Puck of Pook's Hill
Part 4 out of 4
sketch before Puck.
'Me! Me past peradventure,' said Puck, smirking like a
man at a mirror. 'Ah, see! The rain has took off! I hate
housen in daylight.'
'Whoop! Holiday!' cried Hal, leaping up. 'Who's for
my Little Lindens? We can talk there.'
They tumbled downstairs, and turned past the
dripping willows by the sunny mill-dam.
'Body o' me,' said Hal, staring at the hop-garden,
where the hops were just ready to blossom. 'What are
these? Vines? No, not vines, and they twine the wrong
way to beans.' He began to draw in his ready book.
'Hops. New since your day,' said Puck. 'They're an
herb of Mars, and their flowers dried flavour ale. We
'Turkeys, Heresy, Hops, and Beer
Came into England all in one year.'
'Heresy I know. I've seen Hops - God be praised for
their beauty! What is your Turkis?'
The children laughed. They knew the Lindens turkeys,
and as soon as they reached Lindens orchard on the hill
the full flock charged at them.
Out came Hal's book at once. 'Hoity-toity!' he cried.
'Here's Pride in purple feathers! Here's wrathy contempt
and the Pomps of the Flesh! How d'you call them?'
'Turkeys! Turkeys!' the children shouted, as the old
gobbler raved and flamed against Hal's plum-coloured hose.
"Save Your Magnificence!' he said. 'I've drafted two
good new things today.' And he doffed his cap to the
Then they walked through the grass to the knoll where
Little Lindens stands. The old farmhouse, weather-tiled
to the ground, took almost the colour of a blood-ruby in
the afternoon light. The pigeons pecked at the mortar in
the chimney-stacks; the bees that had lived under the
tiles since it was built filled the hot August air with their
booming; and the smell of the box-tree by the dairy-
window mixed with the smell of earth after rain, bread
after baking, and a tickle of wood-smoke.
The farmer's wife came to the door, baby on arm,
shaded her brows against the sun, stooped to pluck a
sprig of rosemary, and turned down the orchard. The old
spaniel in his barrel barked once or twice to show he was
in charge of the empty house. Puck clicked back the
'D'you marvel that I love it?' said Hal, in a whisper.
'What can town folk know of the nature of housen - or land?'
They perched themselves arow on the old hacked oak
bench in Lindens garden, looking across the valley of the
brook at the fern-covered dimples and hollows of the
Forge behind Hobden's cottage. The old man was cutting
a faggot in his garden by the hives. It was quite a second
after his chopper fell that the chump of the blow reached
their lazy ears.
'Eh - yeh!' said Hal. 'I mind when where that old gaffer
stands was Nether Forge - Master John Collins's
foundry. Many a night has his big trip-hammer shook me
in my bed here. Boom-bitty! Boom-bitty! If the wind was
east, I could hear Master Tom Collins's forge at Stockens
answering his brother, Boom-oop! Boom-oop! and midway
between, Sir John Pelham's sledgehammers at Brightling
would strike in like a pack o' scholars, and "Hic-haec-hoc"
they'd say, "Hic-haec-hoc, " till I fell asleep. Yes. The valley
was as full o' forges and fineries as a May shaw o'
cuckoos. All gone to grass now!'
'What did they make?' said Dan.
'Guns for the King's ships - and for others. Serpentines
and cannon mostly. When the guns were cast, down
would come the King's Officers, and take our plough-
oxen to haul them to the coast. Look! Here's one of the
first and finest craftsmen of the Sea!'
He fluttered back a page of his book, and showed
them a young man's head. Underneath was written:
'He came down with a King's Order on Master John
Collins for twenty serpentines (wicked little cannon they
be!) to furnish a venture of ships. I drafted him thus
sitting by our fire telling Mother of the new lands he'd
find the far side the world. And he found them, too!
There's a nose to cleave through unknown seas! Cabot
was his name - a Bristol lad - half a foreigner. I set a heap
by him. He helped me to my church-building.'
'I thought that was Sir Andrew Barton,' said Dan.
'Ay, but foundations before roofs,' Hal answered.
'Sebastian first put me in the way of it. I had come down
here, not to serve God as a craftsman should, but to show
my people how great a craftsman I was. They cared not,
and it served me right, one split straw for my craft or my
greatness. What a murrain call had I, they said, to mell
with old St Barnabas'? Ruinous the church had been since
the Black Death, and ruinous she would remain; and I
could hang myself in my new scaffold-ropes! Gentle and
simple, high and low - the Hayes, the Fowles, the
Fenners, the Collinses - they were all in a tale against me.
Only Sir John Pelham up yonder at Brightling bade me
heart-up and go on. Yet how could I? Did I ask Master
Collins for his timber-tug to haul beams? The oxen had
gone to Lewes after lime. Did he promise me a set of iron
cramps or ties for the roof? They never came to hand, or
else they were spaulty or cracked. So with everything.
Nothing said, but naught done except I stood by them,
and then done amiss. I thought the countryside was fair bewitched.'
'It was, sure-ly,' said Puck, knees under chin. 'Did you
never suspect ary one?'
'Not till Sebastian came for his guns, and John Collins
played him the same dog's tricks as he'd played me with
my ironwork. Week in, week out, two of three serpentines
would be flawed in the casting, and only fit, they
said, to be re-melted. Then John Collins would shake his
head, and vow he could pass no cannon for the King's
service that were not perfect. Saints! How Sebastian
stormed! I know, for we sat on this bench sharing our
'When Sebastian had fumed away six weeks at Lindens
and gotten just six serpentines, Dirk Brenzett, Master of
the Cygnet hoy, sends me word that the block of stone he
was fetching me from France for our new font he'd hove
overboard to lighten his ship, chased by Andrew Barton
up to Rye Port.'
'Ah! The pirate!' said Dan.
'Yes. And while I am tearing my hair over this,
Ticehurst Will, my best mason, comes to me shaking, and
vowing that the Devil, horned, tailed, and chained, has
run out on him from the church-tower, and the men
would work there no more. So I took 'em off the foundations,
which we were strengthening, and went into the
Bell Tavern for a cup of ale. Says Master John Collins:
"Have it your own way, lad; but if I was you, I'd take the
sinnification o' the sign, and leave old Barnabas' Church
alone!" And they all wagged their sinful heads, and
agreed. Less afraid of the Devil than of me - as I saw later.
'When I brought my sweet news to Lindens, Sebastian
was limewashing the kitchen-beams for Mother. He
loved her like a son.
"'Cheer up, lad," he says. "God's where He was. Only
you and I chance to be pure pute asses. We've been
tricked, Hal, and more shame to me, a sailor, that I did
not guess it before! You must leave your belfry alone,
forsooth, because the Devil is adrift there; and I cannot
get my serpentines because John Collins cannot cast
them aright. Meantime Andrew Barton hawks off the
Port of Rye. And why? To take those very serpentines
which poor Cabot must whistle for; the said serpentines,
I'll wager my share of new continents, being now hid
away in St Barnabas' church-tower. Clear as the Irish
coast at noonday!"
"They'd sure never dare to do it," I said; "and, for
another thing, selling cannon to the King's enemies is
black treason - hanging and fine."
"'It is sure, large profit. Men'll dare any gallows for
that. I have been a trader myself," says he. "We must be
upsides with 'em for the honour of Bristol."
'Then he hatched a plot, sitting on the limewash
bucket. We gave out to ride o' Tuesday to London and
made a show of taking farewells of our friends - especially
of Master John Collins. But at Wadhurst Woods we
turned; rode home to the water-meadows; hid our horses
in a willow-tot at the foot of the glebe, and, come night,
stole a-tiptoe uphill to Barnabas' church again. A thick
mist, and a moon striking through.
'I had no sooner locked the tower-door behind us than
over goes Sebastian full length in the dark.
"'Pest!" he says. "Step high and feel low, Hal. I've
stumbled over guns before."
'I groped, and one by one - the tower was pitchy dark -
I counted the lither barrels of twenty serpentines laid out
on pease straw. No conceal at all!
"'There's two demi-cannon my end," says Sebastian,
slapping metal. "They'll be for Andrew Barton's lower
deck. Honest - honest John Collins! So this is his ware-
house, his arsenal, his armoury! Now see you why your
pokings and pryings have raised the Devil in Sussex?
You've hindered John's lawful trade for months," and he
laughed where he lay.
'A clay-cold tower is no fireside at midnight, so we
climbed the belfry stairs, and there Sebastian trips over a
cow-hide with its horns and tail.
