Read CHAPTER XVI - GREEN PASTURES:  AN INTERLUDE of The Cruise of the Shining Light , free online book, by Norman Duncan, on ReadCentral.com.

In all this time Judith dwelt with us by the Lost Soul.  When my uncle fetched her from Whisper Cove, he gravely gave her into the care of our maid-servant, long ago widowed by the sea, who had gone childless all her life, and was now come to the desolate years, when she would sit alone and wistful at twilight, staring out into the empty world, where only hopelessly deepening shadows were, until ’twas long past time to light the lamp.  In the child that was I she had found no ease or recompense, because of the mystery concerning me, which in its implication of wickedness revolted her, and because of my uncle’s regulation of her demeanor in my presence, which tolerated no affectionate display; but when Judith came, orphaned and ill-nourished, the woman sat no longer in moods at evening, but busied herself in motherly service of the child, reawakened in the spirit.  ’Twas thus to a watchful, willing guardianship, most tenderly maternal in solicitude and self-sacrifice, that Judith was brought by wise old Nick Top of Twist Tickle.

My uncle would have no misunderstanding.

“Uncle Nick,” says I, “you’ll be havin’ a chair set for Judy in the cabin?”

“No, lad,” he answered; “not for little Judy.”

I expostulated most vigorously.

“Dannie, lad,” said he, with a gravity that left me no stomach for argument, “the maid goes steerage along o’ me.  This here little matter o’ Judy,” he added, gently, “belongs t’ me.  I’m not makin’ a lady o’ she.  She haves nothin’ t’ do-nothin’ t’ do, thank God!-with what’s gone afore.”

There was no word to say.

“An ye’re wantin’ t’ have Judy t’ dinner, by times,” he continued, winking a genial understanding of my love-lorn condition, “I ’low it might be managed by a clever hand.”

I asked him the way.

“Slug-shot,” says he.

’Twas the merest hint.

“Remove,” says he, darkly, “one slug-shot from the box with the star, an’ drop it,” says he, his left eye closed again, “in the box with the cross.”

And there I had it!

You must know that by my uncle’s severe direction I must never fail to appear at table in the evening save in the perfection of cleanliness as to face and hands and nails and teeth.  “For what,” says he, “have Skipper Chesterfield t’ say on that p’int-underlined by Sir Harry?  Volume II., page 24.  A list o’ the ornamental accomplishments. ‘T’ be extremely clean in your person.’ There you haves it-underlined by Sir Harry!” He would examine me keenly, every nail and tooth of me, accepting neither excuse nor apology, and would never sit with me until I had passed inspection.  In the beginning, ’twas my uncle’s hand, laid upon me in virtuous chastisement, that persuaded me of the propriety of this genteel conduct; but presently, when I was grown used to the thing, ’twas fair impossible for me to approach the meat, in times of peace with place and weather, confronting no peril, hardship, laborious need, or discomfort, before this particular ornamental accomplishment had been indubitably achieved with satisfaction to my uncle and to myself.

My uncle had, moreover, righteously compelled, with precisely similar tactics as to the employment of his right hand, an attire in harmony with the cleanliness of my person.  “For what,” says he, “have bully ol’ Skipper Chesterfield t’ say on that there little p’int?  What have that there fashionable ol’ gentleman t’ hold-underlined by Sir Harry?  Volume II, page 24.  ‘A list o’ the ornamental accomplishments (without which no man livin’ can either please or rise in the world), which hitherto I fear ye wants,’” quotes he, most glibly, “‘an’ which only require your care an’ attention t’ possess.’  Volume II., page 24. ‘An’ perfeckly well dressed, accordin’ t’ the fashion, be that what it will.’ There you haves it,” says he, “an’ underlined by Sir Harry hisself!” ’Twas a boresome thing, to be sure, as a lad of eleven, to come from boyish occupations to this maidenly concern for appearances:  but now, when I am grown older, ’tis a delight to escape the sweat and uniform of the day’s work; and I am grateful to the broad hand that scorched my childish parts to teach me the value and pleasures of gentility.

At the same time, as you may believe, I was taught a manner of entering, in the way, by the hints of Sir Harry and the philosophy of the noble Lord Chesterfield, of a gentleman.  It had to do with squared shoulders, the lift of the head, a strut, a proud and contemptuous glance.  Many a night, as a child, when I fair fainted of vacancy and the steam and smell of salt pork was an agony hardly to be endured, I must prance in and out, to please my fastidious uncle, while he sat critical by the fire-in the unspeakable detachment of critics from the pressing needs (for example) of a man’s stomach-and indulged his artistic perceptions to their completest satisfaction.  He would watch me from his easy-chair by the fire as though ’twere the most delectable occupation the mind of man might devise:  leaning forward in absorption, his ailing timber comfortably bestowed, his great head cocked, like a canary-bird’s, his little eyes watchful and sparkling.

