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Title: Babylon, Volume 1
Author: Allen, Grant
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BABYLON

By Grant Allen

(Cecil Power)

Author Of ‘Philistia.’ ‘Strange Stories’ Etc.

In Three Volumes

Vol. I.

With Twelve Illustrations By P. Macnab

London

Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly

1885

[Illustration: 0005]

[Illustration: 0006]

BABYLON



CHAPTER I. RURAL AMERICA.

|Whar’s Hiram, Het?’ Deacon Zephaniah Winthrop asked of his wife,
tartly. ‘Pears to me that boy’s allus off somewhar, whenever he’s wanted
to do anything. Can’t git along without him, any way, when we’ve got to
weed the spring peppermint. Whar’s he off, I say, Mehitabel?’

Mrs. Winthrop drew herself together from the peas she was languidly
shelling, and answered in the dry withered tone of a middle-aged
northern New Yorker, ‘Wal, I s’pose, Zeph, he’s gone down to the
blackberry lot, most likely.’

‘Blackberry lot,’ Mr. Winthrop replied with a fine air of irony.
‘Blackberry lot, indeed. What does he want blackberryin’, I should like
to know? I’ll blackberry him, I kin tell you, whenever I ketch him. Jest
you go an’ holler for him, Het, an’ ef he don’t come ruther sooner’n
lightnin’, he’ll ketch it, an’ no mistake, sure as preachin’. I’ve got
an orful itchin’, Mis’ Winthrop, to give that thar boy a durned good
cow-hidin’ this very minnit.’

Mrs. Winthrop rose from the basket of peas and proceeded across the
front yard with as much alacrity as she could summon up, to call for
Hiram. She was a tall, weazened, sallow woman, prematurely aged, with
a pair of high cheekbones, and a hard, hungry-looking, unlovable mouth;
but she was averse to the extreme and unnecessary measure of cowhiding
her firstborn. ‘Hiram,’ she called out, in her loudest and shrillest
voice: ‘Hiram!

Drat the boy, whar is he? Hiram! Hi-ram!’ It was a dreary and a
monotonous outlook altogether, that view from the gate of Zephaniah
Winthrop’s freehold farm in Geauga County. The homestead itself, an
unpainted frame house, consisted of planed planks set carelessly one
above the other on upright beams, stood in a weedy yard, surrounded by
a raw-looking paling, and unbeautified by a single tree, creeper, shrub,
bush, or scented flower. A square house, planted naked in the exact
centre of a square yard, desolate and lonely, as though such an idea as
that of beauty had never entered into the human heart. In front the long
straight township road ran indefinitely as far as the eye could reach in
either direction, beginning at the horizon on the north, and ending at
the horizon on the south, but leading nowhere in particular, that
anyone ever heard of, meanwhile, unless it were to Muddy Creek Dépôt
(pronounced _deepo_) on the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdens-burg Railroad.
At considerable intervals along its course, a new but congenitally
shabby gate opened here and there into another bare square yard, and
gave access to another bare square frame house of unpainted pine
planks. In the blanks between these oases of unvarnished ugliness the
road, instead of being bordered by green trees and smiling hedgerows,
pursued its gaunt way, unrejoicing, between open fields or long and
hideous snake fences. If you have ever seen a snake fence, you know what
that means; if you haven’t seen one, sit down in your own easy chair
gratefully and comfortably, and thank an indulgent heaven with all your
heart for your happy ignorance.

Beyond and behind the snake fences lay fields of wheat and meadows and
pasture land; not, as in England, green and lush with grass or clover,
but all alike bare, brown, weedy, and illimitable. There were no trees
to be seen anywhere (though there were plenty of stumps), for this
was ‘a very fully settled section,’ as Mr. Winthrop used to murmur to
himself complacently: ‘the country thar real beautiful: you might look
about you, some parts, for a mile or two right away togither and never
see a single tree a-standin’ anywhar.’ Indeed, it was difficult to
imagine where on earth a boy could manage to hide himself in all that
long, level, leafless district. But Mrs. Winthrop knew better: she knew
Hiram was loafing away somewhere down in the blackberry lot beside the
river.

‘Lot’ is a cheap and nasty equivalent in the great American language for
field, meadow, croft, copse, paddock, and all the other beautiful and
expressive old-world names which denote in the tongue of the old country
our own time-honoured English inclosures. And the blackberry lot, at
the bottom of the farm, was the one joy and delight of young Hiram
Winthrop’s boyish existence. Though you could hardly guess it, as seen
from the farm, there was a river running in the hollow down yonder-Muddy
Creek, in fact, which gave its own euphonious name to the naked little
Dépôt; not here muddy, indeed, as in its lower reaches, but clear and
limpid from the virgin springs of the Gilboa hillsides. Beside the
creek, there stretched a waste lot, too rough and stony to be worth the
curse of cultivation; and on that lot the blackberry bushes grew in
wild profusion, and the morning-glories opened their great pink bells
blushingly to the early sun, and the bobolinks chattered in the garish
noontide, and the grey squirrels hid by day among the stunted trees,
and the chipmunks showed their painted sides for a moment as they darted
swiftly in and out from hole to hole amid the tangled brushwood. What
a charmed spot it seemed to the boy’s mind, that one solitary patch of
undesecrated nature, in the midst of so many blackened stumps, and so
much first-rate fall wheat, and such endless, hopeless, dreary hillocks
of straight rowed, dry leaved, tillering Indian corn!

‘Hiram! Hiram! Hi-ram!’ cried Mrs. Winthrop, growing every moment
shriller and shriller.

Hiram heard, and leaped from the brink at once, though a kingfisher
was at that very moment eyeing him with head on one side from the
half-concealing foliage of the basswood tree opposite. ‘Yes, marm,’ he
answered submissively, showing himself as fast as he was able in the
pasture above the blackberry lot. ‘Wal! What is it?’

‘Hiram,’ his mother said, as soon as he was within convenient speaking
distance, ‘you come right along in here, sonny. Where was you, say?
Here’s father swearin he’ll thrash you for goin’ loafin’. He wants you
jest to come in at once and help weed the peppermint. I guess you’ve bin
down in the blackberry lot, fishin’, or suthin’.’

‘I ain’t bin fishin’,’ Hiram answered, with a certain dogged, placid
resignation. ‘I’ve bin lookin’ around, and that’s so, mother. On’y
lookin’ around at the chipmunks an’ bobolinks, ‘cause I was dreadful
tired.’

‘Tired of what?’ asked his mother, not uncompassionately.

‘Planin’,’ Hiram answered, with a nod. ‘Planks. Father give me forty
planks to plane, an’ I’ve done’em.’

‘Wal, mind he don’t thrash you, Hiram,’ the sallow-faced woman said,
warningly, with as much tenderness in her voice as lay within the
compass of her nature. ‘He’s orful mad with you now, ‘cause you didn’t
answer immejately when he hollered.’

‘Then why don’t he holler loud enough?’ asked Hiram, in an injured
tone--he was an ill-clad boy of about twelve--‘I can’t never hear him
down lot yonder.’

‘What’s that you got in your pocket, sir?’ Mr. Winthrop puts in, coming
up unexpectedly to the pair on the long, straight, blinking high-road.
‘What’s that, naow, eh, sonny?’

Hiram pulls the evidence of guilt slowly out of his rough tunic.
‘Injuns,’ he answers, shortly, in the true western laconic fashion.

Mr. Winthrop examines the object carelessly. It is a bit of blackish
stone, rudely chipped into shape, and ground at one end to an artificial
edge with some nicety of execution.

‘Injuns!’ he echoes contemptuously, dashing it on the path: ‘Injuns! Oh
yes, this is Injuns! An’ what’s Injuns? Heathens, outlandish heathens;
and a drunken, p’isonous crowd at that, too. The noble red man is a
fraud; Injuns must go. It allus licks my poor finite understandin’
altogether why the Lord should ever have run this great continent
so long with nothin’ better’n Injuns. It’s one o’ them mysteries o’
Providence that ‘taint given us poor wums to comprehend daown here,
noways. Wal, they’re all cleared out of this section naow, anyway, and
why a lad that’s brought up a Chrischun and Hopkinsite should want to go
grubbin’ up their knives and things in this cent’ry is a caution to me,
that’s what it is, a reg’lar caution.’

‘This ain’t a knife,’ Hiram answered, still doggedly. ‘This is a
tommyhawk. Injun knives ain’t made like this ‘ere. I’ve had knives, and
they’re quite a different kinder pattern.’

Mr. Winthrop shook his head solemnly.

‘Seems to me,’ he said with a loud snort, ‘’taint right of any believin’
boy goin’ lookin’ up these heathenish things, mother. He’s allus
bringin’ ‘em home--arrowheads, he calls ‘em, and tommyhawks, and Lord
knows what rubbish--when he ought to be weedin’ in the peppermint lot,
an’ earnin’ his livin’. Why wasn’t you here, eh, sonny? Why wasn’t you?
Why wasn’t you? Why wasn’t you?’

As Mr. Winthrop accompanied each of these questions by a cuff,
crescendo, on either ear alternately, it is not probable that he himself
intended Hiram to reply to them with any particular definiteness. But
Hiram, drawing his sleeve across his eyes, and wiping away the tears
hastily, proceeded to answer with due deliberation: ‘’Cause I was tired
planin’ planks. So I went down to the blackberry lot, to rest a bit. But
you won’t let a feller rest. You want him to be workin’ like a nigger
all day.’Taint reasonable.’

‘Mother,’ Mr. Winthrop said again, more solemnly than before, ‘it’s
my opinion that the old Adam is on-common powerful in this here lad,
on-common powerful! Ef he had lived in Bible times, I should hev been
afeard of a visible judgment on his head, like the babes that mocked at
Elijah. (Or was it Elisha?’ asked Mr. Winthrop to himself, dubitatively.
‘I don’t’zackly recollect the pertickler prophet.) The eye that mocketh
at its father, you know, sonny; it’s a dangerous thing, I kin tell you,
to mock at your father. Go an’ weed that thar peppermint, sir; go an’
weed that thar peppermint.’ And as he spoke the deacon gave Hiram a
parting dig in the side with the handle of the Dutch hoe he was lightly
carrying.

Hiram dodged the hoe quickly, and set off at a run to the peppermint
lot. When he got there he waited a moment, and then felt in his pocket
cautiously for some other unseen object. Oh joy, it wasn’t broken! He
took it out and looked at it tenderly. It was a bobolink’s egg. He held
it up to the light, and saw the sunshine gleaming through it.

‘Aint it cunning?’ he said to himself, with a little hug and chuckle
of triumph. ‘Ain’t it a cunning little egg, either? I thought he’d most
broke it, I did, but he hadn’t, seems. It’s the first I ever found, that
sort. Oh my, ain’t it cunning?’ And he put the egg back lovingly in his
pocket, with great cautiousness.

For a while the boy went on pulling up the weeds that grew between the
wide rows of peppermint, and then at last he came to a big milk-weed
in full flower. The flowers were very pretty, and so curious, too. He
looked at them and admired them. But he must pull it up: no room in the
field for milk-weed (it isn’t a marketable crop, alas!), so he caught
the pretty thing in his hands, and uprooted it without a murmur. Thus
he went on, row after row, in the hot July sun, till nearly half the
peppermint was well weeded.

Then he sat down to rest a little on the pile of boulders in the far
corner. There was no tree to sit under, and no shade; but the boy could
at least sit in the eye of the sun on the pile of ice-worn boulders.
As he sat, he saw a wonderful and beautiful sight. In the sky above, a
great bald-headed eagle came wheeling slowly toward the corner of the
fall wheat lot. From the opposite quarter of the sky his partner circled
on buoyant wings to meet him; and with wide curves to right and left,
crossing and recrossing each other at the central point like well-bred
setters, those two magnificent birds swiftly beat the sunlit fields
for miles around them. At last, one of the pair detected game; for an
instant he checked his flight, to steady his swoop, and then, with wings
halffolded, and a rushing noise through the air, he fell plump on the
ground at a vague spot in the midst of the meadow. One moment more, and
he rose again, with a quivering rabbit suspended from his yellow claws.
Presently he made towards the corn lot. It was fenced round, like all
the others, with a snake fence, and, to Hiram’s intense joy, the eagle
finally settled, just opposite him, on one of the two upright rails that
stand as a crook or stake for the top rail, called the rider. Its big
white head shone in the sunlight, its throat rang out a sharp, short
bark, and it craned its neck this way and that, looking defiantly across
the field to Hiram.

‘I reckon,’ the boy said to himself quietly, ‘I could draw that thar
eagle.’

He put his hand into his trousers pocket, and pulled out from it a
well-worn stump of blacklead pencil. Then from another pocket he took
a small blank book, an old account book, in fact, with one side of the
pages all unwritten, though the other was closely covered with rows
of figures. It was a very precious possession to Hiram Winthrop, that
dog-eared little volume, for it was nearly-filled with his own tentative
pencil sketches of beast and birds, and all the other beautiful things
that lived together in the blackberry bottom. He had never seen anything
beautiful anywhere else, and that one spot and that one book were all
the world to him that he loved or cared for.

He laid the book upon his knee, and proceeded carefully to sketch the
grand whiteheaded eagle in his boyish fashion. ‘He’s the American eagle,
I guess,’ the lad said to himself, as he looked from bird to paper
with rapid glances; ‘on’y he ain’t so stiff-built as the one upon the
dollars, neither. His head goes so. Aint it elegant? Oh my, not a bit,
ruther. And his tail! That’s how. The feathers runs the same as if it
was shingles on the roof of a residence. I’ve got his tail just as
true as Genesis, you bet. I can go the head and the tail, straight an’
square, but what licks me is the wings. Seems as if you couldn’t get
his wing to show right, nohow, agin the body. Think it must be that
way, pretty near; but I don’t know. I wish thar was some feller here in
Geauga could show me how the folks that draw the illustriations in the
books ud draw that thar wing. It goes one too high for me, altogether.’

Even as Hiram thought that last thought he was dimly aware in a moment
of an ominous shadow supervening behind him, and of a heavy hand lifted
angrily to cuff him about the head for his pesky idleness. He knew it
was his father, and with rapid instinct he managed to avoid the unseen
blow. But, alas, alas, as he did so, he dropped the precious account
book from his lap and let it fall upon the heap of boulders. Deacon
Winthrop took the mysterious volume up, and peered at it long and
cautiously. ‘Wal,’ he said slowly, turning over the pages one by one, as
if they were clear evidence of original sin unregenerated--‘wal, this do
beat all, really. I’ve allus wondered what on airth you could be up to,
sonny, when you was sent to weed, and didn’t get a furrer or two done,
mornings, while I was hoein’ a dozen rows of corn or tomaters. Wal, this
do beat all. Makin’ figgers of chipmunks, and woodchucks, and musk-rats,
and--my goodness, ef that thar aint a rattlesnake! Hiram Winthrop, it’s
my opinion that you was born to reprobation--that’s jest about the size
of it!’

If this opinion had not been vigorously backed by a box on the ears and
a violent shaking, it isn’t likely that Hiram in his own mind would have
felt deeply concerned at it. Reprobation is such a very long way off
(especially when you’re twelve years old), whereas a box on the ears is
usually experienced in the present tense with remarkable rapidity. But
Hiram was so well used to cuffing (for the deacon was a God-fearing man,
who held it prime part of his parental duty to correct his child with
due severity) that he didn’t cry much or make a fuss about it. To say
the truth, too, he was watching so eagerly to see what his father
would do with the beloved sketch-book that he had no time to indulge
in unnecessary sentiment. For if only that sketch-book were taken from
him--that poor, soiled, second-hand, half-covered sketch-book--Hiram
felt in his dim inarticulate fashion that he would have solved the
pessimistic problem forthwith in the negative, and that life for him
would no longer be worth living.

The deacon turned the leaves over slowly for some minutes more, with
many angry ejaculations, and then deliberately took them between his
finger and thumb, and tore the book in two across the middle. Next, he
doubled the pages over again, and tore them a second time across, and
so on until the whole lot was reduced to a mass of little fluttering
crumpled fragments. These he tossed contemptuously among the boulders,
and with a parting cuff to Hiram proceeded on his way, to ruminate over
the singular mystery of reprobation, even in the children of regenerate
parents. ‘You jest mind you go in right thar an’ weed the rest of that
peppermint, sonny,’ he said as he strode away. ‘An’ be pretty quick
about it, too, or else you’ll be more scar’t when you come home to-night
than ever you was scar’t in all your life afore, you take my word for
it.’

As soon as the deacon was gone, poor Hiram sat down again on the heap
of boulders and cried as though his little heart would fairly break. In
spite of his father’s vigorous admonition, he _couldn’t_ turn to at once
and weed the peppermint. ‘’Taint the lickin’ I mind,’ he said to
himself ruefully, as he gathered up the scattered fragments in his hand,
‘’tain’t the lickin’, it’s the picturs. Them thar picturs was pretty
near the on’y thing I liked best of anything livin’. Wal, it wouldn’t
hev mattered much ef he’d on’y tore up the ones I’d drawed: but when
he tore up all my paper, so as I can’t draw any more, that does make a
feller feel reel bad. I never was so mad with him in my life afore. I
reckon fathers is the onaccountablest and most mirac’lous creeturs in
all creation. He might hev tore the picturs ef he liked, but what for.
did he want to go tearin’ up all my paper?’

As he sat there on the boulders, still, with that gross injustice
rankling impotently in his boyish soul, he felt another shadow
approaching once more, and looked up expecting to see his father
returning. But it wasn’t the gaunt long shadow of the deacon that came
across the pile: it was a plump, round, thickset English shadow, and it
was closely followed by the body of its owner, his father’s hired help,
late come from Dorsetshire. Sam Churchill leant down in his bluff,
kindly way, when he saw the little chap crying, and asked him quickly if
he was ill.

‘Sick?’ Hiram answered, through his sobs, unconsciously translating
the word into his own dialect. ‘Sick? No, I aint sick, Mr. Sam; but I’m
orful mad with father. He kem right here just now and tore up my drawin’
book--an’ that drawin’ book was most everything to me, it was--and he’s
tore it up, a ravin’ an’ tearin’ like all possest, this very minnit.’

Sam looked at the fragments sympathetically. ‘I tell’ee, Hiram,’ he said
gently, ‘I’ve got a brother o’ my own awver yonder in Darsetshire--about
your age, too--as is turble vond of drawin’. I was turble vond of it
myself when I was a little chap at ‘Ootton. Thik ther eagle is drawed
first-rate, ‘e be, an’ so’s the squir’l. I’ve drawed squir’ls myself,
many’s the time, in the copse at ‘Ootton, I mind: an’ I’ve gone
mitching, too, in summer, birds’-nestin’ and that, all over the vields
for miles around us. Your faather’s a main good man, Hiram; ‘e’s a
religious man, an’ a ‘onest man, and I do love to ‘ear ‘un argify most
turble vine about religion, an’ ‘ell, an’ reprobation, an’ ‘Enery Clay,
and such like: but’e’s a’ard man, tiler’s no denyin’ of it.’E’s took’is
religion ‘ot an’ ‘ot, ‘e ‘as; an’ I do think’e do use ‘ee bad sometimes,
vor a little chap, an’ no mistake. Now, don’t ‘ee go an’ cry no longer,
ther’s a good little vulla; don’t ‘ee cry, Hiram, vor I never could
abare to zee a little chap or a woman a-cryin’. Zee ‘ere, Hiram,’
and the big hand dived deep into the recesses of a pair of very muddy
corduroy trousers, ‘’ere’s a sixpence for’ee--what do ‘ee call it awver
‘ere, ten cents, bain’t it? ‘Ere, take it, take it young un; don’t ‘ee
be aveard. Now, what’ll ‘ee buy wi’ it, eh? Lollipops, most like, I
sim.’

‘Lollipops!’ the boy answered quickly, taking the dime with a grateful
gesture. ‘No, Mr. Sam, not them: nor toffy, nor peanuts neither. I shall
go right away to Wes’ Johnson’s store, next time father’s in the city,
an’ buy a new book, so as I can make a crowd more drawin’s. That’s what
I like better’n anything. It’s jest splendid.’

Sam looked at the little Yankee boy again with a certain faint moisture
in his eyes; but he didn’t reflect to himself that human nature is much
the same all the world over, in Dorsetshire or in Geauga County. In
fact, it would never have occurred to Sam’s simple heart to doubt the
truth of that fairly obvious principle. He only put his hand on Hiram’s
ragged head, and said softly: ‘Well, Hiram, turn to now, an’ I’ll
help ‘ee weed the peppermint.’

They weeded a row or two in silence, and then Sam asked suddenly: ‘What
vor do un grow thik peppermint, Hiram?’

‘To make candy, Mr. Sam,’ Hiram answered.

‘Good job too,’ Sam went on musingly. ‘Seems to me they do want it
turble bad in these ‘ere parts. Sight too much corn, an’ not near enough
candy down to ‘Murrica; why can’t deacon let the little vulla draw a
squir’l if ‘e’s got a mind to? That’s what I wants to know. What do those
varmers all around ‘ere do? (Varmers they do call ‘em; no better nor
labourers, I take it.) Why, they buy a bit ‘o land, an’ work, an’ slave
thesselves an’ their missuses, all their lives long, what vor? To raise
pork and corn on. What vor, again? To buy more land; to raise more corn
an’ bacon; to buy more land again; to raise more corn an’ bacon; and so
on, world without end, amen, for ever an’ ever. An’ in the tottal, what
do ur all come to? Pork and flour, for ever an’ ever. Why, even awver
yonder in old England, we’d got something better nor that, and better
worth livin’ vor.’ And Sam’s mind wandered back gently to Wootton
Mandeville, and the old tower which he didn’t know to be of Norman
architecture, but which he loved just as well as if he did for all that:
and then he borrowed Hiram’s pencil, and pulled a piece of folded paper
from his pocket (it had inclosed an ounce of best Virginia), and drew
upon it for Hiram’s wondering eyes a rough sketch of an English village
church, with big round arches and dog-tooth ornament, embowered in
shady elm-trees, and backed up by a rolling chalk down in the further
distance. Hiram looked at the sketch admiringly and eagerly.

‘I wish I could draw such a thing as that, he said with delight. ‘But
I can’t, Mr. Sam; I can only draw birds and musk-rats and things--not
churches. That’s a reel pretty church, too: reckon I never see such a
one as that thar anywhere. Might that be whar you was raised, now?’

Sam nodded assent.

‘Wal, that does beat everything. I should like to go an’ see something
like that, sometime. Ef I git a book, will you learn me to draw a church
same as you do, Mr. Sam?’

‘Bless yer ‘eart, yes,’ Sam answered quickly, and turned with swimming
eyes to weed the rest of the peppermint. From that day forth, Sam
Churchill and Hiram Winthrop were sworn friends through all their
troubles.



CHAPTER II. RURAL ENGLAND.

|It was a beautiful July morning, and Colin Churchill and Minna Wroe
were playing together in the fritillary fields at Wootton Mandeville. At
twelve years old, the intercourse of lad and maiden is still ingenuous;
and Colin was just twelve, though little Minna might still have been
some two years his junior. A tall, slim, fair-haired boy was Colin
Churchill, with deep-blue eyes more poetical in their depth and
intensity than one might have expected from a little Dorsetshire peasant
child. Minna, on the other hand, was shorter and darker; a gipsy-looking
girl, black-haired and tawny-skinned; and with two little beady-black
eyes that glistened and ran over every moment with contagious merriment.
Two prettier children you wouldn’t have found anywhere that day in the
whole county of Dorset than Minna Wroe and Colin Churchill.

They had gathered flowers till they were tired of them in the
broad spongy meadow; they had played hide-and-seek among the
eighteenth-century tombstones in the big old churchyard; they had
quarrelled and made it up again half a dozen times over in pure
pettishness: and now, by way of a distraction, Minna said at last
coaxingly: ‘Do ‘ee, Colin, do ‘ee come down to the lake yonder and make
I a bit of a vigger-’ead.’

‘Don’t ‘ee worrit me, Minna,’ Colin answered, like a young lady who
refuses to sing, half-heartedly (meaning all the time that one should
ask her again): ‘Don’t ‘ee see I be tired? I don’t want vor to go makin’
no vigger-’eads vor ‘ee, I tell ‘ee.’

But Minna would have one: on that she insisted: ‘What a vinnid lad ‘ee
be,’ she cried petulantly, ‘not to want to make I a vigger-’ead. Now
do ‘ee, Cohn, ther’s a a good boy; do ‘ee, an’ I’ll gee ‘ee ‘arf my
peppermint cushions, come Saturday.’

‘I don’t want none o’ your cushions, Minna,’ Colin answered, with a
boy’s gallantry; ‘but come along down to the lake if ‘ee will: I’ll make
‘ee dree or vower vigger-’eads, never vear, an’ them vine uns too, if so
be as you want ‘em.’

They went together down to the brook at the corner of the meadow (called
a lake in the Dorsetshire dialect); and there, at a spot where the
plastic clay came to the surface in a little cliff at a bend of the
stream, Colin carved out a fine large lump of shapeless raw material
from the bank, which he forthwith proceeded to knead up with his
hands and a sprinkling of water from the rill into a beautiful sticky
consistency. Minna watched the familiar operation with deepest interest,
and added from time to time a word or two of connoisseur criticism: ‘Now
thee’st got it too wet, Colin;’ or, ‘Take care thee don’t putt in too
much of thik there blue earth yonder; or, ‘That’s about right vor the
viggeread now, I’m thinkin’; thee’d better begin makin’ it now avore the
clay gets too dried up.’

As soon as Colin had worked the clay up to what he regarded as the
proper requirements of his art, he began modelling it dexterously with
his fingers into the outer form and fashion of a ship’s figure-head:
‘What’ll ‘ee ‘ave virst, Minna?’ he asked as he roughly moulded the mass
into a bold outward curve, that would have answered equally well for any
figure-head in the whole British merchant navy.

‘I’ll ‘ave the Mariar-Ann,’ Minna answered with a nod of her small black
head in the direction of the mouth in the valley, where the six petty
fishing vessels of Wootton Mandeville stood drawn up together in a long
straight row on the ridge of shingle. The Mariar-Ann was the collier
that came monthly from Cardiff, and its figure-head represented a gilded
lady, gazing over the waves with a vacant smile, and draped in a flowing
crimson costume of no very particular historical period.

Cohn worked away at the clay vigorously for a few minutes with fingers
and knife by turns, and at the end of that time he had produced a very
creditable figure-head indeed, accurately representing in its main
features the gilded lady of the Mariar-Ann.

‘Oh, how lovely!’ Minna cried, delighted. ‘Thik’s the best thee’st made,
Colin. Let’s bake un and keep un always.’

‘Take un ‘ome an’ bake un yourself, Minna,’ the boy answered. ‘We ain’t
got no vire ‘ere. What’ll I make ‘ee now? ‘Nother vigger-’ead?’

‘No!’ Minna cried, with a happy inspiration.

‘Make myself, Colin.’

The boy eyed her carefully from head to foot. ‘I don’t s’pose I can do
‘ee, Minna,’ he answered after a pause. ‘Howsonedever, I’ll try;’ and he
took a fresh lump of the kneaded clay, and began working it up loosely
into a rough outline of the girl’s figure. It was his first attempt at
modelling from life, and he went at it with careful deliberation. Minna
posed before him in her natural attitude, and Colin called her back
every minute or two when she got impatient, and kept his little sitter
steadily posed till the portrait statuette was fairly finished. Critical
justice compels the admission that Colin Churchill’s first figure from
life was not an entirely successful work of sculpture. Its expression
was distinctly feeble; its pose was weak and uncertain; its drapery was
marked by a frank disregard of folds and a bold conventionalism; and,
last of all, it ended abruptly at the short dress, owing to certain
mechanical difficulties in the way of supporting the heavy body on a
pair of slender moist clay legs. Still, it distinctly suggested the
notion of a human being; it remotely resembled a little girl; and it
even faintly adumbrated, in figure at least, if not in feature, Minna
Wroe herself.

