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Daddy Darwin’s Dovecot
by [?]


A summer’s afternoon. Early in the summer, and late in the afternoon; with odors and colors deepening, and shadows lengthening, towards evening.

Two gaffers gossiping, seated side by side upon a Yorkshire wall. A wall of sandstone of many colors, glowing redder and yellower as the sun goes down; well cushioned with moss and lichen, and deep set in rank grass on this side, where the path runs, and in blue hyacinths on that side, where the wood is, and where–on the gray and still naked branches of young oaks–sit divers crows, not less solemn than the gaffers, and also gossiping.

One gaffer in work-day clothes, not unpicturesque of form and hue. Gray, home-knit stockings, and coat and knee-breeches of corduroy, which takes tints from Time and Weather as harmoniously as wooden palings do; so that field laborers (like some insects) seem to absorb or mimic the colors of the vegetation round them and of their native soil. That is, on work-days. Sunday-best is a different matter, and in this the other gaffer was clothed. He was dressed like the crows above him, fit excepted: the reason for which was, that he was only a visitor, a revisitor to the home of his youth, and wore his Sunday (and funeral) suit to mark the holiday.

Continuing the path, a stone pack-horse track, leading past a hedge snow-white with may, and down into a little wood, from the depths of which one could hear a brook babbling. Then up across the sunny field beyond, and yet up over another field to where the brow of the hill is crowned by old farm-buildings standing against the sky.

Down this stone path a young man going whistling home to tea. Then staying to bend a swarthy face to the white may to smell it, and then plucking a huge branch on which the blossom lies like a heavy fall of snow, and throwing that aside for a better, and tearing off another and yet another, with the prodigal recklessness of a pauper; and so, whistling, on into the wood with his arms full.

Down the sunny field, as he goes up it, a woman coming to meet him–with her arms full. Filled by a child with a may-white frock, and hair shining with the warm colors of the sandstone. A young woman, having a fair forehead visible a long way off, and buxom cheeks, and steadfast eyes. When they meet he kisses her, and she pulls his dark hair and smooths her own, and cuffs him in country fashion. Then they change burdens, and she takes the may into her apron (stooping to pick up fallen bits), and the child sits on the man’s shoulder, and cuffs and lugs its father as the mother did, and is chidden by her and kissed by him. And all the babbling of their chiding and crowing and laughter comes across the babbling of the brook to the ears of the old gaffers gossiping on the wall.

Gaffer I. spits out an over-munched stalk of meadow soft-grass, and speaks:

“D’ye see yon chap?”

Gaffer II. takes up his hat and wipes it round with a spotted handkerchief (for your Sunday hat is a heating thing for work-day wear), and puts it on, and makes reply:

“Aye. But he beats me. And–see there!–he’s t’first that’s beat me yet. Why, lad! I’ve met young chaps to-day I could ha’ sworn to for mates of mine forty years back–if I hadn’t ha’ been i’t’ churchyard spelling over their fathers’ tumstuns!”

“Aye. There’s a many old standards gone home o’ lately.”

“What do they call him?”

“T’ young chap?”


“They call him–Darwin.”

“Dar–win? I should known a Darwin. They’re old standards, is Darwins. What’s he to Daddy Darwin of t’ Dovecot yonder?”

“He owns t’ Dovecot. Did ye see t’ lass?”

“Aye. Shoo’s his missus, I reckon?”


“What did they call her?”

“Phoebe Shaw they called her. And if she’d been my lass–but that’s nother here nor there, and he’s got t’ Dovecot.”