‘Hi!’ Una shouted from the top of the wood-lump, where they had been watching the lane. ‘What are you doing? Why weren’t we told?’
‘They’ve just sent for me,’ Cattiwow answered. ‘There’s a middlin’ big log stacked in the dirt at Rabbit Shaw, and’—he flicked his whip back along the line—‘so they’ve sent for us all.’
Dan and Una threw themselves off the wood-lump almost under black Sailor’s nose. Cattiwow never let them ride the big beam that makes the body of the timber-tug, but they hung on behind while their teeth thuttered.
The Wood road beyond the brook climbs at once into the woods, and you see all the horses’ backs rising, one above another, like moving stairs. Cattiwow strode ahead in his sackcloth woodman’s petticoat, belted at the waist with a leather strap; and when he turned and grinned, his red lips showed under his sackcloth-coloured beard. His cap was sackcloth too, with a flap behind, to keep twigs and bark out of his neck. He navigated the tug among pools of heather-water that splashed in their faces, and through clumps of young birches that slashed at their legs, and when they hit an old toadstooled stump, they never knew whether it would give way in showers of rotten wood, or jar them back again.
At the top of Rabbit Shaw half-a-dozen men and a team of horses stood round a forty-foot oak log in a muddy hollow. The ground about was poached and stoached with sliding hoofmarks, and a wave of dirt was driven up in front of the butt.
‘What did you want to bury her for this way?’ said Cattiwow. He took his broad-axe and went up the log tapping it.
‘She’s sticked fast,’ said ‘Bunny’ Lewknor, who managed the other team.
Cattiwow unfastened the five wise horses from the tug. They cocked their ears forward, looked, and shook themselves.
‘I believe Sailor knows,’ Dan whispered to Una.
‘He do,’ said a man behind them. He was dressed in flour sacks like the others, and he leaned on his broad-axe, but the children, who knew all the wood-gangs, knew he was a stranger. In his size and oily hairiness he might have been Bunny Lewknor’s brother, except that his brown eyes were as soft as a spaniel’s, and his rounded black beard, beginning close up under them, reminded Una of the walrus in ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter.’
‘Don’t he justabout know?’ he said shyly, and shifted from one foot to the other.
‘Yes. “What Cattiwow can’t get out of the woods must have roots growing to her.”’ Dan had heard old Hobden say this a few days before.
At that minute Puck pranced up, picking his way through the pools of black water in the ling.
‘Look out!’ cried Una, jumping forward. ‘He’ll see you, Puck!’
‘Me and Mus’ Robin are pretty middlin’ well acquainted,’ the man answered with a smile that made them forget all about walruses.
‘This is Simon Cheyneys,’ Puck began, and cleared his throat. ‘Shipbuilder of Rye Port; burgess of the said town, and the only—’
‘Oh, look! Look ye! That’s a knowing one,’ said the man.
Cattiwow had fastened his team to the thin end of the log, and was moving them about with his whip till they stood at right angles to it, heading downhill. Then he grunted. The horses took the strain, beginning with Sailor next the log, like a tug-of-war team, and dropped almost to their knees. The log shifted a nail’s breadth in the clinging dirt, with the noise of a giant’s kiss.
‘You’re getting her!’ Simon Cheyneys slapped his knee. ‘Hing on! Hing on, lads, or she’ll master ye! Ah!’
Sailor’s left hind hoof had slipped on a heather-tuft. One of the men whipped off his sack apron and spread it down. They saw Sailor feel for it, and recover. Still the log hung, and the team grunted in despair.
‘Hai!’ shouted Cattiwow, and brought his dreadful whip twice across Sailor’s loins with the crack of a shot-gun. The horse almost screamed as he pulled that extra last ounce which he did not know was in him. The thin end of the log left the dirt and rasped on dry gravel. The butt ground round like a buffalo in his wallow. Quick as an axe-cut, Lewknor snapped on his five horses, and sliding, trampling, jingling, and snorting, they had the whole thing out on the heather.
‘Dat’s the very first time I’ve knowed you lay into Sailor—to hurt him,’ said Lewknor.
