Gabriel Galloway

SUMMARY. — This is the story of three generations of an Irish family. In the small, crumbling village of Castlerampart, the most prominent man is Theodore Coniffe, the village landlord. He is as penny-pinching as his wife Katherine is vain. Their two daughters, Theresa and Sara, grow up to be young ladies of property, if not of good looks. While they are still in their teens, Katherine dies in giving birth to her third daughter, Lily, who becomes the timid Cinderella of the household.



THE first thing that Gabriel saw, on his return one evening from Draghead, was the new servant girl. Onny Soraghan had often seen the Coniffe house from the street, and now, having done the few jobs that Miss Coniffe had given her on her arrival, she had run to the hall door to see how Clewe Street looked from the Coniffe house. She appeared in the doorway at the same moment that Gabriel turned into the street, and he caught a glimpse of a tawny head, a bright red dress, and a rosy face blackened already on one cheek by a streak of soot. At sight of him, however, the girl ran back into the hall; and in her concern to shut the door behind her, she forgot that she was slamming it in Gabriel’s face.

When Gabriel opened the door for himself a moment later, the girl was standing on a chair in the hall, taking down the globe from the hanging lamp, and trimming the wick for the evening. Theresa Coniffe was coming down the stairs.

She yielded to a rare impulse and made Gabriel a concession. “Gabriel,” she said, leave out your shoes tonight. Onny will give them a rub with the brush in the morning before you get up. You have enough to do in the mornings in order to get out in time for the early train.” She turned to Onny. “Hurry up with those lamps, she said. “ Lamps must be ready before dark. Your common sense should tell you that — if you have any. And when you have finished the lamps, be sure you clean your hands carefully before you set the table.”

“How is Larry?” Gabriel asked Onny on an impulse, as he got around the chair, which she held awkwardly with the legs sticking out in his way.

Onny said nothing. But that his remark had given her pleasure was clear from the way she bent her head and giggled. She regarded his question about her brother Larry as a compliment to herself that needed no answer.

Gabriel, however, would have liked to hear news of Larry, who had recently got a job on the railroad and was several stations down the line. He went into the back parlor.

He thought Larry’s sister was a silly girl. Yet he hated to hear his aunt Theresa ordering her about as she did. “Don’t use that cloth on the floor — that is the dishcloth. Have you no eyes in your head? Don’t touch that plate until you wipe your hands. What kind of habits have you? Lift that bucket up and never leave it there in the passageway again. Do you want someone to trip over it and be killed?”

One evening, about a week after the coming of Onny to Clewe Street, Gabriel found his aunts, already dressed for the street, going round securing the window fasteners and closing the doors in preparation for going out to evening devotions. Sara pushed the back door several times with her gloved hand, to make sure that the bolt was adequate.

“What delayed you tonight?” said his aunt Theresa from the back parlor. “You’ll be late for church.”

“I was looking at some old books,” he said, lamely.

“More shame for you! That’s a fine admission to make. I suppose you had no tea.”

“Oh, it’s all right. I’m not hungry,” said Gabriel.

His aunt drew off her gloves and laid her prayer book on the sideboard.

“Don’t stay home on my account. Aunt Theresa, please,” he begged. “I can wait till we come back, or Onny can get me something.”

“Onny will do nothing of the kind. I know my duty to servants as well as my own, although she’d stay fast enough if she was allowed. She’d sooner spend her time on her knees scrubbing than praying.”

Gabriel put his hand on her arm. “I’d rather not eat anything. I don’t want to be late for church myself.”

His aunt Sara, who had been standing in a state of nervous stiffness, relaxed. She pulled off her gloves and ran over to the table.

“You’ll have time to have a glass of milk, Gabriel. I’ll get you a glass of milk and some biscuits.”

“Oh, I can wait.”said Gabriel.

“No, no,” said Sara, pouring milk into a tumbler. “God does not expect us to do anything unreasonable. He does not expect us to jeopardize our health.”

She put the cold glass into his hand, and his hand tightened on it with irritation at the intimacy of her words. He lifted the glass and began to drink the milk.

“There’s no need to wait for me. I can run and overtake you,” he said.

“That’s right,” said Sara. “ We can go on ahead. Are you ready, Theresa?”

She put on her gloves again, and straightened her hat once more; and never doubting that Theresa was simply waiting for her, she started toward the hall. But as Sara opened the hall door, to Gabriel’s dismay his aunt Theresa continued to stand near the sideboard. Was she going to wait for him? He gulped the milk with distaste. But before he had come to the bottom of the glass, Theresa was off down the hall, in the direction of the kitchen. “This is going too far!” he heard her exclaim.

“ Don’t lose your temper, Theresa,” cried Sara, running after her. Gabriel lowered the glass in surprise; and then, as Theresa lifted her umbrella and smote upon the door of the kitchen, Sara ran into the back parlor to Gabriel.

“It’s that dreadful Onny!” she said. “She keeps us late. I do believe she does it out of spite.” And through the frightened patter of Sara’s words the cascade of blows from Theresa’s umbrella upon the door could be heard distinctly.

“The dreadful girl!” said Sara again.

There was the sound of more rapping. “Onny Soraghan! Open this door at once! What do you mean by delaying us in this manner?

Gabriel listened. He turned to the frightened Sara.

“Why does she lock the door?” he said.

Sara straightened up. She coughed. She assumed a look of delicacy and then she lowered her voice.

“She washes herself at the sink,” she said, modestly and doubtfully, but as Gabriel roared out in a loud laugh she spoke more confidentially. “I think it’s nice of her to want to clean herself before going to the church, but we believe she makes it an excuse for dawdling and delaying. Theresa says she is not content with being late herself, she wants to keep others late as well.”

Sara’s voice was drowned once more by Theresa’s rapping on the kitchen door.

