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A Man Of Devon
by [?]

It’s queer to see these two together, queer and rather sad. The old man has a fierce tenderness for her that strikes into the very roots of him. I see him torn between it, and his cold north-country horror of his feelings; his life with her is an unconscious torture to him. She’s a restless, chafing thing, demure enough one moment, then flashing out into mocking speeches or hard little laughs. Yet she’s fond of him in her fashion; I saw her kiss him once when he was asleep. She obeys him generally–in a way as if she couldn’t breathe while she was doing it. She’s had a queer sort of education–history, geography, elementary mathematics, and nothing else; never been to school; had a few lessons on the violin, but has taught herself most of what she knows. She is well up in the lore of birds, flowers, and insects; has three cats, who follow her about; and is full of pranks. The other day she called out to me, “I’ve something for you. Hold out your hand and shut your eyes!” It was a large, black slug! She’s the child of the old fellow’s only daughter, who was sent home for schooling at Torquay, and made a runaway match with one Richard Voisey, a yeoman farmer, whom she met in the hunting-field. John Ford was furious–his ancestors, it appears, used to lead ruffians on the Cumberland side of the Border–he looked on “Squire” Rick Voisey as a cut below him. He was called “Squire,” as far as I can make out, because he used to play cards every evening with a parson in the neighbourhood who went by the name of “Devil” Hawkins. Not that the Voisey stock is to be despised. They have had this farm since it was granted to one Richard Voysey by copy dated 8th September, 13 Henry VIII. Mrs. Hopgood, the wife of the bailiff–a dear, quaint, serene old soul with cheeks like a rosy, withered apple, and an unbounded love of Pasiance–showed me the very document.

“I kape it,” she said. “Mr. Ford be tu proud–but other folks be proud tu. ‘Tis a pra-aper old fam’ly: all the women is Margery, Pasiance, or Mary; all the men’s Richards an’ Johns an’ Rogers; old as they apple-trees.”

Rick Voisey was a rackety, hunting fellow, and “dipped” the old farm up to its thatched roof. John Ford took his revenge by buying up the mortgages, foreclosing, and commanding his daughter and Voisey to go on living here rent free; this they dutifully did until they were both killed in a dog-cart accident, eight years ago. Old Ford’s financial smash came a year later, and since then he’s lived here with Pasiance. I fancy it’s the cross in her blood that makes her so restless, and irresponsible: if she had been all a native she’d have been happy enough here, or all a stranger like John Ford himself, but the two strains struggling for mastery seem to give her no rest. You’ll think this a far-fetched theory, but I believe it to be the true one. She’ll stand with lips pressed together, her arms folded tight across her narrow chest, staring as if she could see beyond the things round her; then something catches her attention, her eyes will grow laughing, soft, or scornful all in a minute! She’s eighteen, perfectly fearless in a boat, but you can’t get her to mount a horse–a sore subject with her grandfather, who spends most of his day on a lean, half-bred pony, that carries him like a feather, for all his weight.

They put me up here as a favour to Dan Treffry; there’s an arrangement of L. s. d. with Mrs. Hopgood in the background. They aren’t at all well off; this is the largest farm about, but it doesn’t bring them in much. To look at John Ford, it seems incredible he should be short of money–he’s too large.