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Not Here, O Appollo!
by [?]

“By six months,” said the Senior Tutor. “I first visited the Cove in July, 1871, and you were then beginning to clear the ruins. All the village talk still ran on the fire, with speculations on the cause of it.”

“The cause,” said the Vicar, “will never be known. I may say that pretty confidently, having spent more time in guessing than will ever be spent by another man. . . . But since you never saw the old church as it stood, you never saw the Heathen Lovers in the south aisle.”

“Who were they?”

“They were a group of statuary, and a very strange one; executed, as I first believed, in some kind of wax–but, pushing my researches (for the thing interested me) I found the material to be a white soapstone that crops out here and there in the crevices of our serpentine. Indeed, I know to a foot the spot from which the sculptor took it, close on two hundred years ago.”

“It was of no great age, then?”

“No: and yet it bore all the marks of an immense age. For to begin with, it had stood five-and-twenty years in this very garden, exposed to all weathers, and the steatite (as they call it) is of all substances the most friable–is, in fact, the stuff used by tailors under the name of French chalk. Again, when, in 1719, my predecessor, old Vicar Hichens, removed it to the church and set it in the south aisle–or, at any rate, when he died and ceased to protect it–the young men of the parish took to using it for a hatstand, and also to carving their own and their sweethearts’ names upon it during sermon-time. The figures of the sculpture were two; a youth and a maid, recumbent, and naked but for a web of drapery flung across their middles; and they lay on a roughly carved rock, over which the girl’s locks as well as the drapery were made to hang limp, as though dripping with water. . . . One thing more I must tell you, risking derision; that to my ignorance the sculpture proclaimed its age less by these signs of weather and rough usage than by the simplicity of its design, its proportions, the chastity (there’s no other word) of the two figures. They were classical, my dear Dick– what was left of them; Greek, and of the best period.”

The Senior Tutor lit a fresh pipe, and by the flare of the match I saw his eyes twinkling.

“Praxiteles,” he jerked out, between the puffs, “and in the age of Kneller! But proceed, my friend.”

“And do you wait, my scoffer!” The Vicar borrowed the box of matches, lit the candle–which held a steady flame in the still evening air–opened the book, and laid it on his knee while he adjusted his spectacles. “The story is here, entered on a separate leaf of the Register and signed by Vicar Hichens’ own hand. With your leave–for it is brief–I am going to read it through to you. The entry is headed:”

Concerning a group of Statuary now in the S. aisle of Lezardew Parish Church: set there by me in witness of God’s Providence in operation, as of the corruption of man’s heart, and for a warning to sinners to amend their ways.

‘In the year 1694, being the first of my vicariate, there lived in this Parish as hind to the farmer of Vellancoose a young man exceeding comely and tall of stature, of whom (when I came to ask) the people could tell me only that his name was Luke, and that as a child he had been cast ashore from a foreign ship; they said, a Portugal ship. [But the Portugals have swart complexions and are less than ordinary tall, whereas this youth was light-coloured and only brown by sunburn.] Nor could he tell me anything when I questioned him concerning his haveage; which I did upon report that he was courting my housemaiden Grace Pascoe, an honest good girl, whom I was loth to see waste herself upon an unworthy husband. Upon inquiry I could not discover this Luke to be any way unworthy, saving that he was a nameless man and a foreigner and a backward church-goer. He told me with much simplicity that he could not remember to have had any parents; that Farmer Lowry had brought him up from the time he was shipwrecked and ever treated him kindly; and that, as for church-going, he had thought little about it, but would amend in this matter if it would give me pleasure. Which I thought a strange answer. When I went on to hint at his inclination for Grace Pascoe, he confused me by asking, with a look very straight and good-natured, if the girl had ever spoken to me on the matter; to which I was forced to answer that she had not. So he smiled, and I could not further press him.