"'Aha! Your Devil has left his doublet! Does it become
me, Hal?" He draws it on and capers in the shafts of
window-moonlight - won'erful devilish-like. Then he
sits on the stairs, rapping with his tail on a board, and his
back-aspect was dreader than his front, and a howlet lit
in, and screeched at the horns of him.
"'If you'd keep out the Devil, shut the door," he
whispered. "And that's another false proverb, Hal, for I
can hear your tower-door opening."
"'I locked it. Who a-plague has another key, then?" I said.
"'All the congregation, to judge by their feet," he says,
and peers into the blackness. "Still! Still, Hal! Hear 'em
grunt! That's more o' my serpentines, I'll be bound. One
- two - three - four they bear in! Faith, Andrew equips
himself like an Admiral! Twenty-four serpentines in all!"
'As if it had been an echo, we heard John Collins's
voice come up all hollow: "Twenty-four serpentines and
two demi-cannon. That's the full tally for Sir Andrew Barton."
"'Courtesy costs naught," whispers Sebastian. "Shall
I drop my dagger on his head?"
"'They go over to Rye o' Thursday in the wool-wains,
hid under the wool-packs. Dirk Brenzett meets them at
Udimore, as before," says John.
"'Lord! What a worn, handsmooth trade it is!" says
Sebastian. "I lay we are the sole two babes in the village
that have not our lawful share in the venture."
'There was a full score folk below, talking like all
Robertsbridge Market. We counted them by voice.
'Master John Collins pipes: "The guns for the French
carrack must lie here next month. Will, when does your
young fool" (me, so please you!) "come back from
"'No odds," I heard Ticehurst Will answer. "Lay 'em
just where you've a mind, Mus' Collins. We're all too
afraid o' the Devil to mell with the tower now." And the
long knave laughed.
"'Ah! 'tis easy enow for you to raise the Devil, Will,"
says another - Ralph Hobden of the Forge.
"'Aaa-men!" roars Sebastian, and ere I could hold him,
he leaps down the stairs - won'erful devilish-like
howling no bounds. He had scarce time to lay out for the
nearest than they ran. Saints, how they ran! We heard
them pound on the door of the Bell Tavern, and then we
"'What's next?" says Sebastian, looping up his cow-
tail as he leaped the briars. "I've broke honest John's face."
"'Ride to Sir John Pelham's," I said. "He is the only
one that ever stood by me."
'We rode to Brightling, and past Sir John's lodges,
where the keepers would have shot at us for deer-
stealers, and we had Sir John down into his Justice's
chair, and when we had told him our tale and showed
him the cow-hide which Sebastian wore still girt about
him, he laughed till the tears ran.
"'Wel-a-well!" he says. "I'll see justice done before
daylight. What's your complaint? Master Collins is my
"'He's none of mine," I cried. "When I think how he
and his likes have baulked and dozened and cozened me
at every turn over the church" - and I choked at the thought.
"'Ah, but ye see now they needed it for another use,"
says he smoothly.
also they did my serpentines," Sebastian cries. "I
should be half across the Western Ocean by now if my
guns had been ready. But they're sold to a Scotch pirate
by your old friend -"
"'Where's your proof?" says Sir John, stroking his beard.
"'I broke my shins over them not an hour since, and I
heard John give order where they were to be taken," says Sebastian.
"'Words! Words only," says Sir John. "Master Collins
is somewhat of a liar at best."
'He carried it so gravely that, for the moment, I thought
he was dipped in this secret traffick too, and that there
was not an honest ironmaster in Sussex.
"'Name o' Reason!" says Sebastian, and raps with his
cow-tail on the table, "whose guns are they, then?"
"'Yours, manifestly," says Sir John. "You come with
the King's Order for 'em, and Master Collins casts them
in his foundry. If he chooses to bring them up from
Nether Forge and lay 'em out in the church-tower, why,
they are e'en so much the nearer to the main road and
you are saved a day's hauling. What a coil to make of a
mere act of neighbourly kindness, lad!"
"'I fear I have requited him very scurvily," says
Sebastian, looking at his knuckles. "But what of the
demi-cannon? I could do with 'em well, but they are not in
the King's Order."
"'Kindness - loving-kindness," says Sir John. "Questionless,
in his zeal for the King and his love for you, John
adds those two cannon as a gift. 'Tis plain as this coming
daylight, ye stockfish!"
"'So it is," says Sebastian. "Oh, Sir John, Sir John, why
did you never use the sea? You are lost ashore." And he
looked on him with great love.
"'I do my best in my station." Sir John strokes his
beard again and rolls forth his deep drumming Justice's
voice thus: "But - suffer me! - you two lads, on some
midnight frolic into which I probe not, roystering around
the taverns, surprise Master Collins at his" - he thinks a
moment - "at his good deeds done by stealth. Ye surprise
him, I say, cruelly."
"'Truth, Sir John. If you had seen him run!" says Sebastian.
"'On this you ride breakneck to me with a tale of
pirates, and wool-wains, and cow-hides, which, though
it hath moved my mirth as a man, offendeth my reason as
a magistrate. So I will e'en accompany you back to the
tower with, perhaps, some few of my own people, and
three-four wagons, and I'll be your warrant that Master
John Collins will freely give you your guns and your
demi-cannon, Master Sebastian." He breaks into his
proper voice - "I warned the old tod and his neighbours
long ago that they'd come to trouble with their side-
sellings and bye-dealings; but we cannot have half
Sussex hanged for a little gun-running. Are ye content, lads?"
"'I'd commit any treason for two demi-cannon, said
Sebastian, and rubs his hands.
,"Ye have just compounded with rank treason-felony
for the same bribe," says Sir John. "Wherefore to horse,
and get the guns."'
'But Master Collins meant the guns for Sir Andrew
Barton all along, didn't he?' said Dan.
'Questionless, that he did,' said Hal. 'But he lost them.
We poured into the village on the red edge of dawn, Sir
John horsed, in half-armour, his pennon flying; behind
him thirty stout Brightling knaves, five abreast; behind
them four wool-wains, and behind them four trumpets
to triumph over the jest, blowing: Our King went forth to
Normandie. When we halted and rolled the ringing guns
out of the tower, 'twas for all the world like Friar Roger's
picture of the French siege in the Queen's Missal-book.'
'And what did we - I mean, what did our village do?' said Dan.
'Oh! Bore it nobly - nobly,' cried Hal. 'Though they
had tricked me, I was proud of them. They came out of
their housen, looked at that little army as though it had
been a post, and went their shut-mouthed way. Never a
sign! Never a word! They'd ha' perished sooner than let
Brightling overcrow us. Even that villain, Ticehurst Will,
coming out of the Bell for his morning ale, he all but runs
under Sir John's horse.
"''Ware, Sirrah Devil!" cries Sir John, reining back.
"'Oh!" says Will. "Market-day, is it? And all the
bullocks from Brightling here?"
'I spared him his belting for that - the brazen knave!
'But John Collins was our masterpiece! He happened
along-street (his jaw tied up where Sebastian had clouted
him) when we were trundling the first demi-cannon
through the lych-gate.
"'I reckon you'll find her middlin' heavy," he says. "If
you've a mind to pay, I'll loan ye my timber-tug. She
won't lie easy on ary wool-wain."
'That was the one time I ever saw Sebastian taken flat
aback. He opened and shut his mouth, fishy-like.
"'No offence," says Master John. "You've got her
reasonable good cheap. I thought ye might not grudge
me a groat if I helped move her." Ah, he was a masterpiece!
They say that morning's work cost our John two
hundred pounds, and he never winked an eyelid, not
even when he saw the guns all carted off to Lewes.'
'Neither then nor later?' said Puck.
'Once. 'Twas after he gave St Barnabas' the new chime
of bells. (Oh, there was nothing the Collinses, or the
Hayes, or the Fowles, or the Fenners would not do for the
church then! "Ask and have" was their song.) We had
rung 'em in, and he was in the tower with Black Nick
Fowle, that gave us our rood-screen. The old man
pinches the bell-rope one hand and scratches his neck
with t'other. "Sooner she was pulling yon clapper than
my neck, he says. That was all! That was Sussex
seely Sussex for everlasting'
'And what happened after?' said Una.
'I went back into England,' said Hal, slowly. 'I'd
had my lesson against pride. But they tell me I left St
Barnabas' a jewel - justabout a jewel! Wel-a-well! 'Twas
done for and among my own people, and - Father Roger
was right - I never knew such trouble or such triumph
since. That's the nature o' things. A dear - dear land.' He
dropped his chin on his chest.
'There's your Father at the Forge. What's he talking to
old Hobden about?' said Puck, opening his hand with
three leaves in it.
