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Paul Jeffers. Raymond Z. Sydney J. Van Scyoc. Ian R. Gustave Flaubert The Temptation of St. Antony or a Revela The Temptation of St. Antony or A Revela - Gustave Flaubert. Robert T. Donald L. I may myself have been sometimes in this book unjust in my verdicts, biased in my summaries. What I have tried to do is to re-create the scene and Cornelius in the middle of it. Many things were told me by Carstang, by Anne, by Charlie Christian.

They had, each one of them, his or her separate idea and notion of Cornelius. No one of them was wholly right. I cannot hope that I have been wholly right either. But I feel, as I re-read these pages, that for myself at least Cornelius, as I knew him, is here. He would himself, I am sure, have preferred this form. They say that no novel in the first person can ever be true because no one can recall conversations as they actually occurred nor remember the physical details of past scenes.

But that is not so. It would turn into one of my less credible fairy-stories. But you shall; one day you shall. Even if they never believe it, it will be true all the same. Perhaps many of us, if encouraged by an attentive audience, could describe our earlier years in the same detail. So that I have tried to do, in the way that he would like it, even to the old-fashioned chapter-headings. Meanwhile it is of Cornelius only that I have been thinking—Cornelius whom I loved, who so often irritated me to frenzy, who was compounded of so many opposites, who, nevertheless, was of an absolute simplicity.

The one word finally to be used about him was, I think, fidelity. He was faithful; faithful to his friends, to his work—above everything else, faithful to himself. Strutt Seligman. Baring, from all I ever heard, must have been a grand, boasting, foolish character, famous locally and known even in distant parts of Glebeshire.

I have seen a brown faded daguerreotype of himself and his wife, she a small mean-faced woman with a tight mouth and with a locket almost as large as her face hanging on her meagre bosom. He greatly took my eye, big as an ox and dressed, for the occasion of the photograph, in awkward Sunday clothes, but his eyes were open and frank, his mouth strong and smiling. He carried in his hand one of those old top-hats with a broad and curling brim.

Across his great spreading waistcoat was a vast gold watch-chain and against his trouser a fine swaggering fob. She swallowed him. For a time things went well with him. Then horses were too much for him. He went to the races at Drymouth, drank more than he should, neglected his home I should fancy out of distaste for Mrs.

He was killed in a drunken fight in Drymouth, and his widow, with her four children, went to Polchester to live with a sister. They ran a small dressmaking business there and did fairly well with it. In a faded photograph of her she is standing straight up, in her ridiculous ugly clothes, her head proudly erect, looking out into the world with an eagerness that seemed to expect, even to demand, anything and everything of it.

She is tall and of fine carriage in this picture of her, strong-boned, firm-flanked, peasant stock, radiant with health. Soon she was stout and, later on, grossly fat. Yes, I am sure that that was Daisy Cornelius. They lived in a poky little house beside the river at the bottom of Orange Street. She told John again and again of the Cathedral bells, the mist rising from the river, the cows lowing and the sheep bleating on market-days and the fluffy pieces of cloth and calico lying about from the dressmaking.

She was always a country girl; she hated the town and her aunt; she would long passionately for her grand, broad-chested, brave, horse-riding father. She quarrelled with her aunt although she was really so good-tempered and warm-hearted, but her aunt was mean and meagre like her mother. John never saw Penny Hall where his grandfather lived. All the same, although John never saw Penny Hall, it was there as part of his life until he died.

The Cornelius family had lived in it for hundreds and hundreds of years, ever since Hans Cornelius, the Dane, built it in thirteen hundred and something. He was a Danish sailor wrecked on the coast in a storm. They sold Penny Hall and lost what they got from it through unwise speculation and a scoundrelly lawyer. He talked of it so often to myself and everyone else that I can only see it with his eyes; it is of no use to say that the Port Merlin I now write of is not the Port Merlin that anyone can go to to-day in a train or motor-car.

After the Reform Bill it sank into an undisturbed domestic peace, but, throughout the nineteenth century, it kept many of its old features, the Town Hall with the clock that has the brass figures playing the drum and fife, the Theatre with the red and gold decorations and the famous paintings of Venus and Adonis, the Penitentiary outside whose grey wall the old women on sunny days would sit and sew, the Church of St.

Mark and St. Some of these things are still there, but as with Treliss and other little Glebeshire and Cornish towns modern advertisement, modern tourists, modern traffic, have covered over the old loveliness with a new bustling life and trade, whether for final loss or profit who will be able to say until the Last Trump shall sound? But it must have been very much as it had been for three hundred years on May 12th, , the sunny morning when John Cornelius was born.

