HOW FELIZARDO TOOK TO THE HILLS

Felizardo was sixty years of age, a wizened little man, quiet of voice,
emphatic of gesture, when the Americans displaced the Spaniards, and
began to preach the doctrines of Law and Order, coupled with those of
Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, as defined by the Declaration of
Independence. In appearance, Felizardo was not unlike a Japanese, being
purely Asiatic by descent; but, so far as essential characteristics,
were concerned, he was a son of the Tropics, with the qualities of
his kind.

For all practical purposes, Felizardo’s history begins thirty-five
years before the coming of the Americans. Up till that point in
his career, he had been an ordinary tao, one of the peasantry
of a village some ten miles from Manila, outwardly apathetic and
inoffensive, respecting, or at least fearing, the Law as represented
by the Presidente and the Guardia Civil, and earning such money
as he needed–which was not much–by an occasional day’s work in
his hemp-patch up on the mountain-side. For the rest, he fished
when he had sufficient energy, or was sufficiently hungry so to do,
or gathered cocoa-nuts in the grove which stretched for a couple of
miles along the sea-shore. Then, suddenly, Dolores Lasara came into
his life, and his character developed.

Dolores was the daughter of Juan Lasara, the Teniente of San
Polycarpio, the next village to that in which Felizardo had been born
and bred. Rumour in the village, which possibly spoke the truth,
declared that Juan was connected with the local band of ladrones,
and, as that body enjoyed a degree of immunity unusual even in the
Philippines, there may have been grounds for the suspicion.

Juan Lasara was a mestizo, a half-caste, and Dolores herself showed
strong traces of her white ancestry. Felizardo, on the other hand,
was a native pure and simple, and, unlike most of his kind, prided
himself on the fact.

Dolores and Felizardo first met after a fiesta, the feast of the
patron saint of San Polycarpio. The girl, clad all in white, was
walking in the procession round the plaza, following closely in the
wake of the stout priest and the gaudily-painted image, when the man,
lounging against the timbers of the crude belfry, smoking the eternal
cigarette, suddenly awakened to the fact that there were other things
in life besides tobacco and native spirits and game-cocks. He did not
follow Dolores into the church–that would have involved abstention
from several cigarettes, and would, to his mind, have served no useful
purpose–but he waited outside patiently, and, when she emerged,
followed her home, where he made the acquaintance of her father,
whom he knew well by sight.

Juan Lasara, the Teniente of San Polycarpio, was a very able man, as
his hidden store of greasy Bank of Spain notes would have told you,
if you had been able to unearth them from the hiding-place up on the
mountain-side; and, being able, he realised that there were latent
possibilities in the rather shy young tao who was so obviously taken
with Dolores; consequently, he was perfectly ready to let the girl
accompany Felizardo down to the cockpit to see the fights, which,
as every Filipino knows, are the most important part of a religious
festival.

The Teniente saw the young people off from the veranda of his house,
the only stone-built one in San Polycarpio; then he went back to his
office, where presently there came to him Father Pablo, the parish
priest, also a mestizo, and Cinicio Dagujob, a fierce little man,
with two bolos strapped on his waist. The last-named had come in,
unostentatiously, from the jungle behind the house, after the two
Guardia Civil, who had been sent to attend the fiesta, had gone off
to keep order at the cockpit; and even now he did not seem quite at
ease, knowing that those dreaded Spanish gens d’armes were still in
the village. “There might be trouble at the cockpit, and they might
bring their prisoners here,” he muttered.

Juan Lasara laughed. “If there were trouble, they would only beat the
causes of it with the flat of their sabres. That is their way–with
the tao. It is only you and your kind that they take as prisoners,
or kill.”

Cinicio’s beady eyes flashed. “And how about you and the reverend
father?” he snarled.

Once more Lasara laughed. “He is the priest of San Polycarpio, and
I am the Teniente. If they came–which they would not do without
warning–you would be Dagujob, the ladrone chief, whom we had lured
here, in order that he might be taken and hanged on the new gallows
at Calocan. You understand, Cinicio?”

A sudden movement of his hand to his side showed that the robber did
comprehend; then the half-drawn bolo was thrust back into its wooden
sheath, contemptuously. “Bah!” its owner growled, “you dare not. I
should talk, and there is room on that gallows for three of us,
even when one is a fat priest. And now–what is the business we are
to discuss?”

Father Pablo blew out a cloud of smoke and watched it curling
upwards. “Don José Ramirez will be receiving three thousand pesos
next month to pay for the new hemp land he is buying from the Friars,”
he said.

Cinicio Dagujob leaned forward. “Don José, the Spanish merchant at
Calocan?” he asked.

The priest nodded, whilst the Teniente added with a grin: “His place
is opposite the new gallows, which they have put up for you and your
kind, Cinicio.”

The ladrone ignored the last remark; this was now a purely professional
matter.

“How are we to get in?” he demanded. “The house is of stone, well
shuttered; and, if we tried force, the noise would bring down the
Guardia Civil, who are only a quarter of a mile away.”

Father Pablo had gone to the window, and was staring out. He preferred
not to listen to such discussions, which accorded ill with his calling;
but the Teniente had no such scruples. “You must have some one inside,
to open the door, then when Don José comes down—-” He finished with
a suggestive motion.

“That is easy to say,” growled the ladrone–“very easy to say;
but whom can you get? Our own men are”–he shrugged his shoulders
expressively–“suspected; and they might not like to be so near your
gallows; whilst your people here are fools, every one–just common
tao. Then a man from Manila would get in one of his own hands. It
is rubbish. I know Don José Ramirez of old. He will keep his pesos
safe until he hands them over to the Friars; and then, of course,
one cannot rob the Church.”

Father Pablo, standing with his back to them, seemed to have missed
everything else, but he heard those last words, and nodded his head,
apparently in approval of the sentiment; though possibly, could
the others have seen it, the smile on his face might have explained
various things to them.

The Teniente of San Polycarpio did not answer at once, but lighted
a fresh cigar very carefully, and got it drawing well; then, “I have
the man,” he said quietly. “He came to me to-day, by chance, following
my daughter, Dolores.” Father Pablo started slightly. “He is a tao,
with brains. I know Don José wants a man to live in the house. If I
send this young Felizardo to him, he will take him; and if I promise
Felizardo that he shall marry Dolores, the door will be opened to
you. I only met him to-day, but”–he laughed pleasantly–“I know men
and women; and I saw how it was with those two, at once.”