Dan looked towards the cottage.
'Oh, I know. It's that old oak lying across the brook.
Pater always wants it grubbed.'
In the still valley they could hear old Hobden's deep tones.
'Have it as you've a mind to,' he was saying. 'But the
vivers of her roots they hold the bank together. If you
grub her out, the bank she'll all come tearin' down, an'
next floods the brook'll swarve up . But have it as you've a
mind. The Mistuss she sets a heap by the ferns on her trunk.
'Oh! I'll think it over,' said the Pater.
Una laughed a little bubbling chuckle.
'What Devil's in that belfry?' said Hal, with a lazy
laugh. 'That should be a Hobden by his voice.'
'Why, the oak is the regular bridge for all the rabbits
between the Three Acre and our meadow. The best place
for wires on the farm, Hobden says. He's got two
there now,' Una answered. 'He won't ever let it be grubbed!'
'Ah, Sussex! Seely Sussex for everlastin',' murmured
Hal; and the next moment their Father's voice calling
across to Little Lindens broke the spell as little
St Barnabas' clock struck five.
A Smugglers' Song
If You wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine;
Don't you shout to come and look, nor take 'em for your play;
Put the brushwood back again, - and they'll be gone next day!
If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!
If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you 'pretty maid,' and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!
Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark -
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie -
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!
If you do as you've been told, likely there's a chance
You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
The Bee Boy's Song
Bees! Bees! Hark to your bees!
'Hide from your neighbours as much as you please,
But all that has happened, to us you must tell,
Or else we will give you no honey to sell!'
A Maiden in her glory,
Upon her wedding-day,
Must tell her Bees the story,
Or else they'll fly away.
Fly away - die away -
Dwindle down and leave you!
But if you don't deceive your Bees,
Your Bees will not deceive you.
Marriage, birth or buryin',
News across the seas,
All you're sad or merry in,
You must tell the Bees.
Tell 'em coming in an' out,
Where the Fanners fan,
'Cause the Bees are justabout
As curious as a man!
Don't you wait where trees are,
When the lightnings play;
Nor don't you hate where Bees are,
Or else they'll pine away.
Pine away - dwine away -
Anything to leave you!
But if you never grieve your Bees,
Your Bees'll never grieve you!
just at dusk, a soft September rain began to fall on the
hop-pickers. The mothers wheeled the bouncing perambulators
out of the gardens; bins were put away, and
tally-books made up. The young couples strolled home,
two to each umbrella, and the single men walked behind
them laughing. Dan and Una, who had been picking
after their lessons, marched off to roast potatoes at the
oast-house, where old Hobden, with Blue-eyed Bess, his
lurcher dog, lived all the month through, drying the hops.
They settled themselves, as usual, on the sack-strewn
cot in front of the fires, and, when Hobden drew up the
shutter, stared, as usual, at the flameless bed of coals
spouting its heat up the dark well of the old-fashioned
roundel. Slowly he cracked off a few fresh pieces of coal,
packed them, with fingers that never flinched, exactly
where they would do most good; slowly he reached
behind him till Dan tilted the potatoes into his iron scoop
of a hand; carefully he arranged them round the fire, and
then stood for a moment, black against the glare. As he
closed the shutter, the oast-house seemed dark before
the day's end, and he lit the candle in the lanthorn. The
children liked all these things because they knew them so well.
The Bee Boy, Hobden's son, who is not quite right in
his head, though he can do anything with bees, slipped
in like a shadow. They only guessed it when Bess's
stump-tail wagged against them.
A big voice began singing outside in the drizzle:
'Old Mother Laidinwool had nigh twelve months been dead,
She heard the hops were doin' well, and then popped up her head.'
'There can't be two people made to holler like that!'
cried old Hobden, wheeling round.
'For, says she, "The boys I've picked with when I was young and fair,
They're bound to be at hoppin', and I'm -'
A man showed at the doorway.
'Well, well! They do say hoppin' 'll draw the very
deadest, and now I belieft 'em. You, Tom? Tom Shoesmith?'
Hobden lowered his lanthorn.
'You're a hem of a time makin' your mind to it, Ralph!'
The stranger strode in - three full inches taller than
Hobden, a grey-whiskered, brown-faced giant with clear
blue eyes. They shook hands, and the children could
hear the hard palms rasp together.
'You ain't lost none o' your grip,' said Hobden. 'Was it
thirty or forty year back you broke my head at Peasmarsh Fair?'
'Only thirty, an' no odds 'tween us regardin' heads,
neither. You had it back at me with a hop-pole. How did
we get home that night? Swimmin'?'
'Same way the pheasant come into Gubbs's pocket - by
a little luck an' a deal o' conjurin'.' Old Hobden laughed
in his deep chest.
see you've not forgot your way about the woods.
D'ye do any o' this still?' The stranger pretended to look
along a gun.
Hobden answered with a quick movement of the hand
as though he were pegging down a rabbit-wire.
'No. That's all that's left me now. Age she must as
Age she can. An' what's your news since all these years?'
'Oh, I've bin to Plymouth, I've bin to Dover -
I've bin ramblin', boys, the wide world over,'
the man answered cheerily. 'I reckon I know as much of
Old England as most.' He turned towards the children
and winked boldly.
'I lay they told you a sight o' lies, then. I've been into
England fur as Wiltsheer once. I was cheated proper over
a pair of hedgin'-gloves,' said Hobden.
'There's fancy-talkin' everywhere. You've cleaved to
your own parts pretty middlin' close, Ralph.'
'Can't shift an old tree 'thout it dyin',' Hobden
chuckled. 'An' I be no more anxious to die than you look
to be to help me with my hops tonight.'
The great man leaned against the brickwork of the
roundel, and swung his arms abroad. 'Hire me!' was all
he said, and they stumped upstairs laughing.
The children heard their shovels rasp on the cloth
where the yellow hops lie drying above the fires, and all
the oast-house filled with the sweet, sleepy smell as they
'Who is it?' Una whispered to the Bee Boy.
'Dunno, no more'n you - if you dunno,' said he, and smiled.
The voices on the drying-floor talked and chuckled
together, and the heavy footsteps moved back and forth.
Presently a hop-pocket dropped through the press-hole
overhead, and stiffened and fattened as they shovelled it
full. 'Clank!' went the press, and rammed the loose stuff
into tight cake.
'Gentle!' they heard Hobden cry. 'You'll bust her crop
if you lay on so. You be as careless as Gleason's bull,
Tom. Come an' sit by the fires. She'll do now.'
They came down, and as Hobden opened the shutter
to see if the potatoes were done Tom Shoesmith said to
the children, 'Put a plenty salt on 'em. That'll show you
the sort o' man I be.'Again he winked, and again the Bee
Boy laughed and Una stared at Dan.
'I know what sort o' man you be,'old Hobden grunted,
groping for the potatoes round the fire.
'Do ye?' Tom went on behind his back. 'Some of us
can't abide Horseshoes, or Church Bells, or Running
Water; an', talkin' o' runnin' water' - he turned to
Hobden, who was backing out of the roundel - 'd'you
mind the great floods at Robertsbridge, when the miller's
man was drowned in the street?'
'Middlin' well.' Old Hobden let himself down on the
coals by the fire-door. 'I was courtin' my woman on the
Marsh that year. Carter to Mus' Plum I was, gettin' ten
shillin's week. Mine was a Marsh woman.'
'Won'erful odd-gates place - Romney Marsh,' said
Tom Shoesmith. 'I've heard say the world's divided
like into Europe, Ashy, Afriky, Ameriky, Australy, an'
'The Marsh folk think so,' said Hobden. 'I had a hem o'
trouble to get my woman to leave it.'
'Where did she come out of? I've forgot, Ralph.'
'Dymchurch under the Wall,' Hobden answered, a
potato in his hand.
'Then she'd be a Pett - or a Whitgift, would she?'
'Whitgift.' Hobden broke open the potato and ate it
with the curious neatness of men who make most of
their meals in the blowy open. 'She growed to be quite
reasonable-like after livin' in the Weald awhile, but our
first twenty year or two she was odd-fashioned, no
bounds. And she was a won'erful hand with bees.' He
cut away a little piece of potato and threw it out to the door.
'Ah! I've heard say the Whitgifts could see further
through a millstone than most,' said Shoesmith. 'Did
'She was honest-innocent of any nigromancin',' said
Hobden. 'Only she'd read signs and sinnifications out o'
birds flyin', stars fallin', bees hivin', and such. An, she'd
lie awake - listenin' for calls, she said.'
