Beatrice Harraden.

Thirteen all told online

. (page 8 of 23)
Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 8 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

So Rienier, happy but anxious, took her advice. He

only lingered long enough to drink that cup of coffee,
delicious but mysterious, and to bid old father a secret
farewell. And then off he stole like a thief, and first began
to breathe freely when he landed his Stradivari safely in
his home in Prague.
But his thoughts returned constantly to the fiddle


vilhfi'o and its mountains which ho had learnt to Jove ;
and the first time ho played the Stradivari a^ain in public
ho had a curiouH Japno of memory, on which the newspapers
in thoir ignorance commented ominously.

The truth was, not that ho wan losing hin rrjornory nor
liiH 1/;chriical nkill, hut that an unforgottabJo noono row
l>< foro him, and ho smiled an ho #;i/od on it with his mind's
oyo. Ho Haw the little room with the green ehina stove
in the Mittenwald cottage, old father, with hia beautiful
old face, working at his scrollB, Justina varnishing fiddl' ::,
but glancing up now and again to Wie if all wore well with
her fitful Paulchen whom she managed with such astonish-
ing wisdom, and the fiddle-maker munching at an apple
and staring intently at a fiddle back which he held before
him for scrutiny and criticism.

Kiomer laughed aloud, too, for he heard Paul say dis-
tinctly, in a sullen and reluctant tone of voice :

" I have never disliked your playing never."


THE train steamed lazily into the little station of
N - one glorious September afternoon in 1917. A
tall Australian soldier stepped on to the platform,
sniffed the air and glanced around in obvious appreciation
of the countryside.

" Gee," he said aloud, " something like air after a
London Hospital."

Then he addressed the stationmaster, who stood staring
at him ; for up to that day no Australian soldier had
been seen in those parts. This little village on the York-
shire Moors was as remote from the happenings of the
war as some of the comfortable, well-ordered households
in the heart of the Metropolis.

" Mister," he said, " are there some people of the name
of Pattersen living here on a farm on the road to Hebden ?
They came here about six years ago, I think."

As he spoke, he took from his pocket an old torn letter
and glanced at it.

" Ay," he said, " that was the name of the place
towards Hebden."

" Pattersens are here all right," the stationmaster
answered. " Jim's at the Front. Friends of yours ? "

Andrew McGrath nodded.

" Promised to give them a look up when I came to the
Old Country," he said vaguely. " Made a promise I

And he repeated as if to himself :

:{ Yes, I did. I made that promise to myself. And
why I did, I don't know."



" Well, you go straight up yon hill, and on through the
village until you get to the last house," the stationmaster
said. " Then you bear off to the right. That's the road
to Hebden. Patterson's is the first farm you come to ;
a large barn begins it. ^ou can't mistake it."

McGrath nodded again, took out a cigar case, invited
the stationmaster to help himself to a big, prosperous-
looking cigar, and passed into the bar-room of the Station
Hotel hard by.

Grandma Passmore was serving in the bar at the time,
and when she saw the Australian soldier saunter in, her
quick old eyes summed him up in a moment.

" So you be from the Colonies," she said, a smile lighting
up her countenance. " Glad to welcome you here. And
a real change from the sight of them horrid interned
Germans and the like working at the quarry."

She jerked her head in the direction of a group of three
or four men, obviously Germans or Austrians, all bending
over the morning paper, which contained an account of a
British reverse, and all unable to conceal signs of great
satisfaction over the news, which had been disquieting
to the whole country.

" Aren't they just enjoying themselves ? " she fcaid. " It
fair makes my gorge rise. It isn't beer I'd like to serve
out to them. No, it's by no means beer."

" Want me to pick a quarrel with them ? " McGrath
asked. " I'd just as soon."

" Nay, lad," she answered. " They're peaceable enough,
and civil spoke. I'll own that much. But when bad
news for England comes through, they're not half pleased,
I can tell you. Twenty of them working at the quarry.
Good food, good shelter, good wages, and the run of the
countryside. And that's called being interned. I wouldn't
mind it myself ! "

McGrath strolled over lazily to the table where the
men were sitting. He was tall and lean and strong, and
looked a menacing presence as he stood watching the
aliens, with an expression on his face which was alarming
in the extreme, and a tenseness of manner which certainly
seemed a prelude to sudden violence.


