The Wouldbegoods by Edith Nesbit
Chapter 12. The Canterbury Pilgrims
The author of these few lines really does hope to goodness that no one will be such an owl as to think from the number of things we did when we were in the country, that we were wretched, neglected little children, whose grown-up relations sparkled in the bright haunts of pleasure, and whirled in the giddy what's-its-name of fashion, while we were left to weep forsaken at home. It was nothing of the kind, and I wish you to know that my father was with us a good deal--and Albert's uncle (who is really no uncle of ours, but only of Albert next door when we lived in Lewisham) gave up a good many of his valuable hours to us. And the father of Denny and Daisy came now and then, and other people, quite as many as we wished to see. And we had some very decent times with them; and enjoyed ourselves very much indeed, thank you. In some ways the good times you have with grown-ups are better than the ones you have by yourselves. At any rate they are safer. It is almost impossible, then, to do anything fatal without being pulled up short by a grown-up ere yet the deed is done. And, if you are careful, anything that goes wrong can be looked on as the grown-up's fault. But these secure pleasures are not so interesting to tell about as the things you do when there is no one to stop you on the edge of the rash act.
It is curious, too, that many of our most interesting games happened when grown-ups were far away. For instance when we were pilgrims.
It was just after the business of the Benevolent Bar, and it was a wet day. It is not easy to amuse yourself indoors on a wet day as older people seem to think, especially when you are far removed from your own home, and haven't got all your own books and things. The girls were playing Halma--which is a beastly game--Noel was writing poetry, H. O. was singing 'I don't know what to do' to the tune of 'Canaan's happy shore'. It goes like this, and is very tiresome to listen to--
'I don't know what to do--oo--oo--oo! I don't know what to do--oo--oo! It is a beastly rainy day And I don't know what to do.'
The rest of us were trying to make him shut up. We put a carpet bag over his head, but he went on inside it; and then we sat on him, but he sang under us; we held him upside down and made him crawl head first under the sofa, but when, even there, he kept it up, we saw that nothing short of violence would induce him to silence, so we let him go. And then he said we had hurt him, and we said we were only in fun, and he said if we were he wasn't, and ill feeling might have grown up even out of a playful brotherly act like ours had been, only Alice chucked the Halma and said--
'Let dogs delight. Come on--let's play something.'
Then Dora said, 'Yes, but look here. Now we're together I do want to say something. What about the Wouldbegoods Society?'
Many of us groaned, and one said, 'Hear! hear!' I will not say which one, but it was not Oswald.
'No, but really,' Dora said, 'I don't want to be preachy--but you know we did say we'd try to be good. And it says in a book I was reading only yesterday that not being naughty is not enough. You must be good. And we've hardly done anything. The Golden Deed book's almost empty.'
'Couldn't we have a book of leaden deeds?' said Noel, coming out of his poetry, 'then there'd be plenty for Alice to write about if she wants to, or brass or zinc or aluminium deeds? We shan't ever fill the book with golden ones.'
H. O. had rolled himself in the red tablecloth and said Noel was only advising us to be naughty, and again peace waved in the balance. But Alice said, 'Oh, H. O., don't--he didn't mean that; but really and truly, I wish wrong things weren't so interesting. You begin to do a noble act, and then it gets so exciting, and before you know where you are you are doing something wrong as hard as you can lick.'
'And enjoying it too' Dick said.
'It's very curious,' Denny said, 'but you don't seem to be able to be certain inside yourself whether what you're doing is right if you happen to like doing it, but if you don't like doing it you know quite well. I only thought of that just now. I wish Noel would make a poem about it.'
'I am,' Noel said; 'it began about a crocodile but it is finishing itself up quite different from what I meant it to at first. just wait a minute.'
He wrote very hard while his kind brothers and sisters and his little friends waited the minute he had said, and then he read:
'The crocodile is very wise, He lives in the Nile with little eyes, He eats the hippopotamus too, And if he could he would eat up you.