“If you’re ashamed to be seen with the sweat of honest work on your face, you should stay at home. It isn’t to waste our soap and water that we pay you your wages, Miss Soraghan.”

“I’m comiug, ma’am.” Onny’s voice sounded frail and far away, as if she were bending down and her voice had to travel through curves and pathways as well as through the wood of the door.

“She changes her stockings, I think,” said Sara, confidingly. “That’s going a little too far. Who is to see what she has on her in the dark of the church? It’s not about her legs she should be thinking.”

Just then the door opened and Theresa stood aside like a jailer to let out a prisoner; and as Onny slunk out abashed, the first thing that Gabriel looked at was her legs, and he laughed at the bright yellow sheen that came from the cheap stockings. It was almost impossible for anyone with sight in his eye to avoid seeing that they covered shapely limbs. He turned to make a joke with his aunt Sara, but when he looked at her he was startled for a second by the similarity to Theresa that was creeping, with age, across her face. Upon both faces as they stared at Onny there was the same expression of indignation. Age was souring Sara.

He looked away in distaste and looked back at the offending Onny as she stole out the hall door, her blue coat tight around her, as if in shutting out the cold she shut out also the criticism that was showering down upon her from Theresa Coniffe’s tongue. The yellow-clad legs flashed as she went down the hall.

“ Hurry up! Hurry up! ” cried Theresa, prodding the girl with her umbrella. But an awkward slowness of movement was imposed on Onny, either by embarrassment or by defiance, and not until she had stepped over the cold threshold into the night air did she make any real effort to hasten. Then, poised for a moment on the threshold, she threw a glance backward at the group in the hallway; and turning swiftly, she broke into a run, and they could hear her feet in the silence even as the sisters rearranged their clothes with little pats and pulls.

“You’ll overtake us, Gabriel,” they said, and went out banging the door.


GABRIEL listened till the feet died away in the distance. Then he began to smile. Onny’s ignominy in being driven like a heifer by the prodding of Theresa’s umbrella served as a butt for the laughter he could not turn upon his own almost similar position, and he laughed out loud.

Gabriel finished the milk and, taking a pair of gloves from the hall stand, went out the door and turned in the direction of the church.

As he came near the church, the darkness of the evening was splintered by the long shafts of light from the narrow, pointed windows. He went into the churchyard and stood outside the center door looking down the main aisle. All the heads were bent, and it was the moment at which the priest himself bends over before raising the monstrance.

Then he hurried round to the side door, finding his way with difficulty, because his eyes were temporarily dazzled by the blaze of candles on the altar. The shafted windows were so high they cast their light too far for guidance to those on the pathway, and there was no light from the side door. He put his hand on the handle of the door, and then, just as he was about to push it inwards, he glanced up at the sky.

Gabriel took his hand from the doorknob and stared upwards, reluctant to go in. While he was staring upwards, it seemed to him, suddenly, that he was not alone; that he was being watched, if only by the still, small eyes of an animal, the agile eye of a bird, or even the fierce eye of a rat measuring his chances of security before darting across the grass. Gabriel looked around. There was no one in sight. On one headstone there was a graven figure of a human form, lifelike in silhouette against the sky; and although he did not remember having seen it before, he was about to give allowance for some distorting element in the starlight when the figure raised an arm, and all at once the sensation of being watched became a certainty.

“Who is there?” said Gabriel, stepping nearer.

At once the figure slipped from its perch on the headstone. Gabriel ran over instinctively. The desire of the other person to remain unknown aroused in him an unthinking impulse to discover that identity. “Come back. I won’t hurt you. Who are you?” he called out as he ran into the wet grass in the direction that the figure had taken.

He ran from headstone to headstone, clambering among them, grasping their cold stone surfaces to propel himself forward over the mounds. Just as he was about to abandon the chase, there was a sound of fabric catching on something and ripping with a harsh sound. A figure started up like a hare almost from under his feet and sprang past him out onto the clear path again. The figure had almost brushed against him, but its nearness had baffled any identification.

Gabriel started after the running figure. He was out on the road, and had nearly reached the first of the patches of sidewalk lighted by the shopwindows, when he drew near enough to the person he pursued to hear the heavy breathing as clearly as the running feet. It was a girl.

Another step and he drew abreast of her and, reaching out his hand, caught at a coat sleeve, bringing both himself and the girl to a stop in the patch of yellow lamplight that flooded out on the pavement from the small sweetshop to their left.

It was only when he felt the fabric in his hand that he realized the impertinent quality of his pursuit, and a chill descended on him, making the cold moisture start from his flesh. But as he looked at the struggling creature in his grasp and heard the gulping laughter, he began to feel that the pursued had taken the whole affair in much the same spirit as he had. Her head was bent as she struggled away from him; and since, in order to do this more effectively, she had turned in his clutch, and was using her head and shoulders to push him away from her, he was still unaware of her identity, but from her laughter he guessed that it was someone he knew.

Nevertheless when he wrenched her arm around and flashed her face into view he was unprepared for the shock of seeing Onny Soraghan’s face laughing up at him with a full consciousness of the incongruity of his position, and in his astonishment he let go his grasp. She stood up straight for a moment, took a gasping breath, and pushed her hair out of her eyes, laughed at him again, and without saying anything, ran away in the direction of Clewe Street, while behind him there was the murmur of voices and casually moving footsteps of the people coming out from the church.


NOT wishing to return to the house before his aunts arrived there, Gabriel turned abruptly down River Street and sat on the bridge for a time, until he felt sure they had arrived home. Yet he had walked with the speed prompted by upset nerves, and so, although he had traveled a good mile, he arrived back at the house only a few minutes after his aunts. They were still upstairs taking off their hats. Their shadows, as they raised their hands and lifted off their finery, were silhouetted on the street in the bright squares of the window light; and while he watched the sham scenes of their actions, he smiled to himself and seemed to see the asperity of Theresa and the timidity of Sara emphasized more fully in this dumb show than he had ever noticed before.