" Interested in the news, are you ? " he began in a low
drawl. " I'll teach

McGrath got no further. Grandma Passmore saw to
that. The last thing she wanted was a scene, and she
regretted instantly that she had been indiscreet enough
to say a single word about the aliens to this Colonial
soldier. A scene was bad policy all round. And her
daughter-in-law was always warning her to keep silent
on this subject, which never failed to agitate her. She
simply could not keep silent. Whenever she saw these
men come into the bar, something approaching fury
invariably took possession of her. Still, she didn't want
a scene. And now there was going to be one. She felt
it in her bones.

How could she prevent it ? It struck her that the only
thing to do was to make a scene herself and at once.
She accordingly gave sudden utterance to a curious and
frightening gurgling sound, and fell back carefully into
her armchair with great caution but sufficient disturbance
for the purpose.

There was immediate alarm. The Australian rushed
up to her. The " interned " vanished instantly, for they
had not liked the look of this fierce and formidable Colonial
soldier, and were glad to save their skins. The bar-room
was cleared. The word went forth in the town that
Grandma had had a fit. Tim, the old boots, was dispatched
for the doctor. Mrs. Passmore Junior, and Hetty and
Susie, her bonnie young girls, who had hastened to the
bar, were preparing to give first aid to Grandma, when she
opened her eyes, smiled at them and said :

" Let be let be. Granny's as right as rain."

"Oh, Grannie," Susie cried, "darling Grannie, you've
given us such a fright."

" Not such a fright as I've given myself," Grandma
said, sitting up again. " I thought maybe the tall
Australian man was going to murder the aliens. He looked
that fierce at them. And all through me. All because I
couldn't keep my tongue quiet about them. So I decided
I'd better be taken ill."

" Well, it's a good thing you're all right, Mother," Mrs.


Passmore Junior said, laughing. " But you really ought
to be more cautious. Time after time I've asked you."

" Yes, my dear, and time after time I've promised,"
Grandma said humbly, but with a knowing wink at Hetty,
who laughed and hugged her.

McGrath laughed also.

" Plainly, there mustn't be any more British reverses,"
he said, " then Mrs. Grandma won't be tempted to be

And he added :

" But I tell you I'd made up my mind to twist their
necks for them."

" Well, at least Grandma saved the situation, didn't
she ? " Susie said staunchly.

" Ay, ay, she did," McGrath answered, smiling. "And
if all people who start mischief could repair it so quickly,
the world would get along a mighty sight better. I guess
I take off my hat to Mrs. Grandma."

This little incident dispensed with all preliminaries
of acquaintanceship. They took McGrath into the private
room at the back of the bar, served tea for him and found
him one of their best cigars. He had to tell them about
Gallipoli ; and they hung on every word as he gave the
story of the tragic landing and the reckless courage of the
gallant dead. He learnt that Mr. Passmore had joined
up on the third day of the war and was now in Salonika.
The women of the family, old and young alike, had been
carrying on the business in his absence ; and it was the
ambition of the girls, who evidently loved their father
dearly, to show him on his return that they had done
their best to keep things going.

McGrath was touched to the core by the feeling of
family kindness and devotion amongst them. He was on
his way to his own people, whom he had not seen for many
years and to whom he had not written a single line. In
disgrace and anger he had left them, as a youngster ;
and though at times the thought of them had tugged at
his heart, and a vision of his mother grieving over him
had often haunted him, he had cast them all aside and
given no sign.


He asked himself, why had he given no sign ? Why had
he been content to tread his own path, to live as if he
were alone in the world, with no home to which to return,
no one to greet him, welcome him, forgive him ? Oh,
simply because he had been a fool. Or was it because
he had never cared ? He remembered that years ago,
when he was quite a boy, old Aunt Rebecca had maintained
that he had no heart. She had said that he would grow
up to be a fine figure of a man, but that, whatever Andrew
did and whatever he was, he would never have a heart.
And his mother, nearly always mild and gentle, had turned
fiercely on Aunt Rebecca and swept her to the door. He
remembered Aunt Rebecca had called out, as a parting
shot :

" Never."

He smiled as the memory of the scene returned to him
from those distant days.

