I’d retuned to this little hamlet in the westernmost outpost of the empire having been sent out to Uncle Roger’s’s plantation in the Levant . Again my sister Dotty’s idea . I had absolutely no idea how to manage a rubber plantation , and had no ambition to inherit Uncles’ undoubted fortune either . I was equally uncomfortable at the prospect of returning to Shropshire where the spectre of inheriting the title awaited me . You see my brother had died while I was away and it appeared I was now to be tagged with the Earldom .I never knew my brother really as we went to different schools and spend our holidays separately- he to his gardens in the - and I to the fleshpots of Cannes , when of course my aunt May would often whisk me thither . I rather pitied old George having to deal with all the magisterial trappings of duty ; noblesse oblige and all that but the idea of inheriting the title I can tell you rather repulsed me .
We had berthed in Bombay on the return journey home and all I could think of was getting back. Back to that little western village ..Oh How my heart yearned to be there as the ship steamed with a tortuous rumble ever westward,; the sea never changing from one day to the next . I find sea journeys while adventurous outbound ,one rather tires of the confined community of a ship homebound . What with the monotony of the roll and pitch of the ship, the endless vertiginous horizon and the incessant games of bridge , the dinners at the captains table . It was all a little too restrictive . Of course many chaps will fall in love on these expeditions , but I rather avoided any dealings with these temptresses . I’d seen too many chaps fall that way . I observed all the courtesies naturally ;the dining , the morning walks along the decks ,. But I refrained from the dancing. Made one look rahther as if one were “ available “ to use the term.
I’d taken a schooner further westward on docking at Portsmouth , and took the overnight train to London . Having overnighted in my club in Sloan Square I arose to greet the new day with an enhanced vim ,and with a fixed determination , I set my compass due west and onward Oughterard , in the West of Ireland . I was expected to turn at ye olde pile of course but at the thought of meeting my late brother ‘s family , and Lady Edith - my sister ,;- well I frankly quailed at the thought and of an impulse I legged it onwards to Dublin from where I had taken haphazard train journey , over upland bog , lake and the wildest unspoiled reaches of the realm - to the West .
Somehow , my spirit yearned for that westernmost hamlet and now at last that I’d arrived I was mulling things over in my head , you know this and that ..Life .the vagaries thereof and whatnot . I was sipping my scotch and soda and to convey to the recent reader of these journals I was committing to paper the priorities and vicissitudes of a life … an Idle one I confess
The entries in my diary are recorded are thus ;
Dotty ; - desist her authoritative command of my life - Do so with steel in the soul.!
- the seat which my brother held in Lords - not for me !- desist that too !
- what does one want in life ?
What indeed ..?
I had a strange feeling that the next entry would fall into the “ desist” category so I left it at that ,besides I was weary and there were no immediate answers to these searing questions .
Diffident , I suppose you could call it and I suppose there was an element of that because as the reader will have observed I had closed the entry without making any conclusion whatever .But a kind of dreamy soporific ethereal mist seemed to drift up from the environs and I fell into a gentle pleasant slumber .One felt at home .
My slumbers which were erstwhile sublime and rested , I was awoken on the following morn with a clanging and banging and a great clattering on the streets below .I hastened to the window which overlooked the village square
There .,coming up the street was a medley gathering , all marching to different tunes . There were insurrectionists and an assortment of other half uniformed militia , replete with bandanas , belts, pikes , staffs , cudgelling implements , and other farming equipment . Other had hounds and pigs tethered to their persons with bailing twine. The military purpose of these animals eluded me . There were different bedraggled flags strewn hither and thither and a drape of pallid bunting hung listlessly from one pole to another .
One couldn’t quite readily grasp the immediate message of their cause or indeed if it were a parade at all parade from my particular vista . But I’d come to recognise these events as rather more like a collective local whimsy that anything else.
Nonetheless , you will understand therefore why I was a little timid about going down to breakfast . Just then heard the dulcet tones of the girl ;It was the voice of Mellisa .
My heart quickened .
- Sorr !! Are you awake ..? - You have a visitor !
- Oh yes ! Rather , -I said gathering about me some semblance of clothing . At times like these one confesses that one’s valet is a sine qua non as it were .Then behind the door where stood that enchantress I heard a more familiar voice .
- I’ll waken him.. Stand aside girl !
The door burst open and there he was in the massiveness of his persona.
It was Maxi of course .
- Bring us up two balls of malt girl .. No .. bring us a bottle of Crested Ten.. He commanded of the girl
-There you are laddie !!
-Maxi ! What on earth ..!!- I expostulated .
- Sit laddie !! - put some britches on - you’ll frighten the horses man .-
He spoke with what I thought was a reproachful eye , if you follow me ; stern and disapproving if you will .His fixed stare addressed my attention to the fact that I’d put on my spats before the trousers . One is conscious of these things.
-We’re going fishing. I’ll see you in the Boat Inn in 30 minutes
_-Oh ! I say !- Maxi.. I’ m just back from the Levant and all that…I‘m really not dressed for angling at the moment - I said feebly.
