Captain Saunders had two sons, one of them, named Owen, was a captain, too, which was a little confusing. He wore a monocle and never stayed very long in Borrisokane, I liked his younger brother, Cecil, better as he was tattooed all over, except his back. When he had a Japenesetyping error in original. artist come from London to tattoo the devil on that, he showed me the designs; but he was not in a happy frame of mind for he could not decide whether he liked the red or the blue devil better and, of course, it could not be changed afterwards. Cecil had an octopus on him and a Chinese dragon and a tiger and a boa-constrictor. They were not just tattooed in blue the way other people have tattoo marks, but in two or three colors, and even my mother, who did not like the idea of anyone being tattooed, had to admire the scaled dragon on his arm.
One day, after the devil was finished, I said to Captain Saunders:
"I hope nothing happens to Cecil. It would be terrible if it did."
"Indeed it would, but he's not ill," he said.
"I don't mean that way," I said. "I was thinking of the tattooing."
The captain knocked the ashes out of his pipe and filled it again.
"Of course, he could be stuffed," he said, looking at the pelican on the mantelpiece. "We might even stuff him first."
I did not quite see how that could be done, but I said nothing more, the subject being a delicate one.
Cecil had an engine, a big green traction engine. When it was going it made so much noise that you could not hear yourself talk, and it had a threshing machine coupled on behind it. At harvest time Cecil used to go around the country in it and do the threshing for the farmers, underbidding the owners of the old -fashioned horse-drawn machines, but he made enough to pay for his fuel and that was all he wanted. Cecil had fair hair that was parted in the middle and a gold bracelet and muscles bigger than my father's, and he wore a monocle when he drove the traction engine.
Once, when he had a threshing in Borrisokane, he came to tea all smeared up with oil and soot. We had tea in the garden where the chairs were wicker, so he could not do them much harm. My mother liked him and so did my father. He always told us about extraordinary things that had happened to him, and my father used to say:
"Cecil should write, he has a great imagination."
Cecil said he had been to China, so at last I got the truth about the Chinese eating missionaries, and felt relieved because when I wanted to know something I wanted to know it, and kept after it till I did.
"They don't eat missionaries," he said, "but they do eat rotten eggs and rats. And it's quite true about the birdsnests: they make soup of them."
So the geography book was right after all.
Cecil had a motorcar, too. On Sundays he used to drive his mother and father and his brother's fiancée, who was staying with them until Owen came back from South Africa, to church. But he only went to church himself in winter. In summer, after he had left his parents at church, he drove about in the car while service was on. He used to invite me to come along, and if it had not been for Girlie Hobbs, I would have been very unhappy about having to stay in church, knowing I could have been riding around in a motorcar if I had not been a parson's son. Girlie Hobbs sang in the choir and I used to sit next her at morning or evening service on alternate Sundays, as either she or her sister had to be at the farm for the milking, and took turns. She had skin that made you feel like touching her and a very nice smell off her. I always sat as close to her as I could, and when I knew it was her turn to come to church I would hide her hymnbook and psalter after Sunday school so that she was obliged to share mine. This arrangement was quite comfortable when I stood on a hassock, for she was just five inches taller than me and only ten years older. Her sister, Lily, who was goodlooking too, but felt a little bit out of it, used to joke about me and Girlie, and ask when were we going to get married, which I did not mind at all. I had made a point of making friends with Girlie's brothers, who ran the farm with her and Lily, in case we did later on.
One day I wanted Girlie to see what sort of a person I really was, so I walked into the enclosure where the bull was, and some turkeys. But Joe Hobbs had put a ring in the bull's nose the day before and it was in a bad temper, and, if it had not been for the big turkeycock that got mixed up in its legs, I might have been gored. Girlie was very scared, and when I got back over the fence she took me in her arms and kissed me several times, which made me want to go back in the enclosure with the bull again. But she would not hear of it.
"Come on in with me and I'll give you a glass of nice fresh milk," she said.
Now, if there was anything I disliked, it was milk, but I loved Girlie so much that I drank it to please her, and made myself look as if I liked milk. So she said I must have another glass. But even loving her as I did, I had to refuse, so she gave me two peppermint bullseyes which took the taste of the milk off my mouth.
As we were alone I thought it was a good moment to propose to her, and had just started when Lily and Joe Hobbs came in. Joe said did I want to commit suicide, and the turkeycock's wing was broken. I said what made him think I wanted to, and he said my going into the bull's corral like that. I said he did too.
"But I reared him," he said, and began to laugh and slapped me on the back. "I think I'll have to take him on and make a farmer of him," he said to Girlie, and she looked very happy.
But the trouble was, I could never get her alone. Either her sister or one of her brothers were always around. On account of this I had to give her up in the end. She was quite upset about it, but said she realized there were too many people in her family. It was only after she knew everything was over for good that she got engaged to someone else, but, even then, she could not bring herself to marry for a long time. After we finally broke off everything I thought it would be better not to sit next to her in church on account of her nice smell, which stayed with me all the afternoon and made me think of her. When I went to see her to split-up formally I gave her a bag of bullseyes and a gilt Jewsharp that you could not get in Borrisokane, where all the Jewsharps were ordinary metal. I never used it because it hurt my teeth, but she knew nothing about that. She was very grateful and kissed me on the lips, which nearly upset everything as she had only kissed me on the cheek before.