“After that we sat quiet, he an’ I, all the night through, never takin’ our clothes off. An’ at daybreak Isaac walked down to the shore. There was nothin’ to see but two bodies, an’ he buried them an’ waited for more. That evenin’ another came in, an’ next day, two; an’ so on for a se’nnight. Ten bodies in all he picked up and buried i’ the meadow below. An’ on the fourth day he picked up a body wi’ one finger missin’, under the Nare Head. ’Twas the young man he had driven forth, who had wandered there an’ broke his neck. Isaac buried him too. An’ that was all, except two that the coastguard found an’ held an inquest over an’ carr’d off to churchyard.
“So it befell; an’ for five year’ neither Isaac nor me opened mouth ‘pon it, not to each other even. An’ then, one noonday, a sailor knocks at the door; an’ goin’ out, I seed he was a furriner, wi’ great white teeth showin’ dro’ his beard. ’I be come to see Mister Isaac Lenine,’ he says, in his outlandish English. So I called Isaac out; an’ the stranger grips ‘en by the hand an’ kisses ‘en, sayin’, ’Little father, take me to their graves. My name is Feodor Himkoff, an’ my brother Dmitry was among the crew of the Viatka. You would know his body, if you buried it, for the second finger was gone from his right hand. I myself—wretched one!—chopped it by bad luck when we were boys, an’ played at wood cuttin’ wi’ our father’s axe. I have heard how they perished, far from aid, and how you gave ’em burial in your own field: and I pray to all the saints for you,’ he says.
“So Isaac led ’en to the field and showed ’en the grave that was staked off ‘long wi’ the rest. God help my poor man! he was too big a coward to speak. So the man stayed wi’ us till sundown, an’ kissed us ‘pon both cheeks, an’ went his way, blessin’ us. God forgi’e us— God forgi’e us!
“An’ ever since he’s been breaking our heads dro’ the post-office wi’ such-like precious balms as these here.” She broke off to settle Isaac more comfortably in his chair. “’Tis all we can do to get rid of ’em on poor trampin’ fellows same as yourself.”
“See here, you’d best lose the bitch—till tomorrow, anyway. She ain’t the sight to please a strict man, like your dad, on the Sabbath day. What’s more, she won’t heal for a fortni’t, not to deceive a Croolty-to-Animals Inspector at fifty yards; an’ with any man but me she’ll take a month.”
My friend Yorkshire Dick said this, with that curious gypsy intonation that turns English into a foreign tongue if you forget the words and listen only to the voice. He was squatting in the sunshine, with his back against an oak sapling, a black cutty under his nose, and Meg, my small fox-terrier, between his thighs. In those days, being just fifteen, I had taken a sketch-book and put myself to school under Dick to learn the lore of Things As They Are: and, as part of the course, we had been the death of a badger that morning—Sunday morning.