'That don't prove naught,' said Tom. 'All Marsh folk
has been smugglers since time everlastin'. 'Twould be in
her blood to listen out o' nights.'
'Nature-ally,' old Hobden replied, smiling. 'I mind
when there was smugglin' a sight nearer us than what
the Marsh be. But that wasn't my woman's trouble.
'Twas a passel o' no-sense talk' - he dropped his voice -
'Yes. I've heard Marsh men belieft in 'em.'Tom looked
straight at the wide-eyed children beside Bess.
'Pharisees,' cried Una. 'Fairies? Oh, I see!'
'People o' the Hills,' said the Bee Boy, throwing half of
his potato towards the door.
'There you be!' said Hobden, pointing at him. My boy
- he has her eyes and her out-gate sense. That's what she
'And what did you think of it all?'
'Um - um,' Hobden rumbled. 'A man that uses fields
an' shaws after dark as much as I've done, he don't go out
of his road excep' for keepers.'
'But settin' that aside?' said Tom, coaxingly. 'I saw ye
throw the Good Piece out-at-doors just now. Do ye
believe or - do ye?'
'There was a great black eye to that tater,' said
'My liddle eye didn't see un, then. It looked as if you
meant it for - for Any One that might need it. But settin'
that aside, d'ye believe or - do ye?'
'I ain't sayin' nothin', because I've heard naught, an'
I've see naught. But if you was to say there was more
things after dark in the shaws than men, or fur, or
feather, or fin, I dunno as I'd go far about to call you a liar.
Now turn again, Tom. What's your say?'
'I'm like you. I say nothin'. But I'll tell you a tale, an'
you can fit it as how you please.'
'Passel o' no-sense stuff,' growled Hobden, but he
filled his pipe.
'The Marsh men they call it Dymchurch Flit,'Tom went
on slowly. 'Hap you have heard it?'
'My woman she've told it me scores o' times. Dunno as
I didn't end by belieftin' it - sometimes.
Hobden crossed over as he spoke, and sucked with his
pipe at the yellow lanthorn flame. Tom rested one great
elbow on one great knee, where he sat among the coal.
'Have you ever bin in the Marsh?' he said to Dan.
'Only as far as Rye, once,' Dan answered.
'Ah, that's but the edge. Back behind of her there's
steeples settin' beside churches, an' wise women settin'
beside their doors, an' the sea settin' above the land, an'
ducks herdin' wild in the diks' (he meant ditches). 'The
Marsh is justabout riddled with diks an' sluices, an'
tide-gates an' water-lets. You can hear 'em bubblin' an'
grummelin' when the tide works in 'em, an' then you
hear the sea rangin' left and right-handed all up along the
Wall. You've seen how flat she is - the Marsh? You'd
think nothin' easier than to walk eend-on acrost her? Ah,
but the diks an' the water-lets, they twists the roads
about as ravelly as witch-yarn on the spindles. So ye get
all turned round in broad daylight.'
'That's because they've dreened the waters into the
diks,' said Hobden. 'When I courted my woman the
rushes was green - Eh me! the rushes was green - an' the
Bailiff o' the Marshes he rode up and down as free as the fog.'
'Who was he?' said Dan.
'Why, the Marsh fever an' ague. He've clapped me on
the shoulder once or twice till I shook proper. But now
the dreenin' off of the waters have done away with the
fevers; so they make a joke, like, that the Bailiff o' the
Marshes broke his neck in a dik. A won'erful place for
bees an' ducks 'tis too.'
'An' old,' Tom went on. 'Flesh an' Blood have been
there since Time Everlastin' Beyond. Well, now, speakin'
among themselves, the Marsh men say that from Time
Everlastin' Beyond, the Pharisees favoured the Marsh
above the rest of Old England. I lay the Marsh men ought
to know. They've been out after dark, father an' son,
smugglin' some one thing or t'other, since ever wool
grew to sheep's backs. They say there was always a
middlin' few Pharisees to be seen on the Marsh.
Impident as rabbits, they was. They'd dance on the
nakid roads in the nakid daytime; they'd flash their liddle
green lights along the diks, comin' an' goin', like honest
smugglers. Yes, an' times they'd lock the church doors
against parson an' clerk of Sundays.'
'That 'ud be smugglers layin' in the lace or the brandy
till they could run it out o' the Marsh. I've told my woman
so,' said Hobden.
'I'll lay she didn't belieft it, then - not if she was a
Whitgift. A won'erful choice place for Pharisees, the
Marsh, by all accounts, till Queen Bess's father he come
in with his Reformatories.'
'Would that be a Act of Parliament like?' Hobden asked.
'Sure-ly. Can't do nothing in Old England without Act,
Warrant an' Summons. He got his Act allowed him,
an', they say, Queen Bess's father he used the parish
churches something shameful. justabout tore the gizzards
out of I dunnamany. Some folk in England they
held with 'en; but some they saw it different, an' it
eended in 'em takin' sides an' burnin' each other no
bounds, accordin' which side was top, time bein'. That
tarrified the Pharisees: for Goodwill among Flesh an'
Blood is meat an' drink to 'em, an' ill-will is poison.'
'Same as bees,' said the Bee Boy. 'Bees won't stay by a
house where there's hating.'
'True,' said Tom. 'This Reformatories tarrified the
Pharisees same as the reaper goin' round a last stand o'
wheat tarrifies rabbits. They packed into the Marsh from
all parts, and they says, "Fair or foul, we must flit out o'
this, for Merry England's done with, an' we're reckoned
among the Images."'
'Did they all see it that way?' said Hobden.
'All but one that was called Robin - if you've heard of
him. What are you laughin' at?'Tom turned to Dan. 'The
Pharisees's trouble didn't tech Robin, because he'd
cleaved middlin' close to people, like. No more he never
meant to go out of Old England - not he; so he was sent
messagin' for help among Flesh an' Blood. But Flesh an'
Blood must always think of their own concerns, an'
Robin couldn't get through at 'em, ye see . They thought it
was tide-echoes off the Marsh.'
'What did you - what did the fai - Pharisees want?'
'A boat, to be sure. Their liddle wings could no more
cross Channel than so many tired butterflies. A boat an' a
crew they desired to sail 'em over to France, where yet
awhile folks hadn't tore down the Images. They couldn't
abide cruel Canterbury Bells ringin' to Bulverhithe for
more pore men an' women to be burnded, nor the King's
proud messenger ridin' through the land givin' orders to
tear down the Images. They couldn't abide it no shape.
Nor yet they couldn't get their boat an' crew to flit by
without Leave an' Good-will from Flesh an' Blood; an'
Flesh an' Blood came an' went about its own business the
while the Marsh was swarvin' up, an' swarvin' up with
Pharisees from all England over, strivin' all means to get
through at Flesh an' Blood to tell 'em their sore need ... I
don't know as you've ever heard say Pharisees are like chickens?'
'My woman used to say that too,'said Hobden, folding
his brown arms.
'They be. You run too many chickens together, an' the
ground sickens, like, an' you get a squat, an' your chickens
die. Same way, you crowd Pharisees all in one place -
they don't die, but Flesh an' Blood walkin' among 'em is
apt to sick up an' pine off. They don't mean it, an' Flesh
an' Blood don't know it, but that's the truth - as I've
heard. The Pharisees through bein' all stenched up an'
frighted, an' trying' to come through with their
supplications, they nature-ally changed the thin airs an'
humours in Flesh an' Blood. It lay on the Marsh like
thunder. Men saw their churches ablaze with the wildfire
in the windows after dark; they saw their cattle scatterin'
an' no man scarin'; their sheep flockin' an' no man
drivin'; their horses latherin' an' no man leadin'; they
saw the liddle low green lights more than ever in the
dik-sides; they heard the liddle feet patterin' more than
ever round the houses; an' night an' day, day an' night,
'twas all as though they were bein' creeped up on, an'
hinted at by Some One or other that couldn't rightly
shape their trouble. Oh, I lay they sweated! Man an'
maid, woman an' child, their nature done 'em no service
all the weeks while the Marsh was swarvin' up with
Pharisees. But they was Flesh an' Blood, an' Marsh men
before all. They reckoned the signs sinnified trouble for
the Marsh. Or that the sea 'ud rear up against Dymchurch
Wall an' they'd be drownded like Old Winchelsea;
or that the Plague was comin'. So they looked for
the meanin' in the sea or in the clouds - far an' high up.
They never thought to look near an' knee-high, where
they could see naught.
