
lantern close to the hole saw at once a black board which looked like
panelling, but was the back of the clock-case. Grandfather stood against
that wall; and in the middle of the plank was a hole which had been
bored recently.

"Go'ye into the hut and ask Gran'vaither how he be," called Mary.

Peter toddled off, got before the old clock, and inquired with
solicitude: "How be 'ye, Gran'vaither?"

"Fine, and how be yew?" came the answer.

"Ah," muttered Peter. "That be the way my old Gran'vaither ought to
tell."

After that they soon stumbled upon the truth. It had been whispered
about the place that Peter was dabbling in witchcraft for Pendoggat's
detriment; and Annie Crocker had heard the whisper. To inform her master
was an act of ordinary enjoyment. He had sworn at her, professed
contempt for Peter and all his dolls, stated his intention of destroying
them, or at least of obtaining the legal benefit conferred by certain
ancient Acts of Parliament dealing with witches; but in his heart he was
horribly afraid. He spent hours watching the huts, and when he saw the
inhabitants move away he would go near, hoping to steal the clay doll
and destroy it; but Peter's door was always locked. At last he hit upon
the plan of frightening the superstitious little man by addressing him
through the medium of the clock. He thought he had succeeded. Perhaps he
would have done so had Mary's keen eyes not detected the scrap of gorse
which his departure had snapped from one of the hurdles which made the
door of the linhay. Pendoggat might be a strong man physically, able to
bully the weak, or bring a horse to its knees, but his mind was made of
rotten stuff, and it is the strong mind rather than the stalwart body
which saves a man when "Ephraim's Pinch" comes. Pendoggat's knees became
wobbly whenever he thought of Peter and his clay doll.

When the blue mist had cleared off, snow began to fall in a business-like
way, and before the last light had been extinguished in the twin
villages the moor was buried. Peter thought he would watch beside the
well during the early part of the night, to see the little people
dragging up his crock of gold, for he had not altogether abandoned the
idea that it had been witchcraft and not Pendoggat which had conferred
upon Grandfather the gift of a tongue, but the snow made his plan
impossible. He and Mary sat together and talked in a subdued fashion.
Peter knitted a pair of stockings for his sister, while Mary mended her
brother's boots and hammered snow-nails into the soles. A new mommet had
been made, broken up, and its fragments were placed beside the well,
while the original doll baked resignedly upon Mary's hearthstone.
Pendoggat or pixies the savages were a match for either. It remained
calm upon the moor, but the snow continued most of the night with a
slight southerly drift, falling in the dense masses which people who
live upon mountains have to put up with.

In the morning all was white and dazzling; the big tors had nearly
doubled in size, and the sides of Tavy Cleave were bulging as though
pregnant with little Tavy Cleaves. It was a glorious day, one of those
days when the ordinary healthy person wants to stand on his head or skip
about like a young unicorn. The sun was out, the sky was as blue as a
baby's eyes, and the clouds were like puffs of cigarette smoke. Peter
embraced himself, recorded in his work of creation that it was all very
good, then floundered outside and made for the well. He shovelled a foot
of snow from the cover, wound up the bucket, caught a glimpse of yellow
water, and then of something golden, more precious than water, air, or
sunshine, brave yellow pieces of gold, five in number, worth
one-hundred-and-twenty pints of beer apiece. They were lying at the
bottom of the bucket like a beautiful dream. Peter had come into a
fortune; his teeth informed him that the coins were genuine, his tongue
sent the glad tidings to Mary, his mind indulged in potent flights of
travel and dissipation. He had inherited twelve hundred pints of beer.

"Aw, Peter," Mary was calling. "There ha' been witches abroad to-night."

"They'm welcome," cried Peter.

"Look ye here," Mary went on in a frightened voice. "Look ye here, will
ye? Here be a whist sight, I reckon."

Mary was standing near the edge of the cleave, knee-deep in snow,
looking down. When Peter floundered up to her side she said nothing, but
pointed at the snow in front. Peter's hilarious countenance was changed,
and the five sovereigns in his hand became like so many pieces of ice.
The snow ahead was marked with footprints, not those of an animal, not
those of a man. The marks were those of a biped, cloven like a cow's
hoof but much larger, and they travelled in a perfectly straight line
across the moor, and behind them the snow was ruffled occasionally as by
a tail. Peter began to blubber like a frightened child.

"'Tis him," he muttered.

"Aw ees, 'tis him," said Mary, "Us shouldn't meddle wi' mommets and
such. 'Tis sure to bring 'en."

"He must ha' come up over from Widdecombe in the snow," gasped Peter.

"Going beyond?" asked Mary, with a motion of her head.

"Ees," muttered Peter. "Us will see which way he took."

"T'row the gold away, Peter. T'row 'en away," pleaded Mary.

"I wun't," howled Peter. He wouldn't have parted with his six hundred
pints of beer for ten thousand devils.

They floundered on beside the weird hoof-prints, never doubting who had
caused them. It was not the first visit that the devil, who, as Peter
had rightly observed, has his terrestrial country house at Widdecombe,
had paid to those parts. His last recorded visit had been to Topsham and
its neighbourhood half-a-century before, when he had frightened the
people so exceedingly that they dared not venture out of their houses
even in daylight. That affair had excited the curiosity of the whole
country, and although some of the wisest men of the time tried to find a
satisfactory solution of the problem they only ended by increasing the
mystery. The attractions of the west country have always proved
irresistible to his Satanic Majesty. From his country home at
Widdecombe-on-the-Moor he had sallied out repeatedly to fight men with
their own carnal weapons. He tried to hinder Francis Drake from building
his house with the stones of Buckland Abbey, and nobody at that time
wondered why he had taken the Abbey under his special protection, though
people have wondered since. It was the devil who, disguised as a simple
moorman, invited the ambitious parson and his clerk to supper, and then
led them into the sea off Dawlish. There can be no doubt about the truth
of that story, because the parson and clerk rocks are still to be seen
by any one. It was on Heathfield, near the Tavy, that the old
market-woman hid the hare that the devil was hunting in her basket, and
declared to the gentleman with the tail she had never seen the creature.
It was the devil who spoilt the miraculous qualities of St. Ludgvan's
well by very rudely spitting in the water; who jumped into the Lynher
with Parson Dando and his dogs; and it was the devil who was subdued
temporarily by Parson Flavel of Mullion; who was dismissed, again
temporarily, to the Red Sea by Parson Dodge of Talland because he would
insist upon pulling down the walls of the church as fast as they were
built; and who was routed from the house that he had built for his
friend the local cobbler in Lamorna Cove by famous Parson Corker of
Bosava. Mary and Peter knew these stories and plenty of others. They
didn't know that a canon authorising exorcism of the devil is still a
part of the law of the established Church, and that most people, however
highly educated, are little less superstitious than themselves.

The hoof-prints went towards the village, regardless of obstacles. They
approached walls, and appeared again upon the other side without
disturbing the fresh snow between, a feat which argued either marvellous
jumping powers or the possession of wings. Peter and Mary followed them
in great fear, until they saw two men ahead engaged in the same
occupation, one of them making merry, the other of a sad countenance,
the merry man suggesting that a donkey had been that way, the other
declaring it was the devil. "Donkeys ain't got split hoofs," he stated;
while his companion indicated a spot where the snow was much ruffled and
said cheerfully: "'Tis where he swindged his tail."

Nearer the village the white moor was dotted with black figures, all
intent upon the weird markings, none doubting who had caused them. The
visitant had not passed along the street, but had prowled his way across
back gardens, taking hedges and even cottages in his stride. Peter and
Mary went on, left the majority of villagers, who were lamenting
together as if the visitation was not altogether disagreeable to them,
and found themselves presently near Lewside Cottage. Boodles was walking
in the snow, hatless, her hands clasped together, her face white and
frightened, taking no notice of the hoof-prints which went through the
garden, but wandering as if she was trying to find her way somewhere,
and had lost herself, and was wondering if she would find any one who
would put her on the right road.

"She'm mazed," said Peter. "Mebbe her saw him go through."

"Aw, my dear, what be ye doing?" called Mary. "Nought on your feet, and
your stockings vull o' snow. He never come for yew, my dear. He'm a
gentleman, and wun't harm a purty maid. Be'ye mazed, my dear?"

"Mary," murmured the child very softly, raising both hands to her
radiant head. "Come with me. I'm frightened."

"Us wun't let 'en touch ye," cried Mary valiantly. "I'll tak' my gurt
stick to 'en if he tries."

Boodles caught her big hand and held it tightly. She had not even
noticed the footprints. She did not know why all the villagers were out,
or what they were doing on the moor.

"He won't wake," she said. "I have never known him sleep like this. I
called him, and he does not answer. I shook him, and he would not
move--and his eggs are hard-boiled by this time."

"Bide here, Peter," said Mary shortly.

Then the big strong hermaphrodite put a brawny arm about the soft
shivering little maid, and led her inside the cottage, and up the
stairs--how mournful they were, and how they creaked!--and into the
quiet little bedroom, with the snow sliding down the window-panes, and
the white light glaring upon the bed, where Abel Cain Weevil was lying
upon his back, and yet not his back, but its back, for the old man was
so very tired that he went on sleeping, though his eggs were hard-boiled
and his little girl was terrified. The Brute had passed over in the
night, not a very cruel Brute perhaps, and had placed his hand on the
old man's mouth and stopped his breathing; and the poor old liar liked
it so well he thought he wouldn't wake up again, but would go on
sleeping for a long time, so that he would forget the rabbit-traps, and
his petitions which nobody would sign, and his letters which had done no
good. He had forgotten everything just then, but not Boodles, surely not
his little maid, who was sobbing in Mary's savage and tender arms. He
could not have forgotten the radiant little girl, and he would go on
lying for her in his sleep if necessary, although he had been selfish
enough to go away in such a hurry, and leave her--to the lonely life.





CHAPTER XXI

ABOUT WINTER IN REAL LIFE


Old moormen said it was one of the worst winters they could remember,
not on account of the cold, but because of the gales and persistent
snow. The first fall soon melted, but not entirely; a big splash of
white remained on Ger Tor until a second fall came; and when that melted
the splash remained, asking for more, and in due time receiving it.
People found it hard to get about; some parts of the moor were
inaccessible; and the roads were deep in slush when they were not heaped
with drifts. It was a bad winter for men and animals; and it made many
of the old folk so disgusted with life that they took the opportunity
offered them by severe colds to get rid of it altogether.

The villages above the Tavy appeared to be deserted during that dreary
time. It was a wonder how people hid themselves, for the street was
empty day after day, and a real human being crossing from one side to
the other was a sight to bring faces to the windows. One face was often
at a certain window, a frightened little white face, which had forgotten
how to laugh even when some old woman slipped up in the slush, and its
eyes would look first on one side, then on the other, generally without
seeing anything except the bare moor, which was sometimes black, and
sometimes white, and always dreary. Boodles was alone in Lewside
Cottage, her only companions the mice which she hated, and the eternal
winds which made her shiver and had plucked the roses from her cheeks
until hardly a pink petal remained. Boodles was feeling as much alone
without old Weevil as Brightly was feeling without Ju. Sometimes she
thought she might soon have to go out and tramp a portion of the world
like him, and claim her share of open air and space, which was all the
inheritance to which she was entitled.

To lead a lonely life on Dartmoor is unwholesome at any age; and when
one is eighteen and a girl it is a punishment altogether too severe.
Boodles had got through the first days fairly well because she was
stunned, but when she began to wake up and comprehend how she was placed
the horror bred of loneliness and wild winds took hold upon her. The
first evil symptom was restlessness. She wandered about the cottage, not
doing anything, but feeling she must keep on the move to prevent herself
from screaming. She began to talk to herself, softly during the day as
if she was rather afraid some one might be listening, and towards
evening loudly, partly to assure herself she was safe, partly to drown
the tempestuous noises of the wind. Then she fell into the trick of
shuddering, of casting quick glances behind, and sometimes she would run
into a corner and hide her face, because there were queer shadows in the
room, and strange sounds upon the stairs, and the doors shook so, and
she seemed to hear a familiar shuffling and a tender voice murmuring:
"Boodle-oodle," and she would cover up all the mirrors, dreadfully
afraid of seeing a comic old face in them. Sometimes when the wind was
roaring its loudest over the moor she would rush up to her bedroom, lock
the door, and scream. These were foolish actions, but then she was only
eighteen.

It was getting on towards Christmas, and at last there was another
moonlit night, full of wind and motion; and soon after Boodles had gone
to bed she heard other sounds which frightened her so much she could not
scream. She crept out of bed, got to the window, and looked out. A man
was trying the door, and when he found it secure he went to the windows.
The moonlight fell upon Pendoggat's head and shoulders. Boodles did not
know of a rumour suggesting that old Weevil had been a miser, and had
saved up a lot of money which was hidden in the cottage, but Pendoggat
had heard it. She got back to her bed and fainted with terror, but the
man failed to get in. The next day she went to see Mary, and told her
what had happened. Mary spat on her hands, which was one of her
primitive ways when she felt a desire to chastise any one, and picked up
her big stick, "I'll break every bone in his body," she shouted.

Boodles comprehended what a friend and champion she had in this
creature, who had much of a woman's tenderness, and all of a man's
strength. To some it might have appeared ridiculous to hear Mary's
threats, but it was not so. She was fully as strong as Pendoggat, and
there was no cowardice in her.

"Aw, my dear," she went on, "yew bain't the little maid what used to
come up for eggs and butter. Yew would come up over wi' red cheeks and
laughing cruel, and saying to I: 'One egg for luck, Mary,' and I'd give
it ye, my dear. If you'd asked I for two or dree I'd ha' given 'em.
You'm a white little maid, and as thin getting as thikky stick. Don't ye
ha' the decline, my dear. Aw now, don't ye. What will the butiful young
gentleman say when he sees you white and thin getting?"

"Don't, Mary," cried Boodles, almost passionately; for she dared not
think of Aubrey as a lover. Their love-days had become so impossible and
unreal. She had written to him, but had said nothing of Weevil's death,
afraid he might think she was appealing to him for help; neither had she
signed herself Titania Lascelles, nor told him of her aristocratic
relations. The story had appeared unreal somehow the morning after, and
the old man's manner and audible whispers had aroused her suspicions.
She thought it would be best to wait a little before telling Aubrey.

"What be yew going to du?" asked Mary, busy as ever, punching the dough
in her bread-pan.

"I am going to try and hang on till spring, and then see if I can't make
a living by taking in boarders," said the child seriously. "Mr. Weevil
left a little money, and I have a tiny bit saved up. There will be just
enough to pay rent, and keep me, if I am very careful."

"Butter and eggs and such ain't going to cost yew nought," said Mary
cheerily, though Peter would have groaned to hear her.

"Oh, thank you, dear old Mary," said Boodles, her eyes glistening; while
the bread-maker went at the dough as if she hated it. "I shall do
splendidly," Boodles went on. "I have seen the landlord, and he will let
me stay on. Directly the fine weather comes I shall put a card in the
window, and I expect I shall get heaps of lodgers. I can cook quite
well, and I'm a good manager. I ought to be able to make enough one half
of the year to keep me the other half. Of course I shall only take
ladies."

"Aw ees, don't ye tak' men, my dear. They'm all alike, and you'm a main
cruel purty maid, though yew ha' got white and thin. If that young
gentleman wi' the butiful face don't come and tak' ye, dalled if I wun't
be after 'en wi' my gurt stick," cried Mary, pummelling the dough again.

"I asked you not to mention him," said Boodles miserably.

"I bain't to talk about 'en," cried Mary scornfully. "And yew bain't to
think about 'en, I reckon. Aw, my dear, I've a gotten the heart of a
woman, and I knows fine what yew thinks about all day, and half the
night, though I mun't talk about it. I knows how yew puts out your arms
and cries for 'en. Yew don't want a gurt big house like rectory, and yew
don't want servants and railway travelling, but yew wants he, yew wants
to hold on to 'en, and know he'm yourn, and shut your purty eyes and
feel yew bain't lonesome--"

"Oh, Mary!" the child broke in, with something like a scream.

Mary left her pan and came and whitened the little girl's head with her
doughy fingers, lending the bright hair a premature greyness.

"It's the loneliness," cried Boodles. "I thought it would not be so bad
when I got used to it, but it's worse every day. I have to run on the
moor, and make believe there is some one waiting for me when I get home.
It's dreadful to feel the solitude when I go in, to find things just as
I left them, to hear nothing except mice nibbling under the stairs; and
then I have to go and turn on my windy organ, and try and believe I am
amusing myself."

"Aw, my dear, yew mustn't talk to I so larned like. You'm as larned as
Master," complained Mary.

"I'll tell you about my windy organ," Boodles went on, trying to force a
little sunshine through what threatened to be steady rain. "With the
wind, doors, and windows, I can play all sorts of marches. With my
bedroom window open, and the door shut, the wind plays sad music, a
funeral march; but when I shut my window, and open the one in the next
room, it is loud and lively, like a military march. If I open the
sitting-room window, and the one in the passage up-stairs, and shut all
the doors, it is splendid, Mary, a coronation march. I hear the
procession sweeping up-stairs, and the clapping of hands, and the crowd
going to and fro, murmuring ah-ah-ah. But the best of all is when I open
what was old daddy's bedroom window, and sit in my own room with the
door shut, for the wind plays a wedding-march then, and I can make it
loud or soft by opening and shutting my window. That is the march I play
every evening till I get the shivers."

"She'm dafty getting," muttered Mary, understanding nothing of the
musical principle of the little girl's amusement. "Don't ye du it, my
dear," she went on. "'Twill just be making you mazed, and us will find
ye jumping at the walls like a bumbledor on a window."

"I'll try and keep sensible, but there is Christmas, and January, and
February. Oh, Mary, I shall never do it," cried Boodles. "I shall be mad
before March, which is the proper time for madness."

"Get another maid to come and bide wi' ye," Mary suggested.

"How can I?"

"Mebbe some old dame, who wants a home--" began Mary.

"She would be an expense, and she might get drunk, rob me, beat me,
perhaps."

"Her wouldn't," declared Mary, with a glance at her big stick.

"I must go on being alone and making believe," said Boodles.

"Won't the butiful young gentleman come and live wi' ye?" said poor
Mary, quite thinking she had found a splendid way out of the difficulty.

"Silly old thing," sighed Boodles, actually smiling. Then she rose to
go, and Mary tramped heavily to her dairy. "Tak' eggs and butter wi'
ye," she called. "Aw, my dear, yew mun't starve, or you'll get decline.
'Tis cruel to go abroad on an empty stomach."

"I'm not a snake," said Boodles; and at that moment Peter appeared in
search of thoughts, heard the conversation, agreed that it was indeed
cruel to go abroad on an empty stomach, and went to record the statement
in his diary, adding for the sake of a light touch the observation of
Boodles that she was not a snake, though Peter could not see the joke.

Mary was a busy creature, but she found time that evening to stalk
across the moor and down to Helmen Barton, where she banged at the door
like the good champion Ethelred, hero of the Mad Trist, until the noise
of her stick upon the door "alarummed and reverberated" throughout the
hollow. When Annie appeared she was bidden to inform her master that if
he ventured again near Lewside Cottage, or dared to frighten "my little
maid," she, Mary, would come again with the stick in her hands, and use
his body as she had just used his door. When Mary had spoken she turned
to go, but the friendless woman called her, feeling perhaps that she too
needed a champion, and Mary turned back.

"Come inside," said Annie in a strange voice, and Mary went, with the
statement that she could not remain as the cows were waiting to be
milked.

"Been to Lewside Cottage, has he? He'm crazed for money. He'd rob the
little maid of her last penny, and pray for her whiles he was doing it,"
said Annie bitterly.

Mary said nothing, but her anger rose, and she spat noisily upon her
hands to get a good grip of the stick.

"I've been wi' 'en twenty years, and don't know 'en yet I thought once
he was a man, but I know he bain't. If yew was to shake your fingers at
'en he'd run."

"Yew ha' been drinking, woman," said Mary.

"Ah, I've had a drop. There's nought else to live vor. Twenty years,
Mary Tavy, he've had me body and soul, twenty years I've been a slave to
'en, and now he've done wi' me."

"What's that, woman?" cried Mary, lifting her long stick, and poking at
Annie's left hand and the gold ring worn upon it.

"That!" cried Annie furiously. "It be a dirty thing, what any man can
buy, and any vule of a woman will wear. Ask 'en what it cost, Mary Tavy.
A few shilluns, I reckon, the price of a joint o' meat, the price of a
pair o' boots. And it ha' bought me for twenty years."

"You'm drunk, woman."

"Ah, purty fine. Wimmin du main dafty things when they'm drunk. Your
brother ha' made a mommet of 'en, and like a vule he went and broke it
for a bit o' dirty money."

"It bain't broke," said Mary. "Peter made a new mommet, and broke that."

"Glory be to God," cried Annie wildly, plucking out some grey hairs that
were falling upon her eyes. "I'll tell 'en. 'Twill work, Mary Tavy. The
devil who passed over last month will see to it. He never passed the
Barton. He didn't want his own. I never knowed a mommet fail when 'twas
made right."

"Du'ye say he bain't your husband?" Mary muttered, looking at the grey
hairs in the woman's hand.

"See beyond!" screamed Annie, losing all self-control, pulling Mary to
the kitchen window, pointing out. It was a dark cold kitchen, built of
granite, with concrete floor. There was nothing to be seen but the big
brake of furze, black and tangled, swaying slightly. It was a mighty
brake, twenty years untouched, and there were no flowers upon it. The
interior was a choked mass of dead growth.

"Why don't ye burn 'en, woman?"

