Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/29

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II.

"My search for new worlds," wrote Provence to George Golightly a few days later," begins at this small village—not a hundred miles from Charing Cross—which I have named the End of all Things. It is described on local guide-posts as Little Speenham. There is a church, a public-house, and a dissenting chapel—one evil brings another—and the rustic maid abounds, a creature of large feet, wide smiles, and limited innocence. This, however, in parenthesis. My quarters might be worse, and are as comfortable as a respectable woman with an unnecessary husband, a voracious child and a barn-yard can make them. When she is not feeding the husband and stirring pap for the babe she mixes pabulum for the pigs: in her leisure she does the washing and prepares food for me. What an existence! The other day I asked her if she did not think that the five wise may have lived to envy the five foolish virgins. She looked at me—as only a woman can look—and mournfully winked! No heroine flopping in elegant collapse and disillusion could match the eloquence of that wink. Sublime!

"I can step from my room on to a lawn where yellow ducklings, a lame hen and some middle-aged cats gambol in imperfect amiability; beyond the lawn, through a gate, is a duck-pond—you walk a little way and behold! another gate—it is generally open—you pass through and find yourself in the poultry-yard.