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Hob’s Tommy
by [?]

The moor was blazing in the sun. Bright gorse flamed above the pale green grass, and little pools flashed white rays up to the sky. Hob’s Tommy stepped out of doors, and took a long look round. He was not impressed by the riot of colour that spread around him; he looked over the pulsing floor of the sea, and thought, “It will be a fine night for the trouting.”

Tommy was a large man, who seemed to shake the ground as he trod. His face was devoid of speculation, and his dull blue eyes looked from under heavy and unamiable brows. His hair was matted, and his mode of dressing his big limbs showed that he was careless of opinion. He was called Hob’s Tommy because the villagers had a fancy for regarding sons as the personal property of the father, and thus a man called Thomas, who happened to be the son of a man called John, never received his surname during his whole life, excepting on the occasions of his baptism and marriage. He was known as Jack’s Tom. If he, in his turn, happened to have a son whom he chose to name Henry, the youth was known as Jack’s Tom’s Harry. Our friend Tommy’s father had been called Hob, and hence the name of the ill-tempered lout who was gazing on the unsullied sea. Tommy watched the green water breaking over the brown sand, and far out at sea he saw the thick haze still brooding low. He knew the evening would be fine, and he knew that he would have a good basket for next day’s market. He put his hands in his pockets, and strolled away from the unsavoury neighbourhood of the Fishers’ Row on to the glistening moor. His eyes were fixed on the ground, and into his mind entered no thought saving calculations about money and drink. Any stranger who had met him walking over the thyme, with his fierce face bent downward, would have gained a bad notion of the local population. A sudden jangle of bells filled the air, and the ringers went to work gaily. Quaint farmers went along dressed in creased suits of clothing; quiet country women nodded as they passed, but Tommy heeded none of his neighbours. He was a brutal man, whose presence seemed an insult to the holy morning. He walked mechanically on over the moor, and let the sound of church bells die away in his ear. Presently he came to a beautiful slope, which was starred with pink geraniums. The sun shone warmly upon it, and a lark flashed from amid the flowers with a sound of joy, and carried his rejoicing up into the sky. Tommy thought, “This is a nice warm place to lie down on. I’ll light my pipe.” And he stretched himself amid the tender flowers. The glow and the colour of the life around him, and the sparkle of the sea, seemed at last to make some dim suggestion to his mind. He said, half aloud, “Wonder what I’m here for. I don’t know. I only wish it was seven o’clock and the sun droppin’;–he was a lazy man that invented Sunday;–another day I’ll away to the fishin’ i’ the mornin’, and the folks can say just what they like. I’m not goin’ to waste my time and my baccy lyin’ on sand hills.” So he smoked on until the sun reached its greatest height, and the afternoon shadows lay like dark pansies in the hollows.

Now it happened that in the neighbouring village it was usual to hold an afternoon service and an evening service in the Wesleyan chapel. The services followed close on each other, and there was great competition among the villagers as to who should give the preacher his tea in the interval. Tommy presently found himself looking sleepily at a man who was bent over the moor to attend the chapel. If you had met the new-comer you would have been compelled to look back at him. He was tall and spare. His shoulders were very broad, and he walked with a kind of military tread. His face was good to see; the calm and joy of the bright day seemed to have entered his soul, and his eyes looked as though he were thinking of things too deep for words. His mouth was sternly closed, and yet despite its tension the delicate lines at the corners seemed to speak of humour and tenderness. His hat was thrown back a little, and showed a large forehead marked by slight lines, which spoke not so much of temper as of placid musing. He was murmuring to himself as he walked, and he seemed to be in communion with a multitude of exquisite thoughts. When he reached the bank where the geraniums grew, his placidity quickened into alertness as he saw the figure of Tom stretched upon the grass. He stepped up to the lounger and said, in a low cheery tone–