B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

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impending, which threatened to separate her and the child who was now
part of her life; and as far as such a mite as she can be said to
determine, she resolved that such a separation should never take
place. She would run away into the wide, wide world.

She set off at as good a pace as her little legs could achieve, but
the child she carried was no light weight for one of her tender years,
and before she had extricated herself from the labyrinth of courts,
alleys, and narrow streets which intersected Rosemary Lane, she was
exhausted. Leaning against the wall, she looked up to the sky with a
sad and weary face. She had never forgotten the beautiful dream she
had dreamt on the night of her brother's return, and it now recurred
to her, bringing with it a dim hope that something wondrous might
happen to aid her in her difficulty. If she had been acquainted with
the history of Jack and his Beanstalk, she would have audibly wished
for a tree - up which she could climb into a kinder land than Rosemary
Lane. But although no miracle brought light to Sally's troubled soul,
something happened which seemed to her very wonderful.

She had halted immediately before a cobbler's stall, and the face she
saw as she looked down to earth was that of Seth Dumbrick the
cobbler - no other, indeed, than the cobbler who in Sally's dream had
appeared to her in the clouds, mending boots and shoes for the angels.
Here was the realisation of Sally's dim hope. Fancies of grand
processions and magic trees and angels in the clouds thronged her
mind, revolving around two central figures - the sweet figure of her
beautiful child, and the strange one of this queer-looking cobbler
whose chin had not met razor's edge for a week.

Seth Dumbrick, observing Sally's agitation, and also attracted by the
children, paused in his work, and spoke to Sally. She did not hear the
words, but the voice of the man was kind, and that was sufficient to
give colour to her hope.

"O Mr. Dumbrick," she exclaimed, pressing her hands to her breast, and
gazing upon the cobbler with eyes open to their fullest extent. "It
was you I dreamt of - it was you!"

"Ah, Sally," was Seth Dumbrick's calm comment, "it was me you dreamt
of, eh? What sort of a dream?"

"Oh," cried Sally, "so good - so beautiful!"

"Tell me the dream," said Seth.

Sally gave him a practical reply. "I am _so_ tired, and _so_ hungry!
And so's my baby."

Seth's eyes wandered to the baby, who was staring at him solemnly.

"Yours?" he gravely asked of Sally.

"Mine," as gravely answered Sally, with an emphatic nod.

A smile passed over the cobbler's lips. His stall was curiously built
in front of a flight of steps leading down to a cellar, in which he
lived, and as he sat at work on his platform his face was almost on a
level with the pavement. Now, as Sally made reference to her tired and
hungry condition, she peered into this cellar. It was dark and safe.
If she and her baby could hide there, no one in the world would be
able to separate them.

"May I come in?" she begged.

"Come along," said Seth.

There was room on the platform for the children, and Sally, with her
baby, joyfully squeezed in, and nestled in the corner, where they
could see and be seen by the cobbler, but were almost quite hidden
from the passers-by in the street. Seth Dumbrick then, reaching out
his hand, opened a little cupboard on his right, and taking from it a
loaf of bread, cut two thick slices, over which he spread a careful
layer of dripping from a yellow basin. Sprinkling these liberally with
salt, he gave them to the children, and proceeded with his work while
they ate.

Every movement he made was watched with admiration by Sally, and the
disclosure of the cupboard containing food was to her something almost

Seth Dumbrick was a character in the neighbourhood. Not a person in
Rosemary Lane was on visiting terms with him, and the children, as
they passed and repassed, were in the habit of casting longing looks
into the dark shadows of the cellar which had never yet received a
guest, and which was popularly supposed to contain rare and precious
deposits. The circumstance of his having been seen at various times
carrying bottles and jars with living creatures in them imparted an
additional interest to his habitation. He was never seen in a
public-house or a place of worship.

Everything in this man's face was on a grand scale: there was not a
mean feature in it. His lips were full and powerful, his nose was
large and of a good shape, his great grey eyes had in them a light and
depth which were not easily fathomed, and but for his forehead, which
hung over his eyebrows like a precipice, he would have been a
well-looking man. But this forehead was of so monstrous a bulk that it
engrossed the attention of the observer, and except to those with keen
and penetrating insight, destroyed all harmony of feature in the face
of the man. His flesh was not over clean; his hands were as hard as
horn; he had a week's bristles on his chin, and an old red nightcap on
his head.

