The Prologue: Part III

An introduction to Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon

Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard Prologue, PART III

In the beginning of the first week in September Martin Pippin came once more to Adversane, and he said to himself when he saw it: "Now this is the prettiest hamlet I ever had the luck to light on in my wanderings. And if chance or fortune will, I shall some day come this way again."

While he was thinking these thoughts, his ears were assailed by groans and sighs, so that he wet his finger and held it up to find which way the wind blew on this burning day of blue and gold. But no wind coming, he sought some other agency for these gusts, and discovered it in a wheat-field where was a young fellow stooking sheaves. A very young fellow he was, turned copper by the sun; and as he stooked he heaved such sighs that for every shock he stooked two tumbled at his feet. When Martin had seen this happen more than once he called aloud to the harvester.

"Young master!" said Martin, "the mill that grinds your grain will need no wind to its sails, and that's flat."
The young man looked up from his labors to reply. "There are no mill-stones in all the world," said he, "strong enough to grind the grain of my grief."
"Then I would save these gales till they may be put to more use," remarked Martin, "and if I remember rightly you wear a lady's ring on your little finger, though I cannot remember her name or yours."
"Her heavenly name is Gillian," said the youth, "and mine is Robin Rue."
"And are you wedded yet?" asked Martin.
"Wedded?" he cried. "Have you forgotten that she is locked with six keys inside her father's Well-House?"
"But this was long ago," said Martin. "Is she there yet?"
"She is," said Robin Rue, "and here am I.";
"Well, all states must end some time," said Martin Pippin.
"Even life," sighed Robin, "and therefore before the month is out I shall wilt and be laid in the earth."
"That would be a pity," said Martin. "Can nothing save you?"
"Nothing but the keys to her prison, and they are in the keeping of them that will not give them up."
"I remember," said Martin. "Six milkmaids."
"With hearts of flint!" cried Robin.
"Sparks may be struck from flint," said Martin, in his inconsequential way. "But tell me, if Gillian's prison were indeed unlocked, would all be well with you for ever?"
"Oh," said Robin Rue, "if her prison were unlocked and the prisoner in these arms, this wheat should be flour for a wedding-cake."
"It is the best of all cakes," said Martin Pippin, "and the grain that is destined thereto must not rot in the husk."

With these words he strolled out of the cornfield, gathered a harebell, rang it so loudly in the ear of a passing rabbit that it is said never to have stopped running till it found itself in France, and went up the road humming and thrumming his lute.
On the road he met a Gypsy.

