« PreviousContinue »
tle doubt that he would have made of it a fuller medium of expression. As it is, his poetry remains something of an experiment. But every experiment of a man of such power is worth preservation and study, and Messrs. Maunsel
have done the reading public a service in preparing this collected edition of his works. We only regret that they have not been able to preserve Mr. W. B. Yeats's prefaces to some of the earlier editions.
BENJIE AND THE BOGEY MAN.
The change of weather foretold by Benjamin Prowse came, just as he had predicted, during the night with the turn of the tide. First a little billow rolled in from the sou’-south-east: then the wind dropped out to that quarter. The sea began to make. A misty cloud hid the setting moon, filled the sky, and cloaked the tops of the cliffs in vapor.
At peep of day Benjie's nephew crept round the foot of West Cliff towards Western Bay. So long as his feet scrunched companionably on the narrow strip of shingle between the cliff and Broken Rocks he continued talk. ing to himself. “ 'Tis full o' it,” he complained, glancing at the cloud and mist. "Benjie won't never stay down along there just when he'd better to for once. Who'd ha' thought thic fellow'd ha' turned up here this time o day? Never see'd the like o' it!”
Arrived at the bay, Bill Prowse sat down and waited silently, peering along to the westward, and at interyals looking above his head to make sure that the soft red cliff was not falling out upon him.
It was one of those very gray dawns, when there seems to be plenty of light long before any object can be made out distinctly. The white calm of the evening before, when Benjie had put to sea, was replaced by several broken lines of surf flowing in across the flat sand, fading westward into the loom of Steep Head, and filling the whole bay with re-echoed plaintive rattle. Gulls, looking nearly twice their size,
stalked about in the shallow water after sand-eels.
By and by a boat become visible suddenly, just outside the broken water. Prawn-nets were piled up high on the stern. One man was sheaving-standing up with bent back and rowing forwards—whilst the other man pulled in the ordinary manner, seated face astern.
"That's ol' Benjie, right enough," observed Bill Prowse.
He got up, walked to the water's edge, and, putting his hands funnelwise to his mouth, shouted as if he did not want to be overheard. "Bogey man! Bogey man to beach! 'Spector! Bide here a bit."
The rowing ceased. A word like "What?" came from the boat.
"Bogey man! Fishery 'Spector!"
The next words from the boat sounded like, “Be the capstan fixed ?"
“Bogey man!" answered Bill.
But voices failed to carry across the noise of the surf. The boat could approach no nearer. Benjie had to turn it quickly in order to meet a broken wave bows on. He began rowing again with short, irritable strokes, and finally steered the boat outwards to clear Broken Rocks.
Bill Prowse's shouting died away helplessly: "Bogey man! Bogey-eyey
And still the boat held on its course for Saltertown beach.
Bill followed hurriedly a'ongshore. "This here's what comes," he grum
bled, “of Benjie blowing his hooter to "I knows that,” said Benjie with the likes o' Vivian Maddicke. "Don't scorn. "I know'd 'en all right. How care,' he says 'for no inspector what long is it since you've a-favored us wi’ ever lived. But 'tis best never to say a visit, sir? Eh?” nort to gentry-always was an always "Let me see your crabs and lobwill be."
sters," demanded the bogey man.
"Hold bard, Mister 'Spector. Us II.
been shrimping-prawning you calls Two or three fishermen, and one it-prawning wi' the boat-nets-an' the other man slightly apart, stood wait- prawns I catches I never shows to noing at the foot of the beach. Benjie body. I ain't got no lobster pots. ran the boat ashore, high on the crest They was washed ashore an' broken of a wave; then jumped into the wash up last October gales, an' I can't afand lifted out half a dozen prawn-nets ford to replace 'em." with their lines and cork buoys. "But you catch lobsters in your “That'll lighten her," he said. "Now prawn-nets ... haul!"
"For sure us do." His round sailor's cap was perched "Well, I want to see them." on one side of his head; his torn “There they be then.” jumper was askew; seawater ran in Benjie pointed towards the boat and streams from his patched greenish-blue made as if to lift up his nets. trousers, which also were askew; and "Show them to me," said the Inhis wrinkled face, within its fringe of spector, taking a measure from his gray beard, was noticeably haggard pocket. after the night's toil. With his arms "You be the 'Spector, ben' 'ee?" spread wide over the hoops of the nets "No nonsense, now," replied the Inand his head bent down by their spector irritably. "It's my duty to inweight, he almost bumped into the spect the catches in this fishery disstranger. Whereupon he pulled up trict.” short. Screwing bimself still farther “Very well, then; inspect away. If sideways, he quizzed the man; mocked 'tis your duty, you can't help o' it. him silently with deeply crows-footed You'm paid for the same. But 'tisn't blue eyes, at once both childlike and my duty for to help 'ee. I bain't shrewd.
paid for thic. There's the boat." "Who be you then?” he inquired, Benjie scratched his whiskers: placing his prawn-nets very deliber- "And lookse here, Mister 'Spector. ately on the shingle. "Who be you? These here's me prawns what I've a'Tisn't often the likes o' you starch- labored for this night. Be so kind collar sort o' people comes down for to as to look." belp lend a hand."