'The lovely woods and starry skies He looks upon with glad surprise! He sees the riches of the east, And the tiger and lion, kings of beast.
'So let all be good and beware Of saying shan't and won't and don't care; For doing wrong is easier far Than any of the right things I know about are.
And I couldn't make it king of beasts because of it not rhyming with east, so I put the s off beasts on to king. It comes even in the end.'
We all said it was a very nice piece of poetry. Noel gets really ill if you don't like what he writes, and then he said, 'If it's trying that's wanted, I don't care how hard we try to be good, but we may as well do it some nice way. Let's be Pilgrim's Progress, like I wanted to at first.'
And we were all beginning to say we didn't want to, when suddenly Dora said, 'Oh, look here! I know. We'll be the Canterbury Pilgrims. People used to go pilgrimages to make themselves good.'
'With peas in their shoes,' the Dentist said. 'It's in a piece of poetry--only the man boiled his peas--which is quite unfair.'
'Oh, yes,' said H. O., 'and cocked hats.'
'Not cocked--cockled'--it was Alice who said this. 'And they had staffs and scrips, and they told each other tales. We might as well.'
Oswald and Dora had been reading about the Canterbury Pilgrims in a book called A Short History of the English People. It is not at all short really--three fat volumes--but it has jolly good pictures. It was written by a gentleman named Green. So Oswald said--
'All right. I'll be the Knight.'
'I'll be the wife of Bath,' Dora said. 'What will you be, Dicky?'
'Oh, I don't care, I'll be Mr Bath if you like.'
'We don't know much about the people,' Alice said. 'How many were there?'
'Thirty,' Oswald replied, 'but we needn't be all of them. There's a Nun-Priest.'
'Is that a man or a woman?'
Oswald said he could not be sure by the picture, but Alice and Noel could be it between them. So that was settled. Then we got the book and looked at the dresses to see if we could make up dresses for the parts. At first we thought we would, because it would be something to do, and it was a very wet day; but they looked difficult, especially the Miller's. Denny wanted to be the Miller, but in the end he was the Doctor, because it was next door to Dentist, which is what we call him for short. Daisy was to be the Prioress--because she is good, and has 'a soft little red mouth', and H. O. would be the Manciple (I don't know what that is), because the picture of him is bigger than most of the others, and he said Manciple was a nice portmanteau word--half mandarin and half disciple.
'Let's get the easiest parts of the dresses ready first.' Alice said--'the pilgrims' staffs and hats and the cockles.'
So Oswald and Dicky braved the fury of the elements and went into the wood beyond the orchard to cut ash-sticks. We got eight jolly good long ones. Then we took them home, and the girls bothered till we changed our clothes, which were indeed sopping with the elements we had faced.
Then we peeled the sticks. They were nice and white at first, but they soon got dirty when we carried them. It is a curious thing: however often you wash your hands they always seem to come off on anything white. And we nailed paper rosettes to the tops of them. That was the nearest we could get to cockle-shells.
'And we may as well have them there as on our hats,' Alice said. 'And let's call each other by our right names to-day, just to get into it. Don't you think so, Knight?'
'Yea, Nun-Priest,' Oswald was replying, but Noel said she was only half the Nun-Priest, and again a threat of unpleasantness darkened the air. But Alice said--
'Don't be a piggy-wiggy, Noel, dear; you can have it all, I don't want it. I'll just be a plain pilgrim, or Henry who killed Becket.'
So she was called the Plain Pilgrim, and she did not mind.
We thought of cocked hats, but they are warm to wear, and the big garden hats that make you look like pictures on the covers of plantation songs did beautifully. We put cockle-shells on them. Sandals we did try, with pieces of oil-cloth cut the shape of soles and fastened with tape, but the dust gets into your toes so, and we decided boots were better for such a long walk. Some of the pilgrims who were very earnest decided to tie their boots with white tape crossed outside to pretend sandals. Denny was one of these earnest palmers. As for dresses, there was no time to make them properly, and at first we thought of nightgowns; but we decided not to, in case people in Canterbury were not used to that sort of pilgrim nowadays. We made up our minds to go as we were--or as we might happen to be next day.