He went in. The kitchen door was open. Onny was cleaning shoes. Upon the scrubbed white boards of the table were a row of shoes with the shape of the owners’ feet still in them, and Onny, as she lifted shoe after shoe, gave it a dab of the thick blacking from a tin which she had left upon the table. The air was scented with the heavy polish.

“If I were you, I would have polished the shoes before I scrubbed the table,”he said, seeing that the white boards were already streaked with the blacking. But he spoke only from a desire to speak.

“There is an order in this house and it is not to be disturbed,” said Onny, in such an exact imitation of Theresa Coniffe’s voice that Gabriel looked at her sharply to see if she was deliberately imitating his aunt, but her face was bent over the shoe in her hand, which was the first to have received its dab of blacking and was now getting a more severe rubbing with the polishing brush. Onny was rubbing the brush back and forth with such vigor that her whole body shook. She looked like one of those mechanical toys which are made so that the maximum number of the limbs move, in order to give a semblance of life, but which, since they all move in the same rhythm, give an effect that is entirely lifeless.

“Why don’t you hold the shoe still, and rub the brush up and down?” said Gabriel; and when she made no answer he laughed. “Or you could hold the brush still, and rub the shoe up and down.”

Onny caught her rich lower lip in her teeth. Apart from the one repetition of Theresa Coniffe’s remark, she had said nothing. Gabriel began to feel unwelcome. He picked up his own shoes. They were covered with mud.

“What’s the use of shining those? They’ll be just as bad tomorrow.”

Onny went on vigorously rubbing the other shoe.

“Will I throw them under the dresser?” he said, taking them up.

Onny stopped rubbing. She went over and took the boots out of his hand and set them back on the table from which he had taken them. With one thumb she jerked upwards, where there was a sound of footsteps going back and forth on the old flooring boards. She jerked her thumb from the ceiling to the boots and then towards herself with such a comical urgency, her lips still compressed with the energy with which she had wielded the polishing rag, that Gabriel laughed. He sat on the edge of the table. Onny put down the brush she had held in her right hand, and began to jerk her thumb again in a dumb indication of the door. Then, setting down the shoe she held in her left hand, and catching him by the sleeve, she made it clear that she wanted him to leave the kitchen.

Gabriel resisted. He gripped the edge of the table with his knees and his hands.

“What’s the matter? Have you lost your tongue?”

Onny shook her head from side to side in denial of this. She looked up at the ceiling again.

“What have they got to do with you?” said Gabriel.

Onny hesitated. “I was told not to encourage you coming into the kitchen,” she said at last, reluctantly.

Gabriel began to laugh. “Do you always do what you’re told?”

Onny picked up another shoe and began to rub it.

“What about tonight?”

She stopped rubbing. “What about tonight?” she repeated, truculently.

Gabriel felt a sense of achievement at having made her speak.

“What would my aunt say if she knew you didn’t go into the church for the service?”

“You should have been in the church yourself.”

“Oh, it’s different for me,” said Gabriel. “I am my own master.”

Almost as soon as he had said it, he looked at her quickly to see if she had taken offense. To cover up the error, he hurried on without choosing his words.

“Why didn’t you go into the church?”

“Because I wanted to stay out.”

“Are you putting me in my place?" he asked.

“There’s only one way to put a fellow’ in his place,” said Onny.

“What way is that?”

“Slap his face.”

“Why didn’t you slap my face?” he said, delighted at the incongruity of the idea. Onny gave him a scathing glance.

“Did you want to?” he persisted.

She looked more scathingly at him.

“Have you lost your tongue again?” he asked.

Onny began to collect together all the shoes in her arms and started to walk towards the door.

“Are you mad with me?” said Gabriel, slipping off the table and opening the door for her.

She was going to pass through it without answering him when he shot out his hand and barred her way.

“Let me go,” she said, and at the same time she raised her head like a startled foal, as there was the sound of a door shutting upstairs. “Let me go,” she repeated frantically, pressing against his outstretched arm as at a barrier that might be expected to break in the middle. The boots and shoes dug into his arm. Her eyes were large and childish, and to his amazement he saw that she was frightened. “Oh, let me pass! Let me pass!”

Gabriel let his arm fall. She burst out of the door; and as he stepped back into the kitchen, he heard her run up the stairs. A second later he heard her stop, and he knew that she was standing aside to let his aunt pass down. From the delay, he could imagine his aunt examining the shoes. With an instinct quite unanalyzed he slipped across the kitchen floor; and as his aunt passed across the hallway into the kitchen, he crossed it at the other end and went into the back parlor, where supper was laid.

In his mind lay an unassorted heap of new ideas, all trivial and commonplace, but all the more welcome for that reason. They afforded him respite from the strange, troubled thoughts about his own future that had occupied him during the past few weeks. He sat down by the fire and, taking up the poker, idly began to poke at the coals.

How contradictory had been the behavior of the little servant. She had been in terror of her life at the sound of his aunt’s footsteps descending the stairs, and yet an hour before she had sat defiant and cool on a headstone in the dark churchyard.

And even with himself, she had behaved with a curious servility. As he chased her in the churchyard and wrestled with her in the light of the shopwindow, he had caught a glimpse of a real person, but in the conversation over the kitchen table there had been no reality. She was choosing her words and gestures.

There was only one way to put a fellow in his place, and that was to slap his face. She had said that, but she did not consider that he was a real fellow.


