Read CHAPTER IV - THE OLD SOLDIER of The Torch and Other Tales, free online book, by Eden Phillpotts, on ReadCentral.com.

A woman may be just as big a fool at sour seventy as she was at sweet seventeen. In fact, you can say about ’em, that a woman’s always a woman, so long as the breath bides in her body; and my sister, Mary, weren’t any exception to the rule. You see, there was only us two, and when my parents died, I married, and took on Brownberry Farm and my sister, who shared and shared alike with me, took over our other farm, by the name of Little Sherberton, t’other side the Dart. A very good farmer, too, she was knew as much as I did about things, by which I mean sheep and cattle; while she was still cleverer at crops, and I never rose oats like she did at Little Sherberton, nor lifted such heavy turnips as what she did.

Mary explained it very simply.

“You’m just so clever as me,” she said, “but you’m not so generous. You ain’t got my powers of looking forward, and you hate to part with money in your pocket for the sake of money that’s to be there. In a word, you’re narrow-minded, and don’t spend enough on manure, Rupert; and till you put it on thicker and ban’t feared of paying for lime, you’ll never get a root fit to put before a decent sheep.”

There was truth in it I do believe, for I was always a bit prone, like my father before me, to starve the land, against my reason. You’d think that was absurd, and yet you’ll hardly find a man, even among the upper educated people, who haven’t got his little weak spots like that, and don’t do some things that he knows be silly, even while he’s doing ’em. They cast him down at the moment; and he’ll even make resolves to be more open-handed, or more close-fisted, as the case may be, but the weakness lies in your nature, and you could no more cure me from being small-minded with my manure than you could have cured Mary from shivering to her spine every time she saw a single magpie, or spilled the salt.

A very impulsive woman, and yet, as you may say, a very keen and clever one in many respects. I don’t think she ever wanted to marry and certainly I can call home no adventures in the way of courting that fell to her lot. And yet a pleasant woman, though not comely. In fact, without unkindness, she might have been called a terribly ugly woman. Yellow as a guinea, with gingery hair, yellow eyes, and no figure to save her. You would have thought her property might have drawn an adventurer or two, for Little Sherberton was a tenement farm and Mary’s very own; but nobody came along, or if they did, they only looked and passed by; and though Mary had no objection to men in general, she didn’t encourage them. But in her case, without a doubt, they’d have needed all the encouragement she could give ’em, besides the property, to have a dash at her.

So she bided a spinster woman, and took very kindly to my childer, who would run up over to her when they could, for they loved her. And by the same token, my second daughter, by the name of Daisy, was drowned in Dart, poor little maid, trying to go up to her aunt. My wife had whipped her for naughtiness, and the child only ten she was went off to get comfort from Mary and fell in the river with none to save her. So I’ve paid my toll to Dart, you see, like many another man in these parts.

Well, my sister, same as a good many other terrible ugly women, got better to look at as she grew older; and after she was sixty, her hair turned white and she filled out a bit. Her voice was always a pleasant thing about her. It reflected her nature, which was kindly, though excitable. But her people never left her. She’d got a hind and his wife Noah and Jane Sweet by name; and he was head man; and his son, Shem Sweet, came next thirty year old he was; and besides them was Nelly Pearn, dairymaid, and two other men and a boy.

Then came along the Old Soldier to Little Sherberton; and he never left it again till five year ago, when he went out feet first.

To this day I couldn’t tell you much about him. His character defied me. I don’t know whether he was good, or bad, or just neither, like most of us. But on the whole I should be inclined to say he was good. He was cast in a lofty mould, and had a wide experience of the seamy side of life. I proved him a liar here and there, and he proved me a fool, but neither of us shamed the other in that matter, for I said (and still say) that I’d sooner be a fool then a rascal; while he, though he denied being a rascal, said that he’d sooner be the biggest knave on earth than a fool. He argued that any self-respecting creature ought to feel the same, and he had an opinion to which he always held very stoutly, that the fools made far more trouble in the world than the knaves. He went further than that, and said if there were no fools, there wouldn’t be no knaves. But there I didn’t hold with him; for a man be born a fool by the will of God, and I never can see ’tis anything to be shamed about; whereas no man need be a knave, if he goes to the Lord and Father of us all in a proper spirit, and prays for grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Dowl.

