the powys society
President:
Glen Cavaliero

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the powys society
Chairman:
Timothy Hyman


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John Cowper Powys
T. F. Powys
Llewelyn Powys The Powys Family
john cowper powys t f powys
llewelyn powys
the powys family

WELCOME

The eleven children born to Charles Francis Powys, an Anglican clergyman, were a uniquely precocious family, one of the most significant in the cultural history of Britain, of whom the writers John Cowper Powys, T. F. Powys and Llewelyn Powys are the most famous. But they also included the architect and conservationist A. R. Powys, the artist Gertrude Powys, the lacemaker Marian Powys, the notable headmaster Littleton Powys and the poet and novelist Philippa Powys. Primarily, though not exclusively, the focus of the Society is on the three writing brothers; distinctively unique as both individuals and authors.

The Society, a registered charity, was founded to promote and encourage the appreciation and enjoyment of the writings of John Cowper, Theodore and Llewelyn Powys and to establish their true literary status.

The aims of The Powys Society are:
- To promote a wider general readership and stimulate scholarly study and discussion of the works of the Powys brothers
- To actively promote an expanded universe around the Powyses
- To provide a comprehensive and accurate resource on the life and works of the Powyses

If you are an admirer, an enthusiast, a reader, a scholar, or a student of anything Powysian, then this international society would like to hear from you, and welcomes your participation in its activities.


JOIN THE SOCIETY

Membership benefits include:

- A membership pack on joining.

- An annual Journal devoted to the study of the life and works of John Cowper, Theodore and Llewelyn Powys plus three 50 page newsletters (March, July and November).

- The Society is active in promoting the life and works of the Powys family. Speakers are arranged for special events.

- Opportunities to meet fellow Powysians and those who share your interest.

- An annual weekend conference and Powys Days.  JOIN US











A LONDON MEETING

Saturday 2 December 2017

THE RELIGION OF A SCEPTIC


the religion of a sceptic     john cowper powys, gertrude mary powys. powys society
                                        [First edition front Cover, 1925]





A London Meeting
Saturday, 2 December 2017
at The Friends Meeting House, 120 Heath Street, Hampstead
at 2pm for 2.30 start






The Society's Chairman
TIMOTHY HYMAN

will give a talk on John Cowper Powys'
THE RELIGION OF A SCEPTIC

Followed by open discussion






bunhill fields friends meeting house, john cowper powys, the powys society

All are welcome.
The event is free with refreshments provided after the discussion.








"Here we are — confronted by this sublime and horrible universe —  with only one brief life at our disposal, and what must our bemused, bewildered minds do but rush blindfold over the crude surface of experience, taking everything for granted and finding nothing extraordinary in what we see. Extraordinary? We are surrounded by things that are staggering; by things that are so miraculously lovely that you feel they might dissolve at a touch; and by things so unbearably atrocious that you feel you would go mad if you thought of them for more than a flicker of a second." — John Cowper Powys

The realm of John Cowper Powys is dangerous. The reader may wander for years in this parallel universe, entrapped and bewitched, and never reach its end. There is always another book to discover, another work to reread. Like Tolkien, Powys has invented another country, densely peopled, thickly forested, mountainous, erudite, strangely self-sufficient. This country is less visited than Tolkien's, but it is as compelling, and it has more air.” Margaret Drabble






From AUTOBIOGRAPHY by John Cowper Powys:

“I have tried to write my life as if I were confessing to a priest, a philosopher, and a wise old woman. I have tried to write it as if I were going to be executed when it was finished. I have tried to write it as if I were both God and Devil.”

 

One is tempted to say only John Cowper Powys could have written that, and, beyond doubt, only John Cowper Powys could have written the idiosyncratic and spellbinding work we have here. Yes, he was influenced by Yeats and Rousseau, especially the latter’s Confessions, but there is no other work quite like this. It seems almost too pedestrian to say it covers the first sixty years of his life (he lived for another thirty years) and to say anything about them, as J. B. Priestley memorably put it, “would be like turning on a tap before introducing people to Niagara Falls.” J. B. Priestley also said “It is a book which can be read, with pleasure and profit, over and over again. It is in fact one of the greatest autobiographies in the English language. Even if Powys had never written any novels, this one book alone would have proved him to be a writer of genius.”