But if the work of art failed a little when judged by the stern tribunal
of adult criticism, it certainly more than satisfied both the young
artist and the subject of his plastic skill. They gazed at the completed
figure with the deepest admiration, and Minna even ventured to express
a decided opinion that anybody in the world would know it was meant
for her. Which high standard of artistic portraiture has been known to
satisfy much older and more exalted critics, including many ladies and
gentlemen of distinction who have wasted the time of good sculptors by
‘having their busts taken.’

Meanwhile, down in the village by the shore, Geargey Wroe, Minna’s
father, was standing by a little garden gate, where Sam Churchill the
elder was carefully tending his cabbages and melons. ‘Zeen our Minna,
Sam!’ he asked over the paling. ‘Wher’s ‘er to, dost know? Off zumwhere
with yer Colin, I’ll be bound, Sammy. They’re always off zumwhere
together, them two is, I vancy. ‘E’s up to ‘is drawin’ or zummat down
to lake there. Such a lad vor drawin’ an’ that I never did zee. ‘Ow’s
bisness, Sammy?’

‘Purty good, Geargey, purty good. Volks be a-comin’ in now an’ takin’
lodgin’s, wantin’ garden stuff and such like. First-rate family from
London come yesterday down to Walker’s. Turble rich volk I should say
by the look o’ un. Ordered a power o’ fruit and zum vegetables.’Ow’s
vishin’, Geargey?’ ‘Bad,’ Geargey answered, shaking his head ominously:
‘as bad as ur could be. Town’s turble empty still: nobody come ‘ceptin’
a lot o’ good-vor-nothin’ meetingers. ‘Ootton ain’t wot it ‘ad used to
be, Sammy, zince these ‘ere rail-rawds. Wot we wants is the rail-rawd to
come ‘ere to town, so volks can get ‘ere aisy, like they can to Sayton.
Then we’d get zum real gintlevolk who got money in their pockets to
spend, an’ll spend it vree and aisy to the tradesmen, and the boatmen,
and the vishermen; that’s wot we wants, don’t us, Sammy?’

‘Us do, us do,’ Sam Churchill assented, nodding.

‘Ah, I do mind the time, Sammy,’ Geargey said regretfully, wiping his
eyes with the corner of his jersey, ‘w’en every wipswile I’d used to
get a gintleman to go out way, who’d gi’ us share an’ share alike o’ his
grub, and a drap out o’ his whisky bottle: and w’en we pulls ashore, he
sez, sez’e: “I don’t want the vish, my man,” sez’e; “I only wants the
sport, raly.” But nowadays, Lard bless ‘ee, Sam, we gets a pack o’
meetingers down from London, and they brings along a hunk o’ bread and
some fat pork, or a piece o’ blue vinny cheese, as ‘ard as Portland
stone. Now I can’t abare fat pork without a streak o’ lean in it,
‘specially when I smells the bait; and I can’t tackle the blue vinny,
‘cos I never ‘as my teeth with me: thof my mate, Bill-o’-my-Soul, ‘e
can putt ‘isself outside most things in the way o’ grub at a vurry
short notice, as you do well know, Sam, and I never seed as bate made
no difference to ‘e nohow. But these ‘ere meetingers, as I was a sayin’
(vor I’ve got avore my story, Sammy), they goes out an’ haves vine
sport, we’ll say; and then, w’en we comes ‘ome they out and lugs out
dree or vower shillin’s or so, vor me an’ my mate, an’ walks off with
‘arf-a-suvren’s worth o’ the biggest vish, quite aisy-like, an’ layves
all the liddle fry an’ the blin in the boat; the chattering jackanapes.’

‘’Ees,’ees, lad, times is changed,’ Sam murmured meditatively, half
to himself; ‘times is changed turble bad since old Squire’s day. Wot
a place ‘Ootton ‘ad used to be then, ‘adn’t ur, Geargey? Coach from
Darchester an’ ‘bus from Tilbury station, bringin’ in gurt folks from
London vor the sayson every day; dinner party up to vicarage with green
paysen an’ peaches, an’ nectarines,------‘’An’ a ‘ole turbat,’ Geargey
put in parenthetically. ‘Ay, lad, an’ a ‘ole turbot every Saturday. Them
was times, Geargey; them was times. I don’t s’pose they ther times ull
never come again. Ther ain’t the gentry now as ther’d used to be in old
Squire’s day. Pack o’ trumpery London volk, with one servant, comin’
down ‘ere vor the sayson--short sayson--six week, or murt be seven--an’
then walkin’ off agin, without so much as spending ten poun’ or so
in the’ole parish. I mind the times, Geargey, when volks used to say
‘Ootton were the safety valve o’ the Bath sayson. Soon as sayson were
over up to Bath, gentlevolk and ladies a-comin’ down ‘ere to enj’y
thesselves, an’ spendin’ their money vree and aisy, same as if it were
water. Us don’t see un comin’ now, Geargey: times is changed turble: us
don’t see un now.’

‘It’s the dree terms as ‘as ruined ‘Ootton,’ Geargey said,
philosophically--the research of the cause being the true note of
philosophy.

‘It’s they dree terms as ‘as done it, vor sartin.’

‘Why, ‘ow’s that, Gearge?’

‘Well, don’t ‘ee see, Sam, it’s like o’ thik. W’en they used to ‘ave
‘arf-years at the schools, bless ‘ee, volks with families ‘ad used to
bring down the children vrom school so soon as the ‘arf-year were over.
Then the gurt people ud take the young gentlemen out vishin’, might be
in June, or July may-be, and gee a bit o’ work to honest visher-people
in the off-sayson. Then in August, London people ud come an’ take
lodgin’s and gee us a bit more work nice and tidy. So the sayson ‘ad
used to last off an’ on vrom June to October. Well, bime-by, they
meddlesome school people, they goes an’ makes up these ‘ere new-vangled
things o’ dree terms, as they calls ‘em, cuttin’ up the year
unnat’ral-like into dree pieces, as ‘adn’t used to be w’en we was
children. Wot’s the consequence? Everybody comes a-rushin’ and
a-crushin’ permixuous, in August, the ‘ole boilin’ o’ ‘em together,
wantin’ rooms an’ boats and vishermen, so as the parish baint up to it.
Us ‘as to work ‘ard vor six or seven week, and not give satisfaction
nayther; and then rest o’ the year us ‘as to git along the best us can
on the shart sayson. I can’t abare they new-vangled ways, upsettin’ all
the constitooted order of things altogither, an’ settin’ poor vishermen
at sixes and sevens for arf their lifetime.’

‘It’s the march of intellect, Geargey,’ Sam Churchill answered,
deprecatingly (Sam understood himself to be a Liberal in politics, and
used this convenient phrase as a general solvent for an immense number
of social difficulties). ‘It’s the march of intellect, no doubt,
Geargey: there’s a sight o’ progress about; board-schools an’ sich like:
an’ if it cuts agin us, don’t ‘ee see, w’y us ‘as got to make the best
of it, however.’

‘It murt be, an’ agin it murtn’t; and agin it murt,’ Geargey murmured
dubiously.

‘But any way, wher’s Minna to, Sammy?--that’s wot I comed vor to ax
‘ee.’

‘Down to vield by lake, yander, most like,’ Sam answered with a nod of
his head in the direction indicated.

‘I’ll go an’ vetch her,’ said Geargey; ‘dinner’s most ready.’

‘An I’ll come an’ zee wot Colin’s up to,’ added Sam, laying down his
hoe, and pulling together his unbuttoned waistcoat.

They walked down to the brook in the meadow, and saw the two children
sitting in the corner so intent upon their artistic performances that
they hardly noticed the approach of their respective fathers. Old Sam
Churchill went close up and looked keenly at the clay figure of Minna
that Colin was still moulding with the last finishing touches as the
two elders approached them. ‘Thik ther vigger baint a bad un, Colin,’ he
said, taking it carefully in his rough hand.

‘’ee’aven’t done it none so ill, lad; but it don’t look so livin’ like
as it ‘ad ought to. Wot do ‘ee think it is, Geargey, eh? tell us?’

‘Why, I’m blowed if that baint our Minna,’ Geargey answered, with a
little gasp of open-mouthed astonishment. ‘It’s her vurry pictur, Colin:
a blind man could see that, of course, so soon as ‘e set eyes on it. ‘Ow
do ‘ee do it, Colin, eh? ‘Ow do ‘ee do it?’ ‘Oh, that baint nothin’,’
Colin said, colouring up. ‘Only a little bit o’ clay, just made up vor
to look like Minna.’

‘Look ‘ee ‘ere,’ Colin,’ his father went on, glancing quickly from the
clay to little Minna, and altering a touch or two with his big clumsy
fingers, not undeftly. ‘Look ‘ee ‘ere; ‘ee must putt the dress thik way,
I should say, with a gurt dale more flusterin’ about it; it do zit too
stiff and starchy, somehow, same as if it wur made o’ new buckram. ‘ee
must put in a fold or two, ‘ere, so as to make un sit more nat’ral.
Don’t ‘ee see Minna’s dress do double itself up, I can’t rightly say
‘ow, but sununat o’ tkik there way?’ And he moulded the moist clay a
bit with his hands, till the folds of the drapery began to look a little
more real and possible.

‘I’d ought to ‘ave drawed it first, I think,’ Colin said, looking at the
altered dress with a satisfied glance. ‘’ave ‘ee got such a thing as a
pencil about ‘ee, father?’

Old Sam took a piece of pencil from his pocket, and handed it to Colin.
The boy held it tightly in his fingers, with a true artistic grasp,
like one who knows how to wield it, and with a few strokes on a scrap
of paper hit off little Minna far better than he had done in the plastic
material. Geargey looked over his shoulder with a delighted grin on his
weatherbeaten features. ‘I tell ‘ee, Sam,’ he said to the old gardener,
confidentially, ‘it’s my belief that thik ther boy’ull be able one o’
these vine days to paint rale picturs.’



CHAPTER III. PERNICIOUS LITERATURE.

|When winter came, Hiram Winthrop had less to do and more time to follow
the bidding of his own fancy. True, there was cordwood to split in
abundance; and splitting cordwood is no child’s play along the frozen
shores of Lake Ontario. You go out among the snow in the wood-shed,
and take the big ice-covered logs down from the huge pile with numbed
fingers: then you lay them on a sort of double St. Andrew’s cross, its
two halves supported by a thwart-piece, and saw them up into fit lengths
for the kitchen fireplace: and after that you split them in four with
a solid-headed axe, taking care in the process not to let your
deadened hands slip, so as to cut off the ends of your own toes with an
ill-directed blow glancing off the log sideways. Yes, splitting cordwood
is very serious work, with the thermometer at 40° below freezing; and
drawing water from the well when the rope is frozen and your skin clings
to the chill iron of the thirsty bucket-handle is hardly better: yet in
spite of both these small drawbacks, Hiram Winthrop found much more to
enjoy in his winters than in his summers. There was no corn to hoe, no
peas to pick, no weeding to do, no daily toil on farm and garden.
The snow had covered all with its great white sheet; and even the
neighbourhood of Muddy Creek Dépôt looked desolately beautiful in its
own dreary, cold, monotonous, Siberian fashion.

The flowers and leaves were gone too, to be sure; but in the low
brushwood by the blackberry bottom the hares had turned white to match
the snow; and the nut-hatches were answering one another in their
varying keys; and the skunks were still busy of nights beneath the
spreading walnuts; and the chickadees were tinkling overhead among the
snow-laden pine-needles of the far woodland. All the summer visitors had
gone south to Georgia and the gulf: but the snow-buntings were ever with
Hiram in the wintry fields: and the bald-headed eagles still prowled
around at times on the stray chance of catching a frozen-out racoon.
Above all there was ease and leisure, respite from the deacon’s rasping
voice calling perpetually for Hiram here, and Hiram there, and Hiram
yonder, to catch the horses, or tend the harrow, or mind the birds, or
weed the tomatoes, or set shingles against the sun over the drooping
transplanted cabbages. A happy time indeed for Hiram, that long, weary,
white-sheeted, unbroken northern New York winter.

Sam Churchill was with the deacon still, but had little enough to do,
for there isn’t much going on upon an American farm from November to
April, and the deacon would gladly have got rid of his hired help in
the slack time if he could have shuffled him off; but Sam had been well
advised on his first hiring, and had wisely covenanted to be kept on
all the year round, with board and lodging and decent wages during the
winter season. And Hiram initiated Sam into the mysteries of sliding on
a bent piece of wood (a homemade toboggan) down the great snowdrifts,
and skating on the frozen expansion of Muddy Creek, and building round
huts, Esquimaux fashion, with big square blocks of solid dry snow, and
tracking the white hare over the white fields by means of the marks he
left behind him, whose termination, apparently lengthening itself out
miraculously before one’s very eyes, marked the spot where the hare
himself was hopping invisible to human vision. In return, Sam lent him a
few dearly-treasured books: books that he had brought from England with
him: the books that had first set the Dorsetshire peasant lad upon his
scheme of going forth alone upon the wide world beyond the ocean.

Hiram was equally delighted and astonished with these wonderful charmed
volumes. He had seen a few books before, but they were all of two types:
Cornell’s Geography, Quackenboss’s Grammar, and the other schoolbooks
used at the common school; or else Barnes’s Commentary, Elder Coffin’s
Ezekiel, the Hopkinsite Confession of Faith, and other like works of
American exegetical and controversial theology. But Sam’s books, oh,
gracious, what a difference! There was Peter Simple, a story about a
real live boy, who wa’n’t good, pertickler, not to speak of, but had
some real good old times on board a ship, somewhere, he did; and there
was Tom Jones (Hiram no more understood the doubtful passages in that
great romance than he understood the lucubrations of Philosopher Square,
but he took it in, in the lump, as very good fun for all that), Tom
Jones, the story of another real live boy, with, most delightful of all,
a reg’lar mean sneak of a feller, called Blifil, to act as a foil to
Tom’s straightforward pagan flesh-and-bloodfulness; the Buccaneers of
the Caribbean Sea, a glorious work of fire and slaughter, whar some
feller or other got killed right off on every page a’most, you bet; Jake
the Pirate, another splendid book of the same description; and half a
dozen more assorted novels, from the best to the worst, all chosen alike
for their stirring incidents which went straight home to the minds
of the two lads, in spite of all external differences of birth and
geographical surroundings. Hiram pored over them surreptitiously, late
at nights, in the room that he and Sam occupied in common--a mere loft
at the top of the house and felt in his heart he had never in his life
imagined such delightful reading could possibly have existed. And they
were written by growed-up men, too! How strange to think that once upon
a time, somewhile and somewhere, there were growed-up men capable of
thus sympathising with, and reproducing the ideas and feelings of, the
natural mind of boyhood!

One evening, very late--eleven nearly--the deacon, prowling around after
a bottle or something, spied an unwonted light gleaming down from the
trap-door that led up to the loft where the lads ought at that moment
to have been sleeping soundly. Lights in a well-conducted farmhouse at
eleven o’clock was indeed incomprehensible: what on earth, the deacon
asked himself wonderingly, could them thar lads be up to at this hour?
He crept up the step-ladder cautiously, so as not to disturb them by
premonitions, and opened the trap-door in sedulous silence. Sam was
already fast asleep; but there was Hiram, sot up in bed, as quiet as a
‘possum, ‘pearin’ as if he was a-readin’ something. The deacon’s eyes
opened with amazement! Hiram reading! Had his heart been touched, then,
quite sudden-like? Could he have took up the Hopkinsite Confession
in secret to his upper chamber? Was he meditatin’ makin’ a public
profession afore the Assembly?

The deacon glowered and marvelled. Creeping, still quite silently, up
to the bedhead, he looked with an inquiring glance over poor Hiram’s
unsuspecting shoulder. A sea of words swam vaguely before his bewildered
vision; words, not running into long orthodox paragraphs, like the
Elder’s Ezekiel, but cut up, oh horror, into distinct sentences, each
indicating a separate part in a conversation. The deacon couldn’t
clearly make it all out; for it was a dramatic dialogue, a form of
composition which had not largely fallen in the good man’s way: but he
picked up enough to understand that it was a low pothouse scene, where
one Falstaff was bandying improper language with a person of the name of
Prince (given name, Henry)--language that made even the deacon’s sallow
cheek blush feebly with reflected and vicarious modesty. For a moment
he endeavoured, like a Christian man, to retain his wrath; and then
paternal feeling overcame him, and he caught Hiram such a oner on his
ears as he flattered himself that boy wouldn’t be likely to forgit in
any very partickler hurry.

Hiram looked round, amazed and stunned, his ear tingling and burning,
and saw the gaunt apparition of his father, standing silent and
black-browed by the bare bed-head. For a moment those two glared at one
another mutely and defiantly.

At last Hiram spoke: ‘Wal!’ he said simply.

‘Wal!’ the deacon answered, with smothered wrath. ‘Hiram, I am angry and
sin not. What do you go an’ take them bad books up to read for? Who give
‘em you? Whar did you get ‘em? Oh, you sinful, bad boy, whar did you get
‘em?’ And he administered another sound cuff upon Hiram’s other ear.

Hiram put his hand up to the stinging spot, and cried a minute silently:
then he answered as well as he was able: ‘This aint a bad book: this is
called “The Complete Dramattic Works of William Shakespeare.” Sam lent
it to me, an’ it’s Sam’s book, an’ ther ain’t no harm in it, anyhow.’

The deacon was plainly staggered for a moment, for even he had dimly
heard the name of William Shakespeare; and though he had never made
any personal acquaintance with that gentleman’s works, he had always
understood in a vague, indefinite fashion that this here Shakespeare was
a perfectly respectable and recognised writer, whose books were read
and approved of even by Hopkinsite ministers edoocated at Bethabara
Seminary. So he took the volume in his hand incredulously and looked it
through casually for a few minutes. He glanced at a scene or two here
or there with a critical eye, and then he flung the volume from him
quickly, as a man might fling and crush some loathsome reptile. By this
time Sam was half-awake, and sat up in bed to inquire sleepily, what
all thik ther row could be about at thik time of evenin’?’ The deacon
answered by going savagely to Sam’s box, and taking out, one by one, for
separate inspection, the volumes he found there. He held up the candle
(stuck in an empty blacking-bottle) to each volume in succession, and,
as soon as he had finally condemned them each, he flung them down in
an untidy pile on the bare floor of the little bedroom. Most of them he
stood stoically enough; but the Vicar of Wakefield was at last quite
too much for his stifled indignation. Sitting down blankly on the bed
he fired off his volley at poor Hiram’s frightened head, with terrible
significance.

‘Hiram Winthrop,’ he said solemnly, ‘you air a son of perdition. You
air more a’most ‘n I kin manage with. Satan’s openin’ the door for you
on-common wide, I kin tell you, sonny. It makes me downright scar’t to
see you in company along of sech books. Your mother’ll be awful took
back about it. I don’t mind this ‘ere about the Pirates of the Caribbean
Sea, so much; that’s kinder hist’ry, that is, and mayn’t do you
much harm: but sech things as this Peter Simple, an’ Wakefield, and
Pickwick’s Papers--why, I wonder the roof don’t fall in on ‘em an’ crush
us in the lot altogether. I’m durned ef I could have thought you’d bin
wicked enough to read ‘em, sech on-principled literatoor. I sha’n’t
chastise you to-night, sonny; it’s late, now, and we’ve read chapter:
but to-morrer, Hiram, to-morrer, you shall pay for them thar books, take
my word for it. You shall be chastened in the manner that’s app’inted.
Ef I was you, I should spend the rest of the evenin’ in wrestlin’ for
forgiveness for the sin you’ve committed.’

And yet in the chapter the deacon had read at family worship that
evening there was one little clause which said: ‘Quench not the Spirit.’

Hiram slept but little that night, with the vague terror of to-morrow’s
whipping overshadowing him through the night watches. But he had at
least one comfort: Sam Churchill had got out and gathered up his books,
and locked them carefully in his box again.

‘If the boss tries to touch they books again, I tell ‘ee, Hiram,’
he said bi-lingually (for absorbent America was already beginning to
assimilate him), ‘’e’ll vind ‘isself a-lyin’ longways on the vloor,
afore he do know it, I promise ‘ee.’ Hiram heard, and was partly
comforted. At least he would still have the books to read, somehow, at
some time. For in his own heart, unregenerate or otherwise, he couldn’t
bring himself to believe that there could be really anything so very
wicked in Henry the Fourth or Peter Simple.



CHAPTER IV. PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY.

|The deacon’s cowhide cut deep; but the thrashing didn’t last long: and
after it was all over, Hiram wandered out aimlessly by himself, down
the snowclad valley of Muddy Creek, and along to the wooded wilds and
cranberry marshes near the Ontario debouchure, to forget his troubles
and the lasting smart of the weals in watching the beasts and birds
among the frozen lowlands. He had never been so far from home before,
but the weather and the ice were in his favour, enabling him to get over
an amount of ground he wouldn’t have tried to cover in the dry summer
time. He had his skates with him, and he skated where possible, taking
them off to walk over the intervening land necks or drifted snow-sheets.
The ice was glare in many places, so that one could skate on it
gloriously; and before he had got half-way down to Nine-Mile Bottom
he had almost forgotten all about the deacon, and the sermon, and the
beating, and the threatened ten chapters of St. John (the Gospel of Love
the deacon called it) to be learned by heart before next Lord’s day, in
expiation of the heinous crime of having read that pernicious work the
‘Vicar of Wakefield.’ It was the loveliest spot he had ever seen in all
his poor unlovely little existence.

Close under the cranberry trees, by a big pool where the catfish would
be sure to live in summer, Hiram heard men’s voices, whispering low and
quiet to one another. A great joy filled his soul. He could see at once
by their dress and big fur caps what they were. They were trappers! One
piece of romance still survived in Geauga County, among the cranberry
swamps and rush beds where the flooded creek flowed sluggishly into
the bosom of Ontario; and on that one piece of romance he had luckily
lighted by pure accident. Trappers! Yes, not a doubt of it! He struck
out on his skates swiftly but noiselessly toward them, and joined the
three men without a word as they stood taking counsel together below
their breath on the ice-bound marshland.

‘Hello, sonny!’ one of the men said in a low undertone. ‘Say whar did
you drop from? What air you comin’ spyin’ out a few peaceable surveyors
for, eh? Tell me.’

‘I didn’t think you was surveyors,’ Hiram answered, a little
disappointed. ‘I thought you was trappers.’ And at the same time he
glanced suspiciously at the peculiar little gins that the surveyors held
in their great gauntleted hands, for all the world like Oneida traps for
musk-rats.

The man noticed the glance and laughed to himself a smothered laugh--the
laugh of a person accustomed always to keep very quiet. ‘The young un
has spotted us, an’ no mistake, boys,’ he said, laughing, to the others.
‘He’s a bit too ‘cute to be took in with the surveyor gammon. What do
you call this ‘ere, sonny?’

‘I calc’late that’s somewhar near a mink trap,’ Hiram answered,
breathless with delight.

‘Wal, it _is_ a mink trap,’ the trapper said slowly, looking deep into
the boy’s truthful eyes. ‘Now, who sent you down here to track us out
and peach upon us; eh, Bob?’

‘Nobody sent me,’ Hiram replied, with his blue eyes looking deep back
into the trapper’s keen restless grey pair. ‘I kem out all o’ my own
accord, ‘cos father gave me a lickin’ this mornin’, an’ I’ve kem out
jest to get away for a bit alone somewhar.’

‘Who’s your father?’ asked the man still suspiciously.

‘Deacon Winthrop, down to Muddy Creek Deepo.’

‘Deacon Winthrop! Oh, I know him, ruther. A tall, skinny, dried-up kind
of fellow, ain’t he, who looks as if most of his milk was turned
sour, an’ the Hopkinsite Confession was a settin’ orful heavy on his
digestion?’

Hiram nodded several times successively, in acknowledgment of the
general accuracy of this brief description. ‘That’s him, you bet,’ he
answered with unfilial promptitude. ‘I guess you’ve seed him somwhar,
for that’s him as like as a portrait. Look here, say, I’ll draw him for
you.’ And the boy, taking his pencil from his pocket, drew as quickly
as he was able on a scrap of birch-bark a humorous caricature of his
respected parent, as he appeared in the very act of offering an unctuous
exhortation to the Hopkinsite assembly at Muddy Creek meeting-house.
It was very wrong and wicked, of course--a clear breach of the Fifth
Commandment--but the deacon hadn’t done much on his own account to merit
honour or love at the hands of Hiram Winthrop.

The man took the rough sketch and laughed at it inwardly, with a
suppressed chuckle. There was no denying, he saw, that it was the
perfect moral of that thar freezed-up old customer down to the Deepo. He
handed it with a smile to his two companions. They both recognised the
likeness and the little additions which gave it point, and one of them,
a Canadian as Hiram conjectured (for he spoke with a dreadful English
accent--so stuck-up), said in the same soft undertone: ‘Do you know
where any mink live anywhere hereabouts?’

‘A little higher up stream,’ Hiram answered, overjoyed, ‘I know every
spot whar ther’s any mink stirrin’ for five miles round, anyhow.’

The Canadian turned to the others.

‘Boys,’ he said, ‘you can trust the youngster. He won’t peach on us.
He’s game, you may be sure. Now, youngster, we’re trappers, as you
guessed correctly. But you see, farmers don’t love trappers, because
they go trespassing, and overrunning the fields: and so we don’t want
you to say a word about us to this father of yours. Do you understand?’

Hiram nodded.

‘You promise not to tell him or anybody?’

‘Yes, I promise.’

‘Well, then, if you like, you can come with us. We’re going to set our
traps now. You don’t seem a bad sort of little chap, and you can see the
fun out if you’ve a mind to.’

Hiram’s heart bounded with excitement. What a magnificent prospect! He
promised to show the trappers every spot he knew about the place where
any fur-bearing animal, from ermine to musk-rat, was likely to be found.
In ten minutes, all four were started off upon their skates once more,
striking up the river in the direction of the deacon’s, and setting
traps by Hiram’s advice as they went along, at every likely run or
corner.

‘You drew that picture real well,’ the Canadian said, as they skated
side by side: ‘I could see it was the old man at a glance.’

Hiram’s face shone with pleasure at this sincere compliment to his
artistic merit. ‘I could hev done it a long sight better,’ he said
simply, ‘ef my hands hadn’t been numbed a bit with the cold, so’s I
could hardly hold the pencil.’

It was a grand day, that day with the trappers--the gipsies of
half-settled America; the grandest day Hiram had ever spent in his
whole lifetime. How many musk-rats’ burrows he pointed out to his new
acquaintance along the bank of the creek; how many spots where the
mink, that strange water-haunting weasel, lurks unseen among the frozen
sedges! Here and there, too, he showed them the points where he had
noticed the faint track of the ermine on the lightly fallen snow, and
where they might place their traps across the path worn by the ‘coons
on their way to and from the Indian corn patch. It was cruel work, to be
sure, setting those murderous snapping iron jaws, and perhaps if Hiram
had thought more about the beasts themselves (whom after all he loved in
his heart) he wouldn’t have been so ready to aid their natural enemies
in thus catching and exterminating them: but what boy is free from the
aboriginal love of hunting something? Certainly not Hiram Winthrop, at
least, to whom this one glimpse of a delightful wandering life among
the woods and marshes--a life that wasn’t all made up of bare fields
and fall wheat and snake fences and cross-ploughing--seemed like a stray
snatch of that impossible paradise he had read about in ‘Peter Simple’
and the ‘Buccaneers of the Caribbean Sea.’

‘Say, Bob,’ the Canadian muttered to him as they were half-way through
their work (in Northern New York every boy unknown is _ex officio_
addressed as Bob), ‘we shall be back in these diggings in the spring
again, looking after the summer furs, you see. Now, don’t you go and
tell any other trappers about these places we’ve set, because trappers
gener’ly (present company always excepted) is a pretty dishonest lot,
and they’ll poach on other trappers’ grounds and even steal their furs
and traps as soon as look at ‘em. You stand by us and we’ll stand by
you, and take care you don’t suffer by it.’