- Oh !-I just said .
-. Nothing .. Nothing at all.. No no ! I said - How are you old boy ?How good to see you old man.!
I really was delighted to see him .You see despite his ruggedness of character Maxi was not a man to be trifled with , Generals had tried it with him and I dare say he bowled a dozen or so of them for six during the war .
- You want some fishing Laddie?
There was a raspiness to his voice which rather more commanded than it lent itself to other considerations . But one had’t yet shaven. And I feel distinctly unprepared for the vagaries of any day without shaving . You’ll see my point.
-You see that stout body of men ? -He said moving towards the window
- Makes the heart yearn eh ? ..
- I dare say !
- Well I’m chairing the meeting in a little while and then we’re ready for the off ..
-Meeting .. With ….? I ejaculated - thinking it unlikely that Maxi had ever become immersed in the political turmoil of his unfortunate country . But he saw my aprehensions with those vivid eyes and allayed my anxieties at the once
-No !- get dressed laddie ! I have to see some of the boys about the Creamery-
- The which..?
- The creamery ! You idiot Percy. ..The fat content .. They’re losing out .. They’re using all the wrong pasture land ..never mind..
He sat down with a n exasperation .
- Percy . Were you ever responsible for anything in your life ?
- Me ? - Good Lord No.!
- Well my advice is that you keep it that way. I thought you were taking the seat in the Lords …
-Well you see old man ..- I started ..But he stopped me there
-Yes old man..
- Percy I don’t know how you ever got through the war. Do you know anything about crops !
- Oh well .. No Not a lot really ..you see I rather left all that to the recently deceased bro you know .. But yes .- a flicker of inspiration struck me
- They need rain !
- Which ?
- The crops .. They need rain ..!
- In the name of God Percy .. In the name of…. Ahh there you are Melissa .. Good girl leave it down there .. Good girl..
The girl Mellisa had arrived with the whiskey . Oh Lord ! Again I thought .. Her beauty was really quite arresting , and she looked at Maxi in a sort of adulating way. Women always did but I don’t think he noticed it quite so much other than when he’d gotten himself engaged to a number of quite alluring young things , only to lose interest and extricated himself with inspirational alacrity .
He sat down and poured two stiffish measures..
- To Parnell !
- Rather - to Parnell !
He finished his drink in two massive gulps and got up .
-The fly is up .- we’ll get fish today Laddie ! See you at the boat house in an hour .!
And he was gone .. I followed his movements from my window as he went out to the street . I couldn’t help but look out .I peeked out behind the curtains as the parade seemed to come to a halt and the militia gathered around him.
Now he stood in the middle of the square and the great melee assembled round him. Rather like a herd of sheep ; or like cows in this wild part of the empire, sheltering from a massive wind.
He reminded me of the way he took the troops aside after a battle. They had an intuitive need to be fathered as it were; and often the officers listened in . attentively , as I confess I did myself . By Jove !. He had a way with men . No . I do the man an injustice . He had a rather mesmerising effect .his words didn’t necessarily make sense if you were to disentangle them . But My word ! It was the rather hypnotic the way he spoke about events , however barbarous . However gruesome . He seemed to make a construction of the happenings as if he knew they were about to happen.
The colonels were abjectly jealous of him . But one wondered if Maxi was even remotely concerned about their antipathy. I cant quite describe it .
His speech was like a musical gurgle; like the lapping and lifting sound of water sweeping down a brook with all the intermingling tones ; sweet and sonorous , then plaintiff and dolorous ; tit an enchantment that quite transported you from the meaning of the words. While at the once you understood the word ; the meaning was suffused ; transformed into something quite different .
When he was in some melancholy mood he would sometimes sit alone . But when he sat among the troops and held court more with his punctuated silences it was alluring ; seductive soporific even .
. He had that effect. It was at the same time gripping and reassuring . He often spoke to the boys especially after a skirmish when we’d lost some of oyr lads. He would sit amongst them and they would instinctively herd about him as like sheep seeking shelter from the storm. Their own intimacy and the long and sonorous drone was as if it touched each one in the heart , and each stout heart beat as one -And by God so did mine .
At other times he would engage them in some frivolity . Tell a humorous yarn before the sombre wave would engulf and with a caution he would instil the courage of a lion in each heart seemed to soar with a sense of triumph..
. He intoned mercy for those who’d fallen in battle then seemed to soar above any apparent adversity. And all , to a man was ready to fight the good fight again , with a renewed bravado.
That’s rather the way Maxi spoke . And that I suppose is why the generals envied him. He could speak to all as one . Class divides concerned him not one whit .he spoke to high ranking officers with the same profound fragrance . I’d seen him do it in the officer’s mess. Oratory ; rhetoric all bedamned . He could take the weakest part of an debate and win you over within minutes . He’d been decorated in the field , but he distained medals or any overt signs of bravura .
He did this now with the rabid peasants and his magic washed over them like a tidal wave , They were both mollified and acquitted at the once . Extraordinary really.
They duly dispersed and Maxi went on to his meeting about the creamery.