"Ask 'en. It ain't going to be burnt yet--not yet, Mary Tavy." Annie's
voice had fallen to a hoarse whisper. She was half-drunk and half-mad.
Those twenty years were like twenty mountains piled upon her. "Look at
my white hairs, Mary Tavy. I'm getting a bit old like, and I'm for the
poorhouse, my dear. Annie Crocker, spinster--that's me. Twenty years
I've watched that vuzz before this window rocking to and fro, like a
cradle, my dear, rocking 'em to sleep. Yew know what 'tis to live wi' a
man. You'm a fool to first, and a vule always I reckon, but such a vule
to first that yew don't know' how to stop 'em coming. Yew think of love,
Mary Tavy, and you don't care--and there 'em be, my dear, two of 'em, in
the middle o' the vuzz."

"Did'st du it?" muttered Mary, standing like a wooden image.

"Me! I was young then, and I loved 'em. He took 'em from me when I was
weak and mazed. I had to go through it here alone, twice my dear, alone
wi' him, and he said they was dead, but I heard 'em cry, twice, my dear,
only I was that weak I couldn't move. 'Twas winter both times, and I lay
up over, and heard 'en walking on the stones of the court, and heard 'en
let the bucket down, and heard 'en dra' it up--and then I heard 'en
cursing o' the vuzz 'cause it pricked 'en, and his hands and face was
bloody wi' scratches when he come up. I mind it all, though I was
mazed--and I loved 'em, my dear."

"Preaches in chapel tu," said Mary, a sense of inconsistency occurring
to her. "You'm a vule, woman, to tell to me like this."

"I've ha' bitten my tongue for twenty years, and I'd ha' bitten it
another twenty if he'd used me right. Didn't your brother find 'en wi'
Chegwidden's maid? Don't I know he's been wi' she for months, and used
she as he've used me? Don't I know he wants to have she here, and turn
me out--and spend the price of a pair o' boots on a ring same as this,
and buy she wi' that for twenty years?"

Mary turned away. It was already dark, the cows were not milked, and
would be lowing for her to ease their udders. Annie was beside herself.
The barrier of restraint had fallen, and the pent-up feelings of a
generation roared out, like the Tavy with its melted snow, sweeping away
everything which was not founded upon a rock.

"Burn it down, woman," said Mary as she went.

"Not till the mommet ha' done its work," screamed Annie. Then she
lighted the lantern, and went to the linhay for more cider.

When lonely little Boodles got home she saw at once that the cottage had
been entered. The sitting-room window had been forced open, and its
catch was broken; but Pendoggat had got nothing for his pains. She had
hidden the money-box so cunningly that he had failed to find it; and she
was glad then that she had seen him prowling about the cottage the night
before. She got some screws and made the window fast. Then she cried and
had her supper. After that she went to her bed and sobbed again until
her head ached, and then she sat up and scolded herself severely; and as
the wind was blowing nicely she turned on the wedding march, and while
listening to it prattled to herself--

"You mustn't break down, Boodles. It is much too early to do that, for
things have not begun to go really badly for you yet. There's enough
money to keep things going till summer, if you do without any new
clothes, and by the way you mustn't walk too much or you'll wear your
boots out, and next summer you will have a nice lot of old maids here
for their health, and make plenty of money out of them for your health.
I know you are only crying because it is so lonely, but still you
mustn't do it, for it makes you thin and white. You had better go and
study the cookery-book, and think of all the nice things you will make
for the old maids when you have caught them."

Boodles never allowed herself to speak upon the subject which was always
in her mind, and she tried to persuade herself she was not thinking of
Aubrey and Weevil's wild story, although she did nothing else. While she
was talking of her prospects she was thinking of Aubrey, though she
would not admit it. She had tried once to put six puppies into a small
cupboard, but as often as she opened the door to put another puppy in
those already inside tumbled out. That was exactly the state her mind
was in. When she opened it to think of her prospects, Aubrey, Weevil's
story, and her unhappy origin, fell out sprawling at once, and were all
over the place before she could catch them again; and when she had
caught them she couldn't shut them up.

It was absolutely necessary to find something to do, as regulating the
volume and sound of the wind by opening or shutting various windows and
doors, and turning on what sounded to her like marriage or martial
marches, was an unwholesome as well as a monotonous amusement. The child
roamed about the cottage with a lamp in her hand, trying to get away
from something which was not following. She could not sit down to sew,
for her eyes were aching, and she kept starting and pricking her finger.
She wandered at last with an idea into what had been Weevil's bedroom.
There was an old writing-table there, and she had lately discovered a
key with a label attached informing her that it would open the drawers
of that table. Boodles locked herself in, lighted two lamps, which was
an act of extravagance, but she felt protected somehow by a strong
light, and began to dig up the dust and ashes of the old man's early
life.

Many people have literary stuff they are ashamed of hiding away under
lock and key, which they do not want, and yet do not destroy. Every one
has a secret drawer in which incriminating rubbish is preserved,
although it may be of an entirely innocent character. They are always
going to make a clean sweep, but go on putting it off until death can
wait no longer; and sorrowing relations open the drawer, glance at its
contents, and mutter hurriedly: "Burn it, and say nothing." To know the
real man it is only necessary to turn out his secret drawer when he is
dead.

There was not much stored away in the old writing-table. Apparently
Weevil had destroyed all that was recent, and kept much that was old.
There was sufficient to show Boodles the truth; that the old man had
always been Weevil, that his story to her had been a series of lame
lies, that his origin had been a humble one. There were letters from
friends of his youth, queer missives suggesting jaunts to the Welsh
Harp, Hampstead, or Rosherville, and signed: "your old pal, George," or
"yours to the mustard-pot. Art." They were humorous letters, written in
slang, and they amused Boodles; but after reading them she could not
suppose that Weevil had been ever what one would call a gentleman. A
mass of such stuff she put aside for the kitchen fire; and then she came
upon another bundle, tightly fastened with string, which she cut, and
drawing a letter from the packet she opened it and read--

       *       *       *       *       *
     "My own Dearest.


     I was so very glad to get your letter and I know you are looking
     forward to have one from me but I am so sorry Dearest you have had
     such a bad cold. My Dear I hope to sit on your knees and have my
     arm around your neck some day. I do love you you are my only
     sweetheart now and I hope I am only yours. Many thanks for sending
     me your photo which I should be very sorry to part with it. It
     makes me feel delighted as I am looking forward to be in your Dear
     arms some day. I am waiting for the time to pass so we shall be
     together for ever. I sit by the fire cold nights and have my
     thoughts in you my Dearest. I knit lace when I have no sewing to
     do. It was very miserable last Sunday but I went to church in the
     evening but I much rather would like to have been with you. I wish
     I could reach you to give you a nice kiss. I am always dreaming
     about you my Love and it is such miserable weather now I will stop
     in haste with my best love and kisses to my Dear Boy from your
     loving and true Minnie."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a fat bundle of such letters, written by the same illiterate
hand nearly fifty years before, and the foolish old man had kept the
rubbish, which had no doubt a sort of wild-flower fragrance once, and
had left them at his death. Minnie was evidently a servant girl, hardly
Miss Fitzalan of the amazing story, and if the young Weevil of those
days had meant it, and had not been indulging in a little back-stairs
flirtation, his birth was more humble than Boodles had supposed. He must
have meant it, she reasoned, or he would hardly have kept that
sentimental rubbish all his life.

Another drawer came open, and the child breathed quickly. It was filled
with a parcel of books, and a label upon the topmost one bore the word
"Boodles." The truth was in that secret drawer, there could be no
romancing there, the question of her birth was to be settled once and
for all, she could read it in those books, then go and tell Mr. Bellamie
who she was. The girl's sad eyes softened when she perceived that the
heap of diaries was well thumbed. She did not know that the old man had
often read himself to sleep with one of them.

The straw, by which she had been, mentally at least, supporting herself
since Weevil's death, was quickly snatched away. She saw then, what Mr.
Bellamie had seen at once, how that the simple old creature had sought
to secure her happiness with lies. The story of the diaries told her
little more. It was true she was a bastard; that she had been wrapped in
fern, and placed in the porch of the cottage, with a label round her
neck like a parcel from the grocer's; that the old man had known as much
about her parents as she knew herself. "She cannot be a commoner's
child," was written in one of the diaries. "I think she must be the
daughter of some domestic servant and a man of gentle birth. She would
not be what she is had her father been a labourer or a farmer."

Then followed a list of the girls whom Weevil had suspected; but that
was of no interest to Boodles. The old man had nursed her himself. There
was a little book, _Hints to Mothers_, in the pile, and at the bottom of
the drawer was a scrap of the fern in which she had been wrapped, and
the horrible label which had been round her baby neck. She gazed,
dry-eyed and fascinated, forgetting her loneliness, her sorrow,
forgetting everything except that one overmastering thing, the awful
injury which had been done to her innocent little self. Now that she
knew the truth she would face it. The wind was playing a funeral march
just then.

"I am an illegitimate child," said Boodles. She stepped before the
glass, uncovered it, screamed because she thought she had seen that
grotesque old face which servant girl Minnie had longed to kiss fifty
years back, recovered herself, and looked. "He said I should be perfect
if I had a name," she muttered. She was getting a fierce little
tiger-cat, and beginning to show her pretty teeth. "Why am I not a
humpback, or diseased in some way, or hideous, if I am an illegitimate
child? I am as good as any girl. People in Tavistock turn to look at me,
and I know they say: 'What a pretty girl!' Am I to say to every one: 'I
am an illegitimate child, and therefore I am as black as the devil
himself?' Why is a girl as black as the devil just because no clergyman
has jabbered some rubbish at her parents? Oh, Boodles, you pretty
love-child, don't stand it," she cried.

She flung the towel over the glass, turned to the window, and cast it
open to receive the wind. "I am not frightened now. I am wild. Let us
have the coronation march, and let me go by while they shout at me,
'bastard.' What have I done? I know that the sins of the parents are
visited upon the children, but why should the children stand it? Must
they, poor little fools? They must endure disease, but not dishonour. I
am not going to stand it. I would go into God's presence, and clench my
fists, and say I will not stand it. He allowed me to be born. If
matrimony is what people say it is, a sort of sacrament, how is it that
children can be born without it?"

The wind rushed into the room so violently that she had to shut the
window. The lamp-flames were leaping up the glasses. A different tune
began and made the tortured little girl less fierce.

"I won't be wild any more," she said; but an idea had entered her brain,
and she gave it expression by murmuring again and again: "Nobody knows,
nobody knows. Only he knew, and he is dead."

That was true enough. Only Weevil and her mother knew the truth about
her shameful origin. The mother had not been seen that night placing the
bundle of fern in the porch. She could not have been seen, as nobody in
the neighbourhood knew where Boodles really came from, and the fact that
the stories which they had invented about her were entirely false proved
their ignorance. Probably nobody knew that her mother had given birth to
a child. Boodles thought of that as she walked to and fro murmuring,
"Nobody knows." Old Weevil's death might prove to be a blessing in
disguise.

"I will not stand it," she kept on saying. "I will not bear the
punishment of my father's sin. I will be a liar too--just once, and then
I will be truthful for ever. I will make up my own story, and it won't
be wild like his. I understand it all now. In this funny old world of
sheep-people one follows another, not because the one in front knows
anything, but just because he is in front; and when the leader laughs
the ones behind laugh too, and when the leader says 'how vile,' the ones
behind say 'how vile' too. I suppose we are all sheep-people, and I am
only different because I have black wool, and I am on the wrong side of
the hedge and can't get among the respectable white baa-baas. I won't
harm any of them. I will be wicked once, in self-defence, to get this
black wool off, and then I'll be a very good white respectable
sheep-person ever after. The truth is there," she said, nodding at the
little heap of books, "and the truth is going to be burnt."

She gathered up the pile and cremated the lot in the kitchen fire. Then
she went to bed with a kind of happiness, because she knew that her
doubts were cleared away, and that her future depended upon her ability
to fight for herself. Her eyes were fully opened by this time because
she had left fairyland and got well out into the lane of real life. She
knew that "sheep-people" like the most excellent Bellamies, neatly bound
and edged in the very best style of respectability, must regard little
bastards as a sort of vermin, which it was only kind to tread upon or
sweep decorously out of the way. "I am only going to wriggle in
self-defence because they are hurting me," she murmured. "If they will
be nice to me I will stop wriggling at once and be good for ever. I
wouldn't make an effort if I was ugly or humpbacked. I would curl up and
die like a horrid spider. But I know I am really a nice girl and a
pretty girl; and if they will only give me the chance I will be a good
girl--wicked once, and then good, so very good. I expect you are much
better than most girls, Boodles, and you mustn't let them call you
beastly names," she said; and went off to sleep in quite a conceited
state of mind.

In the morning there was a letter from Mr. Bellamie, not for Boodles,
but for the old man who was dead, and the girl opened it, not knowing
who it was from, and learnt a little more of the truth about herself. It
was lucky for old Weevil that he was well out of the way. He would
probably just as soon have been dead as called upon to answer that
letter, though it was kindly enough and delicately expressed and full of
artistic touches. Mr. Bellamie adopted a gentle cynicism which would
have been too subtle for Weevil's comprehension. He slapped him on the
shoulder as it were, chaffing him, reproving him mildly, and saying in
effect: "You old rogue, to think that you could fool me with your
fairy-tales." He professed to regard the matter as a joke, and then
becoming serious, suggested that Weevil would surely see the necessity
of keeping Boodles and Aubrey apart in the future. He didn't believe in
young men, and Aubrey was a mere boy, entangling themselves with an
engagement, and altogether apart from that Boodles, though a pretty and
charming girl, was not the partner that he would wish his son to choose.
Writing still more plainly, if Aubrey insisted upon marrying the girl it
would have to be without his consent. He could not receive Boodles at
his house while the mystery of her birth remained unexplained. There was
a mystery, he knew, as he had made inquiries. He did not credit what he
had been told, but the fact remained that Weevil had increased his
suspicions by withholding what he knew. The whole affair was
unsatisfactory, and the only satisfactory way out of it would be to keep
the young people definitely apart until they had found other interests.
Mr. Bellamie concluded by hoping that Weevil was not being troubled by
the wild weather and tempestuous winds.

It would have been better for Boodles if she had not opened that letter.
For her it was the end of all things. Hardly knowing what she was doing,
she put on her hat, went out, down to the Tavy, and into the woods. It
was not "our walk," but the place where it had been. The big explosion
had cleared the walk away; and there was nothing except December damps
and mists, sodden ferns, and piles of half-melted snow. The once upon a
time stage was very far away then. It was the end of the story, and
there was no happy ever after, no merry dance of fairies to the tune of
a wedding march, no flowers nor sunshine. All the pleasant things had
gone to sleep, and those things which could not sleep were weeping.
Boodles fastened her arms about the trunk of a tree which she
recognised, and cried upon it; then she lay upon the fern which carried
a few memories and cried upon that; and felt her way to the river and
cried into that. She could not increase the moisture. The whole wood was
dripping and far more tear-productive than herself. The rivers and ferns
could not tell her that it was not the end of the story, but only the
end of a chapter; for she was merely eighteen, and the big desert of
life was beyond with a green oasis here and there. But fairyland was
closed. A big fence of brambles ran all round it, and there was a notice
board erected to the effect that Boodles would be prosecuted for
trespassing if she went inside, though all other children would be
welcome. There was the beech-tree where Aubrey and she had once spent an
afternoon carving two hearts skewered upon an arrow, though the hearts
looked rather like dumplings and the arrow resembled a spade. They had
done their best and made a failure. They had tried to tell a story, and
had muddled it all up just because they had been interrupted so often.
Why couldn't ogres leave them alone so that they could finish the story
properly?

Boodles got back somehow to her home in the wintry solitude, and wrote
what she thought was a callous little note to Mr. Bellamie. Perhaps it
did not sound so very callous. Short compositions appeal as long ones
seldom do.


       *       *       *       *       *

"Mr. Weevil is dead, and has been buried some time, and I am quite
alone. I am sorry I opened your letter. Please forgive me. I did not
know who it was from. I am going to try and make a living by letting
lodgings when the fine weather comes, and I shall be very grateful if
Mrs. Bellamie and you will recommend me. I am a good cook, and could
make people comfortable. Perhaps you had better not say I am only
eighteen, as people might not like to trust me. It is very cold up here,
and the wind is dreadful. I hope you and Mrs. Bellamie are quite well. I
promise you I will not write to Aubrey again."




CHAPTER XXII

ABOUT THE PINCH


Only well-to-do people, those who have many changes of raiment and can
afford to poke the fire expensively, are happy in the winter. For others
there are various degrees of the pinch; lack of fuel pinch, want of food
pinch, insufficient clothes pinch, or the pinch of desolation and
dreariness. To those who dwell in lonely places winter pays no dividends
in the way of amusement, and increases the expense of living at the rate
of fifty per cent. No wonder they tumble down in adoration when the sun
comes. The smutty god of coal, and the greasy deity of oil are served in
winter; there is the lesser divinity of peat also. Each brings round a
bag and demands a contribution; and those who cannot pay are pinched
remorselessly.

Mrs. Bellamie sat in her drawing-room, and the fire burnt expensively,
and she spread her fragile feet towards it, without worshipping because
it was too common, and around her were luxuries on the top of luxuries;
and yet she was being pinched. It was not the horrid little note, rather
blurred and blotted, lying upon her lap which was administering the
pinch directly, but the thoughts brought on by that note. Mrs. Bellamie
was opening her secret drawer and turning out the rubbish. She was
thinking of the past which had been almost forgotten until that small
voice had come from Dartmoor. She had only to turn to the window to see
the snow-capped tors. The small voice was crying there and saying: "I am
only eighteen, and I am going to try and make a living by letting
lodgings. I promise you I will not write to Aubrey again." Those words
were so many crabs, pinching horribly; and at the bottom of the secret
drawer was a story, not written, because the drawer was the lady's mind,
and the story was about a little girl whose father had fallen on evil
days; a very respectable father, and a proud gentleman who would not
confess to his friends that his position had become desperate, but his
family knew all about it for they had to be hungry, and a very hard
winter came, and the coal-god sent his bag round as usual and they had
nothing to put into it. The father said he didn't want a fire. It was
neither necessary nor healthy. He preferred to sit in his cold damp
study with a greatcoat on and a muffler round his neck, and shiver. As
long as there was a bit of cold mutton in the house he didn't care, and
he talked about his ancestors who had suffered privations on fields
where English battles had been won, and declared that people of leisure
had got into a disgraceful way of coddling themselves; but he kept on
coughing, and the little girl heard him and it made her miserable. At
last she decided to wrap her morals up, and put them away in the secret
drawer, and forget all about them until the time of adversity was over.
There was a big house close by, belonging to wealthy friends of theirs,
and it was shut up for the winter. After dark the little girl climbed
over the railing, found her way to the coal-shed, took out some big
lumps, and threw them one by one into her father's garden. It made her
dreadfully dirty, but she didn't care, for she had put on her oldest
clothes. The next day her father found a fire burning in his study, and
he didn't seem angry. Indeed, when the little girl looked in, to tell
him it was cold mutton time, he was sitting close to it as if he had
forgotten all about the ancestors who had been frozen upon battlefields.
She did the same wicked thing that night, and the night after; and her
father lost his cough and became cheerful again. This robbery of the
rich went on for some time, until one night the little girl slipped
while climbing the railing and cut her knee badly, which kept her in bed
for some days, while she heard her father grumbling because he had no
fire; but he didn't grumble for long, because fine weather came, and his
circumstances improved, and a young gentleman came along and said he
wanted to be a robber too, and went off with the little coal-thief. It
was all so long ago that Mrs. Bellamie found herself wondering if it had
ever happened; but there was still a small mark upon her knee which
seemed to suggest that she ought to have known a good deal about the
little girl who had stolen coals during the days of the great pinch.

Some of the wintry mist from Dartmoor had got into the room, and had
settled between the lady and the fire, which suddenly became blurred and
looked like a scarlet waterfall. Part of the origin of the mist tickled
her cheek, and she put up her handkerchief to wipe it away; but the
voices went on talking. "I am only eighteen, and I am going to try and
make a living by letting lodgings," said the voice from the moor.
"Mother, I know I'm young, but I shall never change. I love her with my
whole heart." That was a voice from the sea. Mrs. Bellamie rose and went
to find her husband. She came upon him engrossed upon the
characteristics of Byzantine architecture.

"How are you going to answer this?" she said, dropping the note before
him like a cold fall of snow.

"Does it require any answer?" he said, looking up with a frown. "She
must struggle on. She is one out of millions struggling, and her case is
only more painful to us because we know of it. We will help her as much
as we can, indirectly."

"I should like to go and see her. I want to have her here for
Christmas," said the lady.

"It would be foolish," said Mr. Bellamie. "It would make her unsettled,
and more dissatisfied with her lot. She might also get to look upon this
house as her home."

"I am miserable about her. I wish I had never kissed her. She has kissed
me every day since," said the lady. "She is always on my mind, and now,"
she went on, glancing at the note, "I think of her alone, absolutely
alone, a child of eighteen, in a dreary cottage upon the moor, among
those savage people."

"If you had seen that weird old man--" began her husband.

"He is dead, I have seen her, and she haunts me."

Perhaps Mrs. Bellamie would not have been haunted if she had never
stolen those coals. Adversity breeds charity, and tenderness is the
daughter of Dame Want. Love does not fly out of the window when poverty
comes in. Only the imp who masquerades as the true god does that. The
son of Venus gets between husband and wife and hugs them tighter to warm
himself.

