Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,
Have you any wool?
three bags full.
One for the Master, one for the Dame —
None for the Little Boy that cries down the lane.
They were putting Punch to bed — the ayah and the
hamal and Meeta, the big Surti boy with the red and gold turban.
Judy, already tucked inside her mosquito curtains, was nearly
asleep. Punch had been allowed to stay up for dinner. Many
privileges had been accorded to Punch within the last ten days, and
a greater kindness from the people of his world had encompassed his
ways and works, which were mostly obstreperous. He sat on the edge
of his bed and swung his bare legs defiantly.
"But Judy-baba will wake up," said the ayah.
Never had Punch secured the telling of that tale with so little opposition. He reflected for a long time. The hamal made the tiger noises in twenty different keys.
"Top!" said Punch authoritatively. "Why doesn't Papa ° come in and say he is going to give me put-put?"
"Punch-baba is going away," said the ayah. "In another week there will be no Punch-baba to pull my hair any more."
She sighed softly, for the boy of the household was
very dear to her heart.
"Not to Nassick this year, little Sa-hib," said Meeta, lifting him on his shoulder. "Down to the sea, where the coconuts are thrown, and across the sea in a big ship. Will you take Meeta with you to Belait?"
"You shall all come," said Punch from the height of Meeta's strong arms. "Meeta and the ayah and the hamal and Bhini-in-the-Garden, and the salaam-Captain-Sahib-snakeman."
There was no mockery in Meeta's voice when he replied, "Great is the Sahib's favor," and laid the little man down in the bed, while the ayah, sitting in the moonlight at the doorway, lulled him to sleep with an interminable canticle such as they sing in the Roman Catholic church at Parel. Punch curled himself into a ball and slept.
Next morning Judy shouted that there was a rat in the nursery, and thus he forgot to tell her the wonderful news. It did not much matter, for Judy was only three and she would not have understood. But Punch was five, and he knew that going to England would be much nicer than a trip to Nassick.
And Papa and Mama sold the brougham and the piano, and stripped the house, and curtailed the allowance of crockery for the daily meals, and took long council together over a bundle of letters bearing the Rocklington postmark. "The worst of it is that one can't be certain of anything," said Papa, pulling his mustache." The letters in themselves are excellent, and the terms are moderate enough."
"The worst of it is that the children will grow up away from me," thought Mama, but she did not say it aloud.
"We are only one case among hundreds," said Papa
bitterly. " You shall go home again in five years, dear."
|" Come back, Punch-baba," said the ayah. " Come back," said
Meeta, " and be a Burra" Sahib."
" Yes," said Punch, lifted up in his fa-ther's arms to wave good-by. " Yes, I will come back, and I will be a Burra Sahib Bahadur" At the end of the first day Punch de-manded to be set down in England, which he was certain must be close at hand. Next day there was a merry breeze, and Punch was very sick. "When I come back to Bombay," said Punch on his recov-ery, "I will come by the road — in a broom-gharri. This is a very naughty ship."
The Swedish boatswain consoled him, and he modified his opinions as the voy-age went on. There was so much to see and to handle and ask questions about that Punch nearly forgot the ayah and Meeta and the hamal, and with difficulty remembered a few words of the Hindustani, once his second-speech.
But Judy was much worse. The day before the steamer reached Southampton, Mama asked her if she would not like to see the ayah again. Judy's blue eyes turned to the stretch of sea that had swallowed all her tiny past, and she said, "Ayah! What ayah?"
Mama cried over her, and Punch marveled. It was then that he heard for the first time Mama's passionate appeal to him never to let Judy forget Mama. Seeing that Judy was young, ridiculously young, and that Mama, every evening for four weeks past, had come into the cabin to sing her and Punch to sleep with a mysterious tune that he called " Sonny, my soul," Punch could not understand what Mama meant. But he strove to do his duty, for the moment Mama left the cabin he said to Judy, " Ju, you bemember Mama?"
"Torse I do," said Judy.
"Then always bemember Mama, or else I won't give you the paper ducks that the red-haired Captain Sahib cut out for me."
So Judy promised always to "bemem-ber Mama."
Many and many a time was Mama's command laid upon Punch, and Papa would say the same thing with an insistence that awed the child. " You must make haste and learn how to write, Punch," said Papa, " and then you'll be able to write letters to us in Bombay."
"I'll come into your room," said Punch, and Papa choked.
Papa and Mama were always choking in those days. If Punch took Judy to task for not "bemembering," they choked. If Punch sprawled on the sofa in the Southampton lodging house and sketched his future in purple and gold, they choked; and so they did if Judy put up her mouth for a kiss.
