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BILLY BARNICOAT

HIS WRONGS AND HIS RIGHTS

" El Amor ignala a todas estados ” ('Tis Love makes all ranks equal).


BiUyBarnicoaf

ATaityJiomanceforyoang Jvd Old

Wrilfenby

G&oilk MacDonald

JIlasKa^ bylfand&SedJbid

E. P. Dutton and Company 681 Fifth Avenue, New York

(All rights resewed)

Printed in Great Britain by UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, THE GRESHAM PRESS, LONDON AND WOKING

CONTENTS

CHAPTER    PAGE

I.    A ROPE-END TO BEGIN WITH.....II

II. THE WORLD THAT BILLY FOUND .    .    .    .    21

III. WHAT BILLY SAW IN THE FIRE ....    27

IV.    THE WRECKERS........35

V.    BILLY BEGINS PLOTTING......45

VI.    TilE MERMAID TELLS BILLY    OF HER SWEETHEART 50

VII. BILLY HEARS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WRECK .    60

VIII. BILLY AND THE MAGICAL MIRROR ....    66

IX. BILLY’S MOTHER AND THE LITTLE BLACKAMOOR .    74

X. " GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING, BILLY B. ! ” .    .    8l

XI.    KING CHARLES'S HORSE......95

XII., BILLY MAKES AMENDS .    ....    IOI

XIII. THE LAST OF UNCLE CORMORANT .    .    .    .    107

XIV.    BILLY RIDES THE STORM    AND A LITTLE MAID

WEATHERS IT........115

XV.    HOW BILLY ESCAPED.......I27

XVI. BILLY ONCE AGAIN CAST UP BY THE SEA .    .    I33

XVII.    BILLY GOES LOBSTER-FISHING.....139

XVIII. THE MERMAID LOSES HER MIRROR ....    147

7

8    BILLY    BARNICOAT

CHAPTER    PAGE

XIX.    BILLY    AND ANGELITO.......153

XX.    WILD THYME AND TAME TIME .    .    .    .    .    l6o

XXI.    SIMON MUGGETTY BIDS BILLY FAREWELL    .    .    170

XXII.    THE IVY WOOD AND THE TREASURE CHEST    .    .    184

XXIII.    THE SMUGGLERS’ PLOT......195

XXIV.    BILLY    STEALS HIS OWN.....  202

XXV.    THE TREASURE CHEST IS OPENED .    .    .    -213

XXVI.    BILLY    ASSUMES HIS RIGHTS.....220

DESIGNS FOR CHAPTER HEADINGS

CHAPTER    PAGE

I.    BILLY AND CAROLINE.....,11

II.    RACHEL ON THE    BALCONY.....21

III.    THE WITCH AND HER FINDINGS -    .    .    -27

IV.    SHEM PENGULFY. .    .......35

V.    WALL PAINTING    OF ST.    CHRISTOPHER AND THE

MERMAID.....V .    45

VI.    AUNT MERRYMAID AND HER LOOKING-GLASS .    .    50

VII.    LANTERN AND CORMORANTS.....6o

VIII.    BILLY CLEANING THE CELLAR .    ...    .    66

IX.    THE LITTLE BLACKAMOOR......74

X.    THE MER-BABY CAUGHT IN THE LOBSTER-POT    .    8l

xi.    king Charles's horse . „ 1.....95

XII.    the sexton'digging......101

XIII.    BILLY ATTACKED BY BUCCA’s HORSES    .    .    .    107

XIV.    SANTISSY WEATHERS THE STORM    .    .    .    .    115

XV.    BILLY’S RESCUE FROM THE STONE    HORSE . ' .    .    I27

XVI. BILLY CAST UPON A ROCK .....    133

XVII. ;    BILLY UNDER THE SEA......139

XVIII.    THE MERMAID WEEPING  .....147

XIX.    BILLY, ANGELITO AND CAROLINE DANCE .    .    153

XX.    THE WITCH IN THE IVY TOWER    .    .    .    .    l6o

XXI.    SIMON LYING IN STATE ......    I70

XXII.    THE IVY WOOD........184

9

10    BILLY BARNICOAT

CHAPTER    *PAGE

XXIII.    LOBSTERS TASTE THE BRANDY.....195

XXIV.    BILLY HAULING THE CHEST.....202

XXV.    CAROLINE VERY MUCH ANNOYED .    .    .    .213

XXVI.    THE WONDERFUL SHAWL......220

ILLUSTRATIONS

billy and Caroline on the rocks .    Coloured frontispiece

BILLY AND THE MERMAID......Title    page

PAGE

BILLY    CAST ASHORE     23

BILLY,    THE WITCH AND KREEPICLAW.....31

RACHEL SAVES HER HUSBAND      39

Jacob’s confession.........63

BILLY SEES HIMSELF IN HIS MOTHER’S ARMS ...    77

THE MER-BABIES SCARED BY THE BELL ....    87

BILLY, SIMON AND THE FIGURE-HEAD.....IO3

GIANT SHEM    .    .    *    .    . -.....Ill

BILLY AND CAROLINE RIDE THE STORM.....121

here’s your billy, jacob.......135

PISKIE TOWN  ......,    .    .    .    163

THE MINER’S VISION OF HOME.......175

RACHEL, BILLY AND SANTISSY......189    .

BILLY HIDING THE CHEST........207

JACOB MASTERS THE WITCH.......215

ONE    way to be truthful is    telling stories ;    and

the    best are fairy stories.    Many other things

are truthful enough in their way :    for    instance,    the    Multiplication Table-,    though, as it    can’t

change    two    apples into four, however hungry you    may

be, it isn’t very interesting ! Fairy tales do better than this. Their multiplication is like primroses spreading a carpet of sweet and sunny flowers over a wintry hedgerow. They can even change a dull nursery into a magic castle, its chairs into wild horses, its children into crusaders and princesses, its grown-ups into fairy godmothers or ogres. Fairy stories tell of things more wonderful than the Multiplication Table ever made anyone think of I

Billy Barnicoat’s story is—well, you will know how true it is when you have read all his adventures : ! they are queer and exciting, laughable and cryable, because he was always one of the jolliest little fellows—unless he had just been lerruped, as they say in Cornwall, with his uncle’s knotty rope-end. You see, it was over a hundred years ago;and fathers, still more uncles, thought boys could not be good without beating. Now-

BILLY BARNICOAT

adays we wonder how they could ever be good with :it, seeing that they never liked it—not even a hundred years ago ! Billy had never heard of any father. His mother was drowned in that splendid Spanish ship, the Maria Santisima, wrecked on the Trannion Rocks beyond Mullinstow Haven. The maps must have changed that village’s name now ; yet it was there,, on the Coast of Cornwall, that a huge wave—a furious, white-maned horse . of the sea 1—after tearing the Baby Billy out of his drowning mother’s arms, cast him1 ashore. He was found wrapped up in seaweed, with a little gold ring on his left thumb, by Mistress Rachel Hornisyde, the childless wife of Jacob Hornisyde, fisherman and master of the lugger, The Heavenly Home ; and it was she who brought the baby to life again.

But there was a witch, called Widow Pengulfy, who claimed the credit of saving him, though it was her own son, Shem Pengulfy, almost a giant in size and a wife-beater, who lured the Maria Santisima on to the rocks and wrecked her. When, very early in the dawn after the disaster, the little body was rushed by the great wave almost up to Rachel’s feet, she eagerly unwrapped the battered darling from its protecting seaweed and took him home. Unfortunately a neighbour fetched the Widow to charm the soul back into the tiny body. She came fast enough, you may be sure, if only because she never liked to miss an opportunity of saying unkind things—especially to the Hornisydes, whom she did not love. But, as she hurried along at a sort of slow scamper, just as if a broomstick was between her legs, she was heard muttering that she wasn’t the sort of loony to fetch back a dead soul and bring bad luck to Mullinstow :    ’twould

be flying in the face of Providence ! 1

1 Cornish people were often as superstitious as they were wise. They thought it unlucky to restore life to a half-drowned person, though they were brave enough in rescuing anyone in danger.

A ROPE-END TO BEGIN WITH 13

“ Rachel/’ she said, with her hateful laugh, as she entered the cottage, “ you’ll never have a child of your own—La ! La ! So you’d better keep this dead one ! ’Twill cost you less, maybe, in tears : he ! he I ”

The little castaway was then lying on a blanket before the kitchen fire, and over it a coverlet striped in many colours. The Widow lifted the baby’s limp arm, and tried to pull the gold ring off the tiny thumb1 ; but it was too fast. So she turned the body over with her foot, laughed raspily and hop-scampered away.

Rachel, still on her knees by the baby, looked up at her husband and said :    “ If he do bring us bad

luck, why—then God’s will be done 1 ”

Jacob scowled suspiciously at the little orphan, but watched Rachel closely as she took it in her arm's again. Then, when the baby threw up a lot of seawater and gave a tiny whimper that made the would-be mother’s heart leap for joy, he crept softly away. From that day, and' for well over seven years, Rachel was happier than she had ever been since her own baby had died’ a year after her marriage. But somehow, .and to her great puzzlement and sorrow, gloom began slowly to settle upon her husband’s brow.

Billy Barnicoat throve wonderfully, and he learned to call his protectors Aunt and Uncle, as in Cornwall all young people named their elders. That fierce wave must have knowii, how well the rock-bound coast would suit an adventurous boy. For in Cornwall Jack-the-Giant-killer was born. There fairies are called piskies and hobgoblins buccas ; while mermaids are always merry maids, even though they sometim'es weep !

The village of Mullinstow clustered round a little harbour with a long breakwater forming one side of it. At the end of this was a great rock with a tiny chapel a-top, and a cross pointing away and right up into the sky. Facing the Atlantic, and a little below the chapel, was a cave in the rock, but quite hidden at

14    BILLY    BARNICOAT

full tide. Most nights whe|n there was a moon, though never on Sundays, a mermaid sat or sprawled upon the blue mussels and green seaweed in front of her cave. Extraordinary as it seems, she was actually the Guardian Mermaid of the Harbour, and, among other duties, would drive the shoals of pilchards to Mullinstow, just as shepherds put their sheep into folds. She never climbed as high as the chapel, and could not see its cross from the level of her cave. Like other mermaids, she had no soul, poor thing !—at least this was commonly said. There were many old ballads about her : one of these led, as shall presently be told, to Billy’s getting such a sore lerruping that he ran away to see Witch Pengulfy, who used to chatter about his being a little lord, and claim that she alone could get his Rights for him.

Uncle Jake, as Billy called Jacob Hornisyde, was a hard man, and so terribly religious that he never laughed. He could not bear Billy to talk about mermaids, though at that time nobody was considered foolish for believing in them. Billy thought if Uncle Jake would only laugh at some of his jokes and games —gammuts Billy called them—he would be happy. Billy did his best, but generally got a beating for his pains ! Still he did not despair. Aunt Rachel was often very merry with the little chap she loved so well, though generally, as it seemed to Billy, she would be a bit downdaunted—which is Cornish for sad—when Uncle Jake was at home. But she gave no sanction to the young rascal’s more outrageous jokes :    such

as when he put a bit of cobbler’s-wax in on!e of Uncle Jake’s big sea-boots, so that the stocking had to be left behind when he took the boot off, and was torn— Aunt Rachel’s beautiful knitting !—in pulling it out. Nor again, when he found on the sands a mermaid’s purse—that black, oblong thing with a horn at each end, which wise people tell us is the dog;-fish’s egg-

A ROPE-END TO BEGIN WITH 15

case—and after filling it with stinking pilchard oil, put it inside the mighty boot, could she see any fun in the joke. , For both of these lovely gammuts Billy was well lerruped, but couldn’t understand Uncle Jake any better ! The little boy was really most obedient and never repeated, a joke if the luck was against lit. Yet there were numbers of things no one ever thought of doing but himself ; and it was impossible to forbid these beforehand : he was such an innocent !

At last, when he was just eight,, he had the loveliest idea—one that would make anyone laugh. He was to put inside Uncle Jake’s Sunday-dinner pasty—but wait a minute !

Aunt Rachel baked her pasties in three sizes and ' twice a week. They were delicious turnover pies of mutton, potatoes and onions, sometimes apples too ; but the quantity of meat varied with circumstances. The extra big ones were for Uncle Jake’s dinners, when away on The Heavenly Home ; the next size wiere for his dinner on shore ; and the smallest were for Billy and Aunt Rachel. Cornishmen never gp fishing on Sundays. On this particular one there was, somehow, a biggest pasty left over, though, as the fishing harvest had been bad and money was scarce, the pasty held less meat than usual. On their way to Meeting—which the little boy had no liking for, though he loved Sunday-school—Billy gave them the slip and ran home. He took the one biggest pasty from the oven, where it was cooking with the rest of the dinner, carefully opened the under part with his knife, and tucked into it a queer, wooden thing from his pocket, which almost seemed to wriggle its tail as he poked it in among the potatoes, onions and gravy. Then Billy, after cutting a few capers round the table and sucking his fingers—partly because he had burnt them, but more because of the lovely taste—put the pasty into the oven again and ran back to the Meeting

16    BILLY BARNICOAT

House. There he joined in the Methodist groans and Amens as innocently as if his own soul was not a very hot-bed of mischief.

Now, the thing he had tucked into Uncle Jake’s pasty was only a wooden mermaid, copied by Billy from a figure carved on a bench-end in the church. He had never yet seen a real mermaid ; but his knife was wonderfully clever : “ Tis anything' out of nothing Billy can make, if so be his knife be handy,” Witch Pengulfy would declare ; and this little mermaid was quite absurdly twisty-tailed. Billy had whittled it out of a heather-root from the Moor, and knew it would be pretty hard to bite if Uncle Jake’s teeth mistook it for a bit of mutton-bone !

Fingers were handier than forks in those days and quite as easily washed. Uncle Jake’s pasty was iso big, however, that he took his clasp-knife to it, but only to take it out again as if puzzled. He felt its edge and then rather savagely stuck its point into the hard bit of wood.

“Bone is’t, Wife^ or a poppil {pebble)! ” he asked;, as he pulled the thing out on the point of the knifle, and held it up ; it looked more like a snake with a woman’s face than a mermaid ! Aunt Rachel glanced in dismay at the boy, who, though one comer of his mouth was twitching happily, was innocently stroking his cat, Caroline.

Now Uncle Jake could relish as much as anybody the practical jokes of his equals. But for this bit of flotsam to joke with his uncle’s food, on the Lord’s Day too !—this brown-eyed little papisher bringing ill-luck to his protector’s home !—and never a child born to them since he came !—for this little boy on whom-he lavished kindness, even building a toy-lugger for him, to make jokes over a master-fisherman’s victuals ! ... The man cast his eyes up to the long, low window, high over the dresser and clenched his fists as if in

A ROPE-END TO BEGIN WITH 17

despair. Then he rose, bade his wife give the pasty to the cat, seized Billy by his ears, flung him funder the ladder-stair, and bade him wait while he fetched the rope-end, adding : “ Us’ll see if this time it doin’t learn you not to pick the mutton from    my pasty    and

sneak a chunk of wood    in to    break my    teeth ! ”

His wife followed him to plead; for her darling and ,to assure him that Billy would any day go without his own pasty, rather than    steal    his: uncle’s    mutton.    She

thought he knew how    short    they must    all go    for a

bit :    Billy’s pasty had but    the tiniest bit of    fat and

skin    in    it, and her own .    . . but she protested    no

more :    her husband understood that her own pasty

( would likely have only a morse,! of pilchard as its relish. And so her appeal for the moment averted the rtope-end. But Billy was to go without his dinner, to be shut up for an hour in the gloomy cellar where the casks packed full of pilchards stood, along with the tubs of the fish-oil and the press, for extracting it. And there he was to learn by heart the hymn they had sung that morning at Meeting.

'Now Billy could read better than any boy in Mullinstow, and so fine was his memory that he had but to hear any old ballad' once or twice to remember it always. But hymns ! Well, many were strange things at that time, and Billy could not persuade himself they were interesting enough to' remember. Even a hundred years ag,o it was difficult to get by heart anything uninteresting; and Billy found it impossible to get this one right, though he read it over and over and over 1 It would mix itself up with the ballad about their own Guardian Merrymaid on the Chapel Rock—and even with the poor wooden thing he had cooked in the pasty! The hymn he was set to learn begun thus :

“ A horned goat I am, profane and wild,

Whose wage for, trespasses is death and woe ;

A sheep I’d rather be,    all undefiled,

If grace were mine the    change to undergo.”

2

BILLY BARNICOAT

i8

There were several verses of the same sort— all equally impossible to Billy. So he gave way to the inevitable, and amused himself with making variants upon the ballad he had learned from Captain Simon Muggetty, who was so old and wise that Billy thought he must remember Uncle Noah and the Ark ! Billy always called him “ Uncle Cap’n.”

At the end of the hour Aunt Rachel fetched the little “ horned goat ” and kissed him—a rare thing in those days—and it made the little boy very happy. There in the kitchen was his pasty waiting for him, piping hot, though he was to have none of it till the hymn was repeated accurately. He had to stand up on a stool in the little parlour—so like a ship’s cabin with its rack for glasses hanging over the fold-away table, its lockers and its neat economy of space. Uncle Jake sat at the table opposite him, with his best frown on and the open book beside him along with the rope-end. Billy, feeling very hungry and naughty, got through the first two lines at a furious rate ; but the third and fourth persisted in coming all awry :

“ A horned goat I am, profane and wild,

Whose wage for trespasses is death and woe :

A long-tailed merrymaid I'd rather be,

If she would change into the horned goat!'”

Billy thought something had almost made Uncle Jake laugh, and his fear gave place to a hope that he might yet please his uncle. He continued his task now quite calmly, though not one word of the hymn remained.

There were many Wore verses than these ; but they are enough to show what the ballad was that Billy loved so well :

Tis a sweet merrymaid who does guard our fleet,

As it rocks in the harbour or crowds on all sail :

’Tis true she do laugh at our legs and our feet,

While she flounders and flops on her rainbowy tail!

A ROPE-END TO BEGIN WITH 19

"No shimmy, no ribbons, no hat do she wear,

In petticoats don’t take a morsel of pride !

. But she shines through a tangle of tumble-down hair Like the moon in a cloud-rift at full ’o the tide !

“ Time was when she loved a lad, handsome and bold,

And saved his drowned body from dog-fish and skate :

She kissed his dead eyes and his lips icy-cold,

She wept and bemoaned her own desperate fate.

“ She may lay him to rest in her own rocky cave,

She may tuck him in blankets of chilly seaweed,

But her tears still they flow, for his bed is his grave,

And her heart it is broken, her heart it must bleed !

*' Then she buried that lad in the sand of the sea—

That lad of long legs with their short-fingered feet:

Come back, pretty Fisher-lad, come back to me,

Come back, when I sing for you shrilly and Weet! ’

“ She may sing and may sing on her storm-beaten rock,

For a thousand full moons, with her mirror and comb : But the wild waves they leap and the kittiwakes mock,

And ’tis never a fisher-lad comes to her home ! ”

Here, Billy stopped for a moment, as if breathless ; but then, with a smile of utter innocence, he turned to Aunt Rachel and concluded :

“ All praise to you angels in Heaven above,

Bring comfort to mermaids who weep and repine !

Teach ’em' hymns that are cheerful, your glory, to sing,

Find ’em souls for to save, same as yours, same as mine ! ”

Likely enough Billy had added many an adornment to the verses, since he first learned them from old Cap’n Simon—that being the way ballads were quite properly used long before ever they were printed. He certainly had a pretty trick in riming for his own pleasure. Anyhow, as he got into the story of the love-lorn mermaid, gradually giving the words colour with a sing-song hymn-tune which fitted finely, the fisherman

BILLY BARNICOAT

grew so deeply interested that, at the pause before the last verse, he was on the point of jovially clapping Billy on the back. But then he suddenly remembered Billy’s wickedness, and the final verse confirmed a suspicion that the whole effort was but an impertinence. Jacob’s face, so handsome and so harsh, hardened ; his frown deepened, and his high nostrils began to twitch ominously.

But Billy was too much absorbed in the lap-lapping of his rimes to see the rocks ahead ; and, when Jthe last line rang out with a piping flourish to suggest the need of his uncle’s and his own soul, the rope-end came crashing round the little fat legs. The man then caught the child by his blue kerchief and jersey and gave him the sorest beating he had ever earned. Aunt Rachel stood by, white with fear for her darling, but quite helpless.

The beating done, Billy checked his screaming, tottered to the door, though clutching at table and chair to steady himself, and in a minute was running full speed up the hilly street as it twisted between the rocks and cottages and' clothes-lines and nets. But Aunt Rachel cried after him :

“Billy, you’ve earned your pasty now ; come back, Billy! ’Tis piping hot, your pasty is I Come back, cheel-vean (little dear) ! ”

But her ringing voice found no response. As she sat down to the tea-table with Jacob, the pasty looked to her but ashes, and the only word she uttered when grace was ended was the common saying :

“ He come on the waves an’ he’ll go on the wind': sure I ”    ,    '    ' . ■. !    ■'

Then she went into the parlour and put the stool back in its corner. In another minute she was in the kitchen again to make what pretence she could at cheerfulness.

THEY were brave men and boys that went out to sea from Mullinstow Haven in their little boats with the red sails ; and they were brave women and maids who must stay at home thinking about their men and lads in danger, while working peacefully at their spinning-wheels, their cradles and crocks. Though they loved the sea’s broad smiling face, they well understood its cruelties. Doubtless there were dangers also on the vast dreary Moor from piskies and spriggans ; yet, beyond hearsay, they knew as little about such queer folk as of the knockers who befriended the miners or even of the Demon Bucca who ruled the white horses of the sea. The one thing on shore they really feared was Widow Pengulfy, who lived on the Moor and was always plotting unkindness. Only when she was safe out of hearing would people dare call her W'tch Pengulfy.

But before telling how this old hag took Billy’s part

when he ran away after his beating, something may be

said about his earlier life. He had taken to Mullinstow

Haven very kindly, as well as to the name they gave

him, though there really was not 'much sense in it. No 21

BILLY BARNICOAT

one knew where he was born. His big ship might have been homeward-bound to Spain from the West Indies, but getting out of her course, was smashed on the Trannion Rocks. Her splendid figure-head, with blue gown and noble upturned face, had been cast ashore near by, and old Captain Simon, the miner, had set it up alongside of his little cot on the landslide. You may be sure there was soon chattering enough about the castaway baby-boy. Many thought he would likely bring ill-luck upon the Homisydes, though they would console Mistress Rachel with the saying, “-He come on the waves an’ he’ll go on the wind ! ” They all loved the black-haired little thing with his brown, wide-set almond eyes, his little pointed' chin and ears, and his smile “ so sweet as mischief could make it ! ” He was fed and clothed as well as possible ;. and he was taught everything children learned a hundred years ago about the Bible, as well as about piskies and spriggans, merry-maids and giants. He seems to have taken it for granted that he was different from other children, and would some day be off on the Wings of the Wind : he would even try to see those wings when a gale was blowing. But he told no one all he thought. If Aunt Rachel sometimes bid the small Billy not to be doWti-cLaunted, he would look up into her face in wonder and then break away in a smile and laugh that made everyone feel he was all the more lovable for not being quite all there. He was quick enough to learn extraordinary things, and picked up all sorts of odd bits from the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress, putting them to queer uses in his arguments and dreamings. He hated work, for it always meant giving a hand, small as he was, in cleaning or salting or packing or pressing out the oil from the silver pilchards which were caught in amazing quantities on that coast for shipping away to France and Spain. So he would often disappear for a day or more when any such work was expected


24    BILLY BARNICOAT

of him. Yet he was entirely happy, because (and in spite of frequent punishtaent by Uncle . Jake for doing things that just had to be done, as seemed to Billy himself) he was afraid of nobody—unless it was Shem Pengulfy, the enormous man who beat his wife and children and wrecked ships to get their treasures for himself and his wicked old mother. The children all held this man in terror. His black hair and beard nearly covered his beak-like face, and his neck stretched out like a cormorant’s—-a bird that all fishermen hate, because of its greed and cruelty. He was nearly seven feet when he stood upright—which he seldom did, as; his head and neck were always stretched' out in front, waving from side to side as if seeking his prey. When the children were safe at home and the door shut, they called him “ Giant Shem',” or sometimes “ Uncle Cormorant.”

The people Billy loved best were Aunt, Rachel and his cat, Caroline. He would sometimes add to such a declaration that next best he loved the Guardian Merrymaid, though, as he had never yet seen her, this was hard to understand. If he was ever unhappy it was through his inveterate love of mischief. Indeed, mischief was so queerly mixed up with everything he did, good or bad, that Aunt Rachel would vow it was proof of his superiority to other boys, “ coxy little codger, though he do be!” she would add,, meaning he was an impudent young lazy-bones.

Now Widow Pengulfy hated the Hornisydes because Jacob knew of the share Shem had taken in wrecking the Marla Saniisima. But Jacob had said nothing of this to his wife—perhaps because his own. conscience was not quite at ease' over this affair. In those days many people thought that all ships wrecked on their shores had been doomed by the Almighty for the sins of crews or passengers, and were sent as free gifts to honest Cornishmen. The trade in wreckage

THE WORLD THAT BILLY FOUND 25

was held to be quite pardonable even by magistrates and clergymen, whatever the Laws of the Realm might say. But the claim that “ findings are keepings ” is dangerous to the understanding of right and wrong ; it led many who had neither conscience nor pity for the shipwrecked, to lure vessels already in distress to their destruction. The Mullinstow folk, however, were better than many in this respect ; and while they took their share of any wreckage coming fairly to them, most of them would have laid terribly heavy hands on any 'caught red-handed in the crime of wrecking. Jacob knew more of Shem’s doings than anyone else ; and although Shem was many inches taller and as strong as he was revengeful, he was afraid of and hated Jacob1. Indeed, the latter was generally held in some awe : had he not thrashed more than one drunken bully outside The Lobster's Arms on the quay? Was he not a terror to all bad boys?

Hence came the Widow’s unkindness to Rachel. She would hint, as she wagged her head or fixed her wicked old eye upon you, that it was her witchcraft that had kept any baby on the lookout for a kind father and mother from choosing Primrose Cottage, as the Hornisydes’ was named. Once she told Rachel she had found something cast up by the sea which proved Billy was really the son of a lord with thousands of black slaves in the Indies, and vowed she had sent for his father to Cornwall, and had told him how Billy was starved and beaten, and how the gold ring on his thumb was allowed to strangle it. But Rachel had just smiled rather sadly as she showed the old woman how the ring had snapped of itself and expanded with the thumb’s growth. Then the Witch had tried to take it off ; but Billy flew into one of his fierce rages, as he always did if anyone meddled with it. So the Widow had to content herself by saying :

“La ! Lai Wait a bit, my little Lord Fisher-brat, and us’ll see who’s got the whip-hand ! La! Lai ”

BILLY BARNICOAT

2 6

She always spoke insultingly, and h,er interjection of “La! La! ” was just disgusting. She would tell any sort of lies to hurt people, and no one believed her stories about Billy’s father. She was a miser, and although she lived almost underground on the Moor, she was the richest person for many miles round. She had a horrible long nose, and her upper front teeth came over her lower lip, so that Billy hated her. Whenever she met him she would claw him by the arm and whisper into his ear silly stuff, all about his being a little rich gentleman ; how Aunt Rachel was keeping him out of his Rights ; and how some day he would “snap his fingers in Uncle Jake’s face and give him something to smoke in his pipe—a deal worser than rope-ends ! ” But Billy would wriggle away, telling her he didn’t want any Rights and didn’t want to snap anybody’s fingers in Uncle Jake’s face, nor yet stuff the rope-end in his pipe ; and he laughed in her face in quite a friendly way. But then the Witch’s black puss—Kreepiclaw was its name—would' spit in his face very rudely :    unless, most fortunately, Caroline was

at hand, when Kreepiclaw would be trying, but all in vain, to make friends with her. Caroline was the most beautiful cat in all the world.

Though Billy hated the Witch and was forbidden to have any converse with her, it was impossible ,to avoid meeting .her sometimes. And now, after his punishment for repeating that pretty ballad about the kind mermaid, as he ran up the village street, ignoring Aunt Rachel’s loving call to come back to his pasty, he determined that for once, he would be a naughty boy—not the sort Uncle Jake called naughty when he wasn’t nothing near iu He would go and find Witch Pengulfy and see if she would really give him the things she called his Rights : might they be good to eat? he wondered ; for by this time he was dreadfully hungry.

THE only way to find the Witch’s cottage was to look out for the smoke, or, after dark, for the sparks and blue flames that came from the hidd'en chimney. It was winter now, and the sun had set an hour or more, when Billy, having had neither dinner nor tea, saw a few sparks shooting up from' among tjtie'scattered stones and felt sure he could smell the dinner cooking. But he then remembered what folk said as to the food she ate—snakes and toads mostly I Soon he found a winding path with great square blocks of granite piled on each side of it. It led him downhill very steeply, ending in a dark, arched passage, through which Billy had to feel his ‘way round a corner. Then he came to the cottage door, and knew it by a streak of light coming from underneath and the lovely smell of dinner through the keyhole. He was half frightened, you may be sure ; but Billy was one of those people who, when they feel afraid, seem bound to go through with an adventure. He was just going to hammer on the door with his fist, when it was opened • 27"

BILLY BARNICOAT

28

there stood the Witch with a toothy smile of welcome for him.

“I saw you coming to your best friend, my little Billy,” she said, “and I’ve got a bigger and meatier pasty for you than you ever get at home 1 ”

Billy felt very glad to hear this, and he wanted to be polite : still her claim to be his best friend was not to be allowed without protest.

“ Thank you, Aunt Witch,” he said, making his little bow in a way no other child in those parts ever did, “ but I do 'hope the pasty ain’t snakes. And . . . and ... I think you must be a liar to say you are my best friend ; ’tis Aunt Rachel is that . . . and . . . and perhaps Uncle Jake sometimes

“ Good widows like me never tell lies, little Count : for such you are and shall be proved, if you’ll trust Aunt Pengulfy. ’Tis her can do everything she wants to do, like a kind angel—La ! La! ”

“ You ain’t nothing like an angel, sure ! ” exclaimed Billy rather rudely, as the old creature proceeded to lay the table with a grimy tablecloth' and a pewter plate. She took from the hearth a fine pasty, bigger even than Uncle Jake’s, and set it before him1. Billy was so very hungry that he forgot all about snakes and toads, and ate it all up. He found it fuller of meat and potatoes and onions than any he had ever eaten. It might have been the best of mutton ; though subsequent happenings made him wonder.

As he ate, the Witch sat opposite to him with her elbows on the table, and the cat, Kreepiclaw, on her lap staring at him from between her arms. Some people said that the creature was black, others that it was dark green : anyhow, its coat was very shiny. As Billy got less hungry the Witch seemed greedier, though her upper teeth, however wide her grin, still held the lower lip tight. By the time every crumb was eaten Billy was shivering :    “Her grin,” he said afterwards,

WHAT BILLY SAW IN THE FIRE 29

“would have made    a red-hot poker shiver,    sure

enough! ”

Then she made him' come to the fire. As she sat down on one side of him and' Kreepiclaw on the other, a great staring toad crawled out of a hole to watch the fire. The Witch took a long poker, and in a wonderfully gentle way made flames and sparks fly up the huge chimney. A red-hot salamander ran out from the embers and stood a little way off to cool and turn black. Billy’s eyes had to follow it, and yet could not leave the    fire ; for    already he    had    seen

in the red glow strange, far-away lands. The poker made no noise at all ; but the Witch began to. talk or croon so strangely that it would' have sent Billy to sleep but for a screechiness in her word's like sharpening a saw—a noise that always set    Billy’s teeth    on    edge.

“ Kreepiclaw, look    into the    fire,” Witch    Pengulfy

was saying, as she withdrew the poker. “D’ye see a fine gentleman with a gold-knobbed cane and a sword by his side?”

“ Iss, iss ! ” hissed the black cat.

“D’ye see that crowd of black men with chains on their legs and yoked like cattle in twos and threes? They’ve been bought by the fine gentleman for slaves. D’ye see them? ”

“Iss, iss ! ” Kreepiclaw hissed.

“That gentleman is a Lord in Spain, for all-he’s a heathen papisher, and his slaves are going to grow sugar-canes for him. But that’s no matter ! don’t have to go fishing to earn his bread, like Jacob Homisyde—La ! Lai And his lady-wife, a Countess she is, don’t have to clean and dress stinking pilchards like Aunt Rachel, who says ’twas her, not Aunt Pengulfy that saved the Countess’s little baby from the gea.”

“ Iss, iss ! Miaow ! ” sneered Kreepiclaw.

“ That fine gentleman Count can run his sword

30    BILLY BARNICOAT

through those slaves, or hang ’em, or drown the black babies like kittens—La ! La! —if he has a mind for it ; ’tis that sort of gammut comes of being a real lord, Billy Barnicoat ! ”

The cat gave the same sympathetic response, and the Witch continued :

“And if a fisherman whose name is Jacob wrecks a great Spanish ship with the Countess and her little baby aboard, why nobody blames him, do they? ”

Billy felt very indignant at this wicked insinuation ; but because of the Witch’s spell, he could not make any words come out. She continued :

“ And if the little baby is picked up on the sihore and Aunt Pengulfy brings him to life again, and if she finds ’ a law-paper and treasures in a big chest that prove Billy Barnicoat’s father is a real Count with sugar plantations and a thousand slaves he can shoot or beat, just as he pleases, ain’t it certain, Kreepi-claw, that Billy, when he’s a little man, will come and ask us to prove his Rights? ”—“ Me-an’-you, miaow 1 interrupted the cat. “Then he can go home to Spain and buy a big ship and fetch it along to Mullinstow and string up Uncle Jake at the yard-arm1. . .

Up to this point Billy had seemed to be still dreaming ; but now he threw off the spell, and turning angrily to his tempter, shouted out :

“ String up Uncle Shem more like ! ”

But the Witch only laughed, and continued her singsong utterance as if she had not been interrupted.

“ . . . and sail away over the seas like a jolly pirate ; and perhaps, if he be so minded, and feels gay-hearted-like, he’ll throw his black sailors overboard to the sharks—La! La 1 That would be a proper • gammut for a little gentleman, wouldn’t it, Billy Barnicoat? ”

But as the bo,y seemed to be dreaming again, Kreepi-claw stretched out an amazingly long leg and stuck


BILLY BARNICOAT

32

its sharp- claws into his knee. But he took no notice ; for, dreaming or not, his eyes were fixed upon the red-hot embers.

The pictures he beheld were quite different from the Witch’s. A red sun was setting over a desert of sand, across which there was moving a crowd of black people, almost naked, and chained together. . Then the sand became sea. Upon it pitched and rolled a queer ship: with one lateen sail. It was full of sick and dying people, some of whom were thrown overboard, without any burial service. Next the red sun shone upon a plantation of sugar-canes. Going and coming out pf bamboo-huts were happy black families, all, except the naked babies and one other, in white clothing. A noble Spanish gentleman, carrying a gold-knobbed cane and a sword, went, among them, followed by a little black boy about Billy’s age, clad in scarlet and gold with a silver collar round his neck. The great gentleman haid so kind a face that the children came running to him just to get their woolly heads patted. Could that splendid man, whom they all loved, be Billy Bamicoat’s own father?—that bad boy’s who ran away from his Aunt Rachel? Perhaps if he were always good now, he would' one day find him and get . his head patted like a little blackamoor’s ! And might there not be, perhaps, a lady-mother for him' somewhere? Was she drowned, certain sure?

Then Billy—it was very strange!—felt a soft, firm hand thrust into his own, and saw two eyes smiling at him, brown and kind as a dog’s. In another moment he saw the blackamoor boy standing by him like a bright shadow, his scarlet jacket trimmed with gold braid— and the silver collar, too.

But the Witch then realized tha,t Billy was not seeing the pictures she described, and grew angry. She leapt liked a horned goat from her three-legged stool, seized Billy by hi9 ears, and shook him savagely. But the

WHAT BILLY SAW IN THE FIRE 33

cat pounced upon her shoulder so claiwingly that she let her victim go free.

“ Bless your wise claws, pussy,” she said. “ I was forgetting the little papisher’s money I Lai Lai But us’11 xriake him pay I ”

“ Me-an’-you, miaow I ” was the cat’s assent as it set to work licking its chest.

Billy dreamily sat down again before the fire to see if the black boy was anywhere in the fire-pictures.

“ Wake up, little lord,” said the Witch in her wheedling voice ; “ ’twas a lying dream, surte enough— all made up in the little gentleman’s half-witted head I ” She told him it could not have been his father whom he saw, as the kind gentleman was dead of grief ; but when Billy was old enough she would1 see he came intjo his Rights, and had a gold-knobbed cane ,and a sword at his side—so she would I

But she could not change Billy’s increasing aversion. “It wasn’t any dream, Aunt Witch, and you know it wasn’t 1 ” he exclaimed, turning very red, “ and . . . and ... I hate you worse than ever 1 Aunt Rachel says I may hate everything bad' I And so I will, and for ever and ever I I'm for going honte!

“ And another twenty cuts from1 that tarry rop,e-end?—La I Lai ” asked the hag, with a shocking sneer.

Billy turned to the door, but could not find it.. “Up the chimney with the sparks and dreamls you go, Billy, or you’ll stop here all night,” hissed the Witch. “ Please yourself.”