Two sounds he remembers as beating concurrently and consistently on his ears from the very first—the swish and roll of the sea only a step or two away, and the wind singing through the wallpaper. Then as now the sea dominated the town; not time nor the constant inventions of restless man can affect that.

From the very beginning John was carried and settled in the sheltered corner of the sea-wall where he could be out of the way, and his twinkling, lively, humorous, expectant eyes would lookout to the Lion Rock—shaped like a lioness, her three cubs nestled at her side—where seals often were and on stormy days you could see the white tongues of the sea rise and fall through the mist and spume. In good weather he would gather into his very soul the deep purple shadows streaked with ebony, and the green glassy fields of clear water and the long line of mother-of-pearl created by the sun from the wet sand.

From the very beginning John, like every other Port Merlin child, breathed the sea, in all its moods and habits, into his very soul, and that is why so many of the stories— The Mermaid who lost her Comb , The Crab with the Broken Claw , The Big Seal and the Little Seal , The Fisherman and his Three Sons —have the very sound and smell of the sea in every line of them. But John Cornelius, from the start, had an endless curiosity and wonder about his fellow human beings so that the town was very soon as important to him as the sea.

It must have been from very very early years that his father began to take him about with him everywhere. There was but very little room for him in the small overcrowded cottage. His mother never had any of the gifts of tidiness or natural arrangement of things, nor, I fear, had she a passion for cleanliness. The three rooms all smelt alike of steaming clothes, and always Daisy Cornelius was behindhand with her laundry and meals were not prepared, beds not made, nothing brushed or put away.

Daisy Cornelius did not mind the confusion, and stout, red-faced, perspiring, would be always in a bustle, always despairing because things were not done, always amazed at the muddle of life, always cheerful except when she had drunk a drop too much and then her temper was uncertain. Even before that, father Cornelius who was a small man would carry the child to some safe and warm place and then, sitting there, would paint his pictures or the lids of his shell-boxes or read aloud from Shakespeare or chat with neighbours or talk to his son about Penny Hall and the old days when he was a gentleman and went to dances in the family carriage.

John was a very ugly baby and soon grew into a yet more ugly boy. He developed almost at once that long and gawky body that would one day be well known. I have seen a cheap bad photograph of him when he was five or so, standing with his hand on a plush-covered table, a large white pillar and a storm-rolling sea in the background. He is wearing a sailor suit far too small for him so that his bony wrists project awkwardly from the sleeves, and his lanky legs with the thin ankles have little to say to the trousers that cover them.

On his head is a ridiculous kind of jockey-cap, a prophecy of the curious hats that in later years so uncertainly failed to cover his head. There is here his sharp bony nose, his loose large mouth, here too his beautiful, lively eyes and the expression of sweetness and friendliness to all the world that led him into so many friendships, so many errors, so many misunderstandings. Merlin in those days was a kind of family affair, everyone knew everyone else.

Snobbish it was, as all small English towns were and are and always will be. He remembers the metal of the harness flashing in the sun and one great white horse rearing. He had run out into the middle of the street to see the man strike the drum on the Town Hall clock. The hour was three, and as the bell sounded the sea rushed in from the edge of the sky, the great white legs of the horse were raised, there was a cry and a shout. He fell on his face. But he was not hurt. That surely was a miracle and showed him, even if nothing else did, that he was destined for wonderful things.

She was, I am sure, greatly surprised by the strange little boy who, face muddy and chin bleeding, looked at her full of excitement. Then she drove on. That was the first time that he had held any coin larger than sixpence in his hand. He gave it at once to his father. Neither then nor ever could he hold on to money. He gave it away as soon as he got it. And his father threw it into the road.

He was trembling with rage; it might be the reaction of that moment of horror, of terror when he thought his son was killed. But he felt that he had been patronized. He saw Penny Hall, the dining-room with the dark-brown panelling, with the sound of the sea and the smell of the roses and the whirr of the haymaking machine coming in through the window on a fine summer day.

I know just how he felt. Every bit as good. He never gave the half-crown a thought. He was happy because he had been the centre of attraction. However, his father hurried him away. He was taken home and washed; that evening his father talked and talked—about Penny Hall, the grand family of Cornelius, and the ancestor who had written poetry in the reign of Queen Anne. For John, Port Merlin was, all his life, a town blazing with colour. When, as a grown man, he returned to it he must have found that it was not so, for all the houses in Glebeshire are grey.

Nevertheless he insisted. The Theatre was red and gold, there were the coloured windows in the Church, there were the booths brilliant with flowers on market-days, there was the shining metal of the clock on the Town Hall. Perhaps he was right. What we believe to be true is true if we believe it hard enough.

