I SAW THREE SHIPS.
Chapter I. The First Ship.
Chapter II. The Second Ship.
Chapter III. The Stranger.
Chapter IV. Young Zeb fetches a Chest of Drawers.
Chapter V. The Stranger Dances in Young Zeb’s Shoes.
Chapter VI. Siege is Lad to Ruby.
Chapter VII. The “Jolly Pilchards”
Chapter VIII. Young Zeb Sells His Soul.
Chapter IX. Young Zeb Wins His Soul Back.
Chapter X. The Third Ship.
THE HAUNTED DRAGOON.
A BLUE PANTOMIME.
I. How I Dined at the “Indian Queens”.
II. What I Saw in the Mirror.
III. What I Saw in the Tarn.
IV. What I have Since Learnt
THE TWO HOUSEHOLDERS.
THE DISENCHANTMENT OF ELIZABETH.
I SAW THREE SHIPS.
The first ship.
In those west-country parishes where but a few years back the feast of Christmas Eve was usually prolonged with cake and cider, “crowding,” and “geese dancing,” till the ancient carols ushered in the day, a certain languor not seldom pervaded the services of the Church a few hours later. Red eyes and heavy, young limbs hardly rested from the Dashing White Sergeant and Sir Roger, throats husky from a plurality of causes—all these were recognised as proper to the season, and, in fact, of a piece with the holly on the communion rails.
On a dark and stormy Christmas morning as far back as the first decade of the century, this languor was neither more nor less apparent than usual inside the small parish church of Ruan Lanihale, although Christmas fell that year on a Sunday, and dancing should, by rights, have ceased at midnight. The building stands high above a bleak peninsula on the South Coast, and the congregation had struggled up with heads slanted sou’-west against the weather that drove up the Channel in a black fog. Now, having gained shelter, they quickly lost the glow of endeavour, and mixed in pleasing stupor the humming of the storm in the tower above, its intermittent onslaughts on the leadwork of the southern windows, and the voice of Parson Babbage lifted now and again from the chancel as if to correct the shambling pace of the choir in the west gallery.
“Mark me,” whispered Old Zeb Minards, crowder and leader of the musicians, sitting back at the end of the Psalms, and eyeing his fiddle dubiously; “If Sternhold be sober this morning, Hopkins be drunk as a fly, or ’tis t’other way round.”