There was no smile on Father Pablo’s face now, and one of his hands was
gripping the window frame more tightly than a casual observer might
have thought necessary; but the two other men were not watching him,
being interested in the details of their plan.

It was sundown when Felizardo and Dolores came back, chattering
gaily. On the road they passed the two Guardia Civil, in their
gorgeous uniforms, with their clattering sabres and horse pistols in
vast leather holsters. Felizardo received a friendly nod from them,
being known as a decent young tao; but Father Pablo, whom they met
a little further on, had no blessing to bestow, only a scowl.

“I do not like him,” the man said abruptly.

The girl shivered slightly. “Nor I. He is a priest, I know; but
still—-” She broke off significantly, and, for the first time in his
life, Felizardo felt the instinct to kill awaken in him. Unconsciously,
he became a convert to the Law of the Bolo; consciously, he decided
that Father Pablo must be watched.

The Teniente of San Polycarpio was alone when the couple returned,
and received Felizardo very graciously. He was interested in the young
man, and asked him many questions, whilst Dolores was preparing some
supper, a far more elaborate supper than usual.

“You ought to do better,” Lasara said kindly. “I see you are not
like the majority; and there are careers for those who are ready to
work. Look at myself”–he was a hemp-buyer–“I started to learn in
a Spaniard’s store, and made all this myself. I should be a very
happy man, if only I had a son. As it is, there is Dolores alone;
and my ambition now is to see her married to an honourable man,
a man of the people like myself, not a frothy agitator from Manila.”

Felizardo fumbled badly with the cigarette he was rolling; but before
he could make any reply, his host had got up abruptly. “Come and see
me again soon–the day after to-morrow, if you like. I believe I know
of a post which might suit you.”

They make love quickly in the Tropics; consequently, it was not out
of the natural order of things that, as he walked home through the
cocoa-nut groves that night, Felizardo should feel sure both of his
own feelings and of those of Dolores. Somehow, the world seemed to
have grown a very different place. He had never noticed the moon
quite so bright before, never realised how wonderfully beautiful
was the effect of the light dancing on the waters. Then, suddenly,
with a sense of shame, he remembered how he had wasted his life. He
had eaten, smoked, and gambled on fighting-cocks–that was his whole
record so far; but it should be different for the future. He turned
into his little nipa-thatched house full of this good resolution,
and awakened in the morning still of the same mind. There was a fiesta
on in his own village that day, and he had saved five pesos in order
to have an unusually large bet on his own favourite fighting-cock,
hitherto the champion of the place; but, instead of doing so,
he donned his working clothes, took his working bolo, and started
off towards his hemp-patch, two miles away, up the hillside. One or
two women he passed–the men rose late on fiesta-days–stared after
him in astonishment; whilst a youth, who was taking a game-cock for
its morning airing, hugging the over-fed bird closely in his arms,
endeavoured to call him back; but Felizardo knew his own mind. That
evening, just as the cock-fighting was over, he staggered down with the
biggest load of hemp a man had ever brought into the village–one or
two complained afterwards that he had cleaned up some of their hemp in
addition to his own–took it into the Spanish hemp-buyers’ warehouse,
and presently emerged with the best suit of white linen he could buy.

In after years they used to talk of the look which was on Felizardo’s
face that last evening he spent in the village. They chaffed him,
of course–who but a fool would clean up hemp on a fiesta-day?–but
he walked past them all without appearing to notice them. He was not
angry–there was no question of that; it was only that he seemed to
have urgent, and very pleasant, business of his own on hand. He had
become a man apart from them; and, though none could have foreseen it,
he was to remain a man apart, in a very different sense.

By noon the following day, Felizardo was sitting on the broad, cool
veranda of Juan Lasara’s house, talking to Dolores. There was no hurry
about business, the Teniente said cheerfully. He himself was likely
to be fully occupied until evening. Let the visitor stay the night,
and on the morrow they would go over and interview Don José Ramirez,
to whom he had already written–a proposal which suited both Dolores
and Felizardo.

They talked all that afternoon and all that evening–the Teniente
was wonderfully discreet in keeping out of the way–and when, on
the following day, Felizardo took a reluctant farewell, they were
perfectly sure they understood one another. Other people of their
ages have made up their minds, temporarily at least, just as quickly,
even under colder skies than those of the Philippines.

As the two men were going down to the beach–Calocan lay round a
headland, a long stretch of mangrove swamp, and you had to reach it by
canoe–they met Father Pablo, apparently going to the Teniente’s. The
Teniente stopped a minute and spoke to the priest in a low voice,
then rejoined Felizardo, whilst the Father continued on his way.

Felizardo thought of Dolores, alone in the house, with only a couple of
servants working in the courtyard, thought of the fat, sensual face,
the self-assertive swagger, and once more that instinct to kill,
which is one of the elemental corollaries of love, came back to him,
stronger than ever. For a moment he hesitated, half inclined to go
back; but he had not yet felt the full strength of that instinct;
and so in the end he went on, reluctantly. Juan Lasara, thinking
deeply over the priest’s words–“It will be five thousand pesos
now. Don José has bought a second hemp-patch from the Friars”–did
not notice his hesitation, and might not have understood it in any
case, having got over his days of love, or at least of the love of
woman. He worshipped the peso only.

Don José, white-haired and courtly, was gravely polite to the Teniente,
as a white gentleman must be to a half-caste; but he was almost
cordial to Felizardo.

“I have already asked the Guardia Civil, and they speak well of you,”
he said; then, as if fearing his words might seem slighting to Juan
Lasara, he hastened to add: “Of course, in any case, the recommendation
of Senor Lasara would suffice. Still, in these days there are so many
ladrones–you see my shutters and bars? You can read and write? Yes,
the good Friars taught you? Well, then it is arranged. Good!”