"I am a descendant of Richard Bellamie," said her husband, getting his
crest up like a proud cockatoo, "father of Alice, _quasi bella et
amabilis_, who was mother of Bishop Jewel of famous memory. You, my
dear, are a daughter of the Courtenays, _atavis editi re gibus_, and
royalty itself can boast of blood no better. Let the whole country
become Socialist, the Bellamies and Courtenays will stand aloof."

Mr. Bellamie smiled to himself. There was a classical purity about his
utterance which stimulated his system like a glass of rare wine.

"I know," said the lady. "I am referring to my feelings, nothing else."
She was still thinking of the coals, and it seemed to her that a certain
portion of her knee began to throb.

"When it comes to affairs of the heart, even the Bellamies and
Courtenays are Socialists," she said archly.

Mr. Bellamie did not reply directly to that. He loved his wife, and yet
he carried her off, when the days of coal-stealing had been
accomplished, as much for her name as anything else.

"My dear, let me understand you," he said. "Do you want Aubrey to marry
this nameless girl?"

"I don't know myself what I want," came the answer. "I only know it is
horrible to think of the poor brave child living alone and unprotected
on the moor. Suppose one of those rough men broke into her cottage?"

This was melodrama, which is bad art, and Mr. Bellamie frowned at it,
and changed the subject by saying: "She has promised not to write to
Aubrey again."

"While he has absolutely refused to give her up," his wife added.
"Directly he comes back he will go to her."

"I can't think where Aubrey gets it from," Mr. Bellamie murmured. "The
blood is so entirely unpolluted--but no, in the eighteenth century there
was an unfortunate incident, Gretna Green and a chambermaid, or
something of the kind. Young men were particularly reckless in that
century. If it had not been for that incident Aubrey would never have
run after this girl."

"I expect he would," she said.

"Then he is tainted. This terrible new democracy has tarred him with its
brush," said her husband. "I suppose the end of it will be he will run
off with this girl and bring her back married."

"There is not the slightest fear of that. The girl would not consent."

"Not consent!" cried Mr. Bellamie. "Not consent to marry into our
family!"

"My dear, there is such a thing as nobility of character, though we
don't see much of it, perhaps. I may be allowed to know something of my
sex, and I am certain this girl would never marry Aubrey without our
consent."

"Why, then, she's a good girl. I'll do all that I can for her if she is
like that," said Mr. Bellamie cheerfully.

"What do you suppose she is doing now? Sobbing herself to death," said
his wife.

The full-blooded gentleman stirred uneasily. Bad art again. "You are
pleading for her, my dear. Most distinctly you are pleading for her. If
you are going to side with Aubrey I will give in, of course. I will
write to the secretary of the Socialists' League, if there is such a
thing, and beg humbly to be enrolled as a member, and I will also state
that if the name of Bellamie is too much for them I shall be pleased to
adopt that of Tomkins or Jenkins. I cannot permit pride to stand in my
way, seeing that my future daughter-in-law has no name at all, unless it
is the highly aristocratic one of Smith-Robinson, the father being Smith
and the mother Robinson." He spoke with some heat, employing the weapon
of cynicism as a perfectly legitimate form of art.

"Surely you do not suggest she is an illegitimate child," said his wife,
with some horror.

"I suggest nothing, my dear, because I know nothing. I have heard all
sorts of stories about her--probably lies, like those the old man told
me. Understand, please, I cannot see the girl," he went on quickly. "I
like her. She is _bella et amabilis_, and if I saw much of her, pity and
admiration might make a fool of me. You know me, my dear. I am not
heartless, as my words might suggest. I want Aubrey to do well, marry
well, rise in his profession. If I went to see the child in her cottage
the sight would make me miserable. When I left the old man, after he had
choked me with the wildest lot of lies you ever heard, I was sad enough
for tears. His heart was so good though his art was so bad. The play
upon words was unintentional," he added, with a frown.

Mrs. Bellamie said no more, but the coals continued to trouble her, and
at last the fire kindled, and she ordered a carriage and drove up on
Dartmoor without telling her husband. It was the week before Christmas,
and the road was sprinkled with carts passing up and down filled with
good things, and the men who drove them were filled with good things
too, which made them desire the centre of the road at any price. The
lady's carriage was often kept at a walking pace by these human slugs
with their fill of sloe-gin.

Lewside Cottage was found with difficulty, most of the residents
appealed to declaring they had never heard of such a place, but the
driver found it at last, and brought the carriage up before the little
whitewashed house which looked very wet and dreary amid its wintry
surroundings. Mrs. Bellamie shivered as she got out and felt the wind
with a sharp edge of frost to it. Somebody else was shivering too, but
not with cold. Boodles watched from a corner of one of the windows, and
when the lady knocked she wanted to go and hide somewhere and pretend
she was miles away.

"Perhaps she has come to tell me about old maids for lodgers," she
murmured. Then she ran down, opened the door, and straightway became
speechless.

"I have come to see you, my dear," said the lady. The fact was obvious
enough to need no comment, but when people are embarrassed, and have to
say something, idiotic remarks serve as well as anything. Boodles tried
to reply that she perceived the visitor standing before her in the
flesh; but her tongue seemed to occupy the whole of her mouth, and she
could only smile and flush.

Mrs. Bellamie, finding the conversation left to herself, observed that
it was exceedingly cold, while poor Boodles was thinking how hot it was.
She knew that her note had brought Mrs. Bellamie, and she was dreadfully
afraid the lady was going to be charitable; open her purse and give her
half-a-sovereign, or call to the driver to bring in a hamper of food, or
perhaps of toys, for Boodles was feeling fearfully young and shy. "If
she gives me anything I shall stamp and scream," she thought.

"Are you really living here alone?" said Mrs. Bellamie, which was quite
as foolish as her other remarks, as she could not possibly have expected
to see people of various sizes and complexions tumbling suddenly from
the cupboards. "How very dreary it must be for you--dear."

The last word was not intended to escape. It was on the tip of the
lady's tongue, and rolled off before she could stop it. "Dear" alone
sounds much more tender without any possessive pronoun attached, and the
sound of it made Boodles attempt to swallow something that felt like a
lump of clay in her throat. She knew she would have to howl if that lump
got any higher and reached the tear mark. She felt that if she opened
her mouth she would begin to cry. It was such an awful and a pleasant
thing to have a visitor, and Aubrey's mother; and she was thinking
already how terrible it would be when the visitor went away.

They went into the little sitting-room. Their breath seemed to fill it
with cold steam, for there was no fire, which was a bad thing for Mrs.
Bellamie, for she thought at once of the past coal-age and the
resemblance of that room to her father's study; and just then Boodles
began to cough. It was all over with Mrs. Bellamie. Her secret drawer
was wide open, and all that she ought to have been ashamed of was
revealed. She was listening again at a certain keyhole, feeling the cold
current of air upon her ear, and with it the gentle persistent noise of
her proud old father coughing because he hadn't got any fire. She was
getting on in life, but her spirit was the same. She would have gone
then, and climbed a railing, and stolen coal to give the poor girl a
fire.

Boodles looked up with a smile, without in the least knowing that her
eyes were hungry for a caress. Mrs. Bellamie bent and kissed her, and
Boodles promptly wept.

"My poor child, how can you sit here in the cold? Why don't you have
a fire?" said the lady, who seemed bent on saying foolish things that
day.

"I--I am so glad to see you," sobbed Boodles, obtaining relief and the
use of her tongue. "I would have lighted a fire if I had known you were
coming. I only use the kitchen and my bedroom."

"Would you like to show me over the cottage?" said the lady, becoming
more sensible.

"It won't take long," said Boodles. "I am sorry for crying. This is
Thursday, isn't it? I lose track of the days rather, but the baker comes
Wednesdays and Saturdays, and he came yesterday, and it isn't Sunday, so
it must be Thursday. Well, I hadn't cried since Tuesday. Yesterday was a
day off."

"You poor child," murmured Mrs. Bellamie.

"Sometimes I think I ought to keep a record, a sort of rain-gauge," went
on Boodles in quite a lively fashion. It was a part of her idea. She was
playing her game of "not standing it," and after all she was telling the
truth so far. "Monday, three-hundred drops. Tuesday,
one-hundred-and-twenty-and-a-half drops. Wednesday, none. Thursday, not
over yet. It's like a prescription. I'm all right now, you made me feel
funny, as I've never had a civilised visitor before. It is very good of
you to come and discover me."

Then she took the lady over the tiny house, from the kitchen to her
bedroom, taking pride in the fact that it was all very neat, and
apologising for the emptiness of the larder by saying that she was only
one small girl, and she was well able to live upon air, especially as
the wind of Dartmoor was notoriously fattening.

"Eating is only one of the habits of civilisation," declared Boodles.
"So long as you live alone you never get hungry, but directly you go
among other people you want to eat. I have often seen two moormen meet
on the road. They didn't want anything while they were alone, but so
soon as they caught sight of one another they felt thirsty. May I get
you a cup of tea?"

"Well, the sight of you has made me thirsty," said Mrs. Bellamie.

Then they laughed together and felt better.

"Look at this basket," said Boodles, pointing to a familiar battered
object covered with a scrap of oilcloth. "It belongs to a poor man who
is in prison now. I brought him here because the people were hunting
him, and the policeman came and took him for stealing some clothes,
though I'm sure he was innocent. Aubrey gave him half-a-crown on Goose
Fair Day, and perhaps he bought the clothes with that. Can you buy a
suit of clothes for half-a-crown? If you can't, I don't know how these
men live. I am keeping the basket for the poor thing, and when they let
him out I expect he will come for it."

Boodles alluded to Brightly and his basket since they gave her the
opportunity of mentioning Aubrey. She wanted to see if the lady would
accept the opening, and explain the real object of her visit; but Mrs.
Bellamie, who was still respectable, only said that it was rather
shocking to think that Boodles had tried to protect a common thief, and
then she thought again of the coals, for the theft of which she had
never been punished until then. She ought to have been sent to prison
too, although she had done much more good than harm in stealing from a
wealthy man to give comfort to a poor one. It had made her tender and
soft-hearted also. She would never have felt so deeply for Boodles had
it not been for that little hiatus of poverty and crime. Rigid honesty
has its vices, and some sins have many virtues. Virtues are unpleasant
things to carry about in any quantity, like a pocketful of stones; but
little sins are cheery companions while they remain little. Mrs.
Bellamie was a much better woman for having been once a thief.

"Is that clock right?" asked the lady. "I told the driver to come for me
at five."

Boodles said she hadn't the least idea. There were two clocks, and each
told a different story, and she had nothing to check them by. She
thought it would be past four as it was getting so dark. She lighted the
lamp, and the lady noticed the little hands were getting rather red.
When the room was filled with light she noticed more; the girl was quite
thin, and she coughed a good deal; nearly all the colour had gone out of
her face, and there were lines under her eyes, lines that ought never to
be seen at eighteen; her mouth often quivered, and she would start at
every sound. Then Mrs. Bellamie heard the wind, and she started too.

"My dear, you cannot, you must not, live here alone," she said,
shivering at the idea, and the atmosphere. "It would drive me mad. The
loneliness, the wind, and the horrible black moor."

"I have got to put up with it. I have no friends," said Boodles at once.
"I don't know whether I shall pull through, as the worst time is ahead,
but I must try. You can't think what it is when the wind is really high.
Sometimes in the evenings I run about the place, and they chase me from
one room to another."

"Not men?" cried the lady in horror.

"Things, thoughts, I don't know what they are. The horrors that come
when one is always alone. Some nights I scream loud enough for you to
hear in Tavistock. I don't know why it should be a relief to scream, but
it is."

"You must get away from here," said Mrs. Bellamie decidedly. "We will
arrange something for you. Would you take a position as governess,
companion to a lady--"

"No," cried Boodles, as if the visitor had insulted her. "I am not going
to prison. I would rather lose my senses here than become a servant. If
I was companion to a lady I should take the dear old thing by the
shoulders and knock her head against the wall every time she ordered me
about. Why should I give up my liberty? You wouldn't. I have got a home
of my own, and with lodgers all summer I can keep going."

"You cannot do it. You cannot possibly do it," said Mrs. Bellamie. "Will
you come and spend Christmas with us?" she asked impulsively. It was a
sudden quiver of the girl's mouth that compelled her to give the
invitation.

"Oh, I should love it," cried Boodles. Then she added: "Does Mr.
Bellamie wish it?"

The lady became confused, hesitated, and finally had to admit that her
husband had not authorised her to speak in his name.

"Then I cannot come. It would have been a great pleasure to me, but of
course I couldn't come if he does not want me, and I shouldn't enjoy
myself in the least if I thought he had asked me out of charity," she
added rather scornfully.

Mrs. Bellamie only smiled and murmured: "Proud little cat."

"Well, I suppose I must be," said Boodles. "Poverty and loneliness
sharpen one's feelings, you know. If I was a rich lady I would come and
stay at your house, whether Mr. Bellamie wanted me or not. I shouldn't
care. But as I am, poor and lonely, and pretty miserable too, I feel I
should want to bite and scratch if any one came to do me a favour.
Aubrey is not coming home for Christmas then?" she added quickly, and
the next instant was scolding herself for alluding to him again. "I mean
you wouldn't ask me if he was coming home."

The lady asked abruptly for another cup of tea, not because she desired
it or intended to drink it, but because her son was the one subject she
wanted to avoid. That was the second time Boodles had made mention of
him, and the first time the lady had been worried by a pain in her knee,
and now she was haunted by the voice which had spoken so lovingly of the
little girl when it declared: "I will never give her up." That little
girl was standing with the lamplight on her hair, which was as radiant
as ever, and with a longing look in her eyes, which had become sad and
dreamy and altogether different from the eyes of fun and laughter which
she had worn on Goose Fair Day.

"Oh, Mrs. Bellamie, do say something," Boodles whispered.

The lady began to choke. What could she say that the child would like to
hear?

"You know I have given him up, at least my tongue has," the girl went
on. "But I want to know if he is going to give me up?"

"I cannot tell you, my dear," the lady murmured, glancing at the clock.

"I think you must know, for he told me he was going to speak to you and
his father. My life is quite miserable enough, and I don't want it made
worse. It will be much worse if he comes to see me when he returns, and
says he is the same as ever, and you are the same as ever. I promise I
won't see him again, if he leaves me alone, and I won't marry him
without your consent. Does he really love me, Mrs. Bellamie?"

"Yes, my dear," the lady whispered. "Do you think that is the carriage?"

"It is only the wind. Well, I know he does, but I wanted to hear you say
it. What am I to do when he comes home? He will ask me to meet him, and
if I refuse he will come up here and want to kiss me. What am I to do? I
love him. I have loved him since I was a small child. I am not going to
tell him I don't love him to please you or any one. I have done a good
deal. I will not do that."

"We will beg him not to come and trouble you," said the lady.

"But if he does come?"

"I think, my dear, it will be best for all of us if you ask him not to
come again."

That was too much for the little girl. She could hardly be expected to
enter into an alliance with Aubrey's parents against herself. She began
to breathe quickly, and there was plenty of colour in her cheeks as she
replied: "I shall do nothing of the kind. How can you expect me to tell
him to go away, and leave me, when I love him? I have got little enough,
and only one thing that makes me happy, and you want me to deprive
myself of that one thing. If you can deprive me of it you may. But I am
not going to torture myself. I have made my promise, and that is all
that can be expected from me. Were you never in love when you were
eighteen?"

The lady rather thought that at the susceptible age mentioned she fell
in love with every one, though the disease was only taken in a mild form
and was never dangerous. She had a distinct recollection of falling
violently in love with a choir boy, who sang like an angel and looked
like one, but she had never spoken to him because he was only the
baker's son. She had been rather more than twenty when Mr. Bellamie had
fallen in love with her blood, and she had been advised to fall in love
with his. She had been quite happy, she loved her husband in a restful
kind of way, but of the intense passion which lights up the whole
universe with one face and form she knew nothing; she hardly believed
that such love existed outside fairy-tales; and in her heart she thought
it scarcely decent. She had never kissed her husband before marrying
him, and she was very much shocked to think that her son had been
kissing Boodles. She would have been still more shocked had she seen
them together. She would have regarded their conduct as grossly immoral,
when it was actually the purest thing on earth. There is nothing cleaner
than a flame of fire.

Mrs. Bellamie tried to turn the conversation from her son. She was
uncomfortable and depressed. The surroundings and the atmosphere pinched
her, and she felt she would not have a proper sympathy for Boodles until
she was back in her luxurious drawing-room with a fire roaring shillings
and pence away up the chimney. She would feel inclined to cry for the
girl then, but at the present time, surrounded by winds and Weevil
furniture, she felt somewhat out of patience with her.

"I came to see if I could do anything for you," she said. "But you are
so independent. If I found you a comfortable--"

"Situation," suggested Boodles, when she hesitated.

"I suppose you wouldn't accept it?"

"I should not," said the girl, holding her head up. "The old man who is
dead spoilt me for being trodden on. Most girls who go into situations
have to grin and pretend they like it, but I should flare up. Thank you
all the same," she added stiffly.

Mrs. Bellamie looked at the little rebel again and wished she would be
more reasonable. It was a very different Boodles from the merry girl who
had come to tea with her in Tavistock. The girl looked years older, and
the babyish expression had gone for ever. Every month of that lonely
life would leave its mark upon her. December had written itself beneath
her eyes, and before long January would be signed upon her forehead, and
February perhaps would write upon her mind. Mrs. Bellamie saw the little
ring of forget-me-nots, and guessed who had given it her; and then she
began to wonder whether it was worth while fighting against Nature. Why
not let youth and love have their own sweet way, why not ignore the
accident of birth, which had made her a Courtenay and Boodles a blank,
why let pride straddle across the way to stop the youngsters from
getting into the happy land? Little could be gained from preventing
happiness, and much might be lost. That was the influence of the coals,
burning again, although the fire was dying lower; and then the influence
of prosperity and a restful life did their work, and suggested Boodles
in her drawing-room as Aubrey's wife, a pretty sight, a graceful
ornament; and outside the people talking, as they can talk when they
smell the carrion of scandal.

"Have you no one to look after you?" she asked. "No guardians? Did
your--did Mr. Weevil leave no will?"

"He left nothing, except the story of my birth," said Boodles. "I don't
know if he left any relations, but if there are any they are entitled to
what he left, as I am no connection of his. It would be dreadful for me
if there is any one, and they hear of his death."

"You know the story of your birth then now?" Mrs. Bellamie suggested.

"Yes," said Boodles; "I do."

She tossed her head and stood defiant. She was losing her temper, and
had already said what she had not intended to say. Having made up her
mind "not to stand it," she had prepared a simple story to tell to
Aubrey if he asked for it. Old Weevil had really been her grandfather,
and her parents had been obscure people of no better station than
himself. She was going to tell a lie, one thorough lie, and then be good
for ever. She was going to make herself legitimate, that and nothing
more, not a very serious crime, she was merely going to supply herself
with a couple of parents and a wedding-service, so that she should not
be in the position of Brightly and suffer for the sins of others. But
the sight of that cold lady was making Boodles mad. She did not know
that Mrs. Bellamie had really a tender feeling for her, and it was only
her artistic nature which prevented her from showing it. Boodles did not
understand the art which strives to repress all emotion. She did not
care about anything just then, being persuaded that both the Bellamies
were her enemies, and the lady had come with the idea of trying to make
her understand what a miserable little wretch she was, fitted for
nothing better than a situation where she would be trampled on. She felt
she wanted to disturb that tranquil surface, make the placid lady jump
and look frightened. Possibly her mind was not as sound as it should
have been. The solitude and the "windy organ," added to her own sorrows,
had already made a little mark. One of the first symptoms of insanity is
a desire to frighten others. So Boodles put her head back, and laughed a
little, and said rather scornfully: "I came upon some diaries that he
kept, and they told me all about myself. I will tell you, if you care to
hear."

"I should like to know," said Mrs. Bellamie. "But I think that must be
the carriage."

"It is," said Boodles, glancing out of the window and seeing
unaccustomed lights. "What I have to tell you won't take two minutes.
Mine is a very short story. Here it is. One night, eighteen years ago,
Mr. Weevil was sitting in this room when he heard a noise at the door.
He went out. Nobody was there, but at his feet he found a big bundle of
dry bracken. Inside it was a baby, and round its neck was a label on
which he read: 'Please take me in, or I shall be drowned to-morrow.'
What is the matter, Mrs. Bellamie?"

Boodles had her wish. The lady was regarding her already with fear and
horror.

"Don't tell me you were that child," she gasped.

"Why, of course I was. I told you my story was a short one. I have told
it you already, for that is all I know about myself, and all Mr. Weevil
ever knew about me. But he always thought my father must have been a
gentleman."

"The carriage is there, I think?"

"So you see I am what is known as a bastard," Boodles went on, with a
laugh. "I don't know the names of my parents. I was thrown out because
they didn't want me, and if Mr. Weevil had not taken me in I should have
been treated like a kitten or a rat. I am sorry that he did take me in,
as I am alone in the world now."

Mrs. Bellamie stood in the doorway, trembling and agitated, her face
white and her eyes furious. The coals would not trouble her again. Good
Courtenay blood had washed them, and made them as white as her own
cheeks.

"You let me kiss you," she murmured.

"Probably I've poisoned you," said the poor child, almost raving.

"My son has made love to you, kissed you, given you a ring."

There was a light in the girl's eyes, unnaturally bright. "If you tried
to take this ring from me I would kill you." She was guarding it with a
shivering hand. "I know what I am, Mrs. Bellamie. I knew before that
look in your eyes told me. I know what a beastly little creature I am,
to have a gentleman for a father and some housemaid for a mother. I know
it was all my own fault. It must have been the wicked soul in me that
made them do what was wrong. I know I deserve to be punished for daring
to live. I am young, but I have learnt all that; and now you are
teaching me more--you are teaching me that if I had been left at your
door you would have sent me to my proper place."