You will be ready to believe we hoped next day would be fine. It was.
Fair was the morn when the pilgrims arose and went down to breakfast. Albert's uncle had had brekker early and was hard at work in his study. We heard his quill pen squeaking when we listened at the door. It is not wrong to listen at doors when there is only one person inside, because nobody would tell itself secrets aloud when it was alone.
We got lunch from the housekeeper, Mrs Pettigrew. She seems almost to like us all to go out and take our lunch with us. Though I should think it must be very dull for her all alone. I remember, though, that Eliza, our late general at Lewisham, was just the same. We took the dear dogs of course. Since the Tower of Mystery happened we are not allowed to go anywhere without the escort of these faithful friends of man. We did not take Martha, because bull-dogs do not like walks. Remember this if you ever have one of those valuable animals.
When we were all ready, with our big hats and cockle-shells, and our staves and our tape sandals, the pilgrims looked very nice.
'Only we haven't any scrips,' Dora said. 'What is a scrip?'
'I think it's something to read. A roll of parchment or something.'
So we had old newspapers rolled up, and carried them in our hands. We took the Globe and the Westminster Gazette because they are pink and green. The Dentist wore his white sandshoes, sandalled with black tape, and bare legs. They really looked almost as good as bare feet.
'We ought to have peas in our shoes,' he said. But we did not think so. We knew what a very little stone in your boot will do, let alone peas.
Of course we knew the way to go to Canterbury, because the old Pilgrims' Road runs just above our house. It is a very pretty road, narrow, and often shady. It is nice for walking, but carts do not like it because it is rough and rutty; so there is grass growing in patches on it.
I have said that it was a fine day, which means that it was not raining, but the sun did not shine all the time.
''Tis well, O Knight,' said Alice, 'that the orb of day shines not in undi--what's-its-name?--splendour.'
'Thou sayest sooth, Plain Pilgrim,' replied Oswald. ''Tis jolly warm even as it is.'
'I wish I wasn't two people,' Noel said, 'it seems to make me hotter. I think I'll be a Reeve or something.'
But we would not let him, and we explained that if he hadn't been so beastly particular Alice would have been half of him, and he had only himself to thank if being all of a Nun-Priest made him hot.
But it was warm certainly, and it was some time since we'd gone so far in boots. Yet when H. O. complained we did our duty as pilgrims and made him shut up. He did as soon as Alice said that about whining and grizzling being below the dignity of a Manciple.
It was so warm that the Prioress and the wife of Bath gave up walking with their arms round each other in their usual silly way (Albert's uncle calls it Laura Matildaing), and the Doctor and Mr Bath had to take their jackets off and carry them.
I am sure if an artist or a photographer, or any person who liked pilgrims, had seen us he would have been very pleased. The paper cockle-shells were first-rate, but it was awkward having them on the top of the staffs, because they got in your way when you wanted the staff to use as a walking-stick.
We stepped out like a man all of us, and kept it up as well as we could in book-talk, and at first all was merry as a dinner-bell; but presently Oswald, who was the 'very perfect gentle knight', could not help noticing that one of us was growing very silent and rather pale, like people are when they have eaten something that disagrees with them before they are quite sure of the fell truth.
So he said, 'What's up, Dentist, old man?' quite kindly and like a perfect knight, though, of course, he was annoyed with Denny. It is sickening when people turn pale in the middle of a game and everything is spoiled, and you have to go home, and tell the spoiler how sorry you are that he is knocked up, and pretend not to mind about the game being spoiled.
Denny said, 'Nothing', but Oswald knew better.
Then Alice said, 'Let's rest a bit, Oswald, it is hot.'
'Sir Oswald, if you please, Plain Pilgrim,' returned her brother dignifiedly. 'Remember I'm a knight.'
