“Taffy! Taffy! Whatever has become of the child?”
His mother was standing by the gate in her print frock. He scrambled up and ran toward her. She cried out at the sight of him, but he hid his blood-smeared face against her skirts.
TAFFY RINGS THE CHURCH BELL.
They were in the church—Squire Moyle, Mr. Raymond, and Taffy close behind. The two men were discussing the holes in the roof and other dilapidations.
“One, two, three,” the Squire counted. “I’ll send a couple of men with tarpaulin and rick-ropes. That’ll tide us over next Sunday, unless it blows hard.”
They passed up three steps under the belfry arch. Here a big bell rested on the flooring. Its rim was cracked, but not badly. A long ladder reached up into the gloom.
“What’s the beam like?” the Squire called up to someone aloft.
“Sound as a bell,” answered a voice.
“I said so. We’ll have en hoisted by Sunday, I’ll send a waggon over to Wheel Gooniver for a tackle and winch. Damme, up there! Don’t keep sheddin’ such a muck o’ dust on your betters!”
“I can’t help no other, Squire!” said the voice overhead; “such a cauch o’ pilm an’ twigs, an’ birds’ droppins’! If I sneeze I’m a lost man.”
Taffy, staring up as well as he could for the falling rubbish, could just spy a white smock above the beam, and a glint of daylight on the toe-scutes of two dangling boots.
“I’ll dam soon make you help it. Is the beam sound?”
“Ha’n’t I told ’ee so?” said the voice querulously.
“Then come down off the ladder, you son of a—”
“Gently, Squire!” put in Mr. Raymond.
The Squire groaned. “There I go again—an’ in the House of God itself! Oh! ‘tis a case with me! I’ve a heart o’ stone—a heart o’ stone.” He turned and brushed his rusty hat with his coat-cuff. Suddenly he faced round again. “Here, Bill Udy,” he said to the old labourer who had just come down the ladder, “catch hold of my hat an’ carry en fore to porch. I keep forgettin’ I’m in church, an’ then on he goes.”
The building stood half a mile from the sea, surrounded by the rolling towans and rabbit burrows, and a few lichen-spotted tombstones slanting inland. Early in the seventeenth century a London merchant had been shipwrecked on the coast below Nannizabuloe and cast ashore, the one saved out of thirty. He asked to be shown a church in which to give thanks for his preservation, and the people led him to a ruin bedded in the sands. It had lain since the days of Arundel’s Rebellion. The Londoner vowed to build a new church there on the towans, where the songs of prayer and praise should mingle with the voice of the waves which God had baffled for him. The people warned him of the sand; but he would not listen to reason. He built his church—a