From a Cottage in Troy


Troy (Fowey).

I  A Happy Voyage

Below the narrator’s cottage lies a disused hospital ship called The Gleaner. His servant, Annie, accepts the hand of Tubal Cain Bonaday, a watchmaker and member of the Plymouth Brethren. They marry on 30 April and honeymoon, unknown to anyone, aboard The Gleaner. This enables them to throw off restraint. On 6 May the narrator is invited to a night of music and dancing; after which the couple settle down to a life of religious respectability.

II These-an’-That’s Wife

The narrator is being rowed from Bodinick to Fowey in the boat of Eli the ferryman. One of the passengers is a market-gardener called Tom Warne or ‘These-an-That’. The other passengers embarrass him with references to the affair between his wife and a local gamekeeper. On fair day the wife and gamekeeper take the ferry to Fowey as Warne rows past with produce to sell. At four pm, with the gamekeeper drunk on ‘Man-o-War’, a crowd drags the faithless wife to the ducking-stool. She is released apparently dead. Warne rows her home where she revives. The following week the wife and the gamekeeper elope.

III  ‘Doubles’ and Quits

A story related to the narrator by a Troy waterman called Simon Hancock, whose rented cottage is being demolished to make way for a bank. The cottage had previously been inhabited by the local pilot and his wife, both members of the Bible Christian sect. After six years of marriage they quarrel and refuse to communicate for the following four. The local minister is unable to effect a reconciliation. One night they part, promising to return to the cottage ten years in the future in order to try again. Ten years later Simon Hancock observes a man looking like someone who had been hauled from a wreck and a woman in dire poverty at the cottage. He faints.

A footnote informs the reader that the incident can be found in Drolls of the West of England by Robert Hunt. Hunt was a friend of Q’s father, Thomas Quiller-Couch.

IV  The Boy by the Beach

Kit lived with his mother, a prostitute, at the harbour mouth and listened to the tales of the sailors. When he is five his mother dies and he is transferred to an orphanage in the Midlands. Two years later he sees a slide-show featuring a ship and cries to be taken back to Fowey. That night he escapes and makes his way back to the port. Lying on an exposed rock, the rising tide lifts him out to sea. The waters have claimed their own.