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I Saw Three Ships and Other Winter Tales   By: (1863-1944)

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First Page:

I SAW THREE SHIPS AND OTHER WINTER TALES.

BY ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER COUCH ("Q").

To T. Wemyss Reid.

CONTENTS.

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.

CHAPTER I.

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."

"'Twas middlin' wambly," assented Calvin Oke, the second fiddle a screw faced man tightly wound about the throat with a yellow kerchief.

"An' 'tis a delicate matter to cuss the singers when the musicianers be twice as bad."

"I'd a very present sense of being a bar or more behind the fair that I can honestly vow," put in Elias Sweetland, bending across from the left. Now Elias was a bachelor, and had blown the serpent from his youth up. He was a bald, thin man, with a high leathern stock, and shoulders that sloped remarkably.

"Well, 'taint a suent engine at the best, Elias that o' yourn," said his affable leader, "nor to be lightly trusted among the proper psa'ms, 'specially since Chris'mas three year, when we sat in the forefront of the gallery, an' you dropped all but the mouthpiece overboard on to Aunt Belovely's bonnet at 'I was glad when they said unto me.'"

"Aye, poor soul. It shook her. Never the same woman from that hour, I do b'lieve. Though I'd as lief you didn't mention it, friends, if I may say so; for 'twas a bitter portion."

Elias patted his instrument sadly, and the three men looked up for a moment, as a scud of rain splashed on the window, drowning a sentence of the First Lesson.

"Well, well," resumed Old Zeb, "we all have our random intervals, and a drop o' cider in the mouthpieces is no less than Pa'son looks for, Chris'mas mornin's... Continue reading book >>




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