Through many days all four were vagabonds on the face of the earth: Punch with no one to give orders to, Judy too young for anything, and Papa and Mama grave, distracted, and choking.
"Where," demanded Punch, wearied of a loathsome contrivance on four wheels with a mound of luggage atop, "where is our broom-gharri? This thing talks so much that I can't talk. Where is our own broom-gharri? When I was at Bandstand before we comed away, I asked Inverarity Sahib why he was sitting in it, and he said it was his own. And I said,' I will give it you — I like Inverarity Sahib — and I said, (Can you put your legs through the pully-wag loops by the windows?) And Inverarity Sahib said No, through these pully-wag loops. Look! Oh, Mama's crying again! I didn't know. I wasn't not to do so."
Punch drew his legs out of the loops of the four-wheeler; the door opened and he slid to the earth, in a cascade of parcels, at the door of an austere little villa whose gates bore the legend "Downe Lodge." Punch gathered himself together and eyed the house with disfavor. It stood on a sandy road, and a cold wind tickled his knickerbockered legs.
"Let us go away," said Punch. "This is not a pretty place."
But Mama and Papa and Judy had quitted the cab, and all the luggage was being taken into the house. At the door-step stood a woman in black; and she smiled largely, with dry, chapped lips. Behind her was a man, big, bony, gray, and lame as to one leg — behind him a boy of twelve, black-haired and oily in appearance. Punch surveyed the trio and advanced without fear, as he had been ac-customed to do in Bombay when callers came and he happened to be playing in the veranda. "How do you do?" said he. "I am Punch." But they were all looking at the luggage — all except the gray man, who shook hands with Punch and said he was " a smart little fellow." There was much running about and banging of boxes, and Punch curled himself up on the sofa in the dining room and considered things. "I don't like these people," said Punch. "But never mind. We'll go away soon. We have always went away soon from everywhere. I wish we was gone back to Bombay soon."
The wish bore no fruit. For six days Mama wept at intervals, and showed the woman in black all Punch's clothes — a liberty which Punch resented. "But p'r' aps she's a new white ayah," he thought.
"I'm to call her Antirosa, but she doesn't call me Sahib. She just says Punch," he confided to Judy. "What is Antirosa?"
Judy didn't know. Neither she nor Punch had heard anything of an animal called an aunt. Their world had been Papa and Mama, who knew everything, permitted everything, and loved every-body—even Punch when he used to go into the garden at Bombay and fill his nails with mold after the weekly nail cutting, because, as he explained between two strokes of the slipper to his sorely tried father, his fingers " felt so new at the ends."
In an undefined way Punch judged it advisable to keep both parents between himself and the woman in black and the boy in black hair. He did not approve of them. He liked the gray man, who had expressed a wish to be called Uncleharri.
They nodded at each other when they met, and the gray man showed him a little ship with rigging that took up and down. " She is a model of the Brisk — the little Brisk that was sore exposed that day at Navarino." The gray man hummed the last words and fell into a reverie. " I'll tell you about Navarino, Punch, when we go for walks together; and you mustn't touch the ship, because she's the Brisk."
Long before that walk, the first of many, was taken, they roused Punch and Judy in the chill dawn of a February morning to say good-by; and, of all people in the wide earth, to Papa and Mama — both crying this time. Punch was very sleepy and Judy was cross.
" Don't forget us," pleaded Mama. " Oh, my little son, don't forget us, and see that Judy remembers too."
" I've told Judy to bemember," said Punch, wriggling, for his father's beard tickled his neck. " I've told Judy — ten — forty — 'leven thousand times. But Ju's so young—quite a baby—isn't she? "
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|" Yes," said Papa. "Quite. And you must be good to
Judy, and make haste to learn to write and—-and— and" . . .
Punch was back in his bed again. Judy was fast asleep, and there was the rattle of a cab below. Papa and Mama had gone away. Not to Nassick; that was across the sea. To some place much nearer, of course, and equally of course they would return. They came back after dinner parties, and Papa had come back after he had been to a place called "The Snows," and Mama with him, to Punch and Judy at Mrs. Inverarity's house in Marine Lines. Assuredly they would come back again. So Punch fell asleep till the true morning, when the black-haired boy met him with the information that Papa and Mama had gone to Bombay, and that he and Judy were to stay at Downe Lodge " forever." Antirosa, tearfully appealed to for a contradiction, said that Harry had spoken the truth and that it behooved Punch to fold up his clothes neatly on going to bed. Punch went out and wept bitterly with Judy, into whose fair head he had driven some ideas of the meaning of separation.