Bob Battle he called himself, and he knocked at the door of Little Sherberton on a winter night, and asked to see Mary, and would not be put off by any less person. So she saw him, and heard how he had been tramping through Holne and stopped for a drink and sang a song to the people in the bar. It happened that Mr. Churchward, the innkeeper, wanted a message took to my sister about some geese, and none would go for fear of snow, so the tramp, for Bob was no better, said that he would go, if they’d put him in the way and give him a shilling. And Churchward trusted him, because he said that he reminded him of his dead brother. Though that wasn’t nothing in his favour, seeing what Henry Churchward had been in life.

However, Bob earned his money and came along, and Mary saw him and took him in, and let him shake the snow off himself and eat and drink. Then began the famous blizzard, and I’ve often thought old Bob must have known it was coming. At any rate there was no choice but to let him stop, for it would have been death to turn him out again. So he stopped, and when the bad weather was over, he wouldn’t go. There’s no doubt my sister always liked the man in a way; but women like a man in such a lot of different ways that none could have told exactly how, or why, she set store on him. For that matter she couldn’t herself. Indeed I axed her straight out and she tried to explain and failed. It wasn’t his outer man, for he had a face like a rat, with a great, ragged, grey moustache, thicker on one side than t’other, and eyebrows like anybody else’s whiskers. And one eyelid was down, though he could see all right with the eye under it. Round in the back he was and growing bald on the top; but what hair he had was long, and he never would cut it, because he said it kept his neck warm.

He had his history pat, of course, though how much truth there was to it we shall never know in this world. He was an old soldier, and had been shot in the right foot in India along with Lord Roberts in the Chitral campaign. Then he’d left the service and messed up his pension so he said. I don’t know how. Anyway he didn’t get none. He showed a medal, however, which had been won by him, or somebody else; but it hadn’t got no name on it. He was a great talker and his manners were far ahead of anything Mary had met with. He’d think nothing of putting a chair for her, or anything like that; and while he was storm-bound, he earned his keep and more, for he was very handy over a lot of little things, and clever with hosses and so on, and not only would he keep ’em amused of a night with his songs and adventures; but he’d do the accounts, or anything with figures, and he showed my sister how, in a good few ways she was spending money to poor purpose. He turned out to be a very clean man and very well behaved. He didn’t make trouble, but was all the other way, and when the snow thawed, he was as busy as a bee helping the men round about the farm. He made his head save his heels, too, and was full of devices and inventions.

So when I got over after the worst was past, to see how they’d come through it, there was Bob Battle working with the others; and when I looked him up and down and said; “Who be you then?” he explained, and told me how Mary had took him in out of the storm and let him lie in the linhay; and how Noah had given him a suit of old clothes, and how much he was beholden to them all. And they all had a good word for the man, and Mary fairly simpered, so I thought, when she talked about him. There was no immediate mention of his going, and when I asked my sister about it, she said:

“Plenty of time. No doubt he’ll get about his business in a day or two.”

But, of course, he hadn’t no business to get about, and though he talked in a vague sort of way concerning his home in Exeter and a brother up to Salisbury, it was all rubbish as he afterwards admitted. He was a tramp, and nothing more, and the life at Little Sherberton and the good food and the warm lying at nights, evidently took his fancy. So he stuck to it, and such was his natural cleverness and his power of being in the right place at the right moment that from the first nobody wished him away. He was always talking of going, and it was always next Monday morning that he meant to start: but the time went by and Bob Battle didn’t. A very cunning man and must have been in farming some time of his life, for he knew a lot, and all worth knowing, and I’m not going to deny that he was useful to me as well as to my sister.

She was as good as a play with Bob, and me and my wife, and another married party here and there, often died of laughing to hear her talk about him. Because the way that an unmarried female regards the male is fearful and wonderful to the knowing mind.

Mary spoke of him as if she’d invented him, and knew his works, like a clockmaker knows a clock. He interested her something tremendous, and got to be her only subject presently.

“Mr. Battle was the very man for a farmer like me,” she said once, “and I’m sure I thank God’s goodness for sending him along. He’s a proper bailiff about the place, and that clever with the men that nobody quarrels with him. Of course he does nothing without consulting me; but he’s never mistaken, and apart from the worldly side of Mr. Battle, there’s the religious side.”