Well, had Aunt Rebecca been right, after all ? Perhaps.
Perhaps his mother, who had taken up arms for him then,
had come to the bitter knowledge that all her love and
care and yearning for her eldest born had been lavished
in vain on one who gave no response. Yet there had
been moments during these years of silence when his
craving for home was so great that he could almost have
died of it.

No one would believe that. No one would believe it
of any one of the rough hardened fellows with whom he had
kept company out in the wilds of Australia. But it was
true. And his mind travelled back to a winter's night,
on a lonely station in the Bush, when The Terrier himself,
toughest of the tough, fiercest of the fierce, had been taken
ill and turned his face to the wall.

What ailed him ? What could they do for him ? What
could they give him ?

" Nothing, except Home and all the love I chucked
away," he had said at last. " That's what's the matter
with me, boys. Leave me alone."

These thoughts claimed McGrath with increasing
persistence as he sat chatting with the Passmores. It was
his first experience of family life since he landed in England ;


and his plan of visiting his home, definite but hitherto
only of temperate interest, leapt suddenly to a fierce
flame of eagerness. One of those moments of longing had

He rose abruptly, took leave of his new friends in a
hurry which disconcerted them a little, and made them
think him ungracious. They never knew that they
themselves had sped him on his way they and what they
represented to him : the intimacy and interplay of a home,
and then 1 concern and affection for that absent father and
husband and son watched over day and night by their
anxious love.

He recalled the stationmaster's directions for finding
Pattersen's farm and stalked off, a typical Australian
soldier figure, tall, lean, independent of bearing, with his
slouch hat slightly tilted and a hand in his pocket. His
face was a little grim; but there was a distinct twinkle
in his blue eyes, and something kind about his mouth.
It may have been true that Andrew McGrath, as he called
himself, had gone away without a heart ; but it was probably
true that, in spite of Aunt Rebecca's judgment, he had
found one and was bringing it back now.

McGrath passed over the bridge, but paused a moment
to glance at the view on either side and to watch the river
Wharf e, which was swollen by recent rain and was rushing
along, turbulent and tumultuous, yet not too angry to
be courted by the caressing sunshine which showered
jewels amidst its spray, lit up the green pastures with a
magic lustre and set the heather-clad moors beyond in
a blaze of purple splendour. Then he mounted the hill
which led to the moorland village of N .

The district was new to him. Everything was strange :
river, upland, moor, fell. Yet the familiarity of a purely
English scene moved him in a fashion he would have
deemed impossible even a few hours ago.

" England," he said aloud. " Nothing like it to be
seen in the whole world."

Down the hill came a huge cart-horse ridden by a
microscopic boy. McGrath laughed, and saluted the child
for fun.


" Well, well," he said, " I guess you've got some horse

Freddy stared with a truly British stare, and then
grinned. He turned round and stared for a long while,
whilst the big horse took care of herself and him.

McGrath stood still, and said aloud :

" That kid would be about Jimmy's age when I left.
And now Jimmy's at the Front, the stationmaster told
me. Well, well, to think of it. Little Jimmy at the
Front ! A smart youngster he was, too ! "
' He continued saying to himself as he climbed the

" Little Jimmy at the Front."

Then there was Hazel, the wee sister whom he had
always loved in his own way and with whom he had played
many an hour, cutting all sorts of capers for her delighted
benefit. In all his ups and downs of home life in the
past, he had never been in disgrace with Hazel. Would he
be now that she had grown up and understood more about
life and its claims and duties ?

Would his mother look much older, he wondered ?
Would his father seem as rigid and uncompromisingly stern
as in the years gone by ? Would they be pleased to see
him ? Or would they turn from him and say that he had
no place in their lives ? No, not that. He was sure that
they would not turn from him. His mother would only
remember that he had come home at last ; and the long
space of absence would be bridged over by her love. His
father might speak some harsh and richly- deserved
reproaches ; but once they were said, he would stretch
out his hand in welcome.

Thus he reassured himself as he passed slowly up the
cobbled street, noting, as he went, some of the old-world
grey houses, picturesque with mullioned windows and
curious markings on their door lintels. Finally he came
to the market-place, with its ancient pump, round which
the children were playing. And here he paused, seized
suddenly with misgiving and panic.