‘When’ll you come?’ Hiram asked in the thrilling delight of
anticipation.

‘When the first spring days are on,’ the Canadian answered. ‘I’ll tell
you the best sign: it’s no use going by days o’ the month--we don’t
remember ‘em mostly;--but it’ll be about the time when the skunk cabbage
begins to flower.’

Hiram made a note of the date mentally, and treasured it up in safety on
the lasting tablets of his memory.

At about one o’clock the trappers sat down upon the frozen bank and ate
their dinner. It would have been cold work to men less actively engaged;
but skating and trapping warms your blood well. ‘Got any grub?’ one of
the men asked Hiram, still softly. Your trapper seems almost to have
lost the power of speaking above a whisper, and he moves stealthily
as if he thought a spectral farmer was always dogging his steps close
behind him.

‘No, I ain’t,’ Hiram answered.

‘Then, thunder, pitch into the basket,’ his new friend said
encouragingly.

Hiram obeyed, and made an excellent lunch off cold hare and lake
ship-biscuit.

‘Are you through?’ the men asked at last.

‘Yes,’ Hiram replied.

‘Then come along and see the fun out.’

They skated on, still upward, in the general direction of the blackberry
bottom. When they got there, Hiram, now quite at home, pointed out even
more accurately than ever the exact homes of each individual mink and
ermine. So the men worked away eagerly at their task till the evening
began to come over. Then Hiram, all aglow with excitement and wholly
oblivious of all earthly considerations, became suddenly aware of a
gaunt figure moving about among the dusky brushwood and making in the
direction of his friends the trappers. ‘Hello,’ he cried to his new
acquaintances in a frightened tone, ‘you’d best cut it. Thar’s the
deacon.’

The Canadian laughed a short little laugh. ‘All right, Bob,’ he said
coolly; ‘we ain’t afraid of him. If he touches you to hurt you, I
surmise he’ll find himself measuring his own height horizontally rather
quicker than he expected.’ The deacon overheard the alarming prediction,
and, being a wise man in his generation, prudently abstained from
making any hostile demonstration to Hiram in the presence of his
self-constituted protectors. ‘Good evenin’, gents all,’ he said,
advancing blandly.

‘I’d lost my son, d’ye see, an’ I’d kem out right here to look after
him. Hiram, you come along home, sonny; your mother’s most out of her
mind about you, I kin tell you.’

‘Good evening, Colonel,’ the Canadian answered in a determined fashion.
‘We’re sorry business has compelled us to trespass on your property; but
the fur trade, Colonel, the fur trade is a pretty exacting profession.
The Lord Chief Justice of England insists upon his ermine, you see,
Colonel, and the demand compels the supply. We’re all instruments,
sir, instruments merely. Your boy’s a pretty smart lad, and if he
concentrates his mind upon the subject, I surmise that he’ll grow up
to be a pretty accomplished trapper.’ (The deacon’s disgust spoke
out volubly at this suggestion even upon his lantern-jawed impassive
countenance.) ‘Well, sir, he’s been very useful to us, and we
particularly request that you won’t lick him for it. We don’t wish him
to be hurt. We’re law-abiding citizens, Colonel, but we won’t let that
boy be hurt. You understand, sir--pre-cisely so. Bob, we’ll clear them
traps on Saturday morning. You come then and report proceedings.’

‘All right,’ Hiram answered defiantly; ‘I’ll be along.’

‘Good evenin’, Colonel,’ the three men said.

‘Good evenin’, gents all,’ the deacon answered, boiling over with wrath,
but smothering his rage till they were well off the premises.

Hiram turned and walked home in perfect silence by the side of his
father. They had got inside the house before the deacon ventured to
utter a single word, then he closed the door firmly, cuffed Hiram half
a dozen times over about the head, and cried angrily, ‘I was afeard,
sonny, you’d got drownded in the creek, reely: I was afeard you was cut
off in your sin this time; I was afeard of a judgment, I was: for I’ve
reproved you often, sonny; you can’t blame it agin me that I hain’t
reproved you often: and he that bein’ often reproved hardeneth his neck
shall suddenly be destroyed.’

‘Wal,’ Hiram cried through his tears (he _was_ a stubborn un, some),
‘it’s you that hardens it, ain’t it? What do you go allus hittin’ it
for?’

‘’Tain’t that neck, you scoffin’ sinner,’ the deacon answered savagely,
dealing him another cuff or two about the head. ‘Tain’t that neck, you
know as well as I do: it’s the sperritooal neck the prophet is alloodin’
to. But you shall have some cow-hide, again, Hiram; don’t you be afeard
about it: you shan’t go to reprobation unhindered ef I kin help it. ‘The
rod an’ reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his
mother to shame. Mis’ Winthrop, I’m afeard this son o’ yours’ull bring
you to shame yet, marm, with his sinful onregenerate practices. What’s
he bin doin’?

Now, you jest guess: why, bringin’ a whole crowd of disrepootable
trappers a-settin’ mink-traps an’ ermine-springes on his own father’s
blackberry lot. He ain’t satisfied with the improvin’ company he kin get
to home, he ain’t, but he must go consortin’ and associatin’ with a lot
of no-account, skulkin’, profane trappers--a mean crowd, a mob, a set of
low fellers I wouldn’t hold no intercourse with, anyhow. Hiram Winthrop,
it’s my belief you hev got no sense of the dignity of your persition.’

‘I beg pardon, Colonel,’ the Canadian interposed, lifting the latch of
the front door lightly (it opened into the living room), ‘but I wish
gently to protest against them opprobrious epithets being out of
thoughtlessness applied to the exacting perfession of the fur trade. The
fur trade, sir, is a most noble perfession. The honourable Hudson Bay
Company, for whose deepo at Kingston I trade, is a recognised public
body, holding a charter from Queen Victoria, and reckoning among its
officials several prominent gentlemen of the strictest probity. I should
be sorry, Colonel, and my mates’ud be sorry, to cause any unpleasantness
as a sequel to this little excursion: but we can’t stand by and hear
them opprobrious epithets applied to the noble per-fession of the fur
trade, or to ourselves as its representatives in Geauga County. I’ll
trouble you, Colonel, to withdraw them words, right away, with a candid
apology, and to give us your word of honour that you ain’t going to
thrash this little chap for the exertions he has made to-day on behalf
of the noble perfession which me and my mates has the pleasure and
honour of representing. Otherwise, I don’t hesitate to say, Colonel, I
surmise there’ll be a little unpleasantness somewhere between us.’



CHAPTER V. EMANCIPATION.

|Churchill,’ said the vicar, pulling up his cob opposite the gate of the
little market garden, ‘I want to speak to you a minute about that boy of
yours. He’s twelve years old and more, I should say, by the look of him,
and he’s hanging about the village all his time, doing nothing. Do you
want a place to put him to? What are you going to do with him?’

‘Wull, passon,’ Sam Churchill answered, touching his hat in
a semi-deferential manner (as a liberal politician, Sam was
constitooshionally agin the passon), ‘Us _did_ think o’ zendin’ un
to school a bit longer, and tryin’ vor to prentice un to zum trade
zumwhere; but if a good place at sarvice was goin’ a beggin’, wy, me
an’ ‘is mother wouldn’t stand in the way of ‘is takin’ it, sartinly,
noways.’

‘Don’t send the boy to school any more, Churchill,’ the vicar said
decisively. ‘This education business is being overdone. You allowed your
other boy--Sam I think you called him--to read a pack of nonsensical
books about going to sea and so forth, and what’s the result? He’s gone
off to America and left you alone, just as he was beginning to be fitted
for a useful assistant. Depend upon it, Churchill, over-education’s a
great error.’

‘That’s just what my missus do zay, zur,’ Sam chimed in respectfully.
‘If us ‘adn’t let Sam read them Cap’n Marryat books, ‘ur do zay,’ e
‘ouldn’t never ‘ave gone off a-zeekin’ ‘is fortune awver yander to
‘Murrica. Howsom-dever, what place ‘ave ‘ee got in yer eye vor our
Colin, passon?’

‘Let him come to the vicarage,’ the parson said, ‘and I’ll train him to
be my own servant. Then he can get to be a gentleman’s valet, and take
a good place by-and-by in London. The boy’s got good manners and good
appearance, and would make a capital servant in time, I don’t doubt it.’

‘Wull, I’ll talk it awver wi’ the missus,’ old Sam replied dubiously.

When Colin was asked whether he would like to go to the vicarage or not,
he answered, with the true west-country insouciance, that he didn’t much
care where he went, so long as the place was good and the work was
aisy: and so, before the week was out, he had been duly installed as
the vicar’s buttons and body-servant, and initiated into the work of
brushing clothes, opening doors, announcing visitors, and all the other
mysteries of his joint appointment.

The vicar of Wootton was a very great person indeed. He was second
cousin to the Earl of Beaminster, the greatest landowner in that part of
Dorset; and he never for a moment forgot that he was a Howard-Russell,
the inheritor of two of the noblest names in England, and of nothing
else on earth except a remarkably narrow and retreating forehead.
The vicar was not clever; to that he had no pretensions: but he was a
high-minded, honourable, well-meaning English gentleman and clergyman
of the old school; not much interested in their new-fangled questions of
High Church, and Low Church, and Broad Church, and all the rest of it,
yet doing his parochial duty as he conceived of it in a certain honest,
straightforward, perfunctory, official fashion. ‘In my young days, my
dear,’ he used to say to his nieces (for he was a bachelor), ‘we
didn’t have all these high churches, and low churches, and mediumsized
churches, that people have nowadays.

We had only one church, the Church of England. That’s the only church
that I for my part can ever consent to live and die in.’

In the vicar’s opinion, a clergyman was an officer charged with the
maintenance of spiritual decorum in the recognised and organised system
of this realm of England. His chief duty was to dispense a decorous
hospitality to his friends and equals, to display a decorous pattern of
refined life to his various inferiors, to inculcate a decorous morality
on all his parishioners, and to take part in a decorous religious
service (with the assistance of his curates) twice every Sunday. The
march of events had latterly compelled him to add morning prayer on
Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent to this simple list of functions; but
further than that the vicar resolutely refused to go. When anyone talked
to him about matins and evensong, or discussed the Athanasian Creed, or
even spoke of the doings of Convocation, the vicar sniffed a little with
his aristocratic nose, and remarked stiffly that people didn’t go in for
those things in his young days, thank goodness. So far as his opinion
went, he hated innovations; the creeds were very good creeds indeed,
and people had got along very well with them, and without matins or
convocations, ever since he could remember.

Still, the vicar was a man of taste. A cousin of Lord Beaminster’s and
a vicar of Wootton Mandeville ought, he felt, in virtue of his position,
to be a man of taste. Not an admirer of new fads and fancies in art:
oh, no, no; by no means: not a partisan of realism, or idealism, or
romanticism, or classicism, or impressionism, or any other of their
fashionable _isms_; certainly not: but in a grand, old-fashioned,
unemotional, dignified sort of way, a man of taste. The vicar had two
Romneys hanging in his dining-room; graceful ancestresses with large
straw-hats and exquisitely highborn eighteenth-century Howard faces (the
Russell connection hadn’t then got into the family); and he had good
engravings from originals in the Vatican and the Pitti Palace
well displayed in his drawingroom: and he had even a single small
Thorwaldsen, a Thetis rising from the sea, which fronted him as he sat
in the oak-wainscoted study, and inspired his literary efforts while
engaged on the composition of his three annual new sermons. It was
impossible to enter the vicarage, indeed, without feeling at once the
exact artistic position of its excellent occupant. He was decorously
æsthetic, just as he was decorously religious and decorously obedient
to the usages of society. The Reverend Philip Howard-Russell, in fact,
hated enthusiasm in every form. He hated earnest dissent most of all, of
course; it was an irregular, indecorous, unauthorised way of trying
to get to heaven on one’s own account, without the aid of the duly
constituted ecclesiastical order: but he hated all nonsense about art
almost equally. He believed firmly in Raffael and Michael Angelo, as
he believed in church and state: he thought Correggio and Guido almost
equally fine; but he had a low opinion of the early Italian masters,
and would have looked askance at Botticelli or Era Angelico, wherever
he found them, even in a ducal mansion. He didn’t live (as good fortune
would have it) to see the extremely ill-balanced proceedings of Mr.
Burne Jones and his school: indeed the vicar could never have consented
to prolong his life into such an epoch of ‘movements’ and ‘earnestness’
as our own: but he distinctly recollected, with a thrill of horror, that
when he was a tutor at Christ Church there were two or three young men
who got up something they called a Preraphaelite Brotherhood, which
ultimately came to no good. ‘One of them, by name Millais,’ he used to
say, ‘got rid of all that nonsense at last, and has become a really very
promising young painter: but as to the others, that fellow Hunt, and a
half-Italian man they call Rossetti--well, you know the things they paint
are really and truly quite too ridiculous.’

On the whole, Colin Churchill liked his place at the vicarage fairly
well. To be sure, passon was exacting sometimes; he had a will of his
own, the Reverend Philip, and knew what was becoming from the lower
classes towards their natural superiors--but, for all that, Colin liked
it. The work wasn’t very hard; there was plenty of time to get out into
the fields still and play with Minna at odd minutes; the vicarage was
pretty and prettily furnished; and above all, it was full of works of
art such as Colin had never before even imagined. He didn’t know why, of
course, but the Romneys and the Thorwaldsen in particular took his fancy
immensely from the very first moment he saw them. The Thetis was his
special adoration: its curves and lines never ceased to delight and
surprise him. An instinctive germ of art which was born in all the
Churchill family was beginning to quicken into full life in little
Colin. Though the boy knew it not, nor suspected it himself, he was in
fact an artistic genius. All the family shared his gifts more or less:
but in Colin those gifts were either greater by original endowment, or
were more highly developed by the accidents of place and time--who shall
say which? Perhaps Sam, put where Colin was, might have become a
great sculptor: perhaps Colin, put where Sam was, might have become a
respectable American citizen. And perhaps not. These are mysteries which
no man yet can solve, least of all the present biographer.

The vicar had a large collection of prints in his study; and when
visitors came who were also men of taste with no nonsense about them,
it was his custom to show them his collection on a little frame made for
the purpose. On such occasions, Colin had to perform the duty of placing
the prints one after another upon the frame: and while the vicar and his
guests looked at them critically, the boy, too, would gaze from behind
them, and listen open-mouthed to their appreciative comments. There was
one picture in particular that Colin especially admired--a mezzotint
from a fresco of the Four Seasons, by a nameless Renaissance artist,
in an out-of-the-way church at Bologna. Perhaps it was the classical
bas-relief air of the picture that struck the boy’s fancy so much;
for the native bent of Colin Churchill’s genius was always rather
sculpturesque than pictorial: but at any rate he loved that picture
dearly, and more than once the vicar noticed that when they came to it,
his little page lingered behind abstractedly, and didn’t go on to the
next in order as soon as he was told to.

‘Churchill,’ the vicar once said to him sharply on such an occasion,
‘why don’t you mind when you’re spoken to? I said “Next!” Didn’t you
hear me?’

‘I beg your pardon, zur--sir, I mean,’ Colin answered, relapsing for
the moment into his original barbarism: ‘I heer’d you, but--but I was
a-lookin’ at it and forgot, sir.’

The vicar gazed at the boy for a moment in mute astonishment. ‘Looking
at it!’ he murmured at last, half to himself, with a curious curl about
the corner of his mouth; ‘goodness gracious, what are we coming to
next, I wonder! He was looking at my mezzotints! Extraordinary. Young
Churchill looking at my mezzotints!--The next, you see, Colonel, is a
very rare print by Cornelius Bloemart after Mieris. Exquisitely delicate
engraving, as you observe; very remarkable purity and softness. A
capital conjunction in fact: no burin but Bloemart’s could render so
finely the delicate finish of Frans Mieris. The original is almost
worthy of Gerard Douw; you’ve seen it, I dare say, at Leyden. Next, boy:
next.--Looking at it! Well, I declare! He says he was looking at it!
That man Churchill always _was_ an ill-mannered, independent, upstanding
sort of fellow, and after all what can you expect from his children?

In spite of occasional little episodes like this, however, Colin and the
parson got on fairly well together in the long-run. The parson’s first
task had been, of course, to take care that that boy’s language should
be reduced to something like the queen’s English: and to that effect,
Capel, the butler (better known in Wootton as the Dook, on account
of his distinguished and haughtily aristocratic manners) had been
instructed to point out to Colin the difference in pronunciation between
the letters hess and zud, the grammatical niceties of this, these,
those, they and them, and the formalities necessary to be used by men
of low estate in humbly addressing their duly constituted pastors and
masters. Colin, being naturally a quick boy, had soon picked up as much
of all this as the Dook was able to teach him; and if there was still
a considerable laxity in the matter of aspiration, and a certain
irregularity in the matter of moods and tenses, that was really more the
fault of the teacher than of the pupil. The Dook had been to London and
even to Rome, and had picked up the elegant language of the best footmen
in west-end society. Colin learnt just what the Dook taught him; he had
left behind the crude West-Saxon of the court of King Alfred, on which
he had been nurtured as his mother-tongue, and had almost progressed
to the comparatively cultivated and cosmopolitan dialect of an ordinary
modern English man-servant.

At first, little Minna was in no small degree contemptuous of Colin’s
‘vine new-vangled talkin’.’ ‘“Don’t you,” indeed,’ she cried one day in
her supremely sarcastic little manner, when Colin had ventured to use
that piece of superfine English in her very ears, instead of his native
West-Saxon ‘don’t ‘ee;’ ‘vine things we’re comin’ to nowadays, Colin,
wen the likes o’ thee goes sayin’ “don’t you.” I s’pose ‘ee want to grow
up an’ be like the Dook, some o’ these vine days. Want to be a butler,
an’ ‘old theeself so stiff, and talk that vine that plain volk can’t
‘ardly tell what thee’s talkin’ about. Gurt stoopid, I do call ‘ee.’ But
Colin, in spite of ridicule, continued on his own way, and Minna, who
had her pride and her little day-dreams on her own account, too, at last
began to think that perhaps after all Colin might be in the right of it.

So, being a west-country girl with a mind of her own (like most of
them), Minna set to work on her part also to correct and get rid of
her pretty, melting native dialect. She went to school at the British
National School (the vicar had carefully warded off that last disgrace
of the age, the blatant board school, from his own village ); and even
as Colin set himself to attain the lofty standard of excellence afforded
him by the Dook, so did Minna do her best to follow minutely the voice
and accent of the head pupil-teacher, who had actually been for three
terms at the Normal College in London. There she had picked up a very
noble vulgar London twang, learnt to pronounce ‘no’ as ‘na-o,’ and
acquired the habit of invariably slurring over or dropping all her short
unaccented syllables.

In all these splendid characteristics of the English language as
currently spoken in the great metropolis, Minna endeavoured to the best
of her ability to follow her leader; and at the end of a year she had so
far succeeded that Colin himself complimented her on the immense advance
she had lately made in her new linguistic studies.

Colin’s greatest delight, however, was still to go down in the
afternoon, when the vicar was out, to the brook in the meadow, and there
mix up as of yore a good big batch of plastic clay with which to model
what he used to call his little images. The Dook complained greatly of
the clay, ‘a nasty dirty mess, indeed, to go an’ acshally bring into
any gentleman’s house, let alone the vicar’s, and him no more nor a page
neither!’ but Colin managed generally to appease his anger, and to gain
a grudging consent at last for the clay to be imported into the house
under the most stringent sumptuary conditions. The vicar must never
see it coming or going; he mustn’t be allowed to know that the Dook
permitted such goings-on in the house where he was major-domo. On that
point Mr. Capel was severity itself. So when the images were fairly
finished, Colin used to take them out surreptitiously at night, and then
hand them over to Minna Wroe, who had quite a little museum of the young
sculptor’s earliest efforts in her own bedroom. She had alike the Thetis
after Thorwaldsen (a heathenish, scarce half-clad huzzy, who shocked
poor Mrs. Churchill’s sense of propriety immensely, until she was
solemnly assured that the original stood in the vicar’s study), and the
Infant Samuel after the plaster cast on the cottage mantelpiece; as well
as the bust of Miss Eva, the vicar’s favourite niece, studied from life
as Colin stood behind her chair at night, or handed her the potatoes at
dinner. If Miss Eva hadn’t been eighteen, and such a _very_ grand young
lady, little Minna might almost have been jealous of her. But as it
was--why, Colin was only the page boy, and so really, after all, what
did it matter?

For three years Colin continued at the vicarage, till he was full
fifteen, and then an incident occurred which gave the first final
direction to his artistic impulses.

One afternoon he had been down to the brook, talking as usual with his
old playmate Minna (even fifteen and thirteen are not yet very dangerous
ages), when he happened, in climbing up that well-known clay cliff, to
miss his foothold on the sticky slippery surface, and fell suddenly into
the bed of the stream below. His head was sadly cut by the flints at the
bottom, and two neighbours picked him out and carried him between them
up to the vicarage. There he was promptly laid upon his own bed, while
Capel sent off hurriedly for the Wootton doctor to staunch the flow of
blood from the ugly cut.

When the vicar heard of the accident from the Dook, he was sitting
in the drawing-room listening to Miss Eva playing a then fashionable
gavotte by a then fashionable composer. ‘Is he badly hurt, Capel?’ the
vicar asked, with decorous show of interest.

‘Pretty bad, sir,’ the Dook answered in his official manner. ‘I should
judge, sir, by the look of it, that the boy had cut a artery, sir, or
summat of that sort; leastways, the wownd is bleeding most uncommon
profusely.’

‘I’ll come and see him,’ the vicar said, with the air of a man who
decorously makes a sacrifice to Christian principles. ‘You may tell the
poor lad, Capel, that I’ll come and see him presently.’

‘And I will too,’ Eva put in quickly.

‘Eva, my dear!’ her uncle observed with chilling dignity. ‘You had
better not. The sight would be a most unpleasant one for you. Indeed,
for all of us. Capel, you may tell Churchill that I am coming to see
him. Eva, I’m afraid I interrupted you: go on, my dear.’

Eva played out the gavotte to the end a little impatiently, and then the
vicar rose after a minute or two of decent delay (one mustn’t seem in
too great a hurry to sympathise with the accidents which may befall
one’s poorer neighbours), and walked in his stately leisurely fashion
towards the servants’ quarters. ‘Which is Churchill’s room, Capel?’ he
asked as he went along. ‘Ah, yes, this one, to be sure. Poor lad, I hope
he’s better now.’

But as soon as the vicar stood within the room, which he had never
entered before since Colin had used it, he had hardly any eyes for the
boy or the surgeon, and could scarcely even ask the few questions which
decorum demanded as to his state and probable recovery.

For the walls of Colin Churchill’s bedroom were certainly of a sort
gravely to surprise and disquiet the unsuspecting vicar. All round the
room, a number of large sheets of paper hung, on which were painted in
bright water-colours cartoon-like copies of the engravings which formed
the chief decoration of the vicar’s drawing-room.

‘Who did these?’ he asked sternly.

‘Me, sir,’ the boy answered, trembling, from the bed.

The Reverend Philip Howard-Russell started visibly. He displayed
astonishment even before his own servants. In truth, he was too good a
judge of art not to see at a glance that the pictures were well drawn,
and that the colouring, which was necessarily original, had been
harmonised with native taste. All this was disquieting enough; but more
disquieting than all was another work of art which hung right on the top
of Colin’s bed-head. It was a composition in clay of the Four Seasons,
reproduced in bas-relief from the mezzotint in the vicar’s portfolio,
over which he now at once remembered Colin had so often and so
constantly lingered.

Though he ought to have been looking at the boy, the vicar’s eyes
were fixed steadily during almost all the interview on this singular
bas-relief. If the water-colours had merit, the vicar, as a man
of taste, could not conceal from himself the patent fact that the
bas-relief showed positive signs of real genius. It was really most
untoward, most disconcerting! A lad of that position in life to go and
model a composition in relief from an engraving on the flat, and to do
it well, too! The vicar had certainly never heard of anything like it!

He said a few words of decorously conventional encouragement to Colin,
told the surgeon he was delighted to hear the wound was not a serious
one, and then beckoned the Dook quietly out of the room as he himself
took his departure.

‘Capel,’ he said, in a low voice on the landing, ‘what on earth is the
meaning of that--ur--that panel at Churchill’s bedside?’

‘Well, sir, the boy likes to make a mess with mud and water, you see,’
the butler answered submissively, ‘and I didn’t like to prevent him,
because he’s a well-conducted lad in gen’ral, sir, and he seems to have
took a awful fancy to this sort of imaging. I hope there ain’t no harm
done, sir. I never allows him to make a mess with it.’

‘Not at all, not at all, Capel,’ the vicar continued, frowning slightly.
‘No harm in the world in his amusing himself so, of course; still’--and
this the vicar added to himself as though it were a peculiarly
aggravating piece of criminality--‘there’s no denying he has reproduced
that mezzotint in really quite a masterly manner.’

The vicar went back to the drawing-room with a distressed and puzzled
look upon his clean-shaven clear-cut countenance. ‘Is he badly hurt,
uncle?’ asked Eva. ‘No, my dear,’ the vicar replied, testily; ‘nothing
to speak of; but I’m afraid he has made himself a very singular and
excellent bas-relief.’

‘A what?’ cried Eva, imagining to herself that she had overlooked the
meaning of some abstruse medical term which sounded strangely artistic
to her unaccustomed ears.

‘A bas-relief,’ the vicar repeated, in a disgusted tone. ‘Yes, my
dear, I’m not surprised you should be astonished at it, but I said
a bas-relief. He has reproduced my Bologna Four Seasons in clay, and
what’s worse, Eva, he has really done it extremely well too, confound
him.’

It was only on very rare occasions that the vicar allowed himself the
use of such doubtful expressions, and even then he employed them in his
born capacity as a Howard-Russell rather than in his acquired one as a
clergyman of the Church of England.

‘Eva, my dear,’ he said again after a long pause,’the boy’s head is
bandaged now, and after all there’s really nothing in any way in his
condition to shock you. It might be as well, perhaps, if you were to
go to see him, and ask Mr. Walkem whether the cook ought to make him
anything in the way of jelly or beef-tea or any stuff of that sort, you
know. These little attentions to one’s dependents in illness are only
Christian, only Christian. And, do you know, Eva, you might at the same
time just glance at the panel by the bed-head, and tell me by-and-by
what you think of it. I’ve great confidence in your judgment, my dear,
and after all it mayn’t perhaps be really quite so good as I’m at first
sight inclined to believe it.’

When niece and uncle met again at dinner, Eva unhesitatingly proclaimed
her opinion that the bas-relief was very clever (a feminine expression
for every degree of artistic or intellectual merit, not readily
apprehended by the ridiculous hair-splitting male intelligence). The
vicar moved uneasily in his chair. This was most disconcerting. What
on earth was he to do with the boy? As a man of taste, he felt that
he mustn’t keep a possible future Canova blacking boots in his back
kitchen; as a Christian minister, he felt that he must do the best he
could to advance the position of all his parishioners; yet finally, as
a loyal member of this commonwealth, he felt that he ought not to
countenance people of that position in life in having tastes and
occupations above their natural station. Old Churchill’s son, too! Could
anything be more annoying? ‘What on earth ought we to do with him, Eva?’
he asked doubtfully.

‘Send him to London to some good artist, and see what he can make of
him,’ Eva replied with astonishing promptitude. (It’s really wonderful
how young people of the present day will undertake to solve the most
difficult practical problems off-hand, as if there were absolutely
nothing in them.)

The vicar glanced towards the Dook uneasily. ‘It’s a very extraordinary
thing,’ he said, ‘for a lad of his class to go and dream of going and
doing. I may be old-fashioned, Eva, my dear, but I don’t quite like it.
I won’t deny that I don’t quite like it.’