Billy could never be quite; sure how it came about, but wondered if the black boy came and led him1 away.. Anyhow, he found himself lying on the heather, all alone with the kind moon, and a rush of sparks and1 smoke pouring out of the ground beside him. He was none the worse for his adventure, except that the pasty made him feel so very bad inside that he just 3

34    BILLY BARNICOAT

had to hide behind a furze-bush, lest the moon should see him, and be sick as politely as possible. As soon as he felt better, there, to his astonishment, was Caroline beside him. He picked her up in his arms and started for home. When he reached the High Street that went zig-zagging down to Primrose Cottage on the quay—so steep a street that in places it was almost too much even for donkeys to keep their feet on the cobble-stones—'the dawn was beginning, and the women were opening their outside shutters and doors. Billy put hands in pockets,, stretched them1 out as wide as they would go, and then went wogging down the street— rolling a bit, that is, from side to side—with the air and importance of a fisherman taking his ease, andi feeling as if a little sword were hanging at his side and a go Id-knobbed stick under has arm. Caroline, with tail erect, walked beside him! as he '.whistled the Doxology tune, and even thought it would be fine if that splendid little blackamoor could see him' with his sword and gold-knobbed cane ! Then just when this proud feeling was at its best, he suddenly fancied invisible sly footsteps were after him, but d'ared not look for fear they might be Giant Shem’s ! ,Had' he heard Billy’s threat to string him up?

He took to his heels, and they tan hjm1 down the street faster than ever before. In less than two minutes he burst in at the cottage door, slammed it behind him, and was in his Aunt Rachel’s arms, breathless yet safe.

He must have felt more inclined to cry for happiness and to eat his pasty than to do any more wogging or whistling for a while.

66 ’^Tl AIN’T any sort of use I be/’ said Rachel I Hornisyde to her husband, “ so long as no JL ray of sunshine comes aboard the little cradle. I don’t blame you, Jacob, if you wish you’d never set eyes on me ! ”

Jacob truly loved his wife, though ten years of happiness with her had given but the one little , child who died. Billy Barnicoat had gained everything from the ill wind that brought no luck to that fisherman’s cottage ; and, though Jacob was often harsh with the “ parcel of piping flotsam,” as he would sometimes name Billy, he was, for the most part, very kind to the impish, brown-eyed creature. On Sundays, after Meeting, he always gave him a bit of clidgy or stick-toffee, wrapped tight in paper torn from perhaps an old song-book. To watch Billy get at the sweet stuff within, and yet excitedly save the precious words without, “ ’twas worth a penny any day! ” For the boy’s love of ballads was a constant wonder, though Jacob, getting along “ pretty tolerable ” in the world, thanks to good luck and hard work, “ never saw any sense in book-learning.”

35

36    BILLY    BARNICOAT

But the other side of the man came to the fore when he put his sea-boots on. For it seemed to Billy as if, along with them., he drew another skin all over him/ head and all, and then would' look at the little fellow as if he were a bit of bad wieather. At home , every fisherman is but a big child :    he accepts! his

food and his wife’s cherishing as his dues, surlily or affectionately, according to his nature ; and he'r tantrums, too, as if he were delegated by Providence to be a fender 1 between them and a long-suffering world. But planted in sea-boots, with a Cornish pasty in his pouch, he is a giant to handle all Nature’s grim' vagaries of wind and water. Yet, as surely as the huefs cry of “Heva! heva! " 2 will plunge him into his sea-boots, so will' his wife’s shrill call to him across the harbour, be he mending nets, or painting his boat, or “ loafing in the lewth ” for a change of weather, find instant obedience. Billy, too, just as every child in the Haven understood the two sides in his own father’s nature, knew these two men in Uncle Jacob. When the great boots were once stamped into their ease, Billy would feel as if himself were the suspicious capful of wind that comes before the gale. And yet the child would openly laugh at sea-boots, and all they stood for, in a way that amlazed and alarmed Rachel.

Though Rachel understood all her husband’s thoughts and ways, she could never fathom his behaviour to Billy, its mingling of fierce severity with unwise indulgence. Sometimes, when Billy was absorbed in his food, Jacob would look upon him with dislike, and almost fear, while Billy, if for a moment he caught such a look, would give a queer little laugh and a

1

A fender is the rope-woven buffer used to keep a vessel’s bulwarks from bumping against the quay.

2

The huer is the man who from the cliffs or rocks looks out for the schools or shoals of pilchards. Heva ! heva ! is the cry by which he advises the little fleet for instant action.

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37

momentary squint of his eyes, that irritated his bene-, factor almost past bearing. Rachel would sometimes wonder if Jacob thought the shipwrecked baby had bewitched the children that should have come to them. Little did she guess that her man, whom (everyone looked upon as the most upright in Mullinstow, had a sore trouble in his heart, or that his conscience accounted for his strange treatment of Billy.

The truth is that although Shem Pengulfy had done his best to wreck the Marla Santisima and Jacob knew it, the good man’s conscience was suffering for a moment’s thoughtlessness when he might have prevented the crime. There came, however, almost instantaneous repentance and intervention to frustrate the plot ; though seven years of suffering could never undo the consequences. But it will be best to give the full story of the shipwreck :    it will make Jacob Homisyde’s

strange ways quite intelligible.

The storm had risen sudden and fierce, and the people on the quay were looking with greedy eyes upon the deep-laden Spanish ship fighting for her life against the wind and current that drove her towards the rocks. Seemingly she was lamentably out of her course, or she would not have been in that latitude. For England and France were at war, and Spain herself, not yet at peace with France, had no sure footing on the seas. When the news that the ship was making for the Trannion Head—“ God Almighty be praised for it 1 ” some were wickedly saying—Jacob Homisyde, keen to secure his full share of the sea’s grim harvest, hurried into his boots, seized a coil of tow-line and a lantern, and raced along the ' quay for the beach and rocks beyond. As he passed The Lobster's Arms, a kiddly-wink, or low beerhouse, at the foot of the High Street, out from it rolled Shem Pengulfy,, with five friends at his heels. They stood and peered into the darkness, one with a spyglass, others shading their eyes from

BILLY BARNICOAT

38

Jacob’s lantern, and the gigantic Shem1 out-craning his wagging neck towards the tragic headland, so that, with his sou’wester and ruff of black hair, his head looked more than ever like a cormorant’s.1

After a minute or two of excited silence, Shem shouted out, as if in a rage of disappointment : “ Dang her for a Spanish slut I but she shan't clear the Head—without my name ain’t Shem Pengulfy ! ” Then* looking round in momentary indecision, he suddenly wrenched Jacob’s lantern from his hand and bolted with it up the High Street. Jacob must have known what the lantern was wanted for. But at the moment he only cursed Pengulfy for a Judas, and did nothing to check him.

“ She’s doomed, anyways,” he thought ; “ let her break on the Trannions if she must I ’Twill be handier if her trade {cargo) is swept into the Cove, so it will ! The Almighty can save her, sure enough—if so be He’s minded to cheat Satan and honest Cornishmen of their dues I ”

But something of pity and remorse suddenly checked . Jacob. He raced after Shem to recover his lantern— it had been his father’s before him, and he was drowned at sea ! There would be six against him—to Jacob but a further incentive. In three minutes he had caught up with them : he was the fastest runner and the best wrestler for mlany miles round. He seized Shem by the arm and slung him round, shouting to him, against the tumult of wind, to -give his lantern back ; but when he snatched at it, Shem, by an ordinary Cornish wrestling trick known as the flying mare, caught him round the waist and flung him over his shoulder with such violence that his head was cut open against the

1 Milton describes Satan on the Tree of Life, how he “ Sat like a cormorant devising death To them who lived.”

The bird is hated by fishermen beyond everything, except perhaps dog-fish.


BILLY BARNICOAT

40

stone water-trough, and he lay unconscious. Then the six took to their heels, bullies and cowards all, and were soon on the cliff. Shem cautiously scrambled half-way down, with the lantern veiled in a blue kerchief. Reaching a safe ledge of rock—the very spot where, years afterwards, he met his own doom— he uncovered the lantern, held it aloft, and .began swaying it gently to and fro, so that it should look to the ship in peril like the light at the masthead of a vessel rocking at her moorings in harbour, or perhaps hover to at the entrance to some river waiting fox a pilot. The harassed ship, finding it impossible to clear the headland, came about and made straight for the1 worst rocks in Cornwall. They broke her like a filbert. So near was the ship, that the men on shore might have heard, amid heart-rending screams of fear, the Captain’s execrations as he yelled his last order before the scrunch and crash of splitting timbers silenced him for ever.

When Jacob regained his senses, his head was bleeding freely. Everyone was now, though it was past midnight, making for the rocks. The ship was jammed on to them, and fast going to piece^s. Still half stunned by his fall, yet already blaming himself for letting his lantern go, the fisherman staggered along with the crowd down the narrow street. But soon he was pushing ahead of them1, even forcing his way, as he adjusted his coil of tow-line about his shoulders and wiped the blood from his brow. Rachel, with white face and terror-struck eyes, had jbined the crowd on the quay, and as Jacob passed by her she caught hold of his arm :    whatever    others might be after, she knew her

man would be for saving life in the first place, even if a share in the wreckage came next ; and she must help him. But immediately she saw he was wounded, and unfit for facing any dangers.

The crowd was gathering about the cliff’s fearsome crags and boulders to watch the wreck. Stretching

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4i

out to- sea lay a comparatively level platform' of rocks that, some twenty yards beyond, rose into forbidding heights, though to the left it ended in a vast deep pool. Alto this pool—a favourite resort for swimtners in quiet weather—now rushed the breakers, leaping over the dreadful Trannion rocks, and crashing down with appalling grandeur. Farther out on these shallow rock\ than any others dared go, Jacob and Rachel now ventured. The fierce onrush of flattened waves threw them 'down again and again, a,nd, but for their strong hold upon one another and any projecting crags that would serve, they must have been swept by the backwash into the riotous pool, or on to the greater rocks and broken in pieces. But they were fighting! not only for their own lives, but for any others, whom God might send their way. At last they reached the edge of the pool and an upstanding rock that gave hand-hold as well as some protection from the waves. Right through the pool, where the waters Were swirling and leaping, and already turning over and over masses of deck-wreckage, Jacob was to carry his tow-line. As He feared it might prove too short to get on board if fastened about his body, he gripped the end of it in his teeth. Then, as soon as he could reach the wreck —though he might well perish before that—his tow-line was to be knotted to a hawser. This Rachel, holding safe her own end of the tow-line, would then haul in and make fast to the rock. If any were still alive —and they could see some clinging to one mast that lay almost horizontal, though any moment they might all be swept off—they might possibly come hand over hand along the hawser and remain on Rachel’s Rock 1 in comparative safety, even though the tide was still rising. All this was understood between husband and wife without any exchange of words, impossible as this was in the welter of roaring noises.

1 It was known as Rachel’s Rock for many a long day.

42    BILLY BARNICOAT

Jacob was soon wading and then thrown down, scrambling up again and then submerged in the breakers of the pool. Magnificent swimmer though he was, it looked as though his skill and strength went for nothing in that whirlpool ; for it swirled and tossed him about just like a bit of the wreckage. And Rachel was no less brave in her steady watching of her husband’s peril ; could he possibly get beneath that mast, catch one of its swaying ropes, and, climbing it, carry his tow-line to the anguished men? But then, in the smother of waves, she lost sight of him ; and, to her horror, a great loop of slack tow-line was flung back to her on the crest of a wave. Providentially she caught it, and gathered it in, hand over hand1. But the drowning man it saved was her husband— actually with the rope still fast in his teeth, or he would have been swept away. Love gave strength to the woman’s splendid limbs as she lifted him up beside her. So greedy were the waves still for his apparently lifeless body, that she must lash him to the rock, warding off spars and timbers and dead bodies that came hurtling past or even over their heads. And so the two remained for an hour or [more, when, the tide having turned and Jacob’s consciousness coming back to him, Rachel’s brother, Neb Tonkin, and two others who left the rich plunder to save them', came to the rescue. But it was not till dawn, and the tide at its ebb, that the bundle of seaweed, with a little white face peeping from one end, and two tiny feet from the other, was cast up at her feet.

Thereafter there were two joys in Rachel’s heart, for all its sadness : she had saved her man from the penalty of a foolhardiness that goes by other name among the Angels, and she had found the Baby Billy. As for Jacob, he kept to himself the story of how he had let Shem steal his lantern, and how the scoundrel had thrown him ; nor would he explain his broken

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43

head. But he was never again quite as happy a man as before the Santisima was Wrecked ; and his three-year-wedded wife must puzzle over the gloom that, when storms were fiercest, would take possession of him. Hitherto a man of no definite persuasion, he now joined the Methodist Society, and believed he had found religion,” as they used to express it.

Only a generation earlier the people along that half-barbarous coast might have been seen casting gifts upon the shore to propitiate Bucca, the evil fairy of the sea, and at the same time offering up prayers to the good St. Piran, hoping one or the other would send wrecks in plenty 1 Jacob and Rachel were too sound-hearted to tolerate such folly and wickedness, though that did not prevent the man from being in some ways as superstitious as any :    he    still suspected that Billy

was bewitched, and might any day bring more ill luck to Primrose Cottage. Nor could Rachel change him. Billy’s Caroline, too, baffled Jacob’s better sense : she would never allow herself or her kittens to be touched by him. That the cat was Billy’s property he conceded, and so her life was respected. She certainly was a most unusual cat, and had amazing wits for a four-footed creature. When only a kitten Rachel, in fun, declared that she must be a piskie-cat, and, because of her greyness and faint silvery markings, declared she must have had a herring for her mother 1 She had come miaowing at the cottage door the day after Rachel had rescued the brown-eyed baby ; and as no one knew whence she had strayed, it was thought the wreck had brought her also. Her name seemed to have come with her, for none remembered who first used it—“ a name such as no Christian cat, without it was a heathen, could have come by/’ Jacob said, and believed she might be in league with Witch Pengulfy to wreck all his and Rachel’s hopes. He often thought it would be well to get rid of the cat, “ though,” he would say,

BILLY BARNICOAT

44

“ so long as the Witch do ply her trade, ’twould be but killing a flea on the dog that bit you 1 ”

But his fits of suspicion would quickly pass, and then Jacob would romp with the child, or set to work on the toy lugger he was building him'. Billy would watch the work with eyes wide in admiration and devotion, and his ears so funnily pointed, as always they seemed to be when his imagination was excited I

BUT there was another sort of toy boat in the cottage, in which Billy was almost as much interested. It was the cradle that had once rocked Aunt Rachel and each of her eight brothers and sisters —a plaything, too, for them all, except when freighted with merchandise of the wonderful land where babies hail from. It had been built like a boat by Rachel’s own grandfather, and its name, Sweet Home, was lettered in gold 'on its stern : “ Cradles,” he had claimed, “ do come sweeter the older they do grow1—same as fiddles : may be along of the screeching and wailing as is drove out of their buzzoms.” And Rachel cherished that boatlike cradle, with its half-deck and a jigger-mast that served for rocking with the left hand when the right was at. the spinning-wheel. But the masthead now carried no bunting—still less the Blue Peter 1 that of old had always been run up in anticipation of a little stranger coming on board> and running before

1 A blue flag with a white square centre, set flying to indicate immediate sailing.

46    BILLY BARNICOAT

the wind to its new haven-home. For the most part the cradle (just big enough to serve Baby Billy as a stowaway, though he quickly outgrew it) had for the past few years stood out on the gaily painted balcony that overhung the harbour water at full tide. Alongside were Rachel’s blue-and-white-painted tubs of fuchsia, geranium, pinks and larkspur—not to mention the flaming nasturtiums that, before summer was over, were sprawling over the lattice-work side and encroaching upon the next cottage. When seen from1 the Chapel Rock, these light balconies, green or blue and white, gave an almost fairyland appearance to the row of stone cottages beyond the quay, the last being Primrose Cottage. Sheltered from the fierce south-west storms, they were the pride of Mullinstow Haven.

A little linen pillow of soft, coarse homespun always lay in the cradle, and over it its own old blanket woven in many-hued stripes, so that it was always ready for any possibility. The neighbours’ opinions of these devices were many and varied, though few of them reached Rachel’s ears : nobody would willingly hurt the feelings of one who was every mother’s mainstay in any family trouble. Most agreed she was tempting Providence to disappoint her—“ and her a deaconess, too I ” Some thought Billy had set notions buzzing in her head, and the garrulous Widow Pengulfy,-with her spite against the whole Hornisyde family, declared that Rachel expected the Merrymaid to leave a changeling in the cradle at some full moon. “ Anyone,” she said, “ who had sense might see Aunt Rachel’s balcony was set out for brownies and piskies 1 And I axes you straight, if ’taint for them, how do she catch up her churs (get through her domestic duties) so quick, and shine her crocks (pots and pans) so gliddery—she, with her doctor’s stuff, gadding about after sick folk, too 1—an’ her nasturtions growing away so fine and flamey—prettier than any other folk’s in

BILLY BEGINS PLOTTING 47

the Haven? Piskies,” she added, with her acid grin, “do love a lay-down in a baby’s cot, tender little dears ! ”

Billy, I say, took the greatest interest in this cradle. Often, if he thought no one was looking, he would creep on his    bare    tip-toes up tio it from 'behind,,    and    then,

with a    swift    light leap, suddenly peep under    the    deck,

as if, were he only quick enough, he might catch some piskie-child having its after-dinner nap, and so comp'el it to remain for Aunt Rachel’s joy. Surely he would never be beaten for a gamfriut like that I But then, every time he failed in his spying, he would leap up oh the balcony rail—though so often lurruped for that daring and delightful feat !—then climb up one of the uprights supporting the roof, lean outwards over the quay while he clung with twisted legs alone, and so get sight round the eaves of the roof above. For on the high point of the gable was perched' a weather-beaten stone figure    of a horse. It had stood    there for

nigh a    hundred and fifty years, as a sign    of    King

Charles the Second’s gratitude to a roof which, though the fisherfolk were in Mullinstow disloyal almost to a man, had sheltered certain Cavaliers. To this strange effigy the child must have attributed some magical virtue : did he expect some day to find the creature had flown away into Piskie Land to steal a baby fisherman for Aunt Rachel? Who knows? Before long there was good reason for suspecting the horse of less benevolent intentions 1 Now, at any rate, Rachel, when she caught Billy in such pranks, half guessed what he was about, and felt sure he was sent by Heaven to make her laugh and keep her spirits hopeful. Yet often her face was sad enough—a face so typical of Cornish sweetness^ reserve and self-reliance.

The day after Billy came home again to forget his wrongs—and his Rights, too, for that matter 1—Rachel, as soon as the tea-things were washed and put away,

48    BILLY    BARNIGOAT

and Jacob was gone to the harbour to direct the stepping of a new mast to The Heavenly Home, had gone to sit on the balcony beside the empty cradle with her spinning-wheel. Billy was squatting on the floor beside her, hugging his knees, and, as he watched her, must have been brooding over the Creation as he visualized the story from Sunday-school teaching.

“ Why wasn’t Uncle Adam grown from1 a baby? ” asked Billy. He always gave Scripture characters the prefix of affection and respect.

“ Because, cheel-vean (dear child), I reckon the Lord God hadn’t yet thought, of making any mothers.”

“ Do merrymaids have mothers? ” he persisted, though leaving Adam for other notions.

“ What next with your silly questions, Billy? ” asked Rachel. “Who knows?”

“ / don’t think,” continued the child, very deliberately, “ anybody with tails can exactly have fathers or mothers —no more than fishes do, not having homes, like, to keep them in I ”

“But the Guardian Merrymaid, Billy, do have her home, folk tell, in the Chapel Rock Cave. So, likely enough, ’tis she had a mother of her own once upon a time, perhaps hundreds of years ago.”

“ Then,” said Billy, as if that settled the point of his questionings, “ then, ’tis baby merrymaids will be somewheres, sure enough 1 ”

Rachel laughed and drew the child1 to her with a glreat ' hug. But he struggled free, saying with a touch of indignation : “ ’Tis a crying' pity not to have mothers !

And then they heard a groaningi “Amen” behind them, as if it were at churchi ! Looking round, they saw Jacob in his stockings.

Now, what did that Amen mean? Rachel asked herself. She had something more to ponder over. But Jacob disappeared, as if ashamed of his outburst.

This strong assent of Uncle Jacob, taken with Billy’s

BILLY BEGINS PLOTTING 49

vision in the Witch’s fire of so splendid a father, made the little boy more and more thou-ghtful. His longing for adventure was not lessened since that night on the moor/ but changed. His frequent pranks of mischief ceased. He must find out something that perhaps 'Aunt Merrymaid could tell him., if only he could get word with her. Might it possibly be that his dear mother was not drowned after all ! He w^ould be a pirate some day—;SO he would, sure !*—and sail the Spanish main till he found her. Perhaps . . . and perhaps .... a heap of other things . . . might not Aunt Merrymaid know if a mer-baby could be found anywhere to bring home? And then, what would Aunt Rachel say?

4

THE mermaid, it will be remembered, was more than guardian ; she was the accepted patron saint of Mullinstow, though I doubt if you will find her name in the Holy Calendar. She was as good as the Witch was bad, and it was but natural 'that Billy should turn to her when everyone else failed him.

Mermaids a century or two earlier must have been more revered even than in Billy’s time. You may see them carved on many an ancient bench-end in Cornish churches. In Mullinstow’s a mermaid is painted on the north wall, swimming between the legs of a gigantic St. Christopher ; in her left hand she holds up her mirror, and with her right she hugs a fish for a doll ! So it is certain that people believed in them. Yet already in Billy Barnicoat’s day, authorities were growing doubtful of beings whose better half is human, whose worse is fishy. I think I have met such myself ! So I accept Billy’s accounts of his adventures as sufficiently accurate.

50

THE MERMAID

5*

Caroline and Billy had been out together at sundown upon the sands east of the harbour and breakwater. Caroline, from lack of imagination perhaps, would sometimes throw cold' water upon Billy’s most cherished beliefs—and this, although it would sometimes get her into hot water with her little master, and once earned her a ducking in cold water. It came about in this way. Caroline, with her tail higher than ever—which always meant she was nursing an extra fine opinion of herself—said that she didn’t believe there was no such persons as Merrymaids nor yet merry-babes—just like that, she said it, and then sniffed, as if inviting Billy to reply to such an unanswerable argument. Billy was nonplussed ; and, as he felt it would never do for a little boy who ought by rights to have a sword at his side and a gold-knobbed cane in his hand to be out-argued by a cat, however dear and cuddly, he picked her up in his arms and threw her, splash' 1 into a wide and deep pool, full of pink and red seaweeds, anemones, little crabs and shrimps. As she disappeared he shouted after her : “I won’t never, never forgive you, Caroline . . . and if . .

But then awful possibilities swamped his unkind words. He was on the point of jumping in after her —for he could swim like a fish—when up she came, crawled out, sat down, and began to clean the water from her face and the bits of seaweed from her back, as if not the least bit annoyed, while the contrite Billy gazed at her in wonder. Presently she stopped licking her chest, and said, quite without feeling :    “ ’Tain’t

her ninth life a silly Billy can drown out of a herring-marked tabby ! ”

It may seem strange that a cat and a boy should converse ; but there seems to be no doubt about it. I hardly think Caroline uttered words. But other creatures besides human beings certainly do converse,

BILLY BARNICOAT

52

even if they use other sorts of words than those of sound. When I think of the many things Billy could see and do beyond what was possible to most boys, I am no longer surprised that he and his cat could carry on quite important conversations. He was extraordinarily understanding in every way 1 And so also was Caroline—perhaps !

After her withering remark, Caroline turned and walked away home, stepping gingerly over the sands, and going by leaps over a stretch of low rocks, until she disappeared—and nearly broke Billy’s heart. But just then the moon rose out of the sea, and he heard Aunt Merrymaid calling to him sweet and shrill, and even beckoning to him with her looking-glass I Billy knew Caroline would be happier at home with her kittens ; so he forgot her.

As the tide was now fast covering the sands, he must go back to the quay to reach the Chapel Rock., where the mermaid waited for him'. Over the breakwater’s rough blocks of granite he ran and leaped, dodging the white-maned horses that every minute or two sprang from the open sea, spread out their manes over the steep side of the great sea-wall, and slid them like spilt milk down the other sloping side into the quiet harbour.

Many and many a time had Billy run across the dangerous, breakwater i when the white horses were galloping over, 'but never before had his fat little legs been so careless of him. He stumbled and floundered in his haste, till at last, when he reached the Ch'apel Rock, he fell and rolled over, grabbing at mussels and seaweed that came aw'ay in his hands. Billy was never the boy to cry when he was hurt—unless Aunt Rachel was at hand to pity him or he had had morel of Uncle Jacob’s rope than was good for him 1 But no!w, when everything he caught at played him false, and the horses were leaping at him, threatening to

THE MERMAID    53

pound and smother him with their caresses, he began to howl ; and the sea rushed in at his open mouth. In another second a great wave rolled him over, dragged him back into its deeps, and then threw him again on to the rock, just as if he wasn’t Billy Bamicoat at all 1 So that, after a few minutes of this sea-horse-play, he gave up thinking about his own small person, and . . . and ... he could never remember exactly what !

But soon there was a rocking and a softness all about him. Though white-maned creatures were still neighing and roaring and scrambling with their stony hoofs at the rock, they left him alone. He didn’t even want to open his eyes, so comforted was he in the rock-rock-rocking and the soft, cool pillow and the chanting song that was in his ears. Something like this it !\vasx so far as Billy could recall its shrill sing-song words :

“ O Billy B.,

Bring one flower to me !

A primrose so prim,

And full to the brim Of sweet dewy gold When the petals unfold !

“A didgy 1 little trim-rose,

A pretty piskie primrose,

O, find it, bind it, Billy B. !

" For this that I wear In the coil of my hair—

Such a pale little one All davcred : and done—

’Tis all of my fishcr-lad’s soul I could save When his cold body sank, down and down to its grave.”

Then came a little shrill, querulous laugh, but ending in a sigh so tragical that it brought to Billy’s mind

2 Davered, withered.

Didgy, little.

54    BILLY BARNICOAT

his ill-treatment of Caroline. At last, however, he came wide awake, yet saw nothing—only dim, moony light that barely showed up the darkness. He wriggled free of the embracing arms, and then beheld, lying over his legs, a big tail with scales as soft and dry as feathers, and all the colours of a greeny-blue labbat-shell (ear-shell) ; while above him was a kind face, but sweeter and sadder than any he’d ever seen. For the tears were running down her cheeks—“ so white as gulls they was,” he told Aunt Rachel afterwards. “ And her hair so blue as mussels ; and one bunch of it was twisted like a rope, and Billy saw in it, sure’s death, a primrose, but fine and yellow—and he could smell primrose-smell ! She pulled it down, so as I could. And I saw her comb, too—pearly as a moon it was—stuck a-top of her plait.” He was quite explicit on every point.

The waves were constantly splashing up over them. The mermaid’s tears seemed to stop after a thorough drenching ; and then she would smile at him with a little laugh—though folks say that no merrymaid ever laughs any more, after a fisherman has spoken kindly to her—unless it might be just to pass the time pf day ! Billy asked her why the primrose made her sad? But she gave him no answer.

“ Seems as if,” said Billy, looking deep into her green eyes—like pebbles shining in a pool—“ some folk want to be sad more than glad.”

Then she spoke so pretty and quaily, yet it was fine Cornish. It was like lappings and splashings, and her sighs were like the back-rush of little waves over a beach of fine pebbles. But every time she sighed she took a quick peep at herself in her pearly mirror.

“ Billy,” she said, “ you’re but a little child, yet you’ve some sense in your head. So p’raps I can tell you things about Aunt Merrymaid that will astonish you ! And then, if you can love her a tender little bit,

THE MERMAID

55

same as you love Caroline and Aunt Rachel, you’ll bring up to this Chapel Rock, so soon as you go home, a bunch of primroses.”

“ ’Tain’t primrose-time by a long while,” said Billy. “ Then,” she continued, ignoring his. objection, “ -I can cry happy for a while.”

“ Holla’ing don’t make boys happy,” asserted Billy. “ And that’s because they’ve all got souls in their bosoms, Billy. Some merrymaids have souls of their own too. Times, I can see mine swim-swimming about. But I ain’t certain sure I want it right into my bosom—not. for another hundred years or so.”

Billy stroked the Fish-lady’s tail as though it were Caroline curled up in his lap, and she began her story.

She told of a terrible storm when Bucca, the great sea-fairy, beat and yelled at his white-maned horses till they screamed with anger, and all because they could not sink quick enough a fishing-boat that went banging and smashing upon the1 rocks.

Then she forgot her story because her soul was on her mind. It was because mermaids had no souls, she said, that a two-legged lad could never take one of them up to heaven where the primroses grow, and where a cottage with a door and windows and a smoking chimney is given to every fisherman to live in for ever and ever. To which Billy, being a pious little boy, did his best to groan out a full. Methodist Amen ; he supposed it was her ignorance, not going to Meeting or Church, that made her think they had cottages in heaven !

“ ’Tain’t cots they find there, Aunt Merrymaid,” he said, “ but mansions, and old gentlemen’s buzzoms to lay on.”

But Billy was now shivering down to his very toes.

“ Sure you’re not getting wet, Billy B.? ” she asked, unlocking her arms from about him to let the coming wave splash him more freely. But he only shivered

56    BILLY    BARNICOAT

again for answer, though the drenching made the kind creature laugh outright.

“ Tis sopping / be,” said Billy, “ though you do feel so dry as feathers.”

The mermaid then wriggled higher up the rock, glad of Billy’s hand to help her, and he struggled out :of his jersey and began wringing it out. The lady was much interested in the strange act.

“ These clothes of yours,” she said, “ ’tis they make you wet and shivering, Billy B. Take them off and live with me, down below in the quiet sea, and you’ll never be wet any more.”

“ Have you got your fisher-lad down there? ” asked Billy, struggling into the jersey again, and watching a heavy black cloud rush across the sky with open mouth, as if it would swallow the moon, so big and threatening was it.

For answer she made Billy sit by her, so that he could stroke her tail, as it gently flapped its spread-out tip, just like Caroline flapping her bushy tail when her thinkings were lively. And she once again began her story. The moon, however, was fading in the misty clouds, and the horses grew quieter as their white manes, now but a milky fringe to the darkness that covered the sea, moved to and fro sedately.

She told how the fishing-boat went to pieces in .a moment—it couldn’t stand against the kicks and buttings of Bucca’s horses. Every time she caught the lad she had chosen for her own, and had dragged him on to her own steed, he was thrown off again : legs, she said, were no use to grip white horses with;. But still she rode up and down the rocks, happy as storms always made her, and singing her shrillest songs—though, what with the howling of the wind and the screaming of the wild steeds, a mermaid’s voice didn’t carry far. With all her laughings and songs,i however, that beautifulest fisherman took no heed of

THE MERMAID    57

her endeavours to save him. To and fro she made her horse turn and rear and curvet, but every time she reached her lad he would slither down the side of some green horse he had mounted, or tumble into its spreading mane, then roll over and over and disappear. At this point of her story something seemed to be choking her, and she sang no more for some minutes.

At last she told how she caught her lad by one of his great boots, set him across her own horse, and held him there with her tail and her hands. But he was dead, and it was useless to take him ashore : for the men in the pretty cottages, she said, would hide him' away in the earth. Then she told Billy how, when the tide was out and the horses were back in their deep stables—where they would lie and sleep so quietly you could hardly distinguish them from the water they breathed:—she buried her fisher-lad ; for now he was her very own, to do as she pleased with, till his soul should come back to her. Deep in the sand she hid him close by the remains of the ship Billy himself had sailed in seven years before. She told him his own mother lay buried there also, but within the ship’s; deep-sunken hull ; and, if he liked, he should one day see how beautiful she was—in her gown of blue silk and black lace, and her hair perhaps all down to her feet—such little white things they were com-i pared with the strong, leathery feet of her fisher-lad !

Billy said nothing to this proposal, for Aunt Merrymaid was sighing so tragically and weeping again.

“ Wish ye weren’t so downdaunted, Aunt Merrymaid,” said Billy. “It makes me want to cry too ; and boys never cry ! ”

“ Shall I take you down to see her and my lad, Billy B.? But it must be a dark night with a crescent moon, when white horses won’t be stirring up the sea.”    ■    ‘

58    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“ Don’t know,” said Billy, torn between a fear of drowning and a longing to see his mother. “Don’t; know as I could breathe water same as you and corpses do.”

“Billy B. would weather it, sure.”

“ Don’t believe I could see them, not if they were buried in the sand,” further protested the boy.

“ Silly Billy B. ! And ye’ve learned things out of books, too! If so be ’tis a mother or a fisher-lad, sand ain’t any hindrance to seeing—not if ’tis dark enough.”

“ Don’t know,” again ejaculated Billy, shaking his head ; but then added, after a few minutes’ pause i “ Could Caroline come along, same as me? She have one more life to spare out of her nine.”

Perhaps that suggestion gave affront to the kind maid of the sea : or was it because the moon came out of hiding and shone brilliantly again? Anyhow,, she blew a long, sweet whistle ; and a huge wave, with magnificent, high-flung mane, leapt up and tossed its loose tresses, full of spume-suds and foam, over the: chapel and cross. It drenched Billy and threw him higher up the rock. When he recovered his foothold and hand-grabbing, he rubbed his eyes well ; but he could not see out of them because of the dazzling moonshine thrown to and fro, making him feel all anyhow*. But at last he saw his friend riding away out to sea, sitting sideways on a splendid horse, and flashing her mirror’s moonlight all oyer the rocks. She kissed her hands to him, and, as she disappeared, began singing again more shrilly than ever :

“ Farewell, Billy B. !

In the coombe find for me A rose prim and shy,

With the dew in her eye,

When her petals unfold Her sugar and gold.

THE MERMAID

59

Farewell, old remorses !

Fisher-lad, fare thee well,

For the wings of wild horses Have broken the spell ! ”

Billy looked and listened till he felt as if he himself was lost on the dark horizon. But he pulled himself together, climbed round the side of the Chapel Rock, and then started home as fast as his legs would 'go. The tide was out again, and the breakwater no longer made sport for boy or horses. So nothing delayed him till he reached home. There he found Caroline waiting for him on the steppon—that is, the flight of stone steps that led up to the door. The two quickly curled themselves together on the little bed behind' the ladder -stair in the kitchen and fell asleep.

BILLY’S sleep, had no dreams in it ; but before long he was awakened by the voices of Uncle Jake and Aunt Rachel. He kept his eyes shut and moved not an inch, for Uncle Jake was pulling his boots on and his voice getting harsher as he settled into them.

•“ They all say something will happen, Rachel, before our own little fisherman can sail into harbour, if us don’t turn o.ut that flotsam boy—though I do say, if rope-ends could make a Christian of him, ’tis me would have done it before this. ;I’ve given him his chance. He’ve been a mischief to you ever since he was cast up by the sea. ’Twas ill-luck he did bring— and a judgment on my sins like enough. Out he shall go, for good and all, so soon as the little toy lugger is done—paint and Varnish and all 1 ” Then he stopped suddenly and said in a hoarse whisper, but looking so terrible and angry that Rachel seemed afraid :    “    There    is    something has come between you

and me, oversetting our happiness. . .

BILLY HEARS ABOUT THE WRECK 61

“ What is it I have done wrong, Jake? ” she asked tremulously, stepping back and putting her hand on her heart. I

“ ,What have you done wrong?” he replied, with a bitter laugh. “ ’Tis a good angel you have been, day in and day out—year in and year out, more like— with a demon like me to; take char|ge over ! ’Tis scrowl-ing (broiling) for my sins I did ought to be ! ”

Rachel put her hand over his mouth to stay such terrible words.

“ Don’t you love me no more, Jake? ” she asked. “ iWon’t you . . ,. won’t you tell me your heart, dear man? . . . Just everything that’s in it? ”

Jacob dropped into the chair and buried his face in his hands. Rachel waited a few seconds, and then knelt down and put her arm about him.

He looked up, but with his eyes turned away, as if seeing somte terrible vision of the past. Then he said :    ‘    '    !    '    ' ' I ! '

“ ’Tain’t no sort of choice IVe got left. You’re bound to get it out of me now ; better soon than late. Like as not, ’tis never again you’ll look at me without a sick feeling'—hate perhaps, and despising : and ’tis right you’ll be, saith I, wife or no wife ! ”

“ Nay, Jake ; not if ’twas murder ! ” she exclaimed, wonderfully firm.

“And ’tis you’ve put the name on it now!” with' a still more bitter, even angry laugh. “ ’Twas my lantern as wrecked the Santisima : ’twas me murdered Billy’s mother—and all ! ”

Rachel gasped and her face turned very white. She got to her feet and stood straight and motionless as a statue, her eyes riveted on her husband and yet not seeming to see 'him1 : then it was because of her man, that !her little Billy had no mother—such a little son too, for a mother to love and cherish ! Her Jacob had done this frightful thing ! Her husband was so

62    BILLY    BARNICOAT

black a sinner that at the Last Judgment he would be condemned. ...

“ Tell it ! .    .    . tell it ! . .    .    tell it ! ”    she    forced

the words out.    “ ’Twill kill me    if you don’t    ! ”

“ And me a    whipped cur ! .    .    . thrown and    broken

on a dommed    wall by Shem    Peogulfy !    . .    . And

never a chance to get quits with him all these years I ” Could this be the worst he had to tell her? Or was he evading her appeal? At any rate, she breathed a little more hopefully. She saw him broken with shame. All she had ever known of him was great and good . . . yet . . . yet. But he was still her man !

Jacob' then began to speak very fast • and hardly above a whisper—strangely unlike his way ; and she did not interrupt him. .

“ ’Twas father’s brass lantern, too, and granfer’s before him I Shem wrenched it from me sudden-like, and then up for the cliff with his five dogs after him. I knowed what he took it for. . . . And yet I stood there — me, Jacob Homisyde ! — reckoning out the Santisima’s chances, and saying to the devil inside me, as her was done for anyways, and it would be best for all if she broke on the Tranhions.”

He gave a terrible groan, clutching the top of his head with his two hands so that his face was hid in his arms, and rocked himself. Then Rachel, still standing apart, said almost coldly, and as if summing up all the evidence for and against him :

“ You never told me how Shem worsted you and cut your head Open.”