I hadn’t heard about that and didn’t expect to, for Mary, though a good straight woman, as wouldn’t have robbed a lamb of its milk, or done a crooked act for untold money, wasn’t religious in the church-going or Bible-reading sense, same as me and my wife were. In fact she never went to church, save for a wedding or a funeral; but it appeared that Mr. Battle set a good bit of store by it, and when she asked him, if he thought so much of it, why he didn’t go, he said it was only his unfortunate state of poverty and his clothes and boots that kept him away.

“Not that the Lord minds,” said Bob, “but the churchgoers do, and a pair of pants like mine ain’t welcomed, except by the Salvationists; and I don’t hold with that body.”

So he got a suit of flame new clothes out of her and a new hat into the bargain; and then I said that he’d soon be a goner. But I was wrong, for he stopped and went down to Huccaby Chapel for holy service twice a Sunday; and what’s more he kept it up. And then, if you please, my sister went with him one day; and coming to it with all the charm of novelty, she took to it very kindly and got to be a right down church-goer, much to my satisfaction I’m sure. And her up home five-and-sixty years old at the time!

To sum up, Bob stayed. She offered him wages and he took them. Twenty-five shillings a week and his keep he got out of her after the lambing season, for with the sheep he proved a fair wonder same as he done with everything else. And nothing was a trouble. For a fortnight the man never slept, save a nod now and again in the house on wheels, where he dwelt in the valley among the ewes. And old shepherds, with all the will to flout him, was tongue-tied afore the man, because of his excellent skill and far-reaching knowledge.

Mary called him “my bailiff,” and was terrible proud of him; and he accepted the position, and always addressed her as “Ma’am” afore the hands, though “Miss Blake” in private. And in fulness of time, he called her “Miss Mary.” The first time he went so far as that, she came running to me all in a twitter; but I could see she liked it at heart. She got to trust him a lot, and though I warned her more than once, it weren’t easy to say anything against a man like Battle as steady as you please, never market-merry, and always ready for church on Sundays.

When I got to know him pretty well, I put it to him plain. One August day it was, when we were going up to Princetown on our ponies to hear tell about the coming fair.

“What’s your game, Bob?” I asked the man. “I’m not against you,” I said, “and I’m not for you. But you was blowed out of a snow storm remember, and we’ve only got your word for it that you’re a respectable man.”

“I never said I was respectable,” he answered me, “but since you ask, I’ll be plain with you, Rupert Blake. ’Tis true I was a soldier and done my duty and fought under Lord Roberts. But I didn’t like it, and hated being wounded and was glad to quit. And after that I kept a shop of all sorts on Salisbury Plain, till I lost all my little money. Then I took up farm labourer’s work for a good few years, and tried to get in along with the people at a farm. But they wouldn’t promise me nothing certain for my old age, so I left them and padded the country a bit. And I liked tramping, owing to the variety. And I found I could sing well enough to get a bed and supper most times; and for three years I kept at it and saw my native country: towns in winter it was, and villages in summer. I was on my way to Plymouth when I dropped into Holne, and Mr. Churchward offered me a bob if I’d travel to Little Sherberton. And when I arrived there, and saw how it was, I made up my mind that it would serve my turn very nice. Then I set out to satisfy your sister and please her every way I could, because I’m too old now for the road, and would sooner ride than walk, and sooner sleep in a bed than under a haystack.”

“You fell into a proper soft thing,” I said; but he wouldn’t allow that.

“No,” he answered. “’Tis a good billet; but nothing to make a fuss about. Of course for ninety-nine men out of a hundred, it would be a godsend and above their highest hopes or deserts; but I’m the hundredth man a man of very rare gifts and understanding, and full of accomplishments gathered from the ends of the world. I’m not saying it ain’t a good home and a happy one; but I’m free to tell you that the luck ain’t all on one side; and for your sister to fall in with me in her declining years was a very fortunate thing for her; and I don’t think that Miss Blake would deny it if you was to ask her.”

“In fact you reckon yourself a proper angel in the house,” I said in my comical tone of voice. But he didn’t see nothing very funny in that.

“So I do,” he said. “It was always my intention to settle down and be somebody’s right hand man some day; and if it hadn’t been your sister, it would have been some other body. I’m built like that,” he added. “I never did much good for myself, owing to my inquiring mind and great interest in other people; but I’ve done good for others more than once, and shall again.”

“And what about the church-going?” I asked him. “Is that all ’my eye and Betty Martin,’ or do you go because you like going?”