“Once again, Dannie,” says he.  “Head throwed higher, lad.  An’ ye might use yer chest a bit more.”

Into the hall and back again.

“Fair,” says he.  “I’ll not deny that ye’re doin’ better.  But Sir Harry, lad,” says he, concerned, with a rub at his weathered nose, “uses more chest.  Head high, lad; shoulders back, chest out.  Come now!  An’ a mite more chest.”

This time at a large swagger.

“Very good,” says he, in a qualified way.  “But could ye not scowl t’ more purpose?”

’Twas fair heroic to indulge him-with the room full of the smell of browned meat.  But, says I, desperately, “I’ll try, sir.”

“Jus’ you think, Dannie,” says he, “that that there ol’ rockin’-chair with the tidy is a belted knight o’ the realm.  Come now!  Leave me see how ye’d deal with he.  An’ a mite more chest, Dannie, if ye’re able.”

A withering stare for the rocking-chair-superior to the point of impudence-and a blank look for the unfortunate assemblage of furniture.

“Good!” cries my uncle.  “Ecod! but I never knowed Sir Harry t’ do it better.  That there belted rockin’-chair o’ the realm, Dannie, would swear you was a lord!  An’ now, lad,” says he, fondly smiling, “ye may feed."

This watchful cultivation, continuing through years, had flowered in a pretty swagger, as you may well believe.  In all my progress to this day I have not observed a more genteelly insolent carriage than that which memory gives to the lad that was I. I have now no regret:  for when I am abroad, at times, for the health and pleasure of us all, ’tis a not ungrateful thing, not unamusing, to be reminded, by the deferential service and regard this ill-suited manner wins for the outport man that I am, of those days when my fond uncle taught me to scowl and strut and cry, “What the devil d’ye mean, sir!” to impress my quality upon the saucy world.  But when Judith came into our care-when first she sat with us at table, crushed, as a blossom, by the Hand that seems unkind:  shy, tender-spirited, alien to our ways-’twas with a tragical shock I realized the appearance of high station my uncle’s misguided effort and affection had stamped me with.

She sat with my uncle in the steerage; and she was lovely, very gentle and lovely, I recall, sitting there, with exquisitely dropping grace, under the lamp-in the shower of soft, yellow light:  by which her tawny hair was set aglow, and the shadows, lying below her great, blue eyes, were deepened, in sympathy with her appealing grief.  Came, then, this Dannie Callaway, in his London clothes, arrived direct per S.S. Cathian:  came this enamoured young fellow, with his educated stare, his legs (good and bad) long-trousered for the first time in his life, his fingers sparkling, his neck collared and his wrists unimpeachably cuffed, his chest “used” in such a way as never, God knows! had it swelled before.  ’Twas with no desire to indulge his uncle that he had managed these adornments.  Indeed not!  ’Twas a wish, growing within his heart, to compass a winning and distinguished appearance in the presence of the maid he loved.

By this magnificence the maid was abashed.

“Hello!” says I, as I swaggered past the steerage.

There was no response.

“Is you happy, child,” says I, catching the trick of the thing from my uncle, “along o’ ol’ Nick Top an’ me an’ John Cather?”

My tutor laughed.

“Eh, Judy?” says I.

The maid’s glance was fallen in embarrassment upon her plate.

“Dannie,” says my uncle, severely, “ye better get under way with your feedin’.”

The which, being at once hungry and obedient, I did:  but presently, looking up, caught the poor maid unself-conscious.  She no longer grieved-no longer sat sad and listless in her place.  She was peering greedily into the cabin, as my uncle was wont to do, her slim, white neck something stretched and twisted (it seemed) to round a spreading cluster of buttercups.  ’Twas a moving thing to observe.  ’Twas not a shocking thing; ’twas a thing melting to the heart-’twas a thing, befalling with a maid, at once to provide a lad with chivalrous opportunity.  The eyes were the great, blue eyes of Judith-grave, wide eyes, which, beneficently touching a lad, won reverent devotion, flushed the heart with zeal for righteousness.  They were Judith’s eyes, the same, as ever, in infinite depth of shadow, like the round sky at night, the same in light, like the stars that shine therein, the same in black-lashed mystery, like the firmament God made with His own hand.  But still ’twas with a most marvellously gluttonous glance that she eyed the roast of fresh meat on the table before me.  ’Twas no matter to me, to be sure! for a lad’s love is not so easily alienated:  ’tis an actual thing-not depending upon a neurotic idealization:  therefore not to be disillusioned by these natural appearances.