When a matured man discovers that he has been deserted by Providence, deprived of his God, and cast without help, comfort, or sympathy, upon a world which is new and strange to him, his despair, which may find expression in evil living, the writing of his experiences, or the more satisfactory diversion of suicide, is generally supposed to be impressive. A child, under exactly similar circumstances as far as its knowledge goes, cannot very well curse God and die. It howls till its nose is red, its eyes are sore, and its head aches. Punch and Judy, through no fault of their own, had lost all their world. They sat in the hall and cried, the black-haired boy looking on from afar.
The model of the ship availed nothing, though the gray man assured Punch that he might pull the rigging up and down as much as he pleased, and Judy was promised free entry into the kitchen.
They wanted Papa and Mama, gone to Bombay beyond the seas, and their grief while it lasted was without remedy.
When the tears ceased, the house was very still. Antirosa had decided it was better to let the children " have their cry out," and the boy had gone to school. Punch raised his head from the floor and sniffed mournfully. Judy was nearly asleep. Three short years had not taught her how to bear sorrow with full knowledge. There was a distant, dull boom in the air — a repeated heavy thud. Punch knew that sound in Bombay in the monsoon. It was the sea — the sea that must be traversed before anyone could get to Bombay.
" Quick, Ju! " he cried. " We're close to the sea. I can hear it! Listen! That's where they've went. P'r'aps we can catch them if we was in time. They didn't mean to go without us. They've only forgot."
" Iss," said Judy. " They've only forgotted. Less go to the sea."
The hall door was open and so was the garden gate.
" It's very, very big, this place," he said, looking cautiously down the road, " and we will get lost, but I will find a man and order him to take me back to my house — like I did in Bombay."
He took Judy by the hand, and the two fled hatless in the direction of the sound of the sea. Downe Villa was almost the last of a range of newly built houses running out, through a chaos of brick mounds, to a heath where gypsies occasionally camped and where the Garrison Artillery of Rockington practiced. There were few people to be seen; and the children might have been taken for those of the soldiery, who ranged far. Half an hour the wearied little legs tramped across heath, potato field, and sand dune." I'se so tired," said Judy, " and Mama will be angry."
" Mama's never angry. I suppose she is waiting at the sea now while Papa gets tickets. We'll find them and go along with. Ju, you mustn't sit down. Only a little more and we'll come to the sea. Ju, if you sit down I'll thmack you! " said Punch.
They climbed another dune, and came upon the great gray sea at low tide. Hun-dreds of crabs were scuttling about the beach; but there was no trace of Papa and Mama, not even of a ship upon the waters—nothing but sand and mud for miles and miles.
And Uncleharri found them by chance — very muddy and very forlorn — Punch dissolved in tears but trying to di-vert Judy with an " ickle trab," and Judy wailing to the pitiless horizon for " Mama, Mama! " — and again "Mama!"
All this time not a word about Black Sheep. He came later, and
Harry, the black-haired boy, was mainly responsible for his coming.
|But that week brought a great joy to Punch. He had
repeated till he was thrice weary the statement that" the Cat lay on
the Mat and the Rat came in,"
" Now I can truly read," said Punch, " and now I will never read anything in the world."
He put the brown book in the cupboard
where his schoolbooks lived, and accidentally tumbled out a
venerable volume, without covers, labeled Sharpe's Magazine. There
was the most portentous picture of a griffin on the first page, with
verses below. The griffin carried off one sheep a day from a German
village till a man came with a " falchion " and split the griffin
open. Goodness only knew what a falchion was; but there was the
Griffin, and his history was an improvement upon the eternal
" Aunt Rosa only knows about God and things like that," argued Punch. " Uncle Harry will tell me."
The next walk proved that Uncle Harry could not help either; but
he allowed Punch to talk, and even sat down on a bench to hear about
the Griffin. Other walks brought other stories as Punch ranged
further afield, for the house held large store of old books that no
one ever opened — from, Frank Fairlegh, in serial numbers, and the
earlier poems of Tennyson, contributed anonymously to Sharpe's
Magazine, to '62 Exhibition Catalogues, gay with colors and
delight-fully incomprehensible, and odd leaves: of Gulliver's
" I was reading," he exclaimed, " reading a book. I want to read."
" You're only doing that to show off," said Aunty Rosa. " But we'll see. Play with Judy now, and don't open a book for a week."
Judy did not pass a very enjoyable playtime with Punch, who was consumed with indignation. There was a pettiness at the bottom of the prohibition which puzzled him.
