After that previous post, Malcolm was challenged:
“Gibbings? Don’t you mean “Gittings”?
And that’s Gibbings (right).
This is Gibbins, Chapter Eight of Coming Down the Wye:
EVERY TIME I HEAR the name of Evans, and that’s not seldom in Wales, I think of a story l once heard in Ireland. It was about a woman called Hannah Doolan, who lived in a cottage with a thatched roof and a mud floor, at the top of a lane not far from Inchigeela in County Cork. It was a neat house, and a clean one, so far as she could keep it so, but a leak in the roof and an ever increasing family rendered the task a difficult one.
One day a little wizened-up bit of a man came up the lane and asked Hannah if she could spare him a drink of water. Hannah filled him out a glass of milk.
“Could you tell me”, said he, “where could I find a few duck eggs, because the hen eggs at the hotel don’t suit my stomach?”
“Wait a minute,” said Hannah. “Mary Kate,” said she to her daughter, “will you go and ask Patsy Cronin for a few duck eggs for the gentleman. I’ll send them down to you, sir, at the hotel. What name will I say?”
“Evans,” said he, “Evan Evans from Cardiff.”
So that evening five duck eggs arrived at the hotel for Mr. Evans, and a couple of days later there were three more, and within a week another five had been delivered. And then Mr. Evans came to say good-bye.
“How much do I owe you?” said he. “Yerra, nothing at all,” said Hannah. “But I must pay you,” he says.
“What’s a few duck eggs?” says Hannah.
The long and the short of it was that Mary Kate found a two-shilling piece in each of her hands, in spite of her mother’s protestations.
Nothing more was heard of the gentleman until one rainy afternoon, about a year later.
“Good evening, Mrs. Doolan, I suppose you don’t remember me?”
“Well now, glory be to God! Come in out of the wet. Mary Kate, go and ask Patsy Cronin for a couple of duck eggs for the gentleman. I hope ‘tis keeping well you are, sir. Ah, indeed, not too well me self. There’s one in the cradle since, and there’s another coming, and I do be hard put to it at times. Wouldn’t you take off your wet coat now, and sit down awhile? Mind that chair: ‘tis a bit broken it is. These children do be destroying everything.”
She pulled up a sound chair for him. “Taedy, bring in a bit of turf. Patcheen, will ye give the fire a blow? Glory be to God, the weather’s a fright.”
Every other day during the following week a few duck eggs arrived at the hotel, and then Mr. Evans went back to Cardiff, and there was nothing more heard of him for another year. Just when he might have been expected, who should come up the hill but the lame tax collector, who was also the local contractor, limping on his iron stirrup?
“We’re destroyed,” said Hannah to her eldest child. “The rent is due this eight months. Let ye tell him I ‘m gone out,” she said. “Tell him I’m gone down to the town with the money to pay him. Tell him I’m gone out this three hours back.”
“Come out of that and listen to me,” said Mr. Jeremiah Mulcahy, a few minutes later. “Tis news I have for you.”
Hannah, under the old feather bed, didn’t move.
“Come out from under that bed, Hannah Doolan. Can’t I see your two feet?”
“How would you like a new house?” said he.
“Oh, to be sure,” said she, “in the Phoenix Park in the centre of Dublin, I suppose.”
“Here’s the plans,” said he.
“Plans of what?” said she.
“Your new house,” said he.
Hannah picked up an earthenware jug. “Now,” said she, “are you going before I split your skull with this, tormenting a woman, is seven months gone.”
Mulcahy paid no attention to her. Instead he unrolled a large blue architect’s plan. “Here’s a house,” said he, “commissioned by Mr. Evan Evans of Cardiff, to be constructed for the benefit and exclusive possession of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Doolan.”
“And where is he going to build it?” asked Hannah.
“He isn’t going to build it. He’s dead,” said Mulcahy.
“God rest his soul,” said Hannah, crossing herself.
“Overright ye there in the valley it’s to be, with yer front door to the sun and five acres of good land behind you,” said Mulcahy.
“Saints of God protect us!”
“He’s after leaving the money in his will.”
Hannah looked up at the hole in the roof. “Well, praise be to God, we didn’t mend it,” she said.
It was in a pub near Rhayader that I met “ ‘Iggs,” who came from Berkshire, a little old man, neatly dressed, with bright blue eyes in a wrinkled face.
“Very proud to meet you, sir. ‘Iggs is my name. I comes from Wantage. Seventy-three, and w’en I goes it’s ‘ere goes ‘Iggs, never did no ‘arm to no one, no one never did no ‘arm to me. I was in ‘Yderabad in 89. Yes, an’ ‘Ounslow an’ ‘Ampton Court we did guard, an’ didn’t we ‘ave to sit on our ponies? As still as marble! I ’ad a lovely moustache in those days, could tie it under me chin. But you’s an artist. There was a man live near ‘ere. Mr. Davis was ‘is name. H. W. B. Davis, that was ‘im. Do you know ‘e painted a picture of that ‘ill above Glaslyn, an’ w’at d’ you think folks in London paid ’im for it? Seven ‘undred an’ fifty guineas ‘e arsks ‘em, an’ that’s w’at they pay ‘im. Damn it, they could ‘ave bought the ‘ole ‘ill for fifty quid.”
Higgs chuckled through his long drooping moustache.
“Did you know,” he asked me, “there’s only two straight streets in Oxford, and that’s an edicated city? But give me travel for edication. You and me ‘as travelled. We’re edicated. ‘Aven’t ‘ad a smoke for fourteen days, but this mornin’ I says I must ‘ave a bit o’ ‘bacco. Got to ‘old pipe in me ‘and now, w’en I wants a smoke, but I ‘ad a full mouth till five years back; could bend a nail between me teeth. My brother, ‘e couldn’t put ‘is mark on a sausage. Never did lose a tooth till five years back, and never ‘ad a ‘eadache in me life. Me wife died in nineteen ‘undred an’ three. Never ‘ad no ambitions for another woman. No ambitions,’ he repeated meditatively. ‘Not that I ‘aven’t ‘ad chances, you know, plenty of chances. But w’at I says is, w’en you falls in love once, real love, mind you, you never does it again, and w’en you breaks your heart once you doesn’t do that again neither.”
An easy, gentle, undemanding read. All the stereotypes one could wish for. Nice piece of stichomythia (look it up!). Such simplicity inevitably disguises a plunder of writing talent.
Yes, it’s dated, likely to have been hand-buffed to its finished form early in the Second War . To that extent, it represents a bit of propaganda for England, home and beauty, unlikely to cause any quivers at the Ministry of War Production. Nor even palpitations chez de Valera (on which, see the post over on Malcolm Redfellow’s World Service).