Suppose his people did turn from him ? Then every
time that a great longing for home obsessed him when


he was in distant parts, there would be no sustaining
hope at the back of it. Always the longing and no
hope. That wasn't to be borne. Far better not to run
that risk. He sat down on a bench. He would go no
farther. He had been a fool to come. He remembered
that The Terrier had once said that if he went home, he
lost all, but if he remained away, he at least kept something
which no one could take from him the illusion of wel-
come, reunion, reconciliation, wiser understanding. The
Terrier had been right.

So in a few minutes he would retrace his steps and take
the first train back to Skipton. And if there were not a
train that evening, he would stay at the Station Hotel
and throw his lot in with Grandma and her dear friends,
the interned aliens. But even as he pretended to make
this decision, he shook his head and smiled at himself.
To come all the way from Australia and stop short at the
market-place when his people were within reach, a few
hundred yards further up the village and a step or two
along the Hebden road until one reached the first big
barn. No, not likely. He knew in his heart of hearts
that he would go on.

At the back of him stretched the purple moors. In
front of him tier upon tier of them rose in the distance
like rolling waves, and above them towered the fells,
caught that moment by a shaft of sunlight which had
broken bravely through a cluster of ominous grey-blue
rain-clouds. This vision of beauty cheered and fascinated
Andrew McGrath, who loved Nature in all her mani-
festations ; and he only turned away from it at the sound
of merry laughter. He saw then a wounded soldier on
crutches, with one leg amputated just below the knee,
negotiating the cobbled street with a reckless gaiety
and accompanied by friends as joyous as himself at the
return of the native. He had evidently not been dis-
charged from hospital, for he was still wearing his blue
armlet, and probably he would have to go back and undergo
another operation perhaps two operations perhaps even
more. Perhaps he had had a long spell of suffering and
they had sent him home on furlough to see whether a


change to his own surroundings would speed on a retarded
recovery. Anyway, there he was in his own village,
amongst his own people, welcomed and made much of.
He was decorated with the ribbon of the military medal
and the Mons star. And McGrath envied the young
corporal, not for the possession of them, but for the pride
they most surely brought to those who loved him.

Then an old shepherd with his flock of sheep and his
dog passed down, and later a procession of cows wended
their way slowly and cautiously in the direction of the
bridge ; and when they had disappeared, old Swainston,
the cobbler, sauntered by, probably thinking, as usual,
of all the ghosts of his intimate acquaintance amongst
them the monk at Marton Grange, the fiddler in the Mill
House, and Barguest, the soft-footed hound, whose cold
breath frightened people out of their wits.

Children came running down with heather and ling from
the moors, and Harry, the village idiot, slouched near,
crooning to himself. A housewife crossed the market-
place carrying some hot Yorkshire buns which encircled
McGrath with such a tempting fragrance that he almost
commandeered them on the spot. Out of one of the
cottages emerged a frail, bent, old, white-haired man,
whose face shone with love as a little damsel playing
round the pump suddenly caught sight of him, for-
sook her companions instantly and rushed into his

And now the yellow omnibus, dating from the Flood
or even before, clattered up the hill, and came to a stand-
still within a yard or two of McGrath's bench. It was
full of people inside, and heaped up with parcels outside ;
and there was an immediate onslaught of the shopkeepers,
which the driver met with a good-natured patience born of
long custom and kindness.

"All right, Mr. Martin, here be your cask of margarine,"
he said. " All right, Mrs. Beaconsfield, now don't ye get
flustered, here be three packages for you, and here be
Mr. Onslow's hardware, and a whole stock of things for
Mr. Grant, and a box for Farmer Pattersen. Anyone from
Pattersen's handy ? "


McGrath looked up. He had the impulse to say " Yes,"
but he checked the word.

" Miss Hazel was down here a few minutes ago," Martin,
the grocer, said. " But she was in a hurry to get back.
I'll take charge of the box for her."

" Ay, ay," said the driver, with a benevolent smile.
" That you would, I'm sure, Mr. Martin ; not but that
she couldn't carry it up herself on her strong young
shoulders. A proper strong lass, Miss Hazel. And don't
she just look fine in her Land Army rig."

" Hazel a Land Army girl ! " McGrath said aloud.
" That's great."