So Felizardo became warehouseman, and, in a humble way, junior clerk,
to Don José Ramirez, to live in the house, and, if need arose,
to fire at ladrones with a musket through one of the loopholes of
those same shutters, an arrangement satisfactory to himself, to the
Spaniard, and perhaps most of all to his patron, the Teniente of San
Polycarpio. There was no mistaking the cordiality of the latter’s
farewell. “Come and see us the first holiday,” he said; “I shall be
pleased, and”–he smiled meaningfully–“so will Dolores.”

If there had been no woman in the case, Felizardo would not have stayed
two days in the warehouse. True, on the rare occasions when he did
see Don José, the old man was kindness personified; but the merchant
spent his time in his private office, whilst the other clerks, all
mestizos, looked on what they called “a wild tao” as a fitting subject
for jests and practical jokes. But Felizardo thought of Dolores,
who could only be won by his success in that warehouse; moreover,
he was wiry and strong as a leopard, as the practical jokers soon
learned; consequently, at the end of the first week he had not only
decided to stay, but had also made a definite position for himself.

“A good boy, a very good boy,” Don José remarked to the corporal of
the Guardia Civil.

The latter nodded. “Yes, but watch him. They all want watching,
these Filipinos. I say it with all respect–but what has the Holy
Church done for them, save teach them our secrets and make them more
dangerous than ever.” He sighed heavily, and twirled his huge, dyed
moustache. “Thirty years I have been out here, Don José, thirty years,
and only home to Spain once, and I still look on them as savages,
who will get my head in the end. I shall never see Spain again.”

Don José took him by the arm; it was Sunday, and they were standing
on the veranda. “Come inside,” he said; “I have some choice wine
which came in the other day, wine of Spain; and some cigars such as
you could not get elsewhere, even in Spain. Come inside, corporal,
and drink to the day when we both return to Spain.”

Meanwhile, Felizardo had borrowed a dug-out canoe, and paddled round
the long headland to San Polycarpio. Dolores was waiting for him. “I
knew you would come,” she said simply, “because Don José always closes
his warehouse on Sunday.”

The implied assurance in her words made him the happiest man in the
Islands; and as he sat talking to the Teniente that afternoon, he
was very full of the possibilities of a commercial career, and very
severe on the subject of ladrones and the injury they did to trade,
which was perhaps not very pleasant hearing to his host, for after
the guest had gone–this time Dolores accompanied him down to the
beach–Lasara remarked to the priest: “He will not open the door of
the warehouse, even if I ask him. He is a fool, after all.”

The priest shook his head. “He will open it, because he is a special
fool on one point.”

“What is that?” demanded the other.

Father Pablo smiled grimly. “You will see. Leave it to me.” And
with that promise the Teniente of San Polycarpio had to be content,
though, knowing the priest well, he was not really uneasy in his
own mind. Certainly, they would eventually share those five thousand
pesos of Don José’s, and if, as was probable, Don José himself were
eliminated during the process of removal, so much the better. The
disappearance of a rival is never felt very keenly by a good business
man.

The pesos for the purchase of the Friars’ hemp lands came on the
appointed day, and Felizardo helped to carry them into the warehouse,
wondering greatly at the amount, and envying the man who possessed so
much wealth. He was still thinking over the matter at closing time,
when a strange youth hurried up, thrust a note into his hand, and
disappeared as suddenly as he had come. Felizardo read the letter
slowly, and forthwith forgot all about the pesos; for Dolores was in
trouble; Dolores had fled from her father’s house, fearing a forced
marriage with a wealthy cousin, who had unexpectedly re-appeared
after years of absence; and, what was most important of all, Dolores
was coming to him for shelter and protection. At eleven o’clock that
very night, she would be outside the small door at the back of the
warehouse, where he must join her, and take her somewhere for safety.

Felizardo sat down on a pile of cases in the corner of the warehouse,
where he smoked innumerable cigarettes, and tried to think out
the situation. For a moment, he was inclined to consult Don José,
then dismissed the idea as impossible. It seemed like treason to
Dolores. Above everything, no one must know that she had come to him
secretly, in the dead of night–no one, that is, except the person
who actually gave her shelter until he could marry her openly, in the
light of day. Yet who would give her shelter? Who would not talk? He
racked his brains for an answer, and then it came to him–the good
Sisters at the little convent on the far-side of the plaza. It was
only a few moments’ walk, and when he took Dolores there, and she
knocked, and told her story, and showed the letter she had written
him–the first line he had ever received from her–there would be
no question of her welcome or her safety. All the Tenientes in the
Islands would be powerless to wrest her from the Sisters.

Felizardo waited with almost savage impatience for eleven o’clock. If
she missed her way, if by any chance she were overtaken, if some one
should be watching outside to see if she were coming to him! Full
of the latter thought, he slipped into the warehouse again and
searched for a bolo, a particularly fine and keen weapon, which,
only that afternoon, one of his fellow-clerks had bought from a
hill-man. Felizardo found it, strapped it round his waist, saw that
it was loose in its sheath, crept cautiously to the little back door,
unlocked it, taking the key so as to be able to lock it again from
the outside, took down the heavy bars, opened the door cautiously–and
saw a dozen figures crouching on the ground, ready to spring at him.

Then he understood. Like a flash his bolo was out, and, with his
back to the door, he was facing them, shouting, “The ladrones,
the ladrones!” whilst unconsciously he crumpled up, and dropped,
that forged letter.

It was his first fight. An old man, telling Captain Basil Hayle of
it thirty-five years later, declared that it was his greatest fight;
and Felizardo had then been in hundreds. Be that as it may, the fact
remains that he had killed two ladrones, and mortally wounded two more,
himself receiving only a gash across the forehead, before help came,
in the form of the Guardia Civil from without, and Don José and his
five men from within.

Of the twelve ladrones, only four escaped, crawling away wounded. Four
they killed out of hand, and four more, including Cinicio Dagujob
himself, they hanged on that new gallows opposite Don José’s warehouse,
as a warning to all men.

Felizardo staggered back against the wall, half-blinded by the blood
from his forehead, trembling, as a man does after his first fight;
then, without the slightest premeditation, he made the mistake of his
life. He slipped away in the darkness, down to the beach, launched a
canoe, and began frenziedly to paddle towards San Polycarpio. He had
remembered Dolores and her possible peril, and forgotten all else–Don
José, the Guardia Civil, the questions he would be expected to answer.