So then we sat down and had lunch, and Denny looked better. We played adverbs, and twenty questions, and apprenticing your son, for a bit in the shade, and then Dicky said it was time to set sail if we meant to make the port of Canterbury that night. Of course, pilgrims reck not of ports, but Dicky never does play the game thoughtfully.
We went on. I believe we should have got to Canterbury all right and quite early, only Denny got paler and paler, and presently Oswald saw, beyond any doubt, that he was beginning to walk lame.
'Shoes hurt you, Dentist?' he said, still with kind striving cheerfulness.
'Not much--it's all right,' returned the other.
So on we went--but we were all a bit tired now--and the sun was hotter and hotter; the clouds had gone away. We had to begin to sing to keep up our spirits. We sang 'The British Grenadiers' and 'John Brown's Body', which is grand to march to, and a lot of others. We were just starting on 'Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching', when Denny stopped short. He stood first on one foot and then on the other, and suddenly screwed up his face and put his knuckles in his eyes and sat down on a heap of stones by the roadside. When we pulled his hands down he was actually crying. The author does not wish to say it is babyish to cry.
'Whatever is up?' we all asked, and Daisy and Dora petted him to get him to say, but he only went on howling, and said it was nothing, only would we go on and leave him, and call for him as we came back.
Oswald thought very likely something had given Denny the stomach-ache, and he did not like to say so before all of us, so he sent the others away and told them to walk on a bit.
Then he said, 'Now, Denny, don't be a young ass. What is it? Is it stomach-ache?'
And Denny stopped crying to say 'No!' as loud as he could.
'Well, then,' Oswald said, 'look here, you're spoiling the whole thing. Don't be a jackape, Denny. What is it?'
'You won't tell the others if I tell you?'
'Not if you say not,' Oswald answered in kindly tones.
'Well, it's my shoes.'
'Take them off, man.'
'You won't laugh?'
'No!' cried Oswald, so impatiently that the others looked back to see why he was shouting. He waved them away, and with humble gentleness began to undo the black-tape sandals.
Denny let him, crying hard all the time.
When Oswald had got off the first shoe the mystery was made plain to him.
'Well! Of all the--' he said in proper indignation.
Denny quailed--though he said he did not--but then he doesn't know what quailing is, and if Denny did not quail then Oswald does not know what quailing is either.
For when Oswald took the shoe off he naturally chucked it down and gave it a kick, and a lot of little pinky yellow things rolled out. And Oswald look closer at the interesting sight. And the little things were split peas.
'Perhaps you'll tell me,' said the gentle knight, with the politeness of despair, 'why on earth you've played the goat like this?'
'Oh, don't be angry,' Denny said; and now his shoes were off, he curled and uncurled his toes and stopped crying. 'I knew pilgrims put peas in their shoes--and--oh, I wish you wouldn't laugh!'
'I'm not,' said Oswald, still with bitter politeness.
'I didn't want to tell you I was going to, because I wanted to be better than all of you, and I thought if you knew I was going to you'd want to too, and you wouldn't when I said it first. So I just put some peas in my pocket and dropped one or two at a time into my shoes when you weren't looking.'
In his secret heart Oswald said, 'Greedy young ass.' For it is greedy to want to have more of anything than other people, even goodness.
Outwardly Oswald said nothing.
'You see'--Denny went on--'I do want to be good. And if pilgriming is to do you good, you ought to do it properly. I shouldn't mind being hurt in my feet if it would make me good for ever and ever. And besides, I wanted to play the game thoroughly. You always say I don't.'
The breast of the kind Oswald was touched by these last words.
'I think you're quite good enough,' he said. 'I'll fetch back the others--no, they won't laugh.'
And we all went back to Denny, and the girls made a fuss with him. But Oswald and Dicky were grave and stood aloof. They were old enough to see that being good was all very well, but after all you had to get the boy home somehow.