Mrs. Bellamie was outside, and the driver was assisting her towards the
carriage, as it was too dark for her to see. Then the wheels jolted away
over the rough road, and down the long hill towards luxury and
respectability; and the unlit night pressed heavily upon the moor; and
Boodles was lying upon her bed, talking to the things unseen.




CHAPTER XXIII

ABOUT A HOUSE ON THE HIDDEN LANES


Thomasine was sitting in the stone kitchen of Town Rising sewing and
trying to think; but the little skeletons of thought that did present
themselves were like bad dreams. She had given notice to the Chegwiddens
and would be leaving in a few days, not because she wanted to go, but
because it had become necessary. Town Rising was a moral place, where
nothing lower than drunkenness was permitted, and Thomasine was able to
comprehend how much better it was to resign than to be turned out.
Pendoggat had found a place for her, not a permanent one as he
explained, a place where she would receive no wages, where indeed a
premium would be required; there she would pay a certain debt to Nature,
and then he would come and take her away.

Thomasine was making garments which she smuggled away when any one came
to the door. They were ridiculous garments which she could not possibly
have worn herself, but perhaps she was making doll's clothes for a
charity bazaar, although girls like Thomasine are not usually interested
in such things; or she might have been preparing a complete outfit for a
certain little person who had benefited her. Pixies of the Tavy are
famed for their generosity to servant maids who do their work properly;
and the girls have been known to make garments for their benefactors,
and spread them out in the kitchen before going to bed, so that the
little person could put them on in the night. But the clothes, small
though they were, would have been a few sizes too large for pixies, and
somewhat too roomy for dolls. Thomasine seemed to be wasting her time
and materials; and as a matter of fact she was, although she did not
know it because she knew nothing, except that she was not particularly
happy.

She was trying to think of matrimony while she sewed. All that she knew
about it was that the clergyman mentioned a couple by name publicly
three Sundays running, and then they went to church, the girl in her
fair-clothes, and the man with a white tie which wouldn't fit his
collar, and the clergyman read something which made the man grin and the
girl respectable. Time was getting on, it was the dull month of
February, and the burden of maternity seemed to be much nearer than the
responsibilities of matrimony. Thomasine knew nothing of the place she
was going into except that her duties would be light, merely to look
after an old woman who would in return render her certain services at a
critical time. She did not even know where the place was, for Pendoggat
was not going to tell her until the last moment. She had seen young
Pugsley the previous Sunday, in a hard hat and a suit of new clothes,
the trousers turned up twice in order that a double portion of
respectability might rest upon him, with close-cropped head, and a
bundle of primroses pinned to his coat. He had stepped up, shaken her by
the hand in a friendly way, and told her he was going to be married at
Easter. He had got the promise of a cottage, and the ceremony would take
place early on Easter Monday, and they were going for their honeymoon to
St. Thomas's Fair. Thomasine went back crying, because Pugsley was a
good sort of young fellow, and it seemed to her she had missed
something, though it was not her fault. She had always wanted to be
respectable Mrs. Pugsley, only she had been taken away from the young
man, and told not to see him again, and farm-maids have to be obedient.

Thomasine spent the remainder of her time sewing when she was not
occupied with household duties, and then the day came when she was to
leave. One of the farm-hands drove her to the station, with her box in
the cart behind, and her wages in her pocket. She knew by then where she
was going; into the loneliness of mid-Devon. She would much rather have
gone home, but that was impossible, for the pious cobbler, her father,
would have taken her by the shoulders, placed her outside the door, and
have turned the key upon her.

If a map be taken, and one leg of a compass placed on the village of
Witheridge, the other leg may be extended to a circumference six miles
distant, and a wide circle be swept without encountering a railway or
cutting more than half-a-dozen good roads, and inside that circle there
is not a single town. It is almost unexplored territory, there are no
means of transit, and the inhabitants are rough and primitive. Distances
there seem great, for the miles are very long ones, and when a call is
made to some lonely house the visitor will often be pressed to stay the
night, as he would be in Canada or Australia. The map is well sprinkled
with names which suggest that the country is thickly populated, but it
is not. Many of the names are delusions, more suggestive of the past
than the present. A century ago hamlets occupied the sites now covered
by a name, but there is nothing left of them to-day except dreary ruins
of cob standing in a thicket of brambles or in what was once an
apple-orchard. What was formerly the name of a good-sized village is now
the title of a farm-house, or one small cottage which would not pay for
repairing and must therefore be destroyed when it becomes uninhabitable.
It is a sad land to wander through. It suggests a country at the end of
its tether which has almost abandoned the struggle for existence, a
poverty-stricken country which cannot face the strong-blooded flow of
food importations from foreign lands. Even the goods sold in the village
shops are of alien manufacture. A hundred little hamlets have given up
the struggle in the same number of years, and been wiped, not off the
map, but off the land. The country of Devon is like a rosy-cheeked apple
which is rotten inside.

This region within the circle is densely wooded, and in parts fertile,
though the soil is the heavy dun clay which is difficult to work. It is
well-watered, and is only dying because there are no markets for its
produce and no railways to carry it. It is a country of lanes, so narrow
that only two persons can walk abreast along them, so dirty and ill-kept
as to be almost impassable in winter, so dark that it is sometimes
difficult to see, and so stuffy and filled with flies in hot weather
that any open space comes as a relief. These lanes twist everywhere, and
out of them branch more lanes of the same dirtiness and width; and if
they are followed a gate is sure to be reached; and there, in a dark
atmosphere, may be seen a low white house with a gloomy orchard on each
side, and behind a wilderness of garden, and in front a court containing
crumbling barns of cob and a foul pond; and on the other side of the
court the lane goes on into more gloomy depths, towards some other dull
and lonely dwelling-place in the rotten heart of Devon.

The country would be less sad without these dreary houses which suggest
tragedies. Sometimes stories dealing with young women and very young
girls reach the newspapers, but not often; the lanes are so dark and
twisting, and the houses are so entirely hidden. It is possible to walk
along the lanes for miles and to see no human beings; only the ruins of
where they lived once, and the decaying houses where they live now. It
is like walking through a country of the past.

Along one of these lanes Thomasine was taken in a rickety cart ploughing
through glue-like mud, and at one of the gates she alighted. There had
been a hamlet once where the brambles spread, and its name, which had
become the name of the one small house remaining, was Ashland, though
the map calls it something else. The tenant was an elderly woman who
appeared to find the greatest difficulty in suiting herself with a
servant, as she was changing them constantly. She was always having a
fresh one, all young girls, and they invariably looked ill when they
went away, which was a sure sign that the house was not healthy, and
that Mrs. Fuzzey's temper was a vile one. The woman had no near
neighbours, though there were, of course, people scattered round about,
but they saw nothing suspicious in the coming and going of so many
maids. No girl could be expected to stand more than a month or two of
Mrs. Fuzzey and her lonely house, especially as some of the girls she
engaged were rather smart and well dressed. No one suspected that the
mistress of dark little Ashland of the hidden lanes was there solely in
the way of business.

"How be ye, my dear?" said the lady in an amiable fashion to her new
servant, client, or patient, or whatever she chose to regard her as,
when the driver after his customary joke: "Here's one that will stop vor
a month likely," had been dismissed. "You'm a lusty maid what won't give
much trouble, I reckon. You'm safe enough wi' me, my dear. Seems you ha'
come a bit early like. Well, most of 'em du. They get that scared of it
showing. Not this month wi' yew, I reckon. Be it early next?"

"Ees," said Thomasine.

"Well, my dear, I'll be a proper mother to ye. 'Twill du ye good to get
abroad a bit. Run out and pick up the eggs, and us will ha' tea.
Yonder's the hen-roost."

Mrs. Fuzzey seemed a pleasant body, but it was all in the way of
business. She was a stout woman, with a big florid face, and crisp black
hair which suggested foreign extraction. She reared poultry
successfully, and was quite broken-hearted when a young chicken met an
evil fate and perished, which indicated the presence of a vein of
tenderness somewhere, in the region of the pocket probably, as she was
usually insensible to the suffering of human beings. Still she did not
look the sort of woman who might reasonably be expected to end her life
upon the scaffold, if success in business made her careless, or if any
of her patrons or clients ventured to risk their own safety by giving
information against her.

Thomasine was not accustomed to stately interiors and fine furniture,
and yet she was astonished at the bareness of the interior of Ashland.
Had everything in the place been put up to auction less than five pounds
would possibly have bought the lot. There was nothing in the way of
luxury, not an article that was unnecessary, except the curtains that
hung across the windows for respectability's sake. It was not a home,
but a place of business. The mistress had the sense to know she might
require to leave in a hurry some day without being allowed time to pack
anything, and she saw no advantage in investing her savings in furniture
which she would have to leave behind.

The garden was at the back, a dark garden, shadowed and gloomy, like an
Eastern cemetery. It made a sort of quadrangle, with the house at one
end, a jungle-like coppice with bracken and bramble undergrowth at the
other, and an orchard on each side; as an additional protection there
was a stone hedge round the three sides. There was only one entry and
that was from the house. There had been another, a gate leading in from
one of the orchards, but Mrs. Fuzzey had closed it up. She did not want
people trespassing in her garden.

Near the hedge at the back, and in front of the dense coppice, was an
old well which had not been used for a long time as the water was
supposed to be polluted. It had been practically closed up when Mrs.
Fuzzey came into residence, but she had opened it for her own purposes.
The water supply of the house came from a well in the court, which was
fed either by a spring or by the river Yeo which passed close by. The
old well was very deep and contained a good deal of water with a scum on
it which fortunately could not be seen, and a smell to it which in hot
weather became rather pronounced, as it had not been cleared out for
ages and was filled with dead bodies of rats--and other things. But the
miasma carried no distance, and there was nobody to complain about it
except Mrs. Fuzzey, who didn't mind. Ashland was almost as much out of
the way as a farm upon the back blocks of Australia. Nobody ever entered
the garden except herself and her maid for the time being. It was in a
land where the sanitary inspector ceases from troubling. She did her own
gardening, planting her potatoes and onions, being a strong woman well
able to wield a spade. She had piled a lot of rocks about the well and
made quite a pleasant flower garden there. She was fond of flowers, and
in the warm weather would take out a chair and sit beside the well,
admiring the beauty of the various saxifrages, creepers, and trailing
plants which her efforts had induced to grow. She called it the Grotto.
She had penny novelettes sent her regularly, and would devour them
greedily as she sat in her garden, being very much addicted to romance
and sentiment when it was strong enough; and sometimes she thought it
would be agreeable to retire from business and have a husband and family
of her own. It was so very dull at Ashland though she was making money.
There never had been a Mr. Fuzzey, although she always gave herself the
courtesy title of Mrs.

Thomasine got on very well with Mrs. Fuzzey and almost liked her. The
girl was taken round the garden and the Grotto was pointed out to her
with pride, although there was nothing to be seen except wet rocks,
sodden plants, and decayed woodwork; but she was informed it would be a
place of great beauty in the spring. Indoors there was cleaning to be
done, with cooking, dairy-work, and egg-packing. A tradesman's visit was
rare, and when one did come it was on foot along the narrow muddy lane,
his cart being left far behind at the corner of some road or bigger
lane. The evenings would have been fearfully dreary had Mrs. Fuzzey been
less entertaining. The lady made and drank sloe-gin in some quantity;
and she gave Thomasine a taste for it, with the result that sometimes
they laughed a good deal without apparent cause, and the elderly lady
became sentimental and embraced Thomasine, and declared that she loved
young women, which was natural enough seeing that she made her living
out of them. Then she would read selected portions from her latest
novelette and weep with emotion.

"If ever I come to change my business I'll write bukes," she said one
night. "I'd like to sot down every day, and write about young volks
making love. I feels cruel soft to think on't. Lord love ye, my dear,
there bain't nothing like love. Volks may say what 'em likes, but 'tis
the only thing worth living vor. I've never had none, my dear, and I'd
like it cruel. You'm had plenty, I reckon. Most o' the maids what comes
here ha' had a proper butiful plenty on't, and some of 'em ha' talked
about it till my eyes was fair drapping. I cries easy," said Mrs.
Fuzzey.

Thomasine admitted she had received her share, and rather more than she
had wanted.

"Yew can't ha' tu much when it comes the way yew wants it," said the
lady. "I'm wonderful fond o' these little bukes 'cause 'em gives yew the
real thing. I can't abide 'em when they talks about butiful country, and
moons a shining, and such like, but when they gets their arms around
each other and starts smacking, then I sots down tight to 'en. I can
tak' plenty o' that trade. Sets me all of a quiver it du. I ses to
myself: 'Amelia'--that's me, my dear--'just think what some maids get
and yew don't.' Then I starts crying, my dear. I be a cruel tender
woman."

The conversation was entirely one-sided, because Thomasine had never
learnt to talk.

"If ever I got to write one o' these, I'd mind what the maids ha' told
me. I'd start wi' love, and I'd end wi' love. I'd ha' nought else. I'd
set 'em kissing on the first line, and I'd end 'em, my dear, I'd end 'em
proper, fair hugging, my dear," hiccupped Mrs. Fuzzey. The bottle of
sloe-gin was getting low, and her spirits were proportionally high. She
kissed Thomasine, breathed gin down her back, and lifted up her voice
again--

"I loves maids, I du, I loves 'em proper. I loves children tu, innocent
little children. I loves 'em all, 'cept when they scream, and then I
can't abide 'em. I reckon, my dear, you wouldn't find a tenderer woman
than me anywheres. I tells myself sometimes I be tu soft, but I can't
help it, my dear."

The old swine slobbered over the girl, half-drunk and half-acting,
giving her loud-sounding kisses; and Thomasine did not know that most of
the girls who had been placed under Mrs. Fuzzey's protection had been
used in the same way as long as they would stand it. People have many
peculiar ways of easing the conscience; some confess to a priest, some
perform charitable works; others, like Mrs. Fuzzey, assume they are
rather too good, though they may be vile. The old harridan posed as a
tender-hearted being in love with every living creature; and she had
read so many ridiculous love-tales and wept over them, and drunk so many
bottles of sloe-gin and wept over them, and listened with lamentations
to so many amatory details from the young women who had placed
themselves under her charge, that she had pretty well persuaded herself
she was a paragon of loving-kindness. Thomasine thought she was; but
then Thomasine knew nothing.

It was rare to see a human being cross the court in front of Ashland. If
more than one person passed in a day it was a thing to talk about, and
sometimes a whole week went by bringing nobody. The policeman who was
supposed to patrol the district had possibly never heard of the place,
and had he been told to go there would have wanted a guide. Ashland was
more isolated at that time than most of the dead hamlets, because the
two farm-houses that stood nearest were empty and dropping to pieces.

About half-a-mile beyond the court another dark little lane branched
off, and presently it divided into two dark little lanes like rivers of
mud flowing between deep banks. They were like the dark corridors of a
haunted house; and one of them led to the dead hamlet of Black Hound,
now one cob farm-house until lately occupied by Farmer Hookaway who had
shot himself the previous autumn; and the other finished up at the dead
hamlet of Yeast-beer, which was also one cob farm-house with the thatch
sliding off its roof, and this had been tenanted by Farmer Venhay, who
had not shot himself but had drowned his bankrupt body in the Yeo. It
was a pretty neighbourhood in summer, for the foxgloves were gorgeous,
so were the ferns, and the meadow-sweet, irises, ragged-robins and
orchids in the marshy fields; but it was sad somehow. It wanted
populating. There were too many ruins about, too many abandoned orchards
overrun with brambles, too many jagged walls of cob which represented a
name upon the map. Once upon a time the folk of Merry England had danced
and revelled there. Their few descendants took life tragically, and
sometimes put it off in the same way. There was no music for them to
dance to.

The time passed quickly enough for Thomasine, too quickly because she
was frightened. She quite understood why she had become Mrs. Fuzzey's
assistant for the time being. She comprehended that it is the duty of
every girl to remain respectable, and in a vague way she had grasped the
code of morality as it is practised in certain places. It was necessary
for girls in her condition to go away and hide themselves, either at
home, if her parents would permit it, or if not in lodgings provided for
the purpose. She would never be seen, and would not have the doctor,
because it was not anything serious, generally measles, or a stubborn
cold. When everything was over she could appear again, and get strong
and well by taking outdoor exercise; and nobody ever knew what had
happened, unless the child, which was always born dead, had been
disposed of in a particularly clumsy fashion.

As time went on Mrs. Fuzzey became irritable. She said Thomasine would
have to pay something extra if she was not quick about her business. Her
own affairs were by no means prospering, as she had not received any
applications to fill the position of general help when Thomasine had
vacated it. The truth of the matter was, as she explained bitterly,
girls in country districts were becoming enlightened and imbued with the
immoral spirit of the towns, which displayed articles of convenience in
the windows of shops professing to be hygienic and surgical drug stores.
These things had penetrated to the country, and a knowledge of them had
reached even the most out of the way districts. Every small chemist did
a large back-room business in such things, and many a girl was taking
the precaution of carrying one about in her handkerchief, or when going
to church between the leaves of her prayer-book. Mrs. Fuzzey had no
hesitation in denouncing the entire system as immoral, and one which
conduced towards the destruction of her business which she had built up
with so much care and secrecy. The lady had been finding her novelettes
dull reading lately. The love interest had not been nearly strong enough
for her taste, and she felt that her imagination could have supplied
many details that were wanting. In the meantime flowers were springing
in the garden, which was on low ground and entirely sheltered from every
wind; and one morning Mrs. Fuzzey came in to announce that the Grotto
would soon be beautiful, as the white arabis and purple aubrietia were
smothered with buds.

Soon after that it happened with Thomasine after the manner of women,
and she gave birth to twins, both girls. Mrs. Fuzzey was kindness itself
while she attended the girl, but when the first had been followed by the
second she began to grumble and said she should require another
sovereign. She couldn't work for nothing, and she echoed Brightly's
frequently expressed complaint that trade was cruel dull. The infants
were removed, and then Thomasine gave birth to a third, a boy this time.
Mrs. Fuzzey became really angry, and wanted to know if this sort of
thing was likely to continue. She knew all about the legend current
around Chulmleigh, of the Countess of Devon who met a labourer carrying
a basketful of seven infants, which his wife had just given birth to,
down to the river that he might dispose of them like kittens, and she
thought it possible that Thomasine might be about to emulate that
woman's example. Mrs. Fuzzey was not prepared to deal with infants in
such quantity, and she stated she should require an additional five
pounds to cover extra work and risk.

"Have ye purty nigh done?" she asked at length.

"Ees," muttered Thomasine faintly.

"About time, I reckon. Well, I'll step under and ha' a drop just to
quiet my nerves like."

Mrs. Fuzzey had her drop, then attended to her professional duties,
which did not detain her long, had another drop, which kept her engaged
some time, and finally returned and asked the girl how she did.

"Proper bad. I reckon I be dying," said Thomasine.

Mrs. Fuzzey laughed her to scorn. "You'm as fresh as a trout. Come
through it fine, my dear. You can't say I bain't a tender woman," she
went on, the various "drops," and the knowledge that the unpleasant part
of her work was over, having rendered her amiable. "I know the trade, I
du, and I be so soft and gentle that you didn't feel hardly anything.
'Twas lucky for yew, my dear, they sent yew to me. Any old doctor might
ha' killed ye. I reckon I'm just about the handiest at the trade a
living, and cruel tender tu. Done a lot o' good in my time, I ha'. Saved
many a maid just like I've saved yew."

Mrs. Fuzzey talked as if she regarded herself eminently qualified for
decorations and a pension.

"'Tis a pity yew can't claim the bounty," she went on. "But there, it
bain't much, only a pound or two, though a little bit be a lot for poor
wimmin like yew and me, my dear. 'Twould help yew to pay me, for I can't
du all this extra work for nought, wi' times so bad, and maids not
coming reg'lar. I can't du it, my dear. Well, I reckon I'll go under and
ha' a drop."

Mrs. Fuzzey lived on sloe-gin during such days, feeling she required it
to strengthen her nerve, or possibly to ease her abnormal conscience.
She finished the bottle before she appeared again.

It remained as peaceful as ever about Ashland. Nobody passed that day,
or the day after; and the dark little lanes hidden away like caves were
full of mud and water as they always were at that season of the year.

When Thomasine felt better she asked for the infants, and Mrs. Fuzzey,
who could not walk without lurching from side to side, cast up her eyes
and her hands, and wondered whatever the girl was talking about.

"Having dree of 'em and thinking they'm alive, the purty little lambs.
They was proper booties, my dear. I could ha' kissed 'em I loved 'em so
cruel. I never did see babies I loved so much. I'd like to ha' nursed
the purty dears, given 'em baths, dressed 'em, made 'em look fine. But
what can ye du wi' dead babies, my dear, 'cept get 'em out o' the way?"

"I heard 'em cry," said Thomasine.

"Lord love ye, my dear, you'm that mazed yew could fancy anything. 'Twas
just the door creaking as I carried 'em out."

"Where be 'em?" asked Thomasine.

"Safe in the Grotto, my dear. There be a bit o' warm sunshine, and 'tis
butiful."

"Was 'em all born dead?"

"All dree," hiccupped Mrs. Fuzzey with the utmost cheerfulness. "'Tis a
good thing for yew. What would an unmarried girl du wi' dree babies?"

Thomasine had not considered that point. She could not know that every
girl who had occupied that bed before her had asked much the same
questions, and had received exactly the same answers. She admitted that
it was a good thing, although she had to murmur: "I'd ha' liked to
cuddle 'em just once," which was a long speech for Thomasine.