‘Haven’t I read somewhere,’ Eva went on innocently, ‘that Giotto or
somebody was a peasant boy who fed sheep, and that some one or other,
Cimabue, I think (only I don’t know how to pronounce his name properly),
saw some drawings he’d made with a bit of charcoal on some rock, and
took him for his pupil, and made him into, oh, such a great painter?

I know it was such a delightfully romantic story, wherever I read it.’

The vicar coughed drily. ‘That was in the thirteenth century, my dear,’
he said, in his coldest and most repressive tone. ‘The thirteenth
century was a very long time ago, Eva. Society hadn’t organised itself
then, as it has done in our own day. Besides, the story has been
critically doubted. Ci-ma-bu-e,’ and the vicar dwelt carefully on each
syllable of the name with a little distinct intonation which mutely
corrected Eva’s faulty Italian without too obtrusively exciting the
butler’s attention, ‘had probably very little to do with discovering
Giot-to.--Capel, this is not the green seal claret. Go and decant some
green seal at once, will you.--My dear, this is a discussion which had
better not be carried on before the servants.’

In three days more the Dook was regaling the gossips of the White Lion
with the whole story how the vicar, with his usual artistic sensibility,
had discovered merit in that lad of Churchill’s, and had found out
as the thing the lad had made out of mud were really what they call a
bas-relief, ‘which I’ve seen ‘em, of course,’ said the Dook, loftily,
‘in lots of palaces in Italy, carved by Jotter, and Bonnomey, and
Jamberty, and all them old swells; but I never took much notice of this
one o’ young Churchill’s, naterally, till the vicar came in; and then,
as soon as ever he clapped eyes on it, he says at once to me, “Capel,”
 says he, “that’s a bas-relief.” And then, I remembered as I’d seen
just the same sort of things, as I was sayin’, over in Italy, by the
cart-load; but, Lord, who’d have ever thought old Sam Churchill’s son
could ever ha’ done one! And now the vicar’s asted Sam to let him get
the boy apprenticed to a wood-carver: and Sam’s give his consent; and
next week the boy’s going off to Exeter, and going to make his fortune
as sure as there’s apples in Herefordshire.’

The idea of the wood-carver may be considered as a sort of compromise on
the vicar’s part between his two duties, as a munificent discoverer
of rising talent, and a judicious represser of the too-aspiring lower
orders. A wood-carver’s work is in a certain sense artistic, and yet
it isn’t anything more, as a rule, than a decent handicraft. The vicar
rather prided himself upon this clever sop to both his consciences: he
chuckled inwardly over the impartial manner in which he had managed to
combine the recognition of plastic merit with the equal recognition of
profound social disabilities. Eva, to be sure, had stood out stoutly
against the wood-carving, and had pleaded hard for a sculptor in London:
but the vicar disarmed her objections somewhat by alleging the admirable
precedent of Grinling Gibbons. ‘Gibbons, you know, my dear, rose to the
very first rank as a sculptor from his trade as a wood-carver. Pity
to upset the boy’s mind by putting him at once to a regular artist. If
there’s really anything in him, he’ll rise at last; if not, it would
only do him harm to encourage him in absurd expectations.’ Oh, wise
inverted Gamaliels! you too in your decorous way, with your topsyturvy
opportunism, cannot wholly escape the charge of quenching the spirit.



CHAPTER VI. ENTER A NEW ENGLANDER.

|Hiram Winthrop’s emancipation had come a little earlier, and it had
come after this fashion.

It was early spring along the lake shore, and Hiram had wandered out,
alone as usual, into the dense marshy scrub that fringed the Creek, near
the spot where it broadens and deepens into a long blue bay of still
half-frozen and spell-bound Ontario. The skunk-cabbage was coming into
flower! It was early spring, and the boy’s heart was glad within him, as
though the deacon, and the cord-wood, and the coming drudgery of hoeing
and weeding had never existed. Perhaps, now, he should see the trappers
again. He wandered on among the unbroken woods, just greening with the
wan fresh buds, and watched the whole world bursting into life again
after its long wintry interlude; as none have ever seen it waken save
those who know the great icy lake country of North America. The signs
of quickening were frequent in the underbrush. The shrill _peep_ of the
tree-frog came to him from afar through the almost silent woodland. The
drumming of the redheaded woodpecker upon the hickory trunks showed that
the fat white grubs were now hatching and moving underneath the bark
Close to the water’s edge he scared up a snipe; and then, again, a
little farther, he saw a hen hawk rise with sudden flappings from the
clam-shell mound. Hark, too; that faint, swelling, distant beat! surely
it was a partridge! He looked up into the trees, and searched for it
diligently: and there true enough, settling, after the transatlantic
manner, on a tall butternut (oh, heterodox bird!), he caught a single
glimpse of the beautiful fluttering creature, as it took its perch
lightly upon the topmost branches.

It was so delightful, all of it, that Hiram never thought of the time or
his dinner, but simply wandered on, as a boy will, for hour after hour
in that tangled woodland. What did he care, in the joy of his heart, for
the coming beating? His one idea was to see the trappers. At last, he
saw an unwonted sight through the trees--two men actually pushing their
way along beside the river. His heart beat fast within him: could they
be the trappers? Spurred on by that glorious possibility, he crept up
quickly and noiselessly behind them. The men were talking quite loud to
one another: no, they couldn’t be trappers: trappers always go softly,
and speak in a whisper. But if they weren’t trappers, what on earth
could they be do down here in the unbroken forest? Not felling wood,
that was clear; for they had no axes with them, and they walked along
without ever observing the lie of the timber. Not going to survey wild
lands, for they had none of those strange measuring things with them
(Hiram was innocent of the name theodolite) that surveyors are always
peeping and squinting through. Not gunning either, for they had no guns,
but only simple stout walking-sticks. ‘Sech a re-markable, on-common
circumstance I never saw, and that’s true as Judges,’ Hiram said to
himself, as he watched them narrowly. He would jest listen to what they
were sayin’, and see if he could make out what on airth they could be
doin’ down in them woods thar.

‘When I picked him up,’ one of the men was saying to the other, in a
clear, distinct, delicate tone, such as Hiram had never heard before, ‘I
saw it was a wounded merganser, winged by some bad shot, and fallen into
the water to die alone. I never saw anything more beautiful than its
long slender vermilion bill, the very colour of red sealing wax; and its
clean bright orange legs and feet; and its pure white breast just tinged
at the tip of each feather with faint salmon, or a dainty buff inclining
to salmon. I was sorry I hadn’t got my colours with me: I’d have given
anything to be able to paint him, then and there.’

Hiram could hardly contain himself with mingled awe, delight, and
astonishment. He wanted to call out on the spur of the moment ‘I know
that thar bird. I know him. ‘Tain’t called that name you give him, down
our section, though. We call him a fisherman diver.’ But he didn’t dare
to in his perfect transport of surprise and amazement. It wasn’t the
strange person’s tone alone that pleased him so much, though he felt,
in a vague indefinable way, that there was something very beautiful and
refined and exquisitely modulated in it--the voice being in fact
the measured, clearly articulate voice of a cultivated New England
gentleman, such as he had never before met in his whole lifetime: it
wasn’t exactly that, though that was in itself sufficiently surprising:
it was the astounding fact that there was a full-grown, decently clad
man, not apparently a lunatic or an imbecile, positively interesting
himself in such childish things as the very colours and feathers of
a bird, just the same as he, Hiram Winthrop, might have done in
the blackberry bottom. The deacon never talked about the bill of a
merganser! The deacon never noticed the dainty buff on the breast,
inclining to salmon! The deacon never expressed any burning desire to
pull out his brushes and paint it! All the men he had ever yet seen in
Geauga County would have regarded the colours on the legs of a bird as
wholly beneath their exalted and dignified adult consideration. Corn and
pork were the objects that engaged their profound intellects, not birds
and insects. Hiram had always imagined that an interest in such small
things was entirely confined to boys and infants. That grown men could
care to talk about them was an idea wholly above his limited experience,
and almost above what the deacon would have called his poor finite
comprehension.

‘Yes,’ the other answered him, even before Hiram could recover from his
first astonishment. ‘It’s a lovely bird. I’ve tried to sketch him myself
more than once. And have you ever noticed, Audouin, the peculiar way the
tints are arranged on the back of the neck? The crest’s black, you know,
glossed with green; but the nape’s white; and the colours don’t merge
into one another, as you might expect, but cease abruptly with quite a
hard line of demarcation at the point of junction.’

‘Jest for all the world as ef they was sewed together,’ Hiram murmured
to himself inaudibly, still more profoundly astonished at this
incredible and totally unexpected phenomenon. Then there were two
distinct and separate human beings in the world, it seemed, who
were each capable of paying attention to the coloration of a common
merganser. As Hiram whispered awestruck to his own soul, ‘most
mirac’lous!’

He followed them up a little farther, hanging anxiously on every word,
and to his continued astonishment heard them notice to one another such
petty matters as the flowering of the white maples, the twittering of
the red-polls among the fallen pine-needles, the wider and ever wider
circles on the water where the pickerel had leaped, nay, even the tracks
left upon the soft clay that marked the nightly coming and going of the
stealthy wood-chuck. Impossible: unimaginable: utterly un-diaconal: but
still true! Hiram’s spirit was divided within him. At last the one who
was addressed as Audouin said casually to his companion, ‘Let’s sit down
here, Professor, and have our lunch. I love this lunching in the open
woods. It brings us nearer to primitive nature. I suppose the chord it
strikes within us is the long latent and unstruck chord of hereditary
habit and feeling. It’s centuries since our old English ancestors lived
that free life in the open woods of the Teutonic mainland; but the
unconscious memory of it reverberates dimly still, I often think,
through all our nature, and comes out in the universal love for escape
from conventionality to the pure freedom of an open-air existence.’

‘Perhaps so,’ the Professor answered with a laugh: ‘but if you’ll leave
your Boston philosophy behind, my dear unpractical Audouin, and open
your sandwich-case, you’ll be doing a great deal more good in the cause
of hungry humanity than by speculating on the possible psychological
analysis of the pleasure of picnicking.’

Hiram didn’t quite know what all that meant; but from behind the big
alder he could, at least, see that the sandwiches looked remarkably
tempting (by the way, it was clearly past dinner-time, to judge by the
internal monitor), and the Professor was pouring something beautifully
red and clear into a metal cup out of the wicker-covered bottle. It
wasn’t whisky, certainly; nor spruce beer, either: could it really
be that red stuff, wine, that people used to drink in Bible times,
according to the best documentary authorities?

‘Don’t, pray, reproach me with the original sin of having been born in
Boston,’ Audouin answered, with a slight half-affected little shiver. ‘I
can no more help that, of course, than I can help the following of Adam,
in common with all the rest of our poor fallen humanity.’ (Why, that was
jest like the deacon!) ‘But at least I’ve done my very best to put away
the accursed thing, and get rid, for ever, of our polluted material
civilisation. I’ve tried to flee from man (except always you, my dear
Professor), and take refuge from his impertinent inanity in the bosom
of my mother nature. From the haunts of the dry-goods man and the
busy throng of drummers, I’ve come into the woods and fields as from a
solitary desert into society. I prefer to emphasise my relations to the
universe, rather than my relations to the miserable toiling ant-hill of
petty humanity.’

‘Really, Audouin,’ the Professor put in, as he passed his friend the
claret, ‘you’re growing positively morbid; degenerating into a wild
man of the woods. I must take you back for a while to the city and
civilisation. I shall buy you a suit of store clothes, set you up in
a five-dollar imported hat, and make you promenade State Street,
afternoons, keeping a sharp eye on the Boston ladies and the Boston
fashions.’

‘No, no, Professor,’ Audouin answered, with a graceful flourish of his
small white hand: (Hiram noticed that it _was_ small and white, though
the dress the stranger actually wore was not a ‘store suit.’ but a
jacket and trousers of the local home-spun); ‘no, no; that would never
do. I refuse to believe in your civilisation. I abjure it: I banish it.
What is it? A mere cutting down of trees and disfiguring of nature, in
order to supply uninteresting millions with illimitable pork and
beans. The object of our society seems to be to provide more and more
luxuriously for our material wants, and to shelve all higher ideals of
our nature for an occasional Sunday service and a hypothetical future
existence. I turn with delight, on the other hand, from cities and
railroad cars to the forest and the living creatures. They are the one
group of beautiful things that the great Anglo-Saxon race, in civilising
and vulgarising this vast continent, has left us still undesecrated.
_They_ are not conventionalised; _they_ don’t go to the Old Meeting
House in European clothes Sunday mornings; they speak always to me in
the language of nature, and tell me our lower wants must be simplified
that the higher life may be correspondingly enriched. The only true way
of salvation, after all, Professor, lies in perfect fidelity to one’s
own truest inner promptings.’

[Illustration: 0134]

Hiram listened still, all amazed. He didn’t fully understand it all;
some of it sounded to him rather affectedly sentimental and finnikin;
but on the whole what struck him most was the strange fact that this
fine-spoken town-bred gentleman seemed to have ideas about the world and
nature--differently expressed, but fundamentally identical--such as he
himself felt but never knew before anybody else in the whole world was
likely to share with him. ‘That’s pretty near jest what I’d have
said myself,’ the boy thought wonderingly, ‘if I’d knowed how: only I
shouldn’t ever have bin able to say it so fine and high-falutin.’ They
finished their lunch, and sat talking a while together under the shadow
of the leafless hickories. The boy still stopped and watched them,
spell-bound. At last Audouin pulled a head of flowers from close to
the ground, and looked at it pensively, with his head just a trifle
theatrically on one side. ‘That’s a curious thing, Professor,’ he said,
eyeing it at different distances in his hand: ‘what do you call it now?
I don’t know it.’

‘I’m sure I can’t tell you, the Professor answered, taking it from him
carelessly. I don’t pretend to be much of a botanist, you see, and I’m
out of my element down here among the lake-side flora.’

Hiram could contain himself no longer.

‘It’s skunk-cabbage,’ he cried, in all the exultation of boyish
knowledge, emerging suddenly from behind the big alder. ‘Skunk-cabbage,
the trappers call it. Ain’t it splendid? You kin hear the bees hummin’
an’ buzzin’ around it, fine days in spring, findin it out close to the
ground, and goin’ into it, one at a time, before the willows has begun
to blossom. I see lots as I kem along this mornin’, putting out their
long tongues into it, and scarin’ away the flies as they tried to get a
bit o’ the breakfast.’

Audouin laughed melodiously. ‘What’s this?’ he cried. ‘A heaven-born
observer dropped suddenly upon us from the clouds!

You seem to know all about it, my young friend. Skunk-cabbage, is it?
But surely the bees aren’t out in search of honey already, are they?’

‘’Tain’t honey they get from it,’ the boy answered quickly. ‘It’s
bee-bread. Jest you see them go in, and watch ‘em come out again, and
thar you’ll find they’ve all got little yaller pellets stickin’ right
on to the small hairs upon their thighs. That’s bee-bread, that is, what
they give to the maggots. All bees is born out of maggots.’

Audouin laughed again. ‘Why, Professor,’ he said briskly, ‘this is
indeed a phenomenon. A country-bred boy who cares for and watches
nature! Boston must have set her mark on me deep, after all, for I’m
positively surprised to find a lover of nature born so far from the hub
of the universe. Skunk-cabbage, you call it; so quaint a flower
deserves a rather better name. Do you know the tassel-flower, my young
fellow-citizen? (we’re both citizens of the woods, it seems). Do you
know tassel-flower? is it out yet? I want to find some.’

‘I know it, some,’ Hiram answered, delighted, ‘but it ain’t out yet; it
comes a bit later. But I kin draw it for you, if you like, so’s you can
know it when it comes into blossom.’ And he felt in his pocket for some
invisible object, which he soon produced in the visible shape of a small
red jasper arrowhead. The boy was just beginning to scratch a figure
with it on a flat piece of water-rolled limestone when Audouin’s quick
eye caught sight, sideways, of the beautifully chipped implement.

‘Ha, ha,’ he cried, taking it from Hiram suddenly, ‘what have we here,
eh? The red man: his mark: as plain as printing. The broad arrow of the
aboriginal possessor of all America! Why, this is good; this is jasper.
Where on earth did you get this from?’

‘Whar on airth,’Hiram echoed, astonished anew; ‘why jest over thar: I
picked it up as I kem along this morning. Thar’s lots about, ‘specially
in spring time.’Pears as if the Injuns shot ‘em off at painters and bars
and settlers and things, and missed sometimes, and lost ‘em. Then they
lie thar in the ground a long time till some hard winter comes along to
uncover ‘em. Hard winters, the frost throws ‘em up; and when the snow
melts, the water washes ‘em out into the furrers. I’ve got crowds of ‘em
to home; arrowheads and tommyhawks, and terbacker pipes, an’ all sorts.
I pick ‘em up every spring, reglar.’ Audouin looked at the boy with
a far more earnest and searching glance for a moment; then he turned
quickly to the Professor. ‘There’s something in this,’ he said, in a
serious tone, very different from his previous half-unreal banter.
‘The bucolic intelligence evidently extends deeper than its linguistic
faculties might at first lead one to suspect.’ He spoke intentionally in
hieroglyphics, aiming his words above the boy’s head; but Hiram caught
the general sense notwithstanding, and flushed slightly with ingenuous
pride. ‘Well, let’s see your drawing,’ Audouin went on, with a gracious
smile, handing the boy back his precious little bit of pointed jasper.

Hiram took the stone weapon between finger and thumb, and scratching the
surface of the waterworn pebble lightly with its point in a few
places, produced in a dozen strokes a rough outline of the Canadian
tassel-flower. Audouin looked at the hasty sketch in evident
astonishment. It was his turn now to be completely surprised. ‘Why, look
here, Professor,’ he said very slowly: ‘this is--yes, this is--actually
a drawing.’

The Professor took the pebble from his hands, and scanned it closely.
‘Why, yes,’ he said, in some surprise. ‘There’s certainly a great deal
of native artistic freedom about the leaf and flower. It’s excellent; in
fact, quite astonishing. I expected a diagrammatic representation; this
is really, as you say, Audouin, a drawing.’

Hiram looked on in perfect silence: but the colour came hot and bright
in his cheek with very unwonted pleasure and excitement. To hear himself
praised and encouraged for drawing was indeed a wonder. So very unlike
the habits and manners of the deacon.

‘Do you ever draw with a pencil?’ Audouin asked after a moment’s pause,
‘or do you always scratch your sketches like this on flat bits of
pebble?’

‘Oh, I hev a pencil and book in my pocket,’ Hiram answered shyly; ‘only
I kinder didn’t care to waste the paper on a thing like that; an’
besides, I was scar’t that you two growed-ups mightn’t think well of my
picturs that I’ve drawed in it.’

‘Produce the pictures,’ Audouin said in a tone of authority, leaning
back against the trunk of the hickory.

Hiram drew them from his pocket timidly.

‘Thar they are,’ he murmured, with a depreciatory gesture. ‘They ain’t
much, but they’re all the picturs I knowed how to draw.’

Audouin took the book in his hand--Sam Churchill’s ten-cent
copybook--and turned over the well-filled pages with a critical eye. The
Professor, too, glanced at it over his shoulder. Hiram stood mute and
expectant before them, with eyes staring blankly, and in the expressive
uncouth attitude of a naïf shamefaced American country boy.

At last Audouin came to the last page.

‘Well, Professor’--he said inquiringly.

‘Something in them, isn’t there, eh? This boy’ll make a painter, I
surmise, won’t he?’ The Professor answered only by opening a small
portfolio, and taking out a little amateur water-colour drawing. ‘Look
here, my son,’ he said, holding it up before Hiram. ‘Do you think you
could do that sort of thing?’

‘I guess I could,’ Hiram answered, with the unhesitating confidence of
inexperienced youth. ‘ef I’d on’y got the right sort of colours to do it
with.’

The Professor laughed heartily. ‘Then you shall have them, anyhow,’ he
said promptly. ‘Native talent shall not go unrewarded for the sake of a
paltry box of Prussian blue and burnt sienna. You shall have them right
off and no mistake. Where do you live, Mr. Melibous?’

‘My name’s Hiram,’ the boy answered, a little smartly, for he somehow
felt the unknown nickname was not entirely a courteous one: ‘Hiram
Winthrop, and I live jest t’other side of Muddy Creek deepo.’

‘Winthrop,’ Audouin put in gaily. ‘Winthrop. I see it all now. Good old
Massachusetts name, Winthrop: connected with the hub of the universe
after all, it seems, in spite of mere superficial appearances to the
contrary. But it’s a pretty far cry to Muddy Creek dépôt, my friend. You
must be hungry, ain’t you? Have you had your dinner?’

‘No, I ain’t.’

‘Then you sit down right there, my boy, and pitch into those
sandwiches.’

Hiram lost no time in obeying the seasonable invitation.

‘How do you find them?’ asked Audouin.

‘Real elegant,’ Hiram answered.

‘Have some wine?’

‘I never tasted none,’ the boy replied:

‘But it looks real nice. I don’t mind ef I investigate it.’

Audouin poured him out a small cupful. The boy took it with the ease
of a freeborn citizen, very unlike the awkwardness of an English
plough-boy--an awkwardness which shows itself at once the last relic of
original serfdom. ‘Tain’t bad,’ he said, tasting it. ‘So that’s wine,
then! Nothing so much to go gettin’ mad about either. I reckon the
colour’s the best thing about it, any way.’

They waited till the boy had finished his luncheon, and then Audouin
began asking him a great many questions, cunningly devised questions to
draw him out, about the plants, and the animals, and the drawings, and
the neighbourhood, and himself, till at last Hiram grew quite friendly
and confidential. He entered freely into the natural history and
psychology of the deacon. He told them all his store of self-acquired
knowledge. He omitted nothing, from the cuffs and reprobation to Sam
Churchill and the bald-headed eagles. At each fresh item Audouin’s
interest rose higher and higher. ‘Have you gone to school, Hiram?’ he
asked at last.

‘Common school,’ Hiram answered briefly. ‘Learnt much there?’

‘Headin’, writin’, spellin’,’rithmetic, scrip-tur’, jography, an’
hist’ry an’ const’tooshun of the United States,’ Hiram replied, with the
sharp promptitude begotten of rote learning.

Audouin smiled a sardonic Massachusetts smile. ‘A numerous list of
accomplishments, indeed,’ he answered, playing with his watch-chain
carelessly. ‘The history of the United States in particular must
be intensely interesting. But the Indians--you learnt about _them_
yourself, I suppose--that’s so, isn’t it, Hiram? What we learn of
ourselves is always in the end the best learning. Well, now look here,
my boy; how’d you like to go to college, and perhaps in time teach
school yourself?’

‘I’d like that fust-rate,’ Hiram answered; ‘but I think I’d like best of
all to go to sea, or to be a painter.’

‘To be a painter,’ Audouin murmured softly; ‘to be a painter. Our great
continent hasn’t produced any large crop of prominent citizens who
wanted to be painters. This one might, after all, be worth trying. Well,
Hiram, do you think if I were to ask your father, there’s any chance
that he might possibly be willing to let you go to college?’

‘Nary chance at all,’ Hiram answered vigorously. ‘Why, father couldn’t
spare me from the peppermint an’ the pertaters; an’ as to goin’ to
college, why, it ain’t in the runnin’ any way.’

‘Professor,’ Audouin said, ‘this boy interests me. He’s vital: he’s
aboriginal: he’s a young Antæus fresh from the bare earth of the
ploughed fields and furrows. Let’s till him; without cutting down all
the trees, let’s lay him out in park and woodland. I’ll have a try,
anyhow, with this terrible father of yours, Hiram. Are you going home
now?’

‘I reckon I must,’ the boy answered with a nod. ‘He’ll be mad enough
with me as it is for stopping away so long from him.’

‘You’ll get a thrashing, I’m afraid, when you go home?’

‘I guess that’s jest the name of it.’

‘Professor,’ Audouin said, rising resolutely, ‘this means business. We
must see this thing right through immediately to the very conclusion.
The boy must not have his thrashing. I’ll go and see the father--beard
the Geauga County agriculturist in his very lair: dispute his whelp
with him: play lambent lightning round him: save the young Antæus from
sinking in the natural course of things into one more pickier of pork
and contented devourer of buttered buckwheat pancakes. There’s a spark
in him somewhere: I’m going to try whether I can manage to blow it up
into a full-fed flame.’



CHAPTER VII. THE DEACON FALTERS.

|Boston has worn itself out. The artificial centre of an unnatural
sickly exotic culture ever alien to the American soil, it has gone on
studying, criticising, analysing, till all the vigour and spontaneity it
may ever have possessed has utterly died out of it from pure inanition.
The Nemesis of sterility has fallen upon its head in the second
generation. It has cultivated men, fastidious critics, receptive and
appreciative intellects by the thousand; but of thinkers, workers,
originalities, hardly now a single one.

Lothrop Audouin was the very embodiment of the discontent and mocking
intellectual nihilism begotten of this purely critical unoriginative
attitude. Reaction against American materialism was the mainspring of
his inner being. He felt himself out of harmony with the palace cars
on the New York Central Railroad; jarring and conflicting with the
big saloons of the Windsor Hotel; unappreciative of the advertising
enterprise on the rocks of the Hudson River; at war with mammoth
concerns, gigantic newspapers, Presidential booms, State legislatures,
pop corn, saw mills, utilisation of water power, and all the other
component elements of the great American civilisation. Therefore, being
happily endowed by fate and his ancestors with a moderate competence,
even as moderate competences go on the other side of the Atlantic, he
had fled from Boston and the world to take refuge in the woods and
the marshes. For some years he had hidden himself in the western hill
district of Massachusetts; but being driven thence by the march of
intellect (enthroned on a steam plough), he had just removed to a new
cottage on the shore of Muddy Creek, not far from its entry into Lake
Ontario. There he lived a solitary life, watching the birds and beasts
and insects, sketching the trees and shrubs and flowers, and
shunning for the most part his fellow-man, save only his friend, the
distinguished ornithologist, Professor Ezra P. Hipkiss, of Harvard
College, Massachusetts.

The Professor had left them, intending to return home by himself; and
Audouin walked back alone with the boy, noticing at every step his sharp
appreciation of all the natural signs and landmarks around him. At
last a sudden thought seemed to strike Hiram. He drew back a second in
momentary hesitation.

‘Say,’ he said falteringly, ‘you ain’t one of Father Noyes’s crowd at
Oneida, are you?’

Audouin smiled half contemptuously.

Father Noyes is a New Haven fanatic who has established an Agapemone
of his own in northern New York; and to Hiram, who had heard the Oneida
community spoken of with vague horror by all the surrounding farmers
from his babyhood upward, the originally separate and distinct notions
of Father Noyes and the Devil had so coalesced that even now in his
maturer years they were not completely differentiated or demarcated.
‘No, no,’ Audouin answered reassuringly: ‘I’m not one of the Oneida
people, my boy: I’m quite free from any taint of that sort. I’m a Boston
man; a Boston man, I said; even in the woods that sticks to me. “Patriæ
quis exul,” I think the line runs, “se quoque fugit.”’ Hiram didn’t
understand exactly what he was driving at, but he went along satisfied
at least that his strange acquaintance, though he spoke with tongues,
was not directly connected either with Father Noyes or the Devil.

By-and-by they reached the high-road, and came at last opposite the bare
gate that gave access to Deacon Winthrop’s yard. Audouin gazed about him
drearily at the dreary prospect. ‘A very American view, Hiram,’ he said
slowly: ‘civilisation hard at work here; my boy, we must try to redeem
you out of it.’

Hiram looked up in the stranger’s face curiously. He had grown up among
his native surroundings so unquestioningly, after the fashion of boys,
that, though he knew it was all very ugly, hopelessly and hideously
ugly, it would never even have occurred to him to say so in so many
words. He took it for granted that all the world was of course dull and
uninteresting, except the woods, and the weeds, and the marshes, and
the vermin. He expected always to find all man’s handicraft a continuous
course of uglification, and he never suspected that there could by
any possibility be anything beautiful except untouched and unpolluted
nature. If you had told him about the wonders and glories of art, he
would simply have listened to you then in mute incredulity.