About the Theatre especially there could not be colour enough. The playbills were bright yellow with red lettering: sometimes he would see scenery being carried in through the big side door—blue mountains, red houses, and once a Chinese temple. In his own home there were many bright things. For the first ten years of his life he slept in the front room which served as kitchen, dining-room and laundry. The windows had flowered calico curtains, red roses and green leaves.

On his little bed was a rag counterpane, fragments of every possible colour worked into a crazy quilt. The room was steamy with heat; there were pots of mignonette in the windows and the floor was gritty with the sand that people brought in on their boots and shoes from the seashore. On a little table near one window stood the toys and boxes that his father was making, and these were always brilliant in colour, toy soldiers shining with red paint, dolls with orange skirts and green jackets with silver beads.

The boxes were painted crimson and very bright blue, and on to their brilliance the shells, silver and rose-pink and white like snow, were stuck with glue; you could smell the glue, the paint, the mignonette, the sea-sand, the humid damp from the drying clothes. He smelt it, he told me, all his life. There were two yellow canary birds in a cage hanging in front of one of the windows between the calico curtains and they sang all day long.

They had been given to his father once, instead of payment, for some work done. Although these pleasant friendly things were around him, nevertheless when the candle was blown out and the room was dark save for the ruby glow of the dying fire he would, night after night, lie there fighting his fears. He could hear through the thin door the murmur of the voices of his father and mother, but soon they would die away.

He was terrified of the dark and with good reason, for he knew, so very much better than most, of all the strange and fearful inhabitants of the dark. The old women who sewed in the sun outside the Penitentiary, they had many tales to tell him—of the man with one eye who, on a dark night, comes up from the sea across the sand; he has teeth like a dog and sometimes he drops on all-fours and crawls; he scratches on the window-pane with his long nails.

Then there is the old woman with a face as black as jet and the white cat on her shoulder. You wake up and see her sitting at the end of the bed, she rolls the whites of her eyes. Her cat stretches itself and then slowly begins to walk across the bed towards you.

Also there is the very old man who eats little children. He is shrivelled like a monkey and you can hear him crunching bones with his teeth. There is the policeman, seven feet high, who carries a lantern. He snatches little boys, takes them under his arm and locks them into a prison cell, quite dark, water dripping from the walls and toads crawling across the floor.

Then there were other nightmare figures of whom Cornelius told me; these are all I remember. There were, of course, the good fairies, the kind old woman with a basket full of gold and silver, the mermaids who sang such beautiful songs, the prince who carried you for a ride on his great white charger, the dear old lady with the spinning-wheel, and many more, but these good creatures never came in the dark.

Only when there was a moon did they come out and enjoy the fun. But although he was afraid of the dark all his life long he was not a coward. He could not help his fear, but he could help surrendering to it. He would lie there, his eyes wide open, his heart hammering, and repeat to himself the prayer that his grandmother had taught him:. He loved his grandmother, and with justice.

She must have been a very sweet old lady. She was small of body, neat and fragile. She liked bright colours, and although she had white hair and was sixty-nine years of age when John was five she seemed always youthful and had great zest and vitality. She lived in two rooms at the top of the town close to the Asylum. Whatever her health or the state of the weather she paid her visits just the same.

The pathetic thing was that the old man never recognized her as his wife but thought that he was King Solomon and she the Queen of Sheba. Sometimes his grandmother took John with her on these visits. It did not seem to the little boy, who already lived so much in the world of his imagination, strange to play this game of his grandfather being a mighty king. The old man, who had a grizzled untidy beard, wore a black skull-cap and a long faded tail-coat, sat in his corner by the fireplace in the long room where the harmless lunatics read books, played games and indulged their fancies.

At the same time he would stretch his old skinny hand towards the gingerbread, but she would not allow him to have it yet because if she did he would eat it all up at once, which would be very bad for his digestion. He must have been a very dear old man, much more agreeable than the real King Solomon.

He had not an evil thought against anyone in the world and was always perfectly happy. They loved him in the Asylum. Has she been to Africa? The truth must have been that old Mrs. She was cheerful enough though, and never could grow out of a feeling of intense gratitude because her husband, being a gentleman, had condescended to marry a simple farm-girl.

She was very garrulous, saying the same thing over and over again and always with the hope that this time she would make her meaning plain. Two shirts, one with the blue stripes. So she talked on and no one listened, which is the sad lot of all garrulous people. He must have had, from the very beginning, that inexhaustible physical energy afterwards so characteristic of him. He was never tired, he told me. To the end of his life he did not know what physical weariness was.

Scenes remained in his mind in bright isolated pictures. The cliffs were at the end of the High Street then. I remember it quite vividly. It had a shepherd and a shepherdess on the lid. How I longed to go in and ask the shopman to play it!

