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voice, "you don't know what you're talking about, you . . ."
"Now, Master Nat, don't you try on your
hoighty-toighty-his-Worship-the-Mayor-of-Lud-in-the-Mist-knock-you-down-and-be
-thankful-for-smal l-mercies ways with me
!" cried Hempie, shaking her fist at him. "I know very well what I'm talking
about.
Long, long ago I made up my mind about certain things. But a good nurse must
keep her mind to herself
 if it's not the same as that of her master and mistress. So I never let on
to you when you were a little boy, nor to Master Ranulph neither, what I
thought about these things. But I've never held with fennel and such like. If
folks know they're not wanted, it just makes them all the more anxious to come
 be they
Fairies or Dorimarites. It's just because we're all so scared of our
neighbours that we get bamboozled by them. And I've always held that a healthy
stomach could digest anything  even fairy fruit. Look at my boy, now, at
Ranulph  young Luke writes he's never looked so bonny. No, fairy fruit nor
nothing else can poison a clean stomach."
"I see," said Master Nathaniel drily. He was fighting against the sense of
comfort that, in spite of himself, her words were giving him. "And are you
quite happy, too, about Prunella?"
"Well, and even if I'm not," retorted Hempie, "where's the good of crying, and
retching, and belching, all day long, like your lady downstairs? Life has its
sad side, and we must take the rough with the smooth.
Why, maids have died on their marriage eve, or, what's worse, bringing their
first baby into the world, and the world's wagged on all the same. Life's sad
enough, in all conscience, but there's nothing to be frightened about in it or
to turn one's stomach. I was country-bred, and as my old granny used to say,
`There's no clock like the sun and no calendar like the stars.' And why?
Because it gets one used to the look of Time. There's no bogey from over the
hills that scares one like Time. But when one's been used all one's life to
seeing him naked, as it were, instead of shut up in a clock, like he is in
Lud, one learns that he is as quiet and peaceful as an old ox dragging the
plough. And to watch Time teaches one to sing.
They say the fruit from over the hills makes one sing. I've never tasted so
much as a sherd of it, but for all that I can sing."
Suddenly, all the pent-up misery and fear of the last thirty years seemed to
be loosening in Master
Nathaniel's heart  he was sobbing, and Hempie, with triumphant tenderness,
was stroking his hands and murmuring soothing words, as she had done when he
was a little boy.
When his sobs had spent themselves, he sat down on a stool at her feet, and,
leaning his head against her knees, said, "Sing to me, Hempie."
"Sing to you, my dear? And what shall I sing to you? My voice isn't what it
once was . . . well, there's that old song  `Columbine,' I think they call it
 that they always seem singing in the streets these days
 that's got a pretty tune."
And in a voice, cracked and sweet, like an old spinet, she began to sing:
"When Aubrey did live there lived no poor, The lord and the beggar on roots
did dine
With lily, germander, and sops in wine.
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With sweet-brier,
And bon-fire, And strawberry-wire, And columbine."
As she sang, Master Nathaniel again heard the Note. But, strange to say, this
time it held no menace. It was as quiet as trees and pictures and the past, as
soothing as the drip of water, as peaceful as the lowing of cows returning to
the byre at sunset.
Chapter XI
A Stronger Antidote than Reason
Master Nathaniel sat at his old nurse's feet for some minutes after she had
stopped singing. Both his limbs and his mind seemed to be bathed in a cool,
refreshing pool.
So Endymion Leer and Hempie had reached by very different paths the same
conclusion  that, after all, there was nothing to be frightened about; that,
neither in sky, sea, nor earth was there to be found a cavern dark and
sinister enough to serve as a lair for IT  his secret fear.
Yes, but there were facts as well as shadows. Against facts Hempie had given
him no charm.
Supposing that what had happened to Prunella should happen to Ranulph? That he
should vanish for ever across the Debatable Hills.
But it had not happened yet  nor should it happen as long as Ranulph's father
had wits and muscles.
He might be a poor, useless creature when menaced by the figments of his own
fancy. But, by the
Golden Apples of the West, he would no longer sit there shaking at shadows,
while, perhaps, realities were mustering their battalions against Ranulph.
It was for him to see that Dorimare became a country that his son could live
in in security.
It was as if he had suddenly seen something white and straight  a road or a
river  cutting through a sombre, moonlit landscape. And the straight, white
thing was his own will to action.
He sprang to his feet and took two or three paces up and down the room.
"But I tell you, Hempie," he cried, as if continuing a conversation, "they're
all against me. How can I
work by myself! They're all against me, I say."
"Get along with you, Master Nat!" jeered Hempie tenderly. "You were always one
to think folks were against you. When you were a little boy it was always,
`You're not cross with me, Hempie, are you?' and peering up at me with your
little anxious eyes  and there was me with no more idea of being cross with
you than of jumping over the moon!"
"But, I tell you, they are all against me," he cried impatiently. "They blame
me for what has happened, and Ambrose was so insulting that I had to tell him
never to put his foot into my house again."
"Well, it isn't the first time you and Master Ambrose have quarrelled  and it
won't be the first time you make it up again. It was, `Hempie, Brosie won't
play fair!' or `Hempie, it's my turn for a ride on the donkey, and Nat won't
let me!' And then, in a few minutes, it was all over and forgotten. So you
must just step across to Master Ambrose's, and walk in as if nothing had
happened, and, you'll see, he'll be as pleased as Punch to see you."
As he listened, he realized that it would be very pleasant to put his pride in
his pocket and rush off to
Ambrose and say that he was willing to admit anything that Ambrose chose  [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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