ONNY came in with the tray containing the supper. Gabriel looked at her with amusement. She had taken off the stockings she had worn to the church and her legs were bare. They were white and hairless, and the dirty white canvas shoes into which her feet were thrust were down at heel. Her red dress had become drabbled with dishwater and looked more sloppy than ever. But as he followed her with his eyes he was surprised to see how attractive her form was, in spite of the repellent clothes. Under the sloppy red dress her body was firm and perfect.

When the meal was over, Onny came into the room again. Gabriel, who had left the table and taken up a book, sat with it in his lap, but he followed her movements, raising his eyes without raising his head, as she went around the table collecting the soiled crockery and piling it up precariously in her arms. She had the inscrutable look of a woman who performs routine work which demands not the least attention of the mind.

He wondered where her thoughts were, and tried by the very movement of her limbs to trace the path taken by her thoughts. There was undeniably a peculiar rhythm in the way she swept up the cups and saucers, lightly yet surely, and there was an undeniable character in the kilting movement of her skirt as she went around the table from one side to another.

He kept looking at her face, and all at once he felt piqued that her thoughts should desert them all so completely that she could walk into the room where they sat and not have the slightest curiosity, not look their way, not be perhaps even aware that they were there. He remembered that, in all the times that she had crossed back and forth between the door and the table since the meal was finished, she had not once looked at him even with the most cursory curiosity.

And on at least two occasions she stepped across his legs, sprawled out in her way, when she wanted to put the cutlery in the drawer of the sideboard, in much the same way as one would step over a sleeping dog. He felt an impulse to say something to turn her eyes on him for a moment, but before he had yielded to it he felt suddenly that, although Onny’s eyes were following the far-away visions of her heart, there were a pair of eyes watching him and watching him steadily. He swung his head upward and sidewards with such swiftness that his aunt Theresa, who had been staring at him for a long time, could not avert her eyes before he looked straight at her.

“Onny!” she snapped. “Do you know what time it is?”

The girl started violently as Theresa’s harsh voice split the air. It seemed to Gabriel that she was expecting the next words, because she seemed to toughen perceptibly, take a firmer stance, and close her lips aggressively.

“Hurry up, please,” said his aunt. ”I want you to be gone out of this house at a respectable hour. I’m willing to be responsible for you in the daytime when you’re under my eye, but I won’t be responsible for you after you leave this house. I don’t want your mother coming up here moaning and crying over you, one of these days.”

If Gabriel had complained that Onny had stepped over him as if he were a sleeping dog, he had no cause to complain now. Her glance flew from his aunt to himself and he saw the struggle in her face as she wondered whether to be silent under the shame of the unnecessary reproach or whether to brazen it out with a back answer. He thought that he would spare her some embarrassment by going out, and he tore a piece of red-fringed paper that decorated the shelf under the mantelpiece and put it into the book to mark the place before he closed it. He threw the book on the mantelpiece and went out without saying anything.

Gabriel went up the street and turned down River Street, past the sprawling whitewashed cottages where the sleepy children leaned in the doorways and played lackadaisically. He crossed the bridge and walked out past the rampart cottages where Onny lived, until he came to his favorite sanctuary on the rampart wall. He flattened a place for himself in the tow grasses that grew up between the stones as coarse as wire, and taking out a cigarette he lit it and sat smoking.

The incident in the back parlor at Clewe Street had disturbed him even more than he realized, and it was with genuine surprise that he noticed a tremor in his hand as he put the cigarette to his lips. He felt that it was his stupidity, his culpable recklessness, that had brought the ugly rebuke upon the girl. His glances at her body had been almost in the nature of a quizzical joke with himself, but he had, he admitted, at the time that he was staring at her, a cheap feeling of familiarity.

There had been no more personal feeling in his thoughts about her than he would have felt had she danced above him behind footlights in the local theater, providing paid entertainment. But as her face came before him again with the flushed cheeks, the lip caught in her teeth, and her resentment, he thought about her for the first time as a human being. He felt a great pity for her. And he made a resolution to put something pleasant in her way, if it was within his power to do so, to recompense for the insult that he felt himself directly responsible for bringing on her.

It seemed to Gabriel that a long time had passed before he climbed down from the rampart and made his way back to Clewe Street; but when he went in, his aunts were still sitting by the flagging fire in the parlor, and as he entered they both called out to him.

“Is that you, Gabriel?”

He wanted to go upstairs to his room, but there was an excitement in their voices. When he went into the room they both spoke at once.

“Where were you? We were longing for you to come in. We had such a pleasant evening.”

Then the sisters disentangled their words and Sara, running ahead, caught her hands together and exclaimed, “They’re so charming!”

“Who was here?” said Gabriel, and without hearing he began to detect a scent in the air of the room that he had not at once noticed.

“The Finnerty girls!” said Theresa. “I had no idea they would turn out to be such charming girls. Agnes is very pretty.”

“Hannah is a very good-mannered girl,” said Sara, and all at once, looking at Sara’s eager upturned face, Gabriel knew that his aunt Theresa had spoken about the way he had been staring at Onny. He knew they had been talking about him and that they were beginning to worry about Onny Soraghan. They had deliberately encouraged the Finnertys to come in, and they would encourage them to come again.

Theresa Coniffe was afraid that she had made a mistake in hiring Onny Soraghan. This was her way of trying to remedy it.


IT WAS the middle of October, but the weather was still warm and summery, and the evenings were bright until late. When he came back from Draghead one evening, Gabriel took a book and went out into the garden at the back of the house. The light was beginning to fade and he would not be able to read for long, but it made him feel less aimless to clasp the book under his arm.

The garden was still and empty. He passed down the center path to the slope at the river edge. On the way he noticed a small, wet handkerchief spread to dry upon one of the hedges. It was white, with a border of blue dots around the hem. It must be Onny’s, he thought.

When he reached the end of the garden, Gabriel opened his book, but he had no real inclination to read. He sat listening to the soft noises of the water.