‘It is,’ said Cattiwow, and passed his hand over the two wheals. ‘But I’d ha’ laid my own brother open at that pinch. Now we’ll twitch her down the hill a piece—she lies just about right—and get her home by the low road. My team’ll do it, Bunny; you bring the tug along. Mind out!’
He spoke to the horses, who tightened the chains. The great log half rolled over, and slowly drew itself out of sight downhill, followed by the wood-gang and the timber-tug. In half a minute there was nothing to see but the deserted hollow of the torn-up dirt, the birch undergrowth still shaking, and the water draining back into the hoof-prints.
‘Ye heard him?’ Simon Cheyneys asked. ‘He cherished his horse, but he’d ha’ laid him open in that pinch.’
‘Not for his own advantage,’ said Puck quickly. ‘’Twas only to shift the log.’
‘I reckon every man born of woman has his log to shift in the world—if so be you’re hintin’ at any o’ Frankie’s doings. He never hit beyond reason or without reason,’ said Simon.
‘I never said a word against Frankie,’ Puck retorted, with a wink at the children. ‘An’ if I did, do it lie in your mouth to contest my say-so, seeing how you—’
‘Why don’t it lie in my mouth, seeing I was the first which knowed Frankie for all he was?’ The burly sack-clad man puffed down at cool little Puck.
‘Yes, and the first which set out to poison him—Frankie—on the high seas—’
Simon’s angry face changed to a sheepish grin. He waggled his immense hands, but Puck stood off and laughed mercilessly.
‘But let me tell you, Mus’ Robin,’he pleaded.
‘I’ve heard the tale. Tell the children here. Look, Dan! Look, Una!’ —Puck’s straight brown finger levelled like an arrow. ‘There’s the only man that ever tried to poison Sir Francis Drake!’
‘Oh, Mus’ Robin! ’Tidn’t fair. You’ve the ’vantage of us all in your upbringin’s by hundreds o’ years. Stands to nature you know all the tales against every one.’
He turned his soft eyes so helplessly on Una that she cried, ‘Stop ragging him, Puck! You know he didn’t really.’
‘I do. But why are you so sure, little maid?’
‘Because—because he doesn’t look like it,’ said Una stoutly.
‘I thank you,’ said Simon to Una. ‘I—I was always trustable—like with children if you let me alone, you double handful o’ mischief.’ He pretended to heave up his axe on Puck; and then his shyness overtook him afresh.
‘Where did you know Sir Francis Drake?’ said Dan, not liking being called a child.
‘At Rye Port, to be sure,’ said Simon, and seeing Dan’s bewilderment, repeated it.
‘Yes, but look here,’said Dan. ‘“Drake he was a Devon man.” The song says so.’
‘“And ruled the Devon seas,”’ Una went on. ‘That’s what I was thinking—if you don’t mind.’
Simon Cheyneys seemed to mind very much indeed, for he swelled in silence while Puck laughed.
‘Hutt!’ he burst out at last, ‘I’ve heard that talk too. If you listen to them West Country folk, you’ll listen to a pack o’ lies. I believe Frankie was born somewhere out west among the Shires, but his father had to run for it when Frankie was a baby, because the neighbours was wishful to kill him, d’ye see? He run to Chatham, old Parson Drake did, an’ Frankie was brought up in a old hulks of a ship moored in the Medway river, same as it might ha’ been the Rother. Brought up at sea, you might say, before he could walk on land—nigh Chatham in Kent. And ain’t Kent back-door to Sussex? And don’t that make Frankie Sussex? O’ course it do. Devon man! Bah! Those West Country boats they’re always fishin’ in other folks’ water.’
‘I beg your pardon,’ said Dan. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘No call to be sorry. You’ve been misled. I met Frankie at Rye Port when my Uncle, that was the shipbuilder there, pushed me off his wharf-edge on to Frankie’s ship. Frankie had put in from Chatham with his rudder splutted, and a man’s arm—Moon’s that ’ud be—broken at the tiller. “Take this boy aboard an’ drown him,” says my Uncle, “and I’ll mend your rudder-piece for love.”
‘What did your Uncle want you drowned for?’said Una.
