fore I do thank you. It is right to know what
one's own flesh and blood are doing."
" Hark to that song, sir ! that 's an old one. I
didn't think they 'd get on to singing that."
The Blackbird was again on the table, but
seemed this time disinclined to exhibit.
" Out wi' un, boy; it wain't burn thy mouth ! "
"I be af card."
He pointed to Tregarva; there was a fierce
growl round the room.
"I am no keeper," shouted Tregarva, starting
up. " I was turned off this morning for speaking
my mind about the squires, and now I 'm one of
you, to live and die."
This answer was received with a murmur of
applause ; and a fellow in a scarlet merino necker-
chief, three waistcoats, and a fancy shooting-
jacket, who had been eyeing Lancelot for some
time, sidled up behind them, and whispered in
" Perhaps you 'd like an engagement in our line,
young man, and your friend there, he seems a
sporting gent too. We could show him very
Tregarva answered by the first and last oath
Lancelot ever heard from him, and turning to
him, as the rascal sneaked off:
"That's a poaching crimp from London, sir;
tempting these poor boys to sin, and deceit, and
drunkenness, and theft, and the hulks."
" I fancy I saw him somewhere the night of our
row you understand ? "
"So do I, sir, but there 's no use talking of it."
Blackbird was by this time prevailed on to
sing, and burst out as melodious as ever, while
all heads were cocked on one side in delighted
" I zeed a vire o' Monday night,
A vire both great and high ;
But I wool not tell you where, my boys,
Nor wool not tell you why.
The varmer he comes screeching out,
To zave 'uns new brood mare ;
Zays I, ' You and your stock may roast,
Vor aught us poor chaps care.'
" Coorus, boys, coorus ! "
And the chorus burst out :
The Village Revel 229
44 Then here 's a curse on varmers all
As rob and grind the poor ;
To re'p the fruit of all their works
In * * * * for evermoor-r-r-r.
u A blind owld dame come to the vire,
Zo near as she could get ;
Zays, ' Here 's a luck I war n't asleep
To lose this blessed hett.
" They robs us of our turfing rights,
Our bits of chips and sticks,
Till poor folks now can't warm their hands,
Except by varmer's ricks."
And again the boy's delicate voice rung out
the ferocious chorus, with something, Lancelot
fancied, of fiendish exultation, and every worn
face lighted up with a coarse laugh, that indicated
no malice but also no mercy.
Lancelot was sickened, and rose to go.
As he turned, his arm was seized suddenly and
firmly. He looked round, and saw a coarse,
handsome, showily dressed girl, looking intently
into his face. He shook her angrily off.
"You needn't be so proud, Mr. Smith; I've
had my hand on the arm of as good as you. Ah,
you need n't start ! I know you I know you, I
say, well enough. You used to be with him.
Where is he?"
" Whom do you mean ? "
"He!" answered the girl, with a fierce, sur-
prised look, as if there could be no one else in
"Colonel Bracebridge, " whispered Tregarva.
" Ay, he it is ! And now walk further off,
bloodhound ! and let me speak to Mr. Smith.
He is in Norway," she ran on eagerly. "When
will he be back? When?"
"Why do you want to know?" asked Lancelot.
" When will he be back ? " she kept on
fiercely repeating the question; and then burst
out : " Curse you gentlemen all ! Cowards ! you
are all in a league against us poor girls ! You
can hunt alone when you betray us, and lie fast
enough then? But when we come for justice,
you all herd together like a flock of rooks;
and turn so delicate and honorable all of a sud-
den to each other ! When will he be back, I
"In a month," answered Lancelot, who saw
that something really important lay behind the
"Too late!" she cried wildly, clapping her
hands together; "too late! Here tell him you
saw me; tell him you saw Mary; tell him where
and in what a pretty place, too, for maid, master,
or man ! What are you doing here ? "
" What is that to you, my good girl ? "
"True. Tell him you saw me here; and tell
him, when next he hears of me, it will be in a
very different place. "
She turned and vanished among the crowd.
Lancelot almost ran out into the night, into a
triad of fights, two drunken men, two jealous
wives, and a brute who struck a poor, thin, worn-
out woman, for trying to coax him home. Lancelot
rushed up to interfere, but a man seized his
"He'll only beat her all the more when he
"She has stood that every Saturday night for
The Village Revel 231
the last seven years, to my knowledge," said
Tregarva; "and worse, too, at times."