The corporal asked one of those same questions of Don José half an
hour later, after the prisoners had been safely locked in the cells.

“Who gave the alarm?” he demanded.

“Felizardo,” the merchant answered. “He was fighting in the doorway
when we rushed down, fighting like a dozen devils.”

The corporal frowned. “Then he must have opened the door
himself. Why? Where is he now?”

Don José poured himself out another glass of wine with a rather shaky
hand. He was an old man, and his nerves were upset. “Felizardo is gone,
they tell me. They have searched, thinking he might be lying wounded,
but they cannot find a trace anywhere.”

Once more the corporal frowned, and drummed on the table with his
fingers. He was not very brilliant, and he was trying to construct
a theory. At last, “Let them search again,” he said severely.

A few minutes later, one of the clerks came back with a crumpled slip
of paper in his hand. “We have found this, Senor,” he said.

The corporal handed it to Don José–despite that huge, dyed moustache
and his straight back, his eyes were growing old, and one does not
take spectacles when one is on service. “Will you read it, Don José,
read it aloud slowly?” he asked with dignity, then turned a fierce
gaze on the knot of clerks gathered in the doorway, who fled hurriedly.

When the merchant had finished, the corporal brought his hand down
on the table with a thump which made all the wine-glasses dance. “A
love affair, as I think I said, or rather a false assignation. He
has got frightened at his mistake, and gone to the hills.”

Don José sighed. “I liked him. He is a good, sensible boy, and I hope
he will come back.”

The corporal shook his head. “He will never come back. Thirty years
I have been here, in this service, only going home to Spain once,
and I should know that they are only savages, after all. I think
I have said before that the Holy Church makes a mistake in trying
to tame them. Let them be brought to hear Mass every Sunday–that
would be only fitting, and would doubtless save their souls, if they
have any–but books and learning are not for them. When I get back
to Spain I shall make a journey to Rome to tell his Holiness these
things. Doubtless, he will listen to an old soldier of Spain…. No,
Don José, your Felizardo will never come back here. Yet”–he sighed
regretfully–“he is a fine fighter. He was the only one on our
side with a bolo, and two have been killed with the bolo, and two
wounded so badly that we must hurry on the hanging of them. A fine
fighter–but what will you—-? They are all savages at heart, as I
hope to tell his Holiness one day.” He stood up abruptly, saluted,
and stalked out with his hand on the hilt of his great sabre.

There was only one light showing in San Polycarpio when Felizardo
beached his canoe on the shingle by the palm grove; and only one
mangy dog, which relapsed into silence after the first stone, noted
his arrival. On the other hand, the light was in the Teniente’s house,
which made things easier for the newcomer.

Felizardo had bandaged his forehead with a strip torn off his shirt,
and as soon as he came to the stream of fresh water which ran down
the one long street, he bathed the blood from his face carefully. He
did not want to alarm Dolores–about himself. Then, bolo in hand, he
made his way to the house, clambered cautiously on to the veranda, and
peered in through a tiny hole in the matting blind. He could see very
little–only Dolores standing, pale and trembling, against the further
wall, and the heads of Lasara and Father Pablo, who were seated at
the table. But he could hear, and that was almost better than seeing.

The voices were a little thick–it had been a weary task waiting
for the return of the messenger Cinicio Dagujob was to send, and
the native spirit had been very strong–but the priest, at least,
knew what he wanted.

“You must let her come to me as housekeeper,” he was saying. “You would
like that, wouldn’t you, girl”–he turned towards Dolores–“to keep
house for your parish priest? I would get rid of the other. Answer me,
Juan Lasara. Will you agree, or shall I denounce you as Cinicio’s
partner?” There was a snarl in his voice. “After to-night’s work
there will be a hue-and-cry; and you remember the new gallows at
Calocan. Answer me, you ladrone Teniente of San Polycarpio.”

But the reply did not come from Juan Lasara. With one cut of his bolo
Felizardo cleared away the matting, and was in the room. Dolores
gave a scream and fainted; Lasara fumbled drunkenly for his knife,
and, failing to find it, seized a bottle; but the priest stood back
unarmed–trembling, perhaps, but still apparently secure in the
protection of his cloth.

“You dare not touch me,” he said. And for answer Felizardo slew him
with a single slash of that terrible bolo. Then he dealt with Lasara,
whom he maimed for life; and after that he gathered together the
remains of the food and the wine–he was looking ahead even then–put
out the lamp, took the insensible girl in his arms, and made his way
to the jungle.

So in the one night Felizardo killed two ladrones and a priest who
was worse than a ladrone, secured the hanging of two others, and then,
possibly because, as the corporal said, he was a savage at heart, took
Dolores Lasara with him to the hills, and became a ladrone himself.

Continue Reading

Foremost among

It is often said that no great work can be accomplished without
some correspondingly great sacrifice, and the fever was not
stamped out and the water supply made pure without the suffering
of an innocent victim in the good cause. And scarcely had the
excitement over the accident at the well abated, when Willowton
learned that one of the chief directors of the movement–their
vicar–was dangerously ill. The long strain, physical and mental,
of his resolute fight for the right, the senseless opposition his
flock had met him with all through those weary months of work and
disappointment, had told on him at last, and when the moment of
victory came he succumbed, and three days later he was raging in
the delirium of fever. And then, but only then, the wiseacres of
the village remarked to each other that they had “minded he
looked wonderful quare the last few Sundays–kind a’ dazed like;”
and the old women had noticed his thin cheeks and restless eye.
Yet none of them had ever thought of saying a kind word to him
when he called at their cottages, and all had greeted him with
the sullen manner they had adopted, as if by common consent,
since he had begun his crusade against dirt and insanitariness.

On the evening of that day the doctor’s dogcart stopped at Mrs.
Lummis’s door. He had been such a frequent visitor there during
her illness that nobody attached any importance to his visit;
though Mrs. Lummis was up and about again, but not yet able to do
entirely for herself. But the neighbours did stare when, a
quarter of an hour later, Geo came out with a bundle and climbed
into the cart alongside him, and drove away up the village with
him. And they would have stared harder if they had known whither
Geo was bound.