Audouin lifted up the latch of the gate and walked into the yard; and
the deacon, seeing him approach, strode to meet him, in no very amiable
frame of mind, thinking it probable that this was only another one
of Hiram’s undesirable trapper acquaintances. To say the truth, the
misapprehension was a natural one. Audouin was coarsely dressed in rough
country clothes, and even when he spoke a nature like the deacon’s was
hardly of the sort to be much impressed by his quiet cultivated manner.
‘Wal, cap’n,’ the deacon said, coming towards them, ‘what might you be
lookin’ after this mornin’, eh? I presume you air on the look-out for
horses?’

Audouin smiled and bowed with a dignity which suited strangely with his
rude outer aspect. ‘No, sir,’ he answered in his bland voice. ‘I’m
not looking out for horses. I met your son here--a very interesting
boy--down by the Creek, and I have come up here with him because his
individuality attracted me. I wanted to have a talk with you about him.’
As it happened, to speak well of Hiram, and before his face too (the
scapegrace!), wasn’t exactly the surest path to the deacon’s esteem and
affection. He coughed nervously, and then inquired in his dry manner,
‘Trapper?’ ‘No, not exactly a trapper,’ Audouin replied, smiling again
faintly. The faint smile and the ‘exactly’ both misled and exasperated
the deacon.

‘Farmer, then?’ he continued laconically, after the fashion of the
country.

‘No, nor farmer either,’ the New Englander answered in his soft voice.
‘I am Mr. Audouin, of Lakeside Cottage.’

The deacon scanned him contemptuously from head to foot. ‘Oh, _Mister_
Audouin,’ he said significantly. ‘Wal, _Mister_ Audouin, so you’ve
bought up that thar ramshackle place of Hitchcock’s, hev you? And what
air you goin’ to dew with it naow you’ve got it? Clear off the timber, I
reckon, and set up rafting.’

‘God forbid,’ Audouin replied hastily. (The deacon frowned slightly at
such obvious profanity.) ‘I’ve taken the place just because of its very
wildness, and I merely wish to live in it and watch and sympathise with
nature. I see your son loves nature, too, and that has formed a bond of
union between us.’

‘Wal,’ the deacon murmured meditatively, ‘that’s all accordin’ to taste.
Hiram is my own son, an’ if the Lord has bin pleased to afflict us in
him, mother an’ me ain’t the ones to say nothin’ agin him to casual
strangers, anyway. But I don’t want to part with him, _Mister_ Audouin;
we ain’t lookin’ out for a place for him yet. Thar’s work enough for him
to do on this farm, I kin tell you, ef on’y he’d do it. You wasn’t in
want of any butter or eggs now, was you?’

‘No, Mr. Winthrop,’ Audouin answered seriously, leaning against the gate
as he spoke. ‘I see you quite misunderstand me. Allow me a moment to
explain the position. I’m a Boston man, a man of independent means, and
I’ve taken Lakeside because I wish to live alone, away from a world in
which I have really very little interest. You may possibly know, by name
at least, my uncle, Senator Lothrop, of Syracuse;’ (that was a horrid
bit of snobbery, worthy almost of the old world, Audouin thought to
himself as he uttered it; but it was necessary if he was to do anything
for Hiram). ‘Well, that’s my card--some use in civilisation after
all--Lothrop Audouin; and I was wandering in the woods by the Creek this
morning with my friend, Professor Hipkiss of Harvard, when I happened
to fall in quite accidentally with your son here. He charmed us by his
knowledge of nature all around, and, indeed, I was so much interested in
him that I thought I would just step over and have a little conversation
with you about his future.’

The deacon took the little bit of pasteboard suspiciously, and looked
with slowly melting incredulity at Audouin’s rough dress from head to
foot. Even upon his dense, coarse, materialised mind the truth began to
dawn slowly that he was dealing with a veritable gentleman. ‘Wal, Mr.
Audouin,’ he said, this time without the ironical emphasis upon the
‘Mister,’ ‘what do yer want to dew with the boy, eh, sir? I don’t see as
I kin spare him;’pears to me, ef he’s goin anywhar, he may as well go to
a good farmer’s.’

‘You mistake me still,’ Audouin went on. ‘My meaning is this. Your son
has talked to the Professor and myself, and has shown us some of his
sketches.’ The deacon nodded ominously. ‘Now, his conversation is so
intelligent and his drawings so clever, that we both think you ought to
make an effort to give him a good education. He would well repay it. We
have both a considerable influence in educational quarters, and we would
willingly exert it for his benefit.’

The deacon opened his eyes with astonishment. That lad intelligent? Why,
he was no judge at all of a bullock, and he knew scarcely anythin’ more
about fall wheat’n a greenhorn that might hev kem out from Ireland by
the last steamer. However, he contented himself upon that head with
smiling sardonically, and muttered half to himself, ‘Edoocation;
edoocational influence; not with members of the Hopkinsite connection, I
reckon.’

Audouin carefully checked the smile that threatened to pull up the
corners of his delicate mouth. He was beginning to understand now what
manner of man he had got to deal with, and for Hiram’s sake he was
determined to be patient. Fancy such a lad living always exposed to the
caprices of such a father!

‘No,’ he said gravely, ‘not with the Hopkin-sites, but with the
Congregationalists and others, where your boy would not be interfered
with in his religious convictions.’

‘’Tain’t entirely satisfactory,’ the deacon continued. ‘Consider
my persition as one set in authority, as it were, in the Hopkinsite
connection. Hiram ain’t bin nowhar so far, ‘ceptin’ to common school,
an’ I dunno as I hev made up my mind ever to send him any-whar else.
Boys loses a lot o’ time over this here edoocation. But ef I was to, I
guess I should send him to Bethabara Seminary. We hev a seminary of our
own, sir--we of the Believin’ Church, commonly known as the Hopkinsite
connection--at Athens in Madison County, which we call Bethabara,
because we surmise it’s the on’y place in America whar the Gospel
is taught on thorough-goin’ Baptist principles. We air not only for
immersion as agin sprinklin’, mister, but also for scriptooral immersion
in runnin’ water as agin the lax modern practice of or’nary immersion in
tanks or reservoyers. That’s why we call our seminary Bethabara--Athens
bein’ sitooated on the Musk-rat river close above its junction with the
Jordan; an’ that’s why, ef I was goin’ to send Hiram any whar, I should
send him whar he could hear the Gospel expounded accordin’ to the
expositions an’ opinions of Franklin V. Hopkins, of Massachusetts, which
air the correck ones.’

‘This question will take a little time to thrash out,’ Audouin answered
with unruffled gravity. ‘May I ask, deacon, whether you will courteously
permit me to take a chair in your house and talk it over fully with
you?’

‘Why, certainly,’ the deacon answered with a doubtful look that clearly
belied his spoken words. ‘Hiram, you jest go an’ drive up the cows,
sonny, an’ mind you put up the fence behind you, jest the same as you
find it.’

They went together into the dreary living-room, a room such as Audouin
had seen in duplicate ten thousand times before, with a bare wooden
floor, bare walls, a white pine table, a rocking-chair, a bunk,
some cane seats, a stove, and a cheap lithograph of a vacant-looking
gentleman in a bag-wig and loose collar, whom an inscription surmounted
by a spread eagle declared largely to have been first in war, first in
peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. (Lithographs of
the sort are common in American farmhouses, and are understood to be
posthumous libels on the intelligence and personal appearance of George
Washington.) Audouin seated himself humbly on the bunk, and the deacon
took his accustomed place in the rocking-chair, where he continued to
sway himself violently to and fro during the whole interview.

Audouin began by pleading hard for education for Hiram, and suggesting,
as delicately as he was able, that if pecuniary difficulties barred the
way, they might perhaps be easily smoothed over. (As a matter of fact,
he would willingly have given freely of that dirty paper, stamped with
the treasury stamp, that they call money, to free such a lad as Hiram
Winthrop from the curse of that material civilisation that they both so
cordially detested.) He praised Hiram’s intelligence and his wonderful
talent for drawing: spoke of the wrongfulness of not allowing full play
to his God-given faculties: and even condescended to point out that
Hiram educated would probably make a much larger fortune (ugh! how he
shuddered over it) than Hiram set to do the drudgery of a farm which he
hated and always would hate. The deacon listened, half-wrathful; such
open aiding and abetting of sinful rebelliousness and repining was
almost too much for him; his only consolation was that Hiram wasn’t
along to listen to it all and drink in more unfilial sentiments from it.

But Audouin soon made one convert at least. Mrs. Winthrop, with her hard
unlovable face, sat silently listening beside the stove, and picking
over the potatoes for the spring planting. In her shrivelled
mother’s heart, she had always been proud of Hiram; proud even of his
stubbornness and rebellion, which in some dim, half-unconscious fashion
she vaguely knew to be really a higher, nobler sort of thing at bottom
than the deacon’s stern, unbending fidelity to the principles of
Solomon and the Hopkinsite Confession. Somewhere away down in the dark
unfathomed depths of Mehitabel Winthrop’s stunted personality there
lay a certain stifled, undeveloped, long-since-smothered germ of human
romance and feminine sympathy which had blossomed out in Hiram into
true love of art and of nature. Deadened as it was in her by the cruel
toilsome life of Muddy Creek, with its endless round of dull monotonous
labour, as well as by the crushing defeat experienced by all her
girlish ideals in the awful reality of the married state with Zephaniah
Winthrop, the deacon’s wife still retained in some half-buried corner of
her soul a little smouldering spark of the divine fire which enabled her
in a doubtful halffrightened fashion to sympathise with Hiram. It was
very wrong and weak of her, she knew: father was right, and Hiram was a
no-account, idle loiterer: but still, when he spoke up to father, to
his very face, about his novel-reading, and his birds-nesting, and his
drawing, Mrs. Winthrop was somehow aware of a sneaking admiration and
pride in him which she never felt towards the deacon, even during his
most effective and unctuous exhortation. And now, when she heard Audouin
praising and speaking well of her boy for those very, things that the
deacon despised and rejected, she felt that here was somebody else who
could appreciate Hiram, and that perhaps, after all, her own instinct
had not in the end entirely misled her.

‘Zeph,’ she said at last--it was many years since she had called him
‘Zeph’ habitually, instead of ‘Father’ or ‘Deacon’--‘Zeph, I think we
might manage to send Hiram to college.’

The deacon started. _Et tu, Brute!_ This was really almost too much for
him. He began to wonder whether the universe was turned upside down,
and all the powers that be were hereafter to be ranged on the side of
rebelliousness and opposition. To say the truth, his godly horror was
not altogether feigned. According to his lights, his dusky and feeble
lights, the deacon wished and believed himself to be a good father. He
held it his clear duty, as set forth in his reading of the prophets and
apostles, to knock this idle nonsense out of Hiram, and train him up
in the way he should go, to be a respectable corn-raising farmer and
shining light of the Hopkinsite connection. These habits of hunting
‘coons and making pictures of rattlesnakes, into which the boy had
lapsed, were utterly abhorrent to the deacon’s mind as idle, loitering,
vagabond ways, deserving only of severe castigation His reading of
English classics appeared as a crime only one degree less heinous than
frequenting taverns, playing cards, or breaking the Sabbath. The boy was
a bad boy, a hopelessly bad boy, given him as a thorn in the flesh to
prevent spiritual boasting: on that hypothesis alone could the deacon
account for such a son of perdition being born of such believing and on
the whole (as poor worms go) extremely creditable parents.

And now, here was this fine-spoken, incomprehensible Boston critter, who
had took that ramshackle place of Hitchcock’s, and didn’t even mean
to farm it--here was this unaccountable phenomenon of a man positively
interested in and pleased with Hiram, just because of these very
self-same coon-hunting, snake-drawing, vagabond proclivities. The
Deacon’s self-love and selfrespect were deeply wounded. Audouin had
already been talking with the boy: no doubt he had set him even more
agin his own father than ever. No doubt he had told Hiram that there
was something fine in his heathenish love for Injun tommy-hawks, in his
Bohemian longings for intercourse with ungodly trappers (men to whom
the Sabbath was absolutely indifferent), in his wicked yearning after
Pickwick’s Papers, and the Complete Dramatic Works of William Wakefield.
The deacon couldn’t bear to stultify himself after all, by sending
Hiram to school at the request of this favourer of rebellion, this vile
instigator of revolt against paternal authority, this Ahithophel who
would lure on a foolish Absalom with guileful counsel to his final
destruction.

‘Wal, Het,’ the Deacon said slowly, ‘I dunno about it. We must take time
to consider and to wrastle over it.’

But Audouin, now thoroughly in earnest, his sense of plot-interest
vividly aroused, would hear of no delay, but that the question must be
settled that very evening, he saw the deacon wouldn’t entertain the
idea of Hiram being sent somewhere to prepare for Yale or Harvard, where
Audouin would have liked him to go: and so, with a diplomatic cleverness
which the deacon, if he could have read his visitor’s mind, would
doubtless have characterised as devilish, he determined to shift his
ground, and beg only that Hiram might be sent to Bethabara. In a year or
two, he said to himself, the boy would be older and would have a mind of
his own; and then it would be possible, he thought, to send him to some
college where his intellectual and artistic nature might have freer
development than at the Hopkinsite Seminary. Bit by bit, the Deacon gave
way: he couldn’t as a consistent church member and a father with
the highest interests of his son at heart, refuse to let him go to
Bethabara, when a mere stranger declared he saw in him signs of talent.
He yielded ungraciously at last, and told Audouin he wouldn’t stand
in the way of the boy’s receivin’ a good edoocation, purvided allus it
wa’n’t contrary to the principles of Franklin P. Hopkins.

‘Very well,’ Audouin said with a sigh of relief. ‘I’ll write and inquire
about the matter myself this very evening.’

‘Address the Secatary,’ Mr. Winthrop put in officially, ‘Bethabara
Seminary, Athens, N.Y.’ Audouin made a note in his memorandum book of
the incongruous address with a stifled sigh.

‘Mother,’ the deacon said, ‘call in Hiram.’ Mrs. Winthrop obeyed. Hiram,
who had been loitering about the wood-shed in wonder at what this long
interview could portend, slunk in timidly, and stood with his ragged hat
in his hand beside the table.

‘Hiram,’ said the deacon, solemnly, with the voice and air of a judge
publicly addressing a condemned criminal, ‘that gentleman thar has been
conversin’ with mother an’ me relatively to the desirability of sendin’
you to an edoocational establishment, whar you may, p’raps, be cured
from your present oncommonly idle and desultory proclivities. Though
you hev allus bin, as I confess with shame, a most lazy lad, sonny, an’
hev never done anything to develop your nat’ral talents in any way, that
gentleman thar, who has received a college edoocation hisself at one of
our leadin’ American Universities, an’ who is competent by trainin’ an’
experience to form an opinion upon the subjeck, believes that you
dew possess nat’ral talents of which you ain’t yet giv any open
indication.’Tain’t for me to say whether you may hev inherited them or
not: it is sufficient to point out that that thar gentleman considers
you might, with industry and application, dew credit in time to an
edoocational institoot. Such an institoot of our own denomination is
Bethabara Seminary, located at Athens, New York. Thar you would receive
instruction not at variance with the religious teachin’ you hev enjoyed
in your own residence an’ from your own parents. An eminent Hopkinsite
pastor is installed over that institoot as President; I allood to Elder
Ezra W. Coffin, with whose commentary on the prophet Ezekiel you air
already familiar. Mother an’ me has decided, accordingly, that it will
be for your good, both temporal and sperritooal we hope, to enter
junior at Bethabara Seminary. That gentleman thar will make inquiries
relatively to the time when you kin be received into the institootion.

We trust that when you he ventered upon this noo stage in your career,
you will drop them habits of idleness an’ insubordination for which it
has been my dooty on a great many occasions to correck you severely.’
Hiram stood there dazed and trembling, listening with blank amazement
to the deacon’s exhortation (the same as if it was conference), and only
vaguely taking in the general idea that he was to be sent away shortly
to some school or other somewhere. Andouin saw at a glance the lad’s
timid hesitation, and added kindly: ‘Your father and mother think,
Hiram, that it would be well to send you to Bethabara’ (he suppressed
his rising shudder), ‘so that you may have opportunities of learning
more about all the things in which you’re already so much interested.
You’ll like it, my boy, I’m sure; and you’ll get on there, I feel
confident.’

The boy turned to him gratefully: ‘That’s so, I guess,’ he answered,
with his awkward country gratitude; ‘I shall like it better’n this,
anyhow.’

The deacon frowned, but said nothing.

And so, before a week was over, Hiram had said good-bye to his mother
and Sam Churchill, and was driving over in the deacon’s buggy to Muddy
Creek deepo, ong rowt for Athens, Madison County.



CHAPTER VIII. WOOD AND STONE.

|Colin Churchill’s first delight at the wood-carver’s at Exeter was of
the sort that a man rarely feels twice in a lifetime. It was the joy
of first emancipation. Hitherto, Colin had been only a servant, and had
looked forward to a life of service. Not despondently or gloomily--for
Colin was a son of the people, and he accepted servitude as his natural
guerdon--but blankly and without eagerness or repining. The children of
the labouring class expect to walk through life in their humble way as
through a set task, where a man may indeed sometimes meet with stray
episodes of pleasure (especially that one human episode of love-making),
but where for the most part he will come across nothing whatsoever save
interminable rules and regulations. Now, however, Colin felt himself
free and happy: he had got a trade and a career before him, and a trade
and a career into which he could throw himself with his utmost ardour.
For the first time in his life Colin began dimly to feel that he too had
something in him. How could he possibly have got up an enthusiasm about
the vicar’s boots, or about the proper way to deliver letters on a
silver salver? But when it came to carving roses and plums out of solid
mahogany or walnut, why, that of course was a very different sort of
matter.

Even at Wootton Mandeville, the boy had somehow suspected, in his vague
inarticulate fashion (for the English agricultural class has no tongue
in which to express itself), that he too had artistic taste and power.
When he heard the vicar talking to his friends about paintings or
engravings, he recognised that he could understand and appreciate all
that the vicar said; nay, more: on two or three occasions he had even
boldly ventured to conceive that he saw certain things in certain
pictures which the vicar, in his cold, dry, formal fashion, with
his coldly critical folding eyeglass, could never have dreamt of or
imagined. In his heart of hearts, even then, the boy somehow half-knew
that the vicar saw what the vicar was capable of seeing in each work,
but that he, Colin Churchill the pageboy, penetrated into the very
inmost feeling and meaning of the original artist. So much, in his
inarticulate way, the boy had sometimes surprised himself by dimly
fancying; but as he had no language in which to speak such things, even
to himself, and only slowly learnt that language afterwards, he didn’t
formulate his ideas in his own head for a single minute, allowing them
merely to rest there in the inchoate form of shapeless feeling.

Now, at Exeter, however, all this was quite altered. In the aisles
of the great cathedral, looking up at the many-coloured saints in the
windows, and listening to the long notes of the booming organ, Colin
Churchill’s soul awoke and knew itself. The gift that was in him was not
one to be used for himself alone, a mere knack of painting pictures to
decorate the bare walls of his bedroom, or of making clay images for
little Minna to stick upon the fisherman’s wooden mantelshelf: it was
a talent admired and recognised of other people, and to be employed for
the noble and useful purposes of carving pine-apple posts for walnut
bedsteads or conventional scrolls for fashionable chimneypieces. To
such great heights did emancipated Colin Churchill now aspire. Even his
master allowed him to see that he thought well of him. The boy was given
tools to work with, and instructed in the use of them; and he learnt how
to employ them so fast that the master openly expressed his surprise
and satisfaction. In a very few weeks Colin was fairly through the first
stage of learning, and was set to produce bits of scroll work from his
own design, for a wainscoted room in the house of a resident canon.

For seven months Colin went on at his wood-carving with unalloyed
delight, and wrote every week to tell Minna how much he liked the work,
and what beautiful wooden things he would now be able to make her. But
at the end of those seven months, as luck would have it (whether good
luck or ill luck the future must say), Colin chanced to fall in one day
with a strange companion. One afternoon a heavy-looking Italian workman
dropped casually into the workshop where Colin Churchill was busy
carving. The boy was cutting the leaves of a honeysuckle spray from life
for a long moulding. The Italian watched him closely for a while, and
then he said in his liquid English: ‘Zat is good. You can carve, mai
boy. You must come and see me at mai place. I wawrk for Smeez and
Whatgood.’

Colin turned round, blushing with pleasure, and looked at the Italian.
He couldn’t tell why, but somehow in his heart instinctively, he felt
more proud of that workman’s simple expression of satisfaction at
his work than he had felt even when the vicar told him, in his stiff,
condescending, depreciatory manner, that there was ‘some merit in the
bas-relief and drawings.’ Smith and Whatgood were stonecutters in the
town, who did a large trade in tombstones and ‘monumental statuary.’ No
doubt the Italian was one of their artistic hands, and Colin took his
praise with a flush of sympathetic pleasure. It was handicraftsman
speaking critically and appreciatively of handicraftsman.

‘What’s your name, sir?’ he asked the man, politely.

‘You could not pronounce it,’ answered the Italian, smiling and showing
his two fine rows of pure white teeth: ‘Giuseppe Cicolari. You cannot
pronounce it.’

‘Giuseppe Cicolari,’ the boy repeated slowly, with the precise
intonation the Italian had given it, for he had the gift of vocal
imitation, like all men of Celtic blood (and the Dorsetshire peasant is
mainly Celtic). ‘Giuseppe Cicolari! a pretty name. Da you carve figures
for Smith and Whatgood?’

‘I am zair sculptor,’ the Italian replied, proudly. ‘I carve for zem.
I carve ze afflicted widow, in ze classical costume, who bends under ze
weeping willow above ze oorn containing ze ashes of her decease husband.
You have seen ze afflicted widow? Ha, I carve her. She is expensive. And
I carve ze basso-rilievo of Hope, gazing toward ze sky, in expectation
of ze glorious resurrection. I carve also busts; I carve ornamental
figures. Come and see me. You are a good workman. I will show you mai
carvings.’

Colin liked the Italian at first sight: there was a pride in his
calling about him which he hadn’t yet seen in English workmen--a certain
consciousness of artistic worth that pleased and interested him. So the
next Saturday evening, when they left off work early, he went round to
see Cicolari. The Italian smiled again warmly, as soon as he saw the boy
coming. ‘So you have come,’ he said, in his slow English. ‘Zat is well.
If you will be artist, you must watch ozzer artist. Ze art does not come
of himself, it is learnt.’ And he took Colin round to see his works of
statuary.

There was one little statuette among the others, a small figure of
Bacchus, ordered from the clay by a Plymouth shipowner, that pleased
Colin’s fancy especially. It wasn’t remotely like the Thorwaldsen at
Wootton; that he felt intuitively; it was a mere clever, laughing, merry
figure, executed with some native facility, but with very little real
delicacy or depth of feeling. Still, Colin liked it, and singled it out
at once amongst all the mass of afflicted widows and weeping children
as a real genuine living human figure. The Italian was charmed at his
selection. ‘Ah, yes,’ he said; ‘zat is good. You have choosed right.
Zat is ze best of ze collection. I wawrk at zat from life. It is from ze
model.’ And he showed all his teeth again in his satisfaction.

Colin took a little of Cicolari’s moist clay up in his hand and began
roughly moulding it into the general shape of the little Bacchus. He
did it almost without thinking of what he was doing, and talking all the
time, or listening to the Italian’s constant babble; and Cicolari, with
a little disdainful smile playing round the corners of his full lips,
made no outward comment, but only waited, with a complacent sense of
superiority, to see what the English boy would make of his Bacchus.
Colin worked away at the familiar clay, and seemed to delight in the
sudden return to that plastic and responsive material. For the first
time since he had been at Begg’s wood-carving works, it sudddenly struck
him that clay was an infinitely finer and more manageable medium
than that solid, soulless, intractable wood. Soon, he threw himself
unconsciously into the task of moulding, and worked away silently,
listening to Cicolari’s brief curt criticisms of men and things, for
hour after hour. In the delight of finding himself once more expending
his energies upon his proper material (for who can doubt that Colin
Churchill was a born sculptor?) he forgot the time--nay, he forgot time
and space both, and saw and felt nothing on earth but the artistic joy
of beautiful workmanship. Cicolari stood by gossiping, but said never
a word about the boy’s Bacchus. At first, indeed (though he had admired
Colin’s wood-work), he expected to see a grotesque failure. Next, as
the work grew slowly under the boy’s hands, he made up his mind that
he would produce a mere stiff, lifeless, wooden copy. But by-and-by, as
Colin added touch after touch with his quick deft fingers, the Italian’s
contempt passed into surprise, and his surprise into wonder and
admiration. At last, when the boy had finished his rough sketch of the
head to his own satisfaction, Cicolari gasped a little, open-mouthed,
and then said slowly: ‘You have wawrked in ze clay before, mai friend?’

Colin nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘just to amuse myself, don’t ee see? Only
just copyin the figures at the vicarage.’

The Italian put his head on one side, and then on another, and looked
critically at the copy of the Bacchus. Of course it was only a raw
adumbration, as yet, of the head and bust, but he saw quite enough to
know at a glance that it was the work of a born sculptor. The vicar had
half guessed as much in his dilettante hesitating way; but the workman,
who knew what modelling was, saw it indubitably at once in that moist
Bacchus. ‘Mai friend,’ he said decisively, through his closed teeth,
‘you must not stop at ze wood-carving. You must go to Rome and be a
sculptor. Yes. To Rome. To Rome. You must go to Rome and be a sculptor.’

The man said it with just a tinge of jealousy in his tone, for he saw
that Colin Churchill could not only copy but could also improve upon his
Bacchus. Still, he said it so heartily and earnestly, that Colin, now
well awakened from his absorbing pursuit, laughed a boyish laugh of
mingled amusement and exultation. ‘To Rome!’ he cried gaily. ‘To Rome!
Why, Mr. Cicolari, that’s where all the pictures are, by Raffael and
Michael Angelo and them that I used to see at the vicarage. Rome! why
isn’t that the capital of Italy?’ For he put together naively the two
facts about Rome which he had yet gathered: the one from the vicar’s
study, and the other from the meagre little geography book in use at the
Wootton national school.

‘Ze capital of Italy!’ cried the Italian contemptuously. ‘Yes, mai
friend, it is ze capital of Italy. And it is somesing more zan zat. I
tell you, it is ze capital of art.’

Colin Churchill was old enough now to understand the meaning of those
words; and from that day onward, he never ceased to remember that the
goal of all his final endeavours must be to reach Rome, the capital of
art, and then learn to be a sculptor.



CHAPTER IX. CONSPIRACY.

|After that, Colin went many days and evenings to see Cicolari: and
the more he talked with him and the more he watched him, the more
dissatisfied did the boy get with the intractability of wood, and the
more enamoured did he become of the absolute plasticity of clay and
marble. How could he ever have been such a fool, he thought to himself,
after having once known what he could do with the kneaded mud of Wootton
lake, as to consent--nay, to consent gladly--to work in stupid,
hard, irresponsive walnut, instead of in his own familiar, plastic,
all potential material? Why, wood, do what you would to it, was wood
still: clay, and after clay marble, would answer immediately to every
mood and fancy and idea of the restless changeable human personality.
The fact was the ten or twelve months Colin Churchill had spent at
Exeter had made a vast difference to his unfolding intellect. He was
going to school now--to the university of native art; he was learning
himself and his own powers; learning to pit his own views and opinions
against those of other and less artistic workmen. Every day, though he
couldn’t have told you so himself, the boy was beginning to understand
more and more clearly that while the other artificers he saw around him
had decent training, he himself had instinctive genius. He ought to have
employed that genius upon marble, and now he was throwing it away upon
mere wood. When one of the canons called in one day patronisingly to
praise his wooden roses, he could scarcely even be civil to the good
man: praising his wooden roses, indeed, when he saw that fellow Cicolari
engaged in modelling from the life a smiling Bacchus! It was all too
atrocious!

