" About me ! "
"Yes. Do you think that he didn't tell me stories
about you and Catherine Foy, the girl who lives at the
crown of the hill and gathers lavender .'' But did I
believe him .-* I boxed his ears when he told me. I
did not run away and hide from you."
Monsieur Bompard came still closer.
" It remains that I am most horribly revenged on
Jean Simon," he said,
" It remains that you come home again, and that we
THE GRASSE WIDOW 137
find a good story to tell about you If Grasse knew
you had run away from me because Jean Simon advised
you to do so, Grasse would laugh a great deal."
" I will strangle him in the public place ! "
" We shall talk about that later on. Meantime we
have wasted many precious days, and you have grown
rough and wild and rather wicked."
" No, no ; I shall be tame and good again in a
week. I shall take off my clothes and wash again. I
never thought to do either any more. I have been as
savage as a tiger thirsting for blood ; but now I will be
Natalie's husband again and live only for her — and the
" Come, then ! " said Madame Bompard ; whereupon
the little man's paws went round her and he pressed
her to his red shirt.
" You must certainly wash again as you say," she
told him. But she kissed his shaggy muzzle and stroked
his hands and thanked Heaven for this enormous
Monsieur Bompard kissed his wife frantically and
wept happy tears until the rims of his eyes grew red.
" It is too much happiness," he cried. " However,
I will never rest in a bed again until I have had an
awful revenge upon that fiend ! "
They sat together, and presently Felix took his wife
to the wooden kennel in the hills where now he dwelt.
He had certainly endured much, and she believed him
when he explained how that when he supposed her
faithless, he cared no longer to live.
" It was so with me," she assured him. " I wanted
to die, but God knew that this day would come and
kept us safe for each other,"
THE FOLK AFIELD
" God shall be well paid," said Monsieur Bompard.
" I will not forget Him. My life will be a very
beautiful life — after I have done with Jean Simon.
But heaven and earth shall not save him from my
WITHIN twenty-four hours a diligence had brought
the Bompards home again ; and they were glad
that night had fallen, so that their return passed unob-
served. But while they supped and the yellow cat
showed a placid satisfaction at Natalie's arrival, there
came a visitor.
" Go behind the door ! " whispered Madame Bom-
pard. " It is Simon : too well I know his knock ! "
The wanderer hid himself, and his wife opened the
door to Jean.
" I have been away a week — though it seems years,"
he said. " I have toiled terribly, Natalie. My legs and
arms are bruised — I have suffered much. A hundred
times I have barely escaped death in my search.
But something has rewarded me. I have, alas ! made
He drew a parcel from under his arm and produced
a battered and sodden cap and a piece of flannel that
had once been red but was now bleached and tattered,
and the fragments of an umbrella.
" Without doubt these belonged to our poor dear
Felix," he said. " His bones cannot be far off."
" They are even nearer than you think," answered
Madame Bompard. " I have, in fact, found them."
" What do you say ? "
" In the Est^relles — not the Gorge de Loup. Mon-
sieur Bompard is alive and well. Your day of reckon-
ing has come, Jean Simon ! "
140 THE FOLK AFIELD
Natalie paused. She felt that Felix might now fitly
make his entry. The theatrical moment had arrived.
But Felix stopped behind the door.
As for the lover, he laughed, yet not with merriment.
" He has come back then, the little black fool ?
My game's up, I suppose ? All the same, I should
have been worth a thousand of that poor dwarf — and
you know it."
" Go ! " she answered. " You are a wicked, barefaced
rascal, and God will reward you. You shall be hounded
out of Grasse ; the women shall be warned against you ;
the men shall beat you and bang the doors in your
shameless face ! "
" I'm punished enough," he said. " Good-bye,
Natalie. But — still — it is a thousand pities he came
back. You would have grown very fond of me in time.
How does he know how to please a woman ? "
He went away slowly, and after he had quite gone
Monsieur Bompard leapt out from his place of conceal-
" Lock the door and put the key in your pocket,"
he cried, " or I shall run after him and do him a dread-
ful injury ! "
His wife obeyed.
"Your self-control was wonderful," she said. "I
expected every moment that you would leap upon him
and tear his throat out."
" It was hard to hold back. I was making the
most hideous faces at him, and I had actually drawn
my knife from my belt, but I managed to restrain
myself. His time shall come, however. I will not
rest until that man lies in his grave ! Nothing less
than his death shall content me ! "
THE GRASSE WIDOW 141
"Talk of something nicer to-night," she said.