“’Tis a good thing for the women to go to church,” he answered, “and your sister is all the better for it, and has often thanked me for putting her in the way.”

“’Twas more than I could do, though I’ve often been at her,” I told the man, admiring his determined character.

And then came the beginning of the real fun, when Mary turned up at Brownberry after dark one night in a proper tantara, with her eyes rolling and her bosom heaving like the waves of the sea. She’d come over Dart, by the stepping stones a tricky road for an old woman even by daylight, but a fair marvel at night.

“God’s my judge!” began Mary, dropping in the chair by the fire. “God’s my judge, Rupert and Susan, but he’s offered marriage!”

“Bob!” I said; and yet I weren’t so surprised as I pretended to be. And my wife didn’t even pretend.

“I’ve seen it coming this longful time, Mary,” she declared. “And why not?”

“Why not? I wonder at you, Susan!” my sister answered, all in a flame. “To think of an old woman like me with white hair and a foot in the grave!”

“You ain’t got a foot in the grave!” answered Susan. “In fact you be peart as a wagtail on both feet else you’d never have come over they slipper-stones in the dark so clever. And your hair’s only white by a trick of nature, and sixty-five ain’t old on Dartmoor.”

“Nor yet anywhere else,” I said. “The females don’t throw up the sponge in their early forties nowadays, like they used to do. In fact far from it. Didn’t I see Squire Bellamy’s lady riding astride to hounds but yesterday week, in male trousers and a tight coat and her forty-six if a day? You’re none too old for him, if that was all.”

“But it ain’t all,” answered Mary. “Why, he offered me his brains to help out mine, and his strong right arm for me to lean upon! And he swears to goodness that he never offered marriage before because he never found the woman worthy of it and so on; and all to me! Me a spinster from my youth up and never a thought of a man! And now, of course, I’ll be a laughing-stock to Dartymoor, and a figure of fun for every thoughtless fool to snigger at.”

“You couldn’t help his doing it,” I said. “’Tis a free country.”

“And more could he help it, seemingly,” she answered. “Any way he swore he was driven to speak. In fact he have had the thing in his prayers for a fortnight. ’Tis a most ondacent, plaguey prank for love to play; for surely at our time of life, we ought to be dead to such things?”

“A man’s never dead to such things especially a man that’s been a soldier, or a sailor,” I told my sister; and Susan said the same, and assured Mary that there was nothing whatever ondacent to it, silly though it might be.

Then Mary fired up in her turn and said there wasn’t nothing whatever silly to it that she could see. In fact quite the contrary, and she dared Susan to use the word about her, or Mr. Battle either. And she rattled on in her violent and excited way and was on the verge of the hystericals now and again. And for my life I couldn’t tell if she was pleased as Punch about it, or in a proper tearing rage. I don’t think she knew herself how she felt.

We poured some sloe gin into her and calmed her down, and then my eldest son took her home; and when he came back, he said that Bob Battle had gone to bed.

“I looked in where he sleeps,” said my son, “and Bob was in his shirt, quite calm and composed, saying his prayers.”

“Trust him for being calm and composed,” I said. “None ever saw him otherwise. He’s a ruler of men for certain, but whether he’s a ruler of women remains to be seen for that’s a higher branch of larning, as we all know.”

Next day I went over and had a tell with Bob, and he said it weren’t so much my business as I appeared to think.

“There’s no doubt it flurried us both a lot,” he told me. “To you, as an old married man, ’tis nothing; but for us, bachelor and spinster as we are, it was a great adventure. But these things will out and I’m sorry she took it so much to heart. ’Twas the surprise, I reckon and me green at the game. However, she’ll get over it give her time.”

He didn’t offer no apology nor nothing like that.

“Well,” I said in two minds what to say “she’ve made it clear what her feelings were, so I’ll ask you not to let it occur again.”

“She made it clear her feelings were very much upheaved,” answered Bob; “but she didn’t make it clear what her feelings were; because she didn’t say ‘yes’ and she didn’t say ‘no.’”

“You don’t understand nothing about women,” I replied to him, “so you can take it from me that ’tis no good trying no more. She’s far too old in her own opinion. In a word you shocked her. She was shaking like an aspen leaf when she ran over to me.”

Bob Battle nodded.

“I may have been carried away and forced it on to her too violent, or I may have put it wrong,” he said. “’Tis an interesting subject; but we’d better let it rest.”

