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A Man Of Devon
by [?]




“MOOR, 20th July.

…. It is quiet here, sleepy, rather–a farm is never quiet; the sea, too, is only a quarter of a mile away, and when it’s windy, the sound of it travels up the combe; for distraction, you must go four miles to Brixham or five to Kingswear, and you won’t find much then. The farm lies in a sheltered spot, scooped, so to speak, high up the combe side–behind is a rise of fields, and beyond, a sweep of down. You have the feeling of being able to see quite far, which is misleading, as you soon find out if you walk. It is true Devon country-hills, hollows, hedge-banks, lanes dipping down into the earth or going up like the sides of houses, coppices, cornfields, and little streams wherever there’s a place for one; but the downs along the cliff, all gorse and ferns, are wild. The combe ends in a sandy cove with black rock on one side, pinkish cliffs away to the headland on the other, and a coastguard station. Just now, with the harvest coming on, everything looks its richest, the apples ripening, the trees almost too green. It’s very hot, still weather; the country and the sea seem to sleep in the sun. In front of the farm are half-a-dozen pines that look as if they had stepped out of another land, but all round the back is orchard as lush, and gnarled, and orthodox as any one could wish. The house, a long, white building with three levels of roof, and splashes of brown all over it, looks as if it might be growing down into the earth. It was freshly thatched two years ago–and that’s all the newness there is about it; they say the front door, oak, with iron knobs, is three hundred years old at least. You can touch the ceilings with your hand. The windows certainly might be larger–a heavenly old place, though, with a flavour of apples, smoke, sweetbriar, bacon, honeysuckle, and age, all over it.

The owner is a man called John Ford, about seventy, and seventeen stone in weight–very big, on long legs, with a grey, stubbly beard, grey, watery eyes, short neck and purplish complexion; he is asthmatic, and has a very courteous, autocratic manner. His clothes are made of Harris tweed–except on Sundays, when he puts on black–a seal ring, and a thick gold cable chain. There’s nothing mean or small about John Ford; I suspect him of a warm heart, but he doesn’t let you know much about him. He’s a north-country man by birth, and has been out in New Zealand all his life. This little Devonshire farm is all he has now. He had a large “station” in the North Island, and was much looked up to, kept open house, did everything, as one would guess, in a narrow-minded, large-handed way. He came to grief suddenly; I don’t quite know how. I believe his only son lost money on the turf, and then, unable to face his father, shot himself; if you had seen John Ford, you could imagine that. His wife died, too, that year. He paid up to the last penny, and came home, to live on this farm. He told me the other night that he had only one relation in the world, his granddaughter, who lives here with him. Pasiance Voisey–old spelling for Patience, but they pronounce, it Pash-yence–is sitting out here with me at this moment on a sort of rustic loggia that opens into the orchard. Her sleeves are rolled up, and she’s stripping currants, ready for black currant tea. Now and then she rests her elbows on the table, eats a berry, pouts her lips, and, begins again. She has a round, little face; a long, slender body; cheeks like poppies; a bushy mass of black-brown hair, and dark-brown, almost black, eyes; her nose is snub; her lips quick, red, rather full; all her motions quick and soft. She loves bright colours. She’s rather like a little cat; sometimes she seems all sympathy, then in a moment as hard as tortoise-shell. She’s all impulse; yet she doesn’t like to show her feelings; I sometimes wonder whether she has any. She plays the violin.