When, like a thief, the Midianite Shall steal upon the camp, O, let him find our armour bright, And oil within our lamp!”
“But where in the world does it come from?” asked St. Neot.
This could not be answered for the moment; but the saints turned their horses’ heads from the sea, and moved slowly on the track of the sound, which at every step grew louder and more distinct.
“It is at no appointed hours, It is not by the dock, That Satan, grisly wolf, devours The unprotected flock”
The visitors found themselves at the foot of an enormous sand-hill, from the top of which the chant was pouring as lava from a crater. They set their ears to the sandy wall. They walked round it, and listened again.
“But ever prowls th’ insidious
And listens round the fold”
This was too much. St. Petroc smote twice upon the sand-hill with his crozier, and shouted—
The chant ceased. For at least a couple of minutes nothing happened; and then St. Piran’s bald head was thrust cautiously forward over the summit.
“Holy St. Petroc! Was it only you, after all? And St. Neot—and St. Udy O, glory be!”
“Why, who did you imagine we were?” St. Petroc asked, still in amazement.
“Why, throat-cutting Danes, to be sure, by the way you were comin’ over the hills when we spied you, three hours back. An’ the trouble we’ve had to cover up our blessed church out o’ sight of thim marautherin’ thieves! An’ the intire parish gathered inside here an’ singin’ good-by songs in expectation of imminent death! An’ to think ’twas you holy men, all the while! But why didn’t ye send word ye was comin’, St. Petroc, darlint? For it’s little but sand ye’ll find in your mouths for breakfast, I’m thinkin’.”
The first-class smoking compartment was the emptiest in the whole train, and even this was hot to suffocation, because my only companion denied me more than an inch of open window. His chest, he explained curtly, was “susceptible.” As we crawled westward through the glaring country, the sun’s rays reverberated on the carriage roof till I seemed to be crushed under an anvil, counting the strokes. I had dropped my book, and was staring listlessly out of the window. At the other end of the compartment my fellow-passenger had pulled down the blinds, and hidden his face behind the Western Morning News. He was a red and choleric little man of about sixty, with a protuberant stomach, a prodigious nose, to which he carried snuff about once in two minutes, and a marked deformity of the shoulders. For comfort—and also, perhaps, to hide this hump—he rested his back in the angle by the window. He wore a black alpaca coat, a high stock, white waistcoat, and trousers of shepherd’s plaid. On these and a few other trivial details I built a lazy hypothesis that he was a lawyer, and unmarried.