" It's what I like to do," he said, " and she's found out that and stopped me. Don't cry, Ju — it wasn't your fault — please don't cry, or she'll say I made you."
Ju loyally mopped up her tears; and the two played in their
nursery, a room in the basement and half underground, to which they
were regularly sent after the midday dinner while Aunty Rosa slept.
She drank wine — that is to say, something from a bottle in the
cellaret —- for her stomach's sake, but if she did not fall asleep
she would sometimes come into the nursery to see that the children
were really playing. Now bricks, wooden hoops, ninepins, and
chinaware cannot amuse forever, especially when all Fairy-land is to
be won by the mere opening of a book, and as often as not Punch
would be discovered reading to Judy or telling her interminable
tales. That was an offense in the eyes of the law; and Judy would be
whisked off by Aunty Rosa while Punch was left to play alone, " and
be sure that I hear you doing it." It was not a cheering employ, for
he had to make a playful noise. At last, with infinite craft, he
devised an arrangement whereby the table could be supported as to
three legs on toy bricks, leaving the fourth clear to bring down on
the floor. He could work the table with one hand and hold a book
with the other. This he did till an evil day when Aunty Rosa pounced
upon him unawares and told him that he was " acting a lie." " If
you're old enough to do that," she said — her temper was always
worst after dinner —" you're old enough to be beaten."
" He puts on his best manners with you, Henry," said Aunty Rosa,
" but I'm afraid, I'm very much afraid, that he is the Black Sheep
of the family."
" Untrustworthy in one thing, untrustworthy in all," said Aunty
Rosa, and Harry felt that Black Sheep was delivered into his hands.
He would wake him up in the night to ask him why he was such a liar.
" I don't know," Punch would reply. " Then don't you think you ought
to get up and pray to God for a new heart ? "
"I don't know," Black Sheep would reply. " I'm not, if I only
wasn't bothered upside down. I knew what I did, and I want to say
so; but Harry always makes it out different somehow, and Aunty Rosa
doesn't believe a word I say. Oh, Ju! Don't you say I'm bad too."
So the two children sealed the compact with a kiss, and Black Sheep's
heart was cheered within him, and by extreme cau tion and careful
avoidance of Harry he acquired virtue and was allowed to read
undisturbed for a week. Uncle Harry took him for walks and consoled him
with rough tenderness, never calling him Black Sheep. " It's good for
you, I suppose, Punch," he used to say. " Let us sit down. I'm getting
tired." His steps led him now not to the beach but to the Cemetery of
Rocklington, amid the potato fields.|
For hours the gray man would sit on a tombstone, while Black Sheep read epitaphs, and then with a sigh would stump home again.
" I shall lie there soon," said he to Black Sheep one winter evening, when his face showed white as a worn silver coin under the lights of the chapel lodge.
" You needn't tell Aunty Rosa." A month later he turned sharp round, ere half a morning walk was completed, and stumped back to the house. " Put me to bed, Rosa," he muttered. " I've walked my last. The wadding has found me out." They put him to bed, and for a fort night the shadow of his sickness lay upon the house, and Black Sheep went to and fro unobserved. Papa had sent him some new books, and he was told to keep quiet. He retired into his own world and was perfectly happy. Even at night his felicity was unbroken. He could lie in bed and string himself tales of travel and ad venture while Harry was downstairs. " Uncle Harry's going to die," said Judy, who now lived almost entirely with Aunty Rosa.
" I'm very sorry," said Black Sheep soberly. " He told me that a long
" I wonder what will happen to me now," thought Black Sheep when the
semipagan rites peculiar to the burial of the dead in middle-class
houses had been accomplished and Aunty Rosa, awful in black crape, had
returned to this life. " I don't think I've done anything bad that she
knows of. I suppose I will soon. She will be very cross after Uncle
Harry's dying, and Harry will be cross too. I'll keep in the nursery."
He took stock of his associates. Some of them were unclean; some of
them talked in dialect; many dropped their h's.
" Oh, yes," said the censor of Black Sheep's morals. "They know all about him."
" If I was with my father," said Black Sheep, stung to the quick, " I shouldn't speak to those boys. He wouldn't let me. They live in shops. I saw them go into shops — where their fathers live and sell things."
" You're too good for that school, are you ? " said Aunty Rosa, with a bitter smile. " You ought to be grateful, Black Sheep, that those boys speak to you at all. It isn't every school that takes little liars."
Harry did not fail to make much capital out of Black Sheep's ill-considered remark, with the result that several boys demonstrated to Black Sheep the eternal equality of the human race by smacking his head; and his consolation from Aunty Rosa was that it " served him right for being vain." He learned, however, to keep his opinions to himself and, by propitiating Harry in carrying books and the like, to secure a little peace.