But what was the use? Father and I were obviously unable to pay for it. Then I discovered you were punished if they caught you. A picture that he had most clearly in his mind was a day when there was a sudden fall of snow. In any case on this afternoon the snow fell, and at first the sun was shining. The snow fell like silver threepenny-bits and, for a rarity, it lay. The roofs, the window-sills were white. He knelt up in the front window between the gay curtains and prayed to God in whom he always believed as a child does.

How exasperating he could be about religion! It seemed to mean to him at once so much and so little to make the snow last until Christmas Day. He was called out by some other children and they began to build a snow man. But of course by the morning all the snow was gone. Rain fell. But the excitement of all excitements for him was centred round the Theatre, the beloved Theatre Royal of Port Merlin.

This was created in him in the first place undoubtedly by his father, to whom the Theatre was always a palace of miracle and wonder. But John could never describe him very well except that he was a little man with a squint who took snuff. He thought, it seems, that he was about the most important man in Port Merlin, and to strangers he could be very haughty and unpleasant indeed. He would address the actors and actresses as they passed through into the Theatre with a great deal of dignity.

Darlington was a snob. Moreover, Cornelius senior made him a present one day of one of his shell-boxes. Everyone in the town, of course, knew the ugly, long-legged, excited little boy, and he was afraid of no one. Until he went to his first day-school no one was unkind to him or ill-treated him, so that he had complete confidence in everyone.

Even before his sixth year he would go up to anyone and recite one of his little pieces to them. Afterwards when we come to the play-writing and singing time. At home no one ever quarrelled. Better I was dead. Better for everyone. A comic sight it must have been for a cynical observer to see that little man take that very large woman and hug her and pat her broad back and pinch her cheeks.

But the Cornelius family did not think it comic, and soon Mrs. Cornelius would be wiping her eyes, young John dancing like a grasshopper on his long legs, and Cornelius Papa sitting down to the little table to stick shells on to his boxes. They were a very devoted, feckless, untidy, good-natured family. The one real trouble at this time—and it became very much worse later on—was that Mrs. Cornelius was a little too fond of the bottle.

From very early days they were conspirators together in this affair. It was in his sixth year that John was first made aware of the unkindness that there is in the world. That moment, small in itself, big in its consequences, may well be counted the first real event in his history, the first moment of fear of his fellow-man.

He had known before this, as I have already said, what fear is in dreams. Now he was to know what it is in the world of fact. He was five years old and some four months. It was a quiet, sunny autumn afternoon and the sea coming in like a whisper and a promise, gulls flying and settling and screaming over some piece of dead fish or whatever, while the thump of the mining-stamps tramped like the tread of men from over the brow of the moor.

John often told of it with that eager egotism that took it for granted that anything happening to himself must be interesting to everybody even to its smallest detail. Before it reached the sand this stream was bordered with tall grasses. There were irises there in their proper season. A duck and half a dozen ducklings had come down to the stream and the ducklings were swimming about.

They were irresistibly lovely to me and I seemed to know just what they were thinking and feeling and saying to one another. I looked up and saw a crowd of men and boys coming over the sand-dune. He never tried to sell anything, but the box gave him pleasure, made him feel important perhaps. He was a quite harmless, good-natured old man and everyone liked him. But to-day they had set on him and were driving him down to the sea. They were shouting and laughing and cried out that they were going to give him a bath.

He ran down the sand-bank and came right to where I was. He was by far too terrified for that. He had a grey straggly beard like my grandfather and was dressed in an old ragged black coat, and his trousers were torn. His cheek was bleeding where a stone had struck him. But it was his eyes! His eyes! They were staring with insanity and fear.

His breath came in desperate little gasps. Another stone struck him just as he reached me and he fell on his knees. He gave one dreadful choking cry and rolled over. I remember that I saw the duck and her brood scurrying into the grasses. I stared and stared and stared. The white cumuli of cloud rolled up over the sea making a noise like drums. It was exactly like one of the worst of my nightmares.

From the age of five years to eight John Cornelius must have led a quiet, domestic and very happy existence. During those years only two events of major importance occurred; it is with these that this chapter deals. At the age of six John went for the first time to school—Mrs. He did not remain there long, only two days in fact. Cornelius, dressed in her best and panting with the heat of her unaccustomed garments, accompanied John. Biggar, whom John remembered as a small woman with a sharp black eye, promised Mrs.

Cornelius that her little boy should not suffer corporal punishment. On the second day, however, because she considered John impertinent as very likely he was , she gave him several sharp taps on the back of his hand with a ruler. John gave her one look in return and walked straight home. When he told his mother what had occurred she was in complete agreement with him. The woman had broken her word and that was enough.

He did not go to a school again until he was seven, but before that his father had taught him to read and write. Arithmetic and everything to do with it he never could abide. He loved his father and grandmother dearly, but his feeling for his mother was one of passionate devotion and remained so in spite of all her shortcomings.