" Good God ! is there no escape for her from
her tyrant ? "
"No, sir. It's only you gentlefolks who can
afford such luxuries ; your poor man may be tied
to a harlot, or your poor woman to a ruffian, but
once done, done forever. "
"Well," thought Lancelot, "we English have
a characteristic way of proving the holiness of
the marriage tie. The angel of Justice and Pity
cannot sever it, only the stronger demon of
Their way home lay over Ashy Down, a lofty
chalk promontory, round whose foot the river
made a sudden bend. As they paced along over
the dreary hedgeless stubbles, they both started,
as a ghostly " Ha ! ha ! ha ! " rang through the
air over their heads, and was answered by a like
cry, faint and distant, across the wolds.
"That's those stone-curlews at least, so I
hope," said Tregarva. " He '11 be round again in
And again, right between them and the clear,
cold moon, " Ha ! ha ! ha ! " resounded over their
heads. They gazed up into the cloudless star-
bespangled sky, but there was no sign of living
"It's an old sign to me," quoth Tregarva;
" God grant that I may remember it in this black
day of mine."
"How so?" asked Lancelot; "I should not
have fancied you a superstitious man."
" Names go for nothing, sir, and what my fore-
fathers believed in I am not going to be conceited
enough to disbelieve in a hurry. But if you
heard my story you would think I had reason
enough to remember that devil's laugh up there."
" Let me hear it then. "
" Well, sir, it may be a long story to you, but
it was a short one to me, for it was the making
of me, out of hand, there and then, blessed be
God ! But if you will have it "
"And I will have it, friend Tregarva," quoth
Lancelot, lighting his cigar.
"I was about sixteen years old, just after I
came home from the Brazils "
" What ! have you been in the Brazils ? "
"Indeed and I have, sir, for three years; and
one thing I learnt there, at least, that 's worth
"What the Garden of Eden must have been
like. But those Brazils, under God, were the
cause of my being here ; for my father, who was a
mine-captain, lost all his money there, by no
man's fault but his own, and not his either, the
world would say, and when we came back to
Cornwall he could not stand the bal work, nor I
neither. Out of that burning sun, sir, to come
home here, and work in the levels, up to our
knees in warm water, with the thermometer at
85, and then up a thousand feet of ladder to
grass, reeking wet with heat, and find the easterly
sleet driving across those open furze-crofts he
couldn't stand it, sir few stand it long, even of
those who stay in Cornwall. We miners have a
short lease of life; consumption and strains break
us down before we 're fifty."
"But how came you here? "
The Village Revel 233
"The doctor told my father, and me too, sir,
that we must give up mining, or die of decline :
so he came up here, to a sister of his that was
married to the squire's gardener, and here he
died; and the squire, God bless him and forgive
him, took a fancy to me, and made me under-
keeper. And I loved the life, for it took me
among the woods and the rivers, where I could
think of the Brazils, and fancy myself back again.
But mustn't talk of that where God wills is
all right. And it is a fine life for reading and
thinking, a gamekeeper's, for it 's an idle life at
best. Now that 's over," he added, with a sigh,
"and the Lord has fulfilled His words to me,
that He spoke the first night that ever I heard a
stone-plover cry. "
" What on earth can you mean ? " asked Lance-
lot, deeply interested.
"Why, sir, it was a wild, whirling gray night,
with the air full of sleet and rain, and my father
sent me over to Redruth town to bring home
some trade or other. And as I came back I got
blinded with the sleet, and I lost my way across
the moors. You know those Cornish furze-
moors, sir ? "
"Well, then, they are burrowed like a rabbit-
warren with old mine-shafts. You can't go in
some places ten yards without finding great,
ghastly black holes, covered in with furze, and
weeds, and bits of rotting timber; and when I
was a boy I couldn't keep from them. Some-
thing seemed to draw me to go and peep down,
and drop pebbles in, to hear them rattle against
the sides, fathoms below, till they plumped into
the ugly black still water at the bottom. And I
used to be always after them in my dreams, when
I was young, falling down them, down, down,
all night long, till I woke screaming; for I
fancied they were hell's mouth, every one of
them. And it stands to reason, sir; we miners
hold that the lake of fire can't be far below. For
we find it grow warmer, and warmer, and warmer,
the farther we sink a shaft; and the learned
gentlemen have proved, sir, that it 's not the
blasting powder, nor the men's breaths, that heat
Lancelot could but listen.