When they said this, as agreeably as they could, Denny said--
'It's all right--someone will give me a lift.'
'You think everything in the world can be put right with a lift,' Dicky said, and he did not speak lovingly.
'So it can,' said Denny, 'when it's your feet. I shall easily get a lift home.'
'Not here you won't,' said Alice. 'No one goes down this road; but the high road's just round the corner, where you see the telegraph wires.'
Dickie and Oswald made a sedan chair and carried Denny to the high road, and we sat down in a ditch to wait. For a long time nothing went by but a brewer's dray. We hailed it, of course, but the man was so sound asleep that our hails were vain, and none of us thought soon enough about springing like a flash to the horses' heads, though we all thought of it directly the dray was out of sight.
So we had to keep on sitting there by the dusty road, and more than one pilgrim was heard to say it wished we had never come. Oswald was not one of those who uttered this useless wish.
At last, just when despair was beginning to eat into the vital parts of even Oswald, there was a quick tap-tapping of horses' feet on the road, and a dogcart came in sight with a lady in it all alone.
We hailed her like the desperate shipwrecked mariners in the long-boat hail the passing sail.
She pulled up. She was not a very old lady--twenty-five we found out afterwards her age was--and she looked jolly.
'Well,' she said, 'what's the matter?'
'It's this poor little boy,' Dora said, pointing to the Dentist, who had gone to sleep in the dry ditch, with his mouth open as usual. 'His feet hurt him so, and will you give him a lift?'
'But why are you all rigged out like this?' asked the lady, looking at our cockle-shells and sandals and things. We told her.
'And how has he hurt his feet?' she asked. And we told her that.
She looked very kind. 'Poor little chap,' she said. 'Where do you want to go?'
We told her that too. We had no concealments from this lady.
'Well,' she said, 'I have to go on to--what is its name?'
'Canterbury,' said H. O.
'Well, yes, Canterbury,' she said; 'it's only about half a mile. I'll take the poor little pilgrim--and, yes, the three girls. You boys must walk. Then we'll have tea and see the sights, and I'll drive you home--at least some of you. How will that do?'
We thanked her very much indeed, and said it would do very nicely.
Then we helped Denny into the cart, and the girls got up, and the red wheels of the cart spun away through the dust.
'I wish it had been an omnibus the lady was driving,' said H. O., 'then we could all have had a ride.'
'Don't you be so discontented,' Dicky said. And Noel said--
'You ought to be jolly thankful you haven't got to carry Denny all the way home on your back. You'd have had to if you'd been out alone with him.'
When we got to Canterbury it was much smaller than we expected, and the cathedral not much bigger than the Church that is next to the Moat House. There seemed to be only one big street, but we supposed the rest of the city was hidden away somewhere. There was a large inn, with a green before it, and the red-wheeled dogcart was standing in the stableyard and the lady, with Denny and the others, sitting on the benches in the porch, looking out for us. The inn was called the 'George and Dragon', and it made me think of the days when there were coaches and highwaymen and foot-pads and jolly landlords, and adventures at country inns, like you read about.
'We've ordered tea,' said the lady. 'Would you like to wash your hands?'
We saw that she wished us to, so we said yes, we would. The girls and Denny were already much cleaner than when we parted from them.
There was a courtyard to the inn and a wooden staircase outside the house. We were taken up this, and washed our hands in a big room with a fourpost wooden bed and dark red hangings--just the sort of hangings that would not show the stains of gore in the dear old adventurous times.
Then we had tea in a great big room with wooden chairs and tables, very polished and old.
It was a very nice tea, with lettuces, and cold meat, and three kinds of jam, as well as cake, and new bread, which we are not allowed at home.
While tea was being had, the lady talked to us. She was very kind.
There are two sorts of people in the world, besides others; one sort understand what you're driving at, and the other don't. This lady was the one sort.
After everyone had had as much to eat as they could possibly want, the lady said, 'What was it you particularly wanted to see at Canterbury?'