Geo and his mother were sitting at their evening meal when the
doctor had knocked at their door. And they were not alone; Milly
Greenacre was with them. The three were laughing merrily over the
old lady’s reminiscences of her “courting” days, and there was a
pleasant sense of comfort and happiness in the air.

“I am sorry to interrupt you, Mrs. Lummis,” said the doctor,
putting his kindly face in at the door, “but I have come to ask
you for your nurse.”

“Come in, sir, come in,” said Mrs. Lummis, rising; and the doctor
complied, Geo closing the door behind him.

“But nurse have been gone these two days, sir,” she said
wonderingly.

“Ah yes. It’s not Nurse Blunt I want; it is this good fellow
here,” looking at Geo, who got very red and looked extremely
uncomfortable. “The truth is,” went on the doctor, “it is not a
woman I want, but a _man_, for the vicar; he is desperately ill,
you know.”

“Yes, sir, we’ve heard,” said Mrs. Lummis sympathetically.
“That’s a bad job, poor gentleman, I’m sure; but—”

“Now, look here,” said the doctor, cutting short any possible
objections, “this is a matter of life or death; there is no time
to lose.–Will you or will you not come?” turning to Geo.

“Me, sir! I am sure I don’t know. I don’t know nothin’ about
nursing. I—”

“You know quite enough. Nurse Blunt will be there when she can,
and Mrs. Crowe will do her best. But the truth is, the poor man
is violent. It is a strong man I want, with a steady nerve and a
good temper. You, I think can answer to this description, and I
think, after the pluck and ability you showed during the past
week, that I can trust you.”

Geo’s eyes gleamed for a moment under their downcast lids, and he
looked at his mother and Milly for inspiration; and the doctor’s
keen eye noticed with amusement that he sought Milly’s counsel
first.

“Oh, you must go,” said Milly warmly, answering the look. “That
would be a shame not to go to him. If only I was a man—”

“Which you need not wish at all, Milly,” said the doctor,
laughing, for he had known Milly all her life. “You had better
come and help Mrs. Lummis a bit every day, and let her son
go.–Come along, Geo; put your night things together and let us
be off.” And so, as Mrs. Lummis expressed it afterwards, “the
doctor was so terrible masterful he took him off before my own
eyes as if he’d a-been no more’n a child!”

But Geo proved no child, and, indeed, it was no child’s work he
had to perform. For several nights he and Mrs. Crowe sat up with
the sick man, who, until the fever had spent itself, was so
strong that Geo had to put forth all his strength at times to
hold him when the fits of delirium came on. Then came the
inevitable weakness that follows fever, and so for a fortnight
the vicar of Willowton lay between life and death.

“Quiet, nothing but absolute quiet, can save him,” the doctor
said. And so the bells were not rung for service; the carts and
other vehicles that generally came rattling past the vicarage
gate were now turned back at the top of the street, for a
faithful guard was always set there to stop all traffic that way.

It was old Greenacre’s idea. “That there rattlin’ is ‘mazin’ bad
for the ‘hid,'” he said–“I mind that whin I was ill threugh
bein’ thrown off a wagon when I was a booy–and they didn’t ought
ter pass this way.” So he established himself on a chair under
the shadow of the garden wall, and sat patiently watching the
egress through many a long hour, keeping the street. “Jest like a
beggar with a tin mug and a paper pinned on his chist,” said
Corkam, who couldn’t resist a sneer. But old Jimmy was not there
all day, for there were grateful convalescents in the persons of
Tom Chapman and his friends, who took their turn as sentry.

So the sick man, so carefully tended within and so guarded
without, still hung on between life and death. And as he lay
there powerless and speechless, that fickle jade Popularity stole
back to his side. Shyly, shamefacedly, almost fearfully, people
began to speak well of the man who was in all probability going
to give his life for their well-being. He had had the grace to
“ketch th’ faver” just like one of themselves, and it was going
as hard with him as it had gone with many of their own flesh and
blood.

“He warn’t so bad after all,” they allowed. “‘Twarn’t so much his
fault that there well fell in.” They even remembered how he had
watched and prayed by the sick-beds. They went so far as to hope
he “wouldn’t be took.” And the doctor, who read them like a book,
smiled to himself as he watched the poison of prejudice gradually
dying in their hearts, and common sense and a small measure of
justice stealing back into their perverted minds.

At last came a day when the good man came gaily down the
staircase and opened the door with the welcome words, “A decided
change for the better. Please God, we’ll pull him through now.”
And a subdued murmur of joy arose from the little crowd of women
and children that gathered every morning round the house to see
the doctor go away and hear the latest news.

Foremost among these was Annie Chapman–hard working, untidy,
cheery Annie. She has improved very little in any respect except
in her household arrangements; but though no power on earth could
ever succeed in making her tidy, cleanliness has become her
ruling passion. She scrubs, and rubs, and washes everything she
can lay her hands on, and no future outbreak of fever or any
other disease shall ever, she declares, be laid to her door. So
out of evil will come good, and the Willowton of the future
promises to be a very different place from the fever haunt it has
been for the past half-century, if the doctor and the vicar and
Annie Chapman can make it so.

And now there only remains for us to see how things fared with
Geo Lummis, who so suddenly found himself acting so important a
part in the annals of the village. Dr. Davies was anxious to keep
him under his eye as a professional man-nurse; but Geo struck at
that. He was very glad, he said, to have been of use to the
gentlemen, both of them, but sick-nursing was no work for him. He
pined for the fresh air and the open fields, and, if the truth
must be known, for the ripple of the water under the bridge. Not
that he meant to return either to his old ways or his old
companions, for he has done with Corkam for ever; and Milly
Greenacre and he have made their minds to be married as soon as
the vicar is well enough to marry them. And as if wonders would
never cease, Milly’s scruples about leaving her old grandfather
alone have all been removed in the most unexpected manner. While
Geo has been nursing the vicar all the past month, old Jimmy had
been spending all his odd moments with Mrs. Lummis, with the
result that he and Geo are going to play at “puss in the corner,”
and there are going to be two weddings instead of one! Geo is
coming to live in the Greenacres’ pretty cottage, and old Jimmy
is going to hang up his hat on Geo’s old peg in his mother’s
house. A more satisfactory arrangement of all parties could not
be imagined: for Jimmy has saved quite a little hoard of money,
enough to keep him comfortable, he hopes, for the rest of his
life; and Geo has been taken on as a farm labourer by Mr. Barlow,
with the promise of an extra teamster’s place, and he is looking
forward to getting his seven pounds for the harvest which is now
about to begin, after which he and Milly are to be made man and
wife.