‘That was only his fashion of say-so, same as Mus’ Robin. I’d a foolishness in my head that ships could be builded out of iron. Yes—iron ships! I’d made me a liddle toy one of iron plates beat out thin—and she floated a wonder! But my Uncle, bein’ a burgess of Rye, and a shipbuilder, he ’prenticed me to Frankie in the fetchin’ trade, to cure this foolishness.’
‘What was the fetchin’ trade?’ Dan interrupted.
‘Fetchin’ poor Flemishers and Dutchmen out o’ the Low Countries into England. The King o’ Spain, d’ye see, he was burnin’ ’em in those parts, for to make ’em Papishers, so Frankie he fetched ’em away to our parts, and a risky trade it was. His master wouldn’t never touch it while he lived, but he left his ship to Frankie when he died, and Frankie turned her into this fetchin’ trade. Outrageous cruel hard work—on besom-black nights bulting back and forth off they Dutch roads with shoals on all sides, and having to hark out for the frish-frish-frish-like of a Spanish galliwopses’ oars creepin’ up on ye. Frankie ’ud have the tiller and Moon he’d peer forth at the bows, our lantern under his skirts, till the boat we was lookin’ for ’ud blurt up out o’ the dark, and we’d lay hold and haul aboard whoever ’twas—man, woman, or babe—an’ round we’d go again, the wind bewling like a kite in our riggin’s, and they’d drop into the hold and praise God for happy deliverance till they was all sick.
‘I had nigh a year at it, an’ we must have fetched off—oh, a hundred pore folk, I reckon. Outrageous bold, too, Frankie growed to be. Outrageous cunnin’ he was. Once we was as near as nothin’ nipped by a tall ship off Tergoes Sands in a snowstorm. She had the wind of us, and spooned straight before it, shootin’ all bow guns. Frankie fled inshore smack for the beach, till he was atop of the first breakers. Then he hove his anchor out, which nigh tore our bows off, but it twitched us round end-for-end into the wind, d’ye see, an’ we clawed off them sands like a drunk man rubbin’ along a tavern bench. When we could see, the Spanisher was laid flat along in the breakers with the snows whitening on his wet belly. He thought he could go where Frankie went.’
‘What happened to the crew?’ said Una.
‘We didn’t stop,’ Simon answered. ‘There was a very liddle new baby in our hold, and the mother she wanted to get to some dry bed middlin’ quick. We runned into Dover, and said nothing.’
‘Was Sir Francis Drake very much pleased?’
‘Heart alive, maid, he’d no head to his name in those days. He was just a outrageous, valiant, crop-haired, tutt-mouthed boy, roarin’ up an’ down the narrer seas, with his beard not yet quilted out. He made a laughing-stock of everything all day, and he’d hold our lives in the bight of his arm all the besom-black night among they Dutch sands; and we’d ha’ jumped overside to behove him any one time, all of us.’
‘Then why did you try to poison him?’ Una asked wickedly, and Simon hung his head like a shy child.
‘Oh, that was when he set me to make a pudden, for because our cook was hurted. I done my uttermost, but she all fetched adrift like in the bag, an’ the more I biled the bits of her, the less she favoured any fashion o’ pudden. Moon he chawed and chammed his piece, and Frankie chawed and chammed his’n, and—no words to it—he took me by the ear an’ walked me out over the bow-end, an’ him an’ Moon hove the pudden at me on the bowsprit gub by gub, something cruel hard!’ Simon rubbed his hairy cheek.
‘“Nex’ time you bring me anything,” says Frankie, “you bring me cannon-shot an’ I’ll know what I’m getting.” But as for poisonin’—’ He stopped, the children laughed so.
‘Of course you didn’t,’ said Una. ‘Oh, Simon, we do like you!’
‘I was always likeable with children.’ His smile crinkled up through the hair round his eyes. ‘Simple Simon they used to call me through our yard gates.’
‘Did Sir Francis mock you?’ Dan asked.
‘Ah, no. He was gentle-born. Laugh he did—he was always laughing—but not so as to hurt a feather. An’ I loved ’en. I loved ’en before England knew ’en, or Queen Bess she broke his heart.’
‘But he hadn’t really done anything when you knew him, had he?’ Una insisted. ‘Armadas and those things, I mean.’