Before the children had finished their slices of bread-and-dripping,
Seth, bending forward, took Sally's boots from her feet, and examined
them. They were in sad need of repair, and without a word, Seth began
to patch and hammer away at them. Sally's eyes glistened with grateful

"And now about that dream of yours, Sally," said Seth Dumbrick, as
Sally, after partaking of the last mouthful of bread, wiped her lips
with her hand. "Did I have a gold-laced hat and silk stockings on?"

"Oh, no," replied Sally, screwing up her lips, "only you was setting
on a stool, mending shoes - as you're doing now."

"Well, that's not much of a dream, Sally. You could dream that dream
over again this minute, with your eyes wide open."

"No, I couldn't - no, I couldn't!" protested Sally, with a vigorous
shake of her head. "You don't know!"

"Well, go on; I was sitting here mending shoes - - "

"No, no," interrupted Sally, "you wasn't sitting here."

"Where, then."

"There!" said Sally, pointing with her finger upwards to the sky.

"There!" echoed Seth, with a startled look, following the line of
Sally's finger.

"And angels was flying all about you, and it was their shoes you was

And then Sally related the whole of her dream as circumstantially as
it was in her power to do. The narration occupied some time, and at
its conclusion Sally's face was red with excitement, and an expression
of interest was in Seth Dumbrick's features.

"And I was putting a pair of shining slippers on the feet of this
little thing," he said, taking the baby in his arms. "I didn't know
you had a little sister, Sal."

"I ain't got none; she ain't my sister - she's my baby."

Seth Dumbrick, holding himself aloof from his neighbours, and not
being given to idle chatterings, knew none of the particulars of the
child's introduction to Rosemary Lane, and he now learnt them for the
first time from Sally's lips.

"Poor little castaway!" he said.

"She wasn't dressed like this when she first come," said Sally.

"No! How then?"

"She had nice things, better than I ever seed."

"What's become of 'em?"

"Pawnbroker's," tersely replied Sally.

"Ah! and you've no idea who or where the pretty little creature's
mother is?"

"She never had a mother."

"That's not according to nature, Sally. A mother she must have had."

"No; she had a ma, not a mother. I knew she wasn't like us the first
moment I ever see her. That was the night brother Ned come home, and
me and baby went to bed together. Then I dreamed that dream of you and
the angels. Wasn't it a beautiful dream?"

"It was a rare fine dream, Sally, a rare fine dream! Angels! and Seth
Dumbrick a-working for 'em! that's the finest part of it. Seth
Dumbrick sitting in the sky, with angels begging of him to mend their
shoes! And I'll do it too - when I get there. I'll set up as a cobbler
in the clouds, and make my fortune. Ha, ha, ha! Sally, go on dreaming
like that, and something'll come of it."

"What'll come of it?" asked literal Sally.

Seth Dumbrick rubbed his chin with his horny hand. The bristles were
so strong, and his hand was so hard, that the action produced a
rasping sound, such as the rubbing of sand-paper produces.

"There was a woman once, Now her name was Southcott - Joanna Southcott
it was. Now she was a poor woman, too, as you'll be."

Sally nodded. She had never bestowed the slightest thought upon the
matter, but if she had made it the subject of the most serious
contemplation she could have had no other expectation than that of a
certainty she would be a poor woman all her life.

"Joanna had dreams, and prophesied. _She_ dreamt of angels and the
devil, and had a fight with the devil."

"Did she run away from him, and did he run after her," inquired Sally,
almost breathless with excitement, for in her mind at that moment the
devil stood for the new tenant who, in her own dream, had tried to
destroy her treasure-baby.

"That's not told," answered Seth Dumbrick.

"But she beat him!" suggested Sally, with her little hands tightly

"She beat him bad, did Joanna. My mother - she was a Devonshire woman,
like Joanna - believed in her, and so did a heap of others. And now I
come to think of it," said Seth, with a musing glance at the pretty
child lying on his leather apron, "there's something strange in Joanna
Southcott's name coming into my head in this way. For, you see, Sal,
when Joanna was an old woman, she gave out that she was going to be
brought to bed with a Prince of Peace; but she never was, more's the
pity, for that's the very Prince the world wants badly, and never yet
has been able to get. She used to go into trances, used Joanna, and

"Tell me," said Sally.

"About 'em? Well, there were so many! She was always at it."