The river was low, being nearly dried up, and although in the middle of its course a swift stream of bright water ran freely on its way, the rest of the river bed was filled with such a pale, shallow wash of water that the pebbles and stones on the bottom, which in winter were not to be seen, were now bared to view, and moreover portions of the larger stones rose above the water level, dry as bones. Lancing high out of the water there were grasses and waterweeds which normally grew high enough to penetrate the surface of the stream, even in winter, but which in that season were never allowed to strike up vertically, because the swift currents bent them under and dragged them as far as their roots would allow.

From where he sat, Gabriel could just see the dark outline of the ruin, and beyond it again the broken rim of the rampart. The great loneliness of the place settled slowly into his mind, and his own personal loneliness became as nothing beside it. But as the evening came on, the color in the sky deepening as the color on the earth faded, he heard a faint sound of music lift on the wind for a moment like a streamer, and after a few minutes he heard it again.

He lifted his head to catch it and hear where it came from, and at the same time he thought that it was followed by a sound of laughing. But there was only silence. He bent his head to his book again. Again a streamer of music flagged faintly on the wind, and this time, after it, came unmistakable human laughter and the clear ringing of human voices, calling out, one after another, in the far-off roads beyond the rampart.

Gabriel raised his head. The voices came from the cemetery crossroad, where the space made by the joining roads tempted the young people of the town to linger if groups of them met there while out walking.

Crossroad dancing was forbidden by the parish priest, but the crossroads was still a meeting place. Here the young shopboys and servant girls of the town met on bright nights; and although they did not dance in couples, there were often jigs and solo dances to the tune of melodeons, mouth organs, and jew’s-harps. To this music also there was a continual activity of handkerchief-snatching, hair-pulling, and impudent pinching, which was in itself, although it followed no measured pattern, like an elaborate figure-dance of erotic import.

Gabriel listened, and although he could see nothing, or perhaps indeed because of that fact, he was filled with an envy of the companionship that the voices suggested; even to listen evoked a faint feeling of gayety in his heart.

Gabriel did not think that he had been sitting there long, but once when he looked around him he saw that the little dotted handkerchief that had clung so limply to the hedge was stiff and dry. Then, a minute or two after he had turned to look at it, he heard the back door open; and looking round again, he saw Onny come out into the garden. She made straight for the hedge and, picking up the handkerchief, began to fold it carefully, matching corner to corner. She did not see him.

She was dressed with a particular care this evening, he noticed. She wore the same ample and badly fitting red dress, but to it she had added a green silk bow that plastered her bosom like a great dead bird pinned there. Over the dress she wore a bright blue coat. Under the red skirts Onny’s legs were clad in her stockings of glittering amber, and above the green silk bow and the brilliant blue coat her ruddy cheeks and her bright curls added just the same touch that a poster-painter might add if he were painting a bill of attraction for a coming circus.

Gabriel took in every detail of the festive attire which Onny wore, and he was well aware that it had a great tastelessness in its many conflicting details, but Onny was dressed for an evening of gayety, and unless she wore the traditional costume of motley, she could not have worn anything more festive than her ill-assorted garments. He looked again at the sparkling patent-leather shoes with their bright steel buckles; at the lolloping swirls of the wide red dress, the spreading silk of the great green bow, the glittering stockings, the blue coat, and the rusty hair; and he felt a spirit of gayety rise in him till he could no longer control it, and slapping the book on his thigh he laughed outright.

“Oh, God!” said Onny, springing away from the dimming bushes and letting the folded handkerchief flutter out of her fingers. “Oh, God! You gave me a fright,” she said, as she saw him.

Gabriel stood up. “Why are you all dressed up?” he said, more closely inspecting the details of her finery.

“It’s my free evening,” said Onny, dropping back into a deferential manner and beginning to edge away.

“Are you going without this?” Gabriel stooped and picked up the blue-dotted handkerchief.

Onny put out a hand for it speechlessly.

Absolutely unable to cease teasing her, he put it behind his back. “Shame on you, Onny, going out for the evening with a handkerchief that isn’t ironed!” He held it out and shook it, holding it by a corner. Onny said nothing. “Now, if you were the fine lady you’d like to think yourself, Miss Onny, you would delay a moment and heat up an iron to make this piece of cambric a docile folded square that would do you credit with the young men of the town, should you have occasion to display it in public. This crumpled cloth, with the prick of the bushes still upon it, will do you no credit in the matrimonial markets.”

While he spoke. Gabriel advanced and drew the fluttering handkerchief before Onny’s wide eyes, over which the lashes fluttered nervously. He liked looking at her. She made him feel gay. He felt an impulse to keep her there. He spoke without listening to his own words, thrusting the handkerchief nearer and nearer to her face each time, fascinated by the way the eyelashes fluttered, and wondering how long her patience would endure the torment. Watching her so closely, he did not catch what she said when, bending her head suddenly, a tear splashed out of her eyes and fell on the silk bow at her neck, making a dark stain on the gaudy emerald silk.

“Onny! You’re not crying! Onny!” He stopped waving the handkerchief. “I was only teasing you. You shouldn’t mind what I say. Onny!” She kept her head bent and he saw her short, white teeth bite into the soft, fluid flesh of her lips. “Onny!” He did not know what to do. He looked foolishly at the handkerchief in his hand. “See,” he said, stretching it out towards her. “See — here it is. I don’t want it. I was only teasing you.” He held it out foolishly; and then, seeing that she had no intention of taking it, he leaned across and tucked it into her belt. Onny put up her hand and, taking the handkerchief out of her belt, crumpled it up and put it into her pocket.

She turned around and began to walk back towards the house with her head still bent in a way that made her sloped shoulders look childish and unhappy. His desire to keep her in the garden had been only a whim, but now he wanted to delay her until she had recovered her good spirits. He remembered how happily she had run across the grass a few minutes before, and he wondered at his own stupidity in having made her unhappy.