Simon pointed to the scars and scrapes left by Cattiwow’s great log. ‘You tell me that that good ship’s timber never done nothing against winds and weathers since her up-springing, and I’ll confess ye that young Frankie never done nothing neither. Nothing? He adventured and suffered and made shift on they Dutch sands as much in any one month as ever he had occasion for to do in a half-year on the high seas afterwards. An’ what was his tools? A coaster boat—a liddle box o’ walty plankin’ an’ some few fathom feeble rope held together an’ made able by him sole. He drawed our spirits up in our bodies same as a chimney-towel draws a fire. ’Twas in him, and it comed out all times and shapes.’
‘I wonder did he ever ’magine what he was going to be? Tell himself stories about it?’ said Dan with a flush.
‘I expect so. We mostly do—even when we’re grown. But bein’ Frankie, he took good care to find out beforehand what his fortune might be. Had I rightly ought to tell ’em this piece?’ Simon turned to Puck, who nodded.
‘My Mother, she was just a fair woman, but my Aunt, her sister, she had gifts by inheritance laid up in her,’ Simon began.
‘Oh, that’ll never do,’ cried Puck, for the children stared blankly. ‘Do you remember what Robin promised to the Widow Whitgift so long as her blood and get lasted?” [See ‘Dymchurch Flit’ in Puck of Pook’s Hill.]
‘Yes. There was always to be one of them that could see farther through a millstone than most,’ Dan answered promptly.
‘Well, Simon’s Aunt’s mother,’ said Puck slowly, ‘married the Widow’s blind son on the Marsh, and Simon’s Aunt was the one chosen to see farthest through millstones. Do you understand?’
‘That was what I was gettin’ at,’ said Simon, ‘but you’re so desperate quick. My Aunt she knew what was comin’ to people. My Uncle being a burgess of Rye, he counted all such things odious, and my Aunt she couldn’t be got to practise her gifts hardly at all, because it hurted her head for a week after-wards; but when Frankie heard she had ’em, he was all for nothin’ till she foretold on him—till she looked in his hand to tell his fortune, d’ye see? One time we was at Rye she come aboard with my other shirt and some apples, and he fair beazled the life out of her about it.
‘“Oh, you’ll be twice wed, and die childless,” she says, and pushes his hand away.
‘“That’s the woman’s part,” he says. “What’ll come to me—to me?” an’ he thrusts it back under her nose.
‘“Gold—gold, past belief or counting,” she says. “Let go o’ me, lad.”
‘“Sink the gold!” he says. “What’ll I do, mother?” He coaxed her like no woman could well withstand. I’ve seen him with ’em—even when they were sea-sick.
‘“If you will have it,” she says at last, “you shall have it. You’ll do a many things, and eating and drinking with a dead man beyond the world’s end will be the least of them. For you’ll open a road from the East unto the West, and back again, and you’ll bury your heart with your best friend by that road-side, and the road you open none shall shut so long as you’re let lie quiet in your grave.”
[The old lady’s prophecy is in a fair way to come true, for now the Panama Canal is finished, one end of it opens into the very bay where Sir Francis Drake was buried. So ships are taken through the Canal, and the road round Cape Horn which Sir Francis opened is very little used.]
‘“And if I’m not?” he says.
‘“Why, then,” she says, “Sim’s iron ships will be sailing on dry land. Now ha’ done with this foolishness. Where’s Sim’s shirt?”
‘He couldn’t fetch no more out of her, and when we come up from the cabin, he stood mazed-like by the tiller, playing with a apple. ‘“My Sorrow!” says my Aunt; “d’ye see that? The great world lying in his hand, liddle and round like a apple.”
‘“Why, ’tis one you gived him,” I says.
‘“To be sure,” she says. “’Tis just a apple,” and she went ashore with her hand to her head. It always hurted her to show her gifts.
Him and me puzzled over that talk plenty. It sticked in his mind quite extravagant. The very next time we slipped out for some fetchin’ trade, we met Mus’ Stenning’s boat over by Calais sands; and he warned us that the Spanishers had shut down all their Dutch ports against us English, and their galliwopses was out picking up our boats like flies off hogs’ backs. Mus’ Stenning he runs for Shoreham, but Frankie held on a piece, knowin’ that Mus Stenning was jealous of our good trade. Over by Dunkirk a great gor-bellied Spanisher, with the Cross on his sails, came rampin’ at us. We left him. We left him all they bare seas to conquest in.