The Powys Society Conference, 2017
The Hand Hotel, Bridge Street, Llangollen
Friday 18th to Sunday 20th August
WHERE THE SPIRIT BREATHES'





the hand hotel, llangollen, powys society conference




In 1909, Mrs Rodolph Stawell, made a journey, by car, through Wales at a time when there must have been very few other motorists. She described Llangollen in her book, Motor Tours in Wales:a little town that owes its charm entirely to its position...it is an entrancing place.’ In the eighteenth century the English naturalist, William Bingley, also toured Wales, and observed the view of Llangollen from a distance ‘with its church and elegant bridge romantically embosomed in mountains.’ When JCP arrived in Llangollen in May 1935, on the way to his new home in Corwen, he was at first unimpressed. He wrote in his diary that he thought Llangollen was: ‘a grievous disappointment...we shall not return.’ However on that first visit he was also very much impressed by the river Dee and instantly remembered, appropriately, a line from Milton’s Lycidas, 'where Deva spreads her wizard stream'. He stared, transfixed, at the ruins of Dinas Bran and prayed for the soul of Owen Glendower. JCP’s veneration for the subject of his new novel, which he was already thinking about, connects with a fragment of verse by Shelley: ‘Great Spirit whom the sea of boundless thought nurtures within its imagined caves...’ Of course JCP did return to Llangollen many times. He loved the town and its surroundings reversing his original impression. For this year’s conference we also return to Llangollen and the friendly hospitality of the Hand Hotel in its picturesque position overlooking the Dee. Famous guests who have stayed here, in the past, have included Darwin, Wordsworth, Browning, Scott and Shaw.



Speakers: David Goodway, David Stimpson, Patrick Quigley and Grevel Lindop.
  Full details, including the Conference Booking Form, can be viewed on the Conference 2017 webpage




SHE SHALL HAVE MUSIC
alyse gregory, she shall have music, janice gregory, sundial press
Re-issued for the first time
:
ALYSE GREGORY’s first novel

With an introduction
by Janice Gregory

Publication: 26 September 2017

janice gregory, alyse gregory she shall have music
JANICE GREGORY holding an advance proof copy of the new edition of SHE SHALL HAVE MUSIC by her great-aunt, Alyse Gregory, at this year's Powys Society Conference (August 2017)


Visit The Powys Society Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thepowyssociety




POWYSLAND

The Discovery of John Cowper Powys
by Tim Blanchard
Few writers have tickets for the express train. Those that do ride smoothly on the rails of great literatureever after, sitting back in the carriages of the canon club: Hardy, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Tolkien - the names which a hundred years on have the redolence of luxury brands and some of the same hard coating of gloss. One of their contemporaries, John Cowper Powys, is an example of what can go wrong, what happens when a potential giant ends up trundling into the backwoods on a branch line.
There's standing room only on Powys's train, carriage after carriage of ...


powysland the discovery of john cowper powys, tim blanchard, the sundial press



2017
POWYS DAYS



john cowper powys, porius


Saturday 29 April

PORIUS AND MYRDDIN WYLLT
Old Fire Engine House (restaurant and art gallery), 25 St. Mary’s Street, Ely
A report in Newsletter No 91

Thursday 15 June

A ONE DAY LITERARY SYMPOSIUM
Exeter University, Old Library, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, Devon

A report in Newsletter No 91

Further information of both the above events on the News and Events webpage
                                                                              









The Powys Society Newsletter

powys society newsletter 91, the powys society (2017)

July 2017: The Powys Society Newsletter No. 91
is now available to all Society members.