Dorn him! dom him!” I says every night in my prayers ; and I says it every time I come aboard The Heavenly Home” answered the tortured man. Then he plunged ahead with the further story :

“I stood consenting to Shem—’twasn’t more than two minutes, so help me, God I—when somehow I sees

64    BILLY    BARNICOAT

you before my two eyes, Rachel, and the lugger, bless her ! And I threw him out—Satan I mean—and was after those    six    dogs    like one of them. But    before -I

could twist    the    lantern from his hand, Shem    had his

leg in mine and throwed me like a ninepin—me, Jacob Hornisyde, as could throw any wrestler in Cornwall, so I thought. Then, before I could get up, the Hell-giant flung me'against the water-trough and .... well, that’s all of it. Me, a murderer—as I’m a living man I —and what’s nigh as bad, disgraced before wife and mates and God in Heaven by that cormorant ! ”

“ You’ll    get    even    with him, easy enough,    so soon

as God do    let    you,”    said Rachel Very gently    now, for

the light was dawning in her heart. Then, after a pause, she dropped on her knees again beside him, putting her arms about his neck again.

“ ’Twas a murderous thought, I allow,” she said,

“ but not a murderous wish, let alone a deed, Jake. Only two minutes, wasn’t it, you let the thought bide? Only two minutes, so help you, God? . . ./And who went for to give his life, on those same Trannions, to save life, so soon as the mischief was done? Wasn’t that to make amends? ”

“ ’Twasn’t did for to    make amends,    Rachel,”    he

said, so honest and true in his misery.

“ Then ’twas better ! ” she exclaimed exultantly. “ For ’twas giving your life and nothing to win, Jake !; . . ..Oh, I do love you    and love you for    it .    . .    all

these years have I ! . . .    and me along of    you,    all that

fearful night! ”

Then she rose from her knees, dried her eyes with her apron, and stood again, as if she were, after all, his judge as well as his advocate ; but now he could look straight into her face.

“Those two minutes,” she said, “were spent consenting to Satan, ’tis sure. ! . . . But God will wipe them clean out of your heart, Jake, and . . . and

BILLY HEARS ABOUT THE WRECK 65

. . . now, at last, all tears from' my eyes ! Sure, everyone said as Shem was too late with his wrecking.

‘ If ’tis a hurricane, never do a sail, once her’s atweien our headlands, ever claw out again ’—your very words, time and again, Jake. The Santisima was drove straight to her destruction without him, though he did his best to wreck her, lantern or no lantern. Come along up now, Jake, lad, and us’11 say it all out to God on our knees.”

And they went up the steep ladder-stair together, Rachel saying :    “ I don't believe the child done us

nought but good ; nor yet won’t you, Jake, believe it any more I ”

Billy, only half understanding the confession, dropped asleep very happily.

BILLY never doubted the difference between his dreams and that Wonder-world—“ ’tother side of things,” he would name it—of whose existence many wise people have doubts, unless they are gifted with the far-seeing eyes of Imagination. It was enough to Billy that Uncle Cap’n Simon and Caroline, and sometimes Aunt Rachel, accepted without question his extraordinary adventures. Aunt M.errymaid, of course, believed in that, ,Wonder-world, it being her own element ; and if she could not quite realize the Mullinstow world, she certainly never doubted the existence of fisher-lads and primroses ! But although Billy was quite clear-headed on all such points, he was now and again not quite sure that wide-awake things were not only dreams.

Consequently, on the morning after his escapade with the Sea-lady, he asked himlself whether the talk he had overheard between Uncle Jake and Aunt Rachel might not be only a dream. That he might be turned out because he had brought bad luck with him! from1 the

Santisima—though' he could not remember doing any-

66

BILLY AND THE MAGICAL MIRROR 67

thing of the sort—could not trouble him' greatly : did he not often turn himself out and get the rope-end for it? He had never believed the iWitch’s story that Uncle Jake had wrecked the Santisim^a and drowned his lady-mother ; but it was dreadful to think that he, the brave master of The Heavenly Home, could ever have been thrown and his head broken by Uncle Cormorant ! this could only have been dreamings ! He had often heard from Aunt Rachel how Uncle Jake nearly lost his life trying to save the sailors of the Santisima, and likely enough, his lady-mother too. And did not everybody know that Jacob Hornisyde was the finest wrestler in all the world? But then Billy’s thoughts went back to Uncle Jake’s conviction that he kept away the little baby-fisherman, who ought to have come aboard long ago,; sure, that could not be1 ! iWhy, Billy Barnicoat wanted him to come ! It must have been a dream . . . and yet ...

Anyhow, he now< determined to show Aunt Rachel how useful he could be if he chose. He \vlould somehow get a baby for her—perhaps only a piskie one, or failing that, a mer-baby. Uncle Jake would never turn him' out for that ! And h:e decided it should be a mer-baby girl, for then he could be such1 a fine big brother to her.

For a week or two Billy was so good that Jacob, and perhaps Aunt Rachel too, thought he was beginning to outgrow the foreign nonsense that made him so unlike other boys. He tried to do a desperate lot of work, though most of it was not very profitable. He had quite decided that Aunt Merrymaid should comfe home with him some night at high tide, and possibly bring with her a little mer-baby—just to see if Aunt Rachel would take to her. But he felt sure Uncle Jacob would never let them sit down in the parlour—so spick and span as a ship’s cuddy it was. So he set to work to clean out the cellar for her. It was a sort of cave,

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anyhow, almost as dark, and he could not believe that, however wonderful a mermaid’s home might be in the deep sea, tails could sit on chairs very comfortably. The stone paving, too, would be nicer for her to stretch herself upon than a wooden floor. One objection w'as that she might not like the smell of the pilchard-oil, which for years and years had been soaking into the stones. So, down on his knees, he scrubbed and scrubbed till Aunt Rachel’s best scrubbing-brush was “ scat all to squabba ”—that is, broken all to pieces. When she saw it she turned quite white, but hugged Billy. “ ’Tain’t the brush that I be grieving for, Billy, but the lerruping. Can’t you never see which is the buttered side of your bread? ” Billy could not understand her : Aunt Rachel most times spread the butter so thick that even a mole would see it ; but he would willingly have paid any penalty if only the floor would have come as clean as the sea-shore ! As this could never be, he brought in armfuls of long bladdery seaweed and spread it thick over thle cellar floor. All the men were then busy with the mackerel fishing, and he was not interfered with. But Aunt Rachel made him take all the seaweed back to the harbour again. Billy would not explain to her why he was taking so much trouble, though his coxy eyes and his pointed ears made her very curious about it.    :

Notwithstanding Billy’s hospitable intents, he must wait before making another effort to see his Aunt Merrymaid : so long as there was no moon, it would be useless. But the thin slip of a new one came at last, and Billy’s opportunity with it. Everyone knows that mermaids are never met except in moonlight, though, of course, the scoffers say this is because they are “ all moonshine.” Even Billy thought his Fish-lady’s life was somewhat dependent upon the moon’s vigour, and he wondered whether he would now1 be able to see her as plainly as when the moon was full.

BILLY AND THE MAGICAL MIRROR 69

He was afraid she would be sadder, anyhow, if only because he could not bring her any primroses ; it might be hard for her to understand that they grew only in the spring-time. He was thinking over these things as he lay awake in his little bed, when there came a sudden flash of moonlight in at the window above the dresser, and brighter than anything the thin moon herself could do. Billy knew it could come only from Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass : it must mean that she was expecting him ! He slipped out quietly and ran away across the sands—for it was now low tide—till he reached the Chapel Rock. As he stood below it and looked up, he saw the end of her green tail gently flapping. He climbed hand and foot up over the slippery seaweed, and was soon beside her. Then he realized that, as he had feared, she was but sadly with so little moonlight. She scarcely moved when he spoke, and seemed so tired that he wondered if she would like him to go and get Aunt Rachel to make her a cup of tea. But at this she laughed so cheerfully that he understood her langour was really the moon’s fault. She asked him nothing about primroses, and he would have thought she had forgotten all about her flsher-lad, but that she still wore the same flower tucked into her hair and a little more withered. The poor lady was constantly playing with the feeble moonlight, and reflecting from her mirror, here, there and everywhere, silvery rays that, as they danced on the quiet little waves, looked brighter than the moon herself. She was very kind to Billy, and even teased him by flashing the light into his eyes ; but she soon tired of the play. Then Billy asked if he could get a squinny into the looking-glass. “ You can look and see if you can,” said the Sea-lady, nonchalantly. Billy was so eager that she held it out of his reach, as if he must be told something first, adding : “ But ’tis magical :    if you see yourself in it, then

Billy B. will be in it.”

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“ But only a pretend Billy/’ he insisted.

“Nay, silly Billy B.,” she said, with' the air of a deaconess at Sunday-school, and pointing' a long forefinger at him1. “ Nay, you must understand me before I can let you look. When I see myself in the glass, of course Myself is in the glass, or I couldn’t see me there ! ”

“ But,” protested the little boy, as if in doubt as to his own puzzlement, “ you’ll be laying here on the rock all the same, Aunt Merrymaid ! ”

“ ’Tis you do surprise me, Baby B. ! ,And you going to school sometimes? Don’t I know better than an eight-year-old child? When I see myself in my looking-glass, I must be there, mustn’t I? And then when I’m there, and look back through the glass, ’tis only reflection is left behind on the rock ! ’Tis plain as the moon to any mer-child ! ”

The argument made Billy feel as if he himself was going all wavy, like his own reflection in a rippling pool. Nor did the wise Sea-lady’s next remark, though very astounding, smooth him straight again.

“ Sometimes, when the Witch comes on her broomstick to steal my glass, I hide from her by getting into it and taking it along with me : that’s more than anybody without a tail can do—and so 'I tell you, Billy B.' ! Then can you understand there’s nought but my reflection left on the rock? Even the Witch couldn’t see that—without she got into: the glass herself and looked back again ! ”

Billy’s interest in the tricks of looking-glass argument was upset for the moment by the mention of a witch.

“ Is it Aunt Pengulfy? ” he asked.

“ Sure ! ” replied the mermaid ; “ and my looking-glass, if she could look straight into it out of her crooked eyes, would show her where more chests of treasure lie buried in the sand. That’s what she wants ! ”

BILLY AND THE MAGICAL MIRROR 71

“ She’s going to get Billy Barnicoat’s Rights for him/’ he asserted, as if for the moment defending her.

“ Betterfit {you had much better') look for them in my looking-glass !” said the mermaid.

“ Sure? ” asked Billy, again eager to test the mirror’s magic ; -but he added :    “1 do hate hfer, tooi, Aunt

Merrymaid ! ”

“ Then you’d better have a look, Billy B.,” she said, much gratified; “it may stop your nonsense chatter. But oh, I am an unhappy mer-woman 1 ”

. Then she turned her head and put her mirror close up to Billy’s face, holding it in the palm of her hand. But it was impossible to see himself aright ; he looked as wavy as the rippling sea. But he saw1 clearly what he had not noticed before : that the mirror’s frame was carved and coloured like rocks., with seaweed and yellow winkles covering them ; its handle looked funnily like the breakwater, and the tips of Aunt Merryrriaid’s fingers, standing round the edge, were just like the bunch of little houses about the harbour. Billy could not take his eyes off the glass. A little wind began to dance over its bright surface, making little ripples that ran and broke on the tiny rocks. He watched them racing towards him till they splashed up over his legs, and a bigger one brought on its crest—yes, he was quite sure of it !—the very toy lugger that Uncle Jake had so nearly finished for him ! It was . shining! as silvery as the moon-sparkles themselves' ! It was certainly very curious ! . Looking ahead to see whence it had come, he beheld in the far distance, though quite plainly, the cliff beyond the Trannion Rocks, where old Uncle Captain Muggetty had built his tiny cot on the land-slide, and had set up beside it the great figurehead of the Maria Suntisima. Billy always felt that this noble carving must represent his mother : he looked upon it with a longing heart and a vague hope of he knew not what. But now, he saw it reaching out her

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arm to him : was she beckoning him? Everything then seemed curious no longer. He leapt into the boat, and was for pushing off, When he found Aunt Merry-maid had hold of it by the bowsprit—no, not the bowsprit, but the handle of her looking-glass :    he was

actually not in the boat, though he had felt so sure of it, but was still looking into the glass’s rippling surface.

“ Billy B.,” said the Sea-lady, turning his face with' her free hand up to her own, and looking fixedly into his eyes ; “ Billy B., you’re a wonder, sure, if you can see so far into my glass ! Like as not, you can go further in it than you can see ! ”

“ Further where? ” asked Billy.

“ I shouldn’t be much surprised if you had a mother once,” she said, taking no notice of his question.

Billy often thought her ignorance very surprising, but he only asked again :

“ Further where? ”

“ Perhaps where things bide that you leggy folk think are done with'. That’s the worst of having two legs.”

“ What is? ” again asked the boy;

“ Drowning,” said the Sea-lady, laying down her mirror. “ But I’ve been thinking and thinking till I’m flopping with tiredness : I’m sure you must have had one once. Maybe you’ll find her.”

Billy sprang away from her, jumped into his little boat and pushed off before she could stop him. Little icy-cold waves were leaping up at him1, and soon began to dash over the gunwale ; so that, seeing that Uncle Jake had not yet fixed the rudder nor provided oars, it was impossible to put her nose to the waves and avoid their swamping his little craft. As it filled he saw the mermaid and her rock slipping a Way into the distance. She was singing, too, and apparently in no anxiety about her little friend :

BILLY AND THE MAGICAL MIRROR 73

" Down beneath, the magic sea,

Lose yourself, O Billy B.,

Till sweet dreams of baby days Lead you in forgotten ways.

“ Silent there the shipwreck lies,

And a mother's starry eyes,

Shine upon her little son,

Till the dreamy night is done.”

The singing was very sweet to Billy. It seemed, though he could not quite understand what it was about, less shrill than most times, and a deal less nonsensical than much of the kind lady’s conversation.

“ Seems like as if she do know quarts about fairy things and mothers—more than about primroses and lads ! ” he thought.

When the last note died away, Billy found he was linking, and that the little boat had drifted from him. So he struck out..

BILLY was a fine swimmer : he could gt> like a porpoise, up and under, as he headed the waves ; he could turn somersaults, and then, with hands clutching knees, trundle him'self along like a wheel ; he could tread ^ater with his chest right out, so light was he, so strong and hard his muscles. He used to tell Aunt Rachel that perhaps he learned to swim before he could crawl, and had swum1 ashore when she found him w'rappied upi in seaweed. He almost thought he could remember it all ! But he had never before been in a grey sea with' such bright gliddery waves on it : the splashes and spray looked just like liquid silver, and he hardly knew how to stop playing with it. Yet with all his swimming he could not reach the shore. The more he struck out for the rocks, the further away they seemed. They w!ere the Trannion Rocks, too, and the current, always swirling towards them at high tide, ought to carry him' to- them, even without his own efforts. Yet he was drifting away from them1. So he took to his fine, over-hand stroke ; but huge black waves rose and beat him1 back,

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again and again, till he was tumbled over and over, down and down, into quiet and darkness.

Hadn’t Aunt Merrymaid sung something about the wreck? Sure enough before him' was a square, dark, seaweedy hole that might belong to it. He at once determined he must wriggle through' it, when a thin, golden streak of light crept from1 it and lit up a shoal of fishes slowly champing their ugly mouths and drifting into the dimly lit recesses. Billy followed them. Safely through' what proved to be a window in the poop1, Billy beheld a bright point of light close at hand. He walked towards it as easily as if he were no longer in water, but on a wooden floor. The light began to sway—just as if he was on board The, Heavenly Home, rocking in the harbour. The fishes swam inquisitively up to a pretty lantern that hung from' a low white ceiling painted all over with' gay flowers.

Just beyond was a white door with', gold outlining its panels. Beside the door, seated cross-legged on the floor all of a heap, was a little Blackamoor Boy, his head between his knees with hands clasped a-top. Gold rings were in his ears, and his jacket and shorts were scarlet with gold braid in plenty. But his arms and hands, his legs and feet, were bare and! black. As Billy stood astonished, yet trying to see him piore distinctly, the boy lifted his head wearily and stared straight ahead, quite through Billy, his eyes looking just as if they belonged to some sad little animal. Billy thought this so strange that he felt himself all over to make quite sure that he was “ all there ” himself. And it is quite certain he was, ‘with his clothes as dry and tidy as if he had not been just swimming in the sea. Billy did not notice the little boy’s sadness so much as his enchanting clothes, and his hair exactly like a little black curly lamb’s. He was beginning to wonder if he had not seen him! long ago—in a picture, was it?—when the Blackamoor uttered a little moan.

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Full of sadness for his misery, Billy sat down beside him and slipped his arm round his neck, though the little fellow did not seem1 to heed him. But Billy’s hand came against something so hard and cold that he was startled and drew it back. Then he saw that the black boy wore a wide silver collar, all fine with patterns and letterings on it, “ Angelito." Billy could read this easily, but there were other words that went round and away out of sight. If it w,as a name, it must be a very grand one, Billy thought. Wias he, perhaps, a little King of Barbary? he asked himself, and was he sad because he was being taken so far aWay from his kingdom? Billy looked closer, as if to recall where he had once seen him before. . . . But then the Blackamoor’s nostrils twitched, while he shivered and moaned like a sick dog. So Billy put his arm round the silver collar again and pressed his cheek against the black, tear-stained face, and felt as if they two must have but one heartache between them1. Billy saw" that his friend, though he still looked straight ahead, was gazing far beyond the lantern ; and, as if with the black boy’s eyes, he beheld a world of sun-baked sand with black folk shuffling across it, trying to get ahead of their white driver’s whip. There was one woman carrying a little boy on her back. She fell, was whipped on to her feet again, but fell once more and lay still, .though the little boy clung tight and wept into her unheeding ears. Then the driver, a black man, fat and horrible, unwound the baby from her back, and threw him to some little girls sitting on piles of ivory tusks in a wagon drawn by a dozen black men.

Then Billy understood it all; for Uncle Jake had a doleful song all about a stout English sailor who was wrecked on the high seas, but rescued from his raft by pirates—

"... rescued from his deep and watery grave To be sold in Barbary all for to be a slave.”


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So Angelito was no king, but a slave ; and he, like Billy, had been torn away from his mother ! He was just going to try and make Angelito understand that their trouble was the same, when a little bell rang out, shrill and sudden, but very sweet. The little slave sprang to his feet, and his eyes came b'ack' from their far-away thinking. Billy jumped up as eagerly, and followed him through the door, into the ship’s great state-room. There on a golden chair sat a mother-lady. Billy’s heart seemed to fly at once to her like a long-lost homing bird, though he himself could not move. Between her blue dress and her black hair, with the golden chair-back behind them, her eyes shone like two stars in a midnight sky. On her left arm lay a little baby, but she held out her right hand, as white as a gull’s wing, to her black boy. She drew him1 gently towards her, and looked so tenderly into his face, air twitching between his grief and the grin of duty: with so lovely a kindness did. she look, that Billy thought it would have mended his own heart, even if it were broke in two. He almost began to tell Angelito that he himself could do finely without a mother if only he might be that lady’s slave-boy, when he realized that it was himself, a little year-old baby, who was lying! in her arms gazing up into her heavenly face ! He knew all that was happening, though he was only a little speechless baby. His mother then took from her bosom a little ring of shining gold and uncurled Baby Billy’s fist and set it on his thumb, kissed it three times, and let the little hand curl up again. Then she showed the ring to Angelito. He, too, kissed Billy’s hand, while the mother said smilingly to him!:

“ Now, Angelito mio, you are pledged to be Baby Juanito’s serving-man and playfellow, and to take care of him all his life. And he will love you for me, Angelito.”    ;

Billy was more blessedly happy than ever before

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in his life, but he could not stay there gazing up into that blessed face when poor Blackamoor could not be comforted. So he had to watch him, as well as Billy’s mother, from a little way off by the door, once more content to hold his little pirate cap in his hand and worship. Then the mother bade Amgelito sit on the stool at her feet, and she set the Baby Juanito Billy on his lap. This comforted the slave-child mightily, even though it set the baby howling ,and kicking, so that Billy felt truly ashamed of himself. The mother must now clap her hands and ring her tiny golden bell to win the discontented back to good behaviour. But Billy’s sympathies were all with the naughty child ; he knew he would do exactly the same, even if it was the King of England himself who held him, so long as his lady-mother was at hand. At last the mother had to take him1 again, and did it with) such instant quietness and, indeed, smiling on the little one’s part, that Billy quite understood : it was his own very self being taken    home out of    a naughty    storm of upside-

down-ness.    But, he told    himself, it    w'as    certain that

Angelito was now given him for a friend, and to, befriend : he would grow up quick and make amends for his baby-rudeness ! He thought again of the slave-march across the desert, of Angelito’s mother dying, then of the slave-driver, and how he could help his little Blackamoor to find him    and kill him    some day.    He    felt his face

growing all    hot with anger and his    ears    all tingling

with fight. And the hotness seemed to burn away all the joy and peace and wonder of seeing his mother, of being actually a little baby again in her beloved arms, of having a splendid, if very sorrowful, little black friend given to him. He could see only the swaying lamp now1, and even it was getting’ farther away from him ! But he could still hear his lady-mother’s voice, far and farther away.

Precioso mio! (my precious') ! Never let anyone

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take thy ring away 1 Kiss it three times, as thy mother has done, and the angry fire that comes between me and thee will die down and bring thee near thy mother again ; some day even into her arms, Cielo mio (my Heaven).''''

And that was all he could hear, for he was passing away and away, and could not stop the passing.

The stupid, gaping fishes were all about him again. He began to feel he must breathe or drown. So, as he heard Aunt Merrymaid still dreamily singing, he knew he must rise to the surface. Put what a wonderful-true dream he had wakened up into ! His own, own lady-mother, and he, Billy Barnicoat, a little baby fisher-boy, in her arms 1

He scrambled out by the Chapel Rock, but Aunt Merrymaid was gone. He shook himself like a terrier, kissed the gold ring on his thumb,, did it twice again, and then ran home in the moonlight.

Aunt Rachel was waiting up for him. Though he was wet to the skin, she asked no questions, but rubbed him dry, took him into her own bed and rocked him to sleep. Jacob was out fishing.

BILLY now owned a secret too precious to be shared with anyone. Indeed, if he had told Aunt Rachel anything of it, he knew she would hardly believe it wasn’t all dreamings :    “    Unbeliev-

ings ain’t sharings,” he said to himself, and held his tongue. But the sight of that Precioso mio, lying so snug in the lady-mother’s arms, and the happiness in her eyes as she looked down at the baby, set him thinking more than ever about Aunt Rachel and wishing he might see her just like that.

“ .What is’t you be thinking about, so earnest-like, child? ” she asked him one night, when she was tucking an absent-minded Billy into his cot.

“ Don’t know,” he answered vaguely, but then, after a few seconds’ cuddle into the pillow, sat up suddenly and said : “But supposing there was a little teeny baby in a mother’s arms, and supposing there was a mother . .

“ Don’t you be chattering nonsense this time of night, Billy,” she said sharply. “ ’Tis enough to make folks’ head ache—sure, and heart ache too.” Then 6 81

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she felt she had been a bit hard on him, and added : “ My good mother, she used' to say to us noisy children —there was nine of us above ground, as I’ve soften told you, Billy:—You’d moither a nest of rats with your chatter, so you would ! V—jGood' night, Billy ! ” and she gave him ever so. dear a hug.

In spite of this little joke, her sharp words jwere sad enough, and they troubled Billy so insistently that he could not get into his sleep at all. As soon as sleepiness almost crept over him1 like a rising tide, the memory of them' came along! like a big wave and rolled him back to his wide-awake heart-ache again. Then the moonlight began to look at him'- across the stair-ladder, and of course made him think of the Mermaid. In a little while the tide would1 be out and he would creep round and' perhaps find her singing and combing the little yellow shells and red seaweeds from her crudly ,(curly) locks. He had been feelingl surer and surer that Witch Pengulfy’s crooked eyes and horrid teeth frightened any little baby soul from coming and taking Aunt Rachel for mother. Correspondingly he had been thinking that Aunt Merrymaid must be the natural opposite to the Witch ;■ they stood for the Good and Bad that, as Billy had been taught, are always fighting with one another. So now, wide awake with his hope of being some real use to Aunt Rachel, he determined to go once more and see what help the pretty Fish-lady could suggest : perhaps she could do good magic better than the old Witch' did' her witchcraft. Then he felt happier and had almost let sleep creep' over him, when, just in time, he knew hie might be missing a fine chance. He jumped; up, shook the sleep off, and cotobed' his hair, not at all smooth, with his fingers. Although because of his supposed sleep-walking, Aunt Rachel had taken to locking the door and hiding the key away, that made little hindrance to Billy. He climbed the dresser, shelf over shelf, without shaking

“GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING!” 83

any of the dishes and' crocks, up to the tiny window above it—one he had never seen open, though it was kept as bright as everything else in the cottage. How he wriggled through it he could never remember, for it was as tight shut as ever when he next looked up at it from his little bed. But in a minute he was certainly outside, standing on the pent-roof of the balcony, that reached over the harbour. Creeping along to the gable-side, he caught hold of the projecting slates and peered round them' up to the point of the roof, where stood, and had stood immovable for a hundred and fifty, years, the little stone horse. It was so worn by wind and sea-spume that Billy’s regard for it as the most splendid of horses seemed a little prejudiced. ;If his feeling towards it was one of admiring friendship, it had hitherto lacked intimacy. But now he was convinced that on some1 night .such as this one of blue and starry, distances, and if nobody was spying, the brave old horse might take a leap into the harbour and join the white-maned horses i which Billy loved and yet so often feared. Billy thought how glorious to mount himf just as he was starting ! What a chance that would be of telling him how much he loved him I What a gammut ! And what would Caroline say? “ ’Tain’t safe,” she’d say, for SC b'oy with only two legs to crawl with, and no claws to hang on with ! ” But Caroline never would believe that King Charles had sent that horse to Uncle Jake’s greatgrandfather, to tell everybody Granfer Hornisyde was a King’s man and would give shelter to anybody the bad Parliament men were after. Everybody else knew it ; and there were four other houses in Mullinstow that had on their gable-ends a brother to Billy’s Uncle Horse, they too belonging, in those bygone days, to honest King’s men. Oh, ’twas certain sure Billy would get up there some day soon, and ride away with the Wings of the Wind on the old horse’s back ! Caroline

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would never believe Billy Barnicoat had climbed out of that window. But he had ! And he would get a ride some day—sure I

But now he had other work before him. Almost like a cat, he crept round on to the slates and then down to the rock against which the cottage was built, making it so splendidly strong. Thence it was easy to slide on to the steps that led' from the cottage door into the little court. He leaped down to the cobblestone paving—almost a bigger jump, than he would ihave liked in the daylight ; yet his bare feet scarcely felt any slap on the stones. As he ran along, too, he made no sound, not even in the shingle : his silent movements seemed part of the extraordinary bigness of the night and the sky and the moon. Never before had he felt such a little Billy ! He sped, along the broad breakwater—its wet blocks of stone a silvery pavement for his naked feet—and scrambled down the Chapel Rock. He heard the Sea-lady singing ; and then, crawling warily—for he still felt, as everybody believed, that her kind must be found unawares—he saw her rocking to and fro, and crooning so softly that Billy, for a moment, felt as if he was falling asleep in bed. But she suddenly stopped, and without looking up', said quietly :    .    ,    ;    .    ,

“ Are you there, Billy B.? ”

“ Iss, sure ! ” said the eager little fellow, and let himself slither down the slippery seaweed till he was beside her. ;

“ Then you ought to. be in your bed,” she said sharply. “ Two-legged children are never allowed out on a night as big as this one.”

Billy wondered if he had' made a great mistake in coming. The mermaid languidly leaned away from him, almost lying down' on the rock. Her body and' face and voice were as cold and silvery as the sea and moonlight around them'.    1

“ GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING! ” 85

“ Are the merry-children all in their beds, Aunt Merrymaid? ” he ventured, shivering but not at all ashamed.    i

“ And who is saying there are merry-children at all? ” she asked in obvious annoyance. “Has Uncle Cap’n Simon been telling you fairy stories? ”

“ Stands to reason,” said Billy, plucking up courage because his ground was here sure, “ if there’s merry-folk, they must have been some sort of children before they growed their tails.”

The Sea-lady had no answer ready. A bit of common sense was always a poser for her 1 But she whisked out of her indolence into what seemed like real vexation. She caught up her great pearl comb and slapped her tail crossly up and down in a little pool, nearly drenching Billy with water. Billy only laughed, and continued :

“ And, please, is it asleep or awake they do be now? ”

“ Can’t you let me get on with my combing? ” she snapped. “ How can I, with you sitting there, chat-chatter-chattering, and me not getting a word in, and the peskie little gold shells thicker than ever in my hair? ”

“ Shall I be helping with the shells, Aunt Merrymaid? ” persisted Billy, unabashed. “ I got sharp eyes, I have, and my fingers so long as a real piskie’s, so they are.” Then he added in his queer and coxy, yet absolutely winning way, with head on one side, and, II am sure, his ears more pointed : “So what’s to hinder you telling me all about those merry-children? ”

“It’s a wicked waste of the moon, if I don’t get on with my singing, Billy B.,” she protested.

. “ You could just sing me all about them, maybe,” continued the little boy, as wheedling as ever he knew. He lifted a strand of her heavy, hair and began feeling for the little shells and the clinging seaweed. That

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won her heart. She caught him up in her arms, said with a queer change in her voice : “ What gammut be you after now, my little Billy B.? ” and hugged him so lovingly that he knew he might unfold his plan.

He told howjhe often could not sleep at night thinking of Witch Pengulfy, who shooed away any little baby that wanted Aunt Rachel for her mother, and all because Aunt Rachel was fretting herself to death for want of a baby-girl for her own—and for Uncle Jake too. He had thought more than once of stealing ia neighbour’s child and putting it in the cradle-boat ; but its mother would find it, sure, and he’d have to begin all again. He doubted, too, whether anybody else’s child would do. Billy Barnicoat was somebody else’s child, and Uncle Jake wanted to turn him out,, thinking it was Billy kept the baby away. So he was going to find one for Aunt Rachel for her very own. Did Aunt Merrymaid' think that perhaps, if it was a very large family—and fishes had thousands—perhaps its mer-mother would spare just one little, very little mer-baby—a girl, please !—if he told her how down-daunted Aunt Rachel was with ne’er even a tiniest one of her own, though the cradle-boat had been waiting years and years and was that soft and warm ! So, would Aunt Merrymaid please tell him all she knew about mer-families, and help him?

.When it was all out the Sea-woman threw back her head and wailed aloud, so that it set Billy shivering : “ ’Tis laughing I am at you, Billy B..—you and your two legs : or maybe ’tis crying—there isn’t much difference between them in the sea ! Perhaps I’ll help you to your fancy—though how you’ll get her to the cradle-boat, ’tis you must find the way ! But you’ve got your little gold ring safe on your thumb? ”

The boy looked at his broad’ little paw in fear, lest it might fail him' at the tremendous moment:—not that he could ever be angry with any mer-folk, least of all

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with their babies. But the' thin gold band shone like silver in the moonlight. Then the Mermaid said in her sweetest tones, and tossing; a great rope, of her hair to him :    ,

“ Seeing you’re safe, my pretty, lay hold on my hair—grip it tight—so ! ”

He caught it as only a fisher-b'oy can catch a rope— not the way he so often caught Uncle Jake’s rope-end !

“ Grip tight, Billy B: ! ” she cried again, now shrill as a sea-mew. ,    '

He obeyed ; and, gripping the plait herself above his hold, she swung him gently free of the rock, over the deep water, and let him down.

Billy rose and gasped1, still clutching the rope.

“ Billy Barnicoat’s going a-fishing ! ” the Sea-lady said mockingly, her eyes looking wild and silvery. “ Good luck to your fishing, Billy B. ! ”

Then, instead of striking out as he would naturally do, he hauled himself down hand under hand.

“Don’t let go the rope, Billy B.,” she said, still mockingly, “ maybe you’ll want its help to land your catch ! ”

She was still staring at him as he lowered himself. Down and down and down—how could the sea be so deep near the rock?—he could see her staring after him ; but her voice died away into far-away chanting. Soon even her silvery eyes were obscured, though her face was still right over him, looking exactly like the moon reflected and rippled by the surface waves. Perhaps she was gone now, and had left him in charge of the kind moon because it could see deeper down. Perhaps there would be light enough' to find the Santisima again ! Perhaps he could take and show the mer-baby to his lady-mother !

At last his feet were on the ground, lovely soft drifting ground that tickled as it trickled through his toes, feeling very like the dabs that the Mullinstow

“ GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING! ” 89

boys go a-paddling to catch in the bed of the river at low tide, waiting for them to tickle the soles of their feet, and then making them' captive. He found he had forgotten to keep hold of the rope of hair, and could not see it—or indeed1 anything very clearly. It was all a thickish twilight, though often a streak of light, with a gaping mouth or an unwinking eye, would lazily swim up to him, and1 then with a contemptuous tail-sweep, pass him by. He came upon a lobster-pot swaying gently from' its moorings above. He would have missed it but for a faint light from the black lobster’s gills as they panted within. Then he met another pot with a something shining wonderfully inside it. Getting closer, he saw it was the very thing he wanted—a tiny mer-baby, frantic, struggling round and round, trying to find the way out I Billy’s first thought was to cut the cord, take the basket in tow with its precious prisoner, and then find1 the rope of hair again : it did not occur to him to rise in his usual way 1 But on seeing the little baby’s anguished efforts to get free, his heart smote him. “ If I let you out, Baby,” he pleaded with head on one side, “ ’tis along with me you’ll come? Sure? ”

The queer little person checked its movements and stared at him with round, unblinking eyes. Billy took this for assent ; so with his sheath-knife he cut a square hole in the osier bars, careful, you may be sure, not to wound his prize. He was now: for putting his hand inside to hold and keep it, when the little thing darted out and away, giving hifri a little parting nip on one ear with its tiny, sharp teeth and carrying its light into the dusky distance.

Billy was angry. Stamping his feet with rage against his silly self and the faithless mer-baby, he began to rise quickly in the water. 'In a moment he knew this was to lose his one opportunity. He kissed the little ring three times : his anger passed, and he

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found himself once more walking upon the loose, sandy floor of the sea.

Then he seemed to be wandering about for hours, meeting always the same fish' with their silly, contemptuous stare ; yet he could never see more than a hand-length ahead. He began to distrust Aunt Merrymaid : were all her stories of the sea’s wonders just make-believe? Had her assent to his present adventure been but a gccmmut to her, she knowing that he would never catch1 a merry-babe, and perhaps, since he had lost hold of her rope of hair, never find either th!e Maria Santisima or Primrose Cottage again? It must have been a very forlorn and even frightened boy who now hurried through that dismal world, often with head upraised and hands clutching at the invisible in the hope that he might catch sight or hold of the great coil of hair.

And then he suddenly stopped short, almost as if with a shock of dismay. Before him was a dark mass which did not stir. It was mot the sunk ship nor piled-up rocks, but a h^itnan building 1 He could see it was built of square stones, and could feel the mortar crumble under his fingers. He walked round and found it was a tower, partly covered, with seaweed in place of ivy, with the remains of a church-wall and ruined window's. He crept through one such, and found he could see much farther. Not a vestige of roof remained. There were steps inside the tower, and he crept up them'. 'It was still easier to see now. Though the tower, too, was roofless, there still remained some rafters in the belfry ;■ and from' them1 hung a great bell.1

These discoveries gave him’ some real comfort-:    it

was like getting nearer home, and he could see better and better. Little and' big shadowy fishes were swim-

1 More than one town lies buried in the sea on the Cornish coast, as is generally known.

“ GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING !55 91

ming about, round and round the bell, setting it gently-swaying, though never enough to make it hit the clapper. Then he saw hanging what might be the lost rope of hair. He laid hold of it with! all his might. The bell rang out sweet and sad ; it was but the bell-rope, and he felt like a lost soul again. The fishes, too, whom he was beginning to like a little bit, fled, terrified at the sound, like a flock of birds. Then Billy, looking after them through' a little window1 in the tower, saw at last what he had come fori—a whole shoal of mer-children swimming towards the tower. 'He pulled the bell-rope again—clang !—and the children passed by, every one with fingers rammed in ears : the bell had badly scared them ! Billy left off pulling and waited. Sure enough, the little creatures came swimming back again, every one with round, unwinking eyes cast up to the belfry, but ready for instant .shimmering away again into the shadowy darkness. And now with happy heart, quick beating with excitement, Billy went down the stair, stole out, and followed them. He moved almost as fast as they swam, although he only walked : somehow it did not seem natural for a boy to be swimming out from a church tower !

He caught up with them5 just when they were settling down again on the playground whence they had been frightened. Behind it was their home*—an entrancing mass of rocky arches, leading into deep caves and dark tunnels, at the end of which the silver light gleamed again. There were domes all iridescent like soap-bubbles, coral balconies and little towers of glassy network;—something like Venus’s flower-basket— though Billy had never seen one of these prickly sponge-skeletons.

iWhen Billy saw what their play was he felt quite at home with them1: they were makingi gardens.' There were ten children, but only nine gardens, for the youngest (whom he knew at once for the one he had

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rescued from the lob'ster-pot) was such a baby .that they had now tethered1 it to a rock by a strand of weed, and it lay burrowing its fat little back into the sanid and. sucking its tail instead of    its thumb.

‘It was very light in this    part,    and all    the    mer-

children gliddery and pretty, their hair like spun silver, and their eyes like diamond sparkles on the sea. But their gardens were gay with cockle-shells and silver bells like flowers set out in beds, with tiny paths winding in and out, though Billy could not understand a mer-child needing paths ! Red sand and grey sand and sand as white as sugar they were, some even sparkling like diamond dust. And the mer-children darted about seeking for more and more shells, some of which they picked off the rocks, or off the corners of their own palace with their    teeth,    and some they    dug

out of the ground with their    long    fingers.