He took a small canvas bag from the The fishermen drew nearer.
bows of the boat, walked into the se "N'eet any o' our own sort nuther," and shook out its contents. The f flashed Benjie, “so early as this in the prawns that stuck in it by their spday."
he picked out and threw into the che The stranger, a man in a bowler hat after the rest. “There!" F An' and a dark stuff overcoat of indifferent amiably. "Nort but prawi have fit, cleared his throat.
You see'd that. But you d's an't “ 'Tis the bogeyman, Benjie—the how many Benjamin have a' they 'Spector!" put in Bill Prowse breath- an' you never won't; n'eet th, that lessly.
starch-collar jokers nuther-gtears,
they calls themselves--what
goes out like this here, I reckon. I tried downshore disturbing o' it an' catch- to warn 'en, but Benjie won't never ing a man's living for sport, so they hear says. Poaching I calls it. 'Twas some "What be talking 'bout. You can o' they set 'ee on to me 'cause I won't swim, can't 'ee? Could ha' done thattell 'em what I catches, nor where I could ha' swimmed out to 'en." shoots my nets. Iss, 'twas! I knows. "You didn't try to warn 'en 't all, did There's the boat. You can b-y well 'ee? An' then you blames me 'spect the rest o'what I catched. I “What's the fine? Twenty pound ?" be going in house for me dinner an' a “Benjie'll never pay thic out o' his couple o' hours' sleep. Ain't had a profits. He'll hae to sell up his fishbite since yesterday noon nor any ing-boat an' nets—aye, an' then go sleep this three nights. I on'y hope short after that. P’raps they won't your duty won't never bring 'ee to make 'en pay, fust time an' all. If keeping a roof over your head wi' the likes o' they, what makes such shrimping-an' measuring the crabs laws, know'd what the likes o' us has an' lobsters what you catches wi' an to contend with.... But there! inch-rule in the dark."
they don't know, nor never won't, n'eet Leaving the boat and the nets where care, Benjie'll tell 'em off, you they were, Benjie shouldered some see. drift-wood and strode up the beach. "G'out! Let's haul up the boat for
“I shouted to 'ee t'other side o' 'en. What's the use o' Benjie blowing rocks," Bill Prowse protested.
his hooter?” Benjie stopped and turned, his bearing and appearance that of an an
III. cient prophet. "Hell
Benjie was all but late for court. shouting! Let 'en 'spect, I say. I'll He had gone west downshore to pick get in out o' it."
up some driftwood for firing, and an He did.
unexpected easterly breeze gave him a The other fishermen stood with their pull home against wind and chop such hands in their pockets on top of the as few men would have attempted. No sea-wall, while the bogey man routed time was left him to change his clothes. about in the boat. Undersized lob- Vivian Maddicke was on the bench. sters had been thrown for'ard, among He always is. He takes his duties as some old cordage and bottles of tea; a gentleman and a magistrate almost crabs were scuttling all over and under as seriously as he takes himself. That the bottom-boards and stern-sheets. is to say, he does try, at considerable Most of them were wildsters, but the personal inconvenience, to administer bogey man did find half a dozen or so justice,—to hold the balance between f tamesters. Doubtful specimens he an efficient and respectful police force
pasured carefully. When he had fin- and an unruly lower class. He spends, ned, he put the under-sized shell-fish indeed, not a little of his abundant leiyone of Benjie's sacks.
sure in pointing out to the poor the adout
the sack alone's wuth half a vantages of hard work, and in imto sea
Zill Prowse remarked in the pressing upon them his own view of lines on's hearing. "Ol' Benjie's so
right and wrong. Hence it is possisand, f' harmless a man as ever put bly, that his subscriptions and charities Steep f all he has his say out when and justice hardly bring him a fair re
He've a-worked too turn in popularity. his life for to deserve a turnGulls,
When Benjie entered the court in his
ragged discolored longshore rig, a faint In fining Benjie one pound, including expression of disgust passed over Viv- costs, he remarked that it was not a ian Maddicke's pale but otherwise large sum (murmurs of disapproval healthy face. He ordered two win- from fishermen at the back of the dows to be opened. “Let us have some court), and that fishery inspectors were fresh air," he said. "Never mind the not to be trifled with or defied. Furdraught."
thermore, he impressed upon Benjie in Benjie, though he appeared to be the most kindly manner possible that examining the nail-heads in the floor, little lobsters grow into big ones. was all the time looking up at the "Iss, sir,” said Benjie, “but the bench from beneath his shaggy eye- little ones be better eating if people brows. He understood the slur very only know'd it, same as mackerel.” well. Still fingering nervously his With a passing reference to the de. old round cap, he turned a pair of can- pletion of the North Sea fisheries, the did eyes full on Vivian Maddicke, and magistrate stated it as a fact, that if Vivian Maddicke, who had been gazing the fish were not in the sea they could benevolently round the court-room, not be caught out of it. turned his face to the papers on his “For sure, sir!" Benjie assented. desk.