So nothing more was heard of that affair at the time; though Bob stopped on, and Mary never once alluded to the thing afterwards. In fact, it was sinking to a nine days’ wonder with us, when blessed if she didn’t fly over once more this time in the middle of a January afternoon.

“He’s done it again!” she shouted out to me, where I stood shifting muck in the yard. “He’s offered himself again, Rupert! What’s the world coming to?”

This time she had put on her bonnet and cloak and, Dart being in spate, she’d got on her pony and ridden round by the bridge.

She was excited, and her lip bivered like a baby’s. To get sense out of her was beyond us, and after she’d talked very wildly for two hours and gone home again, my wife and me compared notes about her state; and my wife said that Mary wasn’t displeased at heart, but rather proud about it than not; while I felt the contrary, and believed the man was getting on her nerves.

“’Tis very bad for her having this sort of thing going on, if ’tis to become chronic,” I said. “And if Bob was a self-respecting man, as he claims to be, he wouldn’t do it. I’m a good bit surprised at him.”

“She’d send him going if she didn’t like it,” declared Susan, and I reminded her that my sister had actually talked of doing so. But it died down again, and Bob held on, and I had speech with Noah Sweet and his wife; and they said that Mary was just as usual and Bob as busy as a bee.

However, my sister spoke of it off and on, and when I asked her if the man persecuted her, and if she wanted my help to thrust him out once for all, she answered thus:

“You can’t call it persecution,” she told me, “but often he says of a night, speaking in general like, that an Englishman never knows when he’s beat, and things like that; and when he went to Plymouth, he spent a month of his money and bought me a ring, with a proper precious blue stone in it for my sixty-sixth birthday. And nothing will do but I wear it on my rheumatic finger. In fact you can’t be even with the man, and I feel like a bird afore a snake.”

All the same she wouldn’t let me speak a word to him. She wept a bit, and then she began to laugh and, in fact, went on about it like a giglet wench of twenty-five. But my firm impression continued to be that she was suffering and growing feared of Battle, and would soon be in the doctor’s hands for her nerves, if something weren’t done.

I troubled a good bit and tried to get a definite view out of her, but I failed. Then I had a go at Bob too; but for the first time since I had known him, he was a bit short and sharp like, and what I had to say didn’t interest him in the least. In fact he told me in so many words to mind my own business and leave him to mind his.

Then another busy spring kept us apart a good bit, till one evening Noah Sweet came up, all on his own, with a bit of startling news.

“I wasn’t listening,” he said, “and I should feel a good bit put out if you thought I was; but passing the parlour door last Sunday, I heard the man at her again! I catched the words, ’We’re neither of us growing any younger, Mary Blake,’ and then I passed on my way. And coming back a bit later, with my ear open, out of respect for the missis, I heard the man kiss her I’ll swear he did for you can’t mistake the sound if once you’ve heard it. And she made a noise like a kettle bubbling over. And so of course, I felt that it would be doing less than my duty if I didn’t come over and tell you, because your sister’s eyes was red as fire at supper table, and ’twas very clear she’d been weeping a bucketful about it. And me and my wife feel ’tis an outrageous thing and something ought to be done against the man.”

Well, I went over next morning, and Mary wouldn’t see me! For the only time in all our lives, she wouldn’t see me. And first I was properly angry with her, and next, of course, I thought how ’twas, and guessed the man had forbidden her to speak to me for fear of my power over her. Him I couldn’t see neither, because he was gone to Plymouth. Of course he’d gone for craft, that I shouldn’t tackle him. So I left it there, and walked home very much enraged against Bob Battle. Because I felt it was getting to be a proper struggle between him and me for Mary; and that it was about time I set to work against him in earnest.

The climax happened a week later, when the Lord’s Day came round again, and we went to church as usual. Then a proper awful shock fell on me and my wife.

For at the appointed time, if the Reverend Batson didn’t ax ’em out! “Robert Battle, bachelor, and Mary Blake, spinster, both of this parish,” he said; and so I knew the old rascal had gone too far at last and guessed it was time I took him in hand like a man. I remember getting red-hot all over and feeling a rush of righteous anger fill my heart; and an angry man will do anything, so I got up in the eye of all the people an act very contrary to my nature, I’m sure. The place swam before my eyes and I was only conscious of one thing: my wife tugging at my tail to drag me down. But nought could have shut me up at that tragical moment, and I spoke with a loud and steady voice.

