The Guardian of Stonehenge
THE GUARDIAN OF STONEHENGE.
By ALICE WILLIAMSON.
I HAD heard about him before I saw him, and, naturally, I had expected to find a being as nearly resembling a Titan as these latter days of the nineteenth century could produce.
It is true, the fact that he was to be addressed as "Mr. Judd" had come upon me with a slight sense of shock in the first place, because I had hoped that his patronymic might have a smack of Celtic origin. One couldn't imagine an ancestral Judd having existed in the days of the Druids, and, therefore, one was obliged to experience and recover from a certain disappointment. I did recover from it, however, and I made up my mind to a Mr. Judd. He was to be an enormously tall, muscular Mr. Judd, with his loins girt about with shaggy skins, and a rough mane of hair blowing in the wild winds which beset Stonehenge. He was to carry a club, too, and very closely resemble the agreeably primitive gentleman one sometimes sees on advertisements of Bovril.
All these things I had carefully pictured to myself before driving out to Stonehenge. What I saw afterwards was this:
It was a gloomy day. (Or do great dusky clouds, like huge, hovering birds, ever brood thus darkly over the mysterious monument of the past, no matter what may be the weather elsewhere?) Against the most majestic of all the remaining plinths leaned a bright-eyed, intelligent-faced, grey-haired, healthily ruddy man, of middle age, and somewhat under middle height.
Not far from where he stood grazed a white horse—a philosophic-looking beast—while from behind a pillar of rock protruded the impertinent shafts of an extremely modern photographic van.
The one human denizen of the spot (beside myself) looked at me, and said nothing. I did not look much at him, for 1 was glancing impatiently about for my formidable ideal of Stonehenge's guardian.
At last I said, in despair of having my wish gratified, "I beg your pardon. Do you happen to be able to inform me where I can find the guardian of Stonehenge? For I hear it has a guardian!"
"That's true, it has," he returned, his brown eyes twinkling. "And yet you wouldn't think, to look at it, it was under age, now would you? Though you might call it a case of 'second childhood,' perhaps."
Then he remembered that I had asked another question. "You want to see the guardian, you say?"
"To see him, and have a little chat with him," I returned.
"Well, you're doing both at this moment. My name is Judd, and I 've been guardian of Stonehenge for five-and-twenty years."
Alas, my Titan had exploded! Here was only a crystallised bit of him! However, Mr. Judd looked a man who might be able to use both fist and brain, if necessary, in the protection of his overgrown ward.
"I suppose you are wondering what Stonehenge wants of a guardian at all," said Mr. Judd. "But you see, it it's like this. If I were not continually about, the stones would be covered with cuttings and names, and bits of them would be taken away for souvenirs. It's bad enough as it is, but I'm glad to say that not one of the wilful defacements you see has been done in the last quarter of a century. Another of my duties is to keep people from scattering their papers and orange-peel and egg-shells about, and to drive stray cattle away."
"Surely no one would be such a Vandal as to desecrate the site of so magnificent a monument as this!"
"Oh, wouldn't they, though? You'd think differently if you tried being what the theatre folk call my 'understudy' for a day or two. The place looks lonely enough to-day, because it's threatening rain, but from spring to autumn not a fairly fine day passes that doesn't bring a hundred or more people sight-seeing here. They come from all countries, but the most of them are English or Americans. Since Sir Edmund Antrobus (who owns this estate, and Stonehenge with it) appointed me guardian twenty-five years ago, not a day have I missed, except a few of the very coldest in winter, when I knew that not a soul would venture near the place. I tell you, we do get some fierce weather here on Salisbury Plain, not only in winter, but early spring and late autumn! The wind blows like a great spirit that's gone mad. But there's a sort of lonely grandeur about it, and I sometimes get fine cloud effects in the photographs I take. Do I take photographs? Well, I only make my living out of it, that's all. I get no salary for my guardianship, but I 've been granted the sole right to take photographs here, and there's a good deal of money in it. It has paid me to give up the best part of my life to it, anyway. You'd be surprised at the number of people who want their pictures taken, sitting against the big rocks. Why, I'm obliged to spend all my evenings 'developing' at home. That's my van over there, you see. I couldn't get on without that. It's a sort of second home. I drive here and back again with it, and I sit in it when there's a storm. I never got wet out here yet, and that 's saying a good deal, in all these years."
"I suppose you must have some odd experiences sometimes?" I suggested.
"Some very funny ones I 've had, and one or two that came near to being exciting at the time. But the sort of thing that amuses me most in everyday life here is listening to the ideas people have for restoring Stonehenge. I 've heard pretty nearly everything said about it that could be said, but the queerest was a man who came last year and wanted to have the whole place nicely roofed in. Then there was an American millionaire—yes, I know which one, but I don't think I'd better mention his name—who said, if Sir Edmund Antrobus would sell him Stonehenge, with the right of removal to his own country, he would pay five million dollars for it. But you see, Stonehenge isn't gone yet!
"Speaking of Americans reminds me of something else. You know, I dare say, that June 21 is our grand day here. Hundreds of people come, even great scientists and other folks who 've made a noise in the world. They stay the night before in Salisbury, and start for Stonehenge at about one o'clock or so. Then they get here in time to see as fine a sight as can be seen the world over. On just that one day of the year the sun can be observed rising directly over a stone called the Friar's Heel, which it is thought was placed there for that purpose when Stonehenge was made. When the sun has got up a certain height, a great round spot, red as blood, falls on the altar-stone. It's a thrilling sight if the sky is not too cloudy. But I'm sorry to say it's only been perfect twice in a dozen years. Well, last year two young Americans had made a journey all the way from New York just on purpose to see the sun rise over Stonehenge on June 21. They only had a few days to spare in England, anyway. They were in a great state of excitement, but, as luck would have it, there was a fine drizzle, and for all they could see they might as well have stayed in America. I got a chance that morning to hear some new American swearing. 'Tall words,' I fancy they call them over there."
"Will you tell me about the 'exciting adventures' you mentioned just now?" I asked.
"Oh, they don't sound much in the telling! But it was in winter when both the things I'm thinking of happened, and you must picture to yourself this great wild plain, with only these dark stones and me on it, as far as the eye can reach. One day a fellow came along, and was bargaining with me for some photographs, and when I turned my back, suddenly he was on me, trying to throw me, and pick my pockets of my watch and what money I had. But I was too strong for him. I mastered him, and then did some powerful yelling, which brought a couple of men who were driving along the nearest road to Salisbury, and my fine bird was taken into jail. After that I got a whistle, and it was lucky I did, for a little later a madman came and tackled me. He had got it in his cracked head that he was a re-incarnation (is that what you call it?) of a Druid priest, and he was for making a sacrifice of me on the altar-stone. But I'm a stronger man than I look, and I wrestled with him till my whistle brought help from fellows cutting wood not far away."
"I suppose you don't remember the day when poor Tess of the d'Urbervilles and her lover came here?" I smilingly inquired. "You know Mr. Thomas Hardy's novel, of course."
Mr. Judd looked a little puzzled. "Tess of the d'Urbervilles? Mr. Thomas Hardy the novelist? I'm sorry to say I never heard of either of them, Miss!"