A Bit O' Love
It is Ascension Day in a village of the West. In the low panelled hall-sittingroom of
the BURLACOMBE'S farmhouse on the village green, MICHAEL STRANGWAY,
a clerical collar round his throat and a dark Norfolk jacket on his back, is playing
the flute before a very large framed photograph of a woman, which is the only
picture on the walls. His age is about thirty-five his figure thin and very upright
and his clean-shorn face thin, upright, narrow, with long and rather pointed ears;
his dark hair is brushed in a coxcomb off his forehead. A faint smile hovers about
his lips that Nature has made rather full and he has made thin, as though
keeping a hard secret; but his bright grey eyes, dark round the rim, look out and
upwards almost as if he were being crucified. There is something about the
whole of him that makes him seen not quite present. A gentle creature, burnt
A low broad window above a window-seat forms the background to his figure;
and through its lattice panes are seen the outer gate and yew-trees of a
churchyard and the porch of a church, bathed in May sunlight. The front door at
right angles to the window-seat, leads to the village green, and a door on the left
into the house.
It is the third movement of Veracini's violin sonata that STRANGWAY plays. His
back is turned to the door into the house, and he does not hear when it is
opened, and IVY BURLACOMBE, the farmer's daughter, a girl of fourteen, small
and quiet as a mouse, comes in, a prayer-book in one hand, and in the other a
gloss of water, with wild orchis and a bit of deep pink hawthorn. She sits down on
the window-seat, and having opened her book, sniffs at the flowers. Coming to
the end of the movement STRANGWAY stops, and looking up at the face on the
wall, heaves a long sigh.
IVY. [From the seat] I picked these for yu, Mr. Strangway.
STRANGWAY. [Turning with a start] Ah! Ivy. Thank you. [He puts his flute down
on a chair against the far wall] Where are the others?
[As he speaks, GLADYS FREMAN, a dark gipsyish girl, and CONNIE
TRUSTAFORD, a fair, stolid, blue-eyed Saxon, both about sixteen, come in
through the front door, behind which they have evidently been listening. They too
have prayer-books in their hands. They sidle past Ivy, and also sit down under
GLADYS. Mercy's comin', Mr. Strangway.
STRANGWAY. Good morning, Gladys; good morning, Connie.