MERRY IS THE WORD
A yuletide essay by Llewelyn Powys












THE WORD that we may best take as appropriate to what our mood should be on Christmas Day is the word ‘merry’. This word is derived from the old Saxon word myrge which is closely connected with myrgdh, their word for mirth, both of which are ultimately descended from a queer old word of the German forests – murgjo. On this day of all days of the year we do not wish our friends health and wealth, but say as we pass them in the village street ‘Merry Christmas’, and it was this that the carol singers used to call out at the termination of their midnight singing in the snow.
  This salutation is not without significance. It means that, side by side with the legendary pieties that we associate with the season through Christian teaching, we even yet have a racial remembrance of the old unregenerate rejoicing that used to take place from the earliest times at the winter solstice.
  Of all the church festivals Christmas is the one most easy to be understood by the ordinary laymen. The birth of a child, and a mother’s love for the child she has brought forth, are matters that evoke tender feelings in every human heart, so that it comes to pass that no other day of ecclesiastical celebration – not Whitsuntide nor Easter – has over us the same strong power. It is a day that appeals to the irreligious as well as to the religious, gathering all together in a spirit of benevolence and gaiety. In manor house and in cottage, in vicarage and in manse, in little corner newspaper shops and in ivy covered dairy houses, old ties of human association are revived and the memories of old days brought back to mind. It is a time when we all of us do our best to put into practice the supreme Christian virtue of charity, unstrapping our wallets and loosening our purse strings and trying as best we may to be for at least one day in the year generous to the point of prodigality.
Llewelyn Powys  It is a day of feasting and good cheer. Nothing comes amiss to the table – a leg of prime Portland mutton, a plump turkey hen, a larded goose, a cock pheasant brown as a chestnut, a guinea fowl, or a well-basted capon plentifully covered with white meat! From one end of Dorset to the other the trenchers are piled high with victuals and families are once again happily united from Poole to Lyme Regis and from Gillingham to the Chesil Beach. To a firmly-built stone house on the windy island of Portland a young sailor fresh home from the sea hurries through the stone porch so that he may throw his arms about his mother’s neck. In a lonely cottage above the Hellstone at Portesham a farm labourer on Christmas Eve removes from under the bed the presents his whispering wife has bought for their children, and noiselessly she enters the white-washed room to fill three pairs of stockings. In hundreds of bedrooms in Dorchester and in Weymouth parcels will be unwrapped of their coloured tissue paper, the light switched on or a candle lit long before the winter’s dawn has waked the jays in the tree tops of the Came Woods or the sea has shown wan in the charmed waters of Weymouth Bay. And not only in Dorset but all over England, and, indeed, all over the world, happy girls and boys will be sitting up in their beds with the bright eyes of cock-robins in the snow.
  In those high Alpine valleys where the ground is covered six-foot with snow the children believe that their presents will be brought to them by a little white angel, by a ‘Christ kin’, as they say in their language. Santa Claus, they are told, will presently appear out of the dark fir forests of the mountains leading a little ass with a sack slung across his grey back, full to the brim of nuts!
  In America also what good spirits prevail! They have plum pudding there as we do, but in the place of our mince pies they make pumpkin pies. In country districts Christmas dinner is eaten at midday, and in any of the New England states it is a common thing to meet with troops of laughing children making their way to houses where their Christmas dinners are being prepared. I have always remembered a verse of one of the songs recited at a village entertainment, so perfectly did it seem to express the innocent, unsophisticated life that is lived in those snug old-fashioned wooden homesteads of the New World.
 
Over the river and through the wood
Grandmother’s house I spy.
Hurrah, for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah, for the pumpkin pie!
 
 It is doubtful, however, whether any country in the world provides a more fitting background for the story of the Nativity than do the Dorset Downs. The imaginations of men have brooded upon the Christian legends until the most wonderful store of prime poetry is clustered about them, a poetry that has to do with the simplest sights to be seen on earth. If Christmas Eve is frosty it will be a wise thing for a young boy or young girl to go up to the Ridgeway or to the wild hills behind White Nose, or to the sheep runs on Batcombe Downs, and there to walk silent and alone under the stars so silent and so awe-inspiring, till all that is petty or frivolous in their experience falls away and they learn to possess their souls in the palpable presence of the infinite cosmos. 
Then, perhaps, as never before, the matchless beauty of the old tales will be comprehended – so touching in their revelations of man’s yearnings. After such an experience the chalk hills will forever become associated with the Nativity traditions and Dorset ewes, and Dorset hurdles, and Dorset crooks, and the red holly berries in the hedges of Dorset will start the mind upon envisaging the cold hillsides of the Biblical story. 
  It is strange how successive generations learn about Christmas. On the laps of our mothers we hear of it and throughout our lives its romance gladdens and restores us. All that we Europeans know of generosity and jollity concentrates about this day. It was at this time of the year that the Druids cut down the mistletoe with golden sickles, taking the presence of this parasite on the sacred oaks as an omen favourable to marriage rites, an ancient superstition that preserves for us to this day gay, blithe privileges behind the parlour door! 
  The illumination of our Christmas trees is also reputed to be a survival, in a harmless modified form, of a fire worshipping rite, as also is the Yule logs – the largest of all our wood pile – that we put aside for burning on our fires at Christmas.
  In the old German forests our ancestors made merry, drinking deep of beer. In the fortified encampments of our own Dorset Downs the Goidels and early Britons made merry. Alfred the Great and his Saxon lords were celebrating Christmas at Chippenham in Wiltshire when they were surprised by Guthrum and his Danes and driven to take refuge in Sedgemoor’s rushy island of Athelney. 
  Century follows century, but Christmas with its ‘myrdh’ and goodwill is never forgotten. It is the most worshipful day of the year, binding us all together, royalist and communist, rich and poor, wise and foolish – for are we not everyone of us carnal sprites on the planet earth travelling through the limitless astral universe profound and mysterious?