Although they had such a beautiful palace, all of jasper and serpentine, red coral and blue lapis, they were building a tiny house out of shells, and with flags of seaweed waving from each comer. It must have been meant for the baby, for if even the next in size had tried to swim under its arch, he would have knocked it to pieces. Billy was so enchanted with the house—just what he would have made himself J—that he went and joined' them in the most natural manner in the world, and' they seemed quite ready for him. .Within two minutes every one of them had shown him his or her garden, as well as the tiny house. When he asked if he might see the palace, they all tried to take him by the hands, and two of them hurried him along, so that he had to swim just as they did. They swam in at windows and out through skylights ; through pearly rooms and crystal passages, floating into nurseries and diving into caves, Billy hand in hand with these charming friends. They took him Climbing up great seaweed trees, and when he forgot to 'flit

“ GOOD LUCK TO YOUR FISHING! ” 93

from bough to bough’ as they did, and slipped in his clumsy human climbing, they teased him and slapped him with their tails, and one of them bit his ear—only in play, he felt sure, though it was sharp enough. He was altogether very excited and happy, but wondered a little that they never laughed or cried. This made him think of Aunt Rachel : what would she say to it? It seemed as if the baby ought to laugh—and perhaps cry too sometimes? .Which reminded him, sure enough, there in this garden was the very blaby he had come for, crooning and gurgling and sucking its little silvery tail ! Clearly, Aunt Merrymaid had led him here ! But, although he did riot question his right to it, he felt he must be wary in kidnapping it : he must, by some ruse, get all the other little ones away. . Then ha remembered the bell, and swam back to the tower, climbed up the sea-ivy, wriggled in at the window^ seized the rope and set the bell ringing with all his might. As sad as before, all the mer-children camq paddling to the tower with fingers in their ears. “ ,We may not hear it, we may not hear it 1 ” they wailed ; and again, “ Oh, little Fisher-boy, we dare not hear it I”

There was no sign of the tiny one among them, and Billy had counted upon this. He had given the rope such a tremendous pull that the bell now went on ringing by itself ; and as the children now seemed unable to drag themselves away from its booming, Billy swam' quickly back to the garden. Trembling between hope and fear, he lifted the tiny creature most tenderly into his arms. She seemed surprisingly light, almost like nothing at all, though she cuddled into his neck.

“ Come along home with Billy Barnicoat,” he said ; “’tis your own little cradle-boat has been waiting for you, years before you was born, Precioso mio!"

But the endearing words of his lady-mother seemed to fail in their appeal.

The big moon was just over him again, with its

94    BILLY    BARNICOAT

rippled face, though it was growing darker down below. Billy put out his left hand to find the great rope of hair, and then. ...

Aunt Rachel was stooping over him as hie lay in bed. He felt for the baby in his arm, but his arm' was empty. The bell was still ringing, and ringing sweet and sad, just like their own church bell.

“Are you sick, cheal-vean? ” asked Mrs. Hornisyde, anxiously feeling his forehead. “ The bell has been ringing this ten minutes and more, and you chattering in your sleep ! If you like to lie a bit, ’tain’t Unclej Jake will say ought. ’Tis a bit of chill you’ve caught, likely, and . . .”

“ Have you put her in the cradle, Aunt Rlachel? ”■ Billy interrupted anxiously, but with a little doubt as to how the question would look.

“ Hush, Billy 1 You’ve been and left half your wits behind you,” she said, stooping again to look close into his bewildered eyes. And Billy saw that hers were every bit as sad as ever. He partly understood'; Aunt Merrymaid, or something, perhaps the Witch again, had played them' false I But how nearly he had succeeded I If only the Sea-lady hb,d told him how to outwit the Witch in getting baby home ! He turned and dug his face into the pillow.

BUT Billy did not sleep any more. He knew he was not sick, had caught no chill. But he lay still, gl^.d to think a while. Aunt Merrymaid, it was quite clear, must not be trusted : she didn’t quite understand everything. But then she was very dear and good to him, and without her, how could they get the pilchards, or outwit old ,Widows Pengulfy? He thought much, too, about her saying1 there was in the sea little difference between crying and laughing what could she mean by it? It just showed tails were not quite as good as legs !    “ Any

ways,” he said to himself, “ some tears ain’t, the same sort as Aunt Merrymaid’s—bet you a quart they ain’t ! ” This was an exclamation he had learned from1 Captain Muggetty, and stood for a final settlement of any question.

Billy sat up, for Aunt Rachel was now scrowiing pilchards, and that awoke his hunger. He jumped into his shorts and jersey almost in one' leap, sprang to her side and began fondling her left hand in his neck : a way he had unlike any other child’s—didn’t it show he came from Popish lands, though it made him very

95

BILLY BARNICOAT

9 6

dear? But Mrs. Hornisyde kept her attention on the pilchards till they were done to a turn.

“ Aunt Merrymaid says that crying and laughing ain’t much difference in the sea,” he remarked quite irrelevantly as the fish were being set on their dish before the fire. Then he began to tell of his first meeting with the Guardian of the Harbour, and how1 she cried “ ankers-and-ankersful, all along of the dead fisher-lad she was wanting to keep company with ; but he was drowned and buried by her in the sand alongside of the Santisima, But,” he concluded, “ perhaps she likes crying so much as not.”

“ Tis because she’s got ne’er a soul in her fish-body, Billy,” said Rachel, just to humour the child.

“ Reckon they’ve left the salt out of merrymaids’ tears? ” queried.the little wise-head.

“ Ah I ” responded Rachel. “ And the bitter too, sure ! You can’t have the bitter in them without a soul to taste it 1 ”

“ Better, perhaps, not to have much soul I ” reflected Billy, aloud. “ Aunt Merrymaid wants hers, so as she can walk out with her lad in Heaven ! ” Then he added, as if communing only with himself :    “ Billy

might catch her a soul in a lobster-pot some day, same as a mer-baby, if the angels were looking t’other way, maybe.”

“ What’s that about lobster-pots?” Aunt Rachel asked very sharply. “ Have you been up to any more tricks, Billy? ” Then she stopped, thinking the child could not have done it, and explained :

“Uncle Jake says as how when Uncle Neb1 overhauled his lobster-pots this morniing, one had a big hole in it—cut with a sharp knife, it was. And Uncle Neb, he takes his'dying oath they was all fit and sound when he set them, and him baiting them himself and all ! The Haven is all talk-talking of nothing else— and you’d know it, if you wasn’t a lie-a-b'ed. But

KING CHARLES’S HORSE    97

’tain’t you as would touch and spoil a lob ster-pot, Billy? ” she added pleadingly.

So Billy had no choice. Rachel had never known him tell a real lie,—be his yarns all make-believe or not. He must tell her something of his adventure ; how he had gone downj into the sea to find a mer-baby, and had seen one caught in a lobster-pot and had let it out with his knife, though' it swimmed away so fast he couldn’t catch it till. ...

“ That there was only a dream, you know so well as I |do,” said Rachel, fearing really awful consequences, not only from Jacob, but the whole fishing village, if once the blame was fastened on the boy. “ And I warn you, Billy, don’t go for to tell it* nor nothing about lobster-pots to man, woman or child ; else some of them might kill you for a mazed (lunatic) papisher boy, and . . . and . . . and break my, heart all to squabba (pieces)—so they would ! ”

She took him in her arms :    “ Promise me, sure’s

death, Billy, you’ll tell ne’er a soul I ’Twoulid make ’em all laugh at Aunt Rachel—you and your mer-baby 1 —and she’d never no more have 'any peace in her heavy heart, Billy ! ”

So the boy hugged her and vowed he’d never break his word and never talk of mer-babies any more, “ neither in this life nor in that which is to come ; so help me, God ! ” he added, and Aunt Rachel bent her head and said “Amen.”

Rachel then set before Billy the two, largest pilchards —most delicate of all the sea’s favours, when straight from boat to grid and served by a fisherman’s .wife. And Billy was quiet in his enjoyment, even if wondering much, as he separated flesh from bone with! his fingers and stuffed his hungry mouth. Just because of his failure, Billy felt he must do something for his Aunt Rachel.

So, no sooner was his dinner done than he prepared

7

98    BILLY    BARNICOAT

to wash up the dinner plates. But first he put aside the bones and heads of the fish for Caroline, and carried them out on to. the top of the rock against which the cottage was built, and into which were cut the first steps of the stone stairway or steppon, leading up to the cottage door.

The rock towered even above the roof, and sheltered the chimney from the winds. Once more must Billy look up at the gable-point of the roof and the little stone horse, so weather-worn, yet so greatly prized by successive generations of Hornisydes. Though all the gentry in Cornwall supported the King in the Civil War, great numbers of the working folk—always a country’s real strength—were Roundhead. That a Hornisyde was for his loyalty presented with this stone horse by) a grateful King, may explain the creature’s amazing behaviour a little later.1

But Billy in his heart of hearts believed the horse had come there by magic, and, as a King’s man himself, had sometimes thought it might hide him from Uncle Jake ! And now, up aloft on the rock, he forgot, just for two minutes, all about washing the plates ; for he was beside his own strange patch of garden. After seeing the mer-children’s successful laying out of their gardens, he wanted to consider what 'more could be done with his iown. To begin with, it was a s|ea-garden. In a flat and saucer-like place on the rock, filled with sand from the shore, he had planted, in undulating lines, one behind the other, and ten or a dozen deep, the biggest mussel-shells he could find, and polished as fine a blue as gunpowder and pilchard-oil could make them ; they represented the waves of the sea. But the nearest line was interspersed with higher upright pieces of green glass he had picked up on the shore, their surface ground into dulness by the waves’

1 Two or three such royal tokens are still seen on cottage-roofs at Looe, but worn almost beyond recognition.

KING CHARLES’S HORSE    99

batterings on the beach,, and the very colour of breaking waves when a hot summer sun ;reveals the sapphire of the deeper sea. The colour of these glass fragments was finer than any we get now, for" the bottls-green of the old quarter-decks’ windows was rich and deep. Indeed, Billy believed that every bit he selected had once belonged to the Santisima—than which no more glorious or unhappy ship had ever danced upon the waters of the deep or was attended by such a cavalcade of white-maned horses ! The upper edges of these bits of glass he had touched with white paint to suggest their manes. In the sand filling the deepest hollow of this ocean-bed he had buried a minute figure carved out of a heather root, as the pasty-mermaid had been, but fearsome in its stalk-eyes and long, grasping arms. It represented the sea-demon, Bucca, the cruel master of the sea’s white-maned horses. Billy felt it safer never to take the creature out of hiding ; but he was always aware of its presence.

When now he stood with his back to this seascape, and regarded it with head between straddled legs— the only way, he used to say,, a little boy can see what things really look like—he could feel a capful of wind blow across its waves, setting them1 dancing, so that the spray from the horses’ manes almost reached his face !

But Caroline, having daintily devoured her pilchard-heads, came and1 looked over the little sea also through her little master’s legs ; and the tip of her tail so tickled his nose that he forgot, and this time irretrievably, his good intention to help Aunt Rachel wash the plates. In the very moment, too, when he took his eyes from this sea of his to rub the tickle off his nose, something surprising happened : when he looked under once more, the Spirit of the Lord God must have been at it again on the Face of the Waters I For there, sure enough, coming towards him on the

100    BILLY    BARNICOAT

wind, was Aunt Rachel’s cradle, but with a little bellying red sail and the Blue Peter dancing ahead with an almost audible flutter ! Billy must undouble himself and dance for joy., though he knew that in doing so the vision would vanish and his sea pretend to be once more only a set-piece of mussel-shells and green glass. No matter 1 What wets real was truly real to Billy, “ sio sure as pilchards is fish,” as they say. But he looked anxiously for a moment at the place where the sea-demon lay, to feel sure he was up to no mischief. Satisfied as to this, he began dancing round and round his little ocean with Caroline after him, till he must have turned giddy. For there, on the gable-angle, the weather-worn stone horse was stamping his short, shapeless legs, beating a full tail from side to side— though for many a weary year he had lost all of it but a stump !—and tossing his head up and down, even flinging out spray from his mane and foam from his mouth ! Was he perhaps one of the toy-sea’s white horses? Billy crawled up the rough slates till he reached the summit, and then along it till he caught hold of the little horse. But it was only stone* after all, tailless and starved, storm-beaten and scarred into shapelessness.

So the child slid' back disappointed • but he took one more inverted peep at his own toy-sea, satisfied himself that magic was still the very best thing, and then, remembering Aunt Rachel and her unwashed dishes, jumped down on to the steppon, and so into the kitchen. He was in time- to be of some real use. He sat on his little stool, held each plate or basin between his knees, as he polished it into dryness and shining. All that day he was very silent.

BU.T Billy could not rest in his mind. He felt as

if it wasn’t quite honest to haye shared only half

his secret with Aunt Rachel. But then, as he

had argued before, how was it possible ;to tell her all

when she only half believed what he 'd,id tell her?

Indeed, he might himself have almost disbelieved' in

his adventure with the mer-b'abies but for that damaged1

lobst:er-pot. jWhen he had finished drying the plates

he went out on the quay and vlistened with innocent

curiosity to the gossip still running* hot, as every one

had his and her interpretation of the shocking attack

upon Uncle Neb’s new lobster-pot. Then, hands in

pocket, he wogged along to Uncle Neb’s. All were

agreed it was no accident—so clean and1 square were

the osier-bars cut. The guesses were many and wild

as to who could have lifted the pot in the night, cut

it so sharp and clean, and then let it down again.

And why was it cut, when anyone in his senses would

know how to pilfer the lobster without destroying the

trap? Uncle Neb Tonkin had not an enemy in the

world, and it wasn’t the sort of way Gammer Pengulfy 101

102    BILLY    BARNICOAT

settled her scores—presuming; she had any to settle against him.

•So Billy went leisurely along, to Uncle Neb’s cottage. There, sure enough, hanging from' the steppon for all the world to see, was the damaged lobster-pot— with a crowd of people discussing it. Billy wormed his way among them, studied his handiwork, and slunk away, altogether confirmed in the actuality of his night’s' adventure. But his conscience was troubled; he must go and see the only person who always believed in piskies and merrymaids and—and—Billy Barnicoat,.

Billy’s mind made up, he never hesitated’. He took to his heels along the quay, across the, breakwater, over low-lying rocks and rough shingle, and did-not slacken once till he reached the landslide, where Uncle; Simon1 Muggetty had built his one-room cottage of. stones and wood from the fallen church above. Much earth had slipped down, too, with the shaly and limiestone rocks, and the- old man had made a little garden above the cot. He had been a miner most of his long life, and captain of a gang. But in an explosion be had lost the sight of one eye entirely and of the other partly, so that he had to “ come .up to grass,” .as the miners say when they come up from the dark mines—though for Uncle Cap’n it was permanently. He had1 now been for many years sexton to the church, and was accounted very wise. Moreover, and notwithstanding his plain speaking, he was trusted and loved by everyone. There was only one thing in heaven or earth that the old man did not believe in, and that was Witch Pengulfy. He did not believe she had any power of evil, and said all the harm1 she ,did came from1 people believing she could work magic. What he did believe was that she was as bad as she was ugly, and as rich1 as both together ; that Billy Barnicoat must keepi out of her way, even if she had got hold of some facts as to the child’s parentage, “ which couldn’t do him no manner

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of good, not even if he was a duke ”—at least so thought the wise old man.

Billy loved ;hira and his garden, which, .lying on a level with the cot’s slate roof, had m'anaged to thrust on to it Paul Poddies (polipodiurri* fern), stone-crop and toad-flax. But the garden had been constructed chiefly as a resting-place for the Maria Santisima’s figure-head, which had been cast up at the foot of that cliff. Robed in blue and white, with faded black hair once streaming on to the ship’s bows, though now broken short, with bare bosom, on which hung a rosary, some of its rough gems and amber still in their setting1, she lifted up to the sky a face of curiously tender aspect. The eyes of blind wonder gazed in storm’ and in peace eternally up to the heavens. The arm's were broken away, but the right hand still clasped to the waist, corsetted in mail, a crucifix. Billy would sometimes sit by the hour on the stone where the figure’s feet should have been ; and he also, all unconsciously, would1 be looking out upon the unknown. Never a word’ would be spoken between the old man and Billy about this figure-head, but Simon knew “ as how Billy thought it was his lady-mother a-looking and a-waiting for her child1 ! Likely enough,” he would continue, “ it do keep the boy’s faith in his mother brave and hearty, same as that there crucifix in her hand do say her Billy will come to her by-m-by in heaven, where she' do bide—Papist or no Papist ! ”

Billy now hamhiered at the door with the soft end of his fist and called out :

“ ’Tis Billy Barnicoat here, Mate.”

Then, without waiting a reply, he turned to climb’ up the rough path and squat at the effi'gly’s feet. With chin in his palms, he scrutinized with piercing eye first the wide sea, as if in search for some vessel, and then certain square-set rocks round1 which the waves broke into spreading foam', but within whose wide boundaries

BILLY MAKES AMENDS    105

there was relative quiet ; though there also smaller waves, rocking to and fro, mfet one another and tossed lip milky spray. It was down in the dfeeps here, Billy believed, that Bucca stabled his horses, and out of \^hich they tore in fury when there were any ships to smash or men to drown, or pilchard-nets to tear into rags with their wickedly playful teeth.

But the sea was rising while the .tide ebbed, and Billy waited with eyes fixed upon the rocks, waited and shivered till the tide should be low enough for hini to get a nearer look into its deep stalls and yards and] haylofts than he had ever yet found possible. Aft^r one_ quick glance up into the great face above him, he jumped up to start away, when Captain Simon came hobbling towards him.

“ I must a’ been sleeping, Mate, old chucklehead that I be ! Where be ye going, Billy? ”

“ Over the sands to Bucca’s stable, Uncle Cap’n, to see the horses at their gammuts,” said Billy, with eyes upon the tumbling waves.

“ Betterfit {you had better) go ’long home, Billy. ’Tis bitter cold, and you be so blue as my lady’s gown ; and a howling gale’s rising, fiercer every minute, so ’tis.” But Billy seemed not to hear the old man’s injunctions, for he immediately squatted again at the figure-head’s side.

“ Uncle Cap’n,” he said, with the suggestion of a whimper that stopped him. He set his tongue between his teeth, drew in his breath sharply, and proceeded without any more difficulty.

“ Uncle Cap’n, Billy’s a bad boy. He’s got a big secret and tried to tell Aunt Rachel, so he did. But she don’t believe in mer-babies, and so ’twas unpossible to tell her all. ’Twas one of that family of mer-babies was cotched in Uncle Neb’s lobster-ppt, and . . . and . . . Billy cut, a big hole in it for to set her free. Aunt Rachel, she says ’twas only a dream, and made

106    BILLY    BARNICOAT

me promise not to blab it out, or folk would’ want to kill me for the lobster-pot. And ’twasn’t no dream— Billy’s jseen the. lobster-pot he cut hanging' on Uncle Neb’s steppon.”

“ Sure ! ” said the sexton.

Then Billy told the whole adventure, much as it is set down here. He was happy and1 at his ease, because the old man listened with believing nod and halfuttered exclamations of “ Sure ! ” “ Ah! ” or “ H’m— h’m—h’m ! ” and, at the end, said :

“ Mate J ’tis truer than dreams do mbstly be—-truer than little boys’ make-believes. Your eyes be younger than mine, Mate—younger than folks as think you be mazed. ’Tis waiting I be for the stars to come and give new seeing to my blind eyes. But, none less, they do see further than most folk in Mullinstow.” “/ know" said Billy in full sympatjhy. Then, after two minutes, looking up into the figure-head’s eyes, the boy suddenly said :

“ What about the lobster-pot, Uncle Cap’n? ”

“ Billy was right to let the little mier-baby out ; he was wrong to cut up Uncle Neb’s lobster-pot. Billy and me must make amends for th'at there lobster-pot. Billy couldn’t, not in all his long life, make amends, if so be he hadn’t set her free ; ’twould have been a strapping big sin. He and me will set to work and make two new lobster-pots for Uncle Neb.” •

Simon Mugget,ty’s hands could do anything, old and misshapen though they were. He got osiers, and in the lengthening evenings he and the child made two fine lobster-pots. One dark night, when no one was about, the old man, unwilling that Billy should appear, hung them on Uncle Neb’s steppon with ,the legend tacked on to them :    “ With a mer-rtiother's respects

and thanks for the loan of Uncle Netfs lobster-pot.” So Mullinstpw had something fr'esh to gbssip; about, Rachel alone had nothing to say. She had1, perhaps,, more important things to think of.

THE sumimer passed away and the autumn followed. Billy was sadly puzzled at his own failures,, and so set to work in new ways. iWh’at with lobster-pots and mer-babies, it looked as if the only way to do a good thing was to do a wrong thing. Yet he could not forget what awful consequences there might have been if he had left the baby in its cage. Supposinjg she had been landed along; with the lobsters? No one might have known who or what she was, and they would never have believed Billy B. ! Supposing . . and supposing ...

So in his difficulties he did his best to be a good

boy.in ways that no one could laugh at or rope-end

him for. Aunt Rachel found him in these months

wonderfully helpful in the house ; and he was very happy

in this, seeing that she seemed really glad of his help.

She was less often downdaunted now. Uncle Jake,

too, was very good to him1, and the toy lugger Was

making rapid progress. To Billy it was more than

ever a magical thing, since he had seen it on the,

little sea of the mermaid’s mirror. Yet he was glad

it had not yet reached the varnishing stage, for that 107

io8    BILLY    BARNICOAT

might have been introductory to turning Billy ;out. This, however, he thought about less often now. (.

But one night towards Christmas Jacob put ,on his sea-boots, though he had no thought of going aboard. He then ostentatiously fetched from the top of the dresser the knotted rope-end. He was very angry-looking, though Billy took heart from a little twinkle in the corner of one eye.

“ This here rope is getting mighty hard, wanting its joyful use ! Maybe ’tis fresh tar it db. need. But look’ee here, Aunt Rachel :    ’tis    months    since    Billy’s

legs was set dancing. Likely a fine lerrupjng would set the music going.” Then he called out : “ All handfe shorten sail ! The Joyful Billy before morning will be scudding under bare poles in a screeching! gale, lads ! ”

Billy stood white with fear, his hands ■hesitating' on his brace-buttons. Caroline leapt on to his .;shoulder, set back her ears and glared at .the fearful man, as if daring him to carry out his threats. :She had been much concerned of late at her little master’s reformation, but was not, without protest, goingi to put up with such methods of restoring his more delightful and surprising practices. In spite of her own tameness, she loved Billy’s wildness.

Then Billy turned red with sudden anger : ;

“ ’Tis a wicked dommed shame,” he exclaimed, and rushed to the door. Aunt Rachel’s voice calling him back was so gentle that somehow he ;was impelled to kiss the ring on his thumb. Then ;he turned to her with a happy smile.    i

“ Billy, come here,” growled Jacob, and then burst out into a huge laugh. “ Come here, you young limb, you vagabond, you flotsam1, and help.' me to hold this black-hearted wrigglesome rope-end in the fire, so as it shall never again lick into a boy’s skin—not even to save his soul alive.”    ,    .

THE LAST OF UNCLE CORMORANT 109

And the rope was flung into the flames, and Jacob’s arms lovingly round Billy. Then the little boy knew that Uncle Jake was more happier-like as well as Aunt Rachel.

That same night it turned bitter cold, and Jacob' once again had to prophesy a full hurricane before forty-eight hours were over. With the dark dawn it looked as though the wise fisherman had madfe po mistake. The sea was magnificent. Although such bad weather meant idleness and anxiety to Mullins tow, Billy always felt it exciting, so that now he must run from point to point, from breakwater to Trannion Cove, to get sight of the white horses in their rampaging gammuts. Even when a wreck was sent to their shores, and Rachel was grieving and Jacob' doing all he could to save life, Billy felt exhilarated at the fierce glory, the awful splendour, that wind and water could display ; and on this morning the child’s wild nature came uppermost. Rachel could scarcely keep him at table during dinner. Forgetting all the past year’s schooling in manners and goodness, he seized his bit of bread and cheese—meat, and even fish, had been scarce during a fortnight of bad weather—bolted from the door, and looking up for a moment at the stone horse to make sure it had not joined its friends below, was soon lost in the black night.

In spite of wind and great deluges of bitter cold rain, he made straight for Uncle Cap’n’s cot. He wanted to see the white horses leaping and floundering about their rock-set stable in the sea. To watch them in such stormy weather from the foot of the figurehead, and to have his old and adored mate within call—him who knew the ways of the deep sea and its wild horses, as well as all the stars in the firmament— was pure blessedness ! But Simon Mug'getty found him drenched to the skin, so took him inside and dried him before the fire.

no    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“ ’Tis Christmas Eve, and no mistake about it I ” said the old man, gazing into the fire. “ Other folk besides witches can see things in the embers ! ”

“ What is’t you do see, Mate? ” asked Billy excitedly. “ The Baby Jesus come along at Christmas/’ replied the Captain dreamily, and gazed into the fire for quite another minute. Then he said :

“ What a fine Christmas gift ’twould be, Billy, if so be a baby-fisherman do come along too. Likely he’d be for riding a-top; of one of Bucca’s horses to Primrose Cot ! ”

At which hint of possibilities, Billy shot out into the storm and down over the rocks at a pace impossible for the old sexton to overtake by either legs or voice. He could only gaze after the child racing seawards into the wind. The quadrangle of rocks was rising higher out of the receding tide every minute and letting the waves cast sheets of torn lace-work over their flat tops. Billy now felt he must, one way or another, get in touch with the splendid horses. Could a baby-fisherman be carried up to. the balcony and cradle by one of them? Yet before going home he must just see if there were not somie little foals or white ponies skipping or playing leap-frog about the low-lying reef : possibly he might get astride one and ride a few yards up: the sands, even if they knew nothing of a baby-fisherman with blue eyes' and a merry: laugh waiting to be carried ashore.

The deep water between the rocks was soon reached ; but the animals were all too big .to mount. So he picked his way along the lower rocks, dodging the rearing beastis as they flung their manes over them1. Soon the new moon appeared : she looked so bright, so shivery and sweet, that he must see what she was peeping into so sly and peart-like.” Up on to the higher rocks he ran and hopped, his hair and baggy shorts blowing out wet and stiff, behind him. His

H2    BILLY    BARNICOAT

leathery bare feet cared nothing for limpet, mussel and periwinkle, jeven less for the slippery layers of bladder -wrack. At last he crouched down on all fours in the moon-shadow to wait till some gentle steed should rush between him and an opposite higher rock. But between these rocks lay the deep pool, shadowed' by a bridge of rock, underiieath which the horses must duck, or over which they must jump before his chance could' come ; and he could follow the moon’s rays as they dipped under the bri’dge and stole down into the stables.

Sure .enough ! The finest green horses Billy had ever beheld were there, row upon .row, tossing their haltered heads up; and down, and stamping their noiseless hoofs upon the sandy ground. They were mad to be loosed, and Billy was on the very point of taking a header in to set them free, when from out of the> very deeps of the pool he heard a fierce and awful yell. It zigzagged down his backbone just like lightning, giving him the terriblest and excitingest shivers. It even made him feel as if he was himself one of the horses, and that he must bite through his halter and toss his white mane and spread it out, then rush up with' scrambling kicks and a whinnying roar and a thundering splash I That yell must be magical! thought Billy. Indeed, before long he learned to imitate it and work wonders with it himself !

But now the horses themselves grew wild1 with excitement and fear : they broke their halters, changed into a mob of raging beasts, stampeded in their very stables, and at last broke away. Billy had just time to draw back again into the shadow, when they rushed from under the rocky bridge and galloped away over the sands. Then some of them1, at a fresh yell from their master—and Billy had no doubt it was Bucca himself— threw their milky tails and manes over poor Billy, pounded him with their hoofs, and dragged his legs

THE LAST OF UNCLE CORMORANT 113

from1 under him!. But he took to his heels in time, and ran back breathless to Uncle Cap’n’s cot.

The old man was looking' far out to sea with his telescope glued to his only eye, though, the thin moon being now hidden, it was very dark.

“ There do be mischief brewing ashore same as sat sea, Mate. Yon schooner’s nigher in than I like.”

He turned and looked up at the Trannion Rocks between the landslide and the harbour, then quickly shut his telescope and began to hobble down to the beach.

“ Me and you’s wanted, Billy, up: long there,” he said, pointing to the cliff-edge. At that moment the moon broke through the angry clouds. As clear as if it had: been day, there stood together on the highest point . Gammer Pengulfy and Shem. The man was pointing with long finger and craning, scraggy neck to the rolling vessel, while his mother peered out from under her shading hand. The moon vanished again beneath thicker clouds than ever, so that it now was nigh pitch-dark. In another moment Captain Muggetty and Billy saw a point of yellow light appear close to the two watchers. It was a lantern, and by its help Billy’s sharp eyes could see them going down the face of the cliff, till, finding good foothold on a rocky platform he well knew, and about a half of the distance down, they stopped. Then the man began slowly rocking his lantern to and fro. There could’ be no doubt as to their intent ! Captain Muggetty was too old and shaky to be of any use. So Billy mtist race faster than his legs ever yet went to tell Uncle Jake of the schooner and the two wreckers. Uncle Jake was the one to brave anything to save a ship! !

In incredibly short time Jacob Hornisyde in his sea-boots, and Billy on his bjare feet, stood on the cliff above the Trannion Rocks, and saw far below1 them the still swaying lantern. Instantly Jacob’ began

H4    BILLY    BARNICOAT

scrambling down, shouting as he went, but leaving Billy above. Again the moon peeped out, and the Witch, looking up, saw Billy. Realizing her danger if the little boy should carry tales, she hurried upi again by another easier way than that taken by Jacob : she must istop the boy’s mouth by any means ! But as she appeared Billy fled down after Jacob ; and although she had her broomstick between her legs—of this Billy was quite sure !—he outwitted her. He was in time to see Uncle Jake wrest the lantern from' the wrecker’s hand and fling it on to the rocks. Then the two men came to fearful grips. Jacob was king1 of all wrestlers in Mullinstow, and after a fearful twist of his mighty leg round the still huger limb of his enemy, the wrecker was thrown. In regaining his feet he slipped on the narrow shelf of rock and vanished with a hoarse scream, followed by a thud on the rocks beneath : and then there was silence.

Uncle Jake gave one glance into the invisible depths and then joined Billy. They climbed to the top of the cliff together ; but the Witch had fled. Without any words they walked a few steps hand in hand. But Billy wanted to tell Uncle Cap’n all about it and Uncle Jake wanted to get home quickly. So they parted.

In the morning the news of the storm! w'as so awful that no one took note of a rumour that Uncle Cormorant, the Witch’s drunken, wife-beating son, was missing. He was never found. 'And neither of the two who saved the schooner ever spoke of the adventure.

But Witch Pengulfy hated the Hornisydes worse than ever.

TO Captain Muggetty, still watching from the spot where Billy had left him, the fitful moon suddenly disclosed four people on the face of the cliff, one of whom1 wlas certainly his little Billy, and another probably Jacob Hornisyde. But he could not be sure of their doings till a cry pierced the roar of wind and wave, and the thud of a body fallen upon the rocks told of a human contest ended—one more awful, too, than, the elemental riot.

“ That there cry,” the old man said to himself, “ was the holla’ing of a coward—not Jacob' Hornisyde. God forgive me if I do praise Him from whom all blessings flow ! ”    ,    v

Then he hobbled back to his cot. There he found Billy, and got his story. But his only comment was : “ ’Tis you ought to have took the old Witch’s broomstick from her and give her one of your white horses, Billy. Then you’d have been set up for life, and her, like the mighty, would have been set down from her seat in double quick time! ! ”

The old man chuckled, pleased with his joke, but 115

n6    BILLY    BARNICOAT

then put his arms round the child, kissed him' “ wonderful strong/’ as Billy said, and bade him1 hurry home before he was locked out—as he would be if anybody, unexpected-like, got there before him. So Billy ran, hurricane, tide and white horses in pursuit.

Only a Cornish boy could have safely hugged those rocks and dodged the breakers without disaster, or, for that matter, could have raced along the quay with its taut and slack hawsers and the drenching onrush of waves across its roadway. But before he could see any other houses, so dark was it, he was amazed to behold candle - flight in every window! of Primrose Cottage. He glanced behind him1, as if to make sure he was now safe from pursuit, and then stepped softly to look up at the cottage, instead of running: up the steppon. Little wonder if he associated this illumination of the cottage with the old man’s hint of a Baby Fisherman at last coming along. Billy had often imagined the little fellow dancing along and laughing, with the biggest blue eyes and the curliest of primrose hair ;    “ he'd know the cradle Was for him' directly

he saw it, and would jump in and cover himself up, head and all, to surprise Aunt Rachel.” He tiptoed up the steps to make no noise, though he could hardly keep from whistling and shouting with such mad happiness in his heart. And he imagined once more the little Fisherman’s looks—just like a picture he had once seen at the Vicarage—with smooth pink cheeks and very wide-awake eyes, blue and big as Aunt Rachel’s.

Billy had reached the door when he dimly saw1, sitting astride the rock above, Widow Pengulfy. She was looking up at the stone horse on the gable, and chattering to it. “ ’Tis my chance do be come now, old Horse,” she was saying, “ and ’tis you must help me. I’m coming up to get across your back, old Buccaboo, instead of my broomstick ! Then we’ll blow! every stick an’ stone of Primrose Cot to the winds—

BILLY RIDES THE STORM 117

Billy, Baby, Mother and all—La ! La !—and Jake too—unless we leave him bide to curse the day he was born ! He’s murdered my son, old Horse ; and ’tis him shall swing for it, mark my Words ! ”

Billy took a block of wood    from    the    pile by    the

door and threw it at the Witch.    But    the    missile    w'as

whirled away into the wind, and the Witch seemed to go with it.

Then he pushed open the door softly, and—amazing sight !—the boat’s lantern and a candle were both alight on the table—what extravagance !—and the kitchen empty ! What waste !. But the wind blew out the candle, and it was all Billy could do to shut the door against it. He tiptoed across the floor and up the ladder stair, saw candle-light streaming through a knot-hole in the door, and soon, quite innocent    of    prying,    had

one of his eyes blocking it.

Uncle Jake was standing at the foot of the big bed looking wonderful-happy. Aunt Rachel was in bed, with her face turned towards the door. But she was looking down at a small bundle in her arms, wrapped in the cradle’s many-hued coverlet, but with so tiny a brown head peeping out that Billy knew1 it could not be the little Fisherman after all ! A fear gripped him lest it was only a piskie-child, and Aunt Rachel was being deceived.

Billy pushed the door gently open and stood hesitating. Uncle Jake beckoned him in. Billy tiptoed across to the bed :    he    must make sure as to what

thing this was that had come to his beloved Aunt— come, too, without any warning, and certainly on the back of no white horse ! He w&nted to peep into the cradle, but then saw Aunt Sarah Tonkin, Aunt Rachel’s sister, folding things up near the window. Aunt Sarah set a stool for him to stand on, and whispered to him, “ ’Tis a proper Christmas Eve Baby: ! ” There it lay close up against Aunt Rachel’s best snowy-white night-

ii8    BILLY    BARNICOAT

gown, and Aunt Sarah turned back the gay-coloured coverlet to let him look. But that look was a bitter disappointment to Billy :    it    was    not    even a piskie,

but a crumpled-up, cross little face I He was too kind to give a hint of his angry distress, for Aunt Rachel looked so sweet and satisfied—indeed, be had never seen her so full of peace before. She would never be downdaunted any more, he knew, and he did feel so glad he had washed up the dishes for1 her—and she always picking out the two biggest pilchards for him, after Uncle Jake’s ! He realized now, when he looked once again from the baby’s face to its mother’s, that hers had been nearly always full of sadness and worry, and that he, could never do as much for her as this ugly little doll-creature seemed to be doing—not even if he always washed up the dishes !

Just then a fearful blast of wind broke upon the cottage, shaking it to its very rock :    the white

horses must be in the harbour, leaping up at the balcony ! Through the roar and racket Billy heard a tiny, plaintive wail. He looked from' the window to his Aunt again, and saw her face ligiht up with a smile that made his heart sink within him'. He was no longer needed here—never would be needed any more. He must go away and think it out.

“ ’Twill blow a hurricane before sunrise,” said Jacob ; “ but she’s come through it safe, this little maid has, Rachel. It do mind me of the Santisima

Though no one spoke them, the words, “He come on the waves anhe'll go on the wind.” smote upon Billy’s ears. There was the biggest lump in his throat —one that would not be clunked (swallowed.). He turned to the door, but then remembered he was really, truly glad for Aunt Rachel—very, very glad, too, for this piskie-baby—this cross, crumpled, didgy, silly, piskie-baby : perhaps he might grow into a sort of a little fisherman when he’d learned howl I So he tiptoed

BILLY RIDES THE STORM 119

again to the bedside and pres'sed his burning cheek against his Aunt’s white sleeve.

“You’re a good little lad, Billy!” she said in a voice hardly audible.

But Billy, feeling the lump in his throat swelling and swelling, darted silently to the door and. slipped out. His going was hardly noticed.

A storm was rising inside Billy that would burst his heart if he did not get away out into the wind; for it seemed to offer him sympathy. Even Caroline, with her four kittens, wanted him1 no more, or she would now be rubbing her head against his ankles. Then there wasn’t a bit of supper anywhere about ! But he broke the law of the house, and took from1 the bread-tub a big dry crust. One dig of his sharp teeth into it and his tears were stayed. Still, out he must go into the storm : the tide would be up, and the “white horses would be tearing fiercer and fiercer round the Chapel Rock, and up to some wickednesis in the harbour. He had heard how once upon a time—at the Flood, it might have been—they had got at the fishing fleet and trampled it to sticks.

Billy thought he heard    Bucca’s    cry ring!    out    again.

Uncle Jake must have heard it too, for he came down quickly in his stockings, got into his sea-boots >and shouted to Billy, though kindly enough, to turn in and make no noise about it. Then the snow drove in as he opened the door, and he passed out into the storm.

