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From A Cottage In Troy
by [?]

My feet trod on bluebells and red-robins, and now and then crushed the fragrance out of a low-lying spike of gorse. I knew the flowers were there, though in this curious light I could only see them by peering closely. At the foot of the terrace I pulled up and leant over the oak fence that guarded the abrupt drop into the creek.

There was a light just underneath. It came from the deck of the hospital-ship, and showed me two figures standing there–a woman leaning against the bulwarks, and a man beside her. The man had a fiddle under his chin, and was playing “Annie Laurie,” rather slowly and with a deal of sweetness.

When the melody ceased, I craned still further over the oak fence and called down, “Tubal Cain!”

The pair gave a start, and there was some whispering before the answer came up to me.

“Is that you, sir?”

“To be sure,” said I. “What are you two about on board The Gleaner?”

Some more whispering followed, and then Tubal Cain spoke again–

“It doesn’t matter now, sir. We’ve lived aboard here for a week, and to-night’s the end of our honeymooning. If ’tis no liberty sir, Annie’s wishful that you should join us.”

Somehow, the invitation, coming through this mysterious atmosphere, seemed at once natural and happy. The fiddle began again as I stepped away from the fence and went down to get my boat out. In three minutes I was afloat, and a stroke or two brought me to the ship’s ladder. Annie and Tubal Cain stood at the top to welcome me.

But if I had felt no incongruity in paying this respectful visit to my ex-cook and her lover, I own that her appearance made me stare. For, if you please, she was dressed out like a lady, in a gown of pale blue satin trimmed with swansdown–a low-necked gown, too, though she had flung a white shawl over her shoulders. Imagine this and the flood of blue light around us, and you will hardly wonder that, half-way up the ladder, I paused to take breath. Tubal Cain was dressed as usual, and tucking his fiddle under his arm, led me up to shake hands with his bride as if she were a queen. I cannot say if she blushed. Certainly she received me with dignity: and then, inverting a bucket that lay on the deck, seated herself; while Tubal Cain and I sat down on the deck facing her, with our backs against the bulwarks.

“It’s just this, sir,” explained the bridegroom, laying his fiddle across his lap, and speaking as if in answer to a question: “it’s just this:–by trade you know me for a watchmaker, and for a Plymouth Brother by conviction. All the week I’m bending over a counter, and every Sabbath-day I speak in prayer-meeting what I hold, that life’s a dull pilgrimage to a better world. If you ask me, sir, to-night, I ought to say the same. But a man may break out for once; and when so well as on his honeymoon? For a week I’ve been a free heathen: for a week I’ve been hiding here, living with the woman I love in the open air; and night after night for a week Annie here has clothed herself like a woman of fashion. Oh, my God! it has been a beautiful time–a happy beautiful time that ends to-night!”

He set down the fiddle, crooked up a knee and clasped his hands round it, looking at Annie.

“Annie, girl, what is it that we believe till to-morrow morning? You believe–eh?–that ’tis a rare world, full of delights, and with no ugliness in it?”

Annie nodded.

“And you love every soul–the painted woman in the streets no less than your own mother?”

Annie nodded again. “I’d nurse ’em both if they were sick,” she said.