From CHRISTMAS LORE AND LEGEND
Yuletide Essays by Llewelyn Powys
(The Sundial Press, 2011)

















THE POWYS SOCIETY COLLECTION
August 2017



The full contents of the inventory of the Powys Society Collection, now located at Exeter University, are available to view below.
All files (which open in a new tab or window) are available to read in PDF format. 





JOHN COWPER POWYS T.F. POWYS LLEWELYN POWYS




Articles and Books About

Books by

Contributions to
Periodicals & Books


Ex Libris

Introductions
to other books


Letters

Manuscripts

Miscellaneous

Proofs

Reviews

Typescripts

Articles and Books About

Books by

Contributions to
other books


Ex Libris

Letters

Manuscripts (Bissell Gift)
Manuscripts (Feather Gift)

Miscellaneous

Periodical Publications

Proofs

Reviews

Typescripts
                         
Articles and Books About

Book Reviews

Books by

Contributions to
Periodicals & Books


Ex Libris

Letters

Manuscripts

Miscellaneous

Proofs

Typescripts

LITTLETON POWYS
Articles
Books by
Letters

Elizabeth MYERS

PHILIPPA POWYS

A.R. (Bertie) POWYS

WILL POWYS

Francis POWYS

ALYSE GREGORY
Books, Articles, etc
Ex Libris

FAMILY

The Powys Circle







The latest publication from The Powys Press (2016)
 RECALLED TO LIFE
  Llewelyn Powys: A Consumptive’s Diary, 1911
   Edited by Peter Foss
   The Powys Press



llewelyn powys recalled to life, the powys society By the spring of 1911, the writer Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) – then only 26 – had spent eighteen months at a Swiss sanatorium, being treated for the tuberculosis which the previous year had nearly killed him. Still frail, he returned to England, and to Montacute, the Somerset home of his family, where his father had been vicar for 26 years. This homecoming, which Powys first described in his remarkable book Skin for Skin (1925), was fraught with ambiguities, partly occasioned by his confirmed espousal of a neo-pagan philosophy which turned him against the religion of his forebears. Here, in Somerset, he ‘came into his own’, regaining his strength and rediscovering anew the beautiful landscape of his boyhood. This was characterised by a determination to extract joy from every passing moment. He cultivated a visionary response to Nature, relished erotic sensations, and enthusiastically indulged his friendships – especially with his brother John Cowper Powys. This ‘eternal flow of life’, as he called it, was a panacea and, through the writing of this diary, provided ‘food for future years’. Continuing and expanding the narrative account, Powys’s 1911 diary charts in candid detail his longings, his friendships, his reading, the poetry he loved and the letters he received. He writes of his walks in the countryside of south Somerset, imbibing at inns, encountering wayfarers, luxuriating in the natural world – and all this in one of the glorious summers of the twentieth century, when temperatures famously reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the words of Siegfried Sassoon, it seemed to all ‘a summer of commingled happiness’. But 1911 was also a year of dramatic social and political upheavals that were changing the age-old ways of life, rendering the experience of this year a kind of ‘timeless moment’ – and that is how Powys later re-imagined it in writings such as Love and Death (1939). With the insidious disease always in the background, the 1911 diary conveys vividly what it was like still to live life to the full in the last throes of Edwardian England before The Great War swept so much away.