She was thankful her ordeal was over, though she wondered what Pendoggat
would say when he heard the children were dead. He had often told her
how he should love any child that was theirs. Still he could not refuse
to marry her now. She would have to get strong again as soon as she
could, because she knew he would be waiting for her.

The next day Mrs. Fuzzey entered in excellent spirits and half-sober.
The sun was shining, she said, and the arabis and aubrietia were in
flower among the rocks, and "The Grotto be looking just butiful, my
dear."




CHAPTER XXIV

ABOUT BANKRUPTS


Swaling-time had come, red patches of fire flickered every night on
Dartmoor, and the furze-prickles crackled in the flames. The annual war
between man and the prickly shrub was being waged, and the atmosphere
was always clouded and tainted with bitter smoke. Every one seemed to be
infected with the idea of furze destruction, from the granite-cracker
who as he went to his labours would push the match with which he had
just lighted his pipe into some thick brake, to the small boys who
begged or stole boxes of matches and went out after dark to make the
moor fiery. With those huge bonfires flaming it looked as if not a
particle of furze would survive; and yet when summer arrived there would
be apparently as much as ever; and not a bush would be killed; only
burnt to the ground, and the roots still living in the peat would soon
send forth green shoots.

People who looked down into the hollow thought Helmen Barton a peaceful
place, but they were wrong; there was plenty of passion beneath the
surface, and at night often there was noise. It was dark down there; a
watcher on the top of the hill might have seen no light, though he could
hardly have failed to hear the noise, which was made by a drunken woman
railing at a silent man; at least the man appeared to be silent, as his
voice did not carry out of the hollow. Possibly he did nothing but
mumble.

Annie was degenerating rapidly; cider satisfied her no longer; and she
went into the village to procure fiercer liquors. Pendoggat had become
more reserved, and there was craftiness in his every movement. He kept
his temper somehow and refused to answer the woman's taunts, which made
her scream louder. He could stand it; he was nearly ready to go; only
one little matter was detaining him, and when that was settled he could
let himself out in the night, walk down to Tavistock, and the first
train westward or eastward--he did not care which--would carry him away.

Thomasine had left Mrs. Fuzzey's hospitable roof. Pendoggat had seen
her, and at once made the discovery that he loved her no longer. The
girl had changed so much; she seemed to have lost her blood, her
wonderful ripeness, her soft flesh, and her passion-provoking look. She
had become thin and quite unattractive. Pendoggat wondered how he could
ever have been so wildly in love with her, and he told her so, adding
that his conscience would not permit him to take her away with him, and
it would be nothing less than a grievous sin if he married her without
love. He admitted he had sinned occasionally in the past, and he did not
wish to add to the number of his transgressions. The wretched girl
implored him to make her a decent woman, as she called it, to keep his
promises, to remember all the oaths that he had sworn. People more than
suspected the truth; the Chegwiddens would not have her back and had
refused her a character; her father had greeted her with an austere
countenance, had opened his Bible and read for her benefit a damnatory
verse or two from the Revelations of St. John the Divine, and then had
shown her the way out, while her mother had locked the door behind her.
Her appearance suggested to them how she had been occupied during her
retirement. Measles wouldn't go down with them. She had left Ashland too
soon, but Mrs. Fuzzey would not keep her any longer. The old witch had
kissed and embraced her, had wheedled every penny of her wages out of
her, had declared that she loved her as she had never loved anybody else
in her life, and had then told her to get out. She had no place to go
to. She hung to Pendoggat, and implored him to remember what had passed
between them; but he naturally wanted to forget it. He told Thomasine
she was a sinful woman, and when she made a scene he lost his temper,
and reminded her that a girl could make a living on the streets of
Plymouth if she walked them long enough. Afterwards he had a feeling
that he had acted without charity, so he went to chapel and repented,
and was forgiven in the usual way. Still he decided he could have
nothing more to do with Thomasine. His conscience would not permit it.

His thorn in the flesh was Annie, but he let her rave, thinking she
would be less dangerous while she barked. The little matter which
detained him at the Barton was a mercenary one. He could not leave the
furniture for strangers to seize or Annie to profit by. His beasts he
had sold already to two different persons, which was not a dishonest
act, but merely good business; it was for the two men to settle the
question of ownership when they came together. The furniture was not
worth much, but he could not leave the place without getting value for
it. So he sent for a dealer from Tavistock to come and make him an
offer, taking precautions to get Annie out of the way during the time of
his visit; but she heard of it, and instinct told her the truth again.

One morning a letter came, Annie saw the name on the flap of the
envelope, and knew that it was from the dealer. Probably he had bought
what few chattels she possessed and had brought with her when she came
to live with Pendoggat. She was silent all the morning; it was a dark
day, there had been no sun for some time, and a spell of frost had set
in; it was black above and white below, a black unbroken sky and a white
sheet of frost. She shivered as she crept about the kitchen, listening
for the movements of the master. He did not speak to her; when she
passed he put his head lower than ever.

Later in the day it became difficult to see on account of the smoke.
Swaling was going on all round, and there was a choking mist over the
Barton, even inside as if the house itself was smouldering. Pendoggat
could scarcely breathe. He had become horribly afraid of fire since
Peter made the mommet, which he had tried to purchase but had failed
because the little savage carried too many wits for him. He determined
to get away that night, obtaining what money he could from the mercenary
dealer as he went through Tavistock. The atmosphere was getting tainted
with things stronger than smoke. He had often wondered whether his
conscience would permit him to murder Annie, but he was beginning to
fear then she might attempt to murder him. He went out into the court
with a feeling that he was trying to escape from a burning building; and
Annie followed him without a sound. She saw him standing as if dazed,
peering into the smoke, clutching at his breast pocket where the capital
of the Nickel Mining Company was hidden in the form of notes. He did not
know which way to turn that he might escape from the multitude of little
clay dolls which seemed to him to be dancing upon the hills. Then he
remembered it was chapel evening. He could not go away until he had been
to Ebenezer to seek a blessing and absolution, to give Pezzack one more
grasp of the good right hand of fellowship, to remind the congregation
of the certainty of hell-fire. He did not see Annie until she came up
softly and touched him.

"Where be ye going?" she said in a smooth manner, which suggested that
she still loved him.

"Nowhere," he muttered, wishing the smoke would clear away and make an
opening for his escape.

"That be a long way," she said, with pleasant humour. "'Tis where I've
been going the last twenty years. Reckon I be purty nigh there."

He made no reply, only moved away, but she followed, saying: "How about
that letter yew had this morning?"

"'Tis my business," he said.

"Yew never did nought that warn't your business. You'm selling up the
home. That's what I ses. You'm going away. Who be going wi' ye?"

"Nobody," he muttered.

"Hark to 'en," said Annie in the same smooth voice. "He'm going nowhere
wi' nobody. I knows some one who be going wi' yew."

"You're a liar."

"Times I be. I've played a lie for twenty years, and mebbe it comes
nat'ral. I reckon I be telling the truth now. When you start some one
will be behind yew, and her wun't be dumb neither. Yew took me twenty
years ago, and you'm going to tak' me now."

"I'm not going away," he said hoarsely. He was afraid of the woman while
she was soft and gentle. He had been so crafty and done nothing to
arouse her suspicions; at least he thought so; but he was acquainted
only with the bodily parts of women, not with their instincts and their
minds.

"If one of us be a liar it bain't me," said Annie. "What be yew leaving
me? When a woman gets past forty her don't want clothes. Her can cover
herself wi' her grey hairs, and her don't want a roof over her and food.
Only young maids want such. Be I a liar, man?"

"Get back into your kitchen," he muttered, still moving away, but she
steadily followed.

"I've been in the kitchen twenty years, and I reckon I want a change,"
she answered. "A wife bides in the kitchen 'cause her's willing, and a
servant 'cause her has to, but I bain't a wife and I bain't a servant,
though volks think I be the one, and yew think I be the other. Be ye
going, man? I've got a pair o' boots, a bit worn, but they'll du. Reckon
I'll get 'em on."

"Get inside and keep your mouth shut," he said roughly.

"I bain't going under. Dartmoor be a free place, and my tongue be my own
yet. Hit me, man. Pick up thikky stick and hit me wi' 'en. It wun't be
the first time you've hit some one weaker than yourself."

Pendoggat was losing his temper and seeing red flames in the smoke,
though they were not there. If she continued in that soft voice he would
strike her, perhaps too hard, and silence her for ever. It was a pity he
had not done so before, only his conscience, or fear of the law, had
kept him from it. Now she was at his side, pulling at his arm, quite
gently, for she was sober and in full possession of her senses, and she
was pointing to a side of the Barton where the brake of furze stood, not
black, but shrouded in smoke and starched with frost, and she was saying
in an amiable voice: "You'm a vule, man. A woman bain't so easy beat. I
ses you'm a vule, man, as every man be a vule who gives a woman power
over 'en. I bain't a going to follow yew. I can get men to du it vor me.
You'm a murderer, man," she said in a caressing way.

Pendoggat shrank away, not so much from her, as from her horrible words.
She had insulted him before, but never like that. It was true he had
committed indiscretions in the past, sins even, but he had always gone
to chapel with the big Bible under his arm, and he had always repented
in bitterness of spirit, and he had always been forgiven. It was time
indeed for him to break away from such a woman. He could not listen to
such vile language. A little more of it, and his conscience would permit
him to silence her. He began to walk towards the gate of the court, but
she was holding on to him and saying: "You'm in a cruel hurry, man, and
it bain't chapel time. Twenty years us ha' lived together as man and
wife, and now you'm in a hurry to go. Chegwidden's maid can bide 'cause
yew don't want she. I can bide 'cause I knows yew wun't get far avore
they fetch ye back to hear what I got to say about ye. Tak' thikky
stick," she said, picking it up from the lifting-stock and pushing it
into his hand. "Mebbe 'twill be a help to ye, mak' yew walk a bit
faster, and yew can keep policeman off wi' 'en."

He grasped the stick, clenched his teeth, and struck her on the head,
across the ear; the first actual blow he had ever given her, and he was
only sorry that the stick was so light and small. She screamed once, not
so much in anger, as with pain. Her head went dizzy and her ear became
red-hot. After the scream she said nothing, but steadying herself went
back to the house, into the kitchen, and took down a bottle from the top
shelf; while he walked on mumbling towards the gate. The vile creature
deserved it because she had called him a murderer. It was not only
wicked of her but foolish, because she had no evidence against him,
beyond what was hidden in the furze; and those remains would incriminate
herself more strongly than him. She never attended to her religious
duties, while he was the light and foundation stone of Ebenezer, and
nobody could accept her word against his. Still it would be advisable,
if possible, to remove every trace of her guilt from that thick brake of
furze. To abandon her would be a sufficient punishment. He did not want
to get her into more trouble.

Out of the smoke two figures advanced towards the Barton gate; a short
round man and a tall lean one. Pendoggat hesitated, and would have
turned back, for they were strangers, and he could not know what they
wanted him for, but he had been seen, one of the men called him by name,
and he could not find a way to escape. He went to them, and the stout
man became the retired grocer, uncle of Pezzack, chairman of the Nickel
Mining Company, while the other was his friend and a principal
shareholder. Neither showed friendliness and both were agitated. They
were running after their savings and didn't know where to find them. The
grocer would not shake hands, but stood struggling to find words. His
had not been a liberal education, and had not included lessons in
elocution.

"It's what I call a dirty business," he shouted, then gasped and panted
with rage and fast walking, and repeated the expression, adding
blasphemy; while the lean man panted also, and stated that he too called
the scheme a dirty business, and added that he had come for satisfaction
and a full explanation.

Pendoggat was himself again when confronted by these two wise men of
Bromley who had been meddling in matters which they didn't understand.
The entire company of shareholders would not have terrified him because
the nickel mine was Pezzack's affair, not his. People seemed to be in
the mood for accusing him of sins which had long ago ceased to weigh
upon his conscience. He remarked that he was at a loss to understand why
the gentlemen had brought their complaints to him.

"What about that dirty mine?" shouted the grocer, although he did not
use the adjective dirty, but something less clean. "What about the
nickel that you said was going to make our fortunes?"

"The minister tells me it is there. He's waiting for fine weather to
start," said Pendoggat.

"The minister says he knows nothing about it. You put him up to the
scheme," said the lean man.

Pendoggat shook his head and looked stupid. He did not seem able to
understand that.

"You've got the money. Every penny of it, and we've come to make you
fork out," spluttered the grocer.

Pendoggat could not understand that either.

"I've been writing every week, and hearing nothing, except always going
to begin and never beginning," went on the fat grocer. "I've been
worrying till I couldn't sleep, and till there ain't hardly an ounce o'
flesh on my bones. I couldn't stand it no longer, and I says to my
friend here, I'm a going down to see what their little game is, and my
friend said he was coming too, and it's just about time we did come from
what my nephew Eli tells me. Says you found this here mine and put him
up to getting money to work it. Says he's given the money to you. Says
you've been like a madman, and pulled him up here one night, and pretty
near punched his blooming head off."

Pendoggat made up his mind that the grocer was an untruthful and a
vulgar person. All that he said was: "I hope the minister hasn't been
telling you that."

"Are you going to deny it?" cried the lean man.

"I don't understand you, gentlemen," said Pendoggat. "I'll take you down
to the mine if you like. I don't know if nickel is to be found there.
The minister says there's plenty, and I believed him."

The grocer was whirling round and round after the manner of a dancing
dervish and huzzing like a monstrous bee. He felt that he was losing his
savings, and that sort of knowledge makes a man dance. "What do he know
about nickel? He's a minister of the Gospel, not a dirty miner," he
howled.

"Are you telling us the minister hasn't given you the money?" demanded
the other man, who made his living by buying cheap vegetables and
turning them out as high-class jam.

"Pezzack never told you that, gentlemen. He's treated me fair enough,
and paid my wages regular as working manager, and I'm not going to think
he's put that tale on you," Pendoggat answered.

"He did," shouted the grocer, but in a less fiery manner, because he was
impressed by the simple countryman. "He told us he'd given you every
penny."

"I'll not believe it of him, not till he stands before me, and I hear
him say it."

"If you ain't got the blooming oof, who has?" cried the vulgar little
chairman.

"Judge for yourself," Pendoggat answered. "Here am I, a poor man,
scratching a bit of moor for my living, and pressed so hard that I've
just had to sell my beasts, and now I'm selling most of my furniture to
meet a debt. I've a letter in my pocket making me an offer, and you can
see it if you like. There's the minister living comfortable, and
married, gentlemen, married since this business started and since the
money came."

"I always wondered what he had to marry on," the grocer muttered.

"Go and ask him. Tell him I'll meet him face to face and answer him word
for word. I know nothing about mining. If you put a bit of nickel and a
bit of tin before me I couldn't tell one from the other. Stay a bit and
I'll come with you. It's near chapel time," said Pendoggat, righteous in
his indignation. "I'll meet him in the chapel and answer him there."

"What about that sample you gave me when I came down before? Knocked it
off the wall, you did, before me, and that was nickel, for I had it
analysed, and paid the chap five bob for doing it."

Pendoggat looked confused and did not have an answer ready. He kicked
his boot against the gatepost, and turned away, shaking his head.

"Got him there," muttered the jam-maker.

"Well, I'll tell you," said Pendoggat roughly. "I wouldn't have said a
word if the minister had played fair, but if it's true he's gone against
me to save himself I'll tell you. He gave me that bit of stuff and told
me what I was to do with it. I didn't know what it was, and I don't know
now. I did what I was told to do, and got an extra ten shillings for
doing it."

The grocer and his friend looked at one another, and the uncle muttered
something about the nephew which Eli would have wept to hear. Some one
had uttered particularly gross lies to him, and he had an idea Pendoggat
was telling the truth. The grocer and jam-maker were men easily deceived
by a smooth manner; and Pendoggat's story had impressed them far more
than Pezzack's, just because the countryman had a straightforward
confession, while the minister rambled and spoke foolishly.

"Gave him ten bob for doing it," whispered the jam-maker, nudging the
grocer.

"I'm ready to come with you, gentlemen," said Pendoggat.

It was nearly dark, and by the time they reached the village the chapel
doors would be open. Pendoggat knew he must get away that night because
he was afraid of Annie. He had struck her at last, and she had been at
the liquor ever since. He could hear her screaming in the house; she
might get hold of his gun and blaze at him during the night. It was
going to be clear and frosty, a good night for a long walk, and the
notes were packed away in his pocket. There was only one duty
remaining--the unmasking of Pezzack, who apparently had been trying to
blacken his character. Annie would quiet down when she found herself
alone. She would not follow him, or give information against him; and if
she did the one thing he could outwit her, and if she did the other it
would go hard with her. "I'll come with you, gentlemen," he repeated.
"The soul that sinneth it shall die. That's a true saying, and it comes
from the true word."

"What about my blooming money, though?" muttered the grocer; while his
friend was wondering whether an extra halfpenny on jam would recoup him
for his losses.

They met no one as they crossed the smoky stretch of moor. It was going
to be a hard night, and already the peat felt as unyielding as granite.
The grocer slapped his arms across his unwieldy chest, and said it was
"a bit parky" in his vulgar way, and longed for his snug jerry-built
villa; while his friend agreed that Dartmoor was a place of horror and
great darkness, and wished himself back in his gas-scented factory
superintending the transformation of carrots into marmalade. They walked
in single file along a narrow pony track, Pendoggat leading with his
eyes upon his boots.

Pezzack was in the chapel when the little party arrived. He was whiter
than ever, not altogether with cold, though Ebenezer was like a damp
cave by the sea, but with nervousness, with fear of his rotund uncle and
dread of the mysterious Pendoggat. He did not know even then whether
Pendoggat was his friend or his enemy. He could not explain the fit of
madness which had come upon the man that night they had left the chapel
together, and had made him use his wretched self so shamefully; but then
he could explain nothing, not even a simple text of Scripture. He could
only bleat and flounder, and tumble about hurting himself; but he was
still a happy man, he told himself. Partner Pendoggat was a rough
creature, almost a brute sometimes, but he would not desert him when the
pinch came.

The visitors did not approve of Ebenezer, and expressed themselves to
that effect in disdainful whispers. It was altogether unlike the
comfortable tabernacle where the grocer thanked God he was not like
other men; and as for the jam-maker he was of the Anglican brood, a
sidesman of his church, a distributer of hymn-books, a collector of
alms, and all the ways of Nonconformity he utterly abhorred. He settled
himself in an Established Church attitude, in a corner with his head
lolling against the wall and his legs stretched out; while the grocer
adopted the devotional pose of Wesleyanism, sitting upright with his
hands folded across his watch-chain and his chin upon his chest.

"Brother Pendoggat will lead in prayer," said Eli nervously.

The grocer admitted afterwards that the prayer had been strong, and had
overlooked few of those weaknesses to which the flesh occasionally
succumbs. He especially admired the phrase alluding to honest and
respectable tradesmen who after leading a life of integrity in business
were able to retire with a blessing upon their labours and devote the
remainder of their lives to good works. He was surprised to find a
countryman with such a keen insight into human character. Pendoggat
prayed also for pastors and teachers, and especially for those shepherds
who led members of their flock astray; while Pezzack grew whiter, and
the grocer went on nodding his head like a ridiculous automaton. The
jam-maker had wrapped himself up in his greatcoat and gone to sleep, so
that he should not be defiled by listening to false doctrine. He was a
prosperous man and the handful of sovereigns he had lost in "Wheal
Pezzack" did not trouble him much. A few florid advertisements would
bring them back again.

The service came to an end, and Pendoggat rose to address the meeting.
He asked the people to remain in their places for a few moments, and he
turned to Eli, who was still at the reading-desk, and said, with his
eyes upon the walls which were sweating moisture--

"You called a meeting here last summer, minister. You said you had found
nickel on Dartmoor, and you wanted to start a company to work it."

"No, no," cried Eli, beginning to flap his big hands as if he was
learning to fly. He had expected something was going to happen, but not
this. "That is not true, Mr. Pendoggat."

"Let him talk," muttered the grocer. "Your time's coming."

"I say you called a meeting, and I came to it," Pendoggat went on.
"There are folks here to-night who came to that meeting, and they will
remember what happened. You sent round a sample of nickel, and then I
got up and said there was no money in the scheme, and I said I would
have nothing to do with it, and I told the others they would be fools if
they invested anything in it. I ask any one here to get up and say
whether that is true or not."

"It was your mine, Mr. Pendoggat. It was your scheme. Oh, Mr. Pendoggat,
'ow can you talk like this, and uncle listening?" cried the miserable
Eli.

Up got the old farmer, who had been present at the meeting, and said in
his rambling way that Pendoggat had spoken nothing but the truth; and he
added, for the benefit of the visitors, what his uncle, who had been a
miner in the old days, had told him concerning the various wheals, and
the water in them, and the difficulty of working them on account of that
water. And when he had repeated his remarks, so that there might be no
misunderstanding, the grocer sent his elbow into the jam-maker's ribs,
and whispered in his deplorable phraseology that his nephew had been up
to a blooming lot o' dirty tricks and no error; while the jam-maker
awoke, with a curt remark about the increasing protuberance of his
wife's bones, and found himself in cold lamp-lighted Ebenezer, looking
at Eli's countenance which was beginning to exude moisture like the
stones of the walls.

"Friends, uncle, and Mr. Pendoggat--" stammered the poor minister,
trying to be oratorical; but the grocer only muttered: "Stow your gab
and let the man talk."