“Onny!” She stopped when he called her name, but she did not turn around. “Onny! Come back.”

She turned around slowly and came back. The tears had dried on her cheeks. Her eyes were bright again. But her face still had the sorrowful look of a child’s face which, although one knows the hurt that has caused it, produces an uncontrollable desire to smile. Gabriel controlled his features; and putting as much concern as possible into his voice, he spoke to her gently, coaxingly.

“You said something about the handkerchief before you began to cry. What was it? ”

Onny drew a deep breath. “You said it was a shame on me not to iron the handkerchief,” she said, falteringly.

“Yes? Go on.” Gabriel had forgotten the handkerchief. What on earth was in her mind?

“You said it was all crumpled.”

“Yes. Go on.”

“You thought I was too lazy to iron it!” Onny was gaining confidence.

“I didn’t say that, did I? You shouldn’t try to read people’s thoughts.”

“But you thought that?”

Gabriel felt that he was gradually falling into the inferior position. The color was as bright as ever in her cheeks. He saw only one way to extricate himself from his position, and that was by teasing her again.

“Well, that was the reason, wasn’t it?”

The color brimmed over in her cheeks. “No, that was not the reason,” declared Onny, with all the righteousness of one about to deliver a crushing reply. “I never iron my handkerchiefs, because I like the smell of the bushes on them. So there!” And, then, entirely restored to the good spirits of a short time before, she stood in front of him, wreathed in smiles, her head moving slightly and involuntarily with the slightly tipsy sensation of triumph.


FOR a moment more Gabriel could not understand what she meant, and then, leaning over, he took the piece of crumpled linen from her pocket and pressed it to his face. He breathed in the sweet, wild scent of the air that clings to clean-washed cool linens as it clings to nothing else, and in breathing it a new sense of sweetness and simplicity in life seemed suddenly to come to him, and Onny, herself, as she stood, with her toes turned in, upon the dampening grass, seemed nearer and more in harmony with the earth than anyone else he had ever met.

“Where are you going, Onny? ‘ he asked, with more real curiosity in the question than there had been in any other he had asked. And then, before she had time to answer, the need to do so was removed, because from across the river, once more, but this time louder and clearer in the bolder air of the later evening, came the stranded music of an accordion, and the voices of young people, singing upward into the air, laughing and calling out gayly.

“Are you going over to the crossroads?” he said.

She nodded.

“You would be there by this time if I had not kept you?”

He felt compunction for having kept her here in the dull garden which he had himself thought of as a prison a short time before. Her time was so short for pleasure, and she worked so hard. He wanted to atone for having kept her there, for having made her cry, for having perhaps put a shadow upon her anticipation of pleasure. But he could not think of anything to do to remedy what he had done.

“Onny!” His face lit up with excitement. “I have an idea. I’ll tell you what to do! You’ll be over at the crossroads in the twinkling of an eye if you do as I say.”

Onny looked at him. She was doubtful.

“The river is nearly dry,” he said. “You can get across on the stones!” Onny looked down with a mixture of credulity and fear. “It’s a great idea,” said Gabriel. “Come, I’ll show you. You can cross in a minute. I’ll help you, and then you will only have to run through the park, climb over the rampart, and you’re there. Come!” She held back with doubt. “Where is your courage? Where is your spirit of adventure? Come.”

He caught her hand and, making her run too, ran down the sloped grass to the edge of the water. As Gabriel ran, his excitement grew. The thought of helping her to cross upon the stones seemed to carry with it some of the excitement with which he had sailed out floating paper boats upon it as a child. It held something of the old make-believe qualities that gilded the days of childhood, and yet her hand in his had the new pulse of reality.

“I couldn’t cross that!” said Onny, pulling back, as they came to the fringe of the water where a breeze had ruffled the shallows slightly, making faint noises of sighing and lisping.

“Of course you can,” said Gabriel, still holding her hand, and jerking it with a mixture of impatience and encouragement.

He looked at her and saw that with the jerk to her hand an alteration had come in the color of her cheeks. He was amused. He jerked her again, more gently.

“Of course you can,” he repeated idly, because he was watching her face, where the coloring shifted slightly again with the force of the jerk.

A great careless gayety came into his heart. He looked around him quickly and examined the stones with a glance, putting out his foot and trying to see if this one was steady, if that one was steady, if it was possible to reach from either of them to another one, which was more isolated and further out in the stream.

“Put your foot on this one,” he directed then, stepping back onto the bank; and pulling up a stem of green sally from the mearing-hedge, he pointed to a large stone, smooth and slate-colored, which was flat like a chiseled steppingstone.

Onny hesitated one moment more and then, biting her lip in her teeth, she put out the tip of her foot nervously and tried to stir the stone. It did not move. She gained more confidence; and leaning forward so that her weight fell on the foot which pressed against the stone, she pressed it several times, allowing her other foot to rise from the bank until it barely tipped the security of the ground and was merely a symbol of the fact that she had not yet given her full confidence to the idea.

“Go on. Why are you afraid?” said Gabriel, and with the leafy end of the sally rod he tickled the yellow silk ankle of the foot which still rested on the grass.

“Oh! My stockings! Be careful — you’ll tear them,” said Onny, looking over her shoulder in a far greater concern for the silk covering upon the left leg than she had displayed for the security of the right foot poised upon the stone.

Gabriel continued to tickle the silk ankle with the soft tufty leaves of the sally rod.

“I’ll tear it if you don’t move on,” he said, and he began to trace the stiff line of the coarse seam upon the stocking with the small, sensitive fingers of the twig.

“They’ll tear! I’ll be a show with my stockings all torn,” wailed Onny.

“You know what to do,” said Gabriel.