‘Mai friend,’ Cicolari said to him one day, as he was moulding a bit of
clay in his new acquaintance’s room, into the counterfeit presentment of
Cicolari’s own bust, ‘you should not stop at ze wood wawrk. You have
no freedom in ze wood, no liberty, no motion. It is all flat, stupid,
ungraceful. You are fit for better sings. Leave ze wood and come, here
and wawrk wiz me.’

Colin sighed deeply. ‘I wish I could, Mr. Cicolari,’ he said eagerly. ‘I
was delighted with the wood at first, and now I’m disgusted at ‘un. But
I can’t leave ‘un till I’m twenty-one, because I’m bound apprentice to
it, and I’ve got to go on with the thing now whether I like ‘un or not.’

Cicolari made a wry face, expressive of a very nasty taste, and went
through a little pantomime of shrugs and open hand-lifting, which did
duty instead of several vigorous sentences in the Italian language.
Colin readily translated the pantomime as meaning in English: ‘If I were
you, I wouldn’t trouble myself about that for a moment.’

‘But I can’t help it,’ Colin answered in his own spoken tongue; ‘I’m
obliged to go on whether I choose to or not.’

Cicolari screwed himself up tightly, and held his hands, palms outward,
on a level with his ears, in the most suggestive fashion. ‘England is a
big country,’ he observed enigmatically.

Colin’s face flushed at the vague hint, but he said nothing.

‘You see,’ Cicolari went on quickly, ‘you are a boy yet. When you come
to Exeter, you are still a child. You come from your own village, your
country, and you know nossing of ze wawrld. Zis master and ze priest of
your village between zem, zey bind you down and make you sign a paper,
indenture you call it, and promise to wawrk for zem zese six years. It
is ridiculous. When you come here, you do not know your own mind: you do
not understand how it differs, wood and marble. Now you are older: you
understand zat; it is absurd zat you muss stand by ze agreement.’

Cohn listened and took in the words eagerly. ‘But what can I do, Mr.
Cicolari?’ he asked in suspense. ‘Where can I go to?’ ‘England is a big
country,’ the Italian repeated, with yet another speaking pantomime.
‘Zere are plenty railways in England. Zere is wawrk for clever lads in
London. I have friends zere who carve in marble. Why should you not go
zere?’’

‘Run away?’ Cohn said, interrogatively.

‘Run away, if you call it zat,’ Cicolari replied, bowing with his curved
hands in front of his breast, apologetically. ‘What does it matter, ze
name? Run away if zey will not let you go. I care not what you call it.
Zey try to keep you unjustly; you try to get away from zem. Zat is all.’

‘But I’ve got no money to go with,’ Colin cried, faltering

‘Zen get some,’ Cicolari answered with a shrug.

Colin thought a good deal about that suggestion afterwards, and the more
he thought about it, the more did it seem to him just and proper. A week
or two later, little Minna came over to Exeter for a trip, nominally
to do a few errands of household shopping, but really of course to see
Colin; and to her the boy confided this difficult case of conscience.
Was the signature obtained from him when he first came to Exeter binding
on him now that he knew more fully his own powers, and rights, and
capabilities?

Colin was by this time a handsome lad of sixteen, while little
black-eyed gipsy-faced Minna, though two years younger than him, was
already budding out into a pretty woman, as such dark types among the
labouring classes are apt to do with almost Oriental precocity.

‘What should you do, Colin?’ she repeated warmly, as the boy propounded
his question in casuistry to her for her candid solution. ‘Why, just you
go and do what Mr. Chickaleary tells you, won’t ‘ee, sure?’

‘But would it be right, Minna?’ Colin asked. ‘You know I signed the
agreement with them.’

‘What’s the odds of that, stupid?’ Minna answered composedly. ‘That were
a year ago an’ more, weren’t it? You weren’t no more nor a boy then,
Lord bless ‘ee.’

‘A year older nor you are now, Minna,’ Colin objected.

‘Ah, but you didn’t know nothing about this sculpturin’ then, you see,
Colin. They tooked advantage of you, that’s what they did. They hadn’t
ought to have done it.’

‘But I say, Minna, why shouldn’t I wait till I’m twenty-one, an’ then
take up the marble business, eh?’

‘What rubbish the boy do talk,’ Minna cried, imperiously. ‘Twenty-one
indeed! Talk about twenty-one! Why, by that time you’d ‘a’ got fixed in
the wood-carving, and couldn’t change your trade for marble or nothin’.
If you’re goin’ to change, you must do it quickly.’

‘I hate the wood-carving,’ Colin said, gloomily.

‘Then run away from it and be done wi’ it.’

‘Run away from it! Oh, Minna, do you know that they could catch me and
put me in prison?’

‘I’d go to prison an’ laugh at ‘em, sooner nor I’d be bound for all
those years against my will,’ Minna answered firmly. ‘Leastways I would
if I was a man, Colin.’

That last touch was the straw that broke the camel’s back with poor
Colin. ‘I’ll go,’ he cried; ‘but where on earth can I go to? It’s no use
goin’ back to Wootton. Vicar’d help ‘em to put me in prison.’

‘I’d like to see ‘em,’ Minna answered, with her little eyes flashing.
‘But why can’t you go to London like Mr. Chickaleary told you?’
‘Cicolari, Minna,’ Colin said, correcting her as gravely and distinctly
as the vicar had corrected Miss Eva. ‘The Italians call it Cicolari.
It’s as well to be right whenever we can, ain’t it? Well, I can’t go to
London, because I’ve got no money to go with. I don’t know as I could
get any work when I got there; but I know I can’t get there without any
money; so that settles it.’

Minna rose from the seat in the Northernhay where they were spending
Colin’s dinner-hour together and walked slowly up and down for a minute
or two without speaking. Then she said, with a little hesitation,
‘Colin!’

‘Well, Minna.’

‘I could lend ‘ee--lend you--nine shillin’.’ ‘Nine shillings, Minna!
Why, where on earth did you get ‘em from?’

‘Saved ‘em,’ Minna answered laconically. ‘Fish father give me. In
savin’s bank.’

‘What for, Minna?’

Minna hesitated again, still more markedly. Though she was only
fourteen, there was a good deal of the woman in her already. ‘Because,’
she said at last timidly,’ ‘I thought it was best to begin savin’ up all
my money now, in case--in case I should ever want to furnish house if I
was to get married.’

Country boy as he was, and child as she was, Colin felt instinctively
that it wouldn’t be right of him to ask her anything further about the
money. ‘But, Minna,’ he said, colouring a little, ‘even if I was to
borrow it all from you, all your nine shillings, it wouldn’t be enough
to take me to London.’

Minna had a brilliant idea. ‘Wait for a ‘scursion,’ she said simply.

Colin looked at her with admiring eyes. ‘Well, Minna,’ he cried
enthusiastically, ‘you _are_ a bright one, and no mistake. That’s a good
idea, that is. I should never have thought of that. I could carve you,
Minna, so that a stranger anywhere’d know who it was the minute he set
eyes on it; but I should never have thought of _that_, I can tell you.’
Minna smiled and nodded, the dimple in her brown cheek growing deeper,
and the light in her bright eye merrier than ever. What a vivacious,
expressive little face it was, really! ‘I’ll tell you what I’d do,’
Minna said, with her sharp determination as if she were fifty. ‘I’d
go first and ask Mr. What’s-his-name to let me off the rest of my
‘prenticeship. I’d tell him I didn’t like wood, an’ I wanted to go an’
make statues. Then if he said to me: “You go on with the wood-carvin’
an’ don’t bother me,” I’d say: “No, I don’t do another stroke for you.”
 Then if he hit me, I’d leave off, I would, an’ refuse to work another
turn till he was tired of it. But if he hardened his heart then, an’
wouldn’t let ‘ee go still, I’d wait till there was a ‘scursion, I would,
and then I’d run away to Mr. Chick-o-lah-ree’s friends in London. That’s
what I’d do if I was you, Colin.’

‘I will, Minna,’ Colin faltered out in reply; ‘I will.’

‘Do ‘ee, Colin,’ Minna cried eagerly, catching his arm. ‘Do ‘ee,
Colin, and I’ll send ‘ee the money. Oh, Colin, I know if you’d only get
‘prenticed to the sculpturin’, you’d grow to be as grand a man--as grand
as parson.’

‘Minna,’ Colin said, taking her hand in his as if it were a lady’s,
‘thank you very much for the money, an’ if I have to work my fingers to
the bone for it, I’ll send it back to ‘ee.’

‘Don’t ‘ee do that, Colin, oh don’t ‘ee do that,’ Minna cried eagerly.
‘I’d a great deal rather for you to keep it.’

When Colin told Cicolari of this episode (suppressing so much of it as
he thought proper), the Italian laughed and showed all his teeth, and
remarked with a smile that Colin was very young yet. But he promised
staunchly to keep the boy’s secret, and to give him good introductions
to his former employer in London.

The die was cast now, and Colin Churchill resolutely determined in his
own mind that he would abide by it. So a few days later he screwed up
courage towards evening to go to Mr. Begg, his master, and for form’s
sake, at least, ask to be let off the remainder of his apprenticeship.
‘At any rate,’ he thought to himself, ‘I won’t try running away till
I’ve tried in a straightforward way to get him to cancel the indentures
I signed when I didn’t really know what I was signing.’

Mr. Begg, that eminently respectable Philistine cabinet-maker, opened
his eyes in blank astonishment when he actually heard with his two
waking ears this extraordinary and unprecedented request. ‘Let you off
the rest of your time, Churchill!’ he cried, incredulously. ‘Was that
what you said, boy? Let--you--off--the rest--of--your--time?’

‘Yes,’ Colin answered, with almost dogged firmness, ‘I said that.’

‘And why, Churchill?’ Mr. Begg asked again, lost in amazement. ‘And
why?’

‘Because, sir, I don’t like wood-carving, and I feel I could do a great
deal better at marble.’

Mr. Begg gazed up at him (he was a little man and Colin was tall) in
utter surprise and hesitation. ‘You’re not mad, are you, Churchill?’ he
inquired cautiously. ‘You’re not mad, are you?’

‘No, sir,’ Colin replied stoutly; ‘but I think I must have been when I
signed them indentures.’

The cabinet-maker went into his little office, called Colin in, and then
sat down in a dazed manner to hear this strange thing out to its final
termination. Colin burst forth, then, with his impassioned pleading,
astonishing himself by the flood of native eloquence with which he
entreated Mr. Begg to release him from that horrid wood-carving, and
let him follow his natural calling as a sculptor in clay and marble. He
didn’t know what he was doing when he signed the indentures; he had
only just come fresh from his life as a servant. Now he knew he had the
makings of a sculptor in him, and a sculptor alone he wished to be. Mr.
Begg regarded him askance all the time, as a man might regard a stray
dog of doubtful sanity, but said never a single word, for good or for
evil. When Colin had worn himself out with argument and exhortation, the
cabinet-maker rose from his high seat, unlocked his desk mechanically,
and took out of it his copy of Colin’s indentures. He read them all
through carefully to himself, and then he laid them down with the
puzzled air of one who meets for the first time in his life with some
inexplicable practical enigma. ‘This is very strange, Churchill,’ he
muttered, coolly, half to himself; ‘this is really most remarkable.
There’s no mistake or flaw of any sort in those indentures; nothing
on earth to invalidate ‘em or throw doubt upon them in any way. Your
signature’s there as clear as daylight. I can’t understand it. You’ve
always been a good workman--the best apprentice, take you all round,
I’ve ever ‘ad ‘ere; and Canon Melville, he’s praised your carving most
uncommonly, and so they all do. A good, honest-working, industrious lad
I’ve always found you, one time with another; not such a great eater
neither; and I was very well satisfied altogether with you till
this very evening. And now you come and say you want to cancel your
indentures, and go to the stone-cutting! Never heard anything so
remarkable in all my life! Why, you’re worth more than a hundred pounds
to me! I couldn’t let you go, not if you was to pay me for it.’

Poor Colin! how he wished at that moment that he had been idle,
careless, voracious and good-for-nothing! His very virtues, it seemed,
were turning against him. He had thrown himself so heartily into the
wood-carving at first that his master had found him worth half a dozen
common apprentices. He fumbled in his pocket nervously at little Minna’s
poor nine shillings which he had changed that very morning from her
post-office order.

‘Can’t you understand, Mr. Begg,’ he said at last, despairingly, ‘that a
fellow may change his mind? He may feel he can do one thing a great
deal better than another, and he may have a longing to do that thing and
nothing else, because he loves it?’

Mr. Begg gazed at him stolidly. ‘Cabinetmaking’s a very good trade,’
he said in his dull methodical bourgeois tone; ‘and so, no doubt,’s
stone-cutting. But these indentures ‘ere bind you down to the
cabinet-making, Churchill, and not to the sculpture business.

There’s your signature to ‘em; and you’ve got to stick to it. So that’s
the long and the short of it.’

‘But it’s not the end of it,’ Colin answered in his most stubborn voice
(and your Dorsetshire man can be very stubborn indeed when he pleases):
‘if you don’t let me off my indentures as I ask you, you’ll have to put
up in future with what you can get out of me.’

Next morning, when it was time to begin work, Colin marched as usual
into the workshop, and took up a gouge as if to continue carving the
panel on which he was engaged. But instead of doing anything to the
purpose, he merely kept on chipping off small splinters of wood in an
aimless fashion for half an hour. After a time, Mr. Begg observed him,
and came up to see what he was doing, but said nothing. All through
the day Cohn went on in the same manner, and from time to time Mr. Begg
looked in and found the work no further advanced than it had been last
evening; still, he said nothing. When the time came to shut up the shop,
Mr. Begg looked at him sternly, but only uttered a single sentence: ‘We
shall have the law of you, Churchill; we shall have the law of you.’

Colin stared him back stolidly and answered never a word.

For a whole week, this passive duel between the man and boy went on, and
towards the end of that time Mr. Begg began to grow decidedly violent.
He shook Cohn fiercely, he boxed his ears, he even hit him once or
twice across the head with his wooden ruler; but Colin was absolutely
immovable. To all that Mr. Begg said the boy returned only one answer:
‘I mean to be a sculptor, not a wood-carver.’ Mr. Begg had never seen
anything like it.

‘The obstinacy and the temper of that boy Churchill,’ he said to his
brother-tradesmen, ‘is really something altogether incredulous.’ (It may
be acutely conjectured that he really meant to say ‘incredible.’)

Sunday came at last, and on Sundays Cohn went round to visit Cicolari.
The Italian listened sympathetically to the boy’s story, and then he
said, ‘I have an idea of mai own, mai friend. Let us both go to London
together. I have saved some money; I want to set up on mai own account
as a sculptor. You will go wiz me. I have quarrelled wiz Smeez. We will
start tomorrow morning. I will pay you wages, good wages, and you will
wawrk for me, and be mai assistant.’

‘But I’ve only got nine shillings,’ Colin answered.

‘I will lend you the rest,’ Cicolari said.

Cohn closed with the offer forthwith, and went home to Mr. Begg’s
trembling with excitement.

Early next morning, he tied up his clothes in his handkerchief, crept
downstairs noiselessly and let himself out by the backdoor. Then he
ran without stopping all the way to the St. David’s station, and found
Cicolari waiting for him in the booking office. As the engine steamed
out of the station, Colin felt that he was leaving slavery and
wood-carving behind him for ever, and was fairly on his way to London,
Rome, and a career as a sculptor.

Mr. Begg, when he found that Colin was really gone, didn’t for a moment
attempt to follow him. It was no use, he said, to throw good money after
bad: the boy had made up his mind not to work at woodcarving; he was as
stubborn as a mule; and nothing on earth would ever make him again into
a good apprentice. So, though he felt perfectly sure that that nasty
foreigner fellow had enticed away the boy for his own purposes, he
wouldn’t attempt to bring him back or take the trouble to have him
punished. After all, he reflected to himself philosophically, as things
had lately turned out it was a good riddance of bad rubbish. Besides, it
would be rather an awkward thing to come out before the magistrate that
he had hit the boy more than once across the head with a wooden ruler.

Two days later, it was known in Wootton Mandeville that that lad o’
Churchill’s had gone and broke his indentures and runned away from
Exeter along of a furrener chap o’ the name of Chickaleary. The vicar
received the news with the placid contentment of a magnanimous man,
who has done his duty and has nothing to reproach himself with, but who
always told you so from the very beginning. ‘I quite expected it, Eva,’
he said loftily; ‘I fully expected it. Those Churchills were always a
bad radical lot, and this boy’s just about the very worst among them.
When I discovered his slight taste for carving, I feared it was hardly
right to encourage the lad in ideas above his station: but I was
determined to give him a chance, and now this is how he goes and
repays us. I did my best for him: very respectable man, Begg, and well
recommended by Canon Harbottle.

But the boy has no perseverance, no application, no stability. Put him
to one thing, and he runs away at once and tries to do another. Quite
what I expected, quite what I expected.’

‘Perhaps,’ Eva ventured to say suggestively, ‘if you’d sent him to a
sculptor’s in London at first, uncle, he might have been perfectly ready
to stop there. But you see his natural taste was for sculpture, not for
woodcarving; and I’m not altogether surprised myself to hear he should
have left Exeter.’

The vicar put up his double eyeglass and surveyed Eva from head to foot,
as though she were some wild animal, with a stare of mingled amazement
and incredulity. ‘Well,’ he said slowly, opening the door to dress for
dinner. ‘Upon my word! What the young people of this generation are
coming to is really more than I can answer for.’



CHAPTER X. MINNA IMPROVES HERSELF.

|Five years is a long slice out of a young man’s life, but the five
years that Colin Churchill spent with Cicolari in London were of a sort
that he need never have regretted; for though the work he learnt to
do in the Italian’s little shop and studio in the Maryle-bone Road was
mainly self-taught, he found Cicolari always sympathetic and anxious to
help him, and he had such opportunities of study and improvement at the
British Museum, and the South Kensington, and the great houses in the
suburban counties, as he could never have obtained in the artless wilds
of his native west country. It was a grand day for Colin, the day when
he first entered the smoky galleries in Great Russell Street and feasted
his eyes on those magnificent Hellenic torsos, carved by the vivifying
chisel of Pheidias himself. Cicolari was an easy master: he had
an Italian’s love of art for art’s sake and he was proud of ‘mai
Englishman,’ as he used to call him; the boy whom he had himself
discovered in the midst of a profoundly inartistic race, and released
from the petty drudgery of an uncongenial vulgar calling. He felt a
genuine interest in Colin’s success; so he allowed the boy as much time
as possible for visiting the places where he could see the finest works
of art in England, and helped him to see those which are usually locked
up in rich men’s tasteless houses from the eyes of all who would most
appreciate them.

Colin’s own taste and love for art, too, were daily developing. He
saw all that he could see, and he read about all that he couldn’t see,
spending every penny of his spare money (after he had repaid poor little
Minna’s nine shillings) on books about sculpture and painting; and
making frequent visits to the reading-room and galleries at the great
Museum. Now and then, too, when the trade in mourning widows was slack,
when busts were flat and statuettes far from lively, Cicolari would run
down into the country with him, and explore the artistic wonders of
the big houses. At Deepdene they could look at Thorwaldsen’s Jason and
Canova’s Venus: at Knole they gazed upon Vandycks, and Rey-nolds’s, and
Constables, and Gainsboroughs; in London itself they had leave to visit
the priceless art collections at Stafford House, and half a dozen other
great private galleries. So Colin Churchill’s mind expanded rapidly, in
the midst of the atmosphere it should naturally have breathed. Not books
alone, but the mighty works of the mightiest workers, were the documents
from which he spelt out slowly his own artistic education. Later on, men
who met Colin Churchill at Rome--men who had gone through the regular
dull classical round of our universities--were astonished to find that
the Dorsetshire peasant-sculptor, of whom they had heard so much, was
a widely cultivated and well-read man. They expected to see an inspired
boor wielding a sculptor’s mallet in a rude labourer’s hand: they
were surprised to meet a handsome young man, of delicate features and
finely-stored mind, who talked about Here and Aphrodite, and the
nymphs who came to visit the bound Prometheus, as if he had known them
personally and intimately all his life long in their own remote Hellenic
dwelling places.

And indeed, though the university where Colin Churchill took his degree
with honours was not one presided over by doctors in red hoods and
proctors in velvet sleeves, one may well doubt whether he did not
penetrate quite as deeply, after all, into the inmost recesses of
the great Hellenic genius as most men who have learnt to write iambic
trimeters from well-trained composition masters, with the most careful
avoidance of that ugly long syllable before the cretic in the two
last feet, to which the painstaking scholar attaches so much undue
importance. Do you think, my good Mr. Dean, or excellent Senior Censor,
that a man cannot learn just as much about the Athens of Pericles
from the Elgin Marbles as from a classical dictionary or a dog-eared
Thucydides? Do you suppose that to have worked up the first six Iliads
with a Liddell and Scott brings you in the end so very much nearer the
heart and soul of the primitive Achæans than to have studied with loving
care the vases in the British Museum, or even to have followed with a
sculptor’s eye the exquisite imaginings of divine John Flaxman?

Why, where do you suppose Flaxman himself got his Homer from, except
from the very same source as poor, self-taught Colin Churchill--Mr.
Alexander Pope’s correctly colourless and ingenious travesty? Do you
really believe there is no understanding the many-sided essentially
artistic Greek idiosyncrasy except through the medium of the twenty-four
written signs from alpha to omega? Colin Churchill didn’t believe so,
at least: and who that has seen his Alcestis, or his Agamemnon and
Clytemnestra, or his Death of Antigone, can fail to admit that they
are in very truth the direct offshoots of the Hellas of Sophocles, and
Æschylus, and Pheidias?

All Cohn Churchill’s reading was, in its way, sculpturesque. Of poetry,
he loved Milton better than Shakespeare. Shakespeare is the painter’s
poet, Milton the sculptor’s; and he wearied out his soul because he
could never rise in clay to his own evasive mental image of the Miltonic
Satan. He read Shelley, too, most Greek of Englishmen, and took more
than one idea for future statues from those statuesque tragedies and
poems. But best of all he loved Æschylus, whom he couldn’t read in
the original, to be sure, but whom he followed through half a dozen
translations till he had read himself into the very inmost spirit of
the Agamemnon and the Persæ and the Prometheus. The man who has fed his
fancy on Æschylus, Milton, and Shelley, and his eyes on Michael Angelo,
Thorwaldsen, and Flaxman, is not, after all, wholly wanting in the
elements of the highest and purest culture.

Two years after Colin went to live at the little workshop in the
Marylebone Road, another person came to swell the population of
the great metropolis by a unit, and to correspondingly diminish the
dwindling account at Wootton Mandeville. Minna Wroe was now sixteen, and
for a year past she had been living out at service as kitchen-maid at
the village doctor’s. But Minna was an ambitious small body, and had
a soul above dish-cloths. So she kept the precious nine shillings that
Colin had returned to her well hoarded in her own little purse, and
added to them from time to time whatever sums she could manage to save
from her small wages--for wages are low in Dorsetshire, and white caps
cost money both for the buying and washing, you may be certain. When
her sixteenth birthday had fairly come and gone Minna gave notice to
her mistress, and at the end of her month started off to London, like so
many other young people of both sexes, to seek her fortune.

‘Dear Colin,’ she wrote to him a day or two before from the doctor’s at
Wootton, ‘I am coming up to London to look out for a situation on
Monday next, and I should be very glad if you could meet me at Paddinton
Station at 6.30. I have not got a situation but I hope soon to get one
there is lots to be had in London and has you are their I should like
to be in London. Please dear Cohn come to meet me as I am going to Mrs.
Woods of Wootton till I get a situation to lodge with love from all so
no more at present from your old Friend, Minna.’

Colin took the letter from the postman, as he was working at the clay
of a little bas-relief for a mural tablet, and read it over twice to
himself with very mingled and uncertain feelings. On the first reading
he felt only a glow of pleasure to think that little Minna, his
old playmate, would now be within easy reach of him. Cohn had never
considered himself exactly in love with Minna (he was only eighteen),
and he had even indulged (since the sad truth must out) in a passing
flirtation with the young lady at the open greengrocer’s shop just
round the corner; but he was very fond of Minna for all that, and in an
indefinite way he had always felt as if she really belonged to him far
more than anybody else did. So his first feeling was one of unmixed
pleasure at the prospect of having her to live so near him. On the
second reading, however, it did strike even Colin, who was only just
beginning his own self-education in literary matters, that the letter
might have been better spelt and worded and punctuated. He had been
rising-in the social scale so gradually that, for the first time in his
life, he then felt as if Minna were just one single level below him,
intellectually and educationally.

He pocketed the letter with a slight sigh, and went on moulding the
drapery of St. Mary Magdalene, after the design from a fresco in St.
John Port Lateran. Would Minna care at all about Flaxman, he wondered to
himself mutely; would she interest herself in that admirable replica
by Bartolini; would she understand his torso of Theseus, or his copy
in clay of the Florentine Boar, or his rough sketch for a Cephalus and
Aurora? Or would she be merely a London housemaid, just like all the
girls he saw of a morning cleaning the front door-steps in Harley
Street, and stopping to bandy vulgar chaff with the postman, and the
newspaper boy, and the young policeman? Two years had made a great deal
of difference, no doubt, to both of them; and Cohn wondered vaguely in
his own soul what Minna would think of him now, and what he would think
of Minna.

On Monday, he was down at the station true to time, and waiting for the
arrival of the 6.30 from Dorchester. As it drew up at the platform,
he moved quickly along the third-class carriages, on the look-out for
anybody who might answer to the memory of his little Minna. Presently
he saw her jump lightly, as of old, from the carriage--a mignonne little
figure, with a dark, round, merry face, and piercing black eyes as
bright as diamonds. He ran up to greet her with boyish awkwardness and
bashful timidity. ‘Why, Minna,’ he cried, ‘you’ve grown into such a
woman that I’m afraid to kiss you; but I’m very glad indeed to see you.’

Minna drew herself up so as to look as tall as possible, and answered
with dignity:

‘I should hope, Colin, you wouldn’t want to kiss me in any case here in
the station. It was very kind of you to come and meet me.’

Colin observed at once that she spoke with a good accent, and that
her manner was, if anything, decidedly less embarrassed than his own.
Indeed, as a rule, the young men of the working classes, no matter how
much intellectual or artistic power they may possess, are far more shy,
gauche, and awkward than the young women of the same class, who usually
show instinctively a great deal of natural refinement of manner. He was
immediately not a little reassured as to Minna’s present attainments.

‘I want to go to Mrs. Wood’s,’ Minna said, as calmly as if she had been
accustomed to Paddington Station all her lifetime; ‘and I’ve got two
boxes; how ought I to get there?’

‘Where is Mrs. Wood’s?’ Colin asked.

‘At Dean Street, Marylebone.’

‘Why, that’s quite close to our place,’ Colin cried. ‘Are they big
boxes? I could carry ‘em, maybe.’

‘No, you couldn’t carry them, Colin. Why, what nonsense. It wouldn’t be
respectable.’

Colin laughed. ‘I should have done it at Wootton, anyhow, Minna,’ he
answered; ‘and a working stone-cutter needn’t be ashamed of anything in
the way of work, surely.’

‘But a sculptor’s got to keep up his position,’ Minna put in firmly.

Colin smiled again. Already he had a nascent idea in his own head that
even a sculptor could not bemean himself greatly by carrying a wooden
box through the streets of London for a lady--he was getting to believe
in the dignity of labour--but he didn’t insist upon this point with
Minna; for, young as he was, he had a notion even then that the gospel
for men isn’t always at the same time the gospel for women. Even a good
woman would feel much less compunction against many serious crimes than
against trundling a wheelbarrow full of clean clothes up Begent Street
of an afternoon in the height of the season.

So Cohn was for calling a porter with a truck; but even that modified
measure of conveyance did not wholly suit Minna’s aristocratic fancy.
‘Are they things cabs, Cohn?’ she asked quietly.

