The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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4.

But soon the Food was to enter upon a new phase of its work in him. In spite of the simple instructions of the Vicar— instructions intended to round off the modest natural life befitting a giant peasant, in the most complete and final manner— he began to ask questions, to inquire into things, to think. As he grew from boyhood to adolescence it became increasingly evident that his mind had processes of its own— out of the Vicar’s control. The Vicar did his best to ignore this distressing phenomenon, but still— he could feel it there.

The young giant’s material for thought lay about him. Quite involuntarily, with his spacious views, his constant overlooking of things, he must have seen a good deal of human life, and as it grew clearer to him that he too, save for this clumsy greatness of his, was also human, he must have come to realise more and more just how much was shut against him by his melancholy distinction. The sociable hum of the school, the mystery of religion that was partaken in such finery, and which exhaled so sweet a strain of melody, the jovial chorusing from the Inn, the warmly glowing rooms, candle-lit and fire-lit, into which he peered out of the darkness, or again the shouting excitement, the vigour of flannelled exercise upon some imperfectly understood issue that centred about the cricket-field— all these things must have cried aloud to his companionable heart. It would seem that as his adolescence crept upon him, he began to take a very considerable interest in the proceedings of lovers, in those preferences and pairings, those close intimacies that are so cardinal in life.

One Sunday, just about that hour when the stars and the bats and the passions of rural life come out, there chanced to be a young couple “kissing each other a bit” in Love Lane, the deep hedged lane that runs out back towards the Upper Lodge. They were giving their little emotions play, as secure in the warm still twilight as any lovers could be. The only conceivable interruption they thought possible must come pacing visibly up the lane; the twelve-foot hedge towards the silent Downs seemed to them an absolute guarantee.

Then suddenly— incredibly— they were lifted and drawn apart.

They discovered themselves held up, each with a finger and thumb under the armpits, and with the perplexed brown eyes of young Caddles scanning their warm flushed faces. They were naturally dumb with the emotions of their situation.

“Why do you like doing that?” asked young Caddies.

I gather the embarrassment continued until the swain remembering his manhood, vehemently, with loud shouts, threats, and virile blasphemies, such as became the occasion, bade young Caddies under penalties put them down. Whereupon young Caddies, remembering his manners, did put them down politely and very carefully, and conveniently near for a resumption of their embraces, and having hesitated above them for a while, vanished again into the twilight …

“But I felt precious silly,” the swain confided to me. “We couldn’t ‘ardly look at one another— bein’ caught like that.

“Kissing we was—you know.

“And the cur’ous thing is, she blamed it all on to me,” said the swain.

“Flew out something outrageous, and wouldn’t ’ardly speak to me all the way ’ome… .”

The giant was embarking upon investigations, there could be no doubt. His mind, it became manifest, was throwing up questions. He put them to few people as yet, but they troubled him. His mother, one gathers, sometimes came in for cross-examination.

He used to come into the yard behind his mother’s cottage, and, after a careful inspection of the ground for hens and chicks, he would sit down slowly with his back against the barn. In a minute the chicks, who liked him, would be pecking all over him at the mossy chalk-mud in the seams of his clothing, and if it was blowing up for wet, Mrs. Caddies’ kitten, who never lost her confidence in him, would assume a sinuous form and start scampering into the cottage, up to the kitchen fender, round, out, up his leg, up his body, right up to his shoulder, meditative moment, and then scat! back again, and so on. Sometimes she would stick her claws in his face out of sheer gaiety of heart, but he never dared to touch her because of the uncertain weight of his hand upon a creature so frail. Besides, he rather liked to be tickled. And after a time he would put some clumsy questions to his mother.

“Mother,” he would say, “if it’s good to work, why doesn’t every one work?”

His mother would look up at him and answer, “It’s good for the likes of us.”

He would meditate, “Why?”

And going unanswered, “What’s work for, mother? Why do I cut chalk and you wash clothes, day after day, while Lady Wondershoot goes about in her carriage, mother, and travels off to those beautiful foreign countries you and I mustn’t see, mother?”

“She’s a lady,” said Mrs. Caddles.

“Oh,” said young Caddles, and meditated profoundly.

“If there wasn’t gentlefolks to make work for us to do,” said Mrs. Caddles, “how should we poor people get a living?”

This had to be digested.

“Mother,” he tried again; “if there wasn’t any gentlefolks, wouldn’t things belong to people like me and you, and if they did— ”

“Lord sakes and drat the Boy!” Mrs. Caddles would say— she had with the help of a good memory become quite a florid and vigorous individuality since Mrs. Skinner died. “Since your poor dear grandma was took, there’s no abiding you. Don’t you arst no questions and you won’t be told no lies. If once I was to start out answerin’ you serious, y’r father ’d ‘ave to go’ and arst some one else for ’is supper— let alone finishing the washin’.”

“All right, mother,” he would say, after a wondering stare at her. “I didn’t mean to worry.”

And he would go on thinking.

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