“Judy,” says I, most genially, “is you ever tasted roast veal?”

She was much abashed.

“Is you never,” I repeated, “tasted roast veal?”

“No, sir,” she whispered.

“‘Sir!’” cries I, astounded. “‘Sir!’” I gasped.  “Maid,” says I, now in wrathful amazement forgetting her afflicted state, “is you lost your senses?”

“N-n-no, sir,” she stammered.

“For shame!” I scolded.  “T’ call me so!”

“Daniel,” my uncle interjected, “volume II., page 24. ’A distinguished politeness o’ manners.’”

By this my tutor was vastly amused, and delightedly watched us, his twinkling glance leaping from face to face.

“I’ll not have it, Judy!” I warned her.  “You’ll vex me sore an you does it again.”

The maid would not look up.

“Volume II., page 25,” my uncle chided.  “Underlined by Sir Harry. ‘An’ this address an’ manner should be exceedin’ly respeckful.’”

“Judy!” I implored.

She ignored me.

“An you calls me that again, maid,” I threatened, in a rage, “you’ll be sorry for it.  I’ll-”

“Holy Scripture!” roared my uncle, reaching for his staff. “’Spare the rod and spoil the child.’”

I was not to be stopped by this.  ’Twas an occasion too promising in disaster.  She had sirred me like a house-maid.  Sir?  ’Twas past believing.  That Judith should be so overcome by fine feathers and a roosterly strut!  ’Twas shocking to discover the effect of my uncle’s teaching.  It seemed to me that the maid must at once be dissuaded from this attitude of inferiority or my solid hope would change into a dream.  Inferiority?  She must have no such fancy!  Fixed within her mind ’twould inevitably involve us in some catastrophe of feeling.  The torrent of my wrath and supplication went tumbling on:  there was no staying it.  My uncle’s hand fell short of his staff; he sat stiff and agape with astonished admiration:  perceiving which, my tutor laughed until my hot words were fair extinguished in the noise he made.  By this my uncle was set laughing:  whence the infection spread to me.  And then Judith peeped at me through the cluster of buttercups with the ghost of a roguish twinkle.

“I’ll call you Dannie,” says she, slyly-“t’ save you the lickin’!”

“Daniel,” cries my uncle, delighted, “one slug-shot.  Box with the star t’ the box with the cross.  Judy,” says he, “move aft alongside o’ that there roast veal!”

’Twas the beginning and end of this seeming difference of station....

John Cather took us in hand to profit us.  ’Twas in the learning he had-’twas in every genteel accomplishment he had himself mastered in the wise world he came from-that we were instructed.  I would have Judy for school-fellow:  nor would I be denied-not I!  ’Twas the plan I made when first I knew John Cather’s business in our house:  else, thinks I, ’twould be a mean, poor match we should make of it in the end.  I would have her:  and there, says I, with a toss and a stamp, to my uncle’s delight, was an end of it!  It came about in this way that we three spent the days together in agreeable employment:  three young, unknowing souls-two lads and a maid.  In civil weather, ’twas in the sunlight and breeze of the hills, ’twas in shady hollows, ’twas on the warm, dry rocks, which the breakers could not reach, ’twas on the brink of the cliff, that Cather taught us, leaving off to play, by my uncle’s command, when we were tired of study; and when the wind blew with rain, or fog got the world all a-drip, or the task was incongruous with sunshine and fresh air (like multiplication), ’twas within doors that the lesson proceeded-in my library, which my uncle had luxuriously outfitted for me, when still I was an infant, against this very time.

“John Cather,” says I, one day, “you’ve a wonderful tongue in your head.”

’Twas on the cliff of Tom Tulk’s Head.  We had climbed the last slope hand in hand, with Judith between, and were now stretched out on the brink, resting in the cool blue wind from the sea.

“A nimble tongue, Dannie,” he replied, “I’ll admit.”

“A wonderful tongue!” I repeated.  “John Cather,” I exclaimed, in envious admiration, “you’ve managed t’ tell Judy in ten thousand ways that she’s pretty.”

Judith blushed.

“I wisht,” says I, “that I was so clever as that.”

“I know still another way,” said he.

“Ay; an’ a hundred more!”

“Another,” said he, softly, turning to Judith, who would not look at him.  “Shall I tell you, Judith?”

She shook her head.

“No?” said he.  “Why not?”

The answer was in a whisper-given while the maid’s hot face was still turned away.  “I’m not wantin’ you to,” she said.

“Do, maid!” I besought her.

“I’m not wantin’ him to.”

“’Tis your eyes, I’ll be bound!” said I. “’Twill be so clever that you’ll be glad to hear.”

“But I’m not wantin’ him to,” she persisted.