‘_Those_ things are,’ Cohn answered with a significant emphasis. Minna
blushed a trifle.

‘Oh, those things,’ she repeated slowly; ‘then I’ll have one.’ And in
two minutes more, Cohn, for the first time in his life, found himself
actually driving along the public streets in the inside of a hansom.
Why, you imperious, extravagant little Minna, where on earth are
you going to find money for such expenses as these in our toilsome,
under-paid, workyday London?

When they reached Mrs. Wood’s door, Cohn, feeling that he must rise to
the situation, pulled out his purse to pay for the hansom, but Minna
waved him aside with a dignified air of authority. ‘No no,’ she said,
‘that won’t do; take my purse, Cohn. I don’t know how much to pay him,
and like enough he’d cheat me; but you know the ways in London.’

Colin took the purse, and opened it. The first compartment he opened
contained some silver, wrapped up in a scrap of tissue paper. Colin
undid the paper and took out a shilling, which he was going to hand the
cabman, when Minna laid her hand upon his arm and suddenly checked him.
‘No, no,’ she said, ‘not that, Colin. From the other side, please, will
you?’

Colin looked at the contents of the little paper once more, and rapidly
counted it. It was nine shillings. He caught Minna’s eye at the moment,
and Minna coloured crimson. Then Cohn knew at once what those nine
shillings were, and why they were separately wrapped in tissue paper.

He paid the cabman, from the other half, and put the boxes inside Mrs.
Wood’s door way. ‘And now may I kiss you, Minna?’ he asked, in the dark
passage.

‘If you like, Colin,’ Minna answered, turning up her full red lips and
round face with child-like innocence, Colin Churchill kissed her: and
when he had kissed her once, he waited a minute, and then he took her
plump little face between his own two hands and kissed her rather harder
a second time. Minna’s face tingled a little, but she said nothing.

The very next morning Minna came round, by Colin’s invitation, to
Cicolari’s workshop. Colin was busy at work moulding, and Minna cast
her eye around lightly as she entered on all the busts and plaster casts
that filled the room. She advanced to meet him as if she expected to be
kissed, so Colin kissed her. Then, with a rapid glance round the room,
her eye rested at last upon the Cephalus and Aurora, and she went
straight over to look at it with wondering eyes. ‘Oh, Colin,’ she cried,
did you do that? What a lovely image!’

Colin was pleased and flattered at once. ‘You like it, Minna?’ he said.
‘You really like it?’

Minna glanced carefully round the room once more with her keen black
eyes, and after scanning every one of the plaster casts and unfinished
busts in a comprehensive survey, answered unhesitatingly: ‘I like it
best of everything in the room, Colin, except the image of the man with
the plate over yonder.’

Colin smiled a smile of triumph. Minna was not wholly lacking in taste,
certainly; for the Cephalus was the best of his compositions, and the
man with the plate was a plaster copy of the Discobolus. ‘You’ll do,
Minna,’ he said, patting her little black head with his cleanest hand
(to the imminent danger of the small hat with the red rose in it).
‘You’ll do yet, with a little coaching.’

Then Colin took her round the studio, as Cicolari ambitiously called it,
and explained everything to her, and showed her plates of the Venus
of Milo, and the Apollo Belvedere, and the Laocoon, and the Niobe, and
several other ladies and gentlemen with very long names and no clothes
to speak of, till poor Minna began at last to be quite appalled at the
depth of his learning and quite frightened at her own unquestioning
countrified ignorance. For as yet Minna had no idea that there was
anything much to learn in the world except reading and writing, and the
art of cookery, and the proper use of the English language. But when she
heard Colin chattering away so glibly to her about the age of Pheidias,
and the age of the Decadence, and the sculptors of the Renaissance,
and the absolute necessity of going to Rome, she began to conceive that
perhaps Colin in his own heart might imagine she wasn’t now good enough
for him; which was a point of view on the subject that had never before
struck the Dorsetshire fisherman’s pretty black-eyed little daughter.

By-and-by, Colin began to talk of herself and her prospects; and to ask
whether she was going to put herself down at a registry office; and last
of all to allude delicately to the matter of the misspelt letter. ‘You
know, Minna,’ he said apologetically, feeling his boyish awkwardness far
more than ever, ‘I’ve tried a lot to improve myself at Exeter, and still
more since I came to London. I’ve read a great deal, and worked very
hard, and now I think I’m beginning to get on, and know something, not
only about art, but about books as well. Now, I know you won’t mind my
telling you, but that letter wasn’t all spelt right, or stopped right.
You ought to be very particular, you know, about the stopping and the
spelling.’

Before he could say any more, Minna looked full in his face and stopped
him short immediately. ‘Colin,’ she said, ‘don’t say another ‘word about
it. I know what you mean, and I’m going to attend to it. I never felt it
in my life till I came here this morning; but I feel it now, and I shall
take care to alter it.’ She was a determined little body was Minna; and
as she said those words, she looked so thoroughly as if she meant them
that Colin dropped the subject at once and never spoke to her again
about it.

Just at that moment two customers came to speak to Colin about a
statuette he was working at for them. It was an old gentleman and a
grand young lady. Minna stood aside while they talked, and pretended
to be looking at Cephalus and Aurora with a critical eye, but she was
really listening with all her ears to the conversation between Colin
and the grand young lady. She was a very grand young lady, indeed,
who talked very fine, and drawled her vowels, and clipped her r’s, and
mangled the English language hideously, and gave other indubitable signs
of the very best and highest breeding: and Minna noticed almost with
dismay that she called Colin ‘Mr. Churchill,’ and seemed to defer to
all his opinions about curves and contours and attitudes. ‘You have such
lovely taste, you know, Mr. Churchill,’ the grand young lady said; ‘and
we want this copy to be as good as you can make it, because it’s for a
very particular friend of ours, who admired the original so much at Rome
last winter.’

Minna listened in awe and trembling, and felt in her heart just a faint
twinge of feminine jealousy to think that even such a grand young lady
should speak so flattering like to our Colin.

‘And there’s the Cephalus, Papa,’ the grand young lady went on. ‘Isn’t
it beautiful? I do hope some day, Mr. Churchill, you’ll get a commission
for it in marble. If I were rich enough, I’d commission it myself, for I
positively doat upon it. However, somebody’s sure to buy it some time or
other, so it’s no use people like me longing to have it.’

Minna’s heart rose, choking, into her mouth, as she stood there flushed
and silent.

When the grand young lady and her papa were gone, Minna said good-bye a
little hastily to Colin, and shrank back, crying: ‘No, no, Colin,’ when
he tried to kiss her. Then she ran in a hurry to Mrs. Wood’s in Dean
Street. But though she was in a great haste to get home (for her bright
little eyes had tears swimming in them), she stopped boldly at a small
bookseller’s shop on the way, and invested two whole shillings of her
little hoard in a valuable work bearing on its cover the title, ‘The
Polite Correspondent’s Complete Manual of Letter Writing.’ ‘He shall
never kiss me again,’ she said to herself firmly, ‘until I can feel that
I’ve made myself in every way thoroughly fit for him.’

It wasn’t a very exalted model of literary composition, that Complete
Manual of Letter Writing, but at least its spelling and punctuation were
immaculate; and for many months to come after she had secured her place
as parlour-maid in an eminently creditable family in Regent’s Park,
Minna sat herself down in her own bedroom every evening, when work
was over, and deliberately endeavoured to perfect herself in those two
elementary accomplishments by the use of the Polite Correspondent’s
unconscious guide, philosopher, and friend. First of all she read a
whole letter over carefully, observing every stop and every spelling;
then she copied it out entire, word for word, as well as she could
recollect it, entirely from memory; and finally she corrected her
written copy by the printed version in the Complete Manual, until
she could transcribe every letter in the entire volume with perfect
accuracy. It wasn’t a very great educational effort, perhaps, from the
point of view of advanced culture; but to Minna Wroe it was a beginning
in self-improvement, and in these matters above all others the first
step is everything.

[Illustration: 0238]



CHAPTER XI. EDUCATIONAL ADVANTAGES.

|And now, while Minna Wroe was waiting at table in Regent’s Park, and
while Colin Churchill was modelling sepulchral images for his Italian
master, Cicolari, how was our other friend, Hiram Winthrop, employing
his time beyond the millpond?

‘Bethabara Seminary, at the time when Hiram Winthrop, the eminent
American artist, was enrolled among its alumni’ (writes one of his
fellow-students), ‘occupied a plain but substantially built brick
structure, commodiously located in the very centre of a large cornfield,
near the summit of a considerable eminence in Madison County, N.Y.
It had been in operation close on three years when young Winthrop
matriculated there. He secured quarters in a room with four
fellow-students, each of whom brought his own dipper, plate, knife,
fork, and other essential requisites. Mr. Winthrop was always of a
solitary, retiring character, without much command of language, and not
given to attending the Debating Forum or other public institutions of
our academy. Nor was he fond of the society of the lady students, though
one or two of them, and notably the talented Miss Aimed A. Stiles, now
a prominent teacher in a lyceum at Smyrna, Mo., early detected his
remarkable gifts for pictorial art, and continually importuned him to
take their portraits, no doubt designing them for keepsakes to be given
to the more popular male students. Young Winthrop always repelled such
advances: indeed, he was generally considered in the light of a boorish
rustic; and his singular aversion towards the Hopkinsite connection (in
which he had nevertheless been raised by that excellent man, his father,
late Deacon Zephaniah Winthrop, of Muddy Creek, N.Y.) caused him to be
somewhat disliked among his college companions. His chief amusement was
to retire into the surrounding country, oddly choosing for the purpose
the parts remotest from the roads and houses, and there sketch the
animated creation which seemed always to possess a greater interest for
his mind than the persons or conversation of his fellow-citizens. He
had, indeed, as facts subsequently demonstrated, the isolation of a
superior individual. Winthrop remained at Bethabara, so far as my memory
serves me, for two years only.’

Indeed, the Hopkinsite Seminary was not exactly the sort of place fitted
to suit the peculiar tastes of Hiram Winthrop. The boys and girls from
the farms around had hardly more sympathy with him than the deacon
himself. Yet, on the whole, in spite of the drawbacks of his
surroundings, Athens was a perfect paradise to poor Hiram. This is a
universe of relativities: and compared with life on the farm at
Muddy Creek, life at Bethabara Seminary was absolute freedom and pure
enjoyment to the solitary little artist. Here, as soon as recitation was
over, he could wander out into the woods alone (after he had shaken off
the attentions of the too sequacious Almeda), whenever he liked, no man
hindering. The country around was wooded in places, and the scenery,
like all that in Madison County, was beautifully undulating. Five miles
along the leafy highroad brought him to the banks of Cananagua Lake, one
of those immeasurable lovely sheets of water that stud the surface of
Western New York for miles together; and there Hiram would sit down by
the shore, and watch the great divers disappearing suddenly beneath
the surface, and make little pictures of the grey squirrels and the
soldier-birds on the margin of Cyrus Choke’s ‘Elements of the Latin
Language,’ which he had brought out with him, presumably for purposes of
preparation against to-morrow’s class-work. But best of all there was
a drawing-master at Athens, and from him, by Audouin’s special
arrangement, the boy took lessons twice a week in perspective and the
other technical matters of his art--for, as to native ability, Hiram was
really far better fitted to teach the teacher. Not a very great artist,
that struggling German drawing-master at Athens, with his formal little
directions of how to go jig-jig for a pine-tree, and to-whee, whee,
whee, for an oak; not a very great artist, to be sure; but still, a
grand relief for Hiram to discover that there were people in the world
who really cared about these foolish things, and didn’t utterly despise
them though they _were_ so irrelevant to the truly important questions
of raising corn, and pork, and potatoes.

The great joy and delight of the term, however, was Audouin’s periodical
visit to his little _protégé_. Audouin at least was determined to let
Hiram’s individuality have fair play. He regarded him as a brand plucked
from the burning of that corn-growing civilisation which he so cordially
detested; and he had made up his own mind, rightly or wrongly, that
Hiram had genius, and that that genius must be allowed freely to develop
itself. Hiram loved these quarterly visits better than anything else in
the whole world, because Audouin was the one person he had met in his
entire life (except Sam Churchill) who could really sympathise with him.

Two years after Hiram Winthrop went to Bethabara, Audouin wrote to ask
whether he would come and spend a week or two at Lakeside during the
winter vacation. Hiram cried when he read the letter; so much pleasure
seemed almost beyond the possibilities of this world, and the deacon
would surely never consent; but to his great surprise, the deacon wrote
back gruffly, yes; and as soon as term was finished, Hiram gladly took
the cars on the New York Central down to Nine Mile Bottom, the depot for
Lakeside. Audouin was waiting to meet him at the depot, in a neat little
sleigh; and they drove away gaily to the jingling music of the bells, in
the direction of Audouin’s cottage.

‘A severe artist, winter,’ Audouin said, glancing around him quickly
over the frozen fields. ‘No longer the canvas and the colours, but
the pure white marble and the flowing chisel. How the contours of the
country soften with the snow, Hiram; what a divine cloak the winter
clouds spread kindly over the havoc man has wrought upon this desecrated
landscape! It was beautiful, once, I believe, in its native woodland
beauty; and it’s beautiful even now when the white pall comes down, so,
to screen and cover its artificial nakedness. The true curse of Ham
(and worse) is upon us here; we have laughed at the shame of our mother
earth.’

Hiram hardly understood him--he seldom quite understood his friend--but
he answered, with a keen glance over the white snow, ‘I love the winter,
Mr. Audouin; but I apprehend I like the summer an’ autumn best. You
should jest have seen the crimson and gold on Cananagua Lake last fall;
oh, my, the colours on the trees! nobody could ever have painted ‘em. I
took out my paints an’ tried, but I wasn’t anywhere like it, I can tell
you; Mr. Mooller, he said he didn’t b’lieve Claude or Turner could ever
have painted a bit of Amurrican fall scenery.’

‘Mr. Müller isn’t a conclusive authority,’ Audouin answered gravely,
removing his cigar as he spoke; ‘but on this occasion I surmise, Hiram,
he was probably not far from a correct opinion. Still, Mr. Müller won’t
do for you any longer. The fact is, Hiram, sooner or later you must go
to Europe. There’s no teaching here good enough for you. I’ve made up
my mind that you must go to Europe. Whether the deacon likes it or not,
you’ve got to go, and we must manage one way or another.’

To Europe! Hiram’s brain reeled round at the glorious, impossible
notion. To Europe! Why, that was the wonderful romantic country where
Tom Jones ran away with Amelia, where Mr. Tracy Tupman rode to Ipswich
on top of the mail-coach, where Moses bought the gross of green
spectacles from the plausible vagabond at the country fair. Europe!
There were kings and princes in Europe; and cathedrals and castles;
and bishops and soldiers; ay, he could almost believe, too, there were
giants, ogres, ghosts, and fairies. In Europe, Sam Wellers waited at
the wayside inns; mysterious horsemen issued darkling from arched castle
gates; Jews cut pounds of flesh, Abyssinian fashion, from the living
breasts of Venetian shipowners; and itinerant showmen wandered about
with Earley’s waxworks across a country haunted by masked highwaymen
and red-coated squires, who beat you half to death for not telling
them immediately which way the hare ran. As such a phantasmagoria of
incongruous scenes did the mother continent of the American race present
itself in some swimming panorama to Hiram’s excited brain. It was almost
as though Aladdin and the oneeyed calender had suddenly appeared to him
in the familiar woods of Geauga County, and invited him forthwith to
take the cars for Bagdad at the urgent personal request of the good
Caliph Haroun al Raschid.

The boy held his breath hard, and answered in his self-restrained
American manner, ‘To Europe, Mr. Audouin! Well, I guess I should
appreciate that, consid’able.’

‘Yes, Hiram,’ Audouin went on, ‘I’ve made my mind up to that. Sooner
or later you must go to Europe. But not just at once, my boy. Not till
you’re about nineteen, I should say; it wouldn’t do you so much good
till then. Meanwhile, we must put you to some other school. Bethabara
has done its little best for you: you must go elsewhere, meanwhile.
I mean that you shall go to some one of the eastern colleges, Yale if
possible.’

‘But what about father?’ Hiram asked.

‘Your father must be made to do as I tell him. Look here, Hiram, the
fact is this. You’re a boy whose individuality must be developed. The
deacon mustn’t be allowed to prevent it. I’ve taken you in hand, and I
mean to see you through it. Look yonder, my boy, at the edge of the ice
there on the creek; look at the musquash sitting in the sun on the brink
of the open water eating a clam, and the clamshells he has left strewed
along the shore and beach behind him. See him drop in again and bring
up another clam, and stride sleek and shining from the water on to his
little cliff of ice again. You and I know that that sight is beautiful.
You and I know that it’s the only thing on earth worth living for--that
power of seeing the beautiful in art and nature--but how many people
do you suppose there are in all America that would ever notice it? What
percentage, Hiram, of our great, free, intelligent, democratic people,
that sing their own praises daily with so shrill a voice in their ten
thousand “Heralds,” and “Tribunes,” and “Courants,” and “Mirrors “? How
small a percentage, Hiram; how small a percentage!’

The boy coloured up crimson to the very roots of his shaggy hair. It was
such a very new point of view to him. He had always known that he cared
for these things towards which all other boys and men were mere dull
materialistic Gallios; but it had never before occurred to him that his
doing so was any mark of a mental superiority on his part. Father had
he thought that it betokened some weakness or foolishness of his own
nature, for he wasn’t like other boys; and not to be like other boys is
treated so much as a crime in junior circles that it almost seems like
a crime at last even to the culprit himself in person. So Hiram coloured
up with the shame of a first discovery of his own better-ness, and
merely answered in the same quiet self-restrained fashion, ‘I apprehend,
Mr. Audouin, there ain’t many folks who pay much attention to the
pecooliarities of the common American musk-rat.’

All the rest of the way home, Audouin plied the boy with such subtle
flattery--not meant as flattery, indeed, for Audouin was incapable of
guile; if he erred, it was on the side of too outspoken truthfulness:
yet, in effect, his habit of speaking always as though he and Hiram
formed a class apart was really flattery of the deepest sort to the
boy’s nature. At last they drew up at a neat wooden cottage in a small
snow-covered glen, where the circling amphitheatre of spruce pines
opened out into a long sloping vista in front, and the frozen arm of
the great lake spread its limitless ice sheet beyond, away over in weird
perspective toward the low unseen Canadian shore. The boy uttered a
little sharp cry of delight at the exquisite prospect. Audouin noticed
it with pleasure. ‘Well, Hiram,’ he said, ‘here we are at last at my
lodge in the wilderness.’

‘I never saw anything in all my life,’ the boy answered truthfully,
‘one-thousandth part so beautiful.’

Audouin was pleased at the genuine tone of the compliment. ‘Yes, Hiram,’
he said, looking with a complacent smile down the pine-clad glen toward
the frozen lake, ‘it certainly does help to wash out Broadway.’

Hiram’s three weeks at Lakeside Cottage were indeed three weeks of
unalloyed delight to his eager, intelligent nature. There were books
there, books of the most delicious sort; Birds of America with coloured
plates; Flora of New York State with endless figures; poems, novels,
histories--Prescott’s ‘Peru,’ and Macaulay’s ‘England.’ There were
works about the Indians, too; works written by men who actually took a
personal interest in calumets and tomahawks. There were pictures, books
full of them; pictures by great painters, well engraved; pictures, the
meaning of which Audouin explained to him carefully, pointing out the
peculiarities of style in each, so far as the engravings could reproduce
them. Above all, there was Audouin’s own conversation, morning, noon and
night, as well as his friend the Professor’s, who was once more staying
with him on a visit. That was Hiram’s first extended glimpse of what a
cultivated and refined life could be made like, apart from the sordid,
squalid necessities of raising pork and beans and Johnny cake.

Best of all, before Hiram left Lakeside, Audouin had driven him over to
the Deacon’s in his neat little sleigh, and had seriously discussed the
question of his further education. And the result of that interview was
that Hiram was to return no more to Bethabara, but (being now nearly
sixteen) was to go instead to the Eclectic Institute at Orange. It was
with great difficulty that this final step was conquered, but conquered
it was at last, mainly by Audouin’s masterful persistence.

‘’Tain’t convenient for me, mister,’ the deacon said snappishly, ‘to go
on any longer without the services of that thar boy. I want him to home
to help with the farm work. He’s progressing towards citizenship now,
an’ I’ve invested quite a lot of capital in his raisin’, an’ it’s time I
was beginnin’ to see some return upon it.’

‘Quite true and very natural,’ Audouin answered with his diplomatic
quickness. ‘Still, you must consider the boy’s future. He won’t cost you
much, deacon. He’s a smart lad, and he can help himself a great deal in
the off seasons. There’s a great call for school-teachers in the winter,
and college students are much sought after.’

‘What might be the annual expense to an economical student?’ asked the
deacon dubiously.

‘A hundred dollars a year,’ Audouin replied boldly. He murmured to
himself that whatever the difference might be between this modest
estimate and the actual truth, he would pay it out of his own pocket.

The deacon gave way grudgingly at last, and to the end neither he nor
Hiram ever knew that Hiram’s three years at the Eclectic Institute cost
his unsuspected benefactor some two hundred dollars annually.



CHAPTER XII. AN ARTISTIC ENGAGEMENT.

|Three years at Orange passed away quickly enough, and Hiram enjoyed his
time there far better than he had done even in the solitude of Bethabara
Seminary. He didn’t work very hard at the classics and mathematics, it
must be admitted: Professor Hazen complained that his recitations in
Plato were not up to the mark, and that his Cicero was seldom prepared
with sufficient diligence: but though in the dead languages his work was
most too bad, the Professor allowed that in English literatoor he did
well, and seemed to reach out elastically with his faculties in all
directions. He spent very little time over his books to be sure, but he
caught the drift, appropriated the kernel, and let the rest slide. Fact
was, he created his own culture. He didn’t debate in the lyceum, or
mix much in social gatherings of an evening (where the female stoodents
entertained the gentlemen with tea, and Johnny cake, and crullers, and
improving conversation), but he walked a great deal alone in the hills,
and interested himself with sketching, and the pursoot of natural
history. Still, he wasn’t social; so much Professor Hazen was compelled
by candour to admit. When the entire strength of the Eclectic Institoot
went in carriages to the annual grove-meeting at Rudolph, Hiram Winthrop
was usually conspicuous by his absence. The lady stoodents fully
expected that a gentleman of such marked artistic and rural proclivities
would on such occasions be the life and soul of the whole party: that he
would burst out occasionally into a rapturous strain at the sight of
an elegant bird, or a trailing vine, or a superb giant of the primæval
forest. They calculated confidently on his reciting poetry appropriate
to the scene and the social occasion. But Hiram generally stopped away
altogether, which operated considerable disappointment on the ladies; or
if he went at all, accompanied the junior stoodents in the refreshment
waggon, and scarcely contributed anything solid to the general
entertainment. In short, he was a very bashful and retiring person, who
didn’t amalgamate spontaneously or readily with the prevalent tone of
life at the Eclectic Institoot.

Nevertheless, in spite of the solitude, Hiram Winthrop liked the
Institute, and often looked back afterwards upon the time he had spent
there as one of the happiest portions of his life. He worked away hard
in all his spare moments at drawing and painting; and some of the lady
students still retain some of his works of this period, which they
cherish in small gilt frames upon the parlour wall, as mementoes of
their brief acquaintance with a prominent American artistic gentleman.
Miss Almeda A. Stiles in particular (who followed Hiram from Betha-bara
to Orange, where she graduated with him in the class of 18--) keeps even
now two of his drawings in her rooms at the lyceum at Smyrna, Mo. One of
them represents a large Europian bird, seated upon the bough of a tree
in winter; it is obviously a copy from a drawing-master’s design: the
other, which is far finer and more original, is a sketch of Chattawauga
Falls, before the erection of the existing sawmills and other
improvements. Hiram was singularly fond of Chattawauga; but strange
to say, from the very first day that the erection of the sawmills was
undertaken, he refused to go near the spot, alleging no other reason for
his refusal except that he regarded these useful institootions in the
light of a positively wicked desecration of the work of nature. There
was a general feeling at Orange that in many respects young Winthrop’s
sentiments and opinions were in fact painfully unAmerican.

In the holidays--no, vacation--(one mustn’t apply European names to
American objects), Hiram found enough to do in teaching school in remote
country sections. Nay, he even managed to save a little money out of his
earnings, which he put away to help him on his grand project of going
to Europe--that dim, receding, but now far more historical and less
romantic Europe towards which his hopes were always pointing. Audouin
would gladly have sent him on his own account--Hiram knew that much
well; for Audouin was comfortably rich, and he had taken a great fancy
to his young _protégé_. But Hiram didn’t want to spend his friend’s
money if he could possibly help it: he had the honest democratic feeling
strong upon him, that he would like to go to Europe by his own earnings
or not at all. So as soon as his three years at Orange were over, he
determined to go to Syracuse (not the Sicilian one, but its namesake
in New York State), and start in business for the time being as a
draughtsman on the wood. He was drawn to this scheme by an advertisement
in the ‘Syracuse Daily Independent,’ requiring a smart hand at drawing
for a large blockengraving establishment in that city.

‘My dear Hiram,’ Audouin exclaimed in dismay, when his young friend told
him of his project, ‘you really mustn’t think of it. At Syracuse,
too! why, what sort of work do you conceive people would want done at
Syracuse? Nothing but advertisement drawings of factories for the covers
of biscuit tins, or flaring red and yellow fruits for the decoration of
canned peaches.’

‘Well, Mr. Audouin,’ Hiram answered with a smile, ‘I guess I must go in
for the canned peaches, then, if nothing better offers. I’ve got to earn
enough to take me across to Europe, one way or the other;--no, don’t say
that now,’ for he saw Audouin trying to cut in impatiently with his
ever friendly offer of assistance: ‘don’t say that,’ and he clutched his
friend’s arm tightly. ‘I know you would. I know you would. But I can’t
accept it. This thing has just got to be done in the regular way of
business or not at all; and what’s more, Mr. Audouin, I’ve just got to
go and do it.’

‘But, Hiram,’ Audouin cried, half angrily, ‘I want you to go to Europe
and learn to paint splendid pictures, and make all America proud of your
talent. I found you out, and I’ve got a sort of proprietary interest in
you; and just when I expect you to begin doing something really great,
you calmly propose to go to Syracuse, and draw designs for canned
peaches! You ought to consider your duty to your country.’

‘I’m very sorry, Mr. Audouin,’ Hiram answered with his accustomed
gravity, ‘if I disappoint you personally; but as for the rest of
America, I dare say the country’ll manage to hold on a year or two
longer without my pictures.’

So Hiram really went at last to Syracuse (pronounced Sirrah-kyooze), and
duly applied for the place as draughtsman. The short boy who showed him
in to the office went off to call one of the bosses. In a few minutes,
the boss in question entered, and in a quiet American tone, with just a
faint relic of some English country dialect flavouring it dimly in the
background, inquired if this was the young man who had come about the
drawing. ‘For if so, mister,’ he said with the true New Yorker ring,
‘just you step right back here with me, will ‘ee, a minute, and we’ll
settle this little bit of business right away, smart and handy.’

Hiram knew the boss in a moment, in spite of his altered voice and
manner. ‘Sam,’ he said, taking his hand warmly (for he hadn’t had so
many friends in his lifetime that he had forgotten how to be grateful
to any single one of them): ‘Sam, don’t you remember me? I’m Hiram
Winthrop.’

Sam’s whole voice and manner changed in a moment, from the sharp,
official, Syracuse business man to something more like the old simple,
easygoing, bucolic Sam Churchill, who had come out so long ago from
Dorsetshire. ‘Why, bless my soul, Hiram,’ he exclaimed, grasping both
his hands at once in an iron grip, ‘so it’s you, lad, is it? Well, I
_am_ glad to see you. You step right back here and let’s have a look
at you! Why, how you’ve grown, Hiram! Only don’t call me Sam, too open,
here; here, I’m one of the bosses, and get called Mr. Churchill. And
how’s the deacon, and the missus, and old Major (you don’t mind old
Major? he was the off-horse at the plough, always, he was). And how are
_you?_ Been to college, I reckon, by the look of you. You come right
back here and tell me all about it.’