"What's trances?" asked Sally, with feverish excitement, "and what's

"Well, Joanna'd be sitting as you're sitting now, when all at once
she'd go off - fall back or forward, insensible. That would be a
trance. Then she'd dream something. Then she'd come to, and tell what
she dreamt. That'd be a prophecy."

"_I_ do that!" cried Sally, in a fever of excitement. "_I_ fall back
and faint dead away - dead away! For a long time. And I don't know
nothing that goes on all the time. Oh, my! But I ain't begun to
prophesy yet, that I knows on. Tell me, what _is_ prophecy?"

"Something that comes true, or is likely to come true. Now, here and
there your dream's a good deal like some of Joanna's dreams. She was a
prophetess; my mother had some of her writings. Fine writings,
promising fine things. You look out, Sally. You keep on dreaming and
fainting dead away, and some day perhaps _you'll_ prophesy."

Sally nodded. Her eyes were full of fire, her little lips were parted
in wonder, and in her childish mind strange and yearning hopes and
cunning designs were beginning to stir.

"That dream of yours," proceeded Seth Dumbrick, in all earnestness,
"might signify something. There's a mighty deal in it to an
understanding mind. If you were older than you are, Sally, I'd asked
you to commence and prophesy."

Sally answered by another nod. Indeed, fascinated by the earnestness
of the speaker, no less than by the mystery which seemed hidden in his
words, Sally's head oscillated up and down with regular motion,
following with ready acquiescence the current of Seth Dumbrick's

"Other people have had dreams," said Seth Dumbrick, "that signify
something, and led to something. There was Maria Marten. You know
about her."

Sally, who had seen the tragedy of _Maria Marten, or the Murder at the
Red Barn_ enacted at a penny show, replied eagerly:

"I've seed her! and I've seed the pickaxe - and the grave - and the

"That all came of a dream. A mole-catcher her father was, and she was
a fine young woman. The girl went away from home one fine day, dressed
up in man's clothes. She had a sweetheart, and she was going to meet
him to be married. But instead of taking her to church her sweetheart
took her to the Red Barn, and shot her. Now it was a year afterwards
that Maria appeared to her mother in a dream - - "

"Yes, yes!" cried Sally. "Dressed in a white bedgownd. She was at the

" - and said that she'd been murdered, and buried in the Red Barn.
Well, her mother told her dream, and the peopled laughed at her. But
the ghost came to her a second time the next night, and a third time
the next, and then the mother wouldn't be denied. They went to the Red
Barn, and there they found Maria, done up in a sack, and buried under
the floor. Every word of it is true. Now," said Seth, graciously and
condescendingly, as though he were about to present Sally with a large
piece of plum-cake, "I'll tell you something that I wouldn't tell to
everybody. I saw that man hung."

Sally gazed at him with eyes dilated to their fullest extent. Seth
Dumbrick, gratified at this exhibition of interest, moistened his

"I was there, and saw him hung. Corder his name was, and it's - ah,
it's twenty odd year ago. I was a young man then, and I went to all
the executions."

"Why?" inquired Sally, without any special reason for asking; adding
as an afterthought, "Was they nice?"

Seth Dumbrick rasped his bristly chin again with his horny hands.

"Can't exactly say why," he honestly answered. "They wasn't
particularly nice. I've seen seven men in a string. I can see 'em now,
all of a row."

Staring into space upon this gloomy imagining, Seth Dumbrick paused a
sufficient time to see the black cap; drawn over the faces of the
doomed men, and the ropes adjusted. Which being done, and the men
disposed of, he resumed the former topic.

"Then there were other dreams. Here's one. Two men work in a brewery.
One kills the other, and heaves the body into the fire under the
boiling vat, where it's burned into smoke and ashes. No one knows
what's been done, and the story runs that the murdered man is drowned.
The murderer goes to another town, and lives there. Now, then. A
matter of seven years afterwards the murderer comes back again, and
gets work in the same brewery. The first night of his return he goes
to bed, and begins to speak in his sleep. Another man's abed in the
same room with him, and that man is awake. 'Yes,' says the murderer in
his sleep, it's just seven year ago since I did it.' The other man in
a kind of careless way, says, 'What did you do seven year ago?' Upon
that, the murderer gets out of bed, and crawls about the room. Then
stops still all of a sudden. Then stands straight up. Then draws an
imaginary knife. Then stabs an imaginary man. Stabs him once, twice,
three times. Then stops and listens. Then creeps back to bed. All this
the workman that's awake sees, because the moon is shining into the
room, and it's all so plain that he can't hardly mistake what it
means; but to make sure, he says, 'What was his name?' and the
murderer mentions the name of the man who was supposed to be drowned
seven years ago. 'Did you kill him?' he asks. 'I did,' says the
murderer. 'What did you do with the body?' he asks again. 'I put it,'
says the murderer in his sleep, 'into the fire under the vat.' That
was enough. The next day he was taken in custody, and was so worked
upon that he confessed, and was hung."