It was perhaps because of her shortcomings that he loved her. He inherited from her her lack of orderliness and incapacity for arranging things. But most of all he felt that she needed care and protection in a way that the others did not.

As her inebriety grew upon her he felt ever more strongly this protectiveness. He had throughout his life an especial care for and understanding of drunkards, although he was himself most abstemious all his days—and that too was perhaps because of his mother. He adopted towards her from very early days a paternal attitude, chaffing her, telling her funny stories, helping her with her work although in this he generally did more harm than good , cheering her depressed spirits.

It was, I suppose, her constant bewildered despair at the muddle she was in that tempted her to the drink. She invented, like many a similar victim before and after her, a wonderfully alert system of lies, subterfuges and stratagems. When she was not troubled with too much work, too little money, before she became so corpulent, there were many hours when the two of them were as happy as two people could be. He would sing his little songs, recite his poems, tell his stories, while she sat in the rocking-chair, her large red hands planted on her knees, staring at him as though he were an elf-visitor from another world.

She might well have thought so, for with his extreme thinness, his long bony face, his brilliant searching eyes he looked little like any child of hers. Another bond that they had was their religion. Cornelius, although she seldom entered a church, believed in God as though He might at any moment come in and inspect the laundry. So did John. He but rarely spoke on these subjects, but Mrs.

Cornelius, admiring him and feeling an eternal gratitude to him as she did, suffered great unhappiness and much bewilderment at his opinions. How could so fine and generous a gentleman as her husband think such dreadful things? But, worst of all, must he not suffer fearful punishment one day? And at the thought of this she would stare at him as he worked at his shell-boxes, and her eyes would fill with tears and she would long to take the little man in her arms and defend him from the Powers of Darkness.

He would come in and tell her that he had seen an old dwarf with a bag of gold on his shoulder down by Lelant Rock looking in the pools for jelly-fish. He would assure her that he had taken some of the gold pieces and allowed them to trickle between his fingers.

And the dwarf had turned surly because his fingers had been stung by a jelly-fish. Of course children do make up stories which no one expects you to believe, and Johnny in especial had a marvellous imagination. Garriman and Mrs. Hoskin, to see whether they had any advice to offer. John remembered Mrs. Hoskin very well. Garriman was a tall, gaunt woman who believed in ghosts, spirits, table-turning, and telling the cards. Hoskin was a little sparrow of a woman with a suspicion of a light beard on the end of her chin.

Neither Mrs. Hoskin nor Mrs. Garriman liked Johnny, who bored them with his recitations and his refusal to take them as seriously as he took himself. This last characteristic was, as he never sufficiently realized, a great drawback to him in later life. Garriman terrified Mrs. Cornelius with her card-telling and table-turning. Since she was already sufficiently superstitious, Mrs.

Cornelius all the night long. She recognized, however, that Mrs. Hoskin was the more dangerous of the two. When Maggie Hoskin, in a gathering of friends, told many destructive little stories of other friends—well, what would happen to yourself as soon as your back was turned?

Both ladies assured Mrs. Cornelius that her boy must end in gaol or even worse. Such lies! Why, only last week he had told Mrs. Nevertheless they did like to hear the child sing. By the time he was seven he could sing like a bird. The trouble about him was that once he had started nothing could stop him. There were none of the shy affectations of the professional singer about him.

Nor did he need an accompaniment. He could sing anywhere, at any time, to anybody. Anything but practical it must have been according to all that I have heard of it, but it did two fine things for John: gave him Mr. Bartholomew for an inspiring influence and introduced him to the two most faithful and devoted friends of all his life.

But he had a passion for books—not for your moderns, of course, and John well remembered his disgust when at a later stage he caught him with Cometh Up as a Flower in his hand. They were all too recent for him. Johnson his god. He was turning down the hill out of the High Street and had reached the little square patch of ground known as the Rock.

She was standing, her satchel of school-books in her hand, laughing and sticking her tongue out at some boys who had been teasing her. She must have been a big girl for her age she was two years older than John , rosy-cheeked and tallow-haired, freckled and untidy, broad in the beam, laughing and fearless and careless then as always.

There was, before the Great War, a fashion among novelists for free-and-easy and jolly and give-you-a-blow-or-a-kiss kind of heroines. They had in fact very few brains but a lot of heart; the post-War heroines were exactly the opposite. Anne was, I am afraid, something of a pre-War heroine in physique, courage, and good temper, but she had plenty of brains and a sort of healthy irony when she liked. The boys, shouting and laughing at her, vanished, and she threw some pebbles after them.