Under cover of being ready and willThe case proceeded. There was no ing to learn, he was edging in his relegal defence: Benjie had not pur- marks skilfully; for it was by no means chased legal advice.
the first time he had tackled the gentry "When I tells 'em how us be situ- who think they can teach fishermen ated . . ." he had said. But he was their trade. With every show of retoo much on his guard to give any use- spect, moreover, he was capturing the ful evidence, even on his own behalf. laugh in court. The undersized crabs and lobsters were Fishery Boards, Vivian Maddicke produced—it is wonderful how they fall continued patiently, were created to off in appearance when they have died protect the fisheries. Their regulaotherwise than in boiling water. Viv- tions were framed in the interest of ian Maddicke took the opportunity of the fishermen themselves, so that there remarking, “I thought we should re- might be more fish caught. quire some fresh air.”
"Don't you believe that, sir," burst The Clerk to the Sea Fisheries Com- forth Benjie with intense conviction. mittee-a spruce young lawyer in a "Do you think the likes o' they makes hurry-did not wish to press the case rules and regylations so that the likes too hard. They would be satisfied
can catch more fish? Tisn't with a fine sufficient to show that the likely! They bain't afeard o' us not regulations of the Sea Fisheries Com- catching fish. What they'm afeard o' mittee must not be trifled with. The is that they won't hae no fish to eat, or costs of inspection and of prosecution won't hae 'em so cheap. Us! I've were heavy. He would respectfully a-know'd the time when I could go down suggest to his worship
along an' catch a pound's-wuth o' lobBut his worship was not to be hus- sters in half a dozen rounds wi' the tled among his own people, as he re- boat-nets; but I can't do it now. An' garded them, by an outside lawyer. why for? Not 'cause
have He sat back in his chair, crossed his a-catched 'em. That's just what us an't legs in the magisterial manner, and done. An' nuther you, sir, n'eet they dng his quill into his desk. When the there Fishery Boards, nor eet me, that lawyer had quite finished, he began.
have know'd this coast for sixty years,
can tell where they'm gone to.
Don't you believe they makes their regylations for the good o'us. I can tell 'ee better. How have 'em bettered fishing? I wants to know."
The magistrate's clerk had risen during Benjie's passionate harangue. Vivian Maddicke motioned him down. Benjie, by force of his sincerity and in virtue of his long hard experience, held the court.
"I did not, you understand, frame the regulations," Maddicke explained. “My duty is to see they are enforced.”
"Iss! Duty! That's what thic Inspector said down to beach
"One pound," Vivian Maddicke repeated with dignity. “And you can have a fortnight to pay in."
Rising from the bench, he added, "If you care to talk to me out of court about the conditions of your work, I shall be pleased to hear; and perhaps, if there is any special hardship, I can do something in the matter."
"Hardship! Hardship, do 'er say?" Addressing everyone around, gesticulating, trembling with speech, Benjie was hustled from the courtroom by those whose duty it is to do such jobs.
He did not go home as he was told to do; he waited outside the magistrate's entrance (other fishermen waited too at a discreet distance), and when Vivian Maddicke appeared, picking bits of fluff from the front of his coat, Benjie stood resolutely before him.
"You said as you'd like to know, sir; an' you ought to know how we'm situated; an' I be going to tell 'ee. You ought to know the nature o'it, sir; you ought to know what us got to contend with, afore you fines a man more 'n he can pay wi'out selling up some o' the gear what he's got to earn his living with."
"But you've a fortnight to pay in."
“An' I thank you, sir, for that. An' I tell 'ee what,
I know'd your
father; a proper gen'leman he was; he used to go fishing 'long wi' me afore you was born. You come down 'long wi' me one night an' see what 'tis like for yourself. Then you'll know. Duty ain't never no excuse for not knowing. You can row, can't 'ee?"
"I used to go in for rowing; and if you'll send up and let me know when you're going, I will come.”
"That's spoken proper, sir, like your ol' man hisself. 'Tisn't everybody I'd take 'long with me; but you come, just for one night. That'll teach 'ee more 'n any amount o'chackle. I'll send up for 'ee right 'nuff. Why! I mind when
Maddicke said “Good morning" with the air of a man who has an appointment to keep.
“Good morning, an' thank you, sir," returned Benjie.
To the other fishermen, who joined him for the walk back to the beach, all he would say was: "You bide a bit an'
The likes o' they sort thinks they bain't ignorant, an' us be.”
Benjie had luck. One afternoon the next week he hauled his boat down the beach, piled his prawn-nets beside it, then waited, instead of telling his fisherman mate to get ready.
“What be biding for?" asked Bill Prowse. "You bain't going to take he t'night, be 'ee?"
“Iss, I be. Why for not? Nice calm night, ain't it. 'Er can't very well be sea-sick."
Bill Prowse jerked his head to seaward.
The sun had begun to sink behind the dark mass of Steep Head. The water, a dead calm, was nevertheless not white calm, as it should have been, for to the south'ard and overhead the piled-up sky was black and heavy. It overshadowed the sea; seemed to be pressing down upon the water. And