My tutor smiled indulgently-but with a pitiful little trace of hurt remaining.  ’Twas as though he must suffer the rebuff with no offended question.  In the maid ’twas surely a wilful and bewildering thing to deny him.  I could not make it out:  but wished, in the breeze and sunlight of that day, that the wound had not been dealt.  ’Twas an unkind thing in Judith, thinks I; ’twas a thing most cruel-thus to coquette with the friendship of John Cather.

“Ah, Judy,” I pleaded, “leave un have his way!”

She picked at the moss.

“Will ye not, maid?”

“I’m afraid!” she whispered in my ear.

“An’ you’d stop for that!” I chided, not knowing what she meant:  as how should a lad?

It seemed she would.

“‘Tis an unkind thing,” says I, “t’ treat John Cather so.  He’ve been good,” says I, “t’ you, Judy.”

“Dannie!” she wailed.

“Don’t, Dannie!” Cather entreated.

“I’d have ye listen, Judy,” said I, in earnest, kind reproach, “t’ what John Cather says.  I’d have ye heed his words.  I’d have ye care for him.”  Being then a lad, unsophisticated in the wayward, mercilessly selfish passion of love, ignorant of the unmitigated savagery of the thing, I said more than that, in my folly.  “I’d have ye love John Cather,” says I, “as ye love me.”  ’Tis a curious thing to look back upon.  That I should snarl the threads of our destinies!  ’Tis an innocency hard to credit.  But yet John Cather and I had no sensitive intuition to warn us.  How should we-being men?  ’Twas for Judith to perceive the inevitable catastrophe; ’twas for the maid, not misled by reason, schooled by feeling into the very perfection of wisdom, to control and direct the smouldering passion of John Cather and me in the way she would, according to the power God gives, in infinite understanding of the hearts of men, to a maid to wield.  “I’d have ye love John Cather,” says I, “as ye love me.”  It may be that a lad loves his friend more than any other.  “I’d have ye t’ know, Judy,” says I, gently, “that John Cather’s my friend.  I’d have ye t’ know-”

“Dannie,” Cather interrupted, putting an affectionate hand on my shoulder, “you don’t know what you’re saying.”

Judith turned.

“I do, John Cather,” says I.  “I knows full well.”

Judith’s eyes, grown all at once wide and grave, looked with wonder into mine.  I was made uneasy-and cocked my head, in bewilderment and alarm.  ’Twas a glance that searched me deep.  What was this?  And why the warning?  There was more than warning.  ’Twas pain I found in Judith’s great, blue eyes.  What had grieved her?  ’Twas reproach, too-and a flash of doubt.  I could not read the riddle of it.  Indeed, my heart began to beat in sheer fright, for the reproach and doubt vanished, even as I stared, and I confronted a sparkling anger.  But presently, as often happened with that maid, tears flushed her eyes, and the long-lashed lids fell, like a curtain, upon her grief:  whereupon she turned away, troubled, to peer at the sea, breaking far below, and would not look at me again.  We watched her, John Cather and I, for an anxious space, while she sat brooding disconsolate at the edge of the cliff, a sweep of cloudless sky beyond.  The slender, sweetly childish figure-with the tawny hair, I recall, all aglow with sunlight-filled the little world of our thought and vision.  There was a patch of moss and rock, the green and gray of our land-there was Judith-there was an infinitude of blue space.  John Cather’s glance was frankly warm; ’twas a glance proceeding from clear, brave, guileless eyes-springing from a limpid soul within.  It caressed the maid, in a fashion, thinks I, most brotherly.  My heart warmed to the man; and I wondered that Judith should be unkind to him who was our friend.

’Twas a mystery.

“You will not listen, Judith?” he asked. “’Tis a very pretty thing I want to say.”

Judith shook her head.

A flash of amusement crossed his face.  “Please do!” he coaxed.

“No!”

“I’m quite proud of it,” says he, with a laugh in his fine eyes.  He leaned forward a little, and made as if to touch her, but withdrew his hand.  “I did not know,” says he, “that I was so clever.  I have it all ready.  I have every word in place.  I’d like to say it-for my own pleasure, if not for yours.  I think it would be a pity to let the pretty words waste themselves unsaid.  I-I-hope you’ll listen.  I-I-really hope you will.  And you will not?”

“No!” she cried, sharply.  “No, no!”

“Why not?”

“No!” she repeated; and she slipped her hand into mine, and hid them both snugly in the folds of her gown, where John Cather could not see.  “God wouldn’t like it, John Cather,” says she, her little teeth all bare, her eyes aflash with indignation, her long fingers so closely entwined with mine that I wondered.  “He wouldn’t ’low it,” says she, “an He knowed.”

I looked at John Cather in vague alarm.