"Maids," said Joscelyn, "somebody is at the gate."
The milkmaids, who were eating apples, came clustering about her instantly.
"Is it a man?" asked little Joan, pausing between her bites.
"No, thank all our stars," said Joscelyn, "it is a gypsy."
The milkmaids withdrew, their fears allayed. Joan bit her apple and said, "It puckers my mouth."
Joyce: "Mine's sour."
Jessica:" Mine's hard."
Jane: "Mine's bruised."
Jennifer: "There's a maggot in mine."
They threw their apples away. "Who'll buy trinkets?" said the Gypsy at the gate. "What have you to sell?" asked Joscelyn. "Knick-knacks and gew-gaws of all sorts. Rings and ribbons, mirrors and beads, silken shoe-strings and colored lacings, sweetmeats and scents and gilded pins; silver buckles, belts and bracelets, gay kerchiefs, spotted ones, striped ones; ivory bobbins, sprigs of coral, and sea-shells from far places, they'll murmur you secrets o' nights if you put em under your pillow; here are patterns for patchwork, and here's a sheet of ballads, and here's a pack of cards for telling fortunes. What will ye buy? A dream-book, a crystal, a charmed powder that shall make you see your sweetheart in the dark?"
"Oh!" six voices cried in one.
"Or this other powder shall charm him to love you, if he love you not?"
"Fie!" exclaimed Joscelyn severely. "We want no love-charms."
"I warrant you!" laughed the Gypsy. "What will ye buy?"
Jennifer:" I'll have this flasket of scent."
Joyce:" I'll have this looking-glass."
Jessica: "And I this necklet of beads."
Jane: "A pair of shoe-buckles, if you please."
Joan:" This bunch of ribbons for me."
Joscelyn: "Have you a corset-lace of yellow silk?"
The Gypsy: "Here's for you and you. No love-charms, no. Here's for you and you and you. I warrant, no love-charms! Ay, I've a yellow lace, twill keep you in as tight as jealousy, my pretty. Out upon all love-charms!--And what will she have that sits crouched in the Well-House?"
"Oh, Gypsy!" cried Joscelyn, "have you among your charms one that will make a maid fall out of love?"
"Nay, nay," said the Gypsy, growing suddenly grave. "That is a charm takes more black art than I am mistress of. I know indeed of but one remedy. Is the case so bad?"
"She has been shut into the Well-House to cure her of loving," said Joscelyn, "and in six months she has scarcely ceased to weep, and has never uttered a word. If you know the physic that shall heal her of her foolishness, I pray you tell us of it. For it is extremely dull in this orchard, with nothing to do except watch the changes of the apple-trees, and meanwhile the farmstead lacks water and milk, there being no entry to the well nor maids to milk the cows. Daily comes Old Gillman to tell us how, from morning till night, he is forced to drink cider and ale, and so the farm goes to rack and ruin, and all because he has a lovesick daughter. What is your remedy? He would give you gold and silver for it."
"I do not know if it can be bought," said the Gypsy, "I do not even know if it exists. But when a maid broods too much on her own love-tale, the like weapons only will vanquish her thoughts. Nothing but a new love-tale will overcome her broodings, and where the case is obstinate one only will not suffice. You say she has pined upon her love six months. Let her be told six brand-new love-tales, tales which no woman ever heard before, and I think she will be cured. These counter-poisons will so work in her that little by little her own case will be obliterated from her blood. But for my part I doubt whether there be six untold love-tales left on earth, and if there be I know not who keeps them buttoned under his jacket."
"Alas!" cried Joscelyn, "then we must stay here for ever until we die."
"It looks very like it," said the Gypsy, "and my wares are a penny apiece."
So saying she collected her moneys and withdrew, and for all I know was never seen again by man, woman, or child.

"My apple-gold maidens," said Martin Pippin, leaning on the gate in the bright night, "may I come into your orchard?"
As he addressed them he gazed with delight at the enclosure. By the light of the Queen Moon, now at her full in heaven, he saw that the orchard grass was clipped, and patterned with small clover, but against the hedges rose wild banks of meadow-sweet and yarrow and the jolly ragwort, and briony with its heart-shaped leaf and berry as red as heart's-blood made a bower above them all. And all the apple-trees were decked with little golden moons hanging in clusters on the drooping boughs, and glimmering in the recesses of the leaves. Under each tree a ring of windfalls lay in the grass. But prettiest sight of all was the ring of girls in yellow gowns and caps, that lay around the midmost apple-tree like fallen fruit.
"Dear maidens," pleaded the Minstrel, "let me come in."
At the sound of his voice the six milkmaids rose up in the grass like golden fountains. And fountains indeed they were, for their eyes were running over with tears.
"We did not hear you coming," said little Joan.
"Go away at once!" commanded Joscelyn.
Then all the girls cried "Go away!" together.
"My apple-gold maidens," said Martin Pippin, "I entreat you to let me in. For the moon is up, and it is time to be sleeping or waking, in sweet company. So I beseech you to admit me, dear maidens--if maidens in truth you be, and not six apples bobbed off their stems."
"You may not come in," said Joscelyn, "in case you should release our master's daughter, who sits in the Well-House pining to follow her heart."
"Why, whither would she follow it?" asked Martin much surprised.
The milkmaids turned their faces away, and little Joan murmured, "It is a secret."
Martin: "I will put chains on my thoughts. But shall I not sing you a tune you may dance to? I will make you a song for an August night, when the moon rocks her way up and down the cradle of the sky, and you shall rock on earth like any apple on the twig."
Jane: "For my part, I see nothing against it."
Jessica: "Gillian won't care little apples."
Joyce: "She would not hear though we danced the round of the year."
Joscelyn: "So long as he does not come in--"
Jennifer:" --or we go out."
"Oh, let us dance, do let us dance!" cried little Joan.
"Man," they importuned him in a single breath, "play for us and sing for us, as quickly as you can!"
"Sweet ones," said Martin Pippin, shaking his head, "songs must be paid for. And yet I do not know what to ask you, some trifle in kind it should be. Why, now, I have it! If I give you the keys to the dance, give me the keys to your little mistress, that I may keep her secure from following her heart like a bird of passage, whither it's no business of mine to ask."
At this request, made so gayly and so carelessly, the girls all looked at one another in consternation. Then Joscelyn drew herself up to full height, and pointing with her arm straight across the duckpond she cried: "Minstrel, begone!"
And the six girls, turning their backs upon him, moved away into the shadows of the moon.
"Well-a-day!" sighed Martin Pippin, "how a fool may trip and never know it till his nose hits the earth. I will sing to you for nothing."
But the girls did not answer.