"After the meeting we stopped behind, and you told me you were going to
run the mine, and you asked me in this place if I would be your
manager," Pendoggat went on. "I said I would if there wasn't any risk,
and then you told me you could get the money from friends, from your
uncle in Bromley--"

Eli cut him off with wailings. It was his peculiarity to be unable to
speak with coherence when he was excited. He could only gasp and
stammer: "It's not true. It's the other way about. I never 'ad nothing
to do with it. You are telling 'orrid, shameful lies, Mr. Pendoggat;"
but the grocer muttered audibly: "A dirty rascal," while the jam-maker
muttered something about penal servitude which made him smile.

"You told me you had an uncle retired from business," said Pendoggat. "A
simple old chap you called him, an old fool who would believe anything."

The grocer began to splutter like a squib, while his companion laughed
beneath his hand, pleased to hear his friend's weaknesses clearly
indicated; and Eli, losing all self-control, came tumbling from the desk
and sprawled at his relation's feet, sobbing like the weak fool he was,
and saying: "Oh, Mr. Pendoggat, 'ow can you talk so shameful? Oh, uncle,
I never did."

The people behind were standing up and pressing forward, shocked to
discover that their minister had been standing on such feet of clay.
Pendoggat looked at his watch and smiled. He had judged Pezzack
accurately; the weak fool was in his hands. The grocer, scarlet to the
tip of his nose, caught his nephew by the neck, shook him, and,
forgetting everything but his own losses desecrated the chapel by his
mercenary shouts: "Where's my money, you rascal? Give me back my money,
every penny of it, or I'll turn you out of house and home, and make a
beggar of you."

"I 'aven't got it, uncle. I never 'ad a penny of it. I 'anded it over as
fast as it come to Mr. Pendoggat, and he 'ave got it now."

This was literally true, as the money was in Pendoggat's pocket, but the
grocer had formed his own impressions and these were entirely
unfavourable to Eli. He went on shaking his nephew, while the jam-maker
in moving his foot kicked the bankrupt, and found the operation so
soothing to his nerves that he repeated the act with intention.

"I ain't got none o' the money. I gave it 'im, and he's been keeping
wife and me. I thought he was my friend. He've a shook me by the 'and
many a time, and we've been like brothers. I didn't never call you a
simple old chap, uncle. I love you and respect you. I've always tried to
do my duty, and my wife's expecting, uncle."

"You married on my money. Don't tell me you didn't. 'Twas a trick of
yours to get married. If you don't pay it back, I'll turn you out, you
and your wife, into the street. I'll get a bit of my own back that way,
sure as I'm a Christian."

"Ask Jeconiah," sobbed Eli. "I've 'ad no secrets from her. She'll tell
you I 'aven't touched a penny of your money 'cept what Mr. Pendoggat
gave us."

The jam-maker kicked again, finding a softer spot, and muttered
something about one being as bad as the other, and that if he couldn't
find a more likely story he had better keep his mouth shut.

Pendoggat stepped forward, took the wretched man by the shoulders,
making him shudder, and asked reproachfully: "Why did you tell these
gentlemen I have the money?"

"God 'elp you, Mr. Pendoggat," moaned Eli. "You have used me for your
own ends, and now you turn against me. I don't understand it. 'Tis
cruelty that passes understanding. I will just wait and 'ope. If I am
not cleared now I shall be some day, I shall be when we stand together
before the judgment seat of God. There will be no money there, Mr.
Pendoggat, nothing that corrupteth or maketh a lie, only justice and
mercy, and I won't be the one to suffer then."

Had the grocer been less angry he must have been impressed by his
nephew's earnestness. As it was he pushed him aside and said--

"I'll get my own back. Pay us our money, or you go to prison. I'll give
you till to-morrow, and if I don't have it before evening I'll get a
warrant out."

"Oh, 'elp me, Mr. Pendoggat. 'Elp me in the name of friendship, for my
poor wife's sake," sobbed Eli.

"I'll forgive you," Pendoggat muttered. "I don't bear you any
ill-feeling. Here's my hand on it."

But Eli wanted no more grasps of good fellowship. He buried his big
hands between his knees, and put his simple head down, and wept like a
child.

The chapel emptied slowly, and the people stood about the road talking
of the great scandal. Some thought the minister innocent, but the
majority inclined towards his guilt. All agreed that it would be
advisable, for the sake of the chapel's reputation, to ask him to accept
another pulpit, which was a polite euphemism for telling him to go to
the dogs. They did not like Pendoggat, but they believed he had spoken
the truth when they remembered how strongly he had opposed the minister
when the scheme of the nickel mine was first suggested. The grocer and
jam-maker drove away in a rage and a small cart, to put up for the night
in Tavistock; and Pendoggat walked away by himself towards the
swaling-fires. His time had come. He had only to put a few things
together, and then depart through the frosty night to find a new home.
But before going he thought it best to make himself absolutely safe by
burning the brake of furze, and burying in some secret spot upon the
moor what had been hidden there.

Before morning Pezzack had fled from his uncle's anger. Always a weak
man, he could not face the strong; and so he set the seal of guilt upon
himself by flight. He was going to work his way out to Canada, and when
he succeeded there, if he did, he would send for his wife. They could
think of no better plan. His wife went back to her parents, to become
their drudge as before, with the burden of a child to nurse added to her
lot. It was a dreary ending to their romance; there was no "happy ever
after" for them; but then they were both poor things, and the light of
imagination had never shone across their paths.




CHAPTER XXV

ABOUT SWALING-FIRES


Peter sat by his hearthstone and repeated with the monotony of a tolling
bell--

"There be a lot o' volks in the world, and some be vulish, and some be
artful, but me, Peter, be artful."

This was numbered one-hundred-and-seventy, and it was the latest gem
from his book of aphorisms; artful meaning in that connection clever,
the author having a tendency to use irregular forms of speech. Peter
read the thought aloud until most people would have found him tedious;
he recited it to every one; he had carried it to Master, and made the
old man commit it to memory. Master finally inscribed it, number and
all, in his presentation copy of Shakespeare, thinking the sentiment
well worthy of being incorporated with the work of the poet, and
declared that Peter's literary fame was assured. He added the
information that his old pupil was beyond question a philosopher, and
Peter agreed, then asked Master for his dictionary. It was an old book,
however, and the word was not given, at least not in its proper place,
under the letter F; so Peter failed at that time to discover his precise
position in the intellectual world.

The diary was certainly advancing, as Peter was already in his second
pennyworth of paper, and his bottle of ink was on the ebb. Thoughts had
been coming so freely of late that interesting details of the daily life
were crowded out. He omitted such confidential details as Mary was
dunging the potato-patch, or he had just mended his trousers; he filled
his pages instead with ingenious reflections which he supposed, and not
without some justification, had possibly not occurred to the minds of
thinkers in the past. He neglected biography for philosophy, and the
fluency with which such aphorisms as "'Tis better to be happy than good"
came from his pen, merely confirmed his earlier impression that the
manufacture of literary works was child's play. He would not have
allowed that he had been assisted by collaboration, even if the meaning
of the word had been explained to him; although most of the sentiments
which adorned, or rather which blotted, his pages were distorted
versions of remarks which had fallen from the lips of Boodles. His work
was entirely original in one respect; the style of spelling was unique.

Boodles did not know that she had developed into an inspiration, and the
poor child was certainly far too miserable to care. She came to Ger
Cottage every evening in the dimsies, stopped the night with Mary, and
went home in the morning. She followed Mary like a dog, knowing that the
strong creature would protect her. Her mind would have gone entirely had
she stayed at Lewside during those endless winter evenings and the long
nights. She owed her life, or at least her reason, to Mary. There was a
good heart under that strong creature's rough hide, a heart as soft and
tender as Boodles who clung to her. At first the child had refused to
leave Lewside Cottage, but when she screamed, "The shadows are getting
awful, Mary; they seem to bite me," the stalwart savage picked her up
like a baby, finding her much too light, and stalked over the moor deaf
to protest. She made up a little bed for Boodles in the corner of her
hut, and every night there was the strange sight of Mary bringing the
little girl a glass of hot milk to drink before going to sleep, and
singing quaint old ballads to her when she couldn't. Mary had got into
the way of asking Boodles for a kiss every night; she said it did her
good, and no doubt she spoke the truth. It seemed to give her something
she had missed.

"But I am ugly now, Mary," said Boodles, in response to her nurse's
oft-repeated "purty dear."

"That yew bain't," came the decided answer. "You'm butiful. I never saw
ye look nothing like so butiful as yew be now."

"I feel hideous anyhow," said the child. "I don't believe I can look
pretty when I feel ugly."

Peter overheard that, put his head on one side in philosophic
contemplation, and presently took his pen and wrote: "Bootiful maids
what feels ugly still be bootiful. It be contrairy like, but it be
true;" and the number of that thought was one-hundred-and-seventy-one.

Mary was not far wrong, for Boodles was quite as attractive as ever. She
was more womanly, and had put pathos on her face with the little lines
and shadows which impelled love for very pity. Her eyes seemed to have
become larger, and her pale frightened face, under the radiant hair
which had not changed, was fascinating with its restless changes. There
was one thing left to her, and she called it everything. Each week the
cold weather went away for a few hours, and warm June came round with a
burst of flowers and sunshine, and her heart woke up and sang to her;
for Aubrey had not forgotten. He wrote to her, though she kept her
promise and did not write to him. Every week the question came: "Why
don't you write?" and sometimes she thought the letters were getting
colder, and then the stage sunshine was turned off and real thunder
rolled. He had written to his parents, but they had told him nothing.
They didn't even refer to her in their letters. It seemed to him as if
she was dead, and he was getting miserable. But she would not break her
promise and write; and if consent had been given she could not tell him
the truth, send him out of her life for ever, and end those wonderful
mornings when the postman came.

Aubrey loved her still, that gave her everything, and while his love
lasted she was still on the green oasis, and could shut her eyes to the
desert, scarred with the bodies of those who had tried to cross it and
had fallen in the attempt, the bare desert of life without any sweet
water of love, which she would have to try and cross without a guide
when he came back and she had told him plainly what she was. She thought
it would kill her, for love cannot be removed without altering the
entire universe; for with love the sun goes, and the flowers go, and all
the pleasant nooks; and there is nothing left but the rocks, the moaning
of the sea, the fierce and ugly things, and faces that scowl but never
smile. The only perfect happiness is the birth of love; the only
absolute misery is the death of it; and it is such a tender growth that
one careless word may chill it into death.

The three were sitting together in the lamplight, and Peter was giving
oral evidence of his inspiration, when there came a knock upon the door,
a thing almost without precedent after dark. Boodles shivered because
she hated sudden knocks which suggested unpleasant visitors and horrors,
while Mary turned from her work and went to the door. Annie was standing
there, or staggering rather, a black shawl round her head, her face
ghastly.

"Please to come in," said Mary.

Annie lurched in, and gazed about her wildly. She was sober enough to
know what she had come for. She stared at them, then upon the
hearthstone where the ceremonial of witchcraft was still being observed;
while Peter babbled of great thoughts like a running brook. The door was
open, and some of the smoke of the swaling-fires entered, and they could
hear the crackling of distant flames.

"I reckon yew can tak' 'en off," said Annie hoarsely, pointing to the
hearthstone. "He've done his work. All Dartmoor be in flames, and the
Barton be in flame tu, I reckon. I flung the lamp into the kitchen and
set a match to 'en. Coming wi' me, Mary Tavy? Best come wi' me and see
the end on't."

"What would I want to come wi' yew for, woman?" said Mary.

"Where be the old goose yew was so fond of?"

"My Old Sal. He be gone. Mebbe he got stugged, and some old fox come
along and took 'en," said Mary.

"Stugged was he? I saw 'en stugged," Annie shouted. "Came across Barton
court, he did, and the man took 'en, and twisted the neck of 'en, and
flung 'en in the vuzz. 'He be Mary's Old Sal,' I ses, but he only
swore."

Mary spat upon her hands.

"He picked up a stick, and hit me on the ear, me, a free woman. I ses to
'en avore, 'If yew lifts your arm at me, Mary knows.'"

"I be coming," said Mary.

"Me tu," said Peter.

There was much for Mary to avenge. Pendoggat had beaten her brother, had
terrified Boodles, to say nothing of his attempt to rob her, and now
Mary knew he had killed the old goose. She had never ceased to mourn for
Old Sal; and Pendoggat had destroyed the leader of her flock out of
sheer malice and cruelty. The spirit of the lawless Gubbings entered
into Mary as she picked up her staff and made for the door, while Peter
shambled after her, a philosopher no longer, but a savage like herself.

But Boodles was crying: "Don't leave me, Mary. The shadows will get big
and thick and take hold of me."

"Aw, don't ye be soft, maid," cried Annie.

"Bide here, my dear. Us will lock ye in, and no one shan't touch ye,"
said Mary.

"He may come this way. I can't stay here, with the light of these fires
upon the window. I shall scream all the time."

"Come along wi' us," said Mary. "Come between Peter and me, my dear.
Lord love ye, I'd break the head of any one what touched ye."

Peter left the hut-circles last, securing both doors, and dropping the
keys in his baggy pocket. Then they set forth, the smoke over them, the
fires on each side, and the white frost like snow upon the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pendoggat gave a sigh of relief as he descended into the hollow of the
Barton and saw nobody, and heard nothing except the crackling of the
flames and the furze screaming as the fire rushed through it; for the
furze screams when it is burnt like a creature in torment. There was a
smell of fire about the house and the heavy stink of paraffin; and in
the kitchen he saw the broken lamp, but the fire had gone out; it could
not feed upon damp stones. Pendoggat smiled when he saw the kitchen. So
Annie was drunk again, which was what he had hoped for, as she was less
dangerous in that condition; she could only scream and tumble about,
hurting nobody but herself. She would not be able to follow him, and if
she picked up his gun she would be more likely to kill herself than him.
Probably she was lying in the linhay, or on her bed, hardly conscious,
groaning herself to sleep. Everything was in his favour; the whole night
was before him, and he had only to finish his work there, then escape
through the warm scented smoke. He was feeling sorry for the minister,
but the ordeal which Eli had just undergone might prove a blessing,
strengthen his character, make a man of him. Annie was not in the house.
Perhaps she had gone down to the Tavy to drown herself. Pendoggat shook
his head as that idea occurred to him. There could be no hope in the
future state for a suicide. Still it was better she should drown herself
than obstruct him; and after all she was getting on in years, she would
soon be homeless, and would naturally shrink from the workhouse.
Pendoggat was not going to judge her harshly, as that would not be
right, and she had looked after him well at one time. If she had not
been so foolish as to grow elderly, and have grey hairs, he might have
remained constant to her.

He had destroyed everything in his secret drawer already, so he had only
to collect a few things, burn the furze and tidy up there. He fastened
up his things into a bundle before remembering that Annie had a bag
which was not likely to be of much use to her, so he went and fetched it
and packed his things in that. He brought the bag into the court, went
to the linhay for a spade, carried it to the edge of the furze, then
discovered he had no matches. He went back towards the house, but as he
crossed the court a figure came out of the smoke and laughed at him, the
figure of a white-faced woman who seemed pleased to see him; and behind
her towered another figure, tall and gaunt, the sort of figure which
might have made those weird footprints in the snow; and as the smoke
drifted upward there were two others in the background, a little girl
wrapped up in a big coat, and gnome-like Peter with big beard and
turned-up nose like an old man of the moor.

Annie said nothing, but only laughed, as a woman will when she feels
satisfied. She staggered to one side, and Mary came forward. There was
no laughter on her wooden face, and no drunken stupor over her body. She
dropped the big stick and it clattered upon the stones of the court. The
swaling-fires were all round, and they gave light enough, a weird kind
of light which tinted the smoke and made the walls of the Barton red.

"Aw, man," cried Mary. "You killed my Old Sal, and I be come to pay ye
vor't."

Pendoggat went white when he heard that. He could not stand before the
wiry creature who seemed to represent no sex, but the cruel principle of
natural strength. The trap had snapped upon him and he felt its iron
teeth. He had caught others and enjoyed watching their struggles, and
now he was caught himself and others were enjoying his struggles. A few
yards cut him off from the moor, but there was no way out except by the
gate of the court, and Mary was before him. He wondered if Brightly had
felt like that when he was running for his liberty with the hand of
every man against him.

"I never knew the old bird was yours," he muttered; and added: "I'll pay
you for him;" but Annie watched him, saw his face, and laughed louder.

Mary made an ungainly movement, a sort of lurch as if to collect her
strength, then she caught him by the neck. He struggled free and she had
him round the body, twisting him like a willow-stick; a big hand came
upon his throat and he felt as if water was rushing over his head. He
could hear Annie's mad laughter and her jeering voice: "You'm a strong
man, they ses. Why don't ye get away? She'm only a woman. Why don't ye
throw her off, man?" He began to fight at that, struggling and hitting
wildly, but Mary had a certain science as well as strength. She knew an
animal's weak points. She struck at them with a fist like a lump of
granite, and when he retaliated by hitting her on the face her savage
blood seemed to rise before her eyes, and she drove him about the court
until his face was bloody. Boodles turned away then, and went to the
side of the house between the wall and the brake of furze, half-sick,
trying not to give way. She had never felt so horribly alone. Mary, her
friend and protector, was a wild beast of the moor, the savage principle
of the cruel Nature which was crushing her. The red light of the fire
fell upon her radiant head, which resembled it, as if she had been
intended to punish Pendoggat, and not Mary, because her head was like
fire just as his nature was like furze. All the time she could hear
Annie's furious laughter and her mocking voice: "Why don't ye stand up
to she, man? Tak' your stick and hit she on the head till she'm mazed.
Hit she on the ear, man, same as you hit me. Yew twisted the old
goosie's neck easy enough. Why don't ye du the like to she?"

"Aw, man, I reckon I've paid ye," gasped Mary.

"Two or dree more vor I," shouted little Peter, jumping about the court
in riotous joy.

Mary was satisfied. She flung the man aside, still holding him by the
collar of the coat, which was an old one, as he was too miserly to buy a
better. The fabric parted at the seam, and as he fell the coat came
asunder and half remained in Mary's hand, the sleeve rending off with
the violence of her strength. It was the part containing the pocket
which was bulging, and when Mary threw it away Annie snatched it up and
tore out the contents, a letter or two, some papers, and the precious
roll of notes, which Pendoggat had played for with all his cunning, had
ruined the minister for, and finally had won; only Annie was too dazed
and mad to know what she was holding. She staggered to the furze,
holding the packet above her head, and flung it as far as she could; and
it fell in the centre and settled down there invisible among the frosted
prickles.

Pendoggat watched as he stood half-dazed against the well, wiping the
blood from his face, and again thanked his stars which remained
propitious. His soul had been thrown into the furze, but he could regain
it. Annie's madness had saved him. Had she been more sane and sober she
might have discovered what it was she had taken. Nobody knew he had the
money even then. His punishment was over. He deserved it for being
perhaps unnecessarily hard upon the minister; and now he was not only a
free man, but the sin had been wiped away, because he had been punished
for it and had suffered for it. The disgrace was nothing, as he would
never be seen there again. He edged away towards the furze, and no one
stood in his way. He caught up the spade, which he had placed there, and
began to hack at the big bushes, trying to make a passage. The
swaling-fires above were dying down and the red light was fading from
the hollow.

"Ah, go in there, man. Go in," muttered Annie, becoming quiet when she
saw what he was after.

Pendoggat had lost his senses, as men will when their money is taken
from them. Had he waited a little, until Mary had gone, and he had got
rid of Annie for a time, he might have started for Tavistock presently
with nothing lost except honour which was of no value. But he could not
wait; he was dazed by Mary's blows; and all the time he fancied he saw
that precious packet which contained his future stuck in the furze; and
if he could not see it he knew it was there and he must get at it. He
went on hacking at the bushes, burrowing his way in, without feeling the
prickles; while Mary picked up her stick, turned to Peter, and said she
was going home. Then she looked for Boodles, but the girl was not there,
and when she started round Annie was not there either. She and Peter
were alone in the court, and the furze beyond was convulsed as though a
beast had fallen there and was trying to flounder its way out.

"He'm mazed, sure 'nuff," said Peter, in a happy voice. The blows which
Pendoggat had dealt him were avenged. Peter forgot just then the power
of witchcraft which he had invoked by the arts that were in him. Neither
he nor Mary remembered the mommet, but Annie had not forgotten. She
thought of the little clay doll squatting in the glowing peat, and she
seemed to see the fantastic object shaking its head at her and saying:
"Who is on my side?" Annie went into the house for something, then
passed round the wall, and came upon Boodles standing at the other end
of the furze brake, rubbing the frost off the white grass stalks.

"Is it all over?" asked the child.

"Aw ees, it be done. You'm cold, my dear," whispered Annie hoarsely.
"Tak' this, my dear, and warm yourself. You've been out swaling, I
reckon."

She pushed a box of matches into the girl's hand.

"He wun't have it burnt just to spite me. Makes the kitchen so cruel
dark I can't see from one side to t'other. Now be the time, for he'm
mazed and can't stop us. Sot a match here, my dear."

"It's so close to the house," said Boodles.

"The house can't burn. 'Tis stone and slates. I don't want 'en to think
I did it," said Annie cunningly. "Quick, my dear. Mary be calling ye."

Boodles loved swaling expeditions. In the past, furze-burning had been
almost her only outdoor pleasure; and, though she was unhappy then, she
was very young and the sense of enjoyment remained. That huge brake
would make the most glorious blaze she had ever seen. Dropping to her
knees she struck a match, hearing Annie gasp once, and then the fire
touched the tinder-like masses of dead growth, there was a splutter
caused by the frost, a flame darted up, then down, and up again higher;
and then there was a roar, and the brake before her became in an instant
like an open furnace and she jumped back to save her face and hair.