RECALLED TO LIFE was launched at the 2016 conference
Within the UK: 10.00
Outside UK price: 15.00
Please send your cheque, made payable to the Powys Society, to:
Hon Secretary, Chris Thomas, at 87 Ledbury Road, London, W11 2AG


llewelyn powys, sherborne School
Llewelyn Powys at Sherborne School





Selected articles

JOHN COWPER POWYS ON FILM
Digital editions of THE POWYS JOURNAL
A Visit to The National Library of Wales
Reminiscences  of John Cowper Powys in the late 1920s by Albert S. Krick (PDF file)
A minor, difficult masterpiece by T. F. Powys





john cowper powys, henry miller, proteus and the magician
PROTEUS AND THE MAGICIAN
The Letters of Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys
(click on image above)


the powys journal volume xx, the powys society
THE POWYS JOURNAL Volume XX
Digital version available to read online
(click on image above)







john cowper powys, dorchester wall plaque
john cowper powys, the dorset year




the life of john cowper powys

John Cowper Powys
wall plaque in High West Street,
Dorchester, Dorset
THE DORSET YEAR
The Diary of John Cowper Powys
(June 1934 to June 1935)







the powys brothers books, the powys society

"A genius - a fearless writer, who writes with reckless passion." - Margaret Drabble on John Cowper Powys


The one author I could not live without is John Cowper Powys.” – Bernard Cornwell


"Llewelyn Powys is one of those rare writers who teach endurance of life as well as its enjoyment." - Philip Larkin


"Theodore Powys wrote extraordinary fables of English country life. Bloomsbury admirers hailed them as the singular works of a dark and brooding genius." - P. Wright


"Theodore Powys, the brother of Llewelyn, is a rare person." - T. E. Lawrence


“I touch here upon what is to me one of the profoundest philosophical mysteries: I mean the power of the individual mind to create its own world, not in complete independence of what is called "the objective world," but in a steadily growing independence of the attitudes of the minds toward this world. For what people call the objective world is really a most fluid, flexible, malleable thing. It is like the wine of the Priestess Bacbuc in Rabelais. It tastes differently; it is a different cosmos, to every man, woman, and child. To analyse this "objective world is all very well, as long as you don't forget that the power to rebuild it by emphasis and rejection is synonymous with your being alive.” — John Cowper Powys

“Even though we waves lie for centuries in the deeps of the waters, so deeply buried that no man could think that we should ever rise, yet as all life must come to the surface again and again, awakening each time from a deep sleep as long as eternity, so we are raised up out of the deeps high above our fellows, to obey the winds, to behold the sky, to fly onwards, moving swiftly, to complete our course, break and sink once more.

  We, who are waves, know you, who are men, only as another sea, within which every living creature is a little wave that rises for a moment and then breaks and dies. Our great joy comes when we break, yours when you are born, for you have not yet reached that sublime relationship with God which gives the greatest happiness to destruction.” T.F. Powys 

 "No sight that the human eyes can look upon is more provocative of awe than is the night sky scattered thick with stars.” — Llewelyn Powys


A CHRISTMAS GIFT

by T.F. Powys



IT IS A HARMLESS WISH to want a little notice to be taken of one's name, and a number of peoples besides Mr Balliboy, the Norbury carrier, like attention to be paid to their names when they are written down. Children will write their names upon a fair stretch of yellow sand, young men will carve their names upon an old oak in the forest, and even the most simple peasant will like to see his name printed in a newspaper.

For most of his life Mr Balliboy was satisfied with having his name written upon the side of his van, and he was always pleased and interested when anyone paused in the street to read his name. But Mr Balliboy's pride in his name made him do more than one foolish thing. Once he cut 'Mr Balliboy, Carrier,' with his market knife, upon one of the doors of Mr Told's old barn, and again upon the right-hand post of the village pound. But, on going to see how the names looked next Sunday—and perhaps hoping that a stranger might be regarding them with interest—he discovered, to his sorrow, that the rude village boys had changed the first letters of the name into an unpleasant and ill-sounding word.

Mr Balliboy was a lonely man, and a bachelor—for no young woman would ever look at his name twice, and none had ever wished to have his name written beside hers in a church register.

One Christmas Eve Mr Balliboy journeyed, as was his wont, to Weyminster. His van was full of country women, each one of whom thought herself to be of the highest quality, for each had put on the finest airs with her market clothes, and so dressed, could talk in a superior manner.

Mr Balliboy had certainly one reason for happiness— other than the ordinary joyfulness of the merry season — which was that his rival, John Hawkins, had passed by with his van empty of customers—yet Mr Balliboy was sad. His sadness came, strangely enough, only because he wished, for the first time in his life, to give a Christmas present.