“As if a body could make any noise in this tearing wind—or yet hear what was said to him ! ” thought Billy. So he disobeyed, and was out close upon Jacob’s heels, feeling bitter in his little heart. Getting sympathy from the wind and sea, cloud and moon, made his heart still more rebellious. Nobody loved Billy, he thought, not the children, nor Aunt Merrymaid . . . nor . . . nor . . even .    . .    Aunt Rachel    now.    He

did wish he had a mother    all    for    his only    own    I

120    BILLY BARNICOAT

/

Then the storm1 broke inside him. For two horrible minutes he felt he was the storm itself, trying to smash up the fishing fleet, and perhaps the cottage—even that poor little baby-thing in Aunt Rachel’s arms'. A gleam of the thin fitful moon set the ring on his jthumb flashing.    He kissed it so fierce and lovingly that he

instantly had vision of his own lady-mother in her lovely blue gown, with the year-old baby Juahito on her arm, and looking down at him exactly Ls Aunt Rachel, in her clean nightgown, had mothered her treasure. Oh, then, it is quite certain the little boy’s heart was flooded with another sort of passion ! For was not he himiself that very baby in that vjery lady-mother.’s arms, and was she not loving him more than anything else in the world? Some wonderful new and growing mystery sprang alive in his bosom1 / he must, must, must find his mother again, for she was wanting him, and he would give everything—his knife, his jug of pebbles and shells, yes, even the toy lugger Uncle Jake was building—just to feel himself in that mother’s arms ; or, if he was now too big for her, to throw his arms about her neck and kiss her tender face !

Then the wind swung him round, and flung him against the capstan, as if savage that his heart had crept out of the riot. But Billy had noi more anger in him—he felt he could, and must, take no part in the storm, to be chucked and beat and smothered with snow just as it pleased. Uncle Jake had gone into the storm to do something or other, and Billy Barnicoat must do his something before ever he could begin to find his mother ! Immediately he was alert. Hardly able to keep his eyes open against the bellowing! onslaught, Billy tried to see if the Witch was back again on the rock. But he could see nothing,for the darkness. He peered up at the stone horse, and wondered if he could not somehow prevent the old hag from riding it instead of her broomstick. That might prevent her

BILLY BARNICOAT

122

smashing up the cottage. He did not dou-bt the old horse himself ; had he not been their good neighbour these hundred and fifty years?

.Then he ran through knee-deep water and foam along the quay, but was flung down and. smothered in snow and sea-suds. Up again, he saw' the moon,'was being tossed about by the wild clouds, like the yaves ■ pounding at the quay. The boats, hardly visible, seemed . all crowding and grinding together against the/wall. Waves were rushing like rivers up and down th6 High Street, and the tide not yet at its full. Billy remembered Caroline : would anyone think of hel? She would be carrying her kittens up on top of the 'dresser,

. or down into the clock, to find some safe corner for them. Then, what about Uncle Cap’n? Could the . Angels face such a. storm, and take charge cohcerning him, lest he dash his foot against a stone? Billy fought . his way back to the shelter of the cottages, though at one; moment up to his waist in water. ;He climbed the steppon of his home again, and up the rock on hands and knees—the wind clawing his hair and clothes, the snow blinding him—till he reached his little sea-garden of shells : it was swept clean away ! He looked up> at the roof slates, now white with snow, and feared the horse of the good King was gone also :    were    the

Parliament men out, likely? And had they or the Witch ridden the loyal old fellow away? He fought round to the weather side of the rock, and caught the moon lanterning a perfectly awful white horse as it ,faced into the harbour. Stretching from side to side, and humped in the middle, it butted the boats together against the quay wall and cottages ; and Billy, through all the confluent roars, heard fresh sounds of cracking, splintering, scrunching: the boats were done for! At : the. same moment the green balcony below him, with its tubs of fuchsias and tamarisk, was swept, every stick of; it, away. Then Billy feared that the Witch’s boast

BILLY RIDES THE STORM 123

might be as bad as it sounded : but how . glad he was that the little, ugly, brown-headed baby was in Aunt Rachel’s arms, and the cradle safe indoors. “Bad. luck out, good luck in! ” he said almost ; jauntily.

Thiiigs, Billy knew, must have been like this when' his mother was drowfred. He was just wondering whether the white horses were letting her lie quietly in the sand, when a huge white , horse leaped at the;-stone wall and topped the rock itself. It drenched' him. in spray that was mostly sand, and stung him like a million bees ! Then the wind made his clothes and hair feel as if they were glued fast to his. skin. '    ;

“ ’Twould be a pity,” he thought,    “ if it    tored    off;

Billy’s skin like a scrowled    (broiled)    pilchard    ! ”    , ;v

Then he peered up at the horse again and, in a flicker of moonlight, saw the thick-set creature still clinging to its narrow foothold. So Billy s'et about climbing the roof, now slippery enough with snow, and. salt spume. He gripped the rough slates like a limpet; he scrambled to the top and along the ridge like a cautious monkey ; till he reached the gable-end, where the horse had been waiting these interminable years'. He was amazed to find it so big. “It must be a wizard-horse ! ” he said. He crept along and astride the roof till he could pat the old creature.    • ;

Whereat the old horse turned a stiff neck half round to him—or so Billy thought, though the effigy might already have been loosened by the hurricane. But at that very moment the whisp of a mbon shone out again,:; so that Billy saw quite distinctly a white ,mane adorning the horse’s head. He stood up behind the creature to pat its quarters, when its long tail spread out over his own chest. Certainly it had never had such a tail before ! This was as wonderful a thingi as the baby,, sure! Had the old horse,    perhaps,    brought    the little’

thing wrapped up warm in    his own    mane?    Billy    felt'

124    BILLY    BARNICOAT

still happier about the small new-comer below*, and was now quite sure it could riot be a piskie.

In a moment more, however, it w“as as dark as ever, and a terrible fear gripped Billy : perhaps the horse would gallop away on the wind to join his comrades in the wild ocean, even if the Witch' had been knocked into the sea by the chunk of wood Billy had thrown at her. It would then be lost for ever—It, the pride of Primrose Cottage !—so that when the good King came again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead, there would be nothing left to show! which were the King’s friends and which were the Parliament men. Billy thought the King would see at once how! Uncle Jake and Aunt Rachel and the little fisher-baby were sheep and not horned goats—proper Methodists, too. I

But the old horse was getting restless.

“ Brave and steady, Uncle Horse ! ” Billy shouted, “ and let Billy Barnicoat get on your back ! That’ll steady ye like ; for you must stop here till your King comes for you. Steady ! Whoa ! There ain’t too many of us King’s men—not in this part of Cornwall 1 ”

Then the creature stood still and let Billy scramble on to its back from behind :    it    was surprising! howl

exactly the right size it was ! Nor did the horse seem to mind so great a liberty ibeing taken with him. Though the wind was howling fiercer every minute, the horse stood so still that it seemed impossible he had ever stirred an inch. Indeed, he was now! the only thing in the whole world that was quite steady ; for everything seemed to be careering round and round^ up and down, all in the wings of the wind.

“I do be come on the waves,” thought Billy, “ and this here is the sort of wind Billy must be getting away on I ” Then he leaned forward and shouted into the horse’s stumpy ear, “ If your King o’ Glory do come up to Mullinstow, Uncle Horse, you can tell him Billy was thinking a deal about being a good boy—Washing

BILLY RIDES THE STORM 125

up dishes and doing churs for Aunt Rachel.”' Then he stopped a moment, and added : “But couldn’t you ride me, Uncle Horse, to see my lady-mother? ”

But the horse stood as stony as when he was first chipped out of stone : was he deaf, likely, or perhaps did not understand1 Cornish? Yet still the earth, sea and sky were as unsteady as the wind itself ; everything was changed into violence and havoc. At yet another peep of the moon through the clouds, Billy saw the breakwater was submerged under the raging water : or was it broken up like a ship? The waves, cliff-high, were tearing into the harbour, and the boats were all gone. Up the steep High Street black and white horses were rushing, and on the wide terrace in the middle of it a lugger's hull was flung and rocked to and fro on its beam-ends—perhaps The Heavenly^ Home herself ! Into and out of all the cellar doors the raging monsters crowded, even crashing against many a house door above : Billy knew the kitchen and parlour beneath him must be flooded, and all Aunt Rachel’s household treasures washed out into the sea like the offal of pilchards, even the “ Sailor’s Return ” jug, in which he was allowed to keep his own pebbles and shells1 ! Then Billy felt still happier for the baby : indeed, he was now so light-hearted about that funny, little, whimpering thing that he managed, in spite pf the wind in his teeth, to whistle, “ God save the King.” It was then the old horse most certainly heard something ! For Billy felt a great heave of tense flanks between his clinging legs. Then all was still. He whistled again, and now the tune of his best song— that one all about his Aunt Merrymaid, which had earned him such a lerruping. This seemed to excite the horse a little more ; but Billy stopped singing suddenly to ask it if it was an orphan, and whether it ever got lerruped by old Bucca.

Then, at the mention of that dread name, the horse

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was on his hind-legs again—just as if h'e wfere pulled back by an awful bit in his. mouth. Billy now twisted both his hands into the thick mane and gripped his knees tighter, for he thought, if Bucca was the creature’s V master, that Being’s terrible call might compel the horse to fly right into the hurricane.

Billy tried the call, at first very softly to himself, so as to make sure of it : he was nearly bucked into the sea below ! But he had a good hold of the mane,

, and the horse was once more an immovable stone. Billy then shouted the terrible hissing command. Instantly it seemed to put a great spring into the steed, which now trembled between its rider’s legs ; and the world beneath, instead of being all a-tumble in the hurricane, stood still. Something leaped up from behind on to Billy’s shoulder, and began rubbing her cheek into his neck : it was Caroline ! Billy once more yelled out the magic cry. ■

With a rush that nearly took Billy’s head off, though .•    it filled him with a    terrible joy, the    horse then    leaped

.    into    the wind,    over    the furious harbour, where    it lost

."    the    stone that    had    fixed its feet to    the roof.    Away

the    three sped    into    the smother of    snow and spray—

out over the Atlantic, black with desolation and rage.

THE like of that storm had never been seen by living man or woman. Its destruction of . cliffs, villages and fishing fleets was terrible. ■ Even the tin and copper mines, which a short distance from Mullinstow opened upon the cliff face, were washed clean of stamping-mills,' rails, trucks and outbuildings, while starving miners were imprisoned for many days. Not even the wrecks, which in number outstripped all records, brought consolation worth reckoning ; for the richest cargoes were reduced to mere litter, and timbers of the biggest ships were splintered into firewood. Even the wreckers were not tempted.

Yet strange things were found in street and cellar, : on steppon and housetop of Mullinstow. Jacob actually seemed to find some comfort for the loss of. The Heavenly Home, in the diamond-and-ruby brooch lie picked up at his very door and the ivory and painted silk fan that lay unbroken on the clean-washed:; floor of the cellar. He would assert, perhaps half' believe, that they were sent by Aunt Merrymaid as'

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gifts to the little maiden who had weathered the storm and come whimpering into the haven of Rachel’s bosom ! It was a lean winter that followed that hurricane ; but he would not part with little Mary Santissy’s property : for by this name he insisted, that the child should be christened, in spite of everybody, except Rachel, prophesying ill-luck as her portion with such an outlandish one. To the baby’s mother the name was wonderfully pretty :    it seemed to be that of Billy’s

lady-mother ; and the little boy himself felt happy and proud enough in such a link between him and the tiny maiden he had so earnestly hoped would come to them. For a while he could not bear to remember his adventure with that troublesome, sharp-toothed, unblinking, ungrateful imp of a mer-baby.

Rachel cherished, too,, a hope that, by some further and miraculous intervention, these treasures had come direct to her baby in gratitude for her and Jacob’s care of Billy. Perhaps the grand lady knew—and only too well by this time, poor soul [—that his escape from1, the doom of every papisher would be due to his baptism as a Methodist !

It was not at all surprising that the stone horse was gone, though it aroused much comment that, where almost every other roof was stripped of its slates or thatch, many having scarcely a rafter left, Primrlose Cottage seemed to have felt no stress whatever. I't was suspiciously like magic to outwit Witch Pengulfy’s malice and venom ! Nor could Billy’s disappearance be wondered at :    it was only natural that, his first

coming being so ill-starred, he should vanish on the wings of the wind. No one could help putting two and two together ; and it Was generally hinted, with many a wise nodding, that the child had ridden aw'ay on the stone horse’s back to his own place—and would stay there for ever !

But Simon Muggetty had disappeared, and all

HOW BILLY ESCAPED    129

Mullinstow grieved at the loss, even though everyone had suffered so much. This grief puzzled .Wdtch Pengulfy, seeing that nobody’s pocket was any the worse ! Old Simon did nothing, she would say, But teel1 folk in ; ’twasn’t her as would let his spade shovel the earth down on her 1 The sexton, it seemed, had gone round land 2 in the storm, together with his cot and Billy’s figurehead—all swept into the sea with great b'oulders of rock and masses of shaly cliff. j

But Mistress Hornisyde did not believe that either the old man or the young boy had disappeared for good. '    ’

“Our Billy,” she said, pausing for a moment’s considering, though she could think of little but her own happiness and the tiny baby on her arm :    “he

do be mixed up with the Old Wonder’s doings. ’Tis true, even if no one but our Billy even seen it : how, any clear night when there ain’t no moon a-riding, Simon Muggetty’s cot might be full of stars, and little clouds sailing around ; and the stars—or maybe angel-folk—might pipe out King David’s psalms, all so sweet and tender. ’Tain’t likely such as him would be swept up by wind and wave, nor swept down by falling earth, You mark my words, sure :    our    Billy will come

wogging along some fine morning and bring news as Uncle Simon is brave and hearty, and' perhaps how Billy’s lady-mother have took care of his old soul. Old Uncle Simon !—why, what blood was running in his knotty veins were the cream' of human kindness, pressed down and running over ! Sure ! ”    ,

It really looked as if, now Baby was come and Billy gone, Rachel could believe more easily in wonderful

9

1

The word teel, for burying, is interesting, as if it were tilling the ground for sowing seed. It evidently is derived from St. Paul’s speaking of the dead being sown in corruption, raised in incorruption.

2

J Another curious expression, signifying death.

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things that most people: thought it brave to laugh at. Although her happiness was so. great, she was constantly remembering the way Billy had peeped with his great eyes at the baby, and had laid his cheek and funny pointed1 ear on her own sleeve and then slipped away. The more she thought of it, the more she felt convinced that he and his toother would somehow have a hand in: her baby’s protection and that there would be something yet to tell of Billy’s doings during the wickedest hurricane ever known.

One evening when the dusk was creeping into darkness, and Rachel beginning to think it was high time Aunt Sarah Tonkin brought the candle up, though baby was sleeping ever so quietly on her arm, she pictured to herself Billy running down the High Street just as if nothing uncotomon had happened. Then fear changed the current of her thoughts : she began to wonder, supposing: he had been called to his account, whether his soul was saved. Suddenly the door was noiselessly opened and the Witch peeped round it, looking as if the toooix was greenily shining' through her wicked face. Before Rachel could utter even an exclamation of surprise, the .Witch’ was hiss-singing at her :    ,

" He come on the waves an’ he’s gone on the wind :

Where nothing is lost there’s nothing to find !

Let him go on the wind like he come on the wave—

Ne’er a soul has he got, so there’s nothing to save ! ”

Then she gave her hideous “La! Lai” and the door closed silently again upon her. Rachel heard no footsteps going down the stair, but was sure Kreepiclaw scrambled down after his mistress. Then Mrs. Tonkin brought the candle. She also had been terrified by the widow’s jeer ; but she had seen neither Witch nor cat, and yet had to stand aside quickly and let them pass 1 The visit, perhaps, meant nothing more

HOW BILLY ESCAPED    131

than the old hag’s hatred' of Jacob1; yet it was something' of a shock to Rachel. Nevertheless, it greatly-strengthened Rachel’s conviction that Billy was safe somewhere or other. ;

In after-days, when the b!oy was actually, at home again and hardly any worse for his adventure, his story of it was somewhat chaotic. He would tell of the stone horse’s terrific rush, with neck1, ears, legs and tail stretched straight out, away into the “ whirligig, upsi’down, tearing wind,” and then back to the land, skirting the winding coast-line, his hoofs barely touching the perilous edge, yet pounding away in fierce, mad joy ; down thence, like swoop of gull, into Trannion Cove, up whose cliffs the hligest white horses were dashing themselves into milky suds and yellow, sand-stained foam ;■ and at last, right out seawards again, into a roaring mob of watery beasts.

Then it was that Billy caught 'froId of the horfsei’s: ears, and pulled at them as though they were hitched to snaffle and curb' ;• he shouted his loudest piratical words, and even called the horse names that' it is as well should not be repeated for fear they might have consequences ; though, as Billy hissed them out, they had no more effect than a faggot of fire on a boiling sea. Then the boy suddenly realized that the old horsie was bent on his destruction, and that he would never again see his lady-mother nor black Angelito. He looked at the little ring on his thumb’, took spme hope from the loving shine of it, and so kissed! it three times almost as if in despair. Then everything, even the waves’ leaping, was quieter. After that, Billy felt so sleepy and dreamy that he couldn’t be quite, sure of what happened. He was always careful to be accurate, as if he had to keep check on himself, lest he inadvertently dropped into fancying’s instead of rememberings : he thought he now saw) Angelito in his red, gold-braided clothes, seize the horse by the nose and

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drive him back on his haunches. Billy then slipped off backwards, the mane now giving no. more hold than if it had been really spray and foam.

{It was two years before Rachel heard what more of the adventure there was to tell. Billy was relating it to Santissy. The little one was seated in her rush chair on the steppon, Billy kneeling in front of her ; she kept her eyes fixed on the boy’s all through his story, saying nothing, yet seeming to understand every word.

Billy Barnicoat thought he must have been took straight into his mother’s bosom off of Uncle Horse’s back ; so he did, sure 1 ’Twas-like he had been boiling in one of those Hell-crocks, same as Deacon Trevigo telled us all about last Sabbath, Santissy ; and then, ’stead of being licked by flames and steamed and slushed and maybe upset into the fire itself, Billy was set down somewheres so safe and sweet and loving as . . . as . . . as Santissy lays in her mother’s arms.” Then he paused for a few seconds and concluded : “ Don’t you know big boys have got mothers, samie as baby-girls, Santissy? ”

THAT storm raged for three days and nights. Its story has become traditional and is told to this day by the old men whose grandfathers could never forget the horrors of its raging and the famine and sickness that followed. Many were put to the most sorrowful makeshifts to find shelter for their children, few cottages being intact. But the Hornisydes’ was scarcely hurt, except the gable where the stone horse had stood i and Jacob nailed tarpaulin over, so that, after the first night, no rain came through.

“ ’Twas lucky the little maid come just then,” said Jacob, the fourth morning from the gale’s beginning. “ She come and picked out Primrose Cot for a quiet nook where Peace could bide unaff eared till the devils had done their worst. Don’t know as they wouldn’t have carried every stick and1 stone away with them' to perdition but for our little spark of heavenly shining; ! iWhat d’you say, Lass? ”

This was spoken to Rachel, whose smiling assent of “ Ah ! so ’tis- ! ” was good to see. “ And she’ll shine proper when her big brother Billy do come home :    sure    !    ”    !

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Then once again Widow Pengulfy poked her head in. Rachel would rather have hidden Mary Santissy in the copper than let the Witch’s sinister eyes look [upon her. Yet she hardly dared refuse her a peep at the baby and a few minutes’ gossip. Besides, the old woman pretended she wanted news of Billy—her favourite, she always declared, among all .the boys of Mullinstow. Was he not to be a great man in the world, and she alone to get him his Rights? Only a few people gave serious attention to her prophecies ; but they looked upon her hints about Billy’s rank as mere flim-flam. Nevertheless, they feared her scowls and ugly threats, and would do anything to keep on good terms with her. So it w'as largely with the idea of safety to the little baby that she was now allowed inside Primrose Cottage.

“ ’Spose you think she’s an infant angel—and that? ” was her first question; then, “ Image of her father, maybe?—La ! La I Well, Aunt Rachel, folk do say you hang on to your own opinions like a. bit of reasty bait to a conger-hook—’specially when ’tain’t their cheapenings as will ever come to your ears ! ” Then she sniffed—snorted, some would have said, had they dared—while Rachel turned and put the little sleeping thing—such a one for sleeping, she was !—in the cradle-boat so that the poop; could shield her from' the old hag’s malevolent eyes.

“ ’Tain’t me as you need fear,” the Witch continued ; “though folk might think you was scared lest I 'find out what’s wrong with her I And you can’t gainsay ’twas a long time she took a-considering what parents to choose ! Knew which roof was soundest, likely? ’Tain’t me as wants to ask unwelcome questions—far be it from me : but—La 1 La !—her toes is all right? Sure? Not six of ’em? Nor yet webbed? There, don’t you be turning red, you young mother, all for a friendly question or two 1 ’Tis you’d’ have been the first to

136    BILLY    BARNICOAT

get .Widow Pengulfy’s help if anything were out of joint like, I know. But you mark my words, you two Hornisydes ! -If so be her turns ^out better looking than her parents, ’tis a lord she might hook on to, so soon’s she turns seventeen. And ’tis Widow Pengulfy! as will see to it, maybe ! ”    ,

Then she rose on her stick and hobbled to the door; But she had scarcely reached1 it when there arose some commotion below, and Neb Tonkin’s voice called out in a noisy whisper, as if to make the whole world hear and yet not disturb the baby’s sleep :

“ Here’s your Billy Barnicoat, Jacob', and more dead than alive—if that ! He must have had a rare set-to with old Bucca from the look of him ! And got the worse of things for once ! ”

Jacob pushed past the old Witch—a foolish enough thing to do, though he cared little1—.and almost slid down the ladder in excited response to the summons. He thought the little boy was dead, so white and thin was he. His eyes were half closed and dull, and he lay limply in Uncle Neb’s arms like a bag of bones. Widow Pengulfy was soon after Jacob. She peered into the child’s face1, lifted one eyelid, and then turned to the door.

“ ’Tis hanging for him—not drowning ! Billy Barnicoat can please himself ! But ’tis me . . The rest was muttered to herself as she sat dowii lookingi as if the boy was worth more to her dead than alive.

It-appeared that Uncle Neb! and others of the many idle and broken-spirited men had been loafing over the sands at low tide to] see what could be picked up, when they espied, away out, what looked like a child’s body. It was lying on that square mass of rocks on to which Billy, sitting beside the figure-head, had watched the white horses tumble out of their stable. The little body must be dead, they thought ; the waves were still gently washing over it, rolling it from side to

BILLY ONCE AGAIN CAST UP 137

side. So Uncle Neb, Jacob’s best friend and Rachel’s sister’s husband, turned the pitiful thing over to let the water run frotn1 its mouth, and took it into his arms. Whereat Billy had almost come to life and gave a few sighing breaths, but then all was quiet again. With some hope of restoration he hurried the little body home.

The strong man Jacob could do nigh as much as any woman in such a case, provided Rachel was not about. People in those days were wonderfully knowing1 ; and with Neb’s help in getting hot water, making bricks hot in the oven, and heating pilchard-oil with turpentine to restore by friction the circulation of the skin, Billy was brought back to life.

During which anxious business the Widow1 did nothing but look on with sneer and muttering. At last, when Billy was safely asleep in his bed, now shaken down in the parlour for extra quiet, she turned to go, but stopping at the door, lifted her stick as if to threaten everyone in the cottagie :

If I hadn’t taken a hand with my spells,” she said, her hideous mouth frothy with' anger, “ you’d have killed him atween you all ! Look you, Master Jacob' Hornisyde • ’tis time I took things in hand, and seed ..more care was took of the poor little boy. He’s worth thousands of pounds, he is, and :you know it :    yet

you’d kill him—you and your Rachel !—and joyful ! Then what about his Rights and his lordship ?, La ! La I And what should I earn for all the trouble I’ve took? I tell you what it is, Jacob :    I’ll fetch his father,

grandee though he do be j and then you’ll all be sorry, sure enough ! ’Tis gold and silver as I’ve got of his ; and parchments all in true Spanish language, wrote in red and gold, to prove what I say ! And so I warn you ! ” i :    i    j j ’    \    ]    i    I    j    [    j    |

She was truly foaming now, and could utter no more intelligible words. So she struck her stick on the floor,

138    BILLY    BARNICOAT

as if she hoped. to raise black and blue devils, then hobbled down the steps outside, trembling' with rage.

The whole story of Billy’s adventure after he slipped off the stone horse’s back will never be known. When he heard of his rescue by Uncle Neb, he was convinced that his lady-mother had made Angelito carry him on to the roof of Bucca’s stable, as soon as she saw the men coming that way.

RACHEL and Jacob’s hands were now full of new cares as well as hopes. For Billy was very sadly, and there was no Heavenly Home to take the fishermen to sea. Yet the cradle-boat, Sweet Home, was safe in harbour with1 its crew signed on, and its big catch spending most of her sleepy time in Rachel’s bosom. Jacob was almost as handy with' the cradle and its belongings as Rachel herself. Billy, too, took much of his timie. The child seemed to have no definite ailment, no fever, no pains. But he would take no food unless Uncle Jake fed him, and would lie quietly by the hour watching him whittle and fix the masts and spars of the toy lugger he had been so long: a-building. That was all happiness to Billy—the more so that it made Uncle Jake happy too. But best of all were those adorable minutes when Uncle Jake would, oh ! so carefully, bring down in his huge arms the tiny baby sister, wrapped in a bundle of blanket, and “ smelling so sweet as a flower garden,” just for him1 to peep at. Already he saw that her cross, wrinkled

look was fast going; and once, when the tiny face

139

140    BILLY    BARNICOAT

was held down for him to kiss, he was sure he saw her smile at him, “ same as if Aunt Rachel was a didgy {tiny) little baby 1 ”

Yet, along with all this great happiness he was sharing with the baby’s father and mother, he knew1 there was sorrow and anxiety about. He was as wise as all fishermen’s children are ; wiser far than children who never know* how the food comes to them' day by day, and who get everything they need—except, perhaps, the privilege of sharing in their parents’ work with its joys and anxieties. So Billy knew all about it, and longed to be well again, that he might do his share at something or other. Uncle Jake was already making' ready for building a new Heavenly Home. There 'was a little boat-building yard in the estuary above the dam, and he had secured a handy slip for his; boat. But all sorts of devices had to be adopted to get accommodation for the many that were needed. Most /of the men had some savings, for they were betterj off then than now, and the Cornish people wtere always careful of their hard-won money. But Jacob—though neighbours, judging from his fine cottage, careful wife and no children, thought he must have put by a powerful lot of money—was poorer almost than any.

“ ’Tain’t possible 1 ” exclaimed Uncle Neb Tonkin, as Rachel confessed the fact to him. But when Rachel nodded her head in a way that could not be questioned further, he asked how it came to be so.

“ Because he’s given nigh all his money away to shipwrecked sailor-men,” whispered Rachel; “ and ’tis a many have come this way since the storm1.”

“ Well, I be dommed ! ” exclaimed Neb Tonkin, scratching his head, and then adding :    “ ’Tis flying

against Providence, saith I, not to mention a lad’s- own flesh and blood ! ”

It was quite true : Jacob, ever since the wteck of the Spanish ship, had helped many a shipwrecked sailor

BILLY GOES LOBSTER-FISHING 141

to travel home or to buy a new rig-out ; and in the last few days so many such men had passed through Mullinstow that the big-hearted fisherman had parted' with almost his last guinea.

One night Jacob was in very low spirits about his prospects. “ I’ve set ’em building the new Heavenly Home, sure, but there ain’t not a guinea to pay for it ! ” he said bitterly to his wife ; “ and all I have done to make amends for my lantern counts for nought but our destruction, so it do ! ’Twould be fine and proper if the Lord was to destroy me that way ! But not you, wife, with Baby and Billy to fend for ! You can never teach me—not Mr. Wesley himself couldn’t have done it—to hold with the Almighty’s ways of visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children. ’Tain’t human justice ; and ’tain’t like God’s. .Wasn’t it Him as sent this little baby along, Rachel, to you and me?”

“Sure, Jake,” she said; “same as ’twas Him, I do believe, as told you to give up all we’d saved to those poor shipwrecked sailormen.”

“ And then to visit my sins upon her silky little head,” he continued, as if with rising anger:    “will

He do that too? Nay I says I. . . . And He shan’t I I’ll get the money for The Heavenly Home some-wheres . . . even if I borrow1 it of old Liza Pengulfy.

. . . And if there ain’t no other way to get it out of her, I’ll sell my soul to that devil-cat of hers ... So I will ! ”

;He flung out of the room and down the steep stair ; and Rachel could not reach him with one word of comfort. So the baby had to have that word ; and you may be sure it somehow helped the little thing’s father to bear his g'rief—and fight it too—as he strode away into the night.

Billy, down below in his little bed, had heard' the sad conversation. It made him wonder more and more.

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But how glad he was, how proud he was, that his Uncle Jake had given all his money to the shipwrecked sailors I Sure, he was just like Uncle Great-Heart in The Pilgrim’s Progress !    But—most    terrible thought !—

would he have to sell his soul to Kreepiclaw?

The next day opened with calm and sunshine, .making Billy hope for primroses, and a posy of them for Aunt Merrymaid. Aunt Rachel brought the little maid down to the kitchen and put her in the cradle near the fire. She was nine days old, Rachel reminded them, Jacob adding, “ And a nine-days’ wonder, so she is ! Lay you a quart, she’ll cut all her teeth before another week’s out ! ”

“ Merciful Heavens ! ” exclaimed the mother, with' a happy laugh'.

Neither parlour nor kitchen could be very comfortable, seeing that so many things were broken and spoiled, some even washed away by the storm ; but Jacob had done wonders with saw and1 chisel, hammer and screws, all of which, Billy watching, increased tenfold his admiration for the bigl fisherman.

The little boy was nearly well again, very happy, too, in the prevalent feeling of adventure—and this, although he could not forget the extortionate Kreepiclaw—when Uncle Neb' Tonkin looked in and offered to take him shell-fishing. His work was the trapping of lobsters and crabs. His lobster-pots or creels had not been set when the great storm broke ; and although his cottage had suffered as much1 as any in Mullinstow, his boys and girls, eight of them, were big enough to make shift for themselves. They had now helped their father rig up a raft to paddle among the rocks and pools and set the lobster-pots in shallow places. But now, having made his offer, he told Rachel she was too soft-hearted with Billy, and added, really in joke, that he must be missing the old rope-end nowadays. He then suggested a beating on the spot, as good for boys

BILLY GOES LOBSTER-FISHING 143

going after the shell-fish. Billy, in quick response, pretended he was ready ; he even set fingers on his brace-buttons, but then hesitated:

“ Uncle Neb, ’tain’t you nor even Uncle Jake takes his money without ,’tis earned,” he said.

“ Sure ’nough ! ” agreed the two men.

“ Nor, not if getting it free would save your soul? ” he asked Uncle Neb, with his comical eye-twinkle : for he knew Uncle Jake wias not quite assured that his brother-in-law had “got religion true and hearty.” But Uncle Jake’s brow clouded, and he only said, “H’m! H’m ! Little boys ...”

“ Likeways,” interrupted the defendant, “ ’tain’t Billy Barnicoat as’11 take the rope-end : not to save his little papisher soul from burningi I ”

This was so brazen-faced and coxy, that certainly three months before it would have earned a lerruping ; but now they laughed, and Aunt Rachel ruffled up his shock of hair.

Then Uncle Neb said Billy could come along on the raft that very night, if the new moon was clouded, and see if there was any lobster-luck lying about. They would set out at midnight. Tiwo< of Uncle Neb’s boys would go too. Billy danced with delight.

They were all in high spirits, and the fun of it was not lessened by the fact that the raft was only just big enough for the four of them, so much room1 being taken up by the creels. These, when baited with their bits of putrid fish, were quite intolerable 4:o many fastidious noses ; but although Billy had no liking for the stench of the pilchard cellar at Primrose Cottage, he loved the smell of the lobster-pots.

When they reached the dark shallows, Uncle Neb let Billy hold the line of one pot and pay it out while its ballast carried it down among rocks, in the holes and crannies of which lobsters and crabs seek domestic happiness and peace after a day of predatory forag-

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ing. How it came about, not even Uncle Neb could say ; but Billy seems to have fallen asleep as he watched the thing sink, and then to have slipped off the unguarded raft into the water. He thought it must have been hours before they got him aboard again, though Uncle Neb declared it was only a minute before the boy struck out, swam round the raft twice, and then caught hold of his hand and was dragged safely aboard. Billy’s idea as to time seems to be nearer the mark, for the queerest things happened ! Yet he did not remember anything more about the raft or Uncle Neb or his two big playfellowls—but only things about places he slipped away into. And this is how the adventure began.

While he was slowly paying out his line and letting the creel settle down in the dimly moonlit water, Billy could not but watch also the gentle current that ran against the sides of the raft with a musical ripple. His thoughts wanted to run away with the current, but he pulled them back, lest he should fall asleep. Then he thought of the fish that presently would be stupidly peering into the creel, and of what a mazed fool a lobster must be to crawl inside it, when he might have learned by this time he would never come out again ! He remembered he had once seen a lobster-pot with a live mer-baby in it. He would like to go down now, but that he felt too sleepy. Besides^ he wouldn’t know how to stop down there if he tried. How had he managed it before? he asked himself. :Oh, yes, sure, it was a rope of Aunt Merrymaid’s hair that let him down ! Wouldn’t the lobster-piot line do as well? Possible ! So, before he had decided upon the attempt, he found himself climbing down, hand under hand. When he reached the ground, there wasn’t any lobster-pot to be seen anywhere ! He found the sea made him wonderfully wide-awake. Here, surely, was the opportunity he had been longing for : he would go and find

BILLY GOES LOBSTER-FISHING 145

his lady-mother : the mermaid’s looking-glass might not be the only way !

In a minute more he was walking along the floor of the ocean, winding in and out among great seaweed trees, and sometimes having to dodge a lobster or crab’s wide-stretched claws. It didn’t feel like water, though everything in it looked as if there was a gentle wind ruffling it, with whisps of sea-fog going about, too. But the people of the sea took small notice of him, though he peered after every strange fish that flashed or sulked by him. The water ;was full of vague and sleepy life. The music of the current, drifting against the raft, was still in his ears, though it slowly sank away into the distance. Presently, through some gently swaying branches of a green sea-tree, he saw bits of shimmering scarlet and gold ; then, just above them, a silver band, and above that two smiling rows of pearls, shut together like teeth ! Could it be Angelito? The sea-tree seemed to fade away, and the little black boy, instead of kissing Billy’s hand, as would be his custom of old, just beamed lovingly and invitingly. Then he looked up on high, and his eyes seemed to say, “ Billy Master, don’t you see the stars shining and dancing? ”

Billy looked. It was surely a glorious night up there, the stars flashing and splashing so bright, and their constellations urged into dancing by the little waves on the sea’s surface. So bright it w!as, that Billy hoped the lobsters would see what the wicker pots were for, and avoid being caught in them ; and this, though only a few hours before—as it seemed to him—he had been helping Uncle Neb to catch them ! When he looked at Angelito again, some of the stars were most engagingly dancing on his silver collar, and so tranquilly that Billy could almost read what the words were. His own ring, too, glittered nearly as brightly as the collar.    v    ,    .

10

146    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“ Angelito,” said Billy, “ your silver collar and my gold ring say us two belong to the same mistress-mother. She’s an angel, I think I ”

And the discovery gave Billy a delicious sense of her nearness. Was not Angelito taking him to her? Billy never seems to have thought Angelito’s collar implied any other servitude than that enjoined by his own gold ring—the free service of love and gratitude. They went along hand in hand. Often, when in Angelito’s company, Billy felt as if, instead of himself going towards things and discovering them, they were coming to and finding him in the twilight. It might be wavy, or pearly, or very twilighty, sometimes rainy, even—and this whether or not they were under the sea !—but things came and discovered him. Ind'eed, this fantastic queerness was the chief distinction between Billy’s two worlds ; yet, although they were so far different, they still belonged to one another—and inseparably.

And now, a hundred yards ahead of them, dimly and wavily appeared the old tower covered with seaweed. Dimly and wavily, also, came to their ears the booming of its bell.    1

“ I’ll race you to the tower, Angelito,” said Billy, making sure they had to go to it, though} he hardly thought his lady-mother would be there. And off they went ; but it was strange to be racing hand in hand I Anyhow, I iWarrant you won’t see a swifter race, whether) under the sea or above on the land ! Cornish1 boys are hard to beat—unless with' a rope-end !—and if Angelito won that race, it was because Billy’s loving heart was stronger even than his legs.

BILLY wondered who could be ringing the bell this time. The two boys ran beyond the toWer, just for a peep at the mer-children’s garden and palace ; but finding both deserted, they came (back and climbed the spiral stair to the belfry, the bell booming louder as they neared it. Thanks to the starlight shining from Angelito’s collar, they saw a beautiful mermaid leaning against an upright beam1 hung with mussels and seaWeed ; but she looked, oh, so weary with ringing the great bell 1 It was! Aunt Merrymaid herself, like a great pearl shimfriering in the twilight ! Billy felt sure she was weeping, and even more bitterly than for her fisher-lad. As soon as she saw Billy—she either did not or would not see Angelito —she took her hand from the rope and waved to him languidly. Then, with the bell’s booming Dong! Dong! for a mournful accompaniment, she began to chant in her shrill voice :

" Oh, woe is me And miserie !

For the sweet sad tears Do but hearten my fears I ”

147

148    BILLY    BARNICOAT

Dong! Dong! went the bell, but she continued :

“ Oh piteous grief Past all belief !

For now, oh never, no never more,

Shall my looking-glass dazzle the Cornish shore !

. . unless, little Billy B., dear heart . . She had suddenly stopped singing, and now seemed at a loss how to say something on her mind. Then] she fixed her eyes intently upon Billy, wrenched from the bell a huge Dong! Dong! and exclaimed :

“ . . . unless, unless, unless . . . that pickpocket, that patched-up, pig-eyed, pokey-nosed, peg-top-chinned, pesky . . . and pitiless pickpocket . .    —Dong!

