Twelve Stories and a Dream
5. Mr. Skelmersdale In Fairyland
"There's a man in that shop," said the Doctor, "who has been in Fairyland."
"Nonsense!" I said, and stared back at the shop. It was the usual village shop, post-office,
telegraph wire on its brow, zinc pans and brushes outside, boots, shirtings, and potted
meats in the window. "Tell me about it," I said, after a pause.
"_I_ don't know," said the Doctor. "He's an ordinary sort of lout-- Skelmersdale is his
name. But everybody about here believes it like Bible truth."
I reverted presently to the topic.
"I know nothing about it," said the Doctor, "and I don't WANT to know. I attended him
for a broken finger--Married and Single cricket match-- and that's when I struck the
nonsense. That's all. But it shows you the sort of stuff I have to deal with, anyhow, eh?
Nice to get modern sanitary ideas into a people like this!"
"Very," I said in a mildly sympathetic tone, and he went on to tell me about that business
of the Bonham drain. Things of that kind, I observe, are apt to weigh on the minds of
Medical Officers of Health. I was as sympathetic as I knew how, and when he called the
Bonham people "asses," I said they were "thundering asses," but even that did not allay
Afterwards, later in the summer, an urgent desire to seclude myself, while finishing my
chapter on Spiritual Pathology--it was really, I believe, stiffer to write than it is to read--
took me to Bignor. I lodged at a farmhouse, and presently found myself outside that little
general shop again, in search of tobacco. "Skelmersdale," said I to myself at the sight of
it, and went in.
I was served by a short, but shapely, young man, with a fair downy complexion, good,
small teeth, blue eyes, and a languid manner. I scrutinised him curiously. Except for a
touch of melancholy in his expression, he was nothing out of the common. He was in the
shirt-sleeves and tucked-up apron of his trade, and a pencil was thrust behind his
inoffensive ear. Athwart his black waistcoat was a gold chain, from which dangled a bent
"Nothing more to-day, sir?" he inquired. He leant forward over my bill as he spoke.
"Are you Mr. Skelmersdale?" said I.
"I am, sir," he said, without looking up.
"Is it true that you have been in Fairyland?"