Continue Reading

GEO AGAIN SURPRISES HIMSELF AND HIS FRIENDS

It was perhaps just as well that Geo was an inexperienced
well-sinker, and that he did not know the horrible danger he was
in, or with what fearful rapidity a long-dry spring sometimes
rises when once it has begun to move; but he shuddered with
apprehension as the cold water crept up to his arm-pits, and as
it touched his shoulders flesh and blood could stand no more, and
he lifted up his voice and shouted with a shout that shook the
frail supports above him till he trembled once more for their
endurance.

It is said that a drowning man sees all his life pass in review
before his mental vision, and a wave of remorse for lost
opportunities and wasted days swept over him as he stood on the
brink, as it were, of eternity. And all the time those ominous
words of Hayes were ringing–ringing–ringing in his ears–those
ears that soon would be covered with the creeping icy flood. At
last! at last! After an eternity of agony the aperture was once
more was once more darkened; something was coming down–quick,
quicker, the rope was running out from the windlass. Thank God,
it had a bucket on the end of it. Splash it went in the water,
and filling, sank immediately. Geo shouted as he grasped the rope
with his strong hands, twisted his legs round it below, and as
they drew him up slid his half-numbed feet into the bucket.

I don’t think that any one who was present will ever forget the
moments when Geo’s white face appeared above the brickwork, and
his dripping garments told the tale of his terrible predicament;
for Geo for the moment was past speech, and there went up from
the crowd such a roar of admiration and delight as Willowton had
never heard before. And there was such a rush of the foremost
bystanders to shake their hero by the hand that the policemen had
their work cut out for them with a vengeance, for the enthusiasm
had passed all bounds.

The foreman had said, “Don’t make a fuss when they come up,” when
the other men had been drawn to the surface; for he had seen
similar accidents before, and he knew that the men’s nerves would
not be in a state to stand much excitement. The crowd had behaved
in an exemplary manner, and except for the summarily-squashed
cheering of a few thoughtless boys, they had been allowed to pass
quietly to the conveyances that awaited them, assisted by the
parish doctor and a couple more medical men from Ipswich. But it
was not to be expected or desired that they would treat Geo in
the same way. Martin and Cadger managed the rope, and as he
reached the surface Mr. Barlow and the vicar were there to greet
him.

“You’re a brave fellow, Geo,” said the vicar, grasping his hand,
while the farmer patted him kindly on the back.–“Now, then,” he
shouted, waving his hat to the crowd, “three cheers for the
gallant rescuer. Hip, hip, hip, hur-rah-h!” and once more the
ringing cheers rang out.

Geo began to feel shy and looked about for a chance of escape,
but there was none. He found himself standing with a little group
in a clear space into which the vigilant police allowed no one to
intrude. Just then a diversion occurred. Over the cheers came the
strident discordant sound of a motor horn, and across the common
flashed a car, which pulled up sharply, and a gentleman sprang
out. The police recognized him, the crowd made way, and he
hurried up to the group round the well. It was the dowser. His
arrival was well-timed, and among the crowd there were some who
knew him before, and without much difficulty he pushed his way
through to the enclosure, and in obedience to a signal from Mr
Rutland the policeman allowed him to pass under the rope. He
looked pale and anxious.

“Is it all right?” he shouted when the car stopped.

A welcome “Yis, yis, master,” allayed his fears.

He had followed the movements of the rescuers eagerly since his
daily paper had given him news of the catastrophe; but being a
busy man, it was not till this morning that he had been able to
get away from his work, and had left his home in Gloucestershire
almost at break of dawn. Motors are not infallible, and his car
had broken down at Swindon; and it being Sunday, there had been
great difficulties and consequent delay in getting it repaired.

Mr Wilman’s eye fell naturally on the central figure of the
group, Geo Lummis.

“Ah!” he exclaimed, “I was right: there _is_ water in your well!”
for Geo was dripping, and the water was running off his clothes
and trickling slowly away on the dry soil.

“Indeed there is sir, and more’n I cared about!” said Geo
dubiously.

“I recognize you,” said the dowser, smiling. “You are the young
man who followed me with Mr. Barlow on the search.”

“Yes, sir,” said Geo quietly, and shivering as he spoke.

“You’re cold, boy,” said Martin. “Hev some a’ th’ doctor’s
stuff,” and he handed a glass of the egg-flip to him. Geo drank
it off, and wrung out his trousers.

“Can’t we disperse the crowd now?” said Mr. Rutland to the
constables; “I should like to get him away.”

“Not yet awhile, sir,” said the constable, with a knowing look.
“They’re taking round the hat for him, and he deserve it, that he
do,” he added emphatically. “Best leave ’em a few minutes, if
you’ve no objection sir.”

Mr. Rutland had no objection, but Geo himself _had_.

As a rule, Geo was, as we know, easy-going to a fault, and fell
in too readily with anything and everything that his friends
liked to suggest; but to his own surprise as much as that of any
of the bystanders at these words, which he could not help
overhearing, all his pride rose in revolt. His face flushed with
sudden red, and his voice rang out with a loud and peremptory
_”Stop that!”_

The men who were collecting turned and stared. They were not
accustomed to refusals on occasions of this kind, and Geo’s
sudden bursting into notice astounded them.

“I take it very kind of you all,” roared Geo, as if he had been
accustomed to address a constituency, “but I’d rather you didn’t
give me nothin’. What I’ve done any on you would ha’ done if I
hain’t a-been by, and I’ve liked myself wonderful all this last
week, and I find I’m gettin’ ‘mazin’ partial to work.” (Cheers
and laughter.) “Yes, you may laugh; there do ‘pear a bit funny,
I’ll own, but that’s the truth, and nothin’ but the truth, and
I–I–I mean to _work like a good ‘un!_”

He ended rather lamely, but the crowd took up the cheers again,
and, police or no police, half a dozen strong young fellows broke
through the barrier, hoisted Geo on their shoulders, and carried
him right away up the village to the tramp of many feet and the
tune of “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” and nobody raised a
protest even in the sacred cause of order.