Dong!—“but what is her name, Billy B.? You’re keeping it from me, you know you are ; and ’tis vastly, unkind ! ’Tis Pen—Something, I feel sure. Pennyworth, Pen-urious. . . . Oh, help me, help me, Billy B. ! ”

She gave her young friend little chance of replying, though all her long string of P’s made him guess whose name she wanted. Dong! Dong! She pulled at the bell-rope again, and poured out still more P-words, as runny as sea-water out of the scuppers, but much, much more angry—like a rampaging wave heaving into its bosom all the little billows as it sweeps onwards. . . .

“ . . . that pepper-pottish, improper and impenitent pickpocket . . . ah 1 ah'I ahli . .    —Dong! Dong!

Dong!—“that papistical, pig-in-a-poke of a woman I— don’t you know yet who it is? . .    —Dong1/ “But

I will not let her plaguey, pestilent name pass in and out of my innocent brain . . . that pilfering, pettifogging, patchwork-petticoated . . .”—Dong!

She mumbled more words beginning with a P, than’ Billy could have found in Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary—

THE MERMAID LOSES HER MIRROR 149

if there had been such' a book in Mullinstow. They were like pebbles on a beach pestled and pounded by petulant waves I But the poor lady was at last beaten ; and, dropping the bell-rope, she added in a tone of uttermost despair :

“.What is it I do be talking about, little Billy B.? ” “ And who is it you do mean, Aunt Merrymaid? And whatever has she been and done—if it is her? ” asked Billy softly, and quite shy before the lady’s great anger.

Then the mermaid rallied her wits for a final explosion.

“ .Why, whoever should it be, silly-Pilly, Pilly P., but that penny-wise-pound-foolish, and penurious pagan piece, prancing in pedantic pride on her broomstick, Aunt Pen-pen-pengulphy ! ” And she broke down with cruel sobbing.

At last the storm was becalmed, and she said in her gentlest tones, and with her most engaging smile : “ Can’t you make her give me back my pretty looking-glass, dear heart of a Billy B.? ”

“ Perhaps Angelito can, Aunt Merrymaid,” said Billy, looking round for his little friend and servant ; but nothing was very clear to see, though Billy thought the black boy was standing at the top of the stair.

Then Aunt Merrymaid tried singing again, and this time without the bell to help her.

"And never no more, no, never with me,

Will the brave merrychildren, swim-swimming the sea,

Go catching and cracking the skittish young crabs,

Or scrunching green shrimps, or the flat flabby dabs !

Tis never again, till my mirror is found,

Will they turn ...

“ because of their silly, silly terror of the bell's sorrowful sound.”

150    BILLY    BARNICOAT

The poor thing altogether failed in getting the proper degree of shrillness in her voice ; and when the quite absurd breakdown over the last line declared the utter disorganization of her poetical economy, Billy was truly surprised. But he had to comfort the kind sad soul as best he could.

“ Perhaps they’ll find it very soon,” he said : “ ’Twould be terrible if they w'as to swim away for good and all ! They’ll come home again, fast enough.”

But this she did not want :

“ Oh, not too soon, dear Billy B. !

For while the bell booms sweet and sad,

It almost makes my sorrow glad,

And cheers my cherished miserie.”

Then a great quiver ran through the sea-lady’s tail and she wept again.

“ Where’s she hiding your looking-glass, Aunt Merrymaid? ” asked Billy. “ ’Tis me wants another dive into it to find Baby B.’s lady-mother again.”

“ What does that matter?” asked the mermaid petulantly. “ You and your lady-mother. I I tell you I can’t comb my hair without it ! How1 shbuld I know where it is? In Piskie Town, likely—or the .Whisht Ivy Wood—that’s where your Treasure Chest is—in Pengulfy’s cave, they tell me.”

“ I’ll find it for you ! ” bragged Billy, thinking now also of his Chest and what it might hold.

“ You can if you like. But ’tis dangerous! ! The Wood is all alive with dead things—spriggans and buccaboos and giant smugglers and trees turned to stone—and Kreepiclaw everywhere—so they do tell me : but ’tisn’t a merrymaid has any fancy for things beginning with a P.”

“ Piskie Town does, the Whisht Ivy Wood don’t,” said Billy, reflectingly.

“ It does if I choose, Billy B.,” she contradicted

THE MERMAID LOSES HER MIRROR 151

sharply ;    “ and it ends with' as many as I can pick

up. There’s plenty yet I So do be quick, and very careful; and bring it safe home 1 ”

Then she rolled over and began ringing the lb ell again as she sang :

“Ah, woe! Ah, woe!

The sweet tears fall when the west winds blow,

But the saddest grief ever seen in the sea,

Is mermaid and glass parting companee ! ”

Billy felt he was needed no longler. He turned to Angelito, but could see only patches of scarlet and gold, the silver collar, and the pearly teeth shining, as it seemed, through the wall. He began to follow the Blackamoor’s beckoning, but then stopped to give Aunt Merrymaid some encouragement.

“ Billy’s the boy to find your looking-glass, Aunt Merrymaid. Don’t you be crying any more 1 And . . . and . . . couldn’t you stop that bell-ringing now, and let the babies come home again? They do hate a doleful noise, and perhaps they want their dinner ! ”

But she only sighed.

“I’m off, Aunt Merrymaid I ” he added; “you see if I don’t find your looking-glass—me and. Angelito 1 ”

As they went round and dowto the winding stair, Billy asked if they were going to see his mother now*. But Angelito looked at his little master as much' as to say :

“ She can’t ever be far away from us, Billy master, so long as I have my collar and you don’t forget your ring.”

Billy looked at his ring and followed Angelito down and down—much farther it seemed than they had come up.

“Where is the looking-glass? ” asked Billy, as soon as he caught up with his friend :    “ Is it in

152    BILLY    BARNICOAT

Piskie Town? or maybe in the Whisht Ivy Wood? . . . Where is Piskie Town? I know1 where the Whisht Ivy Wood is. . . . But what’s that about my Treasure Chest? What’s inside it? ”—all these questions in one breath. But there were no answers. Billy tried to lay    hand on    Angelito,    but then, strangely enough,

Angelito was gone ! At that very moment, however, he saw the open arch at the bottom of the winding stair and    sunshine    streaming    in . . . and . . . and .    . .

that must be Baby Santissy crying! I

The bright light was only the morning sun coming in at the window. Billy was in Aunt Rachel’s bed, for Uncle Neb had brought him back, still more than half    asleep and sopping    wet. She was rubbing    his

cold    feet, and    had left the baby to cry by herself    for

a few minutes ! And the coffee she was making him’ drink was steaming hot. The brandy in it made him1 cough, but was lovely 1

IN those sad but happy days Jacob would read something from Bible or hymn-book to Rachel immediately after supper. Such reading nearly always made Billy go to sleep, and sometimes the words would start him dreaming, so, that afterwards he: would almost think he had been undertaking some new adventure. Thus, one night Uncle Jake was reading, in strangely broken voice, the words of King David, who, telling of his own great sorrow, speaks of the waters coming into his soul, of his sinking in deep mire* and of floods overflowing him'—when Billy fell very fast asleep indeed.

The next moment Angelito was with him, and they were come into deep waters, though they could still breathe easily. Caroline was there too, and Billy was anxious about her, as she; had only her ninth life left. Billy asked Angelito if it was ghost-water—so sad1 it was ; but the Blackamoor only smiled. The rocks and seaweed, the mussels with wide-gaping shells, the golden periwinkles crawling, the long fish and the flat fish with their greedy, slow-trapping mouths, all looked 153

154    BILLY    BARNICOAT

as if your finger would go through if it so much as touched them. ' But more solid difficulty was before the two boys for masses of sand were sweeping around them in swirling eddies, only to settle down in great heaps on every hand. Billy tried to climb’ up the biggest, and then was almost smothered with the weight of sand on top of him'. That naturally ;woke him up, and Uncle Jake’s reading seemed as though it must have been part of    his    dream. ;

“ ‘ Oh that my grief was    thoroughly weighed :    it

would be heavier than the sands of the sea.’ ”

But Billy turned over and began ' to think how terribly heavy Uncle Jake’s grief must be.! Couldn’t he shovel some of it off for him? There was his little wooden spade that Uncle Jake had made him : what wonderful castles and cottages and churches they used to build ! Then the moon began 'to shine in at the little window over the dresser. The sands would all be lovely and firm now, as the tide was low. He would just go and sejej if Angelito was still out there where he had left ‘him1 a minute    before. He    jumped    up,    felt

quite as hearty as ever in    his    life, got    into his    clothes,,

found the door was not locked, and was soon running away to join Caroline and    Angelito on    those far-aWay

sands, under which lies    buried    the    little town    of

Gullinporth.

Hundreds of years ago it had been as busy and prosperous, Uncle Cap’n had often said, .as Mullinstow itself. Even to-day you might perhaps at lowest tide find that wide stretch of    silvery    sand    brilliant in    its

'glitter at noon, but at    sunrise    and    sunset full    of

cornelians, agates and rarer gems that only long piskie-fingers can find. Not far below this sand lies the little town with its tiny Saxon church, its market and cross, its little harbour with the boats still lying in it, immovable as the rocks themselves, and all drowned in the sand hundreds of years before. The seas had receded • and

BILLY AND ANGELITO 155

the sand, coming upon the busy town in waves that no fish could swim in or gulls skim over, had just buried1 it and all its people. When the sun is very hot, the dry east wind blowing, and the tide out, you may, behold the sand scurrying' over the surface in eddies and drifts, and sometimes, it is said, unb'urying silver-white bones of men and women and children—now gotten away above dead bones for ever.

Here it was that Billy now cam'e ; and there, sure enough, though a long way off, were Angelito and Caroline. Billy, much‘ astonished, stood still : or did he? For either he was getting or they were coming nearer. Even when he was quite near, Angelito would not have been so clearly visible, but that Caroline was stroking her grey head and sides against his black legs in her most matter-of-fact manner. To make surer, Billy stroked Caroline, though she took small notice. - Then he put his arm round Angelito’s neck, but seemed to feel only the silver collar. He began telling him' the news at home, how the baby enjoyed everything “ so peart and chuckly and bubbly ” how, though there was trouble enough and to spare, Uncle Jake was happier than ever before ; and how1 the toy lugger was nearly ready for its coat of paint and varnish. And as he told it all Angelito became quite himself and his body; nice and warm1 and shiny black.

But meantime Caroline was behaving very absurdly : she was scratching away at the sand like a terrier. Presently she stopped her work for a moment, sat upi, and fanned her face with one paw. Then stretching out one claw towards Billy in her best schoolmistress manner, she said :

“ Billy Barnicoat, you will have to do something with this sand, or it will do something with you ! ”

Now Billy always held his cat’s suggestions as. worth consideration, even though, he would say, sometimes she couldn’t see through a window for watching the

156    BILLY BARNICOAT

flies crawling up it or the rain-rivers running down. Yet now he was doubtful : “ You can’t,” he said, “ do anything with sand but build castles and things or . .

“ Don’t see any use in make-believes/’ interrupted the cat, beginning to scratch again as if exasperated with the sand’s bad behaviour. “ Perhaps Master Angelito sees some—he do smile so sweet at the stuff ! ”

This was put interrogatively, if a little sarcastic. But the Blackamoor seemed as sad as when Billy first set eyes upon him.

Billy looked deep into Angelito’s eyes as he had done once before, and the answer came to him straight out of them. Angelito beheld the sand of the desert that lay between himself and all whom his childhood had loved. Billy flung his arms about the Blackamoor’s neck. Caroline was jealous, perhaps, for she said with a very little contemptuous grin :

“ Billy Barnicoat, anyone might think you had chets of your own I One of mine is black : and that’s how I knew I might rub' up against Master Angelito’s legs without hurt. Lick as hard as ever I know, I can not make her white ! ”

“ Silly Caroline I ” said Billy, taking her into his arms, but looking still more closely into Angelito’s eyes :

“ Now I know, Angelito dear,” said he, shifting Caroline on to his shoulder and putting both hands on the black boy’s shoulders ;■ “ me and you understand the same language though we was taught to, speak different.”

The gaily clad Angelito smiled again, and Billy knew they two would never have any difficulty in conversing.

It seems curious and not easy to comprehend, but thereafter, in all Billy’s stories of their doings, he represented their talking together just in ordinary English. I presume this means that Billy translates

BILLY AND ANGELITO 157

for us folk, who are too tremendously clever to talk in the way dogs and1 cats and cattle and birds carry on their important or chattering conversations, without any spoken words. Billy thought they could hear each other’s thinkings.

“Tell you what,” said he, after a little more exchange of mind between him and his serving-man and playfellow, “ ’tis castles and cots and churches we’ve got to build with this sand. They’s usefuller than deserts. Caroline, do you mind them we used to build in the sands when I was a little boy? ”

“ And all for the waves and merrymaids to sweep away so fast as us done them I ” exclaimed the cat scornfully.

“ They’re all brave and hearty ! ” exclaimed Billy, with' such assurance that he jumped up again and' began to dance, taking Angelito’s hands just to make him happy too. And as they danced a very mad sort of jig, Billy improvising music and words, the sand disappeared from all about them. Billy thought Angelito must be singing too in a low, sweet contralto voice, making, a sadlike second to Billy’s merry piping, but he was not quite sure :    ;

“ Down, down, below Where the mer-babies blow Bub-bubbles and trumpet through shells,

Our sand castles bide Safe from fishes and tide,

And witches’ grin-grinning and spells.

They’re peopled with piskies And shrimpies and friskies.

And away where the sea Runs into the sky They catch little stars For to make a fish-pie !

And when the pie is opened The stars will sing and shine,

Oh won’t that be a dainty dish For Angelito, me and Caroline ! ”

158    BILLY    BARNICOAT

Such glad nonsense did the boy sing, that somehow he knew his mother’s httle blackamoor slave was happy in being her baby’s serving-man and playfellow.

And then something smote upon Billy’s heart : when, oh when, should he see his mother again? To recall her with his baby-self in her arms could no longer suffice him. He was a big boy now, with big cares and responsibilities. There was Uncle Jake with his grief heavier than the sands of the sea, because he had given all his money away and had none to pay for the new Heavenly Home. .What, what should he do. ! He kissed his little ring, and then knew what he had to do : he must find that Treasure Chest ! Angelito had assured him it was his very own. There would be money in it, likely, to pay Uncle Jake back all he had given to shipwrecked sailor-men : then he need not sell his soul to Kreepiclaw. He must find the Chest, and get it away from the Witch'. If he had to steal it, it would be only his own ! But a chest full of money would be terribly heavy, likely. Perhaps he would find Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass too, and give it back to her, and then down and away for his darling lady-mother ! Perhaps she’d tell him he was a good boy and had growed away fine and hearty,and she’d kiss him and keep him with her for always. And last of all, he would find those Rights of his in the Chest—the gold-knobbed cane, the sword . . . and . . . ?

Then Billy asked Angelito if he wasn’t taking them to the Santisima? But Angelito looked very sorrowful and Billy saw something wfas wrong.

“ The years are gone by me and the Way with it,” the little Blackamoor thought into his little master’s mind. “You will forgive your black serving-man, please? ”

Billy felt as though everything he lived for was wrenched away from' him, just as the fishing fleet was swept from the harbour in the storm1. But he would

BILLY AND ANGELITO 159

not cry. He had grown too responsible for that sort of thing : besides, he was nearly nine now! !

“ But, Angelito,’’ he said, “I mast find my lady-mothet 1 I must, I mast ! Tis her can tell me what’s in my Treasure Chest and what Rights are. And . . . and . .    . I’m still such a    Httle boy to    have    no

mother I ”

Then Angelito let him understand that the way back to his adored mistress was somewhere for the finding, and quite safe ; but he thought Billy was the boy to' find it    now. Perhaps the    shortest    way    would    be

through Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass—perhaps there might be surer and safer ways—perhaps. ...

“But where's that looking-glass stole to?” interrupted Billy, looking mightily puzzled ;    “ that’s what

I want to know. And where’s Piskie Toiwki?, I know Whisht Ivy Wood right enough. That’s quite near my home. But Piskie Town? Might it be Gullinporth way? ”

And    Angelito’s only reply    was that    they    might    be

in it now, if they could only    find it.

What could the wise Blackamoor mean by such silly words?

BILLY had now still more to think about, and was silent. Perhaps he was considering whether he had best wake up or go to sleep and dream ; for, from some far-away place came a deep, droning of words—it seemed like months and months since he had heard them before—“ Oh that my grief was thoroughly weighed : it would be heavier than the sands of the sea.” And then from somewhere nearer came the doleful ringing of a church 'bell, reminding Billy of the tower under the sea. But the sand lay all about them and drifted or eddied into hillocks whichever way they turned, not letting them go in any direction.

“'If we want to get what we want to get,” said Billy, scratching his head, as wise people are apt to, do when they have no idea inside, “ ’tis something must be done with this sand.”

■“ Make-believe things ’tis you be after ;, and I told you that before—plain as unbuttered bread, Billy Barnicoat 1 ” responded Caroline. “ Lay you a quart of milk ’tis make-believes and that sort is whirligigging

160

WILD THYME AND TAME TIME 161

inside your head I ” She said it quite lovingly, even if she was a little vulgar in her annoyance.

“ ’Tis possible sand is make-believe acquiesced Billy, a little in his bragging tone. “ But what a boy makes of it ain’t I ” And he turned to Angelito for support. But the black boy’s silent answer was only this :

“ Sand broke my mother’s heart I ”

Billy had to choke down something in his throat. But then he exclaimed :

“ I know ! ” and doubled himself to look between his legs. He stayed quite a few minutes in this position, while Caroline rubbed her head and sides and tail against his legs—so wariri and firm were they after the gritty sand. She always just had to curl round those legs and purr whenever her young friend was at that silly trick of looking between them 1 Besides, she preferred pink legs to black ones.

What Billy then saw added conviction to his dearest hopes.

“ Things bide a heap realer than pussy-cats think they don’t,” he said, as he straightened himself. “ Don’t they, Angelito? ” And clearly Billy’s discovery had to be accepted by all of them, though Angelito had vanished—perhaps into the world Billy had taken his upside-down peep into.

Even when a very little child, Billy would insist that the castles he built on the sands with his spade and old earthenware pipkin, even though washed away by the tide, somehow bided done.

I don’t think we can call his argument exactly logical, when he now added :    “ Didn’t Santissy come

away out of the sea, when everybody would have thought she’d be all undone like sand castles? ”

" Sure ! ” assented Caroline, as if she had worked out that problem already for herself.

That peep from between his legs had made things II

162    BILLY    BARNICOAT

clear to Billy, however much Caroline might have thought it an up si’down way, and although it had perhaps shown Angelito the way out. That they were now quite near to a piskie-town no one could dispute. Indeed, many of the outlying cottages were very like those he used to build with the spade Uncle Jake had made for him :    “a magic spade it must be to do

such wonders,” Aunt Rachel would tell the little chap. Indeed, the little town they Were approaching fully supported the claim for his sand-buildings’'permanency.

At first it looked far enough away, though the smallness of the houses was not merely apparent because of distance, but actual. And yet it was not inconveniently small—as will be soon realized. It wias a little mining town by the sea, with a narrow harbour and steep rocks all about it, and dozens of fishing boats. Half-way up the face of the cliff 'Was the entrance to a mine, and down by the harbour was a limekiln. Billy could see and smell the far-away grassy downs. There w'ere sheep; bells ringing too—or was it church bells? But Caroline was contemptuous : “ Sheep bells ! Church bells 1 Fish-bones and fiddlesticks, more like.”

Soon after, Caroline declared she wanted her milk. “ But the sun’s only just up,” expostulated the boy, “so it can’t be time yet.”

“ No, nor ever will be in a place where they do ring bells for nothing at all ! Couldn’t Billy Barnicoat do with a hot pasty or a bite of saffron-cake? ”

Soon they reached the centre of the little town, where stood a Holy Well and a fine granite Cross alongside it. The sandy street was lined with little shops. Little people, every one with a red nightcap and shouldering a black or white Persian kitten, came ofut and began taking down the shutters.

“I do believe,” exclaimed Caroline, with a gasp of wonder, though she seldom wondered at anything,

164    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“they’re all my poor chets—dozens, litter after litter, that Uncle Jake drowned—lay ye a quart o’ mild he did it, Billy Barnicoat.” Then looking from one kitten to another, with one paw outstretched longingly and quickly moving her lips up and down as though she was silently chattering to them, she added : “ And ne’er a homely (ugly) one among them ! ’Tis me will now worry through my ninth life fair and comfortable, Billy.”

The little boy had begun to dance with joy at the discovery of the kittens’ parentage, but was instantly checked by seeing Caroline busy cleaning her darling fur of some sand still hiding in its deeps.

“Ain’t you mighty glad, Caroline, to find all these orphans of yours growing away so brave and proper? ” “ Yes, sure, silly Billy ! You’d be, if you was a mother and had a heart beating under a tender, soft fur,” said she, giving a little sob, though almost inaudibly because her tongue was now busy with her chest.

“ Let’s go and beg for just one or two? ” suggested Billy.

“ No, sure ! ” said Caroline. “ Leave ’em bide : They’re well provided for ! ”

“ But don’t you want just to make friends with them, Mother Caroline? ”

“ Please? ” she asked, as if really puzzled. “ Chets is made to play with! Friends indeed! Besides, there’s more fish in the sea than ever come out of it! ”

But after this, Caroline perhaps believed a little more in Piskie Land.

In spite of Billy’s delight in his cat’s discovery, he was taking note of the red-nightcapped gentry’s doings, and was mightily puzzled at the way every one of them, before taking his shutters down, glanced' up at a big three-gabled cottage that stood across the open space behind the Holy .Well. This one, indeed,

WILD THYME AND TAME TIME 165

was the clock-maker’s workshop. Hung: all over its wall were clocks of every, description both as to shiape and size, yet differing even more in the time they told. And yet they were all going right busily:—racing, thought Billy, to see which would get to breakfast-time first I A few, indeed, went backwards, and these had cross faces.

Now Aunt Rachel had found it impossible to teach1 Billy how to read the face of the clock, although he had learned to read his Bible and write his own 'rimings almost without any teaching at all. But then he had never found any sense in clocks : few people had them, and those who did lown, one, like Uncle Jake, used it only for proving small boys to be late for meials, and in time for the rope-end. Billy saw that these piskie-clocks, hanging all over the wall 'right up to the gables, were a proper sort : they rang their bells and struck their hours just whenever they pleased ! And though they seemed to have no agreement with one another, they all chimed in with the church bells,, and made merry music.

Presently,    while Billy,    and    Caroline    too,    were

watching the    clocks with    rapt    attention,    the    street

began to fill with dwarfish miners—“ Perhaps they’re knockers 1 ” 1 thought Billy—all with long black or white beards, pick and chisel in their hands, and a close-fitting tin cap with a lighted candle stuck in the narrow peak, trough-like, to catch any trickling grease. They were hurrying up the street as if ,'they might be late, but each looking anxiously at the bunch' of wild thyme he carried, smelling it and picking at it with his long fingers. Every day, when they came up to grass out of the mine, Billy concluded;,    they    must gather a    fresh

bunch of the    sweet herb.    But    now each    miner, as

* Knockers are fairy tinners, who often help the men over their terrible hard and dark work. In Cornwall, miners are all called tinners.

166    BILLY    BARNICOAT

he passed the clock-shop, glanced up at the contradicting faces and hands, and gave a sigh of relief when he found at least one among the many in agreement with his own estimate of the hour, as-declared—so it seemed —by the wild thyme, I Then he strolled away to his work more leisurely. In another minute Billy began to dance again, and1 pointed to some legend written in mother-o’-pearl letters on the bargeboards of the three gables.

“Caroline,” he said, “ ’twould be a hundred pities if you hadn’t got a little b'oy here to read those words for you.”

“ But I don’t believe they can be spelled right in such a upsi’down place ; and then they can’t spell sense : sure ! But if you like to read, lick away at them. 'Faith 1 I won’t listen without I want to ! ”

So Billy read ; and the spelling being quite correct, we must presume there was more sense in the words than Caroline had wit to interpret. This was how they ran :

“ WILD THYME AND TAME TIME ' NEVER TELL THE SAME TIME.”

And then Billy, picking up Caroline in his arms, must dance with her in a perfect ecstasy of delight.

But he stopped suddenly, for he saw Witch Pengulfy come hobbling up to them from out of the church tower. The very moment she appeared, all the clocks stopped their ticking and striking, and the sheep bells their ringing. Kreepiclaw was sitting on her shoulder— all on one side it was with the creature’s weight. She came up , to Billy smirking and smiling. Caroline jumped into her master’s arms, and then began to make faces at Kreepiclaw..

“ Ah, that’s what I like to see ! ” the .Witch1 said mockingly. “ A little lord it is, sure 1 Pity he hasn’t his gold-knobbed cane and his little sword to run

WILD THYME AND TAME TIME 167

through my beautiful cat with I Wouldn’t he like to \ see in my looking-glass how a lord looks dressed like a common fisher-boy? ”

\ She fumbled and searched among the dozens of pockets in her full skirt, and then—oh, wonder and delight !—brought out Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass. She held it up to her own face, but pretended to see him1 in it.

\ “ ’Tis Lord Billy—his very self ! Such a beautiful boy—all in his jacket and breeches of blue silk. A little lost soul of a papisher he is, to be sure : though what’s wrong with that when his pockets are full of money and cakes and:—just you look at his gold-knobbed cane, and his little silver-mounted sword ! \And his silk stockings, sure ’nough I Ah! that’s the real Lord Billy, so it is, if he’ll only love kind Aunt Witch. It makes her cry salt tears to see his feet go bare, and ne’er a cravat round his neck or a ring on his fingers.”

“ Yes, I have,” protested Billy, trying to make the best of himself and strutting as if conscious of a sword and gold-knobbed cane.

Fingers I said, not thumb ” she corrected. “ ’Tis a trumpery bit of gold—brass, more like—and must come off when he gets his Rights. See? ” 1

Then she let him look into the wonderful glass. He looked and looked, but could see nothing! like a tiny rippling sea. Then he wondered:—put his hand on it as if he would try and slip, in, but caught sight of his little ring. So, just because the Witch had despised it, he kissed it ; and this brought his face close up to the glass. For one minute—-no more—he saw his mother in her blue gown on her golden chair, exactly as he had seen her before. But the baby, was gone, and she looked very sad indeed.

Juanit.o! Precioso mio ! ” she said, holding out her arms to him, so that at last he knew what those

168    BILLY    BARNICOAT

strange words m'eant. “ Come and kiss me, Billy— but not till you have put away that, sword and1 that cane.”

Then the Witch snatched the looking-glass from him, mounted her broomstick very awkwardly in her hurry, and half ran, half flew, like a terrified fowl, to the church tower. The whole place was now very queer and unreal to Billy. Kreepiclaw sprang at Caroline— twice her size he was. But at this moment it seemed as if somebody—quite invisible, so it might have been Angelito—seized the black cat by the tail and, whirling it round his head, flung it after the Witch, slap up against the tower ! At least so it seemed. Yet Billy then saw Kreepiclaw clawing at the base of the.' tower, and slowly, feelingly, crawling up it. Each paw, as the cat thrust it out, turned into ivy, which then, in its turn, pushed out another leg, paw and claw, each after the other, till ever so quickly the whole tower was covered with glossy, black-green ivy leaves 1 Everything' seemed to Billy too ridiculous to be real—except the looking-glass and the vision of his lady-mother. Yet Angelito was now standing by him, very black and strong and smiling.

“Never saw the like of that before, Angelito, did we? ” said Billy, as soon as his astonishment was over ; “ but now we know where she keeps the looking-glass : in the tower ! ”

“Who knows?”' asked the Blackamoor’s eyes, dreamily.

They went boldly up to the ivy-covered building1, though the great furry stems and dark glossy leaves looked greedy and creepy-clawy. “ Give me Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass, please I ” shouted Billy. But then he had to look behind him, because he felt something crawling up one of his legs : he stripped off a shoot of clinging ivy, and it hurt 1

The Witch poked her head out from the ivy—where

WILD THYME AND TAME TIME 169

\ the door had been before Kreepiclaw began his trick— \ and glared at Billy. :

V “If you don’t love me, my cat shall claw-creep all tover you and your precious Blackamoor—La: 1 La !—and your ghost of a lady-mother too, Billy Barnicoat. And lie’ll pick the bones of that silly Mermaid : he likes fish ! My sweet Kreepiclaw could eat the whole boiling of you—baby and all—and not swell a quart ! And so I iwarn you fair and straight ! ”

(Then she disappeared.

ALL through Billy’s surprising visit to Piskie Town, his friends, who were not there with him, would have said he was in bed at Primrose Cottage, tossing about with a touch' of fever perhaps., but sleeping much, and taking what food Was .given him. Widow P engulf y, who always did her best to annoy Rachel when any trouble beset her, looked in frequently, though she, if no one else, must have known that Billy’s better part was aWay in Piskie Town or near by. Were not she and Kreepiclaw pestering him there? and in more ways than the little boy understood at the time ! Perhaps Caroline also knew what her little master was about ; for she Would play truant in these days, coming home only for her dinner, taking a hurried peep at the lie-a-bed Billy, and then leaping off again in a great hurry foir no one guessed where.

Aunt Rachel scarcely knew how toi bear the Widow’s attentions. Sometimes she would be angry, and answer back the old woman’s assurances that Billy wasn’t “ all there.”    , ;

170

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 171

“ And if he ain’t all there, like—well, perhaps ’tain’t for me to say—the blessed little boy, maybe, have took the rest of him where he do have the best of rights to be I . . . With some folk, whose scheming wits is all there, ’tis their hearts do bide someWheres where they don’t want to be when safe and buried (and no harm done neither, saith I) ! ”

Rachel was very angry then, of course, but not so much for the hag’s malignity as for her promises to do things for Billy that would some day tempt him1 away from Mullinstow. Nevertheless, as she admitted to Jacob, “ ’tis best to be civil to these sort of folk : you never know what will happen next' 1 ”

So Billy lay there on his little bed, mostly quiet and white, forlorn enough sometimes, and at others very restless, chattering about such things as sand and miners, “ wild thyme and tame time,” “ kittens ” and “ claw-creeping ivy.” Then he was suddenly better, and tried to do things to help Aunt Rachel, though he was fit only to watch Santissy in her cradle—--a duty which made him very happy. He ate better ancl began to sleep like a healthy child, yet still had a whisht, puzzle-head look.

Truth to tell, he was sorely perplexed : how did he find or come back from the places where he met Angelito? They seemed, too, more solid and real than Primrose Cottage, now that the storm had robbed it of so many things, pretty and handy. Yet everything was getting trim and snug again. Wasn’t Uncle Jake going ahead prime with the toy lugger? and wasn’t Aunt Rachel kind and loving, giving him all the best that was going—milk, too, though he knew how scarce both food and money were? Still, for all these kind blessings, things did not seem quite as they ought to be—unless it were Santissy’s tiny curly hands gripping things—“ which,” thought Billy, “ ne’er a soul but herself could see 1 ” But the cottage itself was kind of v tender-flimsy ”—a little boy could get through the

172    BILLY    BARNICOAT

doors and windows easier than over a wall, and then down the steppon without touching the stones, and then—who know's?—he might be walking along with Angelito in the desert, or a piskie-town, or once again up a church tower under the sea.

One day, after supper, Jacob' was talking about the landslide that had carried away Uncle Cap’n Muggetty’s cabin and the Maria Santisima’s figure-head. Not a vestige of these was left, though he still refused to believe that the old man might not have escaped before the worst came : such a wise old man he was, and knew everything about the earth’s inside—if not the water’s, too ! And Billy, sitting very quietly on his three-legged stool, was wondering if he could perhaps find where the old man was biding. Many possibilities occurred to the little boy when he recalled the, old-tinner’s stories of the wonderful sights and doings in the mines’ deep workings.

For, it must be explained, that part of the Cornish Coast had many queer mines. They may now be disused and almost forgotten, but are still there. They were terrible places for men to earn their bread from. The miners (or tinners) worked harder than now1; they had poorer food, too, and terrible sicknesses, caused by the unhealthy labour. Yet they did marvels with their picks and moyles (chisels), their candles worn 011 the peaks of their iron hats, and fierce swearings, almost as time-worn as their hard hands. These grimy miners, stripped to the waist and stained red with the dust below, were made for sunshine and green fields, golden crops and gay flowers ; not for spending fourteen hours out of every twenty-four tunnelling and blasting, sweating in the darkness, in order that happier men might live daintily. I don’t think they could have borne it but for the ever-present thoughts of their little ones’ hunger—hunger not only for bread and butter, but quite as much for the caresses of those horny hands

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 173

when at last they should come lip to 'grass, wash off the deep-red dust, put on their clothes and ;trudge wearily home. Every one of these tinners had his own knocker —a fairy attendant who kept his master’s mind on the green grass and hungry babes, however fixedly his eyes must follow the lode of copper he was hacking as he crawled or lay on his back in the low* tunnels.

.Well, these patient men had cut out galleries and ladder-ways and steep inclines and air-shafts right down and into the very underground of the sea itself ; so that at low tide, if Billy’s white horses were thundering at the rocks that smashed their own bones and hoofs into soapsuds, the tinners below could sometimes hear them with terrible sharpness pounding on the roof. .With such-like facts and imaginings would the old man fill the little boy’s mind.

Indeed, it was of these very things Jacob1 and Rachel were now speaking of, she sitting by the kitchen fire, winding thread for the new nets, and he netting fast and intently. The baby was asleep in her cradle, and Billy sat on his three-legged stool, watching Santissy, while he rocked Caroline in his arms like a baby. Then came silence, and Billy, quite oblivious to everything but the cat and the cradle, began to sing, though so softly that Santissy would not be disturbed. He must have composed his rimings as he went along :

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle I The crab and the winkle Go leap-frogging over the moon ;

And the mer-babies laugh

At the dish running off

With the knife and the fork and the spoon.

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle !

In crumpled-up wrinkle Santissy cries, ' Take it away ! ’

For Aunt Witch, like a spider,

Came and sat down beside her And ate up her curds and whey.

BILLY BARNICOAT

174

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle !

The white horses sprinkle

Their manes in the face of the moon;

While the blue mussels hark To the dog-fishes’ bark,

For the lobsters are marching to town!

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle ! ■

> Buttons bright as a brinkle,

Boy-blue, come and blow me your horn !

But the little dog coughed When the cows, tail aloft,

Scampered off for to chaw the ripe corn 1

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle,

The clocks tick and tinkle,

A little too late or too soon;

Tick, dickory dock !

A mouse in the clock !

And Caroline up in the moon !

‘ Hey, diddle-dinkle !

The pilchards in prinkle Packed tight in the Star-gazy pie;

But what a queer bake !

Billy pulled out a snake,

And said, ‘ What a good boy am I ! ’

Hey, diddle-dinkle !

Baby’s sweet face in crinkle With smiling from eyes to her chin !

For Father’s gone hunting To fetch Baby Bunting A wrap-her-up-soft rabbit’s skin ! ”

At this point Caroline suddenly struggled away and leapt to the door ; but Billy overlooked her rudeness and began yet another verse :

“ Hey, diddle-dinkle !

The fiddle and finkle

Kreepiclaw is up clawing the moon :

But ding dong bell . .

176    BILLY BARNICOAT

. . . when he must have fallen asleep. Anyway, the three-legged stool suddenly slipped from under him and slid across the stone-flagged floor.

“ I always said that stool was bewitched ! ” exclaimed Rachel, but said no more, for Billy was lying curled up and fast asleep by the cradle’s side. So, at least, the baby’s parents would have told you. .What Caroline would have said is not recorded :    only, jas

the stool slid towards the door, she followed it, and miaowed till they let her out into the dark night. Billy himself might have explained to us that what they saw of him curled up asleepi by the cradle was “ the flimsy ” —that part of him which Uncle Jake, so kind and strong, put to bed for him to sleep his tiredness off—but that the hearty Billy Bamicoat was away, with Caroline and Angelito in some abandoned workings of the mine underneath old Bucca’s stables. He would tell you how they had crawled and wriggled like serpents, “ though we didn’t eat dust ” ; and how the only light came from sparkles in the quartz and amethyst-crystals sticking out here and there in the walls, or from the shivery rays reflected in the salt ooze. Angelito said it was as dark as the ship his own people were taken across the sea in, when the only light seemed to come from the eyes staring out of starved black faces.

It was downhill all the way, and they could hear the waves slapping and back-washing right over their heads. Billy did not at all like this new adventure. Uncle Cap’n Muggetty had told him that, so thin were the walls, a single blasting had once deluged the galleries with sea and fishes—“ ah, and merrymaids, too, like as not, poor souls I ’’

“ Was the tinners all drownded? ” Billy had asked. “ ’Tis possible,” Uncle Cap’n had answered :

" Though weeping wife gripped weeping lass,

’Twas never a tinner came up to grass.”

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 177

All of which’ Billy nowt remembered, and told Angelito that, as soon as he got his Rights and was1 a lord, he would get his slaves to fetch out all the tin and precious stones and fill up the mines with' sand— so he would ! He said all this in his boastful w'ay, and turned to see if Angelito; was prop.erly impressed. But Angelito was gone—no, not quite, if that silvery band out there was his collar.

“Angelito I Angelito I” he called; “I won’t ever be a lord if you’ll love me ! ” And he reached out for the silver collar, drew it towards him, and flung* his arms round his Blackamoor’s neck. Angelito was there, sure, and his teeth shone in their happiest smile ! But Billy must be quite truthful :

“ And I won’t make black folk work in my mines— leastways, I don’t think . . . perhaps I won’t. . . . Faith ! / don’t know ! ” he blurted out ; and the black boy’s smile vanished again.

