“Your six young men—if six there be—” said Mr Pamphlett, “will be best employed for some time to come in fighting for their country. It don’t pay to build cottages, I tell you.”
Nicky-Nan’s right hand gripped the knife in his pocket. But he answered wearily—
“Well, anyways, sir, I don’t ask to interfere with them: but only to bide under my own shelter.”
“Owing me six pounds arrears, and piling up more? And after driving me to legal proceedings! Look here, Nanjivell. You are fumbling something in your pocket. Is it the six pounds you owe me?”
“I thought not. And if it were, I should still demand the costs I’ve been put to. If you bring me the total on Monday—But you know very well you cannot.”
“Then,” said Mr Pamphlett, “we waste time. I have been worried enough, these last few days, with more serious business than yours. In the times now upon us a many folk are bound to go to the wall; and the improvident will go first, as is only right. Enough said, my man!”
Nicky-Nan fumbled with the knife in his pocket, but let Mr Pamphlett pass.
Then he limped back to the house that would be his until Monday, and closed the door. Beyond the frail partition which boarded him off from the Penhaligon family he could hear the children merry at tea.
CALL TO ARMS.
NESCIO Qua Natale
Solum DULCEDINE CUNCTOS
DUCIT et IMMEMORES non SINIT ESSE SUI.
—The Old Doctor (to whom we have made allusion) had been moved to write an account of his native place, and had contrived to get it published by subscription in a thin octavo volume of 232 pages, measuring nine by five and a half inches. Copies are rare, but may yet be picked up on secondhand bookstalls for six or seven shillings.
From this ‘History of Polpier’ I must quote—being unable to better it—his description of the little town. (He ever insisted in calling it a town, not a village, although it contained less than fourteen hundred inhabitants.)
“If the map of the coast of Cornwall be examined, on the south-east, between the estuaries of the two rivers that divide the Hundred of West from the Hundred of East and the Hundred of Powder, will be noticed an indentation of the littoral line, in which cleft lies the little town of Polpier. Tall hills, abrupt and rugged, shut in a deep and tortuous valley, formed by the meeting of smaller coombs; houses, which seem dropped rather than built, crowd the valley and its rocky ledges; a rapid rivulet dances in and out among the dwellings, till its voice is lost in the waters of a tidal haven, thronged with fishing boats and guarded by its Peak of serried rock.”
The Doctor after this first modest mention of “a