" The ugly dream is ended and God has sent the beauti-
ful reality back to me."
" I will forget Jean Simon until to-morrow," answered
the little man. " And then an awful punishment will
overtake him. Be surprised at nothing ! "
Six months later old Judith Chazotte was talking to
a friend from Cannes, and making her laugh very much
with the story of the Bompards.
" And what did the husband really do } " asked the
Judith answered in an allegory.
" When the weasel sucked the robin's eggs, the
robin and his wife were furious about it, and swore that
they would be most tragically revenged upon him."
" Ah ! what did they do > "
" What could they do ? "
"That is exactly what they did do. And that is
exactly what the Bompards did to poor Monsieur Simon.
Once in the street Jean looked round and saw Bompard
making a horrible face at him. So he walked across
the road, and took the little man by his beard and
slapped him. Nothing happened, however."
" It is very funny."
" So it is ; still, I am sorry for Simon. He tried
so hard to get her, and he is worth a thousand of
that little, noisy, empty black beetle Natalie adores
so foolishly. If I was younger, I think I should marry
Jean myself — to console him."
JANE AND JOHN
A NEGRO lay at full length upon the little wharf
of Kingstown, St Vincent, in the West Indies.
He chewed a sugar-cane pensively, and gazed with un-
speculative eyes at the blue waters of the Caribbean.
John Diggle was a full-blooded African, a man of fine
physical proportions and good looks. As he basked
and blinked in the hot sunshine, his black skin, shining
with a rich chocolate gloss, peeped from many a rent
and rift in John's raiment, for he wore what he was
pleased to consider his working clothes, albeit Mr Diggle
did little work at the busiest of times.
Now that Emancipation has made all men free in the
fertile islands of the Western Indies, Quashie's labours
are very limited. Two days of toil a week are sufficient
to provide him with every necessity, and he has no ambi-
tion for luxuries. Give him a thatched cottage, peep-
ing from between the great tattered foliage of plantain
trees ; add thereto a patch of land, where he may grow
his sweet potatoes ; throw in a cocoanut palm, sufficient
sugar-cane, and a wife to cherish or thrash, and your
negro asks for nothing more.
But John Diggle, while he owned most of these
good things, and was the proud possessor of two mango-
trees into the bargain, yet lacked a help-mate ; and
while he sat upon the wharf and watched a shoal of
flying-fish, flashing like little silver meteors in the bay as
144 THE FOLK AFIELD
they fled and flew before greedy pursuers in sea and
air, John sighed with the gravity of his reflections, and
shook his woolly head, and set down his sugar-cane, for
the sweetness had gone out of it.
Mr Diggle was in love with the blackest and
straightest little negress in St Vincent ; but his dear one
had two strings to her bow, and she harped with great
success upon each, to the extreme discomfort of the
other. His present uncertainty first reduced John to
despair, and then determined him to take definite action.
He felt that, when his mental condition became such
that sugar-cane no longer tasted sweet in the mouth,
it was time to make a move and press for a decided
answer from Jane Smith. He had not yet proposed,
excepting through the vague medium of bunches of
bananas, land-crabs and other delicacies. Nor had his
rival made absolute offer of love, so far as he knew ; and
now, while poor John lay sighing and whining to him-
self under the blazing sun, he was screwing his courage
to the sticking point, and framing ardent sentences,
calculated to express the height and depth of his affec-
tion. He wished that he could write a letter setting
forth his sentiments, but Mr Diggle's education did not
embrace the possibility of such a performance.
" 'Specs I'll hab to say it," he thought ; " an' dat
udder nigger '11 hab to say it too. He don't know
nuffing 'bout writing, tank de Lord."
This reflection comforted John for a moment.
Then another took its place. What if his rival had
spoken } Of course he might do so at any moment.
Mr Diggle knew very little of love, except that it was
a most unquieting, distracting condition, but he sus-
pected that considerable delay in matters of the heart
JANE AND JOHN 145
must be dangerous, and more especially when a rival
like Geof Solomons had taken up a strong position.
Solomons was a new-comer in St Vincent, Nobody
knew anything about him beyond the fact that he pos-
sessed more money than most of his kind ; that he had
a very hateful and superior way of treating his fellow-
men, but managed to make himself highly popular with
the ladies. There was a strain of white blood in him,
upon the possession of which he took unreasonable
credit to himself, and claimed relationship with some
exalted putty-coloured people at Barbados ; but the
sole evidence of this lofty lineage for Mr Solomons
appeared in the fact that, instead of being a mahogany-
hued negro, he was a snuff-tinted one.
