The wind that had been howling outside like an outrageous dog had all of a sudden turned as melodious as the carol-boys of a Christmas Eve.
We went to the door, and the wind burst it open so that the handle was driven clean into the plaster of the wall. But we didn’t think much of that at the time; for over our heads, sailing very comfortably through the windy stars, was the ship that had passed the summer in landlord’s field. Her portholes and her bay-window were blazing with lights, and there was a noise of singing and fiddling on her decks. “He’s gone,” shouted landlord above the storm, “and he’s taken half the village with him!” I could only nod in answer, not having lungs like bellows of leather.
I declare I would not exchange this short, crazy, enchanting fantasy for a whole wilderness of seemly novels, proclaiming in decorous accents the undoubted truth that there are milestones on the Portsmouth Road.
Fairfield is a little village lying near the Portsmouth Road about half-way between London and the sea. Strangers who find it by accident now and then, call it a pretty, old-fashioned place; we who live in it and call it home don’t find anything very pretty about it, but we should be sorry to live anywhere else. Our minds have taken the shape of the inn and the church and the green, I suppose. At all events we never feel comfortable out of Fairfield.
Of course the Cockneys, with their vasty houses and noise-ridden streets, can call us rustics if they choose, but for all that Fairfield is a better place to live in than London. Doctor says that when he goes to London his mind is bruised with the weight of the houses, and he was a Cockney born. He had to live there himself when he was a little chap, but he knows better now. You gentlemen may laugh—perhaps some of you come from London way—but it seems to me that a witness like that is worth a gallon of arguments.
Dull? Well, you might find it dull, but I assure you that I’ve listened to all the London yarns you have spun tonight, and they’re absolutely nothing to the things that happen at Fairfield. It’s because of our way of thinking and minding our own business. If one of your Londoners were set down on the green of a Saturday night when the ghosts of the lads who died in the war keep tryst with the lasses who lie in the church-yard, he couldn’t help being curious and interfering, and then the ghosts would go somewhere where it was quieter. But we just let them come and go and don’t make any fuss, and in consequence Fairfield is the ghostiest place in all England. Why, I’ve seen a headless man sitting on the edge of the well in broad daylight, and the children playing about his feet as if he were their father. Take my word for it, spirits know when they are well off as much as human beings.