'The cathedral,' Alice said, 'and the place where Thomas A Becket was murdered.'
'And the Danejohn,' said Dicky.
Oswald wanted to see the walls, because he likes the Story of St Alphege and the Danes.
'Well, well,' said the lady, and she put on her hat; it was a really sensible one--not a blob of fluffy stuff and feathers put on sideways and stuck on with long pins, and no shade to your face, but almost as big as ours, with a big brim and red flowers, and black strings to tie under your chin to keep it from blowing off.
Then we went out all together to see Canterbury. Dicky and Oswald took it in turns to carry Denny on their backs. The lady called him 'The Wounded Comrade'.
We went first to the church. Oswald, whose quick brain was easily aroused to suspicions, was afraid the lady might begin talking in the church, but she did not. The church door was open. I remember mother telling us once it was right and good for churches to be left open all day, so that tired people could go in and be quiet, and say their prayers, if they wanted to. But it does not seem respectful to talk out loud in church. (See Note A.)
When we got outside the lady said, 'You can imagine how on the chancel steps began the mad struggle in which Becket, after hurling one of his assailants, armour and all, to the ground--'
'It would have been much cleverer,' H. O. interrupted, 'to hurl him without his armour, and leave that standing up.'
'Go on,' said Alice and Oswald, when they had given H. O. a withering glance. And the lady did go on. She told us all about Becket, and then about St Alphege, who had bones thrown at him till he died, because he wouldn't tax his poor people to please the beastly rotten Danes.
And Denny recited a piece of poetry he knows called 'The Ballad of Canterbury'.
It begins about Danish warships snake-shaped, and ends about doing as you'd be done by. It is long, but it has all the beef-bones in it, and all about St Alphege.
Then the lady showed us the Danejohn, and it was like an oast-house. And Canterbury walls that Alphege defied the Danes from looked down on a quite common farmyard. The hospital was like a barn, and other things were like other things, but we went all about and enjoyed it very much. The lady was quite amusing, besides sometimes talking like a real cathedral guide I met afterwards. (See Note B.) When at last we said we thought Canterbury was very small considering, the lady said--
'Well, it seemed a pity to come so far and not at least hear something about Canterbury.'
And then at once we knew the worst, and Alice said--
'What a horrid sell!' But Oswald, with immediate courteousness, said--
'I don't care. You did it awfully well.' And he did not say, though he owns he thought of it--
'I knew it all the time,' though it was a great temptation. Because really it was more than half true. He had felt from the first that this was too small for Canterbury. (See Note C.)
The real name of the place was Hazelbridge, and not Canterbury at all. We went to Canterbury another time. (See Note D.) We were not angry with the lady for selling us about it being Canterbury, because she had really kept it up first-rate. And she asked us if we minded, very handsomely, and we said we liked it. But now we did not care how soon we got home. The lady saw this, and said--
'Come, our chariots are ready, and our horses caparisoned.'
That is a first-rate word out of a book. It cheered Oswald up, and he liked her for using it, though he wondered why she said chariots. When we got back to the inn I saw her dogcart was there, and a grocer's cart too, with B. Munn, grocer, Hazelbridge, on it. She took the girls in her cart, and the boys went with the grocer. His horse was a very good one to go, only you had to hit it with the wrong end of the whip. But the cart was very bumpety.
The evening dews were falling--at least, I suppose so, but you do not feel dew in a grocer's cart--when we reached home. We all thanked the lady very much, and said we hoped we should see her again some day. She said she hoped so.
The grocer drove off, and when we had all shaken hands with the lady and kissed her, according as we were boys or girls, or little boys, she touched up her horse and drove away.
She turned at the corner to wave to us, and just as we had done waving, and were turning into the house, Albert's uncle came into our midst like a whirling wind. He was in flannels, and his shirt had no stud in at the neck, and his hair was all rumpled up and his hands were inky, and we knew he had left off in the middle of a chapter by the wildness of his eye.