With one last look of appeal, against which Gabriel remained unsusceptible, Onny drew in an abrupt breath and, shifting the right foot slightly upon the stone, made way for the other foot, which she brought across with such a jerk that the stone rocked slightly.

“I’m falling!” she called out, but she at once threw out her arms and righted herself; and this time, gaining reassurance from her own balancing, she began to enjoy the idea. She looked for another steppingstone and began to try it with the point of her shoe.

“Not that one!” called Gabriel each time as she stirred a stone and sent a slow ripple of water out from under it.

“Look, try this one,” he called at last, and he pointed with the sally rod to a rough, edgy stone of a granite discolored by the yellow waters that had covered it all winter.

“I want a flat stone,” said Onny, looking at it distrustfully.

“ Do as I say,” said Gabriel. “ Put your left foot on that one, and only touch it lightly and spring from it to that big stone beside the reeds.”

“I won’t be able to reach that far.”

“Try it.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Try it.”

Onny drew another breath and sprang from the yellow rock to the large, flat stone among the reeds.

“You’re nearly halfway across now,” said Gabriel.

The stone that Onny stood upon was the last large stone in the shallow waters. Underneath it on the far side, the river ran deeper, with the only current which carried the fresh water onwards to the main river. The current was slight, but in comparison with the flat and stagnant waters under the bank, it appeared to be very fast. Onny stared down at its swiftly running ripples.

“There’s no stone to step on!” she said.

“There’s a stone on the other side of the current,” said Gabriel. “Stretch your foot across.”

“It’s too wide.”

“Jump, then.”

“It’s too deep. I might fall.”

Onny’s voice was faltering. She stared at the running water and she began to follow certain ripples with her eyes, until new ripples attracted her attention and she looked back, only to follow them. Her gaze seemed to ride along a little way with each ripple that passed, and then run back again to follow another. Fascinated, her head began to sway in rhythm with the ripples.

“Stop looking down!” called Gabriel. “Look up, Onny.”

Onny tore her eyes away from the water and looked up into the sky. Over her head the evening clouds were moving onwards in the same way as the water, to their haven in the west. She looked down. She looked up again. Below her the world was moving. Above her the clouds traveled. Her head began to reel.

“I’m falling!” cried Onny, and she threw out her hands and tried to balance herself.

There was something inexpressibly comic in the attitude of the girl, perched on the sturdy rock, secure and safe, but in her excitement tilting forward, more and more, to the rippling waters, and waving her arms, more and more wildly, like a bird flapping its foolish wings, as she became more and more fascinated by the water and more and more unbalanced by her fascination.

“If you keep on like that, you will fall in for a certainty,” he shouted. “Keep your head, Onny. Stop waving your arms.”

But even while he spoke he felt an irrepressible impulse to laugh at the thought that she might topple into the shallow river. He could imagine the splash. He could imagine the cry of consternation. And above all he could imagine the draggled girl being helped out onto the bank, her hair hanging lank and her clothes stuck to her skin as wet fur sticks to a drenched dog.

“You’ll fall, all right, Onny,” he said, and this time he doubled up on the bank and laughed, holding his sides. But all at once, when he heard his own loud laughter, it seemed coarse and unnecessary, and through it he heard a small, agonized voice from the middle of the stream.

“My shoes! I have my good shoes on me. And my coat! My good coat.”


AND at once the figure that had seemed so comic to him became so tragic that he caught his breath. The pitiful red dress with the green bow, the bright blue coat, the dotted handkerchief, and the shiny black shoes with the silver buckles seemed in an instant to represent all that was gay and courageous and festive in the dull walled town, and the waters that ran sluggish and clogged seemed to be but another force of the oppression that daily waylaid his own heart.

“Hold on. I’m coming,” he shouted; and splashing into the water, not caring whether he landed on them or not, he leaped from stone to stone; and just as the last vestige of control departed from the dazzled Onny and she tilted forward with a gasp, he landed on the stone beside her with one foot on the outer edge and the other foot between her patent shoes; and throwing out his arms, he caught her against him and bound her tight to himself and to the security of his steady nerve.

Onny faced outwards to the far bank. Gabriel faced the same way, his breast pressed close to her thin shoulders. Against the frame of her body he could hear his own heart beat, and the great gasping breath that he created stirred the light down on the back of her neck. Onny said nothing. He held her closer and tried to make his own breathing more even.

While he composed himself, he looked around to see what he would do. From the position in which they stood it might be easier to continue across the stream than to try to get back to the bank they had left. It would be difficult to get Onny to turn around. His breath came more evenly.

“Are you all right, Onny?” He slackened his hold on her.

“How will we get back?” said Onny.

“You’re not afraid now that I’m with you?” said Gabriel.

“I don’t know!” said Onny.

This was such a challenge that Gabriel took a last long breath. “Do as I say now,” he ordered. And lifting her in his arms, he leaped across the moving water and came to a slippery foothold on a large, horny stone in the shallows on the other side of the current. Onny’s feet brushed against the reeds as they landed. “Ready?” said Gabriel, and he leaped again, this time landing securely on a flat stone and bringing Onny’s feet down upon the safe and even surface, with a reassuring laugh.

“Now, I brought you safe, didn’t I?” he said, as he took his arm from her waist and twirled her round to face him. “We are beyond the dangerous part.” For it seemed, now that they had crossed it, that the crossing of the river had been a hazardous and dangerous operation, and that saving the black shiny shoes from a wetting in the river was a worthy achievement.

“We can pick our way out from here without any difficulty.”

But he put out his hand and caught Onny’s hand as he stepped from one stone to another, and as he guided her he looked with amusement once again at the changing expressions that flitted across her face, as a stone tilted slightly, a pebble loosened and rolled over on the river floor, or a ripple created by a loosened reed that pierced the surface set the waters murmuring softly.