It might have been only to give himself pleasure that he wished to do this, for whatever the present was that he should buy, he determined that a label should be tied on it, with his name written clearly upon it—'From Mr Balliboy.'

What the present would be, and to whom it should be given, Mr Balliboy did not know. He decided to buy some- thing that he fancied, and then allow destiny to decide to whom the gift should go.

When Mr Balliboy reached the town he walked about the streets in order to see what could be bought for money. Many a shop window did he look into, and many a time did he stand and scratch his head, wondering what he should buy.

There was one oddity that he fancied in a toy-shop—a demon holding a fork in his hand, upon which he was raising a naked young woman. Mr Balliboy thought the demon might do, but over the young woman he shook his head.

Mr Balliboy moved to another window. Here at once he saw what pleased him—a little cross, made of cardboard and covered with tinsel, that shone and glistened before Mr Balliboy's admiring eyes.

Mr Balliboy purchased the cross for a shilling, and attached a label to it with his name written large. . . .

Sometimes a change comes over a scene, now so happy and gay, but in one moment altered into a frown.

As soon as Mr Balliboy had buttoned the cross into his pocket the streets of Weyminster showed this changed look.

The shoppers' merriment and joyful surprise at what they saw in the windows gave place to a sad and tired gaze. The great church that so many hurried by in order to reach their favourite tavern appeared more dark and sombre than a winter's day should ever have made it.

Even the warm drinks served out by the black-haired Mabel at the 'Rod and Lion' could not make the drinkers forget that care and trouble could cut a Christmas cake and sing a Christmas carol as well as they.

The general gloom of the town touched Mr Balliboy, and, had he not had the present hid in his coat, he might have entered an inn too, in order to drown the troubled feelings that moved about him, in a deep mug.

But, having bought the Christmas present, he had now the amusement of seeking the right person to give it to. And so, instead of walking along the street with downcast eyes, he walked along smiling.

While he was yet some way off his van, he could see that a figure was standing beside it, who seemed to be reading his name. And whoever this was, Mr Balliboy determined, as he walked, that it should be the one to receive his Christmas gift.

As he drew nearer he saw that the figure was that of a young woman—wrapped in a thin cloak—who showed by her wan look and by her shape that she expected soon to be a mother.

At a little distance from his van Mr Balliboy waited, pretending to admire a row of bottles in a wine merchant's shop window, but, at the same time, keeping an eye upon the woman.

'Was she a thief—was she come there to steal?'

A passing policeman, with a fine military strut, evidently thought so.

'Don't stand about here,' he shouted. 'Go along home with you!'

The policeman seized her roughly.

'I am doing no harm,' the woman said, looking at the name again, I am only waiting for Mr Balliboy.'

'Go along, you lying drab,' grumbled the policeman.

He would have pushed her along, only Mr Balliboy, who had heard his name mentioned, came nearer.

'Bain't 'ee poor Mary,' he asked, 'who was to have married the carpenter at Shelton?'

The policeman winked twice at Mr Balliboy, smiled, and walked on.

'What was it,' asked Mr Balliboy kindly, as soon as the policeman was out of hearing, 'that made 'ee wish to study and remember the name of a poor carrier?'

'I wished to ask you,' said the young woman, 'whether you would take me as far as the "Norbury Arms". Here is my fare,' and she handed Mr Balliboy a shilling—the price of the cross.

Mr Balliboy put the shilling into his pocket.

'Get up into the van,' he said, 'and 'tis to be hoped they t'others won't mind 'ee.'

That day the most respectable of the people of the village had come to town in Mr Balliboy's van. There was even rich Mrs Told, clad in warm furs, whose own motor car had met with an accident the day before. There were others too, as comfortably off—Mrs Potten and Mrs Biggs—and none of these, or even his lesser customers, did Mr Balliboy wish to offend. He looked anxiously up the street and then into the van. The young woman's clothes were rags, her toes peeped from her shoes, and she sighed woefully.

Mr Balliboy gave her a rug to cover her. 'Keep tight hold of 'en,' he said, 'for t'other women be grabbers.'

The change in the town from joy to trouble had caused the women who had journeyed with Mr Balliboy that day to arrive at the van a little late and in no very good tempers.

And, when they did come, they were not best pleased to see a poor woman—worse clothed than a tramp—sitting in the best seat in the van, with her knees covered by Mr Balliboy's rug.