"Oh, it's splendid," she cried.

Annie was leaning against the wall screaming, sheltering her face,
perhaps from the heat, perhaps from what she might see.

"It's done. My God, it's done, and nothing can put it out."

Somewhere in those flames a man's voice was shouting horribly. The fire
seemed to sweep through with the rapidity of light, but nothing else
could be heard except the roaring and the screaming and hissing as the
big bushes melted away. Mary came running round, and Annie screamed at
her--

"I never done it. I never put the match to 'en."

"Aw, my dear, what have ye done?"

"I am swaling. Did you ever see such a blaze?" cried innocent Boodles.

"Her don't know," screamed Annie. Then she staggered into the court and
fell fainting.

"The man's in the vuzz," Mary shouted.

All the sounds had ceased, and already the great flames were going out,
leaving a red smoulder of ashes and big scarlet stems. It seemed to be
getting very dark. Boodles did not realise what she had done, and Mary
said no more; but Peter shuffled round, understanding it all perfectly,
though not in the least ashamed.

"'Twas just the mommet," he explained. "Her had to du it 'cause her
couldn't help it."

Presently they trod over the fiery ground and dragged the body out,
without clothes, without hair, without sight; without money also, for
the roll of notes had melted away in one touch of those terrible flames.
He looked dead, but, like the furze which seemed to be annihilated, he
lived. The heart was beating in the man's body, and the roots were alive
in the glowing soil. Both would rise again, the one into a fierce
prickly shrub; the other into a man destined for the charity of others,
scarred, maimed, and blind. There was to be no escape for Pendoggat, no
new life for him. Boodles of the fiery head had fulfilled her destiny;
had burnt out one malignant moorland growth which had caught so many in
its thorns; and had rendered it harmless for ever.




CHAPTER XXVI

ABOUT 'DUPPENCE'


Down the hill from St. Mary Tavy to Brentor came Brightly, most
irrepressible of unwanted things, his basket on his arm, feeding on air
and sunshine. It was early spring, there were pleasant odours and a fine
blue sky, all good and gratuitous. Brightly had been discharged from
prison as a man of no reputation, to be avoided by some and trampled on
by others. His one idea was to get back to business; rabbit-skins ought
to have accumulated, he thought, during' the months of his confinement;
there would be a rich harvest awaiting him, which might mean the pony
and cart at last, with prosperity and a potato-patch to cheer his
closing days. He went for his basket, and it was not until it was slung
upon his arm and he had bent himself into the old half-hoop shape to
carry it over the moor, that he comprehended its emptiness. Formerly his
stomach was empty and the basket was full; now both were empty; and the
crushing difficulty of starting afresh without capital was with him
again.

Brightly determined to subsist for a little on charity, but he soon made
the discovery that Samaritanism was no longer included among the
Christian virtues. People refused to do business with him on a
benevolent basis. They slammed the doors in his face, and called him
unpleasant names. They reminded him he had been in prison, as if he had
forgotten it; and some of them added an opinion that he had got off far
too cheaply. Others said if he came there again they would set the dog
on him. Brightly soon became very hungry, and almost longed for the
comforts of prison. It had been no easy matter to make a sort of living
during those days when he thought himself honest. Now that he knew he
was a criminal it appeared impossible.

Brightly was in danger of becoming an atheist. He stopped his
hymn-singing; verses descriptive of the wonderful dairy were no longer
found in his mouth, nor did he use the jingling refrain which concludes:
"Jesu, Master, us belongs to yew." What was the use of belonging to some
one who did nothing for him? Wise men have puzzled over that question,
so it was not surprising if it bewildered poor foolish Brightly. He had
been told in the prison that if he prayed for anything it would be
granted; and his informer had added it was obviously his duty to pray
for honesty. Brightly did nothing of the kind; he prayed for the pony
and cart, throwing himself heart and soul into the business, as he had
plenty of time. Instead of being a purveyor of rabbit-skins he became a
praying machine. He considered that if there was any truth in the theory
that prayers are answered, he ought to find the pony and cart awaiting
him at the door of the prison. He did see one as he came out, but it
could not have been intended for him, as the name upon the board was not
A. Brightly, and near it was a man looking like a sweep who would
probably have resisted Brightly's claims with every prospect of success.
His teacher would have said the prayer was not answered because it was
not a proper one, but that would not have helped Brightly in the least.

The little man went down the hill sniffing at the sweet wind, but
conscious that it was not invigorating as it used to be. The truth of
the matter was he was getting tired of life. He had become feeble, his
cough was worse, and his eyes troubled him so much that he had to stop
often, take off his spectacles, and rub them. But he couldn't rub the
darkness away. The eyes were getting bigger than ever because he
strained them so, trying to find the road. Sometimes he found himself
sinking in a bog; his eyes had never played him such a trick before he
became a criminal. As he walked he would look back and whistle or say:
"Us will pitch presently." He was always forgetting that Ju had ceased
to exist; and when he sat down to rest he would talk to her or stroke
the heather beside him.

He entered the village of Brentor, but trade remained "cruel dull," so
he gave it up and tramped along the road towards the church on the tor.
As he went an idea came to him. He must give up the old stretch and try
a new one. He might take the eastern side of the moor, Moreton to
Ashburton, with the villages between, taking in Widdecombe where the
devil dwelt. His old road had been dominated in a sense by St. Michael's
Church upon its mount, but the connection had proved of no service to
him, and the devil might be a better patron. He could get across to the
other side in two days, and perhaps he would find there some one who
would give him half-a-crown and set him up in business again.

Brightly was not entirely without capital, for Boodles had given him
twopence with his basket, saying she was sorry it was so little, but she
too was poor. That was another blow to Brightly; the angel had her
limitations, and seemed to have lost her power of working wonders for
the time. She too looked ill and miserable, and when celestial beings
suffered what chance was there for him? Brightly was not going to invest
that twopence in the rabbit-skin business, nor did he regard it as the
nucleus round which the fund for his pony and cart would gather. He
wrapped it up in many changes of paper, vowing not to touch it until he
should require food. The time had almost come, he thought, when he
should want food, not to stimulate his body, but to cease its action
entirely. The twopence was set aside for his funeral as it were, or
rather for the rat-poison which would make the funeral necessary. It
amused Brightly to think that people would have to spend money upon him
when he was dead, though they refused to give him anything while he was
living.

He left Brentor behind and went along the winding road; and the sun came
out so pleasantly he wondered if the gods or human beings would be
offended if he whistled. He decided to remain silent, as the constable
might be in hiding behind one of the furze-bushes, and he would be sent
back to prison for making obscene noises. He knew every yard of the
country, though he could see so little of it. Higher up was a big slab
of granite, flat and smooth like an altar-tomb, upon which he had often
sat and watched the tower of St. Michael's juggling with the big ball of
the setting sun. He went up there, and it was not until his boot touched
the flat stone that he discovered it was already occupied. A woman was
sitting on it. Brightly apologised most humbly for his intrusion, for
walking along the road, and for cumbering the face of the earth. He was
always meeting people, and he felt he had no right to do so.

"You'm welcome," said the woman.

Then Brightly opened his nearly useless eyes wider and found that she
was Thomasine, the young woman who had been so good to him and Ju, and
had fed them when they were starving, and helped them on the way to
Tavistock. He had always associated Thomasine with a well-stocked
kitchen and food in abundance. She had become mixed up in his mind with
Jerusalem, and he had thought of her as presiding over the milk and
honey, and ladling them out in large quantities at the back door to
hungry men and dogs. And there she was sitting on the big stone looking
miserable, with her clothes bedraggled and boots muddy. Brightly began
to think hard and to reason with himself. He was not the only miserable
creature after all; there were other human things belonging to the
neuter gender besides himself. Even the angel was miserable and had
confessed to poverty; and not a scrap of food surrounded the former Lady
Bountiful of Town Rising. Brightly was in Thomasine's debt, and he was
prepared to pay what he owed as well as he could. He was willing to
share his twopence with Thomasine; she should have an equal portion of
the rat-poison if she was hungry for it; and they could wash the meal
down with sweet water from the moor. As for Thomasine, the little
dried-up fragment which had once represented a mind responded to
Brightly's presence and she recognised a friend.

"I be in trouble," she said.

Brightly was glad to hear it, though he did not say so. It was good to
find a partner who would enter into an alliance with him against the fat
constable, the Bench of Magistrates, and all the wigs and ermine of
oppression. Here was another Ju, a human being this time, and perhaps
she too had been sentenced to be destroyed because she was savage, and
was trying to hide from the constable and the crowd. Brightly was
prepared to show her all sorts of secret places where she would be safe.

"Be yew a criminal tu?" he asked.

Thomasine was not sure, but thought she must be.

"I be one. I be the worst criminal on Dartmoor," said Brightly, trying
to draw himself up and look conceited. He had never done any good in his
business, but as a criminal he was entitled to regard himself as a
complete success.

"I ain't got no friends. My volks wun't ha' me to home, and I've lost my
character," said Thomasine.

"I never had no friends, nor volks, nor yet character," said Brightly.

"You'm the man what went to prison for robbing Varmer Chegwidden," she
said, using her memory with some success.

"Dree months wi' hard labour," said Brightly proudly.

"Yew never done it. I know who done it. 'Twas Varmer Pendoggat," she
said.

"I thought mebbe I might ha' done it and never knowed," explained
Brightly. "Why didn't 'em tak' he then?"

"No one knows 'cept me, and I only guesses. He was wi' I just avore I
heard master galloping over the moor, and he mun ha' passed master lying
in the road. 'Twas no good me speaking. They wouldn't ha' took my word,
and he'd ha' killed I if I'd spoke. 'Tis through he I be here now."

Adversity had sharpened Thomasine's tongue. She could not remember when
she had last made such a lengthy speech.

"Where be yew going?" asked Brightly.

"Nowheres," said the girl. "Where be yew?"

"Anywhere," said Brightly, which meant the same thing. "Shall us get
on?" he added.

Thomasine accepted the invitation, rose from the stone, and they walked
on, up the road and the steep tor, and came out at last beside the
church with its tiny burying-place of granite and its weather-beaten
gravestones. They sat down to rest upon the edge of the precipice, and
Thomasine wanted to know why they had come there.

"I wun't never be here again. I used to come up here to whistle and
sing, and now I be come to look out for the last time," said Brightly.
"I reckon I'll try t'other side o' the moor. Mebbe volks bain't so cruel
wicked there."

"I reckon 'em be," said Thomasine.

"Du ye reckon they'll know I be a criminal?"

"Sure 'nuff. Policeman will tell 'em."

"My cough be cruel bad got, and I can't hardly see. If I can't mak' a
living what be I to du?" asked Brightly.

This was much too difficult a question for Thomasine, and she did not
attempt to answer it.

"B'est hungry?" she asked.

"I've ha' been hungry for years and years, 'cept when I was in prison,
and then I was hungry for air," said Brightly.

"Got any money?"

"Duppence."

"I ain't got nothing," she said.

"Shall us get on?" said the restless little man. He felt business
calling him, though he could do nothing with his empty basket.

They went back the way they had come, through Brentor village, and
towards Lydford, Brightly walking on one side of the road and Thomasine
upon the other. The only remark the girl made was: "This bain't the way
to Plymouth;" and Brightly replied: "It bain't the place for yew." He
had some knowledge of the world, and knew that it could not be well for
a girl without home or friends or character to walk about the streets of
a big town.

They stopped at Lydford, and Thomasine went to a cottage where people
dwelt whom she had known in the days of respectability, and they gave
her food which she brought out and shared with her companion. They went
to the foot of the cascade in the gorge and ate their meal to the
subdued murmur of the long white veil of water sliding down the face of
the precipice. They were alone in the gorge, where the Gubbingses had
once dwelt, as the place is deserted during the early months of the
year.

"Have ye got a home?" asked Thomasine.

"Ees, a proper old cave to Belstone Cleave."

"What be I to du?" she murmured.

"Come wi' I," said Brightly gallantly. "I be going home."

The girl tried to think, but soon gave up in despair. She was barely
twenty-three, and her life seemed done already. Her parents had shut the
door upon her, and erased her name from the book of life--the family
Bible which retained the record of those who were respectable--not so
much because she had done wrong as because the man who had led her
astray would not marry her. It was quaint logic, but the world reasons
that way. She was ready to go with Brightly because he was friendly and
she required friendship badly; she hardly looked upon him as a man; he
was such a poor incomplete thing; if a man, without the power of sinning
like a man. She would go with him to the cave in the cleave, and cook
for him, if there was anything to be cooked, with the old frying-pan
with a bottom like a sieve.

"Ees, I've got a butiful home," muttered ridiculous Brightly with pride.

He was regarding Thomasine as the reincarnation of Ju. The little dog
had come back to him in the form of a woman. He could talk to her, tell
her trade was dull, and he was hungry; could whistle, and sing for her
amusement, and pat her gently when she rested upon the heather. She
could reply to him in a manner that was better than tail-wagging. Ju had
come to the cave gladly and found it homelike, so why not Thomasine? He
would not be called on to pay seven-and-sixpence a year for her; but on
the other hand she was so big, larger than himself in fact, and he was
afraid she would want a lot of food. Brightly became prouder every
minute. He had a woman of his own and "duppence" wrapped up in bits of
paper. He would not touch his hat to the next man he met on the road. He
would stare him in the face and say: "How be ye?" just as if he had been
a man himself.

"Shall us get on?" he said again.

They went on and reached windy Bridestowe that night. Brightly, who knew
every building upon that part of the moor, found a shelter for Thomasine
in a peat-linhay, and a resting-place for himself in a farmyard. They
started off early in the morning, and Brightly produced eggs with the
half-apologetic and half-proud explanation: "Us be criminals." He had
stolen them. Up to the time of his conviction he had never been a thief,
but since leaving prison he had felt it was necessary to live up to his
reputation as a desperate character, and so he took anything he could
find. Under the oil-cloth of his basket was a feathered fowl, and
Thomasine was informed there would be a good supper for her that
evening.

"Yew stoled 'en?" exclaimed the girl.

"Volks wun't give I nothing," said Brightly. "They ses 'you'm a thief,'
and 'tis no use being called a thief if yew bain't. Yew fed me and Ju
when us was starving, and now I be going to feed yew."

They reached the cave, and Brightly produced all his possessions with
pride, explaining to his housekeeper that a fire must not be lighted
until after dark lest the commoners should see the smoke. The girl
shivered at the wretched prospect, but resigned herself; and that night
she told Brightly her story, and he told her all about his ambitions,
and about the pony and cart which would not come in spite of the vain
repetitions which he called prayers.

Miserable days followed. The spell of fine weather ceased and frost
returned; with it a biting wind which swept across the moor and got into
the cave, the outside of which became a pretty piece of architecture
with icicles hanging from the rock to the ground like bars of cold steel
through which the prisoners gazed into the depths of the gorge. Brightly
had become a real criminal at last; and the basket, which had been the
symbol of honesty, was then a receiver of stolen goods. He sallied out
every day to rob fowl-houses and dairies; to gather articles of clothing
from hedges and furze-bushes where they had been put out to dry. His
eyes had been opened by necessity and justice; dishonesty was the only
way in business; had he practised it from the start he would have
obtained all those good things which he had always desired; the cottage
and potato-patch, the pony and cart; perhaps his asthma and blindness
would have been stayed as well. It would have been better for Brightly
had he died in prison; he was living too long, and had become a moral
failure, a complete failure now in every sense.

One Sunday evening they crept out of their hole in the gorge and went to
Sticklepath. Thomasine wanted to hear the pure gospel preached again,
and she persuaded Brightly to come with her to the big chapel in the
middle of the village that he might have his frosted soul warmed by
listening to a realistic account of the place "down under" towards which
he was hurrying. A strange preacher arose in the pulpit, an old
white-bearded man near the end of his days, and he preached from the
text: "I have been young, and now am old, and yet saw I never the
righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." He seemed a pious
old man, although he could not have been observant, or perhaps he had
gone about with his eyes shut, as the psalmist must have done; but he
was eloquent, and his words thundered upon the congregation like
Dartmoor rain upon a tin roof.

When they left the chapel Thomasine was weeping, and Brightly seemed to
have become quite blind. Still he could not understand things. He had
been righteous, as he had comprehended it, slipping into a church or
chapel as often as he dared, and singing "Jerusalem the Golden" at every
opportunity. Yet he had been forsaken and had begged his bread; Ju had
been taken from him; he had been cast into prison. Who could explain
these things? Perhaps he had not endured long enough; if he had held out
another year the pony and cart might have been brought to him driven by
the angel; but he could not hold out when people would not permit him to
do business, and when he was starving. It was too late then to go back
and tread the old road, for he had fallen at last, become dishonest in
act; and if he went on in his wicked ways the policeman would run him
down again; and if he reverted to honesty the poorhouse would claim him.
There was only one way out. He must buy a ticket for Jerusalem. It would
only cost twopence.

They returned to the cave, and Thomasine went on crying. She said she
could stand it no longer. The moor was black with storm clouds, a thaw
had set in, and water was trickling everywhere. Brightly sat huddled up
and moaning. His eyes were nearly useless, and rheumatism racked his
poor limbs. He knew that the decree had been given against him, he had
been found guilty in the higher court, judgment had been signed against
"A. Brightly. Rabbit-skin merchant. Abode Nowhere."

"Us mun get on," he said firmly.

"I can't bide here," sobbed Thomasine.

"Us will walk to-morrow," said Brightly.

"I'll go to Plymouth," she said.

"Live honest;" he begged. "Don't ye go to the dirty trade."

"I wun't," she cried. "I'll live clean if they'll let me. No one knows
me there, and I'll get some job mebbe."

"I ha' been young, and now I be getting old," said Brightly. "I ha' been
righteous tu, and I ha' begged, and I ha' prayed, and got nought."

"What be yew going to du?" she asked.

"I be coming wi' yew as far as Okehampton. I'll set ye on the road to
Plymouth."

"Wun't ye come tu?"

"'Twould kill me," said Brightly. "I be that blind I'd get run over, and
my asthma be got so cruel bad I wouldn't be able to breathe. I reckon
I'll stop on Dartmoor."

"You'll live honest?" she said.

"I wun't tak' what bain't mine no more," Brightly promised.

In the morning they set out. It was raining, but they did not notice
that. They crossed the Taw river, passed through Belstone, and struck
into the lane which would bring them down to the Okehampton road. They
had not gone far before they came upon a pony and cart fastened to a
gate, belonging to the washerwoman, but the cart was empty and there was
no one in sight. It carried a lamp, and a board was at the side
revealing the owner's name, and the bottom was covered with fern.
Brightly brought his pinched face near the cart, stopped to regard this
revelation of his life-long dream, and then he succumbed to the great
temptation. He unfastened the pony, climbed into the cart, and drove in
majesty up the lane.

"What be yew doing?" cried Thomasine in great fear. "It bain't yourn."

Brightly did not hear her. He knew at last what it was like to jog along
the lane in a little pony-cart, and for five precious minutes he was in
dreamland. In that short space of time he completed the allotted span of
human existence. He was returning to the littlie cottage in the midst of
the potato-patch, after a day of successful work. The cart behind was
piled high with rabbit-skins, and in her own little corner Ju was
sitting, fat and content. Brightly put up his ridiculous head and
whistled "Jerusalem the Golden" for the last time. Then he got down,
tied up the pony to another gatepost, and tramped through the mud with
Thomasine.

In the town they passed a window where a notice was displayed: "Men
wanted," and the girl drew his attention to it, but Brightly only
coughed. The dream had faded and he had returned to realism. Men were
wanted to dig foundations, build houses, work in stone, hairy-armed men
who could lift granite, not a poor creeping thing who had hardly the
strength to strangle a fluttering fowl.

They went through the town, up the long hill on the other side, and near
a quarry of red stone they stopped.

"It be the way to Plymouth," Brightly said.

"Thankye kindly," said Thomasine. "Be yew going back?"

"Ees; I be going back," he answered.

"Be yew going far?"

"A bit o' the way towards Meldon."

"Yew ha' got no money," she said pityingly.

"I ha' got duppence," he reminded her.

"You'll live honest?" she said again.

"It wun't be long. I ha' a sort o' choking feeling," he said, putting a
raw hand to his throat.

"Be ye going down under?" Thomasine was looking over the hedge and
between the bare trees. Some way below, beside the river, she could just
see the workhouse.

"I be a going to walk towards Meldon, and sot by the river. If the pains
get bad I'll fall in mebbe."

"No," she cried. "Don't ye du that."

"Us mun get on," said Brightly, mindful of business. "I wish ye
good-bye."

They shook hands, and Thomasine began to cry again. She did not like the
idea of walking along a lonely road all the way to distant Plymouth.
"Thankye kindly," she sobbed.

"You'm welcome," said Brightly.

They parted, and the little man shuffled back to the town. Upon the
bridge which spans the Okement he stopped, and took out the little
packet which contained the "duppence." It was a wonderful sum of money,
after all, if it would procure for him admission to the celestial dairy,
where he could feast, and listen to, an organ playing, and see people
dancing; and perhaps Ju would be sitting at his feet, wagging her tail,
looking up, and enjoying it all too. It would be better than the wet
cave, better than the workhouse, better than going back to prison. He
would have to be quick, or they might discover how he had attempted to
steal the pony and cart. He seemed to have become quite blind suddenly,
and his heart was thumping against his side. He had to feel his way
along towards the chemist's, which was the ticket office where he could
obtain his twopenny pass into Palestine. There would be no stop on the
journey, and they would be certain to let him in. Already he seemed to
hear some one like Boodles saying: "Please to step inside, Mr. Brightly.
Have a drop o' milk, will ye?" And there was another Boodles coming
towards him with the pleasant words: "Be this your little dog, mister?
Her's been whining vor ye cruel."