So John Diggle, suddenly bursting into terror of
any further delay, rose up from his hard couch on
the wharf, gave the remains of his sugar-cane to a small
boy who angled hard by, and then returned home to
his cottage. The negro's preparations for his pending
proposal were of a most elaborate nature. He rummaged
out his Sunday clothes, polished up his best hat — a
venerable white beaver of obsolete design — put on a
sky-blue tie, which his friends very rightly considered
among the wonders of St Vincent, and finally got into
a pair of boots — articles which he disliked and rarely
wore, but felt were that day demanded by the dignity
of the occasion. Then, taking a big walking-stick
with a metal knob, he started, the admired of all
His acquaintances were proud to know Mr Diggle
that afternoon ; indeed, John's progress presently
amounted to a sort of triumphal procession, for a dozen
ragged black girls and boys marched proudly in front
146 THE FOLK AFIELD
of him, and an inquisitive adult or two brought up the
rear. The central figure felt gratified at the ample
attention he was commanding. Even white men
stopped and admired. The lover amounted to a page-
ant, and his success as a show gave him confidence.
Jane would surely be bound to strike her colours before
his blue tie. She might not care particularly for the
man, but John failed to see how she could resist the
clothes. All a negro's love of admiration and impor-
tance thrilled in Diggle's veins that afternoon. He felt
that he was somebody, and his heart beat high with
hope. He reflected, moreover, that a staunch ally
already watched his interests in the camp of the enemy.
Jane lived with her aunt — an ancient, much-married
negress, who had survived three husbands, accumulated
small worldly possessions from each in turn, and now
spent a quiet autumn of life in peaceful widowhood and
comfortable circumstances. Aunt Elvira knew men
pretty thoroughly, and had rather a low opinion of
them, taken as a sex ; but she thought well of John
Diggle. Him, probably in consideration of his extended
property and two mango-trees, she considered as an
eligible suitor for Jane ; she had secretly assured him
that she was on his side, and would exercise her influ-
ence. But very few aunts, whether black or white,
have much authority with young maids whose feet
stand upon the threshold of womanhood. Jane was
a beauty ; she had a strong will of her own, and a
perfect belief in her judgment of male character.
She proposed going her own way, wherever that might
lead her, and a thousand widowed aunts would have
made no difference to this determination.
Mr Diggle's black diamond lived inland, a mile or
JANE AND JOHN 147
more out of Kingstown ; and presently, leaving his
juvenile bodyguard in the rear at the outskirts of
civilisation, he proceeded to climb the hills that rose
beyond. Noble hills they were, fringed and gemmed
with palms, richly wooded to their topmost heights,
crowned with clouds of pearl that hung on the deep
blue sky above. Nature triumphed in savage verdure
along their towering sides. Here glowed the fiery
blossoms of the flamboyant ; here vast, weird cactus
thrust upwards their thorny heads ; here tamarind,
mango, lime, and palm struggled in luxuriant rivalry,
linked and chained each to other with creeping tangles
and twisted ropes of delicate foliage ; here the jagged
boughs of frangipani broke the undergrowth and
scented the air with sweet pale blossoms ; here blazed
the crimson spikes of the coral-tree. John stood
awhile to rest by the shattered trunk of a dead giant,
whose bleached, lightning-smitten branches towered
above the living woods. Beneath him, billow upon
billow of tawny forest extended, rolling downwards to
where emerald plains of sugar-cane and arrowroot lay
between the mountains above and the little town below ;
while beyond the colony of red roofs and grey that
glimmered under tropic sun, there stretched to the dim
horizon a great and glorious sapphire sea. It gleamed
with splashes of sunlight on tiny white sails ; and was
dimmed at one point by tangles of wind-blown smoke
from a departing steamship.
John Diggle sat down in the heart of the hot woods,
watched the humming-birds flickering on trembling wing
before the flowers, noted the lizards that rustled to right
and left, saw the air quivering over the hillside, and felt
his recent hopeful emotions rapidly dying within him.
148 THE FOLK AFIELD
There, alone in the lap of Nature, John dimly suspected
that his chances were but small, and that even his white
beaver and sky-blue tie might be taken in a wrong spirit.
Once he was almost tempted to relinquish the task for
that day ; but he braced himself to his ordeal, and
allowing the mind no further licence, started straightway
for the habitation of his love.
Two hundred yards from the cottage, Mr Diggle
met no less a person than Geof Solomons coming
towards him. This gentleman was also in holiday garb,
and he appeared on good terms with himself and the
world in general.