Milly Greenacre stood at her garden gate as the stream went by;
old Jimmy looked out of his bedroom window in his cotton
night-cap, and cheered in his cracked old voice.

All his life long Geo will remember the dim outline of Milly’s
figure, white against the background of the lilac bushes, and the
quaint, whimsical face of the old man peering into the darkness,
and looking at him, for the first time of his life, with
approval. It was only an instantaneous snapshot from the lanterns
carried by some of the party that revealed the picture to him,
but it was photographed for ever on his brain, and it was not one
of the least among the pleasurable things Geo looked back to when
all the excitement was over, and he had settled down to steady
work as he said he would.

Continue Reading

THE RESCUE

It was eight o’clock, and the crowd that had come and gone during
the afternoon had now gathered again in force. It was known all
round that the critical moment had arrived. Everything was ready;
the supreme act of bringing the men to the surface alone remained
to be accomplished. The rope was carefully lowered, and the
watchers held their breath.

For some minutes the rope dangled, now and then becoming taut for
a moment, and then hanging limp again. It was evident that
something was wrong.

“What is it?” the foreman shouted anxiously.

“We can’t do it,” came a voice from the bottom.

“We’re too stiff; we can’t get hold.”

There was a silence for what seemed an interminable space after
these words.

“Some one must go down to them,” said the foreman slowly, his own
face growing very white. He knew that whoever went down might be
passing to instant death; for though everything that could be
done had been done to render the passage safe, yet he had hoped
against hope that the necessity of a passage _down_ would be
avoided. He was a great stout fellow himself, and not so active
as Hayes, who he had trusted, would squeeze himself through.

During that pause the workmen looked questioningly at each other,
and no one read in his mate’s face any desire to try the
dangerous experiment. The crowd listened again breathlessly. The
foreman cast an imploring look around.

“Won’t anybody volunteer?” he asked.

“I will.”

It was Geo Lummis who spoke, and a burst of approbation broke
from the bystanders.

It was as well the men below were in ignorance of the immediate
and extreme danger they were suddenly exposed to by the lowering
of a third person into the abyss; for their position was
this:–The woodwork which had fallen over the mouth of the
cylinder had held up the fallen earth when the wall caved in.
This mould was now removed, and by the extraordinary skill and
care of those engaged in the difficult task the woodwork had not
shifted; but it remained to be seen whether the bad passage of a
man working his way down with practically no light go guide him,
and with the chance of dislodging odd pieces that had stuck fast
in their fall, would not bring the whole thing upon their heads
and his own, and, as Hayes put it, “finish the job and have done
with them.”

Geo was fully alive to the danger as he adjusted the rope round
his body, put his foot into the loop, and gave the command to
“lower away.” At first he went down very slowly, and then came
the order to “lower faster,” and the crowd grasped the welcome
fact that there was no insuperable obstruction in the cylinder.




For a short space of time there was an ominous silence, and then
a closed lamp was let down, and the foreman’s face cleared. One
part of the difficulty had been surmounted; he began to feel more
confident of success.

In the meantime Geo had reached the bottom, and found the men
supporting each other as best they could, but stiff and chilled
with their long immersion in three feet of water.

Hayes tried to raise a feeble cheer, but Chapman was past any
attempt at cheerfulness. He had sunk into a sort of sullen
apathy. Neither of them was capable of helping himself. At first
both men wanted to come up at once, and Geo found himself
suddenly confronted with an unforeseen difficulty. Chapman was
obviously delirious, and Hayes was showing signs of losing his
temper.

_”One at a time,”_said Geo decidedly. “Can’t you see there’s no
room for two?”

“Well,” said Hayes at last, “you can send up him; he’s pretty
nigh done for, and he’ve got a missus and little ‘uns. Only hurry
up and due it.”

Geo lost no time in securing Chapman as best he could, and with a
stern command to him (for he seemed to have completely lost his
nerve) to hold on tight and keep his body straight, he chucked at
the rope to show all was right, and with a beating heart watched
him being drawn higher and higher, till he had passed safely
through the aperture. Then he turned to Hayes. This was no time
for sentiment, and neither of the men indulged in it.

Hayes had his pipe between his teeth. It had long ago been
guiltless of tobacco, but it was comforting, all the same. He did
not remove it, and he said nothing to Geo, but signified his
gratitude by a nod, and what under happier circumstances might
have been a wink.

When the rope reappeared he seized it, with Geo’s assistance,
made himself fast, and gave the signal for going up.

Geo saw the soles of Hayes’s big boots rise over his own head
with eyes that dilated with something like fear, and a heart that
thumped audibly against his ribs, as for a few moments his own
fate hung in the balance. Hayes’s broad shoulders, even with the
greatest care, might refuse to pass through the aperture without
dislodging some of the fallen timber; such a little would send it
down on his head. It would be a horrible death, for he would see
it coming–coming–coming before it fell, and Geo didn’t want to
die. The possible nearness of death flashed into his mind, and he
scarcely dared look when Hayes reached the hole, and a few broken
straws, loosened by his passage through it, floated down on to
his upturned face. The ominous words, “You’ll cover us up and ha’
done with us,” occurred to him again with terrible persistence.
Minute after minute passed, and the rope did not reappear.
Impossible but horrible thought, were they so much taken up with
Chapman and Hayes that they had forgotten him?

Geo had stepped on to one of the turned-over pails on which the
other men had been standing, and the water had reached up to his
knees when he had given Hayes his parting shove. He now noticed
with surprise that it had suddenly reached considerably over
them. He glanced apprehensively to the sides of the well. It was
perfectly evident that the water had risen. Higher, higher it
crept, till it nearly reached his waist, and then the awful truth
flashed on him. _The springs had begun to work!_

Continue Reading

GEO TO THE FORE AGAIN

All through the middle of the day, till six o’clock, Geo Lummis
slept. At three o’clock Nurse Blunt came over to Mildred and
asked her to go to Mrs. Lummis.