But no one heard him ; and all were too much occupied
in their own affairs to take much notice of him at the
moment, though one or two of them did glance at him
and wonder who he was, and then forgot him until later.
But a flying boy" who tumbled out of the bus gave him
a nod and said, " Hullo, uncle," and was then engulfed
by his relations, who bore him off in triumph. And a
gunner in the R.F.A., evidently direct home from the
Front, laden with his helmet, water-bottle and all his
belongings, grimy, grubby, tired out, but in the height
of good spirits, called out, " Hullo, mate, you've come
to the best place in the whole of old Blighty. You can
take my word for it. So long." Then he, too, was
swallowed up by friends.

The thought passed through McGrath's mind that
these fellows had homes waiting for them and that there
had been no need for them to doubt the nature of their
reception. Well, he had a home waiting for him. Why
could he not be like these boys and go to it direct with-
out a moment's hesitation ?

Yet still he lingered, wishing to start off, but unable
to brace himself up. He watched the other occupants
of the yellow omnibus claiming their luggage and dispersing
to their destinations. A man who looked liko a commer-
cial traveller exchanged a few words with the black-
smith, and disappeared with him into the Commercial
Arms. An overdressed girl, oversmart with furs and a
fashionable hat, brand-new gloves and a silk satchel, was


talking loudly to a friend who had that moment run
down to meet her. She was a munition worker some-
where, for McGrath heard her friend say :

" My, Lily, you do look a toff ! And aren't you glad
to get away from them munitions for a bit?"

" Yes," she said, laughing. " Like my furs, Liz ?
Topping, aren't they ? Nothing to what I'm going to
have, though ! "

A girl telegraph messenger, extraordinarily like the
munition worker, hurried up.

" Lil," she cried excitedly, " how jolly that you've
come. I'll be back soon. I've just got to take this
wire to Patterson's, worse luck."

" Oh, blow the wire," said Lil. " That's a nice way to
welcome your long-lost twin sister home. Well, hustle
all you can, Bess. Got heaps to tell you, and a lovely
present that'll make your head swim. @ost ever so much
money. Like my furs ? top hole, aren't they ? Now,
don't be long gone. Run all the way."

McGrath rose on impulse, lifted his hat, and said with
a half-shy smile :

" Excuse me, miss, but I'm going right along now to
Pattersen's. Perhaps I could take the message for you."

The sisters looked at him, looked at each other, and
the munition worker giggled a little and whispered :

" There now, Bess. That settles it, as the gentleman
is going to be so kind. Give the wire to him, and come
along with me."

But Bess hesitated. She wanted desperately to go
with Lil, but she knew she ought not to fail in her duty
of delivering the telegram in person.

McGrath saw her hesitation, and then something
happened to him which astonished him. He dropped his
disguise of name and parted with the secret of person-

" It's all right," he said, reassuringly. " You can
trust me all right, miss. I'm Andrew Pattersen, Patter-
sen's eldest son, home from Australia."

" Pattersen's eldest son from Australia ? " they exclaimed
together. " Jimmy's brother ? "


" Yup," he said, " little Jimmy's brother."

" A six-footer," laughed Bess, " taller than you be."

" He has been growing whilst I've been roaming,"
McGrath said, smiling. " I think of him, you know, as
little Jimmy."

" A handsome lad is Jimmy," said Lil. " Strong
family likeness, Mr. Australian ! But Jimmy looks
merrier than you by a long way, always laughing and
full of fun and mischief. The life of the village. My,
didn't he look a stunner when he went off in his khaki.
And the last thing he said was "

" Yes, yes," interrupted McGrath eagerly, " the last
thing he said was "

" The last thing he said," continued Lil, " was : ' The
folk in these parts don't need to worry. I'm going to
win this war for them right enough. I'll see it through ! '

McGrath laughed softly.

" I reckon that was the right thought to have," he
said. " Well, I'll be off with your message if you'll trust
it to me."

Bess, without further compunction, gave him the
telegram, and the two sisters ran off in high spirits down
the hill. And McGrath started immediately for Pattersen's
farm. As he pursued his way to his parents' home, his
longing for his own folk began to burn with an intensity
which made him suffer as acutely as either he or The
Terrier had sometimes agonised in the Bush. But now
he was really going to see them. He was going to hear
his mother's voice, clasp his father's hand in real friend-
ship, give Hazel a hug, get the latest news of little Jimmy,
explain how a wild and wayward nature, resentful of
control in early days, could nevertheless look back and
know how much it owed to those who had tried in vain

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 8 of 23)