Then Martin touched his lute and sang as follows, so softly and sweetly that they, not regarding, hardly knew the sound of his song from the heavy-sweet scent of the ungathered apples over their heads.

    Toss me your golden ball, laughing maid, lovely maid,
    Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me your ball!
    I'll catch it and throw it, and hide it and show it,
    And spin it to heaven and not let it fall.
    Boy, run away with you! I will not play with you--
    This is no ball!
    We are too old to be playing at ball.
    Toss me the golden sun, laughing maid, lovely maid,
    Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me the sun!
    I'll wheel it, I'll whirl it, I'll twist it and twirl it
    Till cocks crow at midnight and day breaks at one.
    Boy, I'll not sport with you! Boy, to be short with you,
    This is no sun!
    We are too young to play tricks with the sun.

    Toss me your golden toy, laughing maid, lovely maid,
    Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me your toy!
    It's all one to me, girl, whatever it be, girl
    So long as it's round that's enough for a boy.
    Boy, come and catch it then!--there now! Don't snatch it then!
    Here comes your toy!
    Apples were made for a girl and a boy.

There was no sound or movement from the girls in the shadows.

"Farewell, then," said Martin. "I must carry my tunes and tales elsewhere."

Like pebbles from a catapult the milkmaids shot to the gate.

"Tales?" cried Jessica.
"Do you know tales?" exclaimed Jennifer.
"What kind of tales?" demanded Jane.
"Love-tales?" panted Joyce.
"Six of them?" urged little Joan.
"A thousand!" said Martin Pippin.
Joscelyn's hand lay on the bolt.
"Man," she said, "come in." She opened the wicket, and Martin Pippin walked into the Apple Orchard.

Songs and games each day; and then, every evening, Martin tells these girls a lengthy love story, and one by one, persuades each of the six maids to give up one of the keys to free Gillian. The above (the third part of the prologue) illustrates how Eleanor blended dialog with story and poetry through the book. A similar on-going narrative continues both between and within each Martin's six stories, and is followed by a four part Postlude to answer our questions. Why do the maids hate men? How will Martin rekindle the hope of love within each one? And will Gillian escape and run off with Robin Rue? And what will become of the Maids?

Martin's Tales include:

The King's Barn (Joan's tale)

A king who has lost everything but the barn, seaches for purpose, and finds a love, disguised as a smithy to teach him of
Young Gerald (Joyce's tale)

An extraordinary development of a common love story's plot. Orphaned shepherd boy falls in love with his master's daughter who is to be wed to a nearby uncouth Lord. A cherry-tree that won't bloom and a lantern that won't light until love comes. A love to be rescued, and a happy ending somehow to be had.

The Mill of Dreams (Jennifer's tale)

Is it dreams that awaken the hope of love, or the putting away of dreams that makes love possible.
Open Winkins (Jessica's tale)

Proud Rosalind and the Hart-royal (Jane's tale)

The Imprisoned Princess (Joscelyn's tale)

This story is from Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon - first published in 1921. My thanks to Batsy Bybell, who has put this volume Online for us to enjoy.

Eldrbarry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Batsy

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