When she saw John she stared as people very often did on first seeing him. She spoke to him, and as they were going the same way they started off together. They liked one another very much at once. John told her that his mother did laundry and his father made boxes and painted pictures.

Anne said that her name was Anne Swinnerton, that her father was dead and that she lived with her mother in a little house above Carp Cove. She liked everything—sailing, fishing, swimming, dancing. They agreed to meet on the following day. John grinned and the boy grinned. They stayed there talking; at least John talked as he always did, saying everything that came into his head.

The sturdy boy looked at him with his quiet, observant blue eyes and said almost nothing. His suspicions of his fellow human beings were as deep as the sea; he trusted no one until he had good sound reason. However, the one person in all his life whom he did trust from the very beginning was John Cornelius; he trusted him and saw that, because of his simple impetuosities, he needed protection.

From that very first day he made protecting John his business. He had no idea then, of course, what a life business it was going to be. John had no especial thought either that on this important day he had made the two best friendships he was ever to make. I am not sure whether he was ever to recognize it. We are always slightly indulgent towards those who show us that, without reservation, they love us and believe in us.

John was always, without intending it, a little patronizing towards Anne and Charlie. Not that they minded. They stood a great deal from him before the end. Their reasons for loving him, though, were real and solid ones. On the whole he deserved that devotion. And so we come to the Great Shell-box affair. He recalled every detail of it, acted it for us over and over again.

He had been one half-holiday with his grandmother to visit his grandfather in the Asylum. He just sat there rocking himself like a sick monkey and altogether forgetting that he was King Solomon. He had suffered for many years, I am sure, from an appalling sense of failure. He made the best of it, but he knew that this was not where he ought to be, allowing his poor wife to work her heart out for their sustenance. He must have become shyer and shyer, ever more reserved, ever more secretly unhappy as the years went on.

Well, he did later, as you shall hear. John, I fancy, was his one cherished companion, his one pride and delight. To see little Mr. Cornelius, Charlie said, sitting in his chair, his legs crossed under him Turk-wise, while John sang, that was a pleasant sight. Yes, it must have been. Melancholy or no, on this particular afternoon he came in radiant. Cornelius was getting out the tea-things, her mother-in-law half asleep in the rocking-chair for she was a considerably old lady , John kneeling on the rough wooden seat in the window looking at an illustrated volume of Hans Andersen that Mr.

Bartholomew had given him. The birds were singing in their cage and the warm sun coming in through the open window off the sea in a rhythm of heat like the rhythm of the waves. There he stood, a parcel in his hand, beaming on us all. I loved him so dearly that it was as though we were one person, and at once I too was bursting with happiness and there was the scent of the sun and the mignonette in the window and the hot cakes that mother had been baking. How happy we all were even before we knew any reason!

Father went to his wife and kissed her, then he kissed his mother, then he kissed his son. The lid was a plain and shiny wood. A very handsome box indeed. They were, of course, in the fashion of their time—I mean the Royal Academy fashion, not at all the kind of things that a young man called Aubrey Beardsley was just then beginning to be famous for.

We were quite certain that our fortunes were made for ever! He could hardly wait to begin his work on the box. He described the old lady who had sent for him and shown great astonishment that he should be a gentleman. It was clear that she thought herself a very grand old lady indeed. I drank in every word of his description and saw the whole scene as though I had been present, my father, so small in body, so great in soul, very quiet, telling her a little about himself and not very much, and the old lady, feeling herself a grand patroness, delighted with herself for doing this small thing.

Little I realized that one fine day I should know the old lady so well! They sat up ever so late talking about it and building, of course, tremendous castles in Spain. That Chance had, for one reason or another, always been denied him. This old lady—Lady Max her friends called her—had tremendous influence in London. She was very rich and to her house everyone of importance went.

If she liked the box when it was finished she would have it in her drawing-room and all the grand people in London would see it. There would then come Orders and Orders and Orders. It might be—it was in fact very likely—that they must go to London to live. What would they say in London to a fat red-faced washerwoman? Of this last he had read in an illustrated pamphlet lent to him at school.

What a place! Where Kings, Queens, Soldiers lived in close proximity to hundreds of murderers! That quiet sentence of his father did something to him—it made London not only a possibility but also a necessity. In the early hours of the morning John woke to find his father seated at the little table working on the box.

With his long, skinny, naked legs he jumped out of bed and ran across the room. He watched breathlessly. The candle jumped up and down. Neither of us cared. London and fortune were looking in at us through the window. Unfortunately Mrs.

Hoskin all about it. Hoskin was really the dangerous one. She was very vain, self-centred, and never forgot a slight or an injury. Bitterness, jealousy, vanity, these were her masters, so it was natural enough that good prospects for the Cornelius family should upset her very badly. John remembered her, a small dark woman with her hair done up on the top of her head in a bun, looking in through the door, her ugly monkey-face furrowed with smiles.