So Hiram went right back (behind the little counter in the front
office), and told Sam Churchill his whole story. And Sam in return told
his. It wasn’t very long, but it was all prosperous. He had left, the
deacon soon after Hiram went to live at Bethabara Seminary; he had come
to Syracuse in search of work; had begun trying his hand as draughtsman
for a wood-engraver; had gone into partnership with another young man,
on his own account; had risen as fast as people in America do rise,
if they have anything in them; and was now joint boss of the biggest
woodcut establishment in the whole Lake Shore section of New York State.
‘See here,’ he cried with infinite pride to Hiram. ‘Just you look at all
these labels. Hemmings’ Patent Blacking--nigger woman admiring her own
teeth in her master’s boots--that’s ours. And this: Chicago General
Canning Company; Prime Fruit: I did that myself. And this: Philbrick’s
Certain Death to Eats: good design, rather, that one, ain’t it? Here’s
more: Potterton’s Choke-cherry Cordial; Old Dr. Hezekiah Bowdler’s
Elixir of Winter-green; Eselmann and Schneider’s Eagle Brand Best Old
Bourbon Whiskey; Smoke None but Cyrus A. Walker’s Original and Only
Genuine Old Dominion Honeydew. That’s our line of business, you see,
Hiram. That’s where we’ve got on. We’ve put mind into it. We’ve struck
out a career of our own. We’ve determined to revolutionise the American
advertisement illustration market, When we took the thing in hand,
it was all red and yellow uglinesses. We’ve discarded crudeness and
vulgarity, we have, and gone in for artistic colouring and the best
sentiments. Look at Philbrick’s Certain Death, for example. That’s fine,
now, isn’t it? We’ve made the fortune of the Certain Death. When we
took it up, advertising I mean, there wasn’t a living to be got out of
Philbrick’s. They had a sort of comic picture of four rats, poisoned,
with labels coming out of their mouths, saying they were gone coons,
and so forth. Vulgar, vulgar, very. We went in for the contract, and
produced the chaste and elegant design you see before you. It has
succeeded, naturally,’ and Sam looked across at Hiram with the serious
face of profound conviction with which he was always wont to confront
the expected customer, in the interests of the joint establishment.

Poor Hiram! his heart sank within him a little when he looked at the
chaste and elegant design; but he had put his hand to the plough, and
he would not look back: so before the end of that day Sam Churchill had
definitely engaged him as chief draughtsman to his rising establishment.

That was how Hiram came to spend two years as an advertisement
draughtsman at Syracuse. He didn’t deny, afterwards, that those two
years were about the dreariest and most, disappointing of his whole
lifetime. In his spare moments, to be sure, he still went on studying
as well as he was able; and on Sundays he stole away with his easel and
colours to the few bits of decently pretty scenery that lie within reach
of that flat and marshy mushroom city: but for the greater part of his
time he was employed in designing neat and appropriate wrappers for
quack medicine bottles, small illustrations for catalogues or newspaper
advertisements, and huge flaring posters for mammoth circuses or variety
dramatic entertainments. It was a grinding, horrible work; and though
Sam Churchill did his best to make it pleasant and bearable for him,
Hiram cordially detested it with all his heart. The only thing that made
it any way endurable was the image of that far-off promised European
journey, on which Hiram Winthrop had fixed all his earthly hopes and
ambitions.

Sam often told him of Colin, for Colin had kept up a correspondence with
his thriving American brother; and it was a sort of daydream with Hiram
that one day or other Colin Churchill and he should go to Rome together.
For Audouin’s encouragement and Colin’s eagerness had inspired Hiram
with a like desire: and he saved and hoarded in hopes that the time
would at last come when he might get rid of advertisements, and take
instead to real painting. Meanwhile he contented himself with working at
his art by himself, or with such little external aid as he could get
in a brand-new green-and-white American city, and hoping for the future
that never came but was always coming.



CHAPTER XIII. AN EVE IN EDEN.

|Once a year, and once only, Hiram had a holiday. For a glorious
fortnight every summer, Sam Churchill and his partner gave their head
draughtsman leave to go and amuse himself wheresoever the spirit led
him. And on the first of such holidays, Hiram went with Audouin to the
Thousand Islands, and spent a delightful time boating, fishing, and
sketching, among the endless fairy mazes of that enchanted region, where
the great St. Lawrence loses itself hopelessly in innumerable petty
channels, between countless tiny bosses of pine-clad rock. It was a
fortnight of pure enjoyment for poor drudging advertisement-drawing
Hiram, and he revelled in its wealth of beauty as he had never revelled
in anything earthly before during his whole lifetime.

One morning Hiram had taken his little easel out with him from
Alexandria Bay to one of the prettiest points of view upon the
neighbouring mainland--a jutting spit of ice-worn rock, projecting far
into the placid lake, and thickly overhung with fragrant brush of the
beautiful red cedar--and was making a little water-colour sketch of a
tiny islet in the foreground, just a few square yards of smooth granite
covered in the centre with an inch deep of mould, and crowned by a
single tall straight stem of sombre spruce fir. It was a delicate,
dainty little sketch, steeped in the pale morning haze of Canadian
summer; and the scarlet columbines, waving from the gnarled roots of the
solitary fir tree, stood out like brilliant specks of light against the
brown bark and dark green foliage that formed the background. Hiram was
just holding it at arm’s length, to see how it looked, and turning
to ask for Audouin’s friendly criticism, when he heard a clear bright
woman’s voice close behind him speaking so distinctly that he couldn’t
help overhearing the words.

‘Oh, papa,’ the voice said briskly, ‘there’s an artist working down
there. I wonder if he’d mind our going down and looking at his picture.
I do so love to see an artist painting.’

The very sound of the voice thrilled through Hiram’s inmost marrow as he
heard it, somewhat as Audouin’s voice had done long ago, when first he
came upon him in the Muddy Creek woodland--only more so. He had never
heard a woman’s voice before at all like it. It didn’t in the least
resemble Miss Almeda A. Stiles’s, or any other one of the lady students
at Bethabara or Orange, who formed the sole standard of female society
that Hiram Winthrop had ever yet met with. It was a rich, liquid,
rippling voice, and it spoke with the soft accent and delicate
deliberate intonation of an English lady. Hiram, of course, didn’t by
the light of nature recognise at once this classificatory fact as to its
origin and history, but he did know that it stirred him strangely, and
made him look round immediately to see from what manner of person the
voice itself ultimately proceeded.

A tall girl of about nineteen, with a singularly full ripe-looking
face and figure for her age, was standing on the edge of the little
promontory just above, and looking down inquisitively towards Hiram’s
easel. Her cheeks had deeper roses in them than Hiram had ever seen
before, and her complexion was clearer and more really flesh-coloured
than that of most pale and sallow American women. ‘What a beautiful skin
to paint!’ thought Hiram instinctively; and then the next moment, with
a flush of surprise, he began to recognise to himself that this unknown
girl, whose eyes met his for an infinitesimal fraction of a second, had
somehow immediately impressed him--nay, thrilled him--in a way that no
other woman had ever before succeeded in doing. In one word, she seemed
to him more womanly. Why, he didn’t know, and couldn’t have
explained even to himself, for Hiram’s forte certainly did not lie in
introspective analysis; but he felt it instinctively, and was conscious
at once of a certain bashful desire to speak with her, which he had
never experienced towards a single one of the amiable young ladies at
Bethabara Seminary.

‘Gwen, my dear,’ the father said in a dried-up Indian military tone,
‘you will disturb these artists. Come away, come away; people don’t like
to be watched at their duties, really.’

Gwen, by way of sole reply, only bent over the edge of the little bluff
that overhung the platform of rock where Hiram was sitting, and said
with the same clear deliberate accent as before, ‘May I look? Oh, thank
you. How very, very pretty!’

‘It isn’t finished yet,’ Audouin said, taking the words out of Hiram’s
mouth almost, as he held up the picture for Gwen’s inspection. ‘It’s
only a rough sketch, so far: it’ll look much worthier of the original
when mv friend has put the last little touches to it. In art, you know,
the last loving lingering touch is really everything.’

Hiram felt half vexed that Audouin should thus have assumed the place of
spokesman for him towards the unknown lady; and yet at the same time he
was almost grateful to him for it also, for he felt too abashed to speak
himself in her overawing presence.

‘Yes, the original’s beautiful,’ Gwen answered, taking her father’s arm
and leading him down, against his will, to the edge of the water: ‘but
the sketch is very pretty too, and the point of view so exquisitely
chosen. What a thing it is, papa, to have the eye of an artist, isn’t
it? You and I might have passed this place a dozen times over, and never
noticed what a lovely little bit it is to make a sketch of; but the
painter sees it at once, and picks out by instinct the very spot to make
a beautiful picture.’

‘Ah, quite so,’ the father echoed in a cold unconcerned voice, as if the
subject rather bored him. ‘Quite so, quite so. Very pretty place indeed,
an excellent retired corner, I should say, for a person who has a taste
that way, to sit and paint in.’

‘It _is_ beautiful,’ Audouin said, addressing himself musingly to the
daughter, ‘and our island in particular is the prettiest of all the
thousand, I do believe.’

‘Your island?’ Gwen cried interrogatively. ‘Then you own that sweet
little spot there, do you?’

‘My friend and I, yes,’ Audouin answered airily, to Hiram’s great
momentary astonishment. ‘In the only really worthy sense of ownership,
we own it most assuredly. I dare say some other man somewhere or other
keeps locked up in his desk a dirty little piece of crabbed parchment,
which he calls a title-deed, and which gives him some sort of illusory
claim to the productive power of the few square yards of dirt upon its
surface. But the island itself and the enjoyment of it is ours, and ours
only: the gloss on the ice-grooves in the shelving granite shore, the
scarlet columbines on the tall swaying stems, the glow of the sunlight
on the russet boles of the spruce fir--you see my friend has fairly
impounded them all upon his receptive square of cartridge paper here for
our genuine title-deed of possession.’

‘Ah, I see, I see,’ the old gentleman said testily. ‘You and your friend
claim the island by prescription, but your claim is disputed by the
original freeholder.’

The three others all smiled slightly. ‘Oh dear, no, papa,’ Gwen answered
with a touch of scorn and impatience in her tone. ‘Don’t you understand?
This gentleman----’

‘My name is Audouin,’ the New Englander put in with a slight
inclination.

‘Mr. Audouin means that the soil is somebody else’s, but the sole
enjoyment of the island is his friend’s and his own.’

‘The so-called landowner often owns nothing more than the dirt in the
ditches,’ Audouin explained with a wave of the hand, in his romantic
mystifying fashion, ‘while the observer owns all that is upon it, of
any real use or beauty. For our whole lifetime, my friend and I have had
that privilege and pleasure. The grass grows green for us in spring; the
birds build nests for us in early summer; the fire-flies flit before our
eyes on autumn evenings; the stoat and hare put on their snow-white coat
for our delight in winter weather. I’ve seen a poet enjoy for a whole
season the best part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed he
had only had out of it a few worthless wild apples. _We_ are the real
freeholders, sir; the man with the title-deeds has merely the usufruct.’

‘Oh, ah,’ the military gentleman repeated, as if a light were beginning
slowly to dawn upon his bewildered intelligence. ‘Some reservation
in favour of rights of way and royalties and so forth, in America,
I suppose. Only owns the dirt in the ditches, you say,--the soil
presumably. Now, in England, every landowner owns the mines and minerals
and springs and everything else beneath the soil, to the centre of the
earth, I believe, if I’ve been rightly instructed.’

‘It can seldom be worth his while to push his claims so far.’ Audouin
replied with great gravity, still smiling sardonically.

Gwen coloured slightly. Hiram noticed the delicate flush of the colour,
as it mantled all her cheek for a single second, and was hardly angry
with his friend for having provoked so pretty a protest. Then Gwen said
with a little cough, as if to change the subject: ‘These islands are
certainly very lovely. They’re the most beautiful thing we’ve seen in
a six weeks’ tour in America. I don’t think even Niagara charmed me so
much, in spite of all its grandeur.’

‘You’re right,’ Audouin went on (a little in the Sir Oracle vein,
Hiram fancied); ‘at any rate, the islands are more distinctly American.
There’s nothing like them anywhere else in the world. They’re the final
word of our level American river basins. You have grand waterfalls in
Europe; you have broad valleys; you have mountains finer than any of
ours here east at least; but you’ve nothing equal in its way to this
flat interwoven scenery of river and foliage, of land and water. It has
no sublimity, not a particle; it’s utterly wanting in everything that
ordinarily makes beautiful country; but it’s absolutely fairy like in
its endless complexity of channels and islands, and capes and rocks and
lakelets, all laid out on such an infinitesimally tiny scale, as one
might imagine the sylphs and gnomes or the Lilliputians would lay out
their ground plan of a projected paradise.’

‘Yes, I think it’s exquisite in its way,’ Gwen went on. ‘My father
doesn’t care for it because it’s so flat: after Naini Tal and the
Himalayas, he says, all American scenery palls and fades away into utter
insignificance. Of course I haven’t seen the Himalayas--and don’t want
to, you know--but I’ve been in Switzerland; and I don’t see why,
because Switzerland is beautiful as mountain country, this shouldn’t be
beautiful too in a different fashion.’

‘Quite so,’ Audouin answered briskly. ‘We should admire all types of
beauty, each after its own kind. Not to do so argues narrowness--a want
of catholicity.’

The military gentleman fidgeted sadly by Gwen’s side; he had caught at
the word ‘catholicity,’ and he didn’t like it. It savoured of religious
discussion; and being, like most other old Indian officers, strictly
evangelical, he began to suspect Audouin of High Church tendencies,
or even dimly to envisage him to himself in the popular character of a
Jesuit in disguise.

As for Hiram, he listened almost with envy to Audouin’s glib tongue,
as it ran on so lightly and so smoothly to the beautiful overawing
stranger. If only, now, he himself dared talk like that, or rather if
only he dared talk after his own fashion--which, indeed, to say the
truth, would have been a great deal better! But he didn’t dare, and so
he let Audouin carry off all the conversation unopposed; while Audouin,
with his easy Boston manners, never suspected for a moment that the shy,
self restraining New Yorker countryman was burning all the time to put
in a little word or two on his own account, or to attract some tiny
share of the beautiful stranger’s passing attention. And thus it came
to pass that Audouin went on talking for half an hour or more
uninterruptedly to Gwen, the military gentleman subsiding meanwhile into
somewhat sulky silence, and Hiram listening with all his ears to hear
what particulars he could glean by the way as to the sudden apparition,
her home, name, and calling. They had come to America for a six weeks’
tour, it seemed, ‘Papa’ having business in Canada, where he owned a
little property, and having leave of absence for the purpose from his
regiment at Chester. That was almost all that Hiram gathered as to her
actual position; and that little he treasured up in his memory most
religiously against the possible contingency of a future journey
to England ‘And you contemplate returning to Europe shortly?’ Hiram
ventured to ask at last of the English lady. It was the first time he
had opened his lips during the entire conversation, and he was surprised
even now at his own temerity in presuming to say anything.

Gwen turned towards the young artist carelessly. Though she had been
evidently interested in Audouin’s talk, she had not so far even
noticed the painter of the little picture which had formed the first
introduction to the entire party. ‘Yes,’ she said, as unconcernedly as
if Europe were in the same State; ‘we sail next Friday.’

It was the only sentence she said to him, but she said it with a bright
frank smile, which Hiram could have drawn from memory a twelvemonth
after. As a matter of fact, he did draw it in his own bedroom at the
Alexandria Bay Hotel that very evening: and he kept it long in his
little pocket-book as a memento of a gleam of light bursting suddenly
upon his whole existence. For Hiram was not so inexperienced in the ways
of the world that he couldn’t recognise one very simple and palpable
fact: he was in love at first sight with the unknown English lady.

‘Really, Gwen,’ the military gentleman said at this point in the
conversation, ‘we must go back to lunch, if we’re going to catch our
steamer for Montreal. Besides, you’re hindering our friend here from
finishing his picture. Good morning--good morning; thank you so very
much for the opportunity of seeing it.’

Gwen said a little ‘Good morning’ to Audouin, bowed more distantly to
Hiram, and taking her father’s arm jumped lightly up the rocks again,
and disappeared in the direction of the village. When she was fairly
out of sight, Hiram sat down once more and finished his water-colour in
complete silence.

‘Pretty girl, Hiram,’ Audouin said lightly, as they walked back to their
quarters at lunch-time.

‘I should think, Mr. Audouin,’ Hiram answered slowly, with even more
than his usual self-restraint, ‘she must be a tolerably favourable
specimen of European women.’

Audouin said no more; and Hiram, too, avoided the subject in future.
Somehow, for the first time in his life, he felt just a little bit
aggrieved and jealous of Audouin. It was he, Hiram, who had painted the
picture which first caught Gwen’s fancy--he called her ‘Gwen’ in his own
mind, quite simply, having no other name by which to call her. It was
he who was the artist and the selector of that particular point of view;
and yet Audouin, all unconsciously as it seemed, had stepped in and
appropriated to himself, by implication, the artistic honours of the
situation. Audouin had talked his vague poetical nature-worship talk--it
seemed to Hiram a trifle affected somehow, to-day; and had monopolised
all Gwen’s interest in the interview, and had left him, Hiram (the
founder of the feast, so to speak), out in the cold, while he himself
basked in the full sunshine of Gwen’s momentary favour. And yet to
Audouin what was she, after all, but a pretty passing stranger? while
to him she was a revelation, a new birth, a latter-day Aphrodite, rising
unbidden with her rosy cheeks from the very bosom of the smiling lake.
And now she was going back again at once to Europe, that great, unknown,
omnipotential Europe; and perhaps Hiram Winthrop would never again see
the one woman who had struck him at first sight with the instantaneous
thrill which the man who has once experienced it can never forget. Colin
Churchill hadn’t once yet even asked himself whether or not he was in
love with Minna; but Hiram Winthrop acknowledged frankly forthwith to
his own heart that he was certainly and undeniably in love with Gwen.

Who was she? that was the question. He didn’t even know her surname: his
sole information about her amounted exactly to this, that she was called
Gwen, and that her father had been quartered at Chester. Hiram smiled
to himself as he recollected the old legend of how St. Thomas à Becket’s
mother, a Saracen maiden, had come to England from the East, in search
of her Christian lover, knowing only the two proper names, Gilbert and
London. Was he, Hiram Winthrop, in this steam-ridden nineteenth century,
in like manner to return to the old home of his forefathers, and make
inquiry with all diligence for Gwen, Chester? The notion was of course
too palpably absurd (though Audouin would have been charmed with
it). Yet there can be no denying that from the moment Hiram met that
beautiful English girl by the Lake of the Thousand Islands, his desire
to see Europe was quickened by yet one more unacknowledged, but very
powerful private attraction. If anybody had talked to him about marrying
Gwen, he would have honestly laughed at the improbable notion, but in
the indefinite way that young men often feel, he felt as though some
vague influence drew him on towards Gwen, not as a woman to be wooed and
won, but as a central object of worship and admiration.

At the hotel, they didn’t know the name of the English gentleman and
his daughter; the clerk said they only came for a day and expected no
letters. Another guest had asked about them, too, he mentioned casually;
but Hiram, accustomed to looking upon his friend as so much older than
himself as to have outgrown the folly of admiring female beauty, never
dreamt of supposing that that other guest was Lothrop Audouin. He
searched the ‘Herald,’ indeed, a week later, to see if any English
officer and his daughter had sailed from New York on the Friday, but
there were no passengers whom he could at all identify with Gwen and her
father. It didn’t occur to him that they might have sailed, as they did
sail, by the Canadian mail steamer from Quebec, where he couldn’t have
failed to discover them in the list of passengers; so he was left in
the end with no other memorial of this little episode save the sketch
of that sunny face, and the two names, Gwen and Chester. To those little
memorials Hiram’s mind turned back oftener than less solitary people
could easily imagine during the next long twelve months of dreary
advertisement-drawing at long, white, dusty, sun-smitten Syracuse.



CHAPTER XIV. MINNA GIVES NOTICE.

|Colin,’ Minna Wroe said to the young workman one evening, as they
walked together through the streets of London towards the Regent’s Park:
‘do you know what I’ve actually gone and done to-day? I’ve give notice.’

‘Given notice, Minna! What for, on earth? Why, you seemed to me so happy
and comfortable there. I’ve never seen you in any other place where you
and your people seemed to pull so well together, like.’

‘Ah, that’s just what she said to me, Colin.’ (_She_ in this connection
may be familiarly recognised as a pronoun enclosing its own antecedent.)
‘She said she couldn’t imagine what my reason could be for leaving; and
so I just up and told her. And as it isn’t any use keeping it from you
any longer, I think I may as well up and tell you too, Colin. Colin, I
don’t mean any more to be a servant.’

Cohn looked at her, dazzled and stunned a little by the suddenness
and conciseness of this resolute announcement. Half a dozen vague and
unpleasant surmises ran quickly through his bewildered brain. ‘Why,
Minna,’ he exclaimed with some apprehension, looking down hastily at
her neat little figure and her pretty, dimpled gipsy face, ‘you’re not
going--no you’re not going to the drapery, are you?’

Minna’s twin dimples on the rich brown cheeks grew deeper and deeper,
and she laughed merrily to herself a wee musical ringing laugh.
‘The drapery, indeed,’ she cried, three-quarters amused and one-quarter
indignant. ‘The drapery, he says to me! No, Mr. Colin, if you please,
sir, I’m not going to be a shop-girl, thank you. A pretty shop-girl I
should make now, shouldn’t I? That’s just like all you men: you think
nobody can go in for bettering themselves, only yourselves. If a
girl doesn’t want to be a parlour-maid any longer, you can’t think of
anything but she must want to go and be a shop-girl. I wonder you didn’t
say a barmaid. If you don’t beg my pardon at once for your impudence, I
won’t tell you anything more about it.’

‘I beg your pardon, I’m sure, Minna,’ Colin answered submissively. ‘I
didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.’

‘And good reason, too, sir. But as you’ve got the grace to do it, I’ll
tell you all the rest. Do you know what I do with my money, Colin?’

‘You save it all, I know, Minna.’

‘Well, I save it all. And then, I’ve got grandmother’s eleven pound,
what she left me; and the little things I’ve been given now and again by
visitors and such like. And I’ve worked all through the “Complete Manual
of Letter Writing,” and the “English History,” and the “First School
Arithmetic “: and now, Miss Woollacott--_you_ know; her at the North
London Birkbeck Girls’ Schools--she says she’ll take me on as a sort of
a pupil-teacher, to look after the little ones and have lessons myself
for what I can do, if only I’ll pay her my own board and lodging.’

Colin gazed at the girl aghast. ‘A pupil-teacher, Minna!’ he cried in
astonishment. ‘A pupil-teacher! Why, my dear child, what on earth do you
mean to do when you’re through it all?’

Minna dropped her plump brown hand from his arm at the gate of the park,
and stood looking up at him pettishly with bright eyes flashing. ‘There
you are again,’ she said, with a little touch of bitterness in her
pretty voice. ‘Just like you men always. You think it’s all very well
for Colin Churchill to want to go and be a sculptor, and talk with
fine ladies and gentlemen, and make his fortune, and become a great man
by-and-by, perhaps, like that Can-over, or somebody: that’s all quite
right and proper; of course it is. But for Minna Wroe, whose people
are every bit as good as his, to save up her money, and do her best
to educate herself, and fit herself to be his equal, and become a
governess,--why, that of course is quite unnatural. _Her_ proper place
is to be a parlour-maid: _she_ ought to go on all her life long cleaning
silver, and waiting on the ladies and gentlemen, and changing the plates
at dinner--that’s just about what she’s fit for. She’s only a woman.
You’re all alike, Colin, all you men, the whole lot of you. I won’t go
any further. I shall just go home again this very minute.’

Colin caught her arm gently, and held her still for a minute by quiet
force. ‘My dear Minna,’ he said, ‘you don’t at all understand me. If
you’ve really got it in your mind to better yourself like that, why, of
course, it’s a very grand thing in you, and I admire you for your spirit
and resolution. Besides, Minna,’ and Colin looked into her eyes a little
tenderly as he said this, ‘I think I know, little woman, what you want
to do it for. What I meant was just this, you know: I don’t see what
it’ll lead to, even when you’ve gone and done it.’

‘Why,’ Minna answered, trying to disengage herself from his firm grasp,
‘in the first place,--let me go, Colin, or I won’t speak to you; let me
go this minute I say; yes, that’ll do, thank you--in the first place,
what I want most is to get the education. When I’ve got that, I can
begin to look out what to do with it. Perhaps I’ll be a governess, or
a Board-school teacher, or suchlike. But in the second place, one never
knows what may happen to one. Somebody might fall in love with me, you
see, and then I should very likely get married, Colin.’ And Minna said
this with such a saucy little smile, that Cohn longed then and there, in
the open park, to stoop down and kiss her soundly.

‘Then you’ve really arranged it all, have you, Minna?’ he asked
wonderingly. You’ve really decided to go to Miss Woollacott’s?’

Minna nodded.

‘Well, Minna,’ Colin said in a tone of genuine admiration, ‘you may say
what you like about us men being all the same (I suppose we are, if it
comes to that), but I do admire you immensely for it. You’ve got such a
wonderful lot of spirit and determination. Now, I know what you’ll say;
you’ll go and take it wrong again; but, Minna, it’s a great deal harder
and more remarkable for a woman to try to raise herself than for a man
to go and do it. Why, now I come to think of it, little woman, I’ve
read of lots of men educating themselves and rising to be great
people--George Stephenson, that made the steam-engines on railways, and
Gibson the sculptor, and lots of painters and architects and people--but
really and truly, I believe, Minna, I never read yet of a woman who’d
been and done it.’

‘That’s because the books are all written by men, stupid, you may be
certain,’ Minna answered saucily. ‘Anyhow, Colin, I’m going to try and
do it. I’m going to leave my place at the end of the month, and go for a
pupil-teacher at Miss Woollacott’s. And I’m beginning the geography now,
and the Second Grade English Grammar, so that I can get myself fit for
it, Colin, a bit beforehand. I don’t see why you should be reading all
these fine books, you know, and I should be content with being no more
nor a common parlourmaid.’

It was in the park, but it was getting dusky, and lovers in London are
not so careful of secrecy as in the unsophisticated and less limited
country. The great perennial epic of each human heart must needs work
itself out somehow or other even under the Argus eyes of the big squalid
ugly city. So Colin stooped down beneath the shade of the plane trees
and kissed Minna twice or three times over in spite of her pretended
struggling. (It is a point of etiquette with girls of Minna’s class that
they should pretend to struggle when one tries to kiss them.)

[Illustration: 0304]

‘Minna,’ he said earnestly, ‘I’m proud of you. My dear little girl, I’m
really proud of you.’

‘What a funny thing it is,’ thought Minna to herself, ‘that he never
makes love to me, though! I don’t know even now whether he considers
himself engaged to me or not.

‘Beneath the shade of the plane-trees.

How queer it is that he never makes me a proper proposal!’ For Minna had
diligently read her ‘London Herald,’ and knew well that when a young man
(especially of Colin’s attainments) proposes to a young lady, he ought
to do it with all due formalities, in a set speech carefully imitated
from the finest literary models of the eighteenth century. Instead of
which, Colin only kissed her now and again quite promiscuous like,
just as he used to do long since at Wootton Man-deville, and called
her ‘Minna’ and ‘little woman.’ Still she did think on the whole
that ‘little woman’ sounded after all a great deal like an irregular
betrothal. (She distinctly recollected that Mabel in the ‘London
Herald,’ and Maud de Vere in the ‘Maiden’s Stratagem,’ always called it
a betrothal and not an engagement.)


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.





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