Beasts and Super-Beasts
The Quince Tree
"I'VE just been to see old Betsy Mullen," announced Vera to her aunt, Mrs. Bebberly
Cumble; "she seems in rather a bad way about her rent. She owes about fifteen weeks of
it, and says she doesn't know where any of it is to come from."
"Betsy Mullen always is in difficulties with her rent, and the more people help her with it
the less she troubles about it," said the aunt. "I certainly am not going to assist her any
more. The fact is, she will have to go into a smaller and cheaper cottage; there are several
to be had at the other end of the village for half the rent that she is paying, or supposed to
be paying, now. I told her a year ago that she ought to move."
"But she wouldn't get such a nice garden anywhere else," protested Vera, "and there's
such a jolly quince tree in the corner. I don't suppose there's another quince tree in the
whole parish. And she never makes any quince jam; I think to have a quince tree and not
to make quince jam shows such strength of character. Oh, she can't possibly move away
from that garden."
"When one is sixteen," said Mrs. Bebberly Cumble severely, "one talks of things being
impossible which are merely uncongenial. It is not only possible but it is desirable that
Betsy Mullen should move into smaller quarters; she has scarcely enough furniture to fill
that big cottage."
"As far as value goes," said Vera after a short pause, "there is more in Betsy's cottage
than in any other house for miles round."
"Nonsense," said the aunt; "she parted with whatever old china ware she had long ago."
"I'm not talking about anything that belongs to Betsy herself," said Vera darkly; "but, of
course, you don't know what I know, and I don't suppose I ought to tell you."
"You must tell me at once," exclaimed the aunt, her senses leaping into alertness like
those of a terrier suddenly exchanging a bored drowsiness for the lively anticipation of an
immediate rat hunt.
"I'm perfectly certain that I oughtn't to tell you anything about it," said Vera, "but, then, I
often do things that I oughtn't to do."