'Now there was a poor widow at Dymchurch under the
Wall, which, lacking man or property, she had the more
time for feeling; and she come to feel there was a Trouble
outside her doorstep bigger an' heavier than aught she'd
ever carried over it. She had two sons - one born blind,
an' t'other struck dumb through fallin' off the Wall when
he was liddle. They was men grown, but not wage-
earnin', an' she worked for 'em, keepin' bees and
'What sort of questions?' said Dan.
'Like where lost things might be found, an' what to put
about a crooked baby's neck, an' how to join parted
sweethearts. She felt the Trouble on the Marsh same as
eels feel thunder. She was a wise woman.'
'My woman was won'erful weather-tender, too,' said
Hobden. 'I've seen her brish sparks like off an anvil out of
her hair in thunderstorms. But she never laid out to
'This woman was a Seeker, like, an' Seekers they
sometimes find. One night, while she lay abed, hot an'
achin', there come a Dream an' tapped at her window,
an' "Widow Whitgift," it said, "Widow Whitgift!"
'First, by the wings an' the whistlin', she thought it was
peewits, but last she arose an' dressed herself, an'
opened her door to the Marsh, an' she felt the Trouble an'
the Groanin' all about her, strong as fever an' ague, an'
she calls: "What is it? Oh, what is it?"
'Then 'twas all like the frogs in the diks peepin'; then
'twas all like the reeds in the diks clip-clappin'; an' then
the great Tide-wave rummelled along the Wall, an' she
couldn't hear proper.
'Three times she called, an' three times the Tide-wave
did her down. But she catched the quiet between, an' she
cries out, "What is the Trouble on the Marsh that's been
lying down with my heart an' arising with my body this
month gone?" She felt a liddle hand lay hold on her
gown-hem, an' she stooped to the pull o' that liddle hand.'
Tom Shoesmith spread his huge fist before the fire and
smiled at it as he went on.
"'Will the sea drown the Marsh?" she says. She was a
Marsh woman first an' foremost.
"'No," says the liddle voice. "Sleep sound for all o' that."
"'Is the Plague comin' to the Marsh?" she says. Them
was all the ills she knowed.
"'No. Sleep sound for all o' that," says Robin.
'She turned about, half mindful to go in, but the liddle
voices grieved that shrill an' sorrowful she turns back, an'
she cries: "If it is not a Trouble of Flesh an' Blood, what
can I do?"
'The Pharisees cried out upon her from all round to
fetch them a boat to sail to France, an' come back no more.
"'There's a boat on the Wall," she says, "but I can't
push it down to the sea, nor sail it when 'tis there."
"'Lend us your sons," says all the Pharisees. "Give
'em Leave an' Good-will to sail it for us, Mother - O Mother!"
"'One's dumb, an' t'other's blind," she says. "But all
the dearer me for that; and you'll lose them in the big sea. "
The voices justabout pierced through her; an' there was
children's voices too. She stood out all she could, but she
couldn't rightly stand against that. So she says: "If you
can draw my sons for your job, I'D not hinder 'em. You
can't ask no more of a Mother."
'She saw them liddle green lights dance an' cross till
she was dizzy; she heard them liddle feet patterin' by the
thousand; she heard cruel Canterbury Bells ringing to
Bulverhithe, an' she heard the great Tide-wave ranging
along the Wall. That was while the Pharisees was workin'
a Dream to wake her two sons asleep: an' while she bit on
her fingers she saw them two she'd bore come out an'
pass her with never a word. She followed 'em, cryin'
pitiful, to the old boat on the Wall, an' that they took an'
runned down to the sea.
'When they'd stepped mast an' sail the blind son
speaks: "Mother, we're waitin' your Leave an' Good-will
to take Them over."'
Tom Shoesmith threw back his head and half shut his eyes.
'Eh, me!' he said. 'She was a fine, valiant woman, the
Widow Whitgift. She stood twistin' the eends of her long
hair over her fingers, an' she shook like a poplar, makin'
up her mind. The Pharisees all about they hushed their
children from cryin' an' they waited dumb-still. She was
all their dependence. 'Thout her Leave an' Good-will
they could not pass; for she was the Mother. So she shook
like a aps-tree makin' up her mind. 'Last she drives the
word past her teeth, an' "Go!" she says. "Go with my
Leave an' Goodwill."
'Then I saw - then, they say, she had to brace back
same as if she was wadin' in tide-water; for the Pharisees
just about flowed past her - down the beach to the boat, I
dunnamany of 'em - with their wives an' childern an'
valooables, all escapin' out of cruel Old England. Silver
you could hear chinkin', an' liddle bundles hove down
dunt on the bottom-boards, an' passels o' liddle swords
an' shields raklin', an' liddle fingers an' toes scratchin' on
the boatside to board her when the two sons pushed her
off. That boat she sunk lower an' lower, but all the
Widow could see in it was her boys movin' hampered-
like to get at the tackle. Up sail they did, an' away they
went, deep as a Rye barge, away into the off-shore
mists, an' the Widow Whitgift she sat down an' eased
her grief till mornin' light.'
'I never heard she was all alone,' said Hobden.
'I remember now. The one called Robin, he stayed with
her, they tell. She was all too grieevious to listen to his promises.'
'Ah! She should ha' made her bargain beforehand. I
allus told my woman so!'Hobden cried.
'No. She loaned her sons for a pure love-loan, bein' as
she sensed the Trouble on the Marshes, an' was simple
good-willin' to ease it.' Tom laughed softly. 'She done
that. Yes, she done that! From Hithe to Bulverhithe,
fretty man an' maid, ailin' woman an' wailin' child, they
took the advantage of the change in the thin airs just
about as soon as the Pharisees flitted. Folks come out
fresh an' shinin' all over the Marsh like snails after
wet. An' that while the Widow Whitgift sat grievin'
on the Wall. She might have belieft us - she might
have trusted her sons would be sent back! She
fussed, no bounds, when their boat come in after three days.'
'And, of course, the sons were both quite cured?' said Una.
'No-o. That would have been out o' nature. She got 'em
back as she sent 'em. The blind man he hadn't seen
naught of anythin', an' the dumb man nature-ally he
couldn't say aught of what he'd seen. I reckon that was
why the Pharisees pitched on 'em for the ferryin' job.'
'But what did you - what did Robin promise the
Widow?' said Dan.
'What did he promise, now?' Tom pretended to think.
'Wasn't your woman a Whitgift, Ralph? Didn't she ever say?'
'She told me a passel o' no-sense stuff when he was
born.' Hobden pointed at his son. 'There was always to
be one of 'em that could see further into a millstone than most.'
'Me! That's me!'said the Bee Boy so suddenly that they
'I've got it now!' cried Tom, slapping his knee. 'So long
as Whitgift blood lasted, Robin promised there would
allers be one o' her stock that - that no Trouble 'ud lie on,
no Maid 'ud sigh on, no Night could frighten, no Fright
could harm, no Harm could make sin, an' no Woman
could make a fool of.'
'Well, ain't that just me?' said the Bee Boy, where he sat
in the silver square of the great September moon that was
staring into the oast-house door.
'They was the exact words she told me when we first
found he wasn't like others. But it beats me how you
known 'em,' said Hobden.
'Aha! There's more under my hat besides hair?' Tom
laughed and stretched himself. 'When I've seen these
two young folk home, we'll make a night of old days,
Ralph, with passin' old tales - eh? An' where might
you live?' he said, gravely, to Dan. 'An' do you think
your Pa 'ud give me a drink for takin' you there, Missy?'
They giggled so at this that they had to run out. Tom
picked them both up, set one on each broad shoulder,
and tramped across the ferny pasture where the cows
puffed milky puffs at them in the moonlight.
'Oh, Puck! Puck! I guessed you right from when you
talked about the salt. How could you ever do it?' Una
cried, swinging along delighted.
'Do what?'he said, and climbed the stile by the pollard oak.
'Pretend to be Tom Shoesmith,' said Dan, and they
ducked to avoid the two little ashes that grow by the
bridge over the brook. Tom was almost running.
'Yes. That's my name, Mus' Dan,' he said, hurrying
over the silent shining lawn, where a rabbit sat by the big
white-thorn near the croquet ground. 'Here you be.' He
strode into the old kitchen yard, and slid them down as
Ellen came to ask questions.
'I'm helping in Mus' Spray's oast-house,' he said to
her. 'No, I'm no foreigner. I knowed this country 'fore
your mother was born; an' - yes, it's dry work oastin',
Miss. Thank you.'
Ellen went to get a jug, and the children went in -
magicked once more by Oak, Ash, and Thorn!
A Three-Part Song
I'm just in love with all these three,
The Weald an' the Marsh an' the Down countrie;
Nor I don't know which I love the most,
The Weald or the Marsh or the white chalk coast!