"Tis only Mary,' said Mr Balliboy, hoping to put them at their ease. "Tis only thik poor toad.'

'Mary, is it?' cried Mrs Biggs angrily, 'who did deceive Joseph with her wickedness. What lady would ride with her?

Turn her out at once, Mr Balliboy—the horrid wretch.'

'Out with her!' cried Mrs Told. 'Just look at her,' and she whispered unpleasant words to Mrs Potten.

Mr Balliboy hesitated. He hardly knew what to do. He had more than once borrowed a little straw from Mrs Told's stackyard, and now he did not want to offend her.

He had a mind to order Mary out, only—putting his, hand under his coat to look at his watch—he felt the Christmas present that he had purchased—the cardboard cross.

'Thee needn't sit beside her,' he said coaxingly to Mrs Told, 'though she's skin be as white and clean as any lamb's.'

'We won't have no lousy, breeding beggar with we,' shouted Mrs Biggs, who had taken a little too much to drink at the tavern.

'Let she alone,' said Mr Balliboy, scratching his head and wondering what he had better do.

'Thrust her out,' cried Mrs Potten, and, climbing into the van, she spat at the woman.

'Out with her,' screamed Mrs Told. 'Away with her! away with her!' cried all the women.

Now, had it not been that Mr Balliboy had taken Mary's shilling and so made her free of his van, with the right to be carried as far as the 'Norbury Arms', he might have performed the commands of the drunken women and thrown Mary into the street. But, as he had taken her shilling, Mr Balliboy bethought him of what was his own. The woman had read his name; he had taken her fare.

'Let she alone,' said Mr Balliboy gruffly to Mrs Biggs, who had laid hands upon the woman.

'We'll go to John Hawkins; he'll take us home,' said Mrs Told angrily.

Mr Balliboy winced. He knew how glad his rival would be to welcome all his company.

'Why, what evil has she done?' Mr Balliboy asked in a milder tone.

With one accord the women shouted out Mary's sorrow. 'Away with her! away with her!' they cried.

Mr Balliboy put his hand into his coat, but it was not his watch that he felt for this time—it was his Christmas gift.

'Away with your own selves,' he said stoutly. 'Thik maiden be going wi' I, for 'tis me own van.'

Mr Balliboy took his seat angrily and the women left him.

He knew that what had happened that afternoon was likely to have a lasting effect upon his future. Everyone in the village would side with the women with whom he had quarrelled, and the story of his mildness to Mary would not lose in the telling.

But before very long an accident happened that troubled Mr Balliboy even more than the loss of his customers—in the middle of a long and lonely road his van broke down.

Mr Balliboy tried to start the engine, but with no success.

Other carriers passed him by, amongst whom was John Hawkins, and many were the taunts and unseemly jests shouted at him by the Christmas revellers who sat therein.

But soon all was silence, and the road utterly deserted, for the hour was near midnight.

For some while Mr Balliboy busied himself, with the aid of the van lamps, trying to find the mischief. But all at once and without any warning the lamps went out.

Mr Balliboy shivered. The weather was changed, a sharp frost had set in, and the stars shone brightly. Someone groaned. Mary's pains had come upon her.

'I be going,' said Mr Balliboy, 'to get some help for 'ee.'

Mr Balliboy had noticed a little cottage across the moor, with a light in the window. He hurried there, but before he reached the cottage the light had vanished, and, knock as he would at the door, no one replied.

'What be I to do?' cried Mr Balliboy anxiously, and looked up at the sky. A large and brightly shining star appeared exactly above his van.

Mr Balliboy looked at his van and rubbed his eyes. The van was lit up, and beams of strange light seemed to emanate from it.

"Tain't on fire, I do hope,' said Mr Balliboy. He began to run and came quickly to the van.

Mary was now resting comfortably, while two shining creatures with white wings leaned over her. Upon her lap was her new-born babe, smiling happily.

Mr Balliboy fumbled in his coat for his Christmas gift.

He stepped into the van and held out the cross to the babe. Mary looked proudly at her infant, and the babe, delighted with the shining toy, took hold of the cross. The Angels wept.




From A WHITE PATERNOSTER And Other Stories (1930)







glastonbury tor

Montacute Vicarage




durdle door
Glastonbury Tor
Montacute Vicarage Durdle Door


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