I do indeed. Takes time of course. Anythink good always does. Hoskin speaking. Cornelius had promised that the box should be finished within ten days. That was wild wintry weather and the rain beat on the window-panes and the sea boomed on the beach so that you had to shout to make yourself heard. John remembered that the weather was important because of the shells. Cornelius found most of the shells himself, but he would buy them sometimes from an old man who knew just where to go for the largest and most beautiful.

The old man was tied to his bed with rheumatism, so that Cornelius did not have this time shells as perfect in their colour-gradations as he might have wished. Those that he had he did marvels with. Shell-boxes are considered things of cheap and vulgar taste, but this box had a quality all its own. The picture on the lid must seem now old-fashioned. In any case Cornelius was not a great painter.

The swans are flying through the evening sky while a young girl, kneeling beside her window, watches them. That good man would have discovered the spirit behind the workmanship of this old shell-box and welcomed it. John, whose imagination so often ran ahead of fact, allowed himself full liberty while the shell-box was making.

Although he was, as yet, only seven years of age, he had already fully determined to be a famous writer—a writer of many things but especially of plays. But I think it can be said here that John Cornelius never, from his eighth year onwards, had the faintest doubts about his future destiny. There were to be many occasions when everyone doubted but he.

During the whole of that week he was as bad as his mother and went strutting about the town and the school telling everyone that the Cornelius family was shortly departing for London and that his father was going to be the Court Painter. That was a downright lie.

The opinion of both the town and the school was, I imagine, pretty equally divided about him. He had his warm friends and defenders who, even at this early time, felt that there was something special and peculiar about him, recognized also his courage, his independence and his passionate fidelity. To many others, even when he was little more than a baby, he was exasperating and irritating with his egotism, his insistence on his own importance, his physical oddities, and his constant certainty that he was right.

His schoolfellows were, I expect, considerably impressed by this approaching glory of his. Port Merlin was, in those days, a long way from London, and to the children at the school such things might happen as taking tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Why not? The Queen had to have tea some time! But it was after the Shell-box affair that John felt that he simply had to go to London: he had, in the face of the world, given his word and, in the face of the world, he must redeem it.

Well, the shell-box was finished at last and within the appointed time. The family had never seen anything so beautiful. The temptation was to destroy the shell-box. She woke up, just as the clock was striking two, and, as she described it to her son, the Devil leapt at her and had her by the throat.

She sat up in bed and, in the moonlight, saw her husband fast asleep beside her. There was the box, brought from the other room, all the red and crimson and faint-pink shells coloured by the moon to a delicate and iridescent beauty. The box in her eyes looked so lovely that she could not doubt but that it would make her husband famous in the world for ever. That fame would mean that she would lose him. She had, ever since she married him, been afraid that this should one day occur.

He was so fine a gentleman, so greatly superior to her in every way, the only thing that she could do for him was to work. Now others would do the work, and he and the boy would be carried where she could not follow them. Very easily she could tear the lid off the box and throw it into the fire that still showed some glowing embers.

The Devil had so powerful an influence that she told her son she could see him bending over her, dressed in black tights, with a red feather in his hair. She might—who knows? So, lying down, she put her arms around him and defied the Devil. Hoskin came in to see the finished box and paid it many a compliment. They birds are flying as natural as natural. Nevertheless young John caught the wicked malice in her eye. Whether there ever was a Bird-Man no one will ever know, and I expect that Mrs.

Hoskin herself was never anything but a little ill-natured, overworked woman who kept a grubby little shop with sweets, tobacco and penny novelettes. On the following afternoon Mr. Cornelius went up the town with his treasure.

It happened to be a half-holiday, and young John sat with Charlie Christian on the sand-dunes looking out to sea. The two little boys sat looking solemnly out to sea and, so John affirms, for the best part of the time said nothing whatever. In any case Charlie was the one human being with whom John could always be silent—with anyone else he must talk his mind and imagination out, although he had, rather unexpectedly, the gift of being a good listener.

Not that it matters now. John had his enemies and detractors after his success like everyone else. Quite a number of them in fact. All his life he pretended not to mind that people should not like him. As a matter of fact he hated to be disliked unless he detested the disliker. The trouble was that he could never detest anyone for more than half an hour: the result of this was that so many people could hurt him—and did.

He remembered that on that afternoon the sun began to sink, a round red ball in waves of grey cloud. He felt in his pocket and produced a large, stained jack-knife. John hated knives, guns, ropes, whips—anything that could possibly hurt either man or animal. I had two accounts of the scene that followed, two very excellent ones: one from Charlie, the other from John himself. Charlie had two very marked characteristics: he never forgot anything , and he had not many words in his vocabulary.