I've buried my heart in a ferny hill,
Twix' a liddle low shaw an' a great high gill.
Oh, hop-bine yaller an' wood-smoke blue,
I reckon you'll keep her middling true!
I've loosed my mind for to out an' run
On a Marsh that was old when Kings begun:
Oh, Romney level an' Brenzett reeds,
I reckon you know what my mind needs!
I've given my soul to the Southdown grass,
An' sheep-bells tinkled where you pass.
Oh, Firle an' Ditchling an' sails at sea,
I reckon you keep my soul for me!
THE TREASURE AND THE LAW
Song of the Fifth River
When first by Eden Tree
The Four Great Rivers ran,
To each was appointed a Man
Her Prince and Ruler to be.
But after this was ordained,
(The ancient legends tell),
There came dark Israel,
For whom no River remained.
Then He That is Wholly Just
Said to him: 'Fling on the ground
A handful of yellow dust,
And a Fifth Great River shall run,
Mightier than these four,
In secret the Earth around;
And Her secret evermore
Shall be shown to thee and thy Race.
So it was said and done.
And, deep in the veins of Earth,
And, fed by a thousand springs
That comfort the market-place,
Or sap the power of Kings,
The Fifth Great River had birth,
Even as it was foretold -
The Secret River of Gold!
And Israel laid down
His sceptre and his crown,
To brood on that River bank,
Where the waters flashed and sank,
And burrowed in earth and fell,
And bided a season below;
For reason that none might know,
Save only Israel.
He is Lord of the Last -
The Fifth, most wonderful, Flood.
He hears Her thunder past
And Her song is in his blood.
He can foresay: 'She will fall,'
For he knows which fountain dries
Behind which desert-belt
A thousand leagues to the South.
He can foresay: 'She will rise.'
He knows what far snows melt
Along what mountain-wall
A thousand leagues to the North.
He snuffs the coming drouth
As he snuffs the coming rain,
He knows what each will bring forth,
And turns it to his gain.
A Prince without a Sword,
A Ruler without a Throne;
Israel follows his quest.
In every land a guest,
Of many lands a lord,
In no land King is he.
But the Fifth Great River keeps
The secret of Her deeps
For Israel alone,
As it was ordered to be.
Now it was the third week in November, and the woods
rang with the noise of pheasant-shooting. No one hunted
that steep, cramped country except the village beagles,
who, as often as not, escaped from their kennels and
made a day of their own. Dan and Una found a couple of
them towling round the kitchen-garden after the laundry
cat. The little brutes were only too pleased to go rabbiting,
so the children ran them all along the brook pastures
and into Little Lindens farm-yard, where the old sow
vanquished them - and up to the quarry-hole, where
they started a fox. He headed for Far Wood, and there
they frightened out all the Pheasants, who were sheltering
from a big beat across the valley. Then the cruel guns
began again, and they grabbed the beagles lest they
should stray and get hurt.
'I wouldn't be a pheasant - in November - for a lot,'
Dan panted, as he caught Folly by the neck. 'Why did you
laugh that horrid way?'
'I didn't,' said Una, sitting on Flora, the fat lady-dog.
'Oh, look! The silly birds are going back to their own
woods instead of ours, where they would be safe.'
'Safe till it pleased you to kill them.' An old man, so tall
he was almost a giant, stepped from behind the clump of
hollies by Volaterrae. The children jumped, and the dogs
dropped like setters. He wore a sweeping gown of dark
thick stuff, lined and edged with yellowish fur, and he
bowed a bent-down bow that made them feel both proud
and ashamed. Then he looked at them steadily, and they
stared back without doubt or fear.
'You are not afraid?' he said, running his hands
through his splendid grey beard. 'Not afraid that those
men yonder' - he jerked his head towards the incessant
POP-POP of the guns from the lower woods -'will do you hurt?'
'We-ell'- Dan liked to be accurate, especially when he
was shy -'old Hobd - a friend of mine told me that one of
the beaters got peppered last week - hit in the leg, I
mean. You see, Mr Meyer will fire at rabbits. But he gave
Waxy Garnett a quid - sovereign, I mean - and Waxy told
Hobden he'd have stood both barrels for half the money.'
'He doesn't understand,'Una cried, watching the pale,
troubled face. 'Oh, I wish -'
She had scarcely said it when Puck rustled out of the
hollies and spoke to the man quickly in foreign words.
Puck wore a long cloak too - the afternoon was just frosting
down - and it changed his appearance altogether.
'Nay, nay!'he said at last. 'You did not understand the
boy. A freeman was a little hurt, by pure mischance, at
'I know that mischance! What did his lord do? Laugh
and ride over him?' the old man sneered.
'It was one of your own people did the hurt, Kadmiel.'
Puck's eyes twinkled maliciously. 'So he gave the freeman
a piece of gold, and no more was said.'
'A Jew drew blood from a Christian and no more was
said?' Kadmiel cried. 'Never! When did they torture him?'
'No man may be bound, or fined, or slain till he has
been judged by his peers,' Puck insisted. 'There is but
one Law in Old England for Jew or Christian - the Law
that was signed at Runnymede.'
'Why, that's Magna Charta!' Dan whispered. It was
one of the few history dates that he could remember.
Kadmiel turned on him with a sweep and a whirr of his
'Dost thou know of that, babe?' he cried, and lifted his
hands in wonder.
'Yes,' said Dan firmly.
'Magna Charta was signed by John,
That Henry the Third put his heel upon.
And old Hobden says that if it hadn't been for her (he calls
everything "her", you know), the keepers would have
him clapped in Lewes jail all the year round.'
Again Puck translated to Kadmiel in the strange,
solemn-sounding language, and at last Kadmiel laughed.
'Out of the mouths of babes do we learn,' said he. 'But
tell me now, and I will not call you a babe but a Rabbi, why
did the King sign the roll of the New Law at Runnymede?
For he was a King.'
Dan looked sideways at his sister. It was her turn.
'Because he jolly well had to,' said Una softly. 'The
Barons made him.'
'Nay,' Kadmiel answered, shaking his head. 'You
Christians always forget that gold does more than the
sword. Our good King signed because he could not
borrow more money from us bad Jews.' He curved his
shoulders as he spoke. 'A King without gold is a snake
with a broken back, and' - his nose sneered up and his
eyebrows frowned down -'it is a good deed to break a
snake's back. That was my work,' he cried, triumphantly,
to Puck. 'Spirit of Earth, bear witness that that was my
work!' He shot up to his full towering height, and his
words rang like a trumpet. He had a voice that changed
its tone almost as an opal changes colour - sometimes
deep and thundery, sometimes thin and waily, but
always it made you listen.
'Many people can bear witness to that,' Puck
answered. 'Tell these babes how it was done. Remember,
Master, they do not know Doubt or Fear.'
'So I saw in their faces when we met,' said Kadmiel.
'Yet surely, surely they are taught to spit upon Jews?'
'Are they?' said Dan, much interested. 'Where at?'
Puck fell back a pace, laughing. 'Kadmiel is thinking of
King John's reign,' he explained. 'His people were badly
'Oh, we know that.' they answered, and (it was very
rude of them, but they could not help it) they stared
straight at Kadmiel's mouth to see if his teeth were all
there. It stuck in their lesson-memory that King John
used to pull out Jews' teeth to make them lend him money.
Kadmiel understood the look and smiled bitterly.
'No. Your King never drew my teeth: I think, perhaps,
I drew his. Listen! I was not born among Christians, but
among Moors - in Spain - in a little white town under the
mountains. Yes, the Moors are cruel, but at least their
learned men dare to think. It was prophesied of me at my
birth that I should be a Lawgiver to a People of a strange
speech and a hard language. We Jews are always looking
for the Prince and the Lawgiver to come. Why not? My
people in the town (we were very few) set me apart as a
child of the prophecy - the Chosen of the Chosen. We
Jews dream so many dreams. You would never guess it to
see us slink about the rubbish-heaps in our quarter; but at
the day's end - doors shut, candles lit - aha! then we
became the Chosen again.'
He paced back and forth through the wood as he
talked. The rattle of the shot-guns never ceased, and the
dogs whimpered a little and lay flat on the leaves.