In those days, so narrow were the workings of the mines that the men often had to hack their way on their backs, their only tools being' hammer and chisel. In place of blasting powder or dynamite, they used quicklime and water. The expansion of the generated steam, when the mixture was fast plugged in a hole, did the blasting. Billy well knew! of the dangers in such work, and had much to; tell his Blackamoor.

“ ’Twas done long before you Was born, Angelito,” he said, “ and only to get tin and coppetf for King Solomon’s Temple ! ” For it used to be a pious tradition all over Cornwall that the bronze of the Temple came from this delectable county.

iWeary with the darkness and cramped monotony, Billy wanted to turn back. “ ’Tis impossible, Billy master, when Uncle Cap’n is waiting,” said Angelito in his strange, silent way. But Billy made response with : “And who’s forgetting that, Angelito? I do wish' you wouldn’t hang behind so slow! I ”

12

178    BILLY    BARNICOAT

But though Billy chattered away at imaginary ancient history to help Angelito to forget their anxiety, Billy’s own heart was hammering, away at such a rate that he thought it a pity it wasn’t beating on a mpyle, and knocking lumps of tin out :    “ only it might knock

a hole through, and then some white horse might put his hoof in it and get a tumble before he reached the shore.” He never in all his life forgot that inside silence of the mine, and that outside pounding and wash of waves overhead.

The journey seemed endless. But every time he felt hopeless of getting through with it, Billy would feel almost sure he heard Uncle Cap’n calling him, calling him : “ ’Tis your old mate can’t get away round, land and home, Mate, till he’ve said good-bye to his Billy Barnicoat, and told him the stars’ constellations once again, Mate.” Yet, if these tunnels opened out anywhere, they would let the sea in, sure I So how could they let boys out anywhere? And still came the calling :    “ ’Tis your old mate do be waiting for

you, Billy ! ”

Where, then, was his beloved Captain? Perhaps Billy had been only dreaming that the cabin and garden and figure-head were swept away in the storm, or perhaps Billy was being taken up to where his lady-mother was—or out to the Maria Santisima, where she was waiting with her Precioso mio in her arms.

At last they came to an open spiace with a’dim light at its far end. As soon as his eyes were used to the light, Billy thought they were standing outside the state-room of the Santisima. The little bell rang, and Billy’s heart just leapt for joy. Angelito went through the door, seeming to forget for once that his little master ought always to go, before him. But Billy had no thought of such irregularity, and was following closely when ...

After all there was no doiqr at all: the w!et glittering

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 179

rocks gathered about him cloiser than before. Then Billy began to rage with anger ; and it grew so dark, that nothing at all could be seen but a little line of gold. Puzzled as to what it could be, he touched it with his finger :    it was his own ring' ! He kissed

it thrice. Then, oh, the sweetest, dearest voice the little boy had ever heard—the one he had been longing and longing for—was saying :

“ No, Anglelito mio, not yet ! Juanito cannot come —not even if you open the door again. For, Angelito, you have failed me sorely ! How has it come that my loving little Billy wants to be a lord?

“Senora/ because, I think, his noble father is a count.”

“ That is why his noble father wiould not have our little son step into his shoes. His father is no count now. He has learned the great lesson from His Master —‘Love makes all ranks equal.’ He is a loving servant now. He heals the wounds and broken hearts and angry spirits of poor Blackamoors who fell among thieves. He makes them his brothers and sisters and children. For, he says, he was one of those thieves himself in Cuba, though he did not know it. And you and I know he was never that ; was he not always tender and good to you, Angelito miol

“ Oh yes, oh yes. . . . But, I beseech1 you, Senora, mayn’t I fetch Senorito Juanito from out of the mine? Kreepiclaw was following us.”

“ You cannot, for he could not come : he wants to; be a lord, does our darling Billy, with a gold-headed cane and a sharp sword ! ”

But Billy stood all alone, with the pounding of his heart within and the beating, of the Waves above. He wished from his heart that Caroline w'as there to comfort him. Then something began to stroke and creep about his left foot and leg—not a bit like Caroline ; but—horrible thought!—could it be Kreepiclaw? He

i8o    BILLY    BARNICOAT

put his hand down to his knee and felt a tendril of ivy sticking to it and creeping up beneath his shorts. He stripped it off, round and round, right down to his feet. As it broke off, bit by bit, it made queer sounds, like miaow and spit ; but when the last morsel was stripped off, his skin sore but not rawed, he found he could see a little ahead and that the passage was not so narrow as it seemed. Hie was, in fact, a humble-hearted, very sorrowful Billy again. Had Kreepiclaw come between him and his mother? was it all because he wanted to be a lord? Would his mother never love him any more?

“ Angelito ! Angelito ! ” he shouted, peering ahead and behind, hoping to get sight of the Blackamoor’s collar. But there was no answer. Then Billy crouched down on the ground—right into himself, it seemed—and cried his heart out.

When at last he lifted his head, he wasi surprised to see a rough door with a latch'. He scrambled to his feet, dried his eyes with his sleeve, and reached up to the bobbin. He pulled it ; and it was the door of Simon Muggetty’s cabin that he opened. This hardly surprised Billy, although he had thought it was swept away by the storm. Indeed, his heart and mind Were so full of his lady-mother that his first inclination was to turn aside and make sure that the beautiful figiure-head had escaped destruction ; yet he would not, for fear Uncle Cap’n should prove but a dream.

At first Billy could see nothing! whatever of the tiny room, because the blue firmament of night filled every corner and sparkled with stars. But as he tiptoed across, the stars gave more and more light, and he saw the hammock hanging as still as if it had been empty, though a few misty star-lit clouds glimmered brightly around it. All fear had left Billy when he pulled the latch ; yet now, as he crept up to the hammock, something like fear, yet different, gripped his loving heart.

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 181

The hammock hung low. Billy could have swung into it, had it been empty. But there, sure enough, his old friend lay as peaceful as the firmament itself.

Then Billy saw more than could ever b'e told. Afterwards, when he wanted to tell Aunt Rachel all about it, he could not find any words that wtiuld do it. He once began to tell her how Uncle Cap’n looked with the stars all about him ; but he stopped short ; jhis eyes opened wider and wider as they gazed away out over the sea ; and he said no more, but turned back to Santissy and her rattle. Nevertheless, there came an occasion when he thought no one but the baby Was with him. Then it was Rachel overheard him telling her how Uncle Simon’s face had suddenly looked like the first glow of the rising sun ;■ “ and I saw* him grow youngerer and youngerer, and stronger and more hearty-like, so’s Billy Barnicoat thought he was for turning out of the hammock, sure ! . . . But not him, Santissy ! And mind this : just as he had come to look so young as, as—younger than Uncle Jake ever was—just then he smiles at Billy that tender and true, so that Billy could do nothing but jump into the hammock alongside of him1. ‘ Little Mate ! ’ said he. * Little Matey ! ’Tis you must be running home now, Billy . . . running home ! ’ ” And his arms came all round Billy Barnicoat.

“ Santissy, I tell you true. Faith ! nobody in all the world did ever kiss a little boy like Uncle Cap’n kissed Billy Barnicoat for to bid him good-bye ! . . . And I do wish my lady-mother would kiss me again, Santissy, same as she . . .' !    ‘ The bells be all

a-ringing,’ says Uncle Cap’n, ‘ and this old tinner must be going up to grass, Mate. Don’t ’ee be a-feared o’ nothing, Matey, in the narrow, dark workings : stick to the lode an’ the stars’ll all be a-twinkling and a-singing in the wind, and a-playing like young lambs around the old moon ! ’

1.82    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“ And then, Santissy, Billy looked away for to follow where Uncle Cap’n’s blue eye was looking. But the cold wind was blowing on Billy, and the sun was come up and making a Glory-o’-the-Lord morning just like that one after the wicked storm when you come along so sweet and saucy, and only a baby-whimper to set against the roarings !—Billy found himself laying on a rock, with his arms like as if they was all round him who’d been kissing him. But he could hear the stars still singing over the sea to the sunrise. So Billy jumped up and shook himself wide awake, he did.” He stopped for a moment, then added :

“ Don’t you ever forget how Uncle Cap’n looked when he set out up to grass—just like Uncle Lazarus looked when You-KnoW'-Who told him to; come up to grass out o’ his grave. Don’t you ever forget it, Baby Santissy ! ”

So, after all, the cabin and the garden ajid the great wooden effigy of Billy’s mother wfere taken away into glory along with Uncle Simon ! The great torn cliff thereafter looked black and strange, “ without form and void.” Even the rocks below were strangers. The black quadrangle of them, where the boy had loved to swim, and that wonderful arch from under which the white horses had ridden him down at the beginning of the storm, were all changed. Soi that for a space, till the sun rose and lit up the breakwater and empty harbour and tattered roofs of the town, Billy could not know he was so near home. But the tide was out : he scrambled down the treacherous cliff and ran awiay home.

How Billy had crept from his home that night remained a mystery. For they had left him1 in his bed, Jacob having undressed him, still fast asleep, after he had slipped off the three-legged stool. Jacob declared the only way out was up the chimney. Certainly, however, when in the early morning they found him

SIMON BIDS BILLY FAREWELL 183

asleep on the steppon, the red sun making1 him look as ruddy as. a miner covered with the fine red dust of 'the' workings, there was no sign of soot on him I Jacob carried him in, wrapped him in a .blanket, and laid him on his little bed, all without his once lifting an eyelid.

Billy made a new song for himself and Santissy, though neither of them understood it ; in which ignorance the two were not unlike birds at their nest-building, with the star-fire in their hearts. This was the first verse of the song: :

“ The gulls they fly up with the white horses’ foam,

In storm and in sunshine the Sea is their home :

Sweet merrymaids, laughing, yet wonderful wise,

Do sing happy ballads with tears in their eyes ;

But Billy’s old uncle, when at last he got free,

’Twas the twiriky little stars come a-singing for he ! ”

NEVER had there been such1 a baby as the little Santissy ! She grew so fast, slept so sound ! The thrust of her pink feet and the grip of her] rosier hands were astonishing, and showed, thought Jacob, what a wrestler she’d have made if only the Almighty had seen fit to make a boy of her. Not that Jacob would have had her different—not for a hundred pounds ! But though the joy and peace of Primrose Cottage increased with the baby’s contentment and her parents’ pride, there was still sorrowi enough in Mullinstow. Of all their little fleet, scarcely a spar or splinter, scarce a rope or net remained ; and there was no work to do, until new boats should get a start in their building:. Only a few at a time could Mullinstow’s slips accommodate ; so that many of the fishermen were away to buy new or old boats in Penzance or Falmouth, some even getting over to Brittany, in spite of the war, and buying sardine-boats.

Most fishermen in those days could save money, though to-day, thanks to steam-trawlers having driven away the pilchards, the utmost thrift could not provide

THE TREASURE CHEST 185

against a hurricane like that for which the Mullinstowi folk had now to make amends. Moreover, both men and women w!ere in some ways more capable then, the men with adze and saw*, hammer and chisel, and the women with their netting and spinning-wheel, dough-trough and pastry-board ; so that everybody at once set io work boat-building and sail-stitching, netting and making the best of things in the home.

You may be sure Jacob and Rachel were not behindhand, and Billy proved to his own satisfaction that a netting-shuttle and a cradle could be far more useful than a gold-knobbed cane and a sword. Even Santissy —“ Why,” said her mother, “ ’tis she, more’n us, do make the best of things—making the sun to shine on a land of sorrow: eh, Father? For this wasi her new name for the husband she loved so. wtell.

“ Faith, so ’tis 1 ” assented Jacob. “ But, O iWife, ■Wife 1 supposing ’twas you drownded and Santissy cast up by the sea? ”

“ ’Tis all forgive and forgot, that is, Jacob, years ago :    and will be, more and more, so soon’s Billy

understands all you’ve done for him—body and soul I ” “ Don’t know 1 Don’t know1 ! I never will forget my lantern took a hand 1 ” objected the sorrowful fisherman. “ ’Tain’t for Billy to forgive—but her. Don’t know but what she ain’t for wiping us out with her hurricanes—and all along of my sin—heavy ;as the sand, heavy as the sand ! ”

“ Now, Jacob lad, don’t ’ee be talking mazed nonsense ! ’Tain’t good for the baby to hear such1. Bide a pure while {a little longer) and you’ll see I know a woman’s heart better than you. That Billy’s lady-mother couldn’t have been his mother if her heart had any thoughts but loye in it ! Look how he do keep Santissy happy ! ’Tis a little maid he should have been created ! ”    :

And Jacob went back to the boat slips more happily.

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As for Billy, his craving' for mischief seemed to be swallowed up in his adoration of the baby, though somehow that seemed inseparable from' a longing for his own mother. The glamour of gold-knobbed stick and sword had certainly and increasingly fostered/ his bumptiousness. But when that state-room door closed upon him after admitting Angelito to his mother’s presence, still more, when he accepted the office of big brother to the little Santissy—wh'om he would never have allowed was\ other than his own sister—that bumptiousness, that weakness of deceiving himself into thinking he was so strong and brave, certainly grew less. Two other little things helped also. .Whenever he was amusing, feeding or even dressing the baby, and whenever he was helping Aunt Rachel over her chars, his little ring always shone brightest. The other help was, that whenever he found himself wogging along, with hands in pockets and whistling, perhaps, too, hearing his cane stumping along or his sword rattling as if he was King of all JVfallinstow, something began creepy-clawing up his ankle ! Even if it Was only imaginary, it left his cheeks redder and his heart ashamed. Something told him that so long as Kreepi-claw could get near him it would be impossible to find Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass or to see his lady-mother again. He did so long and long for her, did so long to be a good enough boy for her to let Angelito walk beside him ! Meantime Baby Santissy gave him much consolation. He thought it all out : if Mistress Hornisyde was Aunt Rachel to him, then his lady-mother must be Aunt Countess to Mary Santissy. And that was a lovely discovery ! But it worried Billy sorely to think of old Kreepiclaw1. iWhen-ever he spoke of him to Caroline, she turned away, stretching out one hind-leg straight at her master, as if to admonish him that that was not a subject to be mentioned in the hearing of a tabby-mother, just entered

THE TREASURE CHEST    187

upon her ninth life. Far worse, however, was this question :    if he got bumptious before the baby, or

thought he would like to be a lord, and some day take her to see his sugar-plantations and slaves, Kreepi-claw might get near enough to the darling to do her harm of some sort—not that for a moment he thought it possible for the ivy to. touch her sweet legs, kicking about like a pair of pink tadpoles I

It was upon a certain full-moon. night, about six weeks after Christmas, that Billy w;as thinking these things. He was watching the little one in her mother’s arms, watching, too, Aunt Rachel’s face—so perfectly happy it was ! Suddenly he jumped up, his own face aflame with indignation, and said, to. Aunt Rachel’s astonishment, if not alarm :

“ I’ll be getting my sword from that Aunt iWitch', so I will ! And I’ll kill old Kreepiclaw, unless she’ll give me the looking-glass ! ” And, in that angry moment forgetting that the balcony was all smashed up by the storm and fallen into the jharbour, he bounded out of the door that opened to it. He thought afterwards that Kreepiclaw must have been hiding in the chimney, waiting for . her opportunity, and had unbolted the door on the chance of his forgetting the danger. Anyhow, Billy fell plumb into the sea, and without touching the quay. The icy-cold water soon quenched his fiery anget ! As the moon was full, he would just swim across the harbour to the Chapel Rock and see if he could get a word with Aunt Merrymaid, though he was afraid she might be vexed that he had not been near her since the loss of her looking-glass. Yet he was sure it would not matter to hear whether a day or a week had passed. So he struck out fearlessly. Aunt Rachel, when she espied his bold swimming, had no more fear for his safety.

But the craftiness of the Witch was amazing'.

When he reached the farther side of the rock, he

188    BILLY    BARNICOAT

saw the mermaid beckoning him!, and she Was singing sweeter than he had ever heard her before. Her hair was all in one thick plait, twisted round and about her, right down to her tail-tips ; and as soon as she saw her little friend, she unwound it with one fling of her hand, and threw it for him to catch. You may be sure he did that ! Was he the one to miss such fun? Aunt Merrymaid gave but one haul upon it and the boy leaped out of the sea and landed at her side, streaming. To his surprise, she gave him a cold, unimportant kiss on his ear—so different from the way Aunt Rachel kissed Santissy, still more unlike the way Billy’s lady-mother kissed her Precioso mio—and then exclaimed, without a word of enquiry about important things, such as the new arrival at home, or Angelito or the Witch :

“’Tis my looking-glass I’ve found, Billy B. ! And that is why my crudly, {curly) 'hair is so beautiful and dazzling!!” And she made him sit by her side while she held the mirror in front of him.

“ Please, Aunt Merrymaid, may I get into it and find my lady-mother? ” he asked at once. But she pushed him angrily from her, turned away and held the glass behind her, saying :

“ And that’s all you care about your fond Guardian Merrymaid, you heartless little boy I I don’t believe you’ve got a two-legged heart in your bosom—only a fish-thing anybody might have. Tumble in if you like 1 I’m too busy for boys’ silly fancy-tricks ! ”    '

But she held the mirror behind her back. Billy went round and peered into its rippling surface. At first his heart leaped with1 gladness ; but only for a minute, because the little waves looked horrid and queer, making him almost afraid. Being a brave boy, this roused him to go ahead in spite of it. He crept over the edge of the mirror’s rocky frame and slowly slipped in, feet first. Instantly he knew there was something

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wrong :    the    ripples were like thick mud, instead of

thin silver, and he was in quite shallow water. iHe waded out and landed, - to his astonishment, in that rock-bound little bay, Trannion Cove. It was the safest and most secret landing for smugglers for many a mile round, protected from land attack by 'the much-dreaded Whisht Ivy Wood, which extended almost down to its water’s edge, and by dismal perpendicular cliffs on both sides.

Billy shook himself and shivered ; and, though at first he could see nothing, he felt some sleek but rather scrapy creature rubbing against his bare legs. He jumped away from it and looked down :    two slit

like red eyes were glaring up at him. It w!as Kreepi-claw ! Then he knew the Witch must be close at hand, and remembered how som'e folk nanled her Queen of the Ivy Wood. He could have cried with vexation : to find himself, after setting out to find his lady-mother and get her forgiveness, alone with the people he most hated, was miserable indeed ! What could have been wrong with the looking-glass? But then, he exclaimed to himself, “ I know! the Witch gave Aunt Merrymaid a black-magic glass in place of her own, which is white-magic ! Faith I It was never Aunt Merrymaid’s fault :    any glass would do for hair-combing ! She

don’t know she’s been condiddled (cheated) ! ”

Billy was always, afraid of that wood, and had never ventured alone into its gloomy deeps. For whisht means bewitched and forlorn. He stood there hesitating', looking at Kreepiclaw’s eyes shining red in the dark, and not daring even to “ shoo ” her away. 3ut, as if to assume a courage he did not possess, he shouted at the ugly beast :

“ If I’d got my sword or my gold-knobbed cane, then I’d run you through and beat you black and blue—you old cat, you ! But I’ve got my. sheath-knife.”

THE TREASURE CHEST    191

He took it from his pocket, drew it from its sheath, and flung it at the cat. The creature vanished. Billy went to pick up his knife, and found it doubled up like a bit of tin ! Then, 'out of the dark hobbled the Witch. The moon came out, and he saw her grinning at him horribly—“ just like a clomen cat ” (a chirm cat). She took hold of him by both ears ; and her fingers, as black and knotty as tarry rope-ends, hurt him horribly, though she pretended to be kind.

“ Ho I Ho ! My Lord Billy! ” she said, giving his head a shake, “and was it you throwing knives at my sweet little cat ? La 1 La 1 I am surprised! Wasn’t it your lordship’s lady-mother you was setting out so bold to see? But what’s the good of her, when she’s safe in Heaven, singing pretty psalms all day? She has forgot her Billy, sure. Own him in those rags? La ! La ! Not if the old Witch proved you was her baby ! Your nose put out of joint, too, by a fisher-wife’s brat? What? set him alongside his noble father with a gold-knobbed v cane and a sword rattling beside his silk stockings ! ’Twould be as much as her place was worth among the Angels ! ”

And she gave his ears a most vicious pull, almost lifting him off his feet, and all to make him feel what a low thing a fisher-boy was in the sight of people who had money and slaves and power of death over them. Billy gave a squeal, and she hurt him no more ; but she would not leave her hold of hisf ears, and continued her arguments :

“ Now, little lord, if you could love me as much as Aunt Witch loves Billy, you would believe all I tell you. I can give you your Rights and make a lord of you, or I can leave you to rot among the pilchard' presses and casks—which you please. Shall I show you your own treasures in a Chest that came from the Maria Santisima, just before you was found by Aunt Rachel? Will that satisfy you? Only, for every

192    BILLY    BARNICOAT

gold doubloon you get—and there’s thousands and thousands of them waiting for you in Cub'a and Madrid —you must give m\e a golden seven-shilling, piece. ’Tis that, my Lord Billy Barnicoat, or nothing! ! ” Billy perfectly understood the offer, and knew that the Spanish doubloon was w'orth' perhaps five times as much as the English seven-shilling piece. “ You just come with me, Billy,” continued the WidoV, “ and I’ll show you the Chest in my magic cave. But I found it before you were found, and so, 'by the laws of old England, it belongs to me, and not even King George himself would make me give it up. If you choose to stop in Mullinstow nursing of a baby girl that by rights is dirt beneath' your feet . .

“ She ain’t, she ain’t, and I’ll kill anybody who says so ! ” shouted Billy, wriggling his ears free. But Angelito must have been at hand, for though Billy could not see him, he heard him whisper :

“ How bright ’tis shining—your little ring ! ”

“ Sure ’tis ! ” said Billy, and looked so closely that it immediately brought before him1 a vision, far, far away it Was, of his lady-mother with1—oh, yes it must be 1—the tiny Santissy in her arms ! And something seemed to disgust the Witch' so; much’ that she turned and disappeared in the wood, calling back :

“If you want to see my Treasure Chest, Billy^ you follow me. I’ll show1 you where ’tis hid, though nobody could ever find it.”

Angelito took Billy by the hand—glad indeed he was to have hold of it 1—and the twlo boys went right into the horrible wood. The grimacing trees fairly bewildered Billy, making him feel that they must be upside down, with their roots standing up and bearing wrong leaves. He was driven to take a look at them through his legs. But the trick did not lend encouragement ; for the branches, twisted into all kinds of unnatural angles, began to threaten them with fierce

THE TREASURE CHEST    193

gesticulations. The boughs bulged into distorted faces, all more or less like the Witch. But one point became clear enough as Billy looked upside down : the leaves of every one of the trees, though from thein trunks you would have known them for beeches or oaks or Scotch firs or larches, were only ivy leuves! The boy stood upright again, and then saw that every tree was encircled by climbing stems of ivy, looking soft and furry with the black-green moss that covered them.

“ ’Tis Kreepiclaw sprawling everywhere ! ” whispered Angelito, with never a smile on his face.

“ And he’ve killed them all, drawing the sap out of ’em with his little sucking claw’s ! ” responded .Billy, aghast at the shocking fact.

“ And,” added the Blackamoor, “I do believe the trees let the ivy hang on them and eat them up because they’ve growed so weak they think they can’t live any more without Kreepiclaw and his ivy I I do not love him, Senorito.”

But now they- caught up with the Witch, who interrupted further conversation by saying they must hasten or it would be too dark to see her Treasure Chest. Billy was not inclined to obey until she told him they’d get rooted like the trees if they did not hasten. Indeed, he felt one foot was already fast on the ground, and only by a great tug could he wrench it free of something that was gripping tight round it. He turned to Angelito, and saw him looking do win at his own leg, in a strange way, his face rather grey than black. Billy knelt down to see what the trouble was, and found a shoot of ivy was creeping up beneath the Blackamoor’s gay shorts. Billy stripped it off, and they both heard a far-away “ Mia-ow-ow! I ”

They hurried after the Witch, and found her standing by a mighty rock. On the top of it stood the most grotesque of all the trees. Not one of its roo.ts reached 13

194    BILLY    BARNICOAT

the ground, though they spread over and down the rock ; yet, sure enough, by the side of an opening to a cave, there was an ivy stem running straight up the rock and then winding round the trunk, once that of a noble oak, and spreading! all over its tortured branches to clothe it with ivy leaves. The Witch took the boys inside the cave, found a flint and tinder-box in one of her pockets, set the sparks flying, and soon had a candle alight. Then they saw a big chest of black wood, bound with silver handles and great silver hinges across the lid. The Witch took a silver key from her pocket and opened it, holding the light right over so that they could both' see some of the wonders within.

“ There’s Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass, Angelito !” exclaimed Billy, making a dart to hold the lid up and seize the thing he most needed. But the Witch slammed' the lid down, just missing Billy’s fingers ; and the noise of its fall echoed away and back again among those most forlorn trees. He stood listening to it, and heard also Aunt Merrymaid singing, but only far, far away :

“ Oh, woe ! Oh, woe !

My Billy B.’s gone where the whisht trees grow,

And the ivy will claw him and never let go !

Ah, me ! Ah, me !

Oh, sweet the last look of my brave Billy B.,

As he died for my looking-glass—drowned in the sea."

Billy stood listening, but Angelito caught him by the hand and ran with him dowin to the cove, as if the ghosts of the horrible trees had been after them. On the shore Billy lost sight of his serving-man and playfellow. So he went home by the rocks and beach, saying to himself :

’Twas a queer swim across the harbour, sure ! But I know where the Treasure Chest is, and the looking-glass do bide safe inside I ”

BILLY was still considered' by his elders to be less bright than other boys, in spitei of his quickness in learning to read and his deftness of hand; and it was rather surprising, Uncle Jake declared* that you never need tell the little fellow anything twice or yet show! him more than once how to tie a bowline knot, a clove-hitch, or even a Matthew-Walker knot. Yet even Jacob and Rachel, because of his absent-mindedness and because he really was not like ordinary boys, thought they might talk of anything' before Billy without any fear of their words being either understood or repeated. Thus, on a certain' occasion, they were talking very freely with Uncle Neb’ Tonkin about smugglers, little thinking how eagerly certain little ears were listening, or how much their own hopes depended upon Billy’s sharp wits.

Uncle Neb himself was deeply involved in the business of smuggling such things as tea, brandy or Schiedam. Of course, in the eyes of the law this was very wicked ; but it was not wicked in the same way that some things are. Thus, wrecking was a most horrible crime, and still would be, even if—an impossible 195

196    BILLY    BARNICOAT

supposition !—the laws of England had sanctioned it. Indeed, many wise people thought import-taxes were opposed to all the best interests of the nation as well as of international good-feeling and peace : and these at least could hardly think the evasion of such taxes a very wicked thing, however severe punishment might be.

“ Faith ! ’tis a innocent sort of crime smuggling do be,” exclaimed Jacob, who, though he would shield any smuggler if necessary, had given up all traffic with it when he married Rachel, “when old England is drove to make unjust laws to stop it ! ”

Every one may hold his own opinion on such' a point ; only it must be clear that, as feeling against these taxes was so strong in Mullinstow1, Uncle Neb1 must not be judged a very bad man merely because! he was a smuggler. He was actually a’ good and honest man, always ready to help anyone in trouble. At the same time it must be admitted that there were other sorts of men who, not bad originally, were driven into becoming the worst of malefactors because of the law’s cruelty—no more just or effectual than was Billy’s lerruping for repeating the Ballad of the Guardian Merrymaid. Indeed, among the smugglers might be found men who would break any laws—God’s or England’s—rather than do good, honest work. Hand and heart with these was rich Widow1 Pengulfy ;■ and she, you may be sure, would hesitate at nothing! to add more money to her pile. She would1 tempt. reckless men to do dangerous work, herself being safe and, whether she provided the initial expenses, or lent others money for their smuggling exploits, she would be sure to reap more than was fair of the profits. It is told that her strange cottage on the Moor had cellars that ran far underground. In some she stowed tubs of brandy or valuables from shipwrecks • and there was one cellar, known only to herself, where her money was hid. It

THE SMUGGLERS’ PLOT 197

seems likely that some of these cellars communicated by a disused mine-tunnel with the cave in the Whisht Ivy Wood, where Billy’s Chest was hidden.

Billy was now in perfect health again, and had made great strides in growing while he was a lie-a-bed. Yet he was certainly more silent than he used to be, if only because there was so much to think about that Aunt Rachel could not understand. He was just longing to find his lady-mother. You see he had never yet had speech with her—never since he was that precioso mio in her arms : though he knew what those words meant, he longed to know the English of them. And they were spoken to him before he was cast up by the sea—that tim'e when he saw himself—and indeed was himself—in her arms! I This should be quite clear. He had heard her voice again—“ so sweet as lavender it was, so light as thistledown ”—speaking to Angelito —and unhappily now !—about her Billy wanting to be a lord. And that was all ! Sometimes his little heart was fit to break because he could not get to her, might not tell her how tender and true he loved her, how he was really a good boy now, and how he would never be a lord—never—never—if she would not have it so.    But ... he did want the Treasure Chest

terrible bad for Uncle Jake’s sake and Aunt Rachel’s and Santissy’s and . . . just possible, he might find a gold-knobbed cane and a sword in it—all for himself?

Rachel knew how much the child worried over Uncle Jake’s difficulty in paying for the new Heavenly Hopie. He would ask her again and again about it, how much money was wanted for it, and when it would be ready for sea. Then another point he was terribly sore about : Uncle Jake might have to sell his soul to Kreepiclaw. before Aunt Witch would let him borrow) any of her money ! This would be fearful, seeing he was so good a man, and so handy with the rope-end in saving a little boy’s soul I He wondered if he ought

198    BILLY    BARNICGAT

not to offer his own soul? though he feared one born a papist wouldn’t fetch -all that money ! He thought he could get along quite well without a soul :    Aunt

Merrymaid didn’t have one ; and she was very dear, though perhaps it made her & cry-baby.

“ Aunt Rachel/’ he once asked, “ do you think Aunt Pengulfy would buy my soul for Kreepiclaw instead of Uncle Jake’s? ”

“ God bless and save us ! ” exclaimed Rachel, entirely at sea as to what the child was thinking of. “ iWhat be you driving at now, cheel-vean? Sell your soul is it? ’Tain’t worth fippence (fivepence) ! ” she added playfully. ;

Billy ran away and nearly wept.

He could never get any direct reply to su'ch questions ; and finding they worried the good mother, he desisted. But his ears were always kept open:— and pointed too !

Before long, people began to think differently of the child’s abilities.

A few weeks after Billy’s visit to that dreadful wood, the best of all his adventures took place, and one where it was hard to see which world most of it took place in. He thought it was both, and that he dragged the Treasure Chest out of one and into >    .    but wait a

bit !

Uncle Jake was sitting over the fire with Uncle Neb, Aunt Rachel spinning! thread for the new nets, but now and then creeping upstairs for a peep at Santissy. Billy was supposed to have been asleep long, agio, though one might think by this time his elders should have remembered what sharp ears he; had. They were telling all about some tubs of brandy which a little coaster schooner, The Fortunate, from1 Padstow, had smuggled. She was chased by a Revenue Cutter, but a sea-fog suddenly rose up from somewhere and helped her to out-manceuvre her pursuer. She ran into

THE SMUGGLERS’ PLOT 199

Trannion Cove. There she sank the tub's like lobster-pots with cork floats—so that if the floats were seen they would not be suspected, and the tubs could easily be recovered when the danger was past. Keenly though' Billy was listening, he couldn’t help thinking what a pretty set-to there would be down below if the lobsters clawed out the tubs’ bungis and had a good drink of the brandy ! But he did hope no mer-children would mistake it for cyder or ginger-beer !

These brave smugglers had many a rare success like The Fortunate”s, I promise you. Yet sometimes it was a fierce fight they had to face • and some in the end would be hanged or sold for slaves in Virginia.

But now the tubs were safe. Yet the Preventive men and a company of Fencibles, it seems, had giot wind of the trick. Mullinstow was suspected of befriending and helping The Fortunate1 s attempts ; and it had for long been known that hereabouts there must’ be some wonderfully secret storage for smuggled merchandise. In a few days at latest the tubs of brandy must be lifted from the sea, as there was dan’ger of its spoiling. When at last this was safely effected* the tubs were temporarily stored in a certain deep-hollowed bank in the Whisht Ivy Wood ; whence the very next night it was to be taken up to a disused mine-shaft on the Moor. This, >said Uncle Neb, showed that Widow Pengulfy was not involved in this particular venture, or her secret passage ,would have been used. With the Government spies all about, it would have been risky to leave the brandy in the wood, though; at the same time there was considerable danger in shifting the tubs up on to the Moor.

Uncle Neb' said the lads were after more than the brandy; they were determined to get “even”' with Widow Pengulfy. She had boxes full of money and would not lend any to the fishermen for their boatbuilding, except at wicked usury. Moreover, when they

BILLY BARNICOAT

wanted a few guineas to; set .a new smuggling .adventure afloat, she expected almost all the profits. They’d managed this affair for The Fortunate's lads without her help ; and she shouldn’t get a copper penny out of them!

“ So far I’m with the lads,” Uncle Neb’ continued,

“ though ’tis unlucky they don’t have me for Captain : not one of them has the headpiece to put this game through—and a rare one ’twill be, sure !—better than any circus ever seen in Cornwall. ’Tain’t me to uphold Aunt Pengulfy—old witch of a miser !—but there ain’t no sense in getting even with her.”

“What are they out for to do to her?”; asked Rachel.

“ Faith ! a lot of mazed talk of a Treasure Chest hid in Whisht Ivy Wood, guarded by her old Tom Cat and a few other devils—lost their way back to Hell, likely ! They saith ’tis all wreckage from the old^ Santisinra, and she ain’t got no more right to it than you or me. So, soon’s they’ve locked up the tubs and t’other free goods, they will be ransacking the wood to get that Treasure Chest.”

“She’s a powerful lot too .sharp for a parcel of masquerading lads to trick, sure I Treasure Chest be dommed, saith I ” : this from1 Jacob, as he spat contemptuously into the fire.

But Billy was as much alive in his corner under the ladder-stair as ever in his life, though he stirred not an inch.

“•I'm glad you’re not heading the boys, Neb, more’n I can tell you ! ” said Rachel.

“ What I smuggles is paid for and so ’tis mine,” said Neb1, somewhat aggressively, as if in excuse for having a woman in agreement with him1. “ If the King wants to take it, let him1 come on, sez I :    ’tain’t    a drop of

Cornish blood do run in his veins—so he have to pay red herrings to do his fighting for him. And they

THE SMUGGLERS’ PLOT 201

wouldn’t—not without muskets 1 But Neb Tonkin ain’t bought nor smuggled Treasure Chests, nor yet picked quarrels with witches—and don’t want none—though I’d like to see the whole 'lot of them roasting—sure I My soul’s worth more than a few Spanish doubloons out of a Treasure Chest 1 ”

“ Certain sure about that, Neb? ” -asked Jacob, with' a grim chuckle. “The price of my soul is The Heavenly Home."

“ Don’t ’ee, don’t ’ee now ! ” expostulated his wife ; but-

“ And may you get it ! ” said Uncle Neb', rising to leave. “ You won’t worm its price out of the Witch' without you chuck in little Santissy’s soul too, I’m thinking ! ”

Here was a new horror to Billy ! How could he, then, hope Aunt Witch would accept a little Spanish "boy’s soul as the price of the new Heavenly Horned

But the next night he was gone. He meant to know all about this expedition.

SO grim and forlorn was the Whisht Ivy iWood that it was dangerous to fall asleep in it after sundown. People, it seems, were very apt to do this, and all because of some indefinable evil influence. Few realized how dead were all those trees, nor how, nevertheless, they were alive with the malignant ivy that had thriven upon their living sap and destroyed them. Perhaps the ivy infected the whole atmosphere ; for certainly the wood was bewitched. Fresh arrivals in those parts, such as the company of Fencibles, which had been drafted to support the Revenue men against the smugglers, soon learned to be very shy of the wood ; and the smugglers encouraged their superstitious fears in every way. The tricks they employed to this end, and a very natural dread of the big and fierce Cornishmen, made the soldiers as revengeful as the law-breakers.

The smugglers had now hatched an absurd scheme for transferring their brandy-tubs from the wood to the Moor—and that under the very noses of these Fencibles. But the plot overreached itself. It was,

BILLY STEALS HIS OWN    203

indeed, because of its absurdity that Uncle Neb Tonkin said it would prove better : than a circus. Billy Barnicoat was determined, notwithstanding all the dangers of the Whisht Ivy Wood, to see the fun. But he would combine entertainment with, business, and learn more about the Treasure Chest. If the men did discover the Witch’s cave and stole the Chest, he would follow and learn whither;they had taken it.

But you may be sure.it was not without tremendous misgivings that the little boy and his cat slipped away at sundown for the wood. . Caroline had now only the one chet, Blackie, left to her. She could not understand what had become of the other three. She had watched them so carefully, had,searched every possible and impossible corner so conscientiously, even peering into the rain-water butt, though its black deeps were more shocking than any hurricane ,of the sea; and yet, like all her other families, the number of this one had suddenly diminished. She didn’t like to foster her suspicions against Uncle Jake, but . . . well . . . she found much consolation in recalling the happiness of all those chets—probably her own—in 'Piskie Town I But Blackie was now “ growing, away so fine and hearty ” that Billy had no < scruple about picking up its peerless mother as he bolted from Primrose Cottage. Nor was she in any way reluctant. “ A matter-of-fact person like, myself,” she would say, “ is the best for Billy in his make-believe adventures, though some of them do be terrible mazed and frolicsome ! And some —faith !—they do lick his make-believes into a cocked hat ! ”

As Billy ran, he wondered if by chance Angelito would be waiting for him :in the wood ! Surely this was an occasion when he really ought to have the advice and support of his serving-man and playfellow ! For as he came nearer to the dread wood the horror of its creepy-clawing ivy almost overwhelmed him1.