"Good-afternoon to you, Massa Diggle — fine day, sar."
" Berry fine day, sar," answered John, trying to
look pleasanter than he felt,
"You's plenty dress up, Massa Diggle, Whar you
gwine dis afternoon ? "
" Dat's my business, I 'specs, Massa Sol'mons,"
" All right, sar, all right. I mean no 'fence. I'se
sorry I spoke."
"You's berry 'pertinent nigger to ask whar I'se
gwine," explained Mr Diggle hotly, " I no ask you
whar you'se gwine."
" No, sar," answered the other, with a cool, most
exasperating grin ; " an' you no ask me whar I'se
come from, 'cause you know whar dat is. Good-after-
noon, sar. He-he-he ! "
" You's a dam horrid nigger, sar ! " answered John.
Then he proceeded to the cottage of Aunt Elvira.
Aunty sat on the floor in the living-room. She was
plucking a fowl and smoking her little clay pipe.
" Whar's Missy Smiff.''" inquired John abruptly,
JANE AND JOHN 149
" De gal's in de garden. Me Gord ! Massa Diggle,
dat's bu'ful, sure 'nuff ! "
And Aunt Elvira stopped her occupation and beamed
with undisguised admiration upon Mr Diggle.
" Yes," he admitted, mopping his shining forehead
and giving the beaver a final polish. "Yes, I'se smart,
ma'am. In de garden .'' I'll go right 'long."
" Dat Solomon's fussin* 'bout somewher' dar."
" No, he hab gone — a berry ugly, 'pertinent fellow,
Then the lover went out to meet his fate. Jane sat
on a little wooden form under a palmetto in the garden.
Her arms were folded, her head bent down, her eyes
apparently fixed upon her ten black toes. She was a
bright and comely maiden, with big brown eyes, and
teeth that her friends much envied her. The girl wore
a white cotton frock extending slightly below her knees ;
and her crisp hair, done up in careful curls, was hidden
for the most part under a big white turban splashed
" Good-afternoon, Massa Diggle," she said, not
" Same to you, missy," he answered gravely.
She cast a sidelong glance at him, and his attire
spoke his errand. No negro ever dressed like that, ex-
cepting he meant some great business, save on Sundays,
" Shall I sit down 'long wid you, Jane } "
"Yes, Massa Diggle."
He shook her hand solemnly for about half a minute,
then took off his hat, placed it by his side upon a red
handkerchief, folded his hands over the great knob of
his stick, and sat silently gazing at her. She en-
deavoured to show indifference, and failed.
150 THE FOLK AFIELD
" You's great man dis ebening, Massa Diggle."
" I'se come 'pon great business, missy."
" Hab you, Massa Diggle ? "
" Jus' so ; an' I wish you no call me ' Massa Diggle,'
but ' John ' instead,"
" Den I call you John, Massa Diggle."
" Dar you goes again ! "
They both laughed, with quaint, pathetic negro
cachinnation. Then John grew very much in earnest,
and spoke once more, this time to the point.
" Jane, I say jus' dis to you — dat I lub you, I lub
you ebber so long since I first see you. I been gwine
about lubbing you for dis berry long time. An' I got
a house and udder fings, plenty comferable for two folks.
You hab ebb'ryfing if you marry me, Jane,"
" Dar's Marse Solomons ; he lub me too," said Jane.
" Dat Solomons dam 'pertinent nigger to lub you,"
asserted John warmly ; " him nufifing on dis island ; him
not eben proper coloured gem'man."
" Him no nigger at all," declared Miss Smith ;
" him no coloured pusson ; him nearly altogedder white
" Shew ! Him white ! " and John made a great
pretence of being moved to uncontrollable laughter.
" Am dat boot on my foot white ? Am de lan'-crabs I
bring you for present white } He - he - he - hoo !
Am de debbil white ? Solomons — he nuffing — not
black, not white. I wunner you fink of a pusson what
neider black nor white, Jane."
The girl did not answer, but an angry, sulky look
came over her face ; she moved as far away from him as
the scanty seat would allow, and tore the edge of her
JANE AND JOHN 151
" You's coloured lady an' I'se coloured gem'man,
an' I lubs you," began John again.
Then she interrupted him,
" Why you speak rude ob Marse Solomons ? What
he done to you ? "
" I no care nuffing for Marse Solomons," explained
John, with extreme unconcern ; " only I'se surprise you
" I — I lubs him," said Jane, looking away.