"Well, sir, I got into a great furze-croft, full
of deads (those are the earth-heaps they throw
out of the shafts), where no man in his senses
dare go forward or back in the dark, for fear of
the shafts ; and the wind and the snow were so
sharp, they made me quite stupid and sleepy ; and
I knew if I stayed there I should be frozen to
death, and if I went on, there were the shafts
ready to swallow me up : and what with fear and
the howling and raging of the wind, I was like a
mazed boy, sir. And I knelt down and tried to
pray; and then, in one moment, all the evil
things I 'd ever done, and the bad words and
thoughts that ever crossed me, rose up together
as clear as one page of a print-book ; and I knew
that if I died that minute I should go to hell.
And then I saw through the ground all the water
in the shafts glaring like blood, and all the sides
of the shafts fierce red-hot, as if hell was coming
up. And I heard the knockers knocking, or
thought I heard them, as plain as I hear that
grasshopper in the hedge now."
The Village Revel 235
"What are the knockers? "
"They are the ghosts, the miners hold, of the
old Jews, sir, that crucified our Lord, and were
sent for slaves by the Roman emperors to work
the mines; and we find their old smelting-
houses, which we call Jews' houses, and their
blocks of tin, at the bottom of the great bogs,
which we call Jews' tin; and there's a town
among us, too, which we call Market -Jew but
the old name was Marazion; that means the
Bitterness of Zion, they tell me. Isn't it so,
"I believe it is," said Lancelot, utterly puzzled
in this new field of romance.
" And bitter work it was for them, no doubt,
poor souls ! We used to break into the old shafts
and adits which they had made, and find old
stags' -horn pickaxes, that crumbled to pieces
when we brought them to grass; and they say,
that if a man will listen, sir, of a still night,
about those old shafts, he may hear the ghosts of
them at working, knocking, and picking, as clear
as if there was a man at work in the next
level. It may be all an old fancy. I suppose
it is. But I believed it when I was a boy ; and
it helped the work in me that night. But I '11 go
on with my story."
"Go on with what you like," said Lancelot.
"Well, sir, I was down on my knees among
the furze-bushes, and I tried to pray; but I was
too frightened, for I felt the beast I had been,
sir; and I expected the ground to open and let
me down every moment ; and then there came by
over my head a rushing, and a cry. ' Ha ! ha !
ha ! Paul ! ' it said ; and it seemed as if all the
devils and witches were out on the wind, a-laugh-
ing at my misery. 'Oh, I'll mend I'll re-
pent, ' I said, ' indeed I will : ' and again it came
back, ' Ha ! ha ! ha ! Paul ! ' it said. I knew
afterwards that it was a bird; but the Lord sent
it to me for a messenger, no less, that night.
And I shook like a reed in the water; and then,
all at once a thought struck me. ' Why should I
be a coward ? Why should I be afraid of shafts,
or devils, or hell, or anything else? If I am a
miserable sinner, there's One died for me I
owe him love, not fear at all. I '11 not be fright-
ened into doing right that's a rascally reason
for repentance. ' And so it was, sir, that I rose
up like a man, and said to the Lord Jesus, right
out into the black, dumb air, ' If you '11 be on
my side this night, good Lord, that died for me,
I '11 be on your side forever, villain as I am, if
I'm worth making any use of.' And there and
then, sir, I saw a light come over the bushes,
brighter, and brighter, up to me ; and there rose
up a voice within me, and spoke to me, quite
soft and sweet, ' Fear not, Paul, for I will send,
thee far hence unto the Gentiles.' And what
more happened I can't tell, for when I woke I
was safe at home. My father and his folk had
been out with lanterns after me; and there they
found me, sure enough, in a dead faint on the
ground. But this I know, sir, that those words
have never left my mind since for a day together;
and I know that they will be fulfilled in me this
tide, or never. "
Lancelot was silent a few minutes.
" I suppose, Tregarva, that you would call this
your conversion ? "
The Village Revel 237
" I should call it one, sir, because it was one. "
"Tell me now, honestly, did any real, practical
change in your behavior take place after that
"As much, sir, as if you put a soul into a hog,
and told him that he was a gentleman's son; and,
if every time he remembered that, he got spirit
enough to conquer his hoggishness, and behave
like a man, till the hoggishness died out of him,
and the manliness grew up and bore fruit in him,
more and more each day. "
Lancelot half understood him, and sighed.