Brightly held the precious "duppence" for his fare tightly in his raw
hand. He was smiling as he entered the chemist's shop.





CHAPTER XXVII

ABOUT REGENERATION AND RENUNCIATION


Sad-eyed little Boodles stood in the porch of Lewside Cottage holding a
letter which the postman had just left. She did not know who it was
from, nor did she care, as there was no foreign stamp on the envelope,
and the postmark was only unromantic Devonport. Aubrey had not written
for a month, and she knew the reason. His parents had told him the truth
about her, and he was so horrified that he couldn't even send her a line
on a naked postcard as a sort of farewell. Still it was better to have
no letter than a cruel one; if he could not write kindly she was glad he
didn't write at all.

What was supposed to be spring had come round again, and something which
used to be the sun was shining, and the woods beside the Tavy were
carpeted with patches of blue and yellow which "once upon a time" had
been called bluebells and primroses. The ogre had done his work of
transformation thoroughly, leaving nothing unchanged. During those days
Boodles went about the house so quietly that she wondered sometimes if
she was much better than a shadow; she seemed to have lost the power of
making pleasant noises; and when she caught sight of herself in the
glass as she moved about her bedroom she would say: "There it is
again--the ghost!" She told her friends of the hut-circles that the
cottage was haunted, and Mary exclaimed: "Aw, my dear, I'll be round wi'
my big stick," while Peter rebuked his sister for her folly, pondered
the matter deeply, and at last told Boodles he should come in his own
good time to "exercise the ghost" with various spells. Peter had fallen
into the pernicious habit of using strange words, as he had purchased a
cheap dictionary, and made constant use of it. He was developing other
evil traits of authorship, having added to his ordinary costume of no
collar and leather apron a yard of flimsy material about his neck in the
form of a flowing tie. Master had told him philosophers wore such
things, and Peter was also contemplating the purchase of a pair of
spectacles, not because he required them, but Master declared that no
man could possibly appear philosophic unless he regarded men and matters
through gold-rimmed circles of glass. Every evening Peter approached
Boodles with the utterance: "I be coming. I be coming to-morrow to
exercise the ghost." She reminded him of the clock which he had been
going to clean for two years, and added: "I'm the ghost," which brought
upon her the fierce denunciation of Mary, who still maintained Boodles
to be the "most butiful maid that ever was," and now that her Old Sal
was no more the most perfect of all living creatures; while Peter went
away, not like his apostolic namesake to weep bitterly, but to indite
illegible aphorism number three-hundred-and-one dealing with the sad
truism that men of wisdom do not receive a proper tribute of respect
from the young and foolish.

Boodles was afraid of her mysterious letter and did not open it for some
time. It might be from some relation of Weevil's, claiming what property
he had left; or from her unknown mother concerning the obligations upon
daughters to support their parents. At last she pulled the envelope
apart, glanced timidly at the signature, and her dread departed, or
became lost in astonishment, when the most extraordinary name caught her
eye: "yours faithfully, Yerbua Eimalleb."

Boodles had a little fun left in her, not much, but enough to let her
laugh sometimes. She plunged into the letter, to discover that Miss
Eimalleb had only recently come to England, she wanted lodgings on
Dartmoor, and having heard of Miss Weevil she was writing to know if she
could accommodate her. "I believe you prefer old ladies," Boodles read.
"I am not old, indeed I am quite young, and shall be glad to be a
companion to you, but I am not well off, so I cannot come unless your
charges are very moderate. I have only about £80 a year left me by an
aunt, though my parents are still living."

"Oh, you darling!" cried Boodles. Then she sat down and began to think.
Here was a young girl wanting to come and live with her, and willing to
pay; a girl to be her companion and friend, who would go about with her
everywhere, help her, comfort her, work with her--what a splendid
prospect it was! They would cling together like two sisters, and the
winds would not trouble, and the shadows would not terrify, any more;
and she could laugh at the windy moonlit nights. The gods were being
good to her at last, perhaps because she had been truthful and had not
told Mrs. Bellamie the lie she had invented. They had taken the great
thing from her because it was obviously impossible that she should have
it. Aubrey was gone from her for ever, but surely this was the next best
thing; a girl friend to live with her, perhaps to enter into partnership
with her. Boodles felt she could face the big desert with a friend to
help her, and a companion to depend upon. Love was not for her, but she
would have the next best thing, which is friendship.

The letter was certainly a remarkable one, the writer's candour being no
less extraordinary than her name. It was obvious she was a foreigner,
but the signature gave Boodles no clue as to her nationality until she
recalled a certain book on Eastern travel which she had once read, where
a Persian name--or at least she thought it was Persian--very much like
Eimalleb had occurred.

"I hope she's not a nigger," Boodles sighed, as her ethnical knowledge
was slight and she had no idea what a Persian girl would be like.
"Ethiopians have black faces, I'm sure. And she's certain to be a
heathen. What fun it will be! She will wake me at some unearthly hour
and say: 'Come on, Boodles, we must hurry up to the top of Gar Tor and
worship the sun.' I hope she won't have a lot of husbands, though," she
went on with a frown. "Don't they do that? Oh no, it's the men have a
lot of wives, and they are not Persians, but Mohammedans. I am sure
Persians worship fire. Persian cats do, I know. She will kneel before
the grate and say her prayers to the coals."

Boodles was getting excited. The prospect of a companion was bringing
smiles to her face and colour to her cheeks. One young maid would be
decidedly more congenial to her than a covey of old ones. She would give
up her own bedroom to the Persian girl, and when the cottage was nicely
crammed with unquestionable old maids they could sleep together. She was
sure her friend wouldn't mind, because she seemed so nice.

"She must be an impulsive, warm-hearted girl," Boodles murmured.
"Telling me, a perfect stranger, about her private affairs." Then she
plunged again into the letter, which was full of astonishing sentences.
"Could you meet me on Friday morning at eleven o'clock in Tavy woods?"
she read. "There is a gate at the Tavistock side and I would meet you
close to that. You are sure to know me, as it is not likely there will
be any one else about. I shall wear grey flannel and a plain straw hat.
I understand you are not elderly. I think you will like me."

"I shall love you," cried Boodles with much decision, laughing joyously
at the concluding sentences. "She understands I am not elderly, but I
expect she will be astonished when she sees what a very young thing I
am. Perhaps I had better make myself look older, wear a rusty black
frock trimmed with lace, and a huge flat brooch at my throat, and a
bonnet--Boodles, a little black bonnet with a lot of shaking things on
it."

She ran indoors, singing for the first time since Weevil's death, and
sat down to answer the wonderful letter as primly as she could. "I will
be at the gate of the wood Friday morning," she wrote. Shall I say
weather permitting or God willing? she thought. No, I shall be there
anyhow. "I will come whatever happens," she went on, in defiance of gods
and thunderbolts. "I am rather a small girl with lots of golden hair,
and like you I am quite young. I feel certain I shall like you." This
note she fastened up, and addressed to Miss Y. Eimalleb, again
exclaiming: "What a name!" at the Post Office, Devonport.

When the fit of high spirits had exhausted itself she became unhappy
again. It was unfortunate that the foreign girl with the wonderful name
should have asked her to come to that gate where she and Aubrey had
parted for ever, the gate which was just outside fairyland. All that
childish nonsense was over, and the story had finished that day they
roamed about the wood, and the gate had closed with unnecessary noise
and violence behind them; but still it would be hard for her to wait
there, not for Aubrey, but for a stranger. Her new friend would be
coming from Tavistock, she supposed, meeting her halfway, just as Aubrey
had done. It was quite natural she should do so, but Boodles wished she
had appointed any other meeting-place. It cheered her a little to think
that the Bellamies had cast aside enough of their respectability to
recommend her, as she did not know how the young foreigner could have
heard of her except through them. "She cannot be quite a lady, or they
would never have sent her to me," was the girl's natural inference.
"Perhaps they think foreigners don't count. I do hope she will have a
nice English girl's face. If she is a nigger I shall scream and run
away."

She carried the good news to Ger Cottage, but the savages both expressed
their disapproval. Peter, who had travelled to distant lands, such as
Exeter and Plymouth, told Boodles that foreigners, by which he meant
dwellers in the next parish, were fearful folk with no regard whatever
for strangers. Peter did not know anything about Persia, but when
Boodles talked about the East he supposed she meant that mythical land
of dragons and fairies called Somerset, which was the uttermost limit of
his horizon in that direction; and he declared that the folk there were
savage and unscrupulous, and spoke a language which no intelligent
person could understand. Peter implored Boodles to have nothing to do
with such people. While Mary, who had not travelled, except in one
memorable instance from Lydford to Tavistock, said regretfully: "It
bain't a maid yew wants, my dear, but the butiful young gentleman." Mary
was much too outspoken, and was always making Boodles wretched with her
blundering attempts at happy suggestions.

When Peter was shown the astonishing signature, and had obtained the
mastery over it letter by letter, he nearly strangled himself with his
abnormal tie, and expressed an opinion that the stranger was coming from
absolutely unheard-of places, from the paint-clad aborigines of some
land beyond Somerset, although his geography did not extend beyond that
county.

"Her's a heathen," he cried, without any regard for the fact that he was
himself no better. "Her will worship idols."

"Aw, my dear, don't ye ha' nought to du wi' she," begged Mary.

"I think Persians worship the sun," said Boodles doubtfully.

"Aw, bain't 'em dafty?" said Mary scornfully, though she too was a
sun-worshipper without being aware of it.

"Her will be a canister tu," said Peter lugubriously.

"What be that?" asked Mary, who did not profess to know things.

"Her will et she, and then mebbe her will come on and et we," explained
Peter, with needless apprehension, as the most ravenous cannibal would
certainly have turned vegetarian before feasting upon him.

Boodles was always rude enough to correct Peter's most obvious errors,
though he was so much older than herself, and she did so then, with the
usual result that he went away muttering for his dictionary. He looked
up cannon-ball, and of course discovered that he had been quite right
and she was hopelessly in the wrong. Then he looked up canister, and
found that it was a box for holding tea; and when he turned to tea he
discovered it was sometimes made of beef, and beef was meat, and meat is
what human beings are composed of; and canister was, therefore, a box
for containing meat. He had been perfectly right, and the presumption of
young maids was intolerable.

When Boodles got back to the village she saw the people standing about
the street in groups as if they were expecting some one of importance to
pass that way. She looked about but could see nothing; the people were
almost silent; they did not laugh and spoke only in whispers. She felt
as if some calamity was impending, so she hurried indoors and kept away
from the windows, as it was rather a bright day for her and she did not
want it spoilt; but presently a rumbling sound made her look out, and
soon she was shuddering. A black closed vehicle, like a hearse, passed,
drawn by two horses; and white-faced grey-haired Annie was seated beside
the driver; and then Boodles knew what the people were standing about
for. It was to see the vehicle go through on its way down to the
workhouse infirmary. Boodles went very white, drew back, and hid her
face in her hands. She thought Annie had turned her head and seen her at
the window.

"Those flames will haunt me all my life," she whispered. "I shall see
them jumping about my bed, and hear them roaring--but it wasn't my
fault. He must have been a brute. How awful it would have been for me if
he had died there."

Had she known all the evil that Pendoggat had done she would have felt
less guilty and less sorry. She could only comfort herself with the
knowledge that it had been Annie rather than herself who had started
those terrible and uncontrollable flames. She would not be troubled with
either of them again, apart from memory, for the workhouse had received
them; one would remain there, crippled and blind, the other would
doubtless go on into the world, and try to earn a livelihood for a few
years before returning there again in the twilight of her days.

That night there was moonlight but no wind, and Boodles awoke in horror,
fancying she heard for the second time that rumbling beneath her window,
and screamed when she found and felt her body enveloped in flames. She
sprang up to discover that she had been frightened by her own glowing
hair. She was so sleepy before tumbling into bed that she had neglected
to plait it, and it was all over the sheets like fire. "I shall always
get these horrors while I am alone," she cried; and then she thought
again of the wonderful letter, and the foreign girl with the amazing
name whom she was to meet at the gate of the wood on Friday morning, and
an intense longing for that strange girl came over her, and she cried
aloud to the pale and equally lonely moon: "I hope she is nice. I will
pray for her to be nice. The very first thing I shall ask her will be if
I may sleep with her."

Friday, day of regeneration, came clothed in a white mist, and found the
girl asking herself: "Shall I try and make myself look older?" She
peeped out, saw the moor shining, and thought she would be natural, and
go out upon it young and fresh; dressed in white to suit the mist, like
a little bride; and, having decided, she was soon trying to make herself
look as sweet as possible. When she had finished, slanting the bedroom
glass to take in as much of the picture as it would, she was fairly well
satisfied, and was just beginning to sing the old song, "I'm only a
baby," when she stopped herself severely with the rebuke that she was
only a common person trying to let lodgings.

All the spring flowers lifted up their heads and laughed at the
lodging-house keeper when she appeared among them--they were really
spring flowers that morning--and the real sun smiled, and real
singing-birds mocked the little girl in white as she tripped towards the
woods, because it appeared to them quite ridiculous that Boodles should
relinquish her claims to childhood. The book of fairy-tales had been
shut up and put away, thought she; but somehow the young spring things
about her would not admit that.

Everything in the woods was wide awake and laughing; not crying any
more, and saying, lisping, murmuring, whispering: "Here's the
happy-ever-after little girl." It was the proper ending of the story,
the ending that the gods had written in their manuscript and the
compositor-ogres had tried to mar in their wicked way. How could any
story end unhappily on such a morning? The yellow patches in the woods
were not artificial blobs of colour but real primroses, and the blue
patches were bluebells, and the white patches were wind-flowers with
warm mist hanging to them; and Boodles was not a mere girl any longer,
but the presiding fairy of them all going out to find another fairy to
play with. It was not the best ending perhaps, but it was the second
best. So she went down to the woods and met another fairy, and they
played together happily ever after. The furze, in genial generous mood,
showered its blossoms at her feet and said: "Here is gold for you, fairy
girl." The Tavy roared on cheerily, and a little cataract said to a
conceited whirlpool too young to know how giddy it was: "Isn't that the
goddess Flora crossing by the stepping-stones?" And the flowers said:
"We are going to have a fine day." Boodles was ascending in the romantic
scale. She had started as a lodging-house keeper; then she had become
quite a young girl; from that to the fairy stage was only one step; and
then at a single bound she became the goddess of flowers; and she went
along "our walk" with sunshine for hair, and wind-flowers for eyes, and
primroses for skin; and the world seemed very sweet and fresh as if the
wonderful work of creation had only been finished that morning at nine
o'clock punctually, and Boodles was just going through to see that the
gardener had done his work properly.

Life at eighteen is glorious and imaginative; sorrows cannot quench its
flame. One hour of real happiness makes the young soul sing again, as
one burst of sunshine purges a haunted house of all its horror. Boodles
was down by Tavy side to bathe in the flowers and wash off the past and
the beastly origin of things; the black time of winter, the awful
loneliness, the windy nights. She was going to meet a friend, a
companion, somebody who would frighten the dark hours away. The past was
to vanish, not as if it had never been, but because it really never had
been. The story was to begin all over again, as the other one had been
conceived so badly that nobody could stand it. The once upon a time
stage had come again, and the ogres had agreed not to interfere this
time. Boodles baptised herself in dew, and rose from the ceremony only a
few hours old. The child's name was Flora; no connection of the poor
little thing which had been flung out to perish because nobody wanted it
except silly old Weevil, who hated to see animals hurt. Weevil belonged
to the other story too, the rejected story, and therefore he had never
existed. Nobody had wanted Boodles, which was natural enough, as she was
merely a wretched illegitimate brat; but every one wanted Flora. The
world would be a dreary place without its flowers. Flora could laugh Mr.
Bellamie to scorn; for the sun was her father and the warm earth her
mother; and nobody would stop to look at the flowers while she was going
by with them all upon her face.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last Boodles looked up. She had been sitting on the warm peat just
outside the gate until all Nature struck eleven; and the warmth and
fragrance of the wood had made her sleepy. Dreams are the natural
accompaniment of sleep, and she was dreaming then; for the expected
figure was close to her, the figure in grey flannel and a plain straw
hat; not elderly certainly, not much older than herself; and it was true
enough she would have liked that figure if it had only been real.

"Go away," she murmured, rather frightened. "Please go away."

There was something dreadfully wrong. It was a nice girl's face that she
saw, at least she had often called it so, and it was not black, and the
owner of that face was assuredly going to like her very much indeed,
although it was hardly a case of love at first sight; for the girl had
failed to keep her appointment, the foreign girl with the amazing name
was not there, the Persian girl who was to adore the sun and the coals
of Lewside Cottage was evidently a deceiver of the baser sort. She had
not come, and instead she had sent some one who could not fail to
recognise the little girl waiting at the gate of the wood, who was
calling her fond names, and actually kissing her, just as if the story
was going to end, not in the second best way, but in the most blissful
manner possible, with a dance of fairies on Tavy banks and a
wedding-march. It was Aubrey who had come to the gate of the wood.

"I wish you wouldn't," said Boodles rather sleepily. "I am waiting here
for a girl."

Then something appeared before her eyes which woke her up; the letter
which she had written to Devonport; and she heard a voice saying very
close to her ear, so close indeed that the lips were touching it--

"I wrote it, darling. I was afraid you would not come unless I deceived
you a little. But I signed it with my own name."

"Yerbua Eimalleb--what nonsense!" she sighed.

"It is only Aubrey Bellamie written backwards."

"Oh, you must not. How could you? It made me so happy. I thought at last
I should have a friend, to drive the loneliness away--and now, it is all
dark again and miserable. You are sending me back to the creeping,
crawling shadows."

"I have given up the Navy. I have given up my people, and everything,
for the one thing, the best thing, for you," Aubrey said.

Boodles put her head down, as if the wind had snapped her slender neck,
and he kissed the hair just as he had done at different periods of her
life, when she was a very small girl and the radiance was hanging down,
and when she was rather a bigger girl and the radiance was up--and now.
It was the best kiss of all, a man's kiss, the kiss which regenerated
her and renounced all else.

"You don't know what you are saying. I am an illegitimate child. You
must not give up anything for me."

Boodles had forgotten that it was the beginning of a new story. His
great act of renunciation staggered her. Everything, birth, name,
prospects, respectability, for her. She could not let him, but how was
she to resist? She threw the sleep off, and said almost fiercely--

"You must not. The time may come when you will be sorry. I shall be a
weight upon you, dragging you down. You might become ashamed of me."

"Darling, I have been true to you all my life. I will be true for the
rest of it."

"I promised your parents I would not."

"You promised me, year after year, that you would."

Boodles tried to smile. She would have to be false to some one.

"I have left my father's house, and I am not going back," Aubrey went
on.

"It will be terrible for them," she murmured.

"It would be worse for you and for me. They have known nothing but
happiness all their lives. It is their turn to have a little trouble.
They are bringing it upon themselves. I have told them I shall not go
back until they are willing to receive my wife."

"They will never do that. Oh, Aubrey, you must not marry me. I shall
spoil your life."

"If I lost you it would be spoilt. I am being selfish after all," he
said. "And if you were left alone what would you do?"

Boodles said nothing, but the Tavy went roaring by, answering the
question for her.

"I am going to take you away, darling." He was holding her tightly, and
she did not resist much, perhaps because she felt she ought to give up a
little to him as he was giving up so much for her. "We will be married
at once, and live in a tiny home. I have got it already, at Carbis Bay,
looking over St. Ives at the sea, a lovely place where the sun shines.
We will have our own boat and go fishing--"

"And drown ourselves sometimes," added happy Boodles.

"Not till we quarrel, and that will be never."

"Look, Aubrey!" she cried, lifting herself, pointing between the bars of
the gate into the wood. "There is our walk in a blue mist."

The atmosphere of the wood was the colour of bluebells, which stretched
in a magic carpet as far as they could see.

"Let us go in," he said.

"Not yet. Not unless I--Oh, Aubrey, if we go in it will be all over. Do
I deserve it? Those winter evenings, the loneliness, the winds," she
murmured.

"It is all over," he said firmly, with a man's seriousness. "We have to
start life now, for I have nobody but you--my little sweetheart, my wife
of the radiant head, and the golden skin--"

"And the freckles," she said, looking down, without a smile.

"They have faded. You are so thin, sweet. You have been indoors too
much, out of the sun."

"There wasn't any sun; not until to-day," she whispered.

"You see, darling, we are alone together."

"It is what we wanted always, to be alone. Oh, my boy, I must--I must
spoil your life, because I have got you in my heart and you won't go
out. You never would leave me alone," she said, looking up with the
childlike expression which had come back to her.

Aubrey swung the gate open and she went to him. They kissed as they went
through, and the gate slammed behind with a pleasant sound. They were
inside, surrounded by the blue mist. It seemed to them very warm in
there. They went on hand in hand, not speaking just then, not laughing
as in the old days; for their eyes were opened, and they understood that
life is not a fairy-tale, but a winding path between rocks and cruel
furze; and only here and there occurs the Garden of Happiness; only here
and there in the whole long path; but the gardens are there, and every
one may walk in them if they can only find the way in.

"I think you are such a nice boy, Aubrey," said a small voice in sweet
school-girl tones. The little girl was feeling ridiculously young and
shy again. It seemed absurd to think that she was going to be a bride so
soon.

They were walking upon the magic carpet of bluebells. The work of
regeneration was finished at last; and the world was only a few hours
old.


THE END



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