‘“Looks like this road was going to be shut pretty soon,” says Frankie, humourin’ her at the tiller. “I’ll have to open that other one your Aunt foretold of.”
‘“The Spanisher’s crowdin’ down on us middlin’ quick,” I says. No odds,” says Frankie, “he’ll have the inshore tide against him. Did your Aunt say I was to be quiet in my grave for ever?”
‘“Till my iron ships sailed dry land,” I says.
‘“That’s foolishness,” he says. “Who cares where Frankie Drake makes a hole in the water now or twenty years from now?”
‘The Spanisher kept muckin’ on more and more canvas. I told him so.
‘“He’s feelin’ the tide,” was all he says. “If he was among Tergoes Sands with this wind, we’d be picking his bones proper. I’d give my heart to have all their tall ships there some night before a north gale, and me to windward. There’d be gold in my hands then. Did your Aunt say she saw the world settin’ in my hand, Sim?”
Yes, but ’twas a apple,” says I, and he laughed like he always did at me. “Do you ever feel minded to jump overside and be done with everything?” he asks after a while.
‘“No. What water comes aboard is too wet as ’tis,” I says. “The Spanisher’s going about.”
‘“I told you,” says he, never looking back. “He’ll give us the Pope’s Blessing as he swings. Come down off that rail. There’s no knowin’ where stray shots may hit.” So I came down off the rail, and leaned against it, and the Spanisher he ruffled round in the wind, and his port-lids opened all red inside.
‘“Now what’ll happen to my road if they don’t let me lie quiet in my grave?” he says. “Does your Aunt mean there’s two roads to be found and kept open—or what does she mean? I don’t like that talk about t’other road. D’you believe in your iron ships, Sim?”
‘He knowed I did, so I only nodded, and he nodded back again. ‘“Anybody but me ’ud call you a fool, Sim,” he says. “Lie down. Here comes the Pope’s Blessing!”
‘The Spanisher gave us his broadside as he went about. They all fell short except one that smack-smooth hit the rail behind my back, an’ I felt most won’erful cold.
‘“Be you hit anywhere to signify?” he says. “Come over to me.”
‘“O Lord, Mus’ Drake,” I says, “my legs won’t move,” and that was the last I spoke for months.’
‘Why? What had happened?’ cried Dan and Una together.
‘The rail had jarred me in here like.’ Simon reached behind him clumsily. ‘From my shoulders down I didn’t act no shape. Frankie carried me piggyback to my Aunt’s house, and I lay bed-rid and tongue-tied while she rubbed me day and night, month in and month out. She had faith in rubbing with the hands. P’raps she put some of her gifts into it, too. Last of all, something loosed itself in my pore back, and lo! I was whole restored again, but kitten-feeble.
‘“Where’s Frankie?” I says, thinking I’d been a longish while abed.
‘“Down-wind amongst the Dons—months ago,” says my Aunt.
‘“When can I go after ’en?” I says.
‘“Your duty’s to your town and trade now,” says she. “Your Uncle he died last Michaelmas and he’ve left you and me the yard. So no more iron ships, mind ye.”
‘“What?” I says. “And you the only one that beleft in ’em!”
‘“Maybe I do still,” she says, “but I’m a woman before I’m a Whitgift, and wooden ships is what England needs us to build. I lay on ye to do so.”
‘That’s why I’ve never teched iron since that day—not to build a toy ship of. I’ve never even drawed a draft of one for my pleasure of evenings.’ Simon smiled down on them all.
‘Whitgift blood is terrible resolute—on the she-side,’ said Puck.
‘Didn’t You ever see Sir Francis Drake again?’Dan asked.