A long silence followed, as they paced on past
lonely farmyards, from which the rich manure-
water was draining across the road in foul black
streams, festering and steaming in the chill night
air. Lancelot sighed as he saw the fruitful mate-
rials of food running to waste, and thought of the
"over-population " cry ; and then he looked across
to the miles of brown moorland on the opposite
side of the valley, that lay idle and dreary under
the autumn moon, except where here and there a
squatter's cottage and rood of fruitful garden gave
the lie to the laziness and ignorance of man, who
pretends that it is not worth his while to cultivate
the soil which God has given him. " Good
heavens ! " he thought, " had our forefathers had
no more enterprise than modem landlords, where
should we all have been at this moment? Every-
where waste ! Waste of manure, waste of land,
waste of muscle, waste of brain, waste of popu-
lation and we call ourselves the workshop of
As they passed through the miserable hamlet-
street of Ashy, they saw a light burning in a
window. At the door below, a haggard woman
was looking anxiously down the village.
"What's the matter, Mistress Cooper?" asked
"Here's Mrs. Grane's poor girl lying sick of
the fever the Lord help her ! and the boy died
of it last week. We sent for the doctor this
afternoon, and he's busy with a poor soul that's
in her trouble; and now we've sent down to the
squire's, and the young ladies, God bless them!
sent answer they'd come themselves straight-
" No wonder you have typhus here, " said Lance-
lot, "with this filthy open drain running right
before the door. Why can't you clean it out? "
"Why, what harm does that do?" answered
the woman, peevishly. " Besides, here 's my
master gets up to his work by five in the morn-
ing, and not back till seven at night, and by then
he ain't in no humor to clean out gutters. And
where's the water to come from to keep a place
clean ? It costs many a one of us here a shilling
a week the summer through to pay fetching water
up the hill. We 've work enough to fill our
kettles. The muck must just lie in the road,
smell or none, till the rain carries it away."
Lancelot sighed again.
" It would be a good thing for Ashy, Tregarva,
if the weir-pool did, some fine morning, run up
to Ashy Down, as poor Harry Verney said on his
"There won't be much of Ashy left by that
time, sir, if the landlords go on pulling down
cottages at their present rate ; driving the people
into the towns, to herd together there like hogs,
The Village Revel 239
and walk out to their work four or five miles
"Why," said Lancelot, "wherever one goes
one sees commodious new cottages springing
"Wherever you go, sir; but what of wherever
you don't go? Along the roadsides, and round
the gentlemen's parks, where the cottages are in
sight, it's all very smart; but just go into the
outlying hamlets a whited sepulchre, sir, is
many a great estate; outwardly swept and gar-
nished, and inwardly full of all uncleanliness,
and dead men's bones."
At this moment two cloaked and veiled figures
came up to the door, followed by a servant.
There was no mistaking those delicate footsteps,
and the two young men drew back with fluttering
hearts, and breathed out silent blessings on the
ministering angels, as they entered the crazy and
"I'm thinking, sir," said Tregarva, as they
walked slowly and reluctantly away, "that it is
hard of the gentlemen to leave all God's work to
the ladies, as nine-tenths of them do."
"And I am thinking, Tregarva, that both for
ladies and gentlemen, prevention is better than
"There's a great change come over Miss
Argemone, sir. She used not to be so ready to
start out at midnight to visit dying folk. A
Lancelot thought so too, and he thought that
he knew the cause of it.
Argemone' s appearance, and their late conver-
sation, had started a new covey of strange fancies.
Lancelot followed them over hill and dale, glad
to escape a moment from the mournful lessons of
that evening; but even over them there was a
cloud of sadness. Harry Verney's last words,
and Argemone's accidental whisper about "a
curse upon the Lavingtons," rose to his mind.
He longed to ask Tregarva, but he was afraid
not of the man, for there was a delicacy in his
truthfulness which encouraged the most utter
confidence, but of the subject itself; but curi-
"What did Old Harry mean about the Nun-
pool ? " he said at last. " Every one seemed to
"Ah, sir, he oughtn't to have talked of it!
But dying men, at times, see over the dark water
into deep things deeper than they think them-
selves. Perhaps there 's one speaks through
them. But I thought every one knew the story."
"I do not, at least."
"Perhaps it 's so much the better, sir."