His existence was not too joyful. From nine till twelve he was at school, and from two to four, except on Saturdays. In the evenings he was sent down into the nursery to prepare his lessons for the next day, and every night came the dreaded cross-questionings at Harry's band. Of Judy he saw but little.
She was deeply religious — at six years of age religion is easy to
come by — and sorely divided between her natural love for Black Sheep
and her love for Aunty Rosa, who could do no wrong.
From his actions, now that Uncle Harry was dead, there was no appeal.
Black Sheep had not been permitted to keep any self-respect at school;
at home he was, of course, utterly discredited, and grateful for any
pity that the servant girls — they changed frequently at Downe Lodge,
because they, too, were liars — might show. " You're just fit to row in
the same boat with Black Sheep " was a sentiment that each new Jane or
Eliza might expect to hear, before a month was over, from Aunty Rosa's
lips, and Black Sheep was used to ask new girls whether they had yet
been compared to him. Harry was " Master Harry " in their mouths; Judy
was officially " Miss Judy," but Black Sheep was never anything more
than Black Sheep.
Black Sheep was astounded at his own act but, feeling the unresisting body under him, shook it with both his hands in blind fury and then began to throttle his enemy, meaning honestly to slay him.
There was a scuffle; and Black Sheep was torn off the body by Harry and some colleagues, and cuffed home tingling but exultant. Aunty Rosa was out; pending her arrival, Harry set himself to lecture Black Sheep on the sin of murder — which he described as the offense of Cain.
" Why didn't you fight him fair ? What did'you hit him when he was down for, you little cur?"
Black Sheep looked up at Harry's throat and then at a knife on the dinner table.
" I don't understand," he said wearily. " You always set him on me and told me I was a coward when I blubbed. Will you leave me alone until Aunty Rosa comes in ? She'll beat me if you tell her I ought to be beaten; so it's all right."
" It's all wrong," said Harry magisterially. " You nearly killed him, and I shouldn't wonder if he dies."
" Will he die ? " said Black Sheep.
" I dare say," said Harry, " and then you'll be hanged."
" All right," said Black Sheep, possessing himself of the table knife. " Then I'll kill you now. You say things and do things and . . . and I don't know how things happen, and you never leave me alone — and I don't care what happens! "
He ran at the boy with the knife; and Harry fled upstairs to his room, promising Black Sheep the finest thrashing in the world when Aunty Rosa returned.
Black Sheep sat at the bottom of the stairs, the table knife in his hand, and wept for that he had not killed Harry.
The servant girl came up from the kitchen, took the knife away, and consoled him. But Black Sheep was beyond consolation. He would be badly beaten by Aunty Rosa; then there would be another beating at Harry's hands; then Judy would not be allowed to speak to him; then the tale would be told at school and then ...
There was no one to help and no one to care, and the best way out of
the business was by death. A knife would hurt, but Aunty Rosa had told
him, a year ago, that if he sucked paint he would die. He went into the
nursery, unearthed the now disused Noah's Ark, and sucked the paint off
as many animals as remained. It tasted abominable, but he had licked
Noah's dove clean by the time Aunty Rosa and Judy returned. He went
upstairs and greeted them with, " Please, Aunty Rosa, I believe I've
nearly killed a boy at school, and I've tried to kill Harry. And when
you've done all about God and hell, will you beat me and get it over? "
Then came days of doing absolutely nothing, of dreaming dreams and marching imaginary armies up and down stairs, of counting the number of banisters, and of measuring the length and breadth of every room in hand spans — fifty down the side, thirty across, and fifty back again. Jane made many friends and, after receiving Black Sheep's assurance that he would not tell of her absences, went out daily for long hours.
Black Sheep would follow the rays of the sinking sun from the kitchen
to the dining room and thence upward to his own bedroom until all was
gray dark, and he ran down to the kitchen fire and read by its light. He
was happy in that he was left alone and could read as much as he
pleased. But, later, he grew afraid of the shadows of window curtains
and the flapping of doors and the creaking of shutters. He went out into
the gar den, and the rustling of the laurel bushes frightened him.
Three months later Punch, no longer Black Sheep, has discovered that
he is the veritable owner of a real, live, lovely Mama who is also a
sister, comforter, and friend, and that he must protect her till the
Father comes home. Deception does not suit the part of a protector. And
when one can do anything without question, where is the use of deception
? " Mother would be awfully cross if you walked through that ditch,"
says Judy, continuing a conversation.
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