‘With one thing and another, and my being made a burgess of Rye, I never clapped eyes on him for the next twenty years. Oh, I had the news of his mighty doings the world over. They was the very same bold, cunning shifts and passes he’d worked with beforetimes off they Dutch sands, but, naturally, folk took more note of them. When Queen Bess made him knight, he sent my Aunt a dried orange stuffed with spiceries to smell to. She cried outrageous on it. She blamed herself for her foretellings, having set him on his won’erful road; but I reckon he’d ha’ gone that way all withstanding. Curious how close she foretelled it! The world in his hand like an apple, an’ he burying his best friend, Mus’ Doughty—’
‘Never mind for Mus’ Doughty,’ Puck interrupted. ‘Tell us where you met Sir Francis next.’
‘Oh, ha! That was the year I was made a burgess of Rye—the same year which King Philip sent his ships to take England without Frankie’s leave.’
‘The Armada!’ said Dan contentedly. ‘I was hoping that would come.’
‘I knowed Frankie would never let ’em smell London smoke, but plenty good men in Rye was two-three minded about the upshot. ’Twas the noise of the gun-fire tarrified us. The wind favoured it our way from off behind the Isle of Wight. It made a mutter like, which growed and growed, and by the end of a week women was shruckin’ in the streets. Then they come slidderin’ past Fairlight in a great smoky pat vambrished with red gun-fire, and our ships flyin’ forth and duckin’ in again. The smoke-pat sliddered over to the French shore, so I knowed Frankie was edgin’ the Spanishers toward they Dutch sands where he was master. I says to my Aunt, “The smoke’s thinnin’ out. I lay Frankie’s just about scrapin’ his hold for a few last rounds shot. ’Tis time for me to go.”
‘“Never in them clothes,” she says. “Do on the doublet I bought you to be made burgess in, and don’t you shame this day.”
‘So I mucked it on, and my chain, and my stiffed Dutch breeches and all.
‘“I be comin’, too,” she says from her chamber, and forth she come pavisandin’ like a peacock—stuff, ruff, stomacher and all. She was a notable woman.’
‘But how did you go? You haven’t told us,’ said Una.
‘In my own ship—but half-share was my Aunt’s. In the Antony of Rye, to be sure; and not empty-handed. I’d been loadin’ her for three days with the pick of our yard. We was ballasted on cannon-shot of all three sizes; and iron rods and straps for his carpenters; and a nice passel of clean three-inch oak planking and hide breech-ropes for his cannon, and gubs of good oakum, and bolts o’ canvas, and all the sound rope in the yard. What else could I ha’ done? I knowed what he’d need most after a week’s such work. I’m a shipbuilder, little maid.
‘We’d a fair slant o’ wind off Dungeness, and we crept on till it fell light airs and puffed out. The Spanishers was all in a huddle over by Calais, and our ships was strawed about mending ’emselves like dogs lickin’ bites. Now and then a Spanisher would fire from a low port, and the ball ’ud troll across the flat swells, but both sides was finished fightin’ for that tide.
‘The first ship we foreslowed on, her breastworks was crushed in, an’ men was shorin’ ’em up. She said nothing. The next was a black pinnace, his pumps clackin’ middling quick, and he said nothing. But the third, mending shot-holes, he spoke out plenty . I asked him where Mus’ Drake might be, and a shiny-suited man on the poop looked down into us, and saw what we carried.
‘“Lay alongside you!” he says. “We’ll take that all.”
‘“’Tis for Mus’ Drake,” I says, keeping away lest his size should lee the wind out of my sails.
‘“Hi! Ho! Hither! We’re Lord High Admiral of England! Come alongside, or we’ll hang ye,” he says.
‘’Twas none of my affairs who he was if he wasn’t Frankie, and while he talked so hot I slipped behind a green-painted ship with her top-sides splintered. We was all in the middest of ’em then.
‘“Hi! Hoi!” the green ship says. “Come alongside, honest man, and I’ll buy your load. I’m Fenner that fought the seven Portugals—clean out of shot or bullets. Frankie knows me.”
‘“Ay, but I don’t,” I says, and I slacked nothing.
‘He was a masterpiece. Seein’ I was for goin’ on, he hails a Bridport hoy beyond us and shouts, “George! Oh, George! Wing that duck. He’s fat!” An’ true as we’re all here, that squatty Bridport boat rounds to acrost our bows, intendin’ to stop us by means o’ shooting.
‘My Aunt looks over our rail. “George,” she says, “you finish with your enemies afore you begin on your friends.”