"Why? I must insist on knowing. It is
necessary proper, that is that I should hear
everything that concerns "
"I understand, sir; so it is; and I'll tell you.
The story goes, that in the old Popish times,
when the nuns held Whitford Priors, the first
Mr. Lavington that ever was came from the king
with a warrant to turn them all out, poor souls,
and take the lands for his own. And they say
the head lady of them prioress, or abbess, as
they called her withstood him, and cursed him,
in the name of the Lord, for a hypocrite who
robbed harmless women under the cloak of pun-
ishing them for sins they 'd never committed (for
The Village Revel 241
they say, sir, he went up to court, and slandered
the nuns there for drunkards and worse). And
she told him, ' That the curse of the nuns of
Whitford should be on him and his, till they
helped the poor in the spirit of the nuns of
Whitford, and the Nun-pool ran up to Ashy
Down. ' "
"That time is not come yet," said Lancelot.
"But the worst is to come, sir. For he or his,
sir, that night, said or did something to the lady,
that was more than woman's heart could bear:
and the next morning she was found dead and
cold, drowned in that weir-pool. And there the
gentleman's eldest son was drowned, and more
than one Lavington beside. Miss Argemone's
only brother, that was the heir, was drowned
there too, when he was a little one."
" I never heard that she had a brother. "
" No, sir, no one talks of it. There are many
things happen in the great house that you must
go to the little house to hear of. But the country-
folk believe, sir, that the nun's curse holds true;
and they say, that Whitford folks have been get-
ting poorer and wickeder ever since that time,
and will, till the Nun-pool runs up to Ashy, and
the Lavingtons' name goes out of Whitford
Lancelot said nothing. A presentiment of evil
hung over him. He was utterly down-hearted
about Tregarva, about Argemone, about the
poor. The truth was, he could not shake off the
impression of the scene he had left, utterly dis-
appointed and disgusted with the "revel." He
had expected, as I said before, at least to hear
something of pastoral sentiment, and of genial
frolicsome humor; to see some innocent, simple
enjoyment : but instead, what had he seen but
vanity, jealousy, hoggish sensuality, dull vacuity?
drudges struggling for one night to forget their
drudgery. And yet withal, those songs, and the
effect which they produced, showed that in these
poor creatures, too, lay the germs of pathos,
taste, melody, soft and noble affections. " What
right have we," thought he, "to hinder their
development ? Art, poetry, music, science, ay,
even those athletic and graceful exercises on
which we all pride ourselves, which we consider
necessary to soften and refine ourselves, what
God has given us a monopoly of them? what
is good for the rich man is good for the poor.
Over-education ? And what of that ? What if
the poor be raised above ' their station ' ? What
right have we to keep them down? How long
have they been our born thralls in soul, as well
as in body ? What right have we to say that they
shall know no higher recreation than the hogs,
because, forsooth, if we raised them, they might
refuse to work for us ? Are we to fix how far
their minds may be developed? Has not God
fixed it for us, when He gave them the same
passions, talents, tastes, as our own ? "
Tregarva's meditations must have been running
in a very different channel, for he suddenly burst
out, after a long silence :
" It 's a pity these fairs can't be put down. They
do a lot of harm ; ruin all the young girls round,
the Dissenters' children especially, for they run
utterly wild ; their parents have no hold on them
" They tell them that they are children of the
The Village Revel 243
devil," said Lancelot. " What wonder if the chil-
dren take them at their word, and act accordingly? "
" The parson here, sir, who is a God-fearing man
enough, tried hard to put down this one, but the
innkeepers were too strong for him."
" To take away their only amusement, in short.
He had much better have set to work to amuse
" His business is to save souls, sir, and not to
amuse them. I don't see, sir, what Christian
people want with such vanities."
Lancelot did not argue the point, for he knew
the prejudices of Dissenters on the subject ; but it
did strike him that if Tregarva's brain had been a
little less preponderant, he, too, might have found
the need of some recreation besides books and
By this time they were at Lancelot's door. He
bid the keeper a hearty good-night, made him
promise to see him next day, and went to bed and
slept till nearly noon.
When he walked into his breakfast-room, he
found a note on the table in his uncle's hand-
writing. The vicar's servant had left it an hour
before. He opened it listlessly, rang the bell
furiously, ordered out his best horse, and, huddling
on his clothes, galloped to the nearest station,
caught the train, and arrived at his uncle's bank
it had stopped payment two hours before.