“I thought, you were a great adventurer!” he said. “I thought you did not have an ounce of fear in your whole body.” And then the old inclination to tease began to rise again. “Is this the girl that was not afraid to play hideand-seek in a graveyard? ” He sprang up onto the bank at the other side, giving such a jerk to Onny’s wrist that when she was lifted up beside him she was very close to him and he could see the tear marks on her flushed face.

“Now your face is dirty,” he said.

Onny took out the spotted handkerchief. She turned around and dipped it in the stream behind her and began to wipe it gently over her face while the fresh tears began to run down in the tracks of the old.

“You are a funny girl!” said Gabriel. “Why are you crying now?”

“I’m all dirty and my dress is splashed. They’ll all laugh at me when I get to the crossroads.”

At the mention of the crossroads Gabriel’s own face fell. In the excitement of negotiating the stream, and in his amusement at his companion’s expressions, he had completely forgotten the object of the journey across the river. He had forgotten that he was only a casual agent in helping Onny to take a short cut to her destination. He forgot that it was for her companions at the crossroads that she wore her festive colors and her glittering slipper buckles. He forgot that now, once she was set securely upon the far bank, she would be bidding him good-bye and leaving him to his loneliness while she sped off through the damp evening grasses in the direction of the darkening skyline from which the silver evening voices volleyed through the trees.

And looking around him at the darkening spaces of the old park, where the colors were deepened with that last desperate depth of color that the earth takes on before night descends, he felt a passionate desire to enjoy the evening and to be gay, to be lighthearted. The bank of the river which he had left was like the shore of another world — a dull world of routine and convention. Crossing the river, he seemed to have stepped into an enchanted land where everything wore a new shape, a new color, and where the sounds of the earth were different.


HE LOOKED back at Onny. He looked at her face rubbed red with the damp linen of the handkerchief she had dipped in the river. He looked at the decked-out bodice of the red dress. He looked at the glittering shoe buckles. He looked at the riotous unruly curls of the heavy copper hair. He looked at the bright eyes that were regaining their saucy twinkle. She was no longer the kitchen drudge. She was young. She was dressed for a fancy evening. She was pleating the folds of her dress and looking out towards the crossroads where young men and women were taking the full advantage of their youth in gayety and laughter.

“Onny, I’m going with you. I can dance as well as any of your friends. I can sing. I can play a mouth organ if necessary.” Gabriel caught up a reed from the edge of the river; and blowing along its edge, he raised a thin note that yet was sweet and piercing.

“Show me!” Onny pulled the reed from him and blew along it. There was no sound.

“There is an art in it,” said Gabriel, and he bent down and, leaving the reed still held in her hands, put his lips to the outer edge and blew a thin breath along it.

There was again a piercingly sweet wail upon the air. He stared into Onny’s eyes over the edge of the reed.

Onny’s eyes widened. “You can’t come to the crossroads!” she said.

“Why not?”

“ Because!”

“ Don’t you want me to go?”

“It’s not that,” said Onny.

“ What is it?”

She tore her eyes away from him. She looked away into space, but she jerked her head backwards to indicate the other side of the river where the back of the Coniffe house stared across at them with its blank windows.

“Your aunts would hear about it,” said Onny. “It’s only shopboys and lads from the farms that go over to the crossroads. ”

“What do I care about my aunts?” said Gabriel, for the river appeared to have widened until it seemed that never again would he recross it and go back to the old flat life of obedience and self-abasement.

“If they found out you came with me, I’d be sent home,” said Onny.

Gabriel looked down from the gray back of the house across the river. “How would they find out? he said, seeking eagerly to be deluded. But he knew that she was speaking the truth and that his aunts would be bewildered and insulted if they heard that he had gone to dance at the crossroads with the servant girl from their own house.

“ Bad news travels fast,” said Onny. “There are plenty of people that are ready to spread a lie without giving them a chance to spread a story that’s true.”

She began to move away slowly in the direction of the rampart where, even at this distance, a gap could be seen leading into the lighter fields beyond that led out to the cemetery road.

“Onny! Wait!” Gabriel ran after her. “Were you ever up in the ruins of the old tower?”

“It’s ghosty,” said Onny.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t be afraid with me.”

“You can’t get up there. The stones are loose. The steps are broken.”

“I was up there a few times. I dragged myself up on the ivy. I’d pull you up after me.”

“Why do you want to go up there? It’s only an old tower. It’s all crumbling to pieces.”

“You can see out over the whole town — over all the ramparts and over the fields. You can see your cottage. You can see the cemetery. You can see the dancers at the crossroads and you can hear the music.”

“It’s too dark to see anything at this hour,” said Onny, and she looked up at the first pale stars that were piercing through the sky above them.

“Well! What better could we have to look at than the stars?” said Gabriel, and he looked up at them himself.

Onny looked at his throat that arched with the terrifying strength of a man under the thin skin of a boy.

“I’d get light in my head up there on the broken stones looking at the stars,” she said.

Gabriel looked down at her.

“I’d hold you,” he said. “I’d hold you tight so that you couldn’t fall.”

And while he spoke he put out his hand to her and drew her arm through his arm, and led her slow feet across the dark grasses towards the tower. He was unable to speak, because the memory of holding her against him while they stood on the stone in the middle of the river had returned to intoxicate him in a way that it had not done while they stood there in the flesh.

He could feel again the beat of his own heart against the rounded curve of her shoulders and he began to hasten his steps, for already his blood was busy with anticipation of the moment when he would draw her up beside him on the crumbling ledge of the cold glassless castle, and his pulses throbbed with a pitiful violence when he felt the full significance of the fact, that this time it would be her soft bosom that would be pressed to his breast.

(To be concluded)

With each twelve months of the Atlantic