" Lubs him ! "
"Yes, I does an' I does, an' I'se gwine to marry
him right and proper at the chapel — dar ! "
There was a long pause ; then John spoke again,
with a hollow voice, indicative of shock and dismay.
" I'se too sorry to be 'quainted wid dis. Missy Jane
— quite too sorry, 'cause I fought dat you lub me a little
piece. You no lub me 'tall, den .'' "
" No, I no lub you 'tall."
" Me Gord ! dat's terr'ble bad news, Missy Jane."
She did not answer, and, after a further brief period
of silence, John proceeded.
" S'pose dar was no Massa Solomons — den .'' "
" But dar is."
" S'pose him not on dis island — den } "
"But him am."
John sighed and whined, and Jane sighed too, and
they went in mournfully together to Aunt Elvira. She
saw instantly the turn which matters had taken, pro-
vided some rum and water for John before he started
upon his return journey, and upbraided Jane openly
with her folly and obstinate behaviour.
" You's quite too big fool of a gal," declared her
152 THE FOLK AFIELD
Whereupon Jane grew very sulky, and said she
much doubted John's love. Then she returned to the
little garden alone, and hid herself in a patch of pigeon-
peas and wept.
John, meantime, consumed his rum and water,
shook Aunt Elvira by the hand, remarked that he
neither knew nor cared what would become of him,
hinted that the life-blood of Marse Solomons might
flow pretty freely before long, and then departed, A
very woe-begone face it was that peeped out between
the white beaver and sky-blue tie as Mr Diggle re-
turned to his home.
Life henceforth, he felt, must be a hollow farce.
He thought first of killing himself. It struck him that,
if he took his own life, and left his mango-trees and
other goods to Jane, she would at least keep his grave
tidy and perhaps shed a tear there, from time to time,
when she had leisure ; but then a horrid vision of
Solomons, in the beaver hat and sky-blue tie, filled
John with a stern determination not to leave the world
unaccompanied. Finally, he decided to live on — at
anyrate for the present — and watch events. So he took
off his boots and hung them round his neck, for the
road was stony and rough and bad for shoe-leather.
Then he tramped home, full of gloomy reflections.
John Diggle was a model Christian on Sundays,
but at other times he leaned in secret towards the old
African cult of Obeah. It was rather more compre-
hensive than Christianity, for Obi embraced religion,
physic, law, and various nameless arts, whereas the
minister of the church had no talent save in the direc-
tion of promises. It occurred to John that the Obi
man could possibly provide a little bottle of poison at a
JANE AND JOHN 153
low cost, or suggest some other definite means of deal-
ing with Massa Solomons. He, too, might furnish a
cunning dose of ' love herbs ' for Jane. There were, in
fact, possibilities to be hoped for from a visit to the
Obi man ; but Mr Diggle's good sense told him that it
was useless to approach his Christian pastor with these
So two days later, having debated with himself and
put the question from every point of view, John started
to the residence of the priest of Obi. It lay hidden in
the fringes of the forest, where, separated from the wild
lands above by a lofty bamboo hedge, the sugar-cane
John pottered along, bearing a few big green cocoa-
nuts and a fine head of bananas. These were presents
for the mystic. As he turned the corner of a winding
road, Mr Diggle saw a white frock fluttering ahead, a
slim, straight back, a sprightly figure, and a snowy
turban. These things made his heart thump briskly,
for he knew to whom they belonged. It was Jane, ap-
parently upon the same errand as himself. She started
at seeing him, showed some emotion, and an inclination
to run away into the woods like a wild thing ; but John
affected not to notice her concern. He shook hands in
his usual ponderous, prolonged fashion, then asked her
whither she was going.
" You no lub me. Missy Jane, but you no hate me
— eh } We'se frens. Missy Jane ? "
"Yes, we'se frens, John. But I'se berry sick in my
heart, an' I'se gwine to Obi to know de reason why,"
"An' I'se gwine to Obi too, bein' berry sick in mjf
heart, like you. Missy Jane."
154 THE FOLK AFIELD
This was not strictly the aim of John's pilgrimage,
but he felt justified in thus explaining it.
They walked along in silence for half a mile, each
occupied with private thoughts. Then, over the hill,
from the other side of the island, came a weary, footsore
negress, with a crying baby at her breast, a little boy
limping before her, and a tiny girl wailing at her side.
The entire party appeared exceedingly wretched and
" Who's dese ? " inquired John ; but Jane knew not.
They all drew up, and the worn-out mother asked
them for pity's sake to give her little ones a morsel to
eat. They were hungry and miserable, and had been