'I was a Prince. Yes! Think of a little Prince who had
never known rough words in his own house handed over
to shouting, bearded Rabbis, who pulled his ears and
filliped his nose, all that he might learn - learn - learn to
be King when his time came. He! Such a little Prince it
was! One eye he kept on the stone-throwing Moorish
boys, and the other it roved about the streets looking for
his Kingdom. Yes, and he learned to cry softly when he
was hunted up and down those streets. He learned to do
all things without noise. He played beneath his father's
table when the Great Candle was lit, and he listened as
children listen to the talk of his father's friends above the
table. They came across the mountains, from out of all the
world, for my Prince's father was their counsellor. They
came from behind the armies of Sala-ud-Din: from
Rome: from Venice: from England. They stole down our
alley, they tapped secretly at our door, they took off their
rags, they arrayed themselves, and they talked to my
father at the wine. All over the world the heathen fought
each other. They brought news of these wars, and while
he played beneath the table, my Prince heard these
meanly dressed ones decide between themselves how, and when, and
for how long King should draw sword against King, and People
rise up against People. Why not? There can be no war without
gold, and we Jews know how the earth's gold moves with the
seasons, and the crops, and the winds; circling and
looping and rising and sinking away like a river -
a wonderful underground river. How should the
foolish Kings know that while they fight and steal and kill?'
The children's faces showed that they knew nothing at
all as, with open eyes, they trotted and turned beside the
long-striding old man. He twitched his gown over his
shoulders, and a square plate of gold, studded with
jewels, gleamed for an instant through the fur, like a star
through flying snow.
'No matter,' he said. 'But, credit me, my Prince saw
peace or war decided not once, but many times, by the
fall of a coin spun between a Jew from Bury and a Jewess
from Alexandria, in his father's house, when the Great
Candle was lit. Such power had we Jews among the
Gentiles. Ah, my little Prince! Do you wonder that he
learned quickly? Why not?' He muttered to himself and
'My trade was that of a physician. When I had learned
it in Spain I went to the East to find my Kingdom. Why
not? A Jew is as free as a sparrow - or a dog. He goes
where he is hunted. In the East I found libraries where
men dared to think - schools of medicine where they
dared to learn. I was diligent in my business. Therefore I
stood before Kings. I have been a brother to Princes and a
companion to beggars, and I have walked between the
living and the dead. There was no profit in it. I did not
find my Kingdom. So, in the tenth year of my travels,
when I had reached the Uttermost Eastern Sea, I returned
to my father's house. God had wonderfully preserved
my people. None had been slain, none even wounded,
and only a few scourged. I became once more a son in my
father's house. Again the Great Candle was lit; again the
meanly apparelled ones tapped on our door after dusk;
and again I heard them weigh out peace and war, as they
weighed out the gold on the table. But I was not rich - not
very rich. Therefore, when those that had power and
knowledge and wealth talked together, I sat in the
shadow. Why not?
'Yet all my wanderings had shown me one sure thing,
which is, that a King without money is like a spear
without a head. He cannot do much harm. I said, therefore,
to Elias of Bury, a great one among our people:
"Why do our people lend any more to the Kings that
oppress us?" "Because," said Elias, "if we refuse they stir
up their people against us, and the People are tenfold
more cruel than Kings. If thou doubtest, come with me to
Bury in England and live as I live."
'I saw my mother's face across the candle flame, and I
said, "I will come with thee to Bury. Maybe my Kingdom
shall be there."
'So I sailed with Elias to the darkness and the cruelty of
Bury in England, where there are no learned men. How
can a man be wise if he hate? At Bury I kept his accounts
for Elias, and I saw men kill Jews there by the tower. No -
none laid hands on Elias. He lent money to the King, and
the King's favour was about him. A King will not take the
life so long as there is any gold. This King - yes, John -
oppressed his people bitterly because they would not
give him money. Yet his land was a good land. If he had
only given it rest he might have cropped it as a Christian
crops his beard. But even that little he did not know, for
God had deprived him of all understanding, and had
multiplied pestilence, and famine, and despair upon the
people. Therefore his people turned against us Jews,
who are all people's dogs. Why not? Lastly the Barons
and the people rose together against the King because of
his cruelties. Nay - nay - the Barons did not love the
people, but they saw that if the King cut up and destroyed
the common people, he would presently destroy
the Barons. They joined then, as cats and pigs will join to
slay a snake. I kept the accounts, and I watched all these
things, for I remembered the Prophecy.
'A great gathering of Barons (to most of whom we had
lent money) came to Bury, and there, after much talk and
a thousand runnings-about, they made a roll of the New
Laws that they would force on the King. If he swore to
keep those Laws, they would allow him a little money.
That was the King's God - Money - to waste. They
showed us the roll of the New Laws. Why not? We had
lent them money. We knew all their counsels - we Jews
shivering behind our doors in Bury.' He threw out his
hands suddenly. 'We did not seek to be paid all in money.
We sought Power- Power- Power! That is our God in our
captivity. Power to use!
'I said to Elias: "These New Laws are good. Lend no
more money to the King: so long as he has money he will
lie and slay the people."
"'Nay," said Elias. "I know this people. They are
madly cruel. Better one King than a thousand butchers. I
have lent a little money to the Barons, or they would
torture us, but my most I will lend to the King. He hath
promised me a place near him at Court, where my wife
and I shall be safe."
"'But if the King be made to keep these New Laws," I
said, "the land will have peace, and our trade will grow.
If we lend he will fight again."
"'Who made thee a Lawgiver in England?" said Elias.
"I know this people. Let the dogs tear one another! I will
lend the King ten thousand pieces of gold, and he can
fight the Barons at his pleasure."
"'There are not two thousand pieces of gold in all
England this summer," I said, for I kept the accounts,
and I knew how the earth's gold moved - that wonderful
underground river. Elias barred home the windows,
and, his hands about his mouth, he told me how, when
he was trading with small wares in a French ship, he had
come to the Castle of Pevensey.'
'Oh!' said Dan. 'Pevensey again!' and looked at Una,
who nodded and skipped.
'There, after they had scattered his pack up and down
the Great Hall, some young knights carried him to an
upper room, and dropped him into a well in a wall, that
rose and fell with the tide. They called him Joseph, and
threw torches at his wet head. Why not?'
'Why, of course!'cried Dan. 'Didn't you know it was -'
Puck held up his hand to stop him, and Kadmiel, who
never noticed, went on.
'When the tide dropped he thought he stood on old
armour, but feeling with his toes, he raked up bar on bar
of soft gold. Some wicked treasure of the old days put
away, and the secret cut off by the sword. I have heard
the like before.'
'So have we,' Una whispered. 'But it wasn't wicked a bit.'
'Elias took a little of the stuff with him, and thrice
yearly he would return to Pevensey as a chapman, selling
at no price or profit, till they suffered him to sleep in the
empty room, where he would plumb and grope, and
steal away a few bars. The great store of it still remained,
and by long brooding he had come to look on it as his
own. Yet when we thought how we should lift and
convey it, we saw no way. This was before the Word of
the Lord had come to me. A walled fortress possessed by
Normans; in the midst a forty-foot tide-well out of
which to remove secretly many horse-loads of gold!
Hopeless! So Elias wept. Adah, his wife, wept too. She
had hoped to stand beside the Queen's Christian
tiring-maids at Court when the King should give
them that place at Court which he had promised.
Why not? She was born in England - an odious woman.
'The present evil to us was that Elias, out of his strong
folly, had, as it were, promised the King that he would
arm him with more gold. Wherefore the King in his camp
stopped his ears against the Barons and the people.
Wherefore men died daily. Adah so desired her place at
Court, she besought Elias to tell the King where the
treasure lay, that the King might take it by force, and -
they would trust in his gratitude. Why not? This Elias
refused to do, for he looked on the gold as his own. They
quarrelled, and they wept at the evening meal, and late in
the night came one Langton - a priest, almost learned - to
borrow more money for the Barons. Elias and Adah went
to their chamber.'
Kadmiel laughed scornfully in his beard. The shots
across the valley stopped as the shooting party changed
their ground for the last beat.
'So it was I, not Elias,' he went on quietly, 'that made
terms with Langton touching the fortieth of the New Laws.'
'What terms?' said Puck quickly. 'The Fortieth of the
Great Charter says: "To none will we sell, refuse, or delay
right or justice."'
'True, but the Barons had written first: To no free man. It
cost me two hundred broad pieces of gold to change
those narrow words. Langton, the priest, understood.
"Jew though thou art," said he, "the change is just, and if
ever Christian and Jew came to be equal in England thy
people may thank thee." Then he went out stealthily, as
men do who deal with Israel by night. I think he spent my
gift upon his altar. Why not? I have spoken with Langton.
He was such a man as I might have been if - if we
Jews had been a people. But yet, in many things, a child.
