[The scene is the kitchen of a small farm-house above the Walkham River, on the western edge of Dartmoor. The walls, originally of rough granite, have had their asperities smoothed down by many layers of whitewash. The floor is of lime-ash, nicely sanded. From the ceiling–formed of rude, unplaned beams and the planching of the bedroom above–depends a rack crowded with hams and sides of bacon, all wrapped in newspapers. In the window a dozen geraniums are blooming, and beyond them the eye rests on the slope of Sharpitor and the distant ridge of Sheepstor. The fireplace, which faces the window, is deep and capacious, and floored with granite slabs. On these burns a fire of glowing peat, and over the fire hangs a crock of milk in process of scalding. In the ingle behind it sits the relator of this story, drying his knees after a Dartmoor shower. From his seat he can look up the wide chimney and see, beyond the smoke, the sky, and that it is blue again and shining. But he listens to the farmer’s middle-aged sister, who stands at the table by the window, and rolls out a pie-crust as she talks. (The farmer is a widower, and she keeps house for him.) She talks of a small picture–a silhouette executed in black and gold–that adorns the wall-space between the dresser and the tall clock, and directly above the side-table piled with the small library of the house. The portrait is a profile of a young man, somewhat noticeably handsome, in a high-necked coat and white stock collar.]
‘It is none of our family, though it came to us near on a hundred years ago. It came from America. A young gentleman sent it over from Philadelphia to my grandmother, with a letter to say he was married and happy, and would always remember her. Perhaps he did; and, again, perhaps he didn’t. That was the last my grandmother heard of him.
‘But it wasn’t made in America. It was made in the War Prison, over yonder at Princetown, where they keep the convicts now. I’ve heard the man that drew and cut it out was a French sergeant, with only one arm. He had lost the other in the war, and his luck was to be left until the very last draft. He finished it the morning he was released, and he gave it to the young American–Adams, his name was– for a keepsake. The Americans had to stay behind, because their war wasn’t over yet.
‘It came to my grandmother in this way: She was married to my grandfather that owned this very farm, and lived in this very house; and twice a week she would drive over to the prison, to the market that used to be held there every day from before noon till nightfall. Sometimes my grandfather drove with her, but oftener not. She could take care of herself very well.
‘She sold poultry and pork, eggs and butter, and vegetables; lard sometimes, and straw, with other odds and ends. (The prisoners used the straw for plaiting bonnets.) Scores of salesmen used to travel to the prison every day, from Tavistock, Okehampton, Moreton, and all around the Moor: Jews, too, from Plymouth, with slop-clothing. But in all this crowd my grandmother held her own. The turnkeys knew her; the prisoners liked her for her good looks and good temper, and because she always dealt fair; and the agent (as they called the governor in those days) had given orders to set aside a table and trestles for her twice a week, close inside the entrance of the market square, on the side where the bettermost French prisoners lived in a building they called the Petty Caution.