‘Him that was laying the liddle swivel-gun at us sweeps off his hat an’ calls her Queen Bess, and asks if she was selling liquor to pore dry sailors. My Aunt answered him quite a piece. She was a notable woman.
‘Then he come up—his long pennant trailing overside—his waistcloths and netting tore all to pieces where the Spanishers had grappled, and his sides black-smeared with their gun-blasts like candle-smoke in a bottle. We hooked on to a lower port and hung.
‘“Oh, Mus’ Drake! Mus’ Drake!” I calls up.
‘He stood on the great anchor cathead, his shirt open to the middle, and his face shining like the sun.
‘“Why, Sim!” he says. just like that—after twenty year! “Sim,” he says, “what brings you?”
‘“Pudden,” I says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
‘“You told me to bring cannon-shot next time, an’ I’ve brought ’em. “
‘He saw we had. He ripped out a fathom and a half o’ brimstone Spanish, and he swung down on our rail, and he kissed me before all his fine young captains. His men was swarming out of the lower ports ready to unload us. When he saw how I’d considered all his likely wants, he kissed me again.
‘“Here’s a friend that sticketh closer than a brother!” he says. “Mistress,” he says to my Aunt, “all you foretold on me was true. I’ve opened that road from the East to the West, and I’ve buried my heart beside it. “
‘“I know,” she says. “That’s why I be come.”
‘“But ye never foretold this”; he points to both they great fleets.
‘“This don’t seem to me to make much odds compared to what happens to a man,” she says. “Do it?”
‘“Certain sure a man forgets to remember when he’s proper mucked up with work. Sim,” he says to me, “we must shift every living Spanisher round Dunkirk corner on to our Dutch sands before morning. The wind’ll come out of the North after this calm—same as it used—and then they’re our meat.”
‘“Amen,” says I. “I’ve brought you what I could scutchel up of odds and ends. Be you hit anywhere to signify?”
‘“Oh, our folk’ll attend to all that when we’ve time,” he says. He turns to talk to my Aunt, while his men flew the stuff out of our hold. I think I saw old Moon amongst ’em, but he was too busy to more than nod like. Yet the Spanishers was going to prayers with their bells and candles before we’d cleaned out the Antony. Twenty-two ton o’ useful stuff I’d fetched him.
‘“Now, Sim,” says my Aunt, “no more devouring of Mus’ Drake’s time. He’s sending us home in the Bridport hoy. I want to speak to them young springalds again.”
‘“But here’s our ship all ready and swept,” I says.
‘“Swep’ an’ garnished,” says Frankie. “I’m going to fill her with devils in the likeness o’ pitch and sulphur. We must shift the Dons round Dunkirk comer, and if shot can’t do it, we’ll send down fireships.”
‘“I’ve given him my share of the Antony,” says my Aunt. “What do you reckon to do about yours?”
‘“She offered it,” said Frankie, laughing.
‘“She wouldn’t have if I’d overheard her,” I says; “because I’d have offered my share first.” Then I told him how the Antony’s sails was best trimmed to drive before the wind, and seeing he was full of occupations we went acrost to that Bridport hoy, and left him.
‘But Frankie was gentle-born, d’ye see, and that sort they never overlook any folks’ dues.
‘When the hoy passed under his stern, he stood bare-headed on the poop same as if my Aunt had been his Queen, and his musicianers played “Mary Ambree” on their silver trumpets quite a long while. Heart alive, little maid! I never meaned to make you look sorrowful!”
Bunny Lewknor in his sackcloth petticoats burst through the birch scrub wiping his forehead.
‘We’ve got the stick to rights now! She’ve been a whole hatful o’ trouble. You come an’ ride her home, Mus’ Dan and Miss Una!’
They found the proud wood-gang at the foot of the slope, with the log double-chained on the tug.
‘Cattiwow, what are you going to do with it?’said Dan, as they straddled the thin part.
‘She’s going down to Rye to make a keel for a Lowestoft fishin’-boat, I’ve heard. Hold tight!’
Cattiwow cracked his whip, and the great log dipped and tilted, and leaned and dipped again, exactly like a stately ship upon the high seas.