Seth Dumbrick related this story so dramatically that Sally thought it
as good as a play, quite as good as the _Murder at the Red Barn_,
which she had seen at the penny show.

"Did you see _him_ hung?" she inquired.

"No; it was done in a foreign country, and I missed him. You see,
Sally, dreams are significant things sometimes. I don't know what the
world would do without 'em. There's the Bible - what would the Bible be
without dreams, and visions? Did you ever hear of Pharaoh?"

"No; was he a relation of Joanna's?"

"Pharaoh was a king, one of those you see in the British Museum done
up in bundles. He was a Bible man, and had dreams. Then there was
Daniel, and all the other prophets - they were always having dreams. I
tell you what, Sally. If it wasn't for dreams, there would never have
been any prophets. There are your shoes - when you're a grown-up woman,
you can pay me for mending 'em."

Sally murmured her thanks, and leant forward to put them on. Seth
Dumbrick was also bending forward, and in the act, the precipice of
his forehead loomed ominously over Sally, as though it were about to
fall upon her. Now, whether it was from some fantastic fear of the
occurrence of such a catastrophe, or from her own weak condition, or
from the excitement of her mind produced by the strange stories
narrated by Seth Dumbrick, Sally, as the cobbler leant over her, gave
a sigh, and sank to the ground, with her shoes in her hand.

Somewhat perplexed by the novelty of the situation, Seth Dumbrick
raised Sally without exactly knowing what to do with her. The child's
eyes were closed, and she made no movement or response to his
inquiries as to what was the matter with her. Every moment added to
the embarrassment of the situation, and reflecting grimly upon what
the neighbours might think if they happened to discover Sally's dark,
passive face lying against his knee, Seth Dumbrick decided that the
best and most humane plan would be to carry her down to his cellar,
and there wait for her recovery. He carried her down, not without
tenderness, and then returned for the baby, whom he placed on the
ground by Sally's side.

During the short time that Sally was left to herself it might not have
been quite a matter of the imagination to fancy that she raised her
eyelids cautiously and cunningly, and looked timidly about her. But
the cellar was in darkness, and when Seth Dumbrick returned with the
baby, Sally lay with closed eyes, and with apparently as little life
in her as a stone.

The cellar, as has been said, was in darkness, and only to one
accustomed to the gloom could the objects it contained be seen. But
Seth had lived in the place for years, and from long custom his sight
had accustomed itself to the shadows by which he loved - for he was by
no means an unhappy man - to be surrounded. As Sally lay before him, he
could see her face distinctly.

"I'd best bathe her head with water," he muttered; "it'll liven her

Taking a cup, he dipped it into what looked like a large glass tank,
and withdrew it full of water. As he raised it from the surface, a
stickleback leapt from the cup, and fell, with a little plash, into
the tank. Seth, peering into the cup, inserted his fingers, and lifted
out two water-beetles, which he deposited in the tank. Then he knelt
by Sally, and laved her face.

Seth Dumbrick was a bachelor, fifty years of age, with no ties of
kindred, and desiring none as it seemed, but not entirely without
companionship. He was the possessor of an aquarium, constructed by
himself, having in its centre a device in rocks, and with weeds,
lilies, and what water-plants were in season, floating on the surface
through the whole of the year. In the aquarium was a strange
collection of fish and reptiles, comprising gold and silver fish,
sticklebacks, silver pike, water worms and beetles, and as many
varieties as Seth could gather and purchase of the fantastic
Salamander. Of a certain species of this family of Salamandridæ, with
large lustrous yellow spots and stripes which Seth claimed to come
from Japan, and which he called his water-leopards, Seth was
particularly proud. The rocks in the centre of the aquarium came sheer
out of the water to suit the habit of those of his creatures
amphibiously inclined, and it was from this aquarium he drew the water
to restore Sally to consciousness.

