At the Green Dragon, where I refreshed myself at noon with bread and
cheese and beer, I was startlingly reminded of a simple and, I suppose,
familiar psychological fact, yet one which we are never conscious of
except at rare moments when by chance it is thrust upon us.
There are many Green Dragons in this world of wayside inns, even as
there are many White Harts, Red Lions, Silent Women and other
incredible things; but when I add that my inn is in a Wiltshire
village, the headquarters of certain gentlemen who follow a form of
sport which has long been practically obsolete in this country, and
indeed throughout the civilised world, some of my readers will have no
difficulty in identifying it.
After lunching I had an hour's pleasant conversation with the genial
landlord and his buxom good-looking wife; they were both natives of a
New Forest village and glad to talk about it with one who knew it
intimately. During our talk I happened to use the words--I forget what
about--"As a tree falls so must it lie." The landlady turned on me her
dark Hampshire eyes with a sudden startled and pained look in them, and
cried: "Oh, please don't say that!'
"Why not?" I asked. "It is in the Bible, and a quite common saying."
"I know," she returned, "but I can't bear it--I hate to hear it!"
She would say no more, but my curiosity was stirred, and I set about
persuading her to tell me. "Ah, yes," I said, "I can guess why. It's
something in your past life--a sad story of one of your family--one
very much loved perhaps--who got into trouble and was refused all help
from those who might have saved him."
"No," she said, "it all happened before my time--long before. I never
knew her." And then presently she told me the story.
When her father was a young man he lived and worked with his father, a
farmer in Hampshire and a widower. There were several brothers and
sisters, and one of the sisters, named Eunice, was most loved by all of
them and was her father's favourite on account of her beauty and sweet
disposition. Unfortunately she became engaged to a young man who was
not liked by the father, and when she refused to break her engagement
to please him he was dreadfully angry and told her that if she went
against him and threw herself away on that worthless fellow he would
forbid her the house and would never see or speak to her again.
Being of an affectionate disposition and fond of her father it grieved
her sorely to disobey him, but her love compelled her, and by-and-by
she went away and was married in a neighbouring village where her lover
had his home. It was not a happy marriage, and after a few anxious
years she fell into a wasting illness, and when it became known to her
that she was near her end she sent a message by a brother to the old
father to come and see her before she died. She had never ceased to
love him, and her one insistent desire was to receive his forgiveness
and blessing before finishing her life. His answer was, "As a tree
falls so shall it lie." He would not go near her. Shortly afterwards
the unhappy young wife passed away.
The landlady added that the brother who had taken the message was her
father, that he was now eighty-two years old and still spoke of his
long dead and greatly loved sister, and always said he had never
forgiven and would never forgive his father, dead half a century ago,
for having refused to go to his dying daughter and for speaking those
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