“I wouldn’t trouble her, Mr. Greenacre,” she said, as old Jimmy
began to gabble and grumble, “but I _must_ go to the opposite
side of the of the parish, and Mrs. Lummis is in that stage when
she must be attended to. Your granddaughter will have nothing to
do but give her he brandy and milk at the proper times. She has
done it before, and I can trust her, which is more than I can say
for most of the girls I have had to do with. You’ll have to let
her go.”

So grandfather made no further demur, and Milly changed her
Sunday gown for a work-a-day one, and went off on her errand of
mercy accompanied by the nurse.

“That young Lummis is there dead asleep,” nurse said as they went
along. “Mind you don’t wake him going upstairs; he’s in the room
opposite his mother’s, you know. Not that you need be much afraid
of disturbing him,” she added–“they mostly sleep for hours when
they come off work like that–but when you do hear him moving,
you’d better slip down and get him a cup of tea ready and some
cold meat and bread. I’ve seen to that; it’s in the cupboard to
the right of the stove. He should be at work again by seven.”

“Very well,” said Milly; “I’ll see to it.”

So when Geo woke out of his heavy sleep at six o’clock, he,
through the open window, could hear the kettle singing on the
little stove in the back-house below, and some one moving softly
about. There was a comforting sound about it, and he stretched
his long limbs luxuriously. Just then the church clock struck the
half-hour. He raised himself with a yawn. “Half-past–what was
it?” He reached out for the large silver watch that was in the
pocket of his coat that hung over the chair. It was half-past
six! He flung himself off the bed, dipped his head in a basin of
cold water, rubbed it hard with a rough towel, washed his
earth-stained hands, and strode across the little passage to his
mother’s room. She was sleeping peacefully, and he slipped
quietly downstairs. Milly stood in the little kitchen, a kettle
in her hand, and a tray with a white cloth stood on the table
before her. Geo started with astonishment.

“I thought I should have to wake you at last!” she said shyly, as
he took the kettle from her; “it was getting so late.”

Geo did not answer very relevantly; he was still lost in
astonishment.

“Have you done all this?” he said, pointing to the tray.

“No; nurse got it ready before she went. I am only making the
tea.”

“Well I take it very kind of you, miss,” said Geo heartily.
“P’raps you’ll have a cup yourself?”

Milly was not sorry, and the two sat down in the little kitchen,
which, though hot, was the coolest room in the house–the sun was
on the other side. They looked out on a little garden to the
meadows, in which the grass had begun to grow again. The sound of
the running water seemed cool and inviting.

“That looks nice out there, don’t it?” Geo said, when he had
swallowed his third cup of tea and made havoc of the bread and
meat. “I s’pose you can get your can filled nowadays after the
rain without any help?”

Milly laughed.

“Oh yes, there’s water enough now; I can reach it easily.”

Geo actually looked disappointed.

“I meant I’d ha’ liked to ha’ got it for you,” he said simply.

“There goes the quarter-to,” said Milly for an answer; “you’ve
not got too much time.”

“Time enough to have a look round, if you’ll come,” he said,
getting up and looking down on her shyly from his superior
height.

Milly made no objection, but took up her hat, which she had left
in the inner room, and the two strolled out into the meadows.

Geo pointed to the chimneys of Milly’s home, which could be seen
across the stream, perhaps a quarter of a mile away.

“If you’ll walk up as far as that with me, I could jump across
into your orchard, if you don’t object, and I’ll be punctual at
the well. That’s a lot shorter than goin’ round by the village.”

Milly thought her grandfather would probably object very much,
but she risked it, for she thought a little walk along the
water-side with that “lazy, idle good-for-nothing” would be
rather pleasant. As they went along they talked about the well.
The worst and most dangerous work was to come.

“Some one, you see, must go down after them poor chaps,” Geo
explained. “You see they’ll be so cramped and done up they’ll
never get themselves safe through the opening; for I expect
that’ll have to be a precious small one from what I see when I
left, and you say they’ve not got at ’em yet.”




“No,” said Milly; “my grandfather called round an hour ago, and
he said the hole wasn’t no bigger than what would admit an
ordinary man, and that they were binding it round with straw and
making it as strong as they could, because that man Hayes is so
big they’re frightened he should break it down, and father said
nobody seemed as if they wanted to try it.”

“Not a doubt about that,” said Geo, tightening his lips.

Something in his voice made Milly glance up at him. The look on
his face was the same one that Mr. Rutland had surprised on it a
year ago.

“You’re never going to do it yourself?” she exclaimed
involuntarily.

“Not unless I have to,” Geo answered quietly, and speaking as if
to himself. “But it’s got to be done, and I’m not a married man.
Martin is, and so are the other two.”

Milly did not answer. To those who follow dangerous callings in
all ranks of life such an argument is unanswerable. Milly
understood, and said nothing.

They had reached the gate where Geo had sat and watched Milly
vainly endeavouring to reach the water only a very short time ago
now. The blossom was off the May, of course, but the half-starved
buttercups were enjoying a second season.

“That’s were you stood,” said Geo, following out his own thoughts
as he opened the gate for her to pass through before him. He
nodded across to the overhanging thorn.

“You did take me by surprise then,” said Milly, smiling as she
conjured up the scene.

“And there’s the billy-goat. He’ve got more to eat now than he
had then; but, all the same, I was jealous of him then. I’d ha’
liked to ha’ been in his hide jest for the minute when he was
rubbin’ his head against you, and you was coaxin’ and pettin’ of
him, that I would!”

Geo was getting on and no mistake!

“Well, he’s jealous of you now,” said Milly, with some confusion,
as the animal, recognizing her voice, strained at his chain and
bleated piteously.

What Geo’s next move might have been is unknown, as just at that
critical moment the tiresome church clock boomed out the hour,
and Geo pulled himself together.

“I must go,” he said. “I don’t like to be late on a job like
this,” and before Milly could answer he had sprung across. He
turned and gave her a nod as he picked up his cap, which had
fallen off, and set off running towards the house. Milly waved
her good-bye, and returned slowly through the meadows. The
neglected goat bleated imploringly after her, but she never heard
it.

Continue Reading