The End of Caravan.
From "Bealby".Pages: <1>
A caravan has been left by the road-side, horse-less, and with its wheels propped up with branches. While William, the driver, is inside sneaking chocolates, Bealby, a small boy, tugs at the branches, for which he has a use. The caravan party returns just in time to see the caravan moving off downhill.
Professor Bowles sped in pursuit like the wind, and Mrs. Bowles after a gasping moment set off after her lord, her face round and resolute. Mr. Geedge followed at a more dignified pace, making the only really sound suggestion that was offered on the occasion. "Hue! Stop it!" cried Mr. Geedge. And then, like a large languid pair of scissors he began to run. Mrs. Geedge after some indefinite moments decided to see the humour of it all, and followed her husband, in a fluttering rush, emitting careful little musical giggles as she ran, giggles that she had learnt long ago from a beloved schoolfellow. Captain Douglas and Miss Philips were some way behind the others, and the situation had already developed considerably before they grasped what was happening. Then obeying the instincts of a soldier the Captain came charging to support the others, and Miss Madeleine Philips, after some wasted gestures, realized that nobody was looking at her, and sat down quietly on the turf until this paralysing state of affairs should cease.
The caravan remained the centre of interest.
Without either indecent haste or any complete pause it pursued its way down the road towards the tranquil village below. Except for the rumbling of its wheels and an occasional concussion it made very little sound; once or twice there was a faint sound of breaking crockery from its interior and once the phantom of an angry yell, but that was all.
There was an effect of discovered personality about the thing. This vehicle, which had hitherto been content to play a background part, a yellow patch amidst the scenery, was now revealing an individuality. It was purposeful and touched with a suggestion of playfulness, at once kindly and human; it had its thoughtful instants, its phases of quick decision, yet never once did it altogether lose a certain mellow dignity. There was nothing servile about it; never for a moment, for example, did it betray its blind obedience to gravitation. It was rather as if it and gravitation were going hand in hand. It came out into the road, butted into the bank, swept round, meditated for a full second, and then headed downhill, shafts foremost, going quietly faster and faster and swaying from, bank to bank. The shafts were before it like arms held out. . .
It had a quality - as if it were a favourite elephant running to a beloved master from whom it had been over-long separated. Or a slightly intoxicated and altogether happy yellow guinea-pig making for some coveted food. . .
At a considerable distance followed Professor Bowles, a miracle of compact energy, running so fast that he seemed only to touch the ground at very rare intervals. . .
There was fortunately very little on the road.
There was a perambulator containing twins, whose little girl guardian was so lucky as to be high up on the bank gathering blackberries.
A ditcher, ditching.
A hawker lost in thought.
His cart, drawn by a poor little black screw of a pony and loaded with the cheap flawed crockery that is so popular among the poor.
A dog asleep in the middle of the village street. . .
Amidst this choice of objects the caravan displayed a whimsical humanity. It reduced the children in the perambulator to tears, but passed. It might have reduced them to a sort of red-currant jelly. It lurched heavily towards the ditcher and spared him, it chased the hawker up the bank, it whipped off a wheel from the cart of crockery (which after an interval of astonishment fell like a vast objurgation) and it then directed its course with a grim intentness towards the dog.
It just missed the dog.
He woke up not a moment too soon. He fled with a yelp of dismay.
And then the caravan careered on a dozen yards farther, lost energy and - the only really undignified thing in its whole career - stood on its head in a wide wet ditch. It did this with just the slightest lapse into emphasis. There! It was as if it gave a grunt - and perhaps there was the faintest suggestion of William in that grunt - and then it became quite still. . .
For a time the caravan seemed finished and done. Its steps hung from its upper end like the tongue of a tired dog. Except for a few minute noises as though it was scratching itself inside, it was as inanimate as death itself.
But up the hill road the twins were weeping, the hawker and the ditcher were saying raucous things, the hawker's pony had backed into the ditch and was taking ill-advised steps, for which it was afterwards to be sorry, amidst the stock-in-trade, and Professor Bowles, Mrs. Bowles, Mr. Geedge, Captain Douglas and Mrs. Geedge were running - running - one heard the various patter of their feet.
And then came signs of life at the upward door of the caravan, a hand, an arm, an active investigating leg seeking a hold, a large nose, a small intent vicious eye; in fact - William.
Professor Bowles had reached the caravan. With a startling agility he clambered up by the wheels and step and confronted the unfortunate driver. It was an occasion for mutual sympathy rather than anger, but the Professor was hasty, efficient and unsympathetic with the lower classes, and William's was an ill-regulated temperament.
"You consummate ass!" began Professor Bowles. . .
When William heard Professor Bowles say this, incontinently he smote him in the face, and when Professor Bowles was smitten in the face he grappled instantly and very bravely and resolutely with William.
For a moment they struggled fearfully, they seemed to be endowed instantaneously with in numerable legs, and then suddenly they fell through the door of the caravan into the interior, their limbs seemed to whirl for a wonderful instant and then they were swallowed up. . .
The smash was tremendous. You would not have thought there was nearly so much in the caravan still left to get broken. . .
A healing silence. . .