204    BILLY    BARNICOAT

Often before had he run little distances into the wood and peeped into the ivy gloom. But, truth to confess, he had always been afraid of it, and was not less so since he had gone deep into its thickets with iWitch Pengulfy, and seen her cave with his Treasure Chest. He remembered the place, the winding of its paths, and the oak on top of the great rock, hugged to death by the devouring ivy.; and he felt sure he could find it. He well knew' also the path up from the Cove ; for the wood covered an ancient landslide descending by easy if broken gradients to the shore of Trannion Cove ; and down there Billy had often explored this access to the wood. The path1 led through straggling outskirts, where the ivy, seeming to love darkness and fear wind, had not come ; and so far he had no dread of it. But to go right inside and alone was another matter ! Yet, hating to be afraid, he determined to brave everything. So he thrust his hands deep in his pockets, stretched them out to i their farthest, and wogged along, thinking to make himself braver by assuring himself that he was braver—which was better than bragging before Angelito or Caroline 1 Caroline understood and followed with tail erect. He walked and soon ran along over the grassy leas, circling the recent landslip that had swept Uncle Cap’n home and the figure-head out to sea. As he thought of the Treasure Chest’s doubloons that were to pay for the lugger and save Uncle Jake’s soul—perhaps Santissy’s I remembering, also, Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass . . . and . . . what about something for Aunt Rachel? a fan, perhaps, of peacock’s feathers? . . . as he thought of all these, he grew more courageous. iWould he have to give .Witch Pengulfy as many seven-shilling gold pieces as there were doubloons? He could not see why he should, for the Chest was certainly his lady-mother’s, and now, he thought, by rights, should be his. “ By Rights ”... yes . . . that was what

BILLY STEALS HIS OWN 205

rights meant ! Whoever had the Chest and kept it from him, it was his very own “by Rights.” Perhaps a sword and a gold-knobbed cane also?

Billy and Caroline reached the outskirts of the wood and made their way, zigzag, down the shelving cliff, but keeping to the open till they came in sight of the Cove. Had he chosen the longer way round, he would have seen a posse of redcoats and Preventive men lying in ambush behind clumps of furze-bushes and a broken stone wall. In that case he would have hastened down no less quickly to warn the men below—much as he feared them. For the people of Mullinstow felt more personal animosity to the King’s men than to their country’s enemy, the French across the Channel, with some of whom they still had friendly dealings. So Billy pursued his zigzag course down to the Cove, leaving the soldiers above and behind him. The farthest and tallest trees, black and impenetrable, rose and blackened the north-east sky and made him afraid. So once more he rammted his fists into his pockets, bulged them out, looked straight up at the trees, and actually wogged towards them. Then up rose the big moon, nearly full :    up she rose and looked at him

through the highest branches of what were indeed no ivy-trees, but great bare beeches full of rooks’ nests. So Billy now felt as brave as if he were right above all the horrible things in the world, swaying with the rooks’ nests—or like a precioso mio Baby Billy rockingi in a lady-mother’s arms. Then he saw Angelito disappearing among the near trees.

1 Billy picked up his cat and struck' right into the wood, his bare feet and leg:s regardless of brambles, stones and straggling ivy, until he struck the wide path leading down to the Cove. Dowtn he went, btit not out on to the shore : 'thereabouts were the fierce smugglers who, he knew, if he were suspected as a spy, would give him such' a beating as might kill him5. He

206    BILLY    BARNIGOAT

could see them all : every one he knew, and some he always feared. And they were busy at the queerest doings ! Billy sat on a mossy stone and. watched, Caroline crouching as though a rat might be out of its hole any moment.

On the farther side of the Cove, in the up,soaringl cliff-wall, was a cave, with so narrow and perpendicular, an entrance in the projecting rocks that it was! unknown to the King’s Revenue men. Billy would always go past it without even looking at it : so much afraid was he lest anyone within should realize that he knew! of its existence. And now it looked in the dim moon-shadow as if tubs and things, men and beasts, all black, were coming right out , of the face of the cliff ; and carrying something long and heavy over the1' shingle round to the place where the wood1 opened. Nowi they were more easily seen, though still shadowed from the moonlight, by the cliffs : for the sunset-after-glow bad not yet quite vanished. All was clear, yet nothing! quite real. There were four jet-black donkeys ; and each of them headless ! One was very frisky'and vicious with his heels. Seven men with black masks were with them, four leading the beasts and three dragging a huge coffin along. The men iwhom Billy had first seen now put on black masks also. Then three of these came into the wood, just below where Billy was, and dragged out the town bier, and set its canopy-like hearse upon it. Billy knew it well, as all dead people had to be put under it and taken away, to be buried. They then harnessed the donkeys to the bie'r, muffled the creatures’ hoofs and lifted the coffin on to the bier. They stuck on to the hearse its four black papej1 plumes at thle comers and four great candles on the sides. These they then lit : and the night was so still that the flames,. though they flickered and the grease guttered, were not extinguished. Next the men, sixteen of them, lit their boobas—torches made of rags soaked in pilchard-oil—

208    BILLY    BARNICOAT

and the grim cavalcade slowly made its way up the path through the wood, a man at the head of each headless black donkey. It looked like a procession of black ghosts, though every now and then one or other of the donkeys, resenting the great mask hiding its head and neck, burst out a-b:raying, and turning aside, lashed heels into the mourners' !

Feeling sure that a funeral procession coming out of the Whisht Ivy Wood would strike terror into the hearts of any Fencibles on the watch, the men began droning out in their rich voices three verses of a local ballad:

" Best Friend, so neat, so warm of heart,

Farewell! my Uncle Brandy : '

If Death now claims your body cold,

I’ll keep your spirit handy !

"You never paid your duty, no,

But did it, spunky fellow !

Nor overtaxed your spirit strong,

And brown and old and mellow.

" No judge dared hang you, Uncle B.,

Or name you a defaulter:

Your neck, so smooth as bottle glass,

Would slip through any halter!

“ Nor in their hearts can judges say Us smugglers are but vermin,

For us alone makes their brandy cheap,

And pays for their wig and ermine.”

They felt that the g'reater the noise they made, the more terrifying would they be, and that the fearsome appearance of the donkeys would convince the timid redcoats that the whole thing was demoniacal witchcraft.

Billy and Caroline followed warily among the trees, any noise of snapping twigs or stumbling being drowned

BILLY STEALS HIS OWN 209

in the men’s roaring song. Near the centre of th’e wood the bier was brought to a standstill; and there Billy recognized the tortuous path to the rock with the ivy-strangled oak on top and' the cave inside. ;His heart was going like ninepins falling, and he had to cuddle the unimpassioned Caroline close to him for support. Two of the men zigzagged along that path, followed among the undergrowth by those two good spies, Billy on all fours, and Caroline often on her hind-legs, so as to keep her eye on the quarry. Cutting across in a bee-line, the spies reached the cave first. Round it they crawled, at first unable to find the opening ; but Billy soon detected the ivy roots . sprawling over the face of the rock and knew the opening was beside it. Then the men arrived and began beating on the rock till they struck the door, at first sight indistinguishable from the root-covered, mossy rock. They belaboured it furiously with shoulders, boots and clubs, till at last it fell in. The©, afraid of the consequences, they took to their heels. But Billy remained quite still. Presently the men returned with two others. Cautiously, with their flaming boobas before them, they stooped and entered the cave. For some anxious minutes they remained within, the smoky glare grimly oozing out and lighting up the forlorn old tree above. But at last they came, rolling out three or four casks, followed by , . . there could be no doubt of it ! . . . the Treasure Chest, carried by two men gripping its silver handles.

Billy still kept silence till they were all gone ahead, but then felt something claw-creeping over him. He could not move. It must be Kreepiclaw’s tendril legs. Caroline was already following the men, and Billy dared not or could not call to her. But Angelito was sitting on a rock not ten yards away.

. “ You’ve forgotten your ring, Billy master,” whispered the dear Blackamoor. “ When folk are not

i.4

2io    BILLY    BARNICOAT

afraid, Kreepiclaw is afraid' and', leaves boys’ legs alone.”

Billy kissed his ring, jumped up, pulled his legs free and followed.

.When he caught up with the cavalcade, the torchlight guiding him, the men were almost out of the wood and going more orderly up towards the Moor. Billy saw the Treasure Chest and the casks piled on top of the huge coffin. But as soon as they reached the open and were near the furze-bushes and broken wall, the Fencibles rushed from their ambush, though1 at the sight of the candle-lit and black-plumed hearse, with the headless beasts drawing it, they stopped short. The smugglers swung their donkeys round, kicked them savagely, and sent the whole lot, hearse, coffin and all, straight into the platoon of men, who, you may be sure, took to their heels, with the enemy in hot pursuit ! The donkeys began a stampede, kicking at everything, biting and tearing one another’s head-coverings off, and finally overturning the hearse so that the coffin burst, the candles set the plumes ablaze, and the tubs of brandy went rolling back into the wtood. The Treasure Chest also tumbled on to the ground, and its silver hinges and handles shone so brightly that Billy myst at once lift up the lid • and Angelito was there to help him. On the top of everything else lay Aunt Merrymaid’s looking-glass glittering in the blaze like a sea rippled with silver waves. This must be taken care of before anything else, else how would Billy ever get back to his mother? For a moment he was almost afraid to touch it lest it should tempt him ; for he had other duties.

“ Angelito,” he said, “ you can do things better than me, because you are my serving-man. ’Tis the looking-glass you must take to Aunt Merrymaid, please, quick ! Say ’tis from her Billy B., with love, and he’ll soon come—perhaps with a primrose nosegay 1 ”

BILLY STEALS HIS OWN 211

Angelito took the mirror. His silver collar and smiling teeth gleamed just like the looking-glass, the same stars shining in both, and terribly bright. Angelito himself could be only dimly seen, for the flamtes of the plumes were dying down.

“ Angelito, Angelito ! ” exclaimed Billy in some dismay. “Don’t be going so quick' ! ” And he ran up to him.

But, indeed, Angelito was almost gone, though he seemed to be saying :    “Good-bye,    Good-bye I little

Master ; you have been good to your serving-man —and brave. You will not be seeing! me again, yet awhile. Good-bye 1 ”

;It was a tragic interruption to the adventure. Billy, still seeing the gleam' of the collar, put his arm’ round his little servant’s neck to kiss him good-Wye. Angelito was not there ; but the silver collar was left in his hand.

Billy, sick at heart, actually turned his back upon the Chest, picked up Caroline, and began slowly to walk towards Mullinstow as if forgetting everything but Angelito.

But how bright the ring shone ! He then remembered Uncle Jake, The Heavenly Home, and Santissy’s little soul. He turned back. He could hear the men shouting and fighting. Shots were fired—then others ; and while the tumult was still raging not a hundred yards ahead, three or four soldiers were seen returning. Billy—and he thought Angelito must have helped him—dragged the heavy Chest into the wood, stripped off his jersey and threw it over the shining hinges. Thle men began to hunt for their booty, but then decided first to broach a tub and drink. Soon the noise of the distant fighting ceased and more of the victorious soldiers appeared. These also refreshed themselves so freely that soon they were useless for collecting the scattered things—either wits or tubs. Their riotous drinking Was

212    BILLY    BARNICOAT

Billy’s opportunity. He quickly got into his jersey, again and hid the silver collar in it. He dragged the Chest out from the wood and away to the cliff edge, squatted with it behind a bush and rested—dragged it along farther and rested again. He had once more to circle the landslip where Uncle Cap’n’s cottage was buried before he reached the path that led to Mullinstow. The wind had risen, the moon was clouded over, and the rain begkn a torrential downpour. Reaching at last the High Street, the water was rushing down it like an angry and muddy brook, so that Billy could slide the Ghest down. But the street twisted so often that there was still much tugging to do. Billy hurried, then rested and tugged again, till at last, nigh beaten with the furious labour and drenched with the rain—three o’clock in the morning, it was—he reached the quay and Primrose Cottage. He stopped, thrust his hand into his jersey and found he had lost the silver collar after all his care ! This was the last stra'w : he fell across ;the Chest utterly worn out. Caroline was before him making a terrible hullabaloo, miaowing and clawing at the door because her coat was sopping' wet. But no one heard her.

Widow Pengulfy came hobbling along the quay : rain was nothing to her, though Kreepiclaw hated it.

Santissy wailing. For Widow Pengulfy’s tongue was clappering so like a kettle boiling over with scalding bad language that Caroline’s end was gained. ,


HOUGH Caroline could not with her miaowing


wake up Primrose Cottage, there was soon noise


enough to drown the drenching rain and set


How the Witch learned of her loss is not clear, but possibly Kreepiclaw, on guard at the cave, came and told her. At any rate, here she was,, im a fury of rage ! As the little boy lay soaking across the Treasure Chest, she thumped him1 with her bony fists, and beat him with her broomstick. She called him a thief and murderer, said he had stolen her own Jdox of hard-saved money—and all this at three o’clock on a rainy morning ! But her words had no more effect on Billy than the rain. So she seized one ,of his arms, flung him; in a heap on the roadway, and began to drag the Chest away. But then came Jacob, almost leaping down the steps. At first he saw only the old woman and her Chest :

214    BILLY    BARNICOAT

“What’s this rampage all about, Widow? What is’t you’ve got there? Seems heavy like, so it do. I’ll give a hand.”    .

Then the sky lightened a little and he saw Billy. Jacob lifted him into his arms ; and the Witch might have succeeded in dragging the Chest away into somebody’s cellar or creel-shed had not Rachel then joined them'.

“’Tis Billy/,Rachel/’ said Jacob. “ Here, lake him in ! That old Witch' is robbing some one, sure, or she wouldn’t be out at this hour with a box like that there.”

Jacob1 strode after the woman. Her strength ,was nothing against his.

“ ’Tis safer ’twill be, Widow,” he said1, “ in Primrose Cot than here. I’ll keep it for you. You can come in too, if you like, and dry yourself. ... ..

“ ’Tis my own savings, Jacob Hornisyde,” she whined in protest, “ and that imp of a castaway stole it from me.”

“ That’s a stramming lie, I know,” said the mlan, with an indignant laugh. “ Anyways, ’tis safe in Primrose Cot it shall bide. If you won’t come in now, look in after breakfast, and we will hear all the rights of it—wrongs too, maybe.”

She had no choice. But she vowed ,she’d' see his reverend honour—the Parson was the only magistrate— and have the boy sold for a slave, that she would !

Once more—and I think the last time—Rachel had to bring Billy round. How he could have dragged the box there—and they took it for granted it was the very Treasure Chest Uncle Neb had told of—was . . . well 1 just another of Billy’s wonderful doings! By breakfast-time the boy was quite recovered—but for some black bruises. He had a very sore thumb' too. Rachel found that the little gold ring, whose edges had not mJet for m'any a year, was cutting into the

216    BILLY    BARNICOAT

skin. She bent it a little so that it hurt no more, but, so closely did it fit, she could1 not remove it.

Breakfast over, thfey listened' to Billy’s wonderful tale. Even Uncle Jake did not doubt one word of it, not though it was Sunday ! Billy wisely kept to himself Angelito’s share of it. The poor smugglers, Uncle Jake told Billy, had lost all their catch1, and two of them were wounded and taken prisoners : for all their mummery and courage, they never had much chance against musketry.

Billy was excited, you may be sure, and wanted to open the Chest at once. But Uncle Jake would not permit it—until Widow Pemgulfy returned—with or without, he said with assumed gravity, Parson’s warrant for Billy’s arrest as a highwayman under arms. Billy, turned very white, though in another mbmlent he knew Uncle Jake was only joking, for he continued :

“ The old Witch would never dare go near Parson, not she! He’d have her burned alive! Whose-ever the Chest might be, ’tain’t none of \hers—not if ’tis full of Mumbo-Jumbos and sarpents and strings ,of salted toads.”

He laughed hugely, and Santissy, in her mother’s arms, gave a little exultant crow to confirm her father’s opinion.

At that very mbmtent Widow1 Pengulfy came hobbling up the steppon. She wore a clean mutch, her , Sunday frock, and a white silk Mantilla shawl folded across her round shoulders and hollow chest. She carried, too, her Bible and hymn-book, wrapped up in a white handkerchief.

“ She don’t look so sweet in her Sunday gown as she do astride her broomstick ! ” laughed Rachel. And Santissy—only two months old, if you please !—crowed again.    ;    ;    '    ,

The Witch knocked, entered, and smirked.

“ ’Tain’t often I’ve had to apologize in my life,” said

THJE TREASURE CHEST IS OPENED 217

she, grinning so broadly that she might .have upset the ibaby’s digestion had not Rachel turned the tiny face into her bosom1.

“ But now, Jacob Homisyde, ’tis me beglging pardon for {thinking our Billy was one of the nasty so’dgers. ’Twas them, not him, wanted to rob1 a poor woman. But this here Chest is mine, though the treasures inside are Billy Barnicoat’s—after setting aside what his little lordship promised hie—now didn’t you, dear little lord?— a golden seven-shilling piece, it was to be, for every doubloon ! I was a-going for to bring it round this very morning—with the papers and all to prove our Billy’s a lord worth thousands in Cuba and Spain ; and so he is, the pretty ! ”

“ If that’s true, .Widow,” said Jacob, “ ’tis not one seven-shilling piece you’ll get ! Who but you ,have kept him out of his Rights ;all these years, if you knowed who he was ! ”

This aspect of the case was new to the old woman ; but (She replied :

“ ’Tis a clean conscience I have : and so I’ll prove it 1 ” Then she took from her pocket a beautiful silver key and unlocked the Chest. Billy was puzzled : he was ,sure it had not been locked when he took Aunt Merrymaid’s glass from it for Angelito ! As the lid was raised, a waft of rose perfume filled the room—so that Billy, shutting his eyes to sniff its full sweetness, seemed to see all the painted roses on the walls of his mother’s room aboard the Maria Smtisima.

The Witch took from the top a bundle of papers.

“ Look at the name here,” she said : “ ‘ El excelenti-simo Senor Conde de Tierras Lejanos ’ ; and that means ‘ His most excellent Lordship Count Farlands.’ I’ve had it all translated, and here’s the plain English of the estates and slaves in Cuba, the palace and pictures and statues and horses and servants in Madrid—all left by will and testament to his wife, La Senora Condesa—

218    BILLY    BARNICOAT

and after her to their only son, the infant ‘ Su Illustri-simo Senorito el Conde Juanito’—Count Juanito is my own pretty Billy, of course ! Last of all, it tells Master Juan he has got to keep his lady-mother’s blackamoor Angelito, with the silver collar, for his own serving-man and playmate ; and there’s Spanish words cut on the collar which he was never to forget all his life long :    ‘ El Amor ignala a todas eptados,’ which is

just papiish nonsense, meaning ’77s Love makes all ranks equal! La! Lai does it? Not likely, when it comes to choose between being a noble lord and a barefoot fisher-boy I La 1 La! ho, no indeed! ”

She then tied up the bundle of papers again with their silver string and threw them into the Chest. But she picked out one thing more : it was Angelito’s collar ! Billy took it and read out those very words that had so often puzzled him to spell. He said simiply, “ He gave it me, sure ! ” and put it inside his jersey.

Then the Witch stopped her smiling and rasped out : “ And who’s to prove this Billy is their infant son Juanito? ”

This seemed a terrible blow to their hopes and fears ; and no reply was made.

“I can—me, the Widow Pengulfy, with other papers as I’ve got, if these won’t do. Or I can prove he's the son of the Countess's servant Lass! ’Tis all one to me ! A gold seven-shilling for every doubloon, my little lord ; or nothing but ill-luck for every day of your life, Billy Barnicoat 1 ’Tis you can choose.”

“ H’m,” said Uncle Jake, thoughtfully ; and then : “But perhaps ’tain’t for Billy to choose after all ! What God wills will be—for fishermen’s brats, so well as for lords and ladies : though His will don’t count with witches, eh, Widow? ”

Rachel stood a little aside, hugging Santissy very close and looking with very white face upion her darling Billy.

THE TREASURE CHEST IS OPENED 219

“ And now, Mistress,” continued Jacob, “’tis you can go home and think about it, leaving our Billy and! us to think too.”

Widow Pen gulfy put her skinny hand deep into the Chest, but found a vice upon her arm1.

“Leave bide such things as bain’t yours, widow! !— Just this once, if never again !—Though! ’tis Sunday, I allow you can get a warrant from Parson to apprehend us all ! So out you go ! ”

So terrible hard was this man’s face, and so vice-like was his hand, that the old hag wriggled and turned to the door. She kicked Caroline aside viciously. Billy picked up the cat and cuddled her, as the door closed behind the Witch'. Had they listened, however, they would not have heard her footsteps going down the steps.

“ If you have a mind for it, Billy,” said Uncle Jake, as if to imply that he himself was not so very curious, “ I see nothing against you looking into that box of yours.” ;

“ Is it, then, mine, sure? ” asked Billy, with* wondering eyes.

FIRST out of the Chest came a folded silken fabric, for which, without yet unfolding it, Aunt Rachel must spread a white cloth on the table. Then came a little box with mother-o’-pearl 'flowers upon it, containing three fans, one painted with rosy blue and yellow flowers “ so gay as the Mullinstow cliffs in June,” said Rachel, one all silver and blue(, and one of black feathers with stars scattered over them. Also there was a carved tortoiseshell comb with gold inlaid ; and Uncle Jake said the ladies of Spain wore it in their hair to lift their [black lace veils high over their heads. Billy turned to Aunt Rachel and said : “ And ’tis Billy Barnicoat have seen one of them, sure enough ! ”

Then the little boy took out a scarlet leather case with a spidery pattern and a crown in gold upon it. Uncle Jake had to open it, because Billy’s fingers were too shaky with excitement ; but Billy himself took out the golden goblet inside. It had a slender stem and a wide base, and the rim was hung with three golden

bells of different sizes that chimed a little chord when

220

BILLY ASSUMES HIS RIGHTS 221

shaken very gently. “ Juanito ” was lettered upon it in rubies, under which the date of the christening and the letters “I. H. S.” with a cross before them and a heart after.

Next came a thick gold watch with a tiny key fixed in its side. It almost seemed as if Billy understood it, for he at once wound it with the key : the lid flew open, and there rose up a little bright-feathered bird, with gold beak and ruby eyes, but no bigger than a bumble-bee. It spread and fluttered its wings so that Billy feared it would fly away ; but then it began to pour forth such a song as Billy had never heard unless from the thrushes in Primrose Coomb in April—or perhaps, he thought, when his lady-mother had let her Precioso mio listen to this heavenly dickybird. The song done, all too quickly, the bird folded its. wings again, bowed its head, and put itself away again into the golden coffinj as much as to say it should not be so many years before he was next wound up !

Then, and almost timidly, Billy brought out a carved figure of Jesus Christ on a black cross, which Aunt Rachel could not but think very beautiful although it was popish. She laid it on the table, glancing at Jacob, who turned the figure downwards but said nothing.

The next thing was only beads, thought Billy, but Aunt Rachel said they were monster pearls and must be worth a pretty penny ! “ Hundreds? ” asked Billy. “ Ah,” she replied, “ and more—a hundred of those doubloons, I reckon, what Aunt Pengulfy spoke on.” It was indeed' a splendid rope, and Billy set it at once round Santissy’s fat neck.

There were many other things : heaps of dried rose leaves which Billy must gather in his hands and give each of his dear ones to smell, he taking a long, deep breath of their far-fetched sweetness. There were two tiny dried-up oranges stuffed with cloves and smelling

222    BILLY    BARNICOAT

also captivatingly sweet. But at last, from the very bottom, there came such a heavy box that Billy could hardly move it himself. Uncle Jake lifted it by its ring with one of his great fingers.

“ This here,” said he, “ will be your doubloons, Billy. Likely you’ll be wanting all these and a heap more to piay the lawyers before your rights to them is proved I ”

Billy rose from his knees. The treasures seemed to have no further interest for him'. He went up to Aunt Rachel, who was now sitting on her low stool, looking straight ahead of her> the baby kicking on her lap with the pearls wound round and round her little neck. Billy knelt down in front of Santissy, and covered her rosy feet with kisses.

“ Aunt Rachel,” he said very , sternly for so small a child, “ how many doubloons will The Heavenly Home want?” The mother’s only response was to reach across the baby and take in her two hands the head of black hair. So Billy continued :    “ And there’s

another thing Billy Bamicoat mast be told ; because he ain’t no silly Billy like some folk do say. Was Santissy’s little soul to go along with Uncle Jake’s? And is Billy’s really worth only fippence? ”

“ God save us and bless us ! ” said Rachel once more, though now she had a glimmering' of understanding. Yes, sure ! There had been some nonsense talked with Uncle Neb when he was telling them all about the smuggling exploit that was afoot ! And he’d spoke, too, of the Treasure Chest as belonged to the Widow, sure enough ! And so Billy had actually gone after it, in case there might be enough money in it to save the two precious souls ! She could have laughed aloud, except that she was nigh overwhelmed by the boy’s loving bravery, the real risks he had run, and his marvellous success in actually dragging that great Chest all the way from the Whisht Ivy Wood ! And then to

BILLY ASSUMES HIS RIGHTS 223

be nigh beaten to death by that old hag ! Never should she darken their doors again J She drew his face to her again, peered into his eyes for quite a few seconds, and then rumpled his hair with her two hands till he laughed with happiness :    she did so hope

Santissy would have as adorable a laugh' as this strange little Billy of hers !

But Billy was instantly very quiet and thoughtful again : it was so strange ! For he felt now just as if his own lady-mother had rumpled her big Juanito’s head ! He went over to Uncle Jake, who was making the little bells on the goblet ring, and Santissy was clearly listening to them rather than to her mother’s and Billy’s talk.

“ Uncle Jake," said he, looking straight up into the great man’s face, “ if they’s true doubloons in that box, will they pay for The Heavenly Hornet Billy belongs to Uncle Jake, he, do. So ’tis Billy’s doubloons do, bide Uncle Jake’s along of Billy ! ”

“ Sure? ” queried the man, as he unbuckled the hard straps round the box. “ But supposing, Billy, Billy don’t belong to Uncle Jake? And supposing the doubloons don’t belong to Billy? How about it then? Supposing Billy is a little Spanish lord, and fisher-folk like dirt under his feet? How about it then? ” Then there was only one thing for Billy to do. Frustrated on every side, unable to let out the feelings in his heart, he threw himself on the floor and broke into angry weeping. Rachel understood'.

“ Here, Jacob,” she said, “ take Santissy 1 ” And she knelt down on the. floor beside Billy, took him in her arms, and hugged him to her very heart.

As soon as the little fellow’s eyes were dry, the parents exchanged burdens again, the man sitting down with Billy on his knee, and letting the little bird out of its prison again that it might sing to them. And as it piped away, Jacob’ talked very quietly to the child.

22?4    BILLY    BARNIGOAT

“ Billy, my man,’1 he said very tenderly, and with' a tremor in his voice, “ before you are changed into a little count, there’s something as you’ve' got to tell Uncle Jake, if so be you can. Listen, little lad. Before Uncle Jake found religion..he lent a hand—a hand that ought to be damned to all eternity for it I1— he lent a hand ... he let Giant Shiem take his lantern from him, though he half guessed what it might be for. Then, in two minutes' more, I seen the whole plot and was after the hounds. And . and ... Shem throwed me! . . . me ! • . me* Jacob Horni-syde ! . . . broke me, he did, insensible. . . . And he took the lantern ^and swung it, and they wrecked the Maria Santisima, with your lady-mother aboard. But for Uncle Jake, us don’t know but what she-might be alive and hearty now, and no old 'witch offering Billy his Rights. Do you think, Billy, so soon ’s you do be a bit older and more understanding-like, do you think you could find it in your heart to forgive Uncle Jake his trespass? ’Twas a terrible big one:    too big for

a little boy to tackle and forgive right, away. But I have suffered for it ; and, faith 1 Aunt Rachel have suffered for me. And' the Lord would not send little Santissy along till my trespass was purged. And, Billy, I have done my best to make amends to you, Billy, what with the rope-end and without . . . and here’s the little fishing-boat, all smart as new paint, and everything like life, for you, Billy.” And he fetched from his sea-chest, beneath the dresser,, th'e toy boat he had been so long building, and gave it to the little boy—a more rapturous gift than all the Chest’s treasures ; for it had what no lugger ever gloried in* before—a tiny figure-head of a lady in a blue gown, she,looking up to Heaven.

Billy, 'understood more about Uncle Jake’s appeal * than the sorrowful man knew. What his loving little heart did realize was just this : that his adored Uncle

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Jake was sore in heart, had somehow ’h'umbled'liimself before Billy, who Had so often sinned against him, and that he had now given him: his heart’s desire.. He looked up into the man’s sorrowful, careworn .face and flung his arms about his neck. The great, powerful man'—biggest and bravest in all Mullinstow I— behaved very much as a little boy will do when .his sins are forgiven him, and Billy stammered out :

' “Us was making for the Trannions, anyhow, ’straight and sure, let alone wreckers.”

.There was a hammering    at the door    then.;,    but    it

had been fastened, as they    wanted no - onlookers.    A

mouth was put to the keyhole and the Witch was hJeard saying :    .

“ I’ve got all the papers with* me noW, little lord . . . or scummy Billy Baniicoat,, which you will ! ” No one answered her, and they thought she was gone again.

“,Which treasure will    you please    have,    Aunt

Rachel? ” Billy asked, going up to her.

“But wait, Billy, till We be sure they are yours,” protested Rachel. ’

Billy stamped his foot at any delay and: then b'ariged his fist on the Treasure Chest. ... In doing so, the ring on his thumb' somehow cut into the skin again. He'put it to his rqbuth and, as was his way, kissed it ; but it still hurt him’.    ,

“ Uncle Jake, I do wish you would bend my ring and get it off. It do hurt terrible ! ”

The strong fingers gave instant relief, and Uncle Jake took the bit of gold to the light. The outside was scored and scratched, but the inside Was as bright as new. There Was lettering; and fortunately Jacob had sailed the sea enough' to know a few Spanish' words. He read out : “ This ring belongs to the m’ost noble Senorito Juanito, infant son of his Excellency the Conde of Tierras Lejanos ! ” Then he added f

15

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“ Tis dommed I do be, if this here little ring don’t prove everything ! ”

Then Uncle Jake took Billy in his arms and danced round the room with him. When he put him down, Billy took the box of money and thrust it into the man’s hands.

“ Open it, quick, Uncle Jake, and see if ’tis enough for the boat.”

But Aunt Rachel was sitting apart with hands in her lap, no smile on her face, and gazing at the boy.

“ How white you do be, Aunt Rachel ! ” he exclaimed ; “ but you must tell me which treasure you will have' ! ”,

She pulled herself together and entered into th!e happiness of the others, for was not The Heavenly Home surely paid for now? .

“ iWhy, Billy, ’tis the fine shawl we must look at before / can say ! ” Then, “ Gracious me ! ” she exclaimed, as they unfolded the thingi, “ we must hang it up across the dresser, if we’re to get a squinny at it altogether.” . ■    .    /    ■    1    , j

So Rachel must needs climb’ upon the dresser, and 011 the top shelf secure one corner with the weighty Bible, while Jacob, so mAich taller, made fast the other with the “ Sailor’s Return ” jug, now* carefully mended since its fall during the storm1, and holding once more Billy’s pebbles and shells. Billy watched in huge excitement. Then the two stood beside the little boy, already far in the wonderful world spread out before * their eyes. For the shawl, falling soft and heavy as water, was yet rippled at moments through all its rainbow world by a little breeze that none of them could feel. !In the midst of it grew a lovfely tree set in a green meadow, where tiny rabbits played and butterflies flitted among the meadow flowers. Among its blossoming branches was a nest with eggs a flight of doves circled about its crown ; its stem' w'as dark:

BILLY ASSUMES HIS RIGHTS 227

against a sky, blue at the zenith but amber where the golden sun was setting behind a purple hill. All round the borders danced and rushed a silvery stream, whicli took its source from two fountains springing airily beneath the tree, so that, with spray for warp and sunshine for weft, it was no wonder that the fringe ran out in rainbow hues all round I Billy must have been in the very heart of it, his bare feet in the jewelled grass. Did it not belong to both his worlds? He heard the plash and tinkle of the fountain, the song of the nightingale ; while rose-petals touched his cheek as the doves’ flight sent them scattering. Again the breeze ripplejd    the    lovely world,    filling the

place with wafts from'    the    camphor-tree    and    the

Damascus roses.

“ ’Tis 'ne’er a bit of    ivy    grows in all    this    here

garden,” Billy said dreamily    to himself.    And    then

he heard Aunt Rachel saying :

“ Oh, Billy, I think it was made for the Queen of Paradise.”

Billy drew a long breath and dragged himself back from, the world of wondqr into the homely room.

"-It was,” he said earnestly, “but ’tis Aunt Rachel’s now.”

Aunt Rachel laughed and blushed, shaking her comely head.    |

“ Folks like me can’t be wearing such glory, Billy, cheel-vean ; but we’ll fold it away and I’ll take care of it.”

She stood on the dresser again and lifted it down, Uncle Jake declaring he would never have laid finger on it if he had known how grand it was. He could only look on with wonder and' reverence as little Billy and Rachel each took a side and began their careful folding. And now all the doves came homing back, the butterflies folded their wings, the song ceased, and the little room was its neat self again, save for the

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folded silken shawl, the goblet, the fans, the magic bird on the table, and the scent of the heavenly roses. Instantly Billy made up his mind :

“ Then Santissy shall have it when she’s growed a lady ! ”

“ La ! La ! a lady indeed ! ” came the iWitch’s jeering voice through the keyhole.

She must have had her ugly eye at the crack in the door all along, though she could not have grasped the secret of the little gold ring. “And pray will my little lord make a fine lady; of a fisherman’s brat? ” This was about the last straw they could bear of the old hag’s insolence. Jacob1 flung open the door : in she hobbled with the utmost assurance that she held the cards of Billy’s destiny. She stretchled out a dirty blue paper, folded and tied with pink tape. !

“ This is your last chance, little lord,” she said ; “ you can choose which papers you will have, which sort you will be—lord of a thousand slaves and acres, or nursemaid to a ruined fisherman’s baby-girl.”

Little did the Witch understand the splendid anger that this little boy was capable of. “You are no Christian woman, Aunt Pengulfy I ” he said, “ or you’d know a fisherman’s princess when you see her, and . . . and ... a princess’s mother, too, when you see her—and a princess’s mother is a queen ! ” '

Then Jacob told the woman she could go, that the alternative papers must be forgeries, as they had found proof good enough to satisfy the King of. Spain himself, or King George of England, that Billy was all he would claim to be. “ And he’ll have to leave us all ... so he will . . . though ’twill break Santissy’s heart . . . and—like as not—her toother’s too !” Then Billy picked up the bundle of papers from the dresser, ignoring those the Witch held. He flung himself up against Aunt Rachel once again as though his own heart would break. . |    i    ,

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“ Oh, Aunt Rachel, darling,” he said or sobbed, “ do be saying you don’t want no lords about, nor slaves nor pictures and statues, but only your Billy Barnicoat ! For he don’t want nothing . . . not nothing' . . . don’t want gold-knobbed canes nor swords, nor . . . nor . . . silk stockings, nor . . . nor yet stockings at all 1 Billy Barnicoat don’t want nothing but his Uncle Jake and Santissy, and . . . and . . . most of all, his darling Aunt Rachel.”

“ But, Billy, these here papers make out as how you’ve got to do your duty in that state of life to which they do call you,” interrupted Uncle Jake.

“But . . .” began Billy, stamping in protest ; but Uncle Jake continuing his reflections :

“ Rights is duties, seemingly, Billy : let alone rank— and all that kind of argy (argument) ” He said this very gravely.

Billy felt at the silver collar tucked into his jersey, as the Witch hissed out :    .    ■

“ Count of Farlands or fisherman’s brat? ”

Billy took no heed, but just- said very dreamily, as he picked up the roll of parchment tied with the silver cord :

“ ‘ ’77s Love makes all ranks equal.' . . . Rights too, perhaps ! ”

The Widow then made a grab' at the documents, thinking to take Billy unawares. But she only roused the boy to a sudden and fiery determination. In two leaps he was at the hearth, and Jacob, his back to the boy, held the Witch fast. Though the man had no idea what was in Billy’s mind, his Rights were the boy’s own and his wrongs, he was determined, should end— so far as the Witch had ordered them.

Billy was now tearing savagely at the parchment document with his strong, sharp teeth, and thrusting its tatters into the red-hot embers, where they curled up as though they were tortured, and disappeared in

230    BILLY    BARNICOAT

smoke. No-one interfered—not even Uncle Jake when he turned to the crackling flames and reflected that Billy’s Rights in the Treasure Chest, along with the price of the new Heavenly Home, might be vanishing up the chimney.

But Billy, though he had no time to think it out, knew he had other rights more wonderful and precious than these things. Supposing he had lost Aunt Rachel and Santissy ! As the last piece of parchment curled and withered away in the fire, Billy g'ayq a great sigh of relief : such loving rights as these would never, never be questioned any more 1

Witch Pengulfy had left her broomstick at home, and so had to hobble away as best she could. In her raging fury her mutch-bonnet had slipped all on one side, and she looked wickeder than ever. Indeed, no one even peeped after her as she scrambled . and almost fell down the stone steps, shaking her fists at the sky and uttering strange sounds with more curse than sense in them. It is recorded that—perhaps it was the very night when Billy won his toy lugger and lost all proof of his rank and riches—the roof of her cottage on the Moor fell in : certainly no one could have felt very sorry if she and Kreepiclaw were buried in the ruins.

Anyhow, she gave Billy no more trouble for the present. His Rights in the Treasure Chest were never questioned. All sorts of stories ran wild as to his wealth’ and dignity ; but his bare legs and his devotion to Santissy enabled 'him to live them down. The two children had many a splendid adventure before they grew up/

The new Heavenly Home was a spanking boat—the only one in Muilinstow with a figure-head. Blue-gowned, mail-corsetted she was, looking always up to the sky, whence storm and sunshine come., courage and help, always ,    '

The End

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED PRINTERS, LONDON AND'WOKING

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