His account of anything was limited strictly to fact, a police report, and behind the facts you must build the picture. He had scarcely seen Mrs. Cornelius before, and when he was introduced to the big, floppy, red-faced woman sitting on the bed, when he realized, without, of course, analysing it, her distress, anxiety, intense agitation, he felt at once that he was intruding; he had always beautiful, courtly manners. His sense of the dramatic wanted Charlie to be there to share in the triumph.

So the two boys just stood there, Charlie rubbing his hand up and down against the sympathetic corduroy of his little trousers while the birds sang in their cage and the room darkened. The door opened just after Mrs. Cornelius had lit the gas over the mantelpiece, and Cornelius came in. There was scarcely a need, Charlie told me, for Cornelius to say anything. It may have been the gaslight but he looked tragic all right.

He went to the table without a word to anyone. With fumbling hands he undid the parcel he was carrying and he placed the shell-box on the table where it had stood until an hour or two ago. Then, looking straight at his wife, he told her.

The old woman had received him uncivilly in the first place. She had been in a temper about something before he arrived. She had told him to leave the box, but he wanted to see her look of surprised pleasure when he showed it her. So he showed it her. She had rated him like a cheated fishwife, told him that he had misunderstood her intentions completely, that his picture was a miserable daub, his shells ridiculous.

Moreover, he had ruined her beautiful box. It was ruined for ever. He could pick the thing up and take it away with him. She never wanted to see either him or it again. So he picked the thing up and came away. He sat down at the table and began, fumblingly, to straighten some of the shells.

Cornelius got up from the bed, came over to him, put her arms round him and kissed him. Charlie slipped away out of the room without anyone noticing. John was exceedingly sharp for his years and he realized at once that it was only his father who needed any consoling. A little thing, an absurd thing—but you can say all the same that my father was killed by a shell-box, one of those absurd cheap things that you see in little shops in watering-places.

People seldom are. There was no melodrama. Very little was said. Everything went on apparently the same—only Mrs. Cornelius drank a little more. Hoskin were in the house more often, and John began to grow up. He must have been a funny-looking boy round his eighth year. He was pretty popular at school.

He was clever, he learned by heart with extraordinary facility, but often enough in class he would sit staring at the large coarsely-coloured Bible pictures on the wall, making up stories in his head about them when he should have been working.

He was such an odd-looking boy, with his big nose and his small bright eyes and his untidy mop of hair, his long thin legs and arms in grey jacket and trousers far too small for him. Everyone—masters and boys alike—must have felt both the egotism and the sweetness of his nature. Often the children would tease him, especially if Charlie were not near. He would insist on telling them stories, and of these stories he was always the hero.

To tease him was easy, however—one allusion to madness and the story would die on his lips and he would turn, walk away, his head forward, his long arms swinging. This, even in those early days, was his one haunting fear. Beyond this he hated to be laughed at, not because he was vain although if to consider yourself a completely exceptional person is vanity he was vain but because he always thought the unkind jeerer might be right!

Although he had friends at the school—and especially Mr. Bartholomew for whom he always bought a bunch of flowers on his birthday and laid it on his desk—and, among the children, Anne and Charlie, he cared most for the company of mature people. These two old ladies, Mrs. Gordon and Miss Gracie, soon became more exciting to him than any others because they wrote poetry—religious verse which was frequently published in the Glebeshire Sentinel.

And now John had himself written a play! What a scene this must have been! John saw no harm in cribbing from Shakespeare, and although he situated his play in London rather than in Sicilia the affair of the statue was common to both Shakespeare and Cornelius.

But then Shakespeare himself had borrowed it from somewhere, so what matter? On the other side this brevity made it quick in the reading, and that was fortunate because he insisted on reading it to everyone. He was so brimful himself of enchanted happiness that he should be a creator of this kind, that now as always he was certain that everyone must wish to share in his own joy. He was beginning now to read ferociously. He was afraid of no one when it came to book-borrowing. He was passing a house one evening and he could see into the sitting-room, the blind not being drawn.

The wall opposite the window was lined with books. He rang the bell, and a white-haired, bespectacled, severe-eyebrowed lady opened the door. Please do! But it was his little deep-set burning eyes that conquered her. Before she knew it she was with him in the sitting-room and he, in a frenzy of excitement, was pulling out one book after another.

They became great friends, the lady and he. She was a widow and her name was Mrs. Now it happened that he knew very well old Jimmy Lipscombe who was the bill-poster of the town. Jimmy had a wooden leg and a shaggy black mongrel of a dog as constant companions.

He went stumping about, talking to himself and the dog. He was one of the people in the town who loved to hear John recite and sing.

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