“I deny it and defy it, Reverend Batson,” I said, when he asked if anybody knew ‘just cause’; and the people fluttered like a flock of geese, and parson made answer:

“Then you will meet me in the vestry after Divine Service, Farmer Blake,” he answered, and so went on with his work.

After that I sat down, and my wife whispered; “Now you’ve done it, you silly gawk!”

But I was too put about to heed her. In fact I couldn’t stand no more religion for the moment, and I rose up and went out, and smoked my pipe behind the family vault of the Lords of the Manor, till the people had all got away after service. And then I came forth and went into the vestry. But I wasn’t the first, for who should be waiting for me but my sister, Mary, and Bob Battle himself. Bob was looking out of the window at the graves, thoughtful like, and parson was getting out of his robes; but Mary didn’t wait for them. She let on to me like a cat-a-mountain, and I never had such a dressing down from mortal man or woman in all my life as I had from her that Sunday morning.

“You meddlesome, know-naught, gert fool!” she said. “How do you dare to lift your beastly voice in the House of God, and defy your Maker, and disgrace your family and come between me and the man I be going to marry? You’re an insult to the parish and to the nation,” she screamed out, “and ’tis enough to make father and mother turn in their graves.”

“I didn’t know you was to church,” I answered her, “and of course if you’re pleased ”

“Pleased!” she cried. “Very like I am pleased! ’Tis a pleasing sort of thing for a woman to wait for marriage till she’s in sight of seventy and then hear her banns defied by her own brother! Of course I’m pleased quite delighted, I’m sure! Who wouldn’t be?”

Well, we was three men to one woman, and little by little we calmed her down with a glass of cold water and words of wisdom from his Reverence. Then I apologised to all of them to Mary first for mistaking her meaning, and to Bob next for being too busy, and to his holiness most of all for brawling under the Sacred Roof. But he was an understanding man and thought nothing of it; and as to Battle, he had meant to come up that very afternoon, along with his betrothed wife, to see us. And it had been Mary’s maidenly idea to let us hear tell about it in church first to break the news and spare her blushes.

Well, I went home with my tail a good bit between my legs, in a manner of speaking; and my sister so far forgave me as to come to tea that day fortnight, though not sooner. And she was cold and terribly standoffish when she did come. We made it up, however, long before the wedding thanks to Bob himself; for he bore no malice and confessed to me in strict privacy after all was over that it had been a difficult and dangerous business, and that the Chitral Campaign was a fool to it.

“The thing is to strike the right note in these matters,” he said. “And it weren’t till the third time that I struck it with your sister. Afore that I talked of being her right hand and protector and so on, and I offered to be a prop to her declining years, and all that. And I knew I’d failed almost before the words were spoken. But the third time I just went for her all ends up, as if we was boy and girl, and told her that I loved her, and wanted her for herself, and wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Why God forgive me I even said I’d throw myself in the river if she refused again! But there it was: she yielded, and I kissed her, and she very near fainted with excitement. And I want you to understand this, Rupert Blake: I’m not after her stuff, nor her farm, nor nothing that’s worth a penny to any man. Her will must be made again, but everything goes back to you and yours. I only ask to stop along with her till I’m called: for I’m alone in the world and shouldn’t like to be thrust out. And if Mary goes first, then I ordain that you let me bide to my dying day in comfort out of respect to her memory. And that’s all I ask or want.”

I didn’t see how the man could say fairer than that, and more did my wife. And it all went very suent I’m sure. They was wedded, and spent eight fairly happy years together, and Bob knew his place till Mary’s dying day. He didn’t kill himself with work after he’d got her; and he wasn’t at church as regular as of old; but he pleasured her very willing most times, and was always kind and considerate and attentive; and if ever they had a word, only them and their Maker knew about it.

She loved him, and she loved the ring he put on her finger, and she loved signing herself “Mary Battle” never tired of that. And then she died, and he bided on till he was a very old, ancient man, with my son to help him. And then he died too, and was buried along with his wife. He was always self-contained and self-respecting. He took his luck for granted and never made no fuss about it; and such was his character that no man ever envied him his good fortune. In fact, I do believe that everybody quite agreed with his own opinion: that he hadn’t got any more than he deserved if as much.