But Sally's attack was one of the most obstinate nature, and she
showed no signs of recovery. The more Seth bathed her face and head
the more insensible she appeared to become, and Seth, not being
accustomed to such "tantrums," as he called them, was doubtful, after
a great exercise of patience, whether he was adopting the proper means
for the recovery of the patient. And in a little while he was sensible
of a creeping fear that Sally had taken her departure from this world
of trouble to one where trouble was not known. "But that can't be," he
murmured, as he placed his ear to her bosom, "for her heart's

It _was_ beating, and very violently for a child in Sally's weak
condition. Seth doubted whether it was natural that the hearts of
persons who were in the habit of falling into trances should beat so
loudly as Sally's heart was beating now, and while he was considering
the knotty point in silent perplexity, Sally's eyelids were cautiously
raised, and she strove to pierce the darkness which surrounded her.
She saw nothing, not even the eyes of Seth Dumbrick, which were fixed
upon hers, in close observance.

"Sally!" called Seth, relieved at this sudden recovery.

Sally's eyelids were immediately closed, and from Sally's lips came no
reply. Seth waited and watched for two or three minutes, but Sally was
still unconscious. Then Seth, with somewhat of a demonstrative noise,
walked towards the steps which led to daylight and the world, and
instantly walked back to Sally's side on tiptoe, so softly and
noiselessly that the most timid mouse might have been deceived. Sally
again opened her eyes, and this time she slightly raised herself from
the ground.

"Sally!" again called Seth.

Sally hastily resumed her recumbent position, and was dumb. An
expression of comic amusement stole into Seth's face. He went to the
aquarium, and dipping in his cup, carefully fished up a water-beetle
with a score of slender legs.

"Poor Sally! Poor little thing!" murmured Seth, as he gently placed
the water-beetle on Sally's face, over which it instantly began to

Sally screamed loudly, and jumped up. Seth gave a dry laugh, and
replaced the water-beetle in the aquarium.

"Oh, oh!" cried Sally. "Where am I?"

"Don't be frightened, Sally," replied Seth. "You're in my cellar."

"It's so dark!" moaned Sally.

"It won't be after you've been here often," said Seth, in a sly tone.
"What's been the matter with you, Sal?"

Sally's answer was prompt. "I've been in a trance."

"And you've had a vision," suggested Seth.

"Oh, yes, yes," cried Sally. "How did you know?"

Seth chuckled. "And you're going to prophesy," he said.

"Yes, yes!"

"Fire away, then," said Seth, shaking with laughter. But his laughter
was noiseless, and Sally did not hear it.


Sally hesitated before she made her first move. Playing at trances was
a new game to her, and she was in the dark in more ways than one. But
the crisis was an imminent one, and she was vaguely conscious that
none but bold measures would help her safely through it. Yet she
approached her subject warily, unaware that Seth's accustomed eyes
could plainly discern the working of every muscle in her face.

"I went off all of a sudden, didn't I?" was her first inquiry.

"You did, Sally," replied Seth, "without saying with your leave or by
your leave."

"And you tried to bring me to."

"And couldn't."

"Right you are, Sally."

"Then you carried me down here."

"How do you know that?" asked Seth, so abruptly as to shake her

"You must have done," she said in feverish haste. "How could I be
here, else? People don't walk in trances, do they? Joanna didn't walk
when she was in a trance, did she?"

"Well, no," answered Seth, the corners of his eyelids wrinkling up
with amusement. "I never heard that she did."

A sigh of relief escaped Sally's bosom at this confirmatory evidence,
and was followed by a chuckle from Seth.

"It stands to reason, Sal, that if Joanna had walked, you'd have done
the same."

"In course I should," said Sally innocently. "Did I go off like

"I should say there wasn't a pin to choose between you." A cunning
smile played about Sally's lips. "You put somethink on my face."

"Water, Sal, to bring you to."

"But somethink else," said Sally, with a slight shudder, "somethink
that crept and frightened me."

"You see, Sally, you were so bad, and wanted such a deal of bringing
to, that I had to take the water from my aquarium - - "

"What's that?"

"You'll know by-and-bye. There's fish in it, and all sorts of things,
and when I dipped the cup in, out came a water-beetle. There isn't a
bit of harm in the little creatures, but they _do_ creep! Now for the
vision, Sally."

Sally puckered her eyebrows, and tightly interlaced her little

"It was dark and it was light," she slowly commenced. "Not both at

Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 7 of 24)