'I heard Elias and Adah abovestairs quarrel, and,
knowing the woman was the stronger, I saw that Elias
would tell the King of the gold and that the King would
continue in his stubbornness. Therefore I saw that the
gold must be put away from the reach of any man. Of a
sudden, the Word of the Lord came to me saying,
"The Morning is come, O thou that dwellest in the land."'
Kadmiel halted, all black against the pale green sky
beyond the wood - a huge robed figure, like the Moses in
'I rose. I went out, and as I shut the door on that House
of Foolishness, the woman looked from the window and
whispered, "I have prevailed on my husband to tell the
King!" I answered: "There is no need. The Lord is with me."
'In that hour the Lord gave me full understanding of all
that I must do; and His Hand covered me in my ways.
First I went to London, to a physician of our people, who
sold me certain drugs that I needed. You shall see why.
Thence I went swiftly to Pevensey. Men fought all
around me, for there were neither rulers nor judges in the
abominable land. Yet when I walked by them they cried
out that I was one Ahasuerus, a Jew, condemned, as they
believe, to live for ever, and they fled from me every-
ways. Thus the Lord saved me for my work, and at
Pevensey I bought me a little boat and moored it on the
mud beneath the Marsh-gate of the Castle. That also God
He was as calm as though he were speaking of some
stranger, and his voice filled the little bare wood with
'I cast' - his hand went to his breast, and again the
strange jewel gleamed - 'I cast the drugs which I had
prepared into the common well of the Castle. Nay, I did
no harm. The more we physicians know, the less do we
do. Only the fool says: "I dare." I caused a blotched and
itching rash to break out upon their skins, but I knew it
would fade in fifteen days. I did not stretch out my hand
against their life. They in the Castle thought it was the
Plague, and they ran out, taking with them their very dogs.
'A Christian physician, seeing that I was a Jew and a
stranger, vowed that I had brought the sickness from
London. This is the one time I have ever heard a Christian
leech speak truth of any disease. Thereupon the people
beat me, but a merciful woman said: "Do not kill him
now. Push him into our Castle with his Plague, and if, as
he says, it will abate on the fifteenth day, we can kill him
then." Why not? They drove me across the drawbridge of
the Castle, and fled back to their booths. Thus I came to
be alone with the treasure.'
'But did you know this was all going to happen just
right?' said Una.
'My Prophecy was that I should be a Lawgiver to a
People of a strange land and a hard speech. I knew I
should not die. I washed my cuts. I found the tide-well in
the wall, and from Sabbath to Sabbath I dove and dug
there in that empty, Christian-smelling fortress. He! I
spoiled the Egyptians! He! If they had only known! I
drew up many good loads of gold, which I loaded by
night into my boat. There had been gold dust too, but
that had been washed out by the tides.'
'Didn't you ever wonder who had put it there?' said
Dan, stealing a glance at Puck's calm, dark face under the
hood of his gown. Puck shook his head and pursed his lips.
'Often; for the gold was new to me,' Kadmiel replied. 'I
know the Golds. I can judge them in the dark; but this
was heavier and redder than any we deal in. Perhaps it
was the very gold of Parvaim. Eh, why not? It went to my
heart to heave it on to the mud, but I saw well that if the
evil thing remained, or if even the hope of finding it
remained, the King would not sign the New Laws, and
the land would perish.'
'Oh, Marvel!' said Puck, beneath his breath, rustling in
the dead leaves.
'When the boat was loaded I washed my hands seven
times, and pared beneath my nails, for I would not keep
one grain. I went out by the little gate where the Castle's
refuse is thrown. I dared not hoist sail lest men should
see me; but the Lord commanded the tide to bear me
carefully, and I was far from land before the morning.'
'Weren't you afraid?' said Una.
'Why? There were no Christians in the boat. At sunrise
I made my prayer, and cast the gold - all - all that gold -
into the deep sea! A King's ransom - no, the ransom of a
People! When I had loosed hold of the last bar, the Lord
commanded the tide to return me to a haven at the mouth
of a river, and thence I walked across a wilderness to
Lewes, where I have brethren. They opened the door to
me, and they say - I had not eaten for two days - they say
that I fell across the threshold, crying: "I have sunk an
army with horsemen in the sea!"'
'But you hadn't,' said Una. 'Oh, yes! I see! You meant
that King John might have spent it on that?'
'Even so,' said Kadmiel.
The firing broke out again close behind them. The
pheasants poured over the top of a belt of tall firs. They
could see young Mr Meyer, in his new yellow gaiters,
very busy and excited at the end of the line, and they
could hear the thud of the falling birds.
'But what did Elias of Bury do?' Puck demanded. 'He
had promised money to the King.'
Kadmiel smiled grimly. 'I sent him word from London
that the Lord was on my side. When he heard that the
Plague had broken out in Pevensey, and that a Jew had
been thrust into the Castle to cure it, he understood my
word was true. He and Adah hurried to Lewes and asked
me for an accounting. He still looked on the gold as his
own. I told them where I had laid it, and I gave them full
leave to pick it up ... Eh, well! The curses of a fool and
the dust of a journey are two things no wise man can
escape ... But I pitied Elias! The King was wroth with
him because he could not lend; the Barons were wroth
too because they heard that he would have lent to the
King; and Adah was wroth with him because she was an
odious woman. They took ship from Lewes to Spain.
That was wise!'
'And you? Did you see the signing of the Law at
Runnymede?' said Puck, as Kadmiel laughed noiselessly.
'Nay. Who am I to meddle with things too high for me?
I returned to Bury, and lent money on the autumn crops.
There was a crackle overhead. A cock-pheasant that
had sheered aside after being hit spattered down almost
on top of them, driving up the dry leaves like a shell. Flora
and Folly threw themselves at it; the children rushed
forward, and when they had beaten them off and
smoothed down the plumage Kadmiel had disappeared.
'Well,' said Puck calmly, 'what did you think of it?
Weland gave the Sword! The Sword gave the Treasure,
and the Treasure gave the Law. It's as natural as an oak growing.'
'I don't understand. Didn't he know it was Sir
Richard's old treasure?' said Dan. 'And why did Sir
Richard and Brother Hugh leave it lying about? And - and -'
'Never mind,' said Una politely. 'He'll let us come
and go and look and know another time. Won't you, Puck?'
'Another time maybe,' Puck answered. 'Brr! It's cold -
and late. I'll race you towards home!'
They hurried down into the sheltered valley. The sun
had almost sunk behind Cherry Clack, the trodden
ground by the cattle-gates was freezing at the edges, and
the new-waked north wind blew the night on them from
over the hills. They picked up their feet and flew across
the browned pastures, and when they halted, panting in
the steam of their own breath, the dead leaves whirled up
behind them. There was Oak and Ash and Thorn enough
in that year-end shower to magic away a thousand
So they trotted to the brook at the bottom of the lawn,
wondering why Flora and Folly had missed the quarry-hole fox.
Old Hobden was just finishing some hedge-work.
They saw his white smock glimmer in the twilight where
he faggoted the rubbish.
'Winter, he's come, I reckon, Mus' Dan,' he called.
'Hard times now till Heffle Cuckoo Fair. Yes, we'll all be
glad to see the Old Woman let the Cuckoo out o' the
basket for to start lawful Spring in England.'
They heard a crash, and a stamp and a splash of water
as though a heavy old cow were crossing almost under
Hobden ran forward angrily to the ford.
'Gleason's bull again, playin' Robin all over the Farm!
Oh, look, Mus' Dan - his great footmark as big as a
trencher. No bounds to his impidence! He might count
himself to be a man or - or Somebody -'
A voice the other side of the brook boomed:
'I wonder who his cloak would turn
When Puck had led him round,
Or where those walking fires would burn -'
Then the children went in singing 'Farewell, Rewards
and Fairies' at the tops of their voices. They had forgotten
that they had not even said good-night to Puck.
The Children's Song
Land of our Birth, we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be;
When we are grown and take our place
As men and women with our race.
Father in Heaven Who lovest all,
Oh, help Thy children when they call;
That they may build from age to age
An undefiled heritage.
Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
With steadfastness and careful truth;
That, in our time, Thy Grace may give
The Truth whereby the Nations live.
Teach us to rule ourselves alway,
Controlled and cleanly night and day;
That we may bring, if need arise,
No maimed or worthless sacrifice.
Teach us to look in all our ends,
On Thee for judge, and not our friends;
That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd.
Teach us the Strength that cannot seek,
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
That, under Thee, we may possess
Man's strength to comfort man's distress.
Teach us Delight in simple things,
And Mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And Love to all men 'neath the sun!
Land of our Birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
O Motherland, we pledge to thee
Head, heart and hand through the years to be!
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