'Who was that lady?' he said. 'Where did you meet her?'
Mindful, as ever, of what he was told, Oswald began to tell the story from the beginning.
'The other day, protector of the poor,' he began; 'Dora and I were reading about the Canterbury pilgrims ...'
Oswald thought Albert's uncle would be pleased to find his instructions about beginning at the beginning had borne fruit, but instead he interrupted.
'Stow it, you young duffer! Where did you meet her?'
Oswald answered briefly, in wounded accents, 'Hazelbridge.'
Then Albert's uncle rushed upstairs three at a time, and as he went he called out to Oswald--
'Get out my bike, old man, and blow up the back tyre.'
I am sure Oswald was as quick as anyone could have been, but long ere the tyre was thoroughly blowed Albert's uncle appeared, with a collar-stud and tie and blazer, and his hair tidy, and wrenching the unoffending machine from Oswald's surprised fingers.
Albert's uncle finished pumping up the tyre, and then flinging himself into the saddle he set off, scorching down the road at a pace not surpassed by any highwayman, however black and high-mettled his steed. We were left looking at each other. 'He must have recognized her,' Dicky said.
'Perhaps,' Noel said, 'she is the old nurse who alone knows the dark secret of his highborn birth.'
'Not old enough, by chalks,' Oswald said.
'I shouldn't wonder,' said Alice, 'if she holds the secret of the will that will make him rolling in long-lost wealth.'
'I wonder if he'll catch her,' Noel said. 'I'm quite certain all his future depends on it. Perhaps she's his long-lost sister, and the estate was left to them equally, only she couldn't be found, so it couldn't be shared up.'
'Perhaps he's only in love with her,' Dora said, 'parted by cruel Fate at an early age, he has ranged the wide world ever since trying to find her.'
'I hope to goodness he hasn't--anyway, he's not ranged since we knew him--never further than Hastings,' Oswald said. 'We don't want any of that rot.'
'What rot?' Daisy asked. And Oswald said--
'Getting married, and all that sort of rubbish.'
And Daisy and Dora were the only ones that didn't agree with him. Even Alice owned that being bridesmaids must be fairly good fun. It's no good. You may treat girls as well as you like, and give them every comfort and luxury, and play fair just as if they were boys, but there is something unmanly about the best of girls. They go silly, like milk goes sour, without any warning.
When Albert's uncle returned he was very hot, with a beaded brow, but pale as the Dentist when the peas were at their worst.
'Did you catch her?' H. O. asked.
Albert's uncle's brow looked black as the cloud that thunder will presently break from. 'No,'he said.
'Is she your long-lost nurse?' H. O. went on, before we could stop him.
'Long-lost grandmother! I knew the lady long ago in India,' said Albert's uncle, as he left the room, slamming the door in a way we should be forbidden to.
And that was the end of the Canterbury Pilgrimage.
As for the lady, we did not then know whether she was his long-lost grandmother that he had known in India or not, though we thought she seemed youngish for the part. We found out afterwards whether she was or not, but that comes in another part. His manner was not the one that makes you go on asking questions. The Canterbury Pilgriming did not exactly make us good, but then, as Dora said, we had not done anything wrong that day. So we were twenty-four hours to the good.
Note A.--Afterwards we went and saw real Canterbury. It is very large. A disagreeable man showed us round the cathedral, and jawed all the time quite loud as if it wasn't a church. I remember one thing he said. It was this:
'This is the Dean's Chapel; it was the Lady Chapel in the wicked days when people used to worship the Virgin Mary.'
And H. O. said, 'I suppose they worship the Dean now?'
Some strange people who were there laughed out loud. I think this is worse in church than not taking your cap off when you come in, as H. O. forgot to do, because the cathedral was so big he didn't think it was a church.
Note B. (See Note C.)
Note C. (See Note D.)
Note D. (See Note E.)
Note E. (See Note A.)
This ends the Canterbury Pilgrims.