Eden Phillpotts.

The Spinners online

. (page 34 of 34)
Online LibraryEden PhillpottsThe Spinners → online text (page 34 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

She ascended cautiously through the darkness, reached a gap - once a
window - from which her ascent must be made, and listened for a few
moments to hear if anything stirred above her.

It seemed as though the old store was full of noises, for the fingers of
decay never cease from picking and, in the silence of night, one can
best hear their stealthy activities. Little falls of fragments sounded
loudly, even echoed, in this great silence. There was almost a
perpetual rustle and whisper; and once a thud and skurry, when a rat
displaced a piece of mortar which fell from the rotting plaster. Dark
though the heaven was and black the outer night, it had the quality that
air never loses and she saw the sky as possessed of illumination in
contrast with its setting of the broken window. Within all was blankly
black; from above there came no sound.

She climbed to the window ledge, felt for the nails that Abel had
hammered in to hold his feet and soon ascended through a large gap under
the eaves of the store. Some shock had thrown out a piece of brickwork
here. Seen from the ground the aperture looked trifling and had indeed
challenged no attention; but it was large enough to admit a man.

For a moment Estelle stood in this aperture before entering the den
within. She raised her voice, which fluttered after her climb, and
called to him.

"Abel! Abel! It's Estelle."

There came the thought, even as she spoke, that he might answer with a
bullet; but he answered not at all. She felt thankful for the silence
and hoped that he might have deserted his retreat. Perhaps, indeed, he
had never come to it; and yet it seemed impossible that he had for two
days escaped capture unless here concealed. It occurred to her that he
might wander out by night and return before day. He might even now be
behind her, to intercept her return. Still no shadow of fear shook her
mind or body. She felt not a tremor. All that concerned her conscience
was now completed and she hoped that it would be possible to dismiss
from her thoughts the fellow creature who had destroyed her joy of life
and worked evil so far reaching. She could leave him now to his destiny
and feel under no compulsion to relate the incidents of her nocturnal
search. Had he been there, she would have risked the meeting, urged him
to surrender and then left him if he allowed her to do so. She would
never have given him up, or broken her promise to keep his secret.

But the chamber under the roof was large and she did not leave it
without making sure that he was neither hiding nor sleeping within it.
She entered, lighted her candle and examined a triangular recess formed
by the converging beams of the roof above her and the joists under her

The boy had been busy here. There were evidences of him - evidences of a
child rather than a man. Boyish forethought stared her in the face and
staggered her by its ghastly incongruities with the things this
premeditating youth had done. Here were provisions, not such as a man
would have selected to stand a siege, but the taste of a schoolboy. She
looked at the supplies spread here - tins of preserved food, packets of
chocolate, bottles of ginger beer, bananas, biscuits. But it seemed that
the hoard had not been touched. One tin of potted salmon had been
opened, but no part of the contents was consumed. Either accident had
changed his purpose and frightened him elsewhere at the last moment, or
the energies and activities that had gone to pile this accumulation were
all spent in the process and now he did not need them.

Then she looked further, to the extremity of the den he had made, and
there, lying comfortably on a pile of shavings, Estelle found him.

She guessed that the storm and stress of his crime had exhausted him and
thrown him into heaviest possible physical slumber after great mental
tribulation. She shuddered as she looked down on him and a revulsion, a
loathing tempted her to creep away again before he awakened. She did not
think of him as a patricide, nor did her own loss entirely inspire the
emotion; she never associated him with that, but kept him outside it, as
she would have kept some insensible or inanimate object had such been
responsible for Ironsyde's end. It was the sudden thought of all
Raymond's death might mean - not to her but the world - that turned her
heart to stone for a fearful second as she looked down upon the
unconscious figure. Her own sorrow was sealed at its fountains for the
time. But her sorrow for the world could not be sealed. And then came
the thought that the insensible boy at her feet, escaping for a little
while through sleep's primeval sanctity, was part of the robbed world
also. Who had lost more than he by his unreason? If her heart did not
melt then, it grew softer.

But there was more to learn before she left him and the truth can be

Abel had killed his father and hastened to his lair exultant. He had
provided for what should follow and vaguely hoped that presently, before
his stores were spent, the way would be clearer for escape. He assured
himself safe from discovery and guessed that when a fortnight was
passed, he might safely creep out, reach a port, find work in a ship and
turn his back upon England for ever.

That was his general plan before the deed. Afterwards all changed for
him. He then found himself a being racked and over-mastered by new
sensations. The desirable thing that he had done changed its features,
even as death changes the features of life; the ideal, so noble and
seemly before, when attained assumed such a shape as, in one of Abel's
heredity, it was bound to assume. Not at once did the change appear, but
as a cloud no bigger than a man's hand in the clear, triumphant sky of
his achievement. Even so an apple, that once he had stolen and hidden,
was bruised unknown to him and thus contained the seed of death, that
made it rot before it was ripe. The decay spread and the fruit turned to
filth before he could win any enjoyment from it.

He shook off the beginnings of doubt impatiently. He retraced his
grievances and dwelt on the glory of his revenge as he reached his
secret place after the crime. But the stain darkened in the heart of his
mind; and before dawn crept through cracks in the roof above his lair,
dissolution had begun.

Through the hours of that first day he lay there with his thoughts for
company and a process, deepening, as dusk deepened, into remorse began
to horrify him. He fought with all his might against it. He resented it
with indignation. His gorge rose against it; he would have strangled it,
had it been a ponderable thing within his power to destroy; but as time
passed he began to know it was stronger than he. It gripped his spirit
with unconquerable fingers and slowly stifled him. Time crept on
interminable. When the second night came, he was faint and turned to his
food. He struggled with himself and opened a tin of salmon. But he could
not eat. He believed that he would never eat again. He slept for an
hour, then woke from terrifying dreams. His mind wandered and he longed
to be gone and tear off his clothes and dip into the sea.

At dawn of the second day men were hunting the old stores, from its
cellars to the attics below him. He heard them speaking under his feet
and listened to two men who cursed him. They speculated whether he was
too young to hang and hoped he might not be. Yet he could take pride in
their failure to find him. There was, as he remembered, only one person
in the world who knew of his eerie; but terror did not accompany this
recollection. His exultation at the defeat of the searchers soon
vanished, and he found himself indifferent to the thought that Estelle
might remember.

He knew that his plans could not be fulfilled now: it was impossible for
him to live a fortnight here. And then he began stealthily, fearfully,
to doubt of life itself. It had changed in its aspect and invitation.
Its promises were dead. It could hold nothing for him as he had been
told by Levi Baggs. The emotions now threatening his mind were such that
he believed no length of days would ever dim them; from what he suffered
now, it seemed that time's self could promise no escape. Life would be
hell and not worth living. At this point in his struggles his mind
failed him and became disordered. It worked fitfully, and its processes
were broken with blanks and breaks. Chaos marked his mental steps from
this point; his feet were caught and he fell down and down, yet tried
hard for a while to stay his fall. His consciousness began to decide,
while his natural instincts struggled against the decision. Not one, but
rival spirits tore him. Reason formed no part in the encounter; no
arbiter arose between the conflicting forces, between a gathering will
to die and escape further torment, and the brute will to live, that must
belong to every young creature, happy or wretched.

The trial was long drawn out; but it had ended some hours before Estelle
stood beside him.

She considered whether she should waken Abel and determined that she
must do so, since to speak with him, if possible, she held her duty now.
He was safe if he wished to be, for she would never tell his secret. So
she bent down with her light - to find him dead. He had shot himself
through the right temple after sunset time of the second day.

Estelle stood and looked at him for a little while, then climbed back to
earth and went away through the darkness to tell his mother that she was


The Human Boy and the War


In this book of stories Mr. Phillpotts uses his genial gift of
characterization to picture the effect of the European War on the
impressionable minds of boys - English school-boys far away from anything
but the mysterious echo of the strange terrors and blood-stirring
heroisms of battle, who live close only to the martial invitation of a
recruiting station. There are stories of a boy who runs away to go to
the front, teachers who go - perhaps without running; the school's
contest for a prize poem about the war, and snow battles, fiercely
belligerent, mimicking the strategies of Flanders and the Champagne.
They are deeply moving sketches revealing the heart and mind of English
youth in war-time.

"The book is extraordinary in the skill with which it gets into that
world of the boy so shut away from the adult world. It is entirely
unlike anything else by Phillpotts, equal as it is to his other volumes
in charm, character study, humor and interest. It is one of those books
that every reader will want to recommend to his friends, and which he
will only lend with the express proviso that it must be returned." - _New
York Times_.

"In this book Mr. Phillpotts pictures a boy, a real human boy. The boy's
way of thinking, his outlook upon life, his ambitions, his ideals, his
moods, his peculiarities, these are all here touched with a kindly
sympathy and humor." - _New York Sun_.

"Mr. Phillpotts writes from a real knowledge of the schoolboy's habit of
thought. He writes with much humor and the result is as delightful and
entertaining a volume as has come from his pen for some time." - _Buffalo
Evening News_.



"The gifts of the short-story writer are wholly Mr. Phillpotts'. Here,
as elsewhere in his works, we have the place painted with the pen of an
artist, and the person depicted with the skill of the writer who is
inspired by all types of humanity." - _Boston Evening Transcript_.

"No one rivals Phillpotts in this peculiar domain of presenting an
ancient landscape, with its homes and their inmates as survivals of a
past century. There is nothing vague about his characters. They are
undeniable personalities, and are possessed of a psychology all their
own." - _The Chicago Tribune_.



"Absorbing, written with sure power and a constant flow of humor.... Has
the warm human glow of sympathy and understanding, and it is written
with real mastery." - _New York Times_.

"A tale of absorbing interest from its start to the altogether unusual
and dramatic climax with which it closes." - _Philadelphia Public

"Stands in the foremost rank of current fiction." - _New York Tribune_.

"His acute faculties of sympathetic observation, his felicitous skill in
characterization, and his power to present the life of a community in
all its multiple aspects are here combined in the most mature and
absorbing novel of his entire career." - _Philadelphia Press_.



"As long as we have such novels as _The Green Alleys_ and such novelists
as Mr. Phillpotts, we need have no fears for the future of English
fiction. Mr. Phillpotts' latest novel is a representative example of him
at his best, of his skill as a literary creator and of his ability as an
interpreter of life." - _Boston Transcript_.

"A drama of fascinating interest, lightened by touches of delicious
comedy ... one of the best of the many remarkable books from the pen of
this clever author." - _Boston Globe_.



The regeneration of a faulty character through association with
dignified honest work and simple, sincere people is the theme which Mr.
Phillpotts has chosen for this novel. The scene is largely laid in a
pottery, where a lad, having escaped from a reform school, has sought
shelter and work. Under the influence of the gentle, kindly folk of the
community he comes in a measure to realize himself.



"Besides being a good story, richly peopled, and brimful of human nature
in its finer aspects, the book is seasoned with quiet humor and a deal
of mellow wisdom." - _New York Times_